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News digest: 28 February 2013

ALBANIA: Problems with Albania's electoral roll alarm watchdog (Balkan Insight): "A group of NGOs on Wednesday warned that Albania’s institutions are failing to notify voters of their presence on preliminary electoral rolls ahead of the June parliamentary elections"

AUSTRIA: Members of human trafficking ring arrested (Austrian Times): "Seven of the nine suspects have already been sentenced to several years of imprisonment due to human trafficking and being a member of a criminal organisation. Two further suspects are in custody awaiting trial in the prison of Korneuburg (Lower Austria). The police is still searching for further members of the group"

BALKANS: Montenegro and Bosnia ‘Close to Border Deal’ (Balkan Insight): "The Bosnian prime minister said there was only one disputed piece of territory to be demarcated before the ex-Yugoslav states sign a crucial border agreement"

BOSNIA: EU's Sannino presses Bosnia on rights ruling (Balkan Insight): "The EU Enlargement Commissioner said Bosnia needs to meet its obligations under the EU road map, especially in connection with the Sejdic-Finci ruling"

BOSNIA: Islamism and Bosniak nationalism may unite, report (Balkan Insight): "New International Crisis Group reports says the danger is growing of a politicised Islamic Community harnessing frustrated Bosniak nationalism for its own purposes." See also: ICG: Islam, nationalism - Bosnia’s dangerous tango (Tanjug) and full report: Bosnia's dangerous tango: Islam and nationalism (International Crisis Group, pdf)

BULGARIA: Beleaguered Bulgaria to hold early elections (Al Jazeera): "Bulgaria will hold an early election on May 12, Rosen Plevneliev, the country's president has said, as the government seeks a way out of a political crisis that could undermine the Balkan country's economic stability." See: Protests continue in Bulgaria after PM quits (Balkan Insight); Bulgaria's winter of discontent (Novinite); Bulgarians push for deep political changes (SETimes.com); Bulgarian doctors to stage nationwide protests (Novinite) and Neo-Nazi terror marked the protests in Sofia (People against Racism)

CROATIA: Saudis bought Croatian arms to help Syria rebels (Balkan Insight): "Saudi Arabia has been supplying Syrian rebels with infantry weapons from Croatia in its drive to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, The New York Times has reported"

CZECH REPUBLIC: Judges differ on decision to examine presidential amnesty (Prague Daily Monitor): "Judges of the Constitutional Court (US) differ on whether they can re-examine President Vaclav Klaus' New Year amnesty, US chairman Pavel Rychetsky told the public broadcaster Czech Television (CT) yesterday"

DENMARK: Arabic man accuses free speech group of hypocrisy (The Copenhagen Post): "Jihad Taha says his Arabic name could be the only reason Trykkefrihedsselskabet has excluded him from attending meeting"

DENMARK: Newspaper denied access to documents behind new freedom of information law (The Copenhagen Post): "Three political parties and the Danish media have had little insight into how the new controversial freedom of information law was drafted"

DENMARK: No increased transparency of intelligence agency (The Copenhagen Post): "Danes can ask new independent committee to see if any illegal information is held about them by intelligence agencies, but they can't get an answer"

EU: Google battles European judges over privacy (Sky News): "European judges are considering a case which could have significant implications for how personal information on the internet is managed." See also: Court document says Internet provider cannot verify content (Gazzetta del Sud)

EU: Hackers use MiniDuke malware to attack European governments (Global Post): "Hackers have targeted dozens of computer systems at government agencies across Europe in an attack researchers have dubbed MiniDuke"

EU: Hindu religious leader slams EU for failing to tackle Roma marginalization (Romania Insider): "A Hindu religious leader and statesman Rajan Zed has spoken out against a Roma apartheid in Europe and strongly criticized the EU’s failure to address the problem. “Immoral, inhuman and a sin,” is how Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Hindu Society, describes the treatment of Roma communities in 21st Century Europe. He insisted that the conditions that Roma live in amount to apartheid."

