Friday, April 19, 2013

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf under house arrest in Islamabad

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Judge declares former president's luxury Islamabad home a sub-jail and orders him to return to court on Monday

Pakistan's former military dictator has been put under house arrest after a day of uncertainty over whether authorities would dare follow a court order to apprehend him.

A judge ordered that Pervez Musharraf's luxury house on the edge of the capital, Islamabad, be declared a sub-jail and told him to return to court on Monday.

Some reports indicated that the police had arrested the former president on Thursday night.

Musharraf, a keen user of social media, has turned to Facebook to protest his innocence. "These allegations are politically motivated and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail," he wrote.

The former president, who seized power in a coup in 1999 before being harried out of the country in 2008 by his opponents, faces several court challenges, including claims of conspiring to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, by not providing her with enough security, and for ordering the killing of an important separatist tribal leader.

But Friday's court hearing stems from the fury of Pakistan's lawyers and judges over his arrest of the senior judiciary during the dying days of his rule.

He returned to Pakistan last month after he was granted pre-arrest bail. It was repeatedly extended, until Thursday when a judge delivered a scathing judgment that said Musharraf's move against the judges in 2007 was an act of terrorism.

Although the judge ordered him to be arrested, he was able to march out of the Islamabad high court to a waiting armoured vehicle that whisked him to his luxury farmhouse, originally conceived of as a retirement home.

On Friday, one of Musharraf's lawyers said he would seek to overturn the arrest by appealing to the supreme court.

The arrest is an extraordinary humiliation for the former army chief whose return to Pakistan from his home in exile in Dubai last month has turned into a debacle.

He has received scant support from the public or any of the leading political parties in his bid to get elected in next month's historic polls.

His dream of re-entering politics has been crushed by election officials who ruled he was ineligible to stand for any of the four seats for which he applied.

Many analysts believe the country's powerful military establishment does not wish to see former high-ranking members tried in civilian courts and will try to intervene to help him. Others are not so sure.

"I don't think the army was in favour of Musharraf returning and tried to dissuade him," said General Hamid Khan, a former senior army commander. "But he decided to come, and now he has to face this. The army is staying out of it."


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/pervez-musharraf-house-arrest-pakistan
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Paraguay presidential race sinks to new low amid corruption scandal

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Fraud allegations circling frontrunners Horacio Cartes and Efrain Alegre do little to improve Paraguay's tarnished reputation

Even by the historically dire standards of corruption in Latin America, the two frontrunners in this weekend's presidential election in Paraguay may well represent a new low.

In the far right is the favourite, Horacio Cartes, a homophobe who has been jailed after accusations of currency fraud, investigated for alleged tax evasion and widely accused of drug trafficking.

His main challenger, Efrain Alegre, meanwhile, is fighting off claims that his centre-right Liberal party used millions of dollars in public funds to buy an electoral alliance that gives him an outside chance of an upset.

Unless there is a shock win for one of the other candidates – all of whom are far behind – this political mud looks likely to stick on a government that is something of a pariah in Latin America due to its long history of counterfeiting and smuggling and the ousting last year of Fernando Lugo, its first leftwing president in six decades.

An average of the most recent polls gave a six-point lead to Cartes, a 57-year-old tobacco grower standing as candidate for the Colorado party.

His popularity appears to have been barely dented by a recent homophobic outburst – he said he would rather shoot himself in the testicles than accept a son who wanted to marry another man – and revelations about his shady history, including photographs of him in handcuffs in 1980 when he was charged with currency fraud, a drug bust of a plane on his property, and allegations in Argentina and Brazil that he is a major source of illegal cigarettes in their countries.

"Narco-politics will reign" if Cartes wins, warns his ruling party opponent, Alegre, who calls his rival "the maximum expression of the smuggling, mafia and pirating model" of development.

Alegre's efforts to claim the moral high ground have been undermined by reports that the government brought $11.5m of land from the father of another political leader, Jorge Oviedo, days before entering an electoral pact. Rather than face impeachment, Oviedo has resigned his post as president of Congress.

This has been campaign gold for Cartes. "You can't keep handling public money as if it were private," he taunted his rival "We are going to put an end to that custom of robbery. It is what has destroyed Paraguay."

Voters may be disillusioned, but many say they will cast their ballots according to old loyalties. "There's nobody clean in Paraguay," said Hugo Díaz, 77, a former farm administrator who plans to vote for Alegre, but only because of family allegiances.

