Archive | April 25th, 2014

North Korea Says It Detained a U.S. Tourist

NOVANEWS

By 

NYT

SEOUL, South Korea — An American tourist who said he was seeking shelter in North Korea has been detained there for more than two weeks and is being held on charges of a “gross violation of its legal order,” the country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Friday.

The announcement was made late Friday, while President Obama was in South Korea on a state visit.

The news agency said the American, identified as Miller Matthew Todd, 24, was being held for his “rash behavior” while passing through customs after his arrival in North Korea on April 10. According to the report, the American tore his tourist visa, shouting that he entered the North “after choosing it as a shelter.”

“Our related agencies consider his behavior a serious matter and an investigation is underway,” the news agency said.

It is unclear if the North Koreans were rendering the man’s name in a Korean fashion, with the surname first. The country often delays its announcements of detentions, and it is possible that the news was timed to coincide with Mr. Obama’s trip.

The report came just hours after the summit meeting between Mr. Obama and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye, in Seoul. The two leaders warned of the possibility of imposing more sanctions on the North amid signs that it might be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test.

The two leaders also agreed to put pressure on North Korea over human rights violations. Pyongyang has condemned such pressure from the outside as a plot to undermine its political system.

If confirmed, the detention of another American tourist could further complicate Washington’s efforts to handle North Korea’s growing nuclear ambitions.

Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said the United States was aware of the reports and had been in touch with Sweden, which acts on behalf of American interests in North Korea. “I don’t have anything more to share with you,” she added.

North Korea is still holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on accusations of trying to use religion to undermine the North Korean government.

The cloistered country has rejected offers by Robert King, Washington’s special envoy for North Korean human rights, to visit Pyongyang to discuss Mr. Bae’s release. North Korea has also been holding a South Korean missionary named Kim Jong-uk on a similar charge to Mr. Bae’s since October.

Another American who entered the North on a tourist visa, Merrill Newman of Palo Alto, Calif., was released last year after more than a month of captivity. North Korea cited Mr. Newman’s age, 85 at the time, as a reason for releasing him. The North had accused him of war crimes after learning that Mr. Newman, a veteran of the Korean War, had helped train anti-Communist guerrillas during the war, working with a unit that was particularly despised by North Korea for its daring raids on its territory.

If the man who was detained two weeks ago meant to defect, he would be a rarity. In 1962, Pfc. James Dresnok, who was stationed in South Korea, walked across the demilitarized zone in broad daylight. A court-martial for forging a pass had been looming at the time he defected.

Once in the North, he joined Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier, who had defected three months earlier. In December 1963, Specialist Jerry Wayne Parrish also defected, and then Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins in January 1965. Together, the four became propaganda heroes for the North.

Posted in USA, North KoreaComments Off on North Korea Says It Detained a U.S. Tourist

Religious Minorities Still Waiting for a New Day in Egypt

NOVANEWS
By 

 NY TIMES

Student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood blocked a road in Cairo on Wednesday.CreditAly Hazzaa/El Shorouk Newspaper, via Associated Press

CAIRO — The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer.

Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades.

Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion. A panel of Muslim scholars has cited authority granted under the new military-backed Constitution to block screenings of the Hollywood blockbuster “Noah” because it violates an Islamic prohibition against depictions of the prophets.

The military leader behind the takeover, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, often appeals to the Muslim majority in a language of shared piety that recalls Anwar el-Sadat, nicknamed the believer president, who invoked religious authority to bolster his legitimacy and inscribed into the Constitution the principles of Islamic law.

Mr. Sisi has listened attentively as Muslim clerics allied with him have offered religious justifications for violence against his Islamist opponents. A prominent Muslim scholar compared him and his security chief to Moses and Aaron. The new government has tightened its grip on mosques, pushing imams to follow state-approved sermons.

Many Copts and other religious minorities cheered the military takeover because they feared the Muslim Brotherhood, a religiously exclusive movement whose leaders have a history of denigrating non-Muslims. The military authorities shut down ultraconservative Islamist satellite networks that had stigmatized Christians or Shiite Muslims. And the military sponsored constitutional revisions that scaled back the references to Islamic traditions and declared with new directness that religious freedom was now absolute.

In some ways, however, sectarian tensions have worsened: Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have faced violence and scapegoating from Islamists angry about the church’s support for the takeover. Prosecutors and police officers — almost all in their jobs long before Mr. Morsi took office — have done little to protect the Christians or other religious minorities, rights advocates say.

“Nothing has really changed,” said Kameel Kamel, a Coptic Christian in the southern city of Asyut whose son Bishoy, 26, was jailed under Mr. Morsi on charges of posting blasphemy on Facebook.

Mr. Kamel hoped that the end of Islamist rule would free his son, and last November the family was elated when an appeals court ordered a retrial.

But five months later, his son is still behind bars. Perhaps fearful of the mob that gathered outside court for the younger Mr. Kamel’s first hearing, the prosecutors have ignored court deadlines for his release or retrial. “My hopes were disappointed,” the father said. Prosecutors declined to comment.

Despite its sweeping language, the revised Constitution still limits religious freedom to Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews. It also stipulates that Parliament should regulate crimes like contempt of religion.

Christians and religious dissenters may “feel better psychologically” because the Islamists have been pushed underground, said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. But the “culture of sectarianism” persists in practice, he said.

The dispute over “Noah,” a film about the epic flood common to the Bible and the Quran, is a high-profile test. Early last month, a panel of Muslim scholars issued a statement about the film that began by pointing out that the revised Constitution not only continued to incorporate the principles of Islamic law, but also makes their institute, Al Azhar, the exclusive authority on interpreting Islam.

“Noah,” the scholars declared, is “religiously prohibited” as “a clear violation of the principles of Islamic Shariah.”

The culture minister fired back that the decision was up to the censorship board. But it has not yet authorized the film, and this month the board and the Culture Ministry declined to comment.

