In their words: African victims of far-right gun attack

As thousands protest against fascism, three of six injured victims targeted by a far-right gunman talk to Al Jazeera.

    Thousands of Italians have marched against fascism in Macerata, a sleepy central Italian city where a far-right gunman recently opened fire on a group of African refugees.

    Protesters on Saturday warned against a revival of fascist sentiment during the campaign for the March 4 national election.

    A week earlier on January 3, police caught 28-year-old Luca Traini wrapped in an Italian flag two hours after his drive-by shooting.

    A copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf was found at Traini’s home alongside other books and items related to Nazism and white supremacy.

    Traini had links to neo-fascist organisations and had unsuccessfully run in local elections with the right-wing, anti-Islam League party, also known as the Northern League.

    Traini, whose weapon was licensed, remains under arrest and faces up to 20 years in prison.

    According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Traini told investigators that he had wanted to avenge the death of Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old woman whose body had been found dismembered in two suitcases a few days earlier, by “targeting black people”.

    A Nigerian, Innocent Oseghale, is under investigation in the case.

    The victims of Trani’s attack were hospitalised with non-critical wounds, mostly to the torso and arms. A number of others are believed to have fled the scene.

    Of the six known victims, three are from Nigeria, including one woman, while the rest are from Mali, Ghana and the Gambia.

    Nigerians made up the largest number of arrivals to Italy in 2017 and previous years through the central Mediterranean route.

    According to the EU border agency, Frontex, the route saw a one-third drop in arrivals compared with the previous year after Italy’s much-criticised deal with Libyan authorities and militias.

    Nigerians are also most likely to be denied asylum in Italy.

    The Macerata attack has brought the issue of migration back to the fore.

    Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – who is making a comeback despite a conviction for tax fraud banning him from running for office – said 600,000 migrants in Italy should be deported.

    Berlusconi runs with a coalition that includes the nationalist Brothers of Italy and the League, whose leaders have described the shooting as an effect of “uncontrolled migration” and policies of the current centre-left government.

    Figures on the left, meanwhile, accused the League party leader Matteo Salvini of being the “moral instigator” of Traini’s attack for encouraging xenophobic rhetoric.

    Al Jazeera spoke to three victims of Traini’s attack:

    Festus Omagbon, a 32-year-old taxi driver from Nigeria’s Edo State, underwent vascular surgery on his left arm …

    “That day, Saturday, I was walking alone to the supermarket when I saw a black car. It just blocked me. I saw the guy after he shot me. He moved fast. I was shouting, there was a lot of blood. I didn’t know him. He was alone inside the car, shooting and driving.

    I came to Italy by sea. Being here, I thought I was safe. This is Europe, everybody wants to come and live a better life. I was surprised. This is what we run from. We run to save our lives.

    A lot of Italian people are nice, but life in Italy is not easy. When you leave the camp, you suffer in the streets. In Italy, I have a residency permit. But where is the work? I can’t get a job in Italy.

    Festus Omagbon, victim of far-right attack

    In Nigeria, there was a crisis in my community. [Attackers] killed my father. There were fights for land; my father died. I ran away to Libya. I don’t know where my family is now, because there is no communication from them. With the residency permit they gave me, I can’t go home, I have to stay here in Europe.

    I travelled from Nigeria to Libya for one week. We drove day and night with smugglers from Libya. In the Sahara desert, a lot of people died. There was no water, no food, strong sun.

    We went to Gatron in Libya, from Gatron to Sabha, Sabha to Tripoli. Tripoli to Sabratha.

    From there, we wanted to push to the Mediterranean Sea and waited for a rubber boat – we call it a balloon, or “lapalapa”. A German rescue ship ended up bringing us to Italy, to Messina, Sicily.

    I have been here for a year and six months. I live in a camp. We have luck to come here; many people die, we are the lucky ones.

    If Libya is good, people would settle down in Libya. There is work there, but there is racism. I was a store assistant in Sabha. Sabha is not good at all. There’s no government in Libya, so everybody carries a gun. They control black people.”

    Kofi Wilson, a 20-year-old builder from Accra, Ghana, was shot in the chest …

    “At around 11am on Saturday morning, I was with my friend. We heard a gunshot five metres from us.

    My friend said: ‘Kofi, it’s a gunshot.’

    I said: ‘No, it’s not a gunshot, because we are in Europe. It’s not normal to hear a gunshot like this.’

    In another five minutes’ time, we saw cars coming. That’s when I realised I’d been shot.

    Kofi Wilson, victim of far-right attack

    Then, I don’t know; I saw more people, they were running.

    People started to come near me, Italian people were trying to wake me up. At that moment, I didn’t see anything again.

    Before coming to Italy, I was in Libya for more than a year. I went to prison in Libya. Living there is hell. I was in Tripoli working as a builder. Now in Italy, I’m looking for work. Sometimes I have work, sometimes I don’t.

    I came from Tripoli to Messina. The journey was very bad. It’s not a small journey, it’s a very, very difficult journey, but you know, if you come to Libya, it’s not easy to go back to Ghana through the desert again. The route is dangerous. They are killing people, they are doing enough things to black people. I had to face what was in front of me.

    I paid $1,130. It took a day to get from Tripoli to Messina. There were more than 100 people on the boat. A lot of them were injured. Before we were rescued, our boat capsized so a lot of people died in the sea.

    Me, I also fell in the sea, but I survived. When the boat capsized, the rescue wasn’t close. Before the rescue came, a lot of people died.

    Now I am seeking asylum. I pray everything will be OK.”

    Jennifer Otiotio, a 25-year-old hairdresser from Nigeria’s Delta State, was shot in the chest …

    “I was standing in front of the train station when I heard a gunshot. I was with a friend waiting for a bus to come to go to Civitanova.

    I have lived in Macerata for seven months. Before that, I was in Nigeria. I came through Libya, by boat.

    If someone wants their hair done, they can call me. I go to their homes. I can’t move my hand now, I am afraid to lose my hand. I pray to God to make my hand good, make me use my hand to work.

    Jennifer Otiotio, victim of far-right attack

    Macerata was good, peaceful. Italy is OK. I was shocked after what happened. Italy is a peaceful place. Let there be a big calm. Let Italy go back to the days before. Let there be no trouble. A place where there is no peace, nobody can stay.

    You don’t pay bad with bad. If you commit a crime, you face your punishment.

    In Nigeria, I was also working as a hairdresser. I left Nigeria because of a little ‘peace crush’. I gave my nine-year-old child to my mother and I ran to Libya. When I got to Libya, they said there was going to be trouble there, too. So I decided to come to this side Europe to have a piece of rest.”

    These interviews have been edited for clarity.

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    UK's Tesco faces record $5.6bn equal pay claim

    Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco is facing a potential bill of up to $5.6bn in a record equal pay claim involving mainly women workers at its British stores, according to the law firm pursuing the case.

      The UK’s biggest retailer, Tesco, is facing the country’s largest ever claim over equal pay.

      Thousands of employees, mainly female workers, want compensation from the company.

      The British law firm representing them says the legal challenge could cost Tesco up to four billion pounds ($5.6bn).

      Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker reports from London.

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      Gucci accused of culturally appropriating Sikh turban

      Luxury Italian designer sent white models down catwalk at Milan fashion week wearing religious headpiece.

        Sikh commentators and organisations have criticised Gucci for using turbans in a recent runway show, saying the fashion brand has culturally appropriated their religious headpiece.

        A host of models wore turbans in Gucci’s show on Wednesday as part of Milan fashion week.

        By Friday, thousands had shared messages of anger and disappointment that the brand had used the Sikh religious symbol for profit.

        Many of the world’s 27 million Sikhs – both men and women – wear the turban.

        It covers the knot of hair which followers of Sikhism allow to grow naturally out of respect for God’s creation.

        Most Sikhs live in India.

