november 2006


The automatic life imprisonment for those who don't renounce the political identity

The case of Iñaki de Juana is a violation of several human rights. It is a case of arbitrary detention because of the irregular nature of the extension of his time in prison after having served his sentence in full and being entitled to his release; it is a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of speech, because he is being accused of terrorism for having published two opinion articles that had no criminal content whatsoever; it is an example of justice working at the whim of political interests and special jurisdictional activity; the treatment Iñaki de Juana is being subjected to, in that he is on hunger strike of his own free will and he is being force-fed against his will, is a clear case of inhuman and cruel treatment. This is probably the most flagrant case today, but it is not the only one; Iñaki de Juana's current situation is but the tip of the iceberg.
The case of Iñaki de Juana, which has come to public notice because of his indefinite hunger strike, is but the tip of the iceberg of the policy the French and Spanish governments apply against the Basque Political Prisoners' Collective. Through the Policy of Dispersal, there is a systematic violation of the basic rights they are entitled to as people deprived of freedom -the right to be held in jails close to their homes, the right to healthcare, the right to personal safety, to a legal defence, to study and use their own language...- this policy also affects the prisoners' relatives and friends. However, in recent times, there have been a number of changes in the law, in jurisprudence and in court jurisdictions which have added to the repression against this Collective, restricting their rights even further. The latest backlash affects the right to be released of prisoners who have finished serving their sentences and who, according to the law, should be released.

Background: the "Parot Doctrine" and the change in jurisprudence
Article 70.2 of the 1973 Penal Code set the maximum time in prison at 30 years. This time could be reduced through remission (i.e. time deducted from the sentence for reasons such as good behaviour, attending workshops, studying...) Remission was calculated on that maximum serving time for people who had received sentences above 30 years, therefore time was discounted from those 30 years.
In 1995, the Penal Code was amended eliminating remission, due to the increase in repression sought by the main Spanish political parties, who advocated Basque political prisoners should serve their sentences in full.
However, prisoners convicted under the previous Penal Code still benefited from remission, until the Spanish Supreme Court decided, in verdict 197/2006, that remission should be calculated on the total sentence passed -in some cases, hundreds of years- and not on the maximum serving time of 30 years. In practice this cancels remission altogether. Several prisoners will have to serve 10 or 12 years more until they complete the 30 year limit. This new interpretation of the law which is being both systematically and retroactively applied has become known as "Parot Doctrine", referring to Unai Parot, the first prisoner against whom it was applied.

Amendment of serving time: the maximum limit
In July 2003, and again in response to "the social demand against terrorism" as explicitly stated in Organic Law 7/2003, the limit to sentence serving time was extended to 40 years in prison; in this case, it was specifically set for people convicted of more than two crimes of terrorism, when one of these is punishable with more than 20 years in jail.
With this new law, the requisites for parole were specifically amended for cases of terrorism, expressly demanding the prisoner repudiate his or her actions, as well as other requisites which do not apply in other especially serious or relevant crimes -articles 90, 91 and 93 of the Penal Code.

Denial of the right to be released
Thus, this new interpretation by the Supreme Court affects several prisoners who were about to be released:
- Jon Agirre Agiriano, Aramaio -Araba- 25 years in prison; was to be released on 28 October but his sentence has been extended until 3 May, 2011
- Kandido Zubikarai Badiola. Ondarroa -Bizkaia- 17 years in prison; was to be released on 27 October but his release date has been put back 5 years.
- Koldo Hermosa Urra, S a nturtzi -Bizkaia- should have been released on 8 September, but his sentence has been extended until 8 September 2017; until he has been in prison for 30 years.
- Peio Etxeberria Lete, Soraluze -Gipuzkoa- should have been released on 10 September but his sentence has been extended until 8 April 2019.
- Iñaki Gaztañaga Bidaurreta. Arrasate -Gipuzkoa- after 18 years in prison, he should have been released in March this year; his sentence has been extended 12 years.
- Txomin Troitiño Arranz, D onostia -Gipuzkoa- should have been released on 18 May this year after 19 years in prison and he has been given a further 12 years, until 2017.
- Joseba Artola Ibarretxe, Bilbo, Bizkaia, after 20 years in prison, he has been given a further 10 years, until 10 June 2016.
- Josu Bollada Alvarez, Ortuella -Bizkaia- should have been released on 20 May, his sentence has been extended until 19 September 2018.
- Antxon Lopez Ruiz, Elorrio - Bizkaia, 12 years more, until January 2017, after 19 years in prison.
- Txerra Martinez Garcia, Basauri -Bizkaia- should have been released in August, after 15 years in prison.
- Unai Parot. Baiona, -Lapurdihas not finished his sentence yet.

