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UK parliament deals historic defeat to PM May’s Brexit deal

Britain's parliament on Tuesday voted against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal by a massive margin, triggering a no confidence vote that could bring down her government. The House of Commons lower house voted 432 to 202 against May's plan for taking Britain out of the European Union after nearly five decades, one of the biggest defeats ever suffered by a British premier. The EU warned that the vote, which plunges Britain into uncharted waters, boosts the risk of a “no deal” Brexit. Moments after the outcome, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no-confidence in May's government. The vote is set for Wednesday. Speaking moments before the MPs cast their ballots, May said MPs had a “duty to deliver” on the results of a 2016 referendum that started the divorce. “I believe we have a duty to deliver on the democratic decision of the British people,” May said, warning MPs that the EU would not offer any “alternative deal”. “A vote against this deal is a vote for uncertainty, division, and the very real threat of a no deal,” she argued to loud jeers from the packed chamber. “The responsibility of each and every one of us at this moment is profound, for this is a historic decision that will set the future of our country for generations.” Most lawmakers have always opposed Brexit, as have some leading members of May's government, creating an inherent contradiction that has torn apart the island nation. And with just over two months to go until the scheduled March 29 departure, Britain still cannot decide what to do. May must now decide whether she tries to hold another vote, gets kicked out of office, delays Brexit — or if Brexit even happens at all. As their nation's fate was being decided, hundreds of noisy supporters and opponents of Brexit, some banging drums and others driving floats with huge dolls mocking top UK politicians, rallied outside the ancient parliament building in London. “It could end up being the day that will lead to us leaving with no deal!” said 25-year-old Simon Fisher, who backs a swift and sharp break with the EU. A much larger rally nearby in support of a second referendum turned Parliament Square into a sea of EU flags. One pro-Brexit activist attempting to join the rally was detained by police to shouts of “scum” from fellow protesters in an indication of rising tensions. Others voiced their support for a second referendum, an option May's government rules out.

Britain’s parliament on Tuesday voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal by a massive margin, triggering a no confidence vote that could bring down her government. The House of Commons lower house voted 432 to 202 against May’s plan for taking Britain out of the European Union after nearly five decades, one of the biggest defeats ever suffered by ... Read More »

Khashoggi killing: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five suspects

Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He did not name the suspects. In total, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Crown Prince bin Salman exonerated Khashoggi, a regular contributor to US newspaper The Washington Post, was a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His murder caused international outrage, and many believe it could not have been carried out without bin Salman's knowledge. The prosecutor, however, claimed the crown prince was not involved in the killing. He said the highest-ranking member of the Saudi leadership implicated in the operation was former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has since been fired for ordering Khashoggi's forced return. A spokesman for the prosecution told reporters that plans to assassinate Khashoggi were set in motion on September 29. "The crime included a fight and injecting the citizen Khashoggi with a drug overdose that led to his death," the official said. The body was dismembered and handed over to a local collaborator, he added. He did not give any details on the location of the body. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée raised the alarm when he did not return. After weeks of denials and under growing international pressure, Riyadh finally admittedthat Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a "rogue" operation. US issues sanctions On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the US was placing harsh economic sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged involvement in the Khashoggi murder. In a statement, Mnuchin said: "The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions." Three of the individuals targeted in Thursday's sanctions were Saud Al-Qahtani and Maher Mutreb, both of whom are top aides to Salman, and Mohammed Alotaibi, consul general at the Istanbul consulate at the time Khashoggi was murdered. The US treasury secretary said Qahtani "was part of the planning and execution of the operation" to kill Khashoggi. The secretary stopped short of accusing the crown prince of involvement. The sanctions fall under the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and were issued as part of the US Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Such sanctions freeze targets' assets if they fall under US jurisdiction. The sanctions also forbid Americans and US companies from conducting business with them. Mnuchin's statement also said: "The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists." Trouble with the Turks The case has caused a row between the kingdom and Turkey, whose government insists the suspects should be tried in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Saudi prosecutor's statement "positive but insufficient," insisting that Khashoggi's murder was "premeditated." Cavusoglu said the Thursday announcement by Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor fell short of his own country's expectations: "I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory" and that "those who gave the order, the real perpetrators, need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way." Cavusoglu also questioned why Saudi Arabia had only indicted 11 of the 18 suspects detained. He pointed out that the Saudi prosecutor made no mention of where Khashoggi's remains were taken: "There is a question that has not been answered yet. Where is Khashoggi's body? Where was he disposed of, where was he buried, where was he burned? There is still not an answer on this issue."

