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March 31, 2015

Four found dead at flat in Gibraltar

Four found dead at flat in Gibraltar – Wikinews, the free news source

Four found dead at flat in Gibraltar

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Gibraltar, seen from the air. From file.
Image: Steve.

The bodies of two adults and two children were found yesterday at a flat in Gibraltar in a possible murder-suicide. Two young girls, one aged four and the other only six weeks, were found stabbed alongside a British 31-year-old male and a Spanish 37-year-old female. Royal Gibraltar Police said despite opening up a crime investigation on the deaths they do not currently believe anyone else was involved.

Police said an apartment letting agency staff member notified them about the property where the bodies were discovered. Police responded to the flat, in the Boschetti’s Steps area, at around 11:35 local time. Police said “They got no answer from within but noticed that the house was locked from inside and that sent a few alarm bells ringing and they decided to call the police[…] At the moment what we are doing is trying to get as much background information from both the Spanish and the UK sides of the family.”

Police also said the family were not permanent residents in Gibraltar and had entered the British overseas territory only days ago. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said they too were looking into the incident.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, police sources believe the older girl is the woman’s daughter but not the man’s. Police confirmed “It is believed that all the deceased belong to the same family”. As relatives of the deceased are being sought, the names of the victims have not yet been released.

Fabian Picardo, the Gibraltar Chief Minister, spoke of his shock after hearing about the deaths. “As a husband and father, I — like no doubt all Gibraltarians and residents of Gibraltar — am in total shock to hear about this terrible crime[…] Gibraltarians are not accustomed to witness this type of incident in our peaceful and law abiding community. Words will fail us all at a moment like this and all we can do is keep the victims and their families in our thoughts.” Due to the incident he ordered parliament be adjourned until Wednesday.



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January 23, 2013

Briton sentenced to death for drug smuggling in Indonesia

Briton sentenced to death for drug smuggling in Indonesia

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Indonesia
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A British woman has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling. Lindsay Sandiford, 56, was found guilty of breaking the tough drug laws in place in Indonesia at the Denpasar district court yesterday, having being found with 10.6 lb of cocaine, worth about £1.6m, in the lining of her suitcase at Bali‘s main airport in May last year.

Lawyers for Ms Sandiford, who is originally from the town of Redcar in Teesside, England, said the ruling “surprised” them, and they would appeal. U.K. Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire expressed his strong objection to the decision and said the U.K. opposed the use of the death penalty. “We are aware that Lindsay Sandiford is facing the death penalty in Indonesia. We strongly object to the death penalty and continue to provide consular assistance to Lindsay and her family during this difficult time,” he said.

Ms Sandiford was stopped on May 19 during a routine customs check at Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, after arriving from Bangkok via Thai Airways. She told the court, “I would like to begin by apologising to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement. I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them.”

Prosecutors were not pursuing the death penalty for Ms Sandiford, instead asking for 15 years in prison.

The court is expected to deliver a verdict in the trial of Julian Ponder today. He was allegedly involved in drug smuggling with Ms Sandiford and Rachel Dougall. Mr Ponder is accused of receiving the drugs from Ms Sandiford in Bali. He denies the accusations, saying he was expecting delivery of a birthday present for his child from Ms Sandiford.

In the court verdict against Ms Sandiford, a panel of judges said she had damaged Bali’s image.

Although 114 Indonesian prisoners are sentenced to death, including about 40 foreigners most of whom are drug-crime convicts, no executions have taken place since 2008.



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June 22, 2012

Assange seeks asylum in Ecuadorian embassy

Assange seeks asylum in Ecuadorian embassy

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Friday, June 22, 2012

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Julian Assange, founder of whistle blowing site Wikileaks, has spent a third night in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He entered the embassy on Tuesday to claim asylum, breaking strict bail conditions, after losing an appeal in the British high courts over extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over allegations of sexual assault in 2010.

File photo of Assange in 2010
Image: Ralgis.

Assange, 40, awaits a decision from diplomats on his asylum application. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he explained the decision following a feeling of abandonment by his native Australia, adding that he was not certain that Ecuador would grant his request. “We had heard that the Ecuadoreans were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of the organisation with the United States,” he said. The Australian government have repeatedly stated he has been receiving assistance from their London embassy, claims Assange denies.

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, said that the country would examine the application carefully. Assange alleges that sending him to Sweden will result in eventual extradition to America, to face charges over a 2010 incident in which Wikileaks released leaked US diplomatic cables. Correa said that the matter centred around whether Assange would face the death penalty if sent to the US.

Sweden is seeking to question Assange following allegations, in 2010, that he sexually attacked two female Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm. At extradition hearings Assange’s lawyers have argued that he was allowed to leave Sweden, and that attempts to conduct an interview via video link have been rejected. But last week the high court dismissed an appeal claim “without merit”. He now has until 28 June to file an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights. Jemima Khan, who provided part of the surety for his bail, has called on Assange to face his accusers, saying “I personally would like to see Assange confront the rape allegations in Sweden and the two women at the centre have a right to a response.”

In breaking his bail conditions Assange risks being arrested once he leaves the embassy. The bail included a curfew, during which he had to be present at a named address. Even if Ecuador grant asylum it will be hard for Assange to leave the country; diplomatic immunity (which would protect him from arrest) must be approved by the Foreign Office.



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May 30, 2012

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

Charles Taylor gets 50 years for war crimes

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, has been today handed a 50-year sentence for war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone. The court previously held he financed a war which left an estimated 50,000 dead.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

Taylor, 64, is considered likely to remain incarcerated for life if the sentence stands, but his legal team has vowed to appeal. The prosecution sought an 80-year sentence. Taylor’s is the first conviction of a head of state by an international tribunal since the fallout from World War Two, when the Nuremberg trials were underway.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is operating from the Netherlands to avoid unrest if Taylor were tried in Africa, spent more than a year deliberating before convicting Taylor last month. Acquitted of ordering crimes or of acting in a joint enterprise to conduct them, he was nonetheless convicted of aiding and abetting the offences. There were 94 prosecution witnesses and 21 for the defence.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee and went on trial later that year. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, received training from late Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made. Taylor was convicted in late April of aiding and abetting forcing amputation, as well as rape, murder, child soldier recruitment, sexual slavery, and pillaging.

The court’s panel of judges, presided over by Judge Richard Lussick, heard a 30-minute address by Taylor at an earlier sentencing hearing. “I express my sadness and sympathy for crimes suffered by individuals and families in Sierra Leone,” said Taylor, adding he acted “with honour” and as a peacemaker, asking for “reconciliation, not retribution” in sentencing. Taylor also gave evidence at his own trial, spending seven months of testimony saying he strove for peace in the region.

Lussick noted the panel felt 80 years to be excessive given that Taylor was cleared of directly carrying out offences. However, the court found other factors aggravated the case: In particular, he was a head of state. “Leadership must be carried out by example by the prosecution of crimes, not the commission of crimes,” Lussick said in court. “The special status of Mr. Taylor as a head of state puts him in a different category of offenders for the purpose of sentencing,” the judge said, with the convict “in a class of his own”.

“[His] positions both as president of Liberia and within the west African regional bodies distinguish him from any other individual that has appeared before this court,” Prosecutor Brenda Hollis said at a sentencing hearing. “Taylor’s abuse of his authority and influence is especially egregious given that west African leaders repeatedly entrusted him with a role to facilitate peace.” She had claimed “No significant mitigating circumstances exist in this case.”

Lussick also told the court today Taylor stood convicted of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”. “The lives of many more innocent civilians in Sierra Leone were lost or destroyed as a direct result of his actions.” These were, the court said, crimes of the “utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality”. The prosecution had claimed Taylor followed no more motivation beyond simple greed and power lust. Lussick said today the judges were unanimous in imposing a term of 50 years.

The defence had called for a sentence that gave Taylor a realistic prospect of eventual release. They also noted he is set to be sent to the United Kingdom to serve sentence. The defendant would be “culturally isolated”, facing a “punishment within a punishment”. At least one war crimes convict has been attacked in prison in the UK, and it is anticipated Taylor will end up in a high-security prison after the UK Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

“The sentence is clearly excessive, clearly disproportionate to his circumstances, his age and his health and does not take into account the fact that he stepped down from office voluntarily,” said counsel for the accused Morris Anya. The prosecution may also appeal the sentencing, and the verdict itself with intent to increase Taylor’s convictions beyond merely aiding and abetting. The defence also intends to appeal the verdict.

The appeals process means Taylor is likely to remain at The Hague for several months, where the court has been holding sessions in nearby Leidschendam. He is the last defendant to face trial before the Special Court, which has previously convicted and sentenced eight other prominent figures in the conflict.



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April 26, 2012

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor convicted in war crimes trial

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

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Former President of Liberia Charles Taylor was today found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, Netherlands. Taylor was acquitted of actually ordering the offences or being part of a joint enterprise to conduct them.

A school destroyed by RUF rebels.
Image: Laura Lartigue.

The eleven-count indictment produced a four-year trial that heard allegations of rape, murder, sexual slavery, cannibalism, arms dealing, “blood” diamond trade, and use of child soldiers. Prosecution witnesses totalled 94 whilst the defence had 21 including the accused. Taylor spent his seven months of evidence claiming he was a peacemaker.

