Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20111215

Financial Crisis
»Greece: 12 Ports and 29 Airports to be Privatised
»Justice: Cash-Strapped Italy to Free Thousands of Inmates
»Kansas: Problem Loans to Cost Bank $100 Million
»Portugal to Reduce Deficit by Further 25% in 2011
»Obama Can’t Say it Enough: The Iraq War is Over
»Santorum: With Obama US Like Fascist Italy
»Honour Killing Entrenched in Islam
»Islamic School Hosts First Ontario RCMP Junior Police Academy
Europe and the EU
»Belgian Islamist Sheikh Abu Imran With Al Qaeda Flag … [Video Clip]
»Belgium: Islamic Extremists Call for Lesbian’s Death in Belgium
»Orphans of the Mob: When a Southern Italian Town “Loses” Its Boss, All Bets Are Off
»Pakistan Billed 4th Saddest Country in World
»UK: Huge Campaign to Block Off Licence Next to Finsbury Park Mosque
»UK: PMQs Disaster Leaves Labour Wondering About Ed Miliband’s Future
»UK: PMQs: Ed Miliband Gets His MPs Laughing. In a Bad Way
»Kosovo: Russian Humanitarian Convoy Blocked at Border
Mediterranean Union
»EU Opens Doors to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia
North Africa
»Family of Murdered Egyptian Christians on the Run Due to Muslim Terror
Israel and the Palestinians
»Gaza: Cement Arrives in Tunnels, End to Rubble Milling
South Asia
»Indonesia: Dozens of Punks Arrested for Being ‘Social Disease’
»Indonesia: Central Java: Statue of the Virgin Decapitated
Australia — Pacific
»18 Years’ Jail for Army Terror-Attack Plan
»Sharia a Good Fit in Some Areas, Says Academic Leesha McKenny
»Three Would-be Terrorists Jailed for Plotting Sydney Army Base Attack
»The Truth About Palestinian Immigration

Financial Crisis

Greece: 12 Ports and 29 Airports to be Privatised

Procedure underway to exploit State-owned property

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 15 — The Fund for the Exploitation of State-owned Private Property (TAIPED), the new public agency tasked with enacting the Greek government’s privatisation plans, has officially begun procedures to exploit a series of properties and infrastructure owned by the state’s property office. The Ministry of Finance’s predictions of interest from foreign investors are optimistic and initially concern three major packages.

The first package includes 29 of the country’s airports, for which the inter-ministerial commission has granted Taiped the rights to their use and administration, but also the right to use their infrastructure. As well as Thessaloniki’s Macedonia airport, Greek newspapers report that investors are also interested in airports with strategic importance for tourism, such as those on the major islands of Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Santorini, Lesbos and Chios. The second package concerns the development of 12 Greek ports, including Piraeus and Thessaloniki, for which the Greek government had originally agreed with representatives of the so-called troika to sell respective stakes of 23.1% and 23.3%, with further sales of shares of development rights by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The third package, meanwhile, concerns the development of state-owned land. As well as the former Ellinikon International airport, which is no longer operational, on the south coast of Athens, the Ministry of Finances has informed investors of its intention to promote investments in the tourism sector through the development of around 70,000 plots of land suitable for building, the first of which will be available by the second quarter of 2012, the newspapers report.

The privatisation plan drafted by the Greek government with the objective of bringing 50 billion euros into the state’s coffers by 2015, also includes the sale of certain partly state-owned businesses, such as DEPA-DESFA (the natural gas company and the national authority for gas distribution), and 35% of Greece’s national oil company (ELPA), as well as the sale of 29% of the football betting company (OPAP), the horse-racing betting group (ODIE), the Casino of Parnithas, the defence systems production group (EAS) and the metal firm Larco.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Justice: Cash-Strapped Italy to Free Thousands of Inmates

Rome, 14 Dec. (AKI) — Thousands of Italian inmates this week will be released from prison early to ease overcrowding and save the cash-strapped country millions of euros.

Two days ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Rome’s largest penitentiary, the country’s new justice minister Paola Severino plans use a decree to free 3,300 prisoners with up to 18 months remaining in their sentence, requiring them to serve out the rest of the time under house arrest.

The saved money is needed for the world’s fourth most indebted country led by a new government whose job it is to pass legislation to restart the ailing economy, balance the budget and cut spending.

The plan reportedly will save Italy 380 thousand euros a day and make more room for the 68,000 inmates locked up in the country’s 206 jails and prisons, newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Wednesday.

In 2010, former prime minister Silvo Berlusoni’s government allowed 4,000 prisoners with no more than 12 months left on their sentence, to serve out the time at home.

Italy, where the full name of Severino’s ministry is the Ministry of Justice and Pardon, commonly lets non-violent offenders out of prison early. Convicts sentenced to less than 3 years are often given house arrest.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Kansas: Problem Loans to Cost Bank $100 Million

The parent of Stillwater National sells more than $300 million in troublesome lending contracts.

Southwest Bancorp, parent of Stillwater National Bank and Bank of Kansas, announced late Wednesday that it has sold a variety of problem loans. The move will result in a pre-tax loss of $101 million in the fourth quarter, company leaders said.

Southwest officials said they sold nonperforming loans, potential problem loans and other real estate that totaled approximately $300.3 million. The holding company also sold $1.3 million in other related loans.

Officials said in a news release that they expect Southwest’s capital levels and those of its banking subsidiaries “will continue to substantially exceed regulatory standards for well-capitalized institutions and individual minimum capital ratios.”

