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Criminals in Syria to have sentences cut under Assad amnesty | World News

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Criminals in Syria, including those convicted of some of the most serious offences, will have their sentences cut as part of an amnesty by President Bashar al Assad.

Those who were given the death penalty will now have a life sentence of hard labour, while life terms will be cut to 20 years in jail.

In Syria, the death penalty can be for crimes including treason, espionage, murder, arson resulting in death, desertion of the armed forces to the enemy, violent robbery and terrorism.









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For civilians, the method of execution is hanging, while military personnel are shot.

Also under the amnesty, draft dodgers inside the country will be pardoned if they report for duty within three months, while those abroad will have six months to enlist.

Aid agencies say the fear of conscription and punishments for avoiding it are among the reasons refugees give for not returning home.

The Assad decree relates to crimes committed before 14 September, and prisoners with incurable diseases including cancer will be freed.

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But there are exceptions to the amnesty.

They include Syrians who took up arms to fight the regime, and those who colluded with foreign nations against Syria or joined insurgents that Damascus sees as terrorists.

Other exceptions include drug crimes and arms smuggling.



72nd Cannes Film Festival - Photocall for the film "For Sama" presented as part of a special screening - Cannes, France, May 16, 2019.  Director Waad Al-Kateab poses during a photocall for the documentary film "For Sama" presented as part of special screenings. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe







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In a 2018 report, Amnesty International said the death penalty remained in force for many offences, but authorities disclosed little information about death sentences passed and no information on executions.

Since Syria’s uprising began in March 2011, sparking a civil war, similar amnesties have been issued on several occasions – most recently last year.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran will meet in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday to discuss the situation in Idlib province which has been under attack from government forces since 30 April.

A truce has been holding despite some violations since the end of August.

Russia and Iran are strong backers of Mr Assad and have helped his forces reclaim control of most of the country from different rebel factions and jihadists.

Turkey supports the Syrian opposition.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced half the population.

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Virgin Galactic working on 2,300mph supersonic jet that could reach Sydney in five hours | Science & Tech News

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Virgin Galactic has revealed designs for a supersonic passenger plane capable of flying three times the speed of sound.

With a top speed of around 2,300mph (3,700kmh), it could fly from London to Sydney in just five hours – or to New York in less than two.

Virgin has teamed up with engine-maker Rolls-Royce to work on the concept, which is still in the early stages.

The delta-wing jet would cruise at above 60,000ft (18,300m), far higher than current passenger planes, but would only have room for nine to 19 passengers.

The delta wing design is similar to the iconic shape of Concorde. Pic: Virgin Galactic
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The delta wing design is similar to the iconic shape of Concorde. Pic: Virgin Galactic

The project is separate from Virgin’s bid to send customers to the edge of space to experience weightlessness – which has already completed a number of test flights using the SpaceshipTwo craft.

Supersonic passenger flights stopped when Concorde retired in October 2003 and no one has so far plugged the gap for ultra-fast air travel.

Virgin said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls-Royce “to collaborate in designing and developing engine propulsion technology for high speed commercial aircraft” and has also worked with NASA on the concept.

Virgin's SpaceshipTwo is hoping to soon take passengers to the edge of space. Pic: Virgin Galactic
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Virgin’s SpaceshipTwo is hoping to soon take passengers to the edge of space. Pic: Virgin Galactic

The company said the Mach-3 jet would target existing long-distance commercial routes, taking off and landing normally at existing airports.

The next phase will look at things such as which materials to use, how to reduce noise and emissions, and how to keep the jet cool as it flies supersonically.

US aviation regulator the FAA has also agreed to help work on a certification framework for the plane.

Other companies are also targeting a new age of super-fast air travel.

They include aerospace giant Lockheed-Martin, and US start-up Boom Supersonic – which is set to reveal a scaled-down prototype this winter followed by test flights in 2021.

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North Korea has ‘probably’ developed mini nuclear devices to fit missile warheads, says UN report | World News

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North Korea has “probably developed miniaturised nuclear devices to fit
into the warheads of its ballistic missile”, according to a confidential UN report.

It says several unidentified countries believe North Korea’s past six nuclear tests have likely helped it to develop such a capability.

