Jailed Saudi Activist Told To Deny Torture In Release ‘Deal’

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi authorities have offered to release jailed activist Loujain al-Hathloul in exchange for her video testimony denying that she had been tortured and sexually harassed in prison, her family claimed Tuesday.

“Saudi state security has visited my sister in prison recently. They have asked her to… appear on video to deny the torture and harassment,” her brother Walid al-Hathloul, who is based in Canada, said on Twitter.

“That was part of a deal to release her.”

There was no immediate reaction from Saudi authorities and the kingdom’s media ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Hathloul, who recently marked her 30th birthday in jail, is among around a dozen prominent women activists who are currently facing trial after being detained last year in a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

She was among a few detainees who accused interrogators of subjecting them to torture — including electric shocks, flogging and groping in detention — a charge vigorously denied by the government.

Hathloul also accused former royal court media advisor Saud al-Qahtani of threatening to rape and kill her, according to her family.

Her brother said she had initially agreed to sign a document denying that she had been tortured, as a precondition for her release.

He added that her family had intended to keep the deal secret.

But state security officials recently visited her again in prison to demand a video testimony.

“Asking to appear on a video and to deny the torture doesn’t sound like a realistic demand,” Walid tweeted.

Her sister Lina al-Hathloul separately said her sibling was under pressure to deny the torture claim.

“(I don’t know) what I’m risking by writing this. Maybe it will harm my sister. But I can’t keep it to myself,” Lina wrote on Twitter.

“Loujain has been proposed a deal: deny the torture and she’ll be free.

“Whatever happens I am certifying it (one) more time: Loujain has been brutally tortured and sexually harassed.”

Hathloul’s siblings have previously complained they were pressured by people close to the Saudi state to stay silent over her treatment in detention.

Riyadh has faced pressure from Western governments to release women activists, most of whom were jailed last summer just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female motorists.

Many were branded as traitors by local media and are standing trial over charges that include contact with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

Their trial has cast a spotlight on the human rights record of the kingdom, which has also faced intense global criticism over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate last year.

AFP

Top 13 Quotes From Putin’s 2018 Marathon Presser

 

On Thursday, Vladimir Putin took over 60 questions from a hall of journalists, speaking on everything from rap to pensions to the prospect of taking over the world.

Here are the top quotes from the Russian president’s end-of-year press conference, which lasted three hours and 43 minutes.

– International tensions –
On Moscow’s ties with the West, Putin had this to say:

“Practically throughout its entire history, Russia has lived with some constraints and sanctions… this is connected with the growth of Russia’s power, increase of competitiveness… A powerful player appears which needs to be reckoned with…”

“If there hadn’t been the Skripals, they (the West) would have thought up something else. There is only one aim: to hold back Russia’s development as a possible competitor.”

“(In the West), they don’t want to recognise (Trump’s) victory. That’s disrespect of voters.” … “It’s the same in Britain: Brexit happened, but nobody wants to implement it. They don’t recognise vote results, democratic procedures are diminished.”

READ ALSO: Obama Plays Santa, Surprises Sick Children In Washington Hospital [PHOTOS]

“Do we need American troops (in Syria)? I think we don’t… If the US has decided to withdraw its troops (from Syria), that is right.”

“I hope that something will improve (in US-Russian relations), sooner or later we will reach rock bottom in our relations and understand that we must … rise up, breathe in the fresh air and think with a clear head about how to live.”

“It’s a collapse. We are currently looking at a collapse of the international system of arms control.”

– National concerns –
On Russia’s economic goals:

“The main thing is that we need to get into a new league economically… we could very well take the fifth place in terms of size of economy. And I think we’ll do that.”

On reports of torture in Russia’s penal colonies:

“Any breaches of the law, especially torture – that’s a crime. These breaches, these crimes, must be punished… To say that (the penal system) must be broken into pieces is wrong. It has to be improved.”

On the difficulty of recycling in Russia:

“For decades in the Soviet Union we threw trash into pits, figuratively speaking. Nobody ever did any recycling… we produce 70 million tonnes of trash every year and don’t know where to put it.”

On Russia’s crackdown on hip-hop concerts:

“About the detention of these rappers, I agree with you. That’s just pointless… there is nothing good in that.”

– Personal matters –
On the prospect of remarrying after announcing his divorce:

“As an honourable man I will have to (marry) at some point, I guess.”

On his health:

“My health is the same as anyone else’s. Thank God, I do sports, and everything is normal… as anyone else, there can be some sort of flu when the seasons change, but right now, everything is all right.”

“I am rarely on the internet and watch little television, I simply don’t have the time.”

AFP

Couple Charged With Torturing, Abusing Their Children

This combination of pictures created on January 15, 2018, shows booking photos from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department of David Allen Turpin (R), 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49. Photo: Jose ROMERO / Riverside County Sheriff’s Department / AFP

 

A California couple who held their 13 malnourished children captive in a suburban home were charged Thursday with multiple counts of torture and child abuse.

David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 49 were hit with 12 counts of torture, 12 of false imprisonment, six of child abuse and six of abuse of a dependent adult at a court hearing in the city of Riverside.

