US steps into blogger fray
The US yesterday called on Hanoi to free three bloggers facing trial for propaganda against the state, voicing deep concern at the self-immolation of the mother of one of the trio. The defendants were arrested after posting hundreds of political articles on the banned Web site “Free Journalists Club,” as well as writing on their own blogs, in a case that has been raised by US President Barack Obama. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison, according to their lawyers. Dang Thi Kim Lieng, the mother of one of the three, died after setting herself ablaze on Monday in front of the local authorities’ offices in Bac Lieu Province, according to people close to the family. “We were deeply concerned and saddened to hear of [Lieng’s] self-immolation, reportedly related to circumstances surrounding the detention of her daughter Ta Phong Tan,” the US embassy in Hanoi said in a statement. Tan, a 43-year-old Catholic former policewoman, used her blog to denounce corruption and injustice in Vietnam’s legal system.
Seoul rejects terror claims
Seoul yesterday rejected North Korean claims that it is planning terrorist acts as “ridiculous,” and said it would protect Seoul activists threatened by Pyongyang. Pyongyang late on Tuesday said the activists were involved in plots aided by Seoul and Washington to blow up statues of past leaders and stage other acts of terrorism in the North. Offenders “will not be safe no matter where they are and they will not be able to escape merciless punishment,” it said in a statement, which took the unusual step of naming those singled out for possible retribution. “The North is making ridiculous accusations of kidnapping, acts of terrorism and crimes involving some North Korean defectors,” a spokeswoman for the South’s unification ministry said. “None of them have any truth in them and the accusations are not worth responding to.”
Sergeant gets jail for abuse
A sergeant in the army was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in a military jail for assault and mistreatment of Chinese-American soldier Danny Chen, who committed suicide in Afghanistan. Jurors at a court martial in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, set out the penalty a day after acquitting Sergeant Adam Holcomb on the more serious charges of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and communicating a threat. The suicide in October last year of Private Chen, 19, the son of Chinese immigrants, outraged New York’s ethnic Chinese community amid allegations that he had been singled out for hazing by his fellow soldiers. Family members and supporters said Chen — the only Chinese-American in his battalion — had faced racist abuse, including name-calling such as “egg roll,” “chink” and “dragon lady,” almost every day of his six weeks in Afghanistan. During the trial, the court martial heard that Chen was ordered to crawl on the ground to be pelted with rocks a few hours before he died.
Law defines sex abuse
The parliament unanimously adopted new legislation on Tuesday, making sexual harassment a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in jail, replacing a law that was deemed too vague. The new law, which also provides for a fine of up to 45,000 euros (US$55,000), was rushed through both houses of parliament to appease public anger as the repeal of the original legislation in May saw all suits going through the courts being dropped.