Unrest spreads across Bulgaria
Violent anti-government protests in Bulgaria are spreading. At first the demonstrations were confined to the capital city of Sofia, but at the weekend tens of thousands of people took to the streets in all the major cities across the EU’s poorest nation. VoR’s Juliet Spare reports. The protests in Bulgarian cities were sparked by anger over mounting electricity bills and frozen public wages. Demonstrations turned violent and protestors clashed with police.
Two men set themselves on fire, one died; the other man is in hospital in a critical condition. Prime Minister Boiko Borisov then announced his resignation, saying he couldn’t govern a country where police beat the people and resigned. But despite his resignation, protests are continuing and spreading to rural areas of Bulgaria. Journalist Danail Danov lives in the capital city Sofia. “People living in small towns have decided they can’t stand the situation any longer so have decided to join the protests,” he said. Much of the anger has been directed at power companies. Business Editor Daniel Bardsley from the Prague Post explains why people in Bulgaria are so angry about the cost of fuel: “Bills are going up by as much as 50% and in a poor country that has an enormous effect on households.The anger has been focussed on the foreign energy companies.”
Meanwhile the Government has revoked the electricity distribution license of a Czech-based company, CEZ over alleged breaches of procurement rules after customers complained about the cost of fuel. Maxim Braterskiy is a Professor of World Economy and Politics at Moscow Higher School of Economics and is surprised the government’s actions. “I really don’t know what they are thinking about as Bulgaria doesn’t have any other source of energy,” he said.
“They heat their houses with wood. Bulgarians are generally poor people and everything is because politicians think of the political interests in Brussels not the interests of their own citizens.” But it’s not only people shouting about the rise in energy bills and the cost of living, the demonstrations are attracting another voice, says Danov:
“There are some extreme groups who can be seen after a major football match, some say they provoke protests but there is no evidence so far. I’ve been watching what’s been happening and the thing is, the extreme groups hide their faces and protest anonymously as they don’t want to reveal who they are.” After announcing its resignation, Bulgaria’s ruling centre-right party has turned down the mandate for the formation of an interim government.
Construction of Egypt’s Ain Sokhna power plant halted by labour strike
Construction of a new state-owned power station in the city of Ain Sokhna on Egypt’s Red Sea cost was suspended on Monday morning after workers from various subcontracting companies declared a strike, Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website reported, citing an unnamed electricity ministry source. “Almost 150 workers from several subcontracting companies staged a strike this morning, blocking the plant’s entrances to demand permanent employment contracts,” Seood Ahmed, Suez-based trade unionist and labour activist, told Ahram Online. Construction worker Mumen Abd El-Kerim said:
“Electricity ministry officials repeatedly promised us that we would be granted permanent employment contracts. But we were told yesterday by factory management that other workers from outside Suez had already been employed.” The new power plant is scheduled to come online by April and will boast a maximum capacity of 1,300 megawatts. Due to recent circumstances, however, completion of the plant may be delayed until 2014, according to electricity ministry officials.
“We’ve staged six consecutive strikes to voice the same demands,” said Ahmed Mohamed, another construction worker. “The management is corrupt; managers prefer to appoint their relatives instead of us.”
Gdeim Izik group starts 48-hour hunger strike on Monday
Sale (Morocco), Feb 24, 2013 (SPS) – The Saharawi political prisoners of Gdeim Izik, who were sentenced to heavy military judgments, announced, in a statement, that they will launch a 48-hour alarming hunger strike starting from Monday. The group said that they want to show solidarity with their companion prisoner Abdallahi Lakhfawni, who is on hunger strike for the 4 consecutive day, and to denounce the torture experienced against Al-Bachir Jadda, Mohamed Juna Babit, Deich Addafi, Mohamed Mbarek Lafgir and Sid Ahmed Lamjaiad.
The group called on all international and national organizations, associations and bodies of human rights to made more efforts to pressurize Moroccan state to release them unconditionally. They also confirmed their intention to hold more hunger strikes until justice takes its course, condemning strongly the unfair military verdicts issued by the Moroccan martial court in Rabat gainst them on February 17. (SPS)
Abdallah Declares Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Palestinian Detainees
Lebanese leftist militant Georges Abdallah, who has been jailed for nearly three decades in France, on Monday declared a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, the Lebanon-based, pan-Arab television al-Mayadeen reported on Monday. More than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners staged a one-day hunger strike on Sunday to protest the death of Palestinian inmate Arafat Jaradat. Issa Qaraqaa, the Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs, said Jaradat was tortured to death in an Israeli jail. The 30-year-old man from Sair near Hebron in the West Bank was arrested last Monday for alleged involvement in a November 2012 stone-throwing incident which injured an Israeli, according to Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service.
