Mass killer Breivik loses Norway human rights case

Mass killer Breivik loses Norway human rights case
Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik lost against the state in his bid to end his isolation in prison, a court ruled on Thursday. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 February 2024
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Mass killer Breivik loses Norway human rights case

Mass killer Breivik loses Norway human rights case
  • The far-right fanatic sued the state in January arguing his prison conditions violated his human rights
  • The Oslo District Court has, after an overall assessment, concluded that Breivik’s sentencing conditions are not a violation of human rights

OSLO: Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik lost against the state in his bid to end his isolation in prison, a court ruled on Thursday.
The far-right fanatic, who killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage in 2011, sued the state in January arguing his prison conditions violated his human rights.
“The Oslo District Court has, after an overall assessment, concluded that Breivik’s sentencing conditions are not a violation of human rights,” it said in a statement accompanying the verdict.
Breivik is serving a 21-year sentence, the maximum penalty at the time of his crimes, which can be extended for as long as he is deemed a threat to society.
He has been held in isolation ever since he killed eight people with a car bomb in Oslo and gunned down 69 others, most of them teenagers, on Utoeya island, on July 22, 2011.
The case took place in January at Breivik’s high-security prison, set on the shore of the Tyrifjorden lake, where Utoeya also lies.
Breivik testified he was sorry for what he had done and broke down in tears as he said his life in prison isolation was a nightmare that left him considering suicide daily.
Yet, a day later, a psychologist who co-wrote a fresh risk assessment about the killer
Testified he was neither depressed nor suicidal and was doing “very well.”
“In summary, the court has come to the conclusion that the sentencing conditions cannot be said to be, or to have been, disproportionately burdensome,” said the verdict.
Breivik’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership

UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership
Updated 11 sec ago
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UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership

UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership
  • An application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council, where Israel ally the United States can block it

UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations Security Council committee considering an application by the Palestinian Authority to become a full UN member “was unable to make a unanimous recommendation” on whether it met the criteria, according to the committee report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
The Palestinian Authority is still expected to push the 15-member Security Council to vote — as early as this week — on a draft resolution recommending it become a full member of the world body, diplomats said.
Such membership would effectively recognize a Palestinian state. The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the 193-member UN General Assembly in 2012.
But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council, where Israel ally the United States can block it, and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.
The United States said earlier this month that establishing an independent Palestinian state should happen through direct negotiations between the parties and not at the United Nations.
The UN Security Council has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.
Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s.
The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Security Council committee on the admission of new members — made up of all 15 council members — agreed to its report on Tuesday after meeting twice last week to discuss the Palestinian application.
“Regarding the issue of whether the application met all the criteria for membership ... the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council,” the report said, adding that “differing views were expressed.”
UN membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in the founding UN Charter and are able and willing to carry them out.


Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances

Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances
Updated 8 min 55 sec ago
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Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances

Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances
  • Extradition sought over release of classified information
  • Australia has urged US to drop charges against Assange

LONDON: The United States has provided assurances requested by the High Court in London which could finally pave the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited from Britain.
Last month, the High Court ruled that, without certain US guarantees, Assange, 52, would be allowed to launch a new appeal against being extradited to face 18 charges, all bar one under the Espionage Act, over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.
Those assurances — that in a US trial he could seek a First Amendment right to free speech and that there was no prospect of new charges which could see the death penalty being imposed — have now been submitted by a deadline which fell on Tuesday.
The document, seen by Reuters, states that Assange “will have the ability to raise and seek to rely upon at trial the rights and protections given under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.” However it adds that a decision on the “applicability of the First Amendment is exclusively within the purview of the US courts.”
The document also says that a sentence of death will neither be sought nor imposed.
“These assurances are binding on any and all present or subsequent individuals to whom authority has been delegated to decide the matters,” it said.
There will now be a further court hearing in London on May 20, but his lawyers have previously described US assurances given in other cases as not “worth the paper they’re written on,” echoing similar criticism from human rights group Amnesty International.

’EXTREME DISTRESS’
Assange’s wife Stella, whom he married while in prison in London, said the guarantees did not satisfy their concerns, describing them as “blatant weasel words.”
“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty,” she said in a statement.
“The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism.”
There was no immediate comment from the US Department of Justice or a High Court spokesperson.
Last week, US President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution, which Assange’s US lawyer described as “encouraging.”
It was not clear what influence, if any, Biden could exert on a criminal case, but the Wall Street Journal has also reported that discussions are underway about a potential plea bargaining deal.
Assange, who is an Australian citizen, has spent more than 13 years in various legal battles in the English courts since he was first arrested in November 2010.
To his many supporters, he is an anti-establishment hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing and details of alleged war crimes in secret, classified files.
The US authorities argue he is not being prosecuted for the publication of the leaked materials, but for the criminal act of conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain them.
“The Biden administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late,” Stella Assange said.


