JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has been found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison for defying a court order to appear before an inquiry probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption during his tenure from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma was not in court for the ruling on Tuesday and has been ordered to hand himself over within five days to a police station in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province or in Johannesburg.
This is the first time in South Africa’s history that a former president has been sentenced to prison.
The country’s apex court, the Constitutional Court, ruled that Zuma defied an order by the country’s highest court by refusing to cooperate with the commission of inquiry, which is chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.
“The Constitutional Court holds that there can be no doubt that Mr. Zuma is in contempt of court. Mr. Zuma was served with the order and it is impossible to conclude anything other than that he was unequivocally aware of what it required of him,” said acting chief justice El-Sisi Khampepe.
She added that in determining the jail sentence for Zuma, the court found it impossible to conclude that he would comply with any other order.
“Mr. Zuma has repeatedly reiterated that he would rather be imprisoned than to cooperate with the commission or comply with the order made,” said Khampepe.
Zuma has previously expressed his unwillingness to appear before the commission, which has so far heard evidence directly implicating Zuma in wrongdoing.
In a previous 21-page letter written to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, which the court has described as “scandalous,” Zuma claimed that he was ready to be sent to prison.
Spoons become a new symbol of Palestinian ‘freedom’
Prisoners carried out jail break with the utensil
Updated 40 sec ago
JERUSALEM: The humble spoon has taken its place alongside traditional flags and banners as a Palestinian resistance symbol, after prisoners were said to have carried out one of Israel’s most spectacular jail breaks with the utensil.
When the six Palestinian militants escaped through a tunnel on Sept. 6 from the high security Gilboa Prison, social networks shared images of a tunnel at the foot of a sink, and a hole dug outside.
A hashtag, “the miraculous spoon,” suggested how the Hollywood-style feat might have occurred.
But whether or not the utensil had really been involved or its role was cooked up was at first unclear.
Then on Wednesday a lawyer for one of the fugitives who has since been recaptured told AFP that his client, Mahmud Abdullah Ardah, said he had used spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle to dig the tunnel from his cell.
He began scraping his way out from the northern Israeli institution in December, the lawyer, Roslan MaHajjana, said.
Ardah was one of four fugitives later arrested after the army poured troops into the occupied West Bank as part of a massive manhunt.
All six were accused of plotting or carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Two men remain on the loose following the extremely rare escape. Israel has begun an inquiry into lapses that led to the embarrassing incident, which Palestinians see as a “victory.”
“With determination, vigilance... and cunning, and with a spoon, it was possible to dig a tunnel through which the Palestinians escaped and the enemy was imprisoned,” writer Sari Orabi said on the Arabi 21 website.
Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh says the escape has served up “black humor” and exposed Israel’s security system to ridicule.
He has made several drawings featuring the utensil, including one titled “The Tunnel of Freedom.”
The issue has also stirred admiration outside the Palestinian territories, where spoons have been carried in demonstrations supporting prisoners detained by Israel.
In Kuwait, the artist Maitham Abdal sculpted a giant hand firmly clasping a spoon — the “spoon of freedom,” as he calls it.
Similarly inspired, Amman-based graphic designer Raed Al-Qatnani symbolically depicted six silhouettes taking a bridge to freedom, represented by a spoon.
For him, it also evokes the numerous hunger strikes undertaken by Palestinian prisoners to protest their incarceration.
In Tulkarem, a city in the West Bank occupied since 1967 by Israel, the escape brought back memories for Ghassan Mahdawi. He and another prisoner escaped from an Israeli prison in 1996 through a tunnel dug using not kitchen implements but nails.
He had been arrested for belonging to an armed group during the first Palestinian intifada, which lasted until the early 1990s.
“There’s nothing prisoners can’t do ... and there is always a flaw” in the system, said Mahdawi, who was rearrested and then released after a total of 19 years in custody.
In his view, the most recent escapees may have used tools other than spoons, obtained inside the prison, to carry out what every prisoner dreams of but few accomplish.
“To escape from an Israeli prison is something each inmate thinks about,” Mahdawi said.
To have done it with a spoon, he added, is something that “will go down in history.”
Franco-American tension over submarine deal puts fresh strain on trans-Atlantic ties
France feels excluded from AUKUS and robbed of chance to land a lucrative submarine deal
Macron recalls ambassadors from the US and Australia for consultation in show of anger
Updated 16 min 32 sec ago
LONDON: The French foreign minister’s reaction to the new trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US brings to mind a powerful cartoon published by an American newspaper during the Trump years, when the president was ruling by executive order to evade Congress.
