SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Twenty-nine people have been injured in clashes between police and protesters in the latest street demonstrations sparked by anger at Spain's economic crisis, emergency services said.
Around 1,000 protesters massed in front of a police barrier protecting parliament in Madrid on Thursday, calling for
the government and lawmakers to quit.
The demonstration coincided with the release of Spain's latest official unemployment figures which showed the jobless rate had surged past 27 percent, with 6.2 million people out of work.
A group of protesters hurled bottles at the police line and let off firecrackers, prompting riot police with shields and helmets to chase them along nearby avenues, beating some with batons.
Thirteen of those injured in the clashes were police officers, officials said.
Before the demonstration started police arrested four members of anarchist groups suspected of plotting to set fire to a bank and 11 people who blocked access to a university.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government was due on Friday to unveil a further package of economic reforms which he wants to have implemented by 2015. Government officials say the plan will tread a fine line between growth and austerity.
But, with millions people unemployed in the country, protesters on Thursday said the increasing austerity cuts were causing unfair suffering to the poor and complain that the political system is stacked against them.
As well as overseeing a bailout for Spain's banking sector, Rajoy has brought in spending cuts and labour reforms, since his conservative government took office in December 2011.
He says the steps are needed to fix the public finances and strengthen the economy and will help Spain save $196bn by 2014.
Rising unemployment in Spain has caused evictions to soar and forced tens of thousands of people to leave in search of work abroad.
The number of households in which all eligible members are unemployed reached 1.91 million in the first quarter, the statistics office said.
In neighbouring France, also hit by the financial crisis, unemployment reached its highest rate since 1997, according to data announced on Thursday.
Around 3.2 million people were out of work in the country, an 11.5 percent annual increase, the French labour ministry said. -www.shafaqna.com/English
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) - Bahrain security forces thwarted attacks and found caches of weapons including 1,000 petrol bombs in the run-up to last weekend's Formula One race, state media said as protests and sectarian tensions continued to simmer in the island kingdom.
Bahrain did not see a repeat of the mass demonstrations that overshadowed last year's race - though young men armed with rocks did clash with police in outlying villages, as they have done regularly since unrest erupted in early 2011. Protests in the Gulf Arab country, a Western ally that hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, broke out two years ago, with the Shi'ite-led opposition drawing thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms from the Sunni-led government. Witnesses at the Sakhir desert race circuit, about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of the capital Manama, said there was no sign of unrest in the immediate vicinity but protesters blocked several roads in villages near the capital. The opposition said the race was being used as a public relations stunt, but the government insisted it was a pure sporting event that should not be 'politicized'. Security sweeps ahead of this year's contest "thwarted a number of terrorist plots that aimed to affect normal life ... harm the reputation of the nation and commit terrorist acts against policemen", Bahrain's chief of public security, Major-General Tariq Al-Hassan, said according to the BNA agency. Security forces had found several weapon caches holding 1,000 petrol bombs, 19 mock bombs, bullets and homemade guns, he added. Hassan said security forces had also handled several incidents of rioting, including "acts of chaos and destruction" inside an industrial secondary school by students who had also blocked nearby roads and attacked cars, pedestrians and policemen, according to BNA. "Police at no point in time raided the school or attacked it," Hassan said. Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights had said on Sunday police had fired teargas at a secondary school in the city where students had been demonstrating. On Tuesday, Muhafdha added security forces had arrested up to 50 "pro-democracy activists" in the days preceding the race. Amnesty International said human rights activists reported dozens of protesters were arrested ahead of the race and Human Rights Watch said on April 10 that 20 opposition activists had been arrested in towns near the circuit. The government has denied those arrests have taken place. It has said several people accused of stealing and burning cars had been detailed. Widespread unrest forced the cancellation of the 2011 Formula One race and although the event went ahead in 2012, it was overshadowed by violent protests in the country. (This story is refiled to change the headline) (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Heavens) source : Reuters End
Bahrain did not see a repeat of the mass demonstrations that overshadowed last year's race - though young men armed with rocks did clash with police in outlying villages, as they have done regularly since unrest erupted in early 2011.
Protests in the Gulf Arab country, a Western ally that hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, broke out two years ago, with the Shi'ite-led opposition drawing thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms from the Sunni-led government.
Witnesses at the Sakhir desert race circuit, about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of the capital Manama, said there was no sign of unrest in the immediate vicinity but protesters blocked several roads in villages near the capital.
