Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads

Authorities impose curfew and cut internet access in many cities as death toll from three days of mass protests hits 20.

Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads
Demonstrators burn tyres during a curfew in Baghdad [Wissm al-Okili/Reuters]

The death toll from three days of mass anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to 20, with hundreds more wounded as authorities imposed curfew in several cities and cut internet access across much of the country to quell unrest.

The protests, which began in the capital, Baghdad, on Tuesday, are mostly spontaneous and without political leadership, staged by disenchanted youth demanding jobs, improved services, such as electricity and water, and an end to Iraq’s endemic corruption.

The demonstrations have since spread to cities across the mainly Shia south, making it the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government.

In Baghdad, authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew early on Thursday, saying the measure was meant to “protect general peace” and protesters from “infiltrators” who committed attacks against security forces and public property.

But dozens of protesters defied the order early on Thursday and attempted to gather at the Tahrir Square, prompting security forces to use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

“We slept here so the police don’t take the place,” one demonstrator told AFP news agency before riot police fired into the air.

Youths carry away a protester injured during clashes with riot police amidst demonstrations against state corruption, failing public services, and unemployment, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad's central
A protester injured during clashes with riot police during demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square is carried away [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Early on Thursday, some cars and civilians were seen in the capital’s streets. Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from the capital, said there was an “eerie quiet over Baghdad” but “sporadic gunfire towards Tahrir Square” could be heard.

“The curfew does seem to be working,” he said. “The protesters have been trying to gather in different areas of Baghdad throughout the day, but every time they reach crowds of 50 to 60 people, the security forces disperse them. The government hasn’t indicated when the curfew will be lifted.”

Authorities said travellers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity and water departments, and pilgrims were exempt from the restrictions.

Curfew was also imposed in the holy city of Najaf and the southern city of Nasiriya, the site of the deadliest protests so far with a total of 10 people, including one police officer, killed. In the city of Amarah, medics and security forces have confirmed the killing of four protesters on Thursday, bringing the death toll over the past three days to 20.

More than 1,000 others have been wounded in the nationwide protests, while 62 people have been arrested, according to figures from Iraq’s Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, approximately 75 percent of Iraq is “offline” after major network operators “intentionally restricted” access, according to cybersecurity monitor NetBlocks.

Residents are wary that more protests could erupt after powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for “a general strike”. His political bloc, Sairoon, which came first in last May’s parliamentary elections, is part of the ruling coalition.

Demonstrations over similar issues engulfed the southern city of Basra last summer and effectively ended previous Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s chances of a second term.

Demonstrators gesture at a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Baghdad
Demonstrators at a protest rally over unemployment, corruption and poor public services in Baghdad [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]

Anger over high rates of youth unemployment – which is approximately 25 percent, or double the adult rate, according to the World Bank – appears to have set off the latest round of demonstrations.

“We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded,” said Abdallah Walid, a 27-year-old protester.

The protesters are mostly “angry young people who are not aligned to any political or religious party”, said Al Jazeera’s Khan. “They are simply very frustrated at the fact that they don’t have jobs.”

After a small protest was quickly dispersed by security forces on Tuesday, a social media call went out which resulted in thousands of people taking to the streets, he added. Since then, the protests have spread to other cities in the country’s south.

Meanwhile, two border crossings into Iraq – including one widely used by Iranian pilgrims – have been closed because of unrest in Iraq, Iranian border guards said.

Demonstrators block a road during a curfew, two days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili
Demonstrators block a road in Baghdad during curfew, two days after nationwide anti-government protests turned violent [Wissm al-Okili/Reuters]

According to Iran’s semi-official news agency Mehr, Iranian border guards commander General Qasem Rezaei said the Khosravi and Chazabeh crossings had been closed since late Wednesday but other crossings were open in the run-up to an annual Shia Muslim pilgrimage in Iraq.

The tension has been exacerbated by a near-total internet shutdown, the closure of government offices and at least one overnight explosion that hit the Green Zone, where some ministries and embassies are located.

A security source in the area told AFP there were two blasts, likely caused by indirect fire a little over a week after two rockets hit near the US embassy there.

