Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh

Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh
Prosecutors in Beirut decided not to arrest the former governor of the Banque Du Liban, Riad Salameh, after a dispute was filed by his attorney on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 August 2023
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Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh

Lawsuit freezes Lebanese investigations into Riad Salameh
  • A judicial source told Arab News the Salameh investigation has been frozen in a manner similar to how the Beirut Port explosion investigation was frustrated and halted

BEIRUT: Prosecutors in Beirut decided not to arrest the former governor of the Banque Du Liban, Riad Salameh, after a dispute was filed by his attorney on Tuesday.

The Indictment Division communicated its decision to the head of the Cases Authority at the Ministry of Justice, Judge Helena Iskandar, having accepted the appeal submitted by the judge against leaving Salameh under investigation after he was questioned a few weeks ago.

Charbel Abu Samra, the first investigative judge in Beirut, left Salameh under investigation last month after accusations were made against him, his brother Raja Salameh and former aide Marianne Hoayek over “embezzlement of public money, money laundering, forgery, the use of counterfeiting, illegal enrichment, violation of employment law, and tax evasion.”

Hafez Zakhour, Salameh’s attorney, appeared before the indictment committee and announced that his client “will not attend the session held by the Division to decide whether or not to arrest him.”

Instead, Zakhour filed a lawsuit against the Indictment Division, saying Salameh was being “investigated for alleged and unrealistic crimes.”

He continued: “The Indictment Division, as an appellate reference for the decisions of the investigating judge, is not entitled to take over the file and invite the defendant to a session before it in order to interrogate him or expand the investigation with him. The Indictment Division’s decision can be considered null and void. The Division cannot interrogate a defendant who is still undergoing interrogation before the investigative judge (Samra). Otherwise, we would be before two judicial authorities who interrogate the same defendant in the same case before one of them decides the fate of arresting or leaving the defendant.”

A judicial source told Arab News the Salameh investigation has been frozen in a manner similar to how the Beirut Port explosion investigation was frustrated and halted.

“Salameh is still a suspect in the Lebanese investigations, despite the accusation against him, until an indictment is issued that may make him an accused (party),” the source said.

“What is happening in this file is similar to what happened in the file of investigations into the crime of the Beirut Port explosion, which was also frozen a year ago due to the lawsuits filed against the judicial investigator in the crime, Judge Tarek Bitar, by several ministers and MPs, who were defendants in the investigation.”

Salameh’s mandate as governor of the BDL expired at the end of July, and security services have not been able to notify him since then of dates for his questioning sessions, under the pretext of not being able to find his place of residence in Lebanon.

The Lebanese judiciary confiscated Salameh’s Lebanese and French passports and prevented him from traveling on May 24, the day after authorities received a red notice from Interpol based on French and German arrest warrants against him.

Salameh is facing European investigations on charges of corruption, forgery, the formation of a gang for money laundering, and embezzlement of public funds in Lebanon worth more than $330 million between 2002 and 2021.

A year ago, France, Germany and Luxembourg froze €120 million euros ($129.88 million) of Lebanese assets following an investigation targeting Salameh and those close to him on charges of money laundering.


Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency

Updated 12 sec ago
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Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency

Norway calls on donors to resume funding to Palestinian UNRWA agency
Norway, also a major donor to the organization, argued that funding cuts put the population of Gaza at risk
“I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding,” Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said

OSLO: Norway called on international donors on Tuesday to resume payments to the UN agency for Palestinians refugees (UNRWA) after a report found Israel had yet to provide evidence that some UNRWA staff were linked to terrorist groups.
The United States, Britain and others earlier this year paused payments to UNRWA following Israel’s claims, while Norway, also a major donor to the organization, argued that funding cuts put the population of Gaza at risk.
A review of the agency’s neutrality led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna on Monday concluded Israel had yet to back up its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.
“I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding,” Norway’s foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.
A separate investigation by internal UN investigators is looking into Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks which triggered the Gaza war.
“Norway has emphasized that it is unacceptable to punish an entire organization, with 30,000 employees, and all Palestine refugees for the alleged misdeeds of a small number of the organization’s employees,” Barth Eide said.
While 10 countries have since ended their suspensions, the United States, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Lithuania have not. A UN spokesperson on Monday said UNRWA currently had enough funding to pay for operations until June.

Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border

Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border
Updated 10 min 53 sec ago
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Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border

Jordan thwarts attempt to smuggle 73,500 amphetamine pills at Syrian border
  • Agents discovered 35,000 additional Captagon pills hidden aboard a passenger bus also arriving from Syria

AMMAN: The Jordan Customs Department said on Tuesday that it thwarted, in collaboration with security agencies and anti-narcotics forces, two recent smuggling attempts involving 73,500 Captagon pills at the Jaber border crossing.

In the first incident, JCD personnel at the border crossing intercepted an attempt to smuggle 38,500 Captagon pills, Jordan News Agency reported.

The drugs were found concealed on a passenger arriving from Syria. The suspect was subjected to an intensive search, during which the hidden narcotics were discovered.

In a second incident at the same border crossing, agents discovered 35,000 additional Captagon pills hidden aboard a passenger bus also arriving from Syria. The vehicle underwent a thorough search, leading to the seizure of the concealed drugs.

The JCD said that its agents continue to actively work across all Jordanian border customs centers, in cooperation with national security agencies, to prevent the smuggling of narcotics into the country.

The initiative is part of ongoing efforts to safeguard Jordanian citizens and the economy from the impacts of illegal drug trade, it said.

War-torn Syria has become the region’s main site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan being a key transit route to Gulf states for the amphetamine known as Captagon.

Most of the world’s Captagon is made in Syria.
 


Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza

Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza
Updated 13 min 8 sec ago
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Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza

Palestinian film director aims for ‘different image’ of Gaza
  • Against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip, the festival in southern Egypt decided to screen six Palestinian short films in the competition
  • This was despite many voices in the Arab world calling for the suspension of all artistic and cultural activities in solidarity with Palestinians

ASWAN, Egypt: Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi wants to “export a different cinematic image of Gaza,” now ravaged by war, as he presides over the jury at the eighth Aswan International Women Film Festival themed on “resistance cinema.”
Against the backdrop of the war in the Gaza Strip, the festival in southern Egypt decided to screen six Palestinian short films in the competition, which brings together filmmakers from across the region.
This was despite many voices in the Arab world calling for the suspension of all artistic and cultural activities in solidarity with Palestinians.
Masharawi is known internationally for being the first Palestinian director to be in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival when his film “Haifa” was included in 1996.
Born in the Gaza Strip to refugees from the port city of Jaffa, the director now lives in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
He said he “does not consider art and cinema as purely entertainment.”
“If film festivals do not play their role when major disasters occur, as with what is currently happening in Palestine, then why do they exist?” he asked.
Among the six Palestinian films included at Aswan is the 14-minute documentary film “Threads of Silk” by director Walaa Saadah, who was killed last month in the war. The film looks at the meanings of the embroidery on the Palestinian “thawb” robe.
Another is the five-minute film “I am from Palestine” by the director Iman Al-Dhawahari, about a Palestinian-American girl in the United States who is shocked at school to see a map of the world without her country.
The 16-minute documentary film “A Cut Off Future” from director Alia Ardoghli discusses the daily experiences of 27 girls between the ages of 11 and 17 in the shadow of the Israeli occupation.
In his newest film, for which work is ongoing, Masharawi said he wanted to expose what he called “the lie of self-defense.”
“The occupation (Israel) blew up the studio of an artist in Gaza with paintings and statues. Where is self-defense when one kills artists and intellectuals while calling them terrorists?” the 62-year-old told AFP.
The conflict in Gaza erupted with the unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack on Israel which resulted in the death of at least 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
In retaliation, Israel launched a bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas that has killed at least 34,183 people, the majority women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Two months after the beginning of the war, Masharawi began a new project: a support fund for cinema in the besieged coastal strip.
The initiative “Films from Distance Zero” supports Gazan filmmakers living “under the bombing or becoming refugees” to produce their films.
Female filmmakers are active in the project, about whom Masharawi said, “always in the most difficult moments, we find the Palestinian woman on the front line.”
Around 2.4 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a blockade since Hamas came to power in 2007.
Theatres in Gaza closed at the end of the 1980s during the Palestinian uprising against Israel known as the First Intifada, but reopened after the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s.
Hamas control changed all that, with the political Islamist movement considering film contrary to the values of Islam.
Nevertheless, last year an open-air film festival took place, “taking into account the customs and traditions of the territory,” a Hamas official said at the time.
For Masharawi, now more than ever, it is necessary to support cinema and have “a different cinematic image of Gaza” reach the world to “make the truth prevail in the face of the lies of the Israeli occupation.”
At the heart of Masharawi’s work is identity. “It is difficult (for Israel) to occupy our memories, our identities, our music, our history and our culture,” he said.
Israel “is wasting a lot of time on a project doomed to failure and which will kill many of us,” he said, referring to the war in Gaza.
Masharawi said he thought the solidarity of the Arab public with the Palestinian people, “and I mean the people and not their leaderships,” might come “from their powerlessness and the restrictions of their (government) systems.”
He added, “I used to dream that the Arab governments would be like their people, but I say it clearly: this has not happened, even after we have come close to 200 days of war.”


Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization

Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization
Updated 23 April 2024
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Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization

Egypt’s foreign minister holds talks with director general of migration organization
  • Parties look at ways to support the Loss and Damage Fund
  • Sameh Shoukry affirmed Egypt’s backing to adopt a comprehensive approach to migration governance

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry held talks with the Director General of the International Organization for Migration Amy Pope during the UN official’s visit.

Shoukry expressed his appreciation of the organization’s cooperation, and spoke of aims to further relations to ensure comprehensive management of migration in a manner that contributed to achieving sustainable development in accordance with the principles and goals enshrined in the Global Compact for Migration. This stressed the importance of crystallizing the organization’s action priorities in consultation with developing countries’ governments.

He affirmed Egypt’s backing to adopt a comprehensive approach to migration governance so that it was not limited to security aspects only, but also took into account the development aspects associated with them, while addressing the root causes that lead to illegal immigration.

The minister also praised existing cooperation with the IOM in promoting ways of legal labor mobility and bridging the existing gaps in labor markets, thus achieving the interests of origin and destination states and migrants alike.

Shoukry noted that Egypt was facing increasing flows of migrants forced to flee their countries in pursuit of stability as a result of conflicts, economic reasons, or the repercussions of climate change, which had been clearly reflected in the sharp increase in the numbers of immigrants to Egypt.

He said that the support that Egypt receives from the international community was not commensurate with the burdens it bears to provide a decent life for those arriving, especially since the phenomenon had coincided with a period in which the Egyptian economy had suffered from the consequences of global crises, which had necessitated the organization to play its role in providing necessary support.

Pope thanked Egypt for its fruitful cooperation on issues involving the impact of climate change on migration, especially during Egypt’s presidency of COP27.

The parties also looked at ways to support and operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund and its important role in enhancing the ability of states to review the devastating effects of climate change and the impact on migration flows. They also spoke of cooperation between Egypt and the IOM in Africa.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said the meeting also looked at developments taking place in the region, with Shoukry and Pope discussing the situation in Gaza, and providing humanitarian aid and safe havens to shelter the displaced.

In connection with developments in Sudan, Pope spoke of her appreciation of Egypt’s reception of a large number of displaced Sudanese nationals since the beginning of the crisis, as well as the Egyptian authorities’ role in providing support to those fleeing the conflict, and meeting their needs.

The UN official expressed the IOM’s readiness to provide support for Egypt in order to enhance its ability to care for Sudanese refugees, in cooperation with the relevant ministries, noting that the organization attached importance to Sudan for fear of it turning into a forgotten crisis.


Sudan military downs drones targeting its HQ in Shendi, say army sources

Sudan military downs drones targeting its HQ in Shendi, say army sources
Updated 23 April 2024
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Sudan military downs drones targeting its HQ in Shendi, say army sources

Sudan military downs drones targeting its HQ in Shendi, say army sources
  • None of the drones hit their target, the army sources said
  • Sudan’s army is battling the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces for control of the vast north African country

CAIRO: Sudan’s army used anti-aircraft missiles on Tuesday to shoot down drones targeting its headquarters in the city of Shendi, witnesses and army sources said, the latest in a series of such drone attacks.
None of the drones hit their target, the army sources said. Reuters could not independently verify the report.
The head of Sudan’s army, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, arrived on Monday in Shendi, which is some 180 km (112 miles) north of the capital Khartoum, army media reported earlier. It was not immediately clear whether he remains in the area.
Sudan’s army is battling the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for control of the vast north African country.
Tuesday’s drone attack is the third targeting areas that remain solidly under army control. The city of Atbara, also in River Nile state, and Al-Gedaref state to the east have also come under drone attack.
Both the army and the RSF have used drones in the conflict, which erupted a year ago.
The RSF, which controls much of Khartoum and western regions of the country, has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.
Shendi residents said the attacks have created panic in the town.
The war between the army and RSF has sparked warnings of famine, displaced millions, killed thousands in the crossfire and given way to ethnic killings by the RSF and allied militias.
The war appears likely to spread to the city of Al-Fashir, the army’s final holdout in the Darfur region, with many warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.