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ... Read More »

Lawyer says Asia Bibi ‘wants to leave for Germany’

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman accused of blasphemy, was released from jail on Wednesday amid violent Islamist protests against her Supreme Court acquittal. But Bibi can reportedly still not leave the country. Bibi's lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook,told the Bild am Sonntag German newspaper that Asia Bibi "would be happy if she could leave for Germany with her family." Bibi, who was acquitted by Pakistan's Supreme Court on blasphemy charges on October 31, is reportedly still in Pakistan despite her release from jail on Wednesday. Mulook fled Pakistan to the Netherlands a day after the court's decidion. Bibi's was one of the most high-profile blasphemy cases in Pakistan, with international rights groups and Western governments demanding a fair trial in her case. In 2015, Bibi's daughter met with Pope Francis, who offered prayers for her mother at the Vatican. Bibi was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbors complained she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death, despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups. Despite her acquittal by the Supreme Court, Bibi remained in prison due to Islamist protests, spearheaded by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, where 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslims. Rights activists have demanded reforms of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas Several European countries are willing to take Bibi and her family in, but it is unclear when she would be allowed to leave the South Asian country. What next for Bibi? Haroon Janjua, DW's correspondent in Islamabad, said Prime Minister Imran Khan's government wants to complete all legal requirements before Bibi, who is reportedly under protective custody currently, can leave the country. A review petition against Bibi's acquittal was filed right after the Supreme Court's October 31 verdict. The country's highest court is likely to make a decision on the petition in the next few days. Experts say it is unlikely that the top court's judges, including the Supreme Court's chief justice, would accept the petition, as it would require a larger bench to hear it. After violent protests against the suspension of Bibi's death erupted across the country, Khan's government opted to make a deal with Islamists to "avoid bloodshed." The move was heavily criticized by rights groups. But Khan recently told media that his government would not compromise on legal decisions. "I want to make it clear that the government stands with the decision of the Supreme Court and there will be no compromise on it," Khan said on Saturday. "The rule of law depends on following verdicts of the Supreme Court and if you do not follow the top court's decision then law finishes in the country," he added. Earlier this week, Bibi's attorney told S. Khan, DW's Islamabad correspondent, that he does not think that PM Khan's government has taken any U-turn on the Supreme Court's decision. "I believe that religious hardliners needed a way out, and the authorities gave them that. The conditions of the government-TLP agreement do not amount to the surrender of the state. Having said that, it is a citizen's constitutional right to file a review petition in the Supreme Court." "Almos all blasphemy cases in Pakistan are fabricated. There are people who misuse blasphemy laws. Even if there is a blasphemy charge against anyone, there should be a fair trial without fear and intimidation," Mulook added. Persecution of religious minorities Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities have often complained of legal and social discrimination in their country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations. In one case, a young Christian girl with Down syndrome was accused in August 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed. Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her hometown and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada. In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln. In September last year, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death for sharing "blasphemous" material on WhatsApp.

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman accused of blasphemy, was released from jail on Wednesday amid violent Islamist protests against her Supreme Court acquittal. But Bibi can reportedly still not leave the country. Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook,told the Bild am Sonntag German newspaper that Asia Bibi “would be happy if she could leave for Germany with her family.” Bibi, who was acquitted ... Read More »

