European Theater

Crimean Tatar leader faces 'lawless' trial

A trial is about to open in Russian-annexed Crimea in which Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Majlis, and two other Tatar leaders stand accused of organizing mass disturbances in February 2014, in the prelude to the regional referendum that approved union with Russia. The Ukraine-based  Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group assails the trial as "lawless" and says it "flies in the face of all principles of law." The Crimean court on Nov 25 imposed a Dec. 4 deadline for the defense to review a huge file assembled by prosecutors, consisting of 26 volumes and 47 gigabits of video footage, each some four hours long. An appeal against this ruling was rejected on Dec. 24, although the defense argued that they had only had time to read 10 of the 26 volumes, and had actually been denied access to the material for much of the peroid. Chiygoz has been detained since January, and his freedom was a demand of recent protest blockades of Crimea's border with Ukraine, which stopped delivery of goods into the peninsula. Since the former Majlis head Mustafa Dzhemiliev and his successor Refat Chubarov have both been exiled by the new Russian athorities, Chiygoz is the highest-ranking Tatar leader remaining in Crimea.

France poses anti-terror constitutional amendment

French President Francois Hollande on Dec. 23 submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to parliament to address anti-terrorism laws in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris in November. It is reported that the proposed amendments would allow the government to strip the nationality of natural born citizens convicted of terrorist acts and extend emergency policing policies. The current emergency policing policies allow for officers to conduct warrantless searches and conduct house arrests. The French Parliament is set to vote on the proposed amendments in the beginning of the next year.

Refugee resistance on Balkan border

Riots broke out in the early hours of Dec. 3 at Greece's frontier with Macedonia as migrants and asylum seekers stranded there for the past two weeks blockaded the border, preventing people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan from crossing. Since Nov. 18, only refugees from those three countries have been admitted into Macedonia, while other nationalities have been turned away. Many of those refused entry have boarded buses and returned to Athens in recent days, but about 3,000 have stayed to protest being discriminated against on the basis of nationality. Some have embarked on hunger strikes while several Iranian asylum seekers sewed their lips closed last week. (IRIN)

Spain strikes down Catalan independence plan

The Constitutional Court of Spain on Dec. 2 declared unconstitutional (PDF) a resolution by the Parliament of Catalonia that proposed a plan for the region's independence from Spain by 2017. The resolution was approved by Catalonian lawmakers in November, and stated that parliament would take the "necessary steps" to effect the separation from Spain in a peaceful and democratic manner and in a way that would empower citizens. The court held that the resolution violated Articles 1.1, 1.2 , 2, 9.1 and 168 of the Constitution and Articles 1 and 2.4 of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. The resolution states that the separation of Catalanonia from Spain is not subject to the decisions of the Constitutional Court.

Paris: police suppress climate protests

Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)

French parliament extends state of emergency

The French National Assembly voted Nov. 19 to extend the state of emergency for another three months. The state of emergency expands police power for searches and arrests, and allows authorities to restrict movement of individuals and vehicles with the country's borders. During the debate, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that France must be prepared to defend against chemical and biological warfare. The bill secured 551 votes with only six against, far surpassing the 279 necessary to pass the legislation through the chamber. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Conspiracy vultures descend on Paris

Well, we knew it was inevitable. And sure enough, the baseless and irreposnsible "false flag" theorizing about the Paris attacks is upon us. Sadly, the first entry is from the official Palestinian Authority  daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. This of course affords the Times of Israel and the right-wing Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) plenty of opportunity for gloating. The op-ed makes all the predictable noises: "The wise and correct thing is to look for who benefits... They need to search the last place reached by the octopus arms of the Mossad... It is clear that its 'Mossad' will burn Beirut and Paris in order to achieve Netanyahu's goals..." No evidence is offered, and the only stab at a motive is the fact that Europe is now moving to impose sanctions on "Israeli" imports in fact produced in the occupied West Bank. For good measure, it also blames "Israeli security services" for the bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai last month. 

From Beirut to Paris...

One day before the horrific Paris attacks, some 40 people were killed and more than 180 wounded in twin suicide attacks in a crowded suburb of Beirut. The coordinated blasts struck a Shi'ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential district of Borj al-Barajneh. The attacks were claimed in the name of ISIS. (Al Arabiya News, Nov. 12) Less than 24 hours later, the Parisian terror began to unfold—leaving at least 120 dead as a concert hall, sports stadium and restaurants were targeted with bombs and bullets. Eight of the attackers are dead in what appear to have been France's first suicide attacks. (BBC News, France24) In Europe and America, ugly responses are already in witness...

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