Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120504

»New York Times Bows to Terrorism
»Obama Embraces Islam
»Occupy Movement Members Arrested in Conspiracy to Bomb Ohio Bridge
»The False Worldview of Liberal Progressives
Europe and the EU
»France2012: If Elected Hollande to Go to Informal EU Summit
»Frenchman Bruno Finds Dinosaur Bone in Flowerbed
»French CERN Nuke Expert Jailed for Terror Plot
»Holocaust Victims’ Families Sue Swiss Banks
»Into the Deep: New Iceland Tours Allow Brave Tourists to Venture Inside a Dormant Volcano
»Italian Rose’ Creates New Taste in Wine Market
»Italy: Fiat and Tata Revise Joint Venture
»Norway: Tears in Court at Autopsy Details From Utøya
»Sweden: Left Party Helped Kids ‘Hit Politicians in the Face’
North Africa
»Algeria: Homes Will be Built for Impoverished Journalists
Middle East
»Erdogan Lashes Out at S&P Over Rating on Turkey
»Kuwait Parliament Approves Death Penalty for Insulting God
»MENA: Wealth Beats Democracy, Changing Priorities
»Syria: Student Massacre Due to Libyan and Turkish Infiltrators, Says Apostolic Vicar in Alep
Culture Wars
»First Activist Convicted Under Russian ‘Anti Gay’ Law


New York Times Bows to Terrorism

Speaking at the April 25 New York Times annual meeting, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, tried to justify the rejection of an ad calling attention to the alleged oppressive nature of the Islamic religion and the “vengeful, hateful and violent teachings” of Islam’s prophet. He said the ad might incite violence in the Middle East.

At the same time, he justified the placement of an anti-Catholic ad in The New York Times by saying, “We take political ads that we do not agree with. That is the nature of advocacy advertising.”

Representing Accuracy in Media, a shareholder in the company for the purpose of getting access to the annual meetings, I told Sulzberger, his executives and other Times shareholders, “You’re willing to offend the Catholics because they’re not going to come and kill you.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Embraces Islam

If Islamism is OK for Egypt, why not America?

The Obama administration is doing its utmost to promote the fortunes of the Islamist parties in Egypt. A State Department official declared that with the rise of these radical groups after the Arab Spring, “people who once might have gone into al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” They see this as a victory. The problem is, so do the terrorists.

Last year, the White House began peddling the line that the uprisings in the Middle East were a repudiation of the al Qaeda model of seeking change through terrorism. The argument was that while America opposed violent extremism, the rise of nonviolent radical movements was just fine, and even commendable. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri quickly dismissed this claim, saying that from the terrorists’ point of view, it didn’t matter whether an Islamist victory came through violence or not. The means were unimportant except as they related to the end state: the imposition of hard-line Shariah-based laws and policies.

From Zawahri’s point of view, it makes no difference whether the caliphate is born of the ballot, bomb or bullet. The important thing is the victory of Islamism, which the White House also seems to endorse.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Occupy Movement Members Arrested in Conspiracy to Bomb Ohio Bridge

In a case that was overshadowed by Tuesday’s conviction of al-Qaeda member Adis Medunjanin who plotted with others to bomb the New York City subway system and other targets, five men were arrested and accused of conspiring to use explosives to destroy a bridge near Cleveland, according to a federal law enforcement official.

Anthony Hayne, 35, Douglas L. Wright, 26; and Brandon L. Baxter, 20, were secretly arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on Monday evening (April 30, 2012), on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to adversely effect interstate commerce.

In addition on Monday, JTTF members arrested Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23, and criminal charges are pending against them. All five suspects are alleged members of the so-called Occupy Movement that began last year in New York City under the name Occupy Wall Street.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The False Worldview of Liberal Progressives

Originally published July 8, 2004

This essay begins with a recap and commentary on Thomas Sowell’s brilliant critique of the old liberal obsession with “change” and with seeking socioeconomic “root-causes” for all social problems. The bulk of the essay will deal with the historical roots of the false liberal worldview and its belief that all our problems can be traced to “root causes” that can be blamed upon American society, and its irrational preference for “change.”

