Tuesday, December 27, 2005

MI6 in Athens part III

/ cover-ups / royal /
I've been following both here (1, 2) and on the European Tribune (1, 2) the saga of this summer's abductions of Pakistani immigrants in Athens by "unknown captors". The story just acquired a new twist which is why I'm writing a third post instead of updating the last one...

On Christmas day, the Athens Weekly "Proto Thema" published a list of Greek Secret Service operatives involved in the abduction as well as the name of a British agent described as the MI6's stationmaster in Athens (who was possibly in command of the whole operation). The newspaper is a rather sleazy/muckraking tabloid - with connections however to a lot of people in high places. The leak probably came from within the secret services - and the veracity of the story is strengthened by the Greek Government's and the Greek Intelligence Service's panicked reactions. It is interesting that no other Greek newspaper that I know of - and certainly no British or International publication on the web has published the MI6 agent's name - pointing to a gag order:
THE Government tried last night to block the naming of an MI6 officer alleged to have orchestrated the torture of terrorist suspects in Greece.
It issued a warning to media organisations after a leading Athens newspaper identified the British intelligence officer and 15 Greek agents, alleging that they took part in the arrest and abuse of 28 Pakistan-born detainees who were held in connection with the July 7 bombings in London.
The disclosures sparked a row in Athens, with opposition leaders and human rights groups demanding to know why British agents were allowed to operate in Greece...

The MI6 agent is named Langman and probably is the same bloke who was also implicated in the various Diana-related MI6-scenarios - and thus already compromised, I would say, never mind that his name was published on the front page of the Sunday newspaper with the largest bleeding circulation in Greece, so I don't understand why the fuss.

Anyway, the Greek government has a whole load of problems with this right now as the public prosecutors' office is stating that the complaints are "absolutely valid" and is preparing to call the named Greek Intelligence officers to testify. This is something that the Intelligence Service (EYP) has already stated that it will not allow its employees to do, on grounds of "national interest". The lawyer of the abducted immigrants, however, is preparing to sue the named EYP officers. This will make not appearing in court difficult for the agents accused. The conservative government is already suggesting that it was Socialist party sympathizers inside EYP who leaked the story for political gains (or disgruntled officers skipped on the promotion lists) and insists that there is nothing to it, a position that is getting harder to defend with each passing day.

[cross posted in a slightly different form in the European Tribune]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Berisha short on cash again?

/ corruption / forgotten /
Does any one else find the fact that a Berisha government "...works towards creating a favourable investment climate in an effort to attract Albanian migrant workers to direct their money to the domestic economy and local investments..." hilarious? I mean, the goal is laudable, but rather ironic given the history of his previous presidency. I can't figure out how this guy is president of Albania again - "fighting corruption", no less - and not behind bars. A comment from an Albanian neighbor about this effort was "he's looking for suckers again" ("ψάχνει ξανά για μαλάκες").

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Athens abductions update

/ common sense / abducted /
The case of the abducted Pakistani immigrants by greek and english speaking "secret service" (?) officials this past August, mentioned in a previous post has taken a turn towards the bizarre: Pakistan's interior minister denied that such events took place, in what surely is a case study in illogic:

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, in Athens to attend a conference on immigration, said Pakistan's ambassador in Greece had received no official complaint regarding the claims.

"So far he has had no response, which means that no such incident has happened," the minister said. "We have a large community of Pakistanis here in Greece, and they are law-abiding citizens."

Well, first of all, the local Pakistani community denies this, and they have actually taken the issue to court in July already, something that might possibly have escaped the ambassador's notice. It is mind-boggling for the ambassador to claim that he was unaware of this case, which was covered by Greek media since August at least, unless he isn't paying much attention...

Along with Jack Straw claiming that the whole thing is "complete nonsense", Greece's minister of Public Order stated that such an case "Never existed, doesn't exist and will never exist for the Greek authorities" pre-empting the official investigation of the events in question by the Justice Ministry, which treats it as a serious case: Athens prosecutor Dimitris Papagelopoulos assures the public that his office "has the guts" to investigate these events thoroughly. The MPO's statements were characterized by Amnesty International as irresponsible. Voulgarakis, the Minister in question went on to declare that:

“These types of accusation are being treated by the Public Order Ministry as possibly suspicious or deliberate,” Voulgarakis said. “They have the aim of damaging the good atmosphere and security that members of the Pakistani community feel in our country.”

