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News in Brief
Following the acquittal of Aldermaston blockaders (PN 2516-7), three women, Alison Crane, Morgan Woodland and Alison Parfitt, due to appear before Newbury Magistrates on 9 December charged with highway obstruction at Aldermaston in June, received a letter a few days beforehand to say the case had been dropped due to lack of evidence.
Others who appeared before Newbury magistrates on 26 November on the same charges arising from the same action were not so lucky – they were found guilty and conditionally discharged with £312 costs each awarded against them.
On 11.30am, 12 December, two activists locked onto a concrete block inside Ahava, Covent Garden, while a protest took place outside, completely closing the store till 4.40pm, when police cutting teams arrived and arrested and removed the two.
Ahava is an Israeli company marketing products made from Dead Sea mud and minerals, extracted from a site in the occupied West Bank and processed in an illegal Israeli settlement. This was the third store closure.
On 11 December, Rossport activist Maura Harrington was jailed for nine months for causing €160 damage to a Shell net on Glengad cliffs, after refusing to be bound over to keep the peace. This action was part of a campaign against Shell’s Corrib gas project off north-west Ireland, near Rossport.
25 other campaigners against the project were also tried that week, resulting in three suspended sentences and fines.
On 28 November, after a march from the centre of Valencia, Spain, 15 pacifists were arrested inside the NATO response force headquarters after climbing over the fences to carry out a seventh “citizens’ inspection”.
This was part of an anti-militarist day of action, involving protests also in other towns, including Seville, Alicante, Murcia, Jaen, Barcelona, Madrid, Pamplona and Segovia.
In early December, police attacked unauthorised communities in the Dudhejhadi forest in Kailali district, western Nepal, killing five squatters and destroying thousands of homes. One police officer was also killed. Maoists launched strikes and traffic stoppages in response, demanding compensation and permanent homes for all the squatters, who are Dalits (“untouchables”).
Elsewhere, on 11 January, unknown gunmen attacked a government office in Birgunj, in the Terai in southern Nepal, killing a policeman and wounding a senior official.
On 6 January, three Maoist activists, Ram Prakash Yadav, his nephew Dara Yadav, and Ambika Mahato, were shot dead in Bara, also in the south, by the Janatantrik Madhes Terai Mukti Morcha (Terai People’s Liberation Front – TMM).
On 12 January, also in Bara district, Maoist activist Rajesh Mandal was shot dead – again by the TMM (which fights for the independence of the Terai area).
The larger political stalemate largely revolves around civil-military relations. The latest flashpoint concerns a promotion. The non-Maoist government had announced in December it was appointing Toran Jung Bahadur Singh to the rank of lieutenant-general, the second-highest post in the army. Singh was in charge of a military camp where 49 Maoists disappeared in 2003 and 2004, during the civil war. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR) opposed Singh’s promotion.
The Nepali supreme court halted Singh’s promotion on 3 January, after a writ was filed arguing that the move went against the spirit of the 2006 comprehensive peace accord. So far, there have been no human rights prosecutions; neither has there been a truth and reconciliation process.
According to the peace agreement, Maoist ex-guerrillas should be integrated into the Nepali armed forces. The military are highly resistant, as are the other parties.
One small glimmer of hope was the release of 200 young Maoist soldiers on 7 January. By mid-February, 3,000 former Maoist child soldiers – who were under 18 at the time of the comprehensive peace accord – should have been released from UN-monitored camps.
On the food front, the winter drought, following a poor monsoon, has increased food insecurity and malnutrition in the country, according to the UN. Despite this, UN World Food Programme food assistance has been cut by a third due to a funding shortfall.
10:10 information, Oz-Bus is now offering London to Kathmandu bus trips nine times a year, first departure 14 February; cost £2,299 one-way.
After serving 18 years for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, Israeli technician Mordechai Vanunu was released in 2004 with restrictions on his freedom of speech, association and movement.
On 28 December, Vanunu was arrested and charged with violating one condition, that of not talking to foreigners. His lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said Vanunu was arrested because he has a Norwegian girlfriend whom police also interrogated. Vanunu was held for three days, then put under house arrest pending trial.
On 16 December, 19-year-old Or Ben-David was sentenced to another 34 days in military prison, having already served 47 days in total for refusing military service the Israeli army. She is part of a group of Israeli students, the Shministim, who have signed a joint letter refusing enlistment in the Israeli army because of its “brutal and illegal actions” in occupied Palestine. Evidence-crime
At 2am on 17 December, during a spate of arrests in Bil’in, where a weekly protest against the Israeli separation wall is held, Israeli soldiers raided the home of school teacher Abdallah Abu Rahmah – coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee – arresting him in bed in the presence of wife and children.
On 22 December, Abdallah was charged in an Israeli military court with incitement, stone-throwing and the possession of arms – these were used tear gas canisters shot by the army at demonstrators in Bil’in, collected by Abu as evidence.
Marc Hall, a soldier based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, who has already served in Iraq, has been jailed for recording a protest song. Marc was due to have left the army this month at the end of his military contract. Instead he has been “stop-lossed” for a further deployment to Iraq. “Stop loss” refers to the US military’s power to require soldiers to remain in service beyond their normal discharge date.
Marc, a hip-hop artist, recorded “Stop Loss”, a song expressing his frustrations about his situation – in which he fantasised about massacring his commanders.
His commanders found the song’s lyrics amounted to the “communication of a threat” and Marc was jailed on 11 December, charged with the court martial offence of committing an action prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces.
He is awaiting trial on five charges. Send letters of protest to Marc’s commanding officer: CPT Cross, Commander, B 2-7 INF BN, Fort Stewart GA 31314, USA.