Tougher laws should not be ‘only’ tactic in fight against online extremism

Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd looks at the media as she arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, in London, in this Sept. 21, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 04 October 2017
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Tougher laws should not be ‘only’ tactic in fight against online extremism

LONDON: Tougher laws and harsh prison sentences should not be the only method of tackling the threat of terrorism, warn campaigners and academics as governments across Europe look to ramp up their anti-terror legislation.
The UK’s home secretary Amber Rudd announced plans on Tuesday to change the law to be able to sentence people who repeatedly view terrorist content online for up to 15 years in jail. Currently people can only be convicted of an offense if they download or store this material rather than view or stream it online.
It is a “critical difference” to the law, she said during a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Someone who publishes information on the UK police or armed forces for the purposes of preparing a terror attack could also face up to 15 years in jail, she said.
Her speech comes after a series of attacks by radical extremists across Europe this year, and on the same day as French MPs voted on an anti-terrorism law that could increase police powers.
Rudd also told the conference that social media and technology companies must do more to tackle online extremism.
That was a move welcomed by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit group based in London and New York. “Amber Rudd is correct, extremist content is too easily accessible and not enough is being done presently to pressure Internet and social media companies to more quickly and permanently remove extremist and terrorist content,” said executive director David Ibsen.
Others warn that some of Rudd’s tougher policies may have potentially negative and unintended consequences.
“Whilst we understand the Home Secretary’s intentions in changing the law in terms of viewing extremist material and the punishment served, we should not be complacent to think that this will eradicate extremism from our society,” said Saida Mughal, CEO of the Jan Trust, an organization that works with women — mainly mothers — to counter online extremism. Mughal is also a survivor of the London 7/7 bombings in July 2015.
“It may even push some to the more old-fashioned ways of being radicalized such as groups and study circle. Our government needs to drive on the bottom-up approach where communities are fully equipped to change hearts and minds,” she said.
Rik Coolsaet, professor of international relations at Ghent University in Belgium, wrote in a report published Tuesday that more grassroots efforts across Europe — such as working with vulnerable young people — are needed to prevent radicalization.
“Prevention will always be cheaper than intervention,” he wrote in a report looking at the current and potentially dwindling influence of Daesh. Coolsaet questions whether the group even holds the online allure that it once did.
“Daesh’s global media output has decreased significantly, and the golden age of its Twitter presence has definitely passed,” he wrote.
Hamed El-Said, professor of international business and political economy at Manchester Metropolitan University, said that filling up the UK’s prisons with those convicted of terror offenses is not the answer either.
“Prison alone is not a solution for this type of crime and it risks radicalizing individuals further to a point where they might start to believe that they are justified in resorting to violence. And that’s exactly what we want to avoid,” he said.
The UK prison system is not adequately equipped to prevent those convicted from becoming further radicalized, he said.
“Prison itself lacks comprehensive and effective deradicalization program that can achieve successfully rehabilitation and peaceful and compliant reintegration into society with minimum risks to the public,” he said.
During the first half of the year, only a handful of sentences of 15 years or more where handed out to defendants convicted of terror-related offenses, according to Home Office data.
The most common sentence length for defendants tried and convicted by the Crown Prosecution Service for a terrorism-related offense was between four and 10 years, with 26 defendants receiving this sentence in the first half of the year.


Italian premier admits she hoped to do ‘better’ on controlling irregular migration

Updated 6 sec ago
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Italian premier admits she hoped to do ‘better’ on controlling irregular migration

  • After 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days earlier this month, Meloni demanded the EU do more to help relieve the pressure

