Trial of two Arabs accused of espionage begins

Trial of two Arabs accused of espionage begins
Special Criminal Court in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 01 May 2018

Trial of two Arabs accused of espionage begins

Trial of two Arabs accused of espionage begins
  • The prosecutor demanded their conviction and condemnation with discretionary penalties
  • The claimant has also been accused of using illegal drugs, violating the Kingdom’s law by overstaying after Hajj and giving false information about himself

JEDDAH: A Special Criminal Court in Riyadh began the trial of two Arabs accused of spying.
The prosecutor demanded their conviction and condemnation with discretionary penalties to dissuade others from cooperating with  foreign intelligence network. 
The prosecutor also demanded the confiscation of their mobile phones and their deportation from the Kingdom at the end of the trial.
The two men have been accused of cooperating with Mossad, entering the Kingdom to gather information , declaring their sympathies for Daesh and supporting the terrorist organization.
The two suspects have been given the right to appoint lawyers. In case they cannot afford the lawyers, the Ministry of Justice will appoint a lawyer at its own expense.


‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
A Saudi woman walks on a social distancing marker at a shopping center, as preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 54 min 29 sec ago

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns

‘We must cooperate’ to curb virus, avoid tough measures, Saudi Ministry of Interior warns
  • Makkah police arrest 13 people for violating isolation, quarantine instructions

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced on Sunday that authorities have detected a surge of “worrying” behaviors in the Kingdom since the beginning of Ramadan, warning citizens to avoid ignoring anti-coronavirus health measures.

At a joint press conference between the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, MoI spokesperson Lt. Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub warned that the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Kingdom could potentially lead to citywide lockdowns, as well as the banning of certain activities.
“We must cooperate and not trivialize the dangers. We do not want to have to resort to tough measures,” he said.
Al-Shalhoub added that the Kingdom was continuing to crack down on rule-breakers and those who violate safety precautions, including people using social media to spread misinformation about safety measures and ways to circumvent them.
Meanwhile, Makkah’s regional police spokesman said that 13 people were arrested in Jeddah and Taif for violating isolation and quarantine instructions after they tested positive for coronavirus.
Preliminary legal procedures were taken against them and their cases were referred to the Public Prosecution. The MoI previously warned that violators will face up to a two-year prison sentence, a fine of up to SR200,000 ($53,300), or both.
Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly revealed that the Kingdom has seen a slight rise in the percentage of women contracting coronavirus, warning that the number of women coming forward to be vaccinated was lower than expected.
“We have also seen a rise in the number of female cases that become critical and end up needing intensive care. Women also make up 55 percent of the overall number of cases in the Kingdom,” he said.
The MoH announced that 917 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, raising the total number of cases to 404,970.
There are now 9,445 active cases, 1,044 of which are in critical care.

INNUMBERS

404,970 Total cases

388,702 Recoveries

6,823 Deaths

Of the new cases, 402 were in Riyadh, 203 in Makkah and 131 in the Eastern Province. Baha and Jouf reported the lowest cases on Saturday, with just six cases each.
Al-Aly said that appointments for second vaccine doses would be automatically updated, following news that some appointments had been canceled. The Saudi strategy aims to immunize the largest number of people possible with at least the first dose, Al-Aly added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that more than 15 million people have benefited from its Eatmarna app.
The ministry said that only people who have taken at least the first dose of the vaccine will be permitted to perform Umrah, or pray at either the Grand Mosque in Makkah or the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Violators will be prosecuted for attempting to perform the pilgrimage without the proper permissions, officials said, adding that authorities are encouraging safety precautions in order to ensure safe, smooth, and seamless pilgrimages for all visitors.
There were 907 new recoveries reported in the Kingdom, raising the total number of recoveries over the course of the pandemic to 388,702. The Kingdom’s death toll rose to 6,823 after 13 new coronavirus-related deaths were recorded.
Almost 7.1 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Saudi Arabia so far.

The Kingdom is now delivering vaccines at a rate of about 1.32 per second, or 114,471 each day. About 20.3 percent of the Saudi population have now been vaccinated.

The last day saw the completion of 51,225 PCR tests, bringing the total number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to 16,174,957.

 


France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
Updated 19 April 2021

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants

France restricting travel from 4 countries to curb variants
  • Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.


What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Updated 19 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. 

“By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America,” said a review published in goodreads.com.

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

The book “traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and art-making, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth,” said the review.

Park Hong “wrote this book with courage and all her heart — exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece,” the review added. 

“She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing.”


Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears
Updated 19 April 2021

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears

Turkey bans crypto assets over illegal transaction fears
  • The much-criticized move against the digital currency will come into effect on April 30

ANKARA: Turkey’s Central Bank has banned the use of crypto assets in payments as part of the country’s efforts to regulate cryptocurrencies, which have gained huge popularity in recent months.