“These sales immediately and substantially reduce our nonperforming assets and potential problem loans,” said Rick Green, president and CEO.

“We believe this action is a major step toward achieving our goals of reducing problem assets, returning to sustained profitability, resuming dividends, and producing reliable and attractive returns for our shareholders.”

Southwest’s board decided to make the move “after careful consideration of the potential costs and benefits to Southwest and its shareholders and consultation with financial and legal advisors and management,” officials said in an emailed statement. “This included consideration of the estimated costs and benefits of continuing the workout process for these assets over time versus the estimated costs and benefits of their immediate resolution by sale.”

Potential problem loans are performing loans that are not included in the past-due, nonaccrual or restructured categories of a bank’s financial statements, but for which known information about possible credit problems cause management to be uncertain as to the ability of the borrowers to meet repayment terms.

Southwest officials said more information would be provided on the effects of the loan and asset sales in the holding company’s 2011 annual earnings release.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Portugal to Reduce Deficit by Further 25% in 2011

Prime Minister Passos Coelho, 4.5% instead of 5.9%

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Portugal will reduce its public deficit by 25% more than was initially predicted for 2011, according to the Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, who was quoted in the Spanish media. At the end of the year, public deficit will not exceed 4.5% of GDP, instead of the 5.9% figure forecast earlier, Passos Coelho said. Portugal is therefore improving the stability targets agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in May, in exchange for the 78 billion euro aid package needed for the country’s bailout. The targets originally accounted for a reduction from 9.8% of GDP in 2010 to 5.9% in 2011. Social spending cuts and reforms have been carried out in Portugal for over a year and a half, as part of efforts to tackle the country’s serious economic crisis.

The Portuguese government’s agreement with the bank, which was signed on November 30 to transfer pension funds, will allow 6 billion euros to be injected in to the state’s coffers, which will in turn reduce deficit by more than was initially forecast, despite the fact that 2 billion out of the 6 billion euros will be used to pay off the debt to financial bodies contracted by the country’s public administration system.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Obama Can’t Say it Enough: The Iraq War is Over

(AP) WASHINGTON — Over and over, the Iraq war is over.

President Barack Obama, who opposed the war all the way to the White House, can’t remind people enough that he is the one ending the conflict and getting every last troop home.

He is not just commander in chief intent on lauding the valor of the military. He is a president seeking re-election and soaking up every chance to mark a promise kept.

On Wednesday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, a post that sent thousands of troops to Iraq and saw more than 200 of them die there, Obama summoned glory and gravity. In a speech full of pride in American fighting forces, Obama declared to soldiers that the “war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages.”

If the thought sounded familiar, it was because Obama has essentially been declaring an end since the start of his term.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Santorum: With Obama US Like Fascist Italy

(AGI) Washington — Rick Santorum is the weakest Rep candidate to the 2012 presidential election. He stated that if “Barack Obama will win again”, the US could become the “same kind of country” that Italy was under Benito Mussolini. Santorum is of Italian ancestry and, according to the Huffinghton Post, has a grand-father who in 1925 left Italy three years after the Fascists took over. “ We are ever-gradually — and not-so-gradually in the last couple of years — edging our way toward the same kind of country that my grandfather left”, Santorum stated ..

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Honour Killing Entrenched in Islam

Cynthia Yacowar-Sweeney

Against the backdrop of the Shafia honour-killing trial in Kingston, Montreal’s Concordia University graduate Sikander Ziad Hashmi, an imam with the Islamic Society of Kingston, tells us “there is no such thing as ‘honour killing’ in Islam.” Last week, Hashmi challenged readers of Canada’s National Post Full Commentonline to find one classical Islamic religious text that endorses the murder of a family member to preserve honour. PointdeBascule in Montreal answers the imam’s request by producing not one, but TWO Islamic texts stating that a father who kills his child must NOT be subject to punishment (“retaliation”).

The first text is “Umdat al-Saliq” or “Reliance of the Traveller”, a manual of Islamic law certified in 1991 as a reliable guide to Sunni Islam by Cairo’s renowned al-Azhar University, the most prestigious and authoritative institute of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence in the world. This manual, composed in the 14th century,states that punishment or “retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right” EXCEPT when “a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers)” kills their “offspring, or offspring’s offspring” (section o1.1-2). In other words, a parent who murders his/her child for the sake of honour, is not penalized under Islamic law or Shariah.

The Umdat al-Saliq was also endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in the United States. In the opening pages, the IIIT writes “there is no doubt that this translation is a valuable and important work, whether as a textbook for teaching Islamic jurisprudence to English speakers, or as a legal reference for use by scholars, educated laymen, and students in this language.” The Umdat al-Saliq is by no means an irrelevant or outdated document, and its rulings, including those on the subject of retaliation for murder, are legally binding and not subject for debate.

Another text that supports the immunity for parents who kill their children was written by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), an authority of Shiite Islam who led the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979. In his book “Resaleh Towzih Al-Massael” or “A Clarification of Questions” published in 1961, Khomeini specifies under “conditions of retaliation” (section 2.3 of Appendix II) that there is no penalty for a father who kills his child, the father will simply not be punished under Islamic law. A killer is punished if: “The slayer is not the father of the slain, nor the parental grandfather (apparently)”.

