NEWS - Archive May 2012

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International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

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Headlines 25 May, 2012

WHEN EURO-SONGS FADE, AZERI DISSIDENTS FEAR HARD TIMES (Azerbaijan)

Campaigners who used Eurovision to highlight rights concerns now expect to pay price for speaking out.
By Shahla Sultanova, IWPR-trained freelance journalist in Azerbaijan.

25/5/2012- As Azerbaijan prepares for the Eurovision Song Contest finale on May 26, local human rights groups are warning that once international media interest wanes, the government will launch a crackdown to punish those who used the event to criticise its record. Winning the right to host Eurovision was a major coup for the
government, which saw it as a chance to advertise a country that remains unfamiliar to many Europeans. For human rights groups and the political opposition, however, the contest was an opportunity to draw international attention to restrictions on free speech and other concerns, which some argued made Azerbaijan an unsuitable host for the pan-European event. A campaign called “Sing for Democracy” made the link explicit. In the run-up to Eurovision, several conferences on human rights have been held place in Baku, and protest rallies have taken place in the city centre for the first time in years. Activists predict, though, that the limited freedoms which now exist will be curtailed once Azerbaijan ceases to be in the limelight.

Ulvi Hasanli, head of the Azad Genclik (“Free Youth”) organisation which held a protest on March 17 and took part in events during Eurovision week, said that retribution was inevitable, and that he expected to see activists and journalists being blackmailed, arrested and beaten up. “The Azerbaijani government had high expectations of winning recognition from the world community and fostering an attractive image. It didn’t happen. We were the ones who destroyed that image,” he said. “They are very angry about that, and they will definitely try to teach us a lesson.” Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, said she was expecting arrests to follow the contest, to put a stop to any hopes of liberalisation. “Civil society activists will be main targets for punishment, for talking to the European community about so many of the negative realities of Azerbaijan. Not just activists but their family members as well will be targeted,” she said.

“Azerbaijan’s government is scared of its own people. It is afraid of an ‘Arab Spring’ happening in Azerbaijan. There have been a number of protests during Eurovision. The government will therefore take every step to intimidate people so that they don’t carry on afterwards.” The Azad Genclik group has issued a statement warning foreign tourists to be careful in their hotel rooms, given that journalists have been filmed secretly for the purposes of blackmail in recent times. The reference was to April 2011, when secret footage of journalists Natiq Adilov and Qan Turali in their hotel rooms was broadcast on Lider TV. The same channel aired a sex tape showing Azer Ahmedov, editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Azadliq, in October 2010. In March 2012, a secretly-filmed video showing journalist Khadija Ismayilova and her boyfriend at home; this followed threats and blackmail clearly aimed at curbing her investigations into high-level corruption. Senior officials dismiss warnings of reprisals, although Elnur Aslanov, head of political analysis and information in the Azerbaijani president’s office, accused activists of spreading false information
in a deliberate attempt to spoil Azerbaijan’s image.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to talk about pressure or retribution,” he said. “Eurovision is a gift that grants the young state of Azerbaijan recognition in the world. There is no division into government and opposition in Eurovision; it’s about the whole of Azerbaijan.” Idrak Abbasov, a journalist from the Zerkalo newspaper, pointed out
that the government had already begun dispersing rallies before Eurovision was even over. Police moved into break up protest marches on May 21 and 24. “People will come under harsh pressure after Eurovision,” Abbasov warned. “The main methods that will be deployed against activists, students who took part in rallies, and youth organisations that promote human rights through the European media will be blackmailing them and accusing them of dealing drugs. Even those who have posted
negative comments about Azerbaijan on Facebook will be targeted.” Abbasov, an award-winning journalist, was beaten up by oil company security guards on April 18 while filming the demolition of houses in Baku’s Sulutepe region, and is still bedridden. Abbasov expressed concern that activists from the Sing for Democracy
campaign would be singled out for punishment. The movement, launched by over 30 human rights organisations to press Eurovision organisers to demand greater democracy in Azerbaijan, held a march through central Baku on May 23.

Rasul Jafarov, Sing for Democracy’s campaign coordinator, said retribution was inevitable but would not be immediate. “There will be pressure on activists like us, but not immediately following Eurovision. The government wouldn’t be foolish enough to do it right after the song contest, when the country will still be getting a significant amount of attention. It will happen some time around the autumn.” Rashad Hasanov from the Positive Change youth organisation, which has also taken part in the protests, said punishment would be selective and designed to be a deterrent to others. “I wouldn’t say harassment will increase [overall] after the contest ­ it took place before Eurovision, and it will continue afterwards,” he said. “The government will certain people as a lesson to the rest.”
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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MUSLIMS OUTRAGED AT XENOPHOBIC GRAFFITI (Russia)

25/5/2012- Moscow’s mufti Albir Krganov has appealed to the capital’s Bureau for Human Rights over nationalistic slogans and graffiti which he says insult the feelings of believers and non-Russian nationals. Krganov – vice chairman of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia – said the body had received a large number of complaints from believers over xenophobic graffiti.In particular, they reported such slogans as “Russia is for Russians” covering the walls along the railroad to Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. It is worrying that in Russia – a multinational and multi-confessional country – some people allow themselves to express nationalistic statements, the mufti noted to Russian News Service. “I simply wanted to draw attention to the problem so that the society would think about it. Fences and walls belong to someone and they should watch what’s written on them,” Krganov stressed.

In response, the Human Rights Bureau issued a statement calling on Russian Railways (RZD) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to give an ear to “the glaring problem.” “Nationalistic slogans and symbols are dangerous since they are insulting and, also, inspire people with fear for their safety as well as for the future of the country,” the document reads. Extremist statements on buildings near railroads are especially dangerous as they "poison the eyes and souls of tens of thousands of people.” The head of the bureau, Aleksandr Brod observed that railway administration does not always erase xenophobic graffiti. “More attention must be paid to such nationalist activities, especially since according to reports they create special groups for their tricks,” the body’s website quotes him as saying.

Thousands of people including foreigners travel by train and what they see on the walls of railway stations and buildings around is – to some extent – the face of the country, Brod noted. “I wish this face didn’t cause concern. The law enforcement agencies shouldn’t turn a blind eye on these crimes,” the organization’s website quotes him as saying.
© RT

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PARLIAMENT UNANIMOUS IN BACKING HATE CRIMES LEGISLATION (Malta)

24/5/2012- The introduction of tougher penalties for crimes motivated by gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religious or political beliefs drew closer after parliament unanimously approved the necessary legal amendments in their second reading. Last February, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that he had instructed Justice Minister Chris Said to review hate crime laws in the wake of public outcry following an assault apparently motivated by the two victims’ sexual orientation. Laws covering offences motivated by racial or religious hatred were already on the books, with many introduced in 2009. What Dr Said’s office came up with is a number of amendments to the Criminal Code which uniformly replace references to them with references to “gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, colour, language, ethnic origin, religion or belief or political or other opinion.”

The amendments cover a wide range of crimes, including causing bodily harm, arson, incitement, harassment, threats and the wilful damage of goods. In each case, they would increase the legal punishment for such crimes by one or two degrees if their motivation on the grounds mentioned is proven. As debate on the second reading drew to an end on Tuesday evening, opposition deputy leaderAngluFarrugia observed that while the provisions were commendable, further efforts would be needed in this regard. He warned that the law alone would not change perceptions overnight. In his winding-up speech, Dr Said was in agreement, pointing out, among other things, that such efforts had to be coupled with efforts in the education system, which would help promote the acceptance of differences in opinions and characteristics to avoid such crimes from occurring in the first place.

The minister noted that he was glad to see the opposition agree with the amendments proposed, describing them as not extensive but significant. Parliament, he said, was sending a clear message that it wanted a society that respected persons regardless of who they were or what they thought. Unsurprisingly, given the preceding discussions, the bill was approved unanimously in its second reading, and parliament also unanimously approved sending it to committee.
© The Malta Independent

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PRIEST WHO RUNS RACIST WEBSITE FACES PROBE (Switzerland)

A Reformist priest from a tiny Bernese village is under investigation by church leaders after it emerged that she helped run a fanatical anti-Islamic website.

25/5/2012- The Council of Reformist Churches for Bern, Solothurn and Jura has criticised the priest, and declared her activities on website ‘Politically Incorrect’ to be “incompatible” with her position as a priest due to the “Islam-baiting” that takes place on it, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported. The priest has been involved for a long time with the Politically Incorrect forum, a website frequented mainly by Germans, and has been operating clandestinely, the newspaper reported. It has been alleged that the priest has been funding the website herself, the Tages Anzeiger reported. The prosecutor also believes it possible that she has been contributing some of the racist content, albeit under pseudonyms. The Council had already warned the priest previously for her participation at extreme-right Islamophobic events in Germany. Having reviewed the content of the website, the Council described the articles posted there as “inflammatory and derogatory”. The priest is now accused of breaching anti-racism laws and of failing to prevent criminal acts. Despite the accusations, she has still been permitted by her immediate superiors to continue to preach in the village. An estimated 33 percent of the Swiss population are thought to be Reformist, although numbers much lower than this actually attend service regularly.
© The Local - Switzerland

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AMNESTY: HUMAN RIGHTS IN MACEDONIA DETERIORATED

The dropping of war crimes cases and a lack of press freedom are among the main concerns in Macedonia that Amnesty International mentions in its annual human rights report.

25/5/2012- “Respect for human rights deteriorated throughout the year” reads the report on 2011. The human rights group states that Macedonia acted “in violation of Macedonia’s international obligations” when in July 2011 the parliament changed the 2002 Amnesty Law, which granted amnesty to former ethnic Albanian insurgents in the 2001 conflict, to include those charged with war crimes. The move resulted in the prosecution dropping four war crimes cases, returned in 2008 from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to Macedonia. All four cases involved members of the now disbanded Albanian insurgents, some of which now occupy high political positions. As a result of the change to the amnesty law, Skopje Criminal Court ceased proceedings in the “Mavrovo” road workers case at the request of the Public Prosecutor. In 2001 a group of road workers were allegedly abducted, ill-treated, sexually abused and threatened with death before being finally released by the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, NLA. The remaining cases were also swiftly annulled. One of the accused in the “NLA Leadership” case was Ali Ahmeti, the leader of the junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, and a former leader of the NLA.

The “Neprosteno” case, alleged that 12 ethnic Macedonians and one Bulgarian had been abducted by the NLA, while the final anulled case had centred on accusations that NLA members had cut off the water supply to the town of Kumanovo. Later in the report, Amnesty argues that “the freedom of expression of journalists and independent media workers was increasingly limited by government interference, ranging from direct intimidation to control of advertising companies”. A large number of defamation cases against journalists are mentioned, as well as the closure of the country’s most popular pro-opposition TV channel, A1 TV, which was widely blamed on pressure by the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski denies such claims. The human rights group also says that government-funded “nationalist monuments exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions” and notes that reports of "ill-treatment by the police continued”. Amnesty mentions the case of Martin Neskovski who was severely beaten by a police officer on 6 June during post-election celebrations in Skopje, and died of head wounds, noting that “repeated public protests questioned delays in the investigation and called for stricter civilian oversight of the police”.

Amnesty says that Macedonia failed to instigate proceedings after a complaint by Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin. El-Masri complains to the European Court of Human Rights that Macedonia helped in his unlawful abduction in Skopje in 2003. He says he was ill-treated for 23 days while in detention in Macedonia before being handed over to CIA officers who transferred him to Afghanistan where they tortured him, mistaking him for terrorist. Amnesty also mentions Macedonia’s new anti-discrimination law adopted last year. “The Law lacked provisions for the protection of lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people” Amnesty says. The group also slams Macedonia for failing to provide adequate financial assistance and housing for some 1,500 asylum-seekers, including 1,100 Kosovo Roma and Ashkali, who remained in Macedonia after the 1999 NATO campaign against Serbia.
© Balkan Insight

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FIVE ARRESTS FOLLOWING ATTACK ON MIGRANT CAMP IN PATRA (Greece)

3/5/2012- Five people were arrested, more than 20 detained and eight policemen injured late on Tuesday when a group of about 350 people attempted to force their way into an abandoned factory in Patra, where dozens of undocumented migrants are squatting. Police said the crowd that had gathered outside the Peiraiki Patraiki factory consisted of Patra residents who were protesting the fatal stabbing of a local man and supporters of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi. They clashed with police, who used tear gas to repel the crowd, and set fires outside the factory. Police said that they suffered repeated attacks and were on the receiving end of rocks, flares and other missiles.

Tension in the area has risen following the murder of a 30-year-old local man. Three Afghans are suspected of carrying out the attack in an area next to the port, where hundreds of migrants gather in the hope of making it onto a ferry to Italy. Police also reported an attack on Tuesday night on a journalist and a Chrysi Avgi MP after the pair had held a discussion on a local TV station. Officers said that several people attacked the deputy, Michalis Arvanitis, and then set upon the journalist, Apostolos Vouldis, when he tried to deter them.

© eKathimerini

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GREEK EXTREME RIGHTISTS FIGHT POLICE OVER MIGRANTS

Greek police fired tear gas against protesters on Tuesday as a mob tried to attack migrants following the fatal stabbing of a Greek man.

22/5/2012- The protesters, which reportedly included members of the far-right group Golden Dawn, gathered outside an abandoned factory where homeless migrants have taken refuge. They threw stones at riot police and set fires to garbage bins in Greece's western port of Patras. A 30-year-old Patras resident was fatally stabbed outside his home on Saturday following a dispute with three men, believed to be Afghan nationals. A 17-year-old Afghan has been arrested over the case. Tension in Greece over immigration and a perceived surge in crime has spiked in recent months, fueled by the country's economic woes. Golden Dawn on May 6 picked up over 440,000 votes in general elections and entered parliament for the first time in Greece's political history. The group has pledged to "scrub the country clean" of illegal immigrants. Patras is a gathering point for thousands of migrants and refugees hoping to sneak onto Italy-bound ferries. One of Golden Dawn's newly-elected deputies was assaulted outside a Patras television station on Tuesday after giving an interview. One of the station's journalists was also hurt in the incident, the Athens News Agency said.
© The Telegraph

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RACIST BEATING TRIAL POSTPONED (Greece)

23/5/2012- A court in Greece on Wednesday postponed for the sixth time the trial of three Greeks, including a neo-Nazi parliament candidate, accused of beating up three Afghan immigrants in Athens a year ago. The defence requested the delay in order to obtain testimony from a police patrolman who allegedly caught the defendants in the act. The trial has now been set for September 25. One of the accused, a woman named Themis Skordeli, recently failed to get elected to parliament with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group which boosted its support in the May 6 ballot on growing immigration and crime fears. Skordeli has been identified as a member of an Athens anti-migrant patrol group formed in poorer districts of the capital with the help of far-right militants. Around a hundred leftist activists had gathered outside the courthouse, shouting slogans against the far-right and the police, and hurling projectiles at the accused, who were evacuated by a strong police escort.

A Greek representative for Human Rights Watch, Eva Cosse, said the postponement was ”very worrying.” ”Greek justice should take efficient action against racist violence which is multiplying in the country,” Cosse told AFP. The defendants face a five-year prison term if convicted. The case is the first of its kind to come to trial in over a decade, although attacks on migrants have become increasingly common in recession-hit Greece. On Tuesday, a violent anti-migrant protest took place in the western port of Patras after a 30-year-old Greek was fatally stabbed over the weekend in a dispute with three men believed to be Afghan nationals. Police said they fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of around 350 people, mainly Golden Dawn supporters, who tried to storm an abandoned factory where homeless migrants have taken shelter. The protesters threw stones, flares and firebombs at the police, damaging a police bus, a squad car and two motorbikes. Eight policemen were hurt. Five people were arrested.
© AFP

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S ANTI-RACISM COMMISSION PUBLISHES NEW REPORT ON ANDORRA

22/5/2012- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published its fourth report on Andorra. ECRI’s Chair, Mr Jenö Kaltenbach, said that, despite positive developments, there were issues of concern, such as incidents of direct and indirect discrimination in employment based on citizenship and the Government’s reluctance to enact comprehensive legislation against racism and racial discrimination. The Ombudsman’s office has taken measures in order to make this institution better known to the public. Special reception classes continue to be organised in order to assist newly arrived pupils who do not master Catalan, as well as Spanish and French. The residence requirement for obtaining certain housing subsidies has been softened. Some measures have been taken to shorten the period provided by law for a permanent residence permit.

However, the criminal legislation in place relating to racism and intolerance is not exhaustive. Specific training on racism and racial discrimination should be provided to judges, prosecutors and lawyers. The possibility for seeking redress for forms of discrimination based on citizenship are limited and a fully fledged integration policy is not yet in place. In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:
# Apply the principle of the sharing of the burden of proof when discrimination complaints are brought before civil/administrative courts.
# Train judges, prosecutors and lawyers on racism and racial discrimination, including on relevant criminal legislation.
# Rely on the work of the National Equality Commission to devise and coordinate an integration policy.

The report, including Government observations, is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Andorra in September 2011 and takes account of developments up to 8 December 2011.
© The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

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REPORT FINDS IMMIGRANTS SUFFER DISCRIMINATION (Denmark)

A report condemning Denmark’s treatment of immigrants and foreigners has been criticised by a think-tank for being biased

25/5/2012- Immigrants in Denmark suffer racism and discrimination according to a report released this week by the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination organisation, the ECRI. The report found that while Denmark created the Board of Equal Treatment in 2008 to handle complaints of discrimination and has introduced measures to integrate immigrants into the labour market, Danish immigration policies are still unnecessarily strict. The report argued that the criteria for obtaining Danish citizenship, family reunification and permanent residence are very difficult for non-ethnic Danes to meet. A press release accompanying the report also stated that “the negative political discourse on immigrants, including Muslims, has had a disproportionately adverse effect on these groups in a number of important areas of policy."

The ECRI made three key recommendations to the Danish government. These included reviewing the family reunification laws to remove discriminatory elements, increasing efforts to recruit ethnic minorities into the police, and increasing the funding for non-governmental organisations working to increase co-operation between marginalised groups and the authorities. Not everyone was convinced about the impartiality of the report, however, as the European Council anonymised many of the sources reporting racism and discrimination in Denmark. The anonymous reports include concerns about the difficulty of raising complaints against individuals and politicians for making disparaging remarks about immigrant groups, particularly Muslims.

“Civil society actors have informed ECRI that they have in many instances made complaints against these politicians to no avail,” the report states without revealing who these civil society actors are. According to the law professor Eva Smith, Denmark’s ECRI representative, claims made in the report are supported by testimony from at least two independent sources. But with the report stating that “some media have continued to portray minority groups, in particular Muslims and Roma in a negative light,” Jacob Machangama from libertarian think-tank Cepos, argued that the reports findings are biased. “It’s a deeply biased view that Danish media promotes racial discrimination,” Machangama told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There is no justification for it. If you spoke to the chairman of [the journalists' union] Dansk Journalistforbund, you would probably get a different point of view.”

Machangama pointed out that two outspoken anti-immigration organisations were interviewed for the report, SOS mod Racisme and the human rights organisation Dokumentations- og rådgivningscenteret om racediskrimination (DRC), and could be the two sources needed to support the claims in the ECRI report. The head of the DRC, Niels-Erik Hansen, confirmed to Jyllands-Posten that he was one of the sources. He said that he told the ECRI that despite a slight easing in immigration law, the policies were still very heavy-handed and that it was still difficult to pursue cases of discrimination. “We are continuously pointing out Denmark’s problems abiding by international conventions. So we can’t exactly paint a rosy picture of Denmark to the ECRI,” Hansen said. “I understand that Jacob would liked to have been consulted but it makes sense to ask those who specialise in discrimination.”

The report is not fully up to date, however, and only covers developments up until December 2011. The new government that came into power in September promised to ease immigration law and earlier in May several major reforms came into force, including the abolition of the point system for family reunification and the immigration test (invandringsprøven), as well as a reduction in the economic safety net from 100,000 kroner to 50,000 kroner.
© The Copenhagen Post

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S ANTI-RACISM COMMISSION PUBLISHES NEW REPORT ON DENMARK

22/5/2012- Today, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its new report on Denmark. ECRI’s Chair, Mr. Jenö Kaltenbach, welcomed positive developments, but regretted that a number of concerns persisted. For example, discrimination in employment, education and housing remained and the already strict rules for spousal reunification had become even stricter. In 2008, Denmark created the Board of Equal Treatment. This body is empowered to receive complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender and/or race or ethnic origin concerning cases outside the labour market. In relation to the labour market, the Board is empowered to receive complaints of discrimination on the grounds of, inter alia, race, ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, nationality and gender. The Danish authorities have also adopted a number of measures to integrate immigrants into the labour market. However, the criteria for obtaining Danish citizenship, spousal reunification, permanent residence or for children to be reunited with their family are very difficult for non-ethnic Danes to meet. The negative political discourse on immigrants, including Muslims, has had a disproportionately adverse effect on these groups in a number of important areas of policy.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations to the authorities, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:
# Ensure sufficient funding for civil society actors working on issues relating to groups of concern to ECRI and strengthen their cooperation with the authorities;
# Review the spousal reunification rules in order to remove any elements which amount to discrimination against non-ethnic Danes;
# Intensify efforts in recruiting members of ethnic minorities to the police.

The report is available here. It was prepared following ECRI’s contact visit to Denmark in September 2011 and takes account of developments up to 8 December 2011, unless otherwise stated.
© The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

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RAPPER FACES NEW TRIAL FOR THREATENING PVV LEADER GEERT WILDERS (Netherland)

22/5/2012- A Rotterdam rapper who wrote a text apparently threatening PVV leader Geert Wilders should be retried on the same charges, the High Court ruled on Tuesday. Mohammed B was found not guilty of threatening the MP with death on appeal, but the High Court said the appeal court failed to argue its decision properly when it dismissed the charges in 2010. The appeal court had said it was not proven that the rapper had placed the text of the rap with a video clip on YouTube which included the sound of a pistol shot. The CD version does not include the sound of a gun going off.

No joke
The text includes the rapper saying it will be 'bam bam' if he meets Wilders. The rapper also calls on Wilders to take back his words if he wants to stay alive and says 'this is no joke. Last night I dreamed I chopped your head off.' The appeal court ruled that even though Wilders had felt threatened by the combination of words and music, there was no evidence B himself had uploaded the video to YouTube. However, the High Court said the appeal court had failed to explain properly why B could not be convicted on the basis of the text alone and ordered the case to be heard again.

Hyves message
In a second case, however, the High Court upheld a lower court decision to sentence a 15-year-old boy to 50 hours community service for sending Wilders a threatening message. The boy sent an item using the Hyves social networking site in 2010 suggesting Wilders jump from the Euromast tower in Rotterdam and describing how his ‘brains will be all over the ground within a week’. The high court agreed with the lower court that the text constituted a death threat.
© The Dutch News

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DUTCH FAR-RIGHT POLITICIAN SEEKS TO SINK ESM NOD

22/5/2012- Dutch far-right politician and eurosceptic Geert Wilders has gone to court to get the Netherlands to postpone ratifying Europe's long-term bailout plan, his lawyer said Tuesday. The European Stability Mechanism's ratification is "illegal", Wilders' lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told AFP, adding: "We are asking, in taking legal action, that the Dutch government put the law on the shelf until after the elections." Wilders registered an interim application Tuesday before The Hague regional court, its spokeswoman Saskia Panchoe confirmed. The action by the far-right leader comes a month after he walked out of talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition government over budget cuts, prompting Rutte's cabinet to hang up the towel a few days later. Polls to elect a new Dutch government are now slated for September 12.

The Dutch lower house of parliament is expected to approve the pan-European ESM plan on Wednesday. A permanent rescue fund, the ESM was created to ease market pressure on indebted eurozone nations like Greece and prevent contagion across the eurozone and is due to be launched in July. It will run in parallel with the temporary European Financial Stability Facility for one year. The Netherlands is expected to contribute some 5.71 percent to the ESM. Once approved by the lower house, the ratification will be submitted to the Senate for a vote on a day yet to be determined. Wilders, who is also know for his anti-Islam stance, opposes the ESM's endorsement, which he described as "a transfer of sovereignty to Brussels." His case is to be heard before the court at 10:30 am (0830 GMT) next Tuesday, court spokeswoman Panchoe said.
© AFP

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IMMIGRATION MINISTER PLANS SPEEDIER AND TOUGHER ASYLUM PROCESS (Netherlands)

22/52012- Immigration minister Gerd Leers is planning to tighten up the procedure for vetting asylum seekers and make it faster by cutting out several layers of the current process, he told the Volkskrant in an interview on Tuesday. Leers wants asylum seekers to be vetted on all grounds, such as family life, medical condition and the situation in the country of origin, in one go. Their asylum claim could then be considered in one day, the minister says. If there is an appeal, Leers wants the lawyer to work on a no-win-no-fee basis, which would make the appeal process cheaper.

Return
Asylum seekers whose appeal is turned down would immediately be turned over to the deportation service which would arrange for the journey back to their country of origin. This would remove the endless appeals that currently clog up the process and in some cases lead to asylum seekers spending up to 12 years fighting deportation, he told the paper. Leers, who will submit his plans to parliament later on Tuesday, is not proposing any changes to the deportation of the children of asylum seekers who have lived in the Netherlands for more than eight years. A number of MPs want these children to automatically be given the right to stay.

Tinkering
In a reaction, Loes Vellenga of the asylum lawyers association says Leers is just tinkering with the process. 'Claims are already considered in one go over the eight-day process,' she told the Volkskrant. She also points out that Dutch law does not allow lawyers to work on a no-win-no-fee basis. 'I'm interested to see how the minister will arrange this. Will all prosecuting lawyers be able to work on the same basis'?' she said. Currently, 56% of asylum seekers are dealt with in eight days, which is quick when compared to other European countries. Leers said he expects a majority of MPs to support his plans, even though the cabinet has caretaker status and is not supposed to introduce controversial legislation.
© The Dutch News

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MUSLIMS FACE DISCRIMINATION IN BULGARIA

23/5/2012- Bulgarian Muslims are concerned by the rising trend of discrimination against Muslim communities, with very few legislative actions proposed to stem the problem. Moreover, analysts point out that some Muslim victims have been taken to court and sued for hooliganism. Experts say Bulgarian Muslims continue to be deprived of access to proper education, healthcare, jobs or political representation. Last month, Amnesty International had issued a report calling on European governments to do more to clear prejudices against Islam. On May, 2011, members of the far-right Bulgarian Ataka party attacked several Muslims who gathered for their usual Friday prayers at a main mosque in downtown Sofia. The Bulgarian government has forbidden passport pictures with women’s headscarves and banned religious literature from focusing on Islam in a move that has been widely viewed as part of a smear campaign against Muslims in the country. There are about one million Muslims living in Bulgaria – approximately one-tenth of the total population — in centuries-old local Muslim communities, not new-comers like in Western Europe, which is seen by many as a “role-model for tolerance”.
© IRNA

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ALLEGED ACCOMPLICE IN GERMAN NEO-NAZI MURDERS FREED

25/5/2012- Germany's federal court of justice on Friday freed one of the suspects arrested in connection with 10 murders of mostly immigrants blamed on a seven-year killing spree by a neo-Nazi gang. The Karlsruhe-based court in southwestern Germany said the case against the suspect, identified as Holger G., was insufficient for him to be kept in custody. He was arrested near the northern city of Hanover in November and faced allegations of having helped the far-right gang by providing, among other things, a weapon. In November it emerged that a neo-Nazi cell of three calling itself the National Socialist Underground was presumed to be behind the unsolved murders of 10 people, mainly shopkeepers of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2007. The case blew open when two of the members were found dead in an apparent suicide pact and the other, a woman identified as Beate Zschaepe, turned herself in.
© AFP

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GERMAN BANKER CLAIMS NAZI GUILT HAS MADE GERMANY A EURO ZONE HOSTAGE

Former German central banker Thilo Sarrazin claims that Germany has allowed itself to become the euro zone’s “hostage” as penitence for the Holocaust, in his new book Europe doesn’t need the euro” which has provoked fresh controversy.

22/5/2012- According to extracts from the book published in German Focus Magazine, Sarrazin theorises that German supporters of EU-back euro bonds “are driven by that very German reflex, that we can only finally atone for the Holocaust and World War II, when we have put all our interests and money into European hands”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has up till now been a staunch opponent of euro bonds, which she claims will alleviate the necessary burden of austerity from under-fire eurozone countries such as Greece. Following the change in French president and the loss of one of her most loyal allies Nicolas Sarkozy, though, she may be forced to change her position at a informal EU summit on Wednesday in Brussels. Sarrazin’s critics have responded to his Nazi blackmail claims by accusing him of desperate self-promotion. Speaking ahead of the book’s publication, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said: “Either he is speaking and writing this appalling nonsense out of conviction or he is doing it with despicable calculation”.

Green party leader Juergen Trittin meanwhile described the move as “pathetic” and an attempt to “use the Holocaust to secure as much attention as possible for his euro bond thesis”. Sarrazin was forced to resign from the board of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, following the publication of his 2010 bestseller “Germany does away with itself”, in which he accused Turkish and Arab immigrants of exploiting Germany’s welfare state, refusing to integrate and lowering the average intelligence. He had also claimed all Jews share the same genetic make-up and feelings of racial superiority. The general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, stated the beleaguered former banker’s previous comments about Jews “put him firmly in the neo-Nazi camp”. The extreme-right National Democratic Party meanwhile congratulated Sarrazin for “saying openly what most Germans think”. They disagreed, however, with his assessment of Jews, saying that “the Jew is not suddenly my friend because I am against Muslims (in Germany, and the Muslim is not my friend because I am against Israel”.
© EJP News

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SALAFISTS AND RIGHT-WINGERS FIGHT IT OUT (Germany)

A radical German-born Islamist has called on Muslims to kill German politicians. The threats are aimed at the far-right party Pro NRW, a regional right-wing group in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

23/5/2012- The Pro NRW party, which has been classified as anti-constitutional because of its extremist, right-wing tendencies, has been railing against non-Germans and Muslims for years. The party "rejects foreigners because of their background or faith and portrays them as criminals," according to a court ruling in the western German city of Münster. In recent weeks, Pro NRW has been concentrating its efforts on Salafists, Muslims who want to see a world-wide Islamist theocracy. As part of its recent state election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party displayed posters showing the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Strict Muslims interpret the depiction of the prophet in that way as a punishable offense. Last weekend, a video was published on the Internet showing a radical Islamist calling on fellow Muslims to kill members of Pro NRW.

Death threats serve as propaganda 
The murder threat came from a young man who grew up in the western German city of Bonn and who is now believed to live somewhere near the Pakistani-Afghan border. He acts on behalf of the "Islam Movement of Uzbekistan," which is not known as a Salafist organization, but it is obvious that his video has to do with the dispute between the Salafists in Germany and Pro NRW. Islam expert Claudia Dentschke argues this aggressive reaction is in fact helping Pro NRW. It is only through the confrontation with the Salafists, she says, that Pro NRW is now in the focus of public attention. Yet the Salafists also profit from Pro NRW's provocations, as the confrontation gives them the opportunity to portray themselves as the true fighters for Islam. Pro NRW on the other hand can depict itself as protecting "western" or "German" values.

Free Quran giveaways
Salafists follow a radical interpretation of Islam and they moved into the focus of public attention in Germany when they handed out free copies of the Quran in several German cities. Many observers saw this as attempt to brush up their image - what the Salafists didn't mention is that they do not subscribe to the German constitution and in fact seek to abolish it. Instead, they demand the creation of a religious state based on Islamic rule. They want the country to be governed by Sharia, Islamic religious law. They also want to abolish the separation of state and religion as prescribed by the German basic law. And they don't like criticism - Salafist have frequently threatened journalists and tried to stop them doing their job.

Street protests and talk show controversies
In North Rhine-Westphalia, tensions between the radical Muslims and the extremist Pro NRW party have escalated. During a Pro NRW party on May 1 in Solingen, Salafists attacked the police and injured several officers. On May 5 there were more violent clashes in Bonn. More than 30 policemen were injured, three of them seriously. The conflict is not only taking place on the streets. When public broadcaster ARD invited a Salafist to take part in a talk show, there was hefty criticism - although he was only part of a panel of politicians and pundits. Christian media group KEP accused the broadcaster of providing a public platform for a group that does not respect Germany's basic law.

Under surveillance
According to political scientist Gesine Schwan, who was once a candidate for the German presidency, the conflict between the Salafists and Pro NRW bears the marks of a "clash of cultures" - as does the way the conflict is being discussed in public. But Schwan says it is "macabre that in Germany there is a fear of Salafism." She thinks the fear of radical Islam is exaggerated. The German security services, though, are alarmed by the new video. Authorities are not disclosing what steps they are going to take now, but a spokesman said that the threat was being taken "very seriously."
© The Deutsche Welle

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CZECH ROMA WANT ANTI-SLANDER LAW TO PROTECT THEM

25/5/2012- The government of Prime Minister Petr Necas should pass a law under which masterminds of fictitious criminal cases implicating Roma should be punished, Romani associations said in an open letter sent to Necas Thursday. They also demand that the post of human rights minister should be renewed. The request was prompted by a recent case of a boy who originally claimed that three men, probably Roma, asked him for a cigarette and they brutally beat him as he did not have any. He made up the story to conceal from his mother that he injured himself when showing off in front of his friends. He was doing acrobatics on the railing on the eighth floor of an apartment house and he fell, but luckily he caught hold of the railing on the seventh floor. The incident occurred in Breclav in April. The boy spent two weeks in hospital where doctors had to remove his kidney. After the news spread about his alleged ordeal, anti-Roma rallies were held in the town. The appeal for an anti-slander law was signed by the associations Romodrom, Romea, Cacipen and Slovo 21. "In the atmosphere caused by each of the fake incidents, Roma are afraid, do not let their children out, often do not send their children to schools and are very frustrated at such situations," the appeal said. It said as Roma did not feel support from the state it was likely that next time they would defend themselves.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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POLICE: INJURED BOY WAS NOT ASSAULTED BY ROMA (Czech Rep.)

23/5/2012- The 15-year-old boy, who was allegedly brutally beaten up by Roma in Breclav, south Moravia, in April, caused his serious injuries himself after he fell down from a railing, the police investigators have concluded, their chief Ludek Blahak told reporters Wednesday. The boy fell down when he was showing a gymnastic exercise on a railing to his friends on the eighth floor of a house. He fabricated the attack since he was afraid of his mother's reaction, Blahak said. The assaulted boy originally testified that three men, allegedly Roma, asked him for a cigarette. As he did not have any, they beat him up so brutally that he lost his kidney as a consequence. Later he admitted that only one of the perpetrators might be Roma.

The iDnes.cz reported that the boy was selling low-quality marijuana to the assaulters, which might be the reason for the attack. The boy's family denied it immediately. The incident stirred up anti-Romani moods in Breclav. The nationwide association of Roma said it would consider taking legal steps over the case. It will probably ask the boy's mother to apologise for it and the authorities to calculate the costs connected with the case. The boy and one witness underwent a polygraph test Wednesday that proved they were lying. Then all four witnesses changed their original testimonies. The police will shelve the case of the alleged attack since it did not occur. They did not specify whether they would take any other legal steps against the boy or the witnesses.

The boy spent two weeks in hospital where doctors had to remove his kidney. He also suffered liver and pancreas injuries. His health condition is gradually improving. The public criticised the Breclav Town Hall after the incident. An anti-Roma rally against the crime was held in the town, attended by some 2000 people. The ultra-right extremist Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) helped organise the protests. Local inhabitants complained about cohabitation with Roma and high Roma-related crime. The town hall took a number of measures in reaction to the alleged attack. It employed another Romani coordinator and decided to invest money in a camera-monitoring system. Some 500 Roma are living in Breclav with a total of 25,700 inhabitants. The police say they believe that the situation in the town will calm down now.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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HUNGARY INSULAR

22/5/2012- Only 14 per cent of working Hungarians have regular contact with foreign professionals, below the average of 27 per cent in a 26-country survey of employees released by Ipsos on Wednesday. It shows Hungary to be among the countries where communication outside the country is least required, ahead of Japan (nine per cent) and Russia (13 per cent). India, Singapore and Saudi Arabia stand at the other end, with 59 per cent, 55 per cent and 50 per cent of their respective workers saying their jobs involve interaction with foreign partners. English is the language of choice for about half of Hungarians working with foreigners, followed by German (20 per cent) and Hungarian (16 per cent). This places Hungary below the international average of 67 per cent of employees reporting English is the foreign language they use most often. Over three-quarters of respondents from North America said English is their preferred language for communicating with foreign partners, but similarly high numbers (over two-thirds) hold for China, the Asia-Pacific region, France, the Middle East and Africa. Spanish comes a distant second with five per cent of international users, though respondents in Latin America also say they prefer Spanish or Portuguese over English, used by only one-third of employees. Young Hungarian professionals under 35 years are the most likely to hold professional contacts with foreigners, a situation similar to that in most countries. The survey found that people with higher levels of income or education are among the most likely to use English for foreign business purposes.

Uncertain welcome mat
Four out of ten adults in Hungary oppose asylum seekers, a sign that xenophobia is on the rise, according to a survey released by research firm Tárki on Wednesday. The number of people rejecting asylum seekers has increased from the around 29 to 33 per cent recorded in the past five years. Data for the 20 years since 1992 shows a similarly high level of xenophonia to now only in 1995 (40 per cent) and 2001 (43 per cent). The years 1992 and 1996 saw the most tolerance to foreigners, with 15 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The increase in opposition to asylum seekers comes at the expense of those declaring themselves to be indifferent or undecided, for which the percentage decreased from 60 in 2011 to 49 this year. The number of people who show openness in their attitude towards asylum seekers (11 per cent) nonetheless remains within the average of between 8 and 12 per cent since 2007, against a scale of between 3 and 9 per cent in the 10 preceding years. Non-voters are the most likely to show xenophobia (just over one in two) but respondents with a low level of schooling (52 per cent), Roma people (49 per cent), residents of the western Central Transdanubian region (48 per cent), Jobbik voters (45 per cent) and those planning to work abroad (44 per cent) are also more likely to show xenophobia.
© The Budapest Times

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GEORGIAN LAWS DISCRIMINATE ON TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

Applying for jobs becomes difficult when a person’s gender identity isn’t as stated in their official paperwork.
By Nino Jomarjidze,  lawyer and freelance journalist in Georgia

22/5/2012- Legal activists in Georgia say the law should be changed to allow transgender people to get their ID and other papers changed to fit their chosen identity, arguing that the current regulations are discriminatory and result in unequal access to public services. At the moment, the law only allows documents and personal names to be altered if the applicant has undergone a full sex change. But since the state will not pay for them, such operations are expensive in the private medical sector, especially in a low-income country like Georgia. “Since Georgia doesn’t fund sex change operations and transgenders often can’t cover the costs of operation hemselves, they are unable to undergo the surgical procedure in some cases,” Giorgi Gotsiridze of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association said. In ruling on gender identity in official documentation, the state, he said, “should take the wishes of the individual into account”. Prejudice against transgender people is so strong in Georgian society that many prefer to remain silent about the problems they face. That means even human rights groups campaigning for their rights do not have statistics on the numbers involved.

IWPR managed to speak to one person born as a woman but living as a man, who described how hard it was to get a job, obtain bank loans or access other services because of the discrepancy on his documents. He has been able to change his first name to a male one, but not the sex assigned him on his paperwork, a disparity which immediately creates problems. “Civil Registry Agency representatives refused to change the sex on my identity card until I had undergone the operation. So now my [male] first name doesn’t correspond to my biological sex, which means I suffer from a lot of problems,” he said. “Changing sex through surgery is very expensive. So far I’ve managed to afford only the breast operation, but that’s only half the procedure and it isn’t sufficient to change the sex on my documents,” he said. His financial problems were exacerbated by the banks’ refusal to consider giving him a loan. “I went to several banks with which I’d had dealings previously. By that point I had already changed my first name. Staff at [one] bank took five hours finding out whether they could give me a loan under my new name,” he said. “In the end, all the banks turned me down, while colleagues whose financial circumstances were the same as mine were approved.”

Similar obstacles arise when job applicants submit their paperwork to potential employers. “I have faced problems getting employment because my documents aren’t
in order. They tell me straight up that the problem is my orientation and my papers,” the interviewee said. “After I was turned down for jobs several times, I was forced to start lying ­ I said the fact the documents said the opposite thing was just an error, and nothing to do with me,” he said. The 2008 law on civil registration states that sex can be altered on official documents only when a surgical sex change is completed. The same goes for altering a surname where applicable, whereas changes of first names are not subject to this requirement. Georgian surnames are the same for men and women but among some other ethnic groups, the ending differs. Similar obstacles arise when it comes to accessing public services like healthcare, education, pensions and adoption procedures. Babutsa Pataraia, deputy head of the justice ministry’s department for international public law, said the government currently had no plans to alter the rules for changing official documents.

The legislation in Georgia mirrors the discrepancies in many European states. A 2010 paper on transgender rights in the European Union found that documents could be altered with no need for treatment or surgery in just four states ­ Spain, Hungary, Finland and Britain. Twelve others required a medical procedure, and 11 others had no legal provisions on the issue. Changing one’s name was allowed in eight EU states, medical evaluation or surgery was required for this in 14, and it was not envisaged in
four. “The uncertainty concerning a person’s identity has huge consequences and could prevent a transgender peson from his/her full participation in society, ducation, employment, travelling,” the EU paper said. While the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that states must provide for the possibility for gender reassignment surgery, the Transgender EuroStudy published in 2008 showed that over 80 per cent of transgender persons polled across the EU were refused state funding for surgery or hormone treatment and more than half of them said they had funded their own treatment.


In Georgia, transgender people have not emerged as a vocal community advocating changes to the law. David Shubladze of the LGBT Georgia group says they keep a very low profile. “Fear of rejection and marginalision prevents transgenders from expressing their gender identity freely,” he said. “Georgian society is entirely built on patriarchal stereotypes. Because of this, transgenders often face difficulties getting jobs, if their appearance and behaviour reflect their gender identity. A transgender called Sabina, for instance, was dismissed several times because of her gender. And another transgender was sacked when her boss heard about her gender identity.” According to Gotsiridze, transgender people often opt to emigrate in search of a more benign environment. “As far as I know, very few remain in Georgia ­ the rest go abroad,” he said. “Society won’t accept such people, and they are more discriminated against than anyone else.” IWPR’s interviewee confirmed this, saying that while his family had supported him, others would not. “I have had no problems from them [family], as opposed to the wider society, which has a very negative attitude towards transgenders,” he said.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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MESKHETIANS STRUGGLE TO FIND PLACE IN GEORGIA

Government now facilitating deported ethnic group members’ return, but does little for them when they arrive.
By Salome Achba

22/5/2012- While the Georgian government is fulfilling a pledge to allow the Meskhetians, descendants of an ethnic group deported by Stalin, to settle in the country, rights activists say little effort is being made to help them integrate into society. Georgia agreed to facilitate the Meskhetians’ return when it joined the Council of Europe in 1999, but the legislation to make it happen was not enacted until 2007. Some 500 Meskhetians have already received repatriate status, which puts them on the fast track to acquiring citizenship and other rights, and more than 5,000 other applications are pending. Around 100,000 members of this Muslim, Turkish-speaking group from what is now the Samtse-Javakheti region of southwestern Georgia were summarily packed off to Central Asia in 1944. This was part of a wider wave of deportations targeting entire ethnic groups which Stalin suspected of disloyalty ­ among them the Chechens and other North Caucasian groups, the Volga Germans and the Crimean Tatars.

Unlike most groups deported from the Caucasus, the Meskhetians were not allowed to return home after Stalin’s death in 1953. Ethnic clashes in Uzbekistan in 1989 led to further displacement. Some emigrated to Turkey, and the rest live scattered across the former Soviet Union, many in Russia, Kazakstan and ­ closest to home ­ Azerbaijan. Those who arrived in the country under the current repatriation regulations, or who made it back on their own in previous years, have not been able to reclaim their family homes, since those areas have since been settled by others. In Georgia, the repatriation law does not oblige the government to give returning Meskhetians many kind of financial assistance, meaning many families struggle to survive. “The Meskhetians who returned to their homeland have been given practically nothing,” said Tsira Meskhishvili, head of the Tolerant group, which campaigns on behalf of the group. “Repatriates have been obliged to fend for themselves and to pay for accommodation and other items out of their own money. Since the state is under no obligation to set up a social programme for the repatriates, these people can rely only on a few non-government organisations.”

The Khurashvili family arrived in Georgia as long ago as the 1980s, but are still finding life hard. Seven members of the Khurashvili family live in an old bus that sits in the courtyard of a film studio in the capital Tbilisi. “I was among the first repatriates to acquire Georgian nationality,” Bairam Khurashvili, said. “The first few years after I returned were very tough. We almost starved ­ we ate animal feed. Later on, I started repairing cars at the film studio. We didn’t have refugee status, and our family moved into this old bus.” “The only help we get from the state is 174 laris [105 US dollars a month] in welfare support.” Meskhishvili said people like the Khurashvilis who moved to Georgia before the repatriation programme came into force are worse off than others. Most live in the Akhaltsikhe and Adigeni areas of southern Georgia, and around 80 of them are stateless. “These ‘independent repatriates’ face very difficult social and economic circumstances. Since they don’t have Georgian citizenship, nor do they have any other legal status, they are unable to benefit from welfare or healthcare programmes. Without documents, they also find it hard to get jobs.”

Roza Hamdieva and her family, living in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, typify these problems. They have been in Georgia for the last nine years, but still lack any formal status despite repeated appeals to the authorities. Since they do not have passports, they cannot even emigrate. “My son got a construction job, with help from a NGO, but he soon got sacked because he doesn’t have any documents,” Hamdieva said. “We are a family of five, but I’m the only one in work. Tolerant [NGO] got me a job as a translator, and my [monthly] salary of 150 laris is our sole income. It isn’t even enough for food.” Meskhishvili said that even those Meskhetians who had acquired passports still found it hard to get jobs, as they did not speak Georgian. “Ninety per cent of the men from these families have gone to Turkey, where they do manual jobs to support them. There’s no language barrier there,” she said. “There have been cases where because of the problems they face, repatriates have left Georgia and gone back to whichever [former Soviet] country they lived in as deportees.”


The Office of the Public Defender, the official human rights ombudsman in Georgia, says the government should be doing more to help the Meskhetians become part of society. “To achieve full integration of the repatriates, there need to be effective long- and short-term programmes of welfare support, resettlement and integration. Unfortunately, the Georgian law on repatriation… does not include any social support for repatriates,” the ombudsman’s annual report for 2011 said. Irakli Kokaia, the head of the refugee and repatriate affairs department at the ministry for refugees, said the government had no financial liabilities towards returning Meskhetians. They were deported not by Georgia but by the Soviet state, whose legal successor is Russia. That meant Moscow should bear any costs, he argued. Some analysts share this view, although Paata Zakareishvili, head of the Institute for Nationalism and Conflict Studies, said it was too late to be raising the matter now. Georgia should have addressed the issue of Russia’s obligations back in 1999 when it undertook to repatriate the Meskhetians. “Of course it would be good if Georgia assumed this financial commitment to the deported Meskhetians, but that doesn’t mean we should forget it was the Soviet Union that deported them. I think all the post-Soviet states should bear collective responsibility, above all Russia as successor to the USSR.”

Salome Achba works for the Hot Chocolate radio station in Tbilisi.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting

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AMID QUISLING FUROR, LITHUANIAN SHUL DEFACED

21/5/2012- A famous Vilnius synagogue was vandalized over the weekend, shortly after an official ceremony in remembrance of Lithuania’s 1941 pro-Nazi leader. The event occurred on Friday, when assailants threw green paint at the façade of the only Vilnius synagogue that has remained active since before the Holocaust. A member of the Lithuanian Jewish community, who requested not to be named, said the two events were related. “Every time the government and the big professors commemorate the memory of a local ‘hero’ that worked with the Nazis during the Holocaust, there is an increased sense of anti-Semitism in the city. It only takes one thug with a tin of paint.”

On Sunday, an official ceremony was held in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, to burry the bones of Juozas Ambrazevièius-Brazaitis, who served as the head of Lithuania’s Nazi-puppet “Provisional Government” of 1941. His bones were flown to Vilnius last Thursday, and were received with an official ceremony at the airport. From there, they were transferred to Kaunas and on Sunday they were buried at a respectful ceremony attended by politicians, to the sound of the national anthem. Milan Chersonski, long-time editor of the Jewish Community’s newspaper, told Haaretz that the weekend’s vandalism was clearly linked to what he called the “unofficial supplementary program” to honor the Nazi collaborator.
© Haaretz

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MEDIATOR TO RESOLVE GOOGLE RACISM DISPUTE (France)

A French judge has called for a mediator to resolve a dispute between Google and French anti-racism groups over the search engine's feature whereby the word "Jew" is automatically suggested with certain name searches.

23/5/2012- A French judge on Wednesday asked a mediator to resolve a dispute pitting Internet giant Google against anti-racism groups who object to the search engine suggesting users add "Jew" to name searches. The conflict stems from Google's autocomplete feature that suggests what search people might want based on algorithms of previous searches. Because users of Google.fr frequently ask whether politicians, actors or other celebrities are Jewish or not, the word "Jew" in French is frequently suggested as what those using the search engine might in fact be asking about.