The allegations date to civil war in Sierra Leone, which ran from 1991 to 2002. Taylor, who had been a warlord since the ’80s, backed the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was elected Liberian president in 1997 after a different civil war concluded.

Six years later he was ousted when an arrest warrant was issued and fled to Nigeria. He was arrested there in 2006 whilst again trying to flee. Taylor, who had been facing a rebellion against him since 1999 in Liberia, had received training from Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Testimony included claims that Taylor-backed fighters adorned roads with human intestines and ate human flesh. One claimed to have seen Taylor himself eat human liver, something Taylor denied. One described asking RUF rebels to sever his only hand in exchange for his young son’s life.

Further allegations said teenage children were involved in the fighting and that Taylor sold illegally mined diamonds to finance arms purchases for the RUF. Western celebrities Naomi Campbell, a model, and Mia Farrow, an actress, described an incident at a charity dinner held by Nelson Mandella, then South Africa’s head, in 1997. Campbell and Farrow said Taylor gifted Campbell a number of diamonds. Taylor is claimed to have ordered seizure of Sierra Leone’s diamond deposits by RUF soldiers.

It was claimed in court that child soldiers were used in conflict, as diamond mine guards, and to carry out amputations. Allegations of forced amputation were made.

The court, which has spent a year considering its verdicts, unanimously found Taylor guilty. It ruled Taylor knew at least from 1997 the full extent of RUF activities in Sierra Leone, and that he helped bankroll activities dealing in blood diamonds. A judge said more than a thousand youngsters had ‘RUF’ carved into their skin to prevent escape. From the moment he receives the full judgement Taylor has two weeks in which to file an appeal.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International welcomed the verdict, which is the first conviction of a head of state before an international court since the Nuremburg trials prosecuted Nazi leaders after World War Two. Karl Dönitz was convicted after he took brief control of Germany in the aftermath of Adolf Hitler‘s suicide.

Former President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic faced trial but died before a judgement was handed down. Laurent Gbagbo, once Presldent of the Ivory Coast, is in custody at The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court. Taylor joins eight other Special Court convicts, all of whom are from Sierra Leone. He is the first African ruler to appear in The Hague.

The Special Court was formed jointly by Sierra Leone’s present administration and the United Nations.

The Netherlands agreed the process could be held there on the condition Taylor did not serve sentence there if convicted. He is expected to be sent to the UK, where Foreign Office has promised to uphold an agreement to imprison him there made by ex-Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.



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February 19, 2012

France school bus crash kills one, leaves five seriously injured

France school bus crash kills one, leaves five seriously injured

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Disasters and accidents

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Map of the Autoroute involved. The bus crashed roughly halfway along.

A bus crashed into a ditch in northern France, killing one man and leaving at least four people seriously injured, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed.

The crash occurred on the A26 autoroute, between Calais and Troyes, near Reims, at approximately 0300 CET (0200 UTC) this morning. The vehicle was carrying 29 school children and twenty or 21 adults, with the man killed being 59 years old. The 22 minorly injured and the four or five seriously injured are currently receiving hospital treatment.

The pupils, who attend Alvechurch Church of England Middle School in Worcestershire, England, were returning to the UK from a trip to Aosta Valley, a well-known skiing area in Italy. Those not injured have been transported to a local sports complex where the French Red Cross is providing psychological assistance.

Police tests have established that the driver was not drunk and has been tested negative for drugs. It is possible that he might have fallen asleep while driving. Details of how exactly the crash occurred are unclear presently. According to BBC News reporter Hugh Schofield, the vehicle “veered into the ditch at the side of the road and it was a very serious accident.” Video from the scene showed the coach, which was owned by an English company, had rolled onto its side.

Exquisite-Modem.png
To find out more about those involved in this crash, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: 0207 008 1500



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October 19, 2011

Kenya troops enter Somalia after kidnappings

Kenya troops enter Somalia after kidnappings

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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The al-Shabab are believed to have abducted tourists from the Coast Province of Kenya.

The Kenyan army moved into Southern Somalia Sunday, acting against the al-Shabab militant group. Two recent kidnappings by Somalis from island resorts have cost the Kenyan tourist industry.

The UK Foreign Office has issued an advisory against travelling to the Kenya–Somalia border. Kenya’s foreign minister has said Kenyans must “defend your country, you must defend the security of your people and in doing so, you have to go for these people where they are”. He also went on to say they were acting on request of the government of Somalia.

A spokesperson for the al-Shabab militant group shouted, “Are you ready to live under Christians?” on a militant local Somali radio station, advocating a holy war.

