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Gambia denies it was intended recipient of Iran arms

DR Congo rights activist killing to be tried by lower court
Kinshasa (AFP) Dec 16, 2010 - A military court trying eight policemen for the killing of Democratic Republic of Congo human rights activist Floribert Chebeya on Thursday rejected demands by his family that the case be heard by a higher tribunal. The ruling will mean, according to the family, that the man they consider to be the prime suspect, police chief General John Numbi, cannot be tried, since generals can only be tried by the senior military court. Numbi, who has been suspended from duty, appeared at an earlier hearing on November 12, but only as a witness. Judges described the applications for the trial to be moved and for bail as "unfounded" and adjourned the case until December 23.

Chebeya, 47, president of the human rights group Voice of the Voiceless (La Voix des sans Voix - VSV), was found dead on June 2 in his car with his hands tied behind his back on the outskirts of Kinshasa after a scheduled meeting, which never took place, with General Numbi. Chebeya's chauffeur, Fidele Bazana, who had accompanied him, is still reported missing and his body has never been found. VSV and Banzana's family, along with the family of Chebeya, are also civil parties in the case and supported the request for the trial to be heard by a higher court. Apart from the chief of special services of police, Colonel Daniel Mukalay, the other defendants include a major, a lieutenant, a second lieutenant and a warrant officer. Two majors and a warrant officer are being tried in their absence. All eight are accused, according to the charge sheet, of criminal association, kidnapping, murder, assassination, terrorism and purloining arms. The three absent men are also on trial for desertion.
by Staff Writers
Banjul (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
Gambia rejected Thursday claims that it was the intended recipient of a cargo of weapons from Iran that was intercepted in Nigeria, and accused neighbour Senegal of a campaign of "hatred" over the case.

Nigeria last month reported to the UN Security Council its find of 13 containers of weapons, including rockets and grenades, shipped from Iran. The incident is a possible violation of international sanctions against Tehran.

Senegal has alleged the weapons were destined for Gambia, which the Gambian government strongly denied in a statement broadcast on television that accused Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade of being behind the claims.

"If those arms were for the Gambia, let it be clear that there is no power on earth that would have prevented the Gambia from negotiating with the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their release to the Gambia," it said.

"Unfortunately, Abdoulaye Wade decided to disregard this fact and jumped to his illogical and outrageous conclusions apparently blinded by his hatred of the Gambia."

"President Wade thinks that he can use the arms shipment from Iran in Nigeria to go around the world through envoys to mount a campaign against the Gambia," it said.

Iran and Gambia, both criticised for their poor human rights record, had long been allies but Gambia severed their ties on November 22, a move a source in the presidency told AFP was "directly linked" to the arms case.

Senegal's foreign ministry expressed Tuesday "serious concern" about the weapons, saying they were intended for Gambia and were of various types and included "ammunition for heavy weapons".

The Senegalese press has reported that Dakar fears the arms were destined for rebels seeking independence for southern Senegal, the Movement for Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC), said to have bases in Gambia.

Dakar last month recalled its ambassador to Tehran, reproaching Iran for not providing "satisfactory" explanations about the weapons.

Gambia denies it is a MFDC base and instead claims that Senegal is a refuge for Gambian dissidents who want to overthrow the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.

"Gambia cannot and will never be dictated by any state not to arm or what types of arms we should purchase irrespective of what is going on in a neighboring country especially Casamance," the government statement added.

Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme including a ban on arms sales. It has said the arms shipment was by a private company.

earlier related report
Interim leader urges army must back new Guinea president
Conakry (AFP) Dec 16, 2010 - Guinea's interim leader Sekouba Konate urged the army to back newly-elected president Alpha Conde on Thursday as he made his final speech to the country's under-fire security forces before stepping down.

"I remind you that the army is apolitical. I invite you therefore to support and accompany the new president in his mission," the general told soldiers, gendarmes and police at Conakry's camp Boiro in a speech carried on state radio and television.

Last month, Conde won what has been hailed as the country's first free and democratic election since independence from France in 1958, closing a chapter on a string of despotic and military regimes.

Violence after the November 15 release of provisional results left at least seven people dead and hundreds injured as security forces cracked down on protests, sparking international condemnation of unnecessary brutality.

Konate said the army, condemned internationally for its brutality in a crackdown on election-related violence as well as the September 2009 massacre of opposition supporters, could now hold its head up high after ushering in democratic elections.

"We have done what we have promised to do, for the first time in the history of our country, which was to give Guineans the chance and the opportunity to freely chose their president," said Konate, a general and former army chief.

"We can raise our head now, everywhere. We have shown that the vast majority of the army has acquired democracy," he said.

But he advised the incoming president nevertheless to "put among his priorities the resolution of problems" in the military.

Konate was made vice-president and minister of defence when the military took power in a 2009 coup after the death of longtime ruler Lansana Conte. Konate eventually took over completely after coup leader Moussa Dadis Camara was left seriously wounded by an assassination attempt.

He became head of an internationally-recognised provisional government in January, tasked with ushering in the elections.

A date for Conde's inauguration has not yet been announced, but is thought likely to take place next week.




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AFRICA NEWS
DR Congo rights activist killing to be tried by lower court
Kinshasa (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
A military court trying eight policemen for the killing of Democratic Republic of Congo human rights activist Floribert Chebeya on Thursday rejected demands by his family that the case be heard by a higher tribunal. The ruling will mean, according to the family, that the man they consider to be the prime suspect, police chief General John Numbi, cannot be tried, since generals can only be tr ... read more

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