Hopes dim for constructing Gaza seaport in near future

Primorsk port 04.jpg

Officials of Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement have been recently talking about the possibilities of constructing a water passage that links the Gaza Strip and Cyprus as one option to ease the mounting humanitarian crisis gripping the coastal enclave.

However, chances for actually building a seaport in Gaza in the near future are very slim, observers say.

No one knows where the much-talked-about seaport will be located, but the Gaza Wharf has witnessed several international attempts to defy a siege imposed by Israel.

The Israelis have foiled all such attempts, including one in May 2010, when the Israeli naval commandos stormed a Turkish aid flotilla, killing nine activists.

Turkish and Israeli officials recently talked about restoring political and economic ties between the two countries, which were broken following the flotilla attack, and one of Turkey’s conditions is to end the Gaza siege.

Khalil al-Hayyah, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza who has been tracking progress in the talks between Israel and Turkey, said “lifting the Gaza siege would never happen without agreeing on constructing a seaport for the Gaza Strip to link the territory with the entire world.”

FEARS SEAPORT WOULD PERPECTUATE PALESTINE SPLIT

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Fatah Party Central Committee warned on Monday of Israel’s plan to isolate the Gaza Strip from the entire occupied Palestinian territories.

Fatah accused Israel of using various names such as a floating seaport or a sea passage to keep the Palestinian territories in two parts: the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Hani Habib, a Gaza political analyst, told Xinhua that the Israeli terms for constructing a seaport in Gaza “are clearly showing that Israel is determined to keep the internal Palestinian split for ages and to create a new situation for Gaza that keeps it independent and totally isolated.”

ESSENTIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Economic experts in Gaza said that construction of a seaport in the strip will certainly help revive its economy, creating thousands of jobs during the first year of operation.

Omer Sha’ban, one Gaza economist, told Xinhua that the seaport for Gaza will be the sole sea gate for the establishment of the future Palestinian state once the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

“A seaport is important not only for the Gaza Strip, but also for the West Bank, which basically depends on the Israeli seaports for export and import,” said Sha’ban.

He said constructing and operating a seaport in Gaza “would create 50,000 job opportunities,” resulting in a big jump in the Palestinian economy as a whole and in development in human resources and industry in particular in the Palestinian territories.

The seaport, on the Mediterranean and with access to Suez Canal, would link Gaza with Europe, America, Asia and beyond, he said.

Building a seaport for the Gaza Strip was one condition put forward by Hamas in Egyptian-borkered talks in Cairo to end hostilities following a large-scale military offensive by Israel against Hamas-led militants in the summer of 2014.

According to the August 2014 agreement, Israel and Hamas were to hold indirect talks one month after the ceasefire to discuss issues like constructing a seaport for the Gaza Strip and operating Gaza airport.

The two sides, however, have never met again after that.

The project of constructing a seaport and an airport for the Gaza Strip was part of Oslo Accords that Israel signed with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993.

The airport was built and operated from 1998 until 2000, the year the second Intifada, or Palestinian Uprising, broke out. The radar station and control tower were destroyed by Israeli Air Force in 2001.

The seaport project did start, in July 2000, but stopped soon due to obstruction of the supply of construction materials, and destruction by the Israeli army in late 2000, also due to the Intifada.

In the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, reached after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Israel promised international donors that it will not interfere with operation of the port, but construction never resumed.

SWEET DREAM, BITTER REALITY

Talk of building a seaport has raised expectations that the misery suffered by residents in the enclave might ease after a blockade of nearly 10 years.

“Constructing a seaport for the Palestinians is a sweet dream,” said 65-year-old Abu Sallah Sa’ed, who was sitting on the beach near Gaza Wharf.

“Once it comes true, it will end the crisis and all our daily problems,” he said. “No one wants war. Poverty is the enemy of mankind.”

“A better life without siege is the best guarantee of peace for all our children,” Sa’ed said.

Hussein Rajab, who sells hot drinks at Gaza Wharf, is skeptical.

“I don’t think that one day, there will be a seaport for Gaza,” said the 42-year-old vendor, who peddles coffee and tea from a push cart. “We always dream of having a seaport and see big ships coming and leaving, but this will never happen.”