He added (according to in.gr) that:

[Some aim] to make the [Pakistani Immigrants] feel insecure, hearing about abductions and things that are possibly happening in other countries, so that they might be more easily manipulated... We will not allow the creation of mujahedeen cells in Greece. Our country is, and will remain hospitable and safe..."

... Which can easily be interpreted as a warning to all concerned to shut up or risk being escorted to the next flight for Karachi - or worse.

Eleftherotypia also reports that:

"According to sources 12 Pakistanis have testified (8 with the prosecutor present) and they confirm the content of the complaint while adding a few details about the events. They say that their abductors spoke fluent Greek and that they led them, hooded, to an unknown location after an hour and a half ride.

They also stated that their prison was possibly in a rural setting, as they felt they were walking on rough ground. Their interrogators asked them questions about their relatives in London, about their relationships with others there, without inflicting serious violence although, as they claim, when they didn't respond or didn't cooperate, they pushed their heads down.

During their detention and interrogation, their captors, who when they arrested them claimed to be Greek Police officers, didn't wear a hood so they could recognize them if they saw them again"

The Athens daily "Ta Nea" suggest that the investigations point to the Greek Secret service (EYP), and that Voulgarakis attempted cover-up will lead him to all sorts of political trouble... Conceivably true yet doubtful. There's all sorts of plausible deniability available and a very short attention span on matters concerning immigrants. I hope I'm proven wrong.

[slightly updated version cross-posted to the European Tribune]

Bolivia's stunning electoral result

/ chavez / contagious /
In what is still more good news from Latin America the socialist Evo Morales, self-styled US nightmare in the region, a cocalero, the first native indian president of the country and a chavezite, has, it seems, received the 51% of the vote that enables him to claim the presidency without any political bargains. This is great news any way you look at it.

This guy is about to rock some boats (although there are fears in the movement that supported him that he won't go far enough):

  • He's about to nationalize Bolivia's gas reserves:

    Morales wants to nationalize Bolivia's huge gas reserves, the continent's second largest after Venezuela, currently in the hands of multinational companies. 'We will renegotiate all contracts - they are illegal, since congress has never ratified them,' he says. 'The state will recover the property of its natural resources, but we are open to foreign investment in exchange for a share of the business.'

    He's not in a hurry and won't do this hastily, but it is quite certain that (after the past few years' "gas wars") he can't back off this promise. He seems to have certain ideas that involve neighboring Venezuela. Venezuela might step in if the US makes good on its threat to cut (90 million dollars of) aid to the country. Chavez BTW is already giving the big oil companies hell. The population of Bolivia has been radicalized by both the gas issue and the water issue, having defeated World Bank mandated water privatization that had exploded the price of water. More on the Bolivian water wars here.

  • The thing that will certainly piss off the US is the fact that Morales is about to legalize coca cultivation, a traditional crop for Indians and primary ingredient of cocaine, "with the aim of industrialising productions so it can be made into food and medicinal products". A site called Evo Morales, which might or might not be connected with Evo personally or might, more probably, just be a fan site, states the following (which I reproduce in its entirety):

    We, Aymaras and Quechuas, original nations of the Andes, have survived the onslaught of the white man until today thanks to our coca leaf. From the moment the white man came to our land he has tried to control our leaf for his own enrichment. He has abused it here and now he is abusing it everywhere else. Since it has escaped his control he is intent on destroying it.

    He has labeled our sacred plant a drug, to be prohibited and eliminated under universally binding drugs conventions. With these conventions the United Nations have offended and betrayed the Aymara and Quechua Nations.
    Under the cover of these conventions and after impoverishing our people with their neoliberal policies, the United States government, foremost enemy of the Indians, has used its dollars to bribe the officials of Bolivia, corrupt its institutions and pit white Bolivians against us. Recently the United States Embassy in La Paz has funded a mercenary force with orders to eliminate the coca plant and the Indians defending it.

