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Iran Releases a British-Iranian Detainee after 8 Months

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

A British-Iranian academic, who was arrested and detained in Iran on allegations of spying, was released last week. The UK foreign authorities confirmed that while Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still in the Iranian jail, Abbas Edalat has returned to England.

Edalat, who has a dual Iranian and British citizenship, is a mathematics and computer science professor at the Imperial College London. He was detained in Tehran in April on unspecified security charges. According to the reports, Edalat visited Iran to attend an academic workshop on April 15.

An Iranian news agency reported back then that Prof Edalat was a part of a “network” of British spies, whose other members had been identified and arrested.

The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), an anti-war protest group founded by Abbas Edalat, notified that he was released last week. The group, which opposes sanctions in Iran, also said that his detention was a case of “misinformation and misunderstanding”.

“It increasingly appears, as we had suspected, that his detention in spring in Iran was a case of misinformation and misunderstanding by the Iranian security apparatus,” the group said.

Edalat’s detention has raised hopes for another British-Iranian, a charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, detained in Iran since 2016. She is serving a five-year sentence in prison, after being convicted of spying charges that she has denied.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt met her husband Richard Ratcliffe on December 21, to assure him about his wife’s release. In a Twitter post on Tuesday, he wrote, “As we celebrate, let’s also remember those unjustly imprisoned like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is 40 tomorrow.”

With reference to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, a Foreign Office spokesman said, “We have repeatedly lobbied the Iranians to release Ms Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on humanitarian grounds and we raise all our cases at every level and every opportunity.”

The spokesman added that the case become more difficult as Iran did not recognise dual nationality.

In April, the jails in Iran held nearly 30 dual nationals, which included a number of dual British-Iranian nationals.

A Foreign Office spokesman said, “We continue to take action on all our consular cases in Iran in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.”

Although Edalat has been released, many have accused Iran of arresting and imprisoning Iranians with second citizenships to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

While only one citizen has been released, the authorities in the UK are still looking forward for Iran to free the several British-Iranian citizens detained.

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Amidst Brexit Uncertainty European Elections Take a Centre Stage

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European Elections

With the onset of the European Elections, voters across 28 countries will decide the fate of 751 members of the European Parliament.

Speculations and polls conducted across the United Kingdom suggest that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party might emerge victorious in the elections. In the imminent elections, the Conservative and Labour parties are likely to suffer maximum damage with Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party emerging as the showstopper.

The European elections will decide the fate of 73 members, looking forward for selection in the nine constituencies of England and one each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Island. The count of the representatives varies from region to region, depending upon the population varying from three MEPs in the North East and Northern Ireland to 10 MEPs in the South-East region.

According to the recent polls conducted in the past few days by YouGov, Panelbase, Opinium and Datapraxis, Brexit Party has emerged as the favourite in the UK region. While these polls might have affected the wave of the choice on whom to vote, it also showed that people are not interested in voting for either the Tories or the Conservatives. Both the parties collectively stood at the fourth position as per the polls.

The polling stations will remain open till 10:00 pm BST today. The results are expected to be announced after all the European nations have casted their votes by Sunday 10:00 pm BST.

It is also being speculated that both the European People’s Party and the alliance of Socialists and Democrats might lose many seats in the upcoming elections. Senior research fellow from Centre for European Reform Camino Mortera-Martinez said, “Euroskeptics and populists are going to grow exponentially this time. You’re going to have a much more divided Parliament. It’s going to be more difficult to find compromises.”

The Downing Street authorities have been describing the night of the European Elections’ verdict announcement to be a”very challenging night”.

One of the spokesman said, “The PM is focused on the task at hand which is delivering the Brexit people voted for.”

Similarly, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appealed to the people to vote for the members of the Labour Party as it would depict a vote for a ”tolerant and fairer country”, and an “end to the division and austerity which has devastated our communities for a decade.”

If Brexit takes place following the final verdict of the European elections is declared, out of the 73 seats in the UK, 27 will be distributed equally among the European nations and the number in the European Parliament will reduce from 751 MEPs to 705.

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Brexit Party Emerges Favourite among Scots, Polls Suggest

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Brexit Party

As of Monday, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party claimed the second position in Scotland – leaving behind the conservatives and the Labour Party – in the European Elections.

