Hong Kong Protesters Beat Police Officers For Disbanding Democracy Rally

People take part in the ‘universal siege on communists’ rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on January 19, 2020.  Philip FONG / AFP

 

Two police officers were beaten bloody by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong Sunday as violence erupted at a rally calling for greater democratic freedoms in the heart of the city.

Trouble flared when police ordered the authorised gathering to disperse after officers conducting stop and searches on nearby streets had water bottles and paint thrown at them by angry crowds.

A group of plainclothes officers who were speaking with organisers were then set upon by masked protesters, who beat them with umbrellas and sticks, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Two officers were seen with bloody head wounds as colleagues shielded them from further attacks.

“We strongly condemn all the rioters and violent acts,” police spokesman Ng Lok-chun told reporters.

Video posted online showed an organiser with a microphone asking the officers to show their warrant cards which they did not do, a frequent gripe among protesters.

Rally organiser Ventus Lau said he believed police should “shoulder the greatest responsibility for the clashes” because they took too long to show their warrant cards.

Lau was later arrested for obstructing officers, police and rally organisers confirmed.

Soon after the officers were attacked, riot police swept into the area and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Brief cat and mouse clashes ensued with police making multiple arrests, including one protester who had blood streaming from the back of his head.

‘Stand with Hong Kong’ 

Hong Kong’s protests have raged for seven months after being sparked by a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, where the opaque legal system answers to the Communist Party.

They soon morphed into a wider movement calling for greater freedoms in what is the most concerted challenge to Beijing’s rule since the former British colony’s 1997 handover.

At Sunday’s rally, thousands gathered in the heart of the Central commercial district, chanting slogans such as “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom”.

Some waved American, British and Hong Kong independence flags. There were many families and children present with a peaceful atmosphere until the police ordered the crowds to leave.

The frequency and ferocity of Hong Kong’s protests have died down over the last month, but signs of the political unrest are everywhere, from graffiti daubed on walls to huge fences surrounding government buildings.

The city’s police force is now loathed by large swathes of the city, heckled by crowds both at protest sites and in their local neighbourhoods.

Critics accuse police of using excessive force, with no police officer disciplined or punished in the last seven months of protests.

Police say they have used force commensurate with the levels of violence they face from hardcore protesters who routinely throw bricks and petrol bombs.

The force has blamed viral social media videos of officers making hard arrests and media coverage for their plummeting reputation among the city’s inhabitants.

Among key demands of the protest movement are an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for 7,000 people arrested and fully free elections.

Beijing and local leader Carrie Lam have refused further concessions and defended police tactics.

AFP

France President, Wife Escape Frustrated Protesters

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the opening day of the “Made in France“ event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 17, 2020. Michel Euler / POOL / AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the opening day of the “Made in France“ event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 17, 2020. Michel Euler / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife were rushed from a Paris theatre late Friday after protesters tried to burst in and disrupt the performance.

Riot police were out in force as dozens of people staged a demonstration outside the theatre where Macron and Brigitte were watching “The Fly”.

About 30 protesters tried to enter the building housing the renowned Bouffes du Nord theatre after some people in the audience tweeted the presence of France’s first couple, presidential staff said.

The pair “were secured” for several minutes and later returned to their seats to finish watching the play, they said.

Police said they prevented the protesters from getting into the theatre in the 10th district of Paris, which lies several kilometres from the president’s Elysee Palace’s residence.

The Macrons, who occasionally slip out to enjoy a dinner or play in the French capital, finally left the theatre under police escort.

“All together, general strike,” protesters shouted during the stand-off with riot police that lasted around an hour.

The demonstration took place on the 44th day of a crippling strike against the Macron government’s proposed pension reforms.

Though it is now easing, the strike has snarled train and metro traffic and caused misery for millions of commuters in Paris especially.

Macron’s staff were defiant after Friday’s events.

“The president will continue to attend plays as he is used to doing. He will watch out to defend creative freedom to ensure it is not undermined by violent political acts,” a Macron aide said.

