German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death
The 31-year-old Iraqi Daesh supporter was found guilty of using a 5-year-old Yazidi girl as his slave before he left her to die in the summer heat. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 November 2021

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death

German court convicts ex-Daesh member in Yazidi girl’s death
  • The convicted man, an Iraqi citizen, was ordered to pay the girl's family $57,000
  • First genocide conviction worldwide over a person’s role in the systematic persecution by Daesh of the Yazidis

BERLIN: A former member of the Daesh group was convicted by a German court on Tuesday of genocide and committing a war crime over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die.
The Frankfurt regional court sentenced Taha Al-J., an Iraqi citizen whose full last name wasn’t released because of privacy rules, to life imprisonment and ordered him to pay the girl’s mother 50,000 euros ($57,000).
German news agency dpa quoted the presiding judge, Christoph Koller, saying it was the first genocide conviction worldwide over a person’s role in the systematic persecution by Daesh of the Yazidi religious minority.
The defendant’s lawyers had denied the allegations made against their client.
His German wife was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison over the girl’s death.
The girl’s mother, who survived captivity, testified at both trials and took part as a co-plaintiff.
“This is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for,” said lawyer Amal Clooney, who acted as a counsel for the mother. “To finally hear a judge, after seven years, declare that what they suffered was genocide. To watch a man face justice for killing a Yazidi girl — because she was Yazidi.”
Zemfira Dlovani, a lawyer and member of Germany’s Central Council of Yazidis, also welcomed the verdict.
“We can only hope that it will serve as a milestone for further cases to follow,” she told The Associated Press, noting that thousands of Yazidi women were enslaved and mistreated by the Daesh group. “This should be the beginning, not the end.”
The United Nations has called the Daesh assault on the Yazidis’ ancestral homeland in northern Iraq in 2014 a genocide, saying the Yazidis’ 400,000-strong community “had all been displaced, captured or killed.” Of the thousands captured by Daesh, boys were forced to fight for the extremists, men were executed if they didn’t convert to Islam — and often executed in any case — and women and girls were sold into slavery.
According to German prosecutors, Al-J. bought a Yazidi woman and her 5-year-old daughter Reda as slaves at an Daesh base in Syria in 2015. The two had been taken as prisoners by the militants from the northern Iraqi town of Kocho at the beginning of August 2014 and had been “sold and resold several times as slaves” by the group already.
The defendant took the woman and her daughter to his household in the Iraqi city of Fallujah and forced them to “keep house and to live according to strict Islamic rules,” while giving them insufficient food and beating them regularly to punish them, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors allege that toward the end of 2015, Al-J. chained the girl to the bars of a window in the open sun on a day where it reached 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and she died from the punishment. The punishment was allegedly carried out because the 5-year-old had wet the bed.
Al-J. was arrested in Greece and extradited to Germany two years ago.
German authorities took on the case under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows the country to try particularly serious crimes even if they were committed elsewhere and there is no direct link to Germany.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, who is herself a survivor of atrocities committed by Daesh, said the verdict was “a win for survivors of genocide, survivors of sexual violence, and the entire Yazidi community.”
“Germany is not only is raising awareness about the need for justice, but is acting on it,” she said in a statement. “Their use of universal jurisdiction in this case can and should be replicated by governments around the world.”


Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme
Updated 33 sec ago

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme
  • Malik Faisal Akram was referred to Prevent after breakdown of his marriage
  • Scheme under review amid string of deadly failings, boycott by rights groups

LONDON: A British man who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue was referred to the UK government’s counter-radicalization program Prevent, it has emerged.

Malik Faisal Akram was referred to Prevent in 2016 following the breakdown of his marriage. MI5 also tracked him for a month in 2020.

Akram was shot dead by the FBI last week while holed up with hostages in a Texas synagogue. He was the only person killed in the ordeal.

Leaked audio revealed that his brother tried to convince him to abort the attack, but was told that Akram would be returning home “in a body bag.”

According to his brother, Akram’s life fell apart in 2016 after he split from his wife. His brother told The Times that he was bitter that his wife had taken his six children after their split, and that Akram had closed his pharmacy business, which ran five locations across the north of England.

It was after this string of events that Akram was referred to Prevent. The new revelations about his referral are likely to pile more pressure on the British government to rethink its de-radicalization strategy.

The Prevent program is currently under review by the government, and a string of failings — some with deadly consequences — add further impetus to strengthening or modifying the program.

Last year, MP Sir David Amess was murdered in his constituency by Ali Harbi Ali, who had also previously been referred to and later discharged by Prevent.

Another attacker, Khairi Saadallah, had been referred to the program by refugee groups. He later killed three in a knife rampage in the English town of Reading.

Prevent’s review, undertaken in 2019, had initially been scheduled for completion in 2020, but a series of delays means it still has not been published.

Rights groups including Amnesty International have boycotted the review, saying William Shawcross, who is leading it, had previously expressed anti-Muslim views that call into question the review’s validity.

A joint statement by the rights groups said: “Shawcross’s appointment, given his well-known record and previous statements on Islam … brings into question the good faith of the government in establishing the review and fundamentally undermines its credibility.”


Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
Updated 24 min 6 sec ago

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
  • The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday
  • New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths

CANBERRA: Australia on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 80 coronavirus fatalities, as an outbreak of the omicron variant continued to take a toll.
But Dominic Perrottet, premier of the most populous state, New South Wales, said a slight decrease in hospitalizations gave him some hope about the strain the outbreak is putting on the health system.
The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday. There have been just under 3,000 coronavirus deaths in Australia since the pandemic began.
New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths. They included a baby who died from COVID-19 in December, one of several historical cases that were investigated.
The news came after the premier of Western Australia state, Mark McGowan, backed down on a promise to reopen the state to the rest of the country on Feb. 5.
In a late-night news conference on Thursday, McGowan said reopening the state as planned would be “reckless and irresponsible” given the large number of COVID-19 cases in other states. No new date has been set for when the state might relax its border closure.
The border decision means neither Prime Minister Scott Morrison nor opposition leader Anthony Albanese can campaign in the state for now. An election is due to be held by May 21.


UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
Updated 44 min 35 sec ago

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
  • He was told his British citizenship was revoked while visiting newborn daughter in Bangladesh
  • Advocacy group: Citizenship deprivation ‘nearly exclusively impacts Muslims, people of color’

LONDON: A British man left stateless in 2017 when his citizenship was stripped has had it reinstated following a lengthy court battle.

The man, identified in court documents as E3, had his citizenship removed in 2017 while he was in Bangladesh for the birth of his daughter.

In a deprivation-of-citizenship order sent to his mother’s UK address, the government alleged that he was “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity.”

It said he was considered a threat to national security and would not be allowed to return to Britain.

His lawyers were not given any evidence of the criminal activity upon which the decision was based because it was “secret.”

Five years on, the government has reinstated the man’s citizenship, but he faces another court battle to provide his daughter with UK nationality.

“I never thought I would win my case; not because I am guilty of anything but because the system is set up to make you lose,” the man, who was born in London but is of Bangladeshi heritage, told The Independent.

“It was incredibly difficult. It is something that you cannot prepare for — you are suddenly cut off from your home, your family and friends, your job and source of income, and everything you take for granted.

“I was stranded in a country with a family that were financially dependent on me and I had no way of providing for them.”

He said he felt helpless and in danger from the Bangladeshi government. “If they were to learn that the British government had accused me of terrorism, they would probably detain and torture me as they routinely do with terrorism suspects,” E3 added.

“I had been sent into exile for a crime that I was not told about; I was not brought before a judge, had not even seen the evidence, so was not at all hopeful for a positive outcome to my appeal.”

The UK government is currently attempting to push the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament, which would make it significantly easier to remove the citizenship of those considered threats to national security.

The bill has proved controversial — if implemented, almost half of all British Asians and two in five black Britons would be eligible to have their citizenship revoked, potentially at short notice.

Anas Mustapha of advocacy group Cage, which is supporting E3’s family, told The Independent that E3’s case “exposes the cruel nature of citizenship deprivation” which, he added, “nearly exclusively impacts Muslims and people of color.”

The Good Law Project published advice on the bill, currently being reviewed by the House of Lords, and concluded that if it becomes law it will have “a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens.”


Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
Updated 21 January 2022

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
  • Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations

Katmandu: Nepal’s capital shut schools, ordered citizens to carry vaccination cards in public, banned religious festivals and instructed hotel guests to be tested every three days as it battles its biggest COVID-19 outbreak.
The chief government administrator of Katmandu issued a notice on Friday saying all people must carry their vaccination cards when they are in public areas or shop in stores.
Nepal, however, has only fully vaccinated 41 percent of its population. The notice did not say how unvaccinated people will be able to pay utility bills or shop for groceries.
The government says it has enough vaccines in stock, but a new wave of COVID-19 cases propelled by the omicron variant has created long lines at vaccination centers, with many people unable to receive shots.
All public gatherings and meetings will be banned and cinemas and theaters will be closed. Gymnasiums, pools and other sporting venues will also be shut. No public religious festivals or events will be allowed, the notice said. It did not say how long the restrictions would last.
Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations.
Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public will be mandatory. Only 20 customers at a time will be allowed in shopping malls and department stores, and all must carry vaccination cards. Employees will be given regular antigen tests to be allowed to work.
Restaurants and hotels can remain open, but employees must wear face masks and other protection. Hotel guests must take antigen tests every three days.
The government is also limiting road traffic, with bans on alternating days for vehicles with odd or even license plates.
The notice said violators will be punished, but did not elaborates. An existing law relating to pandemics says violators can be jailed for a month.
The Health Ministry reported a record 12,338 new cases on Thursday and 11,352 on Wednesday, compared to a few hundred daily cases last month.
Nepal had full lockdowns in 2020 and again from late April to Sept. 1, 2021.


EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose
Updated 21 January 2022

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose

EU health ministers seek common line over fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose
  • Hungary and Denmark have already decided to roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines

BRUSSELS: European Union health ministers will try to find a common line on Friday over a potential fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, amid a surge in cases sparked by the omicron variant.
The EU drugs regulator said earlier this week it would be reasonable to give a fourth dose to people with severely weakened immune systems, but more evidence was needed.
Ministers will discuss “the administration of the fourth dose,” said a press release issued by the French presidency of the EU, which organized the video-conference for health ministers at short notice.
EU members Hungary and Denmark have already decided to roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Copenhagen said it would do so for the most vulnerable, while the Hungarian government said everybody could get it after a consultation with a doctor.
The rollout of fourth doses began in Israel last month, making it the first country to administer the so-called second booster.
Wealthier nations decided to speed up the rollout of third doses amid a wave of new cases caused by the more contagious omicron variant, but remain divided over a fourth one.
Many consider that more data is needed before making decisions on that.
The French presidency said the video conference was meant to find a common approach at an EU level on vaccination strategies.
The meeting will also discuss coordination of other COVID-19 policies, including for possible new joint purchases of vaccines, as “vaccines adapted to variants are coming soon,” the French presidency said.
Vaccines adapted to omicron could be ready as early as March, but the EU drugs regulator has said it is not yet clear whether they are needed.
Work is underway to develop multivalent vaccines that could protect against multiple variants, but it is not known when or if they could be available.