Tuesday, January 17, 2012

'Iran oil ban, economic suicide for EU'

Iran has condemned the West's new sanction threats against the Islamic Republic, describing a European Union embargo on Iranian oil as “economic suicide” for Europe. 

“Executing the scenario of banning Iranian oil export to the European Union member states is undoubtedly an economic suicide for the countries in this region,” Iran's OPEC governor Seyyed Mohammad Ali Khatibi said on Tuesday.

Khatibi, who was referring to the ongoing financial crisis in the eurozone, said imposing any sanctions against Iran's energy sector will aggravate the EU economic woes and make them plunge deeper into recession.

“At present, certain European countries and oil companies have banned oil purchase from Iran against their will and due to pressure from the United States and the Zionist regime [of Israel],” Khatibi stated.

“The US and some European countries should avoid adventurism in the world's oil market,” he warned.

Statistic-wise, Iran has exported an average of 800,000 barrels per day to various European countries, namely France, Germany, Greece and Spain.

In mid-January, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said unnamed oil producing countries would boost their output to make up for a planned EU ban on Iranian oil.

The European bloc's foreign ministers are expected to hold a meeting on January 23 to discuss the proposed embargo on Iran's oil exports.

EU members have so far failed to reach a final agreement on such details as the exact timing of the sanctions and their diplomats say it may take months before sanctions actually enter into force given the critical economic conditions facing European countries.

On December 31, US President Barack Obama approved sanctions against Iran's Central Bank, requiring foreign financial firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran's Central Bank and oil sector or with the US financial sector.

US sanctions, as well as other unilateral embargoes imposed on Iran's energy and financial sectors by Britain and Canada came after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a biased report on Iranian nuclear program early November.

Tehran argues that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Students Panic Ahead Of Wikipedia Blackout: 'How Am I Going To Do Homework?'

"omfg NO wikipedia is closing tomorrow HOW AM I GOING TO DO HOMEWORK"

That question, posed by @LucieLovesYah on Twitter, is weighing heavily on students' minds this week following news that Wikipedia will black out its English-language pages for a 24-hour period beginning Wednesday morning.

The site's shutdown, which is intended as an online protest against the controversial Congressional bills known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), has students in a tizzy and altogether unsure how they can complete assignments without being able to access to the online encyclopedia. 

Many have taken to Twitter with expletive-laden, 140-character rants bemoaning Wikipedia's upcoming blackout and the coursework chaos that will ensue.

"WIKIPEDIA, DON'T YOU F***ING DARE SHUT DOWN ON WEDNESDAY. I F***ING NEED YOU FOR MY PAPER," tweeted Hippopattimus. (Twitter user @Katienotopoulos has retweeted more than a dozen choice tweets by students who are in a panic over the online encyclopedia's upcoming protest. Take a look here.)

When announcing the encyclopedia's plan to protest, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned students they should get a head start on their assignments.

"Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday! #sopa," Wales tweeted on Monday.

While some students are wrapping up work early in anticipation of Wikipedia's blackout (or even turning to books), others say they expect to hand in assignments after their due dates.

"I'm hearing #Wiki will have a blackout this Wed in support for #StopSOPA . I'll tell my profs that my paper will be a day late #thanks," tweeted @Pawleenc.

@Mattbockenfeld chimed in, "Well, with wikipedia going offline in 15 hours, all research for my paper is going to have wait... I think my professor will understand."

Libraries have been using Wikipedia's looming shutdown as an opportunity to woo people back into their shelves. The Arlington Public Library, along with Colorado's Bayfield Library, the University of Idaho library, and Ireland's Kerry County library, sent tweets encouraging people to consult their print and web resources. 

Some on Twitter have chided students for their reliance on Wikipedia and encouraged them to do research the old fashioned way: with a book. The Washington Post has even posted a survival guide to the Wikipedia blackout (Tip #3: "There is this thing called a library").

"Tomorrow with WIkipedia down, our students will be thrown back on the mercy of that collection of errors called 'a library'." tweeted Swarthmore College professor Timothy Burke.

5 lakh more jobless in three years

Despite all his efforts, Arif Hossain, a graduate in Bangla from Dhaka University, has failed to land a job. He has faced many job interviews for the last three years, but all have gone in vain. 

He now pins his hope on the three interviews he appeared for last week. 

