Ex-diplomat’s suit against dismissal over sexual assault rejected

SEOUL, A former South Korean diplomat has lost a lawsuit seeking to reverse the foreign ministry’s decision to fire him for sexually assaulting a female embassy employee when stationed in Ethiopia, sources said Sunday.


The Seoul Administrative Court last month ruled against the plaintiff, surnamed Lee, in his lawsuit seeking to have the foreign minister overturn his dismissal. The ruling was finalized as Lee did not appeal.


Lee was fired in July 2017 after he was found to have sexually assaulted the female subordinate after drinking with her and taking her to his house when he worked as a councilor at South Korea’s Embassy in the African nation.


During a disciplinary committee meeting, Lee rejected accusations that he raped her when she was in a state of inability to resist, though he acknowledged it was inappropriate to drink heavily with the subordinate and go to his home together.


The ministry concluded Lee had sexually assaulted the victim based on her testimony and reported him to the prosecution.


The Seoul Northern District Court found him guilty of the charges in November 2019 and sentenced him to 3 1/2 years in prison.


Lee appealed the court decision and filed an administrative suit in September 2020 against his dismissal, but the Supreme Court confirmed his prison term.


The administrative court rejected the plaintiff’s request to overturn his dismissal, citing the top court’s ruling that finalized his sentence.


“A civil servant’s sexual violence crime significantly hampers public trust in state institutions,” the court said. “The decision to dismiss the plaintiff was not unjustly heavy.”


Source: Yonhap News Agency

ICC issues arrest warrant vs. Putin

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova in relation to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the court said in a statement Friday.
The ICC said the warrant was issued allegedly ‘for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
While arrest warrants are usually issued in secrecy to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation, the ICC said it authorized the public disclosure of the existence of the warrants against the top Russian official to prevent the further commission of crimes.
‘The public disclosure of the names of the suspects and the crimes for which the warrants are issued was made because the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes,’ it said.
But Russia was unperturbed by the ICC cases against its chief executive.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
“We consider the very formulation of the issue outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, as well as several other states, do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for Russia in terms of law,” Peskov told reporters.
“That is, in fact, the only thing I would and could tell you about this decision.”
Peskov did not comment on a question about whether the court’s decision would affect Putin’s visits to countries that recognized the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, in comments on the information from the Hague, likewise said decisions of the court have no consequence in Russia and any potential arrest warrants are null and void.
The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute in 1998. It is not part of the UN and is accountable to the countries that have ratified the statute.
The countries that aren’t parties to the statute include Russia, US, and China.
Russia signed the law but did not ratify it.
The US also signed the statute but later on revoked its signature.
Putin signed an executive order in 2016 that stated Russia would not be a member of the ICC.


Source: Philippines News Agency

ASEAN Ministers Urge Reduced Violence, Dialogue in Myanmar

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Southeast Asian foreign ministers urged Myanmar’s military rulers Friday to reduce violence and allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to pave the way for a national dialogue aimed at ending the country’s worsening crisis.

Meeting in Indonesia’s capital, the ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also granted observer status to East Timor, Asia’s newest nation, ahead of it becoming the regional bloc’s 11th member.

Myanmar is an ASEAN member, but its foreign minister was excluded from Friday’s annual ministers’ retreat because of his country’s failure to implement a five-step consensus on restoring peace forged in 2021 between ASEAN and Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who hosted Friday’s meetings, said the ministers agreed that an inclusive national dialogue “is key to finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in Myanmar,” and that reducing violence and providing humanitarian assistance are “paramount for building trust and confidence.”

She said the lack of progress in Myanmar “tests our credibility” as a group, and that ASEAN’s efforts toward peace would be coordinated with those of other countries and the United Nations.

Myanmar’s military leader promised in the five-point agreement to allow a special ASEAN envoy to meet with jailed ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others to foster a dialogue aimed at easing the crisis, set off by the military’s seizure of power two years ago. But Myanmar refused to let an ASEAN envoy meet with Suu Kyi last year, resulting in Min Aung Hlaing’s exclusion from an ASEAN summit last November.

The increasing violence in Myanmar since the military takeover loomed large over the foreign ministers’ meetings, even as Indonesia, this year’s ASEAN chair, sought to dampen concerns that the crisis will overshadow other issues and hold the bloc “hostage.”

In her opening remarks, Marsudi said the ministers were meeting in the midst of immense global challenges in which the Indo-Pacific region is not immune, including geopolitical, food, energy, financial and ecological crises, as well as major power rivalries that could spill over and potentially destabilize the region.

The ministers warmly applauded the East Timor delegation as it participated in an ASEAN ministerial meeting for the first time.

“It is a crucial steppingstone in our long journey to join the big family of the ASEAN community,” East Timor Foreign Minister Adaljiza Magno said. ASEAN agreed in principle to admit East Timor as the group’s 11th member at last November’s ASEAN summit.

East Timor applied for full membership in ASEAN in 2011, but some members feared its poverty would be a burden and slow efforts to achieve an ASEAN Economic Community.

The U.N. estimates that nearly half of East Timor’s population lives below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 a day, and that 42 of every 1,000 babies die before their fifth birthday because of malnutrition.