Several dead in California bar shooting

A gunman walked into a country-western bar in Thousand Oaks, California, and killed 12 people including a sheriff's deputy. The gunman was found dead at the scene. Thirteen people are dead, including a sheriff's deputy, and at least 10 more wounded after a shooting Wednesday night in a bar in southern California. The gunman used a handgun and smoke bombs at a country dance bar on "college night" and sent hundreds of panicking people toward the exits, with some breaking windows to escape, authorities and witnesses said. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said that sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus, a 29-year veteran of the sheriff's department, responded to the scene and was shot after he entered the building. He died at a hospital early Thursday. The gunman, identified as a 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran, was found dead inside the bar. "It's a horrific scene in there," Dean said early Thursday in the parking lot of the Borderline Bar & Grill. "There's blood everywhere." There was no immediate information on the wounded victims' conditions. A crowded bar There were hundreds of people inside the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at 11:20 p.m. local time, and shots were still being fired when deputies arrived, authorities said. Wednesday night was "College Night" at the bar and the place was packed with a young crowd. President Trump on Thursday said on Twitter that he has been "fully briefed on the terrible shooting." He praised law enforcement, saying "Great bravery shown by police" and said "God bless all of the victims and families of the victims." Ventura County Sheriff Dean said police did not know if the shooting was linked to international terrorism. "Nothing has led me to believe or the FBI, there is a terrorism link here," he said. "We certainly will look at that option." Several people from inside the bar have told television reporters that a tall man wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered first shot at a person working the door, then opened fire, seemingly at random, at the people inside. According to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, there have been 306 mass shootings in the United States in 2018, not including Thursday's in Thousand Oaks, a city of about 130,000 people about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Los Angeles.

A gunman walked into a country-western bar in Thousand Oaks, California, and killed 12 people including a sheriff’s deputy. The gunman was found dead at the scene. Thirteen people are dead, including a sheriff’s deputy, and at least 10 more wounded after a shooting Wednesday night in a bar in southern California. The gunman used a handgun and smoke bombs ... Read More »

Thailand’s Muslim rebellion has army ‘living in fear’

A conflict between the Thai military and Muslim rebels has been simmering for nearly two decades in the country's south. After a drop in violence, there is now a sense that the situation could turn for the worse. At a border checkpoint crossing into southern Thailand's conflict zone, a police officer rushed quickly from his wooden guard post toward a reporter who had been snapping a few pictures. After the guard realized that the journalists were working on a report covering unrest in the region, he calmed down, adjusted his brown uniform, straightened his glasses and vented his frustration. "It's hard for me to find words that describe the permanent atrocities committed the rebels commit," he said, while pointing to pictures of wanted separatists that hang at every checkpoint. "For a short while after the death of the king [in October 2016] things quieted down," he said. "But now the entire tragedy is starting all over again." For the past few months, isolated explosions and shootouts have been occuring almost daily. Soldiers and security personnel are the primary targets of separatist rebels. The NGO "Deep South Watch," which observers the unrest in southern Thailand has measured an increase in victims over recent months. Locked in conflict Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, are three provinces in what locals refer to as Thailand's "deep south" on the border with Malaysia. The region is home to a Muslim, Malay majority in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. For nearly two decades, separatists have been demanding that Bangkok grant them local autonomy, and the Thai military has come down hard to eradicate separatist terror cells. In 2004, attacks began to occur regularly, and since then, conflict between separatists and the Thai government has claimed over 7,000 victims, with nearly double that number injured. Even though violence in the region has declined over recent years, a solution to end the conflict is not in sight. Don Pathan is an advisor for international organizations in Thailand who works with security and development issues. He has been watching the waves of conflict in southern Thailand for many years. He considers the latest upswing in violence to be a bloody backlash by the rebellion. "The Thai military claimed that the decreased attacks during the mourning period of King Bhumipol was a victory for them," Pathan told DW, adding that the Muslim separatists answered this provocation with a series of attacks. 'We live in constant fear' Thailand's deep south consists of lowlands that are dotted with military bases. Heavily armed military vehicles creep along the roadsides manned by masked soldiers from the Royal Thai Army. Hardly a kilometer goes by without a control checkpoint. Muslim civilians are under constant observation by the Thai military. A military officer showed DW's reporters his outpost, located not from the provincial capital Pattani. Birds chirped in ornately decorated cages hanging above the protective sandbag barricade. "We live here in constant fear," the officer said. "The worst is not knowing when and where the rebels will attack next. Unlike us, the insurgents don't wear any identifiable symbols and it is very difficult to filter them out of the civilian population." For years, the Thai army has been following a strategy of "de-escalation through strength." Former general Piyawat Nakwanich, who commanded armies in the south until he was ousted, tried to suppress unrest with a massive military presence. Shortly before he stepped down in August, Piyawat sent 1,000 soldiers to problem areas in Nong Chik district in Pattani province. During their deployment, two soldiers were killed by gunmen and four were injured. According to critics, this show of military power only served to widen the divide between the state and Muslims. "The ousted general and his heavy handed strategy only left a pile of ruins that his successor will have to clean up," said Pathan. New command takes a softer tone In October, General Pornsak Poonsawas took over command of Thai military operations in the south and has started a charm offensive. In one of his first actions as commander, he presented a fruit basket, a symbol of building a new and healthy relationship, to Muslim religious leader Aziz Phitakkumpon. Poonsawas also said that drugs rather than religion are the main contributor to tensions in southern Thailand. He told local reporters that drugs were being sold on the street, with the help of government officials. The general didn't offer any evidence for his claims. Pathan said that this "new strategy" is little more than window dressing by the military. "Drugs are a national problem in Thailand and this is in no way limited to the south," said Pathan. "But it is still a good chess move from him. By calling out problems that affect everyone, Poonsawas is trying to win over the Muslim population." No solution in sight However, a former hardline army commander, Udomchai Thammasarorat, was named as the chief negotiator for peace talks between the Thai government and Muslim rebels, with Malaysia playing a role as mediator. Up to now, these negotiations have not seen results. Udomchai has a reputation as an unscrupulous hunter of rebels. He was the regional chief of an army base that made international headlines for its deadly torture tactics. Despite evidence presented by local activists, he continues to deny the charges. As a long-time observer of the conflict, Don Pathan is pessimistic about the future. "The new leadership strategy in the deep south does nothing to promote peace, but rather serves to secure power for the ruling junta in Bangkok."

A conflict between the Thai military and Muslim rebels has been simmering for nearly two decades in the country’s south. After a drop in violence, there is now a sense that the situation could turn for the worse. At a border checkpoint crossing into southern Thailand’s conflict zone, a police officer rushed quickly from his wooden guard post toward a ... Read More »

Analysts see a bleak future for Cameroon

Any hopes that oppression of the opposition in Cameroon would be eased after the swearing-in of President Paul Biya on Tuesday were dashed with the arrest of opposition leader Maurice Kamto. The arrest was announced by Kamto's lawyer Agbor Nkongho and seemed to belie the conciliatory note struck by Biya in a speech given after the swearing-in ceremony to a seventh term of office. Biya recognized "the frustrations and aspirations" of the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions, where a deadly conflict has been raging since last year. He promised "a good number of answers" and an acceleration of the "ongoing decentralization project." Is Biya about to change his policies of repression and look for solutions for conflict? "No, this is not a hopeful sign," Cameroonian analyst Tanda Theophilus from the International Crisis Group (ICG) research organization told DW. The president has acknowledged the plight of the people before; but by labelling them separatists 'terrorists' he also makes it clear that he is not willing "to dialogue with them," Theophilus said. The specter of civil war Hundreds have died in the conflict between separatists and government troops. Resentment is growing. "[The president] should ask his military to stop. He is the one that declared war against us. We expect from him is to stop the fighting and killing of our brothers and sisters," 32-year old Shoe Mende Cletus Fonyuy told DW. Fonyuy fled the English speaking north western town of Kumbo after his wife and brother were killed last month. Analysts fear the situation in the country is bound to escalate, not only in the Anglophone regions. Yondo Black, a lawyer and veteran Cameroonian activist for democracy believes that if nothing happens soon, a civil war "will be unavoidable." And that also explains why there are soldiers out in force all over the country, "as if we were in a war", although the president won the election. It shows a great unease among the ruling class, the analyst said. Circuses but no bread "We have to avoid reaching the extremes. The extreme is an insurrection. Once started, you have no way of knowing how it will end," warns lawyer Yondo Black. But people are fed up, he added, pointing to the elevated costs of the swearing-in ceremony and the money going into the preparation of the Africa Cup of nations Cameroon will be hosting in 2019 as just two examples of mismanagement. This is happening in a country where people don't have "enough money to eat or go to a doctor". "Even the Romans, who invented the policies of 'bread and circuses', put bread first," Black said. Young people are especially hard hit by the dire economic situation. 24-year old Christopher Bime who obtained a certificate in building construction, makes a living selling fruits on the streets of Yaounde. He needs a job to stop entertaining thoughts of going to Europe. "Biya has been there for 36-years and young people are suffering too much," Bime said. Crackdown on the opposition Black concurs and admits that his view of the future of the country "is very bleak." It is a view that seems to be shared by Cameroonians from all walks of life. "I don't expect anything from Biya. 36 years in power is too much," cart pusher Fridoline Amba told DW. Analyst Theophilus puts some hopes on the opposition and its capacity to grow in strength and unity during the next seven years. But talking to DW before the news of opposition leader Maurice Kamto's arrest was announced, the Cameroonian researcher said that for now he did not see any positive prospects: "The regime is used to using violence and legal threats." Theophilus said Kamto is careful to always stress that he is for a peaceful approach, which indicates his fear of being pursued. A fear the latest developments seem to justify. Hypocrisy and the international community In the past couple of days, the streets of several cities were filled with opposition supporters protesting the outcome of the elections. Scores of members of the leading opposition party Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) have been arrested and indicted. Lawyer Yondo Black puts part of the blame for the situation in Cameroon squarely on the shoulders of the international community, which he calls out for hypocrisy. "The fact alone that Biya has been president for 36 years should be reason enough for them to say something." But to get no reaction even when Cameroonians are dying "is unacceptable." The lawyer feels that there is enough evidence of crimes against humanity in Cameroon for making a judicial case against those responsible.