The elections which will take place on Thursday will witness a historic nation-wide win of a party overshadowing the Conservatives and Labours.

This is the second time in a century that an organisation other than the Conservatives or the Labours will win. With the result of the polls, pressure is beginning to increase on Prime Minister Theresa May.

The results of the poll conducted by YouGov show that out of five only one Scottish voter is supporting Labour or Tories, standing at the fourth position collectively. On the other hand, one of the surveys placed Brexit Party as the second favourite choice across the UK in general voting elections.

Farage had earlier secured win in 2014 as well, but his then known party United Kingdom Independence Party couldn’t last for long. With the results of the latest polls, it has become evident that the probable decay of post-war two party systems might be leading to an uncertain political scenario.

The polls conducted by YouGov also indicate towards the fact that while Tories might lose their only MEP in Scotland, the Scottish Labour might lose one of the two seats in the European Parliament. The SNPs are leading the race with 38 percent of the vote share, followed by the Brexit Party at 20 percent, the poll reveals.

Similarly the Panelbase’s opinion polls on the upcoming elections show that the Farage’s party can claim eight MSP seats in the Scottish Parliament election. Considering the Opinium poll, Farage’s party is bound to garner 24 percent of the votes in the UK general election, two percent more than the votes, Tories are expected to obtain.

YouGov and Datapraxis conducted polls for the Best for Britain and Hope not Hate campaigns and 9,260 people from all over Britain took part in the polls. These polls place the Brexit Party on the first place as it received twice the votes received by the Liberal Democrats, who came second.

Previously Nigel Farage voiced his concerns over the Second Brexit Referendum and criticised the members of the Labour Party in favour of leaving the EU.

Louis Stedman-Bryce, one of the candidates of the Brexit Party in Scotland taking part in European Elections, praised the results of the polls.

He said, “This is despite Nicola Sturgeon’s insistence that ‘Scotland is not for Brexit’ on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, demonstrating just how out of touch she is with the electorate.”

“Like the rest of the UK, Scotland is fed up with career politicians trying to overturn democracy and push their own agenda. The First Minister should be very concerned because the Brexit Party will soon be turning its sights to Holyrood as well as Westminster,” he added.

The opinion polls reveal Brexit Party as the favourite of the masses in the European Elections, even though the elections are yet to take place. While the result of the elections might take up some time, it is almost certain that the people have chosen their leader already.

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Nigel Farage Left with Dripping Milkshake During EU Election Campaign

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Nigel Farage

In a bizarre incident on Monday, Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was given a milkshake bath while he was campaigning in the European Parliament election. The attack is the latest in the trend of decorating politicians with sticky beverages.

The fine gray suit of the politician was painted with white milkshake by an anti-Brexit protestor in Newcastle city centre. As Farage walked with his bodyguards and the reporters at about 1 p.m., the suspected 32-year-old man emptied the glass as he threw the shake at him from the front.

The protestor, Paul Crowther was detained in handcuffs at the scene. He stated that he hit Nigel Farage with the banana-and-salted caramel Five Guys shake to protest his “bile and racism” ideology.

Crowther said that he was looking forward to the drink, “but I think it went on a better purpose”. He has been reportedly charged with common assault and criminal damage.

After the attack, which is caught on video, the visibly shaken Brexit Party leader was heard reprimanding his security team for failing to protect him at the incident. He could be heard saying, “complete failure” and “how did you not stop that?”.

Nigel Farage associated the attack to those who are against Brexit and wanted to remain in the EU. He took to his official Twitter account and wrote, “Sadly some remainers have become radicalised, to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible.”

Beverages have growingly become an unlikely political weapon in Britain. In recent weeks, other anti-EU candidates, including the far-right activist Tommy Robinson, have also been bombarded with milkshakes during the election campaigns.

The rising incidents also led to a restriction on selling milkshakes at food outlets. Last week, a McDonald’s in Edinburgh, Scotland brought the issue in light, stating that it had been told by police to not sell milkshakes during a Brexit Party rally.

The rising number in the milkshake-attack incidents are definitely a misconduct towards the politicians. However, they only reveal the rising aggression amongst the people over Brexit.

