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Round-up of news stories from across the EU
22.4.16
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BELGIUM: Four alleged hackers detained during police raids (Flanders News, link): "The Brussels Federal Judicial Police has detained four suspected member of the hackers’ group Down-Sec. The suspected hackers were detained during a series of raids in Liège. IT material was also confiscated during the raids. Two of those detained are minors."

BULGARIA: Ban on Surveys in Bulgaria's Voting Campaigns Infringes Free Speech - Pollsters (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian Association of Marketing and Opinion Researchers (BAMOR) has lashed out at a recent draft amendment which would make it illegal to announce results of opinion polls while an election campaign is unfolding.

Currently, a ban is in place on the announcement of exit polls for the respective election day until 19:00. However, for years some pollsters have been going around the ban by publishing "fake" poll results containing hidden voter preferences. "

Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front Submits Motion to Ban Wearing Burqas in Public Places (Novinite, link): "Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front proposed to Parliament on Wednesday to ban the wearing in public places of burqas, or head veils hiding the face, citing potential threats to national security.

If approved, the proposed new article in the Penal Code would ban the wearing of any apparel that hides the face of a person entirely or in part.

(...)

The Patriotic Front proposes a fine of BGN 200 (EUR 100) for first-time offenders of the ban. Repeated violations of the ban would carry fines of BGN 1,500 each and suspension of social benefits payments for three months if the offender is entitled to receiving them.

Persuading people to wear burqas would carry jail terms of three years and fines of BGN 5,000. Those who persuade a minor to wear a burqa, will be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of BGN 10,000."

Czech Police Accused of Excessive Force Against Protesters (ABC News, link): "Czech center-right opposition parties have condemned what they call an excessive use of police force against citizens protesting China's human rights record during a recent visit of the Chinese president.

For three days of President Xi Jinping's March visit, police dealt with numerous skirmishes between Czech protesters and what appeared to be well-organized groups of Chinese people supporting their leader.

Police say 23 people were detained in total from both camps."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Security Council rebuffs Brussels’ stricter gun control plans (Radio Prague, link): "The National Security Council has rejected plans by the European Commission to introduce tougher gun control laws, following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. The commission wants to make it considerably more difficult for individuals to hold certain firearms, among them some semi-automatic weapons. Czech officials are against the proposal, saying that Czech gun laws are already among the toughest."

CZECH REPUBLIC: School pupils back Muslim classmate targeted over headscarf (Radio Prague, link): "Secondary school students in Teplice have launched a campaign in support of a Muslim classmate under pressure for wearing a headscarf. The school’s principal has received dozens of emails calling for her expulsion for “promoting Islam” but says the teenager is going nowhere."

FINLAND: Police under scrutiny over racial profiling claims (YLE, link): "Police and the Finnish Border Guard have organised a total of four immigration control operations targeting foreigners in central Helsinki. The monitoring exercise allegedly focused on people assumed to be of foreign extraction and involved ID checks.

Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirsi Pimiä says she has received complaints about checks targeting foreign nationals, many of whom say they feel they have been wrongly profiled based on their appearance.

The office says it will demand a report from the Helsinki Police Department on its surveillance of foreigners."

German spies imply Snowden leaked files for Russia (The Local, link): " NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have been acting under the influence of the Russian government, the heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence agencies said on Friday.

“It's very remarkable that he exclusively published files about the work of the NSA with the BND [Germany's foreign intelligence service] or the British secret service GCHQ,” BND head Gerhard Schindler told Focus magazine.

“Leaking the secret service files is an attempt to drive a wedge between western Europe and the USA – the biggest since the Second World War,” Hans-Georg Maaßen, head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz), told Focus in the double interview."

MACEDONIA: EU-Mediated Macedonia Crisis Talks in Vienna Cancelled (Novinite, link): "The EU-mediated meeting of Macedonian political leaders for resolving the country’s political crisis has been cancelled after the main opposition Social Democrats declined to attend, the EU mediators have said.

The meeting, set for Friday in Vienna, was called by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and three members of the European Parliament in a bid to ensure that Macedonian political leaders will continue to implement the provisions of the EU-brokered Przino agreement reached in June-July last year."

UK firm hired African former child soldiers to fight in Iraq (Middle East Eye, link): "A British defence contractor hired mercenaries from Africa for a reported $16 a day to fight in Iraq for the US, with one of the company's former directors saying no checks were made on whether those hired were former child soldiers.

James Ellery, who was a director of Aegis Defence Services between 2005 and 2015, said contractors recruited from countries such as Sierra Leone to reduce costs for the US presence in Iraq. "

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