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News in Brief

Maikel is free!

Egyptian pacifist Maikel Nabil Sanad has finally been released by the military authorities. Maikel was arrested on 29 March last year for criticising the military for its role during and after the Egyptian uprising. He was convicted by successive military courts of ‘insulting’ the army and ‘spreading false information’.

Peace News has been following Maikel’s case since the beginning (see PN 2533 for the background).

Maikel was finally released on the anniversary of the uprising, on 24 January, along with nearly 2,000 other prisoners convicted by military courts, all ‘pardoned’ by the authorities. Maikel and many other released prisoners rejected the ‘pardon’, arguing that they had done nothing wrong.

Courageous convictions

On 19 January, Christian activist Chris Cole was sentenced to 30 days in prison by Westminster magistrates for non-payment of £1,545 in fines and £350 in court costs. The fine was imposed after Chris was found guilty of criminal damage: spraying ‘Build Peace Not War Machines’ and ‘Stop This Bloody Business’ on the Queen Elizabeth II centre in September 2009. At the time, the QEII was hosting a reception for arms dealers during the DSEi arms fair.

On 25 January, Barbara Dowling, 66, appeared before Glasgow sheriffs court for failing to pay a fine of £500 imposed as a result of taking part in a Trident Ploughshares blockade of Faslane naval base in 2010. Faslane is home to Britain’s nuclear missile submarines. Barbara again refused to pay and was ordered to do 90 hours ‘supervised attendance’ instead. She told the court she would not cooperate with the order and the justice said if she did not do so she would be brought back to court.

Responding to conflict

At least one reader was intrigued by the £990 five-day residential training being offered in early March by the NGO ‘Responding to Conflict’, a charity which provides training for groups in conflict situations around the world.

Responding to Conflict is funded by the British government’s department for international development (DFID), the Swiss government, the US government funded Institute of Peace, and many trusts. Their last available accounts (2007-2008) show an income of £712,400, and ‘free reserves’ of £281,700.

Topics: Peace abuse

Nepal crisis

Nepal’s peace process continues to stagger on. The 10-year civil war ended in November 2006 with an agreement that, among other things, Maoist guerrillas would either be integrated into the Nepali security forces or demobilised. This has been the trickiest issue in the peace process, with the army for many years refusing point blank to accept members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

As previously reported (PN 2542), a compromise has been reached whereby only 6,500 of the 19,600 ex-guerrillas will be integrated, and they will be hived off into a new non-combat ‘directorate’ (dealing with ‘development-related activities’, forest conservation and so on). Two problems, not yet resolved, are that many more PLA members have asked to join the new directorate than agreed (9,000 rather than 6,500); and the regular army is refusing to accept Maoist officers at the ranks they held in the PLA.

As for those who are being demobilised, they are being paid rehabilitation funds of between £4,000 and £6,400. The payments are being made in two stages, one of a number of grievances. Shyam Bir Limbu, a guerrilla still suffering from wartime injuries, told the BBC: ‘We are totally dissatisfied. But we are keeping quiet because we think it was our sacrifice for the sake of peace and the constitution of Nepal.’ Fighters began leaving their camps on 3 February.

According to some reports, members of the Maoists’ paramilitary Young Communist League in the west of Nepal have seized party offices and demanded to be treated like the PLA, with the options of rehabilitation money or integration into the regular army.

The constitution is due to be agreed by 28 May.

Topics: Nepal

Western Sahara

On 16 February, the European parliament approved liberalisation of EU trade in agriculture and fisheries with Morocco, which campaigners say will encourage the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara by Morocco.

Western Sahara has been occupied illegally by Morocco since 1975.

Solidarity activists are still trying to use the renegotiation of the EU-Morocco fisheries treaty to put pressure on Morocco to improve human rights in the territory and to move towards a referendum on the territory’s future.

A referendum was ordered by the United Nations in 1975 but has always been blocked by Morocco.

The Western Sahara Campaign is calling on organisations and individuals to press the UN security council to monitor human rights in the territory.

