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Islamic World News ( 11 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Benjamin Netanyahu Welcomed President Donald Trump’s Announcement of a Normalization Deal between Israel and Morocco As an - Historic Peace between Us

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 December 2020


FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the arrival of a DHL plane carrying a first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel December 9, 2020. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS


 • UAE Welcomes Morocco's Decision to Resume Ties with Israel

• French FM Says Measures, Remarks against Muslims Not Anti-Islam

• Plea on Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid At The Qutub Minar Complex: Historians Slam Taking History Out Of Context

• Taliban Eye Islamic System in Afghanistan: Intra-Afghan Negotiations

• Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Expresses Its Interest In Resolving The Debate Over Sculptures

• Malaysia in Race to Make World's First 'Halal Vaccine' Facility By 2022

• US Supreme Court Rules Muslim Men Can Sue FBI Agents Over No-Fly List


• Benjamin Netanyahu Welcomed President Donald Trump’s Announcement of a Normalization Deal between Israel and Morocco As an - Historic Peace between Us

• Israel Ties: Morocco’s King Tells Palestinians Rabat Stands By Two-State Solution

• Israeli Minister Calls Morocco Normalization Deal ‘Historic And Joyous’

• Iran Security Forces Arrest Two Female Iranian Arab Civil Activists: Rights Group

• Iranian Speaker Warns of Terrorists, Israel's Moves in Azerbaijan

• Iran Sanctions US Ambassador to Yemen

• Rouhani Hopes for Further Consolidation of Iran-Afghanistan Ties by Inauguration of New Railway

• US Treasury imposes sanctions on five Houthi militia officials

• Yemen condemns US sanctions on five Houthi Ansarullah officials as "American terrorism"

• Turkey’s Erdogan renews call for change of leadership in Armenia

• Hamas pledges resistance against Israel, vows full liberation of Palestine

• Palestinian children falling victim to Israeli lethal arms: NGO


Arab World

• UAE Welcomes Morocco's Decision to Resume Ties with Israel

• Egypt opens trial of acting Muslim brotherhood leader Mahmud Ezzat

• Lebanon judge indicts PM, three ex-ministers over Beirut explosion

• Riyadh Agreement set to be implemented in Yemen, 24-member government formed: SPA

• UAE launches consultative process for UAE National Human Rights Plan

• Bomb explosions target US-led coalition military convoys in south Iraq, near capital

• Saudi crown prince asks US court to dismiss former top spy's assassination lawsuit

• US-Saudi doctor gets 6-year sentence on ‘vague charges’: HRW



• French FM Says Measures, Remarks against Muslims Not Anti-Islam

• German government extends ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia

• British PM and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meet in London

• Turkey’s Erdogan says Azerbaijan’s ‘struggle’ with Armenia will continue



• Plea on Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid At The Qutub Minar Complex: Historians Slam Taking History Out Of Context

• UP Police Stops Wedding Based On 'Love Jihad' Rumours, Muslim Couple Spends Night At Police Station

• Muslim-Sikh Amity Continues, Guru Gobind To Singhu Border

• J&K lawyer linked to Congress held for ferrying terrorists

• India, Uzbekistan stand together against terrorism, says PM Modi, talks about Afghanistan peace process

• Modi, Hasina to virtually re-launch cross-border rail route after 55 years


South Asia

• Taliban Eye Islamic System in Afghanistan: Intra-Afghan Negotiations

• Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Expresses Its Interest In Resolving The Debate Over Sculptures

• Cyber tribunal turns down plea to sue Hefazat’s Mamunul under DSA

• Officials Nab Terrorist in Helmand Operation

• Ukrainian Enterprises Put ‘Afghan and US troops’ at Lethal Risk

• Taliban Face Heavy Retaliation in Zabul


Southeast Asia

• Malaysia in Race to Make World's First 'Halal Vaccine' Facility By 2022

• Leave Religion Out Of Sentencing, Malaysian Bar and a Retired Judge Urged

• Don’t get high-handed on alcohol sale, says consumer group

• Uighur family reunited in Australia after 3-year detention in Xinjiang

• Indonesian Ulema Council edges closer to the centre of power


North America

• US Supreme Court Rules Muslim Men Can Sue FBI Agents Over No-Fly List

• US ‘concerned’ by transfer of Rohingya to Bangladeshi island

• Trump pushes for last-minute sale of four sophisticated drones to Morocco

• US flies two B-52s over Persian Gulf amid tensions with Iran

• Trump wants Iran’s oil and gas off the market for the benefit of US oil corporations: Expert



• Morocco To Facilitate Direct Flights For Israelis To And From Morocco

• International aid group says staffer killed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region conflict

• Sudan announces cancelation of over 3,500 Bashir-era passports for foreign residents



• PDM Has Played Its Cards Too Early, Says Minister

• Maryam challenges attachment of properties in NAB case

• Bilawal meets party cadre today to discuss PDM rally

• Opposition members put off protest for 10 days after meeting KP CM

• Three members of Balochistan Assembly to resign

• KP opposition legislators vow to continue protest outside CM’s House

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Benjamin Netanyahu Welcomed President Donald Trump’s Announcement of a Normalization Deal between Israel and Morocco As an - Historic Peace between Us

10 December 2020


FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the arrival of a DHL plane carrying a first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel December 9, 2020. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS


 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed President Donald Trump’s announcement of a normalization deal between Israel and Morocco as an “historic peace between us.”

Netanyahu said it would lead to direct flights between Morocco and Israel and that the fourth US-brokered deal between Israel and an Arab country in recent months would be a “very warm peace.”

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

In a televised address, he said: “I’ve always believed that this historic peace would come. I’ve always worked for it.”

Thanking Trump, he added: “I want to thank, too, the king of Morocco, King Mohammed the Sixth, for taking this historic decision to bring an historic peace between us.”

But Bassam as-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, condemned the deal, as Palestinian officials did with the earlier Israeli normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

“Any Arab retreat from the (2002) Arab peace initiative, which stipulates that normalization comes only after Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, is unacceptable and increases Israel’s belligerence and its denial of the Palestinian people’s rights,” Salhi told Reuters.

In Gaza, Hazem Qassem, spokesman for the ruling Islamist group Hamas, said: “This is a sin and it doesn’t serve the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation uses every new normalization to increase its aggression against the Palestinian people and increase its settlement expansion.”

Morocco was the Muslim country from which the greatest number of Jews emigrated to Israel after the 1948 creation of the state. A small Jewish community remains in the North African country.

The news broke in Israel as Jews marked the first night of the Hanukkah festival of lights, commemorating the 2nd century BC victory of Judah Maccabee and his followers in a revolt in Judea against armies of the Seleucid Empire and the ensuing restoration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

Rafael Peretz, an Israeli cabinet minister, welcomed the deal, calling it “historic and joyous.”

“My parents, who immigrated from Morocco and left their entire lives behind, always spoke of peace and about good relations with the Arab neighbors in Morocco,” he tweeted.


 UAE Welcomes Morocco's Decision To Resume Ties With Israel

10 December 2020


Morocco's King Mohammed VI. (AFP)


The United Arab Emirates welcomed Morocco’s decision to resume diplomatic relations and communications with Israel, crown prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan wrote on twitter.

“This step, a sovereign move, contributes to strengthening our common quest for stability, prosperity, and just and lasting peace in the region.”

Earlier on Thursday, Israel and Morocco agreed to normalize relations in a deal brokered with US help, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.


 French FM Says Measures, Remarks against Muslims Not Anti-Islam

11 December 2020


Macron's ultimatum to French Muslims slammed by US rights group


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has dismissed global outrage against his country over its offensive positions and measures against Islam and Muslims, claiming that they were meant to clamp down on “radicalism” but “distorted” as Islamophobic.

“Our positions and statements were largely distorted and misrepresented as part of a campaign against our country,” Le Drrian claimed during an official visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, which is a major importer of French armaments and products.

“[Our position] might have been misunderstood by believers who might have felt their beliefs were being disrespected,” he added in a press briefing during a one-day stop in the small oil-rich kingdom.

 “We have the utmost respect for Islam,” he further claimed, despite France’s unprecedented hostile measures against French Muslims in recent months and its President Emmanuel Macron describing Islam as a religion “in crisis.”

Such insulting statements, as well as Macron’s declaration of war on what he alleged as “Islamic separatism” across France, have angered the country’s six-million-strong Muslim population and Muslims across the globe, prompting countless protest rallies and universal calls to boycott French products.

Furthermore, French authorities have also ordered a six-month shutdown of the Grand Mosque of Pantin in a low-income Paris suburb as part of a crackdown against Muslims.

Macron also issued a controversial ultimatum to Muslim leaders across France to proclaim that Islam is an “apolitical religion” or face unspecified “consequences.” The French interior ministry also confirmed last month that it had shut down 43 mosques in the country since Macron took office.

Muslims worldwide have also protested Macron’s forceful defense of France’s “secular values” and the right to insult religions after a French schoolteacher, who showed his class offensive cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) even after an expression of outrage by Muslims worldwide over the sacrilegious move earlier by a French publication, was beheaded in October.

The French government further defended the draft legislation as a “law of freedom” on Wednesday after a torrent of criticism from Muslim nations and expressions of concern, even from the US.

“This bill is not a text aimed against religions or against the Muslim religion in particular,” France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex proclaimed at a press briefing after Macron’s cabinet approved the text for presentation to parliament.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who spoke alongside  Le Drian, insisted that “violent extremism is not connected or linked with any religion.”

“We must stand firmly against Islamophobic speech just as the world stands against all forms of racist rhetoric,” he added.

While Doha did not specifically censure France, many prominent Qatari retailers have instituted boycotts of French products in response to the Islamophobic remarks measures made by top authorities in Paris.

Dozens of major French brands remain active in Qatar, including construction companies, retailers and luxury brands beloved in the wealthy oil-rich state.

Qatar is also among the top purchasers of French military hardware with its order for 36 Rafale fighter jets worth $10.5 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance survey.

French, Qatari FMs also discuss Libya

During his short visit, France’s top diplomat also said he discussed Libya with his Qatari counterpart and, in a statement issued following their meeting, he called for “an end to foreign interference in Libya, support for the implementation of a ceasefire, and UN efforts to hold credible elections.”

This is while Paris has clashed repeatedly with Qatar’s key ally Turkey over their meddling efforts in the war-ravaged North African nation, with the two camps sponsoring opposing militant groups in the conflict.


Plea On Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid At The Qutub Minar Complex: Historians Slam Taking History Out Of Context

Dec 11, 2020

New Delhi: The suit filed in a Delhi court demanding placing of Hindu and Jain idols and their worship inside Quwwat ul-Islam Masjid at the Qutub Minar complex has been frowned upon by historians. While some have lamented the lack of understanding of history, a few others are of the view that this can lead to further communalisation of the discourse.

“History is not a matter of public opinion,” said historian Professor Harbans Mukhia. “Historical events take place in their context. You can’t isolate a 12th-century fact from its context and present it in the 21st century and claim victimhood. Where does logic find a place in all this?”

Historian Professor Catherine B Asher was aghast too. “Giving a full, even imagined, history of the site could be important, but to actually transform it into a Hindu or Jain temple would be a matter of serious erasing of history,” she said.

Historian of Delhi Dr Swapna Liddle, who edited the English translation of the 19th-century work, ‘Sair ul-Manazil’, expressed her dismay at this “never-ending, fruitless quest to right historical wrongs”. “Nobody denies the fact that temples were destroyed in a moment of war. But this was not because they were symbols of a rival faith but because they were symbols of power of the regime that was supplanted. That context is important,” Liddle said.

Liddle said the entire record needs to be looked at for anyone to have a proper understanding. “A grand Jain temple built by a minister of the Tomars, named Sahu Nattal, in 1132 was destroyed by the Ghurid army that conquered Delhi. That was possibly selectively chosen for its association with power. But other shrines nearby that enjoyed popular support, like the Dadabari Jain temple in Mehrauli and the Jogmaya Temple, were spared,” she pointed out.

The petitioners have claimed that 27 Hindu and Jain temples were destroyed and a mosque was erected in their place and named ‘Quwwat ul-Islam’ or ‘Might of Islam’, just to poke Hindus in the eye. This claim is based on the inscription put up at the mosque by Sultan Qutubuddin Aibak, which says that material from 27 temples was reused to construct the mosque. But historians once again advise caution.

“This name that carries a sense of bellicose hostility, however, was not the complex’s original one. Inscriptions on the mosque dating to the late 12th century call it simply a building (imarat) or mosque (masjid),” Prof Asher writes in ‘Delhi’s Qutb Complex: The Minar, Mosque and Mehrauli’.

