Friday 22 January 2010

One year after Obama pledged to close the Guantanamo prison, 196 detainees are still held there

REUTERS / NBC - On his second full day in office, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order mandating that the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay be shut down within one year.
"This is me following through on, not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but, I think, an understanding that dates back to our Founding Fathers -- that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy but also when it's hard," Obama said that day.

But a full year later, the detention facility which now houses remains open and housing 196 detainess -- there are no immediate plans to shut it down.

"The President won't meet the deadline he laid out a year ago," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday (January 21, 2010). "But the President, his national security team, our generals in Iraq and Afghanistan, understand the support for al Qaeda that Guantanamo provides them in recruiting, in attracting those that seek to do us harm. To keep the American people safe, the President pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, and he'll do that."

The Obama administration is moving ahead with its effort to close the prison despite criticism by Republican lawmakers who worry that some former detainees released from the Guantanamo facility may be returning to the battlefield.

"These are terrorists," said Representative Don Manzullo, a Republican of Illinois. "They should be tried by military tribunals, not brought to the United States, not posing a threat of national security, not taking advantage of the Constitution, which they have sworn to destroy because they hate Americans."

Obama has halted indefinitely any transfers to Yemen because of concerns about al Qaeda operating there. The suspect in the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a U.S. passenger jet arriving in Detroit is believed lnked to a Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda.

The administration, which intends to prosecute some detainees in U.S. military tribunals or civilian criminal courts, plans to move them to a prison in Illinois, but Congress has refused to fund the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees to U.S. prisons, and foreign countries are reluctant to accept them.

Eritreans arrested for working with Egyptian gangs, abducting African refugees

Israeli police arrest Eritrean citizens suspected of assisting Egyptian gangs in abducting African refugees for ransom. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will construct a barrier to prevent refugees from infiltrating its southern border.

JERUSALEM (JANUARY 21, 2010) CHANNEL 2 - Israeli police arrested two Eritrean citizens suspected of collaborating with Egyptian gangs in the abducting of African refugees who tried to infiltrate the border with Israel, a lifted gag order revealed on Thursday (January 21).
Israeli police said that the gangs extorted the families of African citizens and asked for a ransom in exchange for their release.

Israeli media reported that the suspects, 34-year-old Nabsi Habati, 41-year-old Fatawi Aziabhir, were arrested last week by police, and have been charged with collecting ransom from relatives of the African captives. No suspects were arrested in Egypt.

A statement issued by a police spokesperson said a special police unit became aware of the gang last year, when refugees residing in Israel filed complaints saying that their relatives were being held captive in prison camps in the Sinai peninsula and would be released only for a ransom.

It's believed the money was to be given to Habati and Fatawi in Israel.

Police seized $100,000 (U.S. dollars) in a raid of their Jerusalem apartment when they were arrested.

The statement said the abducted refugees were abused and tortured while they were held by the Egyptian gangs in Sinai camps.

A third man, Mohammed Ibrahim, was also named as taking part in the operation and police found $50,000 in his home at the time of his arrest.

All three men are being detained until the end of police proceedings, police spokesperson said.

At a conference centre near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to erect a barrier along part of Israel's border with Egypt to stop the flow of illegal migrants.

"It must be stopped and we are going to stop it. From here, I'm going to fly to the Negev, to Mount Harif (in Southern Israel), near Gaza, in order to tour ahead of a government decision which will be presented in a week or two at the most. This decision will be to form a barrier to (prevent) infiltration from Africa to Israel," Netanyahu said.

He later toured Israel's southern border area with Egypt.

Sudanese refugees began entering Israel through Egypt on a regular basis in 2005. Numbers increased as violence raged in the troubled Darfur region while more came from Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Chad.

Some hoped the Jewish state would provide a gateway to Europe, while others were eager to stay.

The Israeli government estimates more than 12,000 migrants live in Israel, most of them illegally.

It has faced fierce criticism from non-governmental organisations over the health neglect and poor living conditions of refugees inside its borders.

