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Catalan separatist leader urges ‘democratic opposition’ to Madrid takeover

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-10-28 16:45

BARCELONA: Catalonia’s secessionist leader on Saturday defiantly called for “democratic opposition” to direct rule imposed by the central government on the semi-autonomous region after its parliament declared unilateral independence.
“The best way to defend what we have achieved to date is democratic opposition to the application of article 155,” Carles Puigdemont, who was officially deposed by Madrid on Friday, said in a carefully-worded televised statement that appeared to indicate he did not accept his dismissal.
Puigdemont was referring to the never-before-used constitutional article that gives Madrid the takeover powers, adding he and his team would keep working “to build a free country.”
In his first comments since being deposed as president of Catalonia, flanked by a Catalan and EU flag, he did not clarify whether he would carry on as leader of a new republic that is not recognized by Madrid or abroad.
In a copy of his speech sent to AFP, he signed off as “president of the Catalan government,” implying he considered himself to still officially be head of the semi-autonomous region.
He stopped short of signing off as president of the republic, though.
In a cryptic message, Puigdemont also asked Catalans to defend the republic proclaimed by the regional parliament.
“We need to keep defending the stage in which we have entered with a tireless sense of civic responsibility and peaceful commitment.”
He added that “in a democratic society, only parliaments can pick or dismiss presidents.”
The Catalan parliament, however, has been dissolved by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who also called snap regional elections on December 21 in a bid to restore “normality.”
Spain’s central government has also been granted sweeping powers by the Senate to dismiss Puigdemont and his executive, and take control of all regional ministries.

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Greek police arrest suspect behind parcel bomb attacks on EU officials

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-10-28 14:16

ATHENS: Greek authorities have arrested a man believed to have been involved in parcel bombs mailed to European Union officials and former Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos earlier this year, police said on Saturday.
In March, police intercepted eight suspect packages at an Athens postal sorting center after the dispatch of booby-trapped parcels to the International Monetary Fund in Paris and the German Finance Ministry.
One parcel, mailed to former German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was intercepted by the German Finance Ministry’s mail department. But a letter addressed to the International Monetary Fund in Paris exploded, slightly hurting an administrative assistant.
“The anti-terrorism service arrested a 29-year-old male following a warrant … related to parcel bomb dispatches,” police said in a statement.
In May, former Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos was injured when a booby-trapped package exploded in his car in central Athens, in the worst act of violence targeting politicians in the crisis-hit country for several years.
The suspect denies involvement in the attacks or in the militant group Conspiracy of Fire Cells, which claimed responsibility for the parcel sent to the German Finance Ministry, a police official told Reuters.
“Police had spotted him in videos bringing parcels to the post office on five different occasions and he was under surveillance for days,” the police official said, declining to be named. “His apartment is currently being searched.”

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Division grows in Pakistan’s ruling party

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
Aamir Saeed
Sat, 2017-10-28 20:24

