Honduran drug lord cuts deal with US

He also laundered millions of dollars, and, once imprisoned in America, started spilling the beans – and terrifying powerful people back home in his native Honduras.

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From 2003 to 2013, Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga and his brother Javier, along with their parents and other siblings, led a violent drug cartel called Los Cachiros, in Tocoa on the Atlantic coast of Honduras, a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

But the brothers feared getting killed when the US Treasury Department put the names of their whole family on a black list in 2013 and the government of Honduras began seizing assets from them.

Anti-narcotics and Military Police officers prepare everything for the incineration of more than 200 kilos of cocaine seized in southern Honduras. (AFP)AFP

So Leonel Rivera started secretly recording conversations with accomplices such as Fabio Lobo, son of former president Porfirio Lobo, who served from 2010 to 2014.

He did this first on his own and later in cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration starting in 2013. 

Leonel Rivera, who turned 40 on Tuesday, is a man of short stature with a thin moustache and arched eyebrows that make him look angry all the time.

Along with his brother he cut a deal with the US prosecutors in New York under which the pair landed in prison more than two years ago – but the rest of their family did not.

His mother, father, sister and a second brother live in the United States, presumably under a new identity and under the protection of the US government.

‘A little window’

US authorities said this week that Leonel Rivera will be sentenced by Judge John Koeltl on April 14.

Thanks to his revelations, the authorities in Honduras learned that the Cachiros gang had at least 22 contracts with the Lobo government, prosecutors in Honduras said Wednesday.

They also said they would investigate the government officials named by Leonel Rivera.

“This is what makes the Cachiros case so interesting, because it’s a little window into the way organized crime and elites intersect in places like Honduras,” said Steven Dudley, co-director of Insight Crime, a think tank that studies organized crime in the Americas.

“This is important because it sends the message that impunity is not total, that there is some accountability somewhere, there exists some system that is willing to hold even the highest powers accountable,” said Dudley.

“But does that transfer into real change? I am not sure yet.”

22 meetings

From December 5, 2013 to September 21, 2015, Leonel Rivera met with US prosecutors 22 times to give them information and negotiate the terms of his plea bargain, according to court documents seen by AFP.

The two brothers surrendered to the DEA in January 2015, Leonel in the Bahamas and Javier in Miami.

In April 2016, they each pleaded guilty to charges including murder, leading a drug trafficking gang and conspiring to ship illegal drugs into the US.

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The Cachiros gang took delivery of drugs from Colombia, which arrived either in planes or speedboats, and took it overland to Guatemala. From there it would move on to Mexico and then the US, Leonel Rivera said in his first testimony against Fabio Lobo on March 6.

He said that in exchange for bribes the cartel was protected by the former president, his son, his brother Ramon “Moncho” Lobo, the current Security Minister Julian Pacheco, by the legislator Antonio Hernandez, brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and by dirty cops and military people.

All of these people deny the charges, except for Fabio Lobo, who was arrested by the DEA in Haiti in 2015. He has pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking and will be sentenced on May 30. 

‘Deal with the devil’

If convicted Leonel Rivera could face life in prison but his fate depends on judge Koeltl.

His plea bargain, signed April 14 of last year, calls for the charges against him to be dropped if he tells the truth, does not commit more crimes and testifies when the government asks him to.

The US government could also grant him a so-called “5K1” card that calls for a reduced sentence and perhaps entry into a witness protection program.

“It’s the deal with the devil,” said a lawyer close to the case. “This guy has admitted to 78 murders” but the judge has complete discretion when it comes to deciding on his sentence.

In theory, “he could walk out of his sentence” meaning walk out of court and start life anew with an assumed identity, the lawyer said. 

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More than 250 dead in massive Colombia mudslides

The surge has left 206 people dead and 202 injured, while 220 remain missing, Cesar Uruena, a Red Cross official, told AFP.

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The violent weather that hit the southwestern town of Mocoa on Friday night “totally destroyed” 25 homes, he added.

They were the latest victims of floods that have struck the Pacific side of South America over recent months, also killing scores of people in Peru and Ecuador.

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In the southwestern Colombian town of Mocoa, the surge swept away houses, bridges, vehicles and trees, leaving piles of wrecked timber and brown mud, army images from the area showed.

The mudslides struck late Friday after days of torrential rain.

President Juan Manuel Santos visited Mocoa, the capital of Putumayo department, on Saturday to supervise rescue efforts in the heavily forested region.

