DRUMMING SOLIDARITY FOR BASQUE POLITICAL PRISONERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On July 7th (the San Fermin feast day) 1985 two Basque political prisoners escaped from the Spanish prison of Martutene during a concert. The escape was received joyfully in the Basque Country and in other places and celebrated also in song composed by the Basque ska-punk band Kortatu (1984-1988). The song is called Sarri, Sarri, a nickname made from Sarrionandia, the paternal surname of one of the escapees, who was serving 22 years form membership of ETA, the Basque left-independentist armed organisation.

 

 

 

The song is performed annually (see video) in the Orereta/ Errenteria area to the accompaniment of massed drummers, a denborrada or tamborrada(“a drumming”), in the province of Gipuzkoa, near the French State border and not very far from Donosti/ San Sebastian and was done as a gesture of solidarity with the Basque political prisoners. In its report on the first quarter of 2018, Etxerat, the association of political prisoners’ families and friends, recognised 287 prisoners but over the years a number of Basque prisoners have left the collective but are still serving time, a few doing so since the changes in policy of ETA and of the Abertzale Left leadership. Of the 287 recognised by Etxerat,twenty-two were terminally or seriously ill and should have been paroled under Spanish and French laws, only three were serving sentences in the Basque Country and four seriously-ill on parole, 280 being dispersed in jails throughout the French and Spanish states. Relatives and friends able for the long journeys have to travel distances of between 100 to 1,100 kilometers from the Basque Country and many traffic accidents, some fatal, have occurred on those journeys.

ETA (Euskadi1 Ta Askatasuna = Basque Nation and Freedom) was formed in the late 1960s and for almost a decade did not engage in armed activity, though its members and supporters were hounded, tortured and jailed by the Spanish State, after which it turned to armed actions. The organisation called a “permanent truce” some years ago and recently dissolved itself in what seems to have been a bid by the pro-independence left’s political leadership to enter some kind of peace process with the Spanish State, in which the latter is clearly uninterested or perhaps as a move to ease the conditions and possibly sentences of Basque political prisoners.

Amnistia Ta Askatasuna (“Amnesty & Freedom”), an organisation campaigning for prisoners which does not recognise the official movement’s leadership exists, and though small, is active in many parts of the nation.

 

THE ESCAPEES

Iñaki “Pitti” Pikabea continued active in ETA and was sadly recaptured in 1987; he was paroled in 2000. Joseba Sarrionandia Uribelarrea kept low and avoided the authorities, although publishing writings and earning awards, until he surfaced in Cuba, where he lives to this day, as a writer and also a lecturer at the University of Havana.

Joseba Sarrionandia through the ages (images sourced: Internet)

Among Sarrionandai’s many writings (articles, poems, novels), on 3rd October 2011, the Basque Government and Spanish State were embarrassed to learn that Sarrionada had received a prestigious literary awarded, the Euskadi Prize for Essay in Basque for his work Moroak gara behelaino artean? (Are we Moors in the fog?) on the miseries of colonialism.2

End.

 

LINKS:

Joseba Sarrionandia Uribelarrea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseba_Sarrionandia

Etxerat report January-March 2018: http://www.etxerat.eus/index.php/es/informes/mensual

Amnistia Ta Askatasuna: https://www.facebook.com/amnistiataaskatasuna/ and http://amnistiaaskatasuna.blogspot.com/

Video of this year’s Denborrada: https://www.facebook.com/KatiuskakArgazkiEstudioa/videos/1879014595499250/?t=6

 

FOOTNOTES

1“Euskadi” nowadays normally means three of the southern (i.e under Spanish rule) Basque provinces combined in the “Basque Autonomous (sic) Region” and therefore excludes the other southern province, Nafarroa and the three northern provinces (i.e under French rule); “Euskal Herria” (the H is silent), i.e “the land where the people speak Basque” is the widely-accepted name for the Basque nation now.

2From Wikipedia (see Links): “On 3rd October 2011, Sarrionandia was awarded the Euskadi Prize for Essay in Basque for his work Moroak gara behelaino artean? (Are we Moors in the fog?) on the miseries of colonialism; however, the Basque Government withheld the prize sum of 18,000 euros until the author’s status was resolved. On the same day, judges and lawyers interviewed by media confirmed that Sarrionandia could not be prosecuted by Spanish law, as more than 20 years had passed since his original prison sentence and his escape. While terrorist acts have no time limit, the provision applies only if there was at least one victim. After a month and a half, the Spanish High Court confirmed to the Basque government that Sarrionandia was ‘clean’, with no criminal or civil liability. The prize amount was handed over to his family”.

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