News in brief

Avatar Brazil?

While the director of the Hollywood film Avatar, James Cameron, did not respond to an appeal from Indian tribal peoples in Orissa (see PN 2520), he has lent his support to tribal people in Brazil. Saying: “We’ve got a bit of a spotlight on us right now to raise awareness in certain key areas… and I think that is important,” Cameron visited the Xingu region of Brazil with Avatar actors Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore, to protest against the multibillion-dollar Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project.
In Avatar, the Na’vi people successfully resist attempts to loot the resources of their planet Pandora. Cameron said that in Xingu, “a real-life Avatar confrontation is in progress.”

Not racist

On 8 April, Edinburgh sheriffs’ court ruled that five activists were not guilty of being racially abusive for having disrupted a concert by the Jerusalem string quartet at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2008.
The five were protesting against Israel’s bombing of Gaza and the quartet’s links to the Israeli army.
The court found that the five were criticising the behaviour of a state and its army, not attacking Jews or any ethnic group, and that there was a clear right to attack a state’s behaviour under the European convention on human rights.

Palestinian demos

Palestinians held nonviolent marches in three villages near the Israeli separation wall on Land Day. 30 March marks the day in 1976 when six Arab Israeli citizens were shot during a general strike and demonstrations protesting against Israeli government plans to expropriate thousands of dunums of Arab land.
The marches to the separation wall in Bil’in, Nil’in and Ma’sara were met as usual by tear gas, shock grenades and rubber-coated bullets from troops and police.

Protecting Titmore

On 15 March there was a partial victory in the struggle to stop developers building on Titnore Woods in West Sussex, as the council rejected the proposal to build on farmland west of Durrington near Worthing.
For many, the committee’s unanimous decision came as a surprise following their approval of the Tesco application on part of the farmland last year and their approval of all the stages leading up to this point.
On 29 March, however, the council approved a new Core Strategy which still allocated the area for greenfield development, leaving Titnore open to development – but with fewer houses (700 not over 850). More info:

Nuclear Resister

Over the 4 July weekend, Nuclear Resister magazine (30 years old) and Nukewatch (31 years old) will be celebrating their anniversaries with a “Resistance for a nuclear-free future” conference and action in Tennessee.

Nepal crisis

As PN went to press, the Nepal peace process entered a state of crisis. On 16 April, the government tore up the comprehensive peace accord that ended the Nepali civil war in November 2006, as the five parties which dominate the coalition government agreed to integrate only 3,000 of the 19,600 Maoist ex-guerrillas recognised by the UN.
The parties justified their decision by referring to the 3,475 weapons handed in by the Maoists, now held in UN-sealed containers, saying: “one weapon, one soldier”. The Maoists responded that many weapons had been lost or destroyed. Many suspect that Maoist weapons have been hidden.
The 2006 peace accord specified the setting up of “a special committee in order to inspect, integrate and rehabilitate the Maoist combatants”.
There is nothing in the accord allowing for partial integration.
On 17 April, prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal (of the mainstream communist party, the UML) proposed three paths for ex-guerrillas: voluntary retirement (with a grant for most folk of Rs 1.5 lakhs, roughly £1,300); rehabilitation (in education or other programmes, with up to Rs 2.52 lakhs, around £2,300, over a span of three years); or (for 3,000) integration into the security forces. A new constitution is due to be agreed by 28 May. This is now impossible.

Euro action

Hundreds of peace activists were arrested in a coordinated set of actions at nuclear weapon bases in seven countries on 3 April, a European day of action to ban nuclear weapons.
In Belgium, hundreds succeeded in entering Kleine Brogel air force base, leading to 431 arrests. In Holland, there was a 200-strong demo at Volkel nuclear weapons base. In France, there was a citizens’ inspection of Mont de Marsan air force base, with 13 people getting inside.
In Scotland, Trident Ploughshares symbolically blocked the North Gate of Faslane. In Germany, 300 took part in a demo at Büchel nuclear airbase.
In Turkey, activists attempted to symbolically hand back the US nuclear weapons at Ýncirlik Air Base at the US embassy. And in Italy, some 800 people walked to the Aviano US military base, which hosts about 50 B-61 nuclear bombs.

Pakistan strikes

On 10 April, up to 71 civilians were killed in Pakistani government airstrikes near the Afghan border, part of the US-backed offensives against militants linked to the Afghan Taliban. Most of the victims are said to have died when Pakistani jets bombed a house where dozens had gathered to help the wounded from an earlier attack.
On 12 April, a US drone attack is said to have killed 13 people in the same area. 200,000 people recently fled northwest Pakistan to escape the fighting. The UN is facing a major funding shortfall to aid the displaced, having received only 20% of a $538 million appeal.