The fallacy of root causes and change ideology

Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell’s critique of the liberal bias towards “change,” and the predilection for “root causes” was a barn-burner. Sowell compared the prosperity, freedom, and stability of America with the rest of the world. The blessings we enjoy are exceptional. They are not the natural order of things. It would make more sense to explore the root causes of our blessings than to explore the root causes of our problems. Our social problems are much like the misery suffered by a majority of humanity. The question that should be posed is, why are our blessings so special and so widely shared among the populace — and why are the common social problems of mankind not more widespread in America? Liberals are not capable of framing the problem this way because of their topsy-turvy worldview and their knee-jerk bias against America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

France2012: If Elected Hollande to Go to Informal EU Summit

(AGI) Paris — If elected president, Francois Hollande will participate in the informal European summit in Brussels. Pierre Moscovici, the head of the socialist campaign confirmed the candidate’s attendance at the meeting in late May or early June. Hollande has several times expressed his dissatisfaction with the economic policies of the European Union, including the Fiscal Compact, the budget deal signed in early March by twenty-five EU countries and strongly backed by Germany. The Socialist candidate said he wants to renegotiate the agreement.

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

Frenchman Bruno Finds Dinosaur Bone in Flowerbed

While tending to his flowerbeds in Louplande, west France, one Frenchman made a very rare discovery — a 100 million-year-old dinosaur bone. Bruno Lebié was digging his garden when he found the bone, which comes from the foot of an ornithopod dinosaur — a two-legged herbivore.

Lebié told the local paper Ouest-France: “The bone could have stayed in there, it really wasn’t bothering me. But I said to myself, ‘could that be a dinosaur bone?’ It’s not really my niche.” Lebié’s neighbour, who was just the other side of the fence when he found the bone, showed it to an archaeological friend who confirmed it was indeed a rare find.

It wasn’t until the head of the Green Museum in Le Mans, Nicolas Morel, sent a photo to palaeontologist Eric Buffetaut, that the 10cm-long bone was fully identified. But the bone was an isolated find -the rest of the skeleton is not in Lebié’s garden. This is one of five other dinosaur bones found in the area in the past 200 years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

French CERN Nuke Expert Jailed for Terror Plot

A Franco-Algerian nuclear physicist was sentenced Friday to five years in jail — with one year suspended — for plotting terror attacks in France. Police arrested Adlene Hicheur, a 35-year-old researcher studying the universe’s birth — the Big Bang — at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in October 2009 after intercepting his emails.

His father embraced him in the Paris court room before he was taken away to serve his term in prison. Hicheur has already spent two and a half years in jail while awaiting trial. Hicheur admitted at the start of his trial in late March that he was going through a “turbulent” time when he wrote the mails but denied he intended to carry out attacks.

The trial of Hicheur, who was charged with criminal association as part of a terrorist enterprise, began a week after police shot dead Franco-Algerian Mohamed Merah for killing seven people in and around the city of Toulouse.

Prosecutors focused on emails between Hicheur and an alleged Al-Qaeda contact. Hicheur told the court the emails were written while his “physical and psychological state” was impaired while he was on sick leave for a slipped disc.

Following Hicheur’s arrest at his parents’ home near CERN, the research institute which lies on the Franco-Swiss border northwest of Geneva, police discovered a trove of Al-Qaeda and Islamist militant literature.

France’s DCRI domestic intelligence agency’s suspicions were raised after a statement from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace in early 2008.

Following the message police carried out surveillance on several email accounts including Hicheur’s and his exchanges with Mustapha Debchi, an alleged AQIM representative living in Algeria.

In the emails Hicheur suggested “possible objectives in Europe and particularly in France”, mentioning for example a French military base at Cran-Gevrier, close to CERN. Asked by Debchi if he was “prepared to work in a unit becoming active in France,” Hicheur replied: “The answer is of course YES”.

Magistrates investigating the case said the exchanges “crossed the line of simple debate of political or religious ideas to enter the sphere of terrorist violence.” They say the accused “knowingly agreed with Mustapha Debchi to set up an operational cell ready to carry out terrorist acts in Europe and in France.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Holocaust Victims’ Families Sue Swiss Banks

Descendants of two Jewish families have filed a new lawsuit against Switzerland’s largest banks to recover millions of dollars they say relatives deposited before the Holocaust, their lawyers said on Thursday.

