Pakistani town grapples with grim history of child abuse abduction

UNTV News   •   September 24, 2019   •   225

Grief, fear and anger have enveloped the town of Chunian in Pakistan’s eastern, Punjab province after the bodies of three missing children were found in a district which has seen numerous cases of child abuse and abductions in recent years.

Police said on Monday (September 23) they had made twenty arrests as they investigated the suspected murders and sexual assault of the boys.

The body of Muhammad Faizan had been found the previous week, a day after he went missing.

Faizan, 8, had failed to return home with his brother when the two went to nearby shops to buy snacks.

His body and the remains of two more boys were later found on a deserted section of an industrial estate.

“The animal brutalized my child. I cannot bear this. I want justice,” Faizan’s mother, Amtal Salam. The family home overlooks the grave of her young son.

Local media reported three other children from the area have been missing since the middle of the year and another child had disappeared late last week after the bodies were found.

Videos of hundreds of local children being sexually assaulted were caught circulating in 2015, which a senior child protection official at the time called the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history.

Last year, the body of a 7-year-old girl was found in a garbage dumpster, which police said was the twelfth incident of a girl being abducted, raped and killed in the district in a year, and sparked violent protests. A man was convicted of the murder and was executed.

Hundreds more protested last week, blocking off streets and damaging shops.

Families in the area are fearful of the welfare and safety of their children.

“Now the children are afraid to go to the mosques, they are afraid to go to school. Announcements have been made that parents should escort their children to school,” said Shehnaz Bibi, a housewife from a neighboring village.

Police are continuing to investigate the suspected murders and disappearances and are also looking into the possibility of a serial killer. (REUTERS)

(Production: Naeem Abbas, Salahuddin, Sheree Sardar, Masako Iijima)

Former ‘Sopranos’ actress tells jury Weinstein raped her nearly 30 years ago

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

Actress Annabella Sciorra (C) arrives to testify as a witness in the sexual assault trial of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein at New York State Supreme Court in New York, New York, USA, 23 January 2020. The trial, which is expected to last for about eight weeks, is based on sexual assault and rape allegations of two separate women. To the right of Sciorra is Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the prosecutor in the case. EPA-EFE/JUSTIN LANE

New York – In dramatic testimony Thursday in Harvey Weinstein’s sex-crimes trial in New York, American actress Annabella Sciorra told the jury that the disgraced Hollywood producer pushed his way into her apartment and raped her nearly 30 years ago.

“He got on top of me and he raped me,” the 59-year-old Sciorra testified in New York’s State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Although her specific allegations are too old to be prosecuted, Sciorra was called to testify as part of prosecutors’ attempt to show a pattern of predatory behavior on the part of the defendant.

Sciorra, who is best known for her role in the acclaimed crime drama television series “The Sopranos,” said that the incident occurred in late 1993 or early 1994 after she, Weinstein and several other people had dined at a restaurant in New York City.

After the dinner, Weinstein offered to drive her back to her apartment in Manhattan’s upscale Gramercy neighborhood and she accepted.

She testified that their conversation in the car was not sexual in nature and that after he dropped her off she went up to her apartment.

Her voice cracking on the witness stand, Sciorra said that while she was getting ready for bed she heard someone knocking.

She said Weinstein was standing at the entrance when she opened the door and immediately pushed his way inside and then started walking around to “see if there was somebody else there.”

Sciorra said she realized his intentions when he started unbuttoning his shirt and tried to flee to the bathroom but that it was too late.

Weinstein grabbed the front of her nightgown, she testified, and “led me into the bedroom, which was the next room over to the bathroom, and he shoved me on the bed.”

The actress, who said she stands just 5-foot-2 (1.57 meters) and weighed 110 pounds (50 kilos) at the time, testified that Weinstein grabbed her hands and held them firmly over her head.

“He put his penis inside my vagina and he had intercourse with me as I tried to fight,” she testified. “But I couldn’t fight anymore because he had my hands blocked.”

Weinstein ejaculated on her leg before forcibly performing oral sex on her, she testified.

Sciorra admitted to jurors that she never reported the incident to police and “wanted to pretend it never happened.”

“I was confused. I wished I had never opened the door,” she said.

In cross-examination, Weinstein defense attorney Donna Rotunno sought to plant seeds of doubt about Sciorra’s testimony by trying to get the actress to state that as an actress part of her job is to “pretend to be someone you aren’t.”

The witness would not agree to that characterization but did concede that her efforts to portray a particular character must be convincing to audiences.

Sciorra’s testimony marked the first time that one of Weinstein’s dozens of accusers have taken the stand against him in court.

Five more women are due to testify in Weinstein’s New York trial.

