Turkey on Saturday condemned the conviction of seven Crimean Tatars by a Russian court earlier this week.

The country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement: "It is regrettable to suppress the Tatar Turkish community, which is the essential element of the Crimean Peninsula, by such methods."

The statement added that it will continue to stand with the Crimean Tatars, who peacefully defend their rights and interests and strive to make their voices heard through democratic methods.

On Wednesday, a military court in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia, sentenced the Crimean Tatars to prison from 13 to 19 years over "terror" charges.

The EU called on Russia to quash this ruling and to release all illegally detained Ukrainians without delay.

Russian forces entered the Crimean Peninsula in February 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin formally dividing the region into two separate federal subjects of the Russian Federation the following month.

Since then, Crimean Tatars have continued their struggle for Ukraine's territorial integrity against Russian occupation.

Crimea's ethnic Tatars have faced persecution since Russia's 2014 takeover of the peninsula, a situation Turkey has decried.

Turkey and the US, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal./aa

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, the White House said in a statement on Friday, adding that it was the first time the honor has been given since 1991.

The 91-year-old emir arrived in the United States in July to complete medical treatment, the Kuwaiti state news agency said at the time, adding that he was in stable condition after having undergone successful surgery in July.

The emir’s eldest son, Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, accepted the award on behalf of his father at a private ceremony with Trump on Friday.

The White House praised the emir as an “unwavering friend and partner to the United States” who gave “indispensable support to the United States throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Defeat-ISIS campaign.”

Operation Iraqi Freedom refers to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq to oust former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein; Operation Enduring Freedom to the 2001 U.S.-led military operation that drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan; and the Defeat-ISIS campaign to the coalition effort to end the Islamic State militant group’s control of territory in Syria and Iraq.

The White House described the award given to the Kuwaiti emir on Friday as a rare, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by the president, typically to foreign heads of state or government.


On Monday, Kuwait’s prime minister told the Kuwaiti cabinet of the improvement of the emir’s health.

In July, Kuwait’s cabinet tweeted that the emir arrived at Rochester airport in the United States, without specifying which U.S. city of that name. The main campus of the Mayo Clinic, among the top U.S. medical centers, is in Rochester, Minnesota.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two sources familiar with the matter said the emir is being treated at the Mayo Clinic. The clinic referred queries to the Kuwaiti government, which issued a statement largely echoing the White House’s comments about the emir receiving the award.

AMSTERDAM,(Reuters) - The Netherlands is preparing a case against Syria at the U.N.'s highest court, seeking to hold the government of President Bashar al-Assad accountable for human rights violations, including torture and the use of chemical weapons, the Dutch foreign minister wrote in a letter to parliament on Friday.

Syria has been informed of the legal step, which precedes a possible case at the International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s court for disputes between states in The Hague.

"Today the Netherlands announced its decision to hold Syria responsible under international law for gross human rights violations and torture in particular," Foreign Minister Stef Blok wrote. The letter cites Syria's obligation to uphold the U.N. Convention against Torture, which Damascus ratified in 2004.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - For years, small boats have left northern Lebanon's coast, packed with desperate migrants hoping to reach European shores. Until recently, they carried mostly Syrian and Palestinian refugees. But with Lebanon in freefall, its citizens have begun joining their ranks in larger numbers.

Mohammad Ghandour never thought he'd be one of them. But he said Lebanon's economic crisis, which has crashed the Lebanese pound and left him unable to feed his seven children, gave him no choice.

"In Lebanon, we are being killed by poverty," Ghandour told Reuters this week, from his mother's cramped three-room apartment where he was staying with 12 other family members. He was back in Tripoli, one of Lebanon's poorest cities, after being sent back by Cyprus.


"This is worse than war … My children will either die on the streets or become criminals to survive.

Ghandour, 37, is one of dozens of Lebanese who've attempted the journey since late August, when rights groups say a rise in the number of boats leaving Lebanon began. Exact figures are hard to come by, but the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has tracked 21 boats leaving Lebanon between July and Sept. 14. The previous year, there were 17 in total.

The increase has worried Cypriot authorities, especially given the global pandemic. The island is the closest European Union member state to the Middle East and has seen a gradual rise in arrivals of undocumented migrants and refugees in the past two years, as other routes have become more difficult to cross.

