Saudi doctoral student gets 34 years in prison for tweets

A Saudi court has sentenced a doctoral student to 34 years in prison for spreading “rumors” and retweeting dissidents, according to court documents obtained Thursday, a decision that has drawn growing global condemnation.

Activists and lawyers consider the sentence against Salma al-Shehab, a mother of two and a researcher at Leeds University in Britain, shocking even by Saudi standards of justice.

So far unacknowledged by the kingdom, the ruling comes amid Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent even as his rule granted women the right to drive and other new freedoms in the ultraconservative Islamic nation.

Al-Shehab was detained during a family vacation on Jan. 15, 2021, just days before she planned to return to the United Kingdom, according to the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based human rights group.

Al-Shehab told judges she had been held for over 285 days in solitary confinement before her case was even referred to court, the legal documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

The Freedom Initiative describes al-Shehab as a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority, which has long complained of systematic discrimination in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia has boasted to the world that they are improving women’s rights and creating legal reform, but there is no question with this abhorrent sentence that the situation is only getting worse,” said Bethany al-Haidari, the group’s Saudi case manager.

Leading human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday slammed al-Shehab’s trial as “grossly unfair” and her sentence as “cruel and unlawful.”

Read: : Khashoggi killing: CIA did not blame Saudi crown prince, says Trump

Since rising to power in 2017, Prince Mohammed has accelerated efforts to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil with massive tourism projects — most recently plans to create the world’s longest buildings that would stretch for more than 100 miles in the desert. But he has also faced criticism over his arrests of those who fail to fall in line, including dissidents and activists but also princes and businessmen.

Judges accused al-Shehab of “disturbing public order” and “destabilizing the social fabric” — claims stemming solely from her social media activity, according to an official charge sheet. They alleged al-Shehab followed and retweeted dissident accounts on Twitter and “transmitted false rumors.”

The specialized criminal court handed down the unusually harsh 34-year sentence under Saudi counterterrorism and cybercrime laws, to be followed by a 34-year travel ban. The decision came earlier this month as al-Shehab appealed her initial sentence of six years.

“The (six-year) prison sentence imposed on the defendant was minor in view of her crimes,” a state prosecutor told the appeals court. “I’m calling to amend the sentence in light of her support for those who are trying to cause disorder and destabilize society, as shown by her following and retweeting (Twitter) accounts.”

The Saudi government in Riyadh, as well as its embassies in Washington and London, did not respond to a request for comment.

Leeds University confirmed that al-Shehab was in her final year of doctoral studies at the medical school.

“We are deeply concerned to learn of this recent development in Salma’s case and we are seeking advice on whether there is anything we can do to support her,” the university said.

Al-Shehab’s sentencing also drew the attention of Washington, where the State Department said Wednesday it was “studying the case.”

“Exercising freedom of expression to advocate for the rights of women should not be criminalized, it should never be criminalized,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed concern on Twitter Thursday that the kingdom targeted al-Shehab “for her peaceful activism in solidarity w/political prisoners,” as well as for her Shiite identity.

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden traveled to the oil-rich kingdom and held talks with Prince Mohammed in which he said he raised human rights concerns. Their meeting — and much-criticized fist-bump — marked a sharp turn-around from Biden’s earlier vow to make the kingdom a “pariah” over the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

During her appeal, al-Shehab said the harsh judgement was tantamount to the “destruction of me, my family, my future, and the future of my children.” She has two young boys, aged 4 and 6.

She told judges she had no idea that simply retweeting posts “out of curiosity and to observe others’ viewpoints,” from a personal account with no more than 2,000 followers, constituted terrorism.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Electrocution leaves two siblings dead in Jashore

Two minor siblings died after being electrocuted on the rooftop of their house in Bagherpara upazila of Jashore district on Friday.

The ill-fated deceased identified as 14-year-old Abu Hossain Akash and his five-year-old sister Nusrat, were children of Kabir Hossain of Bhaddradanga village in the upazila.

Kabir said that although he and family members came home on Thursday from his resindence in Jashore city.

“They (children) came in contact with a live electric wire connected to a mortgage signboard of a bank from which I took loan for constructing the house,” he said, adding that the accident happened around 11.30am when they were playing on the rooftop.

