Iraq Court Sentences Belgian Jihadist To Death For IS Membership

    An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced a Belgian jihadist, who threatened Europe in propaganda videos, to death by

 

 

An Iraqi court on Tuesday sentenced a Belgian jihadist, who threatened Europe in propaganda videos, to death by hanging for membership of the Islamic State group.

The tough punishment is the latest doled out in the conflict-scarred country to foreigners who flocked to the self-declared caliphate of IS.

Tarik Jadaoun — known by his nom de guerre Abu Hamza al-Beljiki — earlier pleaded not guilty to a range of terror charges, insisting he had “got lost” and pleading for mercy.

Born in 1988, Jadaoun — who was captured in ex-IS bastion Mosul in August — appeared before the Baghdad court dressed in a beige prison uniform with a shaved head and bushy moustache.

The hearing lasted for less than 10 minutes, with a judge sentencing him to be “hanged until death”.

Jadaoun — who refused to defend himself after the charges were read out — was immediately taken out of court with his face covered by guards and loaded into a prison van.

He now has 30 days to appeal the verdict during which time the sentence should not be carried out.

In addition, he was sentenced to three years in prison and handed a fine worth $2,300 (2,000 euros) for illegally crossing the Iraqi border.

In a statement released after the sentencing, the Iraqi judiciary described Jadaoun as “among the most wanted foreign terrorists who fought in Syria and Iraq”.

Jadaoun, who has Moroccan roots, said during a first hearing on May 10 that he was forced by “one of the top IS commanders” to appear in videos threatening attacks against Belgium and France.

The footage saw Jadaoun earn the moniker “the new Abaaoud”, after his compatriot Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of November 2015 attacks in Paris.

‘Nurse’ claims

He claimed that he had not been a fighter for IS but was instead in charge of a group of nurses.

“I took care of everybody,” he told the earlier hearing.

Investigators had previously alleged that Jadaoun was in charge of the “cubs of the caliphate” — about 60 children aged eight to 13 who received intensive fitness and weapons training. There was no mention of these allegations at his trial.

In total, Iraqi courts have sentenced to death more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to IS, judicial sources said last month.

Since January, some 100 foreign nationals have been sentenced to death in Baghdad and around 185 to life in prison, officials said.

Iraq has previously executed dual nationals accused of belonging to groups including Al-Qaeda, but is yet to put to death any Westerners sentenced over IS links.

Thousands of foreign fighters from across the world flocked to the black banner of the jihadists as the group seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Their “caliphate” has since been reduced to a rump territory of desert in the east of war-torn Syria.

The fate of those who survived ferocious onslaughts by various forces against IS has been a major headache for their home governments, which are often against seeing them return.

AFP

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Facebook Boss Faces European Parliament Over Data Scandal

File photo of Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg   Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg, will face tough questions later on Tuesday

Facebook Suicide, Murder Videos Heart-breaking - Zuckerberg
File photo of Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg

 

Facebook boss, Mark Zuckerberg, will face tough questions later on Tuesday at the European Parliament over the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

The social network boss’s appearance will be live-streamed to the public after angry EU lawmakers objected to initial plans to host the hearing in Brussels behind closed doors.

His grilling by the heads of the parliament’s political groups at around 1630 GMT comes three days before the EU introduces sweeping new personal data protection rules, which the Facebook chief has now welcomed.

“Great news for EU citizens,” European Parliament President Antonio Tajani tweeted on Monday about the decision to stream the hearing after days of bitter wrangling.

MEPs had demanded that Zuckerberg show the transparency the scandal calls for.

Facebook admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.

The Silicon Valley social network has told the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, that the personal data of up to 2.7 million Europeans may have been sent inappropriately to Cambridge Analytica, which has since filed for bankruptcy in the US.

Tajani, who first invited the young American billionaire to testify before parliament back in March, will meet him around 1600 GMT, followed by parliamentary leaders.

The Italian politician has warned Zuckerberg it would be a “big mistake” for him not to answer questions from an elected body that regulates a market of 500 million people, many of them Facebook users.

