Crimean Tatars to hold referendum on autonomy

National council opts to hold referendum on autonomy after Russia illegally annexes peninsula.


An extraordinary session of the Crimean Tatars’ national assembly voted Saturday to hold a referendum on autonomy after Russia unilaterally annexed the region earlier this month, a move the Tatars consider illegitimate.

“In the life of every nation there comes a time when it must make decisions that determine its future,” the chairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov, said before the 250 delegates who had gathered in the former capital of the Crimean Tatar Khanate, Bakhchisaray. “I ask you to approve the start of political and legal procedures aimed at creating ethnic and territorial autonomy for the Crimean Tatars on their historic homeland,” Chubarov said.

Crimea’s indigenous population, the 300,000-strong Tatar community boycotted the March 16 referendum that saw the region vote for unification with Russia.

Deported en masse in 1944 by Moscow to Central Asia, the Tatars are deeply suspicious of the Kremlin’s intentions for the community.

“I never again thought we would see Russian soldiers in our villages again, Crimean Tatar Women’s League Chair Safinar Dzhemileva said in an interview with AA. “”If you have a heart and a brain, anyone would be scared. We are all scared. We are scared for our children, the elderly…our homeland. If you want to know what will happen to us, just go to a village somewhere in the middle of Russia to see how ethnic minorities live. Alcoholism, drugs, and unemployment are rampant. Its absolute despair…they are simply slaves.”

Dzhemileva’s husband, renowned Soviet dissident and current Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemilev, will discuss the plight of the Crimean Tatars with the UN Security Council next week.

In addition to boycotting the Russian-backed referendum, the Tatars fear Moscow will outlaw community councils, including the mejlis and national assembly, as Russian law bans represented bodies outside the legislative and executive branches of government.

The community was also alarmed by comments from Crimea’s Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev, who said certain land plots held by the Crimean Tatars would have to be returned to the state and the inhabitants relocated.

The Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to dissolve. Many illegally acquired empty land plots to build new homes. Over the years, their property rights were upheld by Ukraine as ownership was formally transferred to those residing or working on the sites.

“We’ve been receiving signals from the so-called Vice Premier of the Crimean Parliament about forcing some families to leave. They haven’t given any specifics as to what their comments mean,” Mejlis Vice Chairman Ayder Adzhimambetov said in an interview with AA “The Crimean Tatars have come home. For the last two decades we’ve demanded that the government uphold our constitutional rights. We will not abandon any of our land,” he added.

A date for the upcoming referendum on autonomy has not been set.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Palestinian official hopes for quick resolution to prisoner release delays

A Palestinian man is arrested by Israeli security forces during clashes following a protest of Palestinians against the expansion of the nearby Israeli settlement of Ofra on March 28, 2014 in the West Bank village of Silwad, north of Ramallah.

A senior Palestinian official said a release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners would not go ahead on Saturday as envisaged but he hoped there would only be short delay.

“Today the prisoners will not be released… maybe in the coming days,” Issa Qaraqe, the minister of prisoner affairs, told AFP.

“There are efforts to solve the crisis and I believe that in 24 hours everything will be clearer.”

Under the deal that relaunched peace talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinians held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestine not pressing its statehood claims at the United Nations.

So far, Israel has freed 78 prisoners in three batches but ministers had warned they would block the final release, which had been anticipated for Saturday, if the Palestinians refused to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has not spelled out his terms for prolonging talks, saying only that he is not even prepared to discuss the issue until the prisoners are freed.

There has been no official Israeli update on the last batch of prisoners. The Palestinians want it to include Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, a demand hotly opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners and by hardliners within his own Likud party.

The Israeli cabinet convenes on Sunday morning for its weekly meeting.

Palestinian official Jibril Rajub, a member of Fatah’s central committee, told AFP Friday that “the Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29.”

Rajub called the Israeli move a “slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts,” and said the Palestinians would resume their international diplomatic offensive against Israel as a consequence.

“Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation,” he said.

A poll published Saturday by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion said 87 percent of those surveyed believed the Palestinian leadership should renew its UN efforts if the prisoners are not freed.

