Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Wednesday issued a royal pardon for journalist Hajar Raissouni, overturning a court sentence for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage, the justice ministry said.
The 28-year-old will walk free “in the coming hours”, while sentences handed down to her fiance, gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant were also overturned, an official told AFP.
A Rabat court on Monday sentenced Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni to one year in jail for having had an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage.
Her gynaecologist was sentenced to two years and her Sudanese fiance one year in prison, while an anaesthetist was handed a one-year suspended sentence and a medical assistant eight months, also suspended.
Lawyers for 28-year-old Raissouni had called for her acquittal during the trial, denying she had had an abortion.
A journalist for Akhbar Al-Yaoum — an Arabic-language newspaper which has a history of run-ins with the authorities — she was sentenced under Article 490 of Morocco’s legal code.
That article punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat.
In court, she denied having had an abortion and said she had been treated for internal bleeding — testimony backed up by her gynaecologist.
The journalist denounced a “political trial”, saying she had been questioned by police about her family — including an uncle who is an outspoken Islamist newspaper columnist — and about her own writing.
The prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.
It had contended her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.
The gunmen said to be over 30, were said to have shot at the vehicle conveying the women from Keffi, where Yahanasu had gone to register for the Batch A Corps at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp.
They shot sporadically in the air few, metres from a police checkpoint and forcefully made away with the women.
While it is not yet clear if a ransom was paid to secure their release, the Chairman, NUJ Correspondent Chapel, Mr Suleiman Abubakar, confirmed the development to Channels Television.
A Ghanian undercover journalist who helped expose corruption in African football has been shot dead in the capital, triggering widespread outrage and demands for authorities to bring his killers to justice.
Ahmed Husein, 34, was gunned down as he returned to his home in the Madina area of Accra on Wednesday night.
The reporter was part of a team led by award-winning journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, whose probe last year led to the resignation of the head of the Ghana Football Association and the banning of dozens of football referees and officials.
Last year Husein filed a complaint with police after a prominent lawmaker from President Nana Akufo-Addo’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) threatened him, once calling on television for supporters to beat Hussein while showing the reporter’s photograph.
Police said Husein was shot in the chest and neck. Anas and his Tiger Eye production company said the gunmen fired at close range from a motorbike and he died instantly.
Media organisations and journalists in Ghana on Thursday called for more protection and demanded the government fully investigate.
“We… are terribly devastated by the dastardly act but remain unshaken in our resolve to pursue nation-wreckers and make corruption a high-risk activity,” said Anas.
President Nana Akufo-Addo sent his condolences to Husein’s family and condemned the killing.
“I expect the police to bring to book, as soon as possible, the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he said in a statement.
Information minister Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah told reporters violence against journalists would not be tolerated but the government is likely to come under pressure over the killing.
The murder of a journalist is unusual in Ghana, which ranked 23rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index — up three places on the previous year.
But the revelations about corruption in football rocked Ghana, a country where football is the national sport and which prides itself on being a stable democracy in an often turbulent region.
The president of the Ghana Journalists Association, Affail Monney, said Husein’s killers “must be made to face the full rigours of law”.
He also called on Akufo-Addo to get to the bottom of the killing and urged parliament to “take necessary actions” to improve media and public safety.
“This killing, in addition to rampant assault against journalists in recent times, sends a worrying signal that the media are under serious attack,” he told a news conference.
International media watchdog the Committee for the Protection of Journalists called for an immediate investigation and for the authorities “to ensure that threats against the press are taken seriously”.
Husein had made the complaint to police after NPP party member Kennedy Agyapong showed his photograph on a private television channel and promised payment for supporters who took attacked him.
“That boy that’s very dangerous, he lives here in Madina. If he comes here, beat him,” Agyapong said, pointing to a picture of Husein’s face.
In the undercover investigation into football corruption, Agyapong’s name was also mentioned by implicated sporting officials.
Husein’s lawyer, Kissi Agyabeng, said the member of parliament had questions to answer.
