Belarus Sentences RFE/RL Journalist to 10 Days in Prison

The head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has condemned the sentencing of a journalist who works for the independent network.  The news network learned on Tuesday that Andrey Kuznechyk had been tried and convicted of petty hooliganism one day after his arrest, RFE/RL told VOA.  Four men in plain clothing detained the journalist outside his Minsk apartment on November 25. The men, believed to be Belarusian security agents, searched the journalist’s home and took him away, along with electronic devices belonging to Kuznechyk and his wife, according to RFE/RL.  When his wife called the local prison to see if Kuznechyk was being held there, she said officials denied the journalist was there.  Kuznechyk, who denies wrongdoing, was sentenced to 10 days in prison. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said Belarus should …

Migrant Advocates Accuse EU of Flagrant Breaches of Geneva Convention

The migrant crisis on Poland’s border, which Western powers accuse Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of engineering, caught international attention in November. But asylum seekers on the Poland-Belarus border aren’t alone in being shunted back and forth across Europe’s land and sea borders, say rights organizations and other monitors. Throughout the year, irregular migration to Europe has been increasing, with more than 160,000 migrants entering the European Union this year, mostly through the Balkans and Italy. That’s a 70% jump from 2020, when pandemic travel restrictions are thought to have impacted the mobility of would-be migrants, and a 45% increase over the previous pre-pandemic year. And with irregular migration picking up again, rights campaigners say the EU and national governments are increasingly skirting or breaking international humanitarian laws in their determination to prevent war refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from entering or remaining on the …

German Court Convicts Ex-IS Member of Murder, Role in Yazidi Genocide

A German court Tuesday convicted a former Islamic State member of the 2015 murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl. Taha al-Jumailly, an Iraqi national, was also sentenced to serve life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity. He was ordered to pay the victim’s mother, who survived captivity, $57,000. It is the first genocide verdict against an Islamic State member. “This is the moment Yazidis have been waiting for,” said lawyer Amal Clooney, who acted as a counsel for the mother. “To finally hear a judge, after seven years, declare that what they suffered was genocide. To watch a man face justice for killing a Yazidi girl — because she was Yazidi.” German prosecutors said al-Jumailly bought the mother and child as slaves in Syria in 2015. He then …

IOM Says Despite Risks, Number of Migrants Crossing the Mediterranean Sea Has Doubled

In search of a better life, many migrants try to cross what has been dubbed the “deadliest border in the world” – the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the risks, the International Organization for Migration says the number of people crossing has doubled in the first half of this year to an estimated 77,000. This reporter witnessed a crossing firsthand in the Mediterranean Sea in international waters off the Libyan coast in an inflatable rescue ship dispatched by the group SOS Mediterranee. Before him was a small wooden boat dancing on the waves. I was dark. He heard the desperate voices of what must have been more than 100 migrants onboard. It became palpable what it is like to be floating in the middle of nowhere without an engine and only the …

Epstein Pilot Resumes Testimony at Ghislaine Maxwell Trial

A longtime pilot for the late financier Jeffrey Epstein resumed his testimony at Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking trial Tuesday, saying that the British socialite charged with helping the financier find teenage girls to sexually abuse was “Number 2” in the hierarchy of Epstein’s operations. Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr. is the first witness in the sex trafficking trial of Maxwell, 59, a woman who traveled for decades in circles that put her in contact with accomplished and wealthy people before her July 2020 arrest. Asked where Maxwell stood in the hierarchy of Epstein’s world, Visoski said Maxwell “was the Number 2.” He added that “Epstein was the big Number 1.” The testimony supports what Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in her opening statement Monday when she said Epstein and Maxwell were “partners in …

Zemmour, French Far-right Pundit, Launches Presidential Run

A far-right former TV pundit with multiple hate-speech convictions officially entered the race for France’s presidency on Tuesday and warned his supporters that they will likely be called racists for backing his anti-immigration and anti-Islam views that have already shaken up the election campaign.   The launch of Eric Zemmour’s run for the presidency made official a candidacy that had been gathering steam for months before it then stumbled of late — notably after the 63-year-old raised a middle finger at a woman who did likewise to him over the weekend.   That flash of temper — which Zemmour later acknowledged on Twitter was “very inelegant” — cast fresh doubt on the temperament and electability of the author and former journalist who has polled in low double digits since September …

