May, Macron face lawmakers angry over Syria strikes

A video grab from the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May responding to questions concerning British participation in the air strikes on Syria. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2018
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May, Macron face lawmakers angry over Syria strikes

  • Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for new legislation to stop governments launching military action without lawmakers’ backing in most circumstances.
  • National Front leader Marine Le Pen accused Macron of failing to show any evidence on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime to justify the strikes.

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday faced anger from lawmakers for conducting air strikes with the United States in Syria in both leaders’ first major military actions since coming to power.
May said lawmakers were right to hold her to account for her actions, after the premier proceeded with the strikes without prior parliamentary approval.
“But it is my responsibility as prime minster to make these decisions. And I will make them,” May, 61, said of the intervention.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for new legislation to stop governments launching military action without lawmakers’ backing in most circumstances.
“The prime minister is accountable to this parliament, not to the whims of the US president,” he told a packed chamber.
Following Washington’s military lead remains a sensitive subject in Britain, where memories of participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 are still raw.
May, in office since July 2016, rejected the notion that she took orders from US President Donald Trump, saying her decision was based on Britain’s national interest.
“We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so. We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do,” she said.
But a poll showed scant public support for the move.
The poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday showed 36 percent in favor of Britain’s participation in the air strikes, 40 percent against and the remainder undecided.
Of the survey’s 2,060 respondents, 54 percent also agreed with the statement that May “should have held a parliamentary debate and vote before intervening militarily in Syria.”
May’s speech was followed by a heated debate during which some MPs called on Britain to welcome more Syrian refugees — rejected by May — and continue the diplomatic push to end the seven-year conflict.
Outside the Houses of Parliament, the Stop the War coalition once chaired by Corbyn was due to hold a demonstration.
The group said the strikes “will have done nothing to end the war” and “risked dramatically widening” the conflict.
In France, Macron has faced similar criticism for attacking Syria without consulting the legislature.
He defended the move as well as his constitutional powers in a TV interview on Sunday.
“This mandate is given democratically to the president by the people in the presidential election,” said Macron, who became France’s youngest president in May 2017.
Macron, 40, has been criticized from both right and left.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen has accused Macron of failing to show any evidence on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime to justify the strikes.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the hard-left France Unbowed party, has also condemned the strikes, while the leader of the center-right Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez, said he “did not believe in punitive strikes.”
But at a press conference in Paris on Monday, Macron said France had acted with “international legitimacy.”
He argued that the operation was legitimate despite not being sanctioned by the UN since under a 2013 UN resolution Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 25 April 2018
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Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.