Making few public appearances for weeks, Macron last mixed with the crowds when he visited the northern city of Amiens in November before his retirement reforms were announced.

The overhaul aims to forge a single pensions system from the country’s 42 separate regimes, which offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physical therapists and even Paris Opera employees.

Critics say it will effectively force millions of people to work longer for a smaller pension.

 

AFP

Police Arrest 15 In Fresh Hong Kong Protests

Riot police detain a man (C) after a pro-democracy protest inside a shopping mall in Sheung Shui in Hong Kong on December 28, 2019. DALE DE LA REY / AFP

 

Hong Kong riot police arrested at least 15 people in clashes Saturday with dozens of pro-democracy protestors who targeted a mall near the border with China to demonstrate against mainland tourists and shoppers.

The fresh unrest ended a brief calm after protestors had battled riot police in shopping malls and streets of commercial districts across the city for three days over the Christmas period.

On Saturday afternoon, masked plain-clothed officers wielding batons arrested 14 people, including a 14-year-old girl, who were protesting inside the mall in Sheung Shui district, forcing shops to shut and harassing shoppers, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Riot police charged into the mall to reinforce the officers and used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of residents who gathered to protest against the arrests.

After the police left, some protesters stayed on a footbridge linking the mall to an MTR metro station and harassed passers-by they thought were mainland Chinese tourists.

Another man was arrested by riot police in a later incident inside the mall, his head covered in blood.

Similar protests and clashes also took place in a mall in Kowloon Bay district, where a number of people were arrested Saturday evening.

Blood and a black mask were seen by an AFP reporter on the floor where plain-clothed police subdued protesters in the mall.

In recent years Sheung Shui has been swamped by a huge influx of mainlanders and parallel traders seeking to circumvent Chinese taxes, angering many residents who have seen their local shops transformed to cater to the visitors.

Hong Kong’s many malls have become regular protest venues as protesters try to cause economic disruption in their push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The last month had seen a relative drop-off in violence and protests after pro-democracy candidates won a landslide at local elections.

But with Beijing and city leaders refusing further concessions, rallies and clashes reignited over the Christmas period.

The protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.

They have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s rule, with spiralling fears that the city is losing some of its unique liberties.

Among the demands being made by protesters is an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 6,000 people arrested and the right to elect Hong Kong’s leader.

AFP

Thousands Of Protesters Storm Iraq’s Street As Deadline For New PM Looms

Protesters gather during an anti-government sit-in outside the gate of Kufa University in the central Iraqi city of Kufa, adjacent to the holy shrine city of Najaf, on December 22, 2019.
Haidar HAMDANI / AFP

 

Thousands took to the streets in Iraq’s capital and across the south Sunday to protest against Iran’s king-making influence as the latest deadline for choosing a new prime minister loomed.

Anti-government rallies have rocked Baghdad and the Shiite-majority south since October 1, with demonstrators calling for a complete overhaul of a regime they deem corrupt, inefficient and overly beholden to Tehran.

“The revolution continues!” shouted one demonstrator at a protest encampment in central Diwaniyah.

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Protesters blocked off public buildings one by one in the southern Iraqi city, and put up banners reading “The country is under construction — please excuse the disruption”.

Sunday marks the latest deadline — already pushed back twice by President Barham Saleh — for parliament to choose a new premier to replace Adel Abdel Mahdi, who tendered his administration’s resignation last month.

Officials say Iran wants to install Qusay al-Suhail, who served as a higher education minister in the government of Abdel Mahdi.

“But this is exactly what we oppose — Iranian control over our country,” said 24-year-old student Houeida, speaking to AFP in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests which was once again abuzz with the youthful energy of thousands.

The protesters categorically reject Suhail’s candidacy, along with anyone from the wider political establishment that has been in place since dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

“Hundreds of martyrs have fallen and they are still not listening to our claims”, said 21-year-old student Mouataz, in Tahrir Square.

“We want a prime minister with integrity, but they bring back a corrupt man in their image who they will allow continuing robbing us,” he added.

