British government lobbying Iraq for archaeologist’s release: FM Liz Truss

Jim Fitton (L) was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for attempting to smuggle artifacts out of the country. (Reuters)
Jim Fitton (L) was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for attempting to smuggle artifacts out of the country. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 July 2022

British government lobbying Iraq for archaeologist’s release: FM Liz Truss

British government lobbying Iraq for archaeologist’s release: FM Liz Truss
  • Fitton’s family has criticized the British government for what it calls a poor response to the case

LONDON: The UK government is lobbying for the release of a British archaeologist imprisoned in Iraq, it was revealed on Thursday.

Jim Fitton was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June for attempting to smuggle artifacts out of the country, a crime that can also carry the death sentence.

Fitton’s family has criticized the British government for what it calls a poor response to the case, however UK foreign secretary Liz Truss told ITV News that work was being carried out to convince the Iraqi government to release the archaeologist.

“I know our ambassador is working on that, as is our ministerial team,” she said. “Ultimately this is a decision for the Iraqi authorities, but we’re doing all we can to secure this release.”

Fitton was found by Iraqi officials with a dozen small stones and bits of pottery from the desert on March 20, and was arrested as he tried to leave the country.

He asserted in his defense that he believed the items to be worthless and was merely taking them as a memento of his trip to Iraq. 

In court, he was charged and convicted — but another man also on trial with him, German national Volker Waldmann, was found not guilty.

Fitton has appealed in a bid to reduce his sentence or have his conviction quashed completely.

Fitton’s local member of parliament, Wera Hobhouse, said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should have taken a stronger stance with Iraq to ensure his release.

“It seems that German officials took a much tougher stance and intervened a lot earlier, and were much more visible in their opposition, versus the Foreign Office (who) took the approach of softly, softly,” she told ITV.

“We have got two outcomes: One prisoner is now free, and Jim Fitton, our British citizen, is not free.

“So there’s quite a clear contrast, which makes one wonder whether the Foreign Office approach has been correct,” she added.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are providing consular assistance to a British national in Iraq, and continue to support his family. We are in contact with the local authorities.”


Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
Updated 40 min 4 sec ago

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
  • Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund”

ROME: Tunisia’s prime minister has praised the Italian ambassador for strengthening relations and helping her country through the pandemic as the envoy prepared to end his stay in Tunis.

Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis, when Italy sent several ships filled with medical supplies, ventilators and vaccines.

Bouden’s office said she also welcomed Fanara’s efforts to “strengthen relations in several areas of common interest” during his four years in the job.

Bouden highlighted the “solidity of the historical relations” between Tunisia and Italy, which she said “constitute a link between the two shores of the Mediterranean and between the African and European continents.”

Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” as it seeks a loan of between $2 billion and $4 billion.

Migration and Italian investments in the energy and technology sectors were also discussed at the meeting in Tunis. Bouden also discussed upcoming elections, including legislative polls on Dec. 17.

Fanara has been appointed Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, and will take office in the next few days.


Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack
Updated 28 September 2022

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack

Kurdish officials: Death toll climbs in Iranian drone attack
  • Kurdish regional government ‘strongly condemns’ repetitive violations of its sovereignty
  • Iranian artillery fire has hit border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan on several occasions in recent days

KOYA, Iraq: An Iranian drone bombing campaign targeting the bases of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in northern Iraq Wednesday has killed at least nine people and wounded 32 others, the Kurdish Regional Government’s Health Ministry said.

The strikes took place as demonstrations continued to engulf the Islamic Republic after the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the Iranian morality police.

Iran’s attacks targeted Koya, some 65 kilometers east of Irbil, said Soran Nuri, a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a leftist armed opposition force banned in Iran.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government have condemned the strikes.

“Attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missiles, under any pretext, is an incorrect stance which promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events,” the Kurdistan Regional Government said.

“We strongly condemn these continuous attacks which result in the death of civilians and we call for an end to these violations.”

Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its statement condemned “in the strongest terms the artillery and missile targeting by the Iranian side, which affected four areas in the Kurdistan Region.”

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and broadcaster said the country’s Revolutionary Guard targeted bases of a separatist group in the north of Iraq with “precision missiles” and “suicide drones.”

The Iranian drone strikes targeted a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya, Nuri said. Nuri described the attack as ongoing.

Following the first series of strikes, Iran then shelled seven positions in Koya’s stronghold in Qala, a KDPI official told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity in order to speak publicly. The Qala area includes the party’s politburo.

An Associated Press journalist saw ambulances racing through Koya after the strikes. Smoke rose from the site of one apparent strike as security forces closed off the area.

On Saturday and Monday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard unleashed a wave of drone and artillery strikes targeting Kurdish positions.

The attacks appear to be a response to the ongoing protests roiling Iran over the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the nation’s morality police.

The United Nations Secretary-General called on Iran early Wednesday to refrain from using “unnecessary or disproportionate force” against protesters as unrest over a young woman’s death in police custody spread across the country.

Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that authorities should swiftly conduct an impartial investigation of the death of Mahsa Amini, which has sparked unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.


Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says
Updated 28 September 2022

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says

Lebanon to apply weaker official exchange rate, finance minister says
  • The step will come into effect from the end of the October, Khalil said

BEIRUT: Lebanon's central bank will use an official exchange rate of 15,000 pounds to the dollar instead of 1,507, Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told Reuters on Wednesday, calling it a step towards unifying the country's numerous exchange rates.
The step will come into effect from the end of the October, Khalil said.
Lebanese authorities introduced the 1,507 rate in 1997.
But the pound has slumped by more than 95% from the official rate since Lebanon fell into financial crisis three years ago, currently changing hands at around 38,000 on a parallel market.
Unifying the numerous exchange rates is one of several conditions set by the IMF for Lebanon to secure a badly needed aid package. Last week, the IMF said Lebanon's progress in implementing reforms remained very slow.


Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry
Updated 28 September 2022

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

Japan exempts UAE nationals from visa requirements upon entry

DUBAI: Japan announced the exemption of UAE nationals from visa requirements for holders of ordinary passports on Wednesday.

The date of the new entry rules will be announced within the next few days, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM.)

In a meeting with Japan Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa, UAE Special Envoy to Japan Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber stressed that Japan’s announcement is a result of the UAE’s diplomacy efforts under the supervision of Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

He added that the step contributes to facilitating cooperation and mobility, and will encourage tourism, cultural and academic exchanges, in addition to finding new cooperation opportunities for the establishment of business, trade and investment.

Al Jaber also stressed that the UAE and Japan have strong strategic relations, which aims to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries to serve common interests by encouraging more diplomatic, economic and political participation, trade and investment.

The Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology also met the Japanese Minister of Digital Transformation KONO Taro in Tokyo on Sept. 28.

Kono also expressed his appreciation to Al Jaber for attending the former prime minister’s state funeral; both ministers exchanged gratitude for this year’s 50 year anniversary that ties both countries together representing a milestone for exploring new opportunities.

 

*This article was originally published on Arab News Japan


Iranian woman died of ‘blow to the head’: family in Iraq

Iranian woman died of ‘blow to the head’: family in Iraq
Updated 14 sec ago

Iranian woman died of ‘blow to the head’: family in Iraq

Iranian woman died of ‘blow to the head’: family in Iraq
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

SULAIMANIYAH: Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini was visiting Tehran with her family when she encountered the notorious morality police and died after a “violent blow to the head,” her cousin living in Iraq said.
“Jhina’s death has opened the doors of popular anger,” said Erfan Salih Mortezaee, 34, using Amini’s Kurdish first name and referring to the ongoing wave of protests that her death has sparked.
In a phone call after the young woman’s death was announced, Amini’s mother told him what happened when her 22-year-old daughter was detained, Mortezaee said.
AFP spoke with Mortezaee in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region — bordering Amini’s native Kurdistan province in Iran — where he has been living for a year.
There he joined Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala, which has conducted a long-running cross-border insurgency against the Tehran authorities, seeking autonomy for Kurdish-populated areas of northwestern Iran.
Mortezaee said that, before starting university, Amini had gone to Tehran with her parents and 17-year-old brother to visit relatives.
On September 13, Amini, her brother and female relatives went out in the capital.
On leaving the Haghani underground station, “the morality police stopped them, arresting Jhina and her relatives,” Mortezaee said.
Wearing military fatigues and speaking at a Komala base in the Sulaimaniyah area of northern Iraq, Mortezaee said Amini’s brother tried to tell the police that they were “in Tehran for the first time” and “did not know the (local) traditions.”
But his appeals fell on deaf ears.
“The police officer told him, ‘We are going to take her in, instil the rules in her and teach her how to wear the hijab and how to dress’,” Mortezaee said.
Amini was “dressed normally. Like all women in Iran, she was wearing the hijab,” her cousin added.
In Iran, women — regardless of their faith — are required to cover their hair, and the morality police bans them from wearing coats above the knee, tight trousers, bright colors or torn jeans.
The code has been widely skirted for decades, particularly in major cities, but there have been periodic crackdowns.
“The police officers hit Jhina, they hit her in front of her brother,” Mortezaee said.
“They slapped her, they hit her hands and legs with a baton,” said Mortezaee, adding that they also sprayed her brother in the face with pepper spray.
Jhina and her relatives were forced into the morality police van and taken to a station on Vezarat Street.
The beatings continued during the ride, Mortezaee said.
“When they hit her in the head with the baton, she lost consciousness,” he said. “One of the officers said: ‘She’s putting on an act’.”
After they arrived, it was at least another hour and a half before she was taken to a Tehran hospital, despite pleas from her relatives, Mortezaee said.
After three days in a coma, she was pronounced dead.
Amini’s mother said doctors at the hospital told the family that her daughter “had received a violent blow to the head,” Mortezaee said.
Iranian authorities have denied all involvement in Amini’s death, which has sparked 12 consecutive nights of protests and a security crackdown.
“What is happening in Kurdistan and everywhere else in Iran is popular anger against the Islamic republic’s regime, against the dictatorship,” Mortezaee said.
At least 76 people have been killed in the demonstrations, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), while Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the toll at “around 60.”
Authorities said Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests.
The protests come at a particularly sensitive time for Iran’s leadership, when the country’s economy remains mired in a crisis largely caused by US sanctions over its nuclear program.
The country has seen protests in recent years, including deadly demonstrations in November 2019 over fuel price rises.
But this time “women are taking the lead and are actively taking part in the protests,” Mortezaee said.
“Women are participating in the demonstrations courageously and are taking to the streets, day and night,” he said.
“We the youth know that if this regime falls, a better life awaits us.”