Syria’s first lady could be prosecuted in UK, have citizenship revoked

Syria’s first lady could be prosecuted in UK, have citizenship revoked
Syria’s first lady may be prosecuted and have her UK citizenship stripped from her after a preliminary investigation into allegations that she encouraged terrorist acts during the country’s civil war was opened. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Syria’s first lady could be prosecuted in UK, have citizenship revoked

Syria’s first lady could be prosecuted in UK, have citizenship revoked
  • Asma Al-Assad, 45, has given speeches supporting the Syrian armed forces
  • Syrian forces have targeted civilian areas with barrel bombs, chemical weapons, airstrikes and artillery during the last ten years

LONDON: Syria’s first lady, who is also a British citizen, may be prosecuted and stripped of her UK citizenship after a preliminary investigation was opened into allegations that she incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the country’s civil war.
Asma Al-Assad, 45, moved to Syria after her marriage to Bashar Al-Assad in 2000, and has given speeches supporting the Syrian armed forces.
Syrian forces have targeted civilian areas, including hospitals and schools, with barrel bombs, chemical weapons, airstrikes and artillery during the last ten years and the Syrian government has been designated a state sponsor of terror by the US.
The Metropolitan police have opened a preliminary investigation after an international law chambers based in London sent evidence of the first lady’s power in the Syrian ruling class and vocal support for Syrian armed forces, The Times reported.
If prosecuted, she would join other influential figures in autocratic regimes who have faced justice in the UK.
Toby Cadman, head of law chambers Guernica 37, said he believed the case for prosecuting Al-Assad was a strong one.
“Our legal team at Guernica 37 has been actively investigating this matter for several months and as a result have filed two confidential communications with the Metropolitan police service counter terrorism command (SO15). It is important that as we approach the tenth anniversary of the conflict in Syria, there is an effective process aimed at ensuring those responsible are held accountable,” Cadman told the British newspaper.
The investigation argues that Al-Assad is guilty of encouraging terrorism through her public support of the Syrian armed forces.
It is not clear whether prosecutors would wish to proceed with a trial in absentia and it is unlikely that the first lady would obey a court summons in the UK.
An Interpol red notice could be issued, which would mean she could not travel outside Syria without facing arrest.
The investigation also raises the serious possibility that Al-Assad could come under scrutiny by the Home Office and be stripped of her British citizenship.
A Met spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Met’s war crimes unit ... received a referral on July 31, 2020 relating to the ongoing Syrian conflict. The referral is in the process of being assessed by officers from the war crimes unit.”

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Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter
Updated 04 August 2021

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter

Iran court sentences German woman to decade in jail: daughter
  • Taghavi was arrested at her Tehran apartment on Oct. 16 after years fighting for human rights in Iran
  • Taghavi suffers from pre-existing conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes

BERLIN: A German-Iranian woman held in Iran has been given a decade-long jail term by an Iran court for participating in an outlawed group, her daughter said Wednesday.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, was given “ten years for membership in an illegal group” and “eight months for propaganda against the regime,” said her daughter Mariam Claren.

Taghavi was arrested at her Tehran apartment on Oct. 16 after years fighting for human rights in Iran, in particular for women’s rights and freedom of expression, according to the rights group IGFM.

According to Claren, Taghavi has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where she contracted Covid-19 last month.

Claren has repeatedly flagged up warnings about her mother’s health, saying that she suffers from pre-existing conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Germany’s foreign ministry said in October that it was aware of the arrest of a German-Iranian woman in Iran, but did not name the detained citizen.

Frank Schwabe, who is the spokesman on human rights issues for the Social Democrats, condemned the verdict.

“The charges are baseless and the verdict a farce,” he wrote on Twitter.


UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight
Updated 04 August 2021

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight

UAE reports 1,519 new coronavirus infections, 5 additional deaths overnight
  • The UAE is one of leading countries in coronavirus testing and immunization

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry on Wednesday reported 1,519 new coronavirus cases and five more COVID-19 related fatalities overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 686,981 with 1,965 deaths.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said it conducted 191,032 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as the Emirates aggressively pursues early detection of the highly contagious disease for necessary treatment and the prevention of community infection.

The UAE, one of leading countries in coronavirus testing and immunization, has deployed an initial dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 79.3 percent of its population, while 70.96 percent have been fully vaccinated.

A total 16,884,412 doses have been dispensed so far, for a vaccine distribution rate of 170.72 doses per 100 people.

