Saturday, April 30, 2011


See this CNN report on the Bahraini security forces taking over the hospital in the capital, Manama, and dragging patients out of their beds:

I have been unable to get the Foreign Office to adopt a more proactive stance on the crackdown against the Shi'a majority in Bahrain, aided and abetted by the Saudis. The gross and relentless persecution of the people demands action by the outside world, but particularly the British and Americans, because the hereditary dictators would listen to them.

Thank goodness the Crown Prince was disinvited to the wedding yesterday!
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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Armenian Genocide


In the studio yesterday evening for a discussion on the 96th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, see Facing me is Nouritza Matossian, writer, actress, broadcaster and human rights activist, the author of Black Angel, an Armenian who escaped with his mother and three sisters into Russian territory during the Armenian Genocide and then settled in the US where he became an influential abstract painter. Behind me is the presenter, Hasmik Movsisian of Music of Armenia.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

New outbreaks of arson and violent clashes in the CHT

24 April 2011
The Honorable Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina
Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office
Tejgaon, Dhaka

Subject: Renewed violence in the CHT and the need for implementation of the CHT Accord
Dear Madam,
The CHT Commission has observed with alarm the developments in Ramgarh upazila in Khagrachhari district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In the first four months of this year there have already been two major arson attacks in the CHT. During both incidents there have been losses of lives, severe injuries to both Bangalis and Paharis and extensive damage to property. During both incidents there have been allegations that a group of Bangalis in presence of security personnel, set fire to homes of Paharis. There has been some damage also to homes of Bangalis. In the case of the incident on 17 April in Ramgarh, three Bangali men, one Pahari man and a child have allegedly lost their lives. We condemn such killings and demand that the perpetrators of these acts be brought to justice. There have been allegations in the Ramgarh attacks that Paharis who were not concerned with the attacks in Ramgarh and were travelling in public buses were attacked by Bangalis in presence of security forces. There are also allegations that a Pahari man is still missing after these attacks. It is elemental that the people who carried out and abetted this violence be brought to justice and investigations carried out immediately to find any missing persons.
The overriding factor in both the incidents in February and April is the unresolved land disputes. Until and unless the land disputes are settled by the Land Commission these incidents will continue to take place and there will no peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Madam, your government signed the CHT 'Peace' Accord in 1997 and the CHT Commission fully supports this Accord. It is imperative that the government implement all clauses of the Accord in full. The functioning of the Land Commission should be a top priority for the government.
In view of the recent violence we therefore recommend that the government immediately take the following actions:
a) The government should immediately set up a team to carry out an investigation in a thorough, transparent, independent and impartial manner to probe into the incidents that led up to the attacks on 17 April.
b) In the interests of justice, and to prevent land-related conflicts and ethnic tension, the government should issue instructions to all civil, military, and other security personnel to refrain from involving themselves in land-related disputes, which are by law only within the jurisdiction of the Land Commission, courts of law and traditional indigenous authorities.
c) All persons involved with the killings, arson attacks, carrying out injuries to others, or destroying property should receive exemplary punishment.
d) The members of the security forces including Border Guards Bangladesh, the members of the Bangladesh Army, and police personnel must be held accountable for allegations, of negligence of duty and complicity, against them.
e) The government must ensure that proper relief and rehabilitation is provided to all the victims of the violence.
To prevent any further violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts we recommend:
a) That the government amends the Land Commission Act according to the CHT Accord.
b) That the present Land Commission Chairman be replaced with a neutral person acceptable to all groups and stakeholders in the CHT.
c) That the Land Commission, including the new Chairperson, immediately starts resolving land dispute from all over the CHT, after the Act is amended according to the CHT Accord.
d) That the Land Commission carries out its functions in a transparent and acceptable manner.
e) That there be an independent judicial inquiry into all previous attacks and the findings be made public. This includes the attacks in February 2011 in Longadu, in February 2010 in Baghaihat and August 2009 in Sajek.
f) That the government declares a roadmap to implement the CHT Accord within its present term in office to fulfill its Election pledge.
The CHT Commission extends its full support to the Government of Bangladesh in realizing its commitments to the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
On behalf of the CHT Commission

Eric Avebury Sultana Kamal Ida Nicolaisen
Co-chair of the Co-chair of the Co-chair of the
CHT Commission CHT Commission CHT Commission

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dale Farm: there IS a solution

Today's visit to Dale Farm was to look at the current situation, where 90 families are on notice by Basildon Council that they are to be evicted, and will be given 28 days notice of the date for the eviction in a few days' time. We were exploring possible alternatives, and particularly the idea of an alternative site or sites for the short term, pending agreement on permanent sites either in Basildon or elsewhere in Essex. Some local authorities in the county have no Traveller sites, but given time, they could be persuaded to accommodate some of the Dale Farm residents. What is needed in the meanwhile is land with temporary planning permission for 3-5 years, so that the families don't end up on the roadside or on some other unauthorised site, from which in turn they would be liable to a second eviction.

