Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming
A Sudanese migrant is pictured in the temporary centre for migrants in the Spanish enclave of Melilla on June 25, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2022

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming

Morocco triples migrants’ jail terms over border storming
  • The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have long been a magnet for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa

RABAT:  A Moroccan appeals court more than tripled to three years prison sentences against 18 African migrants over the deadly storming of a Spanish enclave in June, a lawyer said.

The migrants had been arrested after some 2,000 people, mostly from Sudan, tried to breach the frontier with the enclave of Melilla on June 24 in a bid to reach Europe. At least 23 migrants died in the crush.

“Eighteen migrants arrested on June 24 were sentenced to three years in prison” by the appeals court in Nador, a town near the border with Melilla, said defense lawyer Mbarek Bouirig.

The 18 migrants — among more than 60 arrested following the Melilla tragedy — had initially been sentenced to 11 months in prison.

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights denounced the ruling in a tweet, blasting what it described as a “repressive judicial system.”

The migrants had been convicted of “illegal entry into Morocco,” “violence against law enforcement officers,” “armed gathering” and “refusal to comply.”

The Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta have long been a magnet for people fleeing violence and poverty across Africa and seeking refuge via the continent’s only land border with the EU.

Since the June 24 incident, dozens of mostly Sudanese migrants have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from eight months to two years in prison without parole.

Quake-hit Syrians need more of “absolutely everything,” UN envoy says

Quake-hit Syrians need more of “absolutely everything,” UN envoy says
Updated 11 sec ago

Quake-hit Syrians need more of “absolutely everything,” UN envoy says

Quake-hit Syrians need more of “absolutely everything,” UN envoy says
Syrians impacted by the deadly earthquake that struck their country and Turkiye on Monday need “more of absolutely everything” in terms of aid, the United Nations’ special envoy Geir Pedersen said on Thursday.
The UN had been assured the first assistance would cross from Turkiye into Syria on Thursday, he told a briefing in Geneva, calling for assurances that there would be no political hindrances to getting aid to where it was most needed.

UAE rescue team saves Syrian family trapped under rubble in Turkiye

UAE rescue team saves Syrian family trapped under rubble in Turkiye
Updated 1 min 47 sec ago

UAE rescue team saves Syrian family trapped under rubble in Turkiye

UAE rescue team saves Syrian family trapped under rubble in Turkiye
  • The mother and her children rescued in operation that lasted more than five hours
  • UAE rescue teams evacuated three injured Emirati citizens from quake-hit Turkiye

DUBAI: An Emirati rescue team have pulled a Syrian family of four from under the rubble of their home in Turkiye after two devastating earthquakes killed more than 16,000 people.  

The mother and her children, who lived in Kahramanmaras province, the closest city to the quake’s epicenter, were rescued in an operation that lasted more than five hours, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

They received immediate healthcare before being transferred to the hospital for further treatment.



The rescue was part of the “Gallant Knight/2” operation that the UAE launched earlier this week to aid those impacted by the earthquakes in southern Turkiye and Syria.

Earlier, the UAE pledged $100 million aid to the two impacted countries, sending relief flights to help with the search and rescue operations and supply urgent aid to those in need.

The UAE rescue teams on Wednesday also evacuated three injured Emirati citizens from quake-hit Turkiye.

The operation was carried out in coordination with the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Defense.


Countries around the world have rushed to send aid and rescue workers to save people impacted by the earthquakes, which flattened thousands of buildings and left thousands homeless.

Rescue operations continue as hope started to fade in finding more survivors amid freezing winter temperatures.

Turkiye, Syria rescue hopes fade, anger rising as death toll passes 16,000

Turkiye, Syria rescue hopes fade, anger rising as death toll passes 16,000
The death toll topped 15,000 early on Thursday, thousands more injured or missing. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 10 sec ago

Turkiye, Syria rescue hopes fade, anger rising as death toll passes 16,000

Turkiye, Syria rescue hopes fade, anger rising as death toll passes 16,000
  • Erdogan admits Turkiye response ‘inadequate’ but insist it was improving
  • Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens air bridge to bring medicine, food to survivors

ANKARA: The death toll from the Turkiye-Syria earthquakes passed 16,000  Thursday as hope faded of finding more survivors among the rubble of devastated towns and villages.