Any hopes that oppression of the opposition in Cameroon would be eased after the swearing-in of President Paul Biya on Tuesday were dashed with the arrest of opposition leader Maurice Kamto. The arrest was announced by Kamto’s lawyer Agbor Nkongho and seemed to belie the conciliatory note struck by Biya in a speech given after the swearing-in ceremony to a ... Read More »

Iran sanctions: 5 things to know

On Monday, fresh US sanctions against Iran come into effect, the next salvo in its economic conflict with Tehran. The main targets are oil exports and the financial sector. Europe is having difficulty forming a response. Which sanctions are going into effect? US punitive sanctions are aimed at Iran's economic heart: energy exports. All business with Iranian oil companies will be prohibited, as are insurances of any kind, including policies on oil shipments. Existing sanctions on Iran's financial sector will also be tightened — from Monday onward, all financial transactions with Iran's central bank and a number of other banks will be banned. The US is intent on bringing Iranian oil exports to zero. Oil sales account for some 80 percent of all state income in Iran and since 60 percent of Iran's budget expenditures are distributed to state-run businesses and institutions the country is extremely dependent upon the revenue they produce. What sanctions had been in place already? When it unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — also known as the Iran nuclear deal — on May 8, the US gave its partners two deadlines to wind down business with Iran. The first 60-day deadline came on August 6. At that point Iran was barred from trading in US dollars. Key Iranian industries such as the automotive sector and carpet production were also sanctioned. The sale of commercial airliners or replacement parts for existing models — access to which had already been greatly hampered — were forbidden entirely. The second deadline was set for November 5. What is the aim of the sanctions? According to the Trump administration, "maximum pressure" on Iran is a tool to force Iranian leaders to change course. On May 21, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented a list of 12 demands that the US said must be met before sanctions would be lifted. Among other things, Tehran had to stop its missile program, and "end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." Furthermore, Pompeo said Iran must remove all troops under its command from Syria and demobilize Shiite militias in Iraq. Regime change is not among the declared aims of US sanctions. Nevertheless, public statements by National Security Adviser John Bolton suggest that destabilization and regime change would be more than welcome from Washington's perspective. Can the EU defend itself against unilateral US sanctions? The US is using its predominance in global financial markets and its comparative attractiveness as a place to do business as opposed to Iran, as leverage in pursuing its political aims. As a result, measures that essentially allow Washington to regulate European and other international businesses have been correspondingly harsh. In late September, the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, announced that the EU was developing a mechanism known as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to facilitate business transactions with Iran. The SPV would operate like an exchange, allowing European and Iranian businesses to settle accounts with one another at an EU clearing house. Oil deliveries, for example, could be paid for with textile production machinery. The set-up would make the flow of cash across international financial markets disappear. That said, the SPV is far from operational and no one knows where the institution will actually be based. While announcements of new EU institutions generally draw a great amount of attention from those eager to host their headquarters, that has not been the case with the SPV. European member states have been loath to volunteer for fear of drawing Washington's ire. Trump's security adviser Bolton threatened that the USA would not "allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else." What effect have sanctions had so far? Iran's currency, the rial, is in free fall, having lost 70 percent of its value this year and inflation is skyrocketing. Iranian energy exports have dropped by almost a third since June. Rising energy costs — which are painfully felt at the country's gas stations — are also tied to shortages brought on by sanctions. After a short honeymoon of cooperation and international investment in Iran, many international companies have headed for the exit since May. Among those who left were manyEuropean businesses fearful of being locked out of the far more lucrative American marketshould they stay. Imports to Iran have been greatly hampered across the board. Life-saving drugs, for instance, have become hard to find and are extremely expensive. Still, Iran has years of experience in dealing with US sanctions and has announced its shift to a "resistance economy." From a political standpoint, Washington's sanctions only bolster Iran's ultra-conservative forces, who have always been critical of any form of rapprochement with the West. Moreover, Washington's one-sided withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement and the implementation of unilateral sanctions have deepened the trans-Atlantic divide. Now, Europe is standing side by side with Beijing and Moscow and against Washington in one of the central international questions of our day.

