US, UK ‘hypocrites’ over Russia verbal attacks

Malaysian goverment minister says US also guilty for supplying war weapons to those killing innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

A top minister in the Malaysian government has accused the United States of hypocrisy in its criticism of Russia for supplying arms to separatist groups, stating that the U.S. is just as guilty in that is supplying war weapons to those killing innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

“A lot of people are making very hypocritical statements, especially in the last week where Western leaders were saying it is obvious the weapons were supplied by the Russians to the rebels in order to shoot down the plane,” Mukhriz Mahathir, the chief minister of the northern state of Kedah told the Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

“This begs the question, who then supplied weapons that Israel is using against Palestinians? They need to be careful with statements like that.”

Last Thursday, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is believed to have been shot down in the Eastern Ukraine while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, resulting in the death of all 298 on-board.

The U.S. and Britain have since threatened sanctions against Russia for allegedly supplying weapons to the separatists.

Andrei Purgin, a deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has denied the accusations, saying all its weapons were stolen from the Ukrainian government.

The British government has also been accused of double standards, the head of French President Francois Hollande’s ruling Socialist ruling party calling Prime Minister David Cameron a “hypocrite” Tuesday night over Britain’s arms sales to Russia.

The British government had insisted that any arms licenses granted for equipment to the Russian military had been suspended in the wake of the MH17 disaster, but the Independent newspaper reported Wednesday that at least 251 export licenses for the sale of controlled goods – ranging from sniper rifles to night sights – remain in place despite Cameron’s calls for other countries – in particular France – to halt lucrative arms deals with Moscow.

Cameron had singled out French President Francois Hollande for his refusal to call off a £1 billion ($1.7 billion) deal to sell Moscow two helicopter carriers in the wake of the aircraft being downed.

Malaysian minister Mahathir is the political heir of influential former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who has frequently criticized former U.S. President George W. Bush, Vice-President Al Gore and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for their countries involvement in the Middle East and their backing of Israel.

He asked Wednesday that the world not speculate on the downing of MH17″ until a formal independent investigation is undertaken that points to the identity of the shooter.”

“[We] and the families of the MH17 victims would like to know the motive of the shooter. What they wanted to achieve by shooting a civilian plane. Was this planned or an accident?” he said.

At least 609 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have died in Israel and Palestine over the last two weeks, most Palestinians dying during Israel’s bombing campaign and subsequent ground invasion in Gaza.

The United Nations office of humanitarian affairs has said that civilians made up at least 75 percent of Palestinian deaths, many of them children.

Meanwhile, the international community has stepped up diplomatic efforts to revive an Egyptian brokered cease-fire proposal that was rejected by Hamas.

Mahathir said that the U.S. has been promising to assist in ceasefires for years, but little had been done to help the Palestinians beyond that.

“Have we ever seen [the U.S. looking for] a possible closure to this?”

The Palestinian situation began in 1917 when the British Balfour declaration promised a national home for Jewish people in Palestine. By 1948 a newly-formed state inside of the Palestine boundary named “Israel” had declared independence, which resulted in 700,000 Palestinians fleeing or being expelled and hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns destroyed.

The diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world, refugees spread across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many were settled in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians commemorate “nakba” – “the day of catastrophe” – on May 15. in memory of the expulsion.

The right of return to pre-1948 homes is still a demand for many Palestinians, especially Gaza’s Hamas goverment – deemed a terrorist organisation by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union, amongst others – and what many see as fuelling the Palestianin-Israeli crisis.

*Anadolu Agency correspondent Assed Baig contributed to this story from London.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 23 July 2014

100,000 people march in London in support of Palestine

Protesters flock to British capital as Israel escalates its onslaught against Gaza Strip.

About 100,000 protestors from across Britain have rallied in London to protest against Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, according to demonstration organizers Stop the War coalition.

Demonstrators of mixed ethnicities, race and color from across Britain including grandmothers and children, Jews and Muslims, began their march from Downing Street on Saturday amid bright sunshine.

