Israel jails French consulate worker for gun smuggling

An Israeli court on April 8, 2019 sentenced the former French consulate worker, Romain Franck, to seven years in prison for smuggling guns from the Gaza Strip after a plea bargain. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 09 April 2019
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Israel jails French consulate worker for gun smuggling

BEERSHEBA, Israel: An Israeli court on Monday sentenced a former French consulate worker to seven years in prison for smuggling guns from the Gaza Strip after a plea bargain.
Romain Franck, who worked as a driver for the consulate, went on trial after being accused of exploiting reduced security checks for diplomats to smuggle 70 pistols and two automatic rifles from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The plea bargain reached convicted Franck for smuggling 29 pistols after he confessed to most of what he was charged with.
He was also given a fine of 30,000 shekels ($8,000, 7,500 euros) and an 18-month suspended sentence.
Franck’s lawyer Kenneth Mann said he intended to request that he serve his sentence in France.
Mann said the judge was willing to issue a more lenient sentence than might otherwise have been given because Franck, 24, had shown remorse and was motivated by money, not by solidarity with Palestinian groups.
He had no prior criminal record.
Franck, relying on a court interpreter from Hebrew to French, showed no visible reaction when the sentence was announced.
“This is a very, very difficult thing for the whole family of course, but they understand that this is the law and they hope that their son will be returned to France as quickly as possible,” Mann told AFP after Monday’s hearing.
Franck was arrested in February 2018 and his trial began the following month at the district court in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Israeli officials have said he acted on his own without the consulate’s knowledge and that diplomatic relations with France were not affected.
The Shin Bet internal security agency has said he was paid a total of around $5,500 for the guns he smuggled for a network involving several Palestinians.
Travelers between the two Palestinian territories pass through Israel and are subject to Israeli security controls.


Turkey says understands NATO concerns over Russian missile deal

Updated 19 April 2019
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Turkey says understands NATO concerns over Russian missile deal

  • The deal for Russian S-400 missiles riled Washington, prompting US officials to suspend Turkey’s participation in the US-made F-35 jet program
  • Washington says Turkey’s adoption of Russian missile technology alongside US fighter jets would not be compatible within NATO defenses

ISTANBUL: Turkey is “taking into account” NATO concerns over its Russian missile deal, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday, in more conciliatory remarks over a purchase stoking tensions between Washington and Ankara.
The deal for Russian S-400 missiles riled Washington, prompting US officials to suspend Turkey’s participation in the US-made F-35 jet program and warn of more sanctions against its NATO ally.
Washington says Turkey’s adoption of Russian missile technology alongside US fighter jets would not be compatible within NATO defenses, citing security risks.
“We are taking into account NATO’s concerns. It is not right to say Turkey is not considering them,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference in Ankara.
His remarks followed a visit by Turkey’s defense minister to Washington and a meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law at the White House, where they discussed the S-400 deal, local media reported.
“We don’t find credible the concerns that the S-400 system will allow access to the F-35 technology if they are deployed in Turkey,” the minister said.
He said Ankara was still waiting for a US response to Turkey’s proposal to set up a working group between them to work out differences over the Russian deal.
The S-400 purchase is one dispute fueling tensions between the two nations, who are also at odds over US support for Syrian Kurdish militias who Ankara brands a terrorist group and Turkish backing for US foe Venezuela.
This month, after repeated warnings, the United States said Turkey’s decision to buy the S-400 system was incompatible with it remaining part of the emblematic F-35 jet program.
Turkey had planned to buy 100 F-35A fighter jets, with pilots already training in the United States.
With Turkey in recession for the first time in a decade after a currency crisis last year, analysts say Ankara may look to avoid imposition of new US sanctions that would further damage the economy.
Last year, a trade dispute with the US prompted Washington to impose sanctions and tariffs on some Turkish goods, knocking around 30 percent off the value of the local lira currency.
Local Turkish media have reported Turkey may be considering options to ease tensions, such as the non-activation of the S-400 after delivery to Turkey, or the transfer of Russian missiles to a third country.