        The models who wore the Gucci turban were mostly of European origin.

        The New York-based Sikh Coalition civil rights group tweeted on Friday: “The Sikh turban is a sacred article of faith, @gucci, not a mere fashion accessory. #appropriation. We are available for further education and consultation if you are looking for observant Sikh models.”

        In a tweet shared by 1,500 people, India-based restauranteur Harjinder Singh Kukreja said: “Dear @gucci, the Sikh Turban is not a hot new accessory for white models but an article of faith for practising Sikhs. Your models have used Turbans as ‘hats’ whereas practising Sikhs tie them neatly fold-by-fold. Using fake Sikhs/Turbans is worse than selling fake Gucci products.”

        Several social media users noted that Sikhs are often discriminated.

        Diaspora Sikhs in the West were particularly targeted in the post 9/11 era, when followers of the faith were frequently mistaken for Muslims, and attacked.

        Tina Daheley, a British broadcaster born to a Sikh family, was among those who shared the story of a racist attack in Britain, which took place on Wednesday.

        An Indian Sikh man had been waiting at parliament in London to meet Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, a Labour Party MP, when an attacker attempted to rip off his headpiece and said “Muslim go back home”.

        There are more than 400,000 Sikhs in Great Britain. 

        “While Gucci sends white models down the catwalk wearing turbans, a Sikh environmentalist has his turban ripped off outside parliament in a hate attack. As someone whose family has been on the receiving end of this sh** for decades, this is utterly depressing,” said Daheley.

        User @kingkang3211 said: “Wearing a turban as a Sikh makes me smile, privileged & truly honoured. People across the globe battle issues & get bullied because of it. @gucci used the beautiful turban as a fashion accessory, the question remains why a Sikh man couldn’t model for them? We have so many Singhs.”

        @gurpycolors tweeted: “Appropriation! Sikh men are profiled and discriminated against every day for wearing a turban, yet when you put in on a white person, it’s suddenly fashionable and cool?!?!”

        Fashion brands are frequently scrutinised for cultural appropriation.

        Earlier in February, high-street retailer Zara was mocked online for selling a checkered skirt that had a striking resemblance to a lungi, a loose garment worn by men in South Asia.

        In 2017, Marc Jacobs featured white models wearing their hair in dreadlocks.

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        Business, politics and a vote to close Budapest's bars

        Government-tied business owners need not worry about closing their bars at midnight after low turnout invalidates vote.

          Budapest, Hungary – Budapest’s “party district”, a historic downtown area full of bars, clubs and restaurants, held a referendum to close businesses between midnight and 6am after years of resident complaints about noise and waste.

          But late Monday evening, the municipal government said the vote was invalid because of low voter turnout.

          “All of the rubbish, the vomit, it’s become unliveable here,” Judit Sakali, an elderly resident of the seventh district where the bars are found, told Al Jazeera on a recent February morning.

          Sakali said she wanted bars and restaurants to close at midnight so she could sleep. Noisy tourists have prevented her from doing so.

          Residents in the district, called “Elizabeth Town” by locals, came together to form the Livable Elizabeth Town group to organise themselves and document property destruction in response to rowdy partygoers.

          They often post notes addressed to tourists on the streets: “We understand. You want to have a good time, but you need to understand that … our streets are not your toilet.”

          Months of activism took place to get the referendum.

          Atilla Vajnai, a left-wing politician and resident of the seventh district, told Al Jazeera the efforts began as a way to placate unhappy locals.

          “Then, when they saw how popular [the issue] is, they began to worry,” Vajnai said.

          The referendum faced challenges at the local and national level. An unnamed party tried to stop the vote in Hungary’s High Court the week before it took place. The challenge was dismissed.

          In 2017, a commissioner said the district’s UNESCO World Heritage Site designation blocked the local council from making the decision. 

          Though a local issue, the party district’s fate was the intersection of politics and business in advance of April elections.

          Vajnai pointed to connections between bar owners and the ruling Fidesz party and the amount of money they make from these locales.   

