Qassem Soleimani: Inside the twisted, terrible reign of Iran’s top general
The killing of Iranian terror-meister Qassem Soleimani in a targeted US air strike in Baghdad on Thursday will have a dramatic impact on the stability of the Iranian regime and its ability to conduct oversea terrorist operations. Soleimani was, in many ways, the irreplaceable man. Known as a charismatic leader — indeed, the only charismatic leader in Iran’s military today — he has no parallel among contemporary Iranian commanders. Wherever Iran has sent its expeditionary Quds Force to war — in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen — there you would find Soleimani. During the early years of the US occupation of Iraq, he became the puppet master of successive Iraqi governments. Not only did he select presidents and prime ministers, but over the years he placed his minions in key positions in every Iraqi government ministry where they controlled personnel and finance decisions.
He also set up a far-flung financial empire, reportedly taking a percentage of the float on all foreign currency exchange from Iraqi banks, netting close to $1 billion per month in black money to finance his terror empire. While he was serving as Barack Obama’s CIA director, Gen. David Petraeus liked to tell a story about a text message he received from Soleimani at the peak of the surge in 2008.
“Dear General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassim Soleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.” Staff Sergeant Robert Bartlett was one of several thousand US soldiers wounded by “explosively made penetrators,” a particularly deadly form of IED, in Iraq. They were designed to kill American troops, and were built and shipped to Iraqi terror groups by Soleimani. In just a two-year period, from 2005-2007, they claimed the lives of an estimated 600 US servicemen in Iraq, according to the Department of Defense.
The force of the projectile “cut me in half from the left corner of my temple down to my jaw, and took my gunner’s legs off. Because of this Iranian bomb, I died three times in five days. Only my faith kept me alive,” Sgt. Bartlett told me in a videotaped interview. The US never retaliated for these attacks. In 2011, Soleimani and his men recruited a down-and-out drug dealer named Manssor Arbabsiar, to try to assassinate then-Saudi ambassador to Washington, DC, Adel al-Jubeir, who had angered the Iranian regime by publicly calling out their terror ties. According to federal court documents, Arbabsiar traveled repeatedly to Tehran to meet with an associate of Soleimani’s to receive orders and money and ultimately recruited a Mexican drug dealer to carry out the barbarous plot the Iranians proposed: to kill al-Jubeir while he was lunching at the upscale restaurant at the Watergate Hotel. If successful, the bombing could have killed more than a hundred people in the heart of the US capitol, but Soleimani reportedly wasn’t worried about the collateral damage. As I wrote at the time, the only reason the plot failed was very good luck (as far as the FBI was concerned). Arbabsiar chose the wrong Mexican to carry out the hit, one who happened to be an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration. In recent years, Soleimani has traveled repeatedly to Syria to supervise the construction of a network of military and intelligence bases Iran planned to use to expand its presence on Israel’s borders. Israeli fighter jets reportedly narrowly missed him during a 2015 strike on an Iranian base in Aleppo province. Shortly after that attack, he told an Iranian Internet news service, “Martyrdom is what I seek in mountains and valleys but isn’t granted yet.” Former Iranian intelligence officers told me about Soleimani’s direct involvement in planning, financing and directing the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on US diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed. At the time, writing in these pages, I called him the “Wizard of Oz of Iranian terror.” His goals in attacking us in Benghazi were to shut down the US arms pipeline from that city to the anti-regime jihadi groups in Syria and ultimately to drive the United States out of Libya entirely, both of which he accomplished. His many brushes with death and his outrageous terror rap sheet, which is longer than bin Laden’s, led Soleimani and his supporters to consider him invincible. His demise at the hands of US forces on Thursday not only shows that is not the case but that the aura of invincibility of the regime itself is over.
