Tag Archives: ‘Detained

Former FC Barcelona officials detained after raid on soccer club, Spanish media report

Catalan police detained several people after raiding Barcelona’s stadium on Monday in a search and seize operation, adding to the club’s turmoil less than a week before it elects a new president.

The operation was related to last year’s “Barcagate,” in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Police said detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody. Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club officials were among those detained.

Authorities spent several hours at the team’s headquarters searching documents and talking to employees.

The club, mired in debt of more than 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.68 billion Cdn), said it offered “full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.”

It added the case was related “to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks.”

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” the club said.

The club did not mention Bartomeu.  A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately answered.

Key former officials detained

One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told Lleida Radio that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.”

He said news of Bartomeu’s reported detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but said the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”

Laporta was Barcelona’s president a decade ago and, like Bartomeu, also faced a no-confidence vote during his time in charge.

Among those reportedly detained were club CEO Oscar Grau and legal department chief Roman Gomez Ponti. Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu’s former chief of staff, also was allegedly detained.

Police say several people were detained but did not say who or how many were taken into custody. (AP/Joan Monfort)

They were taken to a police station for interrogation, Spanish media said, and police also went to Bartomeu’s house searching for evidence. 

Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seize operation but the detentions were made at the discretion of the police agents involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the police’s financial crimes department.

A period of struggles

Barcelona has denied accusations that it hired – and overpaid – a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures were reported to have included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.

Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The club has been managed by a caretaker board since Bartomeu left in October while facing a no-confidence motion supported by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performances and the club’s financial situation.

The club’s struggles began to surface after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League last season, which was the first without a title for the Spanish club since the 2007/08 season.

Bartomeu was loudly criticized by Messi, especially after the former president denied the player’s request to leave the club at the end of last season. Messi’s contract ends this season and the Argentine great has yet to say whether he will stay or go.

Barcelona is five points off the Spanish league lead. It lost at home to Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League and was beaten by Sevilla 2-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.

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Alexei Navalny sentenced to prison term for violating probation as protesters detained

A Moscow court on Tuesday ordered Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to prison for 3½ years for violating the terms of his probation while he was recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning.

With time he has previously served under house arrest, it will leave Navalny to serve just over 2½ years in prison to finish the sentence. Navalny’s legal team is expected to appeal the sentence.

Just before the ruling, Navalny, who is the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, had denounced the proceedings as a vain attempt by the Kremlin to scare millions of Russians into submission.

After the verdict that was announced at about 8 p.m. local time, protesters converged on an area of central Moscow and gathered on St. Petersburg’s main avenue, Nevsky Prospekt. Helmeted riot police grabbed demonstrators without obvious provocation and put them in police vehicles.

The ruling came despite massive protests across Russia over the past two weekends and Western calls to free the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner.

Police detain a Navalny supporter in Moscow’s Red Square on Tuesday. (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

The prison sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and politically motivated.

Police were out in force outside the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday, cordoning off the nearby streets and making random arrests. More than 900 people were detained before and after the court ruling, according to the OVD-Info group that monitors arrests.

‘You can’t jail the entire country’ 

As the order was read, Navalny smiled and pointed to his wife, Yulia, in the courtroom, making the outline of a heart with his hands in the glass cage where he was being held. “Everything will be fine,” he told her as guards led him away.

Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities deny the charge and claim, despite tests by several European labs, that there is no proof he was poisoned.

Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, leaves the courthouse after Tuesday’s hearing. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

Speaking from a glass cage in the courtroom, Navalny attributed his arrest to Putin’s “fear and hatred,” saying the Russian leader will go down in history as a “poisoner.”

“I have deeply offended him simply by surviving the assassination attempt that he ordered,” Navalny said.

“The aim of that hearing is to scare a great number of people,” he went on. “You can’t jail millions. You can’t jail the entire country.”

Police officers detain people near the Moscow City Court during Navalny’s hearing on Tuesday. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s penitentiary service alleges that Navalny violated the probation conditions of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that he has rejected as politically motivated.

He emphasized that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that his conviction was unlawful and Russia paid him compensation in line with the ruling.

Navalny and his lawyers have argued that while he was recovering in Germany from the poisoning, he couldn’t register with Russian authorities in person as required by his probation. Navalny also insisted that his due process rights were crudely violated during his arrest and described his jailing as a travesty of justice.

“I came back to Moscow after I completed the course of treatment,” Navalny said during Tuesday’s hearing. “What else could I have done?”

Arrests outside court building

Navalny’s jailing has triggered massive protests across Russia for the past two weekends, with tens of thousands taking to the streets to demand his release and chant slogans against Putin.

Police detained more than 5,750 people on Sunday, including more than 1,900 in Moscow, the biggest number the country has seen since Soviet times. Most were released after being handed a court summons, and they face fines or jail terms of seven to 15 days. Several people faced criminal charges over alleged violence against police.

