News from Central and Eastern Europe, Wednesday 22nd May 2013

BALKANS

B92: Two war crimes suspects arrested. ‘This was announced on Tuesday in Belgrade by the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution.

The war crimes allegations concern the conflict in Kosovo.

The two suspects – identified as K.V. and P.L. – have been placed under arrest on the order of the prosecution.

They, along with three others, are accused of committing war crimes against at least 65 civilians, as well as the first deportations and transfer of remains from the village of Ljubenić to a mass grave in Batajnica.

The prosecution also said in its statement that it had obtained evidence in the case from, among other sources, testimonies of several witnesses with whom it has the Agreement on Testimony, and who were direct participants in the said events.’

RUVR: PMs of Serbia, Kosovo, Catherine Ashton meet without tangible result. ‘The meeting of Prime Ministers of Serbia, Kosovo and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, dedicated to implementation of the Brussels agreements, ended in the capital of Belgium without any tangible result on Tuesday.’

BULGARIA

The Sofia Globe: Volen Siderov of Ataka tells major parties: ‘We will be your nightmare’. ‘In a fiery and emotional speech at the first sitting of the 42nd National Assembly, ultra-nationalist Ataka leader Volen Siderov sought to portray his party’s role as the eyes and ears of ordinary Bulgarians, distanced from the two big political forces, GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Not only was there Siderov’s histrionic rhetoric, there were symbolic gestures too. Ataka’s MPs stood for the playing of the Bulgarian national anthem but remained sitting for the European Union’s anthem.

Later, as presiding officers were being elected, Ataka walked out[…]

Speaking in Parliament on May 21, Siderov said that Ataka would support no government, would not vote in the election of a Speaker and would not seek the election, from among its number, of a Deputy Speaker.

He told GERB and the BSP: “We will be your nightmare”.’

CROATIA

Balkan Insight: Croatia Leads Balkans on Gay Rights Legislation. ‘Croatia scored 48 per cent on a checklist of laws that include rules on non-discrimination, gender recognition and hate speech, making it the regional leader, according to the research published ahead of Friday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“Croatian officials continued to gradually improve the human rights situation for LGBTI people,” the study said.

It was also noted that the Croatian authorities had ensured there was adequate police protection for participants at the Split Pride demonstration, which saw violence in 2011, and the event was even attended by five government officials.

“The government also expressed its intention to remove the degrading and offensive references to homosexuality identified in biology and religious education textbooks, while LGBT specific content was included in official curricula of the police academy,” it continues.’

GEORGIA

RFE/RL: Saakashvili Denounces Arrests Of Allies. ‘Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has compared the recent arrests of members of his administration to the jailing in Ukraine of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Former Georgian Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili was arrested on corruption charges on May 21. Ex-healthcare minister Zurab Chiaberashvili, now a governor of Kakheti region in eastern Georgia, was also arrested after police questioned him and Merabishvili.

Saakashvili criticized the arrests and warned that they could jeapordize Georgia’s foreign relations.’

RUVR: Georgia’s former PM charged with crimes under 3 Criminal Code sections.

Georgia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office officially charged the former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili on Tuesday night with perpetrating crimes under three sections of the Criminal Code.

He is specifically charged with voter bribing, embezzlement of government funds, and abuse of office. He may get as many as 12 years behind bars for the crimes in question.

The former Public Health Minister, currently the Kakheti Region Governor, Zurab Chiaberashvili, is also facing corruption charges. The former Prime Minister was detained in the city of Kutaisi yesterday.’

GREECE

Ekathimerini: Greek ombudsman concerned about treatment of minors in migrant detention centers. Greece’s Ombudsman, Calliope Spanou, has written to Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, condemning the detention of unaccompanied minors in detention centers for undocumented migrants as “unacceptable.”

She called for children to be held in reception facilities for “only as much time as is necessary to record their personal details before they are transferred to special hostels or reunited with relatives.”’

Enet English: Changes expected to anti-racism bill. ‘An anti-racism bill drafted by the justice ministry will not be submitted to parliament as it is, sources within the government have said.

The draft bill will reportedly be submitted to the parliament’s legislation drafting committee on Tuesday.

The bill would outlaw incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders, according to reports.

