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Archive for December, 2017

Pakistan abolishes military courts

07 January 2017 Saturday

Pakistan’s controversial military courts will no longer be functioning from Saturday after completing their two-year term, officials said.

“The military courts’ two-year term has been completed on Friday. The government has no plans to extend their tenure,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was quoted as saying by local channel Geo TV.

Pakistan had established military courts in January 2015 through a constitutional amendment following a gruesome gun-and bomb attack on an army-run school in northwestern Peshawar city in December 2014, which killed over 140 people, mostly students.

All the terrorism related cases, which were being tried in the military courts, will now be taken up by the anti-terror courts, the interior minister said.

The army courts -vehemently opposed by the human rights and lawyers associations- were set up to try the hardcore militants who, according to the government, otherwise avoid punishment due to weak and cumbersome judicial system.

The country’s Supreme Court, while rejecting the appeals from human rights organizations against army courts, had also upheld the government’s decision.

The military courts tried some 275 cases in last two years, in which 161 militants were handed down death penalties, while over 150 were given varying jail terms. Only 12 out of total 161 death row prisoners were executed during this period, while others’ appeals against their convictions are pending in the supreme and high courts.

Pakistan also lifted a 6-year long de facto ban on capital punishment in December 2014 following the deadly attack on a Peshawar school.

Over 300 convicts have been executed since December 2014, whereas nearly 7000 death-row prisoners are languishing in jails.

 

– Decision welcomed

Human rights groups, lawyers, and politicians have described the move as “welcoming” and a step in the right direction.

“We have been opposing the military courts since their inception because it was against fundamental human rights,” Mahmood-ul-Hassan, a Karachi-based lawyer and human rights activist told Anadolu Agency.

“But, it’s never too late. If the government has realized the negative effects of army courts on entire judicial process, it’s a step in the right direction, and we welcome it,” he added.

Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the the country’s largest Islamic parties, which had not voted in favor for the formation of the military courts dubbed the government’s decision as “a good development.”

“In a democratic society and government, there is no place for military courts. We should let the normal judicial process continue,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182803/pakistan-abolishes-military-courts.

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Pakistani air force chief warns India against full-scale war

November 24, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s air force chief has warned arch-rival India against escalating the dispute over Kashmir into full-scale war. Marshal Sohail Aman’s warning on Thursday comes as tensions are soaring between Islamabad and New Delhi over the contested Himalayan territory after a day of violent exchanges.

The Pakistani army said Indian fire killed 12 civilians and three soldiers on Wednesday — the deadliest incident in weeks of border clashes. Aman told reporters in the port city of Karachi that “it is better if India shows restrain.” If New Delhi escalates the crisis, he says Pakistani troops will “know full well how to deal with them.”

Kashmir is split between Indian and Pakistani areas of control and claimed in its entirety by both countries, which have fought two wars over the territory.

Malaysian army ‘ready to perform its duty’ towards Palestinians

December 10, 2017

Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) is ready to perform its duty towards the issue facing Jerusalem, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Saturday.

“We have to be prepared for any possibilities. The ATM has always been ready, waiting for instructions from the top leadership,” the Malaysian state news agency Bernama quoted Hussein.

“Let us pray that this dispute would not lead to chaos,” Hussein added.

On Wednesday, Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said the US Embassy would be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The dramatic shift in Washington’s Jerusalem policy triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories and across the world.

Tension has risen across the Palestinian territories since US President Donald Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory, and say the status of the city should be left to be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

While the international community has almost unanimously disagreed with Donald Trump’s announcement, reports suggest that the announcement was done with the pre-agreement of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Arabia going as far as, allegedly, stating to the Palestinian President to accept a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem as the alternative Palestinian capital.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171210-malaysian-army-ready-to-perform-its-duty-towards-palestinians/.

Malaysia fire blocks lone exit to Islamic dormitory; 24 dead

September 14, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A fire that blocked the only exit to an Islamic school dormitory killed 24 people, mostly teenagers, on the outskirts of Malaysia’s capital early Thursday, officials said. A government official said a wall separating the victims from a second exit “shouldn’t have been there.”

