Headlines 25 July, 2014
Ukraine: Key MH17 Crash Suspect Linked to Massacre of 3,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1992
25/7/2014- A retired Russian military officer turned separatist leader in eastern Ukraine, who is suspected of downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17, was allegedly involved in the 1992 Serbian ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad. A photo showing young Igor Girkin, known by his pseudonym Igor Strelkov, in Visegrad with another Russian mercenary and Boban Indic, a member of the Serb brigade that laid siege to the town, implicates the veteran of both the Soviet and Russian armies in the pogrom of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims) civilians. At least 3,000 Muslims were massacred in the eastern Bosnian town. Muslim men were rounded up and murdered. Hundreds of women were detained and mass-raped at the spa, the infamous Vilina Vlas. Women, children and elderly people were locked in houses and burnt to death. Igor Strelkov has been called "one of the most powerful separatist figures in eastern Ukraine." He's a veteran of both the Soviet and Russian armies and has been described as a covert agent of Russia's GRU military intelligence. He declared himself the Minister of Defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).
At the time the Malaysia Airlines plane went down, Strelkov posted a statement on VKontakte, Russia's version of Facebook, taking responsibility for the attack. "We warned them not to fly in 'our sky," he wrote. The post was later deleted. Later, Strelkov claimed corpses near the debris died days before the plane took off. According to rebel website Russkaya Vesna, the leader was told by people at the scene in eastern Ukraine that "a significant number of the bodies were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition." Bosnian media published the picture of Strelkov in Visegrad along with an account from a retired army officer, Aziz Tafro, who confirmed that the Russian nationalist took part in the Serbian aggression in Bosnia. The report says that Strelkov fought in Visegrad as member of the First Cossacks division and then was re-assigned in the area of Sarajevo. Tafro is a freelance researcher who published a book on Russian and Greek volunteers in the Bosnian Serb Army. Strelkov, with his clipped moustache and pomaded hair, was present during the Russian annexation of Crimea, and was involved in conflicts in Chechnya and Transnistria (Russian breakaway Republic in Moldova). He was charged by Ukraine authorities with terrorism and is currently sanctioned by the European Union.
© The International Business Times - UK
Poland: Neo-Nazi gang busted in Bialystok
A criminal Neo-Nazi gang numbering 14 members has been taken into custody by police in the north-eastern city of Bialystok.
24/7/2014- The arrests come as officers from the Central Investigation Bureau and functionaries from Bialystok police stormed 31 apartments and homes across the north-eastern Podlaskie region on Thursday morning. According to unofficial information obtained by the Polish Press Agency, the group may be responsible for a number of arson attacks on apartments owned by foreigners in the city last year. Police found firearms, ammunition, amphetamines, marijuana and a few thousand anabolic steroid pills during the raids. Police “also found items containing Nazi contents and symbols,” police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski informed, adding that two marijuana plantations had also been seized. “The majority of the group’s members were people linked to the Nazi-skinhead subculture,” spokesman of the Appellate Prosecution in Warsaw, Zbigniew Jaskolski said, adding that “items were found which promote fascist and Nazi ideology, unequivocally demonstrating the views of the accosted parties.” Members of the group may be liable to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
© The News - Poland
An LGBT rights organisation based in Russia has been deemed a “foreign agent” by a St Petersburg court.
23/7/2014- The label “foreign agent” implies that a group carries out work on behalf of foreign countries, and restricts the work they can do and messages communicated. This week Coming Out, a leading LGBT rights organisation Coming Out, was told by the court that it must register as a foreign agent. In a statement after the ruling, Coming Out argued that its defence was not considered in the case, and that it had been fighting against such a ruling for over a year. The statement also said that the judge ruled that the group violates the rights of “persons with traditional sexual orientation,” and that the state was obliged to limit leaflets such as those given out by Coming Out. Four other groups were also found as foreign agents this week. Last October, following a lengthy legal battle, the Side by Side (Bok o Bok), LGBT film festival, won its appeal against fines under the then recently introduced foreign agent law.