An interim version of the report – by an independent panel monitoring United Nations sanctions – was submitted to the UN Security Council on Monday and has been seen by the Reuters news agency.

It also accuses North Korea of continuing its nuclear ambitions, despite it not carrying out a nuclear test for nearly three years.

The report states: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear program, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor.

“A Member State assessed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons.”

One country – not identified – believes North Korea “may seek to further develop miniaturisation in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements… or, potentially, to develop multiple warhead systems”.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. - Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have become on June 12 the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet, shake hands and negotiate to end a decades-old nuclear stand-off
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Three meetings between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have failed to yield a deal acceptable to both leaders

The secretive communist state has been subject to UN sanctions for many years over its ballistic and nuclear missile programmes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met Donald Trump three times since 2018 in the hope that sanctions could be eased if it denuclearises, but a deal has proved elusive.

A summit in Vietnam in 2019 was cut short, with Mr Trump saying it was because his counterpart wanted all sanctions lifted – a claim denied by North Korea.

The UN report also casts doubt on the effectiveness of the destruction of tunnels at North Korea’s main nuclear site, Punggye-ri, in May 2018.

International experts were not allowed in, and the report says only tunnel entrances are known to have been destroyed rather than a complete demolition.

One country is said to have assessed that it would take only three months for North Korea to get the site capable of conducting a nuclear test again.

With North Korea’s economy still punished by sanctions, the report says it continues to break the rules and generate money through “illicit maritime exports of coal”, as well as widespread hacking.

It is estimated to have stolen $2bn (£1.7bn) through cyber attacks targeting banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

“The Panel continues to assess that virtual asset service providers and virtual assets will continue to remain lucrative targets for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to generate revenue, as well as mining cryptocurrencies,” it said.

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Genoa replacement bridge inaugurated despite boycott by victims’ families | World News

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Two years after a bridge collapse killed 43 people in Italy, a replacement bridge has been inaugurated – but families of the victims boycotted the event.

A stretch of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa collapsed on 14 August 2018 during a torrential rainstorm, sending cars and trucks crashing into the dry riverbed below.

The new structure was put up following round-the-clock construction, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bridge collapsed on 14 August 2018
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Part of the old bridge collapsed on 14 August 2018
This photo of a lone truck near the precipice appeared in news reports around the world
Image:
This photo of a lone truck near the precipice appeared in news reports around the world

Monday’s ceremony for the new San Giorgio Bridge started with the reading out of the names of the dead.

“We are suspended between grief” over the tragedy and “pride for the construction of the new bridge”, its renowned architect, Renzo Piano, said in a speech at the ceremony.

The victims’ families agreed to meet Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella privately, but announced they were skipping the actual ceremony.

The families are unhappy that the company which maintained the old bridge will be running the new structure for a while, despite poor maintenance being investigated as a possible cause of the collapse.

More from Genoa Bridge Collapse

Firefighters who worked to extract survivors and bodies from tonnes of twisted metal also boycotted the ceremony in solidarity with the families, according to Sky TG24.

Egle Possetti, who leads an association of the bridge victims’ families, said: “No one can give us back our dead”.

Ms Possetti, who lost a sister and other family members in the tragedy, said she hoped the attention would stay focused on the ongoing criminal investigation into the collapse.

Italy's president Sergio Mattarella inaugurated the replacement bridge
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Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella inaugurated the replacement bridge
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The inauguration was marked by the Italian Air Force

Mayor Marco Bucci also dedicated a few words to those who lost loved ones in the collapse, saying: “Our message to them is very simple. This must never happen again.”

Nine Italian Air Force jets flew in formation over the bridge to mark the inauguration, trailing smoke in the red, white and green colours of the country’s flag.

New Genoa bridge underwent static testing operations ahead of its inauguration
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The new Genoa bridge underwent static testing operations ahead of its inauguration

Prosecutors are investigating what caused Morandi Bridge to collapse and if proper maintenance was carried out consistently.

Riccardo Morandi, the engineer who designed the bridge which was built in the 1960s, had recommended continual maintenance of the structure due to the corrosive effect of sea air in the port city and pollution.

Traffic will start crossing the new San Giorgio Bridge, named after St George, a saint popular in Genoa, on Wednesday.

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