French Senate official arrested for ‘North Korea spying’

The Paris prosecutor was investigating him over the “collection and delivery of information to a foreign power likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the nation.” (File/AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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French Senate official arrested for ‘North Korea spying’

  • He has written frequent articles on North Korea and traveled extensively throughout the peninsula, according to the website of his publisher Delga
  • Daily television show Quotidien reported that his Senate office had been raided

PARIS: Intelligence agencies have arrested a senior French civil servant on suspicion of spying for North Korea, a judicial source in Paris said.
Benoit Quennedey, the president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association who has written a book on the isolated nation, was placed in custody on Sunday.
The Paris prosecutor was investigating him over the “collection and delivery of information to a foreign power likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the nation,” said a judicial source on Monday.
Investigators from France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency are looking into whether Quennedey provided information to Pyongyang, the source said.
Daily television show Quotidien reported that his Senate office had been raided. The inquiry began in March.
According to the Senate website, Quennedey is a senior administrator in France’s upper house of parliament in the department of architecture, heritage and gardens.
He has written frequent articles on North Korea and traveled extensively throughout the peninsula, according to the website of his publisher Delga.
The Franco-Korean Friendship Association pushes for closer ties with North Korea and supports the reunification of the divided Koreas.
North Korea under Kim Jong Un is under strict economic sanctions aimed at forcing the regime to abandon its nuclear missile program.
Ties with the South and the United States have improved markedly since Kim and US President Donald Trump held a historic summit in Singapore in June but the US is still pushing to maintain sanctions until Pyongyang’s “final, fully verified denuclearization.”
In an interview posted on YouTube in August, Quennedey welcomed the easing of tensions.
The president of the Senate declined to comment to AFP.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.