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Headlines 25 July, 2014

Headlines 18 July, 2014

Headlines 11 July, 2014

Headlines 4 July, 2014

Headlines 25 July, 2014

Russian gay rights group deemed ‘foreign agent’ for ‘violating straight rights’

An LGBT rights organisation based in Russia has been deemed a “foreign agent” by a St Petersburg court.

23/7/2014- The label “foreign agent” implies that a group carries out work on behalf of foreign countries, and restricts the work they can do and messages communicated. This week Coming Out, a leading LGBT rights organisation Coming Out, was told by the court that it must register as a foreign agent. In a statement after the ruling, Coming Out argued that its defence was not considered in the case, and that it had been fighting against such a ruling for over a year. The statement also said that the judge ruled that the group violates the rights of “persons with traditional sexual orientation,” and that the state was obliged to limit leaflets such as those given out by Coming Out. Four other groups were also found as foreign agents this week. Last October, following a lengthy legal battle, the Side by Side (Bok o Bok), LGBT film festival, won its appeal against fines under the then recently introduced foreign agent law.
© Pink News

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Neo-Nazi group banned in Germany's Bavaria state

23/7/2014- Authorities in the German state of Bavaria say they have banned a neo-Nazi group that operated in the region. The state interior ministry said it banned the Free Network South group on Wednesday and accused it of pursuing the "anti-constitutional endeavors" of an organization that was banned a decade ago, the Franconian Action Front. Officials searched a property in the small town of Regnitzlosau in northern Bavaria where, the ministry said, an outfit called Final Resistance Mail Order supported the group's activities. Bavarian authorities didn't immediately give details on the size of the group and its activities. Along with other state governments, Bavaria is seeking a ban on Germany's biggest far-right party, the National Democratic Party. Germany's highest court is considering the case.
© The Associated Press

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Netherlands: Refugee numbers reach 2001 levels, Syria dominates new requests

22/7/2014- In total, 12,000 people have applied for asylum in the Netherlands in the first six months of this year, the highest figure since 2001, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday. The figure is double that in the first half of 2013, the CBS said. Most – 3,700 – came from Syria, followed by Eritrea (3,500). Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan used to dominate the number of requests for refugee status. This May, junior justice minister Fred Teeven sounded the alarm about the number of asylum seekers from Eritrea coming to the Netherlands. He said human traffickers were to blame for much of the increase. Since then, and the stepping up of border controls, the number of people entering the Netherlands from Eritrea has dropped, the CBS said. In June just 200 Eritreans applied for asylum in the Netherlands.
© The Dutch News

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Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy condemn antisemitic protests

Joint statement vows to tackle rise in number of demonstrations and hostile rhetoric 'that cross line into racism and xenophobia'

22/7/2014- Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Italy have condemned antisemitic violence at protests against Israel's invasion of Gaza and pledged to do all they can to combat it. While the majority of pro-Palestinian protests in Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna, Amsterdam and other cities have taken place peacefully, some have descended into verbal and physical attacks on Jews and Jewish property, including synagogues and shops. "Antisemitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies," the three ministers – France's Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italy's Federica Mogherini – said in a joint statement issued in Brussels on Tuesday. The ministers added that they respected the right of protesters to freedom of speech and to assemble, but will do everything possible to combat "acts and statements that cross the line into antisemitism, racism and xenophobia". Since the outbreak of the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, some demonstrators in Germany have called for Jews to be gassed – a clear reference to the Nazi murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.

In Germany, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews, told reporters some of the demonstrations had been "an explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews". "Never in our lives did we believe it possible that antisemitism of the nastiest and most primitive kind would be chanted on the streets of Germany," Graumann said. On Monday, after violent clashes between iron bar- and stick-wielding youths and riot police in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, which has a large Jewish community, France's Jewish leaders warned that the Arab-Israeli conflict risked spilling over on to the streets of Europe. The French president, François Hollande, condemned the violence and told both Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, summoned to the Elysée on Monday, that fighting antisemitism would be a "national cause". Stephan Kramer, director of the European Office on antisemitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels said: "We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the antisemitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel." He added: "It needs to be made very clear that violence is not an appropriate means of protesting."

The European Jewish Congress called for European governments to use "stronger measures" against those engaging in violence. "While we fully respect and support the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression and understand that tensions are high surrounding the current conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terror organisations, calls for attacks on Jewish community institutions and the utilisation of slogans such as "Death to Jews", a pure and dangerous form of antisemitism, have no place on the streets, nor indeed on social or any other media," it said in a statement.
© The Guardian

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Northern Ireland: Windows smashed at Belfast synagogue on Somerton Road

Windows have been smashed on a synagogue in north Belfast.

21/7/2014- Police said a window was smashed some time on Friday night or Saturday morning. A replacement window was then smashed on Saturday afternoon or evening. Police are treating it as a religious hate crime. They have appealed for anyone who witnessed the attacks or has any information about them to contact them on the non-emergency 101 number.

'Totally unacceptable'
Rabbi David Singer said the Jewish community had been left shocked by the attack. He said: "I think across the community, first of all, it's very sad that it happened. I would imagine that there's a certain amount of anger that it could happen, but angry in the sense of frustration, not angry in the sense that they'd want to do anything about it. "Certainly, it's very sad and very disturbing that Belfast would show its face like this." The Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was "totally unacceptable" for places of worship to be targeted. "The Jewish community have been valuable members of our society for many years," he said. "We offered refuge during the Second World War to many fleeing the Holocaust and it is abhorrent that the synagogue has been the target of this hate crime."
© BBC News

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France: Roma teen out of coma weeks after vigilante attack

A Roma teenager who was left struggling for his life after being brutally beaten by vigilantes in France has emerged from his coma and is talking, his lawyer said Sunday.

20/7/2014- Gheorghe, who was initially mistakenly referred to as Darius when the incident took place last month, “is very well,” Julie Launois-Flaceliere told AFP. “He has emerged from his coma and his life is no longer in danger. He talks and recognizes his family, it’s very positive.” The 17-year-old was dragged into a basement in the Paris suburb town of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine on June 13, savagely beaten by a dozen residents of a housing estate who accused him of theft, and left unconscious in a supermarket trolley where he was later found. Suffering from severe brain injuries, Gheorghe was taken to a Paris hospital where he has been treated since the attack. Launois-Flaceliere said it was too early to assess the after-effects of his trauma, but added he appeared to be recovering his memory.

A source close to the case said the judge tasked with investigating the incident was able to visit Gheorghe in hospital on Friday. The teenager, who does not speak French, has an interpreter and his hospital room is closely guarded. Gheorghe left Romania for France to join his parents who were already in the country. At the time of the incident, he and his family had only just moved into an abandoned house in the town just north of Paris. On June 13, he was taken by force in front of his parents by a group of assailants angered by a rumor that he had broken into an apartment in a nearby estate. It is unclear how many people beat him up, but more than a month after the incident, no one has yet been detained.

Romas have long suffered discrimination across Europe, centuries after migrating there from India. The Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of Roma during World War II, and even now rights organizations have warned of a spike in violence against the community in Europe. In France, many of the 20,000-or-so Roma come from Romania or Bulgaria in search of a better life, and often end up living in extreme poverty in makeshift settlements with little or no access to basic amenities including water. These are systematically destroyed under a controversial, official French requirement, forcing the traditionally sedentary population to move on to other settlements. Their presence in illegal camps on the fringes of towns and cities has often spurred controversy in France where they are perceived as being behind a rise in petty crime.
© AFP

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Italy: Rome's slum dwellers demand proper homes

Amid the wealth of Rome, 5,000 people, many of them Italians, are forced to live in rat-infested slums, denied proper social housing by the state. Rosie Scammell visits the Roma camps of Italy's capital.

22/7/2014- Under the hot Rome summer sun, two babies lie giggling in a pram as their big brother entertains them from above. A couple of metres away, a dark-haired rat scurries under their crumbling home. This is not the Rome that tourists come to see. Nor is it the capital that for centuries has inspired artists, swept up in the romantic light which bathes the eternal city. But this is the reality that thousands of people in the Italian capital are born into, left with little opportunity to go beyond the borders of their government-built slum. The babies playing on this sunny afternoon will grow up alongside rodents, solely because they have been labelled as part of the Roma community. “They’re not homes, they’re containers,” says a 24-year-old Italian, who goes by the name of Elvis. “They’re extremely cold in the winter and extremely hot in the summer. We’re attached one next to the other with three or four metres in between. There’s no privacy,” he tells The Local while sitting next to his neighbour’s home, with the sound of children playing reverberating through the thin wall.

Elvis has lived in the Salone camp for four years; he was moved here after the closure of Rome’s Casilino camp, where he had lived for the first 20 years of his life. He describes the situation as “difficult”, as another rat runs past. Situated outside of Rome’s ring road, in a wasteland with no other residential buildings in site, the nearest bus stop to Salone is three kilometres away. There is a station nearby where a train is meant to stop every hour, from Monday to Friday, but residents say it often doesn’t. This camp is the rule rather than the exception. The eight camps and three shelters run by the government, housing around 5,000 people, are an average of two kilometres from public transport. Associazione 21 luglio, a Roma rights organization, has visited such camps across Italy and says none meet international standards. Government-run camps do, however, meet the UN’s definition of “slum households”, the organization says. “I think the institutions are worsening our situation...They’re throwing money away for nothing, making people live like this,” says Elvis.

According to a report released last month by 21 luglio, the Roma community policy cost the city €24.1 million last year. Salone, which houses 900 people, had running costs amounting to €2.9 million. City hall intends to continue running the Roma camps, with plans underway to reopen a site which had been closed. Councillor Rita Cutini, who works on the policy, declined an interview when contacted by The Local. Organizations including luglio 21 and Amnesty International argue that the state’s plan is based on the outdated misconception that Roma and Sinti communities are nomadic. They want the policy of segregation scrapped and camp dwellers given access to social housing, a demand backed by residents.

Sitting in a worn chair after serving coffee, one woman tells The Local “the situation is getting worse”. Unable to sleep, she says she is too old to use public transport to pick up her medicines and fears for her health. “We’re equal - like all Italians, we’re humans - we’re not animals but we live with animals,” she says, looking more elderly than her 63 years. Not wanting to give her name, she says she moved to Italy from what was then Yugoslavia in 1975. She worked in a market and got on well with the locals, although more recently recalls insults such as “dirty gypsy”. Prejudice is a daily reality for the Roma community. Earlier this year a “no gypsies” sign went up in the window of a Rome bakery, while the “all Roma are thieves” slur is frequently heard in the Italian capital.

In response, Elvis says he would tell his fellow citizens: "All Italians are part of the mafia.” “This also isn’t right. Because a person can’t be blamed for something another person has done…We can’t judge everyone in a certain way, without knowing them,” he says, despair creeping over his face. Many of the people living in camps want to work, he says, but face barriers when applying for jobs. Twenty-two-year-old Nedzad is one of those people, who tells The Local he searches online for opportunities. He recently found a job in a call centre, but ran into problems when he wrote his address on the contract. “They said they needed to redo the contract, then they never got back to me,” he says. Nedzad faces the extra hurdle of being born in Italy but, on turning 18, being denied Italian citizenship. “My parents are from Bosnia and I have permission to stay 'for humanitarian reasons’, like a political refugee. This makes me laugh,” he says. Both he and Elvis have little faith that the situation will change. “The years pass and it stays like this,” says Elvis.

“I hope in the future to have the opportunity to find work and have a home, a normal life like other people,” he says. “There are a lot of people who want to work, who want to integrate, but the state forces us to live like this.”
© The Local - Italy

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Italy rescues 1,800 migrants over weekend, five bodies recovered

21/7/2014- Italy's navy said it rescued nearly 1,800 migrants in overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean over the weekend, and a merchant ship recovered five bodies from a sinking rubber raft off the coast of Libya. Calmer summer seas have led to a surge in people trying to reach Italy from North Africa. Italy has picked up more than 70,000 migrants so far this year in its search-and-rescue mission, called "Mare Nostrum" or "Our Sea". The number of dead is also rising. At the start of July, the UNHCR estimated 500 migrants had died in the Mediterranean in the past six months, compared to 700 during the whole of last year. A merchant ship rescued 61 migrants and collected five bodies from a sinking rubber raft late on Sunday after its position was signaled by the navy, said the force. Survivors said 15 others probably drowned. Italy is struggling to keep up with the increase in migrant boats this year and has asked the European Union for more help in rescuing and housing them.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said Maltese authorities on Saturday recovered the bodies of 29 people believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the hold of a boat. On Friday, as many as 40 people went missing after a migrant boat capsized near the Libyan coast, according to media reports that the Italian navy could not confirm. A merchant ship recovered hundreds of survivors. Most migrants have fled Syria's civil war and Eritrea's harsh military service, according to the UNHCR. Many of them set off for their journey to Europe from the coast of strife-torn Libya. Italy's navy has been patrolling the waters between Africa and Sicily since October, when 366 people drowned after their boat capsized just a mile from the Italian coast.
© Reuters

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Italy migrants: Nineteen 'suffocate' aboard boat from Africa

Nineteen migrants have died, reportedly by suffocating, aboard a crowded boat travelling from North Africa to Italy.

19/7/2014- The migrants are thought to have choked on fumes from an old engine while they were confined below deck, Italian news agency Ansa reports. Rescuers found 18 people in a tangle of bodies. Another person is said to have died during the evacuation. The boat was carrying some 600 people. Italy is struggling to cope with a rising flow of migrants to its shores. Many of them make the dangerous crossing from Africa on crowded and unseaworthy vessels, says the BBC's Rome correspondent, Alan Johnston. The boat in the latest incident was heading for the Italian island of Lampedusa. It was intercepted after it sent out an SOS signal. Two passengers from the boat have been taken for treatment to a hospital in Sicily. In the past month, at least 45 migrants have died in similar circumstances - as a result of being crushed or asphyxiated aboard overcrowded boats. On Friday, Ansa reported that migrants rescued by a merchant ship this week had spoken of a shipwreck in which 60 people had drowned.
© BBC News

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Malta: Officials could face jail over race groups

Public officers and civil servants could face up to five years in prison for creating or assuming leadership of racist groups once amendments are made to the Criminal Code, Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said.

20/7/2014- The amendments, which form part of a broad legislative review, will make it illegal for government officials and law enforcement officers, “under colour of their office”, to create or assume leadership of a “group” which promotes racial hatred. Government sources said the move was prompted by inquiries which revealed that a number of officers and civil servants had publicly aired racist views through social media, raising concerns that these might abuse their position to promote a racist agenda. Dr Bonnici would not comment on what prompted the amendments saying only that the law would bring Malta in line with the rest of the international community. “These articles were introduced both as a national intuitive and in fulfilment of Malta’s international obligations under United Nations conventions on human rights.” The amendment falls short of highlighting membership within such groups as being a crime.

Human rights lawyer Neil Falzon, however, explained that such a move could impinge on individual freedoms. Welcoming the general direction of the amendment, Dr Falzon said he hoped the law would stop government officials from using their position to promote racism. “The problem here is that if authorities are being racist, then this not only pushes migrants away from the State but also sends out the message that the State is condoning this view,” he said. Inciting racial hatred and violence is already a crime with a maximum prison sentence of 18 months. Trivialising or condoning racial violence, on the other hand, could land you in prison for up to two years. The Public Administration Act puts forward guidelines for state employees to avoid racially sensitive discussions and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality provides annual training sessions for public officers.
Integra director Maria Pisani, however, expressed doubts whether the amendments were enough. “I have reservations as to how much effort is being made to combat the spread of racially discriminatory discourse. And, I hope that any reform will be top down as well as horizontal because this is a problem coming from all sides of government,” she said. Last April, the Cyber Crimes Unit told this newspaper it was investigating a number of racially motivated crimes that were committed on social media. Unit Head Timothy Zammit had explained that threatening a person over social media, was just as much a crime as doing it face-to-face. “People seem to feel they can get away with crimes when done on social media. A crime in Malta is still a crime if it is done online. This is also true of racism,” he said.
© The Times of Malta

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UK: Festival march by far-right SDL set to be banned

A proposed march through Edinburgh by the far-right Scottish Defence League is likely to be banned after police said they feared trouble.

22/7/2014- The SDL wants to stage the march on Saturday, August 23, during the Festival. But police said experience of recent SDL events in the Capital suggested organisers were not able to control the behaviour of the demonstrators. And officers said they believed there was “an increased risk to public order” and “increased disruption to the life of the community” if the march was allowed. Organisers said they expected about 80 people to take part in the march from East Market Street via New Street and High Street to the Scottish Parliament. A report by police to the city’s licensing sub-committee said there had been six SDL events in Edinburgh over the past four years and four had been well organised with “no significant public order issues”. But it said the two most recent occasions that a march had been allowed had been ­different with far less control.

“The organisers remained engaged with the planning process but appeared to exert little influence over large numbers of the participants who actively sought confrontation with others and disorder was only prevented through the robust policing operation. “The events in August 2013 and May 2014 have demonstrated that groups within the SDL and groups attaching themselves to the SDL will now not necessarily comply with police direction.” The report also pointed out the Capital was very busy in August with resources already stretched.” He added: “It is highly likely that the procession will generate a counter march which will add to the resources required and the impact on the city.”

SDL march organiser ­Graham Walker said he believed the police had been put under political pressure to object to the march. He said he had discussed plans for the August 23 march with the police as long ago as April. “The police said then they had no objection to the march. So what has happened between then and now? There has been political pressure on Police Scotland.” He insisted there were no factions or groups within the SDL and rejected the ­suggestion anyone was actively seeking confrontation. “We have stewards there on the day,” he said. “If they have any problem, the police can come to me and we can ask people to calm it down a bit.”

The council refused an SDL march in 2012, but an appeal against decision was upheld at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and the parade went ahead. Luke Henderson, of Unite Against Fascism, said: “They want to march during the ­Festival. “This is when Edinburgh welcomes the world and shows how we enjoy the ­different ­cultures from around the world, but the SDL wants to impose its ideas which are against all other forms of ­culture.”
© The Edinburgh Evening News

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UK: Nick Griffin Steps Down As BNP Chairman

21/7/2014- The British National Party has announced that Nick Griffin has stepped down as party chairman and has handed the position to disgraced teacher and deputy chairman Adam Walker. Announced on the BNP website earlier today, Griffin will now take up the new role as President of the far right party. What isn't clear at the moment is if Griffin will still hold the reins of power or if he has truly handed over the party to Walker. With the party on the brink of self destruction, the futures of a number of BNP officials such as Clive Jefferson, Simon Darby, Patrick Harrington and Griffin's daughter Jennifer Matthys also appear to be in some doubt. Our sources tell us that the BNP will stage manage the handover to Adam Walker, complete with an accompanying video, so expect lots of fake smiles and handshakes. This is not thought to be a split within the ranks of the BNP and is thought to be a face saving exercise for Nick Griffin. No consultation has taken place with the BNP membership. Hope not hate was the first organisation to report on the movements behind the scenes in the leadership of the BNP over the past few months. You can read more here and here.
© HOPE not Hate

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UK: Teacher banned for life appointed to replace Nick Griffin as BNP leader

Former teacher Adam Walker takes over after party's vote collapses and Griffin loses only seat in European parliament.

21/7/2014- Nick Griffin has been replaced as leader of the British National party, the far-right group has announced. The BNP's website said Adam Walker, a former teacher who this year was struck off the teaching register for life, had been appointed acting chairman after Griffin "stepped aside", two months after he lost the party's only seat at the European parliament in a disastrous set of election results. Griffin, who was declared bankrupt in January, had "taken up the position of president", it said, adding that the national executive was "united in their support" for his replacement. After voters in north-west England ousted him as an MEP in May, Griffin accepted that the BNP, which now has only two local councillors, could be described as a "racist" outfit. Its supporters wanted to "send them all home", he said, suggesting they would end up disappointed if they had voted for Ukip as an alternative.

Steven Squire, the London organiser of the BNP, said on Monday that although there had been some "bickering" within the party in the past "that is all over now and, unlike other political parties, we are not in debt". He added: "We are all behind Adam, though Nick was the most successful nationalist leader the country has ever had." Walker was banned from teaching in February after he lost a legal challenge against the then education secretary, Michael Gove. Walker had received a suspended jail sentence for verbally abusing three schoolboys, chasing them in his car and slashing the tyres on their bikes with a Stanley knife. He took Gove to court, claiming that this decision was "prejudiced" because of his membership of the BNP. Walker argued that the National College for Teaching and Leadership, which replaced the General Teaching Council, had recommended that he be banned from the classroom for a minimum of two years. But the punishment was increased to a life ban without review by a senior official, in Gove's name, the next day.

Just five years ago, the BNP achieved electoral success, with leader Griffin and his colleague Andrew Brons elected to the European parliament and more than 50 councillors sitting in town halls up and down the country. But that high point was short lived. Dogged by bitter infighting and financial turmoil, scores of key activists left and the BNP had a series of disastrous elections. As the party's finances worsened, lack of discipline, heightened by personal rivalries and concerted campaigning by opponents, led to several key activists either being sacked or leaving to join smaller far-right groups. In 2012 even Brons quit the party to form his own organisation – the British Democratic party. Griffin lost his seat as member of the European parliament in May, and his party's share of the vote in the north-west of England collapsed from its 2009 level of 6.1% to just 1.9%. As well as electoral defeat, Griffin was declared bankrupt in January following a dispute with a firm of solicitors over outstanding debts of £120,000.
© The Guardian

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UK: Police believe missing Blackburn man has EDL links

19/7/2014- A FAR-right sympathiser from Blackburn, who was part of a group that ambushed people going to an anti-fascist benefit gig, is being hunted by police. Peter Hawley, 54, was jailed last year for his part in the attack, which left his victim ‘battered and bruised’. He is now wanted on prison recall after breaching the terms of his license which involve him cooperating with the probation service. Sgt Andy Horne, the East division crime and tasking co-ordinator, said: “East division remains committed to make communities safe, and local people can assist with this goal. “I’d also like to appeal to Hawley himself to come forward.” The assault happened in Liverpool last July when a gang of nine men, including Hawley, who is from the Lower Audley area of Blackburn, rushed towards the victims, throwing punches and kicks. The violence then spilled from the street into the nearby Tabac café where the violence continued among shocked diners. Witnesses later told officers there were two distinct groups involved in the fighting, one clearly doing the attacking and the other being attacked.

A Merseyside police inspector was on duty that evening and he saw between eight and 10 men running from the scene, including Hawley. Police said he was believed to be active within the English Defence League (EDL) and was an avid football supporter. He was described as white, of a medium to stocky build, 5ft 6ins, clean shaven, with greying brown hair, blue eyes, and West Ham United tattoos on his right forearm.
© The Lancashire Telegraph

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UEFA punish clubs for racist abuse against Maltese teams

19/7/2014- UEFA yesterday issued sanctions against Hungary teams Ferencvaros and Diosgyori and Slovakia’s Spartak Trnava, following racist behaviour by their fans during Europa League matches against Maltese sides Sliema Wanderers, Birkirkara and Hibernians respectively. Ferencvaros were the hardest hit by the UEFA measures as the once-mighty club were slapped with a fine of €20,000 and the partial closure of their stadium following monkey chants and racist banners displayed in both legs in Malta and Hungary, earlier this month. This week, the Hungarian club were reported as showing interest in signing Wanderers striker Stanley Ohawuchi. Ironically, the Nigerian was the target of abuse by the Ferencvaros supporters who also travelled to Malta in numbers for the first leg at the National Stadium which finished one-all. Ferencvaros, who reached the second qualifying round after beating Sliema 2-1 at home for a 3-2 aggregate, were beaten by Rijeka 1-0 in the same competition on Thursday.

UEFA’s sanction will come into effect in next week’s second leg against the Croatia team. This is not the first time that Ferencvaros were disciplined for unruly behaviour by their supporters during a UEFA competition match. Almost ten years ago, they were fined €30,000 but spared further punishment following a series of unsavoury incidents during a UEFA Cup first-round match against Millwall who are also known for violence-related incidents in England. On that occasion, the Hungarians won the second leg 3-1 to advance 4-2 on aggregate, but it was a contest blighted by unruly scenes inside the stadium, with Millwall’s black players being subjected to racist abuse from the home fans. Before the game, two Millwall fans were also hospitalised with stab wounds.

Racism in sport has been rampant in eastern Europe for several years now and the problem blighting the game also made the news in Diosgyori’s 2-1 win over Birkirkara on July 3. The home team was reported by the UEFA delegate for racist terrace chants by the Hungary club’s fans in particular those at sectors B5 to 7 inside the DVTK Stadium. As a consequence, the Diosgyori ground will be partially closed for next week’s second leg against Litex Lovech. Diosgyori, who ousted the Stripes 6-2 on aggregate, are still favourites to reach the third qualifying round after beating Litex Lovech 2-0 in Bulgaria on Thursday. Yesterday, UEFA also ordered that sections of the Spartak Trnava stadium will be closed for the home team’s next match (vs Zestafoni of Georgia) after abusive chants by the home fans in the first qualifying round, second leg against Hibernians on July 10. Spartak made it through in convincing fashion after a 5-0 win over the Maltese team for a 9-2 aggregate score. However, their fans marred their team’s progress with their unruly behaviour from the stands.
© The Times of Malta

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Headlines 18 July, 2014

Iceland: MP Leaves Party over Mosque Issue

18/7/2014- Þorsteinn Magnússon resigned yesterday as Alternate MP for the Progressive Party citing the party’s handling of the mosque issue. Þorsteinn said in an interview with visir.is that the reaction of the party’s leadership implies that there was nothing wrong in the party’s handling of the matter. “The chair and most other key people in the leadership of the Progressive Party failed to publicly comment on the conduct of the party in Reykjavík during the election campaign period. Then the recent words of the chair of the party, in my view, imply the complete denial that anything was wrong ... The party has in my opinion not handled the case in an acceptable way,” he commented. Þorsteinn went on to say, “There must be a requirement that representatives of the party, whether at the national or municipal level, conduct their pleadings in accordance with it [the key policy of the Progressive Party] and reject viewpoints that are likely to encourage discrimination.”

As reported earlier, the party’s leader in Reykjavík, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, stated during the municipal election campaign that she wanted city authorities to go back on their promise to the Muslim Association of Iceland on a free lot to build a mosque in Reykjavík. During the campaign, the debate, such as on the Progressive Party’s Facebook page, quickly turned into general opposition towards Muslims and a mosque in Reykjavík, resulting in support for the party surging and achieving two seats on the city council. Prior to Sveinbjörg’s statements, polls had suggested that the party would not gain any seats in Reykjavík. The party’s chair, Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, refused to comment on the issue at first but later criticized the reactions of others. Some people, including Jón Sigurðsson, former chair of the Progressive Party and minister of industry and commerce, have suggested that Sveinbjörg’s comments were part of a strategy to win votes.
© The Iceland Review.

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Austria: Anti-semitic posts: Kurz appeals to prosecutor

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) has appealed to the state prosecutor after receiving dozens of anti-semitic comments on his Facebook page last Wednesday following a post where he called for peace in the Middle East.