ROME; Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has admitted she had hoped to do “better” on controlling irregular migration, which has surged since her far-right party won historic elections a year ago.
“Clearly we hoped for better on immigration, where we worked so hard,” she said in an interview marking the win, broadcast late Saturday on the TG1 channel.
“The results are not what we hoped to see. It is certainly a very complex problem, but I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party was elected in large part on a promise to reduce mass migration into Italy.
But the number of people arriving on boats from North Africa has instead surged, with more than 130,000 recorded by the Interior Ministry so far this year — up from 70,000 in the same period of 2022.
After 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days earlier this month, Meloni demanded the EU do more to help relieve the pressure.
Brussels agreed to intensify existing efforts, and this week said it would start to release money to Tunisia — from where many of the boats leave — under a pact aimed at stemming irregular migration from the country.
But Meloni’s main coalition partner, Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigration League party, has been dismissive of EU efforts to manage the surge of arrivals that he dubbed an “act of war.”
The League this weekend also condemned the German government for providing funding for an NGO conducting at-sea rescues in the Mediterranean, saying it represented “very serious interference” in Italian affairs.
Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, a member of Meloni’s party, added his criticism on Sunday, telling La Stampa newspaper that it was a “very serious” move that put Italy “in difficulty.”
Salvini, who closed Italy’s ports to charity migrant rescue ships while in government in 2019, is agitating for Rome to take tougher action.
Since taking office in October, Meloni’s government has restricted the activities of the charity rescue ships, which it accuses of encouraging migrants, while vowing to clamp down on people smugglers.
It has also sought to boost repatriation of arrivals ineligible for asylum, including by building new detention centers and extending the time migrants can be held there.

It emerged this week it would also be requiring migrants awaiting a decision on asylum to pay a deposit of 5,000 euros or be sent to a detention center, prompting accusations the state was charging “protection money.”

The center-left Democratic Party said earlier this week that “on immigration, the Italian right has failed.”

“It continues on a path that is demagogic and consciously cynical, but above all totally ineffective both in the respect and safeguarding of human rights, and for the protection of Italy’s interests,” it said in a note.

 


First refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Armenia following Azerbaijan’s military offensive

Ethnic Armenians from the first group of about 30 people from Nagorno-Karabakh have dinner at a hotel in Armenia.
Updated 24 September 2023
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First refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh arrive in Armenia following Azerbaijan’s military offensive

  • More are expected to come after a 10-month blockade of the breakaway region

YEREVAN: The first refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh have arrived in Armenia, local officials reported Sunday, after Azerbaijan imposed a 10-month blockade on the breakaway region and conducted a lightning military offensive there, reclaiming full control of the region as a result.
Thousands of people were evacuated from cities and villages affected by the latest fighting and taken to a Russian peacekeepers’ camp in Nagorno-Karabakh. A total of 377 people had arrived in Armenia from the region as of Sunday night, Armenian authorities reported.
Russia's Defense Ministry reported that its peacekeepers, who were deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, helped transport 311 civilians, including 102 children. The conflicting numbers could not be immediately reconciled.
“It was a nightmare. There are no words to describe. The village was heavily shelled. Almost no one is left in the village,” one of the evacuees told The Associated Press in the Armenian city of Kornidzor. She refused to give her name for security reasons. “I have an old grandmother’s house here in Tegh village, (in the Syunik region of Armenia). I will live there until we see what happens next.”
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in Azerbaijan and came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabak along with territory surrounding the region that Armenian forces had claimed during the earlier conflict.
A Russia-brokered armistice ended the war, and a contingent of about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers was sent to the region to monitor it. Parts of Nagorno-Karabakh that weren't retaken by Azerbaijan remained under the control of the separatist authorities.
In December, Azerbaijan imposed a blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, alleging that the Armenian government was using the road for mineral extraction and illicit weapons shipments to the province’s separatist forces.
Armenia charged that the closure denied basic food and fuel supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh’s approximately 120,000 people. Azerbaijan rejected the accusation, arguing the region could receive supplies through the Azerbaijani city of Aghdam — a solution long resisted by Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, who called it a strategy for Azerbaijan to gain control of the region.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched heavy artillery fire against ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, who conceded to demands to lay down their arms the next day. Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status remains an open question, however, and is at the center of talks between the sides that began Thursday in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an address to the nation Sunday that his government was working “with international partners to form international mechanisms to ensure the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, but if these efforts do not produce concrete results, the government will welcome our sisters and brothers of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Republic of Armenia with all the care.”
The events in Nagorno-Karabakh have sparked a days-long wave of protests in Armenia, where demonstrators accused Pashinyan and the Russian peacekeepers of failing to protect the region's Armenian population.
Hundreds of people gathered again Sunday in the center of Armenia's capital, Yerevan, to demand Pashinyan’s ouster.
As part of a cease-fire agreement reached last week, the separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh started surrendering tanks, air defense systems and other weapons to the Azerbaijani army. As of Sunday, the process of surrendering arms was still underway, the Azerbaijani military said.
Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry said Sunday that disarmed and demobilized Armenian troops would be allowed to leave the region and go to Armenia.


