translated by Iker Aranburu
How did the case against Egunkaria begin? (1)
1 december 2009
The case is based on a Guardia Civil’s dossier. Two years before Egunkaria was closed, the Guardia Civil Information Services gathered information concerning 20 companies involved in promoting Basque culture. The information was then handed on June 6th 2001 to judge Juan del Olmo, from the National Court, the Spanish special court. The title: About the alleged links between a net of companies financing the terrorist organization ETA.
In this document, Guardia Civil investigators stated that these companies were possibly involved in financing ETA, but did not provide any evidence. These allegations were based on mere suppositions. The Guardia Civil asked for some measures to be taken against these companies and some of their bosses, in order to be able to investigate those alleged economic links. And the judge agreed.
And that’s how the case started, in secret. That was two years before Egunkaria was closed.
What happened during the investigation? Phones were wired, money accounts were searched, they looked for suspicious figures in the Social Security and Tax offices, but they found nothing. The investigation didn’t give the information that the Guardia Civil was looking for.
Then, they concentrated on one single company: Euskaldunon Egunkaria.
Based on what information or allegations was Egunkaria closed? (2)
2 december 2009
When the investigation yielded (about more that 20 companies) no results, Guardia civil investigators focused on Euskaldunon Egunkaria. Based on what? They cleaned the dust on some old and very well known documents from 1990 to 1993, and they gave them to judge Del Olmo.
Those documents are said to be taken from four ETA members, but they are anonymous. In these papers some references are made to Egunkaria (naming the editor, financing, public funding etcetera), and about some other subjects too. In all those documents, comments about Egunkaria were from an outsiders point of view, the view of someone who has interest and information about it, but never from the point of view of an authority figure connected to the decision making process. Never has it been said that anybody from Egunkaria wrote those documents, or sent them or got them: or even that they knew about them.
Some of those documents were already in the public domain as the media leaked them in the 1990’s: there was some debate about it, even in the Basque Parliament. And all of the documents were well known in the National Court too. It has been known since then that judge Baltasar Garzon had those documents, and decided that they were no good to open a case.
But it seems that they were different political times when the documents were handed to judge Del Olmo. And along with the papers, the Guardia Civil asking for Egunkaria to be closed, that being a way to prove what they were looking for: that it was linked to ETA. So, it was closed in order to demostrate that it was linked to ETA, not because any of the ‘proof’ existed.
The four prisoners which the papers were taken from will declare in the trial, all requested by the defense: Jose Luis Alvarez Santacristina, Carmen Gisasola, Txomin Aizpurua and Jose Maria Dorronsoro.
What does the prosecutor have to say about the documents? (3)
3 december 2009
Accordingo to the prosecutor in the Spanish National Court, Miguel Angel Carballo, documents used by judge Del Olmo to justify the closure of Egunkaria contain no evidence. The following are excerpts taken from his file:
The documents taken from ETA members may prove that there is a link between KAS and ETA, but they don’t prove any link between ETA-Egunkaria or KAS-Egunkaria. According to the documents, it is possible to say that ETA had some interest in Egunkaria as it is the only newspaper written exclusively in Basque and possibly ETA would like to take to have contol of it; the investigation aimed to prove that the prosecuted took active part in this interest, and, so, they were instruments of ETA. The prosecutor, however, came to the conclusion that nothing in the investigation proved this ; more over, no documents taken from the prosecuted made any reference to ETA being involved in Egunkaria.
It is very clear that the new candidate for editor [Martxelo Otamendi] was not put forward by ETA, but [ETA] was informed about that. And ETA —according to the Guardia Civil— says the following: “He doesn’t seem to be a bad candidate, although we don’t know much about him”. So, choosing the editor or controlling who is going to choose him could not be attributed to ETA.
So, ETA does not impose anybody, nobody from Egunkaria asks for ETA’s permission, and ETA does not choose anybody, or so say the documents.
Thorough reading of the documents shows that their interpretation by the Guardia Civil is weak and lacks any real base, and that interpretations more favourable to the prosecuted are more logical. What is clear is that Egunkaria bosses were not interested in any proposals supposedly put forward by ETA.