Blinken in Latvia for NATO Security Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Latvia Tuesday for talks with the country’s leaders and a NATO ministerial meeting as the alliance expresses concern about Russia’s military buildup along the border with Ukraine. Blinken’s schedule in Riga includes sessions with Latvian President Egils Levits, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. He is also due to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the ministerial talks later in the day. Levits told reporters after his own talks with Stoltenberg on Monday that Russia’s military presence represents direct pressure on Ukraine, and that NATO “will remain in solidarity with Ukraine.” Stoltenberg called on Russia to reduce tensions in the region, saying the military buildup is “unprovoked and unexplained.” “Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would …

Belarus Migrant Crisis Divides Polish Society

Thousands of migrants continue to wait in Belarus to enter the European Union through Poland, a crisis in the central European country that has sharply divided its society between those who want to assist migrants and those who refuse to open their borders. Elizabeth Cherneff narrates this report from Ricardo Marquina in Warsaw. Camera: Ricardo Marquina …

Israeli Court: 6-Year-Old Cable Car Crash Survivor to Return to Italy

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld lower court rulings in the bitter custody battle surrounding a 6-year-old boy who survived a cable car crash in Italy, saying he should be returned to his relatives there within two weeks.  Eitan Biran has been the focus of a legal battle between his paternal relatives in Italy and his maternal family in Israel since surviving the May 23 cable car crash, which killed 14 people, including his parents and younger brother. Eitan and his parents were living in Italy at the time of the accident. After his release from a Turin hospital following weeks of treatment, Italian juvenile court officials ruled the child would live with a paternal aunt, Aya Biran, near Pavia, in northern Italy.  His maternal grandfather, Shmulik Peleg, then spirited …

Europe’s Populist Wave Shows Signs of Ebbing

Is the populist wave in Europe ebbing?  Two populist luminaries, who rode to power on waves of anti-elitism anger, have been ousted this year: Bulgaria’s Boyko Borisov, a former bodyguard who was voted out of office in April, and the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babiš, a businessman who lost last month’s election and has been replaced by a university professor at the head of a coalition of parties.  Next April, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who has had a decade of electoral success fighting the European Union over what he sees as its attempts to impose an internationalist world view on his country, faces a tough reelection battle against a now unified pro-EU opposition.  Orban is being shunned by the Biden administration and Hungary is the only European Union country not to be …

West Struggles to Counter Secessionist Threat in Bosnia

Western analysts say Bosnia-Herzegovina is facing its greatest crisis since the Dayton Accords ended a war there in 1995, with many suspecting Russian and Chinese hands in what could be the unraveling of the pact that has provided 25 years of uneasy peace.  The U.S.-brokered accords divided the Balkan country into a Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and a region known as the Federation, dominated by Bosniaks and Croats. All three ethnic groups are represented in a tripartite presidency.   But Milorad Dodik, the Serb representative in the presidency, has in recent weeks started the process of withdrawal from state-level institutions and is threatening outright secession by Republika Srpska.    Such moves, including the plan for unilateral transfer to Republika Srpska of such functions as taxation and military forces, are a clear violation of …

Russia Says Latest Zircon Hypersonic Missile Test Successful

Russia said Monday it had carried out another successful test of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, as world powers race to develop the advanced weaponry. Russia, the United States, France and China have all been experimenting with so-called hypersonic glide vehicles — defined as reaching speeds of at least Mach 5. As part of “the completion of tests” of Russia’s hypersonic missile weapons, the Admiral Gorshkov warship launched a Zircon missile at a target in the Barents Sea at a range of 400 kilometers, the defense ministry said. “The target was hit,” the ministry said, describing the test as successful. The missile has undergone several recent tests, with Russia planning to equip both warships and submarines with the Zircon. Putin revealed the development of the new weapon in a state …

In French Pantheon, Josephine Baker Makes History Yet Again

France is inducting Josephine Baker — Missouri-born cabaret dancer, French World War II spy and civil rights activist — into its Pantheon, the first Black woman honored in the final resting place of France’s most revered luminaries. On Tuesday, a coffin carrying soils from the U.S., France and Monaco — places where Baker made her mark — will be deposited inside the domed Pantheon monument overlooking the Left Bank of Paris. Her body will stay in Monaco, at the request of her family. French President Emmanuel Macron decided on her entry into the Pantheon, responding to a petition. In addition to honoring an exceptional figure in French history, the move is meant to send a message against racism and celebrate U.S.-French connections. “She embodies, before anything, women’s freedom,” Laurent Kupferman, …

Talks on Iran Nuclear Deal Resuming in Vienna

Talks about reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resume Monday in Vienna after a five-month break and for the first time since a new president took office in Iran. Like six previous rounds of negotiations, which began in April, the United States is participating indirectly, similar to the 2015 deal, which was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran will talk directly with the remaining signatories of the 2015 deal — Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany — with European diplomats shuttling back and forth to consult with the U.S. side.  At stake is the resumption of the agreement that brought limits to Iran’s nuclear program lasting between 10 and 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief. The United States withdrew from the agreement in 2018 during the …

Taiwan, Europe Must Defend Democracy Together, President Says

Taiwan and Europe must work together to defend against authoritarianism and disinformation, President Tsai Ing-wen told visiting lawmakers from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Monday. Lithuania has faced sustained pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, since allowing the opening of a de facto Taiwanese embassy in its capital. Beijing has ramped up military and diplomatic pressure on Taipei to accept Chinese sovereignty claims and to limit its international participation, though Tsai says Taiwan will not bow to threats and will defend its freedom and democracy. Tsai told the lawmakers at the Presidential Office that Taiwan and the Baltic nations – once part of the Soviet Union – share similar experiences of breaking free from authoritarian rule and of fighting for freedom. “The …

Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland’s Staunch Feminist PM, Begins Second Term

Katrin Jakobsdottir, a popular and fervent feminist who has become a unifying force after years of political upheaval, on Sunday kicked off her second term as prime minister of Iceland. The country’s three coalition parties agreed that the 45-year-old former journalist would remain premier, a post she has held since 2017, despite her Left-Green Movement’s weak showing in September’s legislative election. That mere fact illustrates Jakobsdottir’s pivotal role in the unusually broad coalition, made up of her Left-Greens, the conservative Independence Party and the center-right Progressive Party. The unlikely alliance has been hard for some in her party to accept. “I know I’ve been criticized for it, but when I look back, I think this government has done a good job and I think it has really shown what is …

Louis Vuitton Star Designer Virgil Abloh Dies After Battle With Cancer

Virgil Abloh, fashion’s highest profile Black designer and the creative mind behind Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections, died on Sunday of cancer, Vuitton’s owner LVMH said. The French luxury goods giant said Abloh, 41, had been battling cancer privately for years. “Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” LVMH’s billionaire boss Bernard Arnault said in a statement. Abloh, a U.S. national who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been men’s artistic director for Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand, since March 2018. His arrival at LVMH marked the marriage between streetwear and high-end fashion, mixing sneakers and camouflage pants with tailored suits and evening gowns. His influences included graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard …

COVID-Positive Czech President Appoints New PM From Plexiglass Cubicle

Czech President Milos Zeman appointed the leader of a center-right alliance Petr Fiala as prime minister on Sunday in a ceremony he performed from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for COVID-19. Fiala leads a bloc of five center and center-right opposition parties that won an election in October, ousting the incumbent premier Andrej Babis and his allies. The new government will have to tackle a new wave of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overwhelm hospitals and an energy crisis, after the collapse of a large electricity provider. The coalition has also said it plans to rework the 2022 state budget to reduce a large deficit. “The new government has a very complicated time ahead and many challenges… I want it to be a government of change for the …