Date: Wed, 29 Oct 97 09:00:53 CST
Madrid Begins Show Trial Of 23 Basque Fighters
By Brian Taylor, Militant, Vol.61 no.37, 27 October 1997
The Spanish government began the trial of 23 central leaders of the Basque independence organization Herri Batasuna (Popular Unity Party) October 13. The activists are accused of aiding the E.T.A. - a Basque separatist group who Madrid has labeled terrorist. Prosecutors in the trial are seeking an eight-year sentence for each of the fighters, while the Association of Victims of Terrorism pushed for 22 years.
The trial, set to start a week earlier, was postponed after Herri Batasuna's defense questioned the impartiality of judges and the lack of possibility for a fair trial given the government pressure on the court for a conviction. Seventeen supreme court judges rapidly organized a two-hour meeting and rejected the defense attorneys' claims. Outside the Supreme Court, rightist demonstrators demanded the death penalty for E.T.A. rebels. The group's name is Basque Homeland and Freedom.
Herri Batasuna leaders have called the case a show trial. The main piece of evidence being used against the independence activists is a video they tried to air during the 1996 general elections that allegedly contained E.T.A. members in it. Madrid courts also alleged that Herri Batasuna issued statements "encouraging more terrorist attacks." Herri Batasuna was the third-largest party in elections to the Basque parliament in 1994, and has two members of parliament in Madrid. On September 24, Madrid cops shot and killed two Basque rebels in the northern city of Bilbao. Later, 12 other people were arrested and labeled members of Basque rebel groups.
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