Man awaiting trial for murder of his family found dead in cell

Man awaiting trial for murder of his family found dead in cell
Syed was due to stand trial on June 15, but was found dead in his cell on Thursday at Midlands Prison in Portlaoise. (File/Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 11 June 2022

Man awaiting trial for murder of his family found dead in cell

Man awaiting trial for murder of his family found dead in cell
  • Sameer Syed, 38, allegedly strangled his wife and children in Ireland

LONDON: A man in Ireland accused of murdering his family has been found dead in prison.

Sameer Syed, 38, was awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, Seema Banu, along with his 11-year-old daughter Asfira Riza and six-year-old son Faizan Syed in Dublin in October 2020.

The family had relocated to Ireland from India.

Post-mortem investigations into the deaths found that all three victims were likely strangled to death by Syed.

After the murders, Banu’s relatives emotionally paid tribute to a “very kind-hearted” mother.

They added: “When she used to visit India she would spend time with everyone and stay in touch with everyone.

“She was bold — she has faced all the challenges in her life. We have lost all three precious gems of our family. We are in shock and extreme pain over losing them.”

Syed was due to stand trial on June 15, but was found dead in his cell on Thursday at Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

The Irish Prison Service confirmed the death and said in a statement: “All deaths in custody are investigated by the Irish Prison Service, the Inspector of Prisons and An Garda Siochana. The cause of death is determined by the coroner’s office.”

One family member said Banu’s father, Abdul Ghaffar, was “heartbroken” after her death, and died earlier this year as a result of “the stress of it all.”

-ENDS-


US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
Updated 12 sec ago

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
  • If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement

WASHINGTON: Women whose employers have opted out of covering contraceptives under their health insurance plans on religious grounds would gain no-cost access to birth control under a rule proposed by the Biden administration on Monday.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, requires private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services including contraception without any patient cost-sharing, but current regulations grant exemptions for religious or moral objections.
If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.
“Today’s proposed rule works to ensure that the tens of millions of women across the country who have and will benefit from the ACA will be protected. It says to women across the country, we have your back,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Under existing regulations, those enrolled in plans that do not cover contraception on religious or moral grounds can only access contraceptive services through an accommodation that employers can decline to offer.
Under the new rule, a provider would offer contraception at no cost to the employee and be reimbursed by an insurer, who would receive a credit from the government.
The rule would also remove employer moral objections as grounds for exemption from coverage but keep religious ones in place.

 


UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
Updated 42 min 57 sec ago

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
  • Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, a former senior Iranian government official living in London, is accused of backing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie
  • Human rights lawyers who filed the complaint said UK authorities have an obligation to prosecute international crimes and protect citizens from all forms of terrorism

LONDON: The UK’s Metropolitan police is facing calls to prosecute a former senior Iranian government official accused of endorsing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie.

Met officers are examining a legal case file that accuses Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, who lives in London, of violating the Terrorism Act 2006 by promoting terrorism, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday.

The fatwa against Rushdie, following publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” was issued in February 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was Iran’s supreme leader at the time. It has never been lifted. In August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed several times and seriously injured while appearing on stage at a literary festival in New York.

A complaint was filed against Mohajerani that same month by Iranian human rights lawyer Kaveh Moussavi and British solicitor Rebecca Mooney, according to the Guardian. It states that Mohajerani was deputy to the Iranian prime minister in 1988 and vice-president for parliamentary and legal affairs between 1989 and 1997, a period of time during which the regime in Tehran ordered the assassinations of hundreds of dissidents in Europe.

Moussavi and Mooney allege that Mohajerani did not attempt to prevent the killings and, since moving to the UK, he has on several occasions lauded as an Iranian national hero Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020 in Iraq.

They also say that in his 1989 book, “A Critique of the Satanic Verses Conspiracy,” Mohajerani defended the fatwa against Rushdie and clearly expressed his view that it was religiously justified and irrevocable, and therefore impossible to withdraw.