© Pink News
Austria: Allegations of police racism in Tyrol
A police officer in Tyrol has raised serious allegations about the conduct of his colleagues, claiming derisive remarks about immigrants, "structural racism", discriminatory treatment of foreigners and "jokes about Turks and Africans" are all part of everyday life.
23/7/2014- It was an incident this spring which gave the civil servant the impetus to speak about his experiences as a policeman over the past several years. During an official training session at the premises of the National Traffic Department in Tyrol (LVA), officers were lectured on how to deal with traffic offenders. The law allows officials some leeway to impose no penalty for smaller offences, but rather merely warn the person concerned. "Except for the Turks, as there is no warning for them," a senior official told his audience. Twenty-five to 30 policemen were present, including one with Turkish roots. Some just grinned, recounted the policeman, who was present at the lecture. "They all can testify to the incident," he told Der Standard newspaper. He wishes to remain anonymous, out of concern for his job.
The group for so-called compensatory measures (AGM) is located in the traffic department. The officials there - as well as the police officer who made the statement - are responsible for refugees. When questioned by a reporter from Der Standard about the incident, Helmut Tomac - from the public relations department of the Tyrol Provincial Police Director - dismissed the matter. "That cannot be, because such a thing does not exist," Tomac told Der Standard. "Why would you not want to state that the Interior Ministry was responsible?" "Such an incident would not only be more than merely annoying, but a violation of our laws and criminal law," said Konrad Kogler, Director of Public Security. He intends to look into the case.
For the accusations to be proved, the law must be applied not just to this individual act, but checks must be made to ascertain as to whether there are structural problems which allow such behaviour. When he was told of the policeman's allegations Kogler said that "jokes about Turks and Africans are normal. If you don't laugh you will quickly find yourself an outsider." The officer reported the existence of structural racism and systematic discriminatory treatment of foreigners. "We know that young Turks drive certain cars, so they will be checked more often. The same goes for dark-skinned people...", he said. It is difficult for action to be taken internally against such incidents, reports Der Standard, as senior officials know each other, and are often friends. Kogler says he "wants racism to end" and that there are ways police can report racist incidents anonymously.
The Ombudsman said he is only sporadically confronted by police comments which were felt to be racist. In general he felt it was incorrect to generalize and speak of "racist police". The policeman making the allegations criticized in particular the lack of "ethical and moral education" for officers. "Everyone has their own beliefs and prejudices," he said, adding that while he had received "excellent training in Vienna," it was voluntary and therefore mostly visited by officials who already have a cosmopolitan attitude. He did emphasize however, that there are of course many good policemen.
© The Local - Austria
Austria: Krauss 'not a role model for students'
The nomination of 21-year-old law student Maximilian Krauss to the post of Deputy President of Vienna's City School Board by the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) has drawn heavy criticism from other parties.
23/7/2014- Human rights pressure group, SOS Mitmensch, is urging Vienna Mayor, Michael Häupl (SPÖ), not to allow the replacement to go ahead. "On the basis of his statements, Krauss is certainly not a role model for students," said Alexander Pollak, spokesman for SOS Mitmensch. The 21-year-old has openly used "anti-Turk hate speech". He has spoken about the need to separate non-German-speaking children and has said that "foreigners with Turkish blood" should be sent back home. "We call on Mayor Michael Häupl to reject the appointment of Maximilian Krauss and insist on a qualified candidate," said Pollak. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) considers the decision a "denigration of the office". The President of the Vienna School Board, Susanne Brandsteidl (SPÖ), stressed in a press release however that above all, the Vice President had no authority to act. According to the Federal School Inspection Act, he has "only the right to inspect and advise". She also pointed out that the nomination must still follow a formal order by Michael Häupl. Brandsteidl added that: "In the Office of the Vice President no incitement to hatred and xenophobia would be tolerated."