ISLAMABAD: The ouster of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has created a deepening rift in his own Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Sharif was sacked and disqualified for life by the Supreme Court in July following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family originating from the Panama Papers leak.
Sharif’s troubles deepened on Thursday when Pakistan’s accountability court issued a warrant for his arrest in two cases of alleged corruption after he failed to appear in court. The former prime minister is currently abroad. The hearing was adjourned until Nov. 3.
While the PML-N re-elected Sharif as party president on Oct. 3, having pushed through a change in the law — and although Sharif’s wife, Kalsum, won his vacated assembly seat in Lahore in September — dissenters within the party have emerged, demanding that Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz, currently chief minister of Punjab, should replace Nawaz as party leader.
“Shahbaz Sharif should come forward and take charge of the party,” Riaz Hussain Pirzada, minister for inter-provincial coordination, told Arab News. “Nawaz Sharif is embroiled in corruption cases and won’t be able to lead the party in general elections.”
Pirzada is believed to have the backing of more than two dozen PML-N members of the National Assembly.
“We will announce our future course of action at an appropriate time,” he said, while hinting that he could formally announce a separate bloc in the party by the end of the year.
Arab News has learned that a group of more than 25 legislators who represent the PML-N in the Punjab Assembly are also demanding that Shahbaz be installed as party leader, and have held several secret meetings to discuss their future in the party.
Two disgruntled legislators confided in Arab News that they will announce a forward bloc in the party before March’s senate elections if Sharif fails to step aside.
The PML-N currently has 37 senators out of 104 in the Senate, and should be able to elect its own Senate chairman — one of the most important political positions in Pakistan — in the March elections, if the party can remain united.
But, for Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, minister for labor and human resource, that seems unlikely.
“At the moment, we are clueless and confused due to lack of a clear leadership in the party,” Sarwar, who is also an active member of the dissident group, told Arab News.
“This confusion will cost us heavily in the upcoming Senate and general elections,” he continued.
The government’s five-year term expires in June next year and general elections are scheduled to be held in August.
Sarwar also highlighted pending petitions in the Supreme Court asking that the law that allowed Sharif to be re-elected as president of the party be abolished as unconstitutional.
“We are ready to request Nawaz Sharif to relinquish the party leadership in a closed-door meeting, but only if he gives us time for it,” Sarwar concluded.
But those loyal to Sharif and his political heir-apparent — daughter Maryam, also indicted by the accountability court on Oct. 19 — will not countenance Shahbaz taking over as party leader.
Minister of State for Interior Muhammad Tallal Chaudry told Arab News: “There is only one leader in the PML-N and he is Nawaz Sharif.”
Some loyalists, Chaudry included, warn that the plan to install Shahbaz as party leader is an establishment plot to break up the PML-N.
“We know how to counter all these gimmicks,” Chaudry said. “And we are doing it effectively under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif.”

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Mattis says threat of nuclear attack by North Korea accelerating

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-10-28 03:00

SEOUL, South Korea: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating.
In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs — and vowed to defeat any attack.
Mattis said the North engages in “over-the-top rhetoric” and behavior. And he said the US will never accept a nuclear North.
He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old US-South Korean alliance.
As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North.
“With that said,” he added, “make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis’s comments in Seoul did not go beyond his recent statements of concern about North Korea, although he appeared to inject a stronger note about the urgency of resolving the crisis.
While he accused the North of “outlaw” behavior, he did not mention that President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his own rhetoric. In August, Trump warned the North not to make any more threats against the United States, and said that if it did, it would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

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Typhoon Saola brings heavy rain in southern Japan

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
Sat, 2017-10-28 06:16

TOKYO: Typhoon Saola barrelled toward Japan’s southernmost Okinawa island chain on Saturday bringing heavy rain as authorities issued a warning for strong winds and landslides.
The storm came less than a week after Typhoon Lan left five dead, one missing and scores injured.
Saola was moving 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Okinawa’s capital Naha at 11 am (0200 GMT), packing gusts of up to 162 kilometers per hour, Japan’s weather agency said.
The storm is set to pass through Okinawa and the small subtropical island chain of Amami, which lies between Okinawa and Kyushu, later this evening and then hit southern Kagoshima prefecture on Sunday morning.
Public broadcaster NHK said some rivers in Okinawa are at risk of flooding.
Large storms regularly strike Japan, with 22 people killed when Typhoon Lionrock pounded the country last September.
In August, Typhoon Noru killed two people and injured 51.

