Monday, March 31, 2014
Friday, March 28, 2014
By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC World Service
As darkness falls across the suburbs of Leeds, calls start to flood in to Chris Barley's radio from police HQ.It is prime time for criminal activity, and it is going to be a busy night for West Yorkshire's crime scene investigators too.
Continue reading the main storyWe can find out if the suspect is a male or female. We can understand whether or not a person has dealt drugs or actually taken drugs”
Dr Simona Francese Project Leader, Sheffield Hallam University
A break-in has been reported nearby, and the forensic officer gets on his way. When you're gathering evidence at a crime scene, every second counts.When he arrives, the door has been forced open, and the house has been ransacked.
Surveying the scene, he says: "We believe the suspects were probably looking for jewellery - they have torn open every drawer, suitcases have been opened, cupboards have had the contents thrown out. It's a very messy search."
Amongst the chaos, he gets to work looking for any clues that the burglars have left behind.
He is in luck. A mobile phone that has been thrown aside has a clear print.
Using his forensic kit, he carefully lifts it, transferring the mark to an acetate sheet ready to be sent to the identification experts.
Finding a match of the unique pattern of ridges and whorls that make up the print on the police database could be the key to cracking the case.
But today this evidence is also being examined by scientists from Sheffield Hallam University.
They have been working with West Yorkshire Police in the first trial of its kind.
They say a fingerprint holds much more than a person's identity.
Dr Simona Francese, who is leading the project, says: "Fingerprinting is still a very successful process."However there are many instances where the fingerprint isn't good enough for suspect identification. For example, if it smudges, or if the fingerprints aren't present on the database.
"Up to that point the evidential value of the mark was lost. But now we can say a lot more about that suspect."
Reliability of evidence Back in their laboratory, the team uses an analytical technique called mass spectroscopy to find traces of substances, no matter how small, on or within the ridges of the print.
It works by vaporising the sample, and then firing it through an electric and magnetic field. Particles of different mass behave differently under these conditions and this means the team can identify molecules found within the print.
"The kind of information we can find is very diverse," says Dr Francese.
"For example, by looking at the proteins found in the mark, we can find out if the suspect is a male or female. We can understand whether or not a person has dealt drugs or actually taken drugs.
"We can detect ingested substances, so we may be able to reconstruct what that person has been eating just before committing the crime.
"All kinds of exogenous substances can link to the lifestyle of the person or their activities."
The trial with the police has been underway for several months, and the results, she says, have the degree of accuracy needed for a criminal investigation.
"Reliability in the kind of evidence we provide is massively important. You are dealing with people's lives, so you have to be very sure what you say," says Dr Francese.
"And this technology actually provides that extra degree of reliability that forensic investigators look for."
Overseeing the trial is Neil Denison, head of regional identification services, at West Yorkshire Police.
He says: "In the past, you either identified or didn't identify a fingerprint. Now even if we don't identify a fingerprint we can find out information about the habits of the individual who has left that mark behind at the crime scene."
He thinks the technique could make the jump into courtrooms in the next few years.
However, because it is relatively expensive, it would probably be used in crimes such as murder or rape rather than domestic burglaries.
"Criminals are getting better at what they do, and we need to keep up with them. And this is just one way we might improve the way we use fingerprints, and ultimately prevent and detect crime."
Find out moreYou can see Rebecca Morelle's report on the BBC's technology programme, Click
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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Al Arabiya News
Some accuse the regime of orchestrating the death of Assad's cousin, Hilal al-Assad (L), to diffuse the Alawite sect’s growing resentment. (Photos courtesy: Facebook and Reuters)
By Mohanad Hage Ali | Special to Al Arabiya News“The lout and lowlife, Suleiman al-Assad, the son of Hilal, the head of Military Housing in Latakia, was arrested on Monday from the Meridian of Latakia after receiving a beating from the good boys …. they said he cried and screamed. Among his entourage, was an official’s son called Amjad Aslan, also a friend of the Latakia Military Security Chief… they are all a group of louts and low lives who have wreaked havoc and infested corruption in the city …”
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Such statements, critical of the practices of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s clan, appeared on regime loyalist Facebook pages to the surprise of many Syrians. With loyalist calls for their arrest, Suleiman and his father Hilal al-Assad were perceived as a liability in the coastal region.
death of Hilal, the 47-year-old second cousin of Syria’s president on Monday, with some already accusing the regime of orchestrating his death to diffuse the Alawite sect’s growing resentment.
