Danish activists arrested in Belgium for plotting Qur’an burning

Danish activists arrested in Belgium for plotting Qur’an burning
In August, clashes broke out in Malmo in southern Sweden when far-right provocateurs burned a Qur'an. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 November 2020

Danish activists arrested in Belgium for plotting Qur’an burning

Danish activists arrested in Belgium for plotting Qur’an burning
  • Those arrested are members of “Stram Kurs” — a group led by Danish anti-Islam and anti-immigration militant Rasmus Paludan
  • Stram Kurs is known in Scandinavia for acts of provocation

BRUSSELS: Five Danish far-right activists suspected of planning to provoke Muslims in Belgium by burning a Qur'an have been arrested and ordered out of the country, officials said Thursday.
According to their group’s Facebook page, those arrested are members of “Stram Kurs” or “Hard Line” — a group led by Danish anti-Islam and anti-immigration militant Rasmus Paludan.
According to the site, Paludan himself was arrested in neighboring France and has also been expelled.
Stram Kurs is known in Scandinavia for acts of provocation and Belgian authorities believe the group planned a Qur'an burning in Molenbeek, a Brussels district with a large Moroccan population.
The alleged plan forms part of the case sent by the police to the public prosecutor’s office in Brussels, a source close to the investigation told AFP.
Sammy Mahdi, Belgium’s secretary of state for asylum and migration and himself the son of an Iraqi refugee, welcomed the five arrests.
“They were ordered to leave the country quickly, which they did,” his office said.
“The stay was refused because these men represent a serious threat to public order in Belgium. Another man was recently arrested in France for the same reason,” the statement continued.
The statement did not identify Paludan by name, but added: “Germany has also taken a similar decision with regard to this man, considered by the security services a preacher of hatred.”
In August, clashes broke out in Malmo in southern Sweden when far-right provocateurs burned a Qur'an. Residents protested by attacking the police and several officers were hurt.
Paludan, a lawyer by training who lives in Denmark, was initially expected to attend the demonstration, but Swedish authorities prevented him from entering the country.
“In our society, which is already very polarized, we don’t need people who come to spread hatred,” Mahdi said.
“I don’t care whether they are left-wing or right-wing extremists, I care about the safety of our citizens,” he added.
In a Facebook post on October 30, Paludan said he had informed the French consulate in Copenhagen of his intention to burn a Qur'an at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11.


Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband calls for new British foreign secretary to prioritize wife’s return from Iran

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband calls for new British foreign secretary to prioritize wife’s return from Iran
Updated 52 min 48 sec ago

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband calls for new British foreign secretary to prioritize wife’s return from Iran

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband calls for new British foreign secretary to prioritize wife’s return from Iran
  • Ratcliffe said he would be speaking to the new British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Sunday
  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman detained in Iran has called on the new British foreign secretary to ensure his wife’s return is a “top priority.”
Richard Ratcliffe told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that he has given the names of 10 people he accuses of being involved with “hostage-taking” in Iran to Liz Truss ahead of a phone call with her on Sunday. 
“We’ve put in front of the new foreign secretary a file of names, those who are involved in Iran’s hostage-taking across the chain, so those involved in taking people, processing them, giving them judges, those who are involved in treating them badly in prison,” Ratcliffe said. 
“I’ve got a phone call with the foreign secretary today, to be speaking to her two days into the job is a positive sign for sure.
“Partly I just want to hear that this is a top priority and that Nazanin and the others who are being held as bargaining chips will be brought home,” he added.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Iranian media has linked her detention to the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.
“This coming week she (Liz Truss) should be meeting with the new Iranian foreign minister in New York when they’re over for the UN event, so hopefully there will be a positive conversation,” Ratcliffe said.
“Right now I think enough needs to be enough, and it needs to be signaled really clearly to Iran that you can’t use innocent people in this way.
“I’d really like them to be firm, to be brave and make some clear steps,” he added.
Ratcliffe has been campaigning tirelessly to have his wife released from prison and urged former foreign secretary Dominic Raab to take a firmer stand against Iran over the issue.
“One of the key problems I feel these past years is there’s been no cost for the Iranian side to carry on holding Nazanin, to carry on holding others, and so we’ve seen that now there are more British citizens in prison than there were when Nazanin was first taken,” he said.