SOS Racisme, the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) and the International League Against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA) argue that Google is unintentionally breaking the law. Google users "are confronted daily by the unsolicited and almost systematic association of the word 'Jew' with the names of the best-known people in the world of politics, the media or business," the groups say. Under French law, it is illegal to record someone's ethnicity in a database.

Judge Martine Provost-Lopin accepted a request from all parties to appoint a mediator to find a solution, with a next hearing set for June 27, said SOS Racisme's lawyer Patrick Klugman. "We will discuss more philosophy than law, more technical solutions than who is right or wrong," Klugman said, adding that the mediator was former business court judge Jean-Pierre Mattei. A Google France spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that autocomplete results were "generated completely automatically, based purely on algorithmic criteria that correspond notably with the popularity of web users' inputs." "Google does not decide on these requests in a manual way -- all requests shown by autocomplete have previously been searched for by users on Google," the spokesman said, asking not to be named.
© AFP

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VEIL BAN 'INCREASED HOSTILITY TOWARDS MUSLIM WOMEN' (France)

22/5/2012- New research shows that that there is a link between the banning of the veil in France and increased levels of hostility towards veiled Muslim women. The Research from the Department of Criminology at the University of Leicester suggests that the veil ban stigmatises veiled Muslim women as ‘criminals’ and fosters Muslim ‘otherness’. Even if not explicitly inciting hate-motivated violence, the law in its application contributes to a climate of intolerance of Islam in the West. Irene Zempi, who led the study, will present her research on Islamophobia at a Departmental Research Seminar at the University of Leicester tommorrow. Ms Zempi argues: "In light of my interviews with veiled Muslim women, I am confident that the French veil ban is a ‘trigger’ event which has led to increased levels of anti-Muslim hostility towards women who wear the face veil – the most visual symbol of Islam in the West. "The veil ban policy is a clear manifestation of Islamophobia. The veil ban is not a ‘religious-blind’ piece of legislation; rather it attacks ‘Islam’ through the religious code of dress for Muslim women."

Ms Zempi's research is qualitative in nature, drawing on individual and focus group interviews with veiled Muslim women. This research also includes interviews with French Muslim women who moved to Leicester from France because of the French veil ban. Ms Zempi will discuss the implications of the veil ban for veiled Muslim women in France and the UK at the seminar on Wednesday. She argues that the veil ban policy – including support for state veil bans – is fertile ground for anti-Muslim hate crime/incidents in the public sphere. She continues: "The veil ban not only overshadows the fundamental issue of religious freedom as a human right, it also undercuts individual agency, privacy, and self-expression. This law oppresses women who want to wear the veil by depriving them from having control over their bodies and the way they dress." Jon Garland, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Ms Zempi’s co-supervisor, said: "Irene is undertaking some groundbreaking research that is shedding new light on a hitherto under-researched issue. "She is uncovering alarming amounts of prejudice suffered by veiled Muslim women, but her work will hopefully help to increase understanding of this problem and thereby challenge these prejudices."

The research was funded by the University of Leicester.
© Asian Image

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CONTROVERSIAL FRENCH COMEDIAN IS A CANDIDATE OF ’ANTI-ZIONIST PARTY’ IN JUNE ELECTIONS

Controversial comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala will stand as candidate in an ‘anti-Zionist party’ (PAS) in parliament elections in the city of Dreux where once he stood against a National Front candidate in 1997 when he fought the extreme right party.

23/5/2012- Despite having been tried and convicted many times by the courts on anti-Semitsm charges, Dieudonne will be one of four candidates standing for the PAS. In 2006, he aligned himself with the National Front, and in particular its leader at the time Jean-Marie Le Pen, whom he made godfather of one of his daughters. His political standing has increasingly veered towards anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. He is a close friend of university professor Robert Faurisson, who is renowned for denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps, and has previously invited him to participate in his shows. In 2009, Dieudonne stood for the first time as PAS candidate in the French elections to the European Parliament. He received 1.3% of the vote in the first round.

A series of the controversial French-Cameroon humourist’s recent scheduled shows in Montreal were cancelled following protests, notably from The Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs in Montreal: “This man has long been notorious for ceasing to be a comedian and transforming himself into a virulent anti-Semitic campaigner, who not only aligns himself with and promotes Holocaust deniers, but is also subsidised by the anti-Semitic Iranian regime”, stated the Director of Public Relations for the Montreal centre, David Ouellette. A total of four shows were cancelled in Montreal over concerns about his reputation for performing anti-Semitic material. One of his recent shows in Brussels was also interrupted by police and eventually stopped, following accusations of incitement of racial hatred and xenophobia.

Dieudonne had previously been subject to judicial proceedings, following a show he performed in March in Liege. He was also convicted by Parisian courts in 2009 for a performance in Paris during which Robert Faurisson was awarded a prize by a person dressed up as a deported Jew. Cross-European pro-Israel lobby Europe Israel has launched a protest against the PAS, in light of the news of Dieudonne’s candidacy, which it accuses of “being the source of a new form of anti-Semitism that’s infiltrating the suburbs and infecting uneducated and impressionable youths with the mantra of certain radical Islamists”. In a statement, the group said: “Militant anti-Zionism tries to relocate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to French ground, but it has no place in the national parliament elections...That is why we ask the French government to ban all candidates put forward by the PAS, especially the notorious anti-Semite Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala.”
© EJP News

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LE PEN TO LOSE TO LEFTIST IN FRENCH ASSEMBLY VOTE: POLL (France)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen looks set to lose to far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon in parliamentary elections next month, dealing a blow to the National Front's hopes for a strong national score, an opinion poll published on Sunday showed.

20/5/2012- The rivals are running head-to-head in Le Pen's political backyard, the northern working-class town of Henin-Beaumont, in national elections where she hopes momentum gained in the presidential vote will deliver the party its first parliamentary seat. An Ifop-Fiducial poll showed that Le Pen would win the June 10 first round with 34 percent of the votes against 29 percent for Melenchon but would be beaten 55-45 percent by Melenchon in the June 17 second round. Le Pen played down the poll findings. "The polling institutes should be a bit more modest, in particular Ifop, which forecast that Melenchon and I would have an equal score in the presidential election, while I ended up with 18 percent and he with 11. Let's wait for the election," she told France 3 television. Not winning the parliamentary seat on her home turf would be a humiliation for Le Pen, who came third in the first round of presidential elections in April, behind winner Francois Hollande and his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

For Melenchon, challenging Le Pen in Henin-Beaumont - where her National Front won 35 percent in the first round of the presidential election - is a bid to remain politically relevant after he finished well behind her in the presidential election. "My objective is to catch up with her, to leave her behind me, and to eliminate her politically," Melenchon told radio France Info. Melenchon said Le Pen represented a form of "obscurantism that only exists by pointing the finger at people based on their religion or the color of their skin". "For them, the problem is the immigrant. For us, the problem is the banker," he said and called on all those who are "angry, without being fascist" to join the leftist front.

No Deals
The Ifop poll, published by the Sunday paper "Le Journal du Dimanche", also showed that Socialist candidate Philippe Kermel would win 18 percent of the first-round vote in Henin-Beaumont and 56 percent if he were to make it into the second round. Kermel is expected to withdraw from the second round if Melenchon has the higher first-round score and vice versa. The Ifop poll did not test the unlikely scenario of a disagreement on the left, with Melenchon and Kermel both running against Le Pen in the second round, which would improve Le Pen's chances. Unlike the presidential election, where only the two highest-placed candidates go through to the second round, in the parliamentary election any candidate backed by more than 12.5 percent of registered voters goes to the second round.

In many districts there are three and sometimes four second-round candidates, which means that smaller parties like the far left and far right can only win if they cut a deal with a Socialist or UMP candidate to withdraw his or her bid in exchange for a withdrawal in another district. Le Pen's National Front party, despite being a significant political minority in France for decades, does not have a single parliament seat, partly because Sarkozy's conservative UMP party systematically refuses to make arrangements with the Front. The only sure way for the National Front to enter parliament would be to convince local UMP parliamentarians to withdraw in the second round in exchange for a similar promise elsewhere. UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope on Sunday reiterated his party would not negotiate with Le Pen. "There will be no deals with the National Front," Cope said on iTele television.

Opinion polls show that Hollande's Socialist Party will trounce Sarkozy's conservative UMP in the elections. They show that the Socialists and other left-wing parties could together win 45-46 percent of the vote in the June 10 first round of the election, compared with about one-third for the UMP. The left aims to build on Hollande's May 6 victory, bringing the Socialists back to power after a decade in opposition. Le Pen has said that even winning one seat in parliament would be a victory and called on disenchanted Sarkozy party members to join her in a new "nationalist and patriotic" grouping. She believes that her strong showing in the presidential election - she had the National Front's best-ever score, winning nearly one in five votes - will lead to the long-awaited breakthrough in parliament.
© Reuters

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NATIONALIST WINS SERBIAN PRESIDENCY, CLOUDING TIES TO THE WEST

20/5/2012- Tomislav Nikolic, a nationalist and former cemetery supervisor, was elected president of Serbia on Sunday, in a surprise victory that cast doubt on whether the country would remain on its path toward the European Union or look increasingly eastward toward Russia. His opponent, Boris Tadic, an ardent champion of Serbia’s effort to join the European Union, conceded defeat late Sunday. Mr. Tadic, who was president until he resigned last month to hasten an early election, had sought to portray a potential Nikolic presidency as a dangerous return to the past. With 40.67 percent of the vote counted, the official electoral commission said Mr. Nikolic, an outspoken admirer of Russia who was once a close ally of the former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, won 50.21 percent of the vote compared with 46.77 percent for Mr. Tadic of the Democratic Party. Mr. Tadic, a telegenic former psychology professor, ran on a campaign advocating for Serbia’s European Union membership.

Declaring victory, Mr. Nikolic, 60, said he remained committed to Serbia’s European Union aspirations. “Serbia will not walk away from its path to the E.U.,” he said, promising to restore Serbia’s economic fortunes while fighting corruption. “These elections were not about whether Serbia will go to E.U., they were about solving problems that the Democratic Party has created in Serbia,” he added. Analysts said Mr. Nikolic, a sometimes fiery populist, struck a chord with a growing underclass buffeted by the financial crisis at a time when the crisis-ridden European Union has lost its luster. As was the case with incumbents in Greece and France, they said Mr. Tadic had suffered a backlash from disillusioned voters hit by hard times. Mr. Nikolic, a former ultranationalist, has in recent years professed a commitment to Serbia joining the European Union and has called for close relations with the United States. But analysts questioned whether a man who once said he would rather see Serbia become a province of Russia than a member of the European bloc would continue to push Serbia toward a pro-European path. Mr. Nikolic was in government with Mr. Milosevic when NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 during the war in Kosovo.

In 2008, Mr. Nikolic, nicknamed “The Undertaker,” left the far-right Radical Party, whose combative leader, Vojislav Seselj, is on trial for war crimes in The Hague. In the past, Mr. Nikolic has presided over rallies feting war criminals, including Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general whose trial for war crimes in The Hague began last week. But in recent years he has rebranded himself as a populist pro-European champion of the downtrodden. Mr. Nikolic is a political survivor who has overcome hardship in his life, including seeing his brother and mother electrocuted in an accident when his brother’s kite got caught in an electric cable and his mother tried to save him. Ivan Milosevic, a leading political consultant in Belgrade, said that pro-European liberals need not fear a Nikolic victory. “He used to be a right-wing nationalist, but I don’t expect him to return to his radical days,” he said. But others said that Mr. Nikolic’s transformation was merely cosmetic.

His victory could also presage a more hardened stance toward regional reconciliation, in particular with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. While Mr. Tadic was adamantly against recognizing Kosovo’s independence, he had offered some concessions over Kosovo to help further Serbia’s European Union prospects, Mr. Nikolic has said that Serbia will not join if recognizing Kosovo is made a precondition. The defining issue of the election was the country’s flagging economy, which Mr. Nikolic promised to strengthen by imposing higher taxes on the rich to help pay for social benefits. In a television debate last week, Mr. Nikolic indicated that he wanted Serbia to have one foot in the East and one foot in the West. “I support a two-door policy,” he said, implying that Mr. Tadic was only interested in cultivating closer ties with Washington and Brussels.

Tensions between the candidates intensified after the first-round of voting on May 6, when Mr. Nikolic accused Mr. Tadic of fraud and rigging the election, saying that his party had printed extra ballots. But election authorities and the state prosecutor dismissed the accusations. Mr. Tadic had narrowly beaten Mr. Nikolic in two previous presidential elections. After parliamentary elections on May 6, Mr. Tadic’s Democrats indicated that they would form a coalition government with the third-place Socialist Party, sidelining Mr. Nikolic’s Progressive Party, which won the most votes. Some analysts warned that Mr. Nikolic’s victory could lead to political paralysis with the Parliament and presidency led by two opposing blocs. But others said that such cohabitation could prove a healthy balance of power and an alternative to the authoritarianism of the Tadic years. The election comes at a critical moment for Serbia, which gained European Union candidacy status in March. To help speed its entry to the bloc, Mr. Tadic overcame tough obstacles, including arresting Mr. Mladic and compromising over Kosovo.

But for all of his achievements on the international stage, Mr. Tadic presided over economic stagnation at home. Serbia, a country of 7.3 million people, is struggling with the effects of 24 percent unemployment, a weak currency and an average monthly wage of around $500. Mr. Nikolic, despite his promises to expand social protections, will need to introduce tough austerity measures to tame the country’s soaring deficit and to persuade the International Monetary Fund to renew a $1.3 billion precautionary loan that it suspended in February, saying that the country was not meeting its fiscal targets. Mr. Tadic was accused of corruption and authoritarianism, and Mr. Nikolic faces a struggle to restore faith in the government. And if he follows through on his pledge to move toward Europe, he will find a recalcitrant European Union, which is dealing with economic crisis and reluctant to take on new members. Mr. Nikolic’s friends say his favorite pastimes are listening to the Rolling Stones and making homemade Serbian brandy.
© The New York Times

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POLICE MAKE ARRESTS DURING DEMONSTRATIONS IN KRAKOW (Poland)

20/5/2012- Police made seven arrests in Krakow, Saturday, on public disorder charges when a liberal 'Equality Parade' was opposed by members of the far-right National Revival of Poland (NOP). The 'Equality Parade' was held under the slogan “diversity, solidarity and equality” and called for more tolerance on issues of sexual diversity, soft-drug taking and other related issues. The parade was attended by politicians from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the liberal Palikot Movement. It was opposed by a counter-march by the far-right National Revival of Poland (NOP) shouting anti-gay slogans. Seven people were arrested for throwing stones and firecrackers as police moved into disperse the crowds and keep the two sides apart.
© The News - Poland

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TEEN GIRLS ATTACK AND RACIALLY ABUSE WOMAN WHILE SHE PLAYED WITH HER CHILDREN IN PARK (uk)

25/5/2012- Teen girls attack and racially abuse woman while she played with her children in Birchfields Park, Rusholme A woman was racially abused and assaulted while playing with her children in a park. The 30-year-old Asian woman was with her three children by swings when she was attacked in Birchfields Park, Rusholme. Three teenage girls told her to take her children away from the swings and kicked her in the legs. A man they were with then indecently exposed himself before they walked off across the park. Police are treating the incident, which took place at around 5.30pm on Tuesday, May 22, as a hate crime. One girl was white, in her late teens, had long black hair with red tints and wore a black top with blue jeans. The second girl was white, in her late teens, had blonde hair and wore a tight black top and short black skirt. The third was white, in her late teens, had blonde hair and wore a top with black, beige and red lines on it. She also wore tight black leggings. The man was black, in his 20s, of slim build, shaved head and wore diamond style earrings in both ears. He was wearing a grey top and grey jogging pants. Police Constable Matt Long based at Longsight Police Station said: "We are treating this as a hate crime and are eager to speak to anyone who witnessed this unprovoked assault. The fact that the offenders carried out the attack in front of the victim’s children proves what kind of people they are. "We believe there may have been a number of people in the park due to the time that this happened and the recent nice weather so I would ask them to come forward and get in touch."
© The Manchester Evening News

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THOUSANDS OF RACIST INCIDENTS REPORTED (uk)

23/5/2012- Tens of thousands of racist incidents were recorded in schools over five years, it was disclosed today. Figures from 90 areas across the UK show the extent of racist bullying, including verbal and physical attacks. In total, 87,915 cases were recorded by local authorities, following reports from schools, between 2007 and 2011, according to statistics obtained by the BBC Asian Network through freedom of information requests. An incident can be considered racist if the victim or any other person considers it to be so, the BBC reported. Their figures show that during this time period, Birmingham - one of the biggest local authorities - had 5,752 cases, the highest number recorded, followed by Leeds at 4,690. At the other end of the scale, Carmarthenshire recorded just five cases.

The Department for Education (DfE) said there was no room in modern society for racism, and that schools have powers to deal with abusive pupils. The impact of racial abuse can be "devastating", the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said, adding that the figures were "hugely disappointing". Under the previous Labour government, schools in England and Wales had an obligation to monitor and report incidents of racist abuse to their local council. The coalition Government has scrapped this requirement, and schools no longer need to record cases. Instead, schools are expected to have a "consistent" approach to monitoring bullying. For some this will mean recorded incidents, while others will not keep written records, the DfE said.

The BBC's figures show in 2010 the numbers of recorded racist incidents in schools in England, Wales and Scotland rose to 23,971, up 1,686 from 22,285. And in 2010/11, when rules on reporting incidents were changed, this number fell to 18,996. NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "The impact of racial abuse can be devastating. Schools need to remain places of optimism and belonging for every student. "We urge our members to go beyond recording, reporting and compliance, to really focus on the culture and ethos of the school and its community to tackle incidents of racial abuse head on. "It's hugely disappointing to hear the figure of 88,000 recorded racist incidents in our schools." Mr Hobby added that figures produced in 2007 suggested that the numbers appeared to be falling, but added that the statistics are still "way too high".

A DfE spokesman said: "There is no room in civilised, modern society for racism. Schools have tough powers to crackdown on abusive and badly behaved pupils - as well as clear responsibility to teach tolerance and respect for others. "Heads and teachers are professional enough never to be complacent in dealing with this issue - parents and pupils expect them to remain vigilant and step in to prevent it whenever it occurs." Schoolchildren in England were expelled on 20 occasions for racist abuse in 2009/10, the latest year for which figures are available. And there were 3,900 suspensions, the DfE statistics show.

Research published last summer also highlighted a problem with racism in England's schools. More than four-fifths (83%) of teachers questioned said they had witnessed racist attitudes or behaviour amongst their students, according to a study by anti-racism charity Show Racism The Red Card, supported by the National Union of Teachers (NUT). This included name-calling, comments, jokes and stereotyping of different races. And almost a third of those questioned (31%) said they had seen similar behaviour among teachers, the study found. Show Racism The Red Card spokeswoman Sarah Soyei told the BBC: "Unfortunately, the numbers of recorded racist incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. "Racism is a very real issue in many classrooms around the country, but cases of racist bullying are notoriously under-reported."
© Asian Image

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ROMA ABUSE: CALLS FOR INQUIRY AS OXFAM REPORT UNCOVERS DISCRIMINATORY TREATMENT (uk)

20/5/2012- Public officials have been accused of “institutional racism” in a hard-hitting report into the treatment of immigrant workers seeking a new life in Scotland. The report, commissioned by Oxfam, says members of the large Roma community in Glasgow have been systematically threatened and lied to by government employees while long delays in payments of legitimate benefits have led to high levels of child poverty. Evidence of discrimination and prejudice against the most marginalised ethnic group in Europe is contained in the report written by the Govanhill Law Centre (GLC), which investigated how more than 60 Roma families living in the city were dealt with by the DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The lawyers who carried out the investigation said the way many Roma were treated was contrary to the UK government’s legal obligations and amounted to unlawful and unequal treatment. As a result of delays in payments – up to three years in some cases – 36 per cent of low-paid Roma claimants faced destitution. These included one woman with three children and a baby less than one year old who was unlawfully evicted from her home because her housing benefit had been wrongly assessed. Another woman with seven children was also evicted and had to sleep on a family member’s floor.

Charities, legal groups and politicians have now called for an inquiry into the findings. Lindsay Paterson, a GLC solicitor and one of the report’s authors, said: “We believe that this discrimination is part of a much wider picture of institutional racism in the DWP and HMRC and hope that immediate action will be taken to remedy this.” Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “This report into the treatment of Roma claimants makes for worrying reading. We are extremely concerned by evidence that Roma people are being treated differently from other EU citizens. Evidence of discrimination within the DWP or HMRC against any particular group should be properly investigated and acted on. We need to make sure that our benefits system treats people equally.”

Among the report’s findings are that:
• public employees made unwarranted threats to return claimants back to their home countries and wrongly stated the law;
• there was an unreasonable delay with decisions on benefits in 56 per cent of cases;
• nearly half of all Roma claims - 47 per cent - were automatically dealt with as fraudulent by the HMRC;
• as a result of delays in payments, one in five Roma claimants faced homelessness;
• 70 per cent of Roma interviewees said they felt discriminated against by public officials.

Hanzala Malik, a Labour MSP in Glasgow, called for an inquiry. He said: “I am gravely concerned if people are being pushed into destitution by the very systems meant to protect them. “Many Roma people across Europe have endured a great deal of hardship in their home country, only to be met with suspicion and discrimination here in Scotland. The allegations of public authority staff wrongly stating the law and making unwarranted threats to people who do not know ‘the system’ are very serious and if proven would be totally unacceptable. “The resources to support and advocate for ethnic minorities or pursue claims of racism or discrimination have diminished to practically nothing. This leaves groups such as the Roma communities even more vulnerable and people or institutions acting in a racist manner feel they will not be investigated. I fully support and call for a full inquiry as such attitudes need to be challenged.” A DWP spokesperson said: “Jobcentre Plus takes this kind of allegation extremely seriously. We expect high standards of behaviour from staff and we have a system in place so that staff can report concerns anonymously. Where a staff member does this, we investigate all allegations to establish the validity and take the appropriate action if complaints are upheld.” An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC treat allegations of unequal treatment very seriously and will, of course, co-operate fully in any official enquiry.”
© The Scotsman

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ENGLAND FANS WARNED AFTER GAY PRIDE PARADE IS AMBUSHED BY 500 ULTRA-RIGHT HOOLIGANS IN UKRAINE

22/5/2012- Gay England football fans travelling to Ukraine for Euro 2012 have been warned to keep a low profile for their own safety. The advice came after Kiev's first ever gay pride parade was cancelled on Sunday amid fears of violence from far-right thugs. Television pictures showed Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, being kicked and jumped on by a group of men after the event was stopped. Amnesty International said police in the capital advised organisers to abandon the march just 30 minutes before it was due to start after 500 ultra-right football hooligans had gathered. Thousands of England fans will travel to the eastern European country for Euro 2012, which begins on June 8. Amnesty International Ukraine campaigner Max Tucker said: "Gay England football fans will have extremely good reason to be concerned. "Not only will they have to deal with violent football hooligans who deliberately target gay people and people of ethnic minorities, they will also face an extremely corrupt police force who have a track record of beating and mistreating people because of their sexual orientation." He added: "I would advise any gay England football supporters going to the Ukraine to go there with extreme caution and be on the lookout for both the police and hooligans and try to keep as low a profile as possible."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a travel warning which said conditions for gay people in Ukraine were deteriorating. It stated: "Although homosexuality is legal in Ukraine, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. "There is no provision under Ukrainian legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and there has recently been an increase in hostility towards the LGBT community." Gay rights campaign group Stonewall called on the UK authorities to provide reassurance over fans' safety. Sam Dick, head of policy at the organisation, said: "The shocking violence against gay people in Ukraine will be of considerable further concern to the many lesbian and gay fans heading to watch Euro 2012. "We expect both the Football Association (FA) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to answer the serious questions about what they have done to make sure gay people visiting and living in the Ukraine are safe during the tournament and beyond." Kevin Miles, international director of the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF), said: "The FSF is fully committed to ensuring that football is accessible to all sections of the community and no-one should face the threat of discrimination or violence while involving themselves in a football tournament."

Last week the brother of black England midfielder Theo Walcott tweeted that he and his father will not be flying out to support the star because of "possible racist attacks". Ashley Walcott, Theo's older brother, posted to his Twitter page: "Unfortunately my dad n i have taken the decision not to travel to the Ukraine because of the fear of possible racist attacks confrontations. "Something's aren't worth risking, but begs the question why hold a competition of this magnitude in a place that can not police itself for foreigners of any creed to feel safe, but I'll be watching every minute (sic)."
© The Independent

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UKRAINE: FIRST-EVER KYIV PRIDE CANCELLED IN FACE OF ULTRA-RIGHT THREAT

20/5/2012- The Ukrainian authorities should take action to protect the rights of LGBT people and ensure they are able to exercise their human rights without fear of attacks, Amnesty International said today after the first-ever pride parade had to be cancelled on Sunday. Police advised pride organizers to abandon the march just 30 minutes before it was due to start. They claimed 500 ultra-right football hooligans were en route to the rally point with the intention of preventing the march from going ahead. Two activists were beaten up and tear gassed by a dozen youths in central Kyiv after those already gathered for the march were evacuated with police escort. “It has been clear from the start that the Kyiv police department did not want this march to go ahead. Their reluctance to commit to the event and to put adequate security measures in place to protect demonstrators left organizers fearing for their safety,” said Max Tucker, Ukraine campaigner at Amnesty International.

A senior Kyiv police official had previously told pride organizers that he was not prepared to put his officers in harm’s way for the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. “The Kyiv authorities and police must work harder to ensure next year pride participants can feel confident they will be protected,” said Tucker. Amnesty International also expressed its deep concern about support expressed on Wednesday by a parliamentary committee for a bill restricting the distribution of and access to information “promoting homosexuality”. The bill would amend several laws including the law on protection of public morals, the law on print media, the law on television and radio broadcasting, the law on publishing and the Criminal Code.

The provisions, if adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament, would directly discriminate against Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual individuals in the exercise of their right to freedom of expression. “Passing this bill would fly in the face of Ukraine’s international obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression and prohibit discrimination,” added Tucker. Amnesty International calls on the Ukrainian Parliament to reject the bill and to ensure that Ukraine protects, respects and fulfills the rights of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual individuals without any discrimination.
© Amnesty International

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UKRAINE'S EUROVISION ENTRY GAITANA 'ASHAMED' BY RACISM

23/5/2012- For an event meant to celebrate kitsch entertainment, the Eurovision Song Contest retains an almost unrivalled ability to cause controversy. That is certainly the case in Ukraine this year, where the run-up to the event has been marred by a row over racism. The right-wing Freedom Party attacked the ground-breaking selection of a Gaitana - who is half Congolese - to represent Ukraine. "Millions of people who will be watching will see that Ukraine is represented by a person who does not belong to our race," said Yuri Syrotyuk, whose party is preparing to contest the parliamentary elections later this year. "The vision of Ukraine as a country located somewhere in remote Africa will take root," he added.

Condemnation
He later denied accusations of racism and said that he was criticising the "lack of transparency in the national selection". But his comments were widely condemned in Ukraine by all the mainstream political parties, and celebrities including the boxers Vitaly and Volodymyr Klitschko, and the winner of 2004's Eurovision, Ruslana. Gaitana, who will compete in the second Eurovision semi-final on Thursday night, said that the racist statement uncovered a "wide-scale" problem in Ukraine. "I'm so ashamed of this unpleasant incident, because Ukraine is a democratic country, where kind and hospitable people live", she says.

'Two cultures'
Gaitana's Congolese father studied in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where he met and married her mother. Shortly after her birth in 1979 the family moved to Congo-Brazzaville where they lived for five years. However the parents split up, and Gaitana's mother returned with her daughter to Ukraine. While she was a child her father introduced her to the music of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and others. She writes most of her own songs, which can be described as mixture of pop, soul and jazz. She sees herself as a product of the fusion of two cultures - and she says that her friends in Congo find her music very African. "At the same time," she says, "my Ukrainian grandmother thought of them as Ukrainian tunes. Two cultures have crossed inside me. I can write music which can be equally understood by Africans and Ukrainians." The final of the contest is being held in Baku, in Azerbaijan, on Saturday, and 125 million people are expected to watch across Europe. Music journalists gathering in Baku believe that she has a good chance of reaching the finals. But she faces strong competition from Sweden, Turkey, Romania, Italy and Greece. And her main rivals could be a Russian band - Grannies from Buranovo - most of whom are over 70.
© BBC News

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SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER GRADES SOCIAL NETWORKING GIANTS ON DIGITAL HATE, TERROR

23/5/2012- Facebook has earned an A minus and YouTube merited a C minus for removing pro-terrorist and hate postings, according to a study by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which says social networking sites are magnets for this activity. Micro-blogging site Twitter hasn't been given a grade by the international human rights organization because "they haven't even shown up to the dance yet," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the centre's annual digital terror and hate project. "Five years ago, we were essentially talking about websites," Cooper said of the recently released report. "Now most of the focus has to be on social networking and watching how every wrinkle unfolds." Facebook earned a high mark because it has taken down thousands of pages that the digital terrorism and hate project has brought to its attention, Cooper said from Los Angeles. It got an A minus instead of an A because of its more "nuanced" approach to discussion forums, about the denial of the Holocaust, for example, he said. As for YouTube, Cooper said there's just too many videos about how to carry out terrorist acts. "That stuff doesn't belong on YouTube, it doesn't belong on the Internet. They could and should do a much better job at setting up and policing their own rules."

Twitter didn't get a grade but Cooper said the site should look more at how it's being utilized. In some cases, it's being used by terrorists for command and control of actual events, he said. In Yemen, information about U.S. drone attacks has been tweeted. The growth potential for pro-hate and terrorist activity on social networking sites is exponential, he said. "What was once something that four or five people would see, now 20,000 or 30,000 people might see." The Simon Wiesenthal Center now has a password-sensitive software application to be used by law enforcement and government agencies to give them real-time access to its digital terrorism and hate project. "There are now over 15,000 problematic sites," said Cooper, who recently presented the findings of the 14th annual global digital terror and project to officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in Ottawa. He estimated there may be a few dozen websites of concern in Canada, including a jihadist forum with pictures of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Sociology Prof. Vincent Mosco said much attention has been given to how FaceBook and other social networking sites can be used to advance democracy, but the darker side tends to be neglected. "Hate groups tend to use these networks given that the consequences are minimal," said Mosco, professor emeritus at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. Mosco said hate groups used radio and television before regulations were put in place to prevent them from doing so. "Why do we tolerate on Facebook what we don't tolerate on TV?" he asked. "I suspect this will evolve over time with a more responsible kind of activity but it does involve informing people about all sides of the 'Net." The difficulty is that social media transcends borders, making it more difficult to regulate, he said. "Networks can be used for all sorts of things from advancing the need for democracy to human trafficking. Both of those, one for good, and one for evil, are prominent on the 'Net. It seems to me we need to do something about the latter as well as brag about the former." What also worries Cooper is what he calls the "lone wolf," someone who finds a community for his beliefs online but acts alone, such as the so-called "underwear bomber" who was convicted of trying to set off plastic explosives on board a plane to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009.

"That today is the biggest challenge across the board both in terms of obviously terrorism but in terms of hate crime." Cooper urges parents to know what their kids are doing online. "They're both the main targets for recruitment and they are the people who have the least in terms of their experience and sophistication and are the most vulnerable."
© The Winnipeg Free Press

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THE VEILED PLIGHT OF THE EUROPEAN ROMA: NEW REPORT

23/5/2012- For centuries, the Roma people -- commonly referred to as 'Gypsies' -- have been marginalized and misunderstood by their European neighbors. A new report by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) sheds light on this age-old human rights issue. All across the European Union, Roma people fare significantly worse than their non-Roma neighbors, according to the Wednesday report. The trend is clear not only in Eastern European countries, where the majority of Roma people live, but also as far west as Portugal, Spain and France. The report was based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 11 EU member states: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Researchers spoke with self-identified Roma people and their nearest non-Roma neighbors to compare standards of living. The results, said study authors, were "shocking." "Of those surveyed in this report, one in three is unemployed, 20 percent are not covered by health insurance, and 90 percent are living below national poverty lines. Although governments and societies have been aware of Roma exclusion and deprivation, the magnitude and the similarity of exclusion patterns across EU Member States is striking and leaves no excuse for delaying swift, effective action to improve the situation."

Some key facts: Of those surveyed, only half of Roma children attended pre-school or kindergarten. One out of three Roma people between the ages of 35 to 54 reported health problems that limited their daily activities. People have recently gone to bed hungry in 40 percent of Roma households. Half of those surveyed said they had experienced outright discrimination during the past year.

In terms of poverty, the difference between Roma families and their neighbors was most stark in France, Italy and Hungary. Spain and Portugal seem to have done the best job of integrating Roma residents into their societies, though significant inequalities are apparent there as well.

The cultural identity of the Roma people is understood only hazily by outsiders. The so-called gypsies are widely considered shiftless, unmoored and mysterious. But a single stereotype is incapable of characterizing the Roma people all across Europe; in fact, they are as diverse as the myriad countries they inhabit.

The Roma originated in India, but it seems the bulk of their exodus took place centuries ago. In his 2002 book "East European Gypsies," author Zoltan Barany, a professor of world politics at the University of Texas, wrote that "linguistic evidence suggests that Gypsies originated in the Punjab. They left perhaps as early as the sixth century and probably due to repeated incursions by Islamic warriors." Since then, the Roma have assimilated, to varying degrees, into several European countries.

Contrary to popular belief, many Roma do not roam. Barany writes that the majority of the 'Gypsies' in Eastern Europe are settled. Except for the necessary shifts that went hand-in-hand with poverty and homelessness, large numbers of Roma established a homestead wherever they were able.

Today there are at least 12 million Roma living in Europe, with the bulk residing in Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria and Romania, they account for at least 10 percent of the population.

After centuries of sprawl, separate Roma groups have adapted to their home countries so that they no longer constitute a homogenous group. Some have dark features; others have light skin and blond hair. Some speak Romani, while others speak the lingua franca of their home country. Some are Catholic, some are Muslim, and some are Orthodox Christians.

But the Roma are still collectively identifiable as outsiders, unified by their shared marginalization. For centuries, widespread discrimination was a constant barrier to their gainful integration into society.

The situation has improved somewhat during the past decade, due in large part to the enlargement of the European Union. Prior to the accession of several Eastern and Central European countries in 2004 and 2007, the EU set out criteria that included a demonstrated respect for minorities.

"The situation of minorities such as the Roma is therefore being taken into consideration in assessing the capacity of candidate countries to become members of the European Union," said a 2003 EU brochure. While EU accession criteria increased awareness and motivated candidate countries to put some constructive measures into place, Wednesday's FRA report indicates there is still a long way to go for Europe's Roma populations. The authors write that this study represents a first step; the ultimate goal is to implement an effective plan of action, as soon as possible. "The information in this report is sobering. It should thus prompt Member States, the EU institutions and bodies, international organizations and civil society to make Roma integration a reality."
© The International Business Times

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BLACK FARMWORKER ACQUITTED OF MURDERING EUGENE TERREBLANCHE (South Africa)

A black teenage farm worker has been acquitted of murdering Eugene Terreblanche, South Africa’s far-Right leader in a case that has polarised racial groups in the country, black farmworker found guilty of murdering Eugene Terreblanche.

22/5/2012- Patrick Ndlovu, who was 15 at the time of the killing, confessed his role in the crime to police but a lack of forensic evidence and a failure by detectives to treat him as a minor saw a judge rule in his favour. However a second man, farm worker Chris Mahlangu, 29, was found guilty of murder, attempted robbery and housebreaking. During the day, as the verdict was read out at a court in the farming town of Ventersdorp, there were clashes between hundreds of uniform-clad white supremacist groups and local supporters of the two defendants which were broken up by riot police wielding batons and shields. Mr Terreblanche rose to prominence in the 1980s with angry speeches calling for a separate Boer nation. He was beaten to death with a machete and an iron bar in the bedroom of his farmhouse in April 2010, shortly before South Africa hosted the World Cup. Following his death, Mr Ndlovu and Mr Mahlangu handed themselves in to police. Mr Terreblanche was found lying on his bed, with deep wounds to his head and body. His trousers were undone and his genitals exposed and blood covered the walls and floors of the room. Mr Mahlangu claimed that he had killed Mr Terreblanche in self-defence after the rightwinger sexually assaulted him.

Judge John Horn dismissed the suggestion, along with others that Mr Terreblanche was killed because of his political views. “There was no conspiracy, no political intrigue, no racial undertones and no hidden agenda,” he told the packed courtroom. Judge Horn said there was no forensic evidence linking Mr Ndlovu to the scene, despite the fact that Mr Mahlangu was covered in blood spatters. He said that because the teenager, now 18, was also deprived of sleep and proper counsel by police, he would give him the “benefit of the doubt". His decision provoked the ire of Mr Terreblanche’s family and supporters. Andre Nienaber, Mr Terreblanche’s nephew, said they were “disappointed” by the judge’s decision not to convict both men. “He was with the older one the whole time so I cannot believe he was not involved,” he said. “There were two murder weapons so there must have been two murderers.” Mr Nienaber said that the fight for a separate nation for Afrikaners would continue despite Mr Terreblanche’s death. He warned of potential violent protests at the murders of white farmers which have claimed more than 3,000 lives since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994.

“There will be repercussions for sure – some people feel much more strongly about this than us so we will see what happens,” he said. “What’s sure is that this has not left us leaderless. We have leaders and this is not the end. Our battle will stop when our coffins are in the ground.” Mr Mahlangu spoke briefly to reporters afterwards to say that there was little difference between prison and the conditions he had been living in on the farm, but that he was “sorry” for killing Mr Terreblanche. The court heard previously that Mr Terreblanche paid the two men less than the minimum wage and sometimes replaced their wages with alcohol. Mr Mahlangu will be sentenced on June 18, along with Mr Ndlovu, who was convicted of a minor charge of housebreaking with intent to steal at Mr Terreblanche’s farm.
© The Telegraph

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SOUTH AFRICA BRACES FOR VERDICT ON MURDER OF FAR RIGHT LEADER

Afrikaners plan to protest as court delivers verdict tomorrow on two black men accused of murdering white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche. Is this the end of the Rainbow Nation?

21/5/2012- A judge will announce today his verdict in the trial of two black South Africans accused of beating their employer, the white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche, to death at his remote farm in the country’s North West Province. There are fears that the conclusion of the case could reignite simmering racial tensions just as the murder itself did shortly before South Africa hosted the Soccer World Cup in June 2010. At that time, lurid headlines screamed “Murder Could Spark World Cup Race War,” “We’ll Avenge Terreblanche Vow White Fanatics,” and “Dark Clouds Over The Rainbow Nation” - the moniker adopted by South Africa after apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994. In the end, the sporting event passed without incident. But anger over the ruling African National Congress’ failure to markedly improve life for blacks and whites, and a habit left over from apartheid of blaming each other for the country’s ills, remains. Terreblanche became famous in the 1980s for his fire-breathing speeches advocating a separate Boer nation. In death, he joined an estimated 3,000 white farmers and their families beaten, tortured, and killed since 1994, mainly by black intruders in raids on their remote homesteads. South Africa’s crime problem is notorious and many more black people have been killed in that time, but the far right say the brutality of the murders suggest a “genocide” that the state is doing little to prevent.

Underage defendant
During the trial, defendant Chris Mahlangu claimed Terreblanche had sexually assaulted him and he had killed him in self-defence. The second defendant, who was aged 16 at the time and so cannot be named, is said to have confessed his role in the alleged murder to police. But Norman Arendse, the teenager’s lawyer, said he is “hopeful and fairly optimistic” that his client will be acquitted at court Tuesday in Ventersdorp, a dusty town almost 90 miles west of Johannesburg. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the scene, although Mr. Mahlangu was covered in blood spatters, and because of his age the judge ruled that the teenage defendant's confession could not be used against him. “He lived and worked at the farm so we don’t deny he was nearby but he was not involved,” Mr. Arendse said. “Mr. Terreblanche had plied him with strong cider earlier that day and that explains his bravado when talking to the police.”

Doubts about justice system
If the teenager is acquitted, Terreblanche’s supporters say, it will prove that the justice system – like everything else in South Africa, they say – is against them and they will unleash “havoc.” Andre Visagie, the former general secretary of Terreblanche’s Afrikaner Resistance Movement who now runs a sister organization People of the Covenant, promised to bring 500 khaki-clad supporters to stand outside the court as the verdict is delivered. “The people are very emotional and aggressive and fed up with farm murders,” he said. “Mr. Terreblanche was murdered in the most gruesome way and if his murderers, who confessed that they killed him, are acquitted, I can assure you there will be havoc.” He claimed that more liberal Afrikaners were now joining their ranks, and as many as 3,000 people would march through South Africa’s cities in the coming months, wearing balaclavas to avoid the “victimization” that has previously deterred them.

'We are fed up'
“We are fed up in South Africa with the genocide of white people, with being second class citizens, with the appalling government of the ANC, with black people stealing money through corruption,” he said. “We have learned one lesson over the last 18 years with this government – they don’t listen to what we are saying. “Violence is what makes them listen. So we are discussing what we are going to do if these boys are acquitted. But we will not say: ‘It’s a shame’, and move on.” Police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said riot units and a police helicopter were on standby in case of trouble. “This is a crunch moment and we are ready for any eventuality,” he said. “It’s always sad to lose a loved one or a leader but there are limits. We will act against any wrongdoing.” Frans Cronje of the South African Institute of Race Relations said that while the far right had neither the numbers nor the political support to launch all-out war, he feared a “Lone Ranger Scenario” where one or two radicals staged a shooting spree at a black school. “That’s perfectly possible and that’s why these guys are dangerous,” he said. “The political fall-out of that could be very significant.”
© The Christian Science Monitor

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Headlines 18 May, 2012

REFUGEE PROTEST CAMP GROWS (Netherlands)

18/5/2012- Over 300 failed asylum seekers are now said to be living in a protest camp, set up outside the Ter Apel refugee centre in Groningen, news agency Novum said on Friday. The camp was set up last Tuesday, when a group of around 50 Iraqi nationals put up tents in protest at government plans to deport them. They wanted the immigration service IND to look again at their cases, arguing they faced death if sent back to Iraq. The Iraqis have now been joined by some 80 Somali nationals, several Iranians and people from Eritrea, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, Novum says.

No eviction planned
Immigration minister Gerd Leers said on Tuesday the camp could not remain in place for long and offered the protestors a week's accommodation while they decided whether or not to return home voluntarily. The protestors may form a threat to public order and to the government's immigration policy, he said, but declined to say if the campers would be evicted. In Dutch law, failed asylum seekers are required to return home voluntarily or face deportation. Iraq will not cooperate with forced deportations. The local Vlagtwedde council said later on Friday it has no plans to evict the protestors and the situation at the camp is manageable. It says around 80 of the people at the camp stay overnight and the rest are visitors during the day. In December, a group of some 45 Somali asylum seekers set up camp outside the Ter Apel centre in protest at plans to deport them. The IND eventually decided to review their cases and several were granted refugee status.
© The Dutch News

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WILDERS TAKES DUTCH STATE TO COURT TO HEAD OFF EU EMERGENCY FUND

18/5/2012- Geert Wilders is taking legal action against the Dutch state in an effort to stop the Netherlands supporting the European financial emergency fund. Bram Moszkowicz, the lawyer who represented Wilders when he was charged with inciting racial hatred, will head the legal team, the parliamentarian told the Telegraaf this week. Wilders claims by supporting the fund, the Netherlands is handing over power to Brussels. This, he says, is something the caretaker government cannot do without giving voters their say first.

Elections
The Netherlands goes to the polls to elect a new parliament in September, but the emergency fund has to be ratified before this. The fund, which will have at least €500bn at its disposal to start with, is due to launch in July. Prime minister Mark Rutte has already signed the agreement but parliament needs to give its approval as well.
Wilders told the paper his decision to go to court is unique in parliamentary history, but denied it was an election stunt. 'I am defending the interests of the Netherlands,' he told the paper. He earlier failed to get enough support in parliament to call a halt to the ratification process. The PVV leader has said several times he intends to make the election campaign a referendum on Europe.
© The Dutch News

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CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS CALL FOR 'MORE HUMANE' REFUGEE POLICY (Netherlands)

14/5/2012- Dozens of local Christian Democrat branch organisations have called on immigration minister Gerd Leers to establish a more humane policy for asylum seekers, Trouw reports on Monday. In particular, automatic residency for the children of asylum seekers who were born and grew up in the Netherlands would be a good starting point, the 81 local party chiefs said in their letter. They have also written to the 21 CDA parliamentarians urging them to support draft legislation which would give refugee children who have lived in the Netherlands for at least eight years the right to stay.

Alliance
Leers is against the bill, which was drawn up by Labour and the small religious party ChristenUnie, but it is unclear what MPs think, the paper says. In particular, their positions may have changed since the collapse of the alliance between the CDA, VVD and PVV. Many CDA MPs and supporters were unhappy at the tough line they had been told to take in order to meet agreements with the anti-immigration party. However, Sybrand van Haersma Buma, one of six CDA members involved in the current leadership election, told BNR radio on Monday he opposes the draft legislation. 'Instead we should take the background in individual cases more into account and react more quickly,' he said. Last year, CDA MPs voted against giving a residency permit to an 18-year-old Angolan youth, Mauro Manuel, who has lived in the Netherlands with the same foster family for nine years but faced deportation. The teenager was later given a student visa.
© The Dutch News

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PLEDGE TO DECIMATE THE PVV WAS 'A WEAK MOMENT', SAYS PRIME MINISTER (Netherlands)

12/5/2012- Prime minister Mark Rutte told a television talk show on Friday evening he had pledged to decimate the anti-immigration PVV in a moment of weakness after Geert Wilders pulled out of austerity talks. The statement pledging to destroy the PVV came out of anger, Rutte told the Pauw & Witteman show. Rutte admitted he had not spoken to the PVV leader since the talks collapsed last month but said he believed his 'personal relationship' with Wilders remained good. In addition, Rutte said he would not focus on the PVV during the election campaign. Nor would he rule out forming a coalition with Wilders again, although he said it would be unlikely. 'But then I do not rule out working with the Socialist Party either,' the prime minister said. Nevertheless, Rutte said: 'Wilders did walk away from his responsibilities and thus a vote for the PVV is a lost vote'. In a reaction, Wilders told Nos radio the prime minister appeared to be in a panic. 'He won't manage to destroy the PVV but that is what he is doing to the Netherlands,' Wilders said.

Stronger economy
The prime minister also used the show to outline his strategy for the September 12 general election. The campaign will focus on explaining the need to bring the Netherlands out of the crisis as a stronger economy, he said. Given the crisis in the housing market, the VVD is not in favour of any further changes to mortgage tax relief, the VVD leader stated. The minority government and three other parties have agreed to phase out the tax break for all mortgages which do not involve repaying the principle loan. The increase in value-added tax which the five parties have agreed is necessary and people will be compensated for the increase next year, Rutte told his television audience. 'The budget agreement is for 2013. Every party will show [in the campaign] what they would like to do in the following years,' the prime minister said.
© The Dutch News

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ENAR UNDER CLOSE SCRUTINY OF BELGIAN FAR-RIGHT

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is being scrutinised by the Belgian far right party ‘Vlaams Belang’, following our demand to disable their anti-immigrant website. ENAR had indeed condemned the launch of this website in April and we maintain our call on the Belgian government to ban it.

14/5/2012- Member of European Parliament Philip Claeys from the Vlaams Belang recently questioned the European Commission on whether this call from ENAR is compatible with the Commission’s stand against Internet censorship and whether initiatives which it subsidises should call for Internet censorship in the EU. “It is difficult not to see the connection between incitement to hatred – whatever form it takes – and racist violence and crimes. All the more so as the Vlaams Belang, including party chief Filip Dewinter himself, can pride itself on having played a formative role in Anders Breivik’s ideology, which led – directly or indirectly – to the horrible crimes in Norway last July”, said Chibo Onyeji, ENAR Chair. Any initiative that fuels hatred against a specific group on the basis of their ethnic or national origin will sooner or later have a concrete impact on individuals’ lives – including on the majority population. “Censorship therefore has no place here: public incitement to racial hatred is strictly forbidden by European and national laws. It’s as simple as that”, Onyeji concluded.
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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ALBANIA GAYS BRAVE PUBLIC DISAPPROVAL

Gay rights activists held a series of public events this week in Tirana, pushing for greater acceptance of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual lifestyle. 

18/5/2012- A group of gay rights activist cycled down Tirana’s main boulevard on Monday, challenging homophobic mindsets by brandishing the slogan, "Make up your mind, some people are gay.” On Wednesday a photography exhibition at the Tirana Express Cultural Center was organized by activist from the "Pro" LGBT organization.
“The goal of this exhibition was to say that we are not afraid anymore,” said Xheni Karaj, one of the activists during the opening ceremony that was guarded by police.
Human rights campaigner Delina Fico underlined the importance of the occasion, praising the activists for their courage in coming out in public. “This community is quite substantial already, but there's a core group of activists that have brought the cause forward,” Fico noted.

