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MH17 crash: UK relatives call for the return of victims' bodies

Relatives of passengers killed in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash have called for the bodies of their loved ones to be returned home.

Jordan Withers, nephew of Glenn Thomas - who was one of the 10 Britons on board flight MH17 - said the bodies of victims had been treated "inhumanely".

Some 298 people died after the airline crashed in eastern Ukraine last week.

PM David Cameron is to use a statement to MPs to press for tougher sanctions against Russia over its response.

Pro-Russia separatists, who retain control of the crash site in east Ukraine, have been blamed for downing the jet - reportedly with a missile - on 17 July.

Russia has been accused of providing the rebels with the anti-aircraft system allegedly used in the incident, allegations the Kremlin denies.

Body bags
On Sunday, the remains of up to 196 plane victims were loaded on to refrigerated rail wagons in Torez, some 15km (9 miles) away from the crash site. A second train arrived there later to take more bodies on board.

Three Dutch investigators have now examined the bodies being held in Torez, with the team's leader, Peter Van Leit, saying storage was "of good quality".

But Mr Withers told the BBC victims' bodies had been loaded on to trains "like cargo".

His uncle, Glenn Thomas, was a World Health Organisation (WHO) media relations coordinator and former BBC journalist, who was travelling to Australia for an international Aids conference when he died in the crash.

"We just want our uncle back... because that is when we can start the grieving process and we can give him the send-off he deserves," Mr Withers said.

Barry Sweeney, the father of Liam Sweeney, who also died in the crash, told the BBC: "Somebody asked me what would I say to Mr Putin. I said 'do now - talk later - let our relatives... come home and then sort it out later'.

"I'm not going to be political, I'm not going to blame anybody because they are all as bad as each other in their different ways - the Americans, I'm not even blaming the Russians - I'm just thinking we've got to get it right."

'Bargaining chip'
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has said the forthcoming season will be dedicated to Liam Sweeney and fellow fan, John Alder, who also died in the crash.

Hugo Hoare, whose brother Andrew died in the crash, told the Telegraph he hoped the treatment of the bodies was "humane", but added: "The first thing I thought was what if they are going to use them as a bargaining chip?"

Mr Hoare, 59, a banker, died along with his Dutch wife and their two children.

The last of the 10 Britons who died were named over the weekend.

They included 44-year-old drilling technician Stephen Anderson and law firm partner John Allen, 44, who died alongside his wife and three sons.

'Unfettered access'
Meanwhile, UK air crash investigators have started work after arriving in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

The UK Department for Transport said the six-strong team, from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, was providing "expert technical assistance", although it is not known whether they will gain access to the crash site.

Two Metropolitan Police officers are also in Ukraine as part of the UK's disaster victim identification team.

Mr Cameron told Mr Putin in a "frank" phone call on Sunday that the delay in allowing experts access to the crash site was "completely unacceptable and indefensible".

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have now visited the accident site, but their access to wreckage has been limited by the separatists. Moscow has been accused of not doing enough to pressure them to permit full international access.

Mr Putin has said in a statement on Russian television it was essential to give international experts security to conduct an investigation.

Mr Cameron, who is due to address the Commons, has backed a new UN resolution to guarantee "unfettered access" to the crash site. The UN Security Council will vote on the proposed resolution later on Monday.

The PM is also due to chair a meeting of the National Security Council, where the issue will be discussed.

And the UK is set to push for increased sanctions against Russia at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday.

The BBC's political correspondent Vicki Young said there was a "great deal of diplomatic activity" going on at all levels ahead of the expected vote.

A Downing Street spokesman said the pressure on Mr Putin "would be kept up and stepped up".

Mr Cameron has made it clear he will press for more Russian individuals to be listed for travel bans and asset freezes.

And he is seeking further potential bans on companies and banks that are seen to facilitate the continuing conflict in Ukraine, our correspondent said.

However, BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said Downing Street was frustrated at the lack of appetite among other EU countries for expanding existing sanctions.

'Overwhelming evidence'
Speaking at a press conference in Whitehall, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the time had come "for sanctions to be tightened further".

Chancellor George Osborne said fresh sanctions could harm the UK's economy - but warned that not acting could be "much worse".

Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists have accused each other of downing the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, which had been travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

However, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said the PM had told the Russian leader that "the evidence suggested that pro-Russian separatists were responsible".

