4 charged in downing of Malaysian airliner over Ukraine
Thursday, July 17, 2014 file photo, a man walks amongst the debris at the
crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove,
Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Nieuwegein, Netherlands (AP) — International
prosecutors announced murder charges Wednesday against four men — three of
them Russians with military or intelligence backgrounds — in the missile
attack that blew a Malaysia Airlines jet out of the sky over Ukraine five
years ago, killing all 298 people aboard.
The case, built with the help of wiretaps, radar images
and social media posts, marks the most significant step yet toward tying the
tragedy to Moscow, which has backed the pro-Russian separatists fighting to
seize control of eastern Ukraine.
In announcing the charges, prosecutors appealed for
witnesses to help lead them even further up the chain of command in
President Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Investigators "want to go as far as we can get" because
"it's important to know who can be held responsible for this absolute
tragedy," top Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said.
The trial for the defendants, who also include a
Ukrainian separatist fighter, was set for next March in the Netherlands,
though it appeared unlikely any of them would be brought before the court,
since Russia and Ukraine forbid the extradition of their citizens.
Russia's Foreign Ministry called the charges against
the country's citizens "absolutely unfounded" and accused the investigators
of using "dubious sources of information" and ignoring evidence provided by
Moscow in order to discredit Russia.
It said, too, that the international team turned a
blind eye to Ukraine's failure to close its airspace to commercial flights
despite the fighting that endangered aircraft.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala
Lumpur was brought down on July 17, 2014, over eastern Ukraine by what
investigators said was a Buk missile from a Russian anti-aircraft unit.
Investigators believe the Ukrainian rebels probably mistook the Boeing 777
passenger jet for a Ukrainian military plane.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack,
but eastern Ukraine's pro-Moscow rebels have relied heavily on Russian
military assistance during the separatist conflict that erupted in April
2014 and has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Associated Press reporters spotted a Buk, an unusually
big and sophisticated type of weapon, in the Ukrainian town of Snizhne just
hours before the jetliner was shot down, raining debris and bodies down onto
farms and sunflower fields.
The investigation team said that even if the four
defendants may not have actually pushed the button to launch the missile,
they had a role in the preparations.
One of those charged was Russian citizen Igor Girkin, a
retired colonel in Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB. He led
Russian and separatist forces in Ukraine's Donetsk region in 2014.
Girkin dismissed the accusations in a telephone
interview Wednesday, saying the "insurgents did not shoot down the Boeing."
Girkin lives in Moscow.
The three others charged are Russian citizens Sergey
Dubinskiy, identified as a former employee of Russia's military intelligence
service, and Oleg Pulatov, described as a former soldier in military
intelligence; and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian citizen who led a combat
unit in the Donetsk.
Girkin led a group of Russian men who crossed into
Ukraine and occupied the town of Slovyansk, which became the site of major
fighting. He wrote on his social media account around the time of the
jetliner attack that the rebels had shot down a Ukrainian military plane in
the area where the Malaysian aircraft went down. He later deleted that post.
The Joint Investigation Team, made up of detectives
from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, said the
trial will begin with or without the defendants in a top-security courtroom
near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport under Dutch law, which allows trials in
absentia. The men could get life in prison if convicted.
The Netherlands has taken the lead in efforts to bring
the perpetrators to justice because nearly 200 of those killed were Dutch
Investigators have been gathering and analyzing
evidence largely without help from Moscow, which dismissed the team as
biased because it has no Russian members.
Last year, the team said it was convinced that the Buk
missile system used to shoot down the plane came from the Russian army's
53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk.
Prosecutors appealed for witnesses to come forward to
help identify the crew that manned the missile launcher and to take them
further up the chain of command to identify those who authorized its
The team did not reveal much evidence Wednesday, saying
the courtroom is the place to lay out the case, but played a wiretap of an
alleged conversation between Alexander Borodai, who was rebel leader in the
Donetsk in 2014, and senior Kremlin official Vladislav Surkov in which they
appear to discuss military aid for the separatists.
Borodai on Wednesday denied discussing military support
with Surkov, calling the recording a fake.
Asked to characterize Moscow's cooperation with the
probe, Westerbeke said it "wasn't too good," saying investigators had asked
plenty of questions, "and a lot of those questions weren't answered."
The families of those killed were informed of the trial
date at a closed-door meeting.
Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, of the Dutch city of
Rotterdam, whose son Bryce was among the dead, expressed relief.
"This is what we hoped for," she said. "This is a start
of it. It is a good start."
She said she holds Putin responsible for the attack,
saying: "He made this possible. He created the situation." As for Russia's
lack of cooperation, she said, "I think it's disgusting. They deny
everything, they don't cooperate. Nothing."
Voluntary euthanasia becomes legal in Australian state
In this Tuesday, June 18, 2019, photo, pro life
demonstrators gather outside the Victorian State Parliament, opposing the
voluntary assisted dying laws, in Melbourne. (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)
Canberra, Australia (AP) —
Voluntary euthanasia became legal in an Australian state on Wednesday more
than 20 years after the country repealed the world's first mercy-killing law
for the terminally ill.
The process of dying in an assisted
suicide after an initial approach to a doctor in Victoria state takes at
least 10 days, so the first patient could die from swallowing a lethal
cocktail of chemicals on June 29. Strict rules are designed to prevent
terminally ill patients from traveling from overseas or interstate to access
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she
expected as few as one patient a month would be helped to die in the first
"We anticipate that once the scheme has
been in place for some time, we'll see between 100 and 150 patients access
this scheme every year," Mikakos told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"In the first year, we do expect the
number to be quite modest — maybe only as low as a dozen people," she added.
Four Victorian Roman Catholic bishops
have signed an open letter describing Wednesday as a "new and troubling
chapter of health care in Victoria."
"We cannot cooperate with the
facilitation of suicide, even when it seems motivated by empathy or
kindness," the letter said.
Any health practitioner can
conscientiously object to taking part in the euthanasia process.
The euthanasia system has been
implemented over 18 months since the state parliament passed the laws in
Australia's sparsely populated Northern
Territory in 1995 became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalize
doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. But the Australian
Parliament overturned that law in 1997 after four people had been helped to
The Australian Parliament does not have
the same power to repeal the laws of states such as Victoria, which is home
to one in four Australians.
The parliament of Australia's most
populous state, New South Wales, rejected a doctor-assisted suicide bill by
a single vote two weeks before the Victorian law was passed.
Queensland and Western Australia state
are considering their own euthanasia legislation.
Christine Thornton, the widow of a
54-year-old Victorian man who died in a Swiss euthanasian clinic four months
ago, said the Victorian legislation must be the start, and not the end, of a
public conversation about a lack of end-of-life choices in Australia.
She said the Victorian laws would have
been too restrictive for her husband, Troy Thornton, because he could not
find two doctors who could say with certainty that his degenerative disease,
multiple system atrophy, would have killed him within a year.
"Troy never thought the first laws
would help everyone, but it's a start," she said.
"People who don't believe in euthanasia
will never have to choose it. But shouldn't that option be there for people
who do want a choice, who do want a good death," she added.
Eligible patients must be diagnosed
with an incurable disease or a condition that causes intolerable, unrelieved
Patients must also be expected to live
for fewer than six months in most cases, or 12 months for neurodegenerative
They must have also lived in Victoria
for at least a year before requesting help to die and be an Australian
citizen or permanent resident.
Alaska teens charged in 'murder for millions' slaying
In this Sunday, June 9, 2019 photo, Denali
Brehmer, 18, stands at her arraignment in the Anchorage Correctional Center
in Anchorage, Alaska. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Anchorage, Alaska (AP) — Alaska teens hoping to
cash in on a $9 million offer from a Midwest millionaire brutally killed a
developmentally disabled woman on a popular trail outside Anchorage,
shooting her in the back of the head and dumping her body in a river,
The millionaire's only demand for the payout was either
photos or video of the slaying, according to court documents laying out
first-degree murder and other charges against six people in the June 2 death
of 19-year-old Cynthia Hoffman.
"This is a truly horrific case that is not the norm for
our community," Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said at a news
conference, the Anchorage Daily News reported .
Among those charged is Darin Schilmiller, whom
authorities say presented himself as the millionaire Tyler from Kansas,
using a fake photograph. "He does not look like the young man he portrayed
himself to look like, he is not a millionaire and he lives in Indiana,"
court documents say.
Authorities say Schilmiller, who has been arrested in
New Salisbury, Indiana, and will be transferred to Alaska next month, began
an online relationship with 18-year-old Denali Brehmer of Anchorage, posing
as Tyler. About three weeks before Hoffman was killed, Brehmer and
Schilmiller began discussing a plan to rape and murder someone in Alaska,
according to court documents.
