Ukraine Ejects Ex-Georgian President, Deporting Him To Poland

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR AND THE BBC)

 

Ukraine Ejects Ex-Georgian President, Deporting Him To Poland

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks to the media prior to a scheduled court hearing in Kiev last month.

Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian authorities have deported Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who has emerged as a vocal antagonist of the government in Kiev. Ukraine’s border agency confirmed his deportation to Poland on Monday, while videos on social media purported to show Saakashvili getting seized by masked men.

“This person was on Ukrainian territory illegally,” the agency said in a statement released Monday, “and therefore, in compliance with all legal procedures, he was returned to the country from which he arrived.”

Representatives of Saakashvili are describing the incident in starkly different terms.

Earlier Monday the populist politician’s Facebook account released a plea for help, saying “unknown people in masks kidnapped [him] and drove him in an unknown direction.” At the same time, the account uploaded several videos appearing to show his “abduction” in a restaurant at the hands of several shouting men.

Hours later, he called reporters from Warsaw with his account of the confrontation: “They broke into the cafe,” he said. “They tried to close my eyes, tie my hands.”

Within hours he had been placed on a plane to Poland.

Saakashvili and his supporters have cast the move as an attempt to remove a prominent threat to President Petro Poroshenko, a former ally who granted Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and even appointed him governor several years ago — only to strip him of that citizenship after Saakashvili quit amid a flurry of accusations that Poroshenko was blocking his attempts at reform.

Saakashvili — a populist politician who also faces a three-year prison sentence in Georgia for embezzlement and abuse of authority during his presidency there — lost his rights as a Ukrainian last summer while he was in the U.S. He returned, though, gathering supporters on the Poland-Ukraine border for a climactic push back into the country in September. Since then he has drawn a considerable following in Ukraine, even as Ukrainian officials have condemned him as a provocateur backed by a pro-Russian criminal group.

Earlier this month Saakashvili lost his appeal for protection against the possibility of getting extradited to Georgia to stand charges.

“The Georgian authorities never asked for my extradition when I was in America or in Europe,” the 50-year-old opposition leader told The Guardian last week, when he was still living and working in central Kiev. “They only did it when I returned to Ukraine because Poroshenko asked them to.”

Now, after grappling with Saakashvili for months, Kiev has managed to eject him. Time will tell whether he will stay out of Ukraine or whether, as he did last year, he will somehow manage to return. In the meantime, Saakashvili might be out of the country — but he is not exactly out of earshot.

“This is not a president and not a man,” he said of Poroshenko in a statement after the deportation Monday, according to Reuters. “This is a lowlife crook who wants to wreck Ukraine. All this shows how weak they are. We will of necessity defeat them.”

Read All About It: Breaking News

Polish Politicians Trying To Rewrite History Of Holocaust

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Lapid: Poland was complicit in the Holocaust, new bill ‘can’t change history’

Yesh Atid leader, son of survivor, condemns law prescribing jail time for using phrases such as ‘Polish death camps’; Poland played active role in WWII killing of Jews, he stresses

MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, January 8, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset, January 8, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid on Saturday slammed a controversial bill passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament which aims to penalize individuals or organizations who point to the European country’s involvement in facilitating atrocities during the Holocaust.

The Israeli member of Knesset, the son of a Holocaust survivor,  characterized the bill — which is expected to become law in Poland shortly — as an effort to rewrite history.

“I strongly condemn the new law that was passed in Poland, which attempts to deny the involvement of many Polish citizens in the Holocaust,” Lapid wrote in a tweet in Hebrew on Saturday.

“No Polish law will change history, Poland was complicit in the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered on its soil without them having met any German officer.”

He also tweeted in English.

I utterly condemn the new Polish law which tries to deny Polish complicity in the Holocaust. It was conceived in Germany but hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered without ever meeting a German soldier. There were Polish death camps and no law can ever change that.

The new bill prescribes prison time for defaming the Polish nation by using phrases such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the killing sites Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.

The bill, passed Friday, is a response to cases in recent years of foreign media using “Polish death camps” to describe Auschwitz and other Nazi-run camps.

Poland’s embassy in Israel hit back at Lapid, tweeting that his “unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel.” The intent of the Polish legislation, it said, “is not to ‘whitewash’ the past, but to protect the truth against such slander.”

Your unsupportable claims show how badly Holocaust education is needed, even here in Israel

To which Lapid retorted with outrage and a demand for an apology: “I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.”

The intent of the Polish draft legislation is not to ‘whitewash’ the past, but to protect the truth against such slander

I am a son of a Holocaust survivor. My grandmother was murdered in Poland by Germans and Poles. I don’t need Holocaust education from you. We live with the consequences every day in our collective memory. Your embassy should offer an immediate apology.

Some major news organizations have banned language referring to Polish death camps.

