Beijing’s former security chief charged with bribery

Updated 04 April 2015
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Beijing’s former security chief charged with bribery

BEIJING: Chinese prosecutors charged former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets on Friday, paving the way for a trial that could expose the inner workings of the ruling Communist Party.
Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949. The decision to prosecute Zhou underscores President Xi Jinping’s commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels.
The indictment accused Zhou of “taking advantage of his position to seek benefits for others,” “illegally accepting other people’s huge assets,” “abuse of power” and “causing heavy losses to public property, the state and the people,” China’s top prosecutor, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, said in a statement on its website.
“The impact on society is vile, the circumstances are especially serious,” the agency said, without giving specific details of the charges.
Zhou’s alleged crimes took place over decades, including when he was deputy general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), party boss in southwestern Sichuan province, minister of public security and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the statement said.
Zhou had been informed of his legal rights and listened to the views of his lawyer, the statement added, without saying where Zhou, who has not been seen in public since October 2013, was being detained.
No date was given for Zhou’s trial, but state media said last month that China would hold an “open trial” in an attempt to show transparency. Legal experts say, however, the party runs the risk of Zhou threatening to reveal state secrets. His case was transferred on Friday to a court in the northern city of Tianjin, not far from Beijing, according to prosecutors.
Zhang Sizhi, the lawyer who defended Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing, said Tianjin would have been chosen because it has no obvious connection to Zhou, to ensure the impartiality of the judge. Jiang was tried in China’s last major show trial in 1980 and given a suspended death sentence for the deaths of tens of thousands during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
“The trial could start quite soon, perhaps in a month or so,” Zhang said, judging by legal precedent. “The government will be hoping that by giving him a trial like this it will help with their efforts to boost the rule of law.”
Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — China’s apex of power — and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.
He also built an extensive power base at oil giant CNPC, as he rose to the top of the company in the 1990s. At least a dozen former top managers at CNPC have been arrested as part of the crackdown on graft.
Last year, China said it had arrested Zhou and expelled him from the party, accusing him of crimes ranging from accepting bribes to leaking state secrets.
In ordering the investigation, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Politburo Standing Committee would not come under such scrutiny after retirement.
The move suggests Xi’s anti-corruption crackdown — he has promised to go after “tigers,” or senior officials, as well as those of lower rank — has much further to run.


Morocco tourist murder trial to open on May 2

Updated 8 min 46 sec ago
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Morocco tourist murder trial to open on May 2

  • The bodies of the victims were found on High Atlas mountains
  • Official said four of the prosecuted appeared in videos pledging allegiance to Daesh

RABAT: Suspected extremist sympathizers will face trial on May 2 for the murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco, a defense lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
The killing of Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in December was deemed a “terrorist” act by Moroccan authorities.
Twenty-four defendants will face trial — for charges including promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell or causing premeditated harm to persons — in Sale, a city neighboring the capital Rabat, according to defense lawyer Saad Sahli.
A Spanish-Swiss man who authorities allege subscribed to “extremist ideology” stands accused of helping the four main suspects in the murder, charges he denies.
The decapitated bodies of the two victims were found in the High Atlas mountains, where they had been hiking in an area popular with tourists.
A video circulated on social media allegedly showed the murder of one of the women, while Rabat’s prosecutor has said the four main suspects appeared in separate footage pledging allegiance to the Daesh group.
The accused however had no contact with the extremist group in conflict zones, according to Morocco’s anti-terror chief.
The North African country relies heavily on tourism.
Foreign visitors were previously targeted in a 2011 bomb blast in Marrakesh which killed 17 people.
An attack in 2003 on the financial capital Casablanca left 33 people dead.