Saudi rights official dismisses Khashoggi inquiry as foreign interference

FILE PHOTO: Turkish police forensic experts and plainclothes police officers stand at the entrance of a villa in the Samanli village of the Termal district in the northwestern province of Yalova, Turkey, November 26, 2018, as police search inside in relation to the investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the state-backed Saudi human rights commission dismissed an international investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as interference on Thursday, and said everyone accused was already facing justice in the kingdom.

Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban made the comments as Turkey’s Justice Ministry said Interpol had issued red notices – asking police worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition – for 20 people regarding Khashoggi’s death.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, provoking an international outcry.

In his remarks, the first substantive comments on the case by Saudi Arabia at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Aiban said those on trial for what he described both as an “unfortunate accident” and a “heinous crime” had attended three hearings so far with their lawyers present. He gave no names or other details.

Three dozen Western countries, including all 28 European Union members, called on the kingdom last week to cooperate with a U.N.-led investigation.

But Aiban said Saudi Arabia would not accept what he termed as foreign interference in its domestic affairs and judicial system.

“Justice in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates pursuant to international law and it does so in all transparency,” Aiban told the Geneva forum during a review of Saudi Arabia’s rights record.

“We are indeed horrified by what has happened pursuant to this unfortunate accident and we have taken those measures required for us to resolve this heinous crime,” added Aiban, who headed the official Saudi delegation at the hearing.

The Turkish Justice Ministry said it had requested Interpol red notices for 18 people on Nov. 15 and for two more on Dec. 21 without identifying the individuals. The notices were issued on March 1, it said.

Interpol declined to comment.

Ankara has repeatedly pressed Riyadh to reveal more details of the killing. It said earlier on Thursday that Saudi authorities should disclose the names of defendants and the charges they face if it wanted to avoid questions over the “sincerity of judicial proceedings in the kingdom”.

It also criticized Aiban’s rejection of any foreign investigation. “We find it difficult to understand why an official working in the area of human rights would possibly be unsettled by efforts to shed light on all aspects of the Khashoggi murder,” the Turkish presidency said.

Riyadh has rejected accusations by the CIA and some Western countries that the crown prince ordered the killing.

After making numerous contradictory statements, it said Khashoggi was killed after negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed – and later that 11 Saudis had been indicted and referred for trial over the case, without identifying them.

The public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five of them.

The killing has severely strained ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, although Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has good ties with the Saudi monarch, King Salman.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, Stephanie Nebehay and Orhan Coskun, Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Andrew Heavens and Frances Kerry)

Interpol approves membership for State of Palestine over Israeli objections

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Interpol voted on Wednesday to admit the State of Palestine as a member over Israeli objections at the international police organization’s general assembly in Beijing.

The decision came despite Israeli efforts to delay a vote and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the Palestinians’ joining the global police agency contravened signed agreements with Israel.

Israel had argued that Palestine is not a state and that it is ineligible to join. Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals, a Palestinian Authority was granted limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Shortly before the vote in the Chinese capital, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Israel’s efforts to delay the ballot until next year had failed.

“This victory was made possible because of the principled position of the majority of Interpol members,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.

Interpol said membership applications by the State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands were approved at its annual general assembly by more than the required two-thirds majority of votes. The organization now has 192 members.

A Palestinian bid to join last year, at an Interpol conference in Indonesia, was foiled by what Israel said was its diplomatic campaign against it.

In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the United Nations to “non-member state” from “entity”, like the Vatican.

The step fell short of full U.N. membership, but it had important legal implications in enabling the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court and other world bodies.

Netanyahu’s statement said Palestinian membership of Interpol was one of the issues discussed during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who is visiting the region.

Netanyahu also raised the Palestinian refusal to condemn an attack on Tuesday in which a Palestinian laborer shot dead three Israeli guards in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“The actions of the Palestinian leadership in the past few days directly harm the prospects of achieving peace and the Palestinian diplomatic offensive will not go unanswered,” the statement said.

Some Israeli media commentators have voiced concern that as an Interpol member, Palestine could ask the organization to issue a “Red Notice”, an alert to police worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest an individual, pending extradition.

But the procedure does not appear to pose serious legal problems for Israelis such as government officials and military officers whom pro-Palestinian groups have sought to have arrested by local authorities as suspected war criminals during overseas visits.

A red notice is not an international arrest warrant, and on its website Interpol notes that it cannot compel any member country to detain an individual named in one.

(Editing by Maayan Lubell and Mark Heinrich)

Merkel attacks Turkey’s ‘misuse’ of Interpol warrants

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, top candidate of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU), presents the new interactive election campaign ahead of the upcoming federal election in Berlin, Germany August 18, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Turkey’s use of an Interpol arrest warrant to detain a German writer in Spain, telling an election town hall event on Sunday that this amounted to abuse of the international police agency.

