World Headlines

Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Prince Harry and Meghan's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey Sunday night has lead to reactions across the globe, including from one royal expert who said the revelations were not "necessary" and "full of bitterness."

"In America, the flag is sacrosanct. To me this is a bit like burning the flag," ABC royal contributor Robert Jobson said Monday on Good Morning America.

In the two-hour, primetime interview, Harry and Meghan alleged that conversations were had with Harry about the skin color of their son Archie, the first American-British biracial royal born in the U.K., and also widely considered to be the first mixed-race child born into the royal family.

The Sussexes also alleged to Winfrey that Archie was going to be denied a title and security protection, that Harry was cut off financially from his family and that Meghan was suicidal during her pregnancy with Archie and denied mental health help, amid other claims.

Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to claims made by Meghan and Harry in their interview with Winfrey.

"There were so many claims and counter-claims in that interview that I really feel, although the palace is saying nothing at the moment, they probably do have to say something," said Jobson, a royal editor and author. "Claims of racism and Meghan not getting support when she felt suicidal, it’s really serious stuff."

OVERNIGHT: Each minute of Prince Harry and Meghan's primetime interview with Oprah Winfrey seemed to contain another bombshell revelation, from the sex of their second child to Meghan's mental health struggles. @JamesAALongman reports.

MORE HERE: https://t.co/GQGpoFuEjX pic.twitter.com/yg0rzY3iZw

— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 8, 2021

"I do think they probably have to respond, but equally I do think that Oprah let them off the hook when they were making these claims," he said. "They didn’t specify who said the things. I think they’re hugely damaging allegations against the royal family, against the crown, which after all is the British system of government."

"The queen is not some little old granny. She wears the crown," Jobson added of Queen Elizabeth, the grandmother of Prince Harry. "What they’ve said is disrespectful to the British people as well as the institution of the monarchy."

Harry and Meghan did go to great lengths in the interview with Winfrey to praise Queen Elizabeth, despite their allegations against the royal institution and the royal family she leads.

"I've spoken more to my grandmother in the last year than I have done for many, many years," Harry told Winfrey, revealing he and Meghan and Archie have video calls with the queen. "My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding, and I have a deep respect for her. She's my commander-in-chief, right? She always will be."

Harry also said the queen has been "amazing throughout" his relationship with Meghan, a sentiment echoed by the duchess, who said the queen was one of the first family members she met in her relationship with Harry.

"It made me think of my grandmother, where she's always been warm and inviting and really welcoming," Meghan said of her experience with Queen Elizabeth on their first joint engagement, which took place shortly after Harry and Meghan's 2018 wedding.

Harry described his current relationships with his father, Prince Charles, and his older brother, Prince William as more strained, though he said in the interview with Winfrey that he loves them both and is hopeful their relationships can heal.

"I love William to bits. He's my brother. We've been through hell together, and we have a shared experience," Harry said. "But we were on different paths."

Harry's note that he and William have "been through hell together" was an apparent reference to the 1997 death of their mom, Princess Diana, who died after a car crash in Paris. Diana, who had divorced Prince Charles one year prior to her death, was in a car being pursued by paparazzi at the time of the crash.

"My biggest concern was history repeating itself, and I've said that before on numerous occasions, very publicly," Harry told Winfrey about the media attention focused on him and Meghan and the lack of support they felt from the royal institution, adding that it was "far more dangerous because then you add race in and you add social media in, and when I'm talking about history repeating itself, I'm talking about my mother."

In a tell-all interview with journalist Martin Bashir for the BBC's Panorama program in 1995, Princess Diana spoke about how she was treated by the "establishment" as the wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.

"I don't think many people will want me to be queen. Actually, when I say many people, I mean the establishment that I'm married into. Because they've decided I'm a non-starter," Diana told Bashir. "Because I do things differently, because I don't go by a rule book, I lead from the heart, not the head, and albeit that's gotten me into trouble in my work, I understand that. But someone's gotta go out there and love people and show it."

"They see me as a threat of some kind. And I'm here to do good. I'm not a destructive person," she said.

Roya Nikkhah, royal correspondent for the U.K.'s The Sunday Times, said Monday on GMA that she thinks Harry had not just his mother's 1995 interview with Bashir in mind, but his mother's "whole life experience in mind" when making decisions about his family's future.

How Harry and Meghan's interview parallels Princess Diana's from 1995. @RoyaNikkhah discusses how the Sussexes' conversation with Oprah mirrors the late Princess Diana's revealing interview with Martin Bashir.@MichaelStrahanhttps://t.co/1sUtd0vRRF pic.twitter.com/L1PUPnYokm

— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 8, 2021

"We know how strongly Harry feels about what happened to his mother, the fact that she felt she didn’t get the support she needed when she was a very senior member of the royal family," said Nikkhah. "And we know how that story ended."

"My understanding of the setup when Meghan became Harry’s girlfriend and then when she married into the royal family was that she was given a lot of support and that both courtiers and aides and the people in the institution were extremely conscious of mistakes that had been made in the past, not just with Diana but also with the Duchess of Cambridge, a lack of support," she said. "From what I have been told and a bit of what I saw, [Meghan] was given a lot of support."

"That said, that’s not how she felt and we know from Meghan’s own words and Diana too, nothing can prepare you for the reality of when you step into that world," Nikkhah added.

Meghan told Winfrey of her experience leaving her life in the United States and Canada behind to join the royal family, "It's what you read in fairy tales, you think is what you know about the royals, right, so it's easy to have an image of it that is so far from reality."

"And that's what was really tricky over those past few years, is when the perception and the reality are two very different things and you're being judged on the perception but you're living the reality of it, there's a complete misalignment," added Meghan, who wed Harry in 2018 and stepped away from the royal family with him two years later, in 2020. "And there's no way to explain that to people."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Each minute of Prince Harry and Meghan's primetime interview with Oprah Winfrey seemed to contain another bombshell revelation, from the sex of their second child to Meghan's mental health struggles.

"It's what you read in fairy tales, you think is what you know about the royals, right?," Meghan told Winfrey in the two-hour interview. "So it's easy to have an image of it that is so far from reality."

"And that's what was really tricky over those past few years, is when the perception and the reality are two very different things and you're being judged on the perception but you're living the reality of it, there's a complete misalignment," added Meghan, who wed Harry in 2018 and stepped away from the royal family with him two years later, in 2020. "And there's no way to explain that to people."

Below are eight of the major revelations from Harry and Meghan's tell-all interview with Winfrey, their first joint interview since stepping away from their royal roles and leaving the United Kingdom.

Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to claims made by Meghan and Harry in their interview with Winfrey.

1. Harry, Meghan held wedding ceremony three days before their public wedding

While the public watched Prince Harry and Meghan wed on May 19, 2018, in a star-studded public wedding at St. George's Chapel, the couple held their own ceremony three days before that, Meghan told Winfrey.

"Three days before our wedding, we got married. No one knows that but we called the [Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby] and we just said, ‘Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us," said Meghan. "The vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Just the three of us."

"I think we were both really aware, even in advance of that, this, this wasn't our day," she said of her and Harry's May 19 wedding. "This was the day that was planned for the world."

2. Meghan was suicidal during her time as a royal

Meghan tearfully revealed there was a breaking point where she considered suicide before she and Harry decided to step away from their roles as senior working members of Britain's royal family.

"I just didn’t see a solution," Meghan told Winfrey. "I would sit up at night, and I was just like I don’t understand how all of this [press] is being churned out ... and I realized it was all happening just because I was breathing."

"Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered, but I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it," said Meghan, who recalled that Harry "cradled" her when she told him about her mental health struggle. "I just didn’t want to be alive anymore, and that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought."

