N Korean soldier defects
A North Korean soldier defected yesterday morning, sneaking across the countries’ land border, which is heavily fortified with armed sentries, minefields and barbed wire. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said military officials were investigating the soldier, who defected across the central-east portion of the military demarcation line, which is inside the 4km-wide Demilitarized Zone that separates the countries. The military provided no other details. The soldier is the second North Korean trooper to defect by crossing the Demilitarized Zone after another did so in June, the first in three years. He later told officials that he had fled because of widespread beatings and other abuse in the military.
Iranian activist jailed: RSF
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) late on Wednesday condemned a decision by an Iranian appeals court to uphold a 10-year jail sentence against journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. One of Iran’s best-known journalists, Mohammadi was the spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders and campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Iran. Initially arrested in May last year, the mother-of-two was sentenced to a total of 16 years in April, an RSF statement said. RSF said her lawyers received the news as her colleague, 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who founded the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, was meeting with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire in Paris. “I condemn this sentence imposed by the Iranian judicial system as Narges’ only crime is to be a human rights defender in a country that flouts these rights,” Ebadi told RSF.
Alleged smuggler indicted
An Iranian citizen extradited from Indonesia was yesterday charged in Sydney Central Local Court with attempting to smuggle 73 asylum seekers by boat into the nation. Mohammad Naghi Karimi Azar, 56, on Wednesday became the eighth suspected people smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia since 2008, a government statement said. Azar was charged with 43 counts of people smuggling, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. He appeared by video from a Sydney police station and did not apply for bail. One of his lawyers told the court that Azar needed time to read the 100-page prosecution case against him. His next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday next week. Outside the court, another lawyer for Azar told reporters that his client intended to plead not guilty. The attorney said Azar told him he was a refugee registered with the UN and had fled Iran in fear of persecution because he was a member of an ethnic minority.
Printing plant reopens
A printing plant north of Paris reopened for the first time since it was damaged during a deadly standoff between police and two brothers who gunned down cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo newspaper. President Francois Hollande presided over yesterday’s reopening in a sign of the national significance of the drama that unfolded there in January last year. Cherif and Said Kouachi led police on a two-day manhunt after attacking Charlie Hebdo, then hid out in a printing plant in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele. Police surrounded the building and the brothers were killed in a shootout. The attacks that week on Charlie Hebdo, police and a kosher market killed 17 people.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are