Opposition parties disrupt India’s parliament after ouster of Rahul Gandhi, fierce Modi critic

Indian lawmakers from various opposition parties wear black as they hold a protest after the opposition Congress party's leader Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a lawmaker by India's parliament, inside the parliament premises in New Delhi, India, March 27, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 March 2023
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Opposition parties disrupt India’s parliament after ouster of Rahul Gandhi, fierce Modi critic

  • Hundreds of supporters of Gandhi demonstrated in New Delhi and dozens were detained by police, lawmakers from 18 opposition parties also protested outside Parliament
  • Gandhi’s expulsion from legislature on Friday came a day after a local court convicted him of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison for mocking Modi’s surname

NEW DELHI: Members of opposition parties dressed in black disrupted India’s Parliament on Monday and protested in the capital, New Delhi, after Rahul Gandhi, a key opposition leader and fierce critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was expelled from the legislature last week.

Hundreds of supporters of Gandhi’s Congress party demonstrated in the heart of New Delhi and dozens were detained by police. Lawmakers from 18 opposition parties also protested together outside Parliament, donning black clothes to symbolize mourning and waving posters that warned India’s democracy is in danger.

Gandhi’s expulsion on Friday came a day after a local court convicted him of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison for mocking Modi’s surname in an election speech in 2019. The actions against Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s first prime minister, were widely denounced by opponents of Modi as assaults against democracy and free speech by a government seeking to quash dissent. His removal from Parliament also delivered a major blow to the Congress party ahead of national elections next year.

“The government wants to suppress the opposition and their voice,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Congress party.

Over the weekend, Gandhi said he is being targeted for raising questions about Modi’s relationship to Gautam Adani, a coal tycoon who until recently was Asia’s richest man.

Hindenburg Research, a U.S. financial research firm, accused the Adani Group in January of stock price manipulation and fraud running into billions of dollars. Since then, Gandhi has pushed for an investigation into Adani’s sprawling businesses, whose market value has since plummeted by tens of billions of dollars. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party says he has no links to Adani.

The protesting opposition lawmakers backed Gandhi on Monday by renewing calls for a parliamentary probe into the Adani Group.

Gandhi said he was not bothered about losing his seat in Parliament. “My job is to defend the institutions of the country and the voice of people,” he said over the weekend.

A court in Modi’s home state of Gujarat convicted Gandhi last week over a 2019 speech in which he asked, “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” Gandhi then referred to three well-known and unrelated Modis: a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon, a cricket executive banned from the Indian Premier League tournament and the prime minister.

Under Indian law, a criminal conviction and prison sentence of two years or more are grounds for expulsion from Parliament. Gandhi was granted bail for 30 days to allow him to appeal the decision, which Gandhi says he will do.


Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

Updated 10 sec ago
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Typhoon Gaemi forces Philippines to halt work, market trading

MANILA: Typhoon Gaemi and a southwest monsoon brought heavy rain on Wednesday to the Philippine capital region and northern provinces, prompting authorities to halt work and classes, while stock and foreign exchange trading were suspended.

The presidential office suspended classes at all academic levels and work in most government offices in the capital region, which is composed of 16 cities and home to at least 13 million people, because of the tropical storm.

Gaemi, with maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers per hour (96.3 mph) and gustiness of up to 190 kph, was heading toward Taiwan, the Philippines’ state weather agency said in a 5 a.m. bulletin.

It did not make landfall but it is enhancing a southwest monsoon, resulting in heavy to intense rain in northern Philippines, the agency said. “Flooding and rain-induced landslides are likely.”

Gaemi and another tropical storm, Prapiroon, hit southern Philippines and caused floods last week, resulting in seven deaths.

The Philippine coast guard said 354 passengers and 31 vessels were stranded in ports while airlines canceled 13 flights on Wednesday, Manila’s airport authority said.

The Philippines sees an average of 20 tropical storms annually, causing floods and deadly landslides. 


Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

Updated 6 min 25 sec ago
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Pentagon reaffirms support for Ukraine in first defense heads call since Biden’s campaign exit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s unwavering support for Ukraine in a call with Ukraine’s defense minister, Rustem Umerov, the Pentagon said late on Tuesday

It was the first call between the defense heads since US President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was ending his reelection bid and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican former President Donald Trump.

“During the call, the secretary reaffirmed the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” the Pentagon’s press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, told journalists at a briefing, according to a transcript on the US Department of Defense website.