I believe the Iranian people will draw the obvious conclusion that this once powerful regime has feet of clay. Expect bigger anti-regime protests inside Iran in the coming weeks and popular revolts against Iranian interference in Lebanon and Iraq as well. To me, the biggest question remains: Is President Trump ready for the revolution he has unleashed? With this single act, the United States has set in motion big historical forces for positive change. We must be prepared to help the forces of freedom against tyranny and oppression. https://nypost.com/
‘Ascendant America’ no longer seems a sure bet
From the first years of the one-fifth of this century already completed, we’ve been told that a new, ascendant America — more nonwhite, more culturally liberal, more feminist — was going to dominate our politics for years to come. Those predictions have partially come true. Barack Obama was elected and reelected president in 2008 and 2012, respectively, and Democrats won majorities in House contests in 2006, 2008 and 2018. But those are slimmer pickings than promised. And President Trump’s victory in 2016 has made a mockery of the predictions. He wasn’t ascendant America’s choice. From millennials and Generation Z, he evokes the -response, “OK, boomer.” Demographics, it turns out, don’t automatically turn into destiny. Ascendant groups’ triumphalism can coalesce those with opposite values into unaccustomed unity and enthusiasm. Ascendant leaders, not cautioned by sympathetic media, can concoct extreme policies unsellable to most voters. And perhaps ascendant groups, with their low birth rates, may not become as ascendant as demographers expected.
That’s a conclusion you might draw from the Census Bureau’s state population estimates for midyear 2019, released just one day before the year-end deadline. They’re the best leading indicator we’ve got for the 2020 census, whose results will reapportion the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Reapportionment would work to the advantage of Trump: The 30 states he carried in 2016 seem likely to gain at least three congressional seats and electoral votes. One reason is that California, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union in 1850, is gaining population at a rate below the national average and is likely to lose a House seat. Texas, the second most populated state, is growing far more robustly, from 25 million in 2010 to almost 29 million last year. That’s a bigger percentage gain over nine years than any other state except big-family-size Utah. Florida, which passed New York to become number three in 2013, gained 14%. These changes favor Republicans. Some upscale Texans trended Democratic in 2018, and perhaps some incoming Californians might import the left-wing politics whose results spurred their migration, as in Colorado and Arizona. But Texas’ middle-income Latinos and high-education whites remain much more Republican. Florida, though attracting more international immigrants than California and more domestic inmigrants than Texas, is nevertheless trending Republican. Incoming immigrants and Puerto Ricans seem amenable to Republican policies, and a small but significant share of Hispanics and blacks join in, making Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ job approval over 60%. With Texas projected by Polidata Inc. to gain three electoral votes, Florida projected to gain two and California projected to lose one, together they should outvote California 72 to 54 electoral votes, compared with 67-55 this year. Working for Democrats is the perceptible migration of blacks from ailing northern cities like Chicago to Southern boom metros like Atlanta. But fragmentary poll results suggest some blacks may be moving Trumpward, perhaps recoiling from policies that have produced high crime and stagnant economies in the cities they left. In the early 2010s, there was notable population growth in the central cities that have become almost unanimously Democratic. But that trend has now been reversed; even New York City, after six years of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is losing people. That leaves Democrats with the electoral disadvantage of having their votes heavily concentrated in low-growth metro areas while opposition voters are more evenly spread out over the rest of the country. A party in that situation has two choices. One is to change the rules, but amending the Constitution is hard, and finagling to undercut the Electoral College likely won’t work.
