UK’s history of rule-bending for its questionable ally Saudi Arabia

As London lures Saudi oil giant, RT looks at UK’s history of rule-bending for its questionable ally
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud welcomes British Prime Minister Theresa May in Riyadh © Saudi Royal Court / Reuters

Serious questions are being raised over controversial proposals that could lure the multi-trillion share listing of Saudi Arabia oil giant Aramco to London. RT UK looks at some other times Britain has been accused of bending the rules for its close ally.

London is battling with stock exchanges around the world to host the lucrative float of Saudi state-owned Aramco, which is said to be valued at more than £1.5 trillion – a figure that would make it the biggest share floatation in history. A listing in the capital would be seen as a major victory for the City and boost the UK economy in the wake of Brexit.

Aramco plans to list five percent of its shares in London or another stock market in the West. Current UK rules state more than 25 percent of shares should be listed to stop a single shareholder having too much dominance.

However, proposals put forward by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) could allow for Aramco to sidestep the rules and qualify for a “premium” listing.

It is certainly not the first time Britain has let Saudi Arabia play by its own rules. From ignoring human rights abuses in the country to burying terrorism reports, the UK is not afraid to turn a blind eye to preserve its lucrative relationship with the Gulf kingdom.

What terrorism report?

A report into terrorism funding in the UK has been permanently shelved, sparking widespread condemnation amid claims the government is trying to cover up substantial evidence of Saudi Arabia funding terrorist organizations in Britain.

The report, commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron, will not be published because of “national security reasons” and the “vast amount of personal information” it contains, according to the government.

READ MORE: Theresa May denies suppressing report on Saudi terrorism funding to protect UK arms deals

However, critics say Prime Minister Theresa May is sitting on the report in order to protect diplomatic ties and lucrative trade deals with Saudi Arabia.

Britain and Yemen

When Britain’s part in the Middle Eastern crisis is mentioned, many people would think of Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria. But Britain’s role in the destabilization and destruction of Yemen is often lost in the mainstream media.

In the last two years, the UK has licensed the sale of £3 billion (US$3.86 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi government. The sales have come under sustained scrutiny since the start of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

Amnesty International says the airstrikes are killing and injuring thousands of civilians, adding that some attacks are“indiscriminate, disproportionate or directed against civilian objects including schools, hospitals, markets and mosques.”

The United Nations estimates around 2.5 million people have been displaced during the conflict, and 17,000 people have died.

Despite this, Britain appears to be turning a blind eye to the conflict, with Saudi Arabia remaining the UK’s most important weapons client.
Arms sales have included Typhoon and Tornado jets and the UK has had military personnel embedded in Saudi headquarters throughout the Yemen conflict.

Silence over human rights abuses

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has repeatedly been called into question.

Saudi authorities continue their arbitrary arrests, trials and convictions of peaceful dissidents, curbing freedom of expression. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continue to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms.

Women face discrimination, as do religious minorities. Women cannot drive a car, wear clothes that “show off their beauty,” interact with men they are not related to in public, or try on clothes when shopping.

Sharia law is national law. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if there are physical signs of puberty.

Despite this, May has no problem traveling to Riyadh to mingle with Saudi Arabia’s leaders. One of her first international visits since triggering Article 50 was to Saudi Arabia for a visit she hoped will “herald a further intensification” in relations.

Blair drops arms investigation

In 2006, Tony Blair’s government abandoned a corruption investigation into a multibillion-pound arms deal between British Aerospace Systems (BAE) and Saudi Arabia, after Saudi threats of “repercussions.”

The Serious Fraud Office was looking into allegations of fraud, corruption and bribery allegations involving the Saudi royals and BAE in its Al Yamamah arms deal.

According to court documents released in 2008, Saudi Arabia’s rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless the probe was dropped – and Blair caved, claiming “British lives on British streets” were at risk.

The dropping of the inquiry triggered an international outcry, with allegations Britain had broken international anti-bribery treaties.
In 2008, the High Court ruled Blair’s government broke the law when it abandoned the investigation.

(SOURCE)

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ISIS ‘war minister’ and finance chief killed in Russian airstrikes in Deir ez-Zor

Published on Sep 8, 2017 – One of Islamic State’s most prominent commanders, Gulmurod Khalimov is believed to be among 40 ISIS fighters killed as a result of a Russian airstrike near the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

Another ISIS member, confirmed dead in the strike, is Abu Mohammed al-Shishali, he’s of Saudi Arabian origin and was ISIS’s finance chief. He is also suspected of organizing the 2015 terror attacks in Paris.

