SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –French police have clashed with thousands of demonstrators in the capital, Paris, protesting against the approval of a bill that legalizes gay marriages and adoptions for same-sex couples by the country’s parliament.
On Wednesday, police fired tear gas at the angry protesters who had gathered near the National Assembly building. The protesters were hurling glass bottles, cans and metal bars to show their discontent with the parliament’s decision.
On Tuesday, the lower house of the National Assembly, where President Francois Hollande's socialist party has an absolute majority, approved the bill with 331 votes against 225. The upper house of the French parliament had approved the first article of the bill by 179 votes against 157 on April 9.
Before becoming law, the bill must be signed by Hollande.
Meanwhile, the conservative members of the parliament, who are mainly opposed to the decision, said after the vote that they have filed a legal suit with the country’s Constitutional Council against the legislation.
A verdict from the Constitutional Council could take up to a month and opponents are hoping to build enough force during that time to pressure the president not to sign the bill.
Critics say Hollande’s campaign promise to legalize gay marriages has carried a political price, stating he should have instead focused on fixing the worsening economy and soaring unemployment.
The approval of the bill comes despite over a hundred protests during the past months against the move, including a rally on March 24, where police attacked thousands of participants with tear gas and batons.
French churches have also condemned the bill, calling gay marriages “a sham” that would “shake one of the foundations of our society.”
If the bill becomes law, France will be the 14th country in the world to approve same-sex marriages, joining countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Spain, and Sweden.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate that exposed deep conservatism in the nation's heartland and triggered huge demonstrations that tapped into intense discontent with the Socialist government. Within hours, fiery clashes broke out between protesters and riot police.
Legions of officers stayed late into the night, and a protest against the measure turned violent near the Invalides complex of museums and monuments. Protesters threw glass bottles, cans and metal bars at police, who responded with tear gas.
It was an issue that galvanized the country's faltering right, which had been decimated by infighting and their election loss to President Francois Hollande. France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage nationwide —and the most populous.
The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the colour adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.
1st weddings could come in June
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.
"We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they'll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families," she said.
Earlier in the day, there appeared to be more police than protesters outside the Parliament building on Paris' Left Bank, but that calculation soon shifted as night fell and thousands gathered to protest the bill. The protest dwindled to a few stalwarts shortly before midnight, when the violence began among a few hundred demonstrators including some who carried signs saying "Socialist dictatorship."
Claire Baron, 41, a mother of two, said that she "will oppose the bill until the end."
"I'll keep going to the protests, I don't give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad," Baron said.
In recent weeks, violent attacks against gay couples have spiked and some legislators have received threats — including Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, who got a gunpowder-filled envelope on Monday.
One of the biggest protests against same-sex marriage drew together hundreds of thousands of people bused in from the French provinces — conservative activists, schoolchildren with their parents, retirees, priests and others. That demonstration ended in blasts of tear gas, as right-wing rabble-rousers, some in masks and hoods, led the charge against police, damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and making a break for the presidential palace.
'I feel immense joy'
Following the vote members of the gay and lesbian community flocked to a square in central Paris, just behind City Hall, to celebrate the vote.
"I feel immense joy, gigantic joy," said 39-year old Sylvain Rouzel. "At last, everyone has the same rights. This is huge! France was lagging behind. We had to wait 14 years after the civil union to finally obtain the right to get married, with equal rights for everyone. I feel great!"
Paris' openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was among the crowd of hundreds gathered for the street celebration in the Marais, the city's historic gay neighbourhood.
When Hollande promised to legalize gay marriage, it was seen as relatively uncontroversial. The issue has become a touchstone as his popularity has sunk to unprecedented lows, largely over France's ailing economy.
"The opposition is in a weakened position, but they know which buttons to press in order to get a reaction in society, in a country as liberal as France, where nobody thought it was an issue," said Hossein Alizadeh, a co-ordinator with the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission who has followed the issue.
But the most visible face in the fight against gay marriage — a former comedienne who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot — said the movement named "A Protest for Everyone" will continue beyond the law's passage and possibly field candidates in 2014 municipal elections. She said anyone involved in protest violence would be marginalized, but blamed the government for its failure to listen.
"The violence comes from the way in which this was imposed," Barjot told France Info radio.
French conservatives, demoralized and divided by the election loss of standard-bearer Nicolas Sarkozy, found common cause in opposing same-sex marriage. Hoping to keep the issue alive, the conservative UMP party planned to challenge the law in the constitutional Council.
"The controversy that we've seen has been a stoked and manipulated controversy that's really kind of a last-ditch attempt to block the tide of history," said Evan Wolfson, president of the American activist group Freedom to Marry, which he said worked with the French on the bill. "I don't think it spoke to a deep or wide opposition among the French people."
