Vigilance has been cited as one of the most potent ways to fight bank and ATM crime. Added to this, a mixture of anti-crime measures and surveillance and utilisation of technology could just stop a Gauteng gang dead on its tracks, according to André Snyman, head and founder of anti-crime network named eBlockwatch.
Dismantling suspicions that bank tellers were accomplices Snyman, in an interview with Sabahul Khair, told Cii listeners how a gang “spots” and follows clients home where they rob them. But, he didn’t absolve cops – despite the police service obvious pockets of excellence – altogether. “I’ve worked with some incredible police officers” he said, and related success stories. Nevertheless, the picture is mixed, he asserted. “As we’ve seen in the exposés in the newspapers, and things like that, we see that there’s a hell of a problem, sometimes at the top and there’s a problem right at the bottom.”
It’s this good cops’ category that inspires Snyman to catch the bad ones and fight crime. Urging South Africans, notably in Gauteng, where “spotters” operate, Snyman explained the importance of being always vigilant as well as “street wise” and noted that the best way around ATM and bank crime was to fight it head on.
“The nicest thing about crime is when you actually take it on. It’s actually quite satisfying. It’s like playing a game, you know and you achieve. [Each] achievement is like scoring a goal and so it keeps you going. All those people out there who get depressed about crime, don’t get depressed, do something about it and you’ll feel a lot better,” Snyman
“We’ve had a lot of successes, and the technology that’s coming through at the moment is absolutely fantastic. If you implement this sort of technology and sometimes technology in the hands of criminals is like a baby playing with razor blades – they don’t know how to use it and that helps us catch them.”
Notwithstanding eBlockwatch’s success on the back of its growing network, things have got so ugly and tragic in the past few months with bank and ATM crime gangs – who “spot” and follow people with large amounts of cash – killing at least three people in different parts of Gauteng. Just a couple of weeks ago, a man was shot and killed by the gang in Ekurhuleni, Snyman explained. Prior to this two other people were killed in Pretoria and Johannesburg’s Rivonia.
“Apparently it’s the gang that monitors the people in the bank and outside the bank. So, it’s not the bank tellers as everybody thinks it is. It is actually a gang that sits there and monitors the clients and then follows them,” he said. How exactly do members of the gang know who is withdrawing a large sum of amount? Snyman said this was yet to be ascertained. But, citing eBlockwatch’s sources, Snyman, himself a ATM crime victim – advising South Africans to transfer funds by using technology – felt the evidence from bank personnel was overwhelming.
“(They) have seen people sitting in banks pretending to be clients and then signaling out to guys on the outside. They even identify the guys in the car park with the video footage,” he said, referring Cii listeners to eBlockwatch’s website for online videos. He said bankers knew the gang’s route – which starts from Pretoria, in the morning, before heading to other parts of Gauteng. “(You) must believe me that the banks are not Mickey Mouse business and they have their finger on the pulse but these guys seem to be getting away with it at the moment.”
As the hunger strike of 125 incarcerated Palestinians approaches the 60-day mark, the killing of members of this subjugated community – alongside displacements – by the Israeli regime continues. Ahmed Sabarin, a 20-year-old Palestinian succumbed to a single gunshot wound by the Israeli army in a West Bank refugee camp this week. In the same week, forensic pathologists determined that a 17-year-old Nadim Nawarah was killed also by one live bullet.
“You know, now the killing in Palestine is a trend and is part of the policy, the Israeli policy,” Al Haq general director Shawaan Jabarin told Cii listeners in a telephonic interview from the occupied territory. In the case of Sabarin, a student killed in Ramallah’s Al-Jalazoun refugee camp, West Bank, Jabarin noted that the Israeli forces used a single live bullet. Despite this, as determined by the pathologists, Israel claims no live ammunition was used.
“Last month, they killed two boys during the Naqba Day… they shot two bullets and killed two people. The third one, just because he had a chance, he recovered (with) serious injuries,” Jabarin told Sabahul Khair. “I think they are dealing now with the Palestinians as if they’re animals. They just kill them, no-one raises a voice against that.”
Interpreting “Israel’s daily policy” as a form of “collective punishment” meted against the inhabitants of Gaza and West Bank, Jabarin spoke of serial shootings, killings, detention and settlements matched only perennial demolition of Palestinian homes. All of this, he asserted, was in line with Tel Aviv’s long-term agenda was simply to displace Palestinians, force more others into exile and annex more land. Critically, these events are taking place against the background of the United Nations declaring 2014 – which marks 66 years since the 1948 Naqba that saw more than 700,000 people displaced and exiled while others perished – as the “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.
Asked why the occupation-linked conflict has continued for decades unabated, with the very United Nations and others conspicuous by their absence, Jabarin argued that the world applied a different set of standards to Israel. This, he explained, enabled that state to get away with countless atrocities – including the shootings of Sabarin and Nawarah, among others daily killings.
“There is no political will when it comes to Israel. But if any state or any group is doing this – what Israel is doing – I’m sure all the Western countries, including the US and others, will intervene directly. (They would) go to the [UN] Security Council to take resolution to intervene and to act militarily,” Jabarin said. “They are not taking care what (crime) Israel is committing.”