MPs would not be excluded and parties that receive public funding would see it suspended if their leaders publicly denied the Holocaust, took part in racist attacks or used Nazi salutes or symbols in parliament.

The bill enjoys the support of most parties, with the exception of extreme rightwing Golden Dawn.’

Greek Reporter: Parliament Nixes Kasidiaris On Lifting Immunity. ‘Facing prosecution for attacking two fellow Members of Parliament, a bid by Ilias Kasidiaris, spokesman for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party bid to have immunity lifted for the two female lawmakers he assaulted has been rejected by his colleagues.

Kasidiaris was seen on live television last year throwing water in the face of Rena Dourou, a member of the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and slapping Liana Kanelli, an MP from the KKE Communists before being restrained.

He was locked in a room by personnel from the TV station, but broke the door and hid for two days so he couldn’t be immediately prosecuted as Greek law requires an arrest within 48 hours for an assault.

Parliament has already removed his blanket immunity in the incident, but he wanted the lawmakers to do the same for Dourou and Kanelli, but they voted down his request.’

HUNGARY

Bloomberg: Hungary Premier Risks More Isolation With Nazi Comparison. ‘Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban risked further isolation in the European Union after comparing a remark made by Chancellor Angela Merkel with Nazi Germany’s military seizure of the country in World War II.

As the two leaders prepare to meet tomorrow in Brussels at an EU summit, Orban’s comments in a May 17 radio interview have raised the ire of politicians in Berlin. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle yesterday called his words a “regrettable derailment.”’

Channel 4 News: On the streets with Hungary’s far-right. ‘The far-right Jobbik party is hoping to become Hungary’s second biggest political party at next year’s elections but their manifesto is filled with vitriolic references to gypsies and Jews. Channel 4 News travelled to Budapest to meet the men behind the campaign.

Jobbik currently holds 43 seats in the Hungarian parliament and two in the European parliament. In Hungary it has become a legitimate political force – although its anti-Semitic message has raised concerns across the globe.

The party is allied with the BNP through the Alliance of European National Movements, but is considerably more successful. One key difference is its ties to vigilante militias – think English Defence League, but sober and in military uniforms.

The nationalist militias descend on gypsy towns to intimidate and sow division – when banned, they simply re-form with new names and similar structures.’

MACEDONIA

Balkan Insight: Macedonia ‘Hiding’ Rise in Hate Attacks, Report Says. ‘A new survey by the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said the authorities are downplaying a rise in hate crimes, mostly committed for ethnic or religious reasons and involving ethnic Macedonians and Albanians. Attacks on gays and lesbians are also common.

“We sense a tendency for these acts to be camouflaged as ‘violence’. Furthermore, the failure to recognise these acts [as hate crimes] has a tendency to concealment that paints a wrong picture of the situation,” said the head of the committee, Uranija Pirovska.

The survey cites the example of a 13-year-old Albanian who was slashed with a knife after refusing to kiss a crucifix – a crime not even listed by Macedonian institutions as hate-related, according to the committee.

The survey says that in the past three years only 14 hate crimes cases have been recorded in courts across the country. The maximum sentence given was five months in jail, while most perpetrators were freed on probation.’

POLAND

The News: Roma take legal action over ‘racist’ pop song. ‘Roman Kwiatkowski, chairman of the association, was drawn attention to lyrics by the Bracia Figo Fagot group, after discovering that the pop band was due to perform at an annual student festival in Poznan this Thursday.

The song in question includes the lines: “Darling, please abort that Gypsy/ The Gypsy is a thief and always will be,” (“Kochana, wyskrob prosze tego Cygana. Cygan to zlodziej i tak juz zostanie”).

“It is degrading, and below any form of human dignity,” Kwiatkowski told Polish Radio.’

ROMANIA

SETimes: Corruption case shocks Romanian justice system. ‘The seven-year prison sentence issued to former Romanian senator Catalin Voicu ended a four-year corruption trial that exposed an unprecedented ring of influence peddling among politicians, magistrates and businessmen, and has led to calls for heightened accountability of corrupt judges and prosecutors.

According to anti-corruption prosecutors, Voicu, a Social Democrat member of parliament from 2004-2012, a former presidential adviser and a retired and medaled protection service general, was the epicenter of an “octopus-like system” that infiltrated the justice sector.