In 2012, Karam Saber, the author of a short-story collection, “Where Is God?,” was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for blasphemy, after complaints by ultraconservative sheikhs in the city of Beni Suef.

But after the military takeover, an appeals court solicited a review of the book by a committee of Azhar scholars. Last month, the court upheld the sentence.

“Embroiling religious institutions in cases of opinion and creativity is a characteristic of religious tyranny,” the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information complained in a statement about the case.

In the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, prosecutors have detained a college student, Sherif Gaber, since last fall on allegations that he started a Facebook page for atheists. When open atheism in Alexandria was discussed on a talk show, the city’s security chief promised to crack down there as well.

Shiite Muslims — considered heretics by many in Egypt’s Sunni Muslim majority — have also been a target “in the hunting of religious minorities,” said Mr. Ibrahim, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. One was arrested while trying to visit the landmark Hussein Mosque on a Shiite holy day. Convicted of blasphemy, he was sentenced to five years in prison. The police are now holding two more Shiites in detention in the northern province of Dakahleya, where they are under investigation for similar charges, Mr. Ibrahim said.

Mr. Sisi, a former general who stepped down to run for president, often portrays himself as the champion of a benign understanding of Islam, accusing his Islamist opponents of twisting the faith.

“Islam has never been like this,” Mr. Sisi said while addressing his fellow Muslims in a televised speech in August. “It has never scared anybody or terrified anybody, regardless of whether the person it is addressing is good or bad.”

But the clerics closest to Mr. Sisi can be harsh toward those they deem bad Muslims.

Last month, for example, state television cameras followed Mr. Sisi to a military installation for a Friday Prayer service led by Sheikh Ali Gomaa, a former mufti and a close Sisi ally. During the broadcast, Sheikh Gomaa referred indirectly but unmistakably to Mr. Sisi’s Islamist opponents as a “faction of hypocrites” who were “plotting schemes against the Muslims.” He lauded the soldiers and police officers who fought such “terrorists.”

“Blessed are those who kill them, as well as those whom they kill,” Sheikh Gomaa declared. The cameras caught Mr. Sisi listening attentively.

Using religion to legitimize the “coup leaders” and undermine their opponents has become extensive, said Emad Shahin, a respected political scientist who left Egypt because the new government charged him with conspiring against it.

But the complaints about continued sectarianism have not deterred church leaders from firmly supporting Mr. Sisi as their protector against worse treatment by the Muslim majority.

The Coptic pope, Tawadros II, has hailed Mr. Sisi as overwhelmingly popular, “a competent patriot” on “an arduous mission,” and “the one who rescued Egypt.”

Over Easter weekend, Mr. Sisi made a private visit to the pope at the main cathedral but, unlike a rival presidential candidate, declined to attend mass. The mass nonetheless erupted into prolonged applause at the mention of Mr. Sisi’s name, state news media reported.

The pope’s vocal support recalled his predecessor’s endorsements of former President Hosni Mubarak, and some Copts have complained that Pope Tawadros appears to have forgotten the pledges he made two years ago that he would get the church out of partisan politics. “What is happening now is a total contradiction,” said Mina Fayek, a Coptic activist and blogger. “People are very depressed.”

Michael Hanna, an Egyptian-American scholar at the Century Foundation and a Copt, called the pope’s statements “stupid and myopic,” arguing that they perpetuated an intermingling of religion and politics that hurts minorities.

But Yousef Sidhoum, the editor of a Coptic newspaper, said it was natural that church leaders felt both sympathy and gratitude for Mr. Sisi. So do most Egyptians, Mr. Sidhoum said.

Posted in EgyptComments Off on Religious Minorities Still Waiting for a New Day in Egypt

Collapse of Peace Talks Gives Israel an Easy Exit, but Also Carries Risks

NOVANEWS
By 
 NYT 

JERUSALEM — Less than a month ago, Israel was in Secretary of State John Kerry’s cross hairs, accused of sabotaging the peace process he had championed by continuing construction in West Bank settlements andbalking on a promise to release long-serving Palestinian prisoners. But when Israel suspended the stalemated negotiations on Thursday, it did so with Washington’s tacit blessing, providing a fractured government not fully committed to peace a low-risk exit strategy.

Frustrated by the impasse in the peace talks, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has recently played a variety of cards in hopes of improving his position in the negotiating room and on the street. He took steps to join 15 international conventions, threatened to dissolve his government and, finally, made a deal this week with Hamas, the militant Islamic group that is widely reviled in the West.

The gambles drew repeated rebukes from Washington. If Mr. Abbas was trying to call Israel’s bluff and force it to yield concessions in the negotiating room, he may have unwittingly improved its hand instead.

Interactive Feature: Lines in the Sand

“He did a huge favor to Bibi,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, using the nickname of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “Since we are in this blame game now, it is easier for him to say, ‘This is not our fault, look at our potential partner.’ ” Mr. Abbas, Mr. Eiland added, “by his own behavior has pushed himself to be perceived as a very extreme person who will never be able to reach an agreement with us.”

The conundrum facing peacemakers now is that the reconciliation portends a Palestinian leadership, for the first time in years, able to speak in one voice and at least theoretically better positioned to win support for a deal with Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But Israel and the West’s shunning of Hamas makes any effort to bridge that divide — and possibly moderate Hamas’s positions — a potential poison pill.

In the short term, Mr. Netanyahu avoided a crisis in his governing coalition, whose various members had vowed to quit if he released more prisoners, froze settlement construction or walked away from the talks while any sliver of hope remained for progress. The deal with Hamas, which the United States and Europe also call a terrorist organization, allowed him to at least temporarily avoid international wrath, and he made the rounds of Western television networks Thursday looking the victim.