Various estimates have been given of the cost of a forcible eviction, but the official estimate by the Council is £8 million for the police and bailiffs alone. But it doesn't end there, because the Council has duties to look after homeless families, and there will be huge problems in satisfying the obligation to ensure that what is done is 'in the best interests of the child'.

The residents accept that they will have to move, and are prepared to cooperate in a reasonable solution that gives them a place to go to, where they can stay lawfully.

Our team consisted of Labour MP Andrew Slaughter; Rodney Bickerstaffe, former General Secretary of UNISON; Conservative Councillor Richard Bennett, former Chairman of the Local Government Association Task Group for Gypsies and Travellers; Michael Keaveny from the Irish Embassy, and me. Accompanying us were Matthew Brindley, Policy and Research Officer, Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB), and my daughter Victoria, who helps me part time. On the site we were met by Richard Sheridan, President of the Gypsy Council and Chair of the Dale Farm Residents Association; Mary-Ann McCarthy and other residents; LibDem Councillor Candy Sheridan, and Grattan Puxon, an activist and campaigner for Traveller rights who I've known for more than 40 years.

We now have to consider the best way of pursuing our findings, and will be reporting to the meeting next Wednesday of the Parliamentary All-Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers, of which Andrew Slaughter and I are both members,

Visit to Dale Farm today









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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

See this press release from the Ahlul Bayt News Agency. Why don't Islamic world leaders condemn the burning of Holy Qur'ans in Bahrain, and why are the UK and US silent about this and about the torture, murder, disappearance and arbitrary detention of the Shi'a population of the state? Is it, as some commentators have said, a question of the lucrative business we do with the Saudis, buying their oil and gas and selling them arms?

Saudi and Bahrain Forces Stormed 253 Shia Masjids; 29 Completely Destroyed, 50 Holy Quran Burned

Saudi Wahhabi forces backed by Bahraini police severely stormed 253 Shia Masjids (Mosques) which 29 Masjids completely destroyed and more than 210 others runed.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Saudi Wahhabi forces backed by Bahraini police severely stormed 253 Shia Masjids (Mosques) which 29 Masjids completely destroyed and more than 210 others ruined.
They burned and damaged holy objects, such as burning more than 50 holy books of Quran and more than 500 prayer books and damaged more than 18 Husayniyah (religious places).

The List of Masjids that were completely demolished by the Bahraini security forces and Saudi Arabia:

1 - Fadak al Zahra Masjid in Hamad Town
2- Imam Javad Masjid in Hamad Town
3- Um al Banin Masjid in Hamad Town
4- Abu Talib Masjid in Hamad Town
5- Imam Hassan Askari Masjid in Hamad Town
6- Sayyida Zainab Masjid in Hamad Town
7- Karim Ahl ul Bayt Masjid in Hamad Town
8- Salman Muhammadi Masjid
9- Rasool Azam (Prophet Muhammad) Masjid in Karzkan
10- Imam al Hadi Masjid in Daar Kulaib
11- Imam Ali Masjid in Sadad
12- Sheikh Abid Masjid in Sitrah
13- Watiyya (Imam Mahdi Step) Masjid in al Mahooz
14- Muhammad al Bariqi Masjid in A'ali
15- Kuikabat Masjid in Jadd Ali
16- Imam Mahdi Masjid in Daar Kulaib
17- Imam Sadiq Masjid in Salmabad
18- Alawiyat Masjid in al Zinj
19- Sheikh Mumin Masjid in Nuwidrat; one of the biggest Masjid in Bahrin sq 3600
20- Sheikh Muhsin al Saboor in Zinj
21- Abuzar Qaffari Masjid in Nuwidrat
22- Imam al Hadi Masjid in Nuwidrat
23- Al Daurah Masjid in Nuwidrat
24- Imam Sadiq Masjid Nuwidrat
25- Imam Javad Masjid in Nuwidrat
26- Imam Hassan Masjid in Nuwidrat
27- Ayn Rastaan Masjid in A'ali
28- Imam Baqir Masjid
29- Sheikh Yousif Masjid

This evening we went to St John's Smith Square for a St John Passion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, in which my friend Chichi Nwanoku plays the double bass. A few years ago we had a joint struggle with Eurostar, after one of their officials told her she couldn't put her double bass in the luggage compartment, and they made her miss the train, and pay for a second ticket for the instrument.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In our garden this morning

Visit to Rolls Royce Derby

Yesterday I paid a visit to my former employers, Rolls Royce aero engine division, which I joined 60 years ago after leaving the army. As was to be expected, the products and the technology have changed out of all recognition, not least in the way the technical and management capacity of the company has enabled it to expand into related fields such as marine engineering, power generation and oilfield technology, which now account for a substantial proportion of total revenue.

