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UN tribunal: Hezbollah member guilty in Rafik Hariri killing | News

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A United Nations-backed tribunal has found a member of the Lebanese group Hezbollah guilty of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a massive bomb blast in 2005. 

While Salim Ayyash was convicted, the three other Hezbollah suspects were cleared of the charges on Tuesday.

The verdict by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) – an international court based near The Hague, Netherlands – came more than 15 years after Hariri was killed on February 14, 2005, along with 21 others in the huge explosion in the capital, Beirut.

“We accept the verdict of the tribunal and want justice to be implemented,” said former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, adding that he wants “just punishment” for the criminals.

Hariri said those who assassinated his father aimed to “change the face of Lebanon and its system and its civilised identity” and said there will be “no compromise” on this matter.

The four members of Iran-backed militia and political party Hezbollah were accused of organising and carrying out the attack, although the group was not formally charged and it denied any involvement.

The four – Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra, Hassan Oneissi, and Hassan Habib Merhi – were tried in absentia as Hezbollah refused to disclose their whereabouts.

Ayyash used a mobile phone identified by prosecutors as critical in the attack, a judge said.

The STL is “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” the evidence showed that Ayyash used the phone, Judge Micheline Braidy said, reading a summary of the 2,600-page verdict.

However, prosecutors provided insufficient evidence to prove the three others were accomplices, said Judge Janet Nosworthy.

‘Designed to cause fear’

Presiding Judge David Re said the evidence was largely based on mobile phone network data with the suspects accused of tracking Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack, and the phones going “dark” after the blast. 

Judge Nosworthy said four different networks of mobile phones “were interconnected and coordinated with each other, and operated as covert networks at the relevant times”.

The court found the killing was politically motivated in an “act of terrorism designed to cause fear in the Lebanese population”.

“The tribunal has found beyond a reasonable doubt that a suicide bomber triggered the blast,” said Re, reading out the verdict.

The assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political factions.

Syrian forces, which were based in Lebanon for more than 40 years, were forced to withdraw from the country as many Lebanese blamed Damascus for the killing.

The government of Bashar al-Assad has denied any involvement. 

The tribunal exonerated the leadership of Hezbollah and Syria citing a lack of evidence. 

“The trial chamber is of the view that Syria and Hezbollah may have had motives to eliminate Mr Hariri and some of his political allies,” said Re.

“However, there was no evidence Hezbollah’s leadership had any involvement in Mr Hariri’s murder, and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement in it.”

According to Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, the verdict “indirectly points the finger at Hezbollah”. The UN court is not allowed to indict countries, governments or organisations, but can only issue verdicts on individuals, she said.

It is not clear, however, what will be the ruling’s real consequences, Khodr explained.

Following the UN tribunal’s decision, Lebanon should hand over suspect Salim Ayyash, but the government, where Hezbollah and its allies hold political power, is not expected to do so.

The group’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, has repeatedly said he would never hand over any member of the movement, insisting last week on the innocence of the suspects and describing the tribunal as a conspiracy against the group.

If the case is then referred to the UN Security Council, its internal division would make it impossible to implement the verdict.

“So the question is,” said Khodr, “will Lebanon’s international relations be affected taking into account that Hezbollah and its allies control political power? Or will this open the door to some sort of compromise between Hezbollah and the former PM Hariri who is now in the opposition and a possible candidate to head the next government?”

‘Go after the leadership’ 

Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, said the tribunal did not shed new light on the killing, but was noteworthy for being the first trial of its kind to rely entirely on “cell site analysis” as evidence.

He noted after all the time and money spent, only mid to low-level perpetrators were convicted in the assassination.

“If you go back to the beginning of the trial, in the opening speech of the prosecutor there was a reference to the Syrian regime, so there was an attempt to implicate the Assad regime and to go after the leadership. Unfortunately, whether it is a lack of independent evidence to produce such a link is anyone’s guess,” Cadman told Al Jazeera.

“From the outside perspective, there would have been more satisfaction after close to $1bn spent that it would have gone after those who actually ordered it.”

Initially, five suspects were identified – all Hezbollah members. Charges against one of the group’s top military commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, were dropped after he was killed in Syria in 2016.

Ayyash’s sentence will be handed down at a later date. The UN-backed court has no death penalty and maximum jail sentences are life imprisonment.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema

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When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.

Background

Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded

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The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      





Source – observer.ug

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19

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Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  





Source – observer.ug

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