Philippines says Jordanian journalist held captive in south

Updated 25 June 2012
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Philippines says Jordanian journalist held captive in south

MANILA: A Jordanian journalist and two Filipinos hired to help him with reporting are being held captive on an island in the southern Philippines by a one-armed leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, the interior secretary said on Sunday.
Jesse Robredo said that Baker Atyani, an Islamabad-based journalist for Middle East broadcast network Al-Arabiya, and two colleagues, are being held by militant Radullan Saheron on Jolo island.
“They are now being held against their will,” Robredo told reporters in a text message. “There was no mention of ransom, but one of the Filipino captives called his wife and asked the latter to contact his company.”
The two Filipinos, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, work for a Manila-based media production house and were hired by Atyani. Al-Arabiya said it has lost contact with Atyani.
Robredo said they presumed that the captive crew was asking something from his employers, “but, we cannot say outrightly if its ransom. We are keeping our lines open for communication.”
Saheron is one of two remaining Philippines Islamist militant leaders on the US State Department’s terrorist watch list. The other is Isnilon Hapilon. Washington has put up to $5 million bounty on their capture dead or alive.
The Philippines initially denied Atyani was a hostage, even though the Jordanian foreign ministry issued a statement last week saying he was a captive in the southern Philippines.
Atyani arrived on June 11 at the island stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, notorious for kidnap-for-ransom and for beheading captives. The militants are now holding two Chinese, an Australian, two Europeans and a Japanese as captives on Jolo and nearby Basilan islands.
The next day, Atyani and his crew were seen boarding a mini-bus to the island’s interior, seeking an interview with Yasser Igasan, an Islamist militant leader with connections to Al-Qaeda and Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiya.


Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

Updated 20 min 41 sec ago
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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around $170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
“The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah,” Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to $36,000.
Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay $7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.
In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.
Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.
After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.
Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $173 million, or almost 40 percent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.
Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.
Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.
Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.