UK: Facebook post calling for death of Muslims ends in jail sentence

Facebook post calling for death of all British Muslims ends in jail sentence
Armed police officers stand near the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing, in Manchester and photo of Keegan Jakovlevs © Reuters / North Wales Police
An internet troll who called for all British Muslims to be killed has been jailed for a year.

 

Keegan Jakovlevs of Wrexham, North Wales, will serve 12 months in prison after he admitted posting the message on Facebook in the wake of the Manchester bombing in which 22 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Jakovlevs, 22, was jailed at Mold Crown Court for “publishing material with the intention of stirring up religious hatred.”

Families were attacked at the Manchester Arena as they left a concert by Ariana Grande, a pop singer adored by many young girls.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) supporter Salman Abedi was waiting in the lobby when he detonated a homemade bomb.

Jakovlevs responded by using Facebook to send a message calling for revenge to his 2,154 friends.

“Jakovlevs’ Facebook message expressed sympathy for the families of those caught up in the bombing but then, using racist and offensive language, he called for every Muslim in the country to be killed,” a CPS statement said.

“The prosecution argued that Jakovlevs’s single message was particularly serious because it was posted so soon after the Manchester bombing when public emotions were running high.”

The CPS said “a very large number of people” could have seen it – and serious harm could have been caused.

An investigation found there was no attacks as a result of the post, yet Jakovlev’s “intentions were clear” according to Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter terrorism division in the CPS.

“After the Manchester attack there were countless messages of support on social media for those affected but Keegan Jakovlevs chose to stir up religious hatred by calling for British Muslims to be indiscriminately killed,” she said.

“People should not assume they can hide on social media when stirring up hatred and violence. Where there is evidence the CPS will prosecute them and they will face imprisonment as a result.”

Police vowed to crack down on internet bullying and trolling in recent months as people use social media to stir up hatred and disseminate false information.

“The nature and timing of this offence was shocking. We will not tolerate such hate crimes and will bring offenders before the courts. His sentence reflects the gravity of his offence,” PC Jon Blake, who led the investigation, said.

Forces around the UK have found an uplift in hate crime since the Westminster terrorist attack and the Manchester bombing.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) received a 500 percent rise in reports of hate crime, the month after the attack, compared to the same month a year earlier.

(SOURCE)

Newcastle grooming gang victims relive horrendous ordeals

Rape gang victim sleeps next to knife and is losing hair after ordeal

Newcastle grooming gang victims have relived the horrendous ordeals they were subjected to as teenagers when members of a gang abused and repeatedly raped them.

 

Victims of the 17-man and one-woman gang who forced vulnerable teenagers into sex and prostitution have told a court how their abusers ruined their lives – as they are sent to prison.

One woman spoke of how she sleeps with a knife by her bedside, suffers from a personality disorder and is on constant suicide watch, even now years have passed since her ordeal.

Habibur Rahim locked one girl, then aged 17, inside a room and pushed a wardrobe against her only escape route, before forcing himself on her.

Father-of-two Rahim, 34, is one of 18 convicted members of a gang that forced girls into prostitution and raped them.

Now in her 20s, his victim told Newcastle Crown Court: “I have suffered severe depression and a split personality.

“I feel paranoid all the time and don’t feel safe in my own flat. I have started losing my hair.

“I wake up in the night fearing Sham [Rahim] is in the flat. I keep wanting to take my own life to get away from it all. I now sleep with a knife by my bed.

“My boyfriend is scared to leave me alone in case I try to kill myself.”
The court heard how Rahim, or Sham, from Fenham in Newcastle, plied his victims with alcohol and drugs before launching his sex assault.

 

He was jailed for a total of 29 years for one count of rape, two counts of conspiracy to incite prostitution relating to eight different victims, and a number of other offences linked to trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Thirteen victims came forward to give evidence against the Newcastle grooming gang which ruined their lives – but many were too afraid to speak out.

Six of the abusers have now been jailed and the others await sentencing.

Judge Penny Moreland said “Sham” caused extreme harm to his victims.

Judge Moreland was forced to rebuke Abdul Sabe, 40, Badrul Hussain, 37 and Mohibur Rahman, 44 who were in the dock with Rahim, during sentencing.

The group chatted, yawned and stretched as proceedings took place.
Sabe, of Dean House in Newcastle, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for supplying drugs, conspiracy to incite prostitution, conspiracy to traffic for sexual exploitation, conspiracy to sexual assault.

