NEWS - Archive January 2008

Headlines 25 January, 2008

SWEDISH MEDICAL SCHOOL EXPELS STUDENT CONVICTED IN KILLING

Student was found guilty in '99 shooting, had neo-Nazi ties.

25/1/2008- A medical student convicted in a 1999 murder with neo-Nazi links has been expelled from Sweden's leading medical school in a case that sparked debate over whether a killer can become a doctor after having paid his debt to society. The Karolinska institute, known for awarding the Nobel Prize in medicine, revoked Karl Svensson's admission to its prestigious medical program this week after an investigation into his background, the university president said Friday. Svensson, 31, was admitted last fall after his application to the program was approved, President Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson said. The university knew nothing about his dark past until getting two anonymous tips that Svensson's identity was Hampus Hellekant, an alleged neo-Nazi sympathizer who had served seven years in prison for the murder of a labor union activist, Wallberg-Henriksson said. He was convicted along with two other men in 2000 in the fatal shooting of a member of a far-left union, Bjorn Soderberg. Prosecutors said the killing was revenge for the Soderberg's public denouncement of a co-worker who belonged to a neo-Nazi organization. "He had been enrolled for four months when this was revealed," she said. The discovery put Karolinska in a difficult position because the legal framework is unclear on "whether you should be able to receive a doctor's education with this type of background," she said. Karolinska never had to address Svensson's criminal record because the background check found irregularities in the high school grades he submitted with his application, which was grounds to expel him.

The case triggered an emotional debate among faculty and students at the Karolinska institute. After local media started reporting on the case, Svensson told his 130 classmates about his background, Wallberg-Henriksson said. "He said he was very interested in becoming a doctor and was determined to pursue the education and that he was not the same person today as he was then," she said. "There was a lot of discussion. The course was divided in two camps. One camp thought he had paid for his crime, others felt uncomfortable," she said. Karolinska students said that there had been mixed feelings about Svensson on campus. "We talked about it when it emerged and it was in the paper," said Elin, 21, a biomedicine student who did not want her last name used because the topic was sensitive on campus. "People felt it was strange that he should be allowed to become a doctor," she said. "On the other hand, people change. Maybe he's become a better person." Wallberg-Henriksson said Svensson's only response to the expulsion was a letter to Karolinska in which he said he was dropping out of the program.
© Associated Press

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SURVEY REVEALS VIEWS ON IMMIGRATION(Spain)

Despite differences on certain subjects, Madrileños have "favourable" attitude.

25/1/2008- What do Spaniards think of immigrants? And what do immigrants think of themselves? The Madrid regional government has attempted to answer those two questions with a survey of 1,200 people conducted in October and presented last week by Fernández Lasquetty, the head of the regional immigration department. The response from the 800 Spaniards and 400 foreigners to the different questions about the effects of immigration was mixed, although Lasquetty noted that Madrileños have a favourable attitude toward immigrants. Though both foreigners and natives accept that rising immigration is associated with increasing crime, they also note that the influx of immigrants, who now make up more than a fifth of the population in and around the capital, is positive for the economy. They acknowledge, for example, that immigrants take jobs in sectors that would otherwise suffer from labour shortages. However, there are some big differences in views. Notably, half of the Spanish respondents said that immigrants are only slightly integrated into Spanish society or not at all. Only 20 percent of immigrants said the same. Lasquetty, a member of the Popular Party, nonetheless called the overall picture "positive," before seizing the opportunity to lash out at the Socialist central government's immigration policy. "Foreign criminals are not immigrants, but rather people who come to Spain attracted by soft laws that don't exist in other countries and that have been introduced by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero," Lasquetty said. He noted that Zapatero had rejected a PP proposal to deport immigrants convicted of committing a crime.
© Expatica News

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ESTONIA FINES MAN FOR 'CYBER WAR'

A 20-year-old ethnic Russian man is the first person to be convicted for taking part in a "cyber war" against Estonia.

