Prague, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — Hundreds of thousands of people rallied Sunday in Prague to urge Prime Minister Andrej Babis to resign, assembling from across the Czech Republic for the capital's biggest anti-government protest since the 1989 pro-democratic Velvet Revolution that brought down the communist regime.
The demonstration at Letna Park, a site of massive gatherings that significantly contributed to the fall of communism in what 30 years ago was Czechoslovakia, was the largest from two months of street protests opposing Babis.
The protesters of 2019 said they didn't come to overthrow the current political system but to defend it.
They consider Babis, a populist billionaire, as a threat to democracy, including the independence of the country's legal system.
"We demand the resignation of Andrej Babis," said Mikulas Minar, a student who put his studies on hold to help lead the recent demonstrations organized by a group called Million Moments for Democracy.
Babis has repeatedly said he has no reason to resign.
"It will likely be a long run," another organizer, Benjamin Roll, told the crowd. "The current situation is unacceptable."
Opposition to Babis has been fueled by the appointment of a new justice minister as prosecutors are deciding whether to indict Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union funds.
The protesters fear the new minister might undermine the independence of the Czech legal system, a threat that has brought the governments of Poland and Romania warnings from the European Union.
Justice Minister Marie Benesova is a close ally of Babis' and voted against a police request to strip the prime minister of parliamentary immunity to face a criminal investigation.
A preliminary European Union report leaked in May concluded that Babis might have had a conflict of interest over EU subsidies involving his former business empire.
Babis denied wrongdoing and accused the EU of trying to destabilize the Czech Republic.
Besides demanding the prime minister and justice minister's resignations, many of the demonstrators accused Babis and his key ally, President Milos Zeman, of undermining Czech politics and democracy overall.
Babis also faces allegations he collaborated with Czechoslovakia's secret police before 1989, as well as criticism of his government's power-sharing deal with the Communist Party.
"What is happening is more than we can tolerate," said Dagmar Kratochvilova, a 60-year-old pottery maker who traveled across the country on a bus to reach Prague with others from the eastern city of Frydek Mistek.
The peaceful crowd chanted "Resign, resign," and "We've had enough" while waving Czech and also European Union flags. "No Tolerance for Lies and Fraud," read a banner unrolled by the demonstrators.
"I'm fed up with the government," Natalie Bartkova, 18, a student from just south of Prague. "Babis seems to think that anything goes for him."
Babis' critics cited a new source of frustration, blaming him is for contributing to the inability of European Union leaders to agree on a plan to make the bloc's economy carbon neutral by 2050.
The protesters announced another major protest at the same location for Nov.16 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
Istanbul, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — The opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul has declared victory in a high-stakes repeat election after his rival backed by Turkey's president conceded defeat.
Ekrem Imamoglu's victory means Turkey's largest city won't be governed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party or its predecessor for the first time in 25 years.
Unofficial returns after most votes from Sunday's repeat election were counted showed Imamoglu had a clear majority. His government-backed opponent, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, conceded moments after early returns showed him trailing with 44% of the vote to his opponent's 54%.
Speaking to jubilant supporters on Sunday night, Imamoglu said: "Thank you, Istanbul!"
Imamoglu had narrowly won a previous mayoral election on March 31, but Turkey's electoral board annulled the results after weeks of partial recounts.
A former Turkish prime minister backed by Turkey's ruling party has conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent in Istanbul's repeated mayoral election.
Binali Yildirim said Sunday night that opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was ahead as the first returns were announced.
Yildirim said: "I congratulate him and wish him success."
With nearly all votes counted, Imamoglu had a lead of more than 715,000 votes.
Imamoglu narrowly won office as mayor of Turkey's largest city on March 31 and served for 18 days. Turkey's electoral board annulled the results after weeks of partial recounts.
Turkey's election board has ruled as the vote count begins in the repeated election for Istanbul's mayor to count as valid ballots with inconsistent stamps.
Two political parties, the ruling Justice and Development Party and the opposition Republican People's Party, requested a decision on the stamps earlier Sunday.
The parties said some ballot envelopes arrived at polling stations bearing official stamps from a previous election, lacking stamps or carrying more stamps than needed.
In previous elections, the electoral board's decision to count unstamped ballots as valid fueled fears of possible fraud. Sunday's decision was sought by the rival parties.
An opposition candidate won the Istanbul mayor's race when Turkey held local elections on March 31. The governing party challenged the vote and the election board voided the results after weeks of partial recounts.
Polls have closed in Istanbul after voters cast ballots in a re-run mayoral election after a March 31 vote was voided for procedural irregularities.
Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu sought to repeat his win from 12 weeks earlier to become the city's first mayor in 25 years who is not from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party or its Islamist-rooted predecessor.
The other candidate in Sunday's election is former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who received support from Erdogan at campaign rallies.
The Turkish leader was mayor of Istanbul, the country's largest city, during the 1990s.
The election board's decision to cancel the March election after the governing party challenged it polarized Turks, who attended campaign rallies in large numbers.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voted in a closely watched repeat election for the next mayor of Istanbul, a contest that could have a political impact on his national government.
