Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101217

Financial Crisis
»EU Budget Freeze: Cameron Springs Secret Deal With France and Germany
»Greece: Church Denounces “Country Governed by IMF”
»IMF Chief Worried About Europe Domino Effect
»Moody’s Downgrades Ireland’s Debt
»The Ghost Towns of China: Amazing Satellite Images Show Cities Meant to be Home to Millions Lying Completely Deserted
»Accused Bomb Plotter’s Mosque Tied to Radical Group
»Hindu Priest Wins $2.3m After Temple Owners Forced Him to Work as a Slave for Seven Years
»It is Time to Address the Threat of Radical Islam
»Lawyers Reach Deal to Recover $7 Billion for Madoff Victims
»Man Accused of NY Hate Attack on Imam is Cleared
»Peter King, House Republican, Plans Muslim Inquiry
»US Man Executed With Animal Drug
»Washington Subway Police to Begin Random Bag Checks
»Washington Post Blogger “Proud” To Have Shared Stage With Geert Wilders
»Canadian Court Hikes Terrorists’ Sentences
»The Brutish Temper of Quebec’s Times
Europe and the EU
»Analysis: Suicide Attack Punctures Swedish Sense of Security
»Carbon Trading Schemes in Trouble and Ignored
»EDL Has ‘Left BNP a Mere Sideshow’
»France: Far Right Prepares Demonstration
»Fundamentally Freund: Why Bomb Sweden?
»Germany: Sarrazin Earns Millions With Anti-Immigration Book
»Italy: Anti-Government Rioters Caused €20mln of Damage Says Rome’s Mayor
»Italy: Amnesty International Lauds Increased Jail Terms in CIA Abduction Case
»Italy: Berlusconi Aims to Woo ‘Disaffected’ MPs
»Italy: Snow on Eastern Beaches as Cold Snap Bites
»Jordan: 58% People Believe EU Can Bring Peace, Study
»London, Tuberculosis Capital of Western Europe
»Netherlands: Wilders is a ‘Golden Pompadoured Maverick’: WikiLeaks
»Netherlands: VVD is More Popular But Afghanistan, Theatre Tax Problems Loom
»Netherlands: Cohen Compares Position of Muslims With Jews in 1930s
»Not an Open Europe, But a Strong One
»Stockholm Bomber Denounced by Father-in-Law
»Sweden’s Tolerance ‘At Risk’ Following Attack
»Sweden Probes Suicide Bomber’s Facebook
»Swedish Med Students Perform Prof’s Autopsy
»UK: ‘My Name’s “Go **** Yourself”‘: Bus Passenger Accused of Attempted Murder of Two Policemen Hurls Abuse in Court
»UK: BNP Leader Nick Griffin’s Propaganda Victory as He Fights Off Contempt of Court Case
»UK: Essex Police to Follow Known Burglars 24 Hours a Day to Thwart Christmas Break-Ins
»UK: George Medal-Winning Bomb Hero Was Paid Just £20 Extra a Day to Defuse 140 IEDs
»UK: Muslims in Bomber’s Town Get £500,000 to Combat Terror… But Don’t Give Police a Single Tip-Off
»UK: Muslim Aid: Hopeless Charity Commission Whitewashes Yet Another Islamist Group
»UK: Why Prince Charles is Too Dangerous to be King: Max Hastings Tells Why This Increasingly Eccentric Royal Could Imperil the Monarchy
»Western Europe’s Biggest Mosque Opens in Netherlands
»WikiLeaks Cables Show Importance of Dutch US Alliance
»Carla Del Ponte Feels Vindicated by Kosovo Report
»Kosovo: European Rights Watchdog Committee Approves Report on Organ Trafficking
»Kosovo: Organ Trafficking; Belgrade, About 500 Victims
»WikiLeaks: President Tadic Conspires Against His Own People
North Africa
»Tunisia: Le Kef Region Hit by Snow
Israel and the Palestinians
»Bloggers Claim WikiLeaks Struck Deal With Israel Over Diplomatic Cables Leaks
»Caroline Glick: Bringing Bibi Down
»For a Local Chief Rabbi, The Laws of the “Jewish” State Ought to be Subject to the Torah
»The Canary in the Gold Mine
Middle East
»CIA Accused of Role in Iran Suicide Bombing
»Daughter of Turkish Premier Fuels Debate on Headscarf
»FIFA Boss Sepp Blatter Sorry for Qatar ‘Gay’ Remarks
»Iran Cuts Hezbollah Aid by ‘40 Percent’
»Iran Continues to Produce Disinformation
»Iraqi Christians Flee Baghdad After Cathedral Massacre
»Steven Spielberg Was Target of Arab League Boycott, WikiLeaks Cable
»Trial is Next Chapter in Clash Between Turkey’s Muslim Leaders, Secular Elite
»UAE: Muslim World Claims World’s ‘Most Expensive’ Christmas Tree
»Mufti Accuses Russian Authorities of Islamophobia
»Nationalist Riots in Russia Spread Fear Among Muslims
South Asia
»CIA Man Pulled Out of Pakistan Amid Drone Attack Storm
»Indonesian Christians Say No to Christmas Protection by Muslim Radicals
»Pakistan: Radical Muslims Plan Mass Protest in Defense of Blasphemy Law
»Pakistan: The British White Converts Signing Up to Fight Against Our Troops for Al Qaeda
»Scores Die as Drones Renew Attack on Pakistan’s Khyber
Far East
»North Korea Warns South Korea to Stop Planned Artillery Drills on Disputed Island
»Venus Probe’s Problems May Cause Japan to Scale Back
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Mauritania: Militants Against Slavery Arrested
»South Africa: ‘It’s Like the Middle-East’
»WikiLeaks Cables: Sudanese President ‘Stashed $9bn in UK Banks’
»Asylum Seeker Aso Mohammed Ibrahim Who Let Girl, 12, Die Can Stay in UK
»Feds Save Millions After Undocumented Immigrants Lose Benefits
»UK: Introduction of Immigration Cap Deemed ‘Unlawful’
Culture Wars
»European Commission Criticised for Omitting Christmas on EU School Diary
»Michael Moore Writes an Open Letter to Sweden Slamming Their Rape Laws
»Serbia: Gender Discrimination Still Alive, Report
»UK: Labour Candidate David Bradley Bombarded Gay Colleague Ed Bramall With Homophobic Texts After Losing Out to Him in Election

Financial Crisis

EU Budget Freeze: Cameron Springs Secret Deal With France and Germany

David Cameron declared victory in saving Britain from future Euro bailouts last night that could have cost British taxpayers £19 billion.

The Prime Minister won a ‘politically binding commitment’ from all 27 EU leaders that the UK will not have to help prop up the single currency in future.

Downing Street aides said the deal gives Britain a ‘belt and braces’ defence against future demands for cash.

But Tory Eurosceptics and EU officials last night questioned whether the deal would be worth the paper it was written on, since it will not be legally binding.

Mr Cameron yesterday gave the green light for the 16 Eurozone countries to set up a permanent fund to prop up failing EU economies at a summit in Brussels.

Controversially that required a revision of the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum.

But he staged an 11th hour intervention to prevent the European Commission using a loophole in the Treaty to force Britain to contribute to a separate £120 billion pot funded by all 27 EU nations.

That would have saddled British taxpayers with a bill of up to £16 billion between 2014 and 2020, with further £3 billion costs through the International Monetary Fund —bringing total British liabilities to £19bn.

Today he is expected to join forces with France and Germany to demand tighter controls of the EU budget over the next decade. He is expected to publish a letter setting out the British position.

Mr Cameron said: ‘First of all, we do need a new mechanism to help the eurozone sort out its problems and its issues. That’s important for Britain.

United: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, have agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the budget should be fixed in real terms

‘But we do need to make sure that Britain is not liable to spend money under that mechanism. Those are the two key things that matter to me.’

The European Commission used emergency rules designed to help countries hit by natural disasters to set up a £51 billion bailout ‘mechanism’ earlier this year. Britain is liable for £7 billion of costs under that scheme, which expires in 2013.

Downing Street aides insisted last night that the loophole —Article 122 of the Lisbon Treaty — will now restricted to natural disasters.

Mr Cameron won support from France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Portugal for his position.

A No 10 spokesman said: ‘We have a clear agreement that Article 122 need not and should not be used for financial bailouts. It is a very clear in black and white.

‘The Prime Minister is confident that this wording is a very strong political agreement that will prevent Article 122 being used for financial bailouts.’

That would mean that in future Britain will only help countries with ailing economies if the Chancellor wants to offer a bilateral loan, as he has with Ireland.

To the anger of eurosceptics, Mr Cameron did not demand a change in the offending clause because that would require him to call a referendum.

And a Brussels source familiar with the negotiations cast doubt on whether the deal will be enough to protect taxpayers from further cash demands. He said: ‘Commission lawyers have made quite clear that you can’t come around later and start spelling out what the Article 122 means. The treaty is the treaty.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Greece: Church Denounces “Country Governed by IMF”

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 17 — The Orthodox Church has denounced the lack of leadership and the moral sense that — by means of the crisis — has made Greece a country “under occupation” which “carries out the orders of its creditors” from the IMF and the EU and which “appears to have lost its independence.” In a message to worshippers to be distributed on Sunday in all churches, the Holy Synod harshly criticises the country’s “ruling class”, a general term which appears to include the previous centre-right government, as well as the current government under George Papandreou. According to the bishops, it is not the State itself that is to blame for the “current crisis” but the political leadership which has not been able to modernise and, interested only in power, “has not been able to speak the language of the truth.” And it is has transformed itself into an “agent” of the creditors, imposing “radical changes that only a short while ago would have disgusted Greece and which on the other hand has caused almost no reaction.” And this situation, according to the Synod, puts “the real interests of the country and its people” at risk, allowing them in fact to be “governed by our creditors.” The Synod points out that “according to many economists,” the global crisis “is an artificial and instrumental crisis that aims to all the world to be controlled by non-philanthropic forces.” The Church on the other hand denounces a moral impoverishment of society which, attracted only by “easy wealth and wellbeing,” “has lived irresponsibly”, moving away from the “truth of things” and “contributing to the current crisis through selfish requests without control by the various sectors involved.” The bishops conclude by urging the people to take advantage of the crisis to rediscover “the strength and love” needed in the “toughest moments”, offering solidarity to those in need to exit this difficult situation together and with the Church.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

IMF Chief Worried About Europe Domino Effect

The head of the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday he was worried that EU leaders’ piecemeal approach to Europe’s debt crisis was encouraging markets to pick off weak countries one by one.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared to endorse the idea of common euro bonds, saying they could be a useful tool, but added the political will to give power to the center of Europe was the main hurdle to their creation.

“I am worried, and that’s why I am urging the Europeans … to provide a comprehensive solution because this piecemeal approach … obviously doesn’t work,” Strauss-Kahn told Reuters. “The markets are just waiting for what’s next.”

Due to its cumbersome decision-making structure, the euro zone has tended to offer countries such as Greece and Ireland rescues only once they were “at the edge of the cliff,” he said. That approach has created a domino effect.

Interviewed at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event, Strauss-Kahn spoke as European Union leaders began a two-day summit at which they agreed changes to the European Union’s governing treaty to create a permanent mechanism for handling financial crises.

“You can’t have a single currency, especially in times when you have troubles, without having more coordination and economic policy,” Strauss-Kahn said, also calling on the EU to revisit with more rigor the bank stress tests it carried out earlier this year.

Saying decision-making among the 16 countries of the euro zone was too slow, Strauss-Kahn said he was confident that the resources to address countries’ debt problems were available in Europe but “fair or unfair, there’s skepticism in the markets so the problem has to be addressed.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Moody’s Downgrades Ireland’s Debt

Moody’s Investors Service Inc. downgraded Ireland’s debt to Baa1 from Aa2 Friday, warning the government’s financial strength could deteriorate further if economic growth were to miss its projections.

The five-notch downgrade was made as “Ireland’s sovereign creditworthiness has suffered from the repeated crystallization of bank-related contingent liabilities on the government’s balance sheet,” said Dietmar Hornung, vice president, senior credit officer at Moody’s.

Michael Casey discusses Moody’s downgrade of Ireland’s sovereign debt and its impact on markets in Europe and the Euro.

The ratings agency put the country on review for downgrade in early October, saying the process would likely result in a multi-notch downgrade but that the rating would remain in investment-grade territory. On Friday, it kept its negative outlook on the country.

Ireland has been the latest country to succumb to pressures extending from the European sovereign debt crisis. The government conceded in November that it would require an international bailout package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to help it avoid defaulting on its debt.

Moody’s now rates Ireland three notches above the speculative-grade range. If the country’s credit were be downgraded to “junk status,” funding costs would rise further as some investors, mandated to hold only highly-rated bonds, would be forced to sell. A further downgrade could come if the country’s efforts to stabilize its debt fail, or if problems arise with the long-term support efforts from the EU.

The move came a day after Moody’s also placed Greece’s Ba1 rating on review for downgrade. Warnings for possible downgrades for Spain and Belgium were made earlier in the week…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Ghost Towns of China: Amazing Satellite Images Show Cities Meant to be Home to Millions Lying Completely Deserted

These amazing satellite images show sprawling cities built in remote parts of China that have been left completely abandoned, sometimes years after their construction.

Elaborate public buildings and open spaces are completely unused, with the exception of a few government vehicles near communist authority offices.

Some estimates put the number of empty homes at as many as 64 million, with up to 20 new cities being built every year in the country’s vast swathes of free land.

The photographs have emerged as a Chinese government think tank warns that the country’s real estate bubble is getting worse, with property prices in major cities overvalued by as much as 70 per cent.

Ghost city: Kangbashi was meant to be the urban centre for wealthy coal-mining community Ordos and home to its one million workers, but its roads are eerily empty and the houses stand vacant

The mostly empty city of Bayannaoer, which boasts a beautiful town hall and World Bank-sponsored water reclamation building

Of the 35 major cities surveyed, property prices in eleven including Beijing and Shanghai were between 30 and 50 per cent above their market value, the China Daily said, citing the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Prices in Fuzhou, capital of the southeastern province of Fujian, had the worst property bubble with average house prices more than 70 per cent higher than their market value, according to the survey conducted in September.

The average price in the 35 cities surveyed was nearly 30 per cent above the market value, the report said.

Property prices have remained stubbornly high despite the government adopting a slew of measures since April including hiking minimum downpayments to at least 30 per cent and ordering banks not to provide loans for third home purchases.

Prices in 70 major cities were up 0.2 per cent in October from the previous month and 8.6 percent higher than a year ago, official data showed.

The increase came after prices gained 0.5 per cent month on month in September, which was the first increase since May.

Property to let: Zhengzhou New District is China’s biggest ghost city, complete with entire blocks of totally empty accommodation

Property bubble: Zhengzhou New District features vast public buildings that have never been used

Half of Erenhot is empty. The other half is unfinished

Now here’s Kangbashi, a new city with capacity for 300,000 — that houses 30,000

Massive stimulus measures taken since 2008 to fend off the financial crisis injected huge amounts of liquidity in the market and have been blamed for fuelling real estate prices.

‘The government target is not clear and policy is incoherent,’ CASS senior research Ni Pengfei was quoted saying.

According to research carried out by Time magazine, fixed-asset investment in the Asian country accounted for more than 90 per cent of its overall growth — with residential and commercial real estate investment making up nearly a quarter of that.

Regional governments across China have been building massive real estate projects, including Kangbashi in Inner Mongolia and Zhengzhou New District, which have remained empty, because of the high prices and interest in investment.

Kangbashi, which was built in just five years, was meant to be the urban centre for Ordos City — a wealthy coal-mining hub home to 1.5million people.

It was filled with office towers, administrative centres, museums, theatres and sports facilities as well as thousands of homes, but remains virtually deserted.

The ghost city of Dantu has been mostly empty for over a decade

The orange area to the north-east of the Xinyang has yet to be occupied

No cars in the city except for approximately 100 clustered around the government headquarters

Zhengzhou New District residential towers: Soaring property prices in China and high levels of investment has fuelled the construction of up several new cities. Experts fear a subsequent property crash could damage the global economy

Prices have continued to soar, investors have increasingly turned to property speculation fuelling the continued bubble.

The onset of the 2008 global recession was the bursting of the real estate bubble in the U.S. and experts fear a similar situation in China could prove catastrophic for still struggling economies and banking systems.

Beijing has introduced measures to cool ‘ridiculous’ property prices, but the risks of a crash mean the campaign is unlikely to ease up in the next year.

Public discontent has been fuelled by high prices in China’s cities and the measures, introduced in April, have made it more difficult for speculators and developers to hoard land and chase up prices as lending has been restricted…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Accused Bomb Plotter’s Mosque Tied to Radical Group

The mosque attended by accused Baltimore bomb plotter Antonio Martinez is part of a network of mosques run by the radical group Jama’at al-Muslimeen that questions the existence of the Holocaust, supports the release of convicted terrorists and wants the United States to stop “interfering” in Muslim countries, Maryland corporate records show.

Martinez, who was arrested Dec. 8 and charged with plotting to blow up an Army recruiting center in Catonsville, Md., attended the Al-Madina mosque in Baltimore, friends and associates told The Baltimore Sun.

That mosque, Maryland records show, is owned by the All Farooq Foundation of Catonsville. The foundation’s incorporation papers, which were filed with the state of Maryland on Feb. 3, 2009, say that all leaders of the foundation “must have at least one year of active membership in the Masjid Jamaat al-Muslimeen community.”

State records show that the Masjid Jama’at al-Muslimeen’s address — 4624 York Rd. in Baltimore — is the same as the group Jama’at al-Muslimeen, which is run by Kaukab Siddique, an assistant professor of English at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a longtime opponent of Israel and U.S. policies in Muslim nations.

Incorporation papers filed Oct. 6, 2003, by the Masjid Jama’at al-Muslimeen with the state of Maryland list Siddique as one of four mosque trustees. The mosque’s stated purpose and rules for elections and trustees are virtually identical to those for members of the All Farooq Foundation and are in the same handwriting, records show.

Jama’at al-Muslimeen (JAM) also calls itself the Islamic People’s Movement International, according to its website. At a Nov. 6 conference in Greensboro, N.C., the group’s officials reelected Siddique as JAM’s leader, according to an account of the meeting in New Trend, an online magazine edited by Siddique.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, JAM leaders approved a series of resolutions that included calls to:

Question the accuracy of historical accounts of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed by the German Nazi government in World War II. “No one has a right to exclusive victim status. As for offensive viewpoints, comments and abuse on Jesus … in the Zionist media have gone beyond decency, without any attempt at scholarship,” the resolution says.

Remove U.S. troops from Muslim nations. “We demand immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. We urge an end to the occupation of Kashmir by India and of Chechnya by Russia. We call for an end to U.S.-Israeli interference in Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria,” the resolution says.

