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  • ජිනීවා මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේදී රටවල් 5කින් ලංකාවට චෝදනා
    පාස්කු ප්‍රහාර සම්බන්ධයෙන් සැකපිට අත්අඩංගුවට ගෙන සිටින නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා රඳවා තබාගැනීම, විශේෂ බළකායේ සැරයන් සුනිල් රත්නායකට ජනාධිපති සමාව ලබාදීම ඇතුළු කරුණු ගණනාවක් පදනම් කරගනිමින් එක්සත් රාජධානිය ඇතුළු රටවල් 5ක කණ්ඩායමක් එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මානව හිමිකම් කවුන්සිලයේදී ශ්‍රී ලංකාවට චෝදනා එල්ල කර ඇතැයි ජිනීවා තානාපති...
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  • මුස්ලිම් නීතිඥයාට එරෙහිව 'ත්‍රස්ත සාක්කි' ගෙතූ රහස් පොලිසියට විනිසුරු විරෝධය

      පාස්කු බෝම්බ ප්‍රහාරයට සම්බන්ධ යැයි ජනමාධ්‍ය මගින් ප්‍රචාරය කරමින් ත්‍රස්තවාදය වැළැක්වීමේ පනත යටතේ අත්අඩංගුවට ගනු ලැබු මුස්ලිම් ජාතික නීතිඥවරයකුට එරෙහිව ව්‍යාජ සාක්ෂි ගෙතීමට රහස් පොලිසිය විසින් දරණ ලද උත්සාහයක් විනිසුරුවරයකුගේ මැදිහත්වීම නිසා ව්‍යර්ථ වී තිබේ.

    නීතිඥ හිජාස් ඕමර් හිස්බුල්ලාහ් රඳවා...
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  • Gnanasara Thero Once Again Inciting Sinhalese Against Muslims
    Malicious campaign pushing discriminated and frustrated Muslims to wall Few weeks ago Ven Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero, known for inciting Sinhalese and unleashing violence against Muslims, said he would dissolve his organisation Bodu Bala Sena as it has achieved its target of setting up a Sinhala Buddhist government without minority support. Latheef Farook Following the election of the present government to power on 15 November 2019, he was rather quiet. Now that the parliamentary election is forthcoming, he has started his campaign once again pitting the Sinhalese against Muslims.There were reports that during the presidential elections in November 2019 Buddhist monks and temples were used to demonize Muslims to win Sinhala votes assuring security. As part of this campaign to win Sinhala votes, he attempted to brand as extremist, several...
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  • Hejaaz: A lawyer for all seasons

    A year has passed since the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka. Victims, survivors, and the general public still await answers. Amidst these desperate demands for accountability, Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Muslim lawyer, is suddenly – and most unexpectedly – arrested and detained.

    I met Hejaaz during the first-ever debating tournament I participated in. He led the team from S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, and I represented St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. Our teams made it to the finals that year. I recall Hejaaz as a fierce competitor with the rare gift for conveying an argument with charisma and conviction. He also had a great sense of humour, taking friendly banter in good spirit. The Thomians triumphed that year, and deservedly so.

    What strikes me now is...
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  • Muslim writer in jail for 60 days without "explicit evidence"
    A group of activists in Sri Lanka has called upon the government for the unconditional release of a Muslim writer who has been held in detention for more than
    sixty days without “explicit evidence being produced”.

    In a letter to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim activists say that Ramzy Razeek arrested on April 09 for allegedly violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Cyber Crimes Legislation has also been denied medical treatment and legal access in detention.

    “Despite orders from the Magistrate to allow him access to medicine, reliable sources state that his health condition is deteriorating due to lack of access to specific medicines of which he is in dire need. A lawyer attempting to visit Razeek this week, was also denied...
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  • அடையாள அணிவகுப்புக்கு முன் ஹிஜாஸின் அடையாளத்தைக் காட்ட சிஐடியினர் முயற்சித்தார்கள்
    இரு சிறுவர்களிடமிருந்தும் வாக்குமூலம் பெறுவதற்கு முன்னர் சிஐடியினர் தனது அறையில் வைத்து ஹிஜாஸ் ஹிஸ்புல்லாஹ்வின் புகைப்படத்தை அவர்களுக்குக் காண்பிப்பதற்கு முயற்சித்தார்கள் என கோட்டை நீதவான் ரங்க திசாநாயக்க தெரிவித்துள்ளார்.

