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Kidnapping, lynching and deliberate killings: Iraq’s protesters live in fear they ‘could be next’

Family and friends of two Iraqi activists disappeared in Baghdad this week tell The Independent they fear more will vanish

 

Bel Trew Middle East Correspondent | @beltrew

| 14 hours ago |

 

The family and friends of two Iraqi activists disappeared in Baghdad this week have said they fear more will vanish, as the United Nations warned security forces and unknown militias had unleashed a campaign of abductions and “deliberate killings”.

 

Activist Salman Khairallah Salman and his friend Omar al-Amri were last seen on Wednesday morning heading to Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district. There they had hoped to buy tents for an encampment in the capital’s Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement.

 

But both stopped answering calls by 10.30am, and by 2.30pm their mobile phones had been switched off.

 

Their disappearances are just the latest in a slew of abductions, which Amnesty said on Friday were part of a “campaign of terror” against protesters.

 

The UN assistance mission in Iraq (Unami) meanwhile said on Wednesday it had credible evidence that thousands of demonstrators have been arrested and held incommunicado, or abducted by “unknown armed men”.

 

Mr Amri’s family told The Independent they believe the two activists were arrested by the security forces and are being held at Baghdad’s al-Muthana airport detention facility for interrogation.

 

[...]

 

It is not known how many people have gone missing since the protests first erupted on 1 October against political corruption that is rife in the country.

 

More than 440 people, mostly unarmed protesters but also some members of the security forces, have been killed since that date, according to a Reuters tally.

 

Protesters blame Iran-backed militia groups for a spate of other killings including assassinations.

 

Paramilitary groups have denied any role in attacking protests. Government security forces also deny using live ammunition against peaceful protesters.

 

The surge in violence has also seen a string disturbing acts of bloodshed being carried out by unknown groups.

 

On Thursday, a teenage boy was killed and strung up by his feet from a traffic pole in Baghdad after he allegedly shot protesters.

 

Videos circulating on social media show the young man being beaten and dragged across the street, while security forces stand by.

 

In other footage, dozens of people are seen filming and photographing the mutilated body which dangles high above them in a central Baghdad square.

 

It followed the killing of 25 protesters last week in Baghdad’s Khilani Square by gunmen in pick in up trucks. That same week, mysterious knife attacks targeted more than a dozen anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protest movement.

 

There are conflicting reports as to what exactly happened on Thursday, but Iraqi security officials said an enraged mob beat to death a 16-year-old boy after he opened fire in Baghdad’s Wathba Square, killing two shop owners and four protesters.

 

But activists told The Independent he was actually killed by security forces who handed the body to the mob who then stabbed him multiple times and strung up the corpse.

 

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Unami’s chief, warned the “gang-driven” acts of violence risk placed the country “in a dangerous trajectory”.

 

In an Unami report released on Wednesday, they identified at least five high-profile activists who have been abducted like Mr Amri and Mr Salman recently.

 

The report urged the government to identify those groups responsible without delay and hold perpetrators accountable.

 

“Demonstrators and activists may be being targeted based on social media posts and their degree of influence or following,” the report stated.

 

“Bearing the primary responsibility for the protection of its people, the state must spare no effort to protect the peaceful protesters from violence by armed actors operating outside state control, as well as those with formal and informal reporting lines within the state,” it added.

 

Amnesty meanwhile has documented instances of assassination attempts against protesters, the deployment of snipers, the use of military-grade skull-shattering tear gas canisters and “a pattern of disappearances and abductions”.

 

It said apart from the abductions in Baghdad a number of activists had also been disappeared in Karbala around the same time.

 

[...]

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-protests-baghdad-military-un-abduction-death-tollf-a9246336.html

 

December 14, 2019 / 8:24 PM / Updated 9 hours ago

Security forces fire tear gas, dozens wounded in Beirut protest

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Lebanese protesters in central Beirut on Saturday in clashes that went on into the night and wounded dozens of people.

 

Hundreds of people had been marching in the capital as part of a historic wave of protests that has swept Lebanon since Oct. 17, furious at a ruling elite that steered the country toward its worst economic crisis in decades.

 

Since the protests pushed Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister, talks between the main parties have been deadlocked for weeks over forming a new cabinet.

 

Lebanon urgently needs a new government to pull it out of the crisis. Foreign donors say they will only help after the country gets a cabinet that can enact reforms.

 

Riot police and security forces deployed en masse in Beirut on Saturday night, chasing demonstrators, beating and detaining some of them, a Reuters witness and a protester said.