Arif wishes he gets a call from any of his prospective employers. It will bring smiles on the faces of his parents and siblings in a remote village in Satkhira. 

"My parents expect me to contribute to the family and bear the educational expenses of my younger brothers," said Arif, who now pays part of his living costs in Dhaka by tutoring students. For the rest, he has to depend on his parents.

Arif is one of nearly five lakh new faces that have joined the queue of the unemployed since 2007.

The number of the jobless in the country rose to 26 lakh in 2010, up from 21 lakh three years ago, says a preliminary report on Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2010 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
The BBS conducts a survey on the country's employment situation every three years.

"It shows that enough employment is not being created for people who have education up to SSC [Secondary School Certificate] or below SSC level," said Rushidan Islam Rahman, labour market analyst, while explaining the reasons for the rise in unemployment rate.

Rushidan, research director at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said, "This group does not want to engage in agriculture. But the scope for regular non-farm employment is not expanding at a sufficient pace."

She said the unemployment growth reflects an underutilisation of the country's human resources, and suggested the government adopt policies that encourage labour-intensive industrialisation. 

"There is scope for labour-intensive growth in many sectors," she said, mentioning the furniture and leather industry in addition to the garment sector.

Planning Commission Member Prof Shamsul Alam said, "The number of the jobless has risen because of an increase in the population." 

He said the government had set a target in the Sixth Five Year Plan for creating more than one crore jobs through a promotion of small and medium enterprises and non-farm activities. 

According to the BBS, the unemployment rate rose to 4.5 percent in 2010 from 4.3 percent three years ago.
Zahid Hussain, senior economist at the World Bank, said the mentioned increase in unemployment rate is “somewhat misleading” because the survey does not include Bangladeshi workers abroad. 

Nearly 75 lakh Bangladeshis work abroad and their number has gone up in the last five years, according to the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry.

Zahid said the yearly inclusion of new faces to the existing labour force has to be taken into account. “If they cannot find jobs abroad, they will have to be absorbed in the domestic economy or else we will face a serious social problem," he said.

Statistics Division Secretary Riti Ibrahim also recognised the need for including migrant workers in the survey.
"We will take the initiative to do that in the future," she said.

The country's labour force increased 14 percent to 5.67 crore in 2010 with 72 lakh new faces joining the labour force in three years.

Of them, 67 lakh got jobs. Three-fourths of them are women, thanks to a rise in job opportunities for women in the garment industry, the country's biggest export earner.
"A rapid expansion of the garment industry has created job opportunities for women in recent years," said Zahid.

Rushidan of BIDS, however, linked the employment growth to the rise in low productive self-employment and unpaid family work. 

"Self-employment cannot alone ensure a healthy growth of the economy. For this purpose, we need larger economic units that engage paid workers for more productive activities." 

Referring to the expansion of the labour force, she said the rise in economically active population is obviously a positive sign, which indicates that a prospective "demographic dividend" is available in the form of labour supply. 

"Now it is time to make a proper utilisation of the increased labour force to accelerate economic growth." 

Sayedee's Trial : Defence accused of threatening witness

At the International Crimes Tribunal yesterday a prosecution witness in the case against Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee accused the defence of intimidating him at his home in Pirojpur. 

“They [defence counsels] went to my house and threatened me,” said 14th witness Abdul Halim Babul, pointing his finger at the defence counsels of Sayedee.

“Some 300 to 400 people went there and intimidated me,” said the 55-year-old village doctor when he was being cross-examined by the defence lawyers after he had testified before the tribunal.

“We were tortured in 1971 [during the Liberation War]. Even now [they] are intimidating me.”

The defence counsels were silent in court after the witness made the claim.

Later, before journalists, they denied the allegation. 

Lawyer Tajul Islam, a defence counsel who visited Pirojpur to prepare for the case, said the allegations are “not true”. He claimed that in December Babul had misbehaved with them when they went to his home to make a map of the location.

“We have the footage to prove it,” he said.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Rana Dasgupta told The Daily Star that the allegation made by the witness was true.

He said a group of defence lawyers with 300 to 400 activists of Jamaat-e Islami and its front organisations visited some parts of Pirojpur to collect information to defend Sayedee before the trial began.

“We came to know that they also went to the houses of some prosecution witnesses and threatened them,” he said.