Relations between Israel and the Palestinians were already tense because of a rising wave of protests in solidarity with four prisoners who have been on hunger strike for several months. Three were hospitalized on Saturday. Abdallah, the former head of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction (LARF), was convicted for his alleged part in the 1982 murders in Paris of U.S. military attache Charles Robert Ray and Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimantov. He was handed down a life sentence in 1987. Abdallah has been eligible for parole since 1999, but seven previous applications were all rejected.
A French court granted Abdallah parole in November on condition he be deported but the interior ministry had yet to issue the deportation order. The court postponed its decision on his release until February 28. Last month, U.S. Representative Grace Meng urged France not to release him, drawing up a bipartisan letter with around 50 members of Congress calling on France to scrap the possible release. The letter was handed to French President Francois Hollande.
The International Campaign to Free Georges Abdallah has accused Paris of being a proxy for the U.S. But French Ambassador to Lebanon Patrice Paoli has denied any U.S. role in the delay to release him. The campaign dismantled on January 30 a tent it had erected outside the mission after the Lebanese government tasked a ministerial committee with following up the case.
Third day of protest by families of Sinai prisoners
For the third consecutive day, families of prisoners in Sinai blocked off the Al-Arish central Sinai road in southern al-Arish, preventing night shift workers from arriving at cement factories in the centre of the peninsula. Individuals and privately owned vehicles were allowed to pass through. Protesters stated that their relatives are “prisoners who have been languishing in Mubarak’s prisons since 2004, and even though he himself is gone, his policies persist under different leadership”.
“We hoped to receive justice after the 25 January revolution,” they said. “However, all promises made to us have been broken.” They added that they are “fed up and refuse to stand idly by in the face of injustice, as we reject the findings of Egypt’s circus courts which have made rulings based off emergency law, something that was supposed to have been dissolved with the onset of the revolution. The African Court on Human and People’s Rights has ruled that our relatives should be compensated and released, however nearly a year has passed since then and we still have not seen any results.
We warn the current regime that going down this path will create a powder kettle that is bound to explode”. The families concluded that they will not “stand idly by, but rather organise peaceful protests that the regime will not be able to quell except by addressing our demands.
These include releasing our relatives, allowing them a re-trial before a civil court, and compensating them for their years spent living behind bars”.
Residents protest after four killed by off duty cop’s car
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday February 25, 2013 – At least four people, including a mother and two children, were killed when a vehicle driven by an off duty police officer crashed into them on the Beetham Highway, just on the outskirts of the capital on Sunday, police said.
Police were called to maintain law and order after angry residents burned tyres and blocked the highway, claiming that the driver, whose name was not released, had been speeding and lost control of the vehicle. Police have identified those killed as 27-year-old Hady Paul, her children eight-year-old Akasha and seven-year-old Shakira. One unidentified person later died in hospital. Police said that they could not confirm rubber bullets had been used to subdue the protestors, but indicated that a section of the highway had been closed.
Nigeria: Keffi Students’ Protest – Security Agents Open Fire, Two Feared Dead
Lafia — No fewer than five students were shot by a combined team of soldiers and policemen who moved in to open the barricade by students of Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK), who poured out this morning in protest against a water crisis which had lasted for over one week. Soldiers and policemen were said to have opened fire at point blank, killing two students on the spot, and injuring three others at the High Court area of Keffi, where the security personnel tried to break up the protesters at about 11am. Joseph Danjuma, spokesman to the deputy governor, said they were about to “issue a press statement”, on the matter.
Meanwhile the management of the university has announced the decision to close down the school, according to Jamil Zakari, spokesman of the university. Zakari also said he heard of the shooting down of students, but added that “I cannot officially confirm that now.” The students, including fresh entrants began the protest at about 7:30am after over close to two weeks of water crisis which hit Keffi because the management could not treat and pump water from Mada Water Works along Keff-Akwanga Road. They chanted “No Water, No Road”, during the protest which has continued for about five hours now.
State police spokesman, DSP Michael Ada refused to confirm the shooting and killing of students by either the soldiers or policemen. But he confirmed that the security personnel were there on ground.