‘Iraq Must Be Iraqi Again’

In a bid to secure the necessary parliamentary majority for a new premier, Shiite powerhouse Iran enlisted the services of a Lebanese Hezbollah official to negotiate with Sunni and Kurdish parties.

The post of prime minister is by a convention held by a Shiite in Iraq’s post-2003 political system.

In a Twitter plea to Saleh, one opposition Sunni lawmaker called Sunday for the president to “violate the constitution rather than plunge the country into bloody chaos by choosing a figure people have already rejected”.

Some in parliament — the most fragmented in Iraq’s history — argue that Saleh should use Article 81 of the Constitution, which authorises the president to step in as prime minister himself if there is no agreement among lawmakers on a candidate.

In a sign of the protesters’ unprecedented influence, top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is said to have made and unmade every premier in the post-Saddam era, has been notably absent from the maneuverings this time around.

The protest movement has been hit by intimidation, including assassinations perpetrated by militias, according to the UN.

Around 460 people have been killed since October 1, and some 25,000 have been wounded.

Yet the protesters appeared to regain some confidence on Sunday.

Overnight, demonstrators in Diwaniyah and Basra, another southern city, had declared a “general strike”.

They burnt tyres to block roads linking southern cities to Baghdad, an AFP correspondent said.

The road to Umm Qasr port — vital for imports — near Basra was among those blocked.

In Karbala and Najaf, two Shiite holy cities, striking students closed schools and gathered in their thousands, AFP correspondents said.

In Nasiriyah, protesters blocked bridges and several roads while all public buildings remained closed.

Protesters are demanding the fall of Saleh and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbussi, accusing them of procrastinating.

“Iraq must become Iraqi again, and if the president does not help us, we will force him out too,” asserted student Houeida, buoyed by the renewed momentum in Tahrir Square.

AFP

Death Toll Rises In Indian Citizenship Law Protests

Indian soldiers look on as they patrol near the burnt wreckage of a vehicle during a curfew in Guwahati on December 12, 2019, following protests over the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).  Biju BORO / AFP

 

Six more protesters died in India Friday in fresh clashes between police and demonstrators, taking the death toll to 15 in more than a week of unrest triggered by a citizenship law seen as anti-Muslim.

The law — which makes it easier for persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries to gain citizenship, but not if they are Muslim — has stoked fears Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to remould the world’s biggest democracy India as a Hindu nation, which he denies.

The latest deaths, in northern Uttar Pradesh where almost 20 percent of the state’s 200-million population are Muslim, followed the loss of three lives on Thursday when police opened fire on protesters in the northern city of Lucknow and the southern city of Mangalore.

Four of the demonstrators — two from Meerut and two from neighbouring Muzaffarnagar, both in Uttar Pradesh — died Friday from “gunshot wounds”, Meerut chief medical officer Rajkumar told AFP.

Rajkumar, who goes by one name, added that five police officers, including three with bullet wounds, were being treated in hospital.

Another demonstrator died of a gunshot wound in Bijnor district while the cause of the sixth death in Firozabad city was not yet known, local police spokesmen told AFP.

In the heart of India’s capital demonstrators held a sit-in protest at the Delhi Gate in the Old Delhi district, then marched to the country’s biggest mosque Jama Masjid in the afternoon.

The protesters later returned to Delhi Gate, where they clashed with baton-wielding police who deployed a water cannon to disperse the crowd.

The marchers, many chanting anti-Modi slogans, threw rocks at police in the street battle. At least one car was set on fire, and an AFP reporter saw demonstrators bleeding from their heads and mouths during the clashes.

“All the people here, be it those who are Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian — they are all out on the streets,” Tanvi Gudiya told AFP at another Delhi rally in a Muslim neighbourhood after Friday prayers.

“So doesn’t it affect Modi at all? Does Modi not like anyone? Why is he becoming like Hitler?”

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, there were new clashes between security forces and protesters in Vadodara city, a day after battles in the largest city Ahmedabad left 20 policemen and 10 locals injured.

