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Egypt seeks death sentence for two monks over bishop’s murder

Ramon Rasmi Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, is seen on screen of video camera in a courtroom in Damanhour
Ramon Rasmi Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, is seen on the screen of a video camera in a courtroom where he was convicted along with Wael Saad, known as Isaiah al-Makari, of murdering Bishop Epiphanius, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery northwest of Cairo, in Damanhour, Egypt February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Fahmy

February 23, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian court on Saturday recommended the death penalty for two monks after they were convicted of murdering a bishop at a monastery last year.

The judge referred the case of Wael Saad and Ramon Rasmi Mansour to the grand mufti, Egypt’s top Muslim religious authority, who must review all death sentences and usually approves them. Mansour wept after the ruling, a witness said.

Saad, known by his monastic name Isaiah al-Makari and Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, were convicted over the July killing of Bishop Epiphanius, 64, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery, some 110 km (70 miles) northwest of Cairo.

“The defendants were led by the devil to the path of evil and vice, and committing the greatest of the greatest sins and the greatest of crimes which the heavenly religions forbade,” Judge Gamal Toson of the Damanhour court said in his ruling.

After review by Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the defendants will be sentenced on April 24. They will remain in custody.

Saad struck the bishop three times in the back of the head with a 90 cm (35 inch) steel pipe while Mansour stood guard outside, prosecutors said during the trial.

Saad had long had differences with his superiors, who on one occasion investigated him for breaking monastic rules and traditions, prosecutors said. Trial witnesses had said violations included seeking to buy and sell land.

He was defrocked in August over what church officials called violations of monastic life and then detained. Prosecutors said he tried to commit suicide with poison after he was defrocked.

Judicial sources said Saad had confessed when questioned about the killing.

The second monk, Mansour, had also attempted to commit suicide after the incident, prosecutors said.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

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France’s Macron says EU farming ‘under threat’, needs big budget

French President Emmanuel Macron at the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron touches a cow as he visits the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, February 23, 2019. Julien De Rosa/Pool via Reuters

February 23, 2019

By Gus Trompiz and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – European Union agriculture is being threatened by internal divisions and rival trading blocs, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday, calling for a large budget to defend EU goals on food quality and environmental protection.

France is the EU’s biggest agricultural producer and the main beneficiary of the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is due to be renegotiated this year in the midst of Britain’s planned withdrawal from the 28-country group.

“European agriculture has always been a given, it is today under threat,” Macron said in a speech at the annual Paris farm show, citing the EU’s reliance on imported soybean protein for livestock feed or Russia’s rise as a massive cereal exporter.

“No farmer or consumer wants to be subjected to the diktat of non-European countries,” he added.

Agriculture is a frequent flashpoint in international trade negotiations, notably in areas such as food safety standards and genetically modified technology, and Macron reaffirmed France’s “red line” that farming products should be kept out of trade talks with the United States.

The European Commission has also proposed leaving agriculture out of EU-U.S. discussions, at odds with the position of Washington, which is threatening punitive tariffs on European cars.

France wants the EU to assert its vision of agriculture by pushing for changes to World Trade Organisation rules covering the sector, as well as to food standards under the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius, Macron said.

He urged Europe to differentiate itself as a high-quality food producer, calling on France’s large wheat sector to offer a wider range of grades for export.

The EU should maintain an “ambitious” farming budget with “not one euro less” than currently, after factoring in the impact of Brexit, he said.

Britain’s departure from the EU will remove a net contribution to the bloc’s budget and the European Commission has proposed a five percent cut in the agriculture budget for 2021-2027 to 365 billion euros ($413.95 billion).

France rejected last year the Commission’s EU budget proposal for farming, but Macron’s comment suggested France may accept a reduction corresponding to Britain’s contribution.