 

Plumes of white smoke billowed from tear gas canisters and ambulance sirens rang out as the two sides raced around the streets of central Beirut in cat-and-mouse clashes late into the night.

 

Protesters pelted stones at police and others tried to push through steel barriers blocking paths to the parliament and government headquarters.

 

State news agency NNA said the tear gas made several people faint. The Lebanese Civil Defense said it treated 54 people for injuries, taking more than half to hospital.

 

The Internal Security Forces said at least 20 police were wounded.

 

[...]

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-protests/security-forces-fire-tear-gas-dozens-wounded-in-beirut-protest-idUSKBN1YI0JJ?il=0

 

And on a somewhat lighter note:

 

December 14, 2019 / 6:57 PM / Updated 10 hours ago

Italy's anti-Salvini 'sardines' take protest to Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people joined a demonstration in central Rome on Saturday organized by a grassroots movement known as “the sardines”, launched only a month ago to protest against far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

The sardines began in the city of Bologna in November when Mattia Santori, 32, and three friends invited people to protest against Salvini’s League, whose popularity is high ahead of an election in the northern Emilia-Romagna region.

 

Salvini hopes to lead a resurgent right to its first poll victory in the wealthy region on Jan. 26. He says that if the left loses power there, it should also quit the coalition government in Rome and open the way for a national ballot.

 

Students, pensioners and families with children filled Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni on a sunny afternoon, some holding pictures of sardines on cardboard and chanting a popular resistance song.

 

“I’m here because I’m against Salvini and I’m against the right and I want to see how many people feel like me,” said Flavia Simula, a 68-year old retired biologist.

 

Since their maiden protest in Bologna gathered an estimated 15,000 people, the popularity of the “sardines” has spread.

 

They have held bigger rallies in several Italian cities, including Turin and Milan, to denounce Salvini, whose anti-immigrant, Italy-first rhetoric has resonated with many voters.

 

The demonstration in Rome appeared to be their largest so far, with a policeman at the scene estimating a turnout of 40,000 people. The organizers gave no official figures.

 

[...]

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-politics-sardines/italys-anti-salvini-sardines-take-protest-to-rome-idUSKBN1YI0IA

 

That is good. As I have stated numerous times, I know very little about non-U.S. politics so I wonder if the Italian right is about the same as the U.S. right?

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No, it is not. The Italian right contains a fair dose of actual fascists of the Mussolini school.

It is interesting on how the meaning of a word in one country has a different meaning in another. In the U.S. the "fair dose of actual fascists of the Mussolini school" would be the left.

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The problem seems to be that in a country which has had no citizenship registry so far, the combination of law declares anybody who can't prove his family has lived there forever an illegal immigrant, then affords only non-Muslims automatic citizenship. That's a little like stripping any American who can't present documents proving his grandparents were legal residents of his citizenship, then giving it back to Christians on the assumption that they fled their homelands from religious persecution.

That analysis is not exactly what the BJP wants the world to hear.

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You won't drag me into this inane debate whether a certain type of totalitarian ideologue falls on the left or the right side of a one-dimensional political spectrum chart, as if this would somehow absolve right-wing totalitarians from their sins. Maybe the Italian far right is actually on the left of your spectrum, what matters is that they want to end democracy for The Greater Good.

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You won't drag me into this inane debate whether a certain type of totalitarian ideologue falls on the left or the right side of a one-dimensional political spectrum chart, as if this would somehow absolve right-wing totalitarians from their sins. Maybe the Italian far right is actually on the left of your spectrum, what matters is that they want to end democracy for The Greater Good.

Good point!

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As a sideshow to the Bolivian thing:

 

December 27, 2019 / 3:47 PM / Updated 5 hours ago

 

Mexico says Spanish diplomats' cars blocked by Bolivia at La Paz embassy
MEXICO CITY/LA PAZ (Reuters) - Mexico’s government said Bolivian police had impeded the departure of Spanish officials visiting the Mexican ambassador in La Paz on Friday, widening a spat over Bolivia’s surveillance of its diplomatic facilities that has rumbled on for days.

Two Spanish diplomats were about to leave the Mexican ambassador’s residence when they were told their cars had been detained some minutes away and would not be allowed to re-enter the compound, Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

 

Mexico says Bolivian authorities have harassed and intimidated its diplomatic staff in a row centering on the Mexican government’s decision to grant asylum to nine people, now housed in its diplomatic facilities in La Paz. Some of them are wanted by Bolivia’s new conservative administration.

 

Interim Bolivian President Jeanine Añez took power last month when long-serving socialist leader Evo Morales resigned and fled to Mexico City after a presidential election that the Organization of American States said was rigged in his favor.

