Thousands of protesters who are camped out in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square and in dozens more Spanish cities have pledged to defy an order to pack up their tent cities and leave.
As the country's electoral authorities ordered them to move by midnight on Friday, claiming they would disturb Sunday's municipal and regional elections, organisers called a special silent protest for first thing on Saturday morning.
A tense standoff between police and protesters looked inevitable as interior minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba warned that authorities would uphold the law.
"Police know exactly what they have to do," he said, without specifying. "Their actions will depend on what happens."
"We are expecting some kind of attempt to get rid of us," warned organisers in southern Seville, where several hundred people were also camped out in a city square.
But protesters claimed their "silent" demonstration in Madrid on Saturday would not break rules preventing campaigning on the day before an election.
More than 10,000 people had gathered in the small hours of Friday morning in support of the campers who first appeared in the Puerta del Sol square on Sunday.
At a State Department briefing earlier this week, the spokesman stated that U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea Ambassador Robert King may be tasked to lead a food assessment mission to North Korea. This announcement comes following a round of consultations led by Ambassador Stephen Bosworth last week in South Korea to manage differences on the issue, since United States sees food assistance as an issue separate from politics while the South Korean government sees food assistance as a form of leverage by which to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table. The consultations resulted in begrudging South Korean government support (or at least the absence of objections to) the U.S. decision to send an assessment team to North Korea.
The decision to send a U.S. food assessment mission itself does not mean that the United States will actually decide to give food aid to North Korea, but it does open the door to that possibility. A major obstacle remains the outstanding issues between the United States and North Korea that must be addressed if food assistance is to be approved, including the unmonitored disposition of food aid that was disbursed in North Korea after the departure of monitors at the time of North Korea’s decision to prematurely end provision of food assistance in March of 2009.
A senior United Nations official is warning that Libya is a ticking time bomb and that life-saving assistance is needed, especially in the western part of the country. Little is known about what is happening in Tripoli, the nation's capital and Moammar Gadhafi's stronghold. To find out, VOA's Carolyn Presutti spoke to two opposition leaders - one in Tripoli, secretly via Skype, the other from Benghazi - as she shows us the daring actions activists take in Tripoli to advance their cause.
Libyan rebel troops, training in Benghazi, brazen enough at night to burn an effigy of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, and emboldened by day to protest.
The rebels have such a tight control on Benghazi that they consider it their capital. And their recent capture of Misrata's airport gives them a fresh cache of arms.
But, that is not the case in Tripoli, the nation's capital. There, the government controls the people, the media, the message. These pro-Gadhafi demonstrations and government-led media tours are what the world sees of Tripoli. No opposition activity. Until now.
In the third day of demonstrations, thousands of anti-government protesters set up camp on Tuesday night in a city centre square in Madrid calling for greater participation in government and an end to corruption. As night fell, Puerta del Sol plaza remained populated by protesters who had vowed to remain until Sunday, May 22 when local elections take place. Protests have also been taking place in other cities across Spain, including Barcelona, Valencia and Seville on Tuesday. The first demonstrations took place on Sunday, when thousands gathered in over fifty cities all over the country.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (pictured) has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate “the most serious crimes” committed during the post-electoral violence that ravaged the country since last November.
AFP - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara has asked the International Criminal Court prosecutor to launch an inquiry into "the most serious crimes" committed since last November's violence-wracked election.
In the letter dated May 3, Ouattara expresses "my wish that your office carries out independent and impartial inquiries in Ivory Coast into the most serious crimes committed since November 28, 2010 throughout the Ivorian territory."
The letter, published on The Hague court's website Wednesday, also calls on the prosecutor to identify and bring to justice those found to bear the most criminal responsibility.
Ouattara, who has been in power since the April arrest of strongman Laurent Gbagbo, said last month that he was going to call on the ICC to open investigations.
WASHINGTON — President Obama imposed sanctions on Syria’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad, and six other senior Syrian officials on Wednesday, ratcheting up American pressure in the wake of a bloody crackdown on political protests in the country.
Mr. Obama’s executive order — along with additional sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department against Syrian and Iranian intelligence services and commanders — reflected the growing American frustration that Mr. Assad’s government was not heeding international condemnation and seeking a peaceful resolution to the popular uprising in the country.
Until now, Mr. Obama had adopted a much more measured and cautious approach than he did in Libya in hopes, officials said, that Mr. Assad would respond to international pressure. The administration clearly concluded that approach was not working.
