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Three Basque newspaper journalists still detained under anti-terrorism legislation

(WiPC/IFEX) - The WiPC of International PEN is seriously concerned about the continued detention of three Basque journalists under anti-terrorism legislation. PEN also protests the recent six-month extension to the "preventive measures" that have kept the Basque-language newspaper "Euskaldunon Egunkaria" closed. The extension was handed down on 21 July 2003 by Judge Juan del Olmo on the grounds that the "Euskaldunon Egunkaria" group pursues the same goals as the separatist group ETA.

The arrests of 10 writers and journalists and the forced closure of the Basque daily newspaper on 20 February has been widely condemned both within Spain and internationally. The 10 arrested were held incommunicado during interrogation under anti-terrorism legislation. The three who remain detained are:

Iñaki Uria: chairman of the "Euskaldunon Egunkaria" board and its managing director. A founding member of the newspaper, and a journalist for the magazine "Argia", he has been active in the Basque cultural movement for many years.

Xabier Alegria: member of the Basque municipal assembly and formerly with the newspaper "Egin", which was closed in 1999 under similar circumstances to "Euskaldunon Egunkaria".

Xabier Oleaga: deputy editor of "Euskaldunon Egunkaria" and former editor of "Egin".

In March, PEN called for a full and impartial investigation into allegations that the detainees had been tortured by members of the Civil Guard. PEN welcomes the decision in June by a Madrid court to allow a judicial investigation into the torture complaint. However, the organisation is alarmed that the Spanish authorities plan to take judicial action against four of the newspaper's directors on charges of libelling the Civil Guard, a move that is hardly conducive to ensuring that the judicial investigation is open and fair.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the president:
- expressing concern that three journalists are detained for their work for the Basque newspaper "Euskaldunun Egunkaria"
- noting that their arrests, along with those of seven others now free on bail, appear to be in violation of their right to freedom of expression
- protesting the six-month extension to the publication ban on "Euskaldunon Egunkaria"

APPEALS TO:

President José María Aznar López
Complejo de la Moncloa
Avda. de Puerta de hierro s/n
28071 Madrid
Spain
Fax: +34 913 90 06 20

Copies of appeals may also be sent to the Spanish embassy in your country.

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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