New case against jailed Kremlin critic Navalny goes to court next week

New case against jailed Kremlin critic Navalny goes to court next week
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is already serving combined sentences of 11-1/2 years for fraud and contempt of court in a maximum-security penal colony. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 May 2023
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New case against jailed Kremlin critic Navalny goes to court next week

New case against jailed Kremlin critic Navalny goes to court next week
  • Alexei Navalny rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast corruption

Moscow’s city court will hold a preliminary hearing on May 31 in a new criminal case against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on charges including incitement to extremism, according to official documents posted online.
Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast corruption, said last month that an “absurd” terrorism case had been opened against him that could see him sentenced to a further 30 years in jail.
Navalny is already serving combined sentences of 11-1/2 years for fraud and contempt of court in a maximum-security penal colony, on charges that he says were trumped up to silence him. His campaigning organizations and his flagship Anti-Corruption Fund have been banned in Russia as “extremist.”
The court record said the charges against Navalny related to six different articles of the Russian criminal code including those on “rehabilitation of Nazism,” “organization of an extremist community,” making “public appeals to commit extremist activity” and inducing citizens to break the law.
The former lawyer earned admiration from the disparate opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him with a Soviet-era nerve agent. The Kremlin denied trying to kill him and said there was no evidence he had been poisoned with such a toxin.
Last month, investigators formally linked Navalny supporters to the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky, a popular military blogger and supporter of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine who was killed by a bomb in St. Petersburg. Navalny allies have denied any connection to the killing.


Indian police arrest four Sri Lankans for suspected Daesh links

Indian police arrest four Sri Lankans for suspected Daesh links
Updated 20 May 2024
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Indian police arrest four Sri Lankans for suspected Daesh links

Indian police arrest four Sri Lankans for suspected Daesh links
  • The arrests were made late Sunday at the Ahmedabad airport following a tip-off, top police officer says
  • Preliminary investigations show they were in contact with a key Daesh leader, allegedly based in Pakistan

AHMEDABAD: India’s anti-terror police have arrested four Sri Lankan nationals in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad for suspected links to the Islamic State (Daesh) militant group, police said on Monday.

The arrests were made late on Sunday at the city’s airport following a tip-off, said Vikas Sahay, the top police officer in Gujarat state where Ahmedabad is located.

“Preliminary investigations show they were in contact with a key IS leader known as Abu, who is currently based in Pakistan. Further investigations are continuing to uncover the full extent of the conspiracy,” Sahay told reporters, giving only one name for the Islamic State leader.

The arrested individuals were identified as Mohammed Nusrat (33), Mohammed Nafran (35), Mohammed Faaris (27), and Mohammed Rashdin (43), all residents of Colombo, Sri Lanka, whose foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sahay said the Gujarat Police’s anti-terrorism squad found a Daesh flag in their possession, while analysis of two seized mobile phones showed various photographs and videos indicating that they were involved with the militant group.

The ATS also recovered three loaded pistols along with another Daesh flag from a location near Ahmedabad, identified from photos in the mobile phones, Sahay said.

Police have registered a case under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Arms Act against the four suspects, the officer said.


Greece to deport nine European nationals over pro-Palestinian protest

Greece to deport nine European nationals over pro-Palestinian protest
Updated 20 May 2024
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Greece to deport nine European nationals over pro-Palestinian protest

Greece to deport nine European nationals over pro-Palestinian protest
  • The protesters have denied any wrongdoing
  • The Greek protesters were released pending trial on May 28 but the nine foreign nationals remained in custody pending an administrative decision on their deportation

