Beijing’s former security chief charged with bribery

Updated 04 April 2015

Beijing’s former security chief charged with bribery

BEIJING: Chinese prosecutors charged former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang with bribery, abuse of power and intentional disclosure of state secrets on Friday, paving the way for a trial that could expose the inner workings of the ruling Communist Party.
Zhou, 72, is the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft scandal since the party swept to power in 1949. The decision to prosecute Zhou underscores President Xi Jinping’s commitment to fighting graft at the highest levels.
The indictment accused Zhou of “taking advantage of his position to seek benefits for others,” “illegally accepting other people’s huge assets,” “abuse of power” and “causing heavy losses to public property, the state and the people,” China’s top prosecutor, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, said in a statement on its website.
“The impact on society is vile, the circumstances are especially serious,” the agency said, without giving specific details of the charges.
Zhou’s alleged crimes took place over decades, including when he was deputy general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), party boss in southwestern Sichuan province, minister of public security and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the statement said.
Zhou had been informed of his legal rights and listened to the views of his lawyer, the statement added, without saying where Zhou, who has not been seen in public since October 2013, was being detained.
No date was given for Zhou’s trial, but state media said last month that China would hold an “open trial” in an attempt to show transparency. Legal experts say, however, the party runs the risk of Zhou threatening to reveal state secrets. His case was transferred on Friday to a court in the northern city of Tianjin, not far from Beijing, according to prosecutors.
Zhang Sizhi, the lawyer who defended Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing, said Tianjin would have been chosen because it has no obvious connection to Zhou, to ensure the impartiality of the judge. Jiang was tried in China’s last major show trial in 1980 and given a suspended death sentence for the deaths of tens of thousands during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
“The trial could start quite soon, perhaps in a month or so,” Zhang said, judging by legal precedent. “The government will be hoping that by giving him a trial like this it will help with their efforts to boost the rule of law.”
Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — China’s apex of power — and held the post of security tsar until he retired in 2012.
He also built an extensive power base at oil giant CNPC, as he rose to the top of the company in the 1990s. At least a dozen former top managers at CNPC have been arrested as part of the crackdown on graft.
Last year, China said it had arrested Zhou and expelled him from the party, accusing him of crimes ranging from accepting bribes to leaking state secrets.
In ordering the investigation, Xi has broken with an unwritten understanding that members of the Politburo Standing Committee would not come under such scrutiny after retirement.
The move suggests Xi’s anti-corruption crackdown — he has promised to go after “tigers,” or senior officials, as well as those of lower rank — has much further to run.


World political and religious leaders denounce deadly terror attack in French church

Updated 20 min 33 sec ago

World political and religious leaders denounce deadly terror attack in French church

  • Attacker killed three at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice

JEDDAH: Political and religious leaders worldwide united in condemnation on Thursday after a man wielding a knife beheaded a woman and killed two other people in a church in the French city of Nice.
The attacker, Brahim Aouissaoui, 21, a Tunisian migrant, was shot six times by police as he fled the Basilica of Notre-Dame, and taken to hospital for treatment.
President Emmanuel Macron said France had been attacked by an Islamist terrorist “over our values, for our taste for freedom, for the ability on our soil to have freedom of belief. And I say it with lots of clarity again today, we will not give any ground.”
The attack took place as Muslims observed the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. A spokesman for the French Council for the Muslim Faith said: “As a sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, I call on all Muslims in France to cancel all the celebrations of the holiday.”
Saudi Arabia condemned the attack. “We reiterate the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of such extremist acts that are inconsistent with all religions, human beliefs and common sense, and we affirm the importance of rejecting practices that generate hatred, violence and extremism,” the Foreign Ministry said.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation “affirmed its steadfast position rejecting the phenomenon of hyperbole, extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, whatever the causes and motives, calling for avoiding practices that lead to hate and violence.”

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Arab and Muslim leaders drew a distinction between Islam and violent acts that claimed to defend it. At Al-Azhar in Cairo, the center of Sunni Muslim learning, Grand Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb denounced the murders as a “hateful terror act.” He said: “There is nothing that justifies these heinous terror acts which are contrary to Islam’s teachings.”
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri voiced his “strongest condemnation and disapproval of the heinous criminal attack,” and urged Muslims “to reject this criminal act that has nothing to do with Islam or the prophet.”
There was condemnation from US President Donald Trump, UN chief Antonio Guterres, and European, Arab and Israeli leaders. “Our hearts are with the people of France. America stands with our oldest ally in this fight,” Trump tweeted.
Thursday’s attack began at about 9 a.m. when Aouissaoui burst into the church in Avenue Jean Medecin, the French Riviera city’s main shopping street. He slit the throat of a church worker, beheaded an elderly woman, and badly wounded another woman.
The church official and the elderly woman died at the scene. The third victim escaped to a nearby cafe, where she died from her wounds.
Nice’s Mayor, Christian Estrosi, compared the attack to the beheading this month near Paris of teacher Samuel Paty, who had used cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civics class.
The cartoons caused widespread offense in the Muslim world when they were published five years ago in a Danish newspaper and a French satirical magazine. Their re-emergence has led to anti-French protests in several Muslim-majority countries.