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Australian PM calls May 21 general election | Elections News



Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition trails Labor in opinion polls after nine years in power.

Australia will hold a general election on May 21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, triggering a campaign expected to be fought over cost-of-living pressures, climate change and questions of trust and competence of the major parties.

Morrison played up economic uncertainties and security threats in announcing the election on Sunday, saying this was not the time to hand the reins to an untested opposition Labor leader, Anthony Albanese.

“Only by voting for the Liberals and Nationals at this election on May 21 can you ensure a strong economy for a stronger future,” Morrison told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

The opposition Labor party says it would offer a better economic alternative for the Australian people.

Morrison’s conservative coalition trails Labor in opinion polls after nine years in power. But he similarly lagged before the previous election in May 2019, when he pulled off a win.

In an opinion piece setting the stage for the election, Morrison said despite the wide range of challenges Australians have faced since the last election – including fires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic – the country has held up much better than others.

“But I know our country continues to face very real challenges and many families are doing it tough,” he said.

He said Labor would weaken the country’s economy with higher taxes and deficits at a time when the country has led most others in recovering from the pandemic slump.

“Now is not the time to risk that,” Morrison said on Sunday.

Labor leader Albanese highlighted that food, fuel, childcare and healthcare costs had jumped while wages had stayed flat since the conservative coalition took office in 2013, and said a Labor government would ease pressure on family budgets.

“So when you cringe next time you pay your supermarket bill, remember it was the Morrison government that went out of its way to keep a lid on your pay packet,” Albanese said in an opinion piece released on Saturday.

A recent Newspoll survey showed Labor leading the coalition 54 percent to 46 percent on a two-party basis.

Morrison and Albanese were in a statistical tie as preferred prime minister for the next three-year term.

Multiple surveys show the cost of living, with petrol prices notably soaring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is a key concern ahead of the election, in which voting is compulsory.

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Gambian government says it will prosecute exiled ex-ruler Jammeh | Courts News



The Gambian government has said it will prosecute former President Yahya Jammeh for murder, rape, torture and other alleged crimes committed during his more than 20-year rule.

The Ministry of Justice said on Wednesday that it accepted all but two of the 265 recommendations made by a commission that probed alleged crimes committed by the state under the despotic former leader from July 1994 to January 2017.

The commission’s report – presented to President Adama Barrow and made public in December – was based on years of witness testimonies.

Jammeh is currently living in exile in Equatorial Guinea, which has no extradition treaty with the Gambia.

The government said it would prosecute all 70 alleged perpetrators named in the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s twice-delayed report, including former Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy and members of the so-called “Junglers” hit squad.

“For 22 years, Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia with an iron fist,” the government wrote in a white paper.

“During his regime, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, enforced disappearances, and numerous grievous human rights violations became part and parcel of his military Junta.”

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from the capital Banjul, said “victims, survivors, victims’ families, activists, diplomats – everybody came here this morning with expectations that they will be disappointed at the end of the day”.

Many said they want to see these recommendations put into action by the government of the Gambia, Idris added.

Emmanuel Daniel Joof, head of Gambia’s national human rights commission, said: “We believe seriously that the government will own up, and these recommendations will be implemented.”

“We also understand that not everything will be implemented,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘World is watching’

Meanwhile, Abdoulie Fatty, a former local legal consultant for the commission, called the government’s decision “unprecedented” and said “This level of acceptance of recommendations by the government is extraordinary.”

“The fact that there is a strong emphasis for the prosecution of Jammeh and those who bear the greatest responsibility sends a strong message that government is serious about pursuing him and ensuring that he’s held accountable for his crimes,” he said.

The government said it was developing a “prosecution strategy” and would set up a special court located within the Gambia, with “the option of holding sittings in other countries”.

The truth commission had recommended prosecuting Jammeh and his accomplices in an internationalised tribunal in another West African country.

“Impunity is a kind of incentive that we are not prepared to serve perpetrators,” Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said in a speech Wednesday.

“Their resolve to commit these atrocities cannot be stronger than our collective will as a society to hold them to account.”

Human rights groups say arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and summary executions became the regime’s hallmark. Testimonies by alleged perpetrators before the truth commission confirmed that some killings were done under Jammeh’s direction.

The former president has also been accused of administering phony HIV “treatment” programmes and of the massacre of some 50 African migrants in 2005.

The commission recommended prosecuting the former president and 69 other alleged perpetrators. The government had until Wednesday to respond.