He declared a state of “public calamity” in a Twitter message, declaring measures to speed up rescue and aid operations. He expressed his condolences to victims’ families.

“The latest death toll is 154. It is a truly terrible figure,” Santos told reporters.

The Red Cross aid group said 400 people were injured and 220 were missing.

The Red Cross had initially put the death toll at 16 but warned it would rise because hundreds of people were missing.

“The number is rising enormously and at considerable speed,” Rescue official Cesar Urena told AFP.

The disaster is of “large proportions,” he added.

Watch: Colombia landslide kills more than 250

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Nation in mourning

Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca called the development “an unprecedented tragedy” for the area.

There are “hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared,” he told W Radio.

Carlos Ivan Marquez, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, told AFP the mudslides were caused by the rise of the Mocoa River and tributaries.

Soldiers carry a victim, in Mocoa, Colombia. (AAP)AAP

The rivers flooded causing a “big avalanche,” the army said in a statement.

Some 130 millimetres of rain fell Friday night, Santos said. “That means 30 per cent of monthly rainfall fell last night, which precipitated a sudden rise of several rivers,” he said.

He promised earlier on Twitter to “guarantee assistance to the victims of this tragedy, which has Colombians in mourning.”

“Our prayers are with the victims and those affected,” he added.

Rescue efforts

The authorities activated a crisis group including local officials, military personnel, police and rescuers to search for missing people and begin removing mountains of debris, Marquez said.

A thousand emergency personnel were helping the rescue effort.

Mocoa, a town of 40,000 people, was left without power or running water.

“There are lots of people in the streets, lots of people displaced and many houses have collapsed,” retired Mocoa resident Hernando Rodriguez, 69, said by telephone.

“People do not know what to do… there were no preparations” made for such a disaster, he said.

“We are just scarcely realizing what has happened to us.”

Several deadly landslides have struck Colombia in recent months.

A landslide in November killed nine people in the southwestern rural town of El Tambo, officials said at the time.

A landslide the month before killed 10 people in the north of the country.

Watch: Historic flooding in Peru

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April Fool’s marchers in New York elect Trump as their ‘king’

Wearing Donald Trump masks and marching behind a life-sized doll of the president sitting on a toilet, dozens of people took part Saturday in a wry April Fool’s Day march in New York.

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The parade is in its 32nd year but the 2017 edition brought a new surprise: it actually happened.

Organizer Joey Skaggs, an American prankster, has for decades annually hyped an April Fool’s Day parade to lure media to the procession, but until now it has been but a hoax.

“This year was very special, we couldn’t let it pass without doing something, which is why we’re here,” 55-year-old Judy told AFP, declining to give her last name but saying she helped organize the parade.

“We need to take every opportunity we have to show our feelings about the fool in the White House,” she said, sporting a Trump mask.

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Past phantom events have fooled an array of major US outlets. 

Marchers, many wearing masks of the real estate mogul-turned-president, walked behind a rolling outhouse in which a large Trump doll sat on the toilet. 

“Donald Trump has been elected King of Fools this year – unanimously,” Skaggs told AFP.

An effort to set a world’s record for the largest collection of Trump look-alikes may have fallen a bit short, but onlookers seemed to enjoy it. 

The event’s slogan: “Make Russia Great Again.” 

The parade began in front of Central Park on Fifth Avenue and ended before Trump Tower, where the president’s wife Melania and young son Barron are still living.

New York, one of the most diverse and politically liberal cities in the country, has been the scene of dozens of protests against Trump since his stunning election victory over Hillary Clinton in November.

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Egypt beach resort attack kills two foreigners

The governor of Red Sea province, where the resort of Hurghada is located, said two “foreign residents” of the city were killed in the attack, a cabinet statement said.

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Although the attacker’s motives were unclear, the stabbing will come as a blow to Egypt which has been trying to woo back tourists after years of unrest and deadly attacks.

There was confusion about the nationalities of the victims, with Egyptian officials and state media initially saying the two women killed were Ukrainian which Kiev’s ambassador to Egypt denied.

An Egyptian health ministry official told AFP “the two foreigners killed earlier are Germans”.

But Germany’s foreign ministry, which condemned the stabbing as “cowardly” in a statement, said it could not confirm or deny whether its nationals were among the victims.

An Armenian foreign ministry spokesman said two Armenian women had been wounded in the attack, and the Czech foreign ministry tweeted that one of its nationals had been lighty injured.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the attacker, who had swum ashore, was arrested and was being questioned.

