Sahar Tabar: Iranian Instagram star ‘arrested for blasphemy’

An Iranian Instagram star famed for posts which appeared to show she had gone to extreme lengths to look like US actress Angelina Jolie has been arrested, reports say. Sahar Tabar was arrested for crimes including blasphemy and instigating violence, Tasnim news agency reported. Tabar made international headlines last year when photos of her went viral. Though she was rumoured to have had 50 plastic surgeries, most of the pictures in her posts ha..

Iraq protests: UN calls for end to ‘senseless loss of life’

Media playback is unsupported on your device The United Nations has called for an end to the "senseless loss of life" in Iraq as the death toll from anti-government protests nears 100. Demonstrators say they are taking a stand against unemployment, poor public services and corruption in the country. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said: "Five days of deaths and injuries: this must stop." Those responsibl..

Saudi Arabia: Unmarried foreign couples can now rent hotel rooms

Unmarried foreign couples will now be allowed to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia as part of a new visa regime announced by the religiously conservative kingdom. Women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone. Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room. The government move comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to grow its tourism industry. What are the new changes?In the past, couples had to pro..

Iran court sentences ‘US spy’ to death

Iran's judiciary says it has convicted three people of spying for the US, sentencing one of them to death, and another person of spying for the UK. Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said two men, Ali Nafariyeh and Mohammadali Babapour, had received 10-year prison sentences for working for the CIA. Mohammad Amin Nasab was jailed for 10 years for aiding British intelligence. Mr Esmaili said he would not identify the person sentenced to death bec..

Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni jailed on abortion charges

A Moroccan journalist has been sentenced to a year in prison for premarital sex and having an abortion, in a case activists say is part of a crackdown on critical reporters. Hajar Raissouni was arrested with her fiancé as they left a gynaecologist's clinic in the capital Rabat in August. The 28-year-old denied the charges, saying she had sought treatment for internal bleeding. Ms Raissouni works for an independent newspaper critical of the a..

Yemen war: Houthi rebels release hundreds of detainees

Media playback is unsupported on your device Yemen's Houthi rebels have unilaterally released 290 detainees as part of a UN peace initiative, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Those freed include 42 survivors of an air strike on a prison this month that killed more than 100 people. The attack was carried out by a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government in the country's civil war. The UN special envoy for Yeme..

Saudi Arabia says military response to Iran is possible

Media playback is unsupported on your device Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs has said all options, including a military response, are open after attacks on two oil facilities, which it has blamed on Iran. While Saudi Arabia wanted to avoid war and escalation, Iran would be held accountable for the drone and missile strikes, Adel al-Jubeir told the BBC. A US assessment claiming Iran was behind the attacks was backed up ..

Beirut Pride: Organisers say clerics forced cancellation of opening concert

The opening concert of Beirut Pride has been cancelled because of pressure from religious institutions and threats of violence, organisers say. Clerics had complained to the Lebanese authorities, linking the festival to "the promotion of same-sex marriage and associating it with debauchery and immorality", a statement said. The opening evening will now be suspended until further notice. Last year, some events were cancelled after an organiser wa..

New York Met museum returns stolen ancient Egyptian coffin

Media playback is unsupported on your device US authorities have returned a stolen coffin to Egypt, two years after it was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The 2,100-year-old coffin of a priest called Nedjemankh was featured in an exhibit housing artefacts from Egypt. The stolen antique was sold to the museum by a global art trafficking network, which used fraudulent documents, officials said. The gilded coffin was lo..

Iranian hostage freed by pirates after four years

An Iranian sailor has been released by Somali pirates after spending more than four years in captivity. Mohammad Sharif Panahandeh was "seriously ill" and has been freed on humanitarian grounds, the Hostage Support Partnership (HSP), which helped negotiate his release, said. Over the past decade, thousands of crew have been taken hostage off the coast of Somalia and released for a ransom. Mr Sharif's freedom means pirates are holding just th..

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