Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/9/2008

The GoV newsboy

Thanks to Insubria, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Europe and the EU

OIC Slams Anti-Islam Congress in Germany

JEDDAH: The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has expressed serious concerns about reports that an far right group is holding an anti-Islam conference in the German city of Cologne in September.

A spokesman for the OIC’s Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah said in a statement issued yesterday that the proposed conference was aimed at arousing anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe and that it would pose a threat to inter-communal peace and harmony in society.

The right-wing extremist group Pro Koln is organizing the event on Sept. 19-20, with the aim of issuing a declaration against the purported “Islami-fication” of Europe.

The meeting is expected to be attended by some of the most inflammatory names in European race politics, including Jean-Marie Le Pen of France, Austria’s Heinz-Christian Strache, and Belgium’s Filip Dewinter.

The organizers of the conference are motivated by racial hatred and xenophobia, said the OIC spokesman.

           — Hat tip: Steen

North Africa

Italy-Libya: Fishing Boat Released, Six Sailors Free

(ANSAmed) — MAZARA DEL VALLO (TRAPANI), AUGUST 8 — After five days of fear and tension, and the patient diplomatic work of the Foreign Ministry and the presidency of Sicily region, the six members of the crew of the fishing boat ‘Valeria Prima’, confiscated on Saturday by the Libyan authorities at some 35 miles off the coast, were released. The fishermen (four Italians and two Tunisians) were accused by Libya of trespassing in the sea area which the Libyan authorities consider to be theirs and on which there has been a discussion for some time. On board the fishing boat there were commander-shipowner Nicolo Asaro, 56, engine operator Stefano Di Benedetto, 46, boatswain Giuseppe Asaro, 29, and fishermen Nicolino Salvo, 49, Tunisian Monji Salem Hadj, 43, and Frej Houaneb, 50 anni. Joy swept over the bridge of the motor fishing boat as soon as the six sailors learnt of the decision of the Libyan authorities, which was soon conveyed to the families of the fishermen in Mazara del Vallo. The news of the liberation was given first by the Mayor of Mazara, Giorgio Macaddino, who said: “I express my full satisfaction and I thank both the presidency undersecretary Gianni Letta and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for the interest which they showed” and was then confirmed by the governor of Sicily region, Raffaele Lombardo, who explained also several details of the story: “I must thank personally the Libyan Ambassador in Rome, Abdul Hafed Gaddur, who gave proof of his great love for Sicily and to have the trust of the Libyan leader. The Libyan Ambassador, surprising us on the times and fulfilling our best hopes, announced that the incident ended positively. I invited him to Palermo for an institutional visit. I think that I can affirm that this is a demonstration of the esteem and friendship which renews and strengthens the ancient bond of solidarity among the peoples of the Mediterranean and in particular between Italy and Libya”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria

Coptic Lawyer Sues Egypt’s President

CAIRO- A lawsuit was recently filed against Egypt’s president, Husni Mubarak, at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The lawyer representing diaspora Copts, Mauris Sadeq, accused Mubarak of carrying out crimes against humanity against Egyptian Copts.

Sadeq, claimed that Mubarak and Egyptian officials practice many acts of repression against Copts including abuse (threats and verbal abuse) whenever they demand their rights.

“In many cases this kind of attitude leads to violence which ends with the beating up of Copts or even the killing of many of them out in the open publics,” he alleged.

He added that the morale of Copts has been severely affected by the kidnapping of Copt women who were drugged and thereafter pornographic photographs of them were taken.

           — Hat tip: TB

Middle East

Saudi Arabia: Dispute on Minors’ Weddings Sparks Again

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 7 — The case of an 11 year-old boy who invited his school friends to his wedding with his 10 year-old cousin reopened in Saudi Arabia the controversy on minor’s weddings. The wedding of little Muhammar Al-Rashidi, as reported by Arab News, was “suspended” due to the pressure exerted on his father by the governor of Hali, the city where it was supposed to be celebrated. But the event — as reported by missionary news agency AsiaNews — triggered again the debate on an issue which does not concern only the Saudi Arabians, since the case of an eight year-old Yemenite little girl who filed for divorce from her 32 year-old husband, four times her senior, happened in April. On the issue, there are completely opposite positions. “These weddings violate international agreements signed by our country” and “we are studying the problem”, Zuhair Al-Harithy, of the Human Rights Commission, said. The truth is that in Saudi Arabia there are no laws stating the minimum age to get married and no statistics on how many are the marriages involving children. Even though the woman’s consent is requested, some officers do not ask for it. The wedding can actually be divided in two stages: in the first there is the commitment taken personally by the “guardian” that every woman must have — and it happens also that the parents marry their one-year old daughter — in the second, the woman, already considered a wife legally, goes to the husband’s house, but this in theory only after puberty. Ahmad Al-Muabi, a wedding officer, defends the current situation: “a man, he says, can sign a wedding contract with a one year-old girl, not to speak of a nine, seven or eight year-old one”. “This is just a contract indicating consent,” he added. Proud and strenuous opponent of the current situation is a well-known Islamic scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Nujaimi, who states that “there are different religious opinions on the matter and for this reason it is necessary that the government issues a law”. Of the same opinion are many human rights activists, who affirm that the current situation also allows to hide illegal relationships. Although indirectly, the Great Mufti of the Saudi kingdom, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, can be included among the opponents. According to the Mufti, “Islam says that both parties must express their consent to the marriage contract” and “the guardian cannot impose his choice on the woman” or “force her to marry somebody whom she does not want”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria

Pirates Release 2 Germans Captured Off Somali Coast

The president of northern Somalia’s breakaway Puntland region apologized on Saturday to two German tourists who were freed following two months being held hostage by pirates. The pair looked ill and disheveled after they were released by their captors late on Friday. They repeatedly broke down in tears as they sat alongside Puntland President Adde Muse at a news conference in Bosasso.

“We are really sorry for what happened. We put a lot of effort towards their release and I wish to thank everyone who helped,” Muse told reporters. “If any pirate is caught now he will be jailed for 20 years or executed.”

The pair were hijacked off Yemen in June while sailing to Thailand. The pirates ransacked their yacht and then took them to northern Somalia by speedboat. They were freed after a ransom was paid to the gang. An accomplice of the pirates said the gunmen were paid $1 million.

The two were named by German news magazine Der Spiegel last month as Juergen K. and Sabine M. They told the magazine, which managed to contact them by telephone through an intermediary, that they were beaten and given very little to eat.

           — Hat tip: VH


Editor of Ingush News Portal Flees Ingushetia

The editor of the Ingush opposition web site has fled the country and will seek political asylum in a European country, a lawyer for the site said Wednesday. Roza Malsagova, 51, traveled to Germany three weeks ago with her three teenage sons, lawyer Kaloi Akhilgov said, though he refused to say in which country she would apply for asylum.

Malsagova, who has run the beleaguered web site since December, did not respond to e-mailed questions sent Wednesday. Repeated calls to owner Magomed Yevloyev went unanswered. The web site remains one of the only information sources criticizing Ingush President Murat Zyazikov in the mainly Muslim region bordering Chechnya, and it is known for its investigations into local corruption.

It has accused Zyazikov of corruption and of giving law enforcement agencies free rein to abduct, torture and kill local residents suspected of ties to Islamist rebels. In June, Moscow’s Kuntsevsky District Court ordered that be shut down for publishing extremist statements, though the site is still operating while the Moscow City Court prepares to consider its appeal.

Last month, investigators also opened a criminal case against the site on charges of inciting ethnic hatred. Akhilgov said Ingush authorities were behind the probes into the web site. “They open cases against us there and then pass the paperwork on to Moscow investigators,” Akhilgov said.

The Ingush opposition on Monday submitted 80,000 signatures to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to dismiss Zyazikov and appoint former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. was a major organizer in the signature campaign to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to dismiss President Murat Zyazikov and appoint former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev.

           — Hat tip: VH

Far East

Muslim Rebels Agree to Pull Out From Villages in Philippines

MANILA: The Philippines called on Muslim rebels to rein in their members yesterday after some guerrillas refused to heed government orders to leave Catholic farmlands in the south.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to pull out from villages in North Cotabato province after the government gave them a 24-hour deadline on Thursday and warned they faced a combined military and police offensive if they did not move.

Around 70 out of an estimated 800 rebels have already left and more are going but an undetermined number are refusing to leave, officials say.

“We are presently dealing with a recalcitrant group of MILF which appeared to be disregarding the call of their leaders to vacate certain areas in North Cotabato,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, a military spokesman. “We will apply proportionate and justifiable force, whenever necessary, to ensure that laws are upheld and peace is restored in the province.”

The government said on Thursday it would take action against what it said was an MILF attack on nine villages in North Cotabato last month.

The country’s interior secretary said rebels had torched houses, looted farms and caused more than 6,500 people to abandon their homes and farms, forcing hundreds of farmers in nearby Catholic areas to arm themselves.

The government said some of the farmers had started turning in assault rifles after authorities threatened to arrest them for holding illegal firearms.