The impact of the electrocution left them critically injured and they were rushed to Upazila Health Complex where physicians pronounced them dead on arrival, said Makbul Hossain, Officer-in-charge of Bagherpara Police Station.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

10 people remanded over Uttara girder crash

A Dhaka court on Friday remanded 10 people on different terms in a case lodged over the death of five people after a girder of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project crashed on a private car in the capital’s Uttara.

The remanded accused are-Crane Operator Md Al Amin Hossain Hridoy, 25, helper Rakib Hossain, 23, Four Brothers Guard Service staff Md Rubel, 28 and Md Afroj Mia, 50, Safety engineer of the contractor firm Md Zulfikar Ali Shah, 39, owner of IFS CON Bangladesh Limited Md Iftekhar Hossain, 39 and head of operations Md Ajharul Islam Mithu, 45, marketing manager of Build Trade Company Limited Tofazzal Hossain Tushar, 42 and administrative officers Ruhul Amin Mridha, 33, and Md Monjurul Islam, 29.

Crane operator Al Amin, his helper Rakib and Zulfikar were placed on a four-day remand each while the other seven were placed on a two-day remand each when they were produced before the court with a 10-day and seven-day remand prayers respectively.

Also

Metropolitan Magistrate Md Mahbub Ahmed passed the order after the investigation officer of the case, Inspector Yasin Gazi, produced them before the court.

Earlier, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) arrested all the accused from Dhaka, Gazipur, Bagerhat and Sirajganj on different days.

On Monday, a BRT project girder came crashing down on the car near Uttara’s Jasimuddin road when it was being moved onto a trailer, suggesting the use of cranes of insufficient strength in the project.

Rubel, 50, Fahima, 40, her sister Jhorna, 28, and Jhorna’s two children Jannat, 6, and Jakaria, 2, got crushed inside the mangled car.

Fortunately, a newlywed couple – Rubel’s son Hridoy, 26, and his wife Ria Moni, 21, – also travelling with them escaped death.

It came exactly one month after a worker was killed by a falling crane in the Gazipur part of the BRT project, and last year six workers escaped with injuries after a part of a launching girder collapsed near them, close to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.

Also

A case was filed at Uttara West Police Station over Monday’s accident accusing the crane operator, contractor company China Gezhouba Group Corporation and unnamed people.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Requested India to help Bangladesh maintain stability, harmony: Momen

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen Thursday said he requested the Indian government to do whatever necessary to help Bangladesh maintain stability and harmony.

“When I went to New Delhi, I told the Indian government that Sheikh Hasina must be sustained. Bangladesh will continue to march towards development and will truly become a country free of communalism under her leadership,” he said.

The foreign minister was speaking as the chief guest at a Janmashtami, one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, programme in Chattogram.

Read:Nation observing Bangabandhu’s anniversary of martyrdom in a somber mood

“If someone takes the country to the path of instability to shake Sheikh Hasina’s government, then it is a danger for everyone. We want stability,” Momen said.

The foreign minister said they told the Indian government that the two countries will work in such a way that neither side promotes instigative behaviors to maintain law and order and stability.

“If we can do that, it’s good for both Bangladesh and India,” Momen said, adding that India does not need to face extra expenditure in its border areas as Sheikh Hasina is there in power.

He said thousands of people from Bangladesh visit India every year and many Indians work in Bangladesh as there is development in Bangladesh. “This has been possible as the two countries are going through a Golden Chapter.”

For that reason, Momen said he requested the Indian government to continue supporting Sheikh Hasina as peace and stability brings benefits for the two countries.

He said there are some wicked people and fundamentalists who create noise though the government remains silent.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

‘Game of Thrones’ prequel keeps dragons, adds diversity

The prequel to “Game of Thrones” is set to forge its own storytelling path, with a new set of characters and a more diverse team behind the scenes.

“House of the Dragon” takes place two centuries before the events of the original series, which ended its hit eight-season run in May 2019. The 10-episode prequel begins Sunday on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

The story focuses on House Targaryen, made famous in “Game of Thrones” by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys and her fearsome dragons. But don’t expect “House of the Dragon” to be a remake of “Game of Thrones,’’ cast member Steve Toussaint said.

