Kenyans allowed to pursue colonial torture case against Britain

Kenya

A London high court ruled Friday that three Kenyans tortured during a colonial rebellion can proceed with their case against the British government, more than half a century after the abuses.

The case has divided Britain over how it should reckon with its colonial past, with critics fearful that the decision opens the door to a flood of new lawsuits over crimes committed decades ago.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission heralded the Friday court decision as “a momentous victory,” saying the elderly torture survivors were overjoyed. The three were photographed clapping and smiling outside its offices as the decision was announced. Martyn Day, senior partner at the London law firm representing the Kenyan plaintiffs, called it “a historic judgment that will reverberate around the world.”

The British Foreign Office said it was disappointed and would appeal the decision, concerned that the court had vastly extended the normal time limit of three to six years to bring such a case. Key decision makers are now dead and unable to give their account of what happened, it said.

“We do not dispute that each of the claimants in this case suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” the office said in a Friday statement. However, allowing the case to move forward could have “potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications."

Day agreed about the significance of the case. “There will undoubtedly be victims of colonial torture from Malaya to the Yemen from Cyprus to Palestine who will be reading this judgment with great care,” he said. Britain could also face thousands of claims from other Kenyans who suffered similar torture, his law firm said.

The Kenyan plaintiffs say they were tortured during the British crackdown on the armed Mau Mau rebellion against colonial rule in the 1950s. In her testimony, one of the plaintiffs described being whipped and sexually violated with a glass bottle at a detention camp.

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Radical Muslim cleric loses appeal against extradition to the U.S.

Abu hamza
This story has been updated.

LONDON – A Muslim cleric who applauded the Sept. 11 attacks and called for nonbelievers to be put to death lost what appeared to be his final legal bid Friday in a long-running battle to avoid being shipped to the United States to face terrorism charges.

[Updated 4:20 pm Oct. 5: Abu Hamza Masri and four others sought for trial in the United States were put on two planes at the RAF Mildenhall base and departed for an unspecified U.S. destination, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported early Saturday.]

Britain’s High Court rejected Masri’s last-minute petition to block his extradition on medical grounds. The judges said there was an “overwhelming public interest” in seeing the extradition carried out and that there was no reason the controversial imam could not find adequate treatment in the U.S. for his ailments, including depression and diabetes.

The ruling appears to remove the final impediment to putting Masri on a plane to the U.S., which both British and American officials are eager to see happen as quickly as possible. U.S. authorities want Masri to stand trial on allegations that he tried to establish a camp in Oregon to train recruits for the Afghan insurgency and that he participated in the kidnapping of Western tourists in Yemen.

In addition to Masri, the judges cleared the way for four other terrorism suspects to be extradited, including two men accused of involvement in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But the Egyptian-born Masri’s case has attracted the most attention. The hard-line cleric, who is notorious for his militant sermons and his distinctive look -– he has only one eye and uses metal hooks for hands -– has exasperated the government here for years with his continued appeals to British and European courts against being sent to the U.S.

In April, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, upheld previous rulings in favor of Masri’s extradition, a decision seen as an important victory for trans-Atlantic relations and cooperation in counterterrorism matters. Last month, the same court rejected Masri’s appeal to revisit the case, which seemed to be the end of the protracted legal saga.

But before relieved British officials could get him out of their country, Masri’s lawyers filed a last-ditch appeal to the High Court, pleading for extradition to be suspended because of their client’s deteriorating health. Masri is currently in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting racial hatred.

Friday’s ruling came as little surprise. During three days of hearings this week, the two judges on the case expressed thinly veiled skepticism over Masri’s claims of illness, questioning why he had not raised the issue in previous court hearings.

Britain’s Home Office welcomed the judges’ decision. “We are now working to extradite these men as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.

ALSO:

American man opens fire, kills 1 at Israeli resort hotel

Sanctions, currency chaos igniting unrest in outcast Iran

European court OKs extradition to U.S. of five terrorism suspects

-- Henry Chu

Photo: Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza Masri, right, preaches to followers at a London mosque in 2004 as a masked bodyguard looks on. Credit: Carl de Souza / AFP/Getty Images


Senior British police officer faces charges in phone-hacking scandal

Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, a senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalistsLONDON -- A senior British counter-terrorism officer appeared in court Monday to face charges tied to the police investigation into phone hacking by tabloid journalists.

In a brief pretrial hearing, Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, the former head of Scotland Yard's National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, was accused of breaching Britain's Official Secrets Act.

Authorities allege that in September 2010 Casburn took home secret police documents relating to an inquiry into phone hacking and contacted the News of the World tabloid, offering it information on the police probe, then known as Operation Varec. 

Police at the time had new information from the New York Times concerning illegal phone tapping by journalists from the News of the World, although authorities did not reopen the phone-hacking investigations until July 2011.  