While Albania's parliament decriminalised homosexuality in 1995, more than a decade and half later gays and lesbians are still heavily stigmatised. A majority of them hide their sexual orientation, fearing that if it was discovered their safety would be endangered. Human rights reports on Albania say ingrained attitudes among the general public leave gays and lesbians on the fringes of society. Nor is progress straightforward, even today. A march planned for Thursday across Tirana’s main boulevard, branded Albania's first ever gay parade, was cancelled. Meanwhile an alternative protest by Muslim organizations, calling on society to uphold traditional family values, went ahead.
© Balkan Insight

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GREEK PARTY MOST EXTREME OF EUROPE'S FAR RIGHT

Twenty-one members of Golden Dawn were sworn into Greece's Parliament on Thursday, making it arguably the most far-right party to enter a European national legislature since Nazi-era Germany.

17/5/2012- Europe's financial crisis is changing the tone across the continent, with frustrated voters turning to extremists on both the right and left. None seem as extreme as Golden Dawn, whose leaders claim that the Nazis did not use gas chambers to kill death camp inmates during the Holocaust. The party -- which won 7 percent of the vote in a May 6 election -- says it wants to rid Greece of immigrants and plant landmines along the border with Turkey. The new parliament will hold power just one day because the election left no party with enough votes to form a government, forcing repeat elections next month. Recent polls show falling support for Golden Dawn, so it's not certain to make it into parliament again. Still, many people across Europe are troubled. "The Golden Dawn party is a dark stain on European politics," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. "For the first time in over six decades a seemingly long hidden Nazi ideology returned to power." Here are other far right parties that have won parliamentary seats and pushed their views into mainstream policies and discourse in Europe, sometimes in ways that have impacted immigrants and Muslims.

FRANCE
France's anti-immigrant National Front was in parliament until 1986, when new rules made it harder for small parties to make it in. Its leaders, first Jean-Marie Le Pen and now his daughter Marine, have featured prominently in presidential elections and maintained a national following. Marine Le Pen came in a strong third place in presidential elections this month, earning more than 6 million votes, and is angling to get National Front candidates back in parliament in legislative elections next month. While Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted and fined a few times for racism and anti-Semitism, Marine Le Pen has sought to soften the party's message, and turned its anger toward what she calls the "Islamization" of France. Those ideas have entered the mainstream discourse, notably in former President Nicolas Sarkozy's push to ban face-covering Islamic veils and keep halal meat out of public cafeterias. He also made reducing immigration a pillar of his presidency.

AUSTRIA
The right-wing Freedom Party consistently polls a close second in popularity to the leading Social Democrats, reflecting the resonance of its anti-immigrant, Euro-skeptic message. It counts the neo-Nazi fringe among its supporters and its leaders' occasional anti-Semitic comments are widely condemned by other parties. Its main draw with voters is Islamophobia. It holds 34, or 1.5 percent of the seats in parliament compared to the nearly 27 percent won in 1999. That result catapulted it into a government coalition -- and led to EU sanctions against Austria. In response to their gains, the federal government has toughened asylum rules and introduced compulsory German courses for immigrants.

NETHERLANDS
The Freedom Party of anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders became the third largest bloc in the Dutch Parliament in 2010 elections with 24 seats. The result turned Wilders into a kingmaker who agreed to support the minority coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte on crucial votes in return for concessions such as a crackdown in immigration and a ban on the Islamic veil, the burqa. Wilders, a Euro-skeptic, brought down Rutte's government last month when he refused to support an austerity package aimed at cutting the country's budget deficit to within the EU norm of 3 percent of GDP.

ITALY
The Italian Social Movement, which saw itself as the heir of Benito Mussolini's Fascist party, was Italy's fourth largest party in the decades after the war, gaining up to 6 percent in some cases. But mainstream parties refused any alliance with it so it was kept out of the postwar governing coalitions. It campaigned against immigration and sought tough law enforcement, and some fringe members were linked to right-wing violence. In the early 1990s it morphed into the National Alliance and under party leader Gianfranco Fini moved into the mainstream: It shed its hardline roots, decried anti-Semitism and Mussolini's racial laws, and became a major ally of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Fini had to pull back from a statement in a newspaper interview that Mussolini was one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century.

HUNGARY
Hungary's Jobbik party -- The Movement for a Better Hungary -- won nearly 17 percent of the national vote in the 2010 parliamentary elections and is currently the second-largest opposition party in the legislature, behind the Socialists. Jobbik's popularity is highest in Hungary's northeast region, the country's poorest, and some of its support came from its pledge to fight what it calls "Gypsy crime." From 2009, uniformed groups closely tied to Jobbik, such as The Hungarian Guard, set up patrols in countryside villages to "protect" residents from Gypsies, but such activities have been banned under the current, center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Guard and several other such groups use some colors, slogans and symbols of the far-right nationalist parties of the 1930s, and its rhetoric is sometimes anti-Semitic, racist and anti-gay. Racist comments by Jobbik deputies have drawn condemnation from the rest of the parties and Orban's governing Fidesz party's two-thirds majority has allowed it to not make any concessions to Jobbik in the legislature. At the same time, some of the themes Jobbik promotes can also be found to a smaller or larger degree in Orban's policies.

DENMARK
The anti-immigrant Danish People's Party is Denmark's third largest party and has pushed the country to adopt some of Europe's strictest immigration laws, leading to a drastic cut in the number of refugees seeking shelter there to just over 5,000 in 2011, from 13,000 in 2001. Last year, it also pushed through a plan to reinstate custom checks at Denmark's borders with Germany and Sweden. Both the European Union and Germany sharply criticized the move, with the EU accusing Denmark of violating the spirit of EU rules on free movement for goods and people.
© The Associated Press

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DISCRIMINATION IN SERBIA WIDESPREAD, COMMISSIONER SAYS

13/5/2012- Discrimination in Serbia is widespread and it is necessary to adopt a strategy in order to curb it, Equality Protection Commissioner Nevena Petrušić says. She pointed out that the discrimination was most visible in employment. “In the end of the last year, we recommended the Serbian government to adopt a national strategy for combat against discrimination because we, based on the condition in social relations, believe that discrimination in Serbia is widely spread,” Petrušić stressed. According to her, it is necessary to create a strategy in order to prevent discrimination and all relevant state bodies and civil society should take part in the process. She noted that around 600 complaints had been filed and that they showed that discrimination was very common in the sphere of employment. “Based on the complaints, one can conclude that discrimination based on ethnicity and gender is most common and that Roma are the most common victims of discrimination,” equality protection commissioner explained.
© B92

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FORMER NEO-NAZI ELECTED TO LOCAL COUNCIL IN ENGLAND

18/5/2012- A former neo-Nazi who once defaced buildings with swastikas reportedly has been elected to a local council in south-central England. Margaret Burke won a seat on the Milton Keynes Council earlier this month after demonstrating her remorse to local Labor Party officials and describing her earlier activities as those of a "brainwashed idiot," the London Jewish Chronicle reported. During the 1980s, Burke ran a pro-Hitler organization with her husband. She wore Nazi-style uniforms and organized racist leafleting. After the couple divorced, Burke joined the Animal Liberation Front and was jailed for vandalizing a butcher’s shop. She told the Milton Keynes Citizen that she regretted her actions and had dedicated herself to working for the community to make amends. The council's Labor leader, Kevin Wilson, said the candidate selection panel had been aware of Burke’s past and had "questioned her at length." He called her post-Nazi behavior "exemplary" and said it would have been "wholly wrong to deny her the possibility of being a candidate."
© JTA News

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HATE CRIME CASES INCREASE IN SCOTLAND (uk)

Hate crime cases rose by 14% over the last 12 months in Scotland, with just over 6,000 charges being reported.

17/5/2012- The official figures published showed there were 4,518 race crime charges in 2011/12, a rise of 8% on the previous 12 month period. Religiously aggravated charges rose by 29% to 897. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal said greater awareness, reporting and recording of hate crimes partly accounted for the increased figures. The statistics relate directly to race crimes, and on crimes motivated by prejudice related to religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "Hatred of any kind, whether it is on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation, is unacceptable in modern Scotland and those responsible are being punished with the full force of the law.

"The Lord Advocate sent out strong warning last year that this kind of behaviour would be met with a zero tolerance response and our police and prosecutors are responding, tackling the actions of these individuals head on. "The small minority who think that this kind of behaviour is somehow acceptable are finding out the hard way that it isn't, and never will be. Their actions shame Scotland and they are being swiftly punished by Scotland's prosecutors." The figures do not include 42 charges reported to the Crown linked to a new law on religious sectarian hate crime at football matches, which came into force on 1 March.
© BBC News

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NATIONAL FRONT USED FOOTBALL CLUBS AS RECRUITING GROUNDS, WARNS PAUL ELLIOTT (uk)

15/5/2012- Racist groups used to use football clubs as recruiting grounds, according to former Chelsea footballer Paul Elliott. Speaking to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tueday, Elliot said that football effectively contained the "ugliness of society" due to the influence of extremist groups. "Extremists trying to launch their own recruitment drives, using football clubs as a catalyst to do that. Black players became the scourge of that. It was a difficult challenge for us. Fundamentally for us there was no legislation in place. Myself and others had to put up with it, focus on our game, obviously to the best of our ability as we can," he said. "The ritualistic abuse was utterly unacceptable" he added . He condemned the "horrific" racist abuse in football, like "monkey-chants". He said that other players would use that sort of abuse to "psychologically destabilise" black and minority players. "When it comes to racism, no-one is above the law. People are now realising it is unacceptable. We can't afford complacency [on stamping it out]" he said. Speaking alongside him, Gordon Taylor, from the Professional Footballers' Association, said "we need to have a zero tolerance approach to racism. "The police are having to take it more seriously now, I think clubs are having to take it more seriously now" he said. Taylor expressed frustration that young black players still felt they couldn't complain about racism in football. "There's an element of feeling amongst younger black players that 'Hmm I could make a complaint, but...'. I'm a little bit frustrated we couldnt be more effective in this process. We shouldn't stand for this" he said.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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FAR-RIGHT ARRESTS: BNP HOLDS TWO PROTESTS WHILE FRINGE GROUPS TRY TO STORM COUNCIL FUNCTION (uk)

Two men were arrested for a breach of the peace and another for a racially-aggravated public order offence

17/5/2012- Three people were arrested as far right-groups were accused by police of using diversionary tactics to promote their message. The British National Party organised simultaneous protests in Rochdale and Heywood, Greater Manchester, over a child sex grooming case. Police said around 10 BNP supporters held a peaceful demonstration in Heywood town centre at around 5pm yesterday. But at the same time approximately 40 far-right protesters from groups including the North West Infidels and the National Front tried to force their way into a council function at Rochdale town hall. Police took "swift action" to stop the demonstrators from disrupting the gathering. Two men were arrested for a breach of the peace and another for a racially-aggravated public order offence.

Last week nine Asian men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years from a judge who said they treated their five white victims "as though they were worthless and beyond any respect". Superintendent Chris Hankinson of Greater Manchester Police said last night: "This evening's events show that far-right groups are now prepared to use different tactics in order to get their views across. "On this occasion they appear to have planned a separate demonstration in Heywood to draw attention away from a larger event in Rochdale. "Thankfully they came up against our determined and professional officers who prevented them getting into the town hall where they were clearly intent on causing as much disruption as possible.

"We took swift action to stop this and restored peace as quickly as possible. "I want to thank the communities of Heywood and Rochdale for not engaging in today's activities and we will continue to work with them to ensure disruption from these types of events are kept to a minimum."
© The Mirror

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SIX ARRESTS IN ANTI-SEMITIC RAIDS (uk)

Five men and a teenager have been charged in connection with anti-Semitic comments on Facebook that allegedly caused fear and alarm in Scotland's largest Jewish community.

17/5/2012- More than 50 police officers took part in raids on a number of addresses in Glasgow and East Renfrewshire after complaints about the social media page "Welcome to Israel, only kidding you're in Giffnock". The page had more than 1000 followers at the time police took it off the web at the end of last year. An investigation was launched after complaints from those living in the area. In its latest clampdown on internet hate crime, Strathclyde Police said those facing prosecution were aged between 18 and 21, with a 15-year-old boy also among those charged with breach of the peace with religious and racial aggravations. A 24-year-old man was detained and later released without charge, pending further inquiry. Rabbi Moshe Rubin, of Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation, said: "I think in the days of social networking anything can happen but the fact the community in Giffnock was targeted was quite a shock." Earlier reports claimed the profile picture of the page featured the late Rev Ernest Levy, a Holocaust survivor who was considered the leader of the Jewish community in Scotland. Some messages contained overt racism and swearing.

Chief Inspector Alan Murray, Area Commander for East Renfrewshire, said: "This was a very complex and protracted enquiry. I hope it clearly demonstrates that Strathclyde Police will not tolerate hate crimes." Paul Donnachie, a St Andrews University student who racially abused a Jewish classmate, was last month sentenced to 150 hours of community service and ordered to pay £300 after being found guilty of a racially aggravated breach of the peace. And in March, David Craig, 25, was jailed for 14 months after posting pictures on Facebook of Celtic manager Neil Lennon covered in bullet wounds. In 2010, the Scottish Government introduced laws to specifically curb religious and racial abuse on social media platforms. Kenny Donnelly, procurator-fiscal at Paisley, who worked on the Giffnock Facebook case, said: "There is no place in modern Scotland for such behaviour and we will do all in our power to ensure that offenders are brought to justice." The Community Security Trust, which works to protect the Jewish Community, said: "We welcome the arrests of suspects regarding alleged anti-Semitic statements. Glaswegian Jews should be reassured local police take anti-Semitism seriously. "The spread of all types of hatred on social networking sites and similar media is a growing problem. So, it is hoped this innovative investigation by Giffnock and Strathclyde Police, supported by the procurator-fiscal, will provide a helpful precedent for all of society."
© The Herald Scotland

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EXTREMISTS THREATEN COURT ACTION OVER CITY MARCH BAN (uk)

16/5/2012- Far-Right extremists are planning a new demonstration in the Capital and have vowed to pursue city leaders through the courts over a decision to ban them from marching. The Scottish Defence League (SDL), which says it opposes Islamic extremism, had lined up a procession on May 26, but that was ruled out by the council. Today, SDL leaders accused city chiefs of deliberately delaying the handover of documents necessary to their appeal, which was lodged yesterday, and said they would take action under equality laws. They added that members would take to the streets in September if the appeal against the ban fails or is not heard before the original date. The council rejected the claim, insisting it doesn’t have to provide a copy of the order explaining its decision until at least two days before a procession is due to be held.

The SDL’s move comes after members of the previous administration’s licensing sub-committee decided to ban the extremists from marching over public safety and disorder concerns. James Smith, Edinburgh organiser for the SDL, which still intends to hold a static demo on May 26, said: “We met with the council and were told we would receive a letter within two days stating the reasons for prohibiting it. “Until we got that letter, we could not start the appeal process, but we only got the letter last week. “It’s led us to believe that the council thought that, by stalling, the appeal would not be heard in time. “The council have now opened a can of worms. We will be holding a static demo in the Grassmarket in defiance of their fascist and discriminatory attitude to our group. “We have agreed not to return until September 30, as the police said they will be understaffed in June, July and August.”

Unite Against Fascism committee member Luke Henderson said: “Any time groups like that organise, they are able to get their message across and you see more racial abuse and more racism – why should outsiders be allowed to bring a message of hate into our city?” Leaders of the Pakistan Society of Edinburgh, however, said they were relaxed about the march. Amjad Chaudhry, society chair, said: “As long as they do not start shouting against Muslims and mosques, and trying to create trouble, then there should be no problem.” A council spokesman said: “We are aware of the applicant’s intention to appeal but as yet have received no notification of this. The council is satisfied that it has fully complied with the relevant legislative requirements.”
© The Scotsman

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THEO WALCOTT'S FAMILY TO MISS EURO 2012 FOR FEAR OF RACIST ATTACKS (uk)

• 'Some things aren't worth risking' says Walcott's brother Ashley • Hodgson concerned for travelling England fans 

17/5/2012- Theo Walcott's family have said they will not travel to Ukraine for Euro 2012 for fear of racist attacks. The England winger's brother Ashley tweeted on Tuesday that he and his father will be staying at home. "Unfortunately my dad n i have taken the decision not to travel to the Ukraine because of the fear of possible racist attacks confrontations," he said. "Something's aren't worth risking, but begs the question why hold a competition of this magnitude in a place that can not police itself for foreigners of any creed to feel safe, but I'll be watching every minute." Roy Hodgson spoke of his concerns over the situation in Ukraine when he announced his squad for the tournament on Wednesday. "The issue of racism, especially the Sky report into the hooliganism and violence in Ukraine, is an obvious concern," he said. "Not least the supporters who go over there and risk maybe getting beaten up." Official Foreign Office advice on travelling in the country states: "Foreign nationals have been the victims of violent crime in Kyiv and other major cities. In some cases attacks have been racially motivated. Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care."
© The Guardian

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FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION AND PFA PLAN TO BAN PLAYERS FOUND GUILTY OF RACISM (uk)

Players found guilty of racist abuse will be at risk of sacking by their clubs under a new standard contract being drafted for footballers in England. 

16/5/2012- The measure has the support of the Professional Footballers Association and the Football Association. footbaUnder the current employment contract by which all players are tied to their clubs there is a behaviour clause, which dictates that players “guilty of serious or persistent misconduct” risk having their contracts terminated. But there is little precision as to what would trigger that clause, and the authorities and union are discussing ways to clarify the contract in future. Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, said yesterday: “What we are looking to do is to have as part of the contract, rather than to talk about behaviour in general, to put into the standard players’ contract that if … the player is found guilty of racist abuse then that’s considered gross misconduct and the contract should be terminated. It is to really try and elaborate on that.” Taylor was speaking to the culture, media and sport select-committee inquiry entitled racism in football and his words found support from the FA chairman, David Bernstein. “I think an area that is interesting is the contractual situation between the players and their clubs and at what stage are players in breach of contract,” said Bernstein. “We have one incident which has arisen at the moment and it will be very interesting to see what the club does.

“Again, without talking about specifics, players are very well protected with their contracts, and sometimes overprotected in my view. If the club feels that by breaking a contract they could be involved in millions of pounds worth of settlement it is a big disincentive. “But the whole question of the nature of the contract and whether a breach has arisen is a very interesting area. I hope it is tested at some time in the future.” The committee was told how John Terry was stripped of the England captaincy when the trial date he faces for allegedly having directed racist abuse at Queen’s Park Rangers’ Anton Ferdinand was put back until after this summer’s European Championships. Bernstein said he considered the controversial decision to take Terry’s armband away — which led to the resignation of Fabio Capello as England manager — had been “spot on”. He added: “It’s absolutely up to the manager now.” Taylor, however, was critical of the FA’s inability not to consider the Terry case under its own disciplinary procedures. “With this elephant in the room with the Ferdinand and Terry case, football has not been able to deal with it,” said Taylor. “Once it became a criminal case the FA was told to hold your horses. I’m uncomfortable with that because it’s been festering over the game and it’s infected so many issues.”
© The Telegraph

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LN: TABLOID TAKES ANTI-ROMA ANECDOTE TOO FAR (Czech Rep.)

16/5/2012- The Czech tabloid Blesk went too far violating the rules of common decency by using a shocking joke in a report on a Romany family abusing welfare payments, Daniel Kaiser writes in the daily Lidove noviny (LN) yesterday. Blesk reported on Tuesday on a large Romany family from Dubi, north Bohemia, that succeeded in taking the unbelievably high sum of 92,000 crowns from the state since they brought home four disabled relatives from Slovakia fro whom they were receiving benefits for care (12,000 crowns per person) along with transport and housing allowances. Kaiser writes that no one can raise objections to the article's conclusion saying the welfare system is short of money for people who are really in need and cannot look after themselves over such cheats abusing welfare payments.

However, the joke at the beginning of a commentary on the case makes the report scandalous. It says a clerk from a labour office is firing bursts of a machine gun at a group of freeloaders heading for the office to draw subsidies. The clerk explains that it was the last benefit/burst to which they were entitled too, using the homonymy in Czech in which one word can mean both a benefit (e.g. social benefit) and burst (of a machine gun). Though the word Romanies does not appear in the commentary at all, it is apparent that the criticism is aimed at them, Kaiser writes. He admits that there is not generally acceptable mode of reporting on Romanies who have conflicts with law or violate the cohabitation rules.

For long journalists have commonly avoided mentioning the Romany ethnicity of perpetrators at all, which has sometimes led to absurd situations. A Romany activist, for instance, was commenting on a case of a young offender whose ethnicity was not revealed, Kaiser adds. There are naturally cases in which a professional and honest reporter cannot avoid the ethnicity of criminals or suspects. If there were a long-time tension between the Romany minority and the majority at the place where the respective incident occurs, the ethnicity is an objective fact without which the whole situation could be hardly understandable, Kaiser notes. However, the most recently some media have chosen the opposite extreme attitude and they are reporting on the alleged perpetrators' Romany ethnicity on the basis of rumours before it is officially confirmed, Kaiser recalls.

The Tuesday issue of Blesk has been the worst example of this trend so far, he says. The first extreme of not mentioning the Romany ethnicity at all out of false political correctness was ridiculous and it could harm the respective media's reputation only, the other extreme goes beyond the limits of a decent society, Kaiser writes in conclusion.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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ROMA PROTEST XENOPHOBIC SENTIMENTS (Czech Rep.)

13/5/2012- Political parties should not abuse the tense xenophobic situation between Romanies and majority in the Czech Republic in their election campaigns, Stefan Tiser, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Party (SRP), said yesterday. Some 200 people attended a commemorative act devoted to the Romany Holocaust victims near the place where a concentration camp for Romanies existed during World War Two. Over 1300 Romanies were interned in Lety during the German Nazi occupation, 327 of whom perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to Oswiecim (Auschwitz). "Czech citizens of Romany extraction permanently face a growing xenophobia and an increasing number of anti-Romany demonstrations," said Tiser, a member of the government council for ethnic minorities. "Security of Romany families is confronted with signs of hysteric hatred on the part of a substantial part of majority society," Tiser said. "Recently, Romany families have been intimidated near their homes," Tiser added.

The participants in the act demanded the elimination of the pig farm built on the site of the camp in the 1970s. "At the time of recession, there is no money to remove the pig farm," SRP deputy chairman Cenek Ruzicka said. "No one wants to conduct official talks on the issue with us. The pig farm owners abuse the highlighting of the problem by the media and international pressure to gain as much money as possible from this," Ruzicka said. Jan Cech, director of the company AGPI Pisek, told CTK yesterday no one had conducted any talks with the company over the elimination of the pig farm in the past years. He refused to disclose for how much money the firm was ready to eliminate the pig farm and build a new one. The financial paper Hospodarske noviny has written the sum has climbed from 70 million to one billion crowns. In 2009, the government decided that the pig farm would remain in its place.
($1 = 19.506 crowns)
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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UKRAINE'S RACIST THUGS WARN BLACKS, ASIANS OVER TRAVELING TO COUNTRY FOR EURO 2012

16/5/2012- Racist thugs in Ukraine have warned Black and Asian England supporters not to travel to their country for the Euro 2012 championship. A Sky News investigation has discovered that racist thugs in Donetsk will be targeting England fans when the tournament kicks off next month. The report reveals that The Donetsk Company, a group motivated by hatred of foreigners and fuelled by neo-Nazi politics, planned to target fans. UK police have already issued a warning to English fans travelling to the event, saying racist Ukrainian football thugs could provide a "flashpoint" for violence. They said English supporters and players were more likely to be on the receiving end of abuse than to be starting trouble themselves.
© ANI

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ARMENIA: IN WAKE OF ARSON ATTACK, SUPPORT AND FEAR

15/5/2012- An early morning arson attack on the popular Yerevan-based bar, DIY last week has led to an outpouring of support from concerned citizens, activists and customers who frequented the relatively new establishment, but also anxiously renewed fears in the country’s LGBTQ population, who have kept a relatively low profile and faced discrimination for years. DIY, which bills itself as a bar for alternative thinkers, was frequented by many in Armenia’s gay community, a place considered a safe haven, free of judgment or discrimination. The violent act, which caused around $4,000 of damage according to well-informed sources, is being said to have been motivated by nationalistic and fascist ideology – the bar’s gay-friendly atmosphere as well as owner Tsomak Oganesova’s attendance at Istanbul’s Gay Pride Parade in neighboring Turkey have been cited as two key factors that have categorized the attack as a hate crime.

Armenia and Turkey, whose borders are currently closed, have strained relationships over long-stemming issues of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, which Turkey denies as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, during which Turkey sided with the latter. Two Iranian-Armenian men were detained in relation to the attack and allegedly confessed to their crime. Though it has not been confirmed, sources say the men are tied to a larger fascist organization in the country. At a press conference today, it was revealed that Artsvik Minasyan, a Dashnak member of parliament, paid the 1 million dram ($2535) bail to release one of the detained men free, a headline that local media have started to run wild with. The other, according to Oganesova, was released on signature that he will not leave the country.

Since the attack (which was caught on CCTV camera) supporters have come together to help rebuild it, assembling donation boxes as well as posters and t-shirts to show solidarity as well as strength in the face of adversity. Activists are touting the phrase “We Are DIY” in an effort to spread the message that the act will not be tolerated or silence them. A charity concert took place last week with another, titled “Gender Equality Charity Fair” planned on May 20. Organizers plan to make it an interactive event to raise awareness of human rights issues in relation to gender equality, discrimination and violence. Donations ranging from 500 to 1000 AMD ($1.26 to $2.53) are recommended, money that will go towards the repair of the bar. Oganesova announced last week that she and others will “continue to solve this problem, to move forward and make sure [perpetrators] are punished for what they did.” The speech also hit a somber note when she announced that after resolution, she and others closely involved with the bar will be seeking to leave the country.

“Once this problem has been resolved, we’ll be able to say we have done something for this country and then leave this country,” she said. “If there is another problem in the future, we’ll come back, solve the problem and leave again.” Oganesova, who also heads the Armenian punk rock band Tsomak and Pincet Project posted in the bar’s public Facebook group, noting her departure. “I’m going far away…I’m going to be with those like me, I’ll go fight for and with those like me…I love those who know love…thank you to my friends and close acquaintances, those who respect and understand our pain and joy…those who never leave us alone, those who don’t run away from problems…I love them a lot…thank you…!!!” Her sentiments and the rise of neo-nazi nationalist groups in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union come at a time when some in the country are feeling fearful, many for the first time. Nationalistic sentiments are common in the South Caucasus country, which is almost mono-ethnic and still reeling from the psychological effects of genocide and war. Its isolation, where borders with both Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed and distrust of much of what falls outside the realm of the status quo have been discussed as underlying reasons as to the rise of hate groups whose violent actions have left many fearful.

In a widely circulated interview, human rights activists Karen Hakobyan and Lala Aslikyan sat down with CivilNet to analyze the bombing and the reasons it occurred. “Fascism has reached our door and is now saying I’m here,” Aslikyan said in Armenian. She regretfully emphasized that the stifling of freedom of expression in the country is growing, while Hakobyan pointed out that the groups, mostly consisting of young men in their late teens and early 20s define their “Armenian-ness” by spreading hate towards groups that perceive as threats to national interest. These conditions, he continued, are a regression for the country, whose time on the world map could be in danger if it continues down this path. In a press conference today, local NGOS including Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) Armenia and Women’s Resource Center of Armenia (WRCA) as well as Oganesova answered questions from reporters about the implications of the attack.

WRCA Co-founder Lara Aharonian pointed out that danger and fear of these attacks is that they can be directed against anyone whose views certain groups or individuals do not agree with. She also said that as a mother, she was concerned, mentioning shortcomings in the education and legal systems of Armenia as well as the media, who sensationalize issues. Marine Margaryan of PINK elaborated that the nationalist groups have ‘terrorized’ other establishments, including Calumet, another popular bar just down the street from DIY. Margaryan said that the groups have spat, thrown up and broken bottles in and outside establishments were ‘free thinkers’ are known to gather. While a report [pdf] released by Pink Armenia in 2011, found that 72 percent of people they surveyed in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor, Armenia’s three largest cities, had negative attitudes toward ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientation, the International Lesbian and Gay Association launched its very first annual review of the human rights situation on LGBT in Europe today. Among its findings – Armenia is one of 10 countries in the negative zone, and does not meet the basic requirements of human rights. Our own initial piece on the attack generated comments of support from in and outside of Armenia, but was also subject to commentors who expressed enjoyment at seeing the bar become the victim of a fire attack.”Bravo to the arsonists,” one commenter wrote in Armenian. “We are all on their side.”

Recently, a 2011 Human Rights Watch report on Armenia found that the country continues to restrict freedom of expression.
© Ianyan magazine

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HATE CRIME TARGETS GAY FRIENDLY BAR IN YEREVAN, MPS BAIL OUT ASSAILANTS (Armenia)

15/5/2012- A homemade bomb this month targeted a bar, called “DIY,” which is seen as a haven for “free thinkers” and welcomes the often-shunned gay community of Yerevan. The hate crime, which happened just two days after the parliamentary elections, has given way to controversy, as ARF MPs Artsvik Minasyan and Hrayr Karapetyan reportedly posted the one million dram (approximately USD 2,500) bail to free the assailants. The attackers, Iranian-Armenian brothers Hampig and Mgrdich (also referred to as Arame) Khapazian, are said to have targeted bar owner Tsomak Oganesova for her activism in the LGBT community, and her participation in a Gay Pride Parade in Turkey. No one happened to be at the bar at the time of the attack, which happened during the early morning hours on May 8. However, substantial damage was reported to the walls and furniture, which were burned from the bomb.

In an interview with Panorama news agency, Minasyan said, “I consider [Oganesova’s] types—I don’t want to sound offensive—destructive to Armenian society.” When asked why he decided to post bail, Minasyan said, “Why? Because knowing those youth, I consider them normal people. The investigation will reveal to what degree the violation they committed endangered public safety.” “In the given situation, I am convinced that those youth acted the right way, in the context of our societal and national ideals. It is a different matter if certain damage has been caused, and compensation must be paid,” he added. During a press conference, Oganesova said that the ARF has continued to persecute her, and that she will present her evidence before the law. MPs acted on their own, says ARF member

Another ARF member, Nvart Manasyan, told Epress that her party is not a totalitarian organization, and that its members have the right to express their own opinions. She also said that Minasyan’s reasons for bailing out the attackers should not be linked to the party. Manasyan said that the ARF is a party that advocates democracy and socialism; that it operates according to the Armenian Constitution, where xenophobia is forbidden; and that it is impossible to condemn such a party for ultra-nationalism. There was an overwhelming outcry on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter condemning Minasyan’s act, and some demanding that the ARF leadership respond.

Swastikas painted on walls
On May 15, a second attack reportedly occurred. A group of men spat on the bar, burned anti-fascism posters, and spray-painted swastikas on the walls. Two of these attackers were reportedly arrested.
© The Armenian Weekly

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HUNGARIAN FAR-RIGHT PROTESTS AGAINST GOVT AUSTERITY

* Far-right Jobbik party launches anti-austerity campaign * Jobbik says austerity dictated by IMF, EU, not acceptable * Hungary should quit EU - Jobbik chairman

12/5/2012- The Hungarian eurosceptic far-right Jobbik party launched a campaign against the government's austerity policies with a rally in central Budapest on Saturday, saying they were dictates of the European Union and international lenders. The Fidesz party's centre-right government announced earlier this week belt-tightening measures aimed at cutting the budget deficit and avoiding European Union sanctions on Hungary, emerging Europe's most indebted nation. Jobbik, which holds 45 of the 386 parliament seats, said Fidesz and the previous Socialist government were servile to the EU and the International Monetary Fund, whose dictates, it said, hurt the country. Hungary used a 20-billion-euro EU/IMF emergency loan in 2008 to avoid a default. While Fidesz initially rejected the EU/IMF help when it swept to power in 2010, market pressure forced Prime Minister Viktor Orban to ask for another loan last year. Loan negotiations were held up for nearly six months after Hungary passed a series of laws that Brussels said damaged the independence of the country's central bank. The European Union gave the green light for the talks late last month, setting off a market rally, but a deal could be slow in coming, analysts said.

Jobbik has put increasing pressure on Fidesz not to give in to the demands of the international lenders. The party's chairman Gabor Vona told a crowd of about 3,000 supporters that Hungary would be better off outside the EU. "Our goal is to make Hungary independent, built on treasures like our land and our water, and not a member of the European Union, which lack values, which lies and is headed for demise," Vona said, outside the Fidesz party's headquarters. "The European Union just comes here, siphons our money away, uses us for cheap labour, uses our markets to dump its garbage, then, what little money it doles out, it tells us what we may spend it on so we can build things we don't need." Jobbik has gained in popularity recently while Fidesz, which scored a two-thirds majority in 2010, has lost nearly a million voters since then in the country of 10 million. Vona said Jobbik would stage rallies in each major city in the coming weeks to demand fair wages, education, law and order.
© Reuters

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POLITICAL, SOCIAL TURMOIL WORRIES HUNGARY’S JEWS

13/5/2012- The debate over anti-Semitism in Hungary has sharpened since the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Roma (Gypsy) Jobbik movement entered Parliament two years ago as the country’s third largest party. Seeking scapegoats and channeling paranoia at a time of severe economic, social and political woes, Jobbik’s lawmakers regularly -- and loudly -- spout xenophobic, anti-Roma, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Outbursts in Parliament, in local councils and in the media have demolished taboos and increasingly serve to legitimize hate speech in both private conversation and public discourse. But for the Jewish community, anxiety over anti-Semitism is only one toxic element of a broader and much more complex national crisis that touches all parts of society two years after the 2010 elections swept the conservative Fidesz party to power.

“The danger is about Hungarian democracy, not about anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Istvan Darvas told JTA. “Everybody feels the crisis,” said Mircea Cernov, CEO of Haver, a foundation that fights anti-Semitism and teaches schoolchildren about Judaism and the Jewish people. “The financial and economic challenges, unemployment and poverty, social, education and health system crisis, democratic system in turbulence -- there is no difference between people influenced by all this.” With a two-thirds majority in Parliament, Prime Minister Victor Orban and his government rewrote the constitution and pushed through controversial new laws that sharply polarized the country and also drew tough criticism from the European Union and other international bodies. These included new legislation regulating the media, changing how judges are appointed and reducing the number of officially recognized religious bodies. Three Jewish streams have such recognition. Other new laws cut social benefits, nationalized private pension funds and even outlawed homelessness.

The government said the new laws were needed to consolidate the legal and judicial system. But critics claimed they contributed to a “democracy deficit” and undermined democratic rights. Jobbik and other extremists have capitalized on the economic uncertainly and social and political polarization to push a virulently nationalist message that stigmatizes Jews, Roma, immigrants and other minority groups. Fidesz is not formally allied with Jobbik and has condemned anti-Semitism. But a defense of Hungarian national honor is one of Fidesz’s platforms. Many Hungarian Jews, who traditionally have gravitated toward leftist-liberal parties, are deeply troubled by appeals to nationalism, even by mainstream parties. And there is a perception among Fidesz opponents that some of its members may be sympathetic to Jobbik’s more extreme stance. This month, for example, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary canceled an official visit to the town of Eger after an audio recording came to light in which a Fidesz town councilor slammed a prominent actor as a “filthy Jew” with leftist-liberal sympathies.

“Intolerance is growing, radical narratives and voices are powerful, and many people feel that the risk of a greater conflict is real,” said Cernov. The country, he said, faces a "moral crisis" along with its other woes. “There are no real credible voices and opinion-influencing figures,” he said. “No role models and no people who can set positive reference points. The lack of a minimum platform of common understanding among all democratic parties and civil groups is the real weakness of the Hungarian society." In a recent incident, addressing Parliament just before Passover, a Jobbik lawmaker went so far as to advance the blood libel -- the accusation that Jews kill Christian children and use their blood for ritual purposes. And in a February interview with the London Jewish Chronicle, Jobbik foreign affairs spokesman Marton Gyongyosi called Israel a "Nazi system based on racial hatred,” accused Jews of “colonizing” Hungary and stressed Jobbik’s support of Iran. These developments have ratcheted up the anxiety level for Hungary’s 100,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in central Europe. “The gravity of the situation is unprecedented in the past two decades of Hungarian democracy,” Rabbi Shlomo Koves told The Associatied Press. “Although the safety and well-being of Hungarian Jews in their daily life is not physically in danger -- or no worse than in any other European country -- anti-Semitic public speech has escalated to a point which cannot be ignored by a single decent person.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the representative on anti-Semitism to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it is not simple to gauge the extent and impact of anti-Semitism in Hungary. “There are real problems and a high degree of uncertainty,” he told JTA after a fact-finding mission to Hungary in April. But, he added, “It is not easy to separate the anxiety that Jews feel together with many other left-of-center Hungarians at current political developments and unease at what are more directly anti-Semitic rumblings.” Members of the Jewish community said anti-Semitism was widely expressed verbally but there have been few episodes of physical violence. “Many people are afraid,” said Andras Heisler, a former president of the Federation of Jewish Communities. “But in normal daily life there is not any danger.” Indeed, unlike in many Western countries, little security is evident at most of Budapest’s 20 or so active synagogues, prayer houses and other Jewish sites. And Jewish life is lived openly. Budapest may be one of the only capitals where a program linked to this year’s March of the Living was publicized on an advertisement that covered the entire side of a downtown building.

Still, a report released before Passover by the Anti-Defamation League added fuel to alarmist fires. Based on a telephone survey in which callers asked 500 people in 10 countries four questions regarding anti-Semitic stereotypes, the ADL found that 63 percent of Hungarians held anti-Semitic attitudes. The report grabbed headlines. But sociologist Andras Kovacs, Hungary’s foremost researcher on anti-Semitism, slammed the report for employing what he called a faulty methodology that favored responses from hard-core anti-Semites, giving a skewed result that fed alarmism. According to his research, he said, the proportion of anti-Semites in Hungary is 20 to 25 percent. Cernov called the ADL report “superficial” and “even irresponsible.” It could, he said, have a negative impact on organizations like Haver that were trying to carry out serious social action and other educational work to combat prejudice and counter extremist trends.
© JTA News

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RUSSIA ATTEMPTS TO TURN TABLES ON HUMAN RIGHTS

16/5/2012- Attempting to deflect criticism against crackdowns on political protests at home, Russian officials shot back at Western critics Monday, lambasting racism and xenophobia in Europe. Foreign Ministry and Duma officials joined others in urging European Union representatives present at a round-table discussion not to use Russia’s human rights record as a political tool. “The West doesn’t tolerate criticism of its own human rights violations,” said Vasily Nebenzya, head of the Foreign Ministry’s department for humanitarian cooperation and human rights. “Human rights have become a weapon,” he said, adding that Russia would treat its critics “with mistrust when they try to teach us [to observe] human rights … as long as our concern [about human rights violations in Europe] is ignored.” Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s permanent representative to the European Union, suggested that the EU was guilty of hypocrisy for having not yet joined the 1953 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which Russia partially ratified in 1998. He also noted that “at a time of economic crisis more attention should be paid to social and economic rights,” rather than to freedom of assembly. Western critics have been quick to fault Russia’s hostility to opposition protests. Chizhov said Europe had many of its own problems, the most common being a rise in nationalism and xenophobia.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry’s ombudsman for human rights, specifically accused Latvia and Estonia of harassing Russian-speaking minorities, Great Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland of discriminating against immigrants and the United States of creating secret prisons where suspected terrorists were allegedly tortured. He said Europe and Russia had to have “equal rights” in their dialogue on human rights, a point repeated by many on the panel. Andrei Klimov, first deputy head of the Duma’s international affairs committee, said the round-table participants would recommend that members of delegations in the European Parliament “more actively concentrate [their] attention on [Europe’s] own human rights record.” Fernando Valenzuela, head of the European Union’s delegation to Russia, admitted Europe had some work to do. “We do not claim that everything is perfect,” he said. “Our own institutions are weak to detect shortcomings.” Valenzuela said the European Union was “committed to combat all forms of racism and xenophobia.” But he decried the 15-day prison terms given to opposition protesters, the pretrial detention of the punk band Pussy Riot, the killings of journalists, the death in jail of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and imprisonment of Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Valenzuela told The St. Petersburg Times after the round table that a number of points raised such as racism and xenophobia in the EU states were “important,” but that some statements didn’t “correspond to reality,” such as accusations of discrimination against Russian speakers in the Baltics. Valenzuela said some issues were “matters for discussion, but not human rights violations.”
© The St. Petersburg Times

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EUROPEAN COURT COULD THWART BID TO BAN FAR-RIGHT PARTY (Germany)

Germany is currently preparing an attempt to ban the far-right NPD party. But a German legal expert has warned that the bid may be blocked by the European Court of Human Rights, which has even higher hurdles to outlawing parties than Germany does. 

14/5/2012- Pressure to ban the far-right National Democratic Party has been building ever since the revelation last November that a neo-Nazi terrorist cell was behind a series of murders of mainly Turkish immigrants. The German government is preparing a new legal bid to outlaw the party, which the German domestic intelligence agency has described as being a "racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist" party bent on overthrowing Germany's democracy and setting up a Fourth Reich. The hurdles are high, though, and authorities want to avoid a repeat of their failed first attempt to outlaw the party in 2003, when Germany's highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court, threw out the case after it turned out that several NPD officials were informants for the intelligence service. In preparation for a new ban attempt, the national and regional governments in Germany have severed ties with informants in the NPD's leadership. Their aim is to prove that the NPD poses a threat to the democratic constitution. The NPD has said it will file a suit with the European Court of Human Rights against a ban. Now, an expert on party law says the party may well succeed. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Martin Morlok, professor of public law at Düsseldorf University, said the European court had even higher hurdles than the German Constitutional Court when it came to outlawing a party.

Real Risks
Morlok said the German court would base its decision for a ban on whether the party posed risks in the future, whereas the Strasbourg-based court required those risks to be present already. "The human rights court asks whether an extremist party is, according to its previous election results, really on the verge of gaining power -- and the NPD is a long way from that," Morlok told SPIEGEL. A ban could also be based on proof that the party supported terrorist activities, Morlok said. "But according to everything one has read and heard so far, there is not sufficient evidence of that." Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said last month it would probably be impossible to prove that the NPD's policy led to the formation of the neo-Nazi terrorist group known as the Zwickau cell. If such a link could be established, it would be "relatively easy to conduct ban proceedings swiftly and successfully," he told the Südwest-Presse newspaper in April. Morlok said Germany would not be able to ignore a ruling by the Strasbourg court. "The Federal Constitutional Court would already have to take account of Strasbourg's requirements in its ruling," he said.
© The Spiegel

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NEO-NAZI 'COULD HAVE ESCAPED BUT CHOSE TO DIE' (Germany)

Neo-Nazi terrorists Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt could have easily escaped police last year, but chose to die instead, in another in a long line of embarrassing revelations for investigating authorities.

13/5/2012- Mundlos and Böhnhardt, members of the self-styled National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist cell, botched a bank robbery in Eisenach in the eastern German state of Thuringia on November 4 – and fled the crime scene on bicycles, Bild newspaper reported on Sunday. As the pair headed for their campervan parked up in another part of town, they were listening over police radio to how the search for them was being conducted. They could have escaped police, but instead waited almost an hour before Mundlos shot dead Böhnhardt and then himself in the campervan, the paper said. They would have heard that the police dragnet was due to be lifted after an hour and a half, and could have escaped out onto the motorway in their van, but they did not. Instead they waited almost an hour until the police came across them by accident, said Bild.

Mundlos and Böhnhardt, together with Beate Zschäpe are thought to have killed nine people of immigrant descent and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007, as well as robbing 14 banks. The news that the terrorists could have escaped is a further embarrassment for the authorities, who initially assumed the string of killings were connected to organised crime, only joining the dots in 2011 when the group self-destructed and the gun used in the killings was found in their flat. Investigators reconstructing the terrorists' last moments said it took Mundlos just 15 seconds to shoot dead Böhnhardt, set their campervan alight and commit suicide himself. As police approached, Mundlos climbed into the back of the vehicle and started a fire before turning the gun on himself. Zschäpe, believed to have co-founded the terrorist cell, gave herself up to police a few days later after the incident and is currently in prison awaiting trial.
© The Local - Germany

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GERMANY WANTS TO KEEP FILES ON NEO-NAZIS, INCLUDING CZECHS AND OTHER FOREIGNERS

17/5/2012- Deutsche Welle reports that yesterday the German government approved draft legislation which would enable it to keep files on neo-Nazis. The database would include not just Germans, but also foreign neo-Nazis, i.e., also Czech people who actively collaborate with their German "tribes-people". This might first and foremost include several members of the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) who are in close contact with German neo-Nazis and have violent tendencies. The bill will now be submitted to the lower chamber of the German parliament, the Bundestag. Deutsche Welle cites Heinz Fromm, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German counter-intelligence service, as saying there are 9 500 neo-Nazis with violent tendencies in Germany. "Those people would meet the criteria for inclusion in the database. Foreigners known in Germany for their extremist and violent tendencies could also be included," Fromm said. The government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to create the database after it came to light that a group of nationalists living in the town of Zwickau had committed a series of murders of immigrants between 2000 and 2007. A similar register was established by the US government after the attacks of 11 September 2001. That database includes information about aggressive Islamists.
© Romea

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YOUNG GERMAN MUSLIMS DEFEND RIGHT TO PROTEST

A debate about violent Salafists has erupted in Germany after radical Muslims clashed with supporters of the anti-Islamic Pro NRW party during its recent election campaign. Three young Muslims who took part in a demonstration against the party in Cologne described their pious worldview to SPIEGEL

15/5/2012- After the water cannons have withdrawn and the Muhammad cartoons have been stowed away, three young men get into a car in front of Cologne's main train station. They are bearded and have the look of religious men. They seem somewhat dissatisfied. Malik says: "It's sad and humiliating that so few people came." Martin says: "Brother, it's Tuesday afternoon. Many of us work." Koray shrugs his shoulders. He took the day off, he says, so why shouldn't other people do the same?

Furious and Speechless
Malik, Martin and Koray had left Hamburg in the morning to protest in Cologne against the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that members of the right-wing extremist party Pro NRW intended to display in front of a mosque. Against the will of the police, the Cologne Administrative Court had approved the display of the drawings made by the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. One of his drawings was among a series of cartoons published by Danish newspapers in 2005 that led to worldwide protests by Muslims, who were offended by the pictures. Many Muslims believe that visual depictions of Muhammad should be prohibited. Malik, Martin and Koray were furious and speechless at the judges' decision. They went to Cologne fearing that there would be injuries again, as there had been in two other nearby cities, Solingen and Bonn, a few days earlier. In those incidents, furious young men with beards and dressed in long robes, hoodies and camouflage jackets had assaulted members of Pro NRW and the police. In Bonn, they were armed with wooden slats and stones, and 29 officers were injured, including two who were hospitalized with severe stab wounds. Murat K., the suspected knife attacker, is now in custody. Police arrested a total of 109 protesters. Germany is now embroiled in a debate over violent Muslims. Politicians and federal security officials see a new form of aggression taking shape, and some are asking themselves whether radical youth invoking Islam could instigate an uprising in Germany.

'We Don't Throw Any Bombs'
The riots mostly involved Salafists, who preach a particularly rigid form of Islam and see themselves as the only true Muslims. Wolfgang Bosbach, a domestic security expert with the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), says: "Salafists want to replace the democratic constitutional order with a theocracy. That's why Salafism and democracy are simply incompatible." Uwe Schünemann (CDU), the interior minister of the northern state of Lower Saxony, agrees. He wants to curtail the right to free expression for radical Salafists. The Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest court, must examine whether the fundamental right to free expression can be restricted when it comes to "hate preachers who are aggressively and combatively challenging the German constitution," Schünemann says. If such a prohibition were imposed, Salafists would no longer be allowed to engage in political activity, and they would be barred from using the Internet to drum up their supporters to attend gatherings. Malik, Martin and Koray would not describe themselves as Salafists. Malik says that the general public equates a Salafist with a terrorist. "But we don't throw any bombs," he says. All they do, he explains, is live their lives in as Islamic a fashion as possible. This means no alcohol, no parties and no fooling around with women but, instead, leading a pious life that is pleasing in the sight of God. It also means praying five times a day, studying the Koran extensively and doing "a lot of Daawa," that is, converting "infidels" to Islam.

The Honor of Lions
The three men look tired as they sit in the car on their way home to Hamburg. The Cologne police estimate that about 300 protesters "who can be considered part of the Salafist scene" were in the vicinity of the mosque last Tuesday. They came from Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Fürth, Frankfurt and Villingen-Schwenningen, most of them young men born in the 1980s and 1990s who had arranged to meet using Facebook, email or WhatsApp instant messages on their smartphones. In many cases, their families originally come from Russia, Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt, and most of them have a German passport. Malik was under the impression that the numbers were much smaller than the police estimate, no more than three or four dozen. Days before the event, the most radical ones had called upon their fellow Salafists to come to Cologne in large numbers. The former Berlin rapper Deso Dogg, a convert to Islam whose real name is Denis Cuspert, even penned a fighting poem about "the honor of lions." He wrote to his supporters: "Anyone who is even thinking of not attending should fear Allah." Those who had not been sent back or arrested by the police en route to the DITIB Central Mosque in Cologne's Ehrenfeld district stood, like Malik, Martin and Koray, in front of the crowd-control barriers and waited. More than 1,000 police officers were deployed to prevent clashes between the Muslims and the right-wing extremists.

