The death of a three-month-old baby separated from her jailed mother despite pleas to keep the pair together has shocked the Philippines, reports the BBC’s Preeti Jha.
Reina Mae Nasino, a human rights worker, didn’t know she was pregnant when she was arrested last year in Manila. She put her missed period down to the stress of a night-time police raid in which she was arrested, alongside two fellow activists.
It was only during a medical examination in prison that the 23-year-old found out she was in her first trimester.
The death of Ms Nasino’s newborn last week – less than two months after the baby was removed from her care – has raised questions about the treatment of Philippine mothers in custody as many voiced their anger at the justice system for failing the child.
A challenging birth
Ms Nasino, who worked for the urban poverty group Kadamay, was arrested in November 2019 with two fellow activists after police raided an office where they lived at the time.
They were charged with the illegal possession of firearms and explosives – charges all three have denied. They say the ammunition was planted by authorities amid a widening crackdown against left-leaning activists.
Despite the circumstances, Ms Nasino “was quite excited to be a mother”, her lawyer Josalee Deinla said. She was prepared for the challenge of giving birth in custody and aware the legal proceedings were likely to be lengthy.
But as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, her concerns grew rapidly. The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, a legal aid group representing Ms Nasino, filed a series of motions calling for her release.
The first one in April urged the temporary release of 22 political prisoners most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus, including Ms Nasino. Later motions asked the court to allow the activist and her baby to remain together in hospital or at the Manila City Jail where she was detained.
“We were shocked that the court would deny such a plea. The judge only needed to consider the motions from her own perspective as a human. But unfortunately compassion and mercy were not extended to mother and child,” said Ms Deinla.
River Masino was born on 1 July. Her birth weight was low but after a few days she and Ms Nasino returned to Manila City Jail where they stayed in a makeshift room reserved for them.
Under Philippine law a child born in custody can remain with the mother for only the first month of their life, though exceptions can be made. By comparison, children born to mothers detained in Malaysia are permitted to remain with them until the age of three or four. In the UK, mother and baby units enable women to stay with their infants till they reach 18 months.
Campaigners persisted in pressing authorities to release Ms Masino and her baby.
“We would tie blue ribbons to the the poles of the Supreme Court gates. They stood for River, the essence of life. We placed candles outside. But they didn’t listen,” said Fides Lim, who heads Kapatid, a support group of families and friends of political prisoners in the Philippines.
US slaps sanctions on Iran’s envoy to Iraq, citing links to Quds Force & militia groups
Washington has added the Iranian ambassador to Iraq to its sanctions blacklist, claiming he works for an elite military unit it has deemed a terrorist cell, as well as three groups it accused of “sowing discord” in the 2020 race.
Sanctions were announced for Ambassador Iraj Masjedi on Thursday, with the US Treasury Department deeming him a “long-running threat to Iraqi security” and citing his alleged role in training militia groups in Iraq with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – designated a terrorist organization by the US last year.
“In his decades of service with the group, Masjedi has overseen a program of training and support to Iraqi militia groups, and he has directed or supported groups that are responsible for attacks that have killed and wounded US and coalition forces in Iraq,” the department said in a statement, adding that the envoy “has exploited his position as the Iranian regime’s ambassador in Iraq to obfuscate financial transfers conducted for the benefit” of the IRGC and its external wing, the Quds Force.
Masjedi was appointed ambassador in 2017, after serving in the IRGC for some 35 years. A veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, he later worked as a close adviser to Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US assassination strike in January. Following Soleimani’s death, Masjedi took on some of his former duties in overseeing Iraq’s Shia militia groups – known as the Popular Mobilization Forces – who have played a salient role in beating back the Islamic State.
Though President Donald Trump has unleashed a barrage of sanctions on the Islamic Republic since taking office, including on Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, penalties for diplomats are somewhat rare, more often targeting military officials.
In Thursday’s sanctions announcement, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also accused Tehran of a “destabilizing foreign agenda,” including attempts to “influence US elections,” beating the drum on an increasingly common talking point from the Trump administration.
In the same spirit, on Thursday Washington also imposed penalties on five Iranian entities it said had tried to “influence elections in the United States,” though produced no evidence to support the charge. One day prior, US intelligence officials also claimed Iran was behind a “spoof email” campaign designed to “intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump,” adding to a flurry of similar assertions of foreign influence operations by not only Iran, but Russia and China as well.
Tehran has rejected the allegations, lodging a formal complaint on Thursday with the Swiss ambassador in Iran – who has acted as a mediator for US-Iranian diplomacy – to protest charges it called “baseless.” A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the UN, Alireza Miryousefi, has also dismissed the claims as “absurd” and “dangerous,” scorching Washington for “desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections.”
