Belgium: New passenger checks catch 834 wanted criminals


New passenger checks catch 834 wanted criminals

“…and 18 victims of parental abduction.”

A new system of screening airline passengers flying out of Belgium has netted 834 wanted criminals since it was introduced in April, according to the federal home affairs ministry.
The new law requires airlines communicate the personal details of all passengers to the ministry, which then refers to police databases, to determine if any of the people concerned are wanted, or in other cases are forbidden from leaving the country – if serving parole, for example.

The Passenger Information Unit (as it is called, in English) has called in airport police in 10% of cases, leading to the discovery of more than 800 cases – among them eight drugs dealers and 18 victims of parental abduction. Others were suspected of theft, tech crimes and links to terrorism.

The Unit is made up of police, state security, military intelligence and customs officers. Background checks are made without the suspect’s knowledge, based on the information they provide to the airline. Police become involved when the suspect presents at the airport – not necessarily always at the same stage of the procedure.

A spokesperson for the home affairs minister said the new system has turned out to be “a major success story in the fight against crime and terrorism”.

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USA: Judge in accused kidnapper’s trial removed from all criminal cases


URBANA — A federal judge involved in one of the area’s highest-profile criminal cases has been removed from hearing it, as well as other criminal cases involving the U.S.Bruce removed criminal cases.jpgAttorney’s Office.

U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid, chief judge for the Central District of Illinois, on Friday reassigned the Brendt Christensen kidnapping-resulting-in-death case to himself and removed Judge Colin Bruce from it.

Shadid, who sits in Peoria, further temporarily barred Bruce, who sits in Urbana, from hearing any cases involving prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where Bruce worked for 25 years.

The number is probably in the neighborhood of 50 and includes such cases as drugs, domestic terrorism, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, robbery and kidnapping, to name a few.

Sharon Paul, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District, declined to comment.

The Illinois Times reported Friday that Bruce’s removal from hearing criminal cases apparently stemmed from an email exchange Bruce had with a former co-worker in the U.S. Attorney’s Office that happened during a 2016 trial involving an Urbana woman convicted of international parental kidnapping.

There was no answer at Bruce’s Urbana office late Friday afternoon and no response to an email seeking comment.

An order Bruce entered Thursday in the 2015 kidnapping case against Sarah Nixon confirmed that he was recusing himself “in an abundance of caution” over what he termed an “innocuous” and “private email conversation with someone entirely uninvolved in this case.”

Nixon, who was sentenced to 26 months in prison in May 2017, is seeking a new trial.

“In fact, the record indicates there was no contact concerning the email between my former paralegal in Springfield and any member of the prosecution in Urbana,” Bruce wrote in his recusal order.

The exchange was between Bruce, in Urbana, and his former paralegal, Lisa Hopps, in Springfield, during which he explained to her why he wasn’t at the retirement party for U.S. Attorney James Lewis, Bruce’s former boss in the Springfield office.

The Illinois Times reported that the email exchange contained comments from Bruce in which he reportedly critiqued, in a somewhat disparaging manner, the performance of federal prosecutors while the trial was in progress.

Bruce has presided over Christensen’s case since Christensen was charged in July 2017 with allegedly kidnapping visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang. The charge was later amended to kidnapping resulting in death even though Miss Zhang’s body has never been found.

Bruce has made multiple substantive rulings in the death-penalty case, meaning reassignment to another judge could delay the start even beyond April 2019. Bruce also has been hearing the fraud case of former Peoria Congressman Aaron Schock.

He has been on the bench since October 2013, replacing Judge Michael McCuskey, who retired.

A career prosecutor, Bruce served as the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District from 2010 to 2014, overseeing a staff of about 40 prosecutors in Urbana, Springfield, Peoria and Rock Island.

In an interview in December with The News-Gazette, Bruce said he has between 350 and 400 cases assigned to him. Not all of those are criminal cases, so he will still be able to hear others.

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UK/Czech Rep: ‘My ex secretly took our child out of the country’


Tracy hugs her daughter

A mother from Yorkshire has spent 18 months fighting for access to her daughter, who was taken abroad by her ex. Custody battles are always stressful and dealing with foreign courts and lawyers adds extra complications, expense and delays. But as more people take advantage of Europe’s freedom of movement stories like this are becoming more common.

