Syrian yogi ‘bent health rules,’ Bali officials say

Women wearing protective face masks pass an advertisement promoting awareness of the coronavirus outbreak at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Syrian yogi ‘bent health rules,’ Bali officials say

  • Yoga teacher facing deportation after ignoring virus restrictions

JAKARTA: A Syrian yoga teacher is facing deportation from Bali after photos of him hosting a yoga session involving dozens of foreigners surfaced online.

Locals voiced anger over the violation of social distancing rules on the Indonesian resort island.

Wissam Barakeh, founder of the House of Om Community Center, a yoga retreat in the Balinese cultural hub of Ubud, held the event on June 18. On Wednesday, immigration authorities in Bali said he faces immediate deportation.

“He is now being detained at Denpasar immigration office and will be deported on the first available international flight,” Arvin Gumilang, a spokesman for the immigration office at the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, told Arab News.

Gumilang said Barakeh ignored a health ministry ruling on large-scale social restrictions and a local Bali decree limiting the number of participants in an event to 25.

The yoga retreat is believed to have hosted more than 60 people, including many foreigners.

“He was well aware that the number of participants had exceeded the maximum number of participants allowed in the regulations, but he did not make any effort to cancel the event,” Gumilang said.

“The event violated health protocols by not complying with physical distancing rules, and those at the event were not wearing face masks,” he added.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Bali continues to rise daily. However, the number of cases on the island as of July 1 remained at 2.5 percent, or 1,527 of the national total of 57,770.

Photos of the event, which were deleted from the retreat’s Instagram account, were circulated online following Twitter posts by a Bali-based women’s rights activist, Jenny Jusuf.

The immigration office acknowledged that the event came to its attention following social media posts and complaints from locals, who have followed health regulations and refrained from conducting religious ceremonies that form a central part of Balinese life.

“I am sorry for what happened on June 18, it was not our intention, but what happened has happened, it is already a mistake,” Barakeh was quoted as saying by Kompas TV last week, after visiting Gianyar Regent I Made Mahayastra to apologize for holding the event.

The yoga teacher founded the center in June 2016. Its website describes it as a place “believing in the concept of community and going back to the tribe, to live in a world without borders, beyond race, color, religion or gender.”

Barakeh has created “conscious community centers” in Syria, the UAE and Bali, according to the website.


Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

This handout photo taken on June 2, 2018, shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he gives his departure speech at the Manila International airport. (AFP)
Updated 10 min ago

Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

  • European lawmakers urge Filipino authorities to drop charges against acclaimed journalist, opposition senator

MANILA: Philippine human rights groups on Friday welcomed a European Parliament resolution denouncing extrajudicial killings and abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The document, adopted on Thursday, called for an “independent international investigation” into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016, when Duterte took office.

It urged EU member states to support the resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan described the resolution as a “welcome step toward reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The group also called on the international community to continue to stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines and the Filipino people “who suffer in this worsening crisis of political repression and state violence under this increasingly tyrannical regime.”

The European Parliament condemned extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which according to official figures has led to around 6,000 suspected drug offenders being killed by security forces. Rights groups, however, suggest the death toll may be much higher.

European lawmakers also urged Philippine authorities to renew the broadcast license of the country’s TV giant ABS-CBN and for charges to be dropped against acclaimed journalist and CEO of the Rappler news website, Maria Ressa, and detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

In addition, the European Parliament expressed “serious concern” over the new Anti-Terrorism Act enacted in July, which criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.”

It also granted the president power to create an anti-terrorism council that could tag individuals and groups as terrorists, allow authorities to make detentions without charge, and wiretapping.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said she hoped the EU resolution would “enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines.”

She added: “The sham drug war has continued to kill the poor with impunity while human rights defenders face vilification, violence, and death for their work in exposing these human rights violations even in the middle of a pandemic (COVID-19).

“Domestic mechanisms have been ineffective and there has been outright failure in bringing the perpetrators of these gruesome crimes to justice. These attacks cannot continue, and the European Parliament’s resolution is a strong statement from the international community that there would be consequences for these abuses.”

EU lawmakers also called on the European Commission to suspend the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which provides tariff perks for Filipino goods, if there was no “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities.”

In response to the resolution, Filipino Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said: “We are able to explain objectively the Philippines side on issues that are raised and we don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn,” adding that the scheme was helping the country address poverty.

The president’s office, Malacanang Palace, said in a statement that the government was in talks with the UN on a framework to support national efforts to “uphold the human rights-based approach in governance.”