But the collapse of negotiations that Mr. Kerry and others called the last chance for a two-state solution to the intractable conflict leaves Israel in a precarious position. The talks helped contain violence in the West Bank and hold back a mounting European boycott of Israeli goods and institutions.

Now Mr. Netanyahu faces a strengthened Palestinian president free to leverage his United Nations observer-state status to access more international institutions, including courts in which Israel could face war crimes charges. The Palestinian Authority may well collapse if the United States withdraws financial aid in response to such moves as well as the reconciliation with Hamas, leaving Israel responsible for its residents and sharpening criticism of its occupation.

Absent a peace process, the threat of a binational state in which Arabs could soon outnumber Jews grows more potent.

“I don’t think the continuation of the status quo is an Israeli interest,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired general at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“Netanyahu went to these negotiations not because he expected there would be results — he wanted release from potential pressure from the Americans and the Europeans,” Mr. Brom added. “He got this release for the last nine months. Now he will have to think about a new trick.”

Likewise, President Abbas. His embrace of Hamas is more pressure tactic than strategy shift, many Palestinian analysts said, and he figures that the deal will fall apart, as have three similar accords signed since the P.L.O.-Hamas schism started seven years ago after a bloody battle in Gaza. Now, Mr. Abbas has five weeks to follow through with a government of so-called technocrats unaffiliated with any faction, and elections six months later.

Left unsaid in this week’s agreement is how Hamas and Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority, would combine their security services in the West Bank and Gaza and otherwise redraw governance of the territories.

How will Hamas handle Mr. Abbas’s demands that the new government recognize Israel and renounce violence, tenets it rejects? Who will control the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt? Is either party really ready to face its frustrated public in long-overdue balloting?

“It will be difficult for him to press Hamas on these issues,” Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian political scientist, said of Mr. Abbas. “Now reconciliation becomes his primary gain, and although he would still have to show the international community that he is still for peace, I don’t think he will be trying to do it in a manner that forces Hamas to make a choice.”

There are also regional factors to consider: Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, key Palestinian allies, all see the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s patron, as a threat in their battle for regional hegemony against the Iran-led Shiite block.

“What you witness is realpolitik of the region as well as realpolitik of both parties,” said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. “They did not stand up as new heroes in the region but real politicians with a contract relationship for a transitional phase pending on many conditions and lots of contradictions.”

While Mr. Netanyahu pledged Thursday that he would never negotiate with any government “backed by Hamas,” Palestinian leaders and some left-leaning Israeli politicians and analysts argued that reconciliation was a critical pathway to peace. They said Mr. Netanyahu was being hypocritical because his own government includes extremists who oppose the establishment of any Palestinian state, and because it had said the P.L.O.-Hamas rift raised questions about Mr. Abbas’s ability to deliver Gaza, controlled by Hamas, for a potential deal.

But Palestinian analysts said the future path was more likely through demonstrations, boycotts and the United Nations than through yet another round of American-brokered talks with Israel.

“If this reconciliation works — and I’m hoping it does, though I’m pessimistic — then it can be an opportunity for Palestinians to regroup and think what the next steps will be and what the right strategy will be,” said Diana Buttu, a former adviser to the P.L.O. “I’m pretty confident the next steps will not be negotiations.”

Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the developments of recent days “may actually give everyone quite an elegant way out.” Mr. Netanyahu avoided a domestic political crisis, Mr. Abbas gained legitimacy with Palestinians who far prefer reconciliation to negotiations, and “it’s much more convenient for the Americans to pull back under these circumstances than under the circumstances where they simply couldn’t find a formula,” he said.

“The negotiations as constructed had, time and again, proved that they were not up to the task of doing anything positive,” Mr. Levy added. “So the argument that something has been lost by not continuing these same negotiations does not pass the laugh test.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Collapse of Peace Talks Gives Israel an Easy Exit, but Also Carries Risks

Religious Minorities Still Waiting for a New Day in Egypt

NOVANEWS
By 

.New York Time 

25 April, 2014

Student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood blocked a road in Cairo on Wednesday.CreditAly Hazzaa/El Shorouk Newspaper, via Associated Press

CAIRO — The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer.

Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades.

Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion. A panel of Muslim scholars has cited authority granted under the new military-backed Constitution to block screenings of the Hollywood blockbuster “Noah” because it violates an Islamic prohibition against depictions of the prophets.

The military leader behind the takeover, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, often appeals to the Muslim majority in a language of shared piety that recalls Anwar el-Sadat, nicknamed the believer president, who invoked religious authority to bolster his legitimacy and inscribed into the Constitution the principles of Islamic law.

Mr. Sisi has listened attentively as Muslim clerics allied with him have offered religious justifications for violence against his Islamist opponents. A prominent Muslim scholar compared him and his security chief to Moses and Aaron. The new government has tightened its grip on mosques, pushing imams to follow state-approved sermons.

Many Copts and other religious minorities cheered the military takeover because they feared the Muslim Brotherhood, a religiously exclusive movement whose leaders have a history of denigrating non-Muslims. The military authorities shut down ultraconservative Islamist satellite networks that had stigmatized Christians or Shiite Muslims. And the military sponsored constitutional revisions that scaled back the references to Islamic traditions and declared with new directness that religious freedom was now absolute.

In some ways, however, sectarian tensions have worsened: Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, have faced violence and scapegoating from Islamists angry about the church’s support for the takeover. Prosecutors and police officers — almost all in their jobs long before Mr. Morsi took office — have done little to protect the Christians or other religious minorities, rights advocates say.

“Nothing has really changed,” said Kameel Kamel, a Coptic Christian in the southern city of Asyut whose son Bishoy, 26, was jailed under Mr. Morsi on charges of posting blasphemy on Facebook.

Mr. Kamel hoped that the end of Islamist rule would free his son, and last November the family was elated when an appeals court ordered a retrial.