25/1/2008- Dmitri Galushkevich was fined 17,500 kroons (£830) for an attack which blocked the website of the Reform Party of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. The assault, between 25 April and 4 May 2007, was one of a series by hackers on Estonian institutions and businesses. At the time, Estonia accused the Russian government of orchestrating the attacks. Moscow denied any involvement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC in May 2007 that the allegations were "completely untrue". The attacks took place against a backdrop of riots by ethnic Russian Estonians prompted by the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the centre of Tallinn During the unrest, one person was killed and more than 150 injured. Moving the so-called Bronze Soldier was seen as an affront to the memory of Russian soldiers who died during World War II. Prosecutors said Mr Galushkevich, a student, had claimed the attack was an act of protest against Mr Ansip, who became a hate figure for Estonia's Russian minority. Ethnic Russians make up about a quarter of Estonia's population of 1.3 million. Other websites that were crippled by the denial-of-service attacks, which knock websites offline by swamping servers with requests, included those of the state government, political parties and leading newspapers. Some sites also redirected users to images of Soviet soldiers and quotations from Martin Luther King about resisting "evil".

'No record'
Most of the hackers were believed to be based in Russia - the Estonian government said at the time that Kremlin computers were used to carry out a number of the attacks. The tiny Baltic State enlisted the help of Nato to help defend their networks in what was described as a "cyber war". But David Emm, senior technical consultant at Moscow-based antivirus software company Kaspersky Lab, told the BBC website that he believed the most likely culprits were "younger types who, in other days, would have been writing and spreading viruses". Mr Galushkevich is the first individual to be fined in connection with the attacks. "The young man admitted his guilt," Gerrit Maesalu, spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office in north-east Estonia, told AFP. "In deciding the verdict, the court took into account the fact that he had no criminal record," he said. Several other investigations into the events are under way, but no-one else has yet been brought to trial.
© BBC News

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CHILDREN MISSING FROM REFUGEE CENTERS(Norway)

Eleven children disappeared from asylum centers in Norway last year, and immigration officials fear they may be victims of human trafficking. Security measures are being boosted.

25/1/2008- Four teenage boys who suddenly vanished from an asylum center in Bærum may have been "sold" by organized crime leagues now suspected of arranging their travel to Norway. Officials at Norway's immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) told newspaper Aftenposten this week that they have reason to believe the boys have been forced into prostitution or other slave labour. UDI officials called both police and child protective agencies in Norway when the boys failed to return from a 24-hour leave. Three of the four disappeared shortly after arrival at the asylum center, before they had their first interview in the asylum application process. "They may have moved on to another country, or they could be part of some sort of organized network in Norway, or they may be exploited," said Siri Rustad of UDI. Two years ago, Norwegian and Swedish authorities cracked a human trafficking league that allegedly victimized young Chinese women. Two arrests were made, but the young Chinese victims who disappeared from asylum centers were never found.
© Aftenpost

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VOGELAAR TO CALCULATE LOSSES DUE TO NEW INTEGRATION LAW(Netherlands)

Minister for Integration Ella Vogelaar is going to calculate how many millions of euro have been lost because of the debacle with the new integration legislation.

25/1/2008- Minister for Integration Ella Vogelaar is going to calculate how many millions of euro have been lost because of the debacle with the new integration legislation. The minister said this on current events programme NOVA on Thursday. Estimates on how much money has been lost vary significantly. Different educational centres say the damages have amounted to EUR 60 million. Vogelaar will have an accountant look into whether this is true. Although the cabinet wants more people to become acquainted with the Dutch language and society, few people attended such a course last year.Complicated new regulations prevented municipalities from referring many candidates. The Integration Act was pushed through Parliament by former minister Rita Verdonk at the end of 2006; a few weeks later municipalities were expected to start working with the regulations. Although everyone seems to agree that the law has failed because of over-complicated regulations, municipalities and educational institutes are being blamed for poor results. Verdonk's successor Vogelaar has since simplified the law to some extent. She hopes that many participants will follow courses this year as a result. She is also launching a special campaign to encourage immigrants and other whose Dutch is poor too attend courses. Vogelaar says many immigrants have "cold feet" because of the problems with the new law. The campaign is due to be launched this spring.
© Expatica News

