Pakistani town grapples with grim history of child abuse abduction

UNTV News   •   September 24, 2019   •   500

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)

Vatican officials to visit Mexico to probe alleged sexual abuse cases involving clergies

UNTV News   •   March 4, 2020

Two Vatican officials charged with investigating accusations of sexual abuse by clergy will visit Mexico for a fact-finding mission later this month, the Church said on Tuesday (March 3).

Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu will meet with church leaders and alleged victims during their week-long visit to the world’s second largest Roman Catholic country, the Mexican bishops’ conference said.

Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, told a news conference in Mexico City that the Church had requested aid from the Vatican in order to help the youngest and most vulnerable in Mexico.

Scicluna and Bertomeu are part of a taskforce created last year by Pope Francis to assist in countries where the Church had no guidance for dealing with sexual abuse cases. The two led the Vatican’s 2018 investigation into sexual abuse in Chile, producing a 2,300-page report that sparked the resignation of several of the country’s top bishops.

Scicluna also conducted the Vatican’s investigation into Father Marcial Maciel, the late founder of Mexico’s Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order. Maciel was accused of sexually abusing at least 60 boys, some as young as 12.

Allegations of pedophilia have long plagued the Church in Mexico. Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez, President of the Mexican bishops conference, said 271 Mexican priests have been accused of sexual abuse to date.

The bishops’ conference said it does not have an estimate of the number of victims. Advocates say there are many more victims than those who have come forward with accusations. (Reuters Connect)

(Production: Carlos Carrillo, Paul Vieira)

Swarming locusts damage crops, cause losses to farmers in Pakistan

UNTV News   •   February 21, 2020

The desert locusts attacking Pakistan’s Punjab Province have caused heavy damage to crops, bringing economic losses to local farmers.

In a village of Punjab’s Okara district, a large area of farmland has been devastated by swarming locusts. Many young plants of potatoes have their leaves eaten, with only the stems left.

Ali Adna and his family members have been trying to drive locusts away by knocking on basins and making noise. Adna said he saw the measure from social media. It’s effective but exhausting so he and his family members take turns on duty to do the job.

“Every morning the locusts come at around 08:00 and start to gnaw the crops. They won’t stop until about 17:00. And what we can do is just knocking on the basin. We are thinking every day about any new method that can drive the locusts away,” he said.

The locust plague has disturbed agricultural activities for farmers in the district.

“We just sowed the wheat two days ago. After hearing about the approaching locusts, people had to dig out the wheat. The crops for feeding cows have also been destroyed. We are very anxious,” said Waris Ali, a farmer.

According to Pakistan’s Agriculture Department, the desert locusts arriving in Okara have been reduced to about 12 percent of the original amount after being tackled by previous areas. However, their capacity to causing damage should still get attention.

Local people in Okara said the area has seen more locusts this year than in the past. Though the people have been dealing with the locusts by using a pesticide, they hope to get stronger and more professional supports.

CCTV via Reuters Connect

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

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