RR also has a thriving apprentice school and is taking on more youngsters including a growing proportion of girls. The apprentices also take on the role of ambassadors to the schools, encouraging pupils to think of careers in engineering, and teachers to promote the learning of science and maths. It isn't good for the future if more and more young people are dissuaded from taking 'difficult' subjects by teachers who themselves avoided them. I'm not sure how we reverse the cultural trend away from engineering, in which for the time being we still have companies like Rolls Royce which can beat the world.

Another particularly impressive location was the Operations Room, where data from all Rolls Royce engines in flight all over the world is received via satellite and analysed by the computers for incipient maintenance needs. Apparently engines aren't serviced nowadays after a fixed time in service, or so many flying hours, but only when the computers tell the monitoring engineers that msintensnce is due. The centre is manned 24 hours a day 365 days a year!

The Heritage Centre, a fabulous collection of engines from the earliest days of the 20th century to recent times, much of it carefully restored by enthusiasts. Apparently the drawings too have been preserved.

The old headquarters offices in Nightingale Road, now subject to a preservation order

These engines generate 8 or 10 times the thrust of the production models of my generation, and are considerably more efficient because ever higher proportions of the intake air are sent directly to the exhaust by the front fan, increasing the volume of gases that generate the thrust, and lowering ts average velocity.

The Trent 1000 will power the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first delivery to a customer being schedled for later this year. After that wil come the Trent XWB, due in service 2013, and 16% more fuel efficient than the Trent 700.

Assembly of the Trent 700 engines, used in the current wide bodied jets such as the Airbus A330

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Waste of public money

R v Lindis Percy
Trial for alleged offence: section 128 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005
(Decision to prosecute are made by the Attorney General)

Heard before David Cooper (District Judge)
Prosecutor - Ms Booth (Barrister)(Not THE Ms Booth)
Defendant - Lindis Percy (litigant in person)

On 30 October 2009 at about 12.45 pm Lindis walked into USAF Mildenhall via Gate 1, showed her driving license to US security (Kyler Sherman Brown) at the guard gate. He took it, examined it front and back and said: "O.K Mam - there you go - have a nice day". She was on the base unchallenged for about an hour and was making her way out when she was recognised by Richard Fryer (RAF Liaison officer at Mildenhall) who alerted Robert Curtis (Ministry of Defence Police Agency officer). She was arrested and taken to Bury St Edmunds Police station and eventually released on conditional bail.

Just before the 6 months were up the Attorney General - at the time Baroness Scotland - made the decision to bring this prosecution. There have been many Case Management hearings and difficulties because of Orders being ignored by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) , delays in disclosures, letters not being responded to by the CPS , the US authorities taking a long time to release the CCTV footage and witnesses being flown back to the US - so delaying the trial.

The trial was originally fixed for 8 November 2010. However the date had to be vacated as Kyler Sherman Brown had been flown back to the US. He was not available until the end of January 2011. Two other witnesses had also been flown back to the US and would not be available until August 2011 (apparently serving in Afghanistan).

The case was fixed for two days. David Cooper (DJ) agreed at the previous hearing to hear, as a preliminary issue, an application by Lindis for the case to be stayed (abuse of process). On the day however the DJ said that he would go straight into the trial as there would probably be questions needing to be asked of the witnesses by Lindis.

Lindis's defence was that she was on a public footpath and had been given permission by Kyler Sherman Brown to go onto the base - therefore she could not be committing an offence under SOCPA. The road into the base was not covered by SOCPA. However one of the difficulties facing Lindis was that in his statement Kyler Sherman Brown denied ever seeing Lindis and certainly did not authorise her entry. The CCTV footage of the incident only showed Lindis putting a foot through the gate. There was no apparent footage of the guard gate area (which was surprising) given that this was a gate entry. There was further footage of Lindis seen walking on the base however.

The CPS called five witnesses. Robert Curtis (MDPA) was the first witness followed by Richard Fryer (RAF Liaison officer). Kyler Sherman Brown had apparently that day been flown in from Nevada (where he is now posted). Under cross examination by Lindis he denied all knowledge of ever seeing her or giving her permission to enter the base. When asked what would happen if by a mistake he let someone in - he said he would be disciplined. Lindis reminded him that he was under oath and that he had in fact done just that. He denied all questions put to him by Lindis about the truth of what actually happened. At the end of the cross examination she said: "It seems to me that you are either incompetent or not telling the truth - which is it?" He said he was neither incompetent or complacent.

