2 ex-David Cameron confidants face bribery charges

Updated 20 November 2012
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2 ex-David Cameron confidants face bribery charges

LONDON: Two former confidants of Britain’s prime minister have been charged with conspiring to pay public officials in exchange for stories and information — the latest development in the country’s establishment-shaking scandal over media malfeasance.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Services said Tuesday that former tabloid editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks were among five people being charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
Prosecutors said that Brooks, a neighbor, close friend, and political ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, conspired with journalist John Kay to funnel as much as 100,000 pounds to Ministry of Defense employee Bettina Jordan Barber in return for a steady stream of stories that were published in Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper.
In a statement, the prosecutors alleged that Coulson, who until last year served as Cameron’s top press aide, conspired with journalist Clive Goodman to pay officials for access to a royal phone directory known as the “Green Book.”
The charges stem from the phone hacking scandal that erupted last year at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid, which Brooks and Coulson used to edit before she took a job as chief executive of News International and he went to work for the government.
Britons were outraged when it emerged last year that News of the World journalists routinely hacked phones and paid bribes to win scoops. The scale of wrongdoing was staggering; ruthless reporters violated the privacy of some 600 victims, from powerful politicians to high flying celebrities and even crime victims.
Coulson and Brooks already face charges with relation to phone hacking; in July prosecutors charged the pair with conspiring to intercept the communications of hundreds of people between 2000 and 2006. Brooks faces separate charges of obstruction of justice relating to her alleged attempts to hide evidence from police. Coulson is charged with perjury in relation to evidence he gave at a 2010 trial in Scotland.
The gradual pile-up of charges could further embarrass Cameron, who hired Coulson as his chief communications adviser and once counted Brooks and her horse training husband Charlie in his circle of friends. Cameron ignored persistent warnings about the pair’s ethics and promised to stand by Coulson even as an increasing number of reports implicated him in tabloid wrongdoing.
The scandal shows little sign of winding down. London’s police force, chastened by its failure to uncover the scandal earlier, has kept up a steady drumbeat of arrests and American officials are still weighing whether Murdoch’s company violated US anti-corruption laws. In Britain, the legal process is still grinding forward. Mark Lewis, a prominent victims’ lawyer, recently announced lawsuits against the Daily Mirror newspaper over allegations of phone hacking — further expanding the circle of tabloid suspects.
The scandal is likely to be a watershed moment for Britain’s rambunctious press. A judge-led inquiry into the ethics and practices of the country’s media set up in the wake of the scandal is due to report shortly, and its recommendations could lead to sweeping changes in the way that the British media operates.


Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

Updated 21 min 7 sec ago
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Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

  • Online messages from Daesh propagandists say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal
  • His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia

JAKARTA/MANILA: Indonesia is investigating reports from Daesh supporters that the most senior Southeast Asian commander of the militant group was killed by US air strikes in eastern Syria last week, counter-terrorism officials said.
Online messages from Daesh propagandists viewed by Reuters say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal, last Tuesday.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the embassy in Syria had made enquiries but had yet to confirm Bahrumsyah’s death.
Two senior Indonesian counter-terrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were taking the online reports seriously.
“We are in the process of investigating,” said one senior official with Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency.
If the reports were true, it would become a “motivation to carry out reprisal attacks” in Indonesia, the senior official said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, said US aircraft were bombing the “general area” in eastern Syria on the day Bahrumsyah is believed to have died but was unable to confirm his death.
As well as leading Katibah Nusantara, an armed unit comprising more than 100 Southeast Asians, Bahrumsyah also organized funding for the Islamist rebels who captured part of the southern Philippines city of Marawi in a bloody siege last year, analysts and officials say.
A message purportedly from the Daesh figure Abu Nuh reviewed by Reuters said Bahrumsyah had been attending a meeting of leaders when he was killed. An Daesh headquarters and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory were destroyed in the attack, the message said.
Another post eulogized the Indonesian, receiving sympathetic comments and crying emojis.
There were reports last year of Bahrumsyah’s death, but analyst Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said the latest had a “much higher degree of credibility”.
“As far as we know, he was the highest ranking Indonesian to fight with ISIS. The fact that he commanded a fighting unit that was recognized by ISIS underscores his importance,” said Jones, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia, where fears of hardened fighters returning from Syria as the militants’ self-declared caliphate crumbles has authorities on alert.
More than 600 Indonesians, including at least 166 women and children, traveled to Syria to join Daesh, according to data from Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency reviewed by Reuters.
A further 482 Indonesians were deported by foreign governments trying to join Daesh.
“I don’t expect a flood of people to come back (to Indonesia), although there will be some people trying,” Jones said.