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Egypt executes nine over 2015 murder of prosecutor Hisham Barakat | News

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Egyptian authorities have executed nine suspected Muslim Brotherhood members convicted of the involvement in the assassination of Egypt‘s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat.

The executions, by hanging, were carried out on Wednesday in a Cairo prison.

In November, Egypt’s top appeals court had confirmed the death sentence for the nine people convicted in then-chief prosecutor Barakat’s murder in June 2015.

An interior ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief media, told the AP news agency that the families of the men were told to pick up their bodies from a Cairo morgue. A total of 15 people have been executed in Egypt since the start of the year.

Rights group Amnesty International had appealed to the authorities on Tuesday to halt the executions, citing testimony by the defendants that they had been secretly arrested and tortured into confessing.

“There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions, but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice,” said Amnesty’s Najia Bounaim.

“At least six men have already been executed earlier this month after unfair trials. Instead of stepping up executions, the Egyptian authorities should take steps to abolish the death penalty once and for all.”

Last week, Egypt hanged three people convicted of the 2013 murder of senior police officer Nabil Farag.

The previous week, it hanged three young “political detainees” convicted of the September 2013 murder of the son of a judge, Human Rights Watch reported.

No one claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack against Barakat, but the authorities pointed the finger at members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of overthrown President Mohamed Morsi.

Since Morsi’s overthrow by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2013, Egypt has cracked down on Islamists who backed the former.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been sentenced to death, while the former president and top Muslim Brotherhood figures have also faced trial.

The Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and branded a “terrorist organisation” in December 2013, just months after Morsi’s removal.

Many of the death sentences have been handed down at mass trials involving hundreds of defendants and lasting just days.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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