April 17/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
After he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demon
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 16/09-14/:"After he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen."

I would remind you of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received
First Letter to the Corinthians 15/01-11/:"I would remind you of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe."

Question: "What is Easter Monday?"
Answer: Easter Monday, also known as Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday, and Dyngus Day, is the Monday immediately after Easter Sunday. It is observed by many Christian groups, but primarily by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions. It marks the beginning of Easter Week (Roman Catholic) / Bright Week (Eastern Orthodox). Different cultures observe Easter Monday very differently. For some, Easter Monday is a solemn remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection marked by an outdoor procession. For others, there are Easter egg-rolling competitions. For still others, siblings and/or spouses wake each other up by pouring buckets of water on each other (hence the name “Wet Monday”). And others celebrate with a large gathering and a polka festival (Dingus Day). Some of these observances have more Christian symbolism in them than others, but none of them are explicitly biblical. The Bible does not say anything about what happened on Easter Monday, the day after Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible does not instruct followers of Jesus Christ to observe Easter Monday, so there is no obligation to celebrate it. As with many holidays, there is nothing wrong with observing some cultural traditions, but it is important to not allow traditions to detract from the message of the gospel.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 16-17/17
Resurrection: Life, Faith And Death/Elias Bejjani/April 16/17
Russia is Defending itself not Assad/Tariq Alhomayed/Ashara Al Awsat/April 16/17
"Spit on the Cross or Die"/Muslim Persecution of Christians, January 2017/Raymond Ibrahim//Gatestone Institute/April 16/17
A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Britain: March 2017/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 16/17
General Asiri exposes Iranian plot to strike Saudi Arabia from Yemen/
Al Arabiya News Channel/ April 16/17
Has Marine Le Pen really exorcised her party of its demons/Nabila Ramdani/Al Arabiya/April 16/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 16-17/17
Resurrection: Life, Faith And Death
President Aoun can end the current political deadlock: Maronite Patriarch
Aoun from Bkirki: There Will Be a New Electoral Law
Al-Rahi Lauds Aoun's 'Wise Decision' of Invoking Article 59 of Constitution
AlRai receives congratulatory greetings from Berri, Hariri, Salam, Bassil and Bou Assi
Bishop Audi calls for equal job opportunity for the Orthodox community
Aram I holds Easter Mass, calls for decreeing electoral law
Aoun Sees Lebanon Center for Religious Dialogue, Notes Bids to Devoid Levant of Christians
Berri Hails al-Rahi's Call for Re-Endorsing 1960 Law, Slams Bassil's Proposal
Bassil Fears Binning of His Electoral Format, Asks Geagea to Give It a 'Chance'
Qaouq Says Hizbullah 'Optimistic' on Electoral Law, 'No Problem' with FPM
Lebanese Man Critically Wounded in Arsal
Sarraf asserts army capable of protecting country and its borders
Fayyad: We adhere to MuslimChristian coexistence and reject the resurgence of sectarian sensitivities
Citizen shot in Arsal, culprits escape
Zeaiter visits Rahme on Easter occasion: For the cooperation of all to reach an election law that achieves proper representation
Fadlallah: There is no salary scale or budget approval before electoral law decree
Hezbollah’s former secretary general is against Hezbollah

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 16-17/17
On Easter, Pope denounces "oppressive regimes" but urges restraint
Iraqi Christians Mark First Post-IS Easter in Recaptured Town
Mass Evacuation in Syria to Proceed after Deadly Blast
Dozens of Children Dead in Syria Evacuees Bombing
'Yes' Camp Ahead in Turkey Referendum on Erdogan Powers
Turkey Opposition Slams Election Board over Last Minute Changes
Army Says IS Attacked Iraq Forces with Chemical Weapons
Iranian official admits Tehran bid to supply missiles to Houthis
British FM Boris Johnson says Syria’s Assad is an ‘arch-terrorist’
Iraqi forces making new push toward Old City in Mosul
Mine Kills Saudi Guard on Yemen Border
Libya Govt. Urges 'Intervention' over Southern Clashes
PM Says Britain Uniting around Brexit
Trump Hits Back at Tax Protests, Asks 'Who Paid' for Rallies
U.S. Security Adviser Says N. Korea Behavior 'Can't Continue'
Egypt acquits US-Egyptian citizen after 3-year legal ordeal
North Korean missile 'blows up' on test launch
Massacre Complicates ‘Population Swap’ in Syria
Unprecedented Verbal Attack between Palestinian Authority, Hamas
Abbas to meet with Trump in May, Palestinian official says
Iranian VP, Rafsanjani’s Brother Enter Presidential Race

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 16-17/17
UK: Two large supermarket chains won’t stock Christian Easter egg, but do carry halal ones
Syria: Sunni Muslims murder 126 people, wound 55 in bomb attack targeting Shi’ite evacuees
Muslim cleric: Wife-beating “is more of a psychological beating, the purpose of which is to humiliate the wife”
NYC censored anti-terror handbook to appease Muslims, but it accurately predicted radicalization patterns
Al-Azhar, the foremost institution in Sunni Islam, refuses to declare the Islamic State apostate
Sharia in Dallas: Police investigating how two copies of Qur’an ended up in university toilet
NYC: Muslim student says Boston Marathon jihad bombers were Jews
UK: Primary school took pupils to meet an ‘extremist’ imam at the mosque where Lee Rigby’s killers worshipped
Malala: Muhammad never advised his followers to “go around killing people…We are not representing the true Islam”
Jewish man converts to Islam, attempts to run down Jews in his car
Turkey: Muslim cleric says giving Erdogan dictatorial powers is Islamic obligation, “no” voters are foes of Islam
Pakistan: Imam refuses last rites to student Muslims lynched for “blasphemy”
Sweden: Columnist suggests banning cars to stop future terrorist attacks
Cairo: Muslims invoked Allah’s wrath on Christians over loudspeakers before Palm Sunday church jihad attacks
Philippines: Saudi woman fleeing abuse returned to her abusers, could be killed
Pakistan: Military foils “major terrorist attack” Muslims had planned against Christians for Easter Sunday

Links From Christian Today Site on April 16-17/17
Pope Francis prays the Church's 'shame' at scandal of child sex abuse
Egyptian Coptic priest delivers inspiring Christian message to bombers: 'Thank you, we are praying for you'
North Korea missile test fails out just hours before Pence arrives in South
China says North Korea tension must be stopped from reaching 'irreversible' stage amid fears of nuclear test
Theresa May : 'We must ensure people feel able to speak out about their faith in Christ'
Archbishop of Canterbury: The resurrection changed the world - because it happened
Young British woman stabbed to death in Jerusalem in Good Friday attack
Family grieves for Hannah Bladon, Christian student murdered in knife attack in Israel
Mike Pence visits South Korea on Easter Day as tensions escalate

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 16-17/17
Resurrection: Life, Faith And Death
Elias Bejjani/April 16/17

Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here (Mark 16/05)
Easter Sunday is a holy feast of love, humility, forgiveness, brotherhood, tolerance and repentance. Religiously and consciously we are not supposed to participate by any means in any of the feast prayers or make any offerings or receive the Holy Communion unless we are genuinely replace hatred with love, grudges with forgiveness, rejection of others with tolerance, arrogance with humility, greed with contentment, deception with transparency, and evil with righteousness.
Do not be afraid, “Don’t be amazed", with these reassuring and soothing words The Angel spoke to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They had came to the tomb on Sunday morning to mummify and anoint Jesus' Body as the Jewish tradition required. They thought death had defeated Jesus and ended His life as it does to every human being. On their way, they were sadly thinking and wondering who will roll for them the stone away from the tomb's entrance so they can get in and perform the mummifying and anointing process. While halfway from the tomb, they saw that the enormous stone had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb they found that Jesus' body was not there. They found only the shrouds that His body was wrapped with on His burial after the crucifixion.
Saint Mark's (16/01-13) Gospel describes thoroughly what has happened with these three loyal and faithful women: "When the Sabbath was, past Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him. 16:2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” for it was very big. Looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back. Entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were amazed. He said to them, “Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him! But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see him, as he said to you.’” They went out, and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid. Now when he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. When they heard that he was alive, and had been seen by her, they disbelieved. After these things he was revealed in another form to two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. They went away and told it to the rest. They didn’t believe them, either."
Lord Jesus who died on the cross, had risen from the dead on the third day just as He has said while proclaiming His message. He triumphed over death, defeated the forces of darkness, overcame pain, abolished anguish and brought despair to an end. He rose from the tomb to be constantly with those faithful to Him throughout their lives, and to never abandon them. He shall empower forever those who believe in His message and observe His commandments with the spirit of truth, knowledge, wisdom and solidarity with His Father, Almighty God.
Christ is the Way, Christ is the Truth, and Christ is the actual eternal life that we long for. We strongly believe with full conviction that Christ dwells in His Holy Church, and exists in its Mysteries (Sacraments). He is always present in the Holy Eucharist that we receive during every mass. Christ at all times is ready, willing and delighted to help us in our burdens when we call on Him and ask for His mercy. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew11:28)
The miracle of resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. This pivotal liturgical fact was strongly stressed by Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, (15/12-26): " Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming. Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death".
Through Crucifixion and resurrection, Christ has overcome death, broke its thorn, and granted us His eternal forgiveness from the original sin. With His death and resurrection, death in its traditional earthly human concept has been abolished forever and Sin since then has become the actual death that leads the sinners to Gahanna into the unquenchable fire.
When our bodies die, we sleep in the hope of resurrection. On Jesus' return on the Day of Judgment, the dead will be the first to rise and escort Him. "Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed", (Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 15 / 51-52).
Easter Sunday is a holy feast of love, humility, forgiveness, brotherhood, tolerance and repentance. Religiously and consciously we are not supposed to participate by any means in any of the feast prayers or make any offerings or receive the Holy Communion unless we are genuinly replace hatred with love, grudges with forgiveness, rejection of others with tolerance, arrogance with humility, greed with contentment, deception with transparency, and evil with righteousness.
If we do not learn how to tame our selfishness, anger, hatred and forgive others for whatever evil deeds they commit against us and reconcile with them, than we do not qualify to be called Jesus' followers. Our prayers will not be heard or responded to, if we do not practice the grace of forgiveness as did He who was crucified for our salvation.
“If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift". (Matthew 5/23-24).
Meanwhile our true faith in Jesus and in His Sacrifices won't be complete unless we adopt in our thinking, deeds and language the pure components of sacrifice, honesty, truth, self respect, meekness and decency. "Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4/29-32)
For our prayers to be looked upon and heard by Almighty God, we are required to reconcile with ourselves and with all others on whom we have inflicted pain and injustice, and treated with an evil manner. To please the Lord we are required to genuinely, heartily and overtly perform all required acts of repentance for all our mischievous conducts and wrongdoings. Mark 11/24-26: "Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions"Almighty God has endowed us with His love talent, (minas) and expects us to faithfully invest it in helping others who are in need. He expect us to observe all the teaching of His Bible so that He will reward us on the Day of Judgment and put us on His Right Side. On this Holy Day of Resurrection, we are ought to be aware that Jesus' Holy blood was shed on the Cross for our sake. Remembrance of His death and resurrection is a Godly consignment that we are entrusted with. It’s up to us either to honour this trust or betray it. In regards to what is committed to us, Saint Paul conveyed to his disciple Timothy the following advice (6/20-21): "Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith". Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen.

President Aoun can end the current political deadlock: Maronite Patriarch
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: April 16, 2017/President Michel Aoun, as well as “people with benevolent wills,” can reach a breakthrough on the current political deadlock in Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Sunday. “Senior state officials...must not spend months and years on arguments,” as they neglect the painful socio-economic circumstances in the country, Rai said during Easter mass in Bkirki in Mount Lebanon. Conflicting demands of the various political parties have brought efforts to produce a new electoral law to govern the upcoming parliamentary elections to a dead-end. Parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to take place between May 21 and June 21, yet political deadlock is expected to delay elections beyond June, a delay many see as an attempt to extend the Parliament’s terms for the third time. The terms were extended twice, once in 2013 and again in 2014. Rai highlighted the current socio-economic issues in Lebanon, as well as in other places around the world, including oppression, poverty, displacement, mistreatment, corruption and human trafficking. Rai referred to these problems as "graves similar to the grave in which Jesus was buried," adding that politicians "are responsible... for rolling the stones" that cover these graves, and end people's suffering.

Aoun from Bkirki: There Will Be a New Electoral Law
Naharnet/April 16/17/President Michel Aoun on Sunday reassured the Lebanese “there will be a new electoral law” for the country. After a closed-door meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki, Aoun extended Easter greetings to the Christians of the Levant, calling on them to “celebrate the feast despite the agony that they are suffering nowadays.”“We hope the Lebanese will be reassured about their future and Lebanon will be stable so that it returns to its main position at the forefront of the Levant and so that it plays its role as the bearer of the message of peace, because this is its main mission,” Aoun added. The president has invoked his presidential powers to suspend parliament for one month and prevent it from extending its own term for a third time in less than four years. The suspension gives political forces a month to agree on a new electoral law.

Al-Rahi Lauds Aoun's 'Wise Decision' of Invoking Article 59 of Constitution
Naharnet/April 16/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday hailed President Michel Aoun's use of his constitutional powers to force the postponement of a legislative session that could have passed a third and highly controversial extension of parliament's term.
The patriarch warned, in his Easter sermon, that the continued failure to approve a new electoral law will increase people's disappointments, lamenting that “unfortunately there are parties that are making light of the State, who are disregarding the republic... and who are giving their loyalty to other forces.”“Your responsibility obliged you to take a constitutional initiative on Wednesday evening by invoking Article 59 of the constitution to suspend parliament for one month, which averted possible clashes in the streets between the supporters and opponent of extension,” al-Rahi added, hailing Aoun's “wise, decisive and responsible decision.”The patriarch said he is praying on the hope that the political forces will be able to agree on a new electoral law during the one-month grace period.

AlRai receives congratulatory greetings from Berri, Hariri, Salam, Bassil and Bou Assi

Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bshara Boutros al-Rai, received a series of congratulatory calls on Sunday marking the Easter occasion, most prominently from House Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, former PM Tammam Salam, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil and Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi.

Bishop Audi calls for equal job opportunity for the Orthodox community
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Metropolitan bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church for the Archdiocese of Beirut, Elias Audi, held Easter Mass at Saint George Cathedral on Sunday, and called for fair and equal opportunity in all of the State's institutions for the members of his community, who have been unjustly excluded from governmental and public posts. The Bishop praised the religious diversity of Lebanon, which should enrich the country; but, instead of that, each denomination took advantage of this diversity to promote its own community over others. "We look forward to the day when a true citizenship is achieved and equality reigns over citizens. Equality in the face of the law, equality in assuming jobs and posts without regard to anything but qualification and competence," said Audi. "Our Orthodox sons are subject to almost total exclusion from prominent posts in the judiciary as we as military and security institutions, in addition to imparity in the distribution of jobs within public administrations."The Bishop asserted that the intention was not to oppress anyone, but also not to be oppressed in return. He noted that corruption could only be controlled when the law was applied to everyone. He concluded by calling for the approval of a new legislative electoral law with "clear standards." Such a law could finally provide proper representation of the people in parliament.

Aram I holds Easter Mass, calls for decreeing electoral law
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - The Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I, held Easter Mass on Sunday at the Armenian Orthodox Cathedral in Antelias, whereby he called on Christians to reject the darkness and become "messengers of light."The mass was attended by Minister of Tourism, Avedis Guidanian, Minister of Women's Affairs, Jean Ogassapian, and Ambassador of Armenia to Lebanon, among others. The Catholicos touched on Lebanese domestic politics, calling for agreement over a fair electoral law that represented all Lebanese fairly. He insisted on the importance of domestic unity and stability.

Aoun Sees Lebanon Center for Religious Dialogue, Notes Bids to Devoid Levant of Christians
Naharnet/April 16/17/President Michel Aoun stressed on Saturday that Lebanon will be a global center for religious and civilizations dialogue, as he noted that the region is witnessing a plan to devoid the Levant of Christians. “Lebanon can be a global center for dialogue among religions and civilizations, this is because it includes religions and doctrines of the world and its sons live together in it,” said Aoun in an interview with SAT-7 TV network on the occasion of Easter. “To achieve this end, we have to try lobbying pressure everywhere in order to obtain the United Nations acceptance. We want Lebanon to be an official international center for dialogue, not just a state initiative,” added the President. He stressed that political differences between the Lebanese do not stem from religious differences. “We have to make the world understand that we still enjoy the highest levels of civilization in terms of freedom of belief and the right to be different, which may sometimes reach us chaotic more than any other country in the world,” he noted. On the rattled situation in the Orient, Aoun said: “The happenings in the region have dangerous political goals and aim to devoid the Levant of Christians and divide the region into several statelets. “The migration from the East began long ago, especially from Israel, where for example out of %22 of Christians in Jerusalem only one percent remained. In other cases, especially in Syria, Iraq and sometimes in Egypt, Kenya and Libya, a group killed Christians as well as Muslims and destroyed churches and mosques alike.”To a question on his role as the sole Christian president in the Arab countries with a mission to promote understanding and coexistence amid what is happening, Aoun said: “We have a vital extension in this Levant, and the atmospheres were agitated in the region. Therefore I started visiting countries that should be friendly and restored ties to normal. God willing, we will continue in this direction.”

Berri Hails al-Rahi's Call for Re-Endorsing 1960 Law, Slams Bassil's Proposal
Naharnet/April 16/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has hailed Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's stance that considered the controversial 1960 electoral law as the alternative to another extension of parliament's term, as he criticized the latest electoral law format that has been proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil. “Al-Rahi made a rational statement when he said that the alternative to extension is the re-endorsement of the 1960 law,” Berri's visitors quoted him as saying in remarks published Sunday in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. “When the patriarch says that the 1960 law is the alternative to extension, this means that it is also the alternative to vacuum. I'm not saying this because I support the 1960 law and I was the one who said 'no to the 1960 law, no to extension and no to vacuum',” Berri added, according to his visitors. “A law can only be annulled through another law. This is a constitutional principle... Through what logic should we annul the law that is in effect if there is no alternative law?” Berri stated. The Speaker added that he is waiting for the political parties to reach an agreement over a new electoral law in what is left of the one-month period that was made possible by President Michel Aoun's suspension of parliament on Wednesday. Turning to Bassil's electoral law proposal, which involves sectarian voting in its first round, Berri accused the FPM chief of seeking to “block the election of some Christian forces.” “That's why it is not right to say that there is a Christian-Muslim problem over the law, seeing as it has to do with the situation in the Christian arena,” Berri added.

Bassil Fears Binning of His Electoral Format, Asks Geagea to Give It a 'Chance'
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has asked his ally Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to give a “chance” to his latest electoral law proposal that is based on a hybrid system, a media report said. “Bassil has expressed concerns over the possible binning of his electoral law format – the third that he has proposed – due to the growing number of its opponents after the LF joined them,” the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reported on Sunday. “Bassil has asked Geagea to grant the format a chance so that it can be promoted,” the newspaper added.
LF sources meanwhile told al-Hayat that the Lebanese Forces has suggestions to “improve the representation of Christians in parliament” but that it will refrain from submitting them “before giving Cabinet a one-week chance to study Bassil's proposal.”Both the LF and Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat have voiced reservations over Bassil's format. Jumblat lashed out at the proposal, which involves sectarian voting in the first round, as “divisive” and the product of a “sick mentality.”The system had been initially proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri several months ago before being eventually endorsed by Bassil. In the first round, voting takes place in the current 26 districts and voters are not allowed to vote for candidates from other sects. Two candidates for each sectarian seat qualify for the second round during which voting would take place in 10 newly-defined electoral districts and according to a non-sectarian proportional representation polling system. The second round's ten districts are Akkar, North, Baalbek-Hermel, Zahle-West Bekaa, Northern Mount Lebanon (Jbeil, Keserwan, Metn, Baabda), Southern Mount Lebanon (Chouf and Aley), Beirut 1 (Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Medawwar, Marfa, Saifi, Bashoura), Beirut 2 (Ras Beirut, Dar el-Mreisseh, Mina el-Hosn, Zoqaq el-Blat, Mazraa, Mousaitbeh), South (Sidon, Tyre, Zahrani, Jezzine), and Nabatiyeh (Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Marjeyoun, Hasbaya).

Qaouq Says Hizbullah 'Optimistic' on Electoral Law, 'No Problem' with FPM
Naharnet/April 16/17/Senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq announced Sunday that there is a “real chance” to agree on a new electoral law, while stressing that there is no dispute between Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement over the issue. “The president's stance provided a real, serious and new chance for consensus on a new electoral law, and accordingly the course of consensus is advancing,” Qaouq said. “The remaining or new obstacles are not in the court of Hizbullah and its allies in the AMAL Movement or the FPM, and those who were betting on disputes between Hizbullah and the FPM were expressing their ignorance or bad intentions, because there is no problem between Hizbullah and the FPM over the electoral law seeing as the problem is somewhere else,” the Hizbullah official added. He noted that his party will continue its efforts and discussions with all political forces “in order to rescue the country before May 15.”“There is a real chance for consensus and optimism is growing day after day,” he added. President Michel Aoun had on Wednesday invoked his constitutional powers to suspend parliament for one month and prevent it from extending its own term for a third time in less than four years. The political forces are supposed to use the one-month grace period to reach an agreement on a new electoral law.

Lebanese Man Critically Wounded in Arsal
Naharnet/April 16/17/Lebanese citizen Hussein al-Hujeiri was seriously wounded when unidentified assailants opened fire at him in the Bekaa border town of Arsal before fleeing to an unknown destination, state-run National News Agency reported. Hujeiri was wounded in the head and has since been rushed to a hospital in the region, NNA said. The restive town has witnessed numerous similar incidents in recent years. Extremist militants from the al-Nusra Front and Islamic State groups are entrenched in the town's outskirts and in 2014 they overran it before eventually being ousted by the Lebanese army after days of deadly battles. Members of two groups have since been involved in several violent incidents in and around the town.

Sarraf asserts army capable of protecting country and its borders
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Minister of National Defense, Yacoub Sarraf, said on Sunday that the diligence of every single soldier who left his family during the holidays is what kept the country and its borders safe. Talking to visitors who came to felicitate him on Easter at his Minyara residence, Sarraf stressed that terrorism has no home in Lebanon. "The army, which has faced terrorism in the past, is capable of averting strife if it comes knocking," he added, noting that no one was allowed to tamper with the country's stability and security. He hoped that the government would overcome current difficulties, with a new electoral law being the first step towards reform. Sarraf lauded the Constitutional measures taken by President Michel Aoun, which gave room for further deliberations among all concerned parties over said law.
The people of Akkar were also reassured PM Saad Hariri has numerous developmental plans for their area, awaiting the proper conditions for their execution.

Fayyad: We adhere to MuslimChristian coexistence and reject the resurgence of sectarian sensitivities
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Member of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" Parliamentary Bloc, MP Ali Fayyad, stressed on Sunday "adherence to the Muslim-Christian coexistence in the country, and rejection of any resurfacing of sectarian sensitivities. "The goal of the electoral law is to represent various groups properly and fairly, and to open the door to political development, which means that national standards should prevail over sectarian standards," he added. "Despite the distribution of parliamentary seats equally between Muslims and Christians, and proportionally between sects and regions, yet the parliamentary elections remain open and not limited to sectarian choices," asserted Fayyad. MP Fayyad's words came during a book signing ceremony in the Southern town of Majdal Selm earlier today.

Citizen shot in Arsal, culprits escape
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Anonymous men shot on Sunday Hussein Al Houjeiri in Arsal and escaped to an unknown destination, NNA correspondent reported. Houjeiri sustained a gunshot bullet to the head and was transferred to a nearby hospital. He is in critical condition.

Zeaiter visits Rahme on Easter occasion: For the cooperation of all to reach an election law that achieves proper representation
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter visited, on Sunday, Baalbek - Deir al-Ahmar Maronite Archbishop Hanna Rahme, congratulating him on the Easter occasion. The visit was a chance to dwell on the latest hour issues, namely the parliamentary elections. In this context, Zeaiter stressed on coexistence between all Lebanese, calling for "joint cooperation of all sides in order to reach an election law that would ensure proper representation." He also praised Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bshara Boutros al-Rai's keen concern for the work of constitutional institutions in the country. In turn, Archbishop Rahme commended House Speaker Nabih Berri's positions, which "constitute the true guarantee of the unity of Lebanon."

Fadlallah: There is no salary scale or budget approval before electoral law decree
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Deputy Hassan Fadlallah said on Sunday that there is no salary scale or budget approval before issuing a new electoral law. Deputy Fadlallah whose words came during a political meeting in South Lebanon added that the new electoral law should be based on proportionality regardless of the districts' divisions that would be adopted. The Deputy noted that the country was saved by delaying the last legislative session, which would permit more deliberations between counterparts in order to reach a new electoral law. "Whoever thinks that there is a dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah is delusional," Fadlallah added.

Hezbollah’s former secretary general is against Hezbollah

Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 16/17
The consequences of the Khan Sheikhoun massacre continue to unfold. The Syrian regime and militias revolving around its orbit did not wisely calculate this crime. They were trying to provoke US President Donald Trump and discover his limits in order to arrange their cards during his presidential term as based on his reaction to the crime. However, the US responded with striking the Shayrat air base. The second strike came from within the Shiite movement that condemns Hezbollah’s crimes. Sheikh Sobhi Tufayli, Hezbollah’s former secretary general, strongly condemned the Khan Sheikh Sheikhoun massacre and Hezbollah’s participation in the fighting in Syria. Tufayli believes that the slogan of defending the axis of the resistance came to an end during the Syrian developments. He refuted Hezbollah’s allegations that it was fighting in Syria under the pretext of protecting religious shrines and said sending Hezbollah members to Syria meant sending them there to kill Muslim children. He added that Hezbollah was committing crimes and, above all that, defending and fighting a bloody regime. Sobhi Tufayli is one of many voices that condemn the Hezbollah militia and its participation in all Syrian massacres!