Rahman, or “Jimmy”, was jailed for four-and-a-half years for conspiracy to incite prostitution and five drugs charges.

Hussain, of Drybeck Court in Newcastle, was jailed for four years for supplying drugs and allowing their use at “parties” where girls were attacked.

The court was told how Hussain abused a ticket inspector in 2014, stating “white women are only good for one thing”.

He shouted: “For men like me to f*** and use like trash. That’s all women like you are worth.”

Another victim said she suffers “flashbacks” from the abuse six years ago, which was uncovered in Operation Shelter three years ago when two victims approached police.

 

The police investigation revealed that girls were frequently drugged, raped and forced to have sex with different men who had befriended and groomed them.

A total of 17 men and one woman have been convicted of offences including rape, sexual abuse, supplying drugs and trafficking for sexual exploitation in a series of trials.

Another investigation, Operation Sanctuary, may have identified as many as 700 potential victims of sexual exploitation throughout the north-east of England.

(SOURCE)

Israeli plane strikes Syrian positions in Hama province, kills two servicemen – Syrian Army

Israeli plane strikes Syrian positions in Hama province, kills two servicemen – Syrian Army

An Israeli plane has targeted Syrian army positions in the Hama province, killing two servicemen and causing material damage, Syrian general command said in a statement.

The incident took place early on Thursday, when an Israeli aircraft launched several missiles from Lebanese airspace, targeting Syrian Army positions near the city of Masyaf in Hama province. The attack killed two servicemen and inflicted material damage, SANA news agency reports, citing Syrian general command’s statement.

Syria’s general command has warned of “dangerous repercussions of this aggressive action to the security and stability of the region” while reiterating its “resolve and determination to crush terrorism and uproot it from all the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic” regardless of the terrorist groups’ allegiances and sources of support.

The Israeli Army has declined to comment on the incident, according to Reuters, as it does not comment on “operational matters.”

The missile attack was reportedly conducted on a military research facility, while the Syrian military did not specify the target of the Israeli strike.

Israel has repeatedly been targeting positions of the Syrian Army and allied forces. The majority of the attacks on the government forces were conducted from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights under a pretext of some “stray projectiles”coming from Syria’s territory.

READ MORE: Israeli Air Force targets Syrian military positions in response to ‘errant projectile’

The Israeli Defense Forces “retaliated” by targeting army positions, despite the fact that most of the Syrian land adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights is controlled by various terrorist and rebel groups.

The Israeli military has also repeatedly targeted military convoys within Syria, claiming that they were carrying weapons for Hezbollah, an Islamist militant group and political party based in Lebanon.

Israel, the US and a number of other states have recognized Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

(SOURCE)

UN report on Syrian chemical attack an attempt to undermine Assad victory in Deir ez-Zor

No inspectors went to Khan Sheikhoun to see if there had been a sarin attack or not. This report is an attempt to smear the Syrian government as war criminals after they defeated ISIS in Deir ez-Zor, Marwa Osman, political commentator, told RT.

The UN has released a report, which accuses the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April of this year.

Dozens of people died in the attack.

RT:  This latest report blames Assad. What new evidence has come to light that an OPCW investigation failed to reveal earlier this year?

Marwa Osman: I think this is just the last case, or the last scenario in the hands of the West, especially the US-UK and its EU friends who were against the Syrian government, the Syrian army from the beginning of the crisis. But if you want to talk about the report, the actual information that was given by the report. If you go back to April 2017, just after Khan Sheikhoun, we had a professor, an actual expert on chemical attacks, an MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] professor called Theodore Postol, who actually managed to look at the video and photos that were sent. And just by looking at those photos he literally said this attack could not have happened. And he presented evidence, given the fact that the people were not dressed well for any sarin poisoning, especially after the attack. He presented evidence concerning the people who were there without any gloves, without even any shoes on their feet.

Since Khan Sheikhoun up until now, you see what happened with the new report from the UN. It is typical and identical to the US report that was given and endorsed by the White House, by the American government itself, with senior US administrative officials with them saying and acknowledging that their information comes from social media reports. Mind you – that is the same social media that gave us the fake ‘mannequin challenge’ in Idlib. So these social media reports, this is the information based upon the decision made by the US report, and therefore the reports made by the UN. And even those US officials back then said that the story actually fits what they think happened. All of this being mentioned right now is just because of one fact – the fact that there was no investigation, there were no inspectors that went to Khan Sheikhoun and inspected the area to see if that was sarin attack or not; what dropped, or if it was a sort of other chemical attack by a certain group within the area.

