News you may have missed #745

Sir Dominic AsquithBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Algeria sentences man to 20 years for spying. Noureddine Benziane, an Algerian psychologist and expert on anti-terrorism, has been sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail on conviction of spying after a stay in Iraq. According to the charge sheet, Benziane went to Iraq on humanitarian missions several times between 2005 and 2007, but he allegedly founded a training camp for potential suicide bombers of several nationalities. Benziane later acknowledged contacting several diplomatic missions in Algiers to give them details of the information he had recovered. However, he neglected to inform the Algerian security services of his findings, according to his prosecutors.
►►Egypt pulls TV ads warning foreigners may be spies. An unnamed Egyptian media official says authorities have pulled a television advertisement that warned against talking to foreigners who may be spies, after criticism that they fueled xenophobia. The official said Sunday that the ads were aired on state TV and private networks for a few days before Minister of Information Ahmed Anis ordered them off the air.
►►British diplomat attacked in Libya. Britain’s ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, was in a convoy of cars that came under attack in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, in what British media described as the most serious assault on foreign targets in Libya to date. The attack came amid mounting concern for the welfare of an Australian lawyer and three colleagues working for the International Criminal Court after they were detained in Libya. They were accused of spying when they visited Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Charles Taylor was not acting alone

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor

As former Liberian President Charles Taylor becomes the first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, it is worth remembering that the 61-year old father of 14 was not acting alone. Taylor, who headed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), became the country’s President in 1997. He is currently being tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accused of indescribable violations of human rights, which he allegedly committed during his 14-year rule. He is also accused of conspiring to foment the brutal civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, which he allegedly funded through the Liberian diamond trade. But as I explained last February, Taylor’s diamond smuggling was facilitated by Roger D’Onofrio Ruggiero, an Italian-American 40-year veteran of the CIA, who worked with Taylor and others to channel diamonds into Europe through a number of front-companies. Taylor was also assisted by Ibrahim Bah, a Senegalese who in the 1970s and 1980s was funded by the CIA to join the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the war against the Soviet Red Army. It is unlikely, however, that Charles Taylor’s prosecutors at The Hague will be calling on these two witnesses during the trial. Witnesses aside, however, Charles Taylor’s trial may prove to be interesting on numerous levels. Yesterday, for instance, he told the court that his 1985 “escape” from the US maximum security Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, which allowed him to return to Liberia and take over the country through a military coup, took place with US government assistance.

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