Gambia Commission Recommends Prosecution Of Ex-President Yahya Jammeh

Families Of Jammeh's Victims In Gambia Demand 'Truth'
Former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh

 

A truth and reconciliation commission in The Gambia on Friday recommended that ex-leader Yahya Jammeh be brought before an international tribunal for crimes allegedly committed during his 22-year dictatorship.

The commission recommended “prosecuting Yahya Jammeh and his co-perpetrators in an international tribunal” in West Africa outside of The Gambia, under the auspices of either the African Union or the ECOWAS regional grouping, it said in a statement.

“Over a period of 22 years, starting from July 22, 1994, Yahya Jammeh and… co-perpetrators committed very serious crimes against the people of The Gambia,” it said.

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission was set up in January 2017 by President Adama Barrow, whose election in 2016 put an end to more than two decades of dictatorship.

The commission, which heard from nearly 400 witnesses, presented its findings to Barrow on November 25 and urged the government to pursue criminal charges, but neither the report nor the names of officials it deemed responsible were made public until Friday.

Jammeh seized power in 1994, and for 22 years, he oversaw a regime accused of committing abuses such as state-sanctioned murder, torture and rape.

He went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017 after Barrow’s election victory but retains considerable support in the country.

AFP

Israeli Ex-PM Netanyahu Back In Court For Corruption Trial

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives for a court hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem. JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s graft trial resumed Tuesday, with his ex-spin doctor due on the witness stand, but the defence has asked the highly-anticipated testimony be delayed.

Netanyahu, now opposition leader in parliament after he was ousted by a broad coalition of rivals in June, arrived at the Jerusalem courthouse without the large security contingent and crowds of rival protesters that were on hand when he appeared as premier.

READ ALSO: Tigray Conflict: Scores Of Children In Hospitals Die Of Starvation

He has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate indictments that collectively accuse him of accepting improper gifts and illegally trading regulatory favour with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

Netanyahu (C) arrives an Israeli court for a hearing on corruption charges, on November 16, 2021 in Jerusalem. JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

The testimony of his former spokesman Nir Hefetz was expected to shed light on the ex-premier’s dealings with the Bezeq telecommunications group.

In the Bezeq case, considered the most serious, Netanyahu is accused of offering regulatory benefits that could have been worth millions to the company in return for politically advantageous coverage on the group’s Walla news site.

Netanyahu’s lawyers argued they were unprepared to respond to Hefetz’s testimony following recent press revelations about the evidence he might share.

The prosecution has said that while it regrets the recent leaks about Hefetz’s expected evidence, his testimony should go ahead.

Real Madrid Star Benzema Goes On Trial In Sextape Case

France’s forward Karim Benzema reacts as he takes part a training session at the Olympic stadium in Turin, on October 8, 2021 two days prior to the UEFA Nations League final football match between Spain and France. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema goes on trial in France on Wednesday accused of complicity in the attempted blackmail of former international teammate Mathieu Valbuena in a case known as the “sextape affair”.

Benzema, 33, stands accused of helping a group of alleged blackmailers to approach Valbuena in an attempt to extort money. Four other men are also on trial.

The case cost both Benzema and 37-year-old Valbuena their place in the French national team, although Benzema was restored to the lineup for this year’s European championship.

The case centres on the role that Benzema is suspected of playing in the murky affair six years ago, which started when Valbuena handed his smartphone to Axel Angot, a man connected to footballing circles in the southern port city of Marseille, with the request to transfer its contents to a new device.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Fires Napoli To Top Of Serie A

Angot, now on trial for breach of trust, came across sexually explicit footage on the phone involving Valbuena.

Prosecutors says he then explored ways — together with a friend, Mustapha Zouaoui — to approach Valbuena and threaten publication of the footage unless he paid them.

Valbuena received several calls in June 2015 threatening exposure of the footage, which he reported to police.

The blackmailers then went to former French international Djibril Cisse, who refused to act as their messenger, instead warning Valbuena of what was brewing.

Cisse, who played for Premier League club Liverpool during his career, was initially charged in the case, but later cleared.

What followed is an imbroglio involving several shadowy middlemen, one of whom turned out to be an undercover agent called “Luka” placed by police who were trying to get proof before taking action against the protagonists.

Eventually the presumed blackmailers went to one of Benzema’s old friends, Karim Zenati, who prosecutors say enlisted Benzema’s help to reach Valbuena.

