March 27, 2012
OSLO - Geir Lippestad will definitely cause some controversy with the approach he plans to take in the upcoming trial of Anders Breivik, Norway's infamous extreme-right terrorist. For starters, Lippestad, Breivik's defense attorney, intends to place Mullah Krekar -- an Islamist extremist from Kurdish Iraq who has been living in Norway since 1991-- on the witness stand.
In an interview with Le Monde, Lippestad outlined his strategy for this exceptional trial, which is scheduled to begin April 16, less than eight months after the double attack on July 22, 2011, in which 77 people died. The majority of the victims were attending a summer camp hosted by the youth wing of the governing Social Democratic party.
This trial has seriously challenged Lippestad's beliefs as both a support of the Social Democrats and a father of eight children. "I feel I have lost my soul in this case," he said. "I hope to get it back once all this is over, and that it will be in the same state as before."
Unlike all of Lippestad's previous clients, Anders Breivik is not afraid of being found guilty. The possibility of receiving Norway's maximum penalty (21 years in prison) doesn't scare him – on the contrary, he wants it.
"This trial is unique, just like the dreadful acts that will be judged," said Lippestad. "We have to think differently. In the majority of trials, you have a defendant who denies the facts or who says he didn't intend to do what he did. Here you have someone who recognizes the facts, who takes responsibility for them, and who says he would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose."
"He doesn't intend to run away from his responsibilities," the attorney added. "Quite the opposite, he wants to be found sane and accountable for his actions."
Not so paranoid after all
Lippestad initially based his defense on his client's poor mental health. The first two psychiatrists who examined Breivik declared him insane. But in the end, the lawyer decided to follow his client's wishes.
The idea that Breivik could be declared not criminally responsible and therefore escape a prison sentence had distressed a large part of the Norwegian population. A second team of psychiatrists has been appointed to evaluate him. They are expected to present their conclusions on April 10. Even if these psychiatrists confirm the first team's findings, Breivik's lawyer won't change anything about his client's defense.
"It is about showing that his beliefs and way of thinking are common," said Lippestad. "He is not as unique, as paranoid or schizophrenic as the experts say."
Lippestad is counting on exposing discrepancies in the expert opinions. "What we see is that there is a gap between what the human sciences say on extremism, and what doctors and psychiatrists know." In Lippestad's opinion, many of those who share Breivik's ideas are classified as extremists, not psychotic. Why, therefore, should he be considered insane?
"We will place people from extremist backgrounds on the witness stand to explain their thought process in order to establish that there are others who, without going as far as to commit the crime, share the same ideology and way of thinking," said Lippestad. "What we want to show is that we are dealing with an ideology and that he is not the only person to stand behind those beliefs; that he is not a psychotic living in a separate world."
A controversial star witness
By summoning Mullah Krekar to testify --potentially alongside other Islamists-- Lippestad wants to show that "Islamists also believe that Europe is the setting for a war of religion and that it is not just a delusion that Breivik has imagined."
Krekar, real name Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin and often called the "most controversial refugee in Norway," used to be the leader of Ansar Al-Islam, a small Islamist group from Iraqi Kurdistan that carried out several attacks there. In a book published in Norway in 2004, Krekar admitted to having met Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in about 1990 in the hope of receiving some financial help for his guerrilla group. He left the meeting empty handed.
The lawyer intends to place the Norwegian blogger "Fjordman," believed to be Breivik's main inspiration, on the witness stand as well. Breivik cites Fjordman in his 1,500-page manifesto, which he distributed on the Internet just before the attacks.
It is Breivik himself who is orchestrating the strategy defended by Lippestad. While waiting for his trial, he is doing lots of exercise. He also has access to a work cell equipped with a computer. "He doesn't have Internet access, but he can write, and he is preparing a speech that he intends to read during the trial," said Lippestad.
The defendant receives letters, watches television and reads the newspapers. "He writes letters to five or six people whom he considers to be his ideological brothers and sisters, in Norway and abroad," the attorney explained.
"His motivation for carrying out these monstrosities was to distribute his manifesto," Lippestad added. "Breivik believes that the revolution will start in France or England because, according to him, multiculturalism is very conflicting there."
Read more from Le Monde in French.
Photo - AleWi
This leading French daily newspaper Le Monde ("The World") was founded in December 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is distributed in 120 countries. In late 2010, a trio formed by Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse took a controlling 64.5% stake in the newspaper.
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Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
October 16, 2021
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.
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