Frenchman accused of smuggling guns from Gaza to West Bank ‘tricked’

Romain Franck appears in court in Beersheba in march, to face charges of smuggling guns from Gaza. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Frenchman accused of smuggling guns from Gaza to West Bank ‘tricked’

BEERSHEBA, Israel: A Frenchman formerly employed by his country’s Jerusalem consulate and accused by Israel of smuggling guns between the Palestinian territories will argue he was “tricked,” his lawyer said Wednesday.
Romain Franck, who worked as a driver for the consulate, is standing trial for exploiting reduced security checks for diplomats to transport 70 pistols and two automatic rifles from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Shin Bet internal security agency said Franck, who was arrested in February, was motivated by money in the five instances he smuggled guns for a network involving several Palestinians.
Speaking after a hearing at the district court in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, Franck’s lawyer Kenneth Mann stressed that his client’s actions were not those of an ideologue seeking to empower Palestinian militants in their battle with Israel.
Mann said his client had been “tricked” by his alleged Palestinian accomplices.
“He was scared, he is young and inexperienced,” Mann told reporters.
“He has no ideological or political involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The Shin Bet said Franck had been paid a total of around $5,500 for his efforts.
Israeli officials have stressed he acted on his own without the consulate’s knowledge, adding that diplomatic relations with France were not affected.
The Wednesday hearing was limited to procedural discussions. Franck attended but said nothing.


Amnesty slams Iranian execution of two men charged of financial crimes

Updated 14 November 2018
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Amnesty slams Iranian execution of two men charged of financial crimes

LONDON: After two men convicted of financial crimes were executed in Iran, Amnesty International has strongly criticized the Iranian regime.
Vahid Mazloumin and Mohammad Esmail Ghasemi were put to death after a trial Amnesty has called “grossly unfair.”
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, said of the case: “With these abhorrent executions the Iranian authorities have flagrantly violated international law and once again displayed their shameless disregard for the right to life.
“Use of the death penalty is appalling under any circumstances but it is even more horrific given that these men were convicted after a grossly unfair show trial that was broadcast on state television. Under international human rights law, the death penalty is absolutely forbidden for non-lethal crimes, such as financial corruption.
“The shocking manner in which their trial was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system without allowing them the chance of a proper appeal is yet another example of the brazen disregard the Iranian authorities have for defendants’ basic due process rights.”
The duo were executed after being charged with “manipulating coin and hard currency markets through illegal and unauthorized deals” as well as smuggling. An unspecified number of other accomplices went to prison.
Iran detained Mazloumin, 58, in July for hoarding two tons of gold coins.
With Iran in the grip of a deepening economic crisis, authorities have carried out mass arrests of individuals whom they accuse of being “financially corrupt” and “saboteurs of the economy.”
According to Amnesty, the pair were convicted and sentenced to flogging, lengthy prison terms and eventually the death penalty after “grossly unfair summary trials.”
In August, Iran’s Supreme Leader approved a request by the Head of Judiciary to set up special courts to deal with crimes involving financial corruption. Since then, these courts have sentenced several people to death.
In a statement, Amnesty said the trials were unfair because defendants were denied access to lawyers of their own choosing, had no right to appeal against sentences of imprisonment during the process and were given only 10 days within which to appeal death sentences.