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Spain antiterror drive
targets workers rights
Imperialist powers in Europe step up police spying
Spanish troops prepare for deployment to Afghanistan, January 2003. Under cover of fighting "terrorism," Prime Minister-elect José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero pledged to double to 250 the Spanish troops that are part of NATO occupation in Afghanistan.
BY PATRICK ONEILL
Targeting Moroccan immigrants, police in Spain have arrested 20 people as part of the antiterror campaign that the government there has intensified since the March 11 train bombings in Madrid. Those detained are being held under Spains Antiterrorist Law, which allows authorities to jail individuals for extended periods without a trial, restrict their access to legal counsel, and deprive them of other rights. For years the law has primarily been used to victimize Basque independence supporters.
Imperialist governments throughout Europe have seized on the Madrid bombings to step up police spying and disruption and other attacks on the rights of working people. At a March 25-26 summit in Brussels, the European Union approved a series of antiterrorism measures, including increased cooperation among the spy agencies of member governments.
Making it clear that his administration will use the war on terrorism to defend Spanish imperialist interests in the world, incoming prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has announced that the number of Spanish troops that are part of the NATO occupation force in Afghanistan will be doubled to 250. Zapatero has said that the Spanish troops in Iraq will remain there if the international occupation force comes under United Nations sponsorship.
Only five of those arrested in Spain have been charged with taking part in the March 11 attacks and belonging to a terrorist group.
Another six have not been accused of participation in the bombing but rather of collaborating with a terrorist group.
Under Spains Antiterrorism Law, those arrested by police can be held incommunicado for five days. They can be jailed for up to four years while prosecutors conduct an investigation to find charges to be brought against them.
The law, which has been used for years against Basque independence fightersand against the leadership of the dockworkers union in 1995gives the minister of the interior the power to order searches, wiretaps, and the opening of mail without court warrants.
Spanish, German, and French police have cooperated in the arrests. Three of those detained were formerly legal residents of Germany. According to German television, Berlins secret police claim the three are linked to Hamas and other extremist groups and has declared them to be among 300 Muslims in Germany dubbed potential terrorists, without explaining what that vague category means.
The media and authorities present Moroccan immigrant Jamal Zougam, a resident of Spain, as the prime suspect in the bombings. All but one of those arrestedthe Spanish-born man, accused of selling explosives for the bombingshave denied any involvement in the attacks. One told the court that he learned of the attacks on the morning of March 11 while watching television with his children.
Of those arrested in connection with the bombings, 15 are immigrants from Morocco. Others are from Syria, Algeria, and India; one was born in Spain.
In Spain today there are an estimated 2.2 million immigrants, the largest number of whom are Moroccans, estimated to number some 334,000. About one-third of them live in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia.
Madrid has used the March 11 train bombings, in which 190 people were killed, to broaden its antiterrorism offensive, especially among North African immigrants. The March 25 International Herald Tribune noted that Spanish authorities have undertaken a crackdown on Muslim groups following the Madrid rail bombings, including people not accused of any link to the attacks.
As one example, the big-business daily reported that Spanish High Court judge Baltasar Garzon had ordered the return to prison of four suspected Muslim radicals who were released last year by another judge. The judge cited new police reports but provided no evidence and presented no charges against them.
At the time of their original arrests in January 2003, Prime Minister José María Aznar claimed that his government had smashed a major terror network. Two of the men were released within a couple of months after the traces of chemical weapons they were accused of storing at their homes turned out to be laundry soap.
On March 25 police in the Spanish city of Valencia released one Syrian and two Algerian citizens, after having jailed them on accusations of membership in a radical Islamic cell and armed group.
Offensive against Basque nationality
Under the banner of fighting ETA terrorism Madrid has also stepped up its attacks on the struggle for self-determination by the Basque people, an oppressed nationality in both Spain and France. ETA is an armed Basque independence group that over the years has claimed responsibility for killing numerous Spanish government officials and others.
On March 22 Prime Minister-elect Zapatero dismissed an offer of talks announced by ETA the previous day. The only communiqué I await from ETA, he said, is one in which it abandons violence.
