17 states sue US administration over migrant family separations

Seventeen states, including Washington, New York and California, sued President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday in an effort to force officials to reunite migrant families who have been separated at the US-Mexico border.

The states, all of which are led by Democratic attorneys general, joined Washington, DC, in filing the lawsuit in US District Court in Seattle. It’s the first legal challenge by states over the practice.

“The administration’s practice of separating families is cruel, plain and simple,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in an emailed statement.

“Every day, it seems like the administration is issuing new, contradictory policies and relying on new, contradictory justifications. But we can’t forget: the lives of real people hang in the balance.”

Immigration authorities have separated about 2,300 children from their parents in recent weeks, sparking global outrage as images and recordings of weeping children emerged. Many parents are in custody thousands of miles from their children, whom they have not been able to see and have rarely spoken to for a month or more.

 After falsely blaming Democrats for the separations and insisting that only Congress could fix the issue, the president last week issued an executive order designed to end the practice under his “zero tolerance” policy, which prosecutes undocumented adults who come to the US.

But the states say his order is riddled with caveats and fails to reunite parents and children who have already been torn apart.

They accuse the administration of denying the parents and children due process; denying the immigrants, many of whom are fleeing gang violence in Central America, their right to seek asylum; and being arbitrary in applying the policy.

A US judge in San Diego is considering whether to issue a nationwide injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union that would order the administration to reunite the separated children with their parents.

A Seattle-based immigrant rights group sued on Monday on behalf of held asylum-seekers in Washington state who have been separated from their children.

The states that sued Trump’s administration are: Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.


Erdogan wins re-election in historic Turkish polls

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won the country’s key presidential vote, electoral officials have said, in a result that will allow him to keep his seat with increased powers and become Turkey’s first executive president.

With 97.7 percent of ballots counted, Erdogan received on Sunday more than half the votes required to secure an outright victory, Sadi Guven, the head of the Supreme Election Committee (YSK), told reporters in the capital, Ankara.

Earlier, state-run Anadolu news agency had reported that Erdogan’s share of the vote stood at 52.5 percent.

“Our democracy has won, the people’s will has won, Turkey has won,” Erdogan told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in the capital, Ankara, thanking the Turkish citizens who cast their ballots in an election that saw a record turnout of 87 percent.

The 64-year-old also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, a bloc between his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying they had won a parliamentary majority in the legislative elections, also held on Sunday.

Before heading to Ankara, Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for more than 15 years as prime minister and president, had also addressed a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in the country’s largest city of Istanbul.

“I thank God for showing us this beautiful day,” Ahmet Dindarol, 35, told Al Jazeera, as he joined in the celebrations in front of the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul.

“We elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the first executive president of Turkey. We prayed so much for him,” he added.

“Things will get better from now on. There will be less bureaucracy and more investments. The foreign powers who are playing games on Turkey’s economy got their response,” he said.

Erdogan’s closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), received 30.8 percent of the votes, according to Anadolu.

He was followed by Selahattin Demirtas, of the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP), at 8.1 percent and debutante right-wing IYI (Good) Party’s Meral Aksener, at 7.4 percent.

All three major opposition parties accused Anadolu of manipulating the results and releasing them selectively, a claim dismissed by the government.

“I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure,” Erdogan said in his speech.

Official results are to be announced in a few days.

More than 56 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots in the elections, which were brought forward by more than 18 months by the AK Party-controlled parliament in April.


30 suspects arrested over Ethiopia grenade attack

A second person has died after a grenade attack on a political rally attended by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the capital, Addis Ababa, as authorities arrested police officials and suspects.

Health Minister Amir Aman confirmed on Sunday that two people had been killed in the explosion on Saturday and 156 wounded.

“I’m so sorry to learn that we have lost another Ethiopian victim of yesterday’s attack who was in ICU at Black Lion Hospital,” Aman said on Twitter. “My sincere sympathy and condolences to the family, friends and all Ethiopians.”

Abiy had just wrapped up his speech at the capital’s Meskel Square before tens of thousands of people on Saturday when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly and was taken to safety.

Nine police officials, including the deputy head of the Addis Ababa police commission, have been arrested over alleged security lapses.

“Ethiopian police have confirmed that nine policemen have been arrested because of what they are calling gross negligence; for not putting enough security measures in place to make sure that such an incident did not occur,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow, reporting from Addis Ababa.

Thirty other suspects are also being held over alleged involvement in the attack, but no group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

In an address broadcast on state television after the attack, Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.

“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”

The blast has sent shockwaves across the country as the new prime minister, who enjoys a lot of political support, especially among the younger generation, seeks to enforce his reformist agenda.

Since assuming office in April, Abiy has introduced a number of reforms and has overseen the release of jailed dissidents and moved to liberalise the economy.

He has also made peace overtures with aggrieved opposition groups, as well as neighbouring Eritrea.

“Abiy’s effort to move the country forward has angered those who for a very long time maintained a stronghold on the country’s politics and economy,” Mohammed Ademo, political commentator and founder of OPride.com, an independent news website on Ethiopia, told Al Jazeera.

