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‘No justice’ over bloody Egypt protest crackdown 5 years on: HRW
13 August 2018, 12:35 PM

Egypt is yet to prosecute members of the security forces over a bloody 2013 crackdown on protesters that left hundreds dead, Human Rights Watch said Monday, urging “justice” for the killings.

Five years ago on August 14, 2013 security forces moved in to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square demonstrating against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi a month earlier.

The US-based rights group says that at least 817 protesters died in a matter of hours in “the largest mass killings in Egypt’s modern history”.

Since then hundreds of Islamists, including leaders of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, have been convicted at mass trials.

But not one member of the security forces has been prosecuted for the deaths of protesters.

“Five years on from the Rabaa massacre, the only response from authorities has been to try to insulate those responsible for these crimes from justice,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW Middle East director, said in a statement.

“The response from Egypt’s allies to the crimes at Rabaa and to the lack of justice for the victims has been complete silence.”

Egyptian officials have blamed the 2013 bloodshed on protest leaders, pointing to the presence of armed gunmen at the sit-in and the deaths of several police officers.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last month approved a law giving senior military officers immunity from prosecution tied to the unrest that followed Morsi’s ouster.

“Without justice, Rabaa remains an open wound. Those responsible for the mass killings of protesters shouldn’t count on being able to shield themselves from accountability forever,” Whitson said.

In late July an Egyptian court sentenced to death 75 Islamists over the 2013 unrest as part of a mass trial of over 700 defendants.

Among those still awaiting a verdict are prominent photojournalist Mahmud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, who in May received UNESCO’s Press Freedom Prize.

The dispersal of the protest camp was followed by several months of deadly clashes with police in which hundreds more people were killed.

The Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organisation in Egypt in December 2013 and banned.

Former armed forces chief Sisi won the presidency in 2014 after leading the ouster of Morsi following mass protests against the Islamist’s rule.

Sisi won reelection with 97 percent at a vote in March against a single opponent widely seen as a token challenger, with critics blaming the president for a widespread crackdown on dissent.

Iran unveils next generation missile: media
13 August 2018, 12:19 PM

Iran unveiled a next generation short-range ballistic missile on Monday and vowed to further boost its capabilities, Iranian media said, at a time of rising tensions with the United States.

State broadcaster IRIB said the new Fateh Mobin missile had “successfully passed its tests” and could strike targets on land and sea.

“As promised to our dear people, we will not spare any effort to increase the missile capabilities of the country and we will certainly increase our missile power every day,” Defence Minister Amir Hatami said, quoted by conservative news agency Tasnim.

The new missile’s range was not given, but previous versions had a range of around 200 to 300 kilometres, according to the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

US officials told Fox News last week that a “Fateh-110 missile” was test-fired by Iran during naval exercises in the Strait of Hormoz last week.

A US general described the exercises as designed to send a message, following threats from Iran that it could shut down the vital, oil-shipping waterway in retaliation for renewed sanctions.

“Nothing can stop this missile because of its high degree of flexibility,” said Hatami, adding that the new version of the Fateh Mobin was “100-percent domestically made… agile, stealth, tactical (and) precision-guided”.

“Be sure that the greater the pressures and psychological warfare against the great nation of Iran, our will to enhance our defence power in all fields will increase,” he added.

President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and world powers in May.

Iran’s missile programme is a major bone of contention, particularly with the United States and its allies, but is seen as vital by Iran to its defensive posture in a troubled region.

Nadal withdraws from Cincinnati Masters
13 August 2018, 8:27 AM

World number one Rafael Nadal on Sunday withdrew from next week’s ATP Cincinnati Masters event as he prepares for this month’s US Open.

The 32-year-old scooped the 80th title of his career earlier Sunday with victory at the Toronto Masters.

However the Spaniard said in a statement following the win that he had decided to adjust his schedule in order to preserve his fitness.

“I am very sorry to announce that I won’t be playing in Cincinnati this year,” Nadal said.

“No other reason than personally taking care of my body and trying to keep as healthy as I feel now.

“I am very thankful to my friend Andre Silva, Tournament Director of the Cincinnati tournament, who after speaking to him on the phone understood what I said to him and understands the situation.

“I am sure the tournament will be a success and I wish him and his team all the best.”

The withdrawal leaves Roger Federer as the tournament’s highest seed in second. The Swiss did not play Toronto in order to conserve his resources, an example being followed by his main rival.

Nadal will be replaced in the draw by a lucky loser.
Nadal had signalled he was planning on withdrawing following his 6-2, 7-6(4) win over over Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier Sunday.

“I need to make a decision about what is going on in the next week and the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We also have the Davis Cup semi-finals after the US Open.

“We need to think about the things that we can do or the things that about we can’t do, no? So it’s all about the decisions.