EU: The Great Firewall of Europe - European Commission website blocks Tor users , just like Iran or China (Spy Blog): "If you want to know how it feels to be a political dissident under a repressive regime, you do not have to travel to China or Iran or Russia or Saudi Arabia etc. Just try to access the main European Commission website using the Tor Browser Bundle anonymity (and web browsing security) software. "

FRANCE: Bulgarian Roma evicted in Bordeaux (New Europe): "French media reported today that the authorities in Bordeaux have expelled around 350 squatters from their illegally inhabited homes. According to the available information, the majority of the people living in miserable conditions were Bulgarian citizens of Roma ethnicity"

FRANCE: French opposition party blames “explosion” in Paris thefts on Romanians (Romania Insider): "Some politicians in France are attributing a so called explosion in thefts in Paris to Romanian criminals. The number of thefts reported in January 2013 compared to the same month last year increased dramatically – up 41.7 percent in the greater Paris area and up 58.9 percent in Paris intra-muros (the 20 arrondisements in central Paris), according to French newspaper Le Figaro"

FRANCE: Stéphane Hessel, “father of indignados”, dies aged 95 (ROAR): "French resistance hero, co-drafter of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and author of pamphlet that helped inspire a global youth uprising, dies." See also: France's spirit of resistance, Stéphane Hessel, dies at the age of 95
(The Independent)

German CSU member seeks return of visas for Bulgarians, Romanians (Novinite): "Wilfried Scharnagl from Germany's Christian Social Union (CSU) has argued for an urgent reinstatement of the visa regime in order to stop a flood of poor immigrant Roma families from Bulgaria and Romania"

German military has long experience of Mali (Deutsche Welle): " The planned non-combative mission by the German Bundeswehr will not be the first of its kind. Since 2005, German soldiers have trained Malian engineers and Germany has donated large amounts of military hardware"

GERMANY: Far-right NPD loses state subsidies (Deutsche Welle): " Germany's National Democratic Party is notorious for its far-right slogans and racism, but it still received state party financing - until it fell foul of a clerical error"

GREECE: Bill for review of ECJ decisions rejected by Parliament (Ekathimerini): "New Democracy MPs were among those who on Tuesday rejected a draft law prepared by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis that would oblige Greek courts to review cases for which the European Court of Justice had issued rulings challenging verdicts arrived at by judges in Greece."

GREECE: Coalition unity to be tested by motion for 'Greeks only' military (Ekathimerini): "The coalition government’s unity is set to be tested Thursday when MPs will be asked to vote on a motion put forward by about two-thirds of New Democracy lawmakers who want only those of Greek ethnicity, as defined by blood and birth, to serve in the military"

GREECE: Dendias in Bangladesh to discuss fight on illegal immigration (Ekathimerini): "Officials from Greece and Bangladesh have agreed to sign a bilateral agreement outlining closer police cooperation in fighting illegal immigration, reports said Monday." See also: Figures show 537,237 migrants living in Greece legally

GREECE: DIAS policemen attacked in Agrinio (Ekathimerini): "Five officers of the motorcycle-riding DIAS squad were on Monday attacked by unidentified assailants wearing masks and helmets in Agrinio, western Greece, police said"

GREECE: Far-right Golden Dawn launches child indoctrination courses (euronews): "Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party has started courses on what it calls “national awakening” for children from six to 10 years old. About 20 children attended the first such meeting – with their parents. The party said it was held on Saturday, Feb. 23, at its offices in Artemis Attica." See also: Golden Dawn vows to continue ‘national awareness’ tutorials for children and Golden Dawn begins 'national awareness' tutorials for schoolchildren (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Immigrants press children’s Greek citizenship (Greek Reporter): "Immigrant children livingimmigration in Greece made their case for citizenship on Feb. 27 at a news conference held at the offices of the Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers, under the title Citizenship for All Children." See also: Migrant groups slam government over Greek citizenship law (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Students protest against plan to overhaul Greek universities (Ekathimerini): "Greek university students will on Thursday stage a protest against a controversial plan to overhaul the country's higher education system that has come under fire from many academics and several politicians." See also: School teachers, students to hold protest rally on March 2

Greek farmers end highway blockades, at least for now (Ekathimerini): "Farmers demanding tax breaks and cheaper fuel began driving their tractors back to their fields on Wednesday morning, ending some 50 highway blockades that have restricted traffic flow for over 30 days all over Greece." See also: Farmers end blockades, but gear up for protest rally

Hungary Constitutional Court strikes down church law (Jurist): "The Constitutional Court of Hungary on Tuesday struck down a law that outlines how churches are given official designation, finding that it was too political"

IRELAND: Public access: Journalist welcomes ruling (Irish Times): "The journalist who sought information on Nama under a statutory instrument known as the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations last night welcomed the High Court’s dismissal of Nama’s appeal." See also: Judge rejects 'absurd' claim by Nama

IRELAND: Over 700 inquire about Magdalene fund (Irish Times): "More than 700 women have contacted the Department of Justice about eligibility for supports and the fund to be established for survivors of the Magdalene laundries, the Minister for Justice has said." See also: Orders ‘made lots of money’ from laundries (Irish Examiner)

