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The illegal surveillance of Catalans should worry all Europeans | European Union

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Earlier this month, a joint investigation by El Pais and The Guardian revealed that the mobile phone of the president of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent, and those of several other pro-independence politicians have been targeted with Pegasus – a spy programme developed by an Israeli company named NSO, which can only be purchased by governments and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and “terrorism”. 

While the investigation did not prove the Spanish government’s involvement in the apparent political espionage plot, a former NSO Group employee who spoke to Vice on condition of anonymity said Spain has been a client of the company since 2015. 

The revelation caused anger among Catalan politicians and activists, but it did not surprise anyone who is familiar with the Spanish state’s surveillance activities. Indeed, Madrid has long been accused of illegally spying on Catalan activists and politicians not only in the country, but throughout Europe. 

Last year, on August 11, the Swiss newspaper Blick reported that Spain has been spying on Catalans living in the country and monitoring their activities – as well as the activities of the Catalan representation in the country. The news that the Spanish secret service, the CNI, has been conducting illegal surveillance activities in the country angered both Catalan and Swiss politicians.

A month earlier, documents obtained by the Spanish daily El Diario had already revealed an extensive Spanish espionage scheme targeting the Catalan government employees working in diplomatic missions in the UK, Switzerland and Germany. 

After the scandal surfaced, British member of Parliament Hywel Williams told the House of Commons the Spanish government secretly surveilled the activities of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia (APPG) which he presides. During his address, members of Parliament in the background shouted “shame, shame” to protest Madrid’s alleged illegal activities. 

Around the same time, British press reported that Spain has also spied on the activities of Scottish members of Parliament and officials from the Scottish National Party in an attempt to prevent the Catalan government from “getting closer” to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

The allegations did not come as a shock to Catalan activists working in the UK who had long been accustomed to using encrypted communication methods and paying extra attention to new, unknown faces attending their meetings to prevent the Spanish state from spying on their activities.

Members of ANC-England, the UK branch of a pro-independence Catalan non-profit organisation, told me they have known about Spain’s espionage activities in the UK since last January. An ANC-England member who talked to me on condition of anonymity said while they do not know the extent of the surveillance operation directed at their organisation, they do know that a debate organised by the APPG at the British parliament and attended by members of the Catalan parliament and other Catalan activists has been spied on by Spanish agents. 

“We suspect this was not the only event to which Spanish embassy sent informants to report back,” they added. 

I also talked to political scientist Janne Riitakorpi, the leader of the well-known Catalan pro-sovereignty movement, the Foreign Friends of Catalonia, about the allegations. He told me the latest revelations about the extent of the Spanish espionage operation against Catalan activists and politicians “shows that Spanish authorities are desperate, and fearful of the growing international support for Catalonia”.

Foreign Friends of Catalonia as an association has not been the target of espionage so far,” he added, “however, myself and Finnish member of Parliament Mikko Karna were spied on by the Spanish secret service when we organised [former Catalan President Carles] Puigdemont’s visit to Finland in March 2018.”

After this visit, Puigdemont attempted to travel by car from Finland to Belgium, where he resides. But due to a European arrest warrant against him issued by Spain, the Catalan leader was arrested in Germany, near the Danish border. He was then forced to remain in the country and wait for a local court to decide on Spain’s extradition request, which was ultimately denied. 

Sources in CNI later told Spanish media outlets that the Spanish intelligence agency had used the geolocation service on the mobile phone of at least one of Puigdemont’s companions to monitor his movements during his visit to Finland, as well as fitting a tracking device to the car the group had been travelling in. According to these reports, twelve CNI agents were involved in the operation.

Spain’s attempts to monitor the movements and activities of Puigdemont in a foreign country, without the knowledge or consent of the relevant local authorities, is clearly illegal. But the Spanish intelligence appears not concerned about breaking international laws and regulations in their pursuit of Catalan politicians, diplomats and activists. 

The Catalan government’s delegate in Germany, Marie Kapretz, who is a German citizen, also claims the Spanish government spied on her inside Germany. Kapretz told me Spanish authorities continued to track her activities in Germany from November 2017 to July 2018, even though at the time she was not even carrying out any duties as delegate due to the suspension of Catalonia’s home rule. 

She filed a criminal complaint with the country’s federal prosecutor against Spanish authorities under article 99 of Germany’s criminal code, which forbids foreign secret services from carrying out “an intelligence action against the Federal Republic of Germany.” 

In August 2019, the German prosecutor’s office accepted the case and said it would begin investigating the actions of then Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. In December 2019, just a few months after the start of the German investigation, however, Borrell became the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 

Borrell’s appointment as EU’s top diplomat, while an investigation into his activities as Spain’s foreign minister was still continuing, was indicative of Europe’s indifference to the Spanish state’s persecution of Catalan politicians and activists, as well as its reluctance to hold Madrid to account for its activities against the laws of the union.

After witnessing the violence the Spanish state unleashed on pro-independence activists and politicians in many Catalan cities in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum, most Catalans expected an increase in Madrid’s repressive and authoritarian measures aimed at silencing the peaceful movement for Catalan independence.

This is why activists in Spain and across Europe were not surprised to hear the Spanish state had succumbed to illegal espionage to hinder their campaigning efforts. They, however, were not prepared for the absolute silence of the majority of European institutions before Spain’s blatantly illegal activities. 

Every Catalan activist I talked to told me while they are disheartened by Madrid’s apparent efforts to control and silence them, they are not willing to give up on their dream of independence. But their perseverance and resolve should not prevent us from acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

There is overwhelming evidence that a European state is illegally surveilling peaceful political actors across the union’s borders. Europe’s silence in the face of police violence targeted at Catalan protesters and the jailing of Catalan leaders for the sole crime of trying to act on the Catalan people’s will, already demonstrated the shaky foundations of the EU’s democratic principles. If it fails to investigate the shocking revelations that came out of the Guardian/El Pais investigation, it will be sending the message to not only Catalans but all Europeans that there is no one to protect them from the oppressive practices of their governments.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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