Protester Killed, Dozens Arrested In Belarus Unrest – Rights Group

A collage of various scenes from the protest in Belarus.

 

A protester was killed and dozens wounded when police in Belarus used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to disperse demonstrators disputing election results, a prominent rights group said on Monday.

The Viasna Human Rights Centre said the young male protester suffered a traumatic head injury when he was hit by a police vehicle and medics were unable to save him.

Viasna representative Sergey Sys told AFP that more than 300 people had been arrested on Sunday, including more than 150 in the capital Minsk.

“Dozens of people were wounded as a result of clashes with law enforcement agencies. Ten of them were taken to hospitals,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova denied there had been any deaths.

“We have no dead,” she told AFP.

More than 200 detained

At least 213 people were detained in Belarus as police cracked down on protesters claiming strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko rigged Sunday’s presidential election, a prominent rights group said on Monday.

The Viasna Human Rights Centre said at least 110 people were detained in the capital Minsk, including at least 40 at or near polling stations and 70 during a pro-opposition protest. Others were detained in various cities.

People hold up Belarusian passports as they protest outside the Belarusian embassy after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Moscow on August 9, 2020. – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was set for an overwhelming victory in a presidential election on August 9, an official exit poll said, after a political newcomer mounted a historic challenge to the strongman leader. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
Riot police detain opposition supporters during a protest after polls closed in the presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)
An injured man lies on the ground during clashes between opposition supporters and riot police after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
Riot police disperse protesters after polls closed in the presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
An injured man receives medical help during clashes between opposition supporters and riot police after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Siarhei LESKIEC / AFP)
Riot police detain a demonstrator during a protest after polls closed in Belarus’ presidential election, in Minsk on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP)

30 People Arrested During Catalan Protests

People wave Spanish flags and a giant banner reading “Today as yesterday, Catalans and Spaniards” during a demonstration for the unity of Spain marking the Spanish National Day in Barcelona on October 12, 2019. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Police in Spain said Wednesday they arrested 30 people overnight across Catalonia for their roles in clashes with police during protests over the jailing of nine separatist leader over a failed 2017 independence bid.

Pro-independence groups staged sit-ins outside Spanish government offices in a number of Catalan cities late Tuesday, with around 40,000 people taking part in Barcelona and 9,000 in the separatist stronghold of Girona, according to municipal and regional police.

The protests ended in clashes with police in many cities.

In Barcelona, police charged hundreds of masked demonstrators who threw projectiles at officers and set garbage containers and cardboard boxes on fire.

Catalonia’s regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said 14 people were arrested in the port of Tarragona, six in Barcelona and ten others in other Catalan cities for disobeying authority and causing a disturbance.

Monday’s ruling unleashed a wave of protests, with Catalan separatists enraged by the Supreme Court’s decision to hand heavy prison sentences of between nine and 13 years to leaders convicted of sedition over the 2017 separatist push.

That culminated in a banned independence referendum and short-lived declaration of independence in October of the same year.

Turkey Arrests Online Critics Of Syria Operation

 

Turkish police arrested more than 20 people on charges of “terrorist propaganda” on Thursday over their criticism of a military offensive launched against Kurdish forces in Syria.

The head of opposition news site Birgun, Hakan Demir, was detained for “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” after it reported there had been civilian casualties in the offensive, which was launched on Wednesday.

The government denied civilians had been hurt in its strikes on Kurdish militant positions in northern Syria.

Demir was later released but had his passport confiscated.

Police arrested 21 people in the Kurdish-majority city of Mardin in southeastern Turkey for “terrorist propaganda”, according to state news agency Anadolu.

They had already announced that 78 cases had been opened against individuals nationwide.

Meanwhile, Ankara’s chief prosecutor said cases had also been opened against the leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, and other members of the party.

They had described the military operation as “an invasion” in a statement, and Temelli maintained his position on Thursday, saying it was an act of “aggression” and “attempted occupation”.

Turkey launched “Operation Peace Spring” on Wednesday against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which it considers a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish insurgents in its own territory.

Criticism of military operations in Turkey is fiercely taboo, with even opposition parties required to praise them.

Turkey arrested online critics during previous offensives against Kurdish forces in Syria, accusing them of “terrorist propaganda”.

Rights groups criticise the erosion of free speech under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, particularly in the wake of a failed coup in 2016 which was followed by tens of thousands of arrests of political opponents.

AFP

Two Arrested Over London Airport Drone Chaos

The control tower at Gatwick Airport in Sussex. Gatwick, one of Britain’s busiest airports was forced to suspend all flights after reports of drones flying over the airfield, causing disruption for at least 10,000 people just days before Christmas, it said on December 20, 2018.
Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Two people have been arrested in connection with the “criminal use of drones” at London’s Gatwick Airport, police said Saturday, after three days of disruption affected tens of thousands of passengers during the pre-Christmas getaway. 

Drones were first sighted buzzing around Britain’s second-busiest air hub on Wednesday, forcing the runway to close and causing chaos for more than 140,000 people.

