Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110607

Financial Crisis
»Greece: Under Secretary Targeted in New Aggression
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Ruby Names New Lawyer to Fight PM Sex Charges
»Italy: Berlusconi TV Nemesis Gets 2.3 Million Euros to Leave State Television
»Lady Gaga to Take Part in Rome Gay Pride Parade
North Africa
»Egypt: After 60 Years Muslim Brotherhood Party Admitted to Elections
»Libya: Algerian Army Clashes With Infiltrating Rebels
»Libya: ‘Intensified’ NATO Airstrikes Rock Capital as Rebels Seize Western Town
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israeli Settlers Set Mosque on Fire in West Bank
Middle East
»Bahrain: Clashes With Police at Religious Procession
»Internet Activist Group Warns Turkish Government About Censorship
»Iran Sends Submarines, Warships to the Red Sea
»Lesbian Blogger Kidnapped in Syria
»Saleh’s Condition Worsens, Return to Yemen Uncertain
»Saudi Arabia Gives Vote to Women, As From 2015
»Syria: Government and Opposition Trade Accusations Over the Killing of 120 Police Officers
»Syria: Blogger of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” Arrested
»Yemen: Tribal Leader: City of Taiz in Opposition Hands

Financial Crisis

Greece: Under Secretary Targeted in New Aggression

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 7 — Episodes of “condemnation” and physical aggression are on the rise, carried out by furious Greek citizens against the politicians who they consider to be responsible for the disastrous economic situation in the country. This time it was the Labour Under Secretary, Anna Dalara, who came under fire while she was speaking during an event for members of her party, PASOK, the socialist party in power. One hundred people gathered outside of the building where the event was taking place and tried to enter into the room where the Greek politician was speaking, shouting “thieves, thieves”. Stones and bottles were thrown at police officers who arrived on site, while law enforcement officials used tear gas to defend themselves and to disperse their assailants. One police officer was slightly wounded during the incident. “We respect and listen to the distress and the protests of the people, however, we must protect democracy,” said the under secretary after the incident.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Ruby Names New Lawyer to Fight PM Sex Charges

Case adjourned until June 14

(ANSA) — Milan, June 6 — The young Moroccan woman at the centre of the sex scandal involving Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has hired a new lawyer, Egidio Verzini, from Verona.

The premier has denied paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a teenage runaway and belly dancer also known as Ruby, before she turned 18, in a case that has attracted front-page headlines around the world. He has also rejected charges he allegedly abused his position to get her out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft last year.

Verzini is the fourth lawyer hired by Ruby and appeared in court in Milan on Monday before proceedings were adjourned until June 14.

“I was hired last week,” he told journalists.

Last week Berlusconi’s defence team presented 16 objections to the legal proceedings, one of four trials he is currently fighting in Milan.

One of their objections was the assertion that the case should be transferred to a special court for ministers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi TV Nemesis Gets 2.3 Million Euros to Leave State Television

Rome, 7 June (AKI) — A television personality who for years has been an irritant to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will be paid 2.3 million euros to leave Italy’s state broadcaster.

For years journalist Michele Santoro has attacked billionaire Berlusconi and his associates for alleged wrongdoing in politics and business.

Millions of Italians would tune on Thursday nights to watch screaming matches among politicians debating opposing points on the Berlusconi sex scandal which prosecutors say he paid a minor for sex. An accusation he has vehemently denied.

High ratings for his latest show, political chat show Anno Zero, brought the state broadcaster a windfall of advertising funds and shielded Santoro from his critics who demanded he be fired for gagged. Anno Zero has the target of numerous public rants by by Berlusconi.

Santoro even outlived former Rai general director Mauro Masi, a Berlusconi appointee whose famous clashes with Santoro included a telephone call to Anno Zero during a live broadcast during which he accused criticised Santoro of being biased. Santoro in effect told him to name the rules he has broken or go away. Masi left his job at Rai in May.

Santoro is expected to be hired by private television station L7 where criticism of Berlusconi is common.

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

Lady Gaga to Take Part in Rome Gay Pride Parade

Rock star will sing at end of EuroPride 2011

(ANSA) — Rome, June 6 — Lady Gaga will take part in the gay rights parade EuroPride 2011 in Rome, the parade’s organizing committee and Universal Music Italia announced Monday.

