April 17, 2013
Suu Kyi Says Myanmar Peace Depends on Security
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOKYO (AP) — Communal violence threatening Myanmar's fledgling reforms must be stopped by ensuring the "rule of law" so that clashing groups feel secure enough for dialogue, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on a visit to Japan, said she objects to violence "committed by anybody against anybody" and that Buddhist-Muslim clashes threaten Myanmar's progress toward greater democracy and economic growth.
"There has never been a time when we've had complete peace within our land," Suu Kyi told reporters in Tokyo. "I'm confident we can achieve economic success, but without peace and unity we cannot expect to get economic success that is sustained."
Human rights groups and a U.N. envoy have criticized Myanmar's government for failing to prevent attacks mostly on minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Sectarian violence in western Rakhine state has killed hundreds and driven more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims from their homes.
"I have said that any violation of human rights and any acts of violence are inimical to a united and peaceful society and I stand by that," Suu Kyi said when asked whether she had anything to say to the country's Muslim minority.
"We must learn to accommodate those with different views, but if we want our people to sort out differences we must give them security," Suu Kyi said. "We must make them secure enough to talk to each other."
Boatloads of Rohingya have been washing up on Indonesia's shores, following a wave of violence in western Myanmar, where they are considered to have migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh.
Regarding the issue of citizenship for the stateless Rohingya, Suu Kyi said Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, is entitled to abide by its own laws, such as its citizenship law, but it also has to assess those laws to ensure they comply with international standards.
"This is what the Burmese government should do, to face the issue of citizenship fairly," she said.
In recent meetings with Muslim leaders, Suu Kyi said she found they had never known any country beside Myanmar.
"They did not feel they belong anywhere else. It is sad that they were made to feel they did not belong in our country either and this is a very sad state of affairs," she said.
April 17, 2013
Suu Kyi Says Myanmar's Muslims Must Be Made to Feel Secure
TOKYO (Reuters) - Myanmar's charismatic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday that the estrangement of minority Muslims in her country was "a very sad state of affairs" and the community must be made to feel secure.
Sectarian violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar killed 43 people last month. Thousands, mostly Muslims, were driven from their homes and businesses as bloodshed spread across the central region of one of Asia's most diverse countries.
Suu Kyi, a devout Buddhist, has been mostly reserved in her comments on the violence and the failure of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner to defuse the tension appears to have undermined her image as a unifying moral force.
But in a news conference on a visit to Japan, she said: "I've met some Muslim leaders very recently. It is very sad, because none of them has been to any other country apart from Burma (Myanmar). They did not feel that they belonged anywhere and it was sad for them that they were made to feel that they didn't belong in our country either.
"This is a very sad state of affairs. We must learn to accommodate those with different views from ours."
She also said the government should review Myanmar's citizenship laws, although she again failed to directly answer a question on whether she considered the Rohingyas to be citizens.
Around 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas live in Rakhine State in the west but are effectively stateless, denied citizenship both by Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh. Many Burmese consider them to be illegal immigrants.
At least 110 people were killed and 120,000 left homeless, mostly Rohingyas, by sectarian violence in Rakhine State in 2012.
"Every country has the responsibility to consider the possibility that the (citizenship) laws are not in keeping with international standards. And this is what the Burmese government should have the courage to do. To face the issue of citizenship fairly," Suu Kyi told reporters.
Earlier, addressing students at Tokyo University, Suu Kyi said she was "not a magician" and will not be able to solve long-running ethnic disputes.
"I've said that the most important thing is to establish the rule of law...(it) is not just about the judiciary, it's about the administration, it's about the government, it's about our police force, it's about the training that we give to security forces," said Suu Kyi.
She added that Myanmar's courts do not meet democratic standards as they are "totally dominated by the executive."
"They wanted me to talk about how to make these communal differences disappear...I'm not a magician. If I were, I'd say 'disappear' and they would all disappear. Differences take a long time to sort out," she told Japanese students.
"We have to establish an atmosphere of security in which people with different opinions can sit down and exchange ideas and think of the things we have in common."
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Alan Raybould)
Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf banned from running in Pakistan election
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 13:14 EDT
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was Tuesday disqualified from contesting Pakistani elections next month, crushing his ambition to “save” the troubled country just weeks after his return from exile.
Pakistan goes to the polls on May 11 for an election that will mark the first time a civilian government has handed over power at the ballot box after completing a full term in office in a country used to extended periods of military rule.
The Pakistan election campaign has got off to a lacklustre start and been marred by violence and Taliban threats. On Tuesday, a bomb targeted a convoy of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, killing four people.
Officials disqualified Musharraf just a day after he unveiled his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party manifesto at a press conference overshadowed by questions about legal cases dating back to his nine years in power.
The retired general is on bail over the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the 2006 death of a rebel leader from the region of Baluchistan, and for sacking judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007.
But he told reporters Monday: “The only thing in my heart was to save Pakistan and now I am here I have the same commitment, that I will save Pakistan.”
The Taliban threatened to assassinate him on the eve of his return to Pakistan on March 24, where he was welcomed by only a few hundred ardent supporters.
The 69-year-old applied to run for parliament in four seats but was rejected immediately from all but the northern district of Chitral, on the Afghan border.
Lawyers appealed against his approval in Chitral and on Tuesday a court official said Musharraf’s nomination had been thrown out on the grounds that he violated the constitution in 2007.
Musharraf’s team have vowed to appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court, which is also hearing a separate petition from lawyers demanding that Musharraf face trial for treason dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.
The general himself pledged to continue his mission.
“The selection bias and unwarranted activism shown by the election tribunal in rejecting my nominations papers from all four constituencies is not going to deter my resolve to help save Pakistan,” he said in a statement.
His lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri said the decision was an insult to “an internationally known person” and would show the world “what democracy we have”.
Commentators said Musharraf was finished, given the hostility in the Supreme Court to the man who dismissed the current chief justice in 2007.
“Politically he never had any future,” said political analyst Hasan Askari.
“I think he miscalculated his position and his advisers really fooled him advising him to come back… I think he should sit back in Dubai and the UK, and write another book.”
Election observers from the European Union were sent to constituencies around Pakistan on Tuesday to begin long-term monitoring work ahead of the polls.
Tuesday’s bombing in the southwestern province of Baluchistan was the third deadly attack on politicians or political parties in as many days.
Sanaullah Zehri, head of the PML-N in Baluchistan, survived, but his son, brother, nephew and their guard were all killed, officials said.
“An improvised explosive device went off as Zehri, leading a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, left his home to campaign in Khuzdar,” provincial home secretary Akbar Durrani told AFP.
There was no claim of responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have said they were behind two deadly bomb attacks in the northwest on Sunday and the killing of a candidate for the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement on Thursday.
Zehri survived a murder attempt two years ago that was claimed by the rebel Baluch Liberation Front.
A candidate for the Pakistan People’s Party of President Asif Ali Zardari told AFP he escaped a grenade attack at his home in Peshawar unhurt on Tuesday.
On Monday gunmen killed two election campaigners for an independent candidate running in the lawless northwestern tribal regions.
Pakistan’s caretaker interim prime minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso ordered an immediate tightening of security for all candidates in the wake of that shooting.
April 16, 2013
Cycling Past an Afghan Taboo
By JED LIPINSKI
In November, Shannon Galpin was riding her single-speed mountain bike through the hills outside Kabul. It was her 11th visit to Afghanistan, and she had grown accustomed to the sight of camel caravans, abandoned Soviet tanks and soldiers sweeping the desert for land mines.
One thing she had not seen was another woman on a bicycle. But one afternoon a barista at a local cafe who happened to be an amateur cyclist told Galpin that not only were Afghan women riding bikes, but that they had formed their own national cycling team. Dressed in long pants and full sleeves, with headscarves tucked beneath their helmets, they practiced on the highways before dawn on dated road bikes, accompanied by the coach of the men’s cycling team.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Galpin, a 38-year-old former Pilates instructor from Breckenridge, Colo. “I’d been in the most liberal areas of the country, and I’d never even seen a little girl on a bike, let alone a grown woman.”
For women in Afghanistan, riding a bicycle is taboo. What is considered appropriate behavior varies from one family and community to the next, but women riding bicycles is “generally considered immoral,” said Heather Barr, an Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch.
In the hierarchy of cultural offenses committed by women, it ranks somewhere between driving a car and so-called moral crimes, which include running away from home or being spotted in the company of a man who is not a relative.
Galpin, who claims to be the first woman to have ridden a mountain bike through the Afghan countryside, once pedaled across the Panjshir Valley, a distance of 140 miles and 4,000 vertical feet of rough terrain. Having also founded the nonprofit organization Mountain2Mountain in 2006 to aid women in conflict zones, she decided to do something for Afghanistan’s cyclists.
On Wednesday, Galpin plans to return to Afghanistan to distribute more than 40 duffel bags worth of cycling gear to the men and women’s national cycling teams. The items include bicycle tools, seats, shoes and about 200 jerseys, all of them vetted for beer advertisements that might give unneeded offense in Afghanistan, where alcohol is illegal.
“My home looks like an episode of ‘Hoarders,’ ” she said.
To document the event, Galpin is taking five other women: a photographer, a writer, a social media manager and two filmmakers, who plan to make a short film about the women’s team titled “Afghan Cycles.”