Both aforementioned Sunni and Shiite texts support the practice of honour killing in Islam, contrary to Hashmi’s claim, and serve as authentic and authoritative sources of Islamic law to this day. The Shafia killings did not occur in a vacuum, despite Hashmi’s attempts to convince us otherwise. Furthermore, Hashmi is not alone in his attempt to assure us that honour killings have nothing to do with Islam. Another imam, Samy Metwally of the Ottawa Mosque and a graduate of al-Azhar University, also attempts to distance Islam from the horror of the Shafia honour killings. He says “what’s called honour killing is not part of Islamic teaching or tradition, and in fact there is no honour in this killing at all.”

[Return to headlines]

Islamic School Hosts First Ontario RCMP Junior Police Academy

Nadar Azabi used to think police were scary. The 11-year-old student at Islamic School of Hamilton said he remembers seeing his mom pulled over. He thought the cop was mean.

But after going though the RCMP junior police academy, Azabi said he realizes police are “normal people, who have an important job to do.” The daylong event at the school inside the Hamilton Mosque Wednesday was the first of its kind in Ontario. Similar programs run in British Columbia. Roughly 50 students from Hamilton and Niagara were split into four groups and run through a fitness test, drills, forensics and drugs classes. They also got a look at a police dog and horses in action. The kids peppered the police with questions about everything from how they catch bad guys to the weight of their equipment. “There are many misconceptions about the faith of Islam and Muslims in the community, not (unlike) the police,” said RCMP community outreach Sergeant Derek McDonald, adding that both bear negative stereotypes.

The RCMP was part of a different outreach program that came to the school last year. So when the opportunity came to start a junior police academy, McDonald said, they went for it with the aim of building on their already established relationship. Some of the children’s families are from countries where there is good reason not to trust the police, he said, adding that the RCMP hopes the junior academy can help break down those barriers in Canada. “It’s a good opportunity for the Muslim community to bridge the gap between the community and police,” echoed school principal Yousef Kfaween. The RCMP also wants to attract more diverse groups of recruits. In particular, Muslim women are under-represented. Azabi said he was especially impressed by the drugs classes, which had a constable who works at Pearson International Airport explaining why drugs are wrong and how police find the drugs and catch the dealers.

Ola Elsharif, 10, said her favourite class of the day was forensics, where officers used special equipment to copy a shoe imprint off a tabletop. Like Nadar, she said she used to think police were mean, but has changed her mind. “It was so exciting, and so cool that we’re the first school in Ontario,” she added. It is hoped the day helped strengthen a Canadian-Muslim identity for the youths, said Kamran Bhatti, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Hamilton and board member for the North American Spiritual Revival, an event sponsor. “An event like this, they’ll never forget,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgian Islamist Sheikh Abu Imran With Al Qaeda Flag … [Video Clip]

Belgian Islamist Sheik Abu Imran with Al-Qaeda Flag Opposite the Atomium Monument in Brussels: Our Flag Will Soon Be Flying on Top of All the Palaces in Europe Until We Reach the White House

[JP note: Click news item header above to access the MEMRI video clip, with subtitles in English, posted on 11 December 2011.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Islamic Extremists Call for Lesbian’s Death in Belgium

by Paul Canning

An Islamist group called for a Muslim lesbian author to be killed and invaded a discussion on Islam in Amsterdam last week. A December 8 debate, which included the Canadian Muslim lesbian author Irshad Manji and MP Tofik Dibi on a panel, was disrupted when extremists from the group Sharia4Belgium stormed the event, held at the De Balie theater in Amsterdam. The mob threw eggs and called for Manji’s neck to be broken. The group of about 20 men and boys arrived halfway through the evening, chanted slogans and pelted the audience with eggs. A police mobile unit had to be called to eject the rioters, and two Belgian men aged 19 and 22 were arrested.

The people who disrupted the debate were members of the Belgian group Sharia4Belgium, an offshoot of Sharia4Holland. Irshad Manji has experienced death threats for several years since her outspoken attack on traditional Islam in her book The Trouble with Islam Today. Dibi is a young, gay Dutch-Moroccan GreenLeft (GroenLinks) MP. In September, he launched a campaign calling on Muslims around the world to stop blindly following decrees issued by a handful of extremists, and to start thinking for themselves. Manji was in Europe to promote her new book, Allah, Liberty and Love. She says that the key teaching of the book is “moral courage, the willingness to speak up when everyone else wants to shut you up.” The mob made clear that they felt that Dibi and Manji had no right to talk about Islam because they were too liberal, said Dibi. When the riot started, the audience made efforts to protect both speakers.

“What was really nice to see, and I have never seen, was that the whole audience stood up for us. And we have said, while they were shouting: ‘We will not move. We do not go off the stage, we continue to stand here. You only have to listen to us. And if you do not like to hear us speak, then you zapping’“ said Dibi.

Manji said:

I never felt afraid. Not once. Neither did Tofik. In fact, all of us refused to leave, even when police asked. We wouldn’t play on Jihadi terms. Some things are simply more important than fear.

Said Dibi:

The disruption shows that even in the Netherlands it is necessary to continue the debate on reforming Islam.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Orphans of the Mob: When a Southern Italian Town “Loses” Its Boss, All Bets Are Off

Michele Zagaria’s arrest was hailed by Italian law enforcement as a key victory in the war against the Camorra crime syndicate in and around the southern city of Naples. But in the small town where Zagaria had been sheltered, his arrest means less work and more uncertainty

Since last week’s capture of Michele Zagaria, a top boss of Italy’s Camorra mafia clan of Calesi, his small hometown has been a place of mourning.

In Casapesenna, the arrest of a notorious mobster — sentenced in absentia to multiple life sentences for murder, extortion, robbery and mafia association with the mafia — brought no celebrations, no joy. On the contrary, the inhabitants of this town outside of Naples looked as if they were attending the funeral of a dear friend or family member. Indeed, they were mourning their benefactor.