17/7/2014- "We will submit a statement of facts to the prosecutor's office to examine the hate postings," said Kurz, according to a report in the daily tabloid Österreich. Kurz's spokesman Gerald Fleischmann, confirmed to the APA press agency on Wednesday that the minister "does not want to see his site being used for such harassment." "Discussion yes, but no baiting," Fleischmann added. Using the applicable laws on incitement and discrimination, Kurz will submit a statement - which includes screenshots from his Facebook site - to the prosecutor, so the comments can be investigated. Over the past few days, Kurz has appealed to both sides of the Gaza conflict to stop the violence. His comments were subsequently posted on his Facebook page.
© The Local - Austria

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Polish MEP's 'negroes' remark sparks anger

16/7/2014- A far-right Polish MEP outraged lawmakers gathered in the European Parliament on Wednesday by comparing the continent's unemployed youth to "niggers" in the US South. Janusz Korwin-Mikke, the outspoken leader of the royalist and libertarian Congress of the New Right party, delivered the remark during a speech to deputies decrying the existence of minimum wage laws. Comparing job-seeking youth to black labourers in the American South during the 1960s, Korwin-Mikke said: "Four millions humans lost jobs. Well, it was four million niggers. But now we have 20 millions Europeans who are the Negroes of Europe. "Yes, they are treated like Negroes! "We must destroy the minimum wage and we must destroy the power of trade unions," the 72-year-old added, before being shouted down in the parliament session. The Socialist coalition immediately called on Korwen-Mikke to apologise or resign over what it called the "worst insult of racist discrimination and humiliation". "What Mr. Korwin-Mikke has preached did not only offend those that have a different skin colour, but everyone who is inspired by the European values of dignity and equality," said Italian Socialist Cecile Kyenge, who is of Congolese origin. Korwin-Mikke had already stirred controversy during campaigning for EU elections in May by claiming Adolf Hitler "was not aware of the extermination of the Jews".
© AFP

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'Racism can only be tackled at the top': Cole

Footballer Ashley Cole, who signed with AS Roma earlier this month, said on Tuesday that racism in Italian sport can only be tackled with a top-down approach.

16/7/2014- Speaking to journalists in Rome on Tuesday, the former Chelsea and England player said that racism is “for higher people in football to deal with”, rather than something than can be overcome by individual players. “Of course it’s a serious matter, but until something is done a little bit higher then it’s never going to change,” Cole said. The British footballer arrived in the Italian capital earlier this month to join AS Roma, which came second in Italy’s Serie A league last season. Cole said he had high hopes for his time with the squad: “It’s an ambitious club, and hopefully we can do something special next season and win the league.” The 33-year-old told journalists he “jumped at the chance” to move after the “love” shown by staff at the club. Cole also said he was keen to get to grips with life in Italy. “I’ve never been out of London, there’s a big opportunity for me to try another language, a different culture and a different way of living,” he said, speaking through a translator.

Transfers from the English Premier League to Serie A are rare, a point Cole put down to players being “scared” to leave home. “I think English players are probably scared to come abroad, they’re in a comfort zone,” he said. Cole, however, was an exception to the rule: “As soon as I knew I had the chance to come abroad and come to Italy, and come to this great club, it was something I wanted to do.” READ MORE: Ashley Cole welcomed by Roma after Chelsea exit The former England player was released from Chelsea in May, ending an eight-year career with the club. Including his earlier time at Arsenal, Cole made a total of 385 appearances in the Premier League.
© The Local - Italy

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Gay Campaigners Celebrate Victory in Croatia

New law adopted on Tuesday grants same-sex couples most of the rights that married couples enjoy, except in the field of adoption.

16/7/2014- Croatia’s parliament has adopted a Law on Life Partnership, giving same-sex unions most of the same rights that married couples enjoy. The Law was passed on Tuesday with 89 votes for and 16 against. The initiative for the law came from the centre-left government, especially from the Minister for Social Politics and Youth, Milanka Opacic, and the Ministry of State Administration, Arsen Bauk. The move comes after 65 per cent of electors voted in a referendum last December to define marriage exclusively as a “union between a man and a woman”, in effect erecting a constitutional ban against any move to legalise gay marriage. However, the new legislation defines the statutory rights of same-sex couples in much the same way, in areas such as inheritance, pensions, tax and medical care. Although the law does not allow same-sex couples the right to adopt, it gives those that already live with children the same rights as other couples.

Marko Jurcic, from Zagreb Pride organization, said the final text of the law was much better than the first version. “Life partnership is made in every way equal to marriage, even regulating children already living in same-sex unions,” Jurcic noted, adding that adoption rights remained the only essential area of difference. “Adoption was ruled out as a possibility from the beginning, so it is not a surprise,” he said. “What surprised us is that life partnership has been much better defined than we could have imagined,” he stressed, adding that the law “actually defined a same-sex union as a form of family”. “We’re very pleased, this is a huge step forward for Croatia,” Jurcic concluded.
© Balkan Insight

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Netherlands: How to disguise racist talk (opinion)

Racist talk comes in many guises, write Hanneke Felten and Maurits Boote.

17/7/2014- ‘Those African sides may be physically strong but of course they have no strategy. They’re all over the place.’ These are the words, more or less, of a football pundit earlier this week. Replace the words ‘African side’ with ‘negroes’ and the comment would have led to a commotion on a level with the ‘Gordon-and-the-Chinese’ or ‘Black Pete controversies’. But in this instance: nothing. Hidden racism, how is it done?

Avoid ‘race’ talk
The first strategy is the one exemplified by the football commentator. Skillfully avoid any mention of race or skin colour. Use ‘culture’, ‘Muslims’, ‘Africans’ or simply ‘migrants’ instead. Now see if you can get away with saying exactly the same thing that was said a century ago about ‘negroes’, ‘Arabs’ or ‘foreigners’. We could call this one make-over racism.

Blame the victim
Should the person you are talking to catch on in spite of your attempts at disguising your nasty message, there’s always the ‘blaming the victim’ technique as a way out. The young Moroccans who aren’t invited to a job interview? Well, their attitude can’t be up to much. The technique works for other groups as well. Women denied equal pay for the same job surely don’t work as hard as the men. Gays who are being bullied out of their neighbourhoods were probably nasty neighbours. They only have themselves to blame.

You were having a laugh
And if that doesn’t do the trick you can say you were having a laugh. Take the group of ‘white’ pals watching a game. One of them calls a dark-skinned player a ‘monkey’ or makes ‘jungle noises’. Everybody laughs. A lone critical voice is silenced by cries of ’Don’t be such a bore, can’t you take a joke?’

Bad experiences
What to do when you spot news about a business openly proclaiming it will not employ ‘negroes’? You would be hard put to deny racism, or would you? There’s a way out of this one too. You could say that the company must have had bad experiences employing ‘these people’. So why do it again? In this case judgement of the person isn’t based on his or her individual characteristics but on the prevalent prejudices regarding his or her ethnic background. And that is racism, whether you like it or not.

Red card
Many people think racism is something that used to happen. Something to do with Hitler and the slave trade. Something that happens in the United States or South Africa. As long as we don’t have signs on the buses telling black people to get in at the back it’s not so bad, is it? How do we deal with this denial? It would be nice if we didn’t have to wait for the next red card from the Human Rights Committee or even the UN. We know what is happening so let’s put the ball on the penalty spot ourselves and score a goal for racial equality. Local councils, local organisations and individual citizens can all help. The city or village that scores the most goals wins the cup. But in the meantime we all win. Racism is for losers, after all.
Hanneke Felten & Maurits Boote work at

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© The Dutch News
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Netherlands Declared Liable for 300 Srebrenica Deaths

A Dutch court has ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 Bosniaks from Srebrenica in 1995 because its peacekeeping troops failed to protect them.

16/7/2014- The district court in The Hague ruled in a landmark verdict on Wednesday that Dutch peacekeepers had failed to protect the Bosniaks after Srebrenica fell to the Bosnian Serb Army in July 1995, and ordered the Netherlands to pay compensation to hundreds of victims. After Srebrenica was overrun by Serb forces, many Bosniak men and boys tried to escape through the woods while others headed for the nearby UN peacekeepers’ base at Potocari, where the Dutch battalion (known as ‘Dutchbat’) was stationed. Several hundred men managed to get inside the Potocari base, but were told by the Dutch troops that they would be safe outside and handed over to the Serbs, who later killed them. “The state is liable for the loss suffered by relatives of the men who were deported by the Bosnian Serbs from the Dutchbat compound in Potocari in the afternoon of 13 July, 1995,” the court in The Hague ruled. “Dutchbat should have taken into account the possibility that these men would be the victims of genocide and that it can be said with sufficient certainty that, had Dutchbat allowed them to stay at the compound, these men would have remained alive,” it said.

More than 7,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica were killed in total, in the worst massacres in Europe since World War II, which international court verdicts have defined as genocide. The Dutch peacekeepers, who were stationed in Srebrenica after it was declared a ‘safe area’ by the UN in 1993, had an obligation to protect the civilian population. The relatives’ lawsuit charged them with failing to do so. Munira Subasic, whose son was among those who took refuge in the Dutch compound but was expelled and then killed, welcomed the verdict but said that the judges should have ruled that the Netherlands was responsible for all the Srebrenica deaths. “We are not satisfied that they didn’t recognise all the victims [died because the Dutch troops did not protect them],” Subasic told BIRN. More than 15,000 people marked the 19th anniversary of the mass killings last week at a remembrance event in Potocari which saw the burial of the remains of 175 of the victims who were identified over the past year. Thirty Bosnian Serbs have so far been jailed over the massacres, while the trials of their political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are still ongoing.
© Balkan Insight

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UK: Passport official suspended over 'interrogation' of gay applicant

Disciplinary investigation ordered after man claims he was questioned about his sexual history in front of four-year-old son

13/7/2014- The Home Office has suspended a passport official and ordered a disciplinary investigation after the employee subjected a gay father-of-two to a lengthy interrogation about his sexual history and the details of his adoptions in front of the man's four-year-old son. During what was meant to be a routine interview – the final stage in the application for his passport – Randall Cole was last month questioned for half an hour about his sexual practices, including whether he had ever had sex with a woman, and forced to discuss the terms of the adoptions and his relationship with the biological mother. He was also asked whether his children were "confused" by their family – as the child sat on his lap. Cole says the "clearly homophobic" questioning left him shaking and feeling "violated and dirty" and wondering, amid the widespread delays with 400,000 people waiting for their passport, whether the system is "so broken that it allows people to do and say whatever they want without fear of repercussion".

American-born Cole, 44, a charity worker who became a British citizen on 1 May and who married British human resources manager Stuart Wales, 42, in California in 2001, went to the passport office in Chelmsford, Essex, expecting a "straightforward interview". The Home Office website states that applicants will simply "be asked to confirm facts about yourself that someone trying to steal your identity may not know". But in the midst of an open plan office, the official then "launched immediately into personal things". "I told her I am here with my son Samuel and that he has an older brother [Benjamin, eight] but that my husband is looking after him – and when I used the term husband that's when you could see something immediately changed in her. She began to fixate on questions about my family. "She said: 'Is this your biological child?' And when I said no she said: 'Is it your partner's biological child?' And when I explained that we are family through adoption she said: 'Oh, so that's why you're able to have children.'" Cole tried to distract his son with a box of Tic Tacs.

"She then asked 'What do the children call their birth mother?' and 'What does the birth mother think about all of us?' and 'Aren't the children confused by it all?'" Cole attempted to explain that if Samuel's birth mother was there and the boy fell over he would run to Cole. But the officer "sighed, shook her head and looked bemused". "Then she said: 'What do you think people make of you when they see you walking down the street with your kids?'" The official, he says, went on to ask about the birth mother: "Do they call her mum? Why didn't she want to keep her children?" Concerned about the effect of this on his son, Cole felt compelled to again explain things to him, in front of her. "I'm talking to Samuel, even though he knows this, saying: 'You came out of Emily's tummy but Daddy and Papa are your parents.' At this point I felt I was failing my son, failing to keep him safe," he says. When Cole mentioned that he works part-time, he says, the Home Office employee interrupted: "Oh, so you're like the housewife." The grilling reached another nadir, however, when matters moved on to Cole's sexual history.

"She said: 'You must have had relationships with women in the past though?'" At this, Cole stopped her. "She became indignant and said: 'We can ask anything we want, regardless of whether or not it makes you feel uncomfortable.' "But it was clear she was trying to humiliate me – a way to get me to say if I'd had sex with a woman. She said I could refuse to answer but my lack of response would be noted and then proceeded to try to get me to answer, through a variety of questions, whether I or Stuart had previously been sexually active heterosexually." He has filed a written complaint to the Home Office. "I have never felt so violated or humiliated. Her questioning was clearly homophobic, designed to put me in my place. We moved here because of the promise of a tolerant society." Such Home Office interviews are recorded as a matter of routine. It is understood that the recording has been reviewed by more senior Home Office officials. A Home Office spokesman said: "Intrusive questions about someone's sexuality as part of an interview would be inappropriate and is not a reflection of our policy. "The member of staff in question has been suspended and a disciplinary investigation is now under way."
© The Guardian

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UK: Fears of Islamophobia gave activists free rein in Birmingham schools

Scathing report prompts call for rethink of schools oversight as MP threatens to name council officials who took no action

18/7/2014- A group of fundamentalist "activists", mostly men of Pakistani origin, infiltrated the management of at least 10 schools in Birmingham, sometimes breaking the law in order to introduce Muslim worship and sex segregation, according to a highly critical report. Their activities were unimpeded by council officials who were fearful of allegations of Islamophobia, who forced ousted teachers to sign gagging clauses rather than treating their complaints seriously as whistleblowers, Ian Kershaw, the authority's independent adviser, concluded. Sir Albert Bore, leader of the city's Labour-run council, apologised on Friday to the people of Birmingham "for the way the actions of a few, including some within the council, have undermined the great reputation of our city". But he refused to resign and blamed the previous Tory administration for turning a blind eye to what one report described as "coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city".

Kershaw found that there had indeed been a "determined effort to changed schools, often by unacceptable practices, in order to influence educational and religious provision for the students served". Some or all of tactics outlined in the Trojan horse plot were present in 10 schools, he said. But he noted that many of the "activists" who "bullied and harassed" headteachers were ultimately motivated by a "genuine and understandable desire" to improve standards for children from an ethnic-minority group long poorly served by education in the city. However, he found "no evidence of a conspiracy to promote an anti-British agenda, violent extremism or radicalisation of schools in east Birmingham."

This contrasts with a report leaked to the Guardian on Thursday night, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove, in which the author, counter-terrorism police officer Peter Clarke, found there had been a "sustained and coordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam". The independent Kershaw investigation was commissioned by Birmingham city council (BCC) as a result of concerns raised in a dossier leaked to the media this year. Known as the "Trojan horse" letter, it suggested a number of schools in the city had been "taken over" to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles.

Yet many parents remain happy with the education their children receive at these criticised schools. Outside Park View on Friday, parents insisted their children received both a good education and were allowed to observe their religion. One mother of a year-9 pupil said: "My son gets to pray at school. That's all I'm concerned about." Another mother, Yasmin Bashir, said: "I'm very happy with the school. It's nice, nice principles." Some children were "coerced" into Muslim worship, said Kershaw. One of his interviewees said that at Park View academy, which was put into special measures by Ofsted last month, a ball was confiscated from a boy who ignored the call to prayer in the playground. Female pupils were also ordered to return from a tennis coaching programme "because the school policy … does not allow girls to have a male coach and take part in any activity with boys" and a netball tournament was cancelled because organisers were not able to guarantee there would be no men present.

At Golden Hillock school, one of Kershaw's interviewees reported that a teacher told children not to listen to Christians because they were "all liars"; another allegedly told pupils they were "lucky to be Muslims and not ignorant like Christians and Jews". At Highfield junior and infant school, the governors wanted to introduce Arabic as the main foreign language, going against the wishes of parents. The same happened at Nansen primary, with Arabic replacing French. After the school became an academy under Park View's control in October 2012, Christmas and Diwali celebrations no longer took place, Kershaw reported. Similarly, at Oldknow academy last December, children were told not to send Christmas cards and that it was "unbelievable that Christians believe in the Christmas story". Kershaw reported that pupils were encouraged to chant "no, we don't" when asked questions such as "Do we celebrate or believe in Christmas?"

At Saltley school, activists demanded that the kitchen serve exclusively halal food, despite the catering consultants warning that it would not be appropriate for other religions and would have cost implications. At a governors meeting on 31 January last year, one Saltley governor queried whether the word "sex" had to appear in the school's Sex and Relationships policy. At Adderley primary school, members of the governing body were said to have raised "so many petty problems", such as requiring black-out curtains for an after-school fitness class, raising repeated requests and concerns over religious education and notallowing the school to celebrate Christmas and Easter. After Gove's surprise removal on Monday, the Department for Education seemed at a loss as to how to respond to the latest revelations. Gove's replacement, Nicky Morgan, is expected to give a statement to the Commons next week when Clarke's final report is officially published.

In the version seen by the Guardian, Clarke wants the responsibilities of the teacher who is designated child protection officer to include the Prevent anti-extremism strategy and calls for limits on the number of school governorships held by a single individual. He also wants a review of the process by which local authority-controlled schools are converted into autonomous academies. In his report, Kershaw found that some headteachers and governors had broken the law by introducing Islamic assemblies without the correct authorisation. The main culprits were "men of Pakistani heritage", he said, who "moved between schools as they tried to spread their agenda through the "unacceptable bullying and harassment of headteachers". The report identifies "serious governance issues that exist in a small number of schools in east Birmingham as a result of, at best, poor skills, and at worst, serious malpractice, by members of certain governing bodies."

The emerging scandal
December 2013 Birmingham council passes a letter to West Midlands counter-terrorism unit outlining a plot called "Operation Trojan horse" to oust headteachers and replace them with people who will run schools on "strict Islamic principles".

7 March 2014 The counter-terrorism unit confirms it is looking into the alleged plot as details become public.

13 March Police reveal they are investigating whether the letter was a hoax connected to an employment tribunal involving a school named in the plot.

14 April Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham council, says 25 schools in the city are under investigation following 200 complaints in relation to allegations of Islamist "takeovers". He also announces that the council has given Ian Kershaw, a former headteacher with experience of leading independent inquiries, a six-month contract to "analyse further all Trojan horse material to enable us to see the whole picture".

15 April Michael Gove, then education secretary, appoints Peter Clarke, a former head of the Met's counter-terrorism unit who led the investigation into the 7/7 London bombings of 2005, to look at the claims.

9 June Five of 21 schools inspected by Ofsted are judged inadequate and put in special measures: Park View, Golden Hillock, Saltley, Oldknow and Nansen. Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says "a culture of fear and intimidation" exists within the schools under investigation.

20 June The governors of Saltley resign in protest at their school's treatment.

15 July Trustees at Park View educational trust announce they have quit in protest against a "coordinated and vicious" offensive led by Gove.

17 July Clarke's report concludes there is evidence of "coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools" in Birmingham.

18 July Kershaw's report concludes the council "disastrously" failed to take action when some Muslim men put forward a fundamentalist version of Islam in schools, because officials were afraid of being branded as Islamophobic.
© The Guardian

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UK: Far-right Group Britain First 'Invade' South London Mosque Over 'Sexist' Signs

Members of the far right group Britain First have "invaded" a mosque in south east London demanding that 'sexist' signs be removed from the entrances.

16/7/2014- In a video the activists can be seen confronting an elderly Imam at the Crayford mosque over the separate "brother" and "sister" signs – threatening him by saying "when you respect women – we'll respect your mosques". Former Swanley BNP councillor Paul Golding told him: "We object to your signs that are outside for men and women. In this country we have equality." When the concerned Imam asked him and the others to remove their shoes out of respect for Allah, Golding pressed: "Are you listening?" The North West Kent Muslim Association conducts acts of worship based on gender separation like most mosques in the UK. The group then asked the Imam to "cover up" a huge cross on the front of the building, saying "it's offensive to us".

A statement on the group's website under the headline: "Britain First Activists invade Crayford mosque", said: "Islam treats and views women as second-class citizens. "Britain First will not allow Islam to drag our standards back to the 7th Century." Mosque volunteer, Syed Alam, told the News Shopper: "They are filthy people creating trouble in our society. "They were very aggressive and threatening. The signs are our religious policy. "They are making trouble for nothing. We have been here since 1997 and we have good relations with local people." Britain First is the most active far-right group to emerge since the collapse of the BNP and EDL. Its Facebook page has more than 350,000 "likes" - making it more popular than the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
© The International Business Times - UK

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UK: Hunt for hate crime attacker who hit teenager

Police are hunting for a tattooed man who battered a woman in a homophobic attack.

15/7/2014- The 19-year-old was pushed to the ground and punched in the face in Glasgow city centre. She was walking with a 16-year-old when the pair were targeted in St Enoch Square at 1am on Saturday. Police said they were approached and verbally abused by the man, who punched the victim to the ground. The suspect ran off after the attack, but police said his clothes and bag may have been torn in the struggle. The victim was taken to the city's Royal Infirmary where she was treated for her injuries, but later released. Officers said it had been a "nasty" and unprovoked attack. The male attacker, who has a full-sleeve tattoo, is described as being in his mid to late-20s, 6ft, with ginger hair. He was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans and was carrying a black ruscksack.

Superintendent Alan Porte, who is leading the inquiry, said: "This was a nasty attack on two young women. Police Scotland has a zero-tolerance approach to tackling crime based on prejudice and I want to make clear it will not be tolerated. "In relation to this serious assault, officers have been carrying out inquiries in the local area and studying CCTV in an effort to gather information on the man responsible. "St Enoch Square may have been busy with people on nights out and I believe passing motorists or pedestrians may have seen something which could help us." Anyone with information is urged to call Police Scotland on 101. All calls will be treated in confidence.

Last month it emerged the number of reports of hate crimes against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has risen by 22 per cent in a year., with 890 crimes last year.
© The Herald Scotland

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Spain: Neo-nazi 'not sorry' over 'blood bath' speech

The head of a Spanish far-right group appeared in court on Wednesday over statements he made justifying a blood bath in Catalonia if the Spanish national government failed to quash an independence movement in the region.

17/7/2014- The leader of Alianza Nacional (National Alliance), Pedro Pablo Peña, made the comments during a neo-Nazi rally held in Barcelona on Spain's October 12th National Day 2013. "Catalonia won't become independent without a lot of blood being spilled," he is reported to have said in a speech during the demonstration which saw the group's members carrying banners calling for Catalonia's regional president Artur Mas to be sent to the gas chambers. Catalan leaders are pushing for a November 9th referendum on the issue of independence for the region with 7.5 million people. Many in Catalonia feel they would be better off without Spain, saying they feel short-changed by the central government which redistributes their taxes. But the far-right Alianza Nacional, which is anti-immigrant and anti-gay marriage, believes the region is an essential part of Spanish territory.

On Wednesday, an unrepentant Peña refused to back down over his 2013 comments, Spain's 20 minutos newspaper reported. He is now on trial for charges of inciting hatred and discrimination. The leader of Spain's far-right Falange group had also been summonsed to appear in court on the same charges on Wednesday but failed to show. He did, however, answer questions from Madrid. During that declaration he said the "Spanish people" could legitimately use violence if the government failed to prevent the independence of Catalona. The Falange leader, however, refused to answer questions relating to charges of inciting hatred and violence.
© The Local - Spain

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Spain: 'North Africans are sponging off us': mayor

The mayor of Vitoria has caused a stir by accusing Algerians and Moroccans of registering as residents at the Basque city's town hall with the sole purpose of claiming social benefits.

16/7/2014- Javier Maroto told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser he had no official data but had no intention of being “politically correct” when talking about “how they’re taking us for a ride”. “Some foreigners in our city come primarily to claim social benefits and have no intention of working or integrating,” Maroto told Cadena Ser when talking about how Vitoria’s opposition Socialist party had suggested impoverished residents should be paid in cash rather than be handed free food. “If someone goes hungry in our city, we must help them. But we can’t just give them money for them to send back to Algeria and Morocco,” the mayor with Spain's conservative Popular Party stated. “It isn't the same with people from Latin America, they come to work and are willing to integrate.” Maroto has already revoked the residency documents of 300 people who falsely claimed they lived in the Basque capital to be able to have access to free food products in local supermarkets. “They've been told they can sponge off others here, many Vitorians have had it up to here with these people.”
© The Local - Spain

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Spain: Neo-Nazi gang extorts neighbour to pay lawyer

Police in Spain's Catalonia region have arrested four members of a neo-Nazi gang who beat up one of their neighbours to extort up to €2,500 ($3,400) from him, money that would later go to pay for the defence of ten of their associates standing trial for violent crimes.

15/7/2014- The four men, whose home was found to house a vast arsenal of weapons and fascist memorabilia, beat up their neighbour on repeated occasions. According to Catalan police, they burst the victim’s ear drum during a beating and were planning a kidnapping to extort even bigger sums of money from him. Although the man did not report the case to Catalan police, medical staff informed local authorities when he turned up in hospital with serious injuries. The four men, known to have ties to radical football groups, have since been arrested, Catalan daily La Vanguardia reported. Their aim was to cover the costs of their jailed colleagues' defence, behind bars while awaiting trial for attacking a group of youths with knuckledusters and crowbars. During the attack, which took place at an anti-fascism concert in the Catalan city of Manresa in 2012, the Nazi sympathizers injured one of their victims so badly “he would have died had he not received immediate medical help”, the court heard.
© The Local - Spain

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Ukraine conflict: 'White power' warrior from Sweden

The appearance of far-right activists, both foreign and home-grown, among the Ukrainian volunteers fighting in east Ukraine is causing unease.

16/7/2014- Mikael Skillt is a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. He is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He is known to be dangerous to the rebels: reportedly there is a bounty of nearly $7,000 (£4,090; 5,150 euros) on his head. In a telephone conversation from an undisclosed location, Mr Skillt told me more about his duties: "I have at least three purposes in the Azov Battalion: I am a commander of a small reconnaissance unit, I am also a sniper, and sometimes I work as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas." As to his political views, Mr Skillt prefers to call himself a nationalist, but in fact his views are typical of a neo-Nazi. "It's all about how you see it," he says. "I would be an idiot if I said I did not want to see survival of white people. After World War Two, the victors wrote their history. They decided that it's always a bad thing to say I am white and I am proud."

'One stray liberal'
Mr Skillt believes races should not mix. He says the Jews are not white and should not mix with white people. His next project is to go fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because he believes Mr Assad is standing up to "international Zionism". Not all of Mr Skillt's views are widely shared in the Azov Battalion, which is about 300-strong in total. He says his comrades do not discuss politics much, though some of them may be "national socialists" and may wear swastikas. On the other hand, "there is even one liberal, though I don't know how he got there", he adds, with a smile in his voice. Mr Skillt says there is only a handful of foreign fighters in the Azov Battalion and they do not get paid. "They see it as a good thing, to come and fight," he explains. However, Mr Skillt is expecting more foreigners to join soon: he says there is now a recruiter who is looking for "serious fighters" from outside Ukraine.

The key figures in the Azov Battalion are its commander, Andriy Biletsky, and his deputy, Ihor Mosiychuk. Andriy Biletsky is also the leader of a Ukrainian organisation called the Social National Assembly. Its aims are stated in one of their online publications: "to prepare Ukraine for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race from the domination of the internationalist speculative capital" "to punish severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man" This, according to experts, is a typical neo-Nazi narrative.

'Foreign journalists'
The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine's interior ministry. A ministerial adviser, Anton Gerashchenko, got angry when I asked him if the battalion had any neo-Nazi links through the Social National Assembly. "The Social National Assembly is not a neo-Nazi organisation," he said. "It is a party of Ukrainian patriots who are giving their lives while the rich Europeans are only talking about supporting Ukraine. When, may I ask, will English people come here and help us fight terrorists sent by Russia's President [Vladimir] Putin, instead of lecturing us on our moral values or people's political affiliations?" Mr Gerashchenko was adamant, however, that there were no foreign citizens fighting in the Azov Battalion. "There are foreign journalists, from Sweden, Spain and Italy, who have come to report on the heroic achievements of the fighters in their struggle against terrorism," he said.

