10 dead as stampede mars India’s Ganges festival

Updated 11 February 2013
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10 dead as stampede mars India’s Ganges festival

Allahabad, India: At least 10 people died in a stampede on Sunday as devotees headed home from India’s giant Kumbh Mela festival, which drew a record 30 million people to the banks of the river Ganges.
The lives were lost at the main railway station where 10 corpses wrapped in white sheets could be seen on a train platform several hours after the incident which occurred in the early evening, an AFP photographer said.
Dozens more were injured in the crush and some local television channels put the death toll as high as 20.
Local officials said that the railings on a bridge at Allahabad station had given way under the pressure of the mass of people, while eyewitnesses told local media that the police had baton-charged the crowd leading to panic.
“People were taking rest on these railings and the railings could not take the load. The joints broke,” a spokesman for the local Uttar Pradesh state, Ashok Sharma, told AFP.
The tragedy came at the end of a day which organizers had earlier declared a success.
“By afternoon over two crore (20 million) people had taken the holy dip and by evening the numbers crossed three crore (30 million),” top local official Devesh Chaturvedi told a press conference.
Police had been stretched in controlling the vast crowds, he admitted, and one person had died for unknown reasons, while another later succumbed to injuries sustained in a crush.
Thousands of volunteers on duty and police urged pilgrims to take one short bath and then leave the waters to make space for the flow of humanity behind them which stretched for kilometers.
The Kumbh Mela, which began last month and ends in March, takes place every 12 years in the northern city of Allahabad. Smaller, similar events are held every three years in other locations around India.


UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd’s death sentence

Updated 56 min 40 sec ago
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UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd’s death sentence

  • Ramin Hossein Panahi was arrested last June for alleged membership in the Kurdish nationalist group Komala.
  • Three United Nations human rights experts warned that executing Panahi “would be unconscionable.”

Geneva: Three United Nations human rights experts called on Iran Thursday to annul a death sentence handed to an Iranian Kurdish prisoner, citing concerns he had been tortured in detention.
The experts warned that executing Ramin Hossein Panahi, who they said was arrested last June for alleged membership in the Kurdish nationalist group Komala, “would be unconscionable.”
In a joint statement, they said he had been “sentenced to death for taking up arms against the state” due to his alleged membership of the group.
Iran’s Supreme Court apparently reaffirmed the death sentence earlier this month, they said, adding that his case was due to be passed to the country’s Office of Implementation.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports that Mr. Panahi has suffered human rights violations before and during his trial, including incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, and denial of access to a lawyer and adequate medical care,” they said.
They pointed to reports that he had been denied medical care for injuries suffered during his imprisonment, including from reported beating with cables.
He also reportedly started a hunger strike at the beginning of this year.
“The death sentence was imposed on Mr. Panahi after judicial proceedings which do not appear to have fulfilled the most stringent guarantees of fair trial and due process,” they said.
The experts, including the UN special rapporteur on torture and the expert on summary executions, stressed that “the only thing that distinguishes capital punishment from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees.”
“We urge the government of Iran to annul the death sentence.”
The experts also raised concern that members of Panahi’s family appeared to have been convicted in “summary trials, and sentenced to long prison terms, in apparent reprisals for their efforts to obtain further information on his situation.”