Spain: Municipality Relies on Cannabis to Get Out of Crisis
Rasquera says yes to plantation to settle debts
(ANSAmed) — MADRID — Last night, the Town Council of Rasquera (Tarragona), in Catalonia, passed a provision regarding concession of the municipality’s lands to the Barcelona Association of Marijuana Consumers (ABCDA), which will plant marijuana in exchange of employment of approximately 40 people and EUR 1.336 mln in two years to cover the Municipality’s funds deficit. According to what El Mundo reports today, during the crowded town council meeting (Rasquerra counts approximately 900 inhabitants), the 4 councillors of the governing group Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya voted in favour of the provision, while the three Convergencia i Union councillors, on the opposition, voted against it: the provision was therefore passed. The approved Meeting Agenda included a Municipal Action Plan for 2012, the creation of the Rasquera Local Public Enterprise for Research on Vegetable Varieties of Cannabis (Rrica) and the agreement between the Municipality and the Barcelona Association of Marijuana Consumers (ABCDA). The mayor, Bernat Pellida, has announced that an assembly with the participation of scientists, lawyers and doctors will be summoned next week. These experts will explain the project to the town’s inhabitants and the “legal and technical reports” endorsing the initiative.
The project had been presented by ABCDA during the last months.
ABCDA’s 5,000 members are consumers of “self-produced cannabis for recreational and treatment purposes”, as they define themselves on their web-page. The leader of the CIU’s Council’s group Bernat Farnos called for the summoning of a “binding referendum” about the initiative, which he defined as “innovative, but on the border-line between licit and illicit activities” and not endorsed by legal reports. Cannabis cultivation in Rasquera, a town inhabited mostly by stock-breeders and oil producers should, theoretically speaking, allow the municipality to cover the Municipality’s EUR 1.3 mln deficit, but the project raised heated controversies. “It is not totally illegal, but it is an initiative on the border line between licit and illicit activities, because it is oriented to individual consumers”, the Chairman of the Drug Addiction Committee of the Barcelona Lawyers’ Professional Association Francisco Vlazquez, declared to the media. By principle, cannabis cultivation infringes article 368 of the penal code, which forbids cultivation, processing and trafficking of drugs.
However, according to some legal experts, the article does not completely ban individual consumption. The Mayor Pellida stressed that cultivation and sale of marijuana will be carried out for therapy purposes or as a palliative for people affected from cancer. For this reason the mayor organized another meeting with another association of cannabis consumers, AIRAM, counting 7,000 members, also interested in the project. In Spain, there are approximately 150 clubs of cannabis smokers for individual consumption and some regional governments, such as the Basque Country Government, have already announced they are intentioned to regulate “responsible use” by specific legal provisions.
According to the Mayor of Rasquera, the initiative is aimed at “put an end to illegal trafficking” and, at the same time, at filling the Municipality’s coffers and creating employment opportunities.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Egyptian Christian Sentened to 6 Years in Prison for ‘Insulting the Prophet’
by Mary Abdelmassih
(AINA) — In the latest in a series of “defamation of religion” cases, an appeal has been filed on behalf of a Egyptian Christian who was sentenced to six years in prison for “insulting the Prophet.” Legal observers saw many flaws in the ruling of the judge of the Abanoub misdemeanor court, in Assiut province, while others accused him of appeasing a mob of 2500 Muslims who congregated outside the court and demanded the death penalty for the defendant, Makram Diab. Eyewitnesses reported that some of the Muslims carried knives and wanted to break into the court and kill Diab, but were blocked by the police.
Diab’s Muslim defense lawyer, Ahmad Sayed Gabali, said that during his 18 years as lawyer, he has never experienced what he went through in this case. “Over 80 Islamist lawyers representing civil rights claimants filled the court, locked the door of the court from the inside, not allowing the judge out, and prevented me as the defense lawyer from going inside the court and defending my client.”