“I am fighting and will keep doing it even though I am now in the hands of people who love to put chemical weapons everywhere and no one would give three kopecks for my life,” Navalny said.

Members of the Russian National Guard gather outside Red Square to prevent a protest rally on Tuesday. (Pavel Golovkin/The Associated Press)

Some Navalny supporters still managed to approach the building. A young woman climbed a large pile of snow across the street from the courthouse and held up a poster reading, “Freedom to Navalny.” Less than a minute later, a police officer took her away.

After his arrest, Navalny’s team released a two-hour YouTube video featuring an opulent Black Sea residence allegedly built for Putin.

The video has been viewed more than 100 million times, fuelling discontent as ordinary Russians struggle with an economic downturn, the coronavirus pandemic and widespread corruption during Putin’s years in office.

LISTEN | Alexei Navalny, the ‘anti-Putin’:

Front Burner21:01Alexei Navalny, the ‘anti-Putin’

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg and across Russia to demand the release of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny this past weekend. Police used force to break up the protests and detained more than 2,500 people. Navalny is best known for his anti-corruption investigations and was recently the subject of an assassination attempt. After recovering from his poisoning in Germany, Navalny returned to Russia only to be arrested and imprisoned in Moscow. CBC Russia correspondent Chris Brown talks to host Jayme Poisson about the growing movement in support of Navalny, and whether it might actually challenge President Vladimir Putin’s hold on power in Russia. 21:01

Putin insisted last week that neither he nor his relatives own any of the properties mentioned in the video, and his longtime confidant, construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, claimed that he owns it.

As part of efforts to squelch the protests, the authorities have targeted Navalny’s associates and activists across the country. His brother Oleg, top ally Lyubov Sobol and several others were put under house arrest for two months and face criminal charges of violating coronavirus restrictions.

International condemnation

The jailing of Navalny and the crackdown on protests have stoked international outrage, with Western officials — including Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau — calling for his release and condemning the arrests of demonstrators.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was quick to release a condemnation of the ruling.

“Today’s perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release,” while German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas characterized it as “a bitter blow against fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Russia.”

“Sweden and the EU are concerned about the situation with democracy, civil society and human rights in Russia,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, the current chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.

The diplomat said Navalny’s poisoning and the response by Russian authorities to the street protests will be part of the discussion.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who will visit Moscow later this week, has criticized the detentions and the disproportionate use of force against protesters, emphasizing that Russia must comply with its international commitments on human rights.

WATCH | Thousands engage in anti-Kremlin protests on the weekend:

Russian police smothered Moscow with an oppressive show of force to try to snuff out protests organized by jailed anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, but thousands showed up in cities across Russia anyways. 2:06

Russia has dismissed U.S. and EU officials’ criticism as meddling in its domestic affairs and said that Navalny’s current situation is a procedural matter for the court, not an issue for the government.

More than a dozen Western diplomats attended Tuesday’s court hearing, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova charged that their presence was part of efforts by the West to contain Russia, adding that it could be an attempt to exert “psychological pressure” on the judge.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Russia is ready for dialogue about Navalny but sternly warned that it wouldn’t take Western criticism into account.

“We are ready to patiently explain everything, but we aren’t going to react to mentor-style statements or take them into account,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.

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Myanmar army takes control of country after leader Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly detained

Myanmar military television said Monday that the military was taking control of the country for one year, while reports said many of the country’s senior politicians including Aung San Suu Kyi had been detained.

A presenter on military-owned Myawaddy TV made the announcement and cited a section of the military-drafted constitution that allows the military to take control in times of national emergency.

He said the reason for takeover was in part due to the government’s failure to act on the military’s claims of voter fraud in last November’s election and its failure to postpone the election because of the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the powerful military that stirred fears of a coup in the aftermath of an election that the army says was fraudulent.

A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking further comment.

Phone lines to Naypyitaw, the capital, were not reachable in the early hours of Monday. Parliament had been due to start sitting there on Monday after a November election the NLD had won in a landslide.

Soldiers took up positions at city hall in Yangon and mobile internet data and phone services in the NLD stronghold were disrupted, residents said. Internet connectivity also had fallen dramatically, monitoring service NetBlocks said.

NLD spokesperson Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone that Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning.

“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding he also expected to be detained.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is seen in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, in January 2020. (Aung Shine Oo/The Associated Press)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, 75, came to power after a 2015 landslide election win that followed decades of house arrest in a struggle for democracy that turned her into an international icon.

Her international standing was damaged after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled army operations into refuge from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in 2017, but she remains hugely popular at home.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States expressed “grave concern and alarm” over reports of the detention of government officials and civil society leaders. In a statement, Blinken called on Myanmar’s military leaders to release the detained leaders and respect the will of the people “as expressed in democratic elections on November 8.”

Earlier, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation and that the U.S. “will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.”

Supporters of Myanmar’s military take part in a protest against election results in Yangon on Saturday. (Shwe Paw Mya Tin/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the detentions and said the developments “represent a serious blow to democratic reforms,” according to a UN spokesperson.

