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Ridouan Taghi: Most wanted man gets life in prison as Dutch court convicts 17 of members of criminal gang

The alleged leader of a crime group described as an “oiled killing machine” faces life behind bars after he was found guilty in what some consider to be the biggest Dutch criminal trial ever. Ridouan Taghi – once the most wanted man in the Netherlands – is one of three people suspected of leading the organisation and had been on the run until he was extradited in 2019. He was among 17 suspects accused of some involvement in six murders, four attempted murders, planning other attacks and being part of a criminal group. A lifetime sentence was handed to Taghi in the so-called Marengo trial on Tuesday, after almost six years of journeying through the court. The court convicted Taghi in five murders and called him the “undisputed leader” of a “murder organisation.” “He decided who would be killed and spared no one,” the presiding judge, whose identity was kept anonymous for his security, said. “The amount of suffering Taghi caused to the victims and their loved ones is barely imaginable.” Why was the trial so big? According to the Netherlands Judiciary, the case has amassed 142 hearings, tens of thousands of file pages, more than 800 pages of pleadings and over 3,000 pages of pleadings from the defence. The case has made headlines for out-of-court events as much as it has for developments inside the courtroom, which on Tuesday was under tight security with heavily armed police officers patrolling the surrounding streets. In 2018, while Taghi was still on the run, there was an attempt to firebomb the Telegraaf newspaper officers and police suspected the 46-year-old of being behind the plan. The case took another turn when one witness, Nabil B, agreed to become a witness for the prosecution in exchange for a lighter sentence. Nabil B, alleged to have been a hitman, faces 10 years in jail, but his lawyer Derk Wiersum was shot dead in Amsterdam. Taghi has not been charged with involvement in the lawyer’s death. A month later, a €100,000 (£86,000) reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of Tahgi and Said Razzouki, another of the suspected leaders. It was the largest reward in Dutch history, though Taghi reportedly later complained the reward was too small. Nabil B’s brother was also shot dead – despite having no connection to criminal activities – by someone who turned up for a job interview at his shop, according to Dutch media. In 2021, Dutch criminal journalist Peter R. de Vries was also killed in Amsterdam, with Dutch King Willem-Alexander criticising “an attack on journalism, the cornerstone of our constitutional state and therefore also an attack on the rule of law”. None of those three murders are listed in the Marengo trial, but are being prosecuted separately. Change in lawyers A year into the trial, Taghi’s cousin and member of his defence team, Youssef Taghi, was arrested for helping his client run his criminal enterprise from prison, according to publication Dutch News. During his trial in 2022, he reportedly said he had no choice but to help, adding “you don’t say no to Taghi”. Read more:Former Dutch footballer sentenced to six years in prisonTwo bodies found in search for missing TV presenter Three months after closing arguments, lead counsel Inez Weski was also arrested last year for helping Taghi. She refused to speak to investigators, citing attorney-client privilege. Taghi intended to represent himself after struggling to find a replacement lawyer, but a new team agreed and tried to extend the case by nine months to catch up with the details of the case. In December last year, Dutch media reported the team resigned as they were unable to mount a proper defence. Other suspects received sentences ranging from life imprisonment to little less than two years behind bars.

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World NGO Day 2024, EU Launches €50M Initiative to Protect Civil Society | -europeantimes.news-

