Sinn Féin’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Seán Crowe TD, has described the arrests in Spain of 12 lawyers who are involved in defending Basque political prisoners as provocative.

Crowe, who is also a member of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, said that the move had the hallmarks of a securocrat agenda that opposes the fledgling Basque Peace Process.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“The arrests of 16 individuals, including 12 lawyers representing Basque political prisoners, are designed to be provocative and have all the hallmarks of a securocrat agenda that opposes the Basque Peace Process

“Everyone in a democracy is entitled to access to legal representation and lawyers engaged in sensitive or politically motivated cases must be allowed to carry out their work without state interference, intimidation, or the fear of possible arrest.

“In our own recent history in Ireland we experienced the negative influence of those involved in the security apparatus literally doing everything in their considerable arsenal to sow distrust, misinformation, and downright lies when it came to opposing change.

“The basic truth is that the Irish Peace Process would never have happened if these elements had been allowed to have their way.  In Ireland the power of politics, inclusive dialogue, and real positive potential for a peaceful settlement won the debate.

“Agreement and structures to move us collectively away from conflict have been found through negotiations and dialogue.

“The killings of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, carried out by loyalist gangs in collusion with British state agents, illustrates what can happen when states attempt to frustrate or prevent justice.

“When any State, and not just those far away, tries to prevent human rights lawyers from carrying out their legitimate work, then there is a responsibility on all those who claim to be democrats to speak out against these actions.

Crowe continued:

“In an Irish context we know that the British state colluded, armed, and promoted those who engaged in the murder of people from all walks of life who opposed or were critical of British rule in Ireland.

“History has also shown us that the Spanish state has armed, funded and supplied intelligence information to those who murdered opponents of their state.

“These tactics and the use of counter gangs are a key component part of the arsenal that are used by securocrats opposed to change.

“The political and military elements that oppose change in Spanish /Basque context are at a huge disadvantage as the peace process in that region becomes more stable, popular and impacts positively on a daily basis with people.

“These arrests come just days after a huge demonstration in Bilbao where more than 80,000 people took to the streets to support the release and rights of Basque political prisoners.

“These latest raids and arrest are further evidence that those who oppose democratic and legitimate change are using repression to undermine confidence in the process.

“These latest arrests also highlight once again the need for Spanish political parties and democratic society to engage more constructively in the Basque peace process.”