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UK: Far-right leader charged under Terrorism Act

Golding was reportedly stopped by police at Heathrow Airport on his way back from Russia [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

The leader of the far-right Britain First group has been charged with an offence under the Terrorism Act, which the BBC reported stemmed from refusing to provide police with the pin code to his phone at the airport.

London’s Metropolitan Police said Paul Golding, 38, was charged “with wilfully failing to comply with a duty” under the so-called Schedule 7 powers in the Terrorism Act, which give police the authority to search travellers at borders and makes it a crime to fail to comply.

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The BBC said he refused to provide the pin codes to access to his phone in October when he was stopped by police at Heathrow Airport on his way back from Russia.

He was charged earlier this month and will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on February 27, the police said.

While some celebrated the move as a victory against the far right, Tarek Younis, a psychology lecturer at Middlesex University, issued a caution.

“Please think twice before celebrating this news,” he tweeted. “The point was never that the far right are never charged – it was that these laws disproportionately impact Muslims, and never could it be more obvious than it is with Schedule 7 stops at airports.”

Source: Aljazeera

Is Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of covering up war crimes?

In this episode of UpFront, we challenge Aung San Suu Kyi’s former spokesperson on allegations of genocide in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

And we debate the police response to protests in France against President Emmanuel Macron’s government with La Republique En Marche MP Roland Lescure.

Denying genocide in Myanmar: “rumours and hearsay”

In January the International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar to prevent the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Myanmar’s government rejected the ruling, saying it was based on a “distorted picture of the situation”.

According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed and more than 700,000 have fled Rakhine state since the Myanmar military’s crackdown began in 2017. Thousands of Rohingya women and girls have been raped, and around 300 villages burnt to the ground.

The former spokesperson of Myanmar’s de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is dismissing the allegations, describing them as “one-sided”.

“Most of the international people live in the rumours, hearsay,” Nyo Ohn Myint said.

“This is a political accusation … because you know, they just joined the bandwagon,” he added.

Nyo Ohn Myint also questioned the evidence gathered by the international community – which has been denied access to Rakhine state by Myanmar’s government.

“When I read the US State Department report that said the Rohingya women were raped by soldiers and surrounded by hundreds of soldiers, it looked like the very, you know … third-class Hollywood movie,” he said.

Nyo Ohn Myint suggested that some of the women who gave accounts of their rape to Amnesty International were lying.

“I don’t know because if I, if I look at her eye, maybe she was true or maybe she was lying,” he said.

This week’s Headliner, Aung San Suu Kyi’s former spokesperson, Nyo Ohn Myint.

Protests in France: have police gone too far?

This week, President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms went to parliament and tens of thousands of French protesters returned to the streets in opposition.

Demonstrations have become a regular feature of Macron’s presidency, during which French police have been accused of using excessive force.

According to French journalists, 325 people have suffered head injuries, 25 people have lost eyes and five have lost hands during protests.

La Republique En Marche MP Roland Lescure says some protesters are going to the demonstrations just to cause violence, and that is an attack on French democracy.

“I’m not happy that a few of them have lost an eye or a hand, but those people are – it’s insurrection. You know, they’re violent. They’re there to actually kick the police and that’s not what peaceful democratic demonstrations should be about,” Lescure said.

Protesters are angry over Macron’s pension plan which will turn 42 different pensions into a universal one. They say reforms will mean some people will have to work longer and retire later in life.

“It’s true to say that … some of them, bus drivers, train drivers and a few of these, are probably going to be not as well off as they are today,” Lescure conceded.

“And yes, on every one of those reforms, you always find someone in France who is going to oppose them, but on the whole, I think we’re beginning to have results. Unemployment hasn’t been as low as it is today for the last 11-12 years. There’s job creations, there’s company creations, foreign direct investment is coming into France again” he added.

This week’s Special Interview, La Republique En Marche MP Roland Lescure.

Follow UpFront on Twitter @AJUpFront and Facebook.

Source: Aljazeera

Trump hints at possible pardon for Roger Stone

US President Donald Trump has weighed in on the case of his longtime adviser saying he has a “‘very good chance of exoneration” after Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

Stone was facing a much longer sentence until Trump tweeted about his case.

Source: Aljazeera

Assange's lawyers to seek asylum in France for whistleblower

The WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London last April, after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy [File: Matt Dunham/AP]

Paris, France – Julian Assange’s European legal team has said it intends to seek political asylum in France for the whistleblower, days before his US extradition trial is set to begin in London.

“We will ask to meet with [French President Emmanuel Macron] in the coming days, if not in the coming hours,” Assange’s French lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti told journalists during a press conference.

“France is the homeland of human rights,” he added.

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Assange spent three years living in France, from 2007 to 2010, and his youngest child still lives in the country with his mother.

The French government previously denied a 2015 asylum request from Assange, after he published an open letter in Le Monde asking then President Francois Hollande for refugee status.

At the time, the government said Assange’s situation did not “present an immediate danger”.

The WikiLeaks founder was arrested in London last April, after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had spent more than seven years holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Assange’s lawyers said they now feared for the 48-year-year-old Australian national’s life, citing health concerns and alleged human rights violations in prison.