    புத்தளம் மத்ரஸாவொன்றின் மாணவர்களுக்கு தீவிரவாதத்தைப் போதித்தார் என சிஐடியினர்...
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  • CID attempted to show photograph of Hejaaz to children before ID parade: Fort Magistrate
    Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayaka said in open court that officers of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had attempted to show photographs of Hejaaz Hizbullah at his chambers prior to the recording of statements from two children.

    When the matter was taken up before Dissanayake on 24 June, he told Hizbullah’s lawyers that prior to the recording of the statements from the two children, this attempt had been made: “I want to reveal this. The CID officers tried to show pictures and I had to tell them to leave the Chamber.”

    Two children had made “voluntary statements” on 12 May to the Magistrate on camera regarding Hizbullah. An identification parade was to be held including Hizbullah with 10 children being summoned as witnesses to identify Hizbullah.

    Nawarathna Bandara PC, appearing with Harshana...
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  • Magistrate disallows ID parade for detained lawyer
    Counsel for Hejaaz Hizbullah objects to ID parade Says children lined up to identify suspect have been shown his photograph during questioning Magistrate uploads objections, fixes 1 July for next hearing Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake yesterday disallowed the Police from presenting detained attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah for an identification parade after counsel for the suspect objected to the move. Hejaaz Hizbullah   President’s Counsel Wasantha Navaratne Bandara, who appeared for Hizbullah, said that the 10 children lined up to identify the suspect have been shown his photograph by the Police when they recorded a statement from them, and hence objected to holding the identification parade.

    CID officers who appeared in Court however...
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  • ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ කොරෝනා වසංගතය, 'මුස්ලිම් ප්‍රජාවට එරෙහි වෙනස්කම්', ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී නීතිය සහ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා
    අදින් මාස කිහිපයකට පෙර ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ශ්‍රේෂ්ඨාධිකරණය ඉදිරියේ පැවති විභාගයකදී තරුණ නීතිඥවරයෙක් පෑ වාග් පෙළහර එහි සිටි බොහෝ දෙනාගේ සිත් ඇදගැනීමට සමත්විය.

    රට පුරා මහත් ආන්දෝලනයකට ලක් වූ ඒ නඩු විභාගයේදී ඔහු මතු කළ තර්ක කෙතරම් අවධානයට ලක් වූයේ ද යත් ඔහුගේ මිතුරන් මතු නොව, අධිකරණයේ දී ඔහුගේ ප්‍රතිවාදීන් වූ සගයින් ද ඔහු පැසසීමට...
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  • ත්‍රස්ත විරෝධී නීතිය සහ නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා
    අත්අඩංගුවට ගෙන රැඳවුම් නියෝග මත රඳවාගෙන සිටින නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා හඳුනාගැනීමේ පෙරෙට්ටුවක් සඳහා යොමු කිරීමට ගෙන තිබූ තීරණය අවලංගු කිරීමට කොළඹ කොටුව මහේස්ත්‍රාත් රංග දිසානායක තීන්දු කළා. පෙරෙට්ටුව ඊයේ පැවැත්වීමට නියමිතව තිබූ අතර, එහිදී සැකකරු හඳුනාගැනීම සඳහා සාක්ෂිකරුවන් වශයෙන් ඉස්ලාමීය මද්ද්‍රසා පාසලක ඉගෙනුම...
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News

Iran urges US to free Iranian prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic

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Iran's government has urged the United States to release Iranians held in US jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Washington of holding a number of Iranians in its prisons and said under these circumstances they should be set free.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Iran from the coronavirus rose to 2,378 on Friday, a jump of 144. Iran is one of the worst hit countries in the world.

Zarif also referred to a report by The Guardian newspaper about Sirous Asgari, a science professor, who it said was still being held in a crowded facility after being acquitted in November on US federal charges of stealing trade secrets.

"US has taken several Iranian scientists hostage - without charge or on spurious sanctions charges - & not releasing them; even when its OWN courts reject the absurd charges," Zarif tweeted.