On Thursday, two people were killed in Mangalore when police opened fire on a crowd of around 200 people after they ignored orders to disperse, an official told AFP.

A protester also succumbed to gunshot injuries in Lucknow, said a doctor who declined to be named. Officers denied opening fire in the city.

Authorities have scrambled to contain the situation, imposing emergency laws, blocking internet access, and shutting down shops and restaurants in sensitive pockets across the country.

‘Unacceptable in a democracy’ 

Opposition parties in India, as well as international rights groups, have raised concerns about the law and the growing protests.

Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Friday slammed Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, saying it showed “utter disregard for people’s voices and chosen to use brute force to suppress dissent”.

“This is unacceptable in a democracy,” she added in a video posted on Twitter.

West Bengal state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, addressing a rally of more than 20,000 people in the state capital Kolkata Friday, said she “will not allow the federal government to implement” the law.

“India is burning. This is time for waking up,” she said, urging people to unite behind her movement.

More than 200 Christian leaders in India issued a joint statement Friday saying the laws passed since the BJP was re-elected in May have led “to the collapse of the democratic institutions of India… carefully and painstakingly built by enlightened leaders over the last seven decades”.

In a strongly worded editorial, the Indian Express said the government must do all it can “to keep the peace” in the country, home to 200 million Muslims.

“But in doing so the world’s largest democracy cannot look like it cannot accommodate its young who disagree, it cannot afford to signal that it is so ill at ease with itself.

“India risks a lot if it begins to be seen as a place where the dissenter’s mind is not without fear.”

AFP

Two Killed As Indian Police Fire At Protesters

Protesters from northeast India residing in the capital city shout slogans against the government’s Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB), during a protest in New Delhi on December 11, 2019. 
Money SHARMA / AFP

 

Two people were killed and several wounded Thursday when police in northeast India opened fire on a large crowd demonstrating against the country’s new citizenship bill.

Federal authorities deployed thousands of paramilitaries and blocked mobile internet access in the region, while local police who joined them in opposing protesters defying a curfew in Guwahati, in Assam state, opened fire both blank and live rounds.

India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), passed by the upper house of parliament on Wednesday, allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship applications from religious minorities from three neighbouring countries, but not Muslims.

The two demonstrators killed were among a large group being treated for various wounds at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital, told AFP.

“A few of those people were brought in with bullet injuries. Two of those 21 people have died,” said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at the hospital.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights groups and others in India, the new law is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalise India’s 200 million Muslims, something he denies.

But many in India’s far-flung northeast object because they fear the legislation, which prompted angry exchanges in parliament this week, will give citizenship to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

Five thousand paramilitary troops were deployed in Guwahati, while many roads and highways were blocked to prevent the spread of protests.

Officials said 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the demonstrations in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing tear gas and charging the crowds with wooded staffs.

Guwahati’s top police officer Deepak Kumar was removed from his post and replaced over the outbreak of violence, authorities said.

All train services to Tripura and Assam were suspended and some flights were cancelled. Several cricket and football matches scheduled to take place in Assam were also called off amid the curfew.

Without citing the unrest, Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan postponed his Friday visit to northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, his spokesman Sharif Mahmud Apu told AFP.

“He will visit Meghalaya at a later time,” Apu said, without giving a reason.

Modi sought to calm the situation in a series of tweets that many in the region could not read because mobile internet was mostly blocked.

“I appeal to the northeast, to Assam and every other state — every community there — to assure that their culture, traditions and language will keep getting the respect and support,” he said at a rally at eastern Jharkhand state.

‘Fear-mongering and bigotry’ 

“Assam is not a dustbin so that central government will keep on dumping whoever they want in Assam,” Assamese film actress Barsha Rani Bishaya said in Guwahati at a meeting of film and student bodies.

“People of Assam have woke up… this time and they will not accept the CAB.”

Several leaders from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam have also resigned in opposition to the legislation.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen cancelled a trip to New Delhi hours before he was due to arrive Thursday, citing domestic engagements.

He had on Wednesday pushed back against the Indian government’s claims the legislation was meant to help those persecuted in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, telling local media his country did not oppress minorities.

