In Spain’s northern Basque region, residents often joke that “everything is ETA.”
What they mean is that all kinds of seemingly benign behavior—wearing traditional clothing, speaking the Basque language or even sporting tattoos of certain Basque symbols—can expose them to accusations of belonging to the Basque separatist group, whose full name, Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, translates to “Basque Homeland and Freedom.”
The dangers posed by such accusations are stark. They can result in jail terms of up to 40 years, as well as mistreatment at the hands of the Spanish authorities. Security forces have been caught
multiple times using excessive force and torture
against suspected “terrorists” sympathetic to ETA’s embrace of political violence.
While the joke might seem like an exaggeration, certain cases highlight the element of truth at its core. Take an incident that occurred late one night in October 2016 in the Basque-speaking town of Altsasu. At a bar in town called Koxka, seven young men and one woman got in an altercation
with two members of the Spanish Civil Guard, a segment of the military that performs policing duties. To this day, it remains unclear what exactly the altercation was about. But according to Spanish prosecutors
, a violent fight began inside the bar and spilled out into the street. The Civil Guards later reported that they had been beaten with “blows and kicks from all sides.”
This account was quickly called into question, however. The bar owner and a waitress said
they did not see any physical aggression either inside or outside the establishment. A video
recorded by one of the accused suggests that the standoff never escalated beyond a heated discussion.
Full article at World Politics Review’s website. Date of publication: 17/07/2018