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UK-UAE Future Relationship Hinges on Matthew Hedges’ Destiny

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UK-UAE relationship over Matthew Hedges

Last updated on November 28th, 2018

There are many ways to get arrested in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Remember a US-born English teacher, arrested and banged up for five days in a cockroach-infested Abu Dhabi prison? He was shackled in leg-iron and dumped in the hell-hole because he missed a bank payment on his £93,000 debt. The 52-year-old, who didn’t want to be named, revealed that a guard threatened him that he would be sent to a prison in the middle of the desert that had murderers and Russian mafia as residents. All because he failed to pay on his debt on time.

Remember Jamie Harron? The Briton who was sentenced to three months in prison after being convicted of alleged indecency Dubai? It was only after international criticism that he was released. But by then, Jamie had already been shamed.

Remember Lee Bradley Brown, a British tourist who died in custody in Dubai six days after he was arrested for verbally assaulting a Nepalese maid? Four British citizens, who were being held at the same police station, confirmed Brown was badly beaten and tortured.

If a debt defaulter, a supposed indecent man and a verbal abuser can be subjected to such horror, what chance does an alleged spy have?

Matthew Hedges, a British academic, has been awarded life sentence for allegedly spying in the UAE for the UK Government. UAE’s attorney general, Hamad al-Shamsi, says Matthew has confessed to the charges. But it is a one-sided story without any independent confirmation. In any case, it’s easy to break a man and force him to admit after he has suffered six months in prison already.

There was no fair play. The so-called hearing lasted less than five minutes. The scholar had no legal representation. The autocratic handling of his case indicates UAE has no established standard of decency. There is no honour.

His wife, Daniela Tejada, has urged the UK Government to take a stand for its citizen. And she doesn’t mean a routine statement of displeasure at the incident from the foreign office.

Prime Minister Theresa May is apparently deeply disappointed and concerned. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned UAE of severe consequences. It is all rhetoric. When it comes to action, the UK Government has shown very little spine.

Jamal Khashoggi’s murder triggered unprecedented global damning of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman. Matthew’s case should evoke nothing less. He may not have been murdered, but the prospect of spending an entire life in hostile and humiliating conditions will surely kill his spirit.

The United Kingdom has a warm relationship with the UAE. But this warmth is not born out of UK’s belief in UAE’s moral standards. This is a partnership based on pure interest. As long as the UAE continues to buy weapons, among other things, from the UK, they are willing to ignore their war crimes and human rights violations.

UAE, after Saudi Arabia, is the second largest importer of weapons in the Middle East and was listed as the world’s third largest importer of weapons between 2012 and 2016.

Most of its weaponry comes from the UK. UK companies have profited from war and oppression around the world, sending a clear message that human rights are of less importance than profit.

But this a dangerous mentality that could potentially turn common Britons against their own regime. There is nothing as fatal for a Government as losing the respect of its own people. It must put ethics alongside commerce if it wants to preserve that respect.

Moreover, the UK must understand that when it comes to critical situations, UAE has proven to be unreliable.

In 2015, the UAE threatened the UK Government that it would block millions of Pounds of arms deals, stop inward investment and cut intelligence cooperation if David Cameron did not act against the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is a critical situation for the United Kingdom. And it should send a strong message that translates into action.

Foreign Secretary raised the Hedges case when he was in Dubai last week, but failed to make an impression on UAE’s foreign minister, Anwar Gargash. He believes the conviction of Hedges is based on credible trial. The UAE, for now, is not budging. Hedges has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

UAE is fast turning into a State that is dangerous for British and other foreign academics and students. Experts and lecturers have warned UK universities to review their ties with the UAE in light of Hedges’ life imprisonment. University of Birmingham’s proposed £100m Dubai campus is likely to be shelved.

Sometimes, this is how a full-scale boycott starts.

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New Zealand Arrests Local for Sharing Christchurch Shooting Video

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Christchurch Shooting

The horrific Christchurch shooting that shook the whole world three months ago has yet again become the cause of frown for New Zealanders. Philip Arps, a Christchurch businessman, has been sentenced to 21 months in imprisonment for sharing a video of people being shot dead inside the mosques.

Arps modified the dreadful video of the mass shooting in the mosques to a video game format, including the kill count and cross hairs. The video of the event, which claimed the lives of 51 people and led the country to a new era of gun laws and prohibition on certain weapons, was shared to 30 associates.

 The man behind the Christchurch shooting Brenton Tarrant had live-streamed video on Facebook of the hate crime he committed at Al Noor mosque on March 15. Tarrant was soon apprehended and currently faces 92 charges. He is expected to be at trial next month.