Former US President Barack Obama used it in 2012, prompting outrage in Poland. Obama made the comment while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. Karski died in 2000.

During an East Room ceremony honoring 13 Medal of Freedom recipients, Obama said that Karski “served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.”

After complaints, the White House said Obama misspoke.

The main gate of the former Auschwitz extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland, with the infamous sign reading ‘Work sets you free.’ (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images/via JTA)

The legislation calls for prison sentences of up to three years. It still needs approval from Poland’s Senate and president.

Critics say enforcing such a law would be impossible outside Poland, and that within the country it would have a chilling effect on debating history, harming freedom of expression.

While the law contains a provision excluding scholarly or academic works, opponents still see a danger.

They especially worry it could be used to stifle research and debate on topics that are anathema to Poland’s nationalistic authorities, particularly the painful issue of Poles who blackmailed Jews or denounced them to the Nazis during the war.

Dorota Glowacka, a legal adviser with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw, said the broad scope of the bill opens up the potential for abuse.

READ MORE:

EU Acts To Defend Judicial Independence In Poland

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION-PRESS RELEASE)

 

European Commission – Press release

Rule of Law: European Commission acts to defend judicial independence in Poland

Brussels, 20 December 2017

Despite repeated efforts, for almost two years, to engage the Polish authorities in a constructive dialogue in the context of the Rule of Law Framework, the Commission has today concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland.

The Commission is therefore proposing to the Council to adopt a decision under Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union (see Annex II).

The European Commission is taking action to protect the rule of law in Europe. Judicial reforms in Poland mean that the country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants.

The Commission has also today issued a complementary (4th) Rule of Law Recommendation, setting out clearly the steps that the Polish authorities can take to remedy the current situation. Should the Polish authorities implement the recommended actions, the Commission is ready, in close consultation with the European Parliament and the Council, to reconsider its Reasoned Proposal.

Furthermore, the Commission has decided to take the next step in itsinfringement procedure against Poland for breaches of EU law by the Law on the Ordinary Courts Organisation, referring Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Whilst taking these unprecedented measures, the Commission maintains its offer for a constructive dialogue to remedy the current situation.

1. Reasoned Proposal for a Council Decision

Over a period of two years, the Polish authorities have adopted more than 13 laws affecting the entire structure of the justice system in Poland, impacting the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, ordinary courts, National Council for the Judiciary, prosecution service and National School of Judiciary. The common pattern is that the executive and legislative branches have been systematically enabled to politically interfere in the composition, powers, administration and functioning of the judicial branch.

The Reasoned Proposal sets out the Commission’s concerns, recalling the steps taken under the Rule of Law Framework and the numerous contacts with the Polish authorities to try to identify a solution, and invites the Council to find that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. The concerns relate specifically to the lack of an independent and legitimate constitutional review and judicial independence.

Should the Polish authorities implement the remedial actions set out in the Rule of Law Recommendation accompanying its Reasoned Proposal, the Commission is ready to reconsider the Reasoned Proposal.

2. Rule of Law Recommendation

The Rule of Law Recommendation adopted today complements three previous Recommendations, adopted on 27 July 2016, 21 December 2016 and 27 July 2017. Today’s Recommendation focuses on the fresh concerns raised by the new law on the Supreme Court adopted by the Polish Parliament on 15 December 2017 and the law on the National Council for the Judiciary adopted on 15 December 2017. The Polish authorities have still not addressed the concerns identified in the first three Commission Recommendations, which remain valid.

Today’s Recommendation clearly sets out a set of actions that need to be taken by the Polish authorities to address its concerns. The Polish authorities are invited to:

  • Amend the Supreme Court law, not apply a lowered retirement age to current judges, remove the discretionary power of the President to prolong the mandate of Supreme Court judges, and remove the extraordinary appeal procedure, which includes a power to reopen final judgments taken years earlier;
  • Amend the law on the National Council for the Judiciary, to not terminate the mandate of judges-members, and ensure that the new appointment regime continues to guarantee the election of judges-members by their peers;
  • Amend or withdraw the law on Ordinary Courts Organisation, in particular to remove the new retirement regime for judges including the discretionary powers of the Minister of Justice to prolong the mandate of judges and to appoint and dismiss presidents of courts;
  • Restore the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, by ensuring that its judges, President and Vice-President are lawfully elected and by ensuring that all its judgements are published and fully implemented;
  • Refrain from actions and public statements which could further undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary.

3. Infringement procedure on the basis of EU law

The College of Commissioners also decided to refer the Polish Government to the European Court of Justice for breach of EU law, concerning the Law on the Ordinary Courts and, specifically, the retirement regime it introduces.

The Commission’s key legal concern identified in this law relates to the discrimination on the basis of gender due to the introduction of a different retirement age for female judges (60 years) and male judges (65 years). This is contrary to Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Directive 2006/54 on gender equality in employment.