He insisted he had never heard of Mikael Skillt, the Swedish sniper. Ukraine is a democratic state, which held a democratic election in May, where the far right and nationalist parties got hardly any votes. These views are not popular with the electorate. But Anton Shekhovtsov, a prominent expert on far-right and neo-Nazi movements in Europe, believes the Ukrainian government should be clear about whom it is arming to fight for Ukraine's democratic cause. "It is a pressing concern, especially with regards to the anti-terrorist operation," he said. "In my view, the war against pro-Russia separatists is the war for democratic values. Neo-Nazis are as dangerous as pro-Russia extremists in eastern Ukraine."
© BBC News

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Ukrainian Jewish governor vows to return mosque to Muslim community

The Jewish governor of a major Ukrainian city promised to return a former mosque to the Muslim community.

15/7/2014- Igor Kolomoisky, who was appointed governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region in March, made the promise last week during a visit to the city’s Olympic Reserve Sports School, which operates from a building that was built in 1926 to serve as a mosque but which the Soviet government later confiscated, the news site evreiskiy.kiev.ua reported. Representatives of the region’s Muslim community of 80,000 have been lobbying for restitution of the building since 2000, the news site rus.newsru.ua reported. “Igor Kolomoisky, governor of the region, is going as soon as possible to return the mosque to the Muslim community,” Deputy Governor Boris Filatov was quoted as saying last week. According to Newsru.ua, the region’s Muslim community is mostly made up of Tatars, whose main place of worship is a private residence in the city’s outskirts with a capacity of 250 people.

Throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities have received hundreds of real-estate properties that had been confiscated during the Soviet era from local and state governments. Recently, Russia has come under international criticism, including by the Council of Europe, for its treatment of Muslim Tatars in the Crimean Peninsula, an area it annexed from Ukraine in March despite an international outcry. Kolomoisky, a billionaire banker, is known for his criticism of Russia’s actions on Ukraine and is believed to have poured millions of dollars of his private wealth into arming Ukraine’s underfunded army to deal with threats from Russia.
© JTA News

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Belgium: Heavy beats to blast out Roma travellers

The Mayor of Landen, Gino Debroux, has plans to try and get travelling people to budge by playing loud music at them.

16/7/2014- The Roma travellers illegally occupied a private plot on an industrial zone last Sunday. The travellers arrived in thirty caravans. Initially they agreed to move on by Wednesday, but yesterday the Gypsy King announced they would be staying until Friday. The socialist mayor of the Limburg municipality is installing a music installation that will blast the gypsies with loud music from 9am onwards. "It will probably be beat music that easily gets on your nerves" the mayor told newsmen after police reinforcements had been called in. Not everybody is enamoured by the Landen mayor's efforts.

Jos Vander Velpen, chair of the human rights league, says that the main problem is that nothing is being done to find solutions for the problems experienced by Roma people: "This is a sign of growing intolerance towards minorities. It's pretty ironic that gypsies, musicians par excellence, are being set to flight using music." "They are sent from pillar to post. We need to look for a place where they can remain." The Landen mayor can't count on support from Theo Francken, a fellow mayor (Lubbeek) and Flemish nationalist lawmaker. Mr Francken believes his socialist colleague is going too far: "This smacks of practices in Romania where gypsies are chased away." "The arrival of gypsies in Lubbeek triggered a lot of commotion last year. We talked with them and made agreements and the council designated a location where they could stay. They have to pay a daily rate but can use power and get rid of their rubbish."
© Expatica - Belgium

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Belgium: Antwerp demonstration features calls to ‘slaughter the Jews’

Dozens of men at an anti-Israel demonstration in Antwerp shouted slogans about slaughtering Jews.

15/7/2014- Approximately 500 people attended Saturday’s protest in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish region, where one of the speakers used a loudspeaker to chant a call in Arabic that means “slaughter the Jews.” The demonstration against Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza happened amid a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Western Europe that coincided with the Israeli actions, and one day before a similar demonstration in Paris escalated into what European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called an “attempted lynch” outside a local synagogue. The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism filed a complaint for incitement to violence against participants and organizers of the Antwerp demonstration, dozens of whom were recorded making the calls. “International politics cannot serve as a pretext for incitement to anti-Semitic hatred,” the organization’s president, Joel Rubinfeld, said in a statement.

It also condemned the presence at the demonstration of three local politicians: Karim Bachar of the Flemish Socialist Party; Ikrame Kastit of the Flemish Green Party; and Mohamed Chebaa of Labor. The protesters also called out “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,” referencing a seventh-century slaughter against Jews in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, the same call was heard at a demonstration in The Hague in favor of the ISIS Sunni militia in Syria and Iraq. The protest was held six days before Israel launched its military operation in Gaza.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in a letter to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte protested that the demonstration was allowed to take place. “Unless Jihadism in your country is totally quashed, Dutch returnees from their Syrian baptism of fire and Jihadist websites at home will menace Jewish, Muslim and all other citizens of the Netherlands,” wrote Shimon Samuels, the center’s international relations director. In Paris, approximately 200 Jews were besieged on Sunday inside the synagogue by dozens of young men who confronted police and Jewish guards outside in what turned into a street brawl before police reinforcements dispersed the crowd. The CRIF umbrella group of Jewish organizations and communities appealed to French President Francois Hollande to temporarily ban “pro-Hamas protests” for fear they would escalate into similar attacks.
© JTA News

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First refugees from Syria set to arrive in Holland: 250 remains limit

14/7/2014- The first of 250 Syrian refugees to be admitted to the Netherlands are set to arrive in Amsterdam on Monday, according to the Volkskrant. However, pressure is mounting on junior justice minister Fred Teeven to admit more people fleeing the civil war, the paper says. Germany, for example, is accepting 10,000 people while Norway is taking in 1,000. Teeven, however, refuses to accept more than 250 ‘specially selected’ people, despite opposition calls for a more generous policy.

Three million
Some three million people have been displaced from their homes because of the fighting and on Friday the UN called on European countries to accept far more than the current total. ChristenUnie MP Joël Voordewind told the Volkskrant 150 of the people assigned to the Netherlands are still in Lebanon because no suitable accommodation has been found for them. ‘Only 100 people [who made it to] Jordan can come to the Netherlands,’ he said. ‘Work on finding houses for these people started far too late.’ Teeven, however, believes refugees are better off remaining as close to their homes as possible. ‘The solution is in the region, not here,’ he told MPs on Friday. The Netherlands has allocated €76.5m to local refugee services.
© The Dutch News

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Sweden: 'Racists' blamed for homeless tent attacks

A local group assisting homeless EU migrants in southern Stockholm has claimed that "racists" were behind the weekend attacks on camps which left tents and car tyres slashed.

15/7/2014- "Over the weekend we have had visits from vandals in three camps who have slashed a load of tents and torn tyres on six cars," Anna Silver from an organization which raises money for homeless EU migrants said in a statement via Facebook. "We can, with all certainty, say that it was a racist (attack)," she said. Silver explained that the first attacks at the camp in Högdalen in southern Stockholm occurred on Saturday and when there was a repeat on Sunday one of the residents managed to grab hold of a perpetrator. The man however got away and a description has been forwarded to the police. The organization has meanwhile managed to collect enough funds to replace the damaged tents and Silver called for more donations to continue their work helping the EU migrants, many of whom are from Romania and who get by begging on Stockholm's streets. More attention has been drawn to the tented camps in Högdalen since police moved in to evict Romanians living there in February. This was followed by a similar police action at a camp in Helenelund in March. Stockholm's homeless population has increased in recent years and beggars have become a common feature on the city's streets. The city has responded with various initiatives including the recent launch of a so-called 'beggar hotline', a move which has been slammed by some charities as a token gesture.
© The Local - Sweden

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EMISCO urges IGOs and International Community to stop this madness now

14/7/2014- Normally, EMISCO – European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion does not take sides in territorial conflicts, condemn or support any given country nor do we issue statements of intent in political disputes outside Europe. We work for the socio-economic, cultural and religions rights of the Muslim communities as well as the betterment of relations among various ethnic and religious groups who live in Europe. But when a far away conflict in the Middle East reaches European shores and causes disharmony, violence – verbal and physical – and disturbs peaceful living, we cannot stay silent. EMISCO is very worried that the increased violence, indiscriminate killings and labelling of a territorial conflict, as a religious issue will have dire consequences for Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe.

The present violent situation in Gaza and Israel has already resulted in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents in some parts of Europe and on Social media, hefty debates are raging between native Europeans, ethnic and religious minorities with very harsh tone and discomforting rhetoric. An escalating conflict in the Middle East would surely make our living together in peace, even harder than before. That is why, EMISCO strongly urges EU, Council of Europe, OSCE and the international community through UN, to not wait too long but stop this madness now. We also request the European mainstream media, not to take sides with any party in the conflict but instead report the events impartially and professionally so that public views are not further prejudiced or enraged.

The NGOs and political leadership in Europe should also refrain from xenophobic statements and taking one-sided positions. Finally, while we are aware of the anger and frustrations, Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters must be feeling, we appeal to them to be extra cautious in venting their anger and not add to the problem while expressing their views. In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality and European Muslim and Jewish communities need to support all the efforts to halt the violence.
© EMISCO – European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion

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Germany: Zschäpe dumps lawyers in NSU trial (interview)

18/7/2014- Beate Zschäpe, the main defendant in the NSU trial, wants to split from her lawyers. In a DW interview, co-plaintiff attorney Thomas Bliwier describes what that means for the further trial and his clients.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Bliwier, Beate Zschäpe no longer has confidence in her court-appointed attornies. We are now waiting to hear her explanation and the opinions of the defense and prosecution. What consequences could this have for the NSU trial?
Thomas Bliwier: That depends very much on what Ms. Zschäpe actually says. In longer criminal cases, a disturbance in the relationship between defense and client can always occur. The case law is very strict, to prevent a defendant from using specious reasoning to have a public defender removed, thus interrupting the trial. Requests of this kind actually happen quite often, but it is quite rare for a public defender to be replaced. As the law sees it, only really serious reasons are accepted. The relationship of trust between counsel and client must be permanently destroyed.

Could it be that this request will have no effect on the trial?
Formally, this could happen, but the trial would not be the same as before. With such a serious accusation, and with still many trial days and witnesses still to come, the accused has indeed acted in a rather drastic manner: She called on a court officer to submit to the court that she no longer has confidence in her defense - and that came in the middle of the cross-examination of witness Tino Brandt. That is a signal. No matter how this works out, we should note that Ms. Zschäpe is saying: I do not trust my defenders any more. If she cannot restore this, you have to imagine: Ms. Zschäpe no longer believes she is being defended and the defenders know that they no longer have the confidence of their client. This is a heavy burden for the trial.

You are representing the family of Halit Yozgat, considered to be the ninth NSU murder victim. Does this development create more reason for hope or concern for your clients, or other plaintiffs?
Our clients are concerned. They are naturally curious to see what will be presented as a justification. But they are worried that the court will find there are serious grounds and would have to accede to this request. Then it would be hard to imagine that the trial could continue. We could theoretically order new defenders. They would have to become familiar with the case materials, but that is unlikely within the statutory preparation period of one month. That's a big concern for those representing clients: Could the trial break down and would we need to start over?

But aren't the hurdles for this still very high?
The hurdles are very, very high. There is often dissatisfaction with what the defense does or does not do. In most cases, it is possible to work together to find a common approach, for example, such as by expressing criticism of a questioning technique used on witnesses, to which the defense can respond. It is also conceivable that, for example, only one public defender would be replaced.

Beate Zschäpe has remained silent throughout the trial on the advice of her lawyers. But some now believe she may decide to make a statement. Do you see reasons for this?
I said early on that I believe Ms. Zschäpe will at some point speak. We have a procedure in which I think silence is not a good strategy. We recently learned that her co-accused Ralf Wohlleben must stay in prison. The authorities have made it clear they believe there is strong evidence against Mr. Wohlleben and that this has not changed. Ms. Zschäpe has also taken note of this decision. We have also just heard again from witness Tino Brandt that she was very ideologically driven and not a "wallflower" who did not take part in political discussions; she was very closely connected with Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt. The court is not obliged to investigate every conceivable doubt, but only doubts that are palpable. Perhaps Ms. Zschäpe understands that she can counter this only by a statement or through a more consistent defense than the one we have been experiencing.

Your clients issued a courtroom appeal for Ms. Zschäpe to testify. Is the desire for answers dominating everything else?
The desire for answers is dominant. From the beginning they have formulated this not as a call for a specific punishment for Ms. Zschäpe, but that they assume she knows what happened, how the victims were selected and whether there were local helpers. It was impressive how Mrs. Yozgat said in court: "You should not be found guilty of something that you have not committed." The Yozgat family has no interest in a weak or bad defense. On the contrary. Of course, we would feel more comfortable if, in the end, a judgment that is sound and has been well defended is handed down in a trial like this. In such a trial, not only a strong co-plaintiff, but also a strong defense are needed. The Yozgats want to hear from this woman what really happened. In what direction her testimony could go is completely open, but I think that does not matter, in any case she would help to provide answers.

Hamburg lawyer Thomas Bliwier has represented the Yozgat family as co-plaintiffs since the trial of alleged National Socialist Underground member Beate Zschäpe began in Munich on May 6, 2013. Halit Yozgat was shot and killed on April 6, 2006 in his Internet café in Kassel, Germany. He is considered the ninth victim of the NSU series of murders.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: NSU neo-Nazi suspect Zschäpe rejects defense lawyers

The main figure in Germany's trial of neo-Nazi suspects accused of a racist killing spree has withdrawn her confidence in her three court-appointed defense lawyers. Beate Zschäpe has been on trial since May 2013.

16/7/2014- Presiding Munich judge Manfred Götzl on Wednesday adjourned the trial until Tuesday next week and gave Zschäpe until this Thursday afternoon to formally explain her move. The three defense lawyers declined to comment. Zschäpe, who remained typically mute for a 128th day of proceedings in the courtroom, communicated her decision to reject her lawyers via a police officer. She nodded her head in affirmation when asked by the judge if she had lost confidence in her legal team. A spokesman for the federal prosecutions office in Karlsruhe said the court could only end the defense representation if it determined that the lawyer-client relationship was "irreparably shaken." Such applications were rarely granted. If the Munich Higher Regional Court did so, a new defense team would have to be appointed, but it was unlikely that the trial would need to start again from scratch, the spokesman said.

Whether to testify at issue?
The German news agency DPA said Zschäpe and her lawyers were at odds on whether she should answer questions in court. Prosecutors say Zschäpe is the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) being tried over the murders of nine migrant residents - mostly of Turkish origin - and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. Two key NSU suspects, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, died in an apparent suicide in November 2011 as police closed in on them after a bank robbery.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Germany: Neo-Nazis, Islamists declare 'You Jews are beasts' during protest of Israeli operation

A demonstration in Frankfurt against Operation Protective Edge erupted into violence, with protesters tossing stones at the police.

14/7/2014- A demonstration in Frankfurt against Operation Protective Edge erupted into violence, with protesters tossing stones at the police. According to the Frankfurter Rundschau paper, about 2,500 protesters appeared in downtown Frankfurt, screaming “God is great,” and slogans such as “freedom for Palestine” and “children-murderer Israel.” Eight police officers were injured. One sign at the rally was titled, “You Jews are Beasts.” German media reported that after the protests, groups sought to locate Jewish institutions. The Frankfurt police said Jewish institutions would be protected. It is unclear if the goal was to attack said institutions.

According to the Rundschau, student organization Left-SDS, Islamists and some members of the Neo-Nazi group National Socialists Rhein-Main attended the anti-Israel protest. Flags from Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Hamas were on display at the protest. Banners compared Prime Minister Netanyahu with Adolf Hitler. Supporters of Assad’s regime were also present at the protest. In a bizarre act of cooperation, German journalist and publicist Thomas von der Osten-Sacken reported on the website of the weekly Jungle World that Frankfurt’s police allowed the demonstrators to use a police vehicle and loudspeaker to blast anti-Israeli slogans. According to a police statement, the authorities allowed the use of their equipment in order to deescalate the situation. The Jungle World article sarcastically titled its account, “The Police, Friend and Helper.”
© The Jerusalem Post

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France: Migrant arrests at Calais double

French police arrested more than 7,400 migrants trying to cross Channel to Britain in first six months of year

18/7/2014- French police arrested more than 7,400 migrants in Calais trying to make their way across the Channel to Britain in the first six months of this year. The figure is more than double the 3,129 arrested in the same period last year. In the first fortnight of July alone officers detained 1,200 migrants in Calais, the local police prefecture said on Friday. Most of the migrants came from the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea and many appeared to have arrived in Europe via Lampedusa in Italy, officials said. The police prefecture said the increase in arrests was down to a combination of a growing flux of migrants gathering in the port area and better detection methods. One Calais officer told French journalists: "We have noticed that there are considerably more illegal migrants, and during our checks we find more of them." Humanitarian groups have been demanding that France rethink its policy towards migrants. In recent months police have dismantled camps around the port and last week the local mayor issued a decree banning camps from certain areas because he claimed there were public order and health issues.

In May the French authorities bulldozed three makeshift migrant camps sheltering hundreds of people at Calais, citing health concerns following an outbreak of scabies and increasing violence. The authorities said the area needed clearing because of "deplorable" hygiene conditions. However, aid organisations said arrests, bulldozers and expulsions were not the answer. Jean-Claude Lenoir, president of Salam, which has been offering meals to the migrants, said: "As if the situation isn't tragic enough, iIt's intolerable that once again these expulsions are being carried out without any alternative being proposed." At the three most popular sites for migrants to attempt a Channel crossing, Calais, Dunkirk and the Channel Tunnel, a total of 10,500 migrants were arrested in the first six months of 2014, compared with 5,133 for the same period in 2013.
© The Guardian

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France ups security after synagogues stormed

France has stepped up security this week with the president calling for a zero tolerance approach after a series of protests against Israel's bombardment of Gaza. In one incident anti-Israel demonstrators tried to storm two Paris synagogues.

15/7/2014- President François Hollande warned on Monday that he did not want to see "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imported into France" after two Jewish men were hurt in clashes. “I do not want there to be any possible consequences in France,” Hollande said. The government has asked local authorities around the country to “redouble vigilance” the day after a clashes erupted at the end of a protest in support of Palestinians in Paris. Several thousand demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday, with violence breaking out at the end of the march on Bastille Square as people threw projectiles onto a cordon of police who responded with tear gas. A small group tried to break into two synagogues in central Paris, a police source told AFP. The Jewish men were not badly hurt. Six policemen were also injured.

On Monday there were demonstrations in the cities of Lille and Nice where protestors expressed their anger at Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza, despite local authorities banning any rallies. In Nice there were cries of “Israel murderers, Hollande complicit” and “Gaza, we are all with you” as protesters, many draped in Palestinian flags took over the Place Garibaldi. In his traditional Bastille Day television interview, Hollande said authorities would show a “zero-tolerance” towards any disturbances or intrusions into places of worship, whether synagogues, mosques, churches or temples. “Anti-Semitism cannot arise because there’s a conflict between Israel and Palestine,” the president said. France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he had asked local authorities to ban demonstrations when there was any kind of risk of public disorder.

Joel Mergei, president of the Central Israeli Consistory - the top Jewis hreligious authority in France, said the violence represented a "new low" after an earlier petrol bomb attack on a synagogue in the suburb of St Denis. In a statement France’s Union of Mosques said: “Nothing justifies any action that attacks our fellow Jewish citizens, their places of worship or institutions. “Any such action is strongly condemned, morally unjust and unacceptable.” France has the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe, and there has been an marked upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks in recent years.
© The Local - France

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France: Bastille Day: Anger over Algerian presence at celebrations in Paris

The French far right and some army veterans object to the presence of the Algerians among 80 national delegations invited to represent the Allies who fought with France in the First World War

14/7/2014- The expected presence of three Algerian army officers and the Algerian flag at today's 14 July, or France’s national day, celebration in Paris has provoked indignation in both France and Algeria. The French far right and some army veterans object to the presence of the Algerians among 80 national delegations invited to represent the Allies who fought with France in the First World War. So also does a powerful organisation in Algeria which represents the “mujahaddin” or veterans of the struggle for independence from France in the 1950s and 1960s. French far-right politicians and media have also objected to the presence of a handful of Vietnamese soldiers. The far-right Catholic newspaper Prèsent said the invitation to the fellouzes (Algerian rebels) and the “Viet-minh” (anti-French colonial predecessors of the Viet-cong) was an “insult to France”.

A spokesman for Front National said Algeria was part of France in 1914-18 and the Algerians who fought were therefore French. “This shameful presence on French soil is… a sign of great contempt,” he added. The French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that 130,000 North Africans fought for France in the 1914-18 war. More than 25,000 “gave up their lives for our country”. To have excluded Algeria would have been “shocking”.
© The Independent

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Far right Jobbik party nationalists fail to ruin Hungary’s Budapest Pride

Activists from the extremist Hungarian nationalist Jobbik party were thwarted by organizers and police from marching in Budapest’s Pride March on Saturday – though one of their MPs managed to hang a homophobic banner out a window at the parliament

14/7/2014- The 19th Budapest Pride Festival closed successfully this weekend with over 10,000 taking to the streets to march for LGBTI equality in Hungary on Saturday. However the event was loudly condemned by the far-right ultra-nationalist Jobbik party who also blasted foreign diplomats for showing their support for the event. The embassies of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US signed a group statement of support for the event. However Jobbik spokesman Ádám Mirkóczki called their support ‘appalling,’ complaining that some embassies had even helped sponsor the event.

Jobbik labelled the event a ‘provocation to the majority,’ and ‘perverted.’ However that didn’t stop the Jobbik mayor of Érpatak, Mihály Zoltán Orosz, trying to join the pride march along with around 30 ‘family values’ demonstrators. Orosz had demanded that he be allowed to join the parade holding a sign covered with biblical quotations attacking homosexuality but was not allowed to by police. More successful in his attempt to rain on the parade was Jobbik MP Elõd Novák who hung a banner from a window in the parliament building which read ‘This house does not want your deviant propaganda.’ When the parade reached Budapest’s Heroes’ Square some homophobic counter-protesters broke through a cordon but they were quickly dealt with by police. The Jobbik party are a far right racist and homophobic political party and as of April this year the third largest party in Hungary’s National Assembly after garnering 20.5% of the vote.
© Gay Star News

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Macedonia’s Albanian Opposition Demands Ethnic Rights Boost

An ethnic Albanian opposition party said it would support the Macedonian government’s proposed constitutional changes only if Albanians are granted more cultural and political rights

14/7/2014- The Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, said it will file amendments to the proposed constitutional changes in a bid to ensure greater use of the Albanian language and national symbols in the country. The DPA said it would make its case at the start of the parliamentary session on government’s constitutional changes on Tuesday. The party controls seven MPs in the 123-seat parliament, and its support may prove key for the government package. It also said that it would seek ‘consensual’ decision-making on all topics in parliament, meaning that Albanian parties must approve any decision before it is adopted. They also say they will demand that the national budget be divided up on ethnic lines, with Albanians, who make up a quarter of Macedonia’s 2.1 million population, getting a proportional share of funds. The DPA believes that the ruling VMRO DPMNE party and its ethnic Albanian coalition partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, the biggest Albanian political party in Macedonia, are failing to tackle ethnic issues properly.

“From what the government has proposed, it is obvious that the government partners have decided to stay away from inter-ethic issues. We are against this so that is why we will file additional amendments and our support of the entire package will depend on it,” a well-informed DPA member told Balkan Insight under condition of anonymity. The government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski recently filed a set of eight proposed changes to parliament, which it said would “greatly improve” the country’s constitution. The most controversial was a change aimed at ruling out same-sex marriage and gay adoption by defining marriage strictly as a union of one man and one woman. Also proposed is a change to the Court’s Council, a body that appoints judges, removing the Justice Minister as a way of reducing the political influence in courts. Another change aims to introduce a so-called ‘constitutional complaint’ which people or institutions can file against the authorities. But in order to pass, the government motion needs the support from two-thirds of MPs. The ruling coalition is close to controlling two-thirds of parliament, but cannot pass the changes alone, so may need the DPA’s votes.

The biggest constitutional changes improving Albanian rights happened after the 2001 armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. Provisions guaranteeing proportional representation of Albanians in the administration, army and the police were agreed after both sides ended hostilities and signed a peace deal. Albanians also got the right to official use of their flag and language in areas where they make up a considerable part of the population. Renata Deskovska, a law professor at the Skopje state university and former opposition legislator, argued meanwhile that making constitutional changes at a time when almost the entire opposition is boycotting parliament was problematic. “We need political and social consensus as well as an expert debate before we launch constitutional changes. These individuals who pose as oppositionists in the parliament have no capacity to give legitimacy to the constitutional changes,” Deskovska said.

After April’s early general and presidential elections, the opposition led by the Social Democrats, SDSM, refused to take up seats in parliament, accusing Gruevski and his VMRO DPMNE party of electoral fraud. Talks aimed at ending the crisis were launched last month but there have been no new developments since then. The government is rejecting the key opposition demand for a formation of a caretaker government that would stage fresh elections.
© Balkan Insight

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Headlines 11 July, 2014

UN Urges Albania to Halt Roma Eviction

The UN Human Rights Committee has told Albania to suspend eviction of four Roma families from their homes in Elbasan, to make space for the reconstruction of a football stadium.

11/7/2014- The UN committee called on the government to suspend the eviction of the families until a complaint filed by their lawyers on the merits of the decision to demolish the houses and subsequent compensation claims are heard. In a letter to the lawyers representing the families on July 4, the committee said the government had been informed of "interim measure of protection" applied to the applicants. Theo Alexandridis, a rights lawyer from the ResPublica center in Tirana, which is representing the Roma families, told BIRN that the interim measure from the UN body was an extraordinary measure and highlighted Albania’s lack of a legal framework concerning housing rights. “Usually, interim requests or measures are granted when the threat to the applicant might be irreparable, for example where an asylum seeker is about to be sent back to country where it's most certain that he will killed,” Alexandridis explained.

Alexandridis said different international bodies have criticized Albania for not having a legal framework to protect the right to housing, among them the UN, which has particularly expressed concern over the housing situation of Roma, who are "disproportionally affected by this lack of procedure in the domestic framework", he said. “The problem in the Albanian context is that the person under eviction is not afforded any procedural protection whatsoever,” he added. “Under international standards they should have access to a judicial procedure where they would be able to challenge the eviction or the modalities of the eviction,” Alexandridis continued. The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by state parties.

The four Roma families in question, with 20 members in total, including young children, live in a house made of concrete blocks, erected without a construction permit outside the walls of the football stadium in Elbasan. The stadium is undergoing reconstruction funded by the municipality and Albania’s Football Federation, and is earmarked to host the qualifying games of the national football team in the run to the UEFA European 2016 championship. On June 10, the families were issued a five-day notice to vacate the premises by the National Construction Inspectorate, to make space for the revamp. Although the families are entitled to compensation, they cannot claim it because, like hundreds of thousands of other families in Albania, their house was built without a permit. “The mayor told us that he has the funds to compensate the families for their expropriation… but it cannot be done before the legalization process when they would obtain a title for the house,” Gentian Serjani, an activist with Egyptian and Roma Youth Movement in Elbasan who has been coordinating efforts to stop the demolition, told BIRN.