Tajani said MEPs want to know if “people used data for changing the position of the citizens,” including during the shock 2016 referendum for Britain to leave the EU.

In April, Tajani rejected Zuckerberg’s initial offer to send a more junior executive in his place.

Objecting to the latest plans for a closed-door hearing, MEPs insisted Zuckerberg face a grilling similar to his 10-hour interrogation in US Congress last month.

‘Hear the truth’

Guy Vehofstadt, leader of the ALDE liberals group in parliament, had vowed to boycott the interrogation if it were not public.

“I will attend the hearing with Mr Zuckerberg as webstreaming makes it now transparent and public,” Verhofstadt tweeted on Monday.

“EU citizens have been most affected by the recent scandal and deserve to hear the truth,” the former Belgian premier said, inviting Europeans to send him questions for Zuckerberg.

Udo Bullmann, of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said it would have been a “farce” not to have a public event.

The Greens party said “pressure worked” on Zuckerberg.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova paid Zuckerberg a backhanded compliment in recent weeks for having admitted that the Facebook scandal showed the need for strict new rules despite the reluctance of the US internet giants.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on Friday, aims to give users more control over how their personal information is stored and used online, with big fines for firms that break the rules.

The laws will cover large tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter that use personal data as an advertising goldmine, as well as firms like banks and also public bodies.

Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly apologised for the massive data breach, told the US Congress in April that the more stringent EU rules could serve as a model globally.

AFP

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U.S. To Impose ‘Strongest Sanctions In History’ On Iran

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during press conference in Amman.  STRINGER / AFP   US Secretary of State

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during press conference in Amman.  STRINGER / AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned Iran would be hit with the “strongest sanctions in history” and cautioned European firms against continuing to do business in Tehran, toughening up Washington’s policy line after its withdrawal from the nuclear pact.

In his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA, the longtime Iran hawk and ardent opponent of the 2015 nuclear pact outlined an aggressive series of moves designed to counter Tehran, which he called the world’s top sponsor of terror.

“We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness,” Pompeo said in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

“This string of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations.”

Pompeo said if Iran were to abide by the stricter terms, including ending its ballistic missile program and its interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria, the United States would lift its new sanctions.

“Iran will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both,” he said.

President Donald Trump has long said the original 2015 deal with Iran — also signed by Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — did not go far enough, and now wants the Europeans and others to support his hardline strategy.

The deal was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The international community, including top US officials, have said Tehran had been in compliance.

But Trump despised the deal, pointing to other aspects of Iranian behavior not covered in the pact, and on May 8 he pulled America out despite intense diplomatic efforts by European allies who had beseeched him to stick with it by adding tougher new elements.

“Iran’s leaders saw the deal as a starting gun for the march across the Middle East,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the bet the deal would increase Middle East stability had been a bad one for America, Europe, the Middle East “and indeed for the entire world.”

‘Carte blanche’ 

Instead of suggesting a re-negotiation of the Iran deal, Pompeo outlined 12 tough conditions from Washington for any “new deal” with Tehran to make sure it “will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

These essentially address every aspect of Iran’s missile program and what the US calls its “malign influence” across the region, including support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah and Huthi rebels in Yemen.

“It must cease its threatening behavior against its neighbors,” Pompeo said.

“This certainly includes its threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia” and the United Arab Emirates, he added.

European allies heard how he expects their support for the new US plan — but he offered nothing in return, and threatened economic fallout for anyone still dealing with the Islamic Republic.

“We understand that our re-imposition of sanctions and the coming pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will pose financial and economic difficulties for a number of our friends,” he said.

“We want to hear their concerns. But you know, we will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”

The re-establishment of the US sanctions will force European companies to choose between investing in Iran or trading with the United States.

In reality, there is no choice — European companies cannot afford to forsake the US market.

For now, the European Union is trying to persuade Iran to stay in the 2015 agreement, even without Washington’s participation.

