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Portuguese lawmakers make 3rd attempt to allow euthanasia

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s parliament voted for the third time in almost two years Friday in favor of allowing euthanasia, though as happened in the previous attempts the country’s Constitutional Court or president could stop the bill becoming law.

Lawmakers passed a bill permitting euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in Portugal, the Speaker of Parliament said, though exact voting figures were not immediately available.

Left-of-center parties in the mostly Catholic country were the driving force behind the bill, as they were with laws allowing abortion in 2007 and same-sex marriage in 2010.

The bill requires the head of state’s approval to become law. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa could choose to block the legislation again or send it once more to the Constitutional Court for vetting. That could hold up the law for several months.

Imprecise wording and unconstitutional aspects frustrated the two previous attempts to get the law enacted.

Euthanasia is when a doctor directly administers fatal drugs to a patient. Medically assisted suicide is when patients administer the lethal drug themselves, under medical supervision.

New rules in the latest version of the bill include the mandatory involvement of a psychologist in the process from beginning to end and a minimum wait of two months between the request and death.

The bill states that the patient’s request must be “repeated, serious, made freely and informed, in a situation of very intense suffering, with a definitive injury of extreme seriousness or a serious and terminal illness.” The patient requesting death must express the wish freely at least six times.

The request is approved or rejected, and the entire procedure is overseen, by a national committee made up of two legal experts, a doctor, a nurse and a specialist in bioethics.

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Japan investigating repeated assaults by guards at prison

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Justice Ministry disclosed Friday that more than 20 prison guards had repeatedly pushed, slapped and used other forms of physical violence against a group of inmates at a prison in central Japan, raising questions about the extent of prison abuse in the country.

Justice Minister Ken Saito said the assaults at Nagoya Prison were discovered in August when a prison guard spotted an inmate with an eye injury.

An internal probe found that 22 prison officials routinely slapped some inmates in the face, pushed them in the chest, sprayed alcohol in their faces, and threw dishes and other objects at them. The victims included the one with the eye injury.

When correcting the behavior of inmates, prison officials need to consider their human rights, and “actions like these are unforgivable,” Saito told reporters. He expressed “deep regret” on behalf of the ministry.

Saito said the assaults were especially problematic because fatal bullying at the same prison two decades ago had prompted prison reforms. In 2001, a prison guard used a firefighting hose to shoot water at the rear of an inmate, causing rectal rupture and an infection resulting in death. A year later, five prison guards were charged with assault over their use of a restraining device that resulted in the death of two inmates and the injury of a third.

While the internal probe continues at the prison, Saito said he ordered an investigation by outside experts, as well as a survey of prisons across the country.

The prison officials were in their 20s and 30s, and most had less than three years of experience, he said.

Japanese prisons are known for strict discipline and a lack of access to outside exercise or medical care. Japan also faces criticism over its lack of transparency in carrying out capital punishment.

Saito said the ministry will step up human rights education for prison officials.

In recent years, cases of inhumane treatment of foreigners, especially those from developing nations, at detention facilities have raised criticism from human rights groups.

The death last year of a Sri Lankan woman who was held in a detention center in Nagoya for overstaying her visa prompted her relatives to demand an investigation. Accounts by witnesses and information about her health condition suggested she was largely abandoned without adequate medical treatment.

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France’s TotalEnergies pulls out of Russian gas producer

PARIS (AP) — French energy giant TotalEnergies said Friday that it will walk away from its stake in Russian natural gas producer Novatek and take a $3.7 billion loss.

TotalEnergies, which has come under criticism for pursuing some of its projects in Russia amid the war in Ukraine, said Western sanctions prevent it from selling its 19.4% stake to the Russian company. It said it withdrawing its representatives from the Novatek board, who have been abstaining from voting because of sanctions, with “immediate effect.”

