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Honduras ex-President Hernandez makes first US court appearance | Courts News

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Juan Orlando Hernandez faces drug trafficking and weapons charges after being extradited to the United States this week.

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has made his first appearance in US court after being extradited to the country to face drug trafficking and weapons charges.

Hernandez, 53, appeared via video link in federal court in New York on Friday. He was not required to enter a plea, and his lawyers did not request bail for him but said they would do so at a later date, the AFP news agency reported.

A US judge set a May 10 arraignment hearing for Hernandez, where he will be formally asked whether he pleads guilty or not.

Hernandez was extradited on Thursday afternoon from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane bound for the US.

That same day, US federal authorities unsealed an indictment against the former president, accusing him of participating in a “corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy to facilitate the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States”.

He is accused of having facilitated the smuggling of some 500 tonnes of cocaine – mainly from Colombia and Venezuela – to the US via Honduras since 2004, starting long before his presidency.

In turn, he received “millions of dollars in bribes … from multiple narcotrafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico and other places”, US prosecutors allege, including approximately $1m from Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

But the ex-president, who served two terms between 2014 and January 2022, has maintained that he is innocent. He lost his immunity from prosecution when he handed power over to Honduras’s first female president, Xiomara Castro, in January.

A ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court in late March cleared the way for Hernandez to be extradited to face charges in a New York court.

The US Justice Department said in a statement on Thursday that Hernandez – once viewed as a key US ally in the war on drugs – “was allegedly paid millions of dollars in cocaine proceeds which he used to enrich himself, finance his political campaigns, and commit voter fraud while the people of Honduras endured conditions of poverty and rampant violence”.

The US indictment charged Hernandez with three counts of drug and weapons offences that could land him decades in prison if convicted.

Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a news conference on Thursday evening that Hernandez was involved in “rampant corruption and massive cocaine trafficking” that spurred violence in Honduras.

“Honduras became one of the most violent countries in the world during the defendant’s presidency, and while Hernandez amassed money and political influence, the people of Honduras endured conditions of poverty and violence,” he said.

Hernandez has denied the allegations. In a video message released Thursday, he said: “I am innocent; I have been and I am being unjustly subjected to prosecution.”



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Israel sentences Palestinian prison escapees to five more years | Prison News

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Six Palestinians escaped from a high-security prison last year by digging a tunnel, sparking a massive manhunt.

An Israeli court has sentenced six Palestinian prison escapees to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cell last year and escaping from a high-security facility in what became Israel’s biggest prison break in decades.

The daring jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in Israel’s north and the occupied West Bank as Israeli forces tried to recapture the men, who were members of Palestinian armed groups.

The bold escape dominated newscasts, sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service, and prompted the Israeli government to launch an inquiry.

The escapees were recaptured days later.

A judge ruled on Sunday that the sentencing of the six took into account the fact that the prison break had paralysed Israel for days, the financial costs involved in recapturing the escapees, and the harm to public security caused by prisoners, under life sentence and convicted of serious crimes, escaping.

The five-year sentences will be added to the prison terms the prisoners are already serving.

Five other inmates charged with assisting the men escape were sentenced to an additional four years in jail.

According to various reports, the escapees used kitchen utensils to dig a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell undetected over several months. They then managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after emerging through a hole outside the prison facility.israpri

An artist works on a mural painting glorifying six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel's Gilboa prison in September 2021 with the help of the humble spoon [Mahmud Hams/AFP]
An artist works on a mural painting glorifying six Palestinian prisoners who escaped from Israel’s Gilboa prison in September 2021 with the help of the humble spoon [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

Israel considers all six escapees to be “terrorists”. Palestinians consider many prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause, and many on social media celebrated their breakout and held demonstrations in support of the escaped prisoners.

Five of the escapees are from the Islamic Jihad armed group, with four of them serving life sentences. The sixth escapee, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Zubeidi was a leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and well known in Israel both for his activities and his love for giving media interviews.



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Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing: Lies, investigations and videotape | Israel-Palestine conflict

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Israel has lied from the instant that Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated 11 days ago.

How do we know?

Israel’s story about what happened on the murderous morning of May 11 in Jenin and what it was going to do about it has changed more often than a baby’s diaper. Palestine’s story has remained the same throughout like one long, consistent note: Israel did it and won’t admit it.

Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, has lied. Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, has lied. The Israeli army has lied.

Bennett told the first big lie on May 11: Palestinians did it, he said. He was 99.99 percent sure. A Palestinian who couldn’t shoot straight did it. That’s what the prime minister of Israel said happened.

