By Carlos Aznárez / Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn / October 8,2015
The Prosecution of the Spanish National Court, a special Court inherited from the Franco era, has announced the legal status for the hearing derived from the 2010 police raid against the Basque internationalist organization Askapena. This trial against internationalist solidarity will be initiated on October 19, and aims to condemn militants Walter Wendelin, Gabi Basañez, David Soto, Aritz Ganboa and Unai Vázquez to jail for six years. Furthermore, in its constant and brutal repression against the struggle of the Basque people, it intends to not only dissolve and ban popular organisation Askapena but also goes against a festive troupe called Askapeña, an organisation focused on “less unfair trade” called Elkar Truke and an international solidarity organisation called Herriak Aske.
Once the inquisitory decision was known, reaction from solidary basque militants and international groups was swift. Numerous initiatives have been launched, including the conduction of ethical trials to Spanish imperialism in several towns and cities of the Basque Country and also in Latin America and Europe. According to the plan, the results of those ethical trials will be made public on October 12, just days before the trial. The rulings will surely be condemning towards the oppressive actions that Spain has carried on over all people who have resisted his rule.
Gabi Basañez: “We reaffirm ourselves as internationalist militants”
We talked to Gabi, a historic internationalist militant who faces several years in prison. Well-known in Latin America for his commitment to internationalist solidarity, he explains why in October he must go to the court of exception, the Spanish National Court.
Indirectly, three things will be judged in this trial. The concrete accusations are against us five militants of Askapena, but there is a bigger implicit accusation made against internationalism and against the independentist solidarity work that Askapena conducts. All of the brigades’ actions and the exchange of experiences with the social independence processes of other peoples, that has been done for years, are being criminalized.
This process began with the famous theory of former judge Garzón that “everything is ETA”. In fact, it is an attempt to criminalize and to make the work in different areas disappear, both at the grassroots level and at the most organized sectors, that work for an independent Socialist Basque State. This is how it all begins, with the aberration of making all popular movements equal to ETA.
Then there have been different phases in all the popular, anti-repressive, union and political movements, every structure and organization that felt or feel part of this project have been threatened and have been one by one attacked and outlawed. At such times, the state decides that there is no political way in the Basque Country for the idea of building an Independentist Socialist Basque State.
Seeing the accusations, our defense will be to reaffirm our commitment to Askapena and to the organizational and political work we do with Askapena as militants. The accusation, apart states that Askapena is an ETA structure, and the charges are about our meetings, our activities in other countries, in other processes, the posters we pasted in our hometowns. Those are the allegations and we take responsibility because we have done that work and will continue doing it to the extent that there is minimal legal possibility to continue with it.
Walter Wendelin: “We appeal to international solidarity”
To discuss this further escalation of Spanish fascism and solidarity campaigns, we talked with Walter Wendelin in Bilbao, one of the historical militants Askapena that will be tried in October.
– In a few days Askapena militants will be tried. Can you explain what the Spanish government is seeking after with this repressive action?
This is one more act of political persecution of the many that have taken place in the Basque Country by the Spanish repression, and therefore we can say we have a “guarded prognosis” about what might happen. It can go right or wrong for any of us or for the group. Our organizations can also be outlawed. What we do know is that we are formally charged for organizing internationalist solidarity Brigades, for organizing fair trade, or, as we call it, “somewhat less unfair trade” in 1994, for having attended European and world Social Forums, for organizing similar events in Euskal Herria, for our connections with the Solidarity with Euskal Herria Committees (in basque: “Euskal Herriaren Lagunak”, or EHL). Along with the campaigns against Coca-Cola in support of Colombian unions, or the concrete expressions of solidarity against the Zionist-Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
All of this constitutes what the people who will judge us call “facts”. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s point of view), we can not deny any of those facts. We have done each and every one of those things and we are proud of it. What we can deny is the hypotheses that someone, in this case the armed organization ETA, has given us orders to do this. We only deny that, but everything else we stand beside. It would not be constructive for our cause if we abjured the internationalist actions that we took part of with conviction and with consciousness.
There’s something that underlies this trial like so many other that occurred in the Basque Country, and it is the doctrine spread by former judge Baltasar Garzon, which can be summed up in saying that every Basque independentist group is essentially linked to the ETA organization, and therefore linked to terrorism. On this premise, what will you base your defense?
Since 1995 they are trying to criminalize Askapena and our internationalism. However, they never managed to produce evidence of the alleged link with criminal organizations. Our persecutors and accusers, have conducted years of research, which has failed to prove any of those charges. They did all of that work in vain, but they won’t accept their own mistakes, so they try to condemn us anyway. This is something very typical of the repressive climate that we have been living for decades here, in Euskal Herria.
-From This mission that Askapena has done for so many years, is which state is the internationalist struggle situated nowadays?
The internationalist solidarity is different from international solidarity, which is for example expressed in donations through NGOs. In Askapena we have always strived for the transformation of that instance in internationalist solidarity, with clear political and ideological content, and where solidarity goes back and forth, never between organizations but always between the people themselves. With these basic premises, we are still working consistently, even in the situation in which we find ourselves, where five of our people might go to jail and the five organizations that are around Askapena might be outlawed. We are trying to take advantage of the solidarity campaign that is being done around us, not so much for us personally or for the organization, but in order to defend that kind of internationalism.
The current situation is difficult at the national level, as there has been a strategic change that deeply impacted the Basque struggle for national and social liberation. It’s still very difficult to for people to understand and assimilate. A lot of things have also changed at international level in the last 20 years. The enemy itself has internationalized State terrorism in each of the countries where the United States, Israel or the European Union are involved. Precisely those nations try to associate terrorism with internationalism, based on events occurring in the Arab world. All of this does not benefit us.
How much can internationalist solidarity help in this difficult circumstance in which you are?
As internationalists, the approach that we use (because of our own daily work) is to seek internationalist solidarity. We have to make the most of the internationalization of our problems, which is what the Spanish government wants to silence by criminalizing people and organizations. Therefore, every solidarity campaign is aimed at creating a Basque national project, and more unity with all the oppressed peoples around the world than ever. To the committees and EHL (support groups) of the world we ask the denunciation of all trials to criminalize the struggle of our people. In regard to ourselves, we made it clear to the Spanish State and the National Court that we not only stand beside our internationalist actions, but that we are also ready to repeat them for as long as we can.