News in brief

£600,000 domes

On 31 August, the New Zealand high court imposed £600,000 in damages and costs on three peace activists who punctured a dome at a US national security agency base at Waihopai in New Zealand on 30 April 2008. The Waihopai Ploughshares (Sam Land, Adrian Leason and Peter Murnane), who carried out their action in protest at the role of the base in the US-led “war on terror”, were acquitted by a jury on 17 March 2010 (see PN 2520). (The government plans to restrict the use of the “right of claim” defence that they used in future such cases.) Despite their acquittal, the Waihopai Ploughshares are being asked to pay NZ$1.2 million (£600,000) to repay the cost of repairing the dome. They plan to appeal.

£20,000 detention

In early September, Nottinghamshire police paid £20,000 in an out-of-court settlement to Rizwaan Sabir, the student at Nottingham university who was detained for seven days in 2008 after downloading an al-Qa’eda training manual as part of his research on terrorism.

Aha Ahava!

Following a prolonged campaign of fortnightly protests in London (recorded in past PNs), the Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava shut its Covent Garden shop in September. Shaftesbury PLC, the shop’s landlord, refused to renew Ahava’s lease because of the effect of anti-occupation demonstrations (and pro-Israeli counter-demonstrations) on adjoining stores. Ahava manufactures its products at the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank. Solidarity activists have switched their attention to Ahava’s collaboration with King’s College London in research on the toxicity of nanotechnology.

And they call it peace

In August, PN learned for the first time of PUMA Peace, one of the sponsors of the World Peace Festival 2011, which took place 20-27 August in Berlin (no one invited us!). Yes, that’s Puma as in the sportswear company. “Peace starts with me” is a new annual PUMA Peace commission, launched with seven short online films from international artists and filmmakers. Jochen Zeitz, CEO of the sportswear group, said: “At PUMA we feel that we are uniquely positioned to contribute to making the world a better place for generations to come.” Meanwhile, in another contribution to the concept of peace, it was announced in mid-September that Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin had been nominated for a Chinese alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, the $15,000 Confucius Peace Prize.

Y-12 sentences

11 activists found guilty on 11 May of trespassing at the Y-12 nuclear weapons fabrication plant in Tennessee on 5 July 2010 began being sentenced in mid-September. (Six had been held in prison since May.) Bill Bischel, 83, was sentenced to an additional three months. Jean Gump, 84, was sentenced to time served plus a fine of $500. Bonnie Urfer, 59, was sentenced to eight months, with credit for time served (four months and three days). Mary Dennis Lentsch, 74, was sentenced to time served. Beth Rosdatter, 50, was sentenced to an additional month in prison. Dennis DuVall, 69, was given an additional one month in prison. Y-12 activist, Jackie Hudson, 76, who was found guilty in May, died in August.

Jody McIntyre

During the student fees protest in December 2010, police tipped Jody McIntyre out of his wheelchair and dragged him across the road. A metropolitan police internal enquiry in May found that this had been done “for his own safety”. However, in a report published in late August, the independent police complaints commission (IPCC) ruled that the officer concerned had used excessive force and should be charged with common assault. This charge could no longer be brought as a six-month legal deadline had expired. The IPCC said the officer should be subject to “management action” and the police should apologise to Jody.

Uranium walk

During September, 40 participants including “traditional owners” and supporters from France, the US and New Zealand were undertaking a 1,700-km 11-week walk from the town of Wiluna in Western Australia to the state capital of Perth. The walk, due to arrive on 28 October, is in protest at uranium mining in Australia, particularly at proposals to mine uranium near Wiluna, a centre for the local Aboriginal population.

Countless crimes

On 1 September, Thomas Hammarberg, the council of Europe’s rights commissioner, said that since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Britain and other European governments had been “deeply complicit” in “countless” crimes by colluding with torture and illegal rendition operation by the US. Hammarberg argued: “In attempting to combat crimes attributed to terrorists, countless further crimes have been committed… Many of those crimes have been carefully and deliberately covered up.”

Nepal crisis

Peace News is tracking Nepal’s peace process which has been staggering along since the end of the civil war in 2006. The party of the Maoist guerrillas became the largest party in the new parliament, and formed the government in 2008. Having retired to opposition in 2009 after disputes with the Nepali army, the Maoists are now – astonishingly – back in charge. On 28 August, the Maoists’ chief strategist Baburam Bhattarai received 340 votes in the 601-seat parliament, after winning the support of ethnic parties from the southern Terai region. The two other major parties, the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist Leninist communist party, refused to join the Maoist-led government. There are 19,000 ex-guerrillas still living in cantonments waiting to be integrated into the Nepali security forces as promised in the 2006 comprehensive peace agreement. On 1 September, the Maoist leadership handed over the keys to arms containers in four cantonments. Vice-chair Mohan Baidya rejected the move describing it as “suicidal” and in violation of central committee decisions. It is not clear how the new government is going to make progress with the peace process as Congress wants the Maoists to totally disarm before developing a new constitution for Nepal, while many Maoists feel the processes should go hand-in-hand.

Western Sahara

The fall of Gaddafi has led to a major loss of support for Polisario, the independence movement in Western Sahara, illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. Guma al-Gamaty, London spokesperson for the new national transitional council government, was reported as saying in early September: “The future of the Sahara can only be conceived under the sovereignty of Morocco”. Algeria is now the only neighbouring country friendly to Western Sahara. Meanwhile the president of Women’s Advancement for Economic and Leadership Advancement in Africa, Dr Basirat Nahibi, announced in September that an international conference on the struggle of the Sahrawi women for freedom would be held in Abuja, Nigeria, on 27-28 September. A new 11-minute film, Silent Sahara Rising, on the struggles in Western Sahara, made by Swedish production company Axiom Films, has been released . “Look at my shoes,” one young Sahrawi in the Sahrawi capital Laayoune says in the film. “We Western Saharans in this neighbourhood, we have no work, no rights.” Western Sahara’s population is 260,000 of which half are Moroccan migrants who entered since 1975. Silent Sahara Rising is viewable on YouTube: