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Gay Saudi journalists detained in Australia after asylum bid

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Two gay Saudi journalists who sought asylum in Australia after being threatened at home over their relationship have been held for weeks at an immigration detention centre, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The couple arrived in Australia in mid-October on tourist visas but was singled out by airport customs officials — then taken into detention — when they admitted plans to seek asylum, lawyer Alison Battisson told AFP.

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“Australia being very well known for being… a safe place for LGBTI people, they were incredibly surprised and distressed,” she said.

One of the men — who worked for Saudi Arabia’s media ministry and regularly assisted visiting international news organisations — said they came under pressure from authorities after a dissident leaked sensitive documents to foreign media.

“I was called into a prison on the outskirts of Riyadh by the state security,” he told ABC, adding they “hinted that they realised I was in a relationship with my partner and that I should stop working with the foreign media”.

Battisson said the men had not leaked any documents, but were swept up in a wider crackdown by Saudi authorities in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder.

In August, one of the men received a phone call from a relative warning they knew of their gay relationship and if it it wasn’t ended his partner would be killed.

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Police followed that up with separate calls asking them to come in for questioning, which led to their decision to flee.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death.

Battisson says the two men have been separated in detention as one is receiving medical treatment, while the other is housed with convicted criminals awaiting deportation.

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She said poor conditions in the centre and the uncertainty surrounding their case have proved “psychologically very difficult”.

“Them speaking up is actually their right — there’s no reason we should remain silent about human rights abuses in Australia,” she said.

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The home affairs department, which oversees immigration matters, and the Australian Border Force did not respond to requests for comment.


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Tech titan chiefs to testify at US antitrust committee

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The US House Committee on the Judiciary on Monday announced that leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will testify during an antitrust investigation hearing.

The hearing, scheduled to take place July 27, comes against a backdrop of growing complaints about tech platforms that have dominated key economic sectors, and calls by some activists and politicians to break up the Silicon Valley giants

Chief executives Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sundar Pichai (Google) will be allowed to appear virtually if they wish, according to a joint statement released by Judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and Antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline.

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COVID-19

New Zealand restricts entry for Kiwis escaping coronavirus

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New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.

National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.

New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.

There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.

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COVID-19

‘Do your part’: WWII film ‘Greyhound’ teaches virus lesson, says Hanks

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Tom Hanks is "heartbroken" that his World War II thriller must skip the big screen due to the pandemic -- but hopes it can still teach audiences at home a thing or two about acting decently in a global crisis.

"Greyhound," out on Apple TV+ Friday, was written by and stars Hanks as a rookie captain escorting a convoy of Allied ships as they cross the freezing North Atlantic, hounded by Nazi U-boats.

The movie follows a destroyer's terrified young crew crossing the treacherous ocean beyond the range of air cover, bound together in life-and-death responsibility for protecting the fleet and each other.

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