novembro 30, 2007
Thousands of knife-wielding protesters took to the streets of Khartoum today to demand the execution of the British primary school teacher who let children in her class name a teddy bear Muhammad.
AP reported about 10,000 attended the protest outside the presidential palace in Khartoum's Martyr's Square, demanding the Liverpudlian be killed by firing squad. The rally was held after Friday prayers.
Pick-up trucks carrying Sudanese demonstrators drove around the capital blaring out messages to Gillian Gibbons.
Protesters shouted: "No tolerance: execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad".
Hundreds of riot police were deployed to the protests in Martyr's Square, but they did not try to stop the rally.
Last night Gibbons was found guilty of "insulting religion" and sentenced to 15 days in prison by a Sudanese judge after an eight-hour hearing. Gibbons is now in Omdurman women's prison, some way from today's demonstrations. She will face deportation at the end of her sentence.
The schoolteacher, from Liverpool, was cleared of the more serious charge of inciting hatred, for which she would have faced the maximum penalty of six months in prison and 40 lashes.
Ali Ageb, a member of Gibbons' defence team, said he was "very unhappy" with the verdict and would appeal. "She did this as part of her profession as the teacher," he told reporters outside the court. "She did not intend to insult anybody."
Ageb said Gibbons, who was arrested on Sunday, had been calm when the verdict was announced. "I think she was expecting it," he said.
The diplomatic moves to secure Gibbon's freedom are ongoing. Gordon Brown spoke with a member of Gibbon's family to convey his regret that the teacher was now in prison.
"He set out his concern and the fact that we were doing all we could to secure her release," his spokeswoman told reporters.
The Foreign Office said it was "extremely disappointed" by the sentence, and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, again summoned the Sudanese ambassador to explain the verdict. During the 45-minute meeting, Miliband expressed concern at the continued detention of Gibbons "in the strongest terms".
Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, said the teacher's family was very upset. "I do realise that the sentence could have been harder, but 15 days in a jail in Sudan could be very, very harsh," she told Sky News.
"There is still an appeals process ... the decision is one for the Sudanese authorities. I hope we can see some common sense here. I think there's distress and there's anger and I can't see much positive that has come from this."
It had emerged earlier in the day that complaints about naming the teddy bear Muhammad had come from a fellow member of staff at the exclusive Unity high school where Gibbons worked.
Teachers and clergy from the school's board turned up at court to support Gibbons. Robert Boulos, the school's director, said education ministry officials had originally told him that parents had complained about the naming of the bear. But, he said: "Today I heard that it was a member of the school staff. I was horrified."
The complainant was named as Sara Khawad, an office assistant at the school, who was the key prosecution witness.
The charges relate to a project initiated in September, when Gibbons, who had been in Sudan for a month, asked pupils to suggest names for a bear. Each child would take the bear home and write in a diary about their experience.
The chosen name was Muhammad, one of the most common names in Sudan, and the name of Islam's prophet. The diary featured a picture of a bear on the front and the label: "My name is Muhammad".
Since Gibbons' arrest, there have been fears for her safety, and that of her colleagues at Unity, which is now closed.
Riot police wearing helmets and shields and clutching batons and rifles were posted outside the court yesterday. But though leaflets condemning Gibbons had been distributed in Khartoum on Wednesday, there was no sign of protesters.
After the verdict, announced by the judge Mohammed Youssef at 9pm, Boulos attempted to quell lingering anger on the streets. "We are happy with the verdict," he said. "It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and attention. We will be very sad to lose her."
novembro 29, 2007
Her lawyers announced that Ms Gibbons was found guilty of insulting Islam. The 54-year-old former Liverpool primary school teacher had faced a maximum penalty of 40 lashes and a six-month jail sentence.
Tonight David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the sentence and summoned Omer Siddig, the Sudanese ambassador to London, to the Foreign and Commnwealth Office (FCO) to make Britain's position clear.
