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Year 2001 No. 145, August 21, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

An Attempt By the State to Whip up Racism and Attack the Rights of All

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

An Attempt By the State to Whip up Racism and Attack the Rights of All

Campaign for Justice for Paul Robinson

UNISON Hereford Nurses Anti-PFI Rally

Iraq Calls on UN to Take Stand against Brutal Force of US

US Sabre Rattling in South China Sea

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An Attempt By the State to Whip up Racism and Attack the Rights of All

On Saturday, August 18, several hundred people demonstrated in the centre of Sunderland against attacks on refugees and for the rights of all. The demonstrators vigorously opposed a march by the BNP and National Front against asylum seekers.

Prior to Saturday all marches had been subject to a "banning order" by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, after representations from Northumbria police and Sunderland City Council. The anti-fascists went ahead with their planned counter-demonstration and resisted attempts by the police to disperse them because the state is behind the whole attack on the refugees and would attempt to let the Nazis gather in some form.

One of the demonstrators in an e-mail to RCPB(ML) in the region pointed out that the state had allowed the fascists to gather in a pub. "After the ban of the march, police virtually acknowledged the second meeting place for the BNP and took up positions to defend it! When all of the fascists had arrived at the pub, watching us over the road, police dutifully pushed us back into town."

Referring to the day’s events he said that he thought they had sent an important message to the state to stop the attacks on the refugees and that Nazis had no right to organise.

Article Index



Campaign for Justice for Paul Robinson

Paul Robinson was arrested in June at the demonstrations against the meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU Commission in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is still being held on remand in Gothenburg until his appeal is heard. His appeal will be heard on September 12. He is a member of the University College London UNISON Branch. There will be a demonstration in support of Paul outside the Swedish Embassy in London on Thursday, September 6, from 5.30.

We are reproducing some materials from those that are campaigning for justice for Paul Robinson.

Statement from Paul Robinson Support Group

10 August, 2001

Paul Robinson was present at the EU demonstrations in Gothenburg. He was there with other anti-capitalists, environmentalists, trade unionists and political activists from all across Europe to voice their collective opposition and exercise their right to protest against the destructive might of global capitalism (from the WTO, IMF, global warming and third world debt, to the continuous erosion of workers and human rights world-wide) and the refusal of democratically elected governments to address the growing crisis of increasing social and economic alienation.

He was arrested on the evening of Friday, June 15, charged with violent riot and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. He has always denied the charge. He is appealing against the verdict on three grounds:

1. The trial itself was fundamentally flawed and unfair

The defence was given just two days to prepare its case.

He and his lawyer were only made aware of particular evidence the day before the trial.

They were given no access to video footage of the events that could aid their case and exonerate Mr Robinson’s actions.

Interviews with Mr Robinson, used against him in court, were conducted with a police officer who, with the aid of a translator, wrote down Mr Robinson’s answers on a notepad. At no point was Mr Robinson given a copy (in English) of the answers he gave to confirm their accuracy, or offered the opportunity to make a statement of his version of events.

2. The prosecution did not prove its case

No evidence was presented in court that showed Mr Robinson was involved in any rioting or that he acted violently. It was not proved he was part of a violent crowd, nor party to acts supporting violence towards the police.

A 10-second video clip does show Mr Robinson throwing two cobblestones. He is standing still and throws them in an underarm manner casually into the road. Then he walks away. The cobblestones were tossed parallel to (not at) the line of line of riot police, landing a few yards away from them. Mr Robinson is on his own on the opposite side of the road to the crowd of protesters. This is the sum total of evidence against him.

He admitted in court that although his actions were thoughtless and irresponsible - a spur of the moment act of frustration at the events around him - they were in no way violent or done out of hostility towards the police.

The arresting officer, in court stated that Mr Robinson threw the stones overarm, then witnessed him running away still looking in the direction of the police. The video footage clearly contradicts this.

Every other police officer said that they did not see Mr Robinson act violently.

It was also admitted by a police officer that Mr Robinson was beaten by riot police as he lay pinned to the ground (video footage of this exists but was not made available in court).

Under Swedish law it must be proved his actions were sympathetic to, or had a direct bearing on the riot (i.e. actively encouraging others, running in unison with the crowd of violent protesters) to be convicted of violent riot. This was not proved. In fact no evidence showed Mr Robinson was ever in the crowd.