The suit, filed in a United States district court, seeks $315 million in deposits, compensation for artwork and gold held in a safe deposit box and unspecified damages from UBS and Credit Suisse.

The plaintiffs accuse the banks of refusing them access to records relating to accounts and a safe deposit box they say their relatives opened in the late 1930s, as conditions for European Jews grew increasingly perilous.

The defendants have “continued to interfere with and conspire against depositors’ rights by refusing access to all available records and databases and by refusing to use recommended state-of-the-art technology that would provide greater accuracy in matching names and account numbers,” said a statement distributed by the lawyers outside UBS’ annual shareholders’ meeting

Thursday in Zurich.

Swiss banks paid out $1.25 billion in 1998 to settle claims by Holocaust survivors and the descendants of Holocaust victims whose families held Swiss accounts before and during World War II.

But the two families in the lawsuit — which also names as defendants the Swiss Bankers Association, the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and Switzerland as a whole — had their cases rejected by the claims resolution tribunal established to oversee the funds, which said they had insufficient evidence.

Both families base their claims on handwritten records handed down across generations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Into the Deep: New Iceland Tours Allow Brave Tourists to Venture Inside a Dormant Volcano

It is one of those holiday experiences that should probably be filed under ‘intrepid’. As of next month, visitors to Iceland with a taste for adventure will be able to sign up for a tour that takes them inside the crater of a colossal volcano.

This might seem an unwise prospect in a country where, infamously, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted with great force in March 2010, spewing out a vast cloud of ash and debris that caused myriad complications for the airline industry in Europe. But 3H Travel, the Icelandic travel company behind the tours into the maw of the Thrihnukagigur volcano, insists that its out-on-a-limb expedition is entirely safe.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italian Rose’ Creates New Taste in Wine Market

Delicate, pink wine starting to get attention it deserves

(ANSA) — Monigo del Garda, May 2 — Italy may be one of the world’s largest wine producers but rose’ is a variety often overlooked by those in search of a rich red Barolo or Venetian pinot grigio. Now wine producers in the Lake Garda region between Verona and Brescia are leading a push to give this delicate, pink-coloured wine the attention they think it deserves in Italy and abroad. Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the north of the country. Formed by ancient glaciers, it is close to the Brenner Pass on the borders of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. There are around 100 winemakers linked to the Garda Classico consortium in this picturesque region and 60 of them produce a rose’ known as Chiaretto. Fabio Finazzi, a wine expert with the Garda consortium, said more consumers were becoming interested in rose’ and producers had seen growing demand in the past four years from both Italian and German wine lovers. “In the past there was limited awareness but more consumers are discovering rose’,” Finazzi told ANSA. “It has a very delicate structure, it is an elegant wine with floral and fruity characteristics”. Finazzi said Chiaretto was at its best from the end of February through the summer and should be served at a low temperature. “Those who love it can drink it throughout the year but it is well-suited to lighter spring and summer food,” he said. “It works well as an aperitif or with pastas, salads, risotto and fish rather than heavy winter foods and red meat”.

The Garda region boasts 550 hectares of vines with an annual yield of around 3,500 tonnes of grapes which produce more than 2.5 million bottles of wine — not just rose’. “In our view rose’ is becoming more appreciated and those who try it are attracted to its elegant, fruity and floral taste,” Finazzi said. In 1967 the Garda region became one of the first wine regions in Italy to receive the highly regarded recognition of DOC Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Controlled Denomination of Origin) which means the winemaking process is subjected to rigorous scrutiny and control. Every year there is a wine festival on the shores of Lake Garda to promote the local Chiaretto but the popularity of rose’ is also spreading to other parts of Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat and Tata Revise Joint Venture

New company to handle Fiat commercial and distribution activity

(ANSA) — Turin, May 2 — Fiat and Indian partner Tata Motors have revised their joint venture to allow a new company not owned by the Italian automaker to take over the Italian marque’s commercial, distribution and service activities in India, Fiat announced here on Wednesday.

Since 2006 these activities were handled by Fiat India, a joint venture set up between Fiat and Tata that utilized the Indian automaker’s sales and service network in India.

The move will allow the Italian-Indian venture to focus its attention on the production of small cars, engines and transmissions for the Indian and surrounding markets. Fiat and Tata will also continue to jointly run their modern plant in Ranjangaon, in the state of Maharashra, that can produce over 100,000 cars a year and up to 150,000 engines and transmissions.