Demand that President Obama free “Muslim political prisoners.” Those prisoners include Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik imprisoned for life for a variety of terrorist plots; Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman and former U.S. resident imprisoned for life for plotting to kill American troops in Afghanistan; and Ali Al-Timimi, a former Islamic lecturer in Washington who’s serving a life sentence for trying to recruit members to help the Taliban kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Maryland records show that JAM controls three mosques in the state, either directly or through the All Farooq Foundation. They are the Masjid Jama’at al-Muslimeen in Baltimore, the Al-Madina Mosque in Baltimore and the Masjid Al-Muneer in Curtis Bay, Md. The Al-Muneer mosque was incorporated in May.

JAM’s officials include Badi Ali, imam of the Islamic Center of the Triad in Greensboro, N.C.; Abdulalim Shabazz, a mathematics professor at Grambling State University in Louisiana and Abu Talib, a JAM activist in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group’s website also lists affiliated mosques in Knoxville and Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Ali has history with two American-based support groups for Palestinian terrorist organizations. He is listed among the members in a 1991 document attached to an organizational chart for the Palestine Committee, a group created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States to support Hamas. A year later, Ali identified himself as the North Carolina chairman of the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) in a letter to the New York Times.

The ICP was the “active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine.”

Siddique, JAM’s longtime leader, has an extensive history of calling for the destruction of Israel.

On Sept. 3, he was among a series of activists who protested U.S. policies at an Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Washington’s Dupont Circle. There he said that Muslims “must put their hands on the Quran and say that they do not recognize Israel as a legitimate entity.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hindu Priest Wins $2.3m After Temple Owners Forced Him to Work as a Slave for Seven Years

A Hindu priest has won $2.3million compensation after being forced to ‘work as a slave’ for seven years at a Hindu temple in New York.

Devout Devendra Shukla had his passport confiscated by Sat Prakash Sharma and his wife Geeta — who ran the Corono ashram in Corona, Queens — and was then forced to do their bidding for a pittance in exchange.

The court was told the 34-year-old worked 18-hour days, including heavy labour on a construction site, for which he received a paltry $50 a week.

Over the seven years he stayed with the Sharmas, Mr Shukla received a miserly $21,000 and was unable to once go home and see his family the whole time.

He finally snapped and sued the Sharmas and was overwhelmed when a jury sided with him and awarded the huge sum in compensation.

Fighting back the tears, he said: ‘I have received justice. I am hopeful that I will see my wife and children soon — it’s almost 10 years that I have not seen my wife and children in India.’

Mr Shukla had moved to New York from his remote Indian village in the impoverished Uttar Pradesh region in the hope of providing for his family, who remained back home…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

It is Time to Address the Threat of Radical Islam

When I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1972, the United States was still entrenched in an ideological struggle with the nations and insurgencies who strongly held a shared allegiance to Marxist Communism and who listed the United States as their chief adversary.

Today, the United States finds itself in an ideological struggle with radical Islam. This struggle is just as dangerous as the threat of communism once was during the Cold War.

This time, however, a political ideology has emerged that is fraudulently camouflaged within a religious tradition and is so twisted in its beliefs that it values death over life and uses terrorism as its only tactic.

Our leaders can no longer turn a blind eye to the growing threat of radical Islam. Without significant corrective action, we face the possibility of more attacks like the one at Fort Hood, Texas, in November of last year.

I can clearly remember as a young soldier being ordered to affirm, under oath, whether I was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party and whether I had any associations or sympathies with other related organizations that might call into question my allegiance to the U.S. government.

I was assigned to an armored division in Europe where an active counterintelligence operation made sure this enemy ideology never penetrated our ranks.

Just as the United States had previously recognized that it was in an ideological war with Marxist Communism, now it must come to terms with accurately describing the threat to our national security: radical Islam.

Unfortunately, our military, constrained by the Obama administration, has yet to do so for fear that it might offend the loyal adherents to the virtues of political correctness that has led this administration to change “Global War on Terror” to “Overseas Contingency Operations” and “Terrorists Attacks” to “Man-Caused Disasters.”

Neither of these semantic changes, nor any other attempts at avoiding reality, has altered the fact that we are at war with radical Islam and that terrorism is their weapon of choice.

Also tellingly, three days after the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, where 13 soldiers were killed and 30 were wounded, Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, stated, “Speculation could potentially heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers and what happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”

The U.S. Army’s “Final Report on Fort Hood,” released late last month, reflects the views earlier expressed by Gen. Casey by avoiding the role that radical Islam played in the killing of those 13 American soldiers.

The final report does recognize that the Army did not properly identify the internal threat Major Nidal Hasan posed before he killed 13 American soldiers, but, unfortunately, it falls short of identifying the significance of the threat that the radicalization of Muslims can pose within our military.

Because the Fort Hood Shooting Army Internal Review Team did not recognize and clearly address the threat of radical Islam, I believe it is further evidence of a failure of leadership.

To that end, I expressed these grave concerns with the Secretary of Defense in a letter on Nov. 19, 2010. In the letter, I called on Secretary Gates to take immediate action and update the Fort Hood report to accurately address this threat and detail what appropriate measures are necessary to counter it.

In 2005 and 2006 I served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq where I met Muslim Americans who served our nation with distinction and were every bit as patriotic as other members of our military. I strongly believe that it would be in the best interest of not only our military but to Muslim Americans, in particular, to have a vigorous vetting process whereby members of our Armed Forces would have full confidence that all our service men and women could, at all times, be counted on.

The unintended consequences of the overly politically correct approach currently advocated by the U.S. Army will ultimately have the negative effect of only increasing the suspicions of Muslim American military personnel and thereby potentially causing increased alienation, segregation, and finally the radicalization of Muslim American personnel.

I strongly believe that the failure to classify radical Islam as an ideological threat to the United States led to the loss of 13 American soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. If we continue down this path we will fail to develop the counterintelligence capability necessary to prevent future incidents from occurring…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Lawyers Reach Deal to Recover $7 Billion for Madoff Victims

Federal prosecutors and the trustee liquidating the estate of Bernard L. Madoff, the convicted swindler, have reached a civil settlement that will recover at least $7 billion to compensate victims of Mr. Madoff’s global Ponzi scheme, according to people briefed on the negotiations. An announcement is expected at noon Eastern time. Prosecutors have said privately that the settlement is the largest civil forfeiture in American history.

The settlement will conclude the trustee’s case against the estate of Jeffry M. Picower, a Palm Beach philanthropist and longtime Madoff investor who died in October 2009. The complaint filed against the estate indicated that Mr. Picower, who became wealthy investing in medical-technology companies, had profited hugely from Mr. Madoff’s scheme, drawing out billions more than he paid in.

The settlement will greatly expand the funds available to repay victims of the fraud; before Friday, the trustee had collected $2.3 billion from other sources.

[Return to headlines]

Man Accused of NY Hate Attack on Imam is Cleared

A transportation police officer accused of aiding a bias-fueled beating of a Muslim religious leader in a subway station has been cleared of all criminal charges.

Manhattan prosecutors dropped their case against Eddie Crespo this week after a grand jury declined to indict him on any charges in the Dec. 8 incident. Co-defendant Albert Melendez was indicted on a misdemeanor charge, but prosecutors said the specific charge wouldn’t be revealed until his next court date, as is their common practice.

Both were initially charged with assault and robbery as hate crimes in an episode that sounded alarms among Muslim advocates. The men’s lawyers, however, said religion played no role in what they described as a straightforward scuffle over an accidental nudge on a train.

“I think this was just a mistake, all along,” Crespo’s lawyer, Arnold Keith, said in an interview Wednesday as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority lifted his unpaid suspension from his job as a bridge-and-tunnel officer. The 28-year-old Crespo, who said he had broken up a fight rather than furthered it, spent about a day in jail after his arrest.

Melendez’ lawyer, who has called the allegations “trumped-up,” didn’t immediately return calls Wednesday and Thursday.

Manhattan district attorney’s office spokeswoman Erin Duggan said the agency “takes any allegation of a bias crime seriously.”

Prosecutors had said in a court document that Melendez, 30, declared “I don’t like Muslims” and used an insulting term for Muslims or Arabs while attacking a man who was wearing a traditional Muslim prayer cap and trying to get off a subway train in lower Manhattan.

The man, Imam Rod Peterson, has an arrest record of his own but now is a Muslim community leader in Queens, said his lawyer, Hassan Ahmad.

Crespo was accused of grabbing Peterson, 49, to help Melendez in the scuffle. According to prosecutors’ court papers, Melendez ultimately punched Peterson in the face and threw his prayer cap, called a kufi, onto the subway tracks. The imam ended up with a black eye, court papers said.

Defense lawyers said the fight began after Melendez and Peterson bumped into each other. Crespo told the grand jury he separated the two, asked Peterson whether he was all right, was rebuffed and walked away with Melendez, Keith said. Crespo never saw Peterson’s kufi, he said.

“He certainly did what he was supposed to do, as far as breaking up a fight between two men who got a little bent out of shape,” the attorney said.

Crespo and Melendez are friends, and Crespo dates Melendez’ sister; Melendez’ own longtime girlfriend is from a Muslim family, Keith said.

Peterson is extremely disappointed by the grand jury’s decision, Ahmad said Thursday.

While Peterson has had his own trouble with the law, “I don’t think that’s really what any of this should be about. He was attacked in the subway, based upon his appearance and religion,” the attorney said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations — which issued a press release calling for hate crime charges as Crespo and Melendez awaited arraignment last week — said it had heard from Muslims “outraged by the attack and the result of the grand jury proceedings.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Peter King, House Republican, Plans Muslim Inquiry

The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls “the radicalization” of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Representative Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was responding to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.

He cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man and a legal resident of the United States, who was arrested last year for plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Mr. King said that Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam in Queens who had been a police informant, had warned Mr. Zazi before his arrest that he was the target of a terror investigation.

“When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders,” Mr. King said.

The move by Mr. King, who said he was planning to open a hearing on the matter beginning early next year, is the latest example of the new direction that the House will take under the incoming Republican majority.

Indeed, Mr. King, a nine-term incumbent from Long Island, said that he had sought to raise the issue when Democrats had control of Congress, but was “denounced for it.” He added: “It is controversial. But to me, it is something that has to be discussed.”

Mr. King’s proposal comes amid signs that deep anxieties about Muslims persist in the United States nine years after the 9/11 terror attacks and an outcry this year over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York City.

Told of Mr. King’s plan, Muslim leaders expressed strong opposition, describing the move as a prejudiced act that was akin to racial profiling and that would unfairly cast suspicion on an entire group.

Abed A. Ayoub, the legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Mr. King’s effort ignored that Muslim leaders around the country had been working closely with law enforcement officials since the 2001 terror attacks.

“We are disturbed that this representative who is in a leadership position does not have the understanding and knowledge of what the realities are on the ground,” Mr. Ayoub said, adding that Mr. King’s proposal “has bigoted intentions.”

Salam al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, also expressed deep concern and noted that his group would be holding a convention this weekend at which members would discuss the impact that the Republican takeover of Congress could have on Muslims.

“He basically wants to treat the Muslim-American community as a suspect community,” Mr. Marayati said of Mr. King. He added that Mr. King was potentially undermining the relationship that Muslim leaders had sought to build with law enforcement officials around the country. Tensions have occasionally erupted in recent years over counterterrorism measures that civil rights groups and others said had gone too far…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Man Executed With Animal Drug

Officials in the US state of Oklahoma have executed a convicted murderer using a drug that is typically used to euthanize animals.

John David Duty (58) was pronounced dead at 6.18pm local time, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie confirmed by telephone from Mcalester, Oklahoma.

Mr Massie said a three-drug cocktail was administered, including pentobarbital, a drug used in euthanasia of animals as well as a sedative for humans. He said it was its first use in a US execution and replaced sodium thiopental, a sedative that was in short supply.

“There were no apparent issues” with the new drug, Mr Massie said. A federal court in Oklahoma ruled the drug could be used in the execution, a ruling later upheld by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Duty was convicted of murdering his cellmate, Curtis Wise, with a bedsheet in 2001.

Prison officials said Duty’s last words were: To the family of Curtis Wise, I would like to make my apology. One day you will be able to forgive me, not for my sake but for your own. My family and friends are here too. You’ve all been a blessing. Thank you Lord Jesus. I am ready to go home.”

Duty was serving two concurrent life sentences for robbery, shooting with intent to kill, and rape, when he murdered Mr Wise. Duty convinced Mr Wise to pose as a hostage to entice guards to move Duty to a different cell. After binding Mr Wise’s hand and foot, Duty strangled him.

Duty then wrote a letter to his victim’s mother bragging about the murder.

His execution was the third this year in Oklahoma and the 46th in the United States.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Washington Subway Police to Begin Random Bag Checks

Officers will start random bag inspections on the sprawling Washington subway system, the Washington Metro Transit Police said on Thursday, a week after a man was arrested for making bomb threats to the rail system.

Metrorail police officers plan to randomly select bags before passengers enter subway stations and they will swab them or have an explosives-sniffing dog check the bags, according to the Metro police.

There is “no specific or credible threat to the system at this time,” Metro said in a statement. Passengers who refuse to have their bags inspected will be denied entry into the subway system.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Washington Post Blogger “Proud” To Have Shared Stage With Geert Wilders

After Matt Duss called out new Washington Post blogger Jordan Sekulow at Think Progress and on Twitter for saying at a demonstration against the Park51 project, “Imam Rauf, America rejects you,” Sekulow responded by tweeting: “Enjoyed that speech!”

And in response to Duss pointing out that Sekulow shared the stage with far-right nationalist, anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Sekulow tweeted, “proud to.”

In one of the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, a U.S. embassy official in the Netherlands summed up Wilders for President Obama as “no friend of the U.S.”:

The Wilders Factor: Golden-pompadoured, maverick parliamentarian Geert Wilders, anti-Islam, nationalist Freedom Party remains a thorn in the coalition’s side, capitalizing on the social stresses resulting from the failure to fully integrate almost a million Dutch Muslims, mostly of Moroccan or Turkish descent. In existence only since 2006, the Freedom Party, tightly controlled by Wilders, has grown to be the Netherlands second largest, and fastest growing, party. Recent polls suggest it could even replace Balkenende,s Christian Democrats as the top party in 2011 parliamentary elections. Wilders is no friend of the U.S.: he opposes Dutch military involvement in Afghanistan; he believes development assistance is money wasted; he opposes NATO missions outside “allied” territory; he is against most EU initiatives; and, most troubling, he forments fear and hatred of immigrants.

Let’s sum up: the Post’s On Faith, which has a stated mission to promote “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful conversation,” has hired a blogger who describes himself as a “human rights attorney” yet is proud to share a stage with someone who “calls Islam ‘the ideology of a retarded culture’ and likens the Quran to ‘Mein Kampf.’“

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Canadian Court Hikes Terrorists’ Sentences

A Canadian court has increased the sentences for three convicted Islamic terrorists in a series of judgments.

The Ontario Court of Appeal on Friday raised the sentence of Mohammed Momin Khawaja from 10 1/2 years to life in prison for participating in an al-Qaida-inspired plot to bomb British targets in 2004.

Two other men convicted of participating in a homegrown plot to set off truck bombs in front of Canada’s main stock exchange and government buildings also had their sentences raised.

In other rulings, the court ordered the extradition of two alleged Sri Lankan terrorists to the United States. The men are charged with assisting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam by attempting to purchase surface-to-air missiles and AK-47s from an undercover police officer in New York.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Brutish Temper of Quebec’s Times

I was struck by three events over the past week. I want to share them with you. Toward the end of last week a south shore family went to a local church that was preparing food baskets for the needy. They were sent away because they were not francophone and the baskets at that church were for francophones. They were directed to another church where anglophones were served. This in the season of “Suffer the little children to come unto me…”

Some eight days before this sad incident, Quebec culture minister Christine St-Pierre applauded a citizen who was being honored. The honor being bestowed on the woman the Minister was praising was being given for having reported some 200 businesses that had supposedly violated Quebec’s language laws. The Minister said that reporting was the duty of every citizen.


The CSST, Quebec’s workers safety board, formalized a decision that it will no longer communicate with Quebec employers in English. Only in French. It will continue to serve employees in English as well as out of province employers. It went so far in its pettiness and venality that it deleted the “press 9 for English” on it’s call-in phone system.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Analysis: Suicide Attack Punctures Swedish Sense of Security

Two centuries of neutrality, decades of good relations with the Middle East and years of liberal immigration policies have led many Swedes to believe their country was a safe haven.

But the Stockholm bombing has forced a rethink — not about their values or the government’s policies but about their security.

“The attack was a game changer,” said Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College.

“It goes against the grain of the Swedish psyche. We are the moral guardians of the world, we work through the United Nations, we are doing good humanitarian work. Why would anyone want to target us?”

Part of the explanation for why is that Sweden has linked itself increasingly closely to other Western nations, not least through its membership of the European Union. It joined in 1995.

“Sweden has become more of a ‘Western’ state, like others,” Ulf Bjereld, professor of political science at Gothenburg University said. “For someone standing outside, it is more and more difficult to distinguish Swedish foreign policy from that of other European countries.”

The country has had troops in Afghanistan since the early 1990s, making it easy to identify Sweden with anti-Muslim aggression in the eyes of militants.

Furthermore, the publication in Swedish and Danish newspapers of drawings lampooning the Prophet Mohammad drew massive criticism from Muslims around the world and death threats against the artists.

Taymour Abdulwahab, the man who blew himself up in Stockholm last Saturday — after a bomb belt he was wearing went off prematurely — gave Afghanistan and Swedish artist Lars Vilks as motives.

Sweden and Denmark stood up for the artists’ rights to free speech, drawing the countries’ governments into the controversy, although Sweden was at pains to try to conduct a dialogue with Muslim nations over the affair.

Now, Sweden has joined the United States, Britain, Spain and other nations as a target of politically motivated violence…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Carbon Trading Schemes in Trouble and Ignored

Why are carbon trading issues that have gone awry ignored by the media? Two examples: 1-scam artists from around the world, capitalizing on lax regulations at the Danish emissions trading registry have made off with an estimated $7-billion over the last two years, and 2- the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) announced that it will be ending carbon trading this year. Both of these have been underreported (ignored?) by most media.


The Danish climate emission permit registry allowed companies with no documented address trade CO2 emission permits. While allowing a free-for-all served the carbon market on the short term by appearing to inflate the interest in carbon as a commodity, it ultimately backfired when much of the trading proved to be phony. One of the companies had the address of a parking lot. Lawrence Solomon notes, “This story, greatly underreported, came to me via a Norwegian reader, Geir Hasnes, who has translated one of the few press reports to have appeared.” (1)

Denmark isn’t the only place where carbon folks have been in bed with organized crime. A probe in Germany, where the total damage is estimated at 80 million Euros followed investigations in Britain, France, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands over carbon fraud over the past year. (2)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EDL Has ‘Left BNP a Mere Sideshow’

The head of Britain’s leading anti-fascist organisation has said the English Defence League has replaced the British National Party as the major force on the far right of British politics. Nick Lowles of Searchlight said the BNP had become a “sideshow” since the crushing defeat of its leader Nick Griffin in Barking at this year’s general election.