          Tourism boom

          Tourism has spiked in recent years, partly due to an increase in budget flights to Hungary and Budapest’s growing reputation as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

          In 2016, the last year for which the Hungarian government has data, more than eight million tourists visited the country of 10 million people, the highest number on record.

          The bars of the seventh district, including the famous “ruin pubs” – housing complexes that had fallen into disrepair but were bought by developers in the 1990s and converted into clubs – are a big draw for Western Europeans.

          Though there are no publicly available figures for private revenue, the district brought in more than $25m in tax in 2016, figures from the Ministry for National Economy show.

          Many of the establishments in Budapest’s popular district belong to Prime Minister Victor Orban’s political allies, Antonia Radi, a Hungarian journalist who investigated bar ownership in the area, told Al Jazeera.

          These people view the recreational district “as a place which can produce great benefit”, Radi said.

          Closely connected

          Roy Zsiday, a Hungarian restaurant impresario, gave Orban’s eldest daughter an internship at his business in the seventh district.

          She now teaches a class in Hungary’s Corvinus University and often invites Zsidai to speak as a guest lecturer, Radi said.

          “They do not cover their close relationship at all,” Radi explained.

          The connections don’t end there.

          The Fidesz government has long been criticised for limiting critical media in favour of pro-government outlets.

          One such outlet is Origo, a former opposition media company that is now widely viewed as pro-government after the editor-in-chief was reportedly forced to resign after publishing a report on the spending of one of Orban’s aides.

          Istvan Szaras, the previous CEO of Origo, owns a cocktail bar in the district. Origo’s new CEO is Adam Matolcy, son of the Hungarian central bank chief Gyorgy Matolcsy.

          Balint Fulop Somlai owns another location in the district. He is the chief of the TV division of New Wave Media, the company that publishes Origo.

          Somlai took out a mortgage on the property from the NHB Bank, which is also connected to Matolcsy, Radi’s research shows.

          When asked about these connections, a government spokesperson said it has “no duty with district issues”.

          Looking to April

          The seventh district’s mayor is Zsolt Vattamany, a Fidesz member. Istvan Bajkai, the Orban family’s lawyer, is vice mayor and a parliamentary candidate in Hungary’s April elections.

          However, Fidesz does not have a majority on the district council. Janos Stummer, a member of the populist Jobbik party many view as far-right, typically serves as the swing vote to decide issues.

          Stummer is the politician who originally proposed the referendum in 2017, but he later voted against it, siding with Vattamany.

          On the national level, Jobbik has positioned itself as a populist alternative to Fidesz, focusing on raising wages for Hungarian and Eastern European workers, among other issues.

          Many say Fidesz has gone further to the right on issues of refugees and immigration, as well as adopting a campaign against Hungarian American liberal philanthropist George Soros, who funds civil society organisations throughout the region.

          For Vajnai, the left-wing politician, the local alliance between Stummer and Vattamany has implications for the April election.

          Fidesz is projected to win a majority of seats in parliament in April elections, but it could fall short of the numbers required to form a government on its own.

          Polls show Jobbik coming in second. A coalition between the parties could conceivably form a party.

          Jobbik members have repeatedly stated that a coalition with Fidesz won’t happen. Still, Vajnai believes it could.

          Though the referendum was deemed invalid due to low turnout, both Vajnai and Dori Garai, the founder of Livable Elizabeth Town, saw it as a success.

          About 80 percent of the votes cast on Sunday night came from the inner-city area directly impacted by the party district, and 78 percent were in favour of closing bars at midnight, Garai said in a statement.

          Following the referendum, Vattamany has promised to take measures to improve the lives of party district residents.

          Vajnai was encouraged by the Fidesz mayor’s promise to improve living conditions.

          In his view, a group of people were organised to challenge Fidesz, which made a concession. This shows “big power” shortly before the election, Vajnai said.