Serjani said that faced with pressure from a number of rights organization who have joined forces to stop the demolition, the local construction inspectorate’s office has for the time being suspended the decision to demolish the house. The government has since 2007 conducted a process of legalization of illegal constructions, but the process has been slow. Last month a number of human rights and Roma organizations called on parliament to amend the law on the legalization and urbanization of illegal constructions to recognize shacks as informal constructions. The groups have launched a petition with more than 6,000 signatures, arguing that the amendment would protect Roma camps against forced evictions. The fight against discrimination and protection of Roma rights is one of 12 key priority areas for Albania set by the European Commission as preconditions for Albania to obtain candidate-country status. Despite that obligation, activists say the authorities have done little to protect Roma communities from forced eviction, particularly in urban areas targeted for development. Since 2011 there have been two cases of forced evictions of Roma camps in Tirana alone.
© Balkan Insight

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Serbian Activists Honour Srebrenica Massacre Victims

Amid heavy police presence, and despite threats, Serbian anti-war activists, led by the NGO Women in Black, honoured Bosniak victims of the 1995 slaughter in Srebrenica.

11/7/2014- A group of activists in Belgrade, under the auspices of the campaigning group Women in Black, held a vigil on Thursday in Belgrade for victims of the 1995 masacre in the eastern Bosnian town Srebrenica. Named “Srebrenica – we will never forget”, the ceremony marked the 19th anniversary of the slaughter of thousands of Bosniaks in the town by Bosnian Serb forces led by Ratko Mladic. Activists carried banners with the names of the 8,372 known victims, placing the largest black banner, which read “Responsibility”, in centre of the main square of Belgrade, Trg Republike. As a result of the threats, that the organisers of the ceremony received this week, police did not allow pedestrians to approach the activists.

On July 8, during the similar performance held in town of Valjevo, activists from Women in Black were physically attacked by a group of young people wearing T-shirts proclaiming their support for Mladic, who is currently on trial for genocide in The Hague. Police arrested four of the attackers, and a court in Valjevo ordered them into custody for 30 days. Despite attacks and threats, Stasa Zajovic, head of the campaigners, said they would not abandon their public demonstrations. “We will continue to put pressure on Serbia, not just for Srebrenica, but also for other war crimes,” Zajovic said. On Thursday, a number of human rights groups held a meeting in front of the Serbian presidency building, carrying banners that read “Solidarity” and “Responsibility”. The organisers said their aim was to get Serbian institutions to name July 11 as "Memorial Day" for the victims of Srebrenica. The organisations also sent letters to President Tomislav Nikolic, the government and parliament, urging them to stop “denying genocide”.

Although international and Bosnian courts have classified the massacre in Srebrenica was an act of genocide, Serbia still officially denies it. In 2010, parliament adopted a resolution condemning the killings in Srebrenica, but stopped short of calling it genocide. Only one Serbian president, Boris Tadic, visited the memorial site near Srebrenica in Potocari, in 2010. Serbia's current President, Nikolic, apologized to Bosniak victims for the "crime" last year.
© Balkan Insight

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Discrimination Against Gays hampering people from getting health services they need

The World Health Organization says discrimination, stigmatization and laws that criminalize homosexual and transgender behavior are hampering these people from getting the health services they need. The WHO is also warning HIV/AIDS will spread if gays and other people at high-risk fail to get access to HIV prevention and treatment.

11/7/2014- Anti-retroviral therapy is successfully keeping millions of people with HIV alive. Yet millions of people who are most at risk of infection are not receiving these life-saving drugs or other essential care. The World Health Organization says men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers and transgender people are facing discriminatory laws and policies in many countries, which are preventing them from gaining access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. WHO says stigmatization and laws criminalizing so-called deviant behavior discourages high-risk people from seeking help and are driving the disease underground. WHO HIV Department Director Gottfried Hirnschall said these policies are counter-productive and threaten to spread the epidemic in the broader community. "Obviously, these people-men who have sex with men, injected drug users-they do not live in isolation and we see overlap of these behaviors. Somebody who uses drugs can be an MSM (man who has sex with men) [who] can sell sex. Somebody, who is a sex worker will have partners, may have children, etc. So, obviously there are these linkages that are very important," said Hirnschall.

By the end of 2013, WHO reports around 13 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Most of these people are living in poor-and-middle-income countries. This has led to a 20 percent drop in HIV-related deaths. While this is good news, the WHO says preventive efforts are still lagging behind, particularly among the high-risk groups. UNAIDS Rights, Gender, Prevention and Community Mobilization Director Mariangela Simao said many people do not seek treatment for HIV because they fear their right to confidentiality will be breeched. “This has been threatened lately, at least in two countries - in Nigeria and in Uganda, related to the obligation of anybody to report if they know of someone who is a gay man or a lesbian. We have reports from these countries that have documented serious disruptions in the availability and access to HIV and other health services, following the promulgation of these laws," said Simao.

The World Health Organization is launching new guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care focusing on these five key high-risk groups in advance of next week's AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. The guidelines include a range of clinical recommendations and stress the need for countries to remove the legal and social barriers that are preventing many people from accessing life-saving services.
© VoA News

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Dutch councillor thrown out of his party for calling gays ‘abnormal’

A local councillor in the Netherlands has been thrown out of his party for describing homosexuality as “abnormal”.

11/7/72014- Jamal Nouhi, a Labour councillor for Breda City Council, made the comments in response to calls from the Human Rights Watch for Morocco to “stop prosecuting and jailing people for their intimate behaviour with other consenting adults,” following the conviction of several men. Writing on his Facebook page, Nouhi said: “Promote everything abnormal until it becomes normal, as ‘old fashioned and repressive’, works every time… Morocco has Islam as state religion… respect our land, people and culture or get lost.” He also compared homosexuality to paedophilia, writing: “What if we set up a Peoples Rights Watch and demanded that all paedofiles [sic] be accepted by Europe. Or would demand that a European country implement some kind of Moroccan Islamic law. What then?” Local party leader Henk van der Velder said the comments were “shocking and inappropriate for [the Party]“. Nouhi was urged to distance himself from the comments, but instead released a statement saying he had attempted to shock people by asking how people in the Netherlands would feel if foreign nations attempted to impose their values on them.
© Pink News

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Fare monitoring report World Cup 2014

The Farenetwork has released a report into the number and type of incidents of discrimination that were seen inside stadiums during this summer’s WorldCup.

10/7/2014- The incidents may seem to be out of step with events over the past month, because by most people’s standards the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been one of the best tournaments in living memory. As the embodiment of a multi-ethnic society Brazil is not a place one easily associates with issues of discrimination and hate crimes. Although like other societies in Latin America, Brazil faces many challenges that are directly or indirectly related to issues of exclusion because of racial origin, gender, income and class.

Issues inside stadiums
The Fare network looked at issues of discrimination inside stadiums, as an imperative of our own work but also because of FIFA’s stated zero-tolerance stance and ‘No to Racism’ campaign, and the Brazilian governments own campaign and position. Against this background we noted 14 incidents in which visiting fans brought their own prejudices, attitudes and way of supporting football that we would categorise as discriminatory. The incidents include homophobic abuse, racism, and references to far- right ideologies. We also noted that some European fan groups displayed far-right banners at prominent public places and tourist spots. One such example was a Russian banner displayed near the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

Reporting not an end in itself
Reporting incidents is not an end in itself but a way of increasing understanding and educating fan groups, the general public and football associations. There was not a specific mechanism for collecting data for FIFA to deal with at this World Cup. The Fare network did not operate an observer scheme inside stadiums and there were no other monitoring systems in place. Had there been a system to monitor such issues a more accurate picture could have emerged. Fare Executive Director Piara Powar commented on the report:  “The 2014 World Cup has been everything we imagined it could be. But even in the heady environment of Brazil there have been incidents of discrimination and hate crimes inside stadiums.

Perpetuated by far-right groups and ignorance
“The incidents we recorded were very real and in many cases extremely serious, some perpetrated by far-right groups from Europe and others the result of the ignorance of ordinary fans. “It is a shame that FIFA seems to have turned a blind eye to the incidents. We trust that in future a system of dealing with these issues will be put in place because without understanding the reality of the situation, it is impossible to educate and work with people.”


Fare World Cup 2014 monitoring report




© Football Against Racism in Europe

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France: Jewish Teenage Girl Pepper Sprayed in Paris

French watchdog group warns escalating conflict in Israel may trigger attacks

10/7/2014- In the latest in a growing list of anti-Semitic attacks in Paris over the past few months, a 17-year-old Jewish girl was attacked Tuesday at Paris’ Place du Colonel-Fabien square. According to the French National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, a local anti-Semitism watchdog organization, the victim said in a statement that the attacker grabbed her by the jaw and sprayed pepper spray in her face while making anti-Semitic remarks before she managed to escape. She described the attacker as a young man of North African origin. This incident is the most recent of a consistent stream of disturbing anti-Semitic acts in Paris, and the BNVCA warns that the escalating conflict in Israel may spark more attacks of this kind.
© Tablet Magazine

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France Continues to Evict Roma on a Massive Scale (press release)

10/7/2014- France continues with its unlawful and costly policy of evicting Roma who have made use of their right to freedom of movement within the European Union from countries such as Romania. Between 1 April and 30 June 2014, 3,807 Roma were evicted from 40 different places. Fires in two settlements left 51 Roma homeless, while the French authorities implemented forced evictions in 38 settlements. According to the findings of a survey conducted by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Ligue des droit de l’homme (LDH), there were 28 evictions due to court orders (eviction procedure started by landowners), eight evictions following an ordinance by the local mayor or prefect citing security reasons, and two settlements where people chose to leave, under the threat of imminent forced eviction. During the first three months of 2014, the French authorities forcibly evicted a total of 3,428 Roma. The new figures gathered by the ERRC and the LDH clearly reflect that, despite commitments and criticism, the French authorities pursue their eviction policy rather than seeking ways to ensure full integration of Roma into French society.

Eviction policies violate the fundamental rights of Roma, secured by domestic legislation, including the French Constitution, as well as international law by which France is bound. Evictions should be accompanied by rehousing and social support for the affected people, as set out in French government guidance published on 26 August 2012. In practice, temporary accommodation is offered to some families chosen using unclear criteria, but not to others. It is impossible under these conditions to implement any integration policy. The authorities do not fully adhere to their own guidance, in particular when it comes to measures aimed at integration. The guidance is nothing more than window dressing and evictions are in fact the automatic response of the authorities. These evictions are costly and do not bring any sustainable or fair solution to the problem of Roma living in slums. Furthermore, the eviction policy hinders all the integration efforts promised by the French Government in its National Strategy and increases the vulnerability of Roma, pushing them further to the margins.

Dehumanising evictions, coupled with racist comments by officials (including high-level politicians) claiming, for example, that Roma are unable to integrate, pave the way for violent actions such as the brutal attack on 13 June 2014 when a 16 year-old Romani boy was nearly beaten to death by a mob. The ERRC has challenged France’s eviction policy before the European Court of Human Rights. On 22 May 2014, the ECtHR decided to hear the case of Hirtu and others v France, about the forced eviction of Romani families in early 2013. The Court will scrutinise France’s practice of forced evictions and the way the French courts have responded to this practice. The Court has given the case priority treatment, a measure reserved for the most serious category of cases. The Ligue des Droits de l’Homme is seeking permission to intervene in the case as a third party.
Read the full report in English
© European Roma Rights Center

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Jump in Asylum Requests From Serbia in 2013

Marked rise in number seeking asylum in EU does not imperil visa-free regime with EU, official says.

9/7/2014- Serbian media sources reported on Wednesday that 22,500 Serbian citizens applied for asylum in EU countries in 2013 a 17-per-cent increase on the figure for 2012. Ivan Gerginov, Serbia’s assistant commissioner for refugees and migration, said the hike would not affect Serbia’s visa-free regime with the EU Schengen area. Implemented in December 2009, the system allows citizens of Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro to travel into the EU’s passport-free without visas. “The regime is not threatened at this time and the government has established a commission for the preservation of the visa-free regime, to monitor it,” Gerginov said. Most of the asylum seekers in question were ethnic minority Albanians and Roma, Gerginov noted. According to him, the most common reasons for those seeking asylum were poor financial conditions in Serbia and better welfare benefits available in EU countries.

Despite the relatively high the number of applications in recent years, few have been accepted and approved. Between 2009 and 2011, Germany, Sweden, and Luxembourg received 19,650 asylum claims from Serbian citizens. But they granted only 15 of them. This is not the first time that a wave of asylum seekers fro Serbia has received attention. According to a UNHCR report, in 2010, Serbia was the top country of origin for asylum seekers, beating war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a report cited by B92, the number of requests for asylum in the EU last year from Western Balkan countries exceeded the number from Syria. In 2012, more Serbian nationals applied for asylum in Germany than did Syrians, Afghans, or Somalis. "The main motivation for seeking asylum in Germany was social benefits, which are about 1,000 euro a month,” Gerginov said.

Gerginov pointed to a reduction in asylum applications in Germany as a positive indicator. After Germany added Serbia to a list of safe countries, it “drastically reduced the number of asylum applications filed in that country,” he noted. The overall number of asylum applications from western Balkans countries decreased by 44 per cent between 2011 and 2012. Serbia saw the greatest reduction, down 61 per cent—although that number has since grown. In December 2013, EU interior ministers adopted a “suspension clause,” which allows the EU to suspend visa-free travel with a non-EU member state through an expedited procedure in the event of a spike in asylum applications. Despite the adoption of the mechanism, Gerginov assured the media that “abolition of the visa-free regime has not been requested by anyone”.
© Balkan Insight

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Outside forces help stoke anti-Roma tension in Polish town

9/7/2014- The Roma have never got on particularly well with their neighbors in this Polish town, but they cannot remember things being as bad as they are now. What has changed is that radical nationalists showed up in Andrychow last month in what may be start of efforts to emulate allies in the Jobbik party from Hungary, which has exploited anti-Roma sentiment there to widen its electoral appeal and become the most powerful far-right movement in eastern Europe. The Polish gameplan involved Robert Winnicki, a far-right leader from Warsaw with personal ties to Jobbik, attending a protest in Andrychow where he said all the 100 or so ethnic Roma living in the southern town of 20,000 should be driven out. At the rally, 30 km (20 miles) from where the Nazis killed over a million Jews, Roma and others at Auschwitz, supporters of a local soccer club chanted "Cyganie raus!" - an echo of the German "Juden raus", or Jews out, using the Polish for Gypsy.

Jobbik and Winnicki's Ruch Narodowy, or National Movement, deny inciting racial hatred in Andrychow. And they dismiss suggestions that Jobbik, which took 21 percent of the vote in April's parliamentary election, is pushing its agenda in Poland. But they do call it an inspiration to its small Polish ally. Roman Kwiatkowski, head of the Association of Roma in Poland, says Andrychow is the first case he has seen in Poland of far-right parties stoking anti-Roma feeling in this way: "It is very dangerous," he told Reuters. "It does not allow us to look to the future with confidence." Roma residents said they had kept their children from school in recent weeks and stayed home after dark for fear of attack.

Few see Ruch Narodowy, which took 1.4 percent in May's EU election, gaining the kind of clout Jobbik has in Budapest. It tapped in to resentment of Hungary's 6.5 percent Roma minority - part of an ethnic community of some 10 million scattered across Europe and long discriminated against. Poland's Roma number only about 50,000, or 0.13 percent of its population. Nonetheless, events in Andrychow indicate that Jobbik - snubbed even by many west European far-right parties as anti-Semitic and racist - is spreading its ideology beyond Hungary's borders, in this case to Poland, by far the biggest and most influential ex-Soviet bloc state in the European Union.

Soccer Fans
Jobbik, now Hungary's second strongest party, has been using its domestic success to build contacts and share tactics around eastern Europe, alarming rights campaigners. Yet until now there has been little hard evidence of the implementation elsewhere of tactics that including seize on incidents of violence in poor towns between Roma and others. Jobbik's usual tactic has been to hold rallies blaming Roma for crime and other social grievances. And they recruit local youths into vigilante patrols with the stated aim of protecting citizens from the Roma. In Andrychow, the Jobbik playbook from Hungary seems to be being implemented almost move for move. Early in June, locals say, a pregnant Roma woman was attacked as she walked in the street. Soon after, two young ethnic Poles were beaten up in what many residents assumed was a Roma revenge attack. Anger erupted. Supporters of the local soccer club, Beskid Andrychow, set up a page on Facebook. It published accounts of what it said were violent attacks by Roma, and photographs of ethnic Poles it said had been beaten up. The page has now been "liked" by 14,182 people. One post read: "We're not going to sit quietly and pretend that everything is OK. We are shouting long and loud: enough of Gypsy impunity!"

"Gypsies Out!"
On June 13, about 200 people, many of them young soccer fans, held a rally in a tree-lined square in the center of Andrychow. It was there that some chanted "Cyganie raus!"
© Reuters

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Suddenly Europe's Far Right Loves Human Rights Courts

Andrew Guzman, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for International and Advanced Degree Programs.
This post was co-authored by Katerina Linos, Professor of Law at Berkeley Law School.

8/7/2014- Human rights advocates place great faith in international treaties and the courts designed to enforce them, but the right wing of the political spectrum tends to be less enthusiastic about these institutions. The human rights community assumes that treaties and courts create a one-way street leading inexorably toward greater human rights protections. We disagree and events surrounding recent decisions by Europe's Court of Human Rights support our view. On Tuesday, July 1, this European Court ruled that European human rights law allows France to ban the burqa, rejecting the argument that restrictions on Islamic veils threaten Muslim women's freedom of religion and expression. What happened next suggests that human rights agreements do not work exclusively to enhance human rights.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe is at an all-time high and leaders of far right parties wasted no time in using the ruling to call for copycat laws banning Islamic head-coverings. In Norway, Progress Party representative Mazyar Keshvari said: "The court in Strasbourg has now confirmed what we have constantly said: that a ban is compatible with human rights." Austria's Freedom Party plans to introduce a bill to ban burqas next week. In preparation, they just launched a poster campaign "against the Islamization of Europe" that portrays a blonde woman with the headline "too beautiful for a veil." In Denmark, the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party is also calling for a ban.

Human rights courts and the far right make strange bedfellows -- or do they? In "Human Rights Backsliding", an article just published in the California Law Review, we argue that international norms that can help improve human rights in poorly performing states can also lead high-performing states to weaken their domestic protections. After all, both progressive and conservative leaders can point to international standards in support of the claim that their proposals are mainstream rather than radical. A ban on certain kinds of clothing seems extreme, as do its proponents. But once the European Court of Human Rights says it is permitted, it suddenly seems more reasonable. We have seen this pattern of backsliding before. When the European Court ruled that countries were not required to legalize same-sex marriages, gay rights opponents throughout Europe and even in the U.S. trumpeted the decision to support their views.

If we are right that international human rights norms can limit protections in high performing states, what can be done about it? Rewriting international agreements and Court decisions so that it is clear that they are minimum standards and that countries can offer much more generous protections, could help a little. But the Court decisions discussed above, and many other human rights agreements and court decisions, are already written in exactly this way. When the media or advocacy groups talk, however, they tend to ignore such details and the international agreement or court decision can come across as a statement about what is the "best" policy. A different solution would be to set very high standards. These would minimize backsliding, but would also require unrealistic improvements in states with the worst human rights records, where we most want to see improvement.

Moving away from the notion of universal human rights, and towards regional standards or perhaps standards that increase as economic development progresses, would also help (though it might not do much for the European cases mentioned above). Abandoning the notion of universality, however, would be a radical move away from the very thing that has made the concept of human rights powerful for the last 70 years: the notion that all humans are endowed with fundamental rights by virtue of being human. We see no perfect solution to the problem of human rights backsliding. This is not good news, but it is surely better to recognize the risk than to ignore it. Turning a blind eye to the potential for backsliding and assuming that international agreements and courts can only lead to improved human rights is surely more dangerous than acknowledging the fact that reality is more complex.
© The Huffington Post

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Hungary: Far-right wants revenge on Pride Parade security guard

8/7/2014- Far-right website Kuruc.info and the 64 Counties Youth Movement have launched a revenge campaign and set a Ft 50,000-100,000 bounty for information on one of three security guards who removed a far-right activist who had climbed aboard a float on at the Budapest Pride parade on Saturday. When the activist resisted, the guard kicked him repeatedly. The activist is a member of the Székesfehérvár chapter of the irredentist 64 Counties organisation. He is a student at the Atilla (sic) Király School run by Jobbik MP Dániel Z. Kárpát. Police launched proceedings against the activist for disturbance of order and against the three security guards who removed him from the float on charges of disorderly group behaviour. All four are in police custody.
© Politics Hungary

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UK: ‘Trojan Horse affair fuels Islamophobia’ in Newham

More than 60 teachers in Newham have signed an open letter to Michael Gove, saying the Trojan Horse affair has increased Islamophobia in the borough.

10/7/2014- The letter, written by award-winning poet Michael Rosen and author Alan Gibbons, was also signed by Alex Kenny, secretary of the east London branch of the National Union of Teachers. It accuses the Education Secretary and the press of using the story to fuel racism in schools and ignoring allegations of the Trojan Horse dossier being a fake. Robert Ferguson, of Newham Sixth Form College, said the affair had been conducted in a way that equated Muslims in education with extremism and terror. He said: “This is having an impact especially in Newham and other parts of east London. I have been approached by colleagues really concerned, but also determined to take a stand.”

Operation Trojan Horse refers to an organised attempt by Islamists to spread extremism through schools in Birmingham, detailed in a leaked letter that was discovered in March. Mr Ferguson said: “I am a secularist teacher and believe firmly in the separation of religion and education while upholding the freedom of individual religious observance and practice. But the response to the alleged issues in some Birmingham schools, based on a letter acknowledged as a forgery, has been designed to target one community and one faith alone.”

Anti-terror chief Peter Clarke is leading an investigation into the claims. A Department for Education spokesman said: “The allegations made in relation to some schools in Birmingham are very serious and we are investigating all evidence put to us in conjunction with Ofsted and Birmingham City Council. “Retired senior police officer Peter Clarke has been asked by the Secretary of State to make a full inquiry into the schools and the background behind many of the broader allegations in the Trojan Horse letter. “It is vital this investigation is carried out impartially, without pre-judgment.”
© The Newham Recorder

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UK: MP slams 'outrageous' far right party visit

A Warrington MP has said it is ‘outrageous’ a far right political party canvassed in the town centre last week while ‘trying to hide their true colours’.

8/7/2014- The controversial group Britain First, which hit headlines after using murdered soldier Lee Rigby’s name without the permission of his family, were collecting signatures for ‘better treatment’ for soldiers. But many residents will have been unaware the petition was from a political party. When asked why their party logo could not be seen on either of two pitches on Market Gate, leader Paul Golding, who produced party leaflets for a photograph, said they did not have banners with the logo but would tell ‘anyone who was interested’. He added: “If anyone asks about the party we will tell them but most people know who we are already. “We have collected about 50,000 signatures so far across the country and once we get 100,000 we will present it to Downing Street but we won’t be using data from the petition to get in contact with anyone.” He also batted away suggestions the party was racist with the argument one of their campaigning officers was half Jamaican.

Mr Golding added: “Several of our high-ranking officials are of ethnic minority but they support us because they’re sick of living in this country.” Despite criticism nationally, representatives said they had received a positive response in Warrington during one of their first ventures in the north west. Mr Golding added: “If anyone disagrees with us we explain to them they’re entitled to their views and we’re entitled to our freedom of speech.” He could not confirm whether anyone from the party would be standing for future elections in the town. A council spokesman confirmed the organisation had been spoken to check ‘necessary approvals and licences’ were in place. 

Warrington North MP Helen Jones said: “It is outrageous that these people seek to trade on the respect for our troops to promote a party that is a breakaway from the BNP. “Seventy years ago my grandfather, my father and my uncles were fighting fascism in Europe – they and other brave men and women fought the ideology that these people represent. “Now we see them trying to hide their true colours. “They are the people who used the name of Lee Rigby on the ballot paper in the European Elections causing great distress to his family.“ Warrington South MP David Mowat added: “Making sure that soldiers are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve is something we can all support. “I’ve done several campaigns on Military ID and on other matters where I feel that members of our armed forces are not being treated fairly. “However, responsible political parties which collect data have a responsibility to make clear what purpose the data is being collected for and how it will be used.”
© This Is Cheshire

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UK: Amnesty International website blocked for immigration detainees

The latest unannounced official HMIP report on Haslar immigration detention centre reveals that the centre staff had blocked the websites for Bail for Immigration Detainees(BID) and Amnesty International: Detainees had access to the internet, but some key websites were blocked. The officer on duty in the internet suite could unblock any site. When we visited, the officer agreed to unblock the Bail for Immigration Detainees’ website but not Amnesty International’s without more senior approval.

9/7/2014- BID is a small charity that informs immigration detainees of their legal rights and the immigration bail process and who co-ordinates free representation that many immigration barristers, myself included, provide on a rota basis. Amnesty International is somewhat better known and amongst other things provides country information essential for fighting asylum claims and gathers data about human rights abuses in detention.

I wonder what other websites were blocked? AVID have been working on this issue and I have reported on it previously. There seems to be a discretion to block websites at each detention centre. On a similar note, the inspection found that the number of detainees who had managed to see their lawyer had halved since 2009, falling from 51% to 26%, “welfare” staff wrongly prevented some detainees from attending legal surgeries and the Home Office broke procedure rules by withholding the documents for bail hearings.

So why would the profit making private companies responsible for immigration detention want to block access to websites that might inform detainees of their bail rights and allow them to report abuses, reduce access to lawyers, prevent detainees from preparing their own asylum cases properly, all thereby increasing the pool of immigration detainees? Answers on a postcard, please.
© Free Movement

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Romania: Death Threat for Museum Director over Roma Exhibition

7/7/2014- The director of Bucharest’s Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Virgil Nitulescu, has received a death threat via e-mail over his current exhibition of 15 paintings by George Vasilescu, the dpa reports. A selection of the works depict musicians from the Roma people playing a controversial genre of music called Manele. According to Nitulescu, the threat is the latest in a series of attacks, which have cited the exhibition as reflecting poorly on Romanian national identity and called for Nitulescu’s resignation, among other measures. The campaign is most visibly led by Romanian politician Bogdan Diaconu who is a member of the socialist, Partidul Social Democrat (PSD) political party. He has flooded his Facebook wall with articles and commentary about the exhibition. In 2013, Manele music was banned in public transport, taxis, and festivals in some portions of Romania. The country has come under fire from international press for breeding increasing anti-Roma sentiments.
© Artnet

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Germany: Man wearing Star of David pendant attacked in Berlin park

9/7/2014- A man wearing a Star of David pendant and cap was attacked in a Berlin park in what investigators suspect was a hate crime. The unidentified victim, 67, said two men harassed and then repeatedly punched him while he was sitting with a friend in Tiergarten Park on Monday afternoon. He was treated in a hospital for multiple lacerations to the head. The assailants fled. Deidre Berger, director of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement that anti-Semitic attacks in Germany are becoming more common and urged political leaders to implement and support programs designed to combat the trend. “For three years, the recommendations of an independent commission of experts [on anti-Semitism] convened by the federal government have sat unused in a drawer,” Berger said. She said proven programs such as Berlin’s Kreuzberg Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, which reaches out especially to youth, are struggling to survive.

In April, a young Israeli living in the capital was beaten outside his apartment in broad daylight by six young men who identified themselves as Palestinian. In August 2012, Berlin-based Rabbi Daniel Alter was attacked in front of his home by a group of youths who also threatened to kill his young daughter. The youths, reported to be of Middle Eastern origin, asked the kippad-clad Alter if he was Jewish. The rabbi required surgery to repair a broken cheekbone.
© JTA News

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German Neo-Nazi takes Seat on Euro Parliament Civil Liberties and Justice Committee

A Germany neo-Nazi today took a seat on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, outraging the parliament’s German Socialist president Martin Schulz, who said: "There is no place for racists and anti-Semites in this house."

