Wife of British-Iranian engineer in Tehran prison fears Soleimani strike has destroyed all hope of release

The wife of a British-Iranian engineer held in prison in Tehran has said she fears he no longer stands a “hope in hell” of being released after the US strike on Iran’s top commander led the region to the brink of war.

Sherry Izadi, 56, told the Telegraph she was “terrified” that any chance of negotiation between the UK and Iran over Anoosheh Ashoori’s 10-year sentence was over.

Mrs Izadi spoke briefly to the 65-year-old retired civil engineer from Evin prison on Saturday morning: “He told me everyone there is very jittery. They are so scared of the fallout. 

“He had hoped that Iran would negotiate or relent on his release, but we feel that hope is now gone,” she said.

Sherry Izadi, 56, with her husband Anoosheh Ashoori, a 65-year-old retired civil engineer from London, jailed in Iran on espionage charges Credit: Sherry Izadi

Mr Ashoori, who has lived…

Orthodox Jewish communities in New Jersey fear anti-Semitic attacks as hate incidents spike

The journey had been exhausting, but at long last the end was in sight. The Schapiro family fled the Soviet Union, running away from the tide of terror sweeping Stalin’s Russia and present-day Ukraine. It was 1952 when they eventually sailed into New York harbour; three people out of 12 million to land at Ellis Island and begin their new lives in the land of liberty and opportunity.

Fast forward almost 70 years, and Chabad Rabbi Moshe Schapiro can hardly believe what is happening.

“My grandparents and father arrived on Ellis Island. Where did America welcome these people? Right here – Ellis Island is 1,300 feet from the coast of Jersey City,” he said.

“And yet here in Jersey City, we came under…

Head of EU mission tells Malta’s embattled prime minister he should resign now

An EU mission dispatched to Malta to scrutinise the investigation into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia said on Tuesday that the prime minister should step down immediately, ramping up pressure on the island’s embattled government.

Joseph Muscat announced on Sunday that he intends to resign as head of the ruling Labour Party next month and then step aside as prime minister a few days later.

But Sophie in’t Veld, the Dutch MEP leading the two-day mission to Malta, said he had made “serious errors of judgement” that made his position no longer tenable.

"I think everybody recognises, including the prime minister himself, that he has made some serious errors of judgment and I would say that staying on longer than necessary is another error of judgement," she said.

"In politics it is about trust. It is about the integrity of office. We have made it very clear that there is a problem. This is not just between the prime minister and the Maltese people. It is between Malta and the European Union," the MEP said.

Members of the EU delegation, Sophia in't Veld (L) of the Renew Europe Group and Assita Kanko of European Conservatives and Reformists Group arrive for meetings in Valletta Credit: AFP

After an encounter with Mr Muscat and Owen Bonnici, the justice minister, she said: "I am not coming out of this meeting with more confidence, I have to say.”

The slow pace of the investigation into the murder of the journalist, who was killed by a car bomb in October 2017, has led to serious questions about the rule of law and the independence of the police and judiciary in Malta.

Three men were arrested and charged with planting the bomb a few weeks after the contract killing, but they have still not been put on trial.

Mr Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, was arrested last week after his name cropped up during the questioning of another suspect, millionaire businessman Yorgen Fenech.

That brought the murder inquiry into the heart of the prime minister’s inner circle.

Prime minister Joseph Muscat Credit: Reuters

Mr Schembri was subsequently released without charge, with police saying they no longer had a reason to detain him.

He denies any involvement in the killing. 

Mr Fenech, the businessman, was charged at the weekend with complicity in the car bombing, an accusation he denies. 

On Tuesday, the Times of Malta produced a handwritten letter which, it claimed, offers further evidence of the links between Mr Fenech and Mr Schembri. The letter, which cites both men, was written by Melvin Theuma, the alleged middleman in the murder plot, who has been given a presidential pardon in return for divulging information to investigators.

Protesters have staged rowdy demonstrations in Valletta, the capital, almost every night, hurling eggs at parliament, chanting “mafia” and “assassins” at MPs and using loud speakers to blare out ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money” in a dig at alleged corruption. 

Protests drive record numbers to Hong Kong polls in ‘referendum on Carrie Lam’

Hong Kong voters turned out in record numbers on Sunday for district elections, with early results showing pro-democracy candidates triumphing over those who have sided with Beijing in the six-month-long protests.

The election is widely viewed as a test of public support for pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam’s handling of pro-democracy protests that have plunged the Asian financial hub into crisis.

Results started to trickle out after midnight and showed at least a dozen pro-democracy candidates winning, including former student leaders.

Among them was a candidate who replaced prominent activist Joshua Wong, the only person barred from running in the election.

Rally organiser Jimmy Sham, one of the public faces of the protest movement who was bloodied in an attack by assailants with hammers last month, also triumphed.

Pro-democracy candidate Jimmy Sham, right, celebrates with a supporter after winning his election in Hong Kong Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who was stabbed by a knife-wielding man while campaigning this month, was among those who lost.

The poll for delegates on the lowest tier of government – which has never had so much attention – will also be a barometer of public patience with the protest movement. 

The unrest has seen many violent street clashes with riot police and at times crippled the city’s business and transport networks.

A record 4.1 million people registered to vote in the election, which normally sees a turnout rate of about 40 per cent.

By 8am, long queues had already formed outside the city’s 600 polling stations, while government data showed more than 2.94 million people had voted, putting the turnout rate at 70 per cent.

About 1.47 million voted in the last district elections four years ago, which was itself a record.  

In the bitterly divided city, many voters said that they would make their choice not on local issues, but based on their views of the ongoing political turmoil – the worst unrest that Hong Kong has experienced since it switched from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

“We want to change the government. We want to use the district elections to express our voice,” said Shirley Ng, 50, a social welfare worker, in Sham Shui Po, a predominantly working class neighbourhood in Kowloon.

“There has been a political awakening that has made people more aware of what the government is doing,” she said.

A few blocks away, voters waited patiently to enter a polling station on Pei Ho Street, an area badly affected by tear gas in recent battles between the police and more radical protesters who set up burning roadblocks.

Mr Wong, an accountant in his late 30s, said this election was especially important to him, revealing that his business had suffered during the unrest, but he added: “If they kill us and take our freedom, what’s the point of giving us good business?”

A record 1,104 candidates were vying for 452 seats.

Residents waited in long lines outside a polling station in Causeway Bay Credit:  Aidan Marzo

Although district councils normally deal with mundane issues like recycling and building management, they also have an important say in the selection of the city’s chief executive, who is not directly elected by the public.  

If the pro-democracy camp gains control, they could secure six seats in the Legislative Council, or parliament, and 117 seats on the 1,200-member panel that appoints Hong Kong’s leader.

Cathy Yau, 36, a pan-Democratic candidate standing in Causeway Bay, left her job in the embattled police force to run for office.

The first salvos of tear gas fired at protesters in June had been the tipping point, she said.

The protests, now a rallying cry for democracy, started over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

“The government didn’t quickly address the voices that are against the extradition bill,” said Ms Yau.

“I didn’t understand why the government would not give a response.”

Bruce Lui, a senior journalism lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that both pro-Beijing and pro-democratic parties had afforded new meaning to the local polls this year, to include their stances on recent violence.

“This is way beyond the highlights of the candidates’ manifesto on purely ‘district affairs’,” he said.

The district elections have traditionally been the bastion of pro-Beijing parties, and government supporters also saw Sunday’s poll as a chance to share their opinions.

People queue to cast their vote  Credit:  VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP via Getty Images

“I always come out to vote, but this year I am nervous about the political situation of the last few months. Lots of rioters are destroying Hong Kong,” said Kathy, 46, a housewife from Causeway Bay, which has seen some of the largest demonstrations in the city’s history.

In Sha Tin, Hong Kong’s most populous district, Mrs Pang, a housewife in her 70s, said she wanted to vote to restore “harmony” in society. “Social unrest has created unease in my life… it’s had a big impact on me,” she said.

If the pan-Democratic bloc wins, it could exert more pressure on Carrie Lam, the unpopular chief executive to find new ways to resolve the impasse with the protest movement.

Lord David Alton, who joined an international election observers team to monitor the poll, said the crisis needed a “political solution.”

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who was disqualified from running, arrives to vote in the South Horizons district  Credit: VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP via Getty Images

He added: “I would like to see the appointment of a respected mediator from within the region…I would say the most pressing demand at the moment is dealing with the issue of police brutality.”

Denying the public the right to vote for the city’s leader had left a “sense of powerlessness” that had fueled the protests, he argued.

“If great cities like Paris or London or New York can have directly elected mayors then why can’t Hong Kong? The answer to that is that Beijing has opposed it.”

Saving the whale is more important than planting trees when it comes to climate change, scientists argue

Saving the whale is more important than planting trees to combat climate change, scientists have found, as they capture vast amounts of carbon in their bodies before sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

Environmental scientists have been working against the clock to find the best ways for humans to reduce our carbon footprint by taking measures to allow more greenhouse gases to be absorbed from the atmosphere.