 

Morales’ acceptance of an offer of political asylum from the leftist government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador strained ties with Añez, an opponent of Morales.

 

On Friday, Mexico’s ambassador eventually made contact with Bolivia’s foreign ministry, which urged the diplomats to exit the premises and walk back to their cars, but they refused to do so without their security details, the statement added.

 

In the end, the two diplomats were collected by a car sent by the Bolivian foreign ministry over an hour later, it said.

 

Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Karen Longaric told a news conference the Spanish diplomats were accompanied on arrival by men with their faces covered trying to enter the residence surreptitiously.

 

As diplomatic personnel are not allowed to conceal their identities, police stopped the masked men going in, she said.

 

“There was an evident threat to the security of the Mexican mission,” she said, adding that she would lodge an official protest with Spain, the European Union and the United Nations.

 

The Mexican statement did not mention the masked men.

 

Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it would open an investigation into the incident.

 

[...]

 

According to Mexico’s government, Bolivia has issued arrest warrants for at least four of the people inside its embassy.

 

On Thursday, Mexico said it was asking the International Court of Justice to mediate in the dispute.

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-bolivia/mexico-says-spanish-diplomats-cars-blocked-by-bolivia-at-la-paz-embassy-idUSKBN1YV17G

 

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Following up to the last:

 

Date 30.12.2019

 

Bolivia expels Mexican, Spanish diplomats

 

Bolivia says top Mexican and Spanish were declared persona non grata amid an escalating spat over fugitive former government officials. In response, Spain told three Bolivian officials to leave.

 

Bolivia's interim government on Monday said it was expelling top Mexican and Spanish diplomats amid an escalating dispute over allegations wanted former Bolivian officials sought to leave refuge at the Mexican embassy with Spanish help and flee the country.

 

Bolivian caretaker President Jeanine Anez said Mexican ambassador, the Spanish charge d'affaires and the Spanish consul were all ordered to leave the country within 72 hours.

 

"The constitutional government that I preside over has decided to declare persona non grata the ambassador of Mexico in Bolivia, Maria Teresa Mercado, the charge d'affaires of Spain, Cristina Borreguero, and the consul, Alvaro Fernandez," Anez said.

 

Bolivia also said it had expelled six Spanish security officials it alleges took part in the attempt. The six left the country on Sunday.

 

Spain said three Bolivian officials were asked to leave the country in response to the "hostile gesture."

 

The dispute centers around nine former officials in the government of ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales who have been charged with sedition, terrorism and electoral fraud. They have been banned from leaving the country and been holed up in the Mexican embassy after being offered asylum there.

 

Tit for tat

 

Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Maximiliano Reyes said on Monday that his government had not made a decision to declare Bolivia's ambassador persona non grata in response to the move by La Paz, but would look to keep communications channels open.

 

Both Spain and Mexico say the incident at the center of the Bolivian allegations occurred when Spain's charge d'affaires Borreguero paid a visit to Mexico's ambassador on Friday. Spain's Foreign Ministry has said her presence at the embassy was a "courtesy visit" and nothing more.

 

Ongoing spat

 

Morales resigned last month after widespread protests triggered by disputed October elections. He has labeled his ousting a right-wing "coup." He was subsequently granted asylum in Mexico and is now in Argentina.

 

Bolivia's interrim government has warned of a "very serious problem" for Mexico if its embassy does not hand over wanted officials from Morales' government, while Mexico has accused La Paz of "harassment and intimidation" because of the deployment of police and intelligence officers outside the building.

 

Mexico said last Thursday that it was asking the International Court of Justice to mediate the dispute.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/bolivia-expels-mexican-spanish-diplomats/a-51841221

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Date 12.01.2020

 

Thailand: Thousands protest against government with run

 

Thousands have joined the "Run Against Dictatorship" in the Thai capital, with some protesters showing the three-finger salute made popular by the Hunger Games dystopian trilogy.

 

A large protest against Thailand's military-backed government on Sunday saw thousands join the "Run Against Dictatorship" in Bangkok, with some runners also showing the three-finger salute made popular by the Hunger Games movies.

 

Protesters gathered at a public park for an anti-government run early on Sunday, with Thai billionaire and opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit leading the event.

 

Organizers said over 10,000 people registered to join the "Run Against Dictatorship," marking what appeared to be the biggest anti-government protest since the 2014 military coup, which saw the current Prime Minister and then-army chief Prayut Chan-ocha seize power.

 

"I want a government that takes care of the people and spends money on our well-being and the environment instead of buying tanks and submarines," one of the runners said.

