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Matthew Hedges: Durham University academic jailed for life in UAE

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Matthew Hedges

A British PhD student Matthew Hedges, 31, of Durham University, who was accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates for the UK government has been sentenced to life in prison.

Hedges says he is innocent and went to Dubai only to research for his thesis. On Wednesday, Hedges was sentenced at an Abu Dhabi court in the absence of any lawyer.

Daniela Tejada, 27, wife of Matthew Hedges, was present in the courtroom and said she is in “complete shock” with the verdict.

“I am in complete shock and I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Matthew is innocent. The Foreign Office know this and have made it clear to the UAE authorities that Matthew is not a spy for them. The British government must take a stand now for Matthew, one of their citizens. They say that the UAE is an ally, but the overwhelmingly arbitrary handling of Matt’s case indicates a scarily different reality, for which Matt and I are being made to pay a devastatingly high price,” she continued.

Tejada also said the case is not being handled seriously, “This whole case has been handled appallingly from the very beginning with no-one taking Matthew’s case seriously.”

Matthew Hedges was detained at the Dubai airport on May 5, after an Emirati man reported him to the authorities for “asking sensitive questions about some sensitive departments” and “seeking to gather classified information on the UAE”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was “seeking a call with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed,” said Theresa May.

Hunt too was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the verdict.

Hunt has raised the case with the “highest levels of the UAE government”. He also said the verdict was “not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom, and runs contrary to earlier assurances”.

Tory MP Crispin Blunt has asked May to make it clear to the UAE, if Matthew Hedges “is not released, I don’t see why we should be committed to their defence”.

A life sentence in the UAE means maximum of 25 years in prison.

However, Matthew Hedges has 30 days to appeal, while he will still be kept in the jail.

Attorney General Dr Hamad Saif Al Shamsi said, ”The defendant confessed in detail to his crimes during investigations whereby he was accorded his full rights and assurances as per the UAE constitution and state laws to fair and transparent trial.”

Hunt has been urging the UAE to reconsider the case.

“Our consular officials have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family. We will continue to do everything possible to support him,” Hunt Said.

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British Far-Right Groups & Promoters Banned on Facebook & Instagram

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Far-Right Groups

Social media giant Facebook has banned various far-right groups and individuals for violating site rules, and spreading hatred and violence.

The banned groups and individuals include, The British National Party and its ex-leader Nick Griffin; Britain First, along with its leader Paul Golding and ex-deputy leader Jayda Fransen; English Defence League and its founder Paul Ray; Knights Templar International and its promoter Jim Dowson; National Front and its president Tony Martin; and an individual neo-Nazi, Jack Renshaw, who planned to murder a Labour MP.

All of these far-right groups and individuals have been removed from Facebook and Instgram. The company said it had to take such a serious action because the involved members were on a “violent or hateful mission”.

The social networking company’s policy does not allow groups or individuals that engage in “terrorist activity, organised hate, mass or serial murder, human trafficking or organised violence or criminal activity”.

“Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook,” the US firm’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“Under our dangerous individuals & organisations policy, we ban those who proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence. The individuals and organisations we have banned today violate this policy, and they will no longer be allowed a presence on Facebook or Instagram.

“Posts and other content which expresses praise or support for these figures and groups will also be banned. Our work against organised hate is ongoing and we will continue to review individuals, organisations, pages, groups and content against our community standards,” the spokesperson added.

Moreover, any sort of praise or support for the named far-right groups or individuals would also be not allowed on either of the platform.

MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select committee, praised the ban, calling it “long overdue”.

“For too long social media companies have been facilitating extremist and hateful content online and profiting from the poison. They have particularly failed on far-right extremism as they don’t even have the same co-ordination systems for platforms to work together as they do on Islamist extremism,” she added.

Cooper also added financial penalties should be levied on firms that are not ready to remove violent or hateful content.

“We all know the appalling consequences there can be if hateful, violent and illegal content is allowed to proliferate,” she said.

The removal of far-right groups and individuals comes after the social media site said it would block “praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism” on Facebook and Instagram.

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Day Four of Extinction Rebellion Protests Causes Serious Disruption in the Capital City

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It’s been four days since the protests against the government by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists started in London.

The environmental protestors have pledged to continue protesting by maintaining roadblocks, which has led to “serious disruption” in the capital city. Nearly 400 people have been arrested as a part of the Extinction Rebellion protests while half of the London population remains affected by it.

Extinction Rebellion has emerged as a premier protest movement for climate change activists.  Thousands of people have been taking part in the civil-disobedience protest against the government and have blocked four landmarks in the capital – Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch. By disrupting the London transport, the protestors aim to bring attention to their cause.

The protests were an attempt to force the government to take stricter actions against growing climate changes and wildlife declines to avoid a “sixth mass extinction”.

The protestors had three main demands. Firstly, they asked to “Tell the truth” about “how deadly our situation is”, so that the citizens and businesses are aware of the cause and effects, and could take appropriate steps to avoid it.

Secondly, they wanted the government to cut the carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and that the global economy should run on half of the planet’s resources per year. Lastly, they demanded a citizen’s assembly to be set up to enact the long-term changes, as they did not trust the government for it. The group has vowed to keep up their acts of “non-violent civil disobedience” until all the three demands are met.

In order to prevent the activists from coordinating protests, Wi-Fi networks at the underground stations in London were jammed.  Michael Gove, Environment Secretary, acknowledged the motive behind the ongoing protests and accepted that proper steps need to be taken to resolve the problem. Mayor Sadiq Khan, while supporting the rights of the protestors, asked them to work peacefully with the police to minimize the disorder in the city.

John Apter, chairperson of Police Federation, criticised Khan for his views in favour of the protestors. He said, “The likes of Sadiq Khan should be supporting the police, especially when we are having to deal with rising crime on our streets.”

