Papuans March For Secession From Indonesia

JAKARTA, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Thousands of protesters marched for independence in Indonesia’s Papua region Tuesday despite threats of violence, police and witnesses said.

Demonstrations took place in several cities and towns in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, demanding a referendum on independence and reversal of a 1969 vote that gave Indonesia control of the former Dutch colony, the western half of New Guinea.

“For 40 years, the Indonesian government has never fairly applied the law or upheld human rights,” Viktor Kogoya of the West Papua National Committee told The New York Times in Jakarta. “The Papuan people have never had justice.”

The protests were largely peaceful, although activists accused the authorities of stirring fear with anonymous text messages warning of a “massacre.”

At least 17 people died in tribal fighting over the weekend, and on Monday morning unidentified attackers blocked traffic outside the provincial capital of Jayapura and killed four people.

The West Papua National Committee says security forces are provoking or staging the violence to defeat the protests, the Times said.

A conference is being held in Britain to promote Papuan independence through legal challenges to Indonesian rule.

Behavioral Air Screening Starts In Boston

BOSTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — America’s first behavioral screening to weed out suspicious air travelers began Tuesday at Boston’s Logan International Airport, officials said.

Transportation Security Administration staff will ask every passenger passing through the Terminal A checkpoint a few simple questions like “Where are you traveling today?” or “How long have you been in town?”

“We’re not looking for the answers necessarily; we’re instead gauging the reaction, the response to the question,” George Naccara, TSA security director at Logan, told The Boston Globe.

He said screeners will be on alert for nervous behavior like heavy sweating or avoidance of eye contact, taking about 20 seconds per passenger.

People who seem to be possible threats will be taken aside for more screening, like patdowns or bag searches, and more questioning.

The program is modeled on the Israeli practice of questioning all passengers, but some question whether that is feasible in the United States.

“The question is obviously, what is the quality of the verbal interaction that is going to be implemented?” Rafi Ron, a former Logan security consultant, told The Boston Herald. “If it will have a poor quality, then obviously it will be another way to waste taxpayer money and increase the hassle to passengers.”

HRW Raps Riyadh Over Terror Laws

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A counter-terrorism law drafted in Saudi Arabia is a problematic assault to basic human rights law, Human Rights Watch complained.

Human Rights Watch, in a letter to Saudi King Abdallah, called on the kingdom to pull the draft law because it permits what the rights group said were serious human rights violations.

“The draft counter-terrorism law is trying to enshrine as legal the Saudi Interior Ministry’s unlawful practices,” Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “It lumps peaceful political opposition together with violent acts and ensures that the accused won’t get a fair trial.”

The organization said it reviewed a July 22 draft of the measure from a source in the country.

Human Rights Watch said the draft law is exceedingly vague on its definition of terrorism and severely curtails the right to freedom of expression. Furthermore, judicial authorities are given vast leeway to undermine the right to a fair trial in a court of law.

The draft measure would add more than 20 crimes to the list those carrying the death penalty. Simply making a threat of violence against the state is punishable by death, the draft law states.

“We believe these flaws to be so serious, and ultimately so detrimental to the fundamental rights of all Saudis, that an entirely new law to address terrorist offenses be drafted and given consideration,” the rights group stated.

Colombian Court Finds Congressman Guilty

BOGOTA, Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Colombian congressman was sentenced to eight years in prison after being found guilty of ties to paramilitary death squads, officials said.

Colombia’s Supreme Court found former Congressman Jairo Merlano guilty for using links to violent paramilitary forces to gain his election to Congress in 2002, El Espectador reported Tuesday.

Merlano was arrested Saturday morning after the court ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office to reopen the case against Merlano in January.

The congressman was first arrested in 2006 but was later acquitted by a Bogota court and released. He resigned in the same year to avoid appearing before the Supreme Court.

Merlano waived his right to immunity in order that he may be investigated by prosecutors and not members of Congress.

Six other former members of Congress have been indicted for paramilitary ties this year.

Fla. Man Enters Guilty Plea On Car Repairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Florida man facing trial for fraud has pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of grand theft for stiffing a local car repair shop on a $9,000 repair bill.

Donald Heflin of Jacksonville had claimed he hadn’t authorized the repair work but officials of the Midas auto repair chain said he had and then drove the car from the repair shop’s lot without permission, the Florida Times-Union reported Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Russell Healey sentenced Heflin to the time he has served in jail, 175 days.

Heflin remains in jail on $1 million bail on other charges of bilking eight people out of nearly $100,000 in a fraudulent investment scheme.