“All leaders must act in the greater interest of Myanmar’s democratic reform, engaging in meaningful dialogue, refraining from violence and fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Myanmar’s military had said on Saturday it would protect and abide by the constitution and act according to law after comments earlier in the week had raised fears of a coup.

Myanmar’s election commission has rejected the military’s allegations of vote fraud, saying there were no errors big enough to affect the credibility of the vote.

The constitution reserves 25 per cent of seats in parliament for the military and control of three key ministries in Suu Kyi’s administration.

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Maduro airs video of American detained in alleged Venezuela plot

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday touted a video showing a scruffy-looking American divulging details about a failed invasion as proof that U.S. authorities backed an alleged attempt to forcibly remove him from power.

Maduro aired a video of Luke Denman on state television in which the 34-year-old Texas native claims he signed a contract with a Florida-based company to train rebel troops and carry out the assault in exchange for up to $ 100,000.

“I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” he said.

Denman and Airan Berry, both former U.S. special forces soldiers who served in Iraq, were detained Monday following what Venezuelan authorities described as a botched beach landing in the fishing village of Chuao. Both men are associated with Silvercorp USA, a private firm founded by Jordan Goudreau, an ex-Green Beret claiming responsibility for the alleged incursion.

President Donald Trump has said the United States had nothing to do with the purported attack, and Goudreau is under federal investigation for arms trafficking, according to current and former U.S. law enforcement officials. Nonetheless, the Venezuelan leader insists his U.S. adversary was behind the apparent attempt to force him out.

“There’s the proof,” he said, pointing to the video, in which Denman indicates that Trump was behind Silvercorp’s incursion. “And there will be more.”

‘He is being forced’

Opposition critics and observers said the testimony should be taken with a grain of salt, noting that Venezuelan authorities have a record of forcing statements. Though Denman did not appear under duress, one expert noted that he made an unusual and exaggerated gesture with his eyes in what may have been a covert signal to those watching.

“Special operation[s] soldiers are trained to find creative ways to discredit any propaganda videos they are forced to make if captured by the enemy,” said Ephraim Mattos, a Navy SEAL who had visited the rebel training camps in Colombia but was not involved in the operation.

He said that the odd eye movement immediately after saying Trump was Goudreau’s boss is “a clear sign from Luke that he is being forced.”

The confusing events have sparked new tensions between Venezuela and the U.S., which has been a staunch ally of opposition leader Juan Guaido, the lawmaker recognized by nearly 60 nations as the country’s legitimate interim president. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reiterated Trump’s claims from a day earlier that there was no direct U.S. involvement.

“If we’d have been involved, it would have gone differently,” he chided.

A senior Trump administration official reiterated Pompeo’s stance and said the U.S. government is intensely monitoring for any potential threats to the safety and security of Guaido.

Democratic congressional staff, meanwhile, contacted the State Department multiple times Monday seeking any information about possible contacts with Goudreau or knowledge of his activities.

In the video aired Wednesday, Denman said Goudreau tasked him with training troops and then staging an attack to “secure” Caracas and the airport. He said he arrived in Colombia in mid-January, driving to the border with two others to instruct about 60 people.

WATCH | Venezuelan TV clips show Luke Denman revealing details of an alleged operation to seize the airport  and capture Nicolás Maduro:

Venezuelan TV clips show accused man revealing details of an alleged operation to seize the airport, capture President Nicolas Maduro and transport him to the U.S. 1:02

“I believed it was helping their cause,” he said, dressed in a grey T-shirt and sporting a coarsely cut hairstyle and goatee.

Denman’s family released a statement describing him as a decorated soldier who took up civilian jobs at a tree farm and a hotel since leaving the military in 2014. More recently, he’d begun working as a deep-sea diver.

“The first indication we had of anything different is the images coming out of Venezuela,” said Mark Denman, his older brother. “Our only concern at this time is getting Luke home safely.”

Maduro accused Guaido Wednesday of being behind the attack, holding up a written agreement with Goudreau that allegedly bears his signature as evidence.

Goudreau has said he was hired by Guaido and is backing his claim with an eight-page agreement. In a televised interview with Factores de Poder, a Miami outlet popular with Venezuelan exiles, he contends he never got a “single cent” for his work but continued to prepare men for battle. JJ Rendon, a Miami-based adviser to Guaido, said he gave Goudreau $ 50,000 as requested to cover some expenses.

Guaido has denied any involvement.

Maduro deferred when asked whether the latest developments were grounds for arresting Guaido, saying prosecutors would need to conduct an investigation.

As for the captured Americans, he said they are “convicted and confessed.”

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‘We need more than just caring’: Family of Canadian man detained in Egypt urges feds to bring him home

The family of a Canadian man who has been in a Cairo prison for the last 10 months wants Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who is in Egypt this week, to secure his release and bring him home.