    Coca is not a drug!
    This lie has to be called. The moment has come for us to stop the menace of anihilation of the coca plant and our communal ways of living.
    The coca plant has sustained us through all adversities until today and we will strive, with all our might and with her help, to thwart the white man's wicked plans.
    Like other plants coca is a medicine, a holy plant. Thanks to coca we have withstood the untold sufferings brought upon us by the white man's unholy war on drugs.

    Therefore, the United Nations should respect our coca leaf and take it off their prohibitive lists.
    Therefore, the United States should get all their drug war personel and equipment out of Bolivia. They have abused their stay. Let them go home to fight their own countries drug war.
    Therefore, the white men should stop their war on drugs and accept that we live peacefully with the coca plant. They should consider reports from Harvard University, their most cherished academic institution, about the beneficial uses of our plant.

    But this will not come about without our active intervention. We have to rise to the occasion.
    The moment has come for the original nations to take power in our own hands.
    The moment has come for us to redeem the coca plant.
    We have learned to treat the plant with respect and she has generously rewarded us
    From now on we will no longer tolerate any foreign powers harming our plant. We will be her sovereign guardians.
    Those nations that accept this will be our friends. We will help them treat its abuse.
    Those that will continue to repress our plant will be our enemies and the predictions of sickness and misery proferred by our yaquiris, as recorded by legend, will certainly befall them.

    As long as the American invader fights us, we, the original nations, won't forget our war cry, born from the pain of our people:

    Causachun coca! Wañuchun yanquis!
    Long live coca! Yankee go home!

  • In related developments in neighboring Venezuela, the Chavez government just earmarked a breathtaking 41% of total expenditure of the country's 2006 budget for social programs. Which according to the BBC are already showing spectacular results.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    MI6: Kidnap and torture world-wide

    / terror / antiterrorist /
    This story is just breaking, and the Greek media are pointing to a BBC report that I couldn't find on its site yet, but which is carried by the Times today:
    A leading Greek lawyer will today present a dossier to parliament in Athens of the treatment of 28 detainees by MI6 officers. Frangiscos Ragoussis alleges that the detainees were hooded and held in secret.

    The men, all of Pakistani origin, claim that they were threatened by two British agents who warned them that their families in Greece and the UK would suffer also if they dared complain about their treatment.

    Reports first surfaced about these events in the Greek press this past August, so the Times' claim that:
    The late night raids on addresses in Athens and the northern town of Ioannina came a week after the London bombings but have only now come to light because of Mr Ragoussis's intervention.

    ...is not really accurate: the Athens daily Eleftherotypia (among others) carried the story on the 18th of August (link here in Greek). Excerpts (quickly translated from that report):
    Seven alien residents, six of Pakistani descent and one Kashmiri, charged that they were abducted by foreign secret services in Athens, were interrogated and then freed blindfolded in the center of Athens...

    This sensational story took place allegedly on July 15th, a few days after the Al Qaida strike in London. The immigrants were held for periods ranging from 48 hours to 7 days (two of them were freed on July 22) ...

    ...The Greek police and the antiterrorist service, under the jurisdiction of which this case would fall, have stated that they were unaware of these events. This as the approximately 11.500 Pakistanis living in Athens are terrorized, having already on their shoulders the "damning evidence" of their nationality and religion...

    [This happens] a few days after the revelation that a classified message from Scotland Yard reached the Ministry of Public Order, through which a young Pakistani male was interrogated - suspected of having ties with Al Qaida.

    Javed Aslam, president of the Pakistani community in Greece, in a legal complaint to the Greek judicial authorities, officially denounces the methods of "interrogation" of his compatriots that are reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. He claimed that:

    * On 15.07.05 around 11 pm, unidentified persons who claimed to be policemen, raided the home of seven immigrants in [the down-town area of] Petralona "without the DA being present, without a warrant and with no explanation... "after they were blindfolded they were led to an unknown location as the house was searched".

    * Their employer, noticing their absence, queried the nearby police station, where officers told him that "they are not held here nor anyone knows anything about them". On July 16 and 17, along with his lawyer, he visited all the area's precincts, the immigration office, the police and internal security headquarters, with no result. The 7 immigrants had disappeared and the authorities claimed ignorance...