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 16-17/17
On Easter, Pope denounces "oppressive regimes" but urges restraint
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Pope Francis denounced "oppressive regimes" in his Easter message on Sunday but in an apparent call for restraint urged world leaders to prevent the spread of conflicts, as tensions rose in North Korea and Syria. Francis, marking the fifth Easter season of his pontificate, said Mass before tens of thousands of people under exceptional security measures in St. Peter's Square following recent vehicle attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm. More police vans and army vehicles than usual were positioned at the entrances to the Vatican area and the faithful were stopped at several check points leading into the square, which was decorated with 35,000 flowers and trees. In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message, delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, Francis spoke of a world lacerated by conflicts and laced with tensions. From the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election in 2013, Francis spoke of God walking "beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes".
He did not name any specific governments.
"In the complex and often dramatic situations of today's world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade," he said. Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its "military hysteria" or face retaliation as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region and the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father. Concern has grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawkmissiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadlygas attack. That raised questions about U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of United Nations and unilateral sanctions. Francis also condemned the bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy that killed at least 112 people outside Aleppo as an "ignoble" attack, asking God to bring healing and healing and comfort to civilian population in what he called the "beloved and martyred Syria". Speaking on the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he called for peace in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine. A surprise downpour hit Rome as the Mass was held but it passed quickly, allowing Francis to ride around in an open pope mobile so people at the back of the crowd could see him. Repeatedly during Holy Week services, Francis has drawn attention to the plight of war victims, refugees and migrants. On Good Friday, he spoke of the "shame" of humanity becoming inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants.--Reuters

Iraqi Christians Mark First Post-IS Easter in Recaptured Town
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/Qaraqosh is quiet except for a church bell ringing as Iraqi Christians gather for the first Easter mass since the town was retaken from the Islamic State jihadist group. IS graffiti mars the walls of the Mar Yohanna church, its bell rings from a tower damaged in the fighting and most of Qaraqosh's residents are still displaced more than five months after the town's recapture. But for worshipers, the mass is a sign of hope and better things to come, a step on the road to recovery from the disaster that befell Qaraqosh when IS overran it in 2014. "The mass today represents a major hope for the final return of all," says Qazwan Bulos Mousa, who attended the service with his wife and three children. "We were the first family to return to the town, and now there are around four families, but life is difficult," he says.These difficulties include a lack of basic services, says Father Sharbel Aisso, who led the mass on Sunday. "The infrastructure is destroyed, and there is also no water and no electricity," Aisso says. But the priest, who also organized Christmas mass at the church last year, does not hide his joy at being back in Qaraqosh. "I entered the town three days after its liberation," he says. "When I returned, I felt very, very happy because I saw these churches where I lived all my life in the priesthood."Around 100 people attended the Easter service at the Mar Yohanna church, a significantly smaller number than took part in a Palm Sunday service at another of the town's churches the week before.
A sign of hope
The bell of the Mar Yohanna church is rung by a member of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, an Assyrian militia that is deployed in Qaraqosh to guard the town. "Holding the mass here today is a sign of goodness and hope," says Milad Mansour, an officer in the force. For Mansour, the victory over the jihadists is one of religious as well as military significance. "We won a victory that is not only a victory in the war; the true victory is the victory of God over Satan," he says. Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniya or Bakhdida, was once one of Iraq's most important Christian towns. The extremists worked to erase any signs of Christianity from Qaraqosh after they overran the town in 2014 as part of a sweeping offensive that saw them seize around a third of Iraq. They smashed icons, toppled church bell towers and systematically chiseled out the crucifixes that once adorned each panel of the outer wall of the Mar Bahnam wa Sara church. House after house was torched or blown up, and the Mary al-Tahira church was defaced with the group's flag and threats. But despite the attack on his town and his faith, Anwar Yusef does not call for a response in kind. "This is my first mass in Qaraqosh since my displacement three years ago," Yusef says. "But we are here today to confirm that our message is a message of peace, and we do not have anything but love."

Mass Evacuation in Syria to Proceed after Deadly Blast
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/More than 3,000 Syrians are expected to be evacuated Sunday from four areas as part of a population transfer that was briefly stalled the day before by a deadly blast that killed scores of people, most of them residents of the besieged Shiite towns Foua and Kfarya. The United Nations is not overseeing the transfer deal, which involves residents of the pro-government villages of Foua and Kfarya and the opposition-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani. All four have been under siege for years, their fate linked through a series of reciprocal agreements that the U.N. says have hindered aid deliveries. Rami Abdul Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV said 3,000 people will be evacuated from Foua and Kfarya, while 200, the vast majority of them fighters, will be evacuated from Zabadani and Madaya. Abdul Rahman said Saturday's blast —which hit an area where thousands of Foua and Kfarya residents evacuated the day before had been waiting for hours — killed 112. He said the dead included 98 people from Foua and Kfarya. After the blast, some 60 buses carrying 2,200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, Abdul Rahman said. More than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying some 5,000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, Syrian state TV said, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south. U.N. relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien said he was "horrified" by the deadly bombing, and that while the U.N. was not involved in the transfer it was ready to "scale up our support to evacuees."He called on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to "facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the U.N. and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need." Residents of Madaya and Zabadani, formerly summer resorts, joined the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Both came under government siege in the ensuing civil war. Residents of Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, have lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars for years, but were supplied with food and medicine through military airdrops. Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines.

Dozens of Children Dead in Syria Evacuees Bombing
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/Nearly 70 children were among those killed when a suicide car bombing tore through buses carrying evacuees from besieged government-held towns in Syria, a monitor said on Sunday. Saturday's blast hit a convoy carrying residents from the northern towns of Fuaa and Kafraya as they waited at a transit point in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo. At least 68 children were among the 126 people killed in the attack, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, updating a previous toll of 112 dead. At least 109 of the dead were evacuees, the Britain-based monitoring group said, while the rest were aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy. The evacuations were taking place under a deal between Syria's regime and rebels that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out of Madaya and Zabadani, towns near Damascus that are surrounded by pro-government forces.
The agreement is the latest in a string of evacuation deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war. Rebels say they amount to forced relocations after years of bombardment and crippling sieges.
Body parts and the belongings of evacuees -- including clothes, dishes and even televisions -- were still strewn at the scene of the attack Sunday, an AFP correspondent said. The shattered buses were nearby as was the shell of a pick-up truck -- with little left but its engine block -- that was apparently used to carry out the bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, though the key Ahrar al-Sham rebel group denied any involvement. The government blamed "terrorists" -- a catch-all term for its opponents.The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria to monitor the conflict, said hundreds of people were also wounded in the blast.
'People crying and shouting'
It said a petrol station at the transit point was caught up in the explosion, adding to the number of victims. The Syrian Red Crescent said three of its workers were among the wounded. Maysa al-Aswad, a 30-year-old evacuee from Kafraya, said she was sitting on one bus with her six-month-old son Hadi and 10-year-old daughter Narjis when the blast shook the parked convoy. "Hadi was on my lap and Narjis on a chair next to me. When the explosion happened I hugged them both and we fell to the floor," she told AFP by telephone from near Aleppo. "I didn't know what was happening, all I could hear was people crying and shouting," she said. "All I can think about is how we survived all the death during the last few years and then could have died just after we finally escaped."More than 5,000 people left Fuaa and Kafraya and about 2,200 left Madaya and Zabadani on Friday, the latest in a series of evacuations from the four towns under the agreement. The evacuation process resumed after the bombing, the Observatory said, with the residents of Fuaa and Kafraya eventually arriving in Aleppo, Syria's second city which the government gained full control of last year. Wounded survivors, including many children, were taken for treatment at an Aleppo hospital.
'Monstrous, cowardly attack'
U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien condemned the bombing, saying: "The perpetrators of such a monstrous and cowardly attack displayed a shameless disregard for human life."Pope Francis also urged an end to the war in Syria as he presided over the traditional Easter mass in Rome. He said he hoped that Jesus Christ's sacrifice might help bring "comfort and relief to the civil population in Syria, prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death."The residents and rebels from Madaya and Zabadani arrived late Saturday in rebel-held territory in Idlib province, where they were greeted with embraces and shots fired into the air. It was not immediately clear whether further evacuations were taking place on Sunday. The evacuation deal was brokered by Qatar, a longtime supporter of Syrian opposition forces, and Iran, a key regime ally. Another 3,000 civilians and fighters should be evacuated from Fuaa and Kafraya, and 150 rebels from Zabadani, to complete a first wave of evacuations under the deal, the Observatory said. A second phase of evacuations from the government-held towns is expected in a few months' time, it said. Syria's war has killed more than 320,000 people since erupting in 2011, with more than half the population forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands trapped under siege.

'Yes' Camp Ahead in Turkey Referendum on Erdogan Powers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/The 'Yes' campaign to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers was ahead of its rival in a bitterly-contested referendum Sunday that will determine Turkey's future destiny, initial results said. The 'Yes' campaign won 63.2 percent of the vote while the 'No' campaign mustered 36.8 percent, the election commission said in figures quoted by the NTV channel, in an initial count based on 25 percent of the ballot boxes. The result could still change as more ballot boxes are counted across the hugely diverse country following the close of polls at 1400 GMT. For the changes to be implemented the 'Yes' camp needs to win 50 percent plus one vote. More than 55.3 million Turks were eligible to cast ballots on sweeping changes to the president's role which, if approved, would grant Erdogan more power than any leader since modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his successor Ismet Inonu. Voting in Istanbul along with his family, Erdogan predicted that "our people would walk to the future" by making the right choice. After a stamina-busting campaign that saw insults flung in both directions, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "Whatever choice comes out on top, our nation will make the most beautiful decision." Yildirim was later due to address supporters from the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara while Erdogan was due to watch the results in Istanbul.
'Vote for destiny'
The opposition has cried foul that the referendum has been conducted on unfair terms, with 'Yes' posters ubiquitous on the streets and opposition voices squeezed from the media. The poll is also taking place under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 people arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the failed putsch of July last year. "We are voting for Turkey's destiny," said the standard-bearer of the 'No' camp, Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. "God willing, the result will be auspicious and we will all have the chance to discuss Turkey's fundamental problems." The co-leaders of Turkey's second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, have been jailed on charges of links to Kurdish militants in what the party says is a deliberate move to eliminate them from the campaign. Closely watched on Monday will be the initial assessment of the international observer mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Three people were killed in a shootout in the garden of a school used as a polling station in the southeastern Diyarbakir region, the Dogan news agency said, but it was not clear if the fighting was linked to the election or simply a family feud. If passed, the new presidential system would dispense with the office of prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the president, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.
The system would come into force after the elections in November 2019. Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after serving as premier from 2003, could then seek two more five-year mandates. Supporters see the new system as an essential modernisation step for Turkey that will remove the risk of the political chaos that blighted the 1990s and is blamed for the 2000-2001 financial crisis. Opponents fear it risks granting Erdogan authoritarian powers and allow him to ride roughshod over key institutions like the judiciary and parliament. In the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakir, self-employed Nihat Aslanbay said he voted against the reforms. "A one man regime will not bring any benefits to this country. I said 'No' (because I'm) for an egalitarian constitution that also includes the Kurds, and for freedoms."But in Istanbul, voter Emrah Yerlinkaya said he voted 'Yes' "to support" Erdogan. "If we are here today, it is thanks to him. I also voted because I support the constitutional reform."
'Drastic shake-up'
Beyond changing the government system, the vote could also have even wider implications for Turkey which joined NATO in 1952 and for the last half-century has set its sights on joining the European Union. Erdogan has warned Brussels that in the event of a 'Yes' vote he would sign any bill agreed by parliament to reinstate capital punishment, a move that would automatically end its EU bid. Western reactions to the referendum outcome will be crucial after Erdogan accused Turkey's allies of failing to show sufficient solidarity in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.
Sinan Ekim and Kemal Kirisci of the Brookings Institution think-tank said in a report the changes if agreed "would set in motion the most drastic shake-up of the country's politics and system of governance in its 94-year-long history." After a slew of attacks over the last year blamed on Kurdish militants and jihadists, security is a major concern with 380,000 police on duty nationwide.

Turkey Opposition Slams Election Board over Last Minute Changes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/Turkey's 'No' camp, which opposes expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers, on Sunday slammed the election commission for a last-minute change to the rules for voting in a tightly-contested referendum, saying it opened the way for fraud. The 'Yes' camp was narrowly ahead of its opponents in a tightly contested poll whose outcome is considerably closer than expected by the government. The Supreme Election Board (YSK) on Sunday said that voting papers not stamped by the board will be counted valid unless proven to be brought from outside, in a controversial announcement. In a statement posted on its website, the board said it received many complaints over the fact voters were given envelopes without stamps from officials. The board, which convened on Sunday, "decided that ballot papers without stamps and envelopes will be counted valid unless proven they were brought from outside."The election board's announcement was slammed by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), as well as dissidents from the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The MHP backs the government-driven changes to strengthen Erdogan's powers but a significant dissident faction does not. The CHP's deputy leader Bulent Tezcan urged the YSK to "reverse this error" and to take steps in order to ensure that elections were held under judicial safeguard. "Rules of the game do not change after the match starts," CHP MP Sezgin Tanrikulu told AFP. "With its announcement, the YSK has changed the rules of the game. This decision must be revised for fair and honest elections," he said. Sinan Ogan, a MHP dissident, blasted the announcement as a "scandal," in a message on his official Twitter account.
The board's decision "is a scandal and opens the way for fraud."Critics say a switch to presidential system is part of a grab by Erdogan for one-man rule, but supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the United States and is needed for efficient government.

Army Says IS Attacked Iraq Forces with Chemical Weapons
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/The Islamic State group used chemical weapons against Iraqi forces taking part in the operation to recapture Mosul, injuring some security personnel, the military said on Sunday. IS has periodically carried out attacks using chemical weapons, but both the toll and the impact on military operations has been minimal and the jihadists' bombs and bullets are far deadlier. "The Daesh terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited," Iraq's Joint Operations Command said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for IS. The attack on Saturday did not result in any deaths but did cause "limited injuries" among security personnel, the military command said. The statement said that the forces attacked were part of the massive operation aimed at recapturing the city of Mosul from IS, but did not specify if the attack took place in or outside the city. Iraqi forces are fighting to recapture west Mosul from IS after retaking the eastern side earlier this year, while soldiers and pro-government paramilitaries are also operating west of the city as part of the operation. The jihadist group overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost. In addition to parts of western Mosul, IS also holds part of Iraq's Kirkuk province as well as areas in the country's west.

