German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

Spain wants Carles Puigdemont to be extradited on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds, which stemmed from an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence. (AP)
Updated 22 May 2018

German court rejects call for Catalan leader Puigdemont to be rearrested

BERLIN: A German court on Tuesday rejected a request from prosecutors to take former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont back into custody pending a decision on whether he can be extradited to Spain.
Puigdemont was detained by German police March 25 after crossing the border from Denmark. Spain had issued a European arrest warrant and sought his extradition on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds — charges that stem from an unauthorized referendum last year on Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
He was released April 6 after a German court said it appeared he can’t be extradited for rebellion, the more serious of the two charges. But prosecutors in the northern town of Schleswig argued that new information provided by Spanish authorities suggests that would be possible.
They cited videos showing violence against Spanish police and said in a statement that “the disturbances were on such a scale that prosecutors believe that he should also be extradited over the accusation of rebellion.” The prosecutors argued that the charge is comparable to two offenses under German law — treason and breaching the peace.
They said that Puigdemont would pose a flight risk and called for him to be taken back into custody. The state court in Schleswig disagreed and rejected the request.
Puigdemont remains free with certain conditions, including reporting to police once a week.
The separatist politician has been living in Berlin, frequently receiving political allies from Catalonia including his newly elected successor as regional president, Quim Torra.
The Schleswig court said it is “still open” when a final decision will be made on whether Puigdemont can be extradited. It said that the prosecutors have yet to submit a formal application to examine whether an extradition is possible.


Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

Updated 9 min 8 sec ago

Malaysian police question Al Jazeera journalists over report on immigrants

  • Al Jazeera journalists under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur
  • The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3

KUALA LUMPUR: Six members of staff from state-owned Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera were questioned by police in Malaysia on Friday.

They are under investigation for sedition following the broadcast of a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur during the coronavirus lockdown.

“The documentary has ignited a backlash among the public,” said national police chief Abdul Hamid Bador. “During our investigation, we found out there were inaccuracies in the documentary that were aimed at creating a bad image of Malaysia.”

He said police have discussed the case with the attorney general and added: “We are going to give a fair investigation and a fair opportunity for them to defend themselves, in case the AG wants to file charges against them.”

The journalists, accompanied by their lawyers, were questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The 25-minute documentary, titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” was broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” documentary strand on July 3. It highlighted the plight of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids on COVID-19 lockdown hotspots. Malaysian officials said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

On Thursday, Al Jazeera said it refutes the charges and “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism” and has “serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of the documentary.” It added: “Al Jazeera is deeply concerned that its staff are now subject to a police investigation.”

However, the incident highlights the broadcaster’s double standards in reporting issues about migrant workers. When Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Qatar in February of failing to implement a system to ensure construction companies pay migrant workers on time, the issue was not highlighted by Al Jazeera, the headquarters of which is in Doha.

On May 23, migrant workers staged a rare protest in Qatar over unpaid wages but Al Jazeera did not send reporters to interview the demonstrators.

Also in May, HRW said that crowded and unsanitary conditions at Doha Central Prison were exacerbating the COVID-19 threat. The organization urged Qatar to reduce the size of prison populations and ensure inmates have access to adequate medical care, along with masks, sanitizer and gloves. Again Al Jazeera did not focus on the issue.

Activists and civil-society groups criticized the Malaysian government for its heavy-handed move against Al Jazeera.

“The Malaysian government should stop trying to intimidate the media when it reports something the powers that be don’t like,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division. “The reality is Malaysia has treated migrant workers very shoddily and Al Jazeera has caught them out on it.”

Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia program officer for freedom of speech advocacy group Article 19, said the action against Al Jazeera is alarming and akin to “shooting the messenger.”

She added: “The government should instead initiate an independent inquiry into the issues raised in the documentary.”

There are at least 2 million migrant workers in Malaysia, though the true number is thought to be much higher as many are undocumented. They are a source of cheap, low-skilled labor in industries considered dirty and dangerous.