Agyapong himself rejected claims that he “engineered the killing” of Husein, telling local radio station Neat FM: “He has never offended me.
“So, they should go and investigate those he has offended not me. He and his boss (Anas) have offended so many people in this country.
“The evil they have been doing will follow them.”
RSF has previously condemned threats against Anas after he revealed “threatening calls, intimidation messages and suspicious vehicles near his home”.
The reporter, whose other exposes have lifted the lid on graft in the judicial system, is distinctive for wearing hats and face-coverings to conceal his identity.
World governing body FIFA last October banned former Ghana FA boss Kwesi Nyantakyi for life and fined him nearly $500,000 (439,000 euros) after he was seen on camera accepting bribes.
Nyantakyi was accused of requesting $11 million to secure government contracts.
Eight referees and assistant referees were banned for life while 53 officials were subject to 10-year bans. Fourteen officials were exonerated.
President Donald Trump instructed journalists Friday to show more respect in the “sacred” White House and moments later angrily refused to answer a reporter’s question because it was “stupid.”
The latest clash between the president and the press corps assigned to cover him followed a meltdown on Wednesday when Trump lashed out at a star CNN reporter as a “terrible person” and had him barred from the White House.
In Friday’s incident, Abby Phillip, also from CNN, asked Trump whether he wanted his new attorney general to hold back an explosive probe into allegations that the president’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russian agents.
The topic has been one of the main headlines in Washington since Wednesday when Trump abruptly fired Jeff Sessions as attorney general and named Matthew Whitaker, who has strongly criticized the Russia probe, to replace him. Critics have accused Trump of placing an ally who will try to muzzle special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Trump, speaking just before leaving for an international gathering in Paris to commemorate World War I, refused to answer Phillip.
“What a stupid question that is, what a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions,” he said, shaking a finger at the journalist, then walking away.
Moments earlier he’d defended his decision to bar CNN reporter Jim Acosta following their exchange at Wednesday’s press conference, saying that Acosta “is a very unprofessional guy.”
Asked how long Acosta will be denied the credential allowing him to work inside the White House, Trump said he hadn’t decided and seemed to indicate that the extremely unusual sanction could be applied to more journalists.
“It could be others also,” he said.
Trump went on to refer to another reporter, April Ryan, who works for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN, as “a loser” and “very nasty.”
The president said that the bad blood between him and the media was the fault of journalists showing insufficient deference.
“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me. It’s a very special place. You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect,” he said.
A Japanese journalist who was held in Syria for more than three years before being freed this week has described his lengthy captivity as “hell.”
Jumpei Yasuda was freed earlier this week and taken to Turkey, where Japanese government officials confirmed his identity before announcing Wednesday that he was free.
He boarded a plane bound for Tokyo on Thursday, speaking briefly to journalists in an interview broadcast by Japanese media.
“It was hell,” he said, sporting a long beard peppered with grey hair.
“Not only physically, but mentally as well. The thought each day that ‘I’m not being released today either’ left me losing control over myself bit by bit.”
Yasuda, who is expected to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday evening, spoke calmly but appeared slightly overwhelmed and tired, if otherwise healthy.
“For about 40 months, I have not spoken a word of Japanese. Words don’t come to my mind easily,” he said.
“I am happy that I am returning to Japan. At the same time, I have no idea what will happen now and how I should conduct myself. I am at loss and don’t know what to think.”
Yasuda was kidnapped in Syria in June 2015 and was reportedly initially a hostage of the group previously known as the Al-Nusra Front, a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
But the group’s current iteration, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, denied any involvement in his kidnapping in a statement earlier this week.
There was only sporadic news of Yasuda throughout his captivity, including a bizarre video that emerged in August showing him and a man identified as an Italian called Alessandro Sandrini.
Both men appealed for their release, dressed in orange jumpsuits, as masked, armed men stood behind them.
Yasuda gave his name as Omar and described himself as South Korean, but his wife Myu confirmed that it was her husband in the video.