Iranian official admits Tehran bid to supply missiles to Houthis
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 16 April 2017/Iranian cleric Mehdi Taeb, who also heads the Ammar Strategic Foundation, admitted that Tehran supplies the Houthis in Yemen with weapons. In a video which activists circulated on social media, Taeb, who is close to the Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei, said the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 group prevented delivering Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles to the Houthis three times. He also criticized Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and said the latter’s negotiations with the US to seal Iran’s nuclear agreement obstructed the delivery of missiles to the Houthis to strike at Saudi-led coalition jets. “We tried to deliver the missiles three times and we were about to but they suddenly retreated because the Americans threatened to suspend the negotiations,” he reportedly said. “Rowhani’s nuclear agreement blocked military aid to the Houthis in Yemen,” Taeb said before a group of supporters in Tehran. According to Taeb, Khamenei ordered sending Iranian naval forces to Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

British FM Boris Johnson says Syria’s Assad is an ‘arch-terrorist’
AFP, London Sunday, 16 April 2017/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an “arch-terrorist” and it is time Russia realised he is “literally and metaphorically toxic”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Sunday. Johnson said Assad's ally Moscow still had time to be on the “right side of the argument”, in a Sunday Telegraph newspaper article. “Assad uses chemical weapons because they are not only horrible and indiscriminate. They are also terrifying,” Johnson wrote. “In that sense he is himself an arch-terrorist, who has caused such an unquenchable thirst for revenge that he can never hope to govern his population again. “He is literally and metaphorically toxic, and it is time Russia awoke to that fact. They still have time to be on the right side of the argument.”Johnson was widely criticized for failing to get the G7 to back his bid for new sanctions against senior Russian and Syrian figures following the chemical weapons attack in Syria's Idlib province that killed dozens and caused an international outcry. But he said the chemical assault had changed the West's stance on Syria. “The UK, the US and all our key allies are of one mind: we believe that this was highly likely to be an attack by Assad, on his own people, using poison gas weapons that were banned almost 100 years ago,” he wrote. “Let us face the truth: Assad has been clinging on. With the help of Russians and Iranians, and by dint of unrelenting savagery, he has not only recaptured Aleppo. He has won back most of 'operational' Syria.”Before the April 4 chemical attack, the West was “on the verge of a grim consensus”, which had now changed, said Johnson. The consensus had been that it would be more sensible to concentrate on the fight against ISIS militants and to accept reluctantly that removing Assad, “though ultimately essential -- should await a drawn out political solution”. A suicide car bomb attack on buses carrying Syrians evacuated from two besieged government-held towns killed 43 people on Saturday, as US-backed fighters advanced in their push towards the ISIS group's Raqa stronghold.

Iraqi forces making new push toward Old City in Mosul
Sun 16 Apr 2017/NNA - Iraqi forces launched a new attack on Islamic State in Mosul's Old City on Sunday, military officials said, trying to break the stalemate in attempts to seize the militants' last stronghold. Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, was captured by the Sunni Muslim fighters in 2014, but government forces have retaken much of it during a six-month operation. The advance has hardly moved for more than a month, though, as the militants are holding out in the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, where tanks and heavy vehicles are not able to operate because of its narrow streets. Iraq's federal police moved forces 200 meters deeper into the Old City, getting closer to al-Nuri mosque, a statement said. The mosque is highly symbolic because it was there that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself head of a self-proclaimed caliphate. Troops have had the centuries-old mosque with its leaning minaret in their sights since last month. A captain in the federal police said Sunday's advance had started in the early morning with troops fighting the militants house to house. "Daesh suicide motorcycles now are their favorite weapon inside the Old City," he said, using a derogatory name for Islamic State. "We have to watch every single house to avoid attackers on motorcycles packed with explosives."Iraqi government forces, backed by U.S. advisers, artillery and air support, have cleared the east and half of western Mosul and are now focused on the Old City. Some 400,000 people are trapped in the Old City while more than 300,000 have fled fighting since the operation started in October, officials have said.--Reuters

Mine Kills Saudi Guard on Yemen Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/A mine blast killed a Saudi border guard on Sunday on the kingdom's southern frontier with war-wracked Yemen, the interior ministry said. Another three members of the force were wounded in the explosion in Jizan province, a spokesman cited by the official SPA news agency said. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition battling Iran-backed Huthi rebels in its impoverished southern neighbor for the past two years. At least 130 Saudi members of the security forces and civilians have been killed, mainly by rockets fired from Yemen, since the coalition intervened in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in March 2015. The Saudi-led coalition also comprises the Gulf monarchies of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates along with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. Despite the coalition intervention, the Huthis still control the capital Sanaa and much of the northern highlands adjacent to the Saudi border. The United Nations says that more than 7,700 people have been killed over the past two years in Yemen, which also faces a serious risk of famine this year. U.N. attempts at mediation and seven ceasefire accords have come to nothing.

Libya Govt. Urges 'Intervention' over Southern Clashes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/Libya's unity government has called for "urgent intervention" by the international community to end military escalation in its south, warning of a possible "civil war."For more than a week, militias allied to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord have fought off rival forces trying to capture an airbase in the south of the North African country. "We ask you to take a firm and decisive stance with regards to this escalation and we will support all decisions to re-establish security and stability in Libya," GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj wrote in a letter published Saturday. Sarraj called for an "urgent intervention" from the international community "to end the deterioration of the situation in south Libya", in an open letter addressed to bodies including the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League. He did not specify the nature of what form such intervention could take. Clashes erupted last week after the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, commanded by military strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and loyal to Libya's eastern authorities, battled to seize the Tamenhant air base from militias backing the GNA. "This sudden and unjustified escalation... puts the country on the brink of civil war," Sarraj said. The GNA, which both Haftar and the eastern-based parliament have refused to recognize, has announced a counter-offensive against the LNA. The LNA has said the Tamenhant base was a launching pad for fighters who seized key oil terminals from its control last month, before the LNA retook them days later. But the unity government has denied any link with the attacks on the oil facilities in Libya's northeast. The GNA, which was born of a U.N.-brokered deal signed in late 2015, has struggled to assert its authority nationwide since taking office in Tripoli in March last year. Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, with rival militias and authorities vying for control of the oil-rich country.

PM Says Britain Uniting around Brexit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday that Britain was beginning to unite behind Brexit, 10 months after the divisive referendum that saw the country narrowly vote to leave the European Union. "This year, after a period of intense debate over the right future for our country, there is a sense that people are coming together and uniting behind the opportunities that lie ahead," May said in her Easter message. May backed remaining in the EU but is spearheading Britain's drive to the departure gates. She formally notified Brussels last month of Britain's intention to leave the bloc, triggering two years of exit negotiations. "For at heart, this country is one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future," May said. "And as we face the opportunities ahead of us -- the opportunities that stem from our decision to leave the European Union and embrace the world -- our shared interests, our shared ambitions and above all our shared values can -- and must -- bring us together." The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that support for Brexit has hit a five-month high, with 55 percent backing Britain's exit from the EU, according to a poll by research company Orb International. "Since November, the British public are slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea of Brexit," said Orb International managing director Johnny Heald. However, "the public is increasingly concerned more about free trade than immigration -- marking a reversal of the preference aired during the campaign."May, 60, is the daughter of an Anglican vicar. Turning to faith in her Easter message, she said: "We should be confident about the role that Christianity has to play in the lives of people in our country. "We must be mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms, but who practice their religion in secret and often in fear."

Trump Hits Back at Tax Protests, Asks 'Who Paid' for Rallies
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at nationwide protests calling for him to release his tax returns, questioning "who paid for" the "small" rallies. "Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!" the president tweeted Sunday morning. That message came about an hour after an earlier tweet when he appeared to suggest the matter was a non-issue. Trump has previously said Americans don't care about his returns. "I did what was almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?" Trump tweeted. His messages came after thousands of protesters gathered Saturday in cities across America to pressure Trump to release his tax returns, a move of transparency he has repeatedly rejected. The demonstrations were timed to coincide with the traditional April 15 deadline for annual tax filings, a key date on the calendar for U.S. households, and resulted in dozens of arrests. For decades, U.S. presidents and presidential candidates have released their returns voluntarily, although there is no legal obligation to do so. U.S. law requires only the publication of a financial statement that estimates assets, including debt and revenue, but does not give details on the amount of taxes paid. Trump, a billionaire property tycoon, released a financial statement but has kept his tax returns private, both during the election campaign and since taking office in January.
He argues that he cannot release them because he is being audited. But tax officials have said he can in fact release them if he so wishes. Trump has on at least two previous occasions accused demonstrators of being paid to protest against him. "Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" he wrote on February 3 during protests against his executive order on immigration.

U.S. Security Adviser Says N. Korea Behavior 'Can't Continue'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/17/An international consensus that includes China has now emerged that North Korea's "threatening behavior" cannot go on, the U.S. national security adviser said Sunday. Speaking after North Korea's latest -- and apparently failed -- missile test, H.R. McMaster said, "I think there's an international consensus now, including -- including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership -- that this is a situation that just can't continue."Speaking from Afghanistan on ABC, he made a point of stating several times that China -- North Korea's key ally -- is now concerned about the reclusive communist state's behavior. McMaster said President Donald Trump has made clear he will not allow the nuclear-armed Pyongyang regime to put the US and its regional allies under threat. The consensus including China is "that this problem is coming to a head. And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully," McMaster said. Trump turned to Twitter over the weekend to underscore the key importance of cooperation with China on the Korean problem. Having blasted Beijing throughout his presidential campaign for unfairly manipulating its currency, he tweeted Sunday: "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!" In his ABC interview, McMaster said that Trump had directed U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence officials to provide him with options -- in concertation with regional allies including China -- that could be used "if the North Korea regime refuses to denuclearize." He called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un "a threat to all people in the region, and globally as well," but cautioned that Trump "is clearly comfortable making tough decisions."A White House foreign policy adviser, briefing reporters on the plane carrying U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Seoul, was asked what steps China had committed to when President Xi Jinping met recently with Trump in Florida. The briefer noted that China had already turned back ships bearing coal from the North. "There were a number of steps that were discussed down in Mar-a-Lago between President Xi and President Trump," the briefer said, referring to Trump's Florida resort, adding that the rejection of Pyongyang's coal was a "good first step."

Egypt acquits US-Egyptian citizen after 3-year legal ordeal
The Associated Press, Cairo Sunday, 16 April 2017/An Egyptian court on Sunday acquitted Aya Hijazi, a dual US-Egyptian citizen, after nearly three years of detention over accusations related to running a foundation dedicated to helping street children. Authorities arrested Hijazi, her husband and six others in May 2014 on charges of abusing children in her care and engaging in human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual exploitation and torture. Local human rights groups have said the charges are fabricated and part of a crackdown by Egypt's government on civil society. Taher Abol Nasr, Hijazi's defense lawyer, said that acquittal procedures usually take between two to three days. He expects Hijazi and all the former defendants in the case to walk free before the end of this week. “It’s up to them to decide whether they would demand compensations after their release,” he added. The trial has been delayed multiple times on what human rights groups say are absurd pretexts, like the inability to turn on a computer at a court hearing. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, along with several congressmen and international rights groups, had called for Hijazi’s release.

North Korean missile 'blows up' on test launch
Reuters/Jetusalem Post/April 16, 2017/SEOUL/PYONGYANG - A North Korean missile "blew up almost immediately" on its test launch on Sunday, the US Pacific Command said, hours before US Vice President Mike Pence was due in South Korea for talks on the North's increasingly defiant arms program.The failed launch from North Korea's east coast, ignoring admonitions from major ally China, came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, marking the birth anniversary of the state founder, in which what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles were on display.
South Korea said the combined show of force "threatened the whole world." Pence is due in Seoul at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia in what his aides said was a sign of the US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tension.
The US nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the region. ( A US Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about US President Donald Trump's plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the South and the United States.
South Korea, which hosts 28,500 US troops, warned of punitive action if the launch led to further provocations such as a nuclear test or a long-range missile launch.
"North Korea showing a variety of offensive missiles at yesterday's military parade and daring to fire a ballistic missile today is a show of force that threatens the whole world," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
TIMING SIGNIFICANT The North has warned of a nuclear strike against the United States if provoked. It has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology. The US Pacific Command said the missile "blew up almost immediately," adding the type of missile was being analyzed. "The North attempted to launch an unidentified missile from near the Sinpo region this morning but it is suspected to have failed," South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
There was a high degree of confidence it was not an intercontinental ballistic missile, a US official said on condition of anonymity. A second US official said the launch was land-based.
The timing of the test, coinciding with Pence's trip and a day after the military parade, would suggest deliberate defiance.Pence had been briefed on the failed launch en route to Seoul and had been in touch with Trump, White House aides said.
The North launched a ballistic missile from the same region earlier this month ahead of a summit between the United States and China to discuss the North's arms program.
That missile flew about 60 km (40 miles) but what US officials said appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile only traveled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control. China has spoken out against North Korea's missile and nuclear tests and has supported UN sanctions. China on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis. Its national airline, Air China, has canceled some flights to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, due to poor demand but it has not suspended all flights there, it said on Friday.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said on Sunday that state-owned China International Travel Services, International – China’s main online travel website – and many other Chinese operators had halted travel to North Korea.
Sinpo, where the Sunday launch took place, is the site of a North Korean submarine base and where the North has tested the submarine-launched ballistic missile it is developing.
“It appears today’s launch was already scheduled for re-launching after the earlier test-firing,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. “This launch can possibly be a test for a new type of missile or an upgrade." Tension had escalated sharply in the region amid concerns that the North may conduct a sixth nuclear test or a ballistic missile test launch around Saturday's birth anniversary of founding father Kim Il Sung that it calls the "Day of the Sun." The White House has said Trump has put the North "on notice." MISSILE TEST? WHAT TEST? Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Chinese tourists in Dandong, a city bordering North Korea, piled on to ferries and speedboats on Sunday for cruises on the Yalu river and up-close views of North Korean border guards and villages.Tourist Huang Xiaojie said North Korea did not have the military ability to go to war.
"North Korea is just trying to gain more attention and gain more leverage," he said.
In Pyongyang, there was a festive atmosphere at a flower show, with families out, taking pictures with North Korean-made smart phones. There was no mention of the test failure on the KCNA state news agency. Company worker Rim Chung Ryol, 30, said he had not heard of the missile test. "If it is a failure, then failure is the mother of success," he told Reuters. Asked if he believed international media reports, he said no, because "international media often lies and reports negative news about North Korea." Factory worker Ri Gul Chol, 37, enjoying the exhibition with his wife and child, also had not heard about the missile test. "But whatever Kim Jong Un decides and instructs will succeed and all the citizens will support him," he said, referring to the North's young leader.