On Thursday, the US blacklisted five Iran and Iraq-based companies and 15 individuals accused of supporting "terrorist groups", its third round of sanctions on Iranian targets in the last two weeks even as Tehran battles the coronavirus outbreak.

Humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran after US President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 international agreement curbing Iran's nuclear programme.

However, broader US sanctions deter many firms from humanitarian trade with Iran.

Earlier, Iran's health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 144 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 2,378, while the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,926 to 32,332.


https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/iran-urges-free-iranian-prisoners-coronavirus-pandemic-200327153011806.html

 

Palestinian groups cancel mass Gaza rallies due to coronavirus

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Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip have cancelled mass rallies planned for next week along the border with Israel amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the densely-populated territory, organisers said on Saturday.

The rallies were called for March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the so-called "Great March of Return" which had prompted weekly protests by Palestinians seeking to regain access to land, now in Israel, from which their ancestors were forced to flee during the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus, in 1947-48.

They also mark Palestinian Land Day which commemorates the events of March 30, 1976, when Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel as they protested against the Israeli government's expropriation of land.

"We call upon our people not to go to the Return encampments on March 30 and to stay home in order to maintain the safety of our people in the face of this lethal pandemic," said Khaled al-Batsh, a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group.

Instead, al-Batsh called on Palestinians in Gaza to mark the day by raising Palestinian flags on their rooftops and burning Israeli ones.

Traffic will also be stopped for an hour and sirens will sound across the territory to mark the occasion, the statement said, adding that a news conference would also be held for a limited number of attendees.

According to Gaza medical officials, 215 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers firing from the other side of the border during the protests, with another 8,000 suffering gunshot wounds. In the past few months, the weekly protests have been smaller.

One Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper during the demonstrations.

In 2019, UN Human Rights Council investigators said Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, with children and paramedics among the casualties.

So far, nine out of the 97 coronavirus cases in the Palestinian territories have been confirmed in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza's hospitals, which were overwhelmed during the protests by gunshot wounds and amputations, are now gearing up for the challenge of containing the coronavirus in the coastal enclave of two million Palestinians, many living in refugee camps.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/death-toll-york-state-passes-1000-live-updates-200329234257896.html

 

Sri Lanka pardons soldier who killed Tamil civilians

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Sri Lanka's president on Thursday pardoned and released an army officer sentenced to death for slitting the throats of Tamil civilians, including four children, during the island's bloody ethnic war.

Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake was to be hanged for the December 2000 killing in a case held up by previous Sri Lankan governments as an example of rare accountability over abuses during the conflict.

A court convicted him of murdering eight members of the Tamil minority, including a five-year-old and three teenagers after a 13-year trial.

They were killed as they returned to their bombed homes to salvage what was left of their belongings and their bodies were found buried in a cesspit near an army camp at Mirusuvil on the Jaffna peninsula.

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the officer's appeal and upheld the death penalty last year.

But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has now "instructed the Ministry of Justice to release Sergeant Ratnayake from prison", a spokeswoman for his office said.

Human Rights watchdog Amnesty International condemned the pardoning and said it was "reprehensible" to use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to release those convicted of heinous crimes.

"After many long years, the victims of the Mirusuvil massacre ... finally got a semblance of justice in 2015. It is despicable to have that justice reversed through an arbitrary executive decision," Amnesty's regional director Biraj Patnaik said in a statement.

Rajapaksa, a retired army officer, came to power in November promising to free military personnel jailed for a string of offences during the previous administration.

He and his brother Mahinda, now serving as prime minister, are adored by the island's Sinhala majority for spearheading the defeat of separatist Tamil rebels to end the country's 37-year Tamil separatist war in 2009.

The armed forces were internationally condemned for atrocities committed during the conflict, but Sri Lankan soldiers have seldom been tried in civilian courts.

Government troops are alleged to have killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final stages of the war - an allegation the Rajapaksas have denied.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka's main political party for the minority community, condemned what it said was an "opportunistic" decision to release Ratnayake.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/sri-lanka-pardons-soldier-killed-tamil-civilians-200327033617104.html

 

Fears mount as Syria reports first coronavirus case

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Authorities step up lockdown efforts in war-torn country after 20-year-old woman tested positive.