Critics rounded on Pompeo’s speech, saying his demands could have been made without pulling America from the nuclear deal.

“Pompeo has not outlined a strategy, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking that can only be interpreted as a call for regime change in Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings’ Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter.

AFP

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Palestinian President Abbas Improving In Hospital – Officials

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas . Photo: Francois Mori / POOL / AFP   Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s condition was improving

Palestinian President Abbas Improving In Hospital - Officials
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas . Photo: Francois Mori / POOL / AFP

 

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s condition was improving and he could leave hospital as early as Tuesday, a senior official and a medical source said Monday.

Abbas, 83, was admitted to the Istishari Arab Hospital near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Sunday with complications following an ear operation.

He was awake and his condition was improving on Monday, a senior official said on condition of anonymity. A medical source confirmed Abbas was getting better.

The Palestinian president is expected to leave the hospital Tuesday and could return straight to work, the official added.

Abbas’s health is the subject of regular speculation, with no clear successor identified.

Senior official Saeb Erekat downplayed fears about his condition late Sunday.

“The president is suffering from an inflammation of the ear that developed following the operation he undertook recently,” Erekat told AFP.

A source familiar with his condition had earlier said he was suffering from chest pain and a high fever.

It is the third time Abbas has been in hospital in a week, initially for the ear operation on Tuesday then for tests on Saturday.

In February, he underwent what was then described as routine medical tests in the United States.

Abbas won a four-year term as president in 2005, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

Abbas argues the split between his Fatah party and Islamists Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip, has made elections politically impossible.

A moderate, he has been involved in decades of negotiations with Israel but is unpopular among Palestinians, with the majority wanting him to step down.

AFP

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Man Rams Car Into His Family At Restaurant, Killing Two

This image obtained from the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office shows Roger Glenn Self, 62, of Dallas, North Carolina.  Photo: HO

This image obtained from the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office shows Roger Glenn Self, 62, of Dallas, North Carolina.  Photo: HO / Gaston County Sheriff’s office / AFP

 

A 62-year-old man was under arrest for murder in North Carolina Monday after he allegedly excused himself from a restaurant lunch with his family, then rammed them with his car at high speed — killing his daughter and daughter-in-law.

Roger Glenn Self, of Dallas, North Carolina, is being held on two charges of first-degree murder, the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office said.

According to the Gaston Gazette, Self was seated with his family at the Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City, near Dallas, on Sunday when he excused himself.

Self went to his car and drove at full speed straight into the table where his family was sitting, it said.

“I saw a white Jeep just fly right past my face,” a waiter, Brandon Wilson, was quoted as saying.

“It was so unreal,” Wilson said. “I saw chairs and tables and cups just flying everywhere. It just sounded like a tornado.”

Self’s daughter, Katelyn Self, 26, a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, died in the crash along with Self’s daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, a nurse, the newspaper said.

Roger Self’s wife, Diane, was seriously injured along with their son, Josh Self, a police officer, and their granddaughter, the 13-year-old daughter of Josh and Amanda Self.

The Gaston Gazette quoted friends of Roger Self, who owned a private investigation company, as saying that he had recently been battling mental illness and depression.

“He was trying to get help,” Austin Rammell, the pastor of the church which Self attended, was quoted as saying.

“We were trying to steer him toward help,” Rammell said.

AFP

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Harry And Meghan Thank Royal Wedding Guests

A picture released by Kensington Palace on behalf of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on May 21, 2018 shows

A picture released by Kensington Palace on behalf of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on May 21, 2018 shows Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, (CL) and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, (CR) posing for an official wedding photograph with (L-R back row) Master Brian Mulroney, Miss Remi Litt, Miss Rylan Litt, Master Jasper Dyer, Prince George of Cambridge, Miss Ivy Mulroney, Master John Mulroney and (L-R front row) Miss Zalie Warren, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Miss Florence van Cutsem in the Green Drawing Room, Windsor Castle, in Windsor on May 19, 2018. PHOTO: Alexi Lubomirski / KENSINGTON PALACE / AFP

 

Newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan thanked everyone who took part in the celebrations of their wedding on Saturday, as their Kensington Palace residence published three official wedding photographs.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex would like to thank everyone who took part in the celebrations of their wedding on Saturday,” the palace said in a statement.