    * "On Sunday the 17th" - as the complaint states - "5 of the persons abducted were "freed" in the dark alleys around Omonia [one of Athens' central squares]. They were blindfolded again and they had been threatened not to take their blindfolds off until after 5 minutes had passed. From these terrorized immigrants we learned that the "interrogation" they were subjected to concerned the recent bomb attacks in London"

    * Because two of the immigrants remained under arrest, the two lawyers [one of which is the lawyer that has brought charges to parliament today] visited the antiterrorist service on July 21, to receive the same reply: "we know nothing about this"! The following day and in the same dramatic fashion the two remaining detainees were released"

    The claim concludes demanding that "an investigation in depth be held to uncover the Greek or foreign, overt or clandestine secret services responsible for these events and to launch criminal charges. Especially since those abducted are terrorized and were forbidden by their captors to make any statements or take any action. All of us live in insecurity and terror, since the incident is well known in our community and we all feel as potential targets of these clearly terrorist actions. These "unidentified" police officers trampled on the Constitution and breached democratic guarantees and human rights"

    I'll be following the story as it unfolds... [cross-posted to the European Tribune]

    Balkan Defense Overview: Developments and Prospects

    / balkans / gunsRus /
    An excellent overview of defense procurements in the Balkans, from Balkanalysis - indicative of the sort of money we're throwing to various defense contractors (in the case of Greece at least - with all sort of "side-benefits
    "At this time the Balkans is one of the most heavily armed areas in Europe and it remains one of the crucial regions for geo-strategic analysis, as far as the international balance of power is concerned.

    It is a peninsula that is sufficiently close to Russia, the Middle East and Western Europe alike to become important in cases of power shifts like the major one that happened after 1989, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Defense developments in the region are thus of profound interest for everyone involved in forecasting, analysis and policy making. This article considers defense procurement trends in four Balkan countries: Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia & Montenegro."

    Speak of Balkanalysis, they seem to have fallen victim to plagiarism from no other than UPI, which is a sign of the times surely - and at least an indirect, if inappropriate, recognition of Chris' excellent work.

    Trapped at the Gates of the European Union

    / table tennis / human /
    Behzad Yaghmaian, relates the odyssey of African immigrants in Turkey - including a story of human ping-pong between Turkey and Greece:

    The number of Africans on the streets of Istanbul increased, and once again, in July 2001 the Turkish authorities acted in desperation. This time, they wished the Africans to disappear from Turkey. Violating Turkey 's international agreements, the police rounded up the Africans on the streets and secretly deported them to Greece.

    "During the first two weeks of July there was a sizeable roundup of foreigners in Istanbul, and possibly in Ankara. The group is said to include more than two hundred fifty Africans, of various nationalities. [They] were separated from other nationalities such as Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis," the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on July 27, 2001.

    The Africans were picked up in their homes or on the streets, and transferred by buses to the border with Greece. Groups of forty men, women, and children were boarded in small ten-person boats, and sent off to the Greek side of the Meric River [Greek Evros], a natural border between Turkey and Greece. The Greek authorities arrested the Africans, detained them and kept them in jail overnight. Next evening, they secretly took them to the border, placed them on small boats, and returned them to the Turkish side. Once in Turkey, the Turkish authorities arrested the Africans again. Some spent nearly a week in prison near the border before deported to Greece. The Greek authorities sent the unwanted Africans back to Turkey again. The Turks returned them to Greece. The Greeks dropped them off in Turkey.

    "Some people died. We were left with nothing, no food, nothing. We spent many nights in a police bus. We were not prepared for the journey," Ron, an African who was among those deported, told me in October 2002. Ron was picked up from his home in an Istanbul Ghetto. "This was like a movie," Donald, a Nigerian survivor in his early twenties told me in July 2005.

    Now what isn't mention is that the border between Greece and Turkey is heavily mined (certainly on the Greek side - quite possibly on the Turkish side as well) which means that these poor souls were set on an even more dangerous path than what they couldforeseee (there were 9 reported deaths and 5 serious injuries from these mines in 2001 alone - 60 in all between 1990-2003 and 17 deaths in 2003-2004 - This has to do with Greece's very slow compliance with the Ottawa treaty). Actually the situation described in 2001 was even more grotesque: Amnesty International painted an even grimmer picture of events...

