Osaka mayor to step down
Controversial Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is to step down and seek re-election in a bid to prove he has public support for a plan to reform local government. Hashimoto, who doubles as co-head of the Japan Restoration Party, has long championed merging Osaka’s prefectural and municipal governments, claiming it would cut out unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. A panel of representatives of the Osaka Prefectural Government and Municipal Government on Friday last week rejected plans to speed up the integration, prompting his decision to go over their heads to the electorate.
Lawmaker tried for sedition
Prosecutors yesterday demanded a 20-year jail term for a leftist lawmaker on trial for allegedly plotting an armed revolt in support of North Korea. Prosecutors also asked judges to strip United Progressive Party Legislator Lee Seok-ki of his civic rights for 10 years following his release from prison. The sedition charges leveled against Lee are rarely used, especially against a sitting legislator. After parliament voted to lift his immunity from arrest, Lee, 52, was charged in September last year with plotting an insurrection to overthrow the government. The prosecution is also seeking jail terms of up to 15 years for six other party members being tried on similar charges.
Reunion talks date proposed
The government yesterday said North Korea has agreed to hold talks on arranging reunions of families separated by the Korean War for the first time in more than three years. Pyongyang last month agreed to restart the reunions and asked the South to pick the date. Seoul chose Feb. 17 to Feb. 22 and proposed working-level talks to discuss the reunions, but the North did not respond until yesterday, when it broke a week-long silence to send a message proposing the talks take place either tomorrow or Thursday at a border village, according to the Ministry of Unification and Pyongyang’s state media. Seoul said that it preferred tomorrow, the ministry said.
Attacks deepen tribal unrest
Shiite Huthi rebels have overrun strongholds of powerful tribes in the north of the country, witnesses said on Sunday, in a major advance following a month of combat that has killed scores of people. The Huthis seized Huth Town and Khamri Village — the seat of the Hashid tribal chief — as tribal defense lines crumbled, local sources and witnesses said. Tribal chief sheikh Hussein al-Ahmar ordered his fighters to evacuate his family’s farm in Khamri and set it ablaze, witnesses said. In another indication of the growing unrest, a mortar shell was fired overnight in the direction of the French embassy, while a car bomb exploded meters away in Sana’a’s diplomatic quarter, a police source said yesterday. “The two attacks happened after midnight. There were no victims,” the source said.
Men burned for cattle: police
Four men were burned to death in a West Bengal State village as suspected punishment for stealing cattle from a rival gang, a police officer said yesterday. The four charred bodies were found close to the border with Bangladesh on Sunday evening, said Jagmohan, police commissioner of nearby Siliguri City. Two of the bodies were found inside a burned van also containing one of the suspected stolen cows, while the other two were found nearby, Jagmohan, who uses one name, told reporters.