Cyprus to revoke passports of Turkish Cypriot officials

Cyprus to revoke passports of Turkish Cypriot officials
Cyprus’ decision to revoke the passports is linked to Turkish and Turkish Cypriot plans to open up the ghost town of Varosha. (Getty Images)
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Updated 23 August 2021

Cyprus to revoke passports of Turkish Cypriot officials

Cyprus to revoke passports of Turkish Cypriot officials
  • Cyprus said it will revoke 14 passports — 10 held by cabinet members and four by members of the Varosha committee
  • Turkish Cypriots are eligible for a Republic of Cyprus identity card and passport, which allows them free access to the EU

NICOSIA: Cyprus said on Monday it would revoke 14 passports issued to Turkish Cypriot officials in the breakaway north of the island over their “hostile” actions.
Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos did not specify which officials were being targeted, but said the decision was linked to Turkish and Turkish Cypriot plans to open up the ghost town of Varosha.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said last month they would reopen part of the former resort, abandoned since Ankara’s 1974 invasion of the island.
“The cabinet decided to revoke, not renew or issue Republic of Cyprus passports to a number of persons who either participate in the pseudo-state’s cabinet or are members of the Varosha opening committee,” Pelekanos said.
The actions of these officials “undermine the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus,” he said.
The official Cyprus News Agency said 14 passports would be revoked — 10 held by cabinet members and four by members of the Varosha committee.
“Their specific hostile actions against the Republic of Cyprus promote the implementation of Turkey’s plans to change the status of Varosha, contrary to United Nations resolutions,” Pelekanos added.
Turkish troops seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an aborted coup in Nicosia aiming at uniting the island with Greece.
The Republic of Cyprus, whose overwhelming majority is Greek Cypriot and which has been a European Union member since 2004, has effective control over the southern two-thirds of the island.
Only Ankara recognizes the breakaway self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkish Cypriots are eligible for a Republic of Cyprus identity card and passport, which allows them free access to the EU.
Media reports said that Tatar obtained a passport in 2000 but that he never used it and would happily return it.
The EU has told Turkey to reverse plans to open up Varosha. In July, the 27-nation bloc which includes the Republic of Cyprus, condemned “Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements.”
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Turkish Cypriots hold either a Republic of Cyprus ID card or passport.


Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal
Updated 17 sec ago

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal
  • Najib Razak’s lawyers declined to present their case in court this week, citing insufficient time to prepare
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian prosecutors on Friday wrapped up their arguments against former premier Najib Razak’s final bid to overturn a 12-year jail sentence for corruption, saying he was aware that he had received funds from an “unlawful activity.”
Najib’s lawyers declined to present their case in court this week, citing insufficient time to prepare. They had submitted written arguments before the proceedings began.
It is unclear how the Federal Court will proceed when it resumes on Tuesday. It could potentially either deliver its verdict or set a new date for its decision.
Najib, 69, was convicted in July 2020 by a lower court for criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Prosecutors have said some $4.5 billion were stolen from 1MDB — co-founded by Najib as premier in 2009 — in a wide-ranging scandal that has implicated officials and financial institutions around the world.
An appellate court last year upheld the guilty verdict against Najib but the former premier appealed again to the Federal Court, which began proceedings this week in what would be his final appeal.
Najib, who faces several trials over the allegations, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His lawyers have argued in the lower courts that Najib was misled by 1MDB officials.
Najib “knew, or had reason to believe or had reasonable suspicion that the monies that he received in his bank accounts were proceeds from an unlawful activity,” lead prosecutor V. Sithambaram told the court.
Najib had replaced his legal team just three weeks before his appeal began on Monday.
After the prosecution wrapped up its arguments, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat again asked Najib’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik to begin his submissions on Tuesday.
Hisyam declined.
Najib and Hisyam declined to comment after the day’s proceedings.

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader
Updated 59 min 28 sec ago

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader
  • Leila de Lima was charged with non-bailable drug cases that landed her in jail in February 2017