As a result, TotalEnergies will no longer account for its ownership interest in Novatek, which will lead it “to record an impairment of approximately $3.7 billion in the accounts for the 4th quarter of 2022,” the French company said in a statement.

In line with its “principles of conduct” published on March 22, TotalEnergies “has gradually started to withdraw from its Russian assets while ensuring that it continues to supply gas to Europe.”

It comes amid an energy crisis in Europe provoked by Russia’s war in Ukraine that pushed up natural gas prices and has led governments to warn people to conserve this winter. While prices have fallen from summertime peaks and Europe has largely filled its storage for the heating season, a colder-than expected winter, a complete gas cutoff by Russia and other factors could lead to a supply crunch.

Environmental NGO Greenpeace France said the announcement comes “very late” and denounced TotalEnergies’ continuing operations in Russia.

The French company has stakes in some other Russian projects meant to produce liquefied natural gas, including a 20% stake in Yamal LNG and a 10% stake in Artic LNG.

The decision “is not enough to make from TotalEnergies a responsible company as it keeps a foot in Russia and will continue to feed the climate crisis,” said Edina Ifticene, who’s in charge of campaigning on fossil energy at Greenpeace France.

In October, TotalEnergies reported third-quarter net income rose to $6.6 billion despite losses from pulling out of a venture in Russia. The company posted adjusted net earnings of $9.9 billion but notably took a charge of $3.1 billion after it sold a 49% interest in a Siberian natural gas field to Novatek.

Other companies that have moved to pull out of Russia have taken big losses, ranging from Shell’s $3.9 billion charge to McDonald’s expected loss of between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion.

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Germany: Judges confirm arrest of 23 alleged coup plotters

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities said Friday that judges have confirmed the arrest of 23 people detained earlier this week on suspicion of planning to topple the government, while the extradition of two others detained abroad is being sought.

Prosecutors said 22 German citizens and a Russian woman detained in a series of raids across Germany on Wednesday have appeared before a federal court for their arraignment and will remain in custody as the investigation into the case continues.

Extradition proceedings have been initiated in the case of two others, identified only as Maximilian E. and Frank H., who were detained in Italy and Austria respectively, prosecutors said.

German authorities described the suspects as being part of the far-right Reich Citizens movement. Its adherents deny the legitimacy of the present-day German constitution and government, claiming instead that the German empire, or Reich, of 1871 still exists.

The plotters allegedly wanted to install Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss, a 71-year-old businessman, as the head of a new government. Although Germany abolished any formal role for royalty over a century ago, he continues to use the title of “prince” due to his descent from the formerly noble House of Reuss.

The case has also put a spotlight once more on the far-right Alternative for Germany party. One of its former lawmakers, Birgit Malsack-Winkemann, was among those arrested. A Berlin judge, she was tapped to become justice minister if the coup succeeded, prosecutors said.

While the party, known by its German acronym AfD, has denounced the plot, rival politicians have called for its links with the Reich Citizens movement to be investigated.

Bavaria’s governor Markus Soeder said Friday that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency should step up its surveillance of AfD. Lars Klingbeil, the general-secretary of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, accused AfD of being the “parliamentary interface for hatred, incitement and violence.”

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Russian man jailed 8 1/2 years for Ukraine action criticism

MOSCOW (AP) — A prominent Russian opposition figure was on Friday sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison after being convicted on charges stemming from his criticism of the Kremlin’s action in Ukraine.

The sentence handed to Ilya Yashin, one of the few Kremlin critics to have stayed in Russia, offered the latest indication of an intensified crackdown on dissent by Russian authorities.

“With that hysterical sentence, the authorities want to scare us all but it effectively shows their weakness,” Yashin said in a statement through his lawyers after the judge passed the sentence. “Only the weak want to shut everyone’s mouth and eradicate any dissent.”

Yashin was charged with spreading false information about the military — a new offense added to the country’s criminal law after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine.