In its referral to the European Court of Justice, the Commission will also raise the linked concern that the independence of Polish courts will be undermined by the fact that the Minister of Justice has been given a discretionary power to prolong the mandate of judges which have reached retirement age (see Article 19(1) TEU in combination with Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

Next steps

The Commission’s Recommendation invites the Polish authorities to address the problems within three months, and to inform the Commission of the steps taken to that effect. The Commission stands ready to pursue a constructive dialogue with the Polish Government. Should the Polish authorities implement the recommended actions, the Commission is ready, in close consultation with the European Parliament and the Council, to reconsider its Reasoned Proposal.

Under Article 7(1) TEU, the Council must hear Poland’s position and obtain the consent of the European Parliament (on the basis of Article 354 TFEU, the European Parliament shall act by a two-thirds majority of votes cast, representing the majority of its component Members), before adopting a Decision by a four-fifths majority (22 of 27 Members of the Council entitled to vote on the basis of Article 354 TFEU), determining that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law. The Council may also address recommendations to Poland, acting in accordance with the same voting procedure.

Background

Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union provides for the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members, to determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the common values referred to in Article 2 of the Treaty (see Annex II). The Commission can trigger this process by a reasoned proposal.

The rule of law is one of the common values upon which the European Union is founded. It is enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. The European Commission, together with the European Parliament and the Council, is responsible under the Treaties for guaranteeing the respect of the rule of law as a fundamental value of our Union and making sure that EU law, values and principles are respected.

It is up to Poland to identify its own model for its justice system, but it should do so in a way that respects the rule of law; this requires it to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, separation of powers and legal certainty.

A breach of the rule of law in one Member State has an effect on all Member States and the Union as a whole. First, because the independence of the judiciary – free from undue political interference – is a value that reflects the concept of European democracy we have built up together, heeding the lessons of the past. Second, because when the rule of law in any Member State is put into question, the functioning of the Union as a whole, in particular with regard to Justice and Home Affairs cooperation and the functioning of the Internal Market, is put into question too.

The European Commission opened a dialogue with the Polish Authorities in January 2016 under the Rule of Law Framework (see Memo for more details). The Framework – introduced by the Commission on 11 March 2014 – has three stages (see graphic in Annex 1). The entire process is based on a continuous dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned. The Commission keeps the European Parliament and Council regularly and closely informed. The Commission has attempted to work constructively with the Polish authorities, as they have passed more than 13 laws impacting the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court, ordinary courts, national Council for the Judiciary, prosecution service and National School of Judiciary.

The European Parliament has consistently supported the Commission’s concerns, including in the three Resolutions of 13 April 2016, 14 September 2016 and 15 November 2017. In addition, on 16 May 2017, the Commission informed the General Affairs Council of the situation in Poland. A very broad majority of Member States supported the Commission’s role and efforts to address this issue, and called upon the Polish Government to resume the dialogue with the Commission. The Commission provided a further update to the General Affairs Council on 25 September 2017, and there was broad agreement on the need for Poland to engage in a dialogue to find a solution.

A wide range of other actors at European and international levels have expressed their deep concern about the reform of the Polish justice system: representatives of the judiciary across Europe, including the Network of Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union and the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, the Venice Commission, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the United Nations Human Rights Committee as well as numerous civil society organisations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights and Democracy Network.

For more information:

 

Annex I – Rule of Law Framework

 

Annex1

 

Annex II – Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union

1.   On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.

The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.

2.   The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.

3.   Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.

The obligations of the Member State in question under the Treaties shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.

4.   The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.

5.   The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Polish ruling party ousts PM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY IS OF CNN)

 

Polish ruling party ousts PM

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right, is being replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left.

(CNN)Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo resigned late Thursday and will be replaced by the finance minister, according to a statement from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Shifting challenges at home and abroad necessitated a change to “correct the composition of the government, including its leadership,” the party said in the statement.
As a result, the statement said, Szydlo is set to be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a Polish banker.
Morawiecki was chosen to prepare the Law and Justice Party for a series of upcoming elections at the local and national levels in the next several years, Reuters reported, citing sources.
“Thank you for all your support and messages of thanks,” Szydlo said in a statement on Twitter. “These two years have been an unbelievable time for me. To serve Poland and Poles has been an honor. Thank you.”
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According to a political analyst quoted in the Reuters report, Szydlo’s ouster could have come about because the Law and Justice Party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, may have felt Szydlo was “too weak and that the government was seeded by internal conflicts and factional struggles.”
“It is obvious that Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the leader of this camp and he is the one who distributes the cards, regardless of who is the prime minister,” the analyst, Henryk Domanski of the Polish Academy of Sciences, said.