Historian of the early Delhi Sultanate Minhaz us Siraj Juzjani describes Delhi in his Tabakat-i Nasiri as the Qubbat al-Islam. Since qubba means ‘refuge’ or ‘sanctuary’, historian Professor Sunil Kumar argues in his ‘The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate’ that Juzjani’s use of the phrase referred to the role of Delhi as the sanctuary of Islam “at a time when the central Islamic lands were feeling the brunt of Mongol invasions”. “Qubba, however, also meant the centre, the axis, and in that sense, Qubbat al-Islam referred to the newly gained role of Delhi as the paramount power in north India, the centre of Islam,” Kumar writes.

At a later time, the term came to be used for the dargah of Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, argues Asher. This eventually got attached to the mosque as Quwwat ul-Islam. Both Mirza Sangin Beg’s 1820 work, ‘Sair ul-Manazil’, and Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s 1854 work, ‘Asar us-Sanadid’, refer to the mosque as Quwwat ul-Islam. But even in this, historian Professor David Lelyveld argues, the name didn’t have a militant sense.

“I agree with this view,” Liddle says. “It was just called the Jami masjid in its time.”

But what explains Hindu and Jain motifs in an Islamic building? Asher highlights an important fact in her book where she points out that the Ghaznavids and Ghurids had been employing Hindu artisans for a long time before their armies actually entered Delhi. So, there was a familiarity with Hindu imagery. Artefacts found in Ghazni point to that.

“You will find the lotus and the kalash at Muslim monuments. Look at Maulana Jamali’s tomb (Jamali-Kamali Mosque and Tomb). Right above the mihrab, there is a kalash with Allah written on top of it. Look at Gandhara art, for example. Today, we only see specimens of it in museums. But these Turkic people came from those same lands where Gandhara art was practised. Islam is a religion accepted by so many different cultures. But architecture was cultural. They grew up in that culture, so they were familiar with it. Why is it so difficult for us today to understand that?” Liddle said.


Taliban Eye Islamic System in Afghanistan: Intra-Afghan Negotiations

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

11 Dec 2020

DOHA, QATAR – Deputy Leader of the Taliban Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, at the Heart of Asia Society (HAS) 7th session on Thursday, said the group is committed to solve the current political problems of Afghanistan by negotiations.

On Thursday, the Heart of Asia Society (HAS) hosted the 7th session of its flagship track 2 dialogue series on regional and international support for Afghan peace, where Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, who is also head of the Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar, participated as keynote speaker.

“[The Taliban] for its part is fully prepared and committed to resolving the issues through negotiations,” said Baradar, adding the group wants an inclusive and Islamic system in Afghanistan.

He said the next political system will ensure the protection of public utility, women’s rights, media rights, and Afghanistan’s bilateral relations with all other nations in line with the Islamic principles, according to sources.

Adding on, Baradar said the next political system will also fight drug smuggling, as well as, its production, in the country. It will maintain good ties with neighboring counties and will seek international assistance for Afghanistan in line with the Islamic laws.

Intra-Afghan Negotiations Resume amid Violence Escalation across Afghanistan

Doha Yields Agreement on Ground Rules: Intra-Afghan Negotiations

While the Taliban negotiating team visions a completely new form of government in Afghanistan, the republic negotiating team exclaimed a comprehensive ceasefire will be the Afghan team’s utmost priority in the ongoing talks with the Taliban in Qatari capital Doha.


Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Expresses Its Interest In Resolving The Debate Over Sculptures

December 10th, 2020

Hefazat leader Nurul Islam demands the government withdraw cases against party leaders

Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh has expressed its interest in resolving the debate over sculptures by holding talks with the government.

The Hefazat leaders are trying to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the issue, they said at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital on Thursday.

Hefazat leader and Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh (BEFAQ)’s Secretary General Maulana Mahfuzul Haque said that they had requested the government for a dialogue to find a solution.

Replying to a query, he said the date for the meeting with the prime minister had not been fixed yet. The party was trying to contact her and was hopeful that the meeting would be held in the fastest possible time. 

Hefazat's Nayeb-e-Ameer Maulana Nurul Islam, in a written statement, demanded that the government withdraw the cases against the Hefazat leaders.

Asking the government to control all Islamophobes, who took refuge under the guise of “secularism”, he said otherwise religious people would take to the streets to stop this insidious quarter.

He also urged the government not to go against the faith and teachings of Islam and avoid what he called the path of state-sponsored misguidance to spread paganism. 

Nurul Islam said they wanted punishment of those who had vandalized sculpture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Kushtia but they had doubts about the authenticity of the video footage.

On November 5, an under construction sculpture of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was vandalized in Kushtia. Police have arrested four people in this connection.

Meanwhile, the debate over sculpture gained momentum when Hefazat leaders threatened to throw Bangabandhu's sculpture into the Buriganga.

However, the Awami League and other political parties along with socio-cultural organizations have continued their protests against the anti-sculpture groups.

On December 5, the Muktijuddho Mancha decided to file a sedition case against Mamunul Haque, joint secretary general of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, and Faizul Karim, nayeb-e-ameer of Islami Andolan Bangladesh, for opposing the installation of the sculpture of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

On Wednesday, a defamation case was filed against former prime minister and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, her son Tarique Rahman, BNP General Secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and Islamic leaders Babungari, Mamunul, and Faizul for allegedly abetting anti-sculpture remarks.


Malaysia In Race To Make World's First 'Halal Vaccine' Facility By 2022

Dec 10, 2020

Muslim-majority countries are asking companies manufacturing coronavirus vaccines to issue halal certification.

The halal certification will ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any ingredient that Islam does not permit its followers to consume, primarily alcohol and pork.

The spread of inaccurate and irresponsible information by the anti-vaccination movement may inflict more harm than good on Muslim communities.

Information addressing religious concerns such as the halal issue must be made a priority and communicated well to the general public, encouraging not only the acceptance of vaccinations but motivating communities to play an active role in promoting vaccination.

Also read: Indonesia expects halal certificate for an experimental vaccine

A study by the Indonesian Ulema Council Halal Product Guarantee Agency and Institute for the Assessment of Food, Drugs and Cosmetics has been completed and has been submitted to the council for the making of a fatwa and halal certification, Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said at a news conference.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo warned his ministers not to rush the launching of a novel coronavirus vaccine amid public concerns about whether it would be certified halal, or permissible under Islamic law. 

“We should consider public perception regarding the halal status of potential COVID-19 vaccines,” he said during a meeting.

Controversy over whether vaccines adhere to Islamic principles has stymied public health responses before in Indonesia, including in 2018, when the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa or ruling declaring that a measles vaccine was haram, or forbidden under Islam.

“Public communication regarding the halal status, price, quality, and distribution must be well-prepared,” he added.

The much-anticipated Covid-19 vaccine need not be halal in order to be administered in Malaysia, said Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah, allaying concerns among local Muslims about the shots containing substances forbidden by Islam.

"If they can get the halal certification that would be better, but we do not register a medicine based on halal status or not. We do register non-halal medicine too," Noor Hisham said.

Malaysian pharmaceutical company Pharmaniaga has said it is planning to build the world's first "halal vaccine" facility by 2022.

Malaysia inked a deal with Pfizer in November to supply 12.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for 20 per cent of the population. It has also entered a pact with the Covax facility to cover another 10 per cent of the population.

The country is also set to obtain the vaccine from China which has raised questions among Muslims over its halal status.


US Supreme Court rules Muslim men can sue FBI agents over no-fly list

10 December 2020

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Muslim men who were placed on the government’s no-fly list because they refused to serve as FBI informants can seek to hold federal agents financially liable.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The justices continued a string of decisions friendly to religious interests in holding that the men could sue the agents under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act for what it calls “appropriate relief.”

“The question here is whether ‘appropriate relief’ includes claims for money damages against Government officials in their individual capacities. We hold that it does,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court.

The three foreign-born men claim in the lawsuit that their religious convictions led them to rebuff agents who wanted them to inform on people in their Muslim communities. “This is a clear prohibition in the Islamic faith,” Ramzi Kassem, the men’s lawyer, told the justices during arguments in October.

The men claim the agents then placed or kept them on the list of people prevented from flying because they are considered a threat. The men have since been removed from the no-fly list.

A trial court dismissed the suit once their names had been dropped from the list, but they argued that the retaliation they claimed “cost them substantial sums of money: airline tickets wasted and income from job opportunities lost,” Thomas wrote. The federal appeals court in New York agreed with the Muslim men, and the high court affirmed that decision.

In recent years, the court has ruled in favor of people and companies asserting claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty.

The decision involving the no-fly list was among four issued Thursday in cases that were argued in October.

In the others, all decided unanimously, the court:

—Reinstated convictions for rape by a military officer and two enlisted men, reversing a military court ruling that had thrown them out because too much time had elapsed between the assaults and the prosecutions. The cases involve women who for different reasons initially decided not to press charges but later changed their minds. The crimes all were committed before 2006. The Uniform Code of Military Justice has been changed so that there is no statute of limitations on rape charges.

—Revived a provision of the Delaware Constitution, struck down by a lower court, that requires that appointments to Delaware’s major courts reflect a partisan balance. The justices did not rule on the substance of the requirement. Instead they held that lawyer James R. Adams, a political independent who challenged the provision, didn’t have the legal right to do so because he had not shown that at the time he brought his lawsuit that he was “able and ready” to apply to be a judge.

—Reversed lower-court decisions that had prevented an Arkansas pharmacy law passed in 2015 from going into effect. The law, Act 900, was enacted to ensure that pharmacies are fully reimbursed for the cost of drugs they dispense to customers.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett had not yet joined the court when the cases were argued and did not take part in the decisions.





Israel Ties: Morocco’s King Tells Palestinians Rabat Stands By Two-State Solution

10 December 2020

Moroccan King Mohammed told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Thursday that Rabat stands by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a royal court statement said.

The king added that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are the only way to reach a final, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Israel and Morocco agreed on Thursday to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.

As part of the agreement, US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.


Israeli Minister Calls Morocco Normalization Deal ‘Historic And Joyous’

10 December 2020

Israeli cabinet minister Rafi Peretz described Thursday’s announcement of a US-brokered normalization deal with Morocco as “historic and joyous”, in a first response from Israel.

“My parents, who immigrated from Morocco and left their entire lives behind, always spoke of peace and about good relations with the Arab neighbors in Morocco,” he tweeted.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Israel and Morocco agreed on Thursday to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.

As part of the agreement, US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.


Iran security forces arrest two female Iranian Arab civil activists: Rights group

Yaghoub Fazeli

11 December 2020

Security forces in southwest Iran arrested two Iranian Arab civil activists on Wednesday on unknown charges, a rights group reported.

Security forces arrested Fatima Tamimi and Maryam Ameri in their hometown in Mahshahr, a city in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates, reported.

The reasons for the two activists’ arrest and their current whereabouts remain unclear, HRANA said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Tamimi, 39 and mother of two, is also a filmmaker who has produced several short documentaries on poverty, addiction, unemployment, and the social issues of Arabs in Iran.

Tamimi and Ameri reportedly recorded traditional Arabic stories, lullabies and songs from different villages in Khuzestan province as part of an oral history project.

Iranian authorities are intolerant of ethnic cultural activism and often arrest Arab civil and cultural activists on separatism charges.

Arabs in Iran, known as Ahwazi Arabs, are an ethnic minority based in Khuzestan. Despite being Iran’s main oil-producing region, Khuzestan is one of the country’s least developed regions.

Activists from the region say the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population are deprived of decent living standards and civil rights and face discrimination due to their Arab identity and heritage.


Iranian Speaker Warns of Terrorists, Israel's Moves in Azerbaijan


The presence of terrorists and movements of the Zionist regime in the Republic of Azerbaijan is a threat to regional peace and security, Qalibaf said in a meeting with visiting Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Tehran on Wednesday.

He expressed satisfaction with the announcement of a ceasefire between the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and stated, “Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Iranian Parliament, government officials and people of the country were concerned about the recent conflicts in the Azerbaijan Republic and strongly supported the important issue of preserving the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”

Elsewhere, Qalibaf referred to the longstanding and deep cultural and religious bond between the two countries of Iran and Azerbaijan, and said, “High capacities and capabilities of the two countries should be used optimally in order to increase the level of economic, political, social and cultural cooperation. Border cooperation and connection of rail routes should be prioritized in bilateral ties.”

He emphasized the need for the continuation of bilateral talks in line with securing the interests of the two nations and added, “High-ranking officials of the two countries have taken appropriate steps for increasing bilateral cooperation.”

Bayramov, for his part, first condemned the assassination of Iranian prominent nuclear and defense scientist martyr Fakhrizadeh, saying that this terrorist act is unacceptable and the people of Azerbaijan felt deep sorrow to hear the news.

He pointed to the proposal of the Islamic Republic of Iran in presenting a peaceful solution for terminating conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and said, “Stances taken by Leader of the Islamic Revolution, President, lawmakers and people in the course of a 44-day war were strong support for the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

In relevant remarks on Wednesday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in a meeting with Bayramov underlined the need for the regional states to prevent measures which create new centers for insecurity.

