British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
Qatar has faced routine accusations of mistreatment of foreign workers in the build up to the World Cup. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 29 September 2022

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report

British man died in Qatar after detention, torture by secret police: Report
  • Marc Bennett, 52, was found hanged in a hotel in 2019 after 3 weeks without charge in jail
  • British coroner ruled there was ‘no specific evidence of suicidal intent’

LONDON: A British travel industry expert found hanged in Doha in 2019 told friends he had been arrested and tortured by Qatari secret police 10 weeks before his death, The Times reported on Thursday.

Marc Bennett, 52, had been hired by Qatar Airways to work on improving tourism to the Gulf country ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He was arrested at the company’s Doha headquarters, blindfolded and handcuffed, and told friends he had been stripped, hosed, assaulted, and subjected to sleep deprivation over a period of three weeks in detention.

He was then prevented from leaving the country after his release, not knowing if he would be re-arrested, and placed in “legal limbo,” according to his family.

His arrest came after he resigned from Qatar Airways and received a job offer from a Saudi travel firm, something a former colleague said had been taken as a “massive insult” by figures within the company.

Qatar Airways said Bennett, who worked closely with the airline’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker, was discovered to have sent “highly confidential documents” to a private email address, which was reported to police.

Bennett was released on Nov. 2, 2019, the day before a UN legal team was due to visit Qatar to inspect the state of the country’s detention centers over allegations of human rights abuses.

The team from the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention was denied access to the facility he was held at.

Bennett was left at a hotel in Doha with no documents relating to his arrest or any legal proceedings he might face.

A Qatari coroner ruled Bennett’s death suicide, but a British coroner said there was “no specific evidence of suicidal intent” and “the circumstances of the months leading up to his death remain unclear.”

Bennett left no suicide note, and despite being popular, with a wide circle of friends and family, gave no indication of intending to take his own life.

The night before his death, he was described as “laughing and joking” during a video call with his family back in the UK.

His widow Nancy Bennett, 51, told The Times: “There are so many questions. He left here with the whole world ahead of him.”

The UN legal team investigating human rights abuses in Qatar has said there are “credible allegations” that the unit that detained Bennett engages in extra-judicial arrests and mistreatment of prisoners.

“When the working group decided to visit one of the state security detention facilities, in relation to which it had received credible allegations of prolonged detention without judicial control and of ill-treatment, it was prevented from doing so,” it said.

“Equally, when the working group visited some other places of deprivation of liberty, it found these facilities nearly empty and received credible reports that detainees had been transferred to other facilities prior to its arrival.”

An investigation into Bennett’s treatment and death by the UK Foreign Office was closed, despite the findings of the coroner and concerns of the family, by Liz Truss, a week after she became foreign secretary in September 2021.

Truss, now the UK’s prime minister, visited Qatar in October that year for “strategic dialogue,” and to foster “deeper co-operation on security, development, trade and investment.”

In May 2020, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, announced a £10 billion ($10.845 billion) investment package for the UK.

Qatar has faced routine accusations of mistreatment of foreign workers in the build up to the World Cup.

The Mail on Sunday reported that of the approximately 30,000 recruited to build infrastructure for the tournament, 2,823 foreign laborers have died in Qatar since 2011 in unexplained circumstances, with another 551 committing suicide.

One British businessman told The Times: “Whether you’re a Pakistani laborer or a well-to-do British guy, you will be treated like dirt if your employer turns against you.

“It feels like you’re a slave. You can’t even leave the country for a weekend away without the permission of your employer.”

A Foreign Office spokesman told The Times: “We provided assistance to the family of a British man following his death in Doha.”


Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation

Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation
Updated 13 sec ago

Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation

Turkiye calls for US understanding ahead of possible Syria operation
  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar: ‘The US asked us to re-evaluate; we emphasized that they should understand us’
  • Turkiye asked allied countries that have a military presence in Syria not to allow local militias to use their flags and uniforms
ANKARA: Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called on the United States on Thursday to show understanding over a possible new Turkish military operation in Syria, after Washington voiced its “strong opposition” to such a move.
Turkiye has been threatening a new incursion into northern Syria for months, and stepped up preparations last month after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul it blamed on a Kurdish militants.
“The US asked us to re-evaluate. We conveyed to them our sensitivities and thoughts, and asked them to keep their promises. We emphasized that they should understand us,” Akar told reporters.
Turkiye also asked allied countries that have a military presence in Syria not to allow local militias to use their flags and uniforms, Akar added. “We are reminding them that they should keep terrorists away from themselves and eventually they should cut their ties with terrorist organizations,” he said.
Turkiye sees the Kurdish YPG militia, the leading presence in the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as the Syrian wing of the PKK militant group and labels both of them as terrorist organizations.
The PKK is also considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
The PKK and SDF have denied involvement in the Nov. 13 bombing of a busy pedestrian avenue in Istanbul.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday told his Turkish counterpart of his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria and voiced concern over the escalating situation in the county.

