Fury escalates over cartoons

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July 30th, 2019

Another 55 people were said to be injured, according to a report by the Associated Press news agency.

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The group had been protesting against the publication of the cartoons, which originally appeared in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, before being published by several other European newspapers.

The nine were killed as they attempted to storm the Italian consulate in Benghazi.

It was not clear how they died.

Denmark closes embassy

Meanwhile, Denmark has temporarily shut its embassy in Islamabad, while Pakistan has recalled its envoy from Copenhagen.

Unrest over the cartoons has mounted in Pakistan, even as the tide of anger has ebbed elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East.

There have been large turnouts at rallies in Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and Peshawar this week where millions of dollars of damage was caused by rampaging crowds attacking Western symbols, such as banks and fast food outlets.

Many US and other foreign-brand businesses, including McDonald’s, Citibank, KFC, Holiday Inn and the Norwegian mobile phone company, Telenor, were targeted.

In addition to closing its embassy, Denmark has advised Danes to avoid all travel to the country and has urged its citizens still in Pakistan to leave.

“We have decided to do so because of the general security situation in the country,” foreign ministry spokesman Lars Thuesen said.

Denmark has already temporarily closed its embassies in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Indonesia after anti-Danish protests and threats were made against staff.

Pakistan has recalled its ambassador to Denmark for “consultations” about the cartoons, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

Pakistani cleric detained

Police in Pakistan said they had confined an Islamic cleric to his home in Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, after he announced a US$1 million (A$1.35m) bounty for killing the cartoonist who drew the prophet Mohammed.

Prayer leader Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi offered the bounty in an announcement before 1,000 people outside the Mohabat Khan mosque.

Police said they had detained him in a bid to prevent him from addressing his followers and potentially inciting further violence.

Security forces are maintaining a heavy presence around government offices and Western businesses, with more than 200 people detained.

Over the border in India, police in the southern city of Hyderabad used tear gas and batons to quell thousands of angry worshippers.

Demonstrators burned Danish flags, pelted police with stones and looted shops.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in neighbouring Bangladesh.

OCSE comments on cartoons

In Vienna, an expert for the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe criticised Western and Muslim parties for their role in fuelling the violence.

Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE’s representative on media freedom, said he believed Jyllands-Posten had first published the cartoons “without any intent to express or incite religious hatred” but rather as a “critique vis-à-vis extremist misuse of the teachings of Islam”.

But, he charged that the paper had misjudged how the cartoons would be perceived and in thinking they were not directed at the majority of Muslims.

Mr Haraszti said the paper’s aims had in turn been “deliberately misinterpreted by ill-willed jihadist propagandists.”

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UN urges Guantanamo closure

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July 30th, 2019

“I think sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo,” said Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, at the UN headquarters.

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“It will be up to the [US] government to decide hopefully to do it as soon as possible,” he said.

His comments came after the report, leaked earlier in the week, was released, saying prisoners at the facility have been abused.

Mr Annan said while he does not necessarily agree with everything in the report, “the basic point that one cannot detain individuals in perpetuity and that charges have to be brought against them and they must be given a chance to explain themselves and be prosecuted, charged, or released.”

The White House has blasted the report and called it “a discredit to the UN”.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said the world body has not looked into all the facts, only the allegations.

“The United Nations should be making serious investigations across the world, and there are many instances in which they do when it comes to human rights. This was not one of them,” he said.

In their report, five independent experts who act as monitors for the UN Human Rights Commission said aspects of the treatment of detainees violate their rights to physical and mental health, and in some cases amount to torture.

The US administration currently “operates as judge, prosecutor and defence counsel of the Guantanamo Bay detainees,” it said.

Many of the 500-odd inmates at the US naval base in Cuba have been held for four years without trial.

The report also said the US’ justification for holding the inmates is a distortion of international human rights treaties.

The draft version of the report was leaked earlier this week and was rejected by the US as making a “baseless assertion”, saying its authors had never visited the prison.

UN human rights experts began talks with the US inn 2002 on a possible visit.

The experts in the report said they cancelled a planned visit in December after failing to get approval to speak freely with prisoners, and in the report demanded full and unrestricted access to Guantanamo.

The findings were based on the US government’s answers to a questionnaire as well as interviews with former inmates in Europe and lawyers for current detainees.

EU adds its voice

Shortly after the UN report was made public, European Union legislators also urged the US to close the facility and give a fair trial to all prisoners.

In a resolution passed overwhelmingly at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament said: “every prisoner should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and tried without delay in a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, impartial tribunal.”

Amnesty International has also backed the call, saying Guantanamo represents “just the tip of the iceberg” of US-run detention facilities worldwide.

The report said detainees have suffered harsh treatment such as solitary confinement, being stripped naked, subjected to severe temperatures and being threatened with dogs, which is banned in all circumstances.

“The excessive violence used in many cases during transportation … and forced-feeding of detainees on hunger strike must be assessed as amounting to torture,” it added.

US response

The US has unequivocally rejected the UN demands.

The White House insisted that the detainees are treated humanely, with new challenges to be made to the US Supreme Court this week and new war crimes trials about to get underway at the camp this month.

“These are dangerous terrorists that we’re talking about that are there,” he said, adding that “nothing’s changed” in the US opinion of whether the camp should close.

He suggested that allegations of abuse amounting to torture at the camp are propaganda by militants trained to make such charges.

“We know al-Qaeda detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations,” he said.

Meanwhile, a judge in Britain has granted three British Guantanamo detainees to seek a court order asking the British government to petition for their release.

