British detective offered leaks for payment, trial hears

Updated 08 January 2013
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British detective offered leaks for payment, trial hears

LONDON: A British former counter-terrorism detective tried to sell information about a phone hacking investigation to the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid, her trial heard on Monday.
Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53, is accused of offering the now-defunct newspaper information about a probe into whether Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the illegal hacking of mobile phones should be reopened.
She denies one count of misconduct in public office.
Southwark Crown Court in London heard that at the time of the alleged offense in September 2010, Casburn was working in the counter-terrorism unit, managing the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit.
The jury heard that one of her team had been asked to carry out financial investigations as part of the phone hacking probe.
The prosecution alleges Casburn rang the News of the World’s news desk at 7:51 a.m. to offer information in exchange for payment.
Prosecutor Mark Bryant-Heron said: “The prosecution says she sought to undermine a highly sensitive and high-profile investigation at the point of its launch.
“The prosecution say... that the act of telephoning the News of the World to offer to sell information and the provision of some information during that call was misconduct, it was misconduct in public office.”
The newspaper did not publish a story about the call and no payment changed hands, the court heard.
Casburn admits making the phone call but denies asking for money.
She argues that she called because she was concerned that resources that were supposed to be used to combat terrorism were being allocated to the phone hacking investigation, and that much of the information was already public knowledge.
Tim Wood, the News of the World news editor who took the call, said Casburn also complained of interference from former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a victim of hacking and a vocal Murdoch critic.
Wood told the jury: “The one thing that stands out in my mind is the fact that she kept going on about Lord Prescott.”
He said he recalled “her saying that he was pressing for them to put charges on the News of the World, and she was saying that she felt it was wrong that he was interfering in the scandal, so to speak, and she resented that.”
A News of the World reporter and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for hacking the voice-mails of royal aides.
The tabloid denied there was a bigger problem, but when wider evidence of illegal hacking emerged in 2011 the investigation was re-opened.
Murdoch closed down the News of the World in July 2011 after revelations that it had hacked celebrities and the voice-mail of murdered teenage girl Milly Dowler.
The trial continues.


Suspects in Palestinian killing still in Malaysia, say police

Updated 10 min 42 sec ago
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Suspects in Palestinian killing still in Malaysia, say police

  • The suspects gunned down Palestinian engineering lecturer Fadi Al-Batsh outside his apartment building in Kuala Lumpur on April 21
  • Family and friends of Al-Batsh believe Israel’s Mossad spy agency was behind the assassination

KUALA LUMPUR: Two men suspected of gunning down a Palestinian lecturer in Kuala Lumpur are still in the country, police said on Wednesday, as they released a fresh image of one of the men.

Two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Fadi Al-Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot.

A Kawasaki motorcycle was found abandoned near a lake about nine minutes from the scene, from which police were able to trace a photo of one of the suspects, said Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.

The suspects were believed to have entered Malaysia in late January, but their nationalities and where they had traveled from, remain unknown, said Mohamad Fuzi.

“We believe the suspects are still in the country,” he said.

“We have yet to identify them, but we suspect that they used fake identification either when entering the country or when they were here.”

Authorities had originally released computer-generated photographs of the suspects, who witnesses described as well-built and light-skinned, possibly Middle Eastern or European.

A new photo of one of the suspects shows a light-skinned man with dark, wavy hair and a prominent goatee.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Body taken to Egypt

The body of the assassinated Palestinian scientist was on Wednesday driven through the Malaysian capital accompanied by a crowd shouting “God is greatest,” as mourners accused Israel of killing him.

Al-Batsh’s corpse was set to be flown to Egypt later in the day before being transported on to Gaza for burial.

Family and friends of the 35-year-old have accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing but the Jewish state has denied the claims.

Hundreds of mourners marched through the capital under Palestinian flags accompanying a van holding the body, as they carried placards showing the victim’s face.

The remains were taken to a mosque, where prayers for the dead were performed before about 500 mourners.

“Every Palestinian who has heard of this assassination is saddened and shocked,” Muslim Imran, chairman of the Palestinian Cultural Organization of Malaysia, told the crowd.

“This crime, I believe, is another reflection of the nature of the Israeli occupation. They carry out crimes, massacres, not only in Palestine but also in the rest of the world.”

Earlier Wednesday police said they believed the two suspects accused of carrying out the hit were still in the country, and released a photograph of one of them.

It showed a man with wavy black hair, glasses and a goatee beard. Police previously released two computer-generated images of the suspects, showing two light-skinned men with beards.

Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations.

Batsh’s expertise in making weapons could have made him a target — militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel, usually without causing casualties.

But Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has denied claims of the Jewish state’s involvement, suggesting instead that it was a “settling of accounts” between factions of a terror group.