 

Protesters chanted "Get out, Prayut" and "Long live democracy." Before running the 2.6-kilometer (1.6-mile) course, many of the protesters also flashed the three-finger salute inspired by the Hunger Games dystopian franchise.

 

Future Forward faces uncertain future

 

Prayut managed to hold on to power after the 2019 election that the opposition believes was manipulated. The former junta leader is backed by the country's powerful military, and the government is often accused of wielding the country's draconian lese majeste laws as a weapon against political opponents.

 

The anti-military party Future Forward, headed by the opposition leader Thanathorn, is currently facing a threat of dissolution for allegedly attempting to overthrow the nation's constitutional monarchy. Thanathorn has been stripped of his lawmaker status and is facing various charges.

 

The 41-year-old billionaire, however, still enjoys a rock star status among his supporters.

 

"You can feel the anger of the people and their disappointment over the government," the billionaire told AFP news agency before the race. "I think this is the first step to general change in Thailand."

 

Run vs. Walk

 

Originally, the Sunday run was billed as a "Run to Oust the Uncle" in reference to Prayat's nickname, "Uncle Tu."

 

Pro-government activists staged a rival event to the Sunday run in a different Bangkok park, dubbing it "Walk to Support Uncle." While smaller, the walk still drew in thousands of mostly elderly Prayat supporters, reflecting a generational gap in Thai society.

 

"We love our country, we love a government which can provide security to our country," one of the participants told the AFP.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/thailand-thousands-protest-against-government-with-run/a-51971259

 

January 11, 2020 / 4:54 PM / Updated 10 hours ago

French PM offers concession to unions over pension reform

PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday offered a major concession to unions contesting his government’s overhaul of the pension system, in a move aimed at ending strikes which are now in their fifth week.

Philippe said in a letter to unions and employers that he was prepared to withdraw plans to raise the retirement age for full pension benefits by two years to 64 if certain conditions were met.

 

“The compromise that I’m offering ... seems to me the best way to peacefully reform our retirement system,” Philippe said in a copy of the letter obtained by Reuters.

 

He made the concession after talks between the government and trade unions to break the deadlock failed on Friday.

 

The CFDT, France’s biggest union which is inclined to accept a limited reform, welcomed the move, saying in a statement that it showed “the government’s will to find a compromise”.

 

But the hardline CGT union, which wants the reform dropped altogether, rejected the offer and called on workers to participate in a series of protests planned for next week.

 

The government’s concession comes as tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through eastern Paris against the reform, which aims to replace France’s myriad sector-specific pension schemes with a single points-based scheme.

 

The protest turned violent on its fringes with police firing tear gas and charging groups smashing windows and lighting rubbish bins and billboards on fire.

 

The government’s standoff with the unions is the biggest challenge yet of President Emmanuel Macron’s will to reform the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.

 

Philippe’s government had hoped to create incentives to make people work longer, notably by raising the age at which a person could draw a full pension to 64 while maintaining the legal retirement age at 62.

 

The government has argued that the pension reform, which would be the biggest since World War II, would make the system fairer while also putting it on a more sound financial footing.

 

With one of the lowest retirement ages among industrialized nations, France currently spends the equivalent of 14% of economic output on pensions.

 

Philippe aims to present the reform bill on Jan. 24 so that it can be discussed in parliament starting in mid February with the aim of passing a law before the summer break.

 

[...]

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-french-protests-pacific/french-pm-offers-concession-to-unions-over-pension-reform-idUSKBN1ZA0MU

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the increased ability to communicate nearly instantly may be overwhelming efforts to "listen in" by governments.

Since most all media is geared towards boosting feelings of rage this may be the genie out of the bottle.

There have always been protests and revolutions but the potency of the French Revolution coupled with modern technology is something everyone should be concerned about.

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Lebanon protests turn violent for second night

 

(Reuters) - Protests in Lebanon turned violent for a second night on Wednesday, with dozens injured after Lebanese security forces used batons and tear gas to forcefully break up demonstrations.

 

Lebanon has been swept by a wave of mostly peaceful protests aimed at the country's elite that prompted Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri to resign on Oct. 29, pushing the country deeper into economic crisis.

 

On Tuesday night, riots broke out in Beirut's Hamra area, with bank facades smashed and stones pelted at security forces who fired back with tear gas.

 

The unrest continued on Wednesday when anti-government protesters hurled stones and fireworks at security forces outside a Beirut police station where some demonstrators were being detained from the night before.

 

Police dispersed the protests with batons and tear gas.

 

The Lebanese Red Cross said that 45 people had been injured, 35 of whom had been transferred to hospitals for treatment.