In recent months, he said, the EDL’s anti-Muslim message had given the party a wider appeal. At the same time, the violence EDL rallies attracted meant the organisation received a great deal of media attention.

He added that the BNP were stuck with an old-fashioned neo-fascist image which alienated many who were prepared to back the EDL. Mr Lowles has made it clear that Searchlight will no longer limit its operations to the fight against traditional neo-Nazi organisations. In the new year it will launch a think tank to examine new forms of extremism such as the anti-Muslim politics of the EDL and totalitarian Islamism.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, is the controversial cleric who was first invited and then “uninvited” by the EDL, allegedly on the grounds of his racism and homophobia. In August this year, giving a deposition in a court case in which he was a witness, Mr Jones described Judaism as “a religion of the devil”, along with Hinduism and Buddhism.

Gainesville is best known as the home of the University of Florida, where there are about 2,000 Jews in the year-round community with three congregations, Conservative, Reform and Jewish Renewal to serve them. On the campus itself, Hillel and Chabad-Lubavitch cater for nearly 7,000 Jewish students.

According to Rabbi Berl Goldman, co-director of the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Centre on campus, Pastor Jones is not even on the local community’s radar. He said: “I’ve been here 10 years and I don’t know of any formal ties or relationship between Jones and faith-based organisations. I’ve never seen him at any meetings of the Campus Ministry Co-operative which has representatives of all different faiths and denominations in Gainesville. The Jewish community is very distressed at his provocative actions.”

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (the Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights organisation) confirmed that Pastor Jones is extremely isolated. “I very much doubt if he has connections with anyone except a dozen or so followers.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: Far Right Prepares Demonstration

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 15 — There is mobilisation in Paris against the ‘Assises contre l’islamisation de l’Europe’ organised for Saturday by the far right movement, Bloc Identitaire.

The League for Human Rights and other NGOs have united in an appeal signed by representatives of left-wing parties of the 12th arrondissement where the meeting is being held, in which it is stated that “the object of the assembly has nothing to do with laicity, but on the contrary the ideas used carry hateful and potentially violent discourse against a part of our fellow citizens, under the pretext of their religious convictions.” The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, who in a letter to the prefect of police, Michel Gaudin, urged him to take all the necessary measures to prevent the meeting, “which can only generate hatred, xenophobia and bring damage to the public peace of mind.” Delanoe points out that Bloc Identitaire “has for years increased provocations” organising in Paris and Nice “pork soups” for homeless people, or “an aperitif with wine and salami” in neighbourhoods with a Muslim majority. The Movement against racism has also asked for the banning of this “racist congress”, planned before statements by Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front of the far right, who compared “the street prayers” of Muslims of certain neighbourhoods to the period of the Occupation. Among the people invited to the assembly are Oskar Freysinger, from the Swiss UDC party, who in 2009 brought about the approval with the people’s referendum of the banning of minarets, and Tommy Robinson, spokesman from the English defence league, a far-right, anti-Muslim group. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Fundamentally Freund: Why Bomb Sweden?

Despite the chilling familiarity with similar incidents in other parts of Europe, this latest assault by the forces of radical Islam left many people scratching their heads.

Stockholm this week joined the long and terrifying list of Western cities targeted in recent years by Islamic fundamentalism.

For the first time since the 1970s, the normally tranquil Swedish capital was hit by terror last Saturday, as an apparently botched suicide bombing, which Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said “could have been truly catastrophic,” tore through its center, wounding two people. The perpetrator, who died of his wounds, is said to have been an Iraqi who immigrated to the country as a child together with his family.

In recent years, according to various media reports, he became increasingly radicalized and may have been linked to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Moments before the blasts, which aimed to slaughter throngs of Christmas shoppers, the TT news agency received communications in Arabic and Swedish warning of unspecified “action.”

“Our acts will speak for themselves,” they said. “Now your children, your daughters and your sisters will die as our brothers, our sisters and our children are dying.” They also urged Islamic a to rise up in Sweden and elsewhere and carry out further attacks.

Despite the chilling familiarity which many of these details share with similar incidents in other parts of Europe, this latest assault by the forces of radical Islam left many people scratching their heads and pondering one simple question: Why would anyone target Sweden? After all, few countries have a reputation as being more tolerant, more open and more accepting.

INDEED, SWEDEN is widely viewed as one of the most liberal states on a very liberal continent, with extensive state-sponsored welfare programs and one of the highest levels of social spending as a percentage of GDP.

The Swedes have also swung open their doors in the past few decades, allowing in significant numbers of Muslim immigrants. Sweden, for example, accepted more Iraqi refugees fleeing the chaos after the toppling of Saddam Hussein than any other country in the West.

In April 2008, the mayor of the town of Sodertalje testified before the US Congress that his municipality with just 85,000 residents had absorbed more Iraqi refugees than the US and Canada combined. Muslims now constitute 5 percent of the Swedish population, with growing political and economic clout.

So the question remains: Why would extremists hit Sweden?…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Sarrazin Earns Millions With Anti-Immigration Book

Former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin has become a millionaire many times over thanks to the proceeds of his inflammatory book attacking Muslim immigrants.

Sarrazin enraged politicians and the public this summer with the incendiary publication Deutschland schafft sich ab — Wie wir unser Land aufs Spiel setzen, or “Abolishing Germany — How we’re putting our country at jeopardy.”

In the book, Sarrazin warns that Germans could become “strangers in their own country” because of integration, and argues that Muslims are not compatible with German society.

He may have been forced to resign from his post at the Bundesbank and fight expulsion from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, but Sarrazin said on ZDF’s talk show Stuckrad Late Night on Thursday that he’d made a pile of money from the book.

When host Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre estimated that the 1.2 million copies sold had earned his guest €3 million, Sarrazin indicated it was significantly more.

But the sudden wealth has not changed life for him and his wife, Sarrazin said.

“I just say, ‘It will go into the account and then we’ll wait patiently,” the 65-year-old said, adding he still needed to pay taxes on the large sum.

When asked why he waited until his political career was over to publish the book, the former Berlin finance minister said he’d had other issues to tackle, such as the consolidation of the German capital budget.

And there won’t be a another book about his time at the Bundesbank, he said.

“That would be a little too boring,” he quipped.

In the run-up to his first book’s publication, Sarrazin also made several controversial public remarks, claiming that Muslims don’t want to integrate and are making the country “dumber.”

Other controversial statements include that ethnic groups are distinguished by particular genes — for example that “all Jews share a certain gene.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Anti-Government Rioters Caused €20mln of Damage Says Rome’s Mayor

Rome, 15 Dec. (AKI) — Protesters who rioted in the Italian capital on Tuesday — the day the government narrowly won a crucial confidence vote in the parliament — caused 20 million euros of damage, Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno said Wednesday.

‘The damage is immense, we are talking about around 20 million euros,” said Alemanno, who is a member of conservative Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling People of Freedom party.

“We will now make a closer assessment,” he said.

The City of Rome will be a civil plaintiff in trials against those brought to justice for the damage, Alemanno stated.

“It is unacceptable that the city and its inhabitants, who have nothing to do with these protests and are who are innocent should pay,” he said.

Hooded youths torched numerous vehicles, vandalised bins and benches and set some of these alight, banged the metal blinds of shuttered shops in central Rome. They threw paint and smoke bombs at the Italian lower house of parliament and attempted to storm the building.

The youths wreaked havoc one of the capital’s main shopping streets, smashing windows and cash machines, as alarmed tourists and shoppers fled. Many of the youths hid their faces by wearing crash helmets and balaclavas.

Firefighters were called to deal with six burnt out vehicles in the area around Rome’s famous Piazza del Popolo, including a police van, rubbish truck and four private cars which had been torched.

The famous square became a battleground littered with tear gas shells, poles, bottles, bolts and chairs while shopkeepers who had been forced to pull down shutters as the riots erupted later emerged to clear the debris.

Police, who baton-charged the protesters, said at least 50 people were injured in the riots, including two policemen. Police said they detained 41 protesters over the violence, which lasted for over four hours.

Media reports said at least 100 people were injured in the clashes,

The violence erupted as the lower and upper houses of parliament held confidence motions, both of which the government won. Defeat in either house would have forced Berlusconi to resign.

Student leaders had obtained permission to hold a peacful march through the capital to protest at government education cuts. But alleged anarchist youths infiltrated the demonstrations and attacked police with clubs, stones, smoke bombs and paint.

Alemanno compared the scenes in Rome on Tuesday to the political violence and terrorism in Italy during the 1970s and 1980s, the so-called ‘years of lead’.

Tuesday’s violence was not just limited to the Italian capital. Demonstrators clashed with police in Milan where the Stock Exchange was stormed and briefly occupied. In Palermo, protesters occupied the airport runway.

Interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Wednesday he would report “soon” to the Italian parliament on the violence.

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

Italy: Amnesty International Lauds Increased Jail Terms in CIA Abduction Case

(AKI) — Human rights campaign group Amnesty International on Thursday praised the tougher sentences handed by an Italian appeals court to 23 CIA agents convicted in absentia of kidnapping an Egyptian terrorism suspect from a Milan street in 2003.

The Milan appeals court increased to nine years from seven the jail terms handed to 23 CIA agents in the lower court’s landmark ruling in 2009.

The appeals court gave a nine-year prison sentence to the CIA’s former Milan station chief, Robert Seldon Lady, for his role in Egyptian cleric Osama Hasan Mustafa Nasr’s abduction in February, 2003.

The lower court had sentenced Lady to eight years in prison over the abduction of Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.

“Abu Omar was snatched off a Milan street and spirited away without any due process at all. That was the first step in his alleged rendition, secret detention, and torture in Egypt.”

“The Italian courts have acknowledged that the chain of events leading to such serious abuses cannot go unanswered,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Nasr claims he was flown to Egypt and tortured in prison there. He was released in 2007 and now lives in the Egyptian city of Alessandria. He was suspected of recruiting Muslim fighters to train in Afghanistan and could still be arrested in Italy if he were to return.

“The appeals court’s recognition that Abu Omar suffered a grave injustice at the hands of US and Italian intelligence actors is another step in the effort to seek accountability in Europe for abuses in the context of the CIA rendition and secret detention programmes,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe.

The appeals court acquitted Italy’s former spymaster Nicolo Pollari and former secret agent Marco Mancini over Nasr’s kidnapping, saying they could not be tried due to state secrecy. The court also slightly reduced the jail terms given by the lower court to two Italian secret service agents, accused of abetting Nasr’s abduction to two years and 8 months each in prison, down from three years.

Amnesty criticised the use of state secrecy to protect individuals from prosecution.

“The Italian government and its officials should not be able to use ‘state secrecy’ as a shield to cover up human rights abuses,” said Hall.

Hundreds of terrorism suspects have allegedly been abducted and secretly transferred for interrogation in countries which often have poor human rights records, under the CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme.

Italy is among 14 countries that were accused of collusion in a ‘global spider’s web’ of CIA abductions of terror suspects carried out on their soil, according to a 2007 report by Europe’s top human rights body The Council of Europe.

The European Union states of Poland and Romania also hosted secret CIA prisons where the abducted terror suspects claimed the report, written by Swiss lawyer Dick Marty.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Aims to Woo ‘Disaffected’ MPs

Italy ‘can’t afford an election campaign’, premier says

(ANSA) — Rome, December 15 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday said he was sure he could win over more disaffected MPs to give himself a solid majority and avoid early elections after he just squeaked home in a crunch House confidence vote Tuesday.

After being rebuffed by a partner in a previous government, the centrist Catholic UDC, Berlusconi said he would now be targeting individual members of parliament.

Speaking on one of his TV channels, the premier said Italy could not afford an election campaign that would inevitably bring it under the scrutiny of the financial markets that dislike any sign of political instability and have raised prices on Spanish and Portuguese bonds after Ireland followed Greece in getting a bailout.

“It is necessary to carry on with financial rigour to avoid storms which have hit other countries,” Berlusconi said, voicing confidence he could attract more MPs in the House to ward off the possibility of a snap election two years before the end of the government’s term in 2013. “Taking the country to elections would be really irresponsible given the current international picture,” he said.

Berlusconi won the confidence vote, by just three votes, after MPs from House Speaker Gianfranco Fini’s new Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party, which split from the premier’s People of Freedom (PdL) party to set up the showdown, returned from the FLI to the PdL.

He was also able to benefit from one defection from the Democratic Party (PD), the largest centre-left opposition party, and two from Italy of Values (IdV), another opposition party.

The premier indicated he would seek to lure more members of the FLI back to the fold as well as playing on the discontent he said more Catholics in the PD might be feeling.

“I’m thinking of individual MPs who are in parties whose line they no longer share,” Berlusconi said, acknowledging that his overtures to the UDC as a whole had not been productive.

The UDC has said it will remain in opposition with the FLI, together hopefully forming a fledgling ‘third pole’ in Italian politics.

Berlusconi echoed Italian newspaper analysts in predicting that the FLI might see a slew of members rethinking Fini’s decision to split from the PdL in July after months of bickering.

“Yesterday evening, already, several other MPs offered me their collaboration,” he said. Asked specifically if he thought FLI members might now reconsider, he said: “Yes, not only a few, but several, who feel it is unnatural for them to stay in a party that is now in the opposition”. He said a number of FLI MPs went to talk to him after the confidence vote, but did not say how many.

“We have several posts free in government and we can reinforce the team,” Berlusconi added.

PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani rejected Berlusconi’s argument, saying that the defections from the centre left “have accelerated the move towards elections”.

He also repeated claims that Berlusconi had bought votes, saying that “shameful things” had happened which would increase Italians’ disenchantment with politics. Rome prosecutors are investigating vote-buying allegations on the basis of complaints presented by IdV leader Antonio Di Pietro, the former Bribesville investigator. The Northern League, Berlusconi’s key ally, wants a snap vote unless the government is widened to produce a workable majority.

But it intends to wait at least until a cherished fiscal federalist project is passed in January to leave more tax revenue in the richer north of Italy, analysts say.

Despite Berlusconi’s optimism, most observers think a spring election is in the offing, with March 27 being repeated as a likely date.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Snow on Eastern Beaches as Cold Snap Bites

Schools and Ancona airport closed, traffic problems

(ANSA) — Rome, December 16 — Inhabitants of Abruzzo’s slice of the Adriatic coast were given the rare treat of seeing their beaches covered in snow on Thursday as this week’s cold snap in Italy bit harder.

One man took advantage of the exceptional snowfall to go cross-country skiing on a Pescara beach, but the weather brought disruption as well as enjoyment.

Ancona airport in the central Marche region was shut because of the snow and sub-zero temperatures, which also caused roads to be closed, traffic congestion and accidents. Many schools in Marche have been closed until Saturday.

The freeze hit central and southern Italy hardest, but the north was not spared.

Emilia-Romagna got its far share of snow, temperatures plunged as low as -22 Celsius in Veneto and parts of Milan were coated in a layer of frost in the morning. Farmers unions said crops were at risk if things do not start warming up as Italy comes towards the end of one of its coldest weeks this year.

Forecasters, however, said temperatures may grow slightly colder in southern Italy at the weekend.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: 58% People Believe EU Can Bring Peace, Study

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 15 — The 58% of the jordans and 77% of the country opinion leaders believe that EU can bring peace in Jordan, and peace and stability to the surrounding region (62% of the general public, 77% of opinion leaders). This is one of the results of a study, promoted by the EU-funded Opinion Polling and Research (OPPOL) project, under the 2007-2010 ENPI regional information and communication programme. It is carried out across the countries benefiting from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI). According to the Enpi website (, the survey involved 100 opinion leaders, followed up by an opinion poll questioning 400 members of the general public. The 91% of opinion leaders say Jordan has benefited from the EUs policies in the country and opinion leaders are particularly appreciative of the role the EU plays in promoting democracy (much more so than the average across the region 84% vs. 62%). In terms of further involvement, respondents feel the EU should focus less on gender equality and more on environment and climate change, transport, energy security and migration issues.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

London, Tuberculosis Capital of Western Europe

“The rise in tuberculosis cases has nothing to do with migration and immigrants,” said Alimuddin Zumla of University College London, author of the commentary. “This is a fallacy that needs to be corrected,” he said, noting the same risks that plagued Victorian England — like poor housing, bad ventilation and overcrowding — are to blame for Britain’s current outbreak.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Wilders is a ‘Golden Pompadoured Maverick’: WikiLeaks

Geert Wilders is a ‘golden-pompadoured, maverick’ who is ‘no friend of the US’, according to a briefing document on Dutch politics for US president Barack Obama, put together in July 2009.

The document, published by whistleblower website Wikileaks and hosted by the Guardian, was drawn up by US diplomats to brief Obama ahead of his meeting with the then prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

In the document, the US official states: ‘Wilders is no friend of the US: he opposes Dutch military involvement in Afghanistan; he believes development assistance is money wasted; he opposes NATO missions outside ‘allied’ territory; he is against most EU initiatives; and, most troubling, he forments fear and hatred of immigrants.’ .

Other documents which mention Wilders look at preparations to combat the effect of his anti-Koran film Fitna prior to its release in 2008.

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

Netherlands: VVD is More Popular But Afghanistan, Theatre Tax Problems Loom

The right-wing VVD Liberals will move into 2011 as the biggest party in the country, having added four seats to their election total of 31 in the final political barometer of the year.

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV is second in the poll, with 26 seats, two more than it won during the general election, despite a string of revelations about the criminal convictions of several MPs.

Labour, second in the general election with 30 seats, is now on 24 and is third while the Christian Democrats, who form a minority cabinet with the VVD, are on 19, two down on their general election total.

Difficult issues

Despite his popularity, prime minister Marc Rutte has two difficult issues to solve: the senate’s opposition to the increase in value-added tax on the performing arts and a lack of support in the lower house for a new Afghan mission.

The cabinet will discuss the stalemate over the tax rise on Friday, although Rutte is in Brussels. Senators are threatening to block the passage of the entire 2011 tax plan unless ministers agree not to put up the tax from 6% to 19% in January.


Moreover, according to the Telegraaf, Rutte is also having problems finding a majority in parliament to support a police training mission to Afghanistan.

‘We have to see if there is a parliamentary majority. But I have no guarantees,’ Rutte told the paper.

The PVV, which supports the minority government on economic issues, opposes the mission, forcing Rutte to look for support from other parties.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Cohen Compares Position of Muslims With Jews in 1930s

AMSTERDAM, 17/12/10 — Muslims are excluded from present-day Dutch society, as also happened with Jews in the 1930s, in the view of Labour (PvdA) leader Job Cohen.

