India sees 1st arrest under controversial new “love jihad law”



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© MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty
INDIA-POLITICS-SOCIAL-RIGHTS-PROTEST



a group of items on display: Activists belonging to various human and civil rights organizations protest against various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led state governments pushing for laws against


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Activists belonging to various human and civil rights organizations protest against various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led state governments pushing for laws against

New Delhi — Police in India’s Uttar Pradesh state made their first arrest this week under a controversial new law targeting something right-wing Hindu groups call “love jihad” — an alleged religious conversion conspiracy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into marriage and away from their faith. 

Owais Ahmed, a Muslim man, was arrested on Wednesday after a Hindu man accused him of coercing and trying to lure his daughter away from her Muslim husband and into converting to Islam. Ahmed appeared in court and was remanded in custody for 14 days pending trial. 

“This is the first arrest under the new law,” senior Uttar Pradesh state police officer Rajesh Kumar Pandey was quoted as saying by Indian media. 

Speaking to Indian news outlet The Print, Ahmad maintained his innocence and said he has no current connection with the woman, a former high school classmate who got married a year ago to a Hindu man and remains in that marriage. 

Ahmed was the first person arrested under the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. The new legislation, which has come to be known colloquially in India as the “love jihad law,” was adopted (only hours before Ahmed’s arrest) this week by the regional government in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with almost 200 million residents.

The law is ostensibly aimed at protecting people against “forced” or “fraudulent” religious conversion. A section of the legislation says no person shall convert or attempt to convert any other person from one religion to another by “use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.” 



Yogi Adityanath, Yogi Adityanath holding a sign: Activists from various human and civil rights organizations protest moves by various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state governments to pass laws against


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Activists from various human and civil rights organizations protest moves by various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state governments to pass laws against

People convicted of violating the law can face up to 10 years in prison without the possibility of bail, along with hefty fines. The law places the burden of proof of innocence on the accused, rather than plaintiffs having to prove their claims to a court. 

Critics have called the new legislation Islamophobic, regressive, and politically motivated, and warned that it may lead to harassment of Muslims in the Hindu majority country. Some believe it will drive interfaith couples to hide their relationships. 

On Friday, it emerged that Uttar Pradesh police had also stormed a wedding on Wednesday underway between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man in the state capital of Lucknow. They halted the celebrations and brought both families to a local police station, where officers told the families they would need to get permission from the state government before going ahead with the ceremony, to ensure the new law was not being violated.  

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Indian police make 1st arrest, break up Muslim-Hindu wedding under controversial new “love jihad law”

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Activists belonging to various human and civil rights organizations protest against various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led state governments pushing for laws against “Love Jihad,” in Bangalore, December 1, 2020.

MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty


New Delhi — Police in India’s Uttar Pradesh state made their first arrest this week under a controversial new law targeting something right-wing Hindu groups call “love jihad” — an alleged religious conversion conspiracy by Muslim men to lure Hindu women into marriage and away from their faith. 

Owais Ahmed, a Muslim man, was arrested on Wednesday after a Hindu man accused him of coercing and trying to lure his daughter away from her Muslim husband and into converting to Islam. Ahmed appeared in court and was remanded in custody for 14 days pending trial. 

“This is the first arrest under the new law,” senior Uttar Pradesh state police officer Rajesh Kumar Pandey was quoted as saying by Indian media. 

Speaking to Indian news outlet The Print, Ahmad maintained his innocence and said he has no current connection with the woman, a former high school classmate who got married a year ago to a Hindu man and remains in that marriage. 

Ahmed was the first person arrested under the Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. The new legislation, which has come to be known colloquially in India as the “love jihad law,” was adopted (only hours before Ahmed’s arrest) this week by the regional government in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with almost 200 million residents.

The law is ostensibly aimed at protecting people against “forced” or “fraudulent” religious conversion. A section of the legislation says no person shall convert or attempt to convert any other person from one religion to another by “use or practice of misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage nor shall any person abet, convince or conspire such conversion.” 

INDIA-POLITICS-SOCIAL-RIGHTS-PROTEST
Activists from various human and civil rights organizations protest moves by various Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state governments to pass laws against “Love Jihad,” in Bangalore, December 1, 2020.

MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty


People convicted of violating the law can face up to 10 years in prison without the possibility of bail, along with hefty fines. The law places the burden of proof of innocence on the accused, rather than plaintiffs having to prove their claims to a court. 

Critics have called the new legislation Islamophobic, regressive, and politically motivated, and warned that it may lead to harassment of Muslims in the Hindu majority country. Some believe it will drive interfaith couples to hide their relationships. 

On Friday, it emerged that Uttar Pradesh police had also stormed a wedding on Wednesday underway between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man in the state capital of Lucknow. They halted the celebrations and brought both families to a local police station, where officers told the families they would need to get permission from the state government before going ahead with the ceremony, to ensure the new law was

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FBI wanted to arrest Epstein while he was judging a beauty pageant. The plan was overruled

MIAMI — A Justice Department look-back report into its abortive 2008 prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein found that the FBI had planned to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in May 2007, but pulled back after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, led by former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, frowned on the plan.



Jeffrey Epstein wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Jeffrey Epstein.


© NY State Sex Offender Registry/NY State Sex Offender Registry/TNS
Jeffrey Epstein.

The report also concludes that Epstein wasn’t assisting the federal government in prosecuting Wall Street traders behind the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns or serving as an “intelligence asset,” long rumored to be reasons for his notoriously lenient treatment.

That determination raises questions about an FBI document that seems to identify Epstein as providing information to the bureau.

Buried in a 350-page report by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) — obtained by McClatchy and the Miami Herald — are references to a story that said Epstein was given a lighter sentence and avoided federal prosecution because he cooperated with authorities on other matters.

That was an “urban myth” federal prosecutor Ann Marie Villafaña told her superiors at the time, according to the new DOJ report, which said it found no evidence that he was a government witness.

It would seem at odds with a declassified FBI document, dated Sept. 18, 2008, in which the agency was closing out a forfeiture proceeding as part of a deal that allowed Epstein to be prosecuted on the state level and avoid more severe punishment by federal prosecutors.

“Epstein has also provided information to the FBI as agreed upon. Case agent advised that no federal prosecution will occur in this matter as long as Epstein continues to uphold his agreement with the State of Florida,” reads the declassified document. The document cited Epstein and child prostitution.

The document has led to the view that Epstein served as an informant. The OPR report, whose executive summary was made public Thursday, does not rule out that possibility but said it found no evidence of that status in relation to the Florida prosecution.

The report found that Acosta exercised poor judgment in reaching a nonprosecution agreement with Epstein, an agreement that allowed a more lenient state prosecution instead. It also faulted Acosta for failing to ensure that Epstein’s victims would be notified of developments in the case. Epstein would go on to plead guilty in June 2008 to two solicitation counts, one involving a minor, in Florida state court and serve 13 months in the private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, allowed to leave and work from his West Palm Beach office up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

The report shows that Villafaña, a federal prosecutor in the West Palm Beach office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Florida, submitted an 82-page prosecution memorandum on May 1, 2007, for her superiors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Acosta, proposing a 60-count indictment against Epstein for sex crimes against minors.

In a

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FBI sought to arrest Jeffrey Epstein during beauty pageant, report

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was denied the opportunity to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in 2007 while he was judging a beauty pageant in the US Virgin Islands, according to a US government report viewed by NBC News, a year before his 2008 plea deal with prosecutors. 

The Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility on Thursday released its executive summary of a report analyzing the handling of Epstein’s first federal investigation between 2006 and 2008. The full 347-page report, as NBC News reports,  detailed law enforcement’s plan to take Epstein into custody as early as May 2007.

The FBI agents working the case were “disappointed” when they learned the arrest wouldn’t be happening and a case supervisor was “extremely upset,” according to NBC News. The report details that the refusal dampened morale for Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña, who felt held back in pursuing the case despite mounting evidence and witness testimony against Epstein.

“Now I feel like there is a glass ceiling that prevents me from moving forward while evidence suggests that Epstein is continuing to engage in this criminal behavior,” NBC News reported Villafaña wrote in the report. 

The shadowy financier later cut a plea deal with Department of Justice prosecutors in 2008 that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution but required him to register as a sex offender and plead guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution. The deal saw that Epstein only served a 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail six days out of the week to work from his Palm Beach, Florida office. 