Macron was making the traditional presidential visit to the Paris farm show, a must-attend event for politicians that comes as the French president is trying to reconnect with voters after the so-called yellow-vest protests against his government.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Editing by Leigh Thomas and Helen Popper)

Source: OANN

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Egypt’s top administrative court lifts ban on Uber, Careem services

FILE PHOTO - A man walks near a banner of ride-sharing app Uber during a news conference in Cairo
FILE PHOTO - A man walks near a banner of ride-sharing app Uber during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lena Masri

February 23, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s top administrative court on Saturday lifted a ban on operations by ride-hailing companies Uber and Careem, which have faced fierce opposition from traditional taxi drivers, a judicial source and lawyer said.

A lower administrative court withdrew the permits of U.S.-based Uber and its main rival, Dubai-based Careem, in March 2018 after 42 taxi drivers filed suit, arguing the apps were illegally using private cars as taxis and were registered as a call center and an internet company, respectively.

In April last year, however, the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters said the ruling should be suspended and the two firms should be allowed to continue operating until a final decision was made by the Highest Administrative Court, which accepted the companies’ appeal on Saturday.

Uber has faced repeated regulatory and legal setbacks around the world due to opposition from traditional taxi services. It has been forced to quit several countries, including Denmark and Hungary.

The company has said Egypt is its largest market in the Middle East, with 157,000 drivers in 2017 and four million users since its launch there in 2014.

Last week, Uber reached an agreement with the Egyptian Tax Authority to pay value-added tax (VAT), which Careem said it had been paying since March 2018.

(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Helen Popper)

Source: OANN

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‘I was like a prisoner’: Saudi sisters trapped in Hong Kong recall beatings

Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at their lawyer Michael Vidler's office in Hong Kong
Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at their lawyer Michael Vidler's office in Hong Kong, China February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aleksander Solum

February 23, 2019

By Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Two sisters from Saudi Arabia who fled the conservative kingdom and have been hiding out in Hong Kong for nearly six months said they did so to escape beatings at the hands of their brothers and father.

The pair, who say they have renounced their Muslim faith, arrived in the Chinese territory from Sri Lanka in September. They say they were prevented from boarding a connecting flight to Australia and were intercepted at the airport by diplomats from Saudi Arabia.

Reuters could not independently verify their story.

Asked about the case, Hong Kong police said they had received a report from “two expatriate women” in September and were investigating, but did not elaborate.

The Saudi consulate in Hong Kong has not responded to repeated requests from Reuters for comment.

The case is the second high-profile example this year of Saudi women seeking to escape their country and spotlights the kingdom’s strict social rules, including a requirement that females seek permission from a male “guardian” to travel.

The sisters, aged 18 and 20, managed to leave Hong Kong airport but consular officials have since revoked their passports, leaving them stranded in the city for nearly six months, their lawyer, Michael Vidler, said.

Vidler, one of the leading activist lawyers in the territory, also confirmed the authenticity of a Twitter account written by the two women describing their plight.

On Saturday, dressed in jeans and wearing sneakers, the softly spoken women described what they said was a repressive and unhappy life at their home in the Saudi capital Riyadh. They said they had adopted the aliases Reem and Rawan, because they fear using their real names could lead to their being traced if granted asylum in a third country.

They posed for pictures but asked their features not be revealed.

Every decision had to be approved by the men in their house, from the clothes they wore to the hairstyle they chose – even the times when they woke and went to sleep, the sisters told Reuters.

“They were like my jailer, like my prison officer. I was like a prisoner,” said the younger sister, Rawan, referring to two brothers aged 24 and 25 as well as her father.

“It was basically modern day slavery. You can’t go out of the house unless someone is with us. Sometimes we will stay for months without even seeing the sun,” the elder sister, Reem, said.

In January, a Saudi woman made global headlines by barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel to avoid being sent home to her family. She was later granted asylum in Canada.

“BROTHER BRAINWASHED”

Reem and Rawan said their 10-year-old brother was also encouraged to beat them.

“They brainwashed him,” Rawan said, referring to her older brothers. Although he was only a child, she said she feared her younger brother would become like her older siblings.

