European parliament scolds Nicaragua over ‘democratic crisis’

Spain's member of the European Parliament Ramon Jauregui addresses the media next to his colleagues Gabriel Mato and Javier Nart during a news conference at the end of their visit to Nicaragua to address the current political crisis of the Nicaraguan people in Managua on January 26, 2019. (REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)
Updated 27 January 2019

European parliament scolds Nicaragua over ‘democratic crisis’

  • Nicaragua has been convulsed in the past months by some of its worst political tension since a civil war in the 1980s
  • More than 300 people had been killed and over 500 incarcerated since President Ortega clamped down on demonstrators
MANAGUA, Nicaragua: A European Parliament delegation on Saturday urged Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to release political prisoners, permit the return of banned human rights groups and to restart dialogue with the opposition to end a months-long political crisis.
The delegation led by European Member of Parliament (MEP)Ramon Jauregui, a Socialist from Spain, told a news conference it would ask the European Parliament to issue a new resolution on the crisis.
For months, Nicaragua has been convulsed by some of its worst political tension since a civil war in the 1980s. An initial stand-off between protesters and the government in April over planned welfare cuts quickly descended into deadly clashes.
By the time the Ortega administration had clamped down on the protesters, more than 300 people had been killed and over 500 incarcerated, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, a group the government has blacklisted.
Rights groups say four radio stations and one TV station have closed, and dozens of journalists have been beaten. The Ortega government says there is freedom of expression and has accused the opposition of seeking to mount a coup to oust him.
“We don’t believe the government’s story of a coup d’état,” told the news conference Javier Nart, a Spanish Liberal MEP who as a journalist covered the Nicaraguan revolution that led to the 1979 ouster of dictator Anastasio Somoza by Ortega’s Sandinistas.
“The repression of protests was excessive. The population is demanding more freedom and democracy. Nicaragua is going through a major crisis of democracy and the rule of law,” he added.
The Nicaraguan government did not respond to a request from Reuters on the allegations made by the delegation.
The European members of parliament said the Ortega government allowed them to hold meetings with all sectors of society, including political prisoners. But they noted that several opposition leaders suffered persecution after they had taken part in the meetings. (Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

Updated 16 min 35 sec ago

Sri Lanka churches halt public services over security fears

  • Potential bombers ‘at large’ as death toll lowered to 253
  • Muslims asked to shun Friday prayer

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches suspended all public services over security fears on Thursday, as thousands of troops joined the hunt for suspects in deadly Easter bombings.

A senior priest said that all public services were being suspended and all churches closed “on the advice of security forces.”

Authorities revised the death toll down to 253, from the previous figure of 359, explaining that some of the badly mutilated bodies had been double-counted.

The father of two of the suspected bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said suspects remained at large and could have access to explosives. Some of the suspects “may go out for a suicide attack,” Wickremesinghe said.

Hundreds of Ahmadi refugees in western Sri Lanka have taken refuge in mosques and a police station after facing intimidation following the bombings. Scores of Ahmadis who settled in Negombo after fleeing persecution in their home countries have been thrown out of their accommodation by landlords.

Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday over security failures. He submitted a letter of resignation to President Maithripala Sirisena.

Britain’s Foreign Office advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.

“The horrific attack is a demonstration of how tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) that originated in this island nation several decades ago returned to haunt a shocked and broken government thanks to a complete collapse of counterterrorism capability or capacity,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, a security expert, writes in an opinion piece.

Hate preacher Zahran Hashim, head of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group that is being blamed for the attacks, developed a reputation as a preacher who “copied” Daesh propaganda videos to enhance his posts via the pro-Daesh Al-Ghuraba media channel, which used Facebook and YouTube as its primary platforms, Karasik says. 

Sri Lanka’s Islamic affairs minister, M. H. M. Haleem, asked all Muslims to avoid prayers on Friday for security reasons. He also said it would be a mark of respect for those who perished in the nation’s worst violence in years.

Politician and Western Province Gov. Azath Salley told Arab News that the blasts were orchestrated by a handful of extremists and that the island’s Muslim population could not be held responsible for their “deviant” actions.