Spanish Supreme Court Re-Opens “Bateragune Case” Against Arnaldo Otegi

Read here the statement of our Basque member organisation IRATZAR on the politically motivated re-opening of a trial against Arnaldo Ortegi, Coordinator of EH Bildu and four others.

The Spanish Supreme court has taken an unprecedented decision to repeat Arnaldo Otegi, Rafa Díez, Sonia Jacinto, Miren Zabaleta and Arkaitz Rodríguez’s trial for the Bateragune case, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled they didn’t have a fair trial in 2011. A summary of the case:

  • In 2011 Arnaldo Otegi and others Basque leaders were sentenced to 10 years in prison –later reduced to six and a half by the Supreme Court– and barred from public office for 10 years for allegedly being part of ETA.
  • They were convicted for their key work in the strategic change that brought about the peace process, which included, ETA’s disarmament in 2017 and its dissolution in 2018.
  • In 2015 Free Otegi, an International Campaign for Arnaldo Otegi’s release was launched with the support of 24 international leading figures.
  • The ECHR ruled in 2018 that article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the “right to a fair trial” had been violated.
  • By then, Arnaldo and the other 4 defendants had served their sentences in full (31 years of prison overall) and had been released.
  • The Spanish Supreme court noted in July 2020 that the ruling had been quashed and declared the case closed. The Spanish Audiencia Nacional did the same.

In a strange turn of events, the Supreme Court opened the case again in September 2020 at the request of far-right party VOX and has decided to repeat the 2011 trial.

The Spanish deep state seems unable to accept the role Arnaldo Otegi played in building the peace process and the current constructive contributions to a better future EH Bildu is making, as evidenced by its role supporting the current Government PSOE-Podemos. This is an attack on Arnaldo Otegi and the Basque pro-independence left but it is also, fundamentally, an attempt to hinder progress on the democratic resolution of the conflict.

There is an ongoing attempt by sectors of the state apparatus and political right wing to promote a counter-reform and an authoritarian way to the crisis of the Spanish state, through the destabilization of the political scenario. However it’s clear that the conflicts in the Spanish state can only be addressed through dialogue and negotiations.

It is the first time the Supreme Court decides to repeat a trial after it had been annulled by the ECHR, this is a clear legal outrage, its motivation is undoubtedly political. But it’s also a serious problem of legal security.

The EU is concerned about an illiberal justice system in Poland and Hungary, but shouldn’t the EU be also, be deeply worried about this type of behaviour in many instances of the Spanish Justice?

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