From that angle, world governments’ silence in relation to the protracted hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners – in detention without trial, a common trend in Israeli occupation jails – is unsurprising. The collective hunger strike, by 125 Palestinians, began on April 24 and is in protest against what’s termed administrative detention. Administrative detainees – some of whom have been behind bars for years without even seeing a charge sheet, let alone getting a chance to defend themselves – total almost 200 and includes the very ill.
“There are really hard and serious health conditions. We have concerns of their lives. The Israelis, you know, they are thinking of one thing: how to feed (hunger strikers) by force,” Jabarin said of the protest that has attracted scores of Palestinian prisoners over the past 55 days, before switching to the topic of three missing Israelis.
Casting doubt on Tel Aviv’s claims that the Ismail Haniyeh-led Hamas, in charge of Gaza, abducted three Israelis last week, Jabarin suggested this could just be an excuse to stoke violence by the same Binyamin Netanyahu regime. “No one can confirm that it was an operation or something like that because nobody took responsibility and because of that, until now,” he said, nobody can claim the trio was abducted. Staged disappearances do happen across the world, he asserted.
What’s the cure, especially given the globe’s double standards? While referring to sanctions, Jabarin also urged Palestinian leaders to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the sake of justice. “We have to join the ICC… to go after the Israeli criminals. That is the only way,” he said. Turning to sanctions – one of the tools that helped extricate racist South Africa from decades-long apartheid, a crime against humanity – he argued it was Israel’s turn. “It’s time for sanctions on Israel. It’s time to repeat what was done before against apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist detained by the junta in Egypt on August 14 weeks after people of this North African state took to the streets to protest Mohamed Morsi’s coup d’état, was yesterday released after 10 months of being locked up without trial. During this lengthy period, March for Justice chairperson Prof Nidal Sakr told Cii Radio, Elshamy, an Al-Jazeera journo, was subjected to terrible abuse and torture.
To protest against this and, notably his detention without arrest, Elshamy went on a hunger strike in January. It took yet another five months for the Egyptian top brass to release him but that was not before his health condition got so bad or lost 40 kg. Egypt – whose first democratically-elected head of state, Morsi, was unseated a mere 12 months into the job, by Abdel Fattah El-Sisi – has been in the throes of foreign-sponsored violence for more than a year. El-Sisi seized power last July last year only to stage sham elections in May that somewhat legitimised his rule.
It was just a day after the day of the Rabaa massacre (that claimed 700 lives, with another 4,000 people sustaining injuries), that the now-emaciated Elshamy found himself behind bars for covering a protest by pro-Morsi Egyptians.
“He was detained by the unlawful criminal bloody coup regime in Egypt,” Sakr said of Elshamy’s lengthy detention without trial or charges. “We know that the coup regime, in Egypt, which is still ruling the country until this point does not abide by any laws, by any human rights or international conventions.” From this angle, Sakr doubted that the release responds to pressure exerted by Qatar-headquartered Al-Jazeera news organisation or any other quarter.
There are many others – including ordinary people and members of Muslim Brotherhood – who are languishing unlawfully, noted the university professor. “And they have been on a hunger strike just for as long. Their lives have reached far critical conditions than Abdullah Elshamy and they are still being held without charges,” he said, adding that the United States – whose citizens are also languishing in Egyptian prisons – is as guilty for turning a blind eye when it should be protecting, at least, its own.
March for Justice, Sakr explained during an interview with Sabahul Khair, has launched a probe to establish whether the Barack Obama-led US government was complicit.
“Sometimes we have cells that are designed for six inmates but (accommodate) 40 or 45 inmates. So, we’ve been having really terrible conditions… not to mention the torture, not to mention people dying (due to torture), not to mention body mutilations that are being discovered on a daily basis, not to mention some of the secret prisons that the military hides where people have been executed. So many executions,” observed Sakr, citing several instances of human rights violations and atrocities committed by El-Sisi’s foreign-supported regime.
Asked about the role of the judiciary, amid back-to-back death sentences handed down almost daily, this university professor and March for Justice leader was of the view that the only bloc that mattered was the junta. For context, he explained, defence lawyers and the 578 people – including Muslim Brotherhood activists – found guilty, were not allowed to attend when the sentence was pronounced.
“The enemy is the judge… the military dictatorship we have in Egypt is the judge and is a prosecutor at the same time,” Sakr told Cii listeners, decrying the “mockery” of justice in this seemingly foreign-controlled African country. “It’s astonishing how the world community – or so-called world community, Europe; the UN; and the US, in particular – have all been turning a blind eye to all of this.”
What about Egypt’s Fourth Estate? Do journalists routinely expose human rights violations, atrocities and injustices by the much-detested but well-disguised junta? In fact, to what extent does the freedom of the media in Egypt exist?
