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Hungary’s president, Katalin Novak resigns over pardon of man convicted in child sexual abuse case

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Katalin Novak has resigned as the president of Hungary following mounting public criticism over her decision to pardon a man implicated in an underage sexual abuse case.

Last week, Hungarian local media reported that Novak had given clemency to Endre Kónya, deputy director of a state-run orphanage, who was jailed for forcing children to retract sexual abuse claims against the director.

The director was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing underaged boys between 2004 and 2016 while the deputy director received a three-year sentence.

Although the clemency was granted to the deputy director in April 2023, it only came to light recently.

The disclosure caused public uproar and demands from the opposition for Novak to quit.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Budapest, the country’s capital, on Friday, to demand the president’s resignation.

Cutting short an official visit to Qatar on Saturday, Novak announced her resignation on state television.

“I decided to grant a pardon last April, believing that the convict did not exploit the vulnerability of the children whom he had overseen,” Novak said.

“I made a mistake, as the pardon and the lack of reasoning were conducive to triggering doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia.”

She apologised “to those whom I may have offended and to all the victims who might have felt that I did not stand up for them,” adding that she had always “consistently advocated for the protection of children and families”.

“Today is the last day that I address you as a president,” Novak said.

In 2022, Novak made history by becoming the first woman to lead Hungary.

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Brian Mulroney, former Canadian PM, dies at 84

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Brian Mulroney, the former Canadian prime minister, is dead. He was 84.

Mulroney’s death was announced by Caroline, his daughter, on her X account on Thursday.

She said the 18th Canadian prime minister died “peacefully, surrounded by family”.

“On behalf of my mother and our family, it is with great sadness we announce the passing of my father, The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Canada’s 18th Prime Minister,” the post reads.

Justin Trudeau, the incumbent prime minister, described Mulroney as “generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate”.

He also praised Mulroney’s role in “building the modern, dynamic, and prosperous country we all know today”.

“Brian Mulroney loved Canada. I’m devastated to learn of his passing. He never stopped working for Canadians, and he always sought to make this country an even better place to call home,” Trudeau wrote.

“I’ll never forget the insights he shared with me over the years – he was generous, tireless, and incredibly passionate. As we mourn his passing and keep his family and friends in our thoughts, let us also acknowledge – and celebrate – Mr. Mulroney’s role in building the modern, dynamic, and prosperous country we all know today.”

Mulroney was the prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993. He won an overwhelming election victory with his Progressive Conservative Party in 1984.

One of his achievements was the negotiation of the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the US and Canada, which came into force in 1994.

He also strengthened relations with the US and campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.

However, he fell out of favour during his second term in office because of the ongoing recession, high unemployment, the introduction of new taxes and the failure of a constitutional reform.

The reform was aimed at integrating the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec more closely into the federation with more rights.

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US Air Force officer sets himself ablaze outside Israeli embassy in Washington

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A member of the United States’ air force set himself on fire on Sunday afternoon outside the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Ann Stefanek, US air force spokesperson, confirmed the man was an active-duty member but did not disclose his identity.

The man who filmed himself and live-streamed on Twitch, the social media platform, said his actions were in protest of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.

In the video, the man could be heard saying “I will no longer be complicit in genocide”, while standing before the embassy gates.

“I am about to engage in an extreme act of protest,” he added, before setting his phone down to film dousing himself in a clear liquid from a metal bottle.

He then lit himself on fire while yelling “Free Palestine!” until he fell to the ground.

The video was later taken down from the social media platform and replaced with a message stating that the channel violated Twitch’s guidelines.

Vito Maggiolo, the city’s fire department spokesperson, said the airman survived the incident after officers with the US secret service extinguished the fire.

Maggiolo said he was taken to a nearby hospital with life-threatening injuries and remains in critical condition.

Tal Naim, spokesperson of the Israeli embassy, said no staff members were injured and all were accounted for.

In December, a person self-immolated outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta and used gasoline as an accelerant, according to Atlanta’s fire authorities.

A Palestinian flag was found at the scene, and police said the act was believed to be one of “extreme political protest”.

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ECOWAS lifts sanctions against Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted some sanctions imposed on Niger Republic, Mali and Burkina Faso — member nations that are ruled by the military.

The decision to lift the sanctions was reached at the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS held in Abuja on Saturday.

The regional bloc also lifted sanctions on the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

The military junta in Mali took over power in August 2020 while soldiers in Burkina Faso overthrew the democratic government in September 2022.

Also, soldiers in the Niger Republic in July 2023 sacked the democratic government in the country, forcing the authority of ECOWAS to impose sanctions on the three countries.

Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission, read the resolution taken at the summit.

He said while the political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain, the regional bloc lifted some financial and economic sanctions on Guinea-Bissau and Mali.

Touray said the decision is based on humanitarian considerations especially because of the month of Lent and the approaching Ramadan.

“Now, let me make it very clear what I have listed is not exhaustive. Political sanctions have not been lifted. Border closures have been lifted. And commercial sanctions have been lifted. But there are targeted sanctions as well as political sanctions. That remain in force,” he said.

“I think our sanctions regime should be assessed correctly. The list I have given relates mainly to Niger because all the other countries still have political sanctions on them.

“So the border closures, the commercial sanctions and all that are on leisure and that is what the leaders have decided to lift. But individual sanctions as well as political sanctions remain in place in Niger.

“Now for other countries, political sanctions remain. That is the limited ability to attend ECOWAS Summit as well as ministerial sessions.”

Earlier, President Bola Tinubu who is the chairman of ECOWAS asked for the lifting of sanctions on the three member states.

In a statement, Ajuri Ngelale, presidential spokesperson, said Tinubu also said the decision to lift the sanctions was based on humanitarian considerations.

“Everything we did was in hopes of persuading our brothers that there existed a better path, a path that would lead to genuine improvement of their people’s welfare through democratic good governance. And this was a path each of our nations had solemnly agreed with one another pursuant to formal regional treaty and protocol,” the statement quoted Tinubu as saying.

“However, the sanctions that we contemplated might help lead our brothers to the negotiating table have become a harsh stumbling block. In my mind and heart, that which is hurtful yet ineffective serves no good purpose and should be abandoned.

“ECOWAS was established for the unassailable objective of improving the lives of the people of this region through fraternal cooperation among all member states. This edifice was cemented on the strong foundation and apt conviction that, united as one, we can be the true masters of our destiny.”

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