The video did not identify who was holding the men or what their demands were. There has been no word on the fate of Sandrini since.
Yasuda told journalists he believed he was held for all of his captivity in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria that is one of the last parts of the country still held in part by rebels and jihadists.
The details of how Yasuda was freed have remained murky, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, saying a ransom was paid.
But Japan’s government has denied that.
In 2015, militants from the Islamic State group beheaded Japanese war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa in Syria.
The Japanese government was criticized for what detractors saw as its flat-footed response to the crisis at the time, including apparently missed opportunities to free both men.
But other Japanese hostages who have been freed and made it home safely have also faced heavy public criticism for what some have deemed reckless behavior.
The UN chief, Britain’s foreign ministry and media groups on Saturday called for the punishment of those who ordered and carried out Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul.
Here are a few reactions:
“The Secretary-General stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s death and full accountability for those responsible,” Antonio Guterres’s office said in a statement.
“We send our condolences to Jamal Khashoggi’s family after this confirmation of his death. We are considering the Saudi report and our next steps. As the Foreign Secretary has said, this was a terrible act and those responsible must be held to account,” the foreign ministry said.
Reporters Without Borders
“Any attempt to get rid of the pressure on Saudi Arabia and to accept a compromise policy would result in giving a ‘license to kill’ to a Kingdom that puts in jail, lashes, kidnaps and even kills journalists who dare to investigate and launch debates,” Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of the Paris-based media rights watchdog tweeted.
Turk-Arab Media Association
The Istanbul-based body, of which Khashoggi was a member, said it wanted all those involved in the plot — right up to the highest rung — to be punished.
“We demand that not only the 18 men but those who commanded (the killing) are punished,” said Turan Kislakci, the head of the association, speaking outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The killing of Jamal Khashoggi reminds us of the need to fight for press freedom, which is essential to democracy. Accountability for these crimes is non-negotiable. I urge the relevant authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this crime and bring its perpetrators to justice,” UNESCO chief Audrey Azoulay said.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday he is sending his top diplomat to Saudi Arabia after Saudi King Salman told him in a phone call that he has no idea what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen,'” Trump said in a tweet, adding he was “immediately sending” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king.
Trump has taken a cautious position since the disappearance of Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributor and critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Trump has threatened “severe punishment” should proof emerge to back claims that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi and disposed of his body.
However, the US president has repeatedly made clear that he will not risk billions of dollars in deals to sell weapons to the kingdom, which is a strategic ally in the tinderbox Middle East.
Following days of mounting tensions, Saudi officials were allowing Turkish investigators to enter the consulate on Monday.
A Turkish diplomatic source said it was expected that the search, to be conducted jointly with Saudi authorities, would “take place towards the evening.”
Lurid claims have appeared in Turkish media, including that Khashoggi was tortured and dismembered. However, the Turkish leadership has so far refrained from pointing the finger directly at Riyadh in public comments.
The controversy has troubled Saudi Arabia’s traditional Western allies — many of the arms suppliers to the kingdom — and also undermined efforts by the prince, Mohammed, to present himself as the modernizing future of the kingdom.
An investment conference is seen as a platform for the crown prince, due to take place next week in Riyadh and dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” has been hit by a string of prominent cancellations.
Business barons including British billionaire Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg and CNN, have pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative (FII).
In major new twin blows to the credibility of the event, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Ford chairman Bill Ford also canceled plans to attend, CNBC reported.
In Washington, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, is coming under pressure after having spearheaded the administration’s strategy to forge close ties with Mohammed.
But US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that he still plans to attend the Saudi conference.
“If more information comes out over the next week, I will obviously take that into account,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is facing a backlash over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from business and media previously supportive of his reform drive, with partnerships at risk and big names boycotting a major conference this month.
The crown prince, the son of King Salman, has spearheaded an ambitious programme known as Vision 2030, aiming to make the oil-rich conservative kingdom a hub for global innovation and better able to respond to the demands of its increasingly youthful population.
