Burgos Court: Stage for Basque Cause
By RICHARD EDER Special lo The New Yorx Times
New York Times (1857-Current file); Dec 7, 1971), ProQuest Hisiorical Newspapers The New Cork
Times [1851 -2001)
Burgos Court: Stage for Basque Cause
By RICHARD EDER
special to the New York Times
BURGOS, Spain, Dec. 6— "You have told us about torture, Mr. Abrisqueta," thundered Juan María Bandres, one of the defense lawyers at the court-martial of members of ETA, the Basque guerrilla group.
"Now tell us; If you were Francisco Izco, and under this kind of treatment, would you have admitted killing Inspector Manzanas?" "Of course. Of course, I would have admitted it," Jesús Abrisqueta said quíetly. It was at this point, this morning, at the end of a public court-martial session with no precedent in the history of the Government of Generalíssimo Francisco Franco, that the defense of the 15 accused Basques—six of. whom, includíng Mr. Izco, face death sentences — established the keynote of its case.
Jesús Abrisqueta, a slender, self-possessed youth of 21. had spent an hour standing before five milítary judges on a dais above him, telling of pólice beatings and intimidation, and explaining the aims of ETA.
These initials are for the Basque words lor "Basque nation and freedom."
In more than 30 years of military triáis of Spain´s polítical resisters. there has been nane like the one now going on in the red-brick headquarters of the Burgos captaincy-general. It ts the first time that the accused have been allowed to present publicly their political program, attack the regime and talk about torture.
And the defense lawyers maintained that in all the 5,000 pages of the indictment before the court, the only real evidence against the accused, on the gravest charge of having killed Inspector Melitón Manzanas of the pólice, is contained in the confessions of the accused, secured after long sessions of solítary confinement and harsh interrogation, and later repudiated.
The defendants — all but two, both priests, are under 30—belong to ETA or cooperated wíth it. They are fierce nationalists, dreaming of autonomy for a Basque state, and social revolutionaries. ETA has printed and distributed propaganda, set off small bombs, robbed banks to support its work, and taken credit for killing Inspector Manzanas, head of political pólice in the province of Guipúzcoa.
Political Views Explaíned
In his examination today —he was the first.of tha 15 to take the stand—Mr. Abrisqueta explained his political views under bis lawyer´s questioníng.
Q. Are you a member of ETA?
A. Yes, certainly.
Q. Since when?
A. Since i first become aware of social oppression.
Q. Didn´t the Basque national movement end with the Civit War?
A. In 1939 the Basque people joined the Spanish people in fighting fascism.
Q. Don´t you think there can be evolution in Spain?
A. In Spain there is no evolution.
Mr. Abrisqueta told how the pólice had laid an ambush for him and two companions in their apartment in Bilbao. They went in, he said, and from the next room, without warning, the pólice began shooting. Mario Onaindía was hit in the chest.
"They threw him on a bed and began questioníng him," Mr. Abrisqueta related. "He was screaming that he needed a doctor and they told him he was just getting what he deserved."
He told the court, jammed with spectators, joumalists and policemen, that at pólice headquarters he had to run a gantiet of 30 policemen end was given "a terrible beatíng."
It was only when a lawyer asked hím about a specific form of torture called "the operatíng-table" (the victim´s legs are held down on a table while his torso, hanging over the edge without support, is beaten) that the presiding judge, Col. Manuel Ordovas. told the lawye-r to go on to something else.
It was obviously not easy for Colonel Ordovas, a cavalry officer and former member of Spain´s Olympic team, to sit in a room in theBurgos barracks and hear his Government called fascist and its pólice tprturers.
In the first two days, Colone! Ordovas, an elegant, gray-haired man, frequently refused the defense lawyers´ requests to speak. The lawyers sent a protest telegram to Madrid.
It seems likely that Colonel Ordovas received instructions to ease up. In any event. yesterday and today the colonel took a more gentle attitude to many defense requests and objections. When the 16 lawyers ín their black togas rose successively to object to a ruling, the Judge submitted glumly,
Center of Turmoll Tha Burgos court-martial ís the center of major politícal turmoil in Spain. It has set off a state of emergency in one Basque province and the kidnappíng of an honorary Germán cónsul. Whatever the Government intends to do about the requested death sentences, it has clearly decided that the trial itself should be conducted with unusual latitude for tha defense—by Spanish standards. The defense lawyers hold daily news conferences and these, as well as the whole trial, are reported at length in the Spanish press.
Although the trial started Thursday, it was only today, when the first of the accused took the stand, that the proceedings carne to life. The first three days were coosumed by the dull reading of the summary, and the defense lawyers — most of them young and all of them antiregime — had to find ways to enliven the proceedings. All are aware that their clients fate may, in the end, depend on the amount of attention given the trial in the national and foreign press.
On Thursday, Mr. Bandres brought things to a stop by suddenly insistíng that the judge expel a man who was reading a newspaper. There was a good deal of talk about disrespect to the court. and finally Colonel Ordovas ordered the man out.
What nobody said — and nobody missed — was that the man was one of tha plainclothes policemen who take up a fourth of the public seats, There was obvious pleasure among the rest of the public — made up of the families of the accused — at the sight of the protesting policeman being hustled out by two of his colleagues.
On Friday, Ellas Ruiz Severion interrupted to ask that the crucifíx ba moved. Crucifixes rnust be present at Spanish courts-martial. but Mr, Ruiz Severion, thumbhig through the milítary procedure code, discovered thatit should be to the right of President Ordovas ínstead of where ít waa, at his left.
Perhaps the biggest stlr until today carne when the lawyers suddenly stopped the trial to ask Colonel Ordovas that the phigs be removed from their clients" ears, The judge had apparently not noticed they wera there and ha quickly gave the order. Three pólicemen moved down tha line pulling out the plástic devices from the prisoners ears.
The only explanation of why they were there in the first place was given by one of the stiff, black-mustactied, dark-suited men who sit a round the edgea of the lobby in the hotel where both lawyers and reporters are billeted, and try hard not to look as if they were listening to the conversation.
One of them carne up to a journalist and complamed that the newspapers had sensationalized their reports about the earplugs, "The real reason the plugs were in," he said, "is that the wagons Jn which the prisoners are transported to the court are very noísy. We want to see that their ears are not damaged by the noise."
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