China says detained former Canadian diplomat does not have diplomatic immunity

BEIJING (Reuters) – Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, being held in China on suspicion of endangering national security, is not entitled to diplomatic immunity, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday chastised China over the detention of two Canadians following the arrest of a senior Chinese executive at the request of the United States.

Trudeau also accused China of “not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity” in one of the cases.

Asked about Trudeau’s comments, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the “relevant Canadian person” should “earnestly study” the Vienna Convention before speaking, so as to “not become a laughing stock”.

“No matter how you look at it, Michael Kovrig does not have diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention,” she said.

Kovrig is not now serving as a diplomat and had entered China on his most recent trip on a regular passport and business visa, she said.

Kovrig was one of two Canadians detained in China days after the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL], in Vancouver, at the request of the United States.

The other Canadian held in China is businessman Michael Spavor.

China has not directly linked its arrest of the two Canadians with Meng’s arrest in Canada. It says the two men are being investigated in accordance with Chinese law.

But Beijing-based Western diplomats have called the detentions a clear reprisal for Meng’s arrest and have said the two are “political hostages” being used as leverage by Beijing.

Huawei, the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment, has become the focus of intense scrutiny by Western countries concerned about its relationship with the Chinese government.

The United States has suggested the company’s equipment could be used by Chinese authorities for spying.

U.S. authorities allege Meng deceived international banks into clearing transactions with Iran by claiming that two companies that did business with Iran were independent of Huawei.

However, corporate filings and other documents found by Reuters in Iran and Syria show that Huawei is closely linked to both firms.

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Cockpit voice recorder found from crashed Lion Air plane

Ridwan Djamaluddin, a deputy maritime minister, told reporters that the National Transportation Safety Committee had informed the ministry about the discovery.

He said human remains were also discovered at the seabed location.

The two-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta on October 29, killing all 189 people on board.

The crash was the world’s first of a Boeing 737 MAX jet and the deadliest of 2018.

The cockpit voice recorder is one of the two so-called black boxes crucial for the investigation of a plane crash.

The other black box, the flight data recorder, was recovered three days after the crash.

Investigators brought in a navy ship last week for a fresh search after a 10-day effort funded by Lion Air failed to find the recorder.

Boeing did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Monday.

A preliminary report by Indonesia’s transport safety commission focused on airline maintenance and training, as well as the response of a Boeing anti-stall system and a recently replaced sensor, but did not give a cause for the crash.

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Leftist militant Battisti extradited to Italy after arrest in Bolivia

MILAN (Reuters) – Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti, convicted of murder and on the run for almost four decades after escaping prison, was extradited to Italy after being arrested in Bolivia, officials said on Sunday.

His extradition was confirmed in a statement from the Brazilian government, where Battisti lived for several years until recently fleeing to Bolivia.

Battisti, 64, was arrested on Saturday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra by an Interpol team.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Italy for involvement in four murders in the 1970s as a member of the far-left Armed Proletarians for Communism.

After escaping in 1981, he lived in France before fleeing to Brazil to avoid extradition. Battisti, who has a 5-year-old Brazilian son, lived in Brazil with the support of former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

However, the far-right Bolsonaro, who took office this month, pledged to return Battisti to Italy. In December, a Brazilian Supreme Court judge ordered Battisti’s arrest, but by then he had vanished again.

Battisti’s lawyers in Brazil filed an emergency motion on Sunday to try to stay his extradition, but the president of the country’s Supreme Court, Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, denied it.

Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero told reporters Battisti had been found on the streets after entering Bolivia illegally.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini thanked Bolsonaro and the new Brazilian government “with all my heart for the changed political climate”.

Salvini, head of the right-wing League party that partners the 5-Star Movement in Italy’s ruling coalition, was one of the first top European politicians to endorse Bolsonaro.

Battisti, who became a successful crime novel writer, said last year that he feared he would be tortured and killed if he were sent back to Italy.

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Morocco's Amazigh want their new year to become official holiday

RABAT (Reuters) – Hundreds of people gathered in Morocco’s capital Rabat late on Saturday to mark the start of the Amazigh new year with a sit-in calling on the state to make the celebration a national holiday.

Home to North Africa’s biggest Amazigh, or Berber, population, Morocco long marginalised its language and culture in favour of Arabic and French, giving rise to an Amazigh identity movement which has steadily gained influence.