In its first five years, the Fiat India has produced some 190,000 vehicles and 337,000 engines for both Fiat and Tata cars.

The new company in India will gradually take over Fiat’s commercial, sales and service activities from 178 Tata dealerships, located in 129 cities, and is expected to expand its network.

Last year Fiat and Tata announced they would develop a new small car for the Indian market, the third-biggest in Asia. The car, set to be presented this year, is a smaller version of the mid-sized Fiat Palio model.

This new car is part of Fiat India’s strategy to take a tenth of the expanding Indian market by 2015 and will be exported to other markets in the region.

Fiat India recently announced that it had won a contract to supply local rival Maruti Suzuki with its diesel engines.

When Fiat and Tata joined joined forces in 2006, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne hailed the agreement, saying that “this is a strategic alliance, the start of a wide-reaching, long-term relationship… Fiat and Tata have complementary strengths, converging goals and shared values. Together we can work well on the Indian market and elsewhere, combining technologies, products and human resources”.

In other developments, Marchionne and Fiat Chairman John Elkann were in Rome on Wednesday to present Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with the first Lancia Thema limousine, a gift from the Italian automaker to mark the 150th anniversary of the Italian Republic.

The Lancia Thema, which will be used for institutional purposes, is an Italian version of the 300C model produced by Fiat’s US partner Chrysler.

Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009 and since then has upped its stake in the Detroit Number Three from 20% to 58.5%. photo: Marchionne

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Norway: Tears in Court at Autopsy Details From Utøya

Muffled sobs filled an Oslo courtroom on Friday as the first autopsy reports were presented for the 69 people massacred on Utøya island last July, but confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik displayed no sign of emotion.

On the 12th day of the right-wing extremist’s trial, the Oslo district court heard a coroner’s clinical explanation of how the first nine victims died before being given more intimate descriptions, illustrated with photographs, of the same people.

Of the 69 people who died on the small, heart-shaped island last July 22nd, 67 were shot to death, while the remaining two died from a fall and drowning, Torleiv Ole Rognum of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health told the court.

Most were hit by two or three bullets, and up to eight bullets had been pulled from one body. A full 56 of the victims had been shot in the head, Rognum said, revealing how Breivik had systematically executed his victims, most of whom were teens attending a summer camp on the island hosted by the ruling Labour Party.

The lawyers representing survivors and victims’ family members were visibly fighting back tears as they described the people who had died; one was “the best dad in the world,” another, a bubbly young girl, who “spread laughter and joy.”

Many family members of people who died that day were in the courtroom and many broke down in tears upon hearing the descriptions of their loved ones, while some embraced and others left the room.

Breivik himself however showed no emotion upon hearing details about his victims, as has been the case throughout his trial.

The 33-year-old confessed killer remained stony-faced and aloof as he looked through a folder in front of him with pictures of the dead as they were found on Utøya, and again as he watched the coroner show on a life-size doll how bullets penetrated each body.

The list of Breivik’s victims on Utøya is so long that it is expected to take all of next week to go through all the post-mortem reports.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Left Party Helped Kids ‘Hit Politicians in the Face’

Sweden’s Left Party has come in for criticism for allowing young children to take whacks at the faces of centre-right government ministers which were plastered on a piñata at the party’s recent May 1st festivities.

The piñata was included among the children’s games featured at the Left Party’s May Day celebrations in Slottsparken in central Malmö and featured the faces of prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and finance minister Anders Borg of the Moderate Party, as well as a smiling portrait of Centre Party leader and enterprise minister Annie Lööf.

The children were then rewarded for repeatedly hitting the politicians in the face by a sizeable supply of candy which came then came spilling out of the political piñata.

“It was something fun that the kids enjoyed,” arranger Patrik Strand told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “I don’t think children will grow up and hit Annie Lööf in the head. It would be a shame if they did.”

However, Lööf and a number of other centre-right politicians didn’t share Strand’s light-hearted attitude toward the child-sized episode of political violence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Homes Will be Built for Impoverished Journalists

Work to begin soon on 350 homes

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 3 — The Algerian government will build homes for those journalists who are in need of one and have economic difficulties. The Minister of Communication Nacer Nehal announced this in occasion of the International day for the Freedom of Press, Le Temps D’Algerie reported.

