News in brief

CPT threatened

Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron (known in Arabic as Al-Khalil) have been threatened with arrest and death by the Israeli army’s Golani Brigade.

Tensions have escalated since the publication of the CPT report, Under Attack: Golani Brigade’s war on the Palestinian population of Al-Khalil (Hebron), on 15 February.

On 25 February, a Golani soldier aimed his rifle at CPT and international observers, saying: ‘I want to shoot you through the head with a bullet’.

Turkish solidarity

Turkish conscientious objector Halil Savda was arrested on 24 February to serve a 100-day sentence for ‘alienating the people from the military’. This came six years after the actual ‘offence’: declaring his solidarity with Israeli conscientious objectors Itzik Shabbat and Amir Pastar, imprisoned for refusing to participate in Israel’s war in Lebanon.

Halil has previously served 17 months in prison for conscientious objection to military service.

Proms protesters

On 1 September 2011, ‘audience participation’ organised by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel during a concert by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra led to the concert’s live broadcast being terminated.

On 24 February, the Jewish Chronicle reported that there would be no prosecutions of those evicted because ‘no offences had taken place’; the Albert Hall would not assist the police.

Another Bobby Sands

A new Palestinian political prisoner, Hana Shalabi, has been on hunger strike for over a month against her detention without trial.

Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike on 21 February (see PN 2543) after winning a commitment from the Israeli authorities that he would be released on 17 April, an unprecedented concession.

On 16 February, Hana Shalabi, 30, was arrested, imprisoned and beaten. She immediately began a hunger strike in protest at the ill-treatment she suffered and at her detention. The hunger strike continues as PN goes to press.

Hana Shalabi continued her fast even after an Israeli military court shortened her ‘administrative detention’ from six to four months. Her parents in the West Bank village of Burqin, who have been barred from seeing their daughter, began their own solidarity hunger strike on 23 February.

Hana Shalabi was held in administrative detention for two years before being released in an exchange deal in October 2011.

Write to: brigadier general Danny Efroni, military judge advocate general,

Western Sahara

At the end of February, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton called Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara ‘serious, realistic and credible’ (language she had used before, in March 2011).

Morocco illegally invaded and occupied Western Sahara in 1975, and wishes to retain control of the country, which contains phosphates, has rich fishing grounds, and has oil and gas potential.

Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika rebuffed Clinton’s intervention by repeating his country’s support for a referendum on the future of the territory, as called for in United Nations security council resolution 690.

UNSCR 690 actually set up a UN mission called MINURSO (the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara), specifically to oversee the referendum that has never happened. MINURSO’s mandate is up for renewal in April.

The Western Sahara Campaign is calling for people to write to their MPs to demand that MINURSO be given a human rights monitoring role, as William Hague agreed was appropriate when he was in opposition in 2010.

For details of this and other campaigns:

Nepal crisis

The Nepali peace process managed to get past a major hurdle back in November when the Nepali army dropped its outright opposition to taking in (a limited number of) former Maoist guerrillas, and agreed to ‘integrate’ them in a new, effectively non-military, ‘directorate’ carrying out forestry and development duties.

Integration was required by the comprehensive peace accord (CPA) that ended the civil war back in 2006. Major issues remain, including the ranks to be given to officers from the Maoist people’s liberation army, and documentation issues. Perhaps as many as 3,000 ex-fighters gave noms de guerres to the UN during an earlier stage of the integration process, which conflict with the names on their official identity cards.

The peace process is now under strain as some mainstream parties insist that a new constitution (also required by the CPA) cannot be agreed until integration is complete (when all Maoist cantonments have been emptied, and all Maoist forces have been effectively dissolved). The Maoists would rather the two processes proceeded in parallel.

The all-party special committee supervising integration had been ordered to draw up a detailed plan for integration by 27 March, but few were hopeful as PN went to press.

On 27 February, a previously-unknown group, the United Ethnic Liberation Front, set off an improvised bomb in Kathmandu, killing three and injuring seven, the first bombing in Kathmandu since 2009.

Squat more!

A study commissioned by Squash (Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes) has challenged government estimates that effectively criminalising squatting will cost only £25m over five years.

Taking into account the housing benefit that people currently squatting would claim if barred from squatting, the ongoing costs of prosecuting squatters, and the cost of rehabilitating squatters who become rough sleepers, Squash estimates that the most likely annual cost of criminalisation is between £316m and £790m over five years, rather than £25m.

The Squash report was endorsed by Sheffield university professor of human geography Danny Dorling.

Bike more!

Also in London, Bikes Alive, the cyclists’ direct action campaign, announced a ‘spring defensive’ to protect cyclists and pedestrians on the capital’s roads.

Cycling has become a major issue, partly because of a cycling safety campaign by The Times newspaper, begun after a Times reporter was nearly killed by a lorry while cycling in November.

As PN went to press, on 26 March, Bikes Alive were attempting once again to enforce a one-hour traffic go-slow (6pm-7pm) outside Kings Cross station.

Bikes Alive also announced a joint action with Climate Rush at 6pm on 19 April in Smith Square, to spring-clean a road through nonviolent direct action:

Occupy more!

The Occupy movement in the UK was dealt a major blow on 28 February when bailiffs evicted protesters and removed their tents from outside St Paul’s cathedral in central London. There were 20 arrests during the clearance for the four-month-old camp.

The reverend Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul’s in support of the protesters, said: ‘This is a sad day for the church.’ The court of appeal had decided on 22 February not to allow an appeal against the eviction.

On 21 March, Occupy London announced a new camp in Limehouse in addition to their existing camp in Finsbury Square.

Nuclear no more!

Around 1,000 people demonstrated against the revival of nuclear power at Hinkley Point nuclear power station on 10-11 March, in the largest such protest for 30 years. There was a ‘surround the power station’ action and a 24-hour blockade by about 100 people.

The protest, on the anniversary of the Fukushima crisis in Japan, was attended by two Fukushima evacuees. There was only one arrest, a man allegedly stole a sign.

The next protest will be the annual Sizewell camp, 20-22 April.