March for Women's Lives, Washington, D.C., April 25, 2004
Pathfinder supersaver sale: Build April 25 March on Washington
target the foreign-born
From London to Rome, antiterror raids
trample on workers rights
Protesters at April 4 action at Belmarsh prison in London denounce raids by 700 cops who arrested nine Pakistani-born British citizens and claimed "discovery" of large quantity of fertilizer was proof of "terrorist" plot. The protest was called to oppose the jailing without trial of 13 people in a previous "antiterror" sweep in December 2001.
BY SAM MANUEL
WASHINGTON, D.C.Under the mantra of fighting terrorism used by imperialist governments worldwide, authorities from London to Rome have carried out highly publicized police raids and dozens of arrests throughout Europe. Citing the March 11 Madrid train bombings, they have sought to rationalize detentions without charges, massive wiretapping, increased domestic use of military forces for police work, and other attacks on the rights of working people, especially the foreign-born.
In London, 700 cops conducted 24 early-morning raids on March 30, arresting eight men; two days later they detained a ninth. All nine are British citizens of Pakistani origin. Antiterrorist cops, MI5 secret police, and Pakistani secret service agents were involved in the operation, according to the British Guardian.
Government spokespeople said they arrested the nine on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism. Police announced the discovery of a large amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer they said could be used for explosives. Opponents of the dragnet noted that, in a country of gardeners, that allegation should lead to the arrest of a significant percentage of the adult population.
Under British antiterrorist legislation, police can jail individuals without charges for two weeks. Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 500 Muslims in the United Kingdom have been arrested and 94 charged under these laws; the dragnets have led only to six convictions.
Working in collaboration with British police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa arrested Momin Khawaja on April 2. The Associated Press reported that he is the first Canadian charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He faces two counts for unspecified offenses, supposedly committed between November 10 and March 29. Family members report that Khawaja has been held in solitary confinement, facing continuous interrogations and restricted access to his attorney.
The London raids were the start of a week of concerted police sweeps throughout Europe. Cops in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, as well as Turkey, launched similar antiterror raids, arresting a total of 63 people, most of them Turks. The pretext was minimizing a terror threat ahead of Junes NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey and increased international security cooperation before the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, according to an April 2 Associated Press dispatch. Police claimed those arrested had ties to a banned Turkish organization, the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Army/Front (DHKP-C).
In Italy 100 police and carabinieri paramilitary forces conducted raids in the city of Perugia and arrested two Turkish immigrants and three Italians. Police said they had tapped 56,000 hours of private phone calls over a period of 18 months before making the arrests.
In a related operation, police in Greece arrested a German citizen of Kurdish origin, accusing him of having links to the banned Turkish group.
Separately, officials of the Olympic Games said that NATO plans to provide military aircraft and warships as antiterrorist protection during the games. They said 400 U.S. Special Operations troops were used in large-scale training exercises in Greece at the end of March.
Continued crackdown in Spain
In Spain the government has continued to expand its offensive against the Basque independence struggle and the rights of North African immigrants, seizing on the March 11 bombings, which killed more than 190 people. The incoming Spanish prime minister, Socialist Party leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has pledged to step up this offensive in the name of fighting terrorism at home and abroad.
On April 2 a court in northern Spain sentenced Arnaldo Otegi, the main leader of the Basque independence party Herri Batasuna, to 15 months in prison for extolling terrorism. The basis of the charge against him is that he spoke at the 2001 funeral of a member of the armed Basque nationalist group ETA. In his remarks at the funeral, Otegi is alleged to have described the ETA member as a colleague and a patriot, the British news agency BBC reported.
The court also barred Otegi from holding public office for eight years. He has served as an independent member of the Basque regional parliament since the banning of Herri Batasuna in August 2002 by antiterrorist judge Baltasar Garzón.
The Basque people are an oppressed nationality living in both northern Spain and southwestern France. Supporters of Basque independence have been subjected to intensified repression over the past decade.
Batasuna, which denies Madrids charge that it is the political wing of ETA, won 10 percent of the vote in the 2001 Basque parliamentary elections. ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom) has been waging a 35-year armed campaign against the Spanish government and has claimed responsibility for killing numerous government officials and others, although it appears to have been seriously weakened by government repression in recent years.
On the same day that Otegi was sentenced, French and Spanish police, in a joint operation, arrested Felix Ignacio Esparza Luri, who they claim is a central leader of ETA. Two other alleged ETA leaders were also arrested.
The crackdown on Basque nationalists has been stepped up since the March 11 bombings, even though Spanish authorities now admit they have no evidence linking any Basque group to the attacks.
Another target of government attack has been the large North African immigrant community in Spain. Initially the police claimed that Moroccan-born Jamal Zougam was responsible for the March 11 attacks. Then it asserted that that Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a Tunisian immigrant, was the mastermind. A Spanish High Court judge charged him with having raised awareness of jihad and having indicated specifically since 2003 that he was preparing a violent act in Spain as an expression of the aforementioned jihad.
On April 3, a large police commando force accompanied by special forces troops and helicopters stormed an apartment building in the working-class Madrid neighborhood of Leganés. An explosion in the building killed a special forces agent and four men that the police had labeled suspected terrorists, including Abdelmajid.
Over the past three weeks 24 people, mostly Moroccan-born residents of Spain, have been arrested. Fourteen of them remain in prison. All but one of those arrested have denied participation in the bombing. A Spanish-born man has reportedly said he sold explosives to be used in the bombing.
Otman el Gnaut and Fouad el Morabit, of Moroccan origin, were among those released. They have been ordered to report to police daily. According to a CNN report, police say Morabit was arrested on the basis that he studied aeronautical engineering and radio electronics in Madrid and Germany and shared an apartment with another person charged with the March 11 bombing.
The Spanish government called out the army April 2 to patrol the countrys rail system after government officials announced that a partially completed bomb had been found underneath the tracks of a high-speed rail line linking the capital to Seville. Officials said the operation would involve 45 helicopters, armored vehicles, and bomb-sniffing dog teams.
Under the cover of its antiterror campaign, Madrid has also reinforced its border patrol, intensifying the harassment of immigrant workers from North Africa. At the maritime immigration headquarters in the port of Algeciras, Salvador Gómez showed reporters footage of patrol boats arresting immigrants at sea who were attempting to get to Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of workers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and sub-Saharan Africa have immigrated to Spain. These immigrant workers send family remittances estimated at $3.6 billion a year. As they have become integrated into the workforce in Spain, immigrants have been involved in struggles to defend their rights against employers and racist attacks.
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