Amidst the chaos, where many have joined the Extinction Rebellion protest, a recent YouGov poll showed that 52 percent of the 3,561 adults stood against the protests while only a minuscule part of the population supported it.

The protests that initially started on Monday are likely to continue until next Friday.

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Calls to Revoke Brexit Likely to Increase with Six-month Extension

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Brexit

Last updated on April 16th, 2019

Relying on the 11th hour, Britain’s habit of not throwing caution to the wind almost made them crash out of the European Union (EU). Now, with the EU agreeing for a flexible extension until Oct 31, a huge amount of uncertainty has once again surrounded Brexit.

Exploring the root cause of the problem, assurance over the Irish backstop has constantly been at war in the House of Commons. However, no solution has been reached even after such heated exchange. Besides, with the extension of Article 50, the plans to revoke the deal have significantly increased.

Though it is known that the Article 50 allows multiple extensions of the exit date only if all member states agree. But if the deal is not agreed within the allotted time, Britain will surely crash at the end of the period this time.

Correspondingly, even the Conservative MPs now fear that British PM Theresa May’s move to delay Brexit until the end of October will lead to the collapse of the agreement. Likewise, MPs from across the party believe that the Prime Minister’s decision has increased the chances for a second referendum or to scrap the deal altogether.

“I have been saying for weeks that Brexit is hanging on by its fingernails,” one MP from the Brexit Delivery Group, said in his statement given to Business Insider.

Another major issue as per Tory pro-Brexiteers is the span of time, which according to them will take Britain away from the reality and result in the Brexit being called off eventually.

One Conservative MP said: “There has been a significant shift in the conversation around revocation. It is interesting to see how many of my colleagues are now openly discussing it,” referring to the talks around scrapping May’s withdrawal agreement.

As things stand, the congregation of Brexit clearly portrays that this Parliament will once again go all guns blazing at May’s deal. Besides, to draw more clarity on the future of Britain, the Commons has now four major options to choose from – Reach an accord and leave the EU, cancel Brexit and remain a member of the EU, hold national elections, or hold another Brexit referendum.

Clearly, there is growing support calling for scrapping the deal. Nonetheless, with uncertainty synonymous to Brexit, there are still a lot of things that can happen in the coming months.

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Brexit Deal: May Defends her Decision of Accepting the Extension

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Prime Minister Theresa May has made continuous attempts to defend her decision of accepting a delay in the Brexit deal. In doing so, she even laughed off the calls for her resignation from other Tory Brexiteers, who accused her “abject surrender” over her latest decision.

The long-awaited Brexit deal, which began two years ago in March, was supposed to end by March 29 this year. Since May couldn’t get her deal through the parliament, the European leaders granted an extension until April 12. However, just two days prior to the deadline, the prime minister and the EU agreed to further extend the period until October 31.

May argued that the UK could avoid taking part in the EU elections that are scheduled for next month, and could leave the EU before the deadline, if the talks between the ministers and the Labour party bring a positive result favouring the Brexit deal.

If the opposition does not agree to May’s deal then the MPs must decide for the same, and they could avail the benefit of a second referendum. May even urged the lawmakers to think upon the significance of the deal.

“This is our national duty as elected members of this House — and nothing today is more pressing or more vital”, she added.

In his response to May’s statement, Labour Party leader  Jeremy Corbyn agreed that the talks between both the parties are “serious, detailed, and ongoing”.

He added that a potential deal must be established for the agreement so that it does not get torned up by the next government if May is forced to resign in June. This is because if the withdrawal is not a success before the EU elections then the UK would have to be a part of the elections or leave the EU without a deal.

When a veteran Conservative Brexiteer Bill Cash asked May, if she would quit over what he called an “abject surrender” to Brussels, May laughed off the question, saying “I think you know the answer to that.”

May also said that she would “continue to argue for the Conservative Party remaining in government”, if a no confidence motion comes up in the Parliament.

May’s previous statement to resign if the Brexit deal is a success, failed to pass the bill even in the third attempt. Amidst all the controversies, the overall impact of the Brexit deal has lead to a total chaos in the country. Despite the continuous attempts made by the prime minister, the deal seems to be in a difficult situation. The discussion between the ministers of both the parties has been in continuation, as May believes that it would help in achieving positive results.

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Information-Leaking Tap Closes with the Arrest of Julian Assange

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Julian Assange

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, after nearly seven years since Westminster magistrates gave orders to arrest him, has finally been taken into custody at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange had been granted asylum status by the South American nation, while he was on bail in the UK over sexual allegations against him in Sweden.

The Metropolitan police said: “He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster magistrates court as soon as is possible.”

“The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster magistrates court, and was invited into the embassy by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum,” the police added.

Assange, however, was in total disarray when the police carried him out of the embassy, and retaliated by shouting that they cannot arrest him. The footage also showed that he carried a book with him.

Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, writing on Twitter confirmed, “In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”

However, WikiLeaks said Moreno had acted out of the law in ending Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”.

The arrest came only a day after WikiLeaks accused the Ecuadorian government of an “extensive spying operation” against Assange. According to the whistle-blowers, their founder’s meeting with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy last year was covertly recorded.

Nonetheless, only then it became clear that if he was extradited to Sweden, the US could intervene and arrest him on charges linked with WikiLeaks publication of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

Although it is still unclear if the US ever officially charged Assange, in November last year a mistake in a document filed in an unrelated case alleged that criminal charges have been imposed in secret. The filing revealed criminal charges against someone named “Assange”, even when it was not the name of the defendant.

Only a few days ago, the Ecuadorian President also emphasized that Assange had “repeatedly violated” the conditions of asylum in his home country. And now as the arrest is completed, it also speculates that Moreno has finally taken the revenge of his leaked photographs.

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