DR Congo arrests 14 Chinese for wood smuggling

A laborer rests after cutting logs in Bandundu, DR Congo, in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2017
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DR Congo arrests 14 Chinese for wood smuggling

LUBUMBASHI: Fourteen Chinese people suspected of illegally exporting red wood from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) were arrested, local officials said, as Beijing stressed Friday its commitment to tackling the illegal trade.
“We have arrested Chinese people... who were cutting wood in our region,” Celestin Pande, acting governor of the Haut-Katanga region, told AFP.
China responded Friday by saying it supported wildlife conservation and backed efforts to stamp out illegal activities.
“We have noted the relevant reports. China respects the efforts of DR Congo to justly handle the case according to the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
“We also hope the lawful rights of Chinese citizens can be safeguarded. We want to stress that China is a signatory of CITES,” the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species which also covers the illegal timber trade.
“For those who are engaged in illegal trade of wildlife products we have zero tolerance. Chinese law enforcement has made efforts to combat trafficking,” added Gueng.
“We are ready to work with the rest of the world to enhance law enforcement ability to support sustainable trade of wildlife animals and plants.”
Pande said 17,000 tons of red wood had been illegally exported to China through Zambia over four months.
“We have arrested 14 Chinese nationals with (tourist) visas, who were involved in cutting and illegally exporting red wood,” an immigration official in Haut-Katanga added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Since the beginning of the year, a crisis linked to exotic wood exports has poisoned relations between DR Congo and neighboring Zambia.
Zambia has seized several hundred vehicles transporting padauk, a dense wood used in construction and woodworking, from DR Congo as part of investigations into exports to China.
Kinshasa has denounced the seizure, but on Thursday a delegation from the capital decided to ban the logging and exportation of red wood from Haut-Katanga.
Haut-Katanga’s forests have been devastated by illegal logging, with wood mostly used for charcoal, the main source of energy for an electricity-deprived population.
Separately, the UN Security Council on Thursday urged DR Congo to cooperate with investigations of the murder of two UN experts and mass graves found in the troubled Kasai region.
In a unanimous statement, the council also told the Kinshasa government and the opposition to step up efforts to implement a New Year’s Eve agreement aimed at paving the way to elections.
Council members “stressed the need for a swift and full investigation into the killing” of the two UN experts and “underlined the need for full cooperation from the government of the DRC,” the statement drafted by France said.
The UN has set up a board of inquiry to investigate the deaths in March of Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalan, a dual Swedish-Chilean national.
They were members of a UN panel of experts seeking to investigate reports of more than 40 mass graves found in the central Kasai region when they were abducted and shot dead. One of the victims was also beheaded.
The council said it would “closely monitor” investigations by the government, working with the UN mission in the DR Congo and the African Union (AU) on rights abuses in Kasai.


Rao Anwar found ‘responsible’ of Naqeeb Mehsud’s murder

Updated 22 April 2018
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Rao Anwar found ‘responsible’ of Naqeeb Mehsud’s murder

  • Suspended police superintendent responsible for death of Naqeeb Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model, in fake police encounter in Karachi
  • The suspended officer has challenged the constitution of JIT sans representatives of intelligence agencies, armed forces

KARACHI: Rao Anwar, who was remanded in custody on Saturday, has been found responsible for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model from the country’s tribal region.

Mehsud was killed in a fake police encounter on Jan. 12 this year.

“Rao Anwar has been found guilty,” a senior official who is part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing Anwar, told Arab News.

The apex court on March 24 had formed a JIT headed by Aftab Ahmed Pathan, Additional IG Sindh, to probe the incident. The JIT comprised  Waliullah Dal, Additional IG Special Branch; Azad Ahmed Khan, DIG South; Zulfiqar Larik, DIG East; and Dr. Rizwan Ahmed, SSP Central Karachi.

The official, who requested anonymity, told Arab News that the JIT report will be produced in the court once signed by all of its members.
Anwar was presented today before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Karachi on Saturday which sent him on judicial remand to prison till May 2, prosecutor Zafar Solangi told Arab News.

When asked for a comment upon his appearance at the ATC, Anwar said: “I have challenged the JIT and I don’t accept its findings.”
He further claimed: “I have not recorded any statement before this JIT.”

On April 5, Anwar filed a petition praying for the inclusion of representatives of “the intelligence agencies, armed forces and civil armed forces.”

Anwar claimed that the inclusion of the members from intelligence agencies and armed forces was required by law.

The police officer was brought to the court amid tight security arrangements, where he was produced along with 11 other accused.

Investigation officer, SSP Dr. Rizwan Ahmed, who is also part of the JIT probing the incident, told the court that investigations are underway and the JIT’s report will be presented before the court once it was finalized. He sought a week for the submission of the report.
Anwar was given into 30-day police custody upon the last court hearing.

Anwar, who is accused of killing Mehsud in a fake police encounter, claims that the slain Pashtun model was an active member of banned terrorist outfits Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al Qaeda, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). However, the evident subsequently began to pile up against the police team involved in his killing.

Following the incident, a formal inquiry was launched against Anwar. As pressure mounted on him, he decided to go underground and even made a botched attempt to fly out of Pakistan.

He also wrote a few letters to the Supreme Court after the top court began a suo motu hearing of Naqeebullah’s murder, telling the judges that the system was heavily stacked against him and he was not hopeful of getting any justice in the case.

In response, the country’s top court decided to grant him some relief, asking him to surrender himself and let the law take its course.
The court was also willing to reconstitute a joint investigation team to look into Naqeebullah’s killing since the absconding police officer had voiced concern over its composition.

Authorities froze Anwar’s accounts after his repeated non-appearance before the court.

In a surprise move last month, the absconding police officer came to the court in a white car. He was clad in a black dress and wore a medical mask to cover his face.

Anwar’s lawyer told the chief justice that his client had “surrendered” and wanted protective bail. However, the Supreme Court turned down the request and ordered the law enforcement authorities to lock up the former SSP.