Algeria jails Bouteflika-era energy minister for 20 years

Algeria jails Bouteflika-era energy minister for 20 years
Algerian court upholds a 20-year prison sentence for corruption against Chakib Khelil, former energy minister during Bouteflika’s era, and 5 years against Mohamed Meziane, ex-head of state oil and gas giant Sonatrach. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 28 June 2022

Algeria jails Bouteflika-era energy minister for 20 years

Algeria jails Bouteflika-era energy minister for 20 years
  • The Sonatrach officials were accused of prioritising Italian firm Saipem over an Emirati firm for a contract
  • Two other Bouteflika-era ministers had jail terms on corruption allegations upheld

ALGIERS: An Algerian appeals court on Tuesday upheld a 20-year prison sentence for corruption against Chakib Khelil, energy minister for a decade under longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the APS news agency reported.
The court also fined him two million dinars (about $13,600) and upheld prison sentences of five and six years respectively against Mohamed Meziane, ex-head of state oil and gas giant Sonatrach, and his deputy Abdelhafidh Feghouli.
The Sonatrach officials were accused of prioritising Italian firm Saipem over an Emirati firm for a contract to construct the Arzew gas complex in the western region of Oran — at Khelil’s behest.
The officials were also charged with “granting undue privileges,” abusing their positions and “concluding contracts in violation of laws and regulations,” APS reported.
Two other Bouteflika-era ministers had jail terms on corruption allegations upheld on appeal on Tuesday: Djamel Ould Abbes for six years and Said Berkat for four, the news agency said.
The court also sentenced two representatives of Saipem in absentia to five years in prison.
Saipem said in a statement that it intended to challenge the decision in Algeria’s supreme court.
In 2013, the Algerian judiciary had issued an international arrest warrant for Khelil over a case involving contracts between Sonatrach and foreign companies, including Saipem, a former subsidiary of Italian energy giant ENI.
Prosecutors in Milan had accused Saipem of paying bribes to obtain contracts in Algeria, and the subsidiary was fined in 2018, before being cleared by an appeals court in 2020.
Khelil, now 82, quit his post in 2010 and moved to the United States after being associated with a scandal involving high-ranking Sonatrach officials who were later jailed for corruption.
He returned to Algeria in 2016 after the cases were dropped — then left again after Bouteflika’s resignation in 2019 that sparked a string of investigations into graft by his officials.


Morocco bus crash leaves 23 dead, scores injured

Updated 7 sec ago

Morocco bus crash leaves 23 dead, scores injured

Morocco bus crash leaves 23 dead, scores injured
RABAT: A bus crash east of Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca on Wednesday left 23 people dead, a health official said, marking one of the deadliest such accidents in recent years.
The bus overturned on a bend of a motorway in Khouribga province in the morning, local authorities said, giving an initial toll of 15 dead.
Regional health director Rochdi Kaddar later revised the death toll up to 23, telling AFP that another 36 people were injured in the crash.
The bus was traveling between Casablanca and the rural region of Ait Attab, near the town of Beni Mellal at the foot of the High Atlas mountains.
The injured were taken to a hospital in Khouribga and an investigation has been opened into the accident.
Road accidents, often deadly, are relatively frequent in Morocco and other North African countries.
An average of 3,500 deaths and 12,000 injuries have been recorded annually in Morocco, according to the National Road Safety Agency, with an average of 10 deaths per day.

Two dead as forest fires spread in north Algeria

Two dead as forest fires spread in north Algeria
Updated 17 August 2022

Two dead as forest fires spread in north Algeria

Two dead as forest fires spread in north Algeria
  • Thirty-nine fires are underway in 14 wilayas (administrative councils),” the civil protection agency sai
  • Each year the north of the country is affected by forest fires

ALGIERS: Two people died and several others were injured in forest fires that were burning in 14 districts of northern Algeria on Wednesday, the emergency services said.
“Two women, a 58-year-old mother and her 31-year-old daughter, died in fires in Setif” where flames reached many homes and villages, said the civil protection agency in the northeastern city.
In Souk Ahras, farther to the east near Algeria’s border with Tunisia, people were seen fleeing their homes as fires spread before firefighting helicopters were deployed.
Four people in Souk Ahras suffered burns and 41 others had breathing difficulties, the authorities said. Media reports said 350 residents had been evacuated.
“Thirty-nine fires are underway in 14 wilayas (administrative councils),” the civil protection agency said, noting that El Tarf, also bordering Tunisia, was the worst hit with 16 fires in progress.
Wildfires have claimed the lives of six people in Algeria so far this summer.
Algeria is Africa’s largest country but it only has 4.1 million hectares (10.1 million acres) of forest.
Each year the north of the country is affected by forest fires, a problem that has worsened due to climate change.
Last year, at least 90 people died in forest fires that ravaged northern Algeria, destroying more than 100,000 hectares of woodland.


UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey

UAE ranks 6th worldwide in InterNations expat survey
  • Emirates records top results in 4 out of 5 key pillars in this year’s report

ABU DHABI: The UAE has been ranked as the sixth best destination in the world for expatriates in 2022, according to InterNations.

In the annual Expat Insider survey, the German research firm examines every aspect of the expat experience in 181 countries.

The firm’s rankings are based on a range of factors, including language, bureaucracy, professional prospects, leisure options, travel, transport, job satisfaction, safety, healthcare, digital life, housing, wages and job safety, InterNations said.

This “Expat Insider 2022” report included the overall rankings of expatriate destination countries in terms of quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance and the availability of basic essentials.

Mexico was ranked first in 2022, followed by Indonesia, Taiwan, Portugal, and Spain.

While ranking sixth overall, UAE also ranked highly in four out of five key pillars and 11 out of 17 indexes.

It revealed that 94 percent of those surveyed felt safe in the UAE, while 86 percent were satisfied with the available government services.

Furthermore, 90 percent of respondents said that they can use cashless payments in the UAE.

Regarding health, 78 percent of respondents emphasized the ease of access to healthcare services in the country, while 79 percent of those surveyed said that living in the UAE improved their professional prospects.

About 85 percent of those polled said that not knowing the local language was not a barrier, and 83 percent of people said that administrative procedures are “simple and straightforward.”

The survey also found that 75 percent of people said the process of finding housing in the UAE was simple.

Lastly, 83 percent respondents said that it was simple to apply for a resident visa, making the UAE the world leader in this area.

 


Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
Updated 17 August 2022

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital

Lebanese woman set on fire by husband in row over unwanted pregnancy dies in hospital
  • Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, spent 11 days in intensive care being treated for burns to her entire body
  • Husband arrested as he was planning to flee the country

DUBAI: A pregnant Lebanese woman who was badly beaten and set on fire by her husband because she would not have an abortion died in hospital on Wednesday.
Hana Mohammed Khodor, 21, lost her fight for life at Al-Salam Hospital in northern Lebanon where she had been for the past 11 days.
A doctor from the hospital said on Tuesday that Khodor was admitted on Aug. 6 and had been receiving treatment for burns to her entire body.
He added that her unborn child died in the womb and had to be surgically removed, and described Khodor’s chances of survival as “very bleak.”
A family friend, Abdul Rahman Haddad, told Arab News that Khodor died on Wednesday. A hospital official confirmed the news and said her body had already been claimed by her family.
According to local media reports, Khodor’s husband, identified only by the initials A. A., beat his wife because she refused to abort their unborn child.
He was reported to have said the couple — who came from a poor background in the northern city of Tripoli — could not afford to raise it.
Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV on Tuesday, Khodor’s aunt said: “When she refused to abort the baby, he took her home and set her on fire using the gas cylinder.”
Haddad said A. A. had been arrested by Lebanese Internal Security Forces as he was planning to flee the country.
Prior to her death, Khodor’s family made several appeals for financial support to help pay for her hospital treatment, which included multiple operations and blood transfusions.
 


Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
Updated 43 min 34 sec ago

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis

Iraqi PM calls meeting of senior politicians to end crisis
  • The absence of al-Sadr's bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's effort to resolve the 10-month crisis
  • Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year's parliamentary elections

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s caretaker prime minister called a meeting of senior political leaders and party representatives Wednesday, seeking a way out of a monthslong crisis amid a power struggle between rival Shiite blocs. But the party of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr did not attend the gathering.
The absence of Al-Sadr’s bloc effectively undermined Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s effort to resolve the 10-month crisis.
Al-Sadr and his political rivals, the Iran-backed Shiite groups, have been at odds since after last year’s parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr won the largest share of seats in the October vote but failed to form a majority government.
His bloc later resigned from parliament and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad. Al-Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held.
Leaders of Iran-backed Shiite groups, Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish political blocs, and the head of the country’s High Judicial Council attended Wednesday’s meeting, as did the UN special representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
After the meeting, a statement from Al-Kadhimi’s office said the discussions focused on possible solutions to the political crisis, prioritizing the maintaining of peace among Iraqis. Al-Sadr last Wednesday gave the judiciary a week to dissolve the legislature, to which it responded saying it has no authority to dissolve parliament.
On Saturday, he called on his followers to be ready to hold massive protests all over Iraq but then indefinitely postponed them after Iran-backed groups called for similar rallies the same day, saying he wants to preserve peace and that “Iraqi blood is invaluable” to him.
Al-Sadr’s Shiite rivals from the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Iran-backed parties, said earlier that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.