Therefore, this dynamic affecting several prisoners and which will add up and generate an increasingly serious situation in the future, can be understood as pure, illegal and illegitimate revenge against people who should be released; a revenge motivated simply and clearly by political interests. The implications of this penitentiary treatment are unforeseeable in the development of the political process, but we certainly believe that using the prisoners as political hostages cannot help the process in any way.

Iñaki de Juana Chaos on hunger strike for his right to be released
On August 7, Basque political prisoner Iñaki de Juana Chaos began a hunger strike to demand his right to be released. Iñaki de Juana should have been released on October 25, 2004, after serving his sentence in full and having spent 18 years in jail. However, the Magistrate at the First Penal Court of the Spanish Audiencia Nacional, Gómez Bermúdez, issued a decision dated October 22, attempting to contest the remission Iñaki was entitled to and to prevent his release.
In view of the impossibility to maintain this line of argument, the judge decreed his remand in custody for an alleged crime of membership of an armed group and terrorist threats.
The basis for the accusations were two opinion articles the prisoners sent to the daily Gara. It is impossible to find any rational basis in the articles to sustain such charges. Precisely, on June 14, 2006 the decision whereby Audiencia Nacional judge Santiago Pedraz rejected the charges was published.
Judge Pedraz considered that, in the said articles, the prisoner expressed his support for the Basque National Liberation Movement -BNLM- which "is not comparable to ETA". He added that "this movement is not defined as a terrorist organisation" and therefore the crime of issuing terrorist threats was not proven.
At that point a media campaign was unleashed against the judge's decision. The Minister for Justice stated "we shall build new charges so that they are not released!" The State General Prosecutor, Cándido Conde Pumpido, said "we shall continue to oppose his release insofar as it is legally possible" and appealed Pedraz's decision. This climate impelled the Third Section of the Audiencia Nacional Penal Court to rectify judge Pedraz's decision, arguing that De Juana "boasted of and extolled" his membership of ETA in the two articles, the content of which, according to this decision" clearly displays a possible terrorist threat". Therefore there was a new request for a 96 year prison sentence.
During recent times we have witnessed a brutal initiative supported by the Spanish government and the special antiterrorist court, the Audiencia Nacional, to prevent the release of prisoners who were entitled to immediate release from prison, over and above all basic the principles of law. The Spanish State, for reasons to do with a political revenge, considers that Iñaki de Juana and other political prisoners in a similar situation have not served enough time in jail. Therefore, the Zapatero administration is attempting to instate this situation of de facto life imprisonment against the Basque Political Pr isoners' Collective, violating the universal right to release of those who have served their sentences in full. Furthermore, at this delicate political moment, when there is a possibility to open up a resolution process for the conflict that has confronted the Basque People and the Spanish state for years, the executive is using the prisoners, making a democratic solution to the political conflict more difficult.
In these circumstances, Iñaki believes he as no other way forward but to go on an open-ended hunger strike, even if he it takes him to his death.

Hunger strike and force feeding
Iñaki de Juana was taken to hospital on September 19 due to his poor condition on his 43rd day on hunger strike. The Audiencia Nacional agreed to proceed to feed the political prisoner "with no use of physical force, insofar as possible, and without violating his dignity as a human being" Doctors from the Punta Europa Hospital in Algeciras, following the Audiencia Nacional injunction began feeding him against his will. According to the Penitentiary Administration, the treatment was initiated due to a possible "risk of heart failure".
Police officers tied his arms and legs to the bed in view of his refusal to agree to be given intravenous potassium and saline solution. He was tied to the bed for 24 hours. During the visit with his relatives, he explained how on Wednesday his arms and legs were tied again by policemen, because he refused to accept a certain amount of potassium be put in the saline solution.
In Iñaki's own words, his body "has never suffered such violence", after 24 hours tied down, he could not take it any longer and he asked to be untied, saying he would not take action against the doctors.
These events opened up a debate on the legitimacy of medical intervention in a protest of this nature. The Declaration of Malta by the World Medical Association, dated November 1991, literally states: "Doctors or other health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on the hunger striker to suspend the strike. Treatment or care of the hunger striker must not be conditional upon him suspending his hunger strike." The UN Special Rapport eur, in a statement issued on 9/02/2006, defines force-feeding techniques as torture. We would simply like to ratify the right of this Basque prisoner to carry out his struggle without state intervention -further even, with no violent interventionwhen his will is to continue with his struggle. This hunger strike seems to be the very last resort left to Iñaki de Juana in order to protest against the injustice he is suffering.