           — Hat tip: TB

American stabbed in Beijing

An American, relative of a US Olympic coach, was killed and another injured in a stabbing attack in Beijing today, raising security fears as the Games got into full swing. A Chinese man stabbed the pair and their Chinese tourist guide as they were visiting the historic Drum Tower monument, a popular tourist site in the centre of the city, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) and Beijing police said.

The assailant Tang Yong Ming, a 47-year-old man from Hangzou, eastern China, then jumped off the second storey of the monument and killed himself, police said in a statement, without giving details as to why he carried out the attack.

The USOC said the victims were family members of a coach for the United States Olympic men’s volleyball team. Beijing police said the person killed was a man and the two injured were women. “The United States Olympic Committee has learned of an incident that occurred earlier today involving two family members of a coach for the United States Olympic Men’s Indoor Volleyball Team,” the USOC said in a statement.

“Two family members were stabbed during an attack by what local law enforcement authorities have indicated was a lone assailant. One of the family members was killed and the other seriously injured.”

Acts of violence against foreigners in Beijing and throughout China are extremely rare, with expatriates happy to wander around the streets of the capital late at night. But Chinese authorities have been clearly on edge over security in the lead-up to the Olympics, warning of a wide range of threats to people coming to Beijing for the event.


Interpol statement concerning the murder of a US citizen in Beijing

The murderer was identified as Tang Yong Ming, aged 47, a resident of Zhejiang province which is located in the southeastern part of China. He committed suicide immediately after the attack by leaping to his death from the tower where the murder occurred. He had apparently recently divorced and had not been seen within the last two months by his relatives.


The New York Sun reports that Todd Bachman, the father of former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman, was killed. His wife, Barbara, was hospitalized.

           — Hat tip: VH

Vietnam Sentences Hill Tribe Villagers for Protest

A Vietnamese court has sentenced four ethnic minority villagers to up to six years in jail for staging anti-government protests, state-controlled media reported. The villagers from the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong were given jail terms ranging from two to six years at Wednesday’s [6 August 2008] one-day trial.

The court found the men guilty of inciting protests and helping more than 50 people flee the country into neighboring Cambodia last year [2007], it said. Their acts “made some people misunderstand the (Communist) Party’s leadership and distorted the social economic development policy,” the newspaper said.

The Central Highlands has a history of unrest among ethnic minority hill tribes living there and was the scene of massive anti-government protests in 2001 and 2004. During Easter 2004, thousands of villagers, most of whom are Protestant, mounted mass demonstrations in the provincial capitals of Daklak and Gia Lai provinces, pressing for land rights and religious freedoms.

Following a military crackdown, thousands of Montagnards, as the hill tribes are collectively known, fled to Cambodia and hundreds have been given political asylum in the United States. Many of the ethnic minorities in the area served as allies to the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

Dozens of the villagers have been given hefty prison terms in connection with the protests or for organizing an exodus of refugees to Cambodia.

           — Hat tip: VH

Latin America

Are the Turks and Caicos Islands Ready to Leave the Nest?

The recklessness and disregard for the welfare of this country and all its citizens has become very plain to see in the last 18 months. Anyone denying this would have to be blind. […]

We have heard the stories of the private jet arriving from the Russian birthday party late in the night with bags of money aboard. […] Why do we now have investors from eastern bloc countries, Muslim countries, Chavez’s Venezuela and the struggling country of Colombia with its drug lords.

What do we have in common with them? Britain does not tax us. Britain does not interfere with our day to day decisions. What is the problem with Britain?

We will give many, but not all, of our people a pass for being led astray by a very professional confidence game led by the Doctor of Distraction, our Premier [Michael Misick]. There is however no reason at this point in time for anyone to be distracted, confused or misinformed.

The recklessness and disregard for the welfare of this country and all its citizens has become very plain to see in the last 18 months. Anyone denying this would have to be blind. We believe that our people know the difference between right and wrong and that they will participate in helping the Enquiry and returning good government to the Turks and Caicos Islands The PNP [People’s Democratic Movement, a Socialist party] government officials of this country do not believe they have to obey the law. Now that the Commission of Enquiry has arrived they were first in denial, then demonstrated resentment and now are trying escapism.

[…] Now let us be rational and look at the situation from a different perspective. The Skippings article and events of the last five years brings us to a conclusion that the Turks and Caicos Islands is one of the few places in the world to be able to have it both ways. We can have our cake and eat it too.

We have in fact been as independent as a people could be from their mother country. — Britain has proven by their laid back attitude of the last five years that we can run our country any way we want to. It has been demonstrated that we can chose the wrong leaders who can run the country close to ruination.

