News from Pakistan, France and Russia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on December 4, 2012

PAKISTAN – Osama bin Laden doctor goes on hunger strike

Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi. Photo: Reuters

ISLAMABAD | The Pakistani doctor jailed for his role in hunting down Osama bin Laden has gone on hunger strike after being put in solitary confinement and denied meetings with relatives, according to his lawyer.

Shakil Afridi was detained days after the American raid to kill the al-Qaeda leader when it emerged he ran a vaccination program for the CIA in an attempt to obtain DNA evidence from members of the bin Laden family.

His lawyer, Samiullah Afridi, said he was concerned for his client’s well-being after being informed of the hunger strike early last week.

“I am still trying to meet prison officials and Dr. Afridi to find out exactly what has happened but his relatives and the local media reports tell me this has happened,” he said.  “He has been sentenced to 33 years in prison and this is not how to treat a prisoner. He is entitled to see his family. This is not a security issue.”

The discovery that bin Laden had lived in the city of Abbottabad, barely 30 miles from the capital Islamabad, was deeply embarrassing for Pakistan’s security forces.

While Dr. Afridi has been hailed a hero in the US, in Pakistan he faces a dangerous future.

Officially Dr. Afridi was convicted of aiding a militant group. However, few believe he was punished for anything other than working with a foreign intelligence agency.

Local media reports said Dr. Afridi had been placed in solitary confinement after giving an unauthorized interview to Fox News in September.  In it, he accused Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] agency of torture and of aiding militant groups.

FRANCE – ‘Old clunkers’ and classic cars to be banned from Paris

If the measures go ahead, classic old cars like 2CVs, Peugeot 205s and Renault 4Ls will be a thing of the past in the capital

PARIS | Classic cars, motorcycles and lorries are to be banned from Paris within two years under a plan to cut pollution that opponents claim is “anti-social, anti-suburban and anti-motorist.”

Under proposals presented to the city council on Monday, Nov. 12, Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë intends to outlaw by September 2014 the use of cars and utility vehicles more than 17 years old and lorries [trucks] or buses more than 18 years old.

Motorcycles built before 2004 will also be forbidden, as the mayor said they were the “most polluting and noisiest.”

The “old clunker” ban will apply to all vehicles inside the [highway] that surrounds the French capital.

If the measures go ahead, classic old cars like 2CVs, Peugeot 205s and Renault 4Ls will be a thing of the past in the capital, along with sputtering but charming old Vespas and other two-wheelers deemed too dirty to drive.

Fabien Breuvart, the proud owner of a silver 1990 Renault 4L…told Le Parisien newspaper that the plan would “exclude the poorest people from driving in the capital” and turn Paris into an “island for the rich.”

The Socialists insisted they would introduce “social” measures to help families and businesses update vehicles, including state subsidies to scrap old cars for new ones – a move experts dubbed unrealistic given the huge cost of such a measure at a time of austerity. [austerity: a situation in which there is not much money and it is spent only on things that are necessary]

Philippe Goujon, head of the Right-wing opposition UMP federation in the Paris council criticized the move as “anti-social, anti-surbuban and anti-motorist.” He said it was a purely political maneuver by Mr Delanoê to make Anne Hidalgo, the deputy he hopes will succeed him in 2014, appear “greener” than the Greens.

RUSSIA – Cossacks start patrolling Moscow streets

Nov 17: wearing traditional costumes, Cossacks gather for the regional Cossack community’s inspection

MOSCOW | Renowned for their sword-fighting prowess…in czarist Russia, the Cossacks are taking on new foes: beggars, drunks and improperly parked cars.

With the approval of city authorities, eight Cossacks clad in traditional fur hats and uniforms patrolled a Moscow train station [last] Tuesday looking for signs of minor public disturbances.

The Kremlin is seeking to use the once-feared paramilitary squads in its new drive to…appeal to nationalists.

The southern Krasnodar province – which includes Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics – launched Cossack patrols in September to crack down on Muslim migrants from the neighboring Caucasus. Now they’ve made it to the Russian capital. …

Russian Cossacks patrol leader Igor Gurevich at Belorussky railway station in Moscow

Tuesday’s patrol was a test run on whether the group can become an armed and salaried auxiliary police force, with the power of arrest, patrol leader Igor Gulichev said. …

Gulichev’s group, which he said numbers up to 85, has patrolled southwestern Moscow with police approval for the past year, and has brought about 35 arrests. They are unpaid but receive free public transport passes and uniforms. Tuesday’s patrol was the first in central Moscow. …

Gulichev, whose official title is deputy ataman, a Turkic word meaning commander, said he expected his group’s responsibilities would soon expand to fighting drug trafficking and terrorism, mirroring the special relationship Cossacks had with the czars. ‘‘Cossacks have always been on the frontiers of the Russian empire, fighting foes and adversaries, illegal immigration – repulsing raids, as people say today,’’ he added. …

President Vladimir Putin was inducted into what is known as the Cossack host in 2005 and given the rank of Cossack colonel, previously held by imperial czars.

Russia plans to restore the functions Cossacks had in the imperial Russian army, where they were instrumental in repelling Napoleon’s invading army in 1812 and led pogroms against Jews. A 400,000-strong All-Russia Cossack Host directly subordinate to Putin is scheduled to be launched by the end of the year.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on Nov. 29 and Nov. 12 and on Nov. 27.)





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