The opposition said the race was being used as a public relations stunt, but the government insisted it was a pure sporting event that should not be 'politicized'.
Security sweeps ahead of this year's contest "thwarted a number of terrorist plots that aimed to affect normal life ... harm the reputation of the nation and commit terrorist acts against policemen", Bahrain's chief of public security, Major-General Tariq Al-Hassan, said according to the BNA agency.
Security forces had found several weapon caches holding 1,000 petrol bombs, 19 mock bombs, bullets and homemade guns, he added.
Hassan said security forces had also handled several incidents of rioting, including "acts of chaos and destruction" inside an industrial secondary school by students who had also blocked nearby roads and attacked cars, pedestrians and policemen, according to BNA.
"Police at no point in time raided the school or attacked it," Hassan said.
Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha of the Bahrain Centre for Human rights had said on Sunday police had fired teargas at a secondary school in the city where students had been demonstrating.
On Tuesday, Muhafdha added security forces had arrested up to 50 "pro-democracy activists" in the days preceding the race.
Amnesty International said human rights activists reported dozens of protesters were arrested ahead of the race and Human Rights Watch said on April 10 that 20 opposition activists had been arrested in towns near the circuit.
The government has denied those arrests have taken place. It has said several people accused of stealing and burning cars had been detailed.
Widespread unrest forced the cancellation of the 2011 Formula One race and although the event went ahead in 2012, it was overshadowed by violent protests in the country.
(This story is refiled to change the headline)
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Heavens)
source : Reuters
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Tens of thousands of opposition members rallied against the pro-Russian policies of the new government.
Waving NATO, Azerbaijan and European Union flags, demonstrators said Georgia's place should be with the Western countries.
Many anti-government groups, among them president Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement, supported the rally.
Saakashvili joined the crowd in person and said since the new government has taken office, anti-democratic practices have transpired, some party members have been arrested or threatened, while some others were forced to quit their jobs.
Other opposition leaders criticized in the speeches they delivered the policies of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose government came to power in October elections.
Georgia's wealthiest man and among the world's wealthiest individuals thanks to his investments in Russia, Ivanishvili is a staunch supporter of Georgia's powerful northern neighbour.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the continued targeting of minors and the use of the internationally condemned terrorism law against them. This comes at a time of the ongoing culture of impunity and the apparent complicity of the public prosecution.
Security forces arrested the minor Hussein Hashem Fardan (17 years old) on Sunday evening 31 March, 2013 reportedly after an ambush carried out by civilian clothed police in a civilian cars. According to the sources who spoke to the BCHR, Hussein and his friends were stopped while they were at one of the petrol stations – AL-Noor station – in Sitra industrial area. One of Hussain’s friends who was with him at the time and released later on, stated that a man in civilian clothing walked up to the car they were in and put a gun to Hussain’s head, threatening to empty all bullets in his head if any of them attempted to resist. The civilian clothed police surrounded the station until they took Hussein and those with him to the criminal investigations building.
The witness stated that their faces were covered since beginning of their detention, and that they were beaten in the car that took them to the CID building. At the CID, Hussein was reportedly severely beaten with plastic hoses and kicked in the abdomen and the face. To add to that, he was reportedly sexually assaulted and threatened with raped until he collapsed. He was then forced to sign papers of unknown content. After that, he was transferred to the Central Police Station where officer Turki Al Majed, named in several other cases as being heavily involved in torture and other human rights violations, works, and who had reportedly previously threatened Hussain with arrest and torture. At the Central Police Station he was also reportedly tortured and forced to sign papers without reading them.
The lawyer of the detainee Hussein Hashem - Zahra Masood - reported in her twitter account that she was present at the public prosecution to attend the interrogation with her client, who seemed to be scared and confused as it was the first time for him to be detained, and as he had reportedly previously received threats of arrest and revenge from officer Turki Al Majid. The lawyer also confirmed witnessing marks from beatings on his face and swelling in the head, which confirmed reports that he was subjected to ill-treatment at the CID building; where he was questioned before being transferred to the public prosecution.
At the public prosecution building, an investigation was held with Hussein Fardan and he was charged with detonating a bomb for terrorist purposes. Hussein denied the accusations against him and told the prosecutor about being beaten with a plastic hose to confess, adding that he was threatened by the interrogators to have him back to the building of investigations and to torture him in the event of his denial of the charges against him. Despite the clarity of the marks of beatings on the body of Hussein Fardan, the prosecutor refused to take any steps to protect Hussein from further abuse, renewing his detention for 15 days pending investigation. The General Attorney refused to open an investigation into the allegations made by the minor Hussein Fardan about being subjected to abuse and ill-treatment. After that, Hussain was returned to the Central Police Station.
