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Sri Lankan hangmen wanted as drug traffickers face death penalty | World News

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Sri Lanka is trying to hire two hangmen after bringing back the death penalty for drug traffickers.

In a move inspired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said last week he wants to resume the use of capital punishment for drug traffickers in the next two months.

A recruitment advert has appeared in the state-run Daily News offering the posts at 36,310 rupees (£158) per month, which is above average for a government job.

A man reads an advertisement of the vacancy for hangmen
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Advertisements have been placed for the hangman role

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Sri Lanka, but the country’s last execution for any crime took place in 1976. Death sentences have been commuted to life in prison since then.

Anyone wishing to apply for the role of executioner should be Sri Lankan, male, aged between 18 and 45, and have both “excellent moral character” and “mental strength,” according to the ad.

Sri Lankan police prepare to destroy seized cocaine
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Sri Lankan police prepare to destroy seized cocaine in July 2018

The country’s recent history with executioners suggest it may prove difficult to fill the posts.

Sri Lanka’s last hangman quit in 2014 without ever having to execute anyone, claiming he was too stressed out by the sight of the gallows, while another hired last year never turned up for work.

“We never know if the government will resume the death penalty, but we want to hire two hangmen to fill vacancies and be ready if the government wants to execute drug traffickers,” said prison service spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya.

Job interviews will be conducted next month and at least 25 people convicted for drugs offences, including two drug dealers, could be executed, he added.

Last week, justice minister Thalatha Athukorale told parliament five drug convicts will be executed as soon as Mr Sirisena signs the death warrants and a hangman is appointed.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (L) visited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (R) in January
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Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (L) visited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in January

There were also 436 people, including six women, on death row for various crimes including murder, he said.

Mr Sirisena, who officials said has sought the advice of his counterpart, praised Mr Duterte’s hardline policies during a state visit to the Philippines in January.

Official estimates put the number of dead from the Filipino president’s widely-criticised war on drugs at 5,000, but a senator recently said it had claimed more than 20,000 lives.

Authorities, who fear Sri Lanka is becoming a transit hub for the narcotics trade in Asia, seized more than 1,500 kg of cocaine in 2017.

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Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli PM in court accused of fraud, breach of trust and bribery | World News

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A defiant Israeli prime minister has appeared in court for the first day of his corruption trial claiming that he is the victim of a conspiracy by media, police, prosecutors and judges to oust him.

In a televised statement made just before he entered the courtroom, Benjamin Netanyahu accused police and prosecutors of conspiring to “depose” him.

“The objective is to depose a strong, right-wing prime minister, and thus remove the nationalist camp from the leadership of the country for many years,” he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu
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He denies all the charges which include fraud, breach of trust and bribery

It was the opening day of a trial which could last years and marks a historic moment for Israel.

Mr Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli leader ever to go on trial. He is accused of fraud and breach of trust in two cases and bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a third case. He denies all the charges.

The three cases against him – Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000 – centre around his relationships with businessmen, media tycoons and a leading Israeli telecoms firm.

Since the charges were first brought against him by police investigators in December 2018, he has sought to avoid prosecution and the spectacle of appearing in the dock, calling the whole process an “attempted coup”.

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“They are not after the truth. They are after me,” he said. “[It is a] terror attack against Israeli democracy.”

When the charges were formally announced last year, Israel’s Attorney General said he brought them “with a heavy heart – but wholeheartedly”.

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave Israeli flags and hold placards as they rally just before Netanyahu's corruption trial opens, outside the District Court in Jerusalem May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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Supporters of the PM wave Israeli flags and hold placards

“It is not an issue of left wing or right. Enforcing the law isn’t a matter of choice,” Avichai Mandelblit said.

An attempt by Mr Netanyahu to secure parliamentary immunity from prosecution last year failed. The trial was then delayed by two months in March because of coronavirus restrictions.

Last week he argued, unsuccessfully, that attending today was unnecessary, costly and would violate social distancing rules.

The trial has hung over him through three election campaigns, none of which he managed to win outright.

This month the country’s political deadlock was finally broken with the formation of a coalition government deal in which his political rival, Benny Gantz, will take over as Prime Minister in 18 months’ time.

Netanyahu gazes at his lawyer while waiting for proceedings to begin
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Netanyahu gazes at his lawyer while waiting for proceedings to begin at the Jerusalem District Court

By law, a sitting Prime Minister does not have to resign until a final conviction and all appeals have been exhausted and this trial could go on for years. There are 333 prosecution witnesses.

A clause in the coalition agreement means even after Mr Netanyahu hands over power to Mr Gantz in 18 months, he is still not required to resign while on trial because of his position as the “alternate” Prime Minister.

In the courtroom on the first day, Mr Netanyahu and his co-defendants listened to charges against them. Defendants can enter plea bargain at any point before verdict.

Speaking outside court, Anshel Pfeffer, author of Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, told Sky News: “This is certainly a pivotal moment in his life.

“For four years, the investigation has been going on very slowly and finally we have reached the moment when he actually has to sit down in court,” Mr Pfeffer said.

“We saw a very telling moment as he went in. For 50 minutes it was the judges and the prosecutors who were in charge of the proceedings. This was a very different Netanyahu sitting on his own on the defendants’ bench doing what he was told. It was a metamorphosis for Netanyahu.”

As a renowned and extraordinary political survivor, many expect Mr Netanyahu, “the magician”, to conjure up some surprises.

He gave a statement - flanked by people wearing face masks - before entering court
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He gave a statement – flanked by people wearing face masks – before entering court

His lawyers complained to the judges that the investigation documents were not presented to them in time. The same complaint was made by the lawyers of the other defendants.