Speaking Monday just before sentencing, Yashin addressed Putin directly, urging him to “immediately stop this madness, recognize that the policy on Ukraine was wrong, pull back troops from its territory and switch to a diplomatic settlement of the conflict.”

The charges against Yashin related to a YouTube livestream video in which he talked about Ukrainians being killed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. He rejects the charges as politically motivated.

During the trial at Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court, Yashin argued that his case has been fabricated and “has all the markings of illegal political persecution.” He noted that in the video he cited Russian official sources along with Ukrainian statements to give his audience an objective view.

In his final remarks, Yashin emphasized that he considers it his duty to tell the truth, saying: “I will not renounce the truth behind bars.”

“When the hostilities began, I didn’t hesitate for a second,” Yashin said. “I felt I should remain in Russia, loudly tell the truth and try to do all what I could to end the bloodshed. It’s better to sit behind bars for a decade and remain an honest person than silently feel shame for the blood spilled by your government.”

Human Rights Watch denounced Yashin’s sentencing as part of “continued efforts to dismantle and decapitate Russia’s peaceful political opposition” and demanded his immediate release.

“The verdict against Yashin is a travesty of justice and an act of cowardice, directed by a Kremlin that feels threatened by vocal and visible critics like him,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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Lebanese actress linked to Central Bank governor arrested

BEIRUT (AP) — A Lebanese actress with links to the country’s controversial Central Bank governor was arrested on Friday, a judicial official and the state-run new agency said.

The development is the latest in the controversy surrounding the governor, Riad Salameh, who is being investigated for corruption as an economic meltdown and financial collapse convulse the tiny Mediterranean nation.

According to the National News Agency, a judge, acting on the request by Lebanon’s top financial prosecutor, ordered that Stephanie Saliba be placed in custody after she showed up earlier in the day at the prosecutors office in Beirut for questioning. The report gave no reason for her arrest.

A judicial official said investigative Judge Iman Abdullah questioned Saliba over “illicit enrichment and money laundering.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, did not give further details.

Salameh is being investigated in several European nations, including Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein, for potential money laundering and embezzlement. He has repeatedly denied corruption charges.

Reports in Lebanese media say the governor gave Saliba expensive gifts.

Earlier this week, Ghada Aoun, an investigative judge at Mount Lebanon district court who has been investigating Salameh, issued a search warrant for Saliba’s home as part of her investigation of the governor.

Aoun refused to comment on the case when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday, saying only: “I did not issue the arrest warrant. I know nothing.”

Since 2019, Lebanon has been in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class.

Many hold the 72-year-old Salameh responsible for the crisis, citing policies that drove up national debt and caused the Lebanese pound to lose 90% of its value against the dollar. The Central Bank governor, who has held the post for the past three decades, still enjoys the backing of top politicians.

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Police move on suspected influence peddling at EU assembly

BRUSSELS (AP) — Police launched 16 raids across Belgium’s capital Friday as part of a probe into corruption and money laundering involving the European Union parliament and an unidentified Gulf country, the federal prosecutor’s office said.

Four people were detained for questioning, and investigators recovered around 600,000 euros ($633,500) in cash and seized computer equipment and mobile telephones during the Brussels raids, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The statement did not name the four but said one was a former member of the European Parliament.

The raids targeted in particular assistants working for EU lawmakers, the statement said. The EU assembly has 705 elected members from the bloc’s 27 member nations. Each lawmaker has a number of assistants.

Prosecutors said Belgium’s federal judicial police suspect the unidentified Gulf country of trying “to influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament.”

It said this was allegedly done “by paying large sums of money or offering large gifts to third parties with a significant political and/or strategic position within the European Parliament.”

The EU parliament’s press service declined to comment on the raids while an investigation was underway, but said the assembly was cooperating fully with Belgian police.

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Ukrainian Nobel Prize winner says Putin must face tribunal

MOSCOW (AP) — A representative of one the the organizations sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize said Friday that she thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin must face an international tribunal for the fighting in Ukraine.