The devastating incident led Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, to enforce strict gun control laws. Ardern also worked towards eluding the social networks and other internet driven platforms from being used as a means to spread hate, organise extremist groups and broadcast attacks.

Arps has pleaded guilty to the two charges he is facing after he shared the video of the Christchurch shooting. During the trial, he was subjected to 14 years of imprisonment on each charge according to the laws of New Zealand, which have been enforced to restrain the distribution of objectionable material.

However, he argued that he had the right to publish and share the video, according to the freedom to pursue political beliefs – one of the constitutional rights of the citizens of the New Zealand. His lawyer Anselm Williams asked the Christchurch district court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll to not send his client to prison.

“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.

When the judge asked Arps about the video of the Christchurch shooting which he had shared, he termed the video as “awesome” and said to have “strong and unrepentant views towards the Muslim community”.

According to the judge, Philip Arps had impenitent and extreme views towards the Muslim community and even compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.

The judge said, “Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred.”

While the never-ending hate crime continue to negatively affect the citizens of New Zealand and its image as a secular country, the efforts by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continue to create a positive impact, making sure that the country does not have to go through an event similar to the Christchurch shooting.

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Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump Enter the Revenge Arena Yet Again

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Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump

Known for his oblivious statements, the United States President Donald Trump was unable to leave hands with his eccentricity, as he launched an inept pugnacity at the London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Over the weekend, the British capital witnessed five violent attacks in less than 24 hours.

The incidents caused deaths of three people, while three other were injured. It raised the total number of homicides in the city for this year to 56. Citing the frequency of the attacks, Trump stamped Khan as a “national disgrace” over Twitter. Moreover, he believes that this is the time when London needs a new mayor.

On Sunday, the US President retweeted a post by right-wing media commentator Katie Hopkins, stating that Labour Party’s Khan “is a disaster – will only get worse!”. Besides, he accused the mayor of “destroying the City of London”.

However, it wasn’t late when similar fingers started pointing Trump and his country’s condition in retaliation. Many highlighted the per capita murder rate of America, which is twice as high in the New York city.

While the US President attempted to showcase bogus sympathy towards London, it was associated to the long-running feud between him and Sadiq Khan. As per the reports, Trump’s antipathy towards Sadiq Khan goes back to 2015, when the two were campaigning for elections.

Back then, Khan had criticised Trump’s presidential campaign pledge as ‘outrageous’, where he had promised to ban Muslims from America. A year later in 2016, the Muslim London Mayor described the US President’s views as “ignorant”, which coerced Trump to challenge him to an IQ test.

The tiff went on for another year following the London Bridge attack, when Trump deliberately highlighted a different context to Khan’s tweet.

The Mayor’s spokesman stated that Khan had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet”.

The spat escalated further, and Trump’s proposed state visit was canceled by the British government, as he titled Khan’s ignorance as a “pathetic excuse”.

“I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for,” Sadiq Khan stated on Channel 4 News.

The fire between the two rivals is still burning same. Earlier this month, the American leader reflected some burning ashes of the rage, when he called the mayor a “stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London”.

Khan’s spokesman said that the “childish insults should be beneath the president of the United States”.

The ember has reignited with Trump’s recent Tweet. While he had not left any chance of being humiliating Sadiq Khan, the recent attack is being considered to have crossed every limit. The American ruler, who is known for taking bizarre decisions for his own country and causing internal disputes in his administration, is questioning the leaders of the UK.

While President Trump refuses to keep his hands to himself, his heedless remarks are just pushing Khan in a better light, who on the other hand has been running his political image on the basis of strong opposition to discrimination.

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Julian Assange to Remain in UK Jail Until Next Year

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Julian Assange

Last updated on June 17th, 2019

Julian Assange’s fight against the extradition will probably have to wait until next year. On Friday, a British court set the full hearing date on whether the WikiLeaks founder should be sent to the United States. He will have to deal with the multiple charges against him in 2020 during his five days hearing beginning on February 2020.

The court decision comes after the Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the formal extradition request from the US, backing the Assange’s detention.

The 47-year-old appeared for his hearing through a video link from the Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He remained absent in the previous hearing, where his lawyer Jennifer Robinson informed that her client was too ill to appear. The United Nations official, along with the experts, asserted Assange’s condition a symptom of declining physical and mental health.

Several protestors gathered in support of Julian Assange outside the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, demanding his release as they denounced Javid’s decision.

The US’ prosecutors charged him with a single count of computer hacking, and 17 other charges, including violation the Espionage Act. According to the US Justice Department officials, most of the charges were associated with obtaining the secret document records as opposed to publishing them.

