COVID-19: Qatar Imposes Mandatory Masks On Pain Of Prison

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 16, 2020 A man wearing a mask as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease, walks along the Doha corniche in the Qatari capital. QATAR OUT / AFP.

 

Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world’s toughest penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment for failing to wear masks in public, as it battles one of the world’s highest coronavirus infection rates.

More than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country — 1.1 percent of the 2.75 million population — although just 15 people have died.

Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican had higher per capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Violators of Qatar’s new rules will face up to three years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.

Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but several expats told AFP that police were stopping cars at checkpoints to warn them of the new rules before they came into force.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Punctures Tunisia Tourism Rebound

Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.

Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130).

Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections.

Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar’s National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was “a huge risk in gatherings of families” for Ramadan meals.

“(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris,” he said.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.

– Labourers at risk –

Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease’s spread.

But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules.

Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26.

Tens of thousands of migrant labourers were quarantined in Doha’s gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions.

Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion.

Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers’ cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.

AFP

Over 60 COVID-19 Cases Recorded In Morocco Prison

Members of the medical staff at the Mohammmed V military hospital, wearing protective outfits, are pictured during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis, in the Moroccan capital Rabat on April 15, 2020. FADEL SENNA / AFP.

 

More than 60 cases of coronavirus infections have been recorded in a jail in southern Morocco, mostly among staff, the country’s prisons service said.

The DGAPR agency, in a statement late Monday, said 60 workers and six inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 at the prison in the town of Ouarzazate after checks were carried out on all prisoners.

Nine staff and two inmates had previously tested positive at a jail in the southern city of Marrakesh and in Ksar Kebir, in the north of the kingdom, it said.

The prison service said that cases of contamination in Morocco’s prisons — which hold a total of 80,000 inmates — were under control because of “preventives measures” such as quarantines for workers with the respiratory disease.

At the start of April, more than 5,650 prisoners were released to reduce the risks of the spread of coronavirus, which has cost 144 lives in Morocco and contaminated more than 3,000 people.

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Other Middle East and North African countries have also released prisoners, a measure UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for across the world as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Morocco, a country of 35 million, has closed its borders and imposed a lockdown until May 20, enforced by security forces, to stem the spread of the disease.

AFP

10 Correctional Officers Injured In Attempted Kaduna Jailbreak

File photo

 

Some inmates at the Kaduna Correctional Service injured 10 officers during an attempt to escape from jail on Tuesday.

The Controller of Corrections, Sanusi Danmusa, confirmed this to Channels Television in an interview on Wednesday.

According to him, the incident occurred after the inmates demanded their release in order not to contract the COVID-19.

The controller, who said had been no coronavirus case in the Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre or any other centre within the command, added that there was no directive to release any of the inmates.

In the aftermath of the incident, Danmusa said the command has beefed up security around all its custodial facilities in Kaduna State to avert any attempted jailbreak.

As for the inmates who attempted to escape, he said they were overpowered and the situation brought under control with none of them escaping.

Riot In Colombia Prison Leaves 23 Dead – Government

Inmates extend their hands at the Modelo prison in Bogota after a riot on March 22, 2020. – A riot in a prison in the Colombian capital has left 23 inmates dead and 90 wounded, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello announced Sunday. The riot was triggered by an attempted mass breakout overnight from La Modelo prison. DANIEL MUNOZ / AFP.

 

Rioting that swept through a crowded prison overnight in the Colombian capital Bogota left 23 inmates dead and 90 wounded, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello announced Sunday.

The riot was triggered by an attempted mass breakout from La Modelo prison, Cabello said, as the capital was on a weekend lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Riots occurred “in several penitentiary centers in the country,” Cabello said in a statement. “The result of the attempted escape in the Modelo was 23 inmates dead.”

La Modelo is Bogota’s second largest prison after La Picota, where protests also erupted on Saturday night.

READ ALSO: Germany Bans Gatherings Of More Than Two Over Coronavirus

According to Cabello, 83 inmates and seven guards were injured in the disturbances inside La Modelo. Around half the injured prisoners were hospitalized, and two of the guards were in “critical condition.”

“There were no escapes,” she added.