“They are trying to scare people and undermine the prime minister so they can send a signal that he is not capable of stabilising the country,” Ademo added.

“Many Ethiopians are shocked that people would go to such lengths to stop what they see as a really positive move – the reforms they say this country really needs,” said Al Jazeera’s Adow.

Ethiopia was rocked by mass anti-government protests in 2015, which first broke out in the populous Oromia region, home to the Oromo, after the unveiling of plans for a controversial development project in Addis Ababa.

The rallies then spread to other parts of Ethiopia, including the Amhara region, with demonstrators demanding an end to human rights abuses as well as political reforms and greater freedoms.

Hundreds of people were killed and more than 20,000 others were arrested in a government crackdown that was widely condemned by human rights organisations.


EU leaders seek migration solutions as rescue ships left adrift

Germany and France pushed for new solutions to the migration crisis as bickering among European Union leaders left boats carrying hundreds of mainly African refugees adrift at sea.

Sixteen of the EU’s 28 leaders held emergency talks in Brussels on Sunday to find a way forward despite a long-standing deadlock over who should take in refugees who land in Italy and other European countries.

Hundreds of people fleeing conflict and persecutionat home are caught in the midst of a worsening row over how to deal with the influx against a backdrop of mass drownings in the Mediterranean in recent years.

Italy, a country on the front line of the crisis, has turned away rescue vessels, with its new populist government demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states.

One boat, the Lifeline, remained in limbo on Sunday with 239 Africans on board, including pregnant women and children, with Malta and Italy refusing to take it in, after the Aquarius suffered a similar fate until it was allowed to dock in Spain.

Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini bluntly told foreign charities on Sunday to stop rescuing migrants and refugees off Libya, where one group said 1,000 people were on boats in distress.

He accused them of abetting people smugglers.

But the German operators of the Lifeline hit out at Salvini for referring to its passengers as a consignment of “human flesh”.

“Dear Matteo Salvini, we have no meat on board, but humans,” it said in a statement.

The plight of the stranded migrants lent a sense of urgency to the meeting in Brussels, which was riven with divisions and snubbed by countries taking a hardline on the issue.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to forge ahead with like-minded leaders on ways to reduce migrant flows and share responsibility for those who land on Europe’s shores.

Merkel, who is scrambling to prevent a mutiny in her government over migration, admitted there were still “some differences” but also “a great deal of common ground”.


Syria’s war: Assad defies US, presses assault near Deraa

Syrian government helicopters have pressed on an assault on opposition- held areas of the country’s southwest, dropping barrel bombs in defiance of US demands that President Bashar al-Assad halt the offensive.

The barrel bombs on Friday targeted a cluster of rebel-held towns including Busra al-Harir, northeast of Deraa city, where the attack threatens rebels holding ground jutting northwards into land held by the government.

Syria‘s army has been pushing a week-long assault on the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Assad has sworn to capture, threatening a “de-escalation” zone agreed upon by the US and Russia last year.

The US on Thursday reiterated its demand that the zone be respected, warning Assad and his Russian allies of “serious repercussions” of violations.

It accused Damascus of initiating air attacks, artillery and rocket attacks.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on his part, called on Friday for an immediate end to military escalation in southwestern Syria, saying he was “concerned at the significant risks these offensives pose to regional security,” a spokesman for the UN chief said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley separately urged Russia to pressure its Syrian ally to uphold the truce.

Haley said in a statement earlier: “The Syrian regime’s violations of the ceasefire in southwest Syria need to stop.”

“We expect Russia to do its part to respect and enforce the ceasefire it helped establish, and to use the influence it has to stop the Syrian regime’s violations and any further destabilizing actions in the southwest and throughout Syria.

“Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in ‎Syria,” Haley said in a statement.

Guterres is scheduled to hold talks on Saturday in Washington, DC, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Nearly 12,000 people have been displaced in the upsurge of violence that has included air attacks, artillery, barrel bombs and rocket attacks, according to the US statement.

Assad’s forces have retaken large parts of Syria from opposition fighters since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015.

A major offensive would risk a wider escalation that could draw the US deeper into the war.

The southwest is of strategic concern to US-allied Israel, which has this year stepped up attacks on Iran-backed armed groups allied to Assad.


Trump renews sanctions on N Korea citing ‘extraordinary threat’

US President Donald Trump extended sanctions against North Korea for one year, saying the country still posed an “extraordinary threat” despite insisting just days earlier that Pyongyang was no longer a nuclear danger to the US.

The sanctions, which were renewed on Friday, were originally introduced under an executive order originally put in place in 2008.

After his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, Trump had said that sanctions would not be lifted on Pyongyang until further progress was made on its denuclearisation.

However, he also tweeted that, “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Friday’s order said that the “existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”


Turkey election: Erdogan seeks second term in hard-fought contest

Turkish voters are going to the polls to decide whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a second five-year term, in the most fiercely-fought elections in country in years.

Polls opened at 08:00 (05:00 GMT) in presidential and parliamentary votes.

