Doctors: Detainee Allegedly Tortured in Sudan Dies

A Sudanese civilian detained and allegedly tortured by security agents in a central town has died in custody, a doctors committee linked to the country’s protest movement said Sunday.

The man died on Saturday in the town of Dilling in the state of South Kordofan after he was detained by agents of the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the doctors committee said in a statement.

The detainee “passed away on July 20, 2019 from torture while in detention at the NISS office in Dilling,” the statement said without elaborating on the circumstances of his arrest.

“NISS continues to torture and claim innocent civilian lives illegally without facing any consequences.”

Officers of NISS were not immediately available for comment.

Rights groups and activists had regularly accused NISS agents of cracking down on dissidents and restricting freedoms during the regime of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir who was ousted in April.

It was NISS that led a sweeping crackdown on protests against Bashir’s rule that first erupted in December.

Dozens were killed and hundreds of protesters, activists and opposition leaders were arrested during the months-long campaign that led to Bashir’s overthrow and subsequent demonstrations calling for civilian rule.

Last week a power-sharing deal was inked between the protest leaders and the ruling generals who seized power after ousting Bashir.

More talks between the two sides to thrash out some pending issues have been suspended following differences within the protest movement itself over the power-sharing deal.

 

‘Stronger Than Ever’: India Set for Fresh Moon Launch Attempt

India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.

The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday.

The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 pm (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon – now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.

The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.

The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.

Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.

Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardise the project.

“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.

Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.

“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.

National pride

Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.

About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.

Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.

The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.

The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.

The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.

The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.

It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system”.

 

 

 

Recycled Water Part of Perth’s Plan to Beat Climate Change in Australia

As drought-hit towns across New South Wales and Queensland edge closer to completely running out of water, federal and state governments in Australia are trying to come up with ways to guarantee supplies into the future. But on the other side of the continent, the city of Perth is leagues ahead in its water efficiency following a long-term decline in rainfall. Part of its survival plan relies on recycled water from toilets, a move that many consumers elsewhere still consider to be unpalatable.

Since 2017, residents in the Western Australian city of Perth have been drinking water recycled from sewage. It is filtered using a process called reverse osmosis, which is similar to forcing water through a giant sponge. It is then disinfected with ultra-violet light at a treatment plant, pumped into natural aquifers, and extracted.

Perth is a city of two million people, and Clare Lugar from Western Australia’s Water Corporation said it has had to get used to climatic changes.

“We know from the mid-70s onwards Perth’s rainfall has been declining by about 20 percent, and that has had a huge impact on our water sources that are dependent on the climate.”

Lugar said convincing residents of the benefits of drinking recycled sewage did take time.

“So, it is only a small percentage of the water that comes into the plant is actually from our toilets. But getting over that perception, that kind of image you might be drinking the water that you flushing down the toilet – that was probably one of our big challenges initially,” said Lugar.

Two desalination plants supply about half of Perth’s water. Aquifers are also crucial, but recycling produces only two percent of the total. But that figure is soon expected to rise.

Ian Wright, an expert in environmental science at Western Sydney University, believes other parts of Australia should embrace recycling.

“In Sydney that is probably 150 liters per day per person of waste water that is completely wasted, and, yes, we have the availability of desalination on the coast, but Canberra does not have desalination and then the poor drought-stricken towns like Tamworth and Dubbo, and Broken Hill, they could really, really use that now,” he said.

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Water is precious, and, in many places, scarce. More than 95 percent of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, is officially in drought, and the next three months are forecast to be drier than average.

 

UK Treasury Chief Vows to Quit if Boris Johnson Becomes PM

British Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Sunday that he will quit if _ as widely expected — Boris Johnson becomes prime minister this week on a promise to leave the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
 
Hammond said Johnson’s vow to press for a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a new agreement with the EU is “not something that I could ever sign up to.”
 
Hammond was almost certain to be removed from office by the new leader in any case. He has angered Brexit-backers, who now dominate the governing Conservative Party, with his warnings about the economic pain that leaving the EU could cause.
 
Hammond told the BBC that if Johnson wins, “I’m not going to be sacked because I’m going to resign before we get to that point.”
 
Johnson is the strong favorite to win a two-person runoff to lead the Conservative Party and the country. The winner is being announced Tuesday, with the victor taking over from Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
 
Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 but Parliament has repeatedly rejected the divorce deal struck between May and the bloc. Both Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary, say they will leave the EU without an agreement if the EU won’t renegotiate.
 
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The U.K.’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
 
But Johnson, who helped lead the “leave” campaign in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, says a no-deal Brexit will be “vanishingly inexpensive” if the country prepares properly.
 