"Schilmiller offered Brehmer nine or more million
dollars to carry out the murder and to have photographs and/or videos of the
murder sent to him," the documents say. "Brehmer agreed to commit the murder
Brehmer then enlisted the help of four friends,
including 19-year-old Caleb Leyland, 16-year-old Kayden McIntosh and two
other unnamed juveniles, to plan and carry out the murder at Schilmiller's
direction, according to the documents. The group met to decide how they
would divvy up the money.
McIntosh, who is being tried as an adult in the case,
was the gunman, prosecutors say.
Hoffman was allegedly best friends with Brehmer, and
she was chosen by the group as the victim, the documents say.
Brehmer and McIntosh used Leyland's pickup on June 2 to
take Hoffman on a hike at Thunderbird Falls, a popular location about 20
miles (32 kilometers) north of Anchorage. According to court papers, the
group went off trail and followed a path to the bank of the Eklutna River,
where Hoffman was bound, shot and thrown into the river. Officials said
there was no indication Hoffman was sexually assaulted.
"Digital evidence and statements show Brehmer was
communicating with and sending videos and/or photographs of the events
surrounding the incident to Schilmiller at his directive through the
duration of the event," documents say.
Officials allege they destroyed some of Hoffman's
clothing, purse and cellphone, and Brehmer texted Hoffman's family to let
them know they dropped her off at Polar Bear Park in Anchorage.
Two days later, both Brehmer and McIntosh were
interviewed. McIntosh was arrested, but Brehmer denied any involvement in
the death. Police continued to investigate and interviewed her two days
later after Snapchat video appeared, in which she appeared to confess, the
"Brehmer ultimately admitted to being solicited by
Schilmiller to commit the murder and that the murder was planned once she
realized she had been catfished by Schilmiller," the documents say.
Catfishing is when a person creates a fake identity on a social network
account to deceive a specific victim.
Schilmiller admitted to federal agents and Indiana
State Police his role in the plot, saying he chose Hoffman as the victim and
he told Brehmer to kill her, according to the court documents.
He also told officials Brehmer communicated with him
throughout the murder, and sent Snapchat photographs and videos of Hoffman
while bound and then after the murder. He also allegedly told authorities
that he and Brehmer discussed killing another person, but the plan was
abandoned, and he admitted to blackmailing Brehmer into raping people.
In a separate federal investigation rising from the
investigation, Schilmiller and Brehmer were indicted Tuesday on federal
child pornography charges, including production and coercion and enticement
of a minor. Federal authorities allege Brehmer produced sexually explicit
videos involving a minor and sent them to Schilmiller.
"For all the good the internet can do, it can be a very
dark place," Bryan Schroder, the U.S. attorney in Alaska, said at a news
conference Tuesday. "Parents would be wise to monitor the activity of their
The Alaska teens are being represented by the public
defender's office, which has a policy of not commenting on cases. Online
court records did not list an attorney for Schilmiller.
Hong Kong students issue government deadline over demands
Pro-democracy lawmakers pay a silent tribute to the man who fell to his
death on Saturday evening after hanging a protest banner on scaffolding on a
shopping mall, at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Wednesday, June 19,
2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Elaine Kurtenbach and Borg Wong
Hong Kong (AP) — A Hong Kong
student group demanded Wednesday that the city completely scrap a
politically charged extradition bill and agree to investigate police tactics
against protesters before a Thursday deadline or face further street
Meanwhile, the Civil Human Rights
Front, which organized massive marches on the past two Sundays, called for
another protest on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from
British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Since last Sunday's march on the
government headquarters by an estimated 2 million people, the number of
protesters in the area has dropped to just a few dozen. But Wednesday's
developments are the latest indication that the largest and angriest
protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory in years aren't over yet.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
has apologized for her handling of the extradition bill, which could be used
to send suspects to mainland China for trial. She agreed to suspend debate,
but has stopped short of scrapping the legislation, which critics say
threatens the territory's judicial independence.
"We are not asking (Lam) to come out
and apologize. We are asking for real action," Joey Siu from the City
University Students Union said at a Wednesday news conference.
The group is part of the Hong Kong
Federation of Students, which represents student unions at several
universities. It has demanded that the government scrap the extradition
legislation, investigate police tactics at a protest last Wednesday, cease
calling the incident a riot, and release those arrested and drop charges
Those terms have emerged as a bottom
line for the suspension of protests. Other groups are also calling for Lam
to resign for pressing ahead with the extradition legislation and
mishandling the response to the protests. Lam has refused to step down.
The student group gave the government
until 5 p.m. Thursday to meet the demands, saying otherwise protests would
begin again in earnest.
Opponents of the extradition bill, who
also include legal and business groups, say it puts critics of China's
ruling Communist Party at risk of torture and unfair trials in the mainland
and further chips away at the "one country, two systems" framework under
which Hong Kong has been governed since 1997.
That guaranteed the territory the right
to retain its own legal, economic and political system for 50 years, but the
Communist Party under Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing
ever-more aggressively to quiet independent voices in Hong Kong. Beijing has
squelched all reporting on the protests in mainland media and accused
foreign forces of stirring up disturbances in Hong Kong.
At a daily briefing Wednesday, Chinese
foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China was willing to communicate
over the issues with foreign politicians.
However, he added, "if anyone tries to
interfere in China's internal affairs with preconceived bias and even
malicious political motive, our attitude is very determined, that is we
firmly oppose it."
Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers on
Wednesday grilled the city's security secretary over allegations of police
brutality. A motion of no-confidence over Lam's handling of the legislation
was expected but was likely to be rejected or boycotted by pro-government
legislators, most of whom did not attend the questioning session.
The opposition lawmakers wore black
with white ribbons pinned to their lapels. They put white chrysanthemums,
another symbol of mourning, on their desks, and observed a few moments of
silence for a protester who died in a fall last weekend.
The debate, aired online in both
Chinese and English, was a reminder of the divide between Hong Kong, where
officials are held publicly accountable and dissent is expected, and the
Communist-ruled mainland, where such open criticism is not tolerated.
Security Secretary John Lee rejected
suggestions that he should resign to take responsibility for police use of
aggressive tactics, including beatings with steel batons and heavy use of
tear gas. He also defended the decisions made on the scene.
Some lawmakers questioned the
criticism, saying the police were concerned about their own safety when
faced with hostile protesters, some of whom hurled bricks and other debris.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Gary Fan said
police encircled some protesters without warning and fired four rounds of
tear gas. The demonstrators "ran for their lives" into a building, Fan said.
"The people didn't have anywhere to
escape from the scene," he said. "How can this be a minimal use of force?"
Lee reiterated Lam's insistence that
complaints against police would be handled through agencies established to
deal with such issues.
Lam formally apologized Tuesday and
said she was responsible for the extradition bill mess. The fact that she
did not bow in apology was front-page news, with many in Hong Kong
criticizing what they said was an apparent lack of contrition.
Lam has insisted the legislation is
needed for Hong Kong to uphold justice and not become a magnet for
fugitives. It would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to
include mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.
Samson Yuen, a professor at Hong Kong's
Lingnan University, said the extradition bill is like a "knife at the
throat" for many in Hong Kong.
"There's a lot of energy, emotion and
passion and also anger," he said in an interview. "It's a total mobilization
Massive blackout hits tens of millions in South America
of Edenor Electricity Company stand under the rain as they work to fix a
generator during a blackout in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, June 16,
2019. (AP Photo/Tomas F. Cuesta)
Paul Byrne and Luis Andres Henao
Buenos Aires, Argentina (AP) — A
massive blackout left tens of millions of people without electricity in
Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on Sunday in what the Argentine president
called an "unprecedented" failure in the countries' power grid.
Authorities were working frantically to
restore power, and by the evening electricity had returned to 98 percent of
Argentina, according to state news agency Telam. Power also had been
restored to most of Uruguay's 3 million people as well as to people in
On Sunday morning, Argentine voters
were forced to cast ballots by the light of cellphones in gubernatorial
elections. Public transportation was halted, shops closed and patients
dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with
"This is an unprecedented case that
will be investigated thoroughly," Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on
Argentina's power grid is generally
known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables that
were insufficiently upgraded as power rates remained largely frozen for
The country's energy secretary said the
blackout occurred at about 7 a.m. local time when a key Argentine
interconnection system collapsed. By mid-afternoon nearly half of
Argentina's 44 million people were still in the dark.
The Argentine energy company Edesur
said on Twitter that the failure originated at an electricity transmission
point between the power stations at the country's Yacyretá dam and Salto
Grande in the country's northeast.
But why it occurred was still unknown.