‘Very heavy criminals’

On Oct 6, 2015, Benzema went to see Valbuena in his room at the French national team’s training centre at Clairefontaine, west of Paris.

He told his teammate that he could introduce him to a “trustworthy person” to help him “manage” the possible publication of a compromising video.

In what Benzema later claimed was an attempt to help his teammate out of a difficult situation, he told him: “Be careful ‘Math’, these are very, very heavy criminals.”

Benzema then called his childhood friend Karim Zenati, who was by then acting as an intermediary for the alleged blackmailers, and told him in a conversation wiretapped by police: “He’s not taking us seriously.”

Prosecutors say that the word “us” proves that Benzema saw himself as part of the blackmail scheme.

Valbuena said later that the conversation left him with the feeling that he was “being played for a fool”.

“If he doesn’t want us to handle this for him, he’ll have to deal with the piranhas,” Zenati said, claiming later that all he wanted to do was alert Valbuena to the existence of the video.

Benzema replied that “they will piss on him”, and in a subsequent conversation referred to Valbuena with a derogatory term for a homosexual, which he said later was meant “in a friendly way”.

The maximum sentence for complicity in attempted blackmail is five years in prison and a fine of 70,000 euros ($81,000).

Benzema has argued that the undercover police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair.

It was unclear on Monday whether the striker, who is scheduled to play for Real Madrid against Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League match in Ukraine on Tuesday, will attend the trial. His lawyers did not respond to AFP’s requests for clarification.

Valbuena, who now plays for Greek club Olympiakos, will be present, his lawyer said.

The sextape case caused Benzema to be exiled from France’s national football team for years — a decision he called ‘racist’ — but the striker returned to “Les Bleus” this year in time for the European championship.

France coach Didier Deschamps said this month that “he’s no longer the same person, he’s matured”.

Benzema has scored a total of 243 goals for Real and remains a key part of their side.

South Africa’s Top Court To Review Zuma Jail Term

In this file photo taken on July 27, 2018, former South African president Jacob Zuma stands in the dock of the High Court of Pietermaritzburg during his hearing over 16 corruption charges. Former South African president Jacob Zuma must pay back state funds and cover his own costs, a court ruled on December 13, 2018, leaving him facing massive legal bills as he fights graft charges.
Phill MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

 

South African ex-president Jacob Zuma will on Monday ask the nation’s top court to let him out of jail by rescinding its 15-month sentence for snubbing anti-graft investigators.

The Constitutional Court on June 29 slapped Zuma with the prison stretch for refusing to appear before a probe into the corruption that mired his nine years in power.

Zuma is seeking to have that ruling set aside on the grounds that it was made in his absence.

Should the bid fail, Zuma’s team will seek to convince the judges that jail time is not the appropriate punishment for this instance of contempt, due to reasons including the implications for Zuma’s health, according to an information handout for media from the court on Saturday.

Zuma, 79, is also asking to be released from the Estcourt prison in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province on the grounds of his age and ailing health, adding that the ongoing pandemic means he is not a flight risk.

The man once dubbed the “Teflon president”, spent his first night in jail on Thursday after handing himself in to authorities following hours of drama and suspense.

His lawyers had also petitioned the Pietermaritzburg High Court in KwaZulu-Natal to stave off imprisonment. But on Friday it rejected the case, saying it lacked jurisdiction over the matter and Zuma’s claims about his health were “not supported by any evidence.”

The former president testified to the commission once in July 2019, but then swiftly withdrew his cooperation, saying he was offended by being treated as an “accused” and not as a witness.

He returned in November 2020, without uttering a word, and missed several subsequent appointments by evading his summonses on various grounds, including medical reasons, lack of funds and his request to have the chairman of the commission, then-deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself.

If Zuma is to serve the full term, he could still see himself back home long before year-end as he would be eligible for parole in less than four months.

Meanwhile, sporadic violence has erupted in the country, with dozens arrested after looting in KwaZulu-Natal and in the economic capital Johannesburg.

AFP

German Mother On Trial For Killing Five Of Her Children

A file photo of a court gavel.
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A 28-year-old woman went on trial in Germany on Monday accused of smothering five of her six children in the bath, in what prosecutors called a particularly “malicious” case.

The accused, identified only as Christiane K., faces a life sentence if found guilty of the murders by the district court of Wuppertal in western Germany.

