Israeli Navy Intercepts Arms Ship Off Coast
Unconfirmed Israeli media reports said the weaponry was supplied by Iran.
An official statement quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying the munitions, on what the military described as an Antiguan-flagged ship boarded 160 kilometers from the Israeli coast, were earmarked for "the terrorist arena in the north," an apparent reference to Hizballah.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a separate statement, said the weapons found on the vessel could have "hit Israeli cities," indicating they included missiles.
Hizballah fired more than 4,000 missiles into Israel during a 2006 war.
The vessel, with containers stacked on its deck, was taken to Ashdod port, south of Tel Aviv. Israel Radio's military affairs correspondent identified the vessel as the "Francop."
"During the night, the navy, performing routine checks, spotted a cargo vessel flying an Antiguan flag 100 miles from the Israeli coast," the spokeswoman said.
"They suspected it was carrying weapons, and after an initial inspection, munitions were found."
Israel's Channel 10 television said Israel had advance information about the vessel. Military sources said naval commandos stormed the ship in international waters and the Defense Ministry said the vessel was boarded near Cyprus.
Israeli officials have said Iranian-backed Hizballah has been rearming since the 2006 conflict.
"[The interception] was another success in the unceasing battle against weapons smuggling aimed at strengthening terrorist elements threatening Israel's security," Barak was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his spokesman.
The largest weapons-smuggling ship intercepted by the Israeli Navy was the "Karin A," a vessel boarded in 2002 that carried tons of weapons that Israel said Iran had sent to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Karakalpak Activist Dies In Custody Four Days After Being Sentenced Over Protests
Activist Polat Shamshetov, who on January 31 was handed a prison term along with 21 other people for taking part in unprecedented anti-government protests in Uzbekistan's Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan last year, has died in custody.
Uzbekistan's Prosecutor-General’s Office said on February 6 that Shamshetov, 45, had died two days earlier of a "thromboembolism of the pulmonary artery and acute heart failure."
Self-exiled Karakalpak activists said over the weekend that Shamshetov might have been tortured to death in custody and demanded a thorough investigation of Shamshetov's death.
Shamshetov was the chief of Karakalpakstan’s Interior Ministry’s detective unit before his arrest in early July last year. He was a son of the late first and only president of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Dauletbai Shamshetov, who led the autonomous republic in 1991-1992 before Tashkent canceled the post.
Polat Shamshetov was among Karakalpak activists who were handed prison terms in Uzbekistan's southwestern city of Bukhara on January 31 for their roles in the protests in Karakalpakstan in July. He was found guilty of inciting mass unrest and taking part in them and handed a six-year prison term.
Lawyer and journalist Dauletmurat Tajimuratov received the longest prison term in the case -- 16 years, on a charge of plotting to seize power by disrupting the constitutional order, organizing mass unrest, embezzlement, and money laundering.
Four defendants, including another journalist, Lolagul Qallykhanova, were handed parole-like sentences and immediately released from custody.
Other defendants were sentenced to prison terms of between three and 8 1/2 years. It remains unclear how the defendants pleaded.
Uzbek authorities say 21 people died in Karakalpakstan during the protests, which were sparked by the announcement in early July last year of a planned change to the constitution that would have undermined the region's right to self-determination.
The violence in Nukus, the main city in Karakalpakstan, forced President Shavkat Mirziyoev to make a rare about-face and scrap the proposal.
Mirziyoev accused "foreign forces" of being behind the unrest, without further explanation, before backing away from the proposed changes.
The trial started in late November in Bukhara, around 600 kilometers from both Nukus and the capital, Tashkent.
Mirziyoev came to power in 2016 after the death of his autocratic predecessor, Islam Karimov.
Karakalpaks are a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.
Karakalpakstan is home to fewer than two million people, out of a nation of 35 million, but it covers more than one-third of Uzbekistan's territory.
The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the violence.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
Popular Russian Food Blogger Sentenced In Absentia To Nine Years In Prison Over Posts
MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has sentenced in absentia a popular food blogger and magazine founder over her online posts about Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
The Basmanny district court sentenced the Ukrainian-born Nika Belotserkovskaya on February 6 after finding her guilty of distributing "false information" about Russia's armed forces.