A discussion on February 9 between the Makram Diab, who is a school secretary, and a Salafi school teacher became heated but then simply ended. Thirteen days later, on February 23, another teacher named Abdel-Hamid, who was not present during the quarrel or even at school on that day, filed a complaint with the police, signed by another 11 teachers, accusing Makram Diab of insulting Islam’s prophet. “This was a normal quarrel between him and the Muslim teacher,” said Gabali, “which could happen anywhere. It was provoked by the teacher, who has been transferred several times from different schools after being reprimanded for causing sedition, and was used by the Salafis for their benefit. This is a group of teachers who used Diab as a scapegoat.”
Gabali said that when he approached the court house on the day of the trial, there was a huge mob of Muslims, in addition to high school teachers and students holding banners and chanting Islamic slogans. “We were about 14 to 15 people, including the 12 policemen who were there to secure the court, facing a crowd of over 2500 people.” He waited outside in his car, to be called in by the police warden when it was secure for him to go inside, but this never happened.
“The Muslims’ plan was to get the police engaged with me, so that they could attack my client inside the court.”
The media gave minimal coverage to the case, and no account of the accusation was published, leaving it to the imagination of the readers and viewers.
Stories differ as to what the insults to prophet Mohammad were. According to the official court version, Makram Diab allegedly said that Mohammad sexually harassed his disciples. “This cannot be true at all,” said attorney Gabali, who has known Makram personally all his life. “He is simply not capable of it. He is a simple person, who has nothing to do with religion or politics.”
Diab’s sister Hadia said that her brother simply asked the Muslim teacher whether it was true that Mohammad married 40 wives and the teacher said he would ask and let him know the answer. Michael, Makrab’s son, said it was a quarrel. “The Muslim insulted the Christian religion and my father simply answered back. Was my father supposed to be insulted and keep quiet?
Defamation of Religion is considered a misdemeanor under Egyptian law, punishable by a prison sentence of one month to three years. The Abanoub court is a partial court and the judge is not allowed to pass a prison sentence exceeding three years.
Defense lawyer Gabali believes that the Abanoub judge had to pass this flawed ruling as he found himself in the midst of Muslim groups inside and outside the court. “I saw a group of lawyers entering court weeping, literally weeping, to plead with the judge to give the maximum sentence,” he added. He said that he tried to solve the matter amicably before it went to court, but the Muslims refused and the reconciliation meeting was cancelled.
He called on the army to secure the court in the appeal session on March 15 in Assuit, “otherwise, we will have a repetition of the Abanoub trial, with mobs everywhere trying to influence the judge morally and religiously.” He called on Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed forces to ensure that the trial in Assuit be fully secured by the army outside and inside the court, “otherwise, I cannot guarantee the safety of my client.” Makram Diab is kept now in the high security section of the Assuit prison.
|— Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih||[Return to headlines]|
Tunisia: Fundamentalist Hackers Attack Radio FB Page
Battle against ‘traitors and apostates’
(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 27 — The Facebook page of Radio Mosaique, one of the most popular in Tunisia (with 500 thousand fans), has been attacked by a group of hackers. The group, using the name “Fellaga”, has announced in a message that its initiative is a protest against the survey carried out by the radio station regarding the introduction of the Sharia (Islamic law) as source of legislation. In the message, in the Arabic language, the hackers say that they will continue their fight “against the strongholds of traitors and apostates.” The Fellaga group has also hacked the webpages of several political parties, organisations and companies. The term refers to the Algerian and Tunisian combatants against French colonialism.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Tunisia: First Cracks in Ennahdha, From Youth Wing
Gannouchi styles himself ‘noble father’ of movement
(by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 21 — The granite-hard image Ennahdha created for itself over the weeks of electoral campaigning for the Constitutional Assembly is beginning to show some cracks that risk widening with the passing of time. Such cracks serve to confirm what analysts and the common folk have said of Ennahdha: that it contains a political “dualism”.
This aspect of the party may not have been apparent during the electoral campaigning, which was driven by a manifesto that appeared even then to be somewhat vague with its promises to please all sides without explaining the wherewithal. Now the emptiness of the programme is becoming a political liability.
