Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday
An opponent of Judge Ghada Aoun grabs the weapon of a soldier, after he hit the protester with it, during a sit-in outside the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, April 19, 2021. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 20 April 2021

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday
  • She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month in defiance of the decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge who defied a decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches has been summoned for a meeting on Tuesday with the country’s Supreme Judicial Council.
Judge Ghada Aoun, who was referred to the Judicial Inspection Authority because of more than 20 complaints against her, can be deemed incompetent by the vote of five council members and five authority members.
Aoun had been investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing US dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.
She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month in defiance of the decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her.
In one of the raids she was accompanied by supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the political party led by the president’s son-in-law MP Gebran Bassil.
In the event that Aoun agrees during Tuesday’s meeting to comply with Oweidat’s decision, she will be dismissed from matters related to important financial crimes but will remain in her position as an appellate public prosecutor in Mount Lebanon.Two protests were held outside the Beirut Justice Palace on Monday.
One was by Aoun’s supporters from the FPM. The other was by supporters of Oweidat from the Future Movement, the political party led by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
The rival protests turned into a clash, with people shoving and beating each other, and one person was wounded.
The army and riot police intervened to separate the protesters and end their sit-ins.
According to one judge, there was a judicial hierarchy that must be respected: “Judge Oweidat requested the dismissal of a judge who is his subordinate, so how could she not comply?”
Aoun, who has become controversial in her handling of judicial files, has become a matter of public and political debate.
Some support the judge in her conduct to expose the corruption of authority, while others consider her to be a tool for the FPM through which it chooses which issues to attack its opponents with.
The Future parliamentary bloc said that what happened with Aoun reflected “contempt for the constitutional institutions and the incitement of some judges to usurp powers” that were not theirs.
Attorney Imad Al-Saba, who is the central coordinator of the lawyers’ sector in the Future Movement, said the party rejected the politicization of the judiciary. “It is our duty to restore the judiciary’s credibility and prestige,” he added.
Systemic corruption in Lebanon has angered the public, with people taking to the streets to protest and saying that graft has devastated the country’s economy.   
The former president of the Constitutional Council, Issam Sleiman, said that what Oweidat did was against the law. “We are in an unacceptable state of chaos. The judiciary is asleep, several public prosecution offices have not done anything in any of the corruption files, and no corrupt person has been arrested or held accountable. The plundering of public money will not be exposed except through a forensic audit.”
President Michel Aoun has insisted on a financial audit into the accounts of the Banque du Liban. But his opponents are demanding the audit include all state institutions, especially the Ministry of Energy, which is run by ministers affiliated with the FPM.


US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad
Updated 09 December 2021

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad
  • Daesh established a so-called caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq from 2014 but was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by the multinational coalition

BAGHDAD: The US-led coalition against Daesh group jihadists has finished its combat mission in Iraq and will shift to a training and advisory role, Iraq’s national security adviser said Thursday.
The change of the mission for around 2,500 US troops stationed in the war-battered country by the end of the year was first announced in July by President Joe Biden, during a Washington visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi.
The Iraqi government has been under pressure from powerful pro-Iranian political groups with armed wings that have vehemently demanded all US troops leave the country.
“We are officially announcing the end of the coalition forces’ combat mission,” national security adviser Qassem Al-Aaraji wrote on Twitter.
“The relationship with the international coalition continues in the areas of training, advising and capacity building” of Iraqi forces, he added.
Aaraji was speaking after a meeting between the coalition and the Joint Operations commanders of the Iraqi security forces.
In effect, the about 2,500 US and 1,000 coalition troops deployed in Iraq will remain there. They have been acting as advisers and trainers since mid-2020.
Daesh established a so-called caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq from 2014 but was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by the multinational coalition.
Iraqi interior ministry media official General Saad Maan told a news conference on Thursday that “the coalition will have completely finished the transition to a non-combat mission before the end of the year.”
He was quoting what the coalition commander, Major General John W. Brennan Jr., said during the meeting.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi, a former coalition of Iraqi paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular forces, an influential political player and ally of Tehran, is particularly virulent about the departure of American troops.
On social networks, groups close to pro-Iranian factions have been issuing threats and reminding Washington of a December 31 deadline set to demand a full US withdrawal.
In recent months, dozens of rocket and drone attacks have targeted American troops and interests in Iraq. Never claimed, these attacks are systematically blamed by the United States on pro-Iranian Iraqi factions.


Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker
Updated 09 December 2021

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker
  • Video footage showed a paramilitary Border Police officer shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground
  • The incident came amid an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Justice Ministry said Thursday it was closing an investigation into two police officers who shot dead a Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground, accepting the officers’ assertion that they acted in self-defense.
A Palestinian attacker on Saturday stabbed and wounded an ultra-Orthodox Jew outside Jerusalem’s Old City. He then tried to stab the officers before being shot and falling to the ground. Video footage showed a paramilitary Border Police officer shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground.
The shooting prompted calls for an investigation and drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.
The Justice Ministry said it made its decision to close the case following the questioning of the two officers, who said they acted in self-defense.
“It was an incident that took place over mere seconds, in circumstances in which there was a real and concrete threat to the lives of the fighters and the civilians in the area,” it said in a statement. “It was found to be legally justified to use a weapon.”
The incident came amid an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, an Israeli woman was stabbed and lightly wounded in a tense neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The suspect, a Palestinian female minor, fled the scene and was later arrested inside a nearby school, police said.
Last month, a Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one Israeli and wounding four others before being fatally shot by police.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, to include the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say Israeli security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected assailants who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.
Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.
Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.
In the widely publicized 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.
His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the nationalist right, defended his actions.


Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021
Updated 09 December 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021
  • Value of the drugs seized by the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150 exceeded the past four years combined

MANAMA/DUBAI: A multinational naval coalition said it seized over 67 tons of drugs worth more than $189 million in operations near the Arabian Gulf in 2021, a record for the task force.

The value of the drugs seized by the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150 exceeded the past four years combined, said Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) that oversees the task force.

The haul including 6,550 kilograms of heroin, 4,052 kilograms of methamphetamine and 56,834 kilograms of hashish was all destroyed, he said.

Commander of CTF 150, Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Brendon Clark, said the drugs came from a number of countries around the region, without specifying.

“It’s all about maritime security operations ... preventing illicit activity from non-state actors in the region,” he said.

“We do that so that we can have legitimate commercial shipping, legitimate commercial fishing, can transit and operate in the region free from these non state threats.”

CTF 150 is part of the CMF naval partnership in which 34 nations patrol 3.2 million square miles of international waters. The New Zealand navy took command of CTF 150 in July.

Meanwhile, the US seized two large caches of Iranian arms, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, intended for the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The US justice department on Tuesday said navy troops seized the weapons from two vessels in the Arabian Sea while conducting routine maritime security operations.

“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, orchestrated the arms shipments, which were destined for Houthi militants in Yemen,” the statement added.

Approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products were also seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela, the justice department said.

“The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The seized petroleum products were sold for over $26 million, pursuant to a court order, with the proceeds directed, “in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.”

The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” the statement noted.


Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
Updated 09 December 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
  • The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement

DUBAI: The Arab coalition launched a series of attacks against Houthi targets overnight, destroying a communication system in the Al-Bani district and a weapons depot in Sanaa. 
The coalition said the communication system was being used to launch cross-border drone attacks. 
Coalition forces earlier intercepted and destroyed two drones in Yemeni airspace, one of which was monitored and launched from Sanaa airport.
Clashes between the Iran-backed Houthis and the coalition have intensified in recent months, specifically in Marib where it destroyed a Houthi missile defense system.
On Wednesday, the coalition carried out 16 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib in the past 24 hours. It said 95 militants were killed and 11 Houthi military vehicles were destroyed during the operation.
The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement.


UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
Updated 09 December 2021

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
  • Two incidents in the past week, one in Basra and the other in the north of the country, left dozens of people dead or injured
  • Council members pledged their continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and in opposing Daesh in particular

The UN Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned recent terrorist attacks in Iraq that killed or injured dozens of people. Daesh has claimed responsibility.

At least four people were killed and 20 injured in an explosion in Basra on Dec. 7, and at least 13 died in an attack in the north of the country on Dec. 3.

The members of the Security Council offered their condolences to the families of the dead and wished the injured a speedy recovery. They also reiterated their support for the “independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, democratic process and prosperity of Iraq.”

They urged all states to “actively” cooperate with Iraqi authorities to bring to justice the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism.” Such cooperation, they stressed, is in line with obligations under international law and Security Council resolutions.

Council members “reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

Pledging its continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and particularly Daesh, the council “reaffirmed the need for all states to combat by all means — in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law — threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”