“We don’t know his motives yet, he could be crazy or perturbed — it’s too early to tell,” a senior interior ministry official told AFP.

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In January 2016, three tourists in Hurghada were wounded in a stabbing assault by two assailants with apparent Islamic State group (IS) sympathies.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s stabbing.

Hurghada is one of Egypt’s most popular beach resorts, especially with Ukrainians and European tourists.

Security has been boosted in resorts around the country, as the tourism industry provides Egypt with much-needed revenues.

An IS bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort in 2015 killed all 224 people on board and decimated the country’s tourism sector.

Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in response and has yet to resume them.

IS has been waging a deadly insurgency based in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

Policemen shot dead

Also on Friday, unknown assailants shot dead five policemen south of Cairo, in the latest of a series of attacks targeting the country’s security forces.

The ministry said three gunmen opened fire on a police car and then fled, killing a non-commissioned officer, three conscripts and a police employee.

CCTV footage posted online by the Ahram newspaper showed the three assailants pretending to fix a motorbike before they opened fire on a passing police truck then looted it.

The attack took place near Badrasheen, a town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Cairo, where militants have also targeted police in the past.

As with the beach stabbing, there has not yet been any claim of responsibility for the attack.

The killings came as police and the army said they were closing in on militants and jihadists following a spate of deadly attacks in the Nile Valley and the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has struggled to quell IS jihadists based in the Sinai and smaller militant groups in the mainland since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.

IS jihadists killed at least 21 soldiers in restive north Sinai on July 7, the same day as the militant Hasam group claimed responsibility for shooting dead an officer with Egypt’s secret police in an attack north of the capital.

While smaller groups such as Hasam have mostly targeted policemen and government officials, IS has also attacked foreign tourists and Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Dozens of Christians have been killed in church bombings and shootings since last December in attacks claimed by IS.

The jihadists have threatened to carry out further attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people.

Russia lobbyist at Trump Jr. meeting denies spy past

It emerged on Friday that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Washington lobbyist with dual citizenship, accompanied Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the June 2016 meeting, at which Trump Jr expected to receive secret information that would hurt Clinton in the 2016 election.

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Several US media described Akhmetshin as former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some US officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.

But the lobbyist rejected that allegation as “maliciously false,” telling AFP he “never worked for any intelligence service.”

The June 9 meeting has become the focus of allegations that the Trump election campaign collaborated last year with a covert effort by Moscow to turn voters away from Clinton.

Those allegations are currently under investigation by a high-powered Justice Department investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

Emails showed that the meeting was pitched to Trump Jr, the eldest son of President Donald Trump, as a chance to obtain dirt on Clinton, allegedly supplied by the Russian government.

“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr said about the offer in an email to entertainment promoter Rob Goldstone, the person arranging the meeting.

The encounter was also attended by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, underscoring how important the campaign apparently thought it could be.

One year on, emails showing the younger Trump’s willingness to meet the lawyer are viewed in some quarters as a possible “smoking gun” in the ongoing federal investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to get the Republican elected.

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‘Designed to shift attention’

Accompanying Veselnitskaya at the meeting were Akhmetshin, an interpreter, and according to the Washington Post, Goldstone.

According to Akhmetshin, the Post reported, Veselnitskaya had said she had financial information on a US hedge fund with links to Clinton’s Democratic Party, and left a document behind at the meeting.

But according to Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya did not produce damaging information on Clinton after all and instead focused the discussion on the US “Magnitsky” sanctions against a Russian company she represented. 

Akhmetshin has also lobbied against the Magnitsky sanctions placed on a number of high-level Russian officials.

The Post also reported that Akhmetshin had served in the Russian military and may have worked in intelligence. 

Akhmetshin flatly denied the suggestion that he had worked for a Russian spy agency.

“That claim is maliciously false and designed to shift attention from my campaign in Congress” against the Magnitsky law, he told AFP.

Trump Jr’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told NBC News his client did not know any of the other people in the meeting beforehand.

“For the purpose of security or otherwise, the names were reviewed,” he said.

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Russian-American lobbyist met Trump Jr

A lobbyist who was once a Soviet counter-intelligence officer participated last year in a meeting with senior aides to US President Donald Trump, including his son, and a Russian lawyer, NBC News is reporting, adding to allegations of possible connections between Moscow and the November election.

