Archive | May 16th, 2013

Yeshiva rabbi admits he sexually abused boy at camp


Yosef Kolko, right, walks with an unidentified man, near the Ocean County Courthouse in Toms River, NJ, Thursday, May 9, 2013, during a break in his trial on sexual assault charges. (photo credit: AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Three days into trial, Yosef Kolko changes plea to guilty after other accusers come forward

Times of Israel

With other accusers stepping forward, a former yeshiva teacher changed pleas Monday in the middle of his trial, admitting he sexually abused a boy he met while working as a camp counselor.

Rabbi Yoself Kolko, 36, shifted uncomfortably on the stand as he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault, attempted aggravated sex assault, sexual assault and child endangerment. The abuse occurred from August 2008 to February 2009. It ranged from fondling to oral sex and stopped when the boy told his father, who confronted Kolko.

The change in plea came after the prosecutor’s office was contacted Friday by a representative for a woman who said she had been a victim of Kolko and a man who said he had a victim, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Laura Pierro said.

The case may be a watershed for the prosecutor’s office and the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, which has in the past been reluctant to bring criminal matters to civil authorities, preferring instead to handle them through rabbinical courts and senior rabbis.

“I’m hoping that it’s going to open the doors” to others in the community cooperating with authorities, Pierro said in an interview after the plea. “We broke ground with this case.”

Prosecutors said they would not pursue the other two cases.

Kolko’s bail was revoked, and he was ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation before sentencing.

His attorney, Michael Bachner, said Kolko was “extremely remorseful,” apologizes to the victim and hopes after treatment “to return to society as a benefit to it.”

The plea came after only three of the prosecution’s eight witnesses testified. The senior rabbi the father approached was due to testify, as were other members of the insular community who were expected to shed light on internal workings of Lakewood’s Orthodox population and how such allegations were handled inside it.

When Judge Francis R. Hodgson asked Kolko if he had received any promises or was threatened or coerced in exchange for his plea, Kolko answered softly that there were things that were “not part of the court system.”

Bachner would not comment on Kolko’s statement.

The victim’s father had initially wanted the case handled within the Orthodox community, asking a senior rabbi to help ensure that Kolko stay away from children and go to therapy. In mid-2009, the father decided to take the case to authorities.

The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex-crime cases and is not naming the father to protect the son’s identity.

Testifying last week, the father said he went to prosecutors because he felt the case was not being handled appropriately. Kolko was still teaching and planning to work at the summer camp where he met the boy.

“I was more concerned that he was still at his jobs,” the father said Thursday. “And I felt that children are being endangered.”

The father acknowledged it is not common for members of the Orthodox community to take cases like this to law enforcement.

Prosecutors had said the boy’s family was ostracized by the community for pursuing the case in state court. The boy’s father, a prominent rabbi, lost his job and the family moved to Michigan.

“There certainly were members of the community who remain outspoken against what the father did on behalf of his son,” Pierro said. “I can tell you that there are many more whom are perhaps silently or not as openly are swelled with pride that he took this rather historic step.”

The boy, who was 11 and 12 when the abuse took place, testified last week, describing a series of encounters with the rabbi, including molestation and oral sex.

The boy, now 16, said he was uncomfortable but wanted to remain close to Kolko because they were friends and the boy had no other companions in school.

Pierro commended the boy’s and his father’s bravery.

Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said that in “securing justice for the victim,” prosecutors “have proven our ability to successfully intercede on their community’s behalf, affording them the same protections under the law we so tirelessly apply to all Ocean County’s citizens.”

“We will make every effort to assure this is a major step toward a continuing relationship with Ocean County’s religious communities,” he said.

Kolko faced a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a $650,000 fine, but the judge said he will likely cap one count at 15 years and run sentences on any other counts concurrently.

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Zionist Cameron announces further £40m to Zio-NATO Terrorists in Syria


The UK government has announced a £40 million aid package to foreign-backed terrorists fighting the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, local media reports.

The package was announced during a meeting between British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barak Obama in Washington on Monday, when the two exchanged views about the ongoing conflict in the Middle Eastern country they both have strongly enhanced and promoted in a desperate attempt to change the regime there.

“During a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama today, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would be providing an extra £30 million [$45.9 million] of humanitarian support for the victims of the Syria crisis, and an additional £10 million [$15.3 million] in non-lethal support to strengthen the Syrian opposition, to help reduce the effects of the conflict spilling over into neighboring countries and to support human rights and civil society,” British prime minister’s office claimed in a statement.