There were two other US witnesses, one being Mika Byrd who 'archived' the CCTV footage. She said that the camera at the gate did monitor the guard gate and 'quite a long way up the road'. She said she had produced all the CCTV footage. After being cross examined there were still concerns as to where the rest of the footage was - covering the gate area and beyond. This was crucial to Lindis's defence as it would show that Kyler Sherman Brown did let her through.

Cross examined by Lindis, Tavarus Melton (US Security Flight Chief and 'tasked' to interview Kyler Sherman Brown) said that 'someone monitoring the camera thought an intruder had been let in'. He said it was a significant incident (in the scale of 1-10 - rated 10). He said when questioned further that Kyler Sherman Brown had been disciplined for not giving 'giving enough attention to detail' because 'you had entered the base'. Kyler Sherman Brown had said that he did not see her go through the gate as he was busy with another person. This was not true.

Lindis then gave evidence and told it as it had happened. Ms Booth attempted to get her to agree that her intention was to test the security and that she had 'sneaked' in under the 'cover of a lorry'. Lindis said that she entered the base to continue her research. She said that she had entered the base on the footpath - she had been asked for ID by Kyler Sherman Brown, she showed it to him, he carefully examined it and gave her permission to continue into the base.

At the end of her evidence Lindis made an application for 'no case to answer'. The DJ said he had 'got what the issue is now' and went straight on to read out his decision. He said that Kyler Sherman Brown was a 'good man - an honorable man who served his country'. He said however that 'like any human being he 'reran the incident to make it look rather different'. He knew he would be in 'hot water' and 'being human may have blotted out this incident'. His statement was made a month later. The DJ said 'anyone listening to Ms Percy would believe her'. He said she was not a trespasser - she was permitted to go in'. The CPS had not proved their case. He dismissed the charge and awarded costs to Lindis.


To King's in the morning for the 6-monthly scan of my plastic aorta, to make sure it isn't leaking at the ends, where it joins the natural arteries. It was looking OK, so when I saw the surgeon Mr R afterwards there wasn't much to be discussed. But we had an interesting short chat about the current state of affairs in Egypt!


Meeting at the Department for Education of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Education Stakeholder Group, which I chair. There were a lot of important items on the agenda such as the Ofsted consultation and the reviews of the national curriculum, vocational education, school funding and school admissions, but several of the key players had sent apologies.

An important European Union development coming down the track is a proposal for "An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020", which is to be discussed at the next meting of the European Council.



Morning, meeting with Nick Hopkins, manager of the High Elms visitor centre, and his assistant Alex Filby, about their project of constructing a virtual model of the House, and accumulating as much information as possible about what life was like there in the past. Lyulph also came, and of course his collection of photographs and articles is an excellent basis for the scheme. As one would expect, though, fewer pictures of the inside of the rooms exist, and only of some of the main rooms.

Afternoon, a visit by senior members of the Bangladesh Jamaat Islami, mainly to discuss the recommendations by the US Ambassador at Large, Stephen Rapp, on war crimes issues.

If the government had implemented the proposals made by the International Bar Association following their mission to Bangladesh at the request of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, they would have saved themselves a great deal of trouble.

I also raised with the visitors the vexed question of interpretation of the Islamic law on zina, adultery, following the death of 14-year old girl who was flogged to death for this 'crime'. I was under the impression that zina didn't apply when the girl was raped,and I have asked them to let me have a reference to a ruling by a recognised authority on Islamic law clarifying the matter.

The punishment for the 'crime' of zina is precribed in the Qur'an:

"the committers of zina, male and female, flog each of them with a hundred stripes, and do not let pity for the two withhold you from obedience to God, if you believe in God and the Day of Judgement. And let a party of believers witness their punishment". (XXIV:2)

In the earlier revelation in Surah IV it is provided that if a woman is guilty of lewdness, as testified by four witnesses, she is to be imprisoned for life in her family's house. The four witnesses must be adult males; they must have seen the act, and their testimony has to match the names of the participants and the time and place where the act was committed. (See Mohamed S El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic law,ISBN 0-89259-015-7) In many cases, however, as in that of the Bangladeshi 14-year old, a confession by the participant is enough to secure a conviction, and in other cases, a girl's pregnancy has been treated as conclusive.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Interview with Press TV on Bahrain

This video of my interview with Press TV had to be taken down, for reasons of copyright, though it was filmed by JW, not the Press TV cameraman.

With Renata, last Saturday

With Renata, last Saturday

In Myatt's Fields Park

Saturday before last, at the great Baitul Futuh Mosque, for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's Peace Symposium.