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ETA convicts: life after ceasefire

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By Euronews
ETA convicts: life after ceasefire

<p>The reintegration of members of the Basque militant separatist group <span class="caps">ETA</span> – recently released from prison – remains a challenge for a society that has suffered from decades of bloodshed. </p> <p><span class="caps">ETA</span> announced a “definitive cessation of its armed activity” on October 20, 2011 – although negotiations on its disarmament continue.</p> <p>In the Basque region’s biggest city, Bilbao, they are given help to readjust to life outside prison by the association Harrera Elkartea -with paperwork, health matters, employment efforts and finding their feet financially. The former convicts often shun the media. </p> <p>Fernando Etxegarai, a member of Harrera Elkartea, explained: “We try to get these people going again, providing them the training they couldn’t have in prison. On the other hand, we also try to get them jobs at a level that matches the education they already have, which are jobs that require low professional qualifications.”</p> <p>The ex-inmates re-enter society knowing that many people consider them beyond contempt. </p> <p>Rubén Múgica is with a collective that defends the rights of <span class="caps">ETA</span> murder victims, such as his father.</p> <p>“I have no intention of forgiving them, ever,” Múgica said. “There is nothing that can be forgiven.”</p> <p>“What is impossible is coexistence between normal people and the criminals. If the criminals deserve all the attention for having given up killing, I say more those who have never killed are worth more attention,” Múgica continued.</p> <p>But Fernando Etxegarai of Harrera Elkartea said: “The Basque Country is small, two million people, but it’s big enough for a person to move around without having to mix with others.”</p> <p>Euronews’ Filipa Suares reported: “In the Basque Country, there’s even a Junior Minister for Peace and Coexistence. But we’ve seen in this report how much there is still to do before <span class="caps">ETA</span> members and terrorism victims stop living separately.” </p> <p><strong>‘A great conflict for me’ – former prefect discovers son is <span class="caps">ETA</span> member</strong></p> <p>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu was prefect of the distrtict of Guipuzkoa in the Basque Country between 1987 and 1990. <span class="caps">ETA</span> tried to kill him several times.</p> <p>Years later, José found out that his son was a member of the organisation. He told his story in the book, “My son belonged to <span class="caps">ETA</span>”. Euronews’ Filipa Soares spoke to him about his experiences.</p> <p><strong>Filipa Soares, euronews:</strong> Could you describe what you felt when you discovered that your son belonged to <span class="caps">ETA</span>?</p> <p><strong>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu:</strong> Firstly, you feel a need to help a son, who is in a dramatic and difficult situation. Almost simultaneously, you think that this organisation kills people – even if he himself hasn’t done that. That organisation tried to kill me in several occasions. This creates a great conflict for me.</p> <p>In the first moments, I didn’t know how to react. I felt like I was out of this world. I couldn’t comprehend it. It’s impossible to understand how a son you raised – you’ve lived with him, you’ve loved him and you still feel love for him – is in a situation so distant from yours… one that is so cruel to you.</p> <p><strong>euronews:</strong> Your son has evaded justice. In your book, you say that he lives in France and that you haven’t seen him for 20 years. Why can’t you see him?</p> <p><strong>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu:</strong> He lives in a world that I can’t enter. He’s living in a different world and the doors are closed. There’s no possible communication. If I was to see him, his world would not forgive him. </p> <p>It’s a mafia – and for a part of my life, while I was a prefect, I was in the other extreme. I represented the Mafia’s enemy – the enemy of everything that represented. Therefore, he could also have problems. I think about that too.</p> <p>But mainly is the distance between us. He’s in a world that he’s not allowed to leave. It’s not that they do it extensively or publicly, but the situation of fear between them is very relevant. We can’t forget that <span class="caps">ETA</span> has killed some of its own militants, important ones, because it considered them traitors. </p> <p><strong>euronews:</strong> But do you speak to him?</p> <p><strong>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu:</strong> No! No! I don’t speak to him. I haven’t had any communication with him for more than 20 years. </p> <p><strong>euronews:</strong> Do you think you’ll see him soon?</p> <p><strong>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu:</strong> I think I will see him soon. The situation is going to be very difficult surely, but I’ll see him soon. </p> <p><strong>euronews:</strong> It could be the first time in 20 years that your son sees you. What would you like to tell him?</p> <p><strong>José Ramón Goñi Tirapu:</strong> That it’s over. <span class="caps">ETA</span> is over. The organisation itself says that. <span class="caps">ETA</span> is over! It’s over! It doesn’t have any sense. If he has a political idea, he should pursue it publicly, but in another way. Not by using coercion over the population.</p> <p>It’s difficult to speak directly with my son.</p>