MANILA: US Sen. Edward Markey, who was once banned from the Philippines by former President Rodrigo Duterte, on Friday met a long-detained Filipino opposition leader, whom he says was wrongfully imprisoned under Duterte and should be freed.
Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and a group of US legislators met former Sen. Leila de Lima for more than an hour in her high-security detention cell in the main police camp in Metropolitan Manila, according to her lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, and police.
Details of their court-authorized meeting were not immediately available.
Duterte had banned Markey and two other American legislators from traveling to the Philippines after they called for de Lima’s release and raised alarm over human rights violations under his presidency. Duterte’s turbulent six-year term ended in June.
The former president’s brutal anti-drugs crackdown, which left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead, has sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Duterte was succeeded by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30 following a landslide election victory with his vice presidential running mate Sara Duterte, the former president’s daughter.
Markey and his delegation met Marcos Jr. at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Thursday. After the meeting, Marcos Jr. said he looked forward “to continuing our partnership with the US in the areas of renewable energy use, agricultural development, economic reform, and mitigation of drug problems.”
A top critic of Duterte, the 62-year-old de Lima has been locked up for more than five years and has accused the former president and his then-deputies of fabricating the non-bailable drug-linked charges that landed her in jail in February 2017. Her arrest and detention effectively stopped her at the time as a senator from investigating the widespread killings under Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte had insisted on her guilt, saying witnesses testified that she received payoffs from imprisoned drug lords. Several witnesses, however, have recently recanted their allegations against her, re-igniting calls for the Marcos Jr. administration to free her.
Markey, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, renewed deep concerns over human rights conditions under then-outgoing President Duterte in a joint statement in June with two other US senators.
They said then that the incoming administration of Marcos Jr. provided an “opportunity to reject the repression of the past, release Sen. Leila de Lima and embrace policies that support the rule of law and a vibrant free press in the Philippines.”
It was not immediately clear if Markey renewed his call for de Lima’s release in Thursday’s meeting with Marcos Jr. and how the Philippine leader responded.


No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout
Updated 19 August 2022

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout
  • No subway trains were running on most of London’s Tube lines because of the strike over jobs, pay and pensions
  • Rail unions accuse Britain’s Conservative government of preventing train companies from making a better offer

LONDON: A strike by London Underground workers brought the British capital’s transit network to a grinding halt on Friday, a day after a nationwide walkout by railway staff. Another rail strike is scheduled for Saturday as the UK endures a summer of action by workers demanding pay increases to offset soaring food and energy price hikes.
No subway trains were running on most of London’s Tube lines because of the strike over jobs, pay and pensions by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, operator Transport for London said.
“It is going to be a difficult day,” said Nick Dent, TFL’s director of customer operations. “We’re advising customers not to travel on the Tube at all.”
There was also continuing disruption above ground as trains started to run again following Thursday’s strike by thousands of railway cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and other staff. Only about a fifth of trains ran during the 24-hour walkout, the latest in a series of strikes on Britain’s railways.
Rail unions accuse Britain’s Conservative government of preventing train companies — which are privately owned but heavily regulated — from making a better offer. The government denies meddling, but says rail companies need to cut costs and staffing after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio that “it’s a kick in the teeth” to the public for unions “to turn round after we provided 16 billion pounds of support for the railways and go ‘Right, well, the next thing we’re going to do is go on strike.’”
More public- and private-sector unions are planning strikes as Britain faces its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. Postal workers, lawyers, British Telecom staff and port workers have all announced walkouts for later this month.
Garbage collectors and recycling workers in Edinburgh, Scotland, began an 11-day strike on Thursday, warning that trash will pile up in the streets as tourists flock to the city for the Edinburgh Fringe and other arts festivals.
UK inflation hit a new 40-year high of 10.1 percent in July, and the Bank of England says it could rise to 13 percent amid a recession later this year. The average UK household fuel bill has risen more than 50 percent so far in 2022 as Russia’s war in Ukraine squeezes global oil and natural gas supplies. Another increase is due in October, when the average bill is forecast to hit 3,500 pounds ($4,300) a year.


Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence
Updated 19 August 2022

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence
  • Umar Patek could be released on parole ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bombings in October
  • Australian leader Anthony Albanese: ‘His actions were the actions of a terrorist’

CANBERRA: Australia’s leader said Friday that it’s upsetting Indonesia has further reduced the prison sentence of the bombmaker in the Bali terror attack that killed 202 people — which could free him within days if he’s granted parole.
The most recent reduction of Umar Patek’s sentence takes his total reductions to almost two years and means Patek could be released on parole ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bombings in October.
“This will cause further distress to Australians who were the families of victims of the Bali bombings,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Channel 9. “We lost 88 Australian lives in those bombings.”
Albanese said he would continue making “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about Patek’s sentence and a range of other issues, including Australians currently jailed in Indonesia. Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent.”
“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Channel 9. ”They did have such dreadful results for Australian families that are ongoing, the trauma which is there.”
Indonesia often grants sentence reductions to prisoners on major holidays such as the nation’s Independence Day, which was Wednesday.
Patek received a 5-month reduction on Independence Day for good behavior and could walk free this month from Porong Prison in East Java province if he gets parole, said Zaeroji, who heads the provincial office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Zaeroji, who goes by a single name, said Patek had the same rights as other inmates and had fulfilled legal requirements to get sentence reductions. “While in the prison, he behaved very well and he regrets his radical past which has harmed society and the country and he has also vowed to be a good citizen,” Zaeroji said.
Patek was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia, where he was convicted in 2012. He was originally sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
With his time served plus sentence reductions, he became eligible for parole on Aug. 14. The decision from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in Jakarta is still pending, Zaeroji said. If refused parole, he could remain jailed until 2029.
Patek was one of several men implicated in the attack, which was widely blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group with ties to Al-Qaeda. Most of those killed in the bombing on the resort island were foreign tourists.
Another conspirator, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life. Earlier this year, a third militant, Aris Sumarsono, whose real name is Arif Sunarso but is better known as Zulkarnaen, was sentenced to 15 years following his capture in 2020 after 18 years on the run.
Jan Laczynski, a survivor of the bombings, told Channel 9 that many Australians will be “devastated” by Patek’s potential release. “This guy should not be going out unsupervised, unmonitored,” he said.