But five months later, his son is still behind bars. Perhaps fearful of the mob that gathered outside court for the younger Mr. Kamel’s first hearing, the prosecutors have ignored court deadlines for his release or retrial. “My hopes were disappointed,” the father said. Prosecutors declined to comment.

Despite its sweeping language, the revised Constitution still limits religious freedom to Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews. It also stipulates that Parliament should regulate crimes like contempt of religion.

Christians and religious dissenters may “feel better psychologically” because the Islamists have been pushed underground, said Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. But the “culture of sectarianism” persists in practice, he said.

The dispute over “Noah,” a film about the epic flood common to the Bible and the Quran, is a high-profile test. Early last month, a panel of Muslim scholars issued a statement about the film that began by pointing out that the revised Constitution not only continued to incorporate the principles of Islamic law, but also makes their institute, Al Azhar, the exclusive authority on interpreting Islam.

“Noah,” the scholars declared, is “religiously prohibited” as “a clear violation of the principles of Islamic Shariah.”

The culture minister fired back that the decision was up to the censorship board. But it has not yet authorized the film, and this month the board and the Culture Ministry declined to comment.

In 2012, Karam Saber, the author of a short-story collection, “Where Is God?,” was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for blasphemy, after complaints by ultraconservative sheikhs in the city of Beni Suef.

But after the military takeover, an appeals court solicited a review of the book by a committee of Azhar scholars. Last month, the court upheld the sentence.

“Embroiling religious institutions in cases of opinion and creativity is a characteristic of religious tyranny,” the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information complained in a statement about the case.

In the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, prosecutors have detained a college student, Sherif Gaber, since last fall on allegations that he started a Facebook page for atheists. When open atheism in Alexandria was discussed on a talk show, the city’s security chief promised to crack down there as well.

Shiite Muslims — considered heretics by many in Egypt’s Sunni Muslim majority — have also been a target “in the hunting of religious minorities,” said Mr. Ibrahim, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. One was arrested while trying to visit the landmark Hussein Mosque on a Shiite holy day. Convicted of blasphemy, he was sentenced to five years in prison. The police are now holding two more Shiites in detention in the northern province of Dakahleya, where they are under investigation for similar charges, Mr. Ibrahim said.

Mr. Sisi, a former general who stepped down to run for president, often portrays himself as the champion of a benign understanding of Islam, accusing his Islamist opponents of twisting the faith.

“Islam has never been like this,” Mr. Sisi said while addressing his fellow Muslims in a televised speech in August. “It has never scared anybody or terrified anybody, regardless of whether the person it is addressing is good or bad.”

But the clerics closest to Mr. Sisi can be harsh toward those they deem bad Muslims.

Last month, for example, state television cameras followed Mr. Sisi to a military installation for a Friday Prayer service led by Sheikh Ali Gomaa, a former mufti and a close Sisi ally. During the broadcast, Sheikh Gomaa referred indirectly but unmistakably to Mr. Sisi’s Islamist opponents as a “faction of hypocrites” who were “plotting schemes against the Muslims.” He lauded the soldiers and police officers who fought such “terrorists.”

“Blessed are those who kill them, as well as those whom they kill,” Sheikh Gomaa declared. The cameras caught Mr. Sisi listening attentively.

Using religion to legitimize the “coup leaders” and undermine their opponents has become extensive, said Emad Shahin, a respected political scientist who left Egypt because the new government charged him with conspiring against it.

But the complaints about continued sectarianism have not deterred church leaders from firmly supporting Mr. Sisi as their protector against worse treatment by the Muslim majority.

The Coptic pope, Tawadros II, has hailed Mr. Sisi as overwhelmingly popular, “a competent patriot” on “an arduous mission,” and “the one who rescued Egypt.”

Over Easter weekend, Mr. Sisi made a private visit to the pope at the main cathedral but, unlike a rival presidential candidate, declined to attend mass. The mass nonetheless erupted into prolonged applause at the mention of Mr. Sisi’s name, state news media reported.

The pope’s vocal support recalled his predecessor’s endorsements of former President Hosni Mubarak, and some Copts have complained that Pope Tawadros appears to have forgotten the pledges he made two years ago that he would get the church out of partisan politics. “What is happening now is a total contradiction,” said Mina Fayek, a Coptic activist and blogger. “People are very depressed.”

Michael Hanna, an Egyptian-American scholar at the Century Foundation and a Copt, called the pope’s statements “stupid and myopic,” arguing that they perpetuated an intermingling of religion and politics that hurts minorities.

But Yousef Sidhoum, the editor of a Coptic newspaper, said it was natural that church leaders felt both sympathy and gratitude for Mr. Sisi. So do most Egyptians, Mr. Sidhoum said.

Posted in EgyptComments Off on Religious Minorities Still Waiting for a New Day in Egypt

Secretary of State requests use of secret courts for first time in Northern Ireland civil cases

NOVANEWS
The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast

The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast / Press Eye
By Barry McCaffrey

LAWYERS for the Secretary of State are to make a legal application for a court case in Northern Ireland to be held in secret for the first time.

However the move has raised concerns that potentially large numbers of Troubles-related cases involving the state and its intelligence services could be held behind closed doors.

The Detail has learned that lawyers for Theresa Villiers are to ask the High Court in Belfast to impose Closed Material Procedure (CMP) restrictions in a legal case being taken by a former dissident republican prisoner who is suing the Secretary of State for unlawful detention.

Earlier this month lawyers acting for Ms Villiers put solicitors acting for the former dissident inmate on notice that they would be making a legal application to the High Court to imposeCMP measures to ensure that the lawsuit would be held behind closed doors.

Closed Material Procedure (CMP) restrictions allow government, police or intelligence agencies to request that a court case be held in secret and without the active participation of the opposing legal counsel and their client.

If approved, it will be the first time the secret court procedures, which were only introduced in June 2013, have been used in Northern Ireland.

