Killer of French tourist sentenced to death

A Malaysian shopkeeper on Wednesday was sentenced to death after a court found him guilty of murdering a French tourist on a popular resort island.

Killer of French tourist sentenced to death
Asni Omar (C), accused of murdering French tourist Stephanie Foray, is escorted by Malaysian police as he arrives for trial. Photo: AFP

A Malaysian shopkeeper on Wednesday was sentenced to death after a court found him guilty of murdering a French tourist on a popular resort island.

Stephanie Foray, 30, went missing on Tioman island off the east coast state of Pahang in May 2011.

Her partially mummified remains were found some three months later buried in a cave on the island.

The verdict comes just weeks after another foreign tourist, British backpacker Gareth Huntley, went missing on the same island during a trek in circumstances that have yet to be fully explained.

A high court in Pahang's capital Kuantan found Asni Omar, 39, who operated a shop selling beach gear on the island, guilty of killing Foray.

After the death sentence was handed down, Foray's mother, Irene Mortel, got up, looked at Asni and wept.

"I was hoping for nothing else. That's all… I know it can't change anything," she said of the verdict as she left the court, together with Foray's father, Joel, who travelled to Malaysia with her.

In delivering the verdict, judge Mariana Yahya said the defence failed to raise reasonable doubt, adding Asni had "weakened his own defence" by merely presenting a "well arranged story" to deny his guilt.

"Therefore I find the defendant guilty as charged. There is only one punishment… which is death by hanging," she said.

Asni, who was sitting in dock with short shaved hair and wearing a dark blue shirt with white stripes and jeans, was hugged by crying family members before being led out of the court by police.

Murder carries the mandatory death penalty by hanging in Malaysia.

Asni's lawyers said they would appeal the sentence to a higher court.

Asni was accused of killing Foray, a French civil service employee, after she spurned his advances.

The murder of Foray shocked people in the Muslim-majority country where violent crime against tourists is rare.

Foray had arrived in Malaysia in May 2011 after quitting her job and spending several months in India and Sri Lanka. She took a ferry to Tioman five days later and disappeared shortly afterwards.

In another deadly incident on the same island, Huntley went missing while trekking to a jungle waterfall on May 27 this year.

His body was found a week later by a stream not far from a turtle research site where he was volunteering.

Police are still investigating what caused Huntley's death.

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France demands probe into Malaysian jet crash

France has demanded an immediate inquiry into the crash of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, which several sources say was shot down. The shocking incident however, is unlikely to see the EU harden its stance towards Russia, one expert tells The Local.

France demands probe into Malaysian jet crash
The crash site where Malaysia Airlines flight 17 came down in eastern Ukraine. Photo: AFP
French President François Hollande offered "all my solidarity" with relatives of the crash victims, and made calls for a wide-ranging investigation to determine what happened to the plane that was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 disappeared from radar contact around 1415 GMT as it was flying over eastern Ukraine with 295 people on board. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has not ruled out that the airliner might have been shot down, saying he considers the catastrophe a "terrorist act".

Hollande, who is currently ona trip to Africa, said in a statement: "I learned with great emotion that airliner company "Malaysia Airlines"… crashed on Ukrainian soil."
"France demands that everything is implemented, to shed light on the circumstances that caused this tragedy," he added. "I express my solidarity with the relatives of the passengers." 
Initial reports claimed there were at least four French nationals on board but that has not been confirmed.
Hollande's calls for an inquiry echoed by other world leaders.
For its part Britain has called for an UN-led investigation and is seeking an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis in Ukraine's rebel-held east — which NATO described as "more and more dangerous".
"We believe that there must be a UN-led, international investigation of the facts," Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told a press conference on Thursday.
US officials believe the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, while comments attributed to a pro-Russia rebel chief suggested his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane.
"The facts of what happened and who was responsible must be quickly established," the presidents of the European Council and Commission, Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, said in a joint statement. "The inquiry must be rapid and complete."
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon echoed calls for a "full, transparent and international investigation".

'Shooting down of plane will not be a game changer'
Despite the fact most seem to believe the plane was shot down by Russian separatists, some analysts believe France and the rest of the EU, are unlikely to toughen their stance towards Vladimir Putin.
Philippe Migault, an expert on Ukraine from the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in Paris says there are too simply many economic interests at stake for Europe.

“France like other European countries will condemn the incident and demand an inquiry as well as an end to fighting in the region, but they won’t go much further,” Migault told The Local. “I don’t think we will see any major change.”

“There are just too many interests at stake. The Economic interests between the EU and Russia are just too great. We have seen the USA increase sanctions against Russia, but they have less at stake economically than countries like France and Germany.”

France has risked the wrath of the United States for its decision to continue to push through a multi-billion euro deal to sell two Mistral warships to Moscow.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has suggested he would look again at the deal in October, depending on the state of the crisis in Ukraine, but IRIS’s Migault says France are unlikely to pull the deal.

“The problem is half of the money has already been paid. If France pulled out it would have to reimburse the Russians and that would cost billions,” he said. 

Airlines told not to fly over Ukraine
In France, a statement by junior transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said he told "French airlines to avoid Ukraine's air space as long as the reasons behind this catastrophe are not known."
Leading airlines quickly announced plans to route planes away from the area. 
Air France said it had "taken the decision to no longer fly over eastern Ukraine as soon as it heard of the event."
A spokeswoman for German flag carrier Lufthansa told AFP it has decided to immediately make a "wide detour" around the area, and added: "Our passenger's safety is our top priority.
She noted however: "There was not and there is not at present an order to avoid flights in Ukrainian airspace."
In London, a spokesman for the British Department for Transport told AFP: "Flights already airborne are being routed around the area by air traffic control in the region."