THE NEW YORK TIMES. THURSDAY DECEMBER 3, 1970 Court martial of 15 Basques Today Troubling Spain
By RICHARD EDER Special to The .New York Times
MADRID, Dec, 2—Shortly after 3 P.M. on Aug- 2, 1963, Meltón Manzanas, head of the Political Pólice in the Province of Guipúzcoa, was shot dead on the stairs leading to his apartment in the dingy town of Irún, on the French border.
Tomorrow in tne city of Burgos, headquarters of the military región that includes the Basque-speaking provinces of San Sebastián and Vizcaya, 15 young basques will go before a court-martial on chárges of killing inspector Manzanas or being involved with those responsible.
For two weeks there has been an increasing uproar of protest against íhe trial among intellectual and professíonal groups and in the church and the universities.
A petition against executions —death sentences have been sought for six—that was signed by 2,000 prominent residents of Catalonia was delivered to the chief of the Combined General Staffs, Gen. Manuel Diez Alegría, a modérate who has great prestige in the army. It is reported that he told the petitioners that he was opposed to death penalties and did not like to see political crimes fried in military courts.Other petitions, with long list of signatories, have been delivereed to the Ministry of Justice. Today10 leading oposition figures, representing Socialists, liberals?, Christian Democrats and Communists, issued a press statement criticizing the trial.
Tonight sit-ins began in a number of Madrid churches.
The polítical difficulties of the Government of Generalissimo Francisco Franco reached a critical stage last night with the kidnapping of the honorary West Germán cónsul in San Sebastián. Basques Claimed Credit.
A leading Basque underground , known as E.T.A., claimed it was responsible the fridnapping of the cónsul, Eugen Beihl. It was reported that Baagues in France and received a telephone call to the effect that lie was well and that his fate would depend on the trial´s outcorne.
Most member of the Spanish Cabinet met infomally this morning; Vice President Luis Carrero Blanco amid rumors that, though most ministers wanted to avoid it, a state of modified martial law would be imposed.
In ad vance of the Burgos court-martial, tho prosecutión asked for long prison terms in addition to the death sentences. The trial witch will, be conducted in spanish, Spanish modified from of summary proceeding, with limited rights for the defense and no appeal. The accused, among them two woman and two priests, have been under arrest for nearly two years.
The trial is the most specular episode in the Government´s long fight against the therebellious nationalism of the Basque provinces, in particular against E.T.A., an active, divided, oftea-bungling Marxist-romantic guerrilla group (the initials stand for "Euzkadita Azkatasuna," or ´basque nation and liberty").
The harshness of the sentences asked—a total of 728 years and one day—the use of a court-martial instead of a civilian tribunal, and reports ofmistreatment to get statements from the acrused in the apparent absence of rnuch evidence— all this has taken the case out of the confines of the Basque
provinces and given it a national dimension. Serius Tets Regime. The reaction here and abroad will be a serius tets for a regime whose divisions are inore and more pronounced and which helies for its polítical momentum on General Franco, who will be 78 years old on Friday.
The governmental strains caused by tho issue have come to light in a number of ways. Lawyers report that important member, of the judicial apparatus have voiced doubts about legal aspects. Tho army is described as divided on the matter, and there are reports that Gen. Tommas Garcia Rebull, comander of the Burgos distric and one of two or there most important military men in Spain, made his dispñeasure at the prospect of death scntences known to General Franco himself.
There is a widespread opinión both inside and outside the Government that the Chief of State, honoring a Vatican request as well as many of his rninisters , wishes, will commute any death sontencts, but nobody is sure. When the Comnunit Julián Grimau fased a Silimar sentence in 1963, the national and international uproar led General Franco to decide for execution.
Tho E.T.A organization commands sympathy as well as disapproval among Basques. Most of them probably regard its commitment to violence as dangerous and impractical. On the others hand, most Basques would like more autonomy for their region, if not the total indence the rebels call for, and they resent tne Govern meat´s dictatorial methods as something fit for Castillians and Andalusians but not for a people with democratic traditions.
Conservative and Stubborn
The mixed feeling of the Basque dioceses of Bilbao and are, after all, a conservative, stubborn and freedom-loving people—have given way to widespread outrage at the prospective harshness of the Burgos trial.