Welcome to Gomorrah, as best-selling author Roberto Saviano re-named the area dominated by the Camorra criminal syndicate in the Italian southern region of Campania.

In Casapesenna, a girl was not ashamed to cry aloud all her sorrow in front of the cameras. “And now, who will give us a job? Who will give us bread?” A storekeeper looked distressed too. “And now, the others who will come next, will they force us to pay the extortion racket?”

Gomorrah seems unbeatable, and always ready to rise again. Still, we should’t be surprised. The day before the capture of Zagaria, who had been on the run for over 16 years, Italian police had arrested 55 people connected to the mob, including politicians, local administrators, and bank managers. During the investigation that led to these arrests, witnesses admitted to voting for some candidates because they guaranteed work and money…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Billed 4th Saddest Country in World

Islamabad — Pakistan is ranked the 4th saddest country among the world countries, an international report said Thursday.

As for the least happy, least prosperous, saddest countries? Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most miserable part of the world, with eight of the bottom 10. This year the Central African Republic edged out Zimbabwe at the bottom. The two non-African countries in the bottom 10 are Pakistan (No. 107) and Yemen (No. 106), the Legatum Prosperity Index-2011 has said.

The index is evolved on the attributes including prosperity: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

Norwegians have the second-highest level of satisfaction with their standards of living: 95% say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives; an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted.

Joining Norway and Australia in the top 10 are their neighbors Denmark, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand. Equally small and civilized Switzerland and the Netherlands are also up there. Rounding out the top 10 is the United States at 10th and Canada (sixth).

These nations have in common that they are electoral democracies.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Huge Campaign to Block Off Licence Next to Finsbury Park Mosque

Fears that tensions will emerge between drinkers and Muslim worshippers have sparked a huge campaign to stop an off licence from opening next to a mosque. About 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for Islington Council to block a licensing bid submitted by the Finsbury Supermarket in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park. The former clothes shop, which is next door to the Muslim Welfare House (MWH) complex, is seeking permission to sell booze between 8am and 11pm every day. Toufik Kacimi, director of MWH, which houses a mosque, a bookshop and a community centre, said: “It will bring too much trouble to our doorstep and there are enough off licences in Finsbury Park. We would be happy with any other business next door, but why does it have to be an alcohol business? Anything else and we would help them.”

The petition, which was started by the welfare centre, states: “We believe that selling alcoholic drinks could ignite problems with antisocial behaviour against the mosque’s members.”

In a letter to the council, Mr Abukar, who runs the bookshop, said: “I am worried that tensions will arise between the worshippers entering and exiting the mosque for prayer, and people drinking liquor outside the mosque.” Councillors are due to rule on the application tomorrow (Thursday December 13). Cllr Phil Kelly, who represents Finsbury Park ward, said: “Regardless of where it is, there are too many off licences in Finsbury Park anyway, so I do share their concerns and I would oppose it. I think it’s a reasonable enough point to worry there could be tensions there.” Finsbury Supermarket could not be reached for comment.

[Reader comment by Jeffers on Wednesday, December 14, 2011]

yea but lets not worry about the huge William hill bookmakers next door to the mosque, but seriously this is England we like to drink alcohol in this country if you don’t like it than find an Islamic country that does ban alcohol.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: PMQs Disaster Leaves Labour Wondering About Ed Miliband’s Future

When he first got up Ed Miliband displayed that look of Zen-like confidence that is one of his endearing traits. By the time he sat down again he looked puzzled, as if he couldn’t quite understand how he had just had his pocket picked by David Cameron. Actually, it was worse than that. He was slapped down, duffed up, knocked back, outclassed. It was a disaster for the Labour leader. When he first sketched out his question plan this morning, he must have thought that the unemployment figures followed by some easy Clegg-baiting would give him a PMQs win. But every sally was blocked. His questions failed to cut through. And when he tried to raise a laugh about Mr Clegg’s return to the front bench, he went on too long and then forgot to include a punch line. What he didn’t expect was the zinger that Mr Cameron shot back, when the PM said “It’s not like we’re brothers”. Kapow! On the Labour benches they chewed lemons. The Tories howled. Even the DPM smiled.

It went on like that, and culminated with Mr Cameron using the last word (usually a PM’s emergency exit when things are sticky) to offer his end-of-term report on Mr Miliband. His jibe that Labour MPs have put a new leader on their Christmas wish-list echoed through the chamber with the power of truth. From Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper on the front bench, to the farthest reaches of the backbenches, Labour members must now be worrying about their leader and his capacity to turn the tables on Mr Cameron. The Indy’s ComRes poll putting the Tories up seven points to 41pc and two points ahead of Labour may be dismissed by some as a one-off, but today’s PMQs will reinforce its message in the minds of Labour MPs. Tomorrow’s by-election win in west London will help, but only briefly. What chance the Christmas lull begins to fill with mutterings about a leadership crisis?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: PMQs: Ed Miliband Gets His MPs Laughing. In a Bad Way

Often, when Ed Miliband has taken a beating from David Cameron in PMQs, Labour people in the corridors, lobbies and tearooms of the Commons look glum, gamely trying to tell lurking hacks like me that it wasn’t that bad before shuffling off gloomily. After today’s particularly painful kicking, I found a rather different reaction: laughter. Two senior Labour folk I spoke to shortly after PMQs were openly laughing at their own leader’s performance. And even one loyal member of the Shadow Cabinet admitted that the PM’s “at least we’re not brothers” gag was very good. Meanwhile, Mr Miliband’s failure to capitalise on the Coalition’s European division has actually given Tory and Lib Dem members something to agree on: just how awful they think he is. And the final surprise from the Commons whisperers was this verdict on the Prime Minister’s performance, offered by a Lib Dem who has not always been entirely supportive of the Coalition: “David Cameron is bloody good at this, isn’t he?”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Russian Humanitarian Convoy Blocked at Border

Belgrade/Pristina, 14 Dec. (AKI) — A 27-truck Russian convoy, carrying “humanitarian aid” to Serbs in northern Kosovo, has been blocked at Kosovo border for the past 24 hours in a diplomatic dispute, Russian ambassador to Belgrade Aleksandar Konuzin said on Wednesday.