Despite having received death threats, many of the female cyclists are eager to speak publicly about the team, Galpin said.
“They’re no different than women in Afghanistan who risk their lives to attend school or run for Parliament,” she said. “They know the only way to challenge and break the taboo is for other women to see them riding bikes.”
The roots of Galpin’s commitment to women’s rights stretch back to her teens. She grew up in Bismarck, N.D., and at 17 apprenticed as a modern dancer in Minneapolis. One night, while she was walking through an empty park downtown, she was raped and stabbed several times by a man who appeared from the shadows.
After the attack, Galpin quit dancing and moved back to North Dakota. With the exception of family members and close friends, she told almost no one that she had been raped until 2009, when she spoke about Mountain2Mountain on “Dateline NBC.”
“For years, I was petrified that I’d be defined as a victim,” she said during a visit to New York last month. “I didn’t realize that victimhood could also be a source of strength.”
Galpin spent most of her 20s in Europe and Lebanon, working as an athletic trainer. While living in Germany, she married a British engineer, and the two eventually moved to Breckenridge, where they had a daughter, Devon, in 2004.
But Galpin grew restless in Colorado. Not long after she arrived, her marriage fell apart. Then her sister, who is 10 years younger, reported being raped in college. Galpin founded Mountain2Mountain in response.
“It sounds cliché, but I wanted to make the world a better place for my daughter,” she said.
Galpin made her first trip to Afghanistan in 2008. Since then, Mountain2Mountain has built a heroin rehabilitation center for women and computer labs for girls’ schools in Kabul, among other projects.
Afghanistan has 45 licensed female cyclists among three categories: junior, under-23 and elite, according to the International Cycling Union, the world governing body of cycling, or U.C.I. Some of these riders participated in the Asian cycling championships, held in New Delhi last month, though four of them failed to finish.
“The fact that they were at the start line is a victory of sorts,” said Dominique Raymond, the manager of National Federations and Continental Confederations for the U.C.I. Galpin said that current attitudes toward female cyclists in Afghanistan are not so different from those in the United States in the late 1800s.
“Women were often deemed promiscuous if they rode bikes in the street,” she said.
Sue Macy, the author of “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom,” a book about the bike’s role in women’s rights, said the sudden popularity of the “safety” bicycle, as opposed to the treacherous, high-wheeled “ordinary” bike, in the early 1890s changed how women dressed and engaged with the world.
“Since they couldn’t wear hoop skirts and corsets on a bike, they started wearing bifurcated garments, like bloomers,” she said. “Instead of meeting a suitor in the parlor, they started riding around and meeting people without supervision.”
Galpin is hoping to influence similar changes in Afghanistan, where female athletes have made substantial strides. Women represented Afghanistan at the Olympics for the first time at the 2004 Athens Games when Fariba Rezayee competed in judo and Robina Muqimyar ran the 100-meter sprint.
Last year, Sadaf Rahimi received an invitation to box in the London Games, the first time the sport was open to women. (The International Boxing Association later revoked the invitation on the grounds that superior boxers posed a risk to the safety of Rahimi, who was 19.)
Salma Kakar, 16, a cyclist on the Afghan women’s team, recently announced her intent to wave the flag of Afghanistan at the Olympics. For that to happen, Raymond said, the team would need to start accumulating points in the U.C.I. nations ranking, gained through events like the Women’s Road World Cup and the Continental Championships.
If the Afghan women fail to qualify through competition, they are also eligible for scholarships through the Olympic Solidarity Commission, which helps countries in need to develop their sports programs.
The first step, of course, is to get some proper equipment.
“The bike company Giro donated a bunch of helmets and shoes,” Galpin said. “But the girls need money to train, to travel to races and to afford coaches who can teach them basic stuff like how to ride in a pack.
“Once they’ve all finished a race,” she added, “they can start trying to win one.”
April 16, 2013
Serb Defends U.N. Meeting Boycotted by the U.S.
By RICK GLADSTONE
Serbia’s former foreign minister, who is the current president of the United Nations General Assembly, struck back on Tuesday at critics of a meeting he organized last week on the role of international criminal justice, denying their assertions that he had been trying to discredit the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The United States, Canada and Jordan boycotted the meeting, which they described as a one-sided, inflammatory attempt to malign a court that has been a template for other war crimes tribunals supported by the United Nations, and which has been regarded as an important way for victims of Balkans war atrocities to seek redress.
At a news conference about his broader agenda, the General Assembly president, Vuk Jeremic, sought to rebut the criticism, asserting that he had felt it was time to raise the question of whether such tribunals advanced the cause of national reconciliation.
He also sought to clarify what he described as misconceptions and distortions about the meeting last Wednesday, which was officially described as a thematic debate. Mr. Jeremic noted that most members of the 193-nation General Assembly had participated in the meeting.
“Some people were obviously uncomfortable with this debate,” he said. “But my opinion was there should be no taboo subjects, no forbidden subjects in the General Assembly.”
Mr. Jeremic criticized what he described as late cancellations by panelists, including experts on international justice and human rights. “I would have thought there would be more courage,” he said. “A lot of people were not prepared to hear any kind of criticism on one of the holy cows of international relations, which is international justice.”
He took particular issue with a victims’ group, the Mothers of Srebrenica, named after the victims of a 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs, which asserted he had blocked a request by the group’s president, Munira Subasic, to speak at the meeting for five minutes.
Ms. Subasic attended the meeting and was removed by security officials after she put on a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Srebrenica Justice Is Slow but It Is Reachable.” Later that day she met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a prominent defender of the war crimes tribunal. She also said at a news conference that she had felt humiliated by her removal from the General Assembly, and that she had been offended by Mr. Jeremic’s opening remarks, in which he suggested that the war crimes tribunal had unfairly singled out Serbs in its prosecutions.
Mr. Jeremic said he had explained in writing to the group’s representatives that they were welcome to attend the meeting but could not speak because it was intended as a forum for experts on criminal justice, not victims. “I explained this very kindly in correspondence with them,” he told reporters.
He said that he was “not even aware” that security officials had escorted Ms. Subasic and some colleagues from the meeting room, and that he learned only later that “they had breached the way people must behave” at such sessions. “I have not written those rules and am not in charge of exercising them,” Mr. Jeremic said.
He organized the meeting after two Croat generals convicted of crimes against Serbs were freed last November in a tribunal appeals ruling. That reversal, which was considered a surprise, embittered Serbs who already resented what they regarded as the court’s agenda to prosecute Serbs more aggressively than other ethnic groups in the 1990s Balkans conflicts that fractured Yugoslavia. Court officials have denied any bias in their prosecutions.
Mr. Jeremic, who is considered a possible future leader of his country, as well as a candidate for secretary general when Mr. Ban’s second term expires at the end of 2016, has made no secret of his antipathy toward the tribunal, which is 20 years old.
“I’m not shying away from criticizing this court again,” Mr. Jeremic said. “We’re talking about a court of convictions for Serbs that accumulates to about 1,000 years in prison.” At the same time, he said, it also has “convicted nobody for inciting crimes committed against Serbs in Croatia.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 16, 2013
An earlier version of this article misidentified another role of the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic. He is Serbia’s former foreign minister, not its current ambassador to the United Nations.
Anti-Putin activist Alexei Navalny's trial begins and is adjourned
Anti-corruption campaigner who led protests against government is accused of embezzling timber from state-run firm
Miriam Elder in Kirov
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 April 2013 09.00 BST
The trial of Russia's leading anti-Kremlin activist has started in the provincial city of Kirov, in a case that has spotlighted President Vladimir Putin's refusal to tolerate critics.
In a scene reminiscent of pre-revolutionary Russia, Alexei Navalny stepped off an overnight train from Moscow – 500 miles and 12 hours away – to attend the trial, accompanied by his wife and dozens of journalists from the country's struggling independent media.
The 36-year-old lawyer, corruption crusader and popular blogger has been charged with embezzlement dating back to his time as an adviser to the regional government in 2009. But the case is widely seen as a means of silencing the man who has become Putin's loudest critic.
"We say this simple truth – that Putin is a thief – and that's why this trial is happening," Navalny told supporters gathered for a small protest before entering the courtroom on Wednesday.
The judge, Sergei Blinov, adjourned the case after 45 minutes and called a subsequent session for 24 April. Navalny's defence had argued that they were not given enough time to prepare for the trial. However, a delay had been expected as the state seeks to dampen attention on the case.
"It seems that this is how this trial will be conducted – we will arrive and leave, arrive and leave," Navalny said after the short hearing. "They are interested in making this trial so that everyone gets sick of it."
With less than 1% of Russian court cases ending in not-guilty verdicts, it is almost certain Navalny will be convicted. He faces up to 10 years in prison – or a suspended sentence, which would forbid him from running for office and kill any hope of a legitimate political career.
Navalny's popularity grew on the back of mass anti-Putin protests that swept Moscow early last year. He has since announced presidential aspirations.
Much of his public support, however, has receded amid a Kremlin crackdown that has sown widespread fear among those opposed to Putin. Dozens of protesters have been arrested in the past year and a new legal framework has increased sanctions for those who dare to speak out.
"This trial has the same meaning as the one against Khodorkovsky," said Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister turned opposition leader, referring to the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. "Khodorkovsky was tried in order to frighten business. Navalny is being tried in an attempt to scare and stop civil society, protest and activism."