India reports 30,773 new COVID cases as it seeks to welcome back tourists

India reports 30,773 new COVID cases as it seeks to welcome back tourists
Updated 19 September 2021

India reports 30,773 new COVID cases as it seeks to welcome back tourists

India reports 30,773 new COVID cases as it seeks to welcome back tourists
  • India, which has so far administered 804.3 million vaccine doses, is looking to protect the population and welcome back tourists
  • The death toll rose by 309 to 444,838, the health ministry said on Sunday

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday reported 30,773 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 33.4 million, as it seeks to reopen the country to overseas tourists.
The death toll rose by 309 to 444,838, the health ministry said.
India, which has so far administered 804.3 million vaccine doses, is looking to protect the population and welcome back tourists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday.
“India’s vaccination drive is not just a safety cover for health but is also a protective shield for livelihood,” Modi told health workers in the tourist state of Goa via video.
“Friends, there’s been very little talk about this, but India has given a lot of priority to its vaccination program in states whose economies are driven by the tourism sector.”


Macron to hold call with US President Biden

Macron to hold call with US President Biden
Updated 19 September 2021

Macron to hold call with US President Biden

Macron to hold call with US President Biden
  • France would be seeking “clarification” over the cancelation of a submarine order

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will have a call with US President Joe Biden in the next few days, the French government spokesman said on Sunday, amid a diplomatic crisis triggered by Australia’s cancelation of submarine contract with Paris.
France said on Friday it was recalling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra over a trilateral security deal also involving Britain which sank the multi-billion dollar order for French submarines.
“President Biden asked to speak to the President of the Republic and there will be a telephone discussion in the next few days between President Macron and President Biden,” Gabriel Attal told news channel BFM TV.
France would be seeking “clarification” over the cancelation of a submarine order, Attal said.
The scrapping of the contract, struck in 2016, has caused fury in Paris, which claims not to have been consulted by its allies. The Australian government, however, says it had made clear its concerns for months.
After the initial “shock” of the cancelation, discussions would need to take place over contract clauses, notably compensation for the French side, Attal added.


Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022

Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022
Updated 19 September 2021

Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022

Boxer Manny Pacquiao to run for Philippine president in 2022
  • Accepts the nomination of his political allies during the national assembly of the faction he leads
  • Despite his popularity, boxer-senator Pacquiao trails the front-runners in opinion polls

MANILA: Boxing star Manny Pacquiao said on Sunday he will run for president of the Philippines next year, after railing against corruption in government and what he calls President Rodrigo Duterte’s cozy relationship with China.
Pacquiao accepted the nomination of his political allies during the national assembly of the faction he leads in the ruling PDP-Laban Party, days after a rival faction nominated Duterte’s long-time aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, as its presidential candidate.
That faction nominated Duterte for vice president, a move that critics called a cynical ploy by Duterte to retain power.
Go declined the nomination, but the rift between the Pacquiao and Duterte factions has escalated.
“I am a fighter, and I will always be a fighter inside and outside the ring,” Pacquiao, 42, a senator, said in a live-streamed speech during the assembly. “I am accepting your nomination as candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Pacquiao’s faction has not expressed support for Duterte’s vice presidential bid. Duterte is prohibited by the constitution from running for a second six-year term as president.
One of the greatest boxers of all time and the only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions, Pacquiao was mum about his 26-year professional career.
Despite his popularity, Pacquiao trails the front-runners in opinion polls that have been topped consistently by Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.
In July, Pacquiao was voted out as PDP-Laban leader, weeks after challenging Duterte over his position on China and record on fighting corruption, but his ouster was rejected by his faction.
Pacquiao, once a close ally of Duterte, had said more than 10 billion pesos ($200 million) in pandemic aid intended for poor families was unaccounted for, adding this was just one discovery in his planned corruption investigation.
His anti-corruption crusade comes as the Senate has opened an investigation into alleged overpricing of medical supplies and equipment purchased under the government’s pandemic response program.
Duterte challenged Pacquiao to name corrupt government offices to prove that the boxer was not just politicking ahead of the election.
Pacquiao countered by warning of jail for corrupt government officials: “Your time is up!”


Blast targets Taliban truck in eastern Afghan city

Blast targets Taliban truck in eastern Afghan city
Updated 19 September 2021

Blast targets Taliban truck in eastern Afghan city

Blast targets Taliban truck in eastern Afghan city
  • At least two people were killed in Jalalabad on Saturday
  • Witnesses told local media that several wounded Taliban fighters were taken to hospital

KABUL: A pickup truck carrying Taliban fighters was the target of a bomb in the Afghan city of Jalalabad Sunday, local media reported, a day after at least two people were killed in a series of blasts in the area.
Witnesses told local media that several wounded Taliban fighters were taken to hospital after the explosion, which one journalist said happened near an interchange for transport to and from the capital, Kabul.
Further details were not immediately available.
At least two people were killed in Jalalabad on Saturday in the first deadly blasts since the last US forces withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30.
The eastern city is the capital of Nangarhar province, the heartland of the Daesh group’s Afghanistan branch.
Although both Daesh and the Taliban are hard-line Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy. That tussle has led to bloody fighting between the two.