Former Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta was also found to have exercised “poor judgment” in the case, according to the executive summary, by pursuing a non-prosecution agreement that resulted in little jail time for Epstein, allowing him to continue his activities that prompted a later investigation that resulted in his 2019 arrest in New Jersey. The Trump administration appointee resigned from his cabinet post amid controversy surrounding his handling of the investigation. 

Epstein owned an island in the US territory called Little St. James – now referred to as “Pedophile Island” or “Orgy Island,” according to Business Insider’s Libertina Brandt – that’s now become a Caribbean tourist attraction thanks to its owner’s notoriety. Media reports and court documents allege that visitors to the island included lawyer Alan Dershowitz, former President Bill Clinton, and Marvin Minsky.

The US Virgin Islands was Epstein’s primary residence. He frequently flew back and forth between the territory and the US mainland using a fleet of private aircraft that included a Boeing 727 airliner-turned-private-jet and a Gulfstream G550 that is now for sale. 

Before he could be tried for the charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking, Epstein died while in federal custody in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center of an apparent suicide. He was denied access to bail due to his status as a flight risk and potential public safety risk by US District Judge Richard Berman.

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Plan to arrest Epstein at pageant was derailed by prosecutors

A Justice Department look-back report into its abortive 2008 prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had planned to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in May 2007, but pulled back after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, led by former Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, frowned on the plan.

The report also concludes that Epstein wasn’t assisting the federal government in prosecuting Wall Street traders behind the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns or serving as an “intelligence asset,” long rumored to be reasons for his notoriously lenient treatment.

That determination raises questions about an FBI document that seems to identify Epstein as providing information to the bureau.

Buried in a 350-page report by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) — obtained by McClatchy and the Miami Herald — are references to a story that said Epstein was given a lighter sentence and avoided federal prosecution because he cooperated with authorities on other matters.

That was an “urban myth” federal prosecutor Ann Marie Villafaña told her superiors at the time, according to the new DOJ report, which said it found no evidence that he was a government witness.

It would seem at odds with a declassified FBI document, dated Sept. 18, 2008, in which the agency was closing out a forfeiture proceeding as part of a deal that allowed Epstein to be prosecuted on the state level and avoid more severe punishment by federal prosecutors.

“Epstein has also provided information to the FBI as agreed upon. Case agent advised that no federal prosecution will occur in this matter as long as Epstein continues to uphold his agreement with the State of Florida,” reads the declassified document. The document cited Epstein and child prostitution.

The document has led to the view that Epstein served as an informant. The OPR report, whose executive summary was made public Thursday, does not rule out that possibility but said it found no evidence of that status in relation to the Florida prosecution.

The report found that Acosta exercised poor judgment in reaching a non-prosecution agreement with Epstein, an agreement that allowed a more lenient state prosecution instead. It also faulted Acosta for failing to ensure that Epstein’s victims would be notified of developments in the case. Epstein would go on to plead guilty in June 2008 to two solicitation counts, one involving a minor, in Florida state court and serve 13 months in the private wing of the Palm Beach County stockade, allowed to leave and work from his West Palm Beach office up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

The report shows that Villafaña, a federal prosecutor in the West Palm Beach office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern Florida, submitted an 82-page prosecution memorandum on May 1, 2007, for her superiors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Acosta, proposing a 60-count indictment against Epstein for sex crimes against minors.

In a statement to the Herald on Thursday, she hinted at how she was

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FBI wanted to arrest Jeffrey Epstein at beauty pageant in 2007

The FBI wanted to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in 2007 in the U.S. Virgin Islands while he was judging a beauty contest but it did not — in a missed opportunity the buruea’s supervisory special agent was “extremely upset” about.

The new details are included in a 350-page report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) about the origins of how Epstein came to secure a cushy secret plea deal in 2008 that allowed the late financier to spend just 13 months in a Florida jail with the privileges of enjoying a daily work release program.

The report, obtained by Fox News, found that Marie Villafaña, who was lead prosecutor in the Florida investigation of Epstein, had “intended to file charges by May 15, 2007 and the FBI planned to arrest Epstein immediately thereafter. Villafaña, however, had not obtained authorization to indict on the schedule.”

In fact, the report quotes one prosector saying the FBI had “wanted to arrest [Epstein] in [the] Virgin Islands during a beauty pageant … where he is a judge.”