7/7/2014- Udo Voigt, a former leader of the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD), became the first member of his party to take a seat in the parliament when the NPD took one per cent of the vote in Germany in May. According to Euractiv, the German intelligence services classify the NPD as "a far right extremist party." A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel has labelled the NPD "an anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party." Voigt, the son of a Wehrmacht officer, has praised Hitler as "a great statesman" and suggested that Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy führer who flew solo to Scotland in 1941 in an attempt to negotiate peace, should win the Nobel peace prize. He has demanded the return of German land lost after the Second World War. Voigt has also claimed that "no more than 340,000" Jews died in the holocaust. According to the Guardian, "In 2012 a Berlin court handed Voigt a 10-month suspended sentence and a fine of €1,000 for glorifying the actions of the Waffen-SS at a party meeting in 2010." Although Voigt is not a member of any of the groups formed in the parliament by MEPs from at least seven different countries, and which dominate speaking time in the chamber and membership of committees, a certain number of committee seats are allocated for independents such as Voigt.
© Breitbart

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Sweden: 'Things haven't got safer for Malmö's Jews'

Following the violent beating of a man flying an Israeli flag, Rabbi Shneur Kesselman tells The Local that his adopted city of Malmö remains a hotbed for anti-Semitism.

9/7/2014- On Sunday Ismail Babakr, a 38-year-old living in Seved, Malmö, was severely beaten with iron pipes in what police have called a hate crime. "I can't say it was a surprise when I heard the news, but there is still an element of shock," local rabbi Kesselman told The Local on Wednesday. "I was saddened by it more than anything else." The American rabbi, who moved to Malmö in 2004, has experienced plenty of anti-Semitic taunts during his decade in the Swedish south. Ordeals have included someone carving the word 'Palestina' into his car, and the abuse is ongoing. "Just last week somebody spat in my face and shouted 'damn Jew' at me. It has never happened on a daily basis, but the harassment is something I still experience, and as a result I don't spend so much time in town," Kesselman explained. Initial reports about the incident on Sunday night said that Ismail Babakr had been beaten for hanging an Israeli flag in his window. He later said he suspected the assault may have more to do with the current political situation in the Middle East.

Babakr said he has had the flag in his window for over a year, and didn't understand why it became a problem now. The only reason he could think of was his political sympathies.
"I am active on social media against the Iranian regime," Babakr told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. "I like Jews and Israel. And for me it's no stranger than having a Swedish flag in my widow." It isn't the first time that an Israeli flag in Malmö has been attacked. When the city hosted the Eurovision song contest in 2013, the Israel sign was removed on two occasions from a lamppost which included all the flags of the participating nations. "People were already reluctant to fly the flag, and will probably be more so now. I'm not sure there is another flag out there that would cause such a reaction," Kesselman told The Local. He added; "It is one thing to have political views about Israel, but quite another to take the law into your own hands. That goes against the very fabric of Swedish society, which is freedom of speech."

One of Ismail Babakr's windows was smashed by a rock on Saturday, and just after midnight on Monday the second stone was thrown. Babakr ran out to the street and followed those who had thrown the rocks - first just two young men, but with another eight or ten waiting around the corner, he said. "They said that I couldn't have an Israeli flag in my window, and that things would go terribly for the Kurds," Babakr told Svenska Dagbladet. The gang proceeded to beat Babakr with iron pipes. Malmö mayor, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, told The Local in a 2013 interview that she intended to "build bridges" with the Jewish community. "It is completely unacceptable that anyone feels insecure when they walk on the streets of Malmö, whatever the reason," she told The Local.

Her predecessor Ilmar Reepalu had caused outrage for remarks about the city's Jewish population. The membership of the local Jewish community centre has dwindled to approximately 600, while there are an estimated 2,500 Jews among Skåne County's total population of 1.25 million residents. And things do not appear to be improving, with many of the Jews in the city electing to move to Stockholm or to leave Sweden altogether. Babakr, who suffered severe injuries to his head and leg in the fight with his perpetrators, said that he is not afraid, but no longer wants to stay in his home city. "I want to move now. I don't want to live here. Not in Malmö." Rabbi Kesselman said he didn't want to encourage people one way or the other if they wanted to wanted to emulate Babakr and fly an Israeli flag in Malmö. "That is the dangerous start of a slippery slope when you start making the unacceptable an acceptable reality. What is mind-boggling is how society just accepts these things happening. He concluded: "I wish I could say Malmö is getting safer for Jews but unfortunately it isn't."
© The Local - Sweden

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Sweden: Man beaten with iron pipe for flying Israeli flag

A 38-year-old man in southern Sweden was assaulted on Sunday night after hanging an Israeli flag from his window, with police suspecting it is a hate crime.

7/7/2014- The incident occurred in Seved, Malmö, shortly before midnight on Sunday when the man displayed an Israeli flag from his window, sources told newspaper Sydsvenskan. The man reportedly exchanged words with men on the street after hanging the flag, and left his apartment. Before the assault the man's window had been smashed where the flag of Israel had been hung. "After that the man went out onto the street to see what was going on. Then he was attacked and it was on the basis of the flag. That is the information we have at present," Linda Pleym of the Malmö police told the TT news agency. Police said he was then assaulted by around ten people with iron pipes and chased from the building. The man managed to escape his attackers and was found by police on a nearby street. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries. Police have not yet made any arrests, but have interviewed witnesses in the area. "Our initial evaluation is that this is a hate crime," Malmö policewoman Marie Keismar told TT news agency. The act has been classified as aggravated assault. The police intend to interview the victim on Monday afternoon.
© The Local - Sweden

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Bulgaria: Sofia Gay Pride march chased away from Vasil Levski monument

6/7/2014- Yesterday's Sofia Gay Pride march was stopped from approaching the Bulgarian capital's Vasil Levski monument by nationalist party Ataka representatives. The seventh edition of "Sofia Pride" began yesterday at the Monument to the Soviet Army with about 100 participants. Hours before that, hundreds of police personel blocked the city center to avoid collisions. The organizers of the gay pride parade were disappointed that despite their letters asking for support from different parties, only the Greens and the Bulgarian Left Party reached out for them. Some participants even suggested that the procession should pass along party headquarters. The local LGBTI community may be also angry with Sofia's mayor Yordanka Fandakova because she decided not to attend. The only politician who was present was Reformist Victor Liov. He called for tolerance and sought support from politicians who share the ideas of freedom and love.

On 3 July, Ambassadors of some Sofia-based embassies issued a statement in support of Sofia Pride, which was published on the website of the British embassy in Sofia. "We would like to convey our support to all people who either actively participate in or back this year's Sofia Pride on 5 July 2014. Promoting the principle of equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is an important aspect of a tolerant and respectful civil society. No one should ever be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. By signing this statement, we would like to stress that any democratic society should stand up for open-mindedness towards LGBTI people'' the statement says.

The statement was signed by:
H. E. Mr. Jonathan Allen, Ambassador of the United Kingdom
H. E. Mr. Tom J.M. van Oorschot, Ambassador of the Netherlands
H. E. Mrs. Anick Van Calster, Ambassador of Belgium
H. E. Mr. Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes, Ambassador of France
H. E. Mrs. Marcie B. Ries, Ambassador of the United States of America
H. E. Mr. Harri Salmi, Ambassador of Finland
H. E. Mrs. Guro Katharina H. Vikør, Ambassador of Norway
H. E. Mr. John Biggar, Ambassador of Ireland
H. E. Mr. Matthias Höpfner, Ambassador of Germany
H. E. Mr. Kaare E. Janson, Ambassador of Denmark
H. E. Ms. Vanessa Calvert, Ambassador of South Africa
© The Standart News

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Greek far-right Golden Dawn spokesman jailed pending trial

10/7/2014- Greek far-right Golden Dawn lawmaker and party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris was jailed on Thursday pending trial on gun possession charges as part of a criminal investigation into the party. Kasidiaris has been the public face of Golden Dawn since the party's leader Nikos Mihaloliakos was jailed pending trial last October on charges of belonging to a criminal group. The crackdown on the party followed the stabbing of a popular anti-racism rapper by a self-proclaimed Golden Dawn supporter last September. Kasidiaris is the ninth of the party's 17 lawmakers to be detained while awaiting trial.
© Reuters

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Greece's Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Continues To Harass Journalists

10/7/2014- Two photojournalists who were assaulted this week by supporters of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn testified this week before magistrates about the attack. They say this was not an isolated incident but par for the course for the party and its supporters. Golden Dawn is infamous for regularly targeting and intimidating members of the press. The attack occurred outside of the Athens Court of Appeals on July 4th when Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos and deputies Giannis Lagos and Christos Pappas arrived at the court to provide supplementary testimony. The three have been imprisoned pending the completion of their trial along with other Golden Dawn officials who are accused of a range of charges. These accusations include establishing and running a criminal organisation and ordering violent attacks on immigrants.

As the police van arrived outside the court on Leoforos Alexandras Avenue in Athens, the gathered Golden Dawn supporters grew aggressive, chanting slogans and attempting to push in closer against the police cordon. They also threw rocks and bottles. In response, riot police deployed tear gas and flash grenades. During the scuffles, the two photojournalists attempting to document the clashes were assaulted by Golden Dawn supporters and injured. One of the journalists, a woman named Simela Pantartzi who works for the Athens News Agency, was taken to a hospital after reportedly being thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked. On Monday, Pantartzi and the other journalist involved, Giannis Kemmos, testified about the incident together with the Marios Lolos, the president of the Hellenic Union of Photojournalists, and two other witnesses.

The journalists made clear that the latest attack was part of a wider pattern which has seen reporters regularly intimidated and assaulted not only by Golden Dawn supporters, but by party MPs as well. According to their testimony, a similar incident took place in January following the pre-trial imprisonment of MPs Giorgos Germenis and Panagiotis Iliopoulos, when Golden Dawn supporters threw glass bottles at a journalist with the public broadcaster DT while she was on-air. They also referred to a verbal and physical assault in October by party spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris against cameramen and photographers outside the court of Evelpidon, following the decision that he be released from pretrial imprisonment.

Photojournalist union president Marios Lolos noted how in such incidents the police took little action in defence of the journalists, describing them as being ‘present but absent.’ He also added that journalists covering Golden Dawn would often be filmed by members of the party, something which does not happen with any other political group. He claimed that the actions proved that neo-Nazi organisation seeks to identify and target specific journalists deemed as hostile.
© Business Insider Australia

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Greek police fire tear gas at Golden Dawn protesters

5/7/2014- Greek police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of Golden Dawn supporters protesting outside an Athens court where the neo-Nazi party's leader was appearing on Friday.
Chanting "Fatherland, honour, Golden Dawn," the crowd attacked police and photojournalists outside the Supreme Court, an AFP journalist said. Three photojournalists were hit by Golden Dawn supporters whilst trying to take pictures of the scuffle with police. "You are not welcome here," the demonstrators shouted at the journalists in English, a practice often used by Golden Dawn, whose members are no longer invited to appear on television. The Greek federation of journalists (Poesy) criticised the police for failing to protect media on the scene. "Nazi violence does not intimidate news staff," the federation said. "We demand measures to protect media from Golden Dawn thugs."

Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris had also struck reporters last year, moments after being conditionally released by magistrates on criminal charges. "Such behaviour reveals the criminal mentality and activity" of Golden Dawn members, Poesy said. Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, his deputy MP Christos Pappas, and another member, Yannis Lagos, had been transferred to the court from Korydallos prison to answer weapons charges, according to a judicial source. All three have been detained since September on charges of belonging to a criminal organisation as part of a major crackdown on Golden Dawn, whose members are accused of being behind at least two murders and numerous abuses against migrants and leftists.

Eight members of parliament and ex-MPs from the party are currently in custody awaiting trial, while a number of others have been released on bail. Founded in the 1980s, the openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic party was for years a semi-clandestine group on the fringes of Greek politics. But in 2012, it won 18 seats in parliament, tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in the debt-ridden country. Two politicians have since resigned, but Golden Dawn also came third in European elections in May, winning three seats.
© AFP

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Police on Alert For Macedonia Ethnic Protests

Police in Skopje are on high alert after rival ethnic Albanian and Macedonian groups called protests for Friday in connection to the recent conviction of six alleged terrorists.

11/7/2014- Macedonian police were maintaining a heavy presence on Friday in the capital, Skopje, ahead of rival afternoon demonstrations expected in the city. Ethnic Macedonians were due to gather in front of the government building while ethnic Albanians were to rally in the city's mainly Albanian municipality of Cair. Albanians are protesting against the recent conviction for terrorism of six Albanians found guilty of the murder of five Macedonians in 2012. According to reports on Albanian-language media, protesters from neighbouring Kosovo are preparing to take part in the rally. The starting points of the two rallies are only about one kilometre apart, raising fears of clashes in the capital. In his first public address on the issue since the turmoil about the verdict started two weeks ago, President Gjorge Ivanov called for protests to remain peaceful. “Protests are allowed but not violence. The instructions in charge are doing everything to prevent violence… All issues can be solved through the institutions,” Ivanov said.

Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, said: “Everyone has the right to protest, but in a peaceful manner.” Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on Thursday told the Albanian language program of the national broadcaster, Macedonian Radio and Television, MRTV, that the violence seen at last Friday’s protests in Skopje was the work of “religious radicals” that had nothing to do with the interests of Albanians. “When it comes to violent behaviour, our information is that behind it are people who have other agendas, people fed with religious radicalism, and we should be watchful about that,” Gruevski said. Last Friday, running battles erupted in Skopje as several thousand ethnic Albanian protesters, angered by the verdicts in the trial, tried to storm the Skopje criminal Court only to be forced back by police. Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were convicted of terrorism for the 2012 killings on June 30 and sentenced to life in prison. Two of the six are out of reach of the Macedonian courts in Kosovo.

The head of Macedonia’s Islamic Religious Community, IVZ, Sulejman Rexhepi, condemned last Friday’s unrest, adding that it was “risky” to participate in protests that appeared to lack formal organization. He described people who at last week’s protests waved the flags of Saudi Arabia and Islamic religious texts in front of Macedonian police as “manipulators”. “Those who did this no doubt joined [the protest] to devalue the protest and its national or religious character,” Rexhepi said. Meanwhile, an individual calling himself "Commander Panther" has taken to the internet to order the leading Albanian-Macedonian politician, Ali Ahmeti, to leave the government. He said he was ready to start another armed conflict in Macedonia, similar to the one in 2001, when Albanian insurgents - led by Ahmeti - battled Macedonian security forces. On Monday, Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, will arrive in Skopje for talks about the country’s European and Atlantic aspirations. The ethnic turmoil is expected to be high on her agenda.
© Balkan Insight

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Macedonia Braces for Rival Ethnic Protests

Police are on alert after ethnic Albanian and Macedonian activists both called protests for Friday in the wake of unrest last week sparked by the convictions of alleged Islamist terrorists.

10/7/2014- Police spokesperson Ivo Kotevski said that officers were “closely monitoring social networks” ahead of the possible unauthorised protests on Friday and warned that “violent outbursts cannot be tolerated”. His statement came after an anonymous flyer with the slogan “Macedonia for Macedonians” was distributed via social networks calling on the country’s majority ethnic Macedonians to rally on Friday afternoon in front of the government building “to show the government that we are not tenants in our own state”. The protest is intended as a response to calls to the Albanian minority to rally again on Friday at the exactly the same time in the Albanian-dominated municipality of Cair, against the terrorism convictions of the alleged Albanian Islamists for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians. The two rallies’ starting points are about one kilometre from each other, raising fears of renewed clashes in the capital.

Last Friday, running battles erupted on the streets of Skopje as several thousand mostly young Albanian protesters, angered by the verdict in the mass killing trial, tried to storm the Skopje criminal Court but were forced back by police. Twenty police officers and an unidentified number of protesters were injured during the clashes as police used tear gas, shock grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Alleged Islamic extremists Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were convicted of terrorism over the 2012 killings on June 30. The defence has announced that it will appeal. The political leaders of the Albanian minority have demanded an internationally-monitored retrial in the case and a public presentation of the evidence. Ali Ahmeti, the head of the junior party in Macedonia's ruling coalition, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, demanded a transparent retrial on Tuesday.

His call was echoed on Wednesday by Menduh Thaci from the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA – although he also said that the DUI had failed to use its influence in government to protect the community’s interests. “The DUI is to blame for what happened. This party does not fulfill its promises. We should all be handed the court’s verdict in the ‘Monster’ case so that we can see whether indeed there are arguments for the sentences,” Thaci said. He said he supported the protests but urged calm. Meanwhile, smaller Albanian protests against the terrorism verdict have taken place in the past few days in several other towns in Macedonian and in neighbouring Kosovo and Albania. In Tirana, several dozen people rallied carrying banners saying “Skopje - the heart of Albanians” and “Skopje is Albanian”. A protest by several hundred football fans in Pristina meanwhile saw the burning of the Macedonian flag.

In 2001, Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights. Albanians make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.
© Balkan Insight

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Macedonia PM Vows to Stop Ethnic Unrest

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said he would not allow the escalation of violent unrest which erupted after the terrorism convictions of alleged Albanian Islamists for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians.

7/7/2014- “The state won’t let these protests escalate to an extent where they can jeopardise the interests of the people and the [country’s] institutions,” Gruevski told media on Monday after clashes between ethnic Albanian protesters and riot police over the past several days. “We support peaceful protests like in any democratic country, but no one, nowhere, can support protests where violence is used,” he said. His comments came after ethnic Albanians were urged to rally again in the capital Skopje and other towns where Albanians make up a sizable proportion of the population. The anonymous protest organisers, who spread their message via social networks, called on Albanians to rally every day “until our boys are released”, although no demonstrators were seen on the streets of the capital on Monday afternoon. The protesters are angry at the life sentences handed down to six alleged Muslim radicals for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians at Orthodox Easter in 2012, in a case that raised ethnic tensions in the country.

Alleged Islamic extremists Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta were convicted of terrorism over the 2012 killings last Monday. One other defendant was acquitted. On Friday, the protests quickly turned violent as several thousand people, mainly young men, charged towards the Skopje Criminal Court, throwing stones and bricks at the building and at riot police, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades. Police say they have identified more than 20 violent protesters from Friday and are preparing criminal charges against them. There were also smaller rallies in Skopje and other towns over the weekend, most of them peaceful.

But violence flared again in the western town of Tetovo on Sunday, as police used stun grenades to disperse about 1,000 protesters chanting slogans against the government and against the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, the biggest Albanian political party in Macedonia. Gruevski's ruling VMRO DPMNE party has rejected the accusation by some Albanian-language media that it staged the entire court case for political reasons. “The VMRO DPMNE and its leadership would never apply pressure on courts or judges, especially not for the sentencing of people to life in jail if they are innocent or if there is not enough evidence against them,” the party said. The prosecutor in the ethnically-charged court case, Gordana Geskovska, has also rebuffed allegations that the case was politically motivated.

The Albanian and Kosovo authorities meanwhile have appealed for calm after the unrest. “Violence does not help in resolving this issue and undermines the harmony and inter-ethnic relations between communities,” the Albanian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. The Kosovo government urged all sides to resolve their disputes “with maturity and through mutual dialogue”. “The respect of fundamental constitutional and institutional rights is the only way to avoid any escalation of violence, which could be followed by serious consequences for the whole region,” it said in a statement on Monday. In 2001, Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights. Albanians make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.

Detained Journalist Released
The head of the Journalists’ Association of Macedonia, ZNM, Naser Selmani welcomed the release on Sunday of detained reporter Besim , who the police arrested for allegedly being part of a vioent mob during Friday’s protest in Skopje. However the prosecution has not yet decided wither it will press charges against Ibrahimi, who is working as an intern for the Albanian-language newspaper Lajm. “The decision of the judge deserves congratulations. We expect that at the end of the process, the prosecution will decide not to file charges against our colleague,” Selmani said. Ibrahimi’s newspaper and the ZNM insisted that the arrest was absurd because Ibrahimi was only reporting on the protest and not participating in it.
© Balkan Insight

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Macedonia Protest Unrest Leaves 20 Police Injured

Police have restored calm after ethnic Albanian protesters clashed with riot squads at a rally against the jailing of alleged extremist Muslims for the ‘terrorist’ murders of ethnic Macedonians.

5/7/2014- Police said they were investigating on Saturday after 20 officers and several protesters sustained injuries in the previous day’s protests, which spokesperson Ivo Kotevski described as “extremely violent”. “The police are examining the footage from the unrest. Criminal charges will be filed against all who will be identified. We still don’t know who the organizer of the protest is because the event was not reported [to the authorities],” Kotevski told a press conference late on Friday. Running battles broke out in the city streets on Friday after ethnic Albanian protesters rallied to show their anger at the life sentences handed down to six alleged Muslim radicals for the killing of five ethnic Macedonians at Orthodox Easter in 2012, in a case that raised ethnic tensions in the country. Although Skopje was calm again on Saturday morning, Kotevski said that police remained on standby at various critical points in the capital. He said that officers would “follow the social networks through which the mobilization for the violent protest happened”.

Friday’s protest, which started after the midday prayers in mosques in the Albanian-dominated Skopje municipality of Cair, quickly turned violent as the crowd, mainly made up of young men, charged towards the Skopje Criminal Court, throwing stones and bricks at the building and the police. The police responded with water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas, preventing the crowd from advancing towards the government building and forcing the protesters back to Cair. The several-hours-long clash resulted in caused damage to various buildings and cars as well as a series of injuries to police and protesters. According to unofficial information several members of the press were also injured on Friday and the police appealed for them to report their injuries.

The protestors took to the streets after the jailing on terrorism charges last Monday of ethnic Albanians Alil Demiri, Afrim Ismailovic, Agim Ismailovic, Fejzi Aziri, Haki Aziri and Sami Ljuta. They were convicted of killing five ethnic Macedonians in April 2012. The initial announcement in 2012 that the murderers might be ethnic Albanians also sparked protests by groups of ethnic Macedonians, some of which turned violent. The defence has said it will appeal against the convictions, while the prosecution said it will appeal against the release of the seventh defendant, Sejdi Rama, who was acquitted on the basis of lack of evidence. The country’s top politician has yet to comment on the terrorism verdict or the violence. While the court was reaching the verdict on Monday, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was at an official visit to Japan. During the violence on Friday, he was in China.

The latest protest unrest comes after two days of violent, ethnically-charged protests gripped the capital last year, sparked by the controversial appointment of an Albanian ex-guerrilla Talat Xhaferi as defence minister. In 2001, Macedonia went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces. The conflict ended the same year with the signing of a peace deal that increased Albanian rights. Albanians make up a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million population.
© Balkan Insight

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Where's the Ukrainian Far Right Now?

By Brian Dooley, Director Human Rights First's Human Rights Defenders Program

7/7/2014- After strong showings at the polls a few years ago, Ukraine's far right has sunk to virtual electoral oblivion, and it's hard to know where or if it will reappear. Its role in defending protestors against the Yanukovych government, overthrown in February this year, didn't translate into widespread support in either the presidential election in May or in Kyiv's municipal elections. Where this leaves formerly far-right parties like Svoboda is unclear. Despite a PR campaign designed to claim a central position during this year's protests, and five ministerial posts in the interim government, Svoboda won only 1 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The candidate representing Right Sector, a coalition of rightist paramilitary groups which was also prominent in the Maidan protests, had an even worse showing. President of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, Vadim Rabinovich, ran in the campaign and garnered more votes than both of the far-right parties combined.

Andreas Umland, an expert on the Ukrainian far-right and associate professor of European Studies at the National University of Kyiv, said:
"In the 2012 parliamentary elections Svoboda won 10.4 percent and did surprisingly well among educated, urban pro-European voters. They've tried hard to keep this constituency and have toned down their anti-E.U. positions, but there's a dilemma for the rightist parties now about whether to move to the center or not."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian volunteers, including some from the far right, are fighting pro-Russian separatists in the war in Ukraine's east. The overall number of far-rightists in these battalions -- whose soldiers are paid and controlled by the government -- is said to be low, although it's reported they have also attracted a few neo-fascist fighters from Italy and Sweden keen to battle pro-Russian forces. This is another peculiarity of the Ukrainian right: most of its ideological counterparts in neighboring countries are supporters of (and sometimes supported by) the Putin government. "It's an embarrassment for the Ukrainian right now that they're so detached from the rest of the European far-right," Umland said. "After years of engagement with fascists in Italy, with Le Pen in France and other extremists most of their former allies have turned pro-Russian, leaving Ukraine's right isolated."

There is undoubtedly strong discrimination in Ukraine against some groups, and the 2014 Kyiv Pride March was cancelled this week after the police failed to guarantee its protection. But claims from the Kremlin that they are fighting a neo-Nazi government are untrue. In fact, local Jewish leaders say the number of antisemitic attacks is low compared to years past, and that some of these attacks have been provocations aimed to discredit the Euromaidan protests. Halya Coynash is a journalist and member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group. "There needs to be discussion about customary assumptions, regarding what is right-wing, left-wing, and what defence of freedom of speech means given the mind-blowing hate speech on Russian TV," she said.

In his brilliant 1842 political satire Dead Souls, Ukrainian writer Gogol describes a wonderful sleep enjoyed only by those "unacquainted either with hemorrhoids, or fleas, or overly powerful mental capacities." There is plenty to worry the mental capacities of today's human rights activists in Ukraine, not least what sort of new politics will eventually emerge once the fighting in the east has been resolved, and what role civil society will be able to claim in helping to forge a new democracy. But, for the moment, the far right appears to be lying very low.
© The Huffington Post

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Ukraine: Kyiv Pride organisers condemn authorities for cancelling event

The organisers of Kyiv Pride have attacked the Ukrainian authorities for forcing the cancellation of the event.

6/7/2014- Kyiv Pride was due to take place yesterday, but was cancelled at the last minute after authorities claimed they could not guarantee the security of participants. The first ever Pride in Kyiv took place last year, attracting more than a hundred participants, despite efforts by a “very small” number of people to disrupt the event. Cancelling yesterday’s event, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko claimed that this was not the time for “entertainment events” in Ukraine, following unrest in the country. Olena Shevchenko, co-chair of the organizing committee of Kyiv 2014 Pride said: “Kyiv Mayor Klitschko’s statement that this is not the right time for a celebration is a huge disappointment. He should have a better understanding of what a demand for equality is. You can’t have a hierarchy of human rights.

“It seems like it’s never really the right time for LGBT rights… Our March of Equality is not a carnival. This is a human rights march. “But we are forced to cancel the meeting, as we heard from the authorities that they would not guarantee the safety of people who come in March.” Brian Dooley of Human Rights First said: “The country is confronted with many challenges – fighting a war in the east, organizing a new government, and responding to Russian aggression but peaceful freedom of assembly cannot be denied, even in times of crisis.” “For all of its talk about sharing European values the new Ukrainian government has failed a major human rights test today. “The U.S. Government should make clear publicly to the Ukrainian authorities that peaceful freedom of assembly should be respected for all.”
© Pink News

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Ukraine: Kyiv Pride cancelled after authorities refuse to police event

A Pride event in Ukraine has been cancelled at the last minute, after authorities said they would not guarantee protection to those taking part.