The first project is to start very soon and will see the building of the first group of 350 homes “for the benefit of journalists who live in precarious and dishonourable conditions.” The agreement is part of a plan between the Ministry of Communication and of the Habitat and Urban Ministry in favour of journalists. The plan also received support from the General Union of Algerian workers, the most important trade union in the country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Erdogan Lashes Out at S&P Over Rating on Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ISTANBUL, MAY 3 — Turkish prime minister on Thursday rubbished Standard & Poor’s over its revision of outlook on Turkey from positive to stable, as Anatolia news agency reported. “This is totally an ideological decision. No one would buy that. And we shall declare that we do not recognize you any more as a credit rating agency,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in an Istanbul fashion conference. S&P said Tuesday it cut outlook on Turkey’s long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings to stable from positive due to “less-buoyant external demand and worsening terms of trade (which) could inhibit Turkey’s economic rebalancing.” “This is absolute nonsense even as you upgrade (ratings on) Greece which still teeters on the edge of bankruptcy,” Erdogan said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kuwait Parliament Approves Death Penalty for Insulting God

Kuwait’s parliament approved a law imposing the death penalty on any Muslim who insults God, his prophets, messengers, Prophet Mohammad’s wives or the Koran, in any form of expression, if they don’t repent.

The bill, which adds articles to Kuwait’s penal code, was passed today by 40 lawmakers, including all Cabinet ministers present, and rejected by five Shiite Muslims as well as one liberal lawmaker.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

MENA: Wealth Beats Democracy, Changing Priorities

Youth Survey shows new expectations 1 year after Arab Spring

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Less politics and more career: one year after the Arab Spring lturned on a spotlight on the social and political situation in the Middle East, the priorities of young people in the Arab world have shifted from a desire for democracy to a focus on personal wealth and wellbeing, supported by an unchanged optimism for a better future. This picture is sketched in the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2012, which surveys the situation in 12 Arab countries in the Gulf region, the East and North Africa. Seventy-two of the interviewees agree that, following the events of the Arab Spring, the region is better off today and that expectations for the future are positive, although the figure is the average of a range from 81% in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to 46% in Lebanon. A fair wage (82%) and home ownership (65%) have become more important than living in a democratic country, which 58% see as “very important”, ten points less than one year ago. Also in this case there are great differences between the countries: just 46% of respondents in Iraq see democracy as an important value (last year 91%), while the percentages in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are respectively 75, 68 and 67%.

Last year’s political events have changed most governments in the region, and 72% of young people find their governments more credible now despite the fact that 54% say that corruption is still one of the most serious challenges. But the young Arabs do not expect further great changes after the revolution: 59% believe that the popular uprising has come to an end, though 41% are still concerned about “social unrest”. The significant and sudden changes of the past months have also struck another chord: traditional values. Sixty-five percent of young Arabs in fact see these values as an important heritage that must be protected (over 80% in the previous survey), while supporters of ‘modern’ values have doubled from 17% in 2011 to 35% this year. Views on foreign countries have also changed. America, currently the ideal country for 31% of young people, loses points, while France rises with 46%. The highest valued country for its quality of life in the Middle East is the UAE (40%), followed by Turkey (28%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Student Massacre Due to Libyan and Turkish Infiltrators, Says Apostolic Vicar in Alep

Mgr Giuseppe Nazaro provides background details to the army assault against the university, which left four people dead. For months, foreign militants have been trying to influence students at Alep university in order to bring violence to the city; the only one spared so far from the fight between rebels and the regime. In his view, the media are manipulated.

Alep (AsiaNews) — “Alep University is full of Libyan and Turkish infiltrators who have been trying to sway young Syrians to their cause. These people are armed and they provoked the army, which responded with force,” said Mgr Giuseppe Nazaro, apostolic vicar in Alep, who spoke to AsiaNews about the assault by security forces against the university residences that claimed the lives of four students.

The Franciscan prelate lives only 150 metres from the university and saw Wednesday’s assault with his own eyes after more than 1,500 students demonstrated against the regime. According to eyewitness accounts, soldiers chased the students into the university residences and arrested more than 200 people. To avoid further incidents, the authorities shut down the university until the end of the academic year.