Why was the main investigation and the one related to finance separated? (4)
4 december 2009
When Egunkaria was closed, on February 20th 2003, ten people were arrested. They were held in isolation for five days, and were interrogated, and most of them tortured. They were interrogated by the Guardia Civil first, and then by judge Del Olmo. All of Egunkaria’s premises were searched, as well as the working places of the arrested – magazines Jakin and Argia, Herri Irratia radio, Plazagunea Internet services’ office-, and many computers and thousands of documents were taken. But despite days of intense interrogations, and readings of the thousands of documents taken, no answers or links were found between Egunkaria and ETA. There was no proof that Egunkaria and ETA had financial links.
Then, another step was taken. On the 16th of October 2003, the Guardia Civil was back at the Egunkaria main premises: nine people were arrested, and many businesses linked to Egunkaria were searched and closed. Many more computers and papers were taken, most of them about the relationship between them. During the interrogations, they didn’t get what they were looking for, nor in the thousands of documents. Nothing related to ETA.
But they found something else: some alleged irregularities in the accounts. Most of those companies barely survive because they exclusively work in Basque and hence just about breeak even. However, under normal circumstances such financial discrepancies would be processed through the normal courts not special anti-terrorist courts.
Judge del Olmo decided to open another enquiry, because what was found had no relation to the main case, the links with ETA. But as those supposed irregularities were made by companies allegedly linked to ETA, they were going to remain in the Spanish National Court. And so it is now. It could be said that the financial case came about as adirect result of the failure of the main case.
How did the investigation develop? (5)
5 december 2009
The Guardia Civil searched the Egunkaria main offices a third time, on 1st of December 2003. The premises were still locked by the Court, nobody had been there for nine months. Judge Del Olmo himself came to Andoain. They took many other papers with them, this time chosen in a more selective way, mostly about financial movements. Again the search revealed nothing suspicious.
But the Guardia Civil and Del Olmo did not surrender. Even without the documents they thought they could prove that Egunkaria financed ETA. How? By simply deciding that it was that way. Here are three examples, all written by Del Olmo:
“The afore mentioned stock holders [people who put up money to create Egunkaria] don’t really invest money in a company; they do so because they are ETA supporters, because ETA and its organizers have asked them to do so. […] It is simply not believable that asking for money from the general public to create the paper would generate such funds; only a fraction could have been raised in this way”. (Judge Del Olmo investigation, 16/7/2003.
“ETA generates funding through popular campaigns -because most of the people who donate money are supporters of ETA- and with some other money from different sources, is used for the Egunkaria capital. Those amounts are either in the name of people or companies linked to ETA, or in the name of a big group of people that have no shareholders’ rights. In that way, ETA can easily control Egunkaria SA. Moreover, taking into consideration that, a big part of the money was in cash -ETA usually deals in cash-, that it is not possible to collect this quantity by popular campaigns, it is logical to believe that ETA personally provided the money that can not be linked to any other person or group”. (Judge Del Olmo investigation, 30/10/2003)
“All the capital [of the Egunkaria related companies] comes from Egunkaria SA itself and it is directly controlled by Egunkaria SA. So, it comes from the leadership of the publishing company, which was chosen by ETA. That means that they are part of the same project, and all the funds they use come from the same sources as Egunkaria’s”. (Del Olmo investigation, 30/10/2003)
How do they try to show that Egunkaria shares ETA’s goals? (6)
6 december 2009
When they realized that there was no evidence financially linking Egunkaria and ETA, the Guardia Civil and judge Del Olmo changed the direction of the charges. Using very peculiar arguments, they tried to show that Egunkaria was a tool of ETA. In that respect, Del Olmo has argued that Egunkaria helped ETA’s goals, just because it supports the Basque language.
These examples come from the Del Olmo investigation documents on the 30th of October 2003.