The EU insists it won’t reopen the 585-page divorce deal it struck with May.
 
Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that the bloc is “simply not going to move away from the Withdrawal Agreement.”
 
“If the approach of the new British prime minister is that they’re going to tear up the Withdrawal Agreement, then I think we’re in trouble,” he told the BBC. “We’re all in trouble, quite frankly, because it’s a little bit like saying: ‘Either give me what I want or I’m going to burn the house down for everybody.'”
 
Hammond is the third U.K. minister within a week to quit or say they will resign in order to try to prevent a cliff-edge Brexit. Britain looks set for a fall showdown between the new Conservative government and British lawmakers determined to thwart a no-deal exit.
 
“I am confident that Parliament does have a way of preventing a no-deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent and I intend to work with others to ensure parliament uses its power to make sure that the new government can’t do that,” Hammond said.
 

UN: Humanitarian Situation in Syria Continues to Deteriorate

The United Nations says conditions in Syria continue to deteriorate and humanitarian needs for millions of civilians remain acute across the war-torn country. 

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Najat Rochdi’s job is to keep tabs on the humanitarian situation in Syria. She said conditions in this country, which has been at war for more than eight year, are alarming. She is appealing to the international community to protect and support millions of vulnerable civilians who lack the bare essentials for survival.

She said an estimated 11.7 million people need humanitarian aid and five million are in acute need. She said it has been a particularly grave month for civilians caught up in intensified fighting between Government and rebel forces in Idlib in northwestern Syria.

Her spokeswoman, Jenifer Fenton, said at least 350 civilians reportedly have been killed and more than 330,000 have been displaced. She said some three million people are at particular risk. She said they are trapped in the battle zone and are at the mercy of the warring parties as there is no place where they can flee.

“Civilian infrastructure continues to be damaged and destroyed. Protection of civilians remains our foremost concern. Far too many civilians are dying. Fighting terrorism does not absolve any party of its obligations under international humanitarian law and we continue to call on parties to uphold their agreements and to stabilize the situation,” said the spokeswoman.

Fenton said the situation remains unsustainable for some 70,000 people living in the squalid, overcrowded Al Hol camp in northeastern Syria. These people fled to Al Hol after the Syrian government seized control of Deir-Ez-Zour, the radical Islamic State group’s last stronghold.

FILE – Women walk through al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria, April 1, 2019.

The vast majority of the camp population is comprised of Syrian and Iraqi women and children. This population includes more than 11,000 family members of suspected IS foreign fighters from dozens of countries. These nations are reluctant to bring back their nationals fearing prosecutions of IS fighters will be difficult and will alienate their citizens.

UNICEF and other agencies are urging nations to repatriate an estimated 29,000 children of foreign IS fighters, noting they are blameless and are victims of this brutal war.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports a number of children have been repatriated to their countries of origin in past weeks. But it adds thousands of others remain in Al Hol, facing an uncertain future.

 

US House to Vote on Resolution Condemning Trump’s ‘Racist Comments’

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution “condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress,” in response to a series of tweets Trump issued attacking four lawmakers of color.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the vote and said he hoped Republicans would “put country before party” and vote in favor of the measure alongside Democrats.

The text of the resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘invaders,’ and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”

The targets of Trump’s attacks — Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayana Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib — appeared before reporters Monday in a collective and blistering show of force to rebut Trump’s social media and verbal volleys against them.

“He’s launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color,” said Omar, a Somalia-born Democrat from the state of Minnesota and a naturalized U.S. citizen. “This is the agenda of white nationalists.”   

Trump set off a firestorm of controversy on Sunday by tweeting that the lawmakers should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” even though three of the four were born in the United States. The first tweets came shortly after a segment about the minority congresswomen on the Fox News Channel. 

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez is a native New Yorker, Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Tlaib is a native of Detroit, Michigan.

Two of them, Omar and Tlaib, who are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, explicitly called for Trump’s impeachment. 

“I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today,” said Tlaib. 

“He does not know how to defend his policies,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “So, what he does is attack us personally. And that is what this is all about.”

Earlier in the day, Trump amplified his remarks deemed as racist attacks on the lawmakers, rejecting widespread criticism that his comments run counter to American values.

“It doesn’t concern me,” he told reporters Monday at the White House, “because many people agree with me.”

The president said of the lawmakers: “If they’re not happy here, they can leave,” adding, “these are people that hate our country.”

Asked whether his comments were racist, Trump said, “Not at all.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among those characterizing the president’s comments as “disgusting attacks.”

“The House cannot allow the President’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets,” Pelosi said in calling for support for a House resolution to condemn Trump’s tweets. 

Most lawmakers of Trump’s party have stayed silent on the controversy. But four Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah — are criticizing Trump’s remarks. 

“The president has a unique and noble calling to unite the American people,” Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee, told reporters. “In that regard, he failed badly this weekend and continued to do so today.” 

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” Murkowski tweeted.

There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments –they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop.

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) July 15, 2019

“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from,” said Toomey in a statement. “The citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who golfed with Trump over the weekend, said the president should “aim higher” with his criticism of the four, even as the lawmaker disparaged their views.

On Fox News, Graham said Monday Ocasio-Cortez “and this crowd are a bunch of communists” who “hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — the border control agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins (money). They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

The four female lawmakers, from what is called the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, are known collectively as “the squad.” 

“Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world,” Pressley told reporters. “And that is the work that we want to get back to. And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not, be silenced.” 

Trump tweeted on Monday morning: “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!”

When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019

A prominent U.S.-based anti-hate Jewish group is condemning the president’s attempt to use Jews as a shield.

“As Jews, we are all too familiar with this kind of divisive prejudice,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League. “While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the state of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks.”

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on Fox News, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

Undersea Quake Near Indonesia’s Bali Causes Panic, Minor Damage

An undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck south of Indonesia’s Bali on Tuesday, the European earthquake monitoring agency EMSC said, causing minor damage and prompting residents and visitors on the tourist island to briefly flee buildings.

There were no reports of casualties and no tsunami warning issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center or the Indonesian quake monitoring agency.

The epicenter was 102 km (62 miles) southwest of the island capital Denpasar and was 100 km (60 miles) deep, the EMSC said.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7.

One resident said people in Denpasar ran out of their boarding house in pajamas after feeling the quake.

A Twitter user with the handle Indounik in the city of Ubud on Bali said the quake was “strong enough to make me adopt the drop, cover & hold approach recommended to survive a quake.”

Another Twitter user, Marc van Voorst, described the quake as feeling like “a heavy truck or train passing by at close range.” He said there was no panic, even though his hotel in the Uluwatu area shook quite a bit.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency distributed a photograph of damage at the Lokanatha temple in Denpasar, showing smashed masonry lying on the ground. Bali is a predominantly Hindu enclave in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia.

Lius Winarto, a sales administrator at the Mercure Hotel Nusa Dua, said by telephone a small part of the building’s roof had been damaged.

“We felt the quake quite strongly…but thankfully no one was hurt and there was only minor damage,” he said. “Everything has gone back to normal now.”

There was also minor damage at a school, a house and a temple in different areas on the southern side of Bali, according to online portal Balipost.com.

The quake could also be felt in other cities on the neighboring islands of Lombok and Java, Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said in a statement.

A roof of a mosque in the city of Banyuwangi in East Java also partially collapsed, another photo from the disaster mitigation agency showed.

The transport ministry said Bali airport was operating normally.

Indonesia suffers frequent earthquakes, sometimes causing tsunamis, because it lies on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

Its Moluccas islands were hit by a powerful 7.2 quake on Sunday that killed at least two people and prompted hundreds to flee their homes.

The most devastating tremor in recent Indonesian history was on Dec. 26, 2004, when a magnitude 9.5 quake triggered a tsunami that killed around 226,000 people along the shorelines of the Indian Ocean, including more than 126,000 in Indonesia.

A tsunami also hit the city of Palu in Sulawesi last year, killing thousands.

EU Slaps Sanctions on Turkey Over Gas Drilling Off Cyprus

European Union foreign ministers on Monday turned up the pressure on Turkey after approving an initial batch of sanctions against the country over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. 

The ministers said in a statement that in light of Turkey’s “continued and new illegal drilling activities,” they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement and would call on the European Investment Bank to “review” it’s lending to the country.

They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued his own warning last week that his country would step up drilling activities off Cyprus if the EU moved ahead with sanctions. 

Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus.

The EU ministers repeated the “serious immediate negative impact” that Turkey’s illegal actions are having on EU-Turkey relations and called on Ankara to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights in line with international law.

They also welcomed the Cypriot government’s invitation to Turkey to negotiate the borders of their respective exclusive economic zones and continental shelf.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and claims 44% of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as its own, according to Cyprus government officials. Turkish Cypriots in the east Mediterranean island nation’s breakaway north claim another 25%.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits. 

