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The Case of Jon Anza

20/01/10

Jon AnzaEvil might not shoot, kill, maim, torture, mutilate, disfigure or strangle. Evil might not even call openly for these things to happen to opponents. Evil can be the simple act of staying silent.

Spain has, this month, taken on the presidency of the European Union for six months. The fact is that the Spanish Civil Guard, police and military are shooting, torturing, mutilating and kidnapping political opponents of the Spanish government, while the courts, in turn, imprison youth group members, politicians, journalists and language activists. Nothing is ever heard in ‘mainstream’ society about these attacks on democracy. It seems that the media throughout Europe think that it would be impolite to highlight these daily echoes of Franco’s dictatorship.

To reveal the lack of democracy at the heart of the Spanish state might threaten the illusion that the European Union has any democratic credentials itself.

Probably the most shocking case to have emerged inside the last year of Spain’s Dirty War against Basque citizens is the disappearance of Jon Anza.

Anza is originally from Donostia [San Sebastián] in the Spanish occupied part of the Basque Country. For his involvement in the national independence struggle, he was imprisoned in 1982 and remained incarcerated for over 12 years. After his release and, with mounting harassment from Spanish state forces, Anza decided to move to the French occupied part of the Basque Country – to live in exile in order to have some quality of life for himself and his family.

In Baiona on April 18 2009 at 7am Jon was boarding a train for Toulouse. He was waved off on his journey by his partner, having told her that he was travelling to meet up with friends. She had no contact with Jon in the days that followed but this didn’t immediately worry her. It wasn’t until April 24 when Jon missed an appointment with his doctor that his partner became concerned.

Jon has an illness which impairs his sight, he is almost blind, and he needs regular medical treatment. In the weeks that followed, his relatives and friends waited for news but, when nothing happened, they decided to act. On May 16 relatives of Jon, his lawyer and a member of Askatasuna, the Basque organisation for political prisoners, held a press conference in Baiona. They told of how they feared for Jon’s safety. They recounted the stories from the 1970s and ’80s when Spanish state forces had kidnapped, tortured and killed Basques living in the French occupied zone. They told of how they now feared that Jon may have met a similar fate. They were asking for help.

People from all over the Basque Country responded. In less than a week, over 1,000 people took to the streets of Baiona to protest. Days later, 500 people gathered in Biarritz demanding to know the whereabouts of Jon.

Two weeks after the press conference, hundreds of protests that are held around the Basque Country every month to remember Basque political prisoners were focused on the plight of Jon Anza and banners and placards asked the simple question ‘Non da Jon?’ [Where is Jon?]. More protests followed, over 4,000 turned out in Donostia; banners, stickers, posters and graffiti showed a simple picture of Jon and all asked the same question; his girlfriend gave an emotional interview to the Basque media, but still no news.

Protest for Jon AnzaThe months passed quickly and, despite efforts to mark each month of Jon’s absence, the campaign seemed to be getting nowhere. The Spanish and French governments said nothing.

Soon after the initial press conference, ETA acknowledged that Jon was still an active member, despite his illness, and that the friends he had being travelling to meet were, in fact, other ETA activists. Jon had never arrived at the meeting and ETA announced that they too were very concerned about his whereabouts. In contrast to the silence of the authorities, ETA publicly called for information on Jon’s location.

It wasn’t until early October that the Basque newspaper Gara revealed that they had information which confirmed that the train Jon had been travelling on had been boarded by Spanish police officers. They dragged Jon off the train and took him away for interrogation, where he met his death. His body was then removed to a secret location and buried. Both the interrogation and the burial site are located in France, although it is unclear from the information available to Gara as to what role, if any, the French state had in this sordid series of events.

The claims by Gara should not be dismissed as paranoia or propaganda. The treatment of Jon Anza isn’t isolated. It is part of a pattern of events, which could be described as the re-emergence of a dirty war by Spain against the Basque nationalist left.

Throughout 2009, a number of incidents have pointed towards this. In January last year, a political activist was kidnapped by a mixed group of Spanish and French men. He was held for a number of hours while they tried to persuade him to become an informer. He refused and, the next day, he was approached by the same men in the street and suffered a violent assault which resulted in his hospitalisation. At least three other activists have also been kidnapped, threatened and tortured. Attacks on nationalist bars and graffiti threatening the lives of Basque nationalists have also begun to appear.

The reason that Basque nationalists are aware of the implications of a dirty war isn’t because they have learned of these things by reading about Chile or Argentina but because, three decades ago, they were living through the original Spanish Dirty War.

Some of the incidents from this period are frighteningly familiar when Jon Anza’s case is considered. For example, Eduardo Moreno Bergaretxe has been missing since July 23 1976. He disappeared on his way to a meeting with ETA-Politico Militar [an organisation that would disband in the early 1980s]. 33 years later, certain Italian neo-fascists, who had been working for the Spanish state, gave statements to the Spanish National Court to the effect that, at that time, they kidnapped a Basque, whom they tortured and disappeared. Another case with strong similarities is that of José Miguel Echeverría Alvarez, “Naparra”, an activist with the Autonomous Anticapitalist Comandos [an organisation that was disbanded in the early 1980s] has been missing since June 11 1980. There are still no clues as to his whereabouts.

The case of ETA volunteers Joxi Zabala and Joxan Lasa may give an idea of the terrible fate of those missing, including Jon Anza. They were missing for years. They were eventually both found in a grave in Alicante, thanks to the perseverance of an undertaker, who looked after the unidentified bodies. The bodies showed signs of terrible torture and had been buried in caustic lime. Eventually, several high-ranking members of the PSOE-led Spanish Government of the time were convicted of their kidnap, torture and murder.

Evil must have accomplices if it is to succeed and the evil that the Spanish government has unleashed on the Basque Country has a plentiful supply of accomplices. European media, governments and many NGOs are complicit in the disappearance of Jon Anza because they looked away and are allowing evil a free reign.

 

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