“They feel so lucky to have been able to share their day with all those gathered in Windsor and also all those who watched the wedding on television across the UK, Commonwealth, and around the world,” it said.

Some 100,000 people came for the ceremony in Windsor, west of London and it was watched live globally, including by 29 million people in the US alone.

The two said they were “delighted” with the official portraits taken by Alexi Lubomirski and thanked the public for their “generous members of support”.

One photo shows the couple with Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip, and their son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

In another, the newlyweds pose with all the page boys and bridesmaids who took part in the wedding, including Prince George, who is third in line to the throne.

The third shows the couple alone in black and white.

As a member of the royal family, Meghan now has her own page on the official royal.uk website which carries a short biography focusing on her support for social justice and women’s empowerment causes.

“I am proud to be a woman and a feminist,” Meghan, now the Duchess of Sussex, said on the site.

The description prompted press speculation that Meghan may challenge the royal family’s tradition of not getting involved in politically sensitive subjects.

The Daily Mail said Meghan would “take the royals in a striking new direction” but also voiced caution.

“She must be careful that her enthusiasm for these causes doesn’t allow her to be pulled into the political fray. To survive, the monarchy must remain scrupulously neutral,” it said in an editorial.

AFP

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#BBMAs: Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar Win Big At The 2018 Billboard Music Awards – See Full List Of Winners

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards celebrated some of music’s biggest names on Sunday night (May 20) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards celebrated some of music’s biggest names on Sunday night (May 20) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The awards ceremony featured performances from Janet Jackson, who accepted the 2018 Billboard Music Awards ICON Award and performed for the first time on television in nine years, as well as Ariana Grande, John Legend, Dua Lipa and  etc.

Biggest winners of the night were Ed SheeranBruno Mars, and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar who all had 15 nominations each.

Sheeran took home the top artist prize while Kendrick took home the awards for Top Rap Artist amongst others.

See full list of winners below.

Top Artist

Drake

Kendrick Lamar

Bruno Mars

Ed Sheeran *WINNER

Taylor Swift

Top New Artist

21 Savage

Camila Cabello

Cardi B

Khalid *WINNER

Kodak Black

Billboard Chart Achievement Award

Camila Cabello *WINNER

Cardi B

Drake

Sam Hunt

Ed Sheeran

Top Male Artist

Drake

Kendrick Lamar

Bruno Mars

Post Malone

Ed Sheeran *WINNER

Top Female Artist

Camila Cabello

Cardi B

Halsey

Demi Lovato

Taylor Swift *WINNER

Top Duo/Group

The Chainsmokers

Coldplay

Imagine Dragons 
*WINNER

Migos

U2

Top R&B Artist

Chris Brown

Khalid

Bruno Mars 
*WINNER

SZA

The Weeknd

Top R&B Male Artist

Khalid

Bruno Mars 
*WINNER

The Weeknd

Top R&B Female Artist

Beyoncé

Rihanna

SZA *WINNER

Top Rap Artist

Drake

Kendrick Lamar *WINNER

Lil Uzi Vert

Migos

Post Malone

Top Rap Male Artist

Drake

Kendrick Lamar *WINNER

Post Malone

Top Rap Female Artist

Bhad Bhabie

Cardi B *WINNER

Nicki Minaj

Top Country Artist

Kane Brown

Luke Combs

Sam Hunt

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton 
*WINNER

Top Country Male Artist

Sam Hunt

Thomas Rhett

Chris Stapleton 
*WINNER

Top Country Female Artist

Kelsea Ballerini

Miranda Lambert

Maren Morris *WINNER

Top Country Duo/Group Artist

Florida Georgia Line *WINNER

Old Dominion

Zac Brown Band

 

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Trump ‘Demands’ Probe Of Alleged Spying On His Campaign

US President Donald Trump delivers remarks on reducing drug costs in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington,

Trump Thanks North Korea For 'Gracious' Pledge To Destroy Nuclear Site
US President Donald Trump delivers remarks on reducing drug costs in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

United States President, Donald Trump, demanded Sunday that the Justice Department investigate whether his presidential campaign was “infiltrated” or spied on for political purposes, prompting it to announce it would look into those issues.