The Judge’s verdict stated sympathy was shown because Mr Robinson threw cobblestones at the same time that violent rioters threw stones. No evidence was presented to support this. The video footage shows no stonethrowing or any other attacks on police at that time. Mr Robinson is clearly seen at some distance away from the crowd, which was passive and uninvolved.

Mr Robinson has always maintained his actions were a futile isolated gesture - an impulsive reaction to a peaceful demonstration descending into violence by the provocative actions of the police - shooting live ammunition into a dispersing crowd, and the response by protesters resulting in violent clashes. He at no time participated in a riot, or acted in an aggressive, violent way.

3. The level of punishment is wildly disproportionate to the actions involved

Other protesters convicted of violent riot have received between 3 - 8 month sentences. Despite absolutely no evidence to support the allegation that Mr Robinson was at any time part of violent clashes, part of the crowd when these clashes were taking place, or attacking police, he is now serving a longer sentence than those involved in prolonged and active confrontation.

The decision was based, we feel, on political grounds and bears no relation to the evidence given in court or to the administration of justice. We feel Mr Robinson is being made a scapegoat by the Swedish authorities. One officer in charge, Superintendent Lennart Ornebro was quoted in the press on June 18th 2001 in relation to the arrest of Mr Robinson that "there is evidence that a British man was one of the leaders and was one of the most active". This was before any investigation had begun. No such evidence existed, nor was any found to support such claims. The Superintendent later denied making such allegations about Mr Robinson.

Paul Robinson Support Group

Tom Silverlock, UCL Unison, University College of London, Gower Street, London WC1 6BT. Tel. 020 7679 5188 / 020 7679 7095.

Model Letter

There follows the text of a model letter to send to Thomas Bodstroem, the Minister for Justice in Sweden. Bill Lehm of UCL Branch UNISON has prepared it and requests that as many people as possible send the letter.

Thomas Bodstroem, Minister for Justice, Rosenbad 4, SE-103 33 Stockholm, Sweden

Fax: 0046 8 20 27 34, e-mail registration@justice.ministry.se

Sir,

On July 18, Paul Robinson, a British Trade Unionist, was on trial in Gothenburg accused of 'violent rioting' on the night of the 15th June during the time the EU Summit meeting was held there.

On July 25 he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to one year in prison.

The evidence against him consisted of the personal testimony of a policeman and a videotape lasting no more than 20 seconds which showed him throwing a small stone underarm which came to a halt two metres away without reaching anybody let alone hurting them. Paul was alone in a large gap in the crowd. He freely admitted to 'throwing' the stone, which was no more than a gesture.

This same video was shown on Swedish television on the night of the incident but that showing did not stop at the point the clip shown in court did. The film continues with pictures of Paul Robinson being set upon by a number of policemen wielding batons. Photographs exist of extensive bruising to his arms, back and legs. He did not resist arrest. He was an easy target because he was alone and not behaving aggressively.

The trial was not a fair one because the prosecution did not disclose evidence until two days before the trial, giving the defence little time to prepare their case, and the defence were denied access to all of the evidence, including video evidence, that the prosecution did not use in their case but which may have been helpful in Paul's. This was an opportunity for revenge, a revenge that could be exacted on anyone present on the night of the riot without any regard for what they were actually doing. I am concerned about the brutal circumstances of the arrest, I am concerned with the nature of the trial, I am concerned that the evidence presented to the court was interpreted as 'violent rioting' when, if it showed anything, showed that Paul was not himself involved in the riot, I am concerned about the sentence which is completely out of proportion to the 'offence' committed.

I ask you to drop all charges levelled at Paul Robinson, to release him from custody immediately and to compensate him for the ordeal he has suffered at the hands of the Swedish Security Forces and the Swedish Judiciary.

Yours,

From the Swedish Indymedia website

My name is Hannes Westberg, better known as the nineteen-year-old who got shot in the chest during the Reclaim the Streets party in Gothenburg on Friday, June 15. Knowing that a lot of people were worried, I just wanted to tell you all that I've been out of the hospital for three weeks - although with a kidney and a spleen less, but expecting a full recovery!

