Tourists forced to write ‘sorry’ 500 times over India lockdown breach

Medical staff wearing protective gears visit a residential area to screen residents in the wake of COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Amritsar on April 12, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2020

Tourists forced to write ‘sorry’ 500 times over India lockdown breach

  • The travelers were caught taking a walk in Rishikesh
  • More than 700 foreign tourists in the area had flouted the lockdown rules

NEW DELHI: Ten foreigners who broke a coronavirus lockdown in an Indian town made famous by the Beatles, were forced to repent by writing “I am so sorry” — 500 times, officials said Sunday.
The nationwide lockdown was imposed near the end of March, with residents permitted to leave their homes only for essential services such as buying groceries and medicine.
The travelers — from Israel, Mexico, Australia and Austria — were caught taking a walk in Rishikesh, where the Beatles sought spirituality at an Ashram in 1968.
Local police officer Vinod Sharma said they were each made to write “I did not follow the rules of lockdown so I am so sorry” 500 times.
More than 700 foreign tourists from the US, Australia, Mexico and Israel staying in the area had flouted the lockdown rules, Sharma said, adding the unusual punishment was handed out to teach them a lesson.
Police said they would direct hotels in the area to allow foreign guests to step out only if accompanied by local helpers.
Establishments that did not follow the order could face legal action, Sharma said.
Police have come up with unusual methods to encourage people to stay home to halt the spread of the deadly disease, including wearing coronavirus-shaped helmets.
But officers in some states were also seen in videos on social media beating drivers on roadsides and making people out and about during lockdown do squats and leapfrogs as punishment.
On Sunday, police said they arrested nine people violating the lockdown after an officer’s hand was chopped off in northern Punjab state’s Patiala district.
The group were stopped in a vehicle at a checkpoint and — refusing to turn back as ordered — hit the accelerator and smashed into steel barricades, officials said.
During the clash, one of the group pulled out a sword, slicing off a policeman’s hand. Six more officers were injured in the attack, police said.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to extend a nationwide lockdown that was originally slated to end on Tuesday, for another two weeks.
Some states have already extended the restrictions.
On Sunday, India had registered more than 8,300 coronavirus cases and 273 deaths from the disease.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.