Casburn, 53, is also charged with misconduct in public office following a police investigation into illegal payments to public officials by journalists in return for information. That probe, known as Operation Elveden, is one of three police inquiries into the suspected widespread use of phone and computer hacking by the media over the past decade.

Casburn, who is reported to be the first defendant facing charges related to the Elveden probe to appear in court, was released on bail and ordered to appear in the Central Criminal Court on Nov. 2. She has been suspended from duty.

Trials are just beginning after more than a year of investigations and civil inquiries into illegal communication interceptions by the news organizations, which have resulted in more than 70 arrests of high-profile figures in the media and public service.

Last week saw the pretrial appearance in court of a dozen high-profile editors and executives from Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World and from News International, the paper’s publisher and the British branch of the huge News Corp. conglomerate.

The tabloid was closed down by the Murdoch family following public outrage over revelations that News of the World journalists in 2003 had hacked into the mobile phone messages of a missing teenager who was later found slain.

 ALSO:

 Vatican court blocks evidence in trial of pope's ex-butler

 Unfortunately for Germany, it's "a wonderland for raccoons"

 Ex-tabloid editors Brooks, Coulson in court for British phone-hacking case

 -- Janet Stobart

Photo: pril Casburn arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London on Monday. Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press

 

 

New virus doesn't spread easily person-to-person, WHO says

A new virus that has killed one person and landed another in a London hospital does not appear to spread easily from person to person, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The discovery this month of a never-before-seen coronavirus, part of a family of viruses that range from the common cold to the SARS virus that killed hundreds, had caused fear that it might spread further. The fact that the two known cases were linked to Saudi Arabia added to the concern, with millions of people headed to the country for an annual Muslim religious pilgrimage.

However, no new cases have emerged since Britain informed the WHO last week that a 49-year-old Qatari man with a history of traveling to Saudi Arabia  was suffering a severe respiratory infection. The first case was a 60-year-old Saudi national who died of the infection this year.

Though the virus does not appear to be spreading, the United Nations agency said it was still monitoring the situation, given the severity of the two known cases of the new virus. It has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions for Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

European Center for Disease Prevention and Control scientists wrote in a newly published paper that the infection probably originated with animals. Though it is in the same family of viruses as SARS, it is “quite different in behavior from SARS,” the scientists wrote in the  Eurosurveillance  journal.

The two people known to have been infected with the new virus suffered from fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

ALSO:

France unveils its toughest budget in years

Fighting rages across Syrian city of Aleppo

Palestinian official criticizes U.S. position on U.N. recognition

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles


Ecuador and Britain discuss fate of WikiLeaks' Assange

Britainecuador

Officials from Ecuador and Britain met Thursday in New York over the deadlocked case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for 100 days. But though the two sides left the meeting vowing to meet again, there were no signs of a breakthrough.

Ecuador has granted Assange asylum to ensure that he can continue his activism. Britain says that if he leaves the embassy, it is obligated to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning on alleged sex crimes. Britain has also said “diplomatic asylum,” which Ecuador granted Assange, isn't part of British law.

Assange and his supporters argue that the Swedish case is a pretext for him to be sent along to the United States, where his spilling of government secrets has angered officials. Assange claims he has been secretly indicted and could face the death penalty in the U.S. for "political crimes."

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that Secretary William Hague had asked Ecuador to study
“the extensive human rights safeguards in U.K. extradition law.” Ecuador, in turn, asked whether Assange could get medical care outside the embassy without risking arrest, which Britain said it would consider.

“Due to the cordiality of the meeting with Secretary W. Hague, we trust we can find a diplomatic and friendly solution to the matter,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said on Twitter.

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Ex-tabloid editors Brooks, Coulson in court for British phone-hacking case

A dozen defendants in a landmark phone-hacking inquiry tied to Rupert Murdoch's News International newspaper group appeared in London's Central Criminal Court for pre-trial hearings
LONDON -- A dozen defendants in a landmark phone-hacking inquiry tied to Rupert Murdoch's News International newspaper group appeared Wednesday in London's Central Criminal Court for pre-trial hearings.

Andy Coulson, former press secretary to British Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-editor of the defunct tabloid News of the World, and Rebekah Brooks, another former News of the World editor and onetime News International CEO, were among those who crowded into the 45-minute hearing.

Other defendants present included five other erstwhile News of the World editors and journalists and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who allegedly intercepted private phone communications on behalf of journalists.

PHOTOS: British phone-hacking scandal

A prosecution spokesperson said 12 of the 14 defendants in the case attended the hearings in Court No. 1 to hear the charges in connection with the alleged conspiracy to intercept voice mail messages, mostly those of celebrities and their associates. Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford granted bail to all the defendants until the proposed opening trial date on Sept. 9, 2013.

