World News Headlines: 01-15-2019

Germany (DW)

Day of strikes at eight German airports, including Frankfurt; Staff responsible for checking passengers and cargo have started an 18-hour warning strike at Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt and seven others. The action is in support of a pay claim. German airport association ADV warned that the strike action could disrupt travel for 220,000 passengers and “paralyze” the German flight network on Tuesday. Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport had canceled 570 of 1,200 flights at Frankfurt ahead of Tuesday’s warning strike organized by the DBB and Verdi trade unions. The airport issued a warning on Twitter: “Due to a strike by security personnel there will be significant disruption at Frankfurt Airport on 15th Jan. Security checks outside the transit area will not be staffed until 8pm and passengers will not be able to reach flights during the strike period.”

Clues to CDU’s post-Merkel leadership on show at conference; Unity and decisiveness are the messages the CDU and its new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer are projecting to voters for 2019 — a year of many elections and a looming Brexit. Christoph Strack reports from Potsdam. Friedrich Merz wasn’t there, yet it was as if he were standing in the Kongresshotel Potsdam conference hall the entire time. On the opening evening of the two-day closed meeting of the Christian Democratic Party’s (CDU) leaders, Merz — the candidate who was defeated in the race to succeed party leader Angela Merkel and last week shot down speculation he would serve as a party advisor — was the subject of discussion for many Christian Democrats. That was especially the case for part members who, like him, are Merkel critics. In various interviews at the Potsdam meeting, the CDU’s new leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, dismissed speculation about Merkel’s successor in the chancellor’s office, while at the same time stressing that the party leader has the right of first choice. The new distribution of roles within the CDU has now become apparent. Merkel, who gave up her post as party chair after more than 15 years at a CDU conference in Hamburg at the beginning of December, was relaxed as she sauntered through the conference rooms. She did not speak in front of cameras or on the sidelines with reporters, and in the conference hall, she sat beside her successor at the party leaders’ table.

US and Turkish presidents talk over fate of Kurdish fighters in Syria; The US and Turkish presidents moved from Twitter to the telephone to exchange their views over the US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria. Washington is insisting the anti-“Islamic State” fighters should not be harmed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, took to the telephone to discuss the situation in northern Syria on Monday. “The president expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement, referring to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. The Turkish presidency said the two men discussed the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria cleared of militia groups. It did not provide any other details.

Gabon president expected home after prolonged medical absence; President Ali Bongo is returning to Gabon after receiving treatment for a stroke he had in October, government sources say. It comes a week after a coup attempt was thwarted and days after he appointed a new government. Gabon’s ailing President Ali Bongo has left Morocco after spending three months receiving medical treatment there, according to sources quoted by news agencies Reuters and Agence France Presse (AFP). His return to Gabon comes a week after a small military group took over a state radio station in an attempted coup. The power grab was quickly thwarted, but exposed growing frustration in the oil-rich coastal African nation over his secretive absence.

FRANCE (France24)

Ivory Coast awaits ICC verdict on Gbagbo’s acquittal; International Criminal Court judges will rule on Tuesday on former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo’s request to be acquitted and released after more than seven years in custody. Gbagbo, 73, and Charles Blé Goudé, a close ally and former political youth leader, have been on trial since 2016 for war crimes allegedly committed under Gbagbo’s leadership. He faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts during post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011, when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by rival Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo’s lawyers have accused prosecutors of “inventing another reality” to fit the charges and said security forces under Gbagbo had merely defended themselves against rebel attacks. Legal experts say that during the trial, which is roughly half over, prosecutors presented a lot of evidence that crimes occurred, but few witnesses could link the ex-Ivory Coast leader directly.

Elite French police on trial in alleged rape of Canadian tourist; It was a scandal that rocked the elite police unit at the centre of the allegations. Five years on, the officers’ trial will take place just steps from the alleged scene of the crime, in the courthouse adjacent to the storied 36, quai des Orfèvres, an address synonymous in France with popular crime fiction and the real-life home for more than a century to Paris’s judicial police, who investigate major crimes. Those offices, on the Ile de la Cité near Notre-Dame, were relocated to northern Paris in 2017. On the night of April 22, 2014, Canadian tourist Emily Spanton made the acquaintance of a group of off-duty police officers at Le Galway, a quayside Irish pub across the Seine from the headquarters where they worked. After midnight, a pair of officers from the elite anti-gang brigade invited a heavily inebriated Spanton back to the office for a late-night tour. One of the policemen, Antoine Q., ferried the then-34-year-old over by car while a second, Nicolas R., joined them on foot. The daughter of a Toronto police officer, Spanton would later tell investigators, “I had had a lot to drink. I couldn’t see myself going back to the hotel in that state and I thought that, going to a police station, I’d feel safer.” But the Canadian visitor would exit the building at around 2am in tears, barefoot and no longer wearing her tights, alleging she had been raped by four policemen, an account she later revised to at least three.

