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News digest: 20 September 2013

ALBANIA: Officers sentenced over Albanian protest deaths (Balkan Insight): "The Tirana Appeals Court on Wednesday jailed two former Republican Guard officers for a total of four years for killing protesters in the January 21, 2011 riots - but neither man will actually have to serve any more time in prison"

BOSNIA: BiH tightens up anti-trafficking laws (SETimes.com): "Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) added criminal law amendments that impose stricter sentences for human trafficking criminals as part of the country's continuous effort against human trafficking"

Bulgaria's newest politician mulls mandatory army draft (Novinite): "Controversial Bulgarian former TV7 director and host Nikolay Barekov, now officially politician, revealed Monday two of his new ideas for reform. The first one is reinstating mandatory army draft on education basis."

Bulgarians to stage global anti-government rally on Independence Day (Novinite): "Bulgarians from over twenty cities across the globe are going to join people in their homeland protesting against the government with demands for its resignation" 

CROATIA: EU threatens Croatia sanctions over arrest law (Balkan Insight): "Brussels has vowed to impose sanctions soon if Croatia doesn’t change its controversial legislation on European arrest warrants to meet EU requirements quickly." See also: Commission takes action to ensure Croatia correctly implements the European Arrest Warrant (Europa, press release)

DENMARK: Danish-Iranian artist convicted of racism (The Copenhagen Post): "A Danish-Iranian artist was found guilty of racism by the Western High Court on Monday for statements she made about Muslim men"

EU may reintroduce visas for North Americans (expatica.com): "The EU is considering reintroducing visas for US and Canadian citizens if Washington and Ottawa do not waive visas for certain European countries"

EU: EP delegation to inspect border control at Bulgaria-Turkey border (Novinite): "A European Parliament delegation is to arrive in Bulgaria's southeastern town of Svilengrad on Thursday to inspect border control at the border with Turkey"

EU: EP visa move designed to curb abuses (SETimes.com): "A European Parliament vote to allow the 28-nation bloc to temporarily re-impose visa requirements for Western Balkan countries and other non-member states is aimed at ensuring that visa-free travel does not lead to abuses, European officials said." See also: Cecilia Malmström on the adoption of a visa waiver suspension mechanism (Europa, press release)

 EU: Marine Le Pen backs European election alliance with Wilders (Dutch News): "French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen is interested in forging a joint campaign for next year’s European elections with Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration PVV"

EU: Headed somewhere in Europe, somehow (Inter Press Service): "While the relentless war in Syria continuously adds to the number of refugees travelling west to Europe, Greece is fast becoming a nation they are choosing to avoid. The majority of Syrians, and also others fleeing their countries, are now trying to reach northern Europe through other routes. And the tough Balkans is emerging as one such alternative." See also: Rising number of refugees creates concern in Turkey, Europe (SETimes.com); Europe failing Syrian refugees (Inter Press Service); Bulgarian nationalists call for closing border over refugee wave and Bulgaria's asylum centres bursting at the seams as Syrian refugees enter Europe (Novinite)

EU: Progress in EU migration policy since 1999 (Europa, text of speech by Cecilia Mamlström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs)

EU: The intolerant continent: Europe's shocking attitude creating a climate of fear for gay people (The Independent): "Gay, lesbian and transgender people face shocking levels of violence, discrimination and abuse across Europe, with gaps in EU and national legislation robbing them of justice and creating a climate of fear, a new report by Amnesty International says." See: Full report: Europe: Because of who I am: Homophobia, transphobia and hate crimes in Europe (Amnesty International)

EU-Serbia: On the preparations for next steps in the accession negotiations (Europa, press release)

FRANCE: Drones proposed to tackle Marseille crime (The Telegraph): "Eugène Caselli, the Socialist Party president of the Marseille urban community, and mayoral candidate, proposed on Thursday that drone aircraft be used to seek out drug-dealing and violent crime on the backstreets of the city, which has been hit by a spate of murders"

FRANCE: Ex-French PM's 'strategic' softening on far right (France 24): " Former French prime minister François Fillon has upset many in his centre-right UMP party by calling for an end to its policy of treating the far-right National Front as a political pariah, but analysts see it as merely a tactic." See also: National Front leader Le Pen gets a double election boost (The Independent)

FRANCE: NSA paid French hacker company for software exploits, contract reveals (Slate): "France is one of several countries in Europe whose people have been outraged by revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. But it turns out that a French company has quietly bolstered the NSA’s capabilities." See also: Plenary speech on cyber security and digital arms trade (Marietje Schaake MEP)