Aznars government waged an intense crackdown against Basque organizations, arresting more than 150 people last year accused of membership in ETA and claiming success in reducing the number of ETA actions.
Nearly 600 Basque political prisoners are in French or Spanish jails. In Spain, most of these have been jailed under the Antiterrorist Law.
The Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Felipe González, which preceded the Aznar administration, was particularly notorious for its repression against the Basque movement.
Under González, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1996, the government waged a brutal dirty war against the Basque pro-sovereignty movement, including the use of death squads such as the Antiterrorist Liberation Group (GAL), made up of cops. Revelations about police murders of 27 people accused of being ETA members helped to end Gonzálezs reign in disgrace.
Without offering a scrap of evidence, Aznar and other government officials, along with Zapatero and other PSOE leaders, initially blamed ETA for the March 11 attacks.
The Spanish rulers sought to whip up public opinion to step up their attacks on the rights of working people and the Basque struggle.
Among those helping mobilize a large turnout for antiterrorist demonstrations after the bombings were the two main trade union federationsWorkers Commissions (CC.OO.), led by the Communist Party, and the General Workers Union (UGT), led by the PSOE. In a joint statement issued March 11, the CC.OO. and UGT blamed the terrorist ETA group. The union officials called on workers to join a 15-minute moment of silence in order to express solidarity with the victims and their families and roundly condemn terrorism. They urged participation in nationwide government-sponsored mobilizations March 12.
Troops to Afghanistan
Announcing Zapateros decision to boost Madrids deployment in Afghanistan, a PSOE official said that the new government wants to send a message that the Socialists do not believe in appeasementa reference to the claim by critics that the electoral defeat of Aznar was a concession to terrorists.
Seeking to rationalize the decision, the official said that in Afghanistan, there was, in fact, a terrorist originthat is, the attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Sending the troops [there] was in legitimate defense of the United States, he claimed, whereas in Iraq that wasnt the case.
Zapatero used the occasion of the March 24 state funeral, at which the Spanish king and queen expressed tearful condolences with family members of the bomb victims, to meet with government officials from Washington and London along with Berlin, Paris, and Warsaw.
The prime minister-elect repeated his demand for UN officialswho oversaw a decade of economic sanctions and intrusive arms inspections that softened Iraq up for the assault by imperialist forcesto assume oversight of the occupation of that country. According to the International Herald Tribune, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell and British prime minister Anthony Blair signaled that they wanted to push ahead with talks about a UN resolution that addresses Spanish concerns.
One possible formula would involve placing UN officials in command of non-U.S. forces, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Tribune, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Zapateros pick for foreign minister, said Powell had promised to share intelligence, equipment and strategies with the Spanish government, so the two countries can lead the fight against terrorism.
At a two-day EU summit in Brussels, representatives of European imperialist powers decided to implement a series of homeland security-type measures, many of which they had approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States but never fully put into force.
British prime minister Anthony Blair applauded the moves to increase cooperation between the intelligence services and police services of the various countries. Secret police agencies would collaborate more closely across borders to spy on and harass alleged suspects, which in the past have included trade unionists, supporters of national liberation struggles, and others fighting employer and government attacks.
Demands UN cover for occupation
In the election campaign and since then, Zapatero has criticized Aznars decision to ally Spanish forces closely with the U.S.- and British-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. He advocates a course for Spanish imperialism less tied to the U.S. rulers and more allied to Washingtons European rivals, Paris and Berlin.
According to the Washington Post, Zapatero said the fight against international terrorism…should be conducted through a grand alliance of democracies and not through unilateral wars.
The PSOE used anti-American demagogy before the elections to mobilize support for the Spanish imperialist government. In a highly publicized incident during last Octobers Columbus Day military parade, for example, Zapatero sat down as the American flag passed by. Its not my flag, he reportedly said later.
At the same time, Zapatero told the Washington Post that he wanted to have cordial relations with Washington, stating, Thats the beauty and greatness of democracy. It allows you to disagree while maintaining good relations.
2,000 more Marines head to Afghanistan
War on terror targets workers