 Protestors chanted: “David Cameron shame on you!” and “Free Palestine!” as they marched under the watch of police officers lining the streets and hovering in helicopters in the skies above the British capital.

As the march started, about 10 members of London’s Hasidic Jewish community posed beneath a banner emblazoned with anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela’s words: “South Africans cannot feel free until the Palestinians are free.”

Stop the War rally organizer Lindsey German told the crowds: “We will demonstrate until Gaza is free,” as she stood on a stage outside the Israeli embassy.

‘Stop arms sales’

Peace activist Kate Hudson asked demonstrators: “Who actually has weapons of mass destruction?”

 “Israel!” the crowds shouted back.

Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn declared: “The very least the UK can do is stop the arms sales to Israel.”

Another demonstrator, 28-year-old Dominic, told Anadolu Agency: “I want Israel to know that killing children is unacceptable, and that we will oppose them every step of the way.”

Police barricades prevented the marchers from reaching the Israeli embassy, where one eight-year-old boy posed on a side street with his face daubed in fake blood next to a poster stating: “Freedom for Palestine.”

‘Joyous disbelief’

The British media has come under attack for its coverage of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, with several demonstrations behind held outside BBC offices around the country over the past week amid criticism the broadcaster’s reportage of the onslaught was biased in favor of Israel.

Channel 4 Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller tweeted from Gaza: “This London protest pic greeted with joyous disbelief here.”

Crispian Balmer, Reuters bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, tweeted: “Much larger protest over Gaza in London than anywhere in the Arab world.”

One marcher said, as he tweeted a picture of the crowds: “It’ll embarrass Arab countries!”

Londoner Michelle said: “We can’t let this continue, we have to stand against oppression, and it looks like tens of thousands of people think the same because just look at the massive turn out.”

‘Free Palestine’ call

Observers said the demonstration would reinforce the reputation of London as a pro-Palestinian activist base.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said: “The British capital has indeed become the most active center of pro-Palestinian groups, especially those of the BDS (broad pro-Palestinian campaign group) strand.”

All the demonstrators had one message for Israel and the British government: “Free Palestine.”

Police said three people were arrested.

Offensive stepped up

At least 339 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,390 injured, according to Palestinian health officials, since Israel launched its offensive on 7 July with the ostensible aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza.

One Israeli has been killed as a result of Palestinian rocket fire during the same period.

The Israeli army stepped up its offensive on Thursday, sending troops into the Gaza Strip.

The ongoing offensive, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” is the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s third major assault on the embattled coastal enclave – which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians – in the last six years.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 19 July 2014

Threat of UK foreign fighters on return ‘exaggerated’

New report says no empirical evidence to support notion that UK nationals fighting in Syria are threat on return.

A new report by an UK-based campaign group claims that the British government has greatly exaggerated the threat posed to the country by foreign fighters taking part in the Syrian civil war.

British government policy is “confused and dangerous” and has “created a climate of fear,” says CAGE, which campaigns on behalf of the victims of “The War on Terror.” It accuses authorities of being “inconsistent” in how they treat those supporting rebels and foreign fighters in Libya and Syria.

The report – “Blowback – Foreign fighters and the threat they pose” – was launched Thursday night at an event held in East London. Over 400 people attended, listening to speakers including those who had been to Syria on humanitarian aid missions.

The study that led to the report looked at “terrorism plots” in the UK, and at how many of those involved in the plots had fought oversees.

 Post 9/11 – the period during which the West’s “War on Terror” started – no one involved in a terrorism plot in the UK had spent time fighting abroad, it states.

Asim Qureshi, the director of Cage, told the Anadolu Agency that there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that British nationals fighting in Syria are a threat to the UK.

“You don’t need to go to Syria to learn how to blow things up. Anyone with access to the Internet can learn how to do that,” he added, quoting the Boston marathon bombings as a prime example.

