Reader’s links for March 6 – 2016

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About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

100 Replies to “Reader’s links for March 6 – 2016”

  1. Austria to shun refugee quota system, says defence minister

    Austria does not want to take part in any quota system for distributing refugees among European countries because it has done enough on its own, its defence minister was quoted as saying. The comments by Social Democrat Hans Peter Doskozil to the Oesterreich newspaper threaten to make even more complicated an emergency EU summit with Turkey on Monday on handling the worst refugee crisis in generations.Austria – the last stop before Germany, the top destination for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and beyond – has already come under fire from the European Commission and human rights groups for capping its intake of refugees.

    The Alpine republic of 8.5 million people got 90,000 asylum requests last year and has curtailed the number this year while imposing daily limits on the numbers it processes. “We are taking the lion’s share and taking in 37,500 asylum seekers this year alone. Now the others are called upon. Why should Austria take refugees from Greece? That would send the wrong signal,” Doskozil was quoted as saying. He reiterated Vienna’s call for a quota system, saying many countries that are net recipients of EU funding had to step up and do their share to resolve a difficult situation with thousands of people stranded on Greece’s border with Macedonia. In a separate report,

    Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag said Switzerland was set to take in 600 asylum seekers from Greece who had been registered by Greek authorities and had a good chance of being allowed to stay in the neutral Alpine country. Although Switzerland is not an EU member, the Swiss government agreed last year to take in 1,500 asylum seekers under an EU relocation programme.

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/region/07-Mar-2016/austria-to-shun-refugee-quota-system-says-defence-minister

  2. Pakistani lawyers’ group behind spike in blasphemy cases (reuters, Mar 6, 2016)
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-blasphemy-lawyers-insight-idUSKCN0W812I

    “A little-known alliance of hundreds of lawyers in Pakistan is behind the rise in prosecutions for blasphemy, a crime punishable by death that goes to the heart of an ideological clash between reformers and religious conservatives.

    The group, whose name translates as The Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood, offers free legal advice to complainants and has packed courtrooms with representatives, a tactic critics say is designed to help it gain convictions.

    The stated mission of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum and its leader Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry is uncompromising: to use its expertise and influence to ensure that anyone insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad is charged, tried and executed.

    “Whoever does this (blasphemy), the punishment is only death. There is no alternative,” Chaudhry told supporters crammed into his small office behind the towering red-brick High Court building in the eastern city of Lahore.

    The campaign could complicate the government’s tentative efforts to reform blasphemy legislation, a tough task in a country where support for the law is widespread.

    Chaudhry was the defense lawyer for Mumtaz Qadri, executed on Monday for gunning down the popular governor of Punjab province in 2011 over his criticism of the blasphemy law.

    Chaudhry argued, ultimately unsuccessfully, that the bodyguard was justified in killing Salman Taseer, because he committed blasphemy by publicly questioning the law.

    In death, Qadri was a hero for many. Tens of thousands of people gathered in a park in the city of Rawalpindi for his funeral on Tuesday, showering his casket with flowers.

    “He lives! Qadri lives!” supporters around the coffin cried. “From your blood, the revolution will come!”

    Even discussing blasphemy is a challenge in Pakistan, and officials and activists say accusations can be used by complainants to settle personal scores and intimidate liberal journalists, lawyers and politicians.

    At the same time, authorities are seeking to reduce room for abuse by insisting senior police officers are involved in cases and ruling that criticizing the law does not constitute blasphemy itself.

    Qadri’s execution was seen as a sign itself that the government was determined to take firmer action, and it coincides with a nationwide crackdown by the powerful military on Islamist militants and their religious allies.

    JAILS FILLING UP

    Since Khatm-e-Nubuwwat was founded 15 years ago, the number of criminal blasphemy cases filed in Punjab, the group’s home base and Pakistan’s most populous province, had tripled to 336 by 2014, according to police figures.

    It fell to 210 in 2015 as stricter provincial rules were applied, but critics said the number was still too high.

    Chaudhry told Reuters he had personally been involved in more than 50 criminal blasphemy cases, and said his group had grown to 700 lawyers in Punjab, where the majority of blasphemy cases are heard.

    “If they hear of a complaint, the lawyers will come to the person and offer to take the case for free,” said a policeman, who asked not to be named to avoid reprisals.

    “Sometimes they arrive with people and encourage them to make a complaint.”

    Chaudhry said his group represented almost every complainant in cases across Punjab province. Reuters could not independently confirm this.

    Reuters was also unable to determine if the movement has funding or any other form of backing from a specific group or groups, but Chaudhry said its motivation was not financial.

