The San Sebastian Film Festival organisers have refused to back down in a row over the decision to screen a film that includes an interview with Josu Urrutikoetxea, the former leader of the Basque separatist militant group ETA.

The Netflix documentary entitled No me llame Ternera revolves around an exclusive interview between renowned Spanish journalist Jordi Évole and Urrutikoetxea.

On the run for 16 years, Urrutikoetxea was arrested in France in May 2019 having been found guilty in absentia of being a member of a terror group. He was acquitted in a retrial in 2021 for lack of evidence. France has cooperated with the Spanish government over the decades in its campaign against ETA as it fears the independence movement getting traction in the Northern (or French) Basque country.

In a sixty year campaign to 2018 it is claimed, ETA was involved in the death of 883 people as part of its campaign to create a separate Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France, before it was dissolved in 2018. On the nationalist side many members of ETA, Basque nationalists and journalists were killed by the Spanish security forces and murder gangs operated by the Spanish State – the GAL (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación).

In addition the use of torture and illtreatment of ETA detainees was endemic in Spanish prisons and Spain was condemned for this by the Council of Europe and UN.

Despite calls for a settlement of the dispute with a process similar to that in Ireland today 188 members are still in process.

There was/is general support for the Basque nationality cause in the Celtic countries and over the years Bretons in particular have provided shelter to nationalist fleeing repression in Spain.

Image: Josu Urrutikoetxea (inset) screengrabs from the controversial interview.

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League (30th September 2023)

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