The ongoing Israeli blockade has thrown the densely populated enclave into humanitarian crises, with widespread poverty and unemployment.

International aid organizations have warned of disasters and collapse in the near future if the situation continues in Gaza.

Abu Jamal Subeih, a Gaza fisherman, was pessimistic that the Palestinians’ lot will improve any time soon.

“I rule out the possibility that Israel would accept the construction of a seaport for Gaza,” he said. “They have been doing this against us for so many years, therefore I don’t believe Israel would let us having our own seaport to connect with the outside world.”
Source: Xinhua

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Ganajagaran Mancha threatens to siege Shahbagh again

The platform organised a sit-in in front of the National Museum on Friday to demand confirmation of the maximum penalty.

Its spokesperson Imran H Sarker said the activists of Ganajagaran Mancha would protest in the way they did in 2013 if their demand were not met.

After war criminal and Jamaat leader Quader Molla was sentenced to life in prison, tens of thousands of people, mostly youths, gathered at Shahbagh on Feb 5, 2013, demanding capital punishment for Molla.

The Ganajagaran Mancha was formed at the time to press for death penalty for all war criminals.

After the movement spread across the country, the government amended war crimes trial law keeping a provision for both the state and the defence to appeal.

Molla was later sentenced to death by the Supreme Court and subsequently hanged.

On Nov 2, 2014, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Al-Badr militia commander Quasem Ali to death for killing eight persons during the 1971 Liberation War.

The Supreme Court has set Mar 8 to deliver the verdict on his appeal against the death sentence.

The Ganajagaran Mancha started Friday’s demonstration at 5pm. Activists of the platform shouted slogans, recited poems and sang songs throughout the demonstration that continued until 8pm.

Their spokesperson Sarker said, “It would be betraying 3 million if the attempt to save Mir Quasem Ali were to succeed. The Mancha will never accept it.”

The platform announced a sit-in demonstration on Mar 6 to press for the same demand. The activists will stay at Shahbagh throughout the day on Mar 8.

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A Palestinian's dream of reaching the Rio Olympics

It is early morning in Ramallah and Mohammed al-Khatib is busy warming up before a training session at the local school running track.

The 25-year-old aspires to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a professional athlete. He also wants to do it for Palestine.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for Khatib, who plans to run the 100-200m sprint double. The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead and travel for competitions.

Gaza’s crippling infrastructure owing to the blockade means shiny stadiums and modern tracks are out of the question for practice. Israeli forces bombed the enclave’s Palestine Stadium in 2006 and then again during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

“I want to win an Olympic medal for Palestine. I know it’s the hardest thing to do, but I’m going to try,” Khatib told Al Jazeera.

“To represent Palestine at the Olympics is bringing hope to my people.”

The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst. The area remains tense, with illegal settlements dividing the heart of the city between the Israeli-controlled sector known as H2 and H1 for Palestinians.

In West Bank and Gaza, sports enthusiasts are all too familiar with the result of the occupation on their training. Equipment is difficult to obtain and travel restrictions create further obstacles for athletes.

Competing in international games is frustrating for Palestinians because they usually need a two-day head-start to fly from Jordan and back, typically resulting in a lengthy wait at checkpoints.


WATCH: Blind karate kid dreams of representing Palestine


Last May, the Palestinian national football team was held at the Allenby Crossing on the Jordanian border for “security reasons” hours after Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to ease travel restrictions on players.

In 2014, key runners from Gaza including Olympian Nader al-Masri, a veteran of 40 international competitions, were denied entry to the West Bank to participate in the annual Palestine marathon.

“When I think about Israel, I think about injustice and inequality for sure. We share the same land but when you see it so clearly, on one side they have a clean, beautiful football field and the other side, we barely have water to plant our own plants, never mind grass in a football field.

“I find this frustrating and it’s an injustice. This is one of the messages I carry.”

Because there are no professional coaches in the West Bank, Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube.

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

His workouts were limited to the streets or, occasionally, when he was able to get access to the tracks at Birzeit University or the local high school in Ramallah.

“When the tracks weren’t open, I would train on the streets,” he said. “Access to the school was either early in the morning – before classes started around 6am – or after the school day was finished at 4pm, and usually I would have work at this time or I would be tired.”

The asphalt track in Birzeit is only 84m in length and not suitable because it can cause injuries owing to the rough surface.

