Body found on Norwegian shore is Kurdish-Iranian baby who drowned in English Channel

Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. (Screenshot/Social Media)
Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. (Screenshot/Social Media)
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Updated 07 June 2021

Body found on Norwegian shore is Kurdish-Iranian baby who drowned in English Channel

Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. (Screenshot/Social Media)
  • Artin was found on Jan. 1 but his body has only just been identified
  • Many Kurds flee Iran every year due to systemic repression, vast economic inequality

LONDON: Police in Norway have said a body found on the country’s coast earlier this year is that of a 15-month-old Kurdish-Iranian boy who died trying to cross the English Channel from France to the UK.

Artin died alongside three family members when the boat they were in sank in October 2020. Relatives have spoken of their grief and confusion in the months since they heard what had happened.

On Monday, Norwegian police said the body had been found on Jan. 1 but they had struggled to identify it.

“We didn’t have a missing baby reported in Norway, and no family had contacted the police,” Camilla Tjelle Waage, head of police investigations, told the BBC.

Police released an image of the clothing that Artin was wearing when he died. “The blue overall wasn’t a Norwegian brand either (and) that indicated the baby was not from Norway,” she said.

DNA profiling led to the identification of the body as Artin’s. He will be flown back to Iran to be buried with his family.

Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, and Anita, 9, also died when the boat sank.

Shortly after it sank, the BBC reported that it had seen text messages sent by Panahi, including one that acknowledged the danger of the Channel crossing but that “we have no choice.”

Another said: “I have a thousand sorrows in my heart, and now that I have left Iran I would like to forget my past.”

Thousands of Iranian-Kurdish refugees place their lives and that of their families in the hands of smugglers to make the perilous trip to Europe every year.

Iran’s Kurds, who number around 12 million and make up about 15 percent of the population, face systemic repression and vast economic disparity at home.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, regularly present evidence that Kurdish journalists, activists and citizens face torture, forced disappearance and execution at the hands of the state.

They are also deprived of access to fair and open trials, and are coerced into “confessions” that are later used against them.

In the past decade, Britain has seen escalating numbers of asylum seekers and migrants attempting the perilous crossing from France — often in cheap and unsafe inflatable dinghies. Channel migration is becoming an increasingly salient issue in British politics.

The government has said to date this year, 3,500 people have successfully crossed the Channel to reach the UK, prompting calls by sections of the public, media and some politicians for a crackdown on the route.

The number of annual deaths has been steadily increasing. Around 300 people are confirmed to have died making the crossing since records began in 1999.


Philippine president threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination

Philippine president threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination
Updated 22 June 2021

Philippine president threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination

Philippine president threatens to arrest Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination
  • President Rodrigo Duterte is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric
  • The Philippines is a COVID-19 hotspot in Asia, with more than 1.3 million cases

MANILA: The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country if they would not cooperate with the efforts to contain the pandemic.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his public outbursts and brash rhetoric, said in televised remarks Monday night that he has become exasperated with people who refuse to get immunized then help spread the coronavirus.
“Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” Duterte said.
“If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.
A human rights lawyer, Edre Olalia, raised concerns over Duterte’s threat, saying the president could not order the arrest of anybody who has not clearly committed any crime.
Duterte and his administration have faced criticism over a vaccination campaign saddled with supply problems and public hesitancy. After repeated delays, vaccinations started in March.
Duterte blamed the problems on wealthy Western countries cornering vaccines for their own citizens, leaving poorer countries like the Philippines behind.
The Philippines is a COVID-19 hotspot in Asia, with more than 1.3 million cases and at least 23,749 deaths.


Singaporean woman jailed 30 years for torturing, killing maid

Singaporean woman jailed 30 years for torturing, killing maid
Updated 22 June 2021

Singaporean woman jailed 30 years for torturing, killing maid

Singaporean woman jailed 30 years for torturing, killing maid
  • Abuse inflicted on Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don was particularly awful and captured on CCTV installed in the family’s home

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean woman who starved, assaulted and ultimately killed her domestic worker was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday, with the judge describing the case as “among the worst types of culpable homicide.”
The affluent city-state is home to about 250,000 domestic workers who mostly come from poorer Asian countries, and stories of mistreatment are common.
But the abuse inflicted on Myanmar national Piang Ngaih Don, 24, was particularly awful and captured on CCTV installed in the family’s home. The domestic worker was stamped on, strangled, choked, battered with brooms and burnt with an iron, according to court documents.
The domestic worker died in July 2016, after her employer, Gaiyathiri Murugayan, repeatedly assaulted her over several hours.
Gaiyathiri, 41, pleaded guilty in February to 28 charges including culpable homicide. Another 87 charges were taken into account in sentencing.
She appeared in court on Tuesday wearing glasses and a black mask, and sat silently with her eyes closed and head bowed as the judge read his decision.
After hearing an additional plea of mitigation submitted by Gaiyathiri in a bid to avoid the life sentence sought by the prosecution, Justice See Kee Oon sentenced her to 30 years in prison starting from the date of her arrest in 2016.
See cited the “abject cruelty of the accused’s appalling conduct” in his sentencing, which he added must signal “societal outrage and abhorrence” at the crime.
But taking into account the defendant’s obsessive compulsive disorder and the depression she developed around the time she gave birth, See said he did not think that life imprisonment was “fair and appropriate.”
The prosecution had sought a reduced charge of culpable homicide rather than murder — punishable with the death penalty in Singapore — after taking into account her mental health.
The maid was employed by Gaiyathiri and her husband, a police officer, in 2015 to help take care of their four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
But Gaiyathiri physically assaulted the victim almost daily, often several times a day, with her 61-year-old mother sometimes joining in, according to court documents.
The domestic worker, who had been employed by the family for over a year at the time of her death, was only allowed to sleep for five hours a night, and was forced to shower and relieve herself with the door open.
Provided very little food, she lost about 38 percent of her body weight during her employment, and only weighed 24 kilograms at the time of her death.
Gaiyathiri’s lawyer Joseph Chen had asked for a sentence of eight to nine years, arguing that a “combination of stresses” had turned the struggling mother into an abuser.
He argued that a harsh sentence would deter mothers in a similar situation from asking for help — an argument that the prosecution called “disingenuous.”