Florida, though attracting more international immigrants than California and more domestic in-The other choice is to extend your appeal beyond your 80%-plus strongholds in central cities, university towns and suburbs favored by Ivy League graduates. Democrats had some success doing this in 2018. But their presidential candidates so far seem less interested. Relying on “ascendant America” is not a sure-to-lose strategy. Hillary Clinton, despite her disdain for “deplorables,” nearly won. But as Trump shrewdly discerned, it’s not a sure winner, either. https://nypost.com/
Trump berates White House staff for not telling him Putin was trying to call him
US President Donald Trump berated his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and other senior staff members for holding off on arranging a phone call with the Russian president soon after taking office, Business Insider reports, citing a new book on the Trump administration's contentious relationship with the Pentagon. In "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos," the national security reporter Peter Bergen recounted the tenuous conversation between the US president and his staffers, one of many intimate talks whose details were sourced from dozens of interviews with current and former White House officials and military officers. On January 27, 2017, weeks after winning the presidency, Trump had his first official visit from a foreign leader at the White House, with British Prime Minister Theresa May. During lunch, May asked Trump if he had talked to Putin, according to Bergen. "No, I haven't," Trump replied. Flynn, a former three-star US Army general, was nearby and leaned in to tell Trump: "Sir, we're arranging that call now. President Putin called several days ago, but we haven't been able to get it on your calendar yet." https://www.tert.am/
Pompeo: Soleimani strike disrupted an 'imminent attack' and 'saved American lives'
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani was to disrupt an "imminent attack" from the top Iranian commander that could have cost American lives in the Middle East region. "I can't talk too much about the nature of the threats. But the American people should know that the President's decision to remove Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives," Pompeo said on CNN's "New Day" Friday. Pompeo said Soleimani was "actively plotting" in the region to "take big action, as he described it, that would have put hundreds of lives at risk." He said that Americans "are safer in the region" after the strike and demise of Soleimani. He stressed that a US intelligence community assessment had led to the strike. "The risk of doing nothing was enormous. Intelligence community made that assessment and President Trump acted decisively last night," Pompeo told CNN's John Berman Friday. President Donald Trump echoed his top diplomat, saying on Twitter that Soleimani was "plotting to kill many more" Americans. The Pentagon on Thursday confirmed a strike that killed Soleimani, who as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force became the architect of Tehran's proxy conflicts in the Middle East. A US defense official told CNN the strike was carried out with a drone. The strike is a major escalation in regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East. On CNN Friday, Pompeo explained that after the death of a US contractor in Iraq on December 27, "we watched the intelligence flow in that talked about Soleimani's travels in the region and the work that he was doing to put Americans further at risk." "And it was time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian regime, as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation," he said. On Friday, the State Department urged US citizens in Iraq to "depart immediately" due to "heightened tensions" in the region. https://www.tert.am/
Trump's voluminous tweet: Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation! The US President Donald Trump tweeted on the Iraniean General Qasem Soleimani's assassination. "Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!" Trump tweeted. Earlier, Pentagon said they killed the commander. "At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani," a Pentagon statement said. "This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."
Iran declares complete withdrawal from nuclear deal Iran has declared complete withdrawal from the nuclear deal that was signed with world powers, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran has taken the fifth and last step in reducing commitments to JCPOA, removing the last operational restriction on the development of its nuclear program, Mehr agency reported. “From here on, Iran's nuclear program will be developed solely based on its technical needs. Iran's cooperation with the IAEA will continue as before. If the sanctions are lifted and Iran benefits from its interests enshrined in the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic is ready to return to its commitments. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is obliged to take the necessary steps and arrangements in coordination with the President,” the statement reads. Donald Trump declared the U.S. is unilaterally withdrawing the deal in May 2018.
Trump threatens to target 52 Iranian sites “if they attack again” President of the United States Donald Trump threatened to target 52 Iranian sites “if they attack again”. “They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” he tweeted. “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently ....hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,” he said after Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in U.S. attack. Trump said the United States just spent $2 trillion on military equipment, and that they are “the biggest and by far the BEST in the World!”
Dallas shooting kills 1-year-old boy, wounds college student; police chief says 'this s--- has to stop'
A one-year-old boy was killed and a 20-year-old college student injured after a gunman opened fire through a bedroom window early Sunday morning in South Dallas, police said. The unnamed gunman, who remained at large, walked up to the home just before 3:30 a.m. and opened fire with a rifle, investigators said. The child, Rory Norman, who would have celebrated his second birthday on Jan. 24, later died after paramedics rushed him to the hospital. The shooting sparked an angry reaction from Dallas Police Chief ReneĂŠ Hall, who later said at a news conference, "this s--- has to stop in this city!" Norman's uncle, a 20-year-old college student, was home for the holidays when the gunman shot him multiple times. He was recovering in stable condition at the hospital. Hall said at the news conference that "this location was targeted" and the attack was "intentional and deliberate." She condemned the city's "senseless gun violence" and said that the police department was "brokenhearted" and "angry" at the incident. "Whoever pulled this trigger, we will find you," Hall said, adding that very little information was known about the shooter but that the Homicide Response Team and the Dallas PD were investigating.