Against this background Rached Gannouchi’s decision to style himself in the role of the movement’s “noble father” finds the movement that risks having to reshape or, worse still, disintegrate under the opposing forces within its ranks. This risk is not one for today or tomorrow, but surely for a none-too-distant future. The first telling nudge to be given to this “monolith” has come from the youth wing of the movement. These signed up party supporters can’t help noticing a marked drift “to the right” at the helm of the party, i.e. a larger amount of support for the religious input into constitutional reform. It would appear that this is the subject of heated discussions behind the closed doors of the Constituent Assembly, and the drift may be curbed to some extent by the concessions sought by those parties representing the reformist and secular part of Tunisia, who see them as basic to the furtherance of a dialogue worthy of the name. The edginess that has for some time been visible among the youthful wing of Ennahdha found its catalyst in the form of the Egyptian Wahhabi preacher Wajdi Ghemin, whose poison-laced sermons have been inflaming the country’s mosques. Whatever is not part of fundamental Islam, be it democracy or democratic compromise, should simply be cast away. Tunisian theologians state that his ideas are far removed from the teachings of the Koran. Ghenim’s sermons have become the target of a hardline declaration by the country’s president, Moncef Marzouki, who has long upheld human rights. In the heat of his reproof, the president applied the epithet ‘microbes’ to those who had invited Ghemin to preach in the country. This has made him the butt of reactions from Tunisia’s more fundamentalist citizens, the youth wing of Ennahdha in the forefront, accusing the party leaders of not having defended the preacher’s right to free speech. This debate appears to be confined to the ranks of the movement. But the younger members represent its armed wing, who often take to the streets to lend political support to their Salaphite contemporaries in their threats to overthrow the vaunted secular nature of the country’s universities with alarming acts. The underlying problem is one and the same: after its revolution, the new Tunisia has granted to all a chance to express their own ideas, be they democratic or otherwise, as are the chants and messages being waved on the banners of the Salaphites in their support of Sharia law and Islamic Jihad. But while the lay media criticises and raises the alarm at such gestures, the reactions of Ennahdha’s leaders are far from conciliatory. Indeed, some of the senior figures have opened fire at point blank range against the principle of a freedom which, they say, cannot be an absolute value, but should come after history and culture. This is flirting with a return to the blanket censorship of the past.
|— Hat tip: Insubria||[Return to headlines]|
Turkish Cyprus Might be Annexed to Turkey, Minister Says
Turkish Cyprus could be annexed to Turkey if ongoing talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriots for reunification fail to produce a solution, Turkey’s minister for European Union Affairs has said.
Egemen Baðýþ, in remarks published in Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kýbrýs, said all options are on table regarding the fate of Cyprus, private news stations NTV reported on Sunday. “Reunification under a deal that [Turkish and Greek Cypriot] leaders could reach, creation of two independent states after an agreement between the two leaders if they are unable to reach a deal for reunification, or annexation of the [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] KKTC to Turkey. These are all options on the table,” Baðýþ said. Turkish Cypriot leader Derviþ Eroðlu and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias have been holding talks to reunite the island, but the two sides are unable to report any significant progress from the talks, under way since 2008.
Baðýþ said the Turkish government would support any formula that Eroðlu and Christofias would be able sell to their respective communities. “This includes reunification or failure of reunification; the important thing is that the two leaders manage to get sufficient public support. We, as Turkey, are concerned about only one thing, which is political equality on the island,” Baðýþ said.
NTV reported that Baðýþ’s remarks have already elicited protests from the KKTC opposition. Main opposition Republican Turks Party (CTP) leader Özkan Yorgancýoðlu condemned the EU affairs minister’s remarks, saying the idea of annexing the KKTC to Turkey is unacceptable.
Cyprus’ division affects Turkey’s own membership bid at the EU as well, given that Greek Cyprus — internationally recognized as representing the entire island — has been blocking progress in the already stalled Turkish membership process since it joined the bloc as a full member in 2004. Turkey has already declared that it will suspend dialogue with the EU presidency when Greek Cyprus takes over the rotating term presidency of the 27-nation bloc in July.