“ETA and its members believe that in order to promote Basque it is necessary to create structures and a network of companies that support it. Egunkaria presented an opportunity by creating Martin Ugalde Culture Park and taking part in creating Egunero newspaper”
“It seems possible that the [Martin Ugalde] park was created only to be the main premises of one of the organizations [Egunkaria] which are mere instruments in order to achieve the ultimate goal. That ultimate goal is that Basque would be the only language in the Basque Autonomous Region, in Navarre and in the french Basque Country, putting aside Spanish and French. By means of using one language and culture, they artificially promote the feeling of being a distinct people and thus, independentism. ETA wants to use that feeling to create a socialist and Basque speaking State. That is the goal of Euskaldunon Egunkaria, because it appears in some ETA documents of 1990 as a social movement promoting Basque language”.
What happened with the reports of torture? (7)
7 december 2009
Five of the ten people arrested of the 20th of February 2003 reported to the Courts that they were tortured. These are excerpts from those reports:
Inaki Uria: “They took the hood off, and put a plastic bag on my head. It was loose at first, but they kept tightening it around my neck, and thus, every time I breathed, the bag stuck to my face and then my mouth”
Martxelo Otamendi: “I was forced to continually exercise, until I was exhausted. Then I fell to the ground and could not breathe. I was insulted and threatened, and they put a the bag on me twice. They told me that interrogation is like a train: that I had the chance to get off at the first station, and I would suffer less, because, in the end, everybody talks…”
Xabier Oleaga: “I was interrogated over and over again. During one of the last interrogation sessions, I was undressed, was forced to do push ups, until I could not do no more. They pretended to load the gun and shot at me, sometimes with the gun touching my head”.)
Xabier Alegria: “I was absolutely terrified and as I unable to answer their questions, I was forced to do push-ups and I was hit in my testicles. They made noises with a plastic bag, and threatened to put it on my head, and they did, twice. I thought I was going to suffocate. They really broke me”.
Txema Auzmendi: “We were forced to close our eyes with our heads facing down, against the wall, but not touching it. In my case, the torture was psychological, not physical”.
Those five reports were filed, without any trial.
Martxelo Otamendi has brought his case to The European Court of Justice.
The then Spanish Home Affairs Minister, Angel Acebes, brought charges against them, accusing them of reporting the tortures “following ETA orders”. Those charges have been dismissed, provisionally.
How many of the arrested are going into trial? (8)
8 december 2009
In total, 18 people were arrested, and some other five people had to declare in the National Court. Out of the 24 people who were charged, ten are going to trial, in two different cases, and three of them twice.
Out of the ten people arrested in the first operation, five are going to trial starting the 15th of December. These are:: Joan Mari Torrealdai, Martxelo Otamendi, Inaki Urria, Xabier Oleaga and Txema Auzmendi. Torrealdai, Auzmendi and Uria will be judged a second time, in the financial case, alongside Joxe Mari Sors, Mikel Sorozabal, Ainhoa Albisu, Begona Zubelzu and Fernando Furundarena. These last three were never arrested.
So, out of the 19 people arrested and held in isolation by the Guardia Civil, 12 will not go to trial: Pello Zubiria, Xabier Alegria, Inma Gomila, Fermin Lazkano and Luis Goia -arrested in the first operation- and Mikel Arrizabalaga, Joan Mari Larrarte, Eneko Etxeberria, Mikel Azkune, Amando Hernandez, Xabier Legarda and Angel Ramon Diez -second operation-.
Xabier Alegria and Pello Zubiria have been indicted for six years, but on July 2009, when the National Court decided that a trial was going to be held, it decided to drop the charges against Alegria and Zubiria. Alegria, because he has already been convicted of the same charges -being member of ETA- in the 18/98 case. In Zubiria’s case, because the charges against him were out of date; he resigned from the editorial position on March 1992 and the case against Egunkaria was opened more than ten years later.
Inma Gomila, Fermin Lazkano and Luis Goia were not even charged, according to judge Del Olmo, because there was “not enough evidences of criminal activity'”.Luis Goia died on September 2006.
Seven people arrested on the second operation were not accused of anything, and the same happened to three that were told to declare: Txumai Iturria, Agus Barandiaran and Alberto Ortigosa.
Why has the prosecutor changed his mind? (9)
9 december 2009
When Egunkaria was closed, the prosecutor joined the Guardia Civil and judge Del Olmo in criminalizing the newspaper. For 4 years, he maintained this stance, but on the 14th of December 2006 he asked for the case to be closed, because he could see no criminal activity in Egunkaria.
