Two Reuters journalists who were under detention in Myanmar for more than 500 days after their conviction of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon. Wa Lone (33) and Kyaw Soe Oo (29) were convicted in September last and sentenced to seven years in jail. The case raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates. As they emerged outside the gates of Yangon’s infamous Insein Prison, waving to the gathered crowd, they were mobbed like rock stars by fellow reporters who as professionals had covered their plight and as colleagues pushed for their release.
“I want to say that I am very happy today. I want to thank our friends and families who were trying for our freedom and also to those from all over the world who sympathized with us,” Wa Lone said. “I am really excited to see my family and colleagues. I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”
The U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier group to the Middle East ahead of schedule and warning that Iran and its proxy forces are showing “troubling and escalatory” indications of a possible attack on American forces in the region. Exactly what prompted the action was unclear, but it marked a further step in sharply rising tensions between the Trump administration and the Islamic Republic.
National security adviser John Bolton said the U.S. was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, intending to send a message that “unrelenting force” will meet any attack on American forces or allies. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said.
The EU and leading member states sharply criticised a decision in Turkey to re-run Istanbul's mayoral election, after a shock opposition win. An EU spokesperson called on Turkey's electoral body to explain the controversial decision "without delay". Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Mass called the re-run "incomprehensible". The move was also criticised by the French government.
The ruling AKP of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month lost the mayorship of Turkey's biggest city by a narrow margin to the candidate of the secularist CHP, but Mr Erdogan refused to accept defeat. The AKP claims that there were irregularities that invalidate the vote. This week’s decision to hold a new poll on 23 June sparked protests across Istanbul. Hundreds of people gathered in several districts, banging pots and pans and shouting anti-government slogans. CHP deputy chair Onursal Adiguzel said the re-run showed it was "illegal to win against the AK Party".
The leader of Hamas said his group is “not interested in a new war” with Israel, after two days of heavy rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on the blockaded territory. Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that was too late that the militant group is ready to “return to the state of calm” if Israel stops its attacks “and immediately starts implementing understandings about a dignified life.” Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from Western-backed Palestinian forces in 2007.
Gaza’s death toll over the weekend rose to 22, including three women and two infants. Israel carried out numerous retaliatory strikes against militants in the Gaza Strip in response to over 600 rockets fired at southern Israel the previous day. Four Israeli civilians were killed by the rocket, fire and dozens more have been wounded.