english news

ANC leaders meet to decide Jacob Zuma’s fate


Jacob Zuma is fighting for his political survival as pressure mounts on the South African president to resign before a key national address this week. Senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) met Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old politician, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.

The party’s national working committee, one of its highest decision-making bodies, will meet on Monday in Johannesburg to consider its next step.

One possibility is that Zuma will be ordered to resign, though this may raise significant constitutional issues. According to ANC rules, all members – even elected officials – fulfil their functions according to the will of the party.

The premature departure of Zuma, whose second five-year term is due to expire next year, will consolidate the power of Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected leader of the ANC in December. Supporters of Ramaphosa, seen as the standard bearer of the reformist wing of the party, say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts in earnest for elections in 2019. Adriaan Basson, a senior South African journalist, wrote: “Zuma has played all his cards and is now at open war with Ramaphosa and his supporters.”

Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been controversial, with a series of corruption scandals undermining the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994 and has ruled ever since.(theguardian)…[+]

Nunes memo ‘a political hit job on FBI’ in service of Trump, top Democrat says


A top Democrat in Congress has accused his Republican colleagues of carrying out “a political hit job on the FBI in the service of the president” with the Friday release of a memo assembled by House intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes.

The extraordinary charge, which underscored the rift that has opened between Donald Trump and America’s most powerful law enforcement agency, was delivered on Sunday by Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee.

Schiff told ABC’s This Week that Republican members of the committee had declined to interview FBI officials as they bulldozed forward to release a memo they hoped would discredit the investigation of Trump’s Russia ties. Trump privately hoped the memo, which ties top figures in the Russia investigation to alleged law enforcement malpractice, would give him political cover to make changes in the justice department and potentially short-circuit the Russia inquiry run by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to multiple reports.(theguardian)…[+]

Paris trial sheds light on terrorists’ efforts to hide after attacks


The trial of a drug dealer and slum landlord accused of harbouring two members of the cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 has given a glimpse of the tense five days after the deadliest night in France since the second world war.

The trial of Jawad Bendaoud, which opened last month and is the first linked to the attacks that killed 130 people and injured 500 more, has heard from survivors and victims’ relatives who have told horrific stories of loss and the desire to see justice. Bendaoud has provoked anger from relatives over his behaviour in court, where he has bragged about his criminal activities and sex life. He has also openly fought with his co-defendant and fellow dealer, Mohamed Soumah, who is being prosecuted for failing to alert police about the terrorists’ plot. A third man, Yussef Aitboulahcen, the brother of a woman killed in a raid on the terrorists’ hideout, is also on trial.(theguardian)…[+]

Uma Thurman breaks silence over Harvey Weinstein


Uma Thurman has broken her silence about her experiences with the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. In an interview with the New York Times, the actor described an attempted sexual assault in Weinstein’s suite at the Savoy hotel in London in the mid-1990s.

Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment, assault and rape by multiple women. Thurman, the star of movies including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, said last year she would come forward about her experiences with Weinstein when she was ready to do so. Speaking to the New York Times, she said: “It was such a bat to the head. He pushed me down. He tried to shove himself on me. He tried to expose himself. He did all kinds of unpleasant things. But he didn’t actually put his back into it and force me.

“You’re like an animal wriggling away, like a lizard. I was doing anything I could to get the train back on the track. My track. Not his track.”(theguardian)…[+]

Ecuador referendum could buck South America trend by banning re-election


When Ecuadorians vote this weekend on barring former president Rafael Correa from re-election, they will also be choosing whether to buck a trend across South America in which overbearing former presidents just can’t let go of power.After Lenín Moreno was elected Ecuador’s president in 2017 he was expected to keep the seat warm for his predecessor’s return in 2021. Over a decade in power, Correa allied with the leftist governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, ploughed public money into social spending – and also sheltered the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. For half of that period, his vice-president was Moreno.

But since taking office, Moreno – the world’s only wheelchair-using head of state – has made good on his pledge to be his own man. He sacked the former vice-president Jorge Glas, a close ally of Correa who was later sentenced to six years in jail for corruption. He has also repeatedly hinted he wants to remove Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The result has been a bitter feud between former allies. Correa called Moreno a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and returned to Ecuador from his wife’s homeland of Belgium to lead the no campaign against the referendum. Moreno, in turn accused Correa of bugging his office.(theguardian)…[+]

Kenyan rule of law concerns as authorities defy TV ban order


Kenyan authorities defied a court order to lift a ban on three private television stations and briefly detained an opposition figure on Friday, setting the scene for a new confrontation between the judiciary and Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

Miguna Miguna, who has declared himself a “general” of the opposition’s National Resistance Movement, was detained in a dawn raid on his Nairobi home, and later released on bail of 50,000 Kenyan shillings (£350).

