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Iran: Musician faces jail for working with women dancers, singers | News

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Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian has said he is under house arrest as he awaits trial for working with female dancers and singers, in the country’s latest move to stop female artists from performing.

Rajabian, 30, said he was arrested on August 10 following media reports that his latest project will include women singing and the publication of a video of a woman dancing to his music – both of which can be deemed immoral under Iranian law.

Iran’s Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance did not respond to Reuters news agency’s requests for comment.

“Even if I go to prison hundreds of times, I need female singing in my project, I need female dance,” said Rajabian, who has been jailed twice before over his music.

“Whenever I feel the need to produce this music, I will definitely produce it. I do not censor myself,” he told Reuters via text message from the northern city of Sari where is currently out on bail.

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Iran has long censored art and music and arrested hundreds of performers under vaguely defined morality laws that target women and sexual minorities, according to Human Rights Watch.

There are no laws banning women in music but religious decisions issued under Iran’s Islamic rulers, who came to power in the 1979 revolution, have been used arbitrarily, said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

“The government would like to propagate … a traditional attitude towards women’s presence in public in general,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be about performance.”

Laws limiting women’s freedom

The Iranian government faced nationwide protests last year, sparked by fuel price hikes, which were met with a violent crackdown.

Many young Iranians are disillusioned with laws that limit women’s freedom, with fines and jail terms for having their hair uncovered or for wearing clothes deemed immodest. Many have protested by removing their hijabs in public in online videos.

The video which led to Rajabian’s latest arrest features Iranian dancer Helia Bandeh, who lives outside Iran, performing to a track from his 2019 peace album Middle Eastern by Sony Music, which features about 100 artists.

Rajabian spent three months in solitary confinement in 2013 for propaganda against the state. In 2015, he served two years behind bars until he was released after a 40-day hunger strike.

Freemuse, a non-profit that supports freedom of artistic expression, said at least 11 artists were prosecuted or sentenced to jail in 2019, with women targeted for performing for mixed – rather than all-female – audiences.

Negar Moazzam was investigated for singing solo in traditional costume and her Instagram account was taken down after a video of the performance went viral on social media, Freemuse said.

It also said male musicians Ali Ghamsari and Hamid Askari were banned from performing in Iran after they allowed women to sing during their concerts, with authorities turning off the sound to stop the women being heard during both shows.

“This has been happening … because of one-sided interpretations of religious doctrine supported by political power,” said Srirak Plipat, executive director of Freemuse.

Meanwhile, Rajabian is undeterred by the latest prison threat as he has been living in isolation for a long time.

“I have been completely alone at home for years,” he said. “It was as if I had been transferred from a smaller prison to a larger one.”

SOURCE:
Reuters news agency





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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FDC activists win Bank of Uganda pig case by simply keeping quiet

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FDC activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja

Buganda Road Magistrate’s court has acquitted two opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) activists Augustine Ojobile and Robert Mayanja of common nuisance charges.

FDC deputy chief administrative officer Ojobile and Mayanja have been acquitted by the grade one magistrate Fidelis Otwao on charges stemming from their protest held in November 2018 when they carried pig heads to the central police station (CPS) in Kampala protesting the rot in the Bank of Uganda that had reportedly resulted into the closure of a number of commercial banks in the country for many years.


According to them, corruption at the Central bank had been the sole ingredient for the closure of commercial banks in Uganda over the years because it reportedly mismanaged them and made erroneous decisions that led to their closure.

With fresh pig heads tied around their necks and stinking blood oozing across their white T-shirts, Mayanja and Ojobile walked through the streets of Kampala to the police in a protest that was spearheaded by their pressure group known as the Jobless Youth.

One pig head had a placard bearing the name of the former and late BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and the other of his former deputy Louis Kasekende.

The protest at CPS came a few days after another that was staged at the Central bank where two piglets were dumped bearing the name of Juma Kisaame (a Muslim), the former managing director of DFCU bank. 

As a result, the duo was arrested and taken to Buganda Road court on charges of common nuisance and the prosecution adduced evidence from five witnesses who included police officers and Muslims who were reportedly angered by the protest.

According to the witnesses, the actions of Mayanja and Ojobile were annoying to the people whose names were mentioned and tagged on pig heads, and the smell that was coming out of the fresh pig heads was most likely to result in injury to a considerable number of the public by affecting their health, and the protest affected businesses since some shops allegedly had to close to see what was happening outside due to their commotion.

But when Mayanja and Ojobile were asked to defend themselves over the allegations, the duo that didn’t have legal representation chose to keep quiet as their defense and let the court make its decision based on what the prosecution witnesses had testified to.

In a judgement read today Friday by Otwao, he indicated that the evidence from the prosecution witnesses is wanting because none of the people alleged to have been annoyed by the actions of the activists testified in the case or recorded a statement with police.

According to Otwao, the testimonies were based on what the witnesses were feeling as individuals and that there were no abusive statements on the pig heads that the prosecution had indicated which would cause annoyance, save for putting the names of people only. 

As such, the court has ruled that such testimonies cannot be relied on to convict a person because the prosecution has failed to prove that there was common injury, danger to the public or destruction of property.

Consequently, the magistrate has acquitted the duo and directed that each of them starts the process to seek a refund of the Shs 500,000 that each had paid to be released on bail.

The activists have welcomed the ruling saying that the court has recognized that the citizens have a right to protest peacefully.

The pig protests have been commonly used by activists who subscribe to this group known as the Jobless Brotherhood which has since rebranded to the “Alternative”.

In 2016, their members including Luta Ferdinand who is now facing trial in the court-martial on different charges, and Joseph Lukwago were arrested for dumping piglets at parliament protesting the Shs 200 million given to each MP for buying personal cars.



Source – observer.ug

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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in a single day | Death Penalty News

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The death penalty applied for a range of charges in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom’s modern history.

Saudi Arabia has executed 81 men over the past 24 hours, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian national, on charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”, state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, in the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history.

The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in 2021 and the 27 in 2020.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” SPA said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.

Some travelled to conflict zones to join “terrorist organisations”, according to the SPA.

“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process,” it said.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the report added.

Saudi Arabia’s last mass execution was in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shia leader who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shia, in a mass execution across the country for alleged “terrorism”-related crimes.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights records have been under increasing scrutiny from rights groups and Western allies since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

It has faced strong criticism of its restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and the implementation of the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.

Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security according to its laws.

SPA said the accused were provided with the right to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Nigerian student in Ukraine: 'Mummy we keep hearing bombs'

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Hauwa’s son Suleiman is a Nigerian student in Sumy – she says the family are fearful and anxious.



Source – www.bbc.co.uk

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