RT:  This was an inquiry into the civil war in Syria, but it seems to have become more focused on Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Why is that?

MO: It is. If you look at how the events have been going over the past four months, especially what happened yesterday with the liberation of Deir ez-Zor…It is a very important timing. It is at a time when the Syrian government along with its allies is eradicating ISIS completely from the Syrian soil, and maybe focusing more on other al-Qaeda groups in the future. So it is very important timing. And at the same time, it is very important to the timing of the next week’s talks in Astana, especially with the latest statements coming from  Staffan de Mistura himself, acknowledging the fact that the opposition did not win the war – actually lost the war – telling them that they should acknowledge this. So this was the last straw for them to try and use against the Syrian government to try and label them as either monsters, or war criminals at a time when the Syrian Arab Army is liberating and eradicating terrorism from its soil – that was helped, supported, funded and aided by these same Western governments that are endorsing this UN report.

If I may remind you what happened during Khan Sheikhoun and the images that we saw – by the images themselves it is just shouts out that the people that were found in those videos and photos they were either extremely ignorant about the basic measures to be taken by an individual to protect themselves from any exposure to sarin poisoning, or they basically knew that there was no contamination to begin with. And the question we need also to ask: why didn’t the UN send any inspectors despite the fact that both the Syrian government and its biggest ally – the Russian government – demanded an investigation and inspectors to come down to Khan Sheikhoun, since they are already friends with al-Qaeda in Idlib, and try to investigate what happened?

(SOURCE)

Putin proposes free land gifts to foreign citizens with Russian background

Putin proposes free land gifts to foreign citizens with Russian background
The land granted as a Far Eastern hectare in the Khabarovsk Territory. © Igor Onuchin / Sputnik

The Russian president has proposed expanding a state program of free land handover to foreign citizens with ancestors born on Russian territory, noting that successful candidates should have a desire to work and create strong families.

It is necessary to expand the opportunities presented by this program to our compatriots who arrive in the Far East from foreign countries,” Vladimir Putin said as he opened the session of the State Council Presidium in Vladivostok on Wednesday.

 

Compatriots living abroad” is an expression used by the Russian mass media to describe people of Russian culture and – usually – ethnicity, many of whom stayed in the ex-Soviet republics after the USSR collapsed in 1992. Russian law allows for a simplified naturalization and some other benefits for this group of people, which includes descendants of those born within the present-day borders of Russia.

Putin also emphasized that those who arrive from abroad to settle in Russia usually come with a desire to work and create strong families, which made them good candidates for getting free land plots and being entitled to additional support from the state.

The president also urged regional authorities in the Russian Far East to analyze the mistakes committed at the primary stages of implementation of the handout program and make all necessary adjustments to facilitate the process.

The government and regional authorities need to render financial help to them [settlers who participated in the free land handover program], help them to create regional infrastructure. I also propose to give larger plots of land to those who are successfully working and have already registered the one-hectare plots as their property,” Putin told the State Council members.

In May 2016 Russia introduced a law introducing the free handover of land in the Far Eastern regions to those who want to build homes or start businesses in agriculture or tourism. The sponsors of the bill have said that they hope to attract more people to the Far East Federal District, to slow or stop the outward migration of locals and to boost the socio-economic development of the territory.

The actual start of the program fell on February 1, 2017.

The law provides for the free handover of 1 hectare (about 2.5 acres) of land to anyone who applies for the program. However, foreign citizens will only be allowed to utilize the land, not own it outright. Registration of full property rights is only possible after the naturalization of potential owners. The land can be used for any lawful purpose, though the new owners cannot rent, sell, or give it away for five years, after which they can obtain full property rights under condition that they manage to develop the land plot in some way.

Read more: Proposed amendments to hand over agricultural land to families with many children

In early 2017 the governor of the Far Eastern region of Kamchatka, Vladimir Ilyukhin, told reporters that over 48,000 people had submitted applications for taking part in the program. “The geography is wide: Moscow, Moscow Region, Lipetsk region, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, practically all of central Russia wants land in Kamchatka. It makes me happy. Those who want land here will get it,” he said.

About 28 percent of Russians interested in the program say they want to use the land to build a home. About 17 percent want to use the land for agriculture or raising cattle. Another seven percent say they will use the land to build hotels and develop local tourism.

According to the official land register, Russia currently has about 198 million hectares of agricultural land, of which at least 28 million is state-owned and unused.

(SOURCE)