It is not yet clear if the legislation, after being signed off by the president, would survive a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Indian Union Muslim League filed a petition in the top court, with the political party’s leader saying it was against the basic principles of the country’s constitution.

“The constitution says there will be no differentiation based on caste, religion or anything. Here, the citizenship is being given on the basis of religion,” P.K. Kunhalikutty told AFP.

“The CAB… won’t stand in front of the law.”

The petition states that they “do not have any grievances in granting citizenship to migrants but the petitioners grievances is directed against discrimination and unreasonable classification based on religion.”

Amnesty International said the law was “bigoted” and called for it to be immediately repealed.

“In a secular country like India, slamming the door on persecuted Muslims and other communities merely for their faith reeks of fear mongering and bigotry,” the global rights groups said in a statement Wednesday.

“They also run absolutely foul of India’s international obligations.”

Policewoman Arrested For Killing Protester

 

A policewoman in the Democratic Republic of Congo was arrested Tuesday after allegedly shooting a young protester dead at close range in the eastern city of Goma, police said.

The teenaged boy was killed as angry residents staged protests after police prevented them from pursuing thieves who were preying on northern neighbourhoods in the city, a local official added.

“I have just arrested the officer who shot the youth at pointblank range. It is a policewoman. We have placed her in the hands of the appropriate authorities,” police chief Jean-Baptiste Bukili told an AFP correspondent.

“A young man around 14 years old was killed,” added Gervais Katembo, the local official.

He said that residents had torched a police station to protest insecurity in northern Goma neighbourhoods.

“Bandits were active overnight towards Kisoko and stole things from the population. When people wanted to chase the bandits, police stopped them, which is what infuriated the inhabitants,” Katembo said.

Pictures posted on Twitter showed a youth lying on his back wearing a bloody T-shirt, and a policewoman who had been arrested by a man wearing an army uniform.

Youth minister Billy Kambale also used Twitter to condemn “repeated violence by police against demonstrators”.

“No situation justifies a law officer firing at a student. The judicial system must take up the case of an officer who fired pointblank at a student in Goma,” Kambale said.

Tension remained high in Goma around midday, with main streets in several districts barricaded and business activity brought to a halt.

AFP

13 Killed As Iraqi Forces Crack Down On Anti-Government Protesters

Iraqi demonstrators gesture as flames start consuming Iran’s consulate in the southern Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf on November 27, 2019, two months into the country’s most serious social crisis in decades. AFP

 

 

Iraqi security forces cracked down on anti-government protesters in the strife-torn south Thursday, leaving 13 people dead in a bloody escalation hours after the torching of an Iranian consulate.

Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, as commander in chief of the armed forces, dispatched military chiefs to several restive provinces to “restore order” there, the military said in a statement.

Iraq’s capital and its south have been torn by the worst street unrest since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, as a youth-dominated protest movement has vented their fury at their government and its backers in neighbouring Iran.

Late Wednesday protesters burnt down the Iranian consulate in the city of Najaf, yelling “Victory to Iraq!” and “Iran out!”, in an attack condemned by Tehran which voiced its “disgust”.

Iraq’s death toll in the street clashes since early October has risen above 360 with over 15,000 wounded according to an AFP tally, as authorities are not releasing updated or precise figures.

Protesters burning tyres and throwing rocks and petrol bombs have clashed with security forces unleashing tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live rounds.

The latest clashes erupted on Thursday in the protest hotspot of Nasiriyah, where security forces cleared protesters off two main bridges they had been occupying for days.

At least 13 protesters were shot dead and 100 wounded with several in critical condition, medical and security sources said.

– Curfews declared –

Hours later, local authorities declared a curfew and military reinforcements were seen deployed around the edges of the city, searching all cars and people seeking to enter, AFP’s correspondent said.

The order echoed a similar one enforced overnight in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in response to protesters storming the Iranian consulate there.

Demonstrators across the country have blamed Iran, Iraq’s powerful eastern neighbour, for propping up the very government they seek to topple.

