Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BBC News - Egypt public prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim offers to resign

Egypt public prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim offers to resign

17 December 2012 Last updated at 22:31 GMT
Demonstrators protest in front of Cairo's Supreme Judicial House ahead of the resignation Judges and other legal officials were reported to be among those who were calling for the resignation

Egypt's new public prosecutor has offered to resign from his post after protests about his appointment.

Talaat Ibrahim was appointed by President Mohammed Morsi last month after his predecessor was sacked.

The move prompted anger among members of the judiciary who saw the sacking of Abdel Maguid Mahmoud as an attack on their independence.

Judges and officials had demonstrated outside Mr Ibrahim's office on Monday, called on him to stand down.

Security forces prevented a group of the protesters from going into the office to demand a meeting, state-owned al-Ahram newspaper said.

More than 1,300 judicial workers who had gathered outside his office greeted news of the resignation letter with cries of: "God is Great! Long live justice!", Reuters news agency reports.

Controversial constitution

Mr Ibrahim had been given the job of re-examining all investigations into the deaths of protesters when ex-President Hosni Mubarak was in power.

In his letter of resignation to the Supreme Judicial Council, published by the Mena state news agency, he said he wished to "return to his work in the judicial system".

Former public prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim in a file image from November 2012 Mr Ibrahim had been in his job a matter of weeks

His resignation is expected to be presented before the Council next Sunday, a day after a final round of voting in a referendum on Egypt's controversial draft constitution.

The first round of the referendum was held over the weekend, with many judges boycotting supervision of the vote.

Opponents say the constitution has been rushed through and fails to protect the rights of minorities, particularly women.

There are growing tensions between President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters on one side, and his mainly secular political opponents and the judiciary on the other.

Mr Morsi adopted sweeping new powers in a decree on 22 November, stripping the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions.

One of his first decisions was to sack Mr Mahmoud - first appointed as chief prosecutor by Mr Mubarak.

The decree spurred nationwide protests and clashes between Mr Morsi's supporters and opponents.

Under pressure, the president revoked the decree but kept the new prosecutor-general in place.

Friday, December 14, 2012

BBC News - Ex-policeman jailed in Russia over Politkovskaya murder

Ex-policeman jailed in Russia over Politkovskaya murder

14 December 2012 Last updated at 13:36 GMT
Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov in court. Photo: 14 December 2012 Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov is a former Moscow police officer

A former Russian police officer has been jailed for 11 years for his role in the murder of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was found guilty by a court in Moscow of tracking Politkovskaya's movements and providing the killer with a gun.

He struck a plea bargain to qualify for a reduced sentence.

He was tried separately from five other men accused of the 2006 murder, which shocked human rights campaigners.

The court also ordered Lt Col Pavlyuchenkov to pay 3m rubles (£60,500; $97,500) in compensation to Politkovskaya's children.

The Politkovskaya family had demanded 10m rubles.

After the verdict, Pavlyuchenkov was immediately led away from the courtroom by guards.

Politkovskaya's family had opposed the plea bargain, under which Pavlyuchenkov was allowed to admit his guilt without testifying.

Other defendants

The other defendants include three members of the same Chechen family: Rustam Makhmudov, who is accused of firing the fatal shots, and his brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim, who are accused of acting as getaway drivers.

All three men were tried and acquitted for lack of evidence in 2009 but the verdict was overturned by Russia's supreme court, which ordered them to be retried.

The prosecutors said Pavlyuchenkov was part of the gang formed by Chechen crime boss, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who was himself allegedly in the pay of an unidentified mastermind.

Gaitukayev was arrested in 2007 in a separate case and is currently serving a jail sentence for the attempted murder of a businessman. He was charged over the Politkovskaya murder last year.

Another former police officer, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, has been charged with providing logistical support in the crime.

'Political taboo'

Politkovskaya was an investigative journalist who wrote highly critical reports on the Kremlin and of Russian military actions in Chechnya.

On 7 October 2006, she was found shot dead in a lift at her block of flats in Moscow.

At the time, the 48-year-old was working for a small-circulation Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, known for its fierce attacks on the country's authorities.

Her brutal murder shocked the media in Russia and abroad, and led to calls for better protection of journalists in the country.

The late journalist's family had argued in vain that the plea bargain would not help establish who had ultimately ordered the murder.

Their lawyer said they would appeal against Friday's verdict for being too lenient.

Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief said earlier there was a "political taboo" on identifying the person who had ordered the killing.