The conservative Popular Party (PP) was in the Spanish Government when Egunkaria was closed. The PP had appointed Jesus Cardenal as the State Prosecutor, and Olga Sanchez was the prosecutor in the Egunkaria case. When the prosecutor changed his mind, PSOE (Socialists) had been back in power for two years. Candido Conde Pumpido was the State Prosecutor and Miguel Angel Carballo had the case.
The fact is that nothing new happened during the investigation, and so, the prosecutor had no new reasons to change his mind. Prosecutor Carballo, in a document released on the 14th of December 2006, said that there were no reasons to start a trial, and the arguments used to close Egunkaria were no evidence at all. Carballo questioned the whole case, including the Guardia Civil’s investigation, the judge’s decisions and the prosecutors attitude up to that point.
These are some of his arguments:
“First of all, we should remark that the case is based on some documents from the beginning of the 90’s -up to 1993—, from around the time that the newspaper was created. Most of the documents had been published in the national media, created some public debate, and some people pressed defamation charges. At that time these documents were not considered sufficent evidence to open a case”.
“When a case is opened and after some years of investigation, no new documents that sustain the main acusation have been added; that way, it is very difficult to show that Egunkaria, after ten years since it was first published, has been an legal instrument of ETA fulfilling its terrorist goals, and at the same time, there is not a single document or an editorial line that could sustain that theory”.
“The only thing that it could be said is that some documents taken from ETA members show some interest in the newspaper, but that is logical, because recently ETA have focused on socio-political issues in order to gain support and new members; but they were clearly interested and informed about the creation of such a newspaper (something that was very much in the piblic eye a tthat time). It is another thing altogether to say that [ETA] could be held responsible for the creation, promotion or control of said paper ; and even accusing the promoters of the paper of being instrumnets of ETA”.
“Thorough reading of the documents shows that their interpretation by the Guardia Civil is weak, and that interpretations more favourable to the prosecuted are more logical, because it is quite clear that the Egunkaria bosses were not interested in a proposal supposedly put forward by ETA; that attitude is not compatible with someone supposedly controlled by the terrorist organizaton”.
“The obvious question is: if Egunkaria is not ETA’s financial tool or doesn’t launder money coming from terrorism, and if the newspaper doesn’t clearly or belatedly support ETA’s terrorism, and if it doesn’t promote or defend violence, how does Egunkaria promote ETA’s goals? What purpose does Egunkaria have, then in achieving ETA’s goals?”.
“In the criminal file, it is said that [Egunkaria] would try to get fraudulent public funding, but it is exactly ETA who criticizes those who recieve funding in this way. In the Zutabe [ETA’s internal media] 74 from 1995, Egunkaria is mentioned as one of the institutions that the basque government suggests as a possible beneficiary of some public funding; it is precisely in that Zutabe that ETA criticizes Egunkaria for taking public money, because they would end being a pawn of the government. So, given that ETA is against public funding how can they then be the ones looking for funding in this way”.
“At any rate it could be said that the accused, during the last ten years of work, has defended or justifyed ETA’s actions”.
“So, if there is no evidence that Egunkaria has been used to finance ETA, or to launder ETA’s funds: if it has not been proved that Egunkaria or the accused have been instruments of ETA’s goals; if there is no evidence that the accused have justified or minimized the antidemocratic nature of the terrorist acts -something that could be done in an implicit way or by taking a stand-: if there is no evidence that the accused have helped directly or indirectly terrorism: with all of this evidence, there is no reason to have a trial”.
How is it possible to have a trial without any state or private charges? (10)
10 december 2009
Since the prosecutor changed his mind, the state has no case against Egunkaria. And there have never been any private charges, because there are no victims of the alleged crime. So, there is only the people’s charge: AVT (Terrorism Victims’ Association) and Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity and Justice). According to the defense, the law and the jurisprudence up to now have said that there can’t be a trial with only the people’s charge. However, there is going to be a trial.
The case against Emilio Botin, CEO of Santander bank, is in some respects, quite similar to Egunkaria’s. In that case too, the prosecutor asked for the case to be closed, there were no private charges, and there was only the people’s charge. Because of that, the National Court decided to close the case, on December 2006. A year later, the Supreme Court agreed to it, pointing out that it is impossible to have a trial based on the people’s charge.