“My father has been asking every single day what Canada is doing to get him out and bring him home,” his daughter, Amal Ahmed Albaz, said at a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.

“We need more than just caring,” she said.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz, a 51-year-old engineer from Oakville, Ont., has been in a Cairo prison since February, when he was detained at the airport on his way home from a business trip. He is a dual citizen who was travelling on his Canadian passport.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Champagne, said the foreign affairs minister raised the case directly with his Egyptian counterpart Wednesday. 

‘My father has done absolutely nothing wrong’

Champagne is in Aswan, Egypt, this week for an African development conference.

“We will continue to raise it at the highest levels of the Egyptian government and consular officials will remain in regular contact with local authorities,” Austen wrote in an email Wednesday. He said he could provide no further details for privacy reasons.

Amal Ahmed Albaz said her family still does not know why her father was detained and questioned and that he has not been charged.

“My father has done absolutely nothing wrong. He has suffered immensely,” she said. “He needs medical help and he needs to be reunited with our family.”

Justin Mohammed, the human rights law and policy campaigner at Amnesty International, also urged the federal government to take stronger action.

“Ongoing detention without charge is unacceptable and the minister must ensure that his Egyptian counterparts put an immediate end to the human rights abuses that Yasser is suffering,” he said at the news conference Wednesday.

Albaz being held at infamous prison, family told

The family has been told by his lawyer that Yasser Ahmed Albaz is being held in the Tora Prison complex in Cairo, which has been the subject of concern by various human rights groups in recent years. 

His daughter said he immigrated to Canada from Egypt more than 20 years ago and the Egyptian government is aware that he is Canadian.

Safaa Eleshmawy (right), wife of Yasser Albaz, looks on as his daughter Amal Ahmed holds up a petition for his release during a news conference Wednesday in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

“He’s done absolutely nothing wrong. He has no political affiliation whatsoever,” she said. “He’s not active politically, so this came as a complete shock to our family when it happened and to this day we are very concerned and we’re very confused.”

His wife, Safaa Eleshmawy, said the role that her husband played in the community is one of the reasons he has so much support. “He dedicated his life to help others,” she said.

She said he never turned his back when he saw someone in need.

“A country should be proud of such a citizen and not leave him behind.”

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Several pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers detained

Seven pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong have either been detained or face arrest on Saturday, in a move expected to escalate public fury after months of unrest.

A police statement said three of the lawmakers had been detained and charged Saturday with obstructing the local assembly during a raucous May 11 meeting over a now-shelved China extradition bill that sparked five months of protests calling for democratic reforms.

The others received summons to turn up at police stations Saturday to face arrest.

Pro-democracy lawmakers slammed the government clampdown as a calculated move to provoke more violence as an excuse to postpone or cancel Nov. 24 district elections — low-level polls viewed as a barometer of public sentiment in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Anger has deepened against the police after Friday’s death of a 22-year-old who fell off a parking garage after police fired tear gas during recent clashes.

“We’ll say no to their plans,” lawmaker Tanya Chan told a news conference. Referring to the upcoming vote, she said “it is a de facto referendum for all Hong Kong voters to cast their vote and say no to police brutality and say no to our unjust system. And this is definitely our chance to show our determination.”

Watch: Hong Kong lawmakers clash over extradition law

Legislators clash over controversial amendments to extradition law. 0:48

She said the polls will send a crucial message also to Beijing, accused by protesters of interfering in the city’s freedoms and rights promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Gary Fan, one of the lawmakers who received the police notice, said the arrest was a “dirty tactic” that is adding fuel to the fire.

“This is political suppression. People can see clearly that [Hong Kong leader] Carrie Lam continues to hide behind the police and is now using the legal system against the movement,” he said.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Wu Chi-wai is restrained by security guards at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong in May 11. It is not yet known if Wu is among those detained or face arrest. (Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

The city’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip denied the arrests were linked to the polls.

“There is no correlation between the two. The police are doing their job and investigating each and every case and take appropriate action,” Nip said.

He said the government aims to conduct the polls smoothly and peacefully.

Violence erupts after vigils

Thousands attended multiple memorial events across the city Friday night, calling for truth and justice for Chow Tsz-Lok, the student who died Friday of injuries sustained in a fall.

Violence erupted later in familiar scenes that have beset the city with police firing tear gas to disperse hard-core protesters who set street fires, blocked roads and vandalized shops and public utilities. More protests are being planned this weekend.

Although the circumstances of Chow’s fall have not been determined, many blamed police, who have been accused of heavy-handed tactics including widespread use of tear gas and pepper spray since the protests demanding democratic reforms started in June. His death will also complicate efforts by the government to cool down tensions.

There have been only few fatalities during the unrest, including some reported deaths by suicide and a man who fell to his death while hanging pro-democracy banners on a building.

More than 3,300 people have been arrested in the movement, that has since expanded to include calls for direct elections for the city’s leaders and other demands.