“He didn’t tell me what he was planning,” says Tracy. “He said he was taking her for an overnight stay at his temporary accommodation in Bradford. Looking back, I remember her saying that she didn’t want to go, but I didn’t think anything was wrong. I wanted him to have this contact.

Something was wrong, though, as Tracy soon found out.

“The next morning he called me. He was clearly upset and he told me that they were back in the Czech Republic. I just went into shock. It was the worst moment of my life. I called the police and they spoke to him, but under the international treaty they said there was nothing they could do, even though he’d taken her there without me knowing anything about it.”

Tracy had met her Czech-born partner while he was working in Bradford in 2005 and had given birth to their daughter three years later. When the partner was made redundant the couple decided to move to his village in the Czech Republic where they lived with his parents. But at some point their relationship broke down.

In 2016, with Tracy’s mother’s health deteriorating, they moved back to the UK with their daughter, who was then seven. Even though they were not together as a couple, they could both love and care for her.

But when they got back to Bradford, Tracy’s ex had a disagreement with her mother, and he was asked to leave.

Her former partner, who did not want to be named, says that he had never intended the 2016 move back to the UK to be permanent – he only agreed because Tracy’s mother was ill. When he realised that he was not welcome at the family home he started considering his options.

“I was thinking what to do,” he says. “I wasn’t even allowed to be in the house for my daughter’s birthday. I walked away and I felt miserable. I was crying like a small kid. That was the breaking point when I said ‘No’. Maybe it could have been different if they had proceeded more carefully, Tracy and her mother, if they were not so heavy-handed.

“Maybe I would have stayed and found myself a flat. Maybe I would have endured it. I will be honest with you, now I have a huge aversion towards England. I see English football and I switch to another channel.”

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India: Still Open To Signing The Hague Treaty On Child Abduction: Maneka Gandhi


The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty that seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their return.

Still Open To Signing The Hague Treaty On Child Abduction: Maneka Gandhi

Maneka Gandhi said that the decision on the Hague treaty will be taken in due time

NEW DELHI: 

Union minister Maneka Gandhi said the option of signing the Hague Convention on inter-country abduction of children by parents was still open, and a mediation cell will be constituted to resolve such cases till a decision was taken on signing the convention.

The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty that seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their return.

India is not a signatory to the convention. The government had been of the view that the treaty could lead to harassment of women escaping marital discord or domestic violence.

The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has directed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to constitute a mediation cell to resolve the cases of children taken away by one of the spouses without the permission of the other parent due to marital discord or domestic violence, from overseas to India or vice versa.

The commission has also been asked to prepare a parental plan, taking into account the best interest of the child, a statement by the ministry said.

In the statement, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi also mentioned that the issue of signing the Hague Convention was still open and a decision on it would be taken in due course.

“Till then, the mediation process as notified by the WCD Ministry, should take care of most of the representations received by the ministry. The speaking order of the INA (Integrated Nodal Agency) will be extremely useful for both the parents to get the legal cases resolved or closed,” she said.

The mediation cell will have a chairperson and members of NCPCR in fields of laws relating to children and those relating to child psychology-sociology, the statement said.

The cell will develop a parental plan keeping in view the interest of the child and submit its report to the INA. Based on the report of the agency and any other inputs that the INA may seek from the applicants or from Home Ministry or External Affairs Ministry, it will pass a speaking order in the matter, it said.

Maneka Gandhi said the purpose of the procedure was primarily to bring all the facts of the case, including the legal proceeding, make an overall assessment of the situation and suggest a parental plan in the best interests of the child.

Currently, there is no specific Indian legislation addressing issues related to abduction of children from and into India.

The decision to form the cell was taken after the ministry received a large number of complaints from such parents, the statement said.

Most of these complaints are from women who have had to escape from foreign countries along with their children to come to the safety of their own families residing in India.

Their husbands file criminal cases of abduction of the children in the country where they are residing, which go uncontested as the women in India are unable to present their cases, it said.

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USA: Fair Play police chief finds missing children during traffic stop


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FAIR PLAY, Mo A routine traffic stop in Fair Play quickly turned into much more when three missing children were spotted in the back seat.

They had been missing since March.

Chief Ed Morrison was patrolling town last weekend when he passed a vehicle that didn’t have a license plate, and pulled it over.

Morrison radioed dispatch with the information on the woman driving and they radioed back with some shocking news.