In the meantime, Giulio Terzi, Italy’s foreign minister, emphasized that concrete progress had to be achieved with regard to negotiations over the political future of the island. He made the comments during a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu in Ýstanbul on Saturday.
Turkey staged a military intervention in Cyprus in 1974, after a Greek-led coup d’état seized power of the island in a bid to unite it with Greece. The United Nations has since been trying to reunite the island.
|— Hat tip: TV||[Return to headlines]|
Russian Presidential Election
Tearful Putin Celebrates Victory Amid Fraud Claims
Vladimir Putin had tears in his eyes as he celebrated his landslide victory in Sunday’s election, which secured him a third term as Russian president. Opposition groups claim the vote was marked by widespread fraud, and plan to hold anti-Putin protests on Monday.
Once it was clear that his victory was overwhelming, Vladimir Putin appeared before the public. Dmitry Medvedev, the outgoing Russian president, stood by his side, but the cheers of the around 100,000 people who had gathered in front of the Kremlin were just for Putin. “I thank all those who have said ‘yes’ to a strong Russia,” said Putin, who will now serve a third term as Russian president after winning Sunday’s election.
The appearance before his supporters on election night only lasted a few minutes. Putin, 59, used the occasion to draw a line under the last three months. During the weeks since the parliamentary election in December, which was marked by allegations of fraud, the opposition received increasing support on the streets of Moscow. At times, Putin seemed like a relic from another era. “Russia’s Incredible Shrinking Prime Minister” was the title of a Time magazine cover story. But Putin’s victory on Sunday was so massive that even he seemed overwhelmed.
Standing on stage, with the Red Square and Kremlin behind him and tens of thousands of cheering people in front of him, tears flowed down his cheeks. Vladimir Putin, famous for his macho posturing, was crying.
At that point, the preliminary results already gave him 63 percent of the vote. Early on Monday morning, the election commission in Moscow confirmed that Putin had won with 63.78 percent. Gennady Zyuganov, the aging leader of the Communists, came in a distant second with 17 percent. “The protests woke Putin up,” says political scientist Nikolai Zlobin. “He has never worked so hard in an election campaign before.”
|— Hat tip: Fjordman||[Return to headlines]|
Three Teens Jailed for Raping Woman
Three teenage boys have been jailed for their roles in gang raping a young married mother last year.
The teenagers, aged 18, 15 and 17, denied the charges of rape, attempted rape and indecent assault, forcing the case to a contested hearing.
A Children’s Court heard this afternoon that none were remorseful and one believes he is innocent.
The maximum jail term for adults for rape is 25 years, but it is two years for defendants aged between 15 and 20 when the case is heard in the Children’s Court, except when there are multiple counts. Then the maximum term is three years.
Each of the teenagers received the maximum penalty of three years in a youth detention centre. The sentencing magistrate said that while the primary sentencing focus in the Children’s Court was rehabilitation, in grave cases, that had to make way for other sentencing considerations.
“The defendants treated her [the victim] in a cruel, callous and degrading manner for their own sexual gratification,” the magistrate said.
The victim, he said, was a “vulnerable young mother” and the attack occurred in her own home when her two young children were home.
He added that by the youths pleading not guilty, the victim had been forced to give evidence during an eight-day hearing and relive the events of the night in question.
The magistrate found five charges proven against the 18-year-old, seven charges proven against the 17-year-old and eight charges proven against the 15-year-old.
Four other men have been charged over the gang rape, which occurred in January last year. They are expected to face a committal hearing later this year.
Police had alleged that the victim had been out drinking and dancing with a friend at a nightclub when she befriended a woman and invited her back to her house to keep drinking. The court heard that the other woman knew some of the accused.
In an impact statement, the victim said the attack had given her significant anxiety problems, lowered her self-esteem and had created problems in her marriage.
The magistrate took into account the troubled childhoods of the teenagers but said there was no alternative to immediate detention in a youth justice centre because of the “extremely serious” nature and circumstances of the offending.
|— Hat tip: Salome||[Return to headlines]|