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More than 100 experts call for Basque prisoners’ freedom (


More than 100 international academics, politicians and human rights activists have called on the Spanish and French governments to release vulnerable prisoners jailed during the long-running Basque conflict, and grant parole to others because of the coronavirus crisis.


Greg Russell. The signatories include former Scottish justice secretary – now MP – Kenny MacAskill, 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel and leading academics. Their call comes in an open letter published today in The National, in which they say historic progress has been made in the last decade in the conflict resolution process in the Basque Country. Nine years ago ETA put an end to violence and eventually disbanded two years ago.

However, they say the process remains incomplete, with more than 230 politically-motivated prisoners still in detention.

“We know from international experience that no peace process works without the prisoner issue being dealt with,” say the signatories.

They say cases of the virus have been confirmed in at least 59 prisons in Spain and 38 in France.

Their letter is published days after nine Spanish parties – including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s coalition partner Podemos – issued a joint statement calling for the prisoners’ release. They want the immediate release of those Basque prisoners over 60 who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, including those with prior conditions or serious illnesses; and those who “have served three-quarters of their sentence or are eligible for parole, as they pose no risk of relapse, given that ETA disbanded two years ago”.

READ MORE: Release of Basque prisoners will save lives and build peace

The letter quotes Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as saying it is vital governments address the issue, adding: “Authorities should examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders.”

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