Bullied and Disadvantaged
The last two weeks were not a pleasant time for Malik, Martin and Koray. As Muslims who choose to live as genuine a form of Islam as possible, they already feel bullied and disadvantaged -- by passersby, teachers, fellow students, bosses and coworkers. They view the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad carrying a bomb in his turban as part of a series of humiliations that has continued for years. They would never throw stones, they say, but they are furious because they perceive the cartoons as an attack on the Prophet Muhammad and, therefore, on themselves. Malik says: "The dignity of the Prophet is more important to us than our own dignity." For this reason, he adds, they must defend themselves against this attack. They see it as their only option because they believe that no one has the right to insult their prophet, even if the perpetrators are only members of a tiny, far-right party waging an inept election campaign in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A Muslim who protests against the cartoons, they say, is serving God. Malik says: "On the Day of Judgment, perhaps the Prophet will ask: 'Where were you when the name of the Prophet was defiled?' I don't want to have to reply: 'Oh, envoy of Allah, I am one of those who looked the other way." On the day before the protest, he had found someone on the Internet who had agreed to drive them to Cologne. Martin and Koray made sandwiches for lunch, and the three of them left Hamburg early on that Tuesday morning to rescue the honor of the lions that would stand by the Prophet. Each of the three men paid €46 ($60) for the round-trip ride to Cologne.

Good Manners
The three value good manners and education. Martin is studying environmental engineering in Hamburg. His parents, devout Catholics from Poland, were not pleased when their son told them, about a year ago, that he was converting to Islam. Martin had had Muslim friends for some time. He wears his dark blonde hair in long, unruly strands. Since converting to Islam, he has gone by the name Abdul Rahman, or Servant of the All-Merciful, and he is also growing facial hair that could charitably be called a full beard. Koray, like Martin, was born in Hamburg. His parents are from Turkey. He is attending an upper-level commercial school and eventually plans to attend the university, but he doesn't know what he'll study yet. He took a day off for the trip to Cologne, although he didn't tell his teachers that he planned to protest against the cartoons. He is cautious and determined not to get in trouble with the police.

Koray and Martin have known each other since they grew up together as young boys in the eastern part of Hamburg. They have treated life more seriously since becoming Muslims. They are more mature, even though they are only 19, and they have decided that, from now on, girls, clubs and all the trappings of youth are no longer important to them. Instead, they work hard at the university and in school, because, as Koray says, it pleases Allah when his followers increase their knowledge and education. Malik's father is from Algeria, and his mother is German. He has a high-school diploma and wants to obtain the higher education entrance qualification. He is now trying to make ends meet as a self-employed financial adviser for Muslims, but because business isn't going well, he also works as a cashier at Ikea. Malik is 22 and the most eloquent of the three. He acts as their spokesman.

Keeping Emotions Under Control
Malik, Martin and Koray understand the rage of the young men of Bonn and Solingen. Malik says that he thinks it "isn't good" that rocks were thrown. On the other hand, he also doesn't feel that he has the right to express an opinion about other Muslims, even if not every Muslim always behaves in an Islamic way. "I don't judge," he says. "And I don't distance myself from anyone." Malik tends to give extravagant answers to questions, answers that quickly take him back to the 7th century. He says that Muhammad always exercised self-control, even when a man once grabbed him so roughly by the collar that it gave him welts on his neck. It is important for a Muslim to keep his inclinations under control, says Malik, including the propensity for violence. Perhaps the stone-throwers in Bonn didn't have their inclinations under control, he adds. "They were deeply offended by the cartoons." The stone-throwing and the knifings, says Malik, must be seen as actions that occurred "in the heat of passion." The police, however, believe that the Salafists brought the stones to the demonstration. Malik, like Martin and Koray, is skeptical of journalists. He says that they only want to put words in their mouths because their goal is to show how violent and brutal Islam is. The three young Muslims feel most at ease when they are with like-minded people and can calmly talk about their religion. Koray recommends watching a YouTube video of a South African preacher who offers tips on how to deal with Christian missionaries -- in other words, the "enemies" -- and quickly silence them with arguments.

Warnings of Attacks
Near the city of Gütersloh, a little less than halfway into the trip, Martin launches into a lecture about Muhammad as a historical figure. He is very knowledgeable, and yet when he talks it sounds as if he were reciting a speech in school that he had learned by heart. The conversation later turns to the question of whether a Muslim should be allowed to watch American TV series, such as "How I Met Your Mother." Martin says he liked watching the series, but that he felt that God was insulted a little too often on the program. He suggests that viewers turn off the TV whenever this happens. Not everyone who is associated with the German Salafist scene seems as harmless and peaceful as these three young men. That afternoon, in front of the mosque, after the Pro NRW supporters had left, Martin, Malik and Koray were standing around with a group of Muslims who were incensed over Chancellor Angela Merkel. How could the chancellor allow the Muhammad cartoons to be displayed in front of mosques, they asked? One of the furious ones was Abu Abdullah, who, during the Bonn protest, had already warned the chancellor about possible attacks on Germans living abroad -- unless she put an end to the anti-Islamic campaign. Reda Seyam, an Egyptian-born German, was also at the protest in Cologne. In 2002, German and American authorities suspected him of being one of the backers of the Bali bombing that killed 202 people. Federal security officials later found Islamist propaganda videos on Seyam's hard drive, as well as receipts for payments to Islamists. He also attracted attention to himself in 2006, when he named his son "Jihad," which led to a legal dispute with the interior minister of the city-state of Berlin. Seyam, who won the case, now operates an Internet-based "Islamic News and Information Center" in Berlin.

Constant Temptations
Shortly after Hanover, or about two-thirds of the way through the journey, Malik, Martin and Koray ask the driver to pull into the next rest stop. They want to pray. No stars are visible in the sky yet. While the three men use the compass on an iPhone to find southeast, the direction of Mecca, Viktor, the driver, lights a cigarette. He likes these three bearded guys, he says, and he points out how polite they are. Then he talks about a brothel on the Dutch border, a mansion with 60 girls, where a man can have fun for days. He'll be happy to give us more information, he says. Later, as the car continues along the A7 autobahn, Malik says that he can't understand why half-naked women wearing nothing more than a few bits of cloth are depicted on so many billboards. The women are being degraded into sex objects, says Malik, and if feminists are opposed to this, he is happy to agree with them. The three men see life in Germany as a constant test of their resignation to God's will and their ability to resist the temptations of Satan. Some of these temptations include sleeping late in the morning, when they are supposed to be saying their early prayers, or eating gummi bears, which are often made with gelatin derived from pork. Martin says that people his age distract themselves from the important questions in many ways. These young people, he adds, want nothing from life but pleasure, and no one wonders what the purpose of it all is. Martin, Malik and Koray believe that they have discovered that purpose for themselves, and they want others to discover it, too. The lights of Hamburg are approaching when Martin says: "Man was created to serve Allah."
© The Spiegel

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International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia

INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA MARKED GLOBALLY

Governments, organisations and individuals around the world have been marking this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia today.

17/5/2012- IDAHO falls on 17 May each year on the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s decision decategorise homosexuality as a mental disorder. The organisation points out that 1.5 billion people globally still live under regimes which criminalise gay relationships. Rainbow balloons are being released today in Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Germany and Iran, IDAHO organisers said. Last year, events taking a stand against homophobia were held in seventy countries. This year, IDAHO coordinators say activists in 95 countries around the world have planned some form of event. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “Today is an opportunity to celebrate how much progress has been made in changing attitudes towards LGB&T people. “In the UK, we are continuing to remove barriers and tackle prejudice – by toughening hate crime laws, campaigning to eradicate homophobia and transphobia in sport, supporting action against bullying in schools, and through our current consultation on how to implement equal civil marriage. “However, today it is also important to reflect on the challenges we still face, at home and abroad. We are continuing to drive change across government through our LGB&T action plan as well as pushing for more action from partners overseas.”

Location-sensitive networking app Grindr said it was sending a message to its global user database asking them to add the word IDAHO to their profile. Jessica Stern, Acting Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said it was marking three key advances in South America. The Commission wanted to mark to Argentina’s “ground-breaking” new law on gender identity, the Inter-American Court’s decision to overturn a Chilean court decision which removed Karen Atala’s children from her because she was gay and Chile’s advances on hate crime legislation, spurred on by the murder of young gay man Daniel Zamudio. The Australian Capital Territory’s Deputy Chief Minister and Sports Minister, Andrew Barr announced the creation of a two-year programme to tackle homophobia in sporting clubs. In the UK, local councils around the country were hoisting rainbow flags. Energy company E.ON, which employs 85,000 globally, was displaying them at five offices in the Midlands. Manchester Airport was welcoming guests to the UK with the multi-coloured standard, and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it would be flying the rainbow flag at its headquarters in Norwich as a show of solidarity with those suffering homophobic abuse.

Akoro Joseph Sewedo- Executive Director of The Initiative for Equal Rights in Lagos, Nigeria said: “It is quite depressing that secular states in this century will still base governance on religion rather than the constitution, which supersedes and emphasizes the secularity of modern state and their obligations to protect and promote human rights regardless of sex, age, creed, tribe and other status [sexual orientation and gender identity/expression] as stated in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights”. The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland met with the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality and called for access to civil marriage for gay couples. Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair said: “Ireland has made significant progress in tackling the legacy of discrimination towards LGBT people. In 1993 we achieved decriminalisation of gay men based on equality, followed by powerful equality legislation, comprehensive civil partnership based on marriage, and now progress towards civil marriage. Civil marriage, building on the comprehensive civil partnership legislation, is the next incremental step in achieving equality.”

British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne and International Development Minister Stephen O’Brien said: “It is sadly the case that in many countries Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people continue to suffer brutal violence and discrimination. These people are not making a political statement, or asking for special treatment, they just want to be free to be who they are and to love who they choose. “These simple demands are not Western impositions but universal human rights we should all be able to take for granted. Yet in over 70 countries consensual same-sex relations continue to be criminalised. In some, sexual relations between consenting adults are a crime punishable by the death penalty. We strongly oppose any criminalisation of same-sex relations.”
© Pink News

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UK IS 'BEST PLACE IN EUROPE' TO BE GAY

Britain's recognition of same-sex rights has earned it top place in a continent-wide league table  

13/5/2012- Britain is now the European capital of gay rights. Just days before International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the UK has emerged as the best country in the continent for gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to exercise their legal rights, according to the first study of its kind, to be published on Tuesday. Britain's recognition of civil partnerships and its anti-discrimination laws have propelled it to the top of the European International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe (ILGA-Europe) index, which rates 49 countries on more than 40 categories. Scotland played a "leading role" in the UK's success, said an ILGA-Europe spokesperson, who pointed out that hate crimes "aggravated" by gender identity are explicitly recognised by Scottish law. "The UK is among the countries where LGBTI people feel much safer and more secure," he said, adding that social and cultural attitudes were not considered in the report.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary and equalities minister, said she was "delighted" to see Britain "leading the way" and "breaking new ground". She added that the coalition's consultation on same-sex marriage, its sports charter and "the world's first transgender action plan" were part of the same project. She added: "We must not be complacent and will continue to work to make Britain a great place to live for everyone." Russia and Moldova are at the bottom of the rankings, along with Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and, perhaps more surprisingly, Macedonia. Lichtenstein, Monaco and San Marino also came near the foot of the index. ILGA-Europe noted that last year saw "great progress" in European and international legislation, particularly in the fields of asylum and protection from violence. It also observed, however, that St Petersburg became the latest Russian city to introduce regional laws criminalising the "propaganda of homosexuality". Stonewall's head of policy, Sam Dick, hailed Britain as a "beacon of equality to 400 million gay people around the world", but he added: "We must not underestimate how much work there is yet to do – not least in securing marriage equality and tackling the endemic levels of homophobic bullying in schools."

'Homophobia remains endemic in our schools; kids are still hiding'
Clare Dimyon, 47, an activist and teacher from Brighton, was appointed MBE in 2010 for promoting the rights of LGBT people in Central and Eastern Europe. Two years previously she had persuaded British embassies throughout Europe to raise the rainbow flag for the first time. She is on her way to Ukraine for the first ever Kiev Pride. "It's really nice to see Britain at the top and especially to recognise all the fantastic work the British government has done in Central and Eastern Europe. The Foreign Office has taken this issue to heart – in contrast to the Department for Education. Homophobia remains endemic in British schools; kids and teachers are still hiding. "There is great legal provision, but the weakness is that league tables are about legality and it's also about what's in people's hearts and minds. Once they recognise that a lesbian is a human being, they never go backwards."
© The Independent

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MEP LENDS MALTESE VOICE TO ANTI-HOMOPHOBIA CAMPAIGN

MEPs, European leaders tell gay youths to stay strong in 'It Gets Better' campaign.

17/5/2012- Nationalist MEP David Casa added the Maltese voice to that of dozens of MEPs and European Commission and Council leaders, to a call against homophobia in the campiag 'It Gets Better'. In Europe, growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be challenging: difference often leads to bullying, self-harm, and sometimes suicide attempts. Studies consistently point to higher physical and mental health risks for LGBT young people. For the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2012, over 50 European politicians and leaders from all EU institutions join forces telling LGBT teenagers they are working to make things better, and put an end to homophobia and transphobia.
© Malta Today

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POPULAR EUROVISION WEBSITE HACKED IN RESPONSE TO ‘PARADE OF HOMOSEXUALS’ (Azerbaijan)

A group is reportedly targeting websites related to the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan in protest at a ‘parade of homosexuals’ it believes will take place at the event.

17/5/2012- The independent Escotoday website, which publishes news about the Eurovision Song Contest, was believed to have been taken down by a denial-of-service attack today. In April, the official Eurovision website experienced a similar attack. Escotoday’s website currently redirects to their Facebook page, where a statement says: “ESCTODAY WAS HACKED, in a second thousands of hours of hard work (actually 12 years) were erased as retaliation because we support the Eurovision Song Contest, a ”gay pride” as the hacker(s) call it. We will not be stopped!!! WE WILL BE BACK.” According to Eurovision-interest site Esckaz.com, a group calling itself “The Devotees of Azerbaijan” was taking responsiblity. It said: “Ignoring its people’s honor and morals, Azerbaijan’s ruling regime is trying to spread ungodly (sinful) thoughts, and plans to arrange a parade of the homosexuals before the eurovision sound contest 2012. [sic] “For that reason, “The Devotees of Azerbaijan” group wants to cyber-attack the websites supporting this unethical act”.

Azerbaijan won the right to host the contest, reportedly known to some as the “gay world cup”, this year after Ell & Nikki won in 2011. Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 2001, LGBT people in the Muslim country are said to still suffer oppression and harassment. They cannot marry and have no legal protection against discrimination. The 2012 event was seen as an opportunity for the contest to “move towards openness” by the International Lesbian and Gay Association. Iran has reacted angrily to rumours of a gay pride parade at the event on 26 May, though there are no plans to hold such a march. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said last month: “The possible gay parade in Azerbaijan is particularly troubling for the religious establishment in Iran, given the fact that over 85% of the Azeri population follow Shiite Islam, making Azerbaijan -along with Bahrain, Iran and Iraq- one of the few countries with Shiite majority.

“A combination of religious bonds, historic ties — Azerbaijan was part of Iran till early 18th century, when Tehran lost the territory to an expanding Russian empire — and linguistic commonality — one third of Iranians speak Azeri — has sparked a national anxiety over the imminent gay parade in Baku.” Iranian Ayatollah Shabestari is reported to have said the imagined parade would have attracted “all sorts of anti-Islamic groups and perverts”.
© Pink News

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POLL: 47 PERCENT OF RUSSIANS BELIEVE THE MEDIA CAN TURN PEOPLE GAY

47 percent of Russians believe the media can turn people gay, a state-owned polling agency says.

17/5/2012- Russian polling age VTsIOM said half of those asked believed “media and propaganda” were the “key factors contributing to development of a person’s non-traditional sexual orientation”. 35 percent believed friends influenced sexual orientation, 33 percent believed parents had an effect, the state news agency said. 16 percent said a bad previous relationship with a member of the opposite sex could explain homosexuality. April’s VTsIOM poll asked 1,600 people in 138 towns and 46 regions of Russia for their view on the causes of homosexuality, calculating a margin of error at 3.4 percent. Numerous regions across Russia have ‘gay propaganda’ laws banning the promotion of homosexuality or transgender identities among minors, which activists believe silence the public voices of LGBT communities. Last month, VtsIOM said that while only 6 percent of people polled had seen gay propaganda, 86 percent supported banning it.
© Pink News

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ATTACK ON GAYS IN ST. PETERSBURG SPREADS TO MIGRANT WORKERS (Russia)

18/5/2012- Several dozen masked individuals attacked the first sanctioned gay demonstration in St. Petersburg and vented their anger on migrant workers after police drove the gays from the scene, Fontanka.ru said. St. Petersburg police also arrested one man who shot a participant in the face with a traumatic gun during the action, which was devoted to the international day against homophobia on Thursday. This was the first sanctioned gay rally in St. Petersburg since the city legislature passed a law banning gay propaganda in March. The demonstration participants gathered in Petrovsky Park, and as they released balloons into the air, onlookers behind a police cordon shouted obscenities at them and at police. Eyewitnesses said an unidentified person suddenly fired a rubber bullet into the face of a demonstration participant, who is now in hospital. Police moved quickly and placed all the gays on a bus, which then drove off.

The frustrated homophobes attacked another bus stopped at a traffic light that they mistook for the departed vehicle. But the bus was carrying migrant workers from Central Asia. The attackers hurled stones at the bus and somebody tossed smoke bombs on the road in front of it. They also broke windows and started beating the passengers.  There were no police in the area during the bus attack. Police said later they were accompanying the bus with the gay activists. The press service of the St. Petersburg police also said later that there had been no injuries or damage reported in the bus attack. Presumably, the bus owners, a city company, decided not to seek damages in court in order to keep the incident out of the limelight.

Meanwhile, authorities in Moscow refused to sanction a gay meeting in the capital devoted to parliamentary hearings of a law to ban gay propaganda like in St. Petersburg, said Oleg Oleinik, first deputy chief of the Moscow regional security department. "We have received a request for the action and... have decided to turn it down," Oleinik said. The website for gay rights activists earlier cited their intention to hold a gay pride parade regardless of the city authorities' decision.
© RIA Novosti

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NEO-NAZIS ATTACK GAY ACTIVISTS IN ST.PETERSBURG (Russia)

Several gay rights activists have suffered injuries after being assaulted during and after a chaotic demonstration in St.Petersburg

17/5/2012- Dozens gathered in a city center park to mark International Day Against Homophobia. City authorities had sanctioned the demonstration, and a police unit shielded participants as they chanted slogans and gave out balloons to passers-by. A larger crowd of anti-gay protesters, some wielding Orthodox crosses, repeatedly shouted death threats, and attempted to break the cordon. Eventually, one man struggled past the police and sprayed mace at one of the demonstrators, who lay prone for several minutes until paramedics arrived. Afraid the police would not be able to keep the peace, the activists wrapped up the event within minutes. Police escorted the participants onto buses, but the convoy had only traveled several streets when a large group of shaven-headed men sporting football and neo-Nazi attire blocked their path.

The assailants threw several smoke grenades at the buses, before rushing them. They broke the windows with rocks and clubs and climbed inside, punching and kicking the activists. Police officers intervened and the drivers managed to get away. The attackers then re-directed their anger at a nearby bus of migrant workers. Witnesses reported that gunshots, possibly from non-lethal weapons, were heard. At least two gay activists have been hospitalized with injuries, though the final toll is not clear, and authorities have released no figures.

St.Petersburg recently became a flashpoint in the gay rights conflict after the local assembly passed a law prescribing fines for “homosexual propaganda aimed at minors.” Its opponents say the vague wording of the law means it can be used to criminalize any public gay events. “The violence is a confirmation that the anti-gay legislation is emboldening homophobes who feel free to vent their anger at homosexuals” says a press release from LGBT group Vykhod, which organized the demonstration.
© RT

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FEW RIGHTS IN CYPRUS FOR LGBTS

Cyprus has proven to be close to the bottom of the list once again in rights for LGBT individuals (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender), according to the latest statistics.

16/5/2012- ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Map for 2012 puts Cyprus on the same rung as Latvia and Georgia in terms of laws that ensure the rights of these individuals. The association for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex rated 49 European countries. Worse than Cyprus were countries such as Turkey, Russia and Belarus. The statistics were presented yesterday during a news conference by Cyprus association for LGBT individuals Accept-LGBT to mark International Day Against Homophobia tomorrow, with this year’s campaign being ‘Voices against Homophobia’. “Homophobia in Cyprus dominates many areas such as the media, schools and family,” said Giorgis Renginos, spokesman for Accept-LGBT. According to a survey carried out by Accept-LGBT and the Cyprus Family Planning Association, around 47 per cent of LGBT individuals in Cyprus suffer psychological violence and in around eight per cent it happens repeatedly, with around 15 per cent suffering some kind of physical attack.
© The Cyprus Mail

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SHORT FILM ‘HOMOPHOBIA’ MADE AVAILABLE FREE ONLINE AHEAD OF IDAHO (Austria)

A short film set in the Austrian army has been released free online ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia tomorrow.

16/5/2012- ‘Homophobia’, follows Michael, a young soldier in the Austrian Military Forces, whose struggles to suppress sexual feelings for a comrade and manage the stigma associated with homosexuality. During the pair’s final night on watch at the border between Austria and Hungary, armed with guns to prevent illegal crossings, Michael’s latent feelings reach the surface. The 22-minute film was partly financed through crowd funding, raising $10,000. The crowd funders were also able to take part in the project online. Decisions about the script and cast were presented for discussion in a hidden Facebook group before being finalised. Released ahead of IDAHO on 17 May, the film aims to portray fear of the unknown as the reason behind homophobia. Gregor Schmidinger, the director of Homophobia said: “Laws can prevent people from doing crimes, but they don’t change people’s thinking. Art can touch people on an emotional level and therefore really make an impact. “People often connect homophobia with hate, but it’s really about fear. It’s the fear of the unknown and sometimes of the unknown within ourselves. With Homophobia I want to portray this conflict and provide people with new perspectives on an empathetic level.” Homophobia premièred in Vienna last week.
© Pink News

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FORMER MINISTER COMPARES GAYS TO SLUGS (Denmark)

Despite the government's pledge to legalise gay marriage this summer, opposition both inside and outside the church remains strong 

16/5/2012- The government’s proposal to legalise gay marriage has been met with fierce objection from both members of the Church of Denmark and politicians. At a public hearing on Monday in parliament held by the Social Affairs Committee, the former church minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech (Venstre) made her view against the law clearly heard. "Aside from slugs and a few other species, the living world is made up of 'him' and 'her' and that is why the world is able to keep on going,” she said. The statement drew widespread criticism. The openly gay culture minister, Uffe Elbæk (Radikale) posted the quote on his Facebook wall, followed by: “Try reading that quote again.” Klaus Bondam, head of the the Danish Cultural Institute, wrote: ”Thanks for reminding us of the frightening homophobia that is still present beneath the surface of Denmark’s rosy image.” Neither Elbæk nor Hornbech, who served as both the integration and church minister from 2007-11, responded to tabloid B.T.’s request to comment further, though Rønn’s statement is an indication that the government’s plan to legalise gay marriage on June 15 is not supported by all.

At the public hearing on Monday, it became clear that the Church of Denmark remained deeply split over whether to allow gay marriage. “Our understanding of relationships and sexuality in 2012 is different than what was understood by nomads in Palestine 2,000 years ago, or even during the time of Luther,” Roskilde’s bishop, Peter Fischer-Møller, said during the hearing. But Helsingør's bishop, Lise-Lotte Rebel, disagreed. “Parliament is forcing the Church of Denmark to adopt an understanding of marriage that is contrary to its widespread understanding in the church,” Rebel said. “Parliament should not make the decisions on which theological understanding of marriage is the correct one.” According to Information newspaper, homosexual couples will not necessarily be able to get married in churches even if the government passes the law to legalise gay marriage, as no ritual currently exists that can legally bind a gay couple in marriage during a church ceremony. Three out of Denmark’s 13 bishops have agreed to create such a ritual however.

The church’s attitude toward homosexuals was also highlighted in another case this week when a priest in Aalborg apologized after refusing to bury a 74-year-old woman who had a homosexual relationship with another woman for thirty years before her death two weeks ago.
© The Copenhagen Post

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MP: LET'S CHASE GAYS AND AMBASSADORS OUT OF LITHUANIA

Lithuanian MP Petras Graţulis, who has earned notoriety for his homophobic statements and a police record for his behavior during a Gay Pride event in Vilnius in 2010, has made another stunt right in the Parliament building.

16/5/2012- On Wednesday, Graţulis turned up at a press conference – attended by LGBT rights advocates and foreign ambassadors – and burst out with comments on necrophiliacs and zoophiles, insults at foreign ambassadors, and declarations that all gay people should leave the country. The press conference was held on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). It was organized by Marija Aušrinë Pavilionienë, social democratic MP, and Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), LGBT-rights NGO. It was attended, among others, by Dutch ambassador Kornel Willem Spaans, US Embassy Policy and Economics Department head John Finkbeiner, Amnesty International representative Helle Jacobsen. Guests at the conference made statements about the importance of human rights, drawing attention to particular problems faced by the Lithuanian LGBT community. Even though Lithuania is often criticized as a homophobic country, the Dutch ambassador said Lithuanians were very polite and nice people.

However, this was more than challenged by Petras Graţulis, member of the Order and Justice Party, who was sitting among reporters and started making irreverent comments even before Pavilionienë finished speaking. “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or paedophiles?” he exclaimed. “I'm ashamed that the rotten West, coming from the European Union that is morally corrupted, propagates this to Lithuania and tells us how we should treat homosexuals. Gays should leave Lithuania, not dictate their terms to us.” Graţulis ignored his colleague Pavilionienë's pleas to leave the room and stop disturbing the event. She could only make apologies to foreign diplomats. “I am not surprised at all,” says LGL leader Vladimiras Simonko. “The same thing happened in 2010, it happens in 2012, except that this time he does it among honorable guests, 11 ambassadors. I have no doubts that the circus will be repeated in 2013. This adds no credit to the Parliament. I'm ashamed to have such bigoted MPs.” He adds that Graţulis was using the homosexuality card to boost his popularity with voters.

Meanwhile, Graţulis himself says he objects to such conferences being held in the Parliament building, with the approval of “the leadership of the Parliament and Christian Democrats.” “There's some sort of homosexual week going on. They have moved to Lithuania, they march on the Gedimino avenue and now even show off their sexual perversions in the Parliament. Where is the Parliament Speaker [Irena Degutienë], that great Christian Democrat, looking?” the politician fumed. He was particularly appalled that “homosexuality is presented to the youth as a commendable phenomenon. All nations and empires fell because of this moral rottenness, Sodom and Gomorrah.” “It won't be long before kleptomaniacs, drug addicts, necrophiliacs, or zoophiles start organizing their press conferences in the Parliament. There are many kinds of devildom – shall we give rights to them all? Could we have thought 10 years ago that things like that would be happening? In 10 years, they'll be bringing goats to the Parliament,” Graţulis prophesied.

After being told that everyone is entitled to their opinions, except that these should be expressed more politely, the MP retorted: “We are too polite with them as it is. We should chase all the ambassadors out of Lithuania. What are they teaching us? Take them to the countryside, to see how ordinary people live. No one has made any complaints that the people are being exploited, that they can hardly make ends meet. Don't let them interfere in our domestic affairs.”
© 15 Min

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UN HIGH COMMISSIONER SPEAKS OUT ON HUMAN RIGHTS FOR LGBT PEOPLE AHEAD OF IDAHO

The UN’s human rights office has released a video of High Commissioner Navi Pillay speaking on the human rights of LGBT people around the world ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on Thursday 17 May.

15/5/2012- The two-minute video features Ms Pillay talking about the human cost of homophobia and mixes footage of her in studio with images and music to drive home the message that everyone is entitled to the same rights, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity. Ms Pillay says: “We cannot let these abuses stand. Punish violence and hatred, not love.” The video follows the first UN resolution on the rights of LGBT people in June 2011, the release of first official UN report in December 2011 and the organization of the United Nations’ first formal debate on the issue at the Human Rights Council in March 2012. “This is an historic moment,” Ms. Pillay says, “more and more States recognize the need for action and are speaking up – including here at the United Nations.”
© Pink News

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WHY IS MAY 17 INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA & TRANSPHOBIA?

The Background to IDAHOT
The International Day Against Homophobia, taking inspiration from fledgling national events, was created in August 2004 by Lois-Georges Tin, a French university lecturer and equal rights campaigner. The event was designed to create a global day of action against homophobia and to raise awareness for the cause of LGBT rights. May 17 was chosen for this day in order to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. According to the IDAHO website, the first small IDAHO events were organized in places like China and Bulgaria.

Who Supports International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia?
Following a year-long campaign, IDAHO supporters were able by May 17, 2005, to have recruited international organizations like the ILGA and the IGLHRC to join the IDAHO appeal, and thus IDAHO became an internationally recognized global event. Since that time world leaders have also adopted the event, from prominent voices in the EU to the head of the United Nations. Notably, Josepp Borrell, President of the European Parliament, made a statement supporting IDAHO in 2006. IDAHO is supported by several Nobel Prize winners, including Desmond Tutu and Dario Fo; notable intellectuals including Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler; and many high profiled entertainers including Meryl Streep, Cyndi Lauper and David Bowei.

IDAHO and Trans Rights
In 2009 the IDAHO campaign focused on transphobia and the violence and discrimination trans people face. From that time on trans rights were explicitly mentioned and the day became known as “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia” (IDAHOT). From this a new drive was created, and one that is supported by more than 300 NGOs from 75 countries, to remove transgender status from the World Health Organization’s official list of mental disorders. On the eve of the 2009 IDAHO day, French ministers revealed that by April of 2010 they would officially remove transexualism from the country’s diagnostic list of mental illnesses. This made France the first country to take such a step.

IDAHOT: Giving a Voice to the Voiceless
In essence, IDAHOT is a chance to magnify LGBT voices from around the globe and to come together to speak as one to call for an end to discrimination, violence and prejudice. And the need to do this remains urgent. In 86 countries homosexual consensual acts are illegal, while in 7 of those countries LGBTs may face the death penalty because of their sexuality or gender identity.

This is IDAHOT
© Care 2

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Headlines 11 May, 2012

ROW IN HUNGARY OVER FAR-RIGHT POLITICIAN'S JEWISH JIBE

11/5/2012- Israel's envoy in Hungary has cancelled a scheduled visit to the northern town of Eger to protest against allegedly antisemitic comments made by a local politician and directed at a Jewish actor. The Eger council member, who is part of the right-wing Fidesz party, is reported to have called national film star Jozsef Szekhelyi a "filthy Jew" who sympathises with left-wing politics. The comments, during a Tourism and Culture Commission meeting that took place last September, were caught on tape but were only disclosed earlier this month. The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, Mazsihisz, submitted an official police complaint following the disclosure. "Eger would not be what it is today without Jews," responded the town's mayor, Laszlo Habis. "I would like ambassador Ilan Mor to get to know us and see that there is no discrimination in Eger," said Mr Habis. The Budapest Jewish community is understood to be planning to stage a solidarity event to support Mr Szekhelyi on Sunday.
© The Jewish Chronicle

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RIGHTISTS HANG MANNEQUINS TO PROTEST 'ECONOMIC SUICIDES' (Italy)

11/5/2012- A far-right Italian political party has hanged dozens of life-sized mannequins from bridges in Rome to protest reforms implemented by Italian's unelected prime minister, Mario Monti. Monti, the European Central Bank and their political supporters "are making Italians commit suicide," said a statement by the Rome branch's leader of the La Destra (The Right), Giuliano Castellino. A spate of suicides in Italy have been blamed on economic desperation as businesses close and workers lose jobs amid Italy's fourth recession in 11 years. Dozens of Italians have killed themselves at an average of one a day, according to Eures, an economic and social think-tank. An unemployed plumber in Sicily died Friday after setting himself on fire in his car, and a businessman in the southern Puglia region hanged himself from a tree. On Thursday, police cut down the lifeless body of an out-of-work middle-aged man dangling from a tree in woods near the Tuscan town of Prato.

Since their emergency appointment in November amid a debt crisis that toppled Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, Monti and his government of so-called technocrats have raised taxes, made it more difficult for workers to retire, launched a war on tax invasion and forced opened protected sectors to more encourage more competition. "The numerous suicides are like data from a daily war bulletin, caused by the economic crisis and economic politics, taxes and the cancellation of rights all implemented by this unelected government and imposed Europe," Castellino said.
© Adnkronos

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OPEN LETTER TO MR. JOSE MANUEL BARROSO, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (ENAR)

Is the Golden Dawn party in Greece a neo-Nazi party? It is definitely on the far right, but that’s not the main point…
Brussels 11/5/2012


Dear President Barroso,

We are writing to you in response to your statement at a European Commission press conference on 8 May that "we have to define what a neo-Nazi party is and look at national legislation on the issue”, when asked about the high vote percentage gathered by Greece's far-right party Golden Dawn/Chrysi Avgi.

A number of elements of the Golden Dawn party undoubtedly place it on the far right of the political spectrum and are in blatant violation of fundamental rights:

1. Members of Golden Dawn are regularly linked to racist attacks on immigrants and ethnic minorities, as well as attacks on political opponents. A member of Golden Dawn is currently on trial for attacking three Afghan immigrants in September 2010. On 16 November 2010, during the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha, local residents and members of Chrysi Avgi tried to stop the believers from praying in a local square. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, racially motivated attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers have become an almost daily occurrence in Athens.

2. The party’s political programme includes several proposals that contravene fundamental rights, including:
- the immediate expulsion of all ‘illegal’ migrants, to be followed by legal migrants;
- the introduction of border minefields to prevent incoming immigrants and zero tolerance to dissidents who should be treated as "traitors";
- the reinstatement of the death penalty for drug dealing;
- a ban of trade unions.

3. Golden Dawn's Youth Front has distributed fliers with nationalist messages in Athens’ schools and organised white power concerts. It publishes the white nationalist magazine Resistance Hellas-Antepithesi, which promotes National Socialism to young people through articles on music and sports.

These are clearly sufficient elements to forcefully condemn this party as violating the values and fundamental rights enshrined in the European Union Treaties. However, beyond these violations, the real issue at stake is the context in which such a party moved from being a marginal far right group to garnering 7% of the votes in the Greek elections last Sunday. Indeed, the economic policies put in place by the European Commission and EU Member States and the IMF bear a clear and direct responsibility in the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece and similar far right parties in other European countries. Unjust austerity measures have helped such parties gain ground.

We therefore call on you, as President of the European Commission, and on European Heads of state and government, to make real the commitment to inclusive growth and jobs made in the Europe 2020 Strategy. European citizens and residents need progressive alternatives to austerity measures. It should not be the vulnerable persons in society who pay the bill of the financial and sovereign debt crises generated by financial institutions and lack of oversight by political leaders and decision makers.

Yours sincerely,

Chibo Onyeji, ENAR President   Adla Shashati, ENAR Board member for Greece
© EUropean Network Against Racism

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YLE EXPOSES FINNS PARTY'S ANTI-ISLAMIC TIES

Anti-Islamic, far-right factions in Finland are well-connected, with influence reaching into the chambers of Finnish parliament, finds Yle's Swedish-language investigative programme Spotlight.

10/5/2012- Finnish Defense Leaguen Mimosa DeDanann eli Mimosa Koiranen pitää puhetta auton katolla. The programme links several Finns Party members to the Finnish Defence League (FDL), a Finnish chapter of a far-right street movement in the UK which claims to protest against "militant Islam." Reporters found that several local Finns Party politicians have been active on the FDL’s website. Spotlight’s investigative journalists discovered that the Finns Party has expelled one of its members active in the FDL to prevent negative publicity. Tampere University researcher Jussi Jalonen says that Islamophobia is also rife among Finns Party members involved with the nationalistic Suomen Sisu association, which calls for "separate but equal" treatment of cultures and races "blurred by multiculturalism." Last week, the Finns Party appointed the chair and founder of the immigration-critical chat room Hommaforum to head its paper and online site. This new editor-in-chief has also been associated with Suomen Sisu. Finns Party MP Olli Immonen meanwhile says he does not see a problem with criticising Islam, stating that "Islamisation is one of the most significant challenges facing western culture."
© YLE News

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COMEDIAN'S MONTREAL SHOWS CANCELLED AFTER 'ANTI-SEMITIC' CONCERNS (Canada)

Jewish groups protested appearance by Dieudonné M'bala M'bala 
 
11/5/2012- Four shows by controversial French comic Dieudonné M'bala M'bala booked for Montreal next week have been cancelled after Jewish groups expressed concern over his reputation for performing anti-Semitic material. Earlier this week, one of his shows in Belgium was interrupted by national police and eventually scrapped. Last year, the French town of Angers blocked his performance at a local auditorium, and he has been convicted of racial defamation in France. Belgian authorities are investigating whether to lay charges for inciting racial hatred and xenophobia stemming from a performance in March. In Montreal, Dieudonné was scheduled for four performances at the Corona Theatre starting May 14 in a booking by the city's biggest entertainment promoter, Evenko. Luciano Del Negro from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs wrote to Evenko protesting Dieudonné‘s Montreal appearances. "He is no longer funny, particularly given his anti-Semitic vitriol and his racist outbursts,” Del Negro told CBC News.

Event planners won't handle him
On Friday, the Corona Theatre sent out a release saying it had cancelled the shows "due to contractual conflicts." Ticket holders can obtain refunds, the release said. Del Negro says Evenko promised to be more sensitve in the future about whom it books. “The company has put into place a protocol to ensure greater scrutiny of the people requesting the use of their venues,” Del Negro said. When Dieudonné was in Montreal in 2004 during Just For Laughs, Jewish groups protested his show. Dieudonné’s current show, titled Rendez-nous Jésus (Give us back Jesus), has been criticized in France because it features Holocaust denial, slurs against the Talmud and praise for Hitler. In France, he has to book his shows into smaller venues because established event planners won’t handle him. The comic is also promoting his feature film, which was released earlier this year. L’Antisémite was produced with French and Iranian money.
© CBC News

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SARKOZY ALLIES MULL RISKY ENTENTE WITH FAR RIGHT (France)

With France's Socialist Party tipped to wrestle away their parliamentary majority in June, the party of outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy, the Union for a Popular Movement, has some lawmakers contemplating a taboo liaison with the far right

10/5/2012- Faced with the likelihood of losing its majority in next month’s parliamentary elections, France’s centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) is being forced to do some soul-searching. Still stinging from defeat in Sunday’s presidential poll, many UMP lawmakers will likely have to make a difficult choice between honouring the established tradition of blocking the far-right in elections and the threat of losing their seats in parliament. France’s political left is brimming with enthusiasm after Socialist Party candidate François Hollande won the May 6 presidential runoff in a tight and bitter race against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Opinion surveys say Socialists should also easily win control of parliament’s lower-house National Assembly next month. According to a voter intention survey this week by French polling firm BVA, the Socialist Party and its allies on the left are on pace to win 46 percent of ballots on June 10. That score compared to 33 percent support for UMP candidates and 17 percent for the surging far-right National Front (FN) party, BVA said. Sarkozy, who plans to quit politics when he steps down on May 15, took a risk by adopting the far-right’s hardline rhetoric on EU borders, security and immigration during his campaign. While he failed to pick up enough far-right voters to win re-election, he managed to scare off centrist leader François Bayrou and other moderates. That has left UMP members with little room to block a left-wing takeover of parliament, other than turning to the FN.

Respecting tradition
In an interview with the conservative French magazine Valeurs actuelles, published on Thursday, FN leader Marine Le Pen said she was not closed to discussing election agreements with local UMP candidates. While the FN candidate said no alliance with the UMP was possible on the national level, she said “specific cases” would be considered. For many standing UMP parliamentarians, cutting a deal with the FN could be the only chance of keeping their jobs. According to right-wing daily Le Figaro, 115 conservative lawmakers, nearly half of the UMP members in parliament, face a serious risk of losing their seat. However, under former UMP leader Jacques Chirac in the 1990s and 2000s, the party adopted a policy of strictly rejecting agreements with the FN that would legitimise the far-right party. Jean-Yves Camus, a French researcher and expert on the far right, said isolated agreements between the right and far right have nevertheless existed. In mayoral elections in 1983 and regional elections in 1998, the far right succeeded in forging local alliances with the Rally for the Republic (RPR), the party that was transformed into the UMP in 2002. “All of the people that decided to ally themselves were sanctioned by the party bosses, but the taboo was already broken,” explained Camus. In what is largely being interpreted as a response to Le Pen’s comments, UMP party chief Jean-François Copé has called the party’s candidates into line, telling them “there will be no electoral alliances nor discussions with the FN leadership.” In an interview with Figaro Magazine on May 10, Copé warned that UMP candidates who transgressed would “face all the consequences at the national level”.

Pragmatism or ideology?
Despite Cope’s warning, the question of whether to open to the far right continues to haunt the UMP. French Defence Minister Gérard Longuet began to breach the closed door last week when he told RFI radio that Le Pen was “someone the [UMP] could speak to”. And on Thursday, conservative MP Jean-Paul Garraud was forced to explain himself over a memo he wrote after Sarkozy’s defeat: “A majority of voters from the UMP and the FN favour agreements. What is more important for France? Only this question must guide us. Should we be pragmatic or remain stuck in ideological holes?” penned Garraud, a representative from the south-west Gironde department. Copé has perhaps wider concerns when he continues to tow the party line. While the FN’s image has recently softened, a majority of French voters remain wary of the anti-immigration party. According to an opinion poll by Viavoice this week, 62 percent of respondents said they disapproved of electoral accords between the UMP and FN. Finding an answer to the FN question could prove crucial, not just for outcome of the parliamentary poll but also for the long-term future of the UMP. In an interview with AFP news agency, Brigitte Baréges, another conservative MP, has gone as far as evoking a split within the party. “For now, the UMP is holding to the idea that as long as we are facing the parliamentary polls we stay together… After, we’ll see. We’ll do head count and based on that maybe we can talk about how our party works,” said Baréges. The possibility of a UMP “implosion” has been on the lips of observers in the French media for weeks. Should they drop the reigns of parliament, and clash to determine who will take over after Sarkozy, that prospect seems all the more likely.
© France 24.

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DEATH AND DEPORTATION IN HOLLAND

An asylum seeking father’s suicide in Holland for the sake of his children has highlighted the growing local-national divide over the deportation of children.

10/5/2012- On 9 April 2012, Alain Hatungimana, a 36-year-old Burundian facing deportation with his two children, took his own life in a desperate attempt to prevent his children’s removal. Fourteen-year-old Abdillah and 12-year-old Maimuna, who had arrived with their father five years ago, had already lost their mother in the civil war between Hutus and Tutsis. Friends said Hatungimana was depressed and fearful for his and his children’s future.[1]

It was the second suicide in Holland in four months: on 28 December, a mentally ill 41-year-old Sri Lankan asylum seeker killed himself at Schipol airport’s reception centre after his application to stay was refused.[2] Research by the Mental Health Department of the Association of Community Health Services reveals that 40 asylum seekers took their own lives between 2002 and 2010. Another 290 attempted suicide. The inhumanity of the long-drawn-out asylum process in the Netherlands, during which no work is permitted, frequently causes depression and anxiety to already traumatised people, according to a spokesman for the Burundian community in the Netherlands. Psychiatrist Kees Laban said that asylum seekers are difficult to treat because they have so few prospects. ‘Hope is very much tied up with things like being seen and heard and being part of society.’[3]

In the concern for his children’s future which apparently drove him, Hatungimana’s death echoes that of Manuel Bravo, an Angolan asylum seeker who hanged himself in the notorious Yarl’s Wood removal centre on the eve of his deportation in September 2005. Bravo, who had settled in Leeds where he attended the local church, was arrested for deportation with his 13-year-old son Antonio, for whom he left a note urging him to ‘be brave, work hard and do well at school’. In the aftermath of his death, a project was set up in Leeds, the Manuel Bravo project, to provide asylum seekers with free legal assistance, as Bravo had been forced to represent himself on his asylum appeal in 2002 for want of legal representation.[4]

Conflict over allowing children to stay
Hatungimana’s suicide also revealed the growing gulf between local and central government in their response to children of asylum seeking families. The Culemborg local authority, where the Hatungimanas lived, adopted a supportive attitude to the family; in August 2011 it had asked immigration minister Gerd Leers to exercise his discretion to allow the family to remain in the Netherlands, but its plea was rejected despite their integration into the community. Following the death, the local council has said it will ‘do everything possible to keep the children’ in the country, while teachers from the local school attended Mr Hatungimana’s funeral.

The local authority’s approach in the Hatungimana case mirrors that of over 145 local authorities, including those of the Netherlands’ biggest cities Amsterdam and Utrecht, which have supported a petition proposing that asylum seeking children are allowed to stay in the country after eight years in the process (five years for children in the Netherlands without parents or relatives).[5] The petition, launched by Green Left MP Tofik Dibi in December and signed by around 120,000 people by March 2012, follows a Bill introduced in October 2011 by the Labour Party and the Christian Union. The Bill was doomed to fail through the opposition of Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party and the Council of State’s denunciation of it as ‘unfair’ in February 2012.[6] A number of controversial deportation decisions led to the Bill and the support for the petition among local authorities. They included Saher, the 14-year-old Afghan girl who had spent ten years in the asylum process, spoke perfect Dutch and had become a strong supporter of the Dutch national football team, and Mauro Manuel, the 18-year-old Angolan boy who arrived as an unaccompanied asylum seeker when he was 10. After widespread publicity and anger at the proposed deportation both teenagers received last-minute reprieves.

Stand-off
But the row between central and local government goes further than the treatment of children. Increasingly, local authorities are looking askance at central government’s tough stance on undocumented migrants and refused asylum seekers. Local authorities reacted with anger to the immigration minister’s decision to impose a quota on police to encourage them to round up more undocumented migrants, and in March the mayors of 17 cities expressed their unwillingness to cooperate with the quota, set at 4,800 for the year.[7] At the beginning of April, around 40 mayors, representing the areas where reception and removal centres are located, wrote to the immigration minister saying they would not cooperate with deportations if there was a risk to public order. When minister Gerd Leers said that police must follow his orders, they responded that the police are answerable to local authorities, not to the immigration minister.  

‘Municipalities, organisations and citizens are raising the alarm about asylum policies more and more often’, said Sharon Gesthuizen (Socialist Party MP). Together with Christian Union MP Joel Voordwind, she believes that minister Leers should listen far more to the mayors when it comes to deciding whether or not deportation should take place. The collapse of the Dutch government as the Freedom Party withdrew its support for the minority administration in April perhaps gives these local authorities a chance to lead public opinion in stopping deportations. They will need all their courage, as Wilders’ Freedom Party cranks up the xenophobic, anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric for the September elections.

[1] Radio Netherlands Worldwide 12, 13 April 2012. [2] Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 21 January 2012[3] Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 13 April 2012[4] IRR News, 21 September 200518 May 2006[5] Dutchnews.nl, 6 February 2012[6] Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 25 October 2011[7] Dutchnews, 25 March 2012.
© The Institute of Race Relations

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BELGIAN PM WARNS OF RISING ANTI-SEMITISM AND EXTREMISM

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo warned against rising anti-Semitism and extremism in times of economic crisis, during a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, in front of a crowd of 1,000 students from across Europe.

9/5/2012- As part of an international memorial ceremony on Tuesday at the Birkenau camp, to commemorate Nazi Germany’s surrender on 8th May 1945, Di Rupo recalled the 1930s "when an economic crisis threatened German society." "Today, we are confronted by a new economic crisis and the threat continues," stressed the Belgian premier, alluding to the rise of extremist parties in Europe. For Mr Di Rupo, who was accompanied by an Auschwitz survivor and Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, "it is unacceptable that people feel unable to be themselves for fear of attack as a result of their origin, the colour of their skin, or their faith." "The youth are often at the root of change for a better future," he added, inviting the student attendees to commit "everywhere and always" to fighting extremism and to educate others of the crimes it perpetuates.

