Russia threatens travel ban
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that it will ban visa-free travel for the country’s officials to the disputed Kuril islands if it continues to make statements assuming ownership of the islands. The two countries have been involved in a decades-old dispute over islands north of Hokkaido, known as Kuril in Russia and referred to as the Northern Territories in Japan. “If for some reason Japanese politicians cannot refrain from making public statements on the subject of the islands after a visit to Russian territory, we reserve the right to limit their participation in such trips,” the ministry said in a statement.
Murder ‘scapegoats’ freed
Two men wrongly convicted for the 2004 murder of a prominent opposition activist walked free yesterday, one day after the country’s Supreme Court ordered their release. The court’s decision to drop all charges came amid renewed calls to free the men, whom leading international rights groups have called “scapegoats” in the murder of Chea Vichea and one of many examples of the country’s corrupt judicial system. Chea Vichea was the leader of the largest labor union, the Free Trade Union of Workers, and an outspoken critic of government corruption and human rights abuses. He was gunned down in broad daylight on Jan. 22, 2004. Within a week, two men — Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun — were arrested. The investigation that followed the pair’s arrest nearly a decade ago sparked local and international outcry, as did the trial. None of the prosecution witnesses appeared, providing only written testimonies that could not be challenged in court. Several of those present for the defense were rejected. In 2005, the men were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Copter crashes near Everest
A helicopter crashed while attempting to land near Mount Everest yesterday, injuring all four people on board, Nepalese police said. The helicopter belonging to local Dynasty Airlines was attempting to land at Lukla airport when it got caught in a wire fence, police official Badri Bikram Thapa said. The helicopter crashed and caught fire, but the four on board — all Nepalese nationals — managed to escape. One of them was critically injured and has been flown by rescue helicopter to Kathmandu for treatment. The tiny airstrip at Lukla carved out of the side of the mountain and located at an altitude of 2,843m, has earned a reputation as one of the most extreme and dangerous airports in the world.
Blow-up concert hall to open
A giant purple structure believed to be the world’s first inflatable concert hall is to open on the country’s disaster-hit northeastern coast, promoters said on Wednesday. British sculptor Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki created the unusual Ark Nova, a balloon made of a coated polyester material that has been erected at a park in the town of Matsushima. The structure, which organizers say is a world’s first, measures about 18m high and 35m wide when fully inflated, with room for about 500 guests. It can be easily deflated and travel around the region to host events that “help bring people together,” a press statement said. Wood from the area’s damaged cedar trees will be used for seating. The first event will run from Friday through Oct. 14, including performances by the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra and traditional kabuki theater.