Omar Osman, a spokesperson for the Somali government, said Kenyan logistical support was welcome, but Kenyan troops were unnecessary.



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January 27, 2011

BBC World Service to drop five languages

BBC World Service to drop five languages

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

BBC

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According to the BBC News website, five languages are to be cut from the BBC World Service’s coverage. Albanian, Macedonian, and Serbian are no longer going to be used on the global radio station, and Portuguese will no longer be used in African regional programmes, nor English in the Caribbean. Seven undisclosed languages are also going to be scaled back. The cuts mean that approximately 650 jobs will be lost in order to save around £46m. The cuts were officially announced at a staff briefing on Thursday.

The BBC’s director of global news, Peter Horrocks, said that the cuts were “not a reflection on the performance of individual services or programmes”, and were cut due to a “need to make savings”, after the Government’s grant-in-aid funding was cut. The BBC took over funding the World Service in October 2010, previously funded by the Foreign Office. The move comes just days after announcements that the funding for the BBC website is to be slashed by £34m as part of 25% cuts across the spectrum of services offered by the taxpayer-funded broadcaster.

The National Union of Journalists protested the “drastic cuts” outside the World Service headquarters today, stating that the loss of the language editions “severely damage the national interest of the UK”.



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January 7, 2011

Ivory Coast expels British, Canadian ambassadors

Ivory Coast expels British, Canadian ambassadors

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Friday, January 7, 2011

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Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo in 2007
Image: VOA News.

The incumbent leader of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, is expelling the Canadian and British ambassadors, according to state television.

State television reports the envoys are being expelled as a reciprocal measure, as the respective countries did not recognise Gbagbo’s leadership. This is following his decision not to step down despite international recognition of rival Alassane Ouattara winning the November 2010 presidential election. Canada withdrew recognition of Louis L.B. Bony — Gbagbo’s ambassador to Canada — on December 29, with the United Kingdom following suit on December 31. In addition, France, the former colonial power of the Ivory Coast, has stated that it will recognise Ouattara’s appointee, as has the United Nations.

Although the ambassadors have been expelled, their diplomatic privileges will not be revoked until such time as they leave the Ivory Coast.

Outtara, who won 54% of the vote, which was backed by the United Nations and the country’s Electoral Commission, remains under protection by UN peacekeepers, in a hotel in the main city and former capital of Abidjan.

The Foreign Office of the United Kingdom issued a travel warning in force for the Ivory Coast last month, advising British nationals to “leave by commercial means, if safe to do so”, due to the threat of “widespread instability in Abidjan and other major cities. The Foreign Office [of the UK] continues to advise against all travel to Cote d’Ivoire”.

In a separate incident, the United States announced that US citizens were to be barred from dealing financially with Gbagbo, and that the assets of Gbagbo, his wife and three aides, had been frozen. Gbagbo retains control of the state army and media.



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November 3, 2010

BBC support song making chart impact

BBC support song making chart impact – Wikinews, the free news source

BBC support song making chart impact

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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A song released yesterday in support of the BBC is making an impact on several UK music charts.

Stand-up comic Mitch Benn wrote I’m Proud of the BBC in response to the criticism the licence fee-funded corporation has received from its commercial competitors and the right-wing press. The Conservative-led coalition government announced two weeks ago that the licence fee is to be frozen for six years, and that the BBC will take over responsibility from the Foreign Office for funding the World Service.

Cquote1.svg You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service. Cquote2.svg

—Mitch Benn, 2 Nov 2010

The song, loosely inspired by Billy Joel, lists many of the BBC’s achievements. Benn, a regular on BBC Radio 4’s satirical programme The Now Show, decided to release I’m Proud of the BBC as a single after realising that it was provoking emotional responses from audiences during his nationwide tour. He told BBC Radio 5 Live that the song was receiving standing ovations, and people were wiping away tears. A video was filmed last month outside of Broadcasting House, White City and Television Centre with a cast of volunteers recruited from the social networking site Twitter.

The song was officially released as a ‘download-only’ track on Monday. Yesterday’s charts reveal that it has reached pole position on Amazon’s rock chart, and is listed as the 14th most downloaded track overall. iTunes listed it as the 64th most downloaded song. Fans have created two Facebook groups to promote the single in an attempt to get it to a good position in the UK Singles Chart, which would force the BBC’s commercial rivals to play the track.

Benn says that he has always been a supporter of the BBC, and yesterday compared it to the emergency services. “You also pay for the Fire Brigade, whether or not your house burns down. Public service.” He points out that he only receives a small percentage of his income from the corporation; last night he played with his band The Distractions at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London.



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