The family includes two other sisters, aged five and 12. Reem said she and her sister feel terrible about leaving them, although they “hope their family will get a lesson from this and it might help to change their lives for the better.”

Reem and Rawan decided to escape while on a family holiday in Sri Lanka in September. They had secretly saved around $5,000 since 2016, some of it accumulated by scrimping on items they were given money to buy.

The timing of their escape was carefully planned to coincide with Rawan’s 18th birthday so she could apply for a visitor’s visa to Australia without her parents’ approval.

But what was supposed to be a two-hour stopover in Hong Kong has turned into nearly six months and the sisters are now living in fear that they will be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia.

They have said they have renounced Islam – a crime punishable by death under the Saudi system of sharia, or Islamic law, although the punishment has not been carried out in recent memory.

The pair say they have changed locations 13 times in Hong Kong, living in hotels, shelters and with individuals who are helping, sometimes staying just one night in a place before moving on to ensure their safety.

Vidler said the Hong Kong Immigration Department told the women their Saudi passports had been invalidated and they could only stay in the city until February 28.

The department has said it does not comment on individual cases.

The sisters have applied for asylum in a third country which they declined to name in a bid keep the information from Saudi authorities and their family.

“We believe that we have the right to live like any other human being,” said Reem, who said she studied English literature in Riyadh and dreams of becoming a writer one day.

Asked what would happen on Feb 28, after which they can no longer legally stay in Hong Kong, the sisters said they had no idea.

“I hope this doesn’t last any longer,” Rawan said.

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

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North Korea’s Kim: I don’t want my children to bear burden of nuclear arms – report

FILE PHOTO - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses for photos in Pyongyang
FILE PHOTO - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses for photos in Pyongyang in this January 1, 2019 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS.

February 23, 2019

By Jack Kim

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the U.S. secretary of state he did not want his children to live with the burden of nuclear weapons, a former CIA officer involved in high-level diplomacy over the North’s weapons was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Kim made the rare personal comments to Mike Pompeo during a visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in April last year to lay the groundwork for the historic first summit between the North’s leader and U.S. President Donald Trump in June in Singapore, former CIA official Andrew Kim said, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the Wall Street Journal reported.

“’I’m a father and a husband. And I have children’,” Andrew Kim quoted the North Korean leader as telling Pompeo, when asked whether he was willing to end his nuclear program.

“‘And I don’t want my children to carry the nuclear weapon on their back their whole life.’ That was his answer,” Andrew Kim told a lecture on Friday at Stanford University’s Asia Pacific Research Center, where he is a visiting scholar.

Before he retired from the CIA, Kim established the agency’s Korea Mission Center, in April 2017, and accompanied Pompeo – who was then CIA director – to Pyongyang last year.

In their Singapore summit, Kim and Trump pledged to work toward peace between their countries and for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But little progress has been made since then and they are set to meet again in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday. They are expected to focus on what steps North Korea might take toward denuclearization, in exchange for what U.S. concession.

The former CIA officer said the North Korean leader expressed a strong desire to improve ties with the United States as a way to build confidence between them, which he said was needed to end the nuclear weapons program.

The North Korean leader left Pyongyang by train for his visit to Vietnam on Saturday afternoon, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Saturday citing a North Korean diplomatic source.

North Korea’s state media has yet to confirm either Kim’s trip to Vietnam or his summit with Trump.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

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Bootleg liquor kills at least 41 on Indian tea plantation as dozens fall ill

A paramedic tends to a tea plantation worker, who consumed bootleg liquor, inside a government-run hospital in Golaghat
A paramedic tends to a tea plantation worker, who consumed bootleg liquor, inside a government-run hospital in Golaghat in the northeastern state of Assam, India, February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

February 23, 2019

By Zarir Hussain

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – At least 41 Indian tea plantation workers have died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor after receiving their weekly wages, and 20 are critically ill in hospital, a government minister said on Friday.