The UN mission for the referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is the only contemporary UN mission that does not monitor human rights.

wsahara.org.uk

Topics: Western Sahara

A new Bobby Sands

A hunger strike by Palestinian baker Khader Adnan had become a focal point of the Palestinian struggle as Peace News went to press. Khader Adnan was taken for interrogation by Israeli soldiers from his West Bank home on 17 December. The next day he began a hunger strike in protest against ill-treatment during interrogation and his prison conditions. He has been in prison hospital since 30 December because of his deteriorating health due to the protest. On 10 January, he was given four months administrative detention (without charge or trial).

By 14 February, he’d been on hunger strike for 60 days, the longest any Palestinian prisoner has held out. Hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners are said to have joined his hunger strike in solidarity after his life was reported in danger. The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk, told Ahram Online: ‘If Adnan is to die, a third intifada [uprising] is to rise... he will be considered a martyr.’

Adnan’s wife, Randa Jihad Adnan, said her husband had declared: ‘My honour is more precious than food’.

Contact brigadier general Dani Afroni, military judge advocate general: arbel@mail.idf.il

Internment reprised

In late news, on 2 January, US president Barack Obama signed the national defense authorisation act into law, empowering the US military to arrest and detain without charge or trial those it ‘believes’ are al-Qa’eda supporters, Taliban supporters and ‘associated forces’.

Debasing

Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit design services firm set up in 1999, has launched an Open Architecture Challenge: an invitation to architects and
designers help communities reclaim abandoned, closed and decommissioned military sites anywhere in the world.

More than 130 teams from 45 countries have already entered the competition (entry fee US$50 western professionals; $25 western students; free to developing nations). More than $5,000 is available in prizes. Register by 15 April; submit by 1 May: www.tinyurl.com/peacenews703

Topics: Anti-militarism | Art

EPU

The (private) European Peace University in Austria is now offering three MA study courses. In addition to Peace and Conflict Studies, which has been running since 1992, the EPU started offering courses in European Peace and Security Studies and Peacebuilding in late 2011. The one-year courses cost E12,500 (£10,400) each for tuition and accommodation. The deadline for applications for autumn 2012 is 31 March. www.epu.ac.at

Topics: Education

Occupy US

Tensions between Oakland’s police department and the city’s Occupy movement erupted once again in late January, as officers used tear gas on a group of over 1,000 protesters who were throwing rocks and tearing down fences. In all, about 100 protesters were arrested on charges of failing to disperse.

Camps in Miami, Pittsburgh, Charlotte (North Carolina) and Portland (Maine) among other cities were either in the process of being cleared, or had already been vacated as PN went to press.

However, in Washington DC, a judge stopped what had appeared to be an imminent eviction, telling city officials that they could not simply remove camps without properly notifying occupiers, something that had occurred in many cities over the past two months.

In Chicago and Des Moines (Iowa), Occupy groups have rented office space. Although the Occupy movement lacks a permanent camp in New York, general assemblies now occur in 14 different neighbourhoods around the city.

Topics: Occupy movement

Occupy UK

Groups who have dismantled their camps or been evicted from their buildings since the last issue include Edinburgh (14 February); Exeter (10 February); Liverpool (8 February); London’s Bank of Ideas (29 January) and Sheffield (13 February). (Almost all the groups mentioned here have their own websites or Facebook pages.)

Cardiff – Two members of Occupy Cardiff are being prosecuted for public order charges stemming from a demonstration in November. They held a 100-strong march on 7 February, attended by Plaid Cymru Welsh assembly member Bethan Jenkins. The three-day trial for trespass is in June.

Glasgow – The investigation continues into the alleged rape of a 28-year-old woman in a tent located in the group’s former location at Kelvingrove. The group is without a home, but still has regular meetings.

London: Finsbury Square – Camp is going strong.

London: School of Ideas – On 8 February, Occupy took a deserted primary school on Featherstone Rd EC1Y 8RX. Opening hours: Tue-Fri 12noon-9pm; Sat-Sun 10am-9pm.

London: St. Paul’s Cathedral – The eviction of the St. Paul’s campsite was imminent as PN went to press.

Norwich – Despite receiving an eviction notice early in February, the camp remained near the Haymarket as PN went to press. The group was in court on 20 February.

Nottingham – In light of recent bad weather, the camp has reportedly been discussing an ‘exit strategy’.

Portsmouth – On 4 February, members of Occupy Portsmouth set up camp outside the Anglican cathedral

Occupy round-up by John Lindsay.

Topics: Occupy movement