The government has been closely monitoring cryptocurrencies for some time, alleging that extremists might use them to fund illegal activities or facilitate money laundering.

“Their use in payments may cause irreparable damages for the parties to the transactions, and include elements that may undermine the confidence in methods and instruments used currently in payments,” the bank said.

The new regulation will come into effect by April 30, but the legislation’s announcement lowered the value of Bitcoin by more than 4 percent on Friday.

Besides forbidding crypto  payments for buying goods and services, the regulation also bans transferring money to cryptocurrency platforms via fintech systems. But many investors in Turkey view Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a shelter against inflation, with the lira facing a significant devaluation against foreign currencies due to the country’s financial volatility.

The lira has lost about half of its value since the 2018 currency crisis.

Increasing inflation rates, which reached a six-month high last month of 16 percent, as well as official unemployment rates hitting 13.4 percent are making people turn to cryptocurrency to gain money and compensate their losses with stable assets.

The booming business of cryptocurrencies has replaced Turks’ rush for gold and real estate as a hedge against the struggling lira and rising interest rates. This new digital money is mostly used by the country’s tech savvy younger population, which is seeking to protect its livelihood against Turkey’s recent economic troubles.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turkey bans crypto payments for buying goods and services.

• The regulation also forbids transferring money to cryptocurrency platforms via fintech systems.

• Many investors in Turkey view Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a shelter against inflation.

The government’s crypto asset ban drew anger from domestic investors. About 100,000 tweets were sent from Turkey-based social media accounts in one day criticizing the legislation.

The country’s main opposition Peoples’ Republican Party (CHP) also criticized the government’s midnight move against cryptocurrency use. 

“Rather than issuing a midnight legislation, you should have decided on such sensitive issues after consulting all relevant parties,” CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

Regulation in the field of cryptocurrencies was not a new debate for Turkey, where the government expected to achieve some political goals from blockchain technology, according to Dr. Mehmet Bedii Kaya, an expert of IT law at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The government, in line with its 11th Development Plan, was set to implement a digital central bank based on blockchain technologies.

“On the other hand, there is a significant number of Turkish citizens who use cryptocurrencies for short and long-term gains,” Kaya told Arab News. “I think that this latest regulation has been prepared with a quick reflex, without considering the potential financial losses it might generate with the wave of resulting misinformation.”

Kaya said that payment institutions were already under the close supervision of the Central Bank. “These fintech institutions, which are active in the cryptocurrency market, are very innovative and dynamic. Therefore the Turkish state considered this dynamism as a risk and source of complexity. However, these key players shouldn’t have been disqualified.”

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced it was now possible to buy Tesla vehicles in the US with Bitcoin, an Istanbul-based luxury car distributor called Royal Motors began accepting payments in cryptocurrencies last week.

Crypto trading volumes hit $27 billion between early February to March 24, according to data analyzed by Reuters, while trading gained momentum especially after the Central Bank governor was dismissed by presidential decree and further weakened the lira.

Last week, the Turkish government asked crypto trading platforms to provide it with user information.


Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
Updated 19 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption authority initiates a number of criminal cases
  • The authority said crimes of financial and administrative corruption do not fall under the statute of limitations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-corruption Authority (Nazaha) said on Sunday it had initiated a number of criminal cases and legal procedures.
Among the most prominent cases, a retired major general and two retired employees from the Ministry of National Guard were arrested for obtaining SR198 million ($52.8 million) from local companies and one foreign company in return for helping them win contracts.
In the second case, the former director general of projects at the Ministry of Higher Education and five businessmen were accused of establishing companies and obtaining ministry projects through them, exaggerating prices, obligating other companies contracted with the ministry to deal with them, and obtaining funds. Work is underway to calculate the amount of money that was embezzled.
In the third case, an employee working for the Foreign Ministry was arrested for having disbursed approximately SR733,000, in an irregular manner, from an account of one of the Kingdom’s embassies.
In the fourth case, an employee of the Ministry of Information was arrested for issuing 328 media licenses and receiving around SR700,000.
Two employees at a regional branch of the Ministry of Finance were suspended after two citizens bribed them with SR126,000 out of a total amount of SR8 million agreed upon, in return for facilitating payment of financial compensation.
In the sixth case, three employees in the Education Department in one of the governorates were suspended for obtaining SR624,000 in cash installments from a businessman in exchange for facilitating access to seven projects amounting to SR3.2 million.
The seventh case was in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, where a notary was arrested in one of the regions for issuing a lost deed in an irregular manner to one of his relatives.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, an officer with the rank of captain working in a regional branch of the General Directorate for Narcotics Control was arrested for obtaining SR35,000 from an expatriate, in exchange for holding a case related to his brother.
A further case involved a bank employee in one of the Kingdom’s governorates who was suspended for obtaining SR21,000 from some of the bank’s clients in exchange for completing their financing procedures.
And the last case involved two employees working in a municipality who were arrested for receiving SR25,000.