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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel's Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday that he has requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defence chief Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes in Israel and Gaza.

The Hamas leaders for whom the warrant was requested include Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar; Mohammed Al-Masri, the commander-in-chief of the military wing of Hamas who is widely known as Deif; and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' Political Bureau. Khan said he had reasonable grounds to believe the five men "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. This comes after more than seven months of war in Gaza.

A panel of pre-trial judges will determine whether the evidence supports the arrest warrants. But the court has no means to enforce such warrants, and its investigation into the Gaza war has been opposed by the United States and Israel.

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WikiLeaks founder granted appeal against extradition from UK to US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted permission to appeal his extradition to the United States. On Monday, Assange's legal team argued at London's High Court that he might not be able to rely on his right to free speech in a US court.

The Australian-born Assange, 52, faces 18 charges in the US, mostly under the Espionage Act, related to WikiLeaks' significant release of classified US documents—the largest security breach of its kind in US military history. In March, the High Court had provisionally allowed Assange to appeal, citing potential discrimination as a foreign national, while inviting the US to provide assurances.

Following Monday's hearing, two senior judges agreed that Assange's concerns about the First Amendment warranted a full appeal, though this appeal is unlikely to occur for several months.

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South Africa’s apex court ends Jacob Zuma’s bid to be elected again

South Africa’s highest court on Monday ended a bid by former president Jacob Zuma to stand as a candidate for Parliament in a national election on May 29 citing his previous criminal conviction.

The country’s apex judicial institution, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), upheld the initial decision by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to disqualify 82-year-old Zuma's candidacy on the grounds of his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court in 2021. Zuma had been nominated as the leader of the recently-established Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Party, named after the erstwhile armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) during the freedom struggle that ended in 1994 with Nelson Mandela becoming the country’s first democratically-elected President.

When MK named him as its candidate whose photo should appear on the ballot paper, the IEC declared that Zuma could not run because of the constitutional provision that prohibited anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in prison from being a member of parliament.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wins bid to challenge extradition to US

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won a major reprieve as a London court permitted him to appeal against his extradition to the US on espionage charges.

Had the court ruled in the US's favour, Assange would have exhausted all legal avenues in the UK.

He has resisted extradition from the UK for over a decade after his Wikileaks website published thousands of confidential US documents in 2010 and 2011. The US Department of Justice described the leaks as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

The files suggested the US military had killed civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.

According to US authorities, Assange endangered lives by failing to redact the names of Intelligence operatives in the documents. However, his lawyers have argued that the case is a politically motivated form of "state retaliation". The 52-year-old Australian national has been held at Belmarsh high-security prison in London since 2019 when he was taken into custody from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had sought asylum.

On Monday, two High Court judges at the Royal Courts of Justice granted the Australian-born Assange permission to appeal against his extradition order. They agreed with his legal team on the issue of assurances from the US administration that Assange would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment of the country’s Constitution, which protects freedom of speech in the US, and the death penalty would not be imposed.

“Based on the principle of the separation of powers, the US court can and will apply US law, whatever the executive may say or do,” barrister Edward Fitzgerald told the court on behalf of Assange. The High Court ruling in favour of Assange means he will be able to challenge US assurances at a full hearing over how his prospective trial in America would be conducted and whether his right to free speech would be infringed on being extradited.

His appeal is expected to be heard sometime next year as he continues his fight against being extradited after the UK government had signed off on the order in June 2022.

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Iranian President Raisi killed in helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian besides other officials, lost their lives in a helicopter crash on Monday. 

President Raisi was a hardline cleric close to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

According to a report by ‘Tehran Times’, the incident occurred when they were going to the provincial capital city of Tabriz. A helicopter carrying Raisi made a “tough landing” during a visit to the country’s northwest, the national TV reported.

The incident occurred due to dense fog in the region, the TV said adding that the helicopter crashed near a copper mine called Sungun. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, governor of East Azarbaijan Province Malek Rahmati, and Friday prayer leader of Tabriz Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem were also aboard the copter. “The funeral ceremonies for the president and his companions will take place on Tuesday at 9:30 am local time (06:00 GMT) in Tabriz,” the official IRNA news agency said, adding that Raisi’s body will later be taken to Tehran.

Raisi will be buried in his hometown of Mashhad in northeast Iran, according to ‘Al Jazeera’. 

Meanwhile, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has taken over as interim president and will remain in the post until a new presidential election is held within 50 days.

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China breathes fire as Taiwan’s new President Lai asserts sovereignty

China on Monday denounced Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te for his assertion that the self-ruled island is sovereign and vowed to uphold the status quo.

Lai, 64, also known as William Lai, who succeeded his independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) colleague Tsai Ing-wen after winning the popular vote in the January Presidential election this year, was sworn in as the president at a ceremony held in Taipei on Monday. China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland, even by force.

Lai's DPP party does not seek independence from China but maintains that Taiwan is already a sovereign nation.

In his no-holds-barred inaugural speech, Lai called on China to stop threatening the island, promised to uphold the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and called on Beijing to work jointly for peace. Lai urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue and avowed that Taiwan would never back down in the face of intimidation from China, the Hong Kong-based 'South China Morning Post' reported.

Much on the expected lines, China hit back with its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin countering Lai by saying: "Taiwan independence is a dead end".

“Regardless of the pretext or the banner under which it is pursued, the push for Taiwan independence is destined to fail,” Wang told a media briefing. A Chinese mainland spokesperson said Lai had sent “a dangerous signal” of seeking “Taiwan independence” and making provocations to undermine cross-Strait peace and stability in his speech upon assuming the role of Taiwan region's new leader.

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Who was Ebrahim Raisi, killed in helicopter crash in Iran?