"We are extremely disappointed that the charges against Gillian Gibbons were not dismissed," said Mr Miliband.
"As I said this morning our clear view is that this is an innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher.
"Our priority now is to ensure Ms Gibbons welfare and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her.
"I have called in the Sudanese ambassador to explain this decision and discuss next steps."
Beyond summoning the ambassador the Government is not expected to take any further serious action.
The entire judicial process was completed within a single day with reporters and British consular officials banned from the courtroom. . After a short delay this morning, the case got under way in late afternoon.
Ms Gibbons has already spent five days in prison and is expected to serve out her sentence in the Omdurman women’s prison near Khartoum.
Robert Boulos, the director of the Unity High School that employed her, declared it “a very fair verdict”.
Ms Gibbons had been held in the modern, air-conditioned Khartoum courthouse since shortly after dawn. Witnesses said she looked dazed and tired as police led her to the dock. She wore a black blazer and a blue skirt and her head was uncovered.
Earlier in the day the Foreign Secretary had relayed British concerns to Sudan at the "highest level".
After summoning the Sudanese Ambassador to the Foreign Office, David Miliband told him that Britain was "very concerned" at the decision to charge Ms Gibbons for allowing her class of seven-year-olds in Khartoum to name their bear after the Islamic prophet.
Britain had put diplomatic pressure on Sudan to release Mrs Gibbons swiftly. In a statement issued after his meeting with Mr Siddig this afternoon, Mr Miliband said: "I explained to him that we were very concerned by the case. We believe that this was an innocent misunderstanding."
The Foreign Secretary said that he had reaffirmed to the Ambassador "that the British Government fully respects the faith of Islam and Britain has a long-standing tradition of religious tolerance".
He added: "The Sudanese Ambassador undertook to ensure our concerns were relayed to Khartoum at the highest level. He also said he would reflect back to Khartoum the real respect for the Islamic religion in this country."
Before the meeting Mr Miliband told reporters at the Foreign Office that he would make his displeasure clear. "This is not a political dispute, it is about an innocent person who was making a contribution to Sudanese society," said Mr Miliband.
"It is right that I make clear, from the top of the Foreign Office, our concern. We want to see her freed as soon as possible. This is a human story, no malice is involved. Her security and welfare are absolutely at the forefront of our concerns."
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown confirmed today that he had spoken to a close member of Mrs Gibbons’s family. The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "He reassured them that all available assistance would be made available."
British consular officials expressed their frustration that they have so far not been allowed to see or talk to her. "We would have expected to be allowed to be in court," said one.
This morning Sudanese justice officials arrived so early at the Criminal Exploration Bureau where Mrs Gibbons has been held for the past two nights that her transfer to court took place virtually unnoticed. When staff from the British consulate arrived at the bureau to see her, they were told that she had already left. They jumped back into their vehicles and headed off quickly to the court.
Mrs Gibbons, a mother of two, was arrested on Sunday at Unity High School, an exclusive British-run institution favoured by the Sudanese elite, after a complaint was lodged. In a bid to teach the children about animals, Mrs Gibbons had introduced a class teddy bear that each child would take home for the weekend in turn and allowed them to choose its name by a class vote.
But when the children chose the name Mohamed, after one of the most popular pupils in the class, a complaint was lodged with the ministry of education that it was blasphemous [...]
novembro 27, 2007
"Irão anuncia a construção de um míssil com um alcance de 2.000 km" in El Pais, 27 de Novembro de 2007
Irán ha anunciado que ha fabricado un nuevo misil balístico de un alcance de 2.000 kilómetros, según ha informado la agencia Fars citando al ministro de Defensa, Mostapha Mohammad Najar. El anuncio se produce en plena crisis nuclear que mantiene el país persa con la comunidad internacional.
"La construcción del misil Achoura, con un alcance de 2.000 kilómetros, forma parte de las actuaciones del Ministerio de Defensa", ha declarado Najar, que no ha dado ninguna otra precisión. El 'Achoura' es la mayor ceremonia de luto de los musulmanes chiíes.