During the meeting, Shamkhani referred to the evil deeds of the American-Zionist-ISIL triangle and their presence in West Asia which has ignited insecurity in the region, and said the regional countries should prevent creation of centers of insecurity in the region by cooperation.

He expressed satisfaction with the establishment of peace between the two countries of Azerbaijan and Armenia and the return of the occupied territories to the Azeri mainland.

Shamkhani also wished success for the government and people of Azerbaijan in the path of growth and development.

The Iranian official stated that Tehran-Baku relations should be upgraded to the highest possible level.

He noted that the completion of joint projects and the implementation of agreements between the two countries as well as starting new mutual cooperation in various fields requires more serious efforts.

Shamkhani pointed to Iran's experience and technical and engineering capabilities, and declared his country's interest in participation in the reconstruction of war-torn areas of Azerbaijan.

Bayramov, for his part, expressed gratitude for the principled policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran towards the Karabakh crisis, and appreciated the wise positions of the Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei in support of putting an end to the occupation and crisis.

Referring to the determination of the top officials of the two countries to develop and strengthen relations between Tehran and Baku, Bayramov announced readiness of the Republic of Azerbaijan to improve bilateral ties with Iran in various fields.

He also extended his condolences over the martyrdom of the top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and strongly condemned this terrorist act.'s-Mves-in-Azerbaijan


Iran Sanctions US Ambassador to Yemen


The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that Tehran had put Henzel’s name on its blacklist, highlighting his role in Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe.

The statement said the US envoy was involved in leading the destructive war, massacre of innocent and oppressed people, arms, financial and political support to the aggressor coalition, and the ongoing cruel and inhumane sanctions in Yemen while he playing a role in a “sinister scenario” of the disintegration of Yemen, as well as destructive measures to impede a political settlement of the Yemeni crisis and the consequent persistence of the humanitarian catastrophe in the country, which is described as the “greatest tragedy of the century”.

The ministry said that the US envoy was sanctioned based on a law titled "Countering America’s Human Rights Violation and Adventurous and Terrorist Actions” that was passed by the Iranian Parliament in 2017.

Based on sufficient evidence at hand, the US ambassador to Yemen has played an instrumental role in organizing, financing, arming, directing and carrying out the actions of the aggressor coalition in Yemen, the statement added, highlighting his role in violating the fundamental principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, and in imposition of illegal US sanctions on the people of Yemen.

The announcement came a day after the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump added the names of Iran’s ambassador to Yemen to the list of its sanctions.

Hassan Irlou, Iran’s new ambassador to Sana’a, had submitted his credentials to Yemeni officials in early November, amid the United States’ ire at the progressive course of the two countries’ relations.


Rouhani Hopes for Further Consolidation of Iran-Afghanistan Ties by Inauguration of New Railway


Rouhani made the remarks, addressing the inauguration ceremony of Khaf-Herat railway on Thursday in the presence of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Today is the day of compassion, mercy and also day of breakthrough for the two great nations of Iran and Afghanistan. The two nations from the same root, history, culture and from the same region who have maintained their brotherhood and neighborliness in the long run of history,” President Rouhani said.

“Today is one of the historic days in the relations between Afghanistan and Iran. Our relationships have been through hearts, thoughts, cultures, and behaviors and efforts and today's launch of Khaf-Herat Railway will strengthen these bilateral ties,” he added.

"Today is a happy day for the two governments of Afghanistan and Iran, and I, for my part, am very happy that although I could not attend the inaugural ceremony of this important project due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, we will witness the grand opening by the order of the two presidents through videoconference and this day will surely be unforgettable for us as a historic day,” Rouhani underlined.

Afghanistan received the first cargo of Iran's export goods through the newly-developed Khaf-Herat railway last month.

The cement shipment was transferred from Iran to Afghanistan's Herat via rail, according to Jilani Farhad, the spokesman for Herat governor.

The consignment was reportedly dispatched on a trial basis to identify possible problems and challenges on that route.

The Afghan spokesman said the railway will connect Afghanistan to Asian and European countries through Iran.

The railway project is composed of four sections: one from Khaf to Sangan in Iran and the second one from Sangan to the Chah-Sorkh border crossing, each of which is 76 km long, according to the Afghan spokesman.

Farhad said the third part, 62 km long, extends from Chah-Sorkh to Afghanistan's Rozanak (or Rahzanak).

"These three sections have all been funded by Iran," he said.

The final part of the project, which has long been touted as the sole viable option to build Afghanistan’s economy, stretches all the way from Rozanak to Herat.


US Treasury imposes sanctions on five Houthi militia officials

Ismaeel Naar

10 December 2020

The US Treasury has imposed fresh sanctions on Thursday targeting five Houthi militia officials.

The sanctions imposed on Thursday came after the five Houthi militia officials were implicated in the torture of women and children.

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The US Treasury imposed sanctions on Abdul Hakim al-Khaiwani, the head of the security apparatus of the Houthi militia, Motlaq Amer al-Marrani, the deputy head of the Houthis’ security department, and on Abdul Qader al-Shami, a Houthi official.


Yemen condemns US sanctions on five Houthi Ansarullah officials as "American terrorism"

11 December 2020

The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on five Yemeni citizens and members of the Houthi Ansarullah movement in Yemen, with the popular group denouncing the move as “an act of American terrorism” against the war-wracked Arab country.

The department, in a statement released on Thursday, announced that the US sanctions were slapped on several officials including Deputy Director of Yemen’s National Security Agency Mutlaq Amer al-Marani, Head of the Political Security Office Maj. Gen. Abdul Qader al-Shami, and Abdul Hakim al-Khawani, who runs the National Security Agency.

The statement said the figures were designated for what it alleged as "human rights abuses".

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, condemned the US sanctions on the Yemeni Ansarullah officials as “a terrorist act.”

“Recent sanctions by the United States, which itself is commanding aggression and attacks on the Yemeni people, are condemned and viewed as an illegal act. There is no ruling that allows the United States to sanction others,” Houthi wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page

Houthi added, “The US move to put countries on the sanctions list is another reason why the United States does not recognize the world order represented by the Security Council.”

The member of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council described Washington's sanctions as “American terrorism.”

Earlier, Houthi had stated that United States is killing Yemeni civilians en masse in order to keep production at its major arms manufacturing corporations running, lower its rate of unemployment, pay off its debts and advance the Israeli regime’s plots in the region.

“Yemenis are getting killed on a daily basis by the US-Saudi-Emirati coalition of aggression and their allies. They wake up to the sounds of US-made bomb explosions, are subjected to toxic gases, witness the aftermath of mass killings and remember women, children and the elderly who die as a result,” he wrote in a tweet ion Tuesday

The remarks came days after the United States designated the Yemeni popular Houthi Ansarullah movement along with several other groups as “Entities of Particular Concern” under the so-called Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies, chief among them the United Arab Emirates, launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Riyadh-allied former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing Ansarullah.

The war has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Yemen, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization.


Turkey’s Erdogan renews call for change of leadership in Armenia

10 December 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reiterated his call for a change of leadership in Armenia, a month after the ex-soviet country was defeated in a six-week war over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region with neighboring Azerbaijan, Turkey’s close ally.

“We wish for the Armenian people to rid themselves of the burden of leaders who console them with the lies of the past and trap them into poverty,” said Erdogan in capital Baku on Thursday, as he reviewed along with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, a military parade marking Armenia’s defeat by Azerbaijan.

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been occupied by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992 when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

The conflict re-erupted in late September, becoming the worst fighting in the region in decades, killing thousands of soldiers from both sides. The clashes also claimed the lives of dozens of Azerbaijani and Armenian civilians.

After six weeks of deadly fighting in and around Karabakh, Yerevan and Baku eventually agreed on November 9 to end hostilities under a Moscow-brokered deal that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Karabakh and seven surrounding districts.

The truce, which was warmly welcomed as a victory in Azerbaijan, has prompted anger in Armenia, with protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

“If the people of Armenia learn their lessons from what happened in Karabakh, this will be the start of a new era,” Erdogan added, renewing a similar call he made on September 27, when the fighting started. 

Turkey to open border if Armenia moves toward peace: Erdogan

Elsewhere in his remarks on Thursday, the Turkish president said that Ankara could open Turkey’s border gates to Armenia if Yerevan takes positive steps for regional peace.

Erdogan added that he also discussed establishing a six-country regional cooperation platform with Aliyev.

The Turkish leader stressed that Armenia could participate in the planned regional platform along with Turkey, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia if it contributed to regional peace.

The Azerbaijani leader, for his part, praised the Turkish president’s full support of Baku’s position during the clashes, saying, “Erdogan supported our position, our just cause, from the very start... Taking part in this victory parade together we are again showing our unity, not only to our own peoples, but to the whole world.”

The intense clashes forced up to 90,000 people - some 60 percent of the population of Karabakh – to flee the contested region.

As part of the ceasefire, nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have stationed along the Lachin corridor in Azerbaijan, a 60-kilometer-long route that links Khankendi to Armenia.


Hamas pledges resistance against Israel, vows full liberation of Palestine

10 December 2020

A senior official from Hamas says the Palestinian resistance movement will continue to uphold the path of resistance against the occupying Israeli regime until the full liberation of the occupied territories.

In a statement on the 33rd founding anniversary of Hamas, Maher Salah stressed the need to continue struggle until Palestinian lands are fully liberated.

He asserted the Palestinian people’s adherence to their identity and land, and their rejection of the occupation in all its forms.

The Palestinian people, from all spectra, have made great sacrifices on the path to freedom, liberation and sent clear messages to the Tel Aviv regime that there will never be a compromise on their right to self-determination, the Hamas official said in the statement.

“33 years ago, God blessed our people and nation with the first intifada (uprising) and the emergence of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas,” he said.

“At the time, the Palestinian people took the initiative again and launched a renewed resistance project that was part of our people’s previous uprisings that had started at the beginning of the 20th century.”

Hamas said that Israel tried in vain in "three ferocious wars" to bring Gaza to its knees and undermine its steadfastness, but failed in the face of the movement and the people's resistance.

In September, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) said that Gaza-based resistance groups were fully prepared to respond to any act of aggression by the Israeli military, warning that there were “no red lines” in dealing with the occupying regime.

In an interview with Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV channel on September 16, Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah said Palestinian resistance groups have a military presence in the occupied West Bank, and that Israel “is a target for resistance rockets.”

Nakhalah then called on Palestinian leaders to “formulate a unified political program” in the face of the occupation. “We want the Palestinian people and their leadership to be in a clear and unified project away from the illusion of peace,” said Nakhalah.

Violence against Palestinians escalated after US President Donald Trump unveiled his “deal of the century” with the aim of legitimizing Israel’s occupation and re-drawing the Middle East map.

The US plot calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders. It also bars Palestinian refugees from returning to their homeland, enshrines Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the regime to annex settlements and the Jordan Valley.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. But Israel's aggressive settlement expansion and annexation plans have dealt a serious blow to any prospects of peace.

Palestinian leaders have also censured the recent normalization agreements signed between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Israel.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.

Hamas has time and again said that the Palestinian nation “insists on continuing its struggle until it secures the return of all of its rights.”

Gaze, home to some two million people, has also been under an Israeli-imposed crippling siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in the living standards as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing and wounding thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.


Palestinian children falling victim to Israeli lethal arms: NGO

10 December 2020

A non-governmental human rights organization says Israel uses a lethal firearm to crack down on Palestinian demonstrations despite the regime’s claim to the contrary, and that several children have lost their lives to the weapon.

Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), based in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, said Tuesday that Israel’s claim that Ruger 10/22 rifles were non-lethal was unrealistic.

As a case in point, it highlighted the death of the rifle’s latest victim, Ali Abu Alia, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy who was killed by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank last week.

Ali was shot with live ammunition in the stomach during a weekly protest against illegal Israeli settlement expansion activities in the al-Mughayyir village near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 4.

The teenager was taken to hospital in Ramallah, but finally succumbed to his injuries.

The organization said the child’s parents said they were told by the doctors at the time that the 0.22 bullet had cut major arteries, resulting in severe bleeding.

The DCIP said Israel’s claim that the child Abu Alya had been shot by mistake is not the first of its kind, and that it had documented several cases of children besides Ali who were wounded and killed by Ruger rifle bullets during the past years.

Ali's death drew international condemnations, with the United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, calling on Israel to “swiftly and independently investigate this shocking and unacceptable incident.”

Violent tactics against Palestinians, including using tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds, are the tools of the trade for Israeli forces.

The international community has repeatedly voiced concerns about the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces against the Palestinians, who pose no threat to them.

According to reports by international law organizations, eight Palestinian children between the ages of 13 and 17 have been fatally shot by Israeli soldiers since the beginning of the year.



Arab World


Egypt opens trial of acting Muslim brotherhood leader Mahmud Ezzat

11 December 2020

An Egyptian court on Thursday opened the trial of Mahmud Ezzat, interim supreme leader of outlawed Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, a judicial source told AFP.

