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Thai police say they won’t deport Saudi woman seeking asylum

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BANGKOK (AP) — The head of Thailand’s immigration police said Monday that a young Saudi woman who was stopped in Bangkok as she was trying to travel to Australia for asylum to escape alleged abuse by her family will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun remained barricaded in an airport hotel room while sending out desperate pleas for help over social media. The 18-year-old began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived in the Thai capital on a flight from Kuwait. She has been appealing for aid from the United Nations refugee agency and anyone else who can help.

The refugee agency announced Monday evening that Thai authorities had allowed its officials to meet with Alqunun, but declined to give any details of their meeting, citing confidentiality.

Earlier in the day, Thailand’s immigration police chief, Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, said Alqunun’s father would arrive Monday night, and that officials would see if the young woman was willing to depart with him.

“As of now, she does not wish to go back and we will not force her. She won’t be sent anywhere tonight,” Surachate said at a news conference at the airport where Alqunun is stuck.

“She fled hardship. Thailand is a land of smiles,” he said. “We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law.”

On Twitter, Alqunun wrote of being in “real danger” if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, and has claimed in media interviews that she could be killed. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam and is fearful of her father’s retaliation.

Alqunun’s planned forced departure Monday morning was averted as she stayed in her hotel room, with furniture piled up against the door, photos she posted online showed.

Her plight mirrors that of other Saudi women who in recent years have turned to social media to amplify their calls for help while trying to flee abusive families. Alqunun’s Twitter account has attracted tens of thousands of followers in less than 48 hours and her story has grabbed the attention of foreign governments and the U.N. refugee agency.

Her pleas for asylum have also brought international attention to the obstacles women face in Saudi Arabia under male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of their age, have the consent of a male relative — usually a father or husband — to travel, obtain a passport or marry.

It also shows the limits of reforms being pushed by Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as he struggles to repair damage to his reputation after the grisly killing three months ago of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

Alqunun told Human Rights Watch that she was fleeing beatings and death threats from her male relatives who forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

A Thai court declined to issue an injunction against her being sent back to her parents in Kuwait, from where she began her journey. A family trip to Kuwait apparently allowed her to evade Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on travel.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thailand should give Alqunun back her passport and let her continue her journey to Australia.

“She has a valid Australian visa,” he said. “The key thing is she should not be sent back to Saudi Arabia, she should not be sent back into harm’s way.”

Immigration police chief Surachate contradicted parts of Alqunun’s story, including her claim that she had an Australian visa. However, he did not show her passport.

Some opposition figures in Australia urged that country’s government to support Alqunun’s efforts.

“I implore the government to do everything they can to help bring this young woman to Australia to give her the opportunity for freedom,” said Australian Sen. Sarah Hanson Young.

For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can be a matter of life and death, and they are almost always doing so to escape male relatives.

In 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom triggered a firestorm online when she was stopped en route to Australia, where she had planned to seek asylum. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.

Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn talks to media about the status Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun during a press conference at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn talks to media about the status Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun during a press conference at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Despite efforts by the Saudi government to curtail the scope of male guardianship laws, women who attempt to flee their families in Saudi Arabia have few good options inside the kingdom. They are often either pressured to reconcile with their families, are sent to shelters where their movement is restricted or face arrest for disobeying their legal guardian.

Alqunun has said she was tricked into giving up her passport upon arrival in Bangkok by a man she has variously identified as a Kuwait Airways employee or a Saudi Embassy official. She said Saudi and Thai officials then told her she would be returned to Kuwait on Monday, where her father and brother are awaiting her.

While the Saudi Embassy in Thailand denies Saudi authorities are involved in attempts to stop Alqunun from traveling to Australia, the kingdom has in the past forcibly returned citizens home.

Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires in Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, was quoted in Saudi media as saying that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not appear to have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist. He said the Saudi Embassy has no authority to stop anyone at the airport and that such a decision would rest with Thai officials.

“She was stopped by airport authorities because she violated Thai laws,” he was quoted as saying in Sabq, a state-aligned Saudi news website. “The embassy is only monitoring the situation.”

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Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press journalists Tassanee Vejpongsa and Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok and Sam McNeil in Sydney contributed to this report.

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Entertainment and Sports

Harden scores 48 points, Rockets beat Lakers 138-134 in OT

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Harden scores 48 points Rockets beat Lakers 138-134 in OT

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden was the star for the Houston Rockets as usual on Saturday night, but he and the team got a big boost from Eric Gordon in his second game back after recovering from a bruised knee.

Harden scored 48 points, Gordon added 30 and the Rockets overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 138-134 in overtime.

The Rockets trailed for most of the night and were down by 18 in the second-half. Gordon sent it to overtime with a 3-pointer, and made four free throws in the last seconds of the extra period.

“He’s playing unbelievable,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Gordon.

Coming off 57- and 58-point games, Harden had his 19th straight game with at least 30 and he’s had 40 in 10 of the last 13. He was 14 of 30 from the field, going 8 of 19 on 3-pointers, and hit 12 of 15 free throws.

Harden was asked if Gordon being back after missing eight games before his return on Wednesday night eased the burden on him a little bit.

“A little bit? It takes a lot of burden off me,” Harden said. “He’s so offensively gifted and talented being able to shoot the basketball, being able to get to the rim, being able to make plays for others. You get a guy like that on the floor with you it makes it easier for not only myself but for everybody.”

Brandon Ingram missed a 3 for Los Angeles before Harden hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 132-130 with less than a minute left. Ingram tied it with a basket, and Harden again made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 133-132.

Los Angeles missed a 3 before Gordon also made just 1 of 2 free throws to leave Houston up by two with 12.6 seconds left. Kyle Kuzma lost the ball and it went out of bounds to give Houston the ball back. Gordon added four free throws after that to secure the victory.

It was the second straight overtime game for both teams after Houston lost to Brooklyn on Wednesday night and Los Angeles beat Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

Kuzma had 32 points for Los Angeles and Ingram added 21 in a game where coach Luke Walton was ejected in the third quarter.

Already without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers have another injury concern after Lonzo Ball sprained his left ankle in the third quarter. Walton said his X-rays were negative but that he’d have an MRI and “we’ll see where we are after that.”

Four straight points by the Lakers stretched the lead to nine in the fourth quarter, but Harden and Gordon made consecutive 3-pointers cut it to 112-109 with about two minutes remaining.

Los Angeles made four free throws to make it 116-109 about a minute later, but Harden made two 3-pointers around a basket by Ivica Zubac to get Houston within three with about 30 seconds left.

Lance Stephenson missed a 3-pointer and Harden made two free throws to cut the lead to 118-117 with 5.7 seconds left.

Zubac made two more free throws before Gordon’s off-balance 3-pointer with 2 seconds left sent it to OT.

“I saw Kentavious Caldwell-Pope running out to me and I thought he was going to fly right by me, but he stood right there,” Gordon said. “So I had to try to shoot it with confidence and I’m glad it went in.”

The Lakers built a huge lead early and were up 64-46 at halftime, with Kuzma scoring 24 points.

They were ahead by 17 with about eight minutes left in the third quarter after scoring five straight points capped by a basket from Kuzma before Houston scored the next 15 points to cut it to 74-72 three minutes later. James Ennis had five points in that stretch and P.J. Tucker capped it with a 3-pointer.

Ball was injured just before Houston’s run began. He remained on the court for a couple of minutes talking with trainer’s before he was helped to his feet where he hopped on his right foot for a few steps before being carried off the court and to the locker room by Stephenson and Michael Beasley.

Walton was ejected a couple of minutes after that when he got two technical fouls after yelling at officials during a timeout.

Ingram pointed to losing Ball as when things started to get away from the Lakers.

“Right when Lonzo went out,” he said. “That’s exactly when it went away. We lost momentum a little bit.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: James was out for the 13th straight game with a strained left groin and did not make the trip. … Stephenson finished with 16 points.

Rockets: Harden also had eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. … Ennis returned after missing Wednesday’s game after cutting his left leg in a fall at his house. … Chris Paul missed his 14th game in a row with a strained left hamstring … Clint Capela had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

THEY SAID IT

D’Antoni on Houston’s comeback: “Words don’t do it. That was just our guys showing a lot of heart.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Host Golden State on Monday night.

Rockets: Visit Philadelphia on Monday night.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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Democrats

Pirro: Democrats putting politics over people

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Pirro Democrats putting politics over people

Following President Trump’s speech to America with his compromise offer to Democrats to secure the border and end the government shutdown, Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro was in rare form as she went after Democrats for instantly rejecting the proposal. Her biggest target was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

The President has requested funds in order to build a small portion of the border wall, render humanitarian assistance, improve drug detection technology, and hire 2,750 additional border patrol agents and 75 immigration judge teams. In exchange, he’s offering three years of extended protection for DACA recipients and those with Temporary Protected Status.

Here was her response:

My Take

There are many conservatives who are against the proposal. Under normal circumstances, I would be as well. But we’re approaching a full month of the government shutdown. Enough is enough.


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Entertainment and Sports

‘Unsolved Mysteries’ is coming back, only ‘Stranger’

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Unsolved Mysteries is coming back only Stranger

Robert Stack brought us over 500 Unsolved Mysteries episodes from 1987 to 2010 across three networks. Apparently, that’s not enough, and now the executive producer of Stranger Things wants a shot at rebooting the iconic television show for Netflix.

Netflix Reboots ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ With ‘Stranger Things’ Shawn Levy

https://deadline.com/2019/01/netflix-unsolved-mysteries-shawn-levy-1202537462/The series, which was hosted by Robert Stack and ran for over 500 episodes between 1987 and 2010, is being refreshed by Stranger Things EP Shawn Levy and his company 21 Laps Entertainment and Netflix.

The 12-part show will use re-enactments in a documentary format to profile real-life mysteries and unsolved crimes, lost love, cases involving missing persons and unexplained paranormal events. Each episode will focus on one mystery. In the original series, actors played the victims, criminals and witnesses but family members and police were regularly interviewed.

My Take

This is one of those shows that really doesn’t have a conclusion. It could conceivably go on indefinitely because there are always new and interesting mysteries to be solved. Since each one has its own spin and attachment to reality, there’s no need to worry about fatigue.

Some shows need to be buried forever. Others have a valid reason to keep going and get a reboot. Unsolved Mysteries falls in the latter category.


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