 

[...]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-protests/lebanon-protests-turn-violent-for-second-night-idUSKBN1ZE2WP

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the increased ability to communicate nearly instantly may be overwhelming efforts to "listen in" by governments.

Since most all media is geared towards boosting feelings of rage this may be the genie out of the bottle.

There have always been protests and revolutions but the potency of the French Revolution coupled with modern technology is something everyone should be concerned about.

There is an apparent correlation between political instability and the rise of new technology. For example, the Printing Press begat Protestantism as ideas were easier to transmit in print form. There was a wave of revolutions across Europe in 1848, which was about the time when Europe was wired up by telegraph. You saw the same thing in 1968, both sides of the Iron Curtain, which would appear to be the point in which most households had a television (in much of America and some of Western Europe, colour television at that). And now its happening again with the rise of the internet, and latterly, mobile telephones. There is a reason why the Arab spring was called the facebook uprising.

 

National Governments everywhere are still stuck in the middle of last century as far as dealing with print and telecommunications is concerned. They have lagged badly behind because we now have a truly international communications system, and there is absolutely nobody who can agree on how to police it. Least of all the multinationals like Facebook.

 

Expect political instability to continue from this point on, at least until national Governments (or pan national governments) figure out how to get a handle on it. It seems to usually take a generation or two to deal with the advances technology brings. As it stands, I would argue you have less revolutions occurring and making use of technology, than the technology being the root cause of the revolutions. Iran at the moment may be discovering this. Who would have thought a cellphone video could be so powerful?

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Scores wounded as Lebanon's anti-gov't protests turn violent

Police use tear gas, water cannon to disperse Beirut protesters who say they are tired of waiting for change.

4 hours ago

 

Scores of people have been wounded in Beirut after security forces used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds of anti-government protesters trying to reach Martyrs' Square, the hub of a months-long protest movement calling for changes to Lebanon's political and financial systems.

On Saturday, demonstrators set out from various spots in the capital in a march towards the city centre under the slogan: "We won't pay the price."

But before they all converged near the road leading to Parliament, dozens of protesters flung rocks, traffic signs and tree branches at security forces guarding the institution, local television channels showed.

 

Security forces sprayed young men with water cannon and lobbed tear gas over a metal fence to disperse remaining protesters on the wet tarmac.

 

The Red Cross said that more than 160 people from both sides were wounded in the clashes.

 

"Over 65 people ... have been taken to nearby hospitals and over 100 people have been treated at the scene," a spokesman said.

 

"A direct and violent confrontation is taking place with anti-riot police at one of the entrances to parliament," the Internal Security Forces said on Twitter.

 

"We ask peaceful protesters to keep away from the site of the rioting for their safety."

 

They published photos of several wounded policemen and a video showing pillars stripped of their tiles, reportedly to be thrown at security forces.

 

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said: "Security forces failed to push protesters away from Martyrs' Square, the epicentre of the protest movement.

 

"People are very defiant. They say the more violence used against us, the more revolutionary we become. They are promising to stay in the streets and continue with their protests action until they see a change in leadership."

 

Angry protesters told Al Jazeera that they would not back down and would continue to demand change.

 

"Unless things change, life [in Lebanon] is not worth living. We are in an economic crisis and they [politicians] have proven that they are a real failure. We have nothing," a protester near Martyrs' Square said.

 

"It's been a hundred days [since protests began]. And still, who can get hold of their money in the banks? Who has electricity in their homes?" she asked rhetorically.

An AFP news agency photographer saw young men uproot parking metres. He also saw about 10 people faint from the tear gas.

 

President Michel Aoun ordered the army and security commanders to restore calm, while Saad Hariri, who resigned as prime minister in October, said the violence threatened civil peace. "It is an insane, suspicious and rejected scene," he wrote on Twitter..

 

'People are exasperated'

 

The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 was revived this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country's acute economic crisis.

 

No progress appears to have been made towards a final lineup, which protesters demand be comprised of independent experts and exclude all traditional political parties.

 

[...]

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/lebanon-anti-government-protests-turn-violent-beirut-200118160101017.html

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Date 12.01.2020

 

Thailand: Thousands protest against government with run

 

Thousands have joined the "Run Against Dictatorship" in the Thai capital, with some protesters showing the three-finger salute made popular by the Hunger Games dystopian trilogy.

 

[...]

 

The anti-military party Future Forward, headed by the opposition leader Thanathorn, is currently facing a threat of dissolution for allegedly attempting to overthrow the nation's constitutional monarchy. Thanathorn has been stripped of his lawmaker status and is facing various charges.