The bodies of her three daughters aged one, two and three, and two sons aged six and eight were discovered in the family flat in the city of Solingen on September 3, 2020.

They were found lying on their beds, each wrapped in a towel.

Prosecutors believe the mother mixed medication into the children’s breakfast drinks to make them sleepy, before drowning or smothering them in the bath.

The woman then attempted suicide by throwing herself in front of a train at Duesseldorf station, but she was rescued and did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

Her sixth child, an 11-year-old boy, survived the grim ordeal because he was in school.

Christiane K. claims she is innocent and says a masked man entered the flat and killed the children.

According to prosecutors, investigators have found no evidence to support that claim.

The motive for the killings remains unclear but prosecutor Heribert Kaune-Gebhardt said the suspect had shortly before had a row with her estranged husband about his new girlfriend.

Prosecutors have charged Christiane K. with “malicious murder”, saying she took advantage of the children’s innocence and defencelessness.

The family was known to social services but local authorities said there had been no indication at the time the children were in danger.

AFP

Alleged Unlawful Assembly: Court Fixes March 2 For Sowore’s Trial

A file photo of Omoyele Sowore and others at a courtroom in Abuja on January 4, 2021.

 

A Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja has fixed March 2 for the trial of Omoyele Sowore and four others standing trial for alleged criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and inciting public disturbance.

Chief Magistrate Mabel Segun-Bello fixed the date on Friday following an application for adjournment by the prosecutor, Edosa Samuel.

The prosecutor predicated his application on the ground that he has just taken over the case on the advice of the director of public prosecution and needed time to study the case file in order for him to put his house in order.

READ ALSO: Two Killed, Eight Injured Along Kaduna-Abuja Road

Lawyer to the defendants, Marshal Abubakar however objected to the prosecutor’s application for adjournment, urging the court to strike out the suit or in the alternative, order accelerated hearing.

After listening to arguments for and against the adjournment, Chief Magistrate Segun-Bello ordered the prosecutor to serve the defendants with the proof of evidence within seven days as she fixed March 2 for the commencement of trial.

Charlie Hebdo Trial Suspended After Primary Suspect Tests Positive For COVID-19

French police and forensic officers inspect the scene of an attack after several people were injured near the former offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by a man wielding a knife in the capital Paris on September 25, 2020.  Alain JOCARD / AFP

 

The primary suspect in a trial over the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre has tested positive for coronavirus and the court has been suspended until Wednesday, lawyers said.

Ali Riza Polat is accused of having helped the killers of 12 people in the 2015 attack on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a female police officer a day later and four hostages at a Jewish supermarket.

He is facing the most serious charge of the suspected accomplices on trial — complicity in terrorist crimes — and could face life in jail if convicted.

The 35-year-old vomited and was seen by a doctor, prompting the judge to suspend the court until next week.

The 10 accused accomplices must now be tested and “the resumption of the trial will depend on the results of these tests and the development of the health of the people concerned”, presiding judge Regis de Jorna said in an email to lawyers Saturday.

He urged everyone in court to observe social distancing, and insisted all participants must wear a mask.

The suspension of the hearing will delay the conclusion of the trial, which opened on September 2.

Defence lawyers were scheduled to plead on November 6, 9, 10 and 11 with the verdict expected on 13.

Fourteen people are on trial in the special terrorism court over their support for the jihadist trio who attacked in January 2015. All of the attackers were shot dead by police.

Described as the “right arm” of attacker Amedy Coulibaly, Polat was born in Istanbul but moved to France when he was three and like Coulibaly grew up in the city of Grande Borne in Grigny, in the suburbs of Paris.

France returned to lockdown on Friday after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, in the latest measure to curb a disease that has infected more than 44.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 1.2 million.

AFP

Trial Opens Over Charlie Hebdo Terror Attacks That Stunned France

Police officers patrol outside Paris’ courthouse, on September 2, 2020, on the opening day of the trial of 14 suspected accomplices in Charlie Hebdo jihadist killings. – Fourteen people accused of helping jihadist gunmen attack the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket go on trial, five years after days of terror that sent shockwaves through France. Thomas COEX / AFP.

 

Fourteen people accused of helping jihadist gunmen storm the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket went on trial Wednesday, five years after three days of terror sent shock waves through France.