The head of Colombia’s prison authorities, General Norberto Mujica, said his forces had taken back full control of the prison.

“Our guards prevented the escape from being carried out. We achieved that today and as a result are not looking for 5,000 prisoners that would have escaped.”

The government rejected accusations that the riots were sparked by unsanitary conditions inside a prison system unprepared to face the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no health problem that would have caused the escape plan and these riots,” Cabello said.

“Today there is not a single infection, and no prisoners, nor administration or custodial officials, that have the coronavirus.”

AFP

Brazil Recaptures Inmates Who Escaped In COVID-19 Riot

Military police officers are seen at the main entrance of the Doctor Edgar Magalhaes Noronha (Pemano) Penitentiary during a riot on early March 17, 2020, in Tremembe, 155 km from Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Lucas LACAZ / AFP

 

Brazilian authorities said Tuesday they had recaptured 586 inmates who escaped from their minimum-security prisons after their right to leave on temporary furloughs was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But they estimated that 789 others remained on the run, after a series of riots Monday in four prisons in Sao Paulo state.

The riots broke out when authorities announced they were suspending the inmates’ right to leave for up to five week-long home visits per year.

They said they feared the returning prisoners would bring “heightened risk of spreading the new coronavirus among a vulnerable population” — their fellow inmates.

But that caused hundreds of prisoners to rebel against their guards, set fires and escape.

In all, at least 1,375 inmates fled, though authorities are still completing the count, the state penitentiary administration said.

The escapees were being held in “semi-open prisons,” which allow inmates to leave during the day for work and make extended home visits periodically.

The recaptured inmates “will lose the right to benefit from the semi-open system,” state prisons official Nivaldo Cesar Restivo told TV network Globo.

“They will now serve their sentences in normal prisons.”

Brazil has also suspended visits in its five federal maximum-security prisons over the coronavirus pandemic.

The country confirmed its first coronavirus-linked death on Tuesday.

AFP

PHOTOS: Four-Year Trial Ends As Metuh Begins Jail Term

Olisa Metuh being taken to the Nigeria Correction Service after a judgement was passed on his case on February the 25th, 2020. Photos: Sodiq Adelakun/ChannelsTV

 

The four-year trial of a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh, came to an end on Tuesday after the Federal High Court in Abuja found him guilty and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

Metuh was sentenced on seven counts of money laundering and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of N400 million.

According to Justice Okon Abang, the sentence is expected to take effect immediately (today, February 25, 2020).

See photos of him being taken to the Nigeria Correction Services, Kuje.

Read Also: Court Sentences Olisa Metuh To Seven Years In Prison After Four-Year Trial

10 Killed As Riot Rocks Jail In Venezuela

 

 

Gang fighting at a jail in Venezuela left at least 10 inmates dead, an NGO reported Tuesday.

At least four grenades were detonated in clashes that began Monday evening in the northwestern state of Zulia, said the NGO, a human rights group called Una Ventana a la Libertad.

Venezuelan authorities have not said anything about a toll from the rioting, which the NGO said broke out at a jail which serves as a holding pen at a regional police headquarters.

Prisoners set fire to one wing of the facility, it said.

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It quoted local residents as saying explosions and then gunfire were heard starting late Monday, with the violence continuing overnight.

Zulia governor Omar Prieto said Monday that he is planning to close the detention center.

On December 23, an uprising at the jail left six people dead, the NGO said. One of those was shot by security forces, it added.

It said the jail holds about 1,000 inmates.

Venezuelan prisons suffer from severe overcrowding despite a 2011 plan to upgrade them.

Holding pens like the one in Zulia are full of detainees, who are not supposed to spend more than 48 hours there.

Nationwide, these facilities hold more than five times their capacity. Detainees suffer from violence, malnutrition and diseases such as tuberculosis, La Ventana a la Libertad said.

It said that in just the first half of 2019, 149 prisoners died in police holding pens, due to a variety of causes.

On May 24, a total of 29 inmates died during an attempted breakout from another such jail in the town of Acarigua in the western state of Portuguesa.

Clashes between prisoners and police left 19 officers injured in that incident.

Three Dead In Riyadh Prison Fire

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

A fire erupted in a Riyadh prison early Thursday, killing three inmates and injuring 21 others, Saudi state media reported.

