Alabama woman who joined Daesh stuck in refugee camp

The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Alabama woman who joined Daesh stuck in refugee camp

The US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who left home in Alabama to join Daesh and is now in a Syrian camp, but has decided she wants to return to the US. (AP/Reuters/File Photos)
  • Hoda Muthana and her 4-year-old child, the son of a man she met while with Daesh, have been living in a Syrian refugee camp

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama: Attorneys for a woman who left her Alabama home to join Daesh plan to continue fighting for her and her young son even though the Supreme Court declined to consider her lawsuit seeking to re-enter the United States, one of the lawyers said Wednesday.
Hoda Muthana and her 4-year-old child, the son of a man she met while with Daesh, have been living in a Syrian refugee camp for nearly the entire life of the child, and it’s unclear what steps might come next to argue for their admittance into the United States, said Christina Jump, who represents the woman’s family.
But Jump, who works with the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America, said attorneys are considering options.
“We intend to stand by Hoda and her son and their rights to citizenship,” she said. “We do intend to keep working on her behalf.”
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the appeal of a lawsuit filed by relatives on behalf of Muthana, who was born in New Jersey and fled her home in suburban Birmingham in 2014 to join Daesh, apparently after becoming radicalized online.
She later decided she wanted to return to the United States, but the government determined she was not a US citizen and revoked her passport while she was overseas, blocking her return. The government cited her father’s status as a diplomat from Yemen at the time of her birth in 1994.
While the Supreme Court refused to consider overturning lower court rulings that said Muthana could be kept out of the country, Camp said she still believes “the Department of State does not have the authority to revoke citizenship in the manner that was done to Ms Muthana.”
Both relatives and lawyers have a hard time maintaining regular contact with Muthana because she isn’t allowed to have her own cellphone in the camp where she lives and Internet service is spotty, said the attorney.
Muthana has renounced Daesh and both she and her son have been threatened because of her stance, Camp said. The child’s father is dead.
The decision to revoke her passport was made under former President Barack Obama. The case gained widespread attention because former President Donald Trump tweeted about it, saying he had directed the secretary of state not to allow her back into the country.


Bribes in lunchboxes: TV series on China’s corrupt officials hooks millions

Bribes in lunchboxes: TV series on China’s corrupt officials hooks millions
Updated 10 sec ago

Bribes in lunchboxes: TV series on China’s corrupt officials hooks millions

Bribes in lunchboxes: TV series on China’s corrupt officials hooks millions
  • A staggering number of Communist cadres have been caught up in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive in recent years

BEIJING: A huge designer property in Beijing and millions of dollars hidden in seafood boxes — a state television series on China’s anti-graft campaign is captivating viewers and lifting the lid on officials brought down on graft charges.

A staggering number of Communist cadres have been caught up in President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive in recent years, which critics say has also served as a way to remove political enemies since he came to power in 2013.

The ongoing five-part series aired by state broadcaster CCTV shows televised confessions by officials accused of corruption, including former vice public security minister Sun Lijun.

Sun — who oversaw security in Hong Kong during months of unrest — is facing allegations that include taking bribes, manipulating the stock market, illegally possessing firearms and paying for sex.

The TV series claimed Sun received regular bribes worth $14 million disguised as “small seafood boxes” from a man he later appointed as police chief in eastern Jiangsu province.

“I helped him all this way,” said Sun on the program.

It is common practice for CCTV to air “confessions” by criminal suspects, including former officials, before they have even appeared in court — something widely condemned by rights groups.

Another episode featured imprisoned Chen Gang of the China Association for Science and Technology —  who was said to have built a 72,000-square-meter (775,000-square-foot) private compound complete with a Chinese-style residence, swimming pool and artificial beach with illicit funds.

Others featured were accused of taking millions in bribes.

Those convicted of corruption can be stripped of their wealth, party membership, and face a lifetime behind bars or even death.