De esta manera, Irán vuelve a hacer gala de su poder militar. En septiembre pasado, en el desfile militar anual, Teherán presentó un nuevo misil, el Ghadr-1, con un radio de acción de 1.800 kilómetros, capaz de alcanzar Israel y las bases estadounidenses en la región.
novembro 25, 2007
novembro 16, 2007
"O Irão pode construir a bomba atómica dentro de um ano, diz Agência Nuclear de Energia Atómica das Nações Unidas" in Times 16 de Novembro de 2007
Iran has expanded its capacity to enrich uranium and now has 3,000 centrifuges operating — enough potentially to produce an atom bomb within a year — the United Nations nuclear watchdog reported yesterday.
But the Islamic Republic has also taken tentative steps towards calming international fears about having secret plans for a nuclear device, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Iran’s deft diplomatic high wire act is likely to further frustrate efforts by the West to push further sanctions through the UN Security Council. Instead, the IAEA conclusions looked set to bolster the arguments of China and Russia that Tehran needs more time to open its books.
According to the report, Iran has given limited - but as far the agency can tell truthful - detail about its past nuclear work while still refusing to obey a UN demand for the suspension of the uranium enrichment programme.
“Iran has provided sufficient access to individuals and has responded in a timely manner to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on issues raised,” said the ten-page report.
It added that the IAEA was “not in a position to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran”.
Tehran yesterday lost no time in trumpeting the findings as a vindication of its defiance against the West. President Ahmadinejad said: “The world will see that the Iranian nation has been right and the resistance of our nation has been correct.”
Iran’s official news agency said the US, France and Britain knew in advance they were “going to suffer a blow by the scheduled report” and were resorting to “extortion” by presenting the IAEA with a list of additional questions for Tehran to answer.
Britain and the US have made plain that they are not satisfied and will pursue further sanctions from the Security Council and the European Union. The Foreign Office issued a statement yesterday saying: “If Iran wants to restore trust in its programme, it must come clean on all outstanding issues without delay.” The US envoy to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, had already stated: “Selective cooperation is not good enough.”
But China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi, visiting Tehran yesterday, indicated support for Iran’s “right to peacefully use nuclear energy”. Yang’s spokesman said Iranian officials had told him they do not intend to develop nuclear weapons, adding: “China also hopes all parties show flexibility and make its due efforts to the peaceful resolution of the issue.”
The IEAE report confirmed that Iran, which insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, has expanded uranium enrichment to around 3,000 centrifuge machines. This number is enough to start industrial production of nuclear fuel and could provide the material needed for an atom bomb within a year.
There is growing concern among senior military sources in Washington - among whom enthusiasm for military action has waned - that such a level of production could trigger an air strike from Israel on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert was yesterday forced to deny a Reuters report that he was already preparing specific measures to counter a nuclear Iran.
Speculation about Israel’s intentions has been fueled by its recent air strike against an alleged nuclear plant at Dayr az-Zawr in Syria. One source has suggested that the Pentagon did not know about the plan until Israeli F- 151 aircraft were already on their way to the target on September 6.
Another claimed that the airstrike was designed to send a message to Iran which has surrounded its Natanz nuclear facility with the same air defence weapons purchased by Syria to defend Dayr az-Zawr. “It showed Iran that Israel can hit them whenever they want,” said the official.
Tehran’s co-operation with the IEAE has included handing over a long-withheld blueprint showing how to shape uranium metal into hemispheres for a nuclear warhead. The Iranians claim this document was given to them unsolicited by rogue Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Iran also provided information about a new centrifuge system called the “P2” - believed to operate with technology provided by Khan - which can refine uranium two or three times faster than the earlier prototype.