Belotserkovskaya, who founded the St. Petersburg magazine and website Sobaka, currently lives in France.
Russia's Investigative Committee in March 2022 opened a criminal case against Belotserkovskaya, who blogs under the name Belonika, for allegedly spreading false news about the Russian Army on her Instagram account, which now has 1.3 million subscribers.
She was accused of publishing several Instagram posts containing "deliberately false information about the armed forces of the Russian Federation's destruction of cities and civilians in Ukraine, including children, during a special military operation." Some of the posts cited the coverage of the war by Western news agencies and media outlets.
In May last year, Russian authorities added her to the nation's wanted list and issued an arrest warrant for her. Belotserkovskaya then wrote on the Internet that it meant she is "a decent person."
That was followed up in in June, with the impounding of all of her property in Russia.
Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has strictly restricted access to information about the war in Ukraine launched by Russia in late February last year and directed media to describe events in Ukraine as a “special military operation” and not a war or an invasion.
Following the opening of the criminal case against her in March, Belotserkovskaya transferred ownership of Sobaka to employees.
Astana Rejects Russian Court's Summons Of Kazakh Journalists Over Ukraine War Article
Kazakh Foreign Ministry officials have rejected a Russian court's summoning of editors of the Arbat.media news website over an article it published about Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Ministry officials told Arbat.media on February 6 that the decision last month by the Lenin district court in Russia's Vladimir region "has no legal force in Kazakhstan."
Arbat.media said last week that it had received a letter from the Russian court ordering its editors to show up at a trial in the city of Vladimir on February 17. At issue was the website’s article "Russia Occupiers Do Not Admit Defeat In Kharkiv," which was published in September.
The letter said that a lawsuit against the Kazakh website was filed by Russian armed forces military unit 56680 and Russian Military Prosecutor's Office No 19.
The Almaty-based Adil Soz (A Just Word) group, which monitors journalists' rights, had urged the Kazakh government to react to the Russian court's decision.
Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry said in an official letter to Arbat.media that there are no bilateral agreements between Kazakhstan and Russia on mutual interference in media activities, adding that the media outlet did not violate any Kazakh laws, while Russian legal motions against Kazakh citizens have no power on the territory of Kazakhstan.
"The norms of international law state that everyone has the right to freely express opinions; this right includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas of any kind, regardless of national borders, orally, in writing or by means of print or artistic forms of expression, or by other means of their choice," the ministry's letter said.
This is the first time a Russian court had summoned Kazakh journalists over an article about Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine, launched last February.
With reporting by Arbat.media
Norway Proposes $7.3 Billion, Five-Year Aid Package To Ukraine
Norway's prime minister proposed on February 6 that his country should provide aid to Ukraine of some 75 billion Norwegian krone ($7.3 billion) over a five-year period. "We aim to secure a unified agreement on this in parliament," Labor Party Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference after meeting Norwegian opposition leaders. The Nordic country, a major petroleum exporter, has seen its government income swell to record levels following Russia's invasion of Ukraine as the price of gas sold to Europe soared last year. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Bomb Kills Soldier, Wounds 11 People In Southwest Pakistan
A bombing near a vehicle carrying Pakistani paramilitary troops in southwestern Balochistan Province killed a soldier and wounded 11 people, mostly civilians, police and security officials said on February 6. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near the Musa Khan checkpoint in the provincial capital, Quetta, on February 5. Pakistan has been battling an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, with separatists in the province demanding complete autonomy or a larger share of the province’s gas and mineral resources. (AP)
To read the original story from AP, click here.
Kremlin Says UN Atomic Watchdog Chief Will Not Meet Putin During Moscow Visit
The Kremlin said on February 6 that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi will not meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Moscow this week. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Grossi would meet officials from the state nuclear energy firm, Rosatom, and the Foreign Ministry. He also said that Moscow expected "a substantive dialogue." The IAEA has repeatedly expressed concerns about the safety of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which Russian forces seized last March soon after invading Ukraine. The plant has come under repeated shelling, with the two sides blaming each other.
