UPDATE FEBRUARY 24TH, 2019
The international campaign in solidarity with the ALTSASU Eight has spread far and wide. As well as hundreds of signatures on the petition in Euskal Herria and the Spanish State, socialists, trade unionists and young people around the world are also showing solidarity.
On February 4th Dublin City council passed a resolution calling for the release of the Altsasu 8. The motion was proposed by Solidarity Councillor and Socialist Party member Michael O’Brien who received support and advice from Dublin and Brussels based Basque solidarity activists as well as from his comrades in the Socialist Party’s sister group in the Committee for a Workers International Euskal Herria Sozialista.
The resolution deplored the continuing policy of the Spanish State of dispersing Basque prisoners to the farthest extremities of the Spanish State and:
- Furthermore, along with Amnesty International and 50 MEPs, notes with alarm the case of the Altsasu eight young people who following an altercation with two off duty Guardia Civil in a bar in 2016 have been found guilty of ‘disobeying authority’ charges (under appeal) resulting in severe jail sentences
- joins the calls of others internationally for their immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges
- resolves to communicate the terms of this motion to the Spanish Ambassador and the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Chief Executive of the Dublin City Council is now obliged to write to the Spanish Ambassador in Dublin and the Oireachtas (Parliamentary) Committee for Foreign Affairs which we hope will generate further publicity and embarrassment for the Spanish State Establishment and provide a boost for the prisoners, the Altsasu 8 and their respective families. We hope similar motions are passed by other local government bodies internationally as well as in trade union organisations to add to the pressure for a settlement of the prisoner dispersal scandal and the release of the Altsasu 8
In the early hours of 15 October 2016, in a bar in the small Basque town of Altsasu, a fight broke out between two off duty Guardia Civil officers and local youths during fiestas.
Local police attended the incident but no arrests were made. Later, eight young people were interviewed by police in Pamplona but were released. Four days later a right wing association COVITE filed a complaint accusing the young people of ‘terrorist’ offences.
The Guardia Civil officers and their partners claimed they were viciously assaulted in an organised attack by 20 to 30 individuals. The young people denied the accusation and said although some of them had been in the bar Koxka, others had been in another bar in front or nearby.
The regional court in Pamplona rejected the charges of terrorism and instead charged the young people with causing injuries and ‘challenging authority’ which carried possible prison sentences of between 2 to 4 years.
The Spanish Supreme court overruled the court in Navarre and sent the case to be tried at the Spanish National court where terrorist trials usually take place.
The prosecution accepted the accusation of COVITE that as some of the young people were members of the Basque association OPSA and the campaign ALDE HEMENDIAK which calls for the Guardia Civil to get out of Altsasu, they were therefore supporters of ETA, now incidentally disbanded.
Ohian Arnanz Ziordia, Jokin Unamuno Goikoetxea, Jon Ander Cob Amilibia, Julen Goikoetxea Larraza, Adur Ramirez de Alda Pozueta, Aratz Urrizola Ortigosa, Iñaki Abad Olea and Ainara Urkijo Goikoetxea, who are all in their early twenties went on trial in April 2018.
The trial in the National Court was full of irregularities. One of the Guardia Civil officers claimed that he was punched repeatedly by Adur and kicked in the head and body. He testified that Adur was wearing a red shirt while photographs and a video from the night in question show he was wearing a black one.
Although the Guardia Civil officer claims he was the victim of a brutal attack he is seen in a video after the supposed events in an immaculate white shirt with no visible footprints or blood stains. He is also seen aggressively swiping a mobile phone out of the hand of one of the accused who was filming the incident.
When the defence asked the prosecution for definitive proof that that campaign OSPA was linked to ETA they were told there was none.
One of the bar staff testified that there was no fight in the bar and that she did not see any Guardia Civil injured.
The bar owner was presented in court with a statement he was said to have made to local police in which he claimed the ‘attack was premeditated.’ He swore that it was not his signature on the statement and that things had been added which he had not said and others left out which he had.
The identification of the 8 young people as the ring leaders of the supposed attack was extremely suspicious. The defence pointed out in court that the Guardia Civil and their partners had identified them in a photographic line up. Each of the photos of the eight young people fitted up by the Guardia Civil were shown next to photos of people of drastically different ages, nationalities and ethnic origin, making it easier to identify them.
Two medical witnesses testified clearly that the light injuries suffered by the Guardia Civil officers ‘were not compatible’ with an attack by between 20-30 people as claimed.
The defence petitioned for the lead judge Concepción Espejel be removed from the trial because she is married to a Guardia Civil Colonel and has herself received a Guardia Civil Medal of Merit from the Ministry of the Interior. The petition was of course refused.
Three of the young people have already spent more than 760 days in prison in the special and strict ‘FIES’ regime reserved for dangerous terrorists, in effect a ‘prison within a prison’. They have been incarcerated hundreds of kilometres away from their families for two years.
The judge predictably handed down sentences of a total of 79 years and fines of €100.000 for the Altsasu Eight, 13 years for Ohian and Iñaki; 12 for Jokin and Adur; 9 for Jon, Aratz and Julen; and 2 for Ainara. Today, Ainara is now free and the rest are jailed in Zaballa in the Basque Country.
This inhuman injustice done to eight young Basques is on a level of world famous cases like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four. The case has provoked a wave of indignation and anger in the Basque Country, Catalonia and the Spanish State.
Over a hundred thousand people poured onto the streets of Iruñea/Pamplona in April and June to protest against the injustice. The Spanish right wing including the new fascist party VOX provocatively held a rally in Altsasu in November under the protection of the Guardia Civil and police but only managed to scrape together 200 people while the people of the town and the rest of the Basque Country mobilised to confront them. Their pathetic rally was drowned out by the ringing of the town’s church bells.
Over 50 MEPs have condemned the sentences and irregularities in the case as have Amnesty International.
The Altsasu case is not an isolated incident. The Spanish State whose judiciary and police are infested with reactionary right wing elements, want to teach a lesson to young people today, that the 1978 Regime cannot be challenged. Rappers and tweeters who dare to criticise the monarchy and corrupt politicians have also been jailed as have trade unionists for exercising their right to strike and picket.
Ezker Iraultzailea (Izquierda Revolucionaria in the Basque country) are calling for an international campaign in solidarity with the Altsasu 8 through the CWI and its sections throughout the world. (See details below)
These young people have been accused, investigated and judged by the reactionary Guardia Civil and given unjust and long exemplary sentences. Eventually the Spanish State ‘justice’ system could be forced to release them through a long legal process in the European court of justice but by then some of the young people could have spent 10 years in prison. We cannot stand by and let them lose their youth in prison.
Further Reading: Interview with mothers of the jailed youth.
Solidarity action is urgent now:
Send solidarity messages and photos via Twitter @Altsasugurasoak, @EzkIraultzailea and @socialist_world