Spain: Court dismisses terrorist charges in Basque youth association trial
On 20 June 2005, the fourth section of the Audiencia Nacional tribunal in Madrid, which has exclusive competence for cases involving terrorist offences, dismissed the charges of "terrorism" that were brought against members of the youth associations Jarrai, Haika and Segi, who were on trial accused of "membership of the terrorist organisation ETA", and against whom prosecutors (one for the state and another from the Asociación de víctimas del terrorismo (AVT, Association of victims of terrorism)) had demanded ten-year prison sentences. 24 defendants were found guilty of leadership or membership of illegal associations, and prison sentences of three years and six months were passed against the 16 people who were considered leaders, whereas the eight who were considered "active members" were sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Four people were acquitted after prosecutors dropped the charges against them. None of the people who were sentenced will serve any further time in prison, as most of them had already been in preventative custody for several years, in some cases only a few weeks short of four years.
The court found that these associations were not part of ETA, and were not terrorist groups because they don't have the declared aim of using weapons, although they were deemed to carry out an "auxiliary" activity to the armed group, leading the court to decree their dissolution. The guilty verdicts were based on the court's view that these organisations are of an "illegal nature" because "under an appearance of activities in a social youth milieu from the perspective of a nationalist and left-wing ideology", they had the aim of "carrying out activities that attack property or strictly personal goods, such as freedom and security, through criminal acts", including involvement in the so-called kale borroka (consisting in urban violence or "street struggle").This ruling counters the argument presented by judge Baltasar Garzón that Jarrai and its successors (set up after it was illegalised) are part of the armed group's infrastructure and subordinated to ETA. The trial was the first in a long list of cases instructed by Garzón based on this theory against a number of abertzale (left-nationalist) organisations, members of which are set to face charges of terrorist membership in the Audiencia Nacional. These proceedings affect members of political parties, prisoner support groups or bars frequented by members of this political scene ("herriko tabernas") which are considered to be part of ETA's network (also referred to by prosecutors as the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional Vasco (MLNV, Basque National Liuberation Movement)). Some of the organisations they address are Ekin, Xaki, Gestoras Pro Amnistía, Askatasuna, Batasuna, Udalbiltza and the Fundación Joxemi Zumalabe.
The state prosecution has announced that it will appeal the verdicts against the members of Jarrai, Segi and Haika.
Source: El País, 21.6.2005. Full-text of the sentence available (in Spanish) at: http://www.ehwatch.org/docs/sent20050620.pdf
A legal observatory on this and the up-coming court cases against Basque activists accused of membership of ETA, established lawyers from Spain (including members of the Asociación Catalana de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, of the Madrid Asociación Libre de Abogados, of the Galician Observatory on civil rights and freedoms - Esculca) and abroad (including members of the German RAV lawyers' trade union, of the US branch of Amnesty International, of the Italian Network of Democratic Lawyers and lawyers from Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Mexico and South Africa), includes reports on the court hearings and background documents, is online at: http://www.ehwatch.org
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