The duchess recalled having that conversation with Harry the morning the two were to attend an event later that evening at Royal Albert Hall in London. When Harry said he didn't think Meghan, who was pregnant at the time, should go, Meghan recalled replying to her husband, "I can't be left alone."

"One of the things that, it still haunts me, is this photograph that someone had sent me," said Meghan, referring to a photograph of she and Harry at the January 2019, event. "A friend said, 'I know you don't like at pictures, but oh my God, you guys look so great,' and sent it to me. And I zoomed in and what I saw was the truth of what that moment was."

"If you zoom in, what I see is how tightly his knuckles are gripped around mine. You can see the whites of our knuckles because we are smiling and doing our job, but we're both just trying to hold on," Meghan told Winfrey. "And every time that those lights went down in that royal box, I was just weeping, and he was gripping my hand, and then it was, 'Okay, intermission's coming. The lights are about to come on. Everyone's looking at us again.'"

"And you have to just be 'on' again," she said. "That's I think so important for people to remember is you've no idea what's going on for someone behind closed doors. You have no idea. Even the people that smiled the biggest smiles and shined the brightest lights, it seems, to have compassion for what's actually potentially going on."

Meghan claimed she went to "one of the most senior people" of the royal "institution" and was not able to get help for her mental health. Meghan alleged she also went to human resources and was told there was nothing that could be done, because she was not a "paid employee of the institution."

"I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help, and I know personally how hard it is to not just voice it, but when you voice it, to be told no," said Meghan, who said later of her mental health struggle, "Nothing was ever done, so we had to find a solution."

"It takes so much courage to admit that you need help. It takes so much courage to voice that," Meghan told Winfrey. "And as I said, I was ashamed. I'm supposed to be stronger than that. I don't want to put more on my husband's shoulders."

Harry said he too "went to a very dark place" and also revealed he did not go to his family members with Meghan's mental health struggle because, he said, "That's just not a conversation that would be had. I guess I was ashamed of admitting it to them."

"And I don't know whether they've had the same feelings or thoughts," said Harry, who joined with his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Duchess Kate to launch the mental health-focused Heads Together campaign in 2016. "I have no idea. It's a very trapping environment that a lot of them are stuck in."

3. Harry relied on Princess Diana's money after his family cut him off financially

Harry told Winfrey that it was the money left to him by his late mom, Princess Diana, who died after a 1997 car crash in Paris, that allowed Harry and Meghan the freedom to forge their own way outside of the royal family.

According to Harry, the royal family "literally cut me off financially" in the first quarter of 2020, shortly after he and Meghan announced their plans to step down as senior, working royals.

"But I've got what my mum left me," Harry said of the money left for him in Diana's estate. "And without that, we would not have been able to do this."

Harry also said that his and Meghan's lucrative deals with companies including Netflix and Spotify were "never part of the plan," but became essential when he was told on "short notice" while staying in Canada with Meghan and Archie that their royal security protection would be removed because of their change in status as non-working members of the royal family.

After their stay in Canada, the Sussexes moved in March to California, where they stayed for several months in a home belonging to Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry, who gave them both his home and provided security.

"It gave us breathing room to try to figure out what we were going to do," Meghan said of their time in Perry's Los Angeles-area mansion.

When asked how Diana, who divorced Harry's father Prince Charles in 1996 after a tumultuous marriage, would feel about Harry and Meghan's situation today, Harry said he thought she would feel "very angry" and "very sad" at how things "panned out" but would ultimately just want the family to be happy.

"Touching back on what you were asking, what my mum would think of this, I think she saw it coming," Harry told Winfrey. "And I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process."

"And for me, I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you, with my wife by my side," he added. "Because I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for [Princess Diana], going through this process by herself, all those years ago, because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other."

4. Harry, Meghan claim conversations were had about 'how dark' Archie's skin color would be

While media reports at the time of Harry and Meghan's son Archie's birth in 2019 said the couple chose not to give Archie a title, Meghan claimed to Winfrey it was the royal institution's decision to not give their son either a title or security protection.

"This went on for the last few months of our pregnancy, where I'm going, 'Hold on a second,'" Meghan said of the conversations around the decision, adding later there was "no explanation" for what she described as a "change in protocol."

Meghan said she and Harry were most concerned about Archie not receiving security without a title, and said the couple was not asked to take a picture with their newborn son outside the hospital after his birth, which was portrayed in the press at the time as a break in protocol dictated by the Sussexes.

"We weren't asked to take a picture. That's also part of the spin that was really damaging," said Meghan. "I thought, 'Can you just tell them the truth? Can you say to the world you're not giving him a title and we want to keep him safe, and that if he's not a prince, then it's not part of the tradition? Just tell people and then they'll understand,' but they wouldn't do that."

Along with conversations about Archie's title and security, there were also conversations with Harry ahead of his son's birth about "how dark" his skin might be, according to both Harry and Meghan.

Archie was the first American British biracial royal born in the U.K., and is also widely considered to be the first mixed race child born into the royal family.

When asked by Winfrey if the assumption is that if their son was "too brown, that would be a problem," Meghan replied, "I wasn't able to follow up with why, but that, if that's the assumption you're making, I think that feels like a pretty safe one, which was really hard to understand, right?"

Meghan declined to comment who spoke with Harry about the subject, telling Winfrey, "I think that would be very damaging to them."

Harry also declined, saying, "I'm never going to share [details of the conversation]. But at the time, it was awkward. I was a bit shocked."

He also said the topic was brought up early in his romance with Meghan, telling Winfrey, "That was right at the beginning, 'What will the kids look like?'"

"There were some real obvious signs before we even got married that this was going to be really hard," said Harry.

5. Harry says Prince Charles stopped taking his calls

Harry claimed to Winfrey that his father, Prince Charles, stopped accepting his calls when Harry and Meghan were on an extended stay in Canada in late 2019 and planning their exit from their senior royal roles.

"When we were in Canada, I had three conversations with my grandmother and two conversations with my father, before he stopped taking my calls, and then said, 'Can you put this all in writing, what your plan is?,'" Harry said. "He asked me to put it in writing, and I put all the specifics in there, even the fact that we were planning on putting the announcement out on the 7th of January."

When asked by Winfrey why his father stopped taking his calls, Harry replied, "Because I took matters in, by that point, I took matters into my own hands. It was like, I need to do this for my family. This is not a surprise to anybody. It's really sad that it's got to this point, but I've got to do something for my own mental health, for my wife's and for Archie's as well because I could see where this was headed."

Harry said today he still feels "really let down" by his father.

"There's a lot to work through there, you know?," he said of their relationship. "I feel really let down because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and Archie's his grandson. But at the same time, you know, of course, I will always love him."

"But there's a lot of hurt that's happened, and I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship," Harry added. "But they only know what they know ... or what they're told, and I've tried to educate them through the process that I have been educated."

Speaking of his relationship with his older brother Prince William, Harry said, "I love William to bits. He's my brother. We've been through hell together, and we have a shared experience. But we were on different paths."

6. Meghan viewed tabloid reports of her relationship with Duchess Kate as a 'turning point'

Several months after Harry and Meghan's wedding, tabloid reports emerged alleging that Meghan made her sister-in-law Duchess Kate cry over dresses for the wedding's flower girls, of which Kate's daughter, Princess Charlotte, was one.

Those tabloid reports, and the palace's apparent failure to correct the record, are what Meghan now describes as a "turning point" and a time "when everything changed."

When asked by Winfrey if she made Kate cry, as reported, Meghan replied, "No. No. The reverse happened, and I don't say that to be disparaging to anyone because it was a really hard week of the wedding and she was upset about something, but she owned it and she apologized and she brought me flowers and a note apologizing. And she did what I would do if I knew that I hurt someone, right, to just take accountability for it."

"What was shocking was, what was that, six, seven months after our wedding that the reverse of that would be out in the world," said Meghan. "I would've never wanted that to come out about her ever, even though it had happened. I protected that from ever being out in the world."

Meghan claims people who were willing to go on the record to say that she did not make Kate cry were told not to by the royal communications team, and added of Kate, "And maybe in the same way that the palace wouldn't let anybody else negate it, they wouldn't let her, because she's a good person."

But Meghan said she saw the incident as the "beginning of a real character assassination."

"They would go on the record and negate the most ridiculous story for anyone, right? I'm talking about things that are super artificial and inconsequential," she said of the royal communications' team. "But the narrative about, you know, making Kate cry, I think was the beginning of a real character assassination. They knew it wasn't true, and I thought, "Well, if they're not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?'"

7. Harry, Meghan still have a close bond with Queen Elizabeth

Though Prince Harry told Winfrey a "lack of support" and "lack of understanding" led to his and Meghan's rocky departure from their royal roles, he still holds a great fondness for his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.

"I've spoken more to my grandmother in the last year than I have done for many, many years," said Harry, revealing he and Meghan and Archie have video calls with the queen. "My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding, and I have a deep respect for her. She's my commander-in-chief, right? She always will be."

Harry also said the queen has been "amazing throughout" his relationship with Meghan, a sentiment echoed by Meghan, who said the queen was one of the first family members she met in her relationship with Harry.

"The Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me," said Meghan, while describing the difference between the royal family and the royal institution. "I mean, we had one of our first joint engagements together. She asked me to join her."

"I just really loved being in her company," said Meghan, who added the queen gave her pearl earrings and a matching necklace for their June 2018 joint engagement. "And I remember we were in the car ... going between engagements and she has a blanket that sits across her knees for warmth, and it was chilly and she was like, 'Meghan, come on,' and put it over my knees as well."

"It made me think of my grandmother, where she's always been warm and inviting and really welcoming," said Meghan.

Meghan also told Winfrey that when she learned Prince Philip had been hospitalized last month, she called Queen Elizabeth directly.

"I just picked up the phone and I called the queen, just to check in. You call. That’s what we do," she said, adding of her newfound freedom with Harry, "It’s like being able to default to not having to every moment go, ‘Is that appropriate?’"

8. Harry, Meghan are having a baby girl

Amid heavy revelations of mental health struggles and family tension, Prince Harry and Meghan shared some happy news in their conversation with Winfrey, that the child they are expecting is a girl.

"It's a girl," Harry told Winfrey, after Meghan waited for him to join the interview so they could share the news together.

"Amazing. Just grateful," Harry said of his own reaction. "To have any child, any one or any two, would have been amazing, but to have a boy and then a girl, I mean, what more can you ask for?"

"Now we've got our family," he said. "We've got, you know, the four of us and our two dogs."

Harry and Meghan confirmed that Meghan is due to give birth this summer and said they don't plan to have any more children after her arrival, saying, "Two is it."

Harry and Meghan first revealed they are expecting their second child on Valentine's Day, less than three months after Meghan opened up in a New York Times op-ed about a pregnancy loss the couple suffered last summer.

Harry and Meghan's second child will be the fifth grandchild for Prince Charles and the 10th great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth. The baby will also be the first senior royal baby born in the United States and the first great-grandchild of the queen to be born outside of the United Kingdom.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, revealed there was a breaking point where she considered suicide before she and her husband, Prince Harry, the duke of Sussex, decided to step away from their roles as senior working members of Britain's royal family.

"I just didn’t see a solution," Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in a two-hour, primetime interview that aired Sunday. "I would sit up at night, and I was just like I don’t understand how all of this is being churned out ... and I realized it was all happening just because I was breathing."

"Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered, but I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it," said Meghan, who recalled that Harry "cradled" her when she opened up. "I just didn’t want to be alive anymore, and that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought."

Meghan claimed she went to "one of the most senior people" of the royal "institution" and was not able to get help for her mental health. Meghan alleged she also went to human resources and was told there was nothing that could be done, because she was not a "paid employee of the institution."

"I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help, and I know personally how hard it is to not just voice it, but when you voice it, to be told no," said Meghan, who later added about the experience, "Nothing was ever done, so we had to find a solution."

When asked by Winfrey if she was having suicidal thoughts, Meghan replied, "Yes, this was very, very clear. Very clear and very scary."

During her time of crisis, Meghan said she reached out to one of the best friends of Harry's late mother, Princess Diana.

"I didn’t know who to even turn to in that," Meghan said. "And one of the people that I reached out to, who has continued to be a friend and confidant, was one of my husband’s mom’s best friends, one of Diana’s best friends, because it’s like who else could understand what it’s actually like on the inside."

When asked earlier by Winfrey during the interview whether she felt she was "silent or silenced" during her time as a senior member of Britain's royal family, Meghan replied, "the latter."

"It’s nothing like what it looks like," Meghan said later when describing life as a royal.

Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to claims made by Meghan and Harry in their interview with Winfrey.

In a clip released in advance of Sunday's interview special, Winfrey revealed that she asked Meghan for an interview just before her 2018 wedding to Harry, at which Winfrey was a guest, but that Meghan politely declined, saying it wasn't the right time.

Meghan said she wasn't even allowed to have that conversation with Winfrey on her own, and that other people from the royals' communications team had to be with her during the call.

When Winfrey asked, "What is right about this time?" for an interview, Meghan responded, "Well, so many things."

"We're on the other side of a lot of life experience and also that we have the ability to make our own choices in a way that I couldn't have said yes to you then. That wasn't my choice to make," Meghan said. "So, as an adult who lived a really independent life, to then go into this construct that is different than what I think people imagine it to be, it's really liberating to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I'm ready to talk."

"To be able to just make a choice on your own and just be able to speak for yourself," added Meghan, who gave up her acting career when she wed Harry.

Meghan, who revealed with Harry that they are expecting a daughter, noticeably wore a diamond bracelet that belonged to Princess Diana for the interview.

In the interview with Winfrey, Harry said his "biggest concern was history repeating itself," an apparent reference to Princess Diana, who died in 1997 after being injured in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.

Diana died one year after she and Harry's father, Prince Charles, were divorced.

Meghan has also received a high level of press scrutiny since she and Harry publicized their relationship more than three years ago. Last month, a judge ruled in Meghan's favor in a privacy case she brought against Associated Newspapers' Ltd., the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, after the Mail on Sunday published large parts of the personal letter she sent to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle before her wedding to Prince Harry.

"For me, I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you with my wife by my side," Harry said, while sitting next to Meghan. "Because I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago. Because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other."

Allegations of bullying denied by Meghan

The interview was taped prior to a report in the Times of London that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a former close adviser at Kensington Palace.

Unnamed sources also told the newspaper that in several alleged incidents after Prince Harry and Meghan's 2018 wedding, staff members "would on occasion be reduced to tears." One aide allegedly told a colleague, "I can't stop shaking," while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.

Buckingham Palace, which represents Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, announced shortly after the report was published that it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Meghan, a move that one royal expert called "incredibly unprecedented."

In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told ABC News last week that they've "addressed these defamatory claims in full" in a "detailed letter" to the Times, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is "saddened" by the news.

"We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet," a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. "It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."

"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson added. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."

Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation. Harry and Meghan will not take part in the palace's investigation, but senior aides are expected to be questioned, ABC News has learned.

