Anti-Eta activist ousted

February 22, 2002

An appeal board at one of Spain's largest public universities has downgraded a recently appointed professor after a protest lodged by a colleague once seen as a leading ideologue of the Basque terrorist organisation Eta.

Senior lecturer Edurne Uriarte, a prominent peace activist who has survived at least one Eta assassination attempt, was appointed to a chair in the political science department of the University of the Basque country (UPV) late last year. The award was challenged by the other main internal candidate, Francisco "Ortzi" Letamendia, a prolific writer on Basque separatism and former MP for Eta's political front, Herri Batasuna.

The UPV's appeals board has now ruled in Dr Letamendia's favour. But rather than award the chair to him, the board has abolished it.

Mariano Rajoy, Spain's home affairs minister, described the UPV's decision as "utterly shameless" and said it proved the Basque country to be "the home of the last dictatorship in Europe".

A petition in Dr Uriarte's support was signed by some 70 academics, including rector Manu Montero. Like Dr Uriarte and several other outspoken UPV lecturers, Professor Montero is high on Eta's hit-list and is constantly shadowed by armed bodyguards.

One of Dr Uriarte's bodyguards saved her life in December 2000 by spotting a bomb placed in the lift to her office on the Leioa campus near Bilbao.

Dr Uriarte told The THES she was planning legal action against her employers.

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