British lawyer for jailed Bangladeshi ex-PM ‘outraged’ by India entry denial

Bangladesh opposition leader and two-term Prime Minister Zia was jailed in February for corruption, but her party says the case is politically motivated by the ruling party in an election year. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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British lawyer for jailed Bangladeshi ex-PM ‘outraged’ by India entry denial

  • Bangladesh opposition leader and two-term Prime Minister Zia was jailed in February for corruption
  • New Delhi militarily helped the then East Pakistan liberate itself from Pakistan in 1971

NEW DELHI: A British parliamentarian and lawyer, who is a counsel for jailed Bangladeshi politician Khaleda Zia, said on Thursday he was outraged by India's decision to deny him entry to address a press conference defending his client and meet a human rights body.
India's foreign ministry said it sent back Alex Carlile, a member of the House of Lords, from New Delhi airport on Wednesday because his "intended activity in India was incompatible with the purpose of his visit as mentioned in his visa application".
"This is no way to treat a 70-year-old senior lawyer and Parliamentarian," Carlile said in a statement. "I am outraged by the political interference in Begum Khaleda Zia's case on political grounds by two governments, and I expect a full explanation from the Indian Government. I have the visa they granted me a few days ago."
Bangladesh opposition leader and two-term Prime Minister Zia was jailed in February for corruption, but her party says the case is politically motivated by the ruling party in an election year. The Bangladeshi government has consistently denied the charges.
In his prepared statement for the planned New Delhi briefing on Thursday, released to reporters by email, Carlile said Bangladesh had delayed granting him a visa and that he was grateful to the Indian media for the chance to "lay bare the unfair and unjust approach of the Bangladesh authorities to the case of my client".
A Bangladesh foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.
India's foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, told a weekly media briefing in New Delhi that it was not acceptable for Carlile to use Indian soil to hold such a press conference when he could have done the same from London.
Kumar declined to answer what category visa Carlile should have held other than his "business" visa, but said he suspected there was an attempt to "create some kind of a problem" in the relationship between India and Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh enjoy close ties. New Delhi militarily helped the then East Pakistan liberate itself from Pakistan in 1971.
Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said it was disappointed that India sent Carlile back.
"He has not been allowed to enter Bangladesh so wanted to raise the issues about her cases from our good neighbour India," BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Reuters. "Our leader is in jail for several months and it's injustice done to her. He wanted to reveal the truth, but could not." (Additional reporting by Serajul Quadir in DHAKA; Editing by Toby Chopra)


Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

Updated 19 November 2018
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Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

  • Some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops
  • ‘It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps’

LAREDO, United State: They started work in the cool of the morning and moved quickly, uncoiling reel after reel of vicious-looking fencing and tying it with barbed wire to green poles hammered into the ground.
Over the course of three days, a gleaming, shoulders-high barrier of concertina-wire emerged like a silver snake along a lush riverbank, stretching as far as the eye could see.
This was the work of 100 or so American troops from the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Rather than finding themselves in a far-off warzone, the soldiers are in Laredo, a busy border town overlooking a stretch of the Rio Grande river in southwest Texas, carrying out controversial orders from President Donald Trump.
He has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico and toward the US, in a move critics decry as a costly political stunt to galvanize supporters ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.
Before the election Trump called the matter a “national emergency” and warned that so-called migrant caravans were an “invasion” with “some very bad thugs and gang members.”
So far at least, the most visible aspect of Trump’s deployment is the fence, a visible deterrent and physical obstacle to migrants, designed to corral would-be asylum seekers toward organized points of entry into the US.
Over the weekend, Lt. Alan Koepnick’s platoon could be seen stringing concertina wire, which is built to snag clothing, along one edge of a quiet riverside park near downtown Laredo.
As families walked dogs, grilled sausages and relaxed, the soldiers mounted the wire, occasionally ripping their camouflaged uniforms on its metal barbs.
Koepnick said some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops.
“But there’s also been a lot of support, people coming in, vets shaking our hands, bringing us cakes, water, things like that,” Koepnick said.
About 100 yards (meters) behind him, a group of people on the Mexican side of the river could be seen standing on the bank.
“You’ll see people across the river cursing at us in Spanish, throwing bottles at us. But on this side it’s more positive,” Koepnick said.
He and his soldiers were unarmed, but a group of armed military police officers stood by to provide “force protection.”
Under US law, the military is not allowed to conduct domestic law enforcement in most cases, so soldiers here will not have any direct interactions with migrants.
Trump created a media whirlwind by sounding the alarm about the migrant caravans before the November 6 elections. He has mainly stopped raising it since, though last week he praised the military’s work.
“They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence,” said Trump, who wants to build a hardened wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.
Laura Pole, a British tourist visiting Laredo for the third time, was less enthusiastic.
“It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps,” she said, but added: “I really don’t know what’s the best thing to do.”
The border mission has put the supposedly non-political military in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has hit back at critics who say the Pentagon should not be doing Trump’s political bidding, saying “we don’t do stunts.”
He visited troops on the border last week and reiterated that their job in the short term was to assist under-resourced Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and put up physical obstacles.
But “longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined,” he said.
After some rank-and-file troops grumbled about the purpose of the mission to US media last week, they are now under strict instructions not to voice personal opinions to the press.
Several soldiers AFP spoke to said their time on the border provided valuable real-world training, albeit without the risks of combat.
“We have a very large group of brand-new soldiers and it’s really good for them,” Corporal Samuel Fletcher said, citing a chance for the green troops “to do real work and put their skills to use.”
In Laredo, large groups of migrants from the caravans in Mexico had not arrived.
Instead they were mainly headed to Tijuana, about 1,300 miles away in San Diego, where authorities say more than 3,000 have already arrived.
Still, a CBP agent, who was not authorized to give his name, said he was glad of the military assistance as each day, “hundreds” of migrants attempt to cross the approximately 30-mile stretch of border he patrols.
The military deployment is set to wrap up December 15 and it is not clear what will become of the wire fencing.
Already, the winds whistling down the Rio Grande valley are strewing trash, clothing and plastic bags along the jagged wire.
“Nobody seems to know when it’s coming down. It’s not really our decision,” said Koepnick.
“If we are told to take it down, we will take it down with a smile on our faces, like good soldiers.”