Supporters of the Colorado party – the traditional party of landowners, the elite and those in their patronage – said they expected to see better business prospects. The economy, which is dependent on soy exports and the manufacture of fake goods, slumped into minus territory last year but is forecast to achieve double-digit growth in 2013.

"Cartes was a successful businessman," said Carlos Acosta, 52, a concierge who was listening to a campaign speech on the radio. "There will be economic progress with him."

Acosta is one of nearly two million Colorado members, a support base that is the result of "patronage and clientelism", said Peter Lambert, a specialist in Paraguay at the University of Bath. "Access to opportunity in Paraguay still comes from allegiance to the Colorado party," he said.

Despite the strong whiff of corruption, the chances of smaller party candidates such as Mario Ferreiro to make a breakthrough appear slim.

José Morínigo, a pollster and former Lugo government official, gave Alegre a 1.9 percentage-point lead over Cartes. "Money rules here," he said. "It's more than likely the Liberal and Colorado parties will buy votes. I see a limited possibility for a true participatory democracy."


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/paraguay-presidential-race-corruption-scandal
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Hamid Karzai seeks to curb CIA operations in Afghanistan

By Jennifer Taylor | At 3:00 AM | Label : | 0 Comments
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President believes battle in which 10 children and a US agent died was fought by illegal militia working for spy agency

President Hamid Karzai is determined to curb CIA operations in Afghanistan after the death of a US agent and 10 Afghan children in a battle he believes was fought by an illegal militia working for the US spy agency.

The campaign sets the Afghan leader up for another heated showdown with the US government, and will reignite questions about the CIA's extensive but highly secretive operations in the country.

Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi said the CIA controlled large commando-like units, some of whom operated under the nominal stamp of the Afghan government's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), but were not actually under its control.

"Some of them are said to be working with the NDS, but they are not armed by the NDS, not paid by the NDS, and not sent to operations by the NDS. Sometimes they only inform the NDS minutes before the operation," Faizi said. "They are conducting operations without informing local authorities and when something goes wrong it is called a joint operation."

One of these groups was involved in a battle with insurgents in a remote corner of eastern Kunar province in early April that left several Afghan children dead, Faizi said. Karzai has fired the provincial head of intelligence in connection with the incident.

The US citizen who died during the battle was advising the Afghan intelligence service, and the airstrike that killed the children is believed to have been called in after he was fatally injured.

The US embassy declined to comment on CIA issues, but sources with knowledge of the battle said he was an agent, and his name has not been released, usually an indication of intelligence work.

Bob Woodward in his 2010 book Obama's Wars described a 3,000-strong Afghan militia working for the CIA, and Faizi said the Afghan government had little information about the teams. "There is a lack of clarity about their numbers and movement," he said when asked how many men the CIA had on their payroll, or where these large teams might be based.

Woodward said the unofficial commando units were known as counter-terrorism pursuit teams, and described them as "a paid, trained and functioning tool of the CIA", authorised by President George W Bush.

They were sent on operations to kill or capture insurgent leaders, but also went into lawless areas to try to pacify them and win support for the Afghan government and its foreign backers. Woodward said the units even conducted cross-border raids into Pakistan.

In the wake of the Kunar battle, Karzai has also ordered his security officials to step up implementation of a presidential decree issued in late February abolishing "parallel structures". Faizi said this order was aimed primarily at dismantling CIA-controlled teams.

"The use of these parallel structures run by the CIA and US special forces is an issue of concern for the Afghan people and the Afghan government," he said.

For Karzai the move is another step towards reasserting Afghan sovereignty, part of a long campaign waged against US forces and their allies. He has already won control of the main US-run prison in the country, and ended unilateral night raids on insurgent hideouts that coalition commanders once described as critical to the war.

But Karzai's move comes at a critical time for an already volatile relationship, when Washington and Kabul are trying to negotiate what, if any, military presence the US will have in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and curbing the CIA's reach could strike at the heart of US strategic interests there.

Barack Obama has been clear that the US does not plan to fight the Taliban after next year. Instead some foreign troops will train Afghan soldiers to fight the insurgency while US special forces pursue groups such as al-Qaida hiding along the lawless border with Pakistan.