Cohen drew the controversial comparison in an interview with Vrij Nederlands weekly. He links his views to the rise of Geert Wilders. In reaction, the Party for Freedom (PVV) leader rejected Cohen’s criticism as “disgusting.”

Cohen, himself Jewish, recounts how his mother experienced around the time of the outbreak of the Second World War that Jews were slowly being excluded. He also sees this alienation now in society.

“The PVV simply says to the Muslims: we would prefer for you to go away. But you cannot blame Islam for the extremism. There are so many Muslims that just want suburban contentment and nothing else. These people are now afraid of the fact that Wilders is part of the power structure.”

Cohen’s comparison of Muslims now with the Jews in the 1930 is “too disgusting and abject for words,” according to Wilders. “Combating Islamisation and harsh tackling of criminal Moroccans, for example, is cleaning up the mess that was actually caused by Cohen’s PvdA of poultices and palliatives, tea-drinking and keeping things together. Cohen has now really lost the plot, hitting out around him in a panic.”

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

Not an Open Europe, But a Strong One

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Italy, Britain and Finland provide an unconvincing rationale for letting Turkey join the European Union (“Europe, look outward again,” Views, Dec. 11-12).

The Union is not ready for enlargement. Its newest members and various population groups are not yet well integrated, and the euro crisis has produced another kind of fragmentation. Europe, already an economic heavyweight, does not need Turkey’s alleged dynamism to give it weight in world affairs. It needs an effective E.U. presidential leadership and a common security and foreign policy to guide its strategic cooperation with other world powers.

Moreover, Turkey does not compare with Britain, Sweden or Finland before they joined the Union, primarily because of its Islamic culture (the foreign ministers’ op-ed does not use the word Islam at all). Turkey would complicate rather than “strengthen common European values and standards of democracy and rule of law all over the Continent.”

There are also better ways to secure energy supplies from Central Asia than engaging in a costly and politically high-risk E.U. expansion project that would stop where — Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan?

Indeed, the “safeguarding of the integrity and credibility” of the European Union requires a vision of building on strength and knowing where to draw the line — and the frontier.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Stockholm Bomber Denounced by Father-in-Law

The father-in-law of the Stockholm suicide bomber on Friday denounced the 28-year-old attacker as a brainwashed terrorist who rejected “all the good” that Sweden gave him.

In a letter to Swedish newspaper Expressen, Ali Thwany said his daughter Mona was not aware that her husband, Taimour Abdulwahab, was plotting an attack, though she grew suspicious of his frequent travels.

“I hereby declare that we reject him, and we have no link to him in any way,” Thwany wrote, according to the paper. “Everything that has happened is something he is personally responsible for. An unknown group has brainwashed him and lured in him into this.”

Abdulwahab killed himself and injured two people Saturday when some of the bombs he was wearing exploded among panicked Christmas shoppers in downtown Stockholm.

Police suspect the explosives went off by mistake near a pedestrian street, and that he had planned to detonate them in a place where they would inflict more damage like a shopping center or train station.

In an audio message sent to the Swedish security service and the TT news agency before the explosion, Abdulwahab referred to Swedish troops in Afghanistan and a Swedish artist’s drawing of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, which angered Muslims. Abdulwahab also apologized to his family for misleading them, saying “I never went to the Middle East to work or to make money, I went for jihad.”

As a child, Abdulwahab and his family left Iraq for Sweden in the early 1990s but he spent much of the past decade in Britain, where he lived with his wife and three young children.

“And through his act he rejects all the good he has received from Sweden, Sweden that has received us. Sweden that gave us what no Arabic or Muslim country awarded us,” Thwany wrote in the letter, which Expressen said was translated from Arabic. “We distanced ourselves from his family three years ago, with exception for a few telephone calls.”

According to a resume posted online, Thwany is a 53-year-old Iraqi-born architect, who lives in a suburb of Stockholm. He didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Expressen said it had been in contact with Thwany and his family since the weekend.

Referring to Abdulwahab as “Taimour the terrorist,” Thwany said his daughter didn’t know about his activities.

“He didn’t tell anything about his private life or contacts or his spectacular travels,” Thwany wrote, adding “we don’t feel any sorrow” over Abdulwahab’s death.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden’s Tolerance ‘At Risk’ Following Attack

While Muslims in Sweden have denounced the country’s first suicide bombing, experts warn that Sweden’s far-right may try to exploit the attack in a bid to polarise the nation, AFP’s Rita Devlin Marier explains.

A man strongly believed to be Taymour Abdulwahab blew up his car and then himself in a busy shopping quarter of central Stockholm Saturday. He killed only himself, but narrowly missed wreaking havoc among Christmas shoppers.

Abdulwahab had been living in Britain in recent years, where he studied at university, but media reports said he had arrived in Sweden from Iraq as a child, growing up in a small town a three-hour car ride from Stockholm.

The attacks were immediately and widely denounced by Sweden’s Muslim community, with condemnations from many Muslim groups and several small peace protests.

But the clearest message came perhaps on Tuesday, when Hassan Mussa, one of Sweden’s most influential clerics, issued a fatwa — an Islamic ruling — clearly condemning the attack.

“It is forbidden to accept what has happened or try to justify it,” said Moussa.

“Those who accept it or justify it are as guilty as the perpetrator himself,” he added, according to Swedish radio’s translation.

But the fact that a Swedish-raised man blew himself in the name of Islam — as he understood it — has challenged Sweden’s tradition of tolerance, said respected Islamologist Jan Hjärpe.

“This (attack) in Stockholm is used to point to all the Muslims in Sweden and say they are dangerous,” Hjärpe told AFP.

A report released Wednesday by Sweden’s intelligence agency Säpo suggested this kind of extremism was very are: it estimated only about 200 extremists with the potential for violence among the Muslim population.

On that evidence, Hjärpe insisted, they “do not represent the huge majority of the Muslims in Sweden.”

Even the audio message attributed to the bomber, sent out shortly before Saturday’s attack, appeared to acknowledge this lack of radicalism, said Hjärpe.

“You could hear he was quite angry that the Muslims in Sweden were not interested in going into a jihad,” he pointed out.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt while condemning the attack, warned against drawing hasty conclusions, and in his comments he stressed the tolerance that underscores Swedish society.

But Malena Rembe, chief analyst at Säpo’s counter-terrorism unit, warned that this tolerance was increasingly being challenged.

With the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats entering parliament for the first time after September’s election, the country was moving towards greater polarisation, she cautioned Wednesday.

The increase in Islamophobic rhetoric from the far-right would put Sweden’s tradition for open, tolerant diaologue, under pressure, she warned.

“What we’ve seen in other countries where you have a more polarised debate — where you have more open xeonphobia or Islamophobia — is that it tends to push people into movements because they feel isolated in their own society and they feel included in these extremist environments,” she told AFP.

“An increased polarisation in discussions would perhaps further stigmatise individuals — and stigmatised individuals tend to be recruitable … It is extremely important to ensure a nuanced discussion,” she said.

Just days after Saturday’s attack, the Sweden Democrats called for a parliamentary debate on the problem of Islamic extremism: the other parties rejected the idea, reluctant to let them exploit the situation.

But the reluctance to confront extremist ideas carried its own dangers, said one analyst.

“It’s sort of reflective of the sensitivities of the issues, but also of the consensus nature of Sweden,” security expert Magnus Ranstorp, of Sweden’s defence college, told AFP.

Until recently, even problems surrounding immigration and integration were only marginally debated here, and the far-right’s entry into parliament came as a shock for many people, said Ranstorp, a specialist in Islamist movements.

“By avoiding the debate, you inflate the issues … If you stifle part of the debate it can become more bent up, many issues rolled into one,” Ranstorp said.

“Everyone is tip-toeing around the fire, and therefore you don’t discuss the issue realistically,” he added.

Thus the bomber, despite failing to create the carnage he was aiming for, might have achieved one of his goals.

“I see him as someone who come from the outside (Britain) in here and very deliberately targeted Sweden to create a lot of polarisation, a lot of reaction,” Ranstorp said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Probes Suicide Bomber’s Facebook

Sweden’s intelligence agency said Friday it was looking at the Facebook account of the man behind the suicide bomb attack in Stockholm on Saturday in order to identify possible accomplices in the act.

“We look at all leads, including Facebook,” Swedish Security Service (Säpo) spokeswoman Maria Svensson told AFP on Friday.

Investigators have said they are “98 percent certain” the bomber is Taymour Abdulwahab, who grew up in the Middle East and became a Swedish citizen in


Säpo security chief Anders Thornberg could not say if Facebook had enabled the agency to determine if anyone had helped the bomber who blew himself up in central Stockholm on Saturday.

“It’s too early to say and even if I knew, I could not answer because of technical reasons related to the investigation,” Thornberg told daily Dagens Nyheter on Friday.

According to the daily, which quoted specialised Israeli website Haganah, Abdulwahab had one British-based Facebook “friend” who was friends with six of Samir Khan’s Facebook friends.

Samir Khan, a US citizen, is believed to be behind an English-language al-Qaeda magazine and a pro-jihad website which has called for the head of Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist who drew the prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog in 2007.

Abdulwahab — who according to media reports came to Sweden from Iraq as a child and blew himself up the day before his 29th birthday — had been living for the past few years in Luton, northwest of London, with his wife and three children.

He blew himself up near a busy pedestrian street early Saturday evening, killing only himself, but two people were slightly injured when his car exploded a few minutes earlier about 300 metres away.

According to a prosecutor on the case, he intended to kill as many Christmas shoppers as possible, but may have had a faulty bomb.

Police are seeking to determine what exactly happened on Saturday, how he became radicalised and whether he had any accomplices.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Med Students Perform Prof’s Autopsy

Medical students at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute (KI) set to perform their first-ever clinical autopsy were floored to discover that the corpse was none other than one of their former instructors.

According to the course coordinators, the incident was “extremely unfortunate,” but they assert that the name of the body is always communicated in advance of each autopsy.

A medical student’s first autopsy tends to be an intense and trying experience in itself. The revelation that the body was their former instructor made the occasion all the more difficult.

“I was super-shocked,” one of the students told the TT news agency about his reaction when he saw the body on the bench.

None of the students spoke up when the autopsy technician got to work. However, several testified that the mood was tense and they began whispering to each other.

They then tried to concentrate on the task at hand.

“The first autopsy is very emotional and we autopsied someone we knew,” another student told TT.

Several students admitted that they have thought a lot about the incident afterward and wonder whether it was really proper for them to have been exposed to such a situation.

“I spontaneously feel that something fell through the cracks in the procedures,” one student confessed.

Professor Birgitta Sundelin, the chief physician who was responsible for the course at the time, regrets the incident.

“It was extremely unfortunate. This is the first time I have encountered something like this,” she said.

She said that it is routine to tell the class the name of the person to be autopsied ahead of time and that the school did so in this case.

However, according to the students, they did not see the name until they could read it from the corpse’s toe tag.

In addition, no one at KI had informed the hospital that the students would possibly be offended by the subject whose autopsy they going to perform.

Professor Tina Dalianis, the head of the department, has been informed of the incident.

She said she sympathises with the students and that the incident must have been extremely difficult for them, but she does not think that the school has done anything wrong.

“It is really terrible, but it is part of education sometimes. Unfortunately, they must deal with it,” she said.

The president of Sweden’s Medical Students Association (Medicine Studerandes Förbund, MSF) was outraged by the school’s response.

“Very unfortunate. Students should not have to feel uneasy during their education,” said Maria Ehlin Kolk, who is also a medical student at Umeå University.

“It is important that an autopsy truly be the educational opportunity that it should be. The question is how much these students learned from the situation,” she added.

Kolk thinks it sounds like KI need to tighten up its procedures and tell students in advance that they have the right to speak up if they know the person on the autopsy table.

“All universities should work out such procedures and documents,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘My Name’s “Go **** Yourself”‘: Bus Passenger Accused of Attempted Murder of Two Policemen Hurls Abuse in Court

Unemployed John Paul Onyenaychi, 30, is accused of stabbing Pc Paul Madden, 23, and Piotr Dolata, 27, a police community support officer (PCSO) on Wednesday.

The two officers were injured at a bus stop in New Broadway in Ealing, west London.

Mr Dolata’s life was saved by a quick-thinking doctor who was passing by and was able to stem the bleeding.

Onyenaychi, of east London, was also charged with attempting to cause grievous bodily harm against a second PCSO, Steven Constable.

Surrounded in the dock by 10 police officers at Brent Magistrates’ Court, Onyenaychi refused to confirm his name, date of birth and address before launching into an expletive-filled tirade.

Shouting at District Judge Margot Coleman when asked for his full name, he said: ‘My name’s ‘go **** yourself’ and where the **** is my solicitor?’

When his solicitor Aneurin Brewer appeared in court, he continued: ‘You’re not my ******* solicitor. You’re not representing me.’

The hearing continued in Onyenaychi’s absence after District Judge Coleman ordered he be taken back to the cell, before telling Mr Brewer, ‘He was being extremely abusive and I’m not prepared to tolerate that behaviour in my courtroom.’

Mr Brewer said he was prepared to represent Onyenaychi despite his objections, and confirmed his name, address and date of birth.

There was no application for bail and Onyenaychi was remanded on two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.

He will appear at the Old Bailey on March 25.

Mr Dolata was released from hospital after being treated for his injuries while Pc Madden remained in a ‘serious but stable condition’ after undergoing surgery.

The officers, who were based in Ealing Borough, were checking bus fares when they were attacked at around 3pm on the busy shopping street.

London mayor Boris Johnson said he was ‘shocked’ at the attack, writing on Twitter: ‘No place for this on the streets of London.’

Speaking after the incident, Chief Superintendent Andy Rowell said: ‘Whilst this is no doubt a shocking incident, it is extremely rare for police officers to receive injuries of this nature whilst on duty.’

           — Hat tip: Bewick[Return to headlines]

UK: BNP Leader Nick Griffin’s Propaganda Victory as He Fights Off Contempt of Court Case

BNP leader Nick Griffin has won a propaganda victory as he fought off a legal bid to have him declared guilty of contempt of court today.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission accused Griffin of failing to comply with a Central London County Court judgment ordering the removal of potentially racist clauses from the BNP’s constitution.

At the time of the contempt application in November, Mr Griffin was in hospital with suspected kidney stones and was described by a BNP spokesperson as being ‘in extreme pain’.

But Robin Allen QC, appearing for the watchdog, said the BNP was ‘playing with’ the Commission and its officials instead of obeying the judgment.’

But today Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Mr Justice Ramsey, sitting at the High Court in London, refused to to take action against Mr Griffin, BNP deputy Simon Darby and party officer Tanya Lumby.

The Commission was seeking fines against them for contempt, or possibly the sequestration of party assets.

The application stemmed from the county court’s ruling that the BNP constitution breached discrimination laws because of a clause banning non-white members.

The constitution underwent revision, but last March Judge Paul Collins ruled at the county court that the new version was indirectly discriminatory against those of mixed-race, because it required party applicants to oppose ‘any form of integration or assimilation of … the indigenous British’.

Another section required new members to submit to a two-hour vetting visit at their home by BNP officials, which Judge Collins ruled could be seen as ‘intimidatory’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Essex Police to Follow Known Burglars 24 Hours a Day to Thwart Christmas Break-Ins

Following a few paces behind a man concealing his face with a hooded top and a jumper pulled over his nose, this is the ultimate in high-visibility policing.

Officers in an Essex town have identified a number of convicted burglars they believe are responsible for the majority of break-ins.

In an effort to slash the number of pre-Christmas thefts of gifts, they have launched Operation Bright Shadow — informally dubbed ‘Badger a Burglar’.

As well as trailing the known criminals round Basildon, sometimes wearing clip-on cameras to record their every move, they also walk into shops with them and follow their vehicles in marked cars.

It is hoped burglaries will plummet 90 per cent as a result, and yesterday Sergeant Paul Costin warned those who thought they could outwit the surveillance teams.

He said: ‘Stop committing crime, stop acting in an anti-social way, so you can enjoy Christmas and spend it at home rather than in custody.

‘Because if you do commit crime we will identify you and take the strongest action.’

The operation began on Monday after six known offenders, ranging in age from 15 to 33, were issued with letters telling them they would be watched.

Sergeant Fergus Caulfield said: ‘Our force solicitor said it does not infringe their human rights. It’s all been checked out legally.’

A similar operation in June last year saw burglary rates drop 44 per cent and raids on outbuildings such as garages and sheds fall 54 per cent.

One convicted burglar, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was monitored around his home in Laindon, Essex, on Thursday…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: George Medal-Winning Bomb Hero Was Paid Just £20 Extra a Day to Defuse 140 IEDs

An Army mines expert who has defused more roadside bombs than anyone else in history was awarded the George Medal yesterday.

Warrant Officer Karl Ley, 30, was paid only £20 extra a day for clearing 139 Taliban bombs during six months in Afghanistan.

He made safe twice as many improvised explosive devices as any other bomb-disposal expert, including 42 in one village in only 72 hours as insurgent gunshots and mortars landed less than 100ft away.

Award: Prince Charles presents the George Medal to Warrant Officer Karl Ley at Buckingham Palace

Yesterday the married father of three received his award from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

His citation told of his ‘sheer determination, guile and awesome bravery’.

When his award was announced earlier this year he said: ‘If you’re being shot at, you get down on the deck. So you might as well get rid of the bomb while you’re down there!…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslims in Bomber’s Town Get £500,000 to Combat Terror… But Don’t Give Police a Single Tip-Off

Muslim groups in the town where the Stockholm suicide bomber lived have been handed more than £550,000 of taxpayers’ money to combat extremism but have failed to tip off police about a single terror suspect.

The grants were handed out to mosques, schools and women’s projects by Luton council to prevent young Muslims being radicalised.

Under the Home Office’s Preventing Violent Extremism scheme, Islamic organisations are given money to stop members turning to violence. The groups are urged to reveal the names of those likely to commit violent crimes so they can be put on an ‘at-risk’ list by police.

But the Daily Mail has learnt that — despite £554,000 being given to groups in Luton since 2008 — not a single name has been handed over.

It comes as the PVE scheme has been put under review by the Government for being ineffective after it was revealed a huge amount of the money simply went to sports and arts groups.

The Luton Islamic Centre, where Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly preached before being banned, refused to sign up as leaders did not want to inform on their ‘Muslim brothers and sisters’. Iraq-born Al-Abdaly studied in Luton for several years and became obsessed with extremism while in the UK. He blew up his car then himself in Stockholm last Saturday, the day before his 29th birthday. Swedish authorities said he ‘missed causing a catastrophe by minutes’.

Islamic Centre chairman Qadeer Baksh said: ‘The reason we didn’t take the Government money for the Preventing Violent Extremism scheme is that it requires us to inform on fellow Muslims.

‘If we had taken the money our members would have seen us as working for the Government. The young men with radical views would not have listened to us.

‘I have never called the police or authorities on anyone.’