Crucially the Justice and Security Act (2013) introduced last summer extended the use of secret courts to include civil hearings.

Legal experts believe that the use of secret court hearings could impact adversely on Northern Ireland, where there are currently a large number of civil cases pending against the government, PSNI, British army and the security services for alleged collusion and human rights abuses.

There was controversy last month after it was revealed that Metropolitan Police Chief, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, had attempted to use a secret court hearing to force a journalist to hand over correspondence with two SAS soldiers, who had allegedly been providing information to him.

The application for a secret hearing was rejected.

Read judgement here

It is also known that in May 2013 the Home Office requested the use of secret court procedures to defend a lawsuit being taken by IRA informer Martin Gartland, who alleged that he was denied MI5 support after being shot by IRA gunmen in the north of England in July 1999.

However it is the restrictive measures imposed in CMP cases which have caused most concern about its use in civil cases in Northern Ireland.

Under the secret court legislation neither the person who the CMP is being used against, or their lawyers, are permitted to have any active part in the closed door proceedings.

Instead a Special Advocate, who has been security vetted, will be appointed to represent him.

However, the Special Advocate is not allowed to communicate or take instructions from the client once any sensitive material has been disclosed to the court.

The individual who the CMP restrictions relate to is not allowed access to, or the right to challenge, the intelligence evidence which the state agencies put before the court against them.

CMP defendants may win or lose a case but because of the restrictive nature of evidence in the closed hearing cases judges are not obliged to give reasons for their decisions.

Security agencies want to use CMP measures to stop sensitive intelligence from being disclosed

Security agencies want to use CMP measures to stop sensitive intelligence from being disclosed

The UK government has defended the use of closed material hearings, stating that they allow cases involving national security issues to be heard rather than being aborted because intelligence agencies are not prepared to share sensitive evidence in open court.

However critics argue that the use of the secret court system in civil cases threatens the fundamental principles of open and natural justice.

CMP measures were previously only used during the last decade in anti-terror cases but can now be used by government agencies in civil cases.

Among those who have criticised the secret court measures are 57 of the Special Advocates, who are appointed to represent CMP defendants in the secret hearings.

London barrister, Martin Chamberlain QC, has been appointed by the courts as a Special Advocate in more than a dozen CMP cases over the last decade.

While the legal expert says that state agencies have the right to protect issues of national security he still has serious concerns over the use of CMP measures.

“I do not think they can always be described as fair,” he said.

“Whenever I have acted as a Special Advocate, I have done my best to try to undermine the government’s case – and sometimes I have succeeded – but not often.

“That is in part because, after seeing the closed material, I am prohibited from speaking to my client.

“If the state alleges that my client met a terrorist at a particular time, I cannot ask him whether he was there and if so, why.

“So I will never know if he had an alibi or an innocent explanation for the meeting; and nor will the court.

“The task of the Special Advocate was described by the late Lord Bingham, the internationally respected Lord Chief Justice and senior Law Lord, as like ‘taking blind shots at a hidden target’.”

In 2011, Northern Ireland’s former Lord Chief Justice and current Supreme Court Law Lord, Brian Kerr, expressed concerns about the use of CMP measures to prevent evidence of the state’s alleged involvement in torture from being made public.

“Evidence which has been insulated from challenge may positively mislead.

“It is precisely because of this that the right to know the case that one’s opponent makes and to have the opportunity to challenge it occupies such a central place in the concept of a fair trial.”

Read full judgement here.

With the Secretary of State expected to make the first application for a Closed Material Procedure (CMP) within weeks, a Northern Ireland Office spokesman defended the state’s right to use secret court proceedings to ensure the protection of national security issues stating:

“The government is strongly committed to open and transparent justice.

“However, sometimes justice cannot be fully delivered in open court because relevant material relating to national security is too sensitive to disclose.

“In such cases, the Justice and Security Act 2013 provided for closed proceedings in civil cases to allow proper consideration of all relevant material.

“Before an application for CMP can be made, the Secretary of State must consider making a claim for Public Interest Immunity (PII) in respect of the sensitive material.

“Having done so, a CMP application can be made and will be heard in court. The decision about whether to allow a CMP is made by the judge.”

Traditionally the secretary of state has used Public-interest immunity (PII) certificates to allow security agencies the right not to disclose evidence to the courts where it is judged that disclosure would be damaging to the public interest.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who represents the former dissident prisoner, said he would oppose any attempt to impose CMP restrictions on his client’s lawsuit.

“There is a real concern that this draconian measure will be used by state agencies in hundreds of civil cases in Northern Ireland in which the government is being sued for serious human rights abuses.

“We will strenuously oppose it – secret justice is no justice.

“We can’t have something akin to a medieval star chamber where the Secretary of State andNIO dictate what should be disclosed to the court.

“In this particular case our client had his licence revoked but still has yet to find out exactly what the basis of the revocation was.

“He had to take Judicial Review proceedings to secure his release from custody, and despite that, we are still in the dark about the nature of the evidence which had been used to detain him.

“We lodged civil proceedings to seek damages for that unlawful detention and we are now faced with an application that undermines completely the maxim that justice must be done, but not only that, must be seen to be done.”

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‘For me, Palestine is paradise’: Interview with Leila Khaled

NOVANEWS
From: Kia Ora Gaza

Leila Khaled with earlier photo of herselfFrank Barat talks to Leila Khaled, Palestinian icon and Chief of the Department of Refugees and Right of return in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Published in Le Mur A Des Oreilles (LMADO) – Conversations for Palestine, recorded 3 April 2014:

Frank Barat (LMADO): How are you Leila? What are you doing nowadays in Amman?
Leila Khaled: I am fine as long as I am a part of the struggle for freedom, for our right of return and for an independent State with Jerusalem as capital. I know it is not going to happen in the near future, but I am fighting nevertheless. Here in Amman, I am the chief of the department of refugees and Right of Return in thePopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.F.L.P).LMADO: You are a Palestinian refugee, one of six million. Do you still think that you will return one day? And what do you make of the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who are denied their most basic rights and yet, are sometimes criticized for trying to improve their lives in Lebanon as this might affect their right of return to Palestine?

