Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Persecution of a Newspaper. (Spain)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Persecution of a Newspaper. (Spain)

Article excerpt

Pello Zubiria lies in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Madrid, suffering from pneumonia and a degenerative disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which causes the bones in his spine to fuse together.

Zubiria is here because, on 20 February, the Spanish Guardia Civil raided the offices of Euskaldunon Egunkaria, Spain's leading Basque-language newspaper, and arrested ten members of staff. As a former managing editor, Zubiria was among those accused of helping the violent separatist group ETA in its campaign for an independent Basque country.

Zubiria's delicate condition was ignored when he was imprisoned, and the pain became so great that he had a nervous breakdown and attempted to kill himself. To date, only four of the journalists arrested have been released on bail, and each has complained of torture by the Spanish authorities.

Martxelo Otamendi, the current editor of Egunkaria, told a press conference upon his release: "The treatment was merciless, brutal." During the five days that he was held at a police station, he was twice suffocated with a bag while being verbally abused.

This is the latest example of Spain's unique interpretation of the war on terror, where Basque newspapers, cultural magazines, radio stations, language schools for adults and even children's language schools are accused of harbouring terrorist activity. There is no disputing the criminality of ETA, which has caused the deaths of more than 800 people in a bombing and shooting campaign since 1968; but the Basque community as a whole is threatened by the government's heavy-handed clampdown. …

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