An Argentine independent energy expert
said that systemic operational and design errors played a role in the power
"A localized failure like the one that
occurred should be isolated by the same system," said Raúl Bertero,
president of the Center for the Study of Energy Regulatory Activity in
Argentina. "The problem is known and technology and studies (exist) to avoid
Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui said
workers were working to restore electricity nationwide by the end of the
"This is an extraordinary event that
should have never happened," he told a news conference. "It's very serious."
Uruguay's energy company UTE said the
failure in the Argentine system cut power to all of Uruguay for hours and
blamed the collapse on a "flaw in the Argentine network."
In Paraguay, power in rural communities
in the south, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, was also cut. The
country's National Energy Administration said service was restored by
afternoon by redirecting energy from the Itaipu hydroelectric plant the
country shares with neighboring Brazil.
In Argentina, only the southernmost
province of Tierra del Fuego was unaffected by the outage because it is not
connected to the main power grid.
Brazilian and Chilean officials said
their countries had not been affected.
Many residents of Argentina and Uruguay
said the size of the outage was unprecedented.
"I was just on my way to eat with a
friend, but we had to cancel everything. There's no subway, nothing is
working," said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident. "What's
worse, today is Father's Day. I've just talked to a neighbor and he told me
his sons won't be able to meet him."
"I've never seen something like this,"
said Silvio Ubermann, a taxi driver in the Argentine capital. "Never such a
large blackout in the whole country."
Several Argentine provinces had
elections for governor on Sunday, which proceeded with voters using their
phone screens and built-in flashlights to illuminate their ballots.
"This is the biggest blackout in
history, I don't remember anything like this in Uruguay," said Valentina
Giménez, a resident of the capital, Montevideo. She said her biggest concern
was that electricity be restored in time to watch the national team play in
the Copa America football tournament Sunday evening.
Since taking office, Argentine
President Macri has said that gradual austerity measures were needed to
revive the country's struggling economy. He has cut red tape and tried to
reduce the government's budget deficit by ordering job cuts and reducing
utility subsidies, which he maintained was necessary to recuperate lost
revenue due to years-long mismanagement of the electricity sector.
According to the Argentine Institute
for Social Development, an average family in Argentina still pays 20 times
less for electricity than similar households in neighboring countries.
The subsidies were a key part of the
electricity policy of President Néstor Kirchner's 2003-2007 administration
and the presidency of Kirchner's wife and successor, Cristina Fernández in
2007-2015. Fernandez is now running for vice president in October elections.
Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters
who camped out overnight take a rest along a main road near the Legislative
Council after continuing protest against the unpopular extradition bill in
Hong Kong, Monday, June 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Raf Wober and Borg Wong
Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong
police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear
the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government
headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night
The police asked for cooperation in
clearing the road but said the protesters could stay on the sidewalks.
Protesters, many in masks and other gear to guard against possible use of
tear gas, responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers. The
move came after activists rejected an apology from the city's top leader for
her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from
Beijing in this former British colony.
Groups of police, most in normal
uniforms not riot gear, sought to clear the roads of metal and plastic
barricades to enable traffic to pass through. In some places, the protesters
quickly moved to put them back to block traffic.
Hundreds of protesters were sitting or
lying along a main road through downtown, but they were scattered over a
relatively wide area.
Activists called on Hong Kong residents
to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many might heed that
Nearly 2 million of the city's 7
million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest
organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route
in the "peak period" of the march. A week earlier as many as 1 million
people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong's relations with
mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory's special
status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.
The scenes were similar to those seen
nearly five years earlier, when protesters camped for weeks in the streets
to protest rules that prevented the direct election of the city's chief
executive, the top local official.
One of the activists arrested after
those demonstrations, Joshua Wong, was due to be released from prison
Monday. He served half of a two-month jail sentence for contempt.
After daybreak Monday, police announced
that they want to clear the streets. Soon after, police lined up several
officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a
street in central Hong Kong.
The night before, as protesters reached
the march's end thousands gathered outside the city government headquarters
and the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who on Saturday suspended her
effort to force passage of the bill.
Hong Kong residents worry that allowing
some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of
many steps chipping away at Hong Kong's freedoms and legal autonomy. One
concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to
potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair
The protesters are demanding that Lam
scrap the proposal for good and that she step down.
Protesters are also angered over the
forceful tactics by police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other
forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city
government's headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on
Wednesday, and over Lam's decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens
the potential legal consequences for those involved.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Lam
noted the demonstrations and said the government "understands that these
views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong."
"The chief executive apologizes to the
people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble
attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,"
Not enough, said the pro-democracy
"This is a total insult to and fooling
the people who took to the street!" the Civil Human Rights Front said in a
Protesters have mainly focused their
anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by
Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian
rule. But some were skeptical that having Lam step down would help.
"It doesn't really matter because the
next one would be just as evil," said Kayley Fung, 27.
Many here believe Hong Kong's legal
autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing's insistence that
it is still honoring its promise, dubbed "one country, two systems," that
the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50
years after the handover in 1997.
After Lam announced she was suspending
the legislation to avoid more violence and allow additional debate, Chinese
government officials issued multiple statements backing that decision. Lam,
however, made clear she was not withdrawing it.
She has sidestepped questions over
whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last
week's clashes with demonstrators.
Lam insists the extradition legislation
is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its international
obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would
expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and
So far, China has been excluded from
Hong Kong's extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial
independence and human rights record.
Prosecutions of activists, detentions
without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in
Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among
moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.
Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks
boat speeds past an oil tanker in the distance in Fujairah, United Arab
Emirates, Saturday, June 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) —
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published
Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront Iranian threats to its
security. He joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival Iran of being
behind the attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a
vital trade route for Arabian energy exports.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf have
escalated since the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group and other
military assets to the region in what it says is defensive posturing against
alleged Iranian threats. The crisis takes root in the Trump Administration's
decision to re-impose punishing economic sanctions on Tehran and its oil
exports, after unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal
between Iran and world powers.
The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines
to target the tankers on Thursday, pointing to black-and-white footage it
captured that American officials describe as an Iranian Revolutionary Guard
vessel removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka
The Japanese tanker's crewmembers
appeared to contradict the assertion that mines were used. They described
"flying objects" as having targeted the vessel.
In his first public comments regarding
the attacks, the powerful Saudi prince, who is also defense minister and
oversees all major levers of power in the country, said the incident
"confirms the importance of our demands of the international community to
take a decisive stance" against Iran's behavior.
"The kingdom does not seek war in the
region," the prince said, speaking with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq
al-Awsat. "But we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people,
sovereignty and vital interests."
The prince claimed Iran had planned the
attack's timing to undercut the Japanese prime minister's diplomatic
efforts, during his visit to Tehran last week, to reduce regional tensions.
He did not offer any evidence to back
up the allegation.
"The problem is in Tehran and not
anywhere else," he added. "Iran is always the party that's escalating in the
region, carrying out terrorist attacks and criminal attacks either directly
or through its militias."
Prince Mohammed touted U.S.-Saudi
relations as "essential to achieving regional security and stability."
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday,"
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the U.S. official position. He
claimed that intelligence officials have "lots of data, lots of evidence"
tying Iran to the attacks, though he did not provide any specifics. He
called the alleged shipping attacks "an international challenge, important
to the entire globe."
He said Trump was following an
"economic pressure campaign" against Iran but "we do not want war." He added
that the "unambiguous" object of U.S. actions was that Iran would not get
Iran rejects accusations it was
responsible for Thursday's attacks, saying it stands ready to play an active
and constructive role in ensuring the security of maritime passages. It said
the massive U.S. military presence in the region and U.S. sanctions are the
main sources of insecurity and instability in the Persian Gulf.
Thursday's incidents forced the
evacuation of all 44 sailors aboard the two vessels. On Saturday, Associated
Press journalists saw the crew members of the Norwegian-owned oil tanker MT
Front Altair arrive at Dubai International Airport, after spending two days
The Front Altair, which caught fire
after the apparent attack, limped into anchorage Sunday off the eastern
coast of the United Arab Emirates, near the port city of Khorfakkan.
Similar to the recent attacks, four oil
tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were apparently targeted
in acts of sabotage last month, which U.S. officials have also blamed on
Iran. Two of those vessels belonged to Saudi Arabia.
Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels, known as
Houthis, have also claimed they were behind a missile strike on a Saudi
airport in the city of Abha that the kingdom said wounded 26 passengers. The
Houthis also carried out a drone strike last month on a key Saudi oil
Dozens of new Indian parliamentarians face criminal charges
In this Feb.
23, 2016 file photo, the Indian parliament building is seen from behind a
Mahatma Gandhi statue, right, in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
New Delhi (AP) — India's recent
national election delivered a historic victory to Prime Minister Narendra
Modi's Hindu nationalist party, but also exposed the influence of money,
power and questionable morality on the world's largest democracy.