Assertions of foreign election-meddling have come to dominate the US political scene since the 2016 presidential race, originating with an elaborate conspiracy theory that then-candidate Trump worked with Moscow to tip the scales in his favor through a combination of hacking and social media trolls. Though the Trump-Russia narrative has been largely discredited after a sweeping special counsel probe failed to substantia
11 arrested at anti-Covid lockdown protest in Dublin, police violently clash with demonstrators (VIDEOS)
More than 100 demonstrators protesting ramped-up Covid-19 lockdown restrictions clashed with police in Dublin, with 11 being arrested and an investigation launched into the organizers of the event.
Nine of the people arrested have been charged with public order offenses, as the protest breaks lockdown restrictions, which only allow citizens to leave their homes for essential trips.
Law enforcement attempted to block a crowd at Grafton Street and ordered the demonstrators to disperse as they were “in breach to public health regulations.”
A small group managed to break through a wall of officers deployed to the area and video shows batons being used to stop the protesters and force them to the ground where they were handcuffed.
Protesters were pushed and told to leave the street as they cursed at officers wrestling with demonstrators who refused to disperse.
Vans were also parked on the street to help block the marching crowd and prevent a sit-down protest.
Tanzania’s Tundu Lissu: Surviving an assassination attempt to run for president
To his supporters, Tundu Lissu is brave and fearless. The fact that he is running for president of Tanzania three years after surviving an attempt on his life is testimony to his determination.
He was shot several times by gunmen, who have yet to be identified, near his home in the capital, Dodoma, and underwent more than 20 operations in Kenya and Belgium in order to recover.
Flying back into the country in July, after treatment abroad, he was greeted at the airport by his backers as a returning hero.
At a time when some in Tanzania feel that their freedom to speak out is being curtailed, Mr Lissu’s frank style has been very appealing and in August he comfortably beat off two challengers to secure the presidential nomination for the opposition Chadema party.
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The 52-year-old lawyer first became an MP for Chadema in 2010 for a constituency near his birth place in Singida, 320km (200 miles) north-west of Dodoma.
He quickly established himself as an outspoken voice and a fierce critic of the government and later President John Magufuli after he was elected in 2015.
Arrested for sedition
In March 2017, he was detained for “uttering words intended to wound religious feelings, raise discontent and ill-will for unlawful purposes”.
Then in July of that year he was arrested on charges of sedition after claiming that a government-owned plane had been seized in Canada over an unpaid debt of $38m (£29m).
His boldness has endeared him to neutrals as well as supporters of some other opposition parties.
But he will also need to restore faith in his own party. In the wake of Chadema’s 2015 defeat, many of its MPs and leaders, including losing presidential candidate Edward Lowassa, joined the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
Mr Lissu needs to convince Chadema’s members that he is a different type of politician and will not be using the election as a bargaining chip with the CCM leadership.
On the campaign trail, he has been true to his reputation of being outspoken. Though one of the main criticisms levelled against all opposition politicians has been that they focus on attacking Mr Magufuli and his government rather than selling their policies.
At the end of September, Mr Lissu was summoned to the electoral commission’s ethics committee after reportedly saying that President Magufuli was colluding with election officials to rig the vote. The opposition candidate was accused of fomenting chaos.
Then a week later he was suspended from campaigning for seven days after the electoral commission said that he had uttered seditious statements during one of his rallies.
The regime is getting scared and therefore they are pulling out all the stops… in their capacity to fight my campaign”
Chadema has also said its party offices in the north of the country were attacked.
“The regime is getting scared and therefore they are pulling out all the stops, using all instruments of power in their capacity to fight my campaign,” Mr Lissu told the Reuters news agency.
His stance has certainly caught the attention of the young urban population, and he has told BBC News Swahili that if he were to win, in his first 100 days he would:
- Raise salaries in the public sector
- Free those he considered political prisoners
- Compensate those who have been “hurt” by the government
- And re-start the constitution review process.
But it is not clear whether he will be able to make any serious inroads into the rural strongholds of CCM, which has been in power since its formation in 1977.
CCM was a successor to the Tanganyika African National Union, which governed Tanzania from 1961 to 1977.
There are 13 other candidates challenging the incumbent, with former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe one of the most high-profile of the others.
Expelled from the ruling party
The 66-year-old is contesting the presidential election for the ACT Wazalendo party, but his candidacy has been hampered by the fact that his party leader, Zitto Kabwe, and chairman, Seif Sharif Hamad, have endorsed Mr Lissu.
They believe that he has a b