LK: The Palestinians were distributed to different countries. Each country has had an impact on the people living there. Those in Lebanon, in the 70s and 80s, until 1982, were the ones that helped the armed struggle, that helped defend the revolution. Israel was attacking and invading all the time and occupying parts of the country as well. After 1982, the main mission of the Palestinians was to achieve their rights, their civil and social rights, which they are deprived of in Lebanon. This will enable them to be involved in the struggle for the right of return. The Palestinians in general take the Right of Return as a concept and as a culture. Any Palestinian will tell you that he fights for his social and civil rights, but this means that he is preparing himself for his return. The two are inseparable.LMADO: The question of the refugees, in the negotiations, has, in the last decade, become more and more obsolete, something that is no longer an inalienable right but something that can be negotiated. The same applies to the last round, the “Kerry negotiations”. What do you make of this? And what do you think is going to happen after April 29th when the negotiations are supposed to end?

LK: The PFLP and myself personally have been against the negotiations since 1991. The problem is that the two parties are sticking to their guns. The Israelis think that Palestine is the land for the Jews all over the world. The Palestinians are sure that the land belongs to them and that they were forced out in 1947/1948. When this conflict moves from one stage to the next the two sides are considered as even in their power but the fact is that we are not (this is just an illusion). The leadership chose to go for the Oslo accords, thinking that this was a step forward in achieving the main rights of the Palestinians. Some people believed this, but they discovered, after twenty years, that it was nonsense. It brought catastrophe on us. There are more settlements than ever, twice more than before Oslo, the number of settlers has doubled, more land is being confiscated, and, of course, the Wall has been built. The apartheid wall. Israel is an apartheid state. These negotiations, now, are meant to help Israel and not the Palestinians. We have already experienced what Israel means by negotiate. Israel never respects its promises, its obligations, and simply continues its project of making Palestinians’ lives hell. My party and I are against this last round of negotiations too, of course. Especially now. The Americans are supporting an Israeli project that will only help Israel. There was an agreement, sponsored by the Americans, which said that you had to stop settlements in the West Bank and that 104 prisoners should be released on three different dates. Now, the Israelis have said no, we will not abide by this agreement and we will not release the last batch of prisoners. By the way, those people who are released, are often put back in jail shortly after anyway. This is what the Israelis refer to as the rotating door policy. The politicians say that the prisoners should be released but they are then rearrested. Many of them are already back in jail. It is very clear from this that the Israelis are not ready to make peace with the Palestinians. They are also taking advantage of the fact that the Arabs are occupied with many other issues, and do not support the Palestinians. Nobody is therefore going to condemn Israel when they flout the agreements they sign.Also, what does Kerry want? What is his plan? Nobody knows. It’s all verbal. Nothing is written. The leadership should refuse what Kerry offers. By the way, Kerry did not go back to Ramallah with another offer. Which means that the Palestinian Authority (is going to use its second option and go back to the U.N Then, today, in the news, the US has again said that it will object to such a move. What does this all mean?

I do think that we need first to consider the nature of the State of Israel. Secondly, we have to understand more about their projects and plans. Thirdly, we know that the Israelis are much more powerful than us in some respects. But we are also powerful. It all depends on our people. We have the will to face the challenges that the Israelis are putting in front of us. There is an English saying that says: “When there is a will, there is a way”. We still believe that this is our right and that we have to struggle for it. We have struggled, we are struggling, and we will struggle. From one generation to another. Freedom needs strong people to go and fight for their dreams. That is why I do not think that there will be a settlement now. The Americans always want to prolong the negotiations. This will not help.

LMADO: If negotiations do not bring peace to the Palestinians, what will? What should the leadership do?

LK: Resist! That’s how you achieve your rights as a People. History has shown us that. No People achieved their freedom without a struggle. Where there is occupation, there is resistance. It is not a Palestinian invention. We are actually going to call for a conference to be held under the auspices of the U.N, just to implement the resolutions taken by this body on the Palestinian question. Resolution 194 calls on Israel to accept the return of the refugees. Fine, let’s put the U.N on the spot. Let’s have a conference reminding people of this. The problem is that the references to any negotiations that have taken place were drafted by the Americans, which we know are biased towards Israel.

LMADO: P.L.O stands for Palestine Liberation Organization. Do you think it has lost its true meaning? Bassam Shaka in 2008 told me that the P.L.O, before anything, needed to go back to its roots as a liberation movement.

LK: No liberation is achieved without resistance. My party has not changed. It has stuck to its original program. We are calling to escalate the resistance. People talk about popular resistance. It does not only mean demonstrations. Using arms is also popular. We have people who are ready to fight.LMADO: What does peaceful and non-violent resistance means for someone like yourself, who chose armed resistance as a mean for liberation?

LK: Resistance takes more than one face. It can be all kinds of resistance. Non violent and violent. I am ok with those who choose non-violence. We are not going to liberate our country by armed struggle only. Other kinds of resistance are necessary. The political one, diplomatic one, the non violent one. We need to use whatever we have got. For more than 10 years now, people have been demonstrating in Bil’in, in Nabi Saleh….protesting the wall and the annexation of the land. How is Israel dealing with it? Violence, tear gas, bombs… Do you think it is acceptable to have an army with a huge arsenal, against people holding banners? I am ok with using all means of resistance. We cannot say that non-violent resistance alone will achieve our rights. We are facing an apartheid State, Zionism as a movement, the Americans, and in general, the West, which supports Israel. When the balance of forces changes, then we can start thinking about negotiating.

