INTRODUCTION: In Spain, large forces of riot police and para-military civil guards virtually sealed off the town of Echarri Aranaz in Navarre Province.
INTRODUCTION: In Spain, large forces of riot police and para-military civil guards virtually sealed off the town of Echarri Aranaz in Navarre Province. The move was to prevent people from the Basque region in the north of the country from attending a meeting demanding an amnesty for all the country's political prisoners, the restoration of traditional Basque rights and acceptance of the Basque language for official use.
SYNOPSIS: The Echarri Aranaz town council had asked mayors and municipal councillors from Spain's four Basque provinces to meet here. About 30 mayors from the Basque province of Guipuzcoa defied a government ban and accepted the invitation. They were stopped from reaching the town, but nearly a thousand people managed to reach the small town hall of Echarri Aranaz.
The illegal, but now tolerated Basque national flag was displayed inside the meeting, and the mayors who were turned back and an estimated 7,000 Basques staged a peaceful demonstration of support in the town of Vergara in Guipuzcoa.
The Mayor of Echarri Aranaz read out a lengthy statement saying that it was intolerable for Basque town councils to continue to remain silent about the situation.
He attacked the authorities for breaking up meetings and persecuting people identifying with basque nationalism. He also pointed out that 85 per cent of prisoners in Spain were Basques although Basques were only 8 per cent of the total population of Spain. The audience sang Basque songs and the town council unanimously approved resolutions calling for a total political amnesty, equal status with Spanish for the Basque language and the return of Basque regional rights taken away by General Franco after the 1936-39 civil war.