Massacre Complicates ‘Population Swap’ in Syria
Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 16/17/Beirut – At least 100 people were killed and around 500 were injured on Saturday when a bomb ripped through one of the buses carrying refugees from the towns of Kefraya and Fua on their way to the city of Aleppo, northern Syria. The convoy was carrying residents and pro-regime fighters from the Shi’ite villages of Fua and Kefraya, which are besieged by rebels in nearby Idlib province. The convoy had left under a deal, which stipulates the complete evacuation of the two Shi’ite-majority towns of Fua and Kefraya in return of the safe passage of a similar number of civilians and their families from Madaya and Zabadani in the western Damascus suburbs to northern Syrian areas.“Hezbollah” besieges Zabadani and Madaya. There were conflicting reports about the nature of the explosion. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a car bomb targeted a convoy stuck since Friday morning at a transit point in al-Rashideen while pro-regime media outlets spoke about a suicide bomber set off a car bomb near the convoy of buses. Meanwhile, a high-ranking source at the opposition accused the Syrian regime of planning the explosion, adding that the car bomb that arrived to the convoy of buses “came from a pro-regime area and carried food.” The source told DPA that a number of Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” members escaped from the transit point of buses and had benefited from the chaos produced by the explosion to enter areas controlled by the Syrian regime forces.
Later on Saturday, the evacuation of refugees from the four towns of Fua, Kefraya, Madaya and Zabadani resumed after being stuck for more than 37 hours at the outskirts of the Aleppo city due to disputes between Hiy’at Tahreer al-Sham and the Iranians concerning the fate of armed fighters in Zabadani.

Unprecedented Verbal Attack between Palestinian Authority, Hamas
Kifah Ziboun and Asharq Al-Awsat/April 16/17/Ramallah, Gaza – An unprecedented verbal attack has broken out between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on the eve of a planned meeting between the two sides in Gaza in order to put an end to the Palestinian division. Hamas Movement said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is leading a fourth aggression on Gaza on behalf of Israeli occupation authorities with his latest decisions on Gaza salary cuts. Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement, on Saturday, that Abbas is responsible for Gaza siege and isolation as well as the power and water crises other than the lack of health services. Barhoum also held Abbas responsible for denying workers of their basic rights and suspending allocations of martyrs, the wounded and other needy categories. This language is different from that spoken by Hamas in the past few days as they welcomed the delegation from the central committee of Fatah movement that is supposed to arrive to Gaza any time before the end of April to hold talks with Hamas movement and other factions. Notably, Fatah delegation carries with it a specific initiative from Abbas, which calls for dissolving Hamas’s committee it has established earlier to manage Gaza and then carrying out public elections, otherwise the alternative would be to enact more difficult measures against Gaza. Hamas escalated its speech against President Abbas following the latter’s threats to take unprecedented measures in case Hamas refused the options that will be suggested by the central delegation. The Palestinian authority government started last month to cut salaries of Gaza employees by 30 to 50%, which sparked a wave of anger among the Fatah leadership in Gaza and their staff before the president threatened to take unspecified further steps.
Abbas warned that he will take “unprecedented steps” to end the political division between his West Bank-based autonomy government and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Abbas told Palestinian diplomats in Bahrain during conference of the ambassadors of Palestine to Arab and Muslim countries: “These days, we are in a dangerous and tough situation that requires decisive steps, and we are to take these decisive steps.”“Therefore, we are going to take unprecedented steps in the coming days to end the division.”Gaza’s Energy Authority went on strike on Friday in protest of the unjust measures taken against Palestinians in the besieged strip.During the protests, several participants carried candles in a message to Abbas and his government that Gaza would never yield to their extortions and threats. For his part, Mushir al-Masri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told demonstrators: “We are not blind to the enemy’s use of tricks including tightening the siege using its cheap tools: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Tightening the siege will blow up in the occupation’s face.”

Abbas to meet with Trump in May, Palestinian official says

Adam Rasgon/Jerusalem Post/April 16, 2017/Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet US President Donald Trump on May 3rd in Washington, D.C., top Palestinian official Ahmad Majdalani said on Sunday.“This is a very important visit in which we hope to agree on the fundamentals to revive the peace process and discuss bilateral relations,” Majdalani told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call. Majdalani added that an advance team, including chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, PA Intelligence Chief Majid Faraj and Abbas’s economic adviser Mohammad Mustafa, will arrive in the American capitol in the coming days to meet with a number of officials in the Trump administration. The advance team and the Trump administration officials the peace process, economic, and security issues, according to Majdalani. Trump invited Abbas to the White House in March during his first phone call with the Palestinian leader. Majdalani said that the Palestinian leadership is hopeful about the Trump administrations’ plans for renewing the peace process. “I am optimistic,” Majdalani said. Abbas is expected to visit a number of Arab and European countries ahead of his visit to Washington.

Iranian VP, Rafsanjani’s Brother Enter Presidential Race
Adel al-Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 16/17/London – The final stages of the Iranian presidential elections’ registration had few hidden surprises. Just before closing the registration, both competing parties, the conservative and moderates revealed their candidates.
Confirmations have been made concerning a shadow candidate for the current President after his first deputy Es’haq Jahangiri decided to run the presidential elections as the second main candidate of the pro-reform groups. Meanwhile, two of major reform movement candidates announced a meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during which they discussed several issues including human rights issues and the ongoing house arrest of Green Movement leaders and 2009 elections’ candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Last hour negotiations between Hossein Marashi, reformist politician and member of Executives of Construction Party, and Reformist figure Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari were an attempt to convince President Rouhani of Jahangiri’s competing in the elections. The case of the “shadow” candidate stirred wide debates between reformists and moderates as the latter believe having a sufficient amount of candidate would ensure Rouhani alienation from the elections by the Elections Headquarters. Jahangiri said he is going into elections to support Rouhani, adding that his primary goal is to clarify what the government begin and end with. His candidacy comes after the government spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht denied on April 09 any candidate from the current government. Speaking to reporters after completing the registration process, Jahangiri said unity is needed to overcome challenges. He did admit that unemployment هs among the country’s main problems.
Over the past few months, the government was under fire from the conservative party and media close to Khamenei and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). As of now, Rouhani loyalist party is holding its breath before the Elections Headquarters decides the results of the applicants approved as of April 20. Head of the Elections Headquarters Ali-Asghar Ahmadi said that totally 1,636 candidates filed for the elections few hours after a five-day time to register for Iran’s upcoming presidential elections came to an end. Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, the brother of the late chairman of the Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, also on Saturday put his name down for the presidential contest. Rafsanjani said that he plans to remain in the presidential race until the end and added that he plans to run the country according to priorities and program approved by the parliament. He added that he held meetings with several officials and that he was assigned to compete for the next president. When asked about his reaction in case his candidacy was rejected, he stated that he’ll leave it to God. Meanwhile, ILNA news agency reported candidate Mohsin Ruhami saying he held talks with Khamenei during which they discussed the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife and Mehdi Karroubi. He promised to publish the details of the meeting as soon as the registration is over. He criticised the economic situation of the country, calling the election “a historic choice” to make “fundamental changes in the status quo”.
Speaking to reporters after his registration, Qalibaf disputed Rouhani’s claims about the current administration’s economic performance. Among other officials in the presidential race are: former minister of Agriculture Jihad Sadeq Khalilian, former lawmaker Evaz Heidarpour, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Education and Research Committee Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, member of Tehran’s Islamic City Council Hassan Bayyadi, former vice president for parliamentary affairs Ahmad Moussavi and lawmaker Hamid Reza Haji-Babaei were.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 16-17/17
Russia is Defending itself not Assad
Tariq Alhomayed/Ashara Al Awsat/April 16/17
Yesterday, we discussed Bashar al-Assad’s trouble following the US strike and his denial of the town of Khan Shaykhoun chemical attack by saying it was 100% fabricated.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the reports indicating there is a chemical attack in the town are fake. Lavrov’s statements came during a press conference in Moscow on Friday held jointly with the Assad’ regime FM and the Iranian FM.
Are Lavrov and Assad on the same page? Is Lavrov defending Assad? They may share the same understanding but surely the motives are different. It seems that Lavrov is not defending Damascus’ criminal as much as he is protecting Russia which vowed in 2013 to remove Assad’s chemical arsenal after using it against Syrians.
Moscow took that pledge so that Assad can evade crossing the red lines set by former US President Barack Obama who was lenient towards Assad’s crime and cast a blind eye as part of a Russian debunked trick.
Things are different today, precisely after the US strike. Russia can no longer be the honest mediator after Assad used chemical weapons once again. One can’t rely on the credibility of Russia in Syria.
It is astounding that Russia, Iran and Assad’s regime, are demanding via Lavrov a thorough and honest investigation into the chemical attack in Idlib.
It is “astounding” because Russia itself had used the veto for the 8th time during the security council’s session on Wednesday to protect Assad from being condemned for using the toxic gas and thus pressuring Assad to cooperate with an international investigation into that incident!
It is also “astounding” since Assad himself had told AFP: “Syria would only allow an impartial investigation into the poison gas incident involving unbiased countries in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes.”
He added that during the days that followed the attack, they discussed with Russia the possibility of an international investigation.
So, who should do such an investigation? How can it be international without being under the umbrella of an international organization of the UN? Is it that they want Russia to do the investigation and thus repeat the charade of Arab observers in Syria?
This is quite strange and it gives away the fact that Russia is not defending Assad as much as it is trying to protect its credibility. That is why Moscow hindered the UN project and demanded a new definition of “impartial” investigation and outside the UN monitoring.
Russia is doing this to protect its credibility that was tampered by Assad, which is his game. By game here we mean lying. But who believes Moscow now?
Is using chemical weapons any different that explosive barrels? Or killing Syrians with Russian-Iranian weapons?