The same day, Lapid told the second big lie: Israel wanted to help Palestinians – the same Palestinians who Bennett already said did it – to find out who did it. Really, it did.

What patronising tripe from a former TV star who once said this about Palestinians he was now allegedly keen to work with across the divide: “We need to get the Palestinians out of our lives. What we have to do is build a high wall and get them out of our sight.”

The Israeli army told the third big lie by repeating the first big lie: its soldiers do not “target” journalists.

Apparently, the 16 Palestinian journalists who have perished since 1992 were either unlucky or stepped in front of or on an Israeli bullet, bomb, or mine. Remember, not “targets”. Unfortunate.

Bennett and the Israeli army told the fourth big lie: its soldiers were shooting at Palestinians and Palestinians were shooting at Israeli soldiers when Abu Akleh was shot in the face by Palestinians.

An Israeli human rights group promptly proved that Israel’s prime minister and the army – using a snippet of videotape to buttress their lie – had lied about precisely where Abu Akleh was in Jenin on the day of her murder.

Meanwhile, Lapid was sticking to his gratuitous lie. Israel still wanted to help Palestinians to find out who shot Abu Akleh in the face even though Bennett and the army still said Israel did not do it.

Then, on May 12, Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, more or less admitted that his boss, the prime minister, and his army had lied.

He said “our side” may have killed Abu Akleh.

The United Nations, the European Union, some US Congresswomen and men, and the White House – who were reminded that Abu Akleh was also an American – demanded a probe into who shot the revered Palestinian-American reporter.

Israel said it would “investigate”. The White House, the United Nations and the European Union seemed pleased and relieved.

Not everyone was pleased. Some US Congresswomen and men and many other less gullible people pointed out that Israeli “investigations” tend to be cover-ups. An “independent” investigation – whatever that means – was necessary.

Bennett and Lapid went mute.

Later on May 12 Israel reportedly “confiscated” the guns of several soldiers. By May 19, the Israel military said it had identified the weapon that may have been used to shoot Abu Akleh in the face while she was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press” in big, bold white letters.

Israel also said it needed the magic bullet that killed Abu Akleh to try to match it to the rifle.

No, Israel doesn’t.

First, the Israelis could, in a rare gesture of good faith and cooperation, just as easily hand over the rifle to the Palestinian Authority for analysis. How’s that for a novel idea that the New York Times hasn’t, predictably, considered?

Of course, Israel won’t. Palestinians cannot be trusted. Only Israelis can find and tell the truth.

Second, we have been told, more often than Bingo players have said “Bingo”, by wind-up apologists – who also happen to be politicians, diplomats, journalists or think-tank “experts” – that Israel has the “most moral army in the world”.

Let’s, for the moment, accept that familiar big lie. Israel has, for the moment, the most moral army in the world. Everyone got it?

The word “moral” suggests – implicitly and explicitly – that Israeli soldiers are models of probity and honesty. They’re saints – if you will forgive the imprecise religious analogy.

OK. Simple. Israel can ask the saint who fired that gun in Jenin early on the morning of May 11 one question: Did you shoot Shireen Abu Akleh in the face while she was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press” in big, bold white letters?

One question. One answer. End of “investigation”.

A member of the most moral army in the world is going to tell the truth. Right? I mean that’s what saints do. They tell the truth. Come clean. Own up. Do the right, honourable and moral thing. No magic bullet required.

Like you, I doubt the question was asked or ever will be.

Perhaps defence minister Benny Gantz is lying, too. Perhaps there is no gun. Perhaps the Israelis made it up to keep the Americans happy. To give their prostrate pals at the State Department and White House something, anything so they could say: “The Israelis are making good progress. We trust them.”

Turns out, the State Department and the White House have belatedly discovered that it’s the Israelis who cannot be trusted. Welcome on board.

On the very day Gantz announced his people had likely found the gun, the Israeli military said that there would not be an “investigation” after all.

An “investigation” into which Israeli soldier shot Abu Akleh in the face might upset Israelis. It could, the Israeli military said, provoke “opposition”.

Opposition to what? The truth?

Not to worry. On May 20, after confirming its authenticity, Al Jazeera reported on the disturbing contents of a one-minute and forty-two-second video that captured the scene shortly before Abu Akleh was murdered.

The video confirms Palestinian witness accounts. There was no “exchange” of fire. That, as witnesses said, was an Israeli lie. There was, instead, calm and quiet. People were milling about, talking and laughing. Abu Akleh and her colleagues were preparing to get to work.