On the same day the interview aired, Queen Elizabeth released her Commonwealth Day address, delivered virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year's Commonwealth Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey was Harry and Meghan's final engagement as senior, working royals.

"We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community," the queen said in her address. "Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important, as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nations and neighborhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for us all."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



omersukrugoksu/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Voters in Switzerland have narrowly approved a controversial proposal to outlaw full-face coverings in public.

A national referendum on the proposed measure was held Sunday and 51.21% of voters supported it, according to provisional results released by the Swiss Federal Council, which serves as the country's federal government.

The measure will make it illegal for people in Switzerland to completely cover their faces in restaurants, shops, sports stadiums, public transport and even on the street. The ban includes burqas and niqabs, which are worn by Muslim women, as well as ski masks and bandanas, which are often used by protesters. There will be exceptions for religious sites, such as mosques, for "native customs," like the Swiss traditional Carnival celebrations, and for health reasons, such as face masks to protect against COVID-19.

Swiss lawmakers now have two years to write up detailed legislation to enact the nationwide ban.

Switzerland joins a growing list of other European countries, including Belgium, Denmark and France, that have put similar bans into effect.

The proposal was launched in 2016 by the Egerkingen Committee, which is made up of numerous members of the right-wing nationalist Swiss People’s Party. The same group also initiated a nationwide ban on the construction of new minaret towers on mosques that voters approved in 2009.

The Swiss federal government had opposed the measure, arguing that full-face coverings are not an issue in the country and that such a law would harm tourism.

Meanwhile, rights groups have criticized the ban as discriminatory and dangerous. About 5.5% of Switzerland's 8.5 million people are Muslim, according to the latest figures published by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

"After the vote to ban minarets, Swiss voters have once again approved an initiative that discriminates against one religious community in particular, needlessly fueling division and fear," Cyrielle Huguenot, head of women's rights at Amnesty International's Switzerland office, said in a statement Sunday. "The ban on the full face veil cannot be viewed as a measure that liberates women. On the contrary, it is a dangerous and symbolic policy that violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion.”

"We call on the elected politicians and government to unequivocally support the fundamental rights of the country's religious minorities and to commit to peaceful coexistence. The authorities must take action to ensure that the ban on the full veil does not marginalize the women in question or exclude them from the public space," Huguenot added. "The authorities must now strengthen measures to protect women who are suffering real violence and discrimination in Switzerland, regardless of their religion and origin."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The second child of Harry and Meghan, the duke and duchess of Sussex, will be a girl, the couple announced Sunday in a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

"It's a girl," Harry told Winfrey. "To have a child, any one or any two would be amazing. But to have a boy and then a girl, what more could you ask for? We have our family, we got the four of us and our dogs."

The couple said their baby girl is due this summer, and they’re not planning to have more children after that.

Harry and Meghan, the parents of nearly 2-year-old Archie, revealed they are expecting their second child on Valentine's Day, less than three months after Meghan opened up in a New York Times op-ed about a pregnancy loss the couple suffered last summer.

In a statement confirming Meghan's pregnancy, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan described the couple as "overjoyed to be expecting their second child.”

Harry and Meghan's pregnancy announcement mirrors the late Princess Diana's announcement 37 years ago when it was confirmed she was pregnant with Harry. According to ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie, news of Diana's pregnancy was announced on February 13, 1984, and hit the newspapers one day later, on Valentine's Day.

Harry and Meghan's second child will be the fifth grandchild for Prince Charles and the 10th great-grandchild for Queen Elizabeth. The baby will also be the first senior royal baby born in the United States and the first great-grandchild of the queen to be born outside of the United Kingdom.

Meghan gave birth to Archie in a London-area hospital on May 6, 2019.

The photographer behind Harry and Meghan's pregnancy announcement photo credited technology for allowing him to photograph the California-based couple remotely from London.

"In the age of COVID, it’s impossible obviously for me to be there to shoot it, so technology came to rescue," Misan Harriman told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I was able to remotely take over the iPad and they could hear my voice and it was conversational and the rest really is history."

Harriman, a longtime friend of the couple, photographed Harry and Meghan in front of a deep-rooted tree, with Meghan's head resting on Harry's lap.

"You don’t even see the image, you feel it," Harriman said. "They are lost in each other. And the tree in the background and just life growing around them is incredibly powerful and symbolic."

Harriman said he hopes people see in the photo of Harry and Meghan the symbolism of "fortitude, hope and love."

"Particularly for the many women going through this, this should give them strength to know there’s light in that dark place," he said. "It really means a lot."

Harriman, the first Black man to shoot the cover for British Vogue, was a guest at Harry and Meghan's 2018 wedding. He said to see to see the couple now expecting their second child is a "testament to the power" of their relationship.

"Honestly I think the universe would have conspired for them to be together no matter what. It is the real deal. They are waltzing through life together, as it should be," said Harriman. "To have a new arrival coming is a testament to the power of the relationship that they have."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Gwengoat/iStockBY: CHRISTINE THEODOROU AND IVAN PERIERA, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — At least 17 people are dead and hundreds of others are hospitalized following an explosion at a military camp in Equatorial Guinea Sunday evening, according to the country's health ministry.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosions in the city of Bata that sent smoke into the air and destroyed several buildings.

Residents were seen going through rubble to find survivors while others were helping transport the wounded to hospitals.

The Health Ministry said three hospitals were treating 420 injured individuals as of 8:40 p.m. local time.

ABC News' Joshua Hoyos contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABCBY: IBTISSEM GUENFOUD AND GUY DAVIES, ABC NEWS

(PARIS) — Gulbahar Haitiwaji says when she was summoned back to China to sign documents relating to her retirement as an oil company engineer in November 2016, she could not have possibly known the fate that awaited her. A member of Xinjiang province’s Uighur ethnic minority, she had left the country for France 10 years earlier, but still possessed a Chinese passport.

After she was unable to grant one of her relatives power of attorney to handle the matter, she traveled to the country at the end of the month. She says she wasn't allowed to leave the country -- or see her husband, a fellow Uighur who had fled Xinjiang with whom she has two children back in France -- for the next three years.

Haitiwaji says she was lured back to the country under false pretenses and claims she was accused of being a terrorist and sentenced to seven years of detention in one of Xinjiang’s notorious “re-education camps.”

Now 54, Haitiwaji still wonders exactly why she was targeted. During police interrogations, she says she was shown a photo of her daughter at a protest by Uighurs in exile in Paris. But at her trial, Haitiwaji says she was asked about her daughter's activism, her own decision to leave China for France, and her choice to destroy the hukou -- a kind of household registration -- of her daughters and her husband.

“There were no lawyers, just our guards who stayed beside us without speaking,” Haitiwaji told ABC News recently. “It lasted less than 10 minutes. They listed my 'crimes': I was accused of being a terrorist.”

Haitiwaji's first-hand account is what human right groups say over 1 million Uighurs -- as well as ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in the western province in Xinjiang have gone through in recent years -- a program of “permanent brainwashing” and “forced cultural assimilation,” she said.

Now free and back home in France, Haitiwaji has written a book with the French journalist Rozenn Morgat about her experiences entitled "Rescapée du Goulag Chinois" (Survivor of the Chinese Gulag), an English translation of which is to be published in the U.S. by the end of this year.

In the French version of the book, obtained by ABC news, Haitiwaji describes a horrific daily existence of interrogations, forced confessions, violence, malnutrition and brainwashing. Her account of life in a "re-education" camp in the district of Baijiantan near the oil-rich city of Karamay tells of long days in classrooms without windows, under a regimen of daily Communist Party propaganda, as well as recurring physical abuse. Inside, she wrote she was taught to repeat daily good wishes for President Xi Jinping and learn a glorified version of China's history, in order to prove her “re-education” and escape the life-threatening qualification of "terrorist,” which would mean spending an even longer time in the camp.