“It’s been done and they did it exceedingly well,” said Toussaint, who plays the very rich Lord Corlys Velaryon. “You know you’re in that world, but you’re seeing a different story, different characters, different motivations.”

Among the new faces in the clan is Prince Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith. His villainous character is a lot more complex than he appears to be on first viewing, the actor said.

“I think the reason I’ve had fun is because he’s maybe not just a villain,” he said. “I think there’s actually a huge amount of fragility and depth and inner madness there. … It’s not black and white. It can go either way with Daemon at any point.”

Based on George R.R. Martin’s “Fire and Blood,” the drama was co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, whose credits include the 2016-19 sci-fi drama “Colony.” Condal is an executive producer and co-showrunner with director Miguel Sapochnik, who brings his experience on “Game of Thrones” to the prequel.

Read:Anne Heche dies of crash injuries after life support removed

“House of the Dragon,” much like its predecessor, focuses on familial succession with a female heir being overlooked. But Sapochnik notes a key difference between the two series: The team making the prequel is more diverse, including a 50-50 split between male and female directors, including Sapochnik, Clare Kilner, Geeta Vasant Patel and Greg Yaitanes.

There was a conscious push to be inclusive behind the scenes, Sapochnik says.

“We really tried to, as much as possible, hire as many female crew as we could, because we think that’s a really important shift that needs to be both recognized, acknowledged, acted upon, maybe give opportunities to people who don’t get opportunities,” he explained.

The team making “Dragon” is equally as diverse, and — for the fantasy genre — boasts a relative bounty of women in the writers’ room. The gender balance affects the show’s story and tone, according to some of its female cast members.

The series opens with an aristocratic council naming Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) as heir to the Iron Throne, bypassing his older cousin Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best). But Viserys must have his own heir, with dreams of power held by Daemon, his younger brother, and Viserys’ daughter Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy plays the adult version, Milly Alcock the youth).

“You definitely don’t feel like a device or a prop and you don’t feel like the the sexy wench or the mother,” said Olivia Cooke, who plays the adult Alicent Hightower, longtime friend to Rhaenyra. “You feel that you’ve got a fully fledged character which is really nourishing to play.”

The ensemble cast also includes Emily Carey, Graham McTavish, Fabien Frankel, Rhys Ifans and Sonoya Mizuno.

Carey, who plays the younger Alicent, calls the inclusion of women in all aspects of production a step “in the right direction” for the fantasy genre.

Although virtually every female character faces misogyny, each is “still a fully fledged, three-dimensional female character,” Carey said. “They still have multiple other story lines and a whole life away from that misogynistic story line. They’re not just put in the show to serve a purpose. And I think that’s what makes it so special.”

“House of the Dragon” screenwriter Charmaine DeGraté said “it was important for George (R.R. Martin, a prequel executive producer) for it to be this way. Female-driven characters, female-driven shows and female-driven writers rooms just sort of elevates the story. That’s a wonderful way to expand the universe.”

Source: United News of Bangladesh

China’s response to Pelosi visit a sign of future intentions

China’s response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was anything but subtle — dispatching warships and military aircraft to all sides of the self-governing island democracy, and firing ballistic missiles into the waters nearby.

The dust has still not settled, with Taiwan this week conducting drills of its own and Beijing announcing it has more maneuvers planned, but experts say a lot can already be gleaned from what China has done, and has not done, so far. China will also be drawing lessons on its own military capabilities from the exercises, which more closely resembled what an actual strike on the island claimed by Beijing as its own territory would look like, and from the American and Taiwanese response.

During the nearly weeklong maneuvers that followed Pelosi’s early August visit, China sailed ships and flew aircraft regularly across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, claiming the de facto boundary did not exist, fired missiles over Taiwan itself, and challenged established norms by firing missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“I think we are in for a risky period of testing boundaries and finding out who can achieve escalatory dominance across the diplomatic, military and economic domains,” said David Chen, an analyst with CENTRA Technology, a U.S.-based consulting firm.

Pelosi was the highest-level member of the U.S. government to visit Taiwan in 25 years, and her visit came at a particularly sensitive time, as Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares to seek a third five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party later this year.

Under Xi, China has been increasingly forceful in declaring that Taiwan must be brought under its control — by force if necessary — and U.S. military officials have said that Beijing may seek a military solution within the next few years.