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RCMP investigating whether Canadian newlyweds detained in Turkey were radicalized

The RCMP has been combing through the background of two Canadian newlyweds who disappeared while on vacation in Turkey and are suspected of trying to join ISIS, according to multiple sources.

Haleema Mustafa and Ikar Mao, both in their early 20s, have been in Turkish custody since July, according to the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. Sources with direct knowledge of the case tell CBC News Turkish authorities are preparing to lay terror-related charges against the couple.

Sources also say they disappeared while they were travelling with family. Mustafa’s family feared Mao had an interest in ISIS and intended to go with his wife across the border into Syria. Her family frantically contacted Turkish authorities for help.

Mustafa’s family has not responded to repeated requests for comment. Mao’s family has declined comment. 

It is not known whether Mao and Mustafa engaged in any extremist activities while in Turkey or in Canada or the exact details of the charges Turkey is preparing. Turkish sources say they could face anything from minor charges of sympathizing with a terrorist organization to more serious terror-related infractions.

Security officials say the pair were not on any watch list and were not being monitored by Canadian officials.

Mao has a public profile on Couchsurfing.com, a website that helps travellers connect with people willing to let someone stay in their homes.

It shows Mao’s last log-in was about three months ago. In it, Mao explained that he and his wife were looking for a place to stay in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa as they tried to learn Turkish and Arabic. He wrote that he and his wife wanted to move there soon. 

Sanliurfa is not a typical tourist destination in Turkey and is less than 50 kilometres north of Turkey’s 822-kilometre border with Syria.

Many foreign fighters have entered Syria through that border to join ISIS. While a coalition effort involving U.S. and Kurdish forces managed to contain ISIS in recent years, Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria to fight the Kurds has led many imprisoned ISIS militants to escape.

Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops patrol near the Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, in 2018. The countries share a border of 822 kilometres. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

Global Affairs Canada and Public Safety would not say why Mao and Mustafa are in custody or whether the couple is considered a threat to public safety.

All Global Affairs would say is that it is aware two Canadian citizens are being detained in Turkey. “Consular services are being provided and officials are in contact with the individuals’ families. Consular officials in Ankara are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” said spokesperson Barbara Harvey in an email. 

Friends, family confirm RCMP investigation

Friends and family members in Canada confirm RCMP have been in contact with them as part of an investigation into whether the couple was radicalized or had expressed any extremist views. RCMP are not commenting on the matter.

Jessica Davis, the president of Insight Threat Intelligence in Ottawa, said there could be a number of reasons why the couple is being detained and urges against making assumptions about what they were doing.

“This may turn out to have been a complete misunderstanding or some sort of domestic dispute amongst the family members that unfortunately turned into a bit of a national security issue for Canada and Turkey,” she said, adding that it may be RCMP is only investigating the couple based on information Mustafa’s family gave Turkey.

Mustafa and Mao were married in Mississauga in December 2018. 

When she was 18, Mustafa advocated for the hijab as a fashion statement for Muslim women, in part to challenge the idea it is a restrictive piece of clothing. In a 2016 interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Mustafa said, “It’s a part of my look. It’s part of how I portray my modesty and my religion.”

When she was 18, Mustafa advocated for the hijab as a fashion statement for Muslim women, in part to challenge the idea that it’s a restrictive piece of clothing. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Speaking to CBC Television News in 2016 about French police stopping a woman from wearing a burkini on a beach, Mustafa said, “You have all these countries with extremist men who are forcing women to wear hijab, and then you have these French politicians that are forcing women to uncover, so they are sort of becoming the same person. They think ISIS is their enemy, but they are slowly becoming their enemy.”

Mustafa studied social services

According to her LinkedIn page, Mustafa studied social services and had moved on to a degree in human rights and equity studies at York University. She worked with kids, newcomers to Canada and adults with developmental disabilities.

Mustafa comes from a well-respected family in Markham, Ont. Her father, Shahzad Mustafa, is a successful businessman and an advocate for peace who has participated in events against Muslim extremism. He also helped create FosterLink, which helps connect Muslim foster children with Muslim families.

While immediate family did not want to speak about the case, CBC News has spoken with more than a dozen people who know Mao and Mustafa.

A friend of Haleema Mustafa told CBC News they have been worried because they have not heard from her in a while.

In his last log-in on Couchsurfing.com, a travel website, Mao explained that he and Mustafa were looking for a place to stay in Sanliurfa, Turkey. (Ikar Mao/Couchsurfing.com)

Those who know Mao describe him as “friendly” and a “nice guy.” Former soccer teammates said he was a talented midfielder who was religious and close to his family, which runs several businesses in southwestern Ontario.

One former car dealership co-worker described Mao as a respectful, courteous and eager employee and a very devout Muslim. The co-worker said Mao quit the job, in part, because he could not reconcile the idea of selling cars for profit with his faith. The York University Muslim Student Association’s 2018 financial report lists him as a public relations officer.

