Asylum-seeking Iranian beauty queen still in custody at Manila airport

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Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Photo credit: Bahareh Zare Bahari’s Facebook page)
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Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Photo credit: Bahareh Zare Bahari’s Facebook page)
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Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Photo credit: Bahareh Zare Bahari’s Facebook page)
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Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Photo credit: Bahareh Zare Bahari’s Facebook page)
Updated 23 October 2019

Asylum-seeking Iranian beauty queen still in custody at Manila airport

  • Bahari said authorities in the Philippines were keeping her in the dark about the status of her asylum case
  • She has consistently said the assault and battery case against her is fake, and Tehran was targeting her for supporting an opposition politician

MANILA/AMMAN: An Iranian beauty queen seeking asylum in the Philippines remains incarcerated at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport almost a week after she was barred from entering the southeast Asian country due to an Interpol red notice.
Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran’s representative to the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant, was arrested at the airport last Thursday following a charge against her for an assault and battery case allegedly committed in Dagupan City in the Philippines. Bahari denies any wrongdoing. 


Speaking to Arab News by telephone on Wednesday, Bahari said authorities in the Philippines were keeping her in the dark about the status of her asylum case.
“Filipino authorities are not updating me. They said they sent a letter to Interpol in Iran to get an answer from them. So they told me I have to wait until Iran Interpol answers,” she said. 
Bahari also said she was not feeling well and had been examined by a doctor at the airport on Tuesday. She did not provide details of her ailment.
Bahari has consistently said the assault and battery case against her is fake, and Tehran was targeting her for supporting an opposition politician and violating traditional values by taking part in beauty pageants and speaking for women’s rights.

In January, she appeared at a pageant carrying a picture of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian opposition leader and founder of the National Council of Iran.
“I have used his photo in a beauty pageant and the Iranian government are angry with me,” Bahari said, adding: “If I am deported to Iran, they will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me.”
Tehran has not commented on Bahari’s statements. 
Bahari said last week that she had traveled to the Philippines after a vacation in Dubai, where she did not encounter any problems with immigration authorities, adding that she was surprised when she was intercepted at the airport in Manila and informed that she was on an Interpol list.


Bahari said her lawyer “had checked all records in the Philippines and with Interpol,” but there was no record against her.
The beauty queen has denied committing any crimes in Iran, or in the Philippines where she has been studying dentistry since 2014.
The Philippines Department of Justice (DoJ) Undersecretary and spokesperson Mark Perete said in a statement last week that Bahari remained in custody at the airport and “could not be sent back to Iran because she has filed an application for asylum.”
The DoJ would resolve her asylum application “in due time,” Perete added.


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 21 November 2019

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”