Civil unions allowed since 1999
French civil unions, allowed since 1999, are at least as popular among heterosexuals as among gay and lesbian couples. But that law has no provisions for adoption, and the strongest opposition in France as far as same-sex couples goes comes when children are involved. According to recent polls, just over half of French are opposed to adoption by same-sex couples — about the same number who said they favoured same-sex marriage.
Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the police union UNSA, says the extraordinary security Tuesday included a total of about 4,000 officers in the area near the National Assembly building and water cannon positioned nearby.
On the cover of Tuesday's Liberation newspaper, the famed gay photographers Pierre and Gilles took over the front page and several of the inside pages, splashing them with some of their most provocative photos, including one of three soccer players — nude but for the footwear — facing the camera.
In New Zealand, where gay marriage enjoys popular support, people gathered outside Parliament and joined in singing a traditional Maori love ballad after a vote last week making it legal. Nine states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –French executives have gone on trial to jeers for supplying hundreds of thousands of women with substandard breast implants and triggering a global health scare.
The trial of the five executives of the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) began in a makeshift courtroom in Marseille, southern France, on Wednesday, to accommodate the huge crowds expected to attend the case.
It includes 5,000 civil plaintiffs and 300 lawyers and more than 300,000 women around the world were fitted over a decade with the implants.
Jean-Claude Mas, the 73-year-old founder and chief executive of PIP, has admitted filling the implants with an unapproved homemade recipe made of industrial-grade silicone gel.
Mas and four PIP executives, including the chief financial officer, are charged with aggravated fraud over selling the implants around the world from 2001 to 2010, when they were ordered off the market.
Some in the audience of about 300 complainants gathered outside the court shouted abuse as Mas appeared live on a giant video screen.
"He bears the enormous weight of this trial on his shoulders," said his lawyer, Yves Haddad.
Broken implants fears
Nathalie Lozano, a Colombian lawyer, said she represented 1,500 women she said had problems with the PIP implants.
She said she came to Marseille to seek justice for clients she says lack the resources to pay for follow-up care.
"They don't even have a way to know if their implants are broken inside their body, if eventually this substance will leak into their body," Lozano said.
Mas sought to defend himself against such charges as he left court.
"I did my best to protect them," he said of the women.
Inspectors found vats of industrial-grade silicone outside the PIP factory in 2010. It sparked worldwide panic when governments recommended removal of the implants because of an abnormally high rupture rate.
Health experts said no link had been established between PIP implants and breast cancer, but plastic surgeons around the world reported a flood of removal requests from worried patients after the scandal broke.
Half the French women with PIP implants, or nearly 15,000, have already opted for removal, whether because of rupture or as a precaution, government figures show.
Mas was released in October from eight months in detention following a failure to post bail.
He told police that 75 percent of PIP's implants had contained the homemade gel, which was never been approved by regulators. Mas denied it was unsafe and he and the other executives deny the charges.
Investigators estimate that Mas's formula allowed PIP to save almost $1.6 million in one year alone.
A court in Paris rejected a defence request to have the case thrown out minutes before the trial began.
Mas and PIP's former chief financial officer, Claude Couty, are separately implicated in a civil case over fiscal fraud that has yet to reach trial.
Mas is also under investigation for manslaughter after a complaint from the mother of a French woman with PIP implants who died of cancer in 2010. -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –French ministers have disclosed their personal wealth for the first time in a move that President Francois Hollande hopes will restore confidence in his scandal-hit Socialist government.
The assets of 37 ministers and of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault were published online on Monday on a specially created website.
The move was part of Hollande's new rules for financial conduct unveiled last week after the revelation that France's top tax collector was himself dodging taxes.
Critics say the Socialist government listing of ministers' personal wealth is just a political show.
With the economy stagnant, unemployment on the rise and the government cutting spending, senior officials admit the move is risky and could create resentment by unmasking several millionaire ministers.
But the government has pushed ahead in the hopes the measure will help limit the damage of the scandal over tax fraud charges laid against ex-budget minister Jerome Cahuzac after he admitted having a secret Swiss bank account.
Politicians on the right and left have criticised the move and the government expects a tough battle when it attempts to have the disclosure rule extended to parliamentarians in a bill to be introduced on April 24.
The head of the main opposition right-wing UMP, Jean-Francois Cope, said on Monday that the measure would only create tensions in French society.
"The only consequence of all of this voyeurism will be that a certain number of people - businesspeople, artisans, professionals - will no longer want to engage in public life," Cope told BFMTV.
'Difficult to understand'
Close scrutiny is expected to fall on several ministers suspected of having significant wealth, including Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, a well-known art lover whose father was an antiques dealer.
The minister for the elderly, Michele Delaunay, disclosed on Monday family assets of 5.4m euros ($7m).