Umerov said he and Austin also discussed the recent developments on the frontline and Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs.

“I once again highlighted the importance and urgency of lifting the bans on long-range fires,” Umerov said in a statement on X.

Washington, under the helm of Biden, has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter in the war that Russia has been waging against its smaller neighbor. The US has provided more than $50 billion in military aid since 2022.

After a call between Harris’ national security adviser and his chief of staff on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was important that “the dynamics of our joint work for a just peace do not diminish.” 


US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

Updated 15 min 19 sec ago
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US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

PANAMA CITY: Deportation flights from Panama for undocumented US-bound migrants who have crossed the lawless Darien jungle from South America are expected to start imminently, a US official said Tuesday.

Washington this month pledged $6 million in funding for migrant repatriations from the Central American nation in the hope of reducing irregular crossings at its own southern border.

The program was expected to use “large numbers” of charter and commercial flights to send back migrants who cross the Darien Gap, said Marlen Pineiro, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re still negotiating (with Panama), but the focus of this program is deportations and expulsions,” she said at a news conference in Panama City.

“I don’t want to give a date yet, but I think we’re going to start imminently,” Pineiro added.

The Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has become a key corridor for migrants traveling overland from South America through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers posed by treacherous terrain and violent criminal gangs, more than half a million undocumented migrants — mostly Venezuelans — crossed the Darien last year.

Transit countries such as Panama and Mexico have come under increased pressure from Washington to tackle the highly contentious migration issue in a US election year.

Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s new president, vowed during his election campaign to deport migrants and close the key route.

After he was sworn in on July 1, the conservative lawyer said his country would no longer be a “transit” point for undocumented migrants.

However, he appeared to soften his tone last week, saying, “We cannot forcibly repatriate” migrants.


Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Updated 17 min 44 sec ago
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Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

  • CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago

WASHINGTON: A Kentucky man was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for threatening a Palestinian American man with a loaded gun, the US Justice Department said on Monday, in a step welcomed by advocates documenting rising Islamophobia.
The Justice Department said the incident occurred at the end of March, without giving further details. It identified the suspect as Melvin P. Litteral III and the victim only by his initials, O.S.
The indictment also included a weapons charge. Litteral could not immediately be contacted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Human rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group welcomed the indictment. CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago.

KEY QUOTE
“Melvin P. Litteral III used force or the threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the victim – a Palestinian American man and practicing Muslim identified in the indictment by the initials O.S. – because of O.S.’s race, color, religion and/or national origin, and because O.S. was enjoying the goods, services and facilities of a local restaurant,” the Justice Department said.

CONTEXT
Other recent alarming US incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois, the February stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in Texas, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the attempted drowning of a 3-year-old Palestinian-American girl in May.
A former Cornell University student pleaded guilty in April to posting online threats, including of death and violence, against Jewish students on campus. There have been allegations of alarming antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric in some protests and counterprotests over the war and the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages held there.

 

 

 


Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Updated 1 min 20 sec ago
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Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

  • Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023

LONDON: Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary was found guilty Tuesday by a London jury of directing a terrorist group.
Choudary, 57, was convicted in Woolwich Crown Court of membership in a banned organization, the radical Muslim group Al-MuHajjiroun, or ALM, and for drumming up support for the group.
ALM was outlawed by the British government in 2010 as a group involved in committing, preparing for or promoting terrorism.
“ALM’s tentacles have spread across the world and have had a massive impact on public safety and security,” Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Dominic Murphy said. “There are individuals that have conducted terrorist attacks or traveled for terrorist purposes as a result of Anjem Choudary’s radicalizing impact upon them.”
Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023.
Choudary, who was previously convicted of supporting the Daesh group, denied at trial that he promoted ALM through his lectures, saying ALM no longer exists.
Prosecutors said the group has operated under many names, including the New York-based Islamic Thinkers Society, which Choudary has spoken to.
The Islamic Thinkers Society was ALM’s US branch, said New York Police Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Weiner, who called the case historic.
“It is usually the foot soldiers, the individuals who are brought into the network who go on to commit the attacks who are brought to justice,” Weiner said. “And it’s rarely the leader, which is what makes this a particularly important moment.”
Choudary was convicted with one of his followers, Khaled Hussein, who prosecutors said was a dedicated supporter of the group.
Hussein, 29, of Edmonton, Canada, was convicted of membership in a proscribed organization.
The two were arrested a year ago after Hussein landed at Heathrow Airport.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.