Navalny, represented by two defence lawyers, will argue that he did not lead a criminal group to embezzle 16m roubles (£333,000) from Kirovles, a state-run timber firm, while advising the region's liberal governor, Nikita Belykh.
"I plan on fully showing my innocence and that this is a political trial," Navalny said. He thanked journalists and supporters for making the voyage to Kirov despite Wednesday's quick hearing: "It's not for nothing – we are fighting for ourselves, for our families, for our freedom. We will be victorious."
About 100 local and visiting supporters occupied a square near the courthouse as Navalny's trial got underway. "We came here to support Navalny and to be a part of history – we will be telling our children about this," Denis Svidayev, 26, a small business owner.
"We can't say that Putin is guilty of absolutely everything that is wrong in the country but yes, he and his team are also guilty," he said. "The worst punishment that thieving officials in our country face is a fine. And every year it becomes more and more obvious that those loyal to government face no punishment in these corruption situations – and this all pours into our deep unhappiness with what is going on."
Putin's most vocal critic, Alexey Navalny, faces revenge in court
Anti-corruption crusader Navalny accused of conspiracy to embezzle £333,000 from state-owned timber firm
Miriam Elder in Kirov
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 April 2013 09.04 BST
With its dirt pavements and crumbling wooden homes, the city of Kirov is a city stuck in time. Karl Marx Street runs parallel to Lenin Street. Soviet-era buses ferry workers to and fro.
But on Wednesday morning the eyes of the Russian elite – from ministers to Kremlin critics – will be on an unassuming courthouse in the centre of this city, where Alexey Navalny, Vladimir Putin's loudest foe, will go on trial charged with embezzlement.
Few doubt the trial is motivated by political revenge. Navalny, a 36-year-old lawyer, anti-corruption crusader and popular blogger, has spent the last year labelling Putin a crook and calling for the powerful president to be jailed, and has uncovered corrupt schemes by some of Putin's closest associates.
Kirov is 500 miles north-east of Moscow but a world away. Its nearly half a million residents make an average wage of 17,000 roubles (£350) a month; many still work in the Soviet-era factories that line the town.
Kirov was meant to be a showcase of liberal co-operation with an unwavering Kremlin. In 2009, Putin's protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, then president and now prime minister, appointed opposition politician Nikita Belykh to the governor's post. Despite criticism from his anti-Putin cohorts, Belykh took the job, arguing that it was possible to transform the system from within.
"There were big hopes for the governor's team," said Yana Strauzova, spokesman for the city government.
Acquainted with Navalny from Moscow opposition circles, Belykh called the young lawyer in as an adviser. It was then, prosecutors argue, that Navalny conspired to embezzle 16m roubles (£333,000) from a state-run timber firm called Kirovles. Two previous investigations were closed.
The case was reopened and Navalny was charged in July, not long after he uncovered secret property owned in the Czech Republic by Alexander Bastrykin, a close Putin ally and head of Russia's investigative committee, a powerful body that has been likened to a political police. Navalny faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
Belykh, his one-time ally, has declined to comment. On Monday, the governor took to his blog to address the many journalists and supporters descending upon Kirov. He would not be in town, he said, but provided a list of tourist sites to visit.
The chance that Navalny will be acquitted is minuscule. Konstantin Zaytsev, head of the court that will try Navalny, said a guilty verdict was "probable but not inevitable". The presiding judge, Sergei Blinov, has never issued a not-guilty verdict. Zaytsev himself said he has issued one not-guilty verdict in his decades-long career – and it was overturned.
"The system works in such a way that those who would be found not guilty get filtered out before the case reaches court," Zaytsev explained. Russia's conviction rate is over 99%.
Navalny has accused Putin of personally ordering the case against him and has called the charges absurd.
Like most provincial towns around Russia, Kirov is far from the hustle and bustle of Moscow's political life. Rocked by months of street protests early last year, the capital has settled into a state of constant, low-level tension. Dozens have been arrested for a protest that turned violent on 6 May and a series of repressive laws keep opposition anger afloat, if hidden.
Navalny was the most public face of those protests. Yet according to recent research by the Levada Centre, an independent poll group, only 37% of Russians had heard of the opposition activist. At the height of Russia's protest season, around the time of a 4 March presidential election that swept Putin back into the Kremlin, 3,000 people turned out in Kirov – something local activists considered a runaway success.
"All I've heard about Navalny is what they say about him," said Margarita Trufakina, a 22-year-old swimming instructor. "He presented himself as a fighter for justice – and proved to be otherwise." Many more had heard nothing of Navalny or the case against him.
All but barred from appearing on state-run television, the opposition activist has taken to the internet to win a following. Yet in a country marred by ubiquitous corruption, the case has already tarnished his reputation among some who once looked upon him with interest.
"In such cases, one can't be 100% sure of anything," said Ivan, 21. "Maybe they're trying him because he really stole something, or maybe it's because he wanted to change something in Russia. Anything is possible."
Dozens of supporters from around the country have promised to make their way to Kirov for the trial, aiming to raise awareness among locals, counter state propaganda and keep the attention on a case far from the media-heavy capital.
Kirill Osipov, 26, hitchhiked seven hours from the city of Kazan to arrive in Kirov on Monday morning. "If we don't show the government our position, they will never listen to us," Osipov said. "The same thing can happen to any of us. That Navalny is against the system is a positive thing for us." He said he planned to stay up to a month in the city. Anna, a 21-year-old activist, drove 12 hours from the southern city of Volgograd and said she planned to stay for a week.
Navalny's associates have set up a headquarters to host the flood of activists and Moscow-based reporters expected to descend upon Kirov for the trial. In a basement office they were scrambling to set up an internet connection and make sure there was enough tea and coffee in stock.
The office stands near the end of a long, pot-holed road lined with crumbling pre-revolutionary homes and empty new constructions. At the opposite end, on Lenin Street, stands the grandest building in Kirov – a red-and-white castle featuring balconies and gargoyles, and topped with two sculptures of Russia's national symbol, the double-headed eagle. The building does not host the local government, the mayor's office or a court. It is the city's headquarters for the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the KGB.
April 16, 2013
Russian Group Fears Fine After Talk With Americans
By ANDREW ROTH
MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors have opened a legal case against a nongovernmental organization in a city outside Moscow for failing to register as a “foreign agent,” after the group participated in a round table with representatives of the United States Embassy.
The organization, the Kostroma Center for the Defense of Public Initiatives, with headquarters in the city of Kostroma, about 200 miles northeast of Moscow, announced Tuesday that a city prosecutor had threatened a fine of close to $16,000, saying the organization engaged in “political activities.”
As evidence, the prosecutor cited participation in vote-monitoring and a February round table: “Resetting the Reset: Where Are Russian-American Relations Heading?” which included the United States Embassy’s deputy political counselor, Howard Solomon.
Nikolai V. Sorokin, the head of the Kostroma Center, said in a telephone interview that the organization had been punished for cooperating with the embassy.
Mr. Sorokin said that his organization was not political and that recent conferences had focused on local ecology and Russian history.
“We have been holding our events since 2005, and we have never received the smallest complaint,” he said. “But after an employee from the embassy, Howard Solomon, came to us and we held a round table about problems in relations between the United States and Russia, that’s when the prosecutors came.”
A representative for the embassy, in Moscow, told the Interfax news agency that Mr. Solomon’s visit was “normal public diplomacy,” and added that the embassy was following the case with “great concern.”
Under recently enacted legislation, an organization is required to register as a “foreign agent” if it receives money from foreign sources and engages in political activity, a loosely defined term that remains untested in Russia’s courts.
Prominent Russian organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, a human rights organization, have refused to register with the government, saying the label is pejorative.
Last week, prosecutors opened the first case under the law against the vote-monitoring organization Golos, which declared widespread voter fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections in 2011.
Pavel Chikov, the chairman of a legal organization monitoring the cases, said that prosecutors would employ a broad definition of political activity in order to prosecute unregistered private organizations.
“It could be the participation of a leader in a protest, or participating in a round table; the prosecutors won’t care,” Mr. Chikov said. “I’m certain this means there will be new cases very soon.”
Savita Halappanavar inquest: doctor was warned about elevated pulse rate
Midwife says she is 100% certain she told medic about condition of Indian woman who died after miscarriage at Irish hospital
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 April 2013 12.48 BST
A senior midwife has said she is 100% certain she told a doctor about the elevated pulse rate of an Indian woman who later died after she suffered a miscarriage in an Irish hospital.
Clinical midwife manager Ann Maria Burke told an inquest she called a medic to see if Savita Halappanavar could have a bath the night before she fell critically ill, and mentioned the high pulse rate before she went off shift at about 8pm.
However, Dr Ikechukwu Uzochkwu, senior house officer in obstetrics and gynaecology, remains adamant he was only told the patient was weak but that her vital signs were fine during a call between 9pm and 11pm.
"That is still my evidence," he said, adding that he did not know which midwife had called him.
Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to University Hospital Galway on 21 October last year and died a week later from suspected septicaemia, days after she lost her baby.
The witnesses were both recalled to the inquest to give evidence after "irreconcilable differences" appeared in their evidence last week at Galway coroner's court.
Burke said she was "100% certain" she called Uzochkwu on the Tuesday evening when pulse rates of 114 and 110 beats per minute were recorded on Halappanavar.