The cartoon, which appeared in the Buffalo News, depicted the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the US, stabbed in the back not with a dagger but with the president’s pen. Just like Lady Liberty in this cutting depiction, the French must feel as though a dagger is buried between their shoulder blades.
In fact French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian likened the new Indo-Pacific security alliance, known as AUKUS, to a “stab in the back” and the sort of betrayal that “is not something allies do to each other.”
Because of “the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on Sept. 15 by Australia and the United States,” Le Drian announced on Friday that Paris would immediately recall its ambassadors to the US and Australia for consultation.
French grievances over the deal relate both to its strategic and financial implications. Paris was not only excluded from the Indo-Pacific strategy but has also lost out on a hugely lucrative contract with Australia to build nuclear submarines. Canberra is tapping American tech instead.
The new alliance, announced during a virtual meeting of US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has ignited a firestorm of criticism from France.
While many observers in Washington applauded the pact as a clear challenge to China, others warned that the agreement marks the beginning of a new arms race in the region, or perhaps even a strategic blunder following hot on the heels of America’s Afghanistan withdrawal debacle.
Since taking office, Biden has sought to reset America’s frigid relations with its oldest European allies, yet the AUKUS move appears to have had the opposite effect, alienating France and the wider EU.
It has also exposed a potential rift between the US and its European allies on how to handle the growing influence of China. Differing positions on whether to confront or cooperate with Beijing might, as the New York Times recently put it, “redraw the global strategic map.”
The timing of the AUKUS deal could not have been more critical, coming as it did on “the eve of the publication of the EU strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and as Paris has risen as the main EU strategic actor in the region,” wrote Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council.
He predicts the new dynamic will “create a blow to transatlantic strategy in the region and create a lasting hurdle in US-French relations.”
Next week, the White House is due to host the first in-person meeting of leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a strategic alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India. “The Quad,” as it is known, is another important pillar of Biden’s China policy.
Beijing views the Quad, and the new AUKUS, as a “clique based on a Cold War ideology and detrimental to the international order.” China’s regional rival India, meanwhile, predictably welcomed the new alliance.
Although Biden, Johnson and Scott did not mention China in their AUKUS announcement, the pact was described in the US as part of the president’s policy to “refocus” American national security and to reorient its military posture toward the Chinese threat.
The administration has sought to justify its abrupt departure from Afghanistan on the grounds that it needs to pool its resources to address the threat emanating from China. Critics might have given the Biden team the benefit of the doubt had the new strategic architecture in the Indo-Pacific not come at the expense of US-French relations.
France has good reason to be upset. The new deal with Australia, described as “historic” by the US media and “another step by Western allies to counter China’s strength,” torpedoed the largest military contract Australia has ever awarded — a deal for nuclear submarines worth 90 billion Australian dollars ($65.5 billion), signed in 2017 with the French defense contractor Naval Group.
The US media played down the French reaction to AUKUS and chose not to ruminate over what sort of message the deal might send to America’s allies elsewhere. Instead it focused on the historic nature of the sharing of US nuclear-propulsion technology with Australia.
Defense News hailed the deal as the first time the US has shared this type of technology with any ally since the US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement of 1958.
Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, likewise drew a parallel between the new pact and the Eisenhower administration’s policy of sharing nuclear technology with the UK, a policy that caused French President Charles de Gaulle to decry “Anglo-Saxon nuclear cooperation and propelled France to develop its own nuclear capabilities.”
Indeed, much like de Gaulle, French President Emmanuel Macron might well interpret the AUKUS deal as a deliberate Anglo-Saxon snub that undermines its strategic posture in the Indo-Pacific.
France is not a minor player in the region. It is the only European country with a big presence in the Indo-Pacific, including about 7,000 soldiers on active deployment.
Cutting France out of the new strategic architecture represents a blow both to Paris and to Macron, who had prided himself on fostering a good relationship with Biden. The perceived snub could backfire badly for the Anglo-Saxon trio by pushing the French president to seek alliances elsewhere.
Many observers had expected more from the Biden administration after its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the damage this caused to America’s global standing and perceptions of its commitment to its allies. Instead, AUKUS looks like more of the same.