The convoy, carrying 300 tones of supplies for Kosovo Serbs, arrived at the border Tuesday morning, but after letting two trucks to enter Kosovo, European Union police (EULEX) stopped the other vehicles, demanding they should be accompanied by EU police.

Earlier on Tuesday, local Serbs, who oppose Kosovo independence declared by majority Albanians in 2008, blocked EULEX convoy which was to accompany Russian trucks, from reaching the border.

Konuzin, who was leading the Russian convoy, said he didn’t need EULEX escort, adding that the dispute was discussed on the “highest level” between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and EU officials in Brussels.

Serbia’s ally Russia has blocked Kosovo independence in the United Nations Security Council and is backing Belgrade and minority Serbs in Kosovo in opposing the independence. Nevertheless, Kosovo has been recognized by over 80 countries, including the United States and 22 out of 27 EU members.

Serbs have a historic affinity with Russia, sharing Slavic roots and the Christian Orthodox faith.

EULEX spokeswoman Irina Gudeljevic has said Konuzin first asked for EULEX escort, but later changed his mind. Konuzin, on the other hand, accused EULEX of “political blackmail” and of overstepping its status neutral mandate in Kosovo.

“EULEX imposes political conditions and isn’t status neutral,” Konuzin said. “Once again, it has sided with Pristina authorities,” which Moscow and Belgrade don’t recognize, he added.

Pieter Feith, the head of the International Community Office in Pristina, disputed Konuzin’s presence in Kosovo, saying Moscow had its envoy in Pristina. He said he wasn’t sure whether Russian aid was a “propaganda trick or something else”.

Feith said there was no “humanitarian catastrophe” in Kosovo, adding he didn’t see how Russian presence could help. “We must start obeying the rules,” he said.

Kosovo Serbs have been blocking roads in northern Kosovo for the past four months in protest against placing of Kosovo police and customs at two northern border crossings, Brnjak and Jarinje.

Serbian president Boris Tadic said no humanitarian convoys should be blocked from entering Kosovo, “especially not those destined for Kosovo Serbs, who are the most endangered ethnic group in Europe today”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU Opens Doors to Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia

New round of talks on free-trade zones and integration

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 14 — The EU member States have given green light to the start of commercial negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The European Commission has received a mandate to create free-trade zones and to move beyond the current agreement regarding the elimination of customs duties, also covering the context of regulations, for example on the protection of investments and public tenders.

“We are offering Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia” said European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, “progressive economic integration in the EU single market. We want to improve the conditions for market access for these four WTO members, because they are committed to the process of economic and democratic reform. Our doors are open to other partners in the southern Mediterranean once they meet the necessary conditions.” The future free-trade areas will be included in the existing Euro-Mediterranean association agreements and will cover issues of common interest like facilitating trade, technical obstacles to trade, measures regarding health and phytosanitary issues, protection of investments, public tenders and competition policies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Family of Murdered Egyptian Christians on the Run Due to Muslim Terror

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Two weeks after the murder of two Christian brothers by Muslims during the violence that swept the upper Egyptian village of elGhorayzat, the family of the murdered Christians has temporarily come out of hiding to speak of the terror they have been subjected to and decry the impunity enjoyed by the killers, who are walking freely in the village.

On November 28, the two Christian brothers, Kamel Tamer Abraham (55) and Camille Tamer Abraham (50), were killed in revenge for the death of the Muslim Mohamad Abdel-Nazeer, who was injured during an altercation with a village Christian over the building of a fence round the Christian’s house, and who later died in hospital. The Christian man fled from the village with his family.

Mahmoud Abdel-Nazeer, the brother of the dead Muslim, and a mob of Muslims, vowed to avenge his death from all village Copts. They went on a rampage, looting and burning Christian owned homes and businesses, and resulted in the murder of the two brothers and injury to several other Christians not involved in the altercation (AINA 11-30-2011).

Karam Tamer Abraham, the brother of Kamel and Camille, said that his two murdered brothers were killed in lieu of the life of the Muslim, explaining that the Muslims asked for the lives of his two brothers because they are “the Christian elders of the village.” He said that the family is in no way related to and does not even know the Christian involved in the death of the Muslim.

The Tamer Abraham family refused any “reconciliation” with the murderers, and insisted that the rule of law should prevail. “We will get our rights by law, and we will never accept reconciliation, whatever the consequences. We are not in a jungle.” He said that all this happened to the family because they are Christians.

According to Karam, after the murders, Muslims looted three flats in the family house, and their shop, “while the security forces stood there watching.”

The three men who participated in the killings, according to eyewitnesses, were Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer, Sabry Mohammad el-Sayed and a third man unknown to them.

“Reconciliation” sessions are usually arranged by the Egyptian security authorities, after every violence against Christians, and result in Christians being pressured to give up their rights.

