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World in Brief August 23 2018

SAUDI ARABIA: Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five activists, including women’s rights defender Israa al-Ghomgham, who has been charged with “inciting protest” and “chanting anti-government slogans.”

Human Rights Watch warned of “a dangerous precedent for other women activists currently behind bars” in the reactionary Gulf kingdom.

Ms Ghomgham is well known for participating in the mass protests that have taken place in Qatif since 2011. Prosecutors have called for the death penalty based on  the Islamic legal principle of “tazir,” under which the judge or ruler decide the sentence.

 

IRELAND: Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said on Tuesday night that she cannot meet the Pope during his visit to Ireland due to her broken leg.

She described the forthcoming papal visit, the first since 1979, as “a significant event for all the Irish people and Irish Catholics in particular.

“However, I regret, due to a broken leg and restricted mobility, that I will now not be able to attend,” she confirmed.

 

ARGENTINA: Russia and Argentina burned 389kg (858 pounds) of cocaine worth around £72 million seized from the Russian embassy at a Buenos Aires crematorium yesterday.

The drugs stash was found in 12 suitcases hidden in an embassy annexe in 2016 and authorities had planned to wait for their owners to collect the cases and then make arrests.

However, it took 14 months before the first suspects were held. Alleged smuggling gang ringleader Andrei Kovalchuk was arrested in Germany and extradited to Russia in July.

 

ECUADOR: President Lenin Moreno announced further austerity measures yesterday, along with the closure of 20 state institutions, to try to reach “fiscal equilibrium.”

Petrol prices are set to rise and at least 900 jobs are expected to be axed under Mr Moreno’s plans to shrink the state.

The Ecuadorean president insisted the austerity measures were necessary as he “received a bankrupt country … with a total debt of $60 billion (£46bn).” Earlier this year, he announced “debt forgiveness” for a number of private companies in arrears with tax.

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