In the current version of the bill, insulting religious feelings in public can be punished with up to three years in prison. Other possible sanctions include fines up to half a million roubles (about $15,600) and compulsory correctional work. Before the final reading MPs amended the draft adding criminal responsibility for obstructing the activities of religious organizations. Such a felony will be punished with up to one year in prison and those convicted will be barred from taking certain official posts for two years. Premeditated and public desecration of religious objects or books will also be punished – by fines of up to 200,000 roubles (over $6,200). The current bill is promoted by a large part of the Russian political establishment and strongly backed by the Russian Orthodox Church whose leader has publicly accused some unnamed forces of staging attacks on faith and religion in the country. The bill is intended to deter such incidents as feminist punk band Pussy Riot’s impromptu appearance in Moscow’s main cathedral in February last year, when they attacked the church and its alleged strengthening ties with Russian authorities and President Vladimir Putin personally. Three band members were apprehended and sentenced to two years in prison each for aggravated hooliganism, despite numerous objections from Russian activists and foreign rock and pop stars. One of those convicted has already been released on probation and two others remain behind bars. The case showed that the Russian legal system needed to deal with growing religious sentiment in society as did the subsequent events when vandals started felling memorial crosses and covering church walls with graffiti in protest at the arrests and sentence. Significant part of the society still oppose the bill saying that it contradicts the basic principles of a free and secular state, and the freedom of expression provided by the Constitution. The leader of one of Russia’s oldest political parties Yabloko, Sergey Mitrokhin, took part in protests on Tuesday picketing the State Duma office with a poster that compared the controversial bill with the Spanish Inquisition. The supporters of the bill, such as deputy head of the Lower House Committee for Religious Organizations Mikhail Markelov, claim that it is a reply to dangerous tendencies in society. “People who practice traditional forms of religion constantly face threats of various kinds. This includes the stunts by the Pussy Riot group, this includes the cemetery vandalism, and this also includes attempts on lives of spiritual leaders,” Markelov told reporters. The MP added that according to opinion polls the majority of Russians supported the bill protecting believers’ feelings. He added that such laws were a recognized international practice and had been enforced in many European countries. …
The march was held away from the central Kiev and lasted only 40 minutes, but was hailed as a breakthrough. The rally gained worldwide support after Amnesty International asked Kiev authorities to approve the gay march and protect its activists. The event had been threatened with a ban by a local court. Nevertheless, it went forward on Saturday amid heightened security, with 500 policemen guarding the protesters.The rally was backed by the US Embassy to Ukraine and the EU Delegation, which called on police to “effectively ensure that all persons can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly without putting their personal safety at risk.”Last year, LGBT activists canceled a similar protest in Kiev over reported threats of violence. One of the organizers was allegedly beaten up by a group of men.”This event will go down in the history of Ukraine as one of the key developments in the fight for equal human rights,” protest organizer Olena Semenova told Reuters.Orthodox Christian activists who protested against the rally said they came to “protect family values.”"We want to protect our children from homosexual propaganda. This parade popularizes homosexuality. It can influence our children for their whole life,” Ioksana Keresten said.Last year, the Ukrainian parliament dismissed a second reading of a bill that would have outlawed the “promotion of homosexuality.” Proposed legislation to criminalize discrimination against homosexuals has also been postponed.Earlier this month, protesters broke up pro-LGBT rallies in Georgia and Russia. …
http://www.youtube.com/v/7xNkMKGRuHk?version=3&f=videos&app=youtube_gdata View the original here: Israel debates drafting Ultra Orthodox Jews into army
The second reading was approved overwhelmingly, with 304 Duma deputies voting for, only 4 against and 1 abstention. Still, several leading parliamentarians expressed reservations about the draft bill, which could be passed in its third and final reading as early as this week.Under the revised bill, Russians would face a year in jail for ‘intentional’ and ‘public’ displays that cause “offense to religious sensibilities,” down from three in the previous draft; desecrating religious sites and paraphernalia would be punishable by up to three years in jail, down from five.“An offense to religious sensibilities is a term that defies definition. A radical believer could find offense in expressions of other people’s faith, or atheism,” said Communist deputy Oleg Smolin, whose party, the second largest in the Duma, voted for the law as a bloc.Advocates of the law defended it vigorously. “We are not talking about the subjective term ‘religious offense.’ which is admittedly difficult to qualify. The law only punishes public acts that obviously go out of their way to insult a religion,” said Mikhail Markelov, a member of ruling United Russia party.Markelov also noted that the bill covers all of Russia’s major religions, not just Orthodox Christianity: “The legislation has been chiseled to perfection, and reflects the desires of the majority of our society.”But Sergey Mironov, from the minority Fair Russia party, the only one that gave its members a free vote, was unconvinced: “We are happy that the proposal has been scaled back from covering all religious offense, to deliberate acts. But we are still not sure that it can be stretched to indict many Russians, even those who did not set out to offend anyone.”Mironov’s remarks echoed the concerns of leading lawyer Henry Reznik, who was brought in as a legal consultant during the drafting of the amendments. He said the language of the law was “legally meaningless” and a “rubber band.” Others claimed that the law was unconstitutional – violating the equality of Russian citizens by legally prioritizing personal beliefs of some citizens over others.Opponents of the legislation at least welcomed that the second reading did not create a separate article of the penal code, but folded the new legislation into an existing article on Obstruction of the Right to Exercise Religious Liberty, though the previous maximum sentence for that offense was one year in prison.The original draft bill arose out of the fallout over the infamous Punk Prayer performed by the protest group Pussy Riot in Moscow’s main cathedral in February last year. Three members of the political art collective, who briefly recited a poem aimed at the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin, were convicted on broader charges of hooliganism. Two of the three are still in jail.Legal experts claimed the hooliganism charge was ill-fitted to prosecuting provocative public performances, and the anti-blasphemy law was submitted by the four leading Russian parties in September last year. It is now expected to come into force without major changes sometime this year. …
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A huge stage has been erected in Ramalla in the West Bank – the centrepiece of the town’s efforts to mark ‘Nakba’.