Britain and its allies have been playing an “unconstructive role” in the region by lending support to same terrorist groups they have been fighting in Afghanistan as part of the so-called US-led “war on terror.”

The British government is also accused of supplying weapons to insurgents and dispatching mercenaries to Syria’s neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, where they receive special training by MI6 and CIA officers and then are transferred into Syria illegally to fight the Syrian government.

Diplomatic discussions on the Syrian conflict is set to continue this week, with President Putin due to hold talks in Russia with Israeli regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over issues surrounding the conflict in Syria.

The talks come as the US and Britain claim they have found common ground with Russia on how to proceed in Syria.

At their meeting in Washington, President Obama and David Cameron promised to make diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the two-year crisis in Syria, AFP reported.

However, Obama and Cameron revealed their true intention when they said that the rule of President al-Assad must end in Syria.

“If in fact we can broker a peaceful political transition that leads not only to Assad’s departure but a state in Syria that is still intact (…) and that ends the bloodshed, stabilizes the situation, that’s not just going to be good for us — that will be good for everybody,” claimed the US president.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

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State to court: Zio-Nazi to halt use of phosphorous shells


In  response to petition  filed by  human  rights  group, army says will use incendiary munitions in urban  areas only in ‘extreme cases.’  Yesh Gvul: Nazi position proves use of phosphorous shells during 2009 Gaza op was ‘illegal, immoral’


The IDF will refrain from using white phosphorous shells in populated areas, the State informed the High Court of Justice on Monday in response to a petition filed by human rights groups asking to ban the incendiary munitions.

However, the army said it would continue to use the shells in two exceptional cases, which were specified to the court behind closed doors.

The white phosphorous shells were first used by the IDF to create smokescreens during its 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza. The use of the weapon drew harsh international criticism, and was mentioned in the Goldstone Report. In March 2011 human rights group Yesh Gvul petitioned the court demanding it ban the use of such shells for smoke-screening purposes in civilian areas.

Palestinian organizations and other human rights groups also criticized the IDF’s use of white phosphorous shells. In November 2011 the State responded to the petition, saying that while the laws of war allow the use of white phosphorous shells for smoke-screening purposes in urban areas, Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, who served as deputy chief of staff at the time, ordered a significant reduction in the use of artillery shells containing white phosphorus.

While legal when fired to mask troop movements on battlefields, white phosphorus poses a fire risk.

During the Gaza fighting, Israel said troops fired mortar rounds with white phosphorus warheads to clear brush around trenches used by Palestinian terrorists.

During Monday’s hearing, the petitioners said they were not satisfied with the State’s response, stressing the need for a full ban on the weapon. However, the petitioners agreed to allow the State’s representatives to specify to the judges, behind closed doors, the cases in which white phosphorous shells would be used. The judges asked the petitioners to withdraw their appeal, saying the cases in which white phosphorous shells would be used were in fact “unusual and extreme.”

“The army’s decision is a step in the right direction, but we are not aware of a legal exception that allows for the use of white phosphorous shells in populated areas,” said Attorney Michael Sfard, representing Yesh Gvul.

“We hope the court will instruct the IDF to further restrict the use of white phosphorous. In light of the army’s position, it is clear that the use of white phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza was illegal and immoral,” he said.

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Turkey says world must act against Syria after bombings



Turkey accused a group with links to Syrian intelligence of carrying out car bombings that killed 46 people in a Turkish border town, and said on Sunday it was time for the world to act against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The two car bombs, which ripped through crowded shopping streets in Reyhanli on Saturday, increased fears that Syria’s civil war is dragging in neighboring states, despite renewed diplomatic moves to end it.

Damascus denied involvement, but Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said those behind the attacks were from an “old Marxist terrorist organization” with ties to Assad’s administration.

“It is time for the international community to act together against this regime,” he told a news conference during a visit to Berlin.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech broadcast later on Turkish television: “We will not lose our calm heads, we will not depart common sense, and we will not fall into the trap they’re trying to push us into.”

But he added: “Whoever targets Turkey will sooner or later pay the price.”

NATO-member Turkey has fired back at Syrian government forces when mortars have landed on its soil, but despite its strong words has appeared reluctant to bring its considerable military might to bear in the conflict.

It is struggling to cope with more than 300,000 refugees but is not alone in fearing the impact of Syria’s war, which is stirring the Middle East’s cauldron of sectarian, religious and nationalist struggles.

