Dé Luain, Meitheamh 15, 2009

Basque Anti-Extradition Campaign Launched
The official launch of the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign took place last Wednesday [June 10] in Cultúrlann MacAdam–Ó Fiaich in Belfast.

The campaign was started in response to attempts by the Spanish state to extradite two Basque political activists living in Belfast, Iñaki de Juana and Arturo ‘Beñat’ Villanueva.

Iñaki moved to Ireland in 2008 following his release from a Spanish prison. He could not return home because of the harassment he faced. Despite this, a rally celebrating his release was held in Donostia.

The organisers read a letter thanking everyone who attended and it was reported that they finished with the popular Basque expression “Aurrera bolie” [Forward with the ball]. Spanish police then claimed that Iñaki had written the letter and that the statement called for the continuation of armed struggle.

Arturo ‘Beñat’ Villanueva has lived in Belfast since 2004. Like Iñaki, he moved to Ireland to escape Spanish political persecution. Arturo was arrested by the PSNI in April 2009 on an extradition warrant, charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation”.

The organisation in question is the Basque political youth organisation Jarrai, which was declared a terrorist organisation by the Spanish Supreme Court in 2007. Arturo has not been a member of Jarrai since 2000.

The anti-extradition campaign was launched by veteran civil rights activist Fergus Ó hÍr. Speaking at the launch, Ó hÍr said: “In its effort to prevent the Basque people from exercising their democratic right to self-determination, Spain is breaching several fundamental rights as outlined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression, of peaceful assembly and association, the right to take part in the government of their state and the right not to be subjected to torture or abuse.”

The campaign has five key objectives:

  • Demanding that the Spanish government respects the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Basque people as laid out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Demanding that the Spanish government ends its campaign of criminalisation and political persecution against organisations and individuals that are in favour of Basque independence.

  • Supporting the right of Iñaki de Juana and Arturo ‘Beñat’ Villanueva not to be persecuted by the Spanish government for their political ideas.

  • Calling on the British government to immediately reject the extradition requests and to refuse to collaborate with the Spanish government’s political persecution of Iñaki de Juana and Arturo ‘Beñat’ Villanueva.

  • Supporting the right of Iñaki de Juana and Arturo ‘Beñat’ Villanueva to live freely in Ireland.

The campaign was launched as new details have emerged showing the flimsy nature of Spanish attempts to extradite the two. In Iñaki’s case, the arrest warrant is merely to question him about the phrase, and he has not been charged with any offence.

Last Friday [June 12], Arturo and his legal team challenged the retrospective nature of the charges against him in court. In response, the judge stated that the arrest warrant could be thrown out on that basis alone and that he would contact the Spanish authorities about the situation. All parties are due in court again on Friday [June 19] to discuss these developments.

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