Simple theatre recreates the events of the1948 ‘Nakba’ when Palestinians either left or were forced to leave their homes.
More rallies are to be held later all over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Thousands are expected to attended this annual day of sadness.
Meanwhile security was tight in Jerusalem as this year ‘Nakba’ coincides with the Jewish fesitival of Sahvuot – the day God gave the Torah to the Hebrew people.
Many Jewish residents of the old city left for the day, after studying the Torah throughout the night.
In the run up to both events, Palestinian youths once again clashed with Israeli security forces.
The fate of the refugees and what they call their ‘right of return’ is an explosive issue still looming large.
Copyright © 2013 euronews
Moscow along the river 11/06/2012 12:37 CET
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Vladimir Lenin’s tomb reopened to the public on May 15, after months of renovation to repair its sinking foundations.
Nestled into the Kremlin walls on the edge of Moscow’s Red Square, the mausoleum has housed the embalmed remains of the Soviet leader since soon after his death in 1924.
A popular tourist attraction, there was a queue at the tomb as it reopened.
Masha, a nine-year-old schoolgirl explained her visit was like: “It was a bit scary, but then I calmed down. He’s dead after all. He’s not going to attack us like a ghost.”
American tourist Tami said: “From what I’ve read, we’re not sure if it’s actually even Lenin that we’re seeing or if it’s a wax figure. I mean that’s what I’ve read, you know, because how is it possible to keep him so well preserved and embalmed all these years? So maybe it was him, maybe it wasn’t.”
The restoration reignited a long-standing debate about whether Lenin should finally be buried, in keeping with Russian Orthodox tradition.
Copyright © 2013 euronews
Signed in Brussels in mid-April, “the landmark agreement between Belgrade and Pristina” is seen by ultra-nationalists as Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo that declared independence in 2008.The protest was called by northern Kosovo Serb political leaders who also fiercely oppose the implementation of the 15-point pact. Serbia’s Parliament backed the deal in a 173-24 vote on April 26. Protesters gathered at Republic Square in downtown Belgrade at 12:44 local time (10:44 GMT) as a symbolic reference to UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Signed in June 1999 it placed Kosovo under transitional UN administration (UNMIK) and authorized KFOR, a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Many of those who attended the rally were wearing flags and chanted “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” and “Treason!” referring to the government, which protesters are calling to reject the Brussels agreement. Banners unfolded above the crowd read “Serbia comes before everything else”, “We will liberate Kosovo”, “Kosovo is Serbia”, and “We will not give up Kosovo”.Reports on the number of protesters vary with local InSerbia news saying up to 10,000 people attended the rally, while AFP reported about 3,000 people.Top officials of the ultra-nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia, the country’s former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, dignitaries from the Serbian Orthodox Church and officials, who strongly oppose the deal, addressed protesters from the stage. “We are just one of you, ordinary Serbs who have been forced by world powers, and recently by our own authorities, to fight and defend the lives of our children, our homes and holy places,” Slavisa Ristic, the Mayor of Zubin Potok, a city in northern Kosovo, said from the stage.He called the Brussels agreement a betrayal of Serbia, adding the government was intent on “selling Kosovo and the Serbian people”, local B92 news reported. After the protest was over at 15:00 local time, demonstrators headed toward to the Serbian Government building, where they chanted “Traitors” and “You sold Kosovo!”They then continues their way towards the Russian embassy, where when arrived they started chanting “Serbia, Russia, We do need Union!” InSerbia news said. The agreement reached during the EU-mediated negotiations between Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci, provides for the merger of the four Serb municipalities in the north (North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok and Leposavic) subject to Kosovo law.This urban district would have powers over economic development, education, healthcare and town planning.Under the new deal, Serbs in northern Kosovo will have their own police and appeal court.Both sides also agreed to not block each other’s efforts to seek EU membership.Prior to the deal, Serbia rejected an agreement proposal because the terms did not “guarantee full security and protection of human rights to the Serb people in Kosovo”.The move is widely regarded as a step towards Serbia’s entry into the European Union. EU lawmakers called on the European Council to grant Belgrade long-anticipated candidate status at a session in March. However, Kosovo remains the main obstacle to accession.Belgrade and Pristina have seen sporadic ethnic tensions over sovereignty, as the Kosovo region has a Serbian population of over 220,000. The most serious in recent years was in 2004, when dozens of Serbian Orthodox churches across Kosovo were set on fire. In 2011 Kosovo Serbs proved their resistance against Pristina’s control, constructing barricades to prevent authorities from entering their enclave in a bid to show their opposition Kosovo’s independence, insisting the province – which has a majority Albanian population – was still part of Serbia. The both sides managed to agree that the border would be jointly policed. …