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          European shares recover after Mnuchin calls U.S.-China trade talks 'productive'

          LONDON (Reuters) – Signs of progress from U.S.-China trade talks in Beijing helped European stocks reverse earlier losses on Friday, while auto shares continued to slide after figures showing an ongoing slump in European car sales.

          The trade-sensitive German index, fell as much as 0.7 percent in early deals, but recovered to trade flat on the day after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators had “productive meetings”.

          The STOXX 600 rose to trade up 0.4 percent by 0950 GMT, after a tepid open following weak China inflation data.

          “Year-to-date Europe has been doing surprisingly well in terms of market performance, but the data is still looking pretty bad,” said Martin Moeller, portfolio manager at UBP in Geneva.

          Weak car sales data weighed on autos which tumbled 0.6 percent, the worst-performing sector. Car manufacturers BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen were among the biggest fallers on the DAX.

          European car sales dropped 4.6 percent in January, industry data showed, the fifth consecutive month of declines after tougher emissions test procedures became mandatory from the start of September.

          Investors are also looking to a Feb. 17 deadline for the U.S. Commerce Secretary to release a report about whether European car imports pose a national security threat.

          The European market was dragged down on Thursday by very weak U.S. retail sales data but was nonetheless on track for its first weekly gain in four, having hit a three-month high on Wednesday.

          The Spanish government’s widely-expected decision to call a snap election did not move the IBEX which traded up 0.4 percent at 1000 GMT.

          Some strong results helped the STOXX up.

          French media giant Vivendi climbed 4.6 percent after reporting strong results for its Universal Music Group arm, and confirming it would soon select financial advisors to sell a stake of up to 50 percent in UMG.

          “UMG has continued to deliver strong organic revenue growth with paid streaming accelerating quarter-on-quarter throughout 2018,” said UBS analysts.

          Vivendi also announced its top stakeholder, billionaire Vincent Bollore, would further withdraw from the company’s management.

          Bollore, another of the billionaire’s companies, climbed 4.6 percent.

          German insurer Allianz managed a 1.1 percent gain after it reported results in line with expectations.

          “We think the combination of operational strength and capital management discipline shines through once again,” wrote KBW analysts.

          Telecom Italia was a top gainer, up 6.2 percent after a source said Italian state lender CDP has authorization to increase its stake in the firm to 10 percent within the next 12 months.

          Eutelsat sank 7.7 percent, the biggest faller on the STOXX, after its first half results. A trader said the company’s CEO A talked down the possibility of consolidation in the industry.

          Swedish defense firm Saab climbed 6 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations and it forecast better margins and sales in 2019.

          M&A also moved some shares.

          German internet portal Scout24 surged up 12.6 percent to the top of the STOXX after it welcomed a higher offer from a private equity consortium of Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.

          Analysts at Liberum said the bid values Scout24 at too low a multiple, raising the possibility industry peers may look to buy some or all the assets.

          Source: Read Full Article

          China data deals another blow to European shares

          LONDON (Reuters) – Weak inflation data from China sent European stocks slipping further on Friday, with car shares and Germany’s DAX the worst hit.

          The German index, the most sensitive to China due to its large share of exporters, fell 0.6 percent with car manufacturers BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen leading losses.

          Europe’s STOXX 600 managed, barely, to hover flat as gains in telecoms and industrials helped offset the China strain.

          Telecom Italia was another top gainer, up 7.5 percent after a source said Italian state lender CDP has authorisation to increase its stake in the firm to 10 percent within the next 12 months.

          Eutelsat on the other hand sank 9.2 percent, the biggest faller on the STOXX, after its first half results. A trader said the company’s CEO A talked down the possibility of consolidation in the industry.

          Swedish defence firm Saab climbed 6 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations and it forecast better margins and sales in 2019.

          The European market was already dragged down on Thursday by very weak U.S. retail sales data. It was nonetheless on track for its first weekly gain in four, having hit a three-month high on Wednesday.

          M&A also moved some shares.

          German internet portal Scout24 surged up 12 percent to the top of the STOXX after it welcomed a higher offer from a private equity consortium of Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.