I would also like to use this opportunity to thank everybody who has supported me and my family - there are a lot of us who see through the media's fabricated reality! Throughout Europe and the USA, numerous manifestations and demonstrations have been held - tiny Sweden's embassies have rarely before been under so much pressure! On the night I was shot a large tepee ceremony was held in New York City where a number of Native American medicine-men prayed for me all night long, and around 50 different so called "prayer circles" have been reported of from all over the world: Latin America, Europe, Russia, and so on! Regardless of one's attitude towards religion I can say it is an incredibly strong feeling to know that so many people have gathered their thoughts around this odious event and tried to turn it into something productive - I can assure you that all of your thoughts reached all the way into the operating-theatres of the Sahlgrenska Hospital!

Thank you and thank you again - together we are strong! Let us now make sure that Carlo Giuliani, who wasn't as lucky as I was, hasn't died in vain!

Love and strength, continue the struggle!

Hannes Westberg

http://sweden.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=7239&group=webcast

Contacting Paul Robinson

If anyone would like to visit Paul they can arrange it by calling Bjorn Lundin at Haktet on 0046 31 731 1240.

If anyone wants to send him a card or letter his address is: Paul Robinson 1090, Goteborg Remand Centre (Haktet), Goteborg Polis Headquarters (Polis Huset), Box 429, 40126 Goteborg, Sweden.

Article Index



UNISON Hereford Nurses Anti-PFI Rally

Nurses in Hereford are building their unity in the battle to safeguard the future of the National Health Service. The nurses, represented by UNISON, have called for a demonstration and rally on September 8 to oppose the evils and the full cost of the Private Finance Initiative of the Hereford County Hospital Trust and the transfer of nursing staff to a private sector employer. The nurses are concerned that such proposals would be a reversal of the gains of the recent Dudley health workers' strike.

Edna Hall, UNISON Regional Organiser, points out that the Department of Health must not be allowed to let this proposal go through unchallenged, or by stealth, and for its immediate halt. Hereford County Hospitals Trust is expected to reduce nursing posts in the new PFI hospital which is due to open April 2002. There are also proposals to transfer nursing staff at Kington Cottage Hospital to Blanchworth Care, a private company. Edna Hall also points to New Labour's duplicity in their declaration to end NHS staff transfers or not to privatise clinical staff.

The Rally is to take place at 11am on Saturday, September 8, outside Hereford County Hospital and will march through Hereford City and end with speakers.

Article Index



Iraq Calls on UN to Take Stand against Brutal Force of US

Iraq Foreign Minister Dr Naji Sabri, according to an Iraqi radio report of August 17, said that British and US war planes violated Iraqi air space from the south on August 10.

He said that the United States used its military aggression on Iraq and the Iraqi villages as a demonstration of its brutal force, with the aim of inflicting more harm on Iraq and terrorising other people in the world. It has used this aggression as a means of diverting world attention from the failure of the US administration both domestically and abroad, he added.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Iraq Foreign Minister said that as soon as a moral scandal at the highest government levels is discovered, the US administration launches wide-scale aggression on Iraq. It also does this when the facts about the shameful US use of a Security Council organ – such as the UN Special Commission – to spy on Iraq and trigger crises are discovered or when their sanctions fail.

Thus, the United States, the Foreign Minister said, takes advantage of the passiveness of the United Nations and the Security Council towards this aggression that has been going on since 1991 and uses this as an opportunity to implement its hostile policies towards Iraq. Moreover, Naji Sabri added, the United States is also using the blanket sanctions imposed by the Security Council as a tool to annihilate the people of Iraq.

The Foreign Minister went on to say that maintaining the status quo whereby the United States is acting as a tyrannical force which sees itself as above the law will lead to a collapse in the bases of international relations that spring from the UN Charter, most important among which is the principle of respecting the sovereignty of states and refraining from interfering in their internal affairs or tampering with their security and stability.

This, Naji Sabri said, requires that the UN adopt a frank and firm stand in denouncing this aggression, demanding that it stop immediately, and hold those who perpetrated it fully responsible.

The Iraq Foreign Minister said that the people of Iraq, who have a long history and heritage, thanks to the support they receive from the Arab nations and the people of the world, will emerge victorious over US aggression and sanctions, no matter what they are called.

What Iraq hopes from Kofi Annan, the Foreign Minister said, is that the UN Secretary-General should champion the UN Charter and principles of justice and truth against a brutal force that is acting with utmost recklessness and irresponsibility and is showing total disregard for all the values and laws that organise relations between the nations of the world.

At the UN, Britain and the United States, according to diplomats, are about to attempt to force through another scheme of "smart sanctions" on Iraq just two months after the UN Security Council rejected the previous scheme, which was sponsored by Britain. In November, the Security Council has to set the next tranche of the "oil-for-food" programme.