Qureshi accused the government of double standards in the way it defines criminality.

“We are in a situation where if a British national joins the forces of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, and fights in the civil war then he will not be considered as a domestic threat or an extremist, but if someone travels to Syria and fights alongside the rebels against the regime, then they will be criminalized.”

To compile its report, Cage carried out interviews with people it said had travelled abroad to take part in conflicts.

It concluded that none of the unnamed fighters possessed the intent to participate in political violence, and suggested there is “scant” evidence that any significant numbers have done so.

Prime Minister David Cameron and security chiefs have stated that foreign fighters returning from overseas pose a great threat to the UK, Cameron telling parliament in June that the government has stopped people from travelling – taking away their passports – in an effort to stop them being radicalized.

The prime minister has also said that the government intends to introduce legislation that doesn’t just make efforts to travel to take part in “terrorist attacks” illegal, it also wants to introduce legislation that criminalizes the planning of such attacks from the UK.

The report, however, underlines, that those traveling to Syria had no intention of attacking the UK on return.”

Those that were spoken with did not envisage any tensions between travelling to Syria to join the civil conflict, and legal and moral obligations to Britain,” it states. “However, due to the climate of fear that has been created, it appears that disproportionate measures have been incorporated to reduce the threat from foreign fighters.”

Cage has claimed that it has being targeted by the government because of its work, for speaking out against anti-terror laws and for investigating British complicity in torture overseas.

It says its bank accounts have been closed down, claims the charities commission has launched an investigation into two of its major donors, and says that one of its directors – Dr. Adnan Siddiqui – is facing an investigation by the NHS England’s counter fraud department.

“There are too many coincidences for this not to be politically motivated,” said Quereshi on Friday.

All of this took place after its outreach director, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, was arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences linked to Syria.

The launch of the report Thursday was in part an attempt to raise money for the running of the organization.

The British government has estimated that around 400 UK nationals are fighting with groups in Syria, although the prime minister has acknowledged the government has less information about those in Iraq.

Last month, the government revealed it had made 65 arrests linked to Syria, and seized 14 passports, Cameron warning of the “security threat” to Britain.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 18 July 2014

World leaders urge truce in Ukraine for plane probe

US calls for a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation into downed Malaysian airliner.

World leaders have urged Moscow, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine to support a ceasefire in order to ensure international investigators have access to the crash site of a Malaysian airliner downed over Ukrainian territory.

A Friday statement from the White House said the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI would contribute to any international investigation that may be carried out.

“It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible. It is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed,” it said.

The statement forwarded the notion that the downing of the Malaysian commercial airliner occurred in the context of the Ukraine crisis, during which pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February by protesters seeking closer ties with the European Union.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Razak Najib said during an emotional press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday morning that he had received a call from U.S. President Barack Obama, during which they had mutually agreed for a thorough investigation that will include an international team with full access to the crash site.

“No stone will be left unturned. If the plane has indeed been shot down, Malaysia will insist that the perpetrators be swiftly brought to justice,” Najib added.

In Germany Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an independent investigation to “begin as soon as possible.”

“For such an independent investigation, a truce is necessary,” she told journalists in Berlin.

She underlined that the tragic incident has shown once again the importance of reaching a political solution in Ukraine and called on Russia to play its part.

“Russia and the Russian president should make their contribution to reach a political solution. Ways for a permanent and mutual ceasefire must be found,“ she said.

“The developments of the last week showed that this is a difficult path, but from my point of view, there is no alternative to a diplomatic and political solution.”

Meanwhile, British Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond sent his condolences to those who lost friends and family in the crash and backed calls for an international investigation.

He said he did not want to “speculate” as to what had happened or about the exact number of U.K. nationals on board.

Both Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday paid condolences to the families of the victims of the downed commercial airliner – on which there were four German citizens.

“We are horrified by the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. There are no words adequate to express our condolences to the families of the nearly 300 victims,” said Kerry.

