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Seven antiwar activists remain on a hunger strike in front of the Farnesina, the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, to protest censorship. Leonardo Mazzei, 49, employed by national electric company and spokesman for the Italian “Free Iraq” Committee; Anika Persiani, 31, active in the “Free Iraq” Committee; Lara Wintzer, 21, active in the “Free Iraq” Committee in Germany; Ilia Montani, 20, philosophy student and activist in the Umbria Student Movement; Jörg Ulrich, 38, student and former PKK militant of the “Free Iraq” Committee in Germany; Roberto Gabriele, 66, of the international Foundation “Nino Pasti” of Rome; and Emanuele Fanesi, student-worker in Perugia active in the “Anti-Imperialist Camp” have been on strike since August 31 to protest the refusal of the Foreign Affairs Minister of Italy, Gianfranco Fini, to grant visas for six prominent Iraqi anti-occupation activists to attend the “Leave Iraq in peace – support the legitimate resistance of the Iraq people” conference in Chianciano, Italy. The condition of the strikers remains stable as they enter their 3rd week without sustenance, prominently displaying a banner in Italian that reads “We want to see the visas”.
Among those denied a visa is Haj Ali, a survivor of the events at Abu Ghraib. The photo of him hooded and attached to electrodes as he stood on a box above a wet floor is one of the most horrific images of the torture and humiliation committed against Iraqis under the American occupation. After his horrendous experience, he founded in the “Iraqi Association of the Victims of American Occupation Prisons”. Haj Ali represents one of many voices that Gianfranco Fini wants to prevent being heard by members of the world anti-war movement, accusing him of “spreading hate”.
The conference organized by the Anti-Imperialist Camp, a coalition of left organizations in Europe, will bring together anti-war activists from Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East on October 1-2. Through this gathering they hope “to strengthen the unity between the peoples who are struggling for national self-determination and the working people in the West who suffer under the yoke of their own governments that are engaged in foreign adventures of war and plunder”.
Speakers include Ben Bella, former President and Prime Minister of Algeria and Jan Myrdal, Swedish author of “From anti-globalization to anti-imperialism”. Other activists that will address the gathering are journalist Haluk Gerger of the Turkish Human Rights Association; Ahmed Saadat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Sheikh Jawad al Khalesi, leader of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress , who supported the boycott of the recent Iraqi elections; and Sheikh Hassan al Zargani, international spokesman of the movement of Muqtada al Sadr.
The refusal of visas is only one part of a larger attempt by pro-was forces within Italy and the United States to shut down the conference and slander the Anti-imperialist Camp. On June 28, 44 members of the US Congress wrote a letter to the Italian Ambassador, Sergio Vento, stating “concern” that “supporters of terrorist activity are planning to meet on Italian soil to plan a campaign of financial aid for terrorism”.
In spite of these attempts, the strikers and the conference have received an outpouring of support from around the world. A protest letter to Foreign Minister Fini has been signed on to by hundreds of people including influential activists, intellectuals, writers and members of religious communities. Sit-ins have also taken place in front of various foreign capitals in the last several days together with a protest in front of the Italian embassy in Damascus against the refusal of visas.
KATRINA YEAW is a member of Students Against War, a chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network, at San Francisco State University. She is currently studying in Florence and can be reached at Katrina.firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005