He had stood alongside opposition leader Raila Odinga at a symbolical inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, which was described by government lawyers as an act of treason. Authorities cut live transmission of the country’s top three TV channels to prevent coverage of the ceremony and later declared the NRM an organised criminal group meaning members could face imprisonment up to 10 years. The tensions come three months after Kenyatta won a further five-year term in a rerun that was triggered when the supreme court annulled the result of the presidential election in August because of irregularities.(theguardian)…[+]

Migrant boat capsizes leaving 90 feared dead off coast of Libya


At least 90 people are feared drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler’s migrant boat capsized, the UN’s migration agency has said. Ten bodies have so far washed ashore near the Libyan town of Zuwara, Olivia Headon, a spokeswoman for International Organisation for Migration, said. Eight were believed to be Pakistani, and two Libyan. Two survivors swam to shore and another was rescued by a fishing boat, Headon said. The deaths highlight the increasing number of Pakistanis travelling to Libya in an effort to reach Europe. They were the 13th largest nationality among migrants making the crossing last year, but the third-largest contingent in January.

Despite an early surge in the total number of migrants trying to reach Italy from Libya at the start of January, the figures for the month as a whole were down on the same period in 2017 from 4,531 to 4,256. There were 218 deaths on the Libya to Italy route in January and 246 in the Mediterranean as a whole, making it the second deadliest month since June 2017.(theguardian)…[+]

Catalan independence leaders to appeal to UN over ‘unlawful imprisonment’


Lawyers in London, Barcelona and Paris acting for three detained Catalan independence leaders have appealed to the United Nations, claiming the men are unlawfully imprisoned.Submissions have been presented to the UN working group on arbitrary detention, asking it to intervene in the cases of the ousted vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and the Catalan civil society group chiefs Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.Any determination made by the body, which meets in Geneva, will not be binding on Spanish courts, but will be a signal of international disapproval.

Two years ago, the working group declared that Julian Assange, who remains in Ecuador’s London embassy, was being “arbitrarily detained”.

Cuixart is president of Òmnium Cultural and Sànchez is a former president of the influential Catalan national assembly. They were arrested in October after the independence referendum, while Junqueras was detained early the following month. They have been in prison since then.(theguardian)…[+]

French climber tells of ordeal on Pakistan’s ‘Killer Mountain’


A French mountaineer rescued from Pakistan’s “Killer Mountain” has described how she was forced to abandon her weak climbing partner, descend alone in darkness and wait more than 24 hours for help while suffering altitude-induced hallucinations that made her take a shoe off in freezing conditions.

Elisabeth Revol, 37, returned to France after she was rescued on Sunday from Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest peak at 8,126 metres. She is being treated in a hospital in the Haute-Savoie region, where doctors are assessing whether she will require amputations because of frostbite in her hands and left foot. In an interview with Agence France-Presse she recalled how rescuers urged her to leave her weak and bleeding fellow climber, the Polish mountaineer Tomek Mackiewicz, behind – something she had called “terrible and painful.” Rescuers were unable to reach Mackiewicz, a father of three, who had made six previous winter attempts to scale Nanga Parbat. There is almost no chance of him being found alive.(theguardian)…[+]

Israel using tourism to legitimise settlements, says EU report


Israel is developing archaeological and tourism sites to legitimise illegal settlements in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, European Union diplomats in the city have warned. A leaked report acquired by the Guardian cited projects in parts of East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since 1967 – that are being used “as a political tool to modify the historical narrative and to support, legitimise and expand settlements”.

The report identified settler-run excavation sites in the heart of majority-Arab districts, a proposed cable car project with stops on confiscated land and the designation of built-up urban areas as national parks. “East Jerusalem is the only place where Israeli national parks are declared on populated neighbourhoods,” the report said. The document, a report written annually by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem, presented a bleak picture, saying the overall situation in the city and the prospects for peace had worsened. Marginalisation of Palestinians, who comprise about 37% of the city’s residents, continued unabated, with more than 130 building demolitions and the displacement of 228 people, it said.(theguardian)…[+]