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PM Cameronís ex-media chief, friend charged over hacking
Six other senior Murdoch newspaper staff charged
Alleged victims included Brangelina

London, July 24
Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief and Rupert Murdoch's former UK newspaper boss are to be charged with phone-hacking offences in the most significant development in a scandal that has rocked Britain's establishment.

Graft cases against Zardari
PM canít write to Swiss officials, Pak govt tells SC
Pak PM Raja Pervez Ashraf The Pakistan Government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf cannot write a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against President Asif Zardari. Ashraf had been given a deadline until July 25 to explain his position regarding writing of the letter. Former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani was convicted disqualified on contempt charges for refusing to carry out the same order.


EARLIER STORIES


Assadís forces battle rebels in Aleppo
A rebel stands near a vandalised portrait of Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo. Amman, July 24
Syrian troops fought rebels trying to seize central Aleppo on Tuesday and quelled a jail mutiny on the outskirts of the northern city, killing 15 prisoners, opposition activists said. After a week of battles between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and his opponents in Damascus, fighting intensified in Aleppo, a more populous commercial city that long seemed immune to the upheaval.

A rebel stands near a vandalised portrait of Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo. ó AFP

Indians asked to leave Syria
New Delhi, July 24
As the situation deteriorated in Syria, India today said it has asked Indian citizens and the staff of its mission in Damascus to leave the West Asian country. Indian Ambassador VP Haran was in touch with resident Indians and has asked them to leave the country, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.

 





 

 

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PM Cameronís ex-media chief, friend charged over hacking
Six other senior Murdoch newspaper staff charged
Alleged victims included Brangelina

Andy Coulson (left), UK PM James Cameronís communications director for four years until 2011, and Rebekah Brooks, who oversaw Murdoch's News International, would face charges of conspiracy to intercept communications.London, July 24
Prime Minister David Cameron's ex-media chief and Rupert Murdoch's former UK newspaper boss are to be charged with phone-hacking offences in the most significant development in a scandal that has rocked Britain's establishment.

Prosecutors said today that Andy Coulson, Cameron's communications director for four years until 2011, and Rebekah Brooks, who oversaw Murdoch's News International, would face charges of conspiracy to intercept communications.

The alleged offences were committed between 2000 and 2006 when both served as editor of the News of the World, the salacious Sunday tabloid which Murdoch was forced to close a year ago amid public disgust at the phone hacking revelations.

Among the alleged victims were two former home secretaries (interior ministers), former England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, former Beatle Paul McCartney and a minor member of the royal family.

Brooks and Coulson are also both accused of involvement in hacking the telephone of Milly Dowler, a missing schoolgirl who was later found murdered in 2002.

It was the revelation that News of the World journalists had hacked her phone that triggered a furore that engulfed Murdoch's News International and ultimately led to the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World.

"I am not guilty of these charges," Brooks said in a statement. "I did not authorise, nor was I aware of, phone hacking under my editorship.

"The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime. I will vigorously defend these allegations."

Six other senior former News of the World journalists and staff, including the former managing editor, are also to be charged, a formality to be completed by the police on Tuesday. The maximum sentence for the phone-hacking charges is two years in prison and/or a fine.

The development is particularly embarrassing for Cameron because Coulson was also charged with hacking the phones of David Blunkett and Charles Clarke, two former home secretaries from the now-opposition Labour Party.

"That is an astonishing development and I think that is almost inevitably going to rebound on Cameron," Steven Barnett, professor of communications at Westminster University, told Reuters. "That is going to pose some very very awkward questions for the prime minister."

Alison Levitt, Principal Legal Adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said she had concluded there was sufficient evidence to charge the eight suspects with 19 offences over the illegal accessing of voicemails on the mobile phones belonging to politicians, celebrities and sporting figures.

News International had for years denied that phone hacking was widespread after the tabloid's former royal reporter and private detective were jailed in 2007 for the crime. ó Reuters

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Graft cases against Zardari
PM canít write to Swiss officials, Pak govt tells SC
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

The Pakistan Government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf cannot write a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against President Asif Zardari.

Ashraf had been given a deadline until July 25 to explain his position regarding writing of the letter. Former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani was convicted disqualified on contempt charges for refusing to carry out the same order.

In its communication to the court in response to the notice to the new PM and the federation, the government asked the court to review and withdraw the notice while maintaining that the constitution does not permit writing such letter as the President enjoys constitutional immunity from any criminal proceedings at home or abroad.

The government, moreover, stated that the seven-judge bench did not have the authority to summon the PM.

The registrar of the court, however, rejected the reply saying that a plea for review of the court's order should have been filed instead.

The SC is billed to resume on Wednesday for the hearing in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case under which the notices were issued.

The registrar of the court said the objections raised mentioned those orders that the court issued to the PM on June 26 and July 12, but neither were the copies of these orders attached with the plea submitted nor are these orders revocable.

The Supreme Court has consumed one of the six options it had given in the NRO implementation case by holding Gilani in contempt, which is why it will deliberate on the remaining five options. These included: disqualification, contempt proceedings, commission implements NRO, claim immunity, action against NAB chief, leave it to the people.

The allegations against President Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.

The Swiss shelved the case in 2008 when Zardari became the President and the government had been insisting that the President has full immunity.

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Assadís forces battle rebels in Aleppo
Obama warns Syria against using chemical weapons

Amman, July 24
Syrian troops fought rebels trying to seize central Aleppo on Tuesday and quelled a jail mutiny on the outskirts of the northern city, killing 15 prisoners, opposition activists said.

After a week of battles between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and his opponents in Damascus, fighting intensified in Aleppo, a more populous commercial city that long seemed immune to the upheaval. Rebels seeking to capture downtown Aleppo were combating Syrian troops and intelligence men at the gates of the Old City, a UN World Heritage site, residents and activists said.

As the struggle for Syria intensified, Western leaders seized on an admission by Damascus that it has chemical and biological arms and could use them if foreign powers intervened.

US President Barack Obama said the world would hold Assad and his entourage accountable "should they make the tragic mistake of using those (chemical) weapons". ó Reuters

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Indians asked to leave Syria
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, July 24
As the situation deteriorated in Syria, India today said it has asked Indian citizens and the staff of its mission in Damascus to leave the West Asian country. Indian Ambassador VP Haran was in touch with resident Indians and has asked them to leave the country, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.

He said there were about 900 Indians in Syria before the crisis erupted in the Arab nation last year but now just about 100 were left. Of the 100, 13 were staff of the Indian embassy in Damascus. Every Indian has been advised to leave, the spokesperson said. In view of sharply escalating violence between government forces and opposition activists in Syria, the hub of 17-month-old pro-democracy protests, India had issued a travel advisory on July 20 to its citizens to avoid all travel to that country. India's decision to get its citizens and mission personnel evacuated comes amid reports that Syria is heading for a civil war.

Last week, India was among the 11 countries that voted on a UN Security Council resolution which sought new sanctions against the Assad regime, but Russia and China vetoed the resolution. India called the failure of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution on Syria "regrettable."

Russia, too, issues advisory

MOSCOW: Russia on Tuesday reiterated a warning to its citizens against travelling to Syria, citing what it called the "extremely tense situation" and persistent fighting. The Foreign Ministry "once again strongly recommends Russian citizens refrain from visiting (Syria) due to the continuing extremely tense situation and continuing clashes in various regions."

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