Demonstrators run as they take part in a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Basra, Iraq October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
Demonstrators run as they take part in a protest rally over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Basra [Essam al-Sudani/Reuters]

The apparent attack came hours after security forces sealed off the Green Zone “until further notice”, fearing angry protesters would swarm state buildings or foreign missions.

The Green Zone had been inaccessible for most Iraqis since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but had reopened to the public in June.

It has often been the focal point for public anger, including in 2016 when al-Sadr’s supporters stormed it and paralysed state institutions.

Why are Iraqis protesting against the government?

INSIDE STORY

Why are Iraqis protesting against the government?

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Russia: Putin’s Goon Squads Arrest At Least 1,000 Citizens At A Moscow Rally

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Russia protests: Thousand arrests at Moscow rally

Media caption Police marched away detainees

Police in Moscow have detained more than 1,000 people at a rally, in one of the biggest crackdowns in years.

Demonstrators were dragged away from the city hall as security forces used batons against the crowd.

People were protesting against the exclusion of opposition candidates from local polls. The opposition say they were barred for political reasons.

Some of the candidates banned from standing in the 8 September election had been detained earlier.

Officials disqualified about 30 people, saying they had failed to collect enough valid signatures to stand.

At least 1,074 arrests were made at the banned rally, officials say, while monitors reported 1,127 detentions.

Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has called the demonstration a “security threat”, and promised to maintain public order.

Anger is widespread among opposition supporters at the way the city is run and the ruling United Russia party.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was jailed for 30 days on Wednesday after calling for Saturday’s unapproved demonstration.

Mr Putin was on a trip to the Baltic Sea on Saturday for a dive in a submersible. “There are a lot of problems on Earth, so to diminish their amount one has to go up and deep down,” he remarked.

What happened this Saturday?

Last Saturday, more than 20,000 Russians took to the streets, demanding fair elections, and dozens were arrested.

It is unclear how many people turned up for the new unauthorised rally on 27 July but the numbers seem to have been sharply down.

According to police, about 3,500 people gathered, including about 700 journalists.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Riot police detained hundreds of protesters on Saturday

Police in riot gear pushed back the crowd from barriers surrounding the mayor’s office in central Moscow, hauling off detainees to police stations.

A number of protesters could be seen bleeding while at least two members of the security forces reportedly received eye injuries from pepper spray.

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A powerful message to the regions?

Oleg Boldyrev, BBC News, Moscow

No -one was under any illusion that the large gathering would impress authorities into letting people express themselves peacefully. This rally went very much the same way others have done – arbitrary detentions, standoffs, crowds breaking off into the side streets.

The question is whether the anger over not being able to nominate a candidate – even for lower-level, city elections – would galvanise Muscovites into bigger, sustained expressions of dissent. After all, there are lots of residents not happy with the way Moscow government and Mayor Sobyanin run the city, or respond to popular concerns.

Police detain a protester in Moscow, 27 JulyImage copyrightREUTERS

Certainly, the would-be candidates, most of them seasoned anti-Putin activists, are hoping that the resentment will linger. That is exactly why policy handlers in the Kremlin are desperate to put a lid on it.

With both Mr Putin’s ratings falling and the United Russia party deeply unpopular, chanting crowds in the capital may send a very powerful message to other regions preparing to hold their elections.

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How did we get here?

Local elections usually attract little attention in Russia.

The Moscow authority does not control the city’s budget or choose key official appointments, and previous votes have passed without major protests or press interest.

But this year some Muscovites are infuriated at what they see as brazen attempts to disqualify independent politicians from running.

Lyubov SobolImage copyrightAFP/GETTY
Image captionLyubov Sobol is one of the opposition candidates barred from standing

Candidates were asked to collect 5,000 signatures to stand. This limit was made even harder to match because a signature “means volunteering one’s personal information for the government’s database of opposition supporters”, democracy activist Vladimir Kara-Murza wrote in the Washington Post.

Many candidates managed to meet the threshold but the electoral commission ruled some signatures ineligible, saying they were unclear or the addresses provided were incomplete, and barred the candidates from taking part.

