‘Pink Panther’ extradited
Spanish authorities have extradited a Montenegrin alleged member of the “Pink Panther” gang of international jewel thieves over a 2007 robbery in Tokyo, local media reported yesterday.
Rifat Hadziahmetovic, 42, had been taken into custody over other charges in Spain, Kyodo News and the Asahi Shimbun daily said, quoting sources. The suspect and another “Pink Panther” member allegedly stole a diamond tiara worth ¥200 million (US$2.3 million) and other gems from a jewelery store in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza district on June 14, 2007. The man was expected to arrive at Tokyo’s Narita airport late yesterday, the reports said. The gang were given their nickname after British detectives found a diamond ring hidden in a jar of face cream, echoing an incident in the 1963 comedy film Pink Panther that starred Peter Sellers.
Officials must quit golf club
More than 30 government officials have been ordered to relinquish their membership of a luxurious golf club in the wealthy eastern city of Wenzhou after a torrent of online criticism, state media reported on Friday. The Wenzhou Golf Association (WGA) charges 398,000 yuan (US$58,583) for membership — about 40 times the average annual income of farmers in Zhejiang Province, where Wenzhou is located. Reports about the WGA provoked a backlash on the Internet and the vice governor of Zhejiang province and Wenzhou’s Communist Party boss intervened to order the officials to quit.
Train derailment kills 11
An official says a train derailment at a railway construction site has killed 11 people and injured at least one. A man surnamed Zhang with the government of Inner Mongolia’s Baotou City says the train that derailed on Friday morning was carrying stones used in the construction of a rail line linking Baotou to Mandalt, a border town near neighboring Mongolia. Zhang said yesterday that the cause of the accident was still under investigation.
Abduction treaty to be signed
The country has bowed to global pressure to end the parental abductions of children from broken international marriages, a report said yesterday. Japan is the only major industrial nation that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention that requires the return of wrongfully kept children to their country of habitual residence. Tokyo has decided to ratify the treaty, the Kyodo news agency said, but will not sign up immediately as it needs time to bring its domestic laws in line with those of other signatory nations. Courts routinely award custody to only one parent, usually the mother, and almost never to foreign parents. Activists say thousands of Japanese have denied estranged foreign partners access to their children.
Activist’s release demanded
A prominent international advocacy group has appealed to authorities to reverse a 13-year jail sentence handed to a rights activist on what it says are trumped-up charges. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement yesterday that the evidence against Gaibullo Jalilov lacked credibility. Jalilov has been serving nine-year sentence for alleged religious extremism since earlier this year. HRW says that term was extended by four years last week in a closed trial on charges of anti-constitutional activity. Human rights activists are routinely targeted for harassment by authorities and human rights remain dismal.
Woman aces gondolier test
Venice is on its way to having its first official female gondolier. City Hall said on Friday that Giorgia Boscolo had passed the practical exam to become a gondolier. She is the first woman to pass this test, considered the most difficult of those required to pilot a boat on Venice’s canals. Boscolo must pass one further test, a written, multiple-choice exam, in order to join the guild of official gondoliers. Venice Deputy Mayor Sandro Simionato says her success breaks “900 years of male dominance” in the profession and that it will likely inspire more women to try. A German woman once won the right to transport guests of a Venice hotel, but only aboard the hotel’s gondola.
Dutch ship runs aground
A Dutch vessel that ran aground near the southern port of Helsingborg on Friday may have been commanded by a drunk captain, the Swedish coast guard said. “We suspect that the boat captain was drunk, but it has not been proven yet,” Tomas Nilsson of the Swedish coast guard said. “He has been taken to the police station for blood tests,” he said. The coast guard is still trying to determine how to free the ship, which is beached on gravel.
Woman killed before prayer
Robbers broke into a woman’s home in Baghdad as she was preparing for morning prayers on Friday and stabbed her to death before fleeing the scene empty-handed, officials said. The attack came as Muslims observe Ramadan, a month-long period of prayer and daytime fasting. A police officer said the robbers surprised the mother of three in the 4:30am assault in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City. Meanwhile, police and hospital officials said 14 people were wounded on Friday afternoon in three successive bombings in the city of Samarra, 95km north of Baghdad.
Execution imminent: HRW
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed “grave concerns” that Iran will soon execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning after she made a televised confession. The “televised confession by Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani heightens the already grave concern that Iran will soon execute the 43-year-old woman,” the New York-based watchdog said in a statement issued late on Friday. On Wednesday, a woman dressed in a face-covering chador said to be Mohammadi-Ashtiani confessed on Iranian television to being an accomplice in her husband’s murder in 2006. Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s lawyer, Javid Kian, told HRW that the televised confession was coerced by authorities in the Islamic republic. The lawyer said he expected the Supreme Court to make its final ruling in the next few days on whether her execution will go ahead.
Army may shrink 33%
The defense minister favors shrinking its army by more than a third and suspending compulsory national service, government sources said on Friday. The country, increasingly active in international military missions in recent years, is working on five different models for overhauling the armed forces in order to cut defense costs and modernize the military. Many within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want to keep mandatory military service, while the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) want to abolish it. The model favored by Guttenberg would not formally abolish but rather suspend it.
Senate candidate indicted
A longshot Democratic Senate candidate was indicted on Friday on two charges, including a felony charge of showing pornography to a teenage student in a college computer lab in South Carolina. Alvin Greene, an unemployed military veteran, stunned the party establishment when he won the primary in June. If convicted, Greene could face up to three years for the misdemeanor or up to five years for the felony. Despite calls for him to withdraw his candidacy, Greene has said he’s staying in the race.
Liver transplants on hold
A Colorado hospital that pioneered liver transplants using tissue from healthy donors has suspended further surgeries following the recent deaths of two donors. “We are conducting an internal review and will also have outside experts in the field do an external review,” University of Colorado Hospital spokeswoman Erika Matich said on Friday. “We will make any changes or improvements if needed.” Ryan Arnold, 34, died on Aug. 2 at the Colorado hospital, days after donating a portion of his liver to his older brother, Chad, 38, who was suffering from liver failure.
Radio host convicted
An Internet radio host was convicted on Friday of threatening to kill three judges who upheld a ban on handguns in Chicago, the Justice Department said. Hal Turner, 47, was arrested in June last year for an Internet posting that said of the three federal judges who had upheld Chicago’s handgun ban, “Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed.” His post included photos of the three men as well as their phone numbers and work addresses. Turner now faces up to 10 years in prison. “There is no place in society for threatening federal judges with violence,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Quake hits Mariana Islands
An earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck the Mariana Islands region yesterday, 375km west of Guam. The Northern Marianas emergency management office said there were no reports of damage on the island nation, which stretches between Hawaii and the Philippines. The quake struck at 7:19am, with its epicentre at a depth of 4.7km, the US Geological Survey said. The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no immediate indication of any tsunami. No tremor was felt in Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands chain, nor in Hagatna, the capital of neighboring Guam.
Man arraigned for attack
A man pushed a woman into the side of a moving New York City subway train, then told bystanders he didn’t know why, authorities said. The German-born woman survived the incident. Jose Rojas, 25, was held without bail after his arraignment on Thursday on attempted murder and assault charges, while victim Ute Linhart was hospitalized. Lihart was forcefully shoved into a northbound train rushing into the 28th Street station, the complaint said. “As the impact happened, I’m thinking: ‘I’m going to be dead,’” Linhart told the New York Post. “Then I realized that I was in so much pain, I couldn’t possibly be dead.” Rojas is due back in court on Tuesday. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.