Belgium is currently in charge of the Presidency of the international Taskforce for the Memory of the Shoah. The Committee for the Coordination of Jewish Organisations in Belgium (CCOJB) has welcomed the initiative of a train bringing the 1,000 students to the Auschwitz commemoration. "This date, the 8th May, commemorates the end of the WWII, the Allied victory over the Nazi regime and for the Jewish people, the end of horror and the start of a resurrectio," CCOJB said in a statement. "Today represents a symbol of the return to humanity and to freedom. The relevant education ministers have made concerted efforts to prevent Holocaust denial which has already caused significant damage and continues to do so."
© EJP News

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THE EGAM CALLS FOR THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS TO BAN ANY APOLOGY OF NAZISM (press release)

9/5/2012- Today, as we celebrate Europe after having commemorated the victory of Freedom over Nazism yesterday, it is terrifying to observe the resurgence of National Socialism on our continent. The Greek party « Golden Dawn » is indeed entering Parliament after Sunday’s General Elections. Its symbols – the Hitlerian Salute used by its members, as its logo, a copy of a swastika, are those of the Nazi Party. Its methods – combination of legal and illegal actions, racist attacks, physic ntimidations, threats against journalists etc. - are those of the Nazi Party. Its ideology – with « Mein Kampf » as their reference, structured on racial antisemistism and the theory of racial inequality- is that of Nazism. This resurgence of the ideology that led to the WW2 and the Shoah is terrifying, especially since Greece is not an isolated case.

Indeed, in March, ex Latvian Waffen SS soldiers demonstrated in Riga. On this occasion, they were celebrated as heroes by a consequent part of the population and supported by the President of the Republic himself. In Hungary, the Jobbik, which has a permeating influence on the ruling Fidesz and has entered both the National and the European Parliaments, multiplies references to Nazism to which the Hungary of Amiral Horthy was allied. The murderous “Hungarian Guard” also uses the same codes as the “Arrow Cross Party” : same clothes, same salute, same racist attacks… In Austria, the Pan-German Far Right, which is antisemitic and nostalgic of the IIIrd Reich, is front-runner for the next General Elections and has the clearly stated objective to cancel the ban on apology of Nazism. 

Benjamin Abtan, President of EGAM : “There is no room for the Nazi Ideology in a Europe that has been built against antisemitism and racism and for the Equality among its inhabitants. Any apology of Nazism must be banned in Europe. The European institutions, notably the European Commission, must act in that sense and do so in an urgent and clear way. It is equally urgent for the European Parliament to vote with a large majority a Written Declaration banning apology of Nazism. We will resolutely commit ourselves in this direction in the next few days.”
© European Grassroots Antiracist Movement

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GERMANY SEES INCREASE IN CRIMES WITH POLITICAL OR RACIST MOTIVES

11/5/2012- Politically motivated violent crimes in Germany increased by nearly 18 percent in 2011, a year in which two U.S. airmen were killed by an Islamist extremist and a neo-Nazi cell identified as carrying out a series of previously unsolved murders of immigrants was uncovered. Numbers released by the Interior Ministry on Friday showed an 11.2 percent overall increase to 30,216 of crimes carried out for political or ideological reasons across the country. More than 70 percent of the crimes involved groups on the extreme left or extreme right, and many were acts of vandalism during regional elections in several states last year. While the circulation of illegal propaganda, which includes all printed material associated with the Nazis, remained the most common politically motivated crime, the number of racially motivated attacks grew by more than 16 percent.

Leading opposition members called for stronger government reaction against far-right extremists, who many say have slipped away from the scrutiny of security officials who are concentrated on threats from Islamists and the left spectrum. “How horrifyingly high the level of violence is in the far-right scene is only now being realized,” Michael Hartmann, a security expert with the main opposition Social Democrats, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. A 14.8 percent jump in attacks against the police during demonstrations was also recorded. The head of the country’s police union called on the government to take stronger action against those who attack officers during demonstrations. “It is no longer enough to simply distance ourselves from violence,” said Bernhard Witthaut. A bright spot in the statistics was a 2.3 percent drop in the number of anti-Semitic attacks, which decreased for the second consecutive year.
© The New York Times

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THE MIGRANT-BACKGROUND VOTE IN GERMAN STATE ELECTIONS

Ahead of balloting in Germany's most populous state, candidates are trying to reach out to the many residents of migrant background. With 2 million such people eligible to vote, they could tip the scales.

9/5/2012- Voters go to the polls Sunday to elect a new state government in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The state's previous minority government of Social Democrats (SPD ) and Greens collapsed in March after failing to win parliamentary backing for its 2012 budget. That made a snap election necessary. By the time polls close Sunday evening, the migrant-background vote could prove to be the decisive factor. North Rhine-Westphalia has about 4 million inhabitants with a migrant background. More than 2 million of them are eligible to vote, making up 15 percent of the state's electorate.

Left out and left-leaning 
Opinion polls have indicated that Turkish migrants in NRW clearly favor the Social Democrats. A 2010 survey by the Center for Turkish Studies and Integration Research (known by the German acronym ZfTI) at Duisburg-Essen University showed 37 percent of migrants with Turkish roots would vote for the SPD, 20 percent for the environmental Green Party, and a mere 4 percent for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). The study also showed less than one percent of the same group favoring the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), the junior partner in Merkel's government. Tayfun Keltek, head of NRW's integration council, told DW that this preference for the SPD and Greens makes sense. "These two parties integrated many of the demands people with Turkish roots have into their party programs," he said. "They stand up for Turkish interests." The SPD and the Green Party both advocate dual citizenship for Turks and the right to vote in local polls. They also take a more favorable stance onTurkish membership in the European Union than the CDU or FDP, who, according to Keltek, "are fighting against Turkish accession."

Different kinds of migrants
Researchers have closely followed Turkish migrants' political party preferences for about 10 years. In NRW, researchers have noted a stable trend in favor of the SPD and the Green Party. The SPD has received 40 to 50 percent approval ratings from Turkish migrants, while the Green Party's rating has ranged between 1 and 20 percent. Meanwhile, the Left Party has reached a level of 8 percent approval with the same group. Ethnic Germans whose families lived in eastern and southeastern Europe for generations, but who have moved to Germany, show different voting trends. They tend to favor the country's conservative parties. Members of this group receive full civil and voting rights upon settling in Germany.

They make for a stark contrast with Turkish-background residents, who often feel left out of German society. Keltek said German politicians have been particularly negligent on this front. He added that might be why one in five Turkish-background residents eligible to vote will not bother going to the polls. "Many migrants with Turkish roots don't vote because they can't identify with the candidates," he said. While polls show strong party preferences among Germany's residents with a Turkish background, surveys cannot necessarily prophesy how they will vote come election day. When surveys take place well ahead of a ballot, voters' responses tend to be non-committal. 2010 was the last time experts inquired about political party preferences in NRW. At the time, no one expected a snap election to come just two years later. Thus, it remains to be seen just how migrants' preferences will influence the outcome of Sunday's ballot.
© The Deutsche Welle

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FUGITIVE NEO-NAZI ARRESTED AFTER SHOOTING (Germany)

A 24-year-old Swiss neo-Nazi, wanted for shooting a man on Saturday night, was arrested in a dramatic police operation in the northern German port city of Hamburg on Monday.

8/5/2012- Some 40 German police officers were waiting for Sebastian Nussbaumer at Hamburg-Harburg station in the early hours of Monday morning, Swiss news website Blick reported. The station, which is near his girlfriend's home, was evacuated and the area cordoned off before his train arrived. Armed with machine guns, the police were able to arrest Nussbaumer without incident after his train pulled in at 3:10am. According to media reports, the suspect was carrying a loaded pistol. With a cluster of tattoos on his neck and forearms, Nussbaumer was apparently easy to spot. Among the tattoos is a symbol on his forearm representing Hitler's paramilitary force, the Stormtroopers, which it is illegal to display in Germany. Nussbaumer is already well known to the police. In 2006 he attacked a group of Albanians with a knuckleduster while being filmed by another far-right extremist. In 2007 he broke the noses of two men, one with a kick, the other with a head-butt, and beat a drunken man so badly that he suffered concussion. He spent 16 months in jail for these assaults. In January, he was again sentenced to three years and three months for a variety of other crimes. Nussbaumer appealed the sentence, arguing that he had been sentenced more harshly than others because of his neo-Nazi beliefs. He then went missing, but the Swiss were back on his trail when he seriously injured a man in a shooting incident in Zurich's old town on Saturday night. The victim is still in hospital, and Nussbaumer is likely to be charged with attempted murder. According to < i=""> Nussbaumer has other neo-Nazi friends living in the Hamburg area, as well as his girlfriend.
© The Local - Germany

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HOW RIGHT-WING EXTREMISTS AND ISLAMISTS ARE THE SAME (Germany)

Last weekend, Salafist Muslims and anti-Islam right-wingers faced off in Bonn, and 29 police officers were injured as a result. The two groups appear to be diametrically opposed, but a deeper look reveals they have a great deal in common. The totalitarian worldview has many manifestations.

9/5/2012- Last Saturday, at around 3 p.m., the enemies stood face to face. They were separated by just a few meters, one police vehicle and hundreds of officers. The facedown was the result of a calculated, staged provocation. "Now, we are going to show the caricatures," said a member of the right-wing populist Pro-NRW group. It was an announcement that resembled a scientific experiment: How an action is followed by a reaction. The anti-Islamists from Pro-NRW made sure that they got what they wanted. One member climbed onto another's shoulders, police say, to ensure that the gathered Salafists would get a good look at the Muhammad caricature drawn by Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. Violence ensued. Rocks and bottles were hurled by the Salafists, and one even drew a knife and stabbed two officers. In the end, 29 police were injured. "Deport them! Deport them!" yelled the Pro-NRW people. "Death to the infidels!" screamed the Salafists. The experiment was a success and an escalation of violence was the result. And that is exactly how the right-wing mini-party Pro-NRW wants it. The Saturday march was one of a series of 25 such events, at which the group displayed anti-Islam caricatures in front of Muslim facilities.

Provocation has been part of Pro-NRW's campaign as elections this weekend in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia approach. "Of course it was part of the campaign," Pro-NRW spokesman Markus Wiener told SPIEGEL ONLINE earlier this week. On the other side of the divide, Salafists, too, are eager to attract attention. Indeed, Salafists and right-wing extremists are more similar than one might immediately assume based on the weekend clash in Bonn. Both groups hope to profit from such displays of power. "The Salafists' violent attacks corroborate the image Pro-NRW has of Islam as a violent religion," says Uwe Backes, deputy director of the Hannah Arendt Institute for the Research on Totalitarianism at Dresden University of Technology. The extremist group sees the Salafists' assaults on the police as irrefutable proof of the veracity of their beliefs.

'Taking Advantage of Discontent'
For the Salafists, the escalation serves to demonstrate their precarious position in German society. "Look at us, we are a threatened minority," is their message, Backes says. It is a message, he adds, that could prove attractive to some, particularly young people. "There will be those who feel called upon and will take up the extreme worldview they have on offer," he says. The Salafists' recent campaign to distribute free Korans across Germany was likewise designed to attract attention, but the weekend violence could ultimately be just as effective. But it isn't just their similar goals that unite the two groups. "Salafists and right-wing extremists seek to take advantage of discontent," says Lazaros Miliopoulos, who studies extremism at the University of Bonn. Their extremism and the absolutist nature of their ideas are comparable. Miliopoulos says that such groups seek to capitalize on people's fears. For Pro-NRW, that effort manifests itself in the way the party equates Islam with Islamism -- religion with ideology. Their own ideology, however, is seen as the absolute truth, another characteristic that Pro-NRW shares with the Salafists. No doubts and no differentiations are allowed. Both ideologies are rooted in an extreme simplification of reality, allowing them to easily decide who is right and who is wrong. Nuance would only endanger their simple truths.

"Totalitarian thought is rooted in the willingness to promote one's own opinion with violence if necessary," Miliopoulos says. The Salafists made clear in Bonn, for example, that they are prepared to fight for what they see as the infallibility of their beliefs. And not just with words, but with rocks, sticks and knives if necessary. In the final analysis, extremists such as those from Pro-NRW and the Salafists are united in their aspiration to do away with democracy and the freedoms it guarantees. "Both groups are united in their desire to create a pure world," says Miliopoulos. Their critique of the status quo is telling in this regard: The world as it currently exists, so goes the message, is bad and must be changed. Any discrepancies between their view of the world and reality tend to be explained by way of conspiracy theories. "They seek to shift responsibility," the researcher says. Salafists attacked the police, he said, in part because of their belief that the officers were protecting Pro-NRW activists out of conviction.

Searching for the Correct Worldview
Conspiracy theories are also useful for explaining their own failures. "Their view is simple: The great good can't be achieved because evil perfidiously blocks it," Miliopoulos says. Extremism needs to play the role of victim, just as it needs to demonstrate its power. When large numbers of Salafists come together to pray on the streets, it can also be a demonstration of power, similiar to those conducted by "Black Bloc" radicals at (anti-globalization or anti-capitalism) protests, says Miliopoulos. "Individuals become part of a large mass," he says. Salafists and Islamophobes are united by a yearning for purity, a desire to establish homogeneous societies -- united either by religious beliefs or ideological convictions. "Each group is convinced that it represents the only correct worldview and seeks to exclude those who don't share it," Backes, from the Hannah Arendt Institute, says. Pro-NRW shares its Islamophobic views with many other right-wing extremist groups. "Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become clear that anti-Semitism has been on the wane and Islamophobia has taken its place," says Backes.

Islamophobia is an ideological phenomenon that has taken place across Europe -- in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain and elsewhere -- and has become the core belief uniting right-wing groups. The Salafists, for their part, constitute a small group in Germany. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country's domestic intelligence agency, estimates that there are only about 1,000 militant Salafists in the country. "In contrast to the right-wing extremists, the Salafists profess not to have a political agenda," Miliopoulos says. "Rather, they seek a manifestation of Islam in the world according to their own -- purely spiritual -- vision. From the point of view of our society, however, that can lead to violent Islamism, and as such is very political." How can one effectively counter this new phenomenon? "One can use tools available in laws governing demonstrations to prevent escalation by, for example, not allowing right-wing extremists to hold demonstrations in front of mosques," Backes says. Repression, though, must also be complemented with prevention, particularly when it comes to the Salafists. "So far, not enough has been done in this area," Backes says.
© The Spiegel

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GERMANY WEIGHS BAN ON SALAFISTS AFTER CLASHES

9/5/2012- Germany is considering a legal ban on ultra-conservative Salafist Muslim groups, its interior minister said on Wednesday after violent clashes with the police, one of which was provoked by German ultra-rightists. Last weekend, Salafists turned on police protecting far-right anti-Islam protesters during a regional election rally in the western German city of Bonn, injuring 29 officers, two of them seriously. Police arrested 109 people. The far-right protesters had infuriated the Salafists by waving banners showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. There have been similar clashes in other German towns in the past week, including in Cologne, where around 1,000 police were mobilized on Tuesday to keep Salafists and far-right activists far apart.

"We will use all the possibilities at the disposal of a constitutional state to oppose them (violent Salafists) wherever they fight against... our constitutional order," Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told n-tv television. "Germany will not allow anybody to impose religious wars on us, neither radical Salafists nor far-right parties such as the Pro NRW," he said, referring to the ultra-nationalist that clashed with the Salafists in Bonn. An interior ministry spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the government was examining the possibility of a ban on Salafist groups. "However, there is nothing official yet," he added. Friedrich said Germany was home to some 4,000 Salafists, not all of whom were violent. "Without question the Salafists are ideologically close to al Qaeda," the minister told the Rheinische Post in a separate interview. "They have the clear political goal to destroy our liberal democracy. We will not allow them to do that."

Koran Campaign
Germany is home to around four million Muslims, about half of whom have German citizenship. Many came from Turkey as "guest workers" in the 1960s and 1970s and contributed to Germany's economic growth. Germany's total population is 82 million. Salafists, whose roots are in Saudi Arabia, recently stirred unease with a campaign to hand out free copies of the Koran around the country, prompting conservative lawmaker Volker Kauder, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, to say Islam was not "part of our tradition and identity in Germany". Security experts have warned that German language Islamist propaganda is fuelling militancy among a small number of socially alienated Muslim youths in Germany.

But despite the prominence of Germany in the saga of al Qaeda due to Hamburg's role as a base for three of the September 11 suicide airline hijackers, its indigenous militant scene is much smaller than that in Britain or France, the experts say. The recent Salafist clashes have become an issue in campaigning for Sunday's election in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state, which the main opposition centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are expected to win. Regional SPD leader Hannelore Kraft has vowed "zero tolerance" towards both the Salafists and the Pro NRW activists.
© Reuters

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GERMANY ACCUSES ISLAMIST OF ATTEMPTED MURDER AFTER STABBINGS

8/5/2012- A 25-year-old Islamist was remanded in custody in Germany on Monday, accused of the attempted murder of three policemen as they were separating neo-Nazis from Islamic fundamentalist protesters. Two officers were stabbed in the thigh on Saturday and a third officer dodged an attack by the knife-wielding man during a melee outside a mosque in the western city of Bonn. Pro NRW (North Rhine Westphalia), a far-right party with neo-Nazi canvassers, had organized a protest event drawing nearly 30 rightists to the mosque, holding up cartoons ridiculing Islam and its founder Mohammed to publicize the group's anti-immigrant views. A larger group of 500 to 600 Salafists, who seek to impose what they say are the original doctrines of Islam, held a counter-demonstration, trying to break a police cordon.

The police made 109 arrests, and 29 officers were hurt in the Saturday clashes. Hannelore Kraft, premier of North Rhine Westphalia state, told the mass circulation newspaper Bild, "We will not put up with attacks on our legal system, and our police and will come down hard on both Pro NRW and the Salafists." Prosecutors said the 25-year-old, who was born in Germany but has Turkish nationality, admitted to attacking the police but denied an intent to murder. He said he knifed the officers because they were protecting people insulting Muslims. Prosecutor Robin Fassbender said the stabbings could have been fatal. "If a major blood vessel had been punctured, the victim could have bled to death within minutes," he said.

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany condemned both sides. "We expressly dissociate ourselves from violent Muslims who urge lynch justice and attack the police," general secretary Nurhan Soykan said in Cologne. She termed Pro NRW a hate group. Kraft's government has tried to prevent further anti-mosque demonstrations by Pro NRW. But a court cited free-speech grounds to quash a police ban on a similar demonstration by 15 Pro NRW activists Monday. Police said 400 mainly leftist counter-demonstrators yelled abuse at them in the city of Bielefeld without violence.
© DPA

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SALAFISTS AND RIGHT-WING POPULISTS BATTLE IN BONN (Germany)

Germany's right-wing populists are fond of insulting Islam in order to attract attention. On Saturday, violence prone Salafists took the bait, resulting in a riot that left 29 police injured. Despite the clash, however, the anti-Islam party can continue to display their anti-Islam caricatures, a court has decided.

7/5/2012- It was clear from the start that the tiny, right-wing populist group Pro-NRW would stop at nothing to attract attention in the run-up to state elections in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia this Sunday. With Salafists in the state now reacting violently to Pro-NRW's inflammatory parading of Muhammad caricatures in front of Muslim establishments, the splinter party appears to have gotten its wish. On Saturday, violence flared anew when Salafists attacked police protecting a Pro-NRW demonstration in front of a Saudi Arabian school in Bonn. Twenty-nine officers were wounded, two of them having been stabbed, and more than 100 people were arrested. On Monday, a 25-year-old man was arrested and charged with attempted murder in the knife attacks. Ralf Jäger, interior minister for the state, promised that there would be "severe consequences," adding that he would "join the federal government in exploring all legal possibilities for countering these extremists." The police president in Bonn, Ursula Brohl-Sowa, spoke of an "explosion of violence like we haven't seen for some time." The Pro-NRW march in Bonn consisted of just over two dozen people, but some 500 to 600 counter-demonstrators also gathered, including, according to police estimates, some 200 Salafists who had travelled to Bonn from across the country. Several hundred police were also present to keep the two groups separated.

'Deliberately Provoked'
Kolbe said the march was peaceful until right-wing populists began showing their anti-Islam caricatures, including one by Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who created one of the Muhammad drawings which set off global unrest in 2006. One pro-NRW member, Kolbe told SPIEGEL ONLINE, climbed onto the shoulders of a comrade in order to hold the placard above a police vehicle positioned so as to block the view. "The Pro-NRW people very deliberately provoked," Kolbe said. Still, he said, it was clear that many of the counter-demonstrators had come prepared for violence. Several more knives were found among the 109 people arrested, along with pepper sprays. The vast majority of those taken into custody, said Kolbe, were not from Bonn but had travelled from elsewhere in the country to take part in the demonstration. Once the violence started, he added, several counter-demonstrators began tearing up the yards of nearby houses in the search for projectiles, even demolishing a decorative fountain in the process. "When it comes to the violence," Kolbe said, "we believe that most of those involved were Salafists. Germany's Salafists have recently attracted significant public attention due to an ongoing campaign to distribute millions of free copies of the Koran throughout the country. More ominously, however, the group, which strives to adhere to the pure form of Islam practiced by the Prophet Muhammad, has shown a readiness to promote violence. Salafist connections with jihad groups are not uncommon and the man who shot to death two US servicemen in 2010 was likewise linked to the group.

Moderate Muslims in Germany have consistently sought to distance themselves from the Salafists. On Monday, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany -- one of many such groups which represent a portion of Germany's Muslim population -- issued a statement condemning the Saturday violence. "Reacting to provocation with violence is not acceptable for peace-loving Muslims because it is un-Islamic and, more than anything, plays into the hands of the right wing," the statement said.

Campaigning, Pro-NRW Style
Indeed, the violence of Saturday -- coming on the heels of a similar confrontation between Salafists and Pro-NRW last week -- would seem exactly what Pro-NRW had been hoping for. The stridently anti-Muslim party has spent years struggling, and failing, to attract the kind of attention comparable right-wing populist parties have achieved in virtually all of Germany's neighboring countries. Sunday parliamentary elections in the group's home state have spurned them to once again try to attract votes. And provocation has been the cornerstone of that effort. "It is of course part of the campaign," Pro-NRW spokesman Markus Wiener told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday. "We are a party that is critical of Islam and we wanted to show our standpoint." To do so, the group launched a "Muhammad caricature contest" earlier this spring and is now parading the "winners" in front of area mosques and other Muslim establishments. The move, of course, is cynically calculated to attract the kind of attention the formerly unknown Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten received after it published similar caricatures in 2005. Whether the strategy has been successful will become clear once the votes are counted on Sunday. In the meantime, the Pro-NRW parade of provocation will continue. Bielefeld police had sought to ban a planned right-wing march in the city on Monday, but a court intervened and allowed the Pro-NRW demonstration to go forward. Some 15 anti-Muslim marchers took to the streets, along with 400 counter-demonstrators. This time, there were no immediate reports of violence.
© The Spiegel

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NUMBER OF EXTREMISTS´ MEETINGS INCREASED IN CZECH REP IN 2011-GOVT

The economic recession was behind the rising activity of both right- and left-wing extremism in the Czech Republic in 2011, according to an annual report presented to the government today, Transport Minister Pavel Dobes told journalists.

9/5/2012- Far-right and far-left groupings organised 123 and 211 events last year, respectively, he said. These groupings have become more radical, evidently as a result of the economic recession, Dobes said. Although the number of meetings organised by radicals is growing, the Czech extreme nationalist scene is stagnating. The groupings involved have no long-term concept, money or active rank-and-file. They also fail to attract new supporters, the Interior Ministry says in the report. It says the leftist extremists stagnate as well, including their wing sticking to Marxism-Leninism. Nevertheless, the report on extremists has confirmed the information from a document on internal security discussed by the government in early May when it comes to the growth in the public events staged by extremist organisations.

In 2010, the authorities registered 200 of them and the figure rose to 334 last year, 123 of which were organised by rightist extremists and 211 by leftists. According to the Interior Ministry's report, the militants are increasingly using the Internet to disseminate their ideas. The Workers´ Party of Social Justice (DSSS) and its branch the Workers´ Youth (DM) continued to be the main representatives of extremist stands last year, the report says. In presenting their programme, the DSSS and the DM focused on localities with a higher social tension, where they staged a number of demonstrations, the report says. In 2011, right-wing extremists were afflicted by repressions by state authorities and by personal disputes between extremist leaders, persisting from the past. The right-wing extremists are no coherent unit with a joint goal, but are rather a conglomerate of ideological streams, the report says.
© Ceske Noviny

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CZECH GROUP PROMOTING TERRORISM DOES NOT GO TO PRISON

7/5/2012- The members of the White Justice, a Czech neo-Nazi group that planned terrorist actions, organised training in killing enemies and making bombs and worked out a list of enemies to be killed, received only suspended sentences in late April, Jaroslav Spurny says in Respekt weekly out Monday. It is even more surprising that the extremists have not been charged with planning terrorist actions or training to kill but only with promotion of Nazism in texts posted on their website, Spurny writes. Why? he asks. There seem to be two possibilities: either the Czech police exaggerated the extremist threat to show off their own heroism, or the investigation has proved that the White Justice group only played the role of dangerous tough guys but was unable to take real action, Spurny writes. In a spectacular raid, the police arrested 12 extremists in October 2009. "We succeeded in paralysing one of the most dangerous extremist groups," Robert Slachta, chief of the police unit fighting organised crime, said then.

Former career soldier Lukas Sedlacek, whom the judge who issued the recent verdict considers the most dangerous member of the group, was not charged and he only testified in the trial, Spurny said. Sedlacek told the court that he organised fight camps where he trained people from the White Justice in putting cars on fire, making an improvised mortar and killing somebody in man-to-man combat, Spurny writes. Sedlacek openly said he considered the group to be an instrument to fight against the present regime, he adds. But the state attorneys do not consider any of this a crime. The judge Petr Cerny has a different opinion, however. He says the attorneys should reassess whether the organising of fight camps is a crime.

The White Justice was founded in 2006 and three men said they were its founders - Sedlacek, young skinhead Filip Stransky and Vladimir Ziska, who was active in several extremist groups and ran for the far-right Workers' Party in the 2010 elections, Spurny writes. He says during the investigation Ziska became an informant and gave information on the fight camps to the police. Stransky, who used to say "It is ineffective to sit in a pub, chat and drink beer and beat up somebody from time to time," began to issue a magazine, which was similar to other extremist press, celebrating German Nazi leaders, Spurny writes. "We must be strong to be able to scare Gypsies, immigrants and Jews," Spurny quotes an anonymous writing in the magazine. He says then Stransky started a website that was more radical. "The White Justice website first presented views that only violent struggle or even terrorism can lead to victory," expert in extremism Michal Mazel said.

"Our terrorism must be aimed only against people of unclean intentions, actions and race. We must mark the target and then liquidate it...Our actions should win us respect of the part of the public that takes a liking to us," Spurny quotes from an article posted on the website in 2007. A list of enemies to be eliminated was worked out and further names were added to it, such as former prime minister Jan Fischer, because of his Jewish origin, and anti-fascist activist Ondrej Cakl. Stransky and Sedlacek confessed to their activities but they claimed they were not preparing racially or politically motivated murders but "a self-defence against the system that defended Romany criminals and parasites at the expense of decent citizens," Spurny writes. He says this is similar to the statements by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik who has been tried for killing several dozens of people last year.

According to Mazel, the Internet articles promoting terrorist action seem the most dangerous as they may inspire somebody. "I cannot know how many of them may run crazy like Breivik. There is the risk," Mazel said. He pointed out that the Czech neo-Nazis are frustrated because they failed to join the political scene. They have not even been successful now that anti-Romany moods have clearly been getting stronger, he added. "This may lead them to violent actions. They long for success and recognition," Mazel said. An interesting point seems to be the role of Ziska who told the police that he has been cooperating with the BIS counter-intelligence for years and that it was the BIS who ordered him to found the White Justice, Spurny writes. BIS told the police that it does not cooperate with Ziska, but the police revealed that four persons whom Ziska used to call had false identities, Spurny notes.

The Czech police monitored the White Justice for two years but they did not reveal a single case of a terrorist action being prepared, Spurny writes. The only "action" registered was the beating up of an unknown student near a Jewish cemetery by Stransky and his friends. The police then arrested the attackers in a nearby pub and Stransky was sentenced to prison for 10 months for the violent attack, which seemed to have no special motive, Spurny says. The attorneys were also considering charging the extremists with crimes against the principles of the state, but this paragraph had been used by the Czechoslovak Communists against their enemies in the 1950s show trials, Spurny writes. Police and state attorneys failed to charge the White Justice members with terrorism or planning armed attacks. Czech State Attorneys' Association head Lenka Bradacova says not even the training in fight camps is a crime, Spurny writes.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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SERBIAN ELECTIONS SEE FAR RIGHT OUT OF PARLIAMENT

In the shadow of the second round of the French presidential election and a historic defeat of the political mainstream in Greece, citizens of Serbia voted in general, local, provincial and presidential elections on 6 May.

7/5/2012- The presidential elections, which caused the biggest fuss and attracted the most interest, yet being the least significant for country's functioning, brought no particular surprise. The incumbent president and leader of the Democratic Party (DS), Boris Tadić, according to the unofficial results, narrowly won the first round with 25.4% ahead of his closest rival, the chairman of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Tomislav Nikolić with 25.2%. The two of them will go forward to the second round in two weeks. However, preliminary results for the parliamentary elections put SNS ahead of DS with 24.1% to 22.4%. The biggest winners of the elections were the Socialists of the former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević, whose participation in the last government ensured complete abolition for everything done in 1990s and cheep populism won them 14.5% of votes. The isolationist, anti-EU Democratic Party of Serbia of the former prime minister Vojislav Koštunica won 7%, liberal democrats 6.6% and centre-right coalition of United Regions around 5.5%.

For the first time, far-right Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was left below the threshold, but a new clericalistic movement – Dveri – almost reached the needed 5% to enter the parliament. SRS is some 16,000 votes away from 5% mark, while Dveri remained 25,000 short with votes from Kosovo yet to be counted. However, turnout in Kosovo was fairly low, only 32.17%, or some 35,000 votes in total according to OSCE mission, which was in charge of organising the voting. Therefore, even with votes from Kosovo, SRS and Dveri are poised to stay below the threshold. Several interesting moments are worth noting. First, the presidential candidate again won the phantom 1% more than the party which proposed him 9electoral theory, and in Serbia practice, too, says that about 1% of people always vote number '1'). The president again scored better than his party (again, Serbs tend to vote for president). The movement for spoiling ballots managed to get over 4% of 'votes', arguably elevating the threshold enough to keep far-right below the benchmark.

The Vlach minority was allowed to run under the “none of the above” list, managing to benefit from the scam and pass the natural threshold of 0.4% and enter the parliament, hopefully satisfying Romanian desires for a better position of Vlachs in Serbia. The leader of the urban, liberal-democrats got less votes than his party (5.2% to 6.6%) and his party failed to pass the lower threshold for entering the city assembly in capital Belgrade. Though there are several possible scenarios for forming a government, all parties have announced that negotiations will take place after the second round of presidential elections. With two candidates being also presidents of the two most successful parties, issue of legitimacy should be settled in their run-off.
© New Europe

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BOSNIA ASKED TO END DISCRIMINATION OF ROMA, JEWS

7/5/2012- The head of the Council of Europe asked Bosnia on Monday to propose amendments to its constitution within a month to end the discrimination of its Jewish and Roma minority. "We want to see a clear, concrete and formal proposal submitted to the Bosnian parliament" before the June 4 meeting of the Council of Europe's ministerial comittee, Thorbjorn Jaglaand told reporters during his visit to Sarajevo. He said the draft must be "submitted in advance to Strasbourg to secure that this is a proposal that is in compliance with the judgement" of the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg-based court condemned Bosnia in December 2009 for barring Jews and Romas from running for high elected office. The court ruled that the Balkan country was violating provisions of the convention prohibiting discrimination and upheld the right to free elections. Two plaintiffs in the case, prominent public figures Dervo Sejdic who is of Roma origin and Jakob Finci who is Jewish, filed a suit in 2006 claiming discrimination and a breach of their human rights.

Bosnia's constitution makes a distinction between two categories of citizens: "constituent peoples" -- Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats and Serbs -- and "others" -- Jews, Roma and other minorities. Posts in the Bosnian parliament and its tripartite presidency are reserved for the three so-called constituent nations under the rules which were intended to prevent ethnic strife in the wake of the 1992-1995 war. "If new parliamentary elections in 2014 (in Bosnia) are being held on the basis of the current constitution there is no way that the international community recognizes these elections," Jagland warned. The reform of the constitution is one of the main conditions for Bosnia to obtain EU candidacy status.
© EU Business

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'CLOWN' TOMASZEWSKI UNDER FIRE FOR RACISM (Poland)

Iconic former Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski is under fire for a tirade against players in the Euro 2012 host nation’s squad who were born or raised abroad.

10/5/2012- The 1974 World Cup hero, now a lawmaker with Poland’s conservative opposition, has repeatedly faced criticism for such outbursts. “I don’t want to see the White Eagles’ shirt worn by Frenchmen and Germans who’ve already played for France and Germany, didn’t make it in their own national team and are taking away slots from our own, true Poles,” Tomaszewski told Poland’s Radio Zet. Rafal Pankowski, Poland watchdog for an anti-racism monitoring unit backed by UEFA, said such remarks were out of line. “Euro 2012 is an historic event for Poland and a great chance to promote respect for diversity,” he told AFP. “Unfortunately, Tomaszewski’s negative comments are linked to an ethnic nationalist notion of Polish identity, which I hope will fade away. Football unites people of different backgrounds,” he added.

In Tomaszewski’s sights are players such as defender Damien Perquis and attacking midfielder Ludovic Obraniak, Frenchmen with Polish roots who played a handful of matches for Les Bleus’ under-21s but later answered Poland’s call. Those from Germany, meanwhile, include defender Sebastian Boenisch and midfielder Eugen Polanski, both born in Poland but who emigrated as toddlers. Polanski has been a particular Tomaszewski target, because he even captained Germany’s under-21s and repeatedly said his goal was to join the senior side — but never made the Mannschaft and answered Poland’s call. FIFA allows youth internationals to switch country relatively easily, but senior side members cannot change flag.

The Polish football association began scouting abroad after criticism for losing the likes of Germany striker Lukas Podolski, born in Poland but raised in Germany. Poland fans have high hopes for Euro 2012, as they pine for the glory days of Olympic gold in 1972, silver in 1976, and third place at the World Cup in 1974 and 1982. Tomaszewski is better-known abroad for heroics during a World Cup qualifier at London’s Wembley stadium in 1973. Dubbed a “clown” by English icon Brian Clough before the game, he had the last laugh by holding the score at 1-1 and denying them a tournament berth.
© AFP

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EURO 2012: POLAND'S FOOTBALL HOOLIGAN FEARS

In the run-up to the Euro 2012 football championship now one month away, much attention is focusing on racism among fans and the potential for violence in co-host nation Poland.

7/5/2012- The assumption is that Poland's hard-core hooligan groups will cause trouble during the championship and abuse foreign fans and players. Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of players' union Fifpro, told the BBC recently he was not "100% convinced" that "accidents" would not occur both inside and outside stadiums if the majority of fans watching the matches came from the co-host nations, Poland and Ukraine. Racist incidents do still occur in grounds across the country but mainly in the lower leagues and they are more infrequent than before. The Never Again association monitors racism in Poland and its booklet, Hateful, gives a flavour of incidents at grounds. It describes a derby match from November 2008 in Krakow between the city's teams, Cracovia and Wisla, whose rivalry is such that it is described here as a "holy war". Hooligans light fires during the Polish football cup final between Legia Warszawa and Lech Poznan in Bydgoszcz, Poland, 3 May 2011. Some Wisla fans sang an anti-Semitic song about the supposed Jewish origins of their rivals and when a Cracovia player left the pitch, fans shouted: "To the gas chambers." When the match ended Wisla players went over to their fans to thank them, some of them making obscene chants about Jews. Beforehand, some Cracovia fans made monkey noises at Wisla's Brazilian player, Cleber, when he was sent off. But this is not the whole picture. Wisla now have two Israeli players in their first team, and one of them, David Biton, is the club's top scorer this season. Most teams have foreign players these days and when they score, whether they are white, black or Jewish, the supporters cheer.

'Monkey, go back'
According to a recent Fifpro survey of professional players in Eastern Europe, 9.6% of respondents said they had been victims of racism, mainly from supporters. In Poland, the figure was 9.5%. In the region, 11.7 % of respondents said they had been victims of violence from fans, coaches and management. In Poland the corresponding figure was 6.3%. Senegalese defender Pape Samba Ba, 30, was assaulted twice in Opole, south-west Poland, when he played for the city's Odra Opole club. "I started playing here more than six years ago and then they didn't have the security," he told the BBC. "The fans would scream 'monkey, go back to your country'. Now it's changing, the stadiums are getting better." Bruno Coutinho, 26, a Brazilian midfielder for Polonia Warsaw who plays in Poland's top-flight Ekstraklasa division, has never been a victim of racism and says he has a good relationship with his teammates and coaches. But he did witness racism while playing for Jagiellonia Bialystok in north-eastern Poland in 2009. "They signed an 18 or 19-year-old black guy from Colombia," he told the BBC. "During a pre-season friendly match some of our own fans were making monkey noises at him. It was the first time I had experienced anything like that." Coutinho's dark-skinned brother recently visited him in Warsaw. "We were walking in the centre and people would look at him like a person from another planet," he recalls. "I don't know whether it's racism or whether people are not used to seeing black people. I'm not saying it's everyone or everywhere."

Changing attitudes
Poland used to be multi-ethnic, home to large Belarussian, Ukrainian, Jewish and German minorities before World War II, and many Poles are rightfully proud of centuries of tolerance not shared by many other European nations. The Germans murdered 90% of the country's more than three million Jews in the Holocaust and at the war's end, Poland's allies, the USSR, the US and the UK, agreed to shift the country's borders westwards, creating a homogenous Polish and Roman Catholic state. It is estimated that ethnic minorities make up around 2% of Poland's 38 million inhabitants. According to a February survey by polling organisation Cbos, Poles are most sympathetic to their neighbours, the Czechs and Slovaks, and least sympathetic to Roma and Arabs. Over the last 20 years they have become more sympathetic to their old wartime foes, Germany and Russia, and now more Poles have favourable opinions towards Jews than negative ones. "It's true that racism is tolerated much more in Poland than in Western Europe," Konstanty Gebert, a Jewish columnist for the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, told the BBC. "Poland is clearly above the European norm in expressions of anti-Semitism but I don't think that Poland is more anti-Semitic than France, it just tolerates it more. "In Poland I walk around all the time in my kippah and I don't get trouble, in Paris I was harassed." Mr Gebert said anti-Semitism was clearly on the decline and expressions of it were heard less as it became more socially unacceptable. However, there was no self-consciousness about blacks, and in particular the Roma, he added. "Attitudes are changing but it will take a generation," he said.

'Positive vibe'
Rafal Pankowski, a member of Never Again and the Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) network, says racist incidents are less frequent now. Clubs now have safety directors and stewards trained to recognise racist banners. Never Again is involved in their training and its volunteers lead educational programmes for schools. "We are not promising we can eliminate racism overnight but overall Euro 2012 has had a positive impact in terms of raising awareness of racism in Polish football and society," Mr Pankowski told the BBC. Some argue that racism and violence are much more prevalent among supporters of rival clubs than they are among fans of the Polish national team. This is largely true, Mr Pankowski said, although Polish supporters did start a riot in a friendly against Lithuania in March 2011. There were, however, no reported major incidents among Polish fans who travelled to Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. It is impossible to say whether racism or violence will mar Euro 2012, of course, although Mr Pankowski does not believe the risk of incidents occurring inside the stadia is very large. "There's a positive vibe, it's seen as an historic event," he said.
© BBC News

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ACTION TO SAFEGUARD NON-WHITE ENGLAND SUPPORTERS IN UKRAINE

6/5/2012- Uefa are so concerned that non-white fans could face racial abuse or violence at this summer's European Championships that it is backing plans to create safe areas for them. Fears are increasing that non-white England fans visiting Ukraine in particular might be targeted by racist groups given the strong links between football supporters there and far-right political parties. Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare), which is funded by European football's governing body, is creating dozens of safe areas known as "inclusivity zones" in town centres, bars, restaurants and outside football grounds across Ukraine. A smaller number will also be set up in Poland. The zones will be marked with posters stating they are safe places for all races where all "differences will be welcome" and racist and homophobic abuse or behaviour will not be tolerated. Giant screens will be erected for non-white fans and other minority groups to watch games in a safe environment. Local fans in the zones will be encouraged to be hospitable to non-white fans and to protect them if they face any racial abuse.

The zones will be monitored by Fare officials, who will liaise with police. Fare is also launching a range of other activities during the tournament under the title "Respect Diversity, Football Unites". A 24-hour hotline will be run by Fare officials offering non-white fans the latest information on any racist incidents during the tournament and which locations and bars to avoid in Poland and Ukraine. Piara Powar, the executive director of Fare, said: "We want to create a safe and secure environment for all fans regardless of their race. There are some serious issues around racism and football in countries like Ukraine and this tournament is an excellent chance to address them. "It may seem a bit extreme to some having to set up inclusivity zones but we don't want non-white fans being put off from travelling to the European Championship."

An increasing number of non-white fans are following England at major tournaments and many are expected to travel to Ukraine. England play three matches there, against France and Ukraine in Donetsk and Sweden in Kiev. Almost every club in the Ukrainian Premier League has organised right-wing fans groups with links to right-wing or neo-Nazi political parties. Banners with racist or neo-Nazi slogans are common at matches along with racist abuse of black players. Two years ago 1,000 fans marched through Kiev before a friendly against Chile demanding foreign players be expelled from all Ukrainian clubs. Theo van Seggelen, general secretary of Fifpro, the European footballer's body, said that players could face unprecedented levels of racial abuse during the tournament and that fans could be targeted by right-wing hooligans particularly in Ukraine. "Ukraine will be very difficult for fans," he said. "I think this tournament will not be remembered for the atmosphere. Ukraine is not ideal for this kind of event."

Racist attacks in Ukraine have declined after a peak of 184 recorded in 2007 and 2008 when 12 racist murders took place. The government has introduced tougher anti-racism legislation and diversity classes in schools but the Council of Europe's Commission against Racism and Intolerance said the situation in Ukraine had improved but there were still significant "causes for concern". Foreign Office advice for visitors to Ukraine warns that "those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals from religious minorities should take extra care".
© The Independent

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'IF YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT RACISM, YOUR CAREER IS FINISHED,' SAYS MET DETECTIVE (uk)

New Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has promised to drive racism out of the force. But one officer, sacked after being smeared by his colleagues, believes his words are hollow.

9/5/2012- An Asian police officer whose career was thwarted by institutional discrimination has dismissed promises by Britain's highest-ranking officer to drive out racism within the Scotland Yard as mere "lip service". Detective Sergeant Gurpal Singh Virdi will today hand in his warrant card and become what he describes as one of only a dozen or so ethnic-minority police officers to survive 30 years with Britain's largest police force. Last month the Met's Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, vowed to become an "implacable enemy" of racists within Scotland Yard, promising to "drive them out of the Met". But DS Virdi, whose career has been defined by a racially motivated character assassination and a subsequent smear campaign by his own colleagues, says he doesn't believe the Met has changed. He will leave today without even an exit interview. Speaking to The Independent, the retiring officer said: "The Met never wants to learn lessons from people like me. It's more likely they will be getting out the champagne."

The 53-year-old was sacked in 1998 after being erroneously charged with sending racist, National Front hate mail to black colleagues at Ealing police station. His house was searched for seven hours in the presence of his children. DS Virdi says the raid, authorised by then Deputy Commissioner John Stevens, came weeks after he had threatened to go over the head of his superiors regarding what he felt was a sloppy investigation of a racist, near-fatal stabbing of an Iraqi and an Indian boy by five white males. DS Virdi had pointed out the parallels between the investigation and that into Stephen Lawrence's murder five years earlier; weeks later he was arrested and suspended. "My career finished in 1998," he said. "As soon as you raise your head above the parapet, your career is finished, and everyone in the police service knows that... Most people keep silent because they know that, even if you complain, the investigation won't be done properly... That hasn't changed."

It took a year for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him, not least because the racist mail continued while Virdi sat at home. Nevertheless, Scotland Yard seemed determined to make an example of him, perfectly timed to coincide with the bashing they were getting in the Lawrence public inquiry, and he was sacked in 2000. Later that year an employment tribunal found that the Met's investigation had racially discriminated against DS Virdi. Unlike his white colleagues, it ruled, he had been subjected to an entrapment operation, been formally interviewed, had his house searched, been arrested and suspended "without sufficient evidence to support the allegations". He was awarded a six-figure settlement, mainly for the "high-handed" way the Yard had behaved and the way it had manipulated media coverage. The Independent Advisory Group, which monitors the Met's performance on race crime, described the investigation as "disgraceful" and "a high-profile character assassination". In 2001, DS Virdi and his wife, Sathat, were assured by the then Commissioner, John Stevens, that lessons had been learnt, and he was sent an apology. An independent inquiry by the newly formed Metropolitan Police Authority concluded that there had been a smear campaign against him.

The Yard denied the MPA access to its media strategy file on Virdi, but claims that it was clear that the Daily Mail's Crime Correspondent had been the chief recipient of the Yard's drip-feed, including leaked private legal correspondence. In 2007, he received an apology and legal costs from the Daily Mail for a libellous article about him in 2006. DS Virdi went back to the Met in 2002 against the wishes of his wife. In 2004 DS Virdi was assured by Lord Stevens and Mr Hogan-Howe, then assistant commissioner for human resources, that his career would not suffer as a result of a negative internal report claiming there was still "strong evidence" of his guilt. For the past five years, he says he has "pushed pen around paper" for the Met's Sikh Association, in the redeployment pool awaiting a suitable post. "I had to go back and face them; I am not the type of person to run away," he said. "I wanted to do 30 years, and I'm glad that I've done it. I've enjoyed what I've done, but feel sad as I could have done so much more. I have been stopped from reaching my potential."

Over the past five years, DS Virdi says he has supported a number of ethnic minority officers, from trainees to high-ranking officials, who have made allegations of racism but do not believe their complaints were properly investigated. "The majority of allegations of racism and corruption have not been properly investigated – in fact they usually protect the racists rather than the victims," he said. "That has not changed. "There have only been a dozen people, including mixed-race officers, who have survived 30 years. Most of them realise that their careers will never go anywhere and so they just go." Born in India, Virdi grew up in Southall, west London. His father served in Delhi police, but when Virdi joined the Met in 1982, it was against his parents' wishes. He had an unblemished career in uniformed, CID and specialist squads until he was arrested in 1998. Despite all that has happened, he says he has no regrets about returning to the police. "I can leave today with my head held high, as I can honestly say I didn't tolerate corruption or bad practice. There will be no leaving do. It wouldn't feel right after all that has happened and I wouldn't want my friends who have supported me to come to Scotland Yard as they might then be targeted." The family will celebrate quietly in July on the day he carries the Olympic torch, and he is looking forward to writing, travelling and leaving his police career behind.

Virdi does not doubt the sincerity of Hogan-Howe's words, but he doesn't believe real change is possible because he maintains the current processes that deal with complaints of discrimination, and the people dealing with them, are set up to fail. The officer, or officers, who were responsible for sending the racist hate mail in 1998 have never been found; the criminal case remains unsolved. "There is nothing stopping the Commissioner [Hogan-Howe] from reopening the case should he want to, but I don't think he will, because they won't like the answers." The Met said it did not comment on individual cases, but pointed to the Commissioner's public statements on driving out racism.

Lawrence corruption review 'imminent'
The Metropolitan Police is expected to make an announcement this week about its review into allegations of corruption within the original Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry. The review was set up after Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the teenager killed in 1993 by a white racist gang, called for the reopening of the public inquiry into the circumstances of his death. Mrs Lawrence's request to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, followed publication in The Independent of previously unseen intelligence reports about Detective Sergeant John Davidson, who played a leading role in the hunt for the killers, which said he was involved in "all aspects of criminality". A former Scotland Yard commander, Ray Adams, was also the subject of an inquiry, but the findings were not passed to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry panel.
© The Independent

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BNP LEADER'S TWEET ALMOST CAUSED TRIAL TO COLLAPSE AMID FEARS FAR-RIGHT HAD A MOLE IN THE JURY (uk)

A tweet from BNP leader Nick Griffin almost caused the trial to collapse when it led to allegations of the jury being biased

8/5//2012- Last Thursday afternoon - two-and-a-half days after the jury retired to consider its verdicts - Mr Griffin posted a comment on his Twitter account which read: ''News flash. Seven of the Muslim paedophile rapists found guilty in Liverpool.'' Mr Griffin later backtracked on Twitter when he was told that the jury had not yet officially returned any verdicts. But the tweet led to eight defence counsel calling on Judge Gerald Clifton to discharge the jury before it delivered verdicts after investigations revealed Griffin's comment to be a ''100% accurate'' reflection of its deliberations so far. The defence counsel who supported the discharge of the jury said there must have been ''two-way communication'' between someone in the jury room and a far-right organisation.

Simon Nichol, defending the 59-year-old who cannot be named, said: ''From the outset of this trial there have been attempts by right-wing organisations to influence the outcome.'' He said ''right-wing commentators'' had published on the internet reports that the jury had reached guilty verdicts in respect of seven of the 11 defendants. ''Your honour's inquiries of the jury confirmed the accuracy of those reports on the internet.'' He said that the proposal that the information could have been ''obtained by guesswork is so implausible'' that it ''can be discounted as fanciful''. Mr Nichol said: ''The most reasonable inference from the facts as we know them is that the confidentiality of the jury's deliberations has been breached and that someone outside of the jury who has an improper interest in the outcome of this trial has been receiving communications from within the jury room. ''It seems at the very least likely that if such communication has taken place then it will have been two-way traffic.'' Mr Nichol added: ''If there has been such improper communication then the impartiality and independence of the jury is compromised.''

