Hong Kong – Vatican – Pakistan – Israel – Thailand – Gulf Spill – Gaza Strip – Pussy Riot – Russia – United States – Joe Biden – Liberation of Palestine
Hong Kong charges woman in Indonesian maid abuse case
Hong Kong police have charged a woman accused of torturing her Indonesian maid as well two other former domestic helpers. Police filed a holding charge on Wednesday consisting of two counts of wounding, one of common assault and three of criminal intimidation against 44-year-old Law Wan-tung, AP said. An in-depth investigation was conducted after injuries suffered by the victim, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, sparked outrage. Sulistyaningsih, who worked in Hong Kong for only eight months, went home to Indonesia.
Vatican bank asks Italy to resume normal relations
The Vatican bank asked Italy on Wednesday to resume normal banking relations, which have been effectively frozen since 2010, Reuters said. The bank said it had made great progress with new anti-money laundering provisions. Italian banks stopped dealing with the Vatican bank after the central bank told them they had to enforce strict anti-money laundering criteria if they wanted to continue transacting with it.
At least 7 killed as bomb hits Pakistan police patrol
At least seven people, including one child, have been killed and 11 others injured after a bomb exploded near a police van which was used to provide security for a polio vaccination drive, officials have said. The explosion occurred in Charsadda district in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The 4-5kg bomb was planted on a bicycle, said senior police official. The blast came hours after a car bomb, detonated near a convoy of buses in western Pakistan, killed at least 18 Shiite pilgrims.
Israel airstrike kills 2 Gaza gunmen
Israel killed two Gaza gunmen in an airstrike on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The dead men belonged to armed faction Palestinian Islamic Jihad, residents said. The group claimed one man, Ahmed Al-Za’anin, as its own, and did not immediately comment on the other’s affiliation. Israel’s military confirmed the airstrike in Beit Hanoun. Za’anin had carried out numerous attacks, the military said, including the launch of rockets into southern Israel as late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was being buried there last week.
Senior Thai pro-government leader shot, injured – police
Kwanchai Praipana, a leader of Thailand’s pro-government “red shirt” movement sustained bullet-wounds to the arm and leg in a drive-by shooting in the northeastern town of Udon Thani, police said adding that it appeared to be “a politically-motivated crime.” “From what we saw on CCTV, a bronze pickup truck drove by and several rounds were fired at the house,” Police Colonel Kowit Tharoenwattanasuk told Reuters. This incident could raise even more tension in Thailand after PM Yingluck Shinawatra’s government declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bangkok, suggesting a more aggressive policy toward protesters who have sought to overthrow the government over the past two months.
Ex-Halliburton manager gets probation for destruction of evidence in Gulf spill case
Anthony Badalamenti, a former Halliburton cementing technology director, has been sentenced to one year of probation for instructing two other employees to delete data during a review of the cement job on the BP-run well, which saw an explosion in 2010 that killed 11 people. The court ruled that he also has to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. Badalamenti, 62, faced a maximum of one year in prison when US District Judge sentenced him Tuesday. Halliburton was the cement contractor for BP on the Deepwater Horizon rig. The blow out resulted in the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the industry.
Israel kills Gaza man blamed for shooting rockets during Sharon funeral
Israel killed two Gaza men in an airstrike on Wednesday, claiming one of them shot a rocket over the border during former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral last week. The men were initially believed to be members of Islamic Jihad, an armed group resistant to the Gaza Strip’s Hamas government for nurturing the ceasefire with Israel. The Israeli military said the target, Ahmed Al-Az’anin, was actually a former Islamic Jihad member now part of the more secular Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine. The military said Za’anin launched rockets – resulting in no casualties – into southern Israel on Jan. 15 during Sharon’s funeral ceremony, which was attended by US Vice President Joe Biden. The second man was Za’anin’s relative. They were in a parked car when the missile struck in Beit Hanoun, locals told Reuters.
Pussy Riot to perform in Amnesty Intl concert in New York City
Pussy Riot will appear at an Amnesty International concert in Brooklyn, New York on February 5, the organization announced on Tuesday. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, two members of the activist musical group, were released from Russian prisons last month after being sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “inciting religious hatred” at a performance in country’s main Orthodox cathedral in 2012. Other artists appearing at the concert – which will benefit international prisoners locked up for their beliefs, race, gender, or sexual orientation – include Cake, the Flaming Lips, Lauryn Hill, and others.
Bomb defused in Russia’s Dagestan
Local authorities successfully defused a bomb found near the administrative building in Ashaga Stal village in the Suleiman Stalsky district of Russia’s North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan, RIA Novosti quoted local law enforcement as saying. “A homemade explosive device was successfully defused with the hydrodynamic defuser. The bomb’s capacity was 5-7 kg of TNT,” the source said. Everyone in the building was safely evacuated beforehand.
US condemns report of ‘systematic’ killings by Syrian regime
Photographic evidence of the torture and killing of thousands of prisoners in Syria implicates international crimes by President Bashar Assad’s government, the US State Department said on Tuesday. The photos, allegedly taken by a Syrian military police photographer who defected, show “clear evidence” of the widespread torture and killing of 11,000 detainees, three former international prosecutors said in a report based on some 55,000 digital images commissioned by Syrian opposition supporter Qatar. “As we said before, the Syrian regime is responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. “These most recent images…are extremely disturbing. They’re horrible to look at. And they illustrate apparent actions that would be serious international crimes,” she added. Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, told AFP that “This report is extremely alarming, and the alleged scale of the deaths in detention, if verified, is truly horrifying,” adding that the investigation of such serious allegations is necessary.
Militant leader killed in Russia’s Dagestan
Russian police killed a suspected Islamist militant leader in a shootout on Tuesday in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, RIA Novosti quoted the country’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee as saying. The suspect was identified as Eldar Magatov, the leader of a militant group in the Babayurt district of Dagestan. The militant was discovered hiding in a house with two women and children. Police negotiated the release of civilians from the house. Magatov refused to surrender and opened fire. None of the police officers were injured during the operation. Magatov was wanted for committing crimes such as extortion, bombings and attempted assassinations of police officers and officials in Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya.