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US AG Barr tells Congress violent US protests must be stopped | News

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United States Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday defended the harsh tactics of federal law enforcement against anti-racism protests in US cities and denied accusations he intervened in criminal cases to help President Donald Trump’s allies.

“These peaceful protests in many places are being hijacked by a very hardcore group of instigators, violent instigators,” Barr said in his first appearance before the US House of Representatives since taking office in February 2019.

“They become violent and the primary direction of violence is to injure police. Police casualties far exceed anything on the civilian side,” Barr said.

Federal law enforcement officers block off a street after clearing protesters from the area during a demonstration against police violence and racial inequality in Portland, Oregon [Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

In a contentious five-hour hearing, Barr depicted protests at a federal courthouse in Portland, the 26th largest US city, as a siege. Demonstrators gather nightly in an escalating standoff with federal agents barricaded inside to defend the building from attempts to set it on fire, Barr said.

Attackers in Portland mix with political protesters, aim lasers at the eyes of US officers defending the courthouse, fire steel projectiles using slingshots, and – dressed in black – swarm officers attempting to make arrests, Barr told the House Committee on the Judiciary on Tuesday.

“The rioters have come equipped for a fight, armed with powerful slingshots, tasers, sledgehammers, saws, knives, rifles and explosive devices,” Barr said.

Democrats accused Barr of condoning unconstitutional arrests of peaceful protesters who have been exercising their rights to speak out against police killings of unarmed Black men and women. 

Black activist Portland

Black activist Myke Tavarres speaks to the crowd during a protest against racial inequality and police violence in Portland, Oregon [Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

“Most of the protests have been peaceful. You know that,” said Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat. “You are just using language for political purposes.”

Democrats said that by escalating confrontations between federal officers and protesters, Barr is helping Trump divide the nation ahead of November’s election.

Demonstrations in Portland and elsewhere in the US began in May after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody. The Portland protests continued through June.

Beginning in early July, despite opposition from local authorities, federal officers from US agencies deployed in tactical gear to Portland, where they began pulling people off the streets into unmarked vans and interrogating them.

Barr told the House panel the violence in Portland is fomented by left-wing, “antifa” or antifascist groups and would “metastasize” to other US cities if the federal government does not take a stand. Barr said he does not believe there is “systematic racism” in most police departments across the US even though Blacks are killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

William Barr gestures

US Attorney General William Barr testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC [Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters]

“You seem to have a difficult time understanding systematic racism and institutional racism that has plagued so many,” said Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is Black.

Barr and Trump have announced plans to send additional federal law enforcement forces to other US cities. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General is investigating the confrontations between federal forces and protesters.

Democrats, who control a majority in the US House of Representatives, accused the Republican attorney general of improperly using his position as the top US law enforcement official to help Trump politically.

“You have aided and abetted the worst failings of the president,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

“Again and again, you personally have interfered with ongoing criminal investigations to protect the president and his allies from the consequences of their actions,” Nadler said.

Jerry Nadler chairs Barr hearing

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, participates in a House Judiciary Committee hearing with US Attorney General William Barr in Washington, DC [Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters]

Barr intervened in the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to investigators and intimidating a witness. 

A longtime friend of Trump, Stone had coordinated the release of hacked Democratic emails with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, according the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence on July 10 so that he would not serve prison time.

Barr intervened in the sentencing of Michael Flynn, a former US military officer who served as a national security adviser to Trump. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Mueller investigation about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the US. A Barr aide moved to dismiss the charges.

Testifying under penalty of perjury, Barr told the House panel that Trump “has not attempted to interfere in these decisions” although the president’s tweets have signalled Trump’s interests.

“On the contrary, he has told me from the start, that he expects me to exercise my independent judgement to make whatever call I think is right,” Barr said.

Barr sided in Tuesday’s hearing with repeated Republican assertions that the previous administration of President Barack Obama had improperly spied on members of the Trump campaign and transition team.

A DOJ Inspector General’s report in 2019 rejected allegations that Obama officials had spied on the Trump campaign, but found violations of rules in FBI requests for secret warrants.