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NBC News, which did not identify the Russian-American lobbyist, on Friday said some US officials suspected him of still having ties to Russian intelligence, something he denied to the network.

The Associated Press said the lobbyist, whom it identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, confirmed that he had attended the June 2016 meeting in New York’s Trump Tower.

A source familiar with the participants of the meeting confirmed to Reuters that Akhmetshin was in the room.

The meeting appears to be the most tangible evidence of a connection between Trump’s election campaign and Russia, a subject that has prompted investigations by congressional committees and a federal special counsel.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign adviser Paul Manafort were also at the meeting, which Donald Trump Jr. agreed to attend because he believed he could get damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, did not mention Akhmetshin’s presence when he released a series of emails about the meeting earlier this week.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said the report about Akhmetshin “if accurate, adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting.”

Akhmetshin was not available for comment on Friday. There was no answer at the door of his house in Washington.

The White House had no immediate comment about the NBC News report of a Russian-American lobbyist at the meeting.

Kushner’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said Manafort had no comment on the meeting.

A former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, told reporters after he testified to the House Intelligence Committee in closed session on Friday that he had no contact with Russians and never heard of anyone in the campaign “talking with Russians.”

Accusations by US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign have dominated the Republican president’s first months in office. Russia denies the allegations, and Trump says there was no collusion.

The agencies said earlier this year that Russia sought to help Trump win the election by hacking private emails from Democratic Party officials and disseminating false information online.

Mackay murder memories remain ‘vivid’

Forty years on from Australia’s first political assassination the events leading up to the murder of NSW businessman Donald Mackay remain “vivid” for many in his hometown of Griffith.

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Mr Mackay – an anti-drugs campaigner – is believed to have been murdered after telling police the whereabouts of marijuana farms owned by Australian-born mafia.

A coronial inquest found he died of gunshot wounds but the body of the father of four has never been found.

“Forty years is a long time and yet those events are quite vivid in our minds,” Griffith mayor John Dal Broi told AAP this week.

Mr Mackay – a one-time Liberal Party candidate – vanished from the car park of a hotel in Griffith on the evening of July 15, 1977. He was 43.

Three bullet casings were found and blood was smeared on the door of his locked van.

“We all feel for the family and, as I’ve said before, some of us perhaps should have taken more notice of what Don was saying,” Mr Dal Broi said.

“But what you’re up against at the time, there were some corrupt police, people felt hopeless to do anything about it.”

Mr Dal Broi hopes the mystery of Mr Mackay’s murder can still be solved and his remains found.

“Mrs Mackay died not knowing where he was or what happened, she suffered deeply,” the mayor said.

The editor of the local paper, Ben Jones, says the public wants answers.

“I find it hard to believe there aren’t still people in town who know what happened and who was involved,” the editor of the Area News told AAP.

“It’s the darkest chapter in Griffith’s shady history … the public still wants to know what happened.”

In 2007 the discovery of human remains in an orange grove outside of Griffith sparked hope Mr Mackay had finally been found, while in 2013 a tip-off saw forensic officers excavate a farm near Hay in the NSW Riverina. Both were false leads.

Since Mr Mackay’s disappearance, three men have been convicted of conspiring to murder the once-Liberal party candidate while a royal commission named six others who may have ordered the killing.

NSW Police remain committed to finding answers for his family.

“Donald Mackay was a highly-respected member of the community and became well-known throughout Australia as an anti-drugs campaigner and his murder – Australia’s first political assassination – shocked us all,” Griffith commander Detective Superintendent Michael Rowan said this week.

“Investigators remain in contact with the family … I can’t tell you the pain they feel for not knowing where his body is.”

The NSW government’s reward for information leading to Mr Mackay’s remains was increased to $200,000 in July 2012.

German tourists fatally stabbed in Egypt

An Egyptian man has stabbed two German tourists to death and wounded four other foreigners at a popular vacation spot on the Red Sea, officials and witnesses say.

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The knifeman killed the two German women and wounded two other tourists at the Zahabia hotel in Hurghada on Friday, officials and security sources said.

He then swam to a neighbouring beach to attack at least two more people at the Sunny Days El Palacio resort before he was arrested, they said.

“He had a knife with him and stabbed each of them three times in the chest. They died on the beach,” the security manager at El Palacio hotel, Saud Abdelaziz, told Reuters.

“He jumped a wall between the hotels and swam to the other beach.”

