The Basque Country has suffered a lot throughout the last decades. Euskadi ta Askatasuna (Basque Country and Freedom) is a well-known terrorist organisation who originally fought for Basque freedom in a Francoism context and carried on committing attacks until recently.
After having broken as many as four ceasefires it announced a fifth one in 2010 and made it definitive in 2011.
They have already manifested their will to disband and dissolve. Having created an atmosphere of terror, hatred and rage, attitudes towards ETA have not been particularly friendly.
To avoid new recruitments and the creation of new terrorist cells in prisons, imprisoned ETA members were dispersed to different prisons throughout all of Spain and France. They are usually kept in separate wings to common prisoners and treated worse.
Spain received with outrage the annulment of the Parot doctrine by the ECHR, which saw many ex-ETA members put in the streets long before their sentences were fully served.
Nevertheless, and perhaps trying to keep in line with the group’s recent conciliatory tones, the 63 prisoners met in the Basque town of Durango to state their support for Basque self-determination. They also emphasisied their commitment to peace, as well as demanding the right of imprisoned ex-etarras (members of ETA) to reintegrate into society. It is the view of many that Basque prisoners should be in Basque prisons, rather than scattered around in prisons hundreds of miles away from their homeland.
This is why the organisation Tantaz Tanta called for a demonstration in Bilbao to ask for the return of Basque prisoners to Euskadi. They called it ‘the sea of Bilbao’ after their motto ‘Tantaz tanta itsasoa gara’ (‘Drop by drop we are the sea’). This was followed by a ruling made by Spain’s National Court Justice Velasco, in which he disallowed it.
Trying to be conciliatory once again, the organisation cancelled all events for the day, saying it did not wish to be political and express their satisfaction in the achievement of their aims for the campaign. The nationalist parties called for a silence in response to being forbidden to express their opinion. Over 100,000 marched through Bilbao with hardly any police presence and no incidents at all, bearing slogans such as ‘Euskal presoak etxera’ (‘Basque prisoners to [their] home[land]’) and ‘Giza eskubideak, konponbidea, bakea’ (‘Human rights, agreement, peace’), as well as drawings of drops, alluding to the organisation Tantaz Tanta.
No representatives of the government attended the march even though their party, the Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV), was among the organisers. No ban was defied: while there were some shouts within the demonstration, it was a silent march in which no manifesto or communiqués were read, as has been the norm in similar demonstrations. It seems that even the radical factions of the abertzale movement are committed to peace and agreement (presumably with the Spanish government). There is hope for the Basque region yet.
However, whether the Spanish government will be willing to sit down and discuss the ‘repatriation’ of ex-ETA members in Spanish jails to Basque prisons is a different matter altogether.