Pakistan court acquits former PM Sharif in graft case

Pakistan court acquits former PM Sharif in graft case
People ride past large banners of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif displayed along a street ahead of his arrival in Lahore in October 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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Pakistan court acquits former PM Sharif in graft case

Pakistan court acquits former PM Sharif in graft case
  • Sharif is currently on bail appealing several convictions for corruption in an attempt to clear his name ahead of elections scheduled in February
  • “I had left all the matters to Allah and Allah has honored me today,” Sharif told reporters outside the Islamabad High Court

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan high court on Wednesday quashed a graft conviction against three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from self-imposed exile last month to launch a political comeback.
Sharif is currently on bail appealing several convictions for corruption in an attempt to clear his name ahead of elections scheduled in February, with his primary opponent Imran Khan in jail.
“I had left all the matters to Allah and Allah has honored me today,” Sharif told reporters outside the Islamabad High Court.
An official of the Islamabad high court confirmed the acquittal in one case, and Sharif is still appealing a second conviction over investments in steel companies.
Sharif was jailed for 10 years in 2018 for corrupt practices linked to his family’s purchase of upscale London flats.
He was ousted and barred from politics for life in 2017 for failing to declare parts of his income.
Sharif, who has been prime minister three times but has never completed a full term, has always maintained that the charges were politically motivated.
His political fortunes have risen and fallen on his relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment — the country’s true kingmakers who have ruled directly for more than half of its history and continue to enjoy immense power.
“Now everything is moving in favor of Nawaz Sharif,” said political analyst Hasan Askari.
“This appears to be a political game managed by powerful personalities and institutions,” he told AFP.
Sharif’s fortunes changed when Khan had a spectacular falling out with the military.
The former cricketing superstar was later jailed in connection with several cases he says are designed to keep him from contesting elections next year.
Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shehbaz came to power in a coalition that ousted Khan.
That government oversaw a change to the law limiting the disqualification of lawmakers from contesting elections to five years — paving the way for his return.


Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 59 min 44 sec ago
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Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
  • The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers

DHAKA: Eight Rohingya refugees were injured on Saturday in a fire that broke out due to a gas leak at a camp on the remote Bhasan Char island on Saturday, police said.
Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district, Bhasan Char police chief Kawsar Alam Bhuiyan said.
He said five children were among the injured.

FASTFACT

Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district.

Bangladesh has relocated around 32,000 people from border camps in the southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char Island since late 2020.
The move has faced opposition, especially from aid groups worried about a disaster in a country that regularly faces severe weather, especially along its coast.
The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers.
Nearly a million members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar live in crammed, bamboo-and-plastic camps in Cox’s Bazar, most of them having fled a military crackdown in 2017.
Fires often break out in the crowded camps with their makeshift structures. A massive blaze in March 2021 killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
Last year about 12,000 were left homeless after nearly 2,800 shelters and more than 90 facilities including hospitals and learning centers were destroyed in a fire. A panel that investigated the blaze called it a “planned act of sabotage.”

 


Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
Updated 24 February 2024
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Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
  • Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched

KYIV: Canada said on Saturday it would provide 3.02 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion) in financial and military support for Ukraine this year as the two countries signed a security agreement.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Kyiv on the second anniversary of the war, said in a statement announcing the funding.

Kyiv also signed a bilateral security deal with Italy on Saturday, President Volodomyr Zelensky said, following similar deals struck with Britain, France, Germany and Denmark in recent weeks.

In a post on social media, Zelensky said the document, signed with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, “lays a strong foundation for a long-term security partnership between Ukraine and Italy.”

The 10-year agreement between Ottawa and Kyiv “outlines key, long-term security commitments for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, protects its people, and rebuilds its economy for the future,” Trudeau’s office said.

The document includes funding pledges and enhanced cooperation across political, military, security, economic and humanitarian areas, but is not a defense pact or guarantee of military protection.

Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched and Russia is making its first gains on the battlefield in almost a year.

Ukraine relies on tens of billions of dollars in military support to provide its army with ammunition, artillery, tanks, rockets and other equipment.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in Kyiv, also said Saturday the first payment under a new 50-billion-euro ($54.2 billion) EU aid program for Ukraine, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion), would be disbursed in March.

But as the war enters its third year, there is still no sign of progress on Ukraine’s most important funding stream — a $60-billion package of support from the United States.


Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
Updated 24 February 2024
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Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
  • Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities
  • In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now”

BERLIN: Thousands of protesters rallied across Germany Saturday in support of Ukraine on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, even as doubts grow about Kyiv’s chances of victory.
Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities.
In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now.”
Addressing the crowd, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of aggression.”
“He wants to wipe out Ukraine, he wants to wipe out the identities of Ukrainians,” he said.
“But we won’t let happen. We will stand by Ukraine’s side.”
He called on Berlin to deliver long-range Taurus missiles long sought by Kyiv, a demand that the German government has so far refused for fears they could also strike inside Russia.
Organizers said about 10,000 people took part in the rally. Police put the figure at around 5,000.
In a square in the historic heart of Frankfurt, about 1,000 people took part in a rally, according to police, where they heard calls from speakers to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent times acknowledged facing frontline problems, pointing to a lack of Western aid, while Russian forces have been making gains.
“The West must do more to support Ukraine,” Achem Lobreuer, a 58-year-old engineer, told AFP at the rally.
This included delivering more armaments, but also “supporting negotiations,” he said.
“My message to Putin is that he must end this war.”
Maksym Godovnikov, a 38-year-old Ukrainian at the Frankfurt rally, also urged Ukraine’s allies to step up military support.
“If we have more weapons, we can protect ourselves and also win back land that was previously conquered,” he said.
Rallies were also taking place in other European capitals to mark the day Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
The anniversary comes as concerns grow in Europe about Ukraine’s faltering efforts to fend off Moscow.
According to a survey released last week, only 10 percent of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.
The survey conducted last month across 12 EU countries showed that on average 20 percent of those asked believed Russia could win, and 37 percent thought the conflict would end in a compromise settlement.


Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends
Updated 24 February 2024
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Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends
  • The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months
  • The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday

PARIS: France’s Eiffel Tower that had been closed for five days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument’s management announced a deal had been struck with unions.
The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.
The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months.”
With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some 380 million euros up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.
SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.
The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
SETE has since received a recapitalization of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.
Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.
The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.


Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother

Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother
Updated 9 min 35 sec ago
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Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother

Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother
  • Navalny’s family and supporters have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having him killed, an accusation that the Kremlin has rejected
  • Navalny’s team said on X on Thursday that his death certificate says he died of natural causes

WARSAW: The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died unexpectedly in prison nine days ago, was handed to his mother on Saturday in the Arctic city of Salekhard, his spokeswoman said, though it was unclear what will happen next to the body.
Navalny’s family and supporters have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having him killed, an accusation that the Kremlin has rejected. He survived a poisoning attempt in 2020 and years of harsh treatment in prison, including long spells in solitary confinement.
Navalny’s team said on X on Thursday that his death certificate says he died of natural causes.
In a video recorded before the release of the body, Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya accused “demonic” Putin of “torturing” the corpse of a political opponent.
Navalny’s allies urged supporters “not to relax” and his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on X there was no certainty that Russian authorities would let relatives hold a funeral “the way the family wants and the way Alexei deserves.”
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, in a statement pledging support for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, urged Russia to fully clarify the circumstances around Navalny’s death and to free “all unjustly detained prisoners.”
“We will hold those culpable for Navalny’s death accountable, including by continuing to impose restrictive measures in response to human rights violations and abuses in Russia and taking other actions,” the G7 added.
In her six-minute video published on YouTube, Navalnaya said she would continue the fight against Putin’s regime, questioned the president’s faith, and accused him of holding her husband’s body “hostage.”
On Friday Navalny’s mother Lyudmila said Russian investigators were refusing to release his body from a morgue in Salekhard until she agreed to lay him to rest without a public funeral.
She said an official had told her that she should agree to their demands, as Navalny’s body was already decomposing.
On Saturday, Navalny aides said the authorities had threatened to bury him in the remote prison colony where he died unless his family agreed to their conditions.
Since returning to the Russian presidency in 2012, Putin has positioned himself as a defender of traditional, conservative values against what he portrays as corrosive Western liberalism.
He has also trumpeted his closeness to Russia’s Orthodox Church, regularly appearing at services around religious festivals, and speaking of his personal faith.
Navalnaya said her husband had been a devout Christian who attended church and fasted for Lent even while in prison. She said his political activism had been inspired by Christian values.