ForesightNews world briefing: upcoming events 23 – 29 April

April 20, 2012

A weekly round up of world events from Monday, 23 to Sunday, 29 April from Foresight News

By Nicole Hunt

The day after the Bahrain Grand Prix, 21 Bahraini activists, including hunger striker Abdulhadi al Khawaja, are due in court in Manama on Monday to hear the outcome of their appeal against life sentences handed down in June 2011 for conspiring to overthrow the government during last year’s protests. The decision to schedule the hearing after the Grand Prix was a controversial one, as al Khawaja’s deteriorating health two months into his hunger strike raised the very real possibility that he could die before the race took place. UK supporters said al Khawaja’s death would be a ‘stain on Bahrain’.

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to take up her seat in the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives), following a landslide victory by her National League for Democracy in 1 April by-elections, though there have been suggestions that NLD MPs will boycott the opening over an oath of allegiance that forces them to swear to safeguard the constitution. Suu Kyi’s parliamentary debut comes amid news that she may travel to the UK and Norway in June, where she would be able to see her grandchildren for the first time and finally pick up her Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991.

The late Malawian President Bingu wu Mutharika, who died of a heart attack on 5 April, is laid to rest at his family farm in Thyolo. There is speculation that close ally Robert Mugabe and Sudanese President Omar al Bashir could be among attendees at the state funeral; Malawi came under fire from the International Criminal Court last year when it failed to arrest Bashir during a visit to the country for a regional summit. Bashir is wanted by the court for alleged war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region.

All eyes stateside on Tuesday as a pre-trial hearing begins at Fort Meade, Maryland, for Private First Class Bradley Manning, who has been charged with a variety of offences, including aiding Al Qaeda, for his alleged role in leaking sensitive military material to WikiLeaks, among which was a video which later became WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder film.

In New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to give the keynote speech at the Time 100 Gala Dinner, being held in honour of those named to Time’s 100 Most Influential People list on 18 April. In addition to Clinton and President Barack Obama, this year’s list also included the likes of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and, of course, Kate and Pippa Middleton.

And, just for good measure, Republican primaries also take place in New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut, though now that everyone is agreed that Mitt Romney will win everything, it’s a less exciting race.

Why will journalists be fighting for a place at the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee meeting on Wednesday? Because US property tycoon Donald Trump – who at one point pictured himself being the focus of those Republican primaries – is scheduled to appear to give evidence on government plans to build an offshore windfarm near his £1bn golf resort. In written evidence submitted ahead of his appearance, Trump said the plan would destroy Scotland’s countryside and coastline, and was tantamount to ‘committing financial suicide’ – a jibe that would have stung even more after the controversial Skintland issue of the Economist.

Charles Taylor’s nine-year war crimes case comes to a head on Thursday as the Special Court for Sierra Leone announces its verdict. While media coverage in the summer of 2010 suggested that perhaps Taylor was on trial for giving Naomi Campbell a diamond or two, the former Liberian President has actually been tried for crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law – including, of course, allegedly giving Sierra Leonean rebels arms in exchange for so-called ‘blood diamonds’.

In a less groundbreaking trial – though one that receives headlines whether models are involved or not (and they frequently seem to be) – former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi returns to court in Milan on Friday to face charges of paying for underage sex. While the trial is now over a year old and coverage has been relegated to the Italian press for some time, recent hearings have reignited international interest as the lurid details of Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’ parties have been disclosed.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton begins a three day trip to Myanmar on Saturday, where she is scheduled to meet with government officials and opposition members (including Aung San Suu Kyi) and is expected to open the EU’s new embassy in Yangon. Her visit follows a meeting on Monday of EU foreign ministers, during which they are expected to relax sanctions on Myanmar in the wake of recent political improvements.

Guinea-Bissau had been scheduled to hold its presidential run-off vote on Sunday, following first round polls on 18 March, but as front-runner Carlos Gomes Junior was arrested as part of a military coup d’état on 12-13 April, the election will not be going ahead. The military junta has announced a two-year timeframe for new elections, which has been agreed by opposition parties but not Gomes’ ruling party.

Sunday also marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Los Angeles riots, which left 53 people dead and over 2,000 in three days of violence following the acquittal, by an all-white jury, of four police officers who were videotaped beating black motorist Rodney King. The anniversary comes amid heightened racial tensions in the US following the delayed arrest of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin.