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THE INDEX — June 10, 2009

The Nicaraguan government has granted political asylum to Alberto Pizango, an indigenous leader of Peru, who is wanted in Lima for organizing protests over land rights that have left 34 dead, including 25 police officers, in recent days. Since last Friday, around 3,000 Indians from 25 different indigenous tribes have blocked a critical rainforest highway additional oil drilling and logging in the Peruvian Amazon region after the government eased restrictions. Protesters clashed with government troops who tried to forcefully retake the road but the blockade remains in effect. Local citizens reported seeing bodies in plastic bags being dumped from helicopters into a river, thrown over cliffs, and even burned on site. The Peruvian government denied these claims and said there is evidence of police officers being tied up and tortured. Fearing government reprisal, several demonstrators have taken shelter in the hills while nearly 750 Amazonians have recently sought refuge in a church. The area is now under a military-imposed curfew, which is hindering the search for the bodies of missing protesters. For nearly two months, “fuel and transport” blockades have prevented gas and oil exploration in the area that is considered to be ancestral lands of the indigenous population.
The Swedish Pirate Party, a surprising new coalition of young file-sharing enthusiasts, took in 7 percent of the national vote on Sunday, securing at least one seat in the European Parliament. The group garnered roughly 20 percent of Swedish voters under age 30. With few policy platforms to their name, the Pirates mainly advocate for a smaller police presence on the Internet and for shortening online copyrights so that files can be sourced freely. The party became popular in April after a Stockholm district court ruled on the "Pirate Bay Trial," which implicated four young Swedes for their administration of The Pirate Bay, one of the largest BitTorrent file-sharing websites on the web. The court found the four guilty and sentenced them to a year in prison. Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that social unrest could arise from "lies" told on live-televised presidential debates. Rafsanjani took offense to remarks made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accusing his family of embezzlement and corruption. In a scathing letter published in Iranian newspapers, Rafsanjani said that Ahmadinejad's "irresponsible and untruthful remarks" were similar to the "bitter remarks of anti-revolutionaries during the early years of the Islamic revolution." The former president complained that state television stations, controlled by the Ayatollah, refused to allocate time for responses of those libeled: Rafsanjani, former president Mohammed Khatami, and the wife of Ahmadinejad's main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi. More than 50 high-ranking clerics from Qom, the Shia holy city that is home to the Ayatollah, agreed with Rafsanjani, saying that "accusing people in a session when they are not present is contrary" to sharia, or Islamic law. Ahmadinejad's remarks were made last Thursday in a debate with Mousavi. Today is the last day of heated campaigning in Iran. Voters cast ballots on Friday, and new polls suggest the reformist Mousavi may unseat the conservative incumbent. Seeking to convince Western leaders to drop the economic sanctions imposed against his country, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai began his first international tour on Tuesday. But in what may be a sign of things to come, his opening visit with Dutch Premier Jan Balkenende produced no new aid commitments. Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader who has ruled in coalition with President Robert Mugabe since February, stressed that the trip was not a beggar's journey, and said that he hoped to "educate" the West about the political developments in his nation that has been "isolated [for] the past 10 years." Though Zimbabwe's pariah status is largely due to the autocratic rule of Mugabe, who has angered Western nations with his continued human rights violations and intransigence, Tsvangirai recognized that improving diplomatic relationships "doesn't come cheap," and that Zimbabwe will have to prove its commitment to a stable government. Tsvangarai will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.

Palau has agreed to accept 17 Chinese Muslims held in Guantanamo Bay and, in return, Washington has agreed to give the small pacific island $200 million in developmental aid. This resettlement ends a contentious debate between the Obama administration, Congress, and several third party nations—including Germany and Australia—regarding the placement of the inmates. The Uighur detainees hail from China's northwestern Xinjiang province and were captured in 2001 in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan. They were declared to be "enemy combatants" and accused of training in Al Qaeda camps. Federal courts found them innocent in 2004, but no country had been willing to accept the 17 Uighurs, who would likely face execution if returned to China. Beijing has requested the repatriation of the inmates, who it considers separatists and "Chinese terrorists." The Uighur detainees expressed interest in being given protection in Germany, home to the largest Uighur community in Europe, but Berlin has been extremely reluctant to accept any Guantanamo prisoners. Since 1994, the United States has given $450 million in aid to Palau, which it considers one of its "staunchest allies."

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