Planting trees has commonly been understood as one of the best ways to save the planet, with all political parties vowing to spend millions of pounds to flood Britain with greenery in their general election pledges.

While trees are important and forests referred to as "the lungs of the Earth", new research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that one whale is worth more than thousands of trees when it comes to carbon absorption.

Whales are currently under significant man-made threat, including ship strikes, entanglement in fishing nets, waterborne plastic waste, and noise pollution. Their population has been decimated over the last century from 5 million to 1.5 million.

It is thought that without action, it could take more than 30 years to restore their population as they are still under siege from whalers and choking on plastic pollution.

The mammals accumulate carbon in their bodies throughout their long lives, with some species living for up to 90 years, and then when they die they take that carbon to the bottom of the ocean, where it is stored for centuries.

Each whale can lock almost 30,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide on average out of the atmosphere. A tree, meanwhile, absorbs only up to 21 kilograms of  carbon dioxide a year.

As well as this, whales also support the production of phytoplankton, which contributes at least 50 per cent of all oxygen to the Earth’s atmosphere and captures as much carbon dioxide as 1.7 trillion trees, or four Amazon forests.

They do this as when they swim up to the surface from deep waters, their large bodies move nutrients up with them. Bringing nutrients to the surface increases the food source for the tiny but crucial organisms. 

Whales bring minerals up to the ocean surface through their vertical movement, called the “whale pump,” and through their migration across oceans, called the “whale conveyor belt".

Increasing phytoplankton productivity by just 1 per cent would have the same effect as the sudden appearance of 2 billion mature trees, according to the study.

Ralph Chami and Sena Oztosun from the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, along with professors from Duke University and the University of Notre Dame said increasing whale populations “could lead to a breakthrough in the fight against climate change.”

“Coordinating the economics of whale protection must rise to the top of the global community’s climate agenda,” they wrote. 

“Since the role of whales is irreplaceable in mitigating and building resilience to climate change, their survival should be integrated into the objectives of the 190 countries that in 2015 signed the Paris Agreement for combating climate risk.”

The authors put the value of one animal at more than $2 million (£1.54m), taking into account the value of carbon sequestered over the whale’s lifetime as well as other economic contributions such as fishery enhancement and ecotourism.

They recommended that governments compensate those causing the threats to the whale population if they stop doing so, a group that includes countries, businesses, and individuals.

Fukushima operator accused of cover-up over ‘contaminated’ water set to be poured into the Pacific

The Japanese government has been accused of a cover-up after it refused to allow independent testing of water from the Fukushima power plant that is likely to be released into the Pacific Ocean.

Officials at the industry ministry on Monday said the water stored at the crippled nuclear site was "safe" to release into the Pacific Ocean, despite concerns about radioactive material from environmental and citizens’ groups.

Following a recent visit to the plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) told The Telegraph that concerns over security prevented independent testing.

"Other organisations are not permitted to carry out tests of the water”, Hideki Yagi, a spokesman for Tepco, told The Telegraph.

“If we are going to allow external organisations to test the treated water then we would need to go through very strict procedures and due process because that water is contaminated. If it is taken outside this facility, then there need to be strict regulations”.

Both Greenpeace and the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre (Cnic), an anti-nuclear lobbying group, suggested that Tepco may be trying to cover up the true scale of contamination of water stores at the site.

Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist for Greenpeace, says the refusal to permit third-party testing only serves to raise new concerns about plans to discharge the water into the ocean. 

March 11, 2011: the tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant Credit: AP

“Moving nuclear material always carries risk, but for the purpose of independent analysis it would be justified”, he said. “Tepco has lost trust across society in Japan as well as in the international community, including in South Korea, and providing samples for analysis would be in their best interests – unless they are covering something up. 

“There are many questions about the effectiveness of Tepco’s … technology so providing samples that could verify their reports on content would go some way to demonstrating their commitment to transparency”, Mr Burnie added. 

“It won’t remove doubts that they are covering up major issues at the site – but would be an improvement on the current situation”. 

Hideyuki Ban, co-director of Cnic, said: "There would need to be lots of checks because there is a lot of water, but right now it looks very much to the outside world that they are trying to cover something up – as they have a long history of doing – and it would be very much in their best interests to be transparent on this.

“If they don’t, how will they ever get back any of the public trust that they have lost completely since the accident?” Mr Ban said. 

During a recent visit to the plant, Tepco officials told The Telegraph that a decision on how to dispose of the water must be made soon as tanks at the site are already near capacity and there is limited space to construct new storage facilities. The company estimates that capacity will be reached in the summer of 2022. 

The industry ministry on Monday told a government committee considering methods to dispose of the more than a million tons of water presently being stored in hundreds of tanks at the site that the risk to humans associated with releasing the water into the ocean would be “small”. 

Discharging the water into the Pacific over the course of a year would amount to between just one-1,600th and one-40,000th of the radiation to which humans are naturally exposed, the ministry officials told the committee. 

Estimates indicate that annual radiation levels near the release point after a release would be between 0.052 and 0.62 microsieverts at sea, the officials said, and 1.3 microsieverts in the atmosphere. That compares with around 2,100 microsieverts that humans come into contact with each year in everyday life.

The ministry how emphasised that no final decision has been reached on how or when the water will be disposed of.

The water became contaminated with radiation when it was used to cool three of the six reactors at the plant that suffered melt-downs after being damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Ground water is also seeping into the basement levels of the reactor buildings, with an additional 120 tons of water accumulating every day. 

Tepco was forced to admit earlier this year that efforts to remove varying amounts of 62 radionuclides – including strontium, iodine, caesium and cobalt – from the water through the ALPS equipment had not been completely successful. 

Officials of the company have added that testing of the water is presently carried out by Tokyo Power Technology Ltd, which it claims has advanced analytical skills and “very high” reliability. Tokyo Power Technology is a subsidiary of Tepco that was set up two years after the Fukushima disaster. 

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge natural disaster Credit: EPA

Monitoring is also conducted by the government-funded Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the Japan Chemical Analysis Centre.

Azby Brown, lead researcher for Tokyo-based monitoring organisation Safecast Japan, a group that monitors radiation, said the lack of transparency means the risks to marine life of releasing the water are relatively unknown.

"We don’t have enough data to evaluate the impact that any release with those concentrations will have on marine life," he said. 

"The expected doses that they are talking about are quite low and therefore the amount of radiation that is absorbed into marine life and then into humans when they eat fish would also be quite low.

"But that has to be full of caveats because the way that information has been presented is confusing and not transparent so ordinary people do not understand and cannot make informed decisions."

US and Europe clash over fate of Isil suspects in Syria as Turkey begins deportations

The US clashed with Europe on Thursday over the fate of Islamic State members detained in Syria, as Turkey drew up a list of a thousand suspects it planned to deport.

European countries are refusing the return of hundreds of fighters and thousands of their family members being held by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, told foreign ministers yesterday they needed to “hold them to account", in a meeting of the international coalition against Isil in DC.

"Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated," Mr Pompeo said.

Britain, which has taken one of the strongest stances against the return of its nationals, has deprived many of them of their citizenship.

Men, allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State group, sit on the floor in a prison in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh Credit: AFP

France, which has also so far refused to accept back citizens who fought with Isil, suggested to the coalition that foreign suspects should be sent to Iraq for trial.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Foreign Minister, who is in discussions with Iraq about trying foreign nationals, said his government was seeking the "certain and lasting detention" of fighters.

Seven French nationals have already been tried in a terrorism court in Baghdad, where they were given death sentences.

"For our part, we will continue to say that they should be tried as close as possible to the crimes they committed," he told reporters.

Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, acknowledged that "there is, candidly, a difference of opinion about the best way to resolve this problem."

British Isil member Shamima Begum stands is being held by the SDF in a detention camp in Syria Credit: Sam Tarling for The Telegraph

"The United States thinks that it’s inappropriate to ask Iraq in particular to shoulder the additional burden of foreign fighters, particularly from Europe," Mr Sales told reporters after the one-day meeting.

"We think there should be a sense of urgency to repatriate now while we still can," he said.

The SDF is currently holding around eight British men, 25 British woman and 60 of their children. Turkey is thought to be detaining a handful, including “Beatle” Aine Davies, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in 2017.

Ankara began a series of deportations of 959 Isil suspects, including more than 30 from Europe.

One Briton was slated for deportation, which is believed to be the 26-year-old man arrested yesterday on suspicion of preparation of terrorism offences after arriving at Heathrow airport on a flight from Turkey. 

It is understood he was caught by Turkish authorities trying to cross into Syria to join Isil earlier this year, by which time was besieged and battling for its existence some several hundred miles away.

A German family of seven was also deported to Berlin. They had been captured before crossing and held in a detention centre in the port city of Izmir since March.

Ankara has been signalling for weeks that it intends to send back foreign Isil members to Europe, even if European governments refused to take them back.

“We are not a hotel for Isil members from any country,” said Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s interior minister.

Mr Soylu has been critical of the UK for stripping British Isil members of their citizenship in order to prevent them from returning home.

“When there is a Daesh member, they cancel his or her citizenship, making the person stateless. Then, they take no responsibility,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. “That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible.”