- - Wednesday, August 4, 2010

EGYPT

‘Palestinian factions’ blamed for rockets

CAIRO | Egypt said Wednesday that “Palestinian factions” were behind this week’s rocket attacks on Israel and Jordan, apparently implying that the rockets were fired from the Sinai Peninsula.

“An official Egyptian source said Palestinian factions from the [Hamas-controlled] Gaza Strip were behind the launch of five rockets on Aqaba and Eilat on Monday,” the MENA news agency reported.

The unnamed official said the findings were based on “preliminary investigations” but did not elaborate on the groups.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“Egypt will never, under any circumstances, tolerate the use of its lands by any party to harm the country’s interests,” the news agency quoted the official as saying.

“Security efforts are being intensified to unravel the circumstances behind the firing of the five rockets,” the official said.

In Gaza City, senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil denied that the militant movement had fired the rockets. “The accusation that Hamas was behind the launch of these rockets is a lie,” he said in a statement.

“We demand that the Egyptian leadership investigate these [accusations], which provide a justification for the [Israeli] occupation to condemn Egypt and strike the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.

SUDAN

Darfur rebels want accord or self-rule

KHARTOUM | Darfur’s most active rebel group said Wednesday that it would demand self-determination for the devastated Sudanese region if conflict with the government continues, a spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

Justice and Equality Movement spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam said the group, which withdrew from peace talks with Khartoum in May after renewed clashes with the military, said self-determination would be at the “center of our demands.”

“If there is no political horizon, if the genocide continues, if the government keeps denying human rights, democracy and rule of law, then we will have no other choice than to ask for self-determination for Darfur and Kordofan,” he said.

“Self-determination means either unity on a new basis or independence,” he added without detailing what he meant by the first option.

Darfur was an independent sultanate from the 17th century until 1916.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir faces an international warrant on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur, where the United Nations says 300,000 have died since the war began in 2003. Khartoum says 10,000 died in the conflict.

The conflict began after rebels took up arms against Khartoum, complaining of discrimination against ethnic groups in the western region, but they did not ask for self-rule.

SOUTH AFRICA

5 deaths raise worry of vigilante justice

JOHANNESBURG | Angry mobs killed at least five men accused of stealing clothes and electric cables in two separate incidents in South Africa, police said Wednesday.

Vigilantes in the eastern town of Mthatha beat two men to death Tuesday night after one was spotted wearing clothes that a community member said had been stolen from a local residence, police said.

In an informal settlement on the southern outskirts of Johannesburg, a mob burned three men to death early Wednesday after accusing them of stealing electric cable from local residents and causing blackouts in the area, police said.

The incidents have drawn attention to the persistent problem of vigilante justice in South Africa, which has some of the highest crime rates in the world.

The national police service found in its 2008-09 annual report that vigilantism was the cause of 5 percent of the country’s nearly 50 homicides a day.

“The broader public’s levels of tolerance with regard to the incidence of crime have reached breaking point,” the report said.

But police on Wednesday urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands.

“We strongly condemn this case of murder, because we don’t encourage this mob justice,” Mthatha police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela said. “We want to send a strong message to the community: They should not take the law into their hands.”

SUDAN

19 men lashed for dressing as women

KHARTOUM | A court on Wednesday sentenced 19 young Muslim men to 30 lashes and a fine for breaking moral codes by wearing women’s clothes and makeup, a case exposing Sudanese sensitivity toward homosexuality.

Many of the defendants tried to hide their faces from the nearly 200 people who watched as they were lashed right after their sentencing. The men had no attorneys present and said nothing in their own defense.

The trial judge said police had raided a party thrown by the 19 men and found them dancing “in a womanly fashion,” wearing women’s clothes and makeup. He said the party was videotaped and that one woman who was present had fled the scene.

The defendants were charged with violating Sudan’s public morality codes.

Local newspapers reported that the party was held to celebrate a same-sex wedding, propelling it into a talking point all over Khartoum’s conservative Muslim society.

The court on Wednesday made no mention of a marriage ceremony.

One lawyer present, who declined to be named, said legal advocates would have been afraid to take on such a defense.

“These people did not get a chance for justice,” he said. “Public opinion and the media prejudged them, and lawyers were too scared to come and defend them.”

Islamic Shariah law has been weaved into Sudan’s legal code and was a sticking point in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Khartoum’s Islamists and the mostly Christian and animist southern rebels.

The south was exempted from Shariah, but it still applies in Khartoum, where many non-Muslims live. Khartoum’s women’s jail is filled with southern non-Muslims convicted of manufacturing or selling alcohol.

UGANDA

Court issues warrant for opposition leader

KAMPALA | Uganda issued an arrest warrant against a senior opposition leader who failed to appear in court to defend himself against sedition charges, the public prosecutor said Wednesday.

Former U.N. Undersecretary-General Olara Otunnu in April told a radio program that President Yoweri Museveni covertly supported the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.

“This arrest warrant arises out of that radio show. He offered statements that we thought were seditious,” Jane Kajuga, a spokeswoman for Uganda’s public prosecutor, told Agence France-Presse.

“He not only said government deliberately prolonged the war in the north, but went ahead and accused the president and his private secretary of giving money and equipment to the rebels.”

The Lord’s Resistance Army is accused of kidnapping and killing tens of thousands in several African countries.

After making the comments, Mr. Otunnu was charged with sedition and promoting sectarianism and was expected to appear Tuesday to defend himself.

After he did not turn up, the judge called for his arrest.

Otunnu spokesman Robert Kanusu told Agence France-Presse that the presidential candidate was in the United States doing mobilization work for the Uganda People’s Congress party that he now leads.

Mr. Otunnu is due back soon and could be arrested when he lands, Mr. Kanusu said.

“That’s what this warrant implies, that they will arrest him when he arrives. But these charges are simply meant to intimidate and humiliate him,” Mr. Kanusu said.

Mr. Otunnu served as foreign minister in the regime toppled by Mr. Museveni in January 1986. After Mr. Museveni captured power, Mr. Otunnu spent more than two decades in self-imposed exile.

He returned to Uganda last August to join to the opposition’s campaign to unseat Mr. Museveni in general elections next year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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