“We, like Jordan, are hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Security risks to neighboring countries are rising,” Davutoglu said.


The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference.

Officials from Syria’s opposition coalition, in crisis since its president resigned in March, said it would meet in Istanbul on May 23 to decide whether to participate.

A Syrian opposition group said the toll from two years of civil war had risen to at least 82,000 dead and 12,500 missing.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zubi, speaking on state TV, held Turkey responsible for the bloodshed in Syria by aiding al Qaeda-led rebels. He said Damascus had no hand in Saturday’s bombings.

“Syria did not and will never do such a act because our values do not allow this. It is not anyone’s right to hurl unfounded accusations,” he said.

Authorities have arrested nine people, all Turkish citizens and including the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Turkey’s deputy prime minister Besir Atalay told reporters.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the bombings – the deadliest incident on Turkish soil since Syria’s war began – were carried out by a group with direct links to Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

The blasts scattered concrete blocks and smashed cars as far as three streets away.


There was a heavy police and military presence on Sunday in Reyhanli, where security forces cordoned off both blast sites while bulldozers shifted the rubble and shattered glass.

Men stood loitering around the town, looking on and discussing, often heatedly, the previous day’s events.

There was palpable anger against the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in the town, which has become a logistics base for the rebels fighting Assad just over the border.

As the conflict has dragged on, local people have grown increasingly resentful over stretched economic resources and the violence being brought to their door.

Some smashed Syrian car windows, and others railed against Turkey’s foreign policy.

“We don’t want the Syrians here any more. They can’t stay here. Whether we even wanted them or not, they can’t stay after this,” said a teacher in Reyhanli, who gave his name as Mustafa.

He said the prime minister’s Syria policy was to blame.

“It’s Tayyip Erdogan’s politics that have done this. Turkey should never have got involved in this mess. We have a 900-km (550-mile) border with Syria. They come and go in wherever they like. Everyone here is in fear.”

Syrian families stayed inside their homes on Sunday, too afraid to come out.


Davutoglu said the Reyhanli bombers were believed to be from the same group that carried out an attack on the Syrian coastal town of Banias a week ago in which at least 62 people were killed.

Syria’s conflict has fuelled confrontation across the region between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, with Shi’ite Iran supporting Assad, and Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia backing the rebels.

Israel launched air strikes a week ago, aimed at stopping Iranian missiles near Damascus from reaching Tehran’s Lebanese allies Hezbollah for possible use against the Jewish state.

Days later, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his forces would support any Syrian effort to recapture the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, raising the prospect of renewed conflict after decades of calm on that border.

In a separate development on Sunday, Syrian rebels freed four Filipino U.N. peacekeepers whom they had captured on the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan last week.

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America is Losing its Covert Syria War: US Sponsored Al Nusra Rebels Defeated by Syrian Armed Forces

Global Research

Recent reports from the ground suggest that America and its allies are losing their covert war in support of the Al Nusra front. In recent weeks, the US sponsored Al Qaeda affiliated rebels have been decimated by the Syrian Armed Forces.

A nationwide offensive has been launched with the support of Russia and Iran. The weapons supply routes of the rebels have been disrupted:

“the [Syrian] army has concentrated on starving, and cutting off “rebel” supply routes and arms corridors, which predominantly run through Northern Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan” (See Buying Time in Syria byPhil Greaves, Global Research, May 11, 2013)

Al Nusra is largely made up of mercenaries recruited in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Covert (Western) special forces and military advisers have also integrated their ranks.

The Al Qaeda affiliated terrorists directly funded by Washington constitute the foot-soldiers of the Western military alliance.

Confirmed by CNN, the Al Nusra terrorists have also been trained in the use of chemical weapons by special forces on contract to the Pentagon:

The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources.Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added

And once these Al Qaeda rebels had been supplied and trained in the use of WMDs by military contractors hired by the Pentagon, the Syrian government would then be held responsible for using the WMD against the Syrian people.

US Sponsored Terrorists

The most recent report by SANA, the official news agency (March 12) provides details on actions taken by the Syrian armed forces against Al Nusra rebels in different parts of the country:

Units of the armed forces on Saturday continued chasing terrorist groups in several areas in Damascus and its countryside, inflicting heavy losses upon their members, including non-Syrians.

An official source told SANA reporter that an army unit carried out a special operation in al-Beiraqdar neighborhood in Hijeira town that resulted in the killing of a number of terrorists.

