SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Iberian Peninsula has once again been engulfed in protest, as police used brute force to disperse thousands in front of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid while in Portugal citizens climbed on top of a tank to make themselves heard.
Police detained at least 15 in Madrid, including one minor, as they used force to quell an angry mob of protesters near the Spanish parliament, united under a “Besiege Congress” slogan calling for the government to quit.
The riots come as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is set to announce a raft of measures on Friday aimed at tackling the country's recession.
An estimated 1,400 policemen were deployed around the chamber as politicians cancelled the session for the day.
Protesters held signs that read “6.2 million reasons” in a reference to the latest jobless figures and when police charged them they chanted “You have jobs, we do not.”
Law enforcement charged the protesters with batons and shot blanks in the air as the demonstrators threw bottles and rocks at the police.
Earlier in the day five people, including one minor, were arrested for allegedly plotting to set fire to a bank. According to Spanish media, Molotov cocktails were also planned to be used in the riot. Four of those detained were part of an anarchist cell suspected of arson in the capital, the Ministry of Interior reported.
The minor, arrested in Puerta del Sol, was apprehended with materials necessary to make a Molotov cocktail.
Another 11 people were arrested for carrying clubs and chains and allegedly provoking riots in the Universidad Complutense zone in Madrid. Authorities say the arrests were caused by “resistance and disobedience to authority and refusing to identify themselves."
The protest coincided with the latest jobless rate announcement that stands at a record high of 27.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to National Statistics Institute.
The number of unemployed is now 6.2 million as the Spanish economy finds it impossible to climb out of the burst property bubble of 2008.
Hijacked Portugese Revolution?
In Lisbon, tens of thousands of Portuguese flooded the streets on Thursday to demonstrate against austerity measures and to mark the anniversary of the 1974 Carnation revolution against the dictatorial regime.
Protesters were wielding flags and posters demanding the center-right government step down and an end to austerity measures. Parasols of the Portuguese Communist Party and the Portuguese opposition party shielded participants from the sun, while a group of activist climbed on top of a tank trying to make their voices heard.
Usually a national celebration of triumph of democracy, this year the revolution anniversary has been hijacked by the pressing austerity issues of pay cuts and tax hikes that were imposed following a €78 billion ($101bn) bailout from the European Union.
The crowd has also voiced frustration with the international lenders, the so called troika consisting of the IMF, EU and ECB, who the public increasingly blame for the economic hardship in the country.
“Troika means austerity and we have been experiencing for more than a year and a half the austerity measures which have destroyed every good prospect of social state, of welfare state. Now we have over a million and a half unemployed.” Joao Camargo, anti-troika activist told the RT crew on the ground. -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Iceland's Supreme Court has ruled that Valitor (formerly Visa Iceland) must pay WikiLeaks $204,900 per month or $2,494,604 per year in fines if it continues to blockade the whistle-blowing site.
The court upheld the decision that Valitor had unlawfully terminated its contract with WikiLeaks' donation processor, DataCell.
"Today's decision marked the most important victory to date against the unlawful and arbitrary economic blockade erected by US companies against WikiLeaks," the organization's press release stated.
WikiLeaks asserts that the financial blockade was imposed after the site published leaks exposing corruption within Iceland in December 2010. The leak shed light onto why the country's banking system collapsed in 2008.
The Icelandic Supreme Court is the highest court in Iceland. There is no route of appeal for Valitor.
Economic blockades against WikiLeaks have starved the whistle-blowing site of funds, prompting WikiLeaks to launch fundraisers on its main page. WikiLeaks has previously accused "hard-right US politicians" of orchestrating the "extrajudicial" banking blockade against it.
Freedom of the press campaigners such as Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Elsberg and actor John Cusack have launched the Freedom of the Press Foundation, aimed at collecting money for WikiLeaks. The organization allows donors to make anonymous, tax-deductible donations.
A similar legal battle is currently taking place against a Danish sub-contractor for Visa, equivalent to Valitor.
Last November, the European Parliament passed a resolution which included a clause drafted specifically in relation to the economic blockade against WikiLeaks. The resolution called on the European Commission to draft regulations which would prevent online payment facilitators from arbitrarily denying services to companies or organizations, such as WikiLeaks.
The whistle-blowing site says it has launched a formal complaint to the European Commission on the basis that Visa and MasterCard have unlawfully abused their dominant market position. The two credit card companies currently take up 95 per cent of the European market. It remains unclear whether the Commission will open a formal investigation.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Rejecting the hateful anti-Islam message, anti-fascist groups in England’s north east city of Sunderland have accused far-right groups of spreading anti-Muslim hatred across the city via internet social networks.