Dogan Akhanli was stopped in Spain on Saturday after Ankara issued a “red notice”. The German-Turkish writer was released on Sunday but must remain in Madrid while Spain assesses Turkey’s extradition request.

“It is not right and I’m very glad that Spain has now released him,” Merkel said. “We must not misuse international organisations like Interpol for such purposes.”

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have been under growing strain since last year’s failed military coup in Turkey. European-Turkish nationals are among the 50,000 people detained since then in what critics condemn as an indiscriminate crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Merkel has been more muted in her criticism of Erdogan than other German politicians, with critics charging her with being beholden to Erdogan because of Turkey’s role as a buffer against a renewed flood of Syrian war refugees arriving in Europe.

“(Dogan’s) is one of many cases, unfortunately,” Merkel said, in a sharpening of her tone toward Ankara. “That’s why we have massively changed our Turkish policy recently … because it’s quite unacceptable that Erdogan does this.”

On Saturday Erdogan urged Turks in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Germany’s “anti-Turkish” mainstream parties in next month’s parliamentary election, despite German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s warning he should keep out of German politics.

“Who are you to talk to the president of Turkey? Talk to Turkey’s foreign minister. Know your place,” Erdogan said at a rally for his AK Party in the southwestern province of Denizli.

European countries with large Turkish diasporas have grown increasingly uneasy at what they see as Ankara’s attempts to use ethnic Turkish populations to influence domestic politics.

“President Erdogan is trying to instrumentalise ethnic Turkish communities, especially in German and Austria,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz told Die Welt newspaper. “He polarises and brings Turkish conflicts into the EU.”

The final days before elections in the Netherlands this year were overshadowed by violent protests by local affiliates of Erdogan’s party. German security officials have expressed concern about a possible repetition in Germany.

Interpol did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Merkel’s remarks.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin and Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Jon Boyle and Sandra Maler)

German critic of Turkey’s Erdogan arrested in Spain

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters in Trabzon, Turkey, August 8, 2017. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) – German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli was arrested in Spain on Saturday after Turkey issued an Interpol warrant for the writer, a critic of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

The arrest of the German national was part of a “targeted hunt against critics of the Turkish government living abroad in Europe,” Akhanli’s lawyer Ilias Uyar told the magazine.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been increasingly strained in the aftermath of last year’s failed coup in Turkey as Turkish authorities have sacked or suspended 150,000 people and detained more than 50,000, including other German nationals.

Spanish police arrested Akhanli on Saturday in the city of Granada, Der Spiegel reported. Any country can issue an Interpol “red notice”, but extradition by Spain would only follow if Ankara could convince Spanish courts it had a real case against him.

Akhanli, detained in the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey for opposition activities, including running a leftist newspaper, fled Turkey in 1991 and has lived and worked in the German city of Cologne since 1995.

On Friday, Erdogan urged the three million or so people of Turkish background living in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in September’s general election by voting against her. That drew stinging rebukes from across the German political spectrum.

Calls to the German foreign ministry regarding the arrest of Akhanli were not immediately returned.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Interpol ‘issues red notice’ for North Koreans in murder mystery

The cover of a Chinese magazine features a portrait of Kim Jong Nam, the late half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a news agent in Beijing, China February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Interpol has issued a red notice, the closest to an international arrest warrant, for four North Koreans wanted in connection with the murder of Kim Jong Nam, Malaysia’s police chief said on Thursday.

The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was murdered on Feb. 13, when Malaysian police say two women – an Indonesian and a Vietnamese – smeared super toxic VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The two women were charged with murder earlier this month, but police are looking for seven North Korean suspects in connection with the killing, including four who are believed to have made their way back to Pyongyang.

Police requested Interpol’s help to apprehend the suspects last month.

“We have obtained a red notice for the four North Korean nationals who were at the airport on the day of the incident and who have since left… we are hoping to get them through Interpol,” police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters.

An Interpol red notice is a request to find and provisionally arrest someone pending extradition.

The murder has resulted in a diplomatic meltdown between two countries with once strong ties.

North Korea has questioned the Malaysian investigation into the murder and refused to acknowledge that the man murdered is Kim Jong Nam.

Speaking at the North Korean embassy in Beijing at an unusual and hastily arranged news conference, diplomat Pak Myong Ho blamed the United States and South Korea.

“The recent incident that occurred in Malaysia was clearly a political scheme by the U.S. and South Korea aimed at hurting the DPRK’s reputation and overthrowing the DPRK regime,” Pak said, using the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The only parties that will benefit from this incident are the enemy countries,” Pak told a hand-picked audience of reporters in a small, sparsely decorated room inside the embassy.

At the time of the killing, Kim was carrying a diplomatic passport bearing another name, but Malaysian authorities said on Wednesday Kim Jong Nam’s identity had been confirmed using DNA samples taken from one of his children.