The source added that numbers of terrorists were killed and their weapons were destroyed in al-Husseiniyeh town.

An army unit chased members of a terrorist group in al-Fakhoureh area in Wadi Barada market and killed most of them, while another army unit carried out killed four terrorists, including two snipers, in Daraya city.

A unit of the armed forces clashed with an armed terrorist group in Harasta city and killed a number of them, while another unit clashed with an armed terrorist group in Jobar and eliminated all its members and destroyed their weapons.

Also in Damascus Countryside, a military source said that Army units assumed control of al-Abbadeh area and the surrounding farms in the eastern Ghouta region, and the Armed Forces continued to advance in the town of Jarba from three points and seized control of vital areas around the town in order to cut off supplies from terrorists and encircle them.

An Armed Forces unit clashed with terrorists from Jabhet al-Nusra who were committing robberies and theft in the town of Jassem in Daraa countryside, injuring a number of them and killing others, including a Saudi called Ammar al-Shemmari and a Kuwaiti called Mahmoud al-Mtairi, both of which were leaders in Jabhet al-Nusra and responsible for manufacturing explosives.

Terrorists groups in Aleppo continue to suffer heavy losses at the hands of the army units which carried out today several operations that resulted in destroying amounts of weapons and ammunition in the terrorists’ dens.

SANA reporter quoted an official source as saying that numbers of terrorists were killed and others were injured to the north of the electricity company in al-Sheikh Saeed area and near al-Tawabeen Mosque and at the entrance of Handarat camp.

A heavy machinegun and various types of weapons and ammunition were destroyed in the aforementioned areas.

The source also mentioned that units of the armed forces killed a number of terrorists in the surrounding of the industrial City, the Free Zone, the glass factory and al-Zira’a area.

The army members destroyed the terrorists’ equipment and weapons, including a 23 mm caliber anti-aircraft gun, a heavy machinegun and a number of cars loaded with weapons and ammunition, the source added.

In Minnegh town, an army unit killed members of an armed terrorist group and injured others in al-Alqamiyeh area and near the Agricultural Research Center.

Other terrorists were killed near al-Daqaq factory and to the south of Ibrahim al-Khalil Mosque in Khan al-Assal. A car loaded with weapons and ammunition was destroyed in the area.

Units of the armed forces continued targeting the gatherings and dens of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in the countryside of Idleb.

SANA reporter quoted an official source as saying that the army units destroyed weapons and equipment the terrorists had been using in their criminal acts in the surrounding of al-Fanar restaurant in Jabal al-Arabaeen area.

Many terrorists were killed and others were injured in the town of Kfarlata and the city of Ariha that are affiliated to Jabal al-Arbaeen area.

The source added that units of the armed forces destroyed terrorists’ dens, along with the weapons and ammunition inside, in the towns of Ein al-Qasab, Mashmashan, Qatroun, al-Najiyeh, Ein al-Barideh, Bazit, Darkoush, Heish, Tall Salmo, Um Jreen, al-Buweiti, al-Tur’eh and Mseibin.

In the same context, members of a terrorist group were eliminated near M’atrem town on Ariha-Jisr al-Shughour road, while army units continue pursuing terrroists in the surrounding of the brick factory and al-Shabibeh camp.

In the city of Saraqeb, an army unit killed and injured several terrorists affiliated to the so-called ‘al-Tawhid Brigade’ in the surrounding of the Pullman garage. The terrorists’ weapons and equipment were seized.

In the meantime, an army unit eliminated members of an armed terrorist group in Jub al-Ahmar village in the countryside of Hama and destroyed their weapons, which included heavy machineguns.

The Army units continued pursuing the armed teorrist groups in several neighborhoods in Deir Ezzor city and killed scores of them.

An official source told SANA reporter that a unit of the armed forces destroyed a terrorist gathering in al-Sinaa neighborhood, while another unit eliminated an armed terrorist group at al-Siyasieh bridge. (SANA, May 11, 2013

Ironically, while the Al Nusra terrorists are directly supported and financed by the Pentagon, they are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent initiatives have largely been instrumental in increasing the flow of money and military support to the terrorists under the disguise of “humanitarian aid”.

Political Turnaround

The UN Security Council is slated to add the al-Nusra Front to its sanctions blacklist. Ironically this initiative comes “as the Syrian government asked the Security Council to blacklist al-Nusra last month, but the request was blocked by Britain and France.” (Press TV, May 11, 2013).

