Novak Djokovic admits meeting journalist when he had Covid, submitting a false declaration to Australian govt

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic on Wednesday admitted meeting a journalist when he knew he had Covid-19, describing it as an “error of judgment”.

Djokovic also conceded he submitted a false declaration to the Australian government about his travel history between flying to Melbourne, though he blamed it on his agent.

The comments were in a statement posted to Instagram aimed at addressing the controversies surrounding his efforts to play at the Australian Open while being unvaccinated.

Despite the admissions, Djokovic insisted other reports about him appearing in public following his positive test for Covid-19 as “misinformation.

He said the reports of his public appearances after his claimed infection were “very hurtful” to his family.

The 34-year-old world number one entered Australia last week with a vaccine exemption due to a positive test for Covid-19 on December 16.

The following day, however, he appeared without a mask at the launch of a Serbian stamp bearing his image and at an event in Belgrade for young tennis players.

Djokovic said he only received the positive results of the PCR test for Covid-19 infection on December 17, after the youth tennis event.

He made no mention of the stamp ceremony.

The player said he had a negative rapid antigen test on December 16 and then had the PCR test out of an “abundance of caution”.

The following day, he took a second rapid antigen test, which was also negative, before going to the children’s tennis event.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test until after that event,” he said.

But Djokovic admitted that he also went ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French sports newspaper L’Equipe on December 18.

“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said.

“On reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”

Australian media have also focused heavily on the accuracy of Djokovic’s travel declaration, reportedly filled out before he flew in from Spain.

A copy of his declaration showed a tick in the box to confirm he had not and would not travel in the 14 days before landing in Australia on January 5.

But the player had reportedly been in Serbia before Spain.

“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf,” Djokovic said on Instagram.

“My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.“


European Parliament president Sassoli dies at age 65

BRUSSELS: David Sassoli, an Italian journalist who worked his way up in politics while defending the downtrodden and repressed to become president of the European Unions parliament, died at a hospital in Italy early on Tuesday. He was 65.

European Council President Charles Michel called Sassoli a sincere and passionate European. We already miss his human warmth, his generosity, his friendliness and his smile.

Sassoli, a socialist, had been hospitalized since Dec 26 because of abnormal functioning of his immune system, Cuillo said in a statement released the day before Sassoli’s death.

Sassoli had been struggling for months with poor health after he suffered pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria in September. His health steadily declined afterward and he was forced to miss several important legislative meetings. Yet, as much as possible, he stayed on the job, where his vigor and easy smile had always been a trademark. He was at his strongest when he took up the cause of migrants who died crossing the Mediterranean or dissidents such as Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is taking on the Kremlin from a jail cell.

Everyone loved his smile and his kindness, yet he knew how to fight for what he believed in, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, reminiscing how a much younger Sassoli had traveled to Germany to see the infamous Berlin Wall come down well over three decades ago.

European unity was his benchmark, just as much as justice among all Europeans was.

Our Union has lost at the same time an Italian patriot, a great European and a tireless humanist, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Over the past few months, he improved enough to preside over a European Parliament session in December to give the EUs main human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, to Navalny’s daughter. High in symbolism, it showed him at his best. A few weeks later, his wishes for the new year became his political testament as an optimist with great expectations.

We can be that hope when we don’t ignore those in need. When we don’t build walls on our borders. When we fight all forms of injustice. Here’s to us, here’s to hope, he said in the address.

He is survived by his wife, Alessandra Vittorini, and his children, Livia and Giulio. Flags flew half-staff and the European Parliament opened a condolences register. The European Commission will hold a minute of silence when it meets on Wednesday.

Pope Francis, who received Sassoli in audience last year, sent an unusually heartfelt telegram of condolences to Sassoli’s wife, paying tribute to him as an animated believer of hope and charity … who, in a peaceful and respectful way, worked for the common good with a generous commitment.

A lifelong fan of Fiorentina football club, he emulated the refined style of the team where Gabriel Batistuta and Roberto Baggio thrived.

Taliban FM meets Ahmad Massoud’s son, Ismail Khan in Iran

KABUL: The Taliban’s foreign minister said on Monday he held talks in Iran on the weekend with Ahmad Massoud, son of the late legendary Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, and guaranteed his security if he returned home.

Massoud’s Panjshir Valley forces provided the last resistance in September to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, weeks after government troops capitulated.

In a video posted by state media on Twitter, Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said he also met Ismail Khan, a Herat province warlord who surrendered to the Taliban and left the country.

The Taliban had announced Muttaqi’s departure to Tehran for talks with Iranian officials but made no mention of any plans to meet exiled leaders.

