On 20 February 2003, the offices of the Basque newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria, the first newspaper to be published entirely in the Basque language (and English), were raided by Civil Guard police officers following an order issued by National Tribunal Judge Juan del Olmo. Ten of the newspaper’s senior staff were arrested for forming an ‘illegal association’ at the time of Egunkaria’s establishment, and for ‘membership of, or collaboration with, ETA’. They were taken to the National Tribunal in Madrid, whilst Euskladunon Egunkaria itself was closed down.
Basque society reacted immediately, launching a campaign against the closure of the newspaper. Two days later, on 22 February, the Basque people held a massive demonstration in Donostia (San Sebastian). The closure of the paper had been interpreted as a direct attack on Basque society, and when the media revealed the reasoning behind the closure and the arrests, few in the region believed the accusations.
On 25 February 2003, the judge decided to release four of those detained on bail, and to remand Iñaki Uria, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Txema Auzmendi, Martxelo Otamendi, Xabier Alegria and Xabier Oleaga in custody. Pello Zubiria, who was gravely ill, was held incommunicado for a further 72 hours.
In 2006, The Procecutor’s Office of the Spanish National Criminal Court concluded that no evidence had been found warranting the closure of the newspaper. The Prosecutor, Miguel Angel Carballo, called for the case to be dropped, for no trial to be held and for all those arrested to be acquitted.
However, since the initial case was dropped due to insufficient evidence, two private prosecutions have been brought against the newspaper. AVT (Association of Victims of Terrorism) and ‘Dignidad y Justicia’ (Justice and Dignity), both representing ETA victims, are now prosecuting the newspaper. The trial is due to take place in the summer or later this year (2008).
In 2003, Judge del Olmo announced that the action had been taken to investigate claims that Egunkaria had been created and financed by the Basque armed group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) which had used it to ‘launder’ money obtained from extortion and kidnapping. He added that the newspaper had disseminated ETA’s ‘terrorist’ ideology. The names of those arrested on 20 February had reportedly been listed in papers seized from ETA members between 1990-93. However, several of the accused disputed that the newspaper had acted as an agent of ETA and referred to their own personal and open criticism of ETA.
One year after the initial closure of Egunkaria, the judge ordered the liquidation of the assets and liabilities of the published, without waiting for the verdict of a tribunal affirming the culpability of the directors of the newspaper, meaning that regardless of the outcome of the case, Egunkaria had ceased to exist.
On 14 December 2006, the Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the First Section of the Criminal Division of the Spanish National Court to drop the case against Euskaldunon Egunkaria, arguing that the indictment was ‘very weak’ and ‘insufficient’ to prove a link between the newspaper and ETA. The Attorney General has also now retracted the original view that Euskaldunon Egunkaria formed ‘part of a violent organisation’, and now asserts that ‘there is no indication that the newspaper [nor] the accused have either complemented or lent their political support to the actions’ of ETA. The newspaper, however, remains closed.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/euskaldunonegunkaria/