Hall described Norman's mother as a grieving parent, adding that she also had a 3-yearold child but did not mention if the child was inside the home at the time of the shooting. The police chief was emotional and angry as she spoke about what she witnessed at the home of the attack.
"It's the scene of a baby dying. I don't know what that looks like to anyone else, but I know it's something you never want to see, not only as a mother, but as a police chief," Hall said. "It happened on my watch, and I am angry, and this s--- has to stop in this city!" www.foxnews.co
Florida caregiver accused of stealing $1.1 million from woman before she died
A Florida woman was charged Friday with stealing over $1.1 million from an elderly woman for whom she was working as an unlicensed caregiver, officials said. Anna Bullinger, 55, was charged in Sarasota County on a charge of exploitation of the elderly. Investigators said the victim was Peggy Nardone, a Nokomis widow who was 94 when she died in June of last year. Nardone had hired Bullinger in 2014 to drive her to doctorâ€™s appointment and run errands to the bank and supermarket, court papers showed. She worked 40 hours a week and was paid $20 an hour.
“It is shocking. The only reason they found out is because the last check she wrote was the day after the victim died, which was $90,000,” Carlos Verondi, a detective with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, told Fox 13 Tampa. The sheriff's office issued a news release Friday that said starting in January of 2015, Bullinger, of Sarasota, was able to steal over $500,000 from Nardone by cashing 147 checks. “Bullinger is also suspected of transferring a trust account valued at $650,000 to her daughter in January 2019,” the news release said. “Collectively, the amount stolen from the victim totals $1,102,307.” Bullinger was arrested on New Year’s Eve and released the same day on bail. She denied the charges in a brief interview with Fox 13 at her front door on Friday. “That’s not true. Goodbye,” she said. Linda Howell, a neighbor of Nardone's, told WWSB-TV she used to see Bullinger and other caretakers come and go. "We had a little episode where the caretaker broke down crying to my husband about how awful it was that she was having to spend her life taking care of Peggy," she told the station.
Massachusetts professor accused of trying to kill faculty colleague in Christmas Eve attack A professor at a prestigious Massachusetts college has been charged with trying to kill a female faculty colleague who suffered severe injuries after being attacked with a rock, garden shears and a fireplace poker, prosecutors said. Rie Hachiyanagi, an art professor at Mount Holyoke College, was charged Friday with armed assault to murder, according to reports. The victim, a 60-year-old woman, went to the hospital with broken bones to her face and other injuries. Reports citing a police report suggest Hachiyanagi may have attacked her colleague over unrequited love.
“During the winter recess, there was a serious incident involving two Mount Holyoke faculty members,” Mount Holyoke spokeswoman Christian Feuerstein said, according to MassLive.com. “The incident occurred off-campus and resulted in the hospitalization of one faculty member who is receiving care.” Feuerstein said Hachiyanagi had been placed on administrative leave and was barred from setting foot on campus. Police said they responded to the victim’s home in Leverett shortly before 1 a.m. on Christmas Eve and were met by Hachiyangagi, who told them that she called 911 after finding her friend "lying on the floor of the residence barely breathing, semi-conscious and with a head injury," Fox 6 Springfield and other local media reported.
She said her friend had been attacked by an unknown assailant, the station reported. The Daily Hampshire Gazette reported Saturday that according to the police report the victim told officers at the hospital that the person who attacked her was Hachiyanagi, who was not a stranger. The report said the woman thought she was going to die at Hachiyanagi's hands. According to the paper, the police report also stated that the woman said Hachiyanagi began attacking her after showing up uninvited on Dec. 23 and saying that she wanted to talk about her feelings. The police report also quoted the victim as telling officers that when she asked Hachiyanagi why she was attacking her, Hachiyanagi responded “that she loved her for many years and she should have known," according to the paper. The victim then played along, lying that she had reciprocating feelings to convince Hachiyanagi to stop beating her and call 911, the paper reported.