Iran says arrested 28 Daesh members over Tehran plot with international links, including Pakistan

Updated 24 September 2023
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Iran says arrested 28 Daesh members over Tehran plot with international links, including Pakistan

  • Officials say the arrested militants wanted to carry out 30 coordinated explosions in Tehran but were apprehended
  • A number of bombs, firearms, suicide vests and communications devices were also seized during the crackdown

TEHRAN: Iranian authorities have arrested 28 people linked to the Daesh group for plotting to target Tehran during the anniversary of last year’s protests, the intelligence ministry said on Sunday.
The protests erupted after the death in custody on September 16, 2022, of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd arrested for allegedly flouting the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
“In recent days, during a series of simultaneous operations in Tehran, Alborz and West Azerbaijan provinces, several terrorist bases and team houses were attacked, and 28 members of the said terrorist network were arrested,” the ministry said on its website.
“These elements are affiliated to the professional crime group of Daesh and some of them have a history of accompanying takfiris in Syria or being active in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Kurdistan region of Iraq,” it added.
In Shiite-dominated Iran, the term “takfiri” generally refers to jihadists or proponents of radical Sunni Islam.
The intelligence ministry said two security personnel were wounded during the arrest operations, and a number of bombs, firearms, suicide vests and communications devices were seized.
It said it had neutralized a plot to “carry out 30 simultaneous terrorist explosions in densely populated centers of Tehran to undermine security and incite riots and protests on the anniversary of last year’s riots.”
The months-long demonstrations saw hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel, in what Tehran called “riots” fomented by foreign governments and “hostile media.”
On Thursday, a court sentenced to death a Tajik Daesh member convicted over a deadly gun attack on a Shiite Muslim shrine in August.
The attack on the Shah Cheragh mausoleum in Shiraz, capital of Fars province in the south, came less than a year after a mass shooting at the same site that was later claimed by the Daesh group.


India protests after China bars three female athletes from Asian Games 

Indian Minister of Sports Anurag Singh Thakur delivers a speech during a send off ceremony for Indian athletes.
Updated 24 September 2023
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India protests after China bars three female athletes from Asian Games 

  • India, China share undemarcated border, where tensions have been high in recent years 
  • China does not recognize Arunachal Pradesh province, calls it South Tibet in newly issued map  

NEW DELHI: India’s Sports Minister Anurag Thakur called out China’s discriminatory approach on Sunday after three Indian athletes were denied entry to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou.  

The Asian Games are the continent’s biggest sporting event and are held every four years. The current iteration opened on Saturday after it was due to be held last year but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Three female martial artists from the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh — a disputed region China mostly considered as South Tibet — were unable to travel to the Asian Games, while the rest of their 10-member squad was reportedly able to go ahead as planned.  

“As you could see I am not in China. I am in Coimbatore, standing with my players,” Thakur told reporters on Sunday in the south Indian city.  

“This discriminatory approach of a country, which is against the Olympic Charter, is not acceptable at all,” he said. “I have canceled my trip to China on these grounds as they have denied the opportunity to the players from Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of the Asian Games.” 

India and China share an undemarcated 3,800-km border, which has long been a source of dispute between the two Asian giants. Tensions rose in 2020 when at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand fighting in the Galwan area of the Ladakh region. The incident was their worst border clash since 1967.  

