Jon Iñarritu: ‘Josep Borrell is the most reactionary minister it was possible to nominate’

Catalan MonitorInterviews, Vilaweb

Photo (Credit: Vilaweb)

Jon Iñarritu, the senator of Basque political party EH Bildu, is a very active parliamentarian: he has presented more than seven hundred questions to the Spanish government and many have been to ask for more information on state scandals, government manoeuvres against Catalonia and the repression on the first of October. For this reason, he is one of the politicians who generates most sympathy amongst those in favour of Catalan sovereignty. We wanted to talk to him and ask him to explain to us why EH Bildu voted in favour of the motion presented by Pedro Sánchez, what is his opinion on the appointments of the ministers and what it can mean for Catalan interests.

-On Tuesday, the Spanish Court imprisoned the four Altsasu youth who were on bail awaiting the final sentence. Did you expect it?

– Unfortunately, due to the exceptional nature of the Altsasu case, it was predictable that the absurdity would continue. The Altsasu case is based on a police set up that has already been dismantled in court. But this conspiracy, coupled with the media siege, led to events that were an altercation or a non-serious fight at a bar being converted into the official story and typified as presumed terrorism. Everyone knew that it was not and that it was impossible for them to be sentenced for terrorism, but that was not the goal, but rather to have an excuse to get the case out of its natural court and bring it to the National Court, this court of exception.

– Do you think they wanted a harsher sentence?

-Yes. Oh, what a coincidence that the judge who presides over the chamber that tries the case is Concepción Espejel, a lady who is married to a Colonel of the Civil Guard (Ed. Spanish military police), who has been decorated by that police force and who had to be removed from the Gürtel case because of her proximity to the Popular Party (PP). In contrast, in this case, despite having direct family involvement and proximity with the Civil Guard, she is not separated from the case.

-Why do you say that the Altsasu case is exceptional?

– I interpret the Altsasu case as a warning. Lately we have heard of numerous aggressions from police officers. Not only bar fights in festive surroundings and late at night, but we knew that there had been aggressions like those of Algeciras. And no one tries to claim these are acts of terrorism, no one asks them to be judged by the Spanish Court and much less that the authors are as harshly sentenced as is the case of the young people of Altsasu. They were looking for scapegoats to send a message to those who dare to criticize the presence of the Civil Guard in the Basque Country. We see how they try to create scapegoats and, with exemplary but disproportionate punishment, create collective panic.

-Do the images of their arrest remind you of the worst years in the Basque Country?

-Yes, of course. The police conspiracies are not new, we have lived in the Basque Country. It is absurd that seven young people, for a bar fight which resulted in an injured ankle, are imprisoned, sentenced to many years in prison and in terrible penitentiary conditions. In case that was not enough, yesterday we saw the arrival of dozens of civilian guards in Altsasu again, provoking and extensively fining residents of the municipality. This deployment cannot be understood as the young people, whenever they have been called, have come to the courts. They have never hidden and that is why I believe that the detention was carried out disproportionately and unjustifiably.

-The sentences against the young people of Altsasu, Valtònyc and Hasél … How do you interpret the harshness of Spanish justice?

-There is a clear involution of the state in terms of civil rights and freedoms. This is demonstrated by the cases you enumerated. That there are puppeteers arrested, rappers who must enter prison, tweeters who are still in prison … this is an absurdity in Western Europe. And as we can see in Spain, things that did not happen thirty years ago, during the time after the dictatorship, happen now. There is an involution in democratic terms. We will see what the Spanish Socialist and Workers Party (PSOE) government will do now, we will see if the “gag law” is modified or suspended, we will also see what new candidates there will be in the future to be members of the General Council of the Judiciary … But at this time the legislation allows very conservative judges to rule with very exceptional legislation. We will also see who is chosen to be the state prosecutor general.

-We know that Dolors Delgado will be the new Justice Minister. Do you like her?

-As a Basque independentist, I do not have the best opinion of how Delgado acts regarding issues in the Basque Country. But I hope, I want to believe, that it was something from the past, in an exceptional environment, and I hope she has other criterion. She was one of the prosecutors in the large trials against the Basque left-wing.

-And the appointment of Grande-Marlaska, what do you think?

