Daily News Roundup

August 31, 2021



Three men accused of the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings have had their first day in court after being held by the US without charge at the Guantanamo Bay detention Centre for 18 years.

Indonesian prisoner Encep Nurjaman, known as Hambali, and two Malaysians started their arraignment on Monday (local time) before a military commission.

During the nearly five-hour hearing at the US base in Cuba, the three were charged with crimes including murder, conspiracy and terrorism.

Slowed by problems with the courtroom interpreters, the military commission was unable to finish the long-delayed arraignment and it was expected to resume on Tuesday.

Encep Nurjaman, known as “Hambali”, has been accused of masterminding the Bali bombings.(Supplied)

The case is expected to take years to resolve.

The war crimes tribunal for the three faces many of the same issues that have caused other Guantanamo cases to languish for years, including evidence tainted by CIA torture, as well as the challenges posed by the men’s prolonged imprisonment without charge.

“It’s almost 20 years later, witnesses have died, the landscape has changed dramatically,” said Brian Bouffard, a lawyer for one of the two Malaysians, Mohammed Nazir bin Lep.

“In my view, it’s fatal to the ability to have a fair trial.”

The arraignment comes as the Biden administration says it intends to close the detention centre, where the US still holds 39 of the 779 men seized in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and invasion of Afghanistan.

The three men charged in connection with the nightclub bombings were held in secret CIA confinement for three years, subjected to what the government euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation”, followed by 15 more years at the isolated US base in Cuba.

The decision to charge them, made by a Pentagon legal official at the end of the Trump administration, complicates the closure effort, Mr Bouffard said, since the government would likely be less inclined to release men facing an active prosecution, even after so many years in custody.


NSW recorded 1,164 locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00pm yesterday.

Three people died of COVID, bringing the number of fatalities connected with the current outbreak to 96.

A woman in her 50s and a man in his 90s both died at Campbelltown Hospital while a man in his 80s died at St Vincent’s Hospital.

There are currently 871 COVID-19 patients in NSW hospitals, with 143 people in intensive care, 58 of whom require ventilation.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said there was a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the Parklea Correctional Centre in the north-west of Sydney.

Overnight 43 new cases were recorded at the prison meaning the outbreak has now reached 75 cases in total.

There were also 54 new cases western NSW across several towns.

There were four cases in Wilcannia, which has been the centre of an outbreak in the state’s far west.

Michelle Dowd, nurse manager at the intensive care unit in Liverpool Hospital, pleaded with anyone who had been putting vaccination off to book an appointment today.

“These patients [in intensive care] are some of the sickest we’ve ever seen. They require so much support and monitoring and physical care,” she said.

*Victoria has recorded 76 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, as health officials consider the restrictions that will remain when lockdown is extended on Thursday.

Contact tracers have linked 45 of the new cases to existing outbreaks.

Health authorities say the number of cases who were in quarantine while infectious will be revealed later.

The state processed 50,848 test results on Monday, when 32,162 vaccine doses were delivered at state-run sites.

There are more than 1,000 exposure sites across Victoria, with a construction site at Fishermans Bend and several apartment buildings in Melbourne among recent additions.

On Monday, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the state’s outbreak was showing signs of stability, but Victoria remained in a “very challenging” position.

He said the state would continue to follow an aggressive suppression strategy to try to drive the outbreak down to zero, “but now with some absurd hope if numbers continue to increase despite everything that you’re doing”.

Professor Sutton hinted that some easing of restrictions could be possible in regional Victoria, as the Shepparton outbreak came under control and there were promising signs an outbreak in Traralgon may not eventuate.


One of China’s biggest stars has had her name erased from Chinese video platforms, making her the latest public figure targeted by Beijing in its crackdown on “celebrity culture”.

Billionaire Zhao Wei, also known as Vicky Zhao, is an award-winning Chinese actor and filmmaker. She starred in the title role in Starlight International’s 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior. 

Wei first found fame in the late 1990s in a Chinese TV series called My Fair Princess, in which she played the lead, before becoming one of China’s biggest stars as an actor, filmmaker and businesswoman. 

Western audiences might remember her from comedy action film Shaolin Soccer.

Zhao has had films and TV shows she starred in or directed removed from many video platforms, and has had her name removed from online casting lists.

Her fan page on the heavily censored Chinese social networking site Weibo has been taken down, CNN reports, while SCMP reports that a hashtag allowing fans to share information about her was also censored.

Zhao Wei starred in the title role in Starlight International’s 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior. (Starlight)

Nevertheless, Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times said that topics like “What’s happening with Zhao Wei” and “Zhao Wei was removed from many of her works” topped the trending lists on Weibo the day her online presence was scrubbed.

Although the move comes amid the squeeze on celebrity culture, there is no clarity on why specifically she has been targeted.

The Global Times ran a headline the day after Zhao was scrubbed, calling her a “scandals-hit actress”, detailing the various lawsuits surrounding her investments, which included an early stake in Alibaba Pictures Group, a film company under Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group.


The United States says its war in Afghanistan is over, after the last plane carrying US troops left Kabul airport this morning.

General Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, confirmed the last flight left Hamid Karzai International Airport just before President Joe Biden’s deadline for completing the exit.

General McKenzie said US troops did not evacuate everyone they wanted out of Afghanistan, and the number of US civilians left behind was in the low hundreds.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure. We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said.

“But I think if we’d stayed another 10 days, we wouldn’t have gotten everybody out.”

General McKenzie said the plane left at 3:29pm Washington DC time.

Kabul is eight and a half hours ahead of Washington DC, meaning the final flight left at 11:59pm on August 30, one minute before the Mr Biden’s August 31 deadline. 

Thousands of troops had spent two weeks protecting a hurried and risky airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans, Americans, Australians and others seeking to escape a country once again ruled by Taliban militants.

The airport had become a US-controlled island, the last stand in a 20-year war that claimed more than 2,400 American lives.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that the airport was now without air traffic control services.

The closing hours of the evacuation were marked by extraordinary drama.

American troops faced the daunting task of getting final evacuees onto planes while also getting themselves and some of their equipment out, even as they monitored repeated threats — and at least two actual attacks — by the Islamic State group’s Afghan affiliate ISIS-K.

A suicide bombing on August 26 killed 13 American service members and around 169 Afghans.


A daring and bloody heist has shut down streets in the Brazilian city of Araçatuba, with a gang of armed robbers targeting banks, exchanging gunfire with police and escaping in cars covered with human shields.

After ransacking two bank branches, the criminals drove away with hostages clinging to their cars to deter police from firing at the getaway convoy.

Video shot from an apartment building in central Araçatuba, not far from the banks targeted, showed two cars driving slowly with people either clinging or tied to the outside of the vehicles.

Other video shared on social media showed a shootout and black-clad men marching hostages down the same street.

At least three people were killed in the clashes, two of them civilians, local authorities said.

Preliminary information suggested one was a local businessman who went to the location to film the attack and the other was a delivery worker.

The third person killed was a suspect, found in his car.

Six people were injured, including one passerby who had his leg amputated after an explosion.

The coordinated robbery involved dozens of criminals and at least 10 cars.

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