Despite enduring criticism of Saudi’s human rights record and its role in the war in Yemen, business chiefs, investors and prominent media figures have been impressed by the crown prince’s rhetoric and backed his vision of a new Saudi Arabia.
The showcase of this international support was set to be on October 23-25 at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a lavish conference to be attended by top foreign business leaders and dubbed the “Davos in the Desert” after the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort.
But the disappearance of Khashoggi — who has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 — has given chills even to those who strongly supported Mohammed bin Salman’s plans.
Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi — a contributor to the Washington Post who has on occasion penned articles critical of Mohammed bin Salman — was killed inside the consulate. Saudi Arabia has strongly denied this but has failed to explain the journalist’s fate.
‘Change ability to do business’
Charismatic British entrepreneur Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, announced he is suspending two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia around the Red Sea due to the unexplained disappearance of Khashoggi.
Branson said he had “high hopes” for Saudi Arabia under the crown prince but added if the claims about Khashoggi’s disappearance were true it would “clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government.”
He added Virgin would suspend discussions with Saudi Arabia over a proposed investment in Virgin Galactic, which is set to carry out its first space flight within weeks.
Meanwhile, the Future Investment Initiative has seen a litany of cancellations from prominent names who decided it best not to be associated with Saudi Arabia at this time.
The CEO of ride-hailing app Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, said that he will no longer be attending the event unless “a substantially different set of facts emerges”, explaining he was “very troubled by the reports”.
His absence will be hugely symbolic as Saudi Arabia’s mammoth sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), invested $3.5 billion in Uber in 2016.
An increasingly key player, the PIF also has a stake in Tesla, the electric car company headed by Elon Musk while also taking a shareholding in its rival Lucid.
However, US President Donald Trump underlined in comments which outraged supporters of Khashoggi that there would be limits to any backlash, saying he was not minded to limit arms sales to the key American ally.
“They are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs,” Trump said Thursday. The Saudis will “take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else,” he warned.
Media organizations, some of whose writers played some part in cheering the reforms of Mohammed bin Salman, are also deserting the Riyadh event, with the New York Times pulling out as a sponsor and Viacom CEO Bob Bakish canceling plans to appear.
Meanwhile, celebrity journalists who were invited are also staying away. New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin said on Twitter he would not be attending after being “terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder.”
The ambiance is set to be a far cry from the first edition of the meeting in 2017, where Saudi Arabia wowed some 3,500 executives with talking robots and plans for a new city.
The tensions also create new doubts about the much-heralded IPO of state oil giant Aramco, expected to be the largest share offering in history, and which the crown prince has insisted will go ahead by early 2021.
But not all big names are staying away so far. German industrial giant Siemens, whose chief executive Joe Kaeser is invited, told AFP it had not canceled its participation but was following the situation closely.
JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are still scheduled to attend.
Police in Germany have arrested a man in connection with the rape and brutal murder of Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova, Bulgarian officials said Wednesday.
But they said it does not appear that the murder was linked to her work as a journalist.
The suspect was picked up late on Tuesday at the request of Bulgarian authorities, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told a news conference.
“We have enough proof linking this person to the scene of the crime,” he said.
The country’s chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, named the suspect as Severin Kasimirov, born in 1997, and said he was already sought in connection with another rape and murder.
“At this stage, we do not believe that the murder is linked” to Marinova’s work. “But we are continuing to look at all hypotheses.”
“The evidence that we have at this stage leads us to believe it was a spontaneous attack to sexually abuse the victim”.
The body of 30-year-old Marinova — who presented a current affairs talk programme called “Detector” for the small TVN television channel — was discovered on a riverside path in the northern town of Ruse on Saturday.
Authorities said she died from blows to the head and suffocation. She was also raped.
The attack has shocked the country and drawn international condemnation amid speculation the murder could be linked to Marinova’s work as a journalist.
An episode of her programme aired on September 30 featured interviews with two investigative journalists from Bulgaria and Romania who had been working on corruption allegations.
She is the third journalist to be murdered in Europe in the past 12 months after Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017.