Oleksandra Matviichuk of Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties said during a news conference in Oslo, Norway, that “We must establish an international tribunal to hold Putin, (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko and other war criminals accountable.”

In October, the Ukrainian group was named a co-winner of the 2022 peace price along with Russian human rights group Memorial and Ales Bialatski, head of the Belarusian human rights group Viasna.

Bialatski is jailed in Belarus and was unable to travel to receive the prize, which is due to be formally presented on Saturday.

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The Media Line: Israelis Prepare For Netanyahu’s Incoming Government (VIDEO)

Israelis Prepare For Netanyahu’s Incoming Government (Video)

By Maya Margit/The Media Line 

Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be returned to office following Israel’s fifth election in four years. Netanyahu’s bloc won a 64-seat majority in the Knesset, or parliament. He has until December 11 to form a government, though he can request a two-week extension.

As coalition negotiations come down to the wire, many, including some of Netanyahu’s supporters, are questioning the extremist character of the incoming government.

The Media Line spoke to some people on the street in Jerusalem, both in favor and against the expected government coalition, to get their thoughts.

Video production: Dario Sanchez 



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Officer injured in shooting amid tension in northern Kosovo

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s prime minister said Friday the country’s leadership was close to demanding the deployment of their security troops to Kosovo, claiming lives of minority Serbs there were being threatened. The return of Belgrade’s troops to the former Serbian province could dramatically increase tensions in the Balkans.

Serbian officials claim a U.N. resolution that formally ended the country’s bloody crackdown against majority Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999 allows for some 1,000 Serb troops to return to Kosovo. NATO bombed Serbia to end the war and push its troops out of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.

The NATO-led peacekeepers who have been working in Kosovo since the war would have to give a green light for Serb troops to go there, something highly unlikely to happen because it would de-facto mean handing over security of Kosovo’s Serb-populated northern regions to the Serbian forces.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic accused the force of some 4,000 peacekeepers, known as KROR, of failing to protect Serbs from alleged harassment by Kosovo’s security troops, and said 1,000 Serb officers should return to Kosovo.

She accused Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti of bringing the region “to the edge” of another war.

“We are close to requesting the return of our forces to Kosovo under Resolution 1244, because KFOR is not doing its job.” Brnabic said. “Serbs do not feel safe and are physically and life threatened, including children in kindergartens.”

Kosovo’s president, Vjosa Osmani, responded to the statements by saying “no Serb soldier or police officer would set foot on Kosovo’s soil again.”

“The open threat for police and military aggression from Serbia testifies that the hegemonic policy continues in that state,” Osmani said on social media. “That should be clearly refuted and opposed by the whole democratic world.”

Tensions have been high in Kosovo since it proclaimed independence from Serbia despite attempts by the European Union and U.S. officials to defuse them. Serbia, supported by its allies Russia and China, has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

The demand for the Serb troop deployment came a day after unknown gunmen slightly injured a Kosovo law enforcement officer. The Kosovar police presence recently was increased in Serb-dominated areas of northern Kosovo where a snap election is to be held on Dec. 28.

Earlier this week, some election centers were damaged and shooting was heard in those communes, raising fears of further escalation of the long-simmering tensions.

The Kosovo government’s decision to ban Serbia-issued license plates pushed Serb lawmakers, prosecutors and police officers in Kosovo’s northern municipalities to abandon local governing posts in early November.

Later last month, under EU mediation and with U.S. direct assistance, Kosovo and Serbia reached a deal that Serbia would stop issuing license plates now used in Kosovo and Kosovo’s government would stop further actions to deny the re-registration of vehicles.

The European Union has warned Serbia and Kosovo they must resolve their dispute and normalize relations to be eligible for membership in the EU.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the NATO-led mission in Kosovo “remains vigilant.”


Llazar Semini contributed from Tirana, Albania.

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