On Mao’s LinkedIn page, he wrote he was studying international development and expressed interest in development work in Africa, including farming. Online video shows his family taking part in development visits to Somalia, where they worked with a food security and agriculture group.

Mao and Mustafa’s social media presence is limited. Mustafa’s Instagram account has been taken down and her Twitter account has been suspended. Mao’s Twitter account no longer exists.

Held on criminal or immigration grounds?

Leah West, who lectures on national security and intelligence issues at Carleton University in Ottawa, said, “I am really interested in knowing under what grounds they’re being detained, and if they’re being detained on criminal grounds or being detained on immigration grounds, because that’ll really affect the role of Canadian officials.”

West said that if the couple is being detained on criminal charges, there is little the Canadian government can do.

Canada doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Turkey, but West said if either Mao or Mustafa is convicted of any crime, there is an agreement between the countries allowing Canadian citizens to serve their time in Canada.

She said it is likely the Canadian authorities are looking for answers.

“RCMP and potentially CSIS would be trying to understand the motivations, what’s really going on, if these two did have an intent to join ISIS, and they’d be sharing information with their partners in Turkey,” West said.

Long-term travel implications?

Davis said the couple’s names have likely been shared with other countries, too.

“The real problem here is that once those names become public, you can’t unring that bell,” Davis said. “There may be long-term travel implications for these individuals, certainly some risks involved in any travel to some jurisdictions.”

Speaking generally, Davis said, “There is still an interest from individuals to travel to join the Islamic State, even though it’s not necessarily a state anymore.”

Last year, Amnesty International raised concerns about what it called the “arbitrary, lengthy and punitive pre-trial detention and fair trial violations” it routinely observed for those facing terror charges in Turkey.

Human Rights Watch has also been critical of terrorism-related trials in Turkey, noting last year that they often “lack compelling evidence of criminal activity or acts that would reasonably be deemed terrorism.”

According to the United Nations, there are 3,000 ISIS members still operating in Syria. It says despite the group’s military defeat, it is still a threat to global peace and security.

In its 2018 report on the terrorism threat in Canada, Public Safety said there were approximately 190 people linked to Canada suspected of travelling abroad to take part in extremist activities. 

Approximately half of those travellers are in Turkey, Syria or Iraq. Public Safety reports 60 people who are believed to have engaged in extremist activities have returned to Canada.

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At least 2,300 detained in crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir

At least 2,300 people, mostly young men, have been detained in Indian-administered Kashmir during a security lockdown and communications blackout imposed to curb unrest after New Delhi stripped the disputed region of statehood, according to top Kashmir police and arrest statistics reviewed by The Associated Press.

Those arrested include anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders who have been held in jails and other makeshift facilities, according to three police officials. The officials have access to all police records but spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to reporters and feared reprisals from superiors.

The crackdown began just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government on Aug. 5 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and its statehood, creating two federal territories.

Thousands of additional Indian troops were sent to man checkpoints in the Kashmir Valley, already one of the world’s most militarized regions. Telephone communications, cellphone coverage, broadband internet and cable TV services were cut for the valley’s seven million people, although some communications have been gradually restored in places.

Kashmiris have staged protests and clashed with police since the crackdown, with about 300 demonstrations against India’s tighter control over Kashmir, the three officials said.

One of the officials said most of the arrests have been in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city and the heart of a 30-year-old movement to oust Hindu-majority India from Muslim-majority Kashmir so that it can exist independently or be merged with Pakistan.

Both India and Pakistan claim the disputed territory of Kashmir in its entirety, but each controls only part of it. Kashmir’s special status was instituted shortly after India achieved independence from Britain in 1947.

‘They forced their entry’

The official spokesman in Jammu and Kashmir, Rohit Kansal, has repeatedly refused to give any details about arrests and detentions, saying only that they have been made to prevent anti-India protests and clashes in the region. He declined questions about specific arrests.

Nearly 100 people have been arrested under the Public Safety Act, the arrest statistics showed. The law permits detaining people for up to two years without trial.

At least 70 civilians and 20 police and soldiers have been treated at three hospitals in Srinagar for injuries stemming from the clashes, the three officers said.

Kashmiri men sit on a footpath outside a police station waiting to hear about their relatives who were detained during night raids in Srinagar on Tuesday. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)

Moses Dhinakaran, a spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force, which now holds jurisdiction in Kashmir, said he didn’t know how many people had been detained because his agency has “no direct role.”

Families crowded outside police stations Tuesday waiting to appeal for the release of their sons, husbands and other relatives.

At least three dozen men and women along with their children sat on the street outside a Srinagar police station waiting to hear about 22 young men and teenage boys who they said had been detained in a nighttime raid in one neighborhood.

Residents say police and soldiers carry out the raids to suppress dissent.

Ali Mohammed Rah said police and soldiers burst into his home and dragged his two sons, age 14 and 16, from their beds.

“They forced their entry, trained their guns at us while ordering us not to raise any alarm,” Rah said.