Turkey contends that it’s protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s hydrocarbon deposits. Cypriot officials, however, accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 42 miles (68 kilometers) off the island’s west coast.

The Cyprus government has licensed energy companies including ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to carry out gas drilling in blocks, or areas, off the island’s southern coastline. At least three significant gas deposits have so far been discovered there.  

Meanwhile, Cyprus’ Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will chair a meeting of political leaders Tuesday to discuss a renewed proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa AKinci to establish a joint committee with Greek Cypriots on managing offshore gas drilling activities.

Akinci has repeatedly called for the creation of such a committee that he says would give his community a say in how newly found gas deposits off Cyprus’ southern coast are managed and future proceeds are divvied up. A similar proposal was made by Akinci’s predecessor Dervis Eroglu in 2011. 

The Cypriot government says energy discussions with Turkish Cypriots should be part of overarching reunification talks, adding that Turkish Cypriot rights to the island’s energy reserves are assured. The government says future gas proceeds that will flow into an established hydrocarbons fund will be shared equitably after a peace deal is signed.

Democrat Beto O’Rourke Trails Democratic Rivals in Cash Contest

Former Democratic U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke raised a lackluster $3.6 million for his struggling presidential campaign in the second quarter of the year, his campaign said on Monday.

The fundraising haul was a warning sign for the Texas politician and a stark drop in campaign cash after he raised more than $9 million in two weeks the previous period.

O’Rourke, who entered the race after gaining national prominence in his failed 2018 bid for the U.S. Senate from Texas, has failed to gain traction in opinion polls.

Some two dozen Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. The crowded nominating contest will require candidates to spend millions of dollars to be competitive.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker reported on Monday he raised $4.5 million in the three months ended June 30.

Booker’s haul, nearly a quarter of it raised in the four days after his strong appearance in the party’s first debate last month, lagged those of other Democratic contenders, including front-runner Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who each raised more than $20 million.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders raised $18 million in the second quarter.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren brought in $19 million and spent $11 million, according to the report her campaign filed on Monday to the Federal Election Commission.

Senator Amy Klobuchar raked in just under $4 million.

Senator Kamala Harris, who has traded places with Warren as voters’ third and fourth choices in recent polling, said last week her campaign had raised $12 million.

By comparison, Trump and the Republican National Committee said they raised $108 million for Trump’s re-election campaign.

Trump made the unprecedented move to file for re-election the day he took office on Jan. 20, 2017, allowing him to spend the past two years building his re-election operation.

Candidates are required under federal law to disclose their donors and campaign expenses. The latest reports cover the second quarter of the year, which ended on June 30.

Egypt Revamps Law Curbing NGOs, Critics Unimpressed

Egypt’s parliament on Monday removed jail penalties from a law controlling operations of non-governmental organizations, but rights groups rejected the changes as insufficient.

Justified by officials to protect national security from meddling by foreign-funded charities, the 2017 law restricted NGOs’ activity to developmental and social work, with jail terms of up to five years for non-compliance.

Activists saw it as an attempt to block humanitarian work and the law contributed to a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to freeze millions of dollars in military aid to Egypt for nearly a year.

The new legislation, approved overwhelmingly by parliament on Monday, removes the jail penalty and replaces it with fines between 200,000 and 1 million Egyptian pounds ($12,070-$60,350).

As well as ending jail sentences, the changes – which must still be ratified by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi – enable NGOs to receive money from Egypt or abroad as long as it is deposited in a bank account within 30 days.

The government has 60 days to challenge payments.

Although the new legislation was meant to answer criticisms, 10 Egyptian and international rights groups said last week the impending changes were not enough. They said other laws imposing strict controls on NGOs and civil society also needed revamping.

In 2013, 43 Americans, Europeans, Egyptians and other Arabs were sentenced to jail on charges including operating NGOs without necessary approval. Most were acquitted last year.

A case against domestic NGO workers, more than 30 of whom have been given travel bans and asset freezes, remains open.

“The new draft is but a re-marketing of the repressive law that contains a hostile attitude towards civil society groups,” the 10 groups said in a statement.

“The aim is to calm international public opinion, but the changes are not in line with the constitution or Egypt’s international obligations,” said Mohamed Zaree, Egypt program director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

Charities have long played an important role in feeding, clothing and providing healthcare and education in a country where millions live on less than $2 a day.

Sissi came to power after spearheading, as defence minister, the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president in 2013.

Under Sissi, Egypt has seen a crackdown on dissent that campaigners say is unprecedented in its recent history.

His backers say tough measures are necessary to stabilize Egypt, which was rocked by years of unrest after protests toppled veteran leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.