G20 news I

Metropolitan Police sergeant Delroy Smellie was cleared of assaulting Nicola Fisher after striking the unarmed protestor on the leg with his baton during an anti-G20 demonstration in London in April 2009.
Smellie argued he acted in self-defence, believing the juice carton in Fisher’s hand to be a weapon. This claim was accepted on 31 March by district judge Daphne “Whack’em” Wickham at Westminster magistrates court.
You can judge for yourself by watching the video of the event:

G20 news II

On 22 March, the Metropolitan police confirmed that it had paid two people £3,000 each in out-of-court settlements, after accepting their claims for wrongful arrest.
The claims arose from their arrests during a violent raid on a squat by police in riot gear during the April 2009 G20 global summit.
Another 68 protestors were also arrested during the raid and solicitors say they should also sue for wrongful arrest. If you were one of the 68, find out how to claim from:

Shell to sea

In March, almost all 27 protestors appearing before Belmullet district court in Ireland were cleared of charges in connection with the “Shell to Sea” campaign.
Shell to Sea opposes Shell’s Corrib gas project to bring ashore gas from the sea off the west of Ireland.
During hearings, 25 of the activists had their cases dismissed or charges withdrawn. Of the remaining two, one was put on probation and one was sentenced to five months for assaulting three Gardai (police officers), though he claimed he was the one assaulted. One other activist, fisherman Pat O’Donnell, remains in prison after a seven-month sentence was imposed on 7 February.
More info:

Western Sahara

As PN went to press, 36 Sahrawi human rights activists in seven Moroccan jails were entering the fifth week of their hunger strikes in protest against their detention without trial.
The first wave of hunger strikes began on 18 March, with the first group (which includes Rachid Sghir, see PN 2520) suffering critical symptoms of medical deterioration as PN went to press. In December, “the Sahrawi Gandhi”, human rights activist Aminatou Haidar, fasted for a month in a successful protest at her deportation and exclusion from Western Sahara. Morocco has illegally occupied 80% of Western Sahara since 1975.
In a separate incident, on 7 April, Moroccan settlers attacked 11 Sahrawi human rights advocates at Layouune airport in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, beating and stripping them naked, apparently under orders from the Moroccan security services.
The “Sahrawi 11” had just landed at Layouune airport after a humanitarian visit to Sahrawi refugee camps over the border.
Protest (politely is more effective) to the Moroccan ambassador, H.H. Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, 49 Queens Gate Gardens, London SW7 5NE;

Joe Glenton

In mid-April, it was reported that the anti-war British soldier Joe Glenton was being subjected to “cruel and degrading treatment” in military prison. Glenton was jailed on 5 March for nine months for refusing to return to fight in Afghanistan.
The Colchester prison authorities are allegedly requiring Glenton to sleep under an unwashed or dirty blanket and to wear boots despite having a broken toe.

Gordon and Gandhi

2007 (just before becoming prime minister): “I could never compare myself to Gandhi or those other heroes of mine but I do take inspiration from the way that they dealt with the challenges they faced when I think about how I will deal with the challenges the country and the world faces, including the security challenge.” (Guardian, 19 January 2007)
2009: “I want to write something at some point about the contribution of Gandhi to our civilisation. I think he was one of the great leaders of the 20th century…. he won support because people could see his moral integrity.” (Garavi Gujarat, 2 August 2009)
2010: “I can’t be in politics and be a pacifist.” (The Times magazine, 10 April 2010)

Rats out, ship down?

On 12 April, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute declared that BAE sold £21bn of arms in 2008, though arms sales from BAE’s British factories actually fell, making it the largest weapons manufacturer in the world. On 13 April, four BAE senior executives cashed in share options ahead of military spending cuts expected after the election. Ian King, chief executive, Nigel Whitehead, group managing director, Andrew Davies, group strategy director, and Alastair Imrie, personnel director, took advantage of BAE’s recent share price strength and sold options worth a total of £460,000.

Lindis wins

Peace activist Lindis Percy (coordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases) has forced US airman Frank Macdonald to settle out of court.
The case dates back to February 2006, when Lindis was assaulted by Macdonald at the US base at Croughton, Northamptonshire – observed by MoD police.
Lindis very reluctantly accepted the offer to settle out of court at the end of March, because of the cost of legal representation and proceedings.

Growing Heathrow

In March, the Heathrow Transition Towns group started its “Grow Heathrow” project, squatting a derelict market garden in Sipson, the town threatened by demolition to make way for the projected third runway at Heathrow.
“Grow Heathrow” has had instant, widespread and enthusiastic community support. To arrange a “Grow Heathrow” work day: 07890 751 568;
Meanwhile, on 27 March, the high court dealt a hefty blow to the third runway project by ordering the government to update its case for the runway, given new evidence on climate impacts.
Local MP John McDonnell (Lab) said in mid-April: “We won in the High Court recently so most people think that this issue is dead – ‘we’ve killed it off’. But… what we don’t want is any party telling us one thing before the election and then getting elected….”

Silencing Oxford

An extra event: The Fellowship of Reconciliation (England) are holding an eight-week series of “Silence in the city” lunchtime events in its office in Oxford from 29 April -17 June.
There will be a range of facilitators from religious, spiritual, or therapeutic perspectives from 1.15pm at Peace House, 19 Paradise St, behind Oxford Castle. Contact: 01865 250 781;

Growing Stanstead?

The Labour government says it is still committed to the third Heathrow runway, but on 12 April gave up on the idea of a second Stansted runway!