5/7/2014- The first ever Pride in Kyiv took place last year, attracting more than a hundred participants, despite efforts by a “very small” number of people to disrupt the event. However, this year’s Pride – which was due to take place today – has been cancelled after authorities told the organizing committee they could not protect participants from homophobic violence. The Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klichko, claimed that this was not the time for “entertainment events” in Ukraine, following unrest in the country. John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International said: “The importance of the right to freedom of assembly was dramatically evidenced in the EuroMaydan protests. “It’s hugely disappointing that only five months later, the peaceful enjoyment of this right is being selectively denied by the very authorities who profited from it. “Only last week in a meeting with the Ministry of Internal Affairs we were assured that the event would be properly policed. “They must ensure, without fail, that next year’s march is adequately policed to ensure the protection of all those wishing to take part.”
© Pink News

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Russia: Racism and xenophobia in June 2014

This month, four people fell victim to racist and neo-Nazi violence, with two of them dying as a result of their injuries. Attacks were recorded in Moscow and the Kaluga region. As such, the first six months of the year saw 12 people killed, and at least 45 injured, in 18 regions of Russia as a result of such attacks. At least one person received a serious death threat.

5/7/2014- Neo-Nazi vandals also targeted Muslim graves in the Orenburg region this month. Since the beginning of the year, there have been no fewer than 25 incidents of ideologically-motivated vandalism. Far-right groups were not especially active in June, probably due to the World Cup and the general summer lull in activity. One notable occurrence this month, though, was the number of summer camps, seminars, etc. held by far-right and paramilitary groups. Such gatherings were held in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volgograd, Penza, Engels (in the Saratov region), Perm, the Yaroslavl region, and others. Anti-immigrant raids continued in June. For example, a "Russian Sweep" was held in St. Petersburg on June 15. Nationalists, accompanied by television operator Nevex.tv, marched through a bazaar knocking over fruit vendors' counters. A renewal of the raid phenomenon was announced following this action.

Ultra-right activists attempted to hold a rally to commemorate the assassination of convicted kidnapper-murderer Yuri Budanov. In Moscow, nationalists announced plans to gather at the scene of Budanov's killing, which remains unsolved, on June 10 to lay flowers at his memorial plaque. However, the action took place without significant attendance. In Tula and Yekaterinburg, caravans of cars drove in memory of Budanov. In Magnitogorsk, organizers put up stickers with his portrait. In Orel, the traditional Yermolovsky March (in memory of General Eromolov) was held on June 4. This year's event drew about 50 activists from the Orlovsky Front, the National Union of the Tula Region, the People's Cathedral - Voronezh (Mazera) and Russian United Action.

We are aware of two convictions in cases of violence motivated by racist hatred, in St. Petersburg and the Jewish Autonomous Region. Nine people were convicted, including members of the St. Petersburg neo-Nazi group NS/WP. Additionally, on June 27, a Moscow court sentenced Georgy Borovikov, the Pamyat leader and former head of the Moscow branch of the "honor court" of the Russians organization. Borovikov, along with accomplices, were convicted of the assault, robbery, and torture of their "ally" in Ulan-Ude. Since the beginning of the year, Russian courts have convicted no fewer than 27 people in 11 decisions, in nine regions of the country. There were at least 10 convictions, against as many people, for racist propaganda this month, in nine regions of the country. Since the beginning of the year, there have been no fewer than 60 sentences handed to as many charges on racist propaganda charges, in 35 regions of Russia.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated twice this month, on June 9 and 27. Entries 2331-2341 were added. The additions include xenophobic materials from social network site Vkontakte, a recent publication of Mein Kampf, neopagan film series Game of the Gods, the newspaper Capital Punishment, and various Islamic materials including videos posted by militants to the website Kavkaz Jihad, which has been deemed extremist.
© SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.

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Headlines 4 July, 2014

Hungary’s Roma poorly protected against violence, says international report

3/7/2014- The international Minority Rights Group has issued critical remarks about Hungary’s hate-crimes legislation in its latest 2014 report targeting several European countries. Hungary’s Roma minority is “poorly protected against a rising wave of targeted violence”, the report says, though it acknowledges Hungary’s efforts in sentencing four people last year for the serial killing of six Roma in 2008-2009. However, the report insists that the suspects were only arrested after the eleventh attack and their trial lasted 28 months, during which the court had to remedy shortcomings in the original investigations. It adds that hate crimes targeting the Roma community are often overlooked by police. The report cited as an example the “inadequate official response to the ethnically motivated ‘patrols’ of extremist paramilitary organisations in the village of Gyongyospata in 2011″, which targeted Roma.

By contrast, the report added that charges made against Roma for alleged anti-Hungarian crimes are fast and quickly brought to court. It cited an incident in 2009 when nine Roma men were charged for committing a hate crime against Hungarians when they attacked a car in which they believed skinheads were sitting. The people in the car, one of whom had ties with racist groups, suffered minor injuries. Despite a lack of sufficient evidence, “disproportionate” prison sentences were imposed on the defendants but their crime was later reduced to disorderly conduct by an appeals court. The report noted another case in 2013 when Roma, motivated by anger at racist groups arriving in their town, were charged and sentenced for committing a hate crime against Hungarians. It also noted that Kuria (supreme court) ruling in 2011 stated that racist organisations such as skinhead groups cannot be protected by the hate crime provision. “Institutionalised racism is most likely one of the main reasons for this apparent double standard in Hungary’s law enforcement,” the report said.
© Politics Hungary

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Germany: Refugees can stay in occupied school

The week-long police lock-down of an area of Berlin around a former school occupied by refugees ended on Wednesday night when a compromise was reached. Businesses and residents had accused the police of placing the area under “siege”.

3/7/2014- Hundreds of police officers put up a cordon last Tuesday around Ohlauer Straße while clearing around 200 refugees from the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule in Kreuzberg. But around 40 people refused to leave the former school and the police barriers became a magnet for protesters. Kreuzberg’s ruling Green Party, which gave the initial order to clear the school and then dithered for days about their next move, also came under fire from both police and protesters. District mayor Monika Hermann, who has supported granting the refugees residence rights for humanitarian reasons, pleaded for patience on Wednesday afternoon. "It's the aim of all concerned parties to solve the situation in a peaceful way," she wrote in a press statement. Finally, at 9.30pm on Wednesday the refugees still in the school signed an agreement with local authorities confirming they could stay in the building.

Under the agreement, brokered with the help of left-leaning veteran Green politician Hans-Christian Ströbele, 75, the former school will be renovated. The 40 remaining refugees will be given special passes to allow them to leave and re-enter the school at will. Their passes will be checked at the entrance by security staff to avoid an influx of new people. While they stay in the school, authorities have pledged not to start any legal proceedings of any kind against the refugees. The renovation work, which according to the signed document will begin on Thursday morning, will start with the clearing out and securing the bottom floors of the school. During the work the ground floor windows will be boarded up. Police spokesman Stefan Redlich said he was relieved that the police had not had to use force to clear the school and that nobody had been hurt. The nine day police operation, involving up to 1,700 police officers from Berlin, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia cost over €5 million, Bild newspaper said on Thursday, citing police sources.
© The Local - Germany

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Austria: FPÖ poster opposes 'Islamification' of Europe

A new poster campaign by the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) was launched by leader Heinz-Christian Strache on his Facebook page. It shows a blonde woman with the phrase "Too beautiful for a veil". 

3/7/2014- The poster references a recent call by the FPÖ for a ban on the public wearing of the burqa, for which the party proposes to introduce a private member's bill into the Austrian parliament next week. The image is linked to Upper Austrian provincial leader Manfred Haimbuchner, who has repeatedly warned of the threat of Islamification and problems with integration in Austria. The FPÖ Watch Facebook group called out Strache for using an image that has license terms restricting its use for political purposes. A surprising note of support for anti-burqa sentiment came from Austrian Green party politician Efgani Dönmez, who suggested that families where women were required to wear the burqa should be denied access to state financial support. "I see no reason why systems which oppress women should be financed with public money," he told the Heute paper. This view was quickly denounced by Green party leader Eva Glawischnig, who said that Dönmez was stating his personal opinion, which was not necessarily shared by other members of the party. Social Democrat women's minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek (SPÖ) reiterated that she saw no need for a ban on the burqa in Austria, according to Die Presse. The minor economically liberal party Team Stronach - the eurosceptic populist party founded by a Canadian auto-parts billionaire with Austrian roots - considers the burqa to be 'hostile' for integration, and thus opposes its use in Austria.

Image Rights Ignored
Analysis of the woman's image by a Freedom Party critic known as FPÖ Watch revealed that the poster used a stock photograph from the Fotolia image company. The specific conditions for use of this image preclude its use in any political activity, and require a clear copyright notice to be retained, neither of which conditions were observed. The image is one of the latest in an on-going series of political images, the latest of which from the Freedom Party's youth branch showed a topless woman, implicitly criticising Austria's recent winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst. It described how a 'real woman' didn't need a beard and a penis to be successful. Further investigation revealed that the FPÖ appear to have copied the idea for the poster campaign from the extreme-right-wing group Identitären Movement, who are active in France and Germany. The group is also active in Austria, leading Vienna's Mayor Michael Häupl to call for it to be banned.
© The Local - Austria

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Turkey: Civil society reaches out to Roma

3/7/2014- In order to develop solutions to problems facing Turkey's Roma population, the Swedish Embassy in Ankara is funding local research on how similar problems have been addressed in Europe. The Romidita project -- which means "research" in the Roma language -- was developed by the Turkey-based Zero Discrimination Association and Social Change Association. Organisers hope their research will contribute to the public's understanding of the Roma and help generate ideas for how their living conditions can be improved. "Problems facing the Roma are just now reaching the public agenda in Turkey. With this project, we're going to examine the Roma's problems in housing, health, education, and social discrimination," Zero Discrimination Association chairman Elmas Arus told SES Türkiye. "How have similar problems been solved in Europe? Can the same solutions be applied in Europe? If not, what would work in Turkey? This is what we want to investigate."

Arus, herself a Roma, said she suffered from social exclusion while growing up. "The Roma people in Turkey also include the Doma, the Lom. But these people are often degraded by society," she said. "There has been outreach to Roma in Turkey, but the problems have not been totally solved. It's extremely important that the state discusses the Roma's problems, because that helps society accept them. The European Union also wants Turkey to improve Roma rights as part of the accession process." A government press office referred SES Türkiye to a published account of the government's programmes supporting the Roma. The government employee did not want to be identified because the office was not authorised to speak to the press.

The account provided by the press officer highlighted an EU-backed grant programme called Development of Employability and Social Integration for Disadvantaged People, which reserved 9 million euros for programmes targeting the Roma. The funds are intended to supplement the work of Roma-led civil society programmes, increase employment opportunities, help the Roma access identity documents and social services, and promote co-operative solutions to problems facing the Roma, according to the ministry's account. Many of Turkey's approximately 5 million Roma struggle to find decent employment. They are often forced to work as shoe-shiners, hawkers, or garbage collectors, Arus said.

Hanife Alic, a Roma woman from Istanbul's Balat neighbourhood, said she struggles to support her five children. "Unemployment is my biggest problem. My husband is a shoe-shiner, and sometimes he comes home without earning any money," Alic told SES Türkiye. "My 20-year-old son looks for all types of work but cannot find any. I do cleaning work at shops when the opportunities come up. We can't pay our bills or our rent. When our neighbours put out bread, we eat it." Balat resident Ummiye Yas, 50, echoed Alic. "Me, my children, and grandchildren have been excluded because we're Roma. They call us gypsies, but that's not what we are. Sometimes people on the street point at us and say 'we'll give you to the gypsies if you don't behave,' " Yas told SES Türkiye. "Because of this exclusion, our children don't want to go to school. I have a child in primary school. He doesn't look like us, but children say they won't play with him because he's a gypsy. Then, people ask why the Roma don't study, work, or climb up the social ladder. We can't even go to school in the first place."

Arus hopes that the Sweden-funded research programme will support solutions to these and other problems facing the Roma, including housing and urban transformation. "With this project, we can prepare a real action plan for the Roma," Arus said. "We're going to identify the social needs of Roma and undertake our own solutions to our own problems. If we want to live in a better, more democratic Turkey, we have to solve the Roma's problems."
© The Turkish Weekly

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Sweden: Green MP likens jihadists to WWII freedom fighters

A Green Party MP has caused a stir after likening Swedish jihadists in Syria to Swedish freedom fighters in Finland during World War Two.

2/7/2014- The comments came on Tuesday during a seminar in Almedalen about Islamophobia. On hand were Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag and Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan, who is the former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Sweden. While the talk was mostly about Islamophobia, matters took a turn when the integration minister said that there was a problem with young Muslims heading to Syria to be jihadists, according to political scientist Stefan Olsson, who was on the scene. Ullenhag's comment prompted a reaction from Kaplan, who said the jihadists were nothing to worry about and were similar to Swedish freedom fighters who joined the Finns in World War Two to fight the Soviets. The blog entry made a splash on Swedish social media, eventually prompting Kaplan to take to Twitter to say he'd been "misunderstood".

"That's typical political speak," David Linden, editorial columnist for the Borås Tidning newspaper, told The Local on Thursday. "He tried to put a spin on it, but he didn't deny it." Linden, who also wrote on the affair, was outraged by the comments. This isn't only preposterous, it's also a very, very strange and twisted view of history. Those who went to Finland weren't there for religious or political reasons, they were counts, they were Social Democrat workers. Many of them were there because the governing Social Democrats had encouraged people to help." "Sweden is too forgiving to extremists," he added. "Think how strange it would be if Sweden's Catholics were so forgiving to the IRA - I mean, there's a case to also say they were freedom fighters." The Local's efforts to reach Kaplan have so far been unanswered.
© The Local - Sweden

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Joint statement for a strong Intergroup on anti-racism in the European Parliament

As the first plenary session of the new European Parliament takes place this week, ENAR and 95 European and national civil society organisations issue a joint statement calling on MEPs and political groups to establish a strong intergroup on anti-racism in the European Parliament.

1/7/2014- The progression of far-right parties or parties propagating xenophobic and racist ideas - with 80 MEPs from these parties - threatens the core European values of human rights and equality. It is therefore essential to ensure that the European Parliament’s commitment to tackle racial discrimination and racist violence is high on the agenda, and that MEPs establish a strong intergroup on anti-racism in the European Parliament to advance a comprehensive anti-racist agenda and to jointly react to manifestations of racism and hate.

The intergroup would provide an informal platform for MEPs of different political groups and different committees to step up efforts in order to:
(1) mainstream racial equality and anti-racism in policy and legislative work of the EU bodies and monitor EU equality and diversity initiatives;
(2) monitor the situation of groups at greater risk of racial discrimination and propose remedies and corrective measures to be taken by Member States; and
(3) consult and liaise with civil society organisations and representatives of ethnic, racial and religious minorities to enhance their participation in decision-making processes.

Read the full joint statement: Strengthening the European Parliament’s capacity to act against racism: MEPs must coordinate their efforts
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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UN working party surprised the Dutch don't see Zwarte Piet problem

4/7/2014- A UN working party in the Netherlands to look at the position of people of African origin in the country said on Friday it is ‘surprised’ that so many people do not understand the ‘problem’ with Zwarte Piet. ‘We understand that Zwarte Piet is part of a long cultural tradition, but we do believe attention should be paid to this subject in education,’ the working party’s chairwoman Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France told a news conference on Friday. The current discussion is a good step forward, broadcaster Nos quoted the committee as saying. The five-strong group have been in the Netherlands for the past few days and have had talks with a number of people, including social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher. They will now write up a report and present it to the UN later this year.

Slavery
One member of the team is Verene Shepherd, a social historian and expert on slavery, who generated a media storm last year when she said Zwarte Piet was a throwback to slavery and should be stopped. During the press conference, Shepherd said she was surprised how little Dutch people knew about their slavery past. ‘This lack of knowledge about history feeds intolerance and racism and contributes to the fact that people do not understand the feelings of those of African descent towards Zwarte Piet,’ she said. Shepherd also said the university where she works was forced to close her email account because of the hate mails she received last year.

Court
Yesterday Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan was told by a court in the capital to reconsider the licensing of the Sinterklaas parade through the city last year, which became mired in controversy because of the Zwarte Piet character. The administrative court says the mayor has six weeks to look again at the decision to allow the parade to go ahead last year and determine if the correct one was taken. The administrative court said in its ruling the Zwarte Piet character is a negative stereotype which is insulting to black people.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: Zwarte Piet is a negative stereotype: court orders parade rethink

3/7/2014- Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan has been told by a court in the capital to reconsider the licensing of the Sinterklaas parade through the city last year, which became mired in controversy because of the Zwarte Piet character. The administrative court says the mayor has six weeks to look again at the decision to allow the parade to go ahead last year and determine if the correct one was taken. The administrative court said in its ruling the Zwarte Piet character a negative stereotype which is insulting to black people and the mayor must decide which interest is more important: that of black Amsterdammers or society in general, news agency ANP reported.

Racist
Critics of Zwarte Piet – played by white people in blackface make-up – went to court last year in an effort to have the parade halted, arguing Sinterklaas’s servant is racist. That request was rejected by the courts, resulting in an appeal to the administrative court. Van der Laan is already in talks with both the pro and anti Piet lobby about this year’s parade. Earlier this year, the Dutch folklore institute recommended making changes to Zwarte Piet's appearance but did not suggest removing the blackface make-up. The court's ruling has no implications for Sinterklaas parades in the rest of the country, Nos television said. Opponents of the Zwarte Piet character said the court's verdict was an important victory. 'The court has said Zwarte Piet is racist. You have to eradicate racism and the Dutch state has a role in this,' said Barryl Biekman, chairman of the national slavery heritage platform.

Children
Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher, who in charge of integration issues, said the Sinterklaas celebrations should be a party which everyone enjoys. Sinterklaas is a children’s event and should remain so, he said. But it is also subject to change, he said. ‘We used to sing ‘who is naughty gets a switch’ and that has changed,’ the minister said. But Asscher declined to comment on the court case, saying it is up to Amsterdam city council. Asscher is due to meet Verene Shepherd, the UN official who last year criticised the Zwarte Piet tradition, later on Thursday.
© The Dutch News

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Netherlands: UN advisor embroiled in Zwarte Piet row in Amsterdam for research

1/7/2014- The UN advisor who came under attack last year for criticising the Dutch Zwarte Piet tradition was in Amsterdam on Tuesday for a fact-finding mission. Verene Shepherd, an expert on slavery, is in the Netherlands with a team of UN experts to look at the position of people of African descent in the Netherlands. The delegation will also look at the Zwarte Piet debate and discuss the issues with social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher. Shepherd was chairwoman of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent when she made comments about Zwarte Piet, the sidekick of Sinterklaas, in an interview.

Slavery
Shepherd was attacked in the Dutch media after saying she did not understand that 'people in the Netherlands do not see [Zwarte Piet] is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop.’ She also said she did not see why the Netherlands wanted two Santa Clauses. Every year the discussion flares up about the role of Zwarte Piet, played by a white person in black face make-up with a wig, red lips and gold earrings. Last year protestors tried to have the traditional Sinterklaas procession in Amsterdam banned because of the role of Zwarte Piet. The delegation will hold a press conference on Friday, broadcaster Nos said.
© The Dutch News

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Apple bans Dutch educational game about slavery from Appstore

1/7/2014- A game developed to teach Dutch children about slavery has been refused by Apple because of its ‘insulting content’ and removed from the internet after generating a storm of protest, Dutch media says on Tuesday. The game, Weg naar Vrijheid (road to freedom) was developed by the Dutch institute for slavery and heritage (Ninsee). Players take the role of slave Jacob or Amba, who were taken from the Dutch slave fortress Elmina in Ghana in 1723 and sent to work on sugar plantation Rust en Werk in Suriname.

Whip
The character is then faced with a dilemma: whether to escape into the jungle and live in a village of rebels or remain on the plantation. Both scenarios lead to a long and happy life, including marriage and children. Slaves are punished by a black slave driver with a whip. ‘That is what it was like,’ Martijn Reintjes of game maker Pepergroen, told the Volkskrant. ‘We developed the game in close consultation with the institute about historial details. We wanted more interaction between the slave and white owner but that is historically incorrect.’ The game was placed on website Slavernij & Jij in February without much impact but last week generated a surge in emotional reactions, the Parool reports.

Subsidies
Developer Pepergroen took 1.5 years to produce the game, which was paid for by Amsterdam city council subsidies. Apple have banned the game from the Appstore because the ‘contents are slanderous and insulting and can count on complaints from a large group of people,’ the Volkskrant says. Ninsee is now in talks with both the makers and the protestors to try to find a solution.
© The Dutch News

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Norway braced for new burqa ban debate

Norway's Labour and Progress parties have stated that they would consider revisiting the issue of a Muslim veil ban in the wake of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that a public ban does not violate the human rights of Muslim women.

2/7/2014- The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday gave support to France's claim that the statutory public prohibition of clothing which covers the face is within the framework of European human rights. "We must consider whether we should promote the proposal again, after the court in Strasbourg has now confirmed what we have constantly said: that a ban is compatible with human rights," said Mazyar Keshvari at the Progress Party (FRP) to the VG daily. Jan Bøhler of the Labour Party (Ap) also claimed that the ruling of the court puts the Norwegian discussion about the controversial ban in a new light. "When parliament rejected such a ban in 2013, the main argument was that Norway risked being censured in the ECHR. Now that argument falls away. I think we need to take a new discussion about a possible ban," he told VG.

Mazyar Keshvari however told NTB on Tuesday that the party recognized that a new vote in parliament would have little chance of success. "Our position has been very clear all along, but we recognize that there is no majority for what we believe. Although the other parties' straw man argument doesn't hold after the verdict from Strasbourg, there is nothing to suggest that they will change their minds," he said. Former Labour Party leader and current Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, welcomed the Strasbourg ruling. "I think it is a positive judgement. It states that any person who participates in a community has an obligation to show their face, otherwise no other community members can relate to you," he told NRK.

Jagland believes Tuesday's verdict opens up the prospect of a ban in Norway. "I would think that the judgement can be applied in exactly the same way in other member states, if they want a similar ban," he said. Labour has previously been split down the middle on the issue. The Progress and Labour parties have a combined total of 84 representatives in Norway's parliament and are thus missing one vote in order to secure a majority for a possible ban.
© The Local - Norway

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Ruling could clear way for burqa ban in Denmark

A European court decision upholding France's ban on face-covering veils may have implications for Denmark. The Danish People's Party wants to see a similar ban enacted at home and the legal path may now be clear.

2/7/2014- After the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld France’s ban on wearing face-face veils in public, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) said Denmark should explore a similar law. “The way has been cleared for a ban,” DF’s Martin Henriksen told Politiken in reaction to the court’s ruling. “[A ban] would send the signal that we do not accept parallel societies and isolation. We see [the burqa] as a rejection of Danish society. It is a sign that one wishes to distance themselves from the rest of society.” In 2009, the Conservative party suggested a ban on burqas in Denmark. Only DF supported the idea, which was quickly shot down after the justice ministry advised that it would violate the constitutional right to the freedom of religion. Following the upholding of the French ban, DF thinks it’s time to take the subject up again. “I think it is completely obvious,” DF’s values spokesperson Pia Kjærsgaard told Berlingske. “It simply doesn’t work that women go around completely covered and that people can not see their facial expressions or see who is standing in front of them.” Kjærsgaard said she “will consider” suggesting a ban. “And then we’ll see how parliament feels about it this time,” she said.

Legal precedent
The ECHR ruling, which stated that France’s controversial law introduced in 2010 doesn't violate the religious and human freedoms of Muslim women, may provide the legal framework for introducing a similar ban in Denmark. Jacob Mchangama, the director of the newly-formed think tank Justitia, told Berlingske that the French model could be adopted in Denmark as long as a ban does not directly target burqas. “It could be possible to make a similar neutral ban on having one’s face covered,” he said. “But it would go against the constitution to institute a specific ban on burqas and niqabs.” Mchangama’s stance was backed up by Sten Schaumburg-Müller, a professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Law. “It’s obvious that a ban specifically aimed at burqas would be hopeless,” he told Berlingske. “But a ban, like the French one, against covering one’s face in public could be realistic here in my opinion.”

In 2009-2010, when a burqa ban was last hotly discussed in Denmark, researchers at the University of Copenhagen concluded that fewer than 200 women nationwide wear burqas. But Kjærsgaard rejects that report and claims that the number of veiled women has increased. “That’s funny, because I can count the same number in many parts of Denmark,” she told Berlingske. “I meet more women in burqas today than in years past and we have never gotten down to the root of the problem.” The Local France has more on the ECHR ruling, while The Local Austria reports that the Freedom Party will introduce a motion to ban burqas in Austria as early as next week.
© The Local - Denmark

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Polish far right party moves into third place: survey

30/6/2014- Poland's far-right New Right Congress has almost doubled its support in a month, a poll showed on Monday, riding a Europe-wide rise of anti-EU movements to become the country's third-placed party. Any sustained rise could alter the political arithmetic a year before national elections, as backing for the government slips and the conservative opposition looks for a coalition partner. New Right Congress's 71-year-old leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke has said Adolph Hitler was probably not aware of the Holocaust, and that women should not have the right to vote because they are less intelligent than men. Support for his party rose to 11 percent, according to the survey conducted on June 27-28 by pollster Homo Homini, up from six percent a month earlier. The rise saw it overtake the leftist SLD party. The governing Civic Platform (PO) group lost more ground after the publication of leaked remarks by senior officials that have embarrassed the government.

Its support fell to 24 percent, two percentage points down from a month earlier, while the second-placed conservative opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party gained two points to reach 32 percent, according to the poll published in the Rzeczpospolita daily. New Right Congress won four seats in last month's European Parliament election, but has no seats in the national parliament. If Korwin-Mikke translates his current support into seats in the Polish parliament in the next election, scheduled for late 2015, he could form a viable coalition with Law and Justice and other conservative groups. Korwin-Mikke has declared his willingness to cooperate with PiS, though the larger party has not said if it could work with him. France's far-right National Front and the Freedom Party, from the Netherlands, failed to form an Eurosceptic block in the European Parliament last week after ruling out collaborating with New Right Congress.
© Reuters

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France’s unwanted tenants: Fear is part of the Roma's world

The Roma community in France, targeted by vigilante attacks, harassment and discrimination, faces a summer of evictions from rat-infested squalid camps in city suburbs where they have set up home.

4/7/2014- “It’s the end of the school year, there’s a big risk,” said Bernard Prieur, standing beside a group of Roma sitting on some old chairs beside a rickety caravan in their shantytown south of Paris. Mr Prieur works for a local charity in Ivry-sur-Seine which helps the Roma in the camp, and on Thursday night took part in a protest outside regional administrative offices over rumours that 400 people would be moved out next week. The camp, located at the end of a dirt track filled with the stench of urine, is strewn with broken furniture, old tyres and piles of rubbish. Fifteen-year-old Pichina Caicou has lived in camps with her extended family for the past three years and attends a local school. They came from Romania because there was “no work and nothing to eat”, she says. “We’re afraid, sometimes Moroccans come and threaten us,” she says in fluent French.

Having fled discrimination in Romania or Bulgaria, the Roma have fared no better in France. With most Roma concentrated in the Paris region, where their encampments are often next to the grim tower blocks in the surburbs ringing the city, tensions between the residents who are mainly from North or sub-Saharan Africa and the impoverished new arrivals are running high. Roma, also known as Gypsies, are believed to have migrated from northern India to Europe in the 12th century. Their language is similar to Hindu and Punjabi and British Roma have been resident in the UK for centuries. Last January, a Roma camp of 200 people at La Courneuve, north of Paris, was burned down. In February, an eight-year-old girl died when a shantytown in the nearby suburb of Bobigny was set ablaze.