Jammeh was forced into exile in early 2017 after his shock electoral defeat to Barrow and a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states.

Barrow, who was re-elected in December, last year formed a political alliance with Jammeh’s former party and nominated two known Jammeh supporters as speaker and deputy speaker of parliament.

“Barrow and his government know that the world is watching, [so] they did not have much choice but to accept the TRRC recommendations,” said Nana-Jo N’dow, the founder of an NGO that campaigns against enforced disappearances and summary executions, whose own father disappeared in 2013.

“The question now is whether Barrow follows through on these recommendations, and swiftly.”

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Afghanistan: Deadly explosions hit Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif | Taliban News



At least 11 killed in a series of separate explosions that hit a mosque in Kabul and vehicles in northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

A series of explosions in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif has killed nine people while a blast at a mosque in the capital Kabul left at least two worshippers dead, according to officials.

A bomb exploded inside a mosque in the capital Kabul late on Wednesday, killing at least two people and wounding 10 others, the interior ministry said.

Kabul’s Emergency hospital tweeted that five people had been killed in the mosque blast and 22 others wounded.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the death toll.

Several ambulances rushed to the mosque in Kabul to ferry the victims of the blast, witnesses said.

There were no further details on the blast that struck the Hazrat Zakaria Mosque in the city’s central Police District 4, according to Khalid Zadran, a Taliban police spokesman in Kabul.

“The blast took place while people were inside the mosque for the evening prayers,” Zadran said, adding that they were waiting for an update.

Minibuses were targeted in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and explosive devices were placed inside the vehicles, according to Mohammad Asif Waziri, a Taliban-appointed spokesman in Balkh province. He said the explosions killed nine and wounded 15.

“The bombs were placed on three minibuses in different districts of the city,” Waziri said, adding that 15 other people were wounded.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions.

The number of bomb attacks have dropped across the country since the Taliban seized power last year in August, but several cities were rocked by bombings during the holy month of Ramadan.

Dozens of civilians were killed in Ramadan in the primarily sectarian attacks – some claimed by a regional affiliate of the ISIL (ISIS) group known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

The ISKP, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is being seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s Taliban rulers.

Following their takeover, the Taliban has launched a sweeping crackdown against the ISKP headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.

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Al Jazeera demands Reuters retracts ‘editorial error’ | News



Reuters attributed mistranslation of Qatari foreign minister’s comments to Al Jazeera, which was not the original source.

Al Jazeera Media Network has demanded that Reuters retract a news report that attributes a misquote of the Qatari foreign minister to Al Jazeera.

The report, published on Saturday, quoted the Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, as saying that Iran was willing to “compromise” in negotiations with the United States to restore its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

However, the foreign minister had actually said that Iran had informed Qatar that the revival of the nuclear deal was “under review”.

The initial misquote was the result of an error from the German newspaper Handelsblatt, which was picked up by Reuters and then carried by Qatari news outlets, including Al Jazeera.

“The Reuters agency insisted on attributing the original story to Al Jazeera, claiming that the channel had caught and corrected a translation error, something that has no basis in fact,” the Al Jazeera statement said. “The correction was issued by the original source for the news.”

The Iranian foreign ministry rejected the reports and said that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had made no mention of compromise to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, during a meeting in Tehran earlier in May.

“It is very clear from the context of the leader’s remarks that the ball is in the US court, which must make wise political decisions to fulfil its obligations,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said on Saturday.

Statement in full:

Al Jazeera demands that Reuters correct professional errors

Al Jazeera Media Network has demanded that the Reuters news agency retract and correct editorial errors made in attributing to Al Jazeera the most recent statements by the foreign minister of Qatar regarding the Iranian nuclear file.

Al Jazeera said in a letter to Reuters that its regional office in Dubai attributed the original news and its subsequent correction to Al Jazeera, even though a German newspaper was the original source for the news item.

That news item was then carried by the Qatar News Agency, the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other media outlets, including Al Jazeera.

However, the Reuters agency insisted on attributing the original story to Al Jazeera, claiming that the channel had caught and corrected a translation error, something that has no basis in fact. The correction was issued by the original source for the news.

In its letter to Reuters, Al Jazeera called for accuracy and professionalism and that the agency correct the matter immediately.

An official source at Al Jazeera said the Reuters regional office in Dubai had deliberately maintained the attribution and had not corrected it, which flies in the face of professional ethics. He added that the agency should have reviewed and scrutinised the work of its office in Dubai and monitored its performance, which should not be subject to any non-professional considerations.


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