Health officials in war-battered Syria have announced the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as authorities in the country prepare to halt all public transportation in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Health Minister Nizar Yazji told a news conference in the capital Damascus on Sunday that “necessary measures” had been taken to ensure that the patient, a 20-year-old woman who had come from abroad, was quarantined for 14 days.

 

Yazji said the patient did not exhibit all of the symptoms upon arrival, but was identified by a "detection team" responsible for scanning incoming travellers, state news agency Sana reported.

A ban on public transport as well as on private transport services will come into effect on Monday night, the agency reported. A similar ban on transportation between various cities and provinces will come into effect on Tuesday night.

Earlier, the government shut down schools, parks, restaurants and various public institutions, and called off army conscription.

Syria's healthcare system, among other infrastructure, has been ravaged by nine years of war.

Flights from Iran

On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a prisoner amnesty, according to state media, which said it was a move to relieve congestion that risked the spread of the virus.

Bakeries across the country would no longer open and bread would be home-delivered, state media said.

Medics say the country is also vulnerable with thousands of Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside Assad's forces, who maintain a strong presence in Syria's big cities and have their headquarters in the Damascus Shia suburb of Set Zaynab.

Thousands of Shia pilgrims from Iran also visit Damascus.

Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside China, is Syria's main regional ally and operates military and civilian flights that bring the militia fighters into the country.

Iran's Mahan Air still has regular flights from Tehran to Damascus, according to Western diplomats tracking Syria, even though other Syrian flights have been suspended.

Iranian-backed militias also still enter Syria using the al-Bukamal border crossing with Iraq, where the virus is spreading, according to local residents and Western intelligence sources.

Displacement camps

The army's general command announced on Saturday it had raised the level of preparedness in military hospitals and gave orders to minimise gatherings, including military sports activities or any that take place in closed areas.

UN officials and humanitarian workers, meanwhile, fear a large outbreak in Syria could be particularly catastrophic.

Medics in the opposition-controlled northwestern region - the last rebel-held bastion in the country - also fear the coronavirus could spread quickly in crowded camps for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who fled months of relentless Russian-backed bombing of rebel-held areas.

Since December last year, and up until earlier this month, an escalation in fighting between Syrian government forces, backed by Russia and Iran, and the Turkish-backed opposition in the region displaced nearly one million people, many of whom amassed in the already overcrowded camps near the Turkey-Syria border.

Aid agencies have been unable to respond to the overwhelming surge of new arrivals at the camps, which has forced many to share their tents throughout the harsh winter months, while others camped under trees or in their vehicles.

A campaign to help spread awareness among the camp’s residents kicked off last week but limited access to running water, pharmacies and medical facilities mean displacement camps are more susceptible to the spread of the highly infectious virus.

The area is especially vulnerable as most hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed, rendering them out of order.

The UN has previously accused Syrian government ally Russia of deliberately hitting civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, acts that could amount to war crimes.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/fears-mount-syria-reports-coronavirus-case-200323072420219.html

 

Fear, anxiety as besieged Gaza confirms first 2 coronavirus cases

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Authorities in the coastal enclave have shut restaurants and cafes, while Friday prayers have also been suspended.

Palestinian officials have announced the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Deputy Health Minister Youssef Abulreesh said late on Saturday the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza's Rafah border with neighbouring Egypt on Thursday.

The pair exhibited symptoms of the illness, which include a dry cough and high fever, Abulreesh told a news conference.

He added that the two were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Abulreesh urged Gaza's nearly two million residents to take precautionary measures and to practise social distancing by staying home in a bid to halt the potential spread of the virus.

Authorities in Gaza, which is run by the Hamas group, have decided to shut down the enclave's restaurants, cafes and reception halls. Friday prayers at mosques have also been suspended until further notice.

Meanwhile, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli military unit that is responsible for civilian matters in the occupied territories, announced that effective on Sunday, all crossings into Israel from Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been closed.

"Merchants, workers and other permit holders will not be permitted to enter from the crossings until further notice," COGAT said on its Twitter page, adding that some exceptions may apply to nurses and health workers, as well as exceptional medical cases.