He said his wife, who is a heart patient, “pleaded with them to let our boys go but they whisked them away. My wife collapsed and is now in a hospital.”

‘Who will provide our family?’

A young woman named Ulfat, who is still recovering from giving birth, said her husband was arrested at their home about 2 a.m.

“Who will provide our family with food and medicine? Where should I go with my baby?” she said, her newborn daughter in her lap.

Ulfat, a Kashmiri woman holds her daughter Tanzeela, as she waits outside a police station to hear about her husband who was detained during night raids in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir on Aug. 20. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)

Raj Begum said her 24-year-old son was taken away barefoot and in shorts.

“Soldiers hit me with a wooden plank as I tried to resist my son’s arrest,” she said. Her husband, Abdul Aziz, displayed a bag of shoes and clothes for their son.

“Can they at least take these clothes?” he said.

In the Soura area of Srinagar, which has seen some of the biggest protests and clashes, residents have barricaded the neighborhood by digging trenches, laying barbed wire and erecting poles and corrugated tin sheets to stop the raids.

The residents, carrying axes and sticks, take turns on night patrol and have also distributed stones at street corners to defend against the raids.

Ali Mohammed, 52, said troops had made two unsuccessful attempts to raid the neighborhood.

“They’ll definitely try to come again, but we’re ready,” he said.

In Washington, a senior State Department official said the U.S. wants to see India restore human rights and basic freedoms for all Kashmiris, including the release of detainees, and then looks forward to a return to political normalcy. The official was not authorized to discuss diplomatic discussions publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kashmir has seen mass arrests and lockdowns before. The partition of the territory left India in control of most of Kashmir, and Pakistan and China in charge of other parts of the territory. India has often tried to suppress uprisings, including a bloody armed rebellion in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

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Thousands detained in Kashmir to contain unrest after India strips it of special status

Thousands of people, mostly young male protesters, have been arrested and detained in Indian-administered Kashmir during an ongoing communications blackout and security lockdown imposed more than two weeks ago in an attempt to curtail unrest after a change to Kashmir’s decades-old special status, according to high-ranking Kashmir police officials and police arrest statistics reviewed by The Associated Press.

At least 2,300 people have been detained in the Himalayan valley, the statistics show. Those arrested include anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders who have been held in jails and other makeshift holding facilities, according to the police officials, who have access to all police records but spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to reporters and feared reprisals from their superiors.

Crowds have demonstrated frequently in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar despite a severe clampdown on phone and internet services, a ban on public gatherings and detentions of hundreds of political leaders and separatists who have long campaigned for secession from India.

Kashmiris have staged near-daily protests since the Aug. 5 order revoking Kashmir’s special status, which has been in place since shortly after India achieved independence from Britain in 1947. 

‘Intensifying stone pelting’

Youth have pelted stones at paramilitary police deployed in Srinagar, and the latest detentions took place in parts of the city where such incidents have occurred, a police officer said.

“These arrests have been made in the areas where there has been intensifying stone pelting in the last few days,” the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

A neighbourhood street is blocked with tree branches by Kashmiri protesters during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government, in Srinagar, on Aug. 19, 2019. (Danish Ismail/Reuters)

The withdrawal of the special privileges of Muslim majority Kashmir means residents of all parts of India can buy property and compete for government jobs and college places, raising fears that it will be flooded with outsiders.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise move has also increased tensions with Pakistan which also lays claim to Kashmir and has accused India of human rights violations in the territory at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility between them.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, urging them to reduce tensions over Kashmir. “A tough situation, but good conversations!” Trump said in a Twitter post after the calls.

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday said the protests were local and small in nature involving no more than a dozen people. Still, primary schools remained deserted on Tuesday as they were the previous day, as parents worried about the safety of their children kept them at home.

Reuters visited three schools in Srinagar including Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School and no students had turned up and classes were deserted.

Mass arrests in Srinagar

One of the officers said most of the arrests have been in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city and the urban heart of a 30-year-old movement to oust Hindu-majority India from Muslim-majority Kashmir so that it can exist independently or be merged with Pakistan.

Nearly 100 people have been arrested under the Public Safety Act, the arrest statistics showed. That law permits detaining people for up to two years without trial. 

At least 70 civilians and 20 police and soldiers have been treated for injuries sustained in the clashes at three hospitals in Srinagar, the officers said. 

Authorities had ordered schools to reopen on Monday after a two-week closure as a sign of normalcy. Srinagar’s top city official Shahid Choudhary asked schools to ensure resumption of bus services.

A driver, however, said it was difficult to operate buses in such a volatile situation. “It is very risky for us and the students,” he said.

Kashmir has been under lockdown and seen mass arrests before.

The problems in the region stem from partition, which left India in control of most of Kashmir, and Pakistan and China in charge of other parts of the territory. The Indian government has often tried to suppress uprisings, including a bloody armed rebellion in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.