Abdelaziz said two of the injured were Czech and two Armenian. They were being treated a local hospital. The Czech foreign ministry tweeted that one Czech woman sustained a minor leg injury.

The attacker’s motive was still under investigation, the interior ministry said.

Egypt is fighting Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula where they mainly target security forces but militants have also attacked tourism targets as well as Coptic Christians and churches.

Hurghada, some 400km south of the capital Cairo is one of Egypt’s most popular vacation spots on the Red Sea.

Security and medical sources had earlier reported the two women killed were Ukrainians, but Major General Mohamed El-Hamzawi, security manager of Red Sea province, told Reuters they had been identified as Germans.

In January 2016, two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt landed on the beach of a hotel in Hurghada, wounding two foreign tourists.

Friday’s attack came on a day that five policemen were killed by gunmen on a motorbike who ambushed their car just south of Cairo.

Saudi Arabia accused of using executions as political weapon against Shia minority

Saudi authorities say the offences were committed in the Qatif region of the oil-rich Eastern Province of the country.

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But Amnesty International has accused the Saudi government of carrying out a “systematic crackdown” which has seen “virtually all independent human rights activists and other critics silenced, prosecuted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms or forced to flee the country”.

A report this year by human rights organisation Reprieve found that 41 per cent of those executed in Saudi Arabia in 2017 were killed for non-violent acts such as attending political protests.

Human Rights Watch says it’s concerned with the lack of due process, the possibility that individuals are tortured into giving confessions and prosecutors’ inability to provide any other corroborating evidence.

The area where ‘politics is made’ 

Many of the kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority live in the Eastern Province, where they fear marginalisation by the Sunni monarchy.

“It’s a very serious conflict that has got very scant international attention,” Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch, told SBS World News.

“Essentially pitched battles over the past month-and-a-half between Saudi security forces and armed militants who have holed up in the historic neighbourhood in the town of Awamiya (in Qatif region) and are resisting the Kingdom’s stated intention to demolish the historical neighbourhood.”

Map of Saudi Arabia showing Eastern Province regionSBS

According to Ali Al-Ahmed, a former political prisoner in Saudi Arabia who now heads the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington DC, “if you compare it to the rest of Saudi Arabia, it has always been a place where politics have been made”.

“Movements from communist to pan-Arabist, to Islamist, to liberal movements have been born there, and activists from there dominate the country’s political opposition historically. So this is an area which has given the Saudi monarchy a big headache for many years.”

Historic and cultural heritage threatened

Earlier this year, the UN urged Saudi Arabia to halt forced evictions and demolitions of the historic Al-Masora neighbourhood in Awamiya.

History is being demolished by #Saudi in#Awamia, #Qatif. #awamiasiege #awamiasiege2017 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/XBiV63BP1W

— Angry Qatifi (@AngryQatifi) June 8, 2017

“The Saudi government, as part of its long term policy is to destroy local culture and to target societies,” Mr Al-Ahmed said.

“And what they have done is in order to humiliate the birthplace of the protest movement in the Eastern Province, they wanted to destroy its culture.”

He links ‘targetted’ executions to the Kingdom’s quest to establish its legitimacy in the country’s eastern region of Qatib.

“All of them are protestors. Most of them their only crime is to protest or to write slogans on the walls or to raise the word in Arabic ‘Death to Al-Saud’, or ‘Down to Al-Saud’.

“That is a very, very sensitive and huge embarrasment to the Saudi monarchy… and that’s why Sheikh Al-Nimr was executed because he dared to speak in public inside Saudi Arabia about the Saudi Royal family by name.”

Execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

The execution of 57-year-old Saudi Shiite cleric, Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, and 47 others in January 2016 prompted widespread international condemnation.

A Shiite cleric from Saudi’s Eastern Province, he was a well-known figure at anti-government demonstrations, often criticising Saudi rulers for their treatment of the kingdom’s Shiite minority.

But he was arrested by authorities in 2012, a year after a wave of popular uprisings began to take effect in parts of the Middle East, and sentenced to death in 2014.

Rare footage of #SheikhNimr participating in peaceful protests. #HumanRightsDefender #HumanRights#SaveThe7 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/gJXVTfLYI8

— Zena (@Zena__E) December 19, 2015

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the time said the Australian government was “deeply disturbed” by his execution.

“The Australian government supports the universal abolition of the death penalty and we are deeply disturbed by the recent executions carried out in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Mr Al-Ahmed says that for young people, Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr became an icon. However, there’s a ‘different direction’ now.