 

[...]

 

https://www.dw.com/en/thailand-thousands-protest-against-government-with-run/a-51971259

The opposition party has now been cleared of conspiring with the Illuminati. Seriously.

 

Future Forward Party found not guilty of opposing monarchy

 

PUBLISHED : 21 JAN 2020 AT 12:28

UPDATED: 21 JAN 2020 AT 16:51

WRITER: ONLINE REPORTERS AND AGENCIES

 

The court found regulations, press interviews and speeches made by senior FFP figures were not deemed to undermine the monarchy as claimed. It ruled to reject the petition.

 

[...]

 

'Illuminati' link

 

One of the claims in the petition before the court was that Future Forwards logo evoked the secret Illuminati sect "believed to be behind the unseating of monarchies in Europe". The term "Illuminati" traces back hundreds of years and has become a watchword for discredited conspiracy theories about secretive groups trying to control world affairs.

 

The Illuminati case was filed against the Future Forward Party, leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul and party executives in July 2019 by Nathaporn Toprayoon, a former adviser to the Ombudsman.

 

Section 49 of the constitution allows an individual to file a petition with the Constitutional Court if he or she believes rights and freedoms have been misused to topple democracy with the king as head of state. The court can then order a stop to such actions. However, the court is not empowered to dissolve a party based on a petition by an individual - such a request can come only from the Election Commission (EC). Among the key evidence Mr Nathaporn submitted to the court was a party regulation that does not use the standard phrase "democracy with the king as head of state", but instead uses the words "democracy according to the constitution".

 

Another piece of evidence was a party policy that would have Thailand ratify the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, a body that does not grant immunity to the head of state, which is against the Thai constitution.

 

The evidence also included the party's logo, which he claimed resembled that of the Illuminati, a mythical organisation that conspiracy theorists believe pulls strings on behalf of shadowy forces all over the world.

 

[...]

https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1840479/future-forward-party-found-not-guilty-of-opposing-monarchy

Edited by BansheeOne
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The Illuminati are far too clever and powerful to let themselves be convicted in any court. Which just proves how dangerous they are - behind everything, and never caught.

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Date 22.01.2020

 

Colombia: Renewed protest rallies turn violent

 

Civilians first began venting their frustrations over President Ivan Duque's government in November 2019. Protesters are angry at perceived corruption and a flailing economy.

 

Anti-government protests returned to the streets of Colombia on Tuesday as riot police clashed with demonstrators that saw at least four people injured, three of which were police officers.

 

Protests against President Ivan Duque's government first broke out in November last year in what began as a general strike but soon evolved into discontent over Duque's economic reforms, a lack of jobs, corruption and drug-related violence.

 

Bogota city hall reported up to 20 demonstrations across the capital on Tuesday, most of which were described as peaceful, though at two, riot police clashed with "violent hooded men."

 

The mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, who took office on January 1, has set up a protocol to try to prevent clashes during demonstrations. Four people have died and roughly 500 have been injured since they began on November 21.

 

Protests also took place Tuesday in cities including Cali, Medellin and Barranquilla.

 

Give and take

 

Demonstrators want Duque to abolish the ESMAD riot police, an organization heavily criticized for its aggressive response to the protests.

 

Duque, who has been in power since August 2018, has given in to some of the demands on tax reform, confirming the refund of Value Added Tax to the poorest 20% of the population and benefits for companies that employ younger staff.

 

The president defended, though, what he described as "a national conversation" with various sectors in order to solve the deadlock.

 

"We want to listen to all sectors so that we can move on to making proposals, where we can solve many of the country's needs that have emerged from years ago," the 43-year-old president said.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/colombia-renewed-protest-rallies-turn-violent/a-52103131

 

Date 21.01.2020

 

Lebanon announces new 'expert' government

 

Following a months-long political vacuum, Lebanon has formed a new government made up of specialist ministers, with Prime Minister Hassan Diab promising to address the demands of the recent protest movement.

 

Lebanon formed a new government Tuesday, with Prime Minister Hassan Diab putting together a Cabinet of 20 members, made up of specialist "expert" ministers backed by political parties.

 

Diab, a former engineering professor at the American University of Beirut, said his government "will strive to meet their demands for an independent judiciary, for the recovery of embezzled funds, for the fight against illegal gains."

 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun picked Diab for the prime minister post in December. Lebanon has been gripped by three months of protest and political unrest following the resignation of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

 

Diab is also supported by the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement. Diab's new Cabinet includes a woman appointed as deputy prime minister and defense minister, a first in Lebanon.