“I only want to play, I want to be everywhere. I love this sport. I don’t like to miss events. But at some point if I don’t stop for myself, my body stop me. So that’s the experience that I have.”

Koreas hold high-level talks on third leaders’ summit
13 August 2018, 7:33 AM

The two Koreas opened high-level talks Monday to prepare for a third summit between the South’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un, amid the diplomatic thaw on the peninsula.

The exact date and location of their next meeting have yet to be decided, but at their historic April summit in Panmunjom they agreed Moon would visit Kim in Pyongyang during the autumn.

Monday’s high-level talks, taking place on the northern side of the truce village in the Demilitarized Zone, were proposed by the North last week as it lashed out at Washington for pushing ahead with sanctions.

“We will review overall progress on carrying out the Panmunjom Declaration and discuss next steps,” Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who is leading the South’s delegation, told reporters ahead of the meeting.

“Views will be exchanged as well with regard to the autumn summit meeting agreed upon in the declaration,” he added.

The two Koreas have informally agreed the summit will take place in Pyongyang late this month or at the beginning of September, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, without citing a source.

Cho addressed the possibility of Pyongyang raising the issue of sanctions to the South, and said: “We will explain our position to the North.”

The rapid rapprochement between the two neighbours that began this year paved the way for a landmark meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Cross-border exchanges between the two Koreas have significantly increased since then, with the neighbours planning to hold reunions for war-separated families next week for the first time in three years.

But even as ties have improved, little progress has been made on the key issue of the North’s denuclearisation.

Although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the nuclear-armed North has since criticised Washington for its “gangster-like” demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.

Meanwhile the US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime.

Analysts say Moon could try to act as a mediator between the US and North Korea, having salvaged the Singapore meeting when Trump abruptly cancelled it.

If the third Moon-Kim summit takes place, the two are also expected to focus on hammering out a consensus on officially ending the 1950-53 Korean War, which concluded with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Rand continues to weaken against major currencies
13 August 2018, 6:50 AM

The rand continues to weaken against a basket of major currencies in Asian trade and has weakened by four percent, or 70 cents, against the dollar compared with Friday’s JSE closing price.

This, as the dollar strengthens and investors withdraw funds from emerging markets, bringing the rand’s loss to around 15 percent so far this year.

Besides dollar strength, the rand is also reacting to uncertainty of the ANC’s land and economic policies.

The rand is currently trading at R14,69 against the dollar from close to R11,50 in February.

The rand reached its weakest level against the dollar so far at around R16,80 at the beginning of 2016.

EM currencies, shares hit by Turkey’s turmoil

Emerging market currencies suffered a renewed bout of selling on Monday while Asian shares were a sea of red amid a deepening crisis for Turkey’s lira, which plunged to all-time lows on concerns over a rift with the United States.

Investors fear the lira’s sell-off could have a ripple effect in global financial markets with the euro, the South African rand and Mexico’s peso already dented by Turkey’s crisis.

The lira hit a record low around $7.2400 against the dollar in early Asian trade. The South African rand skidded to a level not seen since mid-2016 and Russia’s rouble slumped to a near 2-1/2 year trough.

The Indian rupee slid to an all-time trough, while the Indonesian rupiah hit its lowest in almost three years, prompting intervention from the country’s central bank.

The wave of selling was triggered on Friday when President Donald Trump announced higher U.S. sanctions on Turkish steel and aluminium exports, causing a spike in EM FX volatility gauges.

Russian markets also felt the heat last week after a surprise sanctions move by Washington. “It is premature to stipulate how long and how much the impact will expand,” said Kim Doo-un, Seoul-based economist at KB Securities.

“I expect emerging countries, which have thorny relationship with Trump administration, could be the first ones (to) suffer from capital outflows. A strong dollar will cause some dissonance and the trend will continue throughout this week.”

Safe haven currencies and bonds rallied.

The dollar index was near a one-year top of 96.505 while the Japanese yen climbed for a second straight day to a 1-1/2 month top.

Yet, the sell-off is not limited to emerging markets: the euro stumbled to more than one-year lows on worries about European bank exposure to Turkey.

Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s UniCredit and France’s BNP Paribas have some of the largest operations in Turkey among the euro zone banks.

The fear of a contagion reverberated across markets with every Asian share index in the red on Monday.

At 0410 GMT, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had fallen 1.7 percent while the MSCI International EM index was down 2.0 percent.

Still, some analysts see the current turmoil as an opportunity to pick up cheap assets.

“Asia should not see any contagion effect fundamentally due to the ongoing crisis in Turkey as the region does not have a meaningful exposure to the country,” analysts at Singapore’s DBS said in a note.

“We would see any meaningful correction in bond prices on the back of the Turkey developments alone, as a buying opportunity.” -Additional reporting by Reuters

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