SPÖ council deputies Tanja Wehsely and Jürgen Czernohorzky branded the appointment of Krauss "pure mockery and denigration of the office" in a press release. "Krauss has already disqualified himself from the office prior to his nomination by his discrimination against students from immigrant backgrounds." Club chairman of the Vienna Greens, David Ellensohn, criticized not only Krauss's membership of the Burschenschaft (a far-right student fraternity) and his "unsavoury and unqualified expressions", but also the system of proportional representation in the school system, which allows the nomination of the City School Board President to be made on the strength of party numbers. "Proportional distribution in ministries which are so important for the future into black and red spheres of influence must become a thing of the past," said Ellensohn. "With the nomination of Krauss, the FPÖ has permanently disqualified itself from the area of education," said Martina Wurzer, Education Spokeswoman for the Viennese Greens, in a press release. "Krauss has only attracted attention by his crude demands," she said, calling for the FPÖ to withdraw their decision.
State party chairman of the Viennese branch of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), Manfred Juraczka, sees the nomination of Krauss as a "not very positive sign". Since the beginning of his political career, the law student has used "his power to ostracise and fear-monger," said Juraczka. The Secretary-General of the FPÖ, Herbert Kickl, on the other hand, defended the decision in a press release, calling the criticism a "knee-jerk biting attack from the united left hunting party".
© The Local - Austria
Austria: Court jails student for protest at far-right ball
A German student, accused of being the ringleader of far-left demonstrators who protested at Vienna’s far-right Akademikerball, has been jailed, despite questionable evidence of his involvement.
23/7/2014- Josef S. was convicted of breach of the peace, attempted aggravated assault and serious damage to property by a court in the Austrian capital on Tuesday. The 23-year-old received a one-year suspended prison sentence, four months of which he must spend in prison, and a three-year probation period. Josef was alleged to have smashed windows and thrown stones and other objects at police officers during protests against the student fraternity ball, organized by the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). The ball in January was attended by right-wing groups from across Europe. His lawyer, Clemens Breitlahner, said Josef was "at the demonstrations, but was a peaceful participant and had nothing to do with these crimes”. “We believe there has been some confusion and our client was arrested in error,” he said. The science student has already spent six months in prison in pre-trial detention. That time has been deducted from his sentence, meaning that he can now go home. Judges at the Vienna Regional Criminal Court said Josef, believed to be a member of the extreme left-wing Black Blok (Schwarze Block), was clearly a ringleader in the violent protests, in which shop windows were smashed and police officers attacked.
'Lack of evidence'
But many commentators said that there had been a lack of conclusive evidence. Two photographers and one cameraman provided witness testimony on Monday. Despite being in the middle of the action, none had seen the accused igniting a smoke bomb or engaging in violent behaviour. One photographer testified that the accused was not to be seen in any of the 700 photos he took during the violence. Video recordings submitted as incriminating evidence on the first day of the trial also showed no connection to the defendant. And voice analysis of the recordings, made by a policeman on his mobile phone, proved that the recordings were not of Josef. Right-wing groups on Twitter greeted the verdict as "positive". But the verdict unleashed a storm of protest on Twitter, with one user saying "the right to demonstrate in Vienna has been abolished until further notice". The charge was based almost solely on information provided by a policeman who attended the riots in a civil reconnaissance capacity.
Despite contradictions between his statements and those of other policemen present that evening, the judge dismissed the discrepancies as "explainable errors". In response to the fact the accused did not appear in any of the prolific video or photographic documentation of the riots, the judge stated: "It is a good thing we do not live in a police state where everything is recorded". In his closing statement, the prosecutor painted an image of "a left-wing riot tourist who had not travelled to Vienna to demonstrate against right-wing extremists, but rather to ravage the city with a group of anarchists".
Heinz Patzelt, from Amnesty International Austria, later criticized the prosecutor's attack as "highly problematic". Spiegel Online was also disparaging of the trial process. "The process and verdict show three things," it wrote. "How unreliable witness evidence can be. How little one needs to do in Austria to be locked up and convicted of serious offences. And how great the prejudice is in the Austrian police and judicial system against left of centre activists." Josef and his lawyer will decide in the coming days whether to appeal the verdict.