Across a swathe of southern Turkiye, people sought temporary shelter and food in freezing winter weather, and waited in anguish by piles of rubble where family and friends might still lie buried.

Rescuers were still finding some people alive. But many Turks have complained of a lack of equipment, expertise and support to rescue those trapped — sometimes even as they could hear cries for help.

Authorities have only reached 2-3 percent of collapsed buildings in some affected areas, sources said.

“Where is the state? Where have they been for two days? We are begging them. Let us do it, we can get them out,” Sabiha Alinak said near a snow-covered collapsed building in the city of Malatya where her young relatives were trapped.

In Antakya, dozens of bodies, some covered in blankets and sheets and others in body bags, were lined up on the ground outside a hospital. One survivor, Melek, 64, said she had seen no rescue teams. “We survived the earthquake, but we will die here from hunger or cold.”

There were similar scenes in northern Syria, which was also hard hit by Monday’s two huge quakes. Syria’s ambassador to the UN admitted the regime in Damascus had a “lack of capabilities and lack of equipment,” which he blamed on Western sanctions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that his government’s initial response to the disaster had been inadequate, but insisted it was improving.

“We will be better tomorrow and later. We still have some issues with fuel ... but we will overcome those too,” Erdogan said on a visit to Kahramanmaras to view the damage and see the rescue and relief effort.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured the site of destroyed buildings during his visit to the city of Kahramanmaras. (AFP)

Entire streets in Kahramanmaras, closest city to the quake’s epicenter, were reduced to rubble, with plumes of smoke rising from fires. Hundreds of tents were set up as shelter in a sports stadium. About 50 bodies draped in blankets lay on the floor of a sports hall.

Death toll sure to rise

As search and rescue operations continued, the World Health Organization warned that the final death toll could exceed 20,000.

A similar earthquake in the region in 1999 killed at least 17,000 people.

Turkish officials say some 13.5 million people were affected in an area spanning roughly 450 km from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east. In Syria, people were killed as far south as Hama, 250 km from the epicenter.

Some who died in Turkiye were refugees from Syria’s war. Their body bags arrived at the border in taxis, vans and piled atop flatbed trucks to be taken to final resting places in their homeland.

More than 298,000 people have been made homeless and 180 shelters for the displaced had been opened, Syrian state media reported, apparently referring to areas under government control, and not held by opposition factions.

In Syria, relief efforts are complicated by a conflict that has partitioned the nation and wrecked its infrastructure.

The delivery of UN humanitarian aid via Turkiye to millions of people in northwest Syria could resume on Thursday after the long-running operation was halted by the quake, UN officials said.

In the Syrian city of Aleppo, staff at the Al-Razi hospital attended to an injured man who said more than a dozen relatives including his mother and father were killed when the building they were in collapsed.

Press for aid

Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to be seeking political advantage from the quake, pressing for foreign aid to be delivered through his territory as he aims to chip away at his international isolation, analysts said.

A US-based NGO, Global Empowerment Mission, mobilized about $10 million of relief aid in the past 24 hours for earthquake victims.

On Wednesday, Erdogan visited affected Turkiye regions to inspect quake damage and speak to survivors.

“Initially, 10,000 Turkish liras ($500) will be allocated to each citizen affected by the earthquake,” he said.

In the wake of the disaster, search and rescue workers, as well as medics, have arrived in Turkiye and Syria from all corners of the globe.

Turkish municipalities have deployed hundreds of their own rescue personnel.



Though domestic rescue efforts have been criticized as insufficient by local residents, the rapid international response to the disaster has been praised.

Saudi Arabia’s leadership directed the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center to operate an air bridge, bringing medical supplies, shelter, food and logistical assistance to victims.

A UN emergency fund allocated $25 million to the humanitarian response in the region.

Despite a growing diplomatic crisis between Greece and Turkiye, Greek TV opened a morning news session with images and videos from the quake zone, with lyrics from a folk song in the background saying: “I let the whole world know that I love you.”

The rubble of toppled buildings in Hatay village. (Supplied)

Several refugee children were also rescued by firefighters and mine workers on Tuesday, while a “miracle” newborn baby was dragged from rubble in northern Syria.

Turkiye’s Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants has sent a team of 300 workers and volunteers to Antakya and Hatay, as well as translators and rescue dogs. Migrant survivors will be offered psychological support through the association.