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Former KGB chief disappoints gullible world-wide: sorry no UFOs

    / aliens / soviet /
    In a rather interesting interview in the Komsomolskaya Pravda, former KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov speaks of UFOs, paranormal research and other myths. Selected quotes:

    We have never received any proof whatsoever that UFOs or other supernatural phenomena actually exist... With full responsibility I have to state - never ever during the long period of my work with the intelligence service was anything really supernatural spotted, either in Russia or in any other country. When I say "other country"”, I rely on the information from the highest officials, military, research and of course the intelligence agencies of foreign states...

    ...the Americans tried conducting so-called "parapsychology experiments", but made no progress. Neither did our own research institutes in this respect, although we also conducted some research. There are more exaggerations than achievements here.

    More precisely, no discoveries at all, and this with the efforts of the KGB'’s best, most extraordinary thinkers. This is a field that generations can explore for years, and still discover nothing... So all these rumors of the KGB'’s "’zombifying"’ its agents, or of whole closed special-mission towns, this is sci-fi fantasy, playing games with an ignorant and spooked public...

    and on another note, worth mentioning:

    ...the murder of Stepan Bandera was one of the last cases when the KGB disposed of undesired people [abroad] by means of violence. The USSR abandoned those methods in the times of Andropov, at the beginning of the 1980s.

    The West proclaimed the same non-violence policy, but we have information raising doubts that, say, the Americans follow this policy. We witnessed agents who were U.S. nationals disappear, and then learned they were dead.

    There was a similarly dismissive report coming out of Russia regarding UFOs, five years ago. Two russian researchers, one from the Academy of Sciences and one from the military, who checked out UFO reports over a thirteen year period, had concluded that:

    "...either the territory of the USSR was, due to any reasons, closed for alien visitations during, at least, 13 years, or that the hypothesis of an extraterrestrial origin of UFOs is inconsistent. Any serious investigator of the problem of UFOs should, at least, face this reality."

    Which means that stuff like this are fiction in any country you care to notice... Well almost any country: Russia was actually helping Iran with its UFO infestation problem... apparently these nosy aliens were hovering over Iran, quite near the country's nuclear facilities. So either these aliens are interested in nuclear powerplants (a galactic version of planespotters?), or someone else is...

    Someone else is.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2005

    An "Islamic terrorist" talks about himself and the Islamist movement

    / terrorists / talkative /
    The Moscow News has an interview with alleged intelligence chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, extradited from Pakistan and awaiting trial in Tashkent. Shukhrat Masirokhunov, ex-Komsomol cadre, son of an Uzbek CPSU functionary, turned local oligarch, turned Islamist Mujahedeen, talks about many interesting things, so interesting in fact as to be suspicious, given the fact that he freely admits to cooperating with the authorities:

    q: Have you been subjected to "“enhanced interrogation techniques"” in Uzbekistan?

    a:There was no need. We are all professionals. I know that today there is no problem getting any information from a person so I cooperated voluntarily.

    One wonders if the cooperation includes a (partially even) scripted interview in which (Uzbek? FSB? ISI? a little bit of everything?) secret services spread a little bit of what they want to disseminate for reasons of their own. Plus, the guy comes off as some sort of cool and almost disinterested observer of the situation, hardly a fanatic of any sorts. Which might or might not mean something - who knows?

    To get an idea of the regional situation the New Yorker had a piece (2002) on the islamic movements in Central Asia which provides excellent background - see also this Radio Free Europe article on the same subject (2004).