In the most recent incident which shocked the country, a 17-year-old Roma youth from the northern suburb of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine was beaten and left for dead in a supermarket trolley on 13 June by a group of about 20 men from the nearby tower blocks. The camp where he lived has now been abandoned. No arrests have been made against the attackers of the youth named Darius, who was rumoured to have broken into a flat in the surburban ghetto. He is still in a coma. Asked about how local residents in Ivry-sur-Seine feel about their Roma neighbours in the camp, a middle-aged woman replied: “How do you think we feel? It’s awful,” as she gestured towards a heap of old clothes on the pavement outside the camp. An employee of a pizza restaurant said that sometimes camp residents “come inside to beg for money from customers. They ask for food, but we can’t give them any.”

The Roma have been blamed for a rash of pickpocketing targeting Parisians and tourists who are frightened by the groups of children who descend on their victims. Police have dismantled a series of organised gangs based in the Paris suburbs in recent years. But, says Mr Prieur, “we may be afraid of them, but they’re scared of the aggression from outside. They are constantly being made to move, which makes their existence even more precarious. Fear is part of their world.” Mr Prieur, who was about to accompany a Roma woman to the local job centre, said he was unaware of serious tensions with the people of Ivry-sur-Seine. “What people can’t stand is to see the conditions like this.” His organisation, the Collectif de Soutien de Roms à Ivry-sur-Seine, wants authorities to get rid of the shantytowns and find homes for families, while keeping their children at school. A total of 90 children from the camp attend school.

But although EU funds are available for housing the Roma, who are in France legally, they are in competition with needy French people for council housing. Do the Roma, who are also known as Tsiganes in French, want permanent housing? Prime Minister Manuel Valls prompted a sharp debate last September, and played into the hands of the far-right National Front, by contending that the Roma community don’t want to be integrated in France. “Some want lodging, others prefer to leave,” said Amine Saidi of the Association Logement Jeune 93, which helps families in the northern suburbs of the Seine-Saint-Denis department. “What we need is a policy.” Government guidelines were issued in August 2012, but associations which help the Roma say that they have only been partially effective. They say the Socialist government has essentially continued the policies of former president Nicolas Sarkozy since 2005, which instituted a rejection of the community.

According to the League of Human Rights and the European Roma Rights Centre, the government evicted a record number of Roma shantytowns last year, expelling 20,000 people – twice as many as in 2012. The entire Roma population in France is estimated at 20,000, but Mr Prieur said the real figure is much larger. SOS-Racisme said that the attack against Darius in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine reflected “the alarming degradation of the image of Roma, or presumed Roma in our society” and was the “inevitable result of incitement” by public officials. As the summertime evictions get underway, the largest Roma shantytown in Marseilles, where 400 people lived, was dismantled on 18 June. However, the majority of the residents had already left, fearing deportation. Amnesty International denounced the fact that only 18 families would be rehoused, including “dozens of children who until now had been going to school and had a minimum of stability”. More evictions are to take place in mid-July at the Plombières squat in the city, where about 100 Roma live.
© The Independent

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European court upholds French ban on face veils

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld France's law banning face-covering Muslim veils from the streets, in a case brought by a woman who claimed her freedom of religion was violated.

1/7/2014- The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court was the first of its kind since France passed a law in 2010 that forbids anyone to hide his or her face in an array of places, including the street. The law went into effect in 2011. The court's Grand Chamber rejected the arguments of the French woman in her mid-20s, a practicing Muslim not identified by name. She said she doesn't hide her face at all times, but when she does it is to be at peace with her faith, her culture and convictions. She stressed in her complaint that no one, including her husband, forced her to conceal her face — something of particular concern to French authorities. The court ruled that the law's bid to promote harmony in a diverse population is legitimate and doesn't breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

Critics of the ban, including human rights defenders, contend the law targets Muslims and stigmatizes Islam. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, estimated at five million, making the issue particularly sensitive. Under the law, women who cover their faces can be fined up to 150 euros ($205) or be obliged to attend a citizenship class, or both. When enacted, the law was seen as a security measure, with veiled women considered fundamentalists and potential candidates for extremist views. Another concern was respect for the French model of integration in which people of different origins are expected to assimilate. The court concluded the ban is a "choice of society," giving France a wide margin of appreciation — all the more so because there is no common ground in Europe on the issue. Only a minority of countries ban face veils.
© The Malta Independent

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France's Le Pen calls for end of dual nationality after World Cup riots

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Sunday that dual nationality should be revoked following riots after Algeria's last World Cup match, which she claimed showed the "failure" of French immigration policy.

30/6/2014- France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Sunday that dual nationality should be revoked following riots after Algeria's last World Cup match, which she claimed showed the "failure" of French immigration policy. Celebrations after Algeria's historic qualification for the second round of the football World Cup on Thursday turned violent in some French cities, leading to the arrests of 74 people for rioting and looting. National Front leader Le Pen said this showed "the total failure of immigration policies in our country and the refusal expressed by a number of binational citizens to assimilate." She suggested those holding dual nationality should support France in international tournaments and not their country of origin. "Now we must put a stop to dual nationality," she told a talkshow broadcase on French television and radio.

Algerians make up France's largest immigrant group, with close to two million people, and many hold dual citizenship. "What is clear is there is a not an insignificant number of people that are choosing Algeria over France," Le Pen said. "You should pick: are you Algerian or French, Moroccan or French, but you cannot be both." Joy erupted on the streets of France after the historic Algerian qualification, but in some parts of the country celebrations turned sour after clashes with riot police. The central city of Lyon was particularly hard-hit, with shops looted, several dozen cars set on fire and firefighters assaulted, according to the interior ministry. The ministry said police would be on high alert for Algeria's next World Cup match against Germany on Monday. If the team wins it could face France later in the competition.

Speaking on the channel Europe 1, Le Pen said that while she did not think politicians should comment on football, she found the events of Thursday night "eminently shocking" and said she worried about the "consequences of matches played by Algeria on my compatriots". "There is not another country in the world that would accept what we go through on our territory," she said. She also said that while not a big football fan herself, "in these big competitions, I try to be patriotic, and if I support anyone, I will support France". Since becoming leader of the National Front in 2011, Le Pen has been trying to clean up the image of the party as a racist and anti-Semitic group.

She led her party to first place in May European elections with 25 per cent of the vote in France and the National Front also did better than expected in local polls in March. Le Pen has spoken out against dual citizenship laws before. In 2010, she called for reform on the grounds that it "undermines" republican values. The group SOS Racisme said it was "as dangerous as it is concerning" for Marine Le Pen to use a few isolated incidents to support the National Front's agenda. Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, of the centre-right UMP, said Le Pen's proposal "would change nothing," adding that it was "not a legal problem." "It is a failure of integration policies, and now we have a generation that is not proud to be French," he told RTL's Grand Jury television show.
© AFP

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FIFA anti-discrimination boss laments lack of abuse-spotters

3/7/2014- FIFA's anti-discrimination chief hit out at world soccer's governing body on Thursday for not deploying staff specifically to tackle racist or homophobic abuse among fans at World Cup matches. Jeffrey Webb said there was a "disconnect" between FIFA's stated aim of stamping out discrimination at games and its failure to back a proposal to use trained staff in Brazil to investigate and report on cases. "There is absolutely no reason why at this World Cup we don't have anti-discrimination officers here doing proper investigations, proper reporting," Webb, the chairman of FIFA’s Anti-Discrimination Task Force, told reporters. Webb, who is from the Cayman Islands, is also the president of the CONCACAF confederation representing North and Central America and the Caribbean island countries and a member of FIFA's executive committee.

The Task Force proposed in March that trained anti-discrimination officers should be used in Brazil but the idea was not accepted, he said at FIFA's daily media briefing. "Really, this is one of the key parts of fighting against racism and discrimination," Webb said. In the most high-profile case involving possible abuse by fans at the World Cup in Brazil, FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee ruled last month that there would be no punishment for Mexico’s FA after Mexican fans chanted the word "puto" - or "faggot" in Spanish - at opposition goalkeepers during games.

Claudio Sulser, head of the Disciplinary Committee, told the same FIFA briefing on Thursday that the decision to take no action against Mexico reflected how the abuse was not aimed at an individual player. FIFA also took no action against German fans who blacked up their faces at the match against Ghana and Croatian fans who displayed neo-Nazi flags and insignia. Webb said the Mexico case was the kind of behaviour that would normally be looked into by trained anti-discrimination officers who already feature at matches organised by European soccer's governing body UEFA and other regional groups. "This is exactly what we are trying to work on and it should have been in place for this World Cup,” Webb said. "It is obvious there is a disconnect between what we in the Task Force deem as racism and discrimination and what the Disciplinary Committee deems as racism and discrimination."

Another FIFA official said anti-discrimination officers were not used at the Brazil World Cup because there was not enough time to train representatives of all 32 participating countries between March, when the proposal was made, and the start of the tournament in June. Training would start for future events, he said. Webb said it was vital that FIFA beefs up its fight against discrimination in time for the build-up to the World Cup in Russia in 2018. "It is much more of a problem in Russia. Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally," he said.
© Reuters UK.

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Splits in FIFA anti-racism strategy at World Cup

Splits in FIFA's plan to fight discrimination at the World Cup have been exposed after reported incidents involving fans went unpunished.

3/7/2014- The public divide was revealed Thursday at a briefing involving the chairmen of FIFA's task force against racism, Jeffrey Webb, and its disciplinary panel, Claudio Sulser. It came at a World Cup which FIFA President Sepp Blatter has pledged would not tolerate discrimination. Webb is unhappy that evidence provided to Sulser's panel — of fans chanting gay slurs, wearing black face make-up and carrying banners with far-right symbols — did not result in any sanctions. "It is obvious there is a disconnect between what we in the task force deem as racism and discrimination and what the disciplinary committee deems as racism and discrimination," Webb told reporters. Webb said a better strategy is needed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. "It is much more of a problem in Russia," the FIFA vice president acknowledged after the briefing. "Russia itself needs a special task force, just for Russia and from an educational standpoint internally."

Sulser defended his panel's apparent inaction against football federations, which are responsible for the behavior of fans inside stadiums. He said sanctions were not possible where no specific player or team was targeted. "There have been isolated cases," Sulser said through a translator, before adding that he did not want to "intervene only for the sake of intervening." Asked about dropping a case against Mexico fans chanting a slur at opposing goalkeepers, he said: "They have used words which were inappropriate, even kind of rude, which were not directed at a specific player." The FIFA panel was supplied with evidence by monitors from not-for-profit fan groups. Those groups were given no formal role at the World Cup despite a proposal to FIFA by Webb's task force in March. Webb said there was "absolutely no reason" for this failure to step up evidence-gathering. "It is very unfortunate. We had identified this as one of our top priorities," Webb said.

Federico Addiechi, FIFA's director of corporate social responsibility, said a more thorough program could not be created in time "at the highest level that FIFA requires for this World Cup." "Training of anti-discrimination officers for each of the 32 participating associations is not something you can do in the proper way in such a short period of time," Addiechi said. The most prominent fan monitoring group, Fare, worked mainly in Europe with less experience of "specific matters in other regions," he said. Fare was an official partner of European football's governing body at the 2012 European Championship where it helped prosecute a series of cases for discrimination. Those included Croatia and Russia, which have escaped sanction in Brazil for fans carrying far-right banners. "It is obvious that these are two very different tournaments and opinions," Sulser said. "The disciplinary committee tries to adopt a coherent behavior." Sulser highlighted that his panel banned Croatia defender Josip Simunic for 10 matches ahead of the World Cup. Simunic led fans in a Nazi-era chant after a decisive playoff win.
© The Associated Press

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Anti-gay slurs broadcast again as Mexico knocked out of World Cup

Anti-gay slurs were broadcast yet again during Mexico’s World Cup match against the Netherlands, as the team were finally knocked out of the tournament.

30/6/2014- The team’s fans had been criticized previously for repeatedly screaming the anti-gay slur ‘puto’ (‘male prostitute/faggot’) in their matches against Cameroon and Croatia. Despite broadcasters’ efforts to eliminate it from TV coverage, it was audible again yesterday, as the team were knocked out by the Netherlands 2-1. Both ESPN and Univision warned about the slur before the match. In a statement, ESPN had warned: “This is a long-standing tradition at Mexican national team matches. The word is an anti-gay slur in Spanish.” “Here at the World Cup this has become a bit of an international issue. FIFA has looked into it. Mexican officials have acknowledged the impossibility of policing the conduct and language of tens of thousands of fans. “By way of background and information, you should know that ESPN does not control the audio and video of the international feed.”

Univision warned: “We recognize that during the game there may be language, or chants, from some fans that are offensive to some members of our television audience.” “Although we realize this can happen in any televised sporting event, we do not, in any case, condone or endorse the use of such language. Univision Communications supports a World Cup that is inclusive, one that celebrates the diversity of the sport we love and can be enjoyed by all – absent what can be the hurtful consequences of certain words.” Mexico coach Miguel Herrera had previously defended the use of the slur, claiming “it’s not that bad”. Last week, FIFA dropped its investigation against Mexico, concluding that anti-gay chants by the country’s fans were “not considered insulting”.
© Pink News

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FARE: Homophobia, neo-Nazi symbols going unpunished at World Cup

30/6/2014- Eurofotbal.cz reports that despite the fact that FIFA President Sepp Blatter promised discrimination would not be tolerated at the World Cup in Brazil, several fans in the stadiums have been insulting LGBT people or promoting neo-Nazi symbols. FIFA said on Saturday that its disciplinary commission is not currently addressing any of those incidents. "I think the disciplinary commission takes its role seriously. They are examining everything provided them," said FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischerová. A group of fans with Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) has submitted several reports to FIFA, complaining for example, about the homophobic shouting of Mexico supporters. FIFA opened the case but did not punish Mexico as it did not consider the shouts to be insulting in that context. FARE has also reported banners with extremist symbols being carried by fans of Croatia, Germany and Russia during matches. The disciplinary commission is not addressing the issue. FARE collaborated with UEFA in 2012 during the European championship. On the basis of its reports, UEFA investigated several similar cases and issued sanctions in the amount of at least EUR 20 000.
© Romea.

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No action from FIFA on Croatia, Russia racism reports

28/6/2014- FIFA will not take disciplinary action over reports of far-right symbols being held by fans of Croatia and Russia at the World Cup, the governing body said on Saturday. The decision comes after FIFA decided last week not to take disciplinary steps against Mexico following claims that chants from their fans were homophobic. The cases had been reported to FIFA by the group Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) which monitors cases of racism and discrimination in stadiums. A FIFA spokesperson said that the Disciplinary Committee had examined the report from FARE but had not found enough evidence to merit taking up the issue with the Croatian or Russian federations. FARE said that Croatian fans had displayed a neo-Nazi banner at the opening match of the tournament against Brazil in Sao Paulo and that Russian fans displayed neo-Nazi banners in their first match against South Korea in Cuiaba.
© Reuters

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Malta: Adoption board chief removed after expressing ‘disgust’ for gay adoptions

The chief of Malta’s adoption board has been removed from his post, after expressing “disgust” at the introduction of adoption for same-sex couples.

29/6/2014- Ivan Grech Mintoff had attacked the government for including a provision for gay adoption in the country’s civil unions bill earlier this year without consulting the board first. He said: “We were taken totally by surprise to see these adoptions added to civil unions. “I think it was introduced in the most disgusting way possible. Surreptitiously is not a good enough term to use.” “The LGBT adoption process has been dovetailed in a very disgusting manner, into the Civil Union Bill. “The public should be made aware that the government is taking rash decisions in order to accommodate the EU rather than accommodating the public.” Family Minister Michael Farrugia had asked board members opposed to the changes to resign, and this week the government replaced Grech Mintoff with Cynthia Pace Asciak. In April, the historically Catholic country’s Oarliament voted to allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions and adopt children, and amended its constitution to forbid discrimination against transgender people. The first civil union took place in Malta earlier this month.
© The Times of Malta

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Czech court says former MP may be sued for inciting anti-Roma hatred

30/6/2014- Former Czech legislator Otto Chaloupka, who is facing a lawsuit over statements he made about Romani people on the Facebook social networking site, has failed with a request for the case to be exempted from the jurisdiction of law enforcement. The Supreme Court has decided in closed session that the District Court for Prague 1 may hear the case. Supreme Court spokesperson Petr Knötig communicated the decision without further details today. In his request, Chaloupka argued that he had published the controversial posts as an MP directly from the Chamber of Deputies, which made him subject to immunity. In the past, in the case of Vít Bárta and three rebellious former lawmakers with the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Supreme Court controversially decided to exempt the section of an indictment against them concerning actions related to their performance as legislators while in the Chamber of Deputies from review by the courts or police. The court has not provided Chaloupka with similar protection for writing on his own Facebook page.

The indictment was filed in April by the District State Prosecutor for Prague 1. According to the prosecutors, Chaloupka committed incitement to hate a group of persons and to suppress their rights and freedoms. The politician first wrote on his Facebook profile about events in the town of Duchcov (Teplice district), when a small group of Romani people assaulted and beat up a non-Romani married couple, an incident that sparked anti-Romani sentiment. "Decent people have long put up with aggression, thievery, and unjustified demands for more and more advantages," Chaloupka wrote in a text responding to a publicized statement by a particular Romani leader (see below). In the subsequent discussion on Facebook, Chaloupka added that "People are on edge, all it will take is a couple more gypsy provocations and it will kick off. Even riot police won't protect them then."

Criminal charges for defamation and dissemination of hatred in campaign advertising have also been filed against Otto Chaloupka (and against the infamous con artist Lukáš Kohout) by Jan Èonka of the ROMEA organization. "In their speeches, Otto Chaloupka and Lukáš Kohout publicly incite hatred against Romani people and defame them. Both gentlemen are exploiting populist, unethical tensions in society targeting the Romani minority. Understandably, they are generalizing, which unfortunately has become the usual way to attack Romani people as a whole. What's more, we are not Gypsies, but Roma. Their words have insulted and outraged me," Èonka, who works in Prague on a Romani employment project, told news server Romea.cz. Chaloupka has made many anti-Romani statements, some examples of which are below. As a legislator he also proposed a law that targeted Romani people.

The bill introduced the concept of at-risk individuals or families (a person or family who draws on aid to those in material distress for a longer period of time; who visits gaming rooms/casinos; who uses alcohol or narcotics; who uses money from welfare for a purposes other than meeting his or her basic living needs; who doesn't support his or her children in their proper school attendance; who commits crimes, etc.). "So-called at-risk persons will be obliged to show up at a designated time on business days at a designated place. They will have to remain there eight hours and obey the orders of the person they are entrusted to. Their welfare will be taken away if they fail to uphold this obligation," Chaloupka wrote.

Another of Chaloupka's notions was the unification of conditions (unified methodology) for selecting children to attend the "practical schools" (previously the "special schools") so that neither the director of a school nor a child's parents would be allowed to participate in deciding where children enrol. Chaloupka inserted that passage into the bill after consulting representatives of the Equal Opportunities Party (SRP), the vice-chair of which, Èenìk Rùžièka, had previously attempted to advocate such an idea. "My idea is that only experts who are subject to review should make the decision as to whether a child belongs in a practical or a mainstream school, and the SRP stands by this idea," Rùžièka told news server Romea.cz at the time. Chaloupka had praised the then-SRP representatives, including former chair Štefan Tišer, saying his consultation with them was a great benefit to his bills.

The SRP initiated the meeting with Chaloupka but later distanced itself from the lawmaker and began to claim it had never provided him any consultation. Chaloupka has also found himself on trial on suspicion of corruption. The legislator allegedly forced his assistant to pay him back part of his salary, a charge the politician denies. A District Court in Hodonín acquitted him of those charges last March. Chaloupka was a legislator beginning in 2010 for the Public Affairs Party (Vìci veøejné). After its collapse, he founded the Republic Party and became its chair, winning 0.14 % of the vote in this year's EP elections.

Otto Chaloupka has earned a sad reputation for making the following statements about Roma:
+
"Romani leaders first and foremost should start making decent livings somehow. They are parasites on the Romani community the same way the Romani community is a parasite on the majority society...."
+ "Romani people are establishing a political party once more. What do they expect from this? More leverage to gain more advantages? What more advantages could they possibly want?"
+ "Today [the Roma] don't have to work, they just complain all the time, a wave of physical violence is rising against the majority society and we just keep backing down.... I understand the effort to do something about this, to do our best to include them, to re-educate one generation of these inadaptables and give them all the conditions in which to become decent people who won't bother anyone and won't be scorned by anyone, but how many years has it been already that we have been doing our best to include them somehow and it has had no effect? What is problematic is that this costs a lot of money and delivers no results, that's how it is with them from one generation to the next, and they are making no effort to change it. They cost us hundreds of millions of crowns, and what do we get for that investment? Physical attacks, robbery, shoplifting, etc. If you don't work, then you don't deserve anything. If you start shoplifting, you should be sent to prison. I've heard the opinion that if we take away their welfare they will commit even more crime.

No, if you do something like that you will go to prison and next time you'll think twice about it. Until the revolution it was obligatory to work here. The Gypsies had to work hard. They got shovels, and while some of them just used them to lean on, at least they had to be somewhere during working hours and pretend to work. Today they don't have to work, they just keep complaining, a wave of physical violence is rising against the majority society and we just keep backing down. What are we waiting for? For them to slice us up on the street with machetes, to steal pensioners' wallets, etc., with impunity? If someone [non-Romani] assaults a Gypsy then it's a racially motivated felony and he will be punished to the full extent of the law, but when a Gypsy beats up a white woman, robs an elderly lady or rapes, terrorizes and tortures a 12-year-old white boy, he gets the same punishment as if all he did was lift a wallet. It can't go on like this and it's heading for a big row. Once people see that the state won't take care of them, then they will take matters into their own hands and it will be bad. I won't be surprised."

When Romani leader František Tomáš called on the mayor of Duchcov to come to a Romani meeting, Chaloupka responded as follows:
"That was very clever of that gypsy leader. They do not lack arrogance or presumption. People are on edge, all it will take is a couple more gypsy provocations and it will kick off. Even riot police won't protect them then."

Chaloupka also posted the following open letter to Mr Tomáš on his personal Facebook profile:
"Decent people have long put up with aggression, thievery, and unjustified demands for more and more advantages. As every reasonable person knows, this can't go on forever .... People have had enough, Mr Tomáš. They are out of patience. Each one of your provocations pushes us toward that imaginary line in the sand. You keep pushing, so something has to give, and soon. Do not rely on being protected by the state or on being permitted to do anything you like. People here do not feel protected by the state, and it is only a question of time before they take their own protection into their own hands. After that, Mr Tomáš, it will be bad. Take it from me, this is a good piece of free advice."
© Romea.

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Ireland: Death threats as racism reports soar 114pc this year

Death threats and damage to property are just some of the reported instances of racism which have soared by 114pc so far this year.

30/6/2014- A study by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) revealed one African family had the windscreen of their car smashed eight times. The insurance company is now refusing to pay for repair work. The tyres were also punctured several times and the family home was spray-painted with a racist slogan. The last time the father of the family confronted two abusive local teenagers, aged 12 to 14, they chased him down the street wielding wooden sticks, shouting racist insults and threatening to assault him. Figures from the ICI show there were 137 racist instances in the first six months of the year, an increase from 64 for the same period in 2013. Most instances were reported at work and in the home, with verbal abuse the most common issue. The reported incidents included death threats, property damage and sustained verbal abuse from children as young as 12. Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council, described the figures as "very worrying". She called on the Government to launch a new national action plan to combat racism and introduce a 24/7 online reporting system. "It is important that we send out the message that in Ireland there is no acceptable level of racism," she added.
© The Irish Independent

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Greece: Democracy under attack (comment)

By Alexis Papachelas

1/7/2014- We must finally put an end to violence committed by far-right and far-left extremists who are transgressing upon the values of democracy and freedom. Back when it started, the incidents became accepted as yet another manifestation of much-hyped Greek particularity: Attack squads would casually harass or even beat up university professors simply because they happened to disagree with them. And yet such attacks were not seen as out of the ordinary. Hooligans would wreak havoc at book presentations because they did not approve of the content of the books (books which, of course, they most likely had never read). And, once again, such incidents failed to prompt any meaningful reaction. Then came the people of the so-called “Indignants” movement against the government’s austerity policies, some of whom saw it as their legitimate right to swear or throw yogurt at, or even to physically abuse anyone they did not like.

Too bad a large part of the political system failed to condemn actions such as these in no uncertain terms. In some cases, politicians went as far as to encourage such attitudes, because they were seen as being in the political interest of their parties. And to top all that came the blatant far-right violence which targeted anyone who was seen as failing the test of patriotism or ethnic purity.

We have unfortunately become inured to such phenomena and, in fact, some commentators out there appear to justify or even encourage them with their over-the-top, inflammatory rhetoric. It is a heavy sickness, a sign of a society in a state of advanced decay. Some will rush to respond by invoking the well-known slogan “This is not violence, violence is the memorandum and state policy.” They should think again, because they could be the next victims of fanatics positioned even further right or left on the political spectrum and who would consider them as “revisionists” or “traitors.” We are all responsible for protecting society from turning into one big boxing ring where personal and ideological differences are resolved not with arguments but with the power of kicks and punches. We cannot let the country evolve into a vulgar excuse for democracy where entangled mafias and groups of mentally unstable radicals impose their views on a whim. There is only one way to tackle the phenomenon, and that is by cultivating a sense of national understanding based on mutual respect for the law.
© Kathimerini

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Greek police make new arrest in Golden Dawn investigation

30/6/2014- Another member of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn was charged with belonging to a criminal organisation on Monday, meaning all the party's lawmakers are now under investigation. Artemis Mattheopoulos -- the 16th parliamentarian from the party to be arrested -- has been provisionally remanded in custody, a judicial source said. Eight members of parliament and ex-MPs from the party are currently in prison awaiting trial, including Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos who has been in custody since September last year. His wife, Eleni Zaroulia, was charged with co-running the movement last Wednesday. Other members of the party have been released on bail, with a trial not expected until 2015. A crackdown against the party was launched last year after an anti-fascist musician was killed by a Golden Dawn supporter in an Athens suburb.

Magistrates also filed a second wave of charges against members of the party in relation to that investigation on Monday. Founded in the 1980s, the openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Golden Dawn was for years a semi-clandestine group on the fringes of Greek politics. But in 2012 the party won 18 seats in parliament, tapping into widespread anger over immigration and austerity reforms in the debt-ridden country. Two politicians have since resigned, but Golden Dawn also came third in European elections in the country last month, winning three seats. Photos published by the left-leaning newspaper "Efimerida ton syndakton" at the weekend showed the party's second-in-command Christos Papas making the Nazi salute and wearing a t-shirt with a swastika.
© AFP

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Greece: Athens Holocaust memorial defaced with threats against Jews

30/6/2014- Vandals have defaced the Holocaust Memorial in Athens, writing threats against the Jewish community on it. The incident occurred Friday and police were immediately called to the scene, where they took fingerprints and opened an investigation, said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. The graffiti included a purported quote from the Talmud, saying Jews who convert should be put to death, and threats that the synagogue in Athens would be destroyed. “Regretfully, 70 years after the end of World War II, which left millions of victims of bigotry, racism, Nazism and anti-Semitism behind, there are people beyond redemption aiming at terrorizing us by molesting the memory of our brothers, victims of the Holocaust,” said a statement from the Jewish community issued on Monday. “They will not succeed in intimidating us,” the statement said.