Yesterday’s IEAE report added, however, that Iran’s “cooperation has been reactive rather than proactive”.
novembro 08, 2007
"‘Terrorista lírica‘ condenada pela posse de documentos de incitamento ao ódio" in Guardian, 8 de Novembro de 2007
Samina Malik, who burst into tears on hearing the verdict, wrote poems entitled How To Behead and The Living Martyrs and stocked a "library" of documents useful to terrorists.
On the social networking site Hi5 she listed her interests as: "Helping the mujaheddin in any way which I can ... I am well known as lyrical terrorist."
The jury at the Old Bailey found Malik guilty by a majority of 10 to one of possessing records likely to be used for terrorism.
Judge Peter Beaumont, the Recorder of London, bailed Malik on "house arrest" and ordered reports into her family background ahead of the sentencing on December 6, warning her that jail remained a possibility.
"You have been, in many respects, a complete enigma to me," he told her.
Malik, who worked at WH Smith at the airport, was arrested in October last year. When her bedroom was searched police found a ringbinder full of documents as well as a bracelet bearing the word "jihad".
There was also a sticker on a mirror inside the door, bearing the words "lyrical terrorist".
In one handwritten document found by police, she wrote: "I want to have the death of a shaheed [martyr] ... I want the opportunity to take part in the blessed sacred duty of jihad."
Also found were publications from an Islamist extremist group called Followers of Ahl us-Sunnah Wal-Jammaa'ah, linked to another group, The Saved Sect, and to the extremist cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri.
In a box file in the family lounge was a printed version of the "declaration of war" by Osama bin Laden.
One of Malik's poems, entitled The Living Martyrs, said: "Let us make Jihad/ Move to the front line/ To chop chop head of kuffar swine".
A second poem was called How to Behead. "It's not as messy or as hard as some may think/ It's all about the flow of the wrist," it read.
The Mujaheddin Poisoner's Handbook, Encyclopaedia Jihad, How To Win In Hand To Hand Combat, and How To Make Bombs and Sniper Manual were found on her computer.
The court heard Malik joined an extremist organisation called Jihad Way, set up explicitly to disseminate terrorist propaganda and support for al Qaida.
Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, said she was an "unlikely" but "committed" Islamic extremist: "She had a library of material that she had collected for terrorist purposes. That collection would be extremely useful for someone planning terrorist activity."
But Malik, of Townsend Road, Southall, west London, told the jury: "I am not a terrorist." She claimed to have used the nickname "lyrical terrorist" because she thought it was "cool".
Malik was convicted of possessing records likely to be useful in terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000. She was earlier cleared by a jury of a separate count of possessing an article for terrorism.
novembro 06, 2007
"A Al-Qaeda está a recrutar teenagers para atacar alvos no Reino Unido, avisa o chefe do MI5" in Guardian, 6 de Novembro de 2007
Teenagers as young as 15 are being groomed to carry out terrorist attacks in Britain and al-Qaida sympathisers are hatching plots in a growing number of foreign countries against targets here, the head of MI5 warned yesterday.
In his first public speech, Jonathan Evans described the threat posed by al-Qaida-inspired extremism as "the most immediate and acute peacetime threat" the security service had faced in its 98-year history. The threat, he emphasised, had its roots in ideology, making it all the more important that the response must not be indiscriminate.
"Terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country", Mr Evans told the annual conference of the Society of Editors in Manchester. He added: "They are radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism. This year, we have seen individuals as young as 15 and 16 implicated in terrorist-related activity."
Al-Qaida was "conducting a deliberate campaign against us", he said. It was an "expression of hostility" against Britain that existed long before the September 11 attacks on the US. What was new was the attempt to recruit youngsters and the extent to which conspiracies here were being driven from more countries.
In the past, much of the command, control and inspiration for planning attacks in Britain came from al-Qaida's remaining core leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan - often using young British citizens to mount the actual attack, Mr Evans said.
Now, he said, a similar pattern was emerging elsewhere. There was no doubt there was training activity and terrorist planning in East Africa - particularly in Somalia - which was focused on the UK.