          French media giant Vivendi climbed 4.6 percent after reporting strong results for its Universal Music Group arm, and confirming it would soon select financial advisors to sell a stake of up to 50 percent in UMG.

          German insurer Allianz hovered around flat after it reported results in line with expectations.

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          Tariq Ramadan faces French judge in sex assault case

          Scholar Tariq Ramadan went before a French judge as a probe into allegations of rape and sexual assault continues.

            Tariq Ramadan went before a French investigating magistrate on Friday after the prominent Islamic scholar was taken into custody earlier this week over allegations of sexual assault and rape.

            Ramadan, an Oxford University professor of Islamic studies, has been held in France since Wednesday as part of a preliminary probe into the accusations, which he has denied.

            AFP and AP news agencies reported late on Friday that Ramadan was charged with rape in relation to two separate incidents that allegedly occurred in 2009 and 2012, respectively.

            The agencies were each quoting an anonymous judicial source. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the information.

            Meanwhile, the Paris prosecutor’s office had demanded that Ramadan be indicted and placed in pre-trial detention, a judicial source told French newspaper Le Monde.

            Two women came forward last October to accuse Ramadan, 55, of rape and sexual assault. They both filed charges against him.

            One of the women, a former Salafi who has become a secularism activist, accused Ramadan of raping her in a French hotel room in 2012.

            Henda Ayari described parts of the alleged assault in a book that was published in 2016, but publicly named Ramadan last year amid the #MeToo movement to combat sexual violence against women. 

            A second woman, who has remained anonymous, came forward a week later, accusing Ramadan of raping her in 2009.

            The woman, who has been given the pseudonym “Christelle”, detailed the alleged assault in front of an investigative judge for over three hours earlier this week in Paris, Le Monde and AFP reported.

            Ramadan and his lawyer, who were present during the woman’s testimony on Thursday, vehemently denied the allegations.

            Ramadan also refused to sign a written report at the end of the session, Le Monde reported.

            The French newspaper said police in France had investigated the allegations for three months.

            The investigators have reportedly collected stories from other women who made similar allegations against Ramadan, but have not pressed charges, Le Monde said.

            After the accusations became public last year, Ramadan filed a complaint against Ayari for slander.

            A Swiss citizen, Ramadan is one of the most prominent Islamic scholars in Europe.

            He is also the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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            Irish republican leader Gerry Adams retires

            One of the most famous faces in Northern Ireland is retiring.

              One of the most famous faces in Northern Ireland is retiring.

              Gerry Adams was considered spokesman for the Irish Republican Army in its 30-year war to end British rule of Northern Ireland.

              The boy from Belfast became active in Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement in the 1960s.

              Since then, he’s played a pivotal part in the peace process.

              The Sinn Fein leader for 34 years is being replaced by Mary Lou McDonald, who has no links to the conflict.

              Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba reports from Dublin, Ireland.

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              Cyprus accuses Turkey of obstructing gas exploration

              Turkish Cypriots want a revenue-sharing agreement to be finalised before any drilling off the divided island can start.

                Cyprus has accused Turkey of obstructing its offshore gas exploration in the east Mediterranean. Turkish Cypriots want a revenue-sharing agreement to be finalised before any drilling off the divided island can start.

                It was hoped that the potential of natural gas could bring the two sides together. But the fear is it will further complicate efforts to find a permanent solution to the Cyprus problem.

                 Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Cyprus.

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                Russian plane crash probe progressing

                Working in difficult conditions, the investigators into the crash of Sunday’s Saratov Airlines flight out of Moscow are making slow progress in putting together a picture of what happened.

                  Investigations are continuing into why a Saratov Airlines passenger jet crashed moments after taking off from Moscow.

                  All 71 people on board lost their lives.

                  Authorities are searching through the wreckage to try to find out what caused the crash, while family members have given DNA samples to aid in the identification efforts.

                   

                  Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reports from the crash site, south of Moscow.

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