Haitiwaji recounts physical exercise akin to military training and to the point of exhaustion. "Sometimes, some pass out,” she wrote in the book. “If a prisoner remains unconscious despite the cries of the guards, one of them comes to pick her up unceremoniously with a pair of slaps.”

Hoping to be released early, Haitiwaji says she opted for the strategy of the "diligent student" and "model inmate." In the meantime, she turned to God and began praying throughout the day and doing yoga while hiding her prayers from surveillance cameras.

Her account is in line with more than a dozen Uighurs previously interviewed by ABC News, but the Chinese government, in a statement from its embassy in Paris, blasted her story as a fabrication, as they have with others. They did however admit that they arrested Haitiwaji and placed her in custody.

Some 385 're-education' camps in Xinjiang: Report

The Western region of Xinjiang is home to a myriad of ethnicities, most prominently Uighurs, who are linguistically and culturally distinct from the Han majority in China. Their main religion is Islam, and the language is a close relative to Turkish and not Mandarin.

Since the fall of the neighboring Soviet Union, some Uighurs' demands for more autonomy, fairer treatment, and their underlying friction with the influx of Han Chinese population resettling in the province have led to episodes of revolt and ethnic violence. Uighur anger boiled over in July 2009 when riots erupted in the regional capital of Urumqi, 197 died (mostly Han Chinese) and over 1,600 were wounded in revolts and attacks over several days, followed by a wave of arrests by the authorities.

In the following years, China was hit by a series of terrorist attacks including suicide car bombings in Urumqi and in front of Mao's portrait in Beijing's Tiananmen Square as well as a deadly knife attack at the Kunming Railway Station that killed 31 people. Chinese authorities blamed all these attacks on Uighurs indoctrinated by "foreign extremist thought" and Xi launched the "People's War on Terror" shortly after one Urumqi attack occurred during his visit to the city in 2014.

The region is a strategic place for Beijing, crucial to Xi’s ambitious "One Belt One Road" project that aimed to recreate the Silk Road for current times, according to experts. This level of control escalated over the years, culminating in reports of an unprecedented wave of repression since 2017, the year in which the first "re-education camps" reportedly appeared.

There are an estimated 13 million Uighur Muslims living in the province. Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Foundation, a non-profit that researches crimes in communist countries, who was in contact with Haitiwaji’s husband while she was in captivity, estimates that up to 1.8 million have gone through some form of extrajudicial internment.

The Australian Institute of Strategic Studies says imagery shows evidence of at least 385 of such camps in Xinjiang, which the group says vary in terms of the severity of treatment handed down there. Some are “re-education centers,” where detainees go through a cultural program. Others are forced labor camps, according to Zenz, who has published numerous reports on the scale of the crackdown.

Chinese officials have repeatedly insisted that these "re-education centers" are voluntary and deny allegations of human rights abuses in the region. The Chinese have touted the success of their campaign saying they have not had single terrorist attack since 2015.

This week, Zenz produced a report which said that some laborers in Xinjiang are moved "to other regions and other provinces are part of a state-run scheme to forcibly uproot them, assimilate them and reduce their population density." Such a system could amount to crimes against humanity, the report said.

Outside of the camps, reports suggest that Uighurs and other minorities now live under a surveillance state, where cultural activities cannot take place without official permission amid a broader crackdown on their lives. Reports have also emerged of the forced sterilization of Uighur women to control the population.

'Dead inside': A first-hand account

While what Haitiwaji has recorded is a similar treatment as to what has been widely reported in international media in recent years, her first-hand testimony offers a rare personal account of what life is like in the camps.

In the book, Haitiwaji says she was chained to her bed for 20 days and that she had become so desensitized to the program that she felt “nothing.” One December night toward the end of her more than two-year detention she claims she was put into a truck, without being told where she was going, and while she feared she would be shot, her response was similarly passive. "By then, I was already dead inside," she said.

Early on, Haitiwaji's daughter convinced the French Foreign Ministry to plead for her release, as if she were a French citizen. The negotiations started and Haitiwaji's case was regularly mentioned at diplomatic meetings, as well as in the media. In March 2019, she says she went through another six days of interrogation in which she was again forced confessions and to say that her relations took part in an illegal organization of Uighurs in France led by a terrorist. After that, she was released and eventually flew back to France.

The Chinese Embassy in France released a statement saying that " Haitiwaji has long engaged in separatist and terrorist activities and is outright a separatist and a terrorist," who returned to Xinjiang in 2016 voluntarily and lived a "normal life" while there.

With dozens, if not hundreds of witness accounts now in the public domain regarding the camps in Xinjiang, the information about what is going on inside the secretive state is now fairly comprehensive, according to Zenz.

"About the mass internment, I think the information is quite complete now,” he told ABC News. “We have satellite evidence, we have the leaked files such as the China cables. They gave us a lot of detailed information about how these places work... it shows that it particularly targeted men and heads of households. So we have quite a bit of detail, really, both about the scope, and about the nature of the internment campaign."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in recent months has taken an increasingly proactive approach in pushing back on these witness accounts, trying to sow doubt in the victims' claims.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused one witness on Feb. 23 of being "an "actress" for certain elements to slander and smear China."

Beijing has, however, reserved particular ire for Zenz accusing the scholar of using "abused data, distorted materials, made up cases" and even hoping that "there will be a day when Adrian Zenz and other flagrant slanderers are punished by justice."

 

France’s foreign minister says that France had "received testimonies and corroborating documents which show unjustifiable practices against the Uighurs and a large-scale institutionalized surveillance and repression system’."

'Ethnocide'

On its final day in office, the Trump administration said that China’s abuse of its Muslim minorities constituted “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” The U.S. has banned the import of all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over fears they are produced by slave labor. But much of the world has been slow to criticize China in fear of economic retaliation, including Muslim-majority countries, Haitiwaji said.

“The economic power of China is unfortunately taking the upper hand on human rights issues,” she told ABC News. “Even though I am happy to know that the name of Uighur is better known than before, I still hope for concrete actions and international pressure to close these camps.”

Whatever international pressure comes China’s way, however, it will be extremely difficult to change the country’s course, Zenz said.

 

"China is just incredibly determined to bring this to its logical conclusion," he said. "It's a form of ethnocide -- the killing of an ethnic group by killing its identity. Assimilating [and] forcibly eradicating its religion, separating parents from children and educating the young generation at boarding schools, eliminating the language, the culture... It's a long-term form of breaking up communities, breaking up families, and exerting long term control over people's lives, regardless whether they are inside the camps or outside."

For Haitiwaji, she says there is now a constant fear of what will happen to the rest of the family who still live there.

“I fear especially for my family remained in China who are not at all aware of the existence of the book,” she said. “But I still have to speak to bring out the truth. If my word can help close these camps, I will be satisfied.”

Additional reporting by ABC News' Karson Yiu

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty ImagesBy CLARK BENTSON, ABC News

(UR, Iraq) -- Pope Francis gathered members of the prominent faiths in Iraq at Ur, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, for an inter-religious convocation meant to promote unity among Iraqi's diverse religious communities.

"This blessed place brings us back to our origins, to the births of our religions," the pope told those gathered Saturday in front of the 6,000-year-old ruins.

"Today we, Jews, Christians and Muslims, together with our brothers and sisters of other religions, honor our father Abraham," the pope said.