The PVE scheme was set up by then Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly in 2007, with most of the recipients of its £86million fund being from traditional Labour areas such as Birmingham, East London and West Yorkshire.

It was revealed last year that £129,000 had been awarded to a theatre company, £79,000 for sports coaching, £20,000 for fashion courses and £20,000 to art workshops in areas with large Muslim communities.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the Government should focus on tackling terrorism directly rather than wasting money on community groups.

He added: ‘It’s shocking that the PVE grants given out in Luton seem to have achieved such poor results.’

Security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said that under the review the scheme should focus money on people who are at risk of extremism, such as Al-Abdaly, rather than sports groups.

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said: ‘The funding has been allocated against areas of work for women’s inclusion, working with local schools, project work with further and higher education and projects to work with vulnerable individuals.

‘All organisations funded are based in Luton and have a history of either community or youth development work.

‘Information acquired that relates to issues such as child protection, or a clear and present danger to community safety or national security, will supersede any confidentiality requirement.

‘No such issue has been identified.’

           — Hat tip: bewick[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Aid: Hopeless Charity Commission Whitewashes Yet Another Islamist Group

The Charity Commission, Britain’s most ineffective regulator, has once again whitewashed an organisation linked to fundamentalist Islam. In March this newspaper reported on allegations that the charity Muslim Aid, a close associate of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, had channelled funds to eight organisations linked to the terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Muslim Aid has admitted funding two of the organisations and has repeatedly refused to deny funding the other six. Now, however, the Commission has published what it is pleased to call a “regulatory case review” into the charity saying that allegations of terrorist links are “unsubstantiated.”

It has only been able to reach this verdict by completely ignoring the vast majority of the allegations made against Muslim Aid, and by redefining the single allegation it did choose to “investigate” in a way which allowed it to exonerate the charity. By its own admission, it did not even investigate seven out of the eight allegations which it now claims are “unsubstantiated.”

The allegations made against Muslim Aid were as follows: (1) that it had since July 2009 channelled money to six organisations linked to Hamas:

(a) the Islamic Society of Nuseirat;

(b) the Islamic Society of Khan Younis;

(c) the Islamic Centre of Gaza;

(d) the Islamic al-Salah, Gaza;

(e) the National Association of Moderation and Development; (f) the Khan Younis Zakat Committee.

The allegations were made by security sources, who provided us with documentary evidence of the dates and amounts. (2) that it in the year 2005 paid money to another Hamas-linked organisation, the Islamic University of Gaza. (3) that it had paid money to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

(4) that it had extensively funded the Muslim Council of Britain, a UK-based political lobbying group. This is contrary to Muslim Aid’s declared charitable objects, which are “to relieve the poor, the elderly, children and all those who are in need in any part of the world as a result of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, epidemics, poverty and plagues, to relieve those who are refugees fleeing from war zones and war victims.” Repeatedly asked by us before publication, over a period of more than a week, Muslim Aid refused to deny the security source allegations that they channelled funds to any of groups 1 (a) to 1 (f). Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Muslim Aid subsequently denied these allegations. It has admitted both to us and the Charity Commission — see paragraph 14 of the Commission’s report — that it did fund al-Ihsan. It has admitted, and its own accounts state, that it funded the Islamic University of Gaza and the MCB.

In its report today, the Charity Commission states that it decided only to investigate Muslim Aid’s links with one of the groups, al-Ihsan. The report states that the Commission was “not provided with sufficient evidence to support the allegation that [the] other named organisations [1 (a) to (f) and 2 above] funded by the Charity had the alleged links [to terrorism].” Consquently, it “did not carry out further investigations into payments to them. Given the seriousness of the allegations made, the Commission required material evidence in support of those claims in order for it to consider taking regulatory action.” The Charity Commission’s statement that it was not provided with “material evidence” of the groups’ terrorist links is simply not true. Mindful of the extreme litigiousness of Islamist groups, we naturally conducted extensive pre-publication research on the links between the eight groups in 1,2 and 3 above and Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Our evidence, which runs to pages and pages, is shown at the end of this post. See whether you are convinced by it. I gave all this evidence to the Charity Commission (not that it ever asked me for it, by the way; indeed, I only learned that a regulatory case review had been opened into Muslim Aid by chance.)…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Prince Charles is Too Dangerous to be King: Max Hastings Tells Why This Increasingly Eccentric Royal Could Imperil the Monarchy

The engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton has given the British people a welcome fillip in a chilly season. Next April’s wedding will be a big success — even if we make a mess of some things, we’re ­jolly good at royal ceremonies.

The hard part comes afterwards: as the Queen gets older, growing ­attention and speculation is focusing on the ­monarchy’s future. Opinion polls show that most British people would like William to become heir to the throne, bypassing his father, the Prince of Wales.

But courtiers vigorously declare that’s not going to happen. When the Queen dies — as, like all of us, she eventually must — her son is ­determined to succeed her.

The Prince and his wife Camilla earned warm public sympathy last week when their car was assaulted by rioting student demonstrators in London. But many thoughtful people are alarmed by the prospect of a ­figure of such assertive eccentricity acceding to the British throne.

I heard one of the cleverest men in Britain, master of an Oxbridge ­college, quite calmly say the other night: ‘The best hope for the ­monarchy is that Prince Charles dies before the Queen.’

This seemed a brutal observation from a kindly and temperate man, but he went on to justify it: ‘We spend our lives here educating a new ­generation to understand that rational behaviour requires us to reach conclusions and make ­decisions by examining evidence.

‘Yet now we have the heir to the throne demanding — not in a ­throwaway remark, but in an entire book to which he has just put his name — that we should reject science and evidence in favour of following our instincts. This is surely disturbing.’

The Prince’s new book Harmony is indeed a startling piece of work. He begins it by writing: ‘This is a call to revolution. “Revolution” is a strong word, and I use it deliberately. For more than 30 years I have been ­working to identify the best solutions to the array of deeply entrenched problems we face.

‘Having considered these questions long and hard, my view is that our outlook in the Westernised world has become far too firmly framed by a mechanistic approach to science.’

He continues: ‘This approach is entirely based upon the gathering of the results that come from subjecting physical phenomena to scientific experiment.’

Though the Prince says he does not dismiss all science as bosh, his book is a call to arms against ‘the great juggernaut of industrialisation’ which he deplores.

Some of his phrases are ­messianic: ‘I would be failing in my duty to future generations and to the Earth itself if I did not attempt to point this out and indicate possible ways we can heal the world.’

Obsessively convinced of his own rightness, he views his ­critics with the weary ­resignation of an early Christian martyr: ‘It is probably ­inevitable that if you challenge the ­traditions of conventional thinking you will find yourself accused of naivety.’

Now, you may say it’s a fine thing we have an heir to the throne who cares passionately about the planet and is determined to do something about it. But what if his prescriptions are wrong?

At the heart of the Queen’s brilliant success for almost 60 years is that we have been denied the slightest clue as to what she thinks about anything but dogs and horses. Her passivity has been inspired, because her subjects can then attribute any ­sentiments they choose to her. She has never said a word to raise a hackle.

Prince Charles, by contrast, wears his heart on his sleeve. He outraged the medical ­profession by bullying the last government into providing NHS funding for his cherished homeopathic ­medicine. This, doctors pointed out, meant transferring tax­payers’ money from proven remedies to quackery — panaceas for which there is no scientific evidence at all.

A leading breast cancer ­specialist, Professor Michael Baum, wrote an open letter to the British Medical Journal after the Prince suggested drinking carrot juice and taking coffee bean enemas might help to ­combat cancer.

The Professor furiously wrote that his own 40 years of study and 25 years’ involvement in cancer research might be thought to offer at least as solid a basis for addressing this issue as the Prince’s ‘power and authority, which rest on an ­accident of birth’.

The Government is ­committed to trialling genetically modified crops, which many agriculturalists think offer the best hope of feeding the people of the world. But the Prince repeatedly ­condemns GM as the devil’s work — just as he opposes nuclear power and much ­modern architecture.

Constitutionally, it’s ­irrelevant whether his views are right or wrong: by wading into ­high-­profile controversies and using his status to influence government decisions, he may please green enthusiasts, but he also makes many enemies — some of them much more clever ­people than himself, who reject his ideas about how to better humanity.

In this way, he compromises the Royal Family.

A courtier recently said to me: ‘You shouldn’t worry about this. Charles knows that from the day he becomes King, he must keep his mouth shut.’ But in the same week, one of the Prince’s ­intimate circle privately said: ‘The nation is ready for a ­visionary monarchy.’

I believe that if the Prince and those around him think any such thing, Charles would hit trouble as fast and hard as a truck ­crashing into a wall when he’s the occupant of the throne.

Nobody doubts that he is an honourable man who wants to do good. His Prince’s Trust has made a remarkable contribution to helping the young get started in trades and businesses.

But Charles insists upon addressing a range of issues wider and deeper than any ­mortal man — unless he has a mind of genius, as the Prince certainly does not — can sensibly encompass. Some of his book reads like the ravings of a Buddhist mystic.

I once incurred princely wrath by suggesting to him that he would be judged by what he is rather than by what he does — that being heir to the throne is not a government office.

Jeremy Paxman makes the same point in his book on ­royalty: ‘The Prince had ­consistently misunderstood or ignored a basic truth at the heart of the relationship between ­royalty and the people.

‘He seemed to believe his significance lay in what he believed and did. The truth was simply that his significance lay in who he was.’

An acquaintance of the Prince argued to me recently that we should not worry about his behaviour because anybody who spends time with him quickly sees that he is potty, and thus harmless.

I would agree — if his ­eccentricities were confined to collecting matchboxes or ­dressing up as Napoleon.

But he is so set in his ways, so accustomed to not being contradicted — because those who argue with him are swiftly expelled from his counsels — that I am convinced that if he becomes King he will persist in trying to save the world, and thus precipitate a crisis.

He craves the return of what he thinks was a happier, ­simpler, more ‘natural’ world — for instance, he deplores inter­ference with primitive tribes.

He writes: ‘If we continue to engineer the extinction of the last remaining indigenous, ­traditional societies, we ­eliminate one of the last remaining sources of wisdom.’

He does not stop to ask what happens if the peoples of those indigenous societies want TVs and mobile phones, or even medicines to save them from some of the horrible diseases to which primitive man fell victim.

Rural grandees such as ­himself may have enjoyed times past, but peasants certainly did not.

The industrial growth which he hates has brought huge benefits to mankind. He seems oblivious to the ­tension between his grand vision about how others should live and his personal financial profligacy; his enthusiasm for using helicopters and keeping every light blazing in Clarence House at all hours.

Now, he is not a bad man, but I think he is a very dangerous one for the monarchy, if allowed to ascend the throne.

I remain apprehensive that his eagerness to become King derives from hopes of using the position to promote his dotty causes. A person who knows him well says: ‘I used to think Camilla could sort him out, but it’s too late. He’s a spoilt baby.’

The Queen’s triumph — and that of Prince Philip, whose achievement is often ­underrated — has been rooted in a ­discipline that Charles utterly lacks.

For they recognise that being royal, far from allowing crowned heads to do as they choose, makes it essential to exercise iron control over one’s ­every word and deed.

Prince Philip has occasionally committed indiscretions, but these are trifling in a lifetime as consort. Some unkind things are said about the royal ­couple’s failure as parents. Yet their ­contribution to our nation far outweighs any domestic shortcomings.

The argument in royal circles now ­concerns whether the Queen’s passive style of monarchy will suffice for a new age.

When she ascended to the throne in 1952, Britain was a homogeneous white country with a culture symbolised by beer, country churches, cricket, the Radio Times and Miss Marple. Today, however, the ethnic and cultural make-up of the nation is changing fast.

According to one projection, by 2051 the ‘white British’ ­proportion of the population will fall to 67 per cent, then decline to only 50 per cent by the end of the century. A significant proportion of the children of minorities will, meanwhile, become assimilated and adopt our traditional values, perhaps including respect for the monarchy.

But it seems rash to expect too much, when the ‘white British’ are diminishingly confident about what our values are.

They are scarcely churchgoing Christians. Even the Church of England is racked with doubts about its own beliefs. That other great British institution, the BBC, often seems more concerned with providing a platform for minorities than with articulating the views of the majority.

If I was advising Prince ­William and Kate Middleton, I would urge they confine their public remarks to politeness and platitudes. Even fish and chips are history. Tea is not the national opiate it once was — if you asked for a ‘cuppa char’ in many fast-food places, the Polish girl staring blankly across the ­counter might think you were making an indecent suggestion.

Some younger courtiers argue that a ‘more relevant’ monarchy will be necessary, to engage with the new Britain. I suggest that they are wrong.

The best hope for the future is to maintain the Queen’s great tradition, of being all things to all her subjects by remaining a smiling, but silent, monarch.

In the days when royal ­advisers occasionally sought my ­opinions as a newspaper editor, my ­counsel was always the same: ‘Say nothing, say nothing, say nothing.’ I thought the various­ confessional interviews by the Prince and Princess of Wales were ­suicidal. Charles’ book ­Harmony can promote only disharmony around the throne.

If I was advising Prince ­William and Kate Middleton, I would urge they confine their public remarks to politeness and platitudes. At all costs, I would ­forswear interviews and documentaries designed to reveal ‘the real William’ and ‘the real Kate’. For our sakes, as well as theirs, we should not go there.

Modern kings and queens must remain distant symbols of glamour, beauty and decency — or they become nothing. In the mid-21st century, as ever, once the public knows too much, the magic will be gone.

Happily for us all, there is every reason to suppose that the Queen will reign on for at least another decade. By then, it should be obvious that it would be madness to allow a quirky, stubbornly opinionated and contentious old man to assume the throne — that the best hope for Britain’s ­monarchy lies with William and Kate.

The most important task, meanwhile, is to prevent the media’s obsession with the young royals from tarnishing or destroying the couple.

I remain optimistic that the monarchy will survive. While many British people are indifferent to it today, few are actively hostile — a state of affairs which reflects the Queen’s achievement.

But anyone who reads the Prince of Wales’ new book will have little doubt that the chief peril to our royal institution in the decades ahead lies within his well-meaning, muddled, woolly head.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Western Europe’s Biggest Mosque Opens in Netherlands

Western Europe’s biggest mosque opened on Friday in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, five years behind schedule with organisers blaming obstruction from far-right politicians for the delay.

The mosque, which is built with two 50-metre (164-feet) high minarets, can accommodate 3,000 worshippers and will be a centre for charity, mutual understanding and forgiveness, said its chief adminstrator Abdelrazak Boutaher.

Construction began in 2003 and was slated to last for two years, but organisers said far-right opposition had delayed the project.

“This horrible thing doesn’t belong here but in Saudi Arabia,” said Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right leader, on his Twitter account.

The mosque is funded by the Al Maktoum Foundation, a charitable organisation established by Dubai’s ruling family.

Immigrants account for about 25 percent of the Netherlands’ population, but anti-immigrant feeling is strong with Wilders’ Party for Freedom making strong gains in this year’s general election.

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

WikiLeaks Cables Show Importance of Dutch US Alliance

A number of cables from the Wikileaks website reveal the importance the US attaches to its relationship with the Dutch, the Guardian newspaper reports.

‘With the EU divided and its direction uncertain, the Dutch serve as a vital transatlantic anchor in Europe,’ one cable dated August 2005 said.

‘Dutch pragmatism and our similar world-views make the Netherlands fertile ground for initiatives others in Europe might be reluctant, at least initially, to embrace. Coaxing the Dutch into the spotlight can take effort, but pays off royally.’


The cables also talk about the problems surrounding the joint strike fighter jet and links that project to Afghanistan.

‘The JSF debate in the Netherlands remains politically charged, with the parliament nearly scuttling Dutch participation in JSF,’ according to a cable from September 2009. ‘The Dutch ministry of defence is using the successes of the JSF in Dutch industry as an argument to keep the JSF in the Netherlands.’

The Netherlands has agreed to buy one test aircraft and has put off a decision about buying more until after 2012.


And a cable from February 2010 on the fall of the Dutch government blames ‘posturing’ over Afghanistan for the collapse.

‘Our efforts now turn to supporting foreign minister Verhagen’s search for a future Dutch mission in Afghanistan that will make a significant contribution to Nato requirements, the cable said.

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


Carla Del Ponte Feels Vindicated by Kosovo Report

A draft Council of Europe report implicating Kosovo leader Hashim Thaci in organ trafficking has been welcomed by the former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte.

In an exclusive interview with, the Swiss lawyer said she was torn between concern and satisfaction at the idea that these “heinous acts” would soon be brought to justice.

Del Ponte, now Switzerland’s ambassador to Argentina and due to retire early next year, was Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) from 1999 to 2007.

In 2008 she published a controversial book, The Hunt, in which she detailed evidence of the smuggling of organs taken from murdered Serb civilians after the end of the Kosovo war in 1999.

The ICTY said it had never seen evidence to substantiate her claims, and Thaci and the Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha publicly rejected them.

The Council of Europe report, drawn up by Swiss senator Dick Marty, who is to present it officially to European diplomats on Thursday, says Thaci headed a “mafia-like” organisation that dealt in weapons, drugs and human organs.

It says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which Thaci led, had secret prisons where Serbs and Kosovar Albanians were held in inhuman conditions, before being murdered for their organs.

“The information revealed in The Hunt led to this investigation,” Del Ponte told in an exclusive interview.

“Heinous acts”

Del Ponte’s book quotes witnesses saying internal organs had been taken from 300 Serbs deported from Kosovo to northern Albania.

She said in the interview she was “shocked and deeply distressed” by the findings — “namely that the killing of prisoners with the express purpose of removing their organs and selling them for profit was carried out by senior members of the KLA, including some individuals who hold top positions in the country’s current government”.

She said the claims in her book were backed by “credible and verifiable physical evidence” obtained by researchers from the ICTY and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (Unmik) during a mission to Albania and in the presence of an Albanian government prosecutor.

“The reason I included these claims in my book was to provoke a serious follow-up, so that, if the findings warranted it, a criminal investigation would be launched,” she explained.

“Such a criminal investigation could not have been carried out by the ICTY because it had no jurisdiction in this matter. But Unmik and the local authorities in Kosovo and the Republic of Albania did have such jurisdiction, and also had the authority to undertake this,” she said.

“I know the reports cited in The Hunt led to an investigation by the Council of Europe, a draft of which was published on its website in March.”

Marty to be sued

Del Ponte said she was glad the Council had taken over the investigation, describing it as the “only credible one ever carried out by any competent body, either local or international”.

“Neither the Kosovo authorities nor the government or judiciary of the Republic of Albania have carried out any investigation into the statements in my book, and have now just dismissed the serious accusations contained in the Council of Europe report,” she told

Indeed, on Thursday a senior Kosovo official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Thaci had contacted attorneys to pursue a libel suit against Marty. The official said Thaci was also considering suing the London-based Guardian newspaper, which first published the report.

