Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher not guilty of murder in ISIS detainee’s death

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher not guilty of murder in ISIS detainee’s death

San Diego (CNN)Decorated Navy SEAL team leader Eddie Gallagher was found not guilty of premeditated murder in the death of an ISIS prisoner in Iraq.

While Gallagher was serving Mosul in 2017, Navy prosecutors said he killed a young ISIS fighter who was being treated by US medics, posed for photos next to his corpse and then pressured other SEALs not to report him. Fellow SEALs testified that he also shot at noncombatants.
Gallagher was found not guilty of all but one charge, posing for a photo with a human casualty. He faces a maximum sentence of four months, although he has already served 201 days.
Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, left, and his wife, Andrea Gallagher arrive at military court Monday.

Sentencing begins Tuesday afternoon.
Gallagher’s defense portrayed him as an “old-school, hard-charging warrior” who was targeted by younger “millennial” SEALs who harbored “personal animosity” toward him.
The case took an unexpected turn when a key prosecution witness testified that he caused the prisoner’s death, not Gallagher.
Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a SEAL medic, said that he saw Gallagher pull out his knife and stab the prisoner under his collar bone at least once.
On cross-examination, Scott told the defense that he never saw any blood after the stabbing. That’s when Scott claimed he caused the prisoner’s death by holding his thumb over his trachea tube until he suffocated.
Scott described the killing as an act of mercy because he was concerned the boy — a prisoner of the Iraqi forces — would be tortured by the Iraqis.
Scott did not admit to killing the prisoner in previous interviews with investigators and prosecutors. He testified that he was only doing so now because he was granted immunity, which means he cannot be prosecuted for his testimony.
An angry prosecutor called him a liar. He might now face a perjury charge.
In total, the chief special warfare operator was accused of seven criminal counts: premeditated murder, willfully discharging a firearm to endanger human life, posing for a photo with a casualty, retaliation against members of his platoon for reporting his alleged actions, obstruction of justice, and the attempted murders of two noncombatants, a man in June 2017 and a young girl the next month.

Pregnant woman, 2-year-old son dead after driver deliberately mows them down

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Pregnant woman, 2-year-old son dead in Tennessee after driver deliberately mows them down, police say

The 33-year-old driver did not know the victims but intentionally chose to run them over, police said.

Baby boy has died weeks after being cut from his mother’s womb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A baby boy has died weeks after being cut from his mother’s womb

(CNN) A baby cut from his mother’s womb during a brutal attack in April has died, a family spokeswoman said.

Yovanny Jadiel Lopez had been in intensive care since his mother, Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, was killed in Chicago.
The infant died Friday due to a severe brain injury, Julie Contreras said.
The baby’s condition earlier this week had been dire, his father’s lawyer told CNN affiliate WLS.
“He can’t breathe on his own. He can’t eat on his own. There’s tubes down his throat,” attorney Frank Avila said Wednesday.
Yovanny Jadiel Lopez is held by his father, Yovany Lopez.Yovanny Jadiel Lopez

“He suffered irrevocable brain damage,” Contreras added, according to the station. “There’s no medicine, there’s no pill that can fix that. Only a miracle.”
Yovanny’s mother, Ochoa-Lopez, 19, was lured to a woman’s home by an offer of free baby clothes, police say. She was then strangled and her unborn baby cut from her. Her body was found weeks later in a garbage can.
Three people have been arrested and charged in the killing.
In a photo the family released last month, Yovanny is held by his father, Yovani Lopez. The picture, taken by a student pastor, shows the baby attached to various tubes and apparently asleep in his father’s arms.
Around the time the photo was taken, the baby opened his eyes.
“We were just praying and praying and he opened his eyes, and his dad said, ‘Oh my God, he opened his eyes!'” Cecilia Garcia, a student pastor who was assisting the family, told CNN at the time.