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DUTCH MUSLIMS APPEAL FOR CALM BEFORE RELEASE OF ANTI-QURAN FILM

24/1/2008- A Dutch Muslim group appealed Thursday for calm at home and abroad in reaction to an anti-Quran film a right-wing politician says he is making. Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, says his film will portray the Quran as a "fascist book" that incites violence and intolerance of women and homosexuals. The Dutch director of a previous film critical of Islam was murdered by a Muslim radical on an Amsterdam street in 2004, prompting a backlash that included the torching of several mosques. The moderate National Moroccan Council said Thursday it will try to "neutralize the threat" posed by the upcoming film, which Wilders says is still under production. "At the moment, practically all Muslim groups ... are working to ensure a peaceful and responsible reaction" to the film, said the group's chairman, Mohamed Rabbae, at a news conference in The Hague. "We will have succeeded if, after the film, Mr. Wilders is frustrated," Rabbae said. "If he sees there are no riots and Muslims are cleverer and more democratic than he thinks." Wilders has yet to find a broadcaster prepared to air the film once it is finished. But he has said that if he cannot find one, he will post it on the Internet.

Even though it is uncertain the film will ever be broadcast, the government has put cities on alert for possible violence. It has also warned its overseas embassies about a possible reaction similar to the one that erupted across the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005. "That a 10-minute film that's never been shown may lead to riots, boycotts and other bad things, says everything about the nature of Islam," said Wilders in an open letter Thursday. "Nothing about me." Wilders' party holds nine of the Dutch parliament's 150 seats. In the past, he has said that half the Quran should be torn up and has compared it with Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." He has claimed the Netherlands is being swamped by a "tsunami" of Islamic immigrants. Wilders said his film will not closely resemble "Submission," the short film written by right-leaning former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "Submission" criticized the treatment of women under Islam, citing Quranic verses that appeared to justify abuse. The film's director, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered in 2004. A Muslim extremist shot him numerous times, slit his throat and used a knife to pin a letter to his chest threatening the life of Hirsi Ali. She now lives in the United States under 24-hour guard. Rabbae said his group represents the majority of the more than 850,000 Muslims living in this nation of 16.3 million. The group also will call on Dutch Muslims who feel victimized or insulted by the film to file criminal complaints against Wilders for racial or religious vilification.
© Associated Press

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GAY PARADE IN MOSCOW PLANNED FOR MAY(Russia)

24/1/2008- Gays rights activists plan to hold a march in central Moscow in May, their third attempt after previous parades were banned by the Moscow mayor, the event organizer said. "We expect this to be a political and public event, without outrage, but with specific demands," Nikolai Alexeyev said, speaking on the Ekho Moskvy radio station. Moscow authorities rejected official requests by Gay Parade organizers in 2006 and 2007 for permission to march, on the grounds that it would interfere with the rights and routines of ordinary Muscovites. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has branded gay pride parades "Satanic" and vowed that they would never be permitted in the capital, while the Russian Orthodox Church and various far-right groups have sworn to halt any attempt to hold a march in support of gay rights in Russia. Alexeyev said: "If the march will be again illegally banned, we will apply to Russian and European courts." Last year, Moscow's Tverskoi District Court ruled that a city ban on holding a Gay Pride Parade was legal. Around 100 protestors subsequently gathered outside City Hall to submit a petition to the mayor against what they called an 'unfounded and illegal prohibition on holding the march in support of sexual minorities in Russia.' The protest turned violent when a British gay rights activist was kicked and beaten by extremists, and police detained 31 people, including two Italian members of the European parliament, in the ensuing melee. Homosexuality was legalized in Russia in 2003, but discrimination against gays and lesbians remains widespread. The hostile crowd during the 2007 May demonstration included people carrying crosses and wearing Orthodox Church dress, along with ultranationalists. Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, and a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights, which obliges the state to allow demonstrations to be held.
© RIA Novosti

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GOVT APPROVES SOCIAL EXCLUSION AGENCY(Czech rep.)