More than a million officials have been punished under the anti-corruption campaign so far, which has been a cornerstone of Xi’s tenure.

Wang Fuyu, who featured in the second episode of the series, was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve on Monday — a day after his confession was aired.

Hundreds of millions took to social media in China to dissect the series, most angered by the luxuries the officials had enjoyed.


Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks

Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks
Updated 3 min 37 sec ago

Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks

Turkey’s Erdogan, Serbia’s Vucic agree to broker Bosnia crisis talks
  • Erdogan said Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alike should refrain from steps that endanger Bosnia’s territorial integrity
  • Erdogan said earlier that Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik had voiced support for his mediation offer

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he and Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic agreed on Tuesday to broker crisis talks involving all parties in Bosnia after elections in Serbia in April.

The crisis flared after nationalist lawmakers in post-war Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Serb entity passed a non-binding motion last year to start pulling the region out of the country’s armed forces, tax system and judiciary — a move long backed by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

Turkey, which has deep-rooted historical ties in the Balkans, has criticized the move as “wrong, dangerous” and has offered to mediate in the crisis, which has raised fears of a relapse into ethnic conflict in Bosnia.

After a calamitous 1992-95 ethnic war that killed 100,000 people, Bosnia was split into two widely autonomous regions — a Serb Republic (RS) and a Federation dominated by Bosniaks and Croats, overlaid by a loose central government.

Addressing reporters along with Vucic after talks in Ankara, Erdogan said Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks alike should refrain from steps that endanger Bosnia’s territorial integrity and that all should act “with a sense of responsibility.”

“After these (Serbian) elections, we want to bring together the leaders of these three groups and to have a meeting with them. With this meeting, let us take steps to ensure Bosnia’s territorial integrity,” he said.

“We want to convene the three leaders — of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs — and accomplish this. We agreed on this,” Erdogan said, adding the talks could be held in Istanbul or Belgrade.

Mainly Muslim Turkey backed the late Bosniak Muslim wartime leader Alija Izebegovic and has forged good relations with Bosnia’s post-war, inter-ethnic Bosniak-Serb-Croat presidency.

Earlier, Erdogan was quoted by local media as saying Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Dodik and other regional officials had voiced support for his mediation offer, and that Ankara would intensify its diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

Vucic told the news conference that Serbia was committed to Bosnia as an intact state and that the preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans was paramount, along “with respect for differences.”

Vucic called on Dodik last week to return to national institutions that the Serb Republic has boycotted since mid-2021 over a law criminalizing the denial of genocide.

International war crimes court judgments have branded the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces as genocide, something nationalist Serbs deny.

Serbia was the patron of wartime Bosnian Serb separatists and remains close to Bosnia’s post-war Serb entity, sharing a border with it.

Dodik’s secessionist rhetoric has spurred Serb nationalist rallies and incidents in towns across the Serb Republic.

Earlier this month, the United States imposed new sanctions on Dodik for alleged corruption and threatening Bosnia’s stability and territorial integrity. The European Union also said last week the Bosnian Serb leadership faced EU sanctions and a loss of aid should it continue to incite tensions.


Erdogan warns Russia against invading Ukraine

Erdogan warns Russia against invading Ukraine
Updated 22 min 24 sec ago

Erdogan warns Russia against invading Ukraine

Erdogan warns Russia against invading Ukraine
  • Speaking to Turkish reporters in Albania, Erdogan said he intended to discuss the rising tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned Russia against invading Ukraine, calling the former Soviet republic a “powerful” country with international friends.

Turkey’s supply of combat drones to Ukraine has drawn the wrath of Russia, which fears they could be used by Kyiv in its years-long conflict in two regions of the Moscow-backed separatist east.

Speaking to Turkish reporters in Albania, Erdogan said he intended to discuss the rising tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“You cannot handle these things by saying ‘I will invade something, I will take it’,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.

“I don’t see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a realistic option because it is not an ordinary country. Ukraine is a powerful country,” said Erdogan, who backs Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.