© The Local - Germany
A neo-Nazi on trial this week was in charge of a youth center funded by the Valencia government.
24/7/2014- On June 30, 2005 Pedro “Lofer” Costa entrusted four boxes of 22-caliber ammunition to a comrade in his neo-Nazi gang Frente Antisistema (FAS, Anti-system Front), according to the Civil Guard. Nine years later, Lofer finally sat down on the bench of the Valencia regional High Court along with 17 other members of the far-right organization. He is thought to be the group’s accountant and part of its leadership. Until a week-and-a-half ago, the 34-year-old neo-Nazi ran a private center in Valencia that looked after six youngsters, aged between nine and 17, who were at risk of social exclusion. The minors were under the tutelage of the Valencia regional government’s social services department. The non-profit institution has seven employees and last year received part of a €19-million subsidy that the regional government distributed among 20 organizations. Lofer arrived at the association in 2008, when he had already been under official investigation in the so-called Panzer case, which looked into the inner workings of the FAS.
The management of the center discovered the far-right past of its director in February 2013 after seeing his photo in a weekly newspaper. However, it did not dismiss him because of a “lack of funds,” according to a source. At the time the organization was paralyzed by the fact it had not received its payment from the regional government in four months (it is now owed three months’ money). What’s more, Lofer won the favor of his bosses after setting himself up as the organization’s spokesman in demanding the money from the regional administration. “Professionally he has behaved in an excellent manner,” admits a colleague, who also defines Lofer as “clever and manipulating.” Lofer arrived at the association in 2008, after being under official investigation in the so-called Panzer case The Valencia regional government is distancing itself from Costa’s hiring. “We watch out to ensure the service is supplied,” says a social services department spokeswoman. “We do not manage labor relations at the centers.”
The state attorney is asking for three years for Lofer for criminal association and illegal possession of firearms. Civil Guards seized a pen gun, a rifle, a knife with a swastika on the handle, and a Power 200 electroshock weapon from his home in Valencia. They also found videos and propaganda about the Nazi genocide. FAS spread its fervor for the Third Reich online and financed itself by selling weapons. Two members of the military, a Paralympic athlete who competed in Beijing in 2008, a councilor for far-right party España 2000, and a mountaineer also formed part of the “army.” Their motto: betrayal is paid for with death. After analyzing dozens of documents, investigators defined their ideology as “close to terrorism.” The case is expected to be ready for sentencing this week. The state attorney and the private prosecution brought by a group of eight organizations led by the Movement against Intolerance have centered their case on the house searches and in dozens of hours of recorded telephone calls.
Civil Cuard investigators defined the group’s ideology as “close to terrorism”
In one FAS member Pedro Cuevas, “El Ventosa,” boasts about going out hunting for human targets in August 2005. “I’m carrying a knife. I’m going to hurt them. You have to give it to them good. Leave them reeling…,” he says. His prey were “Arabs” and “scumbags,” which is to say to immigrants, antifascists, Roma and Latin Kings gang members. Cuevas has been frequenting far-right groups since he was a teenager. He spent four years in jail for killing a young anti-fascist campaigner, Guillem Agulló, in the town of Montanejos (Castellón) in 1993. Within FAS he was in charge of distributing weapons. In the unpublished conversations, to which EL PAÍS has had access, the 43-year-old neo-Nazi is heard offering to supply a gun. He also suggests selling knuckledusters “to kids” and appears to be linked to an assault in Villena, Alicante province, in which a “disgusting punk” received a beating.
The origins of one of the most active neo-Nazi groups lie in a center on Valencia’s Tres Cruces avenue. Between 2003 and the 2005, the Centro Thule financed itself with €40 payments from its members and hosted conferences on firearms and anti-communist rock concerts. FAS venerated the group Batallón de Castigo, whose lead singer Eduardo Clavero is the confessed killer of young Alejandro Arruñada Sánchez at Madrid’s Tribunal Metro station in 1990. The group was led by Juan Manuel Soria, a 44-year-old tanner. A former candidate for the neo-fascist Alianza Nacional (National Alliance, AN) in Valencia, Soría is now sought by Interpol. His Facebook account is updated on a daily basis from Tangier, where he presents himself as an advisor on foreign trade.