The outrage was behind the unprecedented denunciation last week by the Bishops of the Basque diocese of Bilbao and San Sebastian, who intimated that the court-martial was ilegal and went on to condemm the Goverment´s severity to ward the Baques. Today the full conference of Spanish bishop, in a move that may hit the regime almost hard as the kidnapping, issued a call for clemency. By inference, it backed the Bishops of Bilbao and San Sebastian, whose stand had been labeled as little short of treusonous by adherents of the Government. At the same time, the bishops´ conference condemned íhe kidnapping.
It appears significant that although the Government has let news of the kidnapping appear on the front pages of (Information ministry used strong prestheir criticism of the kidnapping.
In the eyes of the Guipuzcoans and Vizcayans, the late Meliton Manzanas represented everything that was oppressivs about Madrid´s treatment of the Basques, sincc the Spanish Civil War. He may have been the most hated man in Guipúzcoa. After he was killed it was assumed that E.T.A. leaflets claiming responcibility were simply propaganda, and thr thecory that the culprit was another policeman was widely held.
Mr. Manzanas, a stout, middle-aged man, eschewed the normaly inconspicuous role of a commander of the briga Social, or Political Pólice. He made a point of leading raids on Basque meeting places, confiscating books and pennants, and pointing out. those he wanted arrested.
He was said by persorns with first-hand experience to have taken an active interest in the
forceful and painful interrogation of Basque nationalists suspected of crimes. His interest was said to be especially marked when the suspect was a woman.
His death, according to the leaflets, was a reprísal for the killing of an E.T.A. activist, Javier Echevarrieta, in an encounter with the civil guard. The reaction Guipúzcoa at íhe time, even among the many Basques, who disliked the rebels activism, was that it was not a bad thing.
In any case, the killing was the only demonstrably planned, delíberately carried out killing by ETA in five years of what the Government terms action of a separatist-terrorist-Communist type."
Two others have taken place, both committed when E.T.A. men were trying to flee the pólice. Apart from that, the group´s activities have been limited to perhaps a dozen successful bank and payroll holdups, the use of plástic explosive to blow up, among other things a statue in a Guernica. Park and the local office of regional newspaper, and the orinting and distribution of great quantities of propaganda. The ideology is a combination of not very rigorous Marxism in the room where several of the Burgos accused were seized, policement found "Mila 18" a a book about the Warsaw ghetto uprising, by Leon Uris,
as well as works on Che Guevara, left-wing Román Catholicism and impatience for action. Those elements led the group, which may have no more than 300 or 400 active members, to split from older and more peaceable nationalists. They also led it to constant internal ideológical and táctical splits— though those who split off remain en good terms with the others.
Plucky, Often Bungled Police dossiers, despite their stilted language, give a picture of a plucky but often bungled revolutionary determination, E.T.A. is supposed to work in cells, but one dossier spenks of seven or eight of the accused, who seam to have held d important positions, meeting at the house of one of them "lo spend Christmas vacation."
The dossiers also give an inkling of the kind of pressures that made the 15, mostly sons or daughters of the educated working and peasant class that is the backbone of tho Basque country, go from singing in ihe choir and hikjng, inte what was bound to be a desperate venture.
Of one, Jesús Abrisqueta, for whom an 80-years sentence is asked for carrying a pistol and buying and transporting explosives, the pólice record in his town reports: "Is an ex-semínarian, has had relations with life Etorky-Alay folklore dance group, his family has nationalist ideas."
Of Iciar Aizpurua, married to another of the accused and for whom 15 years is asked, the pólice record says: "Has separatist ideologybut had not been active, belongs to Young Catholic Workers, often takes part in organizing Basque festivities"
SIX of the accused are charged with plolting -and in one case carrying out — the killing of Inspector Manzanas, and it is for them that death sentences are sought. The others are accused on general charges of "banditry and terrorism."
Police Torture Allegad
The six, it is charged, took part in a meeting in which the slaying was ordered. The principal evidence of the meeting lies in the confessions of seyeral who took part, but a as being in greatest danger is Francisco Izco, a stocky, cheerful man of 29, the son of a village sacristán.
Described in some testimony as the leader of the E. T. A military group, he was identified by Mrs, Manzanas as a man she saw in the hallway. The identificaron carne some six months after the Idlling, after Mr. Izco had been arrested in connection with an attempt to free a prisoner.
According to defensa lawyers, Mrs. Manzanas had previously identified another man, who is now abroad, from photegrphs. When she was taken to see Mr. Izco, who is said to resemble the other, he was alone, they say, and only later did she manage to pick him out from a group. The defense lawyers view is that under these circumstances her " identification" would not stand up in a fair trial.