‘I am so close’

Despite all that, Khatib still persevered.

“I knew I had two options. I would either start blaming the world for not having a decent track or equipment and I would just give up. Or I would try to find my way around it and that’s what I did.”

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds, which is just off the 10.16 seconds required to qualify for the Games.

“I know a lot of athletes in Palestine face all these difficulties and at some point they give up. I almost gave up at one stage, but it’s really just about going forward regardless if I’m crawling,  walking or running.

“I just keep going forward and here I am, I’m so close.”

In order to fulfil his potential and stand a realistic chance, he raised money online by crowdfunding to train with a coach in the US – taking a step closer to qualifying as such opportunities are not readily available in Palestine.

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Through the various sums of foreign aid, which the Palestinian Authority is heavily reliant on, little goes towards sports.

The European Union in January approved a €2m ($2.2m) grant towards social infrastructure for communities in Area C – comprising 60 percent of West Bank land currently controlled by Israeli security forces – but the funds will build schools, roads and water networks.

The Palestine Olympic Committee has been the official body representing these athletes since 1996. It lacks the manpower to establish proper training facilities for athletes but is working with the Olympic representatives to improve facilities across the region.

“There is plenty of help from the International Olympic Committee for funding and training but funding alone doesn’t help,” Susan Shalabi Molano, spokeswoman for the Palestine Olympic Committee, said.

“Imagine if you receive the funds to construct a stadium and then you don’t get a permit from the Israelis to build it. What is the use then? We are trying, though. A little bit is better than nothing. The suffering continues but we are trying.”

Molano said building permission from Israeli authorities is rare and little progress has been made to improve the situation.

“When we want to get players from Gaza, for example, they go through Egypt and meet in some third country where they can train because access to the West Bank isn’t easy. It’s difficult and time-consuming but this is the only solution we have in the end.

“Players are detained or hindered when they move from one place to another and that won’t stop as long we live in these circumstances.”

Other athletes have felt the effect of Israeli occupation on their training. Palestinian swimmer Sabine Hazboun competed in the women’s 50m freestyle at London 2012, finishing with a personal best of 28.28 seconds.

The 21-year-old “met the real world there”, which was a huge contrast from the rundown swimming pools in her hometown of Bethlehem.

Hazboun moved to Barcelona, where she could train at a professional level as there was no sizeable pool available in the West Bank for her to practise in.

“I started swimming aged nine in an 18m pool. It started as a hobby but then I wanted to be more serious and eventually go to the Olympics.

“When I wanted to practise, I saw more obstacles because it’s so difficult, we don’t have the facilities like other countries. We need more gym facilities, we need swimming equipment and experienced coaches,” she said.

For now, back in Ramallah where Khatib prepares for his US trip, qualifying will be a victory against occupation and he isn’t going to put his running shoes down without a fight.

Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera

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A Palestinian's dream of reaching the Rio Olympics

It is early morning in Ramallah and Mohammed al-Khatib is busy warming up before a training session at the local school running track.

The 25-year-old aspires to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a professional athlete. He also wants to do it for Palestine.

It hasn’t been an easy journey for Khatib, who plans to run the 100-200m sprint double. The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead and travel for competitions.

Gaza’s crippling infrastructure owing to the blockade means shiny stadiums and modern tracks are out of the question for practice. Israeli forces bombed the enclave’s Palestine Stadium in 2006 and then again during Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

“I want to win an Olympic medal for Palestine. I know it’s the hardest thing to do, but I’m going to try,” Khatib told Al Jazeera.

“To represent Palestine at the Olympics is bringing hope to my people.”

The West Bank lacks facilities for athletes and restriction of movement makes it difficult to plan ahead [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst. The area remains tense, with illegal settlements dividing the heart of the city between the Israeli-controlled sector known as H2 and H1 for Palestinians.

In West Bank and Gaza, sports enthusiasts are all too familiar with the result of the occupation on their training. Equipment is difficult to obtain and travel restrictions create further obstacles for athletes.

Competing in international games is frustrating for Palestinians because they usually need a two-day head-start to fly from Jordan and back, typically resulting in a lengthy wait at checkpoints.