White Nationalists Disrupt Polish Independence Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Nationalist protesters disrupt Poland independence day events

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day 00:51

Warsaw, Poland (CNN)Tens of thousands of nationalist protesters disrupted Poland’s independence day events Saturday, waving flags and burning flares as they marched down the streets of Warsaw.

Demonstrators carried banners that read “White Europe, Europe must be white,” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.”
Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.”

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration.

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration. While the vast majority were Poles, other protesters came from all over Europe.

Poland regained its independence in 1918.

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration,gay rights, the EU and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.
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Tens of thousands attended the march in Warsaw.

While support for the group remains small, its critics argue that the Polish government, which has struck a nationalistic tone and linked immigrants to crime and disease, has fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia that has emboldened it.

Some of those marching lit flares during the event.

Earlier on Saturday, the Polish capital had seen a far smaller demonstration by groups condemning the protesters’ hijacking of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11.

Far-right marchers waved flags as they took part in the march.

The day celebrates the re-birth of Poland in November 1918, 123 years after the Prussian, Habsburg, and Russian empires carved up Poland among themselves and erased it from the map of Europe.
But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.
Polish President Andrzej Duda led the formal celebrations of Polish independence day in central Warsaw. After laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, he told the crowd to remember the price of freedom and independence.

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS NETWORK)

 

The complex story of Polish refugees in Iran

Thousands of Poles sought shelter in Iran during World War II, but today Poland has slammed the door on refugees.

‘All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos,’ Stelmach recalled [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

by

Tehran – Taji, a companion parrot, moved about freely in an apartment in central Tehran, occasionally emitting a scream.

“I don’t like to put him in a cage,” Helena Stelmach, 86, told Al Jazeera. “I don’t like imprisonment.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union [AP]

Nearly eight decades ago, Stelmach learned her own lessons about imprisonment, exile and the process of seeking refuge. In September 1939, German soldiers invaded Poland from the west and Soviet soldiers occupied the country’s east.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army deported more than one million Poles to Siberia, and Stelmach’s family was among those targeted. Soviet soldiers arrested and imprisoned her father in Poland, while eight-year-old Helena and her mother were forced to leave their home.

“It was midnight when they came for us,” Stelmach said. “First, they sent us to a church, and then to Siberia. All we took with us was a suitcase with an old rug, some pieces of jewellery and family photos.”

In her diary, self-published in Farsi in 2009 under the title From Warsaw to Tehran, she recalled how Polish refugees died every day in Siberia from the freezing weather, maltreatment and disease. Because of malnutrition, their teeth sometimes fell out of their mouths while they were talking.

The nightmare lasted for two years, until Germany attacked the Soviet Union, prompting Joseph Stalin to change his stance towards the Poles. In 1942, he freed them to move south to Iran, and then to Lebanon and Palestine.

Back in those days, tens of thousands of Poles arrived in the Middle East seeking shelter. Today, however, Poland has slammed the door on a refugee influx going in the opposite direction.

READ MORE: The Italian family hosting six refugees in their home

“It’s not something that people and politicians like talking about or even mentioning,” said Narges Kharaghani, an Iranian director who recently completed a documentary on Polish refugees in Iran during World War II. “I think there has been an untold consensus to forget this topic. After the end of the Second World War, the victorious countries only wanted to talk about Hitler’s crimes. Nowadays, considering how the West is treating immigrants, it doesn’t make any sense for them to talk about that exodus.”

In 1942, about 120,000 refugees from Poland began their exodus to Iran from remote parts of the Soviet Union.

“When they arrived in Iran, the country was gravely affected by political instability and famine,” said Reza Nikpour, an Iranian-Polish historian and member of the Iran-Poland Friendship Association. “Moreover, the Soviets and the Brits confiscated and sent all of the resources from Iran to the frontline in Europe. All of this happened despite the fact that Iran had declared its neutrality when the war started.”

The Poles entered Iran from the port city of Anzali on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. Soviet ships docking in Anzali were packed with starving Polish refugees, and they were the lucky ones: Many others died along the way from typhus, typhoid and hunger. Their bodies were unceremoniously discarded into the sea.

Stelmach, pictured here with her father in Poland, has lived in Iran ever since the exodus [Changiz M Varzi/Al Jazeera]

Stelmach was fortunate enough to avoid disease and hunger. Her mother was a nurse, and in return for taking care of the ship captain’s sick son during their journey across the Caspian Sea, the young Stelmach received food and care. After two days at sea, they arrived in a new country that was in dire need of food and suffering from bread riots in its capital.

Several sources have documented that when Polish refugees were loaded on to trucks to relocate from Anzali to Tehran, Iranians threw objects at them. The frightened refugees at first thought they were being stoned, but soon noticed that the objects were not rocks, but rather cookies and candies.

“The Polish refugees were nourished more by the smiles and generosity of the Iranian people than by the food dished out by British and Indian soldiers,” noted an article by Ryszard Antolak, a specialist in Iranian and Eastern European history whose mother was among the refugees who ended up in Iran.

In Tehran, the refugees were accommodated in four camps; even one of the private gardens of Iran’s shah was transformed into a temporary refugee camp, and a special hospital was dedicated to them.

“Polish refugees were well-received in Iran, and they integrated into the host society and worked as translators, nurses, secretaries, cooks and tailors,” Nikpour told Al Jazeera. “Some of them also married Iranians and stayed in Iran permanently.”

READ MORE: Iran – Trump’s Muslim ban ‘will rip our family apart’

The Polish refugees launched a radio station and published newspapers in their mother tongue. They entered into Iran’s art scene and, as with other waves of immigration, their food appeared on the menus of their host communities. The pierogi, a Polish dumpling, is still very common in Iran.

It was food that first brought together Stelmach and her husband, Mohammad Ali. Stelmach’s mother rented a shop in central Tehran selling Polish dishes; Ali worked in a neighbouring shop while simultaneously taking an English language course.

 

“Helen knew English and German,” Ali recalled with a smile. “I asked her to help me with the English language, and here we are, half a century later, and we are still together.”

Many changes have taken place since Stelmach and her mother came to Iran: World War II ended, an Islamic revolution took place in Iran, the Iron Curtain fell, Poland became part of the European Union – yet, throughout all of these years, Stelmach and her mother opted to remain in Iran.

They have visited their former homeland several times, and even received the Order of the White Eagle, one of Poland’s highest honours.

In 1983, Stelmach’s mother died, and she was buried in the same cemetery as the casualties of the Polish exodus in 1942. Today, a long, high wall separates the cemetery from a sea of matchbox-shaped apartments in one of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods.

“There are some visitors still coming to the [cemetery],” caretaker Hamid Tajrishi told Al Jazeera. “A few days ago, a group of old Polish tourists came … Also, sometimes foreigners come individually, seeking the names of their grandparents in our archive, and then they place a bouquet of flowers on their graves and leave.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Iran Poland Middle East

Apartment building collapses in Poland: 6 killed, 4 injured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

WORLD

Apartment building collapses in Poland: 6 killed, 4 injured

Rescuers and firefighters search for 11 missing people in the rubble of an apartment house that collapsed in Swiebodzice, Poland, on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Firefighters suspect the collapse might have been caused by a gas explosion. Several people were killed and injured. (AP Photo)

Rescuers and firefighters search for 11 missing people in the rubble of an apartment house that collapsed in Swiebodzice, Poland, on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Firefighters suspect the collapse might have been caused by a gas explosion. Several people were killed and injured. (AP Photo)  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A pre-World War II apartment house collapsed Saturday in southwestern Poland, leaving six people dead and four injured, authorities said.

Scores of firefighters with dogs continued to search the rubble of the building in the town of Swiebodzice, to make sure no one remained trapped.

According to Daniel Mucha, regional spokesman for the firefighters, the two upper floors of the three-floor building might have collapsed due to a gas explosion. A team of construction experts were set to investigate the cause.

The rescue management center said the body of a sixth victim was found late Saturday. Two of the dead were school-age children.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo arrived late Saturday at the site, 250 miles southwest of Warsaw, to talk with the victims and the rescue workers.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Swiebodzice and in Wroclaw. One survivor, identified only by her first name Stanislawa, told TVN24 that she was “miraculously saved.”

“I was in the kitchen and suddenly it was dark and full of debris and some broken wooden planks,” she said from her hospital bed in Swiebodzice. “I got on top of those planks and started calling ‘Help! Help!’ Two firefighters came and pulled me out by the arm.”

She said her husband was resting on the bed at the time of the collapse. “I don’t know what has happened to him,” she said, her voice trembling.

With her teenage son, also a survivor, at her side, she said the family had lost everything.

Poland Confirms Minnesota Man Was Nazi Commander

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Poland confirms Minnesota man was Nazi commander

March 13 at 2:37 PM
WARSAW, Poland — Poland will seek the arrest and extradition of a Minnesota man exposed by The Associated Press as a former commander in an SS-led unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians in World War II, prosecutors said Monday.Prosecutor Robert Janicki said evidence gathered over years of investigation into U.S. citizen Michael K. confirmed “100 percent” that he was a commander of a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion.He did not release the last name in line with privacy laws but the AP has identified the man as 98-year-old Michael Karkoc, from Minneapolis.

“All the pieces of evidence interwoven together allow us to say the person who lives in the U.S. is Michael K., who commanded the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion which carried out the pacification of Polish villages in the Lublin region,” Janicki said.

The decision in Poland comes four years after the AP published a story establishing that Michael Karkoc commanded the unit, based on wartime documents, testimony from other members of the unit and Karkoc’s own Ukrainian-language memoir.