Certain reports claimed his death in the newly launched Alanfal campaign, a joint Islamist military operation against Syria’s coastal region. An Islamist group declared that Hilal, among other Allawite figures, died in a rocket attack on the city of Latakia.
Hilal is the grandchild of Ahmad al-Assad, the older half-brother of Hafez al-Assad, the late Syrian president. Following the revolution, he and his son were known for their thuggish practices, namely ransom kidnapping and rape, surpassing the reputation of his two notorious brothers, Haroun and Hail.
The rise of ShabihaThe Shabiha is a term originally used to describe the Assad clan’s smugglers and racketeers and their Allawite henchmen in the late 1970s. They exploited the high demand for foreign goods, especially cars and cigarettes, following newly imposed government restrictions on imports. Malek al-Assad, the son of Ibrahim, Hafez’s half-brother, was a pioneer in smuggling; he became a liability for his involvement in weapons’ smuggling, according to this detailed account of the rise of Shabiha by Syria Comment. Hafez imprisoned his nephew for days. Years after losing his lucrative business, he ended up a taxi driver on the Latakia–Damascus route, dying in car accident.
Hafez reportedly intervened occasionally to curtail his excesses. As the other nephews and cousins grew older, they competed for power and wealth, often parading their brand new cars, with tinted windows and bodyguards brandishing their Kalashnikovs. The Shabiha were notorious for their gangster looks, tattoos, funky haircuts, massive biceps and beards.
Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian filmmaker and former Latakia resident, believes that Hafez, a cunning leader often praised for his Machiavellian tactics, intentionally left his extended family uneducated, paving the way for their thuggish behavior.
“There was an interest in repressing the coastal region through the clan. Hafez’s eldest son, Bassel Assad, periodically curtailed and unleashed their activities in a semi-organized manner,” said Nyrabia.
The Assads, originally peasants from the Latakia Mountains, mostly took the easy illicit road to fortune and power, the Tashbeeh. They moved to the city of Latakia, a mostly Sunni coastal city with a few hundred thousand residents. Sectarian tensions hid some class hatred, according to residents from both communities, as Allawites often cited their history as discriminated against peasants and servants of urban Sunnis.
The Shabiha instilled fear among the population, while amassing fortunes from smuggling; the regime kept them at bay to fulfill the regime’s two pillars of control: demoralization and fear. After the revolution, and as the regime’s dependency on local militias grew, their power was unleashed. They repressed demonstrators in the coastal region, tortured and humiliated them, like in this infamous video from Bayada, a town in the Banyas province.
After Hilal’s deathSyrian activists recently reported that Suleiman, Hilal’s son, harassed a girl at a DVD store in Latakia; when the owner confronted him, he was forced to lick his shoes, then get naked, and dash around the many squared meters of his shop.
Following news of his father’s death, Suleiman and his Shabiha indiscriminately shot at Sunni neighborhoods. “Young Sunni men were left with little choices in Latakia,” according to a half Alawite, half Sunni city resident.
“Either they stay in the city and risk arrest, conscription and harassment, or join the rebels in the mountains”, he said. “Most chose the latter.”
Monday, March 24, 2014
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Leaked video shows soldiers torturing female recruits as part of unauthorised disciplinary measure, army spokesman says.
Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 13:28
Anti-establishment srilankaguardian.org website, which is blocked in Sri Lanka, published the footage [Al Jazeera]
Sri Lanka's military admitted soldiers had abused and tortured female recruits, a rare admission of guilt after years of allegations over its personnel's treatment of Tamil rebels during an uprising.