The inmates were evacuated and the injured were rushed to hospital after the fire broke out at dawn in Al-Malaz prison, jail authorities said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Firefighting “specialists with the help of civil defence were able to bring the fire under control and prevent it from spreading,” the statement said.

“As a result (of the fire) three deaths occurred and 21 were injured.”

It did not state the cause of the fire, but said an investigation had been launched.

Accidental fires are common across the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sometimes because of lax enforcement of safety regulations.

In September, five people were injured in a fire that broke out at a new high-speed train station in the western city of Jeddah, according to state television, with huge palls of smoke seen rising into the air.

The station serves the main Haramain High Speed Rail system, which transports passengers between Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest sites.

AFP

Alleged Homicide: Court Remands 60 Shiite Members In Correctional Facilities

A file photo of policemen dispersing Shiite members during a protest in Abuja on July 22, 2019. Photo: Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

 

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), sitting in the Apo area of Abuja has remanded 60 members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), otherwise called the Shiite group to Kuje prison in Abuja and Suleja prison in Niger State on remand.

The 60 proscribed IMN members were arrested during the July 22 bloody protest at the Federal Secretariat area of Abuja, which led to the death of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Usman Umar, and Precious Owolabi, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member with Channels Television.

They were arraigned before the court on November 27 by the FCT Command of the Nigeria Police.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Traditional Ruler Accused Of Raping Boy, Family Demands Justice

The suspects were arraigned on charges bordering on homicide, disturbances of public peace, and destruction of government properties.

They had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them by the police.

On resumption of the case on Tuesday, counsel for the defendants, Mr Bala Dakum, informed the court that he had filed a bail application on behalf of the Shiite members.

When the court drew his attention to filing only one bail application for the 60 defendants, which was brought by way of summon, Dakum said he would withdraw it.

He subsequently did in order to file separate applications for the defendants.

Justice Sulaiman Belgore then struck out the application, having been withdrawn by the defence counsel with no objection from the prosecution.

As a result, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Simon Lough, requested that the defendants should be remanded in Kuje and Suleja correctional facilities.

Lough, who is a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), asked that 54 male defendants be remanded at the correctional facility in Kuje, while the remaining six defendants who are females be sent to the Suleja correctional on remand.

He also applied that trial of the defendants be held where they are remanded for convenience, adding that the trial should be given an accelerated hearing considering their number.

The prosecution’s oral applications for the remand of the defendants and trial being held where they are being remanded were not opposed by their counsel.

Ruling on the applications, Justice Belgore held that having not been opposed by the counsel for the defendants, the court was minded to remand the defendants at the correctional facilities.

“The defendants be remanded at the correctional facilities. They are to be remanded at Kuje and Suleja correctional yards. Trial to be held in Kuje correctional yard,” he ruled.

The judge then adjourned until February 5, 2020, for the commencement of trial which he ordered to be on a daily basis.

Tanzania To Free 5,500 Inmates From Overcrowded Prisons

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
Tanzania’s newly elected President John Magufuli delivers a speech during the swearing in ceremony in Dar es Salaam. Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

President John Magufuli on Monday ordered that around 5,500 inmates be freed from Tanzania’s overcrowded prisons at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the country’s independence from colonial rule.

The populist president, who has publicly expressed both sympathy and derision for the country’s prison population, announced the mass pardon at an event marking Tanzania’s national day.

“I believe this will relieve those who were jailed on minor charges, and those who were unable to have lawyers represent them or money to pay fines,” Magufuli said in Mwanza, a city on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“The pardon will also help to decongest our prisons.”

Magufuli, who came to power in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people”, has toured overcrowded prisons in the past and ordered authorities to free those being held for long stretches without trial.

Tanzania’s current prison population is around 36,000, the government says, with some facilities considerably over capacity.

In July, Magufuli said his visit to a jail in Mwanza left him “saddened” because many prisoners had languished there many years without trial.

But he also drew criticism from rights watchdogs in 2018 by ordering that prisoners be made to work “day and night” and suggesting they should grow their own food and be kicked if they are lazy.

Magufuli’s talent for high-profile appearances that bolster his reputation as a no-nonsense leader have made him wildly popular among some.