“So I beg the European Union, the United States, other interested countries and the United Nations to give Eulex [the EU police and justice mission] every political and material support to conduct a criminal investigation into these accusations and to bring to trial all those suspected of involvement in these crimes,” she said.

“Furthermore, I beg them all to redouble their efforts to build up and implement the necessary capacities for law enforcement and the eradication of illegal organ trafficking, in particular the harvesting of a person’s organs against their will.”…

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

Kosovo: European Rights Watchdog Committee Approves Report on Organ Trafficking

Belgrade, 16 Dec. (AKI) — The Council of Europe legal and human rights committee on Thursday approved a report on human organ trafficking in Kosovo, compiled by its investigator Dick Marty, which singled out Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci.

“I think we have revealed enough material to justify a thorough, serious and independent investigation and first of all to create conditions for witnesses to talk, because that is a problem,” Marty told a press conference in Paris after submitting the report.

“There have been cases during trials at the international tribunal for war crimes that witnesses, who agreed to testify, were killed,” he added.

“What particularly shocked me in this whole story, is that most facts revealed in this report have been known to numerous institutions and organisations, but they kept silent about it,” Marty concluded.

In the report based on a two-year investigation, Marty, a Swiss diplomat, refers to Thaci as being the head of a “mafia-like” group involved in human organ as well as drug and arms trafficking.

Kosovo officials have refuted Marty’s claims as “malicious, baseless and defamatory.” Kosovo government spokesman Memli Krasnici said on Thursday Thaci was consulting wtih lawyers and considering a lawsuit against Marty.

Thaci, who last Sunday won the first parliamentary elections since Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, was scheduled to hold a press conference in Pristina later on Thursday.

Natasa Vuckovic, a member of Serbian delegation at the Council of Europe, told media that there were attempts at a meeting in Paris to postpone a vote on Marty’s report for January, but most committee members decided the revelations were “too serious” to postpone.

After the committee approval, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly will discuss Marty’s report and a draft resolution on Kosovo at its January session, Vuckovic said.

Marty said in the report that Thaci, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) which started a rebellion against Serbian rule in 1999, and members of his Drenica group, were suspected of being key players in the criminal operations.

“Thaci and these other Drenica Group members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.

“I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage,” Marty said in the report.

Thaci and his group are blamed for transporting Serb prisoners to northern Albania where they were killed. Their organs, mostly kidneys, were harvested and sold to western clients.

Marty criticised “faltering political will on the part of the international community to effectively prosecute the former leaders of the KLA” for political reasons.

Kosovo majority Albanians declared independence in February 2008, which has been recognised by seventy countries, including the United States and 22 EU members. Serbia opposes Kosovo’s independence.

Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic said Marty’s report was a “great moral test for the international community” ahead of forthcoming talks between Belgrade and Pristina on a variety of issues.

President Boris Tadic said he would talk with “any legal representatives” of Kosovo Albanians. “But if the allegations concerning Thaci prove to be true, then the international community will have to take a stand on it and I will adjust my position accordingly,” Tadic said.

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

Kosovo: Organ Trafficking; Belgrade, About 500 Victims

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 16 — Belgrade reported approximately 500 victims of the organ trafficking ring which the speaker of the Council of Europe Marty attributed to the pro-independence Albanians of the Kosovo Liberation Army (Uck).

The statement was made by the Serb prosecutor for war crimes Vladimir Vukcevic.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: President Tadic Conspires Against His Own People

By Srdja Trifkovic

WikiLeaks releases have not prompted a major reassessment of the U.S. foreign policy thus far, but the documents are nevertheless helpful in upgrading some tentative conclusions into incontrovertible facts. An interesting case in point is the relationship between Serbia and the United States.

Two months ago I wrote that for some years now President Boris Tadic and his cohorts have been conspiring with their foreign mentors to give up on Kosovo while pretending otherwise, and that they have capitulated to Brussels and Washington on all fronts. The above assessment has now become a “known known” thanks to WikiLeaks: Tadic and his team are acting exactly as described. Particularly noteworthy is a report sent last February 10 by the U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade, Mary Worlick, on her conversation with Tadic’s foreign policy advisor Jovan Ratkovic a week earlier:

Serbia intended to continue its cooperation with the U.S. on sensitive intelligence matters and to increase defense cooperation … The Ambassador conveyed U.S. concerns about indications that Serbia would continue to take a confrontational approach on Kosovo … Dismissing the question of whether Serbia would seek an UNGA resolution calling for new status talks as a ‘mere tactical issue’ Ratkovic said the Presidency was focused on the bigger question … Tadic believes that Serbia cannot remain outside of NATO forever, but doesn’t say this often because of the political sensitivity of the issue.

JOINT CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE — To start with, it is evident that “the Presidency” is violating the constitution of Serbia, adopted in 2006, by usurping the powers to define and execute the country’s security, defense and foreign policies, all of which are explicitly reserved for the Government.

Tadic is also acting in violation of the National Assembly Resolution on Military Neutrality (December 2007), which precludes NATO membership. He is acting contrary to the overwhelming opposition of the people of Serbia to joining an alliance that illegally bombed Serbia for 78 days in 1999 before amputating a part of its sovereign territory and turning it into a hotbed of organ-harvesting jihadist criminality. He is acting contrary to his own public statements (“Serbia will remain neutral”), while at the same time his aides are providing conspiratorial assurances to the U.S. Ambassador that such words should not be taken seriously: the President is not telling the nation what he really thinks because the issue is so politically sensitive.

Worse still, Tadic is violating his oath of office which pledges him to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, including Kosovo as its integral part. The extent to which he treated the UN General Assembly resolution as a mere “tactical issue” became obvious on September 10. On that day Serbia effectively surrendered its claim to Kosovo when Tadic arbitrarily altered the text of the draft UN resolution — previously adopted by the Government of Serbia and duly approved by the Assembly — to exclude any mention of Kosovo’s disputed status. He acted unconstitutionally both by usurping the powers not vested in his office and by violating his pledge to defend Serbia’s territorial integrity.

SUPPORTING UNITARY BOSNIA — According to Ambassador Worlick, Ratkovic reiterated to her that the Serbian government supported the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina “and would not be swayed by what he claimed was the desire of the majority of Republika Srpska residents to secede and merge with Serbia”:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Tunisia: Le Kef Region Hit by Snow

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 16 — Snow has been falling in the high elevations of the Le Kef region (a mountainous region inland in Tunisia) since last night. Snowfall has affected the Sakiet Sidi Youssef and Tourief areas in particular, in addition to the city of Le Kef itself.

Farmers are particularly pleased with the situation, as they consider the snow to be a good fertiliser. Temperatures are relatively low across the rest of the country, with scattered showers. The sea conditions are rough and the adverse weather in general is expected to continue until Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Bloggers Claim WikiLeaks Struck Deal With Israel Over Diplomatic Cables Leaks

The lack of information damaging to Israel in the cables released by WikiLeaks has provided fodder for conspiracy theorists.

PARIS — It was only a matter of time before conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to suggest that Israel is behind the publication of the WikiLeaks trove — and is manipulating the information coming out to help Israeli interests.

“Where is the real dirt on Israel?” these conspiracy theorists — messaging back and forth in the blogosphere — are asking one another.

“The answer appears to be a secret deal struck between WikiLeaks’ … Assange … with Israeli officials, which ensured that all such documents were ‘removed’ before the rest were made public,” wrote Gordon Duff, an editor of the anti-war website Veterans Today, who frequently opines about what he believes is Israeli’s secret influence over world events.

Speaking to Haaretz, Duff added that “it sticks out like a sore thumb that WikiLeaks is obviously concocted by an intelligence agency. It’s a ham-handed action by Israel to do its public relations.”

Meanwhile, Al Haqiqa, an Arabic language webzine, citing disgruntled WikiLeaks volunteers, adds more details to the conspiracy, suggesting that this “secret agreement” between Assange and “the Mossad,” which allegedly took place in Geneva, involved Assange’s promise not to publish any document that “may harm Israeli security or diplomatic interests.”

“The Israel government, it seems, had somehow found out or expected that the documents to be leaked contained a large number of documents about the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza in 2006 and 2008-9 respectively,” adds an anonymous blogger on IndyMedia. “These documents, which are said to have originated mainly from the American embassies in Tel Aviv and Beirut, were removed and possibly destroyed by Assange, who is the only person who knows the password that can open these documents, the sources added.”

Remy Ourdon, who is in charge of the WikiLeaks project for Le Monde — one of the five international newspapers that were given advance copies of the cables by Assange — counters that it is incorrect to claim there are no cables of interest about Israel.

“Not everything has come out yet,” he tells Haaretz. “There are tens of thousands of cables and many surprises still coming. There is almost no country which does not have some cables emanating from it.”

Moreover, stresses Ourdon, contrary to the conspiracy theorists’ charges, Assange is not in control of which cables WikiLeaks publishes — that is determined solely by what the person who obtained the cables was able to access and pass along.

Other observers offer an alternative explanation for the lack — so far — of many insightful cables out of Israel. For example, Ed Abington, a former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem (1993-1997 ) suggests, on facebook, that it might have something to do with the level of information being offered out of the country…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: Bringing Bibi Down

Over the past week, two writers published columns in foreign newspapers. One received wall to wall coverage in Israel. The other was completely ignored. The contrasting fortunes of the articles are a key to understanding the central challenges to Israel’s democratic order.

Last Friday, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief peace negotiator with Israel published an op-ed in Britain’s Guardian newspaper in which he declared eternal war on the Jewish state. This he did by asserting that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that does not permit the immigration of some 7 million foreign Arabs to Israel will be “completely untenable.”

So as far as the supposedly moderate chief Palestinian negotiator is concerned, a peace deal in which Israel cedes Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians as the Israeli Left desires will not be sufficient for the Palestinians. Unless Israel also agrees to commit national suicide by accepting 7 million foreign Arabs as citizens, the Palestinians will continue to wage their war. With or without a Palestinian state, as long as Israel exists, the Palestinians will continue to seek its destruction…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

For a Local Chief Rabbi, The Laws of the “Jewish” State Ought to be Subject to the Torah

The proposal is made during the Conference on the Laws of the Torah. The “state, as a Jewish state, must bring the Jewish law into account to a greater degree,” says Rabbi Ratzon Arusi. Consequently, every High Court of Justice should refer to religious law.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Kiryat Ono’s chief rabbi, Ratzon Arusi, said that every law in Israel should be evaluated from the perspective of Jewish law, which is “our duty as the Jewish state,” he said. Arusi, who holds a PhD in law, with his expertise being Jewish law, spoke at the 20th International Conference on the Laws of the Torah that began yesterday. His proposal generated a heated debate in the country.

During the opening session, attended by Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger, cabinet ministers and members of the Knesset, Arusi proposed a broader use of Jewish law, which besides the mandatory evaluation of Knesset bills, will determine that every High Court of Justice ruling must relate to Jewish law as well, and that all judges undergo special training in Jewish law.

“We must make up our minds if this is the Jewish state or not,” Arusi said ahead of the conference in a statement. “I won’t force every person at a court to be checked to see if he keeps kosher or is Shabbat observant, but that state, as a Jewish state, must bring the Jewish law into account to a greater degree.”

Last year, at the same event, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who will also be attending Monday’s conference, raised a public outcry when he said, “step by step, Torah law will become the binding law in the State of Israel. We have to reinstate the traditions of our forefathers, the teaching of the rabbis of the Ages because these offer a solution to all the issues we are dealing with today.”

The Foundations of Law Act, passed in 1980, says that every question that comes before the court in which there is no existing law or precedent has to be adjudicated in accordance with Jewish tradition.

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

The Canary in the Gold Mine

It has become a cliché by this time that Israel is the canary in the coal mine, signaling to those still on the surface, that is, those who believe they are above the fray, the dangers that await in the future if precautions are not taken. And like all cliche’s, it articulates a general truth. As Eric Hoffer famously said in a 1968 article for the Los Angeles Times, “I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel, so it will go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the holocaust will be upon us.”

Echoing Hoffer, Dutch Party for Freedom (PPV) leader Geert Wilders affirmed in a speech delivered in Tel Aviv on December 5, 2010 in praise and support of the Jewish state, “It is here that our civilization is under attack…It is here that Israel has lit the light of freedom and that Europeans and Americans must help the Israelis to keep that light shining in the darkness.” For Israel is the West’s frontline army in the war against militant Islam, its “forlorn hope” (from the Dutch verleren hoop, soldiers placed in the most dangerous position or leading the charge).

As I wrote in Hear, O Israel!, “not until we can arrive at some understanding of the upsurge of Jew-hatred in the West and the red herring of anti-Zionism, whether in the form of public odium and acts of anti-Semitic vandalism or in the flagrant anti-Israeli drift of the media, the Academy, the Churches and the European polity, will we be in a position to confront our weakness and complicity.” Only when we realize that, in adopting the Islamic attitude vis à vis Jews and the Jewish state, we are seeking to conciliate instead of confronting the forces arrayed against us, which only renders us more vulnerable in the long run.

But although Israel remains a fixture in the press and elicits a disproportionate amount of public and official denunciation, few of us invest much time thinking about the canary as such and what it portends. On the contrary, it is often viewed as wholly expendable and, indeed, many of us are hoping that it will expire quickly, a climactic mistake to be redeemed by its disappearance. Clearly, the Jewish state may be the West’s sacrificial canary but that does not inspire gratitude. Israel can be happily relinquished to the noxious fumes of the Muslim Middle East, after which the West can either follow suit or, now forewarned, take appropriate measures…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

CIA Accused of Role in Iran Suicide Bombing

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar charged on Friday the CIA was involved in the suicide bombing in southeast Iran as the death toll rose to 36.

“From the inspection of equipment obtained from the terrorist elements of this crime, it has become clear that the CIA and other spy agencies were involved,” he was quoted as saying on state television’s website. Najjar did not give details.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meanwhile, accused the West of working to divide the Muslim world.

“Our people know the objective of the enemy. They realise that the arrogance (West) does not want the Muslim world to be sovereign,” Khamenei said in a message read out at a funeral for victims of the attack.

“Enemies do not want to see the unity of Muslims,” he added. Iranian officials previously accused US and British intelligence services of having a hand in Wednesday’s attack in the city of Chabahar but without naming any specific agency.

The attack on a Shiite religious procession was claimed by Sunni militant group Jundallah (Army of God), which says it is fighting for the rights of the region’s Sunni ethnic Baluchi community against Iran’s Shiite regime.

Iranian media on Friday said the death toll has climbed to 36 from the suicide bombing during the annual Shiite mourning rituals of Ashura, while dozens of others were wounded.

Nine people linked to the bombing have reportedly been arrested.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Daughter of Turkish Premier Fuels Debate on Headscarf

When Sumeyye Erdogan, the youngest daughter of the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took a seat on the visitors’ balcony of a meeting room inside Ankara’s parliament building to listen to a speech by her father a few weeks ago, no one assumed the appearance was a coincidence or pure family business.

Recent sightings of Ms Erdogan, 29, at several of her father’s political meetings have triggered speculation in the media that she may be preparing to enter politics and run for a parliamentary seat at elections scheduled for June next year.

Although Ms Erdogan says her father does not want her to enter politics, the rumours swirling around her political ambition have a wider significance: in order for her to enter parliament, Turkey would have to lift the ban on the Islamic headscarf for parliamentary deputies.

Ms Erdogan wears the headscarf, as does her mother, her sister and millions of other Turkish women. Mr Erdogan, a devout Muslim who is accused by his opponents of following a hidden agenda to turn Turkey into a Islamic state, has refused to rule out changing the rules on the garment in parliament.

A long-time headscarf ban in Turkish universities, lifted only a few months ago, prevented Ms Erdogan from studying in her home country. With the financial help of Remzi Gur, a wealthy textile entrepreneur and a friend of the Erdogan family, Ms Erdogan went to the United States and to the United Kingdom to study political science and graduated from the London School of Economics in 2008.

Mr Gur has also paid for the higher education of Mr Erdogan’s other three children, Sumeyye’s older sister, Esra, and her brothers, Ahmet Burak and Necmeddin Bilal.

Unlike her siblings, Ms Erdogan has shown an intense interest in political affairs after her return to Turkey. She has accompanied her father on diplomatic trips in Turkey and abroad.

At the same time, she has been working as an “honorary adviser” to Mr Erdogan in his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, as she said in the only interview she has given in response to the media speculation about her political ambition…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

FIFA Boss Sepp Blatter Sorry for Qatar ‘Gay’ Remarks

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has apologised for saying gay fans should “refrain from sexual activity” if they go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and Blatter’s original comments provoked outrage among gay rights groups who said he should apologise or resign.

Blatter said: “It was not my intention and never will be my intention to go into any discrimination.

“If somebody feels hurt, then I regret [it] and present apologies.”

Blatter sparked the controversy when, earlier this week, he apparently joked: “I’d say they [gay fans] should refrain from any sexual activities” if they go to the Gulf Nation for the 2022 tournament.

Then, speaking seriously, he said he was sure there would be no problems.

Fifa has come in for criticism after making the decision to take the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.

Concerns were raised about hosting the tournament during the summer months in a country where temperatures can reach 40C to 50C and where current laws mean drinking alcohol in public is forbidden.

Gay groups are also worried about the acceptance of homosexual fans, and the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN) say Blatter’s original comments showed naivety about gay discrimination.

Former British basketball star John Amaechi, who is one of the world’s most high-profile gay athletes, was also critical of Blatter’s original comments, telling BBC Radio 5 live that it was the most childish response he could imagine.

However, Blatter, who is in Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup, does not foresee any difficulties, saying: “You see in the Middle East the opening of this culture, it’s another culture because it’s another religion, but in football we have no boundaries.

“We open everything to everybody and I think there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings be it on this side or that side, be it left, right or whatever.

“If they want to watch a match somewhere in Qatar 2022, I’m sure they will be admitted to such matches.”

Qatar was the surprise winner of the race to host the 2022 World Cup, beating Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States when the 22-man Fifa executive committee voted in Zurich on 2 December.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Iran Cuts Hezbollah Aid by ‘40 Percent’

Jerusalem 16 Dec. (AKI) — Iran has cut the annual budget it provides Hezbollah by over 40 percent, creating monetary difficulties for the radical Lebanese Shia organisation, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday, citing Israeli intelligence.

Tehran in recent years has provided Hezbollah with around 1 billion dollars in military aid but international sanctions have hurt the Islamic Republic prompting it to reel in direct funding, the report said.

A cut in funds may affect Hezbollah’s ability to buy advanced weaponry and to support a programme of training and paying operatives.

The cuts have stirred tensions between Hezbollah and the Hossein Mahadavi, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer whose responsibility it is to oversee the Lebanese group’s operations for its Iranian patron, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Hezbollah is refusing to accept Iran’s authority, the report said.