Prosecutors: Mother-daughter duo killed pregnant teen

A mother and daughter are charged in Ochoa-Lopez’s killing.
Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and her 24-year-old daughter, Desiree Figueroa, were indicted Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder, WLS reported. Clarisa Figueroa’s boyfriend, Piotr Bobak, 40, was indicted on a charge of concealing a homicide, WLS said.
All three are set to be arraigned June 26, court documents show. Bobak’s lawyer hasn’t seen a copy of the indictment but maintains his client’s innocence, the attorney told CNN.
Desiree Figueroa distracted Ochoa-Lopez with a photo album while the elder Figueroa wrapped a cable around Ochoa-Lopez’s neck, assistant state’s attorney James Murphy said.
Clarisa Figueroa then got on top of the teen and strangled her for about four to five minutes, the prosecutor said.
When she was dead, the elder Figueroa cut the teen’s baby from her womb. She then called 911 and said she’d just delivered a baby that wasn’t breathing, Murphy said.
Clarisa Figueroa and the infant then were hospitalized, though the woman showed no signs to suggest she’d just delivered a baby, Murphy said.
The suspects allegedly planned the attack for months.
Figueroa’s 20-year-old son, Xander, had died in 2018, according to prosecutors. In October, she announced she was pregnant, which surprised her family because her fallopian tubes were tied.
By December, Figueroa had posted a Facebook picture of an ultrasound showing what she claimed was the baby she was carrying, Murphy said. Two months later, she posted a picture of a crib and baby’s room to a Facebook page that provides baby items for families in need, he said.
She posted on the page again the following month, asking, “Who is due in May” and “Where is the May mama’s at.”
Figueroa connected there with Ochoa-Lopez, who at that time was seven months pregnant, Murphy said. The teen had posted that she was looking for baby items, including a stroller. Figueroa offered her clothes for the baby and suggested they talk in a private message.
Then on April 1, Figueroa told her daughter that “she needed help killing a pregnant woman and taking a baby,” Murphy said.
Ochoa-Lopez, a high school student, went to Figueroa’s home at least twice this year after connecting through the Facebook group and accepting Figueroa’s offer of baby items, Chicago police said.

Missing for nearly three weeks

Ochoa-Lopez’s husband reported her missing on April 24, police said. Her body was found in a garbage can at the Figueroas’ home on May 14.
A break in the case came May 7, when a friend of the victim told detectives about Ochoa-Lopez’s exchanges with Figueroa before she vanished, police said.
Detectives visited the Figueroa home that day, and Desiree Figueroa told them her mother was in the hospital for problems with her legs. Then she revealed that her mother had just delivered a baby, authorities said.
Investigators searched the area and found Ochoa-Lopez’s vehicle nearby, Deputy Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said.
That same day, detectives interviewed the elder Figueroa at a hospital. She denied the victim came to her house April 23 but admitted to meeting her in the past, police said.
Suspicious, detectives spent the next several days subpoenaing hospital records and collecting DNA samples from the baby and Clarisa Figueroa.
DNA tests determined Figueroa was not the mother of the baby and Ochoa-Lopez’s husband, Yovani Lopez, was the father, Deenihan said.
Armed with a search warrant, crime lab officers searched Figueroa’s house.
Detectives discovered bleach and cleaning solutions in the home, along with evidence of burned clothing and blood on the floors of the living room, bathroom and a hallway, Deenihan said.
Ochoa-Lopez’s body was found in a garbage can in the backyard, along with the cable used to strangle her and other evidence, police said.
A medical examiner determined that she died of strangulation, and Desiree Figueroa told detectives she helped her mother kill her, police said.
The motive for the killing is under investigation, but Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he believes the elder Figueroa wanted to raise the child as her own.

Trump admin gave green light to nuclear permits for Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Trump admin gave green light to nuclear permits for Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi killing

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia says the approvals show “President Trump’s eagerness to give the Saudis anything they want.”
Image: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images file

Pompeo slammed China for covering up the Tiananmen Square massacre. And China is pissed.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX.COM)
(HONESTY PISSES OFF CHINA’S GOVERNMENT AND THEIR MAOIST PRESIDENT XI JINPING)(oped: oldpoet56)

Pompeo slammed China for covering up the Tiananmen Square massacre. And China is pissed.

It’s the latest indicator of the Trump administration’s strong stance against China.

A soldier stands in Tiananmen Square in front of the Great Hall of the People before the opening of the 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2019, in Beijing.
 Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

A scathing statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about one of the most controversial moments in modern Chinese history has led to a shocking series of rebukes from Beijing.

The escalation, in which Chinese officials have called Pompeo’s comments “babbling nonsense,” shows how sensitive the protests at Tiananmen Square remain even three decades later — and how the US purposely aims to provoke China.

In April 1989, roughly 1 million pro-democracy advocates gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the heart of the sprawling capital city. For six weeks, they pushed the communist regime to open the nation’s political system in hopes that it would move away from decades of authoritarian leadership.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Chinese troops entered the square in the early morning of June 4and throughout the day opened fire on the protesters. Beijing has never released an official death toll, though estimates from human rights groups and foreign organizations put it anywhere from a few hundred to about 10,000.

The symbolism of Tiananmen Square — where the Communist Party brutally gunned down citizens pleading for democracy — remains deeply sensitive and threatening to the Chinese regime.