A military spokesman said it accepted the authenticity of a video, leaked on a dissident website, that appeared to show soldiers torturing women soldiers, adding instructors had overstepped their authority for an undisclosed act of violating "military discipline".
"The investigation which is being carried out by the Sri Lanka Army Corps of Military Police has so far revealed that the video in question is an authentic one," military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said in a statement.
"According to a preliminary report, the instructors (the troops) have punished the recruits for an act in violation of military discipline," Wanigasooriya added.
"However, the method adopted is not in accordance with standard procedures," he said.
Camera phone footage
The anti-establishment srilankaguardian.org website, which is blocked by internet providers in Sri Lanka but can be accessed through servers outside the country, published the 4.41 minute footage on Friday, saying it had been filmed on a phone camera by another soldier.
The fuzzy footage showed women recruits being subjected to cruel and degrading treatment and sustained beatings by men in uniform.
The spokesman said the incident had taken place in October 2012 in the north-central district of Anuradhapura, further south of the war zone where fighting ended in May 2009 with the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels.
"The individuals who carried out this excessive action had overstepped their mandate and acted in (sic) their own volition," he said.
It is the first time the military has accepted a leaked video showing torture as authentic, previously rejecting as fabrications several others allegedly showing executions of surrendered Tamil rebels and sexual abuse of female detainees.
The latest video came a week before the United Nations Human Rights Council was due to debate a US-led resolution pressing for an international investigation into allegations that Sri Lankan troops killed up to 40,000 civilians after ordering them into a no-fire zone.
Complicity in crime
International rights groups have said Sri Lanka's government was complicit in many of the crimes.
A study published on Friday by South African human rights lawyer and UN adviser, Yasmin Sooka, alleged that Sri Lankan troops carried out horrific sexual abuse of ethnic minority Tamils even after the end of the island's drawn out separatist war.
She said the "highest levels" of Sri Lanka's government were complicit in raping, torturing and abducting ethnic Tamils following the war and accused security forces of sexual abuse of Tamils, including forced oral sex and anal rape as well as water torture.
Colombo did not comment specifically on Sooka's report but has always denied such allegations and also insists that not a single civilian was killed by its troops while battling Tamil Tigers known for their trademark suicide bombings.
Colombo, in turn, has accused the defeated rebels of using civilians as human shields.
The UK has quietly been returning asylum seekers to Mogadishu, despite the threat of al-Shabab.
Simon Hooper Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 10:17
A disabled Somali boy holds a poster stating he will never support terrorism at an anti al-Shabab rally [AFP]
London, United Kingdom - When Ismail finally touched down on British soil early last year, after being smuggled over land and through the air from Somalia, he believed he was finally on the verge of beginning a new life.
"The Britain I had in mind was one in which they welcomed people of different colour, different religion and different backgrounds and where human rights were respected," Ismail, who preferred not to use his real name, told Al Jazeera.
"I wanted to live in a safe place where I could just study and work and help my family and support myself, so what happened to me was a big shock."
Less than a year after failing in his bid to claim asylum in the UK, Ismail found himself handcuffed, forcibly placed aboard an airplane bound for the Somali capital, Mogadishu - a journey Ismail holds would have effectively been a death sentence.
Ismail is one of a handful of known cases of Somali refugees recently detained and told they are to be returned to their conflict-stricken country, despite the severe security concerns and legal obstacles that have made it virtually impossible until now for British immigration officials to send them home.
Members of Somali communities in the UK, as well as campaign groups and solicitors working on behalf of asylum seekers, say they fear these cases point to a tougher approach and a new returns programme at the Home Office, the UK's interior ministry - one that could endanger the lives of many others whose asylum claims are rejected.
"When I told people in the Somali community what the Home Office was doing to me they said, 'No, that's impossible, it's unheard of. Nobody is stupid enough to remove people to Mogadishu,'" said Ismail.
Yet at the end of January, after three weeks in a detention centre near a London airport, Ismail was bundled into a van, pushed aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and seated at the back of the plane between three guards tasked with removing him from the UK.
