Thousands protest sentences in Basque bar brawl trial

More than 7,000 people marched in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona Saturday to protest revised sentences handed down to eight people convicted of beating up two off-duty policemen in 2016.

Thousands protest sentences in Basque bar brawl trial
Protestors at the courthouse in Pamplona. Photo: AFP

Called by Basque separatist groups and leftwing parties, the demonstration went ahead despite a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month reducing their sentences of between two and 13 years to 18 months and nine-and-a-half years.

The two policemen were off duty and had gone to a bar with their girlfriends when they were set upon by locals in a fight.

One of the officers ended up in hospital with a broken ankle.

The incident took place in Alsasua, in Navarra, a northern region of Spain that separatists in the neighbouring Basque Country — including armed group ETA — have long laid claim to.

At the original trial, prosecutors had charged the eight defendants, aged between 21 and 31, with “inflicting injuries of a terrorist-nature” and issuing “terrorist threats”.

The plaintiffs had complained of an atmosphere of constant harassment of the police in the area.

But the court threw out those charges, convicting them instead of “attacking agents of authority”, causing injuries, as well as public disorder and/or threat.

The protest took place in front of the Navarra court building in Pamplona, the main city in the region, where the original trial took place. The Pamplona regional authority put the turnout at 7,500 people.

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Basque population’s ‘genetic singularity’ confirmed in largest-ever study

New research shows that the region's genetic difference only began to emerge 2,500 years ago as a result of centuries of isolation.

Basque population's 'genetic singularity' confirmed in largest-ever study
The study shows the Basque genetic differences are the result of centuries of isolation and inbreeding potentially caused the unique Basque dialects. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

The largest-ever study of almost 2,000 DNA samples carried out by Pompeu Fabra university in Barcelona has confirmed the ‘genetic singularity’ of the Basque population in Europe.

However, the research showed that this genetic difference only began to emerge 2,500 years ago in the Iron Age.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, shows the Basque genetic differences are the result of centuries of isolation and inbreeding, potentially caused by unique Basque dialects which have no roots in any other living language anywhere in the world.

The particular Basque language, Euskera, might have limited Basques’ interactions with other communities, who couldn’t understand them.

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Researchers analysed the DNA of 190 people whose four grandparents were born in the same area. The results showed DNA pools are concentrated in regions according to the historical distribution of the various dialects of Basque.

The research team’s hypothesis is that the language was also an internal obstacle due to the existence of dialects that were not mutually intelligible.

The current standardised Basque language, called Batua, was only developed and codified in the 1960s.

“Our results are compatible with Euskara as one of the main factors preventing major gene flow after the Iron Age and shaping the genetic panorama of the Basque region,” the study said.

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The origin of the Basques has fascinated scientists since the 19th century, and the history of the population’s genetics has produced contradictory results.

In 2015, Mexican biologist Cristina Valdiosera of the University of Burgos showed that Basques are not as ancient as previously thought, marking their genetic divergence as starting 5,000 years ago.

In 2019, Íñigo Olalde’s team at Harvard University shortened it further to around 2,500 years ago, which was confirmed by the new study.