Palestine overtakes Israel in FIFA football rankings

Palestine’s football team achieved its highest ranking in history Thursday, rising above Israel in the FIFA world rankings for the first time.

The head of the Palestinian football association labelled it an “historic achievement” as the team rose two spots to 82nd in FIFA’s latest rankings.

Israel fell 16 places to 98th after a disappointing failed World Cup qualification campaign.

Palestine have recently won a series of games as they seek to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, including a 10-0 victory over Bhutan.

The announcement comes as the Palestinian football association has campaigned to encourage FIFA to take action against six Israeli clubs located in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the Palestinians had asked FIFA to take action against the Israeli FA.

Last month, FIFA decided it would not intervene in the matter, with the Palestinians accusing the body of bowing to Israeli pressure.

Palestinian FA boss Jibril Rajoub told AFP Thursday the rankings rise was an “historic achievement” that came despite restrictions on football in the Palestinian territories imposed by Israeli forces.

“With this classification, we have defeated the occupation’s measures and its daily harassment, from preventing the freedom of movement of athletes through to all measures that impede Palestinian sport,” he said.

The Israeli Football Association said the country’s sports minister had ordered the formation of a committee to examine the reasons for the lack of success.

“We wish the Palestinians all the best as always,” a spokesman for the IFA said, adding they were willing to play a friendly match against them any time.

“May the best team win,” he said.

Israel qualify for tournaments with European teams, while Palestine are in the Asian qualifying groups.

Palestine was first recognised by FIFA in 1998. AFP

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S. African court doubles Pistorius sentence to more than 13 years

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A South African appeals court increased paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius’ sentence for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to 13 years and five months on Friday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein more than doubled his original sentence of six years after the state argued that it was unduly lenient.

Pistorius, 31, was not in court for the hearing.

Prosecutors argued earlier this month that Oscar Pistorius failed to show genuine remorse after killing his girlfriend.

“One of the essential ingredients of a balanced sentence is that it must reflect the seriousness of the offence,” Andrea Johnson, of the National Prosecution Authority, had told the court.

Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux mounted a strong defence of the judge who handed down the six-year sentence, saying she took into account his claim that he believed he was shooting an intruder.

The Paralympic athlete shot dead Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013 when he fired four times through the door of his bedroom toilet.

He pleaded not guilty at his trial in 2014 and has always denied that he killed Steenkamp in a rage, saying he mistook her for a burglar.

In 2015, Pistorius was found guilty of murder and given less than half of the minimum 15 years in jail for that crime.

Pistorius was originally convicted of culpable homicide — the equivalent of manslaughter — but the appeal court upgraded his conviction.

- ‘Justice has been served’ -

Nazreen Shaik Peremanov, a constitutional law expert at the University of South Africa’s law school, told AFP that Pistorius could now appeal the latest sentence at the country’s highest court — the Constitutional Court.

But National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said he was pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We always maintained as an institution that this appeal is not about an individual. It has got everything to do with the proper administration of justice,” he said.

“We hope the family will find closure knowing that justice has been served and the proper sentence has been handed out.”

Oscar’s brother Carl Pistorius tweeted that he was “Shattered. Heartbroken. Gutted” following the court’s ruling.

“We have all suffered incomprehensible loss. The death of Reeva was and still is a great loss for our family too,” he wrote.

Previously an ambassador for disabled people worldwide, Pistorius was released from jail in 2015 after serving one year of the initial five-year term for culpable homicide.

He returned behind bars after his conviction for murder.

The year before he killed Steenkamp, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to race at the Olympics when he competed at the London 2012 games.

In a television interview, he said he believed an intruder was in the house and “instant fear” drove him to grab his gun and walk on his stumps towards the bathroom.

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Netanyahu grilled for sixth time in graft probe: Police

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was questioned for a sixth time on Sunday (Nov 19) over two suspected cases of corruption, police said.

Netanyahu is suspected of having received luxury gifts from wealthy supporters, including Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Milchan, a long-time friend of Netanyahu, reportedly sent him boxes of expensive cigars and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars. The producer was himself questioned in September.

Channel Two television said that detectives arrived at the premier’s official Jerusalem residence shortly after 4pm (10pm Singapore time) Sunday.

At 9pm, a police statement confirmed that he had been questioned “for a number of hours” by officers of the national fraud and serious crimes squad.

It was their second visit in 10 days, after Netanyahu was questioned for about four hours on Nov 9.

He was first quizzed on Jan 2.

In addition to suspicions that the gifts constituted bribery, the police also suspect that he sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The alleged deal, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen Netanyahu receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot’s competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he has been the target of a campaign by political opponents.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu confidants Yitzhak Molcho and David Shimron, partners in a law firm and both relatives of the premier, were questioned by police as part of a probe into suspected corruption around the purchase of German submarines.

Netanyahu himself has not been named as a suspect in the submarine case.afp

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Kokorev: MEPs seek independent commission to investigate Spanish judicial abuse

Family and friends of Vladimir Kokorev, a Spanish entrepreneur of Russian-Jewish origins, met with MEPs this week to highlight the plight of Kokorev, who in 2015 was arrested and put in pre-trial detention together with his wife Yulia and son Igor on the orders of a Spanish Judge.

