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.


Houthi militia ‘must respect neutrality of aid workers’

Updated 19 January 2019
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Houthi militia ‘must respect neutrality of aid workers’

  • The recommendations came as UN monitors try to strengthen a cease-fire in the port of Hodeidah
  • Houthis were blamed for an attack on a UN convey on Thursday

 NEW YORK: UN experts monitoring sanctions against Yemen are recommending that the Security Council urge the Houthis to respect the neutrality and independence of humanitarian workers.

The Associated Press has obtained the nine recommendations the panel of experts made in their latest report to the council.

The recommendations came as UN monitors try to strengthen a cease-fire in the port of Hodeidah, key to the delivery of 70 percent of Yemen’s imports and humanitarian aid, and arrange a withdrawal of rival forces from the area agreed to by the government and the Houthis on Dec. 13.

While the agreement in Stockholm was limited, if fully implemented it could offer a potential breakthrough in Yemen’s four-year civil war.

The experts asked the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Yemen to engage with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office, Yemen’s government and donors to “enhance” the UN mission inspecting vessels heading to ports in Yemen for illegal arms so it can “identify networks using false documentation to evade inspection.”

They also suggested that Guterres organize a conference with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as well as other “key actors to best manage cash flows and imports of goods,” using the principles of the UN Global Compact on how companies should conduct business.

And the experts recommended that the secretary-general ask the UN inspection mission and monitors at the port of Hodeidah “to share information on potential cases of acts that threaten the peace, stability and security of Yemen,” including violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, the UN arms embargo, and obstructions of humanitarian assistance.

The experts also asked the sanctions committee to consider sending three letters. One would be to Abu Al-Abbas, a militia commander in the flashpoint city of Taiz, asking him to transfer artifacts and items from the Taiz National Museum in his custody to Yemen’s government. 

A second would be to alert the International Maritime Organization to “the risks posed by anti-ship cruise missiles and water-borne improvised explosive devices in the Red Sea and to encourage it to discuss these threats with the commercial shipping industry with the aim of developing suitable precautions and countermeasures.”

The third would be to alert the International Civil Aviation Organization of the risks posed by drones and munitions to civil aviation, particularly near busy international airports on the Arabian Peninsula “and encourage it to discuss these threats with airport operators and airlines with the aim of developing suitable precautions and countermeasures.”