LMADO: It is always easier to advocate for armed resistance when the general public knows who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. Your actions in 69 and 70 were about that, correct? To put Palestine on the map. Do you think the educational process of showing another face of Palestine, showing that the Palestinians have legitimacy and are in the right, has been done enough since the 70s?

LK: Let’s take the example of Vietnam. Or of Algeria and South Africa. People needed time to convince the whole world of the just cause of their struggle. It took time. In the end, the world realized that those who are oppressed have the right to resist the way they want to. Nobody can impose a form of resistance on us. We chose armed struggle. We did not achieve our goals. Then the intifada broke out and the whole world took us seriously. We gained the support of people all over the world. Still, we did not reach our goals because the leadership was not brave enough at that time to escalate the intifada, to take it to another level. Israel was ready to accept to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But our leadership failed us. The intifada was the choice of the people. If you go back to the beginning of the resistance and holding arms. It was a necessity for the Palestinians after 1967. We depended on the Arab countries to restore our homeland. But they failed us too. Israel occupied more of Palestine. So we decided to take our destiny into our hands. By waging an armed struggle. Nowadays people are waiting but they realize that these negotiations will get us nowhere. Our past experiences with Israel have shown us that they cannot be trusted. They do not respect their words. Threaten us all the time. Abu Mazen is not a partner for peace? Who is? Sharon? Netanyahu? This right-wing government? This is not a government, it is a gang, essentially, which represents the settlers, the fascists, the racists. The lie began last century. That this was the land of the Jews. The bible gave it to them. Is this democratic? The world in 1948 accepted this lie. God promised us the land! As if God was an estate agent. This is a colonial project. This is the main issue of the conflict.

LMADO: The struggle is about ending Israel’s settler colonial project, then, ending apartheid. What will happen, in your opinion, the day after? The day after victory? An Algerian like solution, or a South African one?

LK: We have always offered the more human solution. A place where everybody lives on an equal basis. Jewish, Muslims, I do not care about the religion of the person. I believe in the human being itself. Human beings can sit together and can decide together the future of this land. But I cannot accept that I do not have the right, now, to go back to my city. Like six million Palestinians. We are not allowed to go there. We are offering a human and democratic solution. Nobody can tell me that we cannot decide the fate of our country because we are refugees. What happened to us is a first in history, as far as I know. People being chased away from their homes and another people, coming from very far away, taking their places. The Israelis were citizens of other countries. Israel, thanks to various organizations, before 1948, built an army, Okay, but there was no society. They brought people from outside. Even now, there are huge contradictions in this country and this society. People come from different cultures, some do not even speak Hebrew. We do not want more blood, but are obliged to resist. We have the right to live in our homeland. When the Israelis realize that as long as they do not budge this conflict will be endless, they should accept our solution. Some Israelis have already understood that. That you cannot go on fighting forever. What for?

LMADO: Can you talk to us about the role of women in the resistance. And do you think your actions, the hijackings in 69 and 70, did more for Palestine, or for women around the world, or both?

LK: The hijackings were a tactic only. We wanted to release our prisoners and were obliged to make a very strong statement. We also had to ring a bell, for the whole world, that we the Palestinians are not only refugees. We are a people that has a political and a human goal. The world gave us tents, used- clothes and food. They built camps for us. But we were more than that. Nowadays there are plans to end the camps, because they are a witness of 1948. Women, are part of our people, they feel the same injustices. So they get involved. Women give life. So they feel the danger even more than men. When they are involved, they are more faithful to the revolution because they defend the lives of their children too. When I gave birth to two children, I became more and more convinced that I had to do my best to defend them and build a better future for them. I felt for women who had lost their children. So I think my actions had an impact on both, to answer your question. The popular front slogan was: “Men and Women together in the struggle for the liberation of our homeland”. The P.F.L.P implemented that by giving a place to women in the military. At the same time, women also played a big role in defending the interior front, the families. Thousands of Palestinian women are now responsible for their families. After all the wars, the massacres, the arrests, the killings by Israel, these women protected their families from being dispersed. Also, women are now educated, they work, they travel, go to university and so on. Before the revolution, it was not like that. Now it is. And it is a must. You can see that women are involved in many aspects of the struggle and society. Whether it is inside or outside Palestine.

LMADO: Lina Makboul who directed the film “Leila Khaled; Hijacker” implies in her last question in the film that your actions did more harm than anything to the Palestinian people. The film stops right after the question. What did you answer?

LK: She told me she did this for cinematic purposes. But I did not like that. The fact that people could not hear my answer. My answer was no, of course! My actions were my contribution to my people, to the struggle. We did not hurt anyone. We declared to the whole world that we are a people, living through an injustice, and that the world had to help us to reach our goal. I sat with Lina for hours and hours you know, telling her the whole story. She told me afterwards that Swedish TV only wanted the question.LMADO: Do you sometimes reflect on the past? What was done, what could have been done, what could have been done differently, when you see the current state of affairs? What went wrong?

LK: Recently my party has held its seventh conference and reviewed its positions. We then made a program to widen our relations with the progressive forces around the world, especially on the Arab level. We also decided to strengthen our interior structure. I also learned that I had to review my own positions, my own thinking. Every year, around December, I look back at the past year and then decide to do something for the coming year. This year, I decided to quit smoking, so I did.

LMADO: Mabruck!
LK: I made this decision and it was easy for me to implement it.

LMADO: Why has Palestine, in your opinion, become such a symbol for the solidarity movement?
LK: Palestine for me is Paradise. Religions talk about paradise. For me, Palestine is paradise. It deserves our sacrifices.

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Brendon O’Connell

NOVANEWS

http://www.isolatebutpreserve.blogspot.co.uk/
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The Jew Finklestein

NOVANEWS

(We are what we are…)

I began on this by coming across Ali Abunimah complaining about Norman Finkelstein hereAli is concerned that Norman is not helping his (Ali’s) claim to be the next Edward Said (you’re wasting your time, Ali)

The clip below is as much as I could embed but you can see the whole thing here (Finkelstein comes in at around 28 mins.)