“The young people have a different direction or projection than the previous generation in terms of what they are trying to achieve. Before there was the goal of obtaining basic human rights.

“I think now it’s a much higher level in terms of attaining and capturing greater political rights. It’s no longer an issue of human rights. It is an issue of politics and either regime change or replacement or severe reform.”

International pressure

Reprieve director Maya Foa is calling governments, including Australia, to make it clear to the Saudi Royal Family and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman that they do not support the execution of citizens, including juveniles, for attending peaceful protests.

“Silence is effectively condoning this behaviour, and could very quickly turn into complicity,” she told SBS World News,

Saudi Shiite women hold placards bearing a portrait of Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr in the eastern coastal city of Qatif, January 2016.Getty

Crown Prince urged to act on human rights

Amnesty International is calling on Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to use his new authority as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to “match his words with actions and demonstrate his commitment to human rights”.

It quotes an article Mohammed bin Salman gave to the ‘Economist’ magazine earlier this year in which he spoke of the Kingdom’s values.

“It is important to us, the participation in decision making; it is important to us to have our freedom of expression; it is important to us to have human rights,” he said.

Tigers aim to bare claws in AFL after loss

Richmond badly need Damien Hardwick’s flawless AFL record against Brisbane to last at least one more game.

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The Lions are the only team yet to beat the Tigers since Hardwick took over as coach in 2010.

Sixth-placed Richmond will start overwhelming favourites on Sunday at Etihad Stadium against the bottom side.

But recent events will have long-suffering Tigers fans nervous.

Richmond were appalling last week against St Kilda, falling as much as 95 points behind before going down by 67.

And the last time the Lions visited Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago, they plunged Essendon into crisis with one of the upset wins of the season.

It showcased some rich potential at Brisbane, who will welcome back No.2 draft pick Josh Schache for his first senior game since round eight.

In Schache and Eric Hipwood, the Lions have the makings of a key forward pairing that could terrorise opposition defences for the next decade.

At Richmond, Hardwick went old-school in the wake of the St Kilda loss and ordering mouthguards at training.

Contested ball has been the focus heading into Sunday’s game.

“We were beaten up around the ball, which is unlike us, and St Kilda took it up to us in the contested nature of the game – and we faltered,” Hardwick said.

“That (was) the first thing we addressed in our review this week and the thing we’re looking to rectify (against Brisbane).”

Richmond and Brisbane reacted to last week’s heavy losses – Geelong mauled Lions by 85 points – with a combined seven axings.

Anthony Miles, a contested-ball specialist, returns for the Tigers.

Nick Vlastuin, Nathan Broad and Ivan Soldo are also back, while Sam Lloyd, Taylor Hunt, Connor Menadue and Tyson Stengle were dropped.

The Lions also recalled Ben Keays and Cedric Cox for Matthew Hammelmann, Rohan Bewick and Archie Smith.

China’s late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo cremated

The body of China’s late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was cremated on Saturday after a private ceremony attended by his wife and friends, two days after the dissident lost a battle with cancer while in custody.

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Liu’s body was cremated “in accordance with the will of his family members and local customs” in the northeastern city of Shenyang, said Zhang Qingyang, an official from the municipal office.

Officials released photos showing his wife, the poet Liu Xia, with her brother, Liu Xiaobo’s brother and friends in front of the body surrounded by white flowers at a funeral home. 

China’s government has come under international criticism over its treatment of the democracy advocate and his wife, who has been under house arrest since 2010, with calls for Beijing to release her and let her travel abroad.

“As far as I know, Liu Xia is in a free condition,” Zhang said, though it was unclear whether she was released.

At the funeral, Mozart’s Requiem was played and Liu Xia “fixed her eyes on him a long time, mumbling to say farewell,” Zhang said, adding that she was “in very low spirits”.

Authorities have severely restricted Liu Xia’s contact with the outside world.

“She has just lost her husband, so she is currently emotionally grieving,” Zhang said. 

“It’s best for her not to receive too much outside interference during this period after Liu Xiaobo has died, during this period of dealing with the funeral. This is the family’s wish, as well as natural and normal.”

China had ignored international pleas to let Liu Xiaobo get treatment abroad before he died of multiple organ failure at a Shenyang hospital on Thursday at age 61, more than a month after he was transferred from prison due to late-stage liver cancer.