The vaccination drive is in line with plans to provide the vaccine to the populace to acquire herd immunity, which will help reduce the number of cases and control the spread of the virus.


Biden announces $100 million in new aid for Lebanon, urges reforms

Biden announces $100 million in new aid for Lebanon, urges reforms
Updated 9 min 8 sec ago

Biden announces $100 million in new aid for Lebanon, urges reforms

Biden announces $100 million in new aid for Lebanon, urges reforms
  • The Aug. 4, 2020 explosion in Beirut port killed at least 214 people

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Wednesday promised $100 million in additional aid for Lebanon as he pressed the crisis-wracked nation to undergo reforms.
"Today I'm announcing nearly a $100 million in new humanitarian assistance," Biden told a UN-backed donor conference for Lebanon led by France.
"But no amount of outside assistance will ever be enough if Lebanon's leaders do not commit to do the hard but necessary work of reforming the economy and combating corruption," he said.
"It's essential. It has to start now," Biden said. "There's no time to waste. You know it. We are there to help if you do it."
The Biden administration did not immediately specify where the new funding would go but Biden said it was in addition to $560 million in humanitarian assistance devoted to Lebanon over the past two years.
The Lebanon conference comes one year after an explosion at the Beirut port killed at least 214 people, the latest trauma for a nation with an economy in free-fall and without a stable government.
"I send my deepest condolences to all those who were injured and lost loved ones and all those still struggling to recover from this trauma," Biden said.
"We also recognize that the people of Lebanon have suffered more over the past year because of avoidable political and economic crisis."

Meanwhile, thousands of grief-stricken Lebanese marched Wednesday to mark a year since a cataclysmic explosion ravaged Beirut, protesting impunity over the country's worst peacetime disaster at a time when its economy was already in tatters.
Mournful tunes rang out above central Beirut on Wednesday evening, as outraged Lebanese held up angry posters demanding accountability over the disaster.
Sandra Abras, 43, said she had come to pay respect to the victims after she was lucky to survive the explosion, but her home was ravaged in the blast.
"We weren't able to return home for a month and half... We fixed it with our own money," she said, adding she suffered terrible headaches for months after the traumatic event.
Lawyers, doctors in long white coats, engineers and retired army officers also joined in to pay tribute to those who perished in the blast, whose shockwave was felt as far away as Cyprus.
Port workers were buried under gutted grain silos in the explosion, commuters crushed to death and residents lacerated by supersonic shards of glass bled out in their homes.


Rocket fire from Lebanon prompts Israeli shelling: Army

Rocket fire from Lebanon prompts Israeli shelling: Army
Updated 04 August 2021

Rocket fire from Lebanon prompts Israeli shelling: Army

Rocket fire from Lebanon prompts Israeli shelling: Army
  • The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon

JERUSALEM: Rocket fire from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Wednesday prompting retaliatory shelling, the army said, as tensions rise between Israel and arch foe Iran.

“Three rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory,” the army said in a statement, adding that one had fallen short of the border.

“In response... artillery forces fired into Lebanese territory.”

Rocket warning sirens sounded in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, the Israeli military said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon.

The border has been mostly quiet since Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets.

But small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past, and two rockets were launched at Israel on July 20, causing no damage or injuries. Israel responded to that incident with artillery fire.

 


Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid
Updated 04 August 2021

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid
  • ‘Today I appeal to the international community to help Lebanon along the path to resurrection through concrete gestures, not just words’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis returned to work full-time on Wednesday following a colon operation, urging the international community to help a struggling Lebanon.
The 84-year-old took time to bless children and pose for selfies in the Vatican at the weekly general audience one month to the day after the delicate operation, which saw him hospitalized for over a week.
“Today I appeal to the international community to help Lebanon along the path to resurrection through concrete gestures, not just words,” Francis said.
Lebanon was Wednesday marking a year since a cataclysmic explosion ravaged Beirut, killing at least 214 people in its worst peace-time disaster, when the country’s economy was already in tatters.
The spiralling economic crisis has been branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst since the mid-19th century. Lebanon has also had to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
Francis said he hoped an international conference co-hosted by France and the UN on the day of the anniversary to raise humanitarian aid proves “productive.”
According to the Vatican News portal, the general audience marked the resumption of normal activities for the pope, who underwent planned surgery for inflammation of the colon at Rome’s Gemelli University Hospital on July 4.
Francis, who had previously been in fairly good health, had been taking it easy since the operation although he led the Sunday Angelus prayers both from hospital and from the Vatican window on his return.