The Communist Party still runs the country and, despite making some economic and political reforms, views the events surrounding the massacre as a threat to its power. It’s spent the years since mostly denying that the events at Tiananmen ever took place.

Which is why Pompeo’s statement on June 3 — timed for 12:01 am on June 4 in Beijing, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square slaughter — was such a big deal.

In stark terms, he took the regime to task for suppressing the history of the event, imprisoning pro-democracy citizens, surveilling its 1.4 billion people, and continuing to deny human rights to millions in the country. While those comments reflected similar statements by his predecessors, the real dagger came when he added that the US had lost its patience with China.

“The United States hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society. Those hopes have been dashed,” Pompeo said. “China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests.”

He continued: The US “urge[s] the Chinese government to make a full, public accounting of those killed or missing to give comfort to the many victims of this dark chapter of history.”

In other words, Pompeo said China not only had to come to terms with what happened in the square but also had to change pretty much everything about its repressive governing style.

Beijing, unsurprisingly, disliked Pompeo’s comments and made two separate statements fully denouncing him.

spokesperson for China’s embassy in the US said on June 4 that the secretary’s remarks came “out of prejudice and arrogance. … The Chinese government and people reached the verdict on the political incident of the late 1980s long ago.” That same day, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters during a regular Beijing press conference that the secretary’s “lunatic ravings and babbling nonsense will only end up in the trash can of history.”

Slamming Pompeo for his statement isn’t so surprising. Beijing wasn’t going to sit back and allow America’s chief diplomat to make such comments without a response. But two rebukes is significant, showing just how important it is to China that everyone forget the Tiananmen Square massacre and accept the country as it is.

But the episode is also indicative of the mounting tensions between the world’s two most powerful countries — and the brewing cold war that has put the US and China on a collision course.

The Trump administration purposely picked a fight with China

In October, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech that was eerily reminiscent of how US leaders used to speak about the Soviet Union.

Among other indiscretions, he accused China of influencing the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections, stealing US intellectual property, persecuting religious groups, and aggressively patrolling the South China Sea.

The address amounted to the United States naming and shaming China — specifically pitting America against a powerful country like it did during the Cold War.

“This is the Trump administration’s ‘evil empire’ speech,” Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, told me after Pence finished.

Some have called it the administration’s most important address, and it’s easy to see why: It articulated how the US now sees China as a massive threat that must be either defeated or changed.

That mentality helps explain why President Donald Trump initiated a massive trade war with China that has impacted hundreds of industries and hurt the global economy. It’s why the Pentagon now firmly pushes back on attempts by China to overpower other countries in nearby waters. And it’s why Pompeo is free to make a statement that signals to Beijing that the US wants it to become a lot more democratic — or else.

It’s a radical change from the past. Engagement with China, meaning consistent and significant dialogue on areas of mutual interest, had defined Washington-Beijing relations since the Nixon era. The US wanted China to become a “responsible stakeholder,” a wonderfully wonky Washington term that mostly means it hoped Beijing would abide by global, cooperative rules even as it gained immense power.

But Pompeo’s statement makes crystal clear that the Trump administration has chosen a different route, one that pits the US and China against each other in hopes that Beijing buckles under the pressure. If the Chinese response is any guide, it’s clearly unhappy with the new relationship — meaning the already fragile bonds are at risk of breaking for good.

At least 11 dead in Virginia Beach mass shooting at municipal center

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

At least 11 dead in Virginia Beach mass shooting at municipal center

(CNN)[Breaking news update, published at 6:53 p.m. ET]

At least 11 people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia, police chief James Cervera told reporters Friday night.
The shooter is dead, Cervera said. It was unclear whether the shooter was among the 11 dead.
[Previous story, published at 6:28 p.m. ET]
Six people were hospitalized after a shooting at a municipal center in Virginia Beach, Virginia, hospital officials tweeted Friday.
Virginia Beach General Hospital said there were five patients there. A patient who was at Princess Anne Hospital was being transferred to Norfolk General Hospital, a Level I trauma center.
It was unclear whether all six patients had gunshot wounds and whether the shooter was among the patients.
Virginia Beach Police said earlier they had taken a shooter into custody.
Police also said there were multiple injuries but didn’t describe the severity of those injuries.
The shooting took place in Building 2 of the municipal center, according to police.
The FBI is also responding to the incident to provide assistance to local authorities, an FBI spokeswoman told CNN.