"It is significant wealth," she told the daily newspaper Sud-Ouest.
"It will be difficult to understand for the majority of the French, who are facing hard times."
Delaunay, the former head of a cancer clinic, said that she and her husband had acquired their four homes and significant savings over lifetimes of work as well as through inheritance.
She said that revealing their assets had been a real challenge, but she supported the disclosure measure.
"It is probably a necessary step towards a real battle against tax evasion and fraud," she said.
"If we had not taken it, in the context of Cahuzac, it may have been seen as a desire to protect certain people."
Hollande will not make a new declaration because he already released details of his wealth when elected president.
At the time he declared $1.53m in assets, including a house in the southern town of Mougins and two apartments in Cannes, though he is still paying 1,500 euros a month on loans.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) France’s Senate has approved a controversial same-sex marriage bill, regardless of massive opposition to the legislation in the country.
On Tuesday, the upper house of the French parliament approved by 179 votes against 157 the first article of the bill, which legalizes marriage between two people of the same gender.
Another article concerning the right of same-sex couples to adopt children will be voted on separately.
France has experienced huge protests against the same-sex marriage bill, including a rally on March 24, where police attacked thousands of participants with tear gas and batons.
The French lower chamber of the parliament passed the bill on February 12 following 110 hours of debate.
The opponents of the bill say children have a fundamental right to have a father and mother and that the bill will lead to the disintegration of the family institution.
French churches have also condemned the bill, calling gay marriage “a sham” that would “shake one of the foundations of our society.”
President Francois Hollande had promised to throw his weight behind the bill, as the proposed legislation was one of his presidential campaign promises.
Several other European states, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Spain, and Sweden have also authorized same sex-marriage.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –French demonstrators have staged a rally in the capital Paris to express outrage at a controversial bill favoring same-sex marriage and adoption.
Opponents of the government’s plan to legalize gay marriage thronged near the Senate on Thursday, waving flags that bore the words “Jobs, not gay marriage,” while trucks belonging to riot police encircled them.
The demonstration came as the bill, which gives homosexual couples the right to marry and adopt children, went to France’s upper house for debate that is expected to last until April 12 or 13.
The legislation has provoked massive controversy in the European country in recent months and sparked violent protests across the state.
“There is one solution to find a way out of this political and social tension ... and that's for the Senate to reject the law,” said Frigide Barjot, a comedian and spokeswoman for opponents to the bill.
French lower chamber of the parliament passed the bill on February 12 following 110 hours of debate and the legislation is also expected to pass in the upper house as it enjoys the support of the Socialists and their allies.
The opponents of the bill say that children have a fundamental right to have a father and mother.
French President Francois Hollande has promised to throw his weight behind the bill as the proposed legislation was one of his presidential campaign promises.
Those opposed to the draft law believe the bill will lead to the disintegration of the family institution.
French churches have also condemned the bill, calling gay marriage “a sham” that would “shake one of the foundations of our society.”
Several other European states, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Norway, Spain, and Sweden have authorized same sex-marriage.- www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Paris prosecutors launched an anti-terrorism probe on Thursday into death threats against a judge who put ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation in a party funding case, and into similar threats against several journalists.
Investigating magistrate Jean-Michel Gentil's decision about Sarkozy last Thursday raised hackles on the political right.
Many conservatives question the impartiality of judges given wide powers to conduct secret proceedings to investigate important criminal cases.
Sarkozy has rejected as unfounded the basis of the probe - that he exploited the mental frailty of France's richest woman to raise election funds.
His former speechwriter Henri Guaino has said Gentil has "dishonored the justice system" and "besmirched France".
A letter addressed to Gentil containing a large-caliber blank cartridge and a threat to "get you personally" arrived at the prosecutor's office in Bordeaux, where he is based, on Wednesday.
On Thursday, that office said it had opened a probe into the unknown group that signed the letter, the "Interaction of the Forces of Order".
The Paris prosecutor's office then ordered judicial police who focus on anti-terrorism cases to investigate, prosecutors told Reuters.
Without naming Sarkozy nor the funding scandal, the letter said Gentil was driven by ideology that had caused "irreparable harm".
The author said the group would "get you personally or, failing that, a member of your entourage".
"The bullets are blanks, until we take our action up a notch."
Two political journalists and the president of France's broadcasting regulator (CSA) also received threatening letters which will be part of the anti-terrorism investigation.
The letters sent to private radio Europe 1's Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, Michael Darmon of private television station iTele and the CSA's Olivier Schrameck also contained empty cartridges or blanks, a legal source said.
Although Schrameck was cabinet secretary to former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, the choice of the two other journalists appeared to muddy suspicion that the group behind the letters was targeting leftist sympathizers.