“As part of our ongoing investigations into the criminal use of drones which has severely disrupted flights in and out of Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police made two arrests just after 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) on December 21,” the force’s Superintendent James Collis said.

“Every line of inquiry will remain open to us until we are confident that we have mitigated further threats to the safety of passengers.”

A Gatwick spokesman said the airport planned to run a full schedule of 757 flights carrying 124,484 passengers on Saturday.

But he warned that passengers should expect some delays and cancellations “as we continue to recover our operations following three days of disruption”.

Police urged passengers and the public to remain vigilant around the airport, south of London, and report any further drone sightings.

Flights resumed on Friday but were briefly halted after a new drone sighting forced planes to be grounded as a precautionary measure.

Sussex Police said officers had been using “a range of tactics” to hunt for the mystery drone operators and “build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions”.

The dangers posed by drones include the possibility of a device smashing into a passenger plane or being sucked up into an engine where its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

 Widespread disruption 

The army was called in on Thursday to offer support, with the defence ministry deploying what was described only as specialist equipment.

“There are a range of measures which are there today which should give passengers confidence that they are safe to fly,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC on Friday.

Government officials held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.

The Times newspaper Saturday reported Grayling had shelved plans earlier this year to introduce laws regulating drone use despite being warned about the risk they posed to airports.

“We were promised new legislation back in 2017,” Andy McDonald, the main Labour Party’s transport spokesman, told BBC radio.

“There’s been a lack of attention to this.”

Aviation minister Elizabeth Sugg said the government planned to “introduce new laws to ensure that drones are used safely and responsibly”, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Under a new British law, drones cannot be flown near aircraft or within a kilometer (about half a mile) of an airport, or at an altitude of over 400 feet (122 meters).

Violators face up to five years in prison for endangering an aircraft.

 Cat and mouse chase 

There had been more than 50 sightings of the device or devices since the first reports at 9:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday and shooting down the drone had been considered as an option.

Justin Burtenshaw, head of armed policing for Sussex and Surrey said on Thursday: “Each time we believe we get close to the operator, the drone disappears. When we look to reopen the airfield the drone reappears.”

Before Friday’s sighting at 5:10 pm (1710 GMT), a drone had last been spotted at around 10:00 pm (2200 GMT) on Thursday.

Mike, from London, had his flight cancelled on Friday and will miss his connection to Ghana.

“We’re in limbo. We don’t actually know when we’ll be flying out at all because we haven’t been promised a rescheduled flight, we haven’t been promised any further information, any compensation. Nothing at all.”

Darcis, 32, who was supposed to arrive from Milan on Thursday and had to sleep at the airport, said: “I cannot understand why such a small thing can cause an international airport like Gatwick (to close). They should be ready for these things. I really don’t understand what we can do.”

Gatwick, around 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the British capital, is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe and sits behind Mumbai as the world’s busiest single-runway air hub.

AFP

China Arrests 15 For Vaccine Fraud

 

Chinese authorities have arrested 15 people including the chairwoman of a rabies vaccine producer under fire for fraudulent quality control in the country’s latest drug-safety scandal.

News that pharmaceutical manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology had fabricated records and was ordered to cease production of rabies vaccines has revived deep consumer unease over product safety in the country, fuelled by recurring scandals over the years.

Authorities in the northeastern city of Changchun, where the company is based, have arrested 15 people including the company’s chairwoman on “suspicion of criminal offences”, city police announced late on Tuesday.

The announcement did not give the chairwoman’s full name but she has previously been identified as Gao Junfang.

The affair has shattered already fragile trust in regulators and spotlighted the frustrations of China’s increasingly sophisticated consumers, who took to social media en masse to vent their anger over the case.

The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) said last week the problematic rabies vaccine had not left Changsheng’s factory, but the company admitted it had shipped a separate sub-standard vaccine.

That vaccine for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus was found by regulators to fail quality standards, but the company revealed that it sold 250,000 doses to Shandong province last year.

The problems have rekindled already deep fears over domestically made medicines and driven worried parents online to swap information on obtaining imported vaccines.

Authorities have announced a series of investigations and vowed that heads would roll.

In a sign of the high-level unease, President Xi Jinping — on a trip to Africa — weighed in on Monday, calling the vaccine company’s actions “vile in nature and shocking”, according to state media.

AFP

4 Suspected Terrorists Killed In JTF Raid

Four suspected terrorists have been confirmed dead while others were arrested in a raid carried out by the JTF at Gayawa village of Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano state, North West Nigeria. 

Residents told Channels Television that sporadic gunshots and several explosions were heard around the area in the early hours of Tuesday.

They also reported that they saw soldiers evacuating four lifeless bodies believed to be of the dead terrorists into their vehicle.

Residents said that movement had been restricted since the early hours of the day, as the Joint Task Force, JTF, troop had cordoned off the entire area.

Although the JTF has not commented on the issue, residents told Channels Television’s correspondent that two Soldiers may have died during the operation.