The court case against five member of the directing body of Basque-language newspaper Egunkaria(closed down by the then-leading PP government in 2003), being held in Spain’s National Court, resumes on Tuesday with witness statements from four former members of ETA. During investigations into the paper, documentation was seized from Tuesday’s witnesses which the prosecution claims prove the link between the newspaper and the armed Basque group.
Two of the four witness are José Luis Alvarez Santacristina, known as Txelis, former head of ETA’s political wing, and Carmen Guisasola, expelled from the armed group in 1998. Both remain in prison but have become critical of the group’s activity. Joining them will be José María Dorronsoro Malaxetxeberria, also in prison, and José Domingo Aizpurua Pitxas, released from jail in France in December.
The four have been called to the stand by the group Dignity and Justice who, along with the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) accuse the five defendants – Iñaki Uria, Juan Mari Torrealdai, Jose Maria Auzmendi, Xabier Oleaga and Martxelo Otamendi – of “maintaining financial links with the terrorist group” (something of which they cite as proof the documentation seized from the four witnesses between 1990 and 1993).
Accused claim “no knowledge” of documents
The seized documentation also served as the grounds on which High Court Judge Del Olmo was able to close down the editorial claiming that the newspaper acted “with the help of the Basque language (Euskera) as a cultural cover” for the terrorist ideal. The defendants, however, deny any allegiance to ETA, describing themselves as promoters of Euskera whose aim was to respond to a palpable “interest” in a Basque-only newspaper.
Iñaki Uria claimed to know nothing of the documentation seized from ETA, which he says went against the paper, its independence and its ethos and which were now being used to “cause damage”.
In 2006, Central Court Prosecutor Miguel Angel Carballo determined that there were no grounds for the current court case and requested a stay of proceedings. Despite this, six months later a court hearing was officially announced.
In the hearing it was concluded that only five of those arrested would finally go to trial: Joan Mari Torrealdai, ex-President of the administrative counsil of Egunkaria; Iñaki Uria, ex-Managing Director; Txema Auzmendi, former Administrative Council Secretary; Martxelo Otamendi, ex-Director; and Xabier Oleaga, former deputy director.
On trial, which began on 15th December 2009, the accused face sentences of between 12 and 14 years in prison, in addition to a further 14 or 15-year ban from practicing journalism.
Aside from the accusations which form the basis of the trial, there are further charges of attempting to falsify accounts and defraud the Treasury, of which eight members stand accused: Joan Mari Torrealdai, Iñaki Uria, Txema Auzmendi, José Mari Sors, Ainoa Albisu, Mikel Sorozabal, Begoña Zubelzu and Fernando Furundarena.
They could face up to between 13 and 26 years in prison and possible fines of between 21 and 33 million euros. The date for this trial is yet to be announced.