He said he went to see the patient at 1am on Wednesday, but Halappanavar was sleeping so he did not examine her as he was told by staff her vital signs were normal.
The on-call medic was called again at 6.30am – almost 24 hours after his shift started – when her condition deteriorated so much she was diagnosed with suspected sepsis.
Eugene Gleeson, senior counsel for widower Praveen Halappanavar, argued that there was no way of knowing if Mrs Halappanavar's vital signs were normal overnight as they had not been checked.
"It's absolutely clear that from 9pm to 6.30am only one vital sign out of the four was recorded," he said.
Meanwhile, Galway coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin said the inquest should be over on Friday.
Former master of the national Maternity Hospital Dr Peter Boylan is among the experts giving evidence on Wednesday.
Mr Halappanavar maintains the couple repeatedly requested a termination but were refused because the foetal heartbeat was present.
He says they were told they would not be able to have an abortion because Ireland "is a Catholic country", which Burke admitted telling them, but which consultant Katherine Astbury has insisted she did not say.
Astbury has admitted system failures in Mrs Halappanavar's care.
As Mr Halappanavar arrived for the sixth day of the hearing with his legal team, he said: "We are very optimistic and looking forward to the final word."
Europe must help Georgia and Armenia, or Russia will
In Georgia and Armenia I saw how vital European integration will be to a fragile post-Soviet spring
The Guardian, Wednesday 17 April 2013
I recently travelled to Georgia and Armenia to meet human rights groups. After two days in Georgia we drove east, the hilly landscape gradually turning mountainous, sheep and cattle tended by shepherds in littered, post-Soviet villages. For a long time the road followed a small river, plastic trash snagging on rocks and branches. This could have been a landscape of extraordinary beauty; instead it was depleted and scarred by nearly a century of bad or indifferent governance.
Crossing the border into Armenia, the river was still there, the litter now older, almost indistinguishable from the brown water and grey rock. There were remnants of the Soviet state – giant concrete chutes channelling water from the steep mountains, occasional blocks of flats now, like the rubbish, taking on the colour of the dark earth. In one valley ruins from the earthquake in 1988 stood like archaeological remains.
Every village we drove through was half abandoned – the falling down houses haphazardly mended with metal sheets or planks of wood. Whole families move if they can, otherwise women and children remain while the men join the migrant labour force in Russia, sending meagre remittances home. I know there were children in these villages, because occasionally laundry – the only colour in this bleak world – hung from wires, drying in the still dusk. We saw no people, and no shops. We saw no other cars.
In Britain we sometimes forget the harsh reality behind the talk of human rights in transitional states. Human rights language is the same the world over, bland and institutional. Thus in Georgia many groups talked about "prison reform". The issue in fact was the widespread use of torture, revealed when secret footage was released of detainees raped with broom handles or burned with cigarettes, guards looking on, indifferent to the screams. The victims were ordinary criminals; this was part of police and prison routine. After the release of the footage, thousands of people took to the streets, the minister for corrections had to resign; 16 out of 17 prison directors were fired. Some claim the footage was staged; no one, however, disputes that those things went on.
Other groups talked about "corruption" and "transparency". Here is one case: an Armenian shopkeeper is visited by tax officials, demanding a bribe. He refuses, and takes them to court. Several years and many court cases later he wins his case, but by now the same tax officials have so terrorised his suppliers that he can't stay in business.
In Armenia campaigners talked about "hospital reform". Many people with learning disabilities rather than mental illness are institutionalised in mental hospitals. Even if you are let out, once in the system you can be committed at any time in the future by a doctor's order.
The human rights activists (some former dissidents) we met steadfastly rely on, and believe in, the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, despite the fact that tens of thousands of cases are languishing there in a seemingly permanent backlog. It's all they have.
European solidarity is an empty concept to most British people, at least judging from the media. But democracy and the rule of law on the margins of Europe matter to all of us. Georgia and Armenia, and 14 other nations, are in talks with the EU under the European neighbourhood policy. It offers a degree of economic integration in return for a commitment to democracy and human rights, the rule of law, market economy principles and sustainable development. Free trade for good governance – it's a win-win deal.
In Georgia and Armenia, however, so long after the fall of the Soviet Union, the state is still weak – and occasionally thuggish – the economies are largely oligarchical, and there is a lack of watchdog institutes – that function is almost entirely given over to civil society. As in all former Soviet republics, there is a history of institutional brutality and indifference lingering on in the army, the prisons, hospitals and orphanages.
And yet people in Yerevan, the capital, talked hopefully of an Armenian spring. Serge Sarkisian, the president (and Putin ally), won a second term in the recent election, but not with anything like the Soviet-style 90% majority pollsters had suggested. Significant numbers of ballot papers had been spoiled. (The fact that one candidate, a former dissident, was shot and wounded in January may have contributed to voter disaffection.) The main opposition candidate, the American-born Raffi Hovannisian (37% of the vote), held a shadow swearing-in ceremony on 9 April.
In this region, as in any other, individuals come and go, and sometimes, as we have seen in Georgia, good people turn bad. European integration is the best bet for good governance. The alternative for Armenia is Russia, where NGOs receiving foreign funding are now required to register as "foreign agents". European trade agreements and human rights requirements must be better than that, for them and for us.
Sigrid Rausing travelled to Georgia and Armenia with the Open Society Institute
PIP breast implant bosses' trial for aggravated fraud begins in France
Company founder Jean-Claude Mas and four managers accused of supplying faulty implants that triggered a global health scare
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 April 2013 18.20 BST
The first trial over the global scandal of faulty breast implants made with cheap industrial silicone not fit for humans opens on Wednesday, with hundreds of women expected to attend to tell of their suffering.
Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of the French firm Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP), and four of his senior staff will stand trial for aggravated fraud and face up to five years' jail and a €37,500 (£32,000) fine if convicted.
The firm, which was once the third biggest global supplier of breast implants, is accused of cutting costs for 10 years by using an illegal homemade concoction of industrial-grade and agricultural silicone not fit for use on humans.
PIP hid evidence of the non-medical silicone during visits by European inspectors who approved the implants. Use of the cheaper, substandard silicone saved the company €1m a year.
The Marseille trial, the first of three likely cases over the scandal, will be one of the biggest ever held in France. Proceedings are too vast to be held in the courthouse and so, at a cost of €800,000, will instead be held at a vast conference centre, more often used to host mass campaign rallies by Nicolas Sarkozy or bathroom shows and trade fairs.
There are more than 5,100 women plaintiffs in the case. Most are French but about 200 are from abroad, mainly Argentinian and Austrian. More than 300 lawyers are involved in the trial.
The scandal emerged in 2010 after surgeons raised the alarm over the abnormally high incidences of rupture of PIP implants, which were later found to have a far higher rate of splitting than other brands. PIP was closed and its implants taken off the market after use of the non-authorised silicone gel was discovered.
Gendarmes searching the business in southern France found cans of industrial silicone in a van. In December 2011, the French health ministry advised women with PIP implants to have them removed as a precaution, saying that while there was no proven cancer risk, they could rupture. A separate investigation into possible involuntary homicide was opened following the 2010 cancer death of a French woman with PIP implants.
Last year, medical experts investigating the consequences of the PIP scandal in the UK concluded that substandard silicone gel did not pose a significant risk to women's health in the long term.
PIP used to make more than 100,000 implants a year, exporting 80%, and was known for its good value and reasonable price. It is estimated that more than 300,000 women in 65 countries may have had PIP implants fitted, including in reconstruction surgery after mastectomies for cancer. About 47,000 British women have had PIP implants, most privately, but just under 900 had the implants on the NHS mainly for breast reconstruction after cancer.
In France, of the 30,000 women who had PIP implants, almost half have had them removed and about 4,000 reported their implants rupturing.
The trial will scrutinise the working practices of Mas, 73, who founded PIP after holding a range of jobs from insurance to Cognac sales and selling sterilisation material for dentists.
He has been described as a kind of guru figure, who ran the business with a firm hand and in a cult of secrecy. When he was finally arrested at his farmhouse in southern France, he denied that the substandard implants posed any health risks, dismissing the complainants as "fragile people, or people who are doing this for money".
Last year, he was jailed for several months for failing to pay €100,000 bail.
Several French women and cancer survivors who had PIP implants have spoken of their psychological and physical suffering after implants ruptured or leaked.
Some said they suffered depression and anxiety, or are dependent on sleeping tablets. One factory worker told the Guardian it as like "having a ticking time bomb in your body".
Dominique Terrier from Normandy, among the women who will attend the trial, told France 3: "The pain we went through was psychological and physical… we were mutilated, re-operated on. It's not easy to survive that after cancer."
One French group of women with PIP implants said of the court case: "We're waiting to be recognised as victims, to face the person who has destroyed our lives, we need recognition and justice to be able to start again and rebuild ourselves."
China should have a say in future of Arctic – Iceland president
Olafur Ragnar Grimsson says nations beyond the polar region should be involved in determining future of the far north
Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 16 April 2013 15.21 BST
Iceland's president has called for an expanded role for China and other Asian countries in the future of the Arctic, arguing that the rapid melting of the summer sea ice was having effects far beyond the region.
In a visit to Washington, for the launch of a new global forum, the Arctic Circle, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said countries beyond the polar region deserved a say in determining the future of the far north.
