Charges unsealed against man linked to bin Laden, Al-Qaeda

Court sketch taken on Jan. 5, 2009 at Paris courthouse, shows Christian Ganczarski on trial. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Charges unsealed against man linked to bin Laden, Al-Qaeda

NEW YORK: New terrorism charges await a German man who provided critical support to Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks and will face trial in the US after serving most of a terrorism-related prison sentence in France, authorities said Wednesday.
Christian Ganczarski, 51, was charged in a newly unsealed indictment in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terrorists.
Top US law enforcement officials portray Ganczarski as a key Al-Qaeda supporter in the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he provided technological guidance and software, knew at least one of the 9/11 hijackers and sat in the front row of a bin Laden speech in January 2000 with the son of one of Al-Qaeda’s top operatives on his lap.
In a release, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Ganczarski “provided critical support to the most prolific terrorists of our time.”
He added that Ganczarski participated in the planning of plots to kill Americans with high-level Al-Qaeda terrorists, including bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-described architect of the 9/11 attacks.
The US seeks Ganczarski’s extradition from France, where he has been imprisoned for the last 15 years after he was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in a 2002 attack on a synagogue in Tunisia that killed 21 people.
Last week, he was charged with stabbing three prison guards, leading to his transfer to another prison in northern France and sparking protests by French prison guards outside scores of jails across France.
William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York’s FBI office, said Ganczarski arranged meetings between senior officials in Al-Qaeda and other like-minded individuals who wanted to attack US interests.
“While he’s spent the past fifteen years behind bars in France, we haven’t forgotten his allegiance to those who have threatened our interests both at home and abroad,” he said.
New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said Ganczarski lived in Al-Qaeda’s camps and guest houses while he worked with bin Laden and men who planned and executed plots to bomb US embassies in Africa, killing 225 people.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Ganczarski helped Al-Qaeda maintain weapons systems that would be used to attack US soldiers and their aircraft, O’Neill said.
Authorities said Ganczarski was in Germany at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks and indicated afterward that he had been aware that a significant event was about to occur.


Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

Updated 37 min 45 sec ago
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Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

  • India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala
  • Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented, when the temple reopned

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism’s holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.
Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.
But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.
With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.
Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.
However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.
It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.
On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalization of gay sex and of adultery.

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.
But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.
“We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do,” Desai told Indian television.
Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.
Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organizations are not opposed to her entering the site.
Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.
“Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it,” P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.
“The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray,” Pillai added.
A few protesters pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.
Local media reports said about 2,000 protesters gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.
“Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted,” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.
Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.
They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.