A deal on a transition of power in Yemen fell through at the last minute on Wednesday, even as Washington stepped up pressure on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign a Gulf-brokered agreement to ease him out of office.
The weeks-long military conflict between two rival presidential candidates in Ivory Coast may have reached a political resolution in April, but the refugee crisis created by the fighting continues to drag on. And in the neighboring country of Liberia, itself emerging from the ruins of a bloody civil war just over a decade ago, local communities have been deluged with tens of thousands of Ivorians pouring across the border, trying to escape the brutal tactics of militias on both sides.
The former president of Ivory Coast, political strongman Laurent Gbagbo, finally relinquished power a month ago when he was arrested by forces loyal to his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, recognized by most international observers as the legitimate winner of a presidential election last year. His militiamen had been terrorizing the capital, Abidjan, as well as rural parts of the country loyal to Ouattara in a desperate bid to cling to power. But human rights activists say Ouattara’s rebels, too, have brutalized Ivorians loyal to Gbagbo, burning down villages and using rape as a weapon of war, as a means of retribution or intimidation.
Raj Panjabi, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who has been traveling to Liberia to provide health services to the growing refugee population there, has seen the physical and psychological toll of those tactics firsthand, through his patients at the rural clinics along Liberia’s border with Ivory Coast.
On Sunday, for the first time since January 25, the Arab world's attention was riveted not on scenes of protesters castigating their own governments, but on much more familiar imagery: that of Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation.
For months, Palestinian and Arab activists had planned to mark May 15 -- Youm an-Nakba or "Day of the Catastrophe," which usually takes place the day after Israel's independence celebrations -- with a civilian march on the occupied territories. For Arabs, Nakba Day represents a day of mourning, a time to commemorate the expulsion during the 1948 war of Palestinians from their villages and homes, press for the right of refugees to return, and denounce the Jewish state.
In past years, Nakba Day has generally passed without much fanfare: demonstrations around the world and in Palestinian villages, occasional attempts to march on Israeli-held territory, met with force.
But this is 2011, and things were rather different on Sunday.
A new study analyzing thousands of files captured from Colombias FARC paints a picture of Venezuelan and Ecuadoran complicity.
BY JIM WYSS
BOGOTA -- Colombia’s FARC rebels financed the presidential campaign of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and had such deep ties with Venezuela’s government that they may have carried out political assassinations on its behalf, according to a two-year analysis of thousands of the guerrilla group’s archives.
On Tuesday, London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies launched “The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of ‘Raul Reyes.’” The 240-page study is a peek into the thousands of documents that were retrieved from the hard drives of Reyes — the FARC’s second in command — after Colombian authorities raided his Ecuadorean camp in 2008.
Much of the information is not new, but it does provide a deeper look into the workings of one of the region’s oldest and most resilient guerrilla groups.
The revelations come at a time when relations between Colombia and its neighbors have improved dramatically. But the fresh allegations about how Venezuela and Ecuador worked to undermine Colombia’s fight against the FARC could prove incendiary.
WORRIED by last Friday’s murder of one of its stalwarts in Benue State, Charles Ayede, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) yesterday urged President Goodluck Jonathan to stop the on-going systematic elimination of its members and supporters in the Northcentral state.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the call in a statement, warned that it will not stand by and allow the killings to degenerate to genocide against people, whose only offence was the membership of the ACN.
It said if President Jonathan is sincere about his much-quoted statement, that the political ambition of anyone is not worth the blood of a fellow Nigerian, then he should step up to the plate today by taking measures to end such killings, even when the elections have ended.
The State Department declines to even send a representative to a hearing on human rights in the Gulf kingdom.
he State Department today declined to even send a representative to a congressional commission's hearing on human rights in Bahrain, underscoring how the U.S. continues to give the Gulf kingdom a pass on human rights abuses.
"We invited Undersecretary [William] Burns and Assistant Secretary [Jeffrey] Feltman and they weren't able to attend," Ari Levin, a fellow at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, tells me. "We reached out through the congressional liaison to come up with an alternate, and State said due to scheduling conflicts, no one could attend."
So the United States State Department couldn't find a single person free on a Friday morning to talk about the dire situation in Bahrain.
President Assad reaffirms his father's legacy by quelling dissent with brute force.
"Bashar is God! Bashar is God!"
As the fists and boots and sticks pummelled his body and bloodied his face, the college student screamed out what he thought his interrogators wanted to hear: The name of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.
It worked. The secret policemen tired of beating him for the day and threw him back into the makeshift cell, a room inside the power station in Banias, where local prisons are full to bursting from a wave of arrests ahead of the military assault on the port city, which began earlier this month.
