The Basques: Their Struggle for Independence

By Luis Núñez Astrain; Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

DEMOCRACY AND TORTURE

Every year there are nearly a hundred reported cases of torture in the Basque Country. To this figure must be added those which go unreported, due to the victims' fear that they might have to relive this terrible experience. A single case will serve to illustrate the way in which the police habitually behave when interrogating suspects. The detainee in question was a Basque refugee who was handed over to the Spanish police by the French police without any extradition procedures or any judicial proceedings.


The case of Joxe Domingo Aizpurua

On 2 June 1994 Joxe Domingo Aizpurua, having served three years, was looking forward to finishing his four-year sentence in a French gaol. As the time came for him to be released from the prison of Fleury-Merogis, the French police re-arrested him while he was still inside the building — contrary to the law — and then handed him over to the Spanish Civil Guard at Irun. The following account, written by Aizpurua himself, relates the appalling torture which he suffered at their hands from the moment — it was 8.45 pm on a day he will remember for the rest of his life — when the police bundled him into a van in the border-town of Irun. The torture lasted several days, in both San Sebastián and Madrid, and he was in solitary confinement for a fortnight.

After appearing before the Audiencia Nacional without the services of a lawyer, he was eventually set free without caution and returned to his native village of Usurbil in Guipúzcoa, where he was given a warm welcome in a festive atmosphere by a huge crowd of sympathizers.

It might be thought that the French authorities are aware that to hand over a detainee to the Spanish State is quite a different matter from handing one over to Sweden or Italy, as far as the likelihood

-80-

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