Tunisia arrests Al Jazeera journalist: bureau director

Tunisia arrests Al Jazeera journalist: bureau director
Samir Sassi a journalist at the Al Jazeera office in Tunisia (X)
Short Url
Updated 04 January 2024
Follow

Tunisia arrests Al Jazeera journalist: bureau director

Tunisia arrests Al Jazeera journalist: bureau director
  • Al Jazeera’s Tunisia bureau has been closed since President Kais Saied’s swift power grab in July 2021
  • Campaigners voiced concern over a growing number of journalists behind bars in the North African country

Tunis: Tunisian authorities have arrested an Al Jazeera reporter, the network’s bureau chief said Thursday, as campaigners voiced concern over a growing number of journalists behind bars in the North African country.
“Samir Sassi, a journalist at the Al Jazeera office in Tunisia, was arrested after security forces raided his house” late Wednesday, said Lotfi Hajji, director of the Qatar-based television network’s bureau in Tunis.
He told AFP that police did not disclose the reasons for the arrest nor where Sassi was being held. There was no official comment from Tunisian authorities.
Hajji said the security forces had also seized Sassi’s “computer, phone, and the phones of his wife and children.”
Al Jazeera’s Tunisia bureau has been closed since President Kais Saied’s swift power grab in July 2021, but the network’s journalists remained accredited and maintained their coverage in Tunisia.
Authorities did not provide a reason for shutting down the bureau at the time.
Tunisia has come under criticism for a crackdown on the freedom of speech, including the arrests of more than 30 journalists in 2023, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In an open letter to Saied published on Thursday, the IFJ expressed its “deepest concern at the frequent imprisonment of journalists, in total contravention of the provisions of the Tunisian Constitution in respect of freedom of expression and the media.”
It mentioned the case of Tunisian journalist Zied El Heni, who was arrested on December 29 after criticizing Tunisian Commerce Minister Kalthoum Ben Rejeb in a radio show he hosts.
Heni became well known during the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and set in motion what later came to be known as the Arab Spring.
The journalist remains in detention, awaiting trial scheduled for January 10.
“Heni’s case is not an isolated one, but clearly indicates the existence of a systematic policy of instrumentalising legal procedures and the judicial system to systematically intimidate, bully and imprison journalists,” said the IFJ.
Last summer, the United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said he was “deeply concerned” over the crackdown on media in Tunisia, with vaguely worded legislation used to criminalize criticism.
Seventeen journalists in Tunisia currently face trial, according to local media.
Heni and some other journalists have been prosecuted under the provisions of Decree 54, which punishes those accused of spreading “false news” with a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
The legislation “is being used to silence journalists and opponents of the president,” Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the IFJ, said earlier this week, accusing the government of “attacking journalists.”


After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today
Updated 4 min 57 sec ago
Follow

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today

After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan set to launch modern communication satellite into space today
  • PAKSAT MM1 will help usher in digital era by providing Internet to country’s remote areas, national space agency says
  • Satellite launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center to be broadcast live from Suparco centers in Islamabad, Karachi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will launch its latest modern communication satellite, the PAKSAT MM1, into the space today, Thursday, state media reported, weeks after its ICUBE-Qamar (ICUBE-Q) entered lunar orbit.
ICUBE-Q was launched into space on May 3 aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images to earth.
The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), the national space agency, now plans to launch another communication satellite with Chinese assistance.
“Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission will launch a new satellite PakSat MM1 on Thursday from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said.
“The satellite PakSat MM1 has been conceived keeping in view the growing needs of the country in the broad spectrum of communication and connectivity ... Based on advanced communication technologies, PakSat MM1 will play a pivotal role in the socio-economic uplift of the country and will prove to be a stepping stone in the transformation of the country into Digital Pakistan.”
Earlier this week, state media said the satellite would help usher in a digital era in Pakistan by helping provide Internet to remote areas, as per Suparco officials.
The launch ceremony would be broadcast live from Suparco’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi.
Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.
Chang’e 6 is a planned robotic Chinese and Pakistani lunar exploration mission that is attempting Beijing’s second sample return mission and aims to obtain the first-ever soil and rock samples from the lunar far side and return them to earth. The samples will contain material ejected from the lunar mantle and will be used to provide insight into the history of the moon, earth, and the solar system.
The primary phase of the mission is expected to last about 53 days. Around 100 students from Pakistan’s Institute of Space Technology (IST) contributed to developing the ICUBE-Q satellite.


Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
Updated 21 min 9 sec ago
Follow

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations

Jury starts day two of Trump trial deliberations
  • There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity

NEW YORK: Jurors return Thursday to a second day of deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal trial, leaving the Republican presidential candidate and the country waiting for a decision that could upend November’s election.
After weeks of testimony from more than 20 witnesses on Trump’s alleged fraud in covering up a politically damaging tryst with a porn star, the spotlight is now on the 12-strong New York jury.
The jurors — their identities kept secret for their own protection amid nationwide political tensions — are working behind closed doors in a separate room.
The only clues to the direction they are taking come through requests for clarifications. They were due to start off Thursday by reexamining testimony from two witnesses and also hear again the judge’s instructions on how to interpret the law.
Trump, 77, is required to stay in the court building while deliberations unfold.
Although barred by Judge Juan Merchan with a gag order from attacking witnesses, he has taken out his anger daily on the judge and what he claims is a politically motivated trial.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said late Wednesday. “There’s no crime.”
There is no time limit to deliberations but an acquittal or conviction would require unanimity. If just one juror refuses to join the others, the judge would have to declare a mistrial.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records to reimburse a $130,000 payment to silence adult film star Stormy Daniels, when her account of an alleged sexual encounter could have imperiled his ultimately successful 2016 presidential campaign.
Prosecutors say the fraud was motivated by a plot to prevent voters from knowing about his behavior.
If Trump is found guilty, the political repercussions would far outweigh the seriousness of the charges as, barely five months before the November 5 presidential election, the candidate would also become a convicted criminal.


In closing arguments on Tuesday, Trump’s defense team insisted the evidence for a conviction simply did not exist, while the prosecution countered that it was voluminous and inescapable.
“The defendant’s intent to defraud could not be any clearer,” said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, urging the jurors to use their “common sense” and return a guilty verdict.
If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of the 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.
A conviction would not bar him from the November ballot and he would almost certainly appeal. In the case of a mistrial, prosecutors could seek a new trial.
Trump — required to attend every day of the proceedings — has used his trips to court and the huge media presence to spread his claim that the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.
Polls show Trump neck and neck against President Joe Biden, and the verdict will inflame passions as the White House race intensifies.
In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
He also faces charges in Florida of hoarding huge quantities of classified documents after leaving the White House.
However, the New York case is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.


Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support

Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support
Updated 28 min 34 sec ago
Follow

Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support

Iran’s Khamenei hails US university students for Gaza support
  • Universities in the US were rocked by pro-Palestinian demonstrations in April, triggering campus clashes with police and the arrest of dozens of people

TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised university students in the United States for their protests over the rising death toll in the war in Gaza.
“You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front,” said Khamenei, referring to Tehran-aligned armed groups across the Middle East arrayed against arch-foe Israel which is also known as the Axis of Resistance.
“As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it,” he said in a letter published on his official website on Thursday.
Universities in the United States were rocked by pro-Palestinian demonstrations in April, triggering campus clashes with police and the arrest of dozens of people.
The demonstrations began at Columbia University in New York and later spread across the country as well as to Europe and elsewhere.
Tehran has reiterated support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip.
The assault resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry
Regional tensions have since soared, drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
Tit-for-tat escalations led to Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel last month.


Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
Updated 37 min 32 sec ago
Follow

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north

Ukraine says Russia building up forces near Kharkiv region’s north
  • Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds

KYIV: Russia is building up forces near the northern part of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region where it launched an offensive this month, but it still lacks the troop numbers to stage a major push in the area, Ukraine’s top commander said on Thursday.
Ukraine says it has stabilized the front in the northeastern Kharkiv region where Russian forces launched a cross-border assault on May 10 that opened a new front in the 27-month-old war and stretched Kyiv’s outnumbered troops.
Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to send additional regiments and brigades from other areas and from training grounds to bulk up its troops on two main lines of attack in Kharkiv region’s north.
That includes the Strilecha-Lyptsi area between two small villages and the vicinity of the border town of Vovchansk where there has been street fighting.
“These forces are currently insufficient for a large-scale offensive and breakthrough of our defense,” Syrskyi said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Ukraine’s “creation of an ammunition reserve” had also reduced the offensive capabilities of Russian forces.
The remark suggested Kyiv’s acute shortages of artillery ammunition had eased since the United States finally approved a major aid package in April after months of delay.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that American weapons being delivered were helping to stabilize the Ukrainian front lines.
Russia has concentrated most of its offensive pressure in Ukraine’s east where its troops have been able to make slow incremental advances since capturing the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region in February.


Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
Updated 53 min 43 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’

Pakistan army top commanders decry cross-border attacks from Afghanistan, ‘digital terrorism’
  • Army says adversaries are using Afghanistan to target security forces and civilians inside Pakistan
  • In veiled reference to ex-PM Khan and his party, army says will defeat “politically motivated digital terrorism” 

ISLAMABAD: The top commanders of the Pakistan army met on Thursday and discussed ‘serious concerns’ about cross-border attacks they said were orchestrated by militants using safe havens in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as the use of social media by “politically motivated” internal actors to sow discord between the military and the public.
The views were expressed at the 83rd Formation Commanders Conference held at the military’s GHQ headquarters in Rawalpindi and attended by Army Chief General Asim Munir, all corps commanders, principal staff officers and formation commanders of the Pakistan army.
In a press conference held earlier this month, Pakistan’s military had said a suicide bombing in March that killed five Chinese engineers was planned in neighboring Afghanistan, and that the bomber was an Afghan national. Previously also, the government and army have blamed militants harboring in Afghanistan for a surge in attacks in Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months as Islamabad says Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan. In March, Pakistan also carried out airstrikes targeting militants on Afghan territory. The Taliban have rejected Islamabad’s accusations, saying Pakistan is responsible for its own security challenges.
Since late last year, Pakistan has expelled almost half a million undocumented Afghan nationals, saying the majority of suicide attacks against its security forces were carried out by Afghans, a charge Kabul rejects.
“The forum expressed serious concerns over continued cross-border violations from Afghanistan and terrorism being orchestrated using Afghan soil, noting that Pakistan’s adversaries were using Afghanistan to target Security Forces and innocent civilians inside Pakistan,” a statement from the army said after the corp commanders’ meeting on Thursday.
Talking about internal challenges, the statement, in a veiled reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, said “politically motivated and vested digital terrorism” had been unleashed by “conspirators duly abetted by their foreign cohorts against state institutions.”
“[It] is clearly meant to try to induce despondency in the Pakistani nation, to sow discord among national institutions, especially the Armed Forces, and the people of Pakistan by peddling blatant lies, fake news, and propaganda,” the statement said. 
“However, the nation is fully cognizant of their ugly and ulterior motives and surely the designs of these nefarious forces will be comprehensively defeated.”
The military remains the country’s most powerful institution and has for decades had a huge role in making and breaking governments. Khan accuses the military of a crackdown on him and his party, which the army denies.
Although Khan is widely believed to have been brought to power in 2018 with the backing of the army, he fell out with top generals and by April 2022 was ousted from the PM’s office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. He has since led a defiant campaign against the army, which he accuses of working with his political rivals to unseat him. 
Tensions between Khan and the army reached a crescendo on May 9 last year when alleged supporters of the PTI attacked and damaged government and military installations. Hundreds of PTI supporters and leaders were arrested following the riots and some continue to remain behind bars as they await trial. The army has also initiated military court trials of at least 103 people accused of involvement in the violence. Many close Khan aides have since deserted him, due to what is widely believed to be pressure from the army, which denies interfering in politics.
“The planners, perpetrators, abettors, and facilitators of 9th May need to be brought to justice for the collective good of the country, and that without swift and transparent dispensation of justice to the culprits and establishing the rule of law, stability in the country will ever remain hostage to the machinations of such elements,” the army statement concluded. 
Khan and the PTI say the May riots have been used as a ruse by political rivals and the military to crack down on the party, which is arguably the most popular in Pakistan. Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with the violence. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.
Khan was also handed four court convictions ahead of Feb. 8 general elections, which ruled him out of the polls as convicted individuals cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Khan says all the cases are motivated to keep him away from politics.