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Comoros ex-president Sambi jailed for life for ‘high treason’

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Former Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi (2nd R), escorted by Gendarmes, arrives at the courthouse in Moroni on November 21, 2022. – Sambi, who served as president from 2006-2011 and is the main opponent of current leader Azali Assoumani, has been held under house arrest since May 2018.
Sambi was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.
Three months later he was placed under pre-trial detention for embezzlement, corruption and forgery, over a scandal involving the sale of Comorian passports to stateless people living in Gulf nations. (Photo by Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP)

A court in the Comoros on Monday handed down a life sentence for high treason to ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who was convicted of selling passports to stateless people living in the Gulf.

Sambi, 64, an arch-rival of President Azali Assoumani, was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose rulings cannot be appealed.

“He betrayed the mission entrusted to him by the Comorians,” public prosecutor Ali Mohamed Djounaid told the court last week as he requested a life sentence.

Sambi, who led the small Indian Ocean archipelago between 2006 and 2011, pushed through a law in 2008 allowing the sale of passports for high fees.

The scheme aimed at the so-called bidoon — an Arab minority numbering in the tens of thousands who cannot obtain citizenship.

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The former president was accused of embezzling millions of dollars under the scheme.

The prosecution said the cost was more than $1.8 billion — more than the impoverished nation’s GDP.

“They gave thugs the right to sell Comorian nationality as if they were selling peanuts,” said Eric Emmanuel Sossa, a lawyer for civilian plaintiffs.

But Sambi’s French lawyer Jean-Gilles Halimi said “no evidence” of missing money or bank accounts had been put forward to suggest a crime.

Sambi refused to attend the trial after a brief appearance at the first hearing, as his lawyers said there were no guarantees he would be judged fairly.

He was originally prosecuted for corruption, but the charges were reclassified as high treason, a crime that “does not exist in Comorian law,” Halimi said.

Sambi had already spent four years behind bars before he faced trial, far exceeding the maximum eight months. He was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.

Guardian

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Putin threatened me with missile strike — Boris Johnson

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Former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

Former British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in an “extraordinary” phone call in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The then-prime minister said Mr Putin told him it “would only take a minute”. Mr Johnson said the comment was made after he warned the war would be an “utter catastrophe”.

The claim is made in a BBC documentary on Mr Putin’s interactions with world leaders over the years. However, the Kremlin spokesman said it was a “lie”.

Mr Johnson warned Mr Putin that invading Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions and more NATO troops on Russia’s borders. He also tried to deter Russian military action by telling Mr Putin that Ukraine would not join Nato “for the foreseeable future”.

But Mr Johnson said: “He threatened me at one point, and he said, “Boris, I don’t want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute’ or something like that. Jolly.

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“But I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate.”

President Putin had been “very familiar” during the “most extraordinary call”, Mr Johnson said.

However, no reference to the exchange appeared in accounts of the call given by both Downing Street and the Kremlin.

However, given previous Russian attacks on the UK – most recently in Salisbury in 2018 – any threat from the Russian leader, however lightly delivered, is probably one Mr Johnson would have had no choice but to take seriously.

In his response, Mr Putin’s spokesman said the former prime minister’s claim was “either a deliberate falsehood, in which case you need to ask Mr Johnson why he lied, or it was not a deliberate lie. That is, he didn’t understand what President Putin was saying to him”.

“There were no threats to use missiles,” Dmitry Peskov told the BBC.

Nine days after Mr Johnson’s conversation with President Putin, on 11 February, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace flew to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu.

The BBC documentary Putin Vs the West reveals Mr Wallace left with assurances that Russia would not invade Ukraine, but he said both sides knew it was a lie.

He described it as a “demonstration of bullying or strength, which is: I’m going to lie to you, you know I’m lying and I know you know I’m lying and I’m still going to lie to you.

He said the “fairly chilling, but direct lie” had confirmed his belief that Russia would invade.

As he left the meeting, he said Gen Valery Gerasimov – Russia’s chief of general staff – told him “never again will we be humiliated”.

Another significant encounter in the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was with CIA director William Burns, who landed in Moscow on 2 November 2021.

Mr Burns had been circling the Russian capital for hours, as heavy fog prevented his landing, but when he finally arrived at the Kremlin he discovered Mr Putin was not there. Instead, he was sheltering in the southern Russian city of Sochi amid a spike in Covid infections.