Nearly 43% of the new members of the
lower house of Parliament that convenes Monday for the first time since the
election won despite facing criminal charges. More than a quarter of those
relate to rape, murder or attempted murder, according to a report by the
civic group Association of Democratic Reforms.
The loophole that allows them to take
office is that they have not been convicted — in part because the Indian
legal system has a huge backlog of an estimated 30 million cases and trials
often last decades. When asked about the charges against them, they
invariably accuse a political rival of framing them.
Since such rivalries often lead to
false accusations, the main political parties say it would be unfair to bar
people from contesting elections unless they have been convicted by court.
Under existing laws, only those who
have been sentenced to prison for two years or more can be barred from
Members of Parliament with criminal
backgrounds is not a new phenomenon in India, but despite Modi's campaign
vow in 2014 to clean up corruption and the influence of money in politics,
the problem appears to be only worsening.
In the 2004 national election, the
percentage of candidates with pending criminal cases was 24%, which rose to
33% in 2009, 34% in 2014 and 43% this year, said Shahabuddin Y. Quraishi, a
former chief election commissioner.
The Association of Democratic Reforms
found that 116 of the 303 lawmakers from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party
elected last month face criminal charges, including one for alleged
Pragya Singh Thakur, who won a seat
from Bhopal in central India, is awaiting trial in connection with a 2008
explosion in Malegaon in western India that killed seven people.
Twenty-nine of the opposition Congress
party's 52 lawmakers face serious charges.
"This trend has been growing in India,
leaving no political party untouched. We need to educate voters not to elect
these people," said Jagdeep S. Chhokar, ADR's founder.
"What the Indian state has been unable
to provide, strongmen promise to deliver to people in their area of
influence, using gun and money power," said Lennin Rasghuvanshi, a
coordinator with the People's Union for Civil Liberties.
Starting in the 1960s and '70s, some
Indian politicians began turning to the criminal underworld for cash to win
"In due course, the criminals started
thinking that these politicians were winning because of their money or
crimes so why shouldn't they become lawmakers themselves? If they are people
running from the police, they know that when they became lawmakers, the same
police will protect them," Quraishi said.
In Uttar Pradesh state in northern
Indian, former mafia don Mukhtar Ansari has been elected to the state
assembly five times despite more than 40 criminal cases pending against him,
Another don-turned-politician, Hari
Shankar Tiwari, also of Uttar Pradesh, has been a member of the legislative
assembly for 23 years, even winning an election while being detained on
During the campaign, Election
Commission officials and government agencies seized mountains of cash,
alcohol, gold and silver, saris and expensive watches in the offices of
political parties that were intended as gifts in exchange for votes.
The total value of the seized goods was
$500 million, including $120 million in cash — nearly three times what was
found in the 2014 general election, according to the Election Commission.
Analysts say that political parties
seem to prize electability over ethics.
"They think that people with criminal
backgrounds have more chances to win because of their money and muscle
power," Qureshi said.
In the days of paper ballots before
electronic voting machines were introduced, gangs would use brute force to
take over polling stations to rig the vote.
One reason for the increasing number of
criminal suspects going into politics is the sheer cost of elections. In the
general election that concluded in May, political parties and candidates are
estimated to have spent about $8.65 billion. That's double the amount in the
2014 election, according to a report by the Center for Media Studies in New
The report said the Bharatiya Janata
Party was the biggest spender, accounting for about 45% of the total. The
Congress party accounted for between 15% and 20%.
Analysts say a key cause of corruption
is the way political parties are funded in India. Parties are permitted to
receive foreign funds, any company can donate any amount of money to any
political party, and any individual, group or company can donate money
anonymously through electoral bonds.
Donors do not need to disclose the
party they have donated to, nor does the party have to reveal the source of
Quraishi is calling for more
transparency in campaign funding as well as a cap on election spending.
"The people want transparency, the
donor wants secrecy. Whose wish should prevail?" he said.
Cyclone Vayu poised to hit India as year's 2nd major storm
crashes as people stand on boats on the Arabian Sea coast in Veraval,
Gujarat, India, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
New Delhi (AP) — Indian
authorities evacuated tens of thousands of people on Wednesday as a severe
cyclone in the Arabian Sea approached the western state of Gujarat, lashing
the coast with high winds and heavy rainfall.
Cyclone Vayu, named after the Hindi
word for wind, was poised to glance the Gujarat coast Thursday afternoon as
India's second major storm of the season. Winds gusting up to 180 kilometers
(112 miles) per hour were forecast and a storm surge up to 2 meters (6.5
feet) above astronomical tides, which would inundate low-lying areas,
according to the India Meteorological Department.
K. Sathi Devi, the New Delhi-based
government scientist in charge of monitoring the cyclone, said a low
pressure system over the ocean was causing water to "get piled up." When the
storm makes landfall, so will the accumulated sea water, she said,
threatening to flood roads and uproot trees, contaminate drinking water
supplies, and disrupt communications and power supplies.
Vayu was forecast to skirt the coast as
it traveled west toward Pakistan, retaining its intensity for as long as 12
hours as it straddled land and sea.
"Very strong wind will likely remain
for a longer period," said R.K. Jenamani, another government scientist.
"It's a very unique kind of system."
In the ancient city of Dwarka, where
many Hindu pilgrims travel every year to pray at a temple considered the
center of Lord Krishna's kingdom, a rescue worker from India's National
Disaster Response Force warned children to leave the beach.
After India's home minister, Amit Shah,
held a meeting Tuesday with government and military officials, the air force
airlifted 40 National Disaster Response Force rescue and relief teams to the
Both Shah and Prime Minister Narendra
Modi hail from Gujarat.
Modi said on Twitter that he had "been
constantly in touch with state governments" and that he was "praying for the
safety and wellbeing" of all those affected.
By midday, rescue teams had begun
evacuating more than a quarter of a million people in towns and villages
likely to bear the brunt of the storm.
The scale of the possible damage when
Vayu makes landfall wasn't immediately clear, but meteorologists predicted
the destruction of thatched homes, flooding of escape routes and widespread
damage to crops. They recommended that authorities focus evacuation efforts
on residents of makeshift housing, from beachside huts to urban slums.
Authorities appeared to have taken some
cues from Cyclone Fani, which hit India's eastern coast on the Bay of Bengal
in May, killing 34 people in India and 15 in neighboring Bangladesh.
Authorities in the eastern state of
Odisha, where Fani made landfall, were praised for precautionary measures —
including evacuating more than a million people — that likely prevented a
much higher death toll.
In India's financial capital of Mumbai,
police tweeted that because of the high winds, heavy rainfall and lightning
expected from Vayu, people "should not venture into sea and should keep safe
distance from shoreline."
Gujarat's chief minister, Vijay Rupani,
requested on social media that tourists leave coastal areas by Wednesday
Philippines slams sinking of boat by suspected China vessel
A protester burn a Chinese national flag during
a rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday,
June 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Manila, Philippines (AP) — The
Philippine defense secretary said Wednesday that an anchored Filipino
fishing boat sank in the disputed South China Sea after being hit by a
suspected Chinese vessel which then abandoned the 22 Filipino crewmen.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
called for an investigation of the June 9 sinking at Reed Bank off the
western Philippine province of Palawan and asked that diplomatic steps be
taken to prevent a repeat of the incident.
It's a delicate development in the
long-contested waters, which are regarded as a potential flashpoint in Asia.
Tensions have escalated in recent years after China transformed seven
disputed reefs into islands which can serve as forward military bases and
can intimidate rival claimant states.
The Philippine coast guard said it was
checking whether Chinese fishermen were involved or those from other
neighboring countries like Vietnam and if the collision was intentional.
There was no immediate comment from
The 22 Filipino crewmen of the sunken
F/B Gimver 1 were rescued by a Vietnamese vessel. A Philippine navy frigate
which was patrolling the area later helped secure them, Lorenzana said in a
"We condemn in the strongest terms the
cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning
the Filipino crew," Lorenzana said. "This is not the expected action from a
responsible and friendly people." He said the F/B Gimver 1 had been anchored
"when it was hit by the Chinese fishing vessel."
Lorenzana thanked the Vietnamese crew
for saving the Filipinos.
He revealed the incident after about
300 protesters burned a mock Chinese flag and yelled anti-China slogans in a
rally outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila's Makati financial district.
The mostly left-wing activists timed their protest for Philippine
A regional military spokesman, Lt. Col.
Stephen Penetrante, said the incident at Reed Bank, which happened at night,
appeared "like a hit and run," with the vessel immediately moving away after
hitting the Filipino boat.
There has been a recent history of
Chinese ships blocking Philippine military and civilian vessels at Reed Bank
and nearby Second Thomas Shoal, where Philippine marines keep watch on board
a long-marooned Philippine navy ship while being constantly watched by
Chinese coast guard ships in a years-long standoff.
