Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has welcomed this morning’s release from jail of Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi, saying it was a boost for the Basque peace process. Ms Anderson spoke at the launch of the ‘Free Otegi’ campaign in the European Parliament last March, and took part in a delegation to the Basque Country last month examining the conditions for Basque political prisoners.
Ms Anderson said:
“I am delighted that Arnaldo Otegi is being welcomed home by his family and community today, and I extend sincere solidarity to him from Sinn Féin. We also welcome the news that Arnaldo has confirmed he will take part in internal party elections later this month seeking to stand as a candidate for EH Bildu.
“But I’m appalled that he received this sentence in the first place. The fact that Arnaldo Otegi was jailed for more than six years solely for his ideals and political activism is an indictment of the Spanish authorities.
“Since the 1990s, Otegi has been acknowledged as the leader of the Basque pro-independence political movement – and he has also faced unrelenting political persecution by Spanish authorities. Already the Spanish authorities have sought to restrict rallies welcoming Otegi’s release from prison.
“As well as being acknowledged as the leader of the Basque pro-independence movement, Otegi is also indisputably the leader of the Basque peace process, and that is why he was jailed in 2011.
“In October 2009, 10 central leaders of the Basque pro-independence movement including Otegi were arrested as they met to discuss a new peace initiative, and five of them were jailed. Despite such provocation, this peace initiative has led to the permanent ETA ceasefire of 2011 and its move in 2014 to begin the process of disarmament. It has also led to the legal registration of new pro-independence party Sortu in 2013, which has rejected violence and reached unprecedented levels of popular support in the Basque Country.
“I warmly welcome the release of Arnaldo Otegi and offer him our full support in his efforts to develop the Basque peace process. The Spanish government should finally engage with this process. It should release all those who have been jailed for purely political work, and immediately repatriate all Basque prisoners to prisons within the Basque Country as the first step towards an early-release programme.