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
Updated 01 December 2022

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
  • The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss
  • Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran's clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers

BAGHDAD: Iran’s national soccer team received a subdued welcome home after their World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
One Iranian man was shot dead celebrating the American victory.
The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran’s clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers.
One man was shot dead by Iranian security forces in northwest Iran for honking his car horn in support of the US victory, the Oslo-based rights monitor Iran Human Rights reported on Thursday.
Iran’s treatment of the players will likely be scrutinized because they refrained from singing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem during their opening World Cup match. Many considered the move a show of solidarity with the protests. The team did sang the anthem in subsequent matches.
A few dozen fans greeted the national team’s return at Tehran’s international airport late Wednesday, with people cheering and waving the Iranian flag.
Yet the players have faced biting criticism from anti-government protesters who have blamed the team for not being more vocal about the security force’s violent put down of the demonstrations. Human rights groups say over 400 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, with thousands more arrested.
An image of players bowing in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi before setting off to the tournament was widely criticized by activists on social media. A hard-line cleric, Raisi has likened protesters to “flies” and dismissed the movement as a foreign plot, without offering any proof.
Mehran Samak, 27, was shot dead after honking his car in support of the US win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”
Samak is also a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatollahi, who mourned his death on his social media. But again he received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.
Many Iranian celebrities have however been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of the protesters.
Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the US win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
A former culture minister and editor-in-chief of the Ettelaat newspaper, Abbas Salehi, who has close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted: “Iran’s defeat in the game against America was bitter, but even more bitter was the happiness of some people.”
Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the US on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.
It was the sixth time Iran has participated in the World Cup.
Anti-government protests first erupted in September, following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in the capital, Tehran. The protests quickly grew into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since its establishment in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
Updated 01 December 2022

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
  • Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October

BEIRUT: Lawmakers in crisis-hit Lebanon failed to elect a new president on Thursday for an eighth time, despite the deepening impact of the political deadlock on the country’s economic woes.

Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October with no successor.

Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority.

Lawmaker Michel Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States, won the support of 37 lawmakers Thursday — well short of the required majority — while 52 spoilt ballots were cast, mainly by pro-Hezbollah lawmakers.

Only 111 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers showed up for the vote.

Some MPs wrote in mock choices on their ballots, with one vote cast for Brazil’s leftist president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Parliament is “not shouldering its responsibilities,” charged lawmaker Antoine Habchi of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to Hezbollah.

Electing a president, naming a prime minister and forming a government can take months or even years of political horse-trading.

Lebanon can ill-afford a prolonged power vacuum as it grapples with a financial crisis dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, with a currency in free fall, severe electricity shortages and soaring poverty rates.

The country’s caretaker government is unable to enact the sweeping reforms demanded by international lenders as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in bailout loans.

Hezbollah opposes Moawad’s candidacy, and the Iran-backed group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah called last month for a president ready to stand up to the United States.

Moawad has good relations with Washington and has repeatedly called for the disarming of Hezbollah — the only faction to keep its weapons after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Former president Aoun’s own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts before reaching a consensus on his candidacy.

By convention, Lebanon’s presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim.

Parliament is expected to convene for a new attempt to elect a president on December 8.


Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
Updated 01 December 2022

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
  • Israeli media: The two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group
  • The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank

JERUSALEM: Two Palestinians were killed Thursday during an Israeli military raid in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Reports by Israeli media said the two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Naeem Jamal Zubaidi, 27, and Mohammad Ayman Saadi, 26, but did not confirm whether they were militants.
According to the reports, the military was conducting an arrest raid in the city of Jenin and was met by gunfire. The military responded, killing the two men.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation and undermine their own security forces.
The raids have ratcheted up tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, triggering another wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks that have killed an additional eight people.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed this year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2006. The Israeli military says many of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as others not involved in the violence have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want those territories for their hoped-for future state. Substantive peace talks were last held more than a decade ago, and with Israel headed toward what’s likely to be its most right-wing government ever, there appears to be no prospect for a negotiated solution in the near future.


UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
Updated 01 December 2022

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
  • A new launch date will be shared in the coming days

DUBAI: The UAE’s lunar mission has been postponed for the second time on Thursday, SpaceX said.

The Japanese HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander, carrying the UAE’s 10-kilogram Rashid rover aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was due to take off at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US.

“After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, we’re standing down from tomorrow’s launch of ispace inc.’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1,” said SpaceX in a statement.

A new launch date will be shared in the coming days, the company added.

 

 

If Rashid rover successfully lands on the moon, it will be the Arab world’s first lunar mission, placing the UAE as the fourth country to reach the moon.

The mission would also see the first spacecraft funded and built by a private Japanese firm to land on the moon.

Rashid rover is the latest of the UAE’s endeavors in space exploration after successfully launching an unmanned probe to Mars in the first Arab mission to the red planet.