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Bollywood actress granted bail in ex-boyfriend’s suicide case

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The death of actor Singh Rajput in June sparked a media storm with TV channels speculating Rhea Chakraborty drove him to take his own life.

Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty was granted bail on Wednesday, nearly a month after being arrested for allegedly buying drugs for her ex-boyfriend, actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose suicide sparked a media storm in India.

Rajput, 34, was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment, triggering a national frenzy with television news channels speculating that Chakraborty drove him to take his own life with cannabis and black magic.

A star with many hits to his name, Rajput’s suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in India’s multibillion-dollar movie industry.

But Rajput’s family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Chakraborty, 28, of stealing his money and harassing him. She has strongly denied the allegations.

On Wednesday, a court in Mumbai ordered that the actress be released on bail, her lawyer Satish Maneshinde said, calling it a victory for “truth and justice”.

“The arrest and custody of Rhea was totally unwarranted and beyond the reach of law,” he said in a statement.

Her brother Showik, who was also arrested last month, remains in custody.

Chakraborty and her family have been hounded by Indian media who spent months obsessing over the case. Some celebrities, including actresses Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor, have accused TV channels of subjecting her to a “witch-hunt”.

The country’s top anti-crime agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has been probing Rajput’s death since August, while the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has been looking into his consumption of cannabis. CBI is the federal agency that handles high-profile investigations in India.

The Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences completed its forensic examination earlier this month and reportedly ruled that the actor had died by suicide, not murder, dismissing speculative claims made by some TV channels.

The saga has now morphed into a probe of drug use in Bollywood, with police and the NCB hauling in superstar Deepika Padukone and other actresses for questioning last month.

Rajput was unusual among Bollywood stars in that he did not come from one of the industry’s many powerful families, hailing instead from Bihar, India’s poorest state.

Abandoning his engineering studies in Delhi for Mumbai, he got his big break in 2013 and won acclaim for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a hit 2016 biopic.

In an interview with AFP that year, he spoke of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which portrayed the heartbreak suffered by Dhoni when his girlfriend died.

“After we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.

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‘Ignition of new war:’ Sudan political parties reject Israel deal

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Sudanese political parties have rejected the government’s decision to normalise relations with Israel, with officials saying they will form an opposition front against the agreement.

Dozens of Sudanese people demonstrated in the capital Khartoum on Friday following the joint statement from Israel, Sudan and the United States on Friday saying that the two countries agreed to “end the state of belligerence between their nations”.

A statement from Sudan’s Popular Congress Party, the second most prominent component of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) political coalition, said Sudanese people are not obligated to accept the normalisation deal.

“We see that our people, who are being systematically isolated and marginalised from secret deals, are not bound by the normalisation agreement,” the statement said.

“Our people will abide by their historical positions and work through a broad front to resist normalisation and maintain our support for the Palestinian people in order for them to obtain all their legitimate rights.”

Sudan’s former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi also slammed the announcement, adding that he withdrew from a government-organised religious conference on Saturday in Khartoum in protest.

Al-Mahdi, who is the country’s last democratically elected premier and heads the country’s largest political party, said: “This statement contradicts the Sudanese national law … and contributes to the elimination of the peace project in the Middle East and to preparing for the ignition of a new war.”

Kamal Omar, a leader in the Popular Congress Party, said in a separate statement that Sudan’s transitional government is not elected and therefore not authorised to normalise relations with Israel.

“This transitional government hijacked the Sudanese position to satisfy regional and international intelligence agencies,” he said.

Protesters in Khartoum took to the streets and chanted “no peace, no negotiation, no reconciliation with the occupying entity” and “we will not surrender, we will always stand with Palestine”.

Muhammad Wadaa, a leader in the Sudanese Baath Party, which is part of the FFC, said the anti-normalisation front includes a civil force and influential parties from within and outside the forces of freedom and change.

Wadaa said there are a number of parties within the FFC that warned the transitional government they will withdraw their support if normalisation with Israel was agreed to.

“Normalisation with Israel is a move that is rejected. The government is not authorised to take such a decision with a racist state that practises religious discrimination,” he said.

Wadaa told Al Jazeera that “the government made a big mistake and it is a step that will not achieve economic abundance”.

Palestinian officials reacted with dismay as Sudan became the third country to normalise relations recently, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the deal and said the only path towards peace is by resorting to international law to make Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

However, according to Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, many Palestinians believe the PA does not have much to offer other than condemnation.

“For many political analysts here, Palestinians have their backs against the wall and really don’t have much to hope for, other than Trump would not get a second term in office,” she said, speaking from the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

“Many Palestinians on social media say the Sudanese people’s hearts are with the Palestinian people but they were dragged into this by their military rulers.”

On Saturday, Iran’s foreign ministry slammed Sudan’s move, saying: “Pay enough ransom, close your eyes on the crimes against Palestinians, then you’ll be taken off the so-called ‘terrorism’ blacklist.”

“Obviously the list is as phoney as the US fight against terrorism. Shameful!” it added.

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EU border agency ‘involved in illegal pushbacks’ of migrant boats

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Media investigation reveals ‘senior Frontex officials know about illegal practices by Greek border guards’.

Europe’s border security agency Frontex has been involved in several illegal “pushbacks” of migrants and refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, a media investigation has revealed.

The investigation shows “senior Frontex officials know about illegal practices by Greek border guards – and that some of them are themselves implicated in pushbacks”, Germany’s Der Spiegel said on its website.

Also known as refoulements, “pushbacks” are incidents where refugees or migrants are illegally returned across a border to a country where they could face persecution.

Journalists say they have uncovered six cases since April when Frontex units did nothing to stop refugee boats in Greek waters being returned towards Turkey.

A video from a June incident shows a Frontex boat blocking one with refugees on it. A later shot from the same encounter shows it racing across the bow of the boat before leaving the area.

German public broadcaster ARD, journalist collective Lighthouse Reports, investigative platform Bellingcat and Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi were involved in the investigation alongside Der Spiegel.

The journalists say they compared “dozens” of videos, also checking satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts from refugees, migrants and Frontex workers.

Der Spiegel reported that more than 600 people from the European border agency equipped with boats, drones and aircraft are deployed in Greece, where many migrants first enter the European Union.

It added that Frontex would not comment on the individual cases uncovered by the investigation, but referred to a human rights and non-refoulement code of conduct supposed to bind staff.

On Friday, it posted on Twitter that its actions in support of Greek authorities were “in full respect of fundamental rights and international law”, adding that it “has been in contact with the Greek authorities about some incidents at sea in recent months”.

Athens had launched an “internal inquiry”, it added.

Greece’s conservative government has always rejected claims of illegal pushbacks taking place at its borders, regularly alleged by several charities.

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NASA probe leaking asteroid samples due to jammed door

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Images beamed back to ground control revealed it caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

A US probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged in the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space.

On Tuesday, the robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth.

But images of the spacecraft’s collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage.

“Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told reporters on Friday.

Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material.

NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023.

The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin next March the spacecraft’s return to Earth.

“Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment,” OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta said.

But with the door lodged open by a rock and the “concerning” images of sample spillage, “we’re almost the victim of our own success here”, he added.

The roughly $800m, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.

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