Judge Andrew Collins at London’s High Court said the three have a case and the British government is obliged to act of their behalf, adding that the US idea of what constitutes torture “is not the same as ours ands doesn’t appear to coincide with that of most civilised countries”.

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Cowsills singer dies aged 58

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July 30th, 2019

“He is singing with the angels now,” said Canadian record producer Neil MacGonigill, who first met the singer with the pure, soaring voice in the 70s.

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The Cowsills, the inspiration for the TV series The Partridge Family, recorded a series of top hits between 1967 and 1970, including The Rain, The Park and Other Things and Hair.

At one time the band members were also were spokespeople for the American Dairy Association, appearing in commercials and print ads for milk.

Cowsill, who was suffering from emphysema, osteoporosis, Cushing syndrome and other ailments, died in Calgary, Alberta, on Friday.

He had been in deteriorating health for a number of months. He was also still coping with the aftereffects of an eight-hour back surgery during which one lung had to be collapsed.

Doctors could not get it to function again but no cause of death has been released.

Four Cowsill brothers played in the band: Barry on bass, Bill on guitar, Bob on guitar and organ, and John on drums. Their mother, Barbara, and little sister, Susan, eventually joined the group.

The band’s career began in Newport, Rhode Island, where by 1965 they had a regular gig at a club. They were spotted by a producer for NBC’s Today show who booked them for an appearance that led to a record deal.

The band had an acrimonious breakup in the 1970s. William, the oldest member, moved to Canada about 35 years ago.

The news of Cowsill’s death came during a memorial service being held at Newport’s King Park honouring his brother Barry, who drowned after Hurricane Katrina.

William Cowsill is survived by two sons, Travis and Del.

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The seven-member Truth and Reconciliation Commission has a mandate to investigate crimes committed from 1979 until 2003, when years of civil war came to an end.

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“I have come to believe that when the truth is told, humanity is redeemed from the cowardice claws of violence,” said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over last month from a postwar transitional government.

“We must therefore be courageous sufficiently as a nation to face up to the past and revile as an affront to all civilised people the despicable acts our people endured during the past 14 years of our civil conflict,” President Sirleaf told a jubilant audience at the Executive Mansion.

The commission will not have the power to try cases and is modelled on South Africa’s truth commission, which was established in 1995 and investigated political crimes committed by all sides during decades of white-minority rule.

A similar commission was set up in Sierra Leone, which is struggling to recover from its own decade-long civil war that began in 1991.

Liberia’s parliament passed legislature to create the commission last year, but it had not begun its work until now.

The commission’s mandate is to “investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international laws, as well as abuses that occurred during the war, including massacres, sexual violations, murders, extra-judicial killings and economic crimes,” according to the act that created it.

In 1979, the government increased the price of rice – a staple food crop in a deeply impoverished nation – sparking massive riots in which dozens of people were killed by security forces.

The following year, President William Tolbert was ousted in a 1980 coup by illiterate Master Sgt Samuel Doe, who ordered the country’s Cabinet members tied to poles on a Monrovia beach and executed. Ms Sirleaf, who was finance minister at the time, was jailed but escaped death.

The 1980 coup marked the start of nearly 25 years of instability from which the country, founded by freed American slaves in 1847, is struggling to recover.

Rebels led by warlord Charles Taylor invaded in 1989, plunging the country into civil war. A year later, Doe was captured, tortured and killed by troops loyal to Taylor rival Prince Johnson, who is now a senator in the new government.

“This commission is our hope – to define the past on our behalf in terms that are seen and believed to be fair and balanced, and bring forth a unifying narrative on which our nation’s rebuilding and renewal processes can be more securely anchored,” Ms Sirleaf said.

The Liberian government has committed $US350,000 ($A474,000) to the commission along with $US500,000 pledged by the United Nations.

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Austria puts Irving on trial

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July 30th, 2019

Irving, 67, has been in custody since his arrest in November on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis’ extermination of 6 million Jews.

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An eight-member jury and a panel of three judges will hear the proceedings, which officials said could produce a verdict within a day.

His trial opens amid fresh, and fierce, debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad has triggered violent protests worldwide.

Irving had tried to win his provisional release on euro 20,000 ($A32,370) bail, but a Vienna court refused, saying it considered him a flight risk.

His lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, said last month the controversial Third Reich historian was getting up to 300 pieces of fan mail a week from supporters around the world, and that while in detention he was writing his memoirs under the working title, Irving’s War.

Irving was arrested on November 11 in the southern Austrian province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989.

He was charged under a federal law that makes it a crime to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust.

Gas chambers

Within two weeks of his arrest, Irving asserted through his lawyer that he now acknowledges the existence of Nazi-era gas chambers.

In the past, however, he has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew little if anything about the Holocaust, and has been quoted as saying there was “not one shred of evidence” the Nazis carried out their “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale.

Vienna’s national court, where the trial is being held, ordered the balcony gallery closed to prevent projectiles from being thrown down at the bench, the newspaper Die Presse reported.

It quoted officials as saying they were bracing for Irving’s supporters to give him the Nazi salute or shout out pro-Hitler slogans during the trial, which will continue into Tuesday if a verdict is not forthcoming.

Irving is the author of nearly 30 books, including Hitler’s War, which challenges the extent of the Holocaust, and has contended most of those who died at concentration camps such as Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.

In 2000, Irving sued American Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt for libel in a British court, but lost. The presiding judge in that case, Charles Gray, wrote that Irving was “an active Holocaust denier … anti-Semitic and racist”.

Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years.

In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of $US6,000 ($A8,128) for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax.

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