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and a number of other officials were found dead Monday at the site of the helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, Iranian media reported.

Raisi was 63 years old and was a former judiciary chief.

According to ‘Tehran Times’, he was born in Mashhad, Iran's second-biggest city. Mashhad is also home to the country's holiest Shia Muslim shrine. As a student, Raisi participated in protests against the West-backed Shah, who was ousted in 1979 in an Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Raisi was the first deputy of the Judiciary from 2004 to 2014, working under two heads of the judiciary. From 2014 to March 2015, he also served as Iran's Attorney General.

In the June 2021 presidential election, he got over 18 million votes, becoming the 13th President of Iran, says a report by ‘BBC.’

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UK court to rule on Julian Assange's extradition to the US

A British court is expected to deliver a final decision on Monday regarding the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, concluding 13 years of legal battles and detentions.

Two judges at the High Court in London will determine if they are convinced by U.S. assurances that Assange, 52, will not face the death penalty and will be protected by the First Amendment right to free speech if tried for espionage in the US. Assange's legal team indicates that he could be extradited within 24 hours of the decision, released from jail, or entangled in further legal proceedings. "I have the sense that anything could happen at this stage," his wife Stella remarked last week.

"Julian could be extradited, or he could be freed." She added that her husband hopes to be present in court for the pivotal hearing.

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India stands by people of Iran in this time of tragedy: Jaishankar on death of President Raisi

India stands with the people of Iran at this time of tragedy, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Monday, expressing shock over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Raisi, Abdollahian and a number of other officials were found dead Monday at the site of the helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, Iranian media reported.

"Deeply shocked to hear of the passing away of Iran's President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister H. Amir-Abdollahian in the helicopter crash," Jaishankar said on X. "Recall my many meetings with them, most recently in January 2024. Our condolences to their families. We stand with the people of Iran at time of this tragedy," he said.

The 63-year-old Raisi and his entourage were heading to the northwestern city of Tabriz after returning from a visit to a locality on the Azerbaijan-Iran border on Sunday.

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Iran’s vice-president to take over as interim president: Guardian Council

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister and others have been found dead at the site of a helicopter crash on Monday after search through a foggy, mountainous region of the country's northwest, state media reported. 

According to a report on ‘en.irna.ir’, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Guardian Council spokesman Hadi Tahan Nazif has announced that according to the Constitution, the vice-president will take over as interim president with the Supreme Leader’s approval. ‘Tehran TImes’ reported that in accordance with Articles 130 and 131 of the first edition of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (adopted in 1979), the first vice president – who is now Mohammad Mokhber – steps in and assume the duties of the president if the president is unable to fulfill his legal duties due to dismissal, resignation, absence, illness, or death.

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As reports of Iranian President’s death emerge, PM Modi says deeply saddened and shocked

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others were found dead at the helicopter crash site in the mountainous regions of East Azarbaijan, AP reported citing state media in Iran.

State news Agency IRNA had identified the helicopter as the US-made  Bell 212 and it was reportedly completely burned in the crash on Sunday. India Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X, “Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

President Raisi, 63, was elected in 2021 and the subsequent period saw stricter morality laws being implemented and violent crackdowns on anti-government protests. 

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Mute woman from PoK detained along LoC in J-K's Rajouri

A 45-year-old mute woman from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) was detained by the Army along the Line of Control in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Monday.

The woman was detained from forward Pukherni village in Laam sector late on Sunday night, they said.

According to an identity card recovered from her possession, the woman is a resident of Sakhi Nath village in Kotli district of PoK. She is believed to have inadvertently entered the Indian territory, the officials said.

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No signs of the survivors on Iran helicopter crash site: Iranian Red Crescent

Hopes are fading that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister have survived a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather in the north of the country, an Iranian official said today after search teams located the wreckage.

“We can see the wreckage and the situation does not look good,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV. According to Al Jazeera, the Iranian Red Crescent says that the entire cabin of the helicopter is significantly damaged and burned. And they say that as of now, there are no signs of the survivors on the site.

After nearly 12 hours of searching, state TV reported early this morning that a Turkish drone appeared to have detected “the coordinates of the accident” because it identified “a source of heat” and informed Iranian rescue teams.

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Helicopter carrying Iran's President Raisi crashes in mountainous region; search still on

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other officials apparently crashed in the mountainous northwest parts of Iran on Sunday. 

As of this morning, Raisi and the others on board remained missing more than 12 hours after the reported crash. Associated Press pointed out that Turkish drone footage suggested the helicopter went down in the mountains. Adverse weather conditions, including heavy fog, are hampering rescue efforts.  After hours of the rescue operation, the Turkish drone has also picked up a heat source but rescuers are yet to have reached the crash site.

The crash comes at a crucial time in the Middle East, with war raging in Gaza and weeks after Iran launched a drone-and-missile attack on Israel in response to a deadly strike on its diplomatic compound in Damascus.

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Trade ties with India suspended due to ‘heavy duties’: Pakistan Foreign Minister

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar stated that trade ties between Islamabad and New Delhi have been suspended since 2019 due to India imposing heavy duties on imports from Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.

In a written reply submitted to the National Assembly on Saturday, Dar, who also holds the deputy prime minister's slot, said: “India decided to impose 200 per cent duty on imports from Pakistan, suspended the Kashmir bus service and trade across the Line of Control after the Pulwama attack.” Dar was responding to a question by Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Sharmila Faruqui about trade challenges faced by Pakistan in its relations with neighbouring countries, especially India.

“We have consistently advocated constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir with India...,” Dar said on Saturday.

The foreign minister said that the “onus is now on Delhi to take steps for the creation of an environment that is conducive to peace and dialogue”.

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