"Spit on the Cross or Die"/Muslim Persecution of Christians, January 2017
Raymond Ibrahim//Gatestone Institute/April 16/17
According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, 900 Christian churches have been destroyed in 12 northern states that adopted Islamic law, in the early 2000s.
A blasphemy case was registered against Shaan Taseer — son of Salman Taseer, a human rights activist and defender of persecuted Christians who was assassinated by Muslims — for saying "Merry Christmas." — Pakistan.
Thanks to dishonest Muslim translators, immigration officials are rejecting asylum applications from Muslim converts to Christianity from Iran and Afghanistan during what one pastor characterized as "kangaroo court" hearings. Rev. Gottfried Martens accused the "almost exclusively Muslim translators" of deliberately mistranslating their responses to disqualify their applications. — Germany.
Tragic stories of Christian experiences under the Islamic State continued to emerge throughout the month of January. A Christian doctor who forfeited the chance to escape his Syrian village after ISIS had captured it because he wanted to stay and help the sick and needy, both Christian and Muslim, was kidnapped by the Muslim terrorists and ordered to renounce Christ for Muhammad. When he refused, they publicly slaughtered him. Similarly, after ISIS ordered another Christian youth in Syria to embrace Islam, he too refused and was slaughtered for it. His mother — who was prevented from burying her martyred son's body — recalled that when ISIS first invaded their village, he reminded her of Jesus' assertion in the New Testament: "If you deny me before men I will deny you before the Father."
After members of ISIS raided the home of Zarefa, an elderly Christian woman in Iraq, they discovered crucifixes and Christian icons. "They forced me to spit on the Cross," she recalled.
"I told them that it was not appropriate, that it was a sin. He said that I must spit. 'Don't you see that I have a gun?' he asked me. I said to myself, 'Oh, the Cross! I am weak, I will spit on you. But Lord, I ask you to take revenge for me. I cannot escape from this.'"
According to the report, "The shame is still visible on Zarefa's face when she recounts the memory; her town, Qaraqosh, is liberated now, but she is still recovering from the traumatic two years that are only just behind her."
A Christian widow and her teenage son from the Nineveh plains of Iraq recounted their treatment after ISIS took their village. The boy described how the militants once marched him "by men in orange suits, held at gunpoint by a group of Daesh [ISIS] children."
"The children executed them with pleasure... Another time I ran into a big crowd on the street. There was a woman; her hands and feet were tied. The Daesh terrorists drew a circle around her. If she got out of the circle, she would live, but that was impossible because she was tied. While her relatives were crying and begging for a pardon, the Jihadists threw stones at her until she died."
After being made to watch several such execution, the militants told him: "If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well." The boy, who was 14 at the time, added: "That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians." Later, when the jihadis discovered he was wearing a crucifix around his neck, they beat him and sent him to an Islamic "correctional camp" where he was indoctrinated in the Koran for a month.
"I was hit whenever I could not answer their questions [about Muslim doctrine] the way they wanted me to, and my mother was stung with long needles because she had not studied anything from the Koran."
After two years under ISIS, they managed to escape. "Yes, I am embarrassed for having had to profess Islam," the boy said.
The rest of the accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in January 2017 include, but are not limited to, the following:
Muslim Violence against and Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: Over the course of just 10 days in January, four Christians were slaughtered on three separate occasions. On January 3, a Muslim man crept up behind a Christian man, 45, and slit his throat, because he owned a shop that sold alcohol, which the Muslim deemed "contrary to the Sharia [Islamic law] and the religion [Islam]." On January 6, a married Christian couple (husband 62, wife 55) were found slaughtered in their home in Monufia, north Egypt. Their throats were slit and their bodies had multiple stab wounds. Nothing was stolen from their apartments; relatives say it was a hate crime based on their religion. On Friday, January 13, another Christian man, a young surgeon — well-liked by poor Muslim and Christian locals for providing them with free treatment — was found slaughtered in his apartment in Asyut, southern Egypt. He too had stab wounds to his neck, chest, and back.
Philippines: According to a January 12, 2017 report, a former Muslim convert to Christianity was found slaughtered in his home by local Muslims for apostatizing from Islam. During his time as a Muslim, Datu was hostile to Christianity; when he found that a Christian youth was courting his daughter and the couple wanted to marry, he began to hurl stones at the boy's father, a pastor. Later, when even death threats failed to separate the couple — and after securing a large dowry from the Christian family — Datu agreed to the marriage. During the church ceremony, which was conducted by the bridegroom's father, whom Datu used to stone, the Muslim man was struck by what he heard to the point that he converted to Christianity. He then fled to another town to avoid persecution and study the Bible. When he returned home to visit his family, he was found dead, killed by local Muslims for apostatizing from Islam.
Germany: A court heard how a 27-year-old Muslim intruder named Abubaker broke into the Heilbronn home of a 70-year-old Christian woman described as a "devout Catholic" and "regular churchgoer." He tied her up, abused her, placed a cross in her hands, and strangled her to death. Then he wrote "a series of Arabic and religious messages around the house" — including "It's payback time" in English — before stealing some items and fleeing the scene. The defendant — described as a "strict Muslim" — is of Pakistani descent and grew up in Saudi Arabia. Although his DNA was found on the scene of the murder as well as an imprint of the sole of his red shoes and fibers from his jacket, Abubaker insisted the charges against him were a "lie" and that he was being "framed by a religious conspiracy."
France: Apparently, the slaughter of Fr. Jacques Hamel, when Muslim terrorists marched into his church during morning mass and slit his throat, was just the spectacular tip of an iceberg of Muslim persecution of Christians in France. A new study reveals that "Islamist extremist attacks on Christians in France intensified in 2016, with the country experiencing a 38 percent rise in faith-related incidents. Attacks rose from 273 in 2015 to 376 in 2016," the majority occurring during the last Christmas season. "Many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship. One church had its wall vandalised by blasphemous graffiti. A Jesus Christ figure at a Catholic memorial in Fournes-en-Weppes was likewise attacked by the Islamist militants." In response to these hate crimes, growing numbers of clergymen are going as far as to accuse Muslim terrorists of demonic possession. Concerning the murder of Fr. Hamel, right before the Muslim assailant slit his throat, the priest reportedly shouted, "Be gone, Satan!", and during his memorial service, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun called on those "who are tormented by diabolical violence, you who are drawn to kill by a demonic, murderous madness, [to] pray to God to free you from the devil's grip."
Nigeria: On Saturday, January 7 a group of Muslim herdsmen invaded a predominantly Christian village, where they killed six police officers and four civilians, and destroyed houses and a police truck. According to the report"
"The Fulani are the largest nomadic people group in the world and are known for the high level of importance they assign to their cattle. They are predominantly Muslim and often carry out attacks in Nigeria in the name of Islam. However, Nigeria has refused to recognize them as a terrorist group."
Separately, because hundreds of Christians have been slaughtered by Muslim Fulani in recent weeks and months, the Christian Association of Nigeria designated Sunday, January 8, "as a national day of mourning for Christians killed by Muslim Fulani terrorists in southern Kaduna State," said a report. It described the killings as ethnic and religious cleansing by "Islamic fundamentalists disguising as Fulani herdsmen." This contradicts Nigerian President Buhari, a Muslim, who attributes Fulani violence against Christians to "poverty, injustice and the lack of job opportunities." Other analysts, especially in the West, cite climate change and desertification as factors. Christian leaders said Buhari's minimizing of the Fulani attacks "speaks volumes over perceived official endorsement of the dastardly and ungodly acts".
Uganda: On January 15, a Muslim mob consisting of nearly 100 men attacked a Christian church during a prayer meeting. They locked the congregation in, beat several male members with clubs and sticks, tied them up, and then raped 15 women. "Previously," notes the report, "Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation." During the attack, a Christian heard a Muslim yell, "Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity." Since two weeks after the attack, the pastor and eight other Christians remain missing.
Pakistan: Muhammad Din and three other Muslim men broke into a Christian household while the man of the house was out working and gang-raped his wife; while doing so they also demanded that she and her family to abandon their home, which is adjacent to the home of Muhammad Din. Before leaving, they set fire to the house; the Christian couples' four children managed to escape the flames, but the rape victim's elderly father could not get out in time and suffered burns. When they rushed the elderly "infidel" to a hospital, treatment was denied him. Since then, the 70-year-old "father of [the] victim of gang rape knocked [on] every door for justice to lodge report against Muslim rapists but due to their influence and contact in government none was ready to register case against them."
Separately, on New Year's Eve, an armed Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood, described as a "mission compound," in Sukkur; 10 Christians were injured. According to the report, "the attackers had tortured the elderly, women, children and men alike." Some of the assailants wore police uniforms. The reason behind the attack is apparently that the Muslims want to evict them from their homes and seize the land for themselves.
Somalia: A report makes clear why the Horn of Africa is now considered the second worst nation in which to be a Christian:
"[T]he mere suspicion [that a Somali has become Christian] leads to a rushed public beheading. Christians cannot raise their children according to their faith and would face severe problems if they attempted to celebrate Christian holidays. In a nutshell, to survive in the country Christians must pretend not to be Christians."
One international law analyst said that "killing Christian converts in Somalia has become very common" and "implied that the converts in North Korea are better off, even though the latter is the world's top Christian persecutor."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Germany: Muslim vandals devastated a Christian parish in the town of Brühl and wrote Islamic slogans on the walls. According to the report, "the vandals left a 'picture of devastation' [according to police statements], destroying glass panes, breaking doors and writing 'Islamist' slogans on the walls." Despite the Islamic nature of the slogans, police said they "do not assume" they are relevant to the motive for the attack.
Nigeria: According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, 900 Christian churches have been destroyed in 12 northern states that adopted Islamic law, in the early 2000s. In January, the government of one of those sharia-compliant states, Jigawa State, ordered two churches — the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Lord's Chosen Church — both of which had been operating for more than 25 years, to be bulldozed to the ground; 800 Christians were left without a place to worship. Because authorities did not give church leaders any notice, they were unable to save Bibles, valuables, and other personal possessions. According to the report, "Christians in Jigawa State are suffering increasing persecution and discrimination from their Muslim counterparts and local leaders," many of whom are "hell-bent on enforcing restrictive laws on Christians. These church demolitions are just one example in the bigger picture of systemic persecution in these regions."
Iraq: At least 100 places of worship, mostly Christian, with a few Yazidi temples, have been vandalized or completely demolished in the territories of Mosul and Nineveh Province since June 2014, when the Islamic State captured them, said a report. Locals told how ISIS set fire to the Church of the Immaculate Conception and beheaded its statues: "The jihadists used the church as a shooting range and the mannequins [statues] as targets. The mannequins are completely riddled [with bullets]." St George's Syriac Catholic Church was transformed into an improvised bomb factory; hundreds of bombs and grenades were found there, battle plans were written on church walls, and chemicals were found in the building together with instructions on how to mix them into explosives.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom: No to Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Evangelization
Uganda: At a New Year's celebration, Muslim relatives of Sandra, a 24-year-old former Muslim woman who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service, coerced her into taking poison. From her hospital bed, she shared her story:
"I had great peace when the pastor prayed for me to take Jesus as my savior.... I later shared my testimony with my brother, who outrightly accused me of being an infidel and an outcast from the family and the Muslim community. I felt great pain inside me because of the insults."
On the following day, Sunday, January 1, her immediate family and a few other relatives gathered together for a meal in the predominantly Muslim village. At one point, a paternal uncle read to her a Bible verse and suggested it meant God would protect her from harm, including illness from ingesting poison.
"He said, 'Do you believe that Issa [Jesus] is able to protect you from poison as written in the Bible?' and I answered 'Yes'.... Immediately I was forced to take the poison to confirm my faith in the Bible, at around midnight. I could not deny the Bible, so I took the rat poison.... I started having severe stomach pains together with vomiting and cried for help. I was taken away from the homestead to a nearby bush. I was tied with a rope to a tree and left to die."
Her desperate cries awoke a Christian neighbor who came to the scene, saw her condition, and rushed her to a local hospital where, last reported, she was in stable condition.
Separately, six Muslims ambushed and beat a church leader after a sheikh, who had been dispatched to assassinate the pastor and destroy his church, ended up converting to Christianity instead.
Algeria: Samir Chamek, a 34-year-old Christian man, was sentenced to one year in prison after a court found him "guilty of insulting Islam and its prophet over items he posted on his Facebook page." The sentencing follows a year-long legal battle. Judicial police were presented with pictures and comments on Chamek's Facebook page, which were described as "accusing the prophet Muhammad of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews."
Pakistan: As happens every month, several Christians were falsely accused of blasphemy by Muslims looking to "settle the score":
An evangelical Christian was arrested on charges of blasphemy and faces the death penalty. According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu desecrated the Koran by writing his name on some pages, tearing them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque. Although the Muslim admits he did not see the accused in the act, Babu — whom human rights activists say is "completely illiterate" — was nonetheless arrested. In a nation where the mere accusation that an infidel insulted Islam could get the non-Muslim killed by the mob, executed by the state or simply imprisoned, Babu's defenders wonder at the notion that he "is supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the evidence for everyone to see." Others say that he was disliked by the mosque because several members had stopped attending it and listening to the evangelist who is popular in his region.
An imam in Lambanwali accused an elderly Christian of writing and sending to him a series of "derogatory letters" in which he defamed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Once the blasphemy accusation was made, police promptly stormed the Christian's home in the night and arrested his entire family. Although the man denies the accusation — correctly pointing out that in Pakistan only someone with a death-wish would do what he is accused of doing — he "is likely to face an imprisonment of 10 years while there are assumptions that Section 295-C might be invoked in order to aggravate the punishment to death penalty," said the report.
A blasphemy case was registered against Shaan Taseer — son of Salman Taseer, a human rights activist and defender of persecuted Christians who was assassinated by Muslims — for saying "Merry Christmas."
Five Christian-rights activists were known for their public opposition to the country's blasphemy laws; all went missing the same week.
Iran: "The Iranian government strives to limit the exposure of the majority Muslim Farsi-speaking Iranians to Christianity by banning them from attending church services, especially during the Christmas season," said a report on the conditions of Christians in the Shia-majority nation.
"Such restrictions are in place to slow down the spread of Christianity in the country. In recent years, all churches were strictly banned from holding Farsi Bible study sessions and refrained from any form of evangelistic activities. The official figure for the number of Christians in Iran is 200,000 individuals and only those officially recognized as Christians are allowed to celebrate Christmas in official churches. All others, including Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed in churches."
Indonesia: A court decided to bar media coverage on the trial of the Chinese-Christian Governor of Jakartaka, known as Ahok. He is charged with insulting Islam and desecrating the Koran. The blasphemy controversy erupted when a video appeared online of Ahok saying that many Muslims misunderstand Koran 5:51 — which commands Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians. That a Christian would dare try to distort the Koran's call for hostility against Christians and Jews in order to boost his chances at reelection was deemed blasphemous enough to prompt mass riots and calls for his death in Indonesia.
In the same manner, less than one month after Yulius Suharto, a Christian man, was hired to be the sub-district chief of Pajangan, he was fired and relocated to a mostly non-Muslim region, "following a massive lobbying campaign launched on social media by Islamic extremist groups and radical Muslims who targeted him because he is Catholic.... Most officials welcomed the decision to remove the official because he was not Muslim."
Muslim Contempt for and Discrimination against Christians
Pakistan: Back in 2013, after Muslims accused a Christian man living in Joseph Colony of blasphemy against Muhammad, approximately 3,000 Muslims descended on the predominantly Christian neighborhood in Lahore. During the attack they set fire to more than 150 Christian homes, shops, and two churches, and displaced hundreds of Christians. In January 2017, an anti-terrorism court acquitted all 115 ringleaders of the attacks, leaving many Christians, including the victims, bereft of justice. One Christian leader said:
"It's a sheer disappointment. The message is clear for us. Those who attack minorities and openly preach hate can go scot-free. Perhaps the pictures and video footages clearly showing faces was not enough evidence."
Egypt: Prosecutors in Minya province dropped a case against ringleaders of a Muslim mob that stripped naked and paraded a 70-year-old Christian woman in the streets, before plundering and then torching the homes of seven Christian families. Eihab Ramzy, the lawyer of the victim said, "It's a calamity" and pointed out that "preliminary investigations heard testimonies supporting her account from family members and policemen at the scene." Meanwhile, the elderly woman, Souad Thabet, and her family are unable to return to their home due to ongoing Muslim threats. According to Thabet:
"The government is allowing the oppressors to walk free on the streets... This is our village that we were born and raised in.... How can we be the victims and not be able to return to our village and homes? I feel let down for a second time. I feel that nobody is standing by our side."
Kyrgyzstan: In late 2016, approximately 70 people were involved with a mob that dug up the body of a Christian twice and reburied it elsewhere without informing the family. They did so because the deceased "had been a practicing Christian in a village that was overwhelmingly Muslim, and local religious leaders restricted the cemetery to Muslims." In response, only three of the 70 went to trial for their actions and they all received suspended jail sentences.
Bangladesh: Although police manage to rescue some non-Muslim children from the notorious child-trafficking rings that proliferate in the Muslim-majority nation — four were rescued in January — the fate of many more children remains grim. According to the report:
"Over the past seven years, the Bangladeshi police has rescued 72 children from a crime ring led by religious fanatics... [T]he group targets underprivileged indigenous communities most of whose members are Christians, Hindus or Buddhists. The religious extremists belonging to these crime ring[s] entice parents with prospects of a better future for their children, which then end up in [Islamic] madrasas around the country to be forcefully converted to Islam.... The forced religious conversion of young children adds yet another facet to the already severe marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities in Southeast Bangladesh."
Germany: Thanks to dishonest Muslim translators, immigration officials are rejecting asylum applications from Muslim converts to Christianity from Iran and Afghanistan, during what one pastor characterized as "kangaroo court" hearings. Rev. Gottfried Martens accused the "almost exclusively Muslim translators" who "mocked and laughed at" Christian asylum seekers of deliberately mistranslating their responses to disqualify their applications.
"He also referred to attacks on Christian asylum seekers by radical Muslims, and criticised the Catholic Church and the Protestant EKD Church, which had opposed housing Christian and Muslim refugees separately because doing so might suggest religions could not coexist peacefully."
A spokesman for the disqualified Christians said:
"These Christians have either fled from their home countries because of their newfound faith and the persecution they had to face because of it, or have come to believe in Jesus Christ after fleeing to Germany. Sending them back to their countries of origin is completely irresponsible in view of the situation for Christian converts in places like Iran or Afghanistan, because it is truly a matter of life and death."
In Germany, thanks to dishonest Muslim translators, immigration officials are rejecting asylum applications from Muslim converts to Christianity from Iran and Afghanistan. Pictured: Hasan (left), a Yezidi refugee in Germany who was threatened by Muslims, speaks to a reporter from German public television about how a government-employed translator deliberately mistranslated his complaint and took the side of his attackers. (Image source: Bayerischer Rundfunk video screenshot)
United Kingdom: After Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth of St. Mary's Cathedral invited Muslims to recite the Koran during an Epiphany service, Madinah Javed, a law student from Glasgow went beyond reciting the passage in the service sheet to include verses that explicitly denied Jesus was God's son — a cardinal Christian doctrine that Islam rejects. Regardless, Holdsworth posted a video of the reading on Facebook and described it as "wonderful event." This prompted outrage from some Christians who emphatically called on Holdsworth to resign. The video was removed and police, who later issued the following statement, were called: "Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate crime and encourages all communities to continue working together to ensure no one feels threatened or marginalized."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
** Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Britain: March 2017
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 16/17
"Have you seen some of those ISIS propaganda videos, they are cut like action movies. Where is the counter narrative?" — Riz Ahmed, actor.
Britain's foreign aid budget is reportedly funding at least two dozen Palestinian schools, some of which are named after terrorists and murderers and which openly promote terrorism and encourage pupils to see child killers as role models.
An estimated 400 home-grown jihadis have returned to the United Kingdom after fighting in Syria, but only 54 of those have been prosecuted, according to a Mail on Sunday investigation, which also discovered that some returned jihadis are roaming free on the streets of Britain.
March 1. A new Channel 4 documentary series called "Extremely British Muslims" showed the inner workings of a sharia court inside Birmingham's Central Mosque. In the first episode, viewers witnessed the case of mother-of-four Fatima, 33, as she sought permission to divorce her drug dealer husband she says has abused her throughout their 14-year marriage. According to sharia law, Muslim women must plead their divorce cases in court, while Muslim men need only to say the words "I divorce you" three times to obtain a divorce. Birmingham Central Mosque said it allowed the sharia proceedings to be filmed in an effort to "break down misconceptions about Islam." Some 100 sharia courts in Britain are now dispensing Islamic justice outside the remit of the British legal system.
March 2. English actor Riz Ahmed warned that the lack of Muslim faces on British television was alienating young people, driving them towards extremism and into the arms of the Islamic State. Delivering Channel 4's annual diversity lecture in Parliament, Ahmed said that television had a pivotal role to play in ensuring that Muslims felt heard, and valued, in British society:
"If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism. In the mind of the ISIS recruit, he's the next James Bond right? Have you seen some of those ISIS propaganda videos, they are cut like action movies. Where is the counter narrative? Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories — that they are valued? If we don't step up and tell a representative story we are going to start losing British teenagers to the story that the next chapter in their lives is written with ISIS in Syria."
March 3. The Amateur Swimming Association changed its swimsuit regulations to allow Muslim women to wear full body outfits, after a request from the Muslim Women's Sport Foundation. The rule was changed to encourage more Muslim women to take part in the sport. Rimla Akhtar, from the Muslim Women's Sport Foundation, said:
"Participation in sport amongst Muslim women is increasing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that governing bodies adapt and tailor their offerings to suit the changing landscape of sport, including those who access their sport."
March 4. Ryan Counsell, 28, a jihadist from Nottingham who left his wife and two small children to fight with the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group in the Philippines, blamed his behavior on the Brexit vote. He told the Woolwich Crown Court that increased tension within the local Muslim community after Brexit sparked his decision to leave. He said that he wanted to escape Britain's political climate and seek an "idyllic life" under sharia law. He was arrested at Stansted airport in July 2016 and was later sentenced to eight years in prison.
March 5. Homegrown terrorism inspired by the Islamic State poses the dominant threat to the national security of the United Kingdom, according to a comprehensive new report on violent Islamism in Britain. The 1,000-page report — "Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of Offenses and Attacks in the UK (1998–2015)" — was published by the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank based in London.
The report found that number of Islamism-related offenses (IROs) in Britain doubled between 2011 and 2015 from 12 to 23 a year. More than half (52%) of IROs were committed by individuals of South Asian ancestry: British-Pakistanis (25%) and British-Bangladeshis (8%). Other offenders had family ties to countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Forty-seven percent of IROs were committed by individuals born in the UK.
The also report showed a clear link between terrorism and growing up in Muslim-dominated neighborhoods. London was the place of residence of 43% of IROs, followed by West Midlands, with 18%. Of the latter, 80% of IROs were in Birmingham. The third most common region was North West England, with 10% of IROs. Together, these three regions contained the residences in almost three-quarters (72%) of cases. East London was home to half (50%) the London-based offenders, while the three most common boroughs — Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest — contained the residence of offenders' in 38% of all London IROs (and 16% overall).
March 6. British security services have prevented 13 potential terror attacks since June 2013, according to Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the UK's most senior counter-terrorism police officer. He also said that there were 500 live counter-terror investigations at any given time, and that investigators have been arresting terror suspects at a rate of close to one a day since 2014. The official threat level for international terrorism in the UK has stood at severe — meaning an attack is "highly likely" — for more than two years.
March 7. The National Health Service (NHS) revealed that there were 2,332 new cases of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Britain between October and December 2016. That brought the total of new cases in 2016 to nearly 5,500.
March 7. The managers of the cash-strapped Sandwell General Hospital near Birmingham are considering the construction of a special kitchen for preparing halal meals for Muslim patients and staff. The move follows complaints about the quality of halal meals that the hospital has outsourced to local vendors. A spokesman said: "We are still reviewing options around creating a separate halal kitchen and the best ways to provide a range of healthy halal options to patients and staff who want them."
March 10. The BBC announced that it would begin outsourcing production of Songs of Praise, a Sunday worship program that has been produced in-house for 55 years. Critics of the move said they feared that Songs of Praise will lose its Christian focus in favor of Islam. Anglican priest Lynda Rose said a recent Songs of Praise episode featuring a segment about the Muslim faith, including Church of England children visiting a mosque, exemplified the "Islamization of the BBC." More than 6,000 people have signed an online petition calling for MPs to investigate the BBC after it appointed Fatima Salaria as the BBC's head of religious programming — the second Muslim in a row to hold the post.
March 11. Britain's foreign aid budget is reportedly funding at least two dozen Palestinian schools, some of which are named after terrorists and murderers and which openly promote terrorism and encourage pupils to see child killers as role models. A Mail on Sunday investigation found pictures of "martyrs" posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols painted on premises used by youngsters, sports events named after teenage terrorists and children encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays.
Head teachers openly admitted to flouting attempts by British and European donors to control the curriculum at schools. They reportedly print overtly political study aids for pupils, some even denying the existence of Israel, while teachers boast of encouraging pupils to emulate teenage "martyrs" killed in terrorist attacks in the region.
One senior teacher from a prominent West Bank school, when asked what he would say to a pupil threatening to attack Israelis, said: "I would tell them go in the name of Allah."
March 11. Islamic preachers may be asked to begin delivering their sermons in English under measures being prepared to rid Britain of hate preaching. The Telegraph reported that the government's counter-extremism taskforce is working on the plans amid concern that preaching in foreign languages enforces divisions between Islam and mainstream British society and can foster radicalization.
March 12. An Islamic bookstore in Alum Rock, a predominately Muslim suburb of Birmingham that has produced 10% of all of Britain's convicted terrorists, was found to be openly selling books promoting jihad. The Sunday Express visited the Madina Book Centre and bought a copy of the 440-page "Bringing up Children in Islam" for £5 ($6). The book encourages parents to "keep alive in the children the spirit of jihad." It says:
"They [your children] may be inspired to strive for the restoration of the glory of Islam and Muslims. Jihad of warfare is where all humans spend their energies to stop a tyrant from being oppressive, for example when a tyrant makes it difficult for people to fulfill the commands of Allah to propagate Islam.
"Tyrants must be subdued whether they rule in an Islamic or non-Islamic land, or whether they are on a battlefield.
"It is the duty of Muslims to divert people from worshipping created things to the worship of the Almighty Allah alone."
The book also rails against cinema and theater, arguing they are the work of "evil-minded" Jews, and warns of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. The book supports adulterers being stoned to death and Muslim schoolchildren being kept separate from others: "Education under unbelieving and atheist teachers results in them going astray. Dangerous, communistic and materialistic ideas grow in their minds."
March 14. A father who describes himself as "Anglo-Saxon" lost a legal battle to prevent his Muslim ex-wife from sending their 10-year-old son to an Islamic secondary school. The man, who was not named for legal reasons, said he wanted to prevent his son from attending a "school inside a mosque" on the grounds that he would be "marginalized" by his son if he enrolled at the London-based school. The man's lawyer said that the mother and father had "different world views" and that it was client's wish that his son be educated in a "neutral" environment. The man and his ex-wife, both in their 40s, had divorced more than three years ago following a nine-year marriage. The man had converted to Islam but renounced his faith following the separation. The lawyer argued that the boy's Muslim faith could be adequately catered for at a secular school. A High Court judge dismissed the man's appeal on the grounds that an earlier ruling made by a judge at a family court — that the man would not be marginalized by his son — was correct.
March 15. Lawyers warned that a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which allows employers to ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves at work under certain conditions, will not automatically apply in Britain. The ECJ ruled that prohibiting the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination. The judgment was delivered in cases brought by two employees, one in Belgium and one in France, who were dismissed for refusing to remove headscarves. Lawyers said that British companies adopting the ban could easily be sued for discrimination. The Muslim Council of Britain, the country's largest Islamic organization, condemned the ruling:
"At a time when populism and bigotry are at an all-time high, we fear that this ruling will serve as a green light to those wishing to normalize discrimination against faith communities. Many will be worried that this action will prevent Muslim women who choose to wear the scarf from securing jobs. And it sends a message that we cannot accept a plural society that recognizes and celebrates religious differences."
Prime Minister Theresa May said that the government should not tell women what to wear:
"We have a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression, and it is the right of all women to choose how they dress and we don't intend to legislate on this issue. There will be times when it is right for a veil to be asked to be removed, such as border security or perhaps in courts, and individual institutions can make their own policies, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and can't wear."
March 17. The former owners of a bookstore in Bradford apologized after copies of the Koran and other Islamic literature were found in a garbage dumpster outside the store. Police were called to the store after a group of Muslim males began shouting at and abusing staff. The imbroglio began after the bookstore's 80-year-old owner decided to close down his business, and the new owners gave him a month to move out the stock, which included a number of Korans and other Islamic books. A spokesman for the bookstore said:
"It has come to our attention that some Islamic materials were found in a skip [garbage dumpster] next to Book Centre. While the Book Centre site is being cleared, no Islamic material of any sort was purposefully disposed of. A small workforce was instructed to clear two storerooms from which some material made its way into the skip. This is wrong, unacceptable and a genuine mistake. The skip will be looked at as a matter of urgency and any materials removed."
A spokesman for Baker Reign Solicitors, which represents the new owners, said:
"Should our client have been aware that the previous owner would have sought to dispose of the Holy Koran and other books in this manner, they would have assisted in distributing the books to various mosques throughout the city.
"Our client now hopes that the previous owner takes a more responsible course of action by distributing the books to those less fortunate and in need of Islamic guidance."
March 17. Zameer Ghumra, a 37-year-old Leicester pharmacist accused of showing a beheading video to two young children, was released on bail until his trial begins at Nottingham Crown Court on September 25. He has been charged with distributing terrorist publications under section two of the Terrorism Act 2006.
March 18. The BBC apologized after a tweet from the BBC Asian Network account asked, "What is the right punishment for blasphemy?" The tweet provoked criticism that the BBC appeared to be endorsing harsh restrictions on speech. In an apology posted on Twitter, the network said it had intended to debate concerns about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan. "We never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished," it said.
On March 18, the British taxpayer-funded BBC Asian Network account asked, "What is the right punishment for blasphemy?"
March 19. A British jihadist reportedly used social welfare payments to move his family to Syria to join the Islamic State. Shahan Choudhury, 30, who was radicalized at Belmarsh Prison while serving an 18-month sentence for allegedly stabbing to death a 17-year-old hospital worker over an alleged £15 ($18) drug debt, vanished from his apartment in London and has since used social media to urge other British Muslims to carry out terror attacks in the UK.
March 20. Mohammed Karamat, 45, an imam at a mosque in Coventry who assaulted four children as young as nine, was spared jail time. Magistrates watched footage of Karamat twisting a child's arm, slapping a child, and using a pen to stab a child and pricking a child's hand with the lid of a pen. He was filmed attacking the children during a six-day period. Karamat, who admitted to four counts of assault by beating, was ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.
March 21. Minister for Higher Education, Jo Johnson, ordered British universities to include a clear commitment to freedom of speech in their governance documents to counter the culture of censorship and so-called safe spaces. In a letter, Johnson wrote that it was the "legal duty" of universities to ensure as far as practicable that freedom of speech is secured for "members, students, employees and visiting speakers." This meant that all university premises should not be "denied to any individual or body on any grounds connected with their beliefs or views, policy or objective."
March 22. Khalid Masood, 52, drove a car at pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge and, armed with two knives, stormed the parliamentary estate. He killed five people and injured more than 50 before he was shot dead by police. Masood, a convert to Islam, was born in Kent as Adrian Elms. During his school years, he used his stepfather's surname, Adrian Russell Ajao. A former English tutor, he was unemployed at the time of the attack and had been living on social welfare benefits. Masood, who had a history of criminality — he had previous convictions for assaults, including grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and public order offences — was reportedly radicalized in prison.
March 23. A total of 29 people were charged after girls as young as 11 were raped and sexually abused in Huddersfield. West Yorkshire Police said the 27 men and two women men face numerous offences including rape, trafficking with intent to engage in sexual exploitation, sexual activity with a child, child neglect, child abduction, supply of Class A drugs and the possession and making of indecent images of children. They are accused of committing the crimes against 18 girls in Huddersfield when they were aged between 11 and 17, between 2004 and 2011.
March 23. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Westminster attack. "The perpetrator of the attacks yesterday in front of the British parliament in London is an Islamic State soldier and he carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of the coalition," the group's Amaq news agency said in a statement.
March 23. Prime Minister Theresa May said that it would be "wrong" to describe the jihadist attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament as "Islamic terrorism." Instead, she said, it should be referred to as "Islamist terrorism" and "a perversion of a great faith."
March 25. Mark Ashdown, a childhood friend of Westminster terrorist Khalid Masood, described how Masood had completely changed after prison, where he converted to Islam. Ashdown said:
"When he first came out he told me he'd become a Muslim in prison and I thought he was joking. Then I saw he was quieter and much more serious. I gave him some cash-in-hand work for a few months as a laborer. He said he needed time to pray and read the Koran — something about finding inner peace. I heard he'd split from his partner and got even more deeply into religion."
March 25. Police investigating the Westminster attack concluded that Khalid Masood acted entirely alone for reasons that may never be known. "We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this," deputy assistant Metropolitan police commissioner Neil Basu said. "That understanding may have died with him." Meanwhile, British security services reportedly do not like the term "lone wolf" because they feel it glamorizes an attacker. They prefer using "lone actor" instead.
March 25. An estimated 400 home-grown jihadis have returned to the United Kingdom after fighting in Syria, but only 54 of those have been prosecuted, according to a Mail on Sunday investigation, which also discovered that some returned jihadis are roaming free on the streets of Britain.
March 28. Kevin Lane, a convicted murderer who spent 20 years in British prisons, including HMP Woodhill and HMP Frankland, told the BBC that he saw many inmates pressured to convert to Islam and carry out attacks on other prisoners. "I have seen many attacks within the prison system," he said. "One man boiled fat and poured it over someone's head because of an insult to Islam." A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: "The allegations put forward by the former prisoner are historic."
March 29. The BBC tried to downplay Westminster attacker Khalid Masood's ties to radical Islam by airing an interview with a former employer of Massood. The man, identified only as Farasat, was a manager at an English language school where Massood worked between 2010 and 2012: The interview follows:
Q: Who was the man that you knew?
A: As a teacher, a very professional man. He was an excellent teacher. He got on well with his non-Muslim colleagues. A very friendly, stable kind of guy, really. He was not interested in the politicized version of Islam. He had no contact with any of the extremist groups. He was more a practicing Muslim who was committed to his faith, committed to his family and was focused on his career. I don't think he was influenced by extremist groups at all.... In fact, I'd go as far to say that he was the antithesis of a violent radical.
Masood was, in fact, known to police and security services and had once been investigated by MI5 over concerns about violent extremism.
March 30. Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner Craig Mackey said there was a slight increase in "Islamophobic incidents" following the Westminster terror attack. Breitbart London reported: "The statement which New Scotland Yard sent along with its figures suggests the rise may not be due to a genuine increase in Islamophobia, but could instead be due to a 'community engagement plan' which sees the authorities actively encourage Muslims to come forward with allegations following what they describe as 'trigger events.'" The Met, the police service for the Greater London area, now employs 900 specialists focused on monitoring so-called Islamophobia.
March 31. A new biography of Prince Charles revealed that the heir to the British throne tried to halt the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to "honor" Ramadan. He made the plea in an "urgent call" to William Farish, the American ambassador to London, four weeks into the huge military operation launched after the 9/11 terror attacks. Farish recalled: "Prince Charles asked me if it would be possible to stop the invasion to honor Ramadan, and if I could convey that request to President Bush." The ambassador replied that it would be difficult to halt a military invasion already in full swing, but the prince allegedly protested: "But Americans can do anything!" Farish asked: "Sir, are you really serious?" Prince Charles replied: "Yes I am."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
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General Asiri exposes Iranian plot to strike Saudi Arabia from Yemen
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News Channel – Dubai Sunday, 16 April 2017
In an interview with Al Arabiya General Manager Turki Aldakhil this week, General Ahmed Asiri, the spokesman for Arab coalition forces fighting in support of the legitimate government in Yemen, revealed the existence of an “Iranian plot to strike the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.”
This plot would have been initiated from the Yemeni border, which prompted Saudi forces to move to protect the kingdom’s territory, Asiri said, referring to the military intervention launched by Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab countries in 2015 codenamed Operation Decisive Storm.
The coalition are battling against Houthi militias and bolstering Yemeni government forces after a Houthi takeover of the capital Sanaa and surrounding areas in recent years.
Asiri said that Iran had aimed to employ “local militias to implement their scheme.”
The emergence of Iranians in Yemen came about through Tehran’s “support of Houthi militias with funding and weaponry in the six wars [that former President Ali Abdullah Saleh fought against them since 2004 until his overthrow in June 2011].”
Despite frequent Houthi and Iranian military disclosures and the confirmed use of Iranian weaponry, Tehran officially denies claims from Gulf states and the US that it is supporting the Houthis.
Asiri said Saudi intelligence had found that “Houthi fighters are bankrolled $100 per day” by Iranian sources.
He also said that reports of “a Hezbollah training presence in Yemen to discipline Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia and carry out suicide operations inside the kingdom” also emerged from the intelligence.Confronting the Iranian plot
Asiri, who is also an advisor to the Saudi defense minister, said that Saudi forces “did not need to wait for Yemen to become another missile base that threatens the security and safety of Saudi Arabia, as the Iranians planned to do, to turn Yemen into a military base, from which they could attack the kingdom.”
He added that the Yemeni border region would have eventually become “unstable,” and provide opportunities for “agents to infiltrate into Saudi Arabia.”
Saudi Arabia has been attacked with 48 ballistic missiles since the war broke out, Asiri said, adding: “The total number of rockets fired by the militias at the kingdom or inside Yemen amount to 138.”It is believed that the missiles are manufactured in North Korea, China and former Soviet Union states. Iran takes care of the operation, preparation and maintenance of missiles, he said.
“The most dangerous thing is that those in control of these weapons are militias who are non-state actors. When a weapon is used, the state is responsible before international law and the United Nations, but the existence of a militia that is not recognized, in non-controlled areas with high-tech weapons is a very dangerous matter.”
Asiri said that if Iran was to rule in Yemen, “Saudi air defense capability would be dispersed across two fronts, an eastern and southern front.
The coalition’s strategy towards civilians
“The coalition’s course of action consisted of two options; either a conventional air campaign, followed by a comprehensive ground operation on all Yemeni territory with forces entering Yemen and occupying all areas. But this approach would have proven costly,” Asiri said.
“It did not happen for several reasons: First, there would have been be a large deployment of ground forces which would have resulted in a large number of civilian and military casualties. One of the objectives of the coalition is to rid Yemeni civilians of the Houthi rebel presence in their daily lives.”
He added: “There are around 100,000 Saudi forces stationed on the border that could have occupied Yemen in a few days, but we wanted to support legitimacy in Yemen with the least possible losses on both sides. We are like a technical team in a hostage situation.”
A Yemeni man carrying his daughter looks at a building destroyed during fighting against Houthi fighters in the port city of Aden. (File photo: AP)
Asiri said that the coalition forces preferred to go with a more patient and drawn-out approach because “it puts the militias under pressure.”
Today, two years into the war, the Houthis are deprived from accessing material supplies and weaponry. They have lost a large number of their trained fighters and leaders. Many observers believe that time is on the side of the Arab coalition forces.
Length of the war
When asked why the war has lasted for two years so far, Asiri said: “Talk of a military victory shows a lack of understanding of the reality of the operation in Yemen. There are coalition forces with a mission to support the legitimate government, so the quest for a victory for them is nonexistent.”
“We are looking to accomplish three goals,” he said, “First, to preserve the Yemeni state, secondly, to reduce the dangers to Yemeni citizens and thirdly to protect the Saudi borders. We have been able to accomplish a significant part of our objectives.”
Asiri: Egyptian President offered to send up to 40,000 soldiers to Yemen
Asiri emphasized that the legitimate government is now currently operating in Aden, where “life is back to normal.” He said that the government now controls about 85 percent of Yemeni territory.
Achievements of the coalition
“Within six months, the government regained 45 percent of Yemeni territory,” Asiri said, tallying the timeline of the coalition’s achievements.
Twelve months after the start of Operation Decisive Storm, 65 percent of Yemeni territory became under the control of the legitimate government. Eighteen months later, the number grew to 75 percent, he added.
The retreat of al-Qaeda
While some claim that the operations of the coalition forces enhanced al-Qaeda’s influence on the territory of Yemen, Asiri said that Mukalla, a seaport and the capital city of Yemen’s Hadramawt governorate, had been freed from the reign of al-Qaeda and is under the control of the legitimate government.
Protection of the Saudi border
Asiri presented in his interview a number of statistics, indicating that the number of the cross-border infiltrators before the Operation Decisive Storm was recorded at around 18,651 infiltrators per month. The number has dropped by 86 percent, amounting to around 2,619 infiltrators per month. MORE HERE
Asiri: This is why we are winning the Yemen war
Houthi attacks on border controls were carried out at a rate of six to 10 operations per month at the beginning of the operation; it is now down by 90 percent, with around one operation recorded per month.
Turki Aldakhil’s full interview with General Ahmed Asiri was broadcast on Al Arabiya News Channel on Sunday evening April 16, at 7 p.m. Makkah time.