Opposition groups say the authorities had no reason to rule them ineligible – claims that electoral officials denied. “We have no reason to doubt our experts,” commission member Dmitry Reut said, according to media reports.

Mr Navalny, who addressed the crowds last Saturday, is not one of the candidates, although he stood in Moscow’s mayoral elections in 2013 and won 27% of the vote in a result he disputed.

Ella Pamfilova, the head of the electoral commission, said the protests would not change their decisions. “It doesn’t matter, not even a bit of it,” she said, dismissing the demonstrations as “political”.

The authorities banned this Saturday’s rally on the grounds that there were threats of violence against the commission.

Police then raided the homes of several opposition politicians, and called them in more for questioning.

What’s been the reaction?

Election candidate and opposition leader Dmitry Gudkov tweeted that the council had “died under Putin”.

“The last illusion that we are able to participate legally in politics has disappeared.”

Some newspapers also denounced the raids. Novaya Gazeta ran the headline Moscow City Terror on Friday, while Vedomosti said authorities were using force to suppress the protest “having failed to counter it with political means”.

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Russian government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, however, accused the opposition of “blackmail” and “an unacceptable attitude to the statutes of law”.

Political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told BBC Russian that the official response was designed to dissuade people from taking part. Any mass action would suggest the opposition had taken the initiative from the government.

Some believe the demonstrations could actually benefit the local authorities by reducing turnout.

“Young opposition supporters will not come to the polls, while the older generation whom the authorities are counting on vote out of habit,” Denis Volkov, an expert at independent think tank Levada Center, told the BBC. “The authorities will orient themselves towards them.”

Turkey: Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Istanbul mayoral re-run: Erdogan’s ruling AKP set to lose

Ekrem ImamogluImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Ekrem Imamoglu hailed the result as a “new beginning” for the city

Turkey’s ruling party is set to lose control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city’s mayoral election, latest results show.

The candidate for the main opposition party, Ekrem Imamoglu, has won 54% of the vote with nearly all ballots counted.

He won a surprise victory in March which was annulled after the ruling AK party complained of irregularities.

His opponent, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, has conceded.

The result is a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has previously said that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”.

In his victory speech, Mr Imamoglu said the result marked a “new beginning” for both the city and the country.

“We are opening up a new page in Istanbul,” he said. “On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love.”

He added that he was willing to work with Mr Erdogan, saying: “Mr President, I am ready to work in harmony with you.”

Mr Imamoglu’s lead of more than 775,000 votes marks a huge increase on his victory in March, when he won by just 13,000.

Who were the candidates?

Mr Imamoglu, 49, is from the secular Republican People’s Party and is mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district.

But his name was barely known before he ran for mayor in the March election.

Binali Yildirim on his final campaign before the election on June 23Image copy right EPA
Image caption Binali Yildirim is an Erdogan loyalist

Mr Yildirim was a founding member of Mr Erdogan’s AKP and was prime minister from 2016 until 2018, when Turkey became a presidential democracy and the role ceased to exist.

He was elected Speaker of the new parliament in February and before that served as minister of transportation and communication.

Why was the previous result annulled?

Mr. Imamoglu’s narrow victory of 13,000 votes in March was not enough for Mr Yildirim to accept defeat.

The ruling party alleged that votes were stolen and many ballot box observers did not have official approval, leading the election board to demand a re-run of he vote.

Critics argue that pressure from President Erdogan was behind the decision.

Why is this election so important?

Mr Erdogan, who is from Istanbul, was elected mayor in 1994.

He founded the AKP in 2001 and served as prime minister between 2003 and 2014, before becoming president.

President Erdogan voting in Istanbul election - 23 JuneImage copy right AFP
Image caption Mr Erdogan, seen voting, is a native of Istanbul and a former mayor of the city

But cracks in the party are now beginning to show and analysts suggest these could be exacerbated by this loss.

“Erdogan is extremely worried,” Murat Yetkin, a journalist and writer, said ahead of the vote.

“He is playing every card he has. If he loses, by whatever margin, it’s the end of his steady political rise over the past quarter of a century,” he added.

“In reality, he’ll still be president, his coalition will still control parliament – although many will perceive his defeat as the beginning of the end for him.”

How the humble cabbage can stop cancers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

How the humble cabbage can stop cancers

CabbageImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

Scientists say they have discovered why some vegetables – including cabbage, broccoli and kale – can reduce the risk of bowel cancers.

That cruciferous veg is good for the gut has never been in doubt but a detailed explanation has been elusive.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute found anti-cancer chemicals were produced as the vegetables were digested.

Cancer Research UK said there were plenty of reasons to eat more veg.

The work focused on how vegetables alter the lining of the intestines, by studying mice and miniature bowels growing in the lab.

Like the skin, the surface of the bowels is constantly being regenerated in a process that takes four to five days.

But this constant renewal needs to be tightly controlled, otherwise it could lead to cancer or gut inflammation.

And the work, published in the journal Immunity, showed chemicals in cruciferous vegetables were vital.

From kitchen to cancer prevention?

The researchers investigated a chemical called indole-3-carbinol, which is produced by chewing such vegetables.

“Make sure they’re not overcooked, no soggy broccoli,” said researcher Dr Gitta Stockinger.

The chemical is modified by stomach acid as it continues its journey through the digestive system.

In the lower bowel, it can change the behaviour of stem cells, which regenerate the bowel lining, and of immune cells that control inflammation.

The study showed diets high in indole-3-carbinol protected the mice from cancer, even those whose genes put them at very high risk of the disease.

Without the protective diet, the gut cells divided uncontrollably.

Dr Stockinger added: “Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression.”

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Signs of bowel cancer include persistent:

  • blood in the stools
  • changes in bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more often
  • tummy pain, bloating or discomfort
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Dr Stockinger said the findings were a “cause for optimism”.

She has reduced the amount of meat she eats and now consumes a lot more vegetables.

She told the BBC: “A lot of dietary advice we’re getting changes periodically – it is very confusing and not clear cut what the causes and consequences are.

“Just telling me it’s good for me without a reason will not make me eat it.

“With this study, we have the molecular mechanisms about how this system works.”

Prof Tim Key, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This study in mice suggests that it’s not just the fibre contained in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage that help reduce the risk of bowel cancer, but also molecules found in these vegetables too.

“Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.”

Follow James on Twitter.

More on this story

Hong Kong lawmakers fight over extradition law

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Hong Kong lawmakers fight over extradition law

Media caption Tensions flared up with some lawmakers jumping over tables

Fighting erupted in Hong Kong’s legislature on Saturday over planned changes to the law allowing suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Several lawmakers were injured and one was taken to hospital as politicians clashed in the chamber.

Critics believe the proposed switch to the extradition law would erode Hong Kong’s freedoms.

But authorities say they need to make the change so they can extradite a murder suspect to Taiwan.

One pro-Beijing lawmaker called it “a sad day for Hong Kong”.

Pro-democracy lawmaker James To originally led the session on the controversial extradition bill but earlier this week those supportive of the new law replaced him as chairman.

Tensions boiled over on Saturday, with politicians swearing and jumping over tables amid a crowd of reporters as they fought to control the microphone.

Scuffles broke out in Hong Kong's legislature over proposed changes to extradition lawsImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Opponents and supporters of the bill clashed in the legislature
Gary Fan stretchered out after clashes between opponents and supporters of Hong Kong's proposed extradition law changesImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan was taken out on a stretcher

Pro-democracy legislator Gary Fan collapsed and was carried out on a stretcher, while one pro-Beijing legislator was later seen with his arm in a sling.

Why change the extradition laws?

Under a policy known as “One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong has a separate legal system to mainland China.

Beijing regained control over the former British colony in 1997 on the condition it would allow the territory “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years.

But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam earlier this year announced plans to change the law so suspects could be extradited to Taiwan, Macau or mainland China on a case-by-case basis.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie LamImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Some critics say Carrie Lam has “betrayed” Hong Kong over the law change

Ms Lam has cited the case of a 19-year-old Hong Kong man who allegedly murdered his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan before fleeing home.

While Taiwan has sought his extradition, Hong Kong officials say they cannot help as they do not have an extradition agreement with Taiwan.