Trump has described the infiltration allegations as being potentially “bigger than Watergate,” but Democrats say he is attempting to undermine the year-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with his campaign, headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s angry order came amid building pressure from the year-old Russia meddling investigation, and as US media reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigations sent a Britain-based American professor to speak separately with Trump campaign advisers in 2016.

A New York Times report described the professor as “an informant,” saying the federal agency was looking into evidence that Carter Page and George Papadopoulos had suspicious contacts with Russia.

The Washington Post called him “a longtime US intelligence source,” and said he met with a third campaign adviser — Sam Clovis — as well as Page and Papadopoulos.

Trump and his supporters have cast the man as a mole possibly sent by the Obama administration to burrow into his campaign.

The Justice Department tasked its internal watchdog with looking into the issues raised by Trump.

But it paired that inquiry with an existing “review” of the application process for FISA national security warrants, which Republicans allege was abused in connection with the surveillance of Page.

Expanding an ‘ongoing review’ 

“The department has asked the inspector general to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, said: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

While Trump allies in Congress have demanded more information about the informant, law enforcement officials have refused, saying the source — not yet officially identified — could be in danger if named.

Efforts to identify the FBI informant — and Trump’s claims — have drawn fire from Democratic lawmakers.

“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” said Senator Mark Warner, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat.

“Trump’s claim of an embedded ‘spy’ is nonsense. His ‘demand’ DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems,” tweeted Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Joaquin Castro, another House Democrat, responded to Trump’s demand for Justice Department action by tweeting: “@realDonaldTrump – Let Mueller do his job. Stay out of it. You need to be subpoenaed for obstruction of justice/conspiracy/money laundering.”

“Obstruction in broad daylight,” Democratic lawmaker Eric Swalwell wrote.

Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, a former Justice Department prosecutor and assistant attorney general, told CNN on Friday that it was unclear whether an FBI informant had been embedded in the campaign while adding that the agency “should tell us if there was.”

AFP

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Venezuela’s President, Maduro Declared Winner Of Disputed Polls

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds the political constitution after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro holds the political constitution after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting on the presidential election, on May 20, 2018, in Caracas, Venezuela. Juan BARRETO / AFP

 

President Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner of Venezuela’s election Sunday in a poll rejected as invalid by his rivals, who called for fresh elections to be held later this year.

With more than 90 percent of the votes counted,  Maduro had 67.7 percent of the vote, with his main rival Henri Falcon taking 21.2 percent, the National Election Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced.

AFP

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Maduro’s Rival Cries Foul, Calls For New Venezuela Election

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a press conference after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcon speaks during a press conference after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of the voting on election day in Venezuela, on May 20, 2018. Carlos Becerra / AFP

 

Henri Falcon, President Nicolas Maduro’s main rival in the Venezuelan elections, rejected Sunday’s poll as invalid and called for new elections later this year.

“We do not recognize this electoral process as valid, as true. For us, there were no elections. We have to have new elections in Venezuela,” Falcon told a news conference, accusing the government of coercing voters.

Falcon said fresh elections could be held in November or December when they are traditionally held. Maduro’s government had them brought forward by several months.

Falcon pointed particularly to so-called “red points” — street stalls set up by the ruling Socialists near polling stations — allegedly to offer handouts in exchange for votes.

Falcon said “12,711 red points were installed throughout the country,” representing 87 percent of polling stations.

The 56-year-old former governor also said polling centers had remained open after the scheduled closing time, and that his monitors were expelled from some of them.

AFP

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