Biden’s secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is a francophone who grew up in Paris and has long enjoyed good relations with the French. This had raised hopes of a new flourishing of ties between the two governments. Instead, relations have hit rock bottom.
The perceived betrayal seems all the more cruel when one takes into consideration how much America has gained from its French connection during the war on terror. In Africa especially, it is French forces who have led operations against Daesh affiliates. Only this week, Macron announced the assassination of Adnan Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi, the leader of Daesh in the Sahara, who had been accused of killing four Americans.
In Washington, foreign policy watchers currently interpret the rift with Paris as a “tactical error and not a strategic mistake.” But the French beg to differ.
When Blinken recently posted a tweet calling France a “vital partner” in the Pacific, Gerard Araud, the outspoken French former ambassador to Washington, responded sarcastically: “We are deeply moved.”
As Washington sets about redrawing the strategic map in the Indo-Pacific, it would perhaps be wise not to take its oldest friendships for granted. Indeed, if America cannot be counted on to stand by its allies, Washington could find itself short of friends when push comes to shove.
KABUL: The Taliban appeared on Friday to have shut down the government’s ministry of women’s affairs and replaced it with a department notorious for enforcing strict religious doctrine during their first rule two decades ago.
And in a further sign the Taliban’s approach to women and girls had not softened, the Education Ministry said only classes for boys would restart on Saturday.
In Kabul, workers were seen raising a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women’s Affairs building.
Several posts have appeared on Twitter in the last 24 hours showing women workers from the ministry protesting outside the building, saying they had lost their jobs.
No official from the Taliban responded to requests for comment.
Also on Friday, the Education Ministry issued a statement ordering male teachers back to work and said secondary school classes for boys would resume on Saturday.
Despite insisting they will rule more moderately this time around, the Taliban have not allowed women to return to work and introduced rules for what they can wear at university.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution saying that the Taliban need to establish an inclusive government that has “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women” and upholds human rights.
The resolution adopted by the UN’s most powerful body also extends the current mandate of the UN political mission in Afghanistan for six months and delivers a clear message that its 15 members will be watching closely what the Taliban do going forward.
The resolution also calls for strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to some 14 million Afghans needing aid and demands “unhindered humanitarian access” for the UN and other aid agencies. It also reaffirms “the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan ... and ensuring that the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists” in the future.
Russian and China’s leaders urged the Taliban government to remain peaceful to their neighbors and combat terrorism and drug trafficking.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke via video link at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin said the organization, holding its meeting in Tajikistan, should “use its potential” to “stimulate the new Afghan authorities” in fulfilling their promises on normalizing life and bringing security in Afghanistan.
Xi said it was necessary to “encourage Afghanistan to put in place a broad-based and inclusive political framework” and to “resolutely fight all forms of terrorism” and live in peace with its neighbors.
France recalls envoys in US and Australia over submarine deal
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism
Updated 17 September 2021
PARIS/CANBERRA/WASHINGTON: France said on Friday it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the US and Australia for consultations after Australia struck a deal with the United States and Britain which ended a $40 billion deal to purchase French-designed submarines.
Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement that the rare decision taken by President Emmanuel Macron was made due to the seriousness of the event.
The US State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected French criticism that it had not been warned, saying he had raised the possibility in talks with the French president in June that Australia might scrap the 2016 submarine deal with a French company.
On Thursday, Australia said it would scrap the $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.
Morrison acknowledged the damage to Australia-France ties but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal.
“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.
“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said.
Strained Australia-French ties come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in the Asia and the Pacific amid concern about the rising influence of a more assertive China.
France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.
Pentagon says Kabul drone strike killed 10 civilians in 'tragic mistake'
"At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport": McKenzie
He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces
Updated 17 September 2021
WASHINGTON: The US military said on Friday that a drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, and it apologized for what the Pentagon said was a tragic mistake.
Senior US officers had said the Aug. 29 strike that took place as foreign forces completed the last stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan targeted a Daesh suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to Kabul airport.
"At the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport," US General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told reporters. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."
He said he now believed it unlikely that those who died were Daesh militants or posed a direct threat to US forces. The Pentagon was considering reparations for the civilians killed, McKenzie said.
Reports had emerged almost immediately that the drone strike had killed civilians including children. A spokesman for Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, Zabihullah Mujahid, had said at the time that strike had killed seven people.