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Jacob Zuma corruption trial postponed pending latest appeal | Jacob Zuma News

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The repeatedly postponed trial of former South African President Jacob Zuma has been pushed to May 17.

The corruption trial in South Africa of former President Jacob Zuma has been postponed again pending the outcome of the ex-leader’s appeal to have the state prosecutor removed from the case.

Zuma was not present in the Pietermaritzburg High Court due to a “medical emergency”, his lawyer Dali Mpofu told the court on Monday.

His spokesman later said that Zuma had been admitted to hospital for medical tests.

His legal representatives requested that the start of the trial be postponed until the Supreme Court of Appeal decides on Zuma’s effort to have state prosecutor Billy Downer removed from the case.

Zuma accuses Downer of bias against the former leader, and has pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering over a $2bn arms deal in the 1990s. The case is set to resume on May 17.

The delay is the latest of many – it has been nearly 17 years since Zuma was first charged in the controversial 1999 arms deal.

He is charged alongside French arms manufacturer Thales, which is accused of paying bribes to Zuma through his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted on related charges in 2005.

South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority opposed the application for the postponement, accusing Zuma of delaying tactics to prevent the start of the trial.

While Zuma has publicly said he wants his day in court, he has over the years launched numerous legal actions that have delayed the start of the trial.

Delivering his judgement on Monday, High Court Judge Piet Koen said that while the delay of the trial could lead to frustrations, the current delay was unavoidable as the court had to await the Supreme Court of Appeal’s decision.

Zuma, 79, is currently on medical parole from a 15-month prison sentence following his conviction last year of contempt of court for defying a Constitutional Court order to appear before a judicial commission investigating corruption during his presidential term from 2009 to 2018.

Zuma was imprisoned in July of last year, which set off days of rioting in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces in which shops, warehouses and factories were looted and many burned. More than 300 people died in the unrest.

About three months later Zuma was released on medical parole, for an undisclosed health condition. A subsequent court judgement ruled the medical parole was invalid, but his lawyers are appealing that judgement.



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US envoy meets Taliban foreign minister, raises women’s rights | Taliban News

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US special envoy on Afghanistan stresses international opposition to Taliban’s treatment of women and girls.

The US special envoy on Afghanistan has met the Taliban’s acting foreign minister in the Qatari capital Doha and stressed international opposition to the group’s expanding curbs on women and girls.

“Girls must be back in school, women free to move & work w/o restrictions for progress to normalised relations,” US Special Representative on Afghanistan Thomas West wrote on Twitter on Saturday after meeting Amir Khan Mutaqi.

Since returning to power last August, the Taliban has imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women and girls, that are reminiscent of their last rule in the 1990s.

Girls’ schools are yet to open, more than eight months since the Taliban came to power. The group has insisted that it wants girls to get back to school, but justified the delay on reasons ranging from infrastructure to lack of resources due to the economic crisis.

When the Taliban took power in August, the armed group promised to uphold the rights of girls and women. But its actions since have worried the international community.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader ordered women to cover up fully in public, including their faces, ideally with the traditional burqa.

 

During the last few months, Taliban leaders, particularly from the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, have announced many new restrictions, even as criticism and international pressure mounts against them.

In December, the ministry, which replaced the Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs, imposed restrictions on women from travelling further than 72km (45 miles) without a close male relative.

This restriction was further expanded to include travelling abroad, and several solo women travellers were reportedly stopped from boarding flights. Similar bans were also introduced in several healthcare centres across the country, forbidding women to access healthcare without a mahram (male chaperone).

In January, a group of 36 UN human rights experts said that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are institutionalising large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

A surprise U-turn in March, in which the group shuttered girls’ high schools on the morning they were due to open, drew the ire of the international community and prompted the US to cancel planned meetings on easing the country’s financial crisis.

A Ministry of Education notice said on March 23 that schools for girls would be closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture, according to Bakhtar News Agency, a government news agency.

Economic stabilisation

West also said that the two discussed economic stabilisation in Afghanistan and concerns about attacks on civilians.

The country is teetering on the verge of economic disaster after the West froze Afghanistan’s assets held abroad and cut off aid.

“Dialogue will continue in support of Afghan people and our national interests,” West, the US envoy, said in his post.

The country has been reeling from a humanitarian crisis with more than half of the population facing hunger. The Taliban has struggled to revive the aid-dependent economy, which is in freefall due to sanctions and exclusion from international financial institutions.

In December, the Biden administration issued what it called “broad authorisations” to ensure that the United Nations, American government agencies and aid groups can provide humanitarian relief to Afghanistan without running foul of sanctions against the Taliban.





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Erdogan speaks to Stoltenberg over Finland, Sweden NATO bid | NATO News

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Turkey’s President tells NATO chief Sweden and Finland must address Ankara’s concerns before it could support their membership bid.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Ankara would not look “positively” on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless its concerns were addressed, despite broad support from other allies, including the United States.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring outlawed Kurdish rebels as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s opposition has thrown a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in NATO decisions.

“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ NATO membership positively,” Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “NATO’s Open Door”.