Firefighters and witnesses described scenes of horror — first of boys screaming for help behind barred windows as neighbors watched helplessly, and later of burned bodies huddled in a corner of the room. School employee Arif Mawardy said he woke up to what he thought was a thunderstorm, only to realize it was the sound of people screaming.

Firefighters rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call at 5:41 a.m. and took an hour to put out the blaze, which started on the top floor of the three-story building, Kuala Lumpur police chief Amar Singh said. He said there were at least 24 charred bodies, 22 of them boys between 13 and 17, and two teachers.

“We believe (they died of) suffocation … the bodies were totally burnt,” he said. Singh said 14 other students and four teachers were rescued, with six of them hospitalized in critical condition. The fire broke out near the only door to the boys’ dormitory, trapping the victims since the windows were barred, fire department senior official Abu Obaidat Mohamad Saithalimat said. He said the cause was believed to be an electrical short-circuit, though Singh said the investigation was continuing.

Another fire department official, Soiman Jahid, said firefighters heard shouts for help when they arrived at the school. He said they found 13 bodies huddled in a pile on the right corner of the dorm, another eight on the left corner of the dorm and one in the middle near the staircase.

Local media showed pictures of blackened bunk bed frames in the burned dormitory. A resident, Nurhayati Abdul Halim, told local media that she saw the boys crying and screaming for help when the fire broke.

“I saw their little hands out of the grilled windows; crying for help. … I heard their screams and cries but I could not do anything. The fire was too strong for me to do anything,” she said. She added that the school had been operating in the area for the past year.

Noh Omar, Malaysia’s minister for urban well-being, housing and local government, said the school’s original architectural plan included an open top floor that allowed access to two exit staircases. But he said a wall was built dividing that floor, leaving only one exit for the dorm.

“The wall shouldn’t have been there,” he said. He added that the school submitted an application for a fire safety permit that hadn’t been approved. The Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah is a private Islamic center, known as a “tahfiz” school, for Muslim children, mainly boys, to study and memorize the Quran. Many such schools are exempt from state inspections.

The Star newspaper said there were 519 tahfiz schools registered nationwide as of April, but many more are believed to be unregistered. The newspaper said the fire department had recorded 211 fires in such private Islamic centers since 2015. In August, 16 people fled a fire at a tahfiz school in northern Kedah state. Another tahfiz school was destroyed by a fire in May but no one was hurt.

The worst fire disaster occurred in 1989 when 27 female students at a private Islamic school in Kedah state died when fire gutted the school and eight wooden hostels.

Malaysia to release, deport N. Korean in nerve agent probe

March 02, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A North Korean man will be released from custody because of lack of evidence connecting him to the fatal nerve agent attack on Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korea’s ruler, Malaysian officials said Thursday. In a major fallout from the assassination, Malaysia also announced it was scrapping visa-free travel for North Koreans.

Officials never said why they arrested Ri Jong Chol four days after Kim was attacked at Kuala Lumpur’s bustling airport. On Thursday, Malaysian Attorney General Mohamad Apandi Ali said Ri will be released and deported because he does not have valid travel documents.

The attack was caught on grainy security camera footage that showed two women smearing something on Kim’s face as he waited for a flight in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13. Malaysian officials say the substance was VX nerve agent, a banned chemical weapon.

Kim was dead within an hour as the fast-acting poison coursed through his body, authorities say. No bystanders reported falling ill. The poisoning has unleashed a serious diplomatic battle between Malaysia and North Korea. While it isn’t one of Pyongyang’s key diplomatic partners, Malaysia has been one of the few places in the world where North Koreans could travel without a visa. As a result, for years, it’s been a quiet destination for Northerners looking for jobs, schools and business deals.

That could all begin to change in the wake of Kim’s death. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the visa-free arrangement with North Korea will be scrapped from Monday due to national security. He also slammed the North Korean ambassador in Kuala Lumpur who accused Malaysia of “trying to conceal something” and “colluding with hostile forces.”

“We don’t want to make enemies, but if they had used Malaysia for their own agenda, they should not accuse Malaysia and tarnish our image on the international stage,” Zahid said. “We will act firmly to guarantee the safety of our people. Don’t ever use Malaysia as a base to do anything you like.”