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Detained migrants shown pleading for help in released U.S. government photos

U.S. government investigators warned of dangerous overcrowding at more migrant facilities on the southwest U.S. border, publishing photos on Tuesday of packed cells in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas where some children have no access to showers or hot meals.

A report issued by investigators for the Department of Homeland Security said supervisors raised concerns for the health and safety of detainees and agents, warning the overcrowding represented a “ticking time bomb.”

The DHS watchdog issued the report after visits to five U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency facilities in the Rio Grande Valley area during the week of June 10. The photos provided in the report were digitally manipulated to obscure the faces of the detainees.

It came as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration pushed back against criticism of its migrant detention centres on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The report also featured this image of some of the 51 adult women held in a cell built to hold 40 male juveniles pressing against the cell window at the Fort Brown Border Patrol station in Brownsville, Texas. (Office of Inspector General/DHS/Handout via Reuters)

Conditions at the centres have been a flashpoint since May, when the watchdog warned of similar conditions at facilities in the El Paso, Texas sector, west of the Rio Grande Valley, with migrants held for weeks instead of days and adults kept in cells with standing room only.

Security incidents among men at facilities in the Rio Grande Valley included detainees clogging toilets in order to be released from cells, migrants refusing to return to cells, and special operations teams brought in to show that Border Patrol was prepared to use force, the report on Tuesday said.

An image of an overcrowded area holding families at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, was also released as part of the report. (Office of Inspector General/DHS/Handout via Reuters)

Migrants banged on cell windows and shouted when investigators visited. Most single adults had not had a shower despite several being held as long as a month. One photo showed a man in a packed cell holding a message reading. “Help 40 Day[s] Here.”

Border patrol agents under scrutiny 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, ordered an investigation into reports border patrol agents have been posting offensive anti-immigrant comments and threats against lawmakers in a secret Facebook group.

“Reporting this week highlighted disturbing & inexcusable social media activity that allegedly includes active Border Patrol personnel,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday, calling the reported comments “completely unacceptable.”

He said any employee found to have “compromised the public’s trust in our law enforcement mission will be held accountable.”

The existence of the group was reported by ProPublica as roughly a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of Texas, toured border facilities in El Paso where attorneys said they had found migrant children living in fetid, filthy conditions.

Ocasio-Cortez said she wasn’t surprised by the reported posts, especially after the treatment of migrants she said she witnessed at the facility.

“It’s just indicative of the violent culture that we saw.”

The Democrats delivered an emotional denunciation of what they saw inside the border facilities as protesters shouted that they didn’t believe them.

Report details potential violations of federal law

The Rio Grande Valley is the busiest area of the border for migrant arrests, which hit a 13-year monthly high in May during a surge in the arrival of Central American families. At the time of the investigators’ visits, U.S. Border Patrol was holding some 8,000 detainees in custody in the Rio Grande Valley sector, with 3,400 held longer than the 72 hours permitted.

The Democratic chair of the House of Representatives committee on oversight and reform said the panel had invited the acting heads of the Department of Homeland Security and CBP to testify on July 12 on the administration’s border policies, including the conditions of children at detention centres.

Trump has made a crackdown on illegal immigration a centrepiece of his domestic policy agenda and 2020 re-election bid. But his efforts to build a wall on the southern border have been blocked in Congress, and he was forced last year to backtrack after his “zero tolerance” border policy of separating migrant children from their parents provoked widespread outrage.

The report warns that facilities in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley face ‘serious overcrowding’ and require ‘immediate attention.’ (Office of Inspector General/DHS/Handout via Reuters)

Pediatricians called again on border authorities to accept their offer to provide volunteer medical care to migrants in detention. CBP rejected the offer.

Roger Maier, a CBP spokesperson, said anyone who needs medical attention beyond what government and contract staff can provide is taken to a local hospital.

The Border Patrol made 132,887 apprehensions in May, including 84,542 adults and children travelling together. With long-term facilities for adults and children at capacity, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said it has to hold people in unsuitable Border Patrol facilities for much longer than the 72 hours normally allowed by law.

Auditors from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general visited five facilities and two ports of entry in Rio Grande Valley. The dangers were recently illustrated in images shared around the world that showed a father and his toddler daughter, who both drowned trying to enter the U.S. by crossing the Rio Grande.

The report details several potential violations of federal law or Border Patrol standards:

  • Two facilities inspected had not provided children access to hot meals until the week that auditors arrived. Some adults were only receiving bologna sandwiches, causing constipation and in some cases requiring medical attention.
  • Of 2,669 children detained by the Border Patrol in the region, 826, or 31 per cent, had been held there longer than 72 hours. More than 50 children under age 7 were waiting to be moved to long-term facilities, some of them for more than two weeks. In one photo, women and children appeared to be sleeping on the ground under Mylar (thermal) blankets.
  • Many adults hadn’t showered despite having been held for as long as a month. Some were being given wet wipes to clean themselves.

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