US demands release of Iran political prisoners amid torture reports

Iranian students scuffle with police at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran. Students protested in a third day of demonstrations, videos on social media showed, but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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US demands release of Iran political prisoners amid torture reports

WASHINGTON: The White House on Wednesday demanded that Iran release demonstrators rounded up in countrywide protests, raising pressure on Tehran as US President Donald Trump weighs the future of a key nuclear deal.
“The Trump Administration is deeply concerned by reports that the Iranian regime has imprisoned thousands of Iranian citizens in the past week for engaging in peaceful protests,” the White House said in a statement.
It added that reports of some demonstrators being “tortured or killed... while in detention are even more disturbing,” and slammed Tehran for what it called its “true brutal nature.”
“We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran’s leaders accountable for any violations,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“The United States calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran, including the victims of the most recent crackdown,” the statement read.
Violent unrest fueled by economic grievances erupted in dozens of Iranian cities between December 28 and January 1, leaving at least 21 people dead.
Various figures have come from official sources in Iran about the number of people arrested, with reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi putting the total at 3,700.
Officials have said the majority have since been released, with only the main “instigators” facing trial.
An investigation has been opened into the death in custody of a young Iranian in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, the country’s judiciary said Tuesday, with Sadeghi linking the death to recent protests.
A reluctant Trump is expected on Friday to waive a series of sanctions against Iran, as part of a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.


Thousands of British families homeless despite being in work

Updated 53 min 53 sec ago
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Thousands of British families homeless despite being in work

  • More than 33,000 working families do not have a stable place to live, a 73 percent rise from 2013
  • Overall, homelessness has risen in England for more than six years, with 80,000 families in temporary accommodation including more than 120,000 children

LONDON: More than half of homeless families in Britain now have at least one adult in work after a sharp rise in the number of employed people unable to afford a secure home, a leading homelessness charity said on Monday.

More than 33,000 working families do not have a stable place to live, a 73 percent rise from 2013, according to a study by Shelter’s social housing commission that blamed rising private rents, a freeze on benefits and a shortage of social housing.

“It’s disgraceful that even when families are working every hour they can, they’re still forced to live through the grim reality of homelessness,” said Shelter CEO Polly Neate in a statement.

“In many cases, these are parents who work all day or night before returning to a cramped hostel or B&B (bed and breakfast) where their whole family is forced to share a room.

“A room with no space for normal family life like cooking, playing or doing homework.”

Mary Smith, 47, works full time in retail and lives in a hostel near London with her three sons after she was evicted by her landlord and became unable to afford private rent.

“I was brought up by a very proud Irish woman, and taught that you don’t discuss things like your finances - so letting my colleagues at work know what’s happening is very hard,” said Smith in a statement.

“I’m not hopeful for our future. I think it’s going to be this constant, vicious circle of moving from temporary place to temporary place, when all my family want is to settle down.”

Overall, homelessness has risen in England for more than six years, with 80,000 families in temporary accommodation including more than 120,000 children, government data shows.

Losing a tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness in Britain, accounting for 27 percent of all households accepted as homeless in the last year, said Shelter.

The proportion of working homeless families, from security guards to hotel workers, has increased at different rates across Britain, with the East Midlands and North West England faring the worst, the report found.

It defines working families as those where at least one adult is in work.

Despite this, homeless charity Crisis said last month that Britain could end homelessness within a decade if it invested more in social housing and welfare benefits.

Britain’s parliament last year passed the Homelessness Reduction Act, which was designed to ensure that local councils increased obligations towards homeless people.

The government has also set an ambitious target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.