More prisoners pardoned
President Then Sein yesterday pardoned 69 more political prisoners, part of a promise to free all who remain behind bars by the end of the year. Most were members of ethnic minorities, said Ye Aung, who sits on the government’s political prisoner scrutiny committee, but the list also included two grandchildren of former dictator General Ne Win. Both have been on death row since 2002 for allegedly attempting to stage a coup against the then-military regime of senior General Than Shwe. Ye Aung said that at least 60 political prisoners remain in jail. Dozens of those released yesterday had been charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for staging protests without getting prior permission, he said.
Tourism chief resigns
Tourism chief Charm Lee yesterday announced his resignation amid allegations that he visited a lewd massage parlor in Japan last year. Lee dismissed the allegations as groundless, but said he found it impossible to carry on as CEO of the state Korea Tourism Organization in its aftermath. He said he wanted to restore his honor through a lawsuit. Lee made the announcement three days after a local TV station reported that he had visited a “soapland” massage parlor in Yoshiwara, a red-light district in Tokyo. Lee, whose German name is Bernhard Quandt, became a South Korean citizen in 1986.
Playboy model extradited
Former Playboy model Brandi Brandt has been extradited from Los Angeles to Sydney to face cocaine conspiracy charges. The 45-year-old actress and Playmate of the Month for October 1987 appeared in a Sydney court after her arrival yesterday on a flight from the US. The former wife of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx did not apply for bail or enter pleas. She was remanded in custody to appear in court in December. She is accused of being involved with a cocaine importation syndicate that hid packages of the drug on Qantas and United Airlines passenger planes that flew from California to Sydney.
US surgeon acquitted
Prosecutors have dropped manslaughter charges against a US surgeon following a protracted legal wrangle. Prosecutor Peter Davis yesterday told the Brisbane District Court that criminal negligence charges against Indian-born US citizen Jayant Patel have been dropped in the interests of justice. However, Patel yesterday pleaded guilty to four fraud charges stemming from his medical registration and employment as chief surgeon at Bundaberg Base Hospital from 2003 to 2005. The 63-year-old will be sentenced on these charges next week. With credit for more than two years already served in prison, Patel could soon be sent home to the US without spending any more time in custody.
CIA collecting data on money
The Central Intelligence Agency is collecting records of international money transfers under the same law that the National Security Agency (NSA) uses to collect Americans’ phone and Internet records, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The data, which includes records from companies such as Western Union Co, is part of a database of financial and personal information authorized under the Patriot Act, the newspapers reported, citing unnamed current and former government officials. The scope of data collection by the government became public earlier this year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents describing how the government collects far more Internet and telephone data than previously known.