“Spying, that one word, that’s why they are after you,” Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican, told Barr at the start of the hearing.

William Barr stumped

US Attorney General William Barr told the House Judiciary Committee that President Trump has not sought to influence the outcomes of criminal cases brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against Trump’s associates [Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters]

Barr has ordered an investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation by US Attorney John Durham in Connecticut and a separate investigation by US Attorney John Bash in Texas of Obama administration officials’ requests for secret foreign surveillance.

Neither inquiry has yielded any charges to date.

In June, Barr removed the top US prosecutor in New York City, Geoffrey Berman, who was investigating Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Berman has described steps by Barr leading to Berman’s firing as “irregular”.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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Museveni issues ultimatum to police boss

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Museveni flagged off distribution of motorcycles for NRM chairpersons

President Yoweri Museveni has given Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ochola a chilling ultimatum: You either do your work or I will do it myself!

Museveni disclosed the ultimatum he gave to the IGP today Monday at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala where he was flagging off the distribution of motorcycles to parish chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement party across the country. 

“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni stunned his audience as he commented on the electoral violence that marred the NRM primaries held on Friday last week. At least 4 people were killed across the country during the primaries. 

“There was violence in Bukono county [Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that police has not done much work. Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!,” Museveni added. 

Museveni vowed to deal with all persons who messed up the party primaries.  In some parts of the country, there were massive regularities where candidates who had been defeated ended up being announced winners. In some places like Namutumba, Isingiro, Ntungamo, Jinja, Katakwi, among others, there was violence that led to the killing and wounding of civilians. Museveni said that they are going to make sure that all those who participated in these irregularities and violence are held to account. 

Museveni said although the violence was orchestrated by the politicians, the police personnel are to be held accountable for failing to contain it.

Last week, police spokesman Fred Enanga warned police personnel especially those guarding VIPs against being drawn into the politicians’ political wrangles, reminding them that they would face the music if they did. With the president now threatening to go and conduct the arrests of errant policemen himself, IGP Ochola is likely to move fast to avert the spectacle. 

Museveni wondered why police would shoot at unarmed people who were fighting amongst themselves: “That policeman must be arrested; even the ones who are threatening people you will go to jail for that if we get evidence,” a seemingly incensed Museveni said.

He also said that the state minister of Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana who was captured on camera attempting to shoot people over the weekend in Ntugamo after he lost the  Rushenyi primaries, will be charged with threatening violence and attempted murder. 

 “This game is finished,” Museveni said.

Rukatana has since been charged and remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district in western Uganda. Museveni called upon all those dissatisfied with the election results to write petitions to the regional panels of elders which he said are going to be constituted to hear all election complaints.

“We are going to get three respected people who are not part of the struggles, then we shall go and audit village per village and we shall discover. If you have committed forgery, the registrar or the politician who ordered,  you all shall go to jail. The game is finished; the voting is by lining and if you miss-add, you are ‘miss-add’ yourself,” Museveni said.

Museveni’s speech came shortly before that of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the secretary general of the NRM who called upon the president to reign over some senior people who with impunity were freely changing the results of the elections.

“Some of our staff were lured into changing declaration forms on the way forgetting that people who had participated at the village don’t need to write; they registered the record in their faces…Some have done things with impunity… in Butemba county Kyakwanzi district, one of the candidates who got 3,000 votes brought in soldiers, cordoned off that place and was declared a winner and off they went away,” Lumumba said. 

The ball is now in Ochola’s court to get the police to execute their duties professionally and with impartiality. In March 2017, President Museveni warned Ochola’s predecessor Kale Kayihura to clean the police force of wrong elements. As months passed with no visible sign of police officers shaping up, Museveni resorted to other security agencies who started arresting rogue senior police officers and charging them in the military court for various crimes.

Kayihura was then removed from office, arrested and jointly charged with the errant officers in the army court. To avoid similar fate, Ochola is likely to use a firmer hand on the police officers so that by the time of the February 2021 elections, there is no laxity in the force’s execution of its mandate to maintain law and order.





Source – observer.ug

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