The police report said that in an interview with police Hachiyanagi said she didn't remember anything after 6 p.m. Thursday, that multiple concussions in the past had affected her memory.
Houston man accused of murdering fiancee days after proposing HOUSTON (WREG) -- A Texas man has been charged with the murder of a woman he’d proposed to just days earlier, her family says. Kendrick Marquette Akins, 39, made Dominic Jefferson his fiancée on New Year’s Eve after three months of dating, her family told CNN affiliate KTRK. Just days later, on Saturday, he allegedly shot a woman he was dating after an argument, the Houston Police Department said in a statement. Her family told the affiliate that Jefferson was the victim. A witness told the officers Akins appeared to leave but then came back and confronted a “concerned citizen” who was trying to help the woman, the department said. Akins fired a shot at the direction of the citizen and then fled, a witness told officers. “Akins surrendered to officers at the HPD Northeast Police Station. He was questioned by detectives and subsequently charged in the shooting,” the department said.
Egypt: Rights Activist Assaulted Second Attack on Gamal Eid Since October
(Beirut) – Armed men, who appear to have been security forces, physically attacked prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer Gamal Eid in Cairo on December 29, 2019, Human Rights Watch said today. This was the second assault against Eid since October. Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANRHI), told Human Rights Watch that in the morning when he left his home in Cairo’s Maadi district, three cars without license plates were waiting on the corner. Ten or twelve men then beat him to the ground, threatened him with pistols, and threw paint on his face and clothes. Eid said the attackers appeared to be in no hurry, and when neighbors tried to intervene, the men brandished their weapons and demanded they leave. The attackers did not rob Eid and referred to one man who appeared to be in charge as “pasha.” Eid said due to the nature of the attack, he believes the attackers were security officers or working under the direction of a security officer.
“This latest assault on Gamal Eid has the fingerprints of Egyptian security forces all over it,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Repeated attacks against one of Egypt’s leading rights activists raises grave concerns about the possible involvement of Egypt’s leadership.” Eid, 55, founded ANHRI in 2003 to promote freedom of expression and provide legal assistance to activists and journalists. ANHRI and Eid have received numerous international awards for their work on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt. In 2016, Egyptian authorities imposed a travel ban on Eid and a court ordered a freeze on his personal assets and the funds of his organization, along with other human rights defenders and organizations, in the 2011 “foreign funding” case. On October 10, armed men in civilian clothes attacked Eid, leaving him with cracked ribs and other injuries. Eid said that several weeks later, on October 30, he received threatening calls and a text message saying “behave.” The next morning, he discovered that a car he was using was vandalized.
Refugees All Over the World Pressured to Go Back Home in 2019
Men work to dismantle the walls of a shelter in a Syrian refugee camp in Arsal, Lebanon. Once dismantlement is complete, they will receive plywood and tarp from humanitarian organizations to rebuild the upper portion of the walls and the roof in compliance with Lebanese housing codes. June 21, 2019.
This was the year when refugees all over the world were pressured to go back home. The indelible refugee image for me was of Syrian refugees last summer in the Arsal region of Lebanon taking pickaxes to their own shelters under orders from the Lebanese army to make them more temporary. Winter has now arrived, and these shivering refugees are living in great misery, but still resisting mounting pressures to go back to a country controlled by an abusive government that is still bombing, imprisoning and torturing civilians. Meanwhile, in Turkey, scores of Syrians are being unlawfully deported home as the international community watches silently. Most Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar's military campaign of murder and destruction have just passed their second year in the overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, yet their host government also insists their stay will be short-lived. Although there is no sign that Myanmar will soon let them return safely, Bangladesh is forcing the Rohingya to live in flimsy bamboo and tarp shelters that provide minimum shelter from the region's monsoon winds and rain. And their children are being denied an education. Every so often, their families are pressured to "choose" to return to Myanmar, from which they were brutally expelled and which still denies Rohingya access to citizenship rights. Or there is talk of relocating them to a remote, uninhabited, flood-prone silt island. Likewise, Burundians in Tanzania, Afghans in Pakistan, and Somalis in Kenya are all under pressure to go back to home countries where their lives and freedom are at serious risk. Shrinking asylum space in countries at the front lines of crisis cannot be separated from eroding support from donor and resettlement countries and the example those countries set by their efforts to block asylum seekers from their own shores. The US government's attempts to foist asylum seekers onto Mexico and Central American countries, like the EU's migration deal with Turkey and Italy's cooperation with Libyan coastguard forces, greenlight further pushbacks by countries of transit and first arrival. The about-face from one-time champions of refugee rights has left refugees in the lurch in 2019, and the system of international responsibility-sharing that has sustained millions of refugees is now at its lowest ebb since the end of the second world war.