"It is a wrong scenario to think that this will only be of concern to those people living in the Arctic. It will be a concern to every nation," Grimsson said in an interview. "There is no country that will escape the consequences, either through rising sea levels or extreme weather patterns."
With that in mind, Grimsson argued that oil companies and countries as far away as China, India, Singapore and South Korea should have a voice in the future of the region. At present, only the eight countries of the Arctic Council have a say in setting policy in the region. "We realise that there are other nations in Asia and Europe that have legitimate concerns and enterprises in the Arctic and it's important to involve them in a co-operative effort," Grimsson said.
He made his visit to Washington as Chinese and Icelandic leaders signed a free trade agreement in Beijing that will give China a bigger foothold in the emerging region.
Grimsson said Arctic Circle would aim for a more inclusive debate about the future of the Arctic.
Decisions on the development and the environment of the region are now the preserve of the eight countries involved in the Arctic Council: America, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden in addition to Iceland.
But Grimsson said it was important to involve other countries in deciding the future of the region, as it undergoes a rapid transformation due to climate change.
Last year produced a record melting of summer sea ice. A study published last week by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Arctic waters could be nearly ice-free by as early as 2020.
The retreat of summer sea ice has seen a push by oil and mining companies to drill in Arctic waters, and by Asian countries hoping to cut shipping routes. Environment campaigners on Monday planted a flag on the seabed at the north pole and demanded the region be declared a global sanctuary.
The new forum launched this week will hold its first gathering in Reykjavik in October and will be open to government officials, scientists and members of non-government organisations.
Grimsson described it as an "open tent".
"I see it as a part of my responsibility to encourage a dialogue between the people who live in the Arctic and those who want to use the Arctic – to put it bluntly," he said during a speech on Monday.
Grimsson told an audience at the National Press Club that in every meeting with Asian leaders this year, from China, South Korea, Singapore and India, his counterparts had sought observer status on the Arctic Council.
China, South Korea, and Singapore are exploring new shipping routes across the pole. The polar route would cut about two weeks off the average shipment time between northern Europe and Asia.
China has sought permanent observer status in the Arctic Council, the group of eight northern countries that sets policy in the region.
Grimsson indicated support for the move, saying outside influence over the Arctic was inevitable. "With the accelerating melting of the Arctic Sea ice we will have an open ocean there that anyone with a vessel could get into according to international law," he said.
China sent an ice breaker through the Arctic last year, and was already building Arctic-capable ships, he noted.
"The big question is whether we will catch up with our decision making and our dialogue and our form of co-operation before acceleration of melting sea ice created a completely new playing field."
April 16, 2013
Accord Would Regulate Fishing in Arctic Waters
By ANDREW E. KRAMER
MOSCOW — It was once protected by ice. Now regulation will have to do the work.
The governments of the five countries with coastline on the Arctic have concluded that enough of the polar ice cap now melts regularly in the summertime that an agreement regulating commercial fishing near the North Pole is warranted.
Talks are scheduled for later this month among diplomats and fisheries officials from Norway, Denmark, Canada, the United States and Russia. Most concern is focused on newly ice-free waters above the Bering Strait, above the exclusive economic zones of Russia and the United States, and now accessible to trawler fleets from hungry Pacific Ocean nations like China and Japan.
An accord would protect the open water until the fish stocks there can be more fully studied.
Though supported by conservationists, the agreement’s principal intention is not to conserve this new fish habitat, formed by the receding of polar ice as the world warms up. The intention of an accord, backed by fishing industries in the coastal nations, is to manage for commercial exploitation any stocks of fish that already inhabit the ocean but used to live under the ice, like Arctic cod, as well as fish that may migrate into the new ice-free zone from farther south, as the ocean warms.
Russia had been a holdout in the negotiations, started by the United States five years ago. But the upper chamber of Russia’s Parliament, the Federation Council, signaled support for the agreement last year. Talks are scheduled to begin on April 29 in Washington, the State Department has confirmed.
If successful, it will represent the third such accord struck by countries in the far north to manage the commercial development and industrialization of the region, which is expected to increase with global warming.
The other two agreements reached so far regulate search and rescue, and the response to oil spills as new drilling acreage and shipping lanes open up near the coasts.
The fishing accord would regulate commercial harvests in an area farther offshore — in the so-called doughnut hole of the Arctic Ocean. This is a Texas-size area of international water that includes the North Pole and is encircled by the exclusive economic zones of the coastal countries.
That the center of the Arctic Ocean was unregulated was hardly a concern when it was an icebound backwater. That is changing. Last summer, 40 percent of the central Arctic Ocean melted.
In fact, the agreement is unusual for protecting a huge area from human exploitation before people have had much chance to exploit it; before the last decade, scientists estimate, the doughnut hole was icebound for about 100,000 years
“Five countries are talking about solving a problem before it starts,” Scott Highleyman, the director of Arctic programs at the Pew Charitable Trust, which supports the fishing moratorium, said in a telephone interview.
“How often do we look back at something and say ‘Gee, if we’d only thought of that,’” he said. “As somebody who works on natural resources issues, this is very refreshing. We are fixing something before it is broken.”
Dmitry M. Glazov, a whale biologist at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and an authority on the marine ecosystem of the ice floes, said the waters teem with cod, herring, Greenland sharks, whales, walruses, seals and polar bears. It is unclear, though, whether the fish stocks are large enough to support a commercial fishery.
Advocates of a conservation agreement say that until the new ice-free area created by global warming is fully studied, it should be preserved. Diplomats agree that the region should be protected from fishing fleets until scientists have had a chance to assess its marine populations.
“We want any fishing that takes place there to be properly managed, to maintain it for commercial purposes,” one diplomat from an Arctic nation involved in the talks said. “Are there fisheries in the future that are moving north as the waters are warming and the ice is receding? The scientists cannot say with certainty now.”
The part of the doughnut hole that is thawing most quickly in the eastern Arctic, above Alaska and the Russian region of Chukotka, is well within the range of industrial fishing fleets in Asia.
Chinese trawlers fish for krill in Antarctic waters, about 7,500 miles from China. The Arctic Ocean international zone is only about 5,000 miles from the Chinese coast, according to maps prepared by a Russian fisheries journal, Rybnye Resorsi.
04/16/2013 03:50 PM
Swiss Bank Data: German Tax Officials Launch Nationwide Raids
German tax authorities have bought a new CD containing bank account details of thousands of alleged tax evaders with accounts in Switzerland. They conducted 200 raids on Tuesday and expect to recoup more than half a billion euros in lost tax revenues.
German tax investigators conducted 200 raids on alleged tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the authorities launched the nationwide searches after obtaining a CD containing bank deposit details. The CD was purchased by the government of the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate and other German states earlier this year.
The CD has information on more than 10,000 bank customers with Swiss accounts, investigators said. The volume of data is even bigger than similar CDs purchased in recent years, mainly by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The purchase of such CDs has angered Switzerland but strengthened the resolve of German opposition parties, which object to a government-backed data sharing deal they say amounts to amnesty for German tax evaders. The upper house of the German parliament rejected the agreement last year.
Many of the accounts contain relatively small sums but the Rhineland-Palatinate government expects to be able to recoup some €500 million ($650 million) in lost tax revenues.
"The material is extraordinarily lucrative," said a member of the minister's staff. Some 4,000 suspected cases of tax evasion are being investigated in an initial round of probes. A large proportion of the deposits checked so far hadn't been declared to German tax offices by the account holders, the official said.
A total of five German states clubbed together to buy the CD for €4 million from an anonymous informant, said sources close to the Rhineland-Palatinate government, which arranged the deal. The information was distributed to tax authorities across Germany some six weeks ago. Tuesday's raids only mark the start of an extensive investigation that could last until the end of the year.
Authorities expect that the media coverage of the raids will prompt many tax evaders to turn themselves in to authorities so that they can lessen their penalties.
The current raids affected customers with accounts in Credit Suisse, the former Clariden Leu AG and Neue Aargauer Bank.
04/16/2013 05:57 PM
Flawed Investigation: Prosecutors Hope Nazi Trial Will Trigger Reforms
By Gisela Friedrichsen
German federal prosecutors handling the neo-Nazi terrorism case due to come to trial on May 6 say regional authorities underestimated the capabilities of right-wing extremists. They hope the trial will boost central authorities' power to investigate future cases.
It happened at noon on Nov. 11, 2011, a date the members of Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range's staff are unlikely to forget. It was when the Federal Constitutional Court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe took over responsibility for the case of the neo-Nazi group calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU). From then on, up to 10 prosecutors from various departments worked for almost a year, often around the clock, until their Herculean achievement, the 488-page indictment, was complete. It testifies to the prosecution's firm commitment to relentlessly investigating racially motivated murders in Germany.
From today's perspective, a Gordian knot seems to have been cut on that day. The suspicion that the murders of 10 people -- eight men of Turkish descent, one Greek and one German policewoman -- and other attacks, as well as a series of unsolved robberies, could be acts of terrorism could no longer be denied. Karlsruhe, say court insiders, finally managed to take control of the investigations, so as to put an end to the series of embarrassing blunders and miscalculations by law enforcement officials.