China: Tiananmen Square Massacre 30 Yrs That Highlights Their Maoist Government

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

30 Years After Tiananmen Protests, ‘The Fight Is Still Going On For China’

Protesters wave flags on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in the weeks leading up to the violent crackdowns on June 4. These photos were donated to Humanitarian China by the photographer, Jian Liu, then one of the student protesters.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Zhou Fengsuo was a top university student when the first protests broke out in the heart of the ancient imperial city of Beijing, set off by the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989.

But he threw caution to the wind as students marched to Tiananmen Square before Hu’s funeral. Tens of thousands of students like him from across the country, professors, blue-collar workers and passersby joined in the following months. Often dubbed the “student democracy protests,” those who assembled in Beijing and elsewhere across China didn’t just want democratic reform. Among other things, they demanded labor bargaining for workers, a free press and an end to party corruption.

Students stand face to face with police. Tens of thousands of students from across the country, as well as professors, blue-collar workers and passersby, joined the protests.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

But by May, officials who were sympathetic to the student protesters lost out to factions led by Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who ordered that the demonstrations be put down. On the night of June 4, tanks rolled in to the square and began shooting. Violent crackdowns in other Chinese cities followed in the next few days. No authoritative death toll exists, but historians estimate it to be in the hundreds to as high as 10,000.

Over the past three decades, the ruling Communist Party has systematically attempted to erase the memory of Tiananmen through a combination of high- and low-tech methods: extensive online censorship, and brute intimidation of dissidents and victims’ families.

Top: Events planned by the student union of Peking University to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement of 1919. Bottom: A portrait of former Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. The first protests broke out in the heart of the ancient imperial city of Beijing, set off by Hu’s death in April 1989.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Survivors of Tiananmen are doing their best to fight this political amnesia.

This month, the images on this page are finally being shared with the public for the first time, according to Zhou. They were donated to Zhou’s advocacy organization, Humanitarian China, by Jian Liu, 50, who took the photos and was one of the student protesters in Tiananmen. He now lives in California.

The photos evoke a path not taken — an alternate reality in which the spontaneous gatherings and freewheeling, open-air political debates captured in them that spring were still possible today.

Instead, several waves of political tightening have only further restricted China’s civil society. Zhou, 51, interviewed here recently before the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, is a rare activist who has been both lucky and stubborn enough to continue his work since then. After serving jail time and hard labor in China, he moved to the United States in 1995.

How did you get involved in the 1989 protests?

I was very interested in pushing for democratic change in China, and I was able to organize a free election in 1988 of the student union. Even though it was only for the [physics] department, it demonstrated our desire and ability to self-govern.

Police in motion near Tiananmen Square. There had been a massive police and military presence in the previous weeks, but no armed crackdown on the demonstrators until June 4.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Who took these pictures?

They were taken by Liu Jian, another [former student protester] who now lives in San Francisco. [The photographer has asked NPR to follow the name ordering Jian Liu.] He knew it was a historic picture, so he took pictures from the very beginning, starting with Hu Yaobang’s death. There’s actually a picture of me offering a wreath to Hu Yaobang on April 16.

Tell me a bit about your upbringing. What made you step up as a student leader in 1989?

The contradiction in me was that I was a really good student. I was No. 1 in all subjects. On the other hand, I grew up in a village in the suburbs of Xi’an [the capital city of the northeastern Shaanxi province]. That means I was part of the nongcun[countryside], the peasants. So we were second-class citizens. The desire to make my life better as well as transform society into a better one, a more just society, was an important one. That was there in me from very early on.

Top: Students climbed up to get a better view of Tiananmen Square. Bottom: Professors support hunger strikers.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Was there a moment that changed your life?

April 21. There had been police brutality the day before, the 20th, and the next day, April 22, was the day of Hu Yaobang’s memorial. A lot of students gathered at Tsinghua University on April 21. We were echoing the call to rally at Tiananmen Square for Hu Yaobang’s memorial the next day. There were thousands of us gathered near the crossroads at No. 10 dining hall [on Tsinghua University’s campus]. But there was no one to stand up.

I realized most people were just like me: We want to do something but on the other hand, we are also kind of afraid. We want other people to take the lead. So eventually out of my own duty, I took the lead.

One exhausted hunger striker is helped by others.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

What was the atmosphere at Tiananmen Square like during the protests?

It was very tense in the night because we were expecting police action. It was always rumored they might clear the square. And it was cold. We were hungry. We couldn’t find a bathroom because there were just so many people. So we tried to encourage each other. We tried to stay awake by singing the national anthem because we believed we were patriotic. The top two popular songs that we were singing were The Internationale and the national anthem. That kept us going until the morning.