The state is providing protection to the witnesses and victims of crimes against humanity as per constitutional obligations, he said.

The three-member tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq finished recording the deposition and cross-examination of Babul yesterday.

It prematurely adjourned yesterday's proceedings at 12:10pm, as the next witness could not be produced due to his illness. The tribunal is supposed to record the testimony of the 80-year-old witness today.

Sayedee has been accused of committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. He was present in the dock during yesterday's proceedings. He is among six Jamaat leaders, including former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam and two BNP leaders, facing charges of crimes against humanity before the tribunal.

Babul in his seven-minute testimony told the tribunal that Sayedee along with other collaborators and Pakistani soldiers looted and torched his house in Pirojpur on June 2, 1971.

He was standing on the street in front of his house in Nalbunia village when he heard that Pakistani soldiers and collaborators were approaching towards the area, he said.

“We used to live in fear of the Pakistani soldiers and Razakars [collaborators],” said Babul, “I entered my home and told everyone to leave. 

“They [family members] went into hiding. So did I.”

From a distance, they saw Delawar Hossain Sayedee, Danesh Mollah, Moslem Moulana and some other armed collaborators and Pakistani soldiers entering his house.

“They looted the house and set it ablaze,” he said.

Later, the Pakistani soldiers and collaborators, including Sayedee, went to the nearby village of Sankarpasha and set fire to the houses of Khasru Miah and Amir Khan.

“I also heard that they went to Hindupara of Umedpur village, torched many houses and killed people,” said the witness.

After Babul finished his deposition at 10:47am, defence counsel Mizanul Islam began cross-examining the witness.

At one point, Mizanul told Babul, “Now, I'm going to ask some unpleasant questions as per my professional responsibilities. You answer if they are true.”

Judge AKM Zaheer Ahmed, a tribunal member, then told the counsel, “Do not ask any scandalous questions.” 

Then, Mizanul asked the witness whether he had secured bail in a theft case filed by one Aklima Khatun from Nalbunia village.

Babul responded that it was not true.

Mizanul then read out the details of the case, including its number (CR-1160, 1982).

At that point, Babul became agitated and stood up in the dock. He sought permission to say something to the tribunal.

Babul said the case had been filed against him to avenge a case he had filed against Aklima in connection with assault on him, which left hack marks on his body.

The witness told the court he could show the marks.

It was then that the witness told the court he had been intimidated by the defence counsels.

Babul said the lawyers went to his house in seven or eight cars along with hundreds of people without any prior notice and intimidated him.

The tribunal then asked Babul to sit down and recorded the fact that the witness had received bail in the theft case against him but that the case was a counter to a case Babul had earlier filed.

Defence counsel Manjur Ahmed Ansari concluded by saying that Babul, a supporter of the Awami League, had made a false statement against Sayedee on the instructions of his party leaders.
Babul denied the accusation. 

Witnesses must be protected

Roundtable for security of those testifying about war crimes.


Security and support are crucial for war crimes witnesses to prevent a repetition of the trauma endured by them during the War of Liberation in 1971, speakers at a roundtable said yesterday.

The International Crimes Tribunal should offer protection to the witnesses appearing before it to ensure an effective trial, they noted at a roundtable, 'Trial of International Crimes Tribunal: National and International Obligations', at the Cirdap auditorium in the city.

“As ironic as it may seem, the moment a victim receives justice may be the moment he becomes the most vulnerable [emotionally],” said Laurel E Fletcher, clinical professor of law at the International Human Rights Law Clinic of University of California.

“This is the time they need support the most”, she said.

The Liberation War Museum organised the programme in association with the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of California and Allard K Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic of Yale Law School.

Civil society members have a major role to play by bridging the gap between the tribunal and the people and by providing support to the witnesses after the trial, the speakers said.

Security, confidentiality, protection and support of witnesses are vital in the ongoing trial, they said.

While there was no witness protection law, the issue had been incorporated in the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973, which provides some safeguards, they added.

On December 19, last year, the tribunal had directed the police to investigate the alleged threats received by prosecution witnesses against Sayedee over the phone.

Even yesterday, a witness claimed to have been intimidated by Sayedee's defence counsels at his house in Pirojpur, the speakers said.

Apart from physical protection, the witnesses also need to be mentally prepared about their testimony before the court, as the disclosure may be emotionally traumatising, they added.