Prosecutors say corrupt judges answered to orders from the former MP and worked to obtain favorable verdicts in a series of criminal cases.

The trial revealed that politicians and high-profile businessmen who were charged with influence peddling, complicity to trafficking, buying influence, respectively and document forgery asked Voicu to bury criminal files in exchange for large amounts of money.’

RUSSIA

France 24: Russia probes Moscow terror attack ‘plot’‘Russia was Tuesday set to question the sole survivor of a deadly police raid outside Moscow that authorities said had prevented a major attack in the capital.

The operation in the Moscow region town of Orekhovo-Zuyevo took place shortly after twin car bombs killed four and injured more than 40 in the restive Dagestan region.

“The decisive actions of the law enforcement authorities foiled an attempt to carry out a terrorist attack in the capital,” the National Anti-Terrorism Committee said in a statement on its website on Tuesday.’

RAPSI: Lower house mitigates punishment for religious offense. ‘The State Duma has adopted during the second reading a bill on criminal responsibility for actions that cause religious offence, mitigating the maximum punishment from five to three years in prison on Tuesday.

The bill was submitted to the lower house by the four parliamentary parties in late September 2012. By the second reading, MPs rejected the idea of adding an article to the Criminal Code stipulating up to five years in prison for causing religious offence. Instead, they proposed amending Article 148 on liability for preventing believers from exercising the right to the freedom of belief and worship.

The MPs propose punishment for public actions which are explicitly disrespectful of society and intend to insult believers, including in places of worship, prayer and other religious rites. In addition to imprisonment, the bill introduces fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,035), compulsory community service and correctional labor.’

Dagestani man gets four years for recruiting terrorists online. ‘The Supreme Court of Dagestan has sentenced a resident of Dagestan to four years in prison for creating a terrorist group and for recruiting people into it via social networking sites, the Prosecutor General’s Office reported on Tuesday.

The court held that 25-year-old Timur Dashtiyev from Russian southern republic of Dagestan decided to create an illegal armed group to fight local law-enforcement agencies in June 2011.

“He recruited three people into his jihad through social networking sites, although they later abandoned their criminal intent,” the prosecutors said. The court accepted the prosecution’s arguments and sentenced Dashtiyev to four years in a high security penal colony.’

Ria Novosti: Policeman Killed, Soldier Wounded in Russia’s Dagestan. ‘A policeman was killed and a soldier wounded after unknown assailants opened fire on them in Buinaksk, a city in Russia’s North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan, a spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry said.

According to the spokesman, the policemen and soldier were hospitalized with gun wounds in a hospital in Buinaksk after unidentified suspects opened fire on their car on Tuesday night.’

RFE/RL: Moscow Says Top Islamist Militant Killed. ‘Moscow has announced it has killed an alleged ally of one of Russia’s most-wanted insurgents.

Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee says Dzhamaleil Mutaliyev was killed along with another militant in a gun battle with security forces May 21 in the town of Nazran in Ingushetia.

Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee said Mutaliyev was a close aide of Doku Umarov, leader of the banned Caucasus Emirate that is fighting for an Islamist state in Russia’s Caucasus region.

The group claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on a Moscow airport in 2011 and the Russian capital’s metro in 2010. Those attacks killed nearly 80 people.’

RUVR: Illegal migrants could have launched terrorist attack in Moscow. ‘

Illegal migrants could have well launched a terrorist attack in Moscow, a veteran of the Russian External Intelligence Service, Lev Korolkov, has told the Voice of Russia.

According to the expert, the Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee pointed out in a statement that the rebel fighters who were ‘neutralized’ in Orekhovo-Zuyevo, near Moscow, on Monday, were trained in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and were about to stage an act of terror in Moscow.’

TURKEY

Al Arabiya: Turkey charges prime suspect in car bombings, report says. ‘Turkish authorities on Tuesday charged the prime suspect in the twin car bombings that left 51 people dead in a town near the Syrian border, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

The man, who was arrested trying to cross into Syria along with two accomplices, is alleged to have purchased the vehicles used in the bombings. Four other suspects were also charged.

Turkish police have arrested dozens of people over the attack and 12 people have been charged so far, Anatolia said.

All suspects are Turkish nationals who Ankara believes were backed by the Syrian regime.’

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