Politics Summary: Thursday, February 11th

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The European Union is on the verge of agreeing a deal to bail out Greece, with Eurozone Finance Ministers poised to announce a multibillion-pound package today to prevent the Greek debt crisis spreading, reports The Times. The Telegraph says the meeting, to be held in Brussels, comes as the Euro faces “the greatest test in its history”, with The Guardian reporting that the summit will “guarantee Greek solvency” as the prospect of action “buoys the markets”. The Independent, meanwhile, describes Greece as “the sick man of Europe”, describing “offices deserted, an economy on the brink, a nation in uproar as Greece is stricken by walkouts”. The Standard describes the summit as “a desperate move to restore global confidence in the single currency” and the FT reports the markets steadying on the news of the “Greek lifeline”, the bail-out plans leading the Euro to “pare losses”.

The other main story is the decision by the Appeal Court to reveal details of the torture of British resident Binyan Mohamed. The Telegraph reports the “US anger” at the judges’ decision, warning relations with Britain “will be harmed” by the release of documents showing Mohamed was “deprived of sleep, shackled and made to think he might ‘disappear'”. The Times reports on the decision of the judges to curtail criticism of MI5, erasing an attack on the Security Service’s perceived “disregard for human rights” following a “secret approach” from Foreign Office lawyers, while The Guardian reports calls for a public inquiry into the case, which shattered the spies’ “culture of secrecy“. Writing in The Guardian, Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s lawyer, calls it a “shameful cover-up“.

The Independent reports that the Government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 68 “could be stopped dead in its tracks”. According to the “Fair Society, Healthy Lives” report, published today, three-quarters of people will be too ill to work, with “everyone except those at the top” affected. The report also says that, despite life expectancy for the worst-off improving by 2.9 years in the last decade, “up to 2.5 million years of life are being lost each year in England as a result of poor people dying prematurely”. Report author Sir Michael Marmot, of University College London, says: “There will be those who say that our recommendations cannot be afforded, particularly in the current economic climate. We say it is inaction that cannot be afforded – the economic and, more importantly, human costs are simply too high.”

The Record reports SNP deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire for providing a character reference for a convicted fraudster facing jail. Describing it as “her biggest crisis” the paper details how she pleaded for Abdul Rauf to be spared jail. Sturgeon – who, notes the Record, “has previously called for ‘zero tolerance’ of benefit cheats” – urged the court to “consider alternatives” to jail. She has been condemned from all sides. Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said: “This letter of support shows an astonishing lack of judgment from Nicola Sturgeon”; Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: “To call these crimes a ‘mistake’ is simply wrong. Her judgment in this matter is completely flawed”; and Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles said: “It beggars belief that she could think it appropriate to write in support of a convicted fraudster who is now facing another conviction.”

And the Guardian, Times and Telegraph all have special reports on the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island. The Telegraph reports that, back then, “the smell of cordite hung in the air, Zulus were threatening to engage in civil war with Xhosas, and white Afrikaner hard-liners were threatening to blow the seemingly endless constitutional talks to smithereens”, with the Guardian reporting Winnie Mandela’s memories of the day: “We were shocked at the response of the nation that at last we were going to be free. We knew from that day that he would lead us … to freedom.” And The Times also reports the role played by FW de Klerk, and the speech that “changed the course of South African history”.

• The British Muslims for Secular Democracy conference takes place at SOAS on Tuesday 16th February – to register email [email protected]

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