German liberals invoke the ‘red threat’ in fight for their political life (The Independent): "Sunday’s general election will be make-or-break for the party who have attempted to strike fear into voters who remember the Communist era of more than two decades ago"

GERMANY: Legal limbo: Lawyers seek clarity on headscarves in court (Spiegel Online): "The German court system has a patchwork of rules and regulations about whether female lawyers should be permitted to wear the hijab, or Muslim headscarf, in court. Experts say the lack of legal clarity is unsustainable, and that a big debate is brewing"

GERMANY: Merkel buzzed by mini-drone at campaign event (Spiegel Online): "Just when the scandal surrounding the Merkel administration's bungled purchase of a multi-million euro surveillance drone was beginning to fade, the Internet activist Pirate Party has managed to draw attention to it once again"

GERMANY: 'More boldness': Merkel in pre-vote dispute over arms exports (Spiegel Online): "An internal paper indicates Chancellor Merkel's conservatives want Germany to increase arms exports, a move strictly opposed by her coalition partners. Foreign Minister Westerwelle struck back this week, highlighting a government spat just days before the election." See also: Germany: Plan to export hundreds of tanks to Saudi Arabia sparks fierce opposition (Statewatch News Online, July 2012)

GERMANY: Multicultural Germany: How we experience racism (Spiegel Online): "Several recent controversies in Germany -- from the treatment of refugees to the obstacles faced by immigrants in the job market -- have thrown the issue of racial discrimination into the limelight. SPIEGEL spoke to 15 people of foreign descent to find out how racism affects their daily lives"

GREECE: Aristoteli mayor to file suit against Independent Greeks leader over lynching comment (Ekathimerini): "The mayor of the northern Greek municipality of Aristoteli, Christos Pachtas, said on Tuesday that he will be filing a lawsuit against Panos Kammenos, leader of the nationalist Independent Greeks party, after the latter made comments suggesting that residents of Halkidiki in northern Greece should “lynch” the mayor for backing a gold mine in the region of Skouries"

GREECE: Backlash against Greek far-right as anti-fascist rapper is laid to rest (The Independent): "Hundreds of mourners turned out in Athens today for the funeral of a hip-hop artist and anti-fascist campaigner who was killed in an apparently politically motivated attack blamed on the far-right Golden Dawn – an episode that has shocked Greece and prompted calls from politicians for a crackdown on the party". See also: Thousands bid farewell to Pavlos Fyssas and Photos prove murder suspect's neonazi links (EnetEnglish); Musician death sparks violence in Greece and Greece PM Antonis Samaras condemns 'neo-Nazi' killing (BBC News); Greek President Papoulias says Greece must deny fascism space and Parties condemn fatal Amfiali attack, slam Golden Dawn (Ekathimerini); and Murder witnesses fear Golden Dawn reprisals (Greek Reporter)

GREECE: Golden Dawn cases to be investigated as actions of criminal gang (EnetEnglish): " The case files of 32 incidents involving Golden Dawn members are to be investigated using legislation designed to combat criminal gangs, the public order minister announced on Thursday." See also: Gov't to step up legal pressure on Golden Dawn (Ekathimerini)

GREECE: Investigation reopened into 502 'missing' street children (EnetEnglish): "Chief prosecutor at Athens first instance court orders fresh investigation into the fate of 502 Albanian Roma children taken to an Athens children's home"

GREECE: Mazower warns Greece is underestimating threat of Golden Dawn (Ekathimerini): "Greeks must not underestimate the threat of Golden Dawn if they accept it as a legitimate, mainstream political movement British historian Mark Mazower said Tuesday"

GREECE: Son of Cypriot ex-minister to be extradited to Greece for trial (Ekathimerini): "A top Cyprus court on Tuesday upheld a judicial order for the extradition to Greece of the son of former Cypriot Interior Minister Dinos Michailides (photo) for trial in connection with a money-laundering racket centered around former Greek Defense Minster Akis Tsochatzopoulos"

Greek crisis: Mass strikes over civil servant job cuts (BBC News): "A week of mass strike action has begun in Greece in protest at large public sector layoffs and forced transfers." See also: Greek police use tear gas on protesting school staff as teachers go on strike against cuts (The Independent)

IRELAND: Gardai charged with assault after allegedly pepper-spraying a teenager (Irish Independent): "Two Gardai have been charged with assault after allegedly pepper-spraying a juvenile while he was incapacitated"

IRELAND: NUJ: Irish Independent journalist’s compulsory redundancy is “unfair and unjust” (The Journal): "The National Union onf Journalists (NUJ) has expressed its support for former Irish Independent journalist Gemma O’Doherty after her exit from the newspaper." See: Controversy over firing of leading Irish investigative journalist (The Guardian)