Informal talks are expected in late September when the foreign ministers of the permanent five Security Council members – including Igor Ivanov of Russia – attend the annual opening of the General Assembly. It is doubtful definitive conclusions will be reached then, according to reports.

The United States and Britain will start from the same draft text, which they claim is aimed at easing restrictions on civilian goods to Iraq, strengthening a ban on military supplies and curbing smuggling, that Russia threatened to veto in early July, Security Council diplomats say. Iraq firmly rejects any kind of so-called "smart sanctions", which are an attempt to carry on the sanctions in the teeth of the opposition of democratic opinion world-wide. The US and Britain produced a list of "dual purpose" items which they claim could be put to both military and civilian ends, thus severely restricting essential non-military imports.

In June, Iraq cut off oil exports in protest at talks on the plan. Baghdad could do the same in the face of another effort to revamp sanctions when the current period of the oil programme ends on November 30, Iraqi UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said.

"We will pursue the same policy," Mohammed Aldouri said. "Our policy hasn’t changed. We will continue to oppose and to also use whatever we have to convince our friends within the Security Council not to endorse such draft resolutions." He said that Iraq hoped that Russia would stick to its position. "We are confident that we ourselves can do our best in this battle," the Iraqi UN Ambassador said. The UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq 11 years ago.

Iraq has further urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to make efforts to obtain immediate approval of the request to allocate 1 billion euros from Iraq’s money to provide food, medicine and other basic human needs for the Palestinian people, Iraqi television reported on August 17.

In the letter to Kofi Annan, Iraq Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said the continuation and exacerbation of the Palestinian Arab people’s ordeal as a result of the daily Israeli aggression dictates that the international community – countries and organisations – support the Palestinian people. He noted the humanitarian duty and the responsibility of the UN Secretary-General, who needs to play his role in stopping the aggression against the Palestinian people and alleviating the suffering of the Palestinians, who have been suffering under the yoke of occupation for more than 50 years.

The Foreign Minister said in his letter that the representatives of Britain and the US in the Security Council and in Committee 661 obstructed the allocation of 1 billion euros from Iraq’s funds to the Palestinian people. Their purpose, Dr Naji Sabri said, was to inflict further harm and destruction on the Palestinian people and to encourage Israel to continue its policy of collective punishment, killing, looting and physical liquidation of the Palestinian people.

Article Index



US Sabre Rattling in South China Sea

Two US aircraft carrier battle groups have staged a military exercise in the South China Sea in an apparent show of support for Taiwan as China conducts its biggest ever war games, according to news agencies.

The USS Carl Vinson and the USS Constellation led the one-day exercise on August 17 involving 13 other vessels including three submarines, about 150 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel. The exercise was a "rare meeting at sea" for two US battle groups, an official report on the US 7th Fleet’s Internet website said.

The "passing exercise" was believed to have comprised the launching of fighter jets and joint operations between crews from the giant aircraft carriers. The website report did not give the exact location in the South China Sea for the exercises. The Constellation was due to arrive in Hong Kong on August 20 for a port call.

A spokesman for the 7th Fleet told the South China Morning Post that the exercises were not intended to send a "specific message" to China, but analysts quoted by the newspaper were sceptical about such a declaration. They said rather that the US show of force was a pointed message to Beijing as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conducts big war games on the southern coast.

"There are no coincidences around the Taiwan Strait and the Americans would have been fully aware of the PLA exercises when they planned this," Paul Beaver, a British defence analyst, said. "They are demonstrating to the PLA that they have an interest in the future of Taiwan," he said.

The Constellation is making its way home to San Diego in California following a six-month deployment that included operations in the Gulf. The Carl Vinson has commenced a six-month deployment.

"It is a very obvious response to the exercise," said Joanna Kidd, a naval analyst at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, about the US naval manoeuvres.

Exercises involving two US aircraft carriers last took place in the region in August 1999, after then-Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui said relations between China and Taiwan should be on a "state-to-state basis". These remarks were extremely provocative to the People’s Republic of China, because Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and cannot be considered a separate state.

US imperialism must end its provocations and sabre rattling against the PRC. The Bush administration would do well to remember the humiliation it suffered when its spy plane was forced to land on Chinese territory and the US was forced to back down on its dictatorial and arrogant stance.

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