On Thursday morning, streets in Najaf were largely deserted due to the curfew, with public servants told to stay home.

Iran meanwhile demanded Iraq take decisive action against the protesters, with foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemning the attack.

“Iran has officially communicated its disgust to the Iraq ambassador in Tehran,” he said in comments carried by Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

– ‘Restore order’ –

In a dramatic scene late Wednesday, protesters lit tyres and other random items around the consulate in Najaf, sending tall flames and thick clouds of smoke into the sky, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protesters broke into the building itself, which had been apparently evacuated by its Iranian staff.

“Victory to Iraq!” and “Iran out!” they chanted.

Iran’s consulate in Iraq’s other holy city of Karbala was targeted earlier this month, and security forces defending the site shot four demonstrators dead at the time.

Iran and Iraq have close but complicated ties.

The two countries fought a devastating 1980-1988 war, but Iran now has significant sway among Iraqi political and military leaders.

Top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, Tehran’s point man on Iraq, has held several meetings in Baghdad and Najaf to convince political factions to close rank around the government of Abdel Mahdi.

Those meetings previously paved the way for a brief crackdown in Baghdad and the south.

The security response on Thursday appeared to be coordinated across provinces, with the military command saying “an emergency unit has been set up under the supervision of the governors” to “impose security and restore order”.

That included a unit in Dhi Qar province, where Nasiriyah is located.

AFP

Bichi Residents Protest Over Court’s Nullification Of New Kano Emirates

 

Hundreds of Bichi residents in Kano State took to the streets on Thursday to protest over a court ruling that nullified the new emirates.

Carrying placards, the protesters also met with Emir Aminu Ado Bayero who was returning from Daura and expressed their displeasure over the development.

They told the emir that despite the court ruling, they are still with him and regard him as their first-class emir.

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The Kano State High Court presided over by Justice Usman Na’abba, had earlier ruled that the creation of the emirates was not done in accordance with due process.

Meanwhile, the Kano State Government in a statement said it will study the ruling but will continue to recognize the emirs as first class.

Iran Condemns US For Supporting Petrol-Hike ‘Rioters’

An Iranian man checks a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, on November 17, 2019.

 

Iran has slammed a US show of support for “rioters,” after violent protests sparked by a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing in the sanctions-hit country.

Major roads have been blocked, banks torched and public buildings attacked in the nationwide unrest that has left at least two dead — a civilian and a policeman.

Footage of the violence showing masked young men on debris-strewn streets setting buildings ablaze has been aired on state television, which rarely shows any signs of dissent in the country.

Demonstrations broke out on Friday after it was announced that the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 litres and 200 percent for any extra fuel after that each month.

The authorities in the Islamic republic say they have arrested more than 200 people and restricted internet access.

The situation on the streets was unclear on Monday morning, largely due to the internet outage that has stemmed the flow of videos shared on social media of protests or associated acts of violence.

Iran’s economy has been battered since May last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.

‘Lethal force’

The United States on Sunday condemned Iran for using “lethal force” against demonstrators.

“The United States supports the Iranian people in their peaceful protests against the regime that is supposed to lead them,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

“We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators.”

Iran’s foreign ministry slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he tweeted “the United States is with you” on Saturday in response to the demonstrations.

In a statement issued late Sunday, the ministry said it was reacting to Pompeo’s “expression of support… for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks”.

“The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy,” ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying.

“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of (Pompeo) have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people.”

The statement blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.

“It’s curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism,” Mousavi said.

Welfare payments

Iran announced the surprise decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing at midnight Thursday-Friday, saying the move was aimed at helping the needy with cash handouts.

The plan agreed by the High Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker and judiciary chief comes at a sensitive time ahead of February parliamentary elections.

It won support on Sunday from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it,” he said in a speech aired on state television.

Khamenei blamed “hooligans” for damaging property and said “all the centres of the world’s wickedness against us have cheered” the street protests.

President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday defended the controversial petrol price hike whose proceeds are to be used to make welfare payments to 60 million Iranians.