“The hearing was held before the State Security Court at Tora Prison” in the capital Cairo, the source said, on condition of anonymity.

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The next hearing was set for January 4 “for procedural reasons”, the source added.

Ezzat, 76, was arrested in late August in Cairo after seven years on the run.

He has already been handed two death sentences in absentia, as well as life imprisonment.

He was sentenced in 2015 on charges related to the assassination of military and state officials.

The trial that opened on Thursday sees Ezzat accused of overseeing the murder of soldiers and state officials, notably the 2015 assassination of former attorney general Hisham Barakat, according to the judicial source.

He also stands accused of “supervising the explosion of a vehicle in front of the National Institute for Cancer”, an attack that killed 20 people in August 2019, the source said.

He is further charged with having “directed cyber militias.”

Ezzat, a member of the Brotherhood since the 1960s, spent time in prison under the presidencies of both Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak, and has served as the organization’s acting leader several times.

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood established itself in the mid-20th century as the main opposition movement in Egypt, as well as in other countries in the region.

But the movement was wiped from Egypt’s political landscape in 2013, after a brief one-year tenure by one of its members Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by the army on the back of mass protests against his presidency.


Lebanon judge indicts PM, three ex-ministers over Beirut explosion

10 December 2020

The Lebanese prosecutor probing last summer’s port explosion in Beirut filed charges on Thursday against the caretaker prime minister and three former ministers, accusing them of negligence leading to the death of hundreds of people, Lebanon’s official news agency said.

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Judge Fadi Sawwan filed the charges against Hassan Diab and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, as well as Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Fenianos, both former ministers of public works.

All four were charged with carelessness and negligence leading to death over the Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut's port, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. The explosion was caused by the ignition of a large stockpile of explosive material that had been stored at the port for years, with the knowledge of top security officials and politicians who did nothing about it.

The four are the most senior individuals to be indicted so far in the probe, which is being conducted in secrecy. Anger has been building up over the slow investigation, lack of answers and the fact that no senior officials have been indicted.

About 30 other security officials and port and customs officials have been detained in the probe so far.

Diab, a former professor at the American University of Beirut who became prime minister late last year, resigned a few days after the blast, which leveled the country's main port and destroyed large parts of the city. Diab has continued to function in caretaker capacity while efforts to form a new government has floundered amid political disputes.

Diab said his conscience is clear and he is confident of his “responsible and transparent handling of the port explosion file.”

In a statement issued by his office later Thursday, he said he is “surprised by this targeting that goes beyond the person to the position. Hassan Diab will not permit the position of the prime ministry to be targeted by anyone.”

The blast is considered to be among the largest non-nuclear explosions ever to be recorded.

Zeitar was transport and public works minister in 2014, followed by Fenianos in 2016, who held the job until the beginning of 2020. Khalil was finance minister in 2014, 2016 and until 2020.

Documents surfaced soon after the explosion showing that at least 10 times over the past six years, authorities from Lebanon’s customs, military, security agencies and judiciary raised the alarm that a massive stockpile of potentially dangerous chemicals was being kept with almost no safeguard at the port in the heart of Beirut.

President Michel Aoun, in office since 2016, said he was first told of the stockpile nearly three weeks before the explosion and immediately ordered military and security agencies to do “what was needed.” But he suggested his responsibility ended there, saying he had no authority over the port and that previous governments had been told of its presence.

Since the material arrived in Lebanon in late 2013, four prime ministers have been in office during the past seven years.

Najib Mikati, Tammam Salam and Saad Hariri have reportedly said that they were not aware of the existence of the material at the port. Diab has said was only informed about the presence of the “explosives” days earlier and planned to visit the site. He told reporters earlier this year that he canceled his visit to the port after he was told that the material were fertilizers.

Investigators probing the blast had so far focused on personnel at the Port of Beirut. Judge Sawwan said he has set next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as dates for interrogating the four as defendants.

Both Khalil and Fenanios were sanctioned by the US in September this year, the first two officials to be subjected to those outside of Hezbollah group.


Riyadh Agreement set to be implemented in Yemen, 24-member government formed: SPA

Joanne Serrieh

10 December 2020

All necessary arrangements have been made to implement a power-sharing agreement in the south of war-torn Yemen, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday, citing an Arab Coalition source.

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Talks on the peace-sharing agreement, known as the Riyadh Agreement, had stalled in August as the southern-separatist movement, the Southern Transitional Council, suspended their participation.

Now, an agreement may be on the horizon, as all necessary arrangements have been completed to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement in Yemen, SPA reported.

The Riyadh Agreement – if adopted – would set up a power-sharing structure between the Southern Transitional Council and the Yemeni government, consisting of 24 ministers from both groups, according to SPA.

The unnamed source also said that all plans necessary to implement the military and security components of the agreement have also been fulfilled, SPA reported.

Starting from Thursday, coalition military observers will supervise the separation of military forces in the city of Abyan and move them to the fronts, and others will be moved from the capital Aden to outside the governorate, the press agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Arab Coalition will continue to support security units for them to carry out their tasks of maintaining security, stability, and fighting terrorist organizations, according to the source.

The government that has been formed will be announced as soon as the military transfers are completed, the source added, according to SPA.

Saudi Arabia introduced the Riyadh Agreement in November 2019 to try to end the dispute in the country’s south that emerged in 2017.


UAE launches consultative process for UAE National Human Rights Plan

Reem Krimly

10 December 2020

On International Human Rights Day, the UAE is taking steps to create a national human rights plan.

The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, launched the consultative process for preparing the UAE’s National Human Rights Plan in a virtual media briefing on Thursday.

Dr. Anwar Gargash, who is also the Chairman of the National Human Rights Committee, delivered a speech on the role of the UAE in promoting and developing normative and institutional frameworks for human rights.

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“Today is International Human Rights Day, which is marked on December 10 every year since its inception by the United Nations in 1948,” the minister said in his opening remarks, adding that the UAE chose this day to launch the consultative process to prepare the national plan for human rights.

This year, the UN chose to focus on the global challenges COVID-19 has presented, and this year’s slogan is “Recover Better –Stand Up For Human Rights.”

“These are exceptional and unprecedented circumstances in the world, and these conditions are real and have been reflected in the social, economic, and political aspects of all countries of the world,” Gargash said on COVID-19.

The UAE has devoted its efforts to cope with this pandemic, the minister said, adding that it had delivered COVID-19 aid to a number of countries.

“I think we are emerging from this pandemic with a high degree of competence and optimism,” he said.

Consultative process

The UAE is set to launch a national human rights plan by the end of 2021, Gargash said in the press briefing.

During the consultative process for preparing the country’s human rights plan, Gargash said the National Human Rights committee will consult with the National Council; relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Justice, civil societies of the UAE; and other relevant bodies.

The minister said the consultative process is expected to take about seven months.

“The National Human Rights Plan solidifies the efforts made by the UAE government in the context of promoting human rights,” Gargash said.

Human rights in the UAE

“We have been participating for over 14 years in what is known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva,” Gargash said.

The minister said the UAE has done a great deal of work when it comes to human rights.

“When it comes issue of women’s rights, the country has expanded and strengthened what is a very positive record on the issue of women’s rights,” he said.

The UAE has also had a positive record when it comes to tolerance and the right to practice religious rituals, according to Gargash.

When it comes to labor rights, especially in sectors related to domestic workers and construction workers, Gargash said “a lot of work has been done.”

“All of these matters are part of a very broad system and they represent a large file of human rights in the UAE,” the UAE minister said. However, he added that he does not claim it is a “comprehensive” human rights file, as he said there are many aspects that could be improved.

The post-coronavirus phase requires further strengthening of the UAE’s position on human rights, according to Gargash, whether it’s for citizens or residents.

“The general idea is that when we evaluate the consultative process and draw up the National Human Rights Plan, this plan will be like an agenda for the coming years,” Gargash said.

The UAE National Human Rights Plan, he said, will be the product of a consultative process in this respect.

“The general idea is that we will complete the plan by the end of the third quarter of 2021, preceded by a consultative process and then a technical process before adopting this plan,” he concluded.


Bomb explosions target US-led coalition military convoys in south Iraq, near capital

10 December 2020

Separate roadside bomb attacks have struck two convoys of trucks carrying logistical equipment belonging to the US-led military coalition in Iraq's southern province of Muthanna near the border with Kuwait, and south of capital Baghdad.

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language Shafaq news agency on Thursday that the first attack took place on a highway near the provincial capital city of Samawah.

The source added that the explosion caused no casualties, but only some material damage.

The second attack took place later on in the Latifiya region on the outskirts of capital, Baghdad, another security source was quoted by AFP as saying, causing only material damage without any casualties.

They are the latest in a string of such incidents in recent weeks. On Wednesday evening, another convoy carrying supplies to coalition forces was attacked in the city of Mahmoudiyah in Baghdad province. The blast left no casualties and just damaged vehicles.

Anti-US sentiment has been running high in Iraq since the assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, along with their companions in a US terror drone strike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill two days later, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

Karim Alaiwi, a legislator from the Fatah (Conquest) alliance and a member of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi legislature, told Arabic-language Baghdad Today news website on November 19 that his parliamentary coalition and all other national factions seek complete pullout of all foreign forces, not just Americans, from the Iraqi soil.

Alaiwi described the Pentagon’s decision to reduce the number of US forces in Iraq as “unacceptable,” emphasizing that the Iraqi parliament’s resolution concerning withdrawal of US troops from the entire Iraqi territories, including the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, is unambiguous and irreversible.

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller had announced two days earlier that the US will withdraw thousands more US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by January 15, 2021 – just days before Trump leaves office on January 20.

Miller said the withdrawal will leave approximately 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and roughly the same number in Iraq.

Currently, there are approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq.


Saudi crown prince asks US court to dismiss former top spy's assassination lawsuit

10 December 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has asked a US federal court to drop a lawsuit, which accuses him of trying to have a former Saudi intelligence official assassinated in Canada, saying there is no evidence to support the claim.

Michael Kellogg, a lawyer representing MbS, said in an 87-page motion that the 106-page lawsuit filed in August on behalf of Saad al-Jabri, an exiled former aide to former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, did not present convincing proof that the crown prince “dispatched a “hit squad” to kill him in October 2018.

Nayef was overthrown in a 2017 palace coup that left MbS as the country’s most powerful prince.

The motion also said that bin Salman was protected by laws of sovereign immunity and thus could not be charged in a US court.

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that holds sovereign states, heads of state, immediate members of their families and other high-ranking government officials are immune from prosecution.

The filing, meanwhile, accused al-Jabri and his family of taking part in the misappropriation and theft of $11 billion meant for counter-terrorism operations when he was a senior official at the Saudi Interior Ministry between 2001 and 2015. Al-Jabri has denied the allegations.

Al-Jabri claims he obtained information during his time as an aide and as a top Saudi intelligence official that could be threatening to the country’s crown prince. This accordingly motivated MbS to organize an assassination attempt against him using the so-called “Tiger” hit squad.

The alleged attempt purportedly took place 13 days after members of the Tiger squad were involved in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

Canadian authorities, however, foiled the attempt when the Tiger squad arrived at the border and aroused the suspicion of security officials.

Douglas London, a former senior CIA operations officer, said in August that he found the idea of an assassination attempt plausible, but said it was also possible the men in question sought to place al-Jabri under surveillance.

“I don't rule out the possibility that MbS wanted to kill [al-Jabri], but it's just as likely, if not more so, that ... MbS wanted to put [al-Jabri] under observation, information from which might provide insight on his contacts and activities,” he commented at the time.


US-Saudi doctor gets 6-year sentence on ‘vague charges’: HRW

11 December 2020

Human Rights Watch dismisses as “vague” the charges that have gotten a prominent doctor of dual Saudi Arabian-American citizenship six years in prison, saying he has been subjected to horrific treatment only because of his political views.

A Saudi court handed down the sentence to the Harvard-trained physician, Walid Fitaihi, who has been being persecuted constantly and brutally by the Saudi authorities over the past three years, on Tuesday.

Addressing his case on Thursday, the New York-based rights body listed some of the charges as “breaking allegiance with the ruler” by “sympathizing” with a “terrorist organization,” and “offending other countries and their leaders.”

The charges pertain to tweets by the doctor in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group that has been banned as a “terrorist organization” and made subject to a hugely deadly crackdown in its home country. Fitaihi has also posted tweets critical of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, on whose orders the crackdown has taken place.

His sentence also had to do with his obtaining a “foreign [US] nationality” without prior permission from Saudi authorities, a rule that the HRW said was rarely enforced.

Fitahi was detained in November 2017 along with around 200 other prominent Saudis during what Riyadh attempted to portray as an “anti-corruption” drive.

Saudi authorities have also banned the 56-year-old from traveling since the arrest, along with seven members of his family, all of whom are likewise US citizens.

Citing a friend, The New York Times reported last December that he had suffered horrific torture during interrogation, including by being “slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, and bound to a chair.”

