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.
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client