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward”.

Erdogan speaks to leaders of Sweden and Finland

Erdogan, who refused to host delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate phone calls with the two countries’ leaders – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson – on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support for “terrorist” groups threatening his country’s national security.

Erdogan called upon Sweden to lift defensive weapons export restrictions it imposed on Turkey over Turkey’s 2019 incursion into northern Syria, a Turkish presidential statement said.

The Turkish leader also said he expected Stockholm to take “concrete and serious steps” against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups which Ankara views as “terrorists”.

Andersson tweeted that Sweden looked “forward to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security, and the fight against terrorism”.

The PKK has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey and Western allies like the European Union – which includes Finland and Sweden.

Erdogan told Finish President Sauli Niinisto “that an understanding that ignores terrorist organisations that pose a threat to an ally within NATO is incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance”, the statement added.

In return, Niinisto praised “an open and direct phone call” with Erdogan.

“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” he tweeted.

“Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Close dialogue continues.”

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

But the two nations moved ahead with their membership bid in shock over their giant neighbour’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.

On Thursday, Niinisto and Andersson visited Washington, where they spoke with US President Joe Biden about their bids to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said “Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger”, and offered the “full, total, complete backing of the United States of America”.



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Wimbledon: How Russia’s war on Ukraine will affect world tennis | News

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The usual trophies and prize money will be on the line for Novak Djokovic, Iga Swiatek and other top tennis players at Wimbledon, but there is a significant change there this year: No one will earn ranking points, a valuable currency in tennis, when play begins on June 27.

The women’s and men’s professional tours announced on Friday that they will not award ranking points to players at Wimbledon’s grass-court Grand Slam tournament because of the All England Club’s decision to bar players from Russia and Belarus over the war on Ukraine.

Both the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) said they were reacting to what they called “discrimination” against tennis players.

Here is a look at how this unprecedented move came about and what it means for Wimbledon and the world’s top tennis players:

Why did Wimbledon bar Russians and Belarusians?

The All England Club, which runs the oldest Grand Slam tournament  – Wimbledon was first held in 1877 – announced in April it would not allow players from Russia or Belarus to enter the event in 2022 because of the war in Ukraine.

Chief Executive Sally Bolton defended the club’s move as following a directive from the British government, and she cited a “responsibility to play our part in limiting the possibility of Wimbledon being used to justify the harm being done to others by the Russian regime”.

Have other sports banned Russian athletes?

Yes, including in football, where the Russian men’s team was kicked out of qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup. Figure skating and track and field are among the other sports to have taken action against Russian and Belarusian athletes.

In tennis, players from those countries have been allowed to compete – including at the French Open, the year’s second Grand Slam tournament, which begins on Sunday in Paris – but as “neutral” athletes who are not being identified by their nationalities.

Who can’t play at Wimbledon?

The most prominent Russian tennis player at the moment is Daniil Medvedev, who won the US Open last September and briefly reached number one in the men’s rankings this year. Andrey Rublev, who is ranked number seven in the ATP, is another top male player.

The WTA’s number seven, Aryna Sabalenka, who was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon a year ago, and former number one Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, are from Belarus.

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of the war in Ukraine, the All England Club announced Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
A spectator holding a Russian flag during the men’s singles match between Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 2021 [File photo Alberto Pezzali/AP]

Why cancel ranking points?

The WTA and ATP condemned the invasion of Ukraine, but said it was not fair for the All England Club to prevent certain players from playing because of the actions of their countries’ governments.

“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole,” the ATP said. “Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the tour.”

The International Tennis Federation also withdrew its ranking points from the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon.

How do ranking points work? Why do they matter?

The WTA and ATP official rankings date to the early 1970s and currently are based on each player’s best results over the preceding 52 weeks; women count their top 16 tournaments, men their top 19.

Swiatek is the 28th woman to sit atop the WTA; Djokovic is one of 27 men to lead the ATP and has spent more weeks in that spot than anyone else.

Wimbledon and the three other Grand Slam tournaments award 2,000 points apiece to the women’s and men’s singles champions, more than any other events. In addition to other measures such as trophies or prize money, rankings are a way for fans, sponsors and others – including the players themselves – to understand where athletes stand in the sport’s hierarchy.

Technically, any tennis event that does not award ranking points is considered an exhibition.

Has this happened before?

Representatives of the ATP, WTA and ITF said they were unaware of any previous instances of rankings points being withheld from a tournament.

Will any players skip Wimbledon because there are no ranking points?

It is too soon to know, but even without ranking points, Wimbledon still offers plenty of prestige and millions of dollars in payouts.

“If you win it, I think you’d still be pretty happy,” said Jessica Pegula, an American seeded 11th at Roland Garros.

“But I think it’s just up to each individual person – how they’re feeling, their motivation.”

What will happen at the US open?

It is not yet known whether players from Russia or Belarus will be able to enter the US Open, the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, which begins in New York on August 29.

“We continue to monitor events”, US Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier wrote in an email, “and are in active dialogue with the Ukraine and Russian/Belarusian players, the tours, the other Grand Slams, and other relevant parties”.



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