Tensions were already high, with China conducting regular military flights near Taiwan and the U.S. routinely sailing warships through the Taiwan Strait to emphasize they are international waters.

China accuses the U.S. of encouraging the island’s independence through the sale of weapons and engagement between U.S. politicians and the island’s government.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called Pelosi’s visit a “serious provocation” and accused Washington of breaking the status quo and “interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

“China is not the old China of 120 years ago, and we are not Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan — we will not allow any foreign force to bully, suppress or enslave us,” she told reporters in Beijing. “Whoever wants to do so will be on a collision course with the Great Wall of steel forged by the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

The U.S. continues to insist it has not deviated from its “one-China” policy, recognizing the government in Beijing while allowing for informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

China held off on its maneuvers until Pelosi had left Taiwan, and turned back its forces before they approached Taiwan’s coast or territorial airspace, which showed a “modicum of restraint,” Chen said. But, he noted, another congressional visit following Pelosi’s triggered the announcement of more exercises.

“We are likely entering a period of regular military demonstrations in and around China’s maritime domain,” he said.

“The Chinese Communist Party is also quite capable in creating cross-domain responses, as has been seen in the cyber realm. Beyond that, we could see escalatory moves in space, in the South China Sea, Africa, the Indian Ocean, or the South Pacific.”

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the scale and coordination of the exercises suggested China was looking past Taiwan toward establishing dominance in the western Pacific. That would include controlling the East and South China Seas via the Taiwan Strait, and having the capability to impose a blockade to prevent the U.S. and its allies from coming to the aid of Taiwan in the event of an attack.

Short of an armed conflict, a blockade of the Taiwan Strait — a significant thoroughfare for global trade — could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruptions.

In particular, Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for the global economy.

Though ostensibly a reaction to Pelosi’s visit, it is clear China’s exercises had been long planned, said Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow in the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund think tank.

“I do think they were looking for an opportunity to escalate,” she said. “This is not something you prep after the announcement (of the visit) and then pull off that quickly and that easily.”

Read:China sets sanctions on Taiwan figures to punish US, island

The U.S. held back throughout the maneuvers, keeping an aircraft carrier group and two amphibious assault ships at sail in the region, but not close to the island. Taiwan avoided any active countermeasures.

Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs, said this week that the U.S. was taking a “calm and resolute” long-view approach that would include continued transits of the Taiwan Strait, supporting Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, and otherwise deepening ties with the island.

To that end, the U.S. announced Thursday that it was opening talks with Taiwan on a wide-ranging trade agreement.

Campbell said Washington sees China’s actions as “part of an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan, which has not ended.”

“We expect it to continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Defense has acknowledged China’s increasingly capable military, saying it has become a true rival and has already surpassed the American military in some areas, including shipbuilding, and now has the world’s largest navy.

The reserved American response to the recent exercises seemed calculated to avoid any accidental confrontation that could have escalated the situation, but could also feed China’s confidence, Ohlberg said.

“The base of China’s thinking is that the U.S. is in decline and that China is on the rise, and I guess the response would have been seen in Beijing as confirming that thinking,” she said.

The U.S. and China came perhaps the closest to blows in 1996, when China, irked by what it saw as increasing American support for Taiwan, fired missiles into the waters some 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Taiwan’s coast ahead of Taiwan’s first popular presidential election.

The U.S. responded with its own show of force, sending two aircraft carrier groups to the region. At the time, China had no aircraft carriers and little means to threaten the American ships, and it backed down.

China subsequently embarked on a massive modernization of its military and the recent exercises demonstrate a “quantum leap” of improvement from 1996, showing a joint command and control coordination not seen before, Chen said.

Before being confident enough to launch an actual invasion of Taiwan, however, the Chinese military still needs to do more to assure the country’s political leadership it would be successful, he said.

“These latest exercises are probably part of proving that capability, but more needs to be hammered out before they could be confident in conducting a full-scale Taiwan amphibious invasion,” he said. “They’ve only demonstrated the maritime blockade and air control parts of that campaign, without opposition.”

Following the visit, China released an updated “white paper” on Taiwan outlining how it envisioned an eventual annexation of the island would look.