Now that Al Nusra, an entity created and sponsored by Western intelligence, is being decimated by the Syrian Armed Forces, the US and its allies are calling for the channeling of weapons and financial support to the more moderate “non-Islamist” rebel factions.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called on the UN to classify Syria’s al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation “in order to differentiate the Islamist group from other opposition forces”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pressed the United Nations on Thursday to blacklist Syria’s al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organisation, in an effort to set the militant Islamist group apart from other more moderate opposition forces in the country.

“In order to avoid any ambiguity, we suggest that the al-Nusra Front, which is opposed to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad but is also a branch of al Qaeda, be classified as a ‘terrorist organisation on the UN level,’” the French foreign minister stated in an interview with French daily Le Monde.

Fabius also said that France wanted to increase its support of Syria’s opposition organisation, the Syrian National Coalition, highlighting that it needed to “grow, unify and clearly guarantee that the rights of all communities be respected in the event of a regime change”.

What these developments suggest is that Al Nusra rebels are cannon fodder. They are no longer supported and upheld as freedom fighters.

Washington in consultation with its Western allies has decided to sacrifice its Al Qaeda affiliated foot-soldiers who are now being decimated by the Syrian army.

While Britain and France had blocked Syria’s earlier initiative to include Al Nusra on the United Nations Security Council terrorist list, the initiative is now emanating not from Syria but from those countries, which until recently were providing the Al Nusra front, with money and weapons.

Moreover, Washington’s direct financial support to Al Nusra, brokered by Obama’s new Secretary of State John Kerry, has become, to say the least, the source of diplomatic embarrassment.

In this regard, it is worth noting that an American citizen who is indirectly suspected, with or without evidence, of supporting an Al Qaeda affiliated entity would immediately be arrested, with of course the exception of Secretary of the State John Kerry, among other senior US officials, who are supporting Al Qaeda units on behalf of the US government.

Those who are waging the “Global War on Terrorism” are supporting the terrorists. But its all for cause: support “good guy terrorists” with a view to “promoting democracy”.

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U.N. condemns Assad forces, but unease grows about rebels

Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations speaks to the media after a Security Council meeting at the United Nations in New York April 14, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau


(Reuters) – The U.N. General Assembly condemnedSyrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and praised the opposition on Wednesday, but a decline in support for the resolution suggested growing unease about extremism among Syria’s fractious rebels.

While the non-binding text has no legal force, resolutions of the 193-nation assembly can carry significant moral and political weight. There were 107 votes in favour, 12 against and 59 abstentions – a drop in support compared with a resolution condemning the Syrian government that passed in August with 133 votes in favour, 12 against and 31 abstentions.

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U.N. diplomats cited concerns that Syria could be headed for “regime change” engineered by foreign governments and fears about a strengthening Islamist extremist element among the rebels as reasons for the decline in support for the resolution.

Russia, a close ally and arms supplier for Assad, strongly opposed the resolution drafted by Qatar, which Assad’s government has accused of arming the rebels seeking to oust him. But Moscow, which along with China has used its veto three times to prevent Security Council action against Assad, could not block the motion as there are no vetoes in the General Assembly.

Diplomats said the Russian delegation wrote to all U.N. members urging them to oppose the resolution. Moscow has complained that the resolution undermines U.S.-Russian efforts to organize a peace conference that would include Assad’s government and rebels, a meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said would likely take place in early June.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told the General Assembly before the vote that the resolution went against the U.S.-Russia push for a diplomatic solution to the 2-year-old crisis, which the United Nations says has killed at least 80,000 people.

“It is running against the current, especially in the light of the latest Russian-American rapprochement, which the Syrian government welcomed,” Ja’afari said.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo argued that the resolution was consistent with the Russian-U.S. initiative and sent “a clear message that the political solution we all seek is the best way to end the suffering of the people of Syria.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that he did not want planning for the conference to become “too long a process.” He said pressure should be put on all warring parties to come up urgently with names for a transitional government “that everyone in Syria can get behind.

Some U.N. diplomats and officials, however, are sceptical that the U.S.-Russian initiative will resolve the deadlock, which has prevented the 15-nation Security Council from taking any action on Syria, given the wide gulf between Moscow and Washington.


Wednesday’s resolution, which had strong backing from Western and Gulf Arab states, was originally conceived to give Syria’s U.N. seat to the opposition Syrian National Coalition. But U.N. diplomats said it became clear in early negotiations that such a move would not pass the assembly, where many delegations fear their own governments could one day face rebel uprisings.

