|W O R L D||
Monday, March 1, 1999
Ex-police chief admits
Former US President Jimmy Carter talks with Nigerian voters as they line up to cast their ballots in the presidential elections in Abuja, Nigeria on Saturday. AP/PTI
Obasanjo heads for victory
Pro-reformists ahead in
ex-wife got Palme killed
and executed in a day
LAGOS, Feb 28 (AFP) Ex-military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo appeared headed for victory in Nigerias presidential poll, winning in six of the first eight states to declare results, electoral officials told AFP today.
On these results from yesterdays poll across Africas most populous country, ruled by the army for more than 15 years, the retired General had 57.5 per cent of the votes cast, taking 2.71 million out of 4.72 million.
His rival, former Finance Minister Olu Falae, was on the 42 per cent mark, with 1.98 million votes. Half per cent of the voters were invalid ballots, officials said.
Obsanjo won in the federal capital, Abuja, in Abia, Akwa-Ibom and Imo states in the east of the country and in Jigawa and Nassarawa states in the north, according to electoral officials around the country.
Falae won in Oyo state in the southwest and in Sokoto state in the north, officials reached by telephone said.
Results are being declared in each of the 36 states, plus the federal capital, Abuja, before being verified and announced nationally.
Chris McGreal of The Guardian adds: Nigerias presidential election though hailed by politicians as a day of destiny which will finally bury military rule in Africas most populous country, sceptics fear that after 15 years in charge, the army has merely found a more discrete way of perpetuating its power.
US ex-President Jimmy Carter, who heads an international monitoring team, has accused both political parties of buying votes and ballot rigging.
An influential former military state Governor, Col Abubakar Umar, has warned that some army officers are unhappy at the prospect of Gen Obasanjos victory and have plans for a coup. But some politicians suspect that, with the price of Nigerias main export, oil, falling sharply, the army is keen to wash its hands of responsibility for the economy.
The election also promises to herald Nigerias return to the international community after years as a pariah following the execution of the Ogoni rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other human rights abuses under the dictatorship of Gen Sani Abacha.
The other presidential candidate, ex-Finance Minister Olu Falae has portrayed himself as the David of competence against the Goliath of backdoor military rule. He has reminded voters of General Obasanjos military rule 20 years ago and his support now from other Generals. General Obasanjo, aged 61, has tried to shake the charge by describing the election as merely a first step to democracy. He has pledged to set up an anti-corruption agency as part of a drive for spiritual revival.
General Obasanjos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is fighting back. As Finance Minister in a military regime in the 1980s, Falae imposed a deeply unpopular economic structural adjustment programme. The PDP claims the programme cost 2 million lives through malnutrition and 3.5 million jobs.
For the first time neither candidate is from Muslim northern region, which has dominated politics and the military since independence. Both are Yorubas from the south-west, and Christians.
Former President Carter wrote to the two candidates, saying: I am very concerned about the high level of election irregularities seen by observers in the national assembly elections. The main culprits clearly are political party operatives. If repeated, international acceptance of the legitimacy of the elections and the entire transition process is threatened. Party leaders blame individual parliamentary candidates for rigging but insist it will not recur.
This week Nigerias military ruler, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, issued a decree barring the courts from interfering with the election at any stage. After the last presidential ballot in 1993, supporters of military rule won court injunctions challenging the vote which provided cover for the army to annul the election.
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 (AP) Malaysias former police chief has admitted to beating ousted Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim the night of his arrest, a panel probing the assault was told today.
Mr Abdul Rahim Noor, who resigned as Inspector General of Police last month over speculation that he was the assailant, punched and slapped Mr Anwar on the night of September 20 after Mr Anwar was driven blindfolded and handcuffed into the police headquarters, said Mr Abdul Rahims lawyer, Mr Teh Poh Peik.
The admission was likely to further discredit the Malaysian Police, which has been condemned by human rights groups at home and overseas for allegedly using harsh methods such as torture.
It could also lead to more criticism of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysias ruler for 18 years, who until last month was the Home Minister in charge of police in the southeast Asian nation.
Mr Anwar, (51), said he was beaten unconscious, hours after armed police commandos wearing ski masks smashed through the front door of his house and marched him away.
Mr Anwar, who was also testifying to the panel about the beating, said he was stunned by the police chiefs admission. So, I was right all along, he smiled. He was blindfolded and could not see his assailant.
The lawyer told the panel that Mr Anwar had provoked the beating by calling his client the father of dogs, which Mr Anwar then denied.
Mr Teh said his client had instructed him to make the confession to the panel of retired judges, a former Attorney-General and a doctor.
Yes, that is my instruction from my client. That he acted under grave provocation, Mr Teh said.
The lawyer told Mr Anwar, when he heard these words, he lost his control. He lost his cool and he hit you.
BEIJING, Feb 28 (AFP) Chinese Opposition party activists today cancelled a planned nationwide meeting because of a renewed crackdown before a visit by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The China Democracy Party announces cancellation of the International Covenants Discussion Forum scheduled from March 1 to 3 due to the harsh crackdown by the Communist Government, the party said in a faxed statement issued through the US-based Free China Movement.
The move came just hours before Ms Albright was expected in Beijing for a visit aimed at improving rocky relations and preparing for Premier Zhu Rongjis trip to the USA in April.
The CDP had planned the meetings to discuss Chinas obligations under the two UN covenants on human rights, both of which it has signed but not yet ratified.
