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Spain28 February 2003

Basque Journalist complains of ill-treatment in custody Reporters Without Borders calls for an inquiry

Journalist Martxelo Otamendi Egiguren, managing editor of the Basque-language newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria held for five days in a police operation against the paper’s management, has said he was both psychologically and physically ill-treated in custody.

He was among ten members of the newspaper’s staff arrested on suspicion of collaboration with the Basque separatist movement ETA.

"We urge you to open an inquiry into these allegations of ill-treatment in custody of the managing editor of Egunkaria and to keep us informed about the condition of former managing editor Pedro Zubiria, who tried to commit suicide", said Robert Ménard, General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders in a letter to Spanish interior minister Angel Acebes.

Reporters Without Borders also reminded him of its opposition to the closure of the Basque-lanaguage newspaper. "We oppose the closure, even temporarily, of the daily Euskaldunon Egunkaria. This move punishes a media, which has done nothing wrong as such and deprives readers of their right to news. Without taking sides on the charges levelled against the paper’s management, we call for the reopening of Egunkaria throughout the legal procedures", added Mr Ménard.

Police arrested ten journalists and members of the newspaper’s board on 20 February 2003 on suspicion of "membership of or collaboration with the terrorist organisation ETA". The judge also ordered the closure of the newspaper.

Four people were freed on bail on 25 February, including the managing editor Martxelo Otamendi Egiguren, while six other management figures have been placed in preventative detention. Pedro Zubiria, former managing editor, is currently in hospital after attempting suicide in custody on 23 February.




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