These are some of the reasons given by the National Court about the Botin case:
“Having a trial with only the people’s charge would mean that any citizen not offended or harmed by the crime would have the chance to act against the interests of the harmed or offended, and against the prosecutor’s decisions.”
“If the prosecutor has asked for the case to be closed and there is only the people’s charge, only finding a private charge would allow the trial to be held, because the people’s charge in itself is not enough to have a trial”.
But Botin’s case was a reduced case, and Egunkaria’s, on the other hand, a normal investigation. And it seems that what is enough for the reduced investigation it is not for a normal one.
What do the groups AVT ( Association of the Victims of Terrorism) and Dignity and Justice argue? (11)
11 december 2009
“Egunkaria and all the companies around it were created by ETA at the beginning of the 90’s, following the Udaletxe project, and their goal is to finance ETA and organizations around it”.
Taken from Dignity and Justice charge report file.
After eight years of investigation, the prosecutor gave up, because he saw no reasons to say that ETA had created Egunkaria. But these two aforementioned groups have kept to the first charge, with the same arguments: that the papers taken from ETA members between 1990 and 1993, and the strange theories the Guardia Civil have about Egunkaria’s goals: in two words, that promoting Basque language is esential for ETA’s projects, and Egunkaria is an important tool to promote Basque. After all, Dignity and Justice and AVT are the only ones which support judge Del Olmo’s and the Guardia Civil’s thesis.
The acusations state that ETA created Egunkaria, that is an instrument for ETA, that its bosses were put there by ETA, and so, that they are members of ETA. Dignity and Justice are asking for 14 years in prison for the five acused. AVT are asking fro 14 years for Uria, Torrealdai, Auzmendi and Otamendi, and 12 for Oleaga.
What is the defence’s argument? (12)
12 december 2009
This following sentence sums up thrust of the defence’s argument:
Neither ETA nor any other organization from outside the newspaper has ever controlled Egunkaria. ETA has had no involment in creating or developing Egunkaria.
Signed by Felix Cañada, Jose Mari Elosua, Iñigo Iruin and Ignacio Pelaez, lawyers of the defence.
The defence states that the charges brought forward by AVT and Dignity and Justice have no basis, and alongside the prosecutor, the defence argues that the so called incriminating documents are worthless and are evidence of nothing.
The defence lawyers have analysed one by one the documents taken from alleged ETA members, and concluded that: the documents are all anonymous; that all things said about Egunkaria are mentioned from an outsiders point of view: that all the information in those documents were already in the public domain; that the Police and the National Court knew of those documents long before the investigation started; that in none of the documents is it shown that they took any decision about Egunkaria; that all the documents are from after Egunkaria was created; that no document taken from persons related to Egunkaria show any ETA involment; that there are no documents sent from ETA to persons related to Egunkaria; the only conclusion that could be taken from those documents is that ETA had interest about the creation of Egunkaria, and that it got information.
The defence has given a complete explanation about how Egunkaria was really created: that in the 1980’s there was a public debate about the need to create a newspaper exclusively in Basque: that at the end of that decade, Egunkaria Sortzen group was created with people involved in promoting the Basque language and they collected money to create the newspaper. The lawyers also explain how Egunkaria SA was organized, who the share holders were, how the council of administration and the leadership were choosen; the locations of offices, where and by whom it was printed; the relationship between Egunkaria and the Basque Government, and when it started to get some public funding; how many shareholders meeting were held, how did it raise more capital etc.
In the end, the defence explained how all the accused were involved in the paper, and what responsibilities they held. The lawyers have searched through the charges being brought against them and conclude that they are no reasons to condemn anybody.
Who are the judges? (13)
13 december 2009
The court has three members: Javier Gomez Bermudez is the president, and Ramon Saez Valcarcel and Manuela Fernandez Prado the other members. That same tribunal decided in July 2009 that the case could not be closed and the trial would be held. The judge that decided to close Egunkaria, Juan del Olmo, is now no longer involved in the case.
