Violence breaks out in fresh Bangladesh protests

Violence breaks out in fresh Bangladesh protests
Activists of the Hefazat-e Islam walk along a road during a demonstration on the outskirts of Dhaka on March 27, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 28 March 2021

Violence breaks out in fresh Bangladesh protests

Violence breaks out in fresh Bangladesh protests
  • Hundreds of demonstrators burnt furniture and tires on the roads
  • Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after the protesters barricaded parts of the highway

NARAYANGANJ, Bangladesh: At least a dozen people were reported injured in clashes between police and Islamist demonstrators in Bangladesh on Sunday, the third day of protests against the visit of India’s Hindu-nationalist leader.
Five people died on Friday, and another six the next day, after police shot at demonstrators in several major districts across the Muslim-majority nation of 168 million people.
The protesters – mostly from the hard-line Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam – were angry at the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Bangladesh marked 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking communal violence against Muslims in his country.
At one new protest in Narayanganj just outside the capital Dhaka, Hefazat supporters chanted “action, action, direct action” as they blocked the key highway linking Dhaka with the port city of Chittagong.
Hundreds of demonstrators burnt furniture and tires on the roads as they chanted anti-Modi slogans and called on authorities to investigate the shootings.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets after the protesters barricaded parts of the highway. A police spokesman said they had since left the road.
Prothom Alo, the country’s biggest Bengali-language daily, said at least 15 people were injured in the Narayanganj clashes.
Hefazat spokesman Jakaria Noman Foyezi said thousands of its supporters joined demonstrations at its headquarters at Hathazari outside Chittagong, which is home to a top Islamic seminary.
The Islamist group has a nationwide network, and it has held large protests in the past demanding that Bangladesh introduce blasphemy laws.
Protests were also held in the northeastern city of Sylhet, the eastern district of Brahmanbaria and in Bosila, a Dhaka suburb, but there were no reports of violence, local media reported.
As Bangladesh celebrated independence, human rights groups criticized the government for what they described as growing authoritarianism, including forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
Other groups – including students, leftists and other Islamist outfits – had also staged protests against Modi’s visit on Friday and Saturday.


UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones
Updated 29 sec ago

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones
  • Phone seizures may have been related to misunderstanding that Channel crossings were illegal
  • Policy meant hundreds or thousands of people were cut off from loved ones

LONDON: The UK Home Office has admitted exercising an unlawful secret policy of seizing cell phones from migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Lawyers representing the home secretary made the admission at the High Court on Thursday, while fighting legal action brought by three asylum seekers.

The men, from Iraq and Iran, were all arrested on arrival in the UK and were stripped of their possessions, despite committing no crime.

Government authorities kept their mobile phones for several months, leaving them unable to contact friends and family.

One of the men feared for the lives of his wife and seven-year-old child, but had no means to check on them.

The unnamed claimants are asking the High Court to make declarations of “serious illegality,” award damages and require the Home Office to alert everyone affected by the unlawful policy.

Their lawyers estimate that hundreds or possibly thousands of mobile phones have been unlawfully seized since 2018.

The Home Office initially denied the seizure policy existed, and then later apologized for failing a “duty of candor” by withholding the information.

Alan Payne QC, representing the Home Office, told the High Court: “The home secretary is accepting that the seizure policies were unlawful, were not in accordance with the law for the purpose of the European Convention on Human Rights and did not provide a lawful basis for the processing of data.”

Payne also admitted that a separate policy to keep asylum seekers’ phones for a minimum of three months was a “disproportionate interference” with human rights.

Lawyers for the claimants argued that the concessions were “manifestly incomplete and inadequate to reflect the extent of the illegality,” but Home Secretary Priti Patel’s team argued that the remaining grounds of legal challenge were “academic” and should be dismissed.

Home Office lawyers said the policy’s “precise origins are not known” and that it “appears to have developed organically.”

The confusion, they argued, derives from the misunderstanding that all people arriving in small boats from the Channel had committed a crime — this is not the case.

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the home secretary, said there was a “misunderstanding permeating that an illegal entry offense was always committed by passengers” on small boats at the time.

In December, a court ruled that crossing the Channel with the aim of being intercepted and claiming asylum did not amount to illegal entry, and that a “legal heresy” had developed among authorities and caused a series of wrongful prosecutions.


Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit
Updated 27 January 2022

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit
  • Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan participated
  • Modi says five Central Asian republics key to India’s vision of ‘integrated and stable extended neighborhood’

NEW DELHI`: India held its first summit with five Central Asian states on Thursday to address joint concerns over Afghanistan, and to develop regional security cooperation.

Held virtually, Thursday’s summit, hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,was also attended by the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

“Our aim and concerns for regional security are the same,” Modi said in his opening remarks. “We are all worried about the happenings in Afghanistan. In this context our cooperation for regional security and peace are all the more important.”

Like India, three of the Central Asian republics — Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan — also border Afghanistan.

Modi, the first Indian leader to visit all five Central Asian countries, said they are key to New Delhi’s vision of “an integrated and stable” extended neighborhood.

“We have to prepare an ambitious roadmap for our cooperation, through which, in the next three years, regional connectivity cooperation will be able to adopt an integrated approach,” he said.

As other global powers look to cement their grip on the region following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Indian government has been largely sidelined, while other players such as Pakistan and China have been increasingly involved in Afghan politics on both domestic and international fronts.

Foreign policy experts see the summit as “significant” in view of the situation in Kabul.

“The Central Asian countries’ importance has increased very significantly as a result of what has happened in Afghanistan,” India’s former ambassador to Kazakhstan, Ashok Sajjanhar, told Arab News.

“After the departure of the NATO and American troops, it’s the regional countries’ responsibility to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that India and the Central Asian republics are “on the same page and want an inclusive government in Afghanistan, respect for rights of minorities, and women and children.”

Anil Trigunayat, former Indian ambassador to Russia, said the summit provides “excellent reconnect for the sharing of ideas and concerns and a future roadmap with our extended neighborhood,” adding that “the developments in Afghanistan are mutual interests for New Delhi and the Central Asian republics.”

Thursday’s summit follows a lower-level security meeting on Afghanistan that India hosted in November, where, besides officials from the five post-Soviet republics, representatives from Russia and Iran were also present.


Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February
Updated 27 January 2022

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February
  • Health minister says government will no longer be focusing on the number of new cases but on the rate of hospitalization
  • Survey shows 86 percent of Indonesians have already acquired COVID-19 antibodies

JAKARTA: Indonesia is bracing for COVID-19 cases to peak by the end of February, its health minister said on Thursday, as the country faces a third wave of infections driven by the omicron variant.

Home to 270 million people, Indonesia recorded its first case of the highly transmissible variant in December. The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecast the number of daily cases there to surpass 387,000 by April.

“If we started at the end of December, maybe the peak will occur at the end of February or early March,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told reporters.

He added that the government would be changing its approach to focus on the rate of hospitalization rather than the number of reported cases as omicron was less severe than the delta variant that swept the country last year and overwhelmed its medical facilities.

“Omicron will increase fast and high, there is no need to be surprised, no need to panic,” Budi said, adding that Indonesians were “adequately protected.”

While fewer than half the population are fully vaccinated, a government-commissioned survey showed in early January that 86 percent of Indonesians had acquired COVID-19 antibodies.

The country reported 8,077 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, a near tenfold increase in just two weeks.

However, Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, said the official numbers did not give an accurate picture of the infection rate, given Indonesia’s limited testing and tracing capabilities.

“For sure, the current numbers, the government figures, still do not reflect even half of the real cases,” he told Arab News.

He said he expected the hospitalization rate to increase in the coming weeks, and as face-to-face learning had resumed at schools, the government should consider closing them again until at least March, as “it’s too dangerous for kids.”

“Otherwise, we will see many cases among children, not only in hospitalization but also mortality.”


Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease
Updated 27 January 2022

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease
  • The country last month forced bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight
  • Capacity restrictions will remain in place for sport events, while a double mask is mandatory in supermarkets and transport

ATHENS: Greece will allow music in restaurants and bars again and extend their operating hours as it lifts some of the restrictions imposed last month now that coronavirus infections and the pressure on hospitals are easing, authorities said on Thursday.
The country last month forced bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music, following a surge of cases over the Christmas holidays due to the fast-spreading omicron variant.
“We have decided to scale back the restrictions, taking into consideration the course of the pandemic in terms of cases which have been declining in recent weeks,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said in a televised statement.
He said that despite ongoing pressure on the health system, the rate of hospital admissions and discharges and a shorter duration and less severe illness for the omicron variant compared to Delta allowed authorities to ease the curbs.
Capacity restrictions will remain in place for sport events, while a double mask is mandatory in supermarkets and transport.
Greece reported 19,712 new cases on Thursday. Infections have been easing since a record high of around 50,000 in early January.
A total of 23,083 deaths linked to COVID-19 have been reported since February 2020 and 1,867,935 cases out of a population of 11 million people.