Britain allowed us to install and retain a government who view themselves as dictators on a toot. — If we can return to a reasonably responsible and conservative government who view themselves as stewards, Britain will eventually back off and let us control our own destiny. However, they will always be on standby if we make more serious errors or allow con men from within or outside to take our country away from us again.

Britain views this as their responsibility as our partner in government.. — Having Britain and their ally the USA standing behind this country has provided a sense of security for the tourists and responsible investors from America, the West Indies Canada and Britain. Ask yourselves who scared them off the last five years.

Why do we now have investors from eastern bloc countries, Muslim countries, Chavez’s Venezuela and the struggling country of Colombia with its drug lords. What do we have in common with them?

What possible benefit can independence bring here for the everyday citizens? We are hard pressed to find one good point independence will provide for the average Turks and Caicos Islander, the average businessman, the first class desirable investor, the guest worker or the expat resident or home owner.

Britain does not tax us. Britain does not interfere with our day to day decisions. What is the problem with Britain? Are we really seeking to take down the Queen’s picture and put up LisaRaye’s Smooth Magazine photo or the photo of Mike Misick’s latest female distraction from the Hollywood rap scene? Is this what we really want for ourselves?

[…] Hopefully, a Britain awakened and learning everyday of the depth of corruption and deception within this government will decide that we are not qualified to consider shedding their oversight. The mother bird never pushes her offspring off the branch until she knows they can really fly.

           — Hat tip: VH


Immigration: Navy Ship Reaches Boat, 185 People Rescued

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 8 — The ship Urania of the Military Navy reached last night, at around 2am local time, the boat which had been adrift for three days, at some 60 miles off the coast of Libya, saving some 120 immigrants who had reportedly remained without water and fuel. The immigrants, none in serious physical conditions, were transported on the military ship, along with others who were intercepted during the night by the ship, on board three drifting rubber dinghies. In total, 185 immigrants are now on board the Urania. The ship is going to Lampedusa, but has already received the signal of another boat with 40 people on board, which it is trying to rescue. The help request came from the drifting boat, where the 120 people on board, including women and children, were exhausted by the trip and had remained without water and fuel supplies: with a satellite telephone, they managed to contact the UN High Commission for Refugees in Lampedusa and to notify their position. The rescue operations started immediately and the General Direction of the Port Authorities, in charge of the search and rescue activities at sea, mobilised the Navy ship, which in the afternoon started sailing towards the signalled location. During the trip, it rescued three drifting dinghies, with over 60 people on board. The boat, according to reports from the Navy General Staff, was reached at around 2am: the transfer operations ended some half an hour later. The ship is now heading for Lampedusa, where the arrival is scheduled for the early afternoon, after the ship has carried out another rescue operation, following the signal of another boat in trouble, with some 40 immigrants on board. Yesterday Laura Boldrini, spokeswoman of the UNHCR, expressed “gratefulness to the Military Navy for this new proof of responsibility in the rescue of human lives”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria


Islam: Verona Municipality Orders Stop Using Barn for Prayer

(ANSAmed) — VERONA, AUGUST 8 — Stop using a barn in Verona as a place for prayer by a group of Muslim believers. An order signed by the municipality’s building sector executive has established that the building cannot be used as a place of cult since all building and hygienic standards required in such cases are lacking. The order, which has been delivered to the persons interested, envisages the emptying and immediate recovery of the building to its initial use. The measure is unrelated to issues of religious character but concerns exclusively problems of construction regulations, according to sources close to the municipal administration. Commenting on the order, Verona mayor Flavio Tosi said that “there is no mosque in Verona”. “A request to create one has never been handed over and since there is no provision for such place of cult in the municipal urban instruments, a decision by the town council is needed”. “Religion has nothing to do with the case; the provision would have been adopted even if this was a bar, a restaurant, a shop or a gym: there is an unauthorised change in the purpose of the property and the lack of building and hygienic standards envisaged in such cases. What is surprising, however, is that the practise was started in the municipal offices already back in 2004: obviously, for the previous administration the law was not equal for everyone,” he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria

Convict ‘Shortage’ in Singapore

Singapore has stopped the construction of two prisons partly because the city state’s aging population is not producing enough criminals, its prisons director said.

Ng Joo Hee said work on two of the four prisons of the Singapore $1 billion Changi Prison Complex was halted after the number of inmates fell to a 10-year low of 11,768 last year [on a population of 4.5 million].

Singapore has some of the stiffest penalties for crime in the world, including cane lashes and death by hanging for some drug offences.

           — Hat tip: VH