The events that began on January 7, 2015 sparked a series of attacks on French soil, including “lone wolf” killings by people said to be inspired by the Islamic State group that have since claimed more than 250 lives.

Hearings began under heavy security as eleven of the suspects appeared in the courtroom, facing charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terror group.

Three others, including the wife of one of the gunmen, fled to IS-held territory in Syria days before the attacks and are being tried in absentia.

Charlie Hebdo, whose taboo-shattering style makes it a beacon of free speech for many, marked the trial’s opening by republishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had angered Muslims around the world.

“That’s the essence of the Charlie Hebdo spirit: It’s refusing to give up our freedoms, our laughter, and even our blasphemy,” the paper’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said before entering the courtroom.

“Don’t be afraid, neither of terrorism, nor of freedom.”

Some 150 experts and witnesses will be heard over the next two and a half months in the trial that will revisit one of the most painful chapters in France’s modern history.

The three assailants were killed by police, but any suggestion that those on trial were only minor players has been rubbished by prosecutors and relatives of the victims.

“These people aren’t lackeys,” said Patrick Klugman, a lawyer for one of the victims, insisting the suspects shared a deep-seated anti-Semitism.

– ‘Just so unfair’ –

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were gunned down on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the paper’s offices in eastern Paris.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who became close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.

“I just want to know why my daughter was killed. It’s just so unfair,” Clarissa’s mother Marie-Louisa Jean-Philippe, who will testify at the trial, told French daily Liberation on Wednesday.

Coulibaly went on to kill four men, all Jews, during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris on January 9. He recorded a video saying the three attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out a nearly simultaneous operation at the printing shop where they were holed up northeast of Paris.

– Weapons and ideology –

The trial was originally set for last spring but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis that shut down most French courthouses.

Of the 14 suspects, three escaped arrest: Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s girlfriend, and two brothers, Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine, all of whom fled for IS-controlled areas in Syria just days before the attacks.

The Belhoucine brothers were reportedly killed while fighting alongside IS, while French officials suspect Boumedienne is on the run in Syria. Arrest warrants remain outstanding for all three.

Mohamed Belhoucine and Ali Riza Polat, a French citizen of Turkish origin, face the most serious charges of complicity in a terrorist act, which carry a maximum sentence of life in jail.

The former is thought to have become the ideological mentor of Coulibaly after meeting him in jail, opening up channels of communication for him to IS.

Polat, seen as close to Coulibaly, is suspected of playing a central role in preparing the attacks, notably by helping to build up the arsenal of weapons used.

Given its historical importance, the trial at the Paris courthouse will be filmed for France’s official archives, a first for a terror trial. It is scheduled to run until November 10.

AFP

Trial Of Hushpuppi Fixed For October 13

Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi, was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.
Ramoni Igbalode aka Hushpuppi was arrested by Dubai Police in June for fraud, among other crimes.

 

A suspected international fraudster, Raymond Abbas, aka Ray Hushpuppi, has been arraigned in an American court in California and his trial is set to begin on October 13, 2020.

During his arraignment on Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty to the four-count of conspiracy to fraud, money laundering conspiracies, international money laundering, and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

In June, the 37-year-old who is known for displaying his opulent lifestyle on social media was arrested in Dubai by special operatives of the Emeriti Police and American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

READ ALSO: Hushpuppi Denied Bail In US

‘Hushpuppi’ alongside Olalekan Ponle, popularly known as Woodberry, was extradited to Chicago in the United States where he was first arraigned in July.

The U.S. Court in Illinois did not have jurisdiction over the case, he was later transferred to Los Angeles, a city in California.

Hushpuppi Denied Bail

On July 14, Hushpuppi was denied bail by a court in the US Northern District of Illinois.

The court ruled that the self-acclaimed billionaire Gucci master, who has over 2.5m followers on Instagram, will remain in detention until his trial this year over money laundering allegations.

He will be transported to Los Angeles by the United States Marshall Service and will not be allowed to stay with his girlfriend’s uncle in Homewood, Illinois.

The trial is slated to be held in Los Angeles where the case was filed rather from Chicago where the investigation is being handled.

At the hearing, Hushpuppi’s lawyer denied that his client was a flight risk or a danger to the community as he repeatedly rejected the allegations made against him by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

He is accused of being part of a network that made hundreds of millions of dollars from business email-compromise fraud and other scams.

