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Jeremy Hunt urges Iran to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe



Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

As Jeremy Hunt prepared to visit Iran for the first time, he warned the country against using innocent dual-national Britons as political prisoners.

The foreign secretary visited Iran on Monday to make a personal appeal for the immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen. In April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested while she and her then four-year old daughter Gabriella were about to board a flight from Iran to the UK. Hunt asked Iran not to use Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals for diplomatic leverage.

She was found guilty of spying and was awarded a five-year jail sentence. Ever since, she has denied the allegations. She was granted a three-day release from the jail in August and her appeal for extension was rejected. She suffered from a severe panic attack after returning to the prison. It was then that her family decided not to ask for anymore temporary releases because of the trauma she has to go through.

Prior to meeting Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, Hunt said, “More than anything, we must see those innocent British-Iranian dual-nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain. I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage.”

Hunt has promised Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe that he will do his best to for her release.

Hunt is also the first foreign minister of a Western country to visit Iran after the US imposed sanctions on Tehran. He is stressed on the UK-Iran relations amid the nuclear deal. The UK will remain committed to the nuclear deal, should Iran stays focused on its terms. He also discussed the efforts from Europe to keep the nuclear-related sanctions relief going.

“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearized Iran. It needs 100% compliance, though, to survive. We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does,” Hunt said.

The foreign secretary raised dire concerns over the UN’s report on Yemen that Iran has supplied weapons of mass destruction to Houthis in violation of security council resolutions.

On Monday, while taking a tour around the Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, Hunt said, “This is part of the world that is quite frankly a tinderbox. We want to move to peace in Yemen – that is our number one priority at the moment. We also have the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals who are in prison who should not be. We want to get them home, so all these things have to be discussed.”


Is HMS Ducan Moving to Relieve or Stay with Montrose?



HMS Duncan

In a sign that the UK is not going to back off its presence in the Gulf, the nation might further aggravate a conflict with Iran; via its recent move to send a second warship to the region. HMS Ducan, a type 45 destroyer, is due to sail to the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf in coming days and its progress is highly likely to ignite UK-Iran tensions.

The move comes after the UK government said that Iranian boats tried to hinder a British oil tanker in the Gulf on Wednesday.

On the other hand, Iran has called the UK to repatriate its warships, and not enter a “dangerous game”. The warning comes after HMS Montrose was forced to drive off Iranian patrol boats to impede the progress of a British tanker.

HMS Ducan, which is being sent to the region to relieve the HMS Montrose, is expected to “overlap” and work together with the other warship, as per the cabinet sources.

Movement of the ship also follows the decision by Prime Minister Theresa May of entering talks with the US about building a presence in the Gulf, especially as diplomatic tensions vow to become an obstacle.

The Prime Minister’s deputy spokeswoman said the UK had been holding talks with a number of countries. “We are talking to the US about building on our presence in the face of recent threats to shopping in the area,” the spokeswoman said. She added: “We are concerned about the threats that they are making to disrupt shipping in the area and we have been urging them to de-escalate the situation in the region.”

The situation in the Gulf waters has been destabilizing in recent days after an Iranian tanker was barred by Royal Marines from moving to Syria. The oil vessel was suspected of violating the European Union sanctions, and is seen as a catalyst of UK-Iran tensions.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: “We have a responsibility to protect British shipping and, with our allies, to protect the waterways and seaways of the world, so we have to react according to the threats that we face.

“But this is not an Iran-specific issue – notwithstanding the broader tensions in the region – this is about Syria and about a breach of the sanctions against Syria, which of course is a country that Iran is active in,” he added.

Iran-US and now the UK entering the conundrum suggests that despite demands for de-escalation, the conflict will only multiply in near future. Besides, with the intense pressure applied on Iran, the nation might crumble to a further low or even retaliate with continuous enrichment of uranium. Also, if HMS Ducan stays back and to work together with HMS Montrose, Iran’s retaliatory moves might exceed all limits to put backward pressure.

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HMS Montrose Thwarts Iranian Seizure of UK Oil Tanker in Strait of Hormuz



HMS Montrose

Regional tensions continue to soar in the Persian Gulf, as on Wednesday a British warship, HMS Montrose, had to step in to avoid three Iranian boats from impeding a British oil tanker.

