MARIAN PRICE could be in a British prison in Northern Ireland for the rest of her natural life. Unlike other political prisoners in the North, she has had no trial, no sentence, no release date, nor even a date when the Parole Commission will review her case. Unless the courts intervene, she will only be released by order of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson.
Twice, Price has been arrested under Northern Ireland’s special security laws and brought before what is known as a Diplock Court, where no jury serves. Twice, a judge has ordered that she be released on bail.
Each time, Paterson overruled the judge and ordered Price back to prison. He said that he was revoking her license (parole). But Price was not actually on license. Convicted of bombings in Britain, she received a full royal pardon (the “Royal Prerogative of Mercy“) when she was freed in 1980 because she appeared to be on the brink of death from severe anorexia nervosa. The anorexia was the result of being force-fed more than 300 times when she was on hunger strike in a British prison.
The Northern Ireland Office now says the pardon “cannot be located”–that it has either been lost or shredded. Price’s lawyer Peter Corrigan recently told an overflow public meeting in Belfast that this is the only time in the history of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy that a pardon has gone missing. Monsignor Raymond Murray, the veteran human rights campaigner, said simply, “You can draw your own conclusions.”
Nevertheless, the Parole Commission sided with the Northern Ireland Office and refused to release Price. Her lawyers will be appealing the decision in court.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
PRICE IS being held in conditions designed to break her body and spirit. She has been in solitary confinement for more than 300 days. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture says solitary confinement for more than 15 days amounts to torture.
She is locked in her cell 21 hours a day. There is a camera in the cell. She has been told that it is switched off, but there is no way to know if that is true.
She has no privacy because prison staff constantly goes in and out of her cell. At night, male prison guards open a peephole and shine a light in her face so she can’t sleep. Marian has told relatives she feels like she is “in a zoo.”
Her husband, Jerry McGlinchey, recently told the WBAI show Radio Free Eireann, “My fear is that Marian will slip into a deep depression that it would take her years to come out of. I believe that is what the government intends.”
He previously said that he is “very, very worried” about her health. She has never recovered from the force-feeding. It caused tuberculosis that had to be treated in 2010, and she was due for a checkup when she was arrested. The anorexia has returned, and she suffers from such severe arthritis that she can’t even open her hand. McGlinchey believes that her health will get steadily worse as long as she is in solitary confinement.
Price is a dedicated Irish republican. She believes that it is necessary to wage an armed struggle to end British rule in Ireland.
But what is at stake is much more than Marian Price or her politics. As the Irish civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAlsikey told the Belfast meeting, “From the government’s point of view, this is a clear message that no dissent will be tolerated. You challenge the status quo at your peril.”
We can’t depend on the courts to free Marian Price. Each of us needs to help set her free. In the past month, hundreds of people have come to protest meetings in Derry and Belfast.
There is one very simple thing each of us can do today. We can e-mail Owen Paterson firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him to free Marian Price immediately. This may be especially important for those of us who don’t live in Ireland. The British government has often proven very vulnerable to international pressure.
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : SocialistWorker.org
- Marian Price ‘refuses to meet Sinn Fein’ during prison visit (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Pressure mounting on NIO for release of Marian Price (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Marian Price sent to Maghaberry for “operational reasons” (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Marian Price moved from Maghaberry to Hydebank (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Marian Price and the lost document (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
Damien McLaughlin is the first republican prisoner to talk publicly about the “dirty protest” taking place in Northern Ireland’s largest jail.
The 35-year-old convicted paramilitary – who has just been released from Maghaberry Prison – took part in the protest, which involves mixing urine and excrement and spreading it around the jail.
The tactic was used by IRA prisoners in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They refused to wash, and grew long beards.
Similar tactics have been used in Maghaberry since May 2011 by an estimated 30 prisoners.
Rather than smear excrement on their own cells, most of them are throwing it out onto prison landings.
Prison officers on the wings are forced to wear forensic suits, latex gloves and face-masks.
Industrial cleaners are used to clean the wings on a daily basis.
The prisoners are protesting over the number of forced strip-searches taking place.
McLaughlin, from County Tyrone, said he underwent 24 strip-searches during his time behind bars.
He was jailed after being found guilty of possessing two rifles, a sawn-off shotgun and more than 100 bullets.
In a BBC interview, he was asked a series of questions:
What’s your problem with strip searching?
“Strip searching is a form of humiliation. There is no need for it. There’s technology to do it, the BOSS chair – body orifice security scanner.”
But the authorities regard you and other prisoners as dangerous men, they need to use the human eye and human touch in a search.
“The BOSS chair is a scanning system that picks up any of the things they’re talking about.
“People going onto aeroplanes go through these type of things. They’re not stripped going onto aeroplanes, and we know what can happen there.”
Exactly what form is the prison protest taking?
“At the moment the boys are embarking on a protest where they’re mixing their urine with their faeces and they’re putting it out onto the landings, and that has been ongoing since 6 May last year.
“They’re living in their own waste at this present time.”
When will it stop?
“No Boss chair – protest goes on. The protest will go on while they’re forcibly strip-searching republican prisoners.”
What’s it like inside the part of the jail you were in?
“The smell would be one of the first things that would hit you.
“I was talking to one of the fellas recently who came in while I was in, and he said as soon as he came onto the wing, the fumes and the smell of the human waste hit him, it brought tears to his eyes. It’s really bad.
“There’s industrial cleaners going all day trying to clean it. The cells are rotten. There’s human waste and bits and pieces of food lying in corners of cells.
“There’s waste all round the doors. It’s really bad.”
You and the other men in jail are seen as very dangerous people, what is the problem with strip-searching?
“The problem is you’re being humiliated and degraded.
“They’re making you wiggle your tongue, stand on one foot, wiggle your toes, all sorts of degradation. When they forcibly strip you, they send in the riot squad.”
You were convicted of possessing guns and ammunition, why should anyone have any sympathy?
“People who are sent to jail have lost their liberty. That’s bad enough.
“You don’t go to jail to be tortured on a daily basis, to be humiliated to be degraded. People go to jail to do their time.”
Are you sorry for what you did?
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association
- A Republican on dirty protest in Maghaberry jail claims the North’s top security prison is fast deteriorating into a cesspit of disease. (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Statement from The Family & Friends of Republican prisoners Maghaberry. 22nd Feb 2012 (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- HMP Maghaberry- Civil rights founder calls for fact-finding mission (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Duffy: ‘It’s the H-Blocks again’ (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- David Ford ‘actively’ pursuing alternatives to prison strip-searching (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
Radio Free Eireann
Saint Patrick’s Day Special
17 March 2012
SB: And welcome back to Radio Free Eireann. This is our Saint Patrick’s Day Special on WBAI 99.5 in New York. And we’re going over to talk to Eamonn McCann in Doire (Derry) about Marian Price.
Marian could be spending the rest of her natural life in a British prison in Northern Ireland. Unlike other political prisoners in the North, Marian has not been convicted, she’s not been tried, she doesn’t have a prison sentence, she doesn’t have a release date and she doesn’t even have a date when her case is to be reviewed by the parole board. Eamonn, thanks for being with us.
(SB experiences some phone difficulties)
EM : Hello. Hello.
SB : Oh, Hello, Eamonn. We were just talking about Marian and the fact that she is in prison and could be for the rest of her natural life.
EM : Indeed.
SB : No review, no release date, no trial. How does this come about?
EM : That’s the bleak reality of the situation and one of the difficulties with the whole case is that we have very little information because there’s very little information to be had. It’s just as simple and as bleak as you have said.
The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, a British politician Owen Patterson, has announced that he has revoked a pardon given/granted to Marian way back in 1980 releasing her from a life sentences imposed for an IRA offence in 1973. So, she’s out on a pardon in 1980 and Owen Patterson says: “I’m now revoking that. Back to gaol! Serve out the remainder of your life sentence.”
As we’ve talked about before, Sandy, Marian and her lawyer very vigorously contest Owen Patterson’s authority to revoke her pardon. However, in practical terms, he has done it and his police have come along and lifted Marian and there she is in a prison cell on her own at the age of fifty-eight and in very poor health.
Neither logic nor humanity seems to apply in Marian’s case; nor due process nor any normal concept of legality and justice.
She’s in prison because Owen Paterson has decided that the state might be safer with her out of the way. That’s not a basis for imprisoning anybody or ought not to be a basis anywhere in the world. But it’s where Marian is.
SB: We had her husband with us on the air last week and he was saying first of all, she had contracted tuberculosis when she was force-fed over three hundred times in a British gaol, she never fully recovered from that. In fact, she was supposed to get a check-up just before she was arrested. She can’t open her hands because of her arthritis.
EM: Marian has had arthritis for quite some time as I understand. I’m not sure, medically, whether there’s a connection between the effects of the the force-feedings that she underwent back in 1973 and 1974, whether there’s a connection with that and the arthritis which she has had since.
Many people who suffer from arthritis or know members of their family who are, they know that it can be a literally crippling disease. Her hand seizes up and it’s extremely painful to move it and that limits her ability to look after herself in various ways. And she is constantly in pain.
So this is a pretty appalling situation.
I mean, it would be an appalling situation for somebody who was serving a determinate sentence having been convicted of a crime. But for someone to be in this situation, not convicted of any crime but ordered into prison by a politician and with, as you said at the outset, not only no release date but no date when she can apply for release or apply for a review of her prison conditions.
This is absolutely outrageous!
And that’s why there is, I believe, a gathering concern about Marian’s position, a concern which extends far beyond the ranks of those who might agree with her politically.
As you know Sandy, I wouldn’t be of the same political mind certainly as Marian at all but I have got no difficulty being a hundred percent behind the demand that she should be released now without further adieu simply on the grounds of justice and because nobody should be in prison unless they’ve had a charge preferred against them and that charge tested and proven in court. None of that has happened with Marian Price.
SB: And before we talk more about that there’s just the humanitarian grounds. You don’t have to be a doctor, you don’t have to be a physician, to know that if you’re in that kind of ill health the last place you should be is in a prison cell.
EM: Absolutely, yep, yeah. Absolutely. And it’s bound to have, and we don’t want to become doom-mongers or gloom-mongers in relation to all this, but the effect on emotional health, mental health even, is bound to be, over time, that’s bound to become a major concern. Now particularly when you’re held in isolation.
Marian is in isolation because she stands by the old Irish Republican tradition of refusing to accept criminality: she’s not a criminal, she’s a political prisoner and therefore she won’t be subjected to the usual regime applied to ordinary, so to speak, prisoners. That means that she’s held on her own.
So when you take all that into account: the sheer injustice of it, the arbitrary nature of her imprisonment, the absence of a release date, the absence of a date when she can apply for release, the ill health that she has suffered, add all that together and this is absolutely appalling situation and really, there ought to be alot more noise about it. There ought to be alot more people involved in campaigning for Marian’s release. I do think that’s beginning to happen now.
SB: I want to get back to this pardon that mysteriously went missing. They were asked to produce it in court. They told the court it’s either disappeared, maybe it was shredded. Does that happen often?
EM: (scoffs) I don’t believe it’s ever happened before and actually I don’t believe it’s happened here in this case, either.
When Owen Patterson ordered that Marian be put into prison she contested immediately. She said you can’t do that; there was a pardon…you simply can’t overturn a pardon. Pardons are issued in the name of the Queen that’s the constitutional position sort of in Britain because you’re detained, sort of, under the Queen’s Laws or however it’s put. So therefore, when you’re pardoned, the pardon comes from the Queen, even though she may know nothing about it.
Owen Patterson insists that Marian wasn’t pardoned that she simply was released on licence, the way people are by government officials and so forth when they’ve served a part of their time, that happens all over the world.
But he denies it’s an actually pardon.
Now, when Marian’s lawyers challenged Patterson and said “Okay. Produce the document because we know that that document will show that it wasn’t a licence that you had a right to revoke it was a pardon which has got nothing to do with you. So produce it!”
He came back some time later and said: Terribly sorry. The document that refers to this pardon has been lost or maybe it’s been shredded. We had it in 2010, at some point in 2010. But Goodness me! It can’t be found now.
Even despite what he called a “widespread searching” they couldn’t locate this document.
This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous!
I mean, and if they can’t locate it….it’s very odd that Mr. Patterson said that it might have been lost or it might have been shredded. I mean, if it was shredded they would know it. None of it makes any sense at all.
My own belief is, and I don’t think you have to be terribly cynical to come to this belief, is that the document is exactly as Marian says the document is and that Patterson, or someone closely associated with him, has destroyed the document in order to keep her in prison.
In other words, they not only are denying her due process that they are manipulating the situation in a thoroughly dishonest way. Now, I can’t say for a fact that Owen Patterson personally has sanctioned all that or been involved in all that, but somebody has and he’s speaking for them and speaking up for them!
SB: You know, it strikes me…of course…the Northern Ireland media is often a mystery to me, but they report this with a straight face. No one else believes it. I doubt that the reporters actually believe it themselves. But it’s just reported…
EM: Yes, that is remarkable. But then, perhaps it’s not just a Northern Irish or an Irish thing. There are terribly troubling cases of people who are identified by the political establishment as representing a danger in some way and they’re put away.
In the United States, of course we know, the various renditions that are happening and people being flown around to “black sights” and what’s happened to Marian Price is something akin to that as she’s been snatched and put into prison without any Judge or anybody being involved and we can see parallels elsewhere.
We are having in Doire this coming Wednesday, we’ll have a vigil in the City Centre for both Marian and Hana al-Shalabi, the Palestinian woman, the thirty year old woman, who is on a hunger strike herself now…I think this is the thirty-first day of it in an Israeli prison. She has been put in prison without any charge or trial, so the two cases are similar.
We’re holding this joint vigil, if you’d like, next Wednesday precisely in order to make the link between these cases and to say that the struggle for justice is same the whole world over and we have to get that message out.
And we have to ensure, that when people are campaigning for justice anywhere the world, they remember Marian Price, that they remember Hana al-Shalabi and all the other individuals.
These aren’t abstract matters when we say “we believe in due process”, “we believe in constitutional rights”.
It’s alright as an abstract concept but if these things are to be in any way meaningful, they must apply to particular cases and this case in point, Marian Price’s case, cries out for urgent action!
SB: Interesting reference in light of solidarity today: it was the people who had The Queer Protest on Fifth Avenue at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. They were the ones signing up people on postcards; send a postcard to Owen Patterson telling him to release Marian.
EM: I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised. I know some of the people, or used to know some of the people, involved in Irish gay and lesbian rights organizations in New York and I would absolutely expect that they would be the first, they would be to the fore, and standing up for Marian Price and indeed, I know that many of them would stand up for Hana al-Shalabi in an Israeli gaol as well.
When people become comfortable, when they begin to hob-nob and rub shoulders with establishment politicians rather than people of the class they came from. When they begin to rub those shoulders they sort of slough-off the old commitments that they had; that’s in many cases, not all cases, but in many cases this happens.
People who are aggrieved themselves, who are themselves suffering injustice, like the gay and lesbian Irish community in New York, they are always going to be more likely to stand up for other victims of injustice than people who have a vested interest in the status quo whether that’s in Northern Ireland or America or anywhere else.
SB: Actually, speaking of people who have bought into the status quo, and speaking of building a campaign, even though Marian wants nothing to do with Sinn Fein and refused to even meet with them, I find it very significant that they’re coming out very strongly, making strong, I think, very good statements demanding her release. I have to say I think that’s a testament to the strength of the sentiment.
EM: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fairness it should be said I don’t challenge the bona fides of individual Sinn Fein members at all certainly when they call for Marian’s release. I welcome it! There should be more of it.
I know that here in Doire the politician who has spoken out most loudly about it is a member of the SDLP. And the SDLP is the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the old party of John Hume, is at times, sneered and jeered at as being the conservative, old party. But Pat Ramsey of the SDLP has been a constant visitor to Marian and has been in and out of Owen Patterson’s office, banging the table and been on platforms and on television and so forth. And whatever else one thinks about Pat’s politics he deserves credit for that.
And the same is true for individual and prominent Sinn Fein people. I’m not being cynical at all when I go out immediately to say that. None of that may be happening if it wasn’t for the fact that there is a swell of support at the grassroots level. The Sinn Fein people and SDLP people, like all politicians, will try to keep their ear to the ground and will be aware that there is a gathering feeling that they have to relate to, that they have to reflect. So that’s a factor too, in the way that they’ve come out.
But I’m not trying to be cynical about this or to challenge their integrity. We need all the people that we can get. The support is spreading out, here in the North and elsewhere.
SB: First of all, yes, I agree with you. The only way you can build a campaign is to say: the only thing you have to agree to is that Marian should be free.
EM: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes.
SB: There was a very successful meeting last week in Belfast, in the Conway Mill, which is probably the largest venue in West Belfast, and you had a very successful meeting in Doire. Where does it go from here?
EM: As I say, we’ve a demonstration in Doire City Centre next Wednesday. It’s intended to be the first of many both for Marian and Hana, Hana al-Shalabi, and I suppose we could express a hope that it doesn’t have to be the first of many because the issues may be resolved. But if need be, then there’ll be regular weekly demonstrations.
We’re also trying to draw in, and there’s some sort of work underway, trying to make this, as it should be, an issue for women.
Marian is held in isolation. She’s the only woman political prison in Ireland, North or South, actually. There ought to be….you know, some of the problems we have to look into have to do with the fact that she’s a woman, and she’s a mother, she’s a wife….on International Women’s Day, I guess a week ago or so, we launched a petition in Doire. We’ve already gotten a number of thousands of signatures, sort of making the point, sort of asking women everywhere to sign this, not only women…anyone can sign, but to raise it in the context of women’s rights.
There’s also underway at the moment an attempt to get legal people, to get people who believe in due process, they might not be political at all, but who are lawyers, barristers and so forth, for them to take a stand as well. So it’s an attempt to bring in those categories of people.
One of the reasons for having a demonstration both for Marian and Hana al-Shalabi next week is also, and again not cynically but in a realistic way, to try and bring in another constituency, if you’d like, to say this isn’t just an Irish thing.
It isn’t an issue that is appropriate only for Irish Nationalists to come out and demonstrate about; there are many other people in Ireland, like myself if I might say so. But also many people around the world who should ought to see this issue not in terms of where do I stand in relation to Irish politics and partition in Ireland and all that sort of stuff?
But where do I stand in relation to the broad struggle against oppression and for the rights of people before the law whether it’s in Ireland, the United States, Palestine, Russia or wherever it is….it’s the need to internationalise it, inter-mesh Marian’s case with that of other people around the world. I mean, all these are ways of looking at it.
But in the end the thing is just to keep on at it and to get as many people as possible to contact the Northern Ireland Office, to make sure that Owen Patterson is reminded every day when he gets into his office: (mocks) “There’s another so-many hundred protests in about this Marian Price woman. There’s more this week than it was last week and so forth.” And the amount public pressure in terms of a public demonstration and then there be that as well.
SB: And Eamonn, you’ve got to be honest. Marian’s politics are not really popular. Marian is a really un-reconstructed Irish Republican. She believes, whether you agree with it or not, she believes that people have a right, I think she might have even said duty, to raise an armed struggle to get Britain out of Ireland once and for all. I think that must be scaring some people off.
EM: Well no doubt Marian’s politics does scare people off and that’s always the case. Almost by definition, people who are selected as victims of state repression tend to be people who would not be popular in “respectable” circles.
That was true in the 1970’s, the 1960’s, when the Provisional IRA people were on hunger strike, that was widely pointed out. Even in the early 70’s, long before the hunger strike, when people were being tortured and confessions were being beaten out of them it, of course they tended to be people who were supporting the IRA’s campaign of shooting and bombing. That made them very, very unpopular in some circles.
It meant that people who stood up for their rights were frequently accused of being complicit in shooting and bombing and we just had to handle that and stand firm.
And we did manage to stand firm in relation to those matters.
And eventually, over a period, we did manage to get the point across: that to support due process and justice for all is not to support the politics of those who are being denied due process and justice.
We have to make that distinction.
We’ve got a Motion, The Doire Trades Council has got a Motion down for the conference of The Northern Ireland Trade Unions, The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, delegates will meet, by coincidence, in Doire, in about what? four weeks time. Now we’ve got a Motion down calling upon the Trade Union Movement to support the call for Marian Price’s release.
We are fairly confident that’s going to go through. That it will become then, the official policy of The Trade Union Movement in the North. And of course, the Trade Union Movement is not Nationalist at all; it’s organised on a very different basis.
I see that as an important step forward.
An important step in defeating precisely this argument: the why should we support her when we thoroughly disagree with the type of politics and actions which she apparently approves of?
These can be difficult arguments.
You know, Hana al-Shalabi, in an Israeli prison: she’s a member of Islamic Jihad; a very, very unpopular group in many circles, to put it mildly.
But if we’re serious about civil rights we have to be serious about civil rights for everybody. And not just civil rights for people who are “respectable” and unthreatening to The Establishment, (those) whose civil rights are rarely compromised or denied anyway.
So you’re right that this can be a difficult argument but it’s an argument that every generation has to have and which we are now having to have again.
SB: I think Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey put it very well in the meeting at the Conway Mill in Belfast. She said that Marian’s case is a warning to anybody who speaks out, to anyone who dissents.
EM: You mean, are you asking me do people feel threatened?
SB: No. This is her point, Bernadette’s point was: if they get away with this with Marian, it could happen….
EM: Of course, of course, of course, the old mantra: If they come for somebody else in the morning and I don’t object, who’s going to object if they come back for me at night? That’s been true down through the generations all around the world.
In the first instance, when you stand up for justice and human rights you always find yourself standing up for justice and human rights for people of whom The Establishment disapproves and maybe of whom the vast majority of people disapprove.
But you can disapprove of people’s beliefs, you can disapprove of people’s actions and political associations and connections but at the same time, hold hard to the idea that everybody is entitled to due process.
Nobody should be put in prison simply on the say-so of a politician.
Because if we accept that principle then who’s to defend us when we are put in prison?
We can hear some turn around and say: (mocks) “Well, you’re not the first! We do this to those extremists, the Marian Prices of this world. We put them in prison.”
And that’s the precedent. We have to make sure that these things don’t become precedents. That we stand firm on the principles involved.
SB: We’ve been on with Eamonn McCann about the case of Marian Price. Eamonn, just before we let you go, this is really urgent and is something that I think that everybody needs to get involved with.
EM: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. As I say, and we don’t want to be too scary about it or scare-monger about it, but it’s an urgent situation because Marian’s position, her condition is urgent, let’s put it like that. It’s been a couple of weeks now since I was in to visit her, but I know that I came out badly shaken and extremely worried about what the next few weeks were going to bring. And a few weeks have passed since then.
If we’re going to do anything we have to do it now. So I would urge anybody listening, thinking about….”Well, should I become involved?” Yep!
Either phone yourself or get in touch with people in Ireland from wherever you are and join in. Because we’re going to need the coordinated struggle of a determined and urgent nature.
SB: One thing everybody can do right here is send an email to Owen Patterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, at: pattersono@email@example.com (repeats address) demand that he release Marian Price immediately. We’re going to go to music and then we have Carrie Twomey in the studio with us to talk about the Boston College case which we’ve been talking about for many years now.
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association
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embassies to draw attention to the discrimination of Palestiniansin Jerusalem and make a constructive effort to end the occupation through peaceful means.East Jerusalem is my family’s ancestral homeand I have many cousins who still live there today.I wish I could go to this! FREE PALESTINE!
~ Nader Jalajel
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