Opposition leaders Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade barred from Senegal’s presidential race; Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar who bears no relation to President Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were jailed for graft and corruption in 2018 and 2015 respectively. Under Senegalese law, the sentences effectively ended their chances of running in the Feb. 24 poll and the Constitutional Council confirmed this outcome on Monday.
The opposition says the sentences were part of the president’s plan to silence popular opponents so he can secure a second mandate, charges the ruling party denies.

Ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn suffers ‘harsh treatment’ in jail, says wife; Japanese authorities have charged Ghosn with under-reporting income and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008. In a nine-page letter to Kanae Doi, the rights group’s Japan director, Carole Ghosn asked it to “shine a light on the harsh treatment of my husband and the human rights-related inequities inflicted upon him by the Japanese justice system”. Ghosn was in charge of an alliance that included Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault, until his November arrest and removal as chairman of the automakers sent shockwaves through the industry.

JAPAN (NHK)

JOC chief denies 2020 Games graft allegation; The chief of the Japanese Olympic Committee has denied French allegations of bribery in connection with Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Games. JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda held a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. French prosecutors said on Friday that an investigating judge placed Takeda under formal investigation last month to determine whether to open a trial. The probe is focusing on more than two-million dollars in payments made by Tokyo’s bid committee to a company in Singapore in 2013. Takeda read out a statement that said a JOC panel had concluded in 2016 that the payments were for consulting services and that the contract was legitimate under Japanese law. He said the panel also confirmed that he was unaware of links between the Singapore firm and the son of the former chief of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack. Diack was a member of the International Olympic Committee when Tokyo was bidding for the Games. Takeda said he was interviewed by the French investigative judge last month and asserted his innocence. He said he will do his best to clear his name by cooperating with the French authorities. About 100 members of the Japanese and foreign media attended the news conference which ended in less than 10 minutes with no questions taken. The JOC abruptly announced the briefing earlier Tuesday, citing the ongoing French probe.

Seko: Japan to support Saudi economic reforms; Japan’s trade minister says his country will continue supporting Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms to maintain a stable supply of crude oil. Hiroshige Seko sat down with Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet members on Monday, including Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih and Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri. They were in the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi, which is hosting a fair showcasing renewable energy. The officials discussed oil exports to Japan from its biggest supplier, Saudi Arabia. They also talked about Japan’s continuing support for the Middle Eastern country’s economic reforms aimed at reducing its reliance on oil exports. Seko said, “We think stability in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding area is meaningful to Japan as the country depends highly on energy from this region. Japan will continue supporting Saudi Arabia’s reforms.” Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih stressed that support from Japanese companies will be essential for the reforms. US and European investments in Saudi Arabia have slowed following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October last year. Japan has asked Saudi officials for transparency in the case.

Tokyo court to decide on Ghosn’s bail; A court in Tokyo is expected to decide as early as Tuesday whether to grant former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn bail. Ghosn has been charged with aggravated breach of trust and with violating a financial law by underreporting his compensation. It’s alleged Ghosn inappropriately transferred funds from a Nissan subsidiary to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s company after the man helped Ghosn cover personal investment losses. Ghosn denied the charges. His defense team has already filed a bail request with the Tokyo District Court. In Japan, suspects in cases involving a special investigation squad of prosecutors tend to be detained for a long time — as long as they refuse to admit charges — because of concerns they could destroy evidence. Even if granted bail, they are often released with conditions aimed at preventing them from fleeing and concealing evidence. Greg Kelly, a former Nissan representative director who was indicted alongside Ghosn, was granted bail in a rare court decision last month. But the court imposed a ban on him travelling abroad, as well as restrictions on where he can live. Sources say Ghosn hopes to return to France but he will promise to appear in Japanese court if requested.

Police detain 7 for trafficking babies in China; Chinese police have detained at least seven people on suspicion of trafficking babies. Police found three men in a vehicle with a newborn baby girl with the umbilical cord still attached at a highway tollgate in China’s inland area last month. The men initially told police that they found her in a park the day before. But they admitted to trafficking after investigators found records of exchanges on a mobile phone owned by one of the men on the baby’s price and size. Police also detained four other people in connection with the case. Investigators say the suspects have traded at least four babies, including a three-day-old one, for about 12,000 dollars. Child trafficking cases are rampant in China’s rural regions amid a shortage in the labor force and in children who can succeed the family business. The US State Department placed China in the worst category in its 2018 report on human trafficking.

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