Two more Indians attacked in Australia

Two Indian nationals are attacked overnight in separate incidents in Brisbane, Australia.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (JANUARY 22, 2010) NETWORK TEN - Two Indian nationals were attacked late Thursday (January 21) and early Friday (January 22) in two separate incidents in Brisbane, Australia.
An Indian taxi driver was attacked around midnight on Thursday in Brisbane by two attackers, who refused to pay the fare and punched the driver several times in the head, Australian TV Network Ten reported on Friday (January 22).

Sandeep Goyal was punched by two men who then smashed Goyal's taxi windscreen leaving his eye injured, and temporarily out of sight.

The two attackers, Josh Gill and Brett Gill, are charged with assault and appeared in court on Friday (January 22).

The Acting Police Commissioner Karen Rynders held a news conference on Friday and assured reporters that these incidents could happen to anyone and could not be attributed to racial violence.

"It could be the type of incident that could happen in any street in Brisbane to any person that happens to be out in a public place," said Rynders

The Queensland Taxi Council stated that there had been an increased number of attacks on drivers from foreign countries.

"We are also starting to see physical assaults on people simply because they are born overseas," said a spokesperson from the Queensland Taxi Council.

In a separate unrelated incident, a 25-year-old Indian youth was also attacked in Brisbane around 2:40 a.m. on Friday while using a phone near his house.

The youth was attacked by a person being described as tall and of Pacific Islander background, who also stole the youth's wallet after punching him.

Following the incident, the Australian government reiterated that there was no indication that the attacks were racially motivated and assured Indian nationals that Australia is a safe place.

The attacks over the past 18 months, including the fatal stabbing of a 21-year-old Indian graduate this month, have strained ties with India and hurt Australia's lucrative foreign student market, its third largest export earner, worth 13 billion Australian dollars (12 billion U.S. dollars) in 2007-08.

India's foreign minister said on Wednesday (January 20) that attacks on Indian students in Australia needed to stop immediately, while Australia's former military chief said the attacks had a strong racial element.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Wilders on trial for hate crimes

The trial of Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, who is charged with inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, starts in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (JANUARY 20, 2010) NOS POOL - Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders appeared in an Amsterdam court on Wednesday (January 20) charged with inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims in a case seen as a test of free speech in the traditionally tolerant Netherlands.
Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party PVV, is standing trial after a court ordered in January he face charges in a decision that overruled the public prosecutor, who had argued Wilders was protected by the right to free speech.

The MP is charged over his 2008 film "Fitna" which accused the Koran of inciting violence as it mixed images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Islamic holy book.

He is also charged over his outspoken comments in the media, such as comparing Islam to fascism and the Koran to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

Opening the proceedings, the judge addressed Wilders and said he was appearing in court as a suspect but despite the fact another court had ordered he stands trial, this did not mean he had been pre-judged.

"The court has decided that you have to be tried and there has been a lot written about this and a lot said about this, not least it has been said that you have already been pre-judged by the court. I'd like to say that this is not how the legal system works. Only once the last word has been said in this courtroom, will we come to a decision,"said the judge.

A fierce opponent of Islam in European culture, Wilders has proven popular in recent years with Dutch voters concerned about immigration and its impact on Dutch society.

Wilders' Freedom Party emerged last year as the Netherlands' second-largest party in the European Parliament and recent polls have indicated the party stands a chance to become the largest in the Dutch Parliament in national elections due in May 2011.

Outside the court, a crowd of protestors gathered behind police barriers to voice support for Wilders, carrying banners saying "Freedom Yes" and "Wilders process, a political process".

"It's really, it goes beyond freedom of speech. I am here to defend freedom of speech," said one man.

Another demonstrator, Jo Joker, said "Why should we project all our fantasies about freedom on one person named Geert Wilders?"

But an anti-racism group placed 100 comments from Wilders online at to back its allegations the MP is guilty of inciting immigrant hate and discrimination and that his comments are not only a criticism of religion.

Charged also with offending a group of people, the start of the case against Wilders on Wednesday aims initially to deal with procedural issues, such as how many witnesses each side will call before handling the case proper at a later date.

He faces a maximum of one year and three months imprisonment if convicted on both counts.