On Wednesday, 3 April 2013, and specifically at 9:30am, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights received information stating that the minor Hussein Fardan was taken back to the Public Prosecution again without contacting his lawyer, and when the lawyer went to inquire about the reason for taking Hussein to the prosecution again, they denied his presence there.
The family of Hussein Fardan reported that this was not the first time Hussein Fardan was wanted; as the authorities have been targeting him since 2010. Hussain was 13 years old at the time. The house of Hussein Fardan was raided more than 10 times, at different periods including 6 raids in November 2012. In one of the raids, a group of civilians vandalized the contents of Hussein’s room and took his clothes. When his brother inquired about the reason of their actionns, he was threatened to be beaten and they left the house.
Photo of Hussein’s room after being vandalized during a house raid
Based on the above, Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdon, the United Nations, and all other allies and relevant institutions to put pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:
1. Immediately release Hussein Fardan who is a minor, as well as all other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
2. Immediately annul the law of terrorism, which has been criticized internationally for being very vague and used specifically during politically motivated cases.
3. To immediately set up an independent committee from civil society to look into the claims and allegations of torture made by civilians.
4. Put an end to the culture of impunity and hold accountable all officials for violations committed, including those in high positions and members of the ruling family.
source : BCHR
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Hundreds of thousands of people have held protests in Bangladesh to demand that the government introduce an anti-blasphemy law that would include the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam.
Protest organisers called Saturday's rally the "long march", with many travelling from remote villages to the capital, Dhaka's Motijheel area that became a sea of white skull caps and robes.
Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist group which draws support from tens of thousands of religious seminaries, converged on Dhaka's main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting "God is great - hang the atheist bloggers".
"I've come here to fight for Islam. We won't allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed," said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka who walked 20km.
The religious group, which has the backing of country's largest party Jamaat-e-Islami, organised the rally in support of its 13-point demand including enactment of a blasphemy law to prosecute and hang what they call atheist bloggers.
They defied a pro-government national strike by secular protesters - who staged a smaller rival protest in Dhaka - aimed at foiling the Islamists' march.
"Around 200,000 people attended the rally," Dhaka's deputy police commissioner Sheikh Nazmul Alam told AFP news agency, while protest organisers put the number at over half a million.
A local leader of the ruling Awami League party was killed in Bhanga, a town southwest of Dhaka, when Hefazat-e-Islami party supporters clashed with pro-government activists.
Al Jazeera's correspondent, who cannot be named for safety reasons, speaking from Dhaka, said that very huge crowds had gathered.
She said that while there was a lot of support for the march from the countryside where Hefazat-e-Islam is good at mobilising people from, the country is very divided.
It was the latest protest to rack Bangladesh, deepening tensions between secularists and the largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, whose leaders are under trial for crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of independence.
The bloggers, who deny they are atheists, have sought capital punishment for those found guilty of war crimes during the nation's liberation war.
Both secular and conservative Muslim protesters have taken to the streets over the war crimes trials, and more than 70 people have been killed in the violent protests that have taken place since February when a prominent Jamaat leader was sentenced to death.
A well-known protester and blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed reportedly by Jamaat supporters.
Bangladesh says as many as three million people were killed and thousands of women raped by Pakistani troops and local collaborators during the war.
Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister and Awami League leader, initiated the war crimes trials in 2010. Ten of the defendants convicted or on trial are from Jamaat-e-Islami, while two others belong to main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Shakil Ahmed of Ekattor television in Bangladesh, said that the protests on Saturday were peaceful and had been fuelled by misinformation on both sides.
"Wrong information has been spread out by some of the activists," said Ahmed
'More of a reaction'
Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune, speaking to Al Jazeera's via Skype from Dhaka, said that while the government was had maintained a "neutral line" and was "scrambling" to prevent an "explosive" situation, he believed it was unlikely that a blasphemy law would be introduced.
Sobhan said that the march was less about a blasphemy law but was more of a reaction to calls for the death penalty for political party leaders being tried for war crimes.
Our correspondent said that the real pressure would be felt on the country's economy.