Brussels, 27th February 2024 – On the occasion of World NGO Day, the European External Action Service (EEAS), spearheaded by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell, has reaffirmed its unwavering support for civil society organizations (CSOs) worldwide. Amidst an alarming global trend of shrinking civic spaces and increasing hostility towards NGO workers, human rights defenders, and journalists, the EU has taken a stand to protect and empower these crucial pillars of democracy. Civil society, often the voice for the most vulnerable, faces unprecedented challenges. From being branded as “foreign agents” to facing excessive force during peaceful protests, the environment for NGOs and civil society actors is becoming increasingly restrictive. In light of these challenges, the EU’s condemnation of attacks on freedom of association and peaceful assembly has never been more pertinent. To combat these concerning trends, the EU is leveraging all tools at its disposal, including substantial financial support. A notable initiative is the EU System for Enabling Environment (EU SEE), launched in 2023 with a €50 million budget. This groundbreaking system aims to monitor and promote civic space in 86 partner countries, incorporating an EU SEE Monitoring Index, an early warning mechanism, and a rapid and flexible support mechanism (FSM). These tools are designed to bolster civil society’s resilience and swiftly respond to any deterioration or positive developments in civic freedoms. The EU’s commitment extends beyond the EU SEE. The Global Europe Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) programme, with a €1.5 billion budget for 2021-2027, supports civil society organizations outside the EU. This is complemented by other programmes and sources, including nine partnerships totaling €27 million focused on fundamental freedoms and independent media, and the ‘Team Europe Democracy’ initiative, which pools €19 million from 14 Member States to enhance democracy and civic space. Furthermore, the Protect Defenders.eu mechanism, with a €30 million budget until 2027, continues to offer vital support to Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) at risk, having assisted more than 70,000 individuals since its inception in 2015. Additionally, under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III), the EU has committed €219 million for civil society and media in the Western Balkans and Türkiye for 2021-2023. As the world prepares for the Summit of the Future, the EU emphasizes the importance of a robust role for civil society, including youth, in shaping the UN’s Pact for The Future. This engagement is crucial for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals and upholding human rights. On World NGO Day, the EU honors the invaluable contributions of civil society in fostering resilient and inclusive societies. The EU’s comprehensive support framework underscores its dedication to safeguarding a safe and open civic space worldwide, ensuring that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and protected. The Crucial Role of NGOs in Protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief On World NGO Day, we take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the vital work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the globe, especially those dedicated to protecting the fundamental human right of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). This day serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting these organizations, as their efforts in safeguarding FoRB are not only pivotal in their own right but also facilitate a wide range of other humanitarian aid initiatives. Freedom of Religion or Belief is a cornerstone of human rights, enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It ensures that individuals and communities can practice their religion or belief freely, without fear of discrimination or persecution. However, in many parts of the world, this right is under threat, with individuals facing violence, legal penalties, and social ostracization for their beliefs. In this context, NGOs working to protect FoRB play a critical role in advocating for the rights of these vulnerable populations, monitoring abuses, and providing support to victims. The protection of FoRB is intrinsically linked to the broader spectrum of humanitarian aid. When individuals and communities are free to practice their beliefs, it fosters an environment of tolerance and peace, which is essential for the effective delivery of aid. Moreover, NGOs focused on FoRB often work in collaboration with other humanitarian organizations to address complex crises that involve elements of religious persecution. By ensuring that FoRB is protected, these NGOs contribute to creating stable societies where other forms of humanitarian assistance, such as education, healthcare, and disaster relief, can be more effectively implemented. Furthermore, the work of these NGOs in protecting FoRB can lead to long-term societal benefits, including the promotion of pluralism, democracy, and human rights. By advocating for the rights of all individuals to practice their religion or belief freely, these organizations help to combat extremism and build resilient communities that are capable of withstanding and recovering from conflicts. On World NGO Day, it is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness of human rights and humanitarian aid. Supporting NGOs that focus on protecting Freedom of Religion or Belief is not only a commitment to upholding a fundamental human right but also a strategic investment in the broader humanitarian mission. As we honor the invaluable contributions of these organizations, let us also commit to further supporting their efforts, understanding that in doing so, we are helping to facilitate all other types of humanitarian aid and contributing to the creation of a more just and peaceful world.

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Oakville lives lived Feb. 16 to 22

Oakville News honours those in our community who passed away from Feb. 16-22, 2024. We wish their families, friends, and colleagues comfort and strength during their time of mourning. Names are listed alphabetically by last name. Vera Bell 21-Nov-1928 to 18-Feb-2024Gerald Edward Casey Passed away on 19th February 2024Quang Khai Doan 20-Jul-1936 to 17-Feb-2024Allison Dale Downey 19-Jul-1988 to 17-Feb-2024C.T. (Terry) Gillin 27-Sep-1944 to 20-Feb-2024Elsie Lloyd 06-Jun-1938 to 20-Feb-2024Marija Markusic 03-Sep-1942 to 21-Feb-2024Maria Ginocchi Passed away on February 9th, 2024Victoria Sabio 18-Feb-1959 to 16-Feb-2024Yin Yue Sung 28-jan-1922 to 17-Feb-2024Lawrence Sheahan 16-Feb-1940 to 18-Feb-2024Irene Yersh 20-Mar-1939 to 16-Feb-2024Barbara Shireen Yassin 23-Sep-1949 to 09-Feb-2024 If you wish to place an obituary or if a name has been missed and you would like it added, please email admin@oakvillenews.org.

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Russian court jails veteran rights activist, Memorial co-chair Orlov

The 70-year-old, a key figure of the Nobel Prize-winning Memorial group, is the latest target of Kremlin repression, which has intensified since the offensive in Ukraine. “The court has determined Orlov’s guilt and orders a sentence of two years and six months… in a general regime penal colony,” the judge said. As the judge read the verdict, the bespectacled, white-haired activist winked at his wife, fellow activist Tatyana. He was taken into custody in the courtroom and asked Tatyana to come over. “Tanya, you promised me!” he told her as she appeared to tear up. Around 200 supporters were waiting in the corridor outside the courtroom to bid him goodbye. Orlov had told AFP in a recent interview that he held no illusions on the outcome of the trial. Orlov was accused of discrediting the Russian army in a column written for the French online publication Mediapart, and fined in October after a first trial. The fine was a relatively lenient punishment and prosecutors called for a new trial. Even as other campaigners fled the growing repression, Orlov remained in Russia, where he said he was “more useful” than abroad. He told AFP that his career spent working on the historical memory of Soviet crimes and rights abuses in modern Russia — especially in the North Caucasus — gave him no choice but to also campaign against the Ukraine offensive. Memorial established itself as a key pillar of Russian civil society by preserving the memory of victims of communist repression and by campaigning against rights violations. The organisation was officially disbanded by Russian authorities in late 2021 and it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 alongside a leading Ukrainian rights group and a veteran Belarusian activist. Read moreNobel Peace Prize goes to three ‘champions of human rights’ from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine (AFP)