The deaths come less than two weeks after more than 100 people died after drinking tainted alcohol in northern India.

At least seven women were among the dead at the plantation in the northeastern state of Assam, 310 km from the state’s financial capital, Guwahati.

“So far 41 people have died after consuming spurious liquor,” Assam Power Minister Tapan Gogoi told Reuters by telephone.

Another 45 people have been hospitalized and 20 are in a critical state after nearly 100 people drank the liquor on Thursday, local lawmakers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party told Reuters.

Dilip Rajbnonshi, a doctor at the government hospital in Golaghat, said the deaths were due to “spurious country liquor”.

Deaths from illegally produced alcohol, known locally as hooch or country liquor, are common in India, where many cannot afford branded spirits.

(Fixes paragraph 3 to reflect that Guwahati is the financial capital)

(Editing by Nick Macfie, William Maclean)

Source: OANN

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Iran says it has various options to neutralize ‘illegal’ U.S. sanctions: Tasnim

FILE PHOTO - Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran?s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport
FILE PHOTO - Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran?s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

February 23, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Saturday it had many options to neutralize the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on its oil exports, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, adding that Tehran’s clerical rulers had no plans to hold talks with Washington.

“Apart from closing Strait of Hormuz, we have other options to stop oil flow if threatened… The U.S. administration lacks ‘goodwill’, no need to hold talks with America,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani told Tasnim.

“Iran has plans in place that will neutralize the illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil exports,” Shamkhani said.

Tensions between Iran and the United States increased after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers last May, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Iranian officials have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.

Shamkhani also said Iran has achieved 90 percent of its goals in Syria, Tasnim reported.

The threat of direct confrontation between arch-enemies Israel and Iran has long simmered in Syria, where the Iranian military built a presence early in the nearly eight-year civil war to help President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

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Egypt seeks death sentence for two monks over bishop’s murder

Ramon Rasmi Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, is seen on screen of video camera in a courtroom in Damanhour
Ramon Rasmi Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, is seen on the screen of a video camera in a courtroom where he was convicted along with Wael Saad, known as Isaiah al-Makari, of murdering Bishop Epiphanius, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery northwest of Cairo, in Damanhour, Egypt February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Fahmy

February 23, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian court on Saturday recommended the death penalty for two monks after they were convicted of murdering a bishop at a monastery last year.

The judge referred the case of Wael Saad and Ramon Rasmi Mansour to the grand mufti, Egypt’s top Muslim religious authority, who must review all death sentences and usually approves them. Mansour wept after the ruling, a witness said.

Saad, known by his monastic name Isaiah al-Makari and Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, were convicted over the July killing of Bishop Epiphanius, 64, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery, some 110 km (70 miles) northwest of Cairo.

“The defendants were led by the devil to the path of evil and vice, and committing the greatest of the greatest sins and the greatest of crimes which the heavenly religions forbade,” Judge Gamal Toson of the Damanhour court said in his ruling.

After review by Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the defendants will be sentenced on April 24. They will remain in custody.

Saad struck the bishop three times in the back of the head with a 90 cm (35 inch) steel pipe while Mansour stood guard outside, prosecutors said during the trial.

Saad had long had differences with his superiors, who on one occasion investigated him for breaking monastic rules and traditions, prosecutors said. Trial witnesses had said violations included seeking to buy and sell land.

He was defrocked in August over what church officials called violations of monastic life and then detained. Prosecutors said he tried to commit suicide with poison after he was defrocked.

Judicial sources said Saad had confessed when questioned about the killing.

The second monk, Mansour, had also attempted to commit suicide after the incident, prosecutors said.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Source: OANN

0 0

France’s Macron says EU farming ‘under threat’, needs big budget

French President Emmanuel Macron at the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron touches a cow as he visits the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, February 23, 2019. Julien De Rosa/Pool via Reuters

February 23, 2019

By Gus Trompiz and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – European Union agriculture is being threatened by internal divisions and rival trading blocs, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday, calling for a large budget to defend EU goals on food quality and environmental protection.