After 28 hours lost at sea, Ghandour said his boat, carrying his wife, children and other relatives, arrived on a beach near the seaside resort of Larnaca. He said his family was detained in a camp for several days, tested for Covid-19 and prevented from lodging a formal claim for asylum before being sent back to Lebanon.

"I didn't think they would send us back," he said. "They should have just let us die in the water. It's better than coming back here."

Cypriot authorities said about 230 Lebanese and Syrians were sent back to Lebanon by sea in early September. They had arrived in Cyprus on five boats during the previous weeks.

"Following our government's orders and after consultations between the two governments (Cyprus and Lebanon) we safely returned them on September 6, 7 and 8," Stelios Papatheodorou, chief of the Cypriot police, told Reuters.

He denied accusations that authorities had mistreated them and pushed back their boats.

"We provided them with food and water and covered all their needs at our own expense," Papatheodorou said.

Lebanon's General Security and Foreign Ministry did not respond to written requests for comment.


Out of work for three years, Ghandour decided last month to pack up for good and try his luck in Cyprus. He left his apartment, sold his furniture, and had his older sons sell scrap metal to help buy a small boat and supplies for the perilous journey.

Ghandour was one of four migrants interviewed by Reuters, who said they were swiftly sent back to Lebanon. According to UNHCR, the island has pushed back at least five boats, which carried Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and others.

"You can't just summarily send people back without considering their claims fully and fairly," said Bill Frelick, the director of the refugee and migrant rights division at HRW, who has been monitoring the returns.

Although Lebanon is not at war and economic hardship is not recognised as grounds for asylum, the multiple crises Lebanon is facing mean some of its nationals and residents could face serious threats, while others could qualify for refugee status on fear-of-persecution grounds, Frelick added.

In interviews with Reuters, migrants said they told Cypriot authorities they feared violence and instability in Lebanon and did not want to return.

In August a port blast killed nearly 200.

Migrants also said they encountered aggressive tactics as they neared Cyprus. Chamseddine Kerdi said his boat, packed with 52 people, was encircled several times and ultimately damaged before being towed to shore by authorities.

"My daughter begged me not to let them kill us," Kerdi said.

Ghandour was not expecting a hostile reception in Cyprus. He had previously tried looking for work in Germany, at the height of the migrant flows to Europe in 2015 and 2016, and said he was greeted with kindness. "This time, they treated us like dogs."

Despite this, both Ghandour and Kerdi are adamant they'll set sail again soon.

For others, however, their first journey would be their last.

Mezhar Abdelhamid Mohammad's son-in-law and nephew left Lebanon 11 days ago in a boat packed with about 50 men, women and children. Adrift for seven days, the boat was eventually rescued by UN peacekeepers off the coast of Lebanon, with only 36 people alive. But the two men weren't on it.

A survivor who returned to Lebanon told Mohammad that he had jumped in the water with Mohammad's relatives to try and find help. They have not been found.

If you litter in this Thai national park, your rubbish may just come back to haunt you.

Well, not exactly haunt, but it'll be shipped to your home as a pointed reminder that when out in nature, you had better clean up after yourself.

Authorities in the popular Khao Yai National Park near Bangkok will start sending rubbish back to litterers, Thailand's environment minister said.

Offenders will also be registered with the police.

Visitors to the park have to register with their addresses, making it easy for rangers to track them down if they leave rubbish behind.

Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa posted pictures of litter collected in cardboard parcels ready to be shipped on his Facebook account.

"Your trash - we'll send it back to you," the post warns, reminding people that littering in a national park is an offence and punishable with up to five years in prison and hefty fines.

Along with empty plastic bottles, cans and chips wrappings, the box in the Facebook post contains a polite note saying: "You forgot these things at Khao Yai National Park".

Park authorities say the rubbish left behind can be particularly dangerous for animals who may try to eat it.

Khao Yai National Park which is north-east of the Thai capital Bangkok stretches across more than 2,000 sq km (770 sq miles) and is very popular with hikers.

It's the oldest national park in Thailand and known for its waterfalls, animals and scenery./BBC


The US will manufacture at least 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year and all Americans will have access to it by April, President Donald Trump said Friday.  

Trump said his administration will "immediately" deliver vaccines to the American people after it is approved and that “distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice."

"Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April and again I’ll say even at that later stage, the delivery will go as fast as it comes," Trump told reporters at the White House.

His remarks contradict those of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, who testified at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing two days earlier.

Redfield said a vaccine might be available in November or December but not widely accessible until "the second or third quarter" of 2021.