But inquiries carried out by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service showed that the message, which the court heard was first published on the Infidels of Britain website, was published at a time when the jury was in its jury room where all electronic equipment is banned. Judge Clifton said that ''having heard that the jury deny any improper behaviour'' he was ''satisfied that no juror is at fault in communicating the jury's position, either deliberately or accidentally to anyone else''. ''That means that the question of bias doesn't arise at all,'' he said. ''I have found no evidence to suggest a juror is at fault.'' ''The jury have been strictly confined in their jury room during most of the period that some of these tweets manifested themselves.'' Judge Clifton said the jury had been regularly passing notes and asking questions in relation to specific evidence and had been taking a ''perfectly reasonable, logical and unbiased approach to the evidence''.

He added that the suggestion by counsel that he should be forced to dismiss the jury was ''both unreasonable and illogical''. He said ''there are other scenarios that can explain the tweets'' and the jury was allowed to continue with its work. Then, on hearing that the jury was about to return some unanimous verdicts, the 59-year-old stood up and shouted at the judge: ''I don't want this biased jury. You are a biased judge. You are a racist bastard. You bastard!'' He was restrained by security staff and forcibly removed from the dock. Adil Khan, another of the guilty men, also stood up and said: ''I don't want to attend for BNP jury,'' and he also left the dock. On Friday afternoon the 59-year-old was allowed back into court only to be restrained again after a complaint was made about him by a jury member. He shouted: ''They are all racist bastards!'' Judge Clifton ordered him to be taken down and he shouted again: ''You racist judge. You racist jury. You lying bastards!'' One female juror was visibly upset by the outburst and Judge Clifton barred the defendant from coming back into court for the rest of the trial.  He said: ''I'm not having members of this jury intimidated or threatened.''
© The Telegraph

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POLICE 'IN DENIAL' OVER RISE IN RACISM COMPLAINTS (uk)

Allegations have doubled in 10 years – but most are baseless, officials claim

6/5/2012- Racism complaints against British police officers have more than doubled in the past decade, despite efforts to improve relations with ethnic minorities in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence scandal. Police forces have received hundreds of allegations of racist behaviour, from violence and false arrest to rudeness and unfair treatment, records obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal. But the vast majority of the complaints submitted by alleged victims of racial abuse have been rejected, because the police themselves have ruled either that they are untrue, or that they cannot be substantiated. Only a handful of officers have faced reprimands, including official warnings, for their behaviour – and fewer still have been dismissed.

Critics last night claimed the figures prove that recent high-profile allegations of racist behaviour were "the tip of an iceberg", and that police were "in denial" about the extent of racism within their ranks. However, police officials countered that the majority of complaints were baseless, and reflected the hostility ordinary officers had to face on the streets every day. The Metropolitan Police was plunged into a fresh race storm last month, when the police watchdog launched an investigation into allegations that racist comments were made by a group of its officers between January and March. Critics accused the police of learning nothing during the 13 years since the Macpherson report into the botched investigation of the murder of the London teenager Stephen Lawrence branded the force "institutionally racist". About 120 Met officers were found guilty of racist behaviour between 1999, when the report was published, and 2011.

But an IoS investigation has established that complaints of racism against police across the country have soared at a time when all forces have been under pressure to build bridges with ethnic minority communities. An analysis of complaints received by 20 forces, including Kent, Bedfordshire, Derbyshire and Central Scotland, has revealed that more than 1,500 officers and civilian staff have been accused of racist behaviour. The annual total has risen from 74 in 2001-02, to 167 in 2010-11, the last year for which figures are available. However, the vast majority of complaints were recorded as "unsubstantiated", and fewer than one in every 40 accused employees faced official punishment as a result of their alleged actions.

A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Allegations of racist behaviour by the police is cause for concern. We had hoped that this culture had been tackled by all the changes that followed the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence." Among individual cases highlighted was that of an officer in Nottinghamshire who was disciplined after posting obscene racist abuse on a Facebook page about the quality of staff at a call centre in India. Another officer, in Thames Valley, was fired after telling a colleague who was considering transferring elsewhere: "They don't want clever Pakis." A police constable in Staffordshire was sacked after calling another officer's partner a "Paki" and then making comments about food in a fake foreign accent. Detective Superintendent Phil Bladen, the head of Staffordshire Police's professional standards department, said: "We thoroughly investigate all such cases and take proportionate criminal or disciplinary action when necessary."

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: "The force has 2,000 staff and while we must never be complacent about upholding our aim to treat all our communities with respect, it is worth noting that the number of complaints upheld remains small." However, Ken Hinds, chairman of the north London-based Haringey Stop and Search Monitoring Group, said: "I have now come to the conclusion that the police are in denial about the extent that racism exists within the police force. "Very few people from the black and ethic communities ever complain about the treatment they have received in a police street encounter." Rob Berkeley, director of the race-equality think-tank the Runnymede Trust, said: "These figures represent the people who, after being on the receiving end of ill-treatment by the police, feel able and motivated to complain. I suspect that many others merely seek to avoid interacting with the police ever again." But Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said that the figures "highlight [that] the vast majority of complaints made are found to have no substance to them and reflect the often hostile and confrontational situations police officers find themselves involved in".

Equality and the law
22 April 1993 Black teenager Stephen Lawrence is stabbed to death by a gang of white youths in south-east London. Police assume it is a black-on-black killing.
1999 The Macpherson report into the handling of the case accuses the Metropolitan Police of institutional racism.
1999 Mark Ellison accepts £30,000 from Greater Manchester Police over his claim for assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. He claims one officer said: "You are going to die, you black bastard."
2005 Northumbria Police apologise and pay £10,000 to Dr Ranjit Johri after officers subjected him to a humiliating ordeal of arrest and wrongful imprisonment.
2006 The police watchdog accuses four Humberside officers of "unwitting racism", after they chatted while former paratrooper Christopher Alder choked to death on his vomit as he lay handcuffed on a police station floor in front of them.

2011 Cleveland Police pay a five-figure sum to Karim Allison after he sued for malicious arrest and malfeasance in public office. He also claimed an officer refused to shake his hand because he "didn't like the colour".
April 2012 PC Alex MacFarlane of the Metropolitan Police is accused of racially abusing Mauro Demetrio during last summer's riots. A recording reportedly captures him saying: "The problem with you is you will always be a nigger, yeah?"
April 2012 Fireman Edric Kennedy-Macfoy complains he was racially abused, assaulted and shot with a stun gun after trying to assist police officers while off duty.
April 2012 Sultan Alam, a former police officer, accepts more than £800,000 compensation from Cleveland Police over claims he was racially abused by colleagues, then set up and jailed for a crime he did not commit.
© The Independent

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MALMÖ SHOOTER SET TO FACE MURDER CHARGES (Sweden)

The 40-year-old man believed to be behind a string of shootings in Malmö in southern Sweden is to be formally charged on Monday for three murders and a slew of attempted murders after having spent 18 months on remand.

6/5/2012- Peter Mangs, who has passed two birthdays in police custody since being arrested on November 6th 2010, denies charges that he is the man behind the string of shootings which spread fear among Malmö residents throughout 2010. Mangs will face court on Monday to hear the charges he is set to face when Malmö district court convenes to try his case a week later. The police investigation into the case has extended to a reported 7,500 pages - a file which will become a public document this week. Periodic reports emerging from the police investigation since Mangs' arrest have added further cases to the charge sheet and he is now expected to face charges relating to more than 20 cases of murder or attempted murder. Police statements in October 2010 indicating that they were investigating whether a lone shooter with a racist motive was behind a string of attacks dating as far back as 2003 led to the suspect being compared to the "Laser Man" case of the early 1990s. Laser Man was the nickname given to John Ausonius, who shot 11 people of immigrant origin, killing one, around Stockholm from August 1991 to January 1992. Ausonius, who got his nickname by initially using a rifle equipped with a laser sight, was sentenced to life behind bars in 1994 and remains in prison.
© The Local - Sweden

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GOLDEN DAWN LEADER DENIES GAS CHAMBERS OF HOLOCAUST (Greece)

15/5/2012- The leader of the neo-fascist party that won seats in the Greek parliament for the first time earlier this month has denied some of the fundamental facts of the Holocaust. Golden Dawn, which now claims 21 parliamentarians and whose members are known for giving Nazi salutes and for their staunchly anti-immigrant stance, is led by Nikolaos Mihaloliakos. According to Reuters Mr Mihaloliakos told an interviewer on Sunday that he did not believe that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. He described the figure as an "exaggeration". He said: "There were no ovens, this is a lie ... there were no gas chambers either." Holocaust denial is not illegal in Greece, but a government spokesman said he categorically condemned Mr Mihaloliakos's remarks. "They distort history and offend the memory of millions of Holocaust victims," said Pantelis Kapsis. Golden Dawn's success has sent shockwaves around Greece's Jewish community, which is estimated to include several thousand people. The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece called it a "serious blow" to Greek democracy. Supporters of the Party were left unable to access its website on Monday, after the blog host WordPress removed the Golden Dawn page because of a "violation" of its terms of service.
© The Jewish Chronicle

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MORE THAN HALF OF POLICE OFFICERS VOTED FOR NEO-NAZI PARTY (Greece)

More than half of all police officers in Greece voted for pro-Nazi party Golden Dawn in the elections of May 6. This is the disconcerting result of an analysis carried out by authoritative newspaper To Vima in several constituencies in Athens, where 5,000 police officers in service in the Greek capital also cast their ballot.

11/5/2012- At some polling stations, Golden Dawn obtained 19 to 24% of votes. Others, like Agios Panteleimonas and Kypseli, traditional strongholds of the party, reached 15 to 18%. According to the newspaper, at the 11 polling stations (from 806 to 816) located near the police station (Ellas), Golden Dawn received most votes, reaching 18.64% at station 813 and 23.67% at number 816. Other polling stations situated at a short distance from the ones mentioned before, where police officers do not vote, recorded 12-14% of votes for the Golden Dawn party. The four polling stations located near the riot police station (MAT), used by the police, recorded percentages between 13 and 19 for Golden Dawn. These figures, To Vima underlines, are impressive, considering the fact that other polling stations close to the riot police station reached 7-10% of votes for the pro-Nazi party. Based on the electoral lists, 550 to 700 people have voted at each of these voting stations, of which 20 to 30% police officers. The newspaper worked out that 45 to 59% of police officers voted for Golden Dawn.
© The Greek Reporter

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GREECE: SALONIKA MAYOR, BAN ON NEO-NAZIS

10/5/2012- The mayor of Salonika, the famous wine producer Yiannis Boutaris, one of the most respected public administration figures in Greece, has called on his fellow citizens and politicians to introduce the rule similar to the one enforced in Germany and ban any Nazi-inspired parties. The call by Boutaris comes after the election success last Sunday of the far-right party Chrsyi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which obtained 21 seats in Parliament. "It is a sign of the times," Boutaris said of the party's success, during a ceremony to commemorate the end of the Second World War. "The recession, austerity and unemployment have led to a rebirth of extremism in Europe," he said. Yesterday, the President of Cyprus, the communist Dimitris Christofias, stigmatised Chrysi Avgi's election victory as "a rape of the modern history of Greece". Meanwhile, the imminent entry into the Greek Parliament of the extremists with neo-Nazi sympathies continues to be met with amazement and indignation. The GRReporter website has focussed in particular on Giorgios Germenis, the shaven-headed militant who on election night ordered the journalists present to stand up as the party leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, entered the room. Germenis is the third party candidate to have won a seat in the second electoral ward of Athens.

The website says that Germenis is the bassist in a black metal band, Naer Mataron, which has Greek and Norwegian members. In one article published before the elections, the conservative newspaper Elefteri Ora said spoken of the Satanistic tendencies of Germenis, who in many pictures wears a frightening mask and a satanic symbol across his chest. GRReporter says that his nickname in the band is Kaiadas, after the name of the gorge at the foot of Mount Taygetus, where the ancient Spartans would throw their sick or disabled children in an attempt to pursue their desire for a population of perfect warriors. According to the Greek press, however, Germenis and some of his colleagues could find themselves unable to take up their seat in Parliament. Michaloliakos is said to have asked all of them to turn down their seats, allowing him to choose personally the party's representatives. Constitutionalists say that this is technically possible if those involved resign. Another element to emerge regarding the party is that its deputies will receive only part of their parliamentary wage, which in Greece is similar to that of an army colonel, with the rest going into the party's coffers.
© ANSAmed.

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GREECE'S NEO-NAZI GOLDEN DAWN WEBSITE SUSPENDED

10/5/2012- WordPress has suspended the website of the Greek political party Golden Dawn, which gained electoral success in Sunday's election, claiming violation of service. Golden Dawn, which resents the label neo-Nazi, has garnered international attention since winning its first seats in parliament. However the attention has been critical amid allegations it has threatened and intimidated journalists. Now the website on which the group published its threats against journalist Xenia Kounalaki, has been suspended, even before the petition organized by Change.org to have it removed had chance to attract much support. Reporters complained about the demands made by Golden Dawn at its victory press conference. The party ordered journalists to stand and salute the party or leave.

In an interview with ITV Golden Dawn spokesperson Theodoros Koudounas denied the group were either fascist or Nazi, explaining that they could not be fascists as they aren't Italians, nor could they be Nazis as they aren't Germans. Instead he described them as “Popular nationalists”. They have played on anti-immigrant sentiments which have been fuelled by the rising tide of crime in Greek cities and the inexorable flow of over one million illegals which the nation is ill equipped to bear the financial costs of. Many who chose to cast their vote for Golden Dawn did so as a protest vote against the mainstream parties that have dominated Greece and bear responsibility for the current crisis. However, with the prospect of a second election looming Reuters report "the only voters who expressed regret" for voting against austerity measures "were some of those who cast ballots for extreme-right Golden Dawn, out of concern for illegal immigration and rising crime." Whilst likely to retain a position in Parliament, a second election could see a reduction in the 21 seats they won this weekend.
© The Digital Journal

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GREEK MEDIA ACCUSE FAR-RIGHT PARTY OF BULLYING

Greek journalists on Tuesday accused the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party of intimidation after they became the first far-right group to enter parliament since military dictatorship ended.

8/5/2012- At a news conference after securing 7 percent of the vote on Sunday, Golden Dawn members ordered journalists to stand to attention for party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos. Many journalists left the room in protest. Mihaloliakos also marched down the street on Sunday flanked by muscular men with shaved heads and tight t-shirts, and yelling "liars!" at the foreign journalists following him. "The Greek Federation of Journalists (POESY) warns Hitler nostalgics and especially the 'brave boys in black t-shirts' that no journalist will be coerced, threatened and above all terrorized," the union said in a statement. The Athens Union of Journalists (ESIEA) said: "Acting like bouncers, they showed their true colors. We are not afraid of you. We will reveal your role. You will not have your way." Promising to rid Greece of immigrants and with a swastika-like logo, Golden Dawn is the first far-right party to enter parliament since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974. The party, which denies that it is neo-Nazi, rose from obscurity in just over a year by appealing to Greeks who feel that a rise in crime driven by five years of recession has made the streets unsafe. Many Greeks were shocked by its success, also fuelled in part by anger with the two parties that have been in power for decades and led Greece into its debt crisis: the conservative New Democracy and the socialist PASOK.
© Reuters

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GREEK FAR-RIGHT LEADER SAVORS ELECTORAL SUCCESS

Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party savored unprecedented success in Sunday's general election by promising to rid Greece of illegal immigrants, branding journalists "liars" and warning all "traitors" to run scared.

6/5/2012- Little more than an obscure fringe group barely a year ago, the party is set to blow past estimates and enter parliament for the first time with as much as 8 percent of the vote. That would make the group - which denies it is neo-Nazi - one of the biggest winners in an election where the main conservative and Socialist parties are taking a drubbing over their support for a bailout tied to austerity measures. Flanked by burly, muscular men in tight black t-shirts, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos marched down the street in Athens yelling "liars" and "You must be ashamed for all your lies!" at foreign journalists following him. "Greece is only the beginning," he shouted at them. When asked what that meant, he said: "You know very well", wagging a finger at the television camera. As they strode to the hotel, his supporters began chanting "Greece belongs to Greeks" and "Foreigners get out of Greece". When asked what his first action in parliament would be, Mihaloliakos said: "All the illegal immigration out! Out of my country, out of my home!" Asked how he planned to carry that out, he angrily said: "Use your imagination". As he entered the news conference, party members ordered assembled journalists to stand to attention. His party's flag - featuring an ancient Greek symbol resembling the Nazi swastika set against a red background - hung in the background. "I'll say one thing: 'Veni, Vidi, Vici'," Mihaloliakos said from the podium, surrounded by his bodyguards sitting motionless with their arms crossed. "You defamed me, you shut my mouth - I won."

"Brave Boys"
With 63 percent of the vote counted, Golden Dawn had nabbed a 6.9 percent share, potentially giving it 21 deputies in parliament, making it the first time such a party would be in parliament since the fall of a military dictatorship in 1974. In the last election, it took just 0.23 percent of the vote. Pledging to "clean up" Greece by expelling all legal and illegal immigrants, the party has won voters worried about rising crime levels at a time of deep recession. The group has also developed a benevolent image in some Athens' neighborhoods by dropping off food to needy families and escorting elderly residents to bank ATMs. "We will continue our struggle for a free Greece, free from foreign loan sharks and a Greece that is independent and proud, without the slavery of the bailout," said Mihaloliakos, who was elected to the Athens city council in 2010. He promptly gave the Nazi salute on his first appearance there. "We will struggle for a Greece that is not a social jungle because of the millions of immigrants they brought here without asking us," he said. The group - which openly displays books on Aryan supremacy at its party offices - has been frequently linked to racist attacks, but denies beating up migrants. "This victory is devoted to all the brave boys with the black T-shirts and the white letters reading Golden Dawn," Mihaloliakos said. "Those who betrayed the motherland - you should be scared now."
© Reuters

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RADICAL LEFT AND NEO-NAZIS SCORE WELL IN GREEK ELECTIONS

6/5/2012- Greek voters on Sunday (6 May) punished the two ruling parties responsible for the last EU bail-out and its austerity measures by giving the radical left the second highest number of votes and allowing a neo-Nazi party into the legislature for the first time. Early official results after 10 percent of the votes were count show that the centre-right New Democracy party has gained the most votes (19.2%) but it is not enough to re-make the current ruling coalition with the Social Democrats (Pasok). Instead, Syriza, a coalition of radical left parties (16.3%) opposing the austerity rules of the €130 billion bail-out, but in favour for Greece to stay in the eurozone, pushed Pasok into third place. The right-wing Independent Greeks, a splinter party from New Democracy also openly against the bail-out, scored over ten percent. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who will have three days to try and form a government, may try and woo his former party colleagues back into a coalition with Pasok (14.6%).

Vying with Syriza as the biggest news of the election is the score of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. It is to hold 21 seats in the parliament after it convinced almost seven percent of the voters. Despite denying the neo-Nazi label, Golden Dawn activists often salute like Hitler and want landmines planted on the Greek borders to fend off illegal immigrants. The Communist Party and the Democratic Left - bolstered by defections from Pasok - also scored above the five-percent threshold. They may be drawn into a leftist government if Samaras fails to form a majority and Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is given the same task. If no government is formed by 17 May, elections are to be held again, putting in question the long-negotiated bail-out and the implementation of the required budget cuts and reforms ranging from tax collection to labour market and privatisations.

Under the agreement with EU lenders signed by the outgoing Pasok-New Democracy government, a further €11 billion in spending cuts are due to be found by June in exchange for the next tranche of bail-out money. The highly unpopular troika of officials from the EU commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank is due to arrive in Athens in the next few weeks to inspect whether the conditions of the bail-out are being kept to. Most of the aid, however, is going to banks and to the repayment of Greece's crushing foreign debt, which is why the Greek people are angry at the politicians who backed the bail-out.
© The EUobserver

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MIGRANTS BAFFLED BY CLUBS’ CLOSED DOORS (Malta)

5/5/2012- A black migrant who is repeatedly barred from setting foot in Paceville nightclubs left a racism conference still unclear what Maltese law states on discrimination. From the back of a conference room, Dicko Osman, 31, from Ivory Coast asked Justice Minister Chris Said if he could explain what the law says, “because I can’t understand why I am always refused entrance at clubs in Paceville”. Dr Said urged him to report the incident to the police. However, a baffled Mr Osman told The Times it would be totally pointless to report the incident, as invariably it would be witnessed by police officers who would nod and ask him to go home.

Ali Konale, 28, a migrant from Mali, had a similar story to tell. Whenever he tried to report the matter, the police always told him clubs were private businesses and they could not interfere. “Perhaps this is the Maltese law? I don’t know,” Mr Konale said. Maltese law is in fact very clear on the matter. Chapter 456 of the Laws of Malta and Legal Notice 85 (2007) advocates the implementation of the principle of equal treatment of people irrespective of their race or ethnic origins. But not many migrants are aware of this and a new National Commission for the Promotion of Equality project, entitled I’m Not a Racist, But..., aims to address this lack of information.

African minority migrants will be given two sessions of training on how to make their voice heard, how to advocate for their rights and how to report discrimination. Although NCPE strives to raise awareness on racial equality, the rate of complaints is very low. “We need more migrants to come forward and report discrimination,” NCPE executive director Romina Bartolo said. How will training help, if immigrants faced a wall when it came to reporting these incidents to the authority? Dr Bartolo paused and said: “As part of NCPE’s ongoing work we train police cadets. But it might be that we need to be carrying out more police training.” A research study two years ago showed that a good number of discriminatory incidents in Malta went unreported.

Part of this project, co-funded by the EU, will also include research on ­housing discrimination. “Little is known about the experiences of immigrants and ethnic minorities in accessing and inhabiting housing. We hear a lot about their difficulties in finding accommodation but we need more research, we can’t act on perceived perceptions,” Dr Bartolo said. “This project will give us an insight into how to address these situations and safeguard the people who are reporting discriminatory incidents,” said Dr Said. Although mainly targeted at the migrant society, the project will also run an anti-racism theme day for the public, focusing on raising awareness on discrimination and promoting diversity.
© The Times of Malta

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ITALIAN FOOTBALL FANS THREATEN POGROM AGAINST ETHNIC ROMA

5/5/2012- Police in the Adriatic port city of Pescara are fighting to prevent a potential pogrom after rising tensions between football fans and the local Roma community – the ethnic minority, rather than the football club of the same name. The conflict has seen a murder and petrol-bomb attacks in the past few days – with the threat of worse to come. Roma, often regarded as the most discriminated-against ethnic group in Europe, have already been the target of vicious attacks in other Italian cities, most notably in Naples where the local Camorra mafia have torched gypsy camps. Now violent elements among Pescara's football fans have told Roma that they have five days to leave the city or face the consequences.

The simmering ill feeling between the violent fans and local gypsies exploded on Tuesday evening when one supporter, Domenico Rigante, 24, was shot and later died in hospital after a group of six Roma broke into a house and attacked him. The suspected Roma killer, Massimo Ciarelli, 29, had, according to local press reports, threatened to kill the victim a week earlier following an argument involving Mr Rigante and his twin brother Antonio. It has also emerged that Mr Ciarelli was arrested in 2005 following a shooting incident involving other Roma. Even before Mr Rigante died in hospital, extremist Pescara supporters, who are said to have links with the neo-fascist Forza Nuova political party, retaliated with petrol bomb attacks on Mr Ciarelli's house.

On Thursday evening, a group of Pescara supporters, who call themselves the Rangers, held up a banner outside the town hall which read: "You have five days to drive them from the city". Pescara supporters plan a provocative demonstration on Sunday in the Fontanelle district, the heart of the city's Roma enclave. This will be followed by a meeting in front of the town hall to press home their demands for the group to be cleared from Pescara. One message that has sprung up on walls around the city reads: "If they don't leave, we'll expel them. This won't be racism but a general clean up, whether they're Roma or not." Similar threats have appeared on Facebook.

Pescara's mayor, Luigi Albore Mascia, has already held an emergency meeting with police chiefs in the hope of preventing further violence; extra police have already been put on duty. Mr Mascia said: "There is concern in the city but we're hoping that things don't get out of control. Pescara is not the 'wild west' that many make it out to be. I for one am not signing up to intolerance and racism, and I'm launching an appeal for reasonableness." A police spokesman said the murder of Mr Rigante was the culmination of violence and confrontations between football fans and Roma "that had nothing to do with football".

Alessandro Baldati, a spokesman for the local Right of Pescara political group, told La Stampa newspaper that the city needed policies to ensure that Roma "respect the rules, show public spirit and a life marked by work and non-violence and the proper education of children". Even one leading consumer group, Codici, the Centre for the Rights of the Citizen, issued a thinly veiled attack on the criminal elements in the Roma community: "Criminality has upped the battle against those of us it considers enemies, and it shows it has no compunction about killing on a whim."

But Nazareno Guarnieri, the president of the National Roma Foundation, said it was wrong to use the killing as an excuse to slur all Roma. "The person responsible must be caught and put in prison like any other criminal," he said. "The Roma community is not delinquent. If anything, the responsibility lies with local authorities and the institutions in the sense that there are insufficient opportunities for them to avoid marginalisation and social exclusion."
© The Independent

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THE TRUE WINNER OF FRENCH ELECTION? EUROPE’S RIGHT (opinion)

By Yascha Mounk, founding editor of the Utopian, Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Harvard University.

7/5/2012- Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, which hasn’t ousted an incumbent president in more than three decades, has every reason to celebrate victory over Nicolas Sarkozy. But the true winner of this election isn’t France’s left; it’s Europe’s far right. The reason is simple. In this election, France’s establishment has embraced Islamophobic ideas to an unprecedented degree. Right-wing populism, once a fringe phenomenon, has been conquering the bastions of Europe’s political mainstream with frightening speed; even so, most observers failed to predict the extent to which anti-immigrant themes would shape this campaign. It’s difficult to know whether Europe’s populists are approaching the zenith of their power or will continue their steady rise. But one thing is certain: At no point in Europe’s postwar history has the far right’s influence been as pervasive as it is now.

Two weeks ago, in the first round of the presidential elections, nearly one in five French voters opted for Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extremist Front National party. Marine, who replaced her father, Jean-Marie, as party leader a little over a year ago, has donned a cloak of respectability, severing the organization’s ties to the most flagrant neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic groups. But the core of her appeal remains unchanged: It consists of hatred of Muslim immigrants, along with everyone else she considers alien to the French nation. Her tactic of giving racism a pretty veneer has clearly worked well. In her first run for president, she already gained a greater share of the vote than her father ever managed to muster. Perhaps worse is the degree to which establishment politicians have imitated Le Pen’s words. In March, Sarkozy’s campaign spent the better part of two weeks talking about the danger unmarked halal meat allegedly posed to unsuspecting Parisians. After the horrific attacks in Toulouse, Sarkozy briefly dialed down his rhetoric. But after Le Pen’s strong showing in the first round of voting, he sounded shriller than ever.

In the last several days, Sarkozy repeatedly spoken of his country’s Christian roots, lamented that there are too many foreigners in France and called Islam a threat to the nation’s values. An official campaign video released last week plays with people’s xenophobic fears, the camera zooming in on scores of African migrants landing on a European beach as Sarkozy promises to slash immigration. Nobody was taken by surprise, then, when Sarkozy concluded Wednesday night’s nationally televised presidential debate against Hollande with a direct appeal to Le Pen’s followers. What was more surprising about the debate was the extent to which even Hollande tried to appeal to the far right. When Sarkozy contended that tensions between France’s ethnic groups are to be explained by the presence of “Islam in France,” Hollande vowed to uphold a ban on women wearing the burqa in public. When Sarkozy raised the issue of halal meat, Hollande vowed that France’s school cafeterias would not serve a single piece of halal meat during his presidency. Trying to outdo his rival, Hollande went out of his way to emphasize that, unlike Sarkozy, he had favored a ban on French schoolgirls wearing the veil as early as 2003.

There are still gradations, of course. Le Pen openly rails against immigrants. Sarkozy obliquely railed against immigrants. Hollande didn’t really want to rail against immigrants — just to echo widespread sentiment against immigrants enough to be elected president. Even so, it has been the far right that has set the tone of this campaign: The mainstream candidates, in the end, were reduced to courting the favors of Le Pen’s party. All of this matters beyond France because, historically, what happens in Paris often portends what will happen elsewhere on the continent. It’s not just that most Europeans think of the French Revolution as the cradle of modern democracy. Even in contemporary terms, the country stands at the center of Europe’s political gravity. Up until now, populists have celebrated their biggest successes in countries like the Netherlands, Italy and Poland. But France isn’t as small as the Netherlands, as politically dysfunctional as Italy or as new to democracy as Poland. The sad spectacle of the last several weeks is the culmination of a wider European trend of accommodating the far right — and it may suggest it’s about to get much worse.

As in France, established political parties across the continent at first vowed to shun surging populist leaders like Jorg Haider of Austria or Geert Wilders of the Netherlands. A cordon sanitaire was to unite all democrats in their fight against the far-right threat. But unity did not last long. As populist parties in these countries gained in strength, traditional coalition governments, especially those formed by center-right parties, lost their majorities. Center-right leaders realized that to gain or preserve power they would have to cooperate with the populists. As a result, in one country after another, center-right parties that had once vowed to fight the far right have come to rely on them to prop themselves up. By now, Austria, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands have all had governments that stood or fell by the grace of far-right parties. Even leaders of countries like Britain and Germany, where populist parties have so far been unable to make any significant headway at the national level, have adopted some of their competitors’ slogans. In the last two years, for example, both Angela Merkel and David Cameron have emphasized the dangers of multiculturalism. In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, some populists have even been able to form governments of their own: The current Hungarian government, led by the deeply illiberal Viktor Orban, is only the most extreme example.

The left in each case condemned the center-right’s willingness to sacrifice principles to electoral politics. But even as they tried to claim the moral high ground, they knew that many of the populists’ followers were recruited from the ranks of their own base. The temptation for leaders of the left to echo anti-immigrant themes has steadily grown; some have succumbed to it. In Germany, for example, the most famous populist is now nominally a member of the Social Democratic Party. Thilo Sarrazin, a well-known bureaucrat, wrote a best-selling book discussing, among other insidious themes, the supposed genetic inferiority of Turkish immigrants. Thanks to a half-hearted promise not to make racist remarks in the future, he remains a party member to this day. It is always easy to overstate the importance of the latest shock to the system. Has this election really been better news for Europe’s far right than 2002, when Marine Le Pen’s father (despite gaining fewer votes than she did two weeks ago) qualified for the second round of the presidential elections? Only time will tell. But if I am to hazard a guess, I would say that the 2002 election will be remembered as the moment when it became undeniable that many voters across Europe had come to agree with the new brand of anti-immigrant rhetoric. This year’s election, by contrast, will be remembered as the moment when Europe’s establishment decided to welcome those ideas into the political mainstream.
© The Miami Herald

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ROMA: EUROPE’S SILENT MINORITY

by Natalie Bowlus 

5/5/2012- Anti-immigration and anti-Muslim vitriol pervades the European press. This focus obscures the fact that the largest and most disenfranchised minority on the continent is native to Europe: the Roma. Known as Europe’s “gypsies,” there are between 10 and 16 million Roma currently living in the EU. Most reside in Eastern countries that joined the Union in 2004 and 2007. The Roma are plagued by lower educational achievement, higher unemployment and higher birth rates than their co-nationals. Roma children tend to cluster in segregated schools and sometimes are even sequestered in schools for the mentally handicapped, leaving them without the skills necessary to enter the workforce. Widespread discrimination against the Roma can be public and overt: in 2010, for example, the French government suddenly deported hundreds of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma. Paris received little more than a slap on the wrist from the European Commission for this extra-legal action. On the one hand, as European citizens, the Roma are entitled to freedom of movement; on the other, the French claimed they were not making substantive progress toward finding work and integrating into French society. Rather than work toward reconciling these competing imperatives, the European Commission backed down and avoided conflict.

The Roma are also lightning rods for hate crimes and fanaticism. In Hungary, for example, supporters of the far-right party Jobbik claim that one of the government’s major failures is its inability to combat “gypsy crime.” Vigilante groups seeking to remedy the situation sprung up in several parts of the country. One of the most extreme incidents took place in the village of Gyögyöspata last March when the vigilante group Vedero infiltrated the town, harassed Roma residents and started an armed brawl. Subsequently, more than 100 Roma moved out. Although such armed militant groups were banned last April, police harassment, employment discrimination and the subtler, everyday racism that permeates society remain features of daily life. So far, the European Union has failed to take the lead on the issue of Roma integration, leaving the task instead to national governments. Formulating a plan to integrate the Roma was one condition for Romania and Bulgaria’s EU accession, but the EU has no plan to assist with the actual implementation. Not surprisingly, little progress has been made.

There was an undeniable glimmer of hope when the Decade of Roma Inclusion was launched in 2005, spearheaded by twelve countries with large Roma populations. Although the initiative itself is laudable and represents a government-level acknowledgement of the need to bring Roma into society, seven years later there has yet to be any monitoring and evaluation of programs. At best, the Decade is an opportunity for a lot of talk and no action; at worst, it represents yet another sinkhole for EU development money to be sucked into opportunistic politicians’ pockets. The exclusion of Roma from European society is a pan-European problem. The leadership behind solving it must come from the European Union for several reasons. First, as European citizens and passport holders, the Roma must be allowed to move freely from country to country. Roma who do not feel tied to local communities in the East are able to move to Western Europe in the hope of finding better jobs or more generous welfare states. Integration of these migrating populations is necessary in order to prevent situations like the mass French deportation two years ago.

Second, the Roma represent the largest and fastest-growing minority group in Europe. By failing to integrate them into local economies, governments are missing out on thousands of Euros of revenue. Especially in times of crisis, Europe cannot afford a systemically disenfranchised population that will be a drag on the economy. Third, the countries with the largest Roma populations are also among Europe’s poorest. By leaving integration to national governments, the EU is saddling countries that have little spare cash and less political will with an additional burden. As a result, pro-Roma initiatives take a back seat to more pressing concerns, enabling related funds to continue to be ill spent. Finally, continuing discrimination against the Roma systemically undermines the European project of inclusion and equality for all its citizens. If the European Union cannot lead the way in improving the quality of life for one of its most disenfranchised minorities, then it reveals itself as hollow at the core. For the sake of its own integrity, and for the future of European cooperation, it is therefore imperative that in the coming years the European Union makes Roma integration a priority.
© The Fletcher Forum for World Affairs

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Headlines 4 May, 2012

UKRAINE TELLS REDING TO BE LESS 'EMOTIONAL' ON EURO2012

4/5/2012- Ukraine's EU ambassador has told justice commissioner Vivianne Reding that she should be less "emotional" in a riposte to her Euro2012 boycott. The diplomat, Konstiantin Yelisieiev, in a letter dated 2 May - and seen by EUobserver - said her decision is "based rather on emotions surrounding some criminal cases in Ukraine, than on a sober reflection of their legal substance." He noted that her views come lock, stock and barrel from "Ukraine's domestic political opposition" and that things would "appear to [her] in different colours" if she came to Kiev to see "them with [her] own eyes." Yelisieiev added that Euro2012 should be a "celebration of good will" among ordinary people instead of "making political stands." "Millions of Ukrainians put their heart into making this celebration happen ... they deserve the highest recognition, not the cold shoulder. Shunning them politically, as you suggested, would be unfair and disproportionate."

Reding last week in an open letter to the European football association, Uefa, said she will not go to games in Ukraine in June and July because of "partial justice" in the case of Yulia Tymoshenko. Her boycott was the first in a list which now includes two German ministers, Austria, Belgium and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Tymoshenko was jailed last year for signing a cripplingly expensive gas supply contract with Russia while prime minister. She is currently in the 14th day of a hunger strike after an alleged beating by prison guards. Poland, which is co-hosting Euro2012 with Ukraine, has also criticised the boycotteers. Its president, Bronislaw Komorowski, said on national TV on Wednesday the move is based on "other calculations" than human rights - an allusion to Polish concerns that Germany is trying to harm EU-Ukraine integration because of its close ties to Russia.

The football snub is a bad omen for prospects of the EU signing a political and trade association treaty with Ukraine early next year. Amid expectations that even if it is signed, EU countries will not ratify it before 2016, Ukraine is currently preparing legal measures for "provisional application" of the trade chapter. It sees the treaty as protection of its recently-won sovereignty from Russia - one clause in the political section envisages emergency EU-Ukraine talks if there is a threat to its territorial integrity. It has long complained that, unlike Poland, EU institutions do not understand the hard realities of post-Cold-War geopolitics. "If the European External Action Service had ever drafted a full and comprehensive EU strategy toward Russia, they would come running to us to sign this treaty," a Ukrainian contact said.
© The EUobserver

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MAN MAKES ANTI-SEMITIC ANNOUNCEMENT ON BELGIAN TRAIN

Passengers baffled when loudspeaker system announces: 'This is train to Auschwitz; all Jews asked to get off at Buchenwald'

4/5/2012- Distasteful prank – Belgian train passengers were surprised on Thursday when the loudspeaker system suddenly announced: "Welcome to the train to Auschwitz. All Jews are asked to get off in Buchenwald." Belgium's national railway company later condemned the announcement, which was heard at 4:51 pm on a train traveling from Brussels to Namur. inspectors who boarded the train Immediately following the incident were unable to locate the man responsible for the act. "SNCB harshly condemns the act," the train company said in an issued statement, adding that the anti-Semitic act can result in a lawsuit. According to the statement, the man who made the distasteful announcement was not an employee of the company. Following the incident, an official complaint was filed with the railway company's customer service and Jewish Parliament Member Vivian Teitelbaum. Responding to the incident, Teitelbaum said: "Many were baffled to hear the announcement, but in my opinion more and more red lines are being crossed, and therefore I must respond. These types of incidents are also inspired by politicians who compare between certain things," she said.
© Ynet News

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BELGIUM: GAY MAN’S DEATH MAY BE FIRST TO BE CLASSED AS HOMOPHOBIC

The death of Belgian man whose body was found this week may be the first to be treated as a homophobic killing under Belgium’s new laws.

3/5//2012- Belgian news sources are reporting that the body of Ihsane Jarfi was discovered by two hikers after his disappearance on 22 April. Ihsane Jarfi, 32, had been at a gay bar in Liège on the night he disappeared. Reports say he left the club and entered a Volkswagen Polo with other men. On Tuesday, his body was found in a field away from a road leading out of the city. Tetu.com reports that one of the man who was present in the car subsequently used the victim’s phone to send a text message. When he was arrested, he gave the identities of the three other men who had left the bar with them. One is still being sought. Nieuwsblad.be reports that Edouard Delruelle, adjunct-director of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism said the organisation would step forward as a civil party if the prosecutor recognises it as a homophobic hate crime.

Vincent Bonhomme, project coordinator at Arc-en-Ciel Wallonie said it would be the first death to be a result of homophobic violence under the 2003 Belgian law which made sexuality an aggravating factor for such offences. He said: “We suspect the general population and the government underestimate homophobia and we demand the government provide us with a anti-discrimination plan. This probably isn’t the first homophobic murder, but it will be the first one to be officially labeled as such. Since 2006 public prosecutors and police are obliged to mention such motives.” Two suspects said the deceased man was still alive when they left him in the field, having physically beaten him. RTL reported that they claimed the victim had made a sexual advance. The third suspect denies everything. Tetu.com reported that the men had been charged with robbery, forcible confinement and assault causing death without intention, with homophobic intent possibly forming an aggravating factor.
© Pink News

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'LANDMARK' ROMA EVICTION RULING SETS PRECEDENT, RIGHTS GROUP SAYS (Bulgaria)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that evicting Roma from an established community outside of Sofia, Bulgaria, would violate the right to life. Amnesty International called it a "landmark judgment."

2/5/2012- The Strasbourg-based rights court issued the ruling last week in favor of 23 Bulgarian nationals living in a settlement with about 250 other Roma. The Roma had settled in Batalova Vodenitsa, on the outskirts of Bulgaria's capital Sofia, in the 1960s and 70s. The 1990s saw growing hostility against Roma in Sofia, including some politicians calling for the emptying of "Roma ghettos." Citing tensions with neighbors over the makeshift homes, which lacked building permits and didn't fulfill safety regulations, a local court in 2006 upheld an eviction order by Sofia authorities after the land was privatized. The Roma, also known as gypsies, have been pushed to the margins of European society and have even become targets of persecution. Pressure from the European Union prevented the Sofia eviction from taking place. Now, the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Bulgaria to change its removal law. Any such removal must provide special consideration of vulnerable populations, such as elderly and children, the ruling stated.

"It means the authorities can't evict these communities without safeguards," said Barbora Cernusokova, an Eastern Europe specialist with Amnesty International. The "landmark judgment" is also important since with it, the court officially recognized discrimination against the Roma community, Cernusokova said. The ruling "provides a guideline as to how other countries should approach Roma rights," Cernusokova said. She cited a similar eviction case relating to a settlement in Craica, Romania. The rights group has also spoken out against evictions of Roma outside of Belgrade, the Serbian capital. The EU last year adopted a framework for inclusion of the often marginalized Roma into society, which includes education, employment, and health and housing goals. The Roma or Romani population in Europe comprises 8 to 12 million people, and is centered mostly in Central Eastern Europe. In addition to ordering the Bulgarian government to change its policy, the human rights court said it must pay court costs of 4,000 euros ($5,300).
© The Deutsche Welle

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MFD: THE LOST GENERATION OF ROMA ADOLESCENTS (Czech Rep.)

3/5/2012- The "lost generation" of Romanies whom society does not understand and who do not understand society is coming of age in the Czech Republic and social tension is mounting, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reports yesterday. It writes that some young Romanies who have hardly completed elementary education and have never seen their parents work regularly are now fighting for survival day by day but they refuse to solve their desolate existence by committing crimes. One of them is Radek, 16, who is now living in a cave with no basic equipment on the outskirts of Novy Bor, north Bohemia. He had to move from his family's little flat where he lived with his parents, six siblings and their children. Up to 15 people packed there, which was unbearable, he said.

Radek, who finished only six grades of elementary school, earns his daily bread by collecting metal scrap, such as old fridges and wash machines, for which he can get some 50 crowns a day. Other Romany boys rebel against their miserable situation by violence, MfD writes. It adds that several cases of violent attacks on "the white" by young Romanies were reported in north Bohemian localities with a high Romany population as well as other parts of the country. The most serious attack occurred in Breclav, south Moravia, in April when a 15-year-old boy was beaten up by three young Romanies so brutally that he lost a kidney allegedly for no reason, the paper recalls. According to experts, the number of such attacks will rise along with subsequent anti-Romany marches and rallies organised by ultra-right radicals.

Sociologist Ivan Gabal foresaw many years ago that the Romany youth uprooted both from their families and society would become a social threat, MfD writes. "Gangs of young boys scratching a living in the street have no relation to anything," Gabal said. They come from the generation afflicted by the stagnation of the Czech school system that was not able to educate children from socially deprived families. Moreover, the national military service that helped learn young boys some order and discipline was abolished after the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 and its military became professional, the paper recalls.

Experts see the main problem in the fact that members of the "lost generation" of Romanies do not recognise any rules since they lack authorities. The assimilation, which was pushed through by the communist regime, destroyed the networks of Romany elites whom other Romanies respected and obeyed. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1989, the duty to work was no longer embedded in law and many Romanies got used to living on welfare, MfD writes. After the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the newly established Czech Republic faced an influx of Romanies from Slovakia that has continued to date, and the old traditional Romany bonds were broken definitively, MfD adds. It says all Czech governments have so far failed to solve "the Romany problem."

Jana Horvathova, director of the Romany Culture Museum in Brno, is convinced that the more Romanies are kept in isolation in ghettoes, the more they will get stuck in living on the edge and the harder it will be to integrate them into society. She recalls that Romanies have had their own laws to be able to survive since the time immemorial. Now that these laws do not connect them any longer, young Romanies lack any rules, MfD writes. It says many experts in Romany issues consider the current government strategy in support of Romanies' integration "toothless." "We must offer activities in 'low-threshold centres' to young people from the street and support their education even if we had to force it upon problem families," government human rights commissioner Monika Simunkova told MfD, summarising her concept.

Lawyer Klara Samkova, who represents Romany clients, points out that the majority society does not understand the Romany soul. According to her, young Romanies' violent excesses are an unfortunate attempt to draw attention to themselves. It seems that there is no rational solution to the problem, she said. This is why Samkova has turned to the occult. Her acquaintance, astrologist Milena Bornova, is working out a Romany horoscope that can allegedly help understand the mentality of this minority and find a formula for cohabitation with it, MfD notes. "Romanies are different. They have a low ability to distinguish between reality and dreams, it is difficult to motivate them with the future. As soon as they acquire some education, they have a tendency to separate themselves (from the Romany community) unfortunately," Bornova told MfD.

However, not all cases of young Romanies living in the Czech Republic are "lost." MfD writes about Jirka, an 18-year-old boy from a family of Romany musicians from Ceska Lipa, north Bohemia, who plays in the family band and studies at a vocational technical school specialised in IT. "My biggest dream is to have a steady job. It is nonsense to claim that Romanies do not want to work. It makes my flesh creep when I see that no one wants to employ us, the dark-skinned," Jirka told the paper.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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NUMBER OF PUBLIC EXTREMIST EVENTS ON THE RISE, REPORT SAYS (Czech Rep.)

2/5/2012- The number of publicly held extremist events rose to 334 in the Czech Republic in 2011, compared with 200 in 2010, according to a report by the Interior Ministry that the government discussed yesterday, the ministry's spokesman Pavel Novak has told CTK. In 2011, 123 events were organised by rightist extremists compared with 80 in 2010 and 211 by leftist extremists against 120 in 2010. The report says the extremists are more and more radical. The number of crimes committed has not increased year-on-year, but the number of violent crime with an extremist subtext increased. The ministry says local extremist cells that have their own activities or may try to take a direct action operated in the Czech Republic. The radicals also use more than in the past various discussion forums, blogs and social networks to spread their ideas. They also use the Internet to convoke their meetings. ¨The Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) and its youth organisation, the Workers' Youth, continue to be the major representatives of rightist stands, the report says. Yet, the Czech extreme nationalist scene has long been stagnating, it lacks a long-time concept as well as finance, the report says. It also fails to attract new members. The "Marxist-Leninist" part of the leftist spectrum was also stagnating in 2011 and some groups allegedly even subdued their activities, according to the report.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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NEO-NAZIS STRIKE ROMANI ACTIVIST IN THE HEAD WITH COBBLESTONE DURING PRAGUE DEMONSTRATION (Czech Rep.)

2/5/2012- Roughly 150 supporters of the right-wing extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) and the Workers' Youth (Dělnická mládeže - DM) gathered on 1 May to demonstrate in Prague. The right-wing radicals threw cobblestones and glass or plastic bottles at counter-demonstrators objecting to their neo-Nazism who marched past just after 15:00 near Na můstku street. One of the cobblestones struck a Romani activist from the Hate is No Solution initiative, Jozef Miker. The aggressive neo-Nazis also injured three police officers. One neo-Nazi was arrested for assaulting an officer. The ultra-right supporters gathered at 14:00 at the bottom of Wenceslas Square, where several people gave speeches. DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas opened the demonstration by criticizing Czech PM Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats - ODS) for preserving his existing cabinet through the support of the Public Affairs (VV) MPs who want to see Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake (VV) stay in office. Vandas said the PM would do better to call early elections. He then went on to give his usual remarks, attacking Romani people and also news server Romea.cz. During its on-line reporting of the demonstration in real time, news server iDNES.cz said the DSSS leader made the following deceptive claims: "Tomáš Vandas is criticizing police reform, wiretapping, and says he is bothered by government support for news server Romea.cz."

Representatives of Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD) then gave speeches as well. According to Anti-fascist Action (Antifašistické akce), those who spoke are leading German neo-Nazis. After 15:00, several hundred opponents of the neo-Nazis walked through the lower part of Wenceslas Square heading from naměstí Republiky to Shooter's Island (Střelecký ostrov) in the Vltava river. The Czech Press Agency reported that there were more than 250 marchers, while police estimated their numbers were as high as 500. Police vehicles and riot officers separated the neo-Nazis from the counter-protesters. Despite these precautions, however, the neo-Nazis did their best to break through the police cordon in order to reach the counter-demonstrators and officers had to push them back. The neo-Nazis threw cobblestones at the counter-demonstrators as they passed by. One cobblestone struck an activist from the Hate is No Solution initiative, Jozef Miker, in the ear. He was transported to hospital, where he received three stitches.

