Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Wanted man wins literary award
A prisoner on the run for 25 years has been awarded one of Spain's Basque country's top literary awards, but he cannot have the prize unless he gives himself up.
Joseba Sarrionandia, now 53, escaped from jail in San Sebastian in 1985 while serving time for belonging to the militant separatist group ETA.
The Basque regional government is withholding the £15,500 prize until he comes forward and "regularises his legal situation".
Sarrionandia escaped by hiding inside the large speakers of a musical group that had performed at the jail.
His spectacular exit was worthy of a movie scene and inspired a song named after him.
A government-sponsored jury gave him the award for essays in the Basque language, which is called euskara.
The Basque government is run by the local branch of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist party, with support from the conservative Popular Party.
The culture department said it respected the decision and acknowledged Sarrionandia's talent as a writer. But it said that in line with its "commitment to the law and firm rejection of terrorism" it has major qualms about giving money to a man convicted of belonging to ETA.
It said Sarrionandia had never renounced his membership in ETA, which has killed 829 people in a campaign of bombings and shootings since the late 1960s and is classified as a terrorist organisation by Spain, the European Union and the United States.
"The Basque government accepts the decision but will withhold the monetary component of the prize until the prize-winner fully regularises his situation with judicial authorities."
The jury said Sarrionandia, who has won other non-government-sponsored prizes before, is a solid writer who over time could become "a classic of Basque culture