Talking about of the standards of the ongoing trial, Secretary General of Sector Commanders' Forum Lt Gen (retd) Harun-ur-Rashid termed the trial as “above international standards, in certain aspects”.

The tribunal granted bail to an accused, did not issue an arrest warrant against Ghulam Azam and asked his lawyer to produce him in court instead. These were instances unheard of in other such trials, he said.

The speakers also highlighted the need for research on genocide, active role of human rights based NGOs in the trial and greater public awareness of the war crimes trial.

Briana Abrams, Sophie Kaiser and Maya Karwande from the University of California, Berkeley, and Tessa Bialek and Freya Pitts from Yale Law School, gave presentations on the topic of discussion.

Hamida Hossain, a human rights activist, Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, coordinator of the probe agency and Z Tariq Ali, a trustee of Liberation War Museum, among others, spoke at the roundtable.

'Azam should be fed well, kept in AC'

For the sake of his trial, Ghulam Azam should be 'fed well and kept in an air-conditioned room, if necessary', says an activist campaigning for war crimes trial.

Shahrier Kabir, the head of Ekattorerer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee, says Jamaat-e-Islami could do anything. "They might poison Ghulam Azam in the prison. But if he dies, there will be no trial," he told on Tuesday.

Kabir's comments come in reaction to allegations from certain quarters that the former Jamaat-e-Islami leader, who is under arrest for charges of crimes against humanity in the Liberation War, was being overstayed at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on the pretext of medical examination.

The Dhaka University teacher said it was of utmost importance that the 89-year-old Azam's health was taken care of.

"If anything happens to Ghulam Azam in jail, the government will be in an awkward position," Shahrier warned.

The Islamist party's spiritual guru, Azam, was due for his MRI on Sunday but it is yet to be done, and his doctor is yet to inspect his X-ray reports. The medical board, hospital and the prison authorities are blaming each other over the delay.

"If necessary, fit an AC in his room and give him really good food," Shahrier said.

BSMMU has been providing Azam with the food of his choice. He is being served bread, chicken, vegetable curry, soup, salad and milk. Soup and milk, however, were added to the menu following doctors' advice.

"I know the hospitality is painful to a lot of families whose members were martyred in the war. But for the sake of the trial, he should stay at the hospital," Shahrier said.

The International Crimes Tribunal on Jan 11 ordered him to jail after he appeared before it. His indictment hearing will start on Feb 15.

Immediately after his reaching the Dhaka Central Jail, he was shifted to the hospital following his lawyer's appeal.

Azam had allegedly led the infamous 'Peace Committees' and collaborated with the Pakistan Army in prosecuting thousands of innocent Bangladeshis.

He also reportedly advocated in Pakistan's support in the Middle Eastern countries during the war.

He stayed in London for seven years after 1971, during which period he had no citizenship, and came back to Bangladesh during the rule of Ziaur Rahman in 1978. He led Jamaat as its Ameer until 2000. 

Azam's 'extended' hospital stay raises brows

Former Jamaat-e-Islami chief Ghulam Azam, called the party's spiritual leader, is being given an extended stay in hospital in the name of medical check-up, though he could be medically fit, it is alleged.

His MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test, which was to be done two days ago, wasn't done even on Tuesday. What's more, the doctor concerned has not yet seen the test report of his X-ray, conducted on Monday, it is learnt.

Meanwhile, the medical board formed to treat Azam, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) hospital authorities and the jail officials are blaming each other for the 'delay'.

Azam, 89, is at present under treatment at the BSMMU hospital's prison cell. He is said to be suffering from age-related health complications.

The Jamaat leader was hospitalised following an appeal by his lawyers within hours after the war crimes tribunal turned down his bail appeal on Jan 11 and sent him to jail.

But doctors told journalists after a thorough examination that Azam is medically all right. A three-member medical board, headed by professor A B M Abdullah, was formed the following day to look into the issue.

While the board opined that Azam did not need hospitalisation, it, however, recommended shifting him to the orthopaedics department on Sunday after Azam complained of waist pain. The medical board members also suggested MRI and X-ray tests to be done on the Jamaat leader.


On Tuesday, BSMMU hospital director Brig Gen Mohammad Abdul Majid Bhuyian told, "Only the X-ray was done on Monday."

