UK says Iran’s treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘torture’

UK says Iran’s treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘torture’
In this file photo taken on August 23, 2018 shows Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) embracing her daughter Gabriella in Damavand, Iran following her release from prison for three days. (File/AFP)
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Updated 02 May 2021

UK says Iran’s treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘torture’

UK says Iran’s treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘torture’
  • The British-Iranian woman has been held in Iran since 2016
  • Her husband Richard Ratcliffe argues she is being held hostage as part of a diplomatic stratagem

LONDON: Iran’s treatment of detained dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe amounts to “torture,” Britain said on Sunday, after she was convicted anew and banned from leaving the Islamic republic.
“Nazanin is held unlawfully in my view as a matter of international law, I think she’s being treated in the most abusive, tortuous way,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC television.
“I think it amounts to torture the way she’s being treated, and there is a very clear, unequivocal obligation on the Iranians to release her,” he said.
The British-Iranian woman has been held in Iran since 2016. In late April, she was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and banned from leaving the country for a further 12 months.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe argues she is being held hostage as part of a diplomatic stratagem.
“I think it’s very difficult to argue against that characterization,” Raab said.
“It is clear that she is subjected to a cat and mouse game that the Iranians, or certainly part of the Iranian system, engage with and they try and use her for leverage on the UK.”
Richard Ratcliffe has linked his wife’s plight to a British debt dating back more than 40 years for army tanks paid for by the shah of Iran.
When the shah was ousted in the 1979 revolution, Britain refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic republic.

London admits it owes Iran several hundred million pounds, but is reportedly constrained by US sanctions in its ability to pay the debt back.
“That is not actually the thing that’s holding us up at the moment, it’s the wider context,” Raab said of the debt, pointing to nuclear talks currently ongoing with Iran and its upcoming presidential elections.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, had appeared in court last month to face new charges of “propaganda against the system,” a week after she finished a five-year sentence for plotting to overthrow the regime, accusations she strenuously denies.
Richard Ratcliffe said the family hoped she could at least serve any new sentence under house arrest, with her parents in Tehran. But the situation was “bleak,” he told AFP at the time.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was initially detained while on holiday in Iran in 2016, when she was working as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency and data firm’s philanthropic wing.
She has been under house arrest in recent months and had her ankle tag removed, giving her more freedom of movement and allowing her to visit other relatives in Tehran.
In March, legal campaign group Redress handed a report to the UK government which it said “confirms the severity of the ill-treatment that Nazanin has suffered.”
The organization said it “considers that Iran’s treatment of Nazanin constitutes torture.”
Iranian authorities have denied that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been mistreated.


Customers in Saudi Arabia still prefer visiting supermarkets: BinDawood CEO

Customers in Saudi Arabia still prefer visiting supermarkets: BinDawood CEO
Updated 34 min 19 sec ago

Customers in Saudi Arabia still prefer visiting supermarkets: BinDawood CEO

Customers in Saudi Arabia still prefer visiting supermarkets: BinDawood CEO
  • Pandemic food supplies maintained, no panic buying in Saudi Arabia as retailer’s profits rose 7 percent

