3 January 1998
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Banned video "Democratic Alternative" now online From: SPG <email@example.com> Date: 02 Jan 1998 13:26:31 +0100 The "Democratic Alternative for the Basque Country" video (banned in Spain) is now available in RealVideo format thanks to Contrast.Org. You can watch or download the video from the Euskal Herria Journal "mirror" sites: http://www.osis.ucsd.edu/~ehj http://www.contrast.org/mirrors/ehj Leaders of Herri Batasuna in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa were jailed on Friday to begin serving their seven year prison sentences for having disseminated ETA's peace proposal, the Democratic Alternative. On December 1, 1997, Spain's Supreme Court convicted the entire leadership of Herri Batasuna of "collaborating with an armed group" and sentenced them to seven years each in prison for attempting to show a video (The Democratic Alternative), a proposal for cease-fire and peace from the Basque armed organization ETA during an election campaign broadcast last year. The court failed to prove the participation of each of the 23 politicians in the decision to broadcast the video and thus, it violates the principle of the presumption of innocence. The judges considered that a crime was committed when in fact the video had never been broadcasted. Moreover, the judges applied Franco's Penal Code, which declared the crime of "collaborating with an armed band" as any type of collaboration with the activities and goals of an armed group. It thus criminalizes the role of intermediary in disseminatiing negotiating positions or peace proposals in a bitter and long standing conflict. When Herri Batasuna first showed the video in public meetings in early 1996, Spain's National Court (Franco's Tribunal of Public Order renamed) banned the video. The then Socialist government--more than 14 of whose police and senior government officials and a Civil Guard general have been formally charged for their involvement in the creation, funding, and activities of the death squads that killed at least 28 suspected Basque activists in the mid 1980s--instructed the attorney general to investigate whether Herri Batasuna should be outlawed. Herri Batasuna then attempted to use segments of the ETA video to disseminate the peace proposal in their election campaign but its broadcast was banned. In May 1996, the Socialist lost the general elections to the Partido Popular (Popular Party, founded by Franco's Minister of Interior). In January 1997, Spain's Supreme Court decided to prosecute the 23 leaders of Herri Batasuna. Over 30,000 people rallied in February in the Basque city of Bilbo to protest the prosecution of the Herri Batasuna leadership. The demonstration, which was initially peaceful, turned into a violent confrontation when the police opened fire with live ammunition, wounding several people. In June, an International Commission for Freedom of Expression presented the Manifesto to the Public Opinion and the International Community in support of free speech and opposition to the trial against Herri Batasuna. The president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, and other distinguished individuals are among the 700 signatories who endorsed the Manifesto. International observers from human rights organizations in eleven countries watching the proceedings issued a joint statement saying that the accused were given the burden of proof which "violates the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence." Basque political parties have strongly criticized the sentences, saying that the trial was politically motivated and dashed hopes for a peace dialogue. Herri Batasuna attorneys said that nothing had been proven and that the trial was intended to outlaw a political party which represents much of the vote of the Basque people. They will appeal the sentence.