WATCH: Blind karate kid dreams of representing Palestine


Last May, the Palestinian national football team was held at the Allenby Crossing on the Jordanian border for “security reasons” hours after Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to ease travel restrictions on players.

In 2014, key runners from Gaza including Olympian Nader al-Masri, a veteran of 40 international competitions, were denied entry to the West Bank to participate in the annual Palestine marathon.

“When I think about Israel, I think about injustice and inequality for sure. We share the same land but when you see it so clearly, on one side they have a clean, beautiful football field and the other side, we barely have water to plant our own plants, never mind grass in a football field.

“I find this frustrating and it’s an injustice. This is one of the messages I carry.”

Because there are no professional coaches in the West Bank, Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube.

Khatib is from Hebron, where around 170,000 Palestinian inhabitants feel Israel’s occupation at its worst [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

His workouts were limited to the streets or, occasionally, when he was able to get access to the tracks at Birzeit University or the local high school in Ramallah.

“When the tracks weren’t open, I would train on the streets,” he said. “Access to the school was either early in the morning – before classes started around 6am – or after the school day was finished at 4pm, and usually I would have work at this time or I would be tired.”

The asphalt track in Birzeit is only 84m in length and not suitable because it can cause injuries owing to the rough surface.

‘I am so close’

Despite all that, Khatib still persevered.

“I knew I had two options. I would either start blaming the world for not having a decent track or equipment and I would just give up. Or I would try to find my way around it and that’s what I did.”

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds, which is just off the 10.16 seconds required to qualify for the Games.

“I know a lot of athletes in Palestine face all these difficulties and at some point they give up. I almost gave up at one stage, but it’s really just about going forward regardless if I’m crawling,  walking or running.

“I just keep going forward and here I am, I’m so close.”

In order to fulfil his potential and stand a realistic chance, he raised money online by crowdfunding to train with a coach in the US – taking a step closer to qualifying as such opportunities are not readily available in Palestine.

In three years, Khatib has brought his 100m time down from 15 to 11 seconds [Eloise Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Through the various sums of foreign aid, which the Palestinian Authority is heavily reliant on, little goes towards sports.

The European Union in January approved a €2m ($2.2m) grant towards social infrastructure for communities in Area C – comprising 60 percent of West Bank land currently controlled by Israeli security forces – but the funds will build schools, roads and water networks.

The Palestine Olympic Committee has been the official body representing these athletes since 1996. It lacks the manpower to establish proper training facilities for athletes but is working with the Olympic representatives to improve facilities across the region.

“There is plenty of help from the International Olympic Committee for funding and training but funding alone doesn’t help,” Susan Shalabi Molano, spokeswoman for the Palestine Olympic Committee, said.

“Imagine if you receive the funds to construct a stadium and then you don’t get a permit from the Israelis to build it. What is the use then? We are trying, though. A little bit is better than nothing. The suffering continues but we are trying.”

Molano said building permission from Israeli authorities is rare and little progress has been made to improve the situation.

“When we want to get players from Gaza, for example, they go through Egypt and meet in some third country where they can train because access to the West Bank isn’t easy. It’s difficult and time-consuming but this is the only solution we have in the end.

“Players are detained or hindered when they move from one place to another and that won’t stop as long we live in these circumstances.”

Other athletes have felt the effect of Israeli occupation on their training. Palestinian swimmer Sabine Hazboun competed in the women’s 50m freestyle at London 2012, finishing with a personal best of 28.28 seconds.

The 21-year-old “met the real world there”, which was a huge contrast from the rundown swimming pools in her hometown of Bethlehem.

Hazboun moved to Barcelona, where she could train at a professional level as there was no sizeable pool available in the West Bank for her to practise in.

“I started swimming aged nine in an 18m pool. It started as a hobby but then I wanted to be more serious and eventually go to the Olympics.

“When I wanted to practise, I saw more obstacles because it’s so difficult, we don’t have the facilities like other countries. We need more gym facilities, we need swimming equipment and experienced coaches,” she said.

For now, back in Ramallah where Khatib prepares for his US trip, qualifying will be a victory against occupation and he isn’t going to put his running shoes down without a fight.