Brooks, who socialized with Cameron while she was on Murdoch's executive staff, was also charged during a separate hearing with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in the phone-hacking inquiries, as were her husband, Charlie Brooks, and five members of her staff. The allegations in that matter include attempting to hide and remove evidence of phone hacking from police and making illegal payments to public officials.

Wednesday's hearings came amid ongoing legal and civil investigations into media practices after revelations in July 2011 that News of the World journalists illegally hacked into the phone of missing teenager Milly Dowler, who was abducted in March 2003 and later found murdered.  

Investigations have revealed that illegal phone hacking by Murdoch-owned tabloids has affected hundreds of celebrities and people in the public eye, including actors Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jude Law and Sienna Miller. Other targets included J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, and politicians, crime victims and their families and associates.

News International has paid out millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements in the matter and is openly collaborating with police, who have arrested dozens of journalists, media executives and public officials in connection with the investigation.

ALSO:

Yemeni women say lives are worse following revolution

Regulator lets BSkyB keep license but chides James Murdoch

European court clears way for militant cleric's extradition to U.S.

 -- Janet Stobart

Photo: Rebekah Brooks leaves London's Central Criminal Court. Credit: AFP/Getty Images


European court clears way for militant cleric's extradition to U.S.

Masri
GLASGOW, Scotland -- A radical Muslim cleric who praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has lost his final appeal against extradition from Britain to the United States, where he faces allegations that he tried to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon.

Abu Hamza Masri had argued to the European Court of Human Rights that he would face inhumane and degrading treatment if he were shipped to the U.S. and imprisoned there. But the court Monday released a terse statement upholding its decision in April to allow the extradition of Masri and four other terrorism suspects to proceed, for which Washington and London have both been pressing.

It was the last legal avenue for the Egyptian-born Masri, who gained notoriety at a North London mosque for his fiery sermons lauding the Sept. 11 attacks, advocating death by stoning for gay people and calling for nonbelievers to be killed. He is in a British prison serving a seven-year sentence for inciting murder and racial hatred.

Britain has been eager to wash its hands of Masri and promised Monday to ship him to the U.S. as soon as possible.

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New virus akin to SARS reported; man hospitalized in London

A Qatari man hospitalized in London is suffering a severe infection in the same family as the SARS virus that killed hundreds and sickened thousands across the globe roughly a decade ago, the World Health Organization and British authorities have announced. The hospitalized man is the second of two known cases this year.

The 49-year-old man, who had a history of traveling to Saudi Arabia, showed symptoms of the illness three weeks ago and was admitted to an intensive care unit in Doha four days later, according to  WHO officials. He was transferred to Britain by air ambulance on Sept. 11.

The virus, detected with laboratory testing, was very similar to another virus that killed a 60-year-old patient from Saudi Arabia earlier this year, the health organization said in a statement Sunday. Both are coronaviruses, a large family of viruses that cause a range of ailments from the common cold to SARS. The two people known to have been infected with the new virus were struck with fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

The new virus is different than any previously identified in humans, the British Health Protection Agency said. Health officials are still investigating where it came from and how it is spread; similar viruses are typically passed when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes.

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Must Reads: Guerrilla artists, China protests and uneasy Aleppo

Protestchina

From Somali guerrilla artists to Chinese protesters, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this past week in global news:

Somalia guerrilla artists dare to paint reality

China government's hand seen in anti-Japan protests

Critics in Britain see 'lopsided' U.S. extradition treaty

In South Africa, the poor feel betrayed by ruling ANC party

In Syria, Aleppo residents grapple with hardship, uncertainties

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Chinese demonstrators protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday. Credit: Diego Azubel / European Pressphoto Agency


BSkyB hangs onto broadcasting license; James Murdoch criticized

Bskyb
This post has been updated. See the notes below for details.

LONDON -- British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite TV network partially owned by Rupert Murdoch, remains a “fit and proper” holder of a broadcast license despite the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Murdoch’s media empire, Britain’s communications watchdog said Thursday.

However, the regulatory agency harshly criticized James Murdoch, the former head of BSkyB, for his lackadaisical response to the hacking scandal, saying that he “repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of him as a chief executive officer and chairman” of News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s giant News Corp.

Although BSkyB was not directly involved in the phone-hacking scandal, which has centered mostly on the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, its operations have come under scrutiny by media regulators because of News Corp.’s 39% stake in the network. The Murdochs had hoped to win full control of the broadcaster but were forced to ditch their takeover bid last year when the hacking scandal exploded over revelations that News of the World reporters had tapped into the cellphone messages of a kidnapped teenager.

The announcement by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, that BSkyB could hang onto its license came as a relief to the broadcaster, whose highly lucrative sports and entertainment programming reaches millions of homes in Britain.

“Ofcom is right to conclude that Sky is a fit and proper broadcaster,” BSkyB said in a statement. “As a company, we are committed to high standards of governance and we take our regulatory obligations extremely seriously.”

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