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North Korean ‘masterminds’ evade Kim Jong Nam murder trial

October 28, 2017 rbksa 0
The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-10-28 03:00

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: At a trial that could send two Southeast Asian women to the gallows, Malaysian prosecutors are shining a light on several men at large they say masterminded and played crucial roles in carrying out the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong’s Un’s estranged half brother.
The lone defendants at the Shah Alam High Court — Siti Aisyah, 25, of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong, 29, of Vietnam — say they are innocent, duped by the men into participating in February’s attack at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport, which they say they thought was a harmless prank for a TV show.
If found guilty, they face a mandatory death sentence. In Malaysia, that means they would be hanged.
But since the trial began on Oct. 2, the alleged role of the four missing suspects has come to dominate the proceedings. Both the prosecutors and the defense team say a lot more is going to be revealed in the weeks ahead about the men, who outside of court they acknowledge are believed to be North Korean citizens.
The prosecution this week also stressed that authorities reserve the right to take more formal action against the four if they can gather enough evidence.
A look at what’s come out so far about the missing men, who are referred to officially in court only by their aliases, and what’s known about their actions:

Police are now calling him the “mastermind.”
According to chief investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, this man, who sometimes went by the nicknames “Grandpa” and “Uncle,” orchestrated the operation on the ground.
Wan Azirul said airport security video shows that he arrived at the terminal in the same vehicle with two of the three other suspects about 90 minutes ahead of the Feb. 13 attack. Security cameras then captured him meeting both of those men and the third suspect, all separately, at an airport cafe before the attack.
Police say Hanamori, who initially wore a purple shirt but changed after the attack, not only came to the airport with two of the suspects but he met with all three just before the plan was put into action. He then left after the attack in a vehicle with two of the three and was seen later that day — and for the last time — with two of them in the departure hall of the main terminal.

He allegedly recruited Aisyah.
Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told reporters before the trial that she was recruited in early January by this man, who was known to her only as James, to star in what he said was a video prank show. The lawyer said James and Aisyah went to malls, hotels and airports, where she would rub oil or pepper sauce on strangers’ faces. James recorded the encounters on his phone and paid Aisyah between $100 and $200 for each prank.
Police official Wan Azirul testified in court that James was seen heading to the Sama Sama airport hotel, which is in the terminal not far from where the attack took place. Wan Azirul said security videos show James entering the hotel room, but quickly checking out.
He said James is later seen at the departure hall of the main airport terminal, where the other three suspects went. What his role was on the day of the hit isn’t yet clear — an examination of the airport security camera footage in court Thursday was cut short when Judge Azmi Ariffin ruled more time was needed to digest the information.
The prosecution is expected to return to the videos in the next session, scheduled for Nov. 6.

He put the liquid poison on Aisyah’s hands, according to Wan Azirul’s testimony.
On the morning of the killing, Chang met up with Aisyah at the same cafe where he had earlier met with Hanamori. Wan Azirul said Chang handed Aisyah an airport taxi voucher during their short meeting and he was believed to have later applied the deadly VX nerve agent poison to her hands just before the attack, which happened at about 9 a.m.
The bespectacled Chang wore a dark baseball cap and carried a backpack and a white plastic bag. But after the hit, he ditched his belongings, changed his shirt and even managed to shave off his goatee. He was seen instead carrying an orange plastic bag.
Defense lawyer Gooi has said before the trial it was Chang who had pointed Kim out to Aisyah as the target and put a substance in her hand.

Prosecutors claim he put the poison on Vietnamese defendant Huong’s hands.
On the day of the killing, after arriving with Hanamori and the others, he was seen walking around the airport with a woman prosecutors claim was Huong near the area where Kim was attacked. He also wore a baseball cap and had a backpack and water bottle.
Video footage shows that after the attack, Mr. Y also changed his shirt and discarded his belongings. Police say he then left the budget terminal in the same vehicle with Chang and Hanamori.
Not much else about him has been revealed.

Police say the four suspects flew out of the country the day of the killing and are believed to have made their way back to Pyongyang.
At Malaysia’s request, Interpol has issued a “red notice” — the closest equivalent it has to an arrest warrant — for four North Koreans wanted in connection with the killing: Ri Ji Hyon, 33; Hong Song Hac, 34; O Jong Gil, 55; and Ri Jae Nam, 57. But it is not entirely clear if they are the same four whose actions are now being detailed in the court testimony.
Help from Pyongyang is highly unlikely.
North Korea has denied any involvement. And it’s not a member of Interpol.

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