Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge
London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday that government exceeded its powers by unlawfully giving police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge

Britain’s new protest laws unlawful, London court rules in rights group’s challenge
  • Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year
  • Judge rules new regulations gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests

LONDON: Britain unlawfully gave police wider powers to impose conditions on peaceful protests which cause “more than minor” disruption to the public, London’s High Court ruled on Tuesday.
Civil rights group Liberty took the government to court over changes to public order laws made last year, which it says gave the police almost unlimited powers to shut down protests.
The case was heard in February amid a wider crackdown on protest movements in Britain and across Europe, as environmental activists have used direct action protests to demand urgent government action against climate change.
Judges David Bean and Timothy Kerr ruled in the group’s favor on Tuesday, finding that the regulations granting the new powers were unlawful.
The High Court granted the government permission to appeal and suspended its decision that the new powers should be quashed pending the outcome of the appeal.
Liberty’s legal action focused on the Public Order Act, under which the police can impose conditions on a protest if it could cause “serious disruption to the life of the community.”
The law was amended last year, so police could impose conditions in cases where a protest could cause “more than minor” disruption, which Liberty said was unlawful.
Government lawyers argued that ministers were given express powers to amend the law on what amounted to serious disruption.
But the High Court ruled that the government exceeded its powers, which “did not extend to lowering the threshold for police intervention.”


Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links

Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links
Updated 6 sec ago
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Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links

Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links
  • Coca-Cola has been enjoying close ties with Israel since 1960s
  • Commercial says the beverage is ‘not from that place’

DHAKA:  Coca-Cola is under fire in Bangladesh for a recent ad aiming to distance the brand from Israel in the wake of a significant boycott resulting from the war on Gaza.

The 60-second video, which first aired on Bangladeshi TV and YouTube on June 9, shows a shopkeeper interacting with a buyer who no longer drinks Coca-Cola as it comes from “that place.” The place is not named in the clip, but seconds later it becomes clear that the reference is to Israel.

The shopkeeper says that Coke “is not at all from that place” and that it “also has a factory in Palestine,” after which the reluctant buyer orders and enjoys the drink.

Social media accounts of Coca-Cola Bangladesh were soon later flooded with comments from Bangladeshis responding to the claims.

Coca-Cola Co. has been enjoying close links with Israel since the 1960s. In 1997, the company was honored by its government for “refusing to abide by the Arab League economic boycott of Israel.”

It owns dairy farms in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the occupied Golan Heights.

In this context, the advert was for Bangladeshi viewers like Sohel Rahman, a businessman from Dhaka, an “attempt to fool the audience” by twisting the facts.

“Do they think the Bangladeshi people are stupid?” he said.

Sadia Ahmed, an executive from Dhaka’s Gulshan area, saw it as a “mockery” and misinformation.

“The campaign hid this information deliberately to play with the sentiments of the Bangladeshi people. The advertisers thought it would help boost its sales. But the result was the opposite,” she told Arab News. “Now, our boycotting campaign is even stronger, as Coke directly supports Israeli aggression on Palestine.”

While Coca-Cola removed the ad from its social media channels on Wednesday and no longer aired it on local TV, the video continued to make the rounds on social media, drawing comments like: “This feels desperate,” “This advertisement is trying to fool innocent people,” or “Boycott the actors too.”

Saraf Ahmed Zibon, the actor playing the main character in the ad, took to Facebook earlier this week to say he “had never been in favor of Israel” and had presented information and data that was provided to him by Coca-Cola.

The issue of Israel is very sensitive in Bangladesh, where many people say they can relate to the Palestinian struggle and resistance to Israeli occupation, and advocacy for Palestine is officially part of the country’s foreign policy.

Anything undermining the sentiment is unacceptable, especially when people “are dying every day in Gaza due to the Israeli aggression,” said Dr. Rasheda Rawnak Khan, associate professor at the Department of Anthropology of Dhaka University.

“It’s very much clear that this new Coke advertisement is political propaganda. This propaganda can’t be accepted in any case. It hurts the sentiment.”

Since the beginning of the newest Israeli onslaught on Gaza in October 2023, the Bangladeshi government and people have been repeatedly denouncing the deadly bombardment that has killed at least 37,000 Palestinians, destroyed most of the medical infrastructure in the besieged enclave, and displaced 80 percent of its population.

Part of the protest and mobilization in Bangladesh is a movement to boycott Western brands perceived as having links with Israel.

Coca-Cola’s attempt to win Bangladeshis back has resulted in the opposite.

“Coke failed to internalize the sentiment of 180 million people of Bangladesh … and made this socially and culturally (insensitive) advertisement to re-brand in the local market,” Prof. A.S.M. Amanullah, sociologist from Dhaka University, told Arab News.

“The attempt has backfired … I believe, in a couple of weeks, Coke’s sales could be reduced to 50 percent.”

Coca-Cola Bangladesh has not responded to repeated requests for comment about the commercial and its sales in the country.

A drop in demand has already been observed since October and has plunged further since the beginning of this week, with local soft drink brands coming to the fore.

“Last week, the demand was four times higher … A significant part of Coke’s annual sales used to happen during Eid Al-Adha. But this year, it seems that the total sales of Coke will fall drastically,” said Arifur Rahman, a grocery store owner at Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

“Usually, during summer, we used to sell a huge amount of Coke. But the demand started to decline from the beginning of the Gaza attack. The boycott campaign dealt a blow to Coke’s selling graph. Nowadays, people hardly ask for Coke. Instead, they are opting for different local colas.”


Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks

Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks
Updated 14 June 2024
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Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks

Putin states Russian conditions for Ukraine peace talks
  • Russia peace proposal is not about temporary ceasefire, but for completely ending the conflict
  • Putin says West’s ‘theft’ of Russia’s assets will not go unpunished

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia would cease fire and enter peace talks if Ukraine dropped its NATO ambitions and withdrew its forces from four Ukrainian regions claimed by Moscow.
Putin said Russia was ready to guarantee the safe withdrawal of Ukrainian units in order to enable this to happen.
He was speaking on the eve of a summit in Switzerland where more than 90 countries and organizations are due to discuss a possible path toward peace in Ukraine. Russia has not been invited and says the gathering is a waste of time.
Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukrainian territory in the third year of the war, and Ukraine says peace can only be based on a full withdrawal of Russian forces and the restoration of its territorial integrity.

President Vladimir Putin also said  that the West’s seizure of Russian sovereign assets was theft and would not go unpunished.
Putin, speaking at a meeting with Foreign Ministry officials, said the way the West had treated Moscow showed that “anyone” could be next and fall victim to a similar Western asset freeze.
Putin spoke a day after the leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies agreed on an outline deal to provide $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in 2022 in what it called a special military operation.


Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on

Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on
Updated 14 June 2024
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Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on

Greece migrant boat disaster relatives demand answers, one year on
  • Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt were crammed in Libya into a fishing trawler bound for Italy

ATHENS: Demonstrators were due to rally in Athens on Friday to mark the anniversary of a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants off Greece and demand answers about the causes of the disaster and the fate of relatives.
Up to 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt were crammed in Libya into a fishing trawler bound for Italy. It capsized off southwestern Greece on June 14, 2023, even though the Greek coast guard had been monitoring it for hours.
Some 104 survivors were rescued but only 82 bodies were recovered. The catastrophe, one of the worst Mediterranean boat disasters on record, raised searching questions about how the European Union is trying to stem flows of migrants.
“I wake up to nightmares. Even now, I swear by God, my body still hurts,” said one Egyptian survivor called Mohamed. “We, thanks to God, are alive ... Where are the rest of the bodies?“
Survivors and activists were planning rallies in Athens, London, Paris and Berlin. In the Pakistani city of Lalamousa, victims’ relatives prepared a memorial ceremony.
Survivors say the coast guard caused the ship to capsize when it tried to tow the vessel in the early hours of the morning. Authorities say the movement of migrants on board tipped the overcrowded boat over.
A year on, a probe by a naval court into the coast guard’s role is still at a preliminary stage, frustrating survivors, relatives and rights groups. Greece’s shipping minister has called for patience.
Pantelis Themelis, commander of Greece’s Disaster Victim Identification unit, said 74 of the 82 dead had been identified. But many more families from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have sent DNA samples to Greece for checks to no avail.
Hasan Ali, an Athens resident from Pakistan, said his brother Fahad was among the missing, and their parents back in Pakistan would not accept that he could be dead.
“My mother and father are waiting for him,” Ali said. “They say he’s alive, that he’s in Greece.”


Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
Updated 14 June 2024
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Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
  • Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy
  • Most of Kuwait’s 4 million population is made up of foreigners, many from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries

KOCHI: Grieving families kept a solemn vigil in the terminal of an Indian airport Friday as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.
Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy.
Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalized and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.
“We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he’s in the hospital,” Anu Aby, the neighbor of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, told AFP.
Aby said that Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child’s first birthday.
Abraham had been on the phone to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he added.
Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India’s south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down.
Most of oil-rich Kuwait’s population of more than four million is made up of foreigners.
Many of them are from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries, and living in overcrowded housing blocks like the one that went up in flames on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead and injured suffocated from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.
The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.
One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef vowed to address “labor overcrowding and neglect,” and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.
Three Filipinos were also among the dead, with the country’s migrant workers secretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac saying authorities in Manila were in touch with next of kin.
The blaze was one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven percent of the world’s known oil reserves.
In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.


Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
Updated 14 June 2024
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Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return

Indian relatives grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return
  • Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy

KOCHI: Grieving families kept a solemn vigil in the terminal of an Indian airport Friday as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.
Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign laborers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy.
Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalized and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.
“We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he’s in the hospital,” Anu Aby, the neighbor of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, told AFP.
Aby said that Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child’s first birthday.
Abraham had been on the phone to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he added.
Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India’s south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down.
Most of oil-rich Kuwait’s population of more than four million is made up of foreigners.
Many of them are from South and Southeast Asia working in construction and service industries, and living in overcrowded housing blocks like the one that went up in flames on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead and injured suffocated from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.
The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.
One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef vowed to address “labor overcrowding and neglect,” and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.
Three Filipinos were also among the dead, with the country’s migrant workers secretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac saying authorities in Manila were in touch with next of kin.
The blaze was one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven percent of the world’s known oil reserves.
In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.