On Monday, fresh US sanctions against Iran come into effect, the next salvo in its economic conflict with Tehran. The main targets are oil exports and the financial sector. Europe is having difficulty forming a response. Which sanctions are going into effect? US punitive sanctions are aimed at Iran’s economic heart: energy exports. All business with Iranian oil companies will ... Read More »

What is the UN migration pact — and why do some oppose it?

The UN's Global Compact for Migration sets out non-binding guidelines for an integrated approach to international migration. DW looks at the agreement and at why some nations are vehemently against it. The United Nations' Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration marks the first time the world body has ever agreed on a list of global measures to tackle the risks and challenges involved in migration for individual migrants, and at the same time to maximize benefits for the countries taking in immigrants. The agreement comes as huge numbers of people across the world, often driven by conflict and poverty, are leaving their countries of origin to seek refuge elsewhere. But not all countries agree with the compact's basic tenets and have been vocal in their opposition. The text of the agreement was finalized by UN member states on July 13, 2018, and is scheduled to be adopted at a December intergovernmental conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. The compact is based on the recognition that the entire world needs to cooperate if current and future massive migration flows are to be managed in a humane manner, while still taking account of the values of state sovereignty. What are the objectives? The compact comprises 23 objectives for the management of migration at local, national, regional and global levels. They include: • minimizing "adverse drivers and structural factors" that force people to leave their home countries • ensuring that all migrants have adequate documentation and identity papers • making objective information available on all stages of migration • promoting an "evidence-based public discourse" • saving lives and coordinating international efforts for missing migrants • creating conditions to allow migrants to contribute to sustainable development in all countries • cooperation on a safe return and readmission of migrants to their home countries if necessary The compact does not stipulate any mandatory number of migrants to be accepted by a country. The guidelines also call for combating trafficking and the "integrated, secure and coordinated" management of borders. Why do some countries object? According to the UN, the agreement as a whole takes into account "legitimate concerns of states and communities" and the fact that the repercussions of migration for respective countries and regions may differ according to their demographic, economic, social and environmental situations. However, these assurances, and the fact that the compact is not legally binding, have not been enough to convince several UN members, including the United States, Austria and Hungary, who say they will not sign the agreement. Governments in these countries have voiced several objections, among other things saying the compact mixes up the rights of asylum-seekers with those of economic migrants. The US under President Donald Trump also argues that multinational agreements in general, and this one in particular, go against the sovereign power of individual governments. States may agree to join the agreement at a later date even if their political climate is currently opposed to it. Refuting the objections In a bid to counter false information spread on the internet about the compact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party has published a list of questions and answers to reassure "concerned citizens." They can also be seen as refuting the objections made by the countries that are refusing to sign. Among other things, it stresses that the non-binding compact does not require country that signs it to take on additional obligations. The top German party's document also insists that the agreement aims to strengthen the protection of national borders rather than to weaken it. The CDU also maintains that the compact enshrines national sovereignty in all border and security issues regarding migration, and makes a strict differentiation between legal and illegal migration.

