Archive for February 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia brushed aside last-minute appeals by foreign leaders and executed by firing squad six people convicted of drug trafficking, including five foreigners, sending a message that the new government will not compromise its tough approach to narcotics.

Four men from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria and the Netherlands and an Indonesian woman were shot to death simultaneously in pairs just after midnight Saturday, several kilometers (miles) from a high-security prison on Nusakambangan island. The other, a woman from Vietnam, was executed in Boyolali, according to Attorney General Office’s spokesman Tony Spontana. Both areas are in Central Java province.

Their bodies were brought from the island by ambulances early Sunday either for burial or cremation, as requested by relatives and representatives of their embassies. Indonesian President Joko Widodo in December rejected their clemency requests. He also refused a last-minute appeal by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the Dutch government to spare their countrymen — Brazilian Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, 53, and Ang Kiem Soe, 52, who was born in Papua but whose nationality is Dutch.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said in a statement late Saturday that he had temporarily recalled the country’s ambassador to Indonesia and summoned Indonesia’s representative in The Hague to protest Ang’s execution. He said it was carried out despite King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte personally contacting Widodo.

Koenders called the execution “a cruel and inhumane punishment … an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.” Rousseff said she was outraged and appalled by the execution, according to a government statement.

The execution “creates a stain, a shadow in the bilateral relationship,” said Marco Aurelio Garcia, the Brazilian president’s foreign affairs special adviser. “There was no sensitivity on the part of the Indonesian government.”

Amnesty International said the first executions under Indonesia’s new president, who took office in November, were “a retrograde step” for human rights. Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo has said there is no excuse for drug dealers and that “hopefully, this will have a deterrent effect.”

Prasetyo said the new government had a firm commitment to fight against drugs. Widodo has said he will not grant clemency to the dozens of drug convicts on death row. “What we do is merely aimed at protecting our nation from the danger of drugs,” Prasetyo told reporters Thursday. He said figures from the National Anti-Narcotic Agency showed 40 to 50 people die each day from drugs in Indonesia.

He said that drug trafficking rings have spread to many places, including remote villages where most victims are youngsters of productive age. Indonesia has become the largest drug market in Southeast Asia, with 45 percent of the region’s drugs in circulation.

A second batch of executions will be held later this year and also target drug smugglers, Prasetyo said. Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of 250 million people, has extremely strict drug laws and often executes smugglers. More than 138 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes. About a third of them are foreigners.

Moreira, the Brazilian, was arrested in 2003 after police at Jakarta’s airport found 13.4 kilograms (29.5 pounds) of cocaine hidden in his hang glider. A second Brazilian national, Rodrigo Muxfeldt Gularte, remains on death row in Indonesia, also convicted of drug trafficking.

Ang was arrested near Jakarta in 2003 after police found equipment that they estimated had been producing 15,000 ecstasy pills a day for three years. Police confiscated 8,000 pills and thousands of dollars.

The others who were executed were Namaona Denis, 48, from Malawi; Daniel Enemuo, 38, from Nigeria; and Indonesian Rani Andriani. Tran Bich Hanh of Vietnam asked authorities to let her face the firing squad uncuffed as one of her last wishes, said Spontana, the Attorney General Office’s spokesman.

Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague and Adriana Gomez Licon in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

February 16, 2015

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt signed agreements to purchase 24 advanced fighter jets from France on Monday, hours after Egyptian aircraft bombed Islamic State targets in Libya and implored foreign governments for help fighting extremists in the region.

The deal for 24 of Dassault Aviation’s multi-role Rafale aircraft as well as a frigate and munitions, underlines how many are willing to overlook Egypt’s poor human rights record when it comes to weapons sales as Cairo emerges as a key player in the fight against the Islamic State group.

At a ceremony in the gilded Presidential Palace in the Egyptian capital, French business executives including Dassault CEO Eric Trappier signed the agreements with Egyptian generals, shaking hands and kissing each other’s cheeks.

Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Sedki Sobhi said the weapons would help Egypt boost security and fight terrorism. “Without a doubt, the stability and security of Egypt are an essential base for the stability and security of countries of the Mediterranean, as well as countries of the European Union and above all, your country, which has been confronted in recent months by terrorist acts,” Sobhi said, referring to last month’s deadly attack on a Paris satirical magazine.

Monday’s Egyptian airstrikes in Libya were a swift retribution for extremists’ beheadings of Egyptian Christian hostages, shown in a grisly online video released hours earlier. Libya’s air force commander said the strikes were coordinated and killed some 50 militants, while two Libyan security officials said civilians, including three children and two women, were among the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Libya, Egypt’s western neighbor, has slid into chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned the killing of the Egyptian hostages in Libya, calling the Rafale deal “the beginning of reinforced cooperation to serve regional security.”

“These events show that the threats are accumulating, and we are measuring their severity every day. To confront these threats we need allies,” he said. “Today our two countries are leading a common combat against terrorism.”

U.S. ally Egypt, which has for decades received up to $1.3 billion annually in military aid from Washington, is seeking to diversify its arms providers. Its military remains largely U.S.-trained and equipped, although Russian news agency Interfax reported last week that Moscow has $3.5 billion in new contracts with Cairo for military aircraft, air defense missiles and other weapons.

Washington had withheld some of its aid after the Egyptian army ousted a freely elected Islamist president in 2013, but has for example released a delivery of Apache helicopters last year. Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Jane’s in London, said the new Rafale aircraft will significantly improve Egypt’s ability to drop advanced munitions on targets with precision, compared to its current workhorse jet, an older variant of the American F-16.

“This gives them a much better strike capability, because the targeting system is much better than what their existing aircraft have,” Moores said. “Probably the biggest difference is that it comes with advanced radar, which is effectively like moving from analog to digital.”

“With this platform, they’re going to get access to a lot of precision guided weaponry … they’ll be able to drop bombs on very particular targets with much lower collateral damage, and that makes a massive difference when dealing with public scrutiny.”

A French Defense Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of ministry protocol, has said the total value of Monday’s sale was 5.2 billion euros ($5.93 billion). Besides extremists in Libya, Egypt currently faces a militant insurgency in the restive Sinai Peninsula, and is weighing intervention in Yemen if Shiite rebels there threaten shipping lanes in the strategic Red Sea via the Suez Canal.

“Now they’ll be able to strike all over Libya and potentially Yemen as well,” Moores said. “And that will be crucial because both those places are turning into failed states where extremists can set up shop easily.”

4 February 2015

Cairo — Strong Egypt party, headed by former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, announced in a press conference on Wednesday that it will not participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections “given the absence of a democratic environment.”

The elections are due to be held over two phases, with the first running from March 22 and 23 and the second phase being held on April 26 and 27.

Strong Egypt party issued a statement, saying that all the “revolution’s slogans are in setback,” adding that this comes in “parallel with unprecedented terrorist operations.”

The party added that instead of confronting “terrorism,” the executive authority, specifically naming the presidency, are widening the “societal split” and the rift between political groups and between classes of society.

The party has regularly expressed opposition to the current Egyptian regime’s policies and boycotted the presidential elections held in May 2014, which brought Sisi to power.

It said it will reach to the Egyptian people to raise their awareness on political, social and economic rights, offering “political alternatives.”

The party said it will continue to cooperate with political opposition groups that believe in peaceful political action to “found a real democratic path.”

Once completed, the parliamentary elections are considered the last step in the political roadmap that was announced by the military after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

The legislature will be made up of 567 seats and will be the first elected under Sisi.

Source: allAfrica.