Erdogan cast his ballot at a suburban school, then was greeted by hundreds of supporters. He says "I believe the thinking voter will make the best decision for Istanbul."
The vote Sunday is being re-run after opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul mayoral race in March. The result was canceled by Turkey's main election board, citing procedural irregularities, after the ruling party protested.
The two main candidates on the Istanbul ballot, Imamoglu and government-backed Binali Yildirim, also voted.
Polls have opened in a repeat election in Turkey's largest city where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his political allies could lose control of Istanbul's administration for the first time in 25 years.
Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu narrowly inflicted a shock defeat on a pro-government candidate in March 31 local government elections and briefly served as mayor for nearly three weeks. But the election was canceled following government complaints of procedural irregularities and a spat between the two sides over recounts.
In a hard-fought campaign, Imamoglu focused on urban poverty after the country slid into recession at the end of 2018.
Polls close at 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT) with preliminary results expected later Sunday.
Tehran, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — A top UK diplomat has met with senior officials in Tehran to discuss preventing "escalation and miscalculation" amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
On Sunday, the UK Foreign Office quoted Andrew Murrison, the minister of state for the Middle East, as saying his visit was aimed at "open, frank and constructive engagement" with his Iranian counterparts.
He said this included reiterating the UK's assessment that Iran almost certainly bears responsibility for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Iran denies.
Murrison added that Iran must continue to meet its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that the Trump administration withdrew from a year ago before re-imposing crippling economic sanctions on the country.
Iran's president has accused the United States of fueling tensions in an already volatile region, as the crisis between the two countries escalates.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Sunday Hassan Rouhani as saying the "interventionist military presence" of the U.S. is responsible for the Middle East's problems.
Rouhani also denounced what Iran alleges was the incursion of its airspace by a U.S. military drone, which Tehran shot down on Thursday.
Rouhani said: "We expect international bodies to show proper reaction to the invasion move." His remarks came during a meeting with the president of IPU, or Inter-Parliamentary Union, Gabriela Cuevas, in Tehran.
The U.S. says the drone was flying above international waters near the Persian Gulf.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says Iran should not "mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness."
Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Sunday, Bolton says no one has granted Iran a "hunting license in the Middle East."
The comments come days after President Donald Trump announced he called off military strikes on Iran after learning approximately 150 Iranians would be killed, saying it would've been out of proportion to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone by Iran.
Bolton, a longtime Iran hawk, says sanctions will continue against Tehran and that the U.S. reserves the right to attack it at a later point. He emphasized that Trump had only "stopped the strike from going forward at this time.'"
An Iranian military commander warned on Sunday that any conflict with Iran would have uncontrollable consequences across the region and endanger the lives of U.S. forces, as tensions between Washington and Tehran flare after the downing of an American surveillance drone.
The semi-official Fars news agency on Sunday quoted Gen. Gholamali Rashid as saying the Trump administration "should behave in a responsible way to protect the lives of American forces."
Gen. Rashid said if war happens, its scope and duration could not be controlled, and blamed any escalation on "U.S. interventionist policy."
The general oversees and coordinates joint military operations in the Iranian Armed Forces.
Iran said it shot down the U.S. drone on Thursday but elected not to fire on a manned U.S. military aircraft flying in the area at the same time.
U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike after learning approximately 150 Iranians would be killed.
Saudi Arabia's state airline Saudia says it is rerouting flight paths to some Asian destinations in order to avoid Iranian airspace amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf.
The statement Saturday evening follows the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's decision to bar U.S.-registered aircraft from operating over parts of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone on Thursday.
The airline says it's a precautionary measure for aviation safety, and Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel says the airline's decision affects flight routes over the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.
Other regional carriers like Etihad and Emirates on Friday announced they too have changed their flight paths in the Persian Gulf region.
Chicago, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- One person was killed and as many as 10 others were injured in a shooting at a bar on early Sunday in South Bend, a city in the U.S. state of Indiana, according to the local police.
Someone unleashed gunfire at Kelly's Pub on East Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend police said in a tweet. There were 50 and 100 people either inside the bar or outside in the parking lot when the shooting happened.
By far, local police has not mentioned whether arrests have been made.
Local media disclosed that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski will participate in a town hall meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss the police shooting and could face questions about the bar shooting as well.
Islamabad, June 23 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A van carrying 21 tourists plunged into River Indus in Kohistan district of Pakistan's northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, leaving nine of them killed, local media and police said.
The passengers were on their way to a hilly resort when their van plunged into the river, the largest river in the country, local Urdu TV Channel Dawn News reported.
Police said that seven of the passengers onboard managed to jump out of the vehicle when it was falling down, and received minor injuries, while 14 others fell into the river and were swept away by the gushing water of Indus.
Police and rescue teams rushed to the site and shifted the injured to a nearby hospital.
Rescue teams and local volunteers recovered nine bodies while a search for the remaining five is still underway.
Local police said that the accident happened due to the bad condition of the road and reckless driving.