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A judge ruled today to release five activists who had been arrested on Friday in Luhuso, French Basque Country, and charged with “terrorism” when they were trying to start the process for the disarmament of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, “Basque Country and Freedom”), in which neither the Spanish nor the French governments have made much progress.
The judge that heard the case released the five activists under judicial supervision in France’s capital, Paris, where they had been taken on Monday. In the days the activists were detained there were several public demonstrations (in Bayona, French Basque Country) to demand their release. Several local politicians joined the calls. Besides, an online petition collected over 23,000 signatures in less than four days (http://artisansdelapaix.wesign.it/es).
The activist who were arrested were: Txetx Etcheverry (co-founder of Bizi, Alternatiba and ANV-COP21), Michel Berhocoirigoin (co-founder and former chair of Euskal Herriko Laborantza Ganbara, the Chamber of Alternative Agriculture of the Basque Country), Béatrice Haran–Molle (journalist), Michel Bergouignan (wine producer) and Stéphane Etchegaray (cameraman in charge of filming the arms destruction). The activists were detained on Friday night, after a joint operation of the French and Spanish police.
The online petition calling for the activists’ immediate release states that their action “was meant to compensate for the lack of involvement of the French and Spanish governments in the disarmament of ETA, the latter being necessary for the evolution of the peace process in the Basque Country”.
Real World Radio interviewed activist Anaiz Aguirre, of Bizi organization, of which Txetx Etcheverry is a member, hours before learning about their release. Bizi is based in Bayona, but they work for environmental and social justice all over France.
Txetx Etcheverry and Michel Berhocoirigoin, as well as the honorary chair of the Human Rights League (French), Michel Tubiana, had drafted a letter in October, which they circulated to the media, but it wasn’t published until Friday’s action.
The letter reads: “We understand, ourselves, as intermediaries between an armed organisation, to which we are neither linked nor subordinated, and a State, which we want to engage in reflection. (...) We have decided to take full responsibilities of our actions, with the conviction that this might be useful for peace. That is why we have proposed to ETA to transfer, to civil society, the political responsibility for the destruction of their military arsenal. We chose to act in a transparent way and will be fully accountable for our actions”.
During the interview with Real World Radio, Aguirre emphasized the non-violent nature of the action, which aimed at making progress on the peace process.
As this regards, the international petition for the “immediate release” of the “peacemakers” published online, called on the Spanish and French governments to “effectively engage in this peace process and to act on the recommendations set out in the International Peace Conference of Aiete”.
International politicians and people involved in peacemaking processes, as well as members of political parties and social actors participated in the conference, held in Aiete Palace in San Sebastian (Spanish Basque Country) on October 17th, 2011.
The document that came out of the Conference is a road map to achieve just and long lasting peace. A few days after it was signed, ETA announced the permanent cease of its armed activities. However, after five years, the outcomes has not been the expected one and social organizations from the Basque country are demanding progress in the peace process.
Listen to the interview with Anaiz Aguirre.
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