In December, Putin criticized Ukraine for deploying Turkish attack drones, urging Ankara to put pressure on Kyiv not to use the military hardware, which has played a key role in conflicts in Libya and over Azerbaijan’s separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has countered by saying it cannot be held responsible for how the drones are used by countries after they are sold.

Erdogan said he has always opposed Russia’s approach to Ukraine, criticizing its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

He added that Russia “should review the state of affairs in the world and its own state of affairs before deciding to take this step” to invade.

“We need to rip war out of political history,” Erdogan said.

The West accuses Russia of deploying tanks, artillery and about 100,000 soldiers across Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders in preparation for a possible invasion.

Moscow says it is responding to what it sees as the growing presence of NATO in its sphere of influence, where it fiercely opposes the expansion of the Atlantic alliance.


Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks

Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks
Updated 18 January 2022

Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks

Norway mass killer seeks parole 10 years after attacks
  • Under Norwegian law, Breivik is eligible for his first parole hearing after 10 years in prison.
  • Asked by the prosecutor who the messages were aimed at, he said they were directed at millions of people “who support white power”

SKIEN, Norway: Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right fanatic who killed 77 people in bomb-and-gun massacres in 2011, argued Tuesday for an early release from prison.
He told a parole judge he had renounced violence even as he professed white supremacist views and flashed Nazi salutes.
Breivik, 42, is serving Norway’s maximum 21-year sentence for setting off a bomb in Oslo’s government district and carrying out a shooting massacre at a summer camp for left-wing youth activists. Under Norwegian law, he is eligible for his first parole hearing after 10 years in prison.
Though experts agree Breivik is highly unlikely to be released, authorities have insisted he has the same rights as any other prisoner, arguing that treating him differently would undermine the principles that underpin Norwegian society, including the rule of law and freedom of speech.
At the three-day hearing, which is taking place in the high-security prison in Skien, south of Oslo, where he is being held in isolation with three cells at his disposal, Breivik made full use of his rights.
Sporting a stubble beard and a two-piece suit, he entered the makeshift courtroom in a prison gymnasium by raising his right hand in a Nazi salute and holding up homemade signs with white supremacist messages. One sign was pinned to his suit.
Asked by the prosecutor who the messages were aimed at, he said they were directed at millions of people “who support white power.”
The Associated Press resists being used as a conduit for speech or images that espouse hate or spread propaganda and is not publishing images showing Breivik’s Nazi salutes and other white supremacist propaganda.
Breivik has used previous court hearings to disseminate conspiracy theories of an ongoing genocide against white people in the West. Some worry he could inspire like-minded people to carry out similar attacks. But since his criminal trial in 2012, many Norwegians have insisted that the best way to defy his world view is to stand up for a tolerant, open society and show that the system he claims is oppressing him in fact is giving him every chance to have his day in court.
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, a law professor at Oslo University, said Breivik was pushing the boundaries in Tuesday’s hearing.
“At the same time, it’s fairly clear that the prosecutor has a very clear strategy here,” she said. “By letting him speak ... he gets his very incoherent message out in the open.”
In a rambling monologue to the court, Breivik argued there is a distinction between militant and nonmilitant white nationalists and said he had been brainwashed by the former when he carried out his attacks in Oslo and at the summer retreat on Utoya Island.
“Today, I strongly dissociate myself from violence and terror,” he said. “I hereby give you my word of honor that this is behind me forever.”
Reminding the court of the scale of the attacks, prosecutor Hulda Karlsdottir read the names of each of Breivik’s victims, many of them teenagers on the annual retreat. Many were shot multiple times and some drowned as they tried to swim from the island in panic. During the criminal trial, Breivik said he considered the victims traitors for embracing multiculturalism and that he regretted not having killed even more.
Karlsdottir stressed the parole hearing was not about re-examining guilt, saying, “The main topic here is the danger associated with release.”
Breivik didn’t express any remorse, saying only that he cries for victims on “both sides” in what he described as a culture war.
The court is set to sit until Thursday and a ruling is expected later this month.
During a break in the proceedings, Breivik’s lawyer Øystein Storrvik was asked whether his client was using the hearing to spread his propaganda.
“That is a right he has under Norwegian law,” he was quoted as saying by national broadcaster NRK. “Whether what he chooses to say is wise or not is another matter.”
Groups representing survivors and families of victims have said they won’t comment during the hearing. Before the session, Lisbeth Kristine Røyneland, who heads a support group, said she was afraid Breivik would use the opportunity “to talk freely and convey his extreme views to people who have the same mindset.”
Breivik was declared criminally sane in his trial, even though the prosecution argued that he was psychotic. He didn’t appeal his sentence but unsuccessfully sued the government for human rights violations for denying him the right to communicate with sympathizers.
Although Norway’s maximum sentence is 21 years, Breivik could be held longer under a provision that allows authorities to keep criminals in prison for as long as they’re considered a menace to society.
Breivik has been trying to start a fascist party in prison and reached out by mail to likeminded extremists in Europe and the United States. Prison officials seized many of those letters, fearing he would inspire other violent attacks. Ahead of the parole hearing, Randi Rosenqvist, the psychiatrist who has followed Breivik since 2012, said she could “not detect great changes in Breivik’s functioning.”


Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis

Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis
Updated 18 January 2022

Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis

Dhaka boat hotels keep dreams afloat for poor Bangladeshis
  • Lodgings cheapest option for many jobseekers, visitors to Bangladesh capital
  • Concept emerged in 1st half of 20th century, providing accommodation for traders from different parts of Bangladesh

DHAKA: Many residents of Dhaka have never heard about the city’s boat hotels, but for traders and visitors to the Bangladeshi capital from other districts the floating lodgings have for decades provided a cheap accommodation option.

The boat hotels on the banks of the Buriganga River started to emerge in the first half of the 20th century, under British colonial rule, providing accommodation to poor traders from deprived rural areas arriving in Dhaka in search of work.

The two-storey vessels moored along the riverbanks on the southwest outskirts of the city are the most cost-effective option for visitors, with prices as low as 50 US cents per night.

Mohammed Mostofa Mia, owner of the Faridpur Hotel, one of the four remaining floating establishments, told Arab News that the business emerged when road communications in the country were limited, and the river was the main route to Dhaka.

“These floating hotels started providing services to the traders who travelled to Dhaka from different parts of the country,” he said.

“We operate like other regular hotels. The guests need to provide a copy of their national identity card during check in.”

But other rules were different.

“The guests are required to bring their own bedding, pillows, and blankets. We only provide space here,” Mia added.

Each floating hotel can accommodate around 60 people, with only two shared washrooms. The cheapest option, at 50 cents, is a hostel-like room with 15 beds, while a more private room — a double-bed cabin of around 4 square meters — costs nearly $2 per night.

Apart from a bed, there are no amenities and guests hang their belongings on the upper part of the walls. Ceiling fans offer some comfort during hot weather.

Mohammed Lalon, 35, who sells dates in the old city of Dhaka and its Sadarghat port terminal, checked into one of the boat hotels almost two months ago.

“If I reside in a shared room anywhere in Dhaka, I’d have to spend twice as much. So, this floating hotel is a good solution for me,” he said. “I don’t need to spend money on conveyance every day.”

For 62-year-old Abdul Hakim, the river rooms have been his home for decades. The fruit seller arrived in Dhaka around 40 years ago and has lived most of that time in a 15-bed dormitory.

He hails from a village in Pabna district, 160 kilometers from the capital, and by saving money on his accommodation has been able to pay to send his five children to school.

“For staying a night here, I have to pay only half a dollar,” he said. “My eldest daughter completed her graduation from a college in Pabna. If I spent more on accommodation, I won’t be able to provide money for the children’s education.”