Kosovar PM Calls On West Not To Exert Pressure Over Serb Entity
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has called on Western powers not to pressure his country into accepting a contentious association of five Serb-majority municipalities that is ramping up tensions between Kosovo and Serbia. Kurti told the Associated Press that the focus instead should be on making Serbia more democratic and getting rid of what he called Belgrade's hegemonistic ideas. Kurti said on February 5 that the Serbian government should acknowledge the independence of all the ex-republics of the former Yugoslavia in order to “face the past.” (AP)
To read the original story from AP, click here.
Ukraine Sends Mixed Messages Over Defense Ministry At A Sensitive Point In The War
Intense fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian and Ukrainian troops continues as Kyiv sends mixed signals over a possible reshuffle at the Defense Ministry amid expectations of a major Russian offensive in the coming weeks.
Almost a year into the conflict, sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine late last February, a battle for the city of Bakhmut rages, as well as in areas around it, such as the towns of Soledar and Vuhledar.
“The battles for the region are heating up,” according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, who said “the Russians are throwing new units into the battle and eradicating our towns and villages.”
Meanwhile, Russian shelling had subsided in the neighboring Luhansk region because “the Russians have been saving ammunition for a large-scale offensive,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday claimed.
Amid the tense fighting that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy characterized late on February 5 as "very difficult," Ukraine announced that Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov would be transferred to the post of minister for strategic industries to strengthen military-industrial cooperation and would be replaced by General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the country’s military intelligence agency.
However, less than 24 hours later, David Arakhamia, the head of Zelenskiy's parliamentary bloc, reversed his earlier comments, saying on Telegram that “there will be no personnel changes in the defense sector this week.”
Reznikov has said that while he was not planning to resign, any decision about his future would be made by the president.
Rumors of a possible Reznikov resignation or ouster have mounted after a series of accusations of corruption within the ministry.
In January, Ukrainian media reported that the Defense Ministry had allegedly purchased products for the military at inflated prices through a "gasket" company. Other charges of corruption were also alleged in the media.
Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was responsible for supplying troops with food and equipment, resigned on January 24, citing the accusations, which he said were baseless.
Ukrainian authorities also again accused Russian forces of firing at targets across the Dnieper River from the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. The attacks damaged residential buildings and electricity lines in Nikopol and Marhanets.
The reports come as Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi is expected to visit Moscow this week for talks on creating a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhya plant, Europe's largest nuclear power station.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Grossi's visit but said the IAEA chief would meet officials from the state nuclear energy firm Rosatom and the Foreign Ministry but not from the Kremlin itself.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials continue to warn that Russia is planning a new, full-scale offensive as early as mid-February. Russia has been deploying “more and more reserves” and equipment in eastern Ukraine, Hayday said.
Ukraine, too, has been planning its own counteroffensive, but that depends on the supplies of battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles Western countries have pledged to send to Kyiv.
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted late on February 5 that the first Leopard tank her country is donating to Ukraine had arrived in Poland. Training for Ukrainian personnel in how to use the tank was due to begin soon, she added.
Ukraine’s Western allies pledged to send dozens of German-made Leopard tanks and other weaponry to Ukraine to help it defeat the invading Russian forces.
In Kyiv, Reznikov renewed calls for allies to supply additional weapons, including jet fighters, saying the West’s reluctance to send such aircraft will “cost us more lives” in its battle against Russian forces.
Western leaders have said it was not practical to send such jets to Ukraine given the amount of time it would take to train pilots and maintenance crews and amid fears of a widening of the conflict.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Pakistan Blocks Wikipedia For 'Hurting Muslim Sentiment'
Pakistan's media regulator said on February 6 that it blocked Wikipedia services in the country for hurting Muslim sentiment by not removing purportedly blasphemous content from the site. Blasphemy is a sensitive subject and carries the death penalty in Pakistan, where even allegations of the offense are often enough to provoke mob violence. International and domestic rights groups say that accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says it blocked Wikipedia because a 48-hour deadline to remove the content was ignored. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Reports: Russian Patriarch Kirill Spied In Switzerland For The KGB In The 1970s
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, worked for Soviet intelligence while living in Switzerland in the 1970s, Swiss newspapers reported, citing declassified archives. According to the Sonntagszeitung and Le Matin Dimanche weeklies, the Swiss police file on the man who today serves as the spiritual head of the Russian Orthodox Church "confirms that 'Monsignor Kirill,' as he is referred to in this document, worked for the KGB."
