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Islamic World News ( 7 Oct 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Biden Hits Out At Turkey, Calls on Erdogan to Reverse Decision on Hagia Sophia

New Age Islam News Bureau

07 October 2020


US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden boards his campaign plane for travel to Miami, Oct. 5, 2020. (Reuters)


 • ISIS Terrorists Known As The 'Beatles' Likely To Be Brought To U.S. In Coming Days

• Oxford University Fellow Says City's Centre for Islamic Studies Sacked Him for Being Bisexual

• Ulema Belonging To All the Islamic Schools Of Thought Agree On Code to Promote Peace and Inter-Sect Harmony

• UAE Stresses Return of Hope for Palestinians, Israelis to Work on Two-State Solution

• Arafat Wanted In On Camp David Accords but Hafez Assad Threatened Him: Prince Bandar

• Lawyers Walk Out Of Sudan Ex-President Al-Bashir Trial in Protest

• Allahabad HC Directs Three CJMs, of Lucknow, Bareilly and Meerut to Hear Cases Against Tablighis


North America

• Biden Hits Out At Turkey, Calls on Erdogan to Reverse Decision on Hagia Sophia

• ISIS Terrorists Known As The 'Beatles' Likely To Be Brought To U.S. In Coming Days

• Iran owes family of ex-FBI officer presumed dead $1.4 billion: US court

• Maximum pressure campaign on Iran to increase in coming ‘days and weeks’: US official



• Oxford University Fellow Says City's Centre for Islamic Studies Sacked Him for Being Bisexual

• Boy, 15, Accused Of Preparing For Isis Inspired Terror Attack Says He ‘Didn’t Mean’ Martrydom Vows

• Westminster Holocaust memorial would be 'trophy site' for terrorists

• Nagomo-Karabakh death toll rises to 280 since start of Armenia, Azerbaijan conflict

• ‘Islamophobic’ Tory councillor escapes punishment



• Ulema Belonging To All the Islamic Schools Of Thought Agree On Code to Promote Peace and Inter-Sect Harmony

• Imran's 'Naya Pakistan' Rocked By Pashtun, Sindh, and Baloch Agitations

• Pak govt invokes sedition law against opposition leaders amid calls for 'political revolution'

• Pakistan urges world not to be selective in fighting terrorism

• Man acquitted of blasphemy charge after six years


Arab world

• UAE Stresses Return of Hope for Palestinians, Israelis to Work on Two-State Solution

• UAE’s FM Vows ‘Never Again’ During Holocaust Memorial Visit with Israeli Counterpart

• Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Calls out Palestinian Leaders over Peace Deal

• Lebanon's new government consultations to start Oct. 15: President Aoun

• Oman becomes first Arab country to reinstate ambassador to Syria

• 17 killed, dozens wounded in bomb attack in northwest Syria: Reports

• Syria's Assad: Turkey sending militants to Karabakh after instigating war

• Iran: Chemical arms treaty abused to wrongly accuse Syrian government



• Arafat Wanted In On Camp David Accords but Hafez Assad Threatened Him: Prince Bandar

• Arab nations adamantly opposed to relations with Israeli regime, survey shows

• FM Spokesman Calls for Instant Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

• Iranian Speaker Urges End to Yerevan-Baku Clashes

• Iran: Six Prisoners Executed at Rajai Shahr Prison on September 23

• Father of jailed protester commits suicide over son’s death sentence

• Iran: Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali Sentenced to Death despite Lack of Evidence

• Three members of the Association of Iranian Writers jailed

• Turkey's EU membership bid evaporating due to government’s actions: Commission

• Israel demolished 166,000 Palestinian homes since creation: Report

• Muslim scholars, Palestinian factions condemn normalization deals

• Islamic Jihad: Palestinian resistance can target all parts of occupied territories



• Lawyers Walk Out Of Sudan Ex-President Al-Bashir Trial in Protest

• Morocco arrests four ISIS-linked extremist suspects

• Mali frees over 100 militants seeking hostage swap



• Allahabad HC Directs Three CJMs, of Lucknow, Bareilly and Meerut to Hear Cases Against Tablighis

• Jammu and Kashmir: Two terrorists eliminated in Sugan Shopian encounter

• PSO, terrorist killed in attack at J&K BJP worker’s house

• Occupying public place for protests not acceptable: Supreme Court on petitions on Shaheen Bagh protests


South Asia

• Nearly Two Decades after US Invasion, Afghans Fear Taliban Return

• Suicide attack in Afghanistan kills 8, Governor survives

• 10 Afghan Security Members Killed in Two Separate Incidents

• Taliban Shouldn’t ‘Fear’ the Cease Fire: Ashraf Ghani

• Taliban, Afghan negotiators set ground rules to continue peace talks: Sources


Southeast Asia

• Malaysian Muslim MP Unrepentant Over 'Corrupted Bible' Claim

• Najib defends religious affairs minister, criticises Putrajaya, PH

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Biden hits out at Turkey, calls on Erdogan to reverse decision on Hagia Sophia

Joseph Haboush

06 October 2020


US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden boards his campaign plane for travel to Miami, Oct. 5, 2020. (Reuters)


 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called on the Trump administration to “press” Turkey to stop its threats against Greece and said Turkey needed to reverse the decision to convert the Hagia Sophia to a mosque.

“The Trump administration must press Turkey to refrain from any further provocative actions in the region against Greece, including threats of force, to create the space for diplomacy to succeed. I also call on Turkish President Erdogan to reverse his recent decision to convert the Hagia Sophia to a mosque and to return this treasure to its former status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all, including the Orthodox faithful,” a statement from Biden said.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined hundreds of worshipers on July 24 for the first Muslim prayers in 86 years inside Hagia Sophia, the Istanbul landmark that served as one of Christendom’s most significant cathedrals, a mosque and a museum before its conversion back into a Muslim place of worship.

Brushing aside international criticism, Erdogan issued a decree restoring the iconic building as a mosque, shortly after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum more than eight decades ago.

Erdogan pressed ahead with his provocative behavior despite warnings from the international community.

Greece has accused Turkey of violating its sovereignty by pushing ahead with natural gas exploration activities in disputed waters southwest of Cyprus. Both countries deployed naval warships to the area in shows of force, elevating concerns over a possible clash.

Read more: Turkey pushing ahead with its agenda, risking the wrath of US, EU sanctions

But NATO officials have stepped in along with the European Union to reduce tensions.

On Tuesday, Biden applauded the work of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, European allies and the US administration to defuse tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. “Disagreements in the region should be resolved peacefully, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and protected,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, the former vice president praised the recent decision to “finally end the counterproductive embargo on nonlethal security assistance for Cyprus, which is a strategic partner for the United States.”

Turkey criticized the US after last month’s move announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Washington would lift a 33-year arms embargo on Cyprus and deepen its security cooperation with Nicosia.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup engineered by the then-military regime in Athens, which sought to unite the island with Greece.

The island has remained largely peaceful in the ensuing decades, with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders working to build ties in recent years.


ISIS Terrorists Known As The 'Beatles' Likely To Be Brought To U.S. In Coming Days

Oct. 6, 2020


Full interview with Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh 42:12


Two of the British Islamic State terrorists dubbed the "Beatles," accused of involvement in the murders of U.S. hostages in Syria, are likely to be brought to the United States in mid-October, according to two government officials.

The men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, who are being held in U.S. military custody in Iraq, are accused of taking part in the kidnappings of international hostages, including U.S. aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig and U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Kotey and Elsheikh admitted their involvement in the captivity of Mueller for the first time in an interview obtained exclusively by NBC News, which aired in July. Mueller was tortured and sexually abused before her death in 2015.

In the interview, the men also admitted for the first time to having beaten Foley, who was beheaded on camera by the leader of the so-called Beatles, Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed by Hellfire missiles fired from a CIA drone in 2015.

The hostages nicknamed Emwazi, Kotey and Elsheikh the Beatles by because of their British accents. The fourth Beatle, Aine Lesley Davis, was sentenced to 7½ years in prison in Turkey in 2017.

U.S. and British authorities say the men were responsible for 27 killings, including the beheadings of Foley, Sotloff and Kassig, as well as of British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning.

Kotey and Elsheikh have denied involvement in the killings and torture in previous interviews, describing themselves as "liaisons" between the hostages and more senior members of ISIS like Emwazi

In the interviews obtained by NBC News, Kotey and Elsheikh gave new incriminating details about Mueller's time in captivity.

"I took an email from her myself," Elsheikh said, meaning he got an email address ISIS could use to demand ransom from the family. "She was in a large room, it was dark and she was alone, and ... she was very scared."

In an email reviewed by NBC News, ISIS demanded that the Muellers pay 5 million euros and threatened that if the demands weren't met, they would send the family "a picture of Kayla's dead body."

Captured by Kurdish forces in 2018, Kotey and Elsheikh were turned over to U.S. troops last year and have been in U.S. military custody in Iraq amid questions over how and when they will face justice. U.S. prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have been investigating the case. U.K. authorities have investigated, as well.

The families of the Americans killed by ISIS have been pushing for the prosecution of the two men in the U.S. because they would face longer sentences than if they were tried in the U.K. British authorities revoked their U.K. citizenship after they were found to have joined ISIS.

The transfer to the criminal justice system for trial in the U.S. had been held up by legal proceedings in the U.K. that had barred British authorities from transferring evidence to U.S. prosecutors over concerns about possible death sentences for the two men. After Attorney General William Barr promised to take the death penalty off the table in August, a U.K. judge lifted the ban on sharing information, paving the way for prosecution in the U.S.


Oxford University Fellow Says City's Centre for Islamic Studies Sacked Him for Being Bisexual

7 October 2020


Dr Kevin Fogg, 37, who is an expert in the history of Islam in south-east Asia, will face the center in an employment tribunal due to begin next week


An Oxford University fellow believes he was unfairly dismissed from his role as an academic for being bisexual, as he 'did not comply with the preferences' of the centre's major Saudi funders.

Dr Kevin Fogg, 37, from Virginia, U.S, was dismissed from his role at The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in 2018 after five years as a research fellow, he argues this was due to his age and sexual orientation.

The centre, which is dedicated to the study of all aspects of Islamic culture, civilization and contemporary Muslim societies, receives funding from a number of states including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates - where homosexuality is illegal.

Dr Fogg believes that the preferences of the centre's board of trustees which includes Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki Al-Faisal and Malaysia's Sultan Nazrin Shah, sultan of Perak, influenced the decision to dismiss him.

Dr Fogg, who is an expert in the history of Islam in south-east Asia, will face the centre in an employment tribunal due to begin next week.

He told The Daily Telegraph: 'As a homo- sexually partnered bisexual man, I do not comply with the preferences of the centre's major funders.

'The leadership made several references to my age, which I believe to have been coded language equivalent to call- ing me a 'confirmed bachelor'.

He added that he felt the centre was intolerant towards 'non-heterosexual lifestyles' and that his dismissal had been detrimental to his mental health.

The centre dismissed the claims, telling The Daily Telegraph that Dr Fogg's allegations had 'no basis in fact'.

A spokesman for the centre told the publication that Mr Fogg had been employed on a five-year academic fellowship which had come to an end after being extended for a further year, and said that the fellow 'has been treated very well'. 

MailOnline has contacted The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies for comment.

The centre is a recognised independent centre of the University of Oxford.

Mr Fogg is now Associate Director of the Carolina Asia Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.


Ulema Belonging To All the Islamic Schools Of Thought Agree On Code To Promote Peace And Inter-Sect Harmony

October 07, 2020


Religious scholars belonging to all the various Islamic schools of thought have agreed on a 20-point code of conduct to promote peace and inter-sect harmony in the country.

This code of conduct – signed by over a dozen religious scholars as well as the Federal Minister for Inter-faith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz – was drafted in the Paigham-e-Pakistan Conference organized by the CCI on Tuesday.

The Paigham-e-Pakistan was a fatwa sought by the government of Pakistan in 2018 to counter terrorism. It was prepared by the International Islamic University and signed by 1,800 religious scholars of Pakistan.