France is the EU’s biggest agricultural producer and the main beneficiary of the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is due to be renegotiated this year in the midst of Britain’s planned withdrawal from the 28-country group.

“European agriculture has always been a given, it is today under threat,” Macron said in a speech at the annual Paris farm show, citing the EU’s reliance on imported soybean protein for livestock feed or Russia’s rise as a massive cereal exporter.

“No farmer or consumer wants to be subjected to the diktat of non-European countries,” he added.

Agriculture is a frequent flashpoint in international trade negotiations, notably in areas such as food safety standards and genetically modified technology, and Macron reaffirmed France’s “red line” that farming products should be kept out of trade talks with the United States.

The European Commission has also proposed leaving agriculture out of EU-U.S. discussions, at odds with the position of Washington, which is threatening punitive tariffs on European cars.

France wants the EU to assert its vision of agriculture by pushing for changes to World Trade Organisation rules covering the sector, as well as to food standards under the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius, Macron said.

He urged Europe to differentiate itself as a high-quality food producer, calling on France’s large wheat sector to offer a wider range of grades for export.

The EU should maintain an “ambitious” farming budget with “not one euro less” than currently, after factoring in the impact of Brexit, he said.

Britain’s departure from the EU will remove a net contribution to the bloc’s budget and the European Commission has proposed a five percent cut in the agriculture budget for 2021-2027 to 365 billion euros ($413.95 billion).

France rejected last year the Commission’s EU budget proposal for farming, but Macron’s comment suggested France may accept a reduction corresponding to Britain’s contribution.

Macron was making the traditional presidential visit to the Paris farm show, a must-attend event for politicians that comes as the French president is trying to reconnect with voters after the so-called yellow-vest protests against his government.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Editing by Leigh Thomas and Helen Popper)

Source: OANN

0 0

Egypt’s top administrative court lifts ban on Uber, Careem services

FILE PHOTO - A man walks near a banner of ride-sharing app Uber during a news conference in Cairo
FILE PHOTO - A man walks near a banner of ride-sharing app Uber during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lena Masri

February 23, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s top administrative court on Saturday lifted a ban on operations by ride-hailing companies Uber and Careem, which have faced fierce opposition from traditional taxi drivers, a judicial source and lawyer said.

A lower administrative court withdrew the permits of U.S.-based Uber and its main rival, Dubai-based Careem, in March 2018 after 42 taxi drivers filed suit, arguing the apps were illegally using private cars as taxis and were registered as a call center and an internet company, respectively.

In April last year, however, the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters said the ruling should be suspended and the two firms should be allowed to continue operating until a final decision was made by the Highest Administrative Court, which accepted the companies’ appeal on Saturday.

Uber has faced repeated regulatory and legal setbacks around the world due to opposition from traditional taxi services. It has been forced to quit several countries, including Denmark and Hungary.

The company has said Egypt is its largest market in the Middle East, with 157,000 drivers in 2017 and four million users since its launch there in 2014.

Last week, Uber reached an agreement with the Egyptian Tax Authority to pay value-added tax (VAT), which Careem said it had been paying since March 2018.

(Reporting by Haitham Ahmed; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Helen Popper)

Source: OANN

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‘I was like a prisoner’: Saudi sisters trapped in Hong Kong recall beatings

Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at their lawyer Michael Vidler's office in Hong Kong
Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at their lawyer Michael Vidler's office in Hong Kong, China February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Aleksander Solum

February 23, 2019

By Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Two sisters from Saudi Arabia who fled the conservative kingdom and have been hiding out in Hong Kong for nearly six months said they did so to escape beatings at the hands of their brothers and father.

The pair, who say they have renounced their Muslim faith, arrived in the Chinese territory from Sri Lanka in September. They say they were prevented from boarding a connecting flight to Australia and were intercepted at the airport by diplomats from Saudi Arabia.