"We were marching from náměstí Republiky back to Střelecký ostrov and at Na můstku street the Nazis attacked us. First they started throwing plastic bottles, then glass ones, and then stones. Suddenly I was struck by a stone on the ear and I didn't know what was going on anymore," Miker described the assault to news server Romea.cz. The neo-Nazis also injured three police officers. Two were given medical treatment at the scene and a third was transported to hospital. "Police have arrested at 22-year-old man over the skirmish on Na můstku street on suspicion of assaulting a public official and rioting," said Prague Police spokesperson Tomáš Hulan. The neo-Nazi who was arrested reportedly sprayed tear gas in an officer's face. The Czech Press Agency also reported that a glass bottle struck a girl who was standing among the DSSS supporters on the head. At approximately 16:00 the neo-Nazis set off on a march through the streets of Prague. From their meeting point at Na můstku street, they marched up Wencelas Square to Vinohradská street. Marchers carrying banners shouted various anti-Romani, nationalist and xenophobic slogans. The march arrived at Jiřího z Poděbrad Square, where Vandas dispersed it just before 17:00. The DSSS traditionally convenes protests on 1 May. Last year supporters of the party met up in Brno. This year's demonstration was officially entitled "For social security, against reforms".
© Romea

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CZECH POLICE SEPARATE FAR RIGHT AND ANARCHISTS ON MAY DAY

1/5/2012- Tomas Vandas, head of the Czech far-right Workers' Party of Social Justice (DSSS) criticised the centre-right coalition government and made anti-Romani statements in his May Day speech Tuesday. Some 200 DSSS supporters came to the party's demonstration in Prague centre. Over 200 anarchists passed by the rightist extremists. The riot police and police vehicles separated the two groups that were shouting at one another and throwing bottles and plastic cups. According to a CTK reporter, one glass bottle hit a girl from among DSSD supporters and injured her head. The DSSS traditionally holds protest events on May Day. This year's demonstration is held under the motto "For social certainties - against reforms." The demonstration was participated in by members of the DSSS and the Workers Youth as well as by representatives of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), a leading German neo-Nazi party according to the Anti-Fascist Action. During their march through Prague the anarchists shouted slogans like "Dirt, abomination, capitalism." Outside the Prague City Hall, they shouted "Return what you have stolen."
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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CZECH ULTRA-RIGHT PARTY INVITES GERMAN NEO-NAZIS TO TOMORROW'S 1 MAY DEMO IN PRAGUE

30/4/2012- The Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS) has invited two leading German neo-Nazis to address the demonstration it has convened for tomorrow, 1 May, in Prague. The neo-Nazis' annual 1 May party will be spiced up this year by some truly "special guests". A veteran of the German scene who earned his notoriety by giving the Nazi salute when being sworn in at the Munich town hall and the leader of the neo-Nazis from Upper Palatinate will be on display. One of these guests is Karl Richter, the German National Democratic Party (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands - NPD) Vice-Chair who has been active on the neo-Nazi scene since the 1980s. He has made no secret of his admiration for Hitler's Third Reich during his long career and has publicly lobbied against anti-fascists, ethnic minorities, migrants, and sexual minorities. An illustrative episode from his work was his giving of the Nazi salute at the Munich town hall while taking the oath to become a city councilor. He was elected to the city council in 2008 on the ticket of the "Bürgerinitiative Ausländerstopp"(the "Stop Foreigners" civic association) which won 1. 4 % of the vote.

The other representative of the German neo-Nazis will be Simon Preisinger, the district chair of the NPD for Tirschenreuth and Beirat (Oberpfalz - Upper Palatinate). He leads the neo-Nazi group Freies Netz Süd ("Free Network South" - FNS) and has strong ties to the structures that arose after the collapse of the Czech neo-Nazi National Resistance (Národní odpor - NO) in the Karlovy Vary region. Lately he has also established ties with the NO organization in the Krušné hory area, which is led by current DSSS activist Lukáš Stoupa, a man who has previously been convicted of committing a brutal assault on a male Romani minor. Several years ago, the chair of the NPD, Udo Voigt, expressed doubt as to the extent of the murders of Jewish people committed during WWII and demanded the return of the territories Germany lost after 1945, including the Czech Sudetenland, which had been awarded to Hitler's German Reich by the Munich Agreement. Some members and sympathizers of the NPD have been tried by German courts for making revisionist declarations and speeches that border on Holocaust denial. The DSSS previously said it has concluded a manifesto on cooperation with the NPD.
© Romea

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GEERT WILDERS: NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAM, RADICAL ISLAM

Controversial Dutch politician and author Geert Wilders is speaking out against Islam, but unlike most Westerners he does not draw a distinction between Islam and radical Islam, but claims that they are the same.

4/5/2012- Wilders is a member of the Dutch parliament and founder of the Party for Freedom. He said outspokenness about Islam has taken a toll on his life. He has been threatened with death, been taken court, and been banned from other European countries. “Anybody who dares to speak out against this ideology called Islam will pay a heavy price,” he in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV. “I lived with my wife for six months in a prison cell for security reasons. We didn’t commit any crime. We lived in army barracks and safe houses. I always say if I spoke up, which I’m not planning to do, but just for argument’s sake, if I spoke out against Christianity, all those things would not have happened. We use the pen and, unfortunately, they use the ax.”

Wilders is a controversial critic of Islam, campaigning against what he sees as the "Islamisation of the Netherlands." He has compared the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and has called for the book to be banned. He also advocates ending immigration from Muslim countries. Wilders was banned from entering Britain for nine months in 2009; the ban was overturned in October 2009 after he appealed. In June 2011, he was acquitted of hate charges. The author of “Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me” said that Islam, “at the end of the day, will cost us our freedom, our freedom of speech.” “I acknowledge the fact that the majority of the Muslims are law-abiding people,” he noted. “It would be ridiculous to even suggest that the majority of the Muslims are terrorists. They are not. There is only one Islam; this is the Islam of the holy book the Quran and the Islam of the prophet Mohammed. It’s not so much a religion, it’s an ideology.

“It’s an ideology that should be compared not with Christianity or Judaism, but with communism or with fascism. Let me give you one example: If you want to leave Islam ... the penalty for that is death. You have to be killed. This is not the case with Christianity or with Judaism. But it was the case in Nazi Germany or with Communist Russia. You have to see Islam for what it is because if we don’t, we will lose our free, Christian-based society.” Wilders said that Islam has spread throughout Europe and led to honor killings, genital mutilation, and Sharia courts, aided by the “disease called cultural relativism.” He said that all cultures are not equal. “In my book, I tell the American public, Europe is in very, very bad shape today and please don’t think that what’s happening to Europe today will not happen to America tomorrow,” he said. “It will happen to America tomorrow unless you fight for freedom, you fight for your own identity and you cut back on the Islamization of our society.” One key bulwark in the fight against Islam is Israel.

“I know that we should all support the state of Israel,” Wilders said. “Israel is fighting our fight. Israel is exactly on the border of Jihad and reason and Israel is a beacon of light, a canary in a coal mine, so to say, in an area of darkness and tyranny. I believe that parents in America and Europe can sleep easily at night because Israeli parents lay awake at night worrying about their children defending our borders. The border of Jihad is our border. “We share the same cultural values as Israel does. If Jerusalem falls, Athens will fall, Amsterdam will fall, and America will fall as well. They are fighting our fight. We should do anything possible to support the state of Israel. Certainly against this barbaric regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 
© Newsmax

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SCRAP BURQA, DUAL NATIONALITY BANS, LABOUR MPS TELL MINISTER (Netherlands)

2/5/2012- Labour MPs on Wednesday urged home affairs ministry Liesbeth Spies to act according to her convictions and formally scrap draft legislation to ban the burqa and eradicate dual nationality. Spies said in an interview with the Volkskrant newspaper earlier both issues are no longer priorities but plans to leave it up to parliament to decide what to do. Spies, who is campaigning for the Christian Democratic party leadership, said: ‘Parliament wants to bin the dual nationality plans. And I would not shed a tear if that happened to the burqa ban either’. The coalition alliance collapsed last month when Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam PVV, pulled out after disagreeing with austerity measures. The dual nationality and burqa bans were PVV policies.

Great importance
Until now Spies has defended the policies, describing the proposed ban on the face-covering Islamic government in January as ‘of very great importance’ to ensure open communication. She also rejected criticism of the dual nationality proposals from the Council of State, the government’s most senior advisory body. The Volkskrant points out that the CDA has supported a ban on the burqa since 2005. In addition, restricting dual nationality has been on the party’s agenda since 2003. However, a spokesman told the paper the contents of the 2010 election manifesto are paramount. There is no mention of restricting dual nationality or banning Islamic clothing in that document, the paper says. Spies is one of four candidates for the CDA top job. Last week, immigration minister Gerd Leers said he would no longer promote PVV causes within Europe. This means an end to campaigning for a higher age limit and income requirement in family reunion cases.
© The Dutch News

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WILDERS RAGE AGAINST MUSLIMS CHANNELED IN DUTCH EURO VOTER

Europe’s financial crisis is helping Dutch politician Geert Wilders drill his anti-euro, anti-Islamic platform deeper into the mainstream.

2/5/2012- The bleached-blond Freedom Party leader brought down the government on April 21 when he refused to support budget cuts proposed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Now Wilders, who rose to international prominence in 2008 with his movie denouncing Islam, plans to turn September’s elections into a vote on Dutch attitudes about Europe and the single currency. As the euro area faces up to recession and the highest unemployment in 14 years, and bailout fatigue builds even in northern countries such as the Netherlands, Wilders finds himself riding the crest of a wave of opposition to austerity. “Wilders suddenly feels that he’s on the right side of history,” Jan Techau, director of the Brussels-based European Center of Endowment for International Peace, said in an April 25 interview. “The crisis has given everybody a very good vent to let things out.” Wilders, 48, whose latest book was released yesterday in New York, is at the nexus of a European movement. Marine Le Pen’s anti-euro, anti-immigrant National Front Party got a record 17.9 percent of the vote on April 22 in the first round of France’s presidential election. At least two parties with similar views are poised to enter parliament in Greece after the May 6 ballot.

Curb Islam
Wilders won about 1.5 million Dutch votes to place third at the last election in 2010. His platform included a call to curb the influence of Islam in the Netherlands, home to 850,000 Muslims out of a population of about 16.3 million, according to the latest available figures from 2006. After the election, Wilders helped Rutte’s Liberal minority administration pass laws. That was until last month when Wilders balked at plans for higher health-care contributions and reforms affecting the age of eligibility for state pensions. Wilders said the Netherlands should decide budget policy, not lawmakers in Brussels. While Rutte managed to push through budget measures to meet the European Union’s April 30 deadline without Wilders’s support, his government fell and new elections were called for Sept. 12. The latest poll, taken April 27 after the caretaker government and opposition agreed on austerity measures, suggested Wilders’s Freedom Party would drop to 17 seats from the 24 seats it won in the 150-member parliament in the 2010 elections. Almost half of respondents to a Dutch poll said Wilders was to blame for the failed budget talks, according to a poll released April 22 by Maurice de Hond and No Ties BV.

Yield Spread
Investors demanded 79 basis points of extra yield to lend to the Netherlands for 10 years than to Germany on April 23 after Rutte’s government collapsed, the highest premium in more than three years, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The gap was 57 basis points as of 9:51 a.m. London time today. Both Germany and the Netherlands are rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service. “The basic instinct of Wilders has always been anti-EU and anti-euro, even though his main, big aura of anti-Islam leads many people to overlook this,” Shada Islam, an analyst at the Friends of Europe policy-advisory group in Brussels, said in an interview. “He’s thus able to attract a bigger swath of voters who might otherwise be repelled by his xenophobia.” Wilders, born in 1963 in the southern Dutch city of Venlo, started his political career as a member of the City Council of Utrecht in 1997, joining parliament for Rutte’s Liberal Party in 1998. He left in 2004 to found his own political organization and campaign against immigrants and Muslim culture.

Amsterdam Acquittal
He was acquitted last year by an Amsterdam court of charges that he made remarks defaming Muslims. Wilders had called the Koran “fascist” and compared it to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In his 2008 film “Fitna,” he called upon Muslims to rip out “hate-preaching” verses from the Koran. The movie led to protests in Islamic-majority countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and prompted calls for a boycott of Dutch products. His latest book, “Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me,” is being published by Washington-based Regnery Publishing Inc. While he talked more about Islam than the EU at previous elections, Wilders makes no secret of his intentions for the national vote that’s scheduled for September. “The elections will become one big referendum about Brussels, the European Union, our own sovereignty and the preservation of it,” he said during an April 24 speech in parliament. “Either we choose for the Netherlands, or we give in to bureaucrats from Brussels.” Neither Wilders nor the press department of the Freedom Party responded to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.

Unemployment Rate
The $800 billion Dutch economy, the fifth largest in the euro area, entered its second recession in three years during the second half of last year. House prices have fallen more than 10 percent since 2008. While unemployment is less than half the euro-area average, it rose to 5 percent in March from 4.1 percent last June, according to Eurostat. Unemployment among non-western European foreigners living in the Netherlands was about 13 percent in 2011, compared with 4 percent for native Dutch citizens, according to figures provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, or CBS. Standard & Poor’s changed its outlook on the Netherlands on Jan. 13 to negative, saying it sees at least a one-in-three chance that the country will lose its top grade in 2012 or 2013 should the economy deteriorate further.

ABN Amro Takeover
“We’re having an enormous financial meltdown, an existential crisis in the European Union,” said Ewald Engelen, professor of financial geography at the University of Amsterdam. “We have had takeovers of big banks and the break-up of them, and now we simply don’t know anymore.” ABN Amro Holding NV, the country’s biggest bank, was acquired in 2007 for almost 72 billion euros ($95 billion) by three competitors, a year before Europe and the U.S. were engulfed in a financial crisis. Dutch sea-faring prowess and trading instincts built the nation into one of the biggest mercantile powers of the 17th century, with ships plying trade routes to Southeast Asia, the South African Cape and New Amsterdam, now Manhattan, to source goods from spices to tobacco. The Netherlands remains the euro- area’s second biggest exporter after eastern neighbor Germany, and is home to Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port. The discovery in 1959 of Slochteren, the biggest mainland gas field in Europe and what was to become the largest generator of revenue in Dutch history, helped fuel the liberal attitudes of the 1970s, when Amsterdam became known for its tolerance of cannabis consumption in cafes and prostitution.

‘Inward Looking’
The Netherlands is no longer perceived “as a progressive nation that always was a step ahead on a lot of issues,” said Henk te Velde, a professor of Dutch history at Leiden University. “That’s over and I don’t think it will return quickly. We’ve become more inward looking.” Wilders is seeking to present himself “as the one who defends pensioners and the poor against this horrible Europe and its austerity demands,” said Andre Krouwel, an associate professor of political science at VU University in Amsterdam. It’s a political balancing act he may be unable to repeat, as having forced the collapse of one government, parties will be unwilling to grant him the same power again, said Kees Aarts, a professor of political science at the University of Twente. Whatever the outcome of the next election, the Netherlands that was “fundamentally self-assured with itself, its wealth and its tolerance, is the Holland of the past,” said Techau of the European Center of Endowment for International Peace. “The rise of Wilders is testimony to the high level of fear in Western societies,” Techau said. “Either the EU is going to have a big wave of reforms or we’re going to have a big wave of protests.”
© The Business Week

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GEERT WILDERS OF THE NETHERLANDS REVEALS A RESURGENT FAR RIGHT IN EUROPE

30/4/2012- Europe’s most controversial politician lives in a government safe house fitted with a panic room and guarded round the clock. A self-avowed foe of Islam who compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and called for a ban on Muslim immigrants, he travels by bulletproof car and rarely talks with journalists — choosing instead to funnel messages directly to supporters via Twitter and a personal blog. But when Geert Wilders — dubbed “Mozart” for his bleached-blond bouffant hair — brought down the Dutch government last week in an extraordinary show of force by Europe’s resurgent far right, it wasn’t over his high-profile rhetorical war on Islam. Instead, the clash was over his emphasis on another belief that he and his Freedom Party now see as almost equally dangerous: an integrated Europe. The rise of Wilders in the Netherlands is a cautionary tale for a continent in the midst of a debt crisis and where painful recessions, soaring unemployment and rising apathy among youths are fueling the strongest swell of support in decades for anti-immigrant nationalists.

For more than a generation, European political elites have sought to fuse the region by adopting the euro and a series of treaties that virtually erased national borders across a vast swath of the continent. But in the recent surge of the nationalist far right, and to a lesser extent the far left, European leaders are confronting not only a backlash to a united Europe but also a troubling new hurdle in their efforts to resolve the 21 / 2-year-old debt crisis. From France to Austria and Greece to Finland, the popularity of nationalists is growing as politicians such as Wilders tap into voter rage over both the crisis and the proposed cure being pushed by mighty Germany: severe rounds of government cutbacks and difficult economic overhauls to restore investor confidence in Europe’s governments.

That austerity crusade is in danger of derailing, with even moderate leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, now saying that deep cuts are driving Europe’s economies into the ground. Other critics, meanwhile, argue that the social pain from austerity is playing into the hands of politicians on the far right and left, who are portraying the cuts as part of a pattern that has seen European integration eat away at living standards across traditionally affluent Western Europe. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has softened her rhetoric in recent days, playing up the need for policies that favor growth, though she continues to view fiscal discipline as a necessary tonic for Europe’s troubles. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, also a fiscal hawk, called last week for a “growth compact,” and European leaders appear likely to work out modest policy changes in late June.

In the turmoil of the debt crisis, ideas long held by European radicals are going mainstream as centrist politicians seek to find their way in a sea of discontent. In France, for instance, Marine Le Pen of the National Front stunned observers by winning almost one out of every five votes in the first round of presidential elections a week ago on a platform that would have seen Paris withdraw from the euro zone and buck the German-led austerity drive. Now on the ropes against his Socialist opponent, President Nicolas Sar­kozy is currying favor with the far right ahead of the decisive second round of voting, vowing to pull France out of the region’s open-borders treaty if negotiations underway to stem the tide of transplants from poorer quarters of Europe do not succeed in the months ahead. In crisis-devastated Greece, opinion polls ahead of parliamentary elections Sunday show that the once-obscure Golden Dawn party — which wants to plant land mines on the country’s borders to protect against illegal immigrants — is on a surprise track to win seats. Austria’s far-right Freedom Party is running strong in opinion polls, and Finland’s nationalist True Finns party took a record 19 percent of the vote last year. “It is now only a matter of time before one of these parties gets into power and tries to pull the rug out from under the euro,” said Maurice de Hond, a leading Dutch political pollster. “If it doesn’t happen in the Netherlands, it will happen somewhere else in Europe. I am sure of it.”

Anti-Islam rhetoric
Here in the Netherlands, Wil­ders, 48, rose from political obscurity during the past decade to become one of the most influential far-right politicians in Europe. Wilders — who spent time in his youth on an Israeli kibbutz — is pro-Israel and staunchly anti-Islam. Describing Islam as a religion of violence and hate that wants to “enslave” the West, he has called for the closure of Muslim schools, made a high-profile anti-Muslim film and wants forced registration of all Dutch citizens holding two passports.
In 2010, Wilders was put on trial on charges of inciting hate, though observers say the perceived liberal bias of judges and his eventual acquittal only elevated his popularity. It served him well at the ballot box, with his four-year-old party winning so many seats in elections later that year that the center-right government required his support to stay in power. His attempts to portray himself as a victim of the liberal elite have made him a darling of the right in the United States, where he has secured space on the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page. This week, Wilders is set to promote a new book published in the United States, “Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me.” Yet he also defies easy political description. Wilders is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage. And he has been nothing if not a savvy reader of the political winds. Earlier this year, political observers say, he made the calculation to seize on Europe’s debt crisis. The move seemed politically well timed, as the economically strong and fiscally conservative Dutch suddenly found themselves in recession and struggling to enact budget cuts demanded by European agreements. “He is master at capitalizing on fear,” said Jozias Van Aartsen, mayor of The Hague and an elder statesman in the Liberal Party, which Wilders broke with in 2004.

Targeting Poles
In February, Wilders’s party launched a Web site targeting Polish immigrants, who had come by the thousands as the Netherlands opened its door to more workers from poorer parts of the European Union in the mid-2000s. The site invited Dutch citizens to report Eastern Europeans for doing anything from “taking your parking spaces” to “taking your jobs.” Malgorzata Karczewska, who runs a Polish-language news site in the Netherlands, said many Dutch seemed embarrassed by the move, but the Web site also brought latent animosity to the surface. One Polish immigrant, she said, repeatedly had her tires slashed. Others were insulted in public for speaking Polish. A week after the Freedom Party site was launched, Kar­czewska said, a waitress accused her of stealing cutlery while dining at a fine restaurant. “After 9/11, he made all Muslims the scapegoat in Holland,” she said. “Now, it’s the Poles.”

In March, Wilders accelerated his anti-Europe line, openly calling for the Netherlands to abandon the euro. Positioning himself as a champion of the working class, he refused to sign on to budget cuts demanded by European leaders, causing the Dutch government to fall and forcing Prime Minister Mark Rutte to tender his resignation last week. Although scrambling Dutch parties reached a key budget deal Thursday, analysts warned that the nation still faces months of political turmoil and a possible loss of its cherished AAA credit rating. Opinion polls suggest that Wil­ders may have taken at least a temporary hit by forcing the fall of the government, but observers say he is banking on domestic anxiety over the debt crisis to crest come Election Day in September. “We are against Europe,” Wil­ders, unbowed, said last week. “We are against the euro.”
© The Washington Post

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GEERT WILDERS AND ISLAMOPHOBIA IN THE US—ON THEIR WAY OUT?

Geert Wilders' autobiographical book Marked for Death: Islam’s War against the West and Me will be presented in New York on Tuesday. Will his message against Islam and the West’s alleged “Islamification” still resonate in the United States? Here in the Netherlands, this week’s political upheaval has seriously dented his influence.

30/4/2012- Now that Wilders has disqualified himself from governing, relegating his party to opposition status, his political future here is limited. Even if his Freedom Party emerged as the largest in September’s elections, he would find it difficult, if not impossible, to find any coalition partners. No other party will be eager to work with a politician who has proved so unreliable. So where does a savvy Islam-basher turn when he is down on his luck? To the United States, of course. Following her stint in Dutch politics, Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali embarked on a successful career as an Islam critic in the US. There is speculation that Wilders may follow her example.

Frequent flyer
Wilders is no stranger to American shores. He has travelled there frequently, raising money and giving lectures. He most famously gave a speech in New York in the autumn of 2010 opposing the building of a Muslim Centre a few blocks from Ground Zero. The protest against the centre gave Wilders a platform for his message against Islam. He said New York “must defend itself against the powers of darkness, the force of hatred and the blight of ignorance. …This means we must not give a free hand to those who want to subjugate us.” His speech received broad coverage in the American press.

Changed attitudes
Two years later, however, Wilders will find that attitudes in the US have changed. Anti-Muslim sentiment has been fading. A Gallup poll released in the summer of 2011 showed that Muslims, while still facing discrimination, are more confident about their future than any other group in the US. The standard of living among Muslims is improving faster than among other groups. Gallup researcher Mohamed Younis: “The debate about Islam flares up when something happens, but the last couple of years have been pretty quiet and the public’s interest has waned. Wilders will have a hard time selling his book right now.” There is more evidence that the attitude toward Muslims in the US is softening. The most outspoken anti-Islam candidates in the Republican presidential primaries did not do well. Mitt Romney, who is all but certain to win the Republican nomination, is known for his moderate views on US Muslims. As for entertainment, a reality programme called “All-American Muslim” was cancelled, not because it generated a small controversy, but because it failed to attract viewers. People were bored by the premise that Muslims were everyday, normal Americans and the show got poor ratings. The New York Muslim Centre Wilders tried to block is going ahead, albeit in a more modest form. The protests have petered out.

Fringe element
Attitudes toward Islam may be evolving, but there's still an energetic minority of writers and bloggers who continue to warn of the imminent danger that Islam allegedly poses to the US. The small publishing house which is bringing out Wilders’ book is a driving force in such circles. Regnery Publishing specialises in far-right conspiracy theories and scare-mongering. Books currently featured on the website include: Fast and Furious: Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and Its Shameless Cover-Up, Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the US Stock Market and Why It Can Happen Again and After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. The author of the last work, Mark Steyn, a fervently anti-Islam journalist from Canada, has written the introduction of Wilders’ new book. Regnery’s head, Marji Ross, says she knows Wilders’ views are seen as extreme, but “that’s what makes the book exciting and bold and newsworthy.”

Judging from the response to review copies of Marked for Death, it fails to fulfil Ms Ross’ expectations. It is reported to be a relatively dry description of how Wilders got to where he is, with hardly anything polemical about it. It also appears to lack the verve of Fitna, his short anti-Islam film of 2008. Curiously, there is no mention of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who helped elevate Wilders to the powerful position he held for the past 18 months. On the other hand, he refers a few times to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, claiming they think along the same lines. One reviewer said the book could be considered Wilders’ calling card to America. But in contrast to Hirsi Ali’s books Infidel and Nomad, published by mainstream houses and selling well, Marked for Death is not likely to attract a wide readership outside the fanatical anti-Islam movement.

Deafening silence
When Wilders spoke in parliament earlier this week after bringing down the government, MPs largely ignored him. With one exception, no one bothered to confront him. Apart from a few trusted Islam bashers, the broader public in the US may greet Wilders with the same deafening silence.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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FIRST 'GAY PROPAGANDA' FINE HANDED OUT IN ST. PETERSBURG (Russia)

4/5/2012- Russia's most vocal gay rights campaigner has become the first person to be fined under a new law banning homosexual "propaganda" in St. Petersburg, the country's second city. Nikolai Alexeyev, the leader of GayRussia, was fined 5,000 rubles ($170) by a court on Friday, after he was detained for picketing outside St. Petersburg's legislature building last month in protest at what he described as the "homophobic" new law. He denies the accusations against him. The legislation, which makes it illegal to "disseminate homosexual propaganda" among minors, was signed by St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko in March, making it the fourth Russian city to adopt the ban. Several politicians and church figures have called for the law, which sets fines of up to to 500,000 rubles ($17,000) for violations, to be passed at a federal level.

A number of gay campaigners were fined in Russia's southern Astrakhan region last month. Homosexuality was only decriminalized in Russia in 1993, and anti-gay sentiments remain strong in society, including Russia's political establishment. In 2007, Former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov described attempts to hold a Gay Parade in the capital as "satanic." No Gay Parade has ever been officially-sanctioned in Russia. According to a 2010 survey by Russia's independent Levada Center polling agency, 74 percent of respondents said gays and lesbians were "amoral" and "mentally defective," while only 45 percent said they should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals. Pop singer Madonna pledged to speak out against the law when she performs in St. Petersburg in August.

Russia's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, called the law "strange" and said it "created conditions for the arbitrary rule of law toward adults" in a report published in the Rossiskaya Gazeta government newspaper last month. St. Petersburg LGBT group Coming Out said it resembled Stalinist repression. At least 17 gay rights activists were detained at a May Day demonstration in St. Petersburg, the city's LGBT group Coming Out said. They were charged with failing to follow police instructions.
© RIA Novosti

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RUSSIA’S XENOPHOBIA PROBLEM

Putin vows to tighten immigration laws. Will it make life even worse for the nation's migrants? 

1/5/2012- There was a Congolese man, stabbed on the Moscow metro. And a Muslim girl, beaten with a bat by three teenage boys, who told her to get out of their northern Russian city, Kondopog. But perhaps the most disturbing recent example of racial violence was the murder of Muslim activist Metin Mekhtiyev, who was knifed in the neck and face outside his building in central Moscow earlier this month. Police say it was a robbery, since his Vertu mobile phone, money and keys were missing. But the brutality of the crime points to a racially motivated attack, said Vera Alperovich, an expert in extremism at Moscow’s Sova Center for Information and Analysis.
Xenophobia toward non-whites is rising in Russia, especially toward migrant workers from Central Asia and the restive North Caucasus region, where unemployment is rampant. Polls demonstrate how widespread the problem is. One in five Russians strongly agrees with the slogan “Russia for Russians,” while 43 percent believe that any measure taken to protect “my people” is good, according to research by Higher School of Economy professor Mark Ustinov. Nearly 70 percent of Russians have negative feelings toward people of another ethnicity, Ustinov’s research found.

The growing influx of migrant workers — 13 to 14 million annually by some expert estimates — most of them temporary, from poor former Soviet republics Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, exacerbates the already tense racial and ethnic relations in Russia. Russia is second to the U.S. in migrant arrivals. Many Russians fear newcomers will take over their jobs, towns and eventually their country. This has led to a spate of attacks on foreigners, and contributed to the rise in popularity of racist political slogans. “Stop feeding the Caucasus,” a slogan coined over the winter by anti-corruption activist blogger Alexei Navalny, gained much resonance with the public. The number of violent attacks on non-white foreigners peaked in 2007, when up to five were killed each month. That number has dropped significantly. Thirty-two people were attacked and two killed in xenophobic and racist violence since the beginning of this year, according to Sova, which monitors racism and xenophobia in Russia. The real number of attacks is likely much larger, however, since most go unreported, said Tanya Lokshina, the deputy director of the Human Rights Watch Moscow office.

“If locals beat an Uzbek worker in an industrial zone on the outskirts of Moscow, police are not likely to seriously investigate the case,” Lokshina said. “And the Uzbek is not likely to report the attack. He either won’t know how to do it, or, God forbid, won’t have proper documents.” Law enforcement stepped up hate crime arrests in the last three years, especially after mass beatings of non-whites during the December 2010 riots on Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow caused wide outrage. Most of Russia’s violent nationalist gangs have been liquidated, with leaders in jail for decades to come. Earlier this month, five members of a nationalist gang were sentenced to life in prison for killing 27 people and committing other crimes. Last September, a nationalist businessman was sentenced to nine years in jail for several charges, including designing and promoting an online game that required players to kill a migrant street cleaner and a police officer to get to a higher level. Players must then kill human-rights activist lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who was gunned down in Moscow in 2009, to win the game. The arrests have brought down the level of violent attacks. But an attitude of xenophobia still pervades Russian culture.

A blond waitress with pale skin and blue eyes laughed when two well-dressed Africans walked into an upscale restaurant frequented by foreigners, GlobalPost observed while waiting to interview a source for this story. She turned to another waitress, a dark-skinned brunette. “Your people have walked in,” she said. “I’m white. You are closer to them,” the blonde said, pointing out the brunette’s darker skin and hair. Some are exploiting that for political advantage. Migrants are not blending in to the Slavic society, said Dmitry Demushkin, the leader of the right-wing nationalist council “Russkiye,” or Russians. He plans to register a party called the Nationalist Party in the near future. “They are taking over certain industries — outdoor markets, street cleaning. Of course people don’t like it,” Demushkin said. His party plans to advocate for the interests of ethnic Russians and those who have historically lived on the territory of the Russian Federation, Demushkin said. The organization is against violence toward migrants, he said. Instead, Demushkin proposed to make working conditions in Russia unattractive for the migrant workers so they stop coming. His proposals include liquidating corruption and fighting what he sees as monopolies of ethnic groups in certain industries, he said.

Demushkin believes the party will become a powerful force in the near future, especially since nationalists are growing in strength across Europe. Some migrants do violate the law. The frequency of crimes committed by foreigners has gone down, but the gravity has increased, Moscow prosecutor Sergei Kudeneyev said earlier this month, the Interfax news agency reported. Last year more murders, attempted murders, serious robberies and rapes were committed by foreigners than in 2010. More migrants in Russia work illegally than legally, experts said. CIS countries have a visa-free regime with Russia, but foreigners are required to register seven days after arrival. In order to register, an address or a job is required. New arrivals, many of whom do not have contacts in Russia and cannot afford to live in a hotel, can’t get registered. Without registration, they cannot get permission to work. “They are pigeonholed by these limits,” said Kamil Dilmuradov, a lawyer with the Union of Migrant Workers. Many come from rural areas and don’t know the law. Some don’t speak or read Russian, Dilmuradov said. President-elect Vladimir Putin has said migrants strengthen Russia’s economy and broaden its demographics, but he has proposed to toughen immigration regulation, including boosting penalties for violations and requiring Russian language and culture exams for all workers during his election campaign in January.

The politicians have the right idea to make the country more monolithic, Russia-Asia Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs political consultant Grigory Trofimchuk said. The migrants aren’t doing anything bad, they just don’t know how to act, according to Trofimchuk. “A crowd of young Uzbek men walking down the street and blaring their national music from their cell phones might cause tension,” Trofimchuk said. The Federal Migration Service has drafted a conception of immigration policy, which includes education and integration initiatives for foreigners. The proposal is being reviewed at the top levels of government, according to Tatiana Bazhan, who heads the service’s department to facilitate integration. She said it is not yet clear when the proposal will be implemented. But critics said the government is not doing anywhere near enough to solve the problem. Business dictates migration politics, said migrant rights activist Lidiya Grafova, who is also a member of the government committee on migration policy. She pointed out the steady decline of quotas for migrant workers, which went from 3.9 million in 2009 to 1.7 this year.

“Migration politics are just words for now,” Grafova said. “In real life, everything occurs as it’s profitable for business. It’s profitable to hire cheap, powerless Tajiks.”
Migration will remain Russia’s potential tinderbox, unless comprehensive reform is passed, Dilmuradov said. “The fact is, while there are migrants, there will be those moods. If these problems won’t be solved, it could get worse and worse,” Dilmuradov said.
© The Global Post

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ACTIVISTS PREDICT RISE IN GAY ASYLUM CLAIMS AMID 'PROPAGANDA' BAN (Russia)

30/4/2012- In 2010, 26-year-old Artem Pavlov was followed by thugs as he left a cafe in his hometown of Ufa, Russia. The group had overheard him talking about being gay. He was thrown to the ground and beaten before his friends could call for help. When police arrived and learned that Pavlov was attacked because of his homosexuality, they told him that he was, in fact, lucky -- lucky that the policemen themselves had not been there to join in the beating. The details of the incident, pieced together through personal accounts in the absence of an official police report, were the foundation for Pavlov's request for asylum in the United States. The request was approved by a New York judge last year. "I was in danger physically and emotionally from other civilians and would be in danger from the government itself, which is the definition of persecution," Pavlov says. "I would never be able to have a family. I would never be able to have kids. I would never be able to live openly. I want to live. I want to be happy."

Russia has long been a dangerous place for gays and lesbians. However, rights advocates warn that conditions are quickly worsening with a newly approved law they say not only promotes, but institutionalizes, homophobia. While the coming months will tell how the law will be applied, activists and lawyers are already predicting that more LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) Russians will be pushed to seek asylum in the West. Those like Pavlov, who have already fled, foresee the same trend. "By the end of the year, probably, the number will surge. Now there is a law that can be interpreted by the powers that be to arrest you [and] to assault you -- just for living your life," Pavlov says. "Thanks to that, you can you apply for asylum like it was still Soviet Russia, when it was illegal to be gay. It's basically the same thing."

Troubling New Laws
In March, St. Petersburg instituted a ban on "homosexual propaganda." Individuals convicted of promoting homosexuality to minors could be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($172) and organizations could be fined up to 500,000 rubles ($17,200). The legislation also appears to equate homosexuality with pedophilia -- a long-standing stereotype -- by levying the same fines for pedophilic "propaganda." The first arrests were made on April 5 of two gay-rights activists who were holding placards reading, "It's normal to be gay." Similar laws have been instituted in Russia's Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, and Ryazan regions. The St. Petersburg measures, however, are being viewed as more troubling because the city is not only the country's second-largest but also among its more tolerant. At asylum hearings, Western judges sometimes suggest that Russians from smaller towns or rural areas should relocate to cities like St. Petersburg -- an argument that has apparently lost its validity. A number of Moscow-based lawmakers are now pushing for similar bans in the capital city and on a federal level.

Olga Lenkova of the St. Petersburg-based Coming Out, the largest grassroots homosexual organization in Russia, says community members are concerned that the initial arrests are "just the beginning." She says the prospect of fleeing Russia is "now in the minds of many." The topic, which Lenkova says is appearing on Russian gay blogs and social media, now features in discussion groups organized by Coming Out. Gay and lesbian families with children, she adds, appear to be most seriously considering asylum. "They do not know whether they will be considered as promoting homosexuality to their own children, or to the friends of their children, or to the schoolmates of their children -- or just [in] being open as a family," Lenkova says. "This is of special concern to the families where the children are adopted -- that the authorities that are supervising such families might decide that they are not safe for the children to grow up [with] and might take the children away." Lenkova predicts that not only will gay asylum claims rise, but that the trend will have a multiplier effect, causing the number of Russians who are aware of the option to grow.

Numbers On The Rise
In 2010, 548 Russians were granted asylum in the United States, accounting for less than 3 percent of the total number of immigrants. The United States has allowed sexual-orientation-based asylum claims since 1994 but doesn't report the type of claims it receives in its public statistics. Olga Bychok, a Soviet-born lawyer living in New York, is well-known among gay Russian asylum seekers who make it to the city. She says that since last year, when the St. Petersburg measures were first introduced, she has been contacted by two to three gay or lesbian Russians every week, up from the usual single inquiry a week. Not all requests are granted, but Bychok says the vast majority are. She expects her client list to increase and says she is already referencing the legislation in arguing her cases. Joel Le Deroff, an asylum expert at the Brussels-based International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), which brings together rights groups from around the world, says an increase in European requests "will happen."

European Union-wide legislation has allowed for sexual orientation-based asylum since 2004. But Le Deroff adds that the new Russian measures may also have a more quiet effect -- the silencing of people who were considering coming out and declaring their homosexuality. Then again, at least among some, he says, the laws could provide new motivation to fight. "You may also have people who may join movements that did not exist before," Le Deroff says. "You have today a lot more LGBT organizations compared to five years ago. People have more national organizations to join and more visible ones."
© RFE/RL

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THE AGGRESSIVE TACTICS OF THE GREEK RIGHT WING

Greek far-right parties could end up with as much as 20 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has intensified the xenophobic atmosphere in the country. Those who confront them are threatened with violence, journalist Xenia Kounalaki recounts. 

3/5/2012- At night, the streets leading to Omonoia Square are empty. That wasn't always the case. The area was the premier multicultural neighborhood of Athens and one of the first quarters to be gentrified. Jazz bars and Indian restaurants lined the streets, separated by the occasional rooms-by-the-hour hotel. It was a quarter full of immigrants, drug addicts and African prostitutes, but also of journalists, ambitious young artists and teenagers from private schools. Today, the immigrants stay home once night falls. They are afraid of groups belonging to the "angry citizens," a kind of militia that beats up foreigners and claims to help the elderly withdraw money from cash machines without being robbed. Such groups are the product of an initiative started by the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi -- Golden Dawn -- the party which has perpetrated pogroms in Agios Panteleimon, another Athens neighborhood with a large immigrant population.

There are now three outwardly xenophobic parties in Greece. According to recent surveys, together they could garner up to 20 percent of the vote in elections on Sunday: the anti-Semitic party LAOS stands to win 4 percent; the nationalist party Independent Greeks -- a splinter group of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party -- is forecast to win 11 percent; and the right extremists of Golden Dawn could end up with between 5 and 7 percent. My name is Xenia, the hospitable. Greece itself should really be called Xenia: Tourism, emigration and immigration are important elements of our history. But hospitality is no longer a priority in our country, a fact which the ugly presence of Golden Dawn makes clear.

A Personal Attack
Shaved heads, military uniforms, Nazi chants, Hitler greetings: How should a Greek journalist deal with such people? Should one just ignore them and leave them unmentioned? Should one denounce them and demand that they be banned? One shouldn't forget that they are violent and have perpetrated several attacks against foreigners and leftists. I thought long and hard about how to write about Golden Dawn so that my article was in no way beneficial to the party. On April 12, the daily Kathimerini ran my story under the headline "Banality of Evil." In the piece, I carefully explained why it was impossible to carry on a dialogue with such people and why I thought the neo-Nazi party should disappear from media coverage and be banned. Five days later, an anonymous reply to my article appeared on the Golden Dawn website. It was a 2,500-word-long personal attack in which the fascists recounted my entire career, mocked my alleged foreign roots (I was born in Hamburg) and even, for no apparent reason, mentioned my 13-year-old daughter. The unnamed authors indirectly threatened me as well: "To put it in the mother tongue of foreign Xenia: 'Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat, kommt Attentat!'" In other words, watch your back.

Most Greeks believe that Golden Dawn has connections to both the police and to the country's secret service. Nevertheless, I went to the authorities to ask what I should do. I was told that I should be careful. They told me that party thugs could harass me, beat me or terrorize me over the phone. It would be better, they said, if I stopped writing about them. If I wished to react to the threats, they suggested I file a complaint against Golden Dawn's service provider. That, however, would be difficult given that the domain is based somewhere in the United States.

Like Weimar Germany
A friend told me that I should avoid wearing headphones on the street so that I can hear what is going on around me. My daughter now has nightmares about being confronted by members of Golden Dawn. Three of her classmates belong to the party. The three boys have posted pictures of party events on their Facebook pages. For their profile image, they have chosen the ancient Greek Meandros symbol, which, in the red-on-black manifestation used by Golden Dawn, resembles a swastika. The group's slogans include "Foreigners Out!" and "The Garbage Should Leave the Country!" The fact that immigration has become such an issue in the worst year of the ongoing economic crisis in the country can be blamed on the two parties in government. The Socialist PASOK and the conservative Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy, or ND) are running xenophobic campaigns. ND has said it intends to repeal a law which grants Greek citizenship to children born in Greece to immigrant parents. And cabinet member Michalis Chrysochoidis, of PASOK, has announced "clean up operations" whereby illegal immigrants are to be rounded up in encampments and then deported. When he recently took a stroll through the center of Athens to collect accolades for his commitment to the cause, some called out to him: "Golden Dawn has cleaned up Athens!"

Yet, Chrysochoidis is the best loved PASOK politician in his Athens district, in part because of his xenophobic sentiments. His party comrade, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, is just as popular. Loverdos has warned Greek men not to sleep with foreign prostitutes for fear of contracting HIV and thus endangering the Greek family. High unemployment of roughly 22 percent, a lack of hope, a tendency toward violence and the search for scapegoats: Analyses in the Greek press compare today's Greece with Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic. "We didn't know," said many Germans when confronted with the truth of the Holocaust after Nazi rule came to an end. After elections on May 6, no Greeks should be able to make the same claim.
© The Spiegel

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GREECE'S FAR RIGHT HOPES FOR NEW DAWN

The boxes are packed with warm clothes, the plastic bags full of long-life food. There is even a teddy bear in tow. All sit piled in a rickety blue van, winding its way through Athens to be delivered to the Greek capital's needy.
By Mark Lowen


30/4/2012- Behind the aid is not a humanitarian organisation but Greece's ultranationalist party, Chrysi Avgi - or Golden Dawn. Their critics call them violent extremists. But they are keen to show off their soft side - and it wins votes. One of the recipients is 76-year-old Katerina Karousi. She breaks down in tears as she talks of battling with cancer. "Why not vote for Golden Dawn?" she asks. "They're helping us, so I should give them something in return." But beyond the benevolent facade is a party that strikes fear into many here. With a virulent anti-immigrant line, Golden Dawn are often labelled neo-Nazis. The leader was filmed making a Hitler salute in a town council meeting and the party logo has been likened to a swastika, though officials maintain it is the ancient Greek meander symbol. Despite it all, Greeks are flocking to Golden Dawn, spurred by financial angst and deep disillusionment with mainstream politicians. The party scored just 0.29% of the vote in the last election in 2009. Now polls give them over 5% - enough to enter parliament for the first time. A shock for a country that emerged from a right-wing military dictatorship less than four decades ago.

Back in the van, I quiz party volunteers Athina and Rosalie about their views and particularly the frequent allegations that Golden Dawn members assault immigrants on the streets; something the party officially denies. "We believe in our race, we believe in our nation's power," Athina says. "These immigrants have not been checked for diseases. If a Greek person feels threatened by an immigrant, I justify someone trying to give them justice. "I don't know why I should care about violence against immigrants." "We are not racist," Rosalie assures me. "They [immigrants] are [racist] towards us, because we love our country. Is this wrong? "We brought civilisation, we brought everything. They kill us and they rape us."

'Mines on our borders'
The next morning, the party campaigns in the affluent Athens suburb of Marousi. It is striking to see how many people take the fliers and newspapers as they are handed out, the party's growing popularity clearly visible. But as we enter the local market, a passer-by throws an orange at them. Suddenly, Golden Dawn members turn on who they suspect is the assailant, screaming insults and threatening to attack him. Further on, we reach the main square, where they spot a Socialist MP, Petros Efthymiou. They round on him, pelting him with jugs of water and cups of coffee. It is behaviour giving fuel to those who call the party pure thugs. "This is the face of fascism," Mr Efthymiou tells me. "Just brutal violence. And no respect for democratic values. But this is a problem not only for Greece but for all of Europe." The far right is indeed on the rise beyond Greece's borders. Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front in France, achieved her party's highest ever share of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election in April. Other countries, including the Netherlands and Denmark, have seen an increase in far right support; political extremes benefiting from the financial hardship. "Greece is dying from immigrants, politicians like the guy you just saw and bankers," says Ilias Panagiotaros, Golden Dawn's spokesman. "We're going to put mines on our borders and we're going to have electric fences." So immigrants should be killed by landmines, I ask? "I don't care, they shouldn't jump into the country - that's their problem," he replies. I ask about the neo-Nazi label. "They can say what they like, it's not true," he says. We're Greek nationalists and we're proud of it."

Scapegoats
That rhetoric has struck a chord here, feeding into a wider anti-immigrant narrative before the election. With more than 80% of migrants to the EU now passing through Greece, they are an easy target for a nation sinking deeper into recession. The current government has announced the creation of up to 30 detention centres for illegal immigrants, the first of which has now opened. And the leader of the centre-right New Democracy Party, Antonis Samaras - who heads the polls - has made clamping down on illegal immigration one of his key electoral themes. Meanwhile, anti-immigrant violence has risen steadily. In an Athens hospital I meet Altaf - not his real name - a Pakistani immigrant badly beaten in the past few days. He does not know who his attackers were. His arm and nose are broken, he has a thick gash on his skull and a cut above his eyebrow. "I don't understand why this is happening," he says. "We're all human. I'm scared to go out now. It never used to be this way." The other side shouts loudly too - anti-racism rallies have been held by those determined to stop Golden Dawn at any cost. But their efforts may well be futile. A divided and deeply angry nation is going to the polls, desperate for an alternative - a nation fearing the future and looking for someone to blame.
© BBC News

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GREECE OPENS FIRST MIGRANT DETENTION CENTRE

Greece on Sunday (29 April) set up its first detention centre for undocumented migrants, composed of box homes, surrounded by high wire, and meant to house some 1,200 people

30/4/2012- Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said the centre - situated in Amygdaleza, northwest of Athens - will help the country to deal with immigration. Athens expects to build another 50 similar centres between now and mid-2013. “With Amygdaleza we have proven that a government can and should work even a few days before elections,” tweeted Chrysochoidis, with elections taking place on Sunday. Protestors stood outside the camp holding banners reading “no to the degradation of our region.” The detainees are allowed outside the camp during the day, reports the BBC. Athens has been struggling to contain and process some estimated 130,000 migrants who cross into the country by sea or along the porous Turkish border every year. "We are sending a message in every direction that the country is not unfenced anymore," Chrysohoidis said at a rally in Athens. Earlier in the month, Chrysohoidis said they are nearing completion of a three-metre-high barrier to stem the flow of crossings along a 12.5km-long strip of land with Turkey. According to Frontex, the EU’s border agency, some 6,000 people a month were crossing into Greece last summer along the strip. In September alone last year, the Hellenic Police arrested 7,052 immigrants along the Greek-Turkish land border. Turkey has so far resisted signing a readmission agreement with the EU whereby migrants crossing into Greece would be sent back over the border. It is instead holding out for a relaxed EU visa regime.

Immigrants an election issue
With Greece unable to house them, many migrants are forced onto the streets. They provide an easy target for political parties campaigning for the far-right vote. Others are stopped in the streets of Athens and ushered into police vans if they have no identity cards. The Hellenic Police report authorities arrested over 67,000 migrants for illegal residence and entry in the first nine months of 2011 alone. A poll conducted by To Vima newspaper on 9 April found around 90 percent surveyed believe immigrants are responsible for the rise in violence and crime. The resentment towards immigrants and undocumented migrants has fuelled support for the xenophobic former fringe movement,the Golden Dawn party. Headed by Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the Golden Dawn say all irregular migrants should be deported. They also want to place landmines along the Greek-Turkish border. Golden Dawn also organise security patrols in immigrant-dense neighbourhoods in Athens and hand out food and clothing to impoverished Greeks. “Only men and women of Greek descent and consciousness should have full political rights,” proclaims Golden Dawn’s charter. The party will take part in Sunday's election, and is expected to break the three percent threshold to enter parliament.
© The EUobserver

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FRENCH SCHOOL TELLS FOREIGN CHILDREN THEY’RE NOT WELCOME

A school outside of Paris has denied enrollment to more than 20 foreign-born students. Amnesty International and other rights groups call it a case of cruel xenophobia. Officials from the town say it’s just a budget problem
 
2/5/2012- Denying a basic education in the country that invented mandatory schooling? Welcome to modern France! In Rubelles, a small town of 1,900 inhabitants near Paris, more than 20 foreign-born children aged three to 11 have been refused enrollment. Critics call it a case of blatant discrimination. Rights groups, including Amnesty International, the French Human Rights League and Education without Borders, are up in arms over the affair. The children in question hail from countries such as Chechnya and the Republic of Ingushetia, of the former Soviet Union; Sri-Lanka; and Gabon. As asylum seekers, these children have already had a difficult path. They dream about being in school but instead must spend their days in one of the town’s low-cost hotels. Their parents were denied space in the local homeless shelter, which is too overcrowded to accommodate them.

