FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
SENTENCES of from four to twelve years' imprisonment have been demanded by the State prosecutor on eight Basque Nationalists, including four priests, who are facing trial by court-martial this week in Burgos, Northern Spain, on charges of "military rebellion, banditry and aiding a fugitive from justice."
The charges arise from an episode last April when a young nationalist shot his way out of a police ambush in the big northern seaport of Bilbao and escaped in a commandeered taxi.
In the ensuing gun-battle the taxi-driver was killed, and the fugitive, Miguel Echevarria, was seriously wounded. Etheverria has been accused of murdering the driver, although Basque sources say he was killed by police bullets.
Echevarria, who was not captured, and is believed to have escaped across the French frontier, is said by the police to have been aided by two priests, who were arrested and detained.
After a vigorous protest by the Bishop of Burgos, who claimed that the arrest was contrary to the Concordat between Spain and the Vatican, the priests were released on provisional liberty.
PLEA TO SYNOD
Meanwhile Amnesty International has appealed to the Bishops' Synod in Rome for action in the ease of priests and political detainees held in Spanish jails, many of whom, it says, have suffered torture.
In a letter to Bishop Rubin,
Permanent Secretary of Bishops, Mr. Martin Ennals, secretary-general of Amnesty, says that over the last 12 months more and more information has reached Amnesty and other international human rights organisations about the
torture of political detainees in
Spanish police stations and of the imprisonment of priests.
"The Spanish Government has taken action against these priests because of their attempts to draw attention to the suppression of basic human rights in their country.
"Our latest information is that some 21 priests are held in the prison of Zamora; some are already serving sentences, others are awaiting trial.
"More are known to be detained in various monasteries and theological colleges. For others, now outside the country, warrants of arrest have been issued. Many of the now detained priests have themselves been tortured.
"We hope the Synod of Bishops will actively concern itself with the plight of these Spanish priests and bring pressure to bear to ensure that torture cannot be permitted in Spain today and that those who publicly proclaim their concern as Christians cannot be sentenced as political offenders."
Amnesty's letter to Bishop Rubin was accompanied by a list of documents containing detailed allegations of many instances of torture by electric shock, batons, electric saws, ropes, and physical attacks by officers of the Civil Guard, the Social Investigation Brigade and the police.
The documents contain many names of detainees who have been victims of torture and also list names of police and other officers said to have been responsible, giving dates, places and other details.
These documents have previously been forwarded to the Spanish Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Justice and Minister of Information and Tourism, with a request to the Justice Ministry to institute a full inquiry.