Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Don't let them jail Gaza protesters

 
by Siân Ruddick (socialist worker)

Mass arrests of protesters on a scale not seen since the Poll Tax Riot of 1990 have been used against people demonstrating in London for Palestinian rights.

Now 69 people arrested during and after the marches against the Israeli assault on Gaza that began at the end of last year face jail terms of up to five years.

The Stop the War Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Muslim Council of Britain were among the groups organising the demonstrations held on 28 December last year and 3, 10 and 24 January this year.

The protests exploded onto the streets of London after people saw images of the horror and devastation that Israel inflicted on some of the poorest people in the world.

Defendants appeared before West London Magistrates Court on Thursday and Friday of last week for plea entry hearings.

Charges

Some 61 of the defendants, mostly Muslim men aged between 17 and 20, are accused of violent disorder.

The remaining eight are facing a range of charges. One is accused of actual bodily harm, one of failing to appear at bail, one of common assault, and another of two counts of obstructing a person assisting the police.

A fifth is accused of using racially aggravated language, a sixth of assaulting a police officer, a seventh of burglary and criminal damage, along with violent disorder, and an eighth of criminal damage.

Matt Foot is a solicitor representing four of the defendants. He told Socialist Worker, “These scale of the charges have not been seen since the poll tax demonstrations.

“There seems to be a policy of imposing stringent bail conditions on everyone, just on the basis that this was a demonstration about an international issue.”

Bail conditions include some defendants having to turn their passports in to their local police stations, and having to live and sleep every night at the same address.

Some are not allowed to leave Britain or apply for international travel documents.

While in court, the public gallery had to be vacated several times due to the young age of a number of the defendants.

Of the defendants entering a not guilty plea, only three did not have their passports confiscated. One is on jobseekers’ allowance and needs to provide his passport for applications.

Another is an academic who needs to travel abroad for a conference next month.

And the other is an Israeli citizen who was arrested on a counter‑protest. He has been allowed to return to Israel until his committal hearing in December.

Many of the accused were arrested months after the demonstration, some as late as July.

One defendant had his house raided at 4.30am. His father accompanied him to court and spoke to Socialist Worker.

He said, “I’ve been in this country for 47 years and I’ve never seen anything like that – 25 officers to come and get a boy. The police are treating people like they’re nothing.

Protest

“I’ve been on all the demonstrations against the ‘war on terror’ since day one. I don’t take sides between Muslim and non‑

Muslim countries, we are all the same. I just don’t like war.

“We have seen disaster in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – where next? Iran, Bangladesh? You cannot send armies into other countries and claim the land as your own.

“It is right to protest, to say this has to stop.”

The Stop the War Coalition is organising a defence campaign for defendants who have pled not guilty or who have so far not entered a plea – the majority of the accused.

Several appeared before youth court hearings, where details of the cases are not released.

One case, a charge of criminal damage, was resolved on Thursday of last week. The accused had been found with unopened bottles of red food dye in his bag as he was stopped and searched during the 10 January demonstration.

He pled guilty and was given 12 months conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 costs.

The adult cases are to be sent to Isleworth Crown Court in the new year, but first they are due to go to committal hearings at West London Magistrates Court on the 10, 17 and 21 December.


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Settlers steal Palestinian family's home in Jerusalem


Today settlers in Jerusalem stole a palestinian family's home and threw them out on the streets along with their furniture. The police looked on, nodding with satisfaction as their ethnic cleansing of the city proceeds apace.
Ma'an - Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israeli settlers arrogated the home of the Al-Kurd family in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday, residents of the area said.

About 30 settlers were seen entering the house and throwing the family's furniture into the street. The settlers have refused to leave the building and Israeli police blocked members of the Al-Kurd family from entering the area. Witnesses also reported heated arguments between police and Palestinian residents.

Residents said the settlers moved into the house in violation of an Israeli court order issued nine years ago when Jewish organizations put forward a claim that they in fact owned the property. Two other buildings belonging to the Al-Kurd and Al-Ghawi families were also targeted in the claim.

Locals also said the court had ordered no one to enter one section of the multi-unit building because it was built without a construction permit.

In early August Israeli police forced more than 50 members of two Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, allowing settlers to move in. The evictions went forward despite near-universal condemnation from the international community, including Israel’s closest ally, the US.
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Two Palestinian homes were demolished by the occupiers on Monday.

Israel claims missiles of Gaza resistance forces can now hit Tel Aviv


Israel's Gaza war was not just a strategic defeat, daily confirmed by the growing isolation of the country internationally, it was also a military defeat. None of the objectives were achieved - be it stopping rocket fire or 'liquidating' Hamas. Now Israel's military intelligence chief says Palestinian resistance groups now have longer ranger missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv.
JERUSALEM (AP)— Hamas militants in Gaza have successfully test-fired in recent days an Iranian rocket able to reach metropolitan Tel Aviv, the country's military intelligence chief said Tuesday.
Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin told parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee that the rocket could fly 37 miles (60 kilometers), which would put Israel's largest urban center at risk, Israeli media reported.

Until now, rockets fired from Gaza have reached up to 25 miles (40 kilometers), putting one-eighth of Israel's population within rocket range.

No further details were immediately available from Yadlin's testimony before the closed session.
Defense officials say Palestinian militants in Gaza generally test-fire rockets into the Mediterranean Sea.
It was not clear whether the rocket actually flew 37 miles (60 kilometers), or why Yadlin described the rocket as being of Iranian origin.

Israeli ballistics experts have said paint, tool work and Latin lettering on other rocket fragments point to Iranian origins. But the military has not publicly released clear evidence proving Iranian involvement.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, had no comment on Yadlin's testimony.
Haaretz quotes the general remarking on the growing strength of Hamas and Hezbollah - and of course blaming Iran and Syria for this.
"Underneath the surface, our enemies, led by Iran, are continuing to gain strength," Yadlin said. "Iran is financing these activities, training forces, and arming Hamas and Hezbollah."

The MI chief said Hamas is currently not interested in confrontation with Israel. Rather, it is devoting its energies to solidifying its rule in the Gaza Strip while continuing its weapons smuggling operations.
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