Palestinians say permits to cross are hard to obtain, even for those with a medical or humanitarian reason, as each application is accompanied by a long logistical process, usually under the pretext of security clearance.

'We are very afraid'

On March 15, authorities in Gaza introduced measures to place incoming residents in quarantine centres.

To date, there are 20 designated facilities in Gaza's south, including schools, hotels and medical facilities, housing more than 1,200 people, according to a report released on Saturday by the Palestinian Authority's health ministry.

The quarantine centres are located in Rafah, Deir al-Balah and the southern city of Khan Younis. According to the report, at least 2,000 other returnees have been self-isolating in their homes, prior to when the mandatory quarantine procedures were implemented last week.

Um Mohammed Khalil is among those who are being quarantined in Rafah.

After returning from a short visit to Egypt last week, the 49-year-old was among 50 other people who were bussed to a school with "poor hygiene standards", where single rooms are shared by seven people.

The news of the first two positive cases sparked fear and anxiety among those quarantined in the school, Khalil told Al Jazeera.

"We were afraid that among us would be infected people, especially as we have been calling for an improvement in the quarantine conditions," she said.

"Our families have been in contact with us since this morning, and they are also seriously concerned. Gaza has endured many wars and crises, but how can it tolerate this pandemic?" she said. "We are very afraid".

Gaza under siege

Gaza's healthcare system is in shambles and its war-battered residents are especially vulnerable as they have lived under an Israeli-Egyptian siege for nearly 13 years.

The air, land and sea blockade has restricted the entry of essential resources such as healthcare equipment, medication and building materials, among others.

Since 2007, Gaza has seen three Israeli assaults that have resulted in the destruction of civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities and a power plant.

Gaza's homes, offices and hospitals receive an average of four to six hours of electricity per day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned Gaza's healthcare system would not be able to deal with an outbreak, given that the strip's hospitals are overstretched and under-sourced.

Ayman al-Halabi, a doctor at the laboratories run by Gaza's health ministry, is among a team of physicians responsible for testing incoming samples.

"The routine from two weeks ago was to gather samples from returnees at the Rafah border, which undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test - the test of choice utilised to diagnose COVID-19," al-Halabi told Al Jazeera.

Hundreds of other samples of people who may have come into contact with the two first patients are now being tested, al-Halabi said.

Citing Gaza's limited resources, al-Halabi said: "Facing this pandemic is going to be extremely challenging.

"If the biggest and most powerful countries are struggling, how is Gaza supposed to cope?"

'End of the world'

Globally, more than 300,000 people have tested positive for the highly infectious disease, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the United States. More than 13,000 people have died from the virus, while some 92,000 have recovered.

With the looming threat of an outbreak, many say the virus might be the last straw for Gaza's weary residents.

Amira al-Dremly knew that it would only be a matter of time until the virus made its way to Gaza.

But hearing the news that two had tested positive on Saturday still felt like "the end of the world", al-Dremly told Al Jazeera.

"The biggest fear is that the available resources in Gaza are not enough to act as a temporary solution [to the spread of the virus]," the 34-year-old said.

"I'm very afraid for my children. I am taking measures to educate them about sterilisation and have prevented them from leaving the house," the mother of four said.

"But the psychological effects are difficult, my family and everyone around me are very confused by this news," she added.

Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, is home to some of the biggest Palestinian refugee camps, and al-Dremly noted that social distancing is something that is "easier said than done".

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS


https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/gaza-confirms-coronavirus-cases-ongoing-blockade-200322072036366.html

 

Iran leader refuses US help; cites coronavirus conspiracy theory

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei alleges virus 'is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians'.

Iran's supreme leader refused American assistance to fight the new coronavirus citing a conspiracy theory claiming it could be man-made by the United States government.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came on Sunday as Iran faces crushing US sanctions blocking the country from selling its crude oil and accessing international financial markets.

While Iranian officials in recent days have increasingly criticised those sanctions, 80-year-old Khamenei instead echoed Chinese officials about the possible origin of the coronavirus.

"I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?" Khamenei said. "Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more."

He also alleged the virus "is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians, which they have obtained through different means".