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Biden convenes congressional leaders as federal shutdown deadline nears

With Ukraine running low on munitions and a partial government shutdown set to strike in days, President Biden summoned congressional leaders to the White House on Tuesday in an attempt to break through a deadlocked spending debate on Capitol Hill. Get a curated selection of 10 of our best stories in your inbox every weekend.ArrowRight If a portion of federal finances lapse just past midnight on Saturday, vital services at the Department of Transportation would go offline. Food stamp programs could quickly run low on funding. Housing assistance for millions of families would fall into jeopardy. And another larger government shutdown cliff awaits just a week later, when funds for the Defense and State departments will also expire, unless Congress acts.

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The economy is roaring. Immigration is a key reason.

Immigration has propelled the U.S. job market further than just about anyone expected, helping cement the country’s economic rebound from the pandemic as the most robust in the world. That momentum picked up aggressively over the past year. About 50 percent of the labor market’s extraordinary recent growth came from foreign-born workers between January 2023 and January 2024, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of federal data. And even before that, by the middle of 2022, the foreign-born labor force had grown so fast that it closed the labor force gap created by the pandemic, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

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Laptops and iPhones used by MPs lost in airports and stolen on Tube

IT equipment being used by MPs, Lords and their staff went missing at places including train stations over the last year (Picture: File image) Dozens of digital devices being used by MPs, Lords and parliamentary staff went missing last year — including in airports and pubs. A list of almost 100 incidents that has been described as ‘alarming reading’ includes the theft of a laptop from a Westminster IT worker on the Tube and two gadgets being stolen from a car. Eight of the parliamentary-supplied devices potentially containing sensitive information were stolen from pubs and a bar. Cyber-security experts responded to the disclosure by saying the equipment losses raise a ‘red flag’ about the way the gadgets are used in a workplace that has access to national secrets. In the most recent incident listed, a laptop was stolen from the home of a person described as an MP or a member of their staff on December 17. Two days before, a laptop used by a House of Commons administrative worker was snatched on a train. Another person with the same job title had an iPhone stolen at a train station the previous day, the dataset shows. A second laptop was stolen from a pub earlier in the month, with the victim again being an admin worker at the lower chamber. Another of the eight thefts at licensed premises took place in August and involved a laptop being taken from an MP or staffer. A member of parliament’s digital service – which is responsible for issuing the devices – had a laptop stolen on the Tube in the same month. Access to physical devices can provide a window of opportunity to hackers according to cybersecurity experts (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) In some cases, two devices went missing at the same time, according to the data released by the Commons. A laptop and a tablet belonging to an MP’s office were lost at an unspecified airport on September 11. Another person described as ‘HoC Member/Staff’ had a laptop and mobile stolen from a car on July 17 last year. In several cases, the location of the loss or theft is marked as ‘unknown’. Another log, relating to a phone in the possession of an MP’s office which was lost on October 10, simply describes the whereabouts as ‘abroad’. In total, 94 devices were lost or stolen during 2023, the list shows, with some subsequently being recovered. Cyber attackers are operating in a global battlefield with the lines between civilian and military actors increasingly being blurred (Picture: Getty) Oliver Pinson-Roxburgh, CEO of cyber security provider Bulletproof, said: ‘The loss of government devices will always make for alarming reading. ‘User education, correct procedures and technical safeguards can minimise the impact, but device loss can never be completely eliminated. ‘It becomes a question of if more can be done to prevent device losses at this scale, and if enough is really being done to minimise the impact. While having the right technical solutions is vital, a multi-layered approach is key. ‘This includes employee training, data encryption and strong device management. In the case of the devices being stolen, the best outcome is that the device will just be wiped and any sensitive data lost. ‘Otherwise, there are concerns around sensitive data and even national security. Security is made or broken with workplace culture, and news stories like this bring that into question.’ The disclosure comes at a time when the UK’s critical information systems have been under attack from what MI5 describes as ‘state adversaries who operate at scale’, with Chinese hackers being a particular threat. Richard Cassidy, chief information security officer, Europe, Middle East, Africa, at data security firm Rubrik, told Metro.co.uk that there is a ‘pressing need’ for a ‘culture of resilience’. ‘Despite encryption and remote wiping capabilities, the sheer volume of incidents here raises a red flag,’ he said. ‘It’s not just about the hardware; it’s the potential access to confidential information that stirs unease. High-level government data should be rigorously protected from hostile actors according to cybersecurity experts (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) ‘This situation underscores the urgent need for a culture of resilience. ‘Beyond the technology, there’s a pressing need for increased awareness and training among those with access to our nation’s secrets. ‘Understanding that everyone has a role to play in information security – not just IT teams – is essential to this.’ Mr Cassidy added: ‘Public sector IT teams deal with a mountain of challenges that are already an almost insurmountable task to manage. ‘Where users fail, and they inevitably will, there is a critical need to review, update and enhance data loss prevention capabilities, which relies on understanding where your sensitive data sits, who has access to it and then building controls based on access governance.’ Devices supplied by parliament to passholders are encrypted, according to the Commons’ Information Compliance Team. A parliamentary spokesperson said: ‘We provide advice to users – including members of both Houses – to make them aware of the risks and how to manage their equipment safety, however we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security controls, policies or incidents.’ Westminster’s digital service has ‘responded robustly to cyber-attacks’ and ‘matured through the move to cloud computing’, according to the UK Parliament’s website. MORE : MPs and Lords lose ‘sensitive’ parliamentary iPads on airplanes, in taxis and on train MORE : Dozens of parliament IT devices used by MPs and Lords go missing MORE : MP’s laptop containing ‘sensitive’ data stolen on parliamentary estate Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact josh.layton@metro.co.uk

