Iran threatens to kill brother of executed Olympic wrestler

Iran threatens to kill brother of executed Olympic wrestler
Iran’s champion wrestler Navid Afkari was executed after being convicted of stabbing to death a security guard during anti-government protests in 2018. (Twitter)
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Updated 03 May 2021

Iran threatens to kill brother of executed Olympic wrestler

Iran threatens to kill brother of executed Olympic wrestler
  • Navid, Vahid, Habib Afkari arrested in 2018 for participating in anti-regime protests
  • Navid was hanged in 2020; Vahid, Habib sentenced to decades behind bars

LONDON: Iranian security forces have threatened to kill the brother of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestling champion whose execution for participating in anti-regime demonstrations caused global uproar.

“After executing the innocent athlete Navid Afkari for protesting, authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have now threatened to execute his jailed brother, Vahid Afkari, if he doesn’t agree to make forced confessions. His life is in danger,” said Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian human rights campaigner and founder of the United for Navid Campaign.

The threats against Vahid were also reported by US news organization Voice of America.

Navid was arrested in 2018 alongside his brothers Vahid and Habib for their participation in anti-regime protests.

Tehran claimed that Navid had murdered a police officer — something he vehemently denied until his execution in 2020.

“There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty,” said Navid, 27, shortly before his hanging, adding that the regime’s judges “are looking for a neck for their rope.”

News of his killing, despite direct appeals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for mercy, was heavily condemned by sports organizations, governments, dissident groups and the wider public.

Vahid was sentenced to 54 years behind bars, and Habib was handed a 27-year sentence for their role in the demonstrations.

Both were also given an additional punishment of 74 lashes, and have faced torture and isolation while in jail.

The trio’s fourth brother Saeed tweeted that his brothers have complained of “solitary confinement, beatings, and also the threat of murder by two high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic.”

He added: “After 228 days, an informal interrogation session was held only in Vahid’s presence. The interrogator did not give permission to access the file, to the video of the beatings, to the medical jurisprudence report of the injuries, and the solitary confinement still continues.”

Iran has long faced heavy criticism for its opaque and unfair judicial system. Rights group Amnesty International has said detainees face torture and solitary confinement in efforts to extract forced confessions, and defendants are regularly denied access to lawyers, among other abusive practices.

In April, a group of athletes and human rights activists petitioned the IOC to sanction Iran for breaching “Olympic values.”

Among those campaigning for sanctions is the United for Navid Campaign, which has criticized Tehran for forcing its athletes to intentionally lose games that would set up meetings against Israeli athletes.

An IOC spokesman said it “takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues.”


Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage
Updated 24 min 11 sec ago

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage

Israeli-linked tanker attacked off Oman arrives at UAE anchorage
  • Low visibility due to high humidity made it difficult to see the damage to the vessel in its mooring

FUJAIRAH: An Israeli-linked vessel that was attacked off Oman last week anchored off the UAE emirate of Fujairah Tuesday amid accusations Iran was behind the attack in which two crew members were killed.
Low visibility due to high humidity made it difficult to see the damage to the vessel in its mooring in the Gulf of Oman off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, an AFP correspondent reported.
Tracking service MarineTraffic said the Liberian-flagged vessel reached its mooring at 2:47 am (2247 GMT Monday).
The UAE, which normalized ties with Israel last year, has not officially commented on the tanker incident.
Both the United States and Israel have said their intelligence assessments of Thursday’s incident concluded that an Iranian drone attacked the ship, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, as it sailed off Oman.
Tehran denied the accusation and warned against “adventurism.”
A British security guard and a Romanian crew member were killed in what analysts said bore all the hallmarks of the “shadow war” between Iran and Israel, which has included attacks on shipping in waters around the Gulf.
Washington on Monday promised to lead a “collective response” against Tehran, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling the MV Mercer Street incident “a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce.”
Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador and demanded that vessels navigate freely in the oil-rich region.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, meanwhile, said that Israel “must stop such baseless accusations” and called on the US and Britain to provide evidence to support their claims.
Iran “will not hesitate to protect its security and national interests, and will immediately and decisively respond to any possible adventurism,” Khatibzadeh said.


UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries
Updated 23 min 19 sec ago

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries

UAE lifts ban on transit flights from India, Pakistan, other countries
  • Transit passengers traveling from countries where flights had been suspended must present negative PCR tests taken 72 hours prior to departure

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will lift a ban on transit passenger traffic from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and other countries from Aug. 5, the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday.
The UAE, a major international travel hub, has banned passengers from many South Asian and African countries for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NCEMA said on Twitter that passengers traveling from countries where flights had been suspended would be able to transit through its airports from Thursday as long as they present negative PCR tests taken 72 hours prior to departure.
Final destination approval would also have to be provided, the authority said, adding that UAE departure airports would arrange separate lounges for transiting passengers.
The transit ban had also included Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.
NCEMA said that a ban on entry to the UAE for passengers from these countries would also be lifted for those with valid residencies and who are certified by Emirati authorities as fully vaccinated.
However, they would need to apply for online entry permits prior to traveling and would need to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure.
Those working in the medical, educational or government sectors in the Gulf Arab state as well as those studying or completing medical treatment in the UAE would be exempt from the vaccination requirement as would humanitarian cases.


Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade
Updated 48 min 3 sec ago

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade

Bahrain, Abu Dhabi vow to protect maritime trade
  • In a statement released by Bahrain’s state media, both men drew upon their countries’ “brotherly ties”

DUBAI: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said Tuesday that coordination with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyanis ongoing to protect international navigation from any threats. 

In a statement released by Bahrain’s state media, both men drew upon their countries’ “brotherly ties” during the meeting and vowed to “continue coordinating a joint strategic vision to establish security and stability.”

“Protect international maritime traffic from any threats that negatively affect the course of global trade,” is of the utmost importance, the statement said.


Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
Updated 03 August 2021

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him

Graduating Syrian-British doctor meets family of deceased medic who inspired him
  • UK inquest found Abbas Khan was unlawfully killed in regime prison
  • Karim Al-Jian: ‘Someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives’

LONDON: A newly qualified Syrian-born British doctor has had an emotional meeting with the siblings of the deceased British surgeon who inspired him to enter the field.
Karim Al-Jian, 24, who was born in Aleppo but raised in Britain, recently met with the brother and sister of Dr. Abbas Khan, an orthopaedic surgeon from London who was killed in a Syrian prison after he left the safety of his home to care for victims in the war-torn nation.


Al-Jian posted a photo of himself with a portrait of Khan with the caption: “In 2012 British surgeon Abbas Khan went to Aleppo, Syria to treat wounded civilians. He was consequently tortured and murdered by the Syrian regime. His story touched many, including a … boy from Aleppo who wanted to be like Dr. Khan. Today that boy graduated a doctor.”

Khan’s sister Sara, 31, asked Twitter users to locate Al-Jian. “This is so touching it has brought tears to my eyes,” she wrote. “I would like to send him a message if possible.”

The BBC organized a meeting between the new medic and Khan’s family. Sara told Al-Jian: “It is inspiring the fact that you dedicated your medical career to Abbas. I cannot explain to you how touched my family and I are. It was so beautiful to read it.”

The deceased doctor’s brother Shah, who is also an orthopaedic surgeon, has said he will keep in touch with Al-Jian to give him advice about his career path. Al-Jian intends to share the same specialism as the Khan brothers.

Al-Jian said when he was a teenager, he saw the news of Khan’s sacrifice, which inspired him to turn to medical training.

On his graduation and eight years after the surgeon’s death, Al-Jian paid tribute to Khan on social media, posing with his portrait while donning his academic robes.
Khan traveled to Syria via Turkey to lend his expertise by assisting the victims of bombed hospitals, which were being regularly targeted by regime forces.
He was arrested and jailed for over a year in a regime-controlled prison. In December 2013, he was found hanging in his cell. He was 32. A British inquest in 2014 concluded that he had been unlawfully killed.
Al-Jian said Khan’s story had an enormous impact on him, and he shared in the pain and suffering that he saw.

“That someone out of the goodness of their heart went to this country — where they have no connection — to save lives was astounding to me. He put the lives of others before himself,” said Al-Jian. “I really felt that his mother’s pain was the pain of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.”

Living in northern England at the time, Al-Jian was awarded a place to study on the country’s south coast at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. He graduated last month after five years. 


Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
Updated 03 August 2021

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group

Some officials saw risk of Beirut blast but failed to act – human rights group
  • The explosion killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital
  • HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials

BEIRUT: A report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday concluded there was strong evidence to suggest some Lebanese officials knew about and tacitly accepted the lethal risks posed by ammonium nitrate stored at Beirut port before the fatal blast there on Aug. 4 last year.
The explosion, caused by the chemicals stored unsafely at the port for years, killed more than 200 people, injured thousands and destroyed swathes of Lebanon’s capital.
The report by the international rights watchdog contained over 700 pages of findings and documents. Its investigation also concluded there was evidence that multiple Lebanese authorities were criminally negligent under Lebanese law.
HRW based its report on official documents it reviewed and on multiple interviews with top officials including the president, the caretaker prime minister and the head of the country’s state security.
The investigation trailed events from 2014 onwards after the shipment was brought to Beirut port and tracked repeated warnings of danger to various official bodies.
“Evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring,” the report said.
It called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to mandate an investigation into the blast and on foreign governments to impose human rights and corruption sanctions on officials.
A Lebanese investigation into the blast, led by Judge Tarek Bitar, has stalled. Politicians and senior security officials are yet to be questioned and requests to lift their immunity have been hindered.
The HRW report said President Michel Aoun, caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab, the director general of state security Tony Saliba and other former ministers wanted for questioning by judge Bitar, had failed to take action to protect the general public despite having been informed of the risks.
Reuters sought comment on the report’s findings from Aoun, Diab and Saliba. The presidential palace offered no comment. There was no immediate response from Diab and Saliba.
Aoun said on Friday he was ready to testify and that no one was above the law.
A document seen by Reuters that was sent just over two weeks before the blast showed the president and prime minister were warned about the security risk posed by the chemicals stored at the port and that they could destroy the capital.