"Every time there is a strike it shuts down the economy ... Economic issues are likely to put pressure on the ruling Awami party."
Last week, four online writers were arrested on charges of hurting religious sentiment through their Internet writings against Islam.
Sobhan said the arrests were being seen as a "heavy-handed measure" to appease Islamists.
Muhiuddin Khan, Bangladesh home minister, said on Wednesday the government had identified 11 bloggers, including the four detainees, who had hurt the religious sentiments of the nation's majority Muslim population.
The government has blocked about a dozen websites and blogs to stem the unrest. It has also set up a panel, which includes intelligence chiefs, to monitor blasphemy on social media.
Under the country's cyber laws, a blogger or Internet writer can face up to ten years in jail for defaming a religion.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Cypriots have held a demonstration against the restrictions imposed on the European country's banks following an international bailout agreement.
On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the parliament in Nicosia and torched European Union flags. They also shouted slogans against the EU.
The protest was staged by members of a grassroot movement, called “Wake up Cyprus”.
The demonstrators briefly blocked traffic in the street leading to the parliament.
On March 25, Nicosia inked a 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout deal, which includes a tax of up to 40 percent on deposits of over 100,000 euros in Cyprus’ two biggest banks, with the "troika" of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union.
Based on the deal, wealthy depositors in Cypriot banks stand to lose up to 60 percent of their savings.
On Monday, a Cypriot news network published the names of 132 companies and individuals alleged to have transferred money out of the country before the government accepted the bailout deal to save the cash-strapped nation from bankruptcy.
A judicial probe is set to investigate reports that family members of leading politicians used tip-offs to protect their assets before the deal was struck.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Cyprus said on Monday that it suspended its operations in Romania for a week.
According to bank spokeswoman Liana Voinescu, ten branches of the bank were suspended across Romania.
Officials said they also plan to sell the bank's ten branches in the country. - 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) – At least 40 people have been injured in clashes between anti-government protesters, Muslim Brotherhood supporters, and Egyptian police.
On Friday, thousands of Egyptians held nationwide demonstrations against the government of President Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader.
Clashes broke out after anti-government demonstrators ransacked three Brotherhood offices in the capital Cairo, in the second-largest city of Alexandria, and in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla. According to witnesses, assailants also torched one of the buildings.
Anti-government protesters fired birdshot at Brotherhood supporters and attacked them with rocks, knives, and sticks and engaged in fist fights with them.
In response, police used tear gas and water cannon to turn back thousands of people from the Brotherhood’s offices.
Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters outside the Brotherhood’s main headquarters in Cairo’s al-Muqattam district.
Meanwhile, thousands of policemen went on strike and refused to confront the protesters in several parts of the country.
The protests against Morsi have been called by opposition parties, which also demanded snap presidential election and a new constitution.
The protesters accuse Morsi of using his power to promote the interests of the Brotherhood.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Yasser Mehres blamed the opposition parties for Friday's violence.
"Right now, Brotherhood buses are being burnt and there are serious injuries with people in critical condition," he said on Friday night. "It is not acceptable that Egyptians watch TV and see this farce taking place as Egyptians fight one another."
"The protesters' demands should be delivered to the government and president, not the Brotherhood office because even though the president came from the group, he makes decisions that are separate from the group," Mehres added.
The Egyptians launched the revolution against the pro-Israeli regime on January 25, 2011, which eventually brought an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Large crowds of people have staged a massive march in the occupied West Bank in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Saturday in the central city of Ramallah to voice their support for Palestinians who remain in Israeli jails without charge or trial.
They held placards with pictures of the jailed Palestinians. Some were dressed as Palestinian prisoners, handcuffed and blindfolded.
The demonstrators marched from the city center to the Palestinian Authority (PA) offices, where the PA Minister of Prison Affairs Issa Qaraqa made a speech, calling for an immediate release of all prisoners on hunger strike.
In February, thousands of Palestinian prisoners went on a one-day hunger strike in protest at the death of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, who allegedly had died of cardiac arrest in Israel's Magiddo prison.
The death also prompted Qaraqa to demand an international investigation into the incident.
More than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli prisons. Among the inmates are Ayman Sharawneh, Samer al-Issawi, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tareq Qaa'dan, who have been refusing food for months.
The four embarked on a hunger strike to protest against their administrative detention, a controversial practice used by Tel Aviv that allows the Israeli authorities to incarcerate Palestinians indefinitely without charging them or holding a trial.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV