Afghan forces target Taleban threat on the eve of election

Updated 14 June 2014
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Afghan forces target Taleban threat on the eve of election

KABUL: Afghan police and soldiers searched almost every car on the roads of Kabul and other cities Friday in an attempt to thwart Taleban suicide attackers on the eve of presidential elections.
The insurgents have threatened to target polling stations on Saturday when voters will choose between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.
The second-round vote on Saturday comes as US-led NATO troops withdraw after more than a decade of fighting the Taleban, who were ousted from power in 2001.
Afghan officials are desperate to repeat the success of the first-round vote in April, when the insurgents failed to launch a single high-profile attack as long lines of voters turned up across the country to cast their ballots.
Afghans head to the polls on Saturday for the second time in 10 weeks to elect a president who will take office as most foreign forces prepare to leave after nearly 13 years of inconclusive war. None of the eight candidates who contested the first round of the election on April 5 won more than 50 percent of the vote meaning the top two contenders have to face off on Saturday.
The two men aiming to succeed President Hamid Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from a third term, are a former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, and an ex-World Bank economist and former finance minister, Ashraf Ghani.
The winner will inherit an unfinished war and an economy in the doldrums.
The Taleban are still strong and Afghanistan’s foreign-trained army has never put to rest questions about its effectiveness, especially in the absence of foreign troops, the bulk of whom will leave by the end of the year.
Abdullah, a former leader in the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance, won 45 percent of the vote in April while Ghani got 31.6 percent.
But Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, stands to gain more of the Pashtun vote that was splintered between candidates in the first round. Abdullah is part Pashtun but more closely identified with the ethnic Tajik minority.
Below is a timeline of key events and brief biographies of the contenders.
May 22 : Run-off campaign began
June 11: Campaign ended
June 14: Election day
July 2: Preliminary results announced
July 16: Complaints body submits final report
July 22: Final results announced


Protests across Spain as sexual abuse gang released on bail

Demonstrators shout slogans as they take part in a protest rally in Valencia on June 22, 2018, a day after a court ordered the release on bail of five men sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman at Pamplona's bull-running festival. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Protests across Spain as sexual abuse gang released on bail

  • All five, aged between 27 and 29, were convicted of sexual abuse in April but were acquitted of the more serious crime of sexual assault
  • Thousands of people had already protested in Pamplona, Bilbao, Barcelona and other cities on Thursday after the court issued its ruling

MADRID: Protesters hit the streets across Spain for the second day running on Friday, after five men sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually abusing a young woman at Pamplona’s bull-running festival were released on bail.
The men, who called themselves “The Pack” in a WhatsApp messaging group, had been accused of raping a woman, then 18, on July 7, 2016, at the start of the week-long San Fermin festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors.
All five, aged between 27 and 29, were convicted of sexual abuse in April but were acquitted of the more serious crime of sexual assault — which includes rape — as the court did not consider the victim to have been subjected to intimidation or violence.
The men appealed their jail terms and a Pamplona court on Thursday ordered the five to be released on bail of 6,000 euros ($7,000) pending the outcome of the appeal.
Thousands of people of all ages demonstrated outside the justice ministry in central Madrid on Friday evening, shortly after the five men left jail after spending nearly two years in custody.
“I was stunned” by the court ruling, Aratz Beranoaguirre, a geologist, told AFP at the Madrid protest.
“Men have been educated with the idea that we can do anything, and with this ruling we have seen that you can rape and nothing happens.”
The crowd chanted: “They don’t believe us if they don’t kill us.”
Other protests were held in the southern city of Seville, the hometown of the five men, Pamplona — where the crowd held a large banner that read: “No is no. Justice!” outside of city hall — Granada, and elsewhere.
Thousands of people had already protested in Pamplona, Bilbao, Barcelona and other cities on Thursday after the court issued its ruling.
Women’s groups took to social media to call the protests with the slogan: “If the pack hits the streets, we will as well.”
Marches after the verdict in April brought tens of thousands of protesters out on to the streets.

“It is not fair that they are released with a sentence of nine years, and just a few days before San Fermin, they can even go there,” said Lucia Rodriguez, a 60-year-old protester in Madrid, referring to the upcoming running of the bulls festival which gets underway on July 6.
In its decision on Friday, the Navarre court said the five had been allowed out on bail because the social pressure on them made it “practically unthinkable” they would risk re-offending.
The men will remain under judicial monitoring. They have had their passports withdrawn and must report to court three times a week.
They are also banned from traveling to Madrid, where the victim lives.
One of the men is a policeman with the Guardia Civil — who is currently suspended — and another was once in the army. Several are “ultras” or hardcore fans of FC Sevilla.
The fact that the men videoed the attack on their smartphones and bragged about it within their WhatsApp group added to the outrage over the case.

The mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asiron, said Friday his office would appeal the decision to release them, saying there was “a growing distance... between society itself and certain decisions taken by the courts.”
An online petition calling for the five to be kept behind bars had garnered 657,000 names by Friday night.
New socialist Justice Minister Dolores Delgado has not commented on the court decision, speaking only of a need to “change mentalities.”
The first step announced by the government of Pedro Sanchez, who took office earlier this month at the head of cabinet that includes 11 women, was to train magistrates in awareness about violence against women.
Noelia Garcia, 41, said she did not trust that the situation would change with a new government dominated by women.
“That is not enough. There needs to be a reform of the judicial system. Judges from another era need to be replaced,” she added at the Madrid protest.