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Israeli PM Netanyahu defiant after corruption indictment

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem : Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday became the country’s first prime minister to be indicted in office, on corruption charges, but defiantly condemned the “coup” against him and vowed to hold onto power.

The shock announcement compounded the political chaos gripping Israel, which has been without a government for months and faces the prospect of its third election in a year.

After months of suspense, Israel’s longest-serving premier was charged by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu immediately hit back in an often vitriolic 15-minute speech, accusing the judiciary, police and others of plotting against him with “false” and “politically motivated” allegations.

“What is going on here is an attempt to stage a coup against the prime minister,” he charged in a televised address.

“The object of the investigations was to oust the right from government.”

He vowed to stay on as interim premier despite potential court dates and intense political pressure.

“I will continue to lead this country, according to the letter of the law,” he said.

Political rival Benny Gantz, who had been trying to form a coalition government, said it was a “very sad” day for Israel to indict a leader, but called on Netanyahu to “step down from his position and focus on the charges against him”.

“There is no coup in Israel, but rather those that have barricaded themselves in power,” he said.

  • ‘Hard and sad day’ –

The 70-year-old premier, nicknamed “Mr Security” and “King Bibi”, has been in power since 2009 and dominates Israel’s political scene.

The indictment comes with crunch talks due on forming a government, after two inconclusive general elections left the country’s political system deadlocked.

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign unless he is convicted and any subsequent appeals process is exhausted, but political pressure is likely to be intense.

He may now ask the parliament, or Knesset, to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The charges against Netanyahu range from receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars to a deal to change regulatory frameworks in favour of a media group in exchange for positive coverage.

Mandelblit said it was a “hard and sad day” for Israel to indict a leader, but it showed no citizen was above the law.

“The citizens of Israel, all of us, and myself, look up to the elected officials, and first and foremost to the prime minister,” Mandelblit said.

“Law enforcement is not a choice. It is not a matter of right or left. It’s not a matter of politics.”

On a day of high political drama, dozens of Netanyahu supporters gathered outside his official residence, many holding pictures of the PM and slogans attacking Mandelblit.

“We are all Netanyahu,” one sign read.

But on Twitter, many hailed the day’s events, and “happy day” quickly became Israel’s top trending phrase.

  • ‘Fight for political life’ –

A perennial fighter, Netanyahu has outlived many political rivals. Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said he wouldn’t give up power easily.

“Now more than ever Netanyahu will be fighting for his political and personal life,” Lovatt said.

Of the three cases against Netanyahu, the third, known as Case 4,000, is seen as the most serious and carries bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.

He is alleged to have negotiated with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, to secure positive coverage on his Walla! news site in exchange for policies benefiting Bezeq.

Elovitch and his wife were also indicted.

Case 1,000 involves allegations Netanyahu and his family received gifts including luxury cigars, champagne and jewellery from wealthy individuals, estimated to be worth more than 700,000 shekels ($200,000, 185,000 euros), in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Another, Case 2,000, concerns allegations Netanyahu sought a deal with the owner of the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that would have seen it give him more favourable coverage.

  • Political turmoil –

The next steps in the process remain unclear, with no trial date yet set.

The developments were set to only deepen the political turmoil in Israel, which has been without a stable majority government for much of the year.

Neither Likud leader Netanyahu nor rival Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White party, have been able to form a coalition government following deadlocked elections in April and September.

Netanyahu has remained interim prime minister.

The Knesset has 21 days remaining to find a candidate capable of commanding the support of the majority of the country’s 120 MPs, and the indictment is likely to strengthen former army chief Gantz’s claims.

Gantz has reportedly tried to woo Likud MPs to join him in a broad national unity government, but so far there have been no takers.

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Imran party supporters call for Sharif’s death in London

One protester can be heard shouting in the video “some one shoot him” in reference to Nawaz Sharif.

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nawaz sharief

London/Islamabad, Dec 9 : A group of supporters of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party held a protest outside the London residence of ailing former PM Nawaz Sharif and called for his death by shooting.

According to a report in The News, a group of PTI supporters held a protest outside Avenfield flats in London on Sunday. Sharif, who is in the UK for treatment, is living in the third floor of the Avenfield flats.

One protester called loudly for Sharif’s death by shooting while another called for Taliban-style bombing of the Avengield apartment.

A group of protesters attempted to break down the main gate.

Around 40 protestors, led by Tariq Mehmood, who runs a group called ‘Pakistan Patriotic Front’, raised slogans in support of PTI and many were wearing PTI caps.

However, PTI’s elected body issued a statement distancing itself from the protest.

One protester can be heard shouting in the video “some one shoot him” in reference to Nawaz Sharif.

Another protestor was carrying a poster that read “We cannot wait for the law”, “Avenfield belongs to us to keep”, “Imran Khan is our pride” and “Long live PTI”.

Another protestor called for Taliban-style bombing of the Avenfield apartments and said that casualties in such bombings are normal. One speaker used threatening language for Asif Saeed Khosa, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the daily reported.

Video footage shows at least three protesters banging the front gate in order to break it down, while two protesters entered inside the gate from a side entrance and were asked by the police to leave.

Ahead of the violent protest on Sunday, Tariq Mehmood (also known as Chaduhry Tariq) issued a call asking for the occupation of Avenfield House through violence.

He said in a viral audio message: “It’s our duty to occupy property of these people. This is our right. This property belongs to the people of Pakistan. We are monitoring the whole situation and if needed, we will move in.

“We will move into the Avenfield house in the same way that property of Libyan leader Qaddafi was occupied and the British government took no action against them because the it thought these properties were made with the looted money. For us to occupy these properties, it’s our right because this money belongs to Pakistan.”

Ahead of Nawaz Sharif’s arrival, elected senior official of PTI in UK Soraya Aziz had issued a similar call for violence on Twitter. Soraya Aziz, who is Head of Computing at the Beths Grammar School in Bexley, Kent, said: “For his own safety, I strongly recommend Nawaz Sharif not leave his Avenfield Apartments. If he’s seen shopping in Knightsbridge, overseas Pakistanis will give him response even his few remaining platelets won’t know where to hide!!”

Taqveem Ahsan Siddiqui, in a statement issued earlier on Sunday said: “The PTI has not called for any demonstration outside disqualified Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence”.

Siddiqui said: “It has been brought to our attention that an invite to demonstrate outside his residence is in circulation. The PTI UK does not have any intention to call or join any demonstration outside Nawaz Sharif’s residence until he abides by his bail condition.”

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Turkey deports 11 suspected French IS militants

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Ankara: Turkey has deported 11 suspected French Islamic State (IS) militants to their home country, the Interior Ministry here said on Monday.

The Ministry made the announcement in a statement, without providing details or identifying the suspects, reports Xinhua news agency.

Turkey aims to extradite around 2,500 IS terrorists, the majority of whom will be sent to European Union (EU) nations even if their citizenship was revoked, state broadcaster TRT Haber said.

Ankara started sending foreign IS captives back to their countries of origin last month.

Europeans comprise a fifth of the around 10,000 IS members held captive in Syria. Denmark, Germany and Britain have so far revoked some citizenships.

Turkey has so far deported 7,500 IS members, Anadolu news agency reported citing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying earlier last month, adding that there were currently 1,149 terrorists in Turkish prisons.

Since Ankara recognized IS as a terrorist group in 2013, the Turkish state has been attacked by the group numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks which killed 315 people.

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4 rockets hit military base near Baghdad, 6 injured

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Baghdad, Dec 9 : Four rockets struck a military base near the Baghdad airport, leaving six army personnel injured, Iraqi authorities said Monday.

According to a statement by the media office affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, forces searched the areas around the military base and found a rocket launcher left with some unfired rockets because of malfunction, Xinhua news agency reported

The statement however, did not say when the attack took place or identified which base was hit.

Meanwhile, an Interior Ministry official told Xinhua that the targeted base was where US troops were stationed.

Military bases housing US troops across Iraq and the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad have been frequently targeted by insurgents’ mortar and rocket attacks.

Over 5,000 .S troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against the Islamic State (IS) militants, mainly providing training and advice to the Iraqi forces.

The troops are part of the US-led international coalition that has been conducting air raids against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria.

The incident came as mass demonstrations have continued in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since early October, demanding comprehensive reform, accountability for corruption, improvement of public services and job opportunities.

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