“We know there is a Sunderland English Defence League (EDL) running in the city, but we know other groups are also getting involved with them,” a spokesman for the Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Association (TWAFA) told Sunderland Echo on Monday, April 8.
“This is a network that is starting to establish itself and the issue with the mosque has given them an excuse to voice their views.”
Uniting against fascist groups, activists from TWAFA and Hope not Hate have been raising concerns about anti-Muslim messages which flooded social networks recently.
For example, they claimed that Wearsider using the alias “Angel United Patriots” is playing a central role in organizing Far Right demonstrations against Muslims living in Sunderland.
The groups have also claimed that the user behind “Angel” was among crowds of EDL supporters chanting anti-Muslim slogans at last month’s demo against proposals for a new mosque of St Mark’s Road in Millfield.
Online postings suggested that “Angel” is a primary mover in getting Far Right activities “up and running in Sunderland”.
Comments have also been left in which Muslims in the city are described as “Muzrats” and “Muzzies”.
One post says: “Just had a Muzrat in shop asking why I don’t have any clothes for her”.
Rejecting the hate messages, both Hope not Hate and TWAFA have condemned the racist comments, branding them “disgusting and derogatory”.
The EDL, a far-right group that emerged in 2009, has held numerous protests against what it calls “Islamic extremism” in Britain.
Far-right groups like the EDL and the British National Party (BNP) are playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.
Concerns about the growing far-right extremism in Sunderland have grown in recent months following a series of protests over a proposal for a new mosque.
Three people were arrested during last month’s protest which saw up to 80 EDL demonstrators clash with anti-fascist organizations.
British Muslims, estimated at nearly 2.7 million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 2005 attacks.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.
The anti-Muslim tide has also been on the rise across Europe, with several countries are restricting the freedom of Muslims to wearing face-veil and building mosques.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Hundreds of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political wing controls the post-revolution's first elected government.
Protesters battled police in several Egyptian cities on Saturday, with at least eight people reported injured, after rallies to mark the anniversary of a key opposition movement turned violent.
In the capital, Cairo, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters outside the Superior Court, which also houses the offices of the public prosecutor who had opened investigations against several dissidents.
The prosecutor-general angered activists a week ago by questioning a popular TV satirist who is accused of having insulted Morsi.
The government denies opposition claims that the case is evidence of a crackdown on dissent.
About 500 people marched for much of the day through central Cairo, chanting "The people want to topple the regime".
"We are Muslims but we want a civilian state," said Saffeya Mustapha, a protester on the Cairo march.
Live television showed footage of protesters throwing stones at police in armoured vehicles, amid burning tyres on a main road near the court.
The police fired heavy volleys of tear gas
Police also fired tear gas at protesters in the coastal city of Alexandria and in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, where demonstrators attacked a police station with petrol bombs, the official MENA news agency reported.
Opponents and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked each other with stones and fireworks in Alexandria, MENA said.
The rallies were organised to mark the fifth anniversary of the April 6 protest movement, which took off after a deadly police crackdown on a labour strike in textile town of Mahalla on April 6, 2008.
The Mahalla clashes marked an escalation in the burgeoning protest movement against long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, eventually overthrown in a 2011 popular uprising.
Morsi has faced an intractable opposition which spearheaded mass rallies after he assumed broad powers in November that have since been repealed.
Two years after the uprising that overthrow Mubarak, Egypt is still trying to find its footing in a declining economy and often violent protests that have kept away much-needed tourist revenues and foreign investments.
The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8bn loan aimed at restoring investor confidence.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al JAzeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – South Korean President Park Geun-hye has vowed "strong retaliation" to any provocation by North Korea, after Pyongyang declared it was formally at war with Seoul.
Meeting senior military officials and Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Monday, Park said: "If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations."
Meanwhile, the White House played down the North's threat, saying that despite bellicose rhetoric, the US administration has not seen changes in Pyongyang's military posture.
Park, who focused her election campaign last year on a promise not to be blackmailed by the North.said she took the near-daily stream of threats emanating from the North "very seriously".
"I believe that we should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if [the North] stages any provocation against our people," she said.
Military tensions between the two neighbours have been running high for weeks, with the North stepping up its hostile rhetoric against Seoul and Washington.
In response, US officials said on Monday that a Japan-based US Navy guided-missile destroyer capable of shooting down ballistic missiles had been positioned slightly closer to the Korean peninsula, though still within its usual operating area.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we are hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilisations and positioning of forces."
In protest at joint South Korean-US military drills, North Korea last month declared it was ripping up the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War void and threatened a "pre-emptive nuclear strike" on South Korean and US targets.