23/1/2007- The government Wednesday approved the establishment of a new agency against social exclusion that is to fight against the formation of ghettoes and their spreading in the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) told journalists. According to the plan of Minister Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens), in charge of human rights and minority agenda, the agency will have 12 branches in the Czech Republic at first, including, Usti nad Labem and Most, both north Bohemia, and Ostrava, north Moravia. The agency is to launch cooperation between local self-rule bodies, associations, schools, labour offices, firms and inhabitants from problematic localities so that the ghettos might eventually be eliminated, or turned into regular neighbourhoods. The agency will not work as an independent office, but it will become a department for social integration in Romany localities at the Government Office. It is to have 15 employees and the government earmarked 13.5 million crowns for its operation this year. Stehlikova said previously the name of the agency's director would probably be known at the end of January. According to analyses, over 300 deprived houses, streets and neighbourhoods exist where up to 80,000 people live, mainly Romanies, in the 10-million Czech Republic. A majority of adults at these places are unemployed, the families live in often inappropriate conditions and they depend on social benefits. Most children attend special schools. Many of them have never seen their parents working. The agency was originally to start working in the Czech Republic on January 1 as a pilot project. However, it was postponed as some ministries submitted further comments on the plan. The Czech Republic may gain billions of crowns from EU funds for projects improving Romanies' education, employment, accommodation and health. Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) Jiri Cunek recently presented a plan that he believes should be the basis of the government programme for drawing European subsidies to resolve the issue. But Stehlikova said it is the social exclusion agency that will supervise it.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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NEO-NAZI CHARGED IN FATAL STABBING(Czech rep.)

25/1/2008- A 20-year-old neo-Nazi has been charged in the murder last week of teenage anti-fascist activist in Příbram, central Bohemia. Local daily Příbramský deník reported that the suspect, wearing a Wehrmacht army uniform, stabbed 18-year-old Jan Kučera on 18 January, one day before far-right groups planned a march in nearby Plzeň. According to witnesses, Kučera was attacked after confronting a group of extremists after they gave the Nazi salute in a Příbram restaurant. The incident was captured on video by security cameras and posted by several news servers 22 January (viewer discretion advised). Kučera died in hospital as a result of his wounds on 20 January. Dozens of police officers were on watch at Kučera's funeral five days later. The suspected assailant was taken into custody and has been charged with murder. Central Bohemian Police spokeswoman Soňa Budská described the motive in the killing as a "personal dispute", according to Příbramský deník. Police said the assailant was on probation at the time of the incident, having been given a suspended sentence for a different crime, the daily reported.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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23/1/2007- Vaclav Bures, who organised an extremist march, filed a complaint against Plzen Mayor Pavel Roedl (senior ruling Civic Democrats, ODS) who banned the march, Bures told Tyden.cz news server Wednesday. Bures told CTK that next week he would file another complaint against the ban. He said Roedl made untrue public statements about him, labelling him a well-known rightist extremist. Roedl told Tyden.cz he insisted on these statements. He said Bures's views presented on the National Resistance website were evidence of his extremist stances. The National Resistance is an extreme right-wing movement. Bures claims that Roedl abused his power because he banned the march only five days after its announcement which is against law. Roedl said he decided to ban the event after information on it spread to German neo-Nazi websites. He said previously he expected a court to deal with his decision.

The extra-parliamentary Workers' Party filed a complaint against Roedl's ban earlier this week. Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil (ODS) and opposition leader Jiri Paroubek (Social Democrats, CSSD) backed Roedl. Bures was an ODS member at the time when he announced the march, but his membership was then cancelled in connection with his activities. The ODS regional council is to meet this evening to discuss Bures. The ODS central office Wednesday said it fully distanced itself from the activities of former party member Bures. "The ODS respects the principles of democracy and Bures's activities violate these principles," Milan Bouska, from the ODS media section, said. Bouska said the case was a failure of an individual that the party can hardly prevent. However, he said he did not want to downplay the case and that consequences would be drawn from it. Bures announced the march as a protest against freedom of expression in reaction to a police action against a neo-Nazi event in Prague last November. The march date coincided with 65th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from Plzen to the concentration camps.
© Prague Daily Monitor

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