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Joe Biden, Kamala Harris sworn-in to lead new America

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Joe Biden is sworn-in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential inauguration at the US Capitol.

Democrat Joe Biden, a fixture in Washington for nearly a half century, was sworn in Wednesday as the 46th US President in a time-honored ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol.

Biden, at 78, becomes the country’s oldest leader ever after serving 36 years as a US senator and eight as vice president. He took the presidential oath of office, swearing to uphold the US Constitution and defend the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, on a chilly, wind-swept day.

Kamala Harris
Shortly before, Kamala Harris, a former US senator from California, the country’s most populous state, was sworn-in as vice president, becoming the highest ranking female official in more than two centuries of US history. She is of Black and Indian heritage.

In his inaugural address, Joe Biden said “The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” he added. Biden also emphasized that “unity is the path forward.”

Three former presidents attend
The swearing-in ceremonies were witnessed by three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton – but the country’s outgoing chief executive, former President Donald Trump, ignored 152 years of tradition of presidents attending their successors’ swearing-in ceremonies and left Washington early for his Atlantic coastal mansion in Florida.

Former US President Barack Obama and wife Michelle Obama arrive before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington.

Crowd missing
Also missing was the vast crowd of thousands of well-wishers that is normal at US presidential inaugurations, both for security reasons and the fear that people jammed together on the National Mall in front of the Capitol would add to the soaring number of coronavirus infections in the US. Instead of people on the Mall, there were thousands of red, white and blue American flags whipping in the wind.

The usual throng of Washington dignitaries witnessing a presidential inauguration was sharply limited in the seats behind Biden and Harris, and their spouses — first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff. Chairs for the invited guests were widely spaced in line with coronavirus restrictions recommended by health authorities.

Extraordinary security
The ceremony was conducted amid extraordinary security, with tall metal fencing topped by razor wire surrounding the inauguration site after intelligence reports warned that Trump supporters angered by the congressionally certified outcome of the ex-president’s defeat could attempt to disrupt the ceremony.

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UN Working Group Determines Detention of Iranian Pastor is Arbitrary

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Iran – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion that the continued detention of Iranian church leader Yousef Nadarkhani is arbitrary. The opinion, which was adopted at the working group’s 89th session in November 2020 was made public last week. In the opinion the working group wrote: “Through much of his life, (Pastor Nadarkhani) has been the target of religious discrimination, for which he has been arrested, tried, and imprisoned on multiple occasions. The working group has indicated that Nadarkhani’s continued detention contravenes multiple articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has called upon Iran to take the steps “necessary to remedy this situation of Mr. Nadarkhani without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was initially arrested in May 2016, along with four other Christians during a series of raids on Christian homes. In July 2017 the four men were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity. The men were released on bail but were re-arrested in a series of raids in July 2018 after being informed that their sentences had been upheld. They were taken to Evin prison in Tehran, to serve out their sentences. Evin prison is well known for its harsh treatment of prisoners, poor living conditions, and the use torture on inmates has been reported by many have been formerly incarcerated there. An appeal by Pastor Nadarkhani and a fellow Christian, Deacon Saheb Fadaie saw the court rule in favor of a reduction in their sentences to six years each (down from the initial ten year sentence handed down in 2017).

An Iranian church official has said: “this is an answer to prayer,” and called on the international community and the new U.S. administration, in particular, to make religious freedoms issues a priority as they resumed negotiations with Iran. This comes in the face of the situation in Iran, which continues to be highly concerning, as many Christians and other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned on arbitrary and spurious charges similar to those of pastor Nadarkhani.
Sources:persecution

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400 escape, 25 killed in riots after Haiti prison breakout

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Haitian authorities announced Friday that more than 400 inmates escaped and 25 people died in a prison breakout, making it the country’s largest and deadliest one in a decade, with the prison director and a powerful gang leader among those killed.

Some believe Thursday’s jailbreak at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison in northeast Port-au-Prince was to free gang leader Arnel Joseph, who had been Haiti’s most wanted fugitive until his 2019 arrest on charges including rape, kidnapping and murder.

Joseph was riding on a motorcycle through the Artibonite area in the town of L’Est’re on Friday a day after his escape when he was spotted at a checkpoint, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told The Associated Press. He said Joseph pulled out a gun and died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Joseph ruled Village de Dieu, or Village of God, a shantytown in downtown Port-au-Prince, and other communities, including some in Artibonite, which is Haiti’s largest department.

Authorities have not yet provided much details on the breakout except to say that 60 inmates have been recaptured and the investigation is ongoing. State Secretary Frantz Exantus said authorities have created several commissions to investigate who organized the breakout and why. Among those killed was the prison director, identified as Paul Joseph Hector.

Residents who declined to be identified because they feared for their life told the AP that they saw gunmen shoot at prison guards on Thursday before inmates escaped from the Croix-des-Bouquets penitentiary.

The prison is known for a 2014 breakout in which more than 300 of the 899 inmates being held there at the time escaped. Some believed that attack was designed to free Clifford Brandt, the son of a prominent businessman, who had been imprisoned since 2012 for allegedly kidnapping the adult children of a rival businessman. Brandt was captured two days later near the Dominican Republic border.

After the 2014 breakout, officials said they were taking steps to up security at the prison that Canada built in 2012, including installing security cameras and placing ankle monitors on the most dangerous prisoners. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those measures were taken. At the time of Thursday’s breakout, the prison held 1,542 inmates, nearly twice its capacity.

Haiti’s largest prison breakout in recent history occurred after the devastating 2010 earthquake in which more than 4,200 inmates fled the notorious National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince.

President Jovenel Mose tweeted on Friday that he condemned the most recent jailbreak and asked people to remain calm. He added that Haiti’s National Police ?is instructed to take all measures to bring the situation under control.”

Meanwhile, Helen La Lime, Haiti’s special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a statement that she was deeply concerned with the mutiny and prison escape.

“I encourage the police to speed up investigations on the circumstances surrounding this incident, redouble its efforts to re-apprehend the escapees, and strengthen security around prisons throughout the country,” she said.

“This prison break further highlights the problem of prolonged preventive detention and prison overcrowding which remains matter of concern that must be urgently addressed by Haitian authorities.”

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