Then, single shots in quick succession. Six in all. People scurry. Another volley of single shots. Screaming. Shouting. “Shireen”. The camera pans and tilts up. Nearby, Abu Akleh lay in a ditch, face down.

Ah, we know why Israel abandoned its phantom “investigation”.

The pictures, unlike Israel, do not lie.

But like Israel’s cocksure prime minister and preening foreign minister, the State Department, the White House and the US embassy in Israel have gone mute.

America’s best pal in the Middle East has given, in effect, the White House, the Secretary of State and the US Ambassador to Israel, a double-barrelled middle-finger salute about the murder of an American citizen.

Their response to date: Silence.

Figures.

A bunch of Congresswomen and men have written a letter urging the FBI to investigate the murder of Abu Akleh.

Kudos to them. Also delusional.

A bunch of journalists have written a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to investigate the murder of Abu Akleh.

Kudos to them. Also delusional.

In time and quite rightly, Palestinians and Palestinians alone will tell the world the details of how and why Israel murdered another one of their beloved daughters.

It will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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‘Renewable energy superpower’: Australia votes for climate action | Climate Crisis News

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The choosing of politicians running to tackle climate change is a remarkable shift for Australia, one of the world’s biggest per-capita carbon emitters and top coal and gas exporters.

Australia’s election has brought in a wave of Greens and independents pushing for aggressive targets to cut carbon emissions.

The election result, with the pivotal role climate change played, represents a remarkable shift for Australia, one of the world’s biggest per-capita carbon emitters and top coal and gas exporters. It was shunned at last year’s Glasgow climate summit for failing to match other rich nations’ ambitious targets.

“Together we can end the climate wars,” incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in his victory speech. “Together we can take advantage of the opportunity for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower.”

Albanese has said Labor would maintain its target of cutting carbon emissions 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, already much tougher than the outgoing conservative government’s Paris climate target of a cut of up to 28 percent.

With votes still being counted, Labor is short of a majority in the lower house of parliament, so it may need the support of an expanded cross-bench. Even with an outright majority, it could face a fight in the Senate, where it will likely need to need to work with the Greens to pass legislation, including the 2030 emissions target.

“Now the battle will be over ambition in short-term targets, legislating a plan so it’s out of the hands of any one government, and hitting pause on new fossil fuel mines,” said Richie Merzian, climate and energy head at the Australia Institute think-tank.

The Greens want to achieve net-zero by 2035 rather than 2050, stop new coal and gas infrastructure from being built, and end coal-fired generation by 2030.

Labor will also face pressure from a handful of climate-focused independents pushing for emissions reductions of at least 50 percent by 2030.

Fossil fuel jobs

Defeated Prime Minister Scott Morrison once mocked Labor, brandishing a lump of coal in parliament saying: “Don’t be afraid.”

Since then, Labor – conscious of its defeat in 2019 when it lost seats in regions reliant on coal and gas jobs – has dropped or diluted policies that could hurt them.

Two days ahead of the election, a senior Labor politician heaped praise on the gas industry for building mega-projects that generate massive exports, forecast to reap 70 billion Australian dollars ($50bn) this year.

“I want to be clear how enthusiastic I am, but also how enthusiastic Labor is for this industry because we know that it creates jobs and creates livelihoods,” Labor’s shadow minister for resources, Madeleine King, told a petroleum conference.

Labor’s key climate policies are to boost demand for electric vehicles through tax breaks, provide 20 billion Australian dollars ($14bn) in cheap finance to build transmission for new renewable energy projects, and tighten the country’s emissions “safeguard mechanism”.

That mechanism sets a baseline of allowable emissions for the 215 big mining, energy and materials companies that emit more than 100,000 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Companies are awaiting details on the plan, which envisions ratcheting down the baselines to get to net-zero by 2050, but are largely unfazed by the proposal.

“At a big-picture level, it’s probably not going to feel very different from commitments we’ve already made,” Meg O’Neill, chief executive of gas producer Woodside Petroleum, told reporters last week.

Cost challenges could hamper Labor’s push to achieve 82 percent renewable energy by 2030, with the rising cost of materials used in power lines, solar and wind farms. At the same time, power prices are set to soar, mostly because of high global coal and gas prices.

“The next couple of years look awful for energy users, and whoever’s in government will be under pressure over that,” said Tennant Reed, climate and energy policy head at Australian Industry Group.



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