    “Everyone knows that we are the forum that does these cases voluntarily,” he told Reuters. “So they contact us and tell us that there is a case to do.”

    He said member lawyers investigated cases to ensure they were genuine, although they had not found an unjustified blasphemy complaint yet.

    The law dates back to colonial times, but was rarely implemented until about 20 years ago.

    It states that anyone found to have defiled the name of Prophet Mohammad in writing or speech, including by “innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly”, should be punished with life imprisonment or death.

    In 1990, that was strengthened to “death and nothing else”.

    No one in Pakistan has been executed for blasphemy so far, but jails are filling up with those sentenced to death, and there have been sporadic assassinations of the accused and people involved in their defense.

    At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

    Some recent blasphemy cases made headlines around the world, including that of Christian woman Asia Bibi, whose conviction drew international attention including from the Pope. Her case was prosecuted by the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat.

    Reema Omer, legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, an advocacy group of lawyers and judges, said the rise in blasphemy cases was deepening fears of speaking out.

    “After the launch of our report (into blasphemy legislation), we were told by hosts of TV talk shows that they have been cautioned against ‘going too far’ in their critique of the blasphemy law, especially after recent cases of blasphemy allegations against anchor persons and media houses,” she said.

    CROWDS AT COURT

    Chaudhry and his colleagues sometimes arrive in court with dozens of lawyers and supporters, say defense attorneys.

    “Their conduct in these cases is … intimidatory, 100 percent,” said defense lawyer Saif-ul-Malook, who said he had defended blasphemy cases in courtrooms full of supporters of the forum.

    In one case, a crowd of lawyers left him barely any space to stand and shouted slogans when he spoke to the judge to present his case.

    Chaudhry denied the accusations, saying that he was the victim of intimidation by human rights groups, though he did not elaborate.

    “We have never had any complaints,” he said.

    Family members of some blasphemy defendants disagreed.

    “From our side there would be one or two lawyers, but from their side there were eight or nine lawyers, 10 or 12 clerics,” said Muhammed Aman Ullah Khan, whose wife is being prosecuted for blasphemy by a complainant whose team of lawyers is led by Chaudhry.

    “They said it in exactly these words: ‘If you want to be shot, then sit behind her [in court]. And if you don’t want to be shot, then may you never be seen here again.'”

    Chaudhry denied the accusation.

    “This has never happened. We respect the families (of the accused).”

    That case is being heard at the Lahore High Court.

    CHANGES OPPOSED

    Last year, Punjab passed laws requiring blasphemy accusations to be investigated by a senior police officer.

    But some police sources said some senior officers were reluctant to be drawn into cases, and many were still being handled by more junior staff.

    “People become so emotional when blasphemy is mentioned that they want to take justice into their own hands,” said Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan.

    He said some blasphemy accusations were made for ulterior motives, including the theft of land from religious minorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country of 190 million.

    “The matter is often exploited … You cannot say that this (law) is exploited all the time, but it is very common,” he told Reuters.

    Also last year, the Supreme Court ruled that criticism of the law did not constitute blasphemy. In January, one of the country’s most senior clerics told Reuters that he may be willing to review the law.

    However, Khatm-e-Nubuwwat’s leaders oppose change, saying it could encourage violence.

    “If, God forbid, this law is finished,” said forum secretary general Tahir Sultan Khokhar, “then obviously people have been given the right to decide with their own hands, to kill.””

  3. reuters – U.S. builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report

    The United States has nearly finished setting up an air base in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria and was proceeding with the construction of a second base for dual military and civilian use, a Kurdish website said on Sunday.

    A spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said, however, the United States was not taking control of any airfields in Syria.

    The Erbil-based news website BasNews, quoting a military source in the Kurdish-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), said most of the work on a runway in the oil town of Rmeilan in Hasaka was complete while a new air base southeast of Kobani, straddling the Turkish border, was being constructed.

    The source in the U.S.-backed alliance that also includes Arab armed groups told the news portal scores of U.S. experts and technicians were involved in the project.

    Syrian Kurdish officials had recently said the Rmeilan airstrip was being used by U.S. military helicopters for logistics and deliveries.

    The United States sent dozens of special operations troops to northern Syria last year to advise opposition forces in their fight against the militant group Islamic State. They have also dropped supply munitions to rebels in the province.

    A CENTCOM spokesman said any suggestion U.S. forces were in control of any airfields in Syria was incorrect.