Three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats carried out an “attempt to impede” the oil tanker British Heritage, which was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. The attempt is believed to be a retaliation of the seizure of the oil tanker carrying oil to Syria off the coast of Gibraltar and the Royal Marine of the UK carried out the seize.

According to the official statement released by the UK government in regards with the interference from the warship HMS Montrose, “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.”

The statement also said that the warship was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away”.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region,” the statement further added.

Earlier, US Defence Officials informed that the location of the incident was at the northern entrance of the Strait of Hormuz.

While one of the officials said that “HMS Montrose, which was also there, pointed it(s) guns at the boats and warned them over radio, at which point they dispersed” the other claimed, “It was harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have denied the claims of trying to impede the passage of the oil tanker. However, it might be possible that the attempt was carried out as a retaliation of seizure of the Grace 1, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani termed as “mean and wrong” and said that Britain “will realise the consequences later”.

The relations between Iran and the UK have already been tense, especially with the detainment of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been confined in Tehran jail from the last three years. Now, with an attempt to impede the British oil tanker, which further involved the HMS Montrose, the relations might further worsen, creating more problems in the Gulf area.

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Destruction Takes Over Southern California After a Series of Earthquakes



Destruction Takes Over Southern California After a Series of Earthquakes

Devastation has taken over Southern California, which was jolted by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake, on Friday night. The epicenter of the latest temblor was 11 miles northeast of Ridgecrest in the Mojave Desert and 123 north of Los Angeles, according to the Unites States Geological Survey.

The disaster came 36 hours after the strongest quake recorded in 20 years had already shaken people. Recorded at a 6.4 magnitude, Thursday’s earthquake also centered near Ridgecrest. It was followed by a series of aftershock, and first was reported Friday morning of 5.4 magnitude. Seismologists warned of further episodes, stating that the fault causing the quakes appears to be growing.

Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Mark Ghilarducci stated that Friday night’s jitters caused some fires, cracks, several injuries and other damage in and around two Mojave Desert—– Ridgecrest and Trona. Besides, power failures in Los Angeles and some damage in San Bernardino County was also reported.

In Ridgecrest, there were “significant” reports of fires, particularly because of gas leaks and line breaks, said Mark Ghillarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services.

“We’ve got fires, we’ve got gas leaks, we’ve got injuries, we’ve got people without power, We’re dealing with it as best we can,” said Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden through telephone.

“Homes shifted, foundation cracks, retaining walls down,” the San Bernardino County Fire Department said. “One injury (minor) with firefighters treating patient.”

A small community of about 2,000 people, Troma had reports of building collapses, power outages and gas leaks. According to the residents, the cut off was because of a rock slide. The highway 178 through the Kern River Canyon was reportedly shut down following the rock slides.

The recent earthquake rattled the region at about 8:20 p.m. local time, and was felt at much wider area than Thursday’s “foreshock”.

The Los Angeles Fire Department issued an earthquake alert at 8:21 p.m. local time from its Twitter account. “Prepare For Aftershocks,” the tweet said. “When Shaking Starts: DROP, COVER, HOLD ON!”

CBS News reported that since Thursday, more than 1,000 aftershocks have been recorded since Thursday’s earthquake.

Earlier Friday, Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson said that the aftershocks will probably “go on for months, if not years”.

He told The LA Times that the odds were decent that there could be another aftershock of magnitude 5 or greater at some point.

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Will Giuseppe Conte and Vladimir Putin’s Meet Furnish Desired Results for Russia?



Giuseppe Conte

Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to improve his image amidst world powers. Just like his discussion with Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May during the G20 summit, his meet with the Italian Prime Minister and Pope Francis speaks the same.

Giuseppe Conte, the 54-year-old Prime Minister of Italy, in a one-day meet with the Russian President on Thursday expressed his keen desire to improve relations with Russia. Conte, following the meet, said that Moscow can help and play a major role in resolving various regional conflicts.

Similarly, the Russian President said that he expects Italy to try its best in restoring relations between the EU and Russia and remove the sanctions imposed on them.

In 2014, 28 nations of the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia when it annexed the Crimean region of Ukraine and supported the pro-Russian protestors, who were involved in conflicts with law authorities of Kiev in the eastern region of Ukraine.

During the press conference following the meet with Giuseppe Conte, Putin acknowledged the efforts of Italian government in improving the worsened relations between the EU and Russia.