JEDDAH: When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lockdowns started in early summer last year, media reports about stockpiling became common place.
Industry data in the UK showed that in one week in March, at the start of the first lockdown, sales of toilet paper surged 64 percent, while flour was up 73 percent, and pasta 55 percent.
While memes of toilet-roll stockpiling began trending on social media, in Saudi Arabia this did not occur, according to Ahmad BinDawood, CEO of BinDawood Holding, one of the Kingdom’s biggest supermarket operators.
He told Arab News: “We have seen some of the pictures of what was happening around the world. The operation level that happened here, especially from the government side and us as retailers, and from the customers’ side, was amazing.
“There was no shortage, we made sure that there were enough supplies always in the market and customers were also responding to that positively.
“If they don’t need something they won’t buy it. They weren’t doing any excessive buying. It was a smooth flow of goods coming to the market. The supply was there, and we have successfully passed the difficult times of 2020,” he said.
With people spending more time at home, the digital revolution was sent into overdrive. Luckily, BinDawood had invested in its online presence four years ago. “We immediately responded to the changes that were happening with consumers when it came to shopping.”
He noted that customers made fewer visits to physical stores but purchased more items online.
“What we have seen from customers during the pandemic was they have started coming less frequently, but with bigger basket sizes; that was one of the major changes. Second, customers preferred buying their ingredients and cooking at home to avoid possibly contaminated food. We responded immediately to the ingredients that the customers were looking for in our social media platforms,” he added.
While the company’s online orders soared, BinDawood pointed out that Saudi consumers still preferred going to a physical store.
“The primary way that the customer prefers to shop is actually visiting the stores, not through online. Online shopping is still going to be good for the future but so far we see that the customer prefers to shop in stores to have that experiential element when they come,” he said.
Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic did not impact the firm’s balance sheet. In March, BinDawood Holding Co. reported a net profit after Zakat and tax of SR447.7 million ($119.39 million) for 2020, up 7 percent year-on-year.
The family business opened its first supermarket in 1984, having previously operated gift shops and perfumeries targeting pilgrims.
“The first supermarket was opened by my father and my uncles and that was in Makkah under the brand name BinDawood, and then from there we expanded and opened different stores within the city of Makkah.
“We then moved to Jeddah, then Madinah, and the acquisition of Danube took place in 2001.”
With the two brands, BinDawood and Danube, BinDawood Holding has a network of 74 stores in 15 cities throughout Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the company announced plans to reach 100 stores by 2024, meaning an average of five to six stores per year. It is now looking at opportunities for expansion in terms of product offerings and within different formats.
In December, BinDawood revealed that its first international Danube store outside the Kingdom would be located in Bahrain. The 5,305-square-meter hypermarket in the Al-Liwan Project is expected to open its doors to customers on Oct. 4.
The company also has wider international plans, and according to a Bloomberg report was looking at possible acquisitions in neighboring countries.


Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’
Updated 50 min 16 sec ago

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’

Merkel tells Turkey’s Erdogan withdrawal of troops from Libya would be ‘important signal’
  • Merkel and Erdogan agreed in a video conference to support the interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Libya would be an “important signal” as both leaders vowed to support the new interim government there, a German government spokesman said.
Libya’s new unity government was sworn in on March 15 from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a relatively smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.
Turkey had backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord against the eastern-based Libyan National Army, which was supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.
Merkel and Erdogan agreed in a video conference to support the interim government of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh in its efforts to improve the supply situation for the population and in preparing elections by year-end, the spokesman said.
“The Chancellor emphasized that an early start of the withdrawal of foreign soldiers and mercenaries would send an important signal,” the spokesman added.
Merkel and Erdogan also discussed international efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic as well as regional issues such as the civil war in Syria and international talks about the Cyprus issue, the spokesman said.
“The Chancellor and the Turkish President emphasized that adequate access for humanitarian aid to the people in need in Syria must be maintained,” the spokesman said. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alistair Bell)


The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah
Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah
  • Hussein bin Salameh ordered the construction of two paths — one for camels and one for pedestrians — to facilitate the exchange and trade of goods in the Kingdom.

JEDDAH: The ancient stone road known as the “caravan route” linking Taif and Makkah is a cultural legacy of great historical value. It was constructed more than 1,000 years ago and was used regularly by pedestrians up to the 1960s.

At the time the road was built, movement between Taif and Makkah was restricted by Al-Qarah Mountain, researcher Hammad Al-Salimi explained. So Hussein bin Salameh ordered the construction of two paths — one for camels and one for pedestrians — to facilitate the exchange and trade of goods in the Kingdom.

The winding road made it possible to cross the mountain and was a remarkable feat of engineering, considering the limited technology available at the time of its creation.

“The roads were paved with stones, which made them resemble staircases winding between the top of the mountain in Al-Hada, the Karr below Al-Qarah Mountain, Shaddad and then Wadi Noman,” Al-Salimi said, adding that a third road, for cars, was built in the mid-1960s, during the reign of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

Al-Salimi said that the two original paths are “important monuments, which should be preserved and maintained because they are part of the Al-Qarah Mountain system and complement the beautiful image of this mountain.”