Mohajerani denied the allegations and said his book is simply a critique of Rushdie’s novel that aims to shed light on its religious origins, the Guardian reported.

“When Salman Rushdie was attacked by an American citizen, I tweeted that I hope Salman Rushdie will recover from this event, and based on William Falkner’s advice, write a novel through concentrating on the beauties and moral values, at the service of human beings,” Mohajerani told the Guardian.

“On the contrary, in ‘The Satanic Verses,’ he added a huge amount of oil to the fire. Hopefully he will find a proper chance to correct himself.”

Mohajerani also said that because of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive in Iran, he had no role in the executions of prisoners in 1988.

Moussavi condemned Mohajerani’s defense as being “indicative of his culpability.”

“The idea that this is or was an independent judiciary is plain absurd. That he repeats it confirms again who he really is,” he told the Guardian.

“In law, he was required to protest and do his utmost to stop these crimes and, if unable, he must resign. I doubt very much if his defense counsel will offer these concoctions in a court case, as defense or mitigation.”

Police in London have reportedly said that the complex issues raised by the case file will require significant resources and additional time to investigate.

Mooney, representing the human rights charity Ending Immunity, highlighted the obligations on UK authorities to prosecute international crimes under international law.

“The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens — that requires preemptive, prosecutorial and punitive measures where appropriate,” she said. “That is why we have terrorism laws, including (laws against) promoting terrorism through speech. It is meaningless to have these laws if we do not prosecute.”


UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government
Updated 31 January 2023

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government
  • Sunak took office just over three months ago, vowing to restore order and probity to government after three years of turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who quit within weeks after her policies rocked the UK economy

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his record on integrity and decisiveness Monday, amid criticism of the way he has handled ethics scandals involving senior Conservatives.
Sunak said he acted “pretty decisively” to fire party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday after the government’s standards adviser found that he’d breached ministerial conduct rules by failing to come clean about a tax dispute.
The adviser, Laurie Magnus, found that Zahawi hadn’t told the prime minister that he’d settled a multimillion-pound (dollar) unpaid tax bill, and paid a penalty to the tax office, while he was in charge of the UK Treasury. Magnus said Zahawi’s failure to tell officials about the tax investigation was “a serious failure to meet the standards set out in the ministerial code.”
“What I have done is follow a process, which is the right process,” Sunak said Monday during a visit to a hospital in northeast England. “When all these questions started coming to light about Nadhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to get to the bottom of it and provide me with the facts.”
He said that on the basis of those facts “I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in government.”
Sunak took office just over three months ago, vowing to restore order and probity to government after three years of turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson — brought down by ethics scandals — and Liz Truss, who quit within weeks after her policies rocked the UK economy.
But critics ask why he did not ask more questions about Zahawi’s tax affairs before appointing him to the key job of party chairman in October, and allege that the government is riddled with bad behavior.
Sunak lost one Cabinet minister, Gavin Williamson, in November over bullying claims, and an investigation is under way into allegations that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab bullied staff. There is also a separate inquiry into ex-leader Johnson, over claims he secured a loan with the help of a Conservative donor who was later appointed chairman of the BBC by the government.
Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said Sunak “needed a backbone” and should have sacked Zahawi sooner.
“Why do we see our prime minister continuing to prop up such a rogues’ gallery of ministers?” she said.

