• January 20, 2011

The General Secretary (GS) of the League has received an email from the Basque Country with a detailed account of an armed police raid of yet another Basque home and the detention of a young woman, in what has become an outrageously regular occurrence in the life of Basque society.

The GS comments below on the latest developments, which have directly affected the lives of two of his friends:

“Last night I received an email from a Scottish/Basque friend, Ander, who I used to watch rugby with when I lived in Irunia/Pamplona (Navarre, a province of the Basque Country), along with his girlfriend Edurne. Instead of the usual banter and update on life that I was expecting in the email, Ander told me that Edurne had been arrested in an early morning raid by the police. This was not another news story that I was reading of a further arrest of a `Basque activist’ in a town far away, but an email about the arrest of my friend in a city I used to live in.

“We all used to talk politics now and again and I knew that Ander actively campaigned for Basque prisoner rights and was knowledgeable on the subject, but so did I through the Celtic League. Edurne I know was also a peaceful campaigner for Basque rights and she was always very fair and considered in our discussions. We all agreed though that using violence was not the way forward for the Basque Country and that democratic politics was the only solution.

“However, as Ander says in his account below, the Spanish police placed Edurne under `incommunicado detention’, which `means 5 days with no access to a lawyer or a doctor. It means illegal interrogation by the Security Forces,
psychological terror, forced postures, threats to yourself and your loved ones, lies “your mother has had a heart attack and died” (repeated over and over,until you believe it). It may mean sexual abuse, beatings, suffocation with a
plastic bag…’ These are known and proven Spanish police methods for dealing with people in incommunicado detention and have been condemned by groups like Amnesty International, United Nations, European Union and of course the League. I am not describing a military state in the Far East here, but a European Member state where many of you, no doubt, have been for a holiday at some point in your life.

“I lived in Irunia for over 2 years and I saw firsthand how brutal the police can be there. I have seen the photos of prisoners held up silently by relatives and friends lining the streets every Friday. I have heard the shots from police
guns, the cries from the public and the smashing of windows as the police break up small peaceful demonstrations by women and how the police line the streets in military style uniforms with their guns held aloft as thousands pass by chanting for freedom of expression and the condemnation of further bans of political parties and youth groups. I have even been in these demonstrations myself, surrounded by people of all ages and have been amazed by the resilience, bravery and determination of those protesting peacefully in the face of aggression.

“Now though someone I know personally as a friend has been arrested. Ander said that “some 10 other people were arrested in the Basque province on the same night” and for all I know, if I had still been living in Irunia today, perhaps I would have been the eleventh. This threat to democracy is real and open. The state of Spain is not under a dictatorship – General Franco died in 1975 and Spain wrote a democratic constitution. Actions like this are not supposed to happen in a European Union today and yet they do. If we choose – it is a choice – to stand back and let this continue, then perhaps one of us will be next. I urge you all to write letters of protest to the Spanish Embassy wherever you live and your local political representative, asking them for an explanation in
this later round of arrests and a restoration of democracy and freedom of speech. It is only through international people pressure that the Spanish authorities will eventually listen – I hope you can help.”

Ander’s account of what happened on 18th January 2011 is below:

“Last night Edurne and I were asleep.

I woke up as if from a dream about the doorbell. It was our doorbell and loud banging on the door of the flat.

Through the peephole, I saw helmets and masked, armed men, shouting,


I turned to see her, barely awake, and said

– it’s the police…

– what?!

More banging.

I opened the door, hands up, and said: what’s going on? – as they shoved me back – do you have an entry order?!


They went to Edurne and said she was under Incommunicado arrest, for “integration in an armed group” (this figure, often used by the Spanish courts, has been shown to cover just about everything from actually having guns, etc. to speaking at a public rally in favour of as peace process. See Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur’s report on Spain).

My heart sank to my feet. It was 02:50. Not the milkman, Mr. Churchill.

To cut a long story short, they turned the flat inside out, looking for goodness knows what. They took my hard drive, my iPod, the hard drive from my work laptop and a couple of USB pendrives. They took Edurne’s cameras, mine, her phone, my diary; they ripped up boxes and envelopes… I still don’t know what else is missing, because of the state in which they left the flat.

I spent the three hours the search took under custody of two large Special Operations uniformed, armed, policemen, while the masked men (and one woman) went about their business, sharing the odd joke. I repeatedly demanded my
constitutional right to witness the search.

Which one of you is he? May I talk to him?

I stated that they were going through stuff of mine, that I had a right to see what was going on.


The only solace we got was a quick hug, before they took her away, handcuffed, downstairs and (as I found out later) marched her in front of the TV crews who had somehow got a hold of the “scoop” (common practice by someone in the system, to ensure the media are aware, so they can record the police’s daring exploits).

The search of her workplace took two and a half hours. Pretty much the same story.

Her Dad (who is her boss) was allowed to be present, but not to talk to her.


After that, she was marched off again, this time with a hood over her head. I ran after the armed police, shouting the Basque equivalent of: keep the heid! Remember not to believe anything they say to you! We will be fine! remember not to sign a statement! I love you! We love you!

Her parents are distraught. Some 10 other people were arrested in the Basque province of Navarre last night. We have met with the lawyer and she has told us what most people in this country know. Incommunicado detention means 5 days with no access to a lawyer or a doctor. It means illegal interrogation by the Security Forces, psychological terror, forced postures, threats to yourself and your loved ones, lies “your mother has had a heart attack and died” (repeated over and over, until you believe it). It may mean sexual abuse, beatings, suffocation with a plastic bag…

There is nothing we can do right now. It won’t do to keep going over and over the torture methods the Spanish Security Forces are known to use (see former UN Special Rapporteur Theo van Boven’s reports on Spain, Amnesty Intl. yearly reports on Spain, etc.).

We will probably know nothing until Saturday, when the 120 hours of incommunicado detention are up. After that, Edurne and the others will be taken before the investigating judge. This particular one systematically refuses detainees the assistance of their own lawyers even when appearing before him, he systematically refuses habeas corpus.

We will travel to Madrid, to the Audiencia Nacional, the special court directly descended from the Francoist “Public Order Tribunal”. And wait.

Thereafter, Edurne may be released under bail or remanded in custody. This, in practice can mean up to 4 years of pre-trial imprisonment, in one or various gaols hundreds of kilometres away from home. If that happens, we will go through mountains of bureaucracy and long journeys to see her for 40 minutes, a week. Because we will not leave her on her own. We haven’t. We won’t. Ever.

You all know Edurne. She is a nice girl, she’s into cooking and Basque dancing. She loves watching Scotland play rugby (surely a sign of a strong heart!). She has never been involved in anything illegal, but she has certainly done her bit to support friends and other people who have gone through the ordeal she is going through now. It is common sense. And ethics.

The Spanish Government is doing this as a show of strength and in a deliberate attempt to frustrate the radical move away from armed conflict currently ongoing in the Basque Country.

I must ask you to bear this wee letter in mind. Maybe you want to write to your MP: what is the position of the UK on their EU partner’s actions? Maybe you just want to tell your friends about this.

Believe me, disbelieve the stuff coming out of the Spanish press and their securocratic masters: what I have written here today is true.

Before going to bed, Edurne and I watched Star wars, Episode IV, also known as “A New Hope”. Terrible that the evil empire should disturb our dreams so easily.

Keep the head!

We love you Edurne!
Ander Larunbe Anderson. 18 January 2011.”
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884
M: 0044(0)7787318666


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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