News in brief

Western Sahara

In early November, the Moroccan government deported 25 European solidarity activists (21 Spaniards and four Norwegians) from Laayoune in Western Sahara, which has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

The solidarity visit was timed to mark the second anniversary of a Moroccan assault on Gadaym Izik, a massive Sahrawi tent city that sprang up as a protest against the occupation and the conditions of life it has created (PN 2528-2529). Gadaym Izik, in November 2010, was later described by Noam Chomsky as the beginning of the Arab Spring.

There are 23 Gadaym Izik protesters still in Moroccan prisons, detained without trial.

On 13 November, a Moroccan court upheld prison sentences issued against two Sahrawi human rights activists for their alleged involvement in a riot in in Dakhla in September 2011. Abdelaziz Brai received three years and Anwar El-Sadat Lohmaid was released because he had already served his one-year sentence.

Solidarity activists have been pressing the European Union not to renew its fisheries agreement with Morocco, which has no benefit for the people of Western Sahara, breaking international law.

Prisoners for peace

Hannah Brock, the new WRI worker writes: 1 December marks ‘Prisoners for Peace’ day.

For more than 50 years, War Resisters’ International has used this opportunity to make known the names and stories of those imprisoned for their actions for peace.

Some are conscientious objectors, detained for their refusal to join the military. Others have taken nonviolent direct actions to disrupt preparations for war.

This day is a chance for you to demonstrate your support.

Write a letter

We invite you to put aside some time on 1 December, and send cards that express your solidarity. You might want to gather a group together and write together.
Sergeiy Sandler, a conscientious objector in Israel, was imprisoned for this refusal to undertake military service.

‘As one who once was on WRI’s Prisoner for Peace list, I can testify to the importance of the scores of support messages I received from people all over the world. They lifted my spirit when I was behind bars’, he said.

Lee Young-Chan

One person you could contact is Lee Young-chan, who is detained in South Korea.

Lee Young-chan is a campaigner against the construction of a naval base on the island of Jeju. He was arrested on 24 October on charges of obstruction of business, while protesting against the arrest of another peace activist, and remains in custody.

Kimberly Rivera

Or, you could write to Kimberly Rivera, a conscientious objector in the USA.

Kimberly served with the US army in Iraq before developing a conscientious objection.

She went absent without leave between deployments in 2007, travelling to Canada with her husband and children, where they claimed refugee status. This was refused, and she returned to the US on 20 September. She was immediately taken into military custody, where she remains.

Kim has four children. She is likely to be court-martialled for desertion and jailed for between two to five years.

Writing to prisoners

In writing your cards, think about what you would like to receive if you were in prison – maybe include photos, or drawings, telling them about your life, and what you are doing to stop war.

Include your name and address, but don’t expect a reply – this may not be possible.

The list of those who are currently in prison is available here:

US drones prisoner

As PN headed to the printers, Brian Terrell was heading to prison for a drone protest at Whiteman air force base on 15 April with Ron Faust and Mark Kenney. The three were arrested at the base while trying to deliver an indictment to the base commander, brigadier general Scott A Vander Hamm, charging everyone involved in drone operations with extrajudicial killings, wars of aggression and other crimes.

Mark Kenney served a four-month sentence ending on 11 November, and Ron Faust was sentenced to five years’ probation. Brian is in prison until June 2013.Brian Terrell 06125-026, FPC Yankton, Federal Prison Camp, PO Box 700, Yankton, SD 57078, USA.

Olympic cyclists

Just 11 of the 182 cyclists arrested in London in July for taking part in a Critical Mass bike ride are facing trial (see PN 2549). The 11 are being tried in February under the Public Order Act (1986).


Palestinian strikers

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails continue hunger strikes against their indefinite detention without trial and against their conditions of imprisonment (see PN 2546).

On 21 November, Samer Issawi, on intermittent hunger strike for 118 days, began refusing water as well as food. His condition was unknown as PN went to press.

On 26 November, it was reported that Ayman Sharawna had declared his intention to intensify his own 149-day hunger strike.

Military debts

The Indonesian people pay £50m a year on £300m of debts contracted in past decades to pay for military imports from the UK, according to information released by the British government on 5 November, after a long campaign by the Jubilee Debt Campaign. For more on ‘export credit guarantee’ debts:

Pigs in a barrel

In early November, British army surgeons received training in Denmark, by operating on 18 pigs that had been shot by snipers in such a way as to injure their organs but not kill them.

After the surgery, the animals were put down.

Animal rights group PETA pointed out that this exercise is banned if performed in the UK under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, and is also banned in 22 other NATO countries.

Nepal crisis

Six years of unsatisfactory ‘peace process’ have not delivered a new democratic constitution for Nepal, or a human rights accounting for crimes committed during ten years of brutal civil war.

The country is without a parliament as the supreme court ruled in May that the constituent assembly/parliament elected in 2008 could not extend its term any further. Elections scheduled for the end of November have been deferred until April. As PN went to press, the president was setting a tight deadline (end of November) for the formation of a new national consensus government. This was being resisted by the Maoists (who lead the coalition government), but welcomed by the other main opposition parties: Congress and the United Marxist-Leninists.

Meanwhile, in much of eastern Nepal, former Maoist guerrillas who failed to qualify for integration into the security services were enforcing an indefinite ‘bhandh’ strike (mainly road blockades), demanding unconditional release of jailed ex-combatants, better benefits and compensation, and an official letter of appreciation.

At the request of opposition parties, the supreme court has blocked a 200,000-rupee (£1,400) payment to each disqualified ex-militant. The ex-fighters also oppose the payment as it is less than the award made to those who voluntarily gave up the option of applying to join the regular military.