 


In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect
Updated 31 January 2023

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect
  • In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing

TAIPEI/PRAGUE: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen held a telephone call with Czech President-elect Petr Pavel on Monday, a highly unusual move given the lack of formal ties between their countries and a diplomatic coup for Taipei that is sure to infuriate China.
The two leaders stressed their countries’ shared values of freedom, democracy and human rights during their 15-minute call, their offices said, and Pavel said he hoped to meet Tsai in the future.
Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world’s second largest economy.
Beijing views Taiwan as being part of “one China” and demands other countries recognize its sovereignty claims, which Taiwan’s democratically-elected government rejects.
In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing.
Tsai said she hoped that under Pavel’s leadership the Czech Republic would continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote a close partnership, and that she hoped to stay in touch with him.
“Bilateral interaction between Taiwan and the Czech Republic is close and good,” her office summarised Tsai as having said.
Pavel, a former army chief and high NATO official who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, said on Twitter that the two countries “share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights.”
’ONE-CHINA’ PRINCIPLE
Earlier, China’s foreign ministry had said it was “seeking verification with the Czech side” on media reports that the call was to take place.
“The Chinese side is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties engaging in any form of official exchange with the Taiwan authorities. Czech President-elect Pavel during the election period openly said that the ‘one-China’ principle should be respected,” the ministry said.
Pavel will take office in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Beijing stance.
Zeman spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month and they reaffirmed their “personal friendly” relationship, according to a readout of their call from Zeman’s office.
The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the two sides have moved closer as Beijing ratchets up military threats against the island and Taipei seeks new friends in Eastern and Central Europe.
The center-right Czech government has said it wants to deepen cooperation with democratic countries in the India-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and has also been seeking a “revision” of ties with China.
In 2020, the head of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and declared himself to be Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament, channelling the late US President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963.

 


Probed in Brazil, Bolsonaro seeks six more months in US

Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
Updated 31 January 2023

Probed in Brazil, Bolsonaro seeks six more months in US

Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
  • The new government has ordered a probe of Bolsonaro, who for years has sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has historically won praise around the world

MIAMI: Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for his supporters’ storming of government buildings, is seeking a six-month visa to remain in the United States, his lawyer said Monday.
Bolsonaro flew to Florida in late December as his term ended rather than watch the inauguration of his leftist successor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He is understood to have entered on a visa for visiting world leaders, which expires on Tuesday as he is no longer on official business.
AG Immigration Group, a California-based law firm known for its work with Brazilians, said that Bolsonaro has requested a six-month visa to stay in the United States.
“We look forward to achieving the highest level of satisfaction and desired results for our client,” it said in a statement.
Bolsonaro had previously told CNN Brasil that he had planned to return by the end of January, and was considering moving his departure earlier for health reasons.
The far-right leader was injured in a knife attack in 2018. He has suffered ongoing health complications from that assassination attempt, and received hospital care during his stay in Florida.
But Bolsonaro has since come under scrutiny over the January 8 riot in the capital Brasilia by his supporters who refused to accept Lula’s victory.
The new government has ordered a probe of Bolsonaro, who for years has sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has historically won praise around the world.
Bolsonaro’s last justice minister, Anderson Torres, was also visiting the United States during the riot and was arrested on his return.

Thousands of Bolsonaro backers broke into the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court buildings in Brasilia in an unsuccessful attempt to seek the overthrow of Lula.
The State Department did not immediately comment on Bolsonaro’s application. Visa records are confidential under US law.
Several lawmakers of Biden’s Democratic Party have publicly called on the administration to send Bolsonaro back to Brazil, saying he no longer had a right to stay in the United States as a visiting head of state.
“The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” said a letter signed by lawmakers including Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Joaquin Castro, a prominent progressive Democrat.
Brazilians require visas to enter the United States including as tourists.
Bolsonaro was one of the closest international allies of Donald Trump, another former president living in Florida who has made baseless allegations about electoral fraud.
The Brasilia riot mirrored the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol by Trump supporters who did not accept his defeat to President Joe Biden.
Steve Bannon, a far-right populist strategist who worked for Trump, has developed close ties with Bolsonaro’s supporters and raised questions about last year’s Brazilian election.
Bolsonaro, however, has largely kept a low profile since flying to Florida. He has been staying near Disney World at the Orlando home of Brazilian former martial arts champion Jose Aldo and was photographed eating fried chicken alone at a KFC restaurant.