Jan Tamas and Jan Bednar (both pictured here/ Bednar is on the left) in Prague have been on the hunger strike since May 13, Dino Mancarella in Trieste since May 14, Federica Fratini and Eduardo Calizza in Rome since May 19, José Alvarez in Spain since May 22. Bruce Gagnon and Sung-Hee Choi in the USA, Gareth Smith in Australia, Joaquin Valenzuela in Bologna since May 24. Ivan Marchetti and Andrea Casa in Turin since May 26 and Dr. Hassan Nayeb Hashem in Austria since May 29.
One of the Czechs, Jan Bednar was rushed to a hospital yesterday with some type of liver failure. Bendar says despite his condition he will not stop his protest.
The United States plans to build a radar base on Czech soil along with a base for ten interceptor missiles in Poland as elements of the U.S. missile defense shield that Bush administration says is to protect the United States and a large part of Europe against missiles that "rogue" states like Iran might launch.
The Prague Daily Monitor reported today almost two-thirds of Czechs are against the stationing of the U.S. radar base in the Czech Republic, while fewer than one-quarter are for the project, according to a poll conducted by the polling agency CVVM in early April and released today. The poll also shows 70 percent of Czechs believe a referendum should decide on the plan, the opposite view is held by 20 percent. Some 72 percent of Czechs are afraid of an attack in the event of a military conflict, while 64 percent are afraid of a terrorist attack on the radar base.
In a letter to the hunger strikers Rep. Cynthia McKinney wrote," It is impossible for me to say strongly enough how important your efforts are in the Czech Republic to oppose deployment of U.S. so-called missile defense bases. Your leadership is being watched and is appreciated all over the world."
The Prague Post says as all eyes are fixed on the anticipated June signing of the Czech-U.S. treaty to build the radar base at the Brdy Military Base 90 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Prague, controversy over a lesser-known radar base is playing out on the other side of the country.
That controversy centers on a new base built by the Defense Ministry and to be under NATO control which is now being completed in Slavkov, south Moravia, and is scheduled to begin trial operations June 1.
More than 20 surrounding towns and villages as well as conservation and historic groups have battled that radar station since construction began, but, at this point, locals have mostly given in to the inevitable. “We have been excluded from judicial proceedings against the radar. Any further efforts on our part would be wasted,” said Jiří Životský, mayor of Sokolnice, about 2 kilometers from the base, adding that a 2004 court case against the installation had been dismissed."
The Campaign for Peace and Democracy argues although the proposed US radar in the Czech Republic and the companion interceptor missiles planned for Poland are presented as a defense system against possible attacks from Iranian missiles, the "Missile Defense" system is, in fact, a first strike weapon and a tool for global dominance.
The following is from Russia Today.
Hunger strikers stand firm against U.S. missile shield
Two campaigners in Prague are taking anti-radar base protests to another level. They’ve been on hunger strike for 18 days as the Czech Republic nears agreement with the U.S. to host part of its missile defence shield.
Jan Bednar from the ‘No to the Base’ campaign group has lost 10 kilograms in weight in just over two weeks. His liver is failing and jaundice is setting in, so doctors are urging him to end his hunger strike. But he’s refusing. He may look weak, but his will is strong.
“I will continue as long as I can, because I want people to realise that our government is putting us in a seriously dangerous situation through its negotiations on the U.S. radar base,” he says.
At the ‘No to the Base’ headquarters in Prague, second hunger striker Jan Tamas is documenting their plight on the web. He too has eaten nothing for 18 days, drinking only water. He says he'll only stop the strike if the government meets one of three demands.
“This means receiving a clear sign that negotiations about this base will be stopped, or getting a clear sign that there'll be a national referendum on the issue or that an open democratic debate about this issue will begin to take place,” he explains.
Since last year, Prague has been negotiating the terms of installing a radar base on Czech soil with Washington. Such a base would be part of a planned U.S. missile shield in Europe. Russia and China have heavily condemned the plans, saying it would set back international disarmament efforts.
Across the Czech Republic the radar plans have been met by a wave of protests, and the latest hunger strike is, perhaps, a last resort.
The hunger strikers say the Czech government is acting undemocratically in refusing to the consult the public on the issue, even though the latest opinion polls show that 65 per cent of Czechs are against the radar base.
The majority of people want a referendum, but the government disagrees. With only a fragile majority in Parliament, the government wouldn't have it easy, especially as the Greens and the Social Democrats largely oppose the plans.
But across town, there's a sound of optimism in the air: Prague's American Embassy is educating the public on the positive aspects of a radar base. The photo exhibition called 'Life with the Radar' shows people living happily on the Marshall Islands, which hosts the U.S. radar that could one day end up near Prague.
Whether these photos will have any bearing on public opinion remains to be seen.