It said it would follow the “one country, two systems” format applied in Hong Kong, which critics say has been undermined by a sweeping national security law that asserts Beijing’s control over speech and political participation. The concept has been thoroughly rejected in Taiwanese public opinion polls in which respondents have overwhelmingly favored their current de facto independence.

Tellingly, the new white paper discarded a pledge in its previous iteration not to send troops or government officials to an annexed Taiwan.

China has refused all contact with Taiwan’s government since shortly after the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party. Tsai was overwhelmingly reelected in 2020.

China’s bellicose response to Pelosi’s visit may have the unintended effect of strengthening the DPP in midterm elections later this year, said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

Ideally, it would be in Taiwan’s best interest if both sides backed off and found “reasoned ways” to settle differences, he said.

“There’s an old saying that when two big elephants fight, the ant and the grass suffer,” he said.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Tidal surges may inundate low-lying areas of coastal districts

The low-lying areas of 15 coastal districts in Bangladesh, including their offshore islands and chars, are likely to be inundated by tidal surges, the weather department said on Friday.

These districts are Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Barguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal, Laxmipur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Feni, Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.

The well-marked low over the northeast Bay moved northwestwards and intensified into a depression over the northeast Bay and adjoining areas around 6am, according to Bangladesh Meteorological Department.

Read: Depression in Bay: Low-lying areas of 4 districts inundated

The depression is likely to intensify further and move northwestwards.

The sea will remain rough near the depression centre as maximum sustained wind speed within 44km of the depression centre is about 40 kmph rising to 50 kmph in squalls, it added.

Squally weather may affect the maritime ports, the North Bay, and the adjoining coastal areas of Bangladesh.

Maritime ports of Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar, Mongla and Payra have been advised to keep hoisted local cautionary signal No 3.

“All fishing boats and trawlers in the North Bay have been advised to take shelter immediately and remain in shelter till further notice,” the department said.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Bomb threats put tiny Moldova, Ukraine’s neighbor, on edge

For tiny Moldova, an impoverished, landlocked nation that borders war-torn Ukraine but isn’t in the European Union or NATO, it’s been another week plagued by bomb threats.

On an overcast day outside the international airport serving Moldova’s capital of Chisinau, hundreds of people lined up this week as bomb-sniffing dogs examined the vicinity. That’s now a common scene in Europe’s poorest nation as it battles what observers believe are attempts to destabilize the former Soviet republic amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of July, Moldova has received nearly 60 bomb threats — with more than 15 reported so far this week — at locations ranging from the capital’s city hall, to the airport, the supreme court, shopping malls and hospitals.

While no one has yet been charged for the bomb threats, most of which have arrived via email and all of which have turned out to be false, officials say they have traced computer addresses to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“It is part of the disinformation war against Moldova, which is ongoing,” said Valeriu Pasa, an analyst at the Chisinau think tank Watchdog.md. “It could be part of the Russian effort to destabilize Moldova, as they use many different methods to do so.”

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moldova, which has a population of 2.6 million people, has faced a multitude of crises. It has received more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other country; tensions have soared in the country’s Russia-backed breakaway region; it is dealing with an acute energy crisis; and like much of Europe it is battling skyrocketing inflation.

The frequent bomb threats are only adding pressure to the country’s already overstretched authorities.

“It blocks a lot of the resources — police, investigators, technical services — it’s a type of bullying I would say, or harassment, of Moldovan state systems and public services,” Pasa said.

Maxim Motinga, a prosecutor from Moldova’s Office for Combating Organized Crime, told The Associated Press that since the bomb threats started “practically every day we open criminal cases.”

Read:High-level talks in Ukraine yield little reported progress

“At the moment, all criminal investigations are ongoing,” he said, adding that requests have been made for official assistance from Russia and Ukraine if “certain tracks leading to the respective countries were established.”

“I hope we get some answers from those countries,” he said.

For Veaceslav Belbas, a 43-year-old Moldovan businessman returning from Turkey to Chisinau on Monday, a bomb threat left him frightened as his plane circled the capital’s airport for 30 minutes. After that, the plane did a U-turn and went back to Turkey.

“We prayed a lot and finally landed,” he said. “For me, it was such a big shock that I told my wife that this is my last flight.”

