Kuala Lumpur, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Malaysia to quash a caning sentence for a lesbian couple, calling the punishment cruel and unjust.
Two unidentified ethnic Malay women, aged 22 and 32, had pleaded guilty for attempting to have sexual intercourse and were sentenced to six strokes of a cane and fined by a Shariah court earlier this month.
The caning in northeast Terengganu state was due Tuesday but reportedly postponed to Sept. 3 due to technical reasons. Court officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.
Amnesty's Malaysian director Gwen Lee welcomed the deferment but said a delay was insufficient.
"We are pleased that the cruel and unjust punishment that was handed down to these two women did not take place as scheduled," Lee said in a statement. "However, a delay is obviously not enough. Both women must now have their sentences quashed immediately and unconditionally to reverse this injustice once and for all."
Amnesty urged Malaysia to "end the use of caning and repeal the laws that impose these torturous punishments completely."
Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 31 million people are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.
The international rights group also said the court's decision occurred amid growing concern of a climate of fear and discrimination against people in Malaysia's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.
It said a few weeks ago, authorities removed the portraits of two LGBT rights activists from a public exhibition. Malaysia's religious minister Mujahid Yusuf later said the government doesn't support the promotion of LGBT culture in the country. A transgender woman was also beaten up by a group of people in a southern state this month.
Dhaka, Aug 29 (UNB) - Myanmar on Wednesday rejected the findings of a UN investigation accusing its armed forces of genocide against the Rohingya.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said the country didn't agree with or accept “any resolutions made by the Human Rights Council”, reports BBC.
China had earlier also decried the UN report, saying putting pressure on Myanmar was "not helpful".
Myanmar has come under immense pressure this week over last year’s military crackdown that pushed more than 700,000 of the Muslim minority into Bangladesh.
Monday’s report by a UN fact-finding mission said there was evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity “perpetrated on a massive scale”.
Zaw Htay said Myanmar had zero tolerance for human rights violations.
"We didn't allow the FFM [the UN Fact-Finding Mission] to enter into Myanmar, that's why we don't agree and accept any resolutions made by the Human Rights Council," Zaw Htay told state news outlet the Global New Light of Myanmar.
He said Myanmar country had its own Independent Commission of Enquiry to respond to "false allegations made by the UN agencies and other international communities".
Myanmar's army has previously cleared itself of wrongdoing.
China, which has a close economic and diplomatic relationship with Myanmar, had earlier said the "historical, religious and ethnic background of the Rakhine issue" was "extremely complex".
"Unilteral criticism or exerting pressure is actually not helpful in resolving the problem," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Washington, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — The United States is ready for talks with North Korea when it's clear it will follow through on its commitment to denuclearize, the State Department said Tuesday after a planned visit to Pyongyang by top diplomat Mike Pompeo was shelved.
On Friday, President Donald Trump directed Pompeo to delay his trip, which had been slated for early this week, citing insufficient progress on getting the authoritarian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons, as agreed upon with leader Kim Jong Un in June.
Pompeo's spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to comment on reports that a tough-worded letter from an aide to Kim had derailed what would have been Pompeo's fourth visit to North Korea this year.
Nauert said the president and his national security team, including Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, had judged that "now is not the right time to travel." However, she said diplomatic efforts are "ongoing" though she could not say whether there had been communications between the State Department and North Korea since Friday.
She cited a statement from Pompeo that despite the decision to delay the trip, "America stands ready to engage when it is clear that Chairman Kim stands ready to deliver on the commitments that he made at the Singapore summit with President Trump to completely denuclearize North Korea."
"The world is united behind the need for Chairman Kim to fulfill that commitment," Nauert said.
Trump, who views the reduction in tensions with North Korea this year as a major foreign policy achievement, still voiced respect for Kim on Friday and said he looked forward to seeing him "soon." He laid unspecified blame on China, North Korea's leading trade partner, for the lack of progress. China is currently embroiled in a trade dispute with the U.S.
But Trump's tweet marked a shift in his relentlessly upbeat messaging since the Singapore summit, the first ever held between leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. There is growing skepticism in Washington and beyond that Kim intends to denuclearize without first winning concessions such as sanctions relief or a declaration on formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. might carry out military exercises with South Korea next spring after having cancelled a major exercise this year as a gesture toward advancing diplomacy aimed at eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons. Mattis said no decision has been made on when to resume military exercises, but his statements suggested the recent cancellation might not be repeated.
Lahore, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Members of a Pakistani Islamist group that made surprising gains in last month's national elections are preparing to march toward Islamabad to rally against Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who plans to hold a Prophet Muhammad cartoon competition in November.
Muslims across Pakistan have denounced the contest, calling it an attempt to defame Islam because physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even positive ones, are forbidden in the religion.
Wednesday's rally will be the first test of how Pakistan's new prime minister, Imran Khan, interacts with the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan party, which supported Khan in the July 25 vote.
Khan has sought international support against the cartoon competition and his government has lodged a protest with the Dutch ambassador but resisted demands to expel him.
Tehreek-i-Labaik in 2017 disrupted life in Islamabad by rallying against an omitted reference to the Prophet in a constitutional bill.
Jerusalem, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Israel's Supreme Court has sentenced one of the country's most prominent businessmen to three years in prison for securities fraud.
The court ruled Wednesday that former IDB Holding Corp. controlling shareholder Nochi Dankner will begin serving his prison term on Oct. 2 for his role in carrying out millions of dollars' worth of fraudulent transactions in an attempt to influence the share price of the troubled company.
IDB took on millions of dollars in debt following a series of bad business deals. The courts wrested control of IDB from Dankner as a result.
Dankner, a favorite of Israel's business community, was often credited with helping rescue Israel's economy at the height of a Palestinian uprising. Under his leadership, IDB became Israel's largest holding company and Dankner became a celebrity.