Julian Assange was seen wearing glasses and a gray T-shirt in the Friday brief court appearance. Reuters reported that as prosecutors read out the allegations on him, he denied hacking a Pentagon network password.

“It is important that people aren’t fooled into believing that WikiLeaks is anything but a publisher,” Assange told the court. “The U.S. government has tried to mislead the press.”

His lawyer Robinson on Friday said that her client was being held in the held in the hospital’s health care ward and “continues to suffer the permanent and difficult adverse health impacts” of his long-term stay in the Ecuadorean Embassy, and then in prison.

As there are several months before the next hearing, the final judgement is vague. However, the extradition process is expected to be long and complicated, in case the court’s judgement turns in favor of the US.

While Julian Assange is serving his 50-week jail term, the major concern is his health condition. However, with the next hearing set for 2020, the supporters are expecting him to recover better.

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Julian Assange Extradition Request Gets a Green Signal from Sajid Javid

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Julian Assange

Last updated on June 15th, 2019

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange had expressed his plans to fight the extradition and the battle is expected to begin anytime soon. On Thursday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that he has signed a request for the 47-year-old Australian to be extradited to the United States.

Julian Assange was arrested on April 11, after spending seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) highlighted that he was taken into custody under an extradition treaty between the UK and Washington.

While the owner of an anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks, was already under the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, the investigation that was dropped by Swedish prosecutors over rape and sexual assault in 2017 was also reopened last month. The US Justice Department had issued an 18-count indictment against him, including the charges under the Espionage Act.

At Present, he is serving imprisonment of 50 weeks since May 1, 2019 for jumping jail in 2012. During that time, Assange was facing an extradition to Sweden for questioning over the sexual assault allegations made by two women against him. The accusation is, however, denied by him.

While both the countries have been requesting his extradition, Sweden’s attempt were turned down after a court in Uppsala stated that the detention is not required, last week. Following the news, Britain recently received the formal request from DoJ to extradite Julian Assange for the first time since the arrest. While the Javid has stated to have signed the request, it is yet to go in the court.

“There’s an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow,” Javid was heard saying on a BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme.

The British Home Office stated that the final decision on Assange’s extradition relies upon the court.

According to the Home Secretary, Assange is “rightly behind bars”. While the ultimate decision remains with the courts, Javid stated that he wishes “to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request”.

While the cases, charges and their complications are increasing, Julian Assange’s health is also deteriorating. Last month, he was reported to be “too ill” for appearing at a hearing at Westminster magistrates regarding to the US request, which is rescheduled for Friday. Depending upon his condition, it may take place at Belmarsh prison where he is being held.

Julian Assange could possibly face imprisonment of 175 years. Where his health is being reported as an outcome of psychological torture, chances for his situation to become worse in the United States are much higher.

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Yemen Conflict: Houthi drone strike on Saudi Arabia’s airport injures 26

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Yemen Conflict: Houthi drone strike on Saudi Arabia’s airport injures 26

Houthi rebels in Yemen have attacked Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport with a missile, causing 26 casualties, according to the reports.

The Saudi coalition confirmed that the victims—including women and children—were of different nationalities, and were rushed to a nearby medical facility.

Model of missile used in the attack was not identified yet, but the coalition speculated Iran’s hand in arming the Houthis in the backdrop.

This was the second attack by Houthis within two days. A day before, the Saudi authorities claimed it intercepted two drones launched by the Houthis, who have expropriated major cities of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

As stated by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi air defence forces successfully prevented the drone attack that targeted Khamis Mushait on Monday. No damage to property or casualties were reported.

Houthi rebels said the drones were launched to hit King Khalid airbase, neighboring Khamis Mushait.

The rebels now seem to be on an attacking spree, after forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have increased air raids on Houthi-controlled regions of Hajjah.

In may, a drone loaded with bomb was shot down by the Saudi forces. Reports confirmed its deployment by Houthi rebels, who targeted Jizan airport, based on Yemen’s southern border.

Another attack was carried out by rebels during the same month, in which two Saudi oil pumping stations were hit by Houthi drones, leading to supply minor obstructions.

The Saudi-led coalition has been meddling in Yemen since March 2015, supporting President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, ousted by the Houthi rebels.

Houthis have claimed that such attacks are a part of revenge against Saudi Arabia’s intervention and undiscriminated air raids on civilian areas during all these years of tension. The Saudi coalition has been accused of killing thousands of innocent civilians, including children by bombing on weddings, funerals, markets and hospitals.

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