Dmitry Muratov said he wanted any plea-bargaining in the case to require that suspects name this person.

Egyptian Corporate Lawyer: BBC News - Egypt crisis: Rival rallies as referend...

Egyptian Corporate Lawyer: BBC News - Egypt crisis: Rival rallies as referend...: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20726474 Egypt crisis: Rival rallies as referendum looms ...

BBC News - Egypt crisis: Rival rallies as referendum looms

Egypt crisis: Rival rallies as referendum looms

14 December 2012 Last updated at 18:49 GMT

Clashes flare between the rival camps in the port city of Alexandria

Supporters and opponents of Egypt's president are staging final rallies ahead of a referendum on a draft constitution, due to start on Saturday.

Opponents say the draft document has been crafted poorly and without proper consultation, and is too Islamist.

President Mohammed Morsi insists the constitution is needed to complete the transition from Hosni Mubarak's rule.

The controversy has sparked unrest across Egypt and fresh clashes have broken out in Alexandria.

'Victory of Islam'

As the start of the referendum nears, security is tight, with tens of thousands of police and troops deployed to keep order.

President Morsi has also given the army the power to arrest civilians, raising fears that Egypt is moving back towards military rule.

The increased security presence has not stopped clashes flaring between the rival camps in the northern port city of Alexandria.

Dozens fought with clubs, stones and other weapons. A number of cars were set alight and at least 15 people were injured.

The violence reportedly broke out after a cleric at a mosque had urged worshippers to vote "Yes".

Brief clashes were also reported in Nagaa Hammadi, 460km (290 miles) south of Cairo.

One pro-constitution rally in Cairo drew 2,000 people, while hundreds of opponents gathered outside the presidential palace.

Sheik Mohammed Sayyed, who is linked to Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, said during Friday prayers at a mosque in Assuit: "Tomorrow is the day we will seek victory of Islam."

But Amr Hamzawy, a leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, said: "We are confident that the Egyptian people will topple the Muslim Brotherhood's constitution."

Another of its leaders, Hamdeen Sabbahi, said: "The National Salvation Front calls on people to flood into polling stations to say 'No'."

The opposition protests on Friday appeared to be smaller than the mass rallies of recent weeks.Rallies as Egypt referendum looms

A new Egyptian constitution is seen as a major milestone following the revolution that ousted Mubarak in 2011.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says the referendum is not just a vote on a few obscure clauses.

He says it is about the future direction of Egypt - whether it should be an Islamic country or a secular one, a country with its own distinctive Middle Eastern identity or a country more in tune with Western and European values.

The vote on the draft - a densely written document passed by an 85-member constituent assembly composed of mostly Islamists earlier this month - has sharpened the polarisation between liberal groups and the powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

Critics say the wording of the draft would give a green light to Islamic clerics having a say over legislation and civil liberties.

Our correspondent says even if one side or the other wins a clear victory, it is not likely to be the end of a debate that has divided Egypt down the middle.

Polls will open at 08:00 (06:00 GMT) on Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria and eight other provinces. The other half of the country will vote a week later.

Polling had to be spread out because so few judges were willing to supervise the vote.

BBC News - 27 dead in Connecticut primary school shooting

27 dead in Connecticut primary school shooting

14 December 2012 Last updated at 20:48 GMT

The BBC's Steve Kingstone reports on the "alarming scene" at the school

Twenty children and six adults have been killed in a shooting attack at a primary school in the US state of Connecticut, police say.

Police Lt Paul Vance said the gunman was also dead, but gave no cause.

US media identified the gunman, who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, as Ryan Lanza, 24, said to be from New Jersey.

The killings make Newtown the second-worst US shooting, after 32 died at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Friday's shooting is the third major gun attack in the US in 2012.

In July an attacker killed 12 people at a premiere of a Batman film in Aurora, Colorado. In August six people died at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Just this week two people died in a shooting at a shopping mall in the state of Oregon.

At the White House, an emotional President Barack Obama cited those incidents as he called for "meaningful action... regardless of politics".

"Our hearts are broken today, for their parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers of these children, and for the families of the adults who were lost."

Mr Obama offered condolences to the families of survivors too, saying "their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain".

He wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke of the "overwhelming grief" at the loss of life.

Children's 'eyes covered'

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is meeting the families of the victims, a spokesman said, and is expected to visit the school later in the day. He is expected to make a statement shortly.