A Filipino official said a Philippine
vessel on its way to provide the marines at Second Thomas Shoal with food
and other supplies was approached by a Chinese ship "in a close encounter"
in February. The Philippine vessel maneuvered to avoid the Chinese ship and
managed to reach the marines, said the official, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. The Philippines
has raised its concern over the incident, the official added.
China's coast guard and military tried
to block such resupply missions in the past but later allowed them through
after talks with Philippine officials amid better relations between Beijing
and Manila under current President Rodrigo Duterte.
Chinese authorities, however, still
occasionally approach Philippine resupply vessels to make sure they're not
carrying construction materials to the disputed shoal, the Philippine
China has long demanded that the
Philippines remove the rusting navy ship which Filipino marines use as an
outpost, but the Philippines has refused.
In 2011, the Philippine military
deployed a bomber plane and another light plane to Reed Bank after a
Philippine ship searching for oil complained it was approached and harassed
by two Chinese patrol boats.
The patrol boats had left the area by
the time the Philippine aircraft arrived, military officials said at the
Aside from its potential oil and gas
deposits, the disputed region has rich fishing grounds and straddles busy
sea lanes that are a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling
Asia's bustling economies.
5-year-old dies of Ebola as outbreak crosses Congo border
People crossing the border have their
temperature taken to check for symptoms of Ebola, at the border crossing
near Kasindi, eastern Congo Wednesday, June 12, 2019, just across from the
Ugandan town of Bwera. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro)
Rodney Muhumuza and Al-Hadji Kudra Maliro
Kasindi, Congo (AP) — A
5-year-old boy vomiting blood became the first cross-border victim in the
current Ebola outbreak on Wednesday, while his 3-year-old brother and
grandmother tested positive for the disease that has killed nearly 1,400
people in Congo.
The outbreak's spread into Uganda
prompted the World Health Organization to revisit whether the second-largest
Ebola epidemic in history should be declared a global health emergency. A
WHO expert committee meets on Friday. Such declarations almost always boost
attention and donor funding.
The boy's mother had taken him and his
brother from Uganda into Congo, where her father was ill. WHO said he died
of Ebola, and officials believe those who mourned him became infected, too.
The family then crossed back into
Uganda via an unguarded foot path, bypassing official border crossings where
health workers have been screening millions of travelers since the outbreak
was declared in August.
Authorities in both countries now vow
to step up border security.
Experts have long feared Ebola could
spread to neighboring countries because of rebel attacks and community
resistance hampering containment work in eastern Congo, one of the world's
most turbulent regions. The virus can spread quickly via close contact with
bodily fluids of those infected and can be fatal in up to 90% of cases.
The 5-year-old boy's mother and
grandmother, along with several other children, were stopped at a border
post before crossing into Uganda. A dozen of them already showed symptoms of
Congo's health ministry said those 12
were put in an isolation center, but in fact they were told to remain where
they were staying until transport was found to an Ebola treatment unit, Dr.
Dominique Kabongo, a local coordinator of response teams, told The
Instead, six family members quietly
crossed into Uganda.
"Many people are evading (border)
customs and using small footpaths and it is difficult for us to follow the
contacts," Kabongo said.
On arrival in Uganda, where authorities
had been alerted by Congolese colleagues, the boy received treatment while
relatives were isolated and tested. The boy's uncle is among seven suspected
cases now identified in Uganda.
On the Congo side, five family members
who did not cross into Uganda have tested positive for Ebola, the health
Health teams in Uganda "are not
panicking," Henry Mwebesa, the national director of health services, told
the AP. He cited the East African nation's experience battling previous
outbreaks of Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers.
This outbreak "is not going to go
beyond" the boy's family in Uganda, he added.
While officials vowed to close
unauthorized crossings, an AP reporter in the border area where the family
crossed saw surveillance teams patrolling the Ugandan side. Some footpaths,
however, remained unguarded. Some people wade across the shallow Lubiriha
The "stubbornness of Congolese" is a
challenge in screening, a Ugandan Red Cross official, Francis Tumwine, told
the AP at one border crossing last week. "They have failed to understand
that Ebola is there, they think that it is witchcraft which is killing
A Congolese trader, Muhindo
Kaongezekela, added: "We are not sure if there's Ebola in Congo. In Congo,
if they find you with a headache, they take you to the hospital and later
say they died of Ebola."
This is the first time this restive
part of vast Congo, veteran of several Ebola outbreaks, has experienced the
Resistance by residents wary of
authorities has hurt containment efforts in an outbreak where an
experimental but effective Ebola vaccine is being widely used for the first
time. More than 130,000 people have received the vaccine.
Uganda is more stable than eastern
Congo, and it has vaccinated nearly 4,700 health workers. WHO is shipping
another 3,500 doses this week for health workers and contacts of those
The WHO expert committee has twice
decided that this outbreak, while of "deep concern," is not yet a global
health emergency . But international spread is one of the major criteria the
United Nations agency considers before making a declaration. WHO has advised
against travel restrictions.
The first cross-border case is "tragic
but unfortunately not surprising," said Dr. Jeremy Farrar with the Wellcome
Trust, which funds Ebola vaccine research.
While Uganda is well-prepared, he
added, "we can expect and should plan for more cases in (Congo) and
neighboring countries. This epidemic is in a truly frightening phase and
shows no sign of stopping anytime soon."
UN marks what would have been Anne Frank's 90th birthday
A photo of
Anne Frank stands on a replica of the writing desk she once used in her
family's former apartment in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, June 12,
2019. (AP Photo/Michael C. Corder)
Edith M. Lederer
United Nations (AP) — A sapling
from the horse chestnut tree that Anne Frank watched from her World War II
hiding place in an attic in Amsterdam was planted and dedicated at U.N.
headquarters Wednesday to mark what would have been the 90th birthday of the
teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said
in a statement read at the ceremony that the sapling "is a living symbol of
both the legacy of Anne Frank" and the values of the United Nations, which
was established in the aftermath of the war and the Holocaust.
"The tree into which the sapling will
grow will stand as a beacon of hope, a living reminder of the importance of
continuing the work for a just and peaceful world in which we celebrate
diversity and where men and men, young and old can thrive without fear,"
Sharon Douglas, CEO of the Anne Frank
Center for Mutual Respect which donated the sapling, said, "The tree lived
in the free air and represented to Anne a living symbol of hope and
The Frank family's hiding place for two
years in the secret annex behind a canal-side house was discovered, and Anne
was taken to the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp where she died in
February 1945 at age 15.
Her father, Otto, the only member of
the family to survive the war, later published her diaries, which have been
read around the world and are considered one of the most important books of
the 20th century.
One special guest at the ceremony, Gaby
Rodgers Leiber, who was a childhood friend of Anne's, said, "It's very
moving to celebrate her life."
"We played marbles together and we both
cheated! That was the fun of it," said Leiber, who is 92 and lives in Los
D-Day at 75: Nations honor aging veterans, fallen comrades
A World War II veteran
salutes as he poses for a photograph at the end of a ceremony to mark the
75th anniversary of D-Day at the Bayeux War Cemetery in Bayeux, Normandy,
France, Thursday, June 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
People on a tank watch
fireworks in Arromanches in Normandy region of France, Thursday, June 6,
2019. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Raf Casert, John Leicester and Elaine Ganley
Omaha Beach, France (AP) — Standing on the
windswept beaches and bluffs of Normandy, a dwindling number of aging
veterans of history's greatest air and sea invasion received the thanks and
praise of a world transformed by their sacrifice.
The mission now, they said, was to honor the dead and
keep their memory alive, 75 years after the D-Day operation that portended
the end of World War II.
"We know we don't have much time left, so I tell my
story so people know it was because of that generation, because of those
guys in this cemetery," said 99-year-old Steve Melnikoff of Maryland,
standing at Colleville-Sur-Mer, where thousands of Americans are buried.
"All these generals with all this brass that don't mean
nothing," he said. "These guys in the cemetery, they are the heroes."
Thursday's anniversary was marked with eloquent
speeches, profound silences and passionate pleas for an end to bloodshed.
French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President
Donald Trump praised the soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in the
invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord, saying it was the turning point that
ended Nazi tyranny and ensured peace for Europe.
"You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of
our republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart," Trump said of
the warriors who took part in what he called the ultimate fight of good
against evil in World War II.
"They battled not for control and domination, but for
liberty, democracy and self-rule," Trump said in a speech at the Normandy
American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of five landing
Macron saluted the courage, generosity and strength of
spirit that made them press on "to help men and women they didn't know, to
liberate a land most hadn't seen before, for no other cause but freedom,
He expressed France's debt to the United States for
freeing his country from the Nazis. Macron awarded five American veterans
with the Chevalier of Legion of Honor, France's highest award.