In at least one instance, he was shocked with electricity for about an hour, his associate had told the paper, adding that his tormentors also whipped his back so hard that he could not sleep on it for days.

Fitaihi confirmed the treatment earlier this year, after which the authorities raided the family’s home in the Saudi port city of Jeddah and seized all the computers and mobile phones in the house, HRW said.

Saudi Arabia has been under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since early 2017.

Ever since, the kingdom has been embroiled in a number of unprecedented human rights controversies, including the killing of Saudi dissident and Mohammed's critic Jamal Khashoggi. He was murdered and dismembered after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October.

The HRW said, “The Saudi government has engaged in an unrelenting assault on fundamental freedoms, including jailing and harassing public dissidents and human rights activists, which has significantly increased under” bin Salman.

“As part of a deliberate strategy to deflect from these types of human rights abuses, the Saudi government spends billions of dollars hosting major entertainment, cultural, and sporting events,” the body noted.

“Saudi authorities’ railroading of Dr. Walid Fitaihi under broad charges shows that the government has no intention of loosening its clampdown on peaceful critics,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The message to Saudi citizens is clearly that any expressed view that contradicts official Saudi domestic or foreign policy will lead straight to prison,” he added.





German government extends ban on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia

10 December 2020

Germany has decided to extend until the end of next year an embargo on exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, which was adopted due to the Saudi-led war against Yemen and the 2018 killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Germany’s official DPA news agency, quoting government officials, reported that the Berlin government went a step ahead to tighten the ban and revoked the permits that were previously on hold, with an exception for weapons produced jointly with other European countries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition agreed in March 2018 to impose a freeze on arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia.

Germany’s ruling coalition government has also refused to continue arms exports to other countries that are directly involved in the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

Along with Germany, a number of other European countries, including Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands, have also suspended arms sales to Riyadh.

Back in November, Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement praised countries that have adopted measures to halt arms sales to the “child-killer” regime in Saudi Arabia, calling on other world states to follow suit.

“We express our appreciation to the countries that have taken steps to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is a child-killer regime,” the Ansarullah spokesman, Mohammed Abdul-Salam, said in a statement at the time, referring to the Riyadh regime’s crimes against Yemeni children.

He emphasized that freezing such exports to the kingdom is the least humanitarian position that could be taken in the face of the brutal Saudi-led aggression against Yemen, which also poses threats to global security and stability.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a military onslaught against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the popular Ansarullah movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives for over the past five years.

The Ansarullah movement, backed by armed forces, has been defending Yemen against the Saudi-led alliance, preventing the aggressors from fulfilling the objectives of the atrocious war.


British PM and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meet in London

10 December 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to No.10 Downing St. on Thursday (December 10).

Johnson congratulated the UAE for the way it has handled the spread of COVID-19.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

“I think that’s been extremely effective, really remarkable,” Johnson said in welcoming remarks to the Crown Prince.

The UAE has a population of around 9 million, and reported 177,577 cases and 594 COVID-19 deaths.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Abu Dhabi was looking for volunteers to take part in Phase 3 clinical trials of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, known as Sputnik V, in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE is also conducting Phase 3 clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, and has approved emergency use of the vaccine for certain groups.

The UK and the UAE have agreed to work closely to strengthen bilateral relations in areas such as trade and investment and counter-terrorism.


Turkey’s Erdogan says Azerbaijan’s ‘struggle’ with Armenia will continue

10 December 2020

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Azerbaijan Thursday said Baku’s “struggle” with enemy Armenia was not over after his close ally’s decisive victory over a disputed region.

“Azerbaijan’s saving its lands from occupation does not mean that the struggle is over,” Erdogan said during a military parade in Baku.

Read more: Malta seizes record $85 mln cocaine haul bound for Libya

“The struggle carried out in the political and military areas will continue from now on many other fronts.”

Turkey backed its Azerbaijan during recent clashes with Armenian forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Hostilities erupted on September 27 and ended six weeks later with a Moscow-brokered deal under which Armenia ceded to Baku parts of the disputed territory and Azerbaijan’s adjacent districts it controlled since the 1990s.

Ankara was widely accused of dispatching mercenaries from Syria to bolster Baku’s army, but denied the charge.

Erdogan arrived in Baku to attend nationwide celebrations marking Azerbaijan’s victory in the Karabakh conflict.

In his speech, the Turkish leader also said that “Karabakh’s freedom will be the beginning of a new era” in the region, adding that Armenia must be held responsible for “war crimes” committed during the conflict.





UP Police Stops Wedding Based On 'Love Jihad' Rumours, Muslim Couple Spends Night At Police Station

11 December 2020

A Muslim couple was stopped from getting married based on rumours of ‘Love Jihad’ on Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh. The couple was taken away by the police in Kushinagar following a phone call claiming that interfaith marriage is taking place.

The groom, Haider Ali, has alleged that the police personnel had beaten him with a leather belt and tortured him at the police station.

The police let go the couple only the next day after finding out that both the individuals are major and belong to the same religion.

The couple finally got married on Wednesday, after the brother of the woman, Shabeela Khatoon, arrived from Azamgarh and clarified that the family had no objection to the marriage.

The police denied allegations of torturing Ali. Kasya Police Station SHO Sanjay Kumar told Indian Express that “miscreants” were to blame, and that the couple was let go after the police realised they were from the same religion.

“It was not like the couple were brought to the police station in secret. Also, the matter was soon sorted… There was no reason to beat up anyone,” Kushinagar SP Vinod Kumar Singh told the Indian Express.


Muslim-Sikh Amity Continues, Guru Gobind To Singhu Border

Dec 10, 2020

New Delhi: During the communal frenzy of Partition in 1947, Malerkotla was the only district in Punjab that did not see any violence. While lakhs of Punjabi Muslims chose to move to the newly created Pakistan, the people of the Muslim majority Malerkotla opted to remain in India, putting their faith in a blessing announced on their ancestor by Guru Gobind Singh. Today, the newer generations of those families are at the farmers’ protest at Singhu border, strengthening the message of Sikh-Muslim brotherhood.

Mobin Farooqi, an advocate, arrived from Malerkotla two weeks ago and is working at the langar the Muslim community has set up at the protest site. “This langar is our way of supporting our Sikh brothers and sisters. Though our scale is smaller than the others here, we feel blessed to be able to feed the people zarda and namkeen chaawal.”

Zarda is yellow sweetened rice. Calling it prasad, Tariq Manzoor, another Malerkotla resident, told TOI, “This dish is associated with weddings and special occasions in our district. This protest is an important event, so we prepared zarda for our farmer brethren.” Manzoor added that just as the Sikhs engage in seva, Muslims similarly revere the concept of khidmat and mandatorily offer help to everyone.

Farooqi, Manzoor and the 50 volunteers from Malerkotla harken back to the time when the Muslims stood up for the Sikhs. History has it that when the sons of Guru Gobind Singh, Sahibzada Fateh Singh and Sahibzada Zorawar Singh, were ordered to be tortured by the governor of Sirhind, the nawab of Malerkotla, Sher Mohammed Khan, opposed the order, earning the respect, support and blessings of the tenth Sikh guru.

Underlining the idea of brotherhood, Manzoor said that Sikhs too faced religious and ethnic bias like the Muslims. “We don’t feel happy about this because we all want to live in peace and tranquillity,” said Manzoor. “None of my ancestors ever thought of making Pakistan home even when there was so much animosity between the communities at that time.”

Enjoying the zarda at the langar was Daljinder Singh, a sarpanch of a village in Punjab’s Fatehgarh district. “These people are our brothers and there is no doubt in my mind that they have been true to this special relationship for centuries in Punjab,” said Singh. “We share the same culture, the same literary inspirations and the same music. For us, Gurdwara Uch da Pir is a holy site built at the home of brothers Ghani Khan and Nabi Khan who saved our Guru. This amity has prevailed for centuries, and the people of Malerkotla have proved it once again by coming here to support us.”


J&K lawyer linked to Congress held for ferrying terrorists

Dec 10, 2020

SRINAGAR: A lawyer linked to Congress and accused of ferrying terrorists in his car was arrested and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in south Kashmir's Shopian on Thursday, barely a fortnight after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) picked up PDP youth wing chief Waheed-ur-Rehman Para for allegedly hobnobbing with the banned Hizbul Mujahideen.

J&K police said Gowhar Ahmed Wani had been absconding for two days since Monday, when the Army's 44 Rashtriya Rifles intercepted his car at Baba Khader Rampura Chowk in the Trenz area of Shopian, based on inputs that some suspected terrorists were travelling with him. The lawyer deserted his car even as the Army team went in pursuit of the terrorists who had jumped out of the vehicle before him, an officer said.

Wani, a resident of Imam Sahab, returned home on Wednesday and was immediately detained for interrogation. "He had initially tried to play the victim. We formally arrested him after hours of questioning him," a senior police officer said.

Wani is the second political functionary from Shopian to be arrested this year on charges of aiding terrorists, although his party affiliation has been challenged by Congress. J&K Congress chief G A Mir told TOI, "We don’t have anybody by the name Gowhar Wani in our ranks in Shopian. The police are wrongly linking some lawyer they have arrested with Congress. We vehemently deny having anything to do with him."

In May, the NIA team probing suspended DSP Davinder Singh's alleged nexus with terrorist outfits had nabbed a former sarpanch from the district allegedly moonlighting as an arms supplier to terrorist outfits. Accused Tariq Mir, who was elected sarpanch on a National Conference ticket, had also contested and lost the Wachi assembly seat in south Kashmir on a BJP ticket in 2014.

Meanwhile, a local youth identified as Irshad Ahmad Reshi was arrested in the Tral area of Pulwama on Thursday with some ammunition, including eight detonators, and a walkie-talkie.

In Kulgam's Nehama, suspected terrorists lobbed a hand grenade at a CRPF camp belonging to the 18 Battalion. No loss of life or injury was reported.


India, Uzbekistan stand together against terrorism, says PM Modi, talks about Afghanistan peace process

Dec 11, 2020

India and Uzbekistan stand together against terrorism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, speaking at the virtual summit held between PM Modi and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Congratulating the president on the occasion of the fifth year anniversary of his rule which will be on December 14, PM Modi said he was keen to visit the country this year, but could not do so because of the pandemic situation.

“The relationship between India and Uzbekistan goes back to a long time. We have similar threats and opportunities. Our approach towards these are also similar,” PM Modi said. Referring to Uzbekistan President’s visits to India in 2018 and 2019, PM Modi said, “Those visits opened a new horizon for bilateral relationship.”

“ India and Uzbekistan have same stance against radicalism, separatism, fundamentalism. Our opinions are same on regional security as well. We agree that Afghanistan needs a peace process led and controlled by Afghanistan. Additionally, the lessons of the last two decades must also be kept in mind,” PM Modi said.


Modi, Hasina to virtually re-launch cross-border rail route after 55 years

Posted by Prashasti Singh

Dec 10, 2020

The rail route between Haldibari in West Bengal and Chilahati in neighbouring Bangladesh is all set to reopen after a gap of 55 years on December 17 and prime ministers of the two countries will inaugurate the programme, an official of the Northeast Frontier Railway said on Thursday.

The railway line from Haldibari in Cooch Behar to Chilahati in northern Bangladesh has been defunct after rail links between India and then East Pakistan had snapped in 1965.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate Haldibari-Chilahati rail route on December 17,” NFR Chief Public Relations Officer Subhanan Chanda said.

A goods train will run from Chilahati to Haldibari, which is under the Katihar division of the NRF, to mark the opening of the route, Chanda said.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday informed the authorities of the decision to reopen the rail route, said Katihar Divisional Railway Manager Ravinder Kumar Verma.

The distance between Haldibari railway station till the international border is 4.5 kilometres while that from Chilahati in Bangladesh till the zero point is around 7.5 kilometres, sources in the NFR said.

Both Haldibari and Chilahati stations were on the old broad gauge railway route between Siliguri and Kolkata that went through areas in present-day Bangladesh.

When passenger train service begins on this route, people will be able to travel to Kolkata from Jalpaiguri, which is near Siliguri, in seven hours, five hours less than what it takes now, Verma said after visiting Haldibari station on Wednesday.

Headquartered at Maligaon in Guwahati, the NEF zone covers the entire Northeastern region and parts of Bihar and West Bengal.



South Asia


Cyber tribunal turns down plea to sue Hefazat’s Mamunul under DSA

December 10th, 2020

The court said the state will take a decision on the matter

A Dhaka court has refused turned down a plea to file a case against Hefazat-e-Islam Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque under the Digital Security Act (DSA) for his anti-sculpture remarks.

Judge Mohammad As-Shams Jaglul Hossain of Bangladesh Cyber Tribunal rejected the petition after Advocate Abdul Malek, executive president of Bangabandhu Foundation, filed the case appeal on Thursday.

The court said that the state will take a decision on this matter.

