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Imran Khan’s jail sentence suspended

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A court in Pakistan has suspended former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s jail sentence in a case related to illegal selling of state gifts.

Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were each handed a 14-year sentence in the case on January 31 – just a week ahead of the February 8 elections, which Khan’s party alleges were rigged.

The Islamabad High Court on Monday said the couple’s sentence will remain suspended until a decision is taken on the case after the Eid holidays, which begin in 10 days.

Khan, 71, is accused of not disclosing assets based on the sale of state gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($504,000) he received when he was the prime minister from 2018 to April 2022.

The case was brought by Pakistan’s anti corruption agency, which accused Khan and his wife of unlawfully buying and selling the gifts.

The sentencing had made the couple ineligible to contest for public office for 10 years while also slapping a fine of 787 million rupees ($2.8m) on each of them.

Khan, founder of the main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, has been in prison since August last year on several charges.

The conviction in the state gifts case came a day after the cricket star-turned-politician was handed a 10-year prison term for revealing state secrets.

Khan and his wife were also convicted for seven years when a court on February 3 ruled that their 2018 marriage violated Islamic law.

PTI politician Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, a close aide of Khan, told Al Jazeera he was confident of a favourable outcome given the way the state gifts case was progressing in the court.

“I have said this since the conviction that the cases against Khan and his wife do not have the legs to stand on and it was only a matter of time before they would get thrown out,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We welcome this decision and hopefully this will be the outcome in all other cases against Khan and his wife as they are all frivolous in nature.”

(Al Jazeera)

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TikTok faces US ban as bill set to be signed by Biden

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The US Senate has approved a controversial landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America.

It gives TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, nine months to sell its stake or the app will be blocked in the United States.

The bill will now be handed over to US President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

ByteDance has told the BBC that it did not have an immediate response to the move. Previously the firm said it would oppose any attempt to force it to sell TikTok.

If the US is successful in forcing ByteDance to sell TikTok any deal would still need approval from Chinese officials but Beijing has vowed to oppose any such move. Analysts say the process could take years.

The measure was passed as part of a package of four bills which also included military aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other US partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

It had widespread support from lawmakers, with 79 Senators voting for it and 18 against.

“For years we’ve allowed the Chinese Communist party to control one of the most popular apps in America that was dangerously short-sighted,” said Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

“A new law is going to require its Chinese owner to sell the app. This is a good move for America,” he added.

Fears that data about millions of Americans could land in China’s hands have driven Congressional efforts to split TikTok from the Beijing-based company.

Last week, the social media company said the bill would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans, devastate seven million businesses, and shutter a platform that contributes $24 billion to the US economy, annually.”

TikTok has said ByteDance “is not an agent of China or any other country”. And ByteDance insists it is not a Chinese firm, pointing to the global investment firms that own 60% of it.

Its chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, said last month the company will continue to do all it can including exercising its “legal rights” to protect the platform.

Mr Shou was grilled by Congress twice in less than a year, and downplayed the app’s connection – and his personal links – to Chinese authorities.

The social media platform made efforts to rally support against the potential ban, including a major lobbying campaign.

It also encouraged TikTok users and creators to express their opposition to the bill.

University of Richmond law professor, Carl Tobias told the BBC that a prolonged legal battle is likely to follow and that “could take about two years”.

He also said if a buyer for ByteDance’s stake is not found within the nine-month period, it could delay any action against TikTok in the US further.

(BBC News)

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10 dead as 2 Malaysian Navy helicopters collide midair

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Two Malaysian navy helicopters collided in mid-air as they flew in formation during a rehearsal for a military parade, killing all 10 crew on board.
One of the aircraft clipped the rotor of the other before the two crashed into the ground, footage published on local media showed.

The incident took place at 09:30 local time (02:30 BST) in the Malaysian town of Lumut, which is home to a Royal Malaysian Navy base.

There are no known survivors.

“All victims were confirmed dead on site and the remains were sent to the [Lumut] Military Hospital for identification,” said the Royal Malaysian Navy.

It added that it would form a committee to investigate the cause of the incident.

One of the helicopters, a HOM M503-3 with seven people on board, is believed to have crashed onto a running track.

The other, a Fennec M502-6 carrying the other three victims, crashed into a swimming pool nearby.

The state’s fire and rescue department said it was alerted to the incident at 09:50 local time (01:50 GMT).

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “the nation mourns the heart-wrenching and soul-wrenching tragedy”.

“Condolences to all the families of the victims and prayers for strength to face this calamity,” he said.

In March, a Malaysian coast guard helicopter crashed into the sea off Malaysia’s Angsa Island during a training flight.

The pilot, co-pilot and two passengers on board were found and rescued by fishermen.

(BBC News)

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Indian elections begin

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Indians begin voting today to choose their next parliament in the first of seven voting days that end on June 01.
Almost a billion people are eligible to cast their ballot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aiming for a rare third consecutive term in power.

Several key opposition parties, including the Congress, have formed an alliance in many states to take on Mr Modi’s party.

The big issues include a jobs crisis, rising prices, a crackdown on dissent and the opposition, and the politics of religion.

Results will be announced on June 04.

(BBC News)

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