The president said "massive amounts" of the vaccine will be delivered through the US military.

Trump said Wednesday that the US could begin distributing a vaccine in mid-October as he also disputed Redfield remarks that masks may better protect against the virus than a vaccine.

"I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information," Trump said./aa


The UN Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a resolution, expressing grave concern at "credible allegations" that human rights violations were committed in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath.

The resolution passed after an "urgent debate" with a vote of 23 in favor, two against and 22 abstentions.

Venezuela and Eritrea voted against the resolution after Russia, China, and Venezuela had tried to stifle debate, including trying to stop an address by a Belarus opposition leader.

The resolution "regrets that the Government of Belarus has not fulfilled its obligations with regard to the right of every citizen to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections."

European Union countries, along with Ukraine, drafted the resolution.

"There has been a steep deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus in the run-up to, and aftermath of the presidential election of 9th August," Michael Ungern-Sternberg, Germany's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said when he introduced the resolution on behalf of the EU.

"It was held in the absence of meaningful international observation, and it was neither free nor fair. The High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the violent response of the Belarusian authorities to post-electoral protests, as did the Secretary General's office," he said.

"Enforced disappearances, forced abductions and expulsions and arbitrary detentions continue [...] every day in Belarus. We call for the immediate release of all those who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty."

Gennady Gatilov, the Russian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the council was violating procedural rules.

"In this case, we once again repeat our request and the request of other states to cease the dialogue with the special rapporteur, which is not provided for by the format for urgent debates with states," he said.

“We do not condone some of the shortcomings of the democratic process that we have seen in various report; but we should genuinely try to help the Belarus Government to address these,” said Sadik Arslan, the Turkish ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger, the council president, said: "We are following exactly the procedure we have always had in the case of urgent debates."


The Turkish Coast Guard on Friday held 36 asylum seekers off the Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts, according to security sources.

Six asylum seekers, who were stranded on a dinghy, were rescued off Cesme district of the Aegean province of Izmir, said a source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

The asylum seekers, found off the Cape Karaabdullah coast, were taken to the provincial immigration department.

Separately, some 30 Syrian refugees on two boats were held off the Gazipasa district of Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya, another source said.

They were taken to the provincial migration authority after routine checks.

Also, one person was arrested for allegedly organizing illegal crossings of asylum seekers. 

Turkey has been one of the main routes for asylum seekers wanting to reach Europe, especially since Syria’s civil war started in 2011. 

Turkey hosts nearly four million Syrians, more than any other country in the world./ aa

 With their children abducted by the PKK terror group, families in Iraq's Mosul called on the international community and the UN to rescue their loved ones or learn of their fate.

Ezidi parents recorded videos with photographs and the ID cards of their children to send to local media outlets in Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

An anonymous mother in the video said PKK affiliates had been spotted near her house multiple times before abducting her underage daughter.

Longing for her daughter and hoping for her immediate release, she accused the PKK of preventing children from getting in touch with their families, in an appeal to humanitarian organizations and UN.

When families demand their children's return, they are met by threats from the terror group, she added.

A senior Ezidi man in the video read the names of those abducted by the terror group and one father said all he knew was that his child had been held in a PKK prison.

In an interview with the Erbil-based Kurdistan 24 TV, Sirwan Rojbeyani, deputy governor of Mosul, said the PKK presence in Sinjar, northwestern Iraq, along with Hashdi al-Shaabi groups many of which are Iran-backed, posed a threat to the return of Ezidis to their homes and normal lives.

The deputy governor said the administration in Sinjar was illegal and unrecognized, urging the Iraqi central government to resolve the issue, though this to no avail as of yet.

On Sept. 3, Mir Ismet Tahsin Beg, deputy spiritual leader of Ezidis, said the PKK was not welcome in Sinjar, Mosul province, and should leave the region.

Mehma Halil, district governor of Sinjar, told Anadolu Agency in late August that the Ezidis held by the PKK terror group were kept in secret prisons.

The Ezidi community in the district has organized multiple protests against the PKK, demanding the return of children abducted by the terror group, and urged the Iraqi administration to intervene.

Terror group Daesh, also known as ISIS, attacked Sinjar district on Aug. 3, 2014, and either killed or detained thousands of people including children and women.

On the pretext of rescuing Sinjar from Daesh, the PKK has been occupying the region since 2014.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants./aa