According to Nicole Fautrel of the French Human Rights League, “these asylum-seeker families did all that was required to send their children to school, but the town council refused to give them the enrollment certificate.” The city’s deputy mayor, Michel Dreano, describes the situation as a budget problem. “Also, we can’t receive so many non-French speaking children,” he said, hinting at the absence of qualified staff to handle the situation. Nonsense, says Patricia Galeazzi from the local education authority. “There are places left in the Rubelles school and two specialized teachers are here to welcome non-French speaking children.” According to one of the school’s teachers, it’s all the more absurd since “children of that age learn new languages very easily.” In the late 19th Century, France is credited with establishing the first system of free and mandatory public education.
© World Crunch

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FRENCH ANTI-RACISM GROUP TAKES ON GOOGLE FOR MURDOCH 'THE JEW'

1/5/2012- A French anti-racism group is taking on internet giant Google over its "auto-complete" function. When internet users type in certain famous names, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch or Jon Hamm or Mad Men fame, the search engine recommends that the next keyword be "Jewish". According to the Hollywood Reporter, SOS Racisme and other similar organisations are now taking legal action to try and prevent what it views as a discriminatory practice from continuing. A hearing will take place on Wednesday, with the plaintiffs complaining that Google is "overseeing the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history". They said that this violates a French prohibition on collecting files about individuals based on their ethnicity. The lawsuit states: "Numerous users of the first search engine of France and the world are confronted daily with the association, unsolicited and almost systematically, [of] the word 'Jew' with the names of those most prominent in the world of politics, media or business." According to Google, "queries in auto-complete are algorithmically determined based on a number of factors (including search term popularity) without manual intervention." Last year SOS Racisme successfully forced Apple in France to remove an app called "Jew or Not Jew", accusing the developer of violating French law.
© The Jewish Chronicle

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FAR RIGHT PROTESTERS MAR MISS BLACK FRANCE CONTEST

Ultra-nationalists from the group New France protested outside the first ever Miss Black France beauty pageant in Paris on Saturday. They were demanding a white-only version of the competition.

29/4/2012- Riot police were called to contain a potentially volatile situation between ultra-nationalists demonstrators and spectators of Miss Black France. A group of some 30 members of Nouvelle France, or New France chanted slogans and held a banner, which read: When will there be a Miss White France? The group has a "nationalist" agenda but does not align itself with the Front National political party of Marine Le Pen, which won over 20 per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections. A group member, who asked to remain anonymous, told RFI: "France should be for French people. Why should Asians and Africans come here and have more rights than us? This is why we are demanding a Miss White France," he said.

Miss Black France is the first competition of its kind and is endorsed by the Representative Council of Black Associations and Miss France. Critics say it goes against one the founding principles of the French Republic - equality. Both Britian and the United States have black-only beauty pagaents. Miss France was established in 1927 and is open to applications from all women of French nationality. A Rwandan-born model, Sonia Rolland, won the competition in 2000. But Frederic Royer, the organizer of Miss Black France, told RFI that racism is rife in France's fashion industry. "All the black models tell me they can't find work in France, so they are going to London and New York. French magazines also never feature black women on their covers," he said. Most models who took part in Miss Black France echoed Royer's view in their introductory statements.

Twenty-two models between the ages of 19 and 28 were selected from 1,000 entrants. The eventual winner was Mbathio Beye, a 21-year-old Senegalese-born student.
© RFI

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GENEVA'S FRENCH WORKERS TARGETED BY HATE CAMPAIGN (Switzerland)

29/4/2012- Residents of France who work across the border in Geneva have become the targets of a virulent anti-migrant campaign calling for their houses and cars to be burned. Some 90,000 foreigners, most of them French, cross the border to work in Geneva, sparking tension in an area with the highest unemployment in Switzerland -- 5.3 percent in March, against a national rate of 3.2 percent. A pamphlet distributed this month outside the Geneva University Hospital calls for the elimination of "this border scum". "They are everywhere... in a number that far exceeds the tolerable quota, with their arrogance, their pollution, their contempt, their insolence and their privilege," the pamphlet said. "Total war is declared," said the tract, which was reprinted by the local Socialist Party in a newsletter expressing alarm over the document's violent nationalism. "Burn their houses, their cars. Border workers, get out." The hospital said it planned to file charges against the pamphlet's anonymous author.

The labour union that represents employees there defended the practice of hiring cross-border workers, saying Geneva's own education system doesn't train enough nurses. "We defend all workers, wherever they're from," union secretary Julien Dubouchet Corthay told AFP. The hospital's 10,172 employees are 48 percent Swiss and 34 percent French, its 2011 records show. The nursing staff is 56-percent French, but 66 percent of doctors are Swiss against just 11 percent French, and 72 percent of senior executives are Swiss. Tensions over the large number of foreign workers at the hospital erupted into the open in February, when the director general said the hospital would begin favouring Geneva residents in promotions. "Out of 165 medical unit managers, 110 are cross-border workers. Some employees who live in Geneva have complained," hospital chief Bernard Gruson told a local newspaper. "So I've decided to favour a return to equilibrium. That will be my priority for every promotion. It's absolutely not about ostracism, but about my role as boss to arbitrate when people are dissatisfied."

The remarks unleashed a heated debate in Geneva, and fed the rhetoric of local political party the Geneva Citizens Movement, which regularly criticises cross-border workers. The movement also claims French criminals come to Geneva to steal from residents. The local Socialist Party has meanwhile called for the creation of a cross-border parliament that would bring together officials from the border districts of Geneva and Vaud with their counterparts in France. The body would deal with the entire region's housing and employment issues, the Socialist say. "The Geneva Socialist Party is aware of the enormous distortions in both the employment and housing markets," it said. "That's why the party is convinced that the France-Vaud-Geneva people must work together to find solutions to their problems, especially by creating appropriate democratic institutions and true tools to fight against underpaying wages."
© AFP

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ANTI-RACISTS CRITICISE NORWEGIAN MUSICIAN

Norwegian NGOs are censuring singer-songwriter Hans Rotmo for being immigrant and Muslim-hostile following release of his new composition.

2/5/2012- Mr Rotmo’s song, ‘Vi fra andre’, is allegedly a pastiche on a poem by Norwegian writer Henrik Wergeland (1808-1845) from 1841 called ‘Vi ere en Nation, vi med’, which advocates 17th May – Norway’s National Day – should also be for children. However, the connections with Wergeland’s work become more clouded in the singer-songwriter’s version. Norwegian Centre Against Racism director Kari Helene Partapuoli thinks the text is mostly in “extremely bad taste” and “malicious at times.” “The entire text is based on quite a few simplistic prejudices against immigrants and Muslims in Norway,” she tells Adresseavisen, “it is a cheerful mixture of misguided xenophobia and incorrect assumptions about the Muslim revolution.” Mr Rotmo’s text reads, "We are from other states, we rejoice in our new country and will never leave it. We are from distant skies but are not visiting, even if we smell of marijuana and onion and speak strangely when we talk.” Still intending to be satiric, it also mentions Norway having the bluest sky and most peaceful life, the good welfare state through NAV, and that Norway is a country where one can keep religion, tradition get a free phone, and housing.

"We cut and slice in mushrooms and vaginas, on girls and boys, and new converts. Circumcision is our culture, and we have more in store. We are a nation with the nation within the nation.” “In a few years, you will see that we will start the revolution that many have talked about, yes talked about but that never arrived. Bash the bankers – to jest moy dom insch Allah – come on, then. We work hard and p**s and s**t, more than both the Norwegians and Brits. Every Turk, Mexican, and Pole is always broke,” the song concludes. In an email to The Foreigner, Kari Helene Partapuoli writes, “Ridiculing immigration and criticism of Islam's role in society is fine, of course, but I think Mr Rotmo is wide of the mark here. Although ridicule should have some basis in reality, Norwegian Muslims are also used to both hearing and enduring a lot.” “I also think it is appropriate to remind Mr Rotmo that the vast majority of immigrants to Norway are immigrants from Poland and the Baltic countries. They come to work, and not to go to the NAV offices as he writes. Some are also badly exploited by the Norwegian employment market. Moreover, the trade union movement, which Mr Rotmo has sung so positively about before, has also involved itself in Eastern European workers' rights.”

Mr Rotmo says to Adresseavisen, “people are different and offended by various different things. It’s up to her [Ms Partapuoli] view if she experiences it [the song] as being so [malicious]. I think the song is funny and haven’t reflected so much more about it.” “I think it’s fantastic that one song has got so much attention. Not everyone just writes silly songs about love. I release songs, and that’s it,” he exclaims. “I believe Mr Rotmo will get a lot out of visiting a Norwegian Muslim for tea through the Teatime initiative. It’s clear he knows very little about this minority in Norway,” concludes Kari Helene Partapuoli. Henrik Wergeland was instrumental in fighting local Oslo (then, Christiania) officials’ enforcing a royal decree, which banned celebrating 17th May whilst under Swedish rule. He also got the last sentence of so-called ‘Paragraph 2’ removed from the Norwegian Constitution in 1851 and 1892, respectively, which originally read, "The Evangelical-Lutheran religion remains the public religion of the State. Those inhabitants, who confess thereto, are bound to raise their children to the same Jesuits and monastic orders are not permitted. Jews are still prohibited from entry to the Realm.”

Jews pay their respects at Wergeland’s grave in Oslo every 17th May. The Nazis also forbade any celebration of Wergeland during their WWII occupation of Norway. Whilst the penultimate sentence was struck in 1897, it was not until 1956 the ban was lifted on Jesuits.
© The Foreigner

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‘FATHER OF PEACE STUDIES’ MAKES PUBLIC ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS (Norway)

30/4/2012- A Norwegian sociologist who pioneered the discipline of peace studies and conflict resolution made anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements during a public lecture and in an article. Johan Galtung, called the "father of peace studies," also made anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks in an email interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, the newspaper reported. Galtung claimed that there is a possible connection between Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Muslim Norwegian terrorist who massacred 77 people, mostly children, last summer and Israel's Mossad; he said he believes the Mossad might have given Breivik his orders. The speech was made last Sept. 30, and a critical article about the speech, as well as several written exchanges between Galtung and the author, were reprinted last week in the Humanist magazine. Galtung wrote in one of the exchanges, according to Haaretz, that Jews control the American media. “Six Jewish companies control 96% of the media,” he wrote, including the names of journalists, publishers, TV networks and movie studios that he claims are controlled by Jews. He also wrote that “seventy percent of the professors at the 20 most important American universities are Jewish.” Galtung recommended that people read the anti-Semitic screed "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and said that "It is impossible to do so today without thinking of Goldman Sachs,” the international investment bank founded and run by Jews.
© JTA News

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SANITY ISSUE 'BLURS BREIVIK TRIAL' (Norway)

29/4/2012- Muslim leaders in Norway fear the anti-Islamic ideology of far-right fanatic Anders Breivik, on trial for killing 77 people, is being overshadowed by questions about his mental state. The self-described anti-Muslim militant shocked Norway on July 22 with a bombing and shooting rampage targeting the government headquarters and the Labour Party's annual youth camp. Since he has admitted the attacks, the key issue for the trial is to determine whether Norwegian Breivik, 33, is sane enough to be held criminally responsible. "I'm not a psychiatrist, but what is important is what he has done. That should be the focus, not how crazy he is," said Mehtab Afsar, head of the Islamic Council in Norway, an umbrella organisation of Muslim groups in the country. "He wants to get rid of Muslims and Islam from Europe. That is his main message. So I don't see the point of using so much energy on 'is he normal, is he insane?'." Breivik told the court his victims had betrayed Norway by opening the country to immigration and called for a "patriotic" revolution aimed at deporting Muslims from Europe.

In a 1,500-page manifesto he posted online before the attacks, Breivik frequently cited anti-Islamic bloggers who say Muslims are gradually colonising Europe. But so far, much of the trial has focused on his mental health rather than his ideology. Some Muslims question the validity of pathologising Breivik, saying the Norwegian is easily comparable to Islamic terrorists. "Nobody questioned Osama bin Laden's sanity," said Usman Rana, a doctor and newspaper columnist, following Friday prayers at one of Oslo's largest mosques, the Sufi-inspired World Islamic Mission. "I believe he (Breivik) is sane, definitely. Those who think he is insane don't know anything about terrorism." The first of two psychiatric reports concluded that Breivik was psychotic and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia; the second report deemed him sane enough to go to prison for his crimes. He has admitted all his actions and freely explained to prosecutors the planning and execution of his terror attack, only refusing to explain anything concerning other members of Knights Templar, his alleged anti-Islamic militant network. Prosecutors believe the network does not exist.
© The Belfast Telegraph

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DANISH POLITICIAN TRASHED FOR BURKA-BIN BAG FACEBOOK POST

28/4/2012- A far-right Danish politician has been slammed after posting a picture on her Facebook page that compared Muslims with rubbish. Former Dansk Folkeparti (DF) MP Tina Petersen shared a manipulated picture of a burka-clad Muslim woman and child standing in between two black bin bags. “Hehe … Remember to take out the big trash tomorrow ;-))),” Petersen wrote as a caption. To add insult to injury, one of Petersen’s friends commented below the picture, “Remember: It must be taken to the municipality’s chemical department, as it is hazardous waste;).” Copenhagen resident Lars Nexø was so outraged when he saw the post that he contacted the police. Speaking to TV2, he said, “I don’t think you can compare people with garbage ? it’s an insult. I am convinced that people who wear the burka do not think it is especially fun ? but this clearly indicates that Tina Petersen and her friends find it funny.” Although the post has now been removed, Ekstra Bladet newspaper managed to get a screen shot before and has published the offensive picture. Petersen, who stopped being a DF MP after the September elections last year but remains a counsellor, evoked some mild reactions from her fellow party members. “There’s no need to insult people,” fellow city council member Jens Munk told TV2. “We want to have a chat with Tina Petersen, but I am sure she didn’t mean to insult anyone,” DF vice chairman Carl Ebbesen added.
© Ice News

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BERLIN WORRIED ABOUT 'MUHAMMAD CARTOON CONTEST' (Germany)

A far-right group in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is running a 'Muslim cartoon contest' and plans to display the works outside mosques. The move has alarmed authorities which fear it could incite violence and hurt German interests abroad, similar to the backlash that followed the 2005 publication of cartoons in Danish newspapers.

30/4/2012- The German government has voiced concern that far-right activists in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia may incite violence with plans to hold a so-called "Muhammad cartoon contest" and to stage demonstrations outside mosques in the run-up to a regional election there on May 13. SPIEGEL has learned that Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned of a confrontation between Salafists and right-wing extremists which he said could have unforeseeable consequences for public safety. Pro-NRW, which has been categorized as an extremist right-wing group by the domestic intelligence agency, has said it plans to display the cartoons outside 25 mosques in the state. Friedrich told lawmakers that this deliberate provocation would inflame tensions and lead to violent clashes, and that German embassies and companies operating abroad may also be affected, similar to the protests in Muslim countries following the publication in 2005 of Muhammad cartoons in Danish newspapers. Friedrich's state secretary, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, has telephoned the North Rhine-Westphalia government several times in recent days to discuss the problem. The state's interior minister, Ralf Jäger, said: "The so-called cartoon contest is deliberately aimed at provoking Muslims." He said he had instructed police to prevent demonstrators from protesting in the immediate proximity of mosques.

Fears That Salafists Will Heighten Tensions
Security authorities are particularly concerned because radical Salafist groups, which have been courting publicity recently by distributing free copies of the Koran in inner cities across Germany, may have an interest in fuelling confrontations in response to Pro NRW's activities. Pro NRW showed cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday at demonstrations in the cities of Essen and Gelsenkirchen. Some 100 protestors attended the demonstrations, and they were outnumberd by hundreds of counter-demonstrators, reports said. There was no violence. "All democrats agree xenophobic incitement has no place here," said Jäger. Police had monitored both demonstrations to check whether the cartoons on display were in breach of the German constitution. That would be the case if they insulted a religious community in a way that posed a threat to public peace. But a police spokeswoman said no laws had been broken. The police had stopped the demonstrators from getting near mosques, and the Pro NRW demonstrators were also banned from displaying reprints of the original Danish cartoons that had led to worldwide protests. Pro NRW issued a statement on Sunday saying it would take legal action against the ban on showing Muhammad cartoons. "We won't accept this blatant breach of freedom of speech and artistic expression," Jörg Uckermann, the deputy Pro NRW chairman, said in a statement.
© The Spiegel

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SYRIAN FAMILY BEATEN UP IN ANTI-FOREIGNER ATTACK IN GERMANY

A Syrian family has been beaten up in an apparent xenophobic assault in the East German town of Eisleben over the weekend, the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported in its Monday edition

30/4/2012- The 10-member Syrian family was attacked by three men as they were visiting a fairground Sunday evening. One of the family members, an unidentified 32-year-old man, was transferred to a hospital with a concussion as a result of the attack, while three others suffered bruises to their bodies. Police arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the assault, while the other two are still on the run. Germany has time and again witnessed brutal racist attacks in recent years as the center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to downplay the seriousness of the problem. Most of the racial assaults are committed by mostly young unemployed neo-Nazis who live in what used to be formerly communist East Germany. The German government has been under fire for not really cracking down on far-right violence which is aiming at mostly foreigners and leftist activists. Young neo-Nazis feel more and more emboldened to commit hate crimes, knowing that police won't charge them with an offense. Most of the suspects implicated in far-right crimes are juveniles. Hate crime experts and sociologists have repeatedly stressed Germany's political leadership lacked a clear and effective strategy to really combat neo-Nazi crimes.
© IRNA

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CHALLENGING THE EXTREME RIGHT IN GERMANY

Neo-Nazis are set to march through the streets of Bonn as part of demonstrations that take place around Germany each year on May 1. But a number of groups, supported by local politicians, are out to block them.

30/4/2012- Paula is worried. The 40-year-old Cuban - who doesn't want us to publish her real name - lives in the Bonn suburb of Beuel. On May 1, right-wing extremists from across the region are gathering there to stage a march. "I'm going to stay at home on Tuesday," Paula says. She's worried about the risk of being insulted or even attacked. But generally Paula likes living in Bonn. Normally, she feels safe here. Beuel is a quiet neighborhood, with lovingly restored art nouveau villas, tree-lined avenues and cafes, in front of which people enjoy sitting in the sun. The planned right-wing extremist demonstration is unsettling not only for Paula but also for numerous other citizens in Bonn. Many want to show their opposition in public. Wolfgang Hürter, the local mayor of the Beuel district is in fighting spirits: "We must stand up against the right-wing spooks!" he said, sitting in the large hall of the local town hall. With him on the podium are representatives from trade unions, youth organizations and political parties. Around 100 people have shown up to offer their resistance to the right-wing march. What really angers the locals is that just a few meters away from the planned route of the march is a memorial to the synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938. The demonstration will also pass Dr Weis Square - Max Weis was a Jewish doctor who was murdered in the Holocaust.

Protests converge 
For a number of years, Germany's right-wing extremists have used May 1 as a day of protest. This year, events are planned in a number of cities, including Hamburg, Dresden and Mannheim. Some are organized by the right-wing political party, the NPD, others are organized by so-called "independent powers" or "autonomous nationalists." Their slogans may well appeal to a wider group of people in Germany. The event in Bonn, for example, goes under the motto "Break the financial systems - free yourself from slavery." Wolfgang Hürter can't understand why the police don't ban the demonstration. He believes that there is a high potential for violence which could pose a risk to local people. Lena Schneider agrees with him. She's spokesperson for the action group "Bonn blocks the way:" "We're really angry," she says. "We believe it's our duty to stand in the way of such people."

Widespread support for counter demos
Around 80 organizations have come together to join the action group, including church representatives and unions. They want to protest against the Neo-Nazi march with solemn vigils, church services and peaceful sit-down protests. The aim of the protesters is to prevent the right-wing extremists from leaving the station. The action group has also got support from the city council. In a resolution released last week, the councilors said "We in Bonn are resolutely against violence, discrimination, social exclusion and racism." Together with the Mayor of Bonn, the City Council is calling on people living in Bonn to take part in the numerous counter-activities against the extreme right.
© The Deutsche Welle

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GERMAN FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS TAP INTO GREEN MOVEMENT FOR SUPPORT

Support for ecological movement and conservation used to try to recruit a new generation of supporters 

28/4/2012- German consumers are being warned that when they buy organic produce they may be supporting the far-right movement, following the revelation that rightwing extremists in Germany have embraced the ecological movement and are using it to tap into a new generation of supporters. Debunking the popular view that equates eco-friendliness with cuddly, left-leaning greens, rightwing extremists have even begun to publish their own conservation magazine, which is believed to have the backing of the far-right National Democratic party (NPD). Alongside gardening tips and reports on the dangers of genetically modified milk are articles riddled with rightwing ideology and racial slurs. Bavaria's domestic intelligence agency has described the magazine, Umwelt und Aktiv (Environment and Active), as a "camouflage publication" for the NPD. "We have to get used to the fact that the term 'bio' [organic] does not automatically mean equality and human dignity," said Gudrun Heinrich of the University of Rostock, who has just published a study on the topic called Brown Ecologists, a reference to the Nazi Brownshirts and their modern-day admirers.

Hotbeds of far-right eco-warriors are to be found throughout Germany. In the Mecklenburg region in the north, they have been quietly settling in communities since the 1990s in an effort to reinvigorate the traditions of the Artaman League – a farming movement whose roots lie in the 19th century romantic ideal of "blood and soil" ruralism, which was adopted by the Nazis. Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, was a member. "They propagate a way of living which involves humane raising of plants and animals, is both nationalistic and authoritarian, and in which there's no place for pluralism and democracy," said Heinrich, adding that the NPD is closely linked to the settlers, helping the party become "deeply rooted in these rural areas". The settlers produce "German honey", bake bread from homegrown wheat, produce fruit and vegetables for sale, and knit their own woollen sweaters. Observers have noted that the far-right farmers have been able to profit from the cheap and spacious swaths of land left by a population exodus from impoverished states in the former East Germany, such as Mecklenburg.

Political scientists argue that the NPD is trying to wrest the ecological movement back from the left, particularly the German Greens, who rose to prominence in the 1980s to become Europe's most successful ecological party. Hans-Günter Laimer, a farmer in Lower Bavaria who once ran for election for the NPD and is linked to Umwelt und Aktiv, questions why the left has been allowed to dominate the organic scene for so long. "What is the difference between my cucumbers and those of someone from the Green party?" he said. A representative of the Centre for Democratic Culture, in Roggentin in Mecklenburg, who did not wish to be identified for security reasons, recently told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: "They want that people don't think about politics when they hear the word NPD. They want as far as possible to build subtle bridges into the lives of other citizens … ecological topics are becoming increasingly important for rightwing extremists." At the same time as it was butchering millions of people, the Nazi party supported animal rights and nature conservation. But it is disturbing for many Germans to think that while they support local producers and reject genetically modified food, pesticides and intensive livestock farming, there is now little – superficially at least – to distinguish a supposedly well-meaning, leftist Green from a far-right eco enthusiast.

The department of rural enlightenment in the state of Rheinland Pfalz has even produced a brochure called Nature Conservation versus Rightwing Extremism, which aims to help organic farmers resist the infiltration of fascists into their ranks and to be able to respond to any far-righters they might encounter. Its author, historian Nils Franke, said: "Because of the success of the eco topic in the wider society, the NPD has a heightened interest in wanting to fly the flag with it." Biopark, an organic cultivation organisation that vets its members before certifying them as organic farmers, said there was little it could do to exclude the rightwing extremist members it knew were in its ranks. "I don't appreciate the ideology of these people and I can understand if people choose not to buy from us as a result, but I can't vet them according to their political affiliations, only based on their cultivation methods," said its manager, Delia Micklich.
© The Observer

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BNP CRASHES OUT IN LOCAL ELECTIONS (uk)

British National party loses nine of 12 seats held in 2008, including key Burnley presence, with three results still to declare

4/5/2012- The far-right British National party is facing political meltdown, having lost nine of the 12 seats it held in 2008 with the remaining three still to declare. The party's sole representative in Burnley – once the party's stronghold – has been defeated and in other areas the BNP's vote is down by as much as half. In London, the BNP is trying to hold on to its seat on the assembly, with the results due to be announced on Friday evening. Nick Lowles from anti-racist campaign Hope not Hate said: "It is been a disastrous night for the BNP. They have lost councillors, failed to regain seats they won in 2008 and generally their vote is well down on previous elections. In some of their strongest wards the BNP vote is down almost 50% from 2008, the last time these seats were contested."

Key BNP areas such as Epping Forest and Pendle are expected to declare on Friday afternoon, but Lowles said the most significant result was the party's defeat in Burnley. "The BNP won its first councillor in Burnley in 2002 and the following year it became the second largest party on the council so this is a hugely important victory." Since the peak of its electoral success in 2009, when it won two seats in the European parliament, the BNP has been mired in infighting and financial chaos.

This year, it stood substantially fewer candidates than in previous years with no one representing the party in several of its previous strongholds, in Yorkshire and the north-east. Lowles said it had also been squeezed on one side by a resurgent Ukip and on the other by the the English Defence League, which is expected to announce on Saturday it will contest future elections as part of an alliance with the British Freedom party, a small rightwing group, at a rally in Luton.
© The Guardian

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THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE EDL (uk, opinion)

By Dr. Leon Moosavi, Sociologist of race and religion, specialising on Muslim communities in Britain

3/5/2012- Tommy Robinson, the leader of the English Defence League, is set to be unveiled as the deputy leader of the British Freedom Party. There's been talk for more than a year of the EDL leadership wanting to become involved in mainstream politics, but this is the most concrete development yet. I'm optimistic that this could signal the beginning of the end for the EDL, rather than the beginning of a new influential era. The far right have been specifically targeting Muslim communities for more than a decade. Since 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror, the far right found in Muslims a vulnerable scapegoat to focus on. Muslims were being routinely interrogated in mainstream public discussions which the far right capitalised on fully. Tommy Robinson's incursion into politics will not change much then. It will just be business as usual for the far right.

In fact, Muslim communities and anti-fascist campaigners may benefit significantly from this development. Firstly, the EDL's aggressive marches will have to be curtailed since Tommy Robinson will be forced into having some degree of public accountability. He will have to tone down his rhetoric to woo voters, thus taking the edge off his typically fiery style. Quite simply, he will have to become somewhat politically-correct which will be devastating for him, since his supporters adore him for his perceived efforts to speak up against political-correctness. Gradually, his existing supporters will become disenfranchised with him as he jumps the necessary political hoops and loses credibility wearing a suit, shirt and tie.

Welcoming Tommy Robinson into the political process also means that his Islamophobic rhetoric can be challenged head-on. On the streets, Tommy Robinson is heard and applauded. In political chambers, he will be undone. I doubt that he will convince many people to vote for him believing as I do that 'live and let live' is the motto that best describes the average Briton's outlook. Moreover, Tommy Robinson's existing supporters are less likely to participate in elections and other formal democratic procedures than they are in alcohol-fuelled processions, meaning his existing fan base will not do much for him on the ballot paper. Ultimately, the presence of both EDL and BNP activists in political contestations will fracture the far right vote, meaning they will weaken each other by depriving each other of votes.

What worries me more than far right politicians like Tommy Robinson and Nick Griffin is the instances when xenophobia creeps into the words of mainstream politicians. Gordon Brown's 'British Jobs for British Workers' slogan was controversial and David Cameron's dismissal of multiculturalism is concerning. These types of declarations from our country's leaders leave many ethnic and religious minorities wondering what this nationalistic fervour alongside the termination of multiculturalism means for their futures in Britain. Alongside all of this, UKIP are on the ascent, the political party that I have heard some refer to as "the posh BNP". Our real concern then should not be about Tommy Robinson, but about the more subtle demonising of immigrants and minorities that is a reoccurring feature of mainstream British politics.

Of course, it would be convenient for everyone if Tommy Robinson would keep himself busy running his tanning salon in Luton, but if he is going to be involved in politics, I'd rather see him being defeated in debates and failing in local elections, than see him leading violent marches that achieve nothing but breed fear and hatred. Although we must never be complacent in challenging the xenophobia of the far right, I'm optimistic that the EDL are in decline and that Tommy Robinson will achieve very little in mainstream politics.
© The Huffington Post - UK

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FAR-RIGHT CANDIDATE IN POLICE CUSTODY (uk)

1/5/2012- The British National Party’s (BNP) candidate for mayor of Liverpool has been arrested on suspicion of faking signatures on his nomination papers. Mike Whitby, who is on Thursday’s ballot paper for the directly-elected post, was held by police at his home in north Wales yesterday. Detectives arrived at the house at 7:30am but the candidate refused to co-operate and officers were unable to detain him until around six hours later. Merseyside Police said last night that he remained in custody being questioned over alleged electoral fraud by making false statements and faking signatures on nomination election papers. Detective Superintendent Martin Andrew, of Merseyside Police, said: “Following an allegation that nomination forms for the mayoral elections had been fraudulently filled in, a police investigation was launched. “Officers conducted extensive inquiries in the Wavertree area of Liverpool over the weekend and interviewed a significant number of people.

“Following those inquiries and after taking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, Merseyside police officers attended an address in the Wrexham area to speak to the homeowner about the allegations. “My officers made repeated attempts to speak to the occupant and, at around 1:30pm, they arrested a 59-year-old man on suspicion of making false statements and faking signatures on nomination election papers – an offence under Section 65A of the Representation of the People Act. “He currently remains in police custody.” The complaint was made to Merseyside Police following an investigation by the Liverpool Echo, which reported alleged irregularities in Whitby’s nomination papers. A BNP spokesman said Whitby denies the allegations and stands by the names on his nomination form.
© The Scotsman

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BRITAIN'S FAR RIGHT TO FOCUS ON ANTI-ISLAMIC POLICY

Head of English Defence League to join British Freedom party as deputy leader with virulent anti-Muslim platform 

28/4/2012- The head of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, will be named deputy leader of the British Freedom party this week after proposing that the group adopt virulent anti-Islamic policies as its central strategy. Confirmation that Robinson is to be offered a political platform within the BFP is contained in internal documents revealing that he has forwarded a number of "potential policy suggestions" that suggest the party will widen its attacks on Muslims. The document suggests the BFP with Robinson would "focus on non-Islamic population, not white/black population", a move that critics describe as an attempt to antagonise relations between Muslims and other Britons. Other proposed areas of campaigning for the party, which will contest several seats in this week's local elections, include calls for regulation of all mosques and religious schools and the banning of the burqa and niqab. The unveiling of Robinson as deputy leader of the British Freedom Party will take place in Luton ahead of an EDL demo in the town, during which supporters will be banned from its centre by police, following previous disturbances.

Last week, a BFP member tweeted his support for Norwegian killer Anders Breivik, while an EDL member defended the 34-year-old, currently on trial in Oslo after confessing to the murder of 77 people last July, and said that if he had "singled out the muslim filth" he would be viewed as a hero. Internal notes of a meeting held in a Luton hotel between senior EDL and BFP figures on 14 April, which have been seen by the Observer, reveal that participants believe the alliance is a development that "will change the direction of British politics". However Nick Lowles of campaign group Hope not Hate said: "Although this shows the new face of the far right, a move that further marginalises the BNP, their agenda is so hate-filled that it will remain a minority message." Robinson and the BFP have yet to comment, but the documents show that he backs a ban on the building of mosques and madrassas, an end to mass immigration, withdrawal from the EU, and promotion of "Christian values".

Last week a report by Amnesty International warned of the rise of extremist political movements targeting Muslim practices in Europe, a development evidenced by the surprisingly strong showing of support for the French Front National, the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen, in France's presidential election. It also said that European laws on what girls and women could wear on their heads were encouraging discrimination against Muslims.
© The Guardian

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ROME MAYOR CAUGHT IN NEO-NAZI BLUNDER (Italy)

28/4/2012- Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Saturday was forced to cancel a book presentation in city hall next week following an outcry after it emerged that it was to be given by a convicted neo-Nazi militant. Franco Freda, who served time in prison for subversive attacks in the 1960s and 1970s, had been scheduled to present a book by a publishing house he owns on 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche - a far-right icon. Freda has also published works by Holocaust deniers and an Italian edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf - which is banned in several countries. Alemanno is himself a reformed neo-fascist who has struggled to shake off the suspicion that he still retains strong ties with the far-right movement. In a statement on Saturday he said his office had given the go-ahead for the book presentation "without realising the ideological nature of this publishing house, which runs contrary to the principles of the constitution". "I immediately revoke any action and any authorisation granted," he said. Alemanno is a former member of the fascist Italian Social Movement and was elected in 2008 after joining Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. Former centre-left mayor Walter Veltroni was quoted by La Repubblica daily before Alemanno announced the cancellation, saying that he was "shocked" that Rome city hall's culture department would host someone like Freda. "This is a gesture that is mistaken and offensive for the city," he said.
© AFP

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EU AUSTERITY IS FEEDING RACISM, REPORT SAYS

EU austerity measures are helping to feed racism and intolerance, according to a report by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

3/5/2012- In its annual survey out on Thursday (3 May), the council's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), said welfare cuts and shrinking job opportunities are factors behind the recent rise in intolerance and violence directed at immigrants and other vulnerable minorities. "Immigration is [being] equated with insecurity, [that] irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees either steal jobs or risk capsizing our welfare system, while Muslims are not able to integrate in Western societies," the survey says. It adds that talk by mainstream politicians of reintroducing border controls in the passport-free Schengen area is beginning to give xenophobia and far-right extremism a respectable face. "Political leaders must at all costs resist pandering to prejudice and misplaced fears about the loss of 'European values,' terrorism and common criminality," it says.

The German and French ministers of justice sent a letter to the Danish EU presidency in late April on curbing Schengen. French leader Nicolas Sarkozy has also complained that there are "too many immigrants" in France in his bid to woo far-right voters. In Greece, the openly fascist Golden Dawn party is expected to win a dozen or so seats in parliament on Sunday (6 May). The group espouses claims of Greek and Aryan racial superiority and wants to landmine borders with Turkey to stop migrants. In the Netherlands, the far-right PVV party has put up a website encouraging people to spy on and denounce eastern Europeans who work on the black market. A copy-cat website was launched in mid-April by the far-right Vlaams Belang party in Belgium and is still online.

The ECRI report notes that just 18 Council of Europe member states - and just seven EU members among them - have ratified Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination. The EU list is Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. The ECRI admonished mismanagement of asylum seekers - especially in Hungary, where asylum seekers are led around town on leashes and in handcuffs. It also said some governments are using the crisis as an excuse to amputate the budgets of human rights institutions and specialised anti-discrimination bodies. Some vulnerable groups - such as the Roma, the largest ethnic minority in Europe - endure popular social stigma despite national and EU-level rhetoric on equal rights.

This reporter in 2010 met several Bulgarian-origin Roma families in Brussels who pretend to be Turkish in order to suffer less racism. "Many of us carry the stigma as a burden, others act against the stigma. It's more comforting to do so, in a sense," one of the contacts said.
© The EUobserver

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RACISM AS A CONCEPT

Each of us has obviously encountered either the concept of racism or its manifestations in practice. What is not so clear-cut is how racism has been shaped over the course of history and what exactly it has meant at different points in time. This article will attempt to answer those two questions.
By Markéta Novotná, studies international politics and political science an the University of Economics Prague and Danish at Charles University in Prague.

1/5/2012- The meaning of the concept of race in today's sense of the word - i.e., race as a group of people inhabiting the same land and sharing similar physical characteristics - is a relatively recent development. One of the first documentary proofs of this concept is the entry for "race" in a French academic dictionary from 1835. From this information, it cannot be deduced that racism per se manifested itself earlier, inasmuch as the concept of race had not yet been defined. Racism as an ideology espousing a biologically conditioned connection between cultural and intellectual maturity achieved its peak in the 20th century, according to the US historian George Fredrickson. When Fredrickson speaks of "openly racist regimes", he means in particular the period of racial segregation in the USA, the Nazi regime in Germany, and the policy of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.

Fredrickson views the modern form of racism, with its elaborate theoretical apparatus, as of western origin. The seeds of racism (which cannot claim to meet his definition) appeared in the late Middle Ages in Europe, in the context of religious fanaticism (absent a biological dimension). Religious prejudice against other believers cannot be labeled "racism", as the belief also existed that those other believers could be obviated through conversion to the "correct" faith. The first conception of racism turned up in the approach taken by Christians toward Jewish people. Over time, the widest possible variety of catastrophes (e.g., the plague) were ascribed to the Jews, and through that process they were constructed as completely outside of society. The 15th-century Spanish policy of "blood purity" was executed against a strictly racist backdrop. Entire ethnic groups were labeled inferior on the basis of this policy and the possibility of their assimilation or conversion was ruled out, as these ethnic groups were considered to have been born deficient. From a basis in religious intolerance, racism came little by little into existence.

The roots of modern ("scientific") racism are located in the period of the Enlightenment, when Carl Linnaeus came up with his physical typology of the human "races", to which he ascribed certain characteristics. The developing concepts of beauty, nationalism and romanticism also had an indispensable influence on racism. Philosopher Hannah Arendt viewed racism as an effort of the aristocratic "races" to cope with the ideas and the state of affairs produced by the French Revolution. A French count, Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (1816 - 1882), is considered the "father" of modern racist ideology. In his day his work was immeasurably fashionable. The basic theses of his creed are the convictions that only a "race" is capable of creating a civilization and society, that racial characteristics are inborn and unchangeable, that the races are not equal to one another, and that their mixing will lead to catastrophe. It is in this last point that Gobineau differs from later racism, as he was convinced that the pure races had already been irreversibly destroyed (Nazism, for example, strove to counter this by achieving racial purity).

The term "racism" is very often used erroneously today to refer to what might more precisely be called culturalism or xenophobia. Xenophobia, or enmity toward all foreigners, as well as fear of or qualms about them, is closely connected with racism and can become a starting point for it. Of course, it is not the same thing (xenophobia, for example, does not work with notions of heredity). Culturalism (cultural particularism) is an inability or unwillingness to accept cultural differences. It differs from racism in that it admits the possibility of assimilation. However, the border between these two concepts is rather vague (a narrow definition of culture can become a synonym for race). In any event, what is key for racist ideology is the fact that cultural/ethnic differences are considered inborn, i.e., permanent and unchangeable.

The concept of racial discrimination is very often linked with racism today, on the basis of which groups or individuals are disadvantaged because of their ethnic origin, race, or skin color. "Positive racial discrimination" is a rather new term, the aim of which is to support disadvantaged, often socially vulnerable citizens (for example, by making it easier for them to access education or employment).
© Romea

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EXPERTS: VIOLENCE AGAINST ROMA IS DEEPLY ROOTED ACROSS EUROPE

29/4/2012- Violence and discrimination against Romanies are deeply rooted in Europe, representatives of the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) said at a press conference staged by the Czech Helsinki Committee (CVH) and the AEDH yesterday. They said there are no big differences between particular countries and that tension is now mounting also due to the economic crisis during which people's tolerance is decreasing. The press conference was given at the close of a general meeting of the association that has 23 member organisations from 19 EU countries. The event was combined with a seminar on Romanies in Europe.

Anna Sabatova, from the CVH, said people have many prejudices against Romanies. "The Romanies want to work, coexist with others, but this is not made possible for them," she said. Sabatova said she was "shocked by the situation in Italian suburbs. Some violent acts in Hungary, for instance, are even stronger than what we experienced in the past," Sabatova said. She also criticised the situation in France that expelled Romanian and Bulgarian Romanies in the past. "No country is free of violence," French AEDH representative Pierre Barge said.

Sabatova said some west European countries behave towards Romanies as if they were not European citizens. The Brno meeting also dealt with the current situation in Belgrade from where some 250 Romany families have been expelled, allegedly without notice and negotiations, Sabatova said. The people did not allegedly get a comparable shelter, she added. The CVH says aversion of the majority population to Romanies is mounting. Polls and surveys have recorded an increase from 60 to 75 percent over a period of ten years, the CHV said. The AEDH says the Romanies constitute the strongest European ethnic majority of 12 million people. The experts discussed in Brno three themes - violence against Romanies, discrimination against Romanies and the minority's access to its rights.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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THE FAR RIGHT REBOOT

Last week we saw little bits of history repeating – in France, in Holland and (as grotesque farce) in Norway. 

29/4/2012- Europe's far right is once again causing trouble – and basking in the biggest round of media publicity it has had in a decade. Exactly 10 years ago, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of France's Front National, stunned Europe by taking 16.86% of the vote in the first round of a presidential election. Last Sunday, his daughter Marine bettered that, with almost 18%. Ten years ago next Sunday, the populist Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn, was shot dead and a week later his party, the Pim Fortuyn List, went on to win 17% of the vote and four ministers in the new government. Last week in Holland, his political heir, the firebrand anti-Muslim and anti-EU campaigner Geert Wilders, brought down the government by refusing to back swingeing budget cutbacks brought on by the euro crisis. And, in Norway, we heard a mass murderer, Anders Breivik, boast about his anti-Muslim crusade in language that sounded like a perverse looking-glass echo of something we heard a decade earlier, when Islamic extremists crowed about the crime that changed the world, the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

These are events that make us all stop and look at ourselves, stop and examine the causes of extremism, within us and without us. At what point does nationalism slip over into chauvinism, or even xenophobia? To what extent is political correctness right – because it shows tolerance and forces us to suppress our baser instincts – and to what extent is it wrong – because it sometimes seems to give minorities greater rights than the majority? To what degree should people in a country like Scotland balance the preservation of our own identity against the right of others to express their identity while living here? As bans on face-covering Islamic veils are introduced in more and more European countries, is this an assault on the very individual liberties that lie at the heart of Western culture, or a necessary measure to ensure the cohesion (and security) of our societies? Amnesty International last week reported that Muslims in many countries now face exclusion from jobs and education if they wear traditional dress. Should we be more tolerant – or should they make more effort to fit in? For Europe's far right, the answer to such questions is easy.

Before we go further, let's define what we mean by "far right", because it's a catch-all term that covers a multitude of sins, and sinners – neo-fascists, xenophobes, homophobes, anti-Islamists, anti-immigrationists, white supremacists. Often they are not at all right-wing on economics, and advocate left-wing policies, such as a big welfare state and high public spending. Very often, "populist" is a better term: many of these politicians claim to be doing nothing more evil than "saying what ordinary people think", "breaking taboos", "standing up for the common man". Scratch the surface of such talk, however, and you usually find a racist. Their xenophobia is directed above all at immigrants, particularly Muslims. They are united by a belief that the distinct identities of Europe's various nations are being destroyed – by immigration, EU integration, and globalisation.

Ten years ago I wrote a book, Preachers Of Hate, about the rise of the far right in Europe, in which I suggested that the danger – apart from the obvious threat posed by the extreme right movements themselves – was that their policies were increasingly being aped by mainstream parties in an attempt to neutralise the effect. I noted the increasing anti-immigration rhetoric and policies of Britain's then Labour government and other centrist governments across Europe. This shift had the desired effect – if "desired" is the right word. Over the next decade the far right's influence began to wane, as mainstream governments stole their policies. So why is populism experiencing a new lease of life now, after several years of apparent decline? And could it herald a further ramping up of intolerance and xenophobia? Back in 2002, extremist politicians were on the up in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Denmark and other countries – but not always for the same reasons. In Austria, Joerg Haider (who died in a car crash in 2008) tapped into residual Nazi sentiment in his homeland and also into the resentment caused by the influx of hundreds of thousands of immigrants. As in many other countries, Austrians saw the incomers as a threat to their own jobs, benefits and housing. Haider's Freedom Party came second in the 1999 general election and took its place in a coalition government – an event so shocking that the European Union briefly imposed diplomatic sanctions against Austria. Until then, the extreme right had been seen as a fringe phenomenon – skinheads and bovverboys; Haider was tanned, articulate and charismatic.

The new breed of smart-suited designer fascists also strode to the fore in Belgium – specifically in the Flemish-speaking northern half, Flanders. Here it was extremism with a nationalist face. The Vlaams Blok party demanded that Belgium be divided in two, so that the Flemish could have their own nation state and stop "subsidising" the French speakers down south. It would be a white Flanders, too, with immigrants "encouraged" to leave. (I once heard its leader call for the deportation of "all those Ali-Babas".) The party was disbanded after being declared racist by a Belgian court, but re-emerged – virtually unchanged – as the Vlaams Belang (The Flemish Interest). In the Netherlands, Pim Fortuyn was a special case. Flamboyant, gay, a former Marxist, every bit the product of the Dutch permissive society, it was precisely his belief in Holland's liberalism that led him to his reactionary views on Islam, which he viewed as incompatible with Dutch values. All across Europe, the new populists declared political correctness to be incorrect, and demanded to get "forbidden" subjects out into the open. They blamed rising crime on foreigners. They raised the spectre of churches being converted into mosques. They didn't discuss the genocides and starvation and war that drove refugees towards Europe: it was just time to close the doors. In effect it was the rule of the saloon bar. In civilised countries the things you blurt out when you're drunk in the pub don't become government policy. But now there were parties willing to do just that, and they were winning more and more votes.

The far right was anti-establishment, railing at the corruption and sleaze of the conventional centre. The big parties have failed you: vote for us. European integration became another stick with which to beat the status quo. Britain was not the only country where each new step towards the EU's goal of "ever closer union" fuelled anger at the loss of sovereignty. Almost all the far right parties wanted to repatriate powers or even take their country out of the Union. In the late 1990s, the majority of European countries had left-of-centre governments. Slowly, one by one, they either lost power or made concessions to the far right that would have been unthinkable in the past. In the UK, David Blunkett, while slamming what he called the British National Party's "vile racism", slipped into using their kind of language: he once spoke of asylum seekers' children "swamping" our local schools. This kind of talk had the effect of convincing voters that they could get BNP policies without actually voting for racists. In liberal Denmark, the far right did not win an election, but they did so well that they obliged the government to adopt their policies, forcing an abrupt slamming shut of the door that Danes had traditionally held open for foreigners.

As the decade wore on, the far right became more and more redundant as mainstream parties mimicked their rhetoric and policies. In Germany, where a survey showed that almost one-third of voters felt their country was "overrun by foreigners", Chancellor Merkel declared that attempts to build a multicultural society had "utterly failed". Soon President Sarkozy in France and David Cameron in the UK followed suit. All governments took steps to curb immigration. The trouble is, you give a dog a bone and it wants another one. Now extremism appears to be on the march again. This time it could be the economic crisis – and the austerity measures being imposed on hard-pressed voters – that has stoked the populist cause. In the Netherlands, Wilder's anti-immigration Party For Freedom won 15% of the vote two years ago – and a key role in parliament, propping up, while not participating in, the government. His inflammatory anti-Islamic rhetoric earned him a ban on entry to Britain for a while. But it was a different populist cause that he turned to last week when he decided to bring down the government – tapping into the grudge felt by ordinary folk over the spending cuts.

In France, Marine Le Pen did the same. In the election campaign she pledged to take France out of the single currency and restore the franc, to pull away from European treaties, and to reserve jobs for French nationals. Marine is also a "designer" populist – much more so than her father. Untainted by charges of anti-Semitism, she comes across as a modern French woman – twice divorced, independent, strong-willed and "in touch". Now, in time-worn fashion, the two candidates going forward to the second round of the presidential election, the right-wing Nicolas Sarkozy and the socialist Francois Hollande, are competing for her votes. Again, history repeats itself: to win or retain power, mainstream politicians have to ape the populists. And again, the populist vote belongs to neither right nor left, but to both. Sarkozy said he "understood the anxieties" of Front National voters: "They are about respecting our borders, the determined fight against job relocation, controlling immigration, putting value on work, on security." Hollande, for his part, suggested that potential left-wing supporters had voted for the far right because of "social anger". He said many did not share the Front National's obsession with immigration, but voted for the populist candidate because they were "opposed to privilege, financial globalisation and a failing Europe". The fact is, however, that Le Pen's support increased precisely towards the end of the campaign when she began to stress her anti-immigration views.

In any event, both candidates will now crank up their populist credentials in order to win those crucial votes. The danger is that this will increase the far right's appeal by legitimising its causes and making them appear to be mainstream. Voters who once felt they were on the fringes will now say: it's not extreme to be anti-Muslim – everyone is. Witness, for example, the leader of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in the German parliament, Volker Kauder, who recently declared: "Islam is not part of our tradition and identity in Germany and so does not belong in Germany." He may have added that individual Muslims "of course" enjoy all state rights as citizens, but that's a subtlety lost on many ordinary burghers who just feel they see too many headscarves and long beards around. Meanwhile, in Norway the excruciating trial of Anders Breivik continues, like some far-right theatrical performance, complete with celebrity star. It turns out the best way to get your views heard is to kill dozens of people. Let's hope we don't find that little bit of history repeating any time soon.
© The Herald Scotland

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