ITALY: India parliament committee starts Finmeccanica 'graft' probe (Gazzetta del Sud): "India's Senate agreed Wednesday to establish a parliamentary commission to investigate a scandal-plagued helicopter contract with a division of Italy's Finmeccanica defence giant. A motion to set up the commission was hotly debated, after Defence Minister A.K. Antony threatened to severely punish those responsible for alleged corruption in the $750 million US contract for 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland"

Italy votes against austerity leaving EU in turmoil (The Guardian): "Three years of German-led austerity and budget cuts aimed at saving the euro and retooling the European economy was left facing one of its biggest challenges as Italian voters' rejection of spending cuts and tax rises opened up a stark new fissure in European politics." See also: Northern League looks to capitalise on Italy election success (euronews)

MALTA: Nicholas Azzopardi's family claim damages in judicial protest over his death (Times of Malta): "The father of a man who died after allegedly having been beaten up at police headquarters has presented a judicial protest holding his daughter-in-law, her mother, the former minister for home affairs, a number of policemen, a court expert, a social worker and a doctor responsible for damages." See also: Nicholas Azzopardi's family files judicial protest (Malta Independent)

Montenegro Parliament to probe media wiretapping claims (Balkan Insight): "A parliamentary committee has called a hearing with the interior minister and special prosecutor following an opposition daily's claims that its journalists were secretly surveyed"

NETHERLANDS: Criminals wait to serve jail time (Dutch News): "Convicted criminals wait an average 14 months before they actually serve jail time, according to research by RTL news"

NETHERLANDS: Dutch court approves extradition of al Qaeda suspect to US (Jurist): "Judge Gerard van Ham of The Hague District Court on Tuesday rejected a request to block the extradition of suspected al Qaeda terrorist Sabir Khan to the US. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten gave final approval for Khan's extradition in December after the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled in April that his extradition is legal"

NETHERLANDS: Neo-nazi guilty of inciting hatred and discrimination (Dutch News): "The chairman of Dutch neo-nazi party Nederlandse Volks-Unie has been given 40 hours community service and a two-week suspended jail sentence for his role in an anti-foreigner demonstration in 2011"

NORWAY: Deportation-threatened Ethiopians’ case to court (The Foreigner): " Judges at Oslo District court are to hear the case of Nathan Eshete and his family as they this week contest their forced repatriation"

NORWAY: Immigrant families leave to avoid CWS (The Foreigner): " Several children and families are exiting Norway so as not to have to deal with Child Welfare Service officials, reports say"

NORWAY: North Norway spy facility to get upgrade (The Foreigner): "America is to contribute almost USD 50 million towards maintaining Norway’s Globus II radar in Finnmark County’s Vardø"

POLAND: Civil partnerships ‘could clash with Poland’s constitution’ (The News): " President Bronislaw Komorowski has said that “radical solutions” to Poland’s civil partnership legislative impasse might not be possible without changes in the Constitution"

Polish youth becoming more nationalistic, claim sociologists (The News): " The disruption of two public lectures at Polish universities by young nationalists over the last fortnight echoes a definite trend, sociologists claim." See also: Nationalism growing in Poland?

Romania spends EUR 500 per inmate each month, while number of prisoners grows steadily (Romania Insider): "Romania has over 31,800 inmates in its prisons, and the number has been growing since 2008. Over 5,000 new inmates were added in the last five years to Romania’s prison system. Out of the total, there are 175 foreigners, mostly Turkish – 35, Moldavians – 26 and Bulgarians – 11, according to a recent report from the National Prison Administration. Half of the total inmates are serving jail sentences of one to five years, around a third, between 5 and 15 years, while only 150 people are serving life sentences." See: Romania's crowded prisons could improve, report (Balkan Insight)

ROMANIA: New regional initiative tackling Roma segregation in schools kicks off in Bucharest (Romania Insider): "A new initiative to improve access for Roma communities in Eastern Europe to education is launching with a series of meetings in Bucharest. The Desegregation and Action for Roma in Education-Network (DARE-Net) aims to tackle serious problems in educational provision for Roma in Europe."