India lodged a strong protest with China only last month over a new map Beijing had released that showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of its official territory, which it calls South Tibet. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Friday that “China welcomes athletes from all countries” to attend the Asian Games, but said Beijing has never recognized Arunachal Pradesh, because the southern Tibetan region is “Chinese territory.”  

The three Indian athletes were reportedly given visas stapled to their passports, while the rest of India’s athletes competing at this year’s games were given Asian Games badges that also serve as visas to enter China. The same athletes did not compete at the World University Games in Chengdu, China in July because they were given similar visas.  

“The Chinese authorities have, in a targeted and pre-meditated manner, discriminated against some of the Indian sportspersons from the state of Arunachal Pradesh by denying them accreditation and entry to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.  

India has also lodged a strong protest “against China’s deliberate and selective obstruction of some of our sportspersons,” the ministry said.  

“Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India.”  


Indonesia collaborates with UAE to launch mangrove research center at COP28  

Indonesia is aiming to launch an international mangrove research center with the UAE at COP28 in Dubai later this year.
Updated 24 September 2023
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Indonesia collaborates with UAE to launch mangrove research center at COP28  

  • Indonesia has largest expanse of mangroves, accounts for one-fifth of global total
  • Mangrove Alliance for Climate was launched by UAE, Indonesia at COP27  

JAKARTA: Indonesia is aiming to launch an international mangrove research center with the UAE at the 2023 UN climate summit in Dubai later this year, Jakarta’s envoy in Abu Dhabi said on Sunday. 

The Mangrove Alliance for Climate was launched by the UAE and Indonesia at COP27, the 2022 UN climate summit in Egypt last November. The initiative seeks to promote nature-based solutions for issues related to climate change and was later joined by other countries, including Australia and India.  

“Indonesia is very much in support of these types of initiatives. Firstly, because it can help reduce emissions and it’s easy for us to plant mangroves,” Indonesian Ambassador to UAE Husin Bagis told Arab News.  

“Abu Dhabi has a huge interest in helping Indonesia in developing its mangrove ecosystem … The plan is to launch the mangrove research center at COP28.”  

This year, the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, will convene from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai.  

Southeast Asia is home to the most extensive mangrove ecosystems, with Indonesia alone accounting for about a fifth of the global total. Mangroves provide various benefits in the face of climate change, including their ability to capture massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, which are then trapped and stored in their carbon-rich flooded soils for millennia.  

According to a 2022 report by the Global Mangrove Alliance, however, rates of mangrove protection hover around 20 percent in the region and losses are more common due to rice and palm oil production.  

During the first technical meeting of the Mangrove Alliance for Climate on Thursday in New York, Indonesia reaffirmed its support for the initiative and its aim to “promote mangrove as a nature-based solution to fight climate change.” 

Nani Hendiarti, environmental and forestry management deputy at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment, said during the meeting: “Indonesia is in full support of this MAC initiative and will collaborate with other global initiatives in managing mangrove ecosystems. This isn’t only beneficial ecologically, but also provides social and economic benefits for coastal communities.” 

In a statement issued by the ministry, Hendiarti said that the planned international mangrove research center will be used for capacity-building, collaborative research on innovations surrounding mangrove and biotechnology, as well as conservation of mangrove biodiversity. 

“This collaboration between Indonesia and UAE under MAC and the International Mangrove Research Center will be launched at COP28 in Dubai at the beginning of December. This is the right moment to show a real commitment to tackle climate change to the world,” Hendiarti said. 

The Indonesia-UAE mangrove alliance is a “good idea” as long as it works on conserving existing mangrove forests and rehabilitating degraded mangrove forests, said Dr. Agus Sari, CEO of environmental advisory agency Landscape Indonesia and a former senior adviser to the UN Development Program. 

“Indonesia needs to play this well as it hosts the largest area of mangroves worldwide,” Sari told Arab News. “As it has a dominant role, it needs to be able to capitalize on that position in the market.”