In remarks after a cabinet meeting, Rouhani also announced the first payments would be made to 20 million people on Monday evening.

“I order the Planning and Budget Organisation to start from tomorrow to pay people the sum needed to be paid to them,” he said, as quoted by his official website.

But he also warned that Iran could not allow “insecurity”.

“Protesting is the people’s right, but protesting is different from rioting. We should not allow insecurity in the society,” said Rouhani.

The intelligence ministry said at the weekend that it has identified those behind the unrest and that measures would be taken against them.

Forty people have already been arrested in the central city of Yazd, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.

Another 180 people were arrested in the past three days in the southern province of Khuzestan, state news agency IRNA said on Monday.

Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said was unclear when the internet restrictions would be lifted, citing an informed government source.

 

AFP

Protesters Storm DSS Headquarters Over Continued Detention Of Sowore, Bakare

 

A group of protesters have stormed the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) over the continued detention of the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Bakare.

This comes days after the DSS failed to comply with a Federal High Court’s order for their release, following a bail application.

The service had claimed that it was yet to receive the order as at Friday November 8.

The Public Relations Officer of the Service, Dr Peter Afunanya however, later confirmed that they had been served the bail order, but were yet to release the accused because nobody turned up to receive them.

But contrary to the claims of the DSS, counsel to Sowore, Mr Femi Falana, noted that they deliberately refused to release his clients despite lawyers waiting at the agency’s headquarters for up to four hours on Friday.

He, thereafter, stated that two lawyers from his law firm had been directed to contact the management of the DSS for the release of their clients by 10:00 am on Saturday (November 9).

They were, however, still not released to the lawyers.


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DSS Yet To Release Omoyele Sowore


A member of the legal team, Barrister Marshal Abubakar, who led a team of family members to the headquarters of the DSS to receive him, confirmed this to Channels Television.

Abubakar said after putting calls across through to some high ranking DSS officials, they were told to wait, as the persons who could authorise Sowore’s release were unavailable.

Frustrated with the process, after nearly a week of the court order, supporters have now stormed the DSS office over the continued detention.

Deji Adeyanju is among those who have arrived at the venue.

Roads Blocked In Lebanon As Protests Enter Third Week

Lebanese police officers scuffle with an anti-government protester who was trying to stop a police bus carrying detainees as security forces dismantle a roadblock in the centre of the Lebanese capital Beirut on October 31, 2019. PHOTO: PATRICK BAZ / AFP

 

Demonstrators kept up their roadblocks across Lebanon on Thursday, as their unprecedented protest movement demanding systemic political change entered its third week.  

Traffic came to a standstill on major highways, as protesters erected metal barricades.

They waved through security and medical personnel, in a scene that has become routine since a proposed tax on calls via messaging apps first drew protesters onto the streets on October 17.

“I don’t want to stand down,” said Tarek Madhoun, 38, who was blocking a road in central Beirut.

The protest movement has swelled into a popular drive to remove a political elite which has remained largely unchanged since a devastating civil war ended three decades ago.

Lebanese protesters carry mattresses used during anti-governmental demonstrations in the centre of the capital Beirut on October 30, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

 

Euphoric protesters experiencing a rare moment of national unity have pilloried politicians of all parties, calling for better public services, an end to rampant corruption and a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics.

Bowing to street pressure, Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his government’s resignation on Tuesday.

The announcement led to an easing of the two-week-old lockdown, with some main roads briefly reopening.

Banks had been due to reopen on Friday but protesters stayed on the streets, keen to use one of the only forms of leverage they have to press their demands.

“They thought our demands ended when the government resigned,” said Ghadi, 21, from central Beirut.

“But we still have many more demands… including a technocratic and independent government, a new electoral law and a new parliament.”

Embattled President Michel Aoun is due to deliver a speech at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) marking the third anniversary of his election as head of state.

On Wednesday, Aoun promised a “clean government”, saying the protest movement “paved the way for big reforms”.

Forming a government in Lebanon can take months, with every sectarian and party leader seeking to protect their own communal interests.

AFP