Demands of the Amazigh movement featured prominently in 2011 protests which led to Morocco adopting a constitution and the Moroccan monarch to devolve some of his power to an elected government.

“This day is an occasion to highlight our strong attachment to the land and pay tribute to those who defended our freedom,” Adil Adasko, an Amazigh civil society leader, told the rally.

The first day of the year in the Amazigh calendar, rooted in seasons and agriculture, marks the anniversary of the ascent of Libyan King Sheshong to the throne of Egypt, according to historians. The new year which begins on Sunday is year 2969.

Morocco recognised Amazigh as an official language only with the new constitution in 2011. Eight years on, parliament has yet to enact the legislation required to establish its use in education and public life, and activists accuse the government of dragging its feet.

Last week, 143 out of a total of 395 members of parliament submitted a motion to Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani asking for the Amazigh new year to be recognised as a national day, a step already taken by neighbouring Algeria.

Government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said Othmani was studying the issue.

The Amazigh movement has also played a role in protests in some of Morocco’s marginalised areas, including demonstrations over economic and social grievances in the Rif region in 2016 and last year in the Souss region.

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Trump avoids direct answer over ties with Russia

US President Donald Trump has avoided giving a direct answer when asked if he currently is or has ever worked for Russia.

A published report shows federal law enforcement officials were so concerned about Mr Trump’s behaviour after he fired James Comey from the FBI that they began investigating whether he had been working for the US adversary against American interests.

Mr Trump said it was the “most insulting” question he had ever been asked.

The New York Times report cited unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

Mr Trump responded to the report during an interview broadcast on the Fox News Channel after host Jeanine Pirro, who is also a personal friend of the president, asked whether he is currently or has ever worked for Russia.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Mr Trump said. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”

Mr Trump never answered Ms Pirro’s question directly, but went on to say that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has.

“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other … probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”

The New York Times reported that FBI agents and some top officials became suspicious of Mr Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign but did not open an investigation at that time because they were not sure how to approach such a sensitive and important probe, according to the unnamed officials.

But Mr Trump’s behaviour in the days around Mr Comey’s May 2017 firing as FBI director, specifically two instances in which he seemed to tie Mr Comey’s ousting to the Russia investigation, helped trigger the counter-intelligence part of the investigation, according to the newspaper.

In the inquiry, counter-intelligence investigators sought to evaluate whether Mr Trump was a potential threat to national security. They also sought to determine whether Mr Trump was deliberately working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.

Mr Trump tweeted early on Saturday that the report showed that the FBI leadership “opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof” after he had fired Mr Comey.

Robert Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel soon after Mr Comey’s firing. The overall investigation is looking into Russian election interference and whether Mr Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with the Russians, as well as possible obstruction of justice by Mr Trump.

Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the New York Times he had no knowledge of the inquiry but said that since it was opened a year-and-a-half ago and they had not heard anything, apparently “they found nothing”.

Mr Trump has also repeatedly and vociferously denied collusion with the Russians.

  • Read more: FBI investigated whether Trump worked for Russia after Comey firing

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France’s ‘yellow vests’ accused of attacking journalists covering their protests

French media and reporters’ organisations on Sunday denounced attacks on journalists by “yellow vest” anti-government protesters and called for better protection after a series of incidents this weekend.

Paris police fired water cannon and tear gas to push back demonstrators from around the Arc de Triomphe monument on Saturday, in the ninth straight weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms.

Journalists covering the protests are increasingly becoming a target for the demonstrators.

In the western city of Rouen, LCI television reporters were attacked by a group of protesters. One of the security agents working with the TV crew was beaten while he was on the ground and had his nose broken, with footage of the incident widely shared on social media.

In Paris, an LCI reporter was pushed to the ground as demonstrators tried to take away her camera, the station said, adding that it will take legal action against the attackers.

Several other stations, including BFM TV and franceinfo, on Sunday showed images of reporters being hassled or pushed around during Saturday’s “yellow vest” marches.

Reporters without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire called on authorities to take action.

“This is anti-democratic blackmail from people who consider they can beat up journalists if they disagree with the way events are covered,” he said on France Info radio.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on his Twitter feed that anyone attacking reporters will be brought to justice.