Drone Explodes Outside Russian City Of Kaluga, Governor Says
A drone has exploded outside the Russian city of Kaluga, regional Governor Vladislav Shapsha said on February 6, adding that no-one was injured in the blast. "The drone exploded in the air at an altitude of 50 meters in the forest near the city at five o'clock in the morning," he wrote on Telegram. Kaluga is about 150 kilometers southwest of Moscow and 260 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The governor did not make it clear what the source of the drone was. Russia has said in the past that Ukrainian drones have flown into its territory, an assertion that Kyiv denies.
Russia Says It Discussed Nuclear Arms Treaty With U.S. Ambassador
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on February 6 that he discussed the New START nuclear arms control treaty with new United States Ambassador Lynne Tracy last week, the Interfax news agency reported. He added that Russia was committed to the treaty but that no date had been set for new talks, citing the conflict in Ukraine. Talks between Moscow and Washington on the New START treaty were scheduled for last November but were called off at the last moment.
Iranian Songwriter Facing Possible Prison Time Takes Home Grammy Award
Iranian singer Shervin Hajipur, who has been accused of "propaganda against the system" and "inciting people to violent acts," has won a Grammy award for social change for his song Baraye, which has become an anthem for the ongoing protests in Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody.
Hajipur attended the event late on February 5 via video link where U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, on stage at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles, presented the award. He could be seen wiping away tears after winning the prize.
Hajipur was detained by police on September 29 after his song gained prominence among protesters demonstrating against the death weeks earlier of Mahsa Amini. She died while in the custody of Tehran's notorious morality police after being detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
The singer was released on bail a few days after his arrest and prohibited from leaving the country. He made the appearance at the Grammy awards from an unknown location.
The song Baraye, which roughly translates as "because of," is based on the outpouring of public anger following Amini's death. It is composed of tweets sent by Iranians following Amini's death. Many of the tweets blame the country's social, economic, and political ills on the clerical regime.
“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women's rights,” Biden said. “Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom."
"We won!" Hajipur added in a tweet.
Iranian officials have not commented on the award.
The song garnered more than 40 million views in less than 48 hours before it was removed from Instagram by Iranian authorities. It also flooded the submission box for the Grammys' newest special award category, which honors a song dedicated to social change.
Hajipur is one of many Iranian celebrities to have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated by the authorities after showing support for anti-government protests enveloping the country.
The widespread unrest represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency said that, as of January 29, at least 527 people had been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces muzzle dissent.
Former Military Ruler Musharraf's Body To Be Flown To Pakistan
The body of Pakistan's exiled former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who became a key U.S. ally during the "war on terror," is expected to be repatriated on February 6.
Musharraf, who fled Pakistan in 2016 for medical treatment after a travel ban was lifted, died on February 5, aged 79, in Dubai after a long illness.
Senior officials who asked not to be named said his body would be repatriated on February 6, with a burial expected later in the day.
Russia's Lavrov In Iraq For Energy Talks
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Iraq on February 5 for talks on energy and food security in view of the Ukraine conflict, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said. He landed in Baghdad late in the day at the head of a large delegation that includes "oil and gas companies and investors," Ahmad al-Sahhaf told AFP. On February 6, Lavrov will meet Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, the state news agency INA quoted Sahhaf as saying.
Reznikov Out, Budanov In As Ukraine's Defense Minister, Top Lawmaker Says
KYIV -- Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is being replaced by General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the country's military intelligence agency, according to the leader of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's faction in parliament.
David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People faction in parliament, said on Telegram on February 5 that Reznikov would be transferred to the post of minister for strategic industries to strengthen military-industrial cooperation.
"War dictates personnel policy," Arakhamia said. "Time and circumstances need to be strengthened and regrouped. This is happening now and will happen in the future."
"The enemy is preparing to attack. We are preparing to defend ourselves and return ours," he added.
Arakhamia did not specify when the changes would take place.
An official ministry statement has not yet been issued about the changes.
Arakhamia said the Interior Ministry will be headed by Ihor Klymenko, currently chief of the National Police.
Rumors of a possible Reznikov resignation or ouster have mounted after a series of accusations of corruption within the ministry.
In a news conference hours earlier, Reznikov said he was not planning to resign but added that any decision about his future would be made by the president.