IRELAND: Three arrested as gardai use pepper spray after protesters attempt to storm Dail (Irish Independent): " There was mayhem and widespread disruption on Dublin streets this evening as protesters brought evening rush-hour traffic to a standstill, blocking off the main thoroughfare of O'Connell Bridge." See: Special garda team set up to investigate violent clashes during Dublin protest (Irish Independent) and Lockout protest: Mini-march, TD jostled and pepper spray (The Journal)

ITALY: Amnesty says Italy needs law against homophobia (Gazzetta del Sud): "It is unacceptable that Italy still has no law against homophobia as a hate crime, Amnesty International said Wednesday"

Italy sees new migrants influx (Inter Press Service): "After what is remembered as the North Africa emergency of 2011, Italy is again seeing an increase in the arrivals of migrants, especially asylum seekers." See: Hundreds of Syrians rescued off Italian shores; VIDEO: Syrian baby born after refugee sea rescue (The Local) and 270 migrants rescued (Gazzetta del Sud)

ITALY: Inter fans punished over Juventus racism (The Local): "Inter Milan has been forced to close part of its San Siro stadium for the team's next home game, after fans racially abused Juventus players on Saturday"

ITALY: Kyenge backs pope's call to house refugees in empty convents (Gazzetta del Sud): "Italian Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, a doctor who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the nation's first black minister, on Tuesday applauded Pope Francis' proposal of turning defunct convents into refugee centers"

Kosovo president approves controversial amnesty law (Balkan Insight): "President Atifete Jahjaga has signed amnesty legislation that was passed in a bid to help integrate Kosovo’s Serb minority by forgiving past resistance to the authorities in Pristina"

Macedonia charges 20 with espionage (Balkan Insight): "Macedonian prosecutors on Tuesday filed charges against 20 people, accused of being part of a high-profile spy ring that worked for an unnamed neighbouring government." See also: High-level 'spy ring' bust rocks Macedonia (Balkan Insight)

Macedonia denounces ex-police minister over surveillance (Balkan Insight): "Former interior minister Tomislav Cokrevski has been targeted for allegedly ordering illegal surveillance of right-wing activists in the 1990s for ideological and political reasons"

Macedonian NGO doubts verdict on journalist's death (Balkan Insight): "Transparency Macedonia says in its latest report that the authorities have failed to answer important questions about the journalist Nikola Mladenov's fatal car crash"

MALTA: Detention officer injured in unrest at Safi detention centre (Malta Independent): " A detention services officer was slightly injured during unrest at the Safi Detention Centre, at around 3am"

Montenegro to launch refugee camp clean-up (Balkan Insight): "The clean-up of the Konik camp in Podgorica, inhabited by over 1,500 Roma refugees who fled the Kosovo war, marks the anniversary of Montenegro declaring itself an ‘ecological state’"

NETHERLANDS: Holland's 'sniffer rats' have a nose for crime-fighting (BBC News): "Five "sniffer rats" have been in police training in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, learning how to distinguish between scents - including drugs and explosives"

NETHERLANDS: Insurance firms are breaking privacy laws over sick workers (Dutch News): "Insurance companies such as Achmea and De Goudse are structurally infringing on patients' rights to privacy by pressuring employers for information about sick workers, according to television current affairs show Zembla"

NETHERLANDS: Labour MPs welcome 'more humane' refugee policy plans (Dutch News): "Labour MPs have welcomed the justice ministry's plans to amend current policy on refugees, saying the new approach is 'moving in the right direction'"

NETHERLANDS: More convicted criminals will stay in jail pending an appeal (Dutch News): "More people who have been convicted of a crime will not be allowed out of jail pending an appeal, if new justice ministry proposals become law"

 NETHERLANDS: Police investigation turns up Afghan death lists (Dutch News): "A police investigation into an Afghan refugee has turned up lists with the names of up to 5,000 Afghan citizens who were tortured and killed by the Communist regime in the late 1970s, the NRC reports on Wednesday"

 NETHERLANDS: Rich foreigners can 'buy' a Dutch residency permit for €1.25m (Dutch News): "Rich foreigners are to be offered temporary residency permits if they agree to invest at least €1.25m in Dutch companies"

POLAND: German documents reveal Walesa in Stasi spotlight (The News): " New revelations in the German press have found that the Solidarity leader and later Nobel laureate Lech Walesa was under the watchful eye of the Stasi East German secret police as early as 1980"

POLAND: Thousands protest against Polish government (Al Jazeera): "Tens of thousands of Polish labour union members have marched through the capital, Warsaw, in the finale of a four-day protest against the government"