The Kokorev family spent over 2 years in prison on Canary Islands (Spain) without a trial, a formal indictment, nor any evidence of wrongdoing and with the case declared “secret” by the Judge de Vega for 18 months while the family remained in prison.

A letter jointly signed in Strasbourg this week by MEPs Fulvio Martusciello, Barbara Matera, Aldo Pariciello and Heinz Becker expressed “bewilderment “at Spain’s treatment of Kokorev” and called upon Spain’s judicial authorities to end this “horrifying human rights violation”.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg at a round table meeting to discuss the case, Fulvio Martusciello MEP demanded “an immediate independent enquiry in to Spain’s abuse of the judicial system regarding Kokorev”.

In his address to the meeting Martusciello said “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law, pursuant to Article 6 Paragraph 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

“I believe the key word here is ‘charged’ because Article 5 Paragraph 3 of this Convention reads that everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1 (c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.

“Further to that, Article 5 Paragraph 5 states that everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

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“Let’s ponder on the words “victim of arrest” and “detention”. They are fully applicable to Kokorev whose case demonstrates that an allegedly correct detention can run over years at the stage of preliminary investigation and actually transform into the service of sentence without any court decision.

“As we can see, Spanish law enforcement agencies trample the following fundamentals of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights:

1) A person can be found guilty only after conviction by a competent court

2) Legal proceedings are conducted within a reasonable time

3) A person charged with an offence must be informed of the cause of the accusation to allow him preparing his defence.

“As I know, Mr. Kokorev has not been lodged any charges since being arrested in 2015. Which terms of pre-trial investigation are considered reasonable in the Canary islands? Two years? Five years? Ten years? This is an absurd situation and it gives grounds to question the existence of any real and motivated charges against him. Suppose Kokorev is charged of money laundering. So where is investigation of this crime? If there is none, is it lawful to talk about money laundering?

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“We promise that every European citizen will be protected by law. Do we deliver our promises given to our voters? Do we always protect people, particularly, from arbitrary actions of law enforcement officers, with some of them believing that half of all people seek to circumvent their government? Our task is not only to assist law enforcement bodies in combatting crime, which is their major task, but also to control operation of these bodies and curb every attempt to violate human rights and fiddle with words.

“I believe that every violation of fundamental human rights must be thoroughly checked and investigated. And meaningful steps must be taken against every public officer who is guilty in these violations.

Everyone has only one single life to live and I wish no one would ever be the victim of a judicial failure or wrongful arrest.”

Fellow MEP Aldo Pariciello said: “I could not believe such outrageous things were possible in a European country of today until I got familiarized with the Kokorev case.

“Failures of justice or investigation do happen sometimes but the things occurring on the Canary Islands cannot be called a failure.

“These are a deliberate breach of basic rights of a European citizen to whom European laws guarantee the fastest possible and unbiased trial and a right to fair justice.

“In Kokorev’s case, I can see neither trial nor any prospects for legal proceedings.

“All I see is a senior ill man who has been tortured for two years without his guilt having been established.

“Furthermore, I cannot see any attempts to submit his guilt to judge or get at the truth of the matter. And I believe the truth is that there is no guilt.

“The investigators and the judge of the Canary islands know this but they apply every effort to dig up something against Kokorev to save face. How else can one explain that they revoked their initial money-laundering charges and began to talk about other crimes?

“Every lawyer knows that if Kokorev was extradited based on the suspicion of money laundering, he must be indicted on exactly this crime. If no charge is brought against him, the case must be terminated.”

EU Reporter

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Israel PM offers quake aid to arch foe Iran

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered aid to victims of the deadly earthquake in Iran, insisting enmity between the two governments does not prevent humanitarian sympathy.

The offer was made in a video conference with the Jewish Federations of North America.

It comes as many of the tens of thousands left homeless by the quake have vented anger at the Islamic regime for what they say has been the slow response of the charitable foundations set up after the revolution of 1979.

“I saw these heartbreaking images of men and women and children buried under the rubble,” Netanyahu told the meeting in Los Angeles.

“A few hours ago, I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster.

“I’ve said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred.”

Iran does not recognise the Jewish state.

The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed Netanyahu’s offer, but said neither Iran nor Iraq had as yet requested any external aid.

“The offer was not rejected,” ICRC spokeswoman in Jerusalem Alyona Synenko told AFP, after Israeli media said Iran had turned down the offer through the Red Cross.

“It is important to stress that humanitarian assistance must always be based on needs and stay away from politics,” she added.

More than 400 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless by the quake that struck on the Iran-Iraq border late on Sunday.

Israel regards Iran and its close ally, Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, as its most dangerous foes.

Iran has been a staunch supporter of Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Tens of thousands of Jews of Iranian ancestry have played a prominent role in the state of Israel, counting among their number a former president, a former army chief and several former government ministers.afp

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