The news at a glance...International
Mass death sentence: Protests erupted across Egypt this week after 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death following a two-day show trial that drew instant international condemnation. The defendants were convicted of attacking police in August during riots that broke out after police cleared a Muslim Brotherhood camp that had been set up to protest the coup that deposed President Mohammed Morsi. Days later, undeterred Egyptian authorities opened another mass trial of 682 Brotherhood members, including their spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie. Defendants’ lawyers weren’t allowed to present evidence in either case. Amnesty International called the verdicts “a death sentence for the credibility and independence of Egypt’s criminal justice system.”
Bandar Abbas, Iran
Warship just a prop: Iran is building a replica U.S. warship that it says will be used for a movie shoot. Satellite photos show what appears to be a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in an Iranian shipyard, which U.S. intelligence suspected would be blown up for some propaganda purpose, according to The New York Times. Iran claims the ship is part of the set for a new movie by Iranian director Nader Talebzadeh about the 1988 downing of an Iran Air passenger jet by missiles fired from the American missile cruiser USS Vincennes. All 290 passengers and crew were killed in what the U.S. called a tragic mistake. “Without any proof or real basis,” said the Alef.ir news site, “Western media have jumped again to paint a more negative picture of Iran.”
Wildlife Service corruption: The founding former chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service says the agency has been infiltrated by a poaching cartel that is slaughtering elephants and rhinos. Richard Leakey claims the government knows who the poaching ring’s leaders are and has urged Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to act against them. “I call on him now personally to take the next step and get this under control,” Leakey said. The KWS says that poaching is down and that only about 30 elephants have been killed this year, a claim Leakey called “patently not true.” Impunity for poachers is well documented in Kenya. According to a study by Wildlife Direct, a conservation group headed by Leakey, only 4 percent of offenders convicted of wildlife crimes do any jail time.
Get Kony: The U.S. is doubling its military effort to help African Union forces find fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The new deployment of advanced Osprey helicopters and other aircraft, along with 150 special operations forces, will join the 100 U.S. troops already in the region hunting for the leader of the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army. At its height in the 1980s and ’90s, the cult was notorious for mutilating villagers and kidnapping thousands of their children for use as soldiers and sex slaves. His influence waning, Kony is now believed to be hiding along the border between Central African Republic and Sudan. The search to date has been hampered by a lack of aircraft that can penetrate the dense jungle.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Missile test: North Korea conducted its first tests of midrange rockets in nearly five years this week, firing two Rodong missiles into the sea toward Japan. The missiles were fired from mobile launchers, in what South Korean officials believe was a demonstration of the North’s ability to launch a surprise attack. The tests were timed to coincide with President Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation summit in Europe, where he met with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to discuss the North Korean issue. “We are monitoring the situation closely,” said Kim Min-seok of the South Korean Defense Ministry, as previous tests “had been preceded or followed by additional provocations.”
Nuclear fuel relinquished: Japan has agreed to hand over hundreds of pounds of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium and plutonium to the U.S. The fuel, which has been poorly guarded, was purchased from the U.S. in the 1960s and has been used for research. But enough material remains to build dozens of nuclear weapons. Japan’s relinquishment is the largest single accomplishment yet for President Obama’s global nonproliferation initiative. The agreement was announced at the president’s third summit on securing nuclear materials, held this week in The Hague, Netherlands. China and Iran have criticized the stockpile in the past, saying that it would enable Japan to make nuclear bombs in short order should it so choose.