US Secretary of State John Kerry said there was overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of the plane.

Tens of thousands rally in London against Israel’s Gaza op
by Spencer Ho

In huge demonstration, protesters denounce Israel as terrorist state, castigate PM Cameron for backing right to self-defense.

Tens of thousands protested in London Saturday afternoon against Israel’s military operations in Gaza, denouncing Israel as a terrorist state and castigating British Prime Minister David Cameron for backing Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket fire

Led by speakers on a podium, protesters holding placards and banners chanted pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel slogans.

At one point, a woman on the podium shouted “from the river to the sea” — a call for the elimination of Israel — and protesters responded by yelling “Palestine will be free.”

The crowd also directed shouts of “Shame on you” at Cameron, who publicly backed Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rocket fire aimed at the Israeli civilian population.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which organized the demonstration, said that since the protest began at 12 p.m. (GMT), tens of thousands of people had gathered, more than the 20,000 anticipated. The demonstration began outside Downing Street and was to march to the Israeli embassy.

“London has already shown its outrage at Israel’s attacks on the mostly refugee population of Gaza, with people turning out in their thousands last week,” PSC Director Sarah Colborne said in a press release on the organization’s website. “Today’s national demonstration will give people from across the country the chance to say enough is enough, Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now.”

Since Israel began Operation Protective Edge 12 days ago, 337 people have died in Gaza. Hamas has fired around 1,400 rockets into Israeli territory, aimed mostly at southern cities, but also frequently reaching the population centers of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and Jerusalem. Several Hamas rockets have also struck almost as far north as Haifa. Two Israeli civilians have died in rocket attacks, including a Bedouin man near Dimona Saturday.

Saturday’s demonstration in London came on the heels of numerous protests Thursday and Friday worldwide, including Cairo, Istanbul, Cape Town, Berlin, New York and Washington. Many of the protests have turned violent.

In Istanbul, police warded off hundreds of rioters who attempted on Thursday to storm the Israeli embassy building. Demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul also hurled stones at several compounds where Israeli officials reside. Calls for the destruction of the Jewish state were heard in both Turkish cities. Police responded by firing tear gas canisters and water cannons at the crowds. Israel decided Friday to pull some of its diplomatic staff out of Turkey in the wake of the protests.

Adiv Sterman, AP and JTA contributed to this report.

‘Test it on Brits:’ Snowden says GCHQ even worse than NSA

British intelligence is permitted to go further in surveillance than similar agencies in other Western countries, according to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who spoke of GCHQ’s lack of oversight in a recent interview to the Guardian.

Snowden's life in Russia: ‘Much happier than be unfairly tried in US’

Snowden believes the powers of the British intelligence are not restricted effectively enough by “law or policy”. Despite the UK government publicly claiming that regulations over the spy activity are strict, GCHQ’s private documents suggest the opposite is true.

“You’ve got their own admission in their own documents that ‘we’ve got a much lighter oversight regime than we should have,’ full stop,” Snowden said. “That’s what they’re talking about. They enjoy authorities that they really shouldn’t be entitled to.”

The lack of legal restrictions leads to UK intelligence being able to target more people than is necessary.

“Tempora [GCHQ’s internet surveillance program] is really proof … that GCHQ has much less-strict legal restrictions than other Western government intelligence.”

Taking that into account, Snowden is sure the UK citizens could be ones on whom intelligence techniques could be tested to then be used by all of the other so-called Five Eyes partners – Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

“And what that means is UK citizens and UK intelligence platforms are used as a testing ground for all of the other Five Eyes partners,” he said.

In May, a group of British MPs called for more accountability on the part of the country’s intelligence. They said the confidential files, leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the “embarrassing” state of legal oversight into the British surveillance system.

US knew about Snowden file destruction at UK newspaper

Snowden recalled a raid on the Guardian’s offices a year ago to obtain and destroyed hard drives with leaked files as another example of the country’s intelligence going too far in its activity.

“It seemed like a clear intent to intimidate the press into pulling back and not reporting,” Snowden said. “And I think that was why it was inappropriate, but tremendously beneficial for the public conversation because they gave everyone who was concerned about the abuses of power a clear and specific example.”

The raid was not only intimidating, but also “stupid”, Snowden added, ridiculing the idea of someone trying to “grind data out of existence when we have a global interconnected internet.”
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