The UN’s Global Compact for Migration sets out non-binding guidelines for an integrated approach to international migration. DW looks at the agreement and at why some nations are vehemently against it. The United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration marks the first time the world body has ever agreed on a list of global measures to tackle ... Read More »

Islamists block roads in Pakistan over Asia Bibi blasphemy case

Many schools were closed in Pakistan as Islamist groups blocked roads and rallied against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a flashpoint blasphemy case. An Islamist leader called for Supreme Court judges to be killed. Pakistani authorities deployed troops to guard state buildings in major cities as Islamist protests over Asia Bibi entered their second day on Thursday. Supporters of the extremists Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party blocked 10 roads around Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, several others outside Lahore and one major entry to the capital Islamabad. Private schools in all three cities were closed. Islamists launched protests after the country's Supreme Court ruled to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in a widely publicized case. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan. TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri told his supporters in Lahore that members of the three-judge panel that dismissed the charges should be killed. "All three deserve to be killed," Qadri said at a protest in Lahore. "Either their security, their driver or their cook should kill them." Qadri also said the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan should be forced to step down and urged military officers to rebel against powerful military head Javed Bajwa. We will not allow traffic to be blocked' TLP spokesman Pir Ejaz Shah had earlier told DW that the group "will embrace death but will not compromise on our stance" in the blasphemy case. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Khan urged the protesters not to "test the patience of the state." "We will not allow any damages. We will not allow traffic to be blocked," Khan said. "I appeal to you, do not push the state to the extent that it is forced to take action." Another Islamist group, the Milli Yakjehti Council, is meeting to discuss its response and possible protests over the Bibi case on Thursday. Meanwhile, Asia Bibi's brother told the AP news agency that the mother of four is set to leave Pakistan. Her paperwork is being processed and she is preparing to leave an undisclosed location where she is being held for security reasons. The brother did not say which country Bibi is traveling to. Both France and Spain have already offered her asylum.

Many schools were closed in Pakistan as Islamist groups blocked roads and rallied against the acquittal of Asia Bibi in a flashpoint blasphemy case. An Islamist leader called for Supreme Court judges to be killed. Pakistani authorities deployed troops to guard state buildings in major cities as Islamist protests over Asia Bibi entered their second day on Thursday. Supporters of ... Read More »

Indonesian divers locate crashed Lion Air black box

After days of searching, divers have recovered a flight recorder from a Lion Air jet that crashed in Indonesia this week. Investigators hope the device will reveal why the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane plunged into the sea. Teams of divers in Indonesia found one of two flight recorders from Lion Air flight JT610, which went down with 189 people on board earlier this week, an official confirmed on Thursday. Authorities said the flight data recorder was recovered and that teams are still searching for the cockpit voice recorder. Both could contain key information that will help determine why the nearly brand-new plane crashed into the Java Sea just 13 minutes after takeoff. The latest developments: • Footage broadcast on Indonesian television showed two divers surfacing with a bright orange device that was transferred to a search and rescue ship. • One of the divers, identified as navy 1st Sgt. Hendra, told local TV that he was able to locate the device despite strong currents. "I started digging and cleaning the debris until I finally found an orange object," he said. • Indonesian officials confirmed that the flight data recorder was recovered and that the cockpit recorder is still missing. • Both devices record information about the direction, altitude and speed of the plane as well as flight crew conversations. • Teams are still looking for the main body of the jet, hoping that it will contain both the missing black box as well as more victims from the crash. • The find came as the first victim to be identified from the crash was buried. • Tragic crash: The Lion Air passenger plane crashed on Monday just 13 minutes after taking off from the Indonesia capital, Jakarta, with 189 people on board. The crash was Indonesia's worst airline disaster in two decades and sparked a massive search in the Java Sea. Data from flight-tracking sites show that the plane experienced erratic changes in its altitude and speed before it lost contact. Experts warn, however, that the data needs to be checked with the information in the black boxes to determine the cause. • Concerns over safety: The crash has raised questions about airline safety not only in Indonesia but also about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane. The jet had only been in service for around two months when the crash occurred, with Lion Air stating that both the pilot and co-pilot were highly experienced. However, the budget airline admitted that the new Boeing 737-MAX 8 experienced an unspecified technical issue on its previous flight from the island of Bali last Sunday. • What happens next: The data from the black box will need to be examined, with a preliminary report on the crash expected to be released within a month. A complete report may take months to complete. Meanwhile, search and rescue teams are continuing to look for the second flight recorder as well as the fuselage, or main body of the plane.

After days of searching, divers have recovered a flight recorder from a Lion Air jet that crashed in Indonesia this week. Investigators hope the device will reveal why the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane plunged into the sea. Teams of divers in Indonesia found one of two flight recorders from Lion Air flight JT610, which went down with 189 people ... Read More »

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