Why object to the switch?

The proposed change has generated huge criticism.

Protesters against the law marched on the streets last month in the biggest rally since 2014’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement demonstrations.

Even the normally conservative business community has objected. The International Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said the bill has “gross inadequacies” which could mean people risk “losing freedom, property and even their life”.

And Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, told the government-funded broadcaster RTHK last month the proposal was “an assault on Hong Kong’s values, stability and security”.

Interview With Lula To Be Run Internationally On BBC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL 24/7)

 

Mozambique: Cyclone Kenneth: Entire villages wiped out, says UN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Cyclone Kenneth: Entire villages wiped out, says UN

Media caption Eye witness captures moment Kenneth hits northern Mozambique

A powerful cyclone has “entirely wiped out” villages in Mozambique, according to a UN official.

Gemma Connell, the head of the regional Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said it looked from the air like areas had been “run over by a bulldozer”.

Cyclone Kenneth struck on Thursday with winds of 220km/h (140mph).

It came barely a month after Cyclone Idai killed more than 900 people across three countries.

In a video posted on Twitter after flying over the affected area, Ms Connell pledged to work with local authorities “to get people the supplies they need”.

“The weather is still bad, it is still raining,” she said. “But thankfully the winds have died down.”

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The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani reports that damage to power lines in parts of northern Mozambique is making communication difficult.

Almost 20,000 people have taken shelter in makeshift displacement centres, including schools and churches, our correspondent adds.

A UN spokesman said a total of five people have now died, quoting Mozambique’s government, according to reports.

One person was earlier reported to have been killed when Cyclone Kenneth struck after being crushed by a falling tree. The storm also killed three people on the island nation of Comoros.

Is this unusual for the region?

UN weather experts say it is unprecedented for two cyclones of such intensity to hit Mozambique in the same season.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) also said that no previous records show a cyclone striking the region as far north as Kenneth.

It said a fact-finding mission would examine the “impact of climate change and sea-level rise on Mozambique’s resilience” to extreme weather.

Family displaced by Cyclones Idai and KennethImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFamilies have been left displaced by the cyclones

Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo said the two storms were “exactly what climate scientists warned would happen if we continue to warm our planet beyond its limits”.

“There is one inescapable and burning injustice we cannot stress enough,” he said, adding: “The people of Mozambique are paying the price for dangerous climate change when they have done next to nothing to cause this crisis.”

What was Kenneth’s impact?

Kenneth made landfall on the northern province of Cabo Delgado on Thursday evening, with wind speeds equivalent to a category four hurricane.

Winds eased on Friday, but France’s meteorological agency said up to 800mm of rain was expected to land on Mozambique over the coming days – nearly double the 10-day accumulated rainfall that flooded the port city of Beira during Cyclone Idai.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it was working on an “emergency preparedness plan” with the Mozambican government and other humanitarian groups.

“The most difficult thing is transportation – we don’t have helicopters yet,” Capt Kleber Castro from a Brazilian rescue team said. “We need a lot of support.”

Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) said 30,000 people had been evacuated from affected areas.

What is the affected area like?

Cabo Delgado province is not as densely populated as the area hit by Cyclone Idai, and there is apparently more high ground there.

But reports said many thousands of homes had been flattened by the winds, and the area has been hit by militant Islamist violence in recent months, which could complicate humanitarian operations.

Thousands of people had already fled their homes to seek shelter from violence in camps for displaced people.

What about other countries in the region?

Comoros is still reeling from damage caused by the cyclone, and in some southern areas of neighbouring Tanzania, authorities have ordered schools and businesses to close.

People stand by damaged houses and fallen trees in ComorosImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Cyclone Kenneth has already devastated areas of the island nation of Comoros

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shared images of the damage on social media. In a tweet, the group confirmed it had volunteers on the ground assisting communities.

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Despite Zimbabwe being further inland, officials there said they were also putting their disaster management agencies on alert.

“Drawing lessons from Cyclone Idai we cannot take chances any more,” said Department of Civil Protection director Nathan Nkomo.


