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CRIME

German and Somali hostages released

A German national and his Somali wife who were kidnapped over the weekend in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland were released on Monday, officials said.

“The German and his wife were released and are back in (the port city of) Bossaso now. Local elders and officials in the regional administration helped his release,” Puntland presidential adviser Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade told AFP. General Ali Said, who led mediation efforts, said the two were released “without preconditions.”

The pair’s vehicle had been intercepted as they were driving in Bossaso on Saturday evening and taken into mountainous areas in eastern Bossaso. Officials said the German national, whose name could not immediately be confirmed, had been staying in Bossaso for several weeks. They were taken when the German was visiting his wife’s relatives.

Armed gangs in Puntland elsewhere in Somalia have carried out scores of kidnappings in recent months, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organisations to demand ransoms. Kidnappers have been holding three journalists—a Canadian, an Australian and a Somali—since August 23 and are reportedly demanding 2.5 million dollars for their release.

Southern Somalia has been torn by 17 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre. Numerous UN-backed initiatives have failed to restore stability in the country.

Thousands of civilians have died in the guerrilla war that has pitted invading Ethiopian troops against Islamist insurgents since last year. The self-declared state of Puntland has been largely spared the latest violence but it has been used by pirates taking foreign ships hostage and gangs smuggling goods, arms and people across the Gulf of Aden.

CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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