Once an important trading city of 60,000, the pope chose this archaeological site along the Euphrates River to share his message of reconciliation.

He thanked the Muslims communities' efforts to help rebuild Christian places of worship when Islamic State forces swept through the north of country in 2014. ISIS vowed to establish the headquarters of the caliphate in Iraq and bring their campaign to Rome. They even threatened to execute the pope.

"When terrorism invaded, it wantonly destroyed part of its magnificent religious heritage, he said. "I think of the young Muslim volunteers of Mosul, who helped to repair churches and monasteries, building fraternal friendships on the rubble of hatred, and those Christians and Muslims who today are restoring mosques and churches together."

Before arriving in Ur, Pope Francis paid a courtesy call to the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, a cleric revered by the Shia community.

Ayatollah Sistani, 90, is a reclusive figure who rarely receives international visitors. The visit was part of the Vatican's efforts to build a dialogue with the Shias and is an extension of St. John Paul II's policy of outreach to the other main religions.

Iraqi television carried live programming of the pontiff's arrival at to the ayatollah's home in the holy city of Najaf.

After the 45-minute meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying the pontiff used the opportunity to thank the Shia cleric for speaking up "in defense of those most vulnerable and persecuted," and for affirming the "importance of the unity of the Iraqi people."

Demonstrating the importance of this expression of unity, Pope Francis continued onto Ur for a meeting of reconciliation where verses from the Quran and the Bible were recited. He also heard testimonies from Iraqis, including two friends of different religions who built a small business together.

"We don't want war and violence and hatred; we want that all people in our country work together and be friends," 19-year-old Dawood Ara, a Christian, told the pope.

Shias, Sunnis, Jews, Yazidis and even a member of the small Sabean Mandean community were invited to attend the event, though it is not clear if all were able to attend.

"Injustice has afflicted all Iraqis," Rafah Husein Baher, a Sabean Mandean told the pontiff. "Innocent blood was shed from all Iraqis."

But, she added, "Your visit is a triumph of virtue, much appreciated by Iraqis."

Pope Francis will visit the devastated Christian communities of the north of Iraq Sunday, where he will again use his visit to call for reconciliation.

"There will be no peace without sharing and acceptance," he told the Ur audience. "There will be no peace unless peoples extend a hand to other peoples. There will be no peace as long as we see others as them and not us."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Franco Origlia/Getty ImagesBy CLARK BENTSON, ABC News

(BAGHDAD) -- The pope brought his message of peace, reconciliation and tolerance to Iraq on the first day of his papal visit to this predominantly Muslim country.

The pope's jet touched down at Baghdad's airport with the event carried live on Iraqi television. The pope was met by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi at a small red carpet ceremony. He was greeted by a military band and two children in traditional dress who presented him with flowers, then he quickly departed to the fortified Green Zone for a meeting with officials.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to make this long-awaited Apostolic Visit to the Republic of Iraq and cradle of civilization,” the pope told his hosts.

Increasing violence, including occasional rocket attacks into the Green Zone and a double suicide attack in a Baghdad market in January, raised questions of whether the country was secure enough for such a high-profile visit.

Iraqi President Barham Salih thanked the pope for his determination to go ahead with the visit despite the obstacles of COVID-19 and sectarian violence.

“Overcoming all these circumstances actually doubles the value of your visit in the eyes of Iraqis,” he said.

It was Pope Francis himself who insisted on making the visit to show solidarity with Iraqis, even if most will only see him during live television coverage of events.

Hundreds of Iraqis ignored pleas not to congregate and lined the notorious Airport Road, the location for numerous terror assaults during the American invasion of the country, to catch a glimpse of the pope’s motorcade.

In an address to Iraqi’s top leadership, the pope spoke of the pain from sectarian violence and years of civil war that has left Iraq deeply splintered. He urged all Iraqis to come together and offered his help to bridge religious divides.

“I come as a pilgrim of peace,” he told the Iraqi dignitaries assembled in the Great Hall of the Presidential Palace.

“May the clash of arms be silenced,” he said. “May their spread be curbed here and everywhere. May partisan interests cease.”

The four-day papal visit also comes as Iraq has seen a surge of COVID cases. The Vatican planners insist they have taken all possible precautions to prevent the visit from becoming a super-spreader event. Large crowds are discouraged and social distancing and mask wearing are required.

The pontiff has been outspoken on the social and economic impact of the pandemic and on the need for a fair and equal distribution of vaccines to developing nations.

“My visit is taking place at a time when the world as a whole is trying to emerge from the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Francis said. “The crisis calls for concerted efforts by all to take necessary steps, including an equitable distribution of vaccines for everyone.”

“But this is not enough,” he continued. “This crisis is above all a summons to rethink our styles of life and the meaning of our existence. It has to do with coming out this time of trial better than we were before.”

The pope, who is foregoing the usual open-air pope mobile for this visit, traveled by armored car to Our Lady of Salvation church in the Karrada district in central Baghdad to pay his respects at the site of suicide bombing terrorist attack. Stopping at a memorial for the 48 victims, Francis called it a “hallowed place” where Christian martyrs “paid the ultimate price of their fidelity.”

“Their deaths are a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings,” the pope told the Catholic clergy present.

The choice of Iraq, the first papal trip in 15 months, is a significant effort on behalf of the Vatican to demonstrate support and encouragement for the persecuted Christian community. But the visit is also an outreach to all of the religious communities in the country to work together after decades of violence. The pope on Saturday meets with leaders of multiple religions at an interfaith ceremony at the birthplace of Abraham.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABC By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK ) -- Duchess Meghan is speaking out about the freedom she feels since she and Prince Harry stepped away from the royal family last year.

In a newly-released clip of Meghan and Harry's highly-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, airing this Sunday, Winfrey reveale.d that she asked Meghan for an interview just before her 2018 wedding to Harry, but that Meghan politely declined, saying it wasn't the right time.

Meghan responded that she wasn’t even allowed to have that conversation with Winfrey on her own, and that other people from the royals' communications team had to be with her during the call.

In response to Winfrey's question of "What is right about this time?" for an interview, Meghan responds, "Well, so many things."

“We’re on the other side of a lot of life experience and also that we have the ability to make our own choices in a way that I couldn’t have said yes to you then. That wasn’t my choice to make," said Meghan. "So, as an adult who lived a really independent life, to then go into this construct that is different than what I think people imagine it to be, it's really liberating to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I'm ready to talk."

“To be able to just make a choice on your own and just be able to speak for yourself," added Meghan, who gave up her acting career when she wed Harry.

Winfrey was a guest at Harry and Meghan's wedding, and the couple now lives near her in the Santa Barbara area of California.

Their two-hour, primetime interview, airing Sunday on CBS, has put Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, back in the glare of the public spotlight.

This week, as clips of the interview were released, the Times of London reported Tuesday that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a close adviser at Kensington Palace.

Buckingham Palace then announced it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against the duchess, allegations that Meghan has strongly denied.

Harry and Meghan will not take part in the palace's investigation, but senior aides are expected to be questioned.

"Buckingham Palace has opened a can of worms by saying they don’t tolerate bullying," said ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson. "I think this must go much wider than Meghan herself because it will involve other members of the royal family and also other seniors member of staff."

"I think to actually focus all attention on Meghan is particularly unfair. It seems to me that in a hierarchal situation like a palace, where staff can’t really answer back, there are bound to be situations like this," he said. "I think the palace has really opened something that they probably won’t be able to put back in a box."

In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told ABC News on Tuesday that they've "addressed these defamatory claims in full" to the Times in a letter, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is "saddened" by the news.

"We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet," a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. "It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."

"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson added. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."

Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation.