Meanwhile, the police in the central city of Wuhan detained CDP activist Lu Xinhua, the information centre said.
HONG KONG (ANI): China today sentenced dissident Peng Ming, former leader of the reformist China Development Union, to 18 months labour after he was arrested on charges of hiring prostitutes.
Peng was arrested on January 25. The charge for which he was arrested drew protests from his family members and fellow dissidents.
The head of the Hong Kong-based China Development Union, Frank Lu, suspected the arrest was a frame-up.
TEHERAN, Feb 28 (Reuters) Prominent reformers backing President Mohammad Khatami are leading in races for city council seats in the capital, Teheran, with religious conservatives trailing far behind, reports said here today.
No official confirmation was available, although todays newspapers based their reports on what they said were "informed" Interior Ministry sources.
Polling for local seats nationwide ended late on Friday, with official results expected later this week.
"People have voted for social reform," said a banner headline in the moderate daily Akhbar. "The faction supporting the President will take over the seats in Teheran and other major cities."
It said former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri, who headed the reformist ticket, was leading the Teheran race.
ANKARA, Feb 28 (AFP) Captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has accused his former wife of ordering the 1986 assassination of Swedens late Prime Minister Olaf Palme, the Turkish Daily said quoting the rebel leader.
The assassination of Olaf Palme was ordered by my former wife Kesire, according to information received after the attack, Ocalan told a magistrate yesterday during questioning at the Imrali island prison in the sea of Marmara where he was being held, the paper said.
I gave no order for the assassination of Olaf Palme. After the attack, I found that he had been killed by men close to my former wife, he said.
Palme was gunned down by an unidentified assailant while walking down a busy street in central Stockholm with his wife, after leaving a cinema on February 28, 1986.
Turkish press reports in 1985 said Kesire had fallen out with Ocalan over the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which he headed, and its armed struggle for independence. After their divorce, she left the organisation.
With a small group of Ocalan opponents she founded the PKK-Vejine, but little was known about the group today.
In an interview with the Swedish evening paper, Aftonbladet, in December, Ocalan said the murder was committed in order to incriminate the PKK.
NICOSIA (ANI): Abdullah Ocalans lawyers have complained that the Turkish authorities are making it extremely difficult for them to defend their client properly.
One of the lawyers, Ahmed Zeki Okcuoglu, said he was forced to resign, invoking security reasons. He said that two soliders wearing ski masks were present during his 20-minute meeting with Ocalan.
Okcuoglu told a press conference in Istanbul that he was interrupting his defence of Turkeys most wanted man because the state of Turkey could not guarantee his own security as a lawyer. It is possible that some people may attempt to murder me, he said.
Just before the press conference, police arrested Osman Baydemir, one of Ocalans attroneys, while an appeals court upheld the one years imprisonment against Medeni Ayhan, another member of the team of lawyers. Ayhan was accused of spreading separatist propaganda.
executed in a day
A Palestinian police officer who raped a five-year-old boy was executed by firing squad on Friday, just hours after he was convicted and condemned to death.
The execution, which drew sharp criticism from human rights groups, was the third authorised by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in the past six months. It has fuelled concerns about the quality of justice in the autonomous Palestinian Authority areas.
The defendant, Col Ahmed Abu Mustafa, aged 48, was convicted and sentenced to death by a special military tribunal on Thursday evening after a trial lasting just one hour. A lawyer was assigned to him only as the trial began.
He was given 15 years for the rape committed on Friday last and the death penalty for ``inciting the public against the Palestinian Authority. He was executed at 2 am yesterday in Gaza Citys central prison, a statement said.
Since Mr Arafats autonomous government was created in 1994, Palestinian military courts have handed down 24 death sentences, 18 of them against members of the Palestinian security services, according to Mr Bassem Eid, Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. He warned that human rights in Palestine faced a dark future unless Parliament ended the death penalty.
Mr Arafat himself signed the death warrant, one of only three he has personally signed. Usually he commutes the death penalty to life imprisonment. He made an exception last August when two brothers, both Palestinian security officials, murdered two men, one of whom was a member of Mr Arafats Fateh party, at a wedding celebration.
The killings, part of a clan feud, sparked a wave of street protests by relatives and Fateh activists who demanded the deaths of the murderers. There were similar demonstrations, roadblocks and a shop strike in protest at the rape of the boy.
There is growing resentment about the behaviour of members of security units in Gaza and the West Bank. Many Palestinians complain that officers act as if they are above the law.
According to the Palestinian human rights group, Al Dameer, and the victims relatives, the rape took place last Friday in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
The arrest of Abu Mustafa was based on testimony by witnesses who saw him take the child, according to the boys uncle. The boy then identified him at a police line-up.
Before the trial, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights which initially made the rape case public called on the Palestinian Authority to hold an open trial to calm popular anger. But after the execution, it quickly condemned the swift trial and demanded that capital punishment be outlawed.
|Three held for Omagh blast
LONDON: The Irish police has arrested three men in connection with the probe into last years Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people in the single worst atrocity in Northern Irelands sectarian conflict. Reports from Dublin said police on Saturday first picked up a man in his mid-twenties and several hours later arrested two other suspects. Last weekend, 13 men were detained in carefully coordinated raids on both sides of the frontier. Only one, bar owner Colm Murphy, has been charged in connection with the bombing. ANI
8 burnt alive
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