Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 20th 2013 Contents A29
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JOHANNESBURG---South Africa's gov-
ernment dismissed criticisms yesterday
that a $21 million state-funded security
upgrade of President Jacob Zuma's pri-
vate home was extravagant, saying fea-
tures such as a chicken coop and cattle
pen were more than "nice to haves".
The cost of the upgrade has sparked an
outcry against Zuma, whose unpopularity
as South Africa's leader since 2009 was
highlighted when he was booed at a me-
morial for anti-apartheid legend Nelson
Mandela on December 10.
After an official investigation into re-
ports of extravagance, the government
denied any improper spending on the
sprawling homestead in Nkandla in the
eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
"Attempts to lay blame on the presi-
dent are misguided," Public Works Minis-
ter Thulas Nxesi told a news conference.
He said the state had not paid to build the
original residence, merely upgrades to se-
He also justified a new chicken coop
and cattle enclosure, saying experts had
concluded that roaming cows could dam-
age "sensitive electronic equipment",
while free-range chickens were a security
S Africa defends Zuma's chicken coop security upgrade
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he will soon
pardon jailed former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Putin said he had received a request from Khodor-
kovsky---in custody for a decade---to pardon him on human-
itarian grounds as his mother is ill.
Khodorkovsky s representatives said they needed to meet
him before commenting but that the family would be
"elated to see him finally freed".
MPs backed a wide-
ranging amnesty for
at least 20,000 pris-
Pussy Riot, 26 July
Mr Putin confirmed
a new amnesty
would apply to
Pussy Riot members
reporters after his
annual news con-
ference in Moscow
apply to the two
members of punk
band Pussy Riot still
in prison and
detained for their
protest at a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.
Although Mikhail Khodorkovsky is ostensibly in prison
for fraud, theft and money laundering, he is considered
by many to be Russia s longest-serving political prison-
er.When Vladimir Putin was consolidating power in his
first term as president, Khodorkovsky did not flee like some
oligarchs, and continued to fund opposition groups. It
seems he has spent more than 10 years in prison as a result.
Other billionaires who made their fortunes in the chaotic
90s were not pursued for their questionable accounting.
This pardon appears to be as arbitrary as Khodorkovsky s
conviction. No-one in his camp seemed to know he had
even asked for it, but President Putin said he has, and that
he is willing to sign the decree.
Analysts say Putin may be trying to ease international
criticism of Russia s human rights record ahead of February s
Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Khodorkovsky, 50, and fellow defendant Platon Lebedev
were convicted of stealing oil and laundering money in
2010. They were already serving time for tax evasion.
As head of the now defunct oil giant Yukos, Khodorkovsky
was once Russia s richest man.
President Putin said he had not received a request from
Khodorkovsky in the past.
"I think given the circumstances we can take the decision
and very soon the decree to pardon him will be signed,"
Mr Putin said.
Khodorkovsky is currently scheduled to leave jail next
August. His supporters have long argued he is a political
In this October 22, 2010 file photo
former Yukos CEO Mikhail
Khodorkovsky is escorted to a court
in Moscow. AP PHOTO
Putin 'to pardon' jailed
former oil tycoon
the Dominican Republic will
meet next month in an effort
to resolve questions over a
widely debated court decision
that could render thousands
of Haitian Dominicans state-
less, Haiti s foreign minister
Foreign Affairs Minister
Pierre-Richard Casimir told The
Associated Press that five senior
officials from each country will
meet on January 7 in the Haitian
border town of Ouanaminthe.
With representatives from
the United Nations, European
Union and Caribbean present,
they plan to discuss commerce
and security issues but will
focus mostly on a recent court
decision in the Dominican
Republic that threatens to strip
citizenship from residents born
to migrants who were living in
the country illegally. Many of
those affected are of Haitian
"The main issue is the court
ruling," Casimir said by tele-
The gathering follows a
meeting in Caracas this week
by Haitian President Michel
Martelly and Dominican Pres-
ident Danilo Medina at a con-
ference for countries that belong
to a Venezuelan trade bloc. The
two countries that share the
Caribbean island of Hispaniola
had stopped talking to each
other after Caribbean leaders
became the latest international
group to condemn the court
ruling. Each had also pulled its
ambassador from the other s
Tensions arose around the
same time when the Dominican
military bused more than 350
Haitians and Dominicans of
Haitian descent to the border
following the killing of a
Dominican authorities said
people left on their own accord
because they feared reprisals.
The Dominican Republic has
since promised to halt such
repatriations, Casimir said.
Migrant advocates say the
September ruling from the
Dominican Republic s highest
court affects some 200,000
people, who could lose their
citizenship and the documents
they need to work or attend
school. The Dominican govern-
ment said in a preliminary
report that only about 24,000
people would be affected.
Haiti, Dominican Republic to discuss court ruling
talks with Saint
Vincent and the
on the occasion
of their private
audience in the
pope's library at
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