On arriving in Istanbul, Ismail's escorts asked Turkish immigration officials to place him in a cell. During the flight, he said, they had discussed going sightseeing and "chilling out" in the city while they waited for a connecting flight to Mogadishu.
Then one of them received a phone call. Ismail's solicitor had secured a judicial review of his case. Instead of going to Mogadishu, he was flown back to London and returned to another detention centre.
"I was already resigned to the death sentence that awaited me," he said. "I was helpless. I was mentally tortured."
The UK has long had a policy of returning Somalis whose asylum claims are rejected to less volatile regions of the country that are safely accessible by air, such as Somaliland. But most of the country, including Mogadishu, has long been considered too dangerous as a return destination because of the ongoing conflict between government forces and al-Shabab rebels.
But Paul Morris, a volunteer at the Somali Adult Social Care Agency in Manchester, said the UK government appeared to have been emboldened by a European Court of Human Rights judgment in a Swedish case last September, which ruled in favour of allowing repatriations to Mogadishu in circumstances where a returnee was not deemed to be at specific risk.
In making that ruling, the court cited a report by Norwegian and Danish immigration authorities that said there had been a general improvement in the security situation.
"It's based on a fact-finding mission by a few Nordic bureaucrats who went for about a week and produced a report. It's fatuous," Morris told Al Jazeera. "The judgment came out at the beginning of September. Two weeks later the Westgate attack happened in Nairobi, and al-Shabab proved its power."
Concerns over security in Mogadishu have continued to mount since then. Al-Shabab has shown itself still capable of mounting major attacks in the capital, such as last month's deadly assault on the heavily fortified presidential palace.
A report this month by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon said the security situation remained volatile, with al-Shabab continuing to use "guerrilla and terrorist tactics" and deadly violence occurring almost daily.
But Morris said the Home Office, in opposing a bail application by a Somali man held in a Scottish detention centre since February, had revealed details of what he believes is a new programme to send Somalis home.
"The Home Office can normally only justify detention if there is imminent removal planned," he said. "In the bail summary, they talked about a new pilot project to remove Somalis to Mogadishu. The removal directions were on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul."
James McGuinness, an immigration advocate at law firm Jackson & Canter, also highlighted an immigration tribunal decisionin December last year, in which a Somali man's appeal against deportation was rejected on the grounds that the tribunal found nothing to suggest he would face a real risk of suffering serious harm. The tribunal noted that al-Shabab was "no longer the force they once were".
"Obviously it's deeply controversial and highly problematic - and the rules counter everything we know about the current situation in Mogadishu," McGuinness told Al Jazeera. "There is a high risk there of indiscriminate violence."
Al Jazeera has identified at least three other Somali individuals currently in detention in the UK who, like Ismail, have been told that they are to be returned to Somalia.
One of them told Al Jazeera he was a member of a tribal minority who had fled the country in 2012 after seeing all of his immediate family killed. An aunt, his only surviving relative, paid for him to be smuggled by plane to the UK, where his claim for asylum was rejected.
Last month he was sent to a detention centre in the England's east and told he would soon be sent home. Like Ismail, he did not want to be identified out of fear that he could be targeted if he was forced back to Mogadishu.
"It's very, very tough. There's a lot of people here who have lost their minds. They just lock you up all day, and everyone has something in their heart," he said. "But the biggest fear I have is not to be here, but to be sent back there because I am sure I will never leave. Definitely I think I will die."
"People are really alarmed. They think that to actually be forcibly sent back you haven't got a chance," he said. "No Somali is going to think that the British government is so brutal as to send people back, so the people [in Somalia] will assume them to be agents - and the punishment for being a spy or an agent is decapitation."
The Home Office told Al Jazeera it could not confirm whether anyone had been returned to Mogadishu and did not reveal details of return routes for security reasons.
"Returns to Somalia and Somaliland have taken place over the past year and we will seek to carry out further removals in the future," said a spokesperson. "However, we regularly review the way in which we do this and are working to develop more effective return routes."