On Saturday, it announced that it had formally entered into a "state of war" with South Korea.
Seoul and Washington have warned of severe repercussions in the event of any aggression, with the US deploying nuclear capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers, as well as F-22 stealth fighters over South Korea as a "deterrence".-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Protesters have marched near the presidential palace in Cyprus, as questions over the bailout package for the financially crippled island linger with the resignation of the chairman of the country's largest commercial bank.
As protesters took to the streets on Tuesday, Bank of Cyprus Chairman Andreas Artemis submitted his resignation opposing plans to restructure the bank, Al Jazeera's John Psaropoulos, reporting from Nicosia, said.
The refinancing and restructuring plan of the Bank of Cyprus requires it to absorb the deposits of another financial institution called Laiki Bank, which has been shuttered.
As banks remained closed nationwide for the second week, an estimated 1,500 protesters gathered in the capital Nicosia to denounce the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund creditors.
The protesters, many of them students who organised the event online, were cheered on by government workers as they marched past the labour ministry.
"Troika out of Cyprus," said banners held by the angry students, in reference to the three creditors.
"Hands off Cyprus," and "Those who stole our money should go to jail and pay," chanted the demonstrators.
Cyprus secured a deal with international lenders on Monday for a $13bn bailout that helped it avert bankruptcy, but which will see large deposit-holders at its two biggest banks losing much of their savings.
The bailout involves depositors in the two biggest banks paying huge levies on deposits more than $130,000. It also effectively shuts down Laiki, the island's second-largest lender also known as Popular Bank.
The country's finance minister Michalis Sarris also conceded that big depositors could lose as much as 40 percent of their funds.
On Tuesday, Cypriots woke to find banks under lockdown for an 11th day after authorities reversed course and kept them closed to prevent a run on deposits following the bailout.
Our correspondent John Psaropoulos said that despite the bailout package, citizens were "extremely worried" about the medium and long-term economic health of the country.
Psaropoulos said people were concerned about "the Greek precedent" of a weak economy and high unemployment.
Our correpondent also said the resignation at the Bank of Cyprus "taps into the major concern" whether the bank can absorb the assets and liabilties of the shuttered Laiki Bank and remain solvent.
The student protest will be followed by a leftwing anti-austerity demonstration organised by the communist Akel party for 16:00 GMT on Wednesday outside the presidential palace.
"We don't know what our future is, and we are angry that it will not stop at those measures," said one of the youths who only gave his name as Christos, 16. "This why we... came out to express our opinion."
The bank closures have hit businesses, which have found themselves unable to pay suppliers or fulfil orders. The retail market is sharply down too, shop owners say, with customers unwilling to spend on anything but the basics while they have limited access to cash.
"The continuation of this uncertainty is pushing the economy deeper into recession, but we're hopeful once this situation is sorted out, the market can rebound quickly,'' said Michalis Pilikos, head of a business group.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Protesters on Monday demanded the resignation of Tunisia’s minister for women’s affairs, Sihem Badi, accusing her of defending a children’s nursery where a three-year-old girl was raped.
The protesters, among them relatives of the victim, gathered outside the ministry in Tunis shouting slogans against Badi, including “Minister of shame, get out!” and “Ministers who protect pedophiles have no place among us.”
The young girl was raped repeatedly by the caretaker of the nursery in La Marsa, an upscale suburb of the capital, according to the police.
The suspect was arrested on Saturday.
On the same day, Badi, who as minister of families as well of women’s affairs is responsible for children’s nurseries, said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the caretaker were needed.
“Three weeks ago, my life turned into a nightmare. When I imagine my daughter, who weighs 10 kilos, in the hands -- and on several occasions -- of this 55-year-old caretaker, I have only one wish, to die,” the father of the victim told AFP.
“The children’s nursery is still open despite what happened to my daughter,” he added, his voice welling with emotion.
If found guilty, the suspect risks the death penalty, even though no executions have actually been carried out in Tunisia since 1991.
The last person to be put to death was a rapist and child serial killer.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tens of thousands of French families, activists and conservatives have marched in Paris protesting against a bill that if passed would allow same-sex marriage and adoption. Police fired teargas to prevent protesters from entering the Champs Elysees.
Demonstrators gathered Sunday in the center of the French capital for a final mass protest against the controversial bill that if backed in the Senate during April’s, vote may become law as early as the summer. So far the draft has been passed in the lower house of parliament.
Currently French gay men and women are allowed to adopt as individuals if approved by social services.
Protestors demand the government withdraw the bill instead putting the issue to the public through project a referendum.