The code of conduct agreed upon on Tuesday urged the government to ensure protection of non-Muslims and to promote interfaith harmony by banning airing of controversial speeches on TV, print and electronic media.

It said it is obligatory on every citizen to recognize and accept the Constitution of Pakistan and fulfill their oath of loyalty to the state.

“All citizens should ensure implementation of all basic rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution that pertain to social and political lives, freedom of expression, right to worship and religious beliefs etc.

“The protection of the Islamic identity of the Constitution should be guaranteed. It is the right of every citizen to strive peacefully for the implementation of Sharia laws in the country.”

The code said armed struggle against the state and spreading chaos in the name of religion should be considered an act of rebellion. Such acts, it said, are against the spirit of Islam and no individual has the right to declare any person, government or state institution an infidel.

It is necessary for ulemas, scholars and citizens to support state institutions, especially those tasked with enforcing law and order so that terrorism can be rooted out from society and every individual should abstain from joining any anti-state movement that focuses on ethnic, religious and sectarian issues.

“No person should spread inter sect hatred or engage in inter sect armed conflicts. He should also not impose his ideals upon another person. “

It said private, government and religious educational institutions should neither train nor provide knowledge relating to militancy, hatred and extremism to students.

“Strict action, based on solid evidence and proof, will be taken against such institutions or elements found involved in these practices,” it added.

According to the code, strict action will be taken against any elements found promoting extremism, sectarian hatred and torture, regardless of which organization or belief they belong to.

All sects belonging to Islam have the right to propagate their message but no one will be allowed to utter any sentence which promotes hate against any person, institution or organization.

It said no one will be allowed to insult the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the righteous caliphs (RA), the prophet’s family members (AS), the prophet’s companions (RA) and the prophet’s respected wives (RA).

It, however, clarified that a person or group will neither be allowed to take the law into their hands nor obstruct the investigation or prosecution of cases pertaining to blasphemy cases.

It said it is the prerogative of the courts to decide who is guilty of an act of kufr. The definition of a Muslim, as mentioned in the Constitution, will remain the same.

No person will commit acts of terrorism and neither provide training to terrorists. He will neither be involved in any terrorist activities nor include militants into his organisation.

“Religious, public and private educational institutions will accommodate the differences of opinion of various Islamic schools of thought in their syllabi as religious institutions are the best places where ideological differences can be studied and investigated.”

It said all Muslim citizens and government officials will carry out their duties based on the laws of Islam and the Constitution and Islamic knowledge regarding the rights of the elderly, women, children and the differently-abled will be provided at every level.

The code said it is the right of the non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan to practice their religious activities according to their beliefs. It said Islam protects the rights of women and no person is allowed to snatch their rights of employment, vote and education from women.

“People should abstain from committing acts such as marrying women to the Holy Quran, honour killings, karo kari, vani and other similar practices as these are against the teachings of Islam.”

It said no person will use the mosque pulpits, imam bargahs or majalis to make speeches or issue controversial statements that promote inter sect hatred. Controversial statements on sectarian issues should be avoided on print, electronic and social media.

“Freedom of expression operates within the Constitution and the laws of Islam, hence no programme should be aired on media that promote sectarian hatred or damages Pakistan's Islamic identity.”


UAE stresses return of hope for Palestinians, Israelis to work on two-state solution

06 October 2020

The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said on Tuesday that it was most important to stress the “return of hope” for Palestinians and Israelis to work towards achieving the two-state solution, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Abdullah was speaking during a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, after the three of them visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

“The most important thing that must be emphasized today is the return of hope for Palestinians and Israelis to work on the two-state solution and for a brighter future for the children of the region,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

The UAE normalized ties with Israel after a US-brokered deal which was announced at the White House on August 13 and signed in Washington on September 15.

The UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel, while Israel agreed to continue with plans to suspend its annexation of the West Bank. The UAE also abolished on August 29 a previous law that mandated an economic boycott of Israel.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the Middle East has entered a new safer and more prosperous era after the signing of the deal.

"Today, I discussed with my colleague Gabi Ashkenazi a set of proposals and ideas, perhaps most notably the cooperation in the field of energy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This takes into account the fact that cooperation in research and development could represent a step towards a more stable, integrated and prosperous Middle East."

“The agreement changes the traditional thinking of how to address the challenges of our region, while focusing on practical steps with tangible results,” he added.

“We in the UAE are looking forward to opening more new horizons of cooperation to achieve peace and to the economic opportunities that will be created in the region... We will work together to benefit from our world-class capabilities in the sectors of research and development in order to meet the needs of current and future generations.”

“I emphasize the availability of opportunities in our region to expand and strengthen our cooperation in various sectors, such as food security, energy and technology," Sheikh Abdullah added.

The minister said that the UAE, Germany and Israel have the shared interest of “preserving regional stability within the framework of a peaceful international order, governed by cooperation and stability.”


Arafat wanted in on Camp David Accords but Hafez Assad threatened him: Prince Bandar

Ismaeel Naar and Omar Elkatouri

06 October 2020

Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wanted to sign the Camp David Accords but Syria’s Hafez al-Assad had threatened to assassinate him, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan recounts during an exclusive sit-down interview with Al Arabiya.

“After the Oslo Accord, I asked Abu Ammar, God rest his soul - and as they say remember the virtues of your dead - what he thought of the autonomy provisions in the Camp David Accords,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the US recalled.

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“He said, ‘Bandar, Camp David’s autonomy provisions were ten times better than the Oslo Accord. I said, ‘Well, Mr. President, why did you not agree to it?’ He said, ‘I wanted to, but Hafez al-Assad threatened to kill me and to drive a wedge among the Palestinians, turning them against me,’” Prince Bandar bin Sultan said quoting Arafat.

Israel’s Menachem Begin and Egypt’s Anwar Sadat agreed in 1978 on a framework for regional peace that calls for an Israeli withdrawal in stages from Egypt’s Sinai and a transitional Palestinian government in the West Bank and Gaza in what came to be known as the Camp David Accords.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told Al Arabiya he wondered how history would have been written otherwise had Arafat signed the Camp David Accords at the time.

“I thought to myself, so he could have been one martyr and given his life to save millions of Palestinians, but it was as God willed it,” he said.

Prince Bandar’s statements came during the first part of a three-episode exclusive interview with Al Arabiya in which he discusses Saudi Arabia's position on the Palestinian cause, calling out the Palestinian leadership for its historical and ongoing “failures,” including its criticism of Gulf states following the UAE-Israel peace deal.

Prince Bandar is Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the US and served as director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014 and the head of the National Security Council from 2005 to 2015.


Lawyers walk out of Sudan ex-President al-Bashir trial in protest

06 October 2020

Most lawyers for Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir and other defendants walked out of his trial over a 1989 coup in protest at alleged bias on the part of the prosecutor general.

Dozens of lawyers, in a hearing broadcast on Sudanese television, left the courtroom after the prosecutor, Tagelsir al-Hebr, read out the charges.

Al-Bashir and the 27 others face accusations of undermining constitutional order and use of military force to commit a crime, Hebr said.

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Defense lawyer Abdelbasit Sebdarat said that Hebr had made the same accusations even before taking up the post of public prosecutor.

“He lodged these complaints as an ordinary citizen. Now, as he is prosecutor general, we object to him reciting the charges,” the lawyer said.

Presiding judge Essam Ibrahim responded that “whoever wants to leave, they can,” and adjourned the trial to October 20.

The 28 defendants stand accused of plotting the 1989 Islamist-backed military coup that brought al-Bashir to power.

Proceedings have been repeatedly delayed, with Tuesday’s hearing the sixth since the trial opened in July.

Al-Bashir ruled with an iron fist for 30 years until his overthrow on April 11, 2019 following unprecedented youth-led street demonstrations.

If convicted, al-Bashir and his co-accused - including former top officials - could face the death penalty.

Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict since 2003.

Sudan’s transitional government has agreed that al-Bashir would stand trial before the ICC.

However, in an August peace deal with rebels, the government agreed to set up a special court for crimes in Darfur and that al-Bashir should also face that court.


Allahabad HC Directs Three CJMs, of Lucknow, Bareilly and Meerut to Hear Cases Against Tablighis

By Sameer

6th October 2020

Allahabad: Allahabad High Court directed three Chief Judicial Magistrates (CJMs) of Lucknow, Bareilly and Meerut to hear the cases against Tablighis.

A division bench comprising Justices Shashi Kant Gupta and Shamim Ahmed passed an order that the three CJMs should not only hear all the cases against the Tablighis but also make decisions within eight weeks. It said that the hearing can be done through video-conferencing.

Transfer of cases

It also directed the Chief Secretary of the State to transfer the cases.

Cases pending in Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Varanasi and Lucknow Zones should be transferred to the Lucknow CJM whereas, cases in Agra and Meerut zones should be handled by CJM, Meerut. CJM, Bareilly will hear the cases pending in Bareilly Zone.

The cases have to be transferred within two weeks of the filling of order. The order was filled on 30th September.


In the petition heard by Allahabad HC it was mentioned that accused are facing logistic difficulties due to cases pending in different courts. It was also alleged that the bail conditions imposed by various court were not uniform.

In the entire state, a total 188 cases were lodged against Tablighis. Out of 188, 15 cases that were registered at Sultanpur, Meerut and Jaunpur were decided by the magistrates.



North America


Iran owes family of ex-FBI officer presumed dead $1.4 billion: US court

06 October 2020

A US judge has ordered Iran to pay $1.45 billion to the family of a former FBI agent believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic Republic while on an unauthorized CIA mission to an Iranian island in 2007.

The judgment this month comes after Robert Levinson’s family and the US government now believe he died in the Iranian government’s custody, something long denied by Tehran, though officials over time have offered contradictory accounts about what happened to him on Kish Island.

Tensions remain high between the US and Iran amid President Donald Trump’s maximalist pressure campaign over Tehran’s nuclear program. And though the US and Iran haven’t had diplomatic relations since the aftermath of the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, America stills holds billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets that could be used to pay Levinson’s family.

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In a ruling dated Thursday, the US District Court in Washington found Iran owed Levinson’s family $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping. The court cited the case of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died in 2017 shortly after being freed from captivity in North Korea, in deciding to award the massive amount of punitive damages to Levinson’s family.

“Iran’s conduct here is also unique, given that – astonishingly – it plucked a former FBI and DEA special agent from the face of the earth without warning, tortured him, held him captive for as long as 13 years, and to this day refuses to admit its responsibility,” the ruling by Judge Timothy J. Kelly said.

“And his wife and children, and their spouses and children – while keeping Levinson’s memory alive – have had to proceed with their lives without knowing his exact fate. These are surely acts worthy of the gravest condemnation,” the judge added.

Iranian state media and officials in Tehran did not immediately acknowledge the ruling in a case in which Iran offered no defense. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday from The Associated Press.

In a statement, Levinson’s family called the court’s award “the first step in the pursuit of justice.”

“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions,” the family said. “Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage taking by Iran.”

Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007. For years, US officials would only say that Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private firm on his trip.

In December 2013, the AP revealed Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations. Levinson’s family had received a $2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.



Maximum pressure campaign on Iran to increase in coming ‘days and weeks’: US official

Joseph Haboush

05 October 2020

The United States will increase its maximum pressure campaign on Iran “in the coming days and weeks,” a senior US diplomat said Monday.

“The pressure has never been like this. And we will keep it going, and we will increase it, as you’ll see, in the coming days and weeks,” US Special Representative for Iran Elliott Abrams told CNN.

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Abrams said, regardless of who the US president was after the November presidential elections, the Iranians would be ready to enter into negotiations for a new deal because “they can’t take four more years of this.”

“I think the pressure will have achieved its goals if they [Iran] see that we're ready to keep it going,” the veteran US diplomat said, adding that the maximum pressure campaign has had an “enormous” impact on Iran.

He pointed to the Iranian economy and tumbling currency in Tehran as a result of the sanctions.

“Previous sanctions were nothing like what we have now. There’s never been this kind of pressure,” Abrams said.





Boy, 15, accused of preparing for Isis inspired terror attack says he ‘didn’t mean’ martrydom vows

Lizzie Dearden

07 October 2020

A boy accused of preparing for an Isis-inspired terror attack when he was 14 years old has said he did not mean what he said in a series of extremist videos.

The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, said he had learned Islamist terminology from the dark comedy film Four Lions.

Giving evidence at Leicester Crown Court on Monday, he called videos where he claimed he would “carry out jihad” evil, adding: "I don't mean what I said."

The defendant allegedly tried to create “bottle bombs” and filmed himself setting out his wish to become a martyr and teaching others how to carry out their own attacks.

While being questioned by defence barrister Mary Prior QC on Monday, he denied planning to kill anyone or be martyred while “carrying out jihad”.

He said he had learned to make “bottle bombs” from a YouTube video and had picked up the term “kuffar”, to refer to non-Muslims, from the film Four Lions.

Questioning the teenager on his behaviour as a whole, Ms Prior said: “Why are you doing this?”

"I don't really know," the schoolboy replied, adding that he was upset by watching the “nasty” videos he made.

He is charged with preparing acts of terrorism after rapidly developing “extreme views” associated with Isis at the start of the year.

Opening the prosecution case, Anne Whyte QC said the boy had researched how to make different kinds of potentially deadly devices and had been experimenting with the idea of using shrapnel.

"This is an unusual case and it concerns the activities of a young person who, we will be suggesting, felt isolated and angry about his personal circumstances,” she added.

“In summary, it is said that, even though he was young, he had developed extremist views, radical views, associated with the terrorist organisation Islamic State. This probably happened in early 2020.”

The court heard that the boy carried out experiments in his bedroom in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Officers who searched his home found the boy had put components and weapons inside a wardrobe fitted with an alarm system.

The teenager also allegedly possessed diagrams relating to improvised explosive devices, switches and detonators.

It is also alleged the defendant had researched and made basic drawings of a “dead man's switch”, which enable bombers to detonate devices after being shot by police or incapacitated.

The court heard that he told a social worker he had converted to Islam in May, but that his online activity suggested it occurred several months before.

The boy is accused of creating a note on his iPhone in February, which was later deleted, calling for Muslims to follow Sharia law and calling Western culture a “cancerous tumour”.

The note said Isis would “rise again stronger” after its territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq, and “rape” the countries involved in fighting the terrorist group.

It called women “tools, an object to be used a sex slave” and lashed out at homosexuality, calling for the “extinction of the western race”.

Other notes referred to the former Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the court heard the boy had searched online for official Isis propaganda outlets.

The teenager denies one count of preparing acts of terrorism. The trial continues.


Westminster Holocaust memorial would be 'trophy site' for terrorists

6 October 2020

Plans for a Holocaust memorial next to Parliament would create a "trophy site" for terrorists, the former independent reviewer of terror laws has warned.

The memorial has been proposed for Victoria Tower Gardens on Millbank.

But a planning inquiry has been told by Lord Carlile that the landmark would be a "self-evident terrorism risk".

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said it was confident the site would be secure.

The plan was previously rejected by Westminster City Council, but the final decision will be made by the government following the public inquiry.

However, the plans have significant support from more than 170 MPs and peers, including Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick.

And last week, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the Jewish Chronicle the memorial was "vital" in order to educate future generations about the Holocaust.

An online planning inquiry into the plans began on Tuesday

In his written evidence to the inquiry, Lord Carlile said: "From my extensive experience of observing, analysing and discussing terrorism issues with front-line practitioners, I have absolutely no doubt that the proposed site raises a clear - indeed self-evident - terrorism risk.

"I give this warning with regret, but with total conviction. This would be a threat to the public, and also a potential threat to Parliament."

The project features 23 large bronze fin structures and an underground learning centre.

It was announced in 2016 by then Prime Minister David Cameron, who said it would be dedicated to the six million Jewish men, women and children and other victims murdered by the Nazis.

However, several senior Jewish figures have also voiced their opposition to the location of the memorial, while the Royal Parks said it would have a "significant harmful impact" on the area.

Lord Carlile QC said the issue was personal to him.

"I have a strong interest in this," he told the BBC.

"Many of my close relatives were exterminated in the Holocaust. My half-sister's mother was murdered in Auschwitz.

"I am absolutely determined that this should be remembered properly. I just feel that this isn't the right place for it."

He added: "I know - indeed I believe everybody knows - that the Houses of Parliament are an iconic target for terrorists.

"This site is cheek by jowl with the Houses of Parliament.

"This site would also be, potentially, a target for right-wing extremists. It seems to be foolish for these two iconic places to be on the same broad site."

He added: "International terrorists usually want to make a splash. Having a site which combines the Houses of Parliament and the new British Holocaust memorial seems to me to be asking for trouble."

A spokesman for the MHCLG said: "We are fully aware of the security implications associated with this site and we have been advised on measures to mitigate risks.

"The memorial will stand as a reminder to all in parliament, and the whole nation, of our responsibility to remain vigilant against intolerance and bigotry."

In addition to Lord Carlile's security concerns, a group of 42 Holocaust academics raised concerns that the centre would portray Britain as "the ultimate saviour of the Jews".

In a joint letter to the inquiry led by Dr Hannah Holtschneider of the University of Edinburgh, they said: "Situating the UK Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament is likely to create a celebratory narrative of the British government's responses to the Jewish catastrophe during the Nazi era and beyond."

'Wholehearted support'

The project has government backing as well as support from the opposition benches.

Sir Keir told the Jewish Chronicle: "The fight against intolerance and prejudice in our society, and the stain of anti-Semitism, goes on.

"So I offer my wholehearted support to the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre and its placement next to the heart of our democracy."

Communities Secretary Mr Jenrick said in February the government remained "implacably committed" to the construction of the memorial.

He said it would ensure "future generations never forget".

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the project was important to preserve the stories of survivors of the Holocaust as well as the stories of the six million "whose voices we will never hear".


Nagomo-Karabakh death toll rises to 280 since start of Armenia, Azerbaijan conflict

07 October 2020

The defense ministry of the Nagorno-Karabakh region said on Wednesday it had recorded another 40 casualties among its military, pushing the military death toll to 280 since fighting with Azeri forces erupted on Sept. 27, the Interfax news agency reported.

The region has seen the deadliest fighting in more than 25 years between ethnic Armenian and Azeri forces.


‘Islamophobic’ Tory councilor escapes punishment

06 October 2020

A Conservative Party councilor who was accused of making Islamophobic comments on social media has escaped any form of sanction over her behavior.

Dorset Tory councilor, Beverley Dunlop, made a series of inflammatory posts in two different Facebook groups attacking Muslims and their way of life.

In one post Dunlop suggested banning mosques in the UK by way of effectively rooting out institutional expressions of Islam in the British Isles.

In another post she said [Islamic] “fundamentalists” were “hiding in plain sight in the Muslim community” and that this would not change “until they are frightened of the British government (because they and their families might get deported) than they are Isis [Daesh]”.

However, a supposedly “independent” investigation has concluded that Dunlop did not breach the council’s “code of conduct”.

According to lead investigator, Tim Darsley, Dunlop had been acting in a “personal capacity” as opposed to an “elected official” when she posted the comments on social media.

A Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council standards committee is expected to be asked to accept Darsley’s findings.

Dunlop’s prejudiced views came to light after a dossier containing Islamophic comments made by several Tory councilors was sent to the Guardian (November 12, 2019).

The decision not to punish Dunlop has been sharply criticized by Bournemouth University lecturer, Osman Ahmed, who made a formal complaint against the Tory to the council last November.

According to Ahmed, Dunlop’s comments have brought the council into “disrepute” and she ought to be “removed from her position”.

"Religion is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and expressing disrespectful, ignorant, and frankly hateful views such as these [Dunlop’s] is wholly incompatible with a councilor holding public office”, Ahmed added.

Official denials notwithstanding, the Conservative Party has been struggling with Islamophobia-related issues for years.

Earlier this year the Muslim Council of Britain published a research document setting out the depth and breadth of Islamophoba among the Tory rank and file.

In November 2019, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, backtracked from his earlier promise of holding an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party.

Instead, the PM called for a “general investigation into prejudice of all kinds”. Nearly a year later no reported progress has been made in relation to this “general investigation”.





Imran's 'Naya Pakistan' Rocked By Pashtun, Sindh, and Baloch Agitations

Oct 6, 2020

NEW DELHI: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's 'Naya Pakistan' is disintegrating both as a concept and country. In just the last few days, three different regions of Pakistan are up in arms against the army-supported Khan government.

The Pashtuns are angry over the filing of terrorism charges against the parents of human rights activist Gulalai Ismail, who had fled to the United States; people in Sindh are protesting the Khan government's presidential ordinance to take over their islands; Balochistan activists converged in Canada to mark their protest against human rights violations against the Baloch people by the Pakistani government.

When Khan had coined the term Naya Pakistan in 2017, it conjured among the people much hope, optimism and a vision for Pakistan. After all, Khan was a celebrated, successful international cricketer. The people of a beleaguered country expected Khan to play another resounding knock in his political innings. However, two years later Khan is a jaded politician and Naya Pakistan a poor carbon copy of purana Pakistan with public dissatisfaction rife across the country.

The world is currently looking at how Pakistan has framed terrorism charges against the elderly parents of activist Ismail, who had fled to the US in September 2019 after the country had leveled treason charges against her. Embarrassed at her fleeing the country from right under their noses, a Pakistani anti-terrorism court has charged her parents-retired university professor Mohammad Ismail and his wife-of involvement in terror attacks in 2013 and 2015.

Gulalai is an activist of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) which is campaigning for Pashtun human rights and highlighting Pakistani atrocities against them. Gulalai, an award-winning activist, was on the right side of the Pakistani establishment for her vocal criticism of the Taliban for its terror. However, once she began to highlight the Pakistani military and intelligence-the forces behind the rise of the Taliban-she found herself into their crosshairs. Now, Pakistan is terrorizing her parents.

Veteran US diplomat Alice Wells had shared her concerns about Gulalai's family in a tweet: "We are concerned by reports of the continued harassment of Gulalai Ismail's family, and her father's detention today. We encourage Pakistan to uphold citizens' rights to peaceful assembly, expression, and due process."

Stung by the harassment of Gulalai's parents, Pashtun groups are running a pro-Gulalai campaign-#WeStandWithGulalaiFamily. Separately, young Pashtuns have been running a prolonged campaign against the Khan government's shenanigans-abductions and disappearances, internal displacement and military operations by the security forces. The elders of the community have also been holding rallies asking the government to rehabilitate the displaced people and rein in the Taliban.

Unrest continues from Pakistan's north-western region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the vast south-western region of Balochistan.

Some of the biggest names in the Balochistan movement converged in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday to protest against the human rights violations by the Pakistani government. Writer Tarek Fatah, Baloch activist Karima Baloch, Human Rights Council of Balochistan's Lateef Johar and other leaders held a rally to remember the disappearance of activist Shabir Baloch who had been kidnapped by Pakistani authorities in October 2016.

The protest, called #ReleaseShabirBaloch, demanded that Pakistan provide liberties and restore human rights for the people in the regions of Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunwa. Besides the denial of rights and dignity, the Baloch people also allege economic exploitation at the hands of Pakistan which they say is colluding with China to take away the mineral resources from Balochistan through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Baloch activists have also highlighted the activities of the secretive death squads, allegedly established by the Pakistani government and the Army, in Balochistan to murder and kidnap people who seek better socio-economic conditions for one of Pakistan's most deprived regions.

This large-scale disaffection across vast regions of Pakistan has taken over the eastern province of Sindh as well.

The Khan government's presidential ordinance to establish the Pakistan Islands Development Authority has ignited Sindh where people feel that the central government is trying to encroach over private land. The Pakistan Islands Development Authority ordinance has brought together the main opposition party, the PPP, civil society organizations, activists and intellectuals with none taking kindly to the proposal.

The ordinance seeks to bring urban development to islands by constructing mega cities on them. Human rights activist I.A. Rehman told Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune that the islands are the property of the people. "You cannot take them without their consultation. Any takeover of the islands will be against the country." The ordinance has given rise to fears that different kinds of indigenous people including fishermen will be affected if the government takes over the numerous islands.

With most of Pakistan protesting against the Imran Khan government for poor governance, misrule and human rights violations, the dream of Naya Pakistan, remains just that-a dream while Khan himself joins a long list of failed leaders delivering empty promises.


Pak govt invokes sedition law against opposition leaders amid calls for 'political revolution'

Oct 6, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As opposition parties in Pakistan form a united front for a "political revolution" to "bring law and order" in the country, the Imran Khan-led government has launched multiple crackdowns against opposition leaders using sedition law.

The latest case under the sedition law was filed against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir "premier" Raja Mohammad Farooq Ahmed Khan on October 1.A First Information Report (FIR) was registered on the basis of a complaint lodged by a local resident in Shahdra police station against the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader on the charges of criminal conspiracy for the "provocative speeches" he made in London to "defame Pakistan's institutions". Sharif's daughter, Khan and three retired generals among 40 PML(N) leaders have also been named in the FIR.

As many as 11 Pakistani opposition parties, prominent among which are the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), PML(N), Awami National Party, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), at the conclusion of an All Parties Conference (APC) on September 20 announced the formation of a joint platform, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).A 26-point resolution adopted by the APC pledged to ensure that all organs of the state are run strictly as mandated under the law. It called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to probe abuses against the people since Pakistan's independence in 1947. Such an investigation can reveal a long, sordid history of military abuses, it said.

It also demanded that Prime Minister Khan and his ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party step down and announce fresh nationwide elections.Soon after the APC, PML(N) president and Sharif's brother Shahbaz was arrested in a money laundering case from the Lahore High Court, according to Gulf News.

Shahbaz is currently on a 14-day physical remand.The PML(N) on Sunday slammed the government saying that "political revolution" in the country would be possible only through the newly formed alliance, adding that the opposition leaders are being "silenced" for speaking against a "corrupt" government.Besides the PML(N) president, the country's anti-corruption body -- National Accountability Bureau -- has also issued a notice to JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman.According to Dawn, the notice against Rehman and others pertains to "corruption and corrupt practices/accumulation of assets beyond means".Meanwhile, an accountability court indicted former president Asif Ali Zardari of PPP and others in Park Lane and Thatta water supply scheme references.Lashing out at the government for continuous appearances of Zardari in the accountability court, PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the regime's response to their APC has come in the shape of increase in the frequency of court appearances by the former president.Accusing the government of using the law to silence the protests by the united opposition front, the opposition parties are planning to launch a mass campaign, comprising public gatherings, political rallies, no-confidence motions, en masse resignations from Assemblies and a long march in January that would culminate in a sit-in in capital Islamabad.


Pakistan urges world not to be selective in fighting terrorism

Anwar Iqbal

07 Oct 2020'

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan assured the international community on Tuesday that it was committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms because it believed that a selective approach would not work.

At a UN meeting on “Measures to Eliminate Interna­tional Terrorism”, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Ambassador Munir Akram said that the US-Taliban agreement could also help eliminate terrorism.

Pakistan supports the Afghan peace process and played a key role in finalising the US-Taliban deal in February this year. Now, Islamabad is also backing US efforts to push forward an intra-Afghan dialogue that Washington hopes will end 19 years of war and destruction.

“The US-Taliban agreement and the intra-Afghan negotiations initiated recently will hopefully yield a political solution. Peace in Afghanistan will create conditions conducive to eliminating terrorism from our region,” Ambassador Akram said.

Underlining Pakistan’s commitment to defeating terrorism, he said: “Terrorism must be defeated comprehensively, everywhere, in all its manifestations. It cannot be addressed selectively.”

Pakistan has long emphasised the need to combat state-backed terrorism as well, like in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. Islamabad argues that repressive policies encourage terrorism.

In the UN, Pakistan aligned itself with the statements delivered by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and by Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Both stress the need to defeat terrorism in all its forms, without any discrimination.

Ambassador Akram told the world body that global cooperation had succeeded in defeating the “core” of the major terrorist organisations — Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group — yet, their associates and affiliates had survived and spread across the world.

“Terrorism is manifesting itself in various new and mutated forms which are not being effectively addressed,” the ambassador warned.

“We have been the target of cross-border terrorism for decades,” said the Pakistani envoy while referring to terrorist attacks inside Pakistan that had taken almost 70,000 lives and caused $120 billion of economic losses.

“It is essential to examine why — despite global strategies, mechanisms and interventions — terrorist violence has proliferated and now appears endemic,” he added.

One of the main reasons, he said, was that “an insufficient effort has been made to distinguish terrorism from the legitimate struggle of peoples for self-determination and national liberation”.

Ambassador Akram pointed out that legitimate freedom struggles were entitled, under international law, to resort to “all available means” to secure their right to self-determination.

“History reveals that such popular struggles against colonial and foreign occupation have been often equated with terrorism. Yet, they have always triumphed,” he said.

Noting that India too was trying to suppress the Kashmiri struggle for the right of self-determination under various excuses, the Pakistani envoy said: “The Kashmiri struggle cannot be suppressed by India’s attempt to equate it with terrorism.”

Pointing out that global counter-terrorism endeavour had failed to address “state terrorism”, he said: “The suppression of self-determination and foreign occupation is the worst form of state terrorism.”


Man acquitted of blasphemy charge after six years

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

07 Oct 2020

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has acquitted a Christian man on death row six years after his conviction for alleged blasphemy, which also led to torching of more than 100 houses at Joseph Colony, a Christian-dominated neighbourhood in Badami Bagh.

A two-judge LHC bench comprising Justice Asjad Javed Ghural and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali through a short order on Monday allowed the appeal of Sawan Masih against his conviction by a trial court.

A detailed verdict of the bench was yet to be released, Nadeem Anthony, a member of the appellant’s legal team, told Dawn.

Sawan was booked and arrested on the complaint of Shahid Imran on March 8, 2013. After a year-long trial, an additional district and sessions judge on March 27, 2014, handed down death penalty to him under Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code.

The appeal filed in 2014 stated that the trial court ignored the basic principles of criminal justice in general and principles of Islamic justice in particular. It said the trial court committed material irregularity in non-reading and misreading of the evidence on record that caused serious miscarriage of justice.

The convict during the trial had argued that the allegation against him was part of a conspiracy hatched by Badami Bagh iron market traders who had been interested in purchase of Joseph Colony land, but the residents had rejected their offers. Following the alleged occurrence hundreds of people after being provoked by the local clerics had attacked Joseph Colony and torched more than 100 houses of the Christians. Police had registered cases against the attackers under Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, but all the suspects were later acquitted for ‘want of evidence’.

In his appeal, Sawan argued that the trial court based the conviction on the second version of the complainant recorded in a supplementary statement some eight days after the occurrence of offence in an attempt to remove lacuna in his initial version. The trial court also ignored a serious lapse in the prosecution case that the FIR of the alleged incident was registered with an ‘unexplained’ delay of 33 hours, he said.

The appellant pleaded that the trial court failed to take judicial notice of the ‘false’ story in which the complainant alleged that he “suddenly started uttering derogatory remarks” against Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). It said the trial court completely ignored the statement of the appellant under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code.

According to the appeal, the prosecution failed to prove its case on the basis of independent and unimpeachable evidence as the same was full of contradictions and uncorroborated evidence.



Arab world


UAE’s FM vows ‘never again’ during Holocaust Memorial visit with Israeli counterpart

Tuqa Khalid

06 October 2020

The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed visited the Holocaust Memorial in Germany with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and vowed “never again” on Tuesday.

Sheikh Abdulla left a message written in the visitors’ book at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe memorial in Berlin.

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He wrote in Arabic that the site was “a witness to the fall of a group of human beings who were victims of advocates of extremism and hatred,” and stressed “the importance of strengthening the values of tolerance, coexistence and acceptance around the world without discrimination.”

“Whatever led to the murder of millions of innocent victims will not happen again,” Sheikh Abdullah added and emphasized that the UAE’s message to the world is one of “peace, tolerance and hope,” according to a statement by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Never Again," Sheikh Abdullah wrote in English – a slogan often taken up by survivors of Nazi Germany's World War Two genocide to justify actions to protect Israel and the Jewish people.

The memorial commemorates “the memory of around six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis,” and “consists of 2,710 concrete slabs on a space of 19,000-square meters in the form of a maze, where visitors can walk between the slabs.”

The UAE and Bahrain became the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The two Gulf countries signed in mid-September US-brokered deals to normalize relations with Israel.

The two foreign ministers were accompanied by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Maas called the agreement between Israel and the UAE as the "first good news in the Middle East for a long time – and a chance for new movement in the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians".

"This opportunity must be seized," he said, voicing the readiness of the European Union to help.


Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan calls out Palestinian leaders over peace deal

Tommy Hilton and Omar Elkatouri

Oct 7, 2020

Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the US Prince Bandar bin Sultan has called out the Palestinian leadership for its rejection of the UAE-Israel peace deal.

“This low level of discourse is not what we expect from officials who seek to gain global support for their cause. Their transgression against the Gulf states' leadership with this reprehensible discourse is entirely unacceptable,” said Prince Bandar in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya.

Prince Bandar, who served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005 and the Kingdom’s intelligence chief from 2014 to 2016, said the criticism of the UAE and other Gulf countries following the deal with Israel had been “painful to hear.”

Palestinian leaders including President Mahmoud Abbas have described the UAE’s decision to normalize ties with Israel as a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people.”

Abbas later backtracked and banned offensive statements about other Arab leaders, following a request from GCC Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf to apologize.

According to Prince Bandar, the reaction of Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank reflected their broader failures.

“Gaza Strip leaders, who have seceded from the PA to govern Gaza independently, accuse the West Bank leadership of treason, while at the same time, West Bank leadership has accused separatist Gaza Strip leaders of stabbing them in the back,” he said.

“Efforts in the past years would have been better spent on the Palestinian cause, peace initiatives, and protecting the rights of the Palestinian people to reach a point where this just, albeit robbed, cause can finally see the light, and when I say robbed, I mean both by Israel and Palestinian leaders equally,” Prince Bandar added.

Bahrain followed the UAE and agreed to normalize relations with Israel on September 15, and both countries have said they remain committed to a just solution for Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said that the Kingdom’s stance on the Palestinian cause is “firm” and “will not change” in response to the peace agreements.

Palestinian leaders have history of “failure”

Prince Bandar said that while the Palestinian cause is “just,” its leaders have a history of failure.

“The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures. The Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates are successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” he told Al Arabiya.

Prince Bandar pointed to the example of Amin al-Husseini, the Palestinian religious leader who was one of the main leaders of the Palestinian cause while the country was under the British mandate from 1918 to 1948.

Al-Husseini was known to have sympathies to Nazi Germany as an alternative backer to undermine British rule over Palestine. The Palestinian uprising against British rule known as the Arab Revolt from 1936 to 1939 was a disaster for the Palestinian people, leaving one in ten men exiled, imprisoned, or dead; al-Husseini’s pro-German approach crumbled with the defeat of Nazism in World War II.

Prince Bandar also criticized Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, who he referred to as Abu Ammar, for siding with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War in 1990.

Arafat visited dictator Hussein in 1990 during the short-lived Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

“Kuwait was then an occupied Arab nation, and it had, alongside the other Gulf states, always welcomed the Palestinians with open arms and was home to Palestinian leaders,” explained Prince Bandar.

“Yet we saw Abu Ammar in Baghdad, embracing, laughing and joking with Saddam, congratulating him for what had happened. This has had a painful impact on all the peoples of the Gulf, especially on our Kuwaiti brothers and sisters, specifically the Kuwaitis who stayed in Kuwait and resisted the occupation,” he said.

Prince Bandar said that Saudi Arabia had not reacted against the Palestinian leadership, even when images had emerged showing young Palestinians in Nablus celebrating and holding images of Hussein when Iraqi rockets hit Riyadh during the Gulf War.

More recently, he criticized the failure of different Palestinian groups to come to an agreement in peace talks held in Egypt.

“How can we speak in the name of all Palestine, and convince others to support our cause, when we ourselves are not united, and when the Palestinians are divided amongst themselves?” he said.

Saudi Arabian support for Palestine

Saudi Arabia has historically supported Palestine despite its leadership’s mistakes, said Prince Bandar.

The prince outlined the history of Saudi Arabian support for the Palestinians, including the 1945 meeting between King Abdulaziz ibn Saud and US President Franklin Roosevelt, in which the king lobbied for the Palestinian cause.

More recently, Prince Bandar pointed to an initiative under Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah that aimed to unify the Palestinian leadership.

According to the prince, Hamas and the PA had agreed to a deal in Mecca after intensive Saudi Arabian brokering.

“Only a few days after they left Saudi Arabia, we received news that each side had already dishonored their agreement and gone back to conspiring against each other once again,” he said.

This reflected the failure of the Palestinian organizations, who had taken Saudi Arabian support for granted, added Prince Bandar.

“I believe that we in Saudi Arabia, acting on our good will, have always been there for them. Whenever they asked for advice and help, we would provide without expecting anything in return, but they would take the help that we provide and ignore the advice. Then they would fail and turn back to us again, and we would support them again, regardless of their mistakes, about which were honest to them,” he said.

“I think the circumstances and times have changed, and I think it is only fair to the Palestinian people to know some truths that have been kept hidden,” he added.

According to Prince Bandar, Palestinians were wrong to look to either Iran or Turkey as their ally.

“Who are the allies of the Palestinians now? Is it Iran, which is using the Palestinian cause as a bargaining card at the expense of the Palestinian people? Iran and Khomeini, who want to liberate Jerusalem through Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria?”

“Or is it Turkey, which Hamas leaders have thanked for its stance in support of Hamas and the Palestinian cause? That is simply because Erdogan announced that he was withdrawing his ambassador from the UAE in support of the Palestinian cause,” he added.

Prince Bandar also discussed other elements of the history of the Palestinian cause, including Saudi Arabia’s policy under King Abdulaziz and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.


Lebanon's new government consultations to start Oct. 15: President Aoun

07 October 2020

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday parliamentary consultations to choose a new prime minister who will form the country's next government will begin on October 15.

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Lebanon's government resigned on August 10 in the wake of a devastating blast that killed nearly 200 people and wrecked swathes of the capital, Beirut.

Mustapha Adib, the country's former ambassador to Berlin, was picked on August 31 to form a cabinet after French President Emmanuel Macron intervened, securing a consensus on naming him in a country where power is shared out between Muslim and Christian sects.

He quit in late September, however, after trying for almost a month to line up a non-partisan cabinet. His resignation dealt a blow to a French plan aimed at rallying sectarian political leaders to tackle the worst crisis since the nation's 1975-1990 civil war.

Under the French roadmap, the new government would take steps to tackle corruption and implement reforms needed to trigger billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy that has been crushed by a mountain of debt.

But Adib's efforts stumbled in a dispute over appointments, particularly the post of finance minister, who will have a key role in drawing up economic rescue plans.

Macron admonished Lebanon's leaders following Adib's resignation, saying the failed efforts amounted to a collective “betrayal,” but vowed to push ahead with his efforts.

The country's leaders bristled at Macron's accusations, but there has been little movement since.


Oman becomes first Arab country to reinstate ambassador to Syria

05 October 2020

Oman has reinstated its ambassador to Syria, becoming the first Persian Gulf Arab state to do so since militancy erupted in the country about nine years ago.

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem accepted the credentials of Oman’s Ambassador Turki bin Mahmood al-Busaidy, who was appointed to the post in a royal decree in March, on Sunday.

The Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, pledged when assuming power in January to continue maintaining friendly ties with all nations.

Some Arab states are seeking reconciliation with Damascus whose forces have gained the upper hand against the foreign-backed terrorists.

In December 2018, the UAE officially reopened its embassy in Damascus, which had been closed soon after militancy began in Syria in 2011. The country has a charge d’affaires there.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed terrorism since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies, including the UAE, have been aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that were wreaking havoc in the Arab country.

Government forces have already managed to undo terrorist gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under the government control.

The government's gains in Syria have enraged the US, which has long been collaborating with anti-Damascus terrorists plundering Syria’s resources.

Washington has imposed new sanctions against Syria over the past few months, and warned that anyone doing business with Damascus would be exposed to sanctions.


17 killed, dozens wounded in bomb attack in northwest Syria: Reports

06 October 2020

At least 17 people have been killed and dozens of others wounded in a car bomb explosion in northwest Syria, reports says.

The terrorist attack occurred on Tuesday when explosives planted on a car were detonated in the Turkish-occupied town of al-Bab in Aleppo Province, killing 17 civilians and wounding at least 50 others, Sputnik news reported.

Earlier, Turkey’s official news agency Anadolu had reported that the terror attack had claimed the lives of at least 14 civilians, including women and children. It said the blast happened in a crowded area of the town.

Images circulating on social media showed plumes of black smoke rising from the site of the explosion, which caused several fires and inflicted damage to nearby buildings.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the deadly attack in the Syrian border town.There has been a series of attacks in the occupied town since its capture by Turkish troops and their allied militants in February 2017. Now part of Turkey’s so-called buffer zone, al-Bab is located some 30 kilometers northeast of Aleppo City, the eponymous provincial capital.

Turkey usually blames such attacks on militants of the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is viewed by Ankara as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group. Since 1984, the PKK has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey.

The remnants of Daesh, which has been defeated in Syria and Iraq, are known to carry out sporadic attacks in the two countries as well.


Syria's Assad: Turkey sending militants to Karabakh after instigating war

06 October 2020

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called Turkey the “main instigator” of the Azerbaijan-Armenia military conflict, saying Damascus can confirm that Ankara is sending Takfiri militants from northern Syria to operate in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Assad said in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency published on Thursday that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “waging wars in different parts of the world in order to divert public opinion at home from his actions, especially after his scandalous relations with Daesh in Syria.”

Assad added that the Takfiri Daesh terror group “used to sell Syrian oil through Turkey under the umbrella of the US Air Force.”

The Syrian leader also criticized Erdogan as “the main instigator and initiator” of the ongoing deadly clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that Ankara had also deployed Takfiri militants to his Arab country as well as Libya in North Africa.

“Let’s be blunt and clear. Erdogan has supported terrorists in Syria, and has been doing so in Libya. He was the main initiator and instigator of the recent conflict that has been going on in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I would, therefore, view his behavior as dangerous for various reasons,” Assad said.

Assad said Damascus can “definitely” confirm the deployment “not because we have evidence, but sometimes if you don’t have evidence you have indicators. Turkey used terrorists coming from different countries in Syria.”

“They used the same method in Libya; they used Syrian terrorists in Libya, maybe with other nationalities. So, it's self-evident and very probable that they are using that method in Nagorno-Karabakh because as I said earlier, they are the ones who started this problem, this conflict; they encouraged this conflict. They want to achieve something and they're going to use the same method,” the Syrian president added.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on October 3 that at least 64 Turkish-backed Syrian militants had been killed in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Britain-based war monitor said they were among the 1,200 combatants from pro-Ankara Takfiri groups that Turkey has sent to fight on the Azerbaijani side.

At least 36 of them have been killed in clashes in the past 48 hours alone, the Observatory added, increasing a previous toll of 28 to 64.

Late last month, British daily newspaper The Guardian, citing three men living in the last militant-controlled corner of northern Syria, reported that Takfiris had signed up to work for a private Turkish security company as border guards in Azerbaijan.

They added that the militants expected to travel over the border to Turkey before being flown to Azerbaijan.

Reuters news agency, citing the account of two unnamed Syrian militants, also reported on September 28 that they were deploying to Azerbaijan to fight in the ongoing clashes with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Previously active in Turkish-controlled territory in northern Syria, the extremists said their transport and deployment was coordinated with Turkey.

Armenia’s Ambassador to Moscow Vardan Toghanyan likewise said last month that Turkey had sent around 4,000 Syrian militants who were active on the Azerbaijani side in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan has strongly denied claims that any Syrian militants were among its ranks.

Hikmat Hajiyev, a foreign policy aide to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, called the claims “complete nonsense” and an Armenian “provocation,” noting, “Our armed forces have more than enough personnel and reserve forces.”

Azerbaijan’s Embassy in London also dismissed SOHR’s report on Tuesday.


Iran: Chemical arms treaty abused to wrongly accuse Syrian government

06 October 2020

Iran’s UN ambassador has censured the misuse of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Security Council to bring groundless charges against Syria, warning that such an “unproductive” approach will damage the credibility of the world body.

Speaking during a Security Council meeting on Syria and chemical weapons on Monday, Majid Takht-Ravanchi said the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN’s chemical watchdog, had confirmed the destruction of Syria’s entire chemical stockpile and its 27 production facilities.

However, this fact and the Syrian government’s significant cooperation with the OPCW and the United Nations, including the submission of more than 80 monthly reports and other information, are being ignored, he added.

Takht-Ravanchi also stressed that such “unproductive policies” will not contribute to the resolution of the outstanding questions, but it has rather “divided this Council, eroded the OPCW’s credibility and weakened professionalism and consensual decision-making process in that Organization.”

Reiterating Iran’s call for the “balanced, full and non-discriminatory implementation of the CWC,” the envoy said, “In the past several years, based on unsubstantiated allegations, the processes of the CWC, OPCW and the Security Council have been abused against the Syrian government.”

Syria surrendered its entire chemical stockpile in 2013 to a mission led by the United Nations and the OPCW.

However, Western countries have repeatedly accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of conducting chemical attacks in Syria.

Damascus has categorically rejected the accusations, saying the attacks had been staged by foreign intelligence agencies to pressure the government in the face of army advances against militants.

It has also specifically pointed to the role of the White Helmets, a group which claims to be a humanitarian NGO but has long been accused of working with anti-Damascus militants and staging false-flag gas attacks.

Recently, a former OPCW lead investigator challenged the final report of the body’s Fact-Finding Mission into an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma near the capital Damascus on April 7, 2018, saying it may not reflect the reality on the ground.

In late 2019, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks published several batches of documents suggesting that the OPCW may have intentionally doctored its findings, notably avoiding revelations which may point to terrorists having been behind the alleged chemical attack.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Takht-Ravanchi voiced support for comprehensive investigations into any allegations of chemical weapons attacks, but cautioned that such probes must be impartial.

As a major victim of chemical weapons in contemporary history, Iran strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons by anyone, in any place and under any circumstances, he said.

Tehran stands ready to help restore the authority of the OPCW and promote the full implementation of the CWC without discrimination, the Iranian official added.

‘OPCW reports highly politicized’

Additionally, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari said the recent Arria Formula meeting that recently convened on the matter “revealed the high level of politicization on the part of some governments that seek to use OPCW reports against Syria.”

“Those same States — which support terrorists in his country and continue to impose sanctions that suffocate the population — do not want to hear the truth.  They refuse to recognize the facts, corroborated by Sigrid Kaag in her 2014 report, that Syria has fully abided by its commitment to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities,” he said.

Kaag headed the joint OPCW-UN mission that oversaw the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Ja’afari further said, “Syria has sent over 200 letters to the United Nations, containing detailed lists of parties that continue to send chemical and other weapons into the country.”





Arab nations adamantly opposed to relations with Israeli regime, survey shows

07 October 2020

A new survey has revealed that Arab populations continue to overwhelmingly oppose the recognition of Israel and the establishment of ties with it, despite recent decisions by rulers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain to normalize with the Tel Aviv regime.

The 2019-2020 Arab Opinion Index was based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 28,000 individual respondents across 13 Arab countries, including Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and Mauritania, between November 2019 and September 2020.

The result showed that the nations viewed Israel as the primary threat their country was facing.

When asked whether they would “support or oppose diplomatic recognition of Israel by your country” only respondents in Sudan and Saudi Arabia came in at less than 80 percent for “oppose,” at 79 percent and 65 percent respectively.

Even in the two countries that already recognize Israel – Jordan and Egypt – opposition was very high, at 93 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

Neither Emirati and Bahraini nationals nor citizens from Oman, whose country is believed to be next in line to normalize with Israel, were included in the survey.

Many respondents were also fearful of the United States, with the Sudanese ranking the country as the gravest threat to their own, at 37 percent.

Libya relinquishes presidency of Arab League

Meanwhile, Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has announced that it would not take over the current presidency of the Arab League.

The decision was made after the Palestinian Authority announced on September 22 that it had relinquished its right to hold the rotating presidency of the regional organization.

Palestine was protesting the League’s refusal to adopt a Palestinian-drafted resolution that would condemn the US-mediated normalization deals with Israel.

The Palestinian resolution was voted down during a session of Arab League foreign ministers on September 9. The organization blamed the failure to pass the document on the Palestinians, who said they would either accept a condemnation or no statement at all.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital view the deals as betrayal of their cause.

Following Palestine’s withdrawal, Qatar and Kuwait also refused to assume the post.

Nomination of Kuwait, Qatar and then Libya for the current presidency of the Arab League was based on Article 6 of the internal regulations of the union, which states that the interim chairmanship of the organization will be taken up by the representative of the country that will be the next president in case the current president of the Arab League at the ministerial level fails to take over the position.

Fatah suspends all deals with Israel

Moreover, Secretary General of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, said his movement had ended agreements with Israel.

“We have taken a decision to dissolve all agreements with the Occupation (Israel). We seek to reach a national Palestinian consensus with all factions and Hamas [resistance movement] in order to form a united political front,” Rajoub said in an interview with Lebanon-based Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Tuesday.

He noted that the Fatah movement has informed Hamas and other Palestinian factions of its plans since it considers the formation of a national coalition government highly necessary at the current stage.

Earlier in the day, Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement, Ziad al-Nakhala, called on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) not to recognize Israel by any means and stop implementing the agreements signed with the regime.

“We will not oppose any national program that does not recognize the Zionist regime. We will always be with our people, resistance forces, fighters and defenders of our nation’s rights to freedom and liberation. We will vigorously participate in all popular activities. Our people will remain steadfast in their rejection of initiatives that forfeit their fundamental rights,” Nakhala pointed out.,-survey-shows


FM Spokesman Calls for Instant Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

Oct 06, 2020

Khatibzadeh wrote on his Twitter account on Monday that both Armenia and Azerbaijan Republic should hold ceasefire and stick to the law of war in refraining from targeting defenseless people.

He noted that the current tension between the Caucasian countries can only be settled through political means.

Earlier on Monday, Khatibzadeh had warned Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia against violating Iranian borders, describing it as Tehran’s redline.

“Both warring sides should take heed that the Islamic Republic cannot tolerate clashes on its borders and aggression on its soil,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday, noting that Baku and Yerevan should observe Iran’s redline.

“Since the start of the conflict, Iran has told both parties that there will be no military solution for the decades-long dispute,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday, and added, “We emphasize that military conflict should stop quickly to start comprehensive political dialogue.”

He further said Iran has prepared a plan after consultations with both warring sides to end the Armenia-Azerbaijan war.

Battles between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh still continue.

Iran has invited the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia to avoid tensions and adhere to self-restraint to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stressing the need for regional peace.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on his Azeri and Armenian counterparts to refrain from military ways as tensions have risen between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh region.

During phone conversations with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhoun Bayramov, Zarif voiced concern over the situation and called on both sides to declare ceasefire and end hostilities.

He called for negotiations according to the international law and expressed Iran's readiness to use all its capacities to help settle disputes.


Iranian Speaker Urges End to Yerevan-Baku Clashes

Oct 06, 2020

“Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia should stop conflict,” Qalibaf said, calling on the two sides to settle tension through negotiations.

He made the remarks in a phone conversation with Chairman of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin on Monday.

Volodin, for his part, also said that the conflict should be resolved peacefully through negotiations.

In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh warned Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia against violating Iranian borders, describing it as Tehran’s redline.

“Both warring sides should take heed that the Islamic Republic cannot tolerate clashes on its borders and aggression on its soil,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday, noting that Baku and Yerevan should observe Iran’s redline.  

“Since the start of the conflict, Iran has told both parties that there will be no military solution for the decades-long dispute,” Khatibzadeh said on Monday, and added, “We emphasize that military conflict should stop quickly to start comprehensive political dialogue.”

He further said Iran has prepared a plan after consultations with both warring sides to end the Armenia-Azerbaijan war.

Battles between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh still continue.

Iran has invited the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan Republic and Armenia to avoid tensions and adhere to self-restraint to resolve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stressing the need for regional peace.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on his Azeri and Armenian counterparts to refrain from military ways as tensions have risen between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh region.

During phone conversations with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azeri Foreign Minister Jeyhoun Bayramov, Zarif voiced concern over the situation and called on both sides to declare ceasefire and end hostilities.

He called for negotiations according to the international law and expressed Iran's readiness to use all its capacities to help settle disputes.


Iran: Six Prisoners Executed at Rajai Shahr Prison on September 23

26 September - IHR previously reported the execution of a female prisoner, Mahtab Shafiei in Rajai Shahr Prison, Karaj. According to the newly obtained information, five male prisoners were also executed with Mahtab that day. All five prisoners appear to have been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

According to Iran Human Rights, on 23 September, one woman and five men were executed in Rajai Shahr Prison. All five appear to have been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Yesterday, IHR reported the execution of a female prisoner whose identity was established as 32 year old Mahtab Shafiei. She had been sentenced to death for the murder of her husband and his grandmother, and was transferred from Qarchak Prison in Varamin to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj on Tuesday to be executed.

Another executed prisoner has been identified as Hossein Shahani, previously held at Hall 2, Ward 1 of the prison but no information is yet available on the identities of the other four prisoners who were executed that day.

At the time of publication, the execution of the six prisoners has not been announced by domestic media or official sources in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 225 of the 280 of those executed in 2019 were charged with murder.

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.


Father of jailed protester commits suicide over son’s death sentence

28 September - The father of a jailed political prisoner who has been sentenced to death for his participation in Iran’s November 2019 protests committed suicide and passed away. According to ROKNA state-run News Agency, Mohammad Moradi, the 60-year-old father of jailed protester Amir Hossein Moradi, died this morning in his home. The report said that he hanged himself in his basement.

Amir Hossein Moradi’s lawyer, Babak Paknia also confirmed the report.

Emteded, a “reformist” Telegram channel that operates from Iran, said that immediately after Mohammad’s death, security forces came to his home along with a number of people with cameras, who stayed “for a few hours”.

According to Mehdi Mahmoudian, a “reformist” journalist, they came to the house to extract “forced confessions” from the Moradi family.

Amir Hossein Moradi’s mother said that Mohammad Moradi was under severe pressure due to his son’s death sentence and that until his death, he constantly talked about his son and was extremely concerned about Amir Hossein.

Amir Hossein Moradi, was detained for his role in November 2019 protests that erupted all over the country after the regime tripled the price of gasoline overnight. Amir Hossein and two other protesters, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi were sentenced to death by the Tehran Revolutionary Court.

Reports indicate that Amir Hossein Moradi was brutally beaten by security forces during interrogations after his arrest in November 2019.

According to a source close to his family, the 26-year-old political prisoner said he was subjected to electric shocks during interrogations and told that if he did not cooperate, his stay in solitary would be prolonged. He also said that an agent stood on his chest, damaging his rib cage.

After the Judiciary confirmed the death sentences of the three young men in June, Iranians took to social media channels with the Farsi hashtag اعدام نکنید, or “Do Not Execute”, tweeting the hashtag more than 10 million times. US President Donald Trump also used the hashtag in a tweet to support the death row protesters.

Due to international protests, the lawyers of the three men announced that the Supreme Court had agreed to review the death sentences.

Despite this, Emtedad said that the Moradi family was under “mental pressure” during this time and that the family was kept in a state of limbo about the death sentence.

An informed source told Human Rights in Iran website that the Intelligence Agency had summoned Amir Hossein Moradi’s mother and brother after Mohammad’s death, threatening them to keep silent. They were told that they would be arrested if they talked to the press.

“Since Amir Hossein’s arrest and death sentence, his parents have been in poor mental health. His father was under severe mental pressure,” the source told Human Rights in Iran.

There are currently at least nine Iranian protesters languishing in prison who have been sentenced to death. The regime hanged Mostafa Salehi, a protester and father of two in Isfahan, central Iran in August, and recently hanged Navid Afkari, a wrestling champion in Shiraz, southwestern Iran.


Iran: Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali Sentenced to Death Despite Lack of Evidence

29 September - Arman Abdolali, who was under 18 years old at the time of committing the alleged murder, has been sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) again by Branch Five of the Tehran Criminal Court despite the victim’s body never being found.

According to the Iran newspaper website, Branch Five of the Tehran Criminal Court has sentenced Arman Abdolali to qisas (retribution-in-kind). Per the reports, Arman confessed to murder during interrogations but withdrew his confession in court. As the victim’s body was never found, the defence lawyer has suggested that he may be alive.

Arman Abdolali was previously taken to the gallows in Rajai Shahr Prison on 1 January 2020 but was returned to his cell after the sentence was suspended.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for crimes committed as minors. However, Article 91 of the new Islamic Penal Code, ratified in 2013, gives judges the power to not issue death sentences for minors who did not understand the nature and sanctity of their crimes.

According to Iran Human Rights’ annual report on the Death Penalty in Iran, in 2019, at least four children were executed in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed and ratified by the Islamic Republic.

Given the repression of civil society and the limitations in contacting prisoners, it is very likely that the number of child offenders executed is much higher than the official numbers recorded.


Three members of the Association of Iranian Writers jailed

1st October -  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its condemnation of the judicial harassment and arrests of Iranian writers and journalists, after three members of the Association of Iranian Writers, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Kayvan Bagen, were returned to prison on 26 September to serve sentences ranging from three and half to six years in jail.

These three writers and journalists were sentenced by a Tehran revolutionary court in May 2019 on charges of anti-government propaganda and illegally publishing an online newspaper on Facebook. Although confirmed by a Tehran appeal court, the sentences were suspended for four months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement delivered outside Evin prison, the three writers and journalists said they were the victims of “false accusations” and had been convicted because they “fought against the censors and for freedom of expression.” The Association of Iranian Writers is Iran’s oldest civil society organization. Its activities were banned under the Shah and again under the Islamic Revolution. Two of its leaders, the writers and journalists Mohamad Makhtari and Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh, were murdered in 1998.


Turkey's EU membership bid evaporating due to government’s actions: Commission

06 October 2020

The European Union's executive said on Tuesday that Turkey's government was undermining its economy, eroding democracy and destroying independent courts, leaving Ankara's bid to join the EU further away than ever.

Blaming "excessively" centralized presidential power for deteriorating conditions in freedom of speech, prisons and the central bank, the European Commission said the government was also exposing Turkey to "rapid changes in investors' sentiment".

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"The EU's serious concerns on continued negative developments in the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary have not been credibly addressed by Turkey," the Commission said in its annual report on the country.

"Turkey's (EU) accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill," it said.

A NATO ally, Turkey has been negotiating its EU membership since 2005 after economic and political reforms that made it an important emerging market economy and trade partner.

Although never easy because of disputed Turkish claims over Cyprus, talks rapidly unraveled after a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 and President Tayyip Erdogan's ensuing crackdown on perceived opponents.

"In Turkey, the serious backsliding observed since the 2016 coup attempt continued," the Commission said.

There was no immediate comment from Turkey. Ankara has said in the past that EU criticism is unfair and disproportionate.

Turkey has since faced several years of harsh Commission reports, and the EU executive once again intensified its criticism, citing monetary policy, public administration and widespread corruption as failures of the Turkish government.

While the EU, Turkey's biggest foreign investor, relies on the country to house some 4 million Syrians fleeing civil war rather than let them proceed to Europe, Brussels also reiterated its threat to impose economic sanctions on Ankara over an energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.

EU leaders agreed last week to consider sanctions if Turkey continued to explore for oil and gas in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

"In case of renewed unilateral actions or provocations in breach of international law..., the EU will use all the instruments and the options at its disposal," the report said.


Israel demolished 166,000 Palestinian homes since creation: Report

07 October 2020

Israel has demolished nearly 166,000 Palestinian homes since its illegal creation, a report says, adding that about one million Palestinian people have been displaced as a result of the Israeli occupation.

The Palestinian Information Center, citing a report by the Land Research Center of the Arab Studies Association in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Israeli regime had razed to the ground about 165,690 Palestinian homes since its inception, and caused about one million Palestinians to be subjected to internal and external displacement.

“During the first nine months of the year 2020, the occupation forces demolished 450 homes and facilities, and also pushed some Palestinians to demolish their homes with their own hands,” the center added.

The statement also underlined that the Israeli regime had adopted the policy of limiting construction by Palestinians and compelling them to resort to building their homes without permits.

The center said Palestinians in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds alone were in urgent need of 25,000 residential units.

Israeli authorities usually demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds and elsewhere in the West Bank, claiming that the structures have been built without permits. They also sometimes order the Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality if they do not.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he would start plans for annexing more areas in the occupied West Bank, in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s "deal of the century" scheme, further infuriating Palestinians.

Trump officially unveiled his scheme in January at the White House with Netanyahu on his side, while Palestinian representatives were not invited.

The proposal gives in to Israel’s demands while creating a Palestinian state with limited control over its own security and borders, enshrining the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allowing the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Israel’s unlawful annexation push has drawn widespread criticism from the entire international community, including the regime’s closest allies.

The United Nations, the European Union and key Arab countries have all said the West Bank annexation would violate international law and undermine the prospects of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 boundaries.

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.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Anti-Netanyahu demo turns violent in Tel Aviv

Media reports said on Tuesday that clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli forces in Tel Aviv during demonstrations against Netanyahu as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters carried banners that read, "Oppressor! Resign!" and a cartoon image of the Israeli premier behind bars, a reference to the Netanyahu's ongoing trial for corruption charges.

Israelis have been staging street rallies over the past months to protest soaring unemployment, a hike in covid-19 infections and a return of coronavirus restrictions.


Muslim scholars, Palestinian factions condemn normalization deals

07 October 2020

Muslim scholars and Palestinian factions have once again strongly condemned the normalization deals between some Arab states and Israel. In an international conference in the Gaza Strip, they also stressed that the deals have not undermined the Palestinians' will to resist against Israeli occupation.

Muslim scholars along with leaders of Palestinian factions in the blockaded Gaza Strip slammed the normalization deals between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel describing them as an all-out treason.

During an international conference in Gaza the Muslim scholars said that normalizing ties with Israel is an unforgivable crime.

Participants from several Muslim countries attended the event via satellite link. The US brokered normalization deals were signed at the White House on September 15.

Palestinian resistance groups say the deals won't undermine their will to fight occupation.

Later in the day the leaders of Palestinian factions attended a digital festival due to the coronavirus pandemic to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

The movement organized the digital festival entitled “Jerusalem is our destination" through social media platforms. Ziyad al-Nakhala, the secretary general of Islamic Jihad addressed the attendees via satellite link.

During his speech al-Nakhala slammed the normalization deals and vowed to continue all forms of resistance against the Israeli regime.

Palestinians consider normalization with Israel as a betrayal of their cause and a blow to their quest for freedom.

Observers say that normalizing ties with the Israeli regime will only encourage Tel Aviv to further violate the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people.


Islamic Jihad: Palestinian resistance can target all parts of occupied territories

06 October 2020

Islamic Jihad says Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movements have the capability to strike Tel Aviv or whatever part of the Israeli-occupied territories that they choose.

“The resistance is capable of bombing Tel Aviv and all of the occupiers’ cities and settlements,” the resistance group’s leader, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, said on Tuesday during a televised address. “It has done so whenever it has chosen to,” he added.

Alongside Hamas, the fellow resistance movement in the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad, has been defending the Palestinian territory against near-daily Israeli aggression, including three full-scale wars that the Israeli regime carried out against the enclave in the 2000s.

Nakhalah said his group’s history has been characterized with “determination for struggle and confrontation against Zionists’ plots through resistance across all Palestinian territories.”

He identified “national unity” among Palestinian people and factions as the “safety valve” ensuring Palestine’s security.

The Palestinian leader announced his group’s solidarity with all the groups opposing compromise with the Israeli regime.

His remarks came as the United States has gone on a campaign aimed at bringing about détente among some regional Arab states and the occupying entity.

In mid-September, US President Donald Trump hosted a ceremony at the White House that saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain sign normalization deals with Israel on the back of Washington’s intermediary efforts.

Nakhalah said the US-backed scheme was aimed at ensuring obedience towards Israel and consigning the region’s history and civilization to oblivion.

The Palestinian official, however, said he was certain that the Arab and Muslim nations kept standing by Palestinians and their cause of liberation from Israeli occupation and aggression under whatever circumstances.

Observers have likewise noted that such conciliatory decisions by a handful of unelected Arab rulers do not represent the opinion of the world’s millions-strong Arab and Muslim community.





Morocco arrests four ISIS-linked extremist suspects

05 October 2020

Morocco on Monday arrested four suspects allegedly linked to ISIS terrorist group who were plotting “dangerous and imminent terrorist” attacks, the judicial police said.

The four Moroccan men, all in their 20s, were detained in the northern city of Tangiers during a raid in which police fired warning shots, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) said in a statement.

They were planning to “destabilize security in the kingdom... through terrorist methods inspired by operations” carried out by ISIS extremist in Syria and Iraq, the statement added.

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Bladed weapons and electronic equipment were also seized, it said.

Coronavirus: Morocco locks down Casablanca, closes schools amid COVID-19 surge

In September, authorities said they had dismantled an ISIS-linked cell and arrested five men accused of preparing suicide attacks against prominent figures and a security headquarters in Morocco.

At the time, BCIJ head Abdelhak Khiame told AFP in an interview that ISIS has “developed” in the Sahel-Sahara region due to conflict in Libya and in countries like Mali, which he said were unable to “control their security” situations.

“Terrorist cells and terrorism are growing in the region, but also organized crime networks, drug trafficking, (and of) weapons and human beings,” he said.

“All of this... makes the Sahel region, in my opinion, a time bomb.”

The Sahel covers western and north-central Africa.


Mali frees over 100 militants seeking hostage swap

05 October 2020

Insurgency-hit Mali freed over 100 alleged or convicted militants over the weekend in a bid to secure the release of a top politician and French charity worker, an official in charge of the negotiations told AFP on Monday.

The rare mass release of prisoners, confirmed by a member of the security services, comes as an eight-year insurgency, that has claimed thousands of lives, continues to threaten the fragile West African country.

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Soumaila Cisse, a 70-year-old former opposition leader and three-time presidential candidate, was abducted on March 25 while campaigning in his home region of Niafounke ahead of legislative elections.

Sophie Petronin, a French charity worker who is now 75, was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016, in the northern city of Gao. She is the last French national held hostage in the world.

The last video in which Petronin appeared was received in June 2018. She seemed tired and emaciated, and appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron for help.

In another video in November 2018, in which she did not appear, her kidnappers said her health had deteriorated.

The militant prisoners were released in the central region of Niono and the northern region of Tessalit after arriving by plane, the negotiations source said.

A lawmaker in Tessalit, who also requested anonymity, confirmed to AFP that “large numbers of extremist prisoners” arrived there on Sunday.

Petronin’s son Sebastien Chadaud cautiously welcomed the news. “We have to be attentive and remain very careful because if there are any attempts (to free them) we don’t want to disrupt that,” he said.

“It is too early to rejoice because we have lived through moments like this before.”

Malian authorities suspect an Al-Qaeda-linked group in central Mali led by militant cleric Amadou Koufa is responsible for the kidnappings.

Mali is currently led by an interim government after a military junta overthrew president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August.

The kidnapping of former opposition leader Cisse was one of the factors that fueled popular protests which led to the ouster of Keita over his perceived inability to tackle the jihadist insurgency.

Swathes of the vast and arid nation of 19 million already lie outside government control and the insurgency has inflamed ethnic tensions.

Keita officially opposed negotiations with extremist groups but his government launched talks with some of them in February.

Covert negotiations have continued for a ceasefire and liberation of hostages, according to sources, with the military junta vowing in particular to secure Cisse’s release.

Mali’s former colonial ruler France has 5,100 soldiers deployed across the Sahel region as part of its anti-militant Operation Barkhane.

A Canadian woman and her Italian partner kidnapped in Burkina Faso in 2018 were found in good health in the northwest of Mali in March after fleeing their captors.





Jammu and Kashmir: Two terrorists eliminated in Sugan Shopian encounter

Oct 7, 2020

SHOPIAN: Two terrorists were neutralised by the security forces in an ongoing encounter in the Sugan Zainapora area of Shopian district on Wednesday, police said.

"Sugan Shopian encounter update: Two unidentified terrorists killed. Operation going on. Further details shall follow," the Jammu and Kashmir Police tweeted.

The encounter started on Tuesday evening.

In a similar incident, two terrorists were killed in an encounter with the security forces here in the Samboora area of Awantipora district on September 27.


PSO, terrorist killed in attack at J&K BJP worker’s house

Oct 6, 2020

SRINAGAR: The personal security officer (PSO) of a BJP worker was killed in a gunfight with terrorists who attacked the politician’s house in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district late Tuesday. A terrorist identified as Sajjad Ahmad was also killed in the fire exchange, police said.

As many as five politicians were killed and one injured in terror attacks in July and August alone.

Confirming the attack, Kashmir Police tweeted that unidentified terrorists opened fire at BJP worker Ghulam Qadir’s house in Ganderbal’s Nunar area. PSO constable Altaf Hussain retaliated and shot down one of the attackers, but sustained critical injuries in the gun battle and succumbed on the way to a hospital. Qadir, however, escaped unhurt.

On July 8, three BJP workers — Waseem Bari, his father and brother — were killed in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. On August 4, terrorists fired upon and critically injured BJP panch Arif Ahmad near his residence in Qazigund area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Ahmad succumbed later.

On August 6, BJP sarpanch Sajad Ahmad Khanday was shot dead by terrorists at Vessu in south Kashmir’s Qazigund.

On August 10, terrorists lobbed a hand grenade at the house of PDP panch Bupinder Singh in south Kashmir’s Tral, Pulwama, but Singh escaped unhurt. On August 11, BJP worker Abdul Hamid Nagar of central Kashmir’s Budgam was injured in a terror attack.

Such attacks prompted authorities to shift panch members of various political parties to safer places, particularly in the Kashmiri Pandit clusters and in several hotels in Srinagar and Pahalgam in Anantnag. The move came after numerous BJP workers quit the party citing threat to their lives.


Occupying public place for protests not acceptable: Supreme Court on petitions on Shaheen Bagh protests

Murali Krishnan

Oct 07, 2020

The right to protest in public places is not absolute and public places cannot be occupied indefinitely for such protests, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a case highlighting the troubles faced by general public due to the road blockade at Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi by protestors who were opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Dissent and democracy go hand in hand but protests must be carried out in designated areas, a three-judge bench, headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul ruled.

“Occupation of public places for protests is not acceptable. Authorities must ensure removal of occupation of public places,” the bench which also comprised justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari held.

However, the manner in which occupants should be removed to clear public places is to be decided by government authorities and they should not hide behind or wait for court orders in order to carry out their functions, the top court added.

The ruling came on a plea by filed by advocate Amit Sahni in February seeking lift of road blockade in the Shaheen Bagh – Kalindi Kunj stretch due to protests at Shaheen Bagh by those opposing the CAA.

The CAA, which was passed on December 12, 2019, amended Section 2 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 in a manner which made any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship by naturalization even if they were illegal migrants.

However, the Muslim community was excluded from the purview of this amendment, thereby, preventing Muslim illegal migrants from availing the opportunity to apply for Indian citizenship, a benefit which was extended to illegal migrants from the other six communities by the amendment. The exclusion of Muslim triggered widespread protests across the country, as did the linking of citizenship with religion.

Shaheen Bagh was the epicentre of such protests in the national capital. The protests at Shaheen Bagh started on December 15, 2019 and continued for more than 3 months.

Sahni stated that while people have the right to protest, the same is subject to reasonable restrictions and protestors cannot be allowed to occupy public roads indefinitely. He contended that right to protests it should not inconvenience public at large.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing the central government also concurred with the petitioner stating that right to protest cannot be absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions.

“Every right is qualified,” Mehta had argued.

During the hearing of the case, the court had on February 17, attempted to resolve the issue by sending two lawyers, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde and advocate Sadhana Ramachandran to mediate with the protestors. However, the talks did not yield any results.



South Asia


Nearly two decades after US invasion, Afghans fear Taliban return

Oct 6, 2020

KABUL: Almost two decades after the United States launched what would become its longest-ever war with air strikes on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime, the hardline group are in a stronger position than ever.

The invasion on October 7, 2001 quickly toppled the militants, who had harboured Al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in America just weeks earlier.

Nineteen years after their brutal Islamist regime collapsed, the Taliban are pushing for a return to power, having signed a landmark troop withdrawal deal with Washington in February and currently holding peace talks with the Afghan government.

Fearful that the Taliban have changed little since the darkest days of their regime -- when they killed women accused of adultery, attacked minority religious groups and barred girls from going to school -- many Afghans worry about a new era of Taliban influence.

"I remember the Taliban regime like a nightmare. We are scared for our future and my daughter's future," said Kabul resident Katayoun Ahmadi, a 26-year-old mother.

She recalled seeing severed hands and fingers on Kabul's streets following amputations for petty crimes under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Sharia law.

The 2001 invasion heralded some enduring improvements for young Afghans -- particularly girls -- and ushered in a constitution guaranteeing certain freedoms including the right to an education.

But so far in peace talks in Doha, which started last month, the Taliban have said little about issues such as women's rights or freedom of expression.

Ahmadi's husband Farzad Farnood, 35, a researcher for the Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies, said a rise in Taliban violence since a deal was signed between the hardline group and Washington shows the militants have not changed.

"Is this creating hope for Afghans? No, it is not," he said.

As a teenager, he witnessed the Taliban stoning a woman to death and public executions and floggings in Kabul's football stadium. His family had to hide their black-and-white television's antenna in a tree when the Taliban banned music and entertainment.

"All the achievements we have made in the last 18 years did not exist in the Taliban era," he said.

A Taliban spokesman declined to comment.

Zia-ul-Rahman, a former insurgent who battled foreign troops and Afghan government forces for four years, told AFP the Taliban were pushing for "the establishment of an Islamic system", even though the Islamic republic's constitution already gives primacy to the religion.

"We have no problem with girls getting an education or women working, but they have to wear a hijab," he added.

US involvement in Afghanistan has proven painfully difficult for the superpower, draining more than $1 trillion from its coffers and resulting in about 2,400 troop deaths in a war the Pentagon has characterised as a stalemate.

In Doha, the Taliban and the Afghan government are struggling to agree common language on a range of issues before they can even establish an agenda, in talks that could continue for years.

Some US lawmakers have said they would oppose any deal that fails to protect women and minorities, but President Donald Trump's administration has stressed it wants little to do with the outcome which he said will be "Afghan-owned".

Jawed Rahmani, a 38-year-old security worker in Kabul, said US disengagement would inevitably lead to a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

"These are not peace talks but a deal to hand over the next government to the Taliban," he said.

"People are happier with whatever we have right now, compared to the darkest era of the Taliban."


Suicide attack in Afghanistan kills 8, Governor survives

Oct 5, 2020

LAGHMAN: The Governor of Laghman, Rahmatullah Yarmal's convoy was targeted on Monday by a suicide attacker, leaving eight dead and over 30 injured.

The Governor, though slightly injured, survived the attack. A spokesman for the provincial governor, Assadullah Dawlatzai said here on Monday, Sputnik reported.

No radical group operating in the country has taken responsibility for the attack so far, stated the report.


10 Afghan Security Members Killed in Two Separate Incidents

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

07 Oct 2020

Helmand Local officials reported, that the ANA has suffered heavily when a car bomb hit a checkpoint in the Yakhchal area of Nahrul-Saraj district in Helmand province.

Omar Zwak, Helmand governor’s spokesman told khaama press, that four ANA soldiers were killed and three others are wounded in the incident around 10 pm on Tuesday night.

On the other hand, Gul Islam Siyal, spokesman for the Zabul governor, said that the Taliban group attacked a security checkpoint in the Safa City district of Zabul province last night (Tuesday,6 Oct), killing three policemen and wounding two others.

But a security source, who did not want to be named, confirmed to Khaama Press that a Taliban attack on a security checkpoint in the Safa City district of the province has killed six policemen.

He added that Taliban fighters also captured and abducted some of these policemen.

Taliban militants have not yet commented over the incidents.


Taliban Shouldn’t ‘Fear’ the Cease Fire: Ashraf Ghani

By Mohammad Haroon Alim

07 Oct 2020

President Ashraf Ghani, speaking at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies on Tuesday, iterated that the Taliban shouldn’t fear the ceasefire and accept peace.

The president added, Taliban must adhere to peace and have the courage to reconcile with other Afghans.

He stressed that people must come first, because people are sovereign, therefore the government must put people first and do what constrictions, religion and moral command requires.

Ceasefire in the 2018 Eid Festival is a sign that Afghans can agree on peace, and this shows an immense capacity to overcome the past and focus towards the future, President Ghani added.

Ghani mentioned women saying, that “the women of Afghanistan do not need someone to speak for them or write for them; they speak for themselves; they can represent themselves.”

The president pointed on the unexplored mineral wealth the country has and it can potentially render the country as a wealthy nation.

Abundant minerals worth 1 trillion dollars in Afghanistan, and the “ten poorest provinces in the country have the richest mineral deposits”, President Ghani said.

He also stressed the country’s geographical status, that the nation exists right in the middle of Asia, and all the natural sources as wind, sun, and water can be utilized to produce energy and Afghanistan is full of cultural values.

He added that the Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban was not up to the Afghan government and that the Taliban should leave their agreement with the United States aside and negotiate with the Afghan government in the light of the Qur’an and Islamic principles.

On the other hand, Zabiullah Mujahid spokesman to the Taliban militants tweeted, “Our agreement with the United States is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, and the next steps will follow. Do not advise us on the Qur’an and Sunnah. Learn to recite the Qur’an yourself and do not be afraid to apply the rules. We have given sacrifices two and a half decades for the implementation of the Qur’an”.

It has been almost a month since the start of Intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both sides are still busy in talks and haven’t reached a decision yet.

The Taliban delegation wants to advance Intra-Afghan talks under an agreement with the United States, but the Afghan government says that agreement is not up to them and says the Taliban should proceed with talks based on Quran and Islamic principles.


Taliban, Afghan negotiators set ground rules to continue peace talks: Sources

06 October 2020

Taliban officials and Afghan representatives have agreed on a code of conduct that sets ground rules to advance their peace talks in Doha, three official sources said on Tuesday.

The delegations, helped by US officials, agreed on Monday on 19 rules which make up a code of conduct that will be followed to stop the peace talks collapsing, the sources told Reuters.

Negotiations between the Afghan government and the insurgent Taliban started last month in Qatar’s capital and are aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile a suicide attack targeting an Afghan provincial governor killed at least eight people Monday, officials said.

Twenty eight people were wounded when the attacker rammed his explosives-filled vehicle into the convoy of Rahmatullah Yarmal, the governor of eastern Laghman province.

“The governor was driving to his office when his car was hit. Four of his bodyguards and four civilians were killed, 28 wounded,” the governor’s spokesman Assadullah Daulatzai told AFP, adding that the governor was unhurt.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tareq Arian confirmed the attack and said most of the wounded were civilians.



Southeast Asia


Malaysian Muslim MP unrepentant over 'corrupted Bible' claim

October 06, 2020

A prominent Muslim lawmaker in Malaysia has remained steadfast in his refusal to apologize for saying that the Christian Bible has been corrupted and its message has been distorted in comments that have caused outrage among the country’s Christians.

During a recent session in parliament, Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh, a prominent Muslim politician who studied in Egypt and Jordan, insinuated that the New Testament did not reflect the true message of Jesus’ life and ministry because the text had been altered over the centuries.

The statement caused outrage among many Christians in a country where Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise, but it is in line with a normative Muslim belief that holds that whereas Jesus was a messenger of Allah, he did not die on the cross and was not divine.

Such views in Islam are backed up by certain passages in the Quran, which Muslims consider the true word of God.

Several lawmakers have chastised Zawawi for voicing this view in parliament, saying his comments were religiously divisive and asking him to apologize.

Yet Zawawi refused to do so, adding further fuel to the uproar by saying it was a “fact” that the Christian Bible had been corrupted. “They have no right to be offended,” the Muslim lawmaker said.

“What I said was not an accusation but a fact,” he went on. “There is no need to apologize. Why should I? I don’t want to comment. What I said is right. Why should I apologize?”

In response, Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen, a politician from the Democratic Action Party, stressed in a public statement that the Muslim lawmaker’s comment “sets a bad precedent in the honorable house where such insensitive comments against other religions can be made without any repercussions.”

Yii added: “I will continue to pursue the Bible issue as it is important to send the correct message that, regardless of position or power, no one is above the law.”

Zawawi, who represents the district of Pasir Puteh in the state of Kelantan, has also ignored calls for an apology from several interfaith and Christian organizations from across the country, including the Association of Churches in Sarawak, the Sabah Council of Churches and the Sarawak Evangelical Christian Association.

Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, a prominent and outspoken Catholic clergyman, and several other religious leaders from the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism have also warned in a public statement that denigrating the faith of Christians and others in the country’s parliament could set “a dangerous precedent.”

Zawawi’s comments were “totally unacceptable to all peace-loving Malaysians of all faiths,” the archbishop and his fellow signatories said.

“Parliament is a place to debate responsible and just governance based on rational arguments, best practices and in tune with the provisions of the federal constitution,” they stressed.

“If this is the new normal, it will open the door for others to do the same and it may lead to unnecessary arguments that may pit one religion against another, to be used by politicians for their political gain and maneuvering.”

In a separate statement, Archbishop Kim, who is chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, took Zawawi to task over his comments.

“In trampling with shocking audacity on the sacred and holy Word of God, the representative for Pasir Puteh showed a reprehensible disrespect not only for his fellow Malaysians who are Christians but also for all the efforts of our forefathers in forging peoples of diverse creeds, colour and cultures into a peace-loving and harmonious nation,” the archbishop said.

“Recalcitrant and reportedly unwilling to withdraw or apologise for his demeaning words, this lawmaker must be unreservedly censured and rebuked by all right-minded people.”


Najib defends religious affairs minister, criticises Putrajaya, PH

October 6, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak has come to the defence of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Zulkifli has come under criticism after reports emerged that he attended a number of functions following his return from Sabah, which has seen a spike in infections.

But Najib said Zulkifli, who had in the past criticised him, returned from Sabah on Sept 24, before the government made it mandatory for those returning from the state to be tested for Covid-19 and be quarantined.

He said that during campaigning for the Sabah election, Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders and NGOs like Aliran and Bersih 2.0 opposed the health ministry’s proposal for mandatory quarantine, claiming it would impede voters residing outside the state from going back to vote.

“I believe the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government caved in to this demand as they did not want PH to turn this into an election issue,” he said.

Had the government implemented mandatory quarantine sooner, Najib said, more Covid-19 cases in Peninsular Malaysia which originated from Sabah could have been avoided.

He said the PN government should have allowed Sabahans to cast postal votes just as the Barisan Nasional administration did for overseas Malaysians in the 14th general election.

“If we can do it for overseas voters, why can’t we do it for voters outside of their states?” he asked.

Najib also said the government should have instructed for a mandatory 14-day quarantine instead of three days as the incubation for Covid-19 is two weeks.

Now, he said, it was too late, but both PH and PN should avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

“And I pray that our religious affairs minister makes a full recovery as soon as possible,” he added.




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