While the US is expected to keep a few thousand soldiers in Afghanistan, bolstered by troops from Nato allies, Obama has also made clear there is "zero option" of a complete US withdrawal, as happened in Iraq.


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/hamid-karzai-curb-cia-afghanistan-operations
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Rolf Harris arrested by Operation Yewtree police

By Jennifer Taylor | At 2:30 AM | Label : | 0 Comments
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Entertainer detained by officers investigating historic sex abuse allegations in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal

Rolf Harris has been arrested by police investigating historic sex abuse allegations following the Jimmy Savile scandal, according to a report in the Sun.

The 83-year-old Australian, a TV fixture for decades for his music, art and as a presenter of TV shows about animals, first came to Britain more than 60 years ago.

A spokesperson for the Met said: "We are not discussing the name of the individual."

Harris was originally interviewed under caution by Scotland Yard officers on Operation Yewtree last November, five days after they visited his home in Berkshire when he was not there. The Met said in an earlier statement: "The man from Berkshire was interviewed under caution on suspicion of sexual offences after attending south London police premises by appointment. On 24 November 2012 officers had executed a search warrant at an address in Berkshire."

It is understood that Harris was arrested last month but not charged with any offence. He has been bailed until May.

The entertainer, made a CBE in 2006 and Officer of the Order of Australia in the Queen's birthday honours last year, had been named in blogs and social media but not by mainstream media until Friday. Harris, one of 12 people arrested under Operation Yewtree, has made no public comment.

After Harris's arrest in March days before his 83rd birthday, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: "An 82-year-old man from Berkshire was arrested by officers on Operation Yewtree on suspicion of sexual offences. He has been bailed to a date in May pending further inquiries.

"The individual falls under the strand of the investigation we have termed 'others'."

These are individuals who have come to police attention as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation into Jimmy Savile but whose alleged offences are not connected to Savile.

Harris's hits include Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport and a version of Stairway to Heaven, and he painted an official portrait of the Queen for her 80th birthday.

Several high-profile figures have been arrested in connection with the investigation including the PR consultant Max Clifford, the comedian Freddie Star, the radio DJ Dave Lee Travis, the former TV producer Wilfred De'Ath and the comedian Jim Davidson. They all deny any wrongdoing and De'Ath was released without charge last month.


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/apr/19/rolf-harris-arrested-operation-yewtree-police
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Guatemala judge suspends Rios Montt genocide trial

By Jennifer Taylor | At 2:00 AM | Label : | 0 Comments
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Judge Carol Flores sparks row after voiding all actions taken in former dictator's war crimes case since November 2011

A judge in Guatemala has ordered the suspension of the genocide trial of the former US-backed dictator Efrain Rios Montt, angering prosecutors who vowed that proceedings would continue as planned.

Judge Carol Patricia Flores was recently reinstated to the case after being recused from it in February 2012. She ruled that all actions taken in the case since she was asked to step down were null, in effect sending the trial back to square one.

"I am not doing this because I want to, but because it has been ordered by the constitutional court and the supreme court," said Flores, while relatives of the victims wept and shouted that she was "a sold-out judge".

The comment was a reference to last week's decision by the constitutional court to declare her competent to carry out the pre-trial process.

In Guatemala, criminal cases go to a single judge who decides whether to charge a suspect and whether there is enough evidence to send a case to a trial presided over by a three-judge panel.

Flores made the announcement on Thursday after proceedings ended abruptly when Rios Montt's legal team stormed out of the court arguing that the trial was illegal.

In November 2011 his lawyers filed a complaint to remove Flores from the case, alleging that she was biased. In January 2012 she charged Rios Montt with genocide and war crimes. Another judge took over in February and the case went to a three-judge panel.

By setting back the legal process to November 2011, before she filed the charges, Flores has forced prosecutors to start over.

The attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz, called Flores's decision illegal and said prosecutors would use all available resources to stop her interfering in the trial. "We have been asked to be in the courtroom tomorrow at 8.30am and we will be there to continue the trial," she said.

Rios Montt ruled Guatemala in 1982-83 after a military coup in one of the bloodiest periods of the civil war. He has been accused of presiding over the killing of 1,771 indigenous Ixils in a "scorched earth" campaign aimed at wiping out support for leftist guerrillas.

A Guatemalan human rights activist has accused Rios Montt's legal team of attempting to delay the trial. "The defence is intent in stopping the trial and denying Guatemalans their right to know the truth," Helen Mack said.