Earlier on December 7, a Dhaka court asked Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) to submit a probe report within January 7 in two sedition cases filed against Hefazat-e Islam’s Ameer Junaid Babunagari, Joint Secretary Mamunul Haque and Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Nayeb-e-Ameer Sayed Faizul Karim.

On November 13, Islami Andolan Bangladesh Nayeb-e-Ameer Faizul Karim and Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Joint Secretary General Mamunul Haque opposed the setting up of sculptures of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Later on December 5, miscreants smashed an under-construction sculpture of Bangabandhu in Kushtia city. The face and hands of the sculpture were vandalized.

The incident took place in Kushtia amid protests by various Islamist organizations across the country over the construction of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu's sculptures.

On December 7, another High Court bench ordered the authorities concerned to take proper measures to ensure the security of all sculptures of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman across the country.

On December 9, a defamation case was filed against former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, BNP's acting chairman Tarique Rahman and BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on the allegations of helping anti-sculpture protestors.

Besides, Hefazat-e Islam’s Ameer Junaid Babunagari, Joint Secretary Mamunul Haque and Islami Andolan Bangladesh’s Nayeb-e-Ameer Sayed Faizul Karim were also included in this case.


Officials Nab Terrorist in Helmand Operation

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

11 Dec 2020

HELMAND, Afghanistan – Afghan National Police (ANP) has arrested at least one suspected terrorist during in an operation in Lashkar Ghah city, said the Ministry of Interior Affair in a statement Thursday night.

According to the statement, the suspect is involved in a number of targeted killings across the province.

“ANP arrested a terrorist in PD#2, Lashkar Gah City of Helmand province,” said the MoIA in a tweet. “The terrorist was involved in many targeted killings.”

Officials did not provide further details, but said the “ANP seized two pistols, one motorcycle, one cell phone and some amount of ammunition.”

While a full detail on the identity of the suspect remains unclear, the country is known for countless terrorism by the Taliban insurgents.

Taliban did not immediately comment on the incident.


Ukrainian Enterprises Put ‘Afghan and US troops’ at Lethal Risk

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

09 Dec 2020

US and Afghan Troops could be in danger as these choppers get repaired by unauthorized Ukrainian enterprises in Ukraine. 

The company stated on their website, that the company “considers it necessary to warn that Ukrainian aircraft repair enterprises are carrying out an illegitimate overhaul of Mi-17V-5 Helicopters and thereby endangers the lives of the American and Afghan soldiers that are operating these Helicopters’.

 “According to the received information about the arrival of two Mi-17V-5 Helicopters of the Afghan Air Force at the Ukrainian aircraft repair enterprises «Motor Sich» (Zaporozhye) and «Aviakon» (Konotop) for performing illegitimate overhaul, Russian Helicopters Holding Company disclaims all responsibility for the further safe operation of mentioned Helicopters and has every reason to deny services related to maintenance of these Helicopters”, the statement read.

Repair services in Ukrain are conducted in companies that are not equipped with “overhaul of this type of Helicopter in the prescribed manner, as no actualized repair and design documentation for the Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopter, spare parts or repair group sets were delivered to these aircraft repair companies.”, JSC Russian Helicopters stated.

The company also added, “This overhaul must be considered as illegitimate,”.

JSC also stated, “This overhaul must be considered as illegitimate since it will be performed without the participation and control of the Developer (The National helicopter center Мil&Kamov) and the Manufacturer («Kazan Helicopters» JSC) of this type of Helicopters”.

The company will notify all interested Russian and foreign organizations of illegal overhauls of Russian-made helicopters.


Taliban Face Heavy Retaliation in Zabul

By Mohammad Arif Sheva

10 Dec 2020

ZABUL, Afghanistan – At least six Taliban insurgents killed and further five wounded after the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) retaliated in Mizan and Arghandab districts of Zabul province, said the Ministry of Defense in a statement Thursday.

“6 #Taliban were killed and 5 others were wounded after they attacked #ANDSF positions in Mizan and Arghandab districts of Zabul province, yesterday,” said the MoD in a tweet.

According to the statement, a huge amount of their arms and ammunition were wrecked during clashes.

“Also, a large amount of their weapons and ammunitions were destroyed as a result of reciprocal attacks,” the tweet added.

Meanwhile, in another news for Faryab, at least five Taliban were killed in Qaisar district of the province after they attacked ANDSF positions on Thursday morning, said the MoD.

The Taliban did not immediate comment on the claims.



Southeast Asia


Leave Religion Out Of Sentencing, Malaysian Bar And A Retired Judge Urged

V Anbalagan

December 11, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar and a retired judge have urged lower court judges to stop making religious laced remarks when meting out sentences to accused persons irrespective of their race and faith.

They said magistrates and Sessions Court judges should also heed the recent advice by the Court of Appeal which also touched on the matter.

Bar president Salim Bashir said judges had wide latitudes to consider all information before pronouncing punishments.

“Previous convictions, subject matters of a crime, public interest and other legally relevant variables are the only important considerations in a sentencing process,” he said.

He said comments should not have any reference to religious or divine judgments in determining the measure of punishment.

“No one should be punished severely or conversely shown leniency based on emotions or religious teachings,” he added.

Retired Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram said the Malaysian legal system is secular and governed by laws enacted by Parliament.

“It is not governed by the content of any religion. There is no mention of hell or heaven in the penal provisions of the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission Act, which is the law directed at the prevention and punishment of corrupt activity,” he said.

As a dispenser of secular justice, he said, it was not apposite to address an accused convicted of corruption along religious lines merely because the prisoner is a Muslim.

“What if he were of a different faith? Are we going to address him in terms of his personal religion?

“The fact of the matter is that bribery is a serious offence as it eats into the social fabric and weakens it. And it matters not whether the perpetrator is a Muslim, a Hindu, a Christian or Bahai. He or she will suffer in prison. Not in hell,” he added.

They were reacting to Sessions Court judge Rozilah Salleh’s remark that people who offer or accept bribes would burn in hell, stating that it’s a reminder for everyone present.

Her comments came before sentencing immigration officer Zalizi Ismail to 30 days’ jail and a fine of RM20,000 after he pleaded guilty to receiving a bribe of RM12,000 from a man last week.

The judge also reprimanded the accused for failing to uphold the trust and responsibility given to him to safeguard the country’s entry/exit points by releasing foreign nationals detained at KLIA.

“I want you to believe in your guilty plea. If you are punished in this world, I pray it is sufficient as kifarah (retribution) for you in the hereafter,” she said.

Zalizi, 26, received the money from Chu Wing Kong to speed up the repatriation process for two detainees, Zhou Guifang and Zhu Xiangliang, to China.

He committed the offence on Dec 2 at a petrol station near the airport.

On Oct 1, Court of Appeal judge Yaacob Sam also advised trial judges in the lower courts to refrain from raising religious factors in sentencing Muslims.

He said all accused persons must be treated equally in the eyes of the law in accordance with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.

“Statements touching on religion should be avoided. Would the court take such an approach if the accused is a non-Muslim?” asked Yaacob.

He said there was also no different set of moral values irrespective of whether the offenders were Muslims or otherwise.

Yaacob, who sat with judges P Ravinthran and Ahmad Nasfy Yasin, made this remark in dismissing an appeal by the prosection to increase the jail term of a jobless man who had an incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law.

Lawyer Varpal S Sagoo, who appeared for the 68-year-old accused, submitted that the Sessions Court judge in Kuala Kangsar was swayed by emotion in making her judgment.


Don’t get high-handed on alcohol sale, says consumer group

Nicholas Chung

December 11, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Those who oppose the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and other retail outlets are free to do so, but they have no right to resort to high-handed measures against the sellers.

Instead, community leaders and elected representatives who are against such sales should engage the government to have stricter enforcement, a consumer group said.

Commenting on the shutdown of the non-halal alcohol section at a Jaya Grocer outlet in Puncak Alam, the Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) said it was up to the government to develop and enforce rules and regulations for the sale of alcohol, adding that the procedures in place were already very strict.

The group’s secretary-general Sukhdave Singh said sections of the community who opposed the sale of any goods should engage the licensing authority instead or just choose not to frequent such retailers. They should not resort to high-handed action.

“Firstly, we want to make it clear that MCM does not condone the consumption of alcoholic drinks and we are all for tighter regulations to prevent easy access.

“Putrajaya has already placed strict rules for retailers who sell both halal and non-halal items. Taking into consideration and respecting the sensitivity of Muslim consumers, alcoholic beverages are mandated to be segregated in non-halal sections,” he said.

He also said traders would not be selling alcohol if there was no demand in the community.

“Media reports indicate that the area in question has a 90% Malay-Muslim population but we cannot deny the 10% non-Muslim population of their right to purchase alcoholic beverages, if they want.

“Before selling alcoholic beverages, a retailer would require a permit and, in this case, we assume that a permit has already been granted.”

Jeram assemblyman Mohd Shaid Rosli had stirred controversy after submitting a memorandum to the Jaya Grocer in Eco Grandeur, Puncak Alam, in protest against the sale of alcohol in the supermarket.

However, Shaid, who had quit PPBM in August to align himself with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has now denied forcing the supermarket to shut down the section, saying he merely suggested it on behalf of Puncak Alam residents.

Sukhdave said any elected representative, whether an MP or assemblyman, should be working in the interest of all members of the community in their constituency, not just a selected group.

He added that the assemblyman should have struck a balance between all communities in his constituency, instead of listening to just one section.

“Every elected representative or community leader must accept the fact that Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious country with individual rights guaranteed by our Federal Constitution. It must be respected.

“Only then will we be able to achieve greater unity and harmony to ensure progress of our nation,” he said.


Uighur family reunited in Australia after 3-year detention in Xinjiang

December 11, 2020

SYDNEY: An Australian man from China’s Muslim Uighur community was reunited with his family, including a three-year-old son he had never met, after Beijing agreed they could depart Xinjiang.

Sadam Abudusalamu posted on Twitter photographs of his family arriving at Sydney airport on Thursday and thanked Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, human rights activists, and “everyone who worked so hard to reunite us”.

In 2017, Chinese authorities banned Abudusalamu’s wife Nadila Wumaier and son from leaving Xinjiang by confiscating their passports, in what became a high-profile human rights case in Australia.

Abdusalamu had come to Australia as a student over a decade ago, and married Wumaier in Xinjiang in 2016. Their son Lufty was born in Xinjiang, and granted Australian citizenship in 2019, after Abdusalamu urged the Australian government to help the family.

In February, after China’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Wang Xining, said on ABC Television Wumaier didn’t want to leave Xinjiang, she posted a photograph to Twitter holding a sign saying ‘I want to leave and be with my husband’.

Payne said in July the Australian embassy in Beijing had formally requested the Chinese authorities allow Wumaier, a Chinese citizen, to leave.

China has been criticised at the United Nations Human Rights Council by countries including Australia and the US for the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. China has rejected the criticism.

The family’s lawyer Michael Bradley confirmed to Reuters that Lufty, 3, and his mother had arrived from China two weeks ago, and had flown to Sydney on Thursday after quarantining at a hotel in Brisbane.

Bradley, who was at the airport, said Abudusalamu was overjoyed to see his wife, and meet his son.

“We are just thrilled it has ended this way. It has been a long saga,” Bradley added.


Indonesian Ulema Council edges closer to the centre of power

8 December 2020

Alexander R Arifianto, RSIS

On 27 November 2020, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation’s semi-official body for Islamic affairs, concluded its tenth national summit. MUI is a quasi-autonomous non-government organisation (‘quango’) — receiving funding from the state but not considered a government agency.

Members of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), gather to commemorate the organisation's 85th anniversary, Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 July 2011 (Photo: Reuters/Supri).

As a quango, it has power to issue religious edicts (fatwa) that guide followers on various aspects of everyday life. This includes whether various acts or matters are religiously permissible (halal) or not (haram). The institution is authorised to issue halal certificates for goods and services sold in Indonesia.

MUI is not the only Indonesian institution that can issue fatwa. These can be issued by any Islamic cleric (ulama). Other Islamic organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and Islamic Union (Persis) — the country’s three largest Islamic organisations — can issue their own independently.

But within the past decade, fatwa by MUI are increasingly taking precedence over those by other organisations — particularly those addressing questions of Islamic doctrine (aqidah) and blasphemy.

MUI’s power has increased significantly over the past fifteen years as the Indonesian government has recognised its authority over fatwa and other legislation related to Islamic affairs. This largely took place during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency from 2005 to 2015. For instance, Article 2 of Presidential Regulation 151/2014 formally designated MUI as the government’s partner in Islamic affairs. MUI’s authority is also strengthened by the passage of two laws related to the Islamic economy: Law No 21/2008 on Sharia Banking and Law No 33/2014 on Halal Product Assurances.

The former requires all Indonesian financial institutions to establish a financial division operating under Islamic legal principles (sharia). The latter mandates producers of a wide range of goods and services — including food and drink, medical products and cosmetics, and even electronic goods — to obtain MUI-issued halal certificates before marketing these products.

Under the chairmanship of Ma’ruf Amin — now Indonesia’s Vice President — and his predecessor Din Syamsuddin, MUI has taken a conservative ideological turn. Both are thought to have been instrumental in the issuance of controversial fatwas against several minority groups, including those against the Ahmadi Muslim minority and the LGBTQ community.

This is why the MUI national summit — which selects and appoints its new leadership board — is crucial as a barometer to determine the theological and political directions the organisation will take over the next five years. The most significant appointment made during the recent summit is that of senior cleric Miftachul Akhyar as MUI’s new general chairman.

Miftachul replaces Ma’ruf and is also the current supreme leader (rais aam) of NU — Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation. In contrast to his immediate predecessor, Miftachul is described as a ‘moderate-to-conservative cleric typical of NU mainstream ulama’.

In his inaugural speech, he noted that MUI is ‘a partner of the government’ and that ‘a cleric should not issue condemnations during a sermon’, indicating that, under his leadership, MUI will likely adopt an accommodative and cooperative position with the Widodo administration, in contrast to the openly critical position taken by some of its board members in the past five years. But Miftachul is not a progressive ulama, as indicated by his 2017 statement that the then Jakarta governor ‘Ahok’ Basuki Tjahaja Purnama had committed blasphemy. This was issued when he served as an expert witness in the latter’s trial.

A significant decision reached during the summit is the removal of several controversial clerics from their leadership positions within the MUI. These include Din Syamsuddin, the former MUI chairman, Bachtiar Nasir, a former deputy secretary of the MUI Advisory Council, Tengku Zulkarnain, a former deputy secretary general, and Yusuf Muhammad Martak, a former treasurer.

These clerics are infamous for lending their support to the 2016–17 Defending Islam rallies against Ahok. Nasir and Martak co-founded the National Movement to Support the MUI Religious Edict (GNPF MUI), which helped mobilise nearly one million protesters. Zulkarnain is a close associate of Rizieq Shihab, founder of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the organisation that was instrumental in driving the rallies. He is also a controversial preacher known for fiery polemical rhetoric condemning women and numerous religious minorities.

While these controversial Islamist clerics and preachers were removed from MUI’s national board, several clerics known for their moderate viewpoints were appointed. This includes Masdar Masudi, a long-time NU activist and close associate of the late former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, NU chairman from 1984 to 1999, widely known for his progressive views. Other new board members, such as Dadang Kahmad and Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim (both from Muhammadiyah), are widely considered moderate, even progressive Islamic thinkers.

Will the leadership change within the MUI make any difference in its position on various religious and social issues? Given the new MUI leadership desires cooperation with the Widodo administration, it is expected that they will be receptive to government policy priorities. The new fatwa proactively declaring COVID-19 vaccines to be halal, paving the way for distribution without facing religious objection, is a step in that direction.

But when it comes to marginalised minorities, we can expect the new MUI leadership to retain their conservative standing. Mainstream Islamic clerics — including those within MUI — tend to share a conservative orthodoxy in their religious interpretation toward these groups.

Alexander R Arifianto is a research fellow of the Indonesia Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.



North America


US ‘concerned’ by transfer of Rohingya to Bangladeshi island

December 10, 2020

WASHINGTON: The US on Thursday voiced concern over Bangladesh’s transfer of Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island and said that any movement should be voluntary.

Bangladesh, which has taken in nearly one million Rohingya who fled a brutal offensive in neighbouring Myanmar, has started the relocation of 100,000 of them from squalid camps on the mainland to Bhashan Char, a silt island frequently in the path of cyclones.

The US reiterated its appreciation to Bangladesh for accepting the refugees but said it was “concerned” about last week’s transfer of more than 1,600 Rohingya and plans to move more.

“The US concurs with the UN that any such relocations must be fully voluntary and based on informed consent without pressure or coercion,” State Department spokesman Cale Brown said in a statement.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric earlier pointed to reports, corroborated by accounts on the ground to AFP, that refugees have been pressured into relocating.

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen called the claims “a damn lie” and said facilities on the island were “much better” than the camps.

The US called for Bangladesh to allow “thorough and independent technical and protection assessments” of Bhashan Char to determine whether the island, said to be prone to flooding, is suitable for refugees.

The US statement comes after outgoing President Donald Trump slashed his country’s own refugee admissions to a record low, with the wealthiest nation planning to admit no more than 15,000 from around the world in the current fiscal year.

The State Department said the US is the leading supporter of refugee programmes inside Bangladesh, contributing US$962 million since 2017.

The US also reiterated calls on Myanmar to allow the return of the refugees – a prospect that few see as immediate.

The Buddhist-majority nation refuses to consider the mostly Muslim Rohingya as citizens and in 2017 launched a military campaign in which refugees recounted mass killings, widespread rape and the burning of villages.


Trump pushes for last-minute sale of four sophisticated drones to Morocco

11 December 2020

US President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration is in talks with Morocco to provide the kingdom with at least four sophisticated large aerial drones, as it just agreed to a rapprochement with Israel, under pressure from Washington.

Citing three US sources familiar with the case, Reuters reported that Washington is close to completing a deal on the sale of at least four unmanned MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones.

The White House is expected to discuss the deal with members of Congress in the coming days, the report said.

The US State Department, the report said, authorized the sale of the drones, but it is not known if the department approved the export of drones with weapons attached.

The deal, which has been in the works for several months, is being negotiated as Morocco agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

Rabat agreed on Thursday to normalize ties with Tel Aviv in a controversial deal brokered under pressure from Washington, on the final days of Trump’s presidency.

Trump used Morocco's Western Sahara claim as a bargaining chip in talks with Morocco to secure the deal.

He agreed to recognize Rabat's sovereignty over the territory, which has long been a source of dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Saharawi people, led by the pro-independence Polisario Front, based in southern Algeria.

The breakaway movement seeks to establish an independent state in the vast desert area.

Morocco, however, has claimed the former Spanish colony as one of its “southern provinces” since 1975.

The African Union recognizes the territory as an independent state.

The Polisario denounced Washington’s recognition of Rabat's claim, saying it was a violation of international law.

The United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991, bringing an end to a 16-year-long insurgency in the region, with the promise of a referendum on independence, which has yet to take place.

Morocco’s ties with Israel along with its purchase of US drones could now fuel instability in the region, experts warn.


US flies two B-52s over Persian Gulf amid tensions with Iran

10 December 2020

The US military has flown two B-52H bombers from Louisiana to the Middle East as tensions mount in the region following the assassination of a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Thursday that the two Air Force “Stratofortresses” flew nonstop from Barksdale Air Force Base, across Europe and then the Persian Gulf on a short-notice mission.

Aircraft from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar flew with the US jets during portions of the one and a half day-long flight, a senior US military official told NBC News.

"Potential adversaries should understand that no nation on earth is more ready and capable of rapidly deploying additional combat power in the face of any aggression,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, who is head of CENTCOM. “We do not seek conflict, but we must remain postured and committed to respond to any contingency or in opposition to any aggression.” 

Days ago, the US military moved the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Persian Gulf along with other warships.

A US military official told the CNN that the deployment was meant to provide “combat support and air cover” for American troops withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan by January 15 before President Donald Trump leaves office.

The announcement came following the assassination of Iranian physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known by its Persian acronym SPND.

Fakhrizadeh was targeted in a terrorist attack in the city of Absard, Tehran Province’s Damavand County, on November 27.

Fakhrizadeh’s death came two years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during an erroneous presentation about Iran's nuclear activities, warned the world to “remember that name.”

The spokesman for the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week satellite equipment was used in the assassination of Fakhrizadeh.

Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said, “Advanced electronic instruments guided by satellite were used in the assassination of Martyr Fakhrizadeh.”

He added that “the Zionists are well aware that their measures [against Iran] will not go unanswered and this issue has been proven to them in the past.”

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said the assassination by ‘Zionist elements’ was a grave and inhumane crime aimed at curbing the Iranian march toward scientific progress.

One American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed to the New York Times that Israel was behind the attack.

The US military’s latest move also comes as the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), is approaching early in January.

The act of terror was carried out under the direction of President Trump, with the Pentagon taking responsibility for the strike.

In response, the IRGC launched a wave of missile strikes days later, targeting a major US base in neighboring Iraq. The Islamic Republic has vowed to fully avenge the general’s blood.

There have been reports that Trump has recently requested options for a military strike on Iran during the remaining days of his term. The Israeli regime has also reportedly been preparing for such an attack for weeks.


Trump wants Iran’s oil and gas off the market for the benefit of US oil corporations: Expert

10 December 2020

US President Donald Trump's pursuit of confrontation with Iran is about keeping its oil and gas off the market for the benefit of US oil corporations, an American political analyst has said.

Bill Dores, a writer for Struggle/La Lucha and longtime antiwar activist, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Thursday while commenting on the statement of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell who said the United States needs to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The European official also called for Iran to resume its full compliance with the nuclear accord.

"We need to find a way for the US to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, and for Iran to come back into full compliance. The nuclear deal is still assessed as a landmark of successful diplomacy ... We are proud of it as the biggest success of our diplomatic capacity," Borrell told a GLOBSEC webinar on Tuesday.

“First of all, the Trump regime's opposition to the JCPOA, and its pursuit of confrontation with Iran, is not about Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program, which everyone knows is peaceful. It's about keeping Iran's oil and gas off the market for the benefit of US oil corporations, monopolies, in particular the fracking interests in the United States who are behind the Trump regime. They are desperate for confrontation, even war with Iran,” Dores said.

“From the point of view of Europe that would be a disaster. The United States has long used its control of the energy resources of West Asia and North Africa and its ability to use war to disrupt the flow of energy as leverage over Europe. And most of the West European countries or EU countries don't have oil. They don't have gas. They want oil and gas at the cheapest prices. And they need trade. They don't want to be at the mercy of US oil monopolies anymore,” he added.

“And so this creates a conflict of interest in the US corporate establishment as well. It will be a conflict of interest in the incoming Biden administration. There are different factions, those who may benefit at the moment from relaxing sanctions, and those who,  like  the Trump regime are working with Israel to not only keep sanctions in place but actually escalate to war, as we can see with the murder of Dr. Fakhrizadeh,” he stated.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew Washington from the JCPOA, and since then, he has been piling sanctions on Iran as part of his administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign.

In response to the US’s unilateral move and Europe’s failure to help Iran take advantage of economic benefits of the deal, Tehran rowed back on its nuclear commitments five times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.

As the Europeans continued to fail to put their verbal support for the deal into action, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) passed a law last week to protect Iran’s interests against the Western sanctions.

Under the law, the Tehran administration is required to halt UN inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal if sanctions are not eased in two months.

The Islamic Republic has, however, stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions or if the US decides to return to the JCPOA unconditionally and compensate for the economic losses Tehran suffered due to its abrupt pullout.





Morocco to facilitate direct flights for Israelis to and from Morocco

10 December 2020

Moroccan King Mohammed told US President Donald Trump by phone on Thursday that Morocco intends to facilitate direct flights for Israeli tourists to and from Morocco, according to a statement from Morocco's royal court.

El Al Israel Airlines said it was examining the possibility of establishing direct flights between Israel and Morocco after the United States announced on Thursday that the two countries would normalize relations.

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Israel and Morocco agreed on Thursday to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.

As part of the agreement, US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.


International aid group says staffer killed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region conflict

11 December 2020

An international aid group said on Friday that a staff member has been killed in Ethiopia’s conflict in its Tigray region.

The International Rescue Committee said “communication with the area is extremely difficult and we are still working to gather and confirm the details surrounding the events that led to the death of our colleague” in the Hitsats refugee camp in Shire.

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The Tigray region remains largely sealed off from the outside world as worried humanitarian organizations warn of growing hunger, attacks on refugees and dwindling medicine and other supplies more than a month after fighting erupted between Ethiopia’s government and the now-fugitive Tigray one.

Ethiopia’s government has made clear it intends to manage the process of delivering aid to Tigray, and it has rejected “interference” as fighting is reported to continue despite its declaration of victory.

The Ethiopian and Tigray governments each regard the other as illegitimate, the result of months of growing friction since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 and sidelined the once-dominant Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

Thousands of people, including civilians, are thought to have been killed in the fighting, which began on November 4 and has threatened to destabilize the Horn of Africa.

The International Rescue Committee in a statement called for an immediate cease-fire by all parties after “an intense bout of conflict.”

The aid group works to assist 96,000 refugees from Eritrea who shelter in camps near the border with that reclusive country. Food in those camps reportedly ran out days ago, and thousands of the refugees have left in search of help.

Frustration among humanitarian groups is widespread as the Tigray region remains largely unreachable and supply-laden trucks have waited for weeks at its borders.

Ethiopia’s government has reported that it has begun delivering aid, but the United Nations has stressed the need for neutral, unfettered access to a region where fears of ethnic tensions remain high.

