Russia calls Navalny US ‘agent’ after extremism ruling

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (File/Getty Images)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (File/Getty Images)
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Updated 10 June 2021

Russia calls Navalny US ‘agent’ after extremism ruling

Russia calls Navalny US ‘agent’ after extremism ruling
  • A Moscow court ruled to designate Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as “extremist”

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday suggested that Washington was quick to condemn the designation of Alexei Navalny’s groups as extremist because the jailed Kremlin critic was in fact working for the United States.

A Moscow court late on Wednesday ruled to designate Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) as “extremist,” barring them from working in Russia.

The US State Department called the action “particularly disturbing” and said it was part of a pattern of restricting fundamental rights in Russia.

In a radio interview on Thursday morning, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the response showed the extent of US interference in Russia’s affairs.

“Can you imagine seeing such an instant reaction from the State Department to a domestic or some other internal decision in another country?” she said in the interview broadcast on YouTube and state radio.

“Then in a few hours they make a special statement. This means that they are politically involved in the story,” she said, adding that Washington was thus exposing its “agents.”

“They show such political zeal because it touches those whom they supervised, those whom they supported politically and in other ways,” Zakharova said.

Prosecutors in April had requested that Navalny’s organizations be hit with the “extremist” label, saying the group was plotting an uprising with support from the West.

Navalny’s network of regional offices had helped organize a smart voting strategy that urged voters to cast ballots for those most likely to defeat Kremlin-linked candidates.

Ahead of parliamentary elections in September — in which the deeply unpopular ruling United Russia party is expected to struggle — lawmakers passed legislation that bans members and sponsors of “extremist” groups from running in the polls.


Magnitude 6 earthquake strikes Sarangani, Philippines

People gather on a field after an earthquake struck the Batanes Province, in northern Philippines. (REUTERS file photo)
People gather on a field after an earthquake struck the Batanes Province, in northern Philippines. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 58 min 22 sec ago

Magnitude 6 earthquake strikes Sarangani, Philippines

People gather on a field after an earthquake struck the Batanes Province, in northern Philippines. (REUTERS file photo)

MANILA: A magnitude 6 earthquake struck Sarangani province in Philippines, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said on Friday.
The quake was at a depth of 24 km (15 miles), USGS said.


Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Suu Kyi's party to death

Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Suu Kyi's party to death
Updated 22 January 2022

Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Suu Kyi's party to death

Myanmar sentences lawmaker from Suu Kyi's party to death
  • The two are among the most prominent activists to be given death sentences since the military in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi

BANGKOK: Two prominent political activists in military-ruled Myanmar have been sentenced to death for alleged involvement in terrorist activities, an army television station reported Friday.
Myawaddy TV said on its evening news broadcast that Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, and Phyo Zeyar Thaw, also known as Maung Kyaw, were convicted under the country’s Counterterrorism Law. They were found guilty of offenses involving explosives, bombings and financing terrorism.
Both have been detained since their arrests, unable to comment on the allegations, and no lawyer ever emerged to comment on their behalfs. Min Yu’s wife, Nilar Thein, in October denied the allegations lodged against her husband.
Details of their trials were unavailable because the proceedings were carried out in a closed military court. It was unclear if their two cases were linked.
Modern-day Myanmar has a record of rarely carrying out death sentences.
The two are among the most prominent activists to be given death sentences since the military in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Its takeover sparked wide-scale popular protests, which have since turned into a low-level insurgency after nonviolent demonstrations were met with deadly force by the security forces. Almost 1,500 civilians are estimated to have been killed, and more than 11,000 arrest carried out for political offenses.
Some resistance factions have engaged in assassinations, drive-by shootings and bombings in urban areas, The mainstream opposition organizations generally disavow such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas, which are more often subject to brutal military attacks.
Kyaw Min Yu is one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, veterans of the popular uprising that failed to unseat a previous military government.
He has been active politically ever since then, and has spent more than a dozen years behind bars. His Oct. 23 arrest in Yangon was originally reported by his wife, an activist who also has been jailed in the past. Both went into hiding after the February takeover and she is believed to still be in hiding.
Two weeks after his arrest, a statement from the military-installed government accused Kyaw Min Yu, of “conducting terrorism acts including mine attacks to undermine the state stability” and alleged he headed a group called “Moon Light Operation” to carry out urban guerrilla attacks.
He had already been on the wanted list for social media postings that allegedly incited unrest.
Phyo Zeyar Thaw is a former lawmaker with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. He was a hip-hop musician before becoming as a member of Generation Wave, a political movement formed in 2007.
He was arrested on Nov. 18 in possession of weapons and ammunition, according to a statement at the time from the ruling military.
That statement also said he was arrested on the basis of information from people arrested a day earlier for carrying out the shootings of security personnel.
Other statements from the military accused him of being a key figure in a network of dozens of people who allegedly carried out what the military described as “terrorist” attacks in Yangon.


Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN

Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN
Updated 21 January 2022

Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN

Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN
  • "UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray," spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva
  • "Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water," said Cheshirkov

GENEVA: Eritrean refugees living in camps in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are in a “desperate situation,” the United Nations warned Friday as they struggle to access food and clean water.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray,” spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.
In recent days, UNHCR staff managed to reach the Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps for the first time in three weeks, following air strikes in and near the two sites.
“Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water,” said Cheshirkov.
The situation was leading to a growing number of preventable deaths, he warned, pointing to accounts from refugees that at least 20 people had died in the past six weeks due to the declining conditions.
He said the clinics in the camps had effectively been closed since early January when they ran out of medicine.
“The lack of fuel means that clean water can neither be pumped nor trucked to the camps, with refugees resorting to collecting water from streams that are rapidly drying up, leading to a severe risk of water-borne diseases,” he said.
The spokesman said extreme hunger was an increasing concern given the inability to move supplies into the region, while refugees reported having to sell their clothes and belongings for food.
“Basic services for Eritrean refugees in the two camps have been severely compromised for many months,” said Cheshirkov.
“The desperate situation in these camps is a stark example of the impact of the lack of access and supplies affecting millions of displaced persons and other civilians throughout the region.
“If food, medicine, fuel and other supplies cannot be immediately brought in, and if we continue to be unable to relocate refugees out of harm’s way to where we can provide them with life-saving assistance, more refugees will die.”
Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, of attacks on federal army camps.
UNHCR called for a cease-fire and guarantee of safe passage that would help them voluntarily relocate the more than 25,000 refugees remaining in the camps to a new site in Dabat in the neighboring Amhara region.
“Refugees must not be held hostage to this conflict,” Cheshirkov said.


Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister
Updated 21 January 2022

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister
  • Mob killed the Sri Lankan manager at a Pakistani company and burnt his body on Dec. 3 over blasphemy allegations
  • Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and mere accusations of it can trigger violence

COLOMBO: The wife of a Sri Lankan national who was lynched by a mob in Pakistan has pleaded for justice from the Pakistani prime minister during a memorial event at Islamabad’s mission in Colombo.

Kumara, 48, a general manager at a sports apparel factory in the eastern city of Sialkot, was attacked by a mob of hundreds of people, dragged into the street and set ablaze in the eastern city of Sialkot on Dec. 3. Police said workers at the factory accused him of desecrating religious posters.

Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the violence, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised severe punishment for those found guilty.

High-ranking Sri Lankan officials, including the speaker of parliament, ministers, lawmakers, and Buddhist and Muslim religious figures attended the memorial event organized by Pakistan’s high commissioner designate, Umar Farooq Burki, on Thursday evening.

Kumara’s widow, Nilushi Dissanayaka, arrived with their two sons.

“I request Imran Khan to bring justice to my husband and punish the culprits as soon as possible. This is not to take revenge. But this should not happen to anyone in future,” she said.

“I thank all the Pakistanis who supported me in this difficult situation and all staff of the high commission for arranging this event. Also, I would like to thank the Sri Lankan president, prime minister, other ministers and media institutions for supporting me.”

Dissanayaka told Arab News her goal in life was now to educate her children, Gavith and Lithula, to become professionals and useful members of society.

The business community in Sialkot has raised $100,000 for Kumara’s family. Rajco Industries, where Kumara worked, has pledged to take care of their financial needs by sending a monthly salary of $2,000 for the next 10 years. The Pakistani high commissioner said the funds were transferred to the widow earlier this week.

He said that around $54,000 has also been collected for the family by Pakistani expatriates in the US and Canada.

“Each and every person in Pakistan from the Prime Minister Imran Khan to a common man on the street was aggrieved and strongly condemned this inhumane act,” Burki said.

Pakistani authorities last month announced that suspects in the case will be presented before an anti-terrorism court in jail. “On strict directions of the prime minister of Pakistan, the trial of the murderers and abettors is continuing,” Burki said. “The prime minister is directly supervising the proceedings of this trial.”

Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan and carries the death penalty. Mere allegations of blasphemy can trigger mob violence.

International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.


PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’
Updated 21 January 2022

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’
  • PIA aircraft was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and return to Islamabad
  • Upon reaching Riyadh after severe delay, the pilot decided to stop the journey due to duty timing limit

KARACHI: A Pakistan International Airlines pilot who last week refused to complete a Riyadh-Islamabad flight because his duty timings had ended made the decision in compliance with aviation rules for the safety of passengers, airline officials have said.

A PIA plane was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad, but technical issues delayed its departure from Pakistan, and bad weather in Riyadh forced it to make an emergency landing in Dammam, where it stayed another six hours before clearance.

Upon finally reaching Riyadh, the pilot of PK 9754 decided to end the journey and did not fly the aircraft back to Islamabad. The pilot’s announcement triggered a protest by passengers, who eventually had to be calmed by airport security personnel.

PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told Arab News the captain’s action was in line with the airline’s policy and aviation rules.

“An impression has been created if the airline wanted the captain to operate the flight and he refused. This is completely wrong. The pilot didn’t operate the flight because his duty hours had exceeded due to diversion of the flight to Dammam,” he said on Thursday evening. “Upon reaching Riyadh the duty time of the pilot had completed.”

According to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority rules, a person whose duty time has been exceeded is not permitted to act as a crew member and must be provided a specified period of rest.

A PIA official familiar with the matter said the captain’s “prime concern was the safety of the passengers.”

“When asked to fly, the captain refused and said: ‘What I’m doing, I am doing it as per rules. The prime responsibility as captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers’,” the official told Arab News.

“All of the 200 to 250 passengers were dependent upon him,” he said. “This was prime responsibility of captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers. Then the reputation of your company — the airline — and your country is also important. The compliance with rules is important for their image as well.”

“One takes a decision keeping all these things in mind.”

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