Javier Gomez Bermudez is the president of the criminal section of the Spanish National Court. He is a member of the conservative APM group. He was the president in the court that judged the Madrid train bombings (M-11). He has been involved in many cases related to the Basque Country for example, the case known as 18/98, the one against Jarrai-Haika youth organizations and against the Pro-Amnesty Group. He has revised some appeals and always found for the plaintif. He was one of the promoters of the Parot doctrine, that means that prisoners convicted by the Old Penal Law can be held in prison after theyk should be released, just because the New Penal Law is harsher.
Ramon Saez Valcarcel is a progressive judge. From 1989 to 2001, he was a member of the CGPJ (the main government of the judiciary system), proposed by IU (United Left). He is a member of the progressive Judges for Democracy. Manuela Fernandez Prado as well is a member of Judges for Democracy.
What has Egunkaria suffered as a result of these charges? (and 14)
14 december 2009
Even if the accused are acquitted and even if in the economic trial nobody is sentenced, the Spanish National Court has already punished Egunkaria, the accused, the shareholders, subscriders and readers. These are some of the punishments.
Arrests: The Guardia Civil arrested 16 people, ten on the morning of the 20th of February 2003m and another nine on the 16th October 2003. They all were hold incomunicado, until the time they were sent before the judge.
Tortures: Seven of the ten people arrested in February were tortured. Some endured partial suffocation from plastic bags being repeatedly put over their heads, others were hit in the testicles, forced to do push-ups until they collapsed, were antagoinsed in a sexual manner and some had guns held to their heads. Five reported tortures, but the cases were closed before investigation started.
Prison: Six of the accused were sent to prison. Iñaki Uria —former editor and then CEO of Egunkaria— spent 17 and a half months in Aranjuez prison (Madrid). Xabier Alegria, 21 and a half months in Soto del Real (Madrid): after eight and a half months in prison, the judge gave him a bail of 50,000 euros, but he did pay, because he was supposed to stay in prison for another case (Udalbiltza); he was released on the 4th of December 2004, after paying two bails. Xabier Oleaga spent eight and a half months in Navalcarnero (Madrid). Pello Zubiria almost a month in Soto del Real, and Joan Mari Torrealdai and Txema Auzmendi three and a half weeks, in Soto del Real too.
Bails: The seven accused and the eight investigated had to pay huge ammounts of money to the National Court to be released on bail. Uria paid 450,000 euros, 50,000 Alegria, 30,000 Otamendi and Oleaga, 18,000 Inma Gomila, and 12,000 euros Zubiria, Torreldai, Auzmendi, Fermin Lazkano, Luis Goia, Joanmari Larrarte, Joxe Mari Sors, Mikel Sorozabal, Mikel Azkune and Xabier Legarra. In total, almost 700,000 euro. Most of the accused have to go every week, fortnight or month to a court or police station to sign up, and for a while, they had no permission to leave Spain. Martin Ugalde, honorary president of Egunkaria SA, had his money accounts frozen up to the day he died.
Paper closed: They closed the only newspaper published entirely in Basque. “Just in case”, they argued at the beginning of the investigation. Judge Del Olmo closed the company and did not allow the paper to be published, and later he liquidated it. Today, Egunkaria SA and its subsidiaries (Atez Ate, Tolosaldeko Komunikabideak, Ardatz and Herri Informazioa) are closed forever, nothwistanding the trial.
The workers: 180 workers were suddenly out of work. For four months, and since the same day Egunkaria was closed, they were able to publish a provisional newspaper, called Egunero. Later, after another succesful public subscription/money collecting campaign, “Berria” newspaper was created. The workers were the first shareholders of the new company, EKT SA.
Readers and shareholders: 15,000 people were buying the paper when it was closed, and about 50,000 read it. Lots of them were shareholders too: Egunkaria was created with the money of about a thousand shareholders, and it had thousands of them when it was closed.
Money for the new paper: Four months after Egunkaria was closed, it succesor Berria was on sale, with a capital of 4,595,900 euro, put together by 24,404 citizens, groups and institutions.
Costs: the whole case, including the trial, is going to cost around 500,000 euro. Money is being collected now to pay for it.