Currently the entire Abraham family are on the run, after having received death threats from the son of the dead Muslim, Mohammad Abdul-Nazeer, who demands that all four family children also have to be killed.

Speaking on CTV Coptic Chanel, Mrs. Hiyam Fakhry, wife of Camille Tamer Abraham, describing her ordeal and how she and her children watched her husband had his throat slit by Muslims “with indescribable cruelty” and for no reason.

Recounting the events of the massacre, Hiyam said that after the Muslims caused violence and destruction in the village, Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer and nearly all Muslims in the village walked over two miles to their home. They knocked at the door of the family’s multi-story house, and when her husband asked them from their balcony, what they wanted. They answered him “Come down with your brother, we want to slit your throats,” said Hiyam.

Moments later Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer and the Muslims broke down the door. They first went into the flat of the 55-year-old childless brother Kamel, and slit his throat with a large knife as he sat on his bed watching TV. They injured his wife Wafaa, took her gold bracelets and 50,000 Egyptian pounds in cash.

According to Hiyam, the Muslim mob the ascended to the second floor, where they gave her husband and 18-year-old son, Mina, blows to their heads, before tying her husband’s hands with a rope and dragging him to a room. “Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer, slit my husband’s throat,” said said Hiyam. “He was about to leave him, believing he was dead, when one of the other perpetrators noticed that Camille was still breathing, and told him to go back and finish him completely off and let his blood spill all over the floor. So he slit Camille’s throat another time” (video of the murdered Copts. WARNING! contains highly graphic content).

All the while their 4-year old son Michael was asleep on the bed. He woke up and saw his father lying in his blood and started calling to him and asking him to wake up. “When my child cried, Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer said ‘get that child and let’s slaughter him over his father’, but I screamed and begged them until they let him off.”

Hiyam recalled that when Abdul-Nazeer told her husband he has to be slaughtered, she asked him why , as he has done nothing wrong. “He answered me, haughtily and mercilessly, saying ‘he has to be slaughtered today, that means he has to be slaughtered today.’“

Mahmoud Abdul-Nazeer has not been arrested, a fortnight after the murder and is present in the village, according to eyewitnesses. Although a warrant was issued for his arrest, the police said he is on the run. This was disputed by Hiyam, who said that he is in the village and he buried his brother the next day and for two days he was bragged in front of his home that he slaughtered two Copts.

She called on the Minister of Interior and other officials to arrest the killer. “He slaughtered innocent people who in their homes and should stand trial.”

The Christian family was told that security forces do not want to arrest him, in order to pressure them to relinquish their rights against the killer and thereby spoil any court case against him. “They do not want to arrest him as this will lead to Muslim violence in the village, as his crime carries the death penalty,” said Hiyam. “Because they are scared of Muslim violence, the authorities want us to lose the rights of our dead.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Cement Arrives in Tunnels, End to Rubble Milling

Italian journalist, ban on construction material lifted

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 14 — Builders in Gaza have breathed a sigh of relief. No longer will they be forced to gather the rubble from homes destroyed in Israel’s Operation Cast Lead and mill it to make cement, because of the ban imposed by Israel and Egypt on the importing of construction materials. In the last few months, cement and bricks have begun to pass through tunnels dug between Sinai and Gaza.

Angela Lano, a journalist from Turin and director of InfoPal, the news agency on Palestinian affairs, has been telling the story of this curious new development during the launch in Rome of a network of associations of solidarity with the Palestinian called Shabakah ( Lano was in Gaza between November 21 and 28, as part of a large delegation of hundreds of parliamentarians, intellectuals and activists from 40 countries around the world.

The lion’s share came from South America, Brazil in particular, with the latter having financed the reconstruction of a bridge destroyed by the Israelis. “I was amazed when I saw these South American politicians queuing up to have their photographs taken with their Gazan counterparts,” Lano says. “European politicians steer clear of Hamas, which won the election democratically. This is proof that outside of Europe people see things differently”.

But returning to the issue of cement, the Israelis have never allowed construction material to be brought into Gaza. Egypt, too has always managed to block bricks and mortar at the entrance to the 700 illegal tunnels that pass under its border.

To rebuild houses destroyed during Operation Cast Lead (from December 27 2008 to January 18 2009), Palestinian builders came up with a brilliant plan. They gathered rubble, ground it down and turned it into fresh cement. This has allowed a significant portion of Gaza to be rebuilt over the last three years. But there has been a heavy price to be. A number of builders have been killed by snipers from the Israeli Defence Forces while gathering pieces of rubble on the border.

However, Lano says, in the last few months the situation has changed. The fall of Mubarak has helped, as has the ground gained by Islamist parties and the distraction of Egyptian border guards since the ousting of the regime. But no-one can be sure why things have changed. One thing is certain, the journalist says, and that is that “now even cement arrives through the tunnels”.

But while builders are smiling, fishermen in the Gaza Strip continue to cry. “The Oslo accords allowed them to fish up to 20 miles from the coast,” Lano says. “The Israelis have never respected this limit, forcing them to stay within a three-mile distance. Every day the Israeli Navy fires at Palestinian fishermen, or seizes their boats and does not return them. Seven fishermen have been killed this year. There is very little live fish left on the shores, fishing is considered a high-risk profession and the children of fishermen sell cigarettes in the market because their fathers no longer know how to support them”.