Finkelstein is a lovely man, a courageous man, a man who seriously struggles to tell the truth. He’s brave, he’s witty, he’s articulate why, these days he’s almost cuddly but…., in the end Norman Finkelstein is and always will be…… the Jew Finkelstein .

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Zionist Puppet Ed Miliband: ‘Israel is the Jewish homeland’

NOVANEWS
 Ed Miliband: ‘Israel is the Jewish homeland’
From the Jewish Chronicle

By Marcus Dysch

Ed Miliband meets Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Flash90)

Labour leader Ed Miliband will travel to the Israeli town of Sderot today as he continues his tour of the country.

Mr Miliband described Israel as “the homeland for the Jewish people” during a meeting with Hebrew University of Jerusalem students on Thursday.

He also held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labour leader Isaac Herzog.

The hour-long question and answer session with students saw the leader of the opposition cover a wide range of issues including emphasising his personal connection to Israel, praising the country’s successes, and highlighting the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Recalling his first visit to Israel at the age of seven, Mr Miliband told the students: “The image in my mind from 37 years ago is of going to visit my grandmother’s house and seeing a photograph of somebody, and asking who it was, and my grandmother was very upset.

“I was taken out of the room and it was explained that it was my grandfather who was killed in the camps. And so I come here very conscious of my family’s history, and also with a deep sense of gratitude to Israel, which was a sanctuary for her from the most indescribable grief.”

Mr Miliband compared Israel’s economic progress to the economic challenges facing Britain and remarked on Israel’s “huge success story”.

He called for the current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians to continue, despite the “sensitive moment” facing the process.

The interim deal with Iran must be turned “into an agreement that can last and can work”, he said.

"No one should be under any illusions about the Iranian regime, and we are not. Everybody is absolutely clear and understands the deep concern there is in Israel about what the Iranian government has said about Israel and about its intentions. It isn't just Israel's concern; it isn't just a regional concern; it's a very significant global concern."

Mr Miliband also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where he wrote in the book of remembrance:

"I am incredibly moved and humbled to pay this visit.
"It reminds me of my own family  loss but also of the  suffering and carnage of so many Jews at the hand of the Nazis."

Mr Miliband is being accompanied by his wife, Justine, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber.

During the visit to Sderot he will see areas of the town which have been bombarded by terrorist rockets fired from Gaza.

He is also expected to meet family members who live close to Tel Aviv and on Saturday will travel to the West Bank for meetings with Palestinian leaders.

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Newly Sainted Popes John XXIII and John Paul II ‘Heroes’ to Jews

NOVANEWS

passion2

Helped End Centuries of Church’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

Forward.com

The late Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, who will be made saints on Sunday, did so much to end two millennia of Catholic anti-Semitism that a Jewish human rights group calls them “heroes to the Jewish people”.

Both pontiffs marked the world’s largest church in such varied ways that most Roman Catholics would probably list their pioneering respect for Jews, whom John Paul called “our beloved elder brothers” in faith, behind their other achievements.

But for a minority faith that suffered centuries of persecution, life in the ghettos and then the horrors of the Holocaust, the turnaround they achieved in Catholic-Jewish relations could rank as another miracle to their credit.

John is especially remembered for calling the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), whose landmark document “Nostra Aetate” (In Our Times) repudiated the 2,000-year-old concept of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus.

“Nostra Aetate ushered in amazing changes in Catholic-Jewish relations around the world, even if the degree to which it was internalised depended on whether Catholics and Jews lived side by side,” said Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Inter-religious Affairs of American Jewish Committee.

During his long reign from 1978 to 2005, John Paul became the first pope since ancient times to visit a synagogue. On a visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, he left a note saying he was “deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer.”

“It was a gesture that will never be forgotten,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the group that hailed the two new saints as heroes.

LONG HISTORY OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Christianity began as an offshoot of Judaism that became the main religion across Europe. It treated the tiny minority that did not follow Jesus with persecution, exclusion and expulsion.

During the Second World War, the public silence of Pope Pius XII about the Holocaust led to allegations – still vivid today – that he turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews. Defenders say Pius did all he could behind the scenes to help Jews.

At the same time, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli was using his wartime post as Vatican ambassador in Istanbul to run a network of nuns, diplomats and other people to issue forged visas and baptismal and immigration certificates to Jews from the Balkans to get them to Turkey and then to British-mandate Palestine.

Elected as Pope John in 1958, he struck the offensive phrase “perfidious Jews” from a Good Friday liturgical prayer recited on the day Christians commemorate the death of Jesus.

“During the Holocaust, then Archbishop Angelo Roncalli was instrumental in saving the lives of large numbers of Bulgarian, Hungarian and other Jews,” said Menachem Rosensaft, professor of the law of genocide at Columbia and Cornell universities and the son of two Holocaust survivors.

SPIRITUAL AND HUMAN LEGACIES

Karol Wojtyla, who became John Paul II in 1978, grew up in Poland with Jewish friends and, as a young man, witnessed the Nazi round-up of Jews in his homeland.

He made a historic visit to Rome’s synagogue in 1986, where he called Jews “our beloved elder brothers”. He led the Vatican into forging diplomatic ties with Israel and mentioned Rome’s former chief rabbi, Elio Toaff, in his will.

Pope Francis had good relations with Argentine Jews when he was Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires and even wrote a book with the city’s chief rabbi, Abraham Skorka.

Rosensaft said Francis came into his papacy with a genuine affection for the Jewish faith and the Jewish people.

“He is now solidifying the spiritual and human legacies of his two predecessors by canonizing not just John XXIII and John Paul II but, perhaps even more importantly, the values they embodied,” he said.

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