FAS is considered the third-most-active neo-Nazi group after Hammerskin and Blood and Honour. “It was the most important independent organization in Spain,” explains the head of the Movement against Intolerance, Esteban Ibarra. This week the group’s lawyer had a Civil Guard escort around Valencia’s Ciudad de la Justicia courts, where one of the supporters of the accused called him a “a son of a bitch” and a “Jew.”
Neo-Nazi group banned in Germany's Bavaria state
23/7/2014- Authorities in the German state of Bavaria say they have banned a neo-Nazi group that operated in the region. The state interior ministry said it banned the Free Network South group on Wednesday and accused it of pursuing the "anti-constitutional endeavors" of an organization that was banned a decade ago, the Franconian Action Front. Officials searched a property in the small town of Regnitzlosau in northern Bavaria where, the ministry said, an outfit called Final Resistance Mail Order supported the group's activities. Bavarian authorities didn't immediately give details on the size of the group and its activities. Along with other state governments, Bavaria is seeking a ban on Germany's biggest far-right party, the National Democratic Party. Germany's highest court is considering the case.
© The Associated Press
Netherlands: Refugee numbers reach 2001 levels, Syria dominates new requests
22/7/2014- In total, 12,000 people have applied for asylum in the Netherlands in the first six months of this year, the highest figure since 2001, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday. The figure is double that in the first half of 2013, the CBS said. Most – 3,700 – came from Syria, followed by Eritrea (3,500). Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan used to dominate the number of requests for refugee status. This May, junior justice minister Fred Teeven sounded the alarm about the number of asylum seekers from Eritrea coming to the Netherlands. He said human traffickers were to blame for much of the increase. Since then, and the stepping up of border controls, the number of people entering the Netherlands from Eritrea has dropped, the CBS said. In June just 200 Eritreans applied for asylum in the Netherlands.
© The Dutch News
Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy condemn antisemitic protests
Joint statement vows to tackle rise in number of demonstrations and hostile rhetoric 'that cross line into racism and xenophobia'
22/7/2014- Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Italy have condemned antisemitic violence at protests against Israel's invasion of Gaza and pledged to do all they can to combat it. While the majority of pro-Palestinian protests in Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna, Amsterdam and other cities have taken place peacefully, some have descended into verbal and physical attacks on Jews and Jewish property, including synagogues and shops. "Antisemitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies," the three ministers – France's Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italy's Federica Mogherini – said in a joint statement issued in Brussels on Tuesday. The ministers added that they respected the right of protesters to freedom of speech and to assemble, but will do everything possible to combat "acts and statements that cross the line into antisemitism, racism and xenophobia". Since the outbreak of the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, some demonstrators in Germany have called for Jews to be gassed – a clear reference to the Nazi murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
In Germany, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews, told reporters some of the demonstrations had been "an explosion of evil and violence-prone hatred of Jews". "Never in our lives did we believe it possible that antisemitism of the nastiest and most primitive kind would be chanted on the streets of Germany," Graumann said. On Monday, after violent clashes between iron bar- and stick-wielding youths and riot police in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, which has a large Jewish community, France's Jewish leaders warned that the Arab-Israeli conflict risked spilling over on to the streets of Europe. The French president, François Hollande, condemned the violence and told both Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, summoned to the Elysée on Monday, that fighting antisemitism would be a "national cause". Stephan Kramer, director of the European Office on antisemitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels said: "We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the antisemitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel." He added: "It needs to be made very clear that violence is not an appropriate means of protesting."
The European Jewish Congress called for European governments to use "stronger measures" against those engaging in violence. "While we fully respect and support the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression and understand that tensions are high surrounding the current conflict between Israel and Gaza-based terror organisations, calls for attacks on Jewish community institutions and the utilisation of slogans such as "Death to Jews", a pure and dangerous form of antisemitism, have no place on the streets, nor indeed on social or any other media," it said in a statement.
© The Guardian