The two female suspects caught in the security footage were charged with murder in a Malaysian court Wednesday. They face the mandatory death sentence if convicted. Both say they were duped into thinking they were taking part in a harmless prank.

“I understand but I am not guilty,” Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong told the court in English after the murder charge was read. The other suspect, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, nodded as her translator told her, “You are accused of murdering a North Korean man at the departure hall” of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The women did not enter pleas because the magistrate court where they appeared has no jurisdiction over a murder case. Lead prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad told the court he will ask for the case to be transferred to a higher court and for the women to be tried together.

In the surveillance video, Huong was seen clearly in a T-shirt with “LOL” emblazoned across the front. Both women were originally from modest farming villages and had moved to their countries’ capitals seeking a better life.

Also Wednesday, the court approved a gag order to prevent police and potential witnesses from making public statements about the case. North Korea is widely speculated to be behind the killing, particularly after Malaysia said that VX had killed Kim. Experts say the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.

North Korea’s official news agency called that finding the “height of absurdity” on Wednesday, saying the two women could not have used such a deadly toxin without killing or sickening themselves and anyone around them.

North Korea opposed Malaysian officials even conducting an autopsy on Kim, while Malaysia has resisted giving up the body without getting DNA samples and confirmation from next of kin. Kim is believed to have two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau.

Authorities are seeking seven other North Korean suspects, four of whom fled the country the day of Kim’s death and are believed to be back in North Korea. Others sought include the second secretary of North Korea’s Embassy and an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline, Air Koryo.

Kim Jong Nam was estranged from his half brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He reportedly fell out of favor with their father, the late Kim Jong Il, in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Isolated North Korea has a long history of ordering killings of people it views as threats to its regime. Kim Jong Nam was not known to be seeking political power, but his position as eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since it was founded could have made him appear to be a danger.

Malaysia recalls ambassador to North Korea

February 20, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s ambassador to North Korea has been recalled from Pyongyang amid rising tensions between the countries over the death in Kuala Lumpur of an estranged scion of North Korea’s ruling family.

The Malaysian foreign ministry said in a Monday statement that it had recalled its ambassador “for consultations” and had summoned Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, “to seek an explanation on the accusations he made against the Government of Malaysia.”

Kang said Malaysia may be “trying to conceal something” and that the autopsy on Kim Jong Nam was carried out “unilaterally and excluding our attendance.” Kim Jong Nam is the half brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.

The statement called Kang’s comments “baseless,” adding it “takes very seriously any unfounded attempt to tarnish its reputation.”

Malaysia sends first aid ship to Rohingya Muslims

03 February 2017 Friday

Malaysia has sent its first ship carrying 2,300 tons of humanitarian goods to Rakhine state in Myanmar to help the persecuted minority Rohingya Muslim community.

Prime Minister Najib Razak in Klang Port attended the send-off of the aid consisting of food, medical supplies and other basic necessities near the capital Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

The mission has been organized by the 1Malaysia Club and the Malaysia Islamic Organizations Consultative Council with the cooperation of Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi Foundation, which is supported by the Turkish government.

Besides Malaysia, nine other countries have contributed to the mission, including France, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Germany, the U.S. and Bangladesh.

Speaking at the event, Razak said the mission is a testament to the unity of Muslim community globally, when it comes to issue of humanitarianism.

“We the Muslims, can no longer bear our Rohingya brothers and sisters being tortured, raped, burnt alive and killed,” he said.

“The flotilla flagging off is a very historic event for Malaysia, to be able to lead such a noble humanitarian effort.”

Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, who is leading the Food Flotilla for Myanmar mission, told reporters the vessel was expected to reach Yangon in five to six days, depending on weather conditions.

Abdul Rahim said the aid will be handed over to Myanmar’s Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye on arrival at Yangon, after which it will be supplied to the Rohingya community.

The ship will sail to Teknaf, Bangladesh, after unloading in Yangon on the same day to provide aid to Rohingya refugees in that country, Rahim said.

“We are going in a team of 230 volunteers and activists from various non-governmental organizations are part of the mission,” he added.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=184184.

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