Tuesday, August 31, 2004

It doesn't look like they are trying very hard to hide... Though if one assumes that some terrorists are terrorists and others are freedom fighters, then it's different, of course (and I don't just mean Hamas here; there's also Mr. Zakayev living very comfortably in London and pretending to speak for the thousands of displaced Chechens)...

Bail at $1M in Videotaped Bridge Case

by Brian Witte
Associated Press

BALTIMORE — A man described as a high-ranking Hamas operative was freed Monday on a $1 million bond, but must appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago probing the Palestinian militant group's financing.

Ismael Selim Elbarasse was released during a closed-door detention hearing in federal court in Baltimore, said Vickie LeDuc, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office. His attorney said he was traveling to his home in Annandale, Va.

Elbarasse had been arrested after officers pulled him over Aug. 20 just west of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge after spotting his wife filming the structure with a video camera.

Neither Elbarasse nor his wife was charged with any wrongdoing. However, Maryland authorities held him after discovering a material witness warrant had been issued for him in Illinois the same day.

Federal officials in Chicago want Elbarasse to appear before a grand jury probing the financing of Hamas, which the government has designated a terrorist organization.

"He's going home, and I suspect what he and his family will do is stop keeping photo albums of their vacations," said Elbarasse's attorney, Stanley Cohen. A phone call to Elbarasse's home was unanswered Monday afternoon.

Cohen said Elbarasse's friends put up property to post the bond.

No date has been announced for Elbarasse to appear.

Court documents allege Elbarasse and defendant Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook — considered one of the highest-ranking leaders internationally of the Palestinian extremist group — shared a Virginia bank account used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hamas. [...]

What's really cute about it is that the name of this guy's lawyer is Stanley Cohen.


Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear from my former classmate who lives in Ber-Sheba with his beautiful wife and a sweet little baby daughter. I hope they are alive, healthy and not too upset about today's bus explosions, for which Hamas has claimed responsibility and which killed at least 15 people.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Yesterday, I saw this name on the list of the dead: V. Meglinskaya. I wanted to call Mishah at work because this is the last name of one of his colleagues in Moscow - she's Irina, but it could have been her relative. But then I got too upset to call him.

He told me in the evening that he had also noticed this name. He talked to Irochka on the phone about some work issues that day and at some point he said he hoped that was just a namesake of hers.

She hadn't seen the list yet. She said, "You know, we don't have any namesakes in this country - all Meglinskys are in some way related. My mother is V. Meglinskaya - but she's not flying any planes, she's at home, in Southern Russia. I'd know if she all of a sudden decided to fly to Volgograd from Moscow, right?" Then Irochka thought for a while, trying to remember any other of her numerous relatives whose first name starts with a "V" - "Venera," she finally said, a relative she hadn't seen or heard from in a very long time. She hung up right after that, and Mishah didn't have the guts to call her later to find out if that was indeed her relative Venera. He felt guilty for making Irochka worry - but I told him he shouldn't be.

Today, I checked the list again and noticed a correction: it's V. Miglenskaya - not Meglinskaya - now.
They haven't determined yet whether the planes went down because of terrorist attacks - but if they do, the relatives of the victims won’t get a cent because, even though all the passengers were insured, the insurance doesn’t cover death as the result of a terrorist act. If these were "just" accidents, they’ll get some $3,500 for each of their dead.

I know nothing about insurance; I've just heard this on the news. I think this is outrageously unfair: in a country at war, terrorism is as likely as accidents.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Some pretty disastrous things always happen in August here: it's become a cliche by now, and everyone's expecting the worst. The coup that brought the Soviet Union to its collapse took place on August 19, 1991 (which was a good thing for many, though; today - well, yesterday - is/was the Independence Day in Ukraine); the default happened on, I guess, August 17, 1996, and way too many people lost their jobs and savings; the Kursk submarine sank sometime around August 12, 2000. There could have been something else but I don't remember. And now this.

I'm so scared of flying - and to think of what all the relatives are going through now is horrible. There were about a hundred people on board of those two planes - or, hopefully, fewer: they keep confirming something and then there are some vague disclaimers. One plane's burning tail has been found, and the other one is still missing though it looks like they've almost found the place where it fell. It happened so late at night and Russia's countryside is very very dark.

Mishah flew to that airport just a week ago - it's a newly redesigned airport, Domodedovo, with really tight security. There's a commuter train service between the center of Moscow and the airport - the trains are brand new and comfortable - an incredible thing for Russia.

It can't be an accident. Two of them at the same time. They were at the stage of the flight that's the safest statistically.

Today, there was also a minor explosion at a bus stop in Moscow - in the area that's like a Bermuda Triangle: two apartment buildings were blown up there in 1999 and the theater hostage thing also happened nearby. But only two people are reported to have been hurt in today's explosion and no one took it seriously - it's Moscow, after all, a crazy city. But now they are beginning to panic - I've just read a piece that, among other things, mentions that the bomb had gone off roughly halfway from the center to the Domodedovo Airport.

Compared to what's going on in Iraq, this is nothing. Even though it is probably connected with the upcoming elections in Chechnya.