North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer
Updated 19 August 2022

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer

North Korea dismisses Seoul’s aid-for-disarmament offer
  • Kim Yo Jong: Country has no intentions to give away nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program for economic cooperation

SEOUL: The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said her country will never accept South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s “foolish” offer of economic benefits in exchange for denuclearization steps, accusing Seoul of recycling proposals Pyongyang already rejected.
In a commentary published by state media Friday, Kim Yo Jong stressed that her country has no intentions to give away its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program for economic cooperation, saying “no one barters its destiny for corn cake.”
She questioned the sincerity of South Korea’s calls for improved bilateral relations while it continues its combined military exercises with the United States and fails to stop civilian activists from flying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other “dirty waste” across their border.
She also ridiculed South Korea’s military capabilities, saying the South misread the launch site of the North’s latest missile tests on Wednesday, hours before Yoon used a news conference to urge Pyongyang to return to diplomacy.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, expressed “strong regret” over Kim Yo Jong’s comments that it said were disrespectful to President Yoon Suk Yeol and reaffirmed the North’s desire to continue developing nuclear weapons.
“This attitude from North Korea will not only threaten peace on the Korean Peninsula but result in further difficulties for the North by worsening its international isolation and economic situation,” said Lee Hyo-jung, a ministry spokesperson.
Kim Yo Jong last week had threatened “deadly” retaliation against the South over the COVID-19 outbreak in the North, which it dubiously claims was caused by leaflets and other objects dropped from balloons launched by southern activists.
Yoon during a nationally televised speech on Monday proposed an “audacious” economic assistance package to North Korea if it takes steps to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program. The offers of large-scale aid in food and health care and modernizing electricity generation systems and seaports and airports weren’t meaningfully different from previous South Korean proposals rejected by the North, which is speeding the development of an arsenal Kim Jong Un sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Kim Yo Jong, one of the most powerful officials in her brother’s government who oversees inter-Korean affairs, said Yoon displayed the “height of absurdity” with his offer, saying it was realistic as creating “mulberry fields in the dark blue ocean.”
She said South Korea’s words and actions would only incite “surging hatred and wrath” from North Koreans and insisted Pyongyang has no immediate plans to revive long-stalled diplomacy with Seoul. “It is our earnest desire to live without awareness of each other,” she said.
Inter-Korean ties have worsened amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US that derailed in 2019 because of disagreements over a relaxation of crippling US-led sanctions on the North in exchange for disarmament steps.
There are concerns that Kim Yo Jong’s threats last week over the leafletting portends a provocation, of which the possibilities may include a nuclear or missile test or even border skirmishes. The United States and South Korea kick off their biggest combined training in years next week to counter the North Korean threat. The North describes such drills as invasion rehearsals and has often responded to them with missile tests or other provocations.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Yoon expressed hope for meaningful dialogue with the North over his aid-for-disarmament proposal. Maintaining a reserved tone, Yoon said his government has no plans to pursue its own nuclear deterrent and doesn’t desire political change in Pyongyang that’s brought by force.
Yoon spoke hours after South Korea’s military detected North Korea firing two suspected cruise missiles toward the sea and identified the western coastal site of Onchon as the launch location. Kim Yo Jong in her column said the weapons were fired from a bridge in the city of Anju, north of Onchon and farther inland, and ridiculed South Korean and US capacities to monitor North Korean missile activity. The South’s military has yet to release its analyzed flight details of those missiles.
“If the data and flight trajectory (of the missiles) are known, (the South) will be so bewildered and afraid,” Kim Yo Jong said. “It will be a thing worthy of seeing how they will explain about it before their people.”
The latest launches extended a record pace in North Korean missile testing in 2022, which has involved more than 30 ballistic launches, including the country’s first demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles in nearly five years.
North Korea’s heighted testing activity underscores its dual intent to advance its arsenal and force the United States to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power so it can negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength, experts say.
Kim Jong Un could up the ante soon as there are indications that the North is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have developed a thermonuclear weapon to fit on its ICBMs.