RUSSIA: 25 Greeenpeace activists arrested in Arctic protest (Barents Observer): "Russian coast guard yesterday boarded Greenpeace’s vessel “Arctic Sunrise” and arrested 25 activists from the “Save the Arctic” campaign who tried to hinder the work of Gazprom’s drilling platform “Prirazlomnaya”." See: Netherlands demands answers from Russia after Greenpeace ship comes under fire in Arctic waters (The Amsterdam Herald) and Armed Russian security officers storm Greenpeace ship and hold 30 activists at gunpoint, environmental group says (The Independent)

SERBIA: Dacic sacks Belgrade police chief (Balkan Insight): "As tensions in Serbia’s police escalate, the police chief in the capital was dismissed over accusations of unprofessionalism and blocking corruption investigations"

Spain plans prison terms for providers of pirated web content (El País): "Spain is for the first time to introduce prison sentences for the owners or administrators of websites that provide links to copyrighted material on external pages, infringing intellectual property laws"

SPAIN: Is this a step toward open government? (El País): "Outsiders are amazed to discover that Spain lacks a transparency law in 2013 but many doubt that the country's new legislation will live up to that abroad"

SPAIN: Rights lawyers demand arrest of four ex-Franco officials wanted in Argentina (El País): "Lawyers for the families of victims of the Francisco Franco regime said Thursday they will pressure the Spanish government to arrest four men who are wanted in Argentina after a Buenos Aires judge issued international warrants as part of her investigation into crimes committed during Spain’s dictatorship"

Spanish border fence stormed by African immigrants (BBC News): "About 100 African immigrants have broken through a border fence from Morocco into the Spanish territory of Melilla, sparking clashes with police." See also: African migrants break into Spain's Melilla territory (BBC News)

SWEDEN: Social Democrat sacked over Facebook racism (The Local): "A local Social Democrat politician from central Sweden has been forced out of office after he published a racist Facebook post about when it might be appropriate to run over a "Negro""

TURKEY: Students protest in Turkish capital Ankara (BBC News): "Hundreds of university students in Turkey have vented their anger about plans to build a new road across their campus by taking to the streets of Ankara." See also: Dozens arrested in Turkey over protests (Al Jazeera): "Police arrest 25 demonstrators in Istanbul, as rallies continue for fifth night running in different Turkish cities"

UK government to test mobile phone emergency alert system (The Guardian): "The UK government's test of the mobile phone text emergency alert system will run through autumn with around 50,000 participants in three areas across the country"

UK: Counter-terrorism policing in Woolwich (Institute of Race Relations): "Is racial profiling being carried out by counter-terrorism police in South London following the death of Lee Rigby?"

UK: Exclusive: 50,000 people are now facing eviction after bedroom tax (The Independent): "More than 50,000 people affected by the so-called bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction, figures given to The Independent show"

UK: Operation Nexus fears not allayed (Institute of Race Relations): "A recent meeting with Met police failed to reassure migrant rights groups and activists that Operation Nexus is not harmful. Operation Nexus, launched a year ago as a collaboration between the Metropolitan police and the UK Border Agency was designed to clear foreign criminals off the streets of London and send them home. Immigration officers were embedded in dozens of the capital’s custody suites, where suspects are booked in after arrest, and police from eastern Europe were brought in to help."

UK: Police pays £100,000 compensation to G20 protesters cleared of impersonating police Dailoy Mirror): "A police force is paying £100,000 ­compensation to a group of G20 protesters charged but then cleared of ­impersonating police officers"

UK: Raids on Traveller sites condemned by campaigners (Network for Police Monitoring): "In the last week several Traveller communities as well as Traveller rights campaigners have been subjected to police raids. The police claim the “Operation Elven” series of raids, including one at Smithy Fen Traveller site in Cambridge, supposedly concern thefts of Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horn from museums and auction houses across England and Ireland. However, police have been accused of serial heavy-handedness and faulty intelligence"

UK: Thousands of dementia sufferers threatened with restraint (Telegraph): "Figures show that almost 12,000 legal applications were made in 2012/13 to deprive people who lack mental capacity freedoms, such as locking them in rooms, forcibly giving them medication or preventing them from seeing visitors." See also: Mental Health: Use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards continues to rise (Health & Social Care Information Centre)

USA: HSBC whistleblower speaks, uncovered terrorist financing (wearechange, YouTube): "Luke Rudkowski interviews Everett Stern, a former employee of HSBC that uncovered and blew the whistle on the company knowingly financing criminals, terrorists and drug cartels"

USA: Snowden uproar demoralises cyber warriors: ex-NSA chief Hayden (Breaking Defense)

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