Sri Lanka told to prosecute mobs who attacked mosque

Sri Lanka told to prosecute mobs who attacked mosque
Updated 18 August 2013

Sri Lanka told to prosecute mobs who attacked mosque

Sri Lanka told to prosecute mobs who attacked mosque

COLOMBO: The US Embassy urged Sri Lankan authorities on Sunday to arrest and prosecute those responsible for vandalizing a mosque in the national capital.
An Agence France Presse (AFP) report said the Buddhist-led mob attack on the mosque at Grandpass district on Saturday has raised religious tensions and left the Muslim minority fearing further violence.
“This incident is particularly troubling in light of a number of recent attacks against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka,” the US Embassy said in a statement.
“Targeting any place of worship should never be permitted and we urge calm from all sides,” it added.
Sri Lankan police imposed a curfew on the neighborhood Saturday night and lifted the same on Sunday, but a police spokesman assured that hundreds of policemen, including anti-riot squads and members of the elite Special Task Force commandos, remained on alert in the district following overnight violence which wounded at least four people.
“The curfew was lifted this morning, but we have a strong presence in the area,” a police spokesman said.
There was no immediate reaction from the government to the violence.
In its statement, the US Embassy also urged Colombo to ensure religious freedom. Last March, the US government initiated a UN Human Rights Council resolution against Sri Lanka over alleged war crimes during its onslaught against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.

Surprised by the violence
Local Islamic leaders expressed concern in the wake of Saturday’s attack, which followed Buddhist objections to the opening of the new mosque.
“We were surprised because we thought things were settling down,” Fazin Farook, spokesman for the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Sri Lanka’s apex body of Islamic clerics, told AFP.
“With this attack, we are worried again and we see this (anti-Muslim) trend continuing. We condemn this attack.”
Farook noted that the latest violence came five months after an anti-Muslim campaign culminated in the torching of two Muslim-owned businesses just outside the capital.
Three Buddhist monks and 14 others who were arrested in connection with the arson attacks in March were later freed as police and the victims did not press charges.
“We thought things were settling down since then. The government had also done a lot to calm the situation, but this incident came up suddenly and that has worried the community,” Farook said.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Council, an umbrella organization of Muslim civil society groups, also expressed concern.
The council said the attack occurred in spite of assurances from state authorities that the new mosque in the area could stay despite protests from a nearby Buddhist temple.
“There were police deployed to guard the mosque, but unfortunately the constables were unable to maintain law and order,” said council president N. M. Ameen.
“The community is very worried and concerned about safety.”
An official from the information ministry said the government had called a meeting Sunday afternoon to try and defuse religious tension.
“All stake holders have been asked to attend a meeting to discuss the issue,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “We expect a positive outcome.”
A security official told AFP Buddhists had objected to the new mosque which was constructed to replace an older place of worship that was earmarked for demolition.
“The Buddhist temple had objected to the relocation of the mosque and the troubles started during Saturday evening prayers of the mosque,” the official said, asking not to be named.
All four people injured in the attack, including two police constables guarding the mosque, remained in hospital Sunday.
Residents said temple bells summoned dozens of men who stormed the mosque and started throwing stones and beating up worshippers.
Several homes in the area were also damaged, residents said.
President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ruling coalition includes the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, the country’s largest Muslim political party.
However, radical Buddhists recently forced Islamic clerics to withdraw halal certification from food sold locally, claiming that it offended the majority non-Muslim population.
Seventy percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population follow Buddhism while Muslims are the second largest religious minority with just under 10 percent after Hindus who make up about 13 percent. Others are Christian.


US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.