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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky

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Prison for Mary Anne

On 10 July, grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores, 58, was sentenced to one year in prison for violating an order of protection taken out by US mission support group commander colonel Earl Evans at drone base in New York state, USA.

Along with other anti-drone activists, Mary Anne had been issued with the protection order in late 2012. As a result, she chose to act as a photographer rather take part in a February 2013 protest, staying outside what she believed to be the boundaries of Hancock airforce base, near Syracuse. She was still arrested, charged and convicted of criminal contempt.

In addition to the year in prison, Mary Anne was fined $1,000 and a state surcharge of $205, and ordered to submit a DNA sample at the cost of $50.

Topics: Drones

Peace bench

Hastings Quakers are auctioning a stained glasswork entitled The Hope, by local artist Alan Wright, to raise funds for a new bench for the peace garden in Alexandra Park.

The bench is the culmination of a long campaign to persuade Hastings borough council in East Sussex.

The bench, to be donated by the Quakers, will be designed by Alan Wright and fabricated by Jake Bowers, local art blacksmith. To see The Hope, and find details on the auction, please visit: www.glasswright.co.uk and / or www.hastings-quakers.org.uk

Margaretta fast

Irish artist and activist Margaretta D’Arcy, 80, was imprisoned for two weeks on 9 July, for refusing to sign a bond committing her not to enter unauthorised zones at Shannon airport.

Margaretta served over two months in prison earlier this year for entering Shannon to protest against its use by US military aircraft.

At the time of going to press, Margaretta was on hunger strike in ‘solidarity with the victims of war and in particular with the people of Gaza who are once again being subjected to a brutal bombing campaign by Israel’.

EDGE fund

The Edge Fund, which financially supports grassroots groups aiming at radical social change, has raised its first £250,000.

The group puts funding decisions into the hands of those most affected by inequality and oppression, and supports groups considered ‘too radical’ by most other funders.

The Edge Fund’s fourth funding has grants of up to £5,000 available – deadline 5pm, 8 September:
For more information about making a donation, applying for funds or becoming a member, call 0300 123 1965 or 07767 126 915, or
www.edgefund.org.uk

Taking on GCHQ

Seven radical internet service providers (ISPs) from around the world are taking legal action against GCHQ (government communications headquarters), a major British spy agency.

At the beginning of July, a complaint was filed with the investigatory powers tribunal by GreenNet (UK), Mango (Zimbabwe), Riseup (US), and three other ISPs, together with Privacy International.

Cedric Knight, of GreenNet, said: ‘Snowden’s revelations have exposed GCHQ’s view that independent operators like GreenNet are legitimate targets for internet surveillance, so we could be unknowingly used to collect data on our users. We say this is unlawful and utterly unacceptable in a democracy.’

Fracking spying

Sussex police placed spies in the anti-fracking camp at Balcombe, Sussex, last year, and used ‘electronic interception’, in order to discover activists’ plans – which they then shared with the drilling company, Cuadrilla.

This was revealed by a police technology blunder at the end of June (trying to cover up a sentence in a Word document that was released under the Freedom of Information Act).

The 126 arrests made by Sussex police during Balcombe days of action resulted in 114 charges against 90 activists. There were only 29 convictions.

Topics: Fracking

Climate action

More climate-related activist news

  • On 11 July, charges were dropped against Jon and Val Mager, arrested while meditating at Rathlin Energy’s gas exploration site in East Yorkshire on 15 May. The pair had been dropping off ice cream for the anti-fracking camp at Crawberry Hill, near Walkington.
  • Four people, including three Christian ministers, were arrested on 3 July during a prayer-blockade against the development of a new open-cut coal mine in the Leard State Forest, in New South Wales, Australia. The ecumenical group prevented mining equipment from entering for five hours before the arrests were made. Local people regard the planned mine a ‘disrespect’ to the indigenous rights of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians.
  • Four climate activists were arrested during a sit-in at Canadian industry minister James Moore’s constituency office on 19 June. They were protesting against the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline, which is scheduled to bring 520,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to a terminal in Kitimat, British Colombia. 130 First Nations oppose the pipeline, while 26 are said to have signed on for equity if the pipeline is built.
  • On 26 June, Elisabeth Leja, 75, the first person to be arrested for direct action against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, had charges dropped against her just days before trial.

Nepal peace

It appears that the Nepali Congress government elected last November is committed to sweeping crimes of the 10-year civil war era under the carpet. Nepali and international human rights bodies have criticised the government’s refusal to amend the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act passed on 4 May – despite a ruling from the Nepali supreme court that this is necessary.

The office of the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR), a UN agency, issued an eight-point condemnation of the TRC Act on 1 July.

OHCHR criticised the powers of the truth and reconciliation commission, and the commission on enforced disappearance, saying: ‘The power of the Commissions to recommend amnesties for gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law is inconsistent with Nepal’s international legal obligations and the UN’s policy against amnesties.’

Serious concern has also been expressed in a joint press statement by five UN human rights special rapporteurs.

The Asian human rights commission observed on 11 July: ‘In other words, the UN has flatly rejected the flawed Act.’

Topics: Nepal

Western Sahara

On 5 July, thousands thronged in the Spanish city of Seville for the annual ‘March for Peace in Western Sahara’. Among those calling for independence for the territory were Sahrawi children, spending their summer holidays hosted by families in the city.

Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

At the beginning of July, four Danish municipalities, Gladsaxe, Herlev, Rudersdal and Gentofte, announced that they would not use road salt imported from occupied Western Sahara by Danish company Dansk Vejsalt, and would demand documentation that their salt came from Italy.

On 7 July, French solidarity campaigners began a consumer boycott of Azura brand tomatoes which are labelled as coming from Morocco, but are actually grown in the occupied city of Dakhla.

Topics: Western Sahara

Turkish Kurdistan

The Kurdish peace process in Turkey, which stalled last year, seems to be on the move again.

The Kurdish guerrilla group, the PKK, is promising to resume its withdrawal into Iraqi Kurdistan in September – as soon as the government led by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan passes laws giving greater political and cultural rights to Kurds.

Before then, Erdogan is hoping Kurdish votes will help him become Turkey’s first directly-elected president in August.

Large numbers of Kurdish journalists, human rights activists and politicians have been released on bail, after years in prison.

Turkish Kurdistan

The Kurdish peace process in Turkey, which stalled last year, seems to be on the move again.

The Kurdish guerrilla group, the PKK, is promising to resume its withdrawal into Iraqi Kurdistan in September – as soon as the government led by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan passes laws giving greater political and cultural rights to Kurds.

Before then, Erdogan is hoping Kurdish votes will help him become Turkey’s first directly-elected president in August.

Large numbers of Kurdish journalists, human rights activists and politicians have been released on bail, after years in prison.