The respite was short-lived. Handcuffed by his wrists and ankles and blindfolded, the student, who gave testimony to a trusted local activist on condition of anonymity, was led to a car and driven to another torture cell.
"I was being beaten all over my body. I was bleeding and was saying the shahada to myself, ‘There is no God, but God,' because I thought I was going to die at that moment," he said.
Arrested simply for trying to travel from Banias back home to his village on the outskirts of the city, the student had nothing valuable to tell his torturers about the organised political opposition to President Assad and his family's forty-year dictatorship.
But that, it appears, was not the point.
Where the torture cells of Tadmor, Syria's desert prison, once extracted confessions from individuals accused of standing against the Assads - Communists like Akram Bunni, left partially paralysed after his spine was stretched in a torture known as the German Chair; Muslim Brotherhood members whipped with cable and stunned with electric shock devices - today's torturers appear to be pursuing a policy of deterrence and collective punishment.
The student was released after only a few days, but the message to the wider community of Banias was clear: A naked body, covered in blood, left to limp along the long road back to his village, clutching his broken hand, for all to see.
Three other young men, beaten, thrown down stairs and forced to drink water from a toilet after being starved, were also dumped naked and bloodied on a road outside Banias.
A YouTube video, claiming to have been shot in Banias but which cannot be independently verified, shows men with signs of severe beating on their backs and faces.
"Syrian security is now releasing detainees with unhealed wounds caused by torture in order to spread panic and fear among people hoping it will reduce the numbers participating in demonstrations," said Wissam Tarif, Director of Insan, a leading Syrian human rights organisation, which has documented cases of torture.
Clashes and gunfire rattled Syrian cities and towns Friday as President Bashar Assad's gunmen opened fire on crowds of thousands of peaceful protesters during another day of nationwide anti-government demonstrations that erupted as the weekly Muslim prayers ended, according to video footage and activist accounts.
Video posted to the Internet showed unarmed people panicking and fleeing as the rattle of automatic weapon fire erupted in the background.
The video above, said to have been filmed in an area near the town of Deir Zour in the far eastern parts of Syria, shows pandemonium in the streets as demonstrators try to take cover from what appears to be a barrage of gunfire directed at them.
Timeline: Uprising in Syria
"God is Great," protesters are heard screaming as gunshots ring out and as a cloud of black smoke is seen rising in the sky behind them. It wasn't clear if the gunmen were shooting at protesters, as they've done in recent weeks, or firing in the air.
The violence against peaceful protesters, on a day described as a Friday of Azadi (freedom in Kurdish) by activists to recognize the country's embattled Kurdish minority, was a striking show of contempt to President Obama's calls for human rights in Syria only hours earlier.
Antiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.
On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.
The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.
The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”
Dorothy Parvaz, a reporter for Al Jazeera's English-language Web site who was arrested in Syria last month and then held in Iran until Wednesday, described her detention in a television interview following her release.
Ms. Parvaz, who holds American, Canadian and Iranian citizenship, was arrested in Damascus on April 29, as soon as she arrived to cover the protests in Syria. Two days later, she was deported to Iran, a close ally of the Syrian government, where she was held incommunicado until being placed on a flight to Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, on Wednesday.
While Ms. Parvaz said that she was not beaten in either Syria or Iran, she said that she could hear young men in the Syrian facility screaming in pain from “savage” beatings that were administered “almost around the clock.” She also explained that the sound of the men crying out continued to haunt her, even after she left Syria.
From the Middle East to Madagascar, high prices are spawning land grabs and ousting dictators. Welcome to the 21st-century food wars.
By Lester R. Brown
IN THIS ERA OF TIGHTENING world food supplies, the ability to grow food is fast becoming a new form of geopolitical leverage, and countries are scrambling to secure their own parochial interests at the expense of the common good.
The first signs of trouble came in 2007, when farmers began having difficulty keeping up with the growth in global demand for grain. Grain and soybean prices started to climb, tripling by mid-2008. In response, many exporting countries tried to control the rise of domestic food prices by restricting exports. Among them were Russia and Argentina, two leading wheat exporters. Vietnam, the No. 2 rice exporter, banned exports entirely for several months in early 2008. So did several other smaller exporters of grain.
With exporting countries restricting exports in 2007 and 2008, importing countries panicked. No longer able to rely on the market to supply the grain they needed, several countries took the novel step of trying to negotiate long-term grain-supply agreements with exporting countries. The Philippines, for instance, negotiated a three-year agreement with Vietnam for 1.5 million tons of rice per year. A delegation of Yemenis traveled to Australia with a similar goal in mind, but had no luck. In a seller's market, exporters were reluctant to make long-term commitments.