The former Portuguese colony was occupied by Indonesia for a quarter-century and gained independence after a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999. Indonesia’s military responded with scorched-earth attacks that devastated East Timor.

Source: Voice of America

Lawyer: Suspect in Abe Assassination to Face Murder Charge

Japanese prosecutors are expected to formally charge the suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder on Friday, his lawyer said.

Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested immediately after allegedly shooting Abe with a handmade gun as the former leader was making a campaign speech in July outside a train station in Nara in western Japan. Later that month, Yamagami was sent to an Osaka detention center and given a five-month mental evaluation, which ended Tuesday.

Yamagami is now back in police custody in Nara after reportedly being deemed fit to stand trial.

One of his lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he expects prosecutors to charge Yamagami with murder and gun-control law violations.

Given the complexity of the case, it will take months before his trial begins, he said.

Furukawa said he and two other lawyers took turns visiting Yamagami at the detention center every 10-12 days, in between his examinations by psychiatric experts. His visitors were limited to his lawyers and sister, he said.

Furukawa said Yamagami was in good health at the detention center. He said he could not disclose details of their conversations before seeing what evidence prosecutors submit to the court in their indictment.

Police say Yamagami told them that he killed Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of Abe’s apparent links to a religious group that he hated. In his statements and in social media postings attributed to him, Yamagami said he developed a grudge because his mother had made massive donations to the Unification Church, which bankrupted his family and ruined his life.

“It’s an extremely serious case, but someone has to defend him,” Furukawa said. “Naturally, he will have to take criminal responsibility for the serious consequences he caused by allegedly firing his gun to take away the life of a politician, and we are tasked with doing our best to reduce his punishment.”

Yamagami’s father, an executive of a company founded by the suspect’s grandfather, killed himself when Yamagami was 4 years old. After his mother joined the church, she began making large donations that bankrupted the family and shattered Yamagami’s hope of going to college. His brother later committed suicide. After a three-year stint in the navy, Yamagami was most recently a factory worker.

Some Japanese have expressed sympathy for Yamagami, especially those who also suffered as children of followers of the South Korea-based Unification Church, which is known for pressuring adherents into making big donations and is considered a cult in Japan.

Thousands of people have signed a petition requesting leniency for Yamagami, and others have sent care packages to his relatives or to the detention center.

The investigation into the case has led to revelations of years of cozy ties between Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party and the church, since Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church take root in Japan in the 1960s over shared interests in conservative and anti-communist causes.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has plunged over his handling of the church controversy and for insisting on holding a rare, controversial state funeral for Abe.

In a September 2021 video message, Abe praised the Unification Church’s work for peace on the Korean Peninsula and its focus on traditional family values.

Source: Voice of America

Strong Earthquake In Indonesia Damaged Buildings

JAKARTA, Jan 10 (NNN-ANTARA) – Several houses and buildings were destroyed, after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia’s eastern province of Maluku earlier today, officials and weather agency said.

The country’s meteorology, climatology and geophysics agency, reported the quake at 7.9 magnitude, before revising it to 7.5, head of the Quake and Tsunami Mitigation Division of the agency, Daryono, said.

Several houses and buildings were impacted by the earthquake, some of them cracked and some others collapsed, Doni B. Layan, head of operational unit of the disaster management and mitigation agency in Kepulauan Tanimbar district, the hardest hit area, said via the phone.

The official said that, an assessment would be conducted to find out precisely the impact of the tremors.

So far, he said, there were no preliminary reports of residents injured.

The official said that, over 2,000 people in the district had escaped coastal areas, after the quake.

“We have carried out several times, of drills over an anticipation of tsunami. So when the quake happened, the residents rushed to leave the coastal areas and headed to higher grounds,” said Layan.

Previously, Eva M.F. Tuhumury, a senior official of the disaster management agency in the province said, residents in the Maluku Barat Daya district, had fled the coastal areas for safety.

The tremors of the quake were also felt in several nearby provinces, according to the agency.

The quake occurred at 00:47 a.m. (1747 GMT), with its epicentre located 148 km north-west of Maluku Tenggara Barat (Kepulauan Tanimbar), and a depth of 131 km under the seabed.

Three aftershocks, from weak to moderate, followed the main shock, according to Daryono.

The agency had issued a tsunami alert to the province and the nearby province of South-east Sulawesi, but the tsunami did not occur.


China Accuses US of Distorting Facts After Aircraft Close Call

A U.S. military plane involved in a confrontation with Chinese aircraft in disputed southern waters last week had violated international law and put the safety of Chinese pilots at risk, a defense ministry spokesperson said.


The U.S. military said Thursday that a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet had come within 3 meters of a U.S. air force RC-135 aircraft on Dec. 21, forcing it to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.


But Tian Junli, spokesperson for China’s Southern Theater Command, said in a statement late Saturday that the United States had misled the public about the incident near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.


He said the U.S. plane violated international law, disregarded repeated warnings by China and made dangerous approaches that threatened the safety of China’s aircraft.


“The United States deliberately misleads public opinion … in an attempt to confuse the international audience,” Tian said.


“We solemnly request the U.S. side to restrain the actions of frontline naval and air forces, strictly abide by related international laws and agreements, and prevent accidents in the sea and the air.”


China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory, but parts of it are contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.


Source: Voice of America