The trial against the 86-year-old former general started last month after courts resolved more than a 100 complaints and injunctions filed by the defence. Since then the court has heard the harrowing testimony of dozens of people who survived the military offensive.


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/guatemala-judge-suspends-rios-montt-trial
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Syria crisis: UN's aid chief demands cross-border access - live updates

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Follow live updates after the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos urges the security council to back cross border access to Syria to prevent a 'human catastrophe'


    

Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2013/apr/19/syria-crisis-amos-demands-cross-border-access-live
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Argentinians rally against Fernández government

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Thousands march against corruption and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's plans to overhaul judiciary

A giant wave of peaceful protesters took to the streets of Argentina, banging spoons against kitchen pots, in a rally that attracted even larger crowds than a similar mass demonstration in November against corruption, inflation and insecurity under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Huge crowds carried flags and banners through the capital, Buenos Aires, proclaiming "Freedom" and "Corruption Kills". Similar demonstrations were seen in other cities.

Yet as the protest peaked, the president, en route to Venezuela for the inauguration of Nicolás Maduro, ignored the proceedings and instead tweeted about her age. "Yes, I'm stubborn, and plus I am old, but it's actually lucky to reach old age isn't it?" the 60-year-old wrote.

The massive turnout for the rally, organised via Facebook and Twitter, was fuelled by anger against judicial overhaul being pushed through Congress that could give the government virtual control of the courts.

The Fernández administration has also been shaken in recent days by allegations that businessmen laundered tens of millions of euros obtained from public work contracts through offshore accounts.

Critics say the legal moves are designed to prevent investigations into corruption and reverse a series of rulings against the government's attempt to dismember the Clarín media empire, which has been a staunch critic.

On Thursday, Fernández criticised a court that declared unconstitutional essential parts of an overhaul of the press that would force Clarín to sell a large part of its cable assets.

"It left me speechless, I thought there would be more decorum," she said, accusing the judges of "ruling in favour of those who pay for their trips and who knows what else", and repeating claims from her government that some of them had received favours from the media titan.

Clarín has since hit back with a media campaign stating: "She has no limits, do you?"

The changes to the courts system proposes that judges be elected in Argentina's general elections on political party tickets, something critics say will make them subservient to political interests and reduces the power of the supreme court. Given the president's majority in Congress, it is likely the proposals will be made law before the end of the month.


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/19/argentines-rally-against-fernandez-government
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Baghdad suicide bomb causes carnage

By Jennifer Taylor | At 1:29 AM | Label : | 0 Comments
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At least 26 people die in attack carried out on eve of provincial elections in Iraq

A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Baghdad cafe crowded with young people late on Thursday, killing at least 26 people and wounding dozens in the runup to provincial elections scheduled for the weekend.

The cafe bomber struck about 9.30pm, a rare evening attack, bringing the number of people killed across the country on Thursday to 30.

Police said two children and a woman who were passing by at the time of the blast were among the dead. More than 50 people were wounded.

The cafe, on the third floor of a building in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Amiriyah, was packed with young people enjoying water pipes and playing pool.

Earlier in the day, a car bomb struck an army convoy in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing three soldiers and wounding five others. Hours later, a policeman was killed and three others were wounded when gunmen attacked a security checkpoint in western Baghdad, police said.

Violence has been rising during the approach to Saturday's provincial elections for officials in several provinces, including the capital.

Also on Thursday, Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region announced that new parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on 21 September.

A Kurdish government statement said Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish region, approved the date and called for a fair election.

Following the invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish area was recognised as an autonomous region that is politically independent from Baghdad in many ways . Since then, the two main Kurdish parties – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan – have joined forces to rule the oil-rich region.

Baghdad and the Kurds have been at loggerheads for years over several issues, including oil and control over disputed areas claimed by both sides. The vote for a new 111-seat national assembly will be the third election in the three-province Kurdish region since 2005.


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Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/18/baghdad-suicide-bomb-causes-carnage
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Eurozone crisis live: Austerity agenda under fire as G20 meets

By Jennifer Taylor | At 1:29 AM | Label : | 0 Comments
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Olli Rehn hints that Europe's fiscal cutbacks could be slowed, as the world's top central bankers and finance chiefs gather in Washington


    


Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013


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Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/apr/19/eurozone-crisis-imf-g20-emerging-nations-austerity-growth
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