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Ex-Chinese justice minister sentenced to death for ‘bending the law for personal gains’



• Former Chinese justice minister Fu Zhenghua is escorted by court police as he attends a court session for his verdict announcement in Changchun, northeastern China’s Jilin province on Thursday. (AP)

BEIJING: China on Thursday sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve a former justice minister, who spearheaded high-profile graft probes during his tenure, for taking bribes and “bending the law for personal gains”, state media reported.

Fu Zhenghua, 67, had also served as the head of the Beijing municipal public security bureau and as vice-minister of public security.

Fu’s indictment weeks ahead of the all-important Communist Party of China (CPC) congress in October indicates President Xi Jinping’s continued focus on “taking out the tigers” of corruption, part of the anti-graft campaign he began a decade ago.

As vice-minister, Fu was in-charge of a high-profile corruption investigation into Zhou Yonkang, who was himself China’s top security official and retired as a member of Communist party’s politburo standing committee, the country’s top decision-making body; Zhou received a life sentence in jail for corruption in 2015.

Fu, who became justice minister in 2018, was a rising star until corruption charges brought him down in 2021.

“Fu, former deputy head of the Committee on Social and Legal Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (after his tenure as justice minister), was accused of bribe-taking and bending the law for personal gains,” state-run China Daily said in a report on him on Thursday.

The court in Jilin was told by prosecutors that Fu took advantage of his position to seek gains for others regarding business operations, official positions and legal cases.

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He is said to have illegally received “money and gifts worth 117 million yuan ($17.3 million) either directly or through his relatives,” the court was told.

In July when the court case began, prosecutors said: “During his tenure at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, Fu purposefully shielded his brother, who had severely breached the law, from criminal prosecution.”

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), China’s corruption watchdog, had earlier said Fu also joined the “political gang” of Sun Lijun, former vice-minister of public security, ousted and prosecuted in 2021 for bribery, stock market manipulation and illegal gun possession.

In his final statement to the court in July, Fu had pleaded guilty and expressed remorse.

Under Chinese law, a death sentence with a reprieve usually means that the sentence could be commuted to a life sentence at the end of the two-year term depending on the accused’s behaviour.

President Xi Jinping’s decade-long anti-corruption drive has been one of his signature campaigns, which has also been used to purge rivals and the disloyal, say China watchers.

Xi had identified “corruption” as one of the primary “pressing issues” China faced when he took over as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in November, 2012.

The campaign since then has focussed on “swatting the flies” and “taking out the tigers” with “flies” being low-ranking officials and “tigers”, the high-ranking ones.

Since November 2012, discipline inspectors across the country had dealt with nearly 4.4 million cases concerning discipline violations as of April 2022, in which 4.7 million people were involved, official news agency Xinhua said in a report earlier this week.

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Breaking: Aborted coup in Burkina Faso



• Captain Ibrahim Traoré head of Burkina Faso junta

• Junta says its intelligence and security services have foiled a coup attempt

An attempted coup in Burkina Faso was thwarted on Tuesday by security and intelligence services, the ruling junta announced on Wednesday.

It did not provide specifics or the name of the coup plotters, but said arrests have been made, while manhunt has begun for other collaborators.

In a statement it said officers and others had planned to destabilise the country with “the dark intention of attacking the institutions of the Republic and plunging our country in chaos.”

“Investigations will help unmask the instigators of this plot,” the junta said.

The junta on Monday suspended French news magazine Jeune Afrique for publishing “untruthful” articles that reported tension and discontent within Burkina Faso’s armed forces.

The next day thousands of pro-junta demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Ouagadougou and elsewhere to show their support, citing rumours of a brewing mutiny against the authorities.

The junta came to power after two military coups last year, triggered in part by worsening insurgency by armed groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State that has destabilised Burkina Faso and its neighbours in West Africa’s Sahel region.

Over 50 Burkinabe soldiers and volunteer fighters were killed in clashes with militants in early September – the heaviest losses in months.

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56,000 schools shut over eye virus outbreak



A patient suffering from an eye infection gets examined by a doctor at a hospital in Lahore on September 27, 2023. More than 56,000 Pakistan schools will shut for the remainder of the week in a bid to curb a mass outbreak of a contagious eye virus, officials said on September 27. – AFP photo.

More than 56,000 Pakistan schools will shut for the rest of the week in a bid to curb a mass outbreak of a contagious eye virus, officials said Wednesday.

Millions of students will stay home from tomorrow after Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, announced blanket closures having recorded 357,000 conjunctivitis cases since the start of the year.

The fast-spreading eye infection causes redness, itchiness and discharge from the eyes and contamination can spread through hand contact, as well as coughing and sneezing.

“The closure has been announced as a proactive measure to give maximum protection to students against the infection,” Punjab Education Department spokesman Zulfiqar Ali told AFP.

There are 127,000,000 residents in eastern Punjab province and 56,000 state schools, as well as thousands of independent schools also subject to the shutdown.

“We hope this will break the cycle of the infection in the province,” Ali said.

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Army put on standby as UK Police hand in weapon



• UK police officer holding his firearms

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is offering soldiers to support armed police in London after dozens of police officers stood down from firearms duties, BBC reports.

More than 100 officers have turned in permits allowing them to carry weapons, a source told the BBC, in support of a fellow officer who has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Chris Kaba.

The officer, named only as NX121, who appeared in court last week, has been charged over the death of Chris Kaba in September 2022.

Kaba died hours after he was struck by a single gunshot fired into the vehicle he was driving in the Streatham area of South London.

It later emerged that the Audi Mr Kaba was driving, which did not belong to him, had been linked by police to a gun incident the day before.

His death prompted a number of protests and renewed allegations of racism within the force.

The Ministry of Defence said it received a request, known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, from the Home Office to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.

A MACA is offered to the police or the NHS in emergency situations. The military helped medical staff in the Covid pandemic and covered for striking border staff and paramedics last year.

The Met said it was a “contingency option” that would only be used “in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available”.

Military staff would not be used “in a routine policing capacity”, it added.

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On Saturday, the Met said its own officers still make up the vast majority of armed police in the capital but they were being supported by a limited number of firearms officers from neighbouring forces.

Announcing the review, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the public “depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us”.

“In the interest of public safety they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.”

She said that officers have her “full backing”.

“I will do everything in my power to support them,” she added.

In his letter to the home secretary, the Met Police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said that a system where officers are investigated for “safely pursuing suspects” should not have been allowed to develop.

Sir Mark said he would “make no comment” on any ongoing legal matters, but “the issues raised in this letter go back further”.

He said firearms officers are concerned that they will face years of legal proceedings, “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.

“Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour,” he wrote.

But in instances where officers act improperly, Sir Mark said the system “needs to move swiftly” rather than “tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes”.

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