    “Our location and troop strength remains small and in keeping with what has been previously briefed by defense officials,” he said in a statement. “That being said, U.S. forces in Syria are consistently looking for ways to increase efficiency for logistics and personnel recovery support.”

    Last month, U.S. advisors backed by coalition air strikes assisted Kurdish-led Syrian rebels in encircling and capturing the strategic Syrian town of Shadadi from Islamic State but were away from the frontlines, U.S. officials said.

    The Syrian Kurds have established control over wide areas of northern Syria since the country erupted into civil war in 2011, and their YPG militia has become a major partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

    U.S. military ties with the Syrian Kurds have grown deeper despite the concerns of NATO ally Turkey, which views the Syrian Kurdish PYD party as a terrorist group because of its links to the PKK, which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.

    The special U.S. presidential envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, Brett McGurk, visited Kurdish-controlled northern Syria several weeks ago in what appeared to be the first declared trip to Syrian territory by an Obama administration official in three years.

    McGurk said on Saturday in Baghdad the coalition was stepping up pressure on Islamic State and that the militants were losing ground in both Syria and Iraq.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa-base-idUSKCN0W80R7

  4. DIALY MAIL – Desperate migrants scramble for firewood after truck delivers supplies to refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonia border as EU leaders prepare to urge Turkey to agree to ‘large scale’ deportations

    Greece is already struggling with 30,000 migrants and is expected to receive ‘another 100,000’ by the end of March
    Turkey will be asked to take back ‘large scale’ deportations from Greece of migrants that are not classed as refugees
    Comes as 18 migrants were reported to have died after boat sank in the Aegean Sea during crossing from Turkey

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3478861/EU-leaders-set-push-Turkey-agree-large-scale-deportation-economic-migrants-Greece-amid-fears-fresh-surge-100-000-warmer-spring-months.html

    =======================================================
    DAILY MAIL – Macedonia reveals plans to build 200 mile long fence on its border with Greece protected by guards armed with Tasers ahead of EU summit on how to deal with the migrant crisis

    Macedonia wants to extend 19-mile razor-wire fence on Greek border
    It would be 200 miles long and protected by guards armed with Tasers
    Migrants have previously tried to force their way past existing fence
    Plan seemingly in line with EU agreement to close migrant route

    […]The former Yugoslav republic, which is not a member of the EU, has sent a list of demands including bullet-proof vests, truncheons, handcuffs, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and grenades filled with rubber balls.

    Officials in Skopje have also asked for 35 tasers and a sound cannon that would be fitted to an armoured vehicle and used to break up crowds by emitting a pain-inducing noise.[…]

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3479372/Macedonia-reveals-plans-build-200-mile-long-fence-border-Greece-protected-guards-armed-Tasers-ahead-EU-summit-deal-migrant-crisis.html

  5. DAILY MAIL – UK naval ship on way to help ‘smash’ migrant smugglers: Vessel will start patrols in days to spot boats so they can be intercepted by the Turkish coastguard

    Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, is expected to start operations
    It will pass information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept boats
    Two UK Border Force cutters will be sent as part of international response
    Downing Street said the PM will call for efforts to ‘smash’ trafficking gangs

    Britain is sending a naval ship to the Aegean to strengthen efforts to smash people-smuggling gangs exploiting the migration crisis.

    Mounts Bay, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel that carries a Wildcat helicopter, is expected to start operations in the coming days, spotting smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.

    It will pass the information to Turkish coastguards so they can intercept the boats.[…]

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3479641/UK-naval-ship-way-help-smash-migrant-smugglers-Vessel-start-patrols-days-spot-boats-intercepted-Turkish-coastguard.html
    ===============================================================
    DAILY MAIL – All aboard the Jungle bus! Actress Juliet Stevenson buys double-decker on eBay for £5,500 to use as a children’s centre in Calais

    Stevenson, 59, drove sky blue bus into shanty town in France on Friday
    It comes after demolition squads destroyed part of huge refugee camp
    Bus will replace old children’s centre knocked down in other section
    Growing concerns about number of unaccompanied children in camp

    The 59-year-old was joined by members of the Cambridge University Calais Refugees Action Group, who spent the weekend helping to set up the children’s centre.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3479687/All-aboard-Jungle-bus-Actress-Juliet-Stevenson-buys-double-decker-eBay-5-500-use-children-s-centre-Calais.html

    Channel 4 – Juliet Stevenson: Calais camp is a godforsaken place

    Cathy Newman talks to actress Juliet Stevenson about the plight of child refugees in the Calais ‘Jungle’. She’s one of a number of celebrities who have pledged to sponsor camp children in their bid to come to the UK.

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