The American rock star famed for her outlandish costumes and erotic performances will also sing one of her hits to cap the June 11 event, which celebrates a rainbow of sexuality marginalized by mainstream society, commonly referred to as LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

“The great pop star’s participation is the fruit of months of negotiations,” explained Paolo Patane’, national president of the Italian gay rights group Arcigay.

“In addition to the tenacity of the (gay rights) associations, the intervention of U.S. ambassador David Thorne, who wrote a letter to Lady Gaga, was decisive. On behalf of the entire EuroPride committee and myself, great thanks go to the ambassador as well as to Universal Music Italia”.

Lady Gaga shot to international prominence in recent years with global hits like Paparazzi, Telephone, Just Dance, Bad Romance and Born This Way.

She enjoys 37 million fans on Facebook, and her videos on YouTube have enjoyed hundreds of millions of viewings.

Her new album, Born This Way, is currently the best-selling pop album in 27 countries around the world.

Gaga is donating her presence free of charge to support the LGBT cause.

Gaga will join the last leg of the parade, from Piazza dei Cinquecento outside Termini rail station to the Circus Maximus, before mounting a stage to perform one of her hit songs.

“It is a gigantic signal. Not only is she the greatest artist of the moment, but also a person who believes in civil rights as an element of democracy,” said Patane’.

EuroPride is the most important, international gay pride demonstration in Europe.

The parade travels from one European capital to another each year, and attracts roughly a million participants from all over Europe. Recent editions have been staged in Stockholm, Zurich and Warsaw. “The news that Lady Gaga will rise on the EuroPride stage represents a shock for Italy on rights for lesbian, gay and transsexual people. Now EuroPride can launch a clear signal on an international level (concerning) the absence of rights in Italy,” wrote Gay Center spokesman Fabrizio Marrazzo in a statement. “We thank the U.S. Embassy in Italy, which also supported the free Gay Help Line last December”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: After 60 Years Muslim Brotherhood Party Admitted to Elections

Born after the jasmine revolution, Justice and Freedom aims to achieve 50% of the votes in September elections, despite the unfavourable polls. AsiaNews sources emphasize the clever campaign of the Muslim Brotherhood, to date the only ones on television, radio and in newspapers. Concern over Islamist drift of Egypt.

Cairo (AsiaNews) — The Electoral Commission has recognised the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood party, Justice and Freedom. For the first time in 60 years a political party linked to the Islamic movement is allowed take part in political life. Thanks to this acknowledgment, the Muslim Brotherhood will participate in the September elections, with a target of achieving over 50% of the vote, despite criticism and a poor performance in polls.

Founded on April 30, Justice and Freedom is one of four political parties founded by the Islamic movement after the jasmine revolution. AsiaNews sources point out that “the party is still the only political formation that is carrying out a real election campaign, with TV ads, posters, articles, ads on radio and in mosques.” “The party — says the source — is gaining ground and a landslide victory is not to be excluded, even though polls show only 20% of the population in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The source believes that the moderate position taken by the Muslim Brotherhood is just an election ploy. They are using the party in order to present a “clean face” as evidenced by the election of a Coptic Christian as vice president, the absence in the statute or theocratic elements or radical Islamic positions and continual praising references to the Justice and Development, the moderate Islamic party of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. However, despite claims to liberty and secularism, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are still the same. “Their ideology — the source confirms — is inspired by radical Sharia law, which could emerge once parliament has been conquered. And all of this with the backing of the army, which has secretly been aligned to the Islamic movement all along. (Sc)

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

Libya: Algerian Army Clashes With Infiltrating Rebels

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 6 — For the first time, the Algerian Army fought Libyan rebels who — taking advantage of a football match between Algerian and Morocco on Saturday — infiltrated into Algerian territory in order to try to take control of the Libya-Algeria border checkpoint in the area of Debdab in the extreme southeast of the country. Clashes between the Algerian Army and Libyan rebels lasted until yesterday morning, according to Algerian daily Al Nahar Al Jadeed. The Libyan rebels, underlined the daily, tried to surprise the pro-Gaddafi forces that control the border checkpoint on the Libyan side by launching an attack from Algerian territory. The attempt by the Libyan rebels, explained the daily, failed thanks to the fast reaction of the Algerian Army, which forced the Libyan rebels to retreat after violent clashes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: ‘Intensified’ NATO Airstrikes Rock Capital as Rebels Seize Western Town

Tripoli, 7 June (AKI) — Loud explosions shook the Libyan capital Tripoli Tuesday as NATO appeared to step up its air strikes against forces loyal to embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi, Arab-language news channel Al-Arabiya reported. Aided by British war planes, rebels have seized a town in the western town of Yafran, driving out forces loyal to Gaddafi.

Tripoli’s Al-Karama neighbourhood was hit by NATO forces and a civilian telecommunications station was hit in a bombing, Libyan TV said, describing the military coalition as “the crusading colonial aggressor”.

Blasts were also heard overnight on Monday as NATO bombings have continued over the past two days, according to witnesses.

The air raids were part of NATO’s bombing campaign targeting Gaddafi’s government and armed forces which began in March under a UN mandate to protect civilians.

Gaddafi’s troops and the rebels have been in stalemate for weeks, with neither able to hold territory on a road between the eastern rebel-held town of Ajdabiyah and the oil town of Brega further west, which is under the control of Libyan troops.

In a report on Monday, the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank urged the protesters and their NATO allies to negotiate a ceasefire.

Protesters control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of mountains near the border with Tunisia. But they have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi’s better-equipped forces, despite NATO air strikes.

Protesters seized Yafran, 100 kilometers southwest of Tripoli, on Monday after British warplanes destroyed two tanks and two armoured personnel carriers on 2 June, Al-Arabiya reported

Food, drinking water and medicines were running short after a month-long siege by Gaddafi’s forces.

Western governments and protesters say a combination of NATO air strikes, diplomatic isolation and grassroots opposition will eventually bring an end Gaddafi’s leadership, which began began after he seized power in a coup in 1969.

Gaddafi, who celebrated his 69th birthday on Tuesday, says NATO intervention is designed to steal Libya’s abundant oil and claims his rule has the support of all Libyans except for a minority of ‘rats’ and Al-Qaeda extremists.

NATO decided last week to extend operations in Libya until the end of September.

Since the beginning of the NATO operation on 31 March, NATO forces have carried out 10,020 sorties, including 3,794 air strike sorties, the alliance said in a statement on Tuesday.

NATO conducted 332 humanitarian operations in Libya by air, ground and sea, according to the statement.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Settlers Set Mosque on Fire in West Bank

(AGI) Ramallah — Arson in mosque in al-Mughayyir,in the north of the West Bank, and anti-Arab slogans were written. This was a retaliation against the destruction of some Jewish settlements, reported Palestinian sources, blaming extreme right wing Israeli settlers.

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

Middle East

Bahrain: Clashes With Police at Religious Procession

(ANSA) — DUBAI, JUNE 6 — Violence flared once more in Bahrain last night when a religious festival ended in clashes between police and worshippers, the newspaper Gulf News reports.

The fighting took place in the village of Sitra, a few kilometres outside the capital Manama, where Shi’ite residents had organised a procession which saw participants beating their chests and singing songs commemorating the death of one of the twelve imams from the beginning of the Islamic era.

Some opposition figures say that police attacked the march.

“We condemn this attack, which will only aggravate the situation,” said Sayed Hady, a member of Al Wefaq, the leading opposition party. “This is a traditional event that has been staged for centuries. The authorities had promised that they would not attack religious gatherings”.

Police forces denied attacking the procession, saying that they had only responded to violence from some of the people involved in the march.

The climate in Bahrain, where a majority Shi’ite population is governed by a Sunni royal family, is still very tense after February’s popular uprising, the subsequent bloody repression and the enforcement of the state of emergency, which was lifted only a few days ago.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Internet Activist Group Warns Turkish Government About Censorship

Anonymous, an online activist group consisting of anonymous members from all over the world, has warned the Turkish government of action against it ahead of the implementation of a planned Internet filter.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government plans to implement a filter on Internet browsing on Aug. 22 on the grounds of protecting the youth from “harmful elements on the web.” Critics argue that the filter will pave the way for wide-spread censorship.

Anonymous said Tuesday that the government was violating basic human rights and freedoms and that they would “take action against the institutions that apply censorship.”

The message from Anonymous reads as follows:

“Merhaba Türkiye,

“Over the last few years, we have seen how the Turkish government has tightened its grip on the Internet. It has blocked thousands of websites and blogs while abusive legal proceedings against online journalists persist. The government now wants to impose a new filtering system on the 22nd of August that will make it possible to keep records of everyone’s Internet activity.

“Though it remains opaque why and how the system will be put in place. It is clear that the government is taking censorship to the next level.