Harry and Meghan are also facing pressure to delay the airing of their interview with Winfrey because of the hospitalization of Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip. The 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth has been hospitalized in London since Feb. 17 and underwent a procedure this week to treat a pre-existing heart condition, according to Buckingham Palace.

ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie explained that Harry and Meghan waited to do a sit-down interview with Winfrey until the conclusion of Meghan's privacy case with Associated Newspapers' Ltd., publisher of The Mail on Sunday, a U.K. tabloid.

A judge in the U.K. ruled last month that the Mail on Sunday invaded Meghan's privacy by publishing large parts of the personal letter she sent to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle before her wedding to Harry. On Friday, the judge ruled that Associated Newspapers' Ltd. needs to publish an official notice laying out what happened in their legal battle with Meghan.

"It wasn't until they won that case, or proved their point, that they were able to confirm with Oprah [Winfrey] that they finally wanted to set the record straight," said Scobie. "From what I hear, they're very looking forward to having their story finally out there."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImageBy ROSA SANCHEZ andd ZOE MAGEE, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Britain's Prince Philip has been transferred back to a private hospital in London after undergoing a "successful procedure" for a pre-existing heart condition, according to Buckingham Palace.

The 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh was transferred to King Edward VII’s Hospital on Friday morning. He is expected to remain hospitalized "for continuing treatment for a number of days," the palace said in a statement.

Philip, who will turn 100 in June, was initially transported by car from Windsor, England, to King Edward VII's Hospital on Feb. 17 for what Buckingham Palace described as a "precautionary measure" after the duke reported feeling unwell.

The duke was then transferred to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in east London on Monday. Buckingham Palace said at the time "doctors will continue to treat him for an infection, as well as undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition."

Two days later, Buckingham Palace confirmed Philip had undergone a "successful procedure" for a pre-existing heart condition. Philip's hospitalization is not COVID-19-related, a royal source told ABC News.

Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip received COVID-19 vaccinations earlier this year.

Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, said Wednesday that the family is keeping its "fingers crossed" for Philip's recovery. The duchess is married to Prince Charles, the oldest son of Philip and Queen Elizabeth.

“We heard today that he’s slightly improving. So that’s very good news," Camilla said during a visit to a coronavirus vaccination center in London. "We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

King Edward VII’s Hospital, where Philip is now recovering, is located closer to Windsor Castle, the royals' residence in the English county of Berkshire, outside London. St. Bartholomew's Hospital is a larger facility that specializes in cardiovascular treatment, according to the hospital's website.

While Philip is hospitalized in London, Queen Elizabeth remains at Windsor Castle, where the couple has been staying for most of the coronavirus pandemic. Queen Elizabeth has recently taken in two new puppies, ABC News has learned.

The queen and Philip celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



danielvfung/iStockBy BRITT CLENNETT, ABC News

(BEIJING) -- Beijing is poised to block any remaining avenues for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, leaving the opposition with no way to attain elected office in the Chinese territory.

China's decision-makers are expected to grant Beijing vetoing powers over selecting Hong Kong lawmakers as part of a wide-reaching campaign to wipe out pro-democracy politicians and make sure that only pro-Beijing loyalists have any real power in the city.

The major changes to Hong Kong's electoral system were confirmed at China's annual meeting of parliament, the National People's Congress, which began on Friday.

The proposed reform will be rubber-stamped at the end of the week-long meeting and attended by thousands of delegates in the capital.

Speaking on Friday morning, NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui said the system needs to be upgraded "to provide institutional guarantees and the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong."

"The National People's Congress is the supreme organ of state power. It will improve the Hong Kong SAR system consistent with the constitution," Wang said.

Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that although full details of the plan are yet to be announced, it looks as though a "vetting committee" will be set up to screen politicians.

"Would-be candidates, people who want to be elected to the legislature or the electoral college which selects chief executives, would have to be vetted before they can be allowed to apply," Lam said.

Other proposed plans in the pipeline to reform the electoral system include scrapping the right for district councilors to vote in chief executive elections or occupy seats in the legislature.

That would effectively shut out the opposition camp, which won more than 80% of the vote in the 2019 local elections.

"I'm afraid there may be no more place for the opposition," Lam said. "But of course Hong Kong still has a well-established civil society, even though they have to be extremely cautious because they may be detained or arrested for speaking out against the government."

Beijing's crackdown in Hong Kong has intensified since it imposed a national security law last summer, which it said was necessary to restore peace after mass protests in 2019.

"There's been a change in the way Beijing wants to run Hong Kong. Before this, at least a small space was offered to members of the opposition to give their opinions on various major policies -- even though in most cases their opinions came to nothing [and] they were not powerful enough to influence policy, but there was a room for them to voice their different views," Lam said.

Former democrat lawmaker Fernando Cheung told ABC News that the proposed changes are "an effort to further tighten the system so that only those who are blessed by Beijing would stand a chance to run for public offices."

"It's a great leap backwards for Hong Kong's democracy," Cheung said.

The move goes against the agreements drawn up before Hong Kong was handed back to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997. In Hong Kong's mini-constitution, Beijing vowed that "one person, one vote" would be the ultimate goal.

"It's a blatant violation of the Basic Law, given that it has promised Hong Kong people that we should move toward universal suffrage, in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress," Cheung said.

The latest directives from Beijing come as 47 pro-democracy leaders faced court on charges of subversion for holding an unofficial primary vote last year. After a grueling four days of hearings, 15 were granted bail late Thursday night.

It leaves dozens of Hong Kong's pro-democracy leaders either in prison or in exile.

Political scientist Lam said the verdict is meant to send "a clear message that the opposition should keep silent, should not show defiance."

"It is a very tough warning to the opposition to follow Beijing's instructions, otherwise they too might fall into some kind of trouble," he continued.

However, there are growing signs that China's intensifying crackdown is having a negative impact on Hong Kong's status as a global financial hub.

The Washington-based Heritage Foundation recently dropped Hong Kong from its Index of Economic Freedom. The city had topped the list for more than two decades before it was dethroned by Singapore last year.

Editors said that developments in Hong Kong and Macau show "unambiguously" that policies are ultimately controlled by Beijing.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



KeithBinns/iStockBy ALEEM AGHA and GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The killing of three female journalists and one doctor this week have once again thrown the issue of violence against women in Afghanistan into sharp focus, even as peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government continue.

ISIS in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for an attack on Tuesday in the city of Jalalabad, which saw journalists Mursal Waheedi, Saadia Sadat and Shahnaz Raufi, of the Enikas television station, shot dead. Then, on Thursday morning, a female gynecologist, Dr. Sadaf Elyas, was killed in another attack.

According to Attaullah Khogianai, the spokesperson for the governor of Jalalabad, Elyas was on her way to the central hospital in Jalalabad when a sticky bomb was attached to the three-wheeler rickshaw she was riding in. The bomb exploded, and she was killed on the spot, the spokesperson said.

While most of the recent attacks on women have been claimed by ISIS, the Afghan government has accused the Taliban of being behind the spate of killings. The militant group has denied responsibility.

Part of the reason the Afghan government is blaming the Taliban is because people linked to the group were recently found guilty of killing various government employees, and one suspect detained in connection to the killings is a known member of the Taliban, an official said.

Now, the government will likely face criticism for failing to protect its citizens at a crucial time in the country's history, when attacks by the Taliban are constant despite the historic withdrawal agreement the militant group reached with the U.S. and despite the group's continued negotiations with the government.

Some believe the killing of the four female professionals in a country as conservative as Afghanistan, is an attempt by extremists to create a climate of fear in a nation which has long struggled with incorporating the rights of women into public society. Hard-won gains could now be at risk, rights groups have repeatedly warned.