"You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person," Khamenei said.

US response

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced Ayatollah Khamenei's remarks on Monday, saying his "lies" were endangering people's lives.

Calling COVID-19 the "Wuhan virus", Pompeo said Khamenei's "fabrications are dangerous and they put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk".

The statement also mentioned "failed" steps taken by Iran to counter the virus as "facts that Iran regime would like to keep from the world".

The US secretary of state accused Iran of "putting millions of lives at risk and infecting its people with running 55 flights between Tehran and China in February, ignoring repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denying its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days".

"He works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritises ideology over the Iranian people," Pompeo said of Ayatollah Khamenei.

'Be transparent'

There is no scientific proof offered anywhere in the world to support Khamenei's claims.

However, his comments come after Chinese government spokesman Lijian Zhao tweeted earlier this month it "might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe[s] us an explanation!"

Lijian likewise offered no evidence to support his claim, which saw the US State Department summon China's ambassador to complain. A Chinese state newspaper tweeted on Sunday another allegation trying to link the virus to Italy, similarly hard-hit by the outbreak.

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.

In recent days, the Trump administration has increasingly referred to the virus as the "Chinese" or "Wuhan" virus, while the World Health Organization (WHO) used the term COVID-19 to describe the illness the virus causes.

A US senator from Arkansas has trafficked in the conspiracy theory it was a man-made Chinese bioweapon. Relations with China and the US have been tense under President Donald Trump amid a trade war between the nations.

Ayatollah Khamenei continued to berate the US on Sunday. "No one trusts you. You are capable of bringing into our country a drug that will keep the virus alive and prevent its eradication.

"The American leaders are liars, manipulators, impudent and greedy ... They are charlatans," he said, also labelling them "absolutely ruthless".

'Improbable'

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Scientists have not yet determined exactly how the new coronavirus first infected people. Evidence suggests it originated in bats, which infected another animal that spread it to people at a market in Wuhan. The now-shuttered Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market advertised dozens of species such as giant salamanders, baby crocodiles and raccoon dogs that were often referred to as wildlife, even when they were farmed.

An article published last week in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Medicine dismissed the idea the virus was man-made. Its authors said it was "improbable" that the virus "emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus".

Khamenei made the comments in a speech in Tehran broadcast live on Sunday across Iran marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and the Islamic commemoration known as Isra and Miraj. He had called off his usual speech at Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad over the virus outbreak.

His comments come as Iran has reported more than 21,600 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus amid 1,685 reported deaths, according to government figures released Sunday. Experts still fear Iran may be underreporting its cases.

'Maximum pressure'

Across the Middle East, Iran represents eight of 10 cases of the virus and those leaving the Islamic Republic have carried it to other countries.

Iranian officials have criticised US offers of aid during the virus crisis as being disingenuous.

They have accused the Trump administration of wanting to capitalise on its "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran since withdrawing from the nuclear deal in May 2018.

US sanctions have made it more difficult for Iran to access the global market.

On Sunday, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed the call on the US to lift its sanctions.

"I want to appeal to President Trump on humanitarian grounds to lift the sanctions against Iran till the COVID-19 pandemic is over," Khan said in a tweet.

"The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran's efforts to fight COVID-19. Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic," he said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/iran-leader-refuses-cites-coronavirus-conspiracy-theory-200322145122752.html

   

COVID 19 Emergency Relief By AMAM Foundation Galle

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COVID - 19 Relief Dry Ration Packs for 2000 Widows and Orphan Families

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Hemas Holdings offers its hotel in Negombo as quarantine centre

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Hemas Holdings Plc has offered its Club Hotel Dolphin in Negombo as a quarantine centre to the Government if the need arises, as part of wider public-private sector efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking to Daily Mirror, Mr. Abbas Esufally, Chairman of HEMAS Leisure stated that, “we feel that as a Sri Lankan company the private sector must stand up and rise to the occasion. This is a national crisis and we must come together to combat it. We spoke to Mrs. Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of Sri Lanka Tourism and Mr. Sanath Ukwatte, President of THASL and decided that we must offer our services and assistance to the Government. Our hotel, Club Hotel Dolphin in Waikkal is at the heart of the outbreak in Puttalam and we felt that the government could make use of our property at this crucial hour," he said.