Muslim school student loses UK court bid over prayer rituals ban

Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 April 2024
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Muslim school student loses UK court bid over prayer rituals ban

Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
  • The High Court in London hearing the case was told the ban introduced last year stemmed from several dozen students beginning to pray in the school’s yard

LONDON: A Muslim pupil lost a UK court challenge Tuesday against a top London school’s ban on prayer rituals, in a case about freedom of religion in schools that captured national attention.
The student, who cannot be named, took legal action against Michaela Community School in northwest London, claiming the policy was discriminatory and “uniquely” affected her faith due to its ritualized nature.
She argued the school’s prohibition of on-site prayer unlawfully breached her right to religious freedom and was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society.”
The school — state-funded but independently run and renowned for its academic achievement record and strict rules — countered that the policy imposed last year was justified.
The High Court in London hearing the case was told the ban introduced last year stemmed from several dozen students beginning to pray in the school’s yard, using blazers to kneel on, the BBC reported.
It then imposed the new rules due to concerns about a “culture shift” toward “segregation between religious groups and intimidation within the group of Muslim pupils,” the court reportedly heard.
In a written ruling, judge Thomas Linden dismissed the pupil’s arguments, ruling that by enrolling at the school she had effectively accepted being subject to restrictions on manifesting her faith.
He concluded that the prayer ritual policy was “proportionate” and that its aims and ability to achieve them “outweighs” any “adverse effects” on the rights of Muslim pupils at the school.
Responding to the decision Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher of Michaela Community School, said “a school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves.”
“The court’s decision is therefore a victory for all schools,” she added on X (formerly Twitter).
“Schools should not be forced by one child and her mother to change its approach simply because they have decided they don’t like something at the school.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan also welcomed the ruling, saying “headteachers are best placed to make decisions in their school.”
“Michaela is an outstanding school and I hope this judgment gives all school leaders the confidence to make the right decisions for their pupils.”


At least 66 killed in Afghanistan as heavy rains set off flash floods

At least 66 killed in Afghanistan as heavy rains set off flash floods
Updated 16 April 2024
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At least 66 killed in Afghanistan as heavy rains set off flash floods

At least 66 killed in Afghanistan as heavy rains set off flash floods
  • Number of reported casualties has doubled since Sunday
  • Many were killed when their homes collapsed on them

KABUL: Extreme rainfall in Afghanistan and devastating flash floods have killed at least 66 people and damaged homes, infrastructure, and farmlands across most of the country’s provinces, authorities said on Tuesday.

The storms, which started over the weekend, are adding to the challenges facing Afghanistan, which is still recovering from decades of conflict and natural disasters, including unprecedented droughts in the past four years, as well as a series of deadly earthquakes.

“According to primary reports from the provinces, at least 66 people lost their lives, and 36 others are injured,” Janan Sayeq, spokesperson of the National Disaster Management Authority, told Arab News on Tuesday.

The number of reported casualties has doubled since Sunday, raising fears the actual toll could be higher. Many of the victims were killed when their homes collapsed on them.

Sayeq said that 1,235 houses were destroyed.

Flash floods were reported in 23 of the country’s 34 provinces, damaging crops ahead of the harvest season, and further affecting food security in the country as UN agencies estimate that more than half of its population has been in need of humanitarian assistance.

“The wheat crops will be ready for collection in a few weeks. But the rainfalls could destroy most of it,” said Gul Hussain, a farmer from the eastern Laghman province, which is one of the main agricultural regions.

The impact of drought, and now also floods, has been devastating for rural families struggling with access to water.

“The floods have had severe effects on the lives of people in the southeast, southwest and east of the country and have caused loss of life and damage to houses, as well as economic and agricultural effects as crops are destroyed and livestock are killed,” Najibullah Sadid, a hydromophologist, told Arab News.

The country’s mountainous topography and reduced vegetation left little to no space for people to escape flood events, as preparedness and prevention in the face of the changing climate are almost nonexistent.

Water management infrastructure — such as check dams, trenches, terraces, and reservoirs that could help reduce flooding — is insufficient.

“For instance, Iran has 22 times more storage capacity and Pakistan 13 times more storage capacity than Afghanistan, making the country more vulnerable to floods during rainfalls,” Sadid said.

“Considering the increasing climate change effects as well as frequency and intensity of rainfalls, steps taken during the past two decades and now are limited and are not sufficient to control the situation.”


Indonesian coffee takes lead in Egyptian market 

Indonesian coffee takes lead in Egyptian market 
Updated 16 April 2024
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Indonesian coffee takes lead in Egyptian market 

Indonesian coffee takes lead in Egyptian market 
  • Indonesia is the world’s 4th-largest coffee producer and Asia’s second-biggest
  • Egypt was second-biggest export destination for Indonesian coffee in 2023, behind the US

JAKARTA: Indonesia has become Egypt’s main source of coffee, authorities said on Tuesday, as annual exports reached nearly $93 million, or about 43 percent of the market. 

Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest coffee producer and Asia’s second-biggest. In 2023, the Southeast Asian nation exported around 276,000 metric tons of the commodity worth almost $916 million, according to the Central Statistics Agency. 

Egypt was the second-biggest export destination for Indonesian coffee, just behind the US, accounting for about 5.2 percent of the country’s total coffee exports. 

“Indonesian coffee has successfully dominated the Egyptian market. Total export value reached $92.96 million, making Indonesia the biggest coffee-exporting country to Egypt in 2023,” Indonesian Ambassador in Cairo Lutfi Rauf said in a statement. 

“This shows how Indonesian coffee products are loved by Egyptian consumers. The unique aroma and flavor are the main factors attracting consumers from Egypt.” 

Indonesian officials held an annual meeting with Egyptian coffee buyers in Damanhour over the weekend, as they seek to foster good trade relations. 

“We hope to continue and to improve trade relations. If there are any challenges, everything can be discussed well for the prosperity and welfare of the people of both countries,” Rauf said. 

Indonesian officials have been increasing trade engagement with Egypt as a gateway for exports to other African countries in recent years, while Indonesian coffee producers are seeking to further their exports to the Middle East amid rising interest from the region. 

Hariyanto, a coffee exporter from East Java province, said promotion efforts by the Indonesian Embassy in Cairo have helped boost the popularity of Indonesian coffee in Egypt. 

“Egypt is a great market, and now there is a high demand for Indonesian-origin coffee products,” Hariyanto, a coffee exporter from East Java province, told Arab News. 

“Egyptians found a match in Indonesian-origin coffee, as there is a good fit in terms of price and taste.”