The incident comes several weeks after vandals desecrated the Jewish cemetery in the northern city of Thessaloniki. It also follows the release of an Anti-Defamation League survey showing that Greece has Europe’s highest rate of anti-Semitic attitudes, with 69 percent of Greeks espousing anti-Semitic views. That’s nearly twice the rate as the next highest country, France, where the rate was 37 percent. The monument, erected in 2010, commemorates the more than 60,000 Greek Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Today only about 5,000 Jews live in Greece.
© JTA News

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UK: Police investigating after Britain First go to two Gillingham Mosques

3/7/2014- A right-wing group descended on two mosques in Gillingham threatening action if a planning application for a new place of worship is not withdrawn. It comes after Britain First went to the new Nasir Mosque in Richmond Road, Gillingham, and the Jamia Mosque in Canterbury Street, Gillingham. The group of seven, clad in green raincoats and flat caps, confronted a solitary man on the doorstep of the Jamia Mosque before going inside and tackling him and another man on issues including the segregation of men and women within the mosque. Police are now investigating the incidents.

In a video shot by Britain First and uploaded to YouTube one of the group said: "Withdraw your application for a new mosque, ok? "Otherwise we, Britain First, will run a big campaign against you guys personally and also the council and the Imam, yeah? "You've got a mosque, yeah. We don't want these huge mosques with domes and minarets in our towns with separate entrances for men and women in our country." The planning application for a new mosque to replace Jamia in Canterbury Street has been delayed because of controversial parking issues.

The new mosque would be in Croneens car park next to Gillingham railway station and will feature a 92ft minaret. Letters of objection have been sent in by commuters who use the council-run car park and are angry about the loss of spaces. The application is recommended approval by council officers, but has been delayed by members of the planning committee who echoed residents’ concerns. Anwar Khan is the portfolio holder for Community Cohesion at the Kent Muslim Welfare Association, the group behind the application, and said: “The police have taken this seriously and are looking for the people to speak to them. "Our concern is that these people are not youths, they are not just throwing stones and doing a runner. They are middled aged and people like that are likely to get more momentum.

“But life is going on as normal. We’ve been through a lot of difficult times in the past so this doesn't really discourage or frustrate us. “I know most people don’t really feel like they do. “There have been objections to every mosque in this country, as long as everything is legal I don’t see it going wrong. “We’re hopeful and staying positive we will get the planning permission. “We have been in Canterbury Street for four decades and enjoy great support from other religious groups in the community, including the churches and the synagogues."

Britain First has almost 500,000 Facebook followers - more than the Conservatives and Labour combined. Islam has over three million. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "There are two reported disturbances at mosques in Gillingham on June 26 between 3pm and 3.30pm. "Officers are making enquiries to establish the circumstances and whether any criminal offences have been committed."
© Kent online

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UK: Muslim 7/7 bomb survivor: Islamophobic Britain makes me fear for my children

Ahead of the ninth anniverary of the 7/7 terror attacks in London, the only Muslim bomb survivor Sajda Mughal talks to Louisa Peacock about the rise of Islamophobia in Britain and what the future holds for her two children

3/7/2014- Nine years on from the 7/7 bomb attacks in London, Sajda Mughal, the only known Muslim survivor from below ground, has a clear message. Had the mothers of the four terrorists who detonated bombs on July 7, 2005, killing 52 victims, been better "equipped" to spot and deal with their sons' "incorrect ideology", we may have been able to prevent the bombings altogether, she claims. "Women and mothers are role models and key influencers within their home. They can nurture their children in order to change their mindset. July 7 was carried out by four Muslim males, with an incorrect ideology. Potentially, had their mothers been equipped and empowered, and nurtured their children, we may have prevented that attack from happening," she says.

I point out this is a huge leap to take; that surely, plenty of other factors are at play and in any case, isn't she at risk of sounding like she's blaming the mothers?
"It is a huge leap to take," Mughal admits. But she defends her thinking. "Having experienced what I experienced on July 7, being a Muslim myself, knowing that the [terrorists'] ideology was incorrect; something has to be done in order not to experience those attacks again. "For me it was and is about changing those mindsets but equipping these mothers to nurture those children away from risk of those paths."

Improving lives
What happened to Mughal during 7/7 moved her to quit her corporate job in investment banking and work closely with her community, particularly with women and mothers, at the Jan Trust. The charity aims to improve the lives of communities by promoting human and women's rights, working to prevent hate crime, domestic violence and forced marriage, among others. Mughal, now a mother herself to a one year-old and a four year-old, has seen first hand the impact positive role models can have on communities and a lot of the work she does at the Jan Trust helps to equip mothers, in particular, with the right tools to make that positive impact. "It's about changing mindsets. Through my work, I've changed those mindsets, worked with those at risk, those who believe in this incorrect ideology, the same ideology that led to the attacks on July 7. I'm working with mothers of and the young men who think that." There is no doubt that what happened on 7/7 changed Mughal's life and work forever. She tries to channel the tragedy and negativity of that day into something positive, into changing lives for the better in her local community.

Haunted
As the nine-year anniversary of the 7/7 attacks approaches, however, the former recruitment consultant is still haunted by the horrific events of that day, when she shared the same Tube as Germaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers, on her way to work. "The Tube got to King's Cross, and 10 seconds into the tunnel [between King's Cross and Russell Square], there was this massive, loud bang. The train came to a sudden halt. The lights had gone off. "Those of us who had sat down lurched forward, you can imagine, weekday rush hour, the Tube is packed. Those that were stood up fell forward on top of each other," she says. Mughal's immediate thought was that the train had derailed. She started to panic: the next train leaving King's Cross would almost certainly run into the back of them, causing an almighty crash, she thought. "We're going to die down here. We're going to burn to death," she thought. She had no idea that what had stopped the train that day was in fact, a bomb.

There were no announcements underground after the bang. In the dark carriage, with only a faint emergency light, people started panicking – shouting "blood", "hurt", "help me" – some were trying to break the Tube window glass to no avail. Pregnant women were offered seats. Schoolchildren, on their way to school, were being looked after by strangers. But lots of people were crying, some screaming. It was hell on earth, hundreds of feet underground, and it went on for around 45 minutes. "The carriage was filling up with black smoke, I took off my blazer and covered my face," Mughal recalls. "I was literally staring death in the face. "I was thinking that this is it. July 7, 2005, is it for me and everyone else sat here. That's when I started to think, 'I haven't said goodbye to my loved ones, I haven't done this in my life, I haven't done that'.

"That phrase 'it felt like a lifetime', I know what it means now. It literally felt like a lifetime, down on the underground, I thought I was going to die." Eventually, after a long and painful 45 minutes, Mughal heard distant cries – "it's police, we're coming to get you" – and she felt overwhelming relief. "We were going to be saved." The police rescued everyone in her carriage and led them out to King's Cross station, above ground. Mughal remembers onlookers staring in disbelief at them; she couldn't figure out why until she saw herself in the mirror later – she was covered from head to toe in black smoke. The events of that day changed her perspective on life. "My ambition, [before 7/7] I wanted to move up the career ladder and basically focus on my career. What I'm doing today, I would never have thought to do. It's only because of what happened to me on July 7 and what I experienced."

The rise of 'Islamophobia'
And yet hand in hand with her work now trying to educate communities to prevent further attacks, Mughal also deals with Islamophobia. Islamophobia is defined as prejudice or hatred towards, or fear of, Muslims or ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim. Islamophobic attacks have been on the rise ever since 9/11, but it's mostly Muslim women who are targeted, a recent report suggests. Many of those same women and mothers Mughal tries to 'equip' and 'empower' to prevent further attacks also fall victim to everyday abuse, says Mughal, involving anything from people grabbing their veils and calling them terrorists, to deadly stares and saying that they want them dead. Mughal has experienced it with her own mother, who wears a hijab. Immediately after the 7/7 attacks, they could rarely go anywhere in town without people "staring, making comments and whispering". On the Tube, "people would not want to sit next to her".

"It happened quite regularly. Also on the street, I'd hear people passing comments to women wearing headscarves. From my network, I'm hearing that schoolchildren are being bullied at school – comments like 'your father's Osama bin Laden, your uncle is Saddam Hussein, you've got a rucksack, is there a bomb in there?'" In fact, Mughal believes that Islamophobia in Britain is on the rise, but racist and vile abuse often gets worse when there has been a fresh attack connected to radical Islam, such as the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. "We had more and more clients coming to us after Woolwich, saying, this happened to me. When we have these tragic events, we see a rise in Islamophobia."

Mughal is "upset" and "frustrated" that all Muslims are painted with the same vile brush. "Ignorant minded people believe all Muslims are like that and think they have to target all Muslims." She explains that when women suffer these racist attacks, it dents their confidence, making them feel as though they don't belong in British society. She spends a great deal of time at the Jan Trust trying to "empower" women to build their confidence back up, provide counselling and make them realise that not all non-Muslims are like that. She admits that seeing her own mother attacked has also dented her own confidence, where she is "scared to walk down the street" as a Muslim woman in Britain, and the rise of Islamophobia is one of her greatest fears for her two children. "Islamophobia actually does keep me awake at night. "I don’t want Islamophobia to continue, I don’t want another 7/7 happening. Having two young children, it’s really concerning for me, I want them to be brought up in tolerant society."

'Why I don't wear the hijab'
Interestingly, Mughal, a Muslim woman, chooses not to wear a headscarf, even though she knows that within Islam, it is "compulsory" for women. I ask if she is afraid of being the target of attacks if she wore it. "Potentially, I could be subject to Islamophobic attacks," she says. But mainly, she tells me, she's just not ready to commit to her religion in that way. "I don't feel I'm ready to wear a headscarf. When I choose to wear the hijab, then I will fully commit to that. "Once you choose to wear a hijab, you choose to commit to God, for example, in terms of praying five times a day, not missing a prayer. In all honesty, I don't pray five times. But I'm embracing my faith more where potentially, I'd want to."

I wonder if there is another, more compelling reason for Mughal to refuse to wear a headscarf. Critics have argued that wearing a headscarf, a face veil or the full burka is "oppressive" and signals that women are subordinate to men. A Facebook page encouraging Iranian woman to send photos of themselves without their headscarves – embracing "freedom" – has attracted over 500,000 likes and counting. But Mughal contests. In Britain, a headscarf does not equal oppression, she says. "No. I disagree. Just because you put a hijab on doesn't mean you're subordinate to a man. I know plenty of women who wear headscarves who run the homes in all honesty, that's a huge misconception, that just because a woman wears a hijab ... that's it, she's oppressed, she's being abused, that's a huge misconception." "That's not a worry for me, that if I wear a headscarf I'm automatically oppressed," she says.

Ban veils?
In a nod to the 'veils in schools' debate which flared up again recently, Mughal thinks British people should have the right to wear what they want, free from criticism or judgement – only taking off the full face veil for security reasons. Indeed, Mughal has learned to deal with the Islamophobia her family and clients have faced in a really positive way – by going into schools and trying to educate the next generation about why Islamophobia is wrong and simultaneously, why terrorism is wrong. "I tell schoolchildren that actually, this is not what Islam stands for. Islam in no way teaches us to go out and attack innocent civilians. It's forbidden. Hand in hand we talk about the rise in Islamophobia and how it effects people. "During 7/7, what was actually achieved? People died, people lost their limbs. The four who carried out the attacks had serious grievances, an incorrect ideology.

"If you are frustrated with foreign policy, then channel it positively. Liaise with your MP, discuss with them, volunteer with organisations who deal with victims of war, utilise social media, create campaign petitions, ways where your voice can be heard positively, rather than destructively."
© The Telegraph

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British Muslims Are Asking: Are We All Extremists Now? (opinion)

By Museji Ahmed Takolia, Former senior civil servant, currently the (Interim) Chairman of the Wye Valley NHS Trust

3/7/2014- All eyes are on Birmingham and as time passes the controversy caused by the Trojan Horse letter seems to be generating more heat than light, certainly from a policy point of view. Now Nick Clegg has felt compelled to enter the debate in Whitehall, pointing to the predictable rise in islamophobia that this will lead to. The affected schools in Birmingham and the wider community are victims of lazy, even dangerous thinking that has grossly over simplified, mis-understood and exaggerated the evidence, leading to the belief that there is a threat of "Islamic extremism" of the quasi-violent kind found among jihadists in the Middle East and elsewhere. We are in serious danger of crudely conflating legitimate free expression of socially conservative religious minorities with "extremism". With many British Muslims asking, are we all extremists now?

The international news reported from the Muslim world is depressingly negative and about violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam, often against other Muslims. This constant barrage of negative news about Muslims produces a psychological danger to all here in the UK, sadly manifested in the actions of a few seriously misguided young (mainly men) going to fight their jihad on foreign soils. That fear (of Muslims and Islam) should as a result creep in, is a perfectly rational response, leaving the silent majority of Muslims in Britain wondering what exactly do we do to counter this powerful evolving narrative. Poor leadership from the top of Government is in danger of steering the public to become less tolerant of (religious) differences and Muslims specifically. Creating a toxic atmosphere of prejudice and Islamophobia; which in turn feeds extra ordinary demands, particularly of Muslims in Britain, not just in public but in the private sphere of their lives too.

I have never been persuaded that looking at the world through the lens of a Muslim provided sufficient explanation of failures of public policy; certainly not in Britain. The disturbances in the North of England in the summer 2001 for example, put the grievances of British Muslims as a community before the nation in the most dramatic way. This forced us to recognise that community relations were no longer just about race relations but that faith and religion too had become a crucial element of identity and impacted on 'social cohesion'. A more thoughtful analysis will eventually expose some stubborn, complex and inter-related socio-economic factors that go further in explaining the limitations of race or religion as explanatory factors. They are playing out in what has unfolded as a perfect storm in Birmingham, but in the heat of a sweep to eradicate extremists from our midst inconvenient facts are being overlooked. Policy makers are conflating so much behind the word "extremism" to render it almost meaningless. In doing so policy makers will miss what has gone on and find the wrong solutions to the wrong set of problems in Birmingham (and elsewhere).

How do we move on from this? Perhaps by accepting that there are in Britain socially and religiously conservative parents who are free to choose a way of life that is different from others. Indeed they have been encouraged to become active in their communities by the state. Given freedoms to design and organise new schools to help raise standards of attainment, in which some will nurture an ethos that is shared within their 'local' culture. In the process some may stray in important respects away from more broadly accepted (but as yet poorly defined) British values, norms and conventions. Indeed others may go further and define an ethos where cultural and religious/non-religious preferences predominate or are even used to inculcate others. They will do all this under the aegis of a free/academy school framework in most cases (but not exclusively) allowing some palpably bad behaviour to creep in, including examples of bullying and intimidation by some governors. All of which is carried out under the watchful lens of weak local accountability by the LEA. That poor governance and leadership should result in unacceptable behaviour in this context is compounded by apparently little training on offer to newly recruited governors, and evidently weak management in schools. Surely that such a multiplicity of factors should give rise to evidence in some schools of very poor practice in citizenship education and social inclusion should not be surprising. If this is the set of circumstances that defines "extremism" then our school system has problems far greater than even Ofsted can manage to expose.

Ofsted reported within the limits of its authority and remit, but one should fear the investigatory remit handed to Peter Clarke, the former head of anti-terrorism at the Met Police. What message is his presence in and around these schools going to send to a largely peaceful law abiding community? It will make for a long hot British summer Mr. Gove and you should seriously rethink your entire approach to this. This is the time for politicians of all hues to work with and not against the local and (new) national leadership in the Muslim communities. It may be weak and poorly organised, led largely by volunteers. But who is out there to engage with the Muslim community and bring a semblance of understanding and balance as well as practical support to the challenges they face to get things right? It is a very lonely place at the moment and a sense of siege mentality prevails. This is the moment to suspend generalisations, naked prejudice and discrimination. Instead to act calmly and in a manner that doesn't fuel a climate of fear and intolerance towards Muslims. Otherwise Muslim bashing will continue like it is a national sport in our country.

We should all welcome the debate opened up by the Prime Minister about British values. Like many other Muslims too live daily lives with worries shared with many other Brits; work pressures, for those of us who are parents the education and welfare of our children, safety in our communities, time to fit in the extra-curricular, worrying about the fate of our national football team in Brazil (decided sadly) and then the practice of our faith; with our own individual piety and good deeds tested against aspirations to live a worthy life. All of which is so far removed from the politics of the world and its affairs which is where this schools controversy has been caught up. So much so that it has become impossible to be a truly private British Muslim citizen; enjoying the World Cup, living in peace with my neighbours and having a concern, perhaps doing something positive to show a concern for the welfare of others in our community.
How much more British can one be than that Mr. Cameron?
© The Huffington Post - UK

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UK: Far Right rally fears grow

A Far Right group linked with racial violence is staging a Wigan demo.

3/7/2014- Concerns are rising after the confrontational Britain First party- an even more extreme splinter of the BNP and EDL, confirmed when approached by the Evening Post today that its members will hold a Regional Rally in Wigan this Saturday. However, despite describing itself as a “legitimate political party,” it refused point blank to say where or at what time. Instead a spokesman stated that supporters would be “re-directed” to the real venue on the day. Wigan borough has little ethnic diversity. The spokesman said it had been chosen because of its central position in the North West and its strong motorway and rail communications. Council leader Lord Smith said that Labour “regretted” Britain First had chosen to hold a rally in Wigan, adding: “They and their racist views are not welcome in our town. “We will work with the police to ensure that any nuisance they try to cause is minimised.”

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said that despite desperate efforts by far right groups to “whip up hatred, racism and intolerance,” the area had consistently rejected their “message of hate.” She said: “This town has a proud history of solidarity and compassion. “In the recent elections, hundreds of local volunteers turned out to campaign for Hope Over Hate. “They are the people who really speak for the people of this borough and however hard they try, this party – like so many before them - will not find a natural home in Wigan.” But the Britain First spokesman said: “Of course we have members in Wigan ... and all over the North West. “We have chosen Wigan because our members invited us to hold a Regional Rally there and also because of its central location. “Labour have a lot of people who clearly don’t believe in democracy and remain frightened of free 
speech. “No wonder they are anxious about our event.”

Opponents are asking the controversial party to pay for the extra policing the event will generate itself, rather than the cost for such predicted disruption falling on the council taxpayer. Fran McCaul, of anti-racist coalition Wigan Hope Not Hate, said: “They are nasty and dangerous people.” Britain First was founded by former BNP Belfast fund-raiser Jim Dowson who has known links with Loyalist paramilitaries after his volcanic split with leader Nick Griffin. The organisation has stood accused of raising funds by associating itself with other charities so that folk don’t realise they are donating to Britain First. Members have staged high profile invasions of mosques and Islamic community centres in the capital as well as across the north. Its meetings have primarily target Muslim communities.
© The Wigan Evening Post

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UK: 'Neo-Nazi plotted cyanide attack'

A British neo-Nazi plotted to kill non-Aryans in a cyanide attack, a court has heard.

2/7/2014- Mark Colborne, 36, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court charged with preparing a terrorist act. Wearing a navy blue jumper and black trousers, he wiped a tear away as he sat with his arms crossed in the glass-fronted dock at the London court. Flanked by two plain-clothed officers and a uniformed dock officer, Colborne, a college student of Butts Road, Sholing in Southampton, spoke with a West Country accent only to confirm his name, age and address. He repeatedly glanced over to his mother, who works in an animal sanctuary and sat tearfully in the public gallery during the hearing. No indication of plea was given.

Counter-terrorism police searched the home Colborne shares with his mother on June 3 and he was arrested the same day but released on bail pending further inquiries. Police from Hampshire Constabulary and the South East Counter Terrorism Unit searched his home again yesterday and charged him with engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts contrary to section 5(1) of the Terrorism Act 2006. Hampshire police said his arrest is not part of a wider investigation and there is no threat to the local community. He was refused bail and remanded in custody by District Judge John Zani and must appear at the Old Bailey on July 18. District Judge Zani said: "I'm transferring this case to the Central Criminal Court which is a higher court, and you'll appear there on the 18 July." He warned Colborne that he faced a lengthy prison sentence if he is convicted of the offence.
© The Belfast Telegraph

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UK: Met Police 'deleted discrimination findings'

The Met Police told staff to delete records on sex and race discrimination against one of its employees, an employment tribunal has found.

2/7/2014- Firearms officer Carol Howard, 35, was "singled out and targeted" for nearly a year, a panel ruled. An officer looking at her complaints was asked to delete references in a report into discrimination related to race or sex, it said. The Met said it was "disappointed" at the findings but would review the case. Ms Howard, of Purley, south London, brought a claim of discrimination at the Central London Employment Tribunal earlier this year. A judgement issued by the panel which heard the case said the Met "directly discriminated" against Ms Howard "on the grounds of sex and race" between 31 January and 29 October 2012. A number of Ms Howard's complaints of "victimisation" were "well-founded", the tribunal added. The force concluded there was no evidence "without having conducted a proper investigation", it said.

Commitment challenged
It also found that a detective sergeant tasked with looking at Ms Howard's fairness at work (FAW) complaint was asked to delete references to discrimination and harassment relating to sex or race in a report. The judgement concluded this was done "not because they were not supported by evidence in the report, but because the claimant had brought a complaint of race and sex discrimination in the tribunal". The tribunal recorded that it was "very concerned the [Metropolitan Police's] policy of not allowing Fairness at Work Advisers to make assessments of discrimination and of instructing to delete them when they do so, might mislead complainants and tribunals into believing that the [investigating officer] has not found any discrimination when in fact he or she has done so". The 35-year-old worked in the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG), which provides protection for foreign embassies and missions in London. Her superior, acting Insp Dave Kelly, subjected her to "a course of conduct which was detrimental to her", the panel said.

'Discriminatory treatment'
Within weeks of becoming her line manager Insp Kelly "formed the view... that the claimant was dishonest and not up to the standard required for DPG", but the panel said he had not provided a "credible basis for forming such a view". Her commitment was challenged in front of colleagues, her "every absence" was assumed not to be genuine and her application for an armed response vehicle role was not supported, the panel found. Lawyers for Ms Howard will now seek compensation from the Met Police for injury to feelings and aggravated damages. Her lawyer Kiran Daurka, from Slater & Gordon, called for a "complete rewrite" of the force's equality procedures. "The conduct of the Metropolitan Police and some of its senior officers towards Carol Howard was deplorable over the last two years," she said. "My client was subjected to discriminatory treatment because she is black and because she is a woman. "Fifteen years after the Met was branded 'institutionally racist' they have failed in addressing discrimination which pervades the system."

'Deliberate'
And she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the deletion of records of sex and race discrimination was a policy within the Met. "We anticipate that wherever there's findings of discrimination, they're being instructed to delete them. They've admitted that they do this practice... so that there are no findings of discrimination against them." Daphne Romney QC added: "What is particularly shocking is the deliberate attempt to cover up internal findings of discrimination. "The outcome of the internal grievance investigation led PC Howard to believe that the investigating officer did not accept that there had been either race or sex discrimination, when clearly this was not the case." Duwayne Brooks, Stephen Lawrence's friend who was with him when he was murdered, tweeted his reaction to the judgement and said: "Is this what @metpoliceuk is all about to protect it's integrity?"

London mayor Boris Johnson said he was "dismayed" by the tribunal findings. Questioned by members of the Greater London Assembly, he said there were "without doubt lessons to be learned" and would be ensuring that the Met Police addressed all the tribunal findings through the mayor's office of policing and crime. In a statement, the Met Police said: "We are disappointed at the tribunal's finding in favour of PC Howard. "We will review the findings, take legal advice and take forward any learning or actions as appropriate."
© BBC News

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UK: Two arrested in far-right march

Fireworks let off and bottles thrown in EDL march

28/6/2014- Two men have been arrested following a demonstration by the far-right English Defence League on the streets of Middlesbrough today (Saturday). About 400 people travelled from as far afield as London and Scotland to take part in the march, and more than 300 police officers were involved in the operation to keep the streets safe. Bottles were thrown and some fireworks set off but otherwise the march passed without major incident. A counter demonstration by the Teesside Solidarity Movement, with about 150 people involved, and music and drumming, took place this morning ahead of the EDL march at 2pm this afternoon. The anti-EDL demonstration marched down Linthorpe Road and finished with speeches in the town centre. EDL’s protest march started outside the Pig Iron pub on Corporation Road and went down Albert Road and Borough Road before speeches were made in front of the lake outside Teesside Combined Court Centre and the Bottle of Notes. The march was temporarily halted due to a firework exploding. One man was arrested in the morning on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon, and another during the march on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. Both remained in custody this afternoon.

Acting Assistant Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine said: “The role of Cleveland Police today has been to facilitate a peaceful protest and fortunately this has been the case, although there have been two arrests. “Clearly there has been some disruption in Middlesbrough town centre to allow these demonstrations to take place, and we are grateful to local residents and businesses for their co-operation.” Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “I attended one of the briefings to police officers this morning and have been out around the town centre observing activities. The whole operation has been well planned and in consultation with our local communities and businesses. “Clearly the priority for the police today has been to facilitate each demonstration while ensuring the safety of the public and I am pleased that the day has passed off peacefully.”
© The Northern Echo

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UK: Women targeted in rising tide of attacks on Muslims

Hotline figures reveal an average of two Islamophobic incidents every day since the murder of Lee Rigby.

28/6/2014- More than half of Islamophobic attacks in Britain are committed against women, who are typically targeted because they are wearing clothing associated with Islam, new data reveals. The figures of anti-Muslim attacks, compiled in the nine months following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in May 2013, come days after Saudi Arabian student Nahid Almanea was stabbed to death in Essex, with detectives believing that she may have been attacked because she was wearing traditional Islamic clothing.



In a study of calls to the Tell Mama hotline, which records Islamophobic crimes, academics at Teesside University found there were on average two incidents every day over the period. Victims reported a total of 734 incidents to the hotline between the start of May last year and 28 February 2014, broken down into 599 incidents of online abuse and 135 offline attacks – an increase of almost 20% on the same period the previous year. One aspect of the figures indicates an apparent lack of trust in police to deal with Islamophobic incidents, with one in six victims choosing not to report the incident to authorities. The Teesside report, published by the first research unit in Britain dedicated to the study of the far right and its opposition, says more effort is required to foster greater trust between the Muslim community and authorities.

"Supporting victims and encouraging them to come forward to report a hate crime remains the highest priority," the report says. "Alongside addressing under-reporting, authorities should be encouraged to disaggregate hate crimes by strand, and to take seriously the increased incidence of anti-Muslim hate crime." The data also revealed that – unlike most incidents of hate crime, which overwhelmingly involve male perpetrators and victims – 54% of the victims of Islamophobia were female. One theory is that Muslim women are more "visibly" Muslim because of traditional clothing such as the hijab or abaya. The figures show that four in five victims attacked in the street or elsewhere were females wearing visibly Muslim clothing; almost the same proportion of alleged perpetrators offline were young, white men.

Incidents reported to Tell Mama leapt after the murder of Rigby, with nearly four times more reports during the week following the attack than the previous week – although the number of incidents reduced in the months thereafter. However, the report says that Islamophobia and its negative impact on community relations remains an ongoing concern. "Throughout spring 2014, there were heightened levels of both online and offline incidents reported to Tell Mama. At this time, many people in Britain felt frightened and victimised," it says. Overall, the data are in contrast to the trend for hate crime, with government figures showing the number of reported attacks falling.

Other findings from the report confirm that a significant number of incidents reported to the hotline involved a link to far-right groups such as the English Defence League. A far-right connection was traceable in almost half of reported Islamophobic online abuse. An online link to the far right was readily detected through recognisable slogans such as the EDL's "NFSE" (No fucking surrender ever), hashtags linked to far-right groups, avatars or recurring far-right phrases including neo-Nazi phrases. In a previous report by the Teesside University centre, it was claimed that a small number of far-right activists were responsible for a significant proportion of online hate incidents targeting British Muslims.


© The Guardian
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