The three cases against Mr Netanyahu are:

Case 1000 – The Gifts Affair: Fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that Mr Netanyahu received luxury goods including champagne and cigars totalling the equivalent of £162,000 from two businessmen over a continuous period amounting to a “supply channel”. It is alleged that the prime minister “acted for the benefit” of businessmen. He insists gifts were “tokens of friendship” and that he did not act inappropriately.

Case 2000 – The Media Affair: Fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that Mr Netanyahu held several meetings with Arnon Mozes, controlling shareholder of the Yedioth Ahronoth media group. It is claimed that they discussed promoting their common interests: favourable coverage in return for restrictions of rival paper. Both men deny wrongdoing.

Case 4000 – The Bezeq Affair: Bribary, fraud & breach of trust. It is alleged that there was a “reciprocal arrangement” between Mr Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder in Bezeq, a leading Israeli telecoms firm. It is alleged that the prime minister was involved in the promotion of regulatory decisions that favoured Bezeq.

Proceedings will continue on 19 July in a trial which could last several years.



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Western Australia battered by ‘once-in-a-decade’ storm | World News

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Western Australia has been hit by the biggest storm in a decade, leaving around 50,000 homes and businesses without power as it brought wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour.

Conditions were expected to worsen overnight as the severe storm progressed, officials said.

Jon Broomhall, acting assistant commissioner of Western Australia’s department of fire and emergency services, described the storm as a “a once-in-a-decade-type system”.

He added: “Normally our storms come from the south-west, and this will come from the north-west, so it will test people’s buildings, sheds and all those unsecured items, so we’re asking people to secure property and make sure everything loose is tied down.”

A Bureau of Meteorology official, James Ashley, said the weather formation was “dynamic and complex”, adding the storm is a result of a system from Cyclone Mangga in the southern Indian Ocean interacting with a cold front.

The bureau warned people to prepare for “an unusually widespread severe weather event along the west coast”, adding that “heavy rain and very gusty winds likely with dangerous surf and storm tides”.

Electricity supply to around 37,000 homes and businesses was impacted in the Perth metropolitan area, with some households told to expect to remain without electricity overnight, particularly in places where it was not safe for crews to repair the network.

The worst of the storm was due to hit Perth later on Sunday evening and Monday morning, with forecasters warning it would not ease until Monday afternoon.

Surfers take to the water at Cottesloe beach in Perth, to take advantage of unusually large waves created by a storm
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Surfers take advantage of the unusually large waves created by the storm in Perth

Mr Ashley added: “In a broad area, the south-west of the state will be hit really severely overnight, tonight and into tomorrow.”

“Really quite severe conditions will still be experienced in Perth tomorrow morning.”

Damage was reported to buildings, homes, fences, electricity infrastructure and trees across Perth as the storm front moved south.



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Hong Kong protesters hit with teargas as world figures condemn China’s plans for security law | World News

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Police have fired teargas at protesters in Hong Kong after nearly 200 political figures from around the world condemned China’s plans for new security laws.

Hundreds of demonstraters clashed with security officials in Hong Kong’s Wanchai district on Sunday over Beijing’s proposals to set up government intelligence bases in the territory.

Protesters were seen cowering behind umbrellas as officers with shields fired the gas to try to disperse crowds of activists and journalists carrying “Free Hong Kong” signs.

China says it wants to prevent a repeat of last year’s riots, which were triggered by a bill that would have allowed islanders to be extradited to the mainland.

tear gas
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Protesters in masks were forced to flee when police fired teargas at them in Wanchai, Hong Kong on Sunday
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One activist is seen running away from crowds
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Police with riot shields try to disperse crowds in Wanchai

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The government says the laws are necessary to “prevent, stop and punish” such protests in the future, after the last demonstrations crippled the territory for months.

Leading democracy activist Joshua Wong defended the decision to protest in violation of Hong Kong’s ban on gatherings of more than eight people amid the coronavirus outbreak.

He described the security proposals as the “beginning of the end” and said “time is really running out” for the pro-democracy movement.

International tension over the security legislation is rising fast, with 17 members of US congress joining those criticising the move across the world.

Pro-democracy activists during a rally in response to a proposal to enact new Hong Kong security legislation
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Activists in masks carry “Free Hong Kong” signs

Protesters march on a road during a pro-democracy rally against a proposed new security law in Hong Kong on May 24, 2020. - The proposed legislation is expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition, and follows repeated warnings from Beijing that it will no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, which was shaken by months of massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests last year. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)
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Protesters wear masks amid coronavirus restrictions in Hong Kong

In a joint statement organised by former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten and former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind, 186 law and policy leaders said the proposed laws are a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy and rule of law”.

They say the laws threaten “fundamental freedoms” and are a “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

“If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters,” they wrote.

The legislation comes as the relationship between Washington and Beijing is at a low ebb after Donald Trump blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic.

US officials have said the Chinese legislation would be bad for the economies of both Hong Kong and China and could jeopardise the territory’s special status in US law.

China has dismissed other countries’ complaints as meddling.

Democracy activist Joshua Wong (pictured in November) defended today's protests
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Democracy activist Joshua Wong (pictured in November) defended today’s protests


Carrie Lam presser







Hong Kong to adopt China’s controversial security law

Some of the US president’s fellow Republicans – Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Ted Cruz – signed the statement.

Democratic signatories included Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representatives Eliot Engel, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

In London, 44 MPs and eight members of the House of Lords also signed the statement, alongside figures from across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.

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