Has Marine Le Pen really exorcised her party of its demons?

Nabila Ramdani/Al Arabiya/April 16/17
As the most bizarre presidential election in recent French history heads towards a conclusion, the alleged financial crimes of two of the favourites continue to dominate the campaign.
Both François Fillon, of the conservative Républicains, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-Right Front National (FN), face trial and imprisonment for swindling money out of taxpayers through setting up fake jobs.
Mr Fillon’s British-born wife, Penelope Fillon, is said to have received more than one million euros for doing next to nothing as both a parliamentary assistant and a literary consultant.
Ms Le Pen, meanwhile, is accused of masterminding a system of fictional but extremely lucrative posts in the European Parliament for FN staff.
Neither candidate likes to mention these facts, and both deny any wrongdoing, but the prospect of an indicted criminal suspect becoming head of state in May is naturally one that causes absolute astonishment, and indeed outrage.
Anyone who is prepared to accept Marine Le Pen’s claim that she has exorcised the party of its demons should bear this in mind when they enter the ballot booth later this month.
What is less well publicised, however, is how France is on the verge of seeing a fascist with close links to neo-Nazis getting through to the second round of the election.
We are allowed to call Marin Le Pen a fascist thanks to two legal rulings. The first followed Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Left wing presidential candidate, saying: “Why do you think that the French people would be the only people to want a fascist as leader?” A Paris court firmly rejected a complaint by Ms Le Pen about this comment in February, arguing that Mr Mélenchon was perfectly entitled to such an opinion.
In 2015, judges in the French capital decided that the comedian Nicolas Bedos even had the right to call Ms Le Pen a “fascist bitch”. Harsh language, but these verdicts were certainly not just about semantics. Just 73 years after Paris was under Nazi control, and the French were assisting in the mass murder of civilians, some voters are contemplating installing a woman in the Élysée Palace whose friends and family number Holocaust deniers and Hitler aficionados.
Only last month, a key Le Pen lieutenant was exposed by a hidden camera questioning the figures for Jews who died in Nazi death camps, and who stocked Third Reich and negationist literature in his bookshop in Nice. Benoît Loeuillet, head of the FN in the Riviera city and a regional councillor, was immediately suspended from these positions, but recent investigations show that his views are frighteningly common among Le Pen’s inner circle.
The Nazi salute
“Marine Knows All About It…”, a new book by journalists Mathias Destal and Marine Turchi frames the problem. It includes a French intelligence report about Frédéric Chatillon, a Le Pen communications advisor and one of her oldest friends, making a Nazi salute. Chatillon distributed posters calling the desecration of a Jewish cemetery a “frame-up” and was a regular visitor to Léon Degrelle, the late Belgian Nazi collaborator and Waffen SS veteran, in the 1990s.
This was around the same time that Ms Le Pen herself was pictured with Franz Schönhuber, also a former SS officer who helped to found Germany’s fiercely anti-immigrant Republicans party.
Denis Le Moal, a former political ally of both Le Pen and Chatillon, told how Chatillon organised a dinner to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday every April 20th. At one point Chatillon kissed a painting of the dictator, saying: “My beloved Führer, he is magnificent”, according to the book by Destal and Turchi.
A documentary produced by the France 2 TV channel also revealed how Chatillon and his cronies “joked” about Auschwitz. They said the German concentration camp had plenty of facilities beyond gas chambers, including football pitches and swimming pools, and that not enough Jews perished there. It was also disclosed that Le Pen’s friends were obsessed with the swastika, and referred to Hitler affectionately as “Uncle”.
As recently as 2011, Le Pen’s confidante and FN councillor Alex Lousteau was also photographed giving a Nazi salute, although he claimed he was just paying tribute to guests who turned up at his 40th birthday party.
Ms Le Pen refutes any associations with Nazis, and even insists she has cut all ties with her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the convicted racist, anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. What she does not advertise is that Le Pen senior remains Honorary President of the FN, and is indeed funding her presidential campaign to the tune of 6 million euros through Cotelec, a company he owns.
Hatred of ‘foreigners’
Those of us who have attended recent Le Pen rallies can testify that her hateful attitude towards “foreigners” (a catch all euphemism that apparently includes most ethnic and religious minorities, and especially Muslims) is every bit as vitriolic as that of her father’s, who founded the FN in the 1970s and led it for decades.
Last weekend she caused fury by denying France’s responsibility in the so-called Vel’ d’Hiv’ – a notorious round up of 13,152 Jews by Paris police in 1942 before most were deported to Germany to be exterminated. This kind of horrendous historical revisionism was just the type that got Jean-Marie Le Pen his criminal convictions.
He infamously got through to the second round of the 2002 presidential elections, and it seems that Marine Le Pen may be about to repeat the feat. This will mean millions of French voters once again ignoring the terrifying reality of the FN.
Allegations of financial corruption are deplorable, but they fade into insignificance compared to praising and adhering to one of the darkest ideologies in world history. Anyone who is prepared to accept Marine Le Pen’s claim that she has exorcised the party of its demons should bear this in mind when they enter the ballot booth later this month.