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Cheers and tears as first miners emerge in Chile

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Calmly stepping out of the claustrophobic rescue cage, Florencio Avalos embraced his tearful seven-year-old son and let fresh air fill his lungs as he tasted freedom after 10 long weeks and Chile erupted in joy.

Chilean miner Claudio Yanez, the eighth of thirty-three miners to leave the mine, is hugged by a relative upon surfacing at the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile October 13, 2010 early morning.

Whistles and screams of delight greeted the return to the surface of the missile-shaped Phoenix rescue capsule as a captivated world audience applauded the arrival of Avalos and paid tribute to an unparalleled feat of survival.

After more than 68 days trapped deep underground in a damp, hot mine shaft plagued by doubt and fear, the reactions of the first miners as they were pulled from their subterranean hell were awe-inspiring.

Wearing dark glasses to shield his vulnerable eyes from the light, Avalos kissed his wife and comforted his son who was overwhelmed by the tension as the creaking winch hoisted his father up more than 600 meters (2,000 feet).

After receiving a bear-hug from Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Avalos embraced relatives of the other miners, some unable to hold back tears, amid a throng of hundreds of journalists and wellwishers.

The celebrations only got louder when the second miner, Mario Sepulveda, emerged and put on an exuberant show that completely defied the gravity of his nightmarish ordeal.

Delving into a bag, 40-year-old Sepulveda produced rocks and handed them as ironic gifts to officials and rescuers alike as he laughed and led the congregation in an impromptu chant of celebration.

Later dubbed “Super Mario” by Chilean newspapers, pictures of Sepulveda leaping before a crowd of rescuers and wellwishers were beamed around the world.

Later he was more serious. “I have been with God and with the devil. I fought between the two. I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there,” he said.

Sadly, the elation of some of 31-year-old Avalos’s family members turned to horror when a media scrum trampled their humble tent in a mad rush to secure that all-important interview.

Avalos’s father Alfonso, tears running down his face, had just exclaimed: “It’s a huge joy. I’m so happy” and hugged his wife Maria Silva when things turned ugly.

Reporters pushed and shoved to be the first to interview them, pulling on the hair of those in the way, throwing punches and almost knocking others to the ground.

The chaos and jostling marred the celebrations as the journalists rushed forward as one to capture the historic moment and surrounded the tent on all sides in walls of cameras and journalists.

The family retreated, and a frightened-looking Maria angrily hit out at journalists close to her with the Chilean flag bunched in her hand.

The mayhem stood out in an otherwise festive occasion in which families and reporters alike shared the euphoria of seeing the miners emerging one by one from the earth.

But it was also revealing of the media pressure that has built up around the 33 miners, who have become national icons in Chile, and internationally famous.

Since their discovery on August 22, alive against all hope, their extraordinary struggle to survive has become an epic tale of human endurance followed closely by a captive audience around the globe.

The 32 Chileans and one Bolivian have become national heroes and imminent media stars, with books, movies and a barrage of press coverage likely from the moment they emerged from the mine.

In the ultimate sign of just how big a spectacle the miners’ rescue has become, television megastar Don Francisco — one of the biggest celebrities in all of Latin America — was broadcasting from the site.

“I haven’t seen so much media attention since the Apollo XI back in 1969,” said the Chilean performer, referring to the NASA mission that sent men to the moon for the first time.

In a party atmosphere, balloons drifted into the air and confetti showered on the heads of the crowds in pictures transmitted live to televisions sets and computer screens across the world.

Camp Hope, as the camp at the entrance to the fateful mine has been baptized, was home to a couple of hundred relatives of the miners when the accident first occurred trapping them August 5.

As the rescue neared, the number of relatives swelled to 800 — but was quickly dwarfed by around 2,000 media employees who arrived from around the world to cover the momentous event.


Source: SGGP

Khmer Rouge jail chief accused of crocodile tears

In World on November 23, 2009 at 10:21 am

File photo of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch (AFP photo)

PHNOM PENH, Nov 23, 2009 (AFP) – Lawyers for Khmer Rouge victims Monday accused the regime’s jailer of duping Cambodia’s war crimes court with “crocodile tears” as he faces final arguments over “Killing Fields” atrocities.

Former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch — has apologised repeatedly for his role in the horrors of the hardline communist regime, which killed up to two million people three decades ago.

But civil lawyers representing 93 victims of the Tuol Sleng prison at the UN-backed court argued that Duch had failed to acknowledge the full extent of his guilt, as his trial entered its closing week.

Attorney Kong Pisey told judges that Duch had sought “to cleverly evade responsibility when it suits him” and wept “crocodile tears” in the dock.

“The cooperation with the court and his pretended truthful admissions is half-hearted,” Kong Pisey said, speaking through an official translator.

“However the accused’s defence strategy of denying any personal involvement of torture, killing and arrest is unsuccessful.”

Lawyers used part of the day’s hearings to recount how Tuol Sleng prisoners were beaten, electrocuted and then executed.

“Your honours must objectively, we say, review the evidence to determine whether or not what has been accepted by the accused amounts to full disclosure and the full truth,” lawyer Karim Khan told judges.

The prosecution is scheduled to begin presenting its arguments Tuesday.

Duch, who wore a white turtleneck sweater as he watched Monday’s proceedings from the dock, is expected to apologise again this week as his defence bids to lessen his sentence.

Since his trial began in February, Duch, 67, has repeatedly asked for forgiveness for overseeing the murders of around 15,000 men, women and children at the S-21 or Tuol Sleng prison, a former high school.

He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder, and faces a maximum term of life in prison by the tribunal, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

A verdict is expected early next year.

Hundreds of Cambodians attended the specially built courtroom on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Monday to watch Duch, who sat behind a huge bullet-proof screen to prevent possible revenge attacks.

This week’s proceedings will be broadcast live by all Cambodian television stations, court officials said.

Tuol Sleng prison was at the heart of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus and inmates were taken from there during Duch’s tenure for execution at nearby Choeung Ek, an orchard now known as the “Killing Fields”.

Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for one of the worst horrors of the 20th century, wiping out nearly a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork and execution.

Rising to power as a tragic spin-off from the US conflict in Vietnam, the movement emptied Cambodia’s cities to take society back to a rural “Year Zero”, purging city dwellers, intellectuals and even people who wore glasses.

The four-year Khmer Rouge reign of terror ended in 1979. Pol Pot died in 1998.

Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle, and was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.

The court has faced controversy over allegations of interference by the government and claims that Cambodian staff paid bribes for their jobs.

The joint trial of four other more senior Khmer Rouge leaders is expected to start in 2011.

The court is also investigating whether to open more cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres after a dispute between the international and Cambodian co-prosecutors over whether to pursue more suspects.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share