Baris Sakir, an Urfa resident, survived the quake thanks to the modern design of his home.

“However, there are still some cracks inside the house and we don’t have the courage to go back inside. We are now living in the fine arts school where I was teaching piano lessons. My little son still faces post-trauma,” he told Arab News.

Restaurants and hotels are offering free meals and accommodation to those left homeless by the earthquake, with Turkish celebrities and municipalities sending food containers to locals as well as paying for their accommodation.

Meanwhile, Istanbul municipality intervened to stop a fire in Iskenderun port on Wednesday, while Ankara municipality started repairs on damaged Hatay airport. Communication channels have been significantly disrupted by the quake.

In Hatay, more than 2,000 buildings were destroyed, with just 2-3 percent being reached by rescuers, according to the latest reports.

The dead are being held in makeshift morgues in sports halls. (AFP)

Authorities have warned that growing numbers of rescued children have been left unaccompanied in local hospitals, with precautions being taken to prevent abductions.

“Nature gave us exactly 23 years after the 1999 earthquake,” said Cem Say, a prominent Turkish computer scientist, referring to the major quake in the country’s northwest in 1999.

Last year, Turkey spent about $1.3 billion on programs for disaster management — some 0.5 percent of central government budgetary spending. But experts have described the funding as insufficient.

Ismail Yolcu, a survivor of the earthquake in southeastern Adiyaman province, said that the homes of some relatives were completely destroyed.

He told Arab News: “There is no electricity. There is no heating. It is rainy and extremely cold. We are sleeping in the streets. We are waiting for the tents to be established. But the situation is terrible.”

Sermet Cuhadar, president of the Journalists Association in Kahramanmaras, said that the situation had “slightly improved” in the province.

“We had to drink melted ice because there was no water in the city. Our eight-storey building collapsed during the first quake. Fortunately I was not in the building at that time. Only three people were rescued,” he told Arab News.

The hope of finding more survivors reduces with every hour. (AFP)

Kamil Cuhadar, former mayor of Pazarcik village of Kahramanmaras, suffered a fractured skull during the first quake when a stone fell on his head.

“The supportive columns were strong in the building in Pazarcik. However, there is no standing building left in the village. The rescue efforts were insufficient.

“They began today in the early morning, but it is already too late. The weather is so cold, it was minus 7 degrees Celsius yesterday when everybody was lying on the streets.

“There is no sufficient equipment to remove the debris. There is no lifting instrument,” he told Arab News.

There are reports that the government of Turkiye has blocked Twitter in some areas. (Supplied)

Naile Islek, from Dulkadiroglu village in Kahramanmaras, saw her neighbor’s home collapse during the quake, and ran to take shelter in her mother’s house.

“We have electricity but still no water. Some people who benefit from this chaos are selling small bottles of water at double and sometimes triple prices. We didn’t have enough equipment to remove the debris. Men could barely remove it with their hands,” she told Arab News.

Several municipalities from western Turkiye sent mobile kitchens and container pharmacies to the disaster zone, and launched programs to distribute biscuits, bread and medicine to survivors.

Several sources told Arab News that the immediate rescue efforts were “minimal,” but have intensified in the last two days.

Volunteers have attempted to fill the manpower gap, while several prominent activists as well as chefs have traveled to affected regions to help local residents.

Tent cities were established in several regions while commando forces were deployed to the earthquake zone to aid in rescue efforts. 

In the wake of the disaster, Turkiye’s stock exchange also suspended trading for the first time in 24 years.

(With agencies)

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows
Updated 09 February 2023

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows

Iranian prosecutors covered up rapes by Revolutionary Guards, official document shows
  • Two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps sexually abused two women who were arrested in September during the public protests in the country
  • The author wrote that ‘considering the problematic nature of the case’ and the risk of social media leaks ‘it is recommended the necessary order (is) issued for it to be filed top secret’

DUBAI: Iranian state prosecutors stand accused of covering up rapes by two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to an internal judicial document, the IRGC members allegedly raped two women, ages 18 and 23, in a van in Tehran last September, The Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday. They had been detained during the protests that began that month following the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by Iran’s “morality police.” The women were accused of acting suspiciously and their phones were examined for any evidence that they had taken part in the protests.