Mitchell, 34, is accused of passing himself of as a high-dollar broker with connections to large financial institutions and convincing the victims to give him money by first impressing them with luxury cars he drove, including the black 2007 Bentley at the center of the repair shop charges.

Mitchell served seven years in federal prison following a 2002 conviction for attempted bank fraud, records show.

Japan Justice Minister Says No Executions

TOKYO, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Japan’s justice minister says he does not intend to approve any executions as the number of prisoners on death row has reached a record 120.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports the last execution in Japan came in July last year and Justice Minister Satsuki Eda has made clear he doesn’t plan to authorize more executions anytime soon.

In a July 26 interview with the newspaper, Eda expressed concerns false charges could lead to executions.

“False charges can be revoked in retrials, but this is impossible after a person has been executed,” he said.

The statement, published Thursday, drew numerous protests from citizens.

In early July, Katsuyuki Nishikawa, chief of the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Affairs Bureau, and others showed Eda documents pointing to parts of the Criminal Procedure Code saying those on death row should be executed within six months of finalization of a death sentence.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said some have questioned whether executions should be halted mainly because of personal beliefs of the justice minister.

“The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that executions should be performed within six months of the sentence being finalized,” said Osamu Watanabe, a Konan Law School professor and expert on criminal procedure.

“I think the justice minister should act in line with the system and review the possibility of false conviction within the set time limit.”

Russians Probe Killing Of 2 Women, 3 Kids

TULA, Russia, Aug. 2 (UPI) — No arrests had been made in the slayings of five members of a Russian family whose bodies were found in a bathtub, investigators said Tuesday.

Two women and three children were found Monday in an apartment in Tula, 120 miles south of Moscow, Tatiana Sergeeva, head of the local Investigative Committee, told RIA Novosti. They appeared to have been dead for about a week.

Acting regional police Chief Andrei Mishagin said it was believed the slayings were “committed overnight from July 24 to July 25,” ITAR-Tass reported. The victims were a 60-year-old woman, her 35-year-old daughter, and her grandsons, ages 5, 6 and 8, who all had severe head wounds, the Russian news agency said.

The grandmother worked for the Yekaterinburg diocese and sang with a monastery choir, ITAR-Tass said. Neighbors said she was seen going to church, but not returning, RIA Novosti said.

The other woman worked as a real estate agent.

Police said they were working on several leads, including the younger woman’s work in real estate. The killer might have been a family acquaintance, authorities said.

“Investigators do not rule out that the murders are connected with members of a sect,” Sergeeva said without identifying the church group that may have been involved.

Salmonella Alert For Ground Turkey

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert after some 77 cases of Salmonella were reported in 26 states associated with ground turkey.

Officials at the Food Safety and Inspection Service say the illnesses were linked through an epidemiologic investigation, state health department analyses and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation.

The FSIS says to prevent Salmonellosis:

— Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry.

— Wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water. Clean up spills right away.

— Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked.

— Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and egg products and cooked foods.

— Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures before eating. The safe internal temperature for meat such as ground beef and pork is 160 degrees F, and 165 degrees F for poultry, as determined with a food thermometer.

— Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase, or one hour if temperatures exceed 90 degrees F.

— Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

Cops: Killer Used Facebook To Lure Prey

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 2 (UPI) — A Florida teenager was lured to his death by a romantic rival using a fake Facebook profile, authorities say.

Jason Rodriguez, 19, a student at Valencia College, was shot in the head and neck Feb. 2 and died a week later.

Israel Nieves, 18, charged with murder, is being held without bond at the Orange County Jail. He also is charged with raping his 20-year-old ex-girlfriend last fall and having sex with a 14-year-old girl he met on Facebook, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Rodriguez began dating Nieves’ ex-girlfriend in January, court records said. But he also met what he believed to be another woman named “Ty Ann” on Facebook.

They began texting and e-mailing and spoke by phone and video chat, with a friend of Nieves allegedly impersonating Ty Ann, police say.

After two weeks of communication, Rodriguez drove to a house outside Orlando to meet the woman.

A witness driving by said he saw a masked gunman shoot into the victim’s car.

Tracked down months later, Nieves denied the killing but admitted creating the false profile to frighten Rodriguez and prove to his ex-girlfriend that Rodriguez was cheating on her, police records said. He also denies the sex charges.

Floods Swamp Manila Area, 1 Dead

MANILA, Philippines, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Heavy rains flooded parts of Quezon City and Manila Tuesday, causing at least one death, Philippine authorities say.

The body of an unidentified woman, 50 to 55 years old, was found floating in a creek in Quezon City, ABS-CBN News reported.

Some streets were waist-deep under water and 30 families had to be evacuated to shelters.

Commuters also were stranded by floodwaters in Manila.