Karkoc’s family has repeatedly denied he was involved in any war crimes and his son questioned the validity of the evidence against him after Poland’s announcement, calling the accusations “scandalous and baseless slanders.”

“There’s nothing in the historical record that indicates my father had any role whatsoever in any type of war crime activity,” said Andriy Karkoc.

He questioned the Polish investigation, saying “my father’s identity has never been in question nor has it ever been hidden.”

Prosecutors with the state National Remembrance Institute, which investigates Nazi and Communist-era crimes against Poles, have asked a regional court in Lublin to issue an arrest warrant for Karkoc. If granted, Poland would seek his extradition, as Poland does not allow trial in absentia, Janicki said.

“The prosecutor in Lublin intends to direct a motion to the U.S. justice authorities asking that the suspect … be handed over to Poland,” the institute said in a statement.

Janicki added the man’s age was no obstacle in seeking to bring him before justice.

“He is our suspect as of today,” Janicki said.

If convicted of contributing to the killing of civilians in 1944, Karkoc could face life in prison.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota declined to comment on the case.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, applauded the decision as an important signal even at this late stage.

“Any legal step that’s taken against these people is very important,” he said by telephone from Jerusalem. “It sends a very powerful message, and these kinds of things should not be abandoned just because of the age of a suspect.”

Prosecutors in Germany shelved their own investigation of Karkoc in 2015 after saying they had received “comprehensive medical documentation” from doctors at the geriatric hospital in the U.S. where he was being treated that led them to conclude he was not fit for trial.

Karkoc’s family says he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Zuroff urged that he be reassessed by independent doctors.

“It is a very common occurrence that elderly individuals facing prosecution for World War II crimes make every effort to look as sick and as infirm as possible,” he said.

The investigations in Germany and Poland began after AP’s story in June 2013, which established Karkoc was a commander of the unit and then lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States a few years after the war.

A second report uncovered evidence that Karkoc himself ordered his men in 1944 to attack a Polish village in which dozens of civilians were killed, contradicting statements from his family that he was never at the scene.

“The Associated Press stands by its stories, which were well-documented and thoroughly reported,” said Lauren Easton, director of AP’s media relations, on Monday.

The special German prosecutor’s office that investigates Nazi crimes concluded that enough evidence existed to pursue murder charges against Karkoc.

AP’s initial investigation found that Karkoc entered the U.S. in 1949 by failing to disclose to American authorities his role as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion. The investigation found that Karkoc was in the area of the massacres, but did not uncover evidence linking him directly to atrocities.

The second story, based upon an investigative file originally from the Ukrainian intelligence agency’s archive, revealed that a private under Karkoc’s command testified in 1968 that Karkoc ordered an assault on the village of Chlaniow in retaliation for the slaying of the SS major who led the Legion, in which Karkoc was a company commander.

A German roster of the unit confirmed that Pvt. Ivan Sharko, a Ukrainian, served under Karkoc’s command at the time.

Other eyewitness accounts, both from villagers and members of Karkoc’s unit, corroborated the testimony that the company set buildings on fire and gunned down more than 40 men, women and children.

Other soldiers who served under Karkoc backed up Sharko’s testimony about civilian killings.

Pvt. Vasyl Malazhenski, for example, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 that unit was directed to “liquidate all the residents” of Chlaniow — although he did not say who gave the order.

Sharko also testified in the investigative documents that Karkoc’s company was directly involved in a “punitive mission” against Poles near the village of Sagryn in 1944.

Rising reported from Berlin. Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Boris Godunov: Russian Czar From 1598-1605; Lived From 1551-1605

(THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM GOOGLE PLUS)

Boris Godunov – Russian Czar
Boris Godunov - Russian Czar
Boris Godunov – Russian Czar

Boris Godunov was born in about 1551 and was one of the transitional figures in a nation’s history who keeps the machinery of state running in times of crisis. Godunov first came into prominence as one of the apparatchiks of Ivan IV (the Terrible), who helped that czar organize his social and administrative system.

This must have also clandestinely involved operating the oprichnina, the secret state police that Ivan used to keep his realm in a state of terror. The oprichniki, as they were called, used to ride through Russia with wolves’ heads tethered to their saddles to frighten the population into submission.

Ivan IV died in 1584 at the height of his power, having carried on a long correspondence with none other than Queen Elizabeth I of England. In the year after his death, the Cossack Yermak died in Siberia, but not before starting the massive Russian drang nach osten (drive to the east) that would take the Russians to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

There they established the city of Vladivostok. When Ivan died, his son Theodore succeeded him to the throne as Theodore I. Theodore charged Boris with leading the Russian counterattack again Kuchum, the Siberian khan who had killed Yermak. Under Boris’s firm military hand, the Russians built two fortified trading posts at Tobolsk and Tyumen to guard their new frontier in Siberia.