Historian and writer Saleh Al-Judi explained that — before cars were common in the Kingdom — people would use the route to travel between the two cities, a journey taking around three days. The passage through the mountain, he said, is around six kilometers. In the middle of the route, he added, is a well-known site called Al-Rukb.

He said the route is mentioned in histories from the fifth Hijri century (1009-1106 CE), which say that it had room for pedestrians and animals alike. Al-Qathami stressed the importance of preserving the road as an historical landmark, as it is an important artery linking Taif and Makkah.


Nintendo profits boom on healthy sales of its Switch as people stuck at home play games

Nintendo profits boom on healthy sales of its Switch as people stuck at home play games
Updated 07 May 2021

Nintendo profits boom on healthy sales of its Switch as people stuck at home play games

Nintendo profits boom on healthy sales of its Switch as people stuck at home play games

TOKYO: Nintendo Co.’s profit for the fiscal year that ended in March jumped 86 percent on healthy sales of its Switch handheld machine as people stayed home due to the pandemic, turning to video games for entertainment.
Annual profit for the Japanese maker of Super Mario and Pokemon games totaled 480.4 billion yen ($4.4 billion), up from 258.6 billion yen the year before. The results, released Thursday, were better than the company’s internal profit forecast of 400 billion yen ($3.7 billion).
Sales rose 34 percent to 1.76 trillion yen ($16 billion), the company said.
In game software sales, demand remained strong for “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” with 20.85 million units sold for cumulative sales of 32.6 million units. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” and “Ring Fit Adventure” also were popular.
Kyoto-based Nintendo said digital downloads for the Switch also did well, helping to support its bottom line.
But Nintendo said it didn’t expect such good fortune to persist through the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2022. It is forecasting a 29 percent drop in profit to 340 billion yen ($3 billion).
Nintendo said it has attractive games in the works, including a collaboration in the mobile sector with Niantic on an application featuring Pikmin for smart devices. It expects to release that in the second half of 2021.
Other software titles planned for global release later this year include “Mario Golf: Super Rush,” and “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD.” A new Pokemon game is planned for late 2021, according to Nintendo.
Nintendo is among companies that have thrived during the pandemic, which is wreaking havoc on the global economy overall.
Its Super Nintendo World theme park in Osaka, Japan, built with Universal Studios, opened in March after a delay due to the pandemic. But it closed soon afterward because Osaka is one of several areas under a state of emergency due to a surge of new coronavirus cases.
The state of emergency began last month and is certain to be extended beyond its May 11 end, as all such large-scale facilities are being asked to close.


Renewables set to grow far faster than oil sector

Renewables set to grow far faster than oil sector
Updated 07 May 2021

Renewables set to grow far faster than oil sector

Renewables set to grow far faster than oil sector
  • Models show renewables meeting 74% of total energy demand by 2050

OSLO: Renewable energy will account for a far larger share of global supply in 2050 than major oil companies or the International Energy Agency (IEA) expect, Oslo-based consultancy Rystad Energy said on Thursday.
Its updated models show renewables meeting 74 percent of total energy demand by 2050, compared to 43 percent, 45 percent and 69 percent in the most aggressive scenarios from energy firms Equinor, Shell and BP.
The IEA expects renewables to account for 35 percent of the market by 2040.
The renewed commitment to the Paris climate agreement by the US this year, the growing number of countries with net zero carbon emissions targets for 2050 and renewable technology development have changed the energy landscape, Rystad CEO Jarand Rystad told an online conference on Thursday.
“All previous assessments have to be scrapped and we need to look at it with completely new eyes,” he said.
Rystad Energy sees the sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) rising to 64 million by 2030, compared with oil company scenarios ranging from 22 million to 38 million and an IEA estimate of 30 million.
Rising renewable energy output amid falling costs and increasing efficiency of solar panels and wind turbines, as well as sales of electric vehicles have also hastened predictions for peak demand for oil and gas.
Rystad Energy said last month it expected global oil demand to peak at 101.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2026, versus a forecast made in November for a peak in 2028 at 102.2 million bpd.
With an increasing share of energy being produced by solar and wind power, the global energy trade, dominated by the fossil fuels today, is going to shrink significantly, it predicts.
“We are going to de-globalize the energy market with the new technologies,” Rystad said at Thursday’s conference.