- Australian gets 26 years for killing Canadian ex-ballerina
- China and Taiwan to hold historic talks
- New Zealand PM wants Japan apology in whaling row
Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:40 PM PST
Sydney (AFP) - An Australian who threw his Canadian girlfriend off the balcony of their high-rise Sydney apartment in a crime that captivated the nation was Tuesday sentenced to 26 years in jail.
Simon Gittany was convicted of hurling his fiancee, former ballerina Lisa Harnum, from their 15th floor home in a fit of rage in July 2011 after discovering she planned to leave him.
The 40-year-old, who was steadfastly supported in court by a glamorous new girlfriend, maintained his innocence throughout the trial, claiming a suicidal Harnum, 30, slipped and fell after climbing over a railing.
But he was found guilty late last year and on Tuesday sentenced to a maximum 26 years and a minimum 18 years, with Justice Lucy McCallum saying he had shown no remorse and had little prospect of rehabilitation.
During his trial, the court heard Gittany was controlling, had installed CCTV cameras inside the apartment and used a computer programme to monitor Harnum's text messages and emails.
One of the cameras showed him restraining Harnum outside their home and then dragging her back inside on the night she died. Harnum was heard yelling: "Please help me, help me, God help me."
When the sentence was announced, a member of Gittany's family in the public gallery was removed from court after yelling: "In the name of Jesus Christ, he won't do any of that time."
Reporters said another woman celebrated when the sentence was handed down, shouting "Off the balcony you go" to Gittany.
His current girlfriend Rachelle Louise, who has fiercely defended Gittany, was noticeably absent for the sentencing. Reports said she had signed a lucrative deal with commercial network Channel Seven to tell her side of the story.
Gittany's solicitor Abigail Bannister said her client would appeal.
Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:50 PM PST
Nanjing (China) (AFP) - China and Taiwan will hold their first government-to-government talks Tuesday since they split 65 years ago after a brutal civil war -- a symbolic yet historic move between the former bitter rivals.
Taipei's Wang Yu-chi, who oversees the island's China policy, arrived in Nanjing for a meeting with his Beijing counterpart Zhang Zhijun on the first day of a four-day trip, a Taiwanese official said.
The eastern Chinese city was the country's capital when it was ruled by Wang's Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party in the first half of the 20th century.
When they lost China's civil war -- which cost millions of lives -- to Mao Zedong's communists in 1949, two million supporters of the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China.
The island and the mainland have been governed separately ever since, both claiming to be the true government of China and only re-establishing contact in the 1990s through quasi-official organisations.
Tuesday's meeting is the fruit of years of efforts to improve relations.
But Beijing's communist authorities still aim to reunite all of China under their rule, and view Taiwan as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Over the decades Taipei has become increasingly isolated diplomatically, losing the Chinese seat at the UN in 1971 and seeing the number of countries recognising it steadily whittled away, but it is supplied militarily by the United States and has enjoyed a long economic boom.
While no official agenda has been released for the talks -- widely seen as a symbolic, confidence-building exercise -- Taiwan's Wang last month said they had "crucial implications for further institutionalisation of ties between the two sides".
Taiwan is likely to focus on reaping practical outcomes from the discussions, such as securing economic benefits or security assurances, while China has one eye on long-term integration of the island, analysts say.
Detente and differences
The political thaw comes after the two sides made cautious steps towards economic reconciliation in recent years.
As the heirs of a pan-Chinese government, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party accepts the "One China" principle and is opposed to seeking independence for the island.
Since it returned to power on the island in elections in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a marked softening in tone from Taipei towards its giant neighbour, restoring direct flights between the two sides and other measures.
In June 2010, Taiwan and China signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, a pact widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.
Yet despite the much-touted detente, Taipei and Beijing have still shunned all official contact, and negotiations have been carried out through proxies.
While these bodies -- the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation representing Taiwan and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits for China -- have achieved economic progress, they lack the power to broach deeper-held differences.
Analysts say that only government-level officials can address the lingering sovereignty dispute that sees each side claiming to be the sole legitimate government of China.
Tuesday's meeting will be watched closely to see whether it could pave the way for talks between Ma and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping -- although chances of that happening any time soon are slim.
"The current interaction across the Taiwan Strait is quite positive," said Jia Qingguo, a professor of international studies at Peking University.
Ties have "been developing very fast, but the potential of this relationship has not been fully tapped (by) both sides," he said.
"But people should not expect too much out of it. It will take time for the two sides to get really integrated."
Nonetheless the mood surrounding the talks soured in Taiwan after Beijing refused to issue credentials to the Taipei-based Apple Daily and the US government-funded Radio Free Asia at the weekend.
Taiwan said Monday it would raise the issue of press freedom with China during the talks.
Posted: 10 Feb 2014 09:05 PM PST
WELLINGTON, Feb 11, 2014 (AFP) - New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Tuesday he wants Japan to apologise over a whaling ship entering Wellington's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), despite warnings for it to keep out.
The New Zealand foreign ministry has already hauled in the Japanese ambassador Yasuaki Nogawa for a dressing down over the incident last Friday, which it labelled "unhelpful, disrespectful and short-sighted".
Key said he supported Japan going one step further and issuing an apology over the incursion, which took place when the whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 entered the EEZ as it was chasing the Sea Shepherd protest vessel Steve Irwin.
"That would be good," he told reporters when questioned about whether Japan needed to say sorry.
"We had earlier on made it quite clear our view about the Japanese ship coming into New Zealand's economic zone."
"We'll see what happens from here, but whether there's an apology - we'll wait and see."
The foreign ministry said the ship did not enter New Zealand's territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coast, but did breach its EEZ, which covers a region 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.
While the vessel was legally entitled to sail in the EEZ, the ministry said it had been made clear to Japanese officials before it entered the waters Friday that it was not welcome.
The Japanese embassy in Wellington has refused to comment on the issue.
High-seas confrontations are common between Sea Shepherd's protest ships and the Japanese, who hunt whales under a "scientific research" loophole in the moratorium on whaling.
In 2010 a collision involving the Shonan Maru 2 resulted in the sinking of Sea Shepherd's speedboat Ady Gil. - AFP
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