Khatib started training alone by teaching himself running techniques through YouTube [Eloïse Bollack/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera

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US tech companies unite behind Apple ahead of encryption ruling

Seats are reserved for Apple and Federal Bureau of Investigations representatives prior to the start of a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy,” on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. PHOTO | DREW ANGERER |  AFP

Tech industry leaders including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp, AT&T and more than two dozen other Internet and technology companies filed legal briefs on Thursday asking a judge to support Apple Inc in its encryption battle with the U.S. government.

The rare display of unity and support from Apple’s sometime-rivals showed the breadth of Silicon Valley’s opposition to the government’s anti-encryption effort, a position endorsed by the United Nations human rights chief.

Apple’s battle became public last month when the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a court order requiring the company to write new software to disable passcode protection and allow access to an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December killings in San Bernardino, California.

Apple pushed back, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security, and asked that the order be vacated. The clash has intensified a long-running debate over how much law enforcement and intelligence officials should be able to monitor digital communications.

Apple’s industry allies, along with several privacy advocates, filed amicus briefs – a form of comment from outside groups common in complex cases – to U.S. District Judge Sheri Pym, in Riverside, California, who had set a Thursday deadline.

Six relatives of San Bernardino attack victims on Thursday weighed in with their own amicus brief opposing Apple. Three California law enforcement groups, three federal law enforcement groups and the San Bernardino district attorney also filed in favor of the government.

The companies backing Apple largely echo the iPhone maker’s main argument, that the 1789 All Writs Act at the heart of the government’s case cannot be used to force companies to create new technology.

One amicus filing, from a group of 17 Internet companies including Twitter Inc and LinkedIn Corp, asserted that Congress has already passed laws that establish what companies could be obliged to do for the government, and that the court case amounted to an “end run” around those laws.

Apple, and some of the other briefs, did not go quite that far, but also asserted that Congress, not the courts, needed to address the issue. Congress has struggled without success for years to address law-enforcement concerns about encryption.

The victims’ families argued that Apple’s arguments were misplaced because the government had a valid warrant, and “one does not enjoy the privacy to commit a crime.” The families also asserted that Apple “routinely modifies its systems” to comply with Chinese government directives.

Apple has also advanced a free speech argument, on the grounds that computer code is a form of expression and cannot be coerced. The families pushed back against that defence:

“This is the electronic equivalent of unlocking a door – no expression is involved at all,” they said.

The San Bernardino District Attorney’s summary argument, contained in its application to file an amicus brief, alleges the iPhone might have been “used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino County’s infrastructure.” The court document contained no evidence to support the claim.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged U.S. authorities to proceed with “great caution”, warning: “A successful case against Apple in the U.S. will set a precedent that may make it impossible for Apple or any other major international IT company to safeguard their clients’ privacy anywhere in the world.”

“It is potentially a gift to authoritarian regimes, as well as to criminal hackers,” he said in a statement.

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The Calais 'Jungle' Clinic

This week the French riot police and demolition workers moved into the refugee and migrant camp in Calais known as “The Jungle”.

It’s home to several thousand people who have found temporary refuge while they wait to process their paperwork.

They may be a little closer to their desired final destination – the UK – but the arduous journey and the squalid conditions in this camp have left a community battling injury and illness.

Recent estimates put the population at the camp at around 5,000 people. Medical organisations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Medecins Du Monde (ONG) are attending to those who are sick and doing so within a very difficult environment. 

“If these doctors weren’t here, our situation would be much worse,” says Mohammed Reza. “But treatment isn’t just medication. It’s a good diet, good rest, no stress. Good mental health. Without all that, how can we get better?”

Many of the camp residents, as well as the medical staff, have confirmed accusations of police brutality and tear gassing by the local police authorities. 

Join The Cure presenter Dr Javid Abdelmoneim as he meets the medics and healthcare workers on one of the main front line’s of Europe’s refugee crisis.

Disclaimer: Dr Javid Abdelmoneim became an unpaid board member of MSF UK in May 2015. All editorial decisions relating to the film were made by Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera

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India student leader calls for freedom in moving speech

An Indian student leader facing sedition charges has called for “freedom in India” in a rousing speech to students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), after being released on bail.

Kanhaiya Kumar received a hero’s welcome at the JNU campus in New Delhi on Thursday night and addressed a large gathering of students and faculty members, cautioning authorities from suppressing freedom of speech and the right to dissent.