"We know what we owe to you, veterans, our freedom," he
said, switching from French to English. "On behalf of my nation I just want
to say 'thank you.'"
About 160,000 troops were took part in D-Day, and many
more fought in the ensuing Battle of Normandy. Of those 73,000 were from the
United States, while 83,000 were from Britain and Canada. Troops started
landing overnight from the air, then were joined by a massive force by sea
on the beaches of Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats.
"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and
prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you," Gen. Dwight D.
Eisenhower had said in his order of the day. "The tide has turned! The free
men of the world are marching together to victory."
On Wednesday, a commemoration was held in Portsmouth,
England, the main embarkation point for the transport boats. Then the
dignitaries came to the bluffs and beaches of Normandy, where veterans
recalled what they saw 75 years ago.
"The water was full of dead men, the beach had burning
landing craft," said Jim Radford, 90, a British D-Day veteran from Hull,
describing the scene near Gold Beach, where British landed.
He was there again to watch the unveiling of a statue
at Gold Beach, where a memorial to British fighters is to be erected.
At dawn Thursday, hundreds of civilians and military
alike from around the world gathered on Omaha Beach.
Dick Jansen, 60, from the Netherlands, drank Canadian
whisky from an enamel cup on the water's edge. Others scattered carnations
into the waves. Randall Atanay, the son of a medic who tended to the dying
and wounded, waded barefoot into the water, bonding with his dad, who has
Up to 12,000 people attended the ceremony at the
Normandy American Cemetery, with U.S. veterans, their numbers fast
diminishing as years pass, the guests of honor.
A 21-gun salute thundered into the waters below the
cemetery, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, and across the rows of white
crosses and Stars of David. The final resting places of more than 9,380 of
the fallen stretched out before the guests.
Britain's Prince Charles, his wife, Camilla, and Prime
Minister Theresa May attended a remembrance service at the medieval
cathedral in Bayeux, the first Normandy town liberated by Allied troops
Hundreds of people packed the seaside square in the
town of Arromanches to applaud veterans of the Battle of Normandy that
ensued. A wreath was placed outside the town's D-Day Museum.
Gratitude was a powerful common theme.
Macron thanked soldiers "so that France could become
free again" at the Gold Beach ceremony with May and uniformed veterans laid
the cornerstone of the memorial that will record the names of thousands of
troops under British command who died in Normandy.
"If one day can be said to have determined the fate of
generations to come, in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world, that
day was the 6th of June, 1944," May said.
As the sun rose that morning, not one of the thousands
of men arriving in Normandy "knew whether they would still be alive when the
sun set once again," she said.
Passing on memories is especially urgent, with hundreds
of World War II veterans now dying every day.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed those who
"took a gamble the world had never seen before."
Speaking at Juno Beach where 14,000 Canadians came
ashore, Trudeau lauded the resulting world order including the United
Nations and NATO that have helped preserve peace.
But postwar tensions were evident. Not invited to the
remembrance was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been present for
the 70th commemoration of D-Day.
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it
was a "gift of history" that she was able to participate in the ceremony on
Britain's southern coast. Some 22,000 German soldiers are among those buried
The D-Day invasion was a defining moment of military
strategy complicated by unpredictable weather and human chaos in which
soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied nations applied
relentless bravery to carve out a beachhead on ground that Nazi Germany had
occupied for four years.
The Battle of Normandy hastened Germany's defeat less
than a year later.
Still, that single day cost the lives of 4,414 Allied
troops, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German
side, several thousand were killed or wounded.
From there, Allied troops would advance, take Paris in
late summer and race with the Soviet Red Army to control as much German
territory as possible by the time Adolf Hitler died in his Berlin bunker and
Germany surrendered in May 1945.
The Soviet Union also fought valiantly against the
Nazis — and lost more people than any other nation in World War II — but
those final battles would divide Europe for decades between the West and the
Soviet-controlled East, the face-off line of the Cold War.
"War is the most idiotic thing that man ever created,"
said Charles Levesque, 93, who served in the Pacific theater. "Our enemies
now are our friends, and our friends are our enemies. It doesn't make any
Huawei warns US would hurt itself by cutting off tech ties
Mika Lauhde, Huawei's vice-president for
cybersecurity and privacy attends a panel discussion at the St. Petersburg
International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 6,
2019. (TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)
St. Petersburg, Russia (AP) — A
senior executive for Chinese technology giant Huawei said Thursday that he
hopes the company's animosity with the United States will be resolved and
warned that the U.S. would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to shun
Mika Lauhde, Huawei's vice-president
for cybersecurity and privacy, told The Associated Press that he hopes for a
"positive resolution" of the standoff with the U.S. government and added
that his company is not the "nucleus of the issue," pointing to the wider
trade war between the U.S. and China.
The U.S. has imposed sanctions against
the world's No. 1 network equipment provider and second-largest smartphone
maker, arguing that it is legally beholden to the Chinese government, which
could use the company's products for cyberespionage. Huawei denies these
Lauhde said he doesn't think that the
U.S. will be severing all ties with Huawei and other Chinese technology
companies, as that would be "driving itself into a corner."
"If they are disconnecting themselves
from everybody, that's (going to) happen vice versa as well," he said,
alluding to possible Chinese reaction.
Some cybersecurity experts say that
Washington, by going as far as warning other countries against working with
Huawei actions, will only further encourage China to become more technically
self-reliant and will be dividing the world into two tech camps.
Lauhde rejected suggestion of a full
split in the tech industry.
"I don't believe that we would be
establishing two different camps," he told the AP. "I still believe that we
are working together."
Technical ties between China and
Russia, for one, are expanding. Russia's major mobile operator MTS and
Huawei on Wednesday announced a deal to jointly develop 5G networks in
Russia. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony at the
Sudanese vow to keep up protests after crackdown
Worshippers gather at a mosque behind a
roadblock set by protesters on a main street in the Sudanese capital
Khartoum to stop military vehicles from driving through the area on
Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo)
Bassam Hatoum and Noha Elhennawy
Khartoum, Sudan (AP) — Sudan's
pro-democracy movement vowed Thursday to press its campaign of civil
disobedience until the ruling military council is ousted and killers of
protesters are brought to justice, as security forces fanned out across the
capital and appeared to thwart any new demonstrations.
The African Union, meanwhile, suspended
Sudan from all activities "with immediate effect" over the deadly military
crackdown on protesters that left 108 dead this week. It threatened
"punitive sanctions" if the military does not quickly hand over power to
The crackdown marked the start of a
violent new chapter in the uprising that began in December and led to the
military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. The protesters had
remained in the streets while holding talks with the military to demand a
handover of power to civilians. Those negotiations were suspended after the
violent dispersal of the main sit-in outside the military headquarters in
the capital, Khartoum, on Monday.
The Sudan Doctors' Central Committee,
one of the protest groups, said Wednesday that troops were seen pulling 40
bodies of people slain by the security forces from the Nile River in
Khartoum and taking them away.
It said Thursday that more bodies had
been pulled from the river, without giving an exact number. The committee
said it was not known where the bodies were taken. It also said more than
500 protesters have been wounded in the crackdown, and that three children
were among those killed.
Sudan's military-controlled Health
Ministry disputed the death toll, with the ministry's undersecretary,
Soliman Abdel Gabbar, saying only 61 people died in this week's violence. He
said those include 52 killed in Khartoum, and that only two corpses were
pulled from the Nile.
Clashes have erupted in other parts of
the country as well. The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has been
spearheading the protests since December, said security forces have attacked
demonstrators in more than a dozen cities and towns, in some cases beating,
killing and raping civilians. The SPA did not provide further information
about the attacks.
The group urged people to block main
roads and bridges to "paralyze public life" across the country.
"Our success depends on our full
adherence to peaceful protests, no matter how hard the criminal militias
seek to drag us into violence," the association said Thursday.
Hundreds of armored vehicles of the
paramilitary Rapid Support Forces could be seen across the capital. The
paramilitary force grew out of the Janjaweed militias used by al-Bashir's
government to suppress the Darfur insurgency in the early 2000s, a
scorched-earth campaign that led to his indictment by the International
Criminal Court on charges including genocide.
Barricades erected earlier this week by
protesters near the site of the dispersed sit-in were removed and roads were
opened. Most stores were closed and few people were seen on the streets.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of
the ruling military council, has called for a resumption of negotiations
with the protest leaders, which they have rejected.
"All members of the military council
belong to the old regime, and that is why we are betting now on lower-rank
officers," said Amal al-Zein, an activist and a leader of Sudan's Communist
Party, part of the protest movement.