Reuters could not independently verify their story.

Asked about the case, Hong Kong police said they had received a report from “two expatriate women” in September and were investigating, but did not elaborate.

The Saudi consulate in Hong Kong has not responded to repeated requests from Reuters for comment.

The case is the second high-profile example this year of Saudi women seeking to escape their country and spotlights the kingdom’s strict social rules, including a requirement that females seek permission from a male “guardian” to travel.

The sisters, aged 18 and 20, managed to leave Hong Kong airport but consular officials have since revoked their passports, leaving them stranded in the city for nearly six months, their lawyer, Michael Vidler, said.

Vidler, one of the leading activist lawyers in the territory, also confirmed the authenticity of a Twitter account written by the two women describing their plight.

On Saturday, dressed in jeans and wearing sneakers, the softly spoken women described what they said was a repressive and unhappy life at their home in the Saudi capital Riyadh. They said they had adopted the aliases Reem and Rawan, because they fear using their real names could lead to their being traced if granted asylum in a third country.

They posed for pictures but asked their features not be revealed.

Every decision had to be approved by the men in their house, from the clothes they wore to the hairstyle they chose – even the times when they woke and went to sleep, the sisters told Reuters.

“They were like my jailer, like my prison officer. I was like a prisoner,” said the younger sister, Rawan, referring to two brothers aged 24 and 25 as well as her father.

“It was basically modern day slavery. You can’t go out of the house unless someone is with us. Sometimes we will stay for months without even seeing the sun,” the elder sister, Reem, said.

In January, a Saudi woman made global headlines by barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel to avoid being sent home to her family. She was later granted asylum in Canada.

“BROTHER BRAINWASHED”

Reem and Rawan said their 10-year-old brother was also encouraged to beat them.

“They brainwashed him,” Rawan said, referring to her older brothers. Although he was only a child, she said she feared her younger brother would become like her older siblings.

The family includes two other sisters, aged five and 12. Reem said she and her sister feel terrible about leaving them, although they “hope their family will get a lesson from this and it might help to change their lives for the better.”

Reem and Rawan decided to escape while on a family holiday in Sri Lanka in September. They had secretly saved around $5,000 since 2016, some of it accumulated by scrimping on items they were given money to buy.

The timing of their escape was carefully planned to coincide with Rawan’s 18th birthday so she could apply for a visitor’s visa to Australia without her parents’ approval.

But what was supposed to be a two-hour stopover in Hong Kong has turned into nearly six months and the sisters are now living in fear that they will be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia.

They have said they have renounced Islam – a crime punishable by death under the Saudi system of sharia, or Islamic law, although the punishment has not been carried out in recent memory.

The pair say they have changed locations 13 times in Hong Kong, living in hotels, shelters and with individuals who are helping, sometimes staying just one night in a place before moving on to ensure their safety.

Vidler said the Hong Kong Immigration Department told the women their Saudi passports had been invalidated and they could only stay in the city until February 28.

The department has said it does not comment on individual cases.

The sisters have applied for asylum in a third country which they declined to name in a bid keep the information from Saudi authorities and their family.

“We believe that we have the right to live like any other human being,” said Reem, who said she studied English literature in Riyadh and dreams of becoming a writer one day.

Asked what would happen on Feb 28, after which they can no longer legally stay in Hong Kong, the sisters said they had no idea.

“I hope this doesn’t last any longer,” Rawan said.

(Reporting By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

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North Korea’s Kim: I don’t want my children to bear burden of nuclear arms – report

FILE PHOTO - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses for photos in Pyongyang
FILE PHOTO - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses for photos in Pyongyang in this January 1, 2019 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS.

February 23, 2019

By Jack Kim

HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the U.S. secretary of state he did not want his children to live with the burden of nuclear weapons, a former CIA officer involved in high-level diplomacy over the North’s weapons was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Kim made the rare personal comments to Mike Pompeo during a visit to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in April last year to lay the groundwork for the historic first summit between the North’s leader and U.S. President Donald Trump in June in Singapore, former CIA official Andrew Kim said, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and the Wall Street Journal reported.