The prisoner release “is a prerequisite for any future progress of the negotiations,” the center said, as the overwhelming majority of Palestinians consider it to be “the most crucial issue that must be treated in order to continue with the peace process.”

The talks have been teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks, with US special envoy Martin Indyk meeting the Palestinian leader in Ramallah a day later.

On Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied reports that negotiations had already collapsed.

“Any reports that suggest the talks are off are inaccurate,” she told journalists.

“Ambassador Indyk and the negotiating team remain closely engaged with both parties on the ground and will continue to work over the coming days to help them bridge the gaps and determine the path forward.”

Israeli media say Netanyahu could give a green light to the prisoner release if the US frees Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and condemned to life imprisonment for spying on the United States for Israel.

Israel is not commenting on such reports, with Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev saying only that in general the spy’s fate is “often raised at high-level meetings between Israelis and Americans.”

On Wednesday, Psaki said “there are currently no plans to release Jonathan Pollard.”

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Israel Must Be Held Accountable

Citizens from 20 countries came to Istanbul to hear testimony on March 27, 2014 against Israeli officials and to offer their support to the victims on board the Mavi Marmara.


Israelis Attack the MV Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, 2010

Israeli commandos Attack the MV Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, 2010

Internationals from 20 countries came to Istanbul to hear testimony on March 27, 2014 against Israeli officials and to offer their support to the victims on board the Mavi Marmara. Many of these supporters had also been attacked on other flotilla boats; suffering wounds, unlawful detention, torture and theft of money, credit cards and possessions at the hands of the Israeli militants.

“The real purpose of these hearings is to hold Israel accountable,” said American, David Schermerhorn, passenger on board Challenger 1. “In the past, Israel has committed horrendous actions against Palestinians and their supporters.”

We are hopeful that the court in Turkey will issue arrest warrants for the Israeli officials who ordered the raid on six civilian boats in international waters, and that these warrants will be turned over and executed by Interpol.

Proceedings are ongoing or will be considered in the UK, Spain and South Africa, and prosecutors have been approached by passengers in other countries who were attacked on May 31, 2010.

Mavi Marmara in Istanbul harbor after her return to Istanbul, December 26, 2010

Mavi Marmara in Istanbul harbor after her return to Istanbul, December 26, 2010

Passengers will be available to talk to the media after the press conference, where the next stage of the hearings will be announced. The UK, Spain, Greece, US, Canada, Sweden and France are all represented, as well as passengers from the Middle East and Far East.

5th hearing of Mavi Marmara trial


Israeli armed forces carried out an attack against Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, and other ships in the Freedom Flotilla as the flotilla was travelling in the international waterson 31 May, 2010. Nine humanitarian activists Furkan Doğan, Cevdet Kılıçlar, İbrahim Bilgen, Necdet Yıldırım, Fahri Yaldız, Ali Haydar Bengi, Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Cengiz Songür and journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar were killed in the attack while more than 50 passengers were injured. Israel illegally violated the passengers’ right to communicate and the passengers were illegally jailed by the country.

Following the Mavi Marmara attack, families of the martyrs and other passengers on board the ship began a major legal struggle against Israel. The four accused in the trial are former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Gen. Rau Gavriel Ashkenazi, Naval Forces Commander Eliezer Alfred Maron, Israel’s Chief of Israeli Intelligence Amos Yadlin and Air Forces Intelligence Director Avishay Levi.

Istanbul Chief Prosecutor in Turkey prepared the indictment on 29 May 2012, as a result of the attack on the flotilla, and have requested the following charges to include: “Willful killing”, “attempt of willful killing”, “intentionally causing serious injury to body or health”, “plundering”, “hijacking or seizing maritime vessels”, “intentionally causing damage to property”, “restriction of people’s freedom and instigating violent crime” for each and every person involved in the attack, which will add to a total of thousands of years to the final prison sentence.

Evidence has been shown that in order for the attacks to go ahead, the direct order had come from well-known senior high ranking officials. Statements in Israeli media and the evidence given during the Turkell Commission admissions have formed part of the court case against four senior military officials that were presented to the Istanbul Magistrates Court for “inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing.” The four officials, Israel’s former chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gavriel Ashkenazi, along with former Israeli Navy head Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former Israel Air Force intelligence chief Avishai Levy and former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin have been served tried as escapee defendants.