This week, Ethiopia’s government said its forces shot at and briefly detained UN staffers conducting their first security assessment in Tigray, a crucial step in delivering aid. Ethiopia said the staffers had broken through checkpoints in an attempt to go where it wasn’t allowed.

“Deeply concerned about humanitarian situation in Tigray region,” the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Francesco Rocca, tweeted on Thursday. “Lack of consistent access to civilians, hospitals without water, electricity and medicines, people in desperate need of aid. A UN team was also targeted; this is unacceptable! We need safe access and dialogue.”


Sudan announces cancelation of over 3,500 Bashir-era passports for foreign residents

10 December 2020

Sudan’s Interior Ministry says the country’s interim authorities have canceled more than 3,500 passports issued to foreign residents by Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry announced that Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, on the ministry’s recommendation, has decided to cancel Sudanese citizenship of 3,548 naturalized residents.

“This decision was taken in the light of negative medical or security reports about the individuals concerned or because, in some cases, they obtained citizenship without meeting the necessary conditions,” the tweet read, according to AFP.

Sudanese media reported that the great majority of those affected are citizens of Arab countries, particularly Syria, which has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to estimates, 150,000 Syrians currently reside in Sudan.

The Sudanese Interior Ministry also announced that Syrians will now need to get visas in advance rather on arrival to enter Sudan, a decision that will restrict Syrian nationals’ access to a relatively easy and safe location.

Asser Khattab, a Syrian refugee and journalist, lamented the decision, saying it harms those who are in desperate need of getting out of the war-torn country.

“This is important: Although Sudan isn't Syrians' dream destination, but over the past few years it became the go-to country for those who don't have a visa to go anywhere and yet desperately need to get out of Syria,” Khattab said via Twitter on Wednesday.

The news comes as fighting in the Tigray region of neighboring Ethiopia has driven tens of thousands of refugees into Sudan, while thousands have been killed so far in clashes that began on November 4 between the Ethiopian government and those loyal to the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).





PDM has played its cards too early, says minister

11 Dec 2020

ISLAMABAD: Mocking opposition parties over what he called hurling empty threats of resigning from the assemblies, Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz on Wednesday dared them to quit the National Assembly or the Senate.

Addressing a news conference here at the Press Information Department (PID), he said the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) had played its cards too early and it was now ruing the announcement.

“The announcement to resign from the assemblies was a fake and empty threat by the PDM,” the minister said, wondering: “Why would the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) resign from the Sindh Assembly… because they are in power there and the only party that is in power?”

The minister said the opposition parties were planning to create a law and order situation in the garb of public rallies. They might be seeking to see some serious crisis, including fatalities as a result of clashes, only to destabilise the government, he said, adding that “we will not give the opposition this chance; they are the ones who killed people in the Model Town operation”.

The minister started the news conference by slamming the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and showed footage of PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari when both abused each other. He said the two parties did not have any ideological common ground and political agenda, but were together only to protect their ill-gotten wealth.

Insists opposition is hurling empty threats over quitting legislatures

“They do not have any plan for the welfare or progress of the nation,” he said, adding: “They have plundered the country and made false promises of upgrading Pakistan to the level of Paris, but the fact is that they have brought Pakistan to the level of Somalia.”

He recalled the mistreatment faced by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto at the hands of the PML-N.

“Who gave this name of ‘Mr 10 per cent’ to Mr Zardari? They even rejoiced at the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Whatever their concerns are we have nothing to do with that. Did we frame NAB laws? You could have amended these laws by yourself,” he said.

When the PML-N was in power it enjoyed using these powers only to pressurise the PPP, he added.

The minister also responded to criticism of the government by the opposition parties and said their politics was based on hypocrisy. “They always say who is asking for NRO and then repeat if the prime minister can even give an NRO.

“We decided not to give any NRO. It was possible when FATF (Financial Action Task Force) laws were being finalised, but we did not compromise… we could have adopted the old political tradition of taking everybody on board, but we deplore this strategy as it has led the country to its current sorry state,” he added.

Mr Faraz said Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was taking the opposition parties to a blind alley. “He was taking his revenge from both the PPP and PML-N because they had deceived him during his protest sit-in in Islamabad in November last year when the leaders of these two parties came to his sit-in only to deliver speeches,” he added.

The minister announced holding a separate press conference over the political conduct of the JUI-F chief on Friday. He alleged that the Maulana had been silent for two years because he was trying to make a deal, but when he failed he came out on roads in desperation. He will show his last card of giving resignations.

In reply to a question about government’s moves to stop the PDM rally in Lahore, the minister said all such rallies were illegal and their organisers would be dealt in accordance with the law.

“This is responsibility of the government to protect the lives of citizens and at the same time a question arises: is it not responsibility of the opposition to protect citizens from the spread of coronavirus?” he asked, adding that the opposition was bent upon damaging the country, its people and economy.


Maryam challenges attachment of properties in NAB case

Malik Asad

11 Dec 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Maryam Nawaz on Thursday challenged the attachment of properties of the Sharif family in Murree and Chhangla Galli with other properties frozen in connection with the Toshakhana reference because of absconding of her father Nawaz Sharif.

Accountability court judge Syed Asghar Ali issued a notice to the National Accountability Bureau and sought a report from the bureau by Dec 16.

Ms Sharif filed the objection petition in the Accoun­tability Court against the attachment of House No 24-A&B, III, Hall Road, Murree, and a house in Chhangla Galli, Abbottabad, in the Toshakhana case.

She stated in the petition that both houses were owned by her late mother, Kalsoom Nawaz. She said that the two houses had been purchased much before the period mentioned in the reference and after the death of the owner of the houses in question, the ownership devolved upon legal heirs as per judgment and decree dated May 14, 2019, and the houses are undivided properties in the joint ownership of all legal heirs.

She requested the court that order dated Oct 1, 2020, was liable to be corrected under section 88 (6A) Criminal Procedure Code and the above-mentioned properties may be released from the attachment.

In September this year, the Accountability Court declared Mr Sharif a proclaimed offender in the Toshakhana vehicles reference, initiated the process to confiscate his properties and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to make his arrest through Interpol.

According to the Toshakhana reference, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari had obtained vehicles from Toshakhana by paying only 15 per cent of the price of luxury vehicles.

The National Accountability Bureau alleged that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had facilitated the allotment of the vehicles to Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif by dishonestly and illegally relaxing the procedure for acceptance and disposal of gifts vide a cabinet division memorandum of 2007.

The Accountability Court-III of Islamabad had in May issued non-bailable warrants for Mr Nawaz Sharif for not attending the court proceedings in the reference and had also initiated the process to declare him a proclaimed offender.


Bilawal meets party cadre today to discuss PDM rally

11 Dec 2020

LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari reached the Punjab capital from Islamabad to oversee the party’s preparations for the all-important Dec 13 rally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) at Minar-i-Pakistan.

He has convened a meeting of the party’s Punjab chapter leadership at Bilawal House for today (Friday) to finalise a strategy for mobilising the cadre and making the 11-party opposition alliance’s show a success.

He believes that it’s time for the Jiyalas (diehard party workers) to come out on roads and give a final push to the ‘puppet’ government.

A local party leader quoted him as saying that the Dec 13 rally had begun giving sleepless nights to the rulers, who were resorting to every tactics — from barring caterers to rent out their chairs, tents, sound systems to the Pakistan Democratic Movement and arresting those violating the unwritten orders to detaining the leading activists and exaggerating the figures about the spread of the coronavirus.

Sources say the PPP chairman is also scheduled to meet PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Friday (today) to discuss the political situation, particularly regarding the Sunday rally.

He will also offer condolences to Maryam on the demise of her grandmother.


Opposition members put off protest for 10 days after meeting KP CM

Ali Hazrat Bacha

11 Dec 2020

PESHAWAR: Members of opposition parties in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly postponed their protest against the government for 10 days after a meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan at the CM House here on Thursday.

The MPAs had set up a protest camp outside the Chief Minister’s House for the three consecutive days, where leaders of different political parties expressed support for the protesters, who demanded the provision of development funds and non-interference of the National Assembly members in their constituencies.

However, the protest was called off on Thursday evening after a meeting with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in his office.

An announcement for the purpose was made during a news conference jointly addressed by Awami National Party parliamentary leader in the provincial assembly Sardar Hussain Babak and labour minister Shaukat Yousufzai at the protest camp set by opposition MPAs outside the CM House.

Govt promises to address their grievances on funds distribution

The opposition MPAs, who held negotiations with the chief minister, included Sardar Hussain Babak, Nighat Orakzai, Mahmood Bhittani, Mir Kalam Wazir and Inayatullah Khan, while the ministers, who were present on the occasion, included Shaukat Yousafzai, Kamran Bangash, Taimur Khan Jhagra, Sultan Mohammad Khan and Akbar Ayub.

Mr Babak said the government had assured the opposition of the resolution of their grievances within 10 days.

“We welcomed the [government’s] gesture and postponed the protest,” he said.

The ANP leader said the protest was mainly against the attitude of MNAs, who used to interfere in affairs of the province unnecessarily instead of focusing on their duties in the centre.

He said the protest was the people’s democratic right and they would continue doing so if the government failed to fulfil its commitment towards their demands.

“The MNAs should avoid interference in the provincial issues and raise voice in the national assembly for due provinicial share in national resources, including natural gas, electricity and net hydel power, to strengthen the provincial financial resources,” he said.

He said during talks, the government had promised the meeting of all opposition demands pertaining to the release of development funds and the meetings of opposition members with the chief minister to inform him about the people’s problems of their respective constituencies.

Minister Shaukat Yousufzai appreciated the opposition for calling off the protest and said the government was committed to providing sufficient funds to every district to remove the people’s grievances and meet their demands.

“Our government wants to build educational institutions, health centres and roads and create job opportunities for which the opposition will be taken into confidence,” he said.

The minister said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had a specific culture of dialogue and both the government and opposition would maintain a close liaison for the healthy political environment.

Earlier in the day, the opposition lawmakers, during their speeches, criticised the government for ‘constantly ignoring’ them on development funds and appointment of Class-IV employees in government departments.

They said the government had promised to award 35 per cent of its development funds to the opposition during their meeting with the government on the distribution of development funds, but it failed to fulfil its commitment.

The MPAs pointed out that the provincial government had been utilising its funds through members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in violation of the Constitution.

ANP central General Secretary Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz provincial president Amir Muqam and ANP central leader Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also visited the protest camp and spoke in support of the protesting lawmakers.

They asked the government to take the opposition along for the start of the development schemes in different districts and resolve the people’s problems.

The opposition leaders also condemned the recent patient deaths in the Khyber Teaching Hospital due to gas shortage.

They demanded judicial probe into the matter to award punishment to the people responsible for it.


Three members of Balochistan Assembly to resign

Saleem Shahid

10 Dec 2020

QUETTA: Three members of the Balochistan Assembly have decided to resign in accordance with the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement’s plan against the PTI government.

They are former chief minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, who was elected as an independent candidate in the 2018 polls, Mir Akhtar Hussain Langove of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, and Sham Lal, a minority MPA of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.Acco­rding to sources, Nawab Raisani took the decision to resign after PML-N’s supreme leader Nawaz Sharif contacted him from London and sought his support for the PDM.

Meanwhile, Mr Langove submitted his resignation to the Baloch­istan Assembly speaker on Wednesday.


KP opposition legislators vow to continue protest outside CM’s House

December 10, 2020

PESHAWAR: The protest being staged by the members of the opposition parties in the KP Assembly outside the Chief Minister’s House continued for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

They have established a sit-in camp outside the Chief Minister’s House. Members Provincial Assembly (MPAs) from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) attended the sit-in that continued till 5 pm.

The protesting MPAs asked the government to accept their demands, including the provision of uplift funds and non-interference of Members National Assembly (MNAs) in their constituencies.

They vowed to continue the protest till acceptance of the demands and removal of their grievances against the speaker. The protest sit-in was announced after the recent deaths of seven patients at the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) due to shortage of oxygen.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani sent lunch boxes to the protesting lawmakers as a goodwill gesture. The joint opposition announced that the sit-in would continue and some members would attend the assembly, as they were not boycotting the session.

On Monday about 12 MPAs attended the assembly session and the remaining members were present at the camp, where they raised the slogans of ‘Go Imran Go’ and ‘Maulana Aa Raha Hay’.

Meanwhile, JUI MPA from PK-86 Karak Malik Zafar Azam handed over his resignation to the party’s provincial Information Secretary Abdul Jalil Jan at the protest camp. Written on his letterhead and addressed to the speaker, the handwritten resignation reads:

As per the order of Maulana Fazlur Rahman regarding resignation from provincial assembly, I, Zafar Azam, resign from the PK-86, Karak.” Tendering resignations from the assemblies is part of Pakistan Democratic Movement’s strategy which was announced on Monday wherein it was decided that all the MNAs and MPAs from the component parties would submit resignations to respective party leaders by December 31.




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