On Tuesday afternoon, we wrote a post detailing how the social media efforts to save Dorothy Parvaz were getting too much credit. We still believe this is the case -- even in light of the excellent news that she is safely on her way to Canada -- but Randy Paynter, CEO of Care2 Inc. wrote us a long email about the subject. He made some excellent points, so we thought we would share.
Paynter's words are below:
Hi Noah -
I just read your post on The Wire about the "Free Dorothy" campaign. I agree with you that social media alone will not get Dorothy released from captivity -- especially from a regime like Iran -- or we'd already have Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal home today instead of locked in an Iranian jail and denied their opportunity for a trial.
However, social media and petitions do work. At Care2 we've see them work every day to create real change in the world.
Authorities in Libya have released GlobalPost journalist James Foley, freelance reporter Clare Morgana Gillis and Spanish photographer Manu Brabo, who had been detained in Tripoli for more than six weeks.
Students at the state-funded University of Bahrain say they have been forced this week to either sign a pledge of allegaiance to the government promising not to speak out against the Persian Gulf kingdom's monarchy or face expulsion.
The international community banks on a power-transfer deal, but diplomats acknowledge the risk of further violence.
By Jeb Boone
SANAA, Yemen — Despite increased violence against protesters and rising tensions, the international community remains hopeful that Yemen can achieve a peaceful transfer of power.
The last clashes between rival military factions was in the heart of the capital, Sanaa, on May 11, when security forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh fired on unarmed protesters, killing 10. Hundreds suffered from bullet wounds during the four-hour shoot-out.
Large-scale fighting has so far been avoided, but the increased use of violence against protesters who have been pushing for Saleh's ouster for three months now, has heightened tensions. Opposition soldiers guard Sanaa's Change Square, where Yemen's protest movement was born, against attacks by loyalist forces and plainclothes gunmen.
And yet, in spite of military crackdowns across the country, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United States and the European Union are banking on a peaceful transfer of power. GCC Secretary General Abdullattif Al-Zayani has made several trips back and forth between Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, and Sanaa to mediate negotiations for a deal that calls on Saleh to handover power to his vice president prior to elections.
Document obtained by Haaretz reveals that between 1967 and 1994 many Palestinians traveling abroad were stripped of residency status, allegedly without warning.
By Akiva Eldar
Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994, the legal advisor for the Judea and Samaria Justice Ministry's office admits, in a new document obtained by Haaretz. The document was written after the Center for the Defense of the Individual filed a request under the Freedom of Information Law.
The document states that the procedure was used on Palestinian residents of the West Bank who traveled abroad between 1967 and 1994. From the occupation of the West Bank until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians who wished to travel abroad via Jordan were ordered to leave their ID cards at the Allenby Bridge border crossing.
They exchanged their ID cards for a card allowing them to cross. The card was valid for three years and could be renewed three times, each time adding another year.
If a Palestinian did not return within six months of the card's expiration, thier documents would be sent to the regional census supervisor. Residents who failed to return on time were registered as NLRs - no longer residents. The document makes no mention of any warning or information that the Palestinians received about the process.
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - At least 27 people were found dead in a Guatemalan village near the border with Mexico Sunday morning in one of the worst mass killings in the country in a generation, local police said.
The bloody incident started when raiders attacked the small town of Caserio La Bomba about 275 miles north of the capital, police said.
Two women were among the victims of the attack, said police, who were trying to determine the exact time of the attack and searching for more bodies. Many of the victims were shot and beheaded, police said.
Chinese authorities allow wife, Lu Qing, to visit artist and activist who had not been seen since arrest at Beijing airport on 3 April.
Detained artist Ai Weiwei seems to be in good physical health but mentally conflicted and tense, his wife has said after seeing him for the first time in six weeks.
Lu Qing said she was taken to see her husband for about 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon, the first contact friends and relatives have had with the 53-year-old Chinese artist and activist since officials stopped him at Beijing airport on 3 April.
It is not clear where he is being held and the people who arranged the visit did not show her identification, she added.
"I could see redness in his eyes. It was obvious that without freedom to express himself he was not behaving naturally even with me, someone from his family," Lu told Associated Press. "He seemed conflicted, contained, his face was tense."
The couple sat across the table from each other and their visit was supervised by two people, one "who seemed to be in charge of Ai", and another who took notes.