A Pakistani man and two Frenchmen of Pakistani origin, who were at first suspected of helping would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid, were instead found guilty of links to the Jammu and Kashmir separatist group Lashkar-e-Taiba June 16. The Paris court sentenced the main defendant, Ghulam Rama, 67, a Pakistani who headed the Chemin Droit (Straight Path) humanitarian group in France, to five years in prison. Two men who apparently trained for insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir with Rama's help, Hassan el-Cheguer and Hakim Mokhfi, both 31, were given four-year prison sentences. They were all charged with criminal association in connection with a terrorist enterprise, a sweeping charge widely used in terror cases in France that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
Police arrested 11 men June 15 on charges of belonging to a Syrian-based group that recruits suicide bombers to attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Authorities said the recruiting network has ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. More than 500 heavily-armed police held predawn raids in six cities to grab the men.
Ana Uzelac of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting's Tribunal Update, which monitors the war crimes trials at The Hague, offers this account (reprinted by the Bosnian Institute News) of the implications of the Srebrenica massacre video which has emerged. If these odious "Scorpions" were really under the control of the Serbian Interior Ministry, defenses of Milosevic as out of the Bosnian loop start to look pretty specious. Writes Uzelac:
In a detailed analysis of the European Union's counter-terrorism initiatives in the area of criminal law since 9-11, Amnesty International claims the absence of concrete human rights safeguards in many of these initiatives is likely to undermine efforts to fight terrorism in Europe. "Respect for human rights is often portrayed as hampering efforts to defeat terrorism but this new analysis shows how genuine security is undermined if basic human rights and the rule of law are not respected. It is in the breach, not in the protection of human rights that security is put at risk. That goes for the EU as well as anywhere else in the world," Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International's EU Office told a press conference in Brussels May 31.
France has rejected the European Union's constitution in a national referendum, in a blow to President Jacques Chirac and European integration. 56% voted against the treaty, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said, citing official results with 90% of ballots counted. The defeat, the first veto of an EU pact by a founding member, may kill the constitution, which requires the approval of all 25 nations. It may also end Chirac's hopes of seeking re-election in 2007, after his failure to curb unemployment at a 5-year high. The result may set back plans by countries including Turkey and Croatia to join. The euro fell after the exit polls.
Police in Edinburgh are asking for a ban on a major anti-war rally slated for the Scottish capital during the G8 summit meeting, alleging that its organizers have been linked with "violence and disruption." The UK's Stop the War Coalition wants to hold the rally four days before the G8 summit opens the first week of July at the nearby resort of Gleneagles.
A team from the United States is expected to arrive in Bulgaria within days for talks on possible US military bases, Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov told a news conference on May 17. Svinarov’s announcement on May 17 confirmed a statement by Bulgarian armed forces chief Nikola Kolev made a few days earlier. "Bulgaria also hopes to get support for the modernisation of its army - rather than financial remuneration - in exchange for the use of its military facilities," Svinarov said. “A decision when the foreign bases will start operating in Bulgaria will be taken by Parliament under national law." He said he expected such a decision by the end of this year. (Sofia Echo, May 23) Graf Ignatievo, Bezmer, Novo Selo and Sarafovo airport, near Burgas on the Black Sea coast, are named as locations for the new US bases. (Sofia News Agency, May 18)
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who leads a Moscow-aligned Soviet-nostalgist authoritarian regime, has got to be concerned about the recent unrest in Uzbekistan--especially coming on the heels of regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan over the past year-and-a-half. However oppressive the situation in post-Soviet despotisms, it is clear Washington is seeking to exploit the situation to expand U.S. influence in the post-Soviet sphere, just as in the Arab world. (Of course this, in turn, allows the despots to potray all opposition as "American agents.")