“These acts are inexcusable. Accessing and participating in the free flow of information is a basic human right. Anonymous will not stand by while the Turkish government violates this right. We will bring our supporters to circumvent censorship and retaliate against organizations imposing censorship.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have protested against Internet censorship but AKP government ignored the voice of the people and violently oppressed the protesters.

“We call on all Internet users worldwide to support freedom of speech by pushing the Turkish government to stop these foolish policies. The free flow of information won’t be stopped. Sharing of knowledge won’t be stopped. It is time to fight for our rights and stand up for what we believe in.

“We are Anonymous.

“We are Legion.

“We do not Forgive.

“We do not Forget.

“Expect us.”

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

Iran Sends Submarines, Warships to the Red Sea

Iran has dispatched warships and submarines to the Red Sea, daily Hürriyet reported on its website on Tuesday, citing Fars news agency as a source.

Submarines from the Iranian Navy were reported to stay in international waters on a preplanned information-gathering program.

Iranian warships were escorting the submarines.

Report said the submarines reached the Gulf of Aden last month and are now entering the Red Sea in order to follow foreign ships and collect information about them.

Iran sent two warships into the Mediterranean Sea in February via the Suez Canal.

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

Lesbian Blogger Kidnapped in Syria

ISTANBUL- Daily News with wires

Relatives of Amina Abdallah say her whereabouts are unknown after she was seized by “armed men”.

A female blogger has been abducted by armed men in the Syrian capital, Damascus, relatives and activists say.

Amina Abdallah Araf was seized on Monday evening, as she was walking in the area of the Abbasid bus station, according to her cousin, Rania O. Ismail.

“Amina was seized by three men in their early 20’s. According to the witness [a friend accompanying Abdallah], the men were armed”, Ismail wrote on Abdallah’s blog, A Gay Girl in Damascus.

“One of the men then put his hand over Amina’s mouth and they hustled her into a red Dacia Logan with a window sticker of Basel Assad,” she continued, referring to President Bashar al-Assad’s brother who died in a car accident in 1994.

Abdallah, openly lesbian, holds dual Syrian and American citizenship.

According to Al Jazeera, Ismail wrote that her cousin’s whereabouts were unknown, and that the family was trying to track her down.

“We do not know who took her, so we do not know who to ask to get her back. It is possible that they are forcibly deporting her,” she wrote.

“From other family members who have been imprisoned there, we believe that she is likely to be released fairly soon. If they wanted to kill her, they would have done so. That is what we are all praying for.”

Since mass protests erupted in Syria in March, Abdallah has been increasingly critical of the the government, writing on Sunday: “They must go, they must go soon. That is all there is to say.”

On April 26, she wrote about how her father faced down two security agents who came to arrest her, threatening to rape her and accusing her of being a involved in a Salafist plot.

Mixing regime criticism with humour and poems, Abdallah has been outspoken about the situation for homosexuals and other subjects which are taboo in Arab culture.

Several Facebook pages calling for her release were set up on Monday and activists also launched a campaign on Twitter.

Syrian authorities had been cracking down on journalists and bloggers even before protests began.

A number of bloggers were arrested in February, and 20-year-old Tal al-Mallouhi, a 20-year-old girl, was jailed on charges on spying for a foreign country.

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

Saleh’s Condition Worsens, Return to Yemen Uncertain

The Yemeni leader wounded on Friday, June 3 while praying in the mosque of the presidential palace has burns on 40% of his body and only one functioning lung . Clashes in the south of the country, in Taiz. Britain sends a military mission for “evaluation”.

Sanaa (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The condition of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni leader in hospital in Saudi Arabia, is worsening. Saleh has burns on 40% of the body, and only one functioning lung. The news was reported by non-official U.S. diplomatic sources, who added that his eventual return to Yemen is very uncertain.

Saleh was injured Friday, June 3 while he was praying in the mosque of the presidential complex. It is not clear what happened inside the mosque. Some sources speak of an attack with mortar shells. But Saudi diplomatic sources, support the hypothesis of a grenade. Saleh was injured and was rushed to Saudi Arabia to remove a seven inches splinter from his chest. Saleh has undergone two operations.

In the south of the country 15 people died yesterday and last night in clashes between security forces and elements which are said to be linked to al Qaeida. In Sanaa, a truce between supporters of Saleh, tribal and democratic opposition forces mediated by Saudi Arabia is still in force. But in the early hours of today in Taiz in the south of the country, gun battles erupted between opponents and significant quantities of Saleh followers.