Assange Extradition Trial Delayed By Coronavirus Outbreak

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Justin TALLIS / AFP.

 

A British judge on Monday delayed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s full extradition hearing, which had been due to begin next month, after the coronavirus pandemic prevented him meeting his lawyers.

At a preliminary hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, Vanessa Baraitser agreed to vacate the May 18 start date for the three-week extradition trial, and warned the next time slot was not available until November.

A new timetable for the case will be agreed at another administrative hearing on May 4.

Assange is currently in the high security Belmarsh prison in south London as he fights an extradition request by the United States to stand trial there on espionage charges.

His lawyers said Monday they had been unable to take instruction from the whistleblower since the coronavirus outbreak prompted a nationwide lockdown in Britain more than a month ago.

“There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr Assange,” lawyer Edward Fitzgerald told the court.

READ ALSO: Nearly Two Million Australians Download Coronavirus Tracker App

“But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible.”

Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A ruling against Assange could see him jailed for 175 years.

He took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2012 after skipping bail to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden, but was dragged out by British police last year.

Assange last month failed in his bid for bail after he argued that he was at risk of catching coronavirus in Belmarsh.

The British government has been planning to allow some prisoners temporary release, amid fears COVID-19 could sweep through jails.

But Baraitser rejected the request on March 25, saying there were “no grounds” for his release.

It also emerged earlier this month that the one-time computer hacker fathered two children with one of his lawyers while in Ecuador’s embassy.

The 48-year-old Australian is the dad of two boys, aged two and one, with lawyer Stella Morris, to whom he is engaged, she confirmed following a newspaper report.

AFP

Israel Postpones Netanyahu Graft Trial By 2 Months Over Virus

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on July 8, 2018. ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been postponed until May 24 due to concerns about coronavirus, Jerusalem’s District Court said Sunday.

Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier ever to be indicted in office, had been scheduled to stand trial from Tuesday over alleged bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

In a statement, the court noted that given the coronavirus pandemic it had been instructed to hear “only urgent matters”.

“We have decided to postpone the first hearing (in Netanyahu’s trial) until May 24,” the court said.

Israel has 200 confirmed cases of the virus with tens of thousands of people in home quarantine.

Netanyahu has been charged with a range of offences including receiving improper gifts and offering a media mogul lucrative regulatory changes in exchange for favourable coverage.

He denies wrongdoing.

Despite the indictments, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won the most seats in March 2 elections and he is aiming to form a new government.

But Likud and its allies fell short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset, or parliament. It was Israel’s third inconclusive vote in less than a year.

Netanyahu has called on his main challenger Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party to form an emergency, national unity government to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Gantz has said he is open to discussing the proposal, with negotiations set for this week.

Alleged Fraud: How We Moved N200m From Fayose’s Residence – Banker

Fayose Won’t Be Intimidate, Ready To Defend Himself In Court – Aide
Former Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, at the EFCC office in Abuja on October 16, 2018.

 

A banker, Johnson Abidakun, has testified in the resumed trial of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose on allegation of N2.2bn fraud.

Abidakun, who worked as Head of Operations at the Ado Ekiti Branch of Zenith Bank told Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke how N200m was moved from Fayose’s home sometime on April 2016.

The banker was called in by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as the fifth witness in the ongoing trial of the ex-governor.

Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, the witness said that when the money was brought from the residence of Fayose, it was counted and its total amounted to N199.5 million

READ ALSO: Buhari, Oshiomhole Meet Amid Suspension Drama

He said that while detailed counting was ongoing, Abiodun Agbele, (named in the body of the charge) came in with one Taofeek, and gave instructions that the money is to be credited to a company called Still Earth Ltd, with Taofeek as depositor, following instructions by Fayose.

The witness said that after counting the money, it was then deposited in the account of Still Earth, adding that since Taofeek could not write he was assisted to fill same in the bank.

Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr Ola Olanipekun (SAN) the witness told the court that he had never been to the residence of the first defendant before the period the money was conveyed.

When asked if it was the instructions received from Oshode he had passed on, he answered that he only confided in another staff of the bank called Aladegbola Adewale.

According to him, he confided in the said Aladegbola because he (Aladegbola) knew the destination where the money was to be picked up but never knew the amount.

When asked where the said Aladegbola is presently, he told the court that he had resigned from the bank.

Trial will continue tomorrow, Friday, March 6.