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Phuket Gazette World News: Kenyan president and war crimes; Damascus under siege; 17 jailed for cop bomb plot; Budapest up in arms; Somali rape reporter freed

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Phuket Gazette World News: Kenyan president and war crimes; Damascus under siege; 17 jailed for cop bomb plot; Budapest up in arms; Somali rape reporter freed | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Kenyatta lawyers push international court to drop case
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Lawyers for Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, will push the International Criminal Court today to drop charges against him after the case against his co-accused collapsed.

The case against Kenyatta, on charges of crimes against humanity over bloodshed in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 election, has been further complicated by his victory in a ballot which was held largely peacefully this month.

The case is also an important test for the court, which was set up more than a decade ago as the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal but has only secured one conviction.

Kenyatta and former civil servant Francis Muthaura were among six suspects initially charged by ICC prosecutors with orchestrating violence after the 2007 election, when some 1,200 people were killed.

But last Monday, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the decision of a key witness to recant testimony forced her to drop charges against Muthaura. She said that would have no impact on Kenyatta’s case, which was closely linked.

The status conference, or pre-trial hearing, was called by the judges in The Hague at 3pm (9pm Phuket time) to look at the consequences of the withdrawal of the charges against Muthaura for the case against Kenyatta.

Kenyatta’s lawyers will call for the case against him to be dropped or at least postponed, said one lawyer who was familiar with the case but did not want to be quoted by name.

“The collapse of the case against Muthaura has a profound impact on the viability of the prosecution’s case against Kenyatta,” the lawyer said.

The prosecutions are based on a lot of the same evidence. Both men have always denied any wrongdoing.

Kenyatta, elected by a slim margin, faces a big challenge in bridging Kenya’s ethnic divides even without the court case. His opponent, defeated presidential contender Raila Odinga, challenged the election result in court on Saturday, alleging widespread ballot rigging.

Prosecutors could be expected to resist any moves to drop the charges against Kenyatta, which were brought by Bensouda’s predecessor.

However, lawyers for Kenyatta could also say the prosecution case has changed so much in the past year that the case should be moved back to the pre-trial “confirmation of charges” phase.

The prosecution would then have to show again that it has a strong enough case to go to trial.

Kenyatta’s lawyers have argued that so much information was disclosed by prosecutors at the last minute that the case is fundamentally different from the one judges initially approved.

Judges have not yet formally dropped the case against Muthaura.

Syria rebels seize security compound near Golan
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Syrian rebels seized a Syrian military intelligence compound in the southern Hauran Plain near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights yesterday, stepping up attacks in the strategic region which stretches to the outskirts of the capital Damascus, rebel commanders said.

The frontier, quiet since Israel and Syria agreed on a U.S.-brokered ceasefire in 1974, has turned volatile in recent weeks, after opposition brigades stepped up attacks against army and intelligence compounds dotting the agricultural plain stretching from the border with Jordan to the Damascus outskirts.

At least 70,000 people have been killed since a peaceful protest movement led by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority broke out two years ago against four decades of family rule by President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect, and his father, the late Hafez al-Assad.

The demonstrations were met by bullets, eventually sparking a Sunni backlash and a mostly Islamist armed insurgency increasingly spearheaded by the al Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front, creating a political dilemma for regional and Western powers and deepening the Shi’ite-Sunni divide in the Middle East.

The compound near the Yarmouk River in the town of Shagara, 8 km (5 miles) from a ceasefire line with Israel, fell after a five-day siege, the sources said.

“We have completely taken over this security compound this morning. It’s a command centre for the shabbiha (pro-Assad militia). They retreated after strong blows dealt to them during a five day siege,” said Abu Iyas al-Haurani, a member of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.

“Anyone who was arrested in the Yarmouk Valley was sent to this military intelligence headquarters to be tortured and it has a strategic importance. With its fall we have completed our liberation of the town of Shagara,” he added.

Another rebel commander said the aim of the attacks in western Hauran is to open a new front in the fight against Assad that would stretch troops deployed in Hauran, cradle of the two-year revolt, and to secure a supply route to the western and southern approaches of Damascus, where battles have been fierce.

Assad’s elite forces, however, remain dug in at Qasioun Mountain in the centre of Damascus.

Damascus under siege

Battles broke out yesterday in the southern Damascus suburb of Sbeineh, a residential area on the main road leading south into Hauran after opposition fighters stormed a compound housing shabbiha militia, activists in the capital said.

Dozens of people were killed and wounded in the fighting and in ensuing army shelling in the town, they added.

Rebel brigades overran last week a missile squadron in Khan Sheihoun, a town southwest of Damascus on the road to the Golan, and seized an army barracks.

Further south, in the old centre of Deraa, Hauran’s main city, situated at the border with Jordan, rebels were trying to take the Omari mosque, scene of killings at a pro-democracy demonstration on March 18, 2011 that sparked the national revolt, but security forces positioned at a nearby post office were fighting back, activist Thaer al-Abdallah said from Deraa.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague interview with Sky News, said yesterday that Britain has “taken no decision at the moment to send arms to anybody in Syria”.

He said sending arms to the opposition had to be weighed against the risks of “international terrorism and extremism taking root in Syria, the risks of Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan being destabilised, and the risks of extreme humanitarian distress.”

Bahrain court jails 17 for trying to kill policemen
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A Bahrain court sentenced 17 people to 15 years in prison yesterday after convicting them of trying to kill four policemen with a homemade bomb during political unrest last year.

The attackers planted the bomb in a roadblock formed of tyres, palm tree trunks and garbage bins, and detonated it when a police patrol approached, state news agency BNA quoted prosecutor Mamdouh Al-Maawda as saying.

The four policemen were seriously hurt and burned during the attack in April 2012, BNA reported.

The tiny island kingdom has been plagued by sometimes violent street protests since pro-democracy protests led by its Shi’ite Muslim majority erupted in early 2011.

Also yesterday, a group of people attacked a diesel tanker with Molotov cocktails, BNA quote

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported | The Thaiger
PHOTO: New cases reported over the weekend are concerning health offficials - BBC.com

Another 139 new cases of a flu-like disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China has shocked health officials. There’s also been a third confirmed death reported today. Worse, the outbreak has now spread beyond Wuhan in central China where the virus was first identified. There have been cases reported in Beijing, a province next door to Shanghai and Shenzhen in southern China.

Health authorities in Beijing have now confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus today, while Guangdong authorities in southern China reported one new case in Shenzhen as well. The Shenzhen case is the first confirmation that the virus has spread domestically beyond Wuhan.

The Wuhan Health Commission announced today that 136 new patients had been diagnosed over the weekend – 1 person died from the virus, 2 remain in critical condition, 33 are in serious condition. All three patients that have died are believed to have visited Wuhan in the last month or so.

The new cases have brought the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in China to 201. That’s a big jump over numbers reported over the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, say they are monitoring eight patient. All eight have been quarantined for treatment. In coastal Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai, authorities have now reported five new suspected cases who have been confirmed to have visited Wuhan. Last week, three cases were detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. All cases have been linked to Wuhan. On Monday, South Korea also confirmed its first case of the virus.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak in he city of tWuhan has been closed for disinfection since January 1.

Meanwhile, Thai officials are stepping up screening efforts with many flights flying in from Wuhan over the next few weeks for the Chinese New Year holidays. Health officials say they’re confident that their screening efforts will detect any infected passengers getting off flights at Thai airports.

SOURCE: CNN

Coronavirus spreads north and south in China - 139 new cases reported | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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