Theodore’s younger brother, Dimitri, died in 1591, and Theodore followed him in 1598. Whatever scruples the Russians may have had in the deaths of Ivan’s two sons, they were willing to sacrifice everything on the altar of expediency.

Caught between a hostile Poland and Ottoman Turkey, they needed a strong man in the Kremlin to guide the affairs of the state, and Boris seemed the most likely candidate. Any doubts about Boris’s suitability to rule had been washed away in the year of Dimitri’s death. In that year, a vast horde of 150,000 Tartars swept out of the Crimean Khanate.

Khan Ghazi Gerei II was determined to destroy Russia before it could attack the Crimea. On July 4, 1591, outside Moscow Boris met the Tartars with a fraction of the Russian army. The muskets and artillery held by Boris and his commander, Prince Theodore Mstislavsky, wreaked terrible slaughter as thousands of Tartars were killed or wounded. The next day, Godunov and Mstislavsky launched a furious pursuit of the panicstricken Tartars, marking the beginning of the decline of the Crimean Khanate.

To the Russian people, Boris was obviously the man to lead them, and he was raised to be czar by the Russian Great Assembly in February 1598. Constantly insecure on his throne, Boris feared one family among the boyars—the Romanovs. Ivan IV’s first wife, Anastasia, had been a member of the Romanov family and had been the wife of Theodore I.

With the death of Theodore I, the Riurik dynasty became extinct, and the Romanovs had an excellent claim on the throne. In June 1601, Boris moved against the Romanovs, taking their lands and banishing them from Moscow. He continued efforts to modernize the medieval Grand Duchy of Muscovy into the Russian empire. The Russian Orthodox Church was formally organized, and Boris continued a policy of peace in the west.

In 1604, Boris faced a new danger. A challenger to the throne, known as the False Dimitri, appeared, supported by the Poles, who were determined to weaken the growing Russian state. Dmitri claimed to be the son of Ivan come back to claim his father’s throne. People rallied to him.

The Cossacks, always looking for an opportunity for a good fight and loot, joined his cause. In spring 1604, Boris’s brother and minister of the interior, Simeon, led a force against the Cossacks. However, he was defeated by them and sent back with the message that the Cossacks would soon enough arrive with the real czar—Dimitri.

In November 1604, Dimitri committed a grave tactical mistake. Rather than pressing on to take Moscow, he committed his army to the prolonged siege of the city of Novgorod Seversk. The commander of Novgorod Seversk, Peter Basamov, managed to defeat all attempts to take the town. On January 20, 1605, battle erupted.

None could make headway against the closely mustered musketeers and artillery of Boris’s army. However, in a major tactical blunder, the leaders of Boris’s relief army squandered their victory. Rather than pursue the enemy into the steppes, they instead decided on punishing the cities that had sworn allegiance to the false czar.

Suddenly in April 1605, Czar Boris died; many suspected he had been poisoned. In May 1605, Peter Basamov, the defender of Novgorod Seversk, swore allegiance to Dimitri. With Peter’s support, Dimitri entered Moscow in triumph. Both Dimitri and Basamov would be killed. Foreign invasion and internal dissent continued to tear apart the Russian state.

The Tunisian Suspect In Berlin Attack Faced Terror Probe Earlier This Year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Tunisian suspect in Berlin Christmas market attack faced past German terror probe, official says

December 21 at 12:19 PM
The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market — a 24-year old Tunisian migrant — was the subject of a terror probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported following his rejection for asylum because Tunisia initially refused to take him back, a senior official said Wednesday.The suspect — who went by numerous aliases, but had a Facebook page under the name Anis Amri — became the subject of a national manhunt Wednesday after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post.

German authorities issued a 100,000 euro ($105,000) reward for information leading to his capture, warning citizens not to approach the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Amri, who they described as “violent and armed.”

His past record, however, further deepened the political fallout from the bloodshed — pointing to flaws in the deportation system and putting a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s humanitarian bid to open the nation’s doors to nearly 1 million asylum seekers last year.

Although the vast majority of those who flooded into Europe were on the move to escape war and unrest, dozens of terror suspects have slipped into Germany and other nations posing as migrants.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Berlin truck attack that killed 12

Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured after a large truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. (Victoria Walker, Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

The dragnet for the suspect appeared to initially focus on the German state of North Rhine Westphalia as well as Berlin, both places where the Tunisian suspect once lived, and where police units moved in for possible raids.

The interior minister in North Rhine Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, said the Tunisian man had bounced around Germany since arriving in July 2015, living in the southern city of Freiburg, and later in Berlin.

He applied for asylum, but was rejected in June of this year and became the subject of deportation proceedings on suspicion of “preparing a serious act of violent subversion.” Jäger said the Tunisian had not been deported because — like many asylum seekers in Germany — he did not have a passport.