Two weeks ago 18-year-old Abdul Patel, from Hackney, east London was sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted of possessing a document likely to be useful to terrorists.
Patel was only 17 when he was arrested by anti-terrorist police in Hackney. In a raid they discovered a copy of the US government's Improvised Explosive Devices manual, execution videos and instructions how to make the nerve gas sarin.
An Old Bailey jury was told he was "ready, willing and able" to supply the bomb manual to extremists. Patel claimed he was looking after the manuals and videos for a friend of his father's. The manual included details on how to conceal bombs in hand baggage and set up booby traps.
Michael Mansfield, QC, defending, told jurors Patel was only regarded as the "tea boy". Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, countered: "In the wrong hands, the information contained in this manual can have catastrophic consequences - including causing explosions of the most terrifying kind in the UK and abroad." Patel was cleared of the more serious charge of possession of an article for terrorist purposes.
Mr Evans, 49, was appointed MI5's director of international counter-terrorism 10 days before the September 11 attacks. He succeeded Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller as director general of the security service in April. Yesterday, he referred to Dame Eliza's speech a year ago when she said MI5 had identified 1,600 individuals believed to pose a direct threat to national security and public safety because of their support for terrorism.
He said the figure had risen to at least 2,000, partly because of MI5's more thorough coverage of extremist networks. Yet the "steady flow of new recruits to the extremist cause" was also behind the rise. The most visible manifestations of the threat were terrorist attacks and attempted attacks, Mr Evans said. But emphasising a point made by Gordon Brown in recent speeches, Mr Evans said: "The root of the problem is ideological."
"This is not a job only for the intelligence agencies and police," he added. "It requires a collective effort in which government, faith communities and wider civil society have an important part to play. And it starts with rejection of the violent extremist ideology across society - although issues of identity, relative deprivation and social integration also form important parts of the backdrop."
Mr Evans warned against governments overreacting to the terrorist threat. "The terrorists may be indiscriminate in their violence against us, but we should not be so in our response to them," he said.
Despite the end of the cold war nearly two decades ago, MI5 was still devoting resources against "unreconstructed attempts by Russia, China, and others to spy on us", he said.
Counter-intelligence officers say 30 agents are operating out of the Russian Embassy and trade mission.
In a reference to Russia and China, Mr Evans said some countries were devoting "considerable time and energy trying to steal sensitive technology on civilian and military projects, and trying to obtain political and economic intelligence".
The Guardian recently disclosed that Chinese hackers, some believed to be from the People's Liberation Army, had been attacking the computer networks of British government departments, including the Foreign Office.
Mr Evans defended MI5 against charges that it could have identified two of the bombers who struck in London on July 7 2005 because they had been seen with the perpetrators of another terrorist plot the agency had succeeded in foiling. "There will be instances when individuals come to the notice of the security service or the police but then subsequently carry out acts of terrorism", he said. He continued: "This is inevitable. Every decision to investigate someone entails a decision not to investigate someone else. Knowing of somebody is not the same as knowing all about somebody."
Mr Evans said he expected MI5, with a workforce now of about 3,150, would have 4,000 staff by 2011, a quarter of them based outside London in the agency's regional offices.
novembro 02, 2007
European leaders are due to fly an extra 77,000km (48,000 miles) collectively simply to sign the new treaty.
The document was supposed to herald a brave new dawn for Europe. But plans for the 27 leaders to add their signatures have triggered an old-fashioned diplomatic row.
Portugal and Belgium have been accused of “pathetic vanity” for refusing to compromise over the location of the signing ceremony, a stance that will leave Europe’s skies cluttered with the private planes of prime ministers.
The argument boils down to national pride. Portugal, current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, wants to preside over the signing, arguing that it oversaw all the tricky negotiations. It is also keen for the document — the EU reform treaty — to go down in history as the “Lisbon Treaty”.