“’I’m a father and a husband. And I have children’,” Andrew Kim quoted the North Korean leader as telling Pompeo, when asked whether he was willing to end his nuclear program.

“‘And I don’t want my children to carry the nuclear weapon on their back their whole life.’ That was his answer,” Andrew Kim told a lecture on Friday at Stanford University’s Asia Pacific Research Center, where he is a visiting scholar.

Before he retired from the CIA, Kim established the agency’s Korea Mission Center, in April 2017, and accompanied Pompeo – who was then CIA director – to Pyongyang last year.

In their Singapore summit, Kim and Trump pledged to work toward peace between their countries and for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But little progress has been made since then and they are set to meet again in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday. They are expected to focus on what steps North Korea might take toward denuclearization, in exchange for what U.S. concession.

The former CIA officer said the North Korean leader expressed a strong desire to improve ties with the United States as a way to build confidence between them, which he said was needed to end the nuclear weapons program.

The North Korean leader left Pyongyang by train for his visit to Vietnam on Saturday afternoon, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Saturday citing a North Korean diplomatic source.

North Korea’s state media has yet to confirm either Kim’s trip to Vietnam or his summit with Trump.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

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Bootleg liquor kills at least 41 on Indian tea plantation as dozens fall ill

A paramedic tends to a tea plantation worker, who consumed bootleg liquor, inside a government-run hospital in Golaghat
A paramedic tends to a tea plantation worker, who consumed bootleg liquor, inside a government-run hospital in Golaghat in the northeastern state of Assam, India, February 23, 2019. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

February 23, 2019

By Zarir Hussain

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) – At least 41 Indian tea plantation workers have died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor after receiving their weekly wages, and 20 are critically ill in hospital, a government minister said on Friday.

The deaths come less than two weeks after more than 100 people died after drinking tainted alcohol in northern India.

At least seven women were among the dead at the plantation in the northeastern state of Assam, 310 km from the state’s financial capital, Guwahati.

“So far 41 people have died after consuming spurious liquor,” Assam Power Minister Tapan Gogoi told Reuters by telephone.

Another 45 people have been hospitalized and 20 are in a critical state after nearly 100 people drank the liquor on Thursday, local lawmakers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party told Reuters.

Dilip Rajbnonshi, a doctor at the government hospital in Golaghat, said the deaths were due to “spurious country liquor”.

Deaths from illegally produced alcohol, known locally as hooch or country liquor, are common in India, where many cannot afford branded spirits.

(Fixes paragraph 3 to reflect that Guwahati is the financial capital)

(Editing by Nick Macfie, William Maclean)

Source: OANN

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Iran says it has various options to neutralize ‘illegal’ U.S. sanctions: Tasnim

FILE PHOTO - Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran?s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport
FILE PHOTO - Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Iran?s Supreme National Security Council Director, speaks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

February 23, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Saturday it had many options to neutralize the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on its oil exports, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, adding that Tehran’s clerical rulers had no plans to hold talks with Washington.

“Apart from closing Strait of Hormuz, we have other options to stop oil flow if threatened… The U.S. administration lacks ‘goodwill’, no need to hold talks with America,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani told Tasnim.

“Iran has plans in place that will neutralize the illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil exports,” Shamkhani said.

Tensions between Iran and the United States increased after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers last May, and then reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

Iranian officials have threatened to disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf countries if Washington tries to strangle Tehran’s oil exports.

Carrying one-third of the world’s seaborne oil every day, the Strait of Hormuz links Middle East crude producers to key markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and beyond.

Shamkhani also said Iran has achieved 90 percent of its goals in Syria, Tasnim reported.

The threat of direct confrontation between arch-enemies Israel and Iran has long simmered in Syria, where the Iranian military built a presence early in the nearly eight-year civil war to help President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

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