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SLBFE gives update on Sri Lankan deliveryman shot in Kuwait over delayed order

The Sri Lankan national, who was shot in Kuwait while working as a delivery person, currently remains under the protection of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Jabriya, the Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBFE) says. The embassy has assured that all required facilities would be provided to Sagara Lakshman who sustained critical injuries after being shot by a customer over a delayed food order. Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara has instructed the SLBFE authorities to look into the matter and take necessary measures without delay. The 44-year-old, originally from Rajanganaya, faced the harrowing incident on January 11 in Al Jahra city where he was residing. According to his account of the event, the initial location details given by the customer were wrong, and as a result, he had to drive to a different location to complete the delivery. However, the customer in question, agitated by the delay, had opened fire when Thilakaratne arrived at his doorstep, leaving him with serious injuries to the abdomen. After being shot, Lakshman had reportedly driven his car back with blood gushing out from the wounds and contacted an Indian acquaintance who rushed him to the hospital. Lakshman, who is the father of two daughters aged 10 and 13, earlier urged respective authorities to help him seek justice and take necessary measures to repatriate him to Sri Lanka. The SLBFE said Lakshman was treated at a hospital in Jabriya where he underwent surgery to extract the bullets. The embassy officials including the Sri Lankan ambassador to Kuwait have visited Lakshman at the hospital to check in on his condition. As per reports, the Kuwaiti national who shot Lakshman is now under arrest on attempted murder charges. The SLBFE asserted that all necessary measures would be taken to repatriate Lakshman, based on the progress of the ongoing legal proceedings. His hospital expenses have been borne by the restaurant where he is employed, the Bureau said further.

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Made in Scotland, Sold to the World: Glasgow business event aiming to boost Scottish exporters

The UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade is hosting an event to help boost Scottish exporters at the end of February. Taking place at 200 Conference & Events in Glasgow and also available to stream online, the ‘Made in Scotland, Sold to the World Exporter Roadshow’ will highlight the benefits of selling products and services internationally. Run in conjunction with Insider Media Ltd, the event is aimed at Scottish businesses wanting to either start or expand their exporting journey. Those attending in-person and online will receive free advice and support to help their business expand overseas. Minister for Exports Lord Malcolm Offord said: “From our innovative financial technology and life sciences industries to our famous food and drink sector, Scottish businesses have a lot to offer. “While many of them have started selling abroad, there are many more opportunities out there for Scottish companies to expand their sales internationally and that’s what this event is all about. “The UK Government wants to see companies here grasp the opportunities that exist around the globe to sell their goods and services, and I’m looking forward to speaking to them about the advice and support that’s on offer to help them do this. Lord Offord will be speaking at the event, along with representatives from the Department for Business & Trade’s Export Academy, UK Export Finance, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Allianz and the Scottish Government. Businesses registering for the event will also be able to hear first hand from Scottish companies already successfully exporting, with speakers from Nairn’s Oatcakes, Quorum Cyber and Bute Fabrics taking part. The sessions on the day will cover advice for Scottish companies starting out on their export journey, the finance and support available to help them do this, and how the UK Government is working to open new markets and tackle trade barriers that they might face. You can find more details here.

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