South African gets life in prison for ax murders of family

Henri van Breda was sentenced to three life sentences for the grisly killings of his parents and brother in 2015. (AP)
Updated 07 June 2018
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South African gets life in prison for ax murders of family

JOHANNESBURG: A 23-year-old South African man was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for the 2015 ax murders of his parents and brother in an affluent housing estate.
Henri van Breda appeared impassive as a judge sentenced him to three life sentences for the grisly killings of parents Martin and Teresa and brother Rudi in Stellenbosch, a scenic town in a wine-growing area near Cape Town.
Van Breda also received a 15-year sentence in the Western Cape High Court for the attempted murder of his sister Marli at the time of the attacks. She suffered severe head injuries in a bloody onslaught that Judge Siraj Desai described as “cold-blooded” murder.
“These attacks display a high level of innate cruelty,” Desai said. “The violence was excessive and gratuitous. It was intended to cause maximum harm.”
Defense lawyer Pieter Botha, who plans to appeal the conviction and sentencing, had suggested van Breda’s youth and status as a first-time offender should be mitigating factors in the sentencing. He also said his client could not show remorse because he maintains he is innocent.
While Desai recalled that a witness heard a loud argument in the van Breda home for several hours on the night of the killings, he told Henri van Breda that “we have no explanation for what you did” and that he had to be handed the “severest possible penalty.”
Van Breda also received a one-year sentence for obstructing justice after the court concluded that he inflicted injuries on himself to try to mislead police.
The van Breda family lived in Australia for some years before returning to South Africa, and the judge said Henri van Breda had enrolled at the University of Melbourne.
“Your future was not bleak. In fact, it was bright,” Desai told van Breda as he stood in the dock. “You had the support of family and, more importantly, they had the means to assist you in your future endeavors, and it seems to me they would have done so.”


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.