 

Many of the rest of the Cabinet are former academics and advisers in their respective specialist fields, and has been dubbed an "expert" Cabinet, though protesters have dismissed this is a farce. Diab himself is a former academic and education minister.

 

The country has been without a government since Hariri's resignation, and is facing an economic and financial crisis.

 

Protesters not satisfied

 

Shortly before the cabinet was announced, thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital, Beirut, in rejection of the new government.

 

Protesters have been calling for sweeping reforms and a government made up of independent experts.

 

Hilal Khashan, a professor at the American University of Beirut, told the AFP news agency that the idea of a genuinely technocratic government in Lebanon was "wishful thinking."

 

"Behind every candidate, there is a political party backing their nomination," he said.

 

Another demonstrator said Diab did not "keep his promise of forming a government of independent" experts.

 

Promises of reform

 

After the Cabinet announcement, Prime Minister Diab said his new government will work to address the protesters' demands.

 

"This is a government that represents the aspirations of the demonstrators who have been mobilized nationwide for more than three months," he said, moments after his cabinet was read out at the presidential palace.

 

Diab also said his government would be a "a rescue team" that will act "fast but not hasty" in tackling the worst economic and financial crisis to hit Lebanon since the country's civil war.

 

The nationwide protests are led by young people who blame government corruption and incompetence for the lack of jobs and basic services.

 

The new government is scheduled to meet on Wednesday for the first time.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/lebanon-announces-new-expert-government/a-52102252

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Date 25.01.2020

 

Iraqi police launch crackdown on anti-government protest camps

 

Security forces in Baghdad and Basra have raided protest camps in an effort to remove anti-government activists. On Friday influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support for the protest movement.

 

Iraqi security forces clashed with protesters in Baghdad on Saturday after authorities began to remove concrete barriers near an anti-government demonstration site.

 

Authorities advanced toward Tahrir Square, where the main protest camp is based, shooting live rounds and firing tear gas in an effort to disperse protesters, Reuters news agency reported, citing witnesses.

 

Seven people were wounded in clashes with police earlier in the day, Reuters said.

 

Protesters' tents were also reportedly set alight as police tried to remove them in order to reopen public squares and at least one bridge over the Tigris River.

 

Demonstrators fear that their long-running campaign would be sidelined if they were cleared from the site at Tahrir Square.

 

Sadr withdraws support

 

The fresh clashes happened a day after populist Shiite politician and cleric Muqtada al-Sadr organized his own mass rally demanding US troops leave Iraq, before announcing that he would no longer back the protest movement.

 

In a tweet Friday evening, Sadr indicated his "disappointment" toward anti-government protesters in Baghdad.

 

The removal of his support is a heavy blow to the tens of thousands of protesters, many of them from Baghdad's slums, who have taken to the streets and who saw Sadr as a leader.

 

Basra camp also raided

 

Security officials also stormed a large protest camp in the port city of Basra, forcing activists to flee. They arrested 16 sit-in protesters.

 

There are concerns that security forces are aiming for a wider crackdown to end months of unrest, taking advantage of Sadr's removal of support for the activists.

 

Some 470 people have been killed since the protests erupted in the capital and the Shiite-majority south in October.

 

The protests were initially fueled by anger over graft and joblessness but then ballooned into demands for deep political reforms.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/iraqi-police-launch-crackdown-on-anti-government-protest-camps/a-52146801

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Date 01.02.2020

 

Iraqi president appoints Mohammed Allawi as PM

 

The appointment ends weeks of political deadlock after mass protests forced former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to step down. Allawi, a former communications minister, has pledged to listen to demonstrators' demands.

 

Mohammed Allawi was named prime minister of Iraq on Saturday.

 

His appointment by President Barham Saleh came after weeks of wrangling between rival political parties following the resignation of former Premier Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

 

The president had said he would name his own candidate unless the country's divided parliament could agree on a nominee by February 1. The different factions managed to reach a consensus before their deadline expired, according to officials cited by the Associated Press.

 

In a pre-recorded video posted to Twitter, Allawi said President Saleh had tasked him with forming a new government. The 65-year-old ex-communications minister also pledged to tackle corruption and set a date for early internationally monitored elections.

 

Months of protests

 

Former Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi announced in November that he would step down following mass anti-government protests in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

 

For months, demonstrators have been calling for the removal of what they see as a corrupt political elite. The unrest has led to almost 500 deaths since October.

 

Under Iraq's constitution, Allawi has one month to choose his Cabinet and put together a government program.

 

In his Twitter video, he called on protesters to continue with their uprising and said he would look to their demands when forming his government.