“Alep is the only city that did not rise against Assad,” the bishop said. “There have been some demonstrations in the past few months, but people do not want violence.”

“Islamic militants have tried to push young people to engage in inconsiderate and dangerous behaviour in order to create a climate of violence and chaos in our city. This threatens everyone,” Mgr Nazaro explained.

Since the clashes two days ago, Alep has lived in an atmosphere of tension and violence.

More than 40,000 students from around the country attend the city’s university. Many of them cannot go home because of the war.

Convents and parish churches have opened their doors to hundreds of them. “Our residence has given shelter to 20 women, both Christian and Muslim, who fled the university residences after the army’s raid. They joined another 40 female students who live in our dormitory.”

Sadly, the situation is getting out of hand, according to the apostolic vicar. Turkey, Libya and other Muslim countries are sending militants and weapons to sustain the war against Assad. This has created an impossible situation for a ceasefire and reconciliation.

“Ordinary people are paying the price. Sooner or later, they will not be able to stand this climate of violence and the economic crisis,” the prelate added.

Most reports on Western media are false or fabricated, he contends. “Newspapers and news agencies rely only on reports from al Jazeera and other Arab media funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are the main backers of Syrian rebels. Their only interest is to create chaos until the Assad regime falls.”

After a year of fighting, the death toll from the war between the Syrian regime and the Free Syrian Army now stands at 9,000 with tens of thousands of people displaced, UN sources report.

Instead, Syrian authorities say that 3,838 people are dead as a result of the violence, 2,493 civilians and 1,345 soldiers and security forces personnel.

Meanwhile, the UN observer mission in Syria continues its work after a ceasefire between the regime and the rebels came into effect on 12 April.

Yesterday, as violence continues across the country despite the truce, Gen Mood Robert, head of the UN mission, called on Syrian forces to be the first to cease their fire.

Still, the presence of observers is having a positive effect, this according to Neeraj Singh, UN mission spokesman in Damascus. The government, he said, is in fact giving the 50 UN monitors a certain leeway to move around.

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

Culture Wars

First Activist Convicted Under Russian ‘Anti Gay’ Law

A Saint Petersburg court on Friday fined a prominent gay rights activist for “propaganda of homosexuality” to minors, in its first conviction under a controversial new city law.

Nikolai Alexeyev, the organiser of numerous unsanctioned gay pride marches in Moscow, was fined 5,000 rubles ($169) under a new city law that bans propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia to minors, he told AFP.

The judge “opened a Pandora’s box” by issuing the first such ruling, he said, adding that he will appeal and plans to contest the law at the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

“I think it will be viewed very negatively and it will show the absurdity of what’s going on in 21st-century Saint Petersburg,” he said, calling the law “absolutely arbitrary.” Alexeyev, 34, a lawyer, was detained for holding up a banner outside the city hall that read “Homosexuality is not perverted. What’s perverted is hockey on grass and ballet on ice,” a quote from a Soviet film star.

He said that he was charged with propaganda to minors even though there were no children around him, with police gathering witness statements from people sitting in a nearby park who had not even seen his poster.

Several other activists have also been charged in the city under the law, but Alexeyev was the first to be sentenced, with the judge asked to rule solely on that charge in an apparent test case.

The law equates “propaganda” of homosexuality and paedophilia, although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, while paedophilia is a crime.

Similar local laws outlawing gay propaganda among minors have already been approved and put into force in the regions of Ryazan and Kostroma outside Moscow and Arkhangelsk in the Far North.

Regional deputies have also submitted a draft law to the federal State Duma parliament that if voted in, would make the offence punishable nationwide.

The law was signed into law in March in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city of 4.8 million people, after it was proposed by a legislator from the ruling United Russia party. It has been widely criticised because its vague wording allows police to crack down on almost any gay rights event and has drawn ire from gay rights supporters internationally.

The controversy has also caused diplomatic tensions: the US State Department in February said it was deeply concerned the bill would restrict freedom of assembly for gays. American pop singer Madonna, who has a huge gay following, promised to raise the issue at her concert in the city in August.

“I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity,” she wrote on her Facebook page in March, while vowing not to cancel the date, despite pressure from some activists…

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