Until that day, the Federal Prosecutor General's hands had been tied. His powers to intervene in such cases are limited. He can only become involved when politically motivated crimes are at issue, especially terrorist acts of violence or cases of treason and espionage affecting Germany's internal or external security to an especially high degree. But in order to be able to intervene, he needs information that he lacked at the time.
"They were all full of good intentions," Rainer Griesbaum, the department head in charge of the case says today. Despite their repeated efforts, his staff was unable to obtain, from the state public prosecutors' offices, acceptable evidence to support the contention that the crimes affected national security. "We got nothing from them," says Griesbaum, noting that the state officials were convinced that the series of murders and robberies were the work of a criminal gang. Still, a profiler from Bavaria did frequently address the theory that right-wing extremist perpetrators could be involved. In retrospect, says Griesbaum, the profiler's theory was fairly close to the truth. But it was just one of many speculative theories.
The main crime scene at the time was at Frühlingsstraße 26 in the eastern city of Zwickau, where part of a building exploded and went up in flames on Nov. 4, 2011. The three alleged NSU members Beate Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos had lived at that address. The Federal Prosecutor General accused Zschäpe of setting the fire to destroy evidence. A senior prosecutor from the Federal Prosecutor's Office immediately went to Zwickau.
'We Were Dumbfounded'
The discovery of a video claiming responsibility for one of the killings, which clearly suggested that the murders were acts of terror, triggered the Karlsruhe prosecutor's intervention. Unlike the left-wing terrorists of the Red Army Faction (RAF), who had announced that they were the perpetrators after each of their attacks, the NSU committed its murders in secret. The authorities had no knowledge of a video claiming responsibility for the crimes.
But now many of the details seemed to fall into place: the Ceska pistol with which nine people had been shot dead, the murder weapon in the case of the young police officer, Michèle Kiesewetter, and the killers' inhuman goals. Suddenly it all made sense. "We were dumbfounded," says Griesbaum.
A massive investigative machine was fired up. It was headed by the reserved, unflappable Federal Public Prosecutor Herbert Diemer, and Senior Prosecutors Anett Greger and Jochen Weingarten. By now, the results of the investigation had filled around 1,000 file folders. New information was constantly being added as a result of the ongoing analysis of exhibits, which already numbered more than 7,000. There were 64 terabytes of accumulated data.
A separate investigation was now underway against another, unknown defendant. The prosecutors continued to assume that the group behind the crimes was a very small terrorist cell, the NSU, consisting of Böhnhardt and Mundlos, who had been found shot dead in an apparent double suicide on Nov. 4, 2012, and Beate Zschäpe. Beginning on May 6, Zschäpe, the surviving alleged NSU member, and four presumed accomplices will be put on trial in Munich, where they will face charges of involvement in 10 murders and other crimes. For many of those involved, the fact that the case has finally reached this point is in a sense liberating. Nevertheless, the last word hasn't been spoken on whether this cell may have been larger, after all, and the breeding ground in which it thrived more fertile than previously thought.
No One Suspected Right-Wing Terrorism
Shouldn't the Federal Prosecutor General have pricked up his ears in 1998, when police found pipe bombs, 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lbs.) of TNT and death threats against foreigners in a garage the neo-Nazi trio had rented in Jena? Shouldn't the top investigators at the Federal Criminal Police Office have devoted their specialized knowledge and manpower to zeroing in on the suspects? What other signs of a right-wing terrorist threat did they need?
"We've already included that in our examination," says Federal Prosecutor General Range. But the public prosecutors in the eastern city of Gera and law enforcement officials had merely viewed the trio as a loosely connected group of criminals, rather than a terrorist organization with a unified will and corresponding objectives. Moreover, when Böhnhardt, Mundlos and Zschäpe disappeared in 1998 to avoid arrest, says Range, they had not yet formed a terrorist organization, nor had they committed any murders yet.
Or were the investigators merely blind to the far-right threat? Griesbaum isn't the only one who finds this question troubling. Prosecutors had turned the evidence over again and again, he says heatedly. "In the Kiesewetter case, every stone was indeed turned over three times, because the police were determined to find out who had killed their fellow officer." But no one, says Griesbaum, had suspected that it was the work of terrorists.
"The authorities weren't blind, but they lacked analytical skill," Griesbaum concludes today. Simply gathering evidence isn't enough, he says. It needs to be analyzed and amalgamated more carefully.
'Highly Professional Perpetrators'
Right-wing terrorism had also been underestimated, says Griesbaum, as had the intellectual abilities of the NSU members. "No one could imagine the double life that Ms. Zschäpe was leading. The life of these three people who were even isolated from the far-right scene! That very small group of supporters! They had everything under control! And no one talked about it!" A year after the trio had gone underground, says Griesbaum, all that was left was a series of rumors about them. Tips from ordinary citizens were unusable. "You have to ignore the knowledge we have today. It all sounded different at the time."
Griesbaum can still talk himself into a rage today when he describes how the investigation continued at the time, but without much hope of success. "It was eerie! The scattered crime scenes, the victims who seemed to have nothing in common. And now, in retrospect, the realization of how highly professional the perpetrators were!"
Cases like Solingen or Mölln, where young men set buildings on fire in which foreigners lived, cannot be compared with the NSU crimes, says Griesbaum. "It was always said that the right-wing extremists couldn't even think in as conspiratorially as the left-wing terrorists. They were underestimated," says Griesbaum. And besides, he adds, the authorities allowed themselves to be taken hostage by the 9/11 attacks, ignoring information coming from the far right.
Officials at the Federal Prosecutor's Office now have high hopes that the trial in the Munich Higher Regional Court will improve the authorities' knowledge about this type of terrorism. While parliamentary investigative committees only seek to achieve partial results, "real analysis" is done in court. The courtroom has always been the place where one comes closest to the truth, Federal Prosecutor General Range said in a SPIEGEL interview shortly after charges were filed in November 2012. The trial, he added, will certainly enable law enforcement officials to gather experiences for the future, because the courts have already been sensitized to this need.
The outcomes of the trial, says Range, will shape how investigative authorities react in the future, and whether the Federal Prosecutor General should be provided with more authority. One should also consider, says Range, whether the prosecutor general should be allowed to "play a more active role in examining his own jurisdiction over an investigation." "The mentality has to change," says Range, "to the effect that we say: Wait a minute, this could be something for the Federal Prosecutor General." Perhaps there were miscalculations at the time, he says, "but certainly no incorrect or incomplete information, in the sense that something was deliberately withheld from us."
The mood is confident at the Federal Prosecutor's Office shortly before the trial is set to begin. The Munich court, with presiding Judge Manfred Götzl, who started his career as a prosecutor, accepted the indictment without changes and "with great vigor," as they say in Karlsruhe. It will probably be represented in court by Diemer, Greger and Weingarten. The defense will attack the indictment no less vigorously. Neither side is likely to lack commitment.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
04/17/2013 11:01 AM
Memories of WWII: A German Family's Complicated Wartime History
By Marianne Wellershoff
Her aunt was executed by the Nazis, her uncle was a far-right political leader and her father told her stories of nighttime battles on the Eastern Front. SPIEGEL's Marianne Wellershoff traces her family's complicated place in World War II history.
World War II made its presence known again during the summer vacation of 1969. My father was in his bathing suit and I could see two holes in his thigh, one large, long one and one somewhat smaller. There was "shrapnel" in there, he told me, a war wound. But I was six years old and didn't know what shrapnel was. What I knew was that I didn't want to touch those two strange, yet fascinating hollows in the flesh of my father's leg.
Around 10 years later, we were driving along a transit route through East Germany (one of the few official motorways that connected West Germany with West Berlin) when my father cried out, "That's the village! That's where I stood in the village pond while the Russian tanks arrived!" At the end of this particular family trip, I found myself at the grave of my maternal grandfather, Adolf von Thadden, a nobleman from Trieglaff. The family cemetery was ravaged, its crosses torn down, everything that could be destroyed had been. I was rescuing the frogs unlucky enough to have fallen into the grave, which had been broken open.
Underneath the bookshelves in my parents' living room are cardboard boxes full of old black and white photos that I used to look at when I was a child. There's my father as a young man in uniform, his black hair and sensitive, observant face very different from the usual angular heads of Nazi men, with their hair left long in front and cropped short in the back. Then there's my mother, with her blonde hair and symmetrical features, so beautiful and so German she could easily have been designed by Nazi ideologues.
My parents' life stories could not be more different from one another. My father, writer Dieter Wellershoff, was a leader in the Jungvolk, a subdivision of the Hitler Youth. He told me that as a teenager he admired the students in the classes above him, who got to wear uniforms and were successful with the ladies -- something my father longed for at that age. In 1943, at age 17, he volunteered for the Wehrmacht -- the regular German army -- so he wouldn't have to join the SS, which had already tried to recruit him.
My father's father, as director of the building authority for the city of Grevenbroich, was a member of the Nazi Party, and served as an officer in both World War I and World War II. My grandmother, on the other hand, had no interest in politics. She fled to Silesia, today part of Poland, to escape the bombing, and died there during a gallbladder operation. My father's younger brother spent the last years of the war at a boarding school for war orphans.
My mother, Maria von Thadden, was born to a very Protestant aristocratic family in the region of Pomerania. She never joined the Nazi party's League of German Girls. Her family considered the Nazis abhorrently low-class and politically intolerable. My mother's half-brother, Reinold von Thadden, was active in the Confessing Church led by Martin Niemöller, which opposed the Nazis, and was imprisoned for it in 1937. After the war, he founded the German Protestant Church Conference.