"These attacks are meant to intimidate; they are intended to make reporters cower; the culprits hope to stifle freedom of speech in a nation where the media has flourished during the past 20 years," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul tweeted. "This cannot be tolerated."

The killings of Waheedi, Sadat and Raufi also highlight another ongoing problem: the targeted killing of journalists.

In 2020, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that Afghanistan was the most dangerous country in the world for media workers.

Shaharzad Akbar, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, reacted to the news of the killings on Twitter, saying that the "Afghan media community has suffered too much" and "Afghan women have been targeted and killed too often."

"Afghan women are again anxious about an uncertain future," Akbar wrote. "To reach peace, fundamental human rights for all should be recognized & preserved. Any [political] process should include women's voices, concerns & aspirations & benefit from their expertise & experience."

She added that recognizing equality "is key to lasting peace" in the country.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABCBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A new clip of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, speaking out to Oprah Winfrey was released Wednesday night, just hours after Buckingham Palace announced it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against the duchess.

"I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we should still just be silent if there's an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us," Meghan tells Winfrey in the promo for Winfrey's primetime interview with Meghan and Prince Harry. "If that comes with the risk of losing things, there's a lot that's been lost already."

Meghan's use of the words "the firm" in her conversation with Winfrey seems to show just how personal things have become one year after Harry and Meghan stepped away from their roles as senior, working members of the royal family. The firm is the term used to refer to the family, not the institution, of the monarchy.

Buckingham Palace, which represents Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, announced Wednesday it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Duchess Meghan, a move that one royal expert called "incredibly unprecedented."

"It's a shocker, really," ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson said Thursday on Good Morning America. "The fact that they’ve now opened this investigation is also a bit of a worry for the royal family going forward."

"It’s going to open a can of worms," he said. "If there are other people out there who want to complain, not only about Meghan but other members of the royal family, that’s something that could well unravel."

Buckingham Palace's announcement came one day after The Times of London reported Tuesday that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a close adviser at Kensington Palace.

The Times reported the complaint was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the Sussexes' communications secretary at the time, in a move that was reportedly intended to protect staffers after they allegedly became pressured by Meghan, who wed Prince Harry in May 2018.

According to the Times of London report, the complaint claimed that she "drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member."

In several alleged incidents after Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding, unnamed sources told the newspaper that staff members "would on occasion be reduced to tears." One aide allegedly told a colleague, "I can't stop shaking," while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.

According to the Times report, two unnamed senior staff members also claimed that they were allegedly bullied by the duchess and another aide claimed it felt "more like emotional cruelty and manipulation."

"I was shocked by what I heard," Valentine Low, the Times' royal correspondent who broke the story about the allegations, told GMA. "I knew that she was difficult. I didn't know how difficult. I didn't know how bad it was."

Low, who said his reporting uncovered an "intensely difficult working environment," said he was also surprised by the palace's decision to investigate the bullying accusations.

"To come out with a statement like that, less than 24 hours after The Times newspaper published these allegations, I mean, it's extraordinary," he said. "[I've] never known anything like it and it shows how concerned the palace is about its own reputation."

Buckingham Palace said in its statement Wednesday its human resources team will "look into the circumstances outlined in the article."

"We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex," the palace said in the statement. "Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned."

"The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace," according to the statement.

In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told ABC News on Tuesday that they've "addressed these defamatory claims in full" in a "detailed letter" to the Times, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is "saddened" by the news.

"We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet," a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. "It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."

"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson added. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."

Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation.

Harry described the environment that he and Meghan left in the U.K. as "toxic" in an interview with The Late Late Show host James Corden that aired last week.

"There was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health," said Harry, who has recently waged legal battles with some British tabloids. "I was like, 'This is toxic,' so I did what any husband and any father would do, which is like, I need to get my family out of here."

In a clip of Harry and Meghan's interview with Winfrey released on Monday, Winfrey, who lives near the couple in California, says to them, "You’ve said some pretty shocking things here."

In another clip, Winfrey says there was "no subject that was off limits" in the interview and asks Meghan if she was “silent or silenced." In the same clip, Winfrey later interjects to say, "Almost unsurvivable -- sounds like there was a breaking point."

The Winfrey interview, set to air as a two-hour primetime special, is Harry's and Meghan's first joint interview about their decision to transition out of their working roles in the royal family.

Buckingham Palace confirmed last month that Harry and Meghan will not return as working members of the royal family.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy CLARK BENTSON, ABC News

(VATICAN CITY) -- When the pontiff touches down in Baghdad on Friday, it will be the culmination of a Vatican trip decades in the planning.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to ever visit this area of great biblical importance -- home to ancient civilizations. His trip is happening despite escalating violence, rising COVID cases and international concerns.

Questions about the timing of trip were raised repeatedly at a recent Vatican press conference. But it was the pope himself who addressed these concerns on Wednesday before his departure.

"The Iraqi people are waiting for us," the pope said. "They awaited St. John Paul II who was not permitted to go. One cannot disappoint a people for a second time."

St. John Paul II had tried without success to undertake this same trip to only be blocked by concerns of safety and political instability.

A resurgence in violent attacks has again forced the Vatican to address whether the pope's visit is safe. Iran-backed militias have twice since the beginning of the year sent rockets into bases housing American and coalition forces. President Joe Biden ordered a retaliatory strike against a suspected insurgent bases in Syria after the first attack.

In a second assault, militants launched 10 rockets at the Al Asad airbase just days before the pope's departure. The U.S. has reserved the right to respond at a time of its own choosing.

A twin suicide attack at central Baghdad market in early January stunned Iraqis after months of calm. The bombs killed 32 civilians and injured over 100. Demonstrations against the November government killings of protesters continue almost daily across the country. The unrest forced the previous prime minister to step down.

Despite the uptick in violence, the Vatican is confident the trip can move forward. It has said that Iraqi forces will be responsible for the safety of the pontiff, not international forces.

The church says the visit, which will last from March 5 to March 8, is to show support to the people of Iraq after years of violence. When the Islamic State swept through the north of the country in 2014 promising to establish its caliphate in Mosul, it nearly decimated the small Christian community that had survived under the Saddam Hussein regime. ISIS destroyed most of the churches and other Christian symbols before it was forced out and all but destroyed by coalition forces. The pope will pray for peace at the ruins of these churches in Mosul and hold a mass in the restored cathedral in Qaraqosh.

The pope wants to use this trip not only to support the Christian Iraqis, but to reach out to all the religious communities in Iraq. In Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, who is a prophet important to Christians, Muslims and Jews, the pope will hold an interfaith meeting that will include readings from the Quran. Members of all the main religious segments have been invited.

One of his most important visits will be with the head of the Shia community in Iraq, the revered Grand Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sistani, at his home in the holy city of Najaf. The 90-year-old cleric is rarely seen in public but his influence was instrumental in overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

The pope and his entourage will not have the usual large crowds attending ceremonies; Iraqi television channels will be covering all papal events live. The Vatican says it is organizing the trip with COVID mitigation efforts in mind. Most events will be before a small number of people with masks and social distancing is required. Every journalist accompanying the pope was vaccinated. The only large event, a mass at the stadium in Erbil, will be invitation only using only a fraction of the available seats.

Despite the risks, Francis is determined to make the visit in person.

"They will see that the pope is there, in their country," he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Local News

WJTN Headlines for Mon., Mar 8, 2021

Bemus Point man wanted in Jamestown, arrested on drug charges...         A Bemus Point man wanted in the city of Jamestown has been arrested for allegedly being found in poss...

Read More