Hariri killers sentenced to life imprisonment

Hariri killers sentenced to life imprisonment
This Feb.14, 2005 file photo shows rescue personnel hosing down a burning vehicle after a bomb blast targeted the convoy of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut. (AP)
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Updated 17 June 2022

Hariri killers sentenced to life imprisonment

Hariri killers sentenced to life imprisonment
  • Pair are unlikely to ever spend time behind bars as Hezbollah has refused to hand them over

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands: A UN-backed court sentenced two Hezbollah members in their absence to life imprisonment on Thursday for a huge Beirut bombing in 2005 that killed Lebanon’s ex-Premier Rafik Hariri.

Habib Merhi and Hussein Oneissi were found guilty on appeal in March by the Dutch-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the attack, which killed 21 other people and injured 226.

The court found Merhi and Oneissi distributed a video in which a fictitious group claimed responsibility for the attack, in a bid to protect the “real perpetrators” from a covert network in the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah.

But the pair are unlikely to ever spend time behind bars as Hezbollah has refused to hand them over, as it has refused to surrender a third man, Salim Ayyash, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2020.

Presiding judge Ivana Hrdlickova said both Merhi and Oneissi were aware that Hariri would be killed in the attack, adding that the sentences reflected the “evil nature of terrorism.”

“The appeals chamber therefore unanimously decides to sentence Mr.Merhi and Mr.Oneissi to life imprisonment, the heaviest sentence under the statute and the rules for each of the five counts on which they were convicted,” she said.

The men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, and of being accomplices to commit a terrorist act, accomplices in the intentional homicide of Hariri and of the 21 other people, and accomplices in the attempted homicide of the 226 injured.

The attack on Sunni billionaire Hariri, who had stepped down as Lebanon’s prime minister in October 2004, triggered protests that drove Syria out of Lebanon after a 29-year military deployment.

The court was born in 2009 out of a United Nations Security Council resolution and eventually tried four suspects in absentia: Ayyash, Merhi, Oneissi and Assad Sabra.

The case relied almost exclusively on circumstantial evidence in the form of mobile phone records that prosecutors said showed a Hezbollah cell plotting the attack.

The STL originally convicted Ayyash and cleared the other three men.

It said there was no direct evidence of Damascus or its ally Hezbollah’s involvement, but that the attack probably involved state actors and that the state with most to gain was Syria.

But in March it found Merhi and Oneissi guilty after an appeal by prosecutors, saying the original trial judges had “erred” by saying there was a lack of evidence. They upheld the acquittal of Sabra.

All three convicted men remain at large as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has refused to hand over any of the suspects or to recognize the court.

The sentencing could be one of the last acts by the STL as the cash-strapped court has warned it will close imminently due to a shortage of funds. The court is estimated to have cost between $600 million and $1 billion since it opened and has been dogged by political issues in Lebanon and controversies over its price tag.

The closure means a further trial against Ayyash in a separate case involving three attacks targeting Lebanese politicians in 2004 and 2005 is now unlikely to ever take place.

The STL draws 51 percen of its budget from donor countries and the rest from Lebanon, which is grappling with its deepest economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.


15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.


Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
Updated 13 August 2022

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 

Adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team ‘won’t shed tears’ over Salman Rushdie attack 
  • Mohammad Marandi: ‘I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam’

Iran’s advisor to the nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Marandi, said he will not be “shedding tears” over Salman Rushdie who was fatally stabbed on Friday at a literary event in New York state. 

“I wont be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” Marandi said in a tweet following the incident. 

Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after an Iranian fatwa ordered his killing, was on a ventilator and could lose an eye following the attack. The British author of “The Satanic Verses,” which sparked fury among some Muslims, had to be airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery following the attack.

Marandi also expressed his surprise at the timing of the attack on Rushdie, which followed Washington’s thwarting of an assassination attempt targeting the former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, calling it “odd.”

The Department of Justice charged an Iranian military operative on Wednesday with plotting to assassinate Bolton.