The first hearing was held on the 6th, 7th and 9th November 2012, further hearings were held on the 21st February 2013, 21st May 2013 and 10th October 2013.

During the hearings, the court heard from 50 foreign witnesses from USA, Bahrain, Belgium, Algeria, Indonesia, South Afrida, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Macedonia, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Yemen, Syria and Greece. There were a total of 195 people from Turkey who have suffered as a consequence of the flotilla raid in the hearings.

Meaning of the case filed in Turkey

In consideration of the fact that both Turkey and Israel signed European Convention on Extradition (SİDAS), if the İstanbul court convicts the suspects, Israel will need to extradite them.

In addition, the Turkey branch Interpol will be able to ask the General Secretariat of Interpol to issue red notice for the suspects for the execution of the rulings of the İstanbul 7th High Criminal Court or arrest warrants issued by the court earlier. If these happen, Israel will need to extradite the suspects to Turkey.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Morocco hosts seminars and vigils in solidarity with Palestinian people


RABAT, (PIC)– A group of civil organizations operating in Morocco on Friday launched events to commemorate the Palestinian Land Day, which falls on March 30.

The events started on Friday with a reception for the Palestinian activist Zaid Shuaibi, a member of the national committee for boycott, divestment and sanctions (against Israel), and an open meeting with activists in the central headquarters of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights in Rabat.

These associations intend to stage a vigil on Sunday in the Moroccan capital Rabat, and on Monday they will organize a seminar with participation of the Palestinian activist Zaid Shuaibi and activist Sion Asidon, in Marrakech.

They also called upon all human rights, women and political organizations and all the freedom fighters to take part in these events, in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle for their legitimate rights against the Israeli occupation and settlement activities.

The organizations participating in these actions include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Initiative (BDS – Maroc), the Moroccan – Palestinian Solidarity Association, Moroccan Association for Human Rights, the Moroccan Observatory against Normalization, National Working Group for Palestine, the Moroccan Association for supporting the Palestinian struggle, and the National Union for higher education.

For its part, the al-Adl wal Ihsan group in Morocco called on all conscientious forces in the world, concerned with the Palestinian issue, to continue supporting the case and reveal the truth of the Israeli racism.

It urged in a statement on Friday published on its official website the activists and supporters of Jerusalem and Palestine to teach the nation’s youth about the Arab – Israeli conflict, to present to the young generations the Palestinian cities, villages and holy sites, and to continue organizing solidarity activities including marches and meetings.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Syrian Coalition: Russia’s Statements Regarding a Chemical Weapon Free Zone Lack Sincerity

Hisham Marwa, member of the legal committee, criticized Russian Foreign Ministry’s statements which said that the FSA’s progress in the Syrian coast will hinder the handover of chemical weapons within the deadline and kill all chances of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis. “The Russian statements are illogical and show lack of sincerity in the quest to get a zone free of the chemical weapons. These remarks are not a prediction or assessment of reality, but a reflection of the political plan which the Assad regime will follow with his regional allies with regard to chemical weapons. It seems the Russians ignore that the Assad regime has missed the deadline for the handover of its chemical weapons cache even though there were no military operations near the Syrian coast. The Assad regime has always wriggled out of its international obligations, like when it agreed to open humanitarian corridors for all the besieged areas.” Marwa went on: “The Russian statements are synonymous with the statements of the Assad regime’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari who hinted that regime forces may commit a massacre using chemical weapons if rebels advanced more on the Syrian coast. “we are afraid of a possible rebel attack on convoys carrying chemical weapons near the Syrian coast. Rebels may use these weapons to implicate government forces. Rebels also may try to hinder the handover of chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons according to the agreed on deadline,” Jaafari said yesterday. Haitham al-Maleh, head of the legal committee, said earlier that Jaafari’s remarks reflect the regime’s lack of seriousness in relinquishing its chemical weapons and its defeat in face of rebels in the Syrian coast. These remarks are also perceived as a threat to commit a massacre using chemical or conventional weapons under the pretext of protecting convoys of chemical weapons. Assad is still trying to evade handing over its chemical weapons cache, as he knows he is well aware that his survival in power is related to his possession of these weapons. Badr Jamous, Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, commends the latest advance of the FSA near the Syrian coast and its defense of unarmed civilians against the crimes committed by regime forces backed by the terrorist militias of Iran and Hezbollah.” He also praised the FSA’s efforts to rid Syria of the rule of the Assad family. “We trust the FSA and its ability to protect civilians in accordance with the principles of the Syrian Revolution and we reiterate our full support for the rebels of the coast. We also stress that we are making every efforts to secure all forms of military and political support for all the revolutionaries in order to liberate the country from the enemies of humanity and usurper of the people’s rights and to enable the Syrian people to achieve the goals of the revolution in freedom, democracy and justice.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 29.03.2014)