The Tunisian government, Jäger explained, initially denied he was their national, and delayed issuing his passport. The passport, he said, finally arrived Wednesday.

“I don’t want to comment further on that circumstance,” said a visibly angered Jäger.

Officials suggested that the leaking of the suspect’s name and photograph in the press may have upset attempts to find him. Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, would only tell reporters in Berlin that Germany had registered “a suspect” as wanted European databases. He refused to give further details.

The two German law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case, said investigators discovered the man’s documents in the cabin of the truck that barreled into the market, killing 12 people, wounding dozens and reigniting debates about security and immigration.

It remained unclear whether authorities believe the Tunisian man drove the truck, but police nevertheless made tracking him a priority.

The asylum seeker had at first received a “toleration” status from the government, meaning he was not granted full asylum but permitted to remain in Germany legally.

Germany’s Bild newspaper ran a photo of the suspect, who had several aliases and was apparently born in the southern Tunisian desert town of Tataouine in 1992.

Witnesses described one man fleeing the scene after the truck — packed with a cargo of steel — roared into revelers at a traditional Christmas market. One suspect, a Pakistani asylum-seeker, was arrested on Monday night, but authorities later released him due to lack of evidence.

According to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Tunisian suspect arrived in Italy in 2012, but moved to Germany in July 2015. In April 2016, he applied for asylum, but disappeared earlier this month. The paper said he had been using eight different names.

The revelation sparked outrage among conservative politicians, and seemed set to damage Merkel, who is running for reelection next year.

“There is a connection between the refugee crisis and the heightened terror threat in Germany,” said Stefan Mayer, parliamentary spokesperson for the Christian Social Union party on domestic affairs told reporters. “This can also be seen in the case of this Tunisian.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with other German media outlets, added that the man had contacts with a network run by a radical Islamist known as Abu Walaa, who was arrested last month for allegedly recruiting Islamic State fighters.

The new information emerged as German investigators raced for clues in the hunt for suspects in the deadly assault, poring over forensic evidence and GPS data as they sought to retrace the steps of the runway attacker. They were re-questioning witnesses and analyzing DNA traces found in the truck, and well as on the body of a dead Polish man in the passenger seat.

The Pole worked for a trucking company and was delivering a payload of steel to Berlin. Investigators are currently going on the assumption that he was taken hostage by the assailant — and may even have died a hero. Jörg Radek deputy chairman of the German Trade Union of the Police, said evidence suggested that “a fight took place in the driver’s cabin.” As it careened toward the crowded market, the truck was not driving straight, but “in a zigzag line,” he noted.

Bild also quoted an investigator as saying the Polish man — who was shot dead — also had received multiple stab wounds in a manner that suggested he may have tried to grab the steering wheel to stop the assault as it happened.

The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for inspiring the unknown attacker — a claim as yet unproven and possibly just opportunistic — leading some politicians to quickly point the finger at Merkel’s humanitarian move last year to open Germany’s door to asylum seekers from the war-torn Middle East.

Yet others quickly pushed back, calling the accusations a politicizing of tragedy that had no place in progressive Germany.

On Tuesday, Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats said: “We owe it to the victims, those affected and the entire population to rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy.”

On Wednesday, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann defended Seehofer from a barrage of critics claiming he and others were seizing on the attack to further their anti-migrant stance.

“This is no sweeping judgment of refugees,” he said. “Compared to the high number of refugees, these are only very few, but the risks are obvious and we must not close our eyes.”

A number of newspaper editorials and other politicians criticized Herrman’s remarks and similar statements as premature and lacking in respect for the victims.

Commentator Jürgen Kaube in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said such comments risked over-generalizing Muslim migrants and were implicitly turning the hateful views of the Islamic State into “the true representative of the Muslim world.”

“It is appalling if there are now calls to reconsider the refugee policy as a whole,” the paper Die Tageszeitung wrote in an editorial. “Why for heaven’s sake? . . . What happened in Berlin was long feared. An act of brutal violence. The only effective defense: to keep calm.”

There were also growing calls for the deployment of more police on the streets with military-style weapons — a frequent sight in France and Belgium, for instance, but far more unusual in pacifist Germany.

Klaus Bouillon, head of a conference of interior ministers from German states, declared on Tuesday that the country was now “in a state of war.” He called for beefed up security at public events.

At the normally quaint and picturesque Christmas markets in at least three German cities — Mainz, Magdeburg and Dresden — concrete barriers were quickly erected for added security. In Magdeburg, police officers armed with automatic weapons were guarding the entrance.

Yet others argued that living a free society was perhaps more important, and that Germans were willing to accept a certain measure of risk to preserve that openness.

“If we want to maintain the freedom of our society, we simply have to live with the risk contained in this decision,” Die Tageszeitung added in its editorial.

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