DOJ FINDS ‘POOR JUDGMENT’ BUT NO MISCONDUCT BY ALEXANDER ACOSTA IN JEFFREY EPSTEIN SEX TRAFFICKING CASE

Villafaña wanted Epstein, who had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of girls, to face as much as 210 months — or 17-and-a-half years — behind bars.

Two weeks after submitting the prosecution memorandum, on May 14, Villafaña informed others by email that Epstein was flying to New Jersey from the Virgin Islands — and when she asked if she could file charges the next day, she was told “No” because Alex Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, was “at an out of town conference” and Acosta wanted “to take his time making sure he is comfortable before proceeding.”

One of the prosecutors could not understand why Villafaña was in a “rush” with a case that had been pending for so long.

Villafaña said she “could not seem to get [her supervisors] to understand the seriousness of Epstein’s behavior and the fact that he was probably continuing to commit the behavior, and that there was a need to move with necessary speed.”

Two months after Villafaña had wanted to arrest Epstein, Acosta decided to offer Epstein a two-year state plea to resolve the federal investigation with a secret plea deal that became the subject of a Justice Department report released this week.

Negotiations would take place in secret with Epstein’s defense team — without Epstein’s victims knowing about it — for about a year before Epstein pleaded guilty under a non-prosecution agreement in 2008 negotiated by Acosta.

The Justice Department report, released this week, faulted Acosta for exercising “poor judgment” in handling the investigation into Epstein when Acosta was the top federal prosecutor in Florida. But it also said Acosta did not engage in professional misconduct.

Alex Acosta, left, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, has faced scrutiny over a plea deal negotiated with Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who faced sex-crime charges.

Alex Acosta, left, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, has faced scrutiny over a plea deal negotiated with Jeffrey Epstein, a financier who faced

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FBI wanted to arrest Epstein at Virgin Islands beauty pageant months before plea deal cut

The FBI wanted to arrest Jeffrey Epstein while he was judging a beauty pageant in the Virgin Islands seven months before he signed a non-prosecution deal that shielded him from federal sex crime charges, a Justice Department report says.

The 347-page report obtained by NBC News expands on an executive summary released Thursday of a probe into a more than decade-old sex abuse investigation of Epstein. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who oversaw the case when he was a top federal prosecutor in Florida in the mid-2000s, exercised “poor judgment” but did not engage in misconduct.

The full report quotes one prosecutor as telling a colleague that the FBI had “wanted to arrest [Epstein] in [the] Virgin Islands during a beauty pageant…where he is a judge.”

“The case agent recalled that she and her co-case agent were disappointed” about being denied the opportunity to make the arrest in May 2007, the report says, and an FBI supervisor overseeing the case was “extremely upset” about it.

It wasn’t until a year later, in 2008, that Epstein surrendered to authorities after signing a plea deal. That the FBI wanted to bring charges against Epstein in 2007 was already known but the agency’s interest in arresting him at a beauty pageant in the Virgin Island has not been previously reported.

The politically-connected financier had been accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in his West Palm Beach mansion. But he eventually pleaded guilty to state charges involving a single victim in a deal that spared him from serving a long prison sentence.

Epstein ultimately spent 13 months in jail and was allowed to leave almost every day through a work release program. He died by suicide inside a federal prison last year while awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges.

The report says the federal investigation began when Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña told Acosta that she was willing to invest the time and the FBI was willing to invest the money to investigate Epstein.

“But I didn’t want to get to the end and then have the [U.S. Attorney’s Office] be intimidated by the high-powered lawyers” for Epstein, she said in an email included in the report. “I was assured that that would not happen.”

Villafaña wrote in July 2007, nearly two months after the FBI wanted to arrest Epstein at the beauty pageant, “now I feel like there is a glass ceiling that prevents me from moving forward while evidence suggests that Epstein is continuing to engage in this criminal behavior.”

The report describes a year of back and forth communications between a cadre of Epstein attorneys, Villafaña, Villafaña’s immediate supervisors, and Acosta himself, some of which have previously been detailed in court filings. It includes summarizations of interviews with FBI agents, emails, and written documentation about the case.

Villafaña told the Justice Department that she believed Acosta “was influenced by the stature of Epstein’s attorneys.”

“[O]ne of the issues in

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