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Newsline: Canada starts issuing visas for Czechs in Prague

Canada has started issuing tourist visas at its embassy in Prague, as a result of which the Czechs travelling to Canada will no longer have to apply for visas via Vienna. The visa department is being opened in Prague almost half a year after the reintroduction of visas for Czechs by Canada in mid-July. Canada reimposed visa requirements on Czechs on July 14 because a high number of Czech citizens, mainly Romanies, applied for asylum after arriving in Canada. In Prague, Ottawa’s decision caused displeasure. The Czech Republic will continue calling on other EU countries to help it press on Canada that reintroduced visas for Czechs even after Canada opens a visa office in Prague. Canada has not stated so far when the visa would be lifted. The EU has threatened to introduce visas for Canadian diplomats unless Canada facilitates the issuing of visas for Czech citizens and sets clear conditions for the renewal of visa-free relations. Brussels set the end of 2009 as a deadline for Ottawa in this respect.


Newsline: Ukrainian Envoy in South Korea Accused of Drunk Driving

The Ukrainian ambassador to Korea crashed into two vehicles while allegedly driving intoxicated, injuring one of the two Korean drivers involved. According to police, Ambassador Volodymyr Belashov, 58, crashed into a luxury sedan somewhere around a large shopping mall in Myeongdong, central Seoul, at 9:25 p.m., May 12. But he kept driving and then ran into another vehicle, a taxi, about five minutes later near Jangchung Gymnasium. Police officers rushed to the scene to perform a field sobriety test, but the ambassador locked himself in his car for one-and-a-half hours and refused to take the test, citing diplomatic immunity. At that time, police allowed the ambassador to leave the scene. Ambassador Belashov spent nearly three decades representing Ukraine at the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) before being posted to in Korea in October last year. The case was disclosed after the government announced measures to minimize the abuse of immunity privileges by diplomats. The government put into effect a new guideline aimed at curbing the abuse of diplomatic privileges, Dec. 21, amid growing concerns over infractions of this power by diplomats.


Newsline: Croatia’s ex-ambassador to France sentenced over fraud

A former Croatian ambassador to France was sentenced to 20 months on probation over embezzling some 104,000 euros (150,000 dollars), which he must return. Marko Zaja was found guilty by a Zagreb court for paying some 43,000 euros for three paintings while the painter has received 2,000 euros only. The 72-year-old was also sentenced for claiming that he had paid some 61,000 euros to a Paris company for renovation of the embassy’s furniture. However, the renovation was done in Zagreb. The embezzlement took place in 1999 and 2000. The court said it decided on a sentence of probation due to Zaja’s age.


Newsline: China opens consulate-general in Russia’s Irkutsk

China opened a consulate-general in Irkutsk, which the Chinese ambassador to Russia Li Hui said would inject new impetus into China-Russia cooperation at a regional level. The consular district of China’s consulate-general in Irkutsk includes Russia’s Irkutsk region, Zabaikalye Krai, as well as republics of Buryat, Tuva and Khakass.


Newsline: Loophole in Diplomatic Immunity Closed in South Korea

The government has set up a new guideline in order to counter the abuse of diplomatic privileges, amid growing concerns over traffic violations and other offenses committed by foreign diplomats here. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, local authorities cannot arrest or punish foreign diplomats as they are protected from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits in the host country. However, the new guideline, which takes effect Dec. 21, calls on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to notify countries of alleged violations of local laws committed by their diplomats here, according to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Police will be obliged to immediately report violations committed by diplomats to both the prosecution and the ministry, it said. Once notified, the ministry is required to submit a formal report of the offense to the country the diplomat represents. If necessary, local authorities may request a waiver of diplomatic immunity or expel the diplomat from the country, according to the measure. There has been mounting criticism over diplomatic immunity. Law enforcement authorities are unable to prosecute law-breaking diplomats, no matter how serious the crime may be. In cases of traffic violations, they have practically no legal means requiring foreign diplomats to pay fines. The number of speeding violations by diplomats soared from 18 in 2006 to 212 in 2008, according to the ministry. Nearly 90 percent of traffic fines imposed on foreign diplomats between July 2004 and July 2008 – a total of some 72.6 million won ($61,500) – have yet to be paid, according the National Police Agency.


Newsline: Former US diplomat Killed With Television Remote Control

46-year-old Paul Harvey has received a three year jail sentence in the UK for manslaughter after he killed his wife with a television remote control. Harvey threw the remote, striking his wife on the head and triggering a brain haemorrhage. Both Harvey and his wife Gloria, formerly a US diplomat, had ingested cocaine and alcohol and were fighting over school fees at the time of the incident. Harvey expressed deep remorse at his wife’s death. Unbeknownst to either of them Gloria had a medical condition that made the artery that ruptured very weak. The court was told that the chances of the 16g remote causing a fatal injury were lottery odds.


Newsline: Lawyers protest fake embassy vehicle registration plates

The lawyers’ fraternity in Pakistan held nationwide protests against the notorious presence and activities of Blackwater in the country. The lawyers’ said that the Blackwater was a notorious organization, which has been quite active in Iraq and lambasted the fact that they were enjoying ‘diplomatic immunity’ simply by using fake vehicle registration plates of the US embassy. Raising slogans, they demanded immediate ouster of the notorious organization from the premises. On the occasion, they announced that if the notorious organization is failed to vacate the premises by 5th Jan, they would stage a strong protest in front of the Parliament House.


Newsline: Climate talk failure protested at Danish Consulate in San Francisco

Bay Area climate justice organizations delivered a letter of concern and outrage to the Danish Consulate in San Francisco protesting their holding of climate prisoners, criminalization of activists and shutting out acreddited NGO’s from the UN Climate Summit. Climate justice groups held a protest vigil outside the Danish Consulate in San Francisco.


Newsline: Liberian Govt. Battles to Reclaim Several Sold Embassies

The Liberian Government has confirmed the “criminal sales” of several of its embassies abroad, launching a legal battle to reclaim them. Liberian embassies in Paris, Nairobi and London have all been reportedly sold by former Foreign Service officials. The Liberian Government has instituted a legal team to collaborate with the Foreign Ministry to fight a legal battle to claim these properties and bring to book those behind the “criminal” act. The sale of these government properties abroad was not done by foreign Service officials alone, but in collaboration with officials of the Foreign Ministry back home. The war left Liberia’s foreign mission in serious flops and huge indebtedness.


Newsline: US Embassy: Query visa refusals via e-mail

People who want to query the reason why they were refused a visa to go to the United States should contact the Consular Section of the US Embassy in Port of Spain. This was the advice after a new wave of complaints by locals came in response to a report done by the US State Department on the operations at the local embassy. The report found that non-immigrant visa workers at the embassy were being trained, up to February this year, to refuse visas to certain groups of applicants. Among those who were being refused-pregnant women, women who already had a child in the US, and locals working with multi-national corporations and going to America for job training. The non-immigrant section (NIV) stated ’Please direct all persons with questions to enquire by sending an e-mail to ConsularPOS@state.gov.’



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