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The foreign ministry lashed out at the criticism on Friday, saying it lodged official protests with the United States, Germany, France and the United Nations human rights office.

Zhang said authorities would release information about where Liu Xiaobo’s ashes will be taken “at an appropriate time”.

Jared Genser, a US lawyer who represented Liu Xiaobo, said Liu Xia has been held “incommunicado” since his death. She has never been charged with any crime, he said.

“The world needs to mobilise to rescue her – and fast,” he said in a statement.

Liu was jailed in 2008 after co-writing a petition calling for democratic reforms. The veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “subversion” a year later. 

Alleged people-smuggler arrives in Australia

Indonesian President Joko Widodo sanctioned the extradition after Australia’s Federal Police charged Ahmad Zia Alizadah with 10 people-smuggling offences.

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Ahmad Zia Alizadah was marched through Perth airport after his extradition from Indonesia.

He’s alleged to have taken between US $4,000 and US$10,000 from each asylum-seeker, for journeys on boats intercepted by Australian authorities between February and May 2010.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton told the ABC the extradition is a message to other would-be people-smugglers.

“That’s a very important part of our messaging out to the region, to indicate to people who might be inclined to accept these payments to conduct these illegal activities, that people will face the full force of the Australian law.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Immigation Minister Peter Dutton, and Justice Minister Michael Keenan have released a joint statement.

It says, in part:

“People smuggling is a crime with global dimensions that can only be tackled through hard work and cooperation with our international partners. The illegal maritime pathway to Australia is closed, and it will remain closed. It has been more than 1,000 days since a successful people-smuggling venture reached Australia.”

Mr Alizadah is the ninth person to be extradited from Indonesia over people-smuggling since 2008.

Mr Dutton defended the length of time taken for Mr Alizadah to be sent to Australia.

“Extradition proceedings always take time. Both countries need to be satisfied in terms of the process, and they need to make sure it can withstand legal challenge. Obviously there’s information and intelligence exchanges that take place between the two partners and that would have contributed to the delay.

Mr Alizadah appeared briefly in court but charges weren’t read.

The need for a Farsi or Bahasa Indonesia interpreter forcing the case’s adjournment to next week.

Ahmad Zia Alizadah will remain in custody, with prosecutors indicating any bail application would be strongly opposed.

 

Government plans to force tech services to decrypt messages

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the internet is now a place where terrorists, paedophiles and drug traffickers can hide in the dark.

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He says they’re using social media and encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp to communicate, and his government plans to tackle the issue in parliament.

“Internet companies, like the telcos at the moment, will have the obligation to assist the police with getting access to communications and information and data they are lawfully entitled to in accordance with an appropriate warrant or court order.”

The laws will be modelled on a system in place in the United Kingdom, giving police and security agencies greater access to encrypted messages.

Unlike so-called “backdoor” access, in which developers deliberately insert known flaws that can provide a way in, the government is after lawful permission to read messages when appropriate.

Attorney-General George Brandis says it’s about making sure technology advances don’t leave the law behind.

“We intend to work with the companies in order to address what is potentially the greatest degradation of intelligence and law enforcement capability that we have seen in our lifetimes.”

Mr Turnbull was quick to claim credit on discussions about encrypted technology at the G20 Leaders summit in Germany.

“What the G20 agreed at our initiative, at Australia’s initiative, is that we need to say with one voice to Silicon Valley and its emulators: ‘All right, you’ve devised these great platforms, now you’ve got to help us to ensure that the rule of law prevails and that they’re not exploited by those who want to hide from the law as they plan to do us harm.'”

The Prime Minister’s special adviser on cyber-security, Alastair MacGibbon, says the law change will go unnoticed by many Australians.

“To the average person on the street there’s no impact whatsover, just like the average person on the street has never had police execute a search warrant on their house, and the average person on the street has never had their telephone intercepted. We’re talking about police and domestic security agencies who go about their business in a very focused way trying to weed out criminals and terrorists and others that would do us harm. A very very small percentage of our population.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese has told Channel Nine his party will be examining the law change closely.

“We’ll look at any legislation with the same approach that we’ve had to all of this, which is a commonsense approach that we must keep Australians safe and governments have that responsibility, and we should have a bipartisan approach but we’ll look at the detail when it comes forward.”

Social media giant Facebook has already announced it will resist the push for it to decrypt messages and hand them over to law enforcement.

The America-based company says it already does all it can to assist.