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Legalise Gay Marriage in Northern Ireland, Demands LGBTQ Community

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Gay Marriage

As the lunchtime on Saturday afternoon took its turn, Belfast in Northern Ireland saw a vibrant protest comprising 7000-8000 people, asking the government to legalise gay marriage. The protest took place in Writer’s Square near the St Anne’s Cathedral, the Belfast Anglican church, where the funeral of journalist Lyra Mckee took place.

The protest included prominent faces like Sara Canning, partner of McKee who died during a riot, John O’Doherty, director of Rainbow Project and Patrick Corrigan, director of Northern Ireland’s Amnesty International.

Preceding the rally, Canning disclosed that she asked Prime Minister Theresa May to legalise gay marriage in order to honour the cherished memory of Mckee.

Lyra Mckee, one of the distinguished journalists in Northern Ireland, was killed almost a month ago during a riot in Derry, by the supporters of the New IRA group. Many prominent political figures including Theresa May condemned her death.

Prior to assembling in front of the city hall, the rally marched through the Belfast city centre, asking to amend the marriage law and legalise gay marriage. Canning was among the ones leading the rally and carrying a placard with name “Lyra”, painted in rainbow colours. 

While addressing the crowd, Canning said that the reform would be a “win” for people of every community despite race, gender, caste or creed.

She said, “We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, we live deeply and we love dearly – why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage?”

 “Same-sex couples come from every single political, religious, cultural, and racial background. A vote passing on equal marriage would not be a win for any one side, it would be a win for all sides,” she added.

Similarly, O’Doherty while supporting the campaign, said “Like so many of you I stand today with my better half, the love of my life – angry and frustrated – that another year has passed without our love being recognised as equal under the law.”

For many years, the government has ignored the appeals to legalise marriage among the members of the LGBTQ community in the region of Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist Party and its 10 MPs have held the power in Tories since the election of 2017. With this said, the chances of legalising gay marriage might increase manifold, if a transfer of power occurs in Belfast.

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Foreign Office Issues Warning to people having UK-Iran Dual Citizenship

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dual citizenship

Foreign Office on Friday raised an alert to all the citizens having UK-Iran dual citizenship asking them not to visit Iran, due to the recent abrupt arrests made by Iran. The latest arrest and sentence of Aras Amiri apparently has triggered this warning.

The officials have also warned the British-Iranian citizens to travel with extreme caution, if in case the travel could not be avoided. They also advised that citizens holding citizenship of Iran with link to British Institutions are under scrutiny with extreme suspicion. The office also announced that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can only provide limited consular support to the UK citizens imprisoned.

Aras Amiri, one of the many holding UK-Iran dual citizenship of, worked for British Council in London. During her visit to Iran to meet her ill-grandmother, she was arrested in March 2018 and was convicted two months later on the charges of spying for UK. She received the sentence of 10 year imprisonment, on Monday.

The news of Iranian government arresting the UK citizens first came into light in 2016, when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested. She is currently serving a five-year imprisonment on the charges of spying. However, Nazanin Ratcliffe has denied these charges.

Aras Amiri and Nazanin Ratcliffe arrests and sentences are among the few UK-Iran dual citizenship cases that saw light in the media by the government. Cases of the other detainees in Tehran holding dual citizenship have not been revealed upon the request of their families.

Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt on the arrest of UK citizens holding dual citizenship said, “Dual nationals face an intolerable risk of mistreatment if they visit Iran. Despite the UK providing repeated opportunities to resolve this issue, the Iranian regime’s conduct has worsened.”

“Regrettably, I must also offer a message of caution to Iranian nationals resident in the UK – but who return to visit family and friends – especially where the Iranian government may perceive them to have personal links to UK institutions or the British government,” he added.

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Ratcliffe said that the cases of UK-Iran dual citizenship people, “should not be seen simply as random and unconnected, but part of a new wave of hostage diplomacy”.

He said, “This erosion of previous norms against state-sponsored hostage taking creates more than a protection gap for individual citizens. It risks allowing a new middle ages of international law.”

“It is important to increase the cost – for Iran and others – of holding innocent people as leverage,” he added.

The reasons of the arrest by Iran of the UK citizens might be because the Iranian Government does not accept Dual citizenship. However, a meeting among top officials on, Iran detaining the UK citizens might help to determine the course of action that is needed to bring them back. Yet, till the time the issue is not resolved, it might be in best interest of everyone to avoid visiting Iran.

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