The spokesperson said the Home Office could not comment on Ismail's allegations that he was physically abused by his escorts without more details of his case.
But his claims appear consistent with a recent UK government report raising concerns that some detainees being removed from the country had been subjected to "disproportionate use of force and restraint and examples of unprofessional behaviour".
On his return to the UK, Ismail was held in a detention centre for 30 days. Finally, his solicitor secured his release on bail, on condition that he registered at a Home Office reporting centre every week. He was also electronically tagged.
He said he was having nightmares and suffering mental trauma, and had become reclusive and fearful of other people as a consequence of his treatment.
"They said to me, 'This isn't finished yet. We are still trying to remove you.' When I go to the reporting centre, I am always sweating and my heart jumps as I enter the building. I don't know what will happen to me. They can detain you any time they want to."
Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper
Moscow has described further EU sanctions against prominent Russians over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as "detached from reality".The foreign ministry said Russia reserved the right to an "appropriate response" after Brussels expanded its black list from 21 to 33 names.
Those on the list, who include close allies of President Vladimir Putin, face asset freezes and travel bans.
Meanwhile international observers are set to deploy in Ukraine.
Advance teams from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are due to visit areas that include the troubled south-east after Russia dropped its objections.
However, the 100-strong OSCE Mission is not expected to go to Crimea.
Russia argues that Crimea has become part of Russia and therefore the mission has no mandate to go there.
In Crimea itself, forces allied to Russia continued their attempts to seize Ukrainian navy property on Saturday.
A pro-Russian crowd stormed the regional naval air base at Novofederovskoe, near Yevpatoria on the western coast, tearing down Ukrainian symbols, overturning furniture and looting, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from the scene in a tweet.
The Ukrainian commander shouted "this is our base" as his men tried to drive the crowd back using smoke, our correspondent says.
In the Crimean capital, Simferopol, a joint funeral was held for a Ukrainian soldier and a Russian Cossack militiamen killed this week in a shooting - the only known victims of what was otherwise a bloodless takeover of Crimea by Russia.
The van carrying their coffins was escorted by bikers flying Russian and Crimean flags. The Crimean authorities are still investigating the shooting at a base in the city on Tuesday.
'Regrettable' move On Friday, the EU announced sanctions against 12 Russians including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin, Kremlin political strategist Vladislav Surkov and Mr Putin's top adviser on Ukraine, Sergei Glazyev.
All four men are already under US sanctions for their involvement in the crisis over Crimea.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the European Council's decision to impose the sanctions was "regrettable" and "detached from reality".
It called for both sides to return to a "pragmatic basis for co-operation that meets our countries' interests" but warned that Russia reserved "the right to give an adequate response to the action taken".
President Putin signed a law formalising Crimea's annexation on Friday, despite the sanctions and international outcry over his actions in Ukraine.
The OSCE, which has 57 member-states in both Europe and North America, reached a deal on dispatching observers on Friday evening.The Vienna-based group said that initially 100 civilian observers would deploy for six months in nine regions of Ukraine. Up to 400 extra personnel could be deployed if necessary.
The areas the monitors are due to visit include Odessa, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, and Luhansk, which have been recently rocked by clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists.
Washington tried to argue that the mission had a "mandate to work in Crimea and in all other parts of Ukraine".
On Saturday, the Russian foreign ministry said: "The mission's mandate reflects the new political and legal realities and does not apply to Crimea and Sevastopol, which became a part of Russia."
It said it hoped the mission would "help to overcome the internal Ukrainian crisis, stop rampant nationalist banditry and eradicate ultra-radical tendencies".
Earlier this month OSCE monitors had to abandon attempts to visit Crimea after warning shots were fired at the border with the Ukrainian mainland.
Thousands of Algerian opposition supporters have called for a boycott of next month's presidential election, during an unprecedented mass rally.Islamist and secular opposition parties at the rally denounced 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's attempt to win a fourth term of office.
They say a stroke last year has left him unfit to govern.