“In my whole career as a lawyer, I have never seen such a systematic violation of victim’s rights,” said Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish head of Assange’s European legal team.

Assange is fighting his extradition to the US over 18 criminal charges – 17 of which fall under the country’s Espionage Act.

He is accused of helping former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning publish hundreds of classified State Department documents. If extradited, he could face up to 175 years in jail in the US.

Those who support Assange insist the charges have nothing to do with spying and pose a threat to journalists and freedom of the press worldwide.

“[Assange] has made an incredible contribution to journalism, and we must defend him,” Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, told Al Jazeera.  

The Paris-based NGO has launched a petition against Assange’s extradition, stating the charges set a “dangerous precedent” to journalists who publish classified information of public interest.

Assange’s lawyers also reiterated claims from a member of his UK defence team that he was offered a pardon from a member of the Trump administration in exchange for publicly denying any Russian involvement in the hacking of Democratic emails during the 2016 elections.

The White House has denied the claim, but Garzon said the team would provide “documentary proof” at the extradition hearing that begins on February 24.

Assange’s father John Shipton, who was also present at Thursday’s press conference, said he continued to fear for his son’s life.

Source: Aljazeera

Thai court dissolves opposition party over 'illegal' loan

Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved the upstart opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) on Friday for violating election-funding laws.

The court also banned 16 FFP leaders from politics for 10 years over what the court ruled was an illegal loan from its billionaire founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

The FFP and its leader, Juangroongruangkit, were accused of breaking election finance laws when he reportedly loaned 191.2 million-baht ($6.06m) to his party during the campaign last year.

The party has emerged as a major adversary to the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military leader who overthrew an elected government in a 2014 coup.

Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) had filed a request to dissolve FFP in December last year.

Thanathorn, an auto-parts billionaire-turned-politician, admitted to loaning the money to finance political activities. But he maintained that the country’s electoral law allows such a loan contract.

Since its establishment two years ago and following its strong showing during the March 2019 parliamentary elections, the FFP and Thanathorn have come under fire from the current government of Prime Minister Chan-ocha.

FFP has at least 76 parliamentary members in the 500-seat legislative body of Thailand. In the race for prime minister in 2019, Thanathorn had challenged Prayuth, a former general and leader of the 2014 coup.

In January, the party narrowly escaped a separate attempt at disbandment, after being acquitted of trying to overthrow the monarchy – allegations that FFP and Thanathorn have strongly denied.

The party is also accused of being anti-military, for supporting policies against forced conscription, among other allegations. To date, it has faced at least 28 legal challenges.

Source: Aljazeera

'Shameful': Ukrainians attack bus carrying China evacuees

A man gestures to riot police officers as local residents protest the arrival of evacuees from coronavirus-hit China for quarantine at a medical facility in the settlement of Novi Sanzhary on February 20, 2020 [STR/AFP]

Ukraine’s effort to quarantine more than 70 people evacuated from China over the new virus outbreak has plunged into chaos, as residents opposing the move hurled stones at the evacuees and clashed with police.

Officials deplored Thursday’s violence and the country’s health minister pledged to share evacuees’ quarantine for two weeks in a bid to reassure protesters who fear they could be infected.

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Buses carrying evacuees were finally able to reach the designated place of quarantine after hours of clashes. The masked evacuees, exhausted by the long journey, were peeking through bus windows as they drove slowly under a heavy police escort.

Stones shattered a window in one of the buses but the evacuees appeared unhurt.

Since the early morning, several hundred residents of the village of Novi Sanzhary in Ukraine’s central Poltava region had cut off the road to a sanitarium intended to host the evacuees, fearing they could become infected.

Demonstrators, some of whom appeared drunk, put up road blocks, burned tyres and clashed with riot police who moved to clear access. One protester tried to ram police lines with his car.

Nine police officers and one civilian were hospitalised, the regional police said in a statement.

Ukrainian police said 24 protesters were detained. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who personally visited the site to try to calm the crowd, said he was shocked by the aggression.

“What we saw was shameful,” he said in televised remarks. “It was one of the biggest disappointments in my life.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy weighed in, saying the protests showed “not the best side of our character”.

He tried to reassure people that the quarantined evacuees would not pose any danger to residents.

In a statement published on his Facebook page, Zelenskyy said the people evacuated from China were healthy and would live in a closed medical centre run by the National Guard in the village as a precaution.

“In the next two weeks it will probably be the most-guarded facility in the country,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine’s health minister, Zoryana Skaletska, said she would join the evacuees in quarantine for two weeks to help assuage villagers’ concerns. She urged residents to show sympathy and support for the evacuees and emphasised that the quarantine facility fully conformed with international standards.

“I was shocked by the panic, rejection, negative feelings and aggression,” she said. “It was even a greater shock for the people who were evacuated from China.”

But municipal legislators in the village vowed to continue opposing the evacuation, saying that the sanitarium’s sewage system was linked to the one in the village and ended up in a nearby wastewater facility.

“We can’t allow putting the health and life of local residents at risk, and demand that top officials take urgent moves to prevent people from China from being put here,” they said in a statement.

Source: Aljazeera