The American flags on Capitol Hill in Washington DC have been lowered to half-mast in the wake of the attack.

Sandy Hook School - described by correspondents as a highly rated school has more than 600 students in classes from Kindergarten to 4th Grade - spanning the ages five to 10.

Police arrived at the school soon after 09:40 local time (14:40 GMT), answering reports that a gunman was in the school's main office and one person had "numerous gunshot wounds".

Scores of officers at the scene carried out a full search of the site. Classes were cancelled as the situation developed.

Schools across the district were immediately on lock-down as a preventive measure, officials said.

According to US reports, the gunman's mother was a teacher found among the dead at the school. The Associated Press said his brother was being held by police.

The attacker was dressed in black and wearing a bullet-proof vest during the attack, and reportedly used a .223-calibre rifle. Other weapons are also said to have been recovered.

With the death toll rising, it emerged that one entire classroom of students may remain unaccounted for, local sources reported.

Three other people were taken to hospital and are reported to be in "very serious condition", Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told CNN.

One witness speaking to CNN said that shots were heard coming from the hall. There "must have been 100 rounds" fired, she told the channel.

Local media have reported that firefighters instructed children to close their eyes and run past the school's office as they exited the building.

Other sources suggest that some of the shots were fired in a school classroom.

There were early unconfirmed reports of two shooters, but no further details of a second gunman mentioned by police.


With the children now evacuated, aerial images of the school show emergency vehicles still at the scene and scores of cars surrounding the area.

Parents and children were seen weeping and comforting friends and family at the school as the scale of the shooting gradually became clear. Officials say they are trying to unite children with their parents.

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Group: Number of jailed journalists worldwide reaches record high - CNN.com

Group: Number of jailed journalists worldwide reaches record high

Over 100 Turkish journalists protest outside Syrian Embassy, Ankara, August 31, 2012, for two Turkish reporters' release.
Over 100 Turkish journalists protest outside Syrian Embassy, Ankara, August 31, 2012, for two Turkish reporters' release.

(CNN) -- The number of journalists jailed around the world reached a record high in 2012, with Turkey the worst offender, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report published Tuesday.

At the start of this month, 232 reporters, photographers and editors were in prisons in 27 countries on charges of "terrorism" and crimes against the state intended to "silence critical voices," the New-York based group said.

The figure is the highest since the organization, which promotes press freedom, began record-keeping in 1990 through an annual census. Until now, the record was 185, set in 1996.

Read more: Press freedoms watchdog slams Turkish government

Turkey holds 49 journalists behind bars, according to the group, the largest total for an individual country. Dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors have been jailed on terrorism-related charges, it said, and several other journalists "on charges of involvement in anti-government plots."

"Broadly worded anti-terror and penal code statutes have allowed Turkish authorities to conflate the coverage of banned groups and the investigation of sensitive topics with outright terrorism or other anti-state activity," the committee said.

Iran came a close second, with 45 jailed journalists, according to the report. Tehran has "sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election," it said.

Many of the 32 journalists behind bars in China, the third worst offender, are Tibetans or Uighurs who were imprisoned for covering ethnic unrest that flared up in 2008, according to the committee. Others are being held for expressing dissident political views, it said

In Eritrea, none of the 28 detained journalists have "ever been publicly charged with a crime or brought before a court for trial," the report said, dubbing the country "the worst abuser of due process."

Amid the civil war raging in Syria, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have seized at least 15 journalists, according to the committee.

"None of the detainees have been charged with a crime, and the authorities have been unwilling to account for the detainees' whereabouts or well-being," it said.

On a more positive note, the committee noted that for the first time since 1996, Myanmar is not on its list of countries jailing journalists.

The Myanmar government of President Thein Sein, whose recent political reforms have been welcomed by the United States and Europe, has released at least 12 journalists over the past year, the report said.

Egyptian Corporate Lawyer: General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's pr...

Egyptian Corporate Lawyer: General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's pr...: http://english.ahram.org.eg/UI/Front/ General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor-general, ju...

General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor-general, justice minister - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor-general, justice minister - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

General prosecutors demand dismissal of Egypt's prosecutor-general, justice minister
Egypt's General Prosecution calls for resignation of Morsi-appointed Prosecutor-General Talaat Ibrahim, dismissal of Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki

Ahram Online , Thursday 13 Dec 2012

Members of Egypt's General Prosecution on Thursday called for the resignation of Prosecutor-General Talaat Ibrahim – recently appointed by President Mohamed Morsi – and the dismissal of Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki due to what they described as "threats" by the two men against General Prosecution judges.