Bomb blast kills three soldiers in east Lebanon

Lebanese authorities inspect the site of a mortar attack in the border town of Arsal. (file photo)

Lebanese authorities inspect the site of a mortar attack in the border town of Arsal.

Three Lebanese soldiers have been killed and three others wounded in a car bomb explosion in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

The incident occurred when an explosive-laden vehicle was detonated near an army checkpoint in the eastern town of Arsal in Baalbek.

Arsal, located some 124 kilometers northeast of Beirut, is known for its support for foreign-backed militants fighting against the Syrian government.

According to Lebanese media reports, Syria militants have been fleeing into Arsal following the Syrian army’s recent victory in the strategic region of Qalamoun.

On March 19, the Lebanese army was deployed in Arsal to calm down tensions between its residents and those of neighboring Labweh, who blame the rival town of carrying out rocket attacks against them.

Lebanon has been suffering from terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda-linked militants as well as random rocket attacks, which are viewed as a spillover of the prolonged conflict in Syria.

Meanwhile, foreign-backed militants in Syria have on many occasions attacked Lebanese border areas where the majority of the residents support the Syrian government.

Late on Thursday, the Lebanese army said it killed a man suspected of involvement in the murder of soldiers, preparing car bombs and firing mortar shells at Lebanese villages.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Some sources say around 140,000 people have been killed and millions displaced as a result of the foreign-backed militancy.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Israeli Media: Army Can’t Prevent Hezbollah From Launching Rockets During War


The Israeli army conducted military maneuvers on the GolanIsraeli Army Heights in the context of its preparation to face “the attacks” that the Zionist entity will suffer during any war.

The Israeli media outlets, which followed up the maneuvers, mentioned that the Zionist military preparations do not include plans and drills to prevent Hezbollah from launching rockets onto the Palestinian territories in case a war erupts at the northern borders.

In another context, the Israeli army has decided to open fire at anyone who approaches the fence at the Lebanese-Palestinian and the Syrian-Palestinian borders.

The Israeli army directly informed the militant groups in southern Syria and the UN troops on the Golan Heights that will, in turn, inform the Syrian army about the new measures to take them into consideration, according to the Zionist media outlets.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Leaked Egypt military document ‘proves’ Hamas innocence


Leaked Egypt military document 'proves' Hamas innocence
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya posing with picture of ousted Egypt president Mohamed Morsi

Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum commented on an alleged leaked Egyptian military intelligence document dating back to late May 2013.

Palestinian resistance movement Hamas said on Saturday that a leaked Egyptian military intelligence document proves that it does not meddle in Egypt’s affairs.

“The leaked document proves that Hamas has nothing to do with internal Egyptian affairs,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

“It even proves that Hamas protects Egypt’s national security by regulating the border,” he added.

On Friday, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel showed an alleged leaked Egyptian military intelligence document, dating back to late May 2013.

The document, signed by Gen. Mahmoud Hegazi, who has been named as Egypt’s army chief-of-staff, calls for intensifying contacts with Hamas with the aim of adjusting Egypt’s northeastern border, according to Al-Jazeera.

There was no comment from the Egyptian army on the alleged document.


Barhoum called for suspending what he described as Egyptian media campaigns of “incitement” against Hamas.

Egypt accuses Hamas of interfering in internal affairs and of involvement in a mass jailbreak upon the January 25 revolution, which ended the autocracy of ex-president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

An Egyptian court recently banned the activities of Hamas in Egypt and ordered its offices closed.

