Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee
Protesters call for the release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is on remand and fighting extradition to the US, outside BBC Broadcasting House, London, England, Oct. 23, 2021. (EPA)
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Updated 25 October 2021

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee
  • Stella Moris said, Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and ‘I was quite taken aback how thin he was’
  • Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns

LONDON: The fiancee of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday he was looking thin and unwell as the US appeals against a UK ruling blocking his extradition.
Stella Moris, who has two children with Assange, told a news conference that she last saw Assange on Saturday in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.
She said Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and “I was quite taken aback how thin he was.”
“He was looking very unwell.”
The 50-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain in 2019 for jumping bail, after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, which were later dropped.
The US government is seeking his extradition to face trial for publishing military secrets.
A UK judge in January blocked the US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was a suicide risk.
The US is seeking to overturn the British judge’s ruling, arguing that other expert evidence indicated that Assange was not at risk of taking his own life.
Instead, it claimed the judge was “misled” by relying on evidence presented by Assange’s psychiatric expert Michael Kopelman.
“We hope that this will be the end of it,” Moris said of the two-day hearing starting Wednesday.
“The point was that Julian would not survive extradition, that was the conclusion of the judge.”
Moris said that being in prison was “an ongoing struggle” for Assange and “a person can only take so much.”
Rebecca Vincent, director of international programs at Reporters Without Borders, said that US President Joe Biden had missed an opportunity “to distance himself from his predecessors” on the case, urging the US to drop it.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said “it is unthinkable that the High Court will come to any conclusion other than to uphold” the original UK ruling.
Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.


Japan strongly condemns Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Japan strongly condemns Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 17 sec ago

Japan strongly condemns Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Japan strongly condemns Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
  • Japan has been providing humanitarian assistance for Yemen and remains committed to continue making efforts

TOKYO:  The government of Japan on Wednesday strongly condemned the Yemen-based Houthi missile attacks against Riyadh on Dec. 6.

“Cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia must be stopped immediately. The Government of Japan, once again, calls on all parties concerned for an immediate ceasefire and early start of dialogue for a political solution to the situation in Yemen,” the foreign ministry said in an official statement. 

The statement said that Japan has been providing humanitarian assistance for Yemen and remains committed to continue making efforts, in cooperation with the countries concerned, to realize peace and stability in Yemen.

This story originally appeared on Arab News Japan


Suspected extremist kills two in western Kenya — police

Suspected extremist kills two in western Kenya — police
Updated 20 min 42 sec ago

Suspected extremist kills two in western Kenya — police

Suspected extremist kills two in western Kenya — police
  • Al Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s central government and regularly launches attacks in Kenya
  • Police said the attacker went into a home in Kamloma village in Kisumu County and questioned a mother, father and daughter

NAIROBI: A suspected member of Somali extremist group Al-Shabab detonated an explosive device that killed two people at their home in a western Kenyan village and himself, police said, outside the group’s usual of area of operations.
If the affiliation between the suspect and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab is confirmed, it will underscore the group’s push to recruit members of more diverse backgrounds to carry out attacks over wider territory.
Al Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s central government and regularly launches attacks in Kenya to the west in retaliation for Kenya contributing troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.
But this attack was in the far west of Kenya, hundreds of kilometers from the Somali border.
Police said the attacker went into a home in Kamloma village in Kisumu County late on Tuesday and questioned a mother, father and daughter.
“The Al-Shabab suspect started questioning them on things they didn’t understand. Suddenly an improvised explosive device he was carrying exploded, killing the suspect,” police said in a report.
Only the daughter, who was seriously wounded, survived, police said.
Police officials did not return calls seeking comment on the attacker’s suspected links to Al-Shabab.
Al Shabab’s attacks in Kenya include a 2015 assault on a university that killed 166 people and a 2019 attack on a Nairobi hotel and office complex that killed 21.
The 2019 attack was the first led by a Kenyan gunman who was not an ethnic Somali, a result of Al-Shabab’s efforts to recruit more foreigners.


Video piles pressure on UK’s Johnson in lockdown-party saga

Video piles pressure on UK’s Johnson in lockdown-party saga
Updated 48 min 17 sec ago

