Fearing for her life, Iranian beauty queen granted asylum remains at Manila airport

Bahareh Zare Bahari with her lawyer, Agustin Bacunganat ( in pink shirt) and his team at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Manila after Bahar was granted asylum to the Philippines, Manila Nov, 07, 2019 ( Photo courtesy Martelino Bacungan and Associates)
Updated 09 November 2019

Fearing for her life, Iranian beauty queen granted asylum remains at Manila airport

  • Bahari was stopped at Manila airport last month due to an Interpol red notice
  • Says she fears for her life and anticipates death or prison if deported to Iran

MANILA/ISLAMABAD: Former Miss Iran, Bahareh Zare Bahari, said on Friday evening she feared for her life and would remain at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) despite her asylum request having been accepted by the Philippines government this week.
Bahari arrived in Manila from a two-week vacation in Dubai on October 18 but was barred from leaving the airport due to what authorities said was an International Police (Interpol) red notice. She says because of her political views and stance on women’s rights, she will be killed or jailed if she is deported to Iran.

Bahareh Zare Bahari at the immegartion desk in Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after her request for asylum was granted, Manila Nov, 07, 2019  ( Photo courtesy Martelino Bacungan and Associates)

On Friday, the Philippines government said it had approved the asylum application of the beauty queen.
Despite her now clear legal status, Bahari said was staying at the airport out of fear for her life.
“My lawyer has asked about my security, but they told him ‘she should go back to her house [in the Philippines] and continue her life as it was before’,” Bahari told Arab News via phone, adding: “I told authorities that without security I will not leave [the airport].”
An immigration official, who requested anonymity, said Bahari was allowed to leave the airport and had been admitted into the Philippines Thursday afternoon.
“They gave me a paper to sign and it says I can work here [in the Philippines] ... The document states that I can leave the Philippines whenever I want,” Bahari said, adding that the document said nothing about what protection she would be provided, if any.
“I can confirm that her application has been approved as of Tuesday,” Philippine Department of Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Mark Perete told Arab News on Friday.
A letter addressed to Bahari from the DoJ Refugee and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (RSPPU) said: “You are hereby informed that you are recognized as a refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in a decision, dated 06 November 2019.”
The letter is signed by Senior State Counsel Rosario Elena A. Laborte-Cuevas, Office-in-Charge, RSPPU-Legal Staff.
“Now I am staying in a better room at the airport; it is small but it has a hot shower, restroom and there is food in the room,” Bahari said.
However, on social media she has complained over the mistreatment meted out to her by airport authorities.

Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Courtesy: eventservice.tn)

“We hope she substantiates her allegations so that a formal inquiry can be made,” Perete said, adding that he had been in constant communication with the immigration authorities and been informed that Bahari “had always been treated with respect and provided with the utmost convenience available under the circumstances.”
Bahari was intercepted at the NAIA last month and barred from entering the country due to an Interpol red notice against her for an assault and battery case allegedly committed in Dagupan City in the Philippines.
Bahari denies any wrongdoing, saying the cases against her are fake. She has also said she would be killed or imprisoned if deported to Iran where the Tehran government is allegedly targeting her for supporting an opposition politician, violating traditional values by taking part in beauty pageants and speaking for women’s rights.
In January Bahari appeared at a beauty pageant carrying a picture of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian opposition leader and founder of the National Council of Iran.
“If they (the Philippines) deport me (to) Iran, (they will) at least give me 25 years in jail if they do not kill me,” Bahari said in an interview with Arab News last month.

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.”