Cambodia: Drop Charges Against Journalists
(Bangkok) – The Cambodian authorities should immediately drop fabricated incitement charges against two former Cambodia Daily journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. On December 13, the Rattanakiri provincial court set December 25 as the first trial date for Aun Pheap, 55, and Zsombor Peter, 41. Neither currently live in Cambodia. Their lawyer said he had never received notification from the court that the investigation had been completed and a trial was imminent. “The decision to take Pheap and Peter’s case to trial seems intended to intimidate all of Cambodia’s journalists,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecutors should drop these bogus charges and the government should end its efforts to restrict press freedom by criminalizing independent reporting.” On August 28, 2017, the Rattanakiri provincial prosecutor filed “incitement to commit a felony” charges against both journalists. If convicted under articles 494 and 495 of Cambodia’s criminal code, they face up to two years in prison. Aun Pheap had been working as a reporter and Zsombor Peter as a reporter and associate editor at the Cambodia Daily. Both left Cambodia because of fears of being arbitrarily arrested and detained.
The case arose out of Pheap and Peter’s interviews with registered voters in Rattanakiri province prior to the Pate commune council elections on June 4, 2017. In 2012, Pate had been the only commune in the province that elected opposition political party candidates, leading local officials to tell journalists not to interview local residents. When Pheap and Peter refused the demand, the officials accused them of inciting voters to support the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). In June 2017, Pheap and Peter won the Excellence in Investigative Reporting award from the Society of Publishers in Asia for their reporting on military involvement in Cambodia’s illegal timber trade. Both had frequently written about illegal logging and government corruption in Rattanakiri and other provinces in Cambodia. Government harassment of independent journalists has increased over the past two years, Human Rights Watch said. In July, Rattanakiri provincial authorities issued a letter demanding that all journalists report to them with identification and inform officials of their intentions before reporting on any stories in the province, VOD reported. Two Radio Free Asia journalists, Uon Chin and Yeang Sothearin, continue to face baseless espionage charges, after being arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2017. While they were released under judicial supervision, the charges have not been dropped. On October 3, a judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to convict them, but instead of dismissing the case, sent it back for re-investigation. On January 20, 2020, the Court of Appeal will hear Chin’s and Sothearin’s appeals of that decision. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has attacked and shut down independent media outlets. In September 2017, the Cambodia Daily, one of the country’s longstanding independent local newspapers, was forcibly shut after being handed a dubious unpaid tax bill of US$6.3 million. In May 2018, the government coerced the sale of the last independent local newspaper, the Phnom Penh Post, to a Malaysian businessman with reported ties to the Cambodian government by imposing a similarly questionable unpaid tax bill of US$3.9 million. The newspaper was subsequently transferred to a ruling Cambodian People’s Party member. Radio Free Asia (RFA) closed its office in Phnom Penh in September 2017, after 20 years of operations in Cambodia, citing threats to its staff. A few days after RFA’s office closure, the Interior Ministry threatened journalists who had worked for RFA with legal action if they continued reporting for RFA. “Cambodia’s persecution of journalists is sending a message that independent, investigative reporting is not only unwelcome, but could get you thrown in jail,” Robertson said. “The European Union and other foreign governments should publicly call for these charges to be dismissed and urge the government to allow journalists to do their jobs without harassment.”
AHAZANG Magazine # 1 2020 January