"He nominates an appointee, and the [parliament] appoints. Therefore, only by the decision of the president of Ukraine will I make certain decisions, and I will do what the president of Ukraine tells me," he said.
In January, Ukrainian media reported that the Defense Ministry had allegedly purchased products for the military at inflated prices through a "gasket" company. Other charges of corruption were also alleged in the media.
The 56-year-old Reznikov denied the allegations as authorities launched an investigation.
Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was responsible for supplying troops with food and equipment, resigned on January 24, citing "media accusations" of corruption that he and the ministry said were baseless.
Moscow, Tehran Move Forward On Plans For Iran-Designed Drone Factory in Russia
Russia and Iran are moving forward on plans to establish a factory in Russia aimed at producing some 6,000 Iran-designed drones of the type Moscow has used in the Ukraine war, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited officials in a U.S.-aligned country. Moscow and Tehran seek to produce a faster drone to better challenge Ukrainian air defenses, the officials said. Washington last month warned that Moscow and Tehran were considering construction of a drone-making plant in Russia.
Former Iranian President Khatami Joins In Calls For Political Change Amid Growing Unrest
Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has joined opposition figure and ex-Prime Minister Mir Hossein Musavi in calls for political change as the country continues to be stricken with widespread anti-government protests.
"What is evident today is widespread discontent," the 79-year-old Khatami said on February 5 in remarks carried on local media.
He added that "there is no sign of the ruling system's desire for reform and avoiding the mistakes of the past and present."
Khatami, the reformist who served as president from 1997 until 2005, said he hoped "nonviolent civil methods [will] "force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms."
"Iran and Iranians need and are ready for a fundamental transformation whose outline is drawn by the pure 'Woman, life, freedom' movement," he added.
Iran has been beset with widening unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16. The 22-year-old died while in custody after being arrested by the notorious morality police for improperly wearing a mandatory Islamic head scarf, or hijab.
Her death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of protests in cities across the country. The authorities have met the unrest with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.
The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.
Khatami's remarks come as Iran is set to mark the 44th anniversary of the revolution and follow comments on February 4 by Iranian opposition figure Musavi, who called for a "free" referendum in Iran and the drafting of a new constitution.
Musavi, 80, who has been under house arrest since 2011, made the call in a statement in which he said Iranians want fundamental change based on the slogan "Woman, life, freedom" -- which many have been chanting during recent antiestablishment protests.
Meanwhile, on February 5, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned "tens of thousands" of prisoners, including many arrested in the recent anti-government protests, state media reported.
"Prisoners not facing charges of spying for foreign agencies, having direct contact with foreign agents, committing intentional murder and injury, committing destruction and arson of state property, or not having a private plaintiff in their case will be pardoned," said state media, which added that the pardons were part of activities related to the anniversary of the revolution.
With reporting AFP and Reuters
European Ban On Russian Diesel, Other Oil Products Takes Effect
Europe on February 5 imposed a ban on Russian diesel fuel and other refined oil products, slashing energy dependency on Moscow and seeking to further crimp the Kremlin's fossil-fuel earnings as punishment for invading Ukraine. The ban comes along with a price cap agreed by the G7 democracies. The goal is to reduce the profits funding Moscow's budget and war. Europe has already banned Russian coal and most crude oil, while Moscow has cut off most shipments of natural gas. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Ukraine Says It Will Not Strike Russian Territory With New Missiles
Ukraine will not use longer-range weapons pledged by the United States to hit Russian territory and will only target Russian units in occupied Ukrainian territory, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on February 5. The United States confirmed on February 3 that a new rocket that would double Ukraine's strike range was included in a $2.175 billion U.S. military aid package to help Kyiv fight back Russian forces. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Qatar Sends Envoy To Afghan Capital To Meet With Taliban
An envoy for Qatar's foreign minister visited the Afghan capital on February 5 and met with the Taliban administration's acting foreign minister, according to an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement. The visit comes after the Taliban administration placed restrictions on women's education and NGO work, which Qatar labelled "deeply concerning" amid widespread international criticism. Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, the special envoy of Qatar's foreign minister, took part in meetings with the Taliban-led government's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Kabul, officials said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Germany Has 'Hundreds' Of Pieces Of Ukraine War Crime Evidence
Germany's prosecutor-general said on February 5 that his office had collected "hundreds" of pieces of evidence showing war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine, calling for an international effort to bring leaders to justice. "At the moment we are focusing on mass killings in Bucha and attacks on Ukraine's civil infrastructure," prosecutor Peter Frank told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. He said the goal was now to "prepare for a possible later court case -- whether in Germany or with our foreign partners or an international court."
Iran Detains Journalist After Detaining Her Sister
Iranian authorities have detained a journalist at a reformist publication, local media reported on February 5, as her sister, also a journalist, remains in custody after reporting on Mahsa Amini's death. Elnaz Mohammadi, a reporter for reformist newspaper Hammihan, was detained at the Evin prosecutor's office in Tehran after she had gone there "for an explanation," reported Shargh, another reformist daily. It was not immediately clear why Mohammadi had been summoned there. Her sister, Elaheh Mohammadi, was arrested on September 29 after reporting for Hammihan from Amini's funeral.
Iran's Leader Pardons 'Large Number' Of Protest-Related Prisoners
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pardoned "tens of thousands" of prisoners, including many arrested in recent anti-government protests over security-related charges, state media reported on February 5. "Prisoners not facing charges of spying for foreign agencies, having direct contact with foreign agents, committing intentional murder and injury, committing destruction and arson of state property, or not having a private plaintiff in their case will be pardoned," state media said. The pardons were announced in honor of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani Military Ruler Who Never Overcame Dangerous Foes, Dies At 79
Pakistan lost one of its most influential and polarizing figures with the death of General Pervez Musharraf, who died at a hospital in Dubai on February 5 at the age of 79 after a prolonged illness.
General Musharraf took over the presidency of the nuclear-armed country on the back of a bloodless 1999 military coup, but was forced out of office in 2008 amid scandal and efforts by his political rivals to impeach him and even briefly faced a death-sentence verdict for alleged treason before a court overturned it.
Upon assuming power following the bloodless military coup, Musharraf promised to bring progress and harmony to Pakistan.
"I wish to inform you that the armed forces have moved in as a last resort to prevent any further destabilization," he said at the time. "I wish to assure you that the situation in the country is perfectly calm, stable, and under control. I request you all to remain calm and support your armed forces in the reestablishment of order to pave the way for a prosperous future for Pakistan."
Fighting The Taliban
Musharraf's rule was complicated by the political realities that emerged after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
He openly supported Washington by joining the global war on terrorism. But he had to balance that decision against the rise of anti-Americanism at home after the fight came to neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan's restive northwest.
He achieved some success in his efforts to modernize Pakistan by creating a more open media environment, expanding the middle class, holding elections, and allowing key politicians to return from exile.
But he failed to overcome opposition to his highly unpopular moves to root out extremism and separatism on Pakistani soil, to improve Islamabad's often uneasy relations with neighboring states, or to suppress his most dangerous political foes -- some of whom came back to haunt him.
He survived at least five purported assassination attempts by Islamist militant groups or other enemies between 2000 and 2014.
Born in New Delhi in 1943, Mushrraf's family migrated to Pakistan in 1947 after it was established as an independent state. His formative years were spent in Turkey, where his father worked as a diplomat.
Musharraf joined the Pakistani Army's officer corps at the age of 18, rising through the ranks over the next few decades to become its chief in 1998.
He was appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but differences quickly emerged -- a sign of the fierce political rivalry to come.
Musharraf disagreed with Sharif's peace overtures toward India and launched a botched offensive against Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. This fanned his disagreements with Sharif's civilian government, ultimately resulting in a coup in October 1999.
Musharraf titled himself chief executive and consolidated power quickly. He appointed himself president in 2001, giving him final say in Pakistani affairs.
'The Path Of Development'
He quickly sided with Washington after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
In a televised speech days after the 9/11 attacks, he told Pakistanis he had allied with Washington to save his country's critical security and geopolitical interests.
"At this moment, our decisions may have far-reaching and wide repercussions," Musharraf said. "The worst results, God forbid, may endanger our territorial integrity and our survival."