Then there is the health emergency. “The food emergency has ended,” Lano says. “But medicine and medical equipment continues to pass through the tunnels. We went to a hospital where they were lacking everything. There is also the fact that Israelis prevent the sick who want to be treated abroad, in Egypt or in Jordan, from leaving. The Gaza Strip is full of people mutilated by Israeli bombs, who cannot leave to be fitted with artificial limbs. And there are 450 people on kidney dialysis who cannot be treated in Egypt”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Dozens of Punks Arrested for Being ‘Social Disease’

Jakarta, 14 Dec. (AKI) — Dozens of Indonesians in the highly-conservative Aceh region were rounded up for being punk rockers and are being held for re-education to cure a “social disease,” according to the deputy mayor of the city where they were arrested.

“The punk community’s existence has caused unrest and disturbed society in Banda Aceh,” Banda Aceh deputy mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday. She said the punks are “new social disease’that should be stopped.”

Sixty-four so-called punks were arrested on Tuesday and taken to a police academy where their heads were shaved. Though there is no such crime, they were charged with “being punk.”

Aceh punk rockers took part in a “Street Punk” charity concert held in a park on Saturday, three days before the arrests.

Banda Aceh is the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh where Sharia, or Islamic law, is enforced in many of the towns and villages.

A 30- year separatist movement in Aceh, located in the northern tip of Sumatra, ended with an amnesty for insurgents. and elections in 2006. The Indonesian government in 2001 granted the region the autonomous right to impose a measure of Islamic law.

“This is a new social disease in Banda Aceh. If we allow it, the government has to spend more money to handle them,” Illiza said in the interview. “Their morality was destroyed. Men and women joining in one place is against Islamic Shariah.”

She said she has the support of the community and that the government will continue to hunt for punks and send them to school for 10 days. IIIiza estimates there are 200 punk rockers in Banda Aceh, the Jakarta Globe reported.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Central Java: Statue of the Virgin Decapitated

The act of vandalism occurred last night in Sendag Prawito (Semarang Archdiocese), in a small chapel devoted to Our Lady. A cross was also stolen and some religious objects were destroyed. The archbishop demands Christians be protected during the Christmas period.

Semarang (AsiaNews) — Last night, vandals decapitated the statue of the Virgin Mary in a small grotto in Sendag Prawito, Tawangmangu, Semarang Archdiocese (Central Java). A cross was stolen and the aspersorium was badly damaged.

“This brutal action has strongly affected the Catholic community,” Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, archbishop of Semarang, told AsiaNews.

“Security Forces must do their duty without showing any preference for Muslims or Christians in a religiously pluralistic country based on the principles of Pancasila, which are still the foundations on which the nation is built,” the prelate said in an appeal to local authorities to provide Christians with security during the Christmas period.

In recent years, Christmas has seen several attacks against Indonesia’s Christian communities. In 2000, a series of bombings killed 19 people during Christmas week. On 31 December 2005, seven people died in an attack against a market in a Christian section of Palu (Sulawesi).

In both cases, Jemaah Islamyah, which is linked to al Qaeda, was blamed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

18 Years’ Jail for Army Terror-Attack Plan

Three Muslim extremists convicted of conspiring to plan an Australian terrorist attack have been sentenced to each serve 18 years’ jail.

The men were part of an Islamic terrorist cell who were planning to attack the Holsworthy army barracks in Sydney’s south-west.

Their aim was to enter the barracks armed with military weapons and shoot 500 personnel, or as many people as possible, before they were killed or ran out of ammunition.

Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, Saney Edow Aweys and Nayef El Sayed, who had all met at the Preston Mosque, had weapons when they were arrested in August 2009.

The men were connected to the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab, and tried to obtain a fatwa, or religious decree, justifying the attack.

Fattal was covertly videoed walking along the perimeter fence at the army base in what the jury, based on their verdict, believed was in preparation for an attack.

The jury found them guilty following a trial lasting more than five months in which multiple listening devices were played outlining their plan and detailing their extreme religious and political views.

They also had an expressed hatred of Australian people and non-Muslims, who they repeatedly referred to as “infidels”.

Fattal, Justice Betty King said, appeared to be the “most dogmatic” among them, acknowledging he was “simple man” with low intelligence and whose cognitive impairment would not have been helped at all by his participation for many years in the sport kickboxing, during which he suffered multiple concussions.

He was also fixed and rigid in his religious views.

But the judge said each of the men was a willing participant in the terrorist plot. They also all believed in martyrdom.

In a packed Victorian Supreme Court today, Justice King ordered Fattal, 35, Aweys, 29, and El Sayed, 27, to serve a minimum of 13 years and six months before becoming eligible for parole.

Fattal, however, was ejected from the court as soon as the judge began her sentencing remarks following what was a garbled and difficult to understand verbal outburst.

“This is corruption,” he yelled, pointing at Justice King, before she ordered prison guards to take him away, seemingly unsurprised by his behaviour.

On resuming her sentence, which lasted almost two hours, the judge described their crimes as “anticipatory offences” which were stopped by law enforcement authorities before they were carried out, only after undercover police successfully infiltrated the group.

The maximum sentence for the charge of conspiring to plan a terrorist attack is life imprisonment.

Two other men were acquitted by the jury of their involvement in the plot.

Justice King said despite being given the opportunity, none of the trio had recanted their extremist views.

“Each of you remains a danger to the community,” Justice King said.

She described their plan as “deadly serious” and “evil”. She said it would have been a “totally horrific” event, had it have ever come to pass in a country that had given them and their families opportunities.

The men should all “hang your heads in shame”, she said, describing their level of operating as “amateurish” and the plan they were hatching as “far from sophisticated”.