Over 60 percent of the French support gay marriage, though just under half support adoption by same sex couples.The law was a key electoral pledge by Hollande, but his critics say he has tried to push it through without broad public consensus.
Despite chilly weather, thousands opposed to French legislation lined a five-kilometer route leading to the Champs Elysees, from the Arc de la Defense to the Arc de Triomphe. Many were holding banners and chanting slogans against the introduction of the bill.
Flags unfolded from the balconies along the protesters’ route read "We want work not gay marriage," and "No to gayxtremism."
Earlier this week Paris police banned protesters from demonstrating on the Champs Elysees, a move that demonstrators called “political decision dressed up as a police measure”.
Despite the ban some 200 protesters still tried to proceed to the world-famous avenue, provoking police officers to use teargas, AFP photographers said.
Sunday, official police estimated the turnout at around 300,000; a similar rally in January officially drew about 340,000 people.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Cypriot parliament has voted against a revised bank deposit levy. The tax was meant to shave 9.9% off any deposits over €100,000 and has since caused uproar in the country.
Thirty six deputies voted against the proposal to tax bank deposits in the 56-member chamber, while 19 abstained. One deputy was not present for the
"The bill has been rejected," said house speaker Yiannakis Omirou, as thousands of protesters outside the parliament building in Nicosia erupted in cheers.
According to the proposal, a 6.75% rate was to be set for amounts between €20,000 and €100,000. Deposits of up to €20,000 euros were to remain untouched.
Passage of the bill was considered a prerequisite for a €10 billion European Union bailout for the Mediterranean island. EU finance ministers have warned that Cyprus' two biggest banks could go bust if a bailout deal in some form is not forthcoming. The government and opposition parties have scheduled emergency talks on the bailout for Wednesday.
The European Central Bank (ECB) has threatened to end emergency lending assistance for Cypriot banks if a bailout deal was not ensured. However, following the vote, the ECB said it would continue to provide liquidity to Cyprus as needed “within the existing rules,” Bloomberg reports.
Cyprus has discussed the tax with its European creditors. Ministers from the 17 eurozone countries urged protection for savers with €100,000 or less and for them to be spared from the levy, after the prospect brought panic to the markets and had Cyprus dealing with the prospect of Russia withdrawing its rescue loan.
Meanwhile Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades discussed the economic situation in Cyprus with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has slammed the proposed deposits as "unfair, unprofessional and dangerous."
“During a telephone conversation, the heads of state analyzed the economic situation in Cyprus in light of the Eurogroup’s bailout proposals,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late on Tuesday, adding that the talks were initiated by the Cypriot president.
This comes despite German Chancellor Angela Markel stressing that Cyprus should hold talks only with the international creditors and not third parties like Russia. Merkel spoke with Anastasiades by telephone on Tuesday.
“The chancellor once again emphasized that the negotiations are to be conducted only with the Troika,” a government spokeswomen told AFP.
Russian banks had around $12 billion deposited in Cypriot banks at the end of 2012, according to ratings agency Moody's.
The Cypriot government’s original proposal was to tax all depositors, setting the rate of 6.75% on all deposits under €100,000 and maintaining a 9.9% tax on all deposits above that level.
In the meantime all Cypriot banks have frozen the accounts liable for the tax and stopped all transactions, including electronic and closed for a long weekend until Thursday to prevent panic.
Cyprus needed to raise €5.8 billion euros for its bailout program and was hoping to get the money in the planned bank deposits levy.
Despite the precarious position Cyprus has found itself in, a default might be preferable than a bailout under the present conditions, United Kingdom Independence Party MEP Nigel Farage told RT.
“The EU has been unhappy about so-called tax havens for a very long time. Ironically, whilst continuing to turn a blind-eye to many activities that go on in Luxemburg. I mean Cyprus finds itself right now in a very difficult, desperate position. But I would say that it is better to officially go bankrupt, to default on international bond obligations. And to do that best to keep a banking industry and to keep some confidence in that country,” he said.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – China has warned the Vatican to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and called on the newly elected pope to adopt a “practical and flexible” attitude.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that Beijing hoped that the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis I, create conditions to improve China-Vatican relations.
Hua said that China had "two basic principles in dealing with relations with the Vatican," which has been cut since 1951.
"It should sever its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of all of China,” she said.
"The Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs, including under the pretext of religion," she added.
China has an estimated 12 million Roman Catholics, and appoints bishops without papal approval.
On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was named the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, taking the nickname of Pope Francis I.
Pope Francis replaced Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned on February 28, becoming the first pontiff in six centuries to do so. He stated that the reason for his decision was his deteriorating health due to old age.-www.shafaqna.com/English