Sedition conviction upheld
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a nine-year prison sentence for a former leftist lawmaker convicted of inciting an armed revolt in the event of war breaking out with North Korea. Lee Seok-ki, a key member of the now-disbanded United Progressive Party, was first convicted of plotting a rebellion in February last year after a rare sedition trial involving a sitting member of the National Assembly, but the 12-year sentence he received was reduced to nine on appeal after the High Court ruled that Lee had not actually plotted a rebellion, but only encouraged one. Yesterday’s ruling agreed there was no proof that an organization for rebellion actually existed and that Lee’s guilt was therefore confined to the charge of incitement. Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae also confirmed that Lee had violated the National Security Law by praising North Korea. Lee’s treason trial had been the first of a lawmaker since the nation’s transformation from a military-backed autocracy to a democracy in the 1980s.
US calls for killings probe
The US has called for an investigation into the killings of two ethnic Kachin teachers, amid allegations by activists the women were raped and murdered by government forces. The bloodied corpses were discovered earlier this week in a village in Shan state. A medical report indicated the volunteer teachers from the Kachin Baptist Convention died from penetration wounds to their liver, lungs and head, Zau Ra, secretary of the organization, said by telephone yesterday. Their private parts had also been violated, he said, adding that he was “shocked and saddened’ by the news. The military — which has launched fresh attacks in Kachin state, trapping more than 1,000 civilians in several villages — has long been accused of serious abuses in fighting against ethnic rebels. Activists said the two teachers were raped and killed by government forces.
Cocaine granny escapes jail
Helen Heaphy’s number came up at the bingo hall. The prize was a trip to court. The 50-year-old grandmother pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of possessing cocaine for sale or supply after police caught her with the narcotic outside a Cork bingo hall. Cork District Court Judge Leo Malone accepted her lawyer’s plea for clemency, citing her family obligations and her possession of a relatively small amount of the drug worth 350 euros (US$400). Heaphy insisted she was holding the cocaine for an unspecified friend. Malone fined Heaphy 750 euros, but gave her no jail time, despite having two prior convictions for drugs possession and obstructing a police narcotics unit. She was even allowed to go back to playing bingo at the hall after the owner relented on a ban.
Prostitution ring broken up
Police have broken up a prostitution ring offering the services of more than 400 women, some of them minors, and have arrested 29 people, the interior ministry said on Wednesday. The ring recruited adult women and girls between the ages of 14 and 17 in schools and nightclubs in the southern region of Murcia, as well as over the Internet, to work in brothels, a ministry statement said. Police arrested 29 people as part of the operation, including three women suspected of running the ring and several of their clients who would specifically ask for underage girls. “The ring had put together a photobook which offered ‘a la carte’ more than 400 women, including minors,” the statement said.
Baby born over Atlantic
A Jordanian woman gave birth to a premature but healthy baby girl mid-flight over the Atlantic Ocean while traveling to New York from Amman, officials said on Wednesday. The 33-year-old woman was assisted by a nurse and a doctor who happened to be on board Royal Jordanian Flight 261 when she went into labor, four hours before landing in New York. The little girl was born at around 5:30pm on Tuesday, while the twin-jet Boeing Dreamliner was cruising over the Atlantic, airport and airline officials said. Royal Jordanian said the captain had been about to conduct an emergency landing at an airport in Canada, but continued to New York when informed the birth was problem-free.
Head-in-trunk man sentenced
A man was sentenced on Wednesday to 40 years in prison in the fatal shooting and dismemberment of a Minnesota man. Kou Thao, 28, pleaded no contest in September last year to second-degree intentional homicide in the April 2013 death of 58-year-old Tong Pao Hang, of St Paul, Minnesota. Thao was sentenced in Marathon County Circuit Court. The Wausau Daily Herald reported that his sentence also includes 20 years of extended supervision after his release. Thao, who was also convicted of hiding a corpse and possession of a firearm by a felon, was accused of shooting and dismembering Hang, and taking Hang’s severed head to Milwaukee in the trunk of his car in the spring of 2013. Other body parts were found in the basement of a Milwaukee home. A motive in the killing was unclear. Prosecutors have said it appeared the two men met just days before the shooting.
Meth drone discovered
Police in a border city say a drone overloaded with methamphetamine has crashed into a supermarket parking lot. Tijuana Police spokesman Jorge Morrua on Wednesday said that police were alerted after the drone fell on Tuesday night near the border with California at the San Ysidro crossing. Six packets of the drug, weighing more than 2.7kg, were taped to the six-propeller remote-controlled aircraft. Morrua said authorities are investigating where the flight originated and who was controlling it. He said it was not the first time they had seen drones used for smuggling drugs across the border. Other innovative efforts have included catapults, ultralight aircraft and tunnels.
Abortion convict pardoned
Lawmakers on Wednesday pardoned a woman accused of abortion and later sentenced to 30 years in prison for homicide in a landmark case that has put the country’s harsh laws under the spotlight. The vote might signal similar relief for other women who have been convicted and sentenced to jail for abortion, which was criminalized in the nation in 1997. Domestic worker Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez had already served seven years of her sentence prior to the pardon. In 2007, Vasquez suffered major complications during her pregnancy and her child died shortly after she gave birth. She was initially accused of the crime of abortion, which carries up to eight years in prison, but the charge was later dropped and replaced with aggravated murder charges. Left-wing members of congress voted for the pardon, led by lawmakers from the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, while the conservative National Republican Alliance voted against it.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative