CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: A 44-year-old man has become the second person charged with sharing a gruesome livestream video of the deadly attack at a Christchurch mosque.
Philip Arps was arrested by New Zealand Police on Tuesday (Mar 19), four days after 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant allegedly went on a rampage at two mosques in the southern city, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more.
Arps was charged with two counts of distributing objectionable material under the Films Act, and was remanded in custody after appearing in Christchurch District Court.
He is due back in court on Apr 15.
A teenager appeared in court earlier this week on the same charge.
The livestream video was shot by alleged gunman Tarrant, who is currently facing one charge of murder for the killings at Al Noor and Linwood mosques.
The funerals of the first victims started on Wednesday, with more expected to take place later Wednesday and on Thursday as officials release the victims' bodies to their families.
LEXINGTON: Mikhy Farrera Brochez on Tuesday (Mar 19) pleaded not guilty in a US federal court in Kentucky to charges related to stolen identification documents from Singapore's HIV registry, according to his lawyer Jay Oakley.
The American, who is accused of sharing the personal data of thousands of people from the registry, had earlier been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges including trying to extort the Singapore Government.
He remains jailed at the Fayette County detention centre, and his three-day trial on federal charges has been set for May 7, said Oakley.
The lawyer said that at this point, he intends to take the case to trial. However, he still has not seen the details of the Government ‘s evidence, which he now will have access to in the form of discovery (a pre-trial procedure providing for the exchange of information between parties).
The 34-year-old, who previously worked in Singapore as a lecturer, is accused of sharing the HIV-positive status and personal information of 14,200 people from Singapore's HIV registry.
He was deported from Singapore in April last year, after serving a jail term for lying about his HIV status to gain an employment pass.
Earlier this month, Farrera Brochez was ordered by a US court to "immediately" surrender to Singapore authorities the data obtained from the HIV registry and all other confidential information.
He was given a Mar 29 deadline to "permanently delete" from any computer, device, storage media or website the information obtained from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Singapore Prisons Service, according to court documents.
SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old Indonesian maid was found guilty on Wednesday (Mar 20) of stealing more than S$30,000 worth of items from the family of Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong.
The conviction was handed down by District Judge Olivia Low after a 19-day trial that spanned months.
The judge denied the defence their request to recall five witnesses in response to an amendment of one of the four theft charges the maid faced.
Parti Liyani had worked for the Liew household between March 2007 and late October 2016, with her salary increasing from S$300 per month to S$600 per month before she was fired on suspicion of theft over the years.
She was found guilty of stealing an assortment of items including: Two bags valued at S$200 each belonging to Mr Liew; watches and more than 100 pieces of clothing belonging to his son Karl Liew; jewellery owned by his daughter May Liew; and a Prada bag and Gucci sunglasses belonging to Karl’s wife.
Over the course of the trial, the defence had argued that the items Parti was accused of stealing had been given to her, that she had retrieved some items discarded in bins, or that the items had been misplaced by their owners. Parti also claimed that some items had not been packed by her in the boxes - two of the Liew family’s drivers had helped her in the packing of the items to be couriered to Indonesia.
The judge said that she did not see “any reason why the Liew family and (their) driver Robin would conspire to frame the accused for the theft, especially when they had employed her for a number of years”.
“They had in fact compensated her for the termination and was even willing to pay for the shipping of her items back to Indonesia,” she said. “On the contrary, the modus operandi of the accused was to take a variety of items from different family members thinking that these would go unnoticed by them.”
She noted that even though Parti had returned to Indonesia for more than a month after being fired, she “never showed interest” in finding out why she had not received three large boxes that she had left behind with the Liews to be shipped to her.
The stolen items were found inside the boxes.
“Her purpose in returning to Singapore was not to follow up on the jumbo boxes, but to find new employment as evidenced by her statement to the police,” said the judge.
She said she found the prosecution’s witnesses “largely credible and consistent”, with the victims able to identify the items that belonged to them and what they did with it. She noted that a potential witness the defence wanted to call had claimed that she received “harassing” legal letters from the defence, and that Parti had giggled at Karl during a civil hearing, which he found intimidating.
DEFENCE TAKES ISSUE WITH JUDGE AMENDING CHARGE
On Wednesday, the judge announced that she would be amending one of the four charges.
She made three amendments to the second charge regarding items stolen from Karl Liew, reducing the number of stolen items from 120 to 115, removing two wallets from the list and reducing the value of a watch from S$25,000 to S$10,000.
Explaining her decision, she said that there was some reasonable doubt as to whether five of the items belonged to Karl, or were in his possession. These were: A blue corduroy shirt, a cream polo shirt, a red blouse, a black dress and a quilt.
After the trial the judge also said that Karl was unable to remember information regarding the wallets Parti was accused of stealing, and that there was no evidence he had used them.
She said she was reducing the value of the watch after hearing evidence during the trial.
Defence lawyer Anil Balchandani said he wished to recall witnesses after hearing that the charge was amended, as he wished to show that Karl was "a liar", and that they had focused on the five items which were now dropped from the charge.
The judge dismissed his application to recall witnesses, saying she did not find it necessary, and that it was "an attempt to further delay the trial and frustrate justice".
Parti faces a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine per charge. She is set to be sentenced on Monday.
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised on Tuesday (Mar 19) that the man responsible for last week's deadly mosque massacres would face "the full force of the law", as she vowed never to utter his name.
"He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety - that is why you will never hear me mention his name," Ardern said in an emotional address to a special meeting of parliament, which she opened with the Arabic greeting "as salaam aleikum" - 'peace be upon you'.
"I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them," she told the gathering in Wellington, four days after the massacre in the southern city of Christchurch.
"He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless," she said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, was captured by police and has been charged with one count of murder, but Ardern assured parliament other charges would follow.
"He will face the full force of the law in New Zealand," she said.
Ardern has promised reforms to New Zealand gun laws which allowed Tarrant to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attack, including semi-automatic rifles.
And she announced a full review of how the Australian - an avowed white supremacist - was able to plan and carry out the attacks in New Zealand under the radar of security services.
"The person who committed these acts was not from here. He was not raised here. He did not find his ideology here. But that is not to say that those very same views do not live here," she said.
SINGAPORE: The signalling system blamed for an MTR train collision in Hong Kong on Monday (Mar 18) is one of many adaptations of Thales' SelTrac system, a version of which is used on two of Singapore's MRT lines.
According to a South China Morning Post report on Monday, Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions chairman Lam Wai-keung said that the MTR trains crashed while running a system known as SelTrac, developed by Thales, a French company.
The crash brought services to a halt between the stations of Central and Admiralty, and the drivers of both trains were taken to hospital.
In a reply to reporters, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) spokesperson said that there are many versions of SelTrac and a version of the system was used for the North-South and East-West Lines (NSEWL) in Singapore.
"The NSEWL Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) system is based on a version of Thales’ SelTrac signalling system. Each train signalling system is customised to the rail line it is installed on, and takes into account the unique local environment and infrastructural conditions," said LTA.
The system has also been adapted for metro systems in London, Beijing, Dubai, and Vancouver.
On Nov 15, 2017, a "software logic issue" with the new signalling system at the time and a "confluence of failure conditions" caused a train collision at Joo Koon MRT station.
The spokesperson also said that the CBTC system has been in daily operation on the NSL since May 2017, and the EWL since May 2018, adding that "extensive trials" were conducted before the system progressed to be used for daily passenger service.
"Only after we were fully satisfied with its performance did we commence trials during passenger service hours, starting with the last hour of weekday passenger service, before progressing to full Sunday trials, and finally, to daily passenger service," LTA added.
Thales also established a CBTC simulation facility in April 2018, and has a dedicated team based in Singapore to work with LTA and the public transport operators.
SINGAPORE: Two SATS staff members have been suspended after a video of them fighting on the tarmac at Changi Airport circulated on social media.
The fight occurred on Sunday (Mar 17) evening, according to SATS. In the video, two SATS employees can be seen grappling with each other, while other members of staff attempt to break up the fight.
The staff members involved have been suspended during ongoing investigations.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation of the incident. We have zero tolerance for any breach of conduct at the airside. Staff in question will be dealt with in accordance with regulations,” said SATS.
Inflight meal caterer SATS is based in Singapore, and produces 170 million meals a year over 35 locations in Asia.
WELLINGTON: The owner of a New Zealand gun store said on Monday (Mar 18) that the man charged with murder in Christchurch's mass shootings had bought weapons online from the store.
"I've informed the police that Gun City sold the alleged gunman bought four A Category firearms and ammunition," David Tipple from Gun City Limited told a media conference.
"All Gun City sales to this individual followed a police-verified online mail-order process."
Tipple added, however, that the high-powered military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) used in the mosque shootings was not from his shop.
"We didn't sell him a rifle used in the incident. I watched the video, I saw the rifle, and I know for sure where it came from - if it has the serial number that I expect - and it was not from any Gun City affiliated store," he said.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on Apr 5 where police said he is likely to face more charges.
Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to toughen gun laws in the country. She said that firearms including two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns and a lever-action weapon were bought legally and used in the attacks.
Under New Zealand gun laws A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Video of the gunman in the mosque showed a semi-automatic with a large magazine round.
Tipple said the guns were bought in three or four purchases.
"We detected nothing extraordinary about the licence holder. He was a brand new purchaser, with a brand new licence," he said.
A standard A-category firearm licence is issued after a police and background check. No licence is required to buy a large round magazine, which can be illegally modified for use in such a weapon.
Only firearm owners are licensed, not weapons, so there is no monitoring of how many weapons a person may possess.
The minimum age for a gun licence is 16, and 18 to own a semi-automatic weapon.
During the press conference, Tipple did not to answer direct questions about the use of firearms sold from his shop, indicating this was not the time for a debate about guns.
Asked if he held any sense of responsibility, Tipple said: "No, I do not."
He added he would continue to sell weapons to anyone with the same credentials as the gunman.
It was the responsibility of the police to vet firearms licence applications, he said.
Latest available statistics show police approved 99.6 per cent of nearly 45,000 applications in 2017 when Tarrant received his licence.
NTUC FairPrice to slash prices of 50 housebrand products; extra discount for Merdeka Generation shoppers
SINGAPORE: Two new initiatives to help alleviate daily living costs for Singaporeans have been announced by NTUC FairPrice on Monday (Mar 18).
The first initiative will see the supermarket chain hold the prices of 100 housebrand products from now until Jun 30, 2020. This offer will be extended to all customers.
FairPrice will also lower the prices for 50 other housebrand essentials, it was announced in Monday’s briefing.
This will ensure that these products will be at least 20 percent cheaper than other comparable leading brands, the company said.
The products were selected based on popular daily products purchased by customers, including items such as daily food staples, toiletries and household cleaning products.
The second initiative announced by the company will support those from the Merdeka Generation.
Starting from Jul 1, people from the Merdeka Generation will be offered a three per cent discount on all FairPrice purchases when they shop on a Wednesday.
The Merdeka Generation is anyone born between 1950 and 1959. To qualify, shoppers would need to show their Merdeka Generation cards or a valid ID. This discount will be valid for a year.
Mr Seah Kian Peng, CEO of FairPrice, emphasised the company’s commitment to providing affordable alternatives for Singaporeans.
“As part of the NTUC group of Social Enterprises serving various purposes for Singaporeans, FairPrice continues to play our part in moderating [the] cost of living,” he said in a statement.
“In addition, we honour our Merdeka Geenration by providing additional cost savings for them, while continuing our Pioneer Generation and Seniors’ discount initiatives.”
The new initiatives come after the Government’s own Merdeka Generation package, which was first discussed during the National Day Rally speech last year.
The package will be offered to all Singaporeans born in the 1950s, or those born in 1949 and earlier who have previously missed out on the Pioneer Generation Package.
With the Merdeka Generation Package, about 500,000 Singaporeans can expect to receive MediSave top-ups, subsidies for outpatient care and MediShield Life premiums.
SINGAPORE: A Singaporean couple who abused a domestic helper from Myanmar by caning her, force-feeding her and instructing her to eat her vomit, was sentenced to jail and fined on Monday (Mar 18).
Moe Moe Than was subjected to various forms of abuse in 2012, sleeping fewer than six hours a day on a mattress in the living room without a pillow or blanket, eating mostly rice on its own or with sugar, and being slapped and caned by her employers.
Former IT manager Tay Wee Kiat, 41, was sentenced to two years’ jail for abusing the 31-year-old helper by caning her, hitting her with a broomstick, kicking her while she was in a push-up position, and making another maid and her slap each other.
Tay’s wife Chia Yun Ling, 43, received a total sentence of three years and 11 months’ jail and a fine of S$4,000.
If she cannot pay the fine — her defence counsel Wee Pan Lee indicated in court that the couple has “exhausted all their resources in connection with this trial” — she will serve two weeks’ jail in default.
Chia was convicted of 15 charges earlier this month regarding Ms Than. She had forced a mixture of rice and sugar down Ms Than's throat through a funnel after the helper complained that she did not have enough to eat.
After Ms Than ran to the toilet choking, Chia instructed her to throw up inside a plastic bag and eat her vomit.
On one occasion, Chia pulled Ms Than by the hair into a bedroom, pushing her to the floor and stepping on her chest.
District Judge Oliva Low said “the systematic pattern of violence and psychological abuse” inflicted on Ms Than required that the total sentence to reflect Chia’s culpability and the harm caused to the victim.
ALLOWED TO USE TOILET ONLY THREE TIMES A DAY
The judge had given the maximum six-month jail sentence after Chia restricted Ms Than's use of the toilet. The helper was allowed to use the toilet only three times a day, a rule that was enforced by Chia monitoring her movements through closed-circuit television and asking another maid, Ms Fitriyah, to check on Ms Than.
“The deprivation of a basic human right to manage one’s bodily functions strikes at the core of one’s dignity and was clearly detrimental to the victim’s health and welfare," said the judge.
“The fact that the victim had been punished when she used the toilet for a fourth time in a day meant that this was not merely a verbal threat by Chia."
Ms Than was made to jump like a rabbit, among other forms of punishment, if she used the toilet more than thrice.
She was also made to remove her blouse and clean the house wearing only her bra and shorts, an act the judge said was "ill-treatment by humiliation without having regard to the victim’s welfare".
"In terms of Chia’s mitigation plea, I found economic hardship, health issues and caretaking difficulties to be of little mitigating value," said the judge.
"There was no evidence of remorse shown given that the two domestic workers were not spared the ordeal of testifying in a full trial."
Ms Than is the second maid the couple are convicted of abusing. They had hired her to help another maid, Ms Fitriyah, whose period of employment overlapped Ms Than's.
Turning to Tay, who was convicted of six charges, the judge agreed with the prosecution that there should be a slight uplift for his act of asking both maids to slap each other 10 times, as there was a lack of remorse.
Tay had already been found guilty and sentenced for the same act in the trial concerning Ms Fitriyah, the prosecution said, but claimed trial again for Ms Than’s case.
District Judge Olivia Low granted the defence’s request to defer sentences by two weeks, for domestic arrangements to be made for the couple’s children. The couple, who has been in and out of court for the past five years, had been allowed to begin their sentences for abusing their other maid, Ms Fitriyah, only after the end of Ms Than’s abuse trial.
For abusing Ms Fitriyah, Tay had been given 43 months’ jail, an increase from 28 months’ jail upon appeal, while his wife had received a two-months prison sentence. The case will be heard again in High Court, when decisions regarding these earlier sentences will be made.
After receiving their sentences, the pair sat in the dock with their heads bowed.
The prosecution has appealed against discharges amounting to acquittals for other charges that the couple had faced.
CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand police have confirmed multiple fatalities after shooting incidents at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, during afternoon prayers on Friday (Mar 15).
Four people were in custody, said commissioner Mike Bush in a statement, adding that police were unsure if there were other people and if there were other areas under threat.
The two mosques are located at Deans Avenue and Linford Avenue.
He warned worshippers not to visit mosques "anywhere in New Zealand".
Local media had earlier reported up to six people were dead and the South Island city was placed in lockdown as police hunted for an "active shooter."
In their latest update on Twitter, police said they are "currently at a number of scenes. We understand that there will be many anxious people but I can assure New Zealanders that Police is doing all it can to resolve this incident."
Police also requested all mosques in the country to "shut their doors" and advised that "people refrain from visiting the premises until further notice".
The Masjid al Noor in Deans Avenue was filled with worshippers, including members of the Bangladesh cricket team.
One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying in the Deans Ave mosque when he heard shooting and saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.
Another man said he saw children being shot.
"There were bodies all over me," he said.
People in the centre of the city should stay indoors, police said. All Christchurch schools and council buildings have been placed under lockdown.
Police did not immediately comment on whether the incident took place in the mosque or nearby. There is no official confirmation on casualties.
A Malaysian has been confirmed as one of the injured by the country's High Commission in New Zealand.
"So far, one Malaysian is confirmed injured and currently receiving treatment at the hospital," the commission said on its Twitter account.
'NEW ZEALAND'S DARKEST DAYS'
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incidents as "one of New Zealand’s darkest days".
"Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. Many of those who have been directly affected by the shooting may be migrants to New Zealand.
"They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not," she said.
Media said shots had been fired near a mosque and a witness told broadcaster One News that he had seen three people lying on the ground, bleeding outside the building.
Radio New Zealand quoted a witness inside the mosque saying he heard shots fired and at least four people were lying on the ground and "there was blood everywhere".
"Horrified to hear of Christchurch mosque shootings. There is never a justification for that sort of hatred," said Amy Adams, a member of parliament from Christchurch.
The Bangladesh cricket team was in the vicinity of the shooting but all members were safe, a team coach told media.
The team is in Christchurch to play New Zealand in a third cricket test starting on Saturday, but the match has been cancelled following the attacks.
Mario Villavarayen, strength and conditioning coach of the Bangladesh cricket team said the team was close to where the shooting occurred, but was safe.
He said the players were shaken up but fine.