Fattal, formerly of Melbourne, has already served 989 days since his arrest, while Aweys, of Carlton, and El Sayed, from Glenroy, have served 864 pre-sentence detention.

The men will serve their jail time in protective custody for behavioural and other reasons.

A relative yelled “oh my God” and several women wept after the sentence was handed down.

[Return to headlines]

Sharia a Good Fit in Some Areas, Says Academic Leesha McKenny

AUSTRALIA’S Muslims would not move towards a parallel legal system if some Islamic practices were better integrated into the existing legal framework, a University of Sydney academic said.

The Sydney law school lecturer Ghena Krayem said extensive interviews with NSW Muslim leaders and community members found they were not seeking a recognition of sharia in areas where it was contrary to existing Australian law, such as polygamy.

But where in practice both systems overlapped — such as marriage and divorce — they sought a better integration of Islamic principles, enhancing social cohesion without legislative change.

Dr Krayem, whose doctoral thesis on the topic is the first empirical study of its kind, said ad hoc mediation of marriage breakdowns by imams — a practice which already operated in the shadow of the law — would benefit from procedural safeguards such as the transparency and accountability of the dispute resolution system of the Family Law Act.

“Whilst these informal community processes at the moment, they’re meeting a need, there are aspects that need to be improved — and even our community leaders and religious leaders acknowledged that,” she said.

Dr Krayem said the financial rights of women, often negotiated differently within the religion if a wife initiated the divorce, could also be better protected if the contract typically drafted in Islamic marriages was treated as if were a legal pre-nuptial agreement.

“The most valuable thing for Muslim women is they need to know what they can add into that contract because it’s the most powerful path for them to ensure they’ve safeguarded their rights under Islamic law,” she said.

Dr Krayem, a Muslim who trained as a family dispute resolution practitioner, said the approach could also take the sting out of the public debate surrounding sharia in Australia.

“I also think to not do anything about it at all, to dismiss this whole argument, is actually pushing the community towards setting up a parallel legal system.”

It was a question of improving access to existing legal avenues for dispute resolution for people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, not just Muslims.

She said an argument could be made for legislative change to allow those certified to marry people, such as religious leaders, to also legally divorce them, when issues of property settlements or custody could be excluded.

           — Hat tip: LAW Wells[Return to headlines]

Three Would-be Terrorists Jailed for Plotting Sydney Army Base Attack

THREE would-be terrorists who plotted an armed attack on a Sydney army base remained defiant after they were jailed for 13 years today.

Justice Betty King told Wissam Fattal, 35, of Melbourne, Saney Edow Aweys, 28, of Carlton, and Nayef El Sayed, 27, of Glenroy they planned a horrific and evil attack on the Australian community.

Justice King said it was troubling that none of the three had renounced their extreme Islamic views and they would remain a threat to the community even after they are released.

“None of you, not one, has recanted from any extremist view you held,” said the judge.

“The protection of the community remains a very significant factor.”

In her Supreme Court sentence, Justice King said the planned attack on the Holsworthy army base would have resulted in the deaths of a number of innocent people.

She said one of the trio was born in Australia to refugee parents, one came as a 15-year-old refugee and the third, Fattal, chose to come here to further his kickboxing career.

“The fact that Australia welcomed all of you and nurtured you and your families is something that should cause you all to hang your heads in shame that this was the way you planned to show your thanks for that support,” the judge said.

Justice King said the group was operating at an “amateur level” and the planning had not advanced to a level where they obtained weapons or explosives.

“Your plans were deadly serious,” Justice King said.

“It was to kill as many personnel that could be found on the army base at Holsworthy in the time prior to you being killed as martyrs.

“Your plans were evil. Your views about Australia and Australians and the attitude towards this country’s armed forced, its civilians and its government were made clear in your (secretly recorded) statements.”

The judge said the lack of planning and advancement of the plot had to be taken into account but she also had to consider the seriousness of what was being planned and the consequences if it was every carried out.

None had exhibited contrition or remorse or renounced extremist views that were behind the plot and this was also a factor in sentencing and for the community to deal with when they are released from jail, she said.

Fattal, who has caused trouble consistently in court, had to be removed before the sentence commenced after he started shouting about “Jews, Palestine and Afghanistan”.

He was dragged out by security officers.

At the end of the sentence El Sayed shouted “God is with us” as a woman wept hysterically in the public benches.

Justice King set maximum terms of 18 years.

Almost a year after they were convicted, Fattal, Aweys and El Sayed faced justice…

           — Hat tip: Salome[Return to headlines]


The Truth About Palestinian Immigration

by Evelyn Gordon

Writing in Israel Hayom yesterday, Yoram Ettinger supported Newt Gingrich’s statement that Palestinians are an “invented” people by offering statistics to show that far from having lived in the Holy Land for millennia, most Palestinians descend from immigrants who came from throughout the Muslim world between 1845 and 1947. Simon Sebag Montefiore provides similar data in his new book, Jerusalem: The Biography, as a New York Times reviewer noted: From 1919-38, for instance, 343,000 Jews and 419,000 Arabs immigrated to the area, meaning Arab Johnny-come-latelies significantly outnumbered the Jewish ones.

One might ask why this should matter: Regardless of when either Jews or Palestinians arrived, millions of both live east of the Jordan River? today, and that’s the reality policymakers must deal with. But in truth, it matters greatly — because Western support for Palestinian negotiating positions stems largely from the widespread view that Palestinians are an indigenous people whose land was stolen by Western (Jewish) interlopers…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]