Muslim man who ended London knifeman’s fatal attack on ex-wife appeals for release

Muslim man who ended London knifeman’s fatal attack on ex-wife appeals for release
Updated 27 January 2022

Muslim man who ended London knifeman’s fatal attack on ex-wife appeals for release

Muslim man who ended London knifeman’s fatal attack on ex-wife appeals for release
  • ‘Abraham’ ran down attacker in car in ‘heroic’ action but was charged on suspicion of murder
  • London’s Metropolitan Police is facing criticism after it was revealed that it had been warned over McCaskie’s potential for violent behavior

LONDON: A Muslim man who ran over and killed a knifeman who was stabbing his ex-wife to death has urged police to abandon the case against him after he was charged on suspicion of murder.

The 26-year-old Chechen, named Abraham, intervened in the stabbing in West London, and has been labeled a hero for his actions, the Mail Online reported.

On Monday, Leon McCaskie, a 41-year-old who was known to police over abusive and angry behavior, attacked his former wife, Yasmin Wafah Chkaifi, 43, with a knife.

Abraham, who was driving nearby, saw the attack and rammed into McCaskie with his car.

But despite his efforts to save the defenseless woman, Abraham was charged and bailed until next month on a murder charge. It has left him “living in a nightmare,” according to his friends.

Abraham said: “I do not see why I, as the person who tried to assist in the defense of other human beings, remain arrested and on bail under suspicion of murder.”

Anger over his treatment has grown, with more than 20,000 people signing a petition demanding the case against him be dropped.

His lawyer, Mohammed Akunjee, issued a statement on behalf of Abraham. “I witnessed a man repeatedly stabbing a defenseless woman on the pavement a short distance in front of my car,” it said.

“I drove my vehicle toward the attacker in order to get him away from the woman he was attacking. I did not intend to harm the attacker. I only intended to protect those being attacked.

“My vehicle struck the attacker and he was taken under my car, causing it to stall. I could not reverse my car to free him. I and the other passersby attempted to lift the car away from the attacker so we could provide the man with first aid.

“Unfortunately we were unsuccessful with this and I have since learned that both the young lady and her attacker have died. I am deeply sorry that the man I tried to stop from attacking other people has died.

“It was never my intention to harm him, I just wanted to stop him from hurting anybody further. My only regret is that God did not allow me to be present at the scene sooner so that my intervention may have saved the life of the young woman concerned.

“I have asked my solicitor to contact the Metropolitan Police to request that they consider de-arresting me and begin treating me as a witness to a tragic event rather than as a criminal as they currently are.”

Abraham’s friends said he was in shock over the incident.

One said: “If he ever sees anyone in trouble he will always try to help. He’s a good Muslim man and couldn’t bear to see the woman being attacked.

“He was on his way to a job and stopped to do the right thing. He’s in shock about what happened. It’s been a nightmare for him.”

Another said: “This guy is a family man with children and was just doing the right thing. It was instinct and an act of human kindness.

“He is one of the most peaceful and good people I’ve ever met. He would never walk away when somebody needs help.

“He risked his life to save this poor woman. Police should praise him and let him go to his little children and wife.”

London’s Metropolitan Police said Abraham had been “fully cooperative” after being arrested following the incident.

The force is also facing criticism after it was revealed that it had been warned over McCaskie’s potential for violent behavior.

Chkaifi was increasingly concerned that McCaskie would try to kill her after learning that he had planted secret cameras in her home.

“He’s had cameras in my house recording me for months. He’s stolen my mail, my phone and has access to all my personal data. I think he will kill me.”

Chkaifi had filed a police report over the stalking allegations.

McCaskie was also convicted of obstructing a police officer and driving without insurance in 2017.

Chkaifi was a qualified childminder and was studying for a master’s degree.

A friend said of the slain mother: “She was a good soul. It’s very rare in life you come across a good soul. She always had a happy disposition. She was just a lovely person.”

Another said: “She was incredibly kind, hospitable and an amazing cook and dancer. She had a bubbly personality and a confidence about her that was so attractive.

“She was proud of her Moroccan heritage and a spiritual woman. We spoke about Islam, identity and social justice. She was a good person.”