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

Iran Continues to Produce Disinformation

Abolghasem Bayyenat, reportedly a trade expert for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ministry of Commerce, and admittedly a former political officer in its Foreign Ministry, recently penned an article entitled “Economic Sanctions Against Iran”.1 In it, he claims that sanctions are counter-productive, causing pain only to the Iranian people and causing the regime further to resist efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the problem of nuclear proliferation. In his essay, Bayyenat suggests that Iran has successfully mitigated most of the effects of the sanctions, and that they are only hurting the innocent Iranian population.

Reports from Iran would seem to suggest that the truth is not quite as Bayyenat suggests. Yes, ordinary Iranians are suffering as the sanctions cause economic hardship, and yes, it is unlikely that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime will relent and turn away from its pursuit of nuclear weaponry á la Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, but to claim that these rounds of increasing sanctions are not affecting the Iranian regime is disingenuous at best. Even before the publication of Bayyenat’s article, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, told the ISNA news agency on Wednesday, July 7th, that the sanctions could have some impact. “We cannot say the sanctions have no effect. Maybe they will slow down the work but they will not stop it, that’s certain,” said Salehi.2 The following day, Reihaneh Mazaheri, an Iranian economic journalist based in Paris, reported that as international sanctions mount, Iran is finding it increasing hard to find buyers for its oil, and is being forced to offer discounts in order to shift as much as it can to a falling number of customers.3

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Christians Flee Baghdad After Cathedral Massacre

Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee in seeking refuge from militant attacks after the siege at a Catholic cathedral in October, the United Nations said today. .

The UN High Commission For Refugees said at least 1,000 families had fled Baghdad and Mosul since 1 September for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. A further 133 families had registered with the organisation in Syria, as had 109 individuals in Jordan.

Father Hanna, the leading Assyrian Catholic priest in Beirut said that 450 recently arrived families had contacted with his office and plan to ask the UN for help.

The mass movement of Iraq’s Christians, the remnants of which make up one of the most ancient communities in the Middle East, was sparked by the brutal siege in a Baghdad Assyrian Catholic cathedral on October 31, which left at least 58 people dead and around 100 injured.

Since then, Christian families have been increasingly targeted in their homes, among them survivors of the church massacre. The violence is being driven by al-Qaida and its affiliates and is being seen as an attempt to ignite sectarian chaos after repeated attempts to lure Iraq’s Shias back into battle had failed.

“We have heard many accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving direct threats. Some were able to take only a few belongings with them,” the UN report said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Steven Spielberg Was Target of Arab League Boycott, WikiLeaks Cable

Steven Spielberg was blacklisted by the Arab League’s Central Boycott Office after making a $1m (£645m) donation to Isreal during the 2006 conflict in Lebanon.

A US embassy memo released by WikiLeaks reveals that during a meeting of the group in April 2007, diplomats or representatives from 14 Arab states voted to ban all films and other products related to Spielberg or his Righteous Persons Foundation.

At the confidential US briefing, the head of the Syrian regional office for the boycott of Israel, Muhammad al-Ajami, said that Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen had agreed to ban all Spielberg’s works.

Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia were also present at the meeting and voted in favour of the boycott. The memo from the US embassy in Damascus to Washington says that “they and other countries will likely implement their own bans” similar to that adopted by the Arab states.

At the same meeting, cosmetics giant Estée Lauder was added to the blacklist while financial services behemoth Merrill Lynch was placed on a “watchlist”.

The only Arab states which did not attend the meeting were those who have signed separate peace accords with Israel, namely, Egypt (which also has a thriving film industry and holds the annual Cairo film festival), Mauritania and Jordan. Djibouti and Somalia were not present at the meeting either.

Marvin Levy, spokesman for Steven Spielberg, said: “While we can’t comment on a leaked cable, we know that the films and DVDs have been sold globally in the normal distribution through all this time.”

But Chris Doyle at the Council for Arab-British Understanding said the boycott was an “understandable” reaction to Spielberg’s donation.

“It would be consistent with other decisions in the past over boycotting both companies and people who have done something equivalent,” he said. “The donation would have been seen as hypocritical, given the ethical stance Steven Spielberg has taken on other issues including Darfur, and would have caused a lot of anger.

“The depiction of Arabs in Raiders of the Lost Ark was very poor, cartoon-like and full of the usual stereotypes,” he added. “In a broader context, this applies to so many Hollywood films where Arabs for decades have been ludicrously depicted.”

The Arab League boycott is a systematic, pro-Palestinian effort by Arab League member states to economically isolate Israel and weaken the country’s economic and military strength.

Israeli boycotts by the League are, however, inconsistently enforced across the member states, with individual states often going their own way. Only Lebanon and Syria now adhere to it stringently.

Steven Spielberg set up the Righteous Persons Foundation in 1994. Using his personal profits from the film Schindler’s List and, later, Munich, the Foundation is dedicated to helping create a strong Jewish community in the United States.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Trial is Next Chapter in Clash Between Turkey’s Muslim Leaders, Secular Elite

The latest installment of civil-military confrontation in Turkey began Thursday with the opening of a trial of nearly 200 active and retired military officers on charges of plotting to overthrow the conservative Muslim government in 2003.

The indictment in the trial, which is being held in the town of Silivri, outside Istanbul, outlines an alleged plot to create instability that would pave the way for a military coup. The Turkish military has several times voiced its discontent with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, since the party came to power in 2002.

According to the indictment, the plot, dubbed “Sledgehammer,” was drawn up in 2003 and would have begun with operatives setting off bombs in two mosques in central Istanbul and making it look as if Greek forces had shot down a Turkish military jet. It also allegedly made a list of journalists who would be jailed and a list of potential appointees to ministerial posts, according to Taraf, the daily newspaper that broke the story in early January.

The defendants have denied the allegations, saying that their activities were part of a military training exercise simulating scenarios of domestic strife. If convicted, the officers, who include serving generals and admirals as well as former air force and naval commanders, could face sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The prosecution of such high-ranking military personnel would have been unthinkable as recently as 2007 in a country that still has a constitution written by the last military junta. But mass indictments of prominent military, media, academic and political figures have become common in Turkey in the past two years. Roughly 400 people have been charged with efforts to topple the AKP government, most of them allegedly as members of a shadowy organization known as Ergenekon, which prosecutors claim has been behind other efforts to overthrow or interfere with the civilian elected government.

The Turkish public remains divided over such indictments. Supporting the prosecutions are the economically emerging Muslim conservatives, who want to claim a greater space for Islam in public life, as well as opponents of the military who want to lessen its influence over the government. They point to Turkey’s history of military ousters of democratically elected governments in 1960, 1972 and 1980, as well as the soft coup of 1997.

For critics, the Sledgehammer case represents an increasingly open attempt to dismantle elements within the military that are viewed as unfriendly toward the AKP. Opponents include members of the military and a formerly ruling elite who adhere to a strict interpretation of secularism and view the new ruling Muslims as a threat. This case, they say, is a political move to retaliate against figures who have spoken out against the AKP, an accusation the government denies.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UAE: Muslim World Claims World’s ‘Most Expensive’ Christmas Tree

Abu Dhabi, 17 Dec. (AKI) — The most expensive Christmas tree in the world stands at 43 feet tall in the heart of muslim Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

The energy-rich country has placed the 11 million-dollar tree, whose value comes from the over 130 gold, sapphire and diamond decorations that adorn it, in the opulent Emirates Palace hotel.

Hotel manager Hans Olbertz told Dubai’s Gulf News the aim was to create a “unique tree and experience for our guests this year.”

Christmas is commonly celebrated in Abu Dhabi, due to the large number of tourists and the expatriate population that fuel celebrations.

The hotel is considering bidding for Guinness World Records status as most expensive Christmas tree, according to Olbertz.

The current title for most expensive tree, cited on the Guinness website goes to a tree in Tokyo, Japan in 2002 which had a value of $10.8 million dollars and decorated with 83 pieces of jewellery.

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


Mufti Accuses Russian Authorities of Islamophobia

Moscow, December 17, Interfax — Head of the Russian Council of Muftis Ravil Gainutdin has accused the state of thwarting the unification of Muslims and attempts to “suppress Islam in Russia,” and called the members of a recently formed Russian Muftiyat (Islamic Council) “puppets” and “sleazy people.”

“In 2009, during the Kurban-Bairam (Eid al-Adha) mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin suggested a merger of three centralized Muslim organizations. After this proposal was studied, head of the Caucasus Muslims Berdiyev and I held a meeting with Talgat Tadzhuddin. We set up a working group and started the work of unification. However, the state did not like this decision. It was made known that the opinion of Tagat Tadzhuddin’s proposal was not consistent with the state policy,” Gainutdin said in an interview with the Tatar edition of Radio Liberty.

Ravil Gainutdin’s criticisms against the state were also prompted by the recent formation of the fourth Russian muftiyat — the Russian Association of Islamic Accord, aimed in particular to oppose the unification process.

“The newly made ‘pocket’ muftis, opposing the growth of Islam will become strident “puppets.” These puppets who are working in the government, such as Islamophobe Grishin [Russian Presidential Administration Advisor in charge of liaisons with Islamic organizations], for instance, will no doubt try to suppress Islam in Russia, particularly being aware that currently Islam in Russia is a big factor, and focusing specifically on this will attempt to stop the growth of Islam. This has already started to materialize,” Gainutdin said.

Commenting on the recent riots in Moscow, motivated by ethnic animosity, Gainutdin said that a very strong pressure is being felt in the capital where more than 2 million Muslims live.

“Due to the lack of mosques Muslims have to perform festive prayers on the street, on tram rails, even at church courtyards. Thus, the humiliation of Muslims, the discriminating policy against civil rights continues. All Muslims, the whole Islamic world can see that,” the Mufti said.

“The unrest in St. Petersburg, Moscow was prompted by attitudes towards Islam,” he said. “One might say that the disaster as a result of which so many people ended up in hospitals, and the violent clashes were the result of efforts to belittle the role of Muslims in Russia,” the Mufti said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nationalist Riots in Russia Spread Fear Among Muslims

Muslims gathered for Friday prayers at Moscow’s central mosque on Friday said they were afraid and angry at a nationalist riot last week that saw hundreds make fascist salutes beside the Kremlin walls. The chief imam at the mosque said that fewer people than usual had attended prayers, blaming fears after the violent riot, triggered by the shooting of a football fan in a fight with men from the Russian Caucasus.

Football fans and ultranationalists clashed with police on the central Manezh Square on December 11 in a protest ostensibly at police handling of the shooting of a Spartak Moscow football fan. The unsanctioned rally quickly turned into a riot with hooded youths chanting racist slogans and beating up people from the Russian Caucasus and Central Asia.

Usually, thousands of worshippers roll out prayer rugs on the pavement outside the cramped mosque. But this Friday, all the worshippers stayed within the gates.

“Because of this situation, on the ordinary days this week there have been fewer people,” imam Ildar Khazrat Alyautdinov told AFP. “Every day we can see there are noticeably fewer people. “Of course there are fears over safety,” said Alyautdinov. “There are fears for their lives, of course people are afraid.” He said he warned parishioners not to travel alone or go out at night. The mosque has an eclectic congregation, ranging from fur-coated Muscovites to Central Asian migrant workers in tracksuits and thin jackets. The service is in both Russian and Arabic. More than 20 million Muslims live in Russia, concentrated in Moscow and Saint Petersburg as well as in historically Muslim regions in the North Caucasus and close to the Urals. Migrant workers from Central Asia are another large group.

The sermon began with the preacher saying he was saddened by the riot and calling for Muslims to “move forward.”

“It’s sad, unpleasant because someone is trying to split up society, while we have always lived in a multi-confessional, multi-national society,” the imam told AFP, calling the attackers “frozen inside, empty.”

Following the riot, several people phoned the mosque warning of forthcoming skinhead attacks, the imam said.

“They are trying to scare us, but it won’t work.” One worshipper from Tajikistan, Mukhamed Musayev, said he had experienced several racist attacks.

“We are afraid to walk alone at night. I’ve already seen with my own eyes someone being killed. And I also have been attacked, there were six people, skinheads.”

Others said they wanted to fight back when they heard about the riot. Worshippers said they believed the riot was not spontaneous and that nationalists simply used the death of Spartak Moscow fan Yegor Sviridov to push their own agenda…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

CIA Man Pulled Out of Pakistan Amid Drone Attack Storm

The CIA pulls its top spy out of Pakistan after an unprecedented legal action against him and threats to his life.

The man — named by the Pakistani journalist who brought the lawsuit as Jonathan Banks — is said to be responsible for ordering US drone attacks on tribal areas of Pakistan — one of which reportedly killed two white British Muslim converts fighting with al-Qaeda forces in the North Waziristan area earlier this week.

Banks — the CIA station chief in Islamabad — was pulled out of Pakistan yesterday after being named along with the CIA director Leon Panetta and the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as being responsible for the deaths of the son and brother of journalist Kareem Khan in a drone attack on Mirali in December 2009.

Kahn’s application to register the case against Banks says: “Jonathan Banks is operating from the US embassy in Islamabad which is a clear violation of diplomatic norms and laws, as a foreign mission cannot be used for any criminal activity within a sovereign state.”

He also alleged that Banks was in the country on a business visa, which would give him no diplomatic status and thus not protect him from prosecution…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Indonesian Christians Say No to Christmas Protection by Muslim Radicals

In league with Indonesia’s police chief, Islamic Defender Front leader Risieq Shihab promises to protect Christians but only if their communities are authorised. Catholics and Protestants reject the offer because it would curtail religious freedom and negatively affect relations between Christians and local authorities, who alone have the right to provide security to churches.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian Christians have criticised the Islamic fundamentalist group Islamic Defender Front (FPI) for saying that it would protect Christian communities during Christmas celebrations. “Why would this radical group, which is notorious for its anti-Christian violence, want to be so nice to us? We say no to their offer,” a Catholic man from Semarang diocese asked.

“Let Christians celebrate Christmas in peace. It is their right and all Indonesian citizens should respect that,” said FPI chief Risieq Shihab during a meeting with Police Chief Timur Pradopo on Tuesday. However, the peace and protection he has in mind would only be for those Christian communities that respect Indonesia’s strict religious laws. In fact, the fundamentalist group Shihab leads would stop any Catholic or Protestant celebration held in violation of the law.

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

Pakistan: Radical Muslims Plan Mass Protest in Defense of Blasphemy Law

Radical Islamic groups in Pakistan are planning a mass protest on December 24 to urge the nation’s government not to release Asia Bibi from prison or to change the nation’s anti-blasphemy law. Bibi, a Christian mother who refused to convert to Islam, is in prison awaiting a death sentence for blasphemy.

The Pakistani bishops’ commission for justice and peace is expressing “great concern at the increasing tension, at the possible outcomes of the protest, and the situation in which religious minorities may be, especially Christians.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: The British White Converts Signing Up to Fight Against Our Troops for Al Qaeda

A string of white British Muslim converts have travelled to Pakistan to fight for Al Qaeda, defence sources said yesterday.

The claim comes after two white UK militants were reported to have been killed in a drone attack in the lawless border area of North Waziristan.

One of them was said to have been training extremists in using weapons and tactics in camps around the inaccessible tribal belt.

Drone attack: Two white Britons are reported to have been killed in Pakistan by a US attack — and are thought to be among a number of white Muslims who are fighting for Al Qaeda

A local official in the town of Data Khel, close to where the remote-controlled drone struck, claimed the surnames of the pair were Stephen and Dearsmith.

However, the Foreign Office made clear that there had been no official confirmation that Britons had died in the missile attack seven days ago.

Sources warned that the reports could be propaganda put out by the Taliban to encourage more British Islamists to the region to join the fight against coalition forces, including British soldiers, in neighbouring Afghanistan.

They also suggested that the Pakistani security services might have concocted the claims to stifle criticism of their failure to tackle extremism in the country.

But defence insiders admitted it would be ‘unsurprising’ if the allegations turned out to be true.

‘Do we know radicalised white British converts have travelled to Pakistan over recent years with the intention of joining the insurgency? The answer is yes,’ said one.

Traitor: John Walker Lindh is serving 20 years in a U.S. jail after he was found with Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan during 2001

If the reports are confirmed, the two men would be the first white British radicals to have been killed in the area.

British militant Abdul Jabbar, of Asian descent and thought to be from Birmingham, died in a drone strike in September. He was suspected of planning a string of commando attacks on European cities.

One of the latest pair was an Al Qaeda operative with a ‘previous history of operations with the organisation in Afghanistan’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Scores Die as Drones Renew Attack on Pakistan’s Khyber

Nearly 60 people have been killed in a series of attacks by US drones in the past 24 hours in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal district, officials say.

At least 50 died in three unmanned air strikes in the Tirah Valley, a day after seven others were killed nearby.

Security officials say all the dead in the attacks are militants — a claim that cannot be independently confirmed.

Meanwhile, the CIA has withdrawn its top spy from Pakistan, amid threats to his life, US intelligence confirms.

The Islamabad station chief had been identified in a lawsuit linking him to drone strikes, and media coverage of the legal action led to his name appearing on placards during anti-US protests in the Pakistani capital.

‘Leaders killed’

US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region have increased under the presidency of Barack Obama, often occurring several times every week.

But the US now appears to be expanding its campaign to other parts of the tribal belt, as most of these attacks have been in the Waziristan region, says the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi.

Drone attacks in Khyber are rare.

The first missile attack on Friday in the Tirah Valley is said to have taken place at 0800 local time (0300 GMT).

Seven Taliban militants died and 11 were injured when two vehicles were targeted in the Sandana area, a Pakistani security official told the BBC.

Those killed were militants from outside the Khyber tribal region, said the official.

Minutes later there was another attack in the Speen Drang area at a compound where pro-Taliban militants from the Lashkar-e-Islam group were holding a meeting.

At least 32 people, including senior leaders of the group, died, according to the official.

The Lashkar-e-Islam group is trying to enforce its hardline version of Sharia law in the area. A small number of its militants are involved in fighting Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.

The third attack took place in the afternoon in the Narai Baba area, the official said.

“A compound was hit killing at least 11 militants,” the official told the BBC. “All were from Swat and were taking refuge due to the military operation there.”

On Thursday, at least seven more militants loyal to Taliban chief Hafiz Gul Bahadur died when several drone missiles demolished a house…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

North Korea Warns South Korea to Stop Planned Artillery Drills on Disputed Island

North Korea has again warned its southern neighbour to stop planned artillery drills on disputed islands and said it would launch two retaliatory strikes if it failed to comply.

South Korea has said it plans to carry out a 24-hour live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island sometime between Saturday and Tuesday, depending on weather.

Pyongyang, which claims ownership of nearby waters and has said it considers the drills an infringement of its territory, responded to similar firing exercises last month by shelling the tiny island.

Tense: South Korean marines patrol on Yeongpyeong Island as the country announced it would stage further artillery drills over the weekend

That attack killed four people on the island, including two civilians, which is home to a fishing community and military bases.

An unnamed senior North Korean military official told the Korean Central News Agency that if the south carried out more drills ‘despite our military’s prior warnings, second and third unpredictable self-defensive strikes will be made’.