“The only freedom that the media enjoys right now very widely at this point is the freedom to lie, the freedom to distort, the freedom to deceive people,” Sakr said, locating journalists – some of whom, he claims, work for El-Sisi – at the heart of the problems facing the North African country as we speak. “The triangle of crime in Egypt is the judiciary, the military as well as the media.”
Branded as “forgotten” people, Sri Lankan Muslims have for the last 23 years faced a continuous hate campaign, intimidation and threats under the hands of Buddhist extremists.
Muslim parliamentarians have called on President Mahinda Rajapakse to intervene yet the voices of the leaders of Muslim countries remain unsurprisingly quiet.
The main Muslim party in Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition Wednesday demanded a UN probe into one of the country’s worst-ever religious riots, as Rajapakse toured the violence-hit region of Beruwala.
The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) said it was also boycotting parliament Wednesday as a protest against Colombo’s failure to rein in the hardline Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) – the Buddhist Power Force – widely accused of sparking the clashes.
Justice Minister and SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem was reported to have said that Rajapakse’s administration was at fault for letting the bloodshed escalate.
“We are convinced that the government did not do anything to prevent the violence against the Muslims,” Hakeem reportedly said. Hakeem is also the most senior Muslim in Rajapakse’s cabinet.
Hundreds of troops were deployed to help police after BBS marched to the neighbouring town of Alutgama on Sunday and clashes broke out.
But residents complained that the authorities did little to stop the violence. At least four people were killed and nearly 80 seriously wounded, while dozens of homes, businesses and vehicles were torched, with violence then spreading to Beruwala on Monday.
The president made no reference to the SLMC demands to allow two UN experts — the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on minority issues — to visit the island.
“The government has for some time denied them visas to enter the country. But there is an opportunity now for the government to demonstrate its bona fides and allow the two UN experts to come here and start an investigation,” Hakeem is reported to have said.
The attacks are the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit Sri Lanka following unrest in January and last year, when Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque in the capital Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s long-drawn-out conflict is often cast as one between the majority Buddhist- Sinhalese and the minority Tamils. Sri Lankan Muslims are Tamil speaking and have sometimes been claimed by Tamil nationalists to be part of the larger Tamil nation.
Ten percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21million people is Muslim. Islam is the third most dominant religion in the country. Muslims mostly concentrate in the coastal areas in the North-East and in and around Galle and Colombo.
In October 1990, all over the Northern Province, close to 75,000 Muslims were compelled to vacate their homes at gun point, hand over their belongings, and leave, losing their homes, possessions, livelihoods, communities, and place in society in one day.
According to Press TV, the international community at large maintains its silence regarding the plight of Muslims in countries plagued by sectarian violence.
More than 30 Muslims were brutally killed in northeastern India, in the latest case of violence against Muslims. The Indian army stepped in after 32 Muslims were killed in Assam. The authorities blamed the killings on tribal militants.
The UN maintains that the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They have faced discrimination in their own homeland since 1982. The authorities treat them as “illegal immigrants.”
Over the last two years, Buddhist mob attacks have left hundreds of Rohingya Muslims killed and forced more than 140,000 out of their homes.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), Muslims have been killed at the hands of the Christians, while the African Union and French troops, present in the African country, have failed to halt the bloodshed.
The UN Security Council has approved plans to deploy a force of around 12,000 later this year to halt the Muslim cleansing in the CAR.
Egypt: death sentences for Muslim Brotherhood leader and 182 followers
An Egyptian court has confirmed death sentences against the leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and at least 182 of his supporters.
The court’s decision came two months after it referred the case against the Brotherhood’s “general guide”, Mohamed Badie, and hundreds of others to the state’s highest religious authority, the grand mufti, the first step towards imposing a death sentence.
They were charged over violence that erupted in the southern Egyptian town of Minya in July, in the aftermath of the army coup that ousted then president, Mohamed Morsi, a senior Brotherhood member. One senior police officer was killed in the violence.
Lawyers say the ruling can be overturned on appeal. It was not immediately clear how many sentences had been confirmed, with the lawyers giving estimates ranging from 182 to 197. In either case, it would be largest mass death sentence to be confirmed in Egypt in recent memory.
Lawyers boycotted the opening of the trial on 25 March to protest an earlier mass death sentence by Judge Said Youssef. A month after that session, the judge sentenced 683 people to death, including Badie. Of the 683, all but 110 were tried in absentia, according to defence lawyer Khaled el-Komi.
Death sentences issued for those in absentia are automatically cancelled in Egypt if they turn themselves in or are apprehended, and a retrial is ordered.
The case springs from an attack on a police station in the town of Adwa near the southern city of Minya on 14 August in which one policeman and one civilian were killed. The attack was carried out in retaliation after police killed hundreds while dispersing a sprawling Cairo sit-in by Morsi supporters.
The death sentences sparked international condemnation and raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
Mohammed Tosson, a representative of the defence team, said that 183 people were sentenced to death, four received life sentences and 496 were acquitted. Those sentenced to death include a Coptic Christian and a blind man, said another lawyer, Mohammed Abdel-Wahab.
The charges ranged from sabotage and terrorising civilians to murder.