Tensions in Moldova soared in April after a series of actual explosions occurred in the Russia-backed breakaway region of Transnistria, where Russia bases about 1,500 troops in a so-called frozen conflict zone. It raised fears that non-NATO, militarily neutral Moldova could get dragged into Russia’s war orbit. At least one Russian official has spoken openly of snatching enough land in southern Ukraine to link up Russian-controlled areas from the mainland to Transnistria.

Observers pointed out that the blasts came as Moldova — which has historically close ties with Moscow — showed a growing Western orientation and after it had applied to join the EU, which it did shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. It was granted EU candidate status in late June, shortly before the bomb threats started.

Since Moldova gained independence in 1991, it has been plagued by organized crime and official corruption. After an election in 2019, a local oligarch attempted to seize power, which triggered mass protests before he fled the country. In 2014, several politicians and oligarchs had alleged ties to a scam in which $1 billion vanished from local banks. No one has yet been convicted in that case.

Galina Gheorghes was returning to England from Moldova last month after attending a family get-together when a bomb threat canceled her flight. She says she is angry that no one has yet been caught.

“It is very bad what’s happening … unfortunately, the ordinary people suffer,” the 35-year-old Gheorghes said.

Amid a seemingly endless pattern of disruptive and costly threats, Moldova’s Internal Ministry said it wants to toughen punishments for anyone convicted of false bomb alerts by ramping up fines and handing out lengthier prison sentences.

Chisinau Airport has been hit by dozens of bomb threats since July and has bolstered security in response. Radu Zanoaga, head of border police at the airport, says a specialist unit has been established to save security officials the trouble of traveling in from the city center each time a bomb threat is made.

“At the moment, we are dealing with the situation in cooperation with other (state) bodies and institutions that operate within the airport,” he said. “There have been bomb alerts before — but not as many and not as frequent as now.”

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Finnish PM: No drugs, just lots of dancing at ‘wild’ party

Finland’s prime minister says she did not take any drugs during a “wild” party in a private home, adding she did nothing wrong when letting her hair down and partying with friends.

A video posted on a social media shows six people dancing and mimicking a song in front of a camera, including Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Later in the video, Marin, 36, is on her knees on what seems to be the dance floor with her arms behind her head dancing while mimicking a song.

“I’m disappointed that it has become public. I spent the evening with friends. Partied, pretty wild, yes. Danced and sang,” she was quoted Thursday as saying by Finnish broadcaster YLE.

“I have not used drugs myself, or anything other than alcohol. I’ve danced, sung and partied and done perfectly legal things. I have also not been in a situation where I would know that others are doing it that way,” Marin said, according to the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper.

It was unclear when the party, which reportedly was attended by Ilmari Nurminen, a member of Eduskunta, or parliament, for Marin’s Social Democratic Party, and the Finnish singer Alma, was held.

Read:Turkey again asks Sweden, Finland to extradite suspects

Marin — who in December 2019 became Finland’s youngest prime minister ever — said she spends her free time with friends just like others her age and that she intends to continue being the same person as before.

“I hope that’s accepted. We live in a democracy and in elections everyone can decide these issues,” she said, according to YLE.

Critics have pointed out that Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) land border with Russia, faces high electricity prices, among other issues from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The country recently dropped its long-neutral stance and asked to join NATO.

In July, Marin attended a popular Finnish rock festival. In December she made a public apology after going out clubbing until 4 a.m. without her work phone, hence failing to be informed that she had been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person. She didn’t test positive.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Heatwave may abate in next 24 hours

Large parts of Bangladesh are in the grip of a blistering heatwave but that may abate in the next 24 hours, the weather department said on Friday.

“Mild heat wave is sweeping through Rangpur, Rajshahi, Dhaka, Khulna, Barishal, Chattogram and Sylhet divisions and it may abate,” the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) said in a daily bulletin.

Besides, light to moderate rains or showers accompanied by temporary gusty or squally wind are likely to occur at most places over Rajshahi, Dhaka, Khulna, Barishal and Chattogram divisions and at many places over Rangpur, Mymensingh and Sylhet divisions with moderately heavy to very heavy falls at places over Southern part of the country, it added.

Read: Bangladesh reels under mild heatwave

Rains or thunder showers are likely to continue. Day temperature may fall by 2-4 degrees and night temperature may fall by 1-2 degrees over the country.

The weather office recorded the highest rainfall of 138 mm in Feni of Chattogram division in 24 hours till 6am on Friday.