From a diplomatic point of view it should be noted that the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said: “We believe that an immediate transition is in the interests of the Yemeni people.” Catherine Ashton, head of foreign policy for the European Union, said she hoped that Saleh will let the country “move forward” while in hospital. Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence has announced the deployment of a “military assessment mission” in Yemen, but would not confirm the presence of two support vessels in the region.

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

Saudi Arabia Gives Vote to Women, As From 2015

(AGI) Riadh — An historic decision made by the Shura Council will give women the right to vote in municipal elections as from 2015. The Shura is a Consulatative Council in Riadh.

Although the upcoming elections are scheduled to take place on 22nd September, women in Saudi Arabia will not be allowed to vote until the 2015 elections, when they will have a right to join the electorate but not to stand as candidates in their own right.

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

Syria: Government and Opposition Trade Accusations Over the Killing of 120 Police Officers

Government sources blame “armed gangs”. Pro-democracy opposition groups say officers were executed for refusing to fire on demonstrators. Reports speak of demonstrations in many cities, including the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk. Turkey calls on Assad to follow the path of reform.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Syria is turning into a place of protests, crackdown, killings, disinformation and promises. What happened in Jisr Ash Shughur, a town in the country’s north-west on the border with Turkey, is a case in point. Syria’s official news agency SANA and state TV said, “armed gangs” killed about 120 Syrian soldiers and police officers, 80 of them at police headquarters. The latter had been sent to “rescue citizens being terrorised”.

“We will deal strongly and decisively, and according to the law, and we will not be silent about any armed attack that targets the security of the state and its citizens,” Interior Minister Muhammad Ibrahim al-Shaar said.

The opposition has disputed the official version. Anti-government activists claim that when police mutinied, refusing to fire on demonstrators, they were executed at a local security forces building. Instead, the regime’s version is an excuse to justify the imminent arrival of tanks, poised to enter the town to punish residents for protesting peacefully on Friday. On Saturday, a security operation had already left at least 37 residents dead.

Dissident groups are reporting online that security forces have killed protesters in Deir Ezzor, Talbisseh, Homs, Idlib, Jabla and Hama, as well as areas of the capital.

Gunfire was also heard at the Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk, south of the capital, during the funerals for nine people killed in a protest on the border with Israel. Crowds are said to have shouted slogans against the Syrian regime and Damascus-based Palestinian leaders.

Six Syrian human rights groups yesterday called on the Syrian government to end the cycle of violence and murders; they also urged the Security Council to look into events in their country. A delegation representing human rights groups also travelled to The Hague to demand action by the International Court of Justice.

Beside blaming “armed gangs” backed by Muslim extremists and foreign agitators, the government has also pledged political liberalisation and an end to the country’s one-party state under the Baath party and the Assad clan.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has again urged Syrian leaders to start reforms. He has found an unexpected ally in Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party and a member of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian majority, who has called on Assad to carry out reforms and stop using force against opposition groups. (PD)

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

Syria: Blogger of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” Arrested

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 7 — A Syrian blogger, writer of a blog in English entitled “A Gay Girl in Damascus”, was arrested in the last 24 hours in Damascus by secret police officers and brought to an unknown location. The news was announced in a post on the same blog by the cousin of Amina Arraf, better known as Amina Abdallah, who wrote that Amina was stopped by three armed, undercover officers and forced into their car near Abbasid Square in the Syrian capital. The daughter of an American woman and a Syrian man, Amina has dual citizenship and lived in the United States for a long period of time. She returned to Syria in the summer of 2010 and her blog was about the life of a homosexual girl in Syria, where homosexuality is considered to be a crime, similar to most countries in the Arab world. Since the anti-regime protests exploded in March and along with the subsequent expulsion of most of the foreign journalists in Syria, Amina’s blog became one of the sources of news for the international press.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Tribal Leader: City of Taiz in Opposition Hands

(ANSAmed) — SANA’A, JUNE 7 — Yemen’s southern city of Taiz, south of the capital city of Sana’a, is in the hands of the armed opposition to the regime of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, said a tribal leader in Yemen today. “Taiz is in the hands of the rebels,” said Hammoud Said al-Mekhlafi, the main tribal leader in the region. Situated 270 km southwest of the capital city of Sana’a, Taiz — the second largest city in Yemen — was the site of clashes between the Republican Guard, the elite pro-regime troops, and fighters who support protecting the protestors. According to the United Nations, on May 30 in Freedom Square in Taiz, over 50 protestors were killed when a sit-in staged by the opposition was broken up.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]