The resolution did, though, welcome the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition “as effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition.”

The Syrian National Coalition welcomed the U.N. resolution, but said in a statement that much more needed to be done with a greater urgency to end the suffering of the Syrian people.

Syria accuses Qatar, Saudi ArabiaTurkey, the United States, Britain and France of arming the rebels. The countries have denied the allegations but the rebels keep getting arms.

South Africa Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo said his country, which voted in favour of the previous resolution condemning Assad’s government, abstained this time because it opened the door to “regime change” by forces from outside Syria.

Experts have long said the militant al-Nusra Front in Syria is receiving support from al Qaeda-linked militants in neighbouring Iraq. The group has claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, and its fighters have joined other Syrian rebel brigades.

Iran, Bolivia, VenezuelaNorth Korea, Belarus and other delegations that tend to oppose U.S. policy at the United Nations also voted no. Ecuador, which abstained last year, said it voted against the resolution because it feared it legitimized a coup and wondered “who will be the next country on the list.”

Indonesia, which voted in favour of the August resolution, said it abstained mainly because of the resolution’s implied recognition of the Syrian opposition.

Mohammad Khazaee, the ambassador of Syria’s ally and arms supplier Iran, accused the rebels of using chemical weapons against Syrians, something the opposition says was done by Assad’s government and not rebel forces. He also spoke of an increasing number of “terrorist and extremist groups” in Syria.

Russia also warned about terrorist elements in Syria.

A U.N. plan for a chemical weapons investigation has been blocked because Assad’s government has refused to grant an international inspection team unfettered access in the country. The government only wants the team to inspect Aleppo and not Homs, both sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks that the rebels and government accuse each other of perpetrating.

The vote could show that recent images of savagery from the civil war – a rebel commander biting a heart ripped out of an enemy combatant – may be undermining the case of those arguing Syria would be better without Assad.

There have also been grisly images of acts committed by Assad’s forces making their way around the Internet.

Another reason for drop in support for the resolution, envoys said, may be the fact that Assad remains in control of much of the country and has demonstrated that his armed forces and allied militia have not lost the war – although they have not been able to win either.

“I’m convinced a lot of countries voted for (last year’s) text because they believed they were voting for the winning side,” a senior Western U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in reference to the August, 2012 resolution. “They are not so sure anymore.”

“Now also you have the Islamist, terrorist factor which is much more conspicuous,” he said.

The Syrian conflict started with mainly peaceful demonstrations against Assad, but turned into a civil war in which the United Nations says at least 80,000 people have been killed. Islamist militants have emerged as the most potent of the anti-Assad rebels.

Wednesday’s vote came as Washington and European governments have been mulling the benefits and risks of supplying arms to Syrian rebels.

A French official said on Wednesday that France was floating a proposal that the European Union should ease an arms embargo but delay acting on the decision to intensify pressure on Damascus to negotiate an end to the civil war.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham, David Brunnstrom and Bill Trott)


Saudi princes fail to win sovereign immunity in UK court case


Appeal judges uphold ruling against two royals as their lawyers seek to impose reporting restrictions on business dispute.

Two senior Saudi princes have failed to extract themselves from English justice after the court of appeal upheld a ruling that they are not entitled to sovereign immunity in a case involving their London-based business interests.

Lawyers for the princes were informed that they had lost their claim at the start of a two-day hearing on Wednesday into a related attempt to impose reporting restrictions on the sensitive commercial dispute.

The Guardian and Financial Times have requested documents detailing disputed transactions involving Saudi interests in Beirut and Nairobi. The case involves a London registered company, FI Call Ltd.

The Saudi royals are Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a former defence minister who is the brother of King Abdullah and chairman of the country’s influential allegiance council, and his son Prince Abdulaziz bin Mishal bin Al Saud. They and Global Torch Ltd, the British Virgin Island company they are said to control, are in dispute with a Jordanian businessman, Faisal Almhairat, and his Seychelles-based firm Apex Global Management.

The three appeal court judges, Lord Justice Kay, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Briggs, are due to give the reasons for their sovereign immunity decision in due course.

Lawyers for the Saudis are relying on the Human Rights Act to obtain an interim ban on the reporting of court documents related to the case. Mark Warby QC, for the princes and Global Torch, said the principle of open justice “was not a trump card” that automatically removed all the other “fundamental rights” of claimants in a court case.