He also noted that they have been reviewing whether any American citizens were aboard the flight.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17 was downed Thursday night close to Ukraine’s border with Russia with 295 people on board. Ukraine President Petro Proshenko has blamed “terrorists” for “shooting down” the plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur at an altitude of 10,100 meters.

The Ukraine government uses the term “terrorists” in relation to pro-Russia separatists it is battling who are seeking to unite the east of Ukraine with Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has held Ukraine responsible for the crash, saying in a Friday statement that “the tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine.”

The disappearance adds to a woeful year for Malaysia’s national carrier, following the disappearance of Beijing-bound flight MH370 after it left Malaysian airspace March 8.

A total of 239 people were on board the flight, including 12 crew and 153 Chinese citizens.

Despite the most intensive search in commercial aviation history, Malaysia’s efforts to find the plane have been heavily criticized by media and the family of passengers.

* Anadolu Agency correspondents Ayhan Simsek in Berlin, Assed Baig in London and Prem Kumar in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report. 

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 18 July 2014

Muslims tell of far-right group’s invasion of UK mosque

A Muslim worshipper has told Anadolu Agency of the disturbing moments when members of a far-right group stormed a mosque in south London.

Worshipper Mohammed Luthful Wahid told AA on Wednesday that he found himself confronted by five members of the Britain First group after they entered the Crayford Mosque and demanded the removal of what they called “sexist” signs – designating separate entrances for women and men – from outside of the building.

Wahid, who is 69-years-old, said: “To be honest with you, I was nervous and worried.”

The group, which posted a video of its invasion on the Britain First Facebook group, had marched into the North West Kent Muslim Association mosque on Sunday, trampled on the prayer area without removing their shoes and demanded to speak to the Imam, who was not present.

In the video, the leader of the group, Paul Golding, approached Wahid and said: “We’re Britain First, yeah? We object to your signs that are outside, the signs for men and women… in this country we have equality.”

Wahid told AA: “We are Muslims, we are not aggressive.

“I just wanted them to take their shoes off.  I wanted them off the carpet.”

– ‘Shocked’ worshippers

He said the three worshippers in the mosque at the time were left feeling shocked.

In the video, when asked to remove his shoes, Golding responds: “When you respect women, we’ll respect your mosques and you’ve got signs out there that segregate men and women.”

Wahid can be heard in the video saying: “Please get out.”

Before leaving the mosque, Golding and his associates demanded that a Christian cross engraved into the brickwork on the outside of the building – a former Methodist church which was only opened as a mosque in 2008 – be covered up.

Wahid said: “I told them that Jesus is one of our prophets, but the guy kept saying, ‘No’.

“Thank God there were only two or three of us in the mosque at the time, if they had come at prayer time, when there are about 20 people, it could have been disastrous.”

Worpshipper Shiraz Ahmed told AA that the Britain First group’s actions were “disrespectful and aggressive”.

He said: “If they had come at a different time, when there are more people here, it would have been very different.

“I would have thrown them out of the mosque.”

– ‘Christian patrols’

The Metropolitan police said in a statement they had been called to a “disturbance” at the mosque, adding: “The incident has been investigated by detectives to establish whether any offences have been committed or not.

“Inquiries are continuing and no arrests have been made.”

Britain First said in a statement on its website the “Britain First Kent battalion” had gone to the mosque “to inform the Imams that they have exactly seven days to remove sexist, segregationist signs from outside their building – or we will”.

 “With further operations against the mosque in planning, we expect this campaign to receive further coverage,” it said.

In May, members of the group, carrying bibles and leaflets, accosted worshipers at mosques in Bradford in the north of England and demanded they do something about “Britain’s grooming gangs” – believed to refer to several court cases in the UK where Asian men had been convicted for grooming children for sex abuse.

The group has also targeted the East London mosque and mounted “Christian Patrols” in East London.

Britain First was established in 2010 by former British National Party members who had split from the original organization.