“The struggle is long. The more you try to suppress us, the higher we will rise…we are not asking for freedom from India, but asking for freedom in India.”


New Delhi protest: Thousands call for student’s freedom


Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from New Delhi, said that the impact of Kumar’s address had been felt across the country.

“It opened [up] a debate on tolerance and freedom of speech. Many say, the final outcome of Kanhaiya’s case will define the line between expressing your opinion and committing a crime,” she said.

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court granted Kumar six months interim bail while the police investigate his case. His bail conditions include one stating that he will neither actively nor passively participate in any activity that may be seen as anti-national.

He had spent nearly three weeks in jail after he was arrested on a controversial sedition charge that sparked major protests and a nationwide debate over free speech. 

The Delhi High Court’s order listed some of the slogans shouted at the February 9 event, including “Our war will continue until India is destroyed” and “Death to the Indian army”.

Some rights campaigners say the Hindu nationalist government is using a British-era sedition law to clamp down on dissent [EPA]

The student union leader denies he was among those chanting the slogans at the rally, held to mark the 2013 hanging of Kashmiri Mohammed Afzal Guru over a deadly attack on the Indian parliament.

Two other students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, are accused of being among the organisers of the JNU event and have been arrested on the same sedition charge as Kumar. 

Sanjay Hegde, a senior legal advocate, told Al Jazeera the judge’s decision to grant Kumar bail leaves “adequate scope for investigators and prosecutors to attempt to curtail his [Kumar’s] liberty one more time”.

“If there is any incident. It is almost as if the university as a whole was being collectively punished or collectively put on good behaviour,” Hegde said.

A Delhi government report published on Thursday said while no witness or video evidence could be found implicating Kumar, the role of other students at the rally “must be investigated further”.

Sedition carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although convictions are rare.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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After appointing consultants, government to commercialise Larnaca port

Marios_Demetriades

Transport minister Marios Demetriades said that the government will resume its effort to commercialise Larnaca’s port and marina after a previous attempt ended in failure.

The government already met with the advisory team – led by Ernst and Young – on Monday which will consult with the government through the process, Demetriades told reporters according to a transcript of his comments emailed by the press and information office.

“It is a project that has been delayed in past years however we are resuming the procedure and want it to be successful as it is important to see at last the project go ahead, as promised,” Demetriades said.

Last July, the government cancelled an agreement signed with the Zenon consortium in 2012 to develop the port facilities as part of a more than €600m project citing the joint venture’s failure to meet commitments and obligations.

The minister’s comments come a day before he briefs lawmakers about the outcome of a tender for the privatisation of the operations of the Limassol port, where hydrocarbon companies are expected to move after the Larnaca municipal council decided to evict them from the town’s port.

The Cyprus News Agency reported on Wednesday that the government selected a consortium led by Ernst & Young Société d`Avocats which includes Greece’s consultancy firm Salfo and Associates who will prepare the necessary documents to attract investors.

“The reason we hired a new consultant group is because we have explored the experience and knowhow required,” Demetriades said. “We included experts on marinas and land development in order to ensure the project’s success. We will first contact potential investors in order to offer them something that is attractive to them”.

“Be certain that like the Limassol port procedure ended up in a success, so we will do everything possible to succeed also with this procedure,” the minister added. “The environment is favourable for Cyprus at this moment because it takes financial and political stability in order to find foreign investors.

Demetriades, a former fund manager at Cyprus’s Bank of Piraeus, was appointed transport minister a year after the government under President Nicos Anastasiades had to deal with a severe banking crisis as a result of which depositors at the two major banks lost all or almost half of their uninsured deposits, all part of a €10bn cash-for-reforms programme.
“As the government completes its third year, we have to say that Cyprus is better off compared to three years ago,” he said. “There is political and financial stability and we are exiting the adjustment programme and foreign investors have come to our country”.

After attracting some of the world’s largest companies to the port of Limassol, “we intend to do the same for the Larnaca port,” he said.

The government ratified on February 25 the outcome of the Limassol port procedure according to which, Germany’s logistics company EuroGate will lead a consortium handling the container terminal in Limassol while two consortiums led by Dubai Ports World Ltd will be in charge of maritime services and the container terminal.
Source: Cyprus Mail

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