He said the allegations against the princes were very grave and were an attack on their reputations and their rights to a private and family life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

Warby said he was seeking an interim ban on the release of sealed court documents until the trial was heard in full. Some of the claims in the petitions, he alleged, amounted to an “arguable case” of extortion.

“It’s obvious that allegations of this gravity are going to have an effect – in the old language of libel, they [the Saudis] are going to be shunned and avoided.”

But Guy Vassall-Adams, counsel for the Guardian and Financial Times, told the appeal court: “Global Torch has chosen to bring proceedings in this jurisdiction. This is an open justice jurisdiction.

“They [the Saudis] have to accept that these damaging allegations will be heard in open court in the usual way. The protection they are entitled to is a judgment delivered in public which will refute unfounded allegations.

“That’s how a legal system works in a democracy under the rule of law.”

He said parliament had sanctioned fair and accurate reporting of defamatory allegations that arise in court proceedings. “People understand that allegations are not proven matters.”

Vassall-Adams said allegations of blackmail or extortion were being used as “a crutch … to support the [Saudis’] application for a private hearing”.

“Private hearings are not necessary to do justice in this case,” he said. “It’s very clear the courts are extremely reluctant to allow article 8 rights to prevail over the principle of open justice.”

Robert Howe QC, for Almhairat and Apex, said the Saudis’ application was “an illegitimate and ill-judged” attempt to amend the principle of open justice through arguments used in privacy and defamation cases.

“This is against a backdrop of a flood of attempts by wealthy litigants to try and close the court doors” by applying for privacy for their claims. Merely stating that there was an “arguable case” that allegations were false was not sufficient to order what was in effect a privacy hearing, Howe said.

Public faith in the administration of justice has already been damaged because normal reporting of the case has already been prevented, he said. No request has been served on the court to strike out the evidence.

“The matter of the allegations do raise important issues of widespread public interest,” Howe said. “My client has had the misfortune to become embroiled in a very difficult dispute with some very rich individuals … It’s a basic constitutional position that [such a hearing] should be held in public.”


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Bid to censor Anne Frank’s ‘pornographic’ diary in schools fails


Michigan school committee rejects mother’s plea to remove edition of Diary of a Young Girl from students’ eyes.

Anne Frank

‘Inappropriate’? Anne Frank. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Feature

A mother’s attempt to ban Anne Frank‘s diary from classrooms in Michigan over “pornographic” anatomical descriptions has failed, after a committee ruled that the title’s removal “would effectively impose situational censorship.

Earlier this month the mother of a 12-year-old in the Northville school district in Michigan raised concerns with the school about her daughter reading the “definitive” version of Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, in which Frank writes how “until I was 11 or 12, I didn’t realise there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris”, and “when you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris.”

The definitive edition of the diary contains material deleted from the 1947 version by Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Buddy Elias, her cousin, has said that it shows Anne “in a truer light, not as a saint, but as a girl like every other girl. She was nothing, actually; people try to make a saint out of her and glorify her. That she was not. She was an ordinary, normal girl with a talent for writing.”

But the Michigan mother told press that the unexpurgated version was “pretty graphic, and it’s pretty pornographic for seventh-grade boys and girls to be reading”, adding “it’s inappropriate for a teacher to be giving this material out to the kids when it’s really the parents’ job to give the students this information.”

She launched a formal complaint asking for the diary to be removed from the school – a move which was vehemently protested by free speech campaigners, who said that The Diary of a Young Girl was “both relevant to today’s students and pedagogically valuable”, and that “the passage in question relates to an experience that may be of particular concern to many … students: physical changes associated with puberty.”

The school committee has now voted unanimously to retain the book as an option for students in the seventh grade curriculum after reviewing the mother’s concerns. “The committee felt strongly that a decision to remove the use of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – The Definitive Edition as a choice within this larger unit of study would effectively impose situational censorship by eliminating the opportunity for the deeper study afforded by this edition,”wrote assistant superintendent Robert Behnke in a letter to the community.

The Diary of a Young Girl charts Frank’s life as a Jewish teenager in hiding during the second world war. It is widely viewed as a classic, and has sold millions of copies in countries around the world. The National Coalition Against Censorship welcomed the school district’s decision, saying: “Frank’s honest writings about her body and the changes she was undergoing during her two-year period of hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam can serve as an excellent resource for students themselves undergoing these changes.”

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