Isnin, 16 Mei 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World

War crimes prosecutor goes for Gaddafi and aides

Posted: 16 May 2011 05:20 PM PDT

A triumphant Muammar Gaddafi acknowledges the cheers of his supporters in Tripoli in this April 10, 2011, file photo. — Reuters pic

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo: "We have strong evidence." — Reuters pic

THE HAGUE, May 17 — The world's top war crimes prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, accusing him of killing protesters who want an end to his four-decade rule.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo also asked judges, who must now see if there is enough evidence to issue warrants, for the arrest of Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and his spy chief brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi.

In the uprising, civilians were attacked at home, protests were suppressed using live ammunition, heavy artillery was used against funeral processions, and snipers deployed to kill people leaving mosques after prayers, the prosecutor said yesterday.

"We have strong evidence, so strong evidence," Moreno-Ocampo said, adding: "We are almost ready for trial . . . Gaddafi ruled Libya through fear and Libyans are losing that fear now."

The prosecutor's office had received calls from senior officials in the Gaddafi government in the past week to provide information. Prosecutors spoke with eyewitnesses to attacks and assessed evidence from 1,200 documents, plus videos and photos.

Arab television channels reported late yesterday that Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation, had defected. It was not possible to verify the reports immediately and Libyan officials in Tripoli were not available for comment.

Al Arabiya television quoted sources in the rebel Transitional National Council as saying that Ghanem had defected and joined rebel ranks. Al Jazeera reported he had defected and left Libya, without giving details.

Thousands have been killed in the conflict in the North African state, the bloodiest of the revolts that have convulsed the region in what has been called the "Arab Spring".

Nato, which has been hitting targets in Libya for nearly two months, appeared to step up its bombing campaign yesterday, with strikes in several towns and cities including Tripoli, according to Libyan state television and rebels.

On the diplomatic front, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the United Nations was working on the removal of Gaddafi to exile to make way for a new government, and a Libyan government delegation was expected in Moscow today.

Libyan officials have denied killing civilians, saying instead they were forced to take action against criminal armed gangs and al Qaeda militants. They say the Nato bombing campaign is an act of colonial aggression aimed at grabbing Libya's oil.

Persecution, torture

Moreno-Ocampo said persecution was still taking place in areas under Gaddafi's control, with forces arresting, imprisoning and torturing alleged dissidents. Some had disappeared.

Prosecutors are also investigating reports of mass rapes, war crimes committed by different parties, and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly seen as mercenaries once the Libyan situation developed into an armed conflict.

Libyan officials have already denounced the ICC, saying the court is a creation of the West for prosecuting African leaders. The Libyan rebel council has welcomed the move.

State-run television in Libya reported there were Nato strikes yesterday on Tripoli, the town of Zawiyah about 50km west of the capital, the western Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, and on the town of Zuara, 120km west of Tripoli.

In each case, strikes hit military and civilian targets and caused "material and human losses", it said.

A rebel spokesman in the town of Zintan, in the Western Mountains region southwest of Tripoli, told Reuters by telephone that Nato had been hitting government weapons depots about 30km from the town. — Reuters

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IMF chief denied bail, jailed in sex assault case

Posted: 16 May 2011 04:15 PM PDT

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, next to lawyer Ben Brafman, in Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment in New York, May 16, 2011. — Reuters pic

NEW YORK, May 17 — IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was denied bail yesterday and sent to New York's notorious Rikers Island jail, a crushing blow as he fights charges that he assaulted and tried to rape a hotel maid.

Hours after his bail request was rejected, Strauss-Kahn was dispatched to a bare jail cell at Rikers — a dramatic fall for a man who oversees the world economy, has for long enjoyed a luxury lifestyle, and was tipped to be France's next president.

He was being held in protective custody in a 3 x 4-metre cell to prevent attack from other inmates, officials said late yesterday.

"This is not about isolating the inmate from any human contact," said a spokesman for New York's Department of Correction. "This is about preventing the inmate from being victimised or harmed in some way as a result of his high profile."

Looking drained and tense, with a light stubble, Strauss-Kahn had earlier listened grimly in a Manhattan court as prosecutors detailed his alleged assault against the maid in a luxury New York City hotel suite on Saturday.

His lawyers say Strauss-Kahn, 62, is innocent. They tried to have him released on US$1 million (RM3 million) bail, but prosecutors convinced the judge he might flee to France, and she ordered him held behind bars.

Strauss-Kahn faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

He is accused of attacking the 32-year-old maid when she went to clean his US$3,000-a-day suite in the Sofitel hotel near Times Square.

"He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her," Assistant District Attorney John McConnell told the court. "When he was unsuccessful, he forced her to perform oral sex on him."

It was a humiliating court appearance for Strauss-Kahn, who before Saturday was seen as a strong candidate in France's presidential election and has won praise for his leadership of the International Monetary Fund during the 2007-09 global financial meltdown as well as the euro zone's debt crisis.

His arrest is also extremely embarrassing for the International Monetary Fund.

Apart from dealing with a leadership crisis, the IMF now faces serious questions about whether it let Strauss-Kahn off too lightly in 2008 after he was caught in an extra-marital affair with an economist who was his subordinate. 

The spectacle that French law "would not have permitted": The media queue outside Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, May 16, 2011. — Reuters pic

Persistent rumours inside the IMF that he often made unwanted sexual advances to women have long dogged his tenure there.

The IMF board met informally yesterday for an update on its managing director, but it did not take a decision on whether or not to remove him from his job.

Notorious jail

French Socialist party leader Martine Aubry called the pictures of the IMF chief's arrest "profoundly humiliating" and told reporters: "Fortunately in France we have a law on the presumption of innocence, which means that at this stage of proceedings, people cannot be shown like this."

When his court hearing ended, Strauss-Kahn was taken to a rough New York detention centre known as The Tombs and then transferred to the Rikers Island complex of jails.

Rikers holds about 11,000 inmates and often features in television and film crime dramas as the place where suspects are sent pending trial or to serve short jail sentences.

"It's crowded and the food is terrible," said Gerald Lefcourt, a well-known defence lawyer, referring to both Rikers and The Tombs. "And one of the dangerous things is famous people are preyed upon."

Strauss-Kahn's legal team said it was disappointed by the judge's decision to deny bail, and it is expected to appeal.

Bail would give Strauss-Kahn much better access to his lawyers, and allow him to live with his wife while awaiting trial. Without it, prosecutors have more leverage over him, as an extended period in a miserable jail cell awaiting trial can wear down even tough suspects.

If his team is not able to win bail, experts say, the ordeal could push Strauss-Kahn towards a plea bargain deal.

Lead defence attorney Ben Brafman was defiant yesterday, saying that forensic evidence taken by police from Strauss-Kahn over the weekend "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter".

"We believe this a very, very defensible case and he should be entitled to bail," said Brafman, who successfully defended pop singer Michael Jackson from molestation charges in 2005.

"We will prove . . . that Mr Strauss-Kahn is innocent of these charges," Brafman told reporters. "I think it's important that you all understand that this battle has just begun."

The defence team is expected to try to dig up information on the maid as it looks to undermine the prosecution case.

"It would be inconceivable to me they're not investigating that person to see if there are any weaknesses in her case," said Roland Riopelle, a partner at New York law firm Sercarz and Riopelle.

But prosecutors claimed first blood in the case yesterday, winning the argument over bail. They said the IMF chief could try to flee to France and that, if successful, it would be difficult to get him back to face the charges.

"They simply do not extradite their nationals," said McConnell, the assistant district attorney.

Judge Melissa Jackson was persuaded and denied the defence's request. She ordered Strauss-Kahn remanded in custody and set a new hearing in the case for Friday.

After police were alerted to the alleged assault on Saturday, they pulled Strauss-Kahn off an Air France jet minutes before it was to leave for Paris.

The case has dramatically changed France's political landscape as Strauss-Kahn, a leader of the Socialist Party, was seen as the strongest threat to President Nicolas Sarkozy at the election next April.

He had led early opinion polls but, unless the case against him quickly crumbles, his presidential ambitions appear to be in tatters.

Socialist Party leaders were to meet for crisis talks today to map out a new plan of attack for the election.

The immediate political beneficiaries of Strauss-Kahn's arrest appear to be Sarkozy and far-right leader Marine Le Pen. — Reuters

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