Hamas is an ideological offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails.

Last December, Egypt’s army-backed interim authorities listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist group.”

Bahroum argued that the leaked document proves that the decision of Egyptian authorities to ban its activities was “politically-motivated”.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Palestinian child describes details of torture and mistreatment during his arrest


Video: Palestinian child describes details of torture and mistreatment during his arrest


Rashid Al-Rashq, a 14 year-old Palestinian boy, has revealed that Israeli forces tortured and mistreated him, including stripping him of his clothes, after he was imprisoned for two months based on the accusation that he allegedly threw stones.

Al-Rashq, who is from the Old City in Jerusalem, told Quds News Agency that the Israeli police arrested him in the Old City and took him to the Qishleh police headquarters near the Jaffa Gate to investigate him without the presence of his father.

The young boy described how Israeli forces beat him and the investigators stripped him of his clothes during the investigation, forcing him to sit on a small chair.

Al-Rashq recounted how during the first seven days he was questioned 24 hours a day, while his hands were tied behind his back.

The police suspected him of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers and police units in occupied Jerusalem, and when he insisted that he did not throw any stones, the investigators would beat him, slapping him and spitting in his face.

Al-Rashq said that he appeared before the judge nearly ten times, and every time there were surprise witnesses, including settlers and members of the Israeli intelligence services who testified against him.

Al-Rashq is a ninth grader who studies at the Islamic Orphanage in the old town.

He explained that the investigators also used torture against other child detainees, adding that the investigators threatened him not to mention his torture or mistreatment inside the prison or else he would be beaten again. They also asked him to sign papers confirming that he was not beaten; however, he refused to sign them.

The young boy spoke about the Hasharon prison where he was detained, describing how the prisoners there are neglected and kept in moist rooms that lack ventilation or proper health conditions.

The judge released Al-Rashq on bail, but placed him under house arrest until next month, during which time he is not allowed to leave the house to attend school.

Rashid’s father told Quds News Agency that during the early days of his detention, the investigators refused to allow him to be present during his son’s investigation.

The father also said that: “Nearly an hour and a half after Rashid was arrested, a police force raided the house looking for clues but did not find anything; and when they finished the police officer asked to have some light clothes for Rashid,” adding that “sometimes when Rashid appeared before the Israeli court the family was not even informed of the secret sessions where his son would appear alone with the judge and witnesses.”

He continued: “Every time I attended the trial, I could see the torture marks on my son’s and other children’s faces, but the last time the marks were very bad. He was very sick with fever and the police gave him some kind of medication, which we knew nothing about.”

The father appealed to international human rights organisations and legal institutions to intervene to save the children of Jerusalem, who suffer under occupation and continued detention, depriving them of their childhood and education.

(Source / 29.03.2014)

Egypt reopens Gaza crossing for three days

Following a 50-day closure, the land crossing is limited to those seeking medical treatment, students and foreigners.

UNRWA head Filippo Grandi has urged Egypt to let civilians cross from Gaza
Egypt has reopened its land border with the Gaza Strip after a 50-day closure, but only for three days and then just for special cases, Gaza’s governing group Hamas has said.

Passage to Egypt will be limited to those seeking medical treatment, students going to their places of study, foreigners and in cases deemed as humanitarian, according to Hamas’s interior ministry.

A busload of Palestinians heading for Egypt was the first vehicle through the crossing in the city of Rafah, which is also open to traffic in the opposite direction.

Egypt has severely restricted access through the crossing since July, when the army deposed Hamas’ ally, President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency [UNRWA] urged Egypt to let people through Rafah, saying only a handful of Muslim pilgrims had been allowed across over seven weeks.

He also called on Israel to ease its eight-year blockade of the territory. The only other crossing for people out of Gaza is at Erez, which leads to Israel.

Many Gazans travel through Rafah to seek medical treatment outside of the impoverished Strip.

After Morsi’s overthrow, the army destroyed hundreds of tunnels under the border that brought in construction materials and fuel, causing the Strip’s worst ever energy crisis, with power cuts of up to 16 hours a day.

This month, Hamas described the Rafah closure as a “crime against humanity”, and the UN criticised it for its effect on “the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment.

(Source / 29.03.2014)