The report, he added, may be checked on Wednesday.

According to Bhuyian, the hospital informed the jail authorities that he would have to be taken to another hospital for the MRI since BSMMU hospital's own machine has gone kaput.

The medical board asked Azam's son, Brig Gen Abdullah Aman Azmi (Retd), to bring the old MRI report after Azmi informed the hospital that his father had recently undergone an MRI.

Asked whether a new MRI test is still required, Bhuyian on Tuesday said, "That can't be said without referring to the old report."

The old MRI report did not reach the hospital till Tuesday afternoon, when last checked.

"We will wait till tomorrow. A new MRI test will be done if the old report is not given (by Wednesday)," Bhuyian said.

Refusing to take responsibility for the 'delay', medical board chief Prof A B M Abdullah said, "I have only prescribed (the test). I have nothing more to do."


Raising another issue, BSSMU hospital director Bhuyian also said the jail authorities are responsible for ensuring security if the Jamaat leader has to be taken to another hospital for the MRI.

But Dhaka Central Jail jailor Mahbubul Islam said they were not informed about the issue till Tuesday afternoon. "I spoke with the official on duty at the hospital at noon. He told me there was no need to hold an MRI test," the jailor said.

The BSMMU hospital director, however, said no official on duty at the hospital had said anything to the jail authorities.

The jailor said the jail authorities would arrange for an MRI test outside BSMMU hospital if the hospital authorities tell them to do so. 

Rooppur N-power plant to operate from 2018: Russian envoy

Outgoing Russian Ambassador Dr Gennady P Trotsenko on Tuesday informed President Zillur Rahman that works on Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will be completed within 5-6 years as it will go into operation in 2018.

He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to visit Russia in November when some Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) will be signed in this regard.

Trotsenko made the statements while paying a farewell call on the president at Bangabhaban.

Emphasising enhanced trade and commerce between Bangladesh and Russia, the president recalled with gratitude the invaluable support of the people and government of the former Soviet Union during Bangladesh’s Liberation War, including their role in the UN Security Council and in the early days of Bangladesh’s reconstruction.

Mentioning that Bangladesh remains committed to bolstering friendly relations with Russia further, Zillur Rahman expressed satisfaction with the gradual expansion of bilateral relations and cooperation between Bangladesh and Russia into different fields.

Along the same lines, the envoy said his country is also keen to expand trade, commerce and cooperation with Bangladesh and hoped that the relations between the countries would be further strengthened in the days to come. 

He thanked the president for extending his all-out support and cooperation in discharging his professional duties during his tenure in Bangladesh. 

Secretaries to the president’s office and official of the foreign ministry were present at the meeting.

Ershad for national consensus to resolve Teesta issue

Terming the Teesta water sharing issue as a national crisis, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad on Tuesday appealed for reaching a national consensus to resolve it. 

“The Teesta water sharing issue is not an issue of any political party, it is a national crisis. So, national unity is needed for protect national interest and resolve such kind of problem,” Ershad said. 

The JP chief was addressing a roadside rally at Jirani area in Savar as he led a road march towards Teesta Barrage at Dalia in Nilphamari. 

During his first roadside rally in Jamgora in Ashulia, Ershad sought explanation from the government why it failed to reach an agreement with India on Teesta water sharing.

“I want to know from the government why the Teesta treaty could not be done? Where does the failure lie?” Ershad said.

He also urged the Indian authorities to refrain from doing anything that might harm its friendly state Bangladesh. 

“Teesta has turned into a desert due to the water crisis. The farmers are now failing to irrigate their croplands as the Teesta has dried up,” Ershad said.

The JP chief also held an unscheduled roadside rally at Ashulia Baipail area after his first rally.

The JP is conducting the long march to press home its demand for water-sharing of the Teesta River.

The road march set out officially from the party chief's Banani office in the capital around 9:00am.

Ershad is expected to address several more roadside rallies on his way to the Teesta Barrage on the first day.
Ershad will wrap up the first day of his road march holding a rally at Mithapukur in Rangpur. He will stay the night at his 'Palli Nibash' residence at Darshana in Rangpur divisional headquarters and from where he will resume his party's road march towards Teesta Wednesday morning. 

He will fold his road march holding a public rally on Teesta Barrage Helipad ground on Wednesday.