"We are hoping patriotic policemen and
military officers will act to protect the Sudanese people," she said,
implying they might overthrow their superiors.
The military and protest leaders had
spent weeks negotiating the makeup of a transitional council meant to run
the country until elections. The protesters demanded civilians dominate the
council, which the generals resisted.
After the crackdown, the military
suspended the talks and canceled all agreed-on points. It said it would form
a government and hold elections within seven to nine months.
From Ethiopia, the African Union's
Peace and Security Council said Sudan's suspension will remain in effect
until "the effective establishment" of a civilian-led transitional
authority, calling it the only way of exiting the crisis.
The council said it would impose
"punitive sanctions" if Sudan's ruling military council does not hand over
power to civilians, and called for "the immediate resumption of
negotiations, without pre-conditions, between all Sudanese stakeholders."
The council is in charge of enforcing
union decisions, somewhat similar to the U.N. Security Council.
The suspension deprives Sudan's ruling
military council of international legitimacy, according to Amani Africa, an
independent think tank based in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The
United Nations, European Union and other bodies are expected to take their
cues from the AU's action.
In practical terms, Sudan now cannot
participate in any AU meeting and any AU financial or other support will
cease, the think tank said, though Sudan's peacekeeping obligations are
expected to continue.
The AU has suspended countries in the
past over what were considered unconstitutional changes of government,
including Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Niger. In
certain cases, a suspension can last for years. No other country of the
55-member continental body is currently suspended.
The AU could take further steps,
imposing sanctions and calling on the U.N. to do the same, the think tank
The chairman of the African Union
Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, earlier this week strongly condemned the
violence in Sudan and urged the military "to protect the civilians from
In Moscow, a top diplomat said Russia,
which has largely stayed on the sidelines of the crisis in Sudan, opposes
"any foreign intervention" and believes a compromise is needed.
Mikhail Bogdanov, chief of the Foreign
Ministry's Middle East desk, told local news agencies that Russian diplomats
are in touch with all political players in Sudan, including the opposition.
Bogdanov visited Khartoum earlier this year.
NZ judge allows images of man charged in mosque shootings
Brenton Tarrant, the man charged in the
Christchurch mosque shootings, appears in the Christchurch District Court,
in Christchurch, New Zealand in this Saturday, March 16, 2019 photo. (AP
Photo/Mark Mitchell, Pool)
Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — A
New Zealand judge ruled Thursday that media outlets can now show the face of
the man accused of killing 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.
Two New Zealand courts had previously
ruled that television stations, websites, newspapers and other media could
only publish images which pixelated the face of Brenton Harrison Tarrant,
the 28-year-old Australian white supremacist accused of the March 15 mass
But High Court Judge Cameron Mander
wrote in a court note that prosecutors had advised him there was no longer
any need to suppress images of Tarrant's face and he was lifting the order.
The previous rulings hadn't stopped
images of Tarrant from circulating on the internet, and questions remained
about whether the court's rulings could be applied to media operating
outside of New Zealand's borders.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers, who
have not commented on the case publicly, did not return calls from The
Associated Press seeking comment on Thursday.
Retired law professor Bill Hodge said
the initial argument for suppressing images of Tarrant was likely made to
ensure witnesses weren't tainted — that they could identify the gunman from
their own recollection and not from seeing a picture in a newspaper.
"I can only assume that neither side is
concerned about poisoning the well of identification witnesses," Hodge said.
The gunman livestreamed much of his
attack on Facebook. The chilling 17-minute video, in which he shows his
face, was copied and widely viewed on the internet even as tech companies
scrambled to remove it.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda
Ardern has vowed never to say the accused man's name, and last month helped
lead a global pledge named the "Christchurch Call," aimed at boosting
efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize
extremist groups and broadcast attacks.
The White House did not endorse the
pledge, citing respect for "freedom of expression and freedom of the press."
Hodge said Ardern and other politicians
might be making a nice gesture by trying to avoid giving Tarrant the
publicity he's likely seeking. But Hodge said that's been somewhat
undermined after police decided last month to add a terrorism charge against
Tarrant to the charges of murder and attempted murder he already faced.
Hodge said the terrorism charge had
never been previously tested in New Zealand's court system and it could
backfire by giving Tarrant a platform to broadcast his white supremacist
views, since defending himself against that charge could give him more scope
to express his alleged motives.
A spokesperson for Ardern said the
prime minister had no comment to make on a matter for the court.
Tarrant is next scheduled to appear in
court via videolink on June 14, when he is expected to enter pleas to 51
counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism.
Queen Elizabeth honors D-Day veterans at moving ceremony
Britain's Queen Elizabeth
meets veterans during commemorations for the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day
landings at Southsea Common in Portsmouth, England, Wednesday, June 5, 2019.
(Jeff J Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)
An honor guard marches on stage during a
ceremony to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in
Portsmouth, England. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Canadian World War II veteran Dick Brown, second
right, and Rod Deon, right, salute as they attend a ceremony at the
Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Reviers, Normandy, France, Wednesday,
June 5, 2019. A ceremony was held on Wednesday for Canadians who fought and
died on the beaches and in the bitter bridgehead battles of Normandy during
World War II. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
U.S. World War II D-Day
veteran Tom Rice, from Coronado, CA, parachutes in a tandem jump into a
field in Carentan, Normandy, France, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo)
Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless
Portsmouth, England (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II
and world leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump gathered Wednesday
on the south coast of England to honor the troops who risked and sacrificed
their lives 75 years ago on D-Day, a bloody but ultimately triumphant
turning point in World War II.
Across the Channel, American and British paratroopers
dropped into northwestern France and scaled cliffs beside Normandy beaches,
recreating the daring, costly invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi
With the number of veterans of World War II dwindling,
the guests of honor at an international ceremony in Portsmouth were several
hundred men, now in their 90s, who served in the conflict — and the
93-year-old British monarch, also a member of what has been called the
The queen, who served as an army mechanic during the
war, said that when she attended a 60th-anniversary commemoration of D-Day
15 years ago, many thought it might be the last such event.
"But the wartime generation — my generation — is
resilient," she said, striking an unusually personal note.
"The heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost
their lives will never be forgotten," the monarch said. "It is with humility
and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country — indeed the whole free world
— that I say to you all, thank you."
Several hundred World War II veterans, aged 91 to 101,
attended the ceremony in Portsmouth, the English port city from where many
of the troops embarked for Normandy on June 5, 1944.
Many will recreate their journey, with less danger and
more comfort, by crossing the Channel by ship to Normandy overnight. They
are due to attend commemorations Thursday in Bayeux, the first major town
liberated by Allied troops after D-Day.
Mixing history lesson, entertainment and solemn
remembrance, the ceremony in Portsmouth was a large-scale spectacle
involving troops, dancers and martial bands, culminating in a military
fly-past. But the stars of the show were the elderly veterans of that
campaign who said they were surprised by all the attention: They were just
doing their jobs.
"I was just a small part in a very big machine," said
99-year-old John Jenkins, a veteran from Portsmouth, who received a standing
ovation as he addressed the event.
"You never forget your comrades because we were all in
it together," he said. "It is right that the courage and sacrifice of so
many is being honored 75 years on. We must never forget."
The event, which kicked off two days of D-Day
anniversary observances, paid tribute to the troops who shaped history
during the dangerous mission to reach beachheads and fight in
D-Day saw more than 150,000 Allied troops land on the
beaches of Normandy in northwest France on June 6, 1944, carried by 7,000
boats. The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, was a turning
point in the war, and helped bring about Nazi Germany's defeat in May 1945.
Wednesday's ceremony brought together presidents, prime
ministers and other representatives of more than a dozen countries that
fought alongside Britain in Normandy.
The leader of the country that was the enemy in 1944 ,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also attended— a symbol of Europe's postwar
reconciliation and transformation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended 70th
anniversary commemorations in France five years ago, has not been invited.
Russia was not involved in D-Day but was instrumental in defeating the Nazis
on the Eastern Front.
The ceremony sought to take people back in time, with
world leaders, reading the words of participants in the conflict.
Trump read a prayer that President Franklin D.
Roosevelt delivered in a radio address on June 6, 1944, extolling the
"mighty endeavor" Allied troops were engaged in.
British Prime Minister Theresa May read a letter
written by Capt. Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife,
Gladys, on June 3, 1944, a few days before the invasion. He was killed the
day after D-Day.
"Although I would give anything to be back with you, I
have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do,"
French President Emmanuel Macron read from a letter
sent by a young resistance fighter, Henri Fertet, before he was executed at
the age of 16 years old.
"I am going to die for my country. I want France to be
free and the French to be happy," it said.
The ceremony ended with singer Sheridan Smith
performing the wartime hit "We'll Meet Again," as many of the elderly
assembled veterans sang along.