The scandal for which Sarkozy is being investigated revolves around alleged payments made to his 2007 election fund.
Sarkozy has denied taking campaign funds from Liliane Bettencourt, France's richest woman who was declared to have dementia in 2006, but members of her staff questioned by Gentil and other magistrates have offered contradictory testimony.www.shafaqna.com/English
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) – A press release published in Brussels on 20 March 2013 revealed that Islamophobia or discrimination against Muslims is widespread in many European countries. Prejudice towards Muslims is often more visible than that affecting other religious or ethnic minority groups. This is the conclusion of the first pan-European qualitative survey on Muslim communities in Europe, part of ENAR’s 2011/12 Shadow Report on Racism in Europe and released ahead of International Day Against Racial Discrimination.
Manifestations of Islamophobia include discrimination and violence towards Muslims, criminal damage to Islamic buildings, and protests against the building of mosques even in countries, such as Poland, where some Muslim communities have been established and integrated for centuries. Muslim women and girls are particularly affected, facing an extreme form of double discrimination on the basis of both their religion and their gender. In France for instance, 85% of all Islamophobic acts target women.
In addition, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration discourses, promoted and exacerbated by both extremist and mainstream political parties, are fuelling discrimination and preventing ethnic and religious communities from participating fully in the European society and economy. This scapegoating is used as a deviation from the ‘real issues’ by many politicians to cover up a lack of vision and leadership in contributing as much as would be expected of them in steering the recovery of European societies.
Based on data collected by anti-racist civil society across Europe, the Shadow Report also highlights that discrimination continues to affect the lives of many ethnic and religious minorities throughout Europe as regards their access to education, employment, housing, goods and services as well as how they are treated by the police and criminal justice systems. For instance, Roma children form approximately one third of the ‘special needs’ school population in the Czech Republic. In Ireland, a study was conducted whereby fictitious CVs were sent to recruiters, half with recognisably Irish names and the other half with African, Asian and German names. It found that candidates with Irish names were twice as likely to be invited to interviews as non-Irish candidates with comparable levels of skills and qualifications.
ENAR Chair Chibo Onyeji said: “Today is also International Day of Happiness – an occasion to highlight that decision makers have a responsibility to ensure that ethnic and religious minorities in Europe also enjoy happy and fulfilling lives. The current climate of rising xenophobia and racist violence reflected in our Shadow Report findings should not obliterate the fact that, whatever our skin colour or our beliefs, we all strive for a better life, a better future, with better chances for our offspring. No special privileges are expected, but a clear political commitment to equality and inclusion for all people living in Europe is.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was formally accused last night of abusing the mental weakness of France's wealthiest woman to help to finance his 2007 election campaign.
The political and judicial bombshell followed hours of questioning of the former head of state by an investigating magistrate in Bordeaux.
Mr Sarkozy was "placed under formal investigation" – one step short of a charge – for the alleged abuse of the weakness of Liliane Bettencourt, the 90-year-old chief shareholder of the cosmetics giant, L'Oréal.
After confronting Mr Sarkozy one-by-one with several former members of Ms Bettencourt's staff, Judge Jean-Michel Gentil decided that there was reason to believe that the former President lied during a similar 12-hour grilling in November last year. On that occasion, Mr Sarkozy said that he had visited Ms Bettencourt, then 84, on just one occasion during the 2007 presidential campaign and had never asked her for a "penny".
The judge accepted his word at the time and made him an "assisted witness" in the case, rather than an outright suspect. This decision has now been reversed.
Four members of her staff, including her former butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, have told the judge that they saw Mr Sarkozy enter Ms Bettencourt's mansion in Neuilly, just west of Paris, on several occasions in early 2007. Their evidence was repeated in the presence of the former President yesterday.
Mr Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said last night that he would appeal against the judge's "incoherent and unjust" decision.
The case against Mr Sarkozy is far from watertight and he could still be cleared without going to trial. For the time being, however, his chances of resuming a political career, abandoned after he failed to win a second term last May, appear to be mortally damaged.
Mr Sarkozy would be the second successive French president, after Jacques Chirac, to face criminal charges for, in effect, illegally funding his career. But Nicolas Sarkozy is being accused of something far more serious – defrauding an elderly woman whose mental faculties were impaired.
Judge Gentil opted for the grave accusation of "abuse of weakness" because the time limit had passed for an investigation into illegal campaign financing. If ultimately charged and found guilty, Mr Sarkozy would face a prison sentence
At the heart of the accusation are two clandestine shipments of cash – amounting to €400,000 each – brought into France from Switzerland by Ms Bettencourt's financial advisers in February and April 2007. A statement to police by Ms Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout – later partly retracted – suggests that part of the cash was destined for Mr Sarkozy's campaign.-www.shafaqna.com/English