20 July 2017
Week in Brief: International
FRANCE: President Trump was the guest of President Macron at the military parade on Bastille Day in Paris. The parade had a US theme to commemorate the centenary of US intervention in World War I.
President Macron acknowledged French responsibility for sending thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II. A ceremony to mark the rounding up of 13,152 Jews in July 1942 was attended by the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu.
ITALY: Officials have drawn up a code of conduct for charities helping migrants to cross the Mediterranean, to prevent collusion with people smugglers. The interior minister visited Libya to meet 12 mayors from the tribal south, who were offered £40 million in aid to stop the migrant flow from Africa. There are now almost 200,000 migrants in Italy, the country’s full capacity. The prime minister criticised the rest of the EU for not helping with the crisis. Officials are threatening to issue temporary EU visas to migrants (permitted by the European Council Directive 2001/55, but requiring the approval of all EU members) which would allow them to move on to other EU countries.
MONTENEGRO: 14 people accused of planning a coup against the country’s pro-EU leader have gone on trial. They include two Russian military intelligence officers who are being tried in absentia.
RUSSIA: The five men found guilty of murdering Boris Nemtsov were sentenced to a total of 80 years in prison. They were paid to commit the murder, but the authorities seem to have no idea who ordered or financed the crime.
A historian critical of Stalin, Yuri Dmitriev, has gone on trial in a closed court in Petrozavodsk, accused of being a paedophile. Friends and colleagues have suggested that the charges could have been fabricated to interfere with his work (he is well-known for having found mass graves of Stalin’s victims).
Middle East and Africa
EGYPT: A knifeman killed two European women and wounded four other people at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. He was overpowered by hotel staff and arrested by the police.
IRAN: President Rouhani’s diplomat brother Hossein Fereydoun was detained during anti-corruption investigations. The president’s supporters claim the detention is politically motivated.
ISRAEL: Three gunmen killed two police officers near an entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s old city, then took refuge in the mosque’s compound. They were shot dead by police. The gunmen were Arab Israelis and their victims were Druze Arabs. Police closed the complex for two days during investigations. Since it has reopened, police have clashed with Palestinians protesting against new security measures there.
LIBYA: The EU has agreed to allow member states to restrict sales to Libya of the kind of boats used by people-smugglers.
NIGERIA: A female suicide bomber killed 8 people in a mosque in north east Nigeria. She was one of four female bombers – one blew herself up and two were shot by the police.
QATAR: The Emirates are no longer demanding that Qatar close down al-Jazeera, but that it should be reformed.
The story which triggered the current crisis (claims on social media and the government news site that Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani praised Hmas and Iran) was fake news fabricated by the Emirates, according to US intelligence sources quoted by the Washington Post, which claim that fake quotes were planted on the sites by hackers.
SAUDI ARABIA: A woman has been arrested for wearing immodest clothes. A video on Snapchat showed her walking around Ushaiger (the birthplace of Wahhabism) wearing a short skirt and a sleeveless top.
SOUTH SUDAN: Heavy fighting has broken out between government forces and rebels as the 4 year old civil war flares up again.
SYRIA: In the battle for Raqqa, the SDF have captured a portion of the city from Isis following heavy fighting involving US and UK special forces.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian airstrikes, has seized oil wells from Isis in Raqqa province.
TURKEY: On the first anniversary of the attempted coup, President Erdogan addressed rallies in Istanbul and Ankara, and said that traitors should be beheaded (the death penalty was abolished in 2002 as part of the drive towards EU membership). 7000 more civil servants (including police and soldiers) were sacked. Emergency rule was extended for another three months.
Far East, Asia and Pacific
AFGHANISTAN: The leader of Isis in Afghanistan was killed in a raid by Afghan and US soldiers, according to the Pentagon. This was denied by Isis, which nevertheless admitted that there is in-fighting for leadership between Pakistani members and Uzbek members.
CHINA: Chinese troops have been sent to the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, east Africa.
The Nobel prize winner and dissident Liu Xiaobo has died. He was serving an 11 year prison sentence for subversion, and had recently been moved from prison to a hospital for cancer treatment. He was 61 years old. World leaders called for his widow to be released from the house arrest under which she has lived since 2010. Liu Xiaobo was apparently cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea in what some claim was an attempt by the authorities to prevent the founding of a memorial to him and his ideas.
Images and references to Winnie the Pooh have been removed from social media, after some users appear to have made comparisons between President Xi and A A Milne’s much-loved hero.
Sun Zhengcai, a member of the Chinese communist party Politburo and political chief of Chongqing city, has been detained by the Central Commission For Discipline Inspection (CCDI) during anti-corruption investigations. He had been tipped as a possible future president. His place as city leader has been taken by Chen Miner, a protégé of President Xi.
INDIA: Elections for president (a largely ceremonial role) are underway. Almost 5000 MPs and state legislators get to vote. Both candidates are from the Dalit caste (the lowest caste – once known as untouchbles).
MALAYSIA: Public caning is to be introduced in Kelantan state, which is governed by an Islamist party.
BRAZIL: The former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to nine and half years in prison.
USA: President Trump admitted defeat in his latest attempt to scrap Obamacare.
VENEZUELA: The opposition parliament organised a referendum about the president’s plans to change the constitution. 2030 polling stations were set up, including 598 abroad. Voters queued in their thousands, and over 7 million of them voted against the plans and urged the military to defend the constitution and to support free elections next year. One woman was killed and three others injured when a queue to vote in a Caracas suburb was shot at by gunmen on motorbikes. Tear gas was thrown at queues in Amazonas.
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