A notice sent to the South Korean military today added that the retaliation would be made ‘to safeguard our republic’s sacred territorial waters’ and that the ‘intensity and scope of the strike will be more serious than the November 23 shelling’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Venus Probe’s Problems May Cause Japan to Scale Back

SAN FRANCISCO — The failure of a Japanese probe to enter orbit around Venus last week will likely cause the nation’s space program to dial back its ambitions a bit, a mission scientist said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritania: Militants Against Slavery Arrested

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 15 — Nine militants from an organisation that fights slavery in Mauritania were beaten and arrested on Monday after demonstrating to denounce the fact that two young girls aged 9 and 13 were being held in slavery in Nouakchott. The Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights (FONADH) has demanded the immediate release of the nine militants, including the director of the organisation President of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid. For its part, the police have stated that the militants attacked the security forces, injuring six officers, and that they then sacked the police station, shouting racist and abusive phrases. Photos of the policemen injured “by the throwing of stones and dangerous objects used by the demonstrators” were released to the media. FONADH has launched an appeal to the authorities for the case of the two girls held as slaves to be treated with the necessary speed. Ould Dah is used to accusing the Muslim scholars of being responsible for the continuing slavery in the country, a practice that was abolished in 1981 that persists in several parts of Mauritania. Last month the UN special envoy on forms of modern slavery stated that “there are still very serious cases” in Mauritania. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Africa: ‘It’s Like the Middle-East’

A quiet town is on the brink of a religious war after locals called the Muslim call to prayer a “nuisance” that will bring down their property value.

At the centre of the controversy is the Jaami Masjid Mosque in Church Street, Oudtshoorn.

The use of a loudspeaker for the athaan (call to prayer) has angered certain residents in the Karoo town.

Mufti Basheer Khan, the imam of the mosque, started using the PA system at the start of Ramadaan in 2010.

Since then, there has been an outcry from residents and the Ratepayers’ Association to silence the athaan.

Residents also say the mosque did not follow the proper procedures in getting approval from the municipality.

But Imam Khan denies any wrongdoing and says he followed the proper procedure and has documents to prove it.

He said: “I have taken away the early morning call to prayer so as not to disturb residents. The other call to prayer is during the day, before sunset and an hour after sunset. I cannot see how this could be a disturbance.”

But the Ratepayers’ Association says they are not condemning Islam but are totally against the use of loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

Chairperson Lizanne Pelham said: “It’s like living in the Middle-East. The imam said it would be a mosque without any call to prayer on a PA system.”

And her sentiments are echoed in letters to the municipality.

Tour operator Reinhold Hensel stays directly opposite the mosque.

He says in a letter to the municipality in May this year: “This mosque is not silent anymore since last September when the imam made the call to prayer over the speakers. This makes the lives of the local residents, including my family, unbearable.

“Not only am I personally disturbed by the call to prayer but my business, which is a bed and breakfast and a tour operation has been severely affected, to the point where I have to close my business.”

He goes on to write: “As there are historically no Muslim residents in the area, I can only assume that the reason for the mosque’s call to prayer with a complete lack of thought for local residents, is to chase out the existing community and lower the house prices so that these can be bought up by new Muslim residents.”

Law firm Cillers Odendaal representing a number of concerned residents and ratepayers state in a letter to the municipal manager: “The public address loudspeakers used to call prayers cause a nuisance to the surrounding property owners.”

But law firm Mahood Mai representing the mosque and Muslim residents states in a reply the Muslim community of Oudtshoorn have no wish to start a conflict with fellow residents with whom they have been living in peace….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables: Sudanese President ‘Stashed $9bn in UK Banks’

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, has siphoned as much as $9bn out of his impoverished country, and much of it may be stashed in London banks, according to secret US diplomatic cables that recount conversations with the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court.

Some of the funds may be held by the part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who told US officials it was time to go public with the scale of Bashir’s theft in order to turn Sudanese public opinion against him.

“Ocampo suggested if Bashir’s stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a ‘crusader’ to that of a thief,” one report by a senior US official states. “Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money,” the cable says. “Ocampo suggested exposing Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him.”

Lloyds responded by saying it had no evidence of holding funds in Bashir’s name. “We have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds Banking Group and Mr Bashir. The group’s policy is to abide by the legal and regulatory obligations in all jurisdictions in which we operate.”

Details of the allegations emerge in the latest batch of leaked embassy cables released by WikiLeaks which reveal that:…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Asylum Seeker Aso Mohammed Ibrahim Who Let Girl, 12, Die Can Stay in UK

The decision to stop the deportation of a failed asylum seeker who ran over a child and left her to ‘die like a dog’ is to be appealed by the UK Border Agency.

Aso Mohammed Ibrahim knocked down Amy Houston, 12, and fled the scene without getting her any help — leaving her trapped under the wheels. He was driving while disqualified and after the little girl’s death he committed a string of further offences.

But the Human Rights Act — which David Cameron had personally pledged to scrap — has allowed Ibrahim to win his fight in Britain.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘We are extremely disappointed at the tribunal’s decision and are appealing.

‘He was convicted of committing an offence that led to the tragic death of a twelve year old child and it is our view that he should be removed.’

‘Ridiculous’: Aso Mohammed Ibrahim will be allowed to remain in the UK despite leaving Amy Houston, 12, dying under the wheels of his car in November 2003, because deporting him would ‘breach his human rights’

Earlier this year Mr Cameron wrote to Amy’s father promising reforms that would ensure ‘that rights are better balanced against responsibilities’.

He said the Human Rights Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.

But yesterday immigration judges ruled that sending Ibrahim, an Iraqi Kurd, home would breach his right to a ‘private and family life’ as he has now fathered two children in the UK.

Last night Amy’s father Paul branded the Act an ‘abomination to civilised society’.

He said: ‘This decision shows the Human Rights Act to be nothing more than a charter for thieves, killers, terrorists and illegal immigrants.’

The ruling heaped pressure on Mr Cameron to reinstate a Tory pre-election pledge to abolish the HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights. He stated that pledge unequivocally in a letter to Mr Houston, written in January when he was still Leader of the Opposition, and shortly after the death of his son Ivan.

It began: ‘As someone who sadly has been recently bereaved, I do have a little idea of what you must have been through.’

Last night Mr Houston, a 41-year-old engineer, made a direct plea to Mr Cameron to think again.

He said: ‘He needs to take a long, hard look at himself and make the right decision for this country because as it stands the Human Rights Act is on the side of criminals, terrorists and thieves against law-abiding citizens.

‘He wrote to me to say he would bring in the British Bill of Rights but that appears to have been put in the back burner because of the Coalition.

‘I don’t want to see this matter sidelined. I think it needs to be placed very firmly on the agenda again. If he has got the courage of his convictions that is what he will do.

Angry: Paul Houston, father of Amy, said today: ‘This is a perversity of our society’

‘The law does need to be changed so that it properly represents everyone — not just this awful minority who ruin people’s lives.’

Mr Houston, of Darwen, Lancashire, said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ by the decision to allow Ibrahim to stay in the country indefinitely.

‘How can he say he’s deprived of his right to a family life? The only person deprived of a family life is me. Amy was my family.’

Amy was Mr Houston’s only child and for medical reasons he is unable to have any more children.

The case fuelled deep concern on the Tory backbenches. One MP branded the Act the ‘Criminals’ Rights Act’ and repeated calls for it to be scrapped.

Downing Street issued a statement ‘sharing Mr Houston’s anger’.

Ibrahim, now 33, arrived in Britain hidden in the back of a lorry in January 2001. His application for asylum was refused and a subsequent appeal in November 2002 failed, but he was never sent home.

In 2003, while serving a nine-month driving ban for not having insurance or a licence, he ploughed into Amy near her mother’s home in Blackburn.

He ran away, leaving her conscious and trapped beneath the wheels of his black Rover. Six hours later her father had to take the heartbreaking decision to turn off her life-support system.

But despite leaving Amy to die, Ibrahim was jailed for just four months after admitting driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.

Since his release from prison he has accrued a string of further convictions, including more driving offences, harassment and cautions for burglary and theft.

‘The image of Amy taking her final breath, dying a foot away from me as I sat by her bedside holding her hand praying for a miracle, will stay with me till the day I die.’

He also met a British woman, Christina Richardson, and fathered two children with her, Harry, four, and Zara, three.

Border Agency officials finally began attempts to remove him from the country in October 2008.

Ibrahim’s lawyers argued sending him back to Iraq would breach Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees his right to a private and family life with his children.

When the case first came before an immigration judge in June last year, Home Office lawyers said Ibrahim should be removed because of his persistent criminality.

Ibrahim told the court he had became a father figure to Miss Richardson’s two children from a previous relationship and was even helping them with their homework.

This account was dismissed as ‘clearly not credible’ after Ibrahim admitted he could barely speak English.

The judge accepted that Ibrahim’s behaviour was ‘abhorrent’ and branded his evidence ‘contradictory and unsatisfactory’. However he ruled that he had developed a ‘significant and substantial’ relationship with the children and was acting as their father.

Only child: Amy’s death deprived Mr Houston of family life as he is unable to have further children

Lawyers for the UK Border Agency argued that there was little evidence that he was living at the same address as his own children.

But yesterday the Upper Immigration Tribunal threw out the appeal, saying the judge had considered the case in a ‘legally correct’ way.

In a letter to the tribunal, Mr Houston made an impassioned plea for Ibrahim to be sent back to Iraq, saying his right to a family life with Amy should outweigh the rights of Ibrahim.

He wrote: ‘On the evening of November 23 2003, Mr Ibrahim struck Amy. He didn’t kill her outright, she was still conscious.

‘She was fully aware of what was happening around her even though she had the full weight of the engine block of the car on top of her, she was crying because she was frightened and in a lot of pain… he could have at least tried to help.

‘Amy suffered for six hours before the doctors advised me to switch off the life support machine … it was highly unlikely she would survive and if she was to live would be a “cabbage”.

‘The image of Amy taking her final breath, dying a foot away from me as I sat by her bedside holding her hand praying for a miracle, will stay with me till the day I die.’

Last night Mr Houston said: ‘No wonder asylum seekers are queuing up at the borders to get in when they see decisions like this.

‘They realise that whatever they do, be it burglar, rape or murder, they can use the laws to ensure they are able to stay in Britain. ‘The immigration judges have ruled he had a right to a family life…’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Feds Save Millions After Undocumented Immigrants Lose Benefits

Rep. Christopher Herrod, R-Provo, said he was happy with the savings, even if it was not in state dollars. “It’s saving our children from additional debt,” said the legislator, who is married to a legal immigrant from the Ukraine. “It also goes to show there are costs associated with illegal immigrants.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Introduction of Immigration Cap Deemed ‘Unlawful’

A temporary cap on the number of skilled workers from outside the EU allowed into the UK was introduced “unlawfully”, the High Court has ruled.

Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the cap this summer as an interim measure ahead of a permanent cap.

But a legal challenge to it was upheld with judges ruling that ministers had “sidestepped” Parliamentary scrutiny.

The Home Office said it was likely to appeal and the verdict did not threaten its flagship immigration policy.

Officials insisted it would not apply to the permanent cap due to come into force in April.

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for net migration to be reduced from its current level close to 200,000 a year to “tens of thousands”.

Curbing numbers

As a first step, ministers introduced a temporary cap for non-EU skilled workers of 24,100 a month in June, in line with a Conservative election commitment.

But the measure was challenged by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and English Community Care Association, which was concerned over the position of immigrant care workers.

In Friday’s ruling, Lord Justice Sullivan and Mr Justice Burton concluded that the home secretary had not gone through the proper parliamentary procedures before implementing the cap.

As a result, it said no lawful limits were now in place for two tiers of job applicants from abroad.

The English Community Care Association said the temporary cap — which reduced by 5% the number of non-EU work visas issued — could have a potentially “catastrophic” effect on the care sector.

As 13% of those who work in care homes come from outside Europe, it said thousands of staff from the Philippines, India and South Africa could be forced to quit their jobs and this could damage continuity of care.


Vacancies created would not be filled by British staff, it said, as there was not sufficient demand for the jobs.

It argued the cap had been introduced with “complete disregard” for care providers and their staffing needs.

A Home Office spokesman said the ruling only applied to the interim cap, which was introduced to prevent a rush of immigration applications before the new cap came into force.

The BBC’s Political Correspondent Carole Walker said officials strongly rejected the suggestion that the entire policy was in doubt, saying the ruling was on a point of process not a point of principle.

The level at which the permanent cap will be set has been a source of tension within government, with Lib Dem ministers calling for the regime to be flexible as possible so as not to prevent firms from being able to recruit highly skilled labour.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

European Commission Criticised for Omitting Christmas on EU School Diary

More than 330,000 copies of the diaries, accompanied by 51 pages of glossy information about the EU, have been delivered to British schools as a “sought after” Christmas gift to pupils from the commission. But Christians have been angered because the diary section for December 25 is blank and the bottom of the page with Christmas Day is marked only with the secular message: “A true friend is someone who shares your concerns and will double your joy”.

While the euro calendar marks Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Chinese festivities as well as Europe Day and other key EU anniversaries, there are no Christian festivals marked, despite the fact Christianity is Europe’s majority religion.

Roman Catholic lobby groups and Christian Democrat MEPs have already complained to the commission about its Christmas card for this year which bears the words “Season’s Greetings” with no reference to Christianity.

Johanna Touzel, the spokesman for the Catholic Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, said the absence of Christian festivals as “just astonishing”.

“Christmas and Easter are important feasts for hundreds of millions of Christians and Europeans. It is a strange omission. I hope it was not intentional,” she said.

“If the commission does not mark Christmas as a feast in its diaries then it should be working as normal on December 25.” Martin Callanan, the leader of the European Conservatives, accused the commission of being concerned about sending propaganda gifts to youngsters than the true spirit of Christmas. “Given that 2010 was the year when the EU was haunted by its own ghosts of the past, present and future, it comes as no surprise that the commission is turning into a bunch of Euro Scrooges. “Why is the commission spending money sending calendars to millions of schoolchildren in the first place? I’m sure that the children could manage without a present of this nature.”

A commission spokesman described the diary as a “blunder” and said that in the interests of political correctness there would no references to any religious festivals in future editions.

“We’re sorry about it, and we’ll correct that in next edition. Religious holidays may not be mentioned at all to avoid any controversy,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Michael Moore Writes an Open Letter to Sweden Slamming Their Rape Laws

Presumably this is in response to the uproar Moore caused the other night on Keith Olbermann when he referred to the rape charges against Julian Assange as “hooey.”

In an open letter to Sweden posted last night Moore highlights some very depressing statistics about Swedish rape laws (rapists “enjoy impunity”) before accusing Sweden of bowing to U.S. government pressure (this, by the way, was the basis of his “hooey” charge on Olbermann): There’s just one thing that bothers me — why has Amnesty International, in a special report, declared that Sweden refuses to deal with the very real tragedy of rape? In fact, they say that all over Scandinavia, including in your country, rapists “enjoy impunity.” And the United Nations, the EU and Swedish human rights groups have come to the same conclusion: Sweden just doesn’t take sexual assault against women seriously.


Message to rapists? Sweden loves you!

So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden you decided to go after one Julian Assange on sexual assault charges. Well, sort of: first you charged him. Then after investigating it, you dropped the most serious charges and rescinded the arrest warrant.

Then a conservative MP put pressure on you and, lo and behold, you did a 180 and reopened the Assange investigation. Except you still didn’t charge him with anything. You just wanted him for “questioning.” So you — you who have sat by and let thousands of Swedish women be raped while letting their rapists go scott-free — you decided it was now time to crack down on one man — the one man the American government wants arrested, jailed or (depending on which politician or pundit you listen to) executed. You just happened to go after him, on one possible “count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape (third degree).” And while thousands of Swedish rapists roam free, you instigated a huge international manhunt on Interpol for this Julian Assange!

Read the full letter here. Whether or not the Swedish government is being hypocritical here the resulting discussion over rape laws and how they are applied is without question an upshot to this whole mess.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Gender Discrimination Still Alive, Report

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 13 — One year after Serbia passed the Gender Equality Law, there are still fewer women than men in the workforce, reports radio B92.

The number of women representatives in state institutions is also unsatisfactory, it was concluded at a round table dubbed The Law on Gender Equality — Implementation Possibilities and Challenges. According to Chairman of the government Council for Gender Equality Snezana Lakicevic, one of the reasons the implementation of the law has not been a complete success lies in the country’s patriarchal culture, in which a man is expected to have more rights than a woman. Daiana Falloni, Head of Democratization Department of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, said that the organization has been working on improving the state of gender equality in Serbia for a long time, pointing out it is an important factor for the country’s stability and development. By passing the Gender Wquality Law, Serbia has joined other countries in the region and through its implementation it will endeavor to advance gender equality, Falloni added.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Candidate David Bradley Bombarded Gay Colleague Ed Bramall With Homophobic Texts After Losing Out to Him in Election

A Labour Party member bombarded a gay colleague with malicious text messages after losing out to him in a party election.

David Bradley sent rival Ed Bramall homophobic messages after members had selected Mr Bramall to fight a seat at this year’s local elections.

Bradley, who contested the Weston-super-Mare seat for Labour at this year’s General Election, sent 33 texts using references to homosexuals.

At Bristol Magistrates’ Court Bradley, of Warmley, Bristol pleaded guilty to a charge of harassment without violence by sending the text messages to Mr Bramall’s phone between March and August.

The 29-year-old’s actions have seen him suspended from the Labour Party and condemned by Gay rights charity Stonewall.

Prosecutors have also asked for a restraining order to be imposed preventing him from contacting Mr Bramall in any way whatsoever.

Mr Bramall, 33, who is openly gay said the only event that could have started the vendetta was him being chosen ahead of Bradley to represent Labour in Whitchurch Park.

‘I have not discussed it with him so I cannot be sure but in my mind that was it,’ he said.

‘He had a grudge because I got something that he wanted and he decided to display his displeasure by doing what he did.

‘Prior to that there had been no altercation with him, so it’s the only thing that makes sense.

‘I thought from the start it was him because it was clearly somebody that knew me and had to be annoyed with me in some shape or form and I don’t make a habit of going around annoying people.

‘His later texts made references to places and meetings so it made me think it was someone connected with the Labour Party. He just increasingly gave himself away.

‘I didn’t enjoy getting the messages and when my phone went off I was always wondering if it was another one.

‘They were unpleasant but had they been about “coming to get me” I would have been more concerned. I was not living in fear but it was playing on my mind.

‘I reported it in the end because they had stopped and then suddenly started again while I was on holiday and I just had enough.

‘He has always been a bit odd but you meet lots of people who are a bit odd and you give them the benefit of the doubt.

‘He clearly has some mental health issues. I don’t really hold any malice towards him. I just think it’s sad that he has done it and got himself in this situation.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]