Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty
Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm and his supporters. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2022

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty
  • Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm
  • His supporters and Iranian media reports say he could be hanged by May 21

PARIS: An Iranian-Swedish citizen facing imminent execution in Iran is being held as a hostage by Tehran in a bid to force Belgium and Sweden to make concessions in two cases concerning former Iranian officials, Amnesty International said Thursday.
Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm and his supporters, and Iranian media reports say he could be hanged by May 21, a punishment that officials have repeatedly insisted will be carried out.
The risk to his life comes as anger grows among families of Western nationals often held for years on end by Iran, who they say are being held as pawns in a game over which the innocent detainees have no control.
“Mounting evidence strongly indicates that the Iranian authorities are holding... Djalali hostage and threatening to execute him to compel third parties to swap him for former Iranian officials convicted or on trial abroad, as well as to refrain from future prosecutions of Iranian officials,” Amnesty International said.
In an unprecedented case, a Swedish court is trying Hamid Noury, a former prison official, over his alleged involvement over massacres in Iranian prisons in 1988, with the verdict expected on July 14.
Noury, who was arrested in Sweden in November 2019, is being tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states to investigate serious crimes that were committed abroad.
Meanwhile, Assadollah Assadi, a former Iranian diplomat, is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for his role in a thwarted 2018 bomb attack in France that was targeting a meeting of an exiled opposition group.
Before his arrest in Iran in April 2016, Djalali was a visiting professor in disaster medicine at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a research university in Brussels.
Sweden later granted citizenship to Djalali, who had been a resident in the country, in February 2018.
“The Iranian authorities are using Ahmadreza Djalali’s life as a pawn in a cruel political game, escalating their threats to execute him in retaliation for their demands going unmet,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The authorities are attempting to pervert the course of justice in Sweden and Belgium, and should be investigated for the crime of hostage taking,” she said.
The London-based NGO says that since at least late 2020, the Iranian authorities had been “conditioning” Djalali’s fate on seeking a “deal” with Belgium to swap him for Assadi, and with Sweden for Noury.
The UN Human Rights Office had said Tuesday that it was “deeply alarmed” by reports that Djalali’s execution was imminent, saying his hanging would “constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life.”
Djalali’s supporters, led by his wife Vida Mehrannia, have also sought to keep up the pressure, with his 10-year-old son holding up a sign reading “Free My Dad” at a protest in Stockholm last week where he was joined by his classmates.
Over a dozen Western nationals are being held in Iran in what activists argue is a policy of hostage-taking aimed at extracting concessions from the West. Two more French citizens were detained earlier this month.
Meanwhile, German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd and Swedish citizen Habib Chaab are being tried on security-related charges for which they could be sentenced to death. Activists believe both were abducted by Iran while abroad.
These controversies are coming at an acutely sensitive time for Iran, as world powers are still seeking to revive a 2015 deal over its nuclear program, and as the country is confronting protests over price rises.
Families and supporters of foreign detainees held in Iran, including French tourist Benjamin Briere and French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, issued a statement Thursday saying Iran has “settled into a systematic policy of hostage-taking.”
Calling on Europe to cut diplomatic ties with Iran, the statement said that “it has become politically and morally unbearable to continue to feed the hostage-taking machine.”


Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN

Updated 7 sec ago

Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN

Over 100 murders in Syria camp since Jan 2021: UN
GENEVA: More than 100 people, including many women, have been murdered in a Syrian camp in just 18 months, the UN said Tuesday, demanding countries repatriate their citizens.
The Al-Hol camp is increasingly unsafe and the child detainees are being condemned to a life with no future, said Imran Riza, the UN resident coordinator in Syria.
Al-Hol, in the Kurdish-controlled northeast, was meant as a temporary detention facility.
However, it still holds about 56,000 people, mostly Syrians and Iraqis, some of whom maintain links with the Daesh group, which seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The rest are citizens of other countries, including children and other relatives of Daesh fighters.
Some 94 percent of the detainees are women and children, Riza, who has visited Al-Hol a handful of times, told reporters in Geneva.
“It’s a very harsh place and it’s become an increasingly unsafe place,” he said.
There have been “around 106 murders since January last year in the camp” and “many” of the victims were women, he added.
“There’s a great deal of gender-based violence... There’s a lot of no-go areas.”
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said violence was spiking in the camp, with another murder Tuesday — the seventh since June 11.
Out of 24 people murdered inside the camp this year, 16 were women, the Observatory added.
Riza said there were around 27,000 Iraqi detainees, 18-19,000 Syrians and around 12,000 third-country citizens.
While there have been some repatriations to Iraq, many other countries which “need to be accepting their people back” were refusing to do so.
“The majority of the population there are children. They are innocent. If you leave them in a place like Al-Hol, you’re essentially condemning them to not having a future.”
Riza said that when boys get to 12, 13 and 14, they are taken away from their families and put into a different center, where their future is one of radicalization and joining a militia.
“The only solution is emptying the camp,” he said.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests demanding regime change.
It quickly spiralled into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including militant groups and foreign powers. The war has left around half a million people dead and displaced millions.
Riza said the levels of need in Syria were unprecedented and increasing, with 14.6 million people requiring humanitarian assistance — up 1.2 million since 2021 and the highest since the civil war began.
Riza said the country was facing a “cascade of crises,” with the key factor now the economic decline dragging down socio-economic conditions.
“The impact on Syrians is devastating and families are increasingly pushed into destitution,” he said, with more than 90 percent of the population estimated to live below the poverty line.

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
Updated 25 min 33 sec ago

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report

Renewable energy in Middle East to reach 92 percent of region's targets by 2030: Report
  • A GEM report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a predicted total capacity of 73.4 GW

LONDON: Renewable energy generation projects in the Arab countries will reach nearly 92 percent of the region's total targets by 2030, according to a Global Energy Monitor report published Tuesday.The Arab region currently produces more than 12 gigatonnes of wind and solar energy, the report said.

In 2013, the Arab League clean energy initiative pledged to increase the region's installed renewable power generation capacity from 12 gigatonnes to 80 gigatonnes by 2030.

The report found that Arab countries are constructing solar and wind energy plants with a total capacity of 73.4 gigatonnes, which is nearly five times the region's current renewable energy production.

These projects include 114 solar power plants and 45 wind power plants.

The report also said that Egypt produces the most renewable energy, with 3.5 gigatonnes, followed by the UAE with 2.6 gigatonnes, Morocco with 1.9 gigatonnes, Jordan with 1.7 gigatonnes, and Saudi Arabia with 0.78 gigatonnes.

The UAE leads the region in utility-scale solar energy generation, with 2.6 gigatonnes of capacity.

Egypt is the region's wind leader, with 1.6 gigatonnes of electricity generated by wind farms.Oman, Morocco, and Algeria, on the other hand, are pursuing more than 39.7 gigatonnes of potential solar and wind energy projects.

These countries are expected to top the list of renewable energy producers in the near future, the report concluded.


Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
Updated 28 June 2022

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit

Indian Prime Minister arrives in Abu Dhabi for short visit
  • During his visit, the prime minister expressed condolences on the death of former UAE President

ABU DHABI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday after concluding his visit to Germany, where he attended the G7 Summit.

During his visit to the UAE, Modi expressed his condolences on the death of former UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away last month.

"In a very special gesture, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and members of the Royal family came all the way to the airport to meet PM Modi" said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperon Arindam Bagchi.

At the airport, the leaders were seen hugging and greeting each other.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to congratulate Sheikh Mohammed on his election as the new President of the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

This was the prime minister’s first visit since the two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement earlier this year.

India-UAE trade is valued at $59 billion, making the UAE India's third largest trading partner for the year 2019-20 after China and the US, according to the Indian foreign ministry.

The UAE is India's third largest export destination, with nearly $16 billion clocked in 2020-21.

The two countries also enjoy strong trade and cultural ties, with Indians making up 35 percent of the UAE’s 10 million population, the biggest expatriate community.


Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
Updated 28 June 2022

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
  • A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke

AQABA, Jordan: Jordan’s prime minister said Tuesday that he has instructed authorities to launch an investigation into the deadly blast the previous day at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 13 people.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke. Along with those killed, some 250 were sickened, authorities said.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port has resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said “other nationalities” were among the dead, without elaborating. He said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.


Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice
Updated 28 June 2022

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

DUBAI: Kuwait’s interior ministry said Tuesday that it has suspended issuing tourist visas for those wishing to visit the gulf state. 

“The interior ministry has announced that it has stopped issuing family and tourist visit visas from Monday until further notice,” read a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

The decision comes in light of preparations for a new regulations to serve the interests and develop the process, it said.