Mr Bouteflika, in power since 1999, scrapped constitutional rules in 2008 limiting him to two terms in office.
He has rarely been seen in public in recent months, but correspondents say the backing of the governing National Liberation Front (FLN), army factions and business elites almost guarantees him election victory.
'The real Algeria' Chanting "boycott" and "the people want the regime out" about 5,000 people packed into the sports stadium where various opposition leaders denounced Mr Bouteflika's re-election bid and demanded reforms to a political system they see as corrupt.
Large opposition gatherings are unusual in Algeria, where FLN elites and army generals have dominated politics since independence from France in 1962.
"The people here are the people who have been excluded, who have been put aside, but this is the real Algeria," Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party spokesman Mohsen Belabes told cheering crowds.
"The regime will collapse, but Algeria will survive."
Correspondents say Mr Bouteflika ordered heavy spending from Algeria's oil earnings on housing, public services and infrastructure projects to offset social unrest after the Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa in 2011.
But the parties within the opposition are not united and remain weak, analysts say.
Evidence of this disunity was evident at Friday's rally, where rival Islamist and secular supporters heckled and taunted at each other across the stadium.
The president is one of the few remaining veterans of the war of independence against France.
But he has had persistent health problems and his rule has recently been dogged by corruption scandals implicating members of his inner circle.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Monday, March 3, 2014
Egyptian police officers Awad Ismail Suleiman (L) and Mahmud Salah Amin, sentenced to 10 years in jail for the killing of blogger Khaled Said in 2010. (File photo: AFP)
Monday, 3 March 2014Two Egyptian policemen were sentenced to 10 years in jail Monday for the killing of a blogger whose death rallied protesters in the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The two were sentenced following a retrial for the manslaughter and torture of Khaled Saeed in June 2010, when they had unlawfully arrested him at an Internet cafe in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
The two police, Mahmoud Salah Mahmoud and Awad Ismail Suleiman, had initially been sentenced to seven years in October 2011 for excessive brutality.
Saeed’s death galvanized protests against then-president Hosni Mubarak, after pictures emerged online of the 28-year-old’s mangled face.
The government further enraged Mubarak’s opponents when it tried to cover up the killing by alleging he choked on a bag of drugs.
A Facebook group entitled “We are all Khaled Saeed” helped organize the 18-day protests that drove Mubarak’s hated police force from the streets and forced him to resign in February 2011.
The sentencing comes amid renewed popularity for the police, who supported the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July, and a pattern of acquittals for policemen tried for killing protesters during the anti-Mubarak revolt.
Both defendants were in a caged dock when judge Ismail Attiya delivered the verdict. They showed little emotion on hearing the sentence.
Their lawyer said he would appeal the verdict, and relatives yelled at police outside the court room: “You sold out your men!”
Mahmoud Abdel Rahman, a lawyer for Said’s family, told AFP “justice has been delivered for all” and that the verdict sent a message of “deterrence to a powerful institution.”
Police and the forensic authority had initially said that Said choked to death after swallowing a packet of drugs.
Another forensic report later said he died of asphyxiation after being beaten, and that the packet of drugs was thrust in his mouth when he was unconscious.
Pictures of Said’s badly bruised face after his death spread on the Internet, and his case became synonymous with police brutality under Mubarak.
Said’s supporters and opposition activists have often clashed with security forces, in particular during the trial hearings.
In January, seven activists were sentenced to two years in prison for a violent and unlicensed protest outside the court hearing the Said case.
Since Morsi’s ouster, the military-installed government has pressed an extensive crackdown on protests, mainly those of his Islamist supporters, frequently setting off violent street clashes.
At least 1,400 people have been killed in clashes since Morsi’s overthrow, most of them Islamists.
Three years after the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt's police again faces accusations of brutality and ill treatment in detention centers, which the interior ministry has denied.
The police and army have meanwhile come under frequent attack by jihadist militants, mainly in the restive Sinai Peninsula, with dozens killed since Mursi’s ouster. On Monday a policeman was shot dead in the town of Beni Suef, south of Cairo.