But his intolerance of criticism, impulsiveness and disregard for due process worry others who see authoritarianism at the core of his populism.

The United States and Britain in August expressed concern about the steady erosion of due process under his rule, pointing to a growing tendency of authorities to resort to lengthy pre-trial detentions.

Nicknamed “tingatinga” — meaning “bulldozer” in Swahili — Magufuli has cowed the press, and many of his political opponents are routinely arrested. Some opposition activists have been kidnapped and beaten.

For the first time since his election, the main opposition party, Chadema, attended the national day celebrations, sharing the stage with Magufuli.

Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe called for a return to democratic norms and freedom of expression in Tanzania, which goes to the polls next year to choose a president.

“Mr President, you have the chance to make history by rectifying all these challenges,” he said.

Chadema boycotted last month’s local elections, citing intimidation, handing the ruling party a sweeping victory in polls criticised by the international community as lacking credibility.

Magufuli, 60, has not said whether he will stand for re-election to what would be his second and final term.

AFP

Three Sentenced To Prison Over Algeria Concert Stampede Deaths

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

An Algerian court has handed three people prison sentences for “negligence” over a deadly stampede at an August concert, a judicial source told AFP Thursday.

Five people aged between 13 and 22 were killed and more than 80 injured on August 22 when fans thronged an entrance of a stadium in Algiers where France-based rapper Soolking was performing.

Samy Benchikh, the former head of Algeria’s public body for organising concerts, was sentenced to six months in prison, with three months suspended, a judicial source said on condition of anonymity.

The manager of a ticket company was handed six months in jail with four months suspended, and the same sentence was handed to the head of the company handling security at the event.

All three were charged with “negligence” after the court dropped manslaughter charges, the judicial source added.

Eleven security guards also on trial were released.

The incident forced culture minister Meriem Merdaci to resign and led to the sacking of Benchikh and Algeria’s police chief, Abdelkader Kara Bouhadba.

Soolking, 29, is a major star in Algeria, and his song “La Liberte” (Freedom) became a mainstay of the anti-government protest movement that has swept Algeria since February.

The choice of the August-20 stadium, one of the country’s oldest, to host the rapper’s sole planned concert in Algeria since his international career took off in 2018, was heavily criticised, in particular by families of the victims.

The day of the concert, large numbers of spectators were still waiting to enter shortly before the show began, and fears of not being able to enter reportedly sparked the stampede.

Court Remands Mompha In Prison Over Alleged N32.9bn Money Laundering

A file photo of Mompha.

 

 

The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that suspected internet fraudster, Ismaila Mustapha, also known as Mompha, be kept in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services.

Justice Mohammed Liman gave the order on Monday after “Mompha” pleaded not guilty to the 14 charges of laundering N33 billion filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The court also fixed November 29 for the hearing of the bail application filed by the defendant.

The anti-graft agency alleged in the charge sheet signed by one of its counsels, Rotimi Oyedepo, that Mompha laundered the funds through a firm which was the second defendant – Ismalob Global Investment Ltd – between 2015 and 2018.

It claimed that the funds, domiciled in a commercial bank, were moved in tranches of N18,059,353,413 and N14,946,773,393.

The EFCC also claimed that both defendants, not being a financial institution or an authorised foreign exchange dealer, negotiated a foreign exchange transaction in the sum of N9.416 million, N20 million, N10,437,400, N10 million, N2.46 million, N10 million, N100 million, N61 million, N100 million, N40.7 million, and N42 million.

The funds were domiciled in the defendants’ commercial bank account.

In one of the counts, the anti-graft agency alleged that Mompha, “Between 2015 and 2018… procured Ismalob Global Investment Ltd to retain the aggregate sum of N18,059,353,413 in its account No. 5260000846 domiciled in Fidelity Bank Plc which sum you reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful act to wit: fraud.”

The first defendant was also alleged to have between 2015 and 2017, aided the company “to retain the aggregate sum of N 14,946,773,393.00 in its account No. 5260000846 domiciled in Fidelity Bank Plc from Pitacalize Ltd.”

Both actions, according to the EFCC, offend Sections 18(3) and 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act.2011 (as amended) and are punishable under section 15 (3) of the same Act.