“We met commander Ismail Khan and Ahmad Massoud, and other Afghans in Iran, and assured them that anyone can come to Afghanistan and live without any concerns,” Muttaqi said in the video.

“It’s home to all, and we do not create insecurity or other problems for anyone. Everyone can come freely and live.”

The Panjshir Valley is famed for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s, during their first stint in power.

Its most revered figure is Ahmad Shah Massoud, known as the “Lion of Panjshir”, who was assassinated in 2001 by Al Qaeda two days before the 9/11 attacks.

His son has since picked up the mantle, and there have been reports of him organising a resistance with other exiled Afghan leaders.

The Massoud-led National Resistance Front has repeatedly denounced the Taliban — calling it an “illegitimate government” — but does not appear to have made any physical attacks.

Islamabad High Court orders capital authority to seal Monal Restaurant today

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered Islamabad Capital Territory Chief Commissioner Amer Ali Ahmed to seal off Monal Restaurant today.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the order while hearing a case related to encroachments in Margalla Hills National Park.

“This court will protect the wider public interest,” the judge said.

The climate change secretary, who was present during the hearing, called for Islamabad’s master plan to be made public.

Justice Minallah said all rules applied to the three wings of the armed forces and asked whether they were being implemented. He questioned whether the Pakistan Air Force had gotten approval from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for the constructions it had carried out.

“It is possible that they might have some security concerns,” he remarked.

The judge said the concerns of the defense secretary should also be heard and the law should be strictly implemented. “Seal Monal if its lease has ended,” Justice Minallah added.

Following the judge’s directives, CDA officials went to the restaurant to seal it.

The Environment Protection Agency was directed to submit a report on the damages caused by construction on the national park.

The IHC also ordered the CDA to take over the Margalla Greens Golf Club today.

“The defense secretary should inquire about the encroachments of the navy golf course [and] take action against those responsible,” Justice Minallah said.

The court also declared illegal the Military Farms directorate’s claim over 8,000 acres of land, ordering that they should be considered part of the national park.

On November 9, the IHC had blamed several authorities for being complacent about the destruction of Margalla Hills National Park and the wildlife sanctuary. The court had also ordered a survey to be carried out on the damage and a report to be submitted.

Earlier that same month, the court had also asked the attorney general for Pakistan to explain if Messers Remount, the veterinary and farms directorate of the General Headquarters (GHQ), could legally own or manage state land within the protected area of the national park.

Pakistan urges world to help end India’s blatant oppression in Kashmir

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan urged the international community on Thursday to persuade India to immediately end its blatant oppression of the Kashmiri people, reverse all unilateral and illegal measures instituted since August 5, 2019, and halt the genocidal settler project in the occupied territory.

In a message on the Right to Self-Determination Day, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram also urged international human rights and humanitarian organizations to “take cognizance of India’s crimes in Kashmir.”

On Jan 5, 1949, the United Nations Commission for India & Pakistan (UNCIP) adopted a historic resolution calling for a free and impartial plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of the United Nations. The resolution is an emblem of the UN’s commitment to the longstanding struggle of the Kashmiri people to realize their right to self-determination.

Pakistanis and Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world observe Jan 5 as the Right to Self-Determination Day to remind the United Nations of the need to implement its own resolutions on this dispute.

“The United Nations, especially the Security Council, has an abiding responsibility to deliver on the promise it made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir 73 years ago,” Ambassador Akram said in his statement issued in New York.

“At the same time, the international community must ensure that massive human rights violations and crimes committed by India do not go unpunished. The perpetrators must be held accountable,” he added.

Ambassador Akram pointed out that India’s extremist Hindutva regime had deployed almost 900,000 troops in the occupied Kashmir who were “responsible for unleashing a brutal reign of terror through curfews and communications blackouts; incarceration of Kashmiri political leaders and illegal detention of thousands of Kashmiri youth.”

The occupation troops, he said, had also committed extra-judicial killings; violent suppression of peaceful Kashmiri protests, including by using pellet guns that have blinded even young children; and the demolition of entire neighborhoods and villages as a form of collective punishment.

Ambassador Akram alerted UN member states of their duty to stop India’s Hindutva leaders from implementing the so-called ‘final solution’ in Kashmir. Under this policy, India was trying to “permanently alter the demography of the internationally recognized disputed State,” he added.

Since August 5, 2019, India has issued millions of fake domiciles with the aim of eventually transforming the Muslim majority State into a Hindu majority territory. These actions constitute a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law including the Genocide Convention.