“Her and her boyfriend were persons of interest in a case with three missing juveniles. And I told dispatch well there is three juveniles in the back seat of this car.” said Chief Ed Morrison, with the Fair Play police department.

36 year old Valerie Scott had a warrant out of Montana for parental kidnapping after she skipped a court appearance for a parenting plan and took off with the kids.

She was down in the area to visit her father and was unaware of the warrant out for her arrest.

“I actually didn’t do anything that any other deputy or officer wouldn’t have done. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. If she would have had a valid temp tag my PC for the stop would have been gone, I wouldn’t have even have ran her.” said Morrison.

Morrison says in a small town stuff like this doesn’t happen often so helping those kids felt good.

“You have that sense of satisfaction that you have done your job.” said Morrison. “I just did my job and by doing that it worked out the way it should have worked out.”

And his most unique traffic stop of his 18 year career was just days before his retirement.

“For me it is a good way to go out.” said Morrison. “It feels good to end it that way, but I hate to end it.”

He is set to retire on Wednesday, his 74th birthday.

The kids were returned to their father.

And Scott is being held in the Polk County jail on a 25 thousand dollar bond.

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USA/Algeria: Federal kidnapping charge filed against French national for fleeing US with infant child in Boston custody dispute


BOSTON –  The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed federal kidnapping charges against a French national who last month defied a judge’s orders and fled the country with his 3-year-old child without the mother’s permission.

Malik Benhamza, 33, who had been living in East Boston, is believed to be in Algiers, Algeria. Neither he nor the child have been seen or heard from since July 1.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday filed a criminal complaint that charges him with a single count of international parental kidnapping. He is now considered an international fugitive.

The United States has no extradition treaty with Algeria, a country in northern Africa bordering on the Mediterranean Sea.

According to prosecutors, the child’s mother, Jerusha Hall, in February was granted sole legal custody of the child by Essex County Family Court. Benhamza was granted visitation rights but only on specific days and times.

The family court judge also ordered that neither parent could travel outside Massachusetts with the child without written consent of the other parent.

On July 1, Benhamza did not return the child following a scheduled visit. Hall contacted law enforcement when the child was not returned, and officials tracked him by cell phone records to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. A review of flight records showed that he and the child had departed on a Royal Air Moroc flight to Algiers where they disembarked.

If he is apprehended, Benhamza faces a penalty of up to three years in prison for international parental kidnapping.

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USA: National Guard Can Do More at the Border


By most accounts, National Guard deployment at the border has been an asset to U.S. Border Patrol operations. With some commonsense adjustments, the Guard could be more useful.

Since Operation Guardian Support began in April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been assisted by the National Guard in carrying out thousands of apprehensions, seizing thousands of pounds of drugs and performing multiple rescues, according to Rodolfo Karisch, CBP’s Tucson sector chief.

In their support role, Guard personnel have demolished a narrative that they would behave like jackbooted storm troopers running roughshod over illegal border crossers. Barred from direct enforcement actions, the Guard has aided in several rescues, and even family reunifications.

In Eagle Pass, Texas, a Guardsman was instrumental in the safe return of a 3-year-old child after a parental abduction in Mexico. Thanks to Guard surveillance, the boy, who had been taken across the Rio Grande by his non-custodial father, was tracked, turned over to the Mexican Consulate and reunited with his mother just hours after an Amber Alert.

The good works could come to an end Oct. 1, when funds for the six-month program run out.

The start-and-stop prospects of Operation Guardian Support have limited its effectiveness, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard, told a House Committee hearing last month.

“This makes it impossible to schedule any long lead time activities like engineering projects,” McGuire testified.

Operation Jump Start, an earlier troop deployment, showed what continuity of service could do. From 2006-2008, National Guard units built 122 miles of border fencing, among other duties. Nothing like that has been attempted this time around.

The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents rank-and-file agents, has complained that troops are stationed too far from the border and too often duplicate, rather than enhance, CBP activities.

McGuire agrees that aerial operations need an upgrade. He calls the current eye in the sky myopic — “like looking through a soda straw.”

Further, the general wants Guardsmen to supplement undermanned CBP Air and Marine crews flying MQ-9 drones over the border. At Fort Huachuca, Ariz., only two of the authorized five daily flights are actually in the air.

America’s 2,000-mile southern border is riddled with well-documented security gaps. The Guard is ready, willing and able step into the breach, without overstepping its legal orders. There’s no point in going halfway on this mission.

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