"We conveyed our intention to both the Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and President’s Chief Advisor, Mr. Lalith Weeratunge and they have responded positively and stated that they will take it up the moment the need for it arises. We communicated that we will continue to man the Engineering and Kitchen departments and the Army will help to run and manage the rest of the operations. We will ask our staff to volunteer to continue working at the property and assist the army. Furthermore, our HEMAS factory companies, HEMAS Pharmaceutical and Morrison’s are busy manufacturing critically required pharmaceuticals, soaps, hand sanitizers and other urgently required essential items.” he added.

Club Hotel Dolphin is a 4-star property with 154 rooms situated in Waikkal. It is owned by Serendib Hotels Plc, which is part of Hemas Holdings Plc.


http://www.dailymirror.lk/breaking_news/Hemas-Holdings-offers-its-hotel-in-Negombo-as-quarantine-centre/108-185441

 

Saudi Arabia bans prayers at mosques over coronavirus fears

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Move will also include weekly Friday prayers in a country that has  reported more than 270 corona virus cases.

Saudi Arabia has suspended the holding of daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayers inside and outside the walls of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina to limit the spread of corona virus.  Earlier, on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia had suspended congregational prayers in other mosques in the country except Masjid al-Haram and Masjid an-Nabawi, in Mecca and Medina respectively.  Authorities had placed restrictions on praying inside the mosque in Mecca. On Thursday, the government suspended prayers outside the two holy mosques.  "The Presidency and the security and health authorities decided to suspend the presence and prayers in the outer squares of the Grand Mosque [Masjid al-Haram] and the Prophet’s Mosque [Masjid al-Nabawi] starting tomorrow, Friday,” the country’s official SPA news agency quoted Hani bin Hosni Haider, a spokesman for the General Presidency of Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, as saying

 

Together Let Us Fight Against Covid-19 : Nabaviyya Islamic Youth Org

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Pakistan PM urges US to halt sanctions on coronavirus-hit Iran

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Imran Khan implores Washington, which issued fresh sanctions this week, to ease action as Iran struggles with COVID-19.

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called on the US to lift "unjust" sanctions on Iran so its western neighbour can focus on winning the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

"I would stress and insist to the international community to lift the sanctions on Iran," Khan said at a press conference on Friday regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

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"It is very unjust they are dealing with such a large outbreak on one side, and on the other they are facing international sanctions," Khan told reporters in Islamabad.

Aisha Farooqui, a spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had earlier sent a letter to Khan requesting Islamabad's help amid the coronavirus outbreak.

"Pakistan has a principled position that unilateral sanctions against Iran should be lifted. PM Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi both have publicly stated this," she added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Friday that the US policy towards the Islamic Republic would live in "infamy" and that his country "won't break".

This week, the US imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, arguing that they did not limit the flow of aid to the country in its time of need.

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Iran has almost 20,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 1,433 deaths.

The COVID-19 outbreak there is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated.

So far, the US has refused to lift the sanctions against Iran, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticising Tehran for a "lack of transparency" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Arif Rafiq, president of Vizier Consulting, a New York-based political risk advisory company, told Al Jazeera: "It is almost certain that Washington will ignore Khan's advice on lifting the sanctions on Iran.


Hard-hit Iran frees more prisoners amid coronavirus outbreak

"This is ultimately a US-Iran bilateral issue, and Pakistan has little influence over American policy toward Iran."

Rafiq said Washington was more likely to ease sanctions on Tehran in exchange for the release of Western prisoners.

The US has warned that Iran would be directly responsible for the deaths of any Americans held by Tehran.

Tensions escalated in January after US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of revered Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, prompting Iran to retaliate against US forces in Iraq days later.

Following Soleimani's assassination, Khan urged both the US and Iran to avoid further escalation and offered to mediate.

Iran's economy was battered after Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, a multilateral nuclear deal), reimposing severe sanctions that curb oil and gas exports on which the government in Tehran is heavily dependent for revenues.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/pakistan-pm-urges-halt-sanctions-coronavirus-hit-iran-200320155952750.html

 

Covid -19 Relief by TEARZ

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