PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry told AFP in an interview Monday that he was targeted in an assassination attempt during weekend national day celebrations.
“An attempt has been made against me personally. My life has been put in the crosshairs,” said Henry, who has been de-facto running the country since the July assassination of president Jovenel Moise.
Clashes between police and armed groups erupted on Saturday during official celebrations in the city of Gonaives, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of the capital Port-au-Prince, where Haiti’s declaration of independence was signed over 200 years ago.
Photos provided to AFP by Henry’s office show a bullet impact mark on the windshield of his armored vehicle.
The events come weeks after groups of citizens and members of armed gangs in Gonaives had violently expressed their opposition to Henry’s visiting their city.
“I knew I was taking a risk,” Henry told AFP in a telephone interview.
“We cannot let bandits from any background, driven by the lowest financial interests, blackmail the state,” he said.
Long plagued by poverty, natural disasters and gang violence, the Caribbean nation has been without a functioning parliament and with a paralyzed judiciary for two years, and Moise’s assassination has only exacerbated the crisis.
LONDON: More than half a million people have called on the British government to rethink the award of a knighthood to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Sir Tony, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, was named a knight companion of the most noble order of the garter — the highest accolade possible — in the queen’s honors list for 2021.
An online public petition calling on the government to push the queen to rescind the honor has accrued over 550,000 signatures.
The petition says: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives … in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
Online petitions in the UK have legal standing if they are created on Parliament’s website — this one was not.
If petitions reach 100,000 signatures on the parliamentary website, they must be considered for debate by MPs.
Sir Tony, who led the Labour Party, has been a controversial figure in UK politics ever since he led the country into the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer defended the award, telling ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” program: “I think he deserves the honor. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.”
He added: “I understand there are strong views on the Iraq war. There were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.”
WASHINGTON: The United States recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 cases on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as the omicron variant continues to spread at a blistering pace.
Johns Hopkins also reported 1,688 deaths for the same period, a day after top US pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci had said the country is experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in COVID-19 cases but the peak may be only weeks away.
NEW DELHI: India’s capital Delhi will impose a weekend curfew to try and curb the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus as cases have risen in the past few days, its Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told a news conference on Tuesday.
He also said most offices would have to make half their employees work from home.
JOHANNESBURG: A fire that ravaged South Africa’s parliament has been contained after strong winds had reignited the blaze, firefighters said on Tuesday.
The fire began in the early hours on Sunday and devastated much of the parliament complex before it was declared under control on Monday morning. But strong winds reignited the blaze late in the afternoon.
“Firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze that erupted late yesterday afternoon just before five,” firefighters spokesman Jermaine Carelse said.
“The fire was fanned by a strong south-easterly wind but firefighters managed to contain the fire just before 12:00 last night,” he said.
“This morning, just before five, there was a small flare but firefighters managed to extinguish that blaze,” he said, adding that some 20 firefighters remained on the scene to monitor the situation throughout the day.
A 49-year-old man who had been arrested on Sunday inside the parliament building was to appear in court on Tuesday charged with “housebreaking, arson” and damaging state property.
No casualties have been reported in the fire, but the damage to the nation’s parliament has shocked the country.
The fire started at around 5:00 a.m. Sunday in the wood-paneled older part of the complex — a section that once housed South Africa’s first parliament.
Completed in 1884, the historic section is where parliament keeps treasures including around 4,000 heritage and artworks, some dating back to the 17th century.
The older section’s roof was completely destroyed, but the priceless collection of books and artworks was believed to have been spared.
The fire then spread to the neighboring newer National Assembly and a third building housing the upper house National Council of Provinces.
HONG KONG: Jailed democracy activist Chow Hang-tung accused Hong Kong’s courts on Tuesday of criminalizing speech and helping authorities erase the Tiananmen crackdown as she was convicted a second time for inciting people to commemorate the deadly event.
Chow, a 36-year-old lawyer who has represented herself at multiple court hearings with often fiery denunciations from the dock, is a former leader of the Hong Kong Alliance.
The now-disbanded group used to organize the city’s huge annual candlelight vigils to mourn those killed in Beijing on June 4, 1989 when China sent troops to crush democracy protests.
Hong Kong police banned the last two vigils citing the coronavirus and security fears and the courts have already jailed multiple activists who defied that ban in 2020, including Chow.
Chow was also arrested on the morning of June 4 last year over two pieces she published calling on residents to light candles and mark the crackdown anniversary.
On Tuesday, a court sentenced her to 15 months in jail after ruling that her articles amounted to inciting others to defy the police ban.
“The message this verdict sends is that lighting a candle is guilty, that words are guilty,” Chan told the court.
“The only way to defend free speech is to continue to express,” she added.
“The real crime is to cover for murderers with laws and to delete victims in the name of state.”
Hong Kong was formerly the only place in China where mass commemoration of Tiananmen was tolerated but Beijing has been remolding the city in its authoritarian image after huge and sometimes violent democracy protests in 2019.
Chow has proved an outspoken defendant throughout her prosecutions.
She used her mitigation on Tuesday to read from the memoirs of families of people killed at Tiananmen.
That sparked a dressing down from magistrate Amy Chan, followed by applause among some in the public gallery. Chan then ordered police to take down the identity numbers of those who had applauded.
“The law never allows anyone to exercise their freedom by unlawful means,” Chan ruled.
“She (Chow) was determined to attract and publish attention for the purpose of calling on the public to gather,” she added.
During sentencing, magistrate Chan said Chow was “self-righteous,” showed no remorse and used the courtroom to air her political views.
Chow was already serving a 12 month sentence for her earlier Tiananmen-related conviction but she will now be jailed for 22 months in total under the court’s new calculation.
She has also been charged for national security crimes which carry up to life in prison.
Hong Kong Alliance leaders, including Chow, are among dozens of activists being prosecuted under the national security law which has criminalized much dissent.
A museum the group ran has been shuttered while multiple statues commemorating June 4 have been pulled down in recent weeks from university campuses.
An official campaign has also been launched to purge the city of “anti-China” elements and people deemed unpatriotic.
School and university courses are being rewritten to foster greater patriotism toward China while critical media outlets have raided by police and have shuttered.
In mainland China, censors have long scrubbed what happened at Tiananmen Square, both online and in the real world.