Hong Kong leader says US ‘beautifying’ security offenses

Hong Kong leader says US ‘beautifying’ security offenses
Updated 22 June 2021

Hong Kong leader says US ‘beautifying’ security offenses

Hong Kong leader says US ‘beautifying’ security offenses
  • Carrie Lam took particular aim at comments made by US State Department spokesman Ned Price

HONG KONG: Foreign governments are “beautifying” acts that endanger national security in Hong Kong when they criticize the recent crackdown on a pro-democracy newspaper, the leader of the semiautonomous Chinese territory said Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s comments come as some countries including the US condemn the arrest of editors and executives at Apple Daily and the freezing of its assets as the latest examples of eroding freedoms in the former British colony.
Those arrested at the newspaper have been accused of breaching sweeping security legislation imposed by Beijing last year by colluding with foreign countries to endanger national security.
“Don’t try to underplay the significance of breaching the National Security Law, and don’t try to beautify these acts of endangering national security, which the foreign governments have taken so much to their heart,” Lam said.
Lam took particular aim at comments made by US State Department spokesman Ned Price saying Hong Kong authorities were using the law to suppress the media and silence dissent. Price said that “exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime.”
“What we are talking about is not exchanging views between foreigners and journalists,” Lam said. “It is violating the law as defined in the National Security Law and based on very clear evidence which will bring the case to court.”
In a police operation last week, authorities arrested five Apple Daily editors and executives and froze $2.3 million worth of assets of three companies linked to the paper. Apple Daily has said that if some of its funds are not released by Friday, the paper may cease operations this weekend.
The newspaper and its executives were vocal supporters of the pro-democracy protests that roiled Hong Kong for months in 2019. The protests were sparked by concerns that Hong Kong was losing the freedoms that Beijing promised it could maintain when it was handed from British to Chinese control in 1997.


Japan’s Motegi considers visit to Palestinian territories and Israel in August

Japan’s Motegi considers visit to Palestinian territories and Israel in August
Updated 22 June 2021

Japan’s Motegi considers visit to Palestinian territories and Israel in August

Japan’s Motegi considers visit to Palestinian territories and Israel in August
  • Motegi will meet with Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank, but he is not planning to visit Gaza

TOKYO: Japan’s Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu is considering visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel in August to help cement the ceasefire agreement in the region and encourage parties there to engage in fruitful talks. 

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that Motegi will urge both sides in the conflict – Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli government – to abide by the ceasefire agreement and work to ease tension. Motegi is also expected to offer reconstruction assistance to the Palestinians affected by the Israeli air strikes.

Diplomatic sources in Tokyo told Arab News Japan the tour might also include Egypt, Qatar and Jordan. They said Motegi will meet with Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank, but he is not planning to visit Gaza. Motegi visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait last year.

Former Japanese foreign minister Kono Taro visited Israel and Palestine in December 2017.


Mandatory mask rules extended in Sydney as COVID-19 cluster grows

Mandatory mask rules extended in Sydney as COVID-19 cluster grows
Updated 22 June 2021

Mandatory mask rules extended in Sydney as COVID-19 cluster grows

Mandatory mask rules extended in Sydney as COVID-19 cluster grows
  • Masks will be mandatory indoors in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, for another week from Thursday morning
  • Australia closed its borders to all but citizens and permanent residents in March 2020

SYDNEY: Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), on Tuesday reported its biggest rise in new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in nearly a week, prompting authorities to extend a mask mandate in Sydney for a week.
Ten new locally acquired cases were reported in NSW on Tuesday, as officials fight to contain a latest cluster of the highly infectious Delta virus variant. Eight of the 10 are household contacts of previous cases in isolation.
“There is no doubt there is an increased level of concern, given the additional numbers of cases, but ... given how absolutely contagious the virus is, we expected household contacts already in isolation were likely to get the virus,” NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Masks will be mandatory indoors in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, for another week from Thursday morning although officials stopped short of announcing further curbs as the cluster increased to 21 infections in six days.
“At this stage, we feel that the response we are having is proportionate to the risk,” Berejiklian said, although she expects more cases among household contacts.
The Delta variant, which has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as among the four COVID-19 variants of concern, most likely caused the latest devastating outbreak in India.
Tuesday’s data includes seven cases recorded after the 8 p.m. cut-off deadline, which will be included in Wednesday’s numbers.
Authorities say the latest outbreak, the first in the state in more than a month, is linked to a driver who transports overseas airline crew members and then later visited several venues, including a shopping center in Bondi, a popular tourist hotspot.
Neighboring Victoria, which emerged from a strict COVID-19 lockdown more than a week ago, reported no local cases on Tuesday, prompting New Zealand to restart its quarantine-free travel with the state from Tuesday night.
Victoria’s low number of cases during the last week has also encouraged the states of South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory to begin easing border restrictions.
Strict border controls, swift tracing systems, tough social distancing rules and high community compliance have kept Australia’s COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,350 cases and 910 deaths.
Australia closed its borders to all but citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 and overseas travelers must undergo two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine on their return.
Australian team’s medical director for the Tokyo Olympics David Hughes on Tuesday said the nearly 1,000 fully vaccinated Australian athletes and officials on their return home could lead to easier travel for inoculated residents.