ROMANIA: PM promises employment policy for Roma people in Romanian factories (Romania Insider): "The PM admitted that previous policies had proved ineffective and said that last summer he decided to strengthen employment policy for Roma people in Romanian factories and improve the integration of Roma children in the education system, but also warned during the interview with the French press that improvements would take time"

SLOVENIA: Crisis puts paid to Slovenia’s conservative government (euronews): "Slovenia has dismissed its conservative-led government and appointed an anti-austerity financial expert as its first female prime minister." See also: Crisis-hit Slovenia set to name first woman PM

Spain lauds Mauritania security efforts (Magharebia): "Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz welcomed a high-level Spanish diplomatic delegation to Nouakchott on Monday (February 25th). Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo led the 2-day visit to Mauritania to co-ordinate security and counter-terrorism efforts. "

SPAIN: 5 Arrested on 1st day of strike at Spanish airline (Global Post): "The first day of a strike by employees of Spanish airline Iberia to protest a restructuring plan that includes 3,807 layoffs led to the arrest of five people at Madrid's Barajas International Airport"

SPAIN: Galician judge blocks eviction of 85-year-old woman (El Pais): "A judge in Galicia has stopped the eviction of an 85-year-old woman who was being forced out of her apartment in A Coruña by the owners when she fell behind on her 126-euro monthly rent last year. The case of Aurelia Rey has made news across Spain when members of the Stop Evictions platform battled with police who had come to evict the woman last week. Activists have been guarding the building in the center of the city for the past 15 days"

SWEDEN: UN slams Sweden for guest worker policy (The Local): "The United Nations has criticized Sweden for limiting trade unions' right to join forces with guest workers, in a statement from the International Labour Organization (ILO)"

UK: Attack of the clones: Supreme Court keeps its white male first eleven (UK Human Rights Blog): "Baroness Helena Kennedy has argued that judges have a tendency to clone themselves when choosing successors. It is hard to avoid that impression in the Supreme Court, which kept its white male first eleven in place yesterday by appointing three new justices: Lord Justice Hughes, Lord Justice Toulson and Lord Hodge. The sole woman amongst 12 justices of our highest appeal court remains Lady Hale. There are no black or Asian judges, not have there ever been"

UK: Britain can give military support to Syrian rebels after EU changes (The Independent): "Britain and its allies will be able to provide training for rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime and supply them with military support, including armoured cars, under major changes which are due to be made to European Union sanctions rules on Syria"

UK: David Cameron: Migrants will be banned from automatic legal aid in the UK (The Telegraph): "Mr Cameron this month said he want to completely overhaul the benefits system for migrants after saying that he believes the current system does not pass the “simple common sense test”." See also: Cameron vows tougher measures on immigrants (Novinite)

UK: European citizens in Britain will be charged for ID cards (The Guardian): "A hint that ministers are close to forcing millions of European citizens resident in Britain to sign up for an identity card came when it was announced today that those who register voluntarily are to be charged for the first time"

UK: High Court challenge over 17-year-olds’ custody rights (Law Society Gazette): "The High Court will hear a legal challenge to the practice of treating 17-year-olds detained in police custody as adults, in a judicial review being brought by Just For Kids Law next week." See: Thousands of children denied basic right in police custody - historic legal challenge (Just For Kids Law press release)

UK: ‘If they send me back to Senegal, I’m a dead man’ (The Mancunion): "Senegalese student Tacko Mbengue faces deportation unless he can prove he is gay – raising questions about society’s attitude to homosexuality"

UK: Kenneth Clarke's plans for secret courts savaged by lawyers (The Guardian): "Controversial government plans to introduce a new generation of secret courts have been dealt a major blow after hundreds of lawyers attacked them as "contrary to the rule of law"." See also: Ken Clarke: All 'right-thinking citizens' should support secret courts (The Telegraph)

UK: Litvinenko inquest: Coroner examines secret files (BBC News): "The judge due to preside over the inquest into the death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko is to examine secret documents to decide whether more information can be made public." See also: 'Fearless' inquiry pledged into UK murder (Al Jazeera) and Litvinenko case: William Hague accused of dancing to Moscow's tune (The Guardian)

UK: Olympics cyclist demonstration CCTV footage released (BBC News)

UK: Police failed to investigate sex attacks across six London boroughs (The Guardian): "A man accused of rape was allowed to walk free and later kill two children as a result of a "disturbing" police policy to manipulate crime statistics by failing to record sexual assault allegations – a tactic that was employed in several more London boroughs than was officially admitted on Tuesday, the Guardian has learned"

UK: Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000: A police snooping tool to protect private profit (Corporate Watch): "Corporate Watch researchers Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper have been stopped and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 a total of five times between them at UK airports while travelling to Egypt and returning from research trips in Palestine"

UKRAINE: Protests in Ukraine as EU gives May ultimatum (euronews): "EU leaders say visiting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has until May to show his nation has made progress towards political reform"

US court brands whale activists Sea Shepherd 'pirates' (BBC News): "A court in the US has labelled conservationist group Sea Shepherd "pirates". Judge Alex Kozinski said the group's "aggressive and high-profile attacks" on Japan's whaling fleet endangered lives, ordering them to stop."


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