Malaysia has also refused demands by the North Korean government for Kim Jong Nam’s body to be released, saying that the remains can only be handed over to the next-of-kin under local laws. No family member has come forward to claim the body.

State news agency Bernama, quoting Malaysian deputy police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim, said on Thursday that the family had given consent for Malaysia to manage Kim Jong Nam’s remains. Noor Rashid did not say when or where the consent was given.

Kim Jong Nam had been living in the Chinese territory of Macau under Beijing’s protection after the family went into exile several years ago. He had been known to speak out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea.

A man claiming to be the son of Kim Jong Nam appeared in video footage last week, saying he was lying low with his mother and sister.

An official at South Korea’s National Intelligence Service confirmed the man in the video was Kim Han Sol, the 21-year-old son of Kim Jong Nam.

Malaysia is one of the few countries outside China that has for decades maintained ties with North Korea.

But as relations soured, Malaysia recalled its envoy from Pyongyang and expelled the North Korean ambassador.

North Korea then barred nine Malaysians – three diplomats and their six family members – from leaving the country, prompting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to describe the action as “hostage” taking. The Southeast Asian country followed with a tit-for-tat action stopping North Koreans from leaving.

Najib told reporters Malaysia will begin formal negotiations with North Korea “when the time is right”, clarifying previous reports saying that talks between the two countries had begun on Monday.

(Reporting by Nguyen Ha Minh and Joseph Sipalan; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing, and Christine Kim in Seoul; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Malaysia requests Interpol alert on four North Koreans over airport murder

Kim Jong Nam arrives at Beijing airport in Beijing, China, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 11, 2007. Picture taken February 11, 2007. Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia has requested Interpol to put an alert out to apprehend four North Korean suspects in the murder of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Malaysia’s police chief said on Thursday.

Kim Jong Nam, who was killed in Kuala Lumpur’s main airport on Feb. 13, had spoken out publicly in the past against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed state.

South Korean and U.S. officials say he was assassinated by North Korean agents. North Korea has not acknowledged his death.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the two women – one Vietnamese, one Indonesian – arrested last week had been paid for carrying out the fatal assault on Kim Jong Nam using a fast-acting poison.

He declined to say if they had been used by a foreign intelligence agency.

Police are also holding one North Korean man, but are seeking another seven in connection with the murder.

Hyon Kwang Song, a second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Kim Uk Il, an employee of state-owned airline Air Koryo, are among three North Koreans wanted for questioning who are still believed to be in Malaysia.

Khalid told reporters that a request had been made to Interpol to put out an alert to apprehend the other four, who are believed to have made their way back to North Korea, having fled Malaysia on the day of the killing..

Khalid said a police request has been sent to the North Korean embassy requesting to interview the diplomat and airline employee.

“If you have nothing to hide, you should not be afraid to cooperate, you should cooperate,” Khalid said.

He said an arrest warrant would not be issued for the embassy official, as he has diplomatic immunity, but that “the process of the law will take place” if the airline official does not come forward.

Earlier on Thursday, an official from the North Korea embassy in Kuala Lumpur said no formal request to interview either man had been received, and he did not respond when asked if the embassy would cooperate should it receive one.

Meantime, Indonesia has sought consular access to Siti Aishah, the Indonesian woman held in detention.

“I have instructed our foreign minister to provide assistance…and protection to Siti Aishah through a lawyer. So there can be some clarity on whether or not she is a victim,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in Jakarta.

DIPLOMATIC ROW

A friendship between Malaysia and North Korea, going back to the 1970s, has soured in the wake of Kim Jong Nam’s murder.

North Korea unsuccessfully tried to prevent an autopsy, accusing Malaysia of working with South Korean and other “hostile forces.”

Malaysia responded by recalling its ambassador to Pyongyang for consultations.

North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur has said the Malaysian investigation cannot be trusted, and that the three suspects that have been detained should be released immediately.

And on Thursday, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported that Pyongyang blamed Malaysia for its citizen’s death and accused it of adopting an “unfriendly attitude”.

The KCNA report only referred to the murder victim as a “citizen”, as Pyongyang rejects reports that it is the half brother of the country’s leader.

Malaysian police have still to receive DNA samples from Kim Jong Nam’s next of kin, Khalid said. He also denied that Malaysian police officers had been sent to Macau, the Chinese territory where Kim Jong Nam and his family had been living under Beijing’s protection.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Interpol Seeks The “White Widow”

A British woman is being sought by Interpol on charges of possessing explosives in 2011 but is widely suspected as being a part of the terrorist attacks on a Kenyan shopping mall last week.

Samantha Lewthwaite, 29, was married to one of the four homicide bombers who launched an attack in London on July 7, 2005. Nicknamed the “white widow,” she has been closely linked to the al-Qaeda related terrorist organization al-Shabab. That group claimed responsibility for the Kenyan mall attack. Continue reading