 

"I'm an employee (at your service) carrying your trust, so do not go back until you get what you want, whether from me or someone else," he said, adding that he would resign if political blocs tried to pressure him into giving them Cabinet posts.

 

Protesters reject new PM

 

Shortly after the appointment was announced, protesters gathered in the capital and other cities to voice their opposition to Allawi, who many view as belonging to the political elite.

 

Populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters had clashed with protesters earlier in the day, gave his backing to the new prime minister, saying he had been "chosen by the people."

 

"I hope the president's appointment of Mohammad Allawi is acceptable to the people and that they have patience," he wrote on Twitter.

 

Al-Sadr leads one of the most powerful blocs in parliament and is expected to vie with a rival grouping of Iran-backed parties for ministerial posts in the next government, possibly leading to more deadlock.

 

https://www.dw.com/en/iraqi-president-appoints-mohammed-allawi-as-pm/a-52227661

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lebanon gov't wins Parliament's confidence vote despite protests

 

Parliament backs cabinet and financial plans of PM Hassan Diab in vote held despite attempts by protesters to block it.

 

by Timour Azhari

19 hours ago

 

Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanon's Parliament has backed a new cabinet and the government's financial rescue plan in a vote of confidence held despite attempts by protesters to block it.

 

Hezbollah and its allies - the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement - backed the government while the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri voted no confidence along with its allies, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party.

 

[...]

 

Protesters tried to block vote

 

However, for months, thousands of Lebanese had been protesting against the proposed cabinet, saying it would not be able to rescue the country's ailing economy.

 

On Tuesday, more than 350 people were injured in clashes around the Lebanese Parliament building in the capital as protesters attempted to prevent the MPs from participating in the confidence vote.

 

"We don't have confidence in a single one of them," Suzie Jumaa, a 49-year-old media professional told Al Jazeera, as she blocked a main thoroughfare in downtown Beirut.

 

"We're not giving them a chance, we have tried for 40 years, we have gotten old and we are going to die giving them chances. There isn't any more time."

 

Despite the protesters' efforts to block the vote, a quorum was achieved in the parliamentary session, which began around 11:45am (0945 GMT) on Tuesday.

 

Several MPs made their way to the Parliament on the backs of motorcycles, allowing them to slip through protesters, while others arrived in heavily-guarded convoys.

 

Security forces, including the Lebanese army, riot police and SWAT teams used batons, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to clear the roads of protesters.

 

The Lebanese Red Cross said it transported 45 people to hospitals and treated 328 at the scene.

 

The blockade forced several MPs' vehicles to retreat under a hail of stones and projectiles that shattered car windows.

 

MP Salim Saadeh, a representative of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, was taken to hospital and received stitches after protesters wrecked the car he was travelling in.

 

[...]

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/lebanon-gov-wins-parliament-confidence-vote-protests-200211151210371.html

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  • 3 weeks later...

France again, for reasons completely unrelated to any other.

 

Paris Gare de Lyon: Fire at station amid DR Congo concert protest


28 February 2020

Police evacuated Paris's Gare de Lyon station after protesters started a fire to try to disrupt a concert by a Congolese singer.

 

Political opponents of the DR Congo government set fire to parked scooters, motorcycles and bins and blocked firefighters from tackling the blaze.

 

They accuse singer Fally Ipupa of being too close to the Congolese government.

 

Police had earlier banned protests against the concert, citing a "tense political context".

 

A large plume of smoke was visible above the station and smoke was also seen inside the Gare de Lyon metro and suburban rail stations.

 

Victoria Williams from the UK was in the Gare de Lyon at the time.

 

"There was big thick smoke. People were surging and setting fire to things," she said. "It just seemed to get very ugly, very quickly. Traffic was gridlocked in every direction, it was pandemonium.

 

"The protesters were throwing anything they could at the police and fire brigade who were just trying to do their job. They were just setting fire to anything they could and fighting with each other."

 

Police described efforts to prevent firefighters from reaching the scene as "scandalous behaviour".

 

Before the concert police had warned of significant calls on social media for protesters to "clash with concertgoers".

 

One protester told Reuters they had been trying to block people from attending. They say Fally Ipupa is too close to President Felix Tshisekedi, who took power a year ago.

 

Congolese media said members of the Congolese diaspora had come from other European cities, including London, Brussels and Vienna, to try to disrupt the concert.

 

Fally Ipupa, who reportedly has a large following in France and has collaborated with several French rappers, was forced to cancel a concert in France in 2011, RTL reported.

 

Police said 30 people had been arrested and 54 people had been fined for participating in a banned protest.

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51682230

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