Video piles pressure on UK’s Johnson in lockdown-party saga

Video piles pressure on UK’s Johnson in lockdown-party saga
LONDON: A leaked video that shows staff members in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party is adding fuel to allegations that government officials flouted coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else.
For days, the prime minister’s office has been trying to rebut reports that Johnson’s staff held a December 2020 office party — complete with wine, food, games and a festive gift exchange — when pandemic regulations banned most social gatherings.
According to multiple British media outlets, the party took place on Dec. 18, when restrictions in London prohibited indoor gatherings, and a day before Johnson tightened the rules even further, ruling out family Christmases for millions of people.
In response to the footage, aired late Tuesday by broadcaster ITV, the prime minister’s office said: “There was no Christmas party. COVID rules have been followed at all times.”
The video, recorded on Dec. 22, 2020, shows then-press secretary Allegra Stratton appearing to joke about an illicit party at the prime minister’s Downing Street office.
The recording appears to be a mock press conference, held as a rehearsal for televised daily government media briefings.
Another aide, playing a journalist, says: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognize those reports?”
As laughter is heard, Stratton, the press secretary, says: “I went home” and asks colleagues: “What’s the answer?” Another voice can be heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”.
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton says, laughing.
Thousands of people in Britain have been fined since early 2020 for breaking restrictions by holding illegal gatherings. London’s Metropolitan Police force said officers were reviewing the leaked video in relation to “alleged breaches” of coronavirus regulations.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the prime minister should “come clean and apologize.”
“People across the country followed the rules even when that meant being separated from their families, locked down and — tragically for many — unable to say goodbye to their loved ones,” Starmer said. “They had a right to expect that the government was doing the same. To lie and to laugh about those lies is shameful.”
The Christmas party allegations are the latest in a string of allegations of rule-breaking and ethics violations by Johnson’s Conservative government.

Helicopter carrying Indian defence chief crashes; four dead

Helicopter carrying Indian defence chief crashes; four dead
Updated 3 min 2 sec ago

Helicopter carrying Indian defence chief crashes; four dead

Helicopter carrying Indian defence chief crashes; four dead
  • Rawat was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in late 2019

NEW DEHLI: A military helicopter carrying Indian defense chief General Bipin Rawat crashed in southern India on Wednesday, killing at least four people, and officials said they were still checking to see if he was among the dead.
Two defense sources said they were trying to ascertain Rawat’s status following the crash near the town of Coonoor.
“We don’t know yet,” one of the sources told Reuters. Both declined to be named. Four people were dead, said two other government officials.
Rawat was traveling from an Indian Air Force base in Sulur to the Defense Services Staff College in Wellington in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to deliver a lecture. Hill station Coonoor is along the flight path.
Rawat was appointed as India’s first Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in late 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating India’s three services — the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
The Air Force said that Rawat, who had previously served as India’s Chief of Army Staff, was traveling in an Mi-17V5 helicopter. India has dozens of the Russian military chopper that are widely used by the military as well as top government ministers visiting defense locations.
“This is a safe, proven helicopter, I have traveled on it in difficult situations,” former army chief J.J.Singh said.
Video footage from ANI and local media showed rescue workers dousing steaming wreckage of the mangled chopper in a wooded area.
“An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident,” the Air Force said in a tweet.


Myanmar soldiers accused of killing 11 after charred remains found

Myanmar soldiers accused of killing 11 after charred remains found
Updated 08 December 2021

Myanmar soldiers accused of killing 11 after charred remains found

Myanmar soldiers accused of killing 11 after charred remains found
  • Charred remains were found in a village in Sagaing, an area which has seen fierce fighting

Myanmar soldiers have been accused of rounding up 11 people in a village in a central area of the strife-torn country before shooting them and setting fire to their bodies, according to residents in the area and media reports.
The charred remains were found in a village in Sagaing, an area which has seen fierce fighting between security forces and militia set up by opponents of military rule since a Feb. 1 coup, said residents, who said some of the victims were still alive when burned.
Video footage purporting to show the burned bodies was circulated on social media and images were published by some media including the Myanmar Now news portal.
Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage or claims over how the 11 died and a spokesman for the military junta did not answer calls seeking comment.
A volunteer aid worker in the area, who asked not to be identified, said by telephone troops had entered Don Taw village early on Tuesday and the victims were killed at around 11 a.m. that day.
“The troops were just brutally killing anyone they could find,” said the volunteer, adding it was unclear if the victims were militia members or ordinary civilians.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in February with widespread protests and the formation of militia, known as People’s Defense Forces (PDF), to take on the well-equipped army.
Kyaw Wunna, a member of a PDF in the region, said by telephone troops had arrived firing weapons and those detained were taken to a field near the village before being killed.
Another volunteer aid worker said about 3,000 people had fled from five villages in the area and had gone into hiding, fearful of more arrests and killings.
A relative of one of the victims said the dead man, Htet Ko, was a 22-year-old university student and not a member of any militia and not armed.
“This is inhumane. I feel deep pain in my heart,” said the relative, who said the man had tried to flee, but had been wounded by gun fire.
Dr. Sasa, a spokesperson for Myanmar’s shadow civilian government set up following the coup, alleged the victims had been “lashed together, tortured, and ultimately burned alive.”
In a post on social media, he listed what he said were the names of the 11, all male and including a boy of 14.
“These horrific attacks show that the military have no regard for the sanctity of human life,” he said.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a monitoring group cited by the United Nations, says more than 10,700 civilians have been detained and 1,300 killed by security forces since the military seized power.
The military says AAPP is biased and uses exaggerated data and that hundreds of soldiers have also been killed.