The 67-year-old Weinstein faces two counts of rape, one count of criminal sexual act and two counts of predatory sexual assault based on the testimony of just two of those accusers.

Prosecutors, however, are using the testimony of Sciorra and three other women to bolster their case that Weinstein exhibited a pattern of predatory behavior.

If convicted of predatory sexual assault, Weinstein could be sentenced to life in prison.

Separately, Weinstein was charged earlier this month in Los Angeles with rape and sexual assault based on the allegations of two women.

Weinstein, the producer of Hollywood blockbusters such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has plead not guilty to the charges in the New York trial and denies all accusations of non-consensual sex.

Investigations carried out by The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine in 2017 uncovered sex-crime allegations against Weinstein stretching back decades and led to the rise of the #MeToo movement, which encourages sexual assault victims to come forward. EFE-EPA


Girl survives 18 hours under collapsed house, snow in Pakistan

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2020

By Jaime Leon

Islamabad – A 12-year-old girl has survived 18 hours buried under rubble and snow in Pakistan after a neighbor’s house where she took refuge with her family was buried by an avalanche.

Two of the girl’s brothers died in the incident.

So far 104 people have been killed by the adverse weather conditions affecting the Asian country.

The girl’s mother, Shehnaz Bibi, told Efe on Thursday that she took refuge with her husband and four children in a neighbor’s house along with four other families on Monday afternoon as snowfall blanketed the town of Bakwali in Neelum Valley.

Bibi said there was no noise before the avalanche struck the house, burying all those inside.

The woman was rescued three hours later and told her four children were presumed dead.

But an hour later Aqib, 3, was rescued alive.

Her daughter Samina, 12, was discovered alive on Tuesday morning, 18 hours after the house was buried by the snow. She had a broken leg.

“It is a miracle that she is alive,” said Bibi. “She was awake the whole night and didn’t eat anything.

“She had been calling for help the whole night.”

The girl survived in a hole amid the wooden remains of the collapsed five-story house.

After being rescued, Samina was transferred to a hospital in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

“She has a fracture in her femur but she is stable now,” the deputy medical superintendent of the Combined Military Hospital, Nauman Manzoor, said.

The bodies of Bibi’s other two children were found later.

Her house, which the family fled believing it would collapse, survived the avalanche and is still standing.

“We regret why we chose to go to another house,” she said. “I’ve lost my two children just because of a wrong decision.”

Eighteen people were killed and 12 survived the avalanche.

In Kashmir, 77 people have been reported dead while 56 have been injured in a series of avalanches that buried valleys and villages on Monday, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.

Elsewhere, 20 people died in Balochistan province on Monday, while 23 others were injured in the snowstorms, which brought down houses and blocked roads.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the death toll stood at seven, while five have died in Gilgit Baltistan.

The number of fatalities resulting from the bad weather reached 104, while 96 have been injured and 236 houses have been destroyed in one of Pakistan’s harshest winters in recent memory.

Rescue operations were ongoing in the affected areas, with food and tents being distributed by army helicopters and soldiers working to reopen roads blocked by snow and debris.

Pakistan witnesses significant human loss and material damage every year during the monsoon season, but not usually during the winter months. EFE-EPA


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At least 50 dead, 20 missing amid avalanches in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

UNTV News   •   January 14, 2020

A boy removes snow from his house’s yard in Neelum valley, Pakistani-administered Kashmir, 14 January 2020. EFE-EPA/AMIRUDDIN MUGHAL

Islamabad – At least 50 people were killed and 20 others remain missing after a series of avalanches hit several villages in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, officials said Tuesday.

In other parts of the country, 18 more have been killed due to heavy snowfall this winter season.

According to Saeed-Ur-Rehman Qureshi, the director of operations at the State Disaster Management Authority in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a series of avalanches hit various villages in the Neelum Valley on Monday afternoon after several days of snowfall.

“So far, 50 people have been killed,” he told EFE, adding that the authorities feared that 20 others were missing amid the snow.

Local authorities have launched a rescue operation involving the country’s military to search for the missing people, Qureshi said.

In recent days, at least three more people have died in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir because of heavy rains and snowfall.

In the southwestern province of Balochistan, at least 15 people have been killed and 11 others injured in the last three days by heavy rains and snowfall that has shattered roofs, knocked down walls and cut off roads, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.

On Monday, the provincial government declared state of emergency to deal with the situation.

The country’s meteorological department forecast continuous rain and snowfall over the next few days.

Every year, rainfall leads to significant human and property damage in South Asian countries, especially during the monsoon period between June and September.

One of the worst natural disasters in Pakistan’s history was the flooding in 2010 following an extraordinarily intense monsoon, which, combined with a massive summer thaw, left some 2,000 people dead and more than 20 million affected. EFE-EPA



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