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Brazil: BOLSONARO IS THE MOST STUPID PRESIDENT IN OUR HISTORY

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BRAZIL’S 24/7 NEWS)

 

Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

Media caption Video footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

He now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, in response to allegations by the Department for Justice that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.

He faces up to five years in US prison if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”

Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.

What happened in court?

Sketch of Julia Assange at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 11 April 2019Image copyright JULIA QUENZLER, BBC

After his arrest, the 47-year-old Australian national was initially taken to a central London police station before appearing in court.

Dressed in a black suit and black polo shirt, he waved to the public gallery and gave a thumbs up. He pleaded not guilty to the 2012 charge of failing to surrender to the court.

Finding him guilty of that charge, District Judge Michael Snow said Assange’s behaviour was “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”.

He sent him to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing, where he faces up to 12 months in prison.

The court also heard that during his arrest at the embassy he had to be restrained and shouted: “This is unlawful, I am not leaving.”

Julian Assange pictured in a police vanImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Assange gave a thumbs up as he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in a police van

Why does the US government want to extradite Assange?

Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.

The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website.

She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.

She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.

Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.

What are the US charges against him?

The indictment against Assange, issued last year in the state of Virginia, alleges that he conspired in 2010 with Manning to access classified information on Department of Defense computers. He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning downloaded four databases from US departments and agencies between January and May 2010, the indictment says. This information, much of which was classified, was provided to Wikileaks.

The US Justice Department described it as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn HrafnssonImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson say the arrest sets a dangerous precedent

Cracking a password stored on the computers, the indictment alleges, would have allowed Manning to log on to them in such a way as to make it harder for investigators to determine the source of the disclosures. It is unclear whether the password was actually broken.

Correspondents say the narrowness of the charge seems intended to avoid falling foul of the US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

Why did the Ecuadorian embassy stop protecting him?

The Wikileaks co-founder had been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation.

The investigation into the alleged rape, which he denied, was later dropped because he had evaded the arrest warrant. The Swedish Prosecution Authority has said it is now considering whether to resume the inquiry before the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020.

Scotland Yard said it was invited into the embassy on Thursday by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.

Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”.

Mr Moreno said: “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents.

“This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.”

His accusations against Assange also included blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards.

Julian AssangeImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Julian Assange outside the embassy in 2017

Mr Moreno said the British government had confirmed in writing that Assange “would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty”.

The arrest comes a day after Wikileaks said it had uncovered an extensive spying operation against its co-founder at the Ecuadorian embassy.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said that over the years they had removed his access to the internet and accused him of engaging in political activities – which is not allowed when claiming asylum.

He said: “Precisely what has happened in the embassy is not clear – there has been claim and counter claim.”

How have people reacted?

Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no one is above the law.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Assange had revealed “evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan” and his extradition “should be opposed by the British government”.

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said that the UK should resist extradition, because it would “set a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future”.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said he would continue to receive “the usual consular support” and that consular officers will try to visit him.

And actress Pamela Anderson, who has visited the embassy to support Assange, said the arrest was a “vile injustice”.


Timeline: Julian Assange saga

  • August 2010 – The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office first issues an arrest warrant for Assange. It says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation. Assange says the claims are “without basis”
  • December 2010 – Assange is arrested in London and bailed at the second attempt
  • May 2012 – The UK’s Supreme Court rules he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations
  • June 2012 – Assange enters the Ecuadorean embassy in London
  • August 2012 – Ecuador grants asylum to Assange, saying there are fears his human rights might be violated if he is extradited
  • August 2015 – Swedish prosecutors drop their investigation into two allegations – one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they have run out of time to question him. But he still faces the more serious accusation of rape.
  • October 2015 – Metropolitan Police announces that officers will no longer be stationed outside the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2016 – A UN panel rules that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by UK and Swedish authorities since 2010
  • May 2017 – Sweden’s director of public prosecutions announces that the rape investigation into Assange is being dropped
  • July 2018 – The UK and Ecuador confirm they are holding ongoing talks over the fate of Assange
  • October 2018 – Assange is given a set of house rules at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He then launches legal action against the government of Ecuador
  • December 2018 – Assange’s lawyer rejects an agreement announced by Ecuador’s president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2019 – Australia grants Assange a new passport amid fears Ecuador may bring his asylum to an end
  • April 2019 – The Metropolitan Police arrests him for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He is found guilty and faces up to 12 months in prison, as well as extradition over US charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Sudan military coup topples ruler after protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Omar al-Bashir: Sudan military coup topples ruler after protests

Media caption The announcement was made by the defence minister Awad Ibn Ouf

After nearly 30 years in power, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested, the defence minister says.