ATHENS: Nine protesters from Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain, arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the University of Athens School of Law last week are set to be deported from Greece, their lawyers said on Monday.
Police last week detained a total of 28 Greek and foreign protesters occupying the building, on charges including disrupting the operation of a public entity and assistance in damaging foreign property, according to court documents.
The protesters have denied any wrongdoing.
Evidence included leaflets, Palestinian flags, two smoke flares, gas masks, helmets, paint cans and banner poles, along with a statement uploaded on a website in Greek and English urging others to join the protest, according to the documents.
The Greek protesters were released pending trial on May 28 but the nine foreign nationals — one man and eight women, aged 22 to 33 — remained in custody pending an administrative decision on their deportation.
The foreigners’ lawyers said in a statement that deportation orders had been issued, which would prevent the defendants attending their own trial.
Lawyers Ioanna Sioupouli and Anny Paparoussou said that their clients who live and work in Greece planned to appeal.
Lawyer Vassilis Papadopoulos, representing a 33-year-old Spaniard, called the decision “arbitrary and illegal.”
Pro-Palestinian supporters have staged several protests in Greece since Israel’s war with Hamas began in Gaza in October.
Greece in 2019 scrapped legislation that prohibited police from entering universities, as the conservative government said it was used as a cover for lawlessness.
The Academic Sanctuary Law, a legacy of the crackdown on a 1973 student revolt by the military junta of the time, was designed to protect protesting students and freedom of ideas. Critics decried its abolition as a clampdown on democracy.


World Water Forum opens in Bali to address resource shortage, management 

World Water Forum opens in Bali to address resource shortage, management 
Updated 20 May 2024
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World Water Forum opens in Bali to address resource shortage, management 

World Water Forum opens in Bali to address resource shortage, management 
  • Saudi Environment Minister Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli leads Kingdom’s delegation in Bali
  • Saudi Arabia is set to host the next edition of World Water Forum in Riyadh in 2027

JAKARTA: The 10th World Water Forum, a gathering aimed at fostering international collaboration in global water management, opened on Indonesia’s island of Bali on Monday.

The World Water Forum will run until May 25, as hundreds of international participants join the conference to address global water and sanitation challenges. 

The 10th edition held under the theme “Water for Shared Prosperity” saw several heads of state and ministers in attendance, including Tajikistan Prime Minister Qohir Rasulzoda, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere, and Saudi Minister of Environment Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli. 

President Joko Widodo called attention to the “central role” of water for human civilizations as he opened the forum on Monday. 

“Water scarcity can also trigger war and become the source of disasters. Too much water or too little water both can turn into problems for the world,” Widodo said in his opening speech. 

“The 10th World Water Forum is very strategic to revitalize real collective action and commitment to realize an integrated management of water resources … Water isn’t merely a natural product, but a product of collaboration that unites us and therefore we must have collaborative efforts to preserve it.” 

Loic Fauchon, president of the World Water Council, also called for global action. 

“This 10th World Water Forum should mark the turning point towards concrete action,” he said. 

The World Water Forum is held every three years and organized by the World Water Council and a host country. 

This year, the multi-day event will also see Saudi Arabia participate in a special session focusing on its role as the next host of the international conference under the theme “Action for a Better Tomorrow.”

The Kingdom will host the 11th World Water Forum in 2027 in Riyadh. 


Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia

Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia
Updated 20 May 2024
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Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia

Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is committing to keep US weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces one of its toughest moments against a renewed assault by Russia

WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin committed Monday to keeping US weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces one of its toughest moments against a renewed assault by Russia.
Austin and as many as 50 defense leaders from Europe and around the world were meeting Monday to coordinate more military aid to Ukraine, as Kyiv tries to hold off a Russian offensive in the northeast while launching its own massive assault on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
“We’re meeting in a moment of challenge,” Austin said, noting that Russia’s new onslaught of Kharkiv showed why the continued commitment by the countries was vital to keep coming. Austin vowed to keep US weapons moving “week after week.”
The US announced no new aid packages Monday, even as Ukrainian forces continue to complain that weapons are just trickling into the country after being stalled for months due to congressional gridlock over funding. Pentagon officials have said that weapons pre-positioned in Europe began moving into Ukraine soon after the aid funding was approved.
It’s unclear how much of that has reached some of the front lines, where Russian troops have intensified their assault.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday during a visit to China that Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region aims to create a buffer zone but that there are no plans to capture the city.
Ukrainian troops have been fighting to halt Russian advances in the Kharkiv region, while also increasing their offensive attacks in Crimea, including on military infrastructure sites on the Black Sea coast and in the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol.
Ukraine has also struggled to get enough troops to the front lines, as the war drags on into its third year and fighting takes its toll. In an effort to increase troop numbers, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed two laws, allowing prisoners to join the army and increasing fines for draft dodgers fivefold. The controversial mobilization law goes into effect on Saturday.
In the three weeks since President Joe Biden signed the $95 billion foreign aid package, the US has sent $1.4 billion in weapons pulled from Pentagon stockpiles and announced it was providing $6 billion in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. USAI pays for longer-term contracts with the defense industry and means that the weapons could take many months or years to arrive.
In recent packages the US has agreed to send High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and rockets for them, as well as munitions for Patriot and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank munitions, and an array of armored vehicles, such as Bradley and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
The US is also providing additional coastal and riverine patrol boats, trailers, demolition munitions, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, protective gear, spare parts and other weapons and equipment.
The State Department has also approved a proposed emergency sale of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine for an estimated $30 million. State said Ukraine has asked to buy three of the rocket systems, which would be funded by the government of Germany.
The US has now provided about $50.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.


Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai
Updated 20 May 2024
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Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

NEW DELHI: A-list actors in India called on voters to cast their ballots on Monday, as the country’s massive general election reaches Bollywood capital Mumbai, entering its fifth phase. 

More than 968 million people are eligible to vote in India, as the world’s largest electoral exercise began on April 19 in a seven-phase election spread out over over six weeks, with ballots set to be counted on June 4. 

Voter numbers have slumped compared to previous polls, with the first four phases of the election held on April 19, April 26, May 7 and May 13 seeing a turnout of 66.95 percent, 66.7 percent, 65.7 percent and 69.1 percent, respectively. 

In India’s financial capital Mumbai, located in Maharashtra state, Bollywood stars were among the voters queuing since early morning to cast their ballots on Monday, as millions vote in the fifth phase of the election, where 49 seats are up for grabs across six states and two federally administered territories. 

“I came here at 7 o’clock in the morning when the polling booth opened,” actor Akshay Kumar told reporters after casting his vote. 

“I want my India to be developed and strong. I voted, keeping that in mind. (Indians) should vote according to what they think is best for them.” 

Actor Rajkummar Rao said that voting was a “big responsibility” for the nation. 

“It’s very, very important. If, through us, people can get influenced, it’s the best we can do to make people aware of the importance of voting. It’s our moral responsibility toward the nation. I appeal to all of you to come out and vote,” he said. 

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan had also urged Indians to use their right to vote over the weekend, taking to X — where he has more than 44 million followers — to make the public call. 

“As responsible Indian citizens we must exercise our right to vote this Monday in Maharashtra. Let’s carry out our duty as Indians and vote keeping our country’s best interests in mind,” Khan said. 

This election sees Prime Minister Narendra Modi chasing a rare third straight five-year term in power, targeting 400 out of the 543 parliamentary seats for the National Democratic Alliance led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been in power since 2014. 

Analysts say Maharashtra will likely be a swing state as it sends the second-highest number of representatives to the lower house of parliament after Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 lawmakers. It may affect the BJP’s initial strong projections in the polls. 

“There are many social issues that are going to be crucial in the state. For instance there is an agrarian distress, the issue of  reservation for the local Maratha community, the general issues like price rise and unemployment that are going against the  establishment,” said Shailendra R Kharat, political science professor at Pune University. 

Though the BJP swept 42 seats in the state in the 2019 elections, Kharat said he expects the ruling party alliance to get only 30 at most. 

Ashok Wankhede, a political analyst based in Maharashtra, said the BJP has not been able “to carry the trust” of the people.

“Maharashtra is the state where the BJP-led alliance is losing the most. This is going to be a major swing state,” he told Arab News. 

“To talk about 400 seats is a war cry. The fight in this election is open and it’s not going to be easy for the BJP to form the government. The last four phases of the election have not been very promising for the BJP.”