David Turpin was also charged with committing a lewd act against a child by force or fear or duress, District Attorney Mike Hestrin told a press conference.

Bail was set at $13 million for each of the defendants who if convicted face 94 years to life in prison.

AFP

Amnesty International Indicts SARS Of Extorting Detainees

Amnesty International, Police, Rights AbuseGlobal human rights body, Amnesty International, has released a new report, indicting the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force of extra judicial killing, torture and collection of bribes from detainees.

A senior research officer at the Amnesty International, Damian Ugwu, hinted reporters about the report entitled “You Have Signed Your Death Warrant” on Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

He alleged that SARS officials use torture and threats of execution to make suspects confess to crimes.

Mr Ugwu noted that the report represented findings from victims of torture in the Federal Capital Territory, Enugu and Anambra states.

However, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has denied the allegation and described the findings of Amnesty International’s report as “biased”.

He insisted that the report was based on perception, noting that the police were not given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of SARS, Paul Yakadi, also faulted the report.

He said it was impossible to discipline erring officers when nobody reported the alleged infractions.

Britain To Compensate Kenyans For Colonial-Era Torture

Britain expressed regret on Thursday about the abuse of Kenyans by colonial forces during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s and announced a compensation package for more than 5,200 survivors worth a total of 20 million pounds ($31 million).

The deal, settled out of court after three elderly Kenyan torture victims won the right in October to sue the British government, could encourage people in other former colonies to press claims over grievances dating back to the days of Empire.

“The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament in London.

“The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

The government reached a deal with the lawyers acting for the victims. The package, worth 19.9 million pounds in total, included a settlement sum in respect of 5,228 claimants.

Sources in Kenya had earlier told Reuters the individual victims would receive about 2,600 pounds each, or about 340,000 Kenyan shillings in a country where average annual income is about 70,000 shillings.

London will also pay for a new memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the colonial era.

“This is a great day for us Mau Mau people” said Gitu Wa Kahengeri, secretary general of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, speaking to Reuters in Nairobi.

“This is confirmation we were freedom fighters and not terrorists. We have been waiting a long time to hear the British say ‘what we did in Kenya was wrong’.”

The so-called Kenyan Emergency of 1952-1961 was one of the most traumatic episodes of British colonial rule in Africa.

Mau Mau rebels fighting for land and an end to British domination attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers and alarming the government in London.

Tens of thousands of rebels were killed by colonial forces and their Kenyan allies, while an estimated 150,000 people, many of them unconnected to Mau Mau, were detained in camps.

“NOT A PRECEDENT”

The three Kenyans who took the British government to court were all survivors of the detention camps.

The British government tried for three years to block the legal action by Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, now in their 70s and 80s, but the High Court ruled in October that they had the right to sue for damages.

Nzili was castrated while in detention, Nyingi suffered severe beatings during nine years when he was held without charge, and Mara suffered sexual abuse including rape using a soda bottle full of boiling water.

“This is a story of a massive cover up and 50 years later justice being done. I don’t know if there will be another case like this,” Elkins told Reuters in Nairobi.

The compensation package is likely to be examined closely by others who complain of human rights abuses during British colonial times, although Hague said he believed it would not give extra force to their claims.

“It is of course right that those who feel they have a case are free to bring it to the courts,” Hague said. “However…we do not believe that this settlement establishes a precedent in relation to any other former colonial administration.”

One case that has already been going through the courts concerns the 1948 killing of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in the rubber plantation village of Batang Kali in what was then the British protectorate of Selangor.

A court ruled last year that Britain was responsible for the deaths, contradicting the official government position.

In 2008, The Times newspaper reported that U.S. President Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, had been imprisoned and tortured by the British during the Mau Mau uprising. It quoted his wife, Sarah Onyango, as saying he was whipped every day.

The report fueled speculation that Obama might have a cool relationship to Britain because of this, although a later biography of the president cast doubt on the account.

Amnesty International accuses army of abuses in Boko Haram crackdown

A human rights group, Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the Nigerian security forces of widespread abuses in their campaign against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The group in a report listed the abuses to include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance and torture, reports the BBC.

A spokesman from the Nigerian army rejected the accusations, saying soldiers always operate within the law.

Boko Haram campaigns for an Islamic state and has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of people this year.

It has carried out frequent attacks in northern and central Nigeria since 2009.

In its report, Amnesty International blamed Boko Haram for widespread atrocities, including murder, burning down churches and schools, and attacks against the media.

But it said a heavy-handed response by the security forces had only fuelled further violence.

“The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle,” said the group’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty.

“People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them.”

Reports of people being shot dead by the army or beaten to death in detention were particularly common in the north-east of the country, Amnesty said.

In response, Nigerian army spokesman, Col SK Usman told the BBC that soldiers were professional and properly trained.

“There is no Nigerian soldier that goes out on the streets to just kill innocent Nigerians,” he said.

“So whatever we do we always make sure it is done within the ambit of the law.”

Amnesty’s report documents what it calls an “increasing climate of fear” in which people are too scared to report crimes and journalists do not dare to cover them.

It calls on Nigeria’s government to clarify the truth about incidents linked to Boko Haram, establish accountability for abuses and bring those responsible to justice.