-Grand-Marlaska stands out for having been linked to the darkest pages of repression, exceptionality and ‘everything is ETA’. We should recall that the majority of sentences against Spain by the European Court of Humans Rights for not having investigated torture were cases that passed through his hands. We’ll see how he acts in the future, but looking at his past is not very encouraging.

-If he were here now, what would you ask for?

-If he self-criticizes his handling of events in the past and if he has changed his positions.

-EH Bildu voted for the motion. Based on what priorities?

– As Basque sovereigns, our vote for Sánchez was not supportive, nor was it because it gives us a lot of confidence, nor because we believe that the PSOE will correct the errors of the PP of recent years, but because we believe that due to democratic hygiene the PP government should be thrown out. It is a party that had made the institutions a source for its own funding, a party with the largest number of corruption cases in the EU. In fact, it has more members on trial than all EU parties combined. It was  vital to get them out of the institutions. Now, we do not believe that the PSOE is completely opposed to all that the PP has done. In fact, some ministers who have been nominated for the moment can be positive regarding social issues and the territorial conflict with Catalonia and the Basque Country, but others, like Josep Borrell, who is the most reactionary that could have been named. Therefore, we will wait and see how the PSOE acts.

– In the Basque area, was the arrival of PSOE in government the best move to curb the boom of the Citizens’ party?

-Well, as you know, Citizens have no representation in the Basque Country. They have one minister and that’s it… It is true that some readings point out that bipartisans could have played against Citizens, who have been the most harmed by the motion. But we will see how everything evolves. Yes, it is true that Citizens have a greater rejection of regional rights and economic agreements, but in other aspects they are quite similar. But it is also true that Citizens have chosen anti-Catalanism and anti-Basquesism as their electoral battle horse. Now, observing recent history, parties, when they get into government, are not as radical as they seem. That is why I do not see very substantial changes with the PP.

-You’re very active in asking parliamentary questions in the Senate. You have asked more than seven hundred. The State recently refused to answer your question on how often Spanish civil servants had used tracking beacons. They said the information was protected under a law from Franco’s time. Is that allowed?

-It’s not very frequent, but neither is it exceptional. When you ask about a matter that makes them uncomfortable, they tend to argue that it is secret. They already did this with the Copernican operation that repressed the referendum on the first of October, until the minister appeared before the press and decided to give figures and data. Some, not all. It is absurd that, on the one hand, they do not want to give parliamentarians information in our parliament which we have the right to know, and that, on the other hand, the ministry provides this information to some media outlets. It was the Ministry of the Interior that revealed that there had been agents, both police officers and intelligence, who had participated in tracking Mr. Puigdemont with beacons. But when we asked for it they told us that it was secret. And, to finish rubbing it in, they used old Francoist law. It’s a scandal. The PP regularly insists on saying that there is no sign of the Franco regime, that the only thing we want to do is ridicule them, but it is they themselves who stick to Franco’s laws in order to not give more information.

-What is the answer that impressed you most?

-It’s quite common that they do not respond. The strangest moments are when they clearly lied to me. The government has the obligation to tell the truth and give me reliable information.

– And do you think they have lied to you?

-I have seen how they have denied the existence of reports on Basque topics, for example, which have subsequently been published in the press. For example, they said that there was no police report on the influence of the independence supporting left-wing on public education in Navarra, but this report has been published in media such as El Mundo. It’s just an example.

-This is useful to get to know the inner workings of the Spanish State.

– I am not only asking many of these questions to obtain information to control the government, but also to highlight and denounce the facts. These parliamentary questions to the government will appear forever in the Official Gazette of the Parliamentary Courts and will call out the state for its incongruities and contradictions in some answers. I have already encouraged all the parliamentarians to question what is happening to us in the state. Beyond what they can then respond in written communication.

-Many questions are about the state scandals, the manoeuvres of the state against Catalonia or the repression of the first of October. Why do you focus so much on Catalonia?

-Well, first of all, I am a spokesman for the Committee on the Interior Ministry and many times I have to deal with these issues. Secondly, EH Bildu is in a position of solidarity with the Catalan Republicans and their party. In addition, I consider myself a friend of many of those who are now in prison. Therefore, in view of the brutal repression that Catalonia is undergoing, I consider it an obligation, above all in terms of solidarity, to act as professionally as possible and do the best work I can do as a representative of EH Bildu in the senate. But I believe that my initiatives generate more noise because it is stranger that it is a Basque MP who carries them out.

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