The alliance prompted a domestic backlash, as pro-Taliban hard-liners opposed his policies. But in a major policy speech in January 2002, Musharraf indicated he was determined to lead Pakistan on the path of moderation:
"Do we want to turn Pakistan into a theocratic state? Or do we want Pakistan to become a progressive, dynamic, Islamic welfare state?" he asked. "The choice of our people is absolutely clear. And their decision is to take the path of development."
His efforts produced mixed results at best and provoked two assassination attempts masterminded by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in 2003.
Islamabad benefited enormously from allying with Washington, as it received tens of billions of dollars in military and civilian assistance. Major Western donors wrote off Islamabad's debts and Pakistan was formally declared a major non-NATO U.S. ally.
Defeated By Radical Backlash
But Musharraf's failure to confront or eradicate pro-Taliban radicals backfired. Under his watch, Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters who had been chased out of Afghanistan recuperated across the border in Pakistan and, by the end of 2007, emerged as a major challenge to Pakistan's stability and security.
Musharraf's failure to handle extremist clerics at Islamabad's Red Mosque eventually ended in a bloody showdown in July 2007. Dozens died in a weeklong siege of the mosque. The confrontation provoked Pakistani Taliban to mount attacks across Pakistan and capture large swathes of territories in the northwest.
That year he was unable to manipulate the country's political scene, as he had done for years.
His firing of a popular Supreme Court chief justice in March 2007 prompted a countrywide protest movement led by lawyers.
By year's end the movement grew strong enough to force him to give up his leadership of the military, and to step down as president in 2008. Afterward he went into self-imposed exile in London and Dubai.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March 2013 in an attempt to make a political comeback -- hoping to be voted into parliament and position himself to become prime minister.
But those hopes were dashed when he was barred from taking part in the general elections and placed under house arrest amid a litany of court cases related to his final years in office.
In March 2014, Musharraf was formally charged by a special tribunal on five counts of high treason -- charges which highlighted tensions between Pakistan's military and its civilian government, which initiated the case.
The treason charges stemmed from Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, followed by his dismissal of high-ranking judges, less than a month after his controversial reelection as president in 2007.
Musharraf was also charged with murder and conspiracy to murder for allegedly failing to protect his political rival and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007 while campaigning for general elections.
In another case he was investigated for the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a senior Baluch leader who died in a military operation ordered by Musharraf in August 2006. He was also tried for his role in the 2007 siege of the Red Mosque.
Musharraf tried hard to defend his record.
He told the court at his formal indictment for treason that he "put the country on the path of progress after 1999 when the country was being called a failed and defaulted state," asking the judges, "Is this the way to reward someone for being loyal to the country and loving the country?"
Musharraf also labeled attacks against him as a vendetta aimed at maligning his achievements and a conspiracy to keep him out of politics.
"I helped build a lot of roads and dams. I promoted telecommunication and information technology and vastly enhanced Pakistan's defense capabilities and made it very strong," Musharraf said. "I brought an industrial and agricultural revolution and helped propel the country's economy into one of the top 11 global economies."
Would-be assassins continued to try to kill Musharraf in the midst of the lengthy court proceedings against him. He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in April 2014 while being transported in a convoy from an army hospital to his home.
But even with the treason charge hanging over him, in 2016, Pakistan's government allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment. He left his country and reportedly took up residence between London and Dubai, still vowing to clear his name and return to Pakistan.
Musharraf continued to appear on a controversial weekly television show on which he opined on Pakistani politics and current affairs.
A year later, a Pakistani antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi declared Musharraf a fugitive for "absconding" amid the ongoing charges in the Bhutto assassination case and ordered his assets seized.
In 2019, senior officials from his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party disclosed that he had been hospitalized due to a "reaction" from amyloidosis, a rare condition that can lead to organ failure.
Later the same year, a closed trial in Islamabad convicted him in absentia of high treason and other wrongdoing over the 2007 suspension of the constitution, and sentenced him to death.
Pakistan's powerful military responded publicly to condemn the verdict and accused the courts of ignoring due process.
Less than a month later, in January 2020, the Lahore High Court agreed with Musharraf's appeal and declared the trial in the capital case against him unconstitutional and politically motivated.
Reports said a special flight would travel from Pakistan to Dubai to repatriate Musharraf's body, according to the wishes of Musharraf's family.
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