News in brief

Western Sahara

An international delegation from the Robert F Kennedy (RFK) Centre for Justice and Human Rights witnessed police brutality in Western Sahara during a fact-finding mission at the end of August. Four Moroccan state agents attacked a Sahrawi woman protester. A member of the delegation was verbally and physically assaulted as the security forces attempted to block her from documenting the event.

The delegation interviewed a number of Sahrawis, many of whom described living in a 'climate of fear', under Moroccan occupation.

'The international community has stood by passively for too long, while the Sahrawi people subsist in abject poverty in extremely isolated refugee camps in the middle of the Sahara desert while their brethren in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, who advocate for justice or criticize the regime, are subject to police state tactics of harassment, intimidation, torture, and more with near absolute impunity,' said Kerry Kennedy, president of the RFK Center.

Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

Nepal crisis

Not much change here. First, Nepalis fought a bitter civil war for 10 years. Then the liberals, the communists and the Maoist guerrillas made a historic peace deal in November 2006, and kicked out the monarchy in 2008.

Then they all spent the last six years not agreeing a new constitution, and breaking all the deadlines for completing the peace process and achieving a new democratic normality.

On 20 September, the liberals, the communists, the Maoist ex-guerrillas and an ethnic coalition from the lowlands (the United Democratic Madhesi Front – UDMF) all agreed that there should be fresh elections for a new constituent assembly, which could become a national parliament after securing a new constitution.

On 24 September, the liberals and the communists and 10 other opposition parties (not the UDMF) all agreed to focus their attention on trying to overthrow the ruling Maoist government.

A stumbling block throughout the last six years has been the fate of 19,600 Maoist ex-guerrillas, promised integration into the 105,000-strong Nepali army.

The political and military establishment has whittled that number down to a fraction of its original size. As we went to press, 1,402 ex-combatants had passed through the written and medical tests and were beginning oral examinations to be inducted into the national army.

A dissident Maoist faction is said to be organising disgruntled ex-guerrillas, possibly for a return to armed struggle.

Cyclists let off

Most Critical Mass cycle protesters arrested on the eve of the Olympic Games in London (PN 2549) will face no further action, according to solicitors representing the protesters, speaking on 13 September.

Of the 182 people arrested on the outskirts of the Olympic Park, only 16 were interviewed by the police at the end of September.

Fracking aggravation

On 7 September, two Bristol-based anti-fracking protesters were found not guilty of aggravated trespass, but a third was convicted of failing to leave as soon as practicable, at the Cuadrilla Resource’s test drilling rig beside the Ribble estuary in Lancashire. The three had shut down the gas-extraction operation for 13 hours on 1 December 2011.

During the trial it was established that Cuadrilla had been drilling for two months longer than allowed at the time of arrests.

The sentence for the third protester was a £250 fine with £750 costs.

EDO aggravation

On 23 August, two Smash EDO activists were found guilty by Brighton magistrates court of aggravated trespass at the EDO MBM arms factory in Moulsecoomb.

Jessica Nero and Gavin Pidwell used superglue to lock themselves to the gates of the factory on 26 April, causing 100 lost hours of work, according to EDO managing director Paul Hills.

After several days of legal argument and evidence-giving about EDO’s breach of the Cluster Munitions Act (2010), magistrates fined the pair £200 each, with a two-year conditional discharge.

Tomlinson injustice

On 17 September, the Metropolitan police finally fired the police officer who hit passerby Ian Tomlinson with a baton and pushed him to the ground during protests against the G20 in London in April 2009.

Despite the fact that a inquest jury found in May 2011 that Ian Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed by a police officer, PC Simon Harwood was found not guilty of manslaughter in July.

Despite being sacked, Harwood will keep his police pension.

Sanctions injustice

On 28 August, Dr Shakir Hamoodi, 59, an Iraq-born US citizen, began a three-year sentence for sending money between 1991 and 2003 to his relatives in Iraq, and the families of friends living in Iraq, to help relieve suffering caused by the UN sanctions.

A five-year FBI investigation found the father of five had not sent any money to the Iraqi government.