Belgium disagrees. The signing is in the diary for December 13, the first day of the EU’s six-monthly summit. Since Nice in 2001 these summits have been held in Brussels, and Belgium does not want to lose its host status and the lucrative spin-offs that go with it.
The upshot is that instead of making simple return trips to Brussels from their home capitals, 26 EU leaders as well as José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, will have to fly first to Lisbon, where they will spend a matter of hours, and then reboard their planes and follow one another to Brussels, where by evening they will be sitting together again around a different table.
The Times has calculated that the minimum extra air travel is 77,000km — and will be much more if foreign ministers, who are also required to sign the treaty, travel separately from their leaders.
“They could not have handled it worse — just when we have got a treaty to improve the EU, we have to keep the Portuguese happy by signing in Lisbon and the Belgians happy by keeping the summit in Brussels,” an EU diplomat said yesterday.
The signing ceremony, due to last for about an hour, will start the process of national ratification which, in Britain, will be through Parliament after the Government ruled out a referendum. Exasperated diplomats are keenly aware that this battle of national egos is undermining the treaty’s supposed main selling point — that it would help to improve EU decision-making so that leaders can move on to issues that really matter, such as climate change.
At a meeting of senior officials the Italians called for the whole summit to be held in Portugal. The Belgian representative reportedly replied: “No way.” As a result the replacement for the EU constitution will start life under attack from environmentalists for the size of its carbon footprint, which The Times has conservatively calculated at 135 tonnes of extra CO2 at a time when the EU is purporting to lead the world on targets to cut greenhouse gases.
Sonja Meister, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Of course, people have to travel for international events, but the EU should try to avoid situations like this and think practically and in terms of its own promoted policies.”
British diplomats have suggested a surprising solution — for the treaty to be signed before the EU/Africa summit in Lisbon on December 8-9, the week before Portugal’s planned ceremony, when most EU leaders will be there anyway. It is surprising because Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has vowed to boycott that meeting if, as expected, the Portuguese waive an EU ban to allow President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to attend.
A British diplomat argued that, to avoid the unnecessary shuttle flights for all 27 leaders between Lisbon and Brussels on December 13, Mr Brown would be prepared to fly to the Portuguese capital to sign the treaty on December 7 and would simply leave if Mr Mugabe showed up.
But the Portuguese appeared to dismiss the idea, suggesting that the final bound copies of the treaty in all 23 EU languages would not be ready by then. “One thing is decided: the signing will be on December 13,” said a spokeswoman for the Portuguese Government. “The Cabinet of the Prime Minister is talking with everybody, all the member states, so I think we will find a solution. The member states must agree with each other.”
To add to the confusion, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is understood to have argued that the decision is up to the Portuguese presidency, not member states.
Neil O’Brien, director of the Open Europe think-tank, said: “This is Europe at its ridiculous worst. EU leaders are squandering vast amounts of taxpayers’ money and emitting huge amounts of carbon purely because of the pathetic vanity of the Belgians and Portuguese.”
Francisco Duarte, of Portugal’s Foreign Ministry, said: “The logistics question is becoming a political question. We want to sign the treaty in Lisbon. It is very important for us and it would be an honour to organise the whole summit here. But Belgium is keen not to set a precedent. If no one gives in, we will most likely see a lot of travelling.”
77,000 extra kilometres will be flown by EU heads of government in order to sign the treaty in Lisbon
27 private jets flying that distance produce more than 135 tonnes of carbon dioxide
135 tonnes of C02 is 60 times the combined weight of all EU heads of government
200 trees, a small copse, would be required to offset the carbon fumes from the travels of the heads of government
The wood from those trees would provide enought paper to print 2,800 copies of the 250-page EU treaty iin each of the EU's 23 official languages
After signing the treaty, the leaders will head for Brussels
Sources: European Union; University of California, Berkeley; Energy Savings Trust; carbonneutral.com . All numbers are approximate