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Plus, France arrests a fugitive Kazakhstani banker and Russian videos promote gay-bashing.by Erik N. Nelson, Ioana Caloianu, Barbara Frye, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 1 August 2013
1. Bank of England linked to Nazi looting of Czech gold
Details of how the Bank of England helped the Nazis sell gold plundered from Czechoslovakia’s treasury were released online this week by the bank itself, the Guardian reports.
The news came out after the bank digitized a narrative of its history – written in the 1950s – and posted it online.
After Germany occupied all of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, it sought to transfer gold from Czechoslovakia-held accounts in the Switzerland-based Bank of International Settlements to the German Reichsbank.
The Bank of England, presumably like other central banks, held some deposits for the BIS. At the request of the Swiss bank, the Bank of England transferred about 2,000 bars of gold from a Czechoslovakian account to one controlled by Germany.
The Swiss bank’s chairman was also a Bank of England director and a German named Otto Niemeyer, The Telegraph writes.
The transferred gold was then sold off in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Britain, according to the Telegraph.
During the summer that followed, the Bank of England additionally sold more gold and shipped gold to New York at the behest of Nazi Germany.
Unlike the first time, the bank sought legal advice from the government, but upon urging from the Bank of International Settlements, concluded the transactions before receiving that advice.
“At the outbreak of war and for some time afterward, the Czech gold incident still rankled,” the bank’s history says. “Outside the bank and the government, the bank’s position has probably never been thoroughly appreciated and their action at the time thoroughly misunderstood.”
2. Critics demand end to Georgian government virgin certificates
In many conservative societies, virginity is a non-negotiable qualification for matrimony. For the bride, that is.
Once a woman loses her virginity in, say, Afghanistan, she’s considered unfit for marriage and often eligible for punishments that include stoning to death.
But men don’t have to prove their virginity and these societies seem to take their premarital sex in stride.
That’s why women’s rights advocates in Georgia are taking a stand against the double standard, especially when it comes to government support of it, Radio Free Europe reports.
According to a recent TV report, the Georgian Forensics Bureau provides gynecological examinations to prospective brides so they can show that they are government-certified virgins to satisfy the demands of the prospective husbands and their families. The bureau denies that it provides such a service.
On 30 July, members of the Independent Group of Feminists stood in front of what they call the “Virginity Institute” and raised a white sheet with a red spot – an old tradition to show that a bridegroom had properly deflowered his bride – in the shape of Georgia.
“We are calling on the forensics bureau to stop providing these types of services. The idea of destroying the ‘virginity institute’ lies in treating women’s sexuality and their sexual behavior on equal terms with men’s sexuality,” group member Natia Gvianishvili told RFE.
The controversy was sparked by a Imedi TV report, excerpted on EuroNews, about the procedure, which said that the National Forensics Bureau was doing as many as 200 virginity tests a year.
3. Fugitive Kazakhstani banker arrested in France
Mukhtar Ablyazov, a prominent opposition voice against Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, was captured in a town near Cannes, various media report. He is wanted in Kazakhstan on charges of siphoning off billions of dollars from BTA bank, which he managed from 2005 until 2009 and which has since been taken over by the government. He is on Interpol’s “wanted list,” accused by Russian authorities of “fraud [on] a large scale,” related, according to Reuters, to the operation a BTA subsidiary in that country. There is no mention of the charges he faces in Ukraine on Interpol’s website, although Reuters notes that BTA also had a subsidiary bank there.
Ablyazov is also wanted in the UK for contempt of court.
Ablyazov, a former government minister, established an opposition party in Kazakhstan in the early 2000s and was imprisoned a year later for abuse of office. He was pardoned, spent time in Russia and then returned to Kazakhstan to lead the bank in 2005. In 2009, he fled the country when BTA was taken over by the government. He won political asylum in Britain two years later and BTA has been pursuing him in a British court ever since. It has won “court approval to seize around $3.7 billion of his assets,” Reuters notes.
In 2012 he was sentenced to 22 months in jail in the UK on contempt of court charges and he fled abroad.
Ablyazov says the prosecution of him is politically motivated and a Kazakhstani journalist told Radio Free Europe he “is one of the leading players on the opposition political scene. He is the one who opposes the Akorda (the presidential palace) most radically. And this [his possible extradition] is a very serious blow against democratic forces in Kazakhstan.”
Ablyazov’s wife and young daughter were illegally deported to Kazakhstan from Italy in May, sparking a scandal that nearly brought down the Italian government.
4. Shocking videos take Russian anti-gay concerns to new level
Some purported homosexuals in Russia are being filmed as they are forced to drink urine, threatened with axes, and teased with artificial penises.
The videos have been shot by a nationalist group that is luring or kidnapping gay men and trying to “cure” them with degrading and terrifying treatment, according to Radio Free Europe.
The group, from Kamensk-Uralsky, a city near the Ural mountains, is part of a network called Occupy Pedophilia. Group members apparently lured their victims online with promises of romantic encounters with gay men or picked them up off the streets.
The gay men were subsequently terrorized and filmed by gang members.
The group’s founder, Maksim Martsinkevich, has already served a prison sentence for inciting ethnic hatred. He was recently interviewed by a website believed to be linked to Russian security services.
“These broken lives – and they (the homosexuals) really do have broken lives – will be an example to the generation growing up that they shouldn’t behave like that,” Martsinkevich says in the interview, which was cited by RFE.
With wide popular support, Russian legislators in June banned and introduced steep fines for the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships.” Nikolai Alekseyev, founder of Gay Pride Russia, said the ban gave “carte blanche” to anti-gay groups and individuals.
They “have received signals from the highest officials in the state – the Duma, the president – that basically you can do whatever you want if it concerns gay people, because they are not first-class citizens; they are second-class or even third-class,” he told RFE.
Some Russians have objected to the videos, which have been broadcast by a local television station from Kamensk-Uralsky in an edited form.
Valentin Degtyeryov, a teacher, has sent repeated appeals to local, regional, and national authorities against the videos but has not received an official reply. What he and his elderly mother have received, however, have been harassing and threatening phone calls, according to RFE.
5. EU police injured in Kosovo
Serbs in northern Kosovo hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks injured two EU police officers in the first violence since the signing of an April agreement on governance between Belgrade and Pristina, Balkan Insight reports.
The arrest of two Serbs under suspicion of attempted murder sparked the 29 July incident, in which Serbs blocked the main road from Pristina to Raska with trucks.
Balkan Insight reports that the two police officers, who are connected to the European Union judicial contingent known as EULEX, sustained injuries after the Serb protesters threw rocks at them, also damaging their car.
Polish Radio reports that the officers were among the 115-strong Polish contingent supporting EULEX.
Authorities detained Slobodan Repic and Zarko Veselinovic, both from the town of Mitrovica, on 29 July for allegedly shooting at a local government official and disposing of an illegal gun, respectively. The official, Dusan Milisaviljevic, was fired at from a vehicle by masked assailants when leaving a bar in 2012.
Ljubo Pantovic, Rebic’s lawyer, reported that the two were being held in a police station in the Albanian-majority, southern section of Mitrovica.
Aleksandar Vulin, director of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, requested that Kosovo Serbs remain “dignified and calm,” Balkan Insight writes.
Kosovo, not officially recognized by Serbia, is recognized by 101 countries and 23 of the 28 members of the EU.