During the Turkish National Day celebration in the eastern city of Siirt this week, helicopter gunships circled over the stadium and sharpshooters stood watch on rooftops--signs of the rising tension in southeast Turkey as Kurdish separatists rekindle an insurgency after a five-year lull.
With the world still trying to get a grasp of the magnitude of the violence that has shaken Uzbekistan over the past week, the Uzbek government claims to have retaken (with no bloodshed) the small eastern border town of Korasuv, where local authorities were ousted in a popular uprising. The regime is claiming the uprising there was led by Islamic militants, and has arrested Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, said to be their leader, and several others. The government has now also officially raised its estimate of the dead in the suppression of protests in nearby Andijan to 169--still a far cry from the estimates of opposition activists, who claim between 500 and 700. The government is also claiming the dead are overwhelmingly members of the security forces killed by "terrorists"; opposition leaders say they are overwhelmingly protesters killed by security forces. It does appear that armories were raided by protesters, and that firing came from both sides. Over 2,000 prisoners were said to be freed when protesters stormed the prison. (BBC, May 19)
U.S. Navy conscientious objecotr Pablo Paredes was sentenced to three months hard labor May 13 for refusing deployment to the Persian Gulf. He was also demoted from petty officer third class to seaman recruit, the lowest rank in the Navy. His lawyers call it a victory for war resisters around the country. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Paredes to nine months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge. (Democracy Now, May 13)
Nepal's royalist government May 18 freed nine opposition political leaders detained since King Gyanendra seized sweeping emergency powers over three months ago. Nepal's Supreme Court one day earlier ruled the politicians had been held illegally, and ordered that the detainees, including three former ministers, be freed from police detention. But the same day they were released, authorities held for questioning Kanak Mani Dixit, a leading journalist and commentator who, in a newspaper article in April, urged the king to become a ceremonial head and stay out of politics. This was the latest in a series of detainments of Nepalese journalists since the king seized emergency powers. (Reuters, May 18)
The ongoing protests in Uzbekistan's eastern city of Andijan exploded into violence yesterday as demonstrators stormed a jail in an effort to free 23 men accused of membership in an Islamist organization and soldiers responded by opening fire on the crowd of some 4,000, leaving a an initially confirmed nine dead and as many as 50 wounded. Reports indicate that at least some of the defendants were freed, and that protesters also attacked other official buildings. Some were reported firing back at soldiers from the crowd.
Navy Petty Officer Pablo Paredes, a Bronx native who refused to board the USS Bonhomme Richard as it was preparing to sail from San Diego in December, was convicted by a Navy judge on a charge of missing his deployment to Iraq. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a bad conduct discharge, loss of two thirds of his pay and a demotion. Paredes reported to the Navy pier the morning of Dec. 6, but refused to board and was told to go away. After 45 minutes on the pier, he did. He surrendered to military authorities on Dec. 18 after applying for conscientious objector status. The Navy denied his request. That ruling is being appealed. Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Marjorie Cohn, an international law specialist, said Paredes had acted from principle. "He said, 'I don't want to be a war criminal,'" she recalled. "He was very concerned about the deaths of more than a thousand American servicemen and women, and of thousands of Iraqis." (Reuters, May 11)
BBC reports May 12 on an unprecedented wave of protests against the authoritarian regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. Every day for the past four months, protesters in the eastern town of Andijan have gathered outside a courthouse where 23 local businessmen are on trial, accused of membership in a radical Islamic group, which they and their relatives strongly deny.
Luis Posada Carriles couldn't have been too happy to see his face on the front page of the New York Times yesterday ("Case of Cuban Exile Could Test the U.S. Definition of Terrorist," May 9). The anti-Castro extremist, who is linked to a long trail of murder and terror throughout the hemisphere, "sneaked back into Florida six weeks ago in an effort to seek political asylum for having served as a cold war soldier on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s," according to his attorney. Venezuela is seeking to extdradite him for blowing up a Cuban airliner, and even a retired FBI counter-terrorism specialist quoted by the Times (Carter Cornick) said Posada was "up to his eyeballs" in planning the attack. Just last week, Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled that as "the author or accomplice of homicide, he must be extradited and judged."