    Here's some main points of the interview:

    - Al Qaeda is connected but not running the Central Asian islamic movements
    - Al Qaeda was thinking of exploding "dirty bombs" in various places. The organization is already in possesion of such "dirty bombs" - probably.
    - Dr. Abdul Kadyr Khan father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, met with bin Laden in Kandahar and provided the material for such bombs (relevant story). The Americans discoveredtwo nuclear laboratories in Afghanistan, but never admitted it.
    - The islamists had chemical and bacteriological capabilities. Laboratories were based in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia (see here for a skeptical take on the Pankisi Gorge myth though).
    - The Taliban funded the whole business lavishly. He personally had enough money to send home - via Iran, to which he travelled to cable the cash home (eh?).
    - In Pakistan people sympathize with the islamists and there is no way that they will be cleaned up from the country because of this support. Bin Laden is in Pakistan and the Pakistani government doesn't want to catch him.
    - American agents tried to turn him while he was held prisoner in Pakistan, arguing that Karimov is their common enemy.
    - Namangani is confirmed dead.
    - Americans are in contact with various islamist factions, trying to play one against the other.
    - Afghanistan is outside of US control. The US will have to leave soon. They will be forced out of Iraq as well.
    - The IMU has become a pan-turkic islamic movement. He calls it the Islamic Movement of Turkestan now, yet reports call it the Islamic Party of Turkestan. A minor slip possibly.
    - Their training camps are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They're moving into Kyrgyzstan. They are supported there:

    "...by a local drug baron, Erkinbayev, as well as a member of parliament. I do not know his name, but he went to Iran to meet with Makhmud Rustamov, who was in charge of external relations. They discussed Kyrgyz POWs who we had taken during the Batken events.

    - Also:
    One route from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan lies through Tajikistan and then on to Kyrgyzstan. Our men were carried there in vehicles from the Tajik Emergency Situations Ministry. This ministry helped many of our men to get jobs and housing. For example, Rasul Okhunov, a member of our movement, worked for the ministry.

    Incidentally, U.S. instructors -— specialists in explosive demolition and commando operations -— trained government servicemen at the Ministry's bases in Kairakkum, Taboshar and Shurabe."

    A problem is that Erkinbayev is dead, murdered this past September. Though it is possible that Masirokhunov hasn't been informed of this, it remains an impressive gap, especially since Erkinbayev, a "tulip revolution" figure and Kung Fu master, doesn't seem like the kind of person who would invest in this sort of political horse - yet appearances might be deceiving.

    All in all spectacular and, who knows, maybe even to an extent true.

    Friday, December 2, 2005

    Comment problems

    / mistakes / silly /
    Well I turned on the moderation, but forgot to insert a notification email, thinking that this would happen automatically. Not very clever eh?

    The comments are fixed and the ones sent recently published, moderation is off - and sorry about the inconvenience.

    Are Karadzic and Mladic about to surrender?

    / fugitive / psychologists /
    According to an Athens News Agency Report from Zagreb (here in Greek from in.gr), the Croatian newspaper Globus claims that Bosnian Serb reputed war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are in Belgrade (at least according to the Croatian intelligence service). It is expected - says the report - that it is a matter of time before they are delivered to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia... Supposedly European governments have been notified of these events, and the surrender of the two wanted Bosnian Serb leaders, will be arranged in such a way as to minimize reactions from K&M's local supporters. Bosnian Serbs are divided right in the middle on the question of extradition for the two "warlords"...

    Now this is far from the first time such rumors are heard - and more theatrical situations have been arranged in the past. Not to mention that Karadzic is never supposed to surrender. Yet I mention this rumour because it seems to have a "history", though of course this by itself does not make the rumour likely - just worth considering:

    On the 11th of November Serbia & Montenegro, were given a warning to bring K&M to the Hague by the end of the year or face Euro-Atlantic "excommunication". Bosnian Serb leaders thus prepare and then publish a statement calling for the duo's surrender. On the 16th of November, rumours are published that Kostunica is negotiating Mladic's surrender, which are promptly denied, later emphatically enough to suggest the possible way that such a surrender is going to be served.

    Anyway this promises to be interesting - possibly being in that crazy fervour of his, Karadzic could do just about anything - including surrendering?

    Meanwhile in another part of the Galaxy (the part where K & M might be heading for), the headline is that "UN's war crime court jails first Kosovo Albanian", or equivalently, that "UN tribunal acquits Kosovo rebels", depending on the way one sees the exact same event. The latter story title has, quite understandably pissed off pretty much all of the Serbs who noted that percentage of acquittals in the ICTY might be perceived to correlate with lobbying money invested in PR. This while other big fish are soon to be judged in the Hague...

    [post crossposted at Eurotrib]