The Nuance of 'Collective Guilt'
Talking about Germans' collective guilt ignores the fact that a collective is not just the sum of many individual fates. There were clear perpetrators in the Third Reich: Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. There were also clear victims: Jews first and foremost, but also those who were persecuted for political reasons, or for being gay or having a disability, to name just a few groups. There were those who helped the Nazis, and those who turned a blind eye to their crimes. And there were also those people who helped the victims, and those who at least didn't participate in the persecution and atrocities. Then there were the German soldiers who were dragged along by the situation of a country at war, who weren't given a choice whether they wanted to be in the trenches, and who ended up operating machineguns and killing people.
Given that my parents had such opposing life stories, I never understood the way people made generalizations about the war generation. I myself never knew if I should count myself among the guilty, or see myself as a descendant of the victims. My father fought on the Eastern Front, and although his injury would have excused him from returning there, he threw himself back into the war. "Did you shoot and kill Russians?" I asked him. He told me he didn't know.
During nighttime combat, they simply shot in the direction where they could see the flash of the other side's weapons, he said. He didn't participate in executions -- in his armored division, he would have had to volunteer directly to Hermann Göring to do so. My father chose not to, he told me, because he didn't want to shoot men who were bound and captive. That he was in Berlin while part of his division was in Italy murdering partisans, my father told me, was simply luck. To this day he can't say for sure how he would have behaved if he had been present for that massacre.
My mother's half-sister, Elisabeth von Thadden, was sentenced to death by the Nazis' People's Court and guillotined at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin in 1944. At a tea party, she had expressed her opinion that the war was as good as lost and was reported by a Gestapo spy. Ever since my mother visited the Plötzensee memorial site, she has been plagued by the memory of the short flight of steps up to the guillotine, where her half-sister sang a hymn by Paul Gerhardt -- "Put an end, oh Lord, put an end to all our sufferings" -- as she climbed. "The flight of stairs was too short," my mother says. "She couldn't have had time to complete even the first verse."
Family of Victims and Perpetrators
Yet even the von Thadden family is full of contradictions. My mother's older brother was Adolf von Thadden, later a leader of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). He had very close ties to the Nazis during the war, to his family's horror, but at the same time one of his best friends was a half-Jewish woman from Vienna. Their correspondence has survived. Shortly after the war, my uncle also risked his life in a failed attempt to rescue his mother and his second oldest sister from Russian-occupied Vahnerow in Pomerania, now part of Poland. Much later still, my mother says, he became a great admirer of the State of Israel -- because it was so perfectly organized.
My mother was 40 years old when I was born and my father was 37. Most of my classmates had parents who were themselves still children during the war. Perhaps that's why, in German schools in the 1970s, the Third Reich and World War II were taught the same way that World War I, the Thirty Years' War and the Romans' military campaigns were -- simply as history. I still wonder, though, why we never talked about our own families during these lessons. My sister is nine years older than I am and says she was outraged that her classmates' families never talked about National Socialism at home. Our parents, on the other hand, took my sister to visit the Dachau concentration camp when she was in elementary school.
To this day, I am baffled when I think back on one particular incident at my high school in Cologne. In a quarrel during a break between classes, a conflict that today seems positively harmless, a boy from my class threw an apple core in my face. I've forgotten now what we were fighting about, but I remember very clearly how the teacher reacted: Instead of asking to know why we were fighting and reprimanding us both, the teacher told me the boy had simply thrown the apple in the air and it had landed in my eye by chance. The boy was Jewish and his grandparents had been murdered in a concentration camp. For me it was a moment of realization that the teacher wasn't capable of treating this boy like any other student in the class. For him, the boy was an exception, to be handled differently.
Why? Was it perhaps because the horrifying years of the "Third Reich" were still much closer than most people would have liked to believe? It's probably true that other children's families didn't talk at home about the war, whereas my parents have both published books about their experiences with National Socialism. To this day, in fact, they talk so much about their past that it has become proof of something my father has always said: The war, and especially surviving the war, became the motor that drove everything that came afterward. My father says it gave him the feeling he was now capable of facing anything.
Aversion to Groupthink
Parents pass on their experiences to their children, their traumas as well as the things they've learned. My mother says she never sought to impart a concrete message to me and my two siblings. She simply wanted to describe to us how she experienced National Socialism. My father says he wanted to convey what he'd learned from his experience -- that ultimately you have only yourself to rely on.
In a recent SPIEGEL interview on the subject of war trauma, psychoanalyst Hartmut Radebold said, "Parents unconsciously pass on tasks to their children: Carry on with the family, do a better job." What, then, were my instructions? A German rock band wrote an ironic song called "I Want to Be Part of a Youth Movement." Personally, I never wanted to be part of any such thing. I rejected in equal measure the punks and the 1980s pop subculture pervasive in West Germany. I was and continue to be deeply skeptical of such groups. This mistrustful attitude has even affected the way I raise my daughters, because I won't accept any rationale that begins with, "But all the other kids …" It's a position that even to me sometimes seems overwrought. But I want my children to learn to rely on their own judgment, not to orient themselves according to what a group is doing or to comply obediently with authoritarian structures.
When I ask my younger colleagues about their families' experiences during the Third Reich, they talk about their grandparents with such remove that it sounds to me as if they're quoting from a novel. One colleague tells me his grandfather was a terrible Nazi, but what specifically that means, he doesn't know. And his other grandfather -- oh, right, what was the story with him?
Another colleague tells me his grandfather fought in the war, lost a leg and later banned toy guns from his house, but died before my colleague could ask him anything about his clearly terrible and unprocessed war experiences. Another colleague says her grandparents were just children during the war.
And yet the past continues to push its way into the present. Two years ago, I was sitting with my husband and our children at a restaurant in Aumühle, a town near Hamburg. It was Sept. 16. Tall, broad-shouldered young men who somehow had a dull look about them, along with a couple very old men and a few women with hairstyles that seemed to be from another era, passed us on their way into the restaurant's event hall. One man held his bomber jacket closed, so that only bits of the slogan on his T-shirt were visible. We could hear speeches behind the door, but couldn't make out the words. The sharp tone, though, was something we recognized from Nazi newsreels. This was a group of old Nazis and neo-Nazis celebrating the 120th birthday of Hitler's Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who died in Aumühle. We didn't know how to react. What would my mother do, or my father? What would they expect of me in this moment? In the end we just paid and left, and never set foot in that restaurant again.
I wonder sometimes what I will remember years from now when I think back on my own experience of being 17. Will I remember how I once managed to sneak into a reggae club, even though I was underage? Or how I nursed sick hedgehogs back to health? Whatever the case may be, it will be unspectacular. And that's a good thing.
The book "Von Ort zu Ort: Eine Jugend in Pommern" (From Place to Place: A Childhood in Pomerania) was published in German in 2010 by DuMont Buchverlag and can be purchased at Amazon.
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein
Greece: ‘Dangerous Dawn’
17 April 2013
Berlin (nd). The democracy of Greece is in danger of Nils Muižnieks warned yesterday in Strasbourg. The Latvian Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights made himself recently a picture of the situation in the crisis-ridden country - not from the immediate effects of the austerity policies: unemployment, homelessness, inadequate medical care. His shock affects the spread fascist thought and increasing violence attacks against immigrants, homosexuals and dissidents. "Enduring and concerted action, especially by the police and courts are needed in the country to protect the rule of law and human rights," says Muižnieks. The authorities need to intensify their efforts against hate speech and hate crime. Organizations such as the fascist party Golden Dawn (Golden Dawn) would be prohibited under certain circumstances.
The Greek government explained that they share the concern of the Commissioner. But racist attitudes are simply a "marginal phenomenon in Greek society," it said in a statement.
In the course of hopelessness generated by crisis and austerity, more and more Greeks expire dehumanizing slogans. The fascists also like to demonstrate against the austerity (Picture above: from the German Embassy in Athens), promise simple solutions. At the same time they maintain contacts with the German Nazi scene.
04/17/2013 12:38 PM
Failed Emissions Trading Reform: 'The End of a European Climate Policy
Europe's once celebrated cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions has languished. The economic crisis has caused the price of emissions licenses to plummet, and a recent remedy to the problem has been rejected by EU lawmakers. Climate policy expert Felix Matthes tells SPIEGEL ONLINE that an opportunity has been squandered.
The European Parliament on Tuesday voted down a proposal to make it more expensive for companies to burn fossil fuels, in what environmental advocates are calling a major setback in the fight against climate change.
The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, had proposed measures that would have increased the price per ton of emitted carbon dioxide that companies must pay under the bloc's Emissions Trading System (ETS), which was set up in 2005. EU lawmakers narrowly rejected the bill 334 to 315, with 63 abstentions.
The ETS was initially lauded by environmental advocates as the world's most ambitious effort to combat climate change. The number of certificates granting permission to emit carbon dioxide is capped, and companies can trade those certificates on the open market, in theory giving an economic incentive to invest in cleaner energy.
However the economy slump in Europe has caused the price of the emission certificates to drop dramatically, currently hovering around €5 ($6.50) per ton of carbon dioxide. The European Commission's plan would have delayed the auctioning of 900 million additional pollution certificates. While the European Parliament voted down the bill, it sent it back to committee for revision, leaving the door open for future reform.
SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with climate policy expert Felix Matthes about the consequences of the proposal's failure.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does this vote mean for the emissions trade?
Matthes: This will have grave consequences. The price for certificates, which is already much too low today, will collapse. On top of that, I foresee a re-nationalization of climate policy.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is Europe-wide emissions trade threatened with extinction?
Matthes: I would go even further: The decision means the end of a European approach to climate policy. The paradox is that all the politicians who are constantly calling for more harmonization of climate policy in the EU and internationally are sending the policy back to the national level. That is an enormous step backwards -- also for global climate policy. Even China is now starting to pursue emissions trade. South Korea and Australia have already implemented it, and California has started a very ambitious system.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do you find emissions trading so important?
Matthes: The advantage is that you can connect the systems worldwide. That would achieve what the United Nations has been unable to accomplish for years -- a global climate policy. And this opportunity is being intentionally destroyed.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why did the parliament reject the Commission's reform?
Matthes: There were largely two kinds of opponents. For the larger contingent, the opposition on the right, this wasn't at all about emissions trading. They want to break the climate change policy itself. And they might even manage to do that on the EU level. But they won't achieve that in Britain, France and Germany. The big member states have agreed on this policy. The German government is a leader with its transition away from nuclear energy.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But there was also opposition from the left.
Matthes: Yes. They say it's not good for the markets to regulate it. They want environmental protection by other means. But they recognize that we need efforts that are feasible on a global scale. CO2 taxes and renewable energy laws are interesting tools, but in the end they are not feasible across the globe. Emissions trading, despite all its problems, is the measure with the greatest perspective. And now it's being broken.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In its current form, emissions trading has proven ineffective. The certificates have become so cheap that investments in environmentally friendly technologies aren't worth it anymore. What happened?
Matthes: There are two main reasons for the problem. The first is that no one could have imagined an economic crisis of the proportion that we experienced in 2008. Economic activity in 2020 will be 15 to 20 percent lower than what we expected in 2008. That also means less energy consumption and industrial production, resulting in a surplus of some 500 million certificates.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What's the second reason?
Matthes: Europe's Emissions Trading System is very generous in recognizing emissions reduction certificates from projects in China and other places as equal measures. So 1.5 billion certificates have flooded into the system, which you can see in today's current prices of just a few cents. There's no real emissions reduction there. We in Europe always assumed that the price could never realistically fall below €10. Now there are certificates for 30 cents and less. All together that means that there's a surplus of 2 billion certificates in the system. That just about corresponds to the annual CO2 emission of all regulated facilities. The tightening (of certificates) would have been a signal to the markets and the world that an effective emissions trading system will be in place beyond 2020, and it would have built the decisive framework for a long-term climate policy. The European Parliament has squandered this chance.
Interview conducted by Christian Teevs
April 17, 2013
Thatcher’s Funeral is Held at St. Paul’s Cathedral
By ALAN COWELL and JOHN F. BURNS
LONDON — A horse-drawn gun carriage bore the coffin of Margaret Thatcher to St. Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday for a ceremonial funeral that divided British opinion, much as the former prime minister known as the Iron Lady stirred deep and conflicting emotions during her lifetime and, in death, triggered an equally passionate debate over her legacy.
With hymns and prayers and Biblical readings, dignitaries from around the world and from Britain’s political elite gathered in the cathedral for a service regarded as austere and devout reflecting her Methodist upbringing as bells pealed over the city and a gun salute boomed from the Tower of London.
Some 700 military personnel from three services — the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force — lined the streets, including guards in scarlet tunics and distinctive black bearskin hats on the 24 cathedral steps as the gun carriage processed along Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill from the church of St. Clement Danes in a closely scripted display of ceremonial precision honed over centuries.
Military bands played. Bells tolled. Thousands of people several deep lined the streets behind barriers as the gun carriage passed by at a measured 70 paces per minute. Some onlookers applauded, drowning out scattered boos; some cheered and recorded the moment on cellphones and cameras. Under gray and drizzly skies that gave way to watery sunshine, well-wishers threw single flowers into the road, while a handful of protesters turned their backs on the procession.
The coffin was draped in the Union flag, crowned by a wreath of white flowers with a handwritten note: “Beloved mother — always in our hearts.”
Mrs. Thatcher was the country’s first female prime minister whose radical, market-driven policies and determination to crush labor union power made her one of its most divisive leaders. She died of a stroke last week at age 87.
There were moments in the funeral service that recalled her reputation for unwavering faith in her convictions. A Biblical passage read by her 19-year-old grand-daughter, Amanda Thatcher, proclaimed: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”
The nature of Wednesday’s 55-minute ceremony — a state funeral in all but name — provoked complaints about its cost and appropriateness. The last British politician to be accorded such a parting accolade was Winston Churchill in 1965, whose funeral also took place at St. Paul’s. But the authorities sought to avoid a politicized service.
“After the storm of a life led in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm,” the bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres said in an address. “The storm of conflicting opinions centers on the Mrs. Thatcher who became a symbolic figure — even an ism.”
But, he continued, “there is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Parliament held a frank debate last week — but here and today is neither the time nor the place.”
“This, at Lady Thatcher’s personal request, is a funeral service, not a memorial service with the customary eulogies. At such a time, the parson should not aspire to the judgments which are proper to the politician; instead this is a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling.”
As the coffin moved through the cathedral nave, a choir sang and organ music played. One of the refrains said: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away.”
The Order of Service handed to congregants began with a quotation from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” and ended with a passage from Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality,” which includes the line: “The things which I have seen I now can see no more.”
After the service, a hearse transported Mrs. Thatcher’s coffin to a hospital in Chelsea before a private cremation later.
There was no immediate sign of large-scale protests by anti-Thatcher demonstrators but the police kept watch on anyone who might seem suspicious. “I think they stopped me because I had a rolled-up newspaper under my arm which I think they thought might be a weapon,” said Ben Black, 31, who said he had traveled from Brighton to pay his respects and added that he did not blame the police for taking precautions.
At Ludgate Circus, close to St. Paul’s, a small group of protesters gathered, some with banners reading: “Now bury Thatcherism.” Some jeered and shouted, “good riddance.”
Natasha Munoz, a writer from London, said: “I am protesting against the legacy of a woman who as far as I am concerned destroyed this country. She destroyed our communities and our industrial base, she created a culture of the individual and of greed that disgusts me.” She called the funeral “propaganda for her party.”
Mrs. Thatcher’s coffin lay overnight in the historic chapel of St. Mary Undercroft in Parliament where the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell was said to have stabled his horses in the 17th century.
Some 4,000 police officers were on duty, along with an honor guard of 700 military personnel. The organizers code-named their preparations True Blue, the traditional color associated with Mrs. Thatcher’s Conservative party.
Officials were already concerned about the possibility of disruption by political foes of Mrs. Thatcher, the longest-serving British prime minister for 150 years. But after Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, police have indicated that security will be tighter, particularly in light of the array of dignitaries from around the world among the 2,300 guests in St. Paul’s.
As the funeral cortege approached St. Paul’s, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived to attend the ceremony along with hundreds of foreign dignitaries, including former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. The official American delegation named by the White House is led by two more former secretaries of state, George P. Shultz and James A. Baker 3d. But some British Conservatives have complained that President Obama did not send a senior serving member of his administration.
The guests also included F. W. de Klerk, the last white president of South Africa, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Figures from the opposition Labour Party included former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Ed Miliband, the current party leader.
St. Paul’s is one of London’s great cathedrals associated often with state and royal events, such as the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana there in 1981.
As a mark of respect, lawmakers ordered the chimes of Big Ben to be silenced during the funeral, while artillery rounds boom from the Tower of London. Flags flew at half-staff across the city.
Mrs. Thatcher had personally chosen the hymns for the service. One of them — “I Vow to Thee, My Country,” with stirring, Victorian lyrics — is regarded as an anthem of the fierce patriotism ascribed to Mrs. Thatcher throughout her tenure from 1979 to 1990 and particularly when she ordered warships 8,000 miles across the Atlantic to dislodge Argentine troops from the Falkland Islands.
That war, which claimed hundreds of lives, rankles still with Argentina, which claims the islands and whose ambassador, British news reports said, declined an invitation to attend Wednesday’s ceremony.
While some Britons have protested about the fanfare surrounding the funeral of Mrs. Thatcher — whose death certificate listed her occupation as “retired stateswoman” — Prime Minister David Cameron said in a BBC interview before attending the service that it would be “quite a somber event but it is a fitting tribute to a great prime minister, respected around the world.”
“I think other countries in the world would think Britain had got it completely wrong if we didn’t mark this in a proper way,” he said.
Critics have claimed that the authorities have sought to cloak the cost of the ceremony by not accounting for the deployment of the police and the military. One protester, standing in a persistent drizzle along with around 1,000 spectators outside St. Paul’s on Wednesday, held up a placard complaining that the funeral would cost the equivalent of $15 million at a time when many Britons are facing hard times under the government’s austerity program.
In his BBC interview, Mr. Cameron was asked whether he accepted that Mrs. Thatcher had been a divisive figure and replied by saying that she created a new consensus. “In a way, we are all Thatcherites now,” he said.
Stephen Castle contributed reporting.