Then WWII Spitfire and Hurricane fighter jets,
modern-day Typhoons and the Royal Air Force's Red Arrows aerobatic unit
swooped over the dignitaries, veterans and large crowd of spectators.
The crowd beyond the security barriers loved the planes
but loved the veterans even more. Whenever their images came up on the big
screen, people cheered. The former servicemen have reacted to such shows of
attention with humility and surprise, as many believed they had been
"What happened to me is not important. I'm not a hero.
I served with men who were," said Les Hammond, 94, who landed at Juno Beach
with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. "I'm very lucky I'm a
On Thursday the focus shifts to France, where
commemorations will be held at simple military cemeteries near the Normandy
Events in France began early Wednesday morning with
U.S. Army Rangers climbing the jagged limestone cliffs of Normandy's Pointe
du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them under fire 75 years ago.
They were recreating a journey taken in 1944 by the
U.S. Army's 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions to destroy Nazi guns atop the
cliffs, helping prepare the way for Allied troops to land on the coast.
Elsewhere in Normandy parachutists jumped from C-47
transporters in WWII colors and other aircraft, aiming for fields of wild
flowers on the outskirts of Carentan, one of the early objectives for Allied
Among the jumpers was American D-Day veteran Tom Rice,
97. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944 and
recalled it as "the worst jump I ever had."
Like many other veterans , Rice said he remains
troubled by the war.
"We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the
Germans out and coming back here is a matter of closure," he said. "You can
close the issue now."
Rescue chopper unable to reach bodies on Himalayan mountain
A senior Indo Tibetan Border Police force
officer wishes best luck to a team of soldiers before they set off to try
and retrieve the bodies of international climbers, in Pithoragarh,
Uttarakhand state, India, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Indo Tibetan Border
Police force via AP)
New Delhi (AP) — Indian
officials on Wednesday were reconsidering a plan to retrieve five bodies
believed to be members of a team of international climbers that went missing
on a notoriously dangerous Himalayan mountain that a rescue helicopter was
unable to reach.
All eight of the climbers who
disappeared May 26 on Nanda Devi East are presumed dead, and the five bodies
photographed by air Monday are thought to be from the missing expedition,
said Vijay Kumar Jogdande, an official in Uttarakhand state, where the
mountain is located.
The mountaineers, led by veteran
British climber Martin Moran, had set out to reach the top of an unclimbed,
unnamed 6,477-meter (21,250-foot) ridge, but lost contact with their base
camp after an avalanche swept through a section of the mountain.
Nanda Devi East is a twin peak of Nanda
Devi, India's second-highest mountain, and the two are connected by a
razor-sharp 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) ridge at an elevation of 6,666 meters
Indo-Tibetan Border Police, who are
responsible for rescues in the range where the peaks are located, called off
the operation because of the high elevation, which a helicopter was unable
to reach after three attempts, spokesman Vivek Pandey said.
Officials had devised a plan to use
helicopters and a ground team to retrieve the bodies, spotted at an altitude
of 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), and to search for the three other
mountaineers. Pandey said the rescue team returned to the town of
Pithoragarh on Wednesday afternoon to reconsider its strategy.
"It is not feasible to hover in the air
and land near the site of the avalanche where bodies can be seen," according
to a status report seen by The Associated Press.
The report said the challenges include
the "bowl-like" geography of the terrain, wind turbulence and the risk of
further avalanches. It recommended an expedition on foot, though it would
take the rescuers a week to acclimate first.
The mountaineers began their ascent on
May 13, according to Moran Mountain, Moran's Scotland-based company. The
team includes four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian
liaison officer. Before attempting to reach the peak of Nanda Devi East, the
team had set out to climb the slightly smaller ridge.
Maninder Kohli, a mountaineer who runs
a trekking company from New Delhi that has taken groups to Nanda Devi East
base camp, said the snow level in the Indian Himalayas this year has been
"Apparently the walk-up to the base
camp alone was a tedious task because of the snow accumulation," he said.
Kohli said the typical route to the
peak is along the southeast ridge, which Polish mountaineers used on the
first documented ascent in 1939.
Moran and another mountaineer made an
unsuccessful attempt over an unproven northeastern route in 2015.
German nurse accused of 100 deaths says sorry to families
Former nurse Niels Hoegel, accused of multiple
murder and attempted murder of patients, attends a session of the district
court in Oldenburg, Germany, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Mohssen
Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP, Pool)
Berlin (AP) — A former nurse on
trial on allegations he killed 100 patients at two hospitals in northern
Germany apologized to his victims' relatives in a final statement to the
court Wednesday, saying he realized how much pain and suffering he had
caused with his "terrible deeds."
"To each and every one of you I
sincerely apologize for all that I have done," Niels Hoegel, 42, told the
Oldenburg regional court after his defense attorneys had made their closing
arguments, according to the dpa news agency.
His defense attorneys argued for
acquittals in 31 of the 100 counts of murder against him, suggesting there
was not enough evidence in those cases.
In total, the deaths — which took place
at a hospital in Oldenburg between 1999 and 2002 and another hospital in
nearby Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005 — are thought to be the largest string
of serial killings in post-war Germany. Hoegel's alleged victims ranged in
age between 34 and 96.
"Neither we nor Mr. Hoegel deny that he
is the perpetrator in many cases," one of his defenders, Ulrike Baumann told
the court. "But he can only be convicted for crimes he committed and not for
crimes he could have committed."
Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two
murders and two attempted murders. He said at his first trial that he
intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in
Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate
them. He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.
Authorities subsequently investigated
hundreds of deaths, exhuming bodies of former patients.
Pleas are not entered in the German
legal system but during the seven-month trial, Hoegel admitted to 43 of the
killings, disputed five and said he couldn't remember the other 52.
Both the defense team and prosecutors
have asked for a sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors have also asked
the court to recognize the "particular seriousness of the crime," making it
likely he'd have to serve more than the standard 15-year sentence.
Prosecutors are asking for a conviction
on 97 counts of murder, saying that in three cases insufficient evidence was
During the trial, Hoegel testified that
he had a "protected" childhood, free of violence. He said his grandmother
and his father, who were both nurses, had been his role models for going
into the profession.
"Now I sit here fully convinced that I
want to give every relative an answer," Hoegel said during the trial. "I am
But Christian Marbach, a spokesman for
the affected families whose grandfather was among the victims, doubted
"Hoegel is and remains a liar," Marbach
said. "He tactically only admitted what could already 100 percent be proven
A verdict is expected on Thursday.
Japanese police arrest 7 Chinese in record drug smuggling
The boat in which police confiscated drug is
seen at a wharf in Minami Izu town, Shizuoka prefecture, south of Tokyo,
Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (Kyodo News via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — Japanese
authorities have arrested seven Chinese men on suspicion of smuggling
what is believed to be a record amount of stimulants, police and media
reports said Wednesday, amid concern about growing drug use among
ordinary people following a series of recent arrests of government
officials and celebrities.
Tokyo police said seven Chinese
were arrested this week on suspicion of possessing "large amounts" of
stimulants on the Izu coast, west of Tokyo. Police on a stakeout
arrested the men while they were unloading bags from their boat onto the
beach, Kyodo News reported.
They allegedly possessed nearly 1
ton (2,450 pounds) of amphetamines, a record one-time seizure in Japan
estimated to be worth 60 billion yen ($550 million), according to public
broadcaster NHK. The drugs are believed to have been smuggled from Hong
Kong, NHK said.
The amount is about the same as the
annual total seized over the past three years. Last year, authorities
seized 1.1 tons (2,508 pounds) of stimulants, including 784 kilograms
(1,728 pounds) smuggled into the country from overseas, according to the
National Police Agency.
Drug smuggling has been on the
rise, the agency said, with more than 150 people arrested in 2018 for
alleged stimulant smuggling from overseas, or 1.6% of the total number
of people arrested for violations of stimulant control laws. While most
stimulant law violators are linked to gangster groups, the police agency
expressed concern about growing drug use among ordinary people and
younger age groups.
In late May, police arrested a
44-year-old education ministry bureaucrat for alleged possession of
stimulants and marijuana. Days earlier, prosecutors charged a
28-year-old trade ministry official with stimulant use and possession.
Popular musician and actor Pierre Taki, whose real name is Masanori Taki,
is on trial after being arrested in March for alleged cocaine use.
Illegal drugs are sold at higher
prices in Japan than elsewhere, making it a lucrative market, and its
coastline provides convenient access for smugglers, experts say.
The arrests of the Chinese suspects
were part of an ongoing investigation into international drug rings and
gangster groups following reports of suspicious ships in the Izu area.
The previous record one-time
seizure was about 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) of stimulants on a boat
docked at a port on Okinawa in southern Japan..