Speaking on state TV, Awad Ibn Ouf said the army had decided to oversee a two-year transitional period followed by elections.

He also said a three-month state of emergency was being put in place.

Protests against Mr Bashir, who has governed Sudan since 1989, have been under way for several months.

Meanwhile, the main group that has been organising the demonstrations called for them to continue on Thursday, despite the military intervention.

“I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Mr Ibn Ouf said in a statement.

It is not clear where Mr Bashir is being held.

Mr Ibn Ouf said the country had been suffering from “poor management, corruption, and an absence of justice” and he apologised “for the killing and violence that took place”.

Demonstrators wave flags after Sudan's defence minister said that President Omar al-Bashir had been detained in Khartoum, Sudan April 11, 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionSome people celebrated in Khartoum after the army announcement

He said Sudan’s constitution was being suspended, border crossings were being shut until further notice and airspace was being closed for 24 hours.

As the news broke, crowds of protesters celebrated outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, embracing soldiers and climbing on top of armoured vehicles.

Sudan’s intelligence service said it was freeing all political prisoners, state-run Suna news agency reported.

Sudanese demonstrators cheer as they drive towards a military vehicle. Khartoum 11 April 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAnti-government protesters have been cheering the military

Mr Bashir is the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

However it is not clear what will happen to him following his arrest.

How did events unfold?

In the early hours of Thursday, military vehicles were seen entering the large compound in Khartoum that houses the defence ministry, the army headquarters and Mr Bashir’s personal residence, AFP news agency reported.

State TV and radio later interrupted their programming with a message that the army would be making a statement.

Omar al-Bashir - 5 AprilImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionOmar al-Bashir has been in power since 1989

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through central Khartoum, some chanting “It has fallen, we won”.

Will this end the protests?

In a strongly worded statement, the main organisation behind the demonstrations, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), said the military had announced a “coup” that would reproduce the same “faces and institutions that our great people revolted against”.

It urged people to continue the sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum and to stay on the streets of cities across the country.

“Those who destroyed the country and killed the people are seeking to steal every drop of blood and sweat that the Sudanese people poured in their revolution that the shook the throne of tyranny,” the statement read.

Graphic of lngest-serving leaders
White space

The SPA has previously said that any transitional administration must not include anyone from what it called the “tyrannical regime”.

The protests were originally sparked by a rise in the cost of living, but demonstrators then began calling for the president to resign and his government to go.

Media captionA woman dubbed ‘Kandaka’, which means Nubian queen, has become a symbol for protesters

Omar el-Digeir, a senior protest member, told AFP news agency last week that the group was seeking a path “that represents the wish of the revolution”.

Police had ordered officers not to intervene against the protests, but the government was criticised by rights groups for a heavy-handed response to the unrest.

Government officials say 38 people have died since the unrest began in December, but the pressure group Human Rights Watch said the number was higher.

In February, it looked as though the president might step down at that point, but instead Mr Bashir declared a state of national emergency.

Media captionSudan protests: So what’s going on?

Who is Omar al-Bashir?

Formerly an army officer, he seized power in a military coup in 1989.

His rule has been marked by civil war. The civil conflict with the south of the country ended in 2005 and South Sudan became independent in 2011.

Another civil conflict has been taking place in the western region of Darfur. Mr Bashir is accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity there by the ICC.

Despite an international arrest warrant issued by the ICC, he won consecutive elections in 2010 and 2015. However, his last victory was marred by a boycott by the main opposition parties.

The arrest warrant has led to an international travel ban. However, Mr Bashir has made diplomatic visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. He was forced into a hasty departure from South Africa in June 2015 as a court there considered whether to enforce the arrest warrant.