Isnin, 14 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Jailing of wheelchair-bound Beijing airport bomber sparks anger


BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese man in a wheelchair who detonated a home-made bomb in Beijing's airport after trying to draw attention to a nearly decade-long legal battle was sentenced to six years in jail, his lawyer said on Tuesday, sparking widespread sympathy and anger.

A Beijing court found Ji Zhongxing, 34, guilty of intentionally causing an explosion, Ji's lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, told Reuters by telephone. State media confirmed the sentence.

Ji detonated the bomb at Beijing airport after being prevented from handing out leaflets that drew attention to his complaints. His case struck a chord with many Chinese seeking justice in an inflexible political system.

Ji, from eastern Shandong province, had been seeking redress for a claimed beating by police in southern Guangdong province dating back to 2005 that left him wheelchair-bound. He had been petitioning for justice ever since.

Detonating the bomb at Beijing's main airport ensured widespread exposure for Ji, even though he and a policeman who received slight wounds were the only people hurt.

He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"We believe that this verdict is questionable," Liu said, adding that Ji did not intend to blow up the airport or commit suicide.

"During the trial, (authorities) did not seek to find out the facts," Liu said. "Although it was mentioned in the verdict statement, they never fully considered or discovered the cause of the bombing at the airport."

Liu said Ji, who was wheeled into court on a stretcher, said he would consider appealing against the decision. He has 10 days to file an appeal.

Ji's sentence comes weeks after the execution of a Chinese kebab vendor, who was convicted of killing two city officials, sparked public criticism of a justice system said to punish the poor harshly while letting the rich and powerful off more lightly.

"What we want to know more is: How will those assailants who injured him in the first place be punished?" Chen Haodong, vice dean of an art school in southern Guangdong province, wrote on his microblog.

Gong Liegang, a lawyer based in Kunming, the capital of southwestern Yunnan province, called the sentence "abnormally harsh" and described Ji as "a vulnerable person" who had no other way to protect his rights.

Chinese unable to win redress for grievances have in the past resorted to extreme measures, including bombings, but such incidents are rare because of tight state security.

Ji's protest had come just days after security workers apparently beat to death a watermelon vendor in southern Hunan province in a dispute over where he could sell his fruit. Both cases have drawn public criticism about official abuse of power.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, Li Hui and the Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Paul Tait)

Venezuela, Guyana to meet over seized oil ship, detained crew


CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela and Guyana will meet on Thursday to resolve the fate of a ship and crew hired by a U.S. oil exploration firm that Venezuela seized in waters disputed for more than a century by the South American neighbours.

The foreign ministers of both countries have spoken on the phone and will meet in Trinidad and Tobago "in the hope of resolving diplomatically whatever difference exists between both sides," a Venezuelan government statement said.

A senior Guyanese official, who asked not to be named, confirmed the meeting. He said there were about two dozen workers on board from eight countries: the United States, Russia, France, Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, Panama and Ukraine.

Venezuela's navy on Thursday seized the RV Teknik Perdana survey boat, which was being used by Texas-based Anadarko. Venezuela said the ship had violated its waters. Guyana says the boat was well within its territory and Venezuela's action has threatened its national security.

The boat has been taken to the Venezuelan island of Margarita. Its Ukrainian captain Igor Bekirov was due to appear in court shortly to face charges of violating Venezuelan waters, local judicial authorities said.

Anadarko said the crew was safe but referred additional questions to Guyana officials.

"We continue to cooperate fully with the relevant authorities, with the sole focus of achieving a safe release of the entire crew and the vessel," Anadarko said in an email.

Oil exploration has fanned the flames of the old territorial dispute, and the incident did not appear linked to the socialist Venezuelan government's antipathy toward Washington.

The United States and Venezuela have just expelled the others' top diplomats.

A U.S. embassy official said Washington was aware of reports that five Americans were on the ship, but would not give any further comment or details due to "privacy concerns."

Guyana awarded Anadarko Petroleum a deep-water, exploration license in June last year for a block named Roraima, although details of the concession have not been revealed.

Oil companies have been increasingly interested in the northeastern shoulder of South America since a discovery off nearby French Guyana in 2011 that industry experts described as a game-changer for the region's energy prospects.

Venezuela and Guyana have long argued about the status of the disputed Essequibo region, an area on the border about the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, and over rights to the ocean resources that lie offshore. Venezuela calls it a "reclamation zone," but in practice it functions as Guyanese territory.

Critics of President Nicolas Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez as Venezuela's leader after winning an election earlier this year, say he is exploiting international incidents to try and distract attention from domestic woes.

Guyana's former foreign minister, Rashleigh Jackson, urged a quick release of the ship and crew after Thursday's talks, then further negotiations to settle the maritime territorial limits.

"What is needed in these talks is a decision on a mechanism to settle the maritime boundary once and for all," he told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Neil Marks in Georgetown and Eileen O'Grady in Houston; Editing by Eyanir Chinea and Lisa Shumaker)

Honduras sends military police to tame drug violence as vote looms


TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras ordered 1,000 military police onto the streets of its most violent cities on Monday, as a presidential election dominated by debate over how to tackle the wave of drug killings approaches in just over a month.

This first deployment of a new military-style police force marks the latest tactic to curb an epidemic of drug violence that last year turned Honduras into the world's most murderous country with more than 85 homicides for every 100,000 people.

The Central American country has become a key staging point for drug shipments moving north from South America, and has been invaded by Mexican drug gangs.

In August, Congress authorized the creation the new force made up of 5,000 officers with military training. At the start of the year, the government had put 4,000 soldiers on the streets, but they have failed to end the killing.

"The operations of the military police, especially in the residential areas, will continue until we succeed," said army spokesman Colonel Jeremias Arevalo. "We're going to clean these areas from crime."

The security issue has become the focus of campaigning ahead of next month's presidential election that pits Xiomara Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, against National Party candidate Juan Hernandez.

Castro, the Liberty and Refoundation Party candidate who established her reputation while fighting for her husband's right to rule after his 2009 military-led ouster, is slightly ahead of Hernandez according to the latest polls, but the lead is so small that statistically they are tied.

Castro and her party, a coalition of leftist politicians, unions, agrarian and indigenous groups, say they would create a community police force to tackle the violence, while Hernandez wants the military police force working alongside the army.

The winner of the election will take office in January 2014.

(Writing by Lomi Kriel and Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Jackie Frank)


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