Reporters Without Borders

After seven years, closed newspaper finally acquitted of Basque terrorist links

Published on Wednesday 14 April 2010.
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Reporters Without Borders hails a Spanish court’s decision on 12 April to acquit five journalists who ran the Basque-language daily Euskaldunon Egunkaria of all charges of links to the Basque armed separatist group ETA.

The charges were brought against the journalists in 2003 and, as a result, the newspaper had been closed since 20 February 2003 on the orders of a National Court judge, Juan de Olmo.

Reporters Without Borders had repeatedly expressed its dismay about the newspaper’s closure because of the terrorist allegations. In our view, it was unacceptable that a newspaper could remain closed for seven years in democratic country that is a European Union member without a court reaching a verdict on the case.

The press freedom organisation had continually urged the judge in charge of the case to acquit the journalists and order the newspaper’s immediately reopening.

Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez of the National Court, Spain’s highest court, finally ruled this week that the prosecution had failed to demonstrate any link with ETA. The ruling is a just one, but it has come seven years too late.

Bermudez said the newspaper’s closure “had no direct constitutional basis and was not authorised by any special legal provision.” He said Spain’s 1978 constitution permitted the suspension of the right to freedom of information and expression under a state of emergency or state of siege (article 55.1) but not in terrorism cases (article 55.2).

The media have welcomed the decision, while Spanish journalists’ organisations are calling on the authorities pay compensation for the losses cause by Egunkaria’s closure. Reporters Without Borders urges the prosecutor’s office not to appeal against the acquittal.

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