World demands full account after Iran admits downing Ukraine jet

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky placing flowers at a memorial for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash in the Iranian capital Tehran, at the Boryspil airport outside Kiev on January 9, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 11 January 2020

World demands full account after Iran admits downing Ukraine jet

  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible
  • Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation

PARIS: Iran said Saturday it had unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed this week outside Tehran killing 176 people, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”
The statement sparked some relief that at least the immediate cause of the disaster would not be concealed amid international calls for a full accounting and compensation for the victims.
Iran has invited the United States, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation.
Herewith are some of the remarks made by top leaders in response to the Iranian statement on its responsibility for the crash.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible, pay compensation and apologize.
“We expect Iran... to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling for the “payment of compensation” and the return of remains.
“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky added
He also urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts and in a tweet also sought an “official apology.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the country mourning the loss of many of its nationals, said closure and accountability were needed after Iran’s announcement.
He demanded “transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.
“This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.

Iran must “learn lessons” from the disaster, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.
“If decryption of the black boxes and the work of the investigation do not prove that the Iranian army did this intentionally, and there are no logical reasons for this, the incident must be closed.
“Hoping that lessons will be learned and action taken by all parties,” Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said it was “important to seize this moment to give space to discussions and negotiations” on the Iran nuclear deal.
“The lessons that we should learn from the dramatic sequence of events that we have experienced... is that we must put an end to this escalation,” Parly told France Inter radio.
She reiterated the French position that everything must be done to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said “it was important that Iran brought clarity to this issue.
“Now Tehran needs to draw the right consequences in the continued appraisal of this dreadful catastrophe, and take measures to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” Mass told Funke media.


Religious freedom: Italian govt, Muslim representatives sign memorandum

Police officers stand guard as a penitentiary van for inmates transport leaves the Sant'Anna prison in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, in one of Italy's quarantine red zones on March 9, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Religious freedom: Italian govt, Muslim representatives sign memorandum

  • New agreement allows for imams to offer spiritual assistance to Muslim inmates in Italian prisons

ROME: An agreement between the Italian government and the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (Italian: Unione delle Comunità e Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia, UCOII) will allow imams to offer spiritual assistance to Muslim inmates detained in Italian prisons.

The memorandum of understanding follows an agreement signed last month between Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and representatives from Islamic communities in Italy on the reopening of mosques and prayer rooms as part of the country’s ‘Phase 2’ response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. The agreement is considered by Muslim representatives as a step toward official recognition of Islam as a religion in Italy.

According to the Italian Ministry of Justice, nearly 10,000 of the 60,000 inmates detained in Italian prisons are foreigners, most of whom are from Morocco, Tunisia and Romania. Latest official figures show that 7,200 inmates are observant Muslims, with 97 considered imams as they guide prayers within jails and 44 saying they converted to Islam during their detention.

In only few Italian jails, however, are Muslim inmates provided with spaces dedicated for prayer, which are not sufficient to meet the demand. By contrast, every prison has a Roman Catholic chapel where religious services are regularly held by priests, most of whom are paid by the Italian state.

The memorandum was signed by Department of Penitentiary Administration Chief Judge Bernardo Petralia and UCOII President Yassine Lafram.

“It implements the principle of religious freedom for all citizens established in the Constitution of the Italian Republic, which guarantees prisoners the right to profess their religious faith also while they are in detention. Considering the increasing multiethnicity of the Italian prison population, it is necessary to allow every religion to be professed in a proper way,” a statement from the Italian Ministry of Justice says.

According to the protocol, UCOII will provide prison administration with a list of people who “perform the functions of imam in Italy” and who are “interested in guiding prayers and worship within prisons nationwide.” The list will also specify at which mosque or prayer room each Imam normally performs his worship. Imams will have to indicate their preference for three provinces where they would be willing to lead prayers for inmates.

As no official agreement or law yet regulates in full the relationship between the Italian state and the Islamic communities in the country, the names of Imams on the list will have to be submitted to the Ministry of the Interior so that they may receive official authorization to perform their duties inside prisons.

Lafram said that he was “extremely satisfied” with this agreement with the Italian State.

“With this new protocol, it will be possible to have imams lead prayers in every prison in Italy. This is a sign of the excellent result obtained thus far for a pilot project we have carried out in the past five years in eight Italian prisons,” Lafram said.

Since 2015, some rooms have been made available to Muslim inmates for prayer, but the congregation had nobody to lead prayers or to preach, except during extraordinary times of the year like Ramadan. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, no one from outside was allowed access to prisons in order to prevent the spread infection. As a consequence, no spiritual assistance was available to Muslim inmates even within the few prisons that had a space for prayer and meditation.

“Spiritual assistance to prisoners is necessarily part of the process of reintegration into civil society, as stated in the Constitution of the Italian Republic,” Lafram told Italian news agency ANSA.

"With this agreement, we aim to promote social rehabilitation of the inmate, but also to…avoid any phenomenon of radicalization, which may be triggered by a condition of general resentment towards society," he added.

Lafram expressed his wish that greater attentiveness to the needs of Islamic communities across Italy would eventually lead to formal recognition of the religion in the country. He thanked Minister of Justice Alfonso Bonafede for “showing no prejudices toward the Islamic communities in Italy."

"This is an important step in the context of an ever-greater collaboration between our religious community and the Italian State in the general interest of the country’s welfare,” he said.