News

Gaza protests in Great March of Return to go on / PM Orbán’s party set to win Hungarian election / Germany rejects rebellion charges against Puigdemont

30 March to 5 April

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. Autor/a: European People\'s Party
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Protests for the right of return of Palestinian refugees will go on in Gaza until 15 May despite the killing of 20 people in the hands of the Israeli army since last Friday. In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orbán’s conservative nationalist Fidesz is clearly leading opinion polls for this weekend’s parliamentary election in the Central European country. Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was freed on bail after a German court did not see grounds to believe he was guilty of a crime of rebellion, over which Spain is asking his extradition. And in Asturias, a new step in the recognition of the Asturian language has been taken, as the place name ‘Uviéu’ has been given official status in the country’s capital Oviedo.


NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Second week of protests in Gaza after the killing of 20 Palestinians. Mobilizations along the Gaza-Israel border demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their land will go on until 15 May, according to organizers. On that day, 70 years since the Nakba took place —the exodus of 700,000 Palestinians from present-day Israel as a result of the 1948 war between Israelis and Palestinians and their Arab allies— will be marked.

On 30 March, the first day of the Great March of Return —as the protest is known—, Israeli soldiers shot against protesters, who could be counted in the thousands. 16 protesters were killed, the figure rising to 20 during the week. According to the Israeli army’s version, some demonstrators threw firebombs and stones against Israeli soldiers and tried to break the fence on the Gaza-Israeli border. Israeli snipers then opened fire on them. Israel says 12 of those killed were “militants”.

Human Rights Watch has however denied that the violence from the Palestinian side posed an immediate threat to the soldiers. The rights group has said that the army’s action was unlawful, and it has criticized that it was “foreseeable” that such an action would bring the killing of protesters. Amnesty has asked Israel to guarantee the Palestinians’ rights to life and protest.

The Israeli army has said it will carry out an internal investigation on the killings, but it has also warned that it will keep permission for its soldiers to shoot any protester approaching the fence.

MOREOVER

German court rejects rebellion charges against Carles Puigdemont, bails him.The Schleswig-Holstein state court ruled 5 April that there was no reason to believe that the Catalan president could be guilty of rebellion since there were no signs of violence on the Catalan side during the holding of the 1 October independence vote. Puigdemont will thus not be extradited to Spain on rebellion charges, yet he could still be delivered to the Spanish authorities if the German court finds grounds to believe he misused public funds to hold the vote. The Schleswig-Holstein court has decided to free Puigdemont on bail, pending its final decision on the latter issue. Another three members of the Catalan government —Toni Comín, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig— were on the same day granted bail by a Belgian court, pending a final decision to extradite them or not to Spain on charges of rebellion, disobedience and misuse of public funds. The two decisions, which deal a heavy blow to Spain, were immediately welcomed by Catalan pro-independence parties and associations, who had argued that rebellion charges —than carry terms of 30 years in jail— had been fabricated by Spanish judge Pablo Llarena.

Conservative nationalist Fidesz set to win Hungarian election. The party, led by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, will capture some 50% of the votes in 8 April parliamentary election, according to polls. Far-right Jobbik and social democrat MSZP could both emerge second strongest, Fidesz being more than 30 percentage points ahead. MSZP has concluded agreements with two smaller centrist parties to try to deny seats to Fidesz in some constituencies. The movement seeks to prevent Fidesz from reaching two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, a result that could be possible thanks to Hungary’s electoral system, which over-represents the largest party. In Hungary, a party having two thirds of seats in Parliament can unilaterally amend the Constitution, what in fact was already done by Fidesz in the previous term. Orbán has campaigned on xenophobic and Hungarian nationalist rhetoric. Hungarian communities of Slovakia and Romania, who usually vote for Fidesz, are one of Orbán’s strongholds. Some analysts, however, blame Fidesz for hiding party interests behind Hungarian nationalism and behind the representation of Hungary’s national minorities. According to Democracy Index, Hungary has in the last 10 years lost almost one point (on a scale from 0 to 10) in democratic quality. In the last five years, the country has worsened by 10 points, on a scale from 0 to 100, in corruption perception, according to Transparency International.

Uviéu’ becomes the official name of the capital of Asturias. Councilors of the city of Oviedo have approved a proposal that grants official status to 1,300 place names in the Asturian language in the municipality. The name in Spanish, Oviedo, will also remain official. Parties in the municipal government (PSOE, Somos and Izquierda Unida) have voted for, while right-wing parties in opposition (PP and Citizens’ party) have rejected the move. Granting official status to the Uviéu name was an old demand of the pro-Asturian movement, which is now seeking that the language becomes co-official in Asturias alongside Spanish.

MORE FEATURE STORIES AND ANALYSIS