The highest temperature was recorded at 37.8 degrees Celsius in Mymensingh, while the lowest temperature was recorded at 23.9 degrees in Rajshahi.

Meanwhile, the low pressure area over the Northeast Bay and adjoining areas moved northwestwards and intensified into a well-marked low first and then into a depression over the Northwest Bay and adjoining northeast Bay this morning.

It is likely to intensify further and move northwestwards.

The axis of monsoon trough runs through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal to Assam across the central part of Bangladesh. Monsoon is active over Bangladesh and strong over the North Bay, as per the bulletin.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

Bangabandhu Foundation pays homage to ‘Father of Nation’ at Tungipara

Leaders of Bangabandhu Foundation on Friday paid homage to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his grave at Tungipara in Gopalganj.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, president of Bangabandhu Foundation, along with other leaders of the organisation placed wreaths at Bangabandhu’s grave in the morning.

They offered fateha and raised hands in prayer seeking eternal peace for the departed soul of Bangabandhu and his family members who were killed on the dreadful night of August 15, 1975.

The Executive President of the Central Committee of Bangabandhu Foundation Advocate Moshiur Malek, Vice President Advocate Abdul Khalek Mia and Md Delwar Hossain were present among others.

Source: United News of Bangladesh

I told India to help maintain stability in Bangladesh, Momen clarifies

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Friday said he told the Indian government that Bangladesh would be happy if India helps Bangladesh in maintaining stability, noting that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants stability and communal harmony in the country.

“So, stability is the most important. We want stability in this region, too. We don’t want any instability. If we can do this (maintain stability together), it will be meaningful in this Golden Chapter of our relations,” he told reporters explaining what he wanted to say in Chattogram at a programme on Thursday night.

Earlier, he offered munajat and paid homage to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Mausoleum of Bangabandhu at Tungipara.

Momen said he conveyed that there are some wicked people in both countries – Bangladesh and India – who make instigative remarks and they instigate to turn minor things into big ones.

Also read: Requested India to help Bangladesh maintain stability, harmony: Momen

“Both the governments have a responsibility to stop this. If we can do that, there will be communal harmony and there will be no uncertainty,” he said.

Responding to a question, Momen said Bangladesh is witnessing development amid communal harmony as Hasina is there (in power).

“It’s good for everyone if a non-communal social system gets established. In Bangladesh, all the citizens have equal rights,” he added.

Momen said Bangladesh gets stability when PM Hasina remains there ( in power) and the development journey remains uninterrupted when there is stability.

The foreign minister said he referred to what the Assam Chief Minister told him and that exactly he conveyed to the Indian government.

“Going to India, I said your Assam Chief Minister thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her zero tolerance policy and her announcement that Bangladesh cannot be a hub for terrorists,” Momen said.

He said there are no terrorist activities in Assam and surrounding areas and they are seeing growing development with increased investment in Assam and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s efforts were credited.

“I conveyed to the Indian government that your chief minister said there is stability as Sheikh Hasina is there. It benefits both sides,” Momen said.

On Thursday, Momen said he requested the Indian government to do whatever necessary to help Bangladesh maintain stability and harmony.

“When I went to India, I told the Indian government that Sheikh Hasina must be sustained. Bangladesh will continue to march towards development and will truly become a country free of communalism under her leadership,” he said.

Speaking as the chief guest at a Janmashtami, one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, programme in Chattogram, Momen also said, “If someone takes the country to the path of instability to shake Sheikh Hasina’s government, then it is a danger for everyone. We want stability.”

The foreign minister said they told the Indian government that the two countries will work in such a way that neither side promotes instigative behaviors to maintain law and order and stability.

“If we can do that, it’s good for both Bangladesh and India,” Momen said, adding that India does not need to face extra expenditure in its border areas as Sheikh Hasina is there in power.

He said thousands of people from Bangladesh visit India every year and many Indians work in Bangladesh as there is development in Bangladesh. “This has been possible as the two countries are going through a Golden Chapter.”

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For that reason, Momen said he requested the Indian government to continue supporting Sheikh Hasina as peace and stability brings benefits for the two countries.

He said there are some wicked people and fundamentalists who create noise though the government remains silent.

Source: United News of Bangladesh