“In our democracy, the press is free … attacking journalists is attacking the right to inform,” he said.

France has been rocked by yellow vest protests against Macron’s reforms since the middle of November in a movement that has no designated leaders and is not linked to political parties or unions.

Started as a protest against high fuel prices, the movement has morphed into a fight for social justice and more direct democracy. Several demonstrations have degenerated into violent clashes with police.

Over the coming week, Macron will launch three months of national debate to air yellow-vest grievances in the hope of appeasing the movement, which has undermined his authority and upended his reform drive.

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Human Rights Watch calls for sanctions against new Afghan defense minister

KABUL (Reuters) – International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged major donors to impose sanctions on Afghanistan’s newly appointed acting defense minister over alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.

President Ashraf Ghani’s decision last month to appoint the fiercely anti-Taliban Asadullah Khalid prompted an outcry from human rights organizations which accuse him of being involved in assassinations, torture and illicit drug business while serving as governor of Ghazni and later of southern Kandahar in 2005 and 2008.

“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Saturday.

Brad Adams, Asia Director at HRW called on donors including the United States and Canada to impose sanctions on Khalid, freeze his assets and ban him from entry.

“The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable,” he said.

Khalid, , who barely survived a Taliban suicide attack shortly he took over the National Directorate for Security in 2012, denies the charges and says they are politically motivated.

An uncompromising opponent of the Taliban, Khalid accuses Pakistan of aiding the insurgent group, which Pakistan denies.

His appointment and that of fellow Taliban critic Amrullah Saleh as interior minister come amid growing momentum in talks between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives, who have resisted U.S. pressure to include Ghani’s government.

Critics say Khalid’s appointment will only complicate peace efforts after 17 years of conflict. It has also fueled accusations that Ghani was trying to neutralize potential opponents by bringing them onto his side ahead of the election.

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21 miners die as coal mine roof collapses in China

A total of 87 workers were underground in the Shaanxi province mine at the time of the accident on Saturday afternoon, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Sixty-six of those have been safely evacuated, the city government said.

The cause of the accident at the site, run by Baiji Mining, is under investigation.

Deadly mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record despite efforts to improve coal production conditions and crack down on illegal mines.

In December last year, seven miners were killed and three others injured in an accident at a coal mine in China’s southwest.

In October, 21 miners died in eastern Shandong province after pressure inside a mine caused rocks to fracture and break, blocking the tunnel and trapping workers. Only one miner was rescued alive.

According to China’s National Coal Mine Safety Administration, the country saw 375 coal mining related deaths in 2017, down 28.7% year-on-year.

But despite improvements “the situation of coal mine safety production is still grim”, the bureau said in a statement following a coal mine safety conference last January.

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Woman faces numerous charges after Peel police officer injured in Mississauga

A 27-year-old woman is facing numerous charges after a Peel police officer was injured during a stolen vehicle investigation in Mississauga Friday afternoon.

Police said officers were investigating a stolen Jeep Wrangler in a parking lot in the area of Tomken Road and Eglinton Avenue when a woman, who was driving the vehicle, attempted to evade police.

Authorities allege the woman crashed into a police officer, two police cruisers and a white cube truck before being arrested.

The male officer who was struck suffered only minor injuries to his lower body and was taken to hospital.

Police said the suspect was also injured and taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, but did not specify how her injuries occurred.

Officers also fired shots during the incident, though no one was hit.

A crashed black Jeep could be seen in the area with significant damage and bullet holes in the windshield.

Michelle Garcia-Arguello, of Toronto, is facing 10 charges in relation to the incident.

The charges include one count of possession of stolen property, two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, one count of flight from police and one count of breach of probation.

Garcia-Arguello was scheduled to appear in a Brampton court on Saturday for a bail hearing.

Bullet holes could be seen in the windshield of this Jeep.

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Person dead after being hit by car near Polo Park, say Winnipeg Police

A person is dead after being hit by a vehicle near Polo Park Friday afternoon, say Winnipeg police.

The accident happened in the late afternoon Friday on Maroons Road between St. James Street and Cactus Jack Place.

A witness tells 680CJOB the victim was a girl, however, that information has not been confirmed.

Police had the road closed late into the evening, and a small white car was seen on the back of a flat bed truck.

Winnipeg police are holding a press conference at 11 a.m. and more information will be released then.

 

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