World leaders remember ‘Islam-West mediator’ Abdullah

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Updated 24 January 2015
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World leaders remember ‘Islam-West mediator’ Abdullah

RIYADH: World leaders paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, praising the late ruler as a key mediator between Muslims and the West.
US President Barack Obama said he and Abdullah, whose country has for decades been a strategic ally of Washington, had enjoyed a “genuine and warm friendship.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Abdullah, who died in a Riyadh hospital earlier the same day, as a “wise politician.”
Iran sent condolences to the Saudi people and announced its foreign minister would travel to Riyadh for an “official ceremony” this weekend.
Abdullah, who officially took power in 2005, guided the Kingdom through a turbulent decade in the region, with neighbors Iraq and Yemen wracked with insecurity after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the growth of Islamic radicalism.
French President Francois Hollande said Abdullah’s vision of “a fair and durable peace in the Middle East remains truer than ever.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the late king as “an ardent defender of peace.”
And the foreign ministry in Spain hailed Abdullah as “a respected figure throughout the Middle East for his willingness to help resolve conflicts.”
In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Saudi ruler would be remembered for “his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”
Prince Charles of Wales is to travel to Riyadh as The Queen’s representative to pay his respects, the royal’s office said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Abdullah’s rule had been “fair and moderate,” praising him for aiding “dialogue between the Muslim world and the West.”
In the Middle East, Lebanon, which has close ties with Riyadh, spoke of losing “a defender and a partner” who had stood by Beirut “in difficult times.”
Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi said the king “ensured... support for causes of justice, peace and development in the Arab, Muslim and entire world.”
His country joined Algeria and Mauritania in announcing three days of mourning, while Cairo said its official grieving would run for a whole week.
Several leaders cut short overseas trips to travel to Riyadh and pay their respects.
Jordan’s King Abdallah II left the World Economic Forum in Davos, organizers said, before declaring 40 days of mourning for the late Saudi king.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin praised Abdullah as an “exemplary leader... with sound judgment.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declared three days of mourning, describing the late monarch as a “sage.”
“With much sadness, we received the news of the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, a loss to the Arab and Islamic world,” Abbas said in a statement.
President Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Abdullah had contributed “to strengthening cooperation and solidarity in the Muslim world, especially concerning the Palestinian question and the situation in Syria.”
At the Asian Cup in Australia, the national football team of the United Arab Emirates donned black armbands for their match against Japan.
Malaysian Prime Minister Rajib Razak called Abdullah a “great leader for his initiative for inter-religious dialogue,” and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pointed to Saudi involvement in his country’s peace negotiations.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, paid tribute to a man who “brought prosperity and reforms to his nation.”


Australian judge sentences ‘mass murderer’ to life in prison

Updated 45 min 21 sec ago
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Australian judge sentences ‘mass murderer’ to life in prison

  • James Gargasoulas was in a drug-induced psychosis in January 2017 when he killed the six people and injured dozens more
  • His victims included a 3-month-old baby who was thrown 60 meters (200 feet) from his stroller and a 10-year-old girl.

MELBOURNE, Australia: A man who drove a stolen car into lunchtime crowds in downtown Melbourne and killed six people was sentenced to life imprisonment Friday in what the judge described as “one of the worst examples of mass murder in Australian history.”
James Gargasoulas, 29, showed little emotion when sentenced in Victoria state’s Supreme Court. Under the terms of his sentence, he will spend at least 46 years in prison before he’s eligible for parole.
Families of the victims filled the courtroom for Justice Mark Weinberg’s ruling. Gargasoulas was in a drug-induced psychosis in January 2017 when he killed the six people and injured dozens more in the busy Bourke St. Mall.
His victims included a 3-month-old baby who was thrown 60 meters (200 feet) from his stroller and a 10-year-old girl.
“Your actions were both callous and cowardly,” the judge said. “You have shown no genuine remorse.”
The judge described in detail the events of the “terrifying rampage,” noting each victim killed as well as those left with broken bones, head injuries, internal bleeding and other lasting damage.
“You left a trail of destruction,” the judge said. “The horror of what you did has profoundly impacted the lives of those who were present that day.”
Crime Stoppers Victoria ambassador George Halvagis said he thinks Gargasoulas should die in jail.
“He should never, ever, get out of there,” he told reporters after the sentencing.
Grieving relatives earlier told the court of their pain. The brother of Japanese victim Yosuke Kanno, 25, said he will continue suffering until he dies.
In a letter read to the court, Gargasoulas insisted he was not evil and blamed “government oppression” for the murders. He also said he was the Messiah and was acting on the wishes of God on the day of the rampage, but was in a “bad headspace.”
Gargasoulas has treatment-resistant paranoid schizophrenia but was found fit to stand trial. He pleaded not guilty. In November, a jury found him guilty of the six murders and 27 counts of reckless conduct endangering life.
He had been using drugs and committing crimes in the weeks before the attack and was on bail. The judge noted he was meant to face court on the day of the massacre. Police had tailed the stolen Holden Commodore for some of its journey into downtown Melbourne before the rampage.
“Your crimes have had a shattering effect on countless lives,” Weinberg said.
Gargasoulas will be eligible to apply for release in 2063, when he’s 73.