If Mr Erdogan wins, he will adopt major new powers that critics say will weaken democratic rule.

But he faces a major challenge from centre-left candidate Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016.

These elections were originally scheduled for November 2019 but were brought forward by Mr Erdogan.

Mr Erdogan and his main rival Muharrem Ince both held huge rallies on Saturday, their final day of campaigning – and each branded the other unfit to run Turkey.

Mr Ince, whose fiery campaigning has revitalised Turkey’s demoralised opposition, promised to push back what he characterised as a slide into authoritarian rule under Mr Erdogan.

“If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign,” he told at least a million people gathered in Istanbul. “If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”


Ethiopian armed opposition group Ginbot 7 suspends attacks

Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7 has said that it will cease armed attacks in the country following reforms announced by the new government.

In a statement released on Friday on their Facebook page and confirmed by Ethiopian state media, Ginbot 7 said it would call off assaults in order to support the agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April.

“Our forces have received strict orders to refrain from any sort of armed resistance,” the statement said.

It added the decision “takes into full consideration our preparedness and determination to foil any attempt to derail the current change process by anti-change elements within EPRDF,” referring to Abiy’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Since being sworn in, Abiy has made major changes in the country including releasing jailed dissidents and moving to liberalise the economy.

Ginbot 7, formed after a disputed election in 2005 and named after the date in the Ethiopian calendar when the ballot took place – has claimed numerous deadly attacks in the past.

The authorities previously alleged association with the group as justification to imprison dissidents.

Last month, Ethiopia released from prison top Ginbot 7 officials, including Andargachew Tsige who was found guilty of violent attacks and sentenced in absentia in 2009 over his role in the opposition group.

Tsige was arrested during a stopover at a Yemen airport in June 2014 and taken to Ethiopia.

Prosecutors also dropped charges against the group’s leader Berhanu Nega, who is based outside Ethiopia and had in 2009 received a death sentence in absentia over an assassination plot.

Ginbot 7 fighters have previously based themselves in neighbouring arch-enemy Eritrea, which Abiy’s government is trying to reconcile with by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation.

Abiy has pursued rapprochement with several other overseas-based opposition groups.

Thousands of prisoners, including several senior opposition leaders, have been freedsince January having been accused of charges such as violence or incitement to topple the government.

The pardons are part of reforms that the government has pledged to undertake after violent unrest broke out three years ago, sparked by an urban development plan for Addis Ababa that critics said would trigger land seizures in the surrounding Oromia region.

The protests broadened into rallies over political rights, leading eventually to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February.


Who will Kurds vote for in key Turkey elections?

In the run-up to Turkey’s key parliamentary and presidential elections, the Kurdish vote is seen by many as one of the major factors that could determine the outcome.

For the first time, voters in Turkey will cast ballots on Sunday in simultaneous presidential and parliamentary polls. The process is in line with last year’s constitutional changes that will transform the country’s parliamentary system to an executive presidential one by granting the top office increased powers.

In the past, Kurdish votes were distributed between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Turkey’s left-wing pro-Kurdish movement – which was represented by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in the two most recent polls.

The HDP’s presidential candidate is its imprisoned former leader Selahattin Demirtas, who successfully brought his party into mainstream politics in the mid-2010s by attracting young, liberal voters.

Demirtas, along with several other former HDP members of parliament, has been in jail since November 2016, accused of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). His trial began in December last year and, if convicted, he faces up to 142 years in prison. Demirtas denies the charges.

With the HDP’s campaign virtually absent in mainstream media’s election coverage, Demirtas relies on social media and his lawyers, who regularly visit him in prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, to get his message out.

On June 17, he appeared on television for the first time since his arrest.

“The only reason I am here is because the AK Party is scared of me,” Demirtas said in a pre-recorded speech broadcast by state TV from his prison cell, legally granted to all presidential candidates.


Trump says North Korea still ‘extraordinary threat’

US President Donald Trump has renewed sanctions on North Korea, citing an “extraordinary threat” from its nuclear weapons – just 10 days after saying there was no risk from Pyongyang.

“There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” he tweeted on 13 June, a day after meeting the country’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

The move came as the US and South Korea cancelled two more training exercises.

The Pentagon said the goal was to support diplomatic negotiations.

It follows the decision earlier this week to suspend a major joint military exercise between the US and South Korea that had been planned for August.

President Trump promised to end the annual “war games” between the allies in an unexpected concession at his summit with Mr Kim, calling them “provocative” and “expensive”.

That came as a shock to many, as the US had previously argued that the drills were purely defensive and key to its military alliance with Seoul.

It does sound that way, but the US has had a “national emergency” in place with regard to North Korea since 2008. Since then, presidents have routinely renewed that status – and the anti-Pyongyang sanctions that go with it.

President Trump extended the national emergency on Friday due to “the existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea”.

These “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”, he said in a notice to Congress.

Democrats say the latest White House language contradicts the president’s earlier boasts about the success of the Singapore summit. In another tweet on 13 June, he said Americans could “sleep well tonight!”.