The judicial document was reportedly initially leaked to news channel Iran International by hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice). It is the first internal document to surface and expose a specific case of this kind, although activists have long suspected that some female detainees were sexually abused by security officials during the protests.

Dated Oct. 13, 2022, the document was written by Mohammad Shahriari, the deputy prosecutor and head of the prosecutor’s office in Tehran, and addressed to Ali Salehi, the general and revolution prosecutor. A report on a collection of witness statements, it states that two named women were assaulted by two named male security officials.

The case came to the attention of prosecutors after one of the IRGC officers called one of the victims after the assault. She recorded the conversation and filed a complaint. The officer initially denied the charges but later changed his story to claim the women had consented to sex. He reportedly was detained, with his father, at their home in Tehran. The other accused officer was arrested separately and taken to a police intelligence unit prison.

The report details how the two men eventually admitted having intercourse with the women, which the document describes as rape. The first officer said they had detained the two women near a gas station while deployed on Sattarkhan Street in western Tehran. The officers initially took them to the Revolutionary Guard’s headquarters but left when they were told it was not possible to process the accused women there.

The document continues: “Considering the problematic nature of the case, the possibility of the leaking of this information into social media and its misrepresentation by enemy groups, it is recommended that the necessary order (is) issued for it to be filed top secret.

“Since no complaint has been registered and the defendants have been dismissed, the accused should be dismissed without mentioning their names.”

It added the case should be closed without any reference to the military institution involved.

Drones and high tech help in disaster search missions 

Drones and high tech help in disaster search missions 
Updated 09 February 2023

Drones and high tech help in disaster search missions 

Drones and high tech help in disaster search missions 
  • Can modern developments provide solutions, relief to earthquake-hit Turkiye, Syria?

RIYADH: The world continues to watch in despair the devastation caused by two earthquakes — measuring 7.8 and 7.5 on the Richter scale  — that struck southeastern Turkiye and Syria early on Monday morning.

With the combined death toll surpassing 11,000 people by Wednesday, international aid agencies, humanitarian groups, military forces, government and private sector bodies have all been involved in providing help to the regions.

One area supplying some answers has been modern technology.

Drones, which are increasingly known for their role as weapons in modern warfare, are also useful tools during natural disasters such as earthquakes.

“Drones for sure play an important role in Turkiye as we speak,” Henk Jan Gerzee, chief product officer at the Digital Container Shipping Association, told Arab News during the LEAP conference in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Gerzee, who was on the panel looking at “Drones and Autonomous Vehicles,” added: “Firstly, drones can provide a clearer picture of what has happened.

“Drones are equipped with ultra-high-definition cameras. They can also be equipped with heat sensors and detection, and thus detect people.

“They can deliver medicine and smaller pieces of cargo. They can also detect dangerous gases, like methane.” 

Dr. Jassim Haji, president of the Artificial Intelligence Society, who also took part in the discussion, underlined the role AI can play in such disasters, including forecasting extreme events, developing hazard maps, and assisting in situational awareness and decision support.

NASA technology can help in hearing the heartbeats of individuals trapped under debris and rubble. Its technology has frequently been used in the aftermath of earthquakes.

In 2015 the NASA FINDER tool was able to locate four men buried underneath mud, brick, wood and other debris following an earthquake in the Nepalese village of Chautara.

The same technology was also used in 2017 during an earthquake measuring 7.1 in Mexico City.

The UN utilized its emergency mapping satellite service, a live map that shows in real time the damage caused by an earthquake and its level of impact, within hours on Monday.

However, political conflict can have the last word when it comes to getting aid quickly to regions hit by natural disasters.

A resident in northeastern Syria, who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity, said: “The main issue is that aid has become politicized, so even if this tech is available, it is likely it won’t reach these areas.”

Roj Mousa, a Syrian journalist from Afrin, told Arab News: “All of our friends and relatives are under the rubble now in Afrin and Jindires.

“I haven’t had a moment to rest since the earthquake happened. I speak with my relatives all the time.

“There is no aid coming to these areas — no water, no food, no rescue. The cities are now further devastated.

“The people helping to pull out the rubble are civilians doing so with their bare hands.

“All the aid is being blocked by members of the Turkish-controlled Syrian militia.”

Mousa added that small cameras used by doctors to see inside the rubble were helpful, but getting such technology into occupied areas was difficult.