The move comes following a recent decision by Ibrahim to transfer East Cairo District Attorney Moustafa Khater to the Upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef. Khater's transfer came after he ordered the release of scores of people detained during last week's clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in Cairo. Ibrahim later reversed the transfer decision.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website, a judicial source said that Khater's decision to release 137 of those accused of taking part in the clashes – reportedly due to a lack of evidence – was the reason for his transfer by the new Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general.

Members of the prosecution also called for the resignation of Zaghloul El-Balshi, head of the justice ministry's judicial inspection office. El-Balshi also heads the committee tasked with overseeing Saturday's contentious constitutional poll.

Prosecution judges further recommended that the judicial inspection office be transferred from the auspices of the justice ministry to Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council.

Members of the prosecution met at the Egyptian Judges Club in downtown Cairo on Thursday, where they declared their intention to stage a sit-in on Monday if their recommendations were not carried out.

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BBC News - Spain seizes former Egypt leader Hosni Mubarak's assets

Spain seizes former Egypt leader Hosni Mubarak's assets

13 December 2012 Last updated at 16:31 GMT
Former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on trial in Cairo, 2 June 2012 Mubarak was jailed for life for his role in the killing of protesters

Police in Spain say they have seized assets linked to former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak worth some 28m euros (£23m; $34m).

They took action after the new Egyptian authorities made an international request to block the assets of 130 people associated with his rule.

Some 18.4m euros in financial products have been frozen in Spanish banks.

Other assets include properties in the capital Madrid and the resort of Marbella, and seven luxury cars.

The two buildings in Madrid's wealthy Moraleja district are worth a combined 7m euros while the seven properties in Marbella are worth more than 3m euros.

"The assets could be the proceeds of crimes such as the embezzlement of public funds, corruption or the illegal enrichment committed during his mandate," police said.

Mubarak was overthrown on 11 February last year after nearly three weeks of mass unrest in which nearly 900 people died and more than 6,000 were injured.

He was jailed for life this summer for his role in ordering the killings.

Reports that Mubarak and his inner circle had stolen tens of billions of dollars helped fuel the revolt against his rule.

Switzerland has frozen some $441m in assets linked to Mubarak.

In the UK, at least £85m ($135m) of assets have been frozen, though there are fears that some property and companies may have been overlooked.

Israel's Lieberman indicted on lesser charges; says he doesn't have to resign

Israel's Lieberman indicted on lesser charges; says he doesn't have to resign

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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Egypt political figures react to president's reversal of planned tax hikes - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

Last Update 1:45
Egypt political figures react to president's reversal of planned tax hikes
Political personalities and pundits criticise Egyptian President Morsi's plan to raise taxes, which he retracted only hours after issuing it
Zeinab El Gundy, Monday 10 Dec 2012
Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian political figures and parties reacted to President Mohamed Morsi's Monday move to retract an earlier decision to increase taxes and customs on certain commodities.

Nader Bakkar, spokesman of the Salafist Nour Party, criticised how quickly Morsi had retracted the planned tax increase only hours after issuing it.

"The speedy retraction of the president's decision to increase taxes does not mean it was met with popular refusal so much as it suggests a problem in the decision-making process," Bakkar said via Twitter.

Ahmed Sayid El-Naggar, prominent economy analyst, slammed Morsi's actions in televised comments on Sunday and on Facebook.

"Dr. Morsi's actions are ridiculous. He signed a decree that he halted hours later after I and others reminded him that it was a stupid decision when he needs to garner votes for the draft constitution, which has been defamed," El-Naggar stated on Facebook on Monday. "It's as if he is punishing voters by raising taxes and prices."

Former MP Mostafa El-Naggar also slammed the move, saying it raised questions about the decision-making process.

"It suggests that there are two unknown parties in Egypt fighting over the decision-making process," he asserted on Monday."It is the people's right to know who those parties are."

Similar sentiments were expressed by Basem Kamel, former MP and leading member of the liberal Constitution Party.

"Who is behind the decrees issued by President Morsi, which he later cancels?" Kamel asked via Twitter.

"If there is someone interfering in the decision-making process, then this is a disaster," he added. "And if the president is the one who is issuing these decisions that he later cancels, it will be an even bigger disaster."

On Sunday, the president's Freedom and Justice Party – the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood – issued a statement denouncing the president's decisions and demanding they be put on hold.

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