Extra! Putin Plays Nice In Italy

Corriere della Sera, June 10, 2015

Hot on the heels of the recent â€" and Russia-less â€" G7 meeting in Germany, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Italy on Wednesday, highlighting the way that business ties could be a way out of Moscow's standoff with the West.

In an interview published Wednesday in Corriere della Sera newspaper, Putin sought to reassure his European adversaries: ""I'm not an aggressor," he told the Milan daily. "I want a pact with Europe."

To mark Russia's national day, Putin toured the Russian pavilion at Milan's Expo 2015 with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Putin said in the interview that he considers Russia to have a "privileged" relationship with Italy.

The Russian president's trip includes a stop in Rome, where he will meet Pope Francis, and maybe even his old friend and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Seeking to end Moscow's international isolation, Putin brought along an entourage of Russian business leaders to discuss commercial deals with Italian counterparts. He also urged Russian involvement in several geopolitical issues, including the UN peace plan for Libya.

ABOUT THE SOURCE: Corriere della Sera ("The Evening Newspaper") is a leading Italian daily distributed every morning. It was founded in Milan in 1876 and is owned by RCS MediaGroup.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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