French minister resigns in luxury dinners scandal

In this file photo taken on July 11, 2019 French Environment Minister Francois de Rugy visits a farm operation as part of his trip to Niort on the theme of water management. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2019

French minister resigns in luxury dinners scandal

  • The Mediapart website accused him of hosting friends to opulent meals

PARIS: A senior French cabinet minister resigned Tuesday after reports accused him of extravagant spending, including on luxury dinners, but lashed out at what he termed a "media lynching."
Environment Minister Francois de Rugy has been under unrelenting pressure for a week after the Mediapart website accused him of hosting friends to opulent meals, complete with lobster and vintage wines, while he was speaker of parliament.
"The attacks and media lynching targeting my family force me to take the necessary step back," said de Rugy, who also held the post of minister of state which made him the number two in government after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
"The effort required to defend my name means that I am not able to serenely and efficiently carry out my mission. I presented my resignation to the prime minister this morning," he added.
Rugy lashed out at Mediapart, which has repeatedly published stories that have rattled the French elite since it was established in 2008.
He said he had filed a legal complaint against the left-wing publication for "defamation", accusing it of a desire "to harm, smear and destroy."
President Emmanuel Macron, in his first reaction to the revelations, said Monday he had asked Philippe for "full clarity" as he took decisions not "based on revelations but facts".
Macron, who is keen to promote his green credentials, has struggled to find a long-term occupant for the environment ministry.
De Rugy last year succeeded Macron's first appointment to the job, Nicolas Hulot, a celebrity environmentalist who quit after saying that his cabinet colleagues were doing too little to tackle climate change.


India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago

India reimposes movement curbs on parts of Kashmir’s main city after clashes

  • There were violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured
  • India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed
SRINAGAR: Indian authorities reimposed restrictions on movement in major parts of Kashmir’s biggest city, Srinagar, on Sunday after violent overnight clashes between residents and police in which dozens were injured, two senior officials and eyewitnesses said.
In the past 24 hours, there has been a series of protests against New Delhi’s Aug. 5 revocation of the region’s autonomy. This followed an easing in curbs on movement on Saturday morning.
The state government has said that it has not imposed a curfew over the past two weeks, but on Sunday people were being turned back at multiple roadblocks set up in the city in the past few hours. Security forces at some roadblocks have told residents there is a curfew.
Two senior government officials told Reuters that at least two dozen people were admitted to hospitals with pellet injuries after violent clashes broke out in the old city on Saturday night.
Representatives in the Jammu and Kashmir government in Srinagar and the federal government in New Delhi did not immediately return calls asking about the latest clampdown or seeking an assessment of the number of injuries and clashes.
One of the official sources said that people pelted security forces with stones in around two dozen places across Srinagar. He said that the intensity of the stone pelting protests has increased over past few days.
The heavy overnight clashes took place mostly in Rainawari, Nowhetta and Gojwara areas of the old city where Indian troops fired tear smoke, chilly grenades and pellets to disperse protesters, eyewitnesses and officials said.
Chilly grenades contain very spicy chili pepper, and produce a major eye and skin irritant, as well as a pungent smell, when they are unleashed.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they aren’t supposed to talk to the media, said clashes also took place in other parts of the city including Soura, a hotbed of protests in the past two weeks.
A senior government official and hospital authorities at Srinagar’s main hospital said that at least 17 people came there with pellet injuries. They said 12 were discharged while five with grievous injuries were admitted.
The hospital officials and a police officer told Reuters that a 65-year-old man, Mohammad Ayub of Braripora, was admitted to the hospital after he had major breathing difficulties when tear gas and chilly grenades were fired in old city area on Saturday afternoon. He died in the hospital on Saturday night and has already been buried, they said.
Javed Ahmad, age 35 and from the wealthy Rajbagh area of Srinagar, was prevented from going to the old city early Sunday morning by paramilitary police at a barricade near the city center. “I had to visit my parents there. Troops had blocked the road with concertina wire. They asked me to go back as there was curfew in the area,” he said.
Telephone landlines were restored in parts of the city on Saturday after a 12-day blackout and the state government said most telephone exchanges in the region would start working by Sunday evening. Internet and cell phones remain blocked in Kashmir.
More than 500 political or community leaders and activists remained in detention, and some have been flown to prisons outside the state.
For 30 years in the part of Kashmir that it controls, India has been fighting a revolt in which at least 50,000 people have been killed. Critics say the decision to revoke autonomy will cause further alienation and fuel the armed resistance.
The change will allow non-residents to buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, and end the practice of reserving state government jobs for local residents.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has said the measure is necessary to integrate Kashmir fully into India and speed up its development.