“We hope that Italy will consistently and clearly speak out about its position (on improving ties) and battle for what was said in public many times, namely for the complete return to normal relations between Russia and Europe as a whole,” Putin said.

Following the meet, Conte expressed his feelings about the discussion with the Russian President, saying “We agreed that there is the need for an inclusive approach and an open dialogue in order to start solving key regional crises ranging from Libya to Syria, from Ukraine to Venezuela. I’m convinced that Moscow can play a fundamental role in resolving these crises.”

Giuseppe Conte, not only asserted that Italy and Russia “are proud of great cooperation in cultural and scientific fields” and “interaction between research centres and universities”, but also said that both the countries have the capability which should improve, keeping in mind the interests of tomorrow, security, well-being and equality.

However, Putin’s meet with Pope Francis could not be considered as a success but as a clash of two different ideologies that got into a discussion due to personal interests.

While Pope’s meet with Putin might be a move to protect the Christians living in the Middle East region, where Russia has a stronghold – Putin’s agenda for the meet can be considered as a way to brighten his image with the efforts of Giuseppe Conte, as a world leader.

With tensions soaring between the nations, it might prove easier for the EU to maintain world peace, having Russia as its ally. While Giuseppe Conte sounds extremely positive about his meet with Vladimir Putin, the ideological clash between Pope and Putin might prove to be an obstacle for both countries in achieving what they desire.

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German Citizens in UAE strained by Sharia Law seek Human Rights Justice



shariya law

Celebrating the year of tolerance, promoting norms of equality, and implementing cultural changes, United Arab Emirates (UAE) has recently been portrayed going liberal. Ironically, the moves are being implemented whilst practicing Sharia law in the nation.

The law decimates against women, gives them less rights in matters of inheritance, and even as a witness in court. Subjected to tortures and even more punishments, if anyone abandons Islam, the law stands nowhere in line with tolerance.

Often seen suffering with daily life, the notion of troubles extends beyond women and is also applicable to men in UAE. Living as so-called expats in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, men who met women, got married, started families, had children, but broke up for some reason, continue to face nightmares because of the Sharia law.

Patrick Hoenicke, born in Berlin, married an Indian stewardess in September 2015 in UAE. The couple had a son together, who was born in Dubai in March 2017. However, shortly after his first birthday, the mother moved out with their son. Hoenicke was allowed to bring his son home for about ten hours a week, in the first six months of separation. However, the woman wanted that her son had no contact with his father. Therefore, he is now only allowed to see his son for two hours that too, in a playroom at the mother’s house.

Similarly, Iradj El-Qalqili, another German who married a Canadian in UAE seven years ago. The couple had a son and a daughter. Unfortunately, two years back, the woman moved out with both the children, and El-Qalqili hasn’t seen both his children for over a year.

Such cases have grown in recent years, and the reason lies with the family law. As per the rule, for boys under 11 and girls under 13, it is presumed that mothers can better cater to the need of children. The custody of children can only change once the minimum age limit is crossed. During this period, the father has to pay for the school fees and upkeep of the children. Even then, the law doesn’t assure that a father can see his children.

“A German court must always orientate itself in custody disputes in the interests of the child and the UAE deviates significantly from it, because they declare that the mother is better suited to take on sole custody without a case-by-case examination,” said Professor Christian Majer, Director of the Institute for International and Foreign Affairs Private and procedural law in Ludwigsburg.

The cases of custody transfer, and suppression of women and men have been common midst the celebration of the year of tolerance in UAE. Nonetheless, such happenings do not stop or limit them to expats, but extend even to the royal families.

A Royal Mess

UAE human rights violation have constantly come forward, with recent case of Princess Haya bint Hussein second wife of the Prime Minister and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who chose to run away in search of asylum in Germany.

Another princess who ran away from the gilded prison of Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum was his own daughter, Sheikha Latifa. She also planned to abscond following violation of her rights.

In one of the video’s recorded before her escape, the princess also quoted that it might be her last video, and that she might not be able survive the torture. Latifa managed to escape Dubai, but was caught by the Indian commandos, who extradited her to the UAE.

Anything that goes beyond the stated definition given by the UAE is punishable in the nation; courtesy Sharia law. Therefore, an ode that reads religious freedom, equality and calls for promotion of tolerance, is actually to be implemented in this so-called year of tolerance, which is making both the genders suffer.

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