The pair spoke over the phone.

The CIA director said he was direct in laying out the message President Biden had sent him to deliver: the US knew what Mr Putin was up to and he would pay a heavy price if he launched such an invasion.

He said the Russian president did not deny planning was underway and listed grievances about Ukraine and the West.

“I was troubled before I arrived in Moscow. And I was even more troubled after I left,” Mr Burns added.

Less than a fortnight after the UK defence secretary left Moscow, as tanks rolled over the border on 24 February, Mr Johnson received a phone call in the middle of the night from President Zelensky.

“Zelensky’s very, very calm,” Mr Johnson recalled. “But, he tells me, you know, they’re attacking everywhere.”

Mr Johnson says he offered to help move the president to safety.

“He doesn’t take me up on that offer. He heroically stayed where he was.”

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Peshawar: 32 dead, 150 wounded in large explosion at Pakistan mosque

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At least 32 people have died and around 150 are wounded after a suicide bomb attack on a mosque located in Peshawar’s Police Lines area during Monday afternoon prayers.

Witnesses say the attacker walked to the front row of the mosque before detonating a suicide vest, with the force of the blast causing the roof of the building to collapse.

Many of the victims were police officers, with the mosque located inside a highly fortified compound that includes a counter-terror department and the provincial police headquarters.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for what officials said was likely a targeted attack on the security forces and one of the worst suicide bombings in recent years, although the Pakistani Taliban have been blamed for similar suicide attacks in the past.

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif described the incident as a suicide attack and called on members of his Pakistan Muslim League (N) party livinng in Peshawar to donate blood.

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Officials gave varying tolls for the number of worshippers inside the mosque at the time of the explosion, ranging from 260 to around 350. A hospital official told the Reuters news agency that 147 wounded had been taken for treatment, and that some of them were in critical condition.

Spokesperson Mohammad Asim said the Lady Reading Hospital of Peshawar was taking in the majority of the victims and that the area has been cordoned off with only ambulances allowed to enter.

The blast took place at 1.40pm, according to local media outlets.

A survivor, 38-year-old police officer Meena Gul, said he was inside the mosque when the bomb went off. He said he could hear cries and screams after the bomb exploded.

A photograph published in local media showed people gathered around the collapsed wall of the mosque.

Another video shared on Twitter by Khurram Iqbal, a reporter with local TV channel Hum News, showed chaotic scenes outside the mosque with scores of people surrounding the area as a bulldozer entered a narrow lane.

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Reacting to the reports, Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan expressed his condolences for the victims and called for improvements to the country’s intelligence gathering to prevent such attacks.

“Strongly condemn the terrorist suicide attack in Police Lines mosque Peshawar during prayers,” the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party chief wrote on Twitter. “My prayers & condolences go to victims families.”

“It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering & properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism.”

This is only the latest in a series of incidents of a deadly bombing in Pakistan, which has been a target of terror groups for decades. The country has witnessed a particular surge in militant attacks since November last year, when the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire with government forces.

A recent report by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies (PICSS) stated that in 2022 alone, the South Asian nation witnessed 376 terror attacks, in which 533 people were killed.

Last year, a suicide blast inside a Shia mosque in Peshawar’s Kocha Risaldar area killed 63 people.

independent.co.uk

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Russian/Ukraine war: Vladimir Putin sends 100 strippers to front line to boost morale of Russian soldiers

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has ordered strippers and pole dancers to be sent to the front line in a move to cheer up his troops and boost morale.

The move comes as the Kremlin announces a medal for all Russian soldiers which have deployed in what he calls the “special military operation”.

Senior commanders have been ordered to organise the entertainment as Putin’s forces approach the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

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More than 100 girls will be ferried to the front in a fleet of helicopters for a series of “concert shows” at supply bases across the Donbas where troops are given five days of rest and recuperation.

Crates of beer and Russian sausages will be shipped in for the troops and a ceremonial parade is expected on the 24th to mark the start of Russia’s operation and remember the fallen.

News of the”‘raunchy stripping sessions” was revealed on social media by a Russian officer who announced that troops would be getting a special surprise.

In his post, the tank Colonel, who goes by the codename “Armoured Death” said: “Our heroes will be given special parties with pole dancing ladies, beer and food as a thank you for their service.

“Events will be held as part of the soldiers’ rest period and aimed to raise the morale of troops who have been fighting in the front-line.”

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