In the meantime, it was just so hectic. On the spot, people who never knew each other were able to form some consensus. For example, we proposed a petition with seven demands. The most important were press freedom and the disclosure of the assets of government officials.

When I came back from the square, I realized I had trouble hearing people simply because we were chanting so loudly during the protests.

Some protesting students vowed never to withdraw from Tiananmen Square even after martial law was declared in May 1989.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Where were you the night of June 4, when they cleared the square?

I was in Tiananmen Square at the Monument to the People’s Heroes. … It was like a war zone. The whole night. We were like at the eye of the storm. We heard gunshots from all directions … and I saw armored vehicles rushing on the square, troops pouring in. We were surrounded.

I actually tried to give a speech to the troops, but they threatened to kill me. I was trying to appeal to their human side. I was asking this question, “Why do you work for Beijing in such a fashion, killing people? Do you have family?” I just couldn’t understand why they would do that. It was a peaceful protest in Beijing. We had overwhelming support.

After I left Tiananmen Square, I went to Fuxin Hospital, where I saw about 40 bodies on the ground in a bicycle shed. Apparently, the hospital was overflowing with the dead [and] the injured so that they are just putting people’s bodies on the ground outside.

A group of motorcyclists known as the Flying Tigers rides in support of the students on May 30, 1989.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

Where did you go after June 4?

I went back home in Xi’an. I tried to organize some protest on the local universitycampus. We used the students’ amateur radio station to broadcast, and we also had a meeting with local school authorities to ask for protection. Eventually it became obvious that whoever was associated with us would all be in danger. About 10 days later I saw my name on the most-wanted list broadcasted on national television.

The police eventually found me and came with my sister and brother in law. They claimed that my sister and brother had reported me, but it was actually by accident. They had been trying to help me, but because they lived in a military complex, my situation inadvertently became known [to the authorities].

A professor speaking on a megaphone to students on hunger strike.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

What do you think the legacy of Tiananmen is today?

China today, politically, is a result of the Tiananmen massacre. Once they use their own troops to kill Chinese people, there’s no stopping. There’s no limit to their human rights abuses in particular today, because their totalitarianism is aided by technology and globalization.

Over the past 30 years there has been so much done to erase the memory. On the other hand, every year people risk a lot to commemorate Tiananmen. For example, Pastor Wang Yi at the Early Rain church in Chengdu [in southwestern China’s Sichuan province] insisted on openly commemorating Tiananmen every year. He was arrested with his wife last December. Nobody has seen him since.

But most importantly, the legacy of Tiananmen shows how Chinese people love freedom and they want democracy. They were willing to sacrifice for it, even during and after the massacre.

So I think the fight is still going on for China even though it’s very difficult for people like us who are still trying to keep the memory alive because the younger generation, the college students today, they have pretty much grown up completely under the shadow of the great firewall.

A crowd gathers to view the unveiling of the Goddess of Democracy statue, built by the protesters, on Tiananmen Square at the end of May 1989. The statue was destroyed less than a week later as the violent crackdowns began.

Jian Liu/Humanitarian China

But you also see the legacy of Tiananmen being expressed in other examples of activism and democratic advocacy after 1989, don’t you?

Right. For example, the [2014 Hong Kong] Umbrella Revolution. I was there for a week on the street camping with the students. I was so touched. It was like the reincarnation of the Tiananmen protests.

And for China, the generation of the protesters and the people who were influenced by Tiananmen have been the backbone of the civil society movement ever since. The Democratic Party [of China] in 1998 and later the Rights Defender movement. A lot of them were inspired by the Tiananmen movement — including the 709 lawyersXu ZhiyongLiu Xiaobo and the Christian house church movement.

What motivates you after 30 years of activism?

First of all, I am a survivor. So many people died for such a great hope, for a better China. I have to carry on. It’s mostly lonely work. Most of the people [like me] are living in isolation. But on the other hand, over these years, I was able to know of so many amazing stories of these people. It’s like you’re walking through the dark. You don’t know where the light is. But all of a sudden you see someone else who was struggling and was carrying on the same ideals as you.

Kim Jong-un Executed and Purged Top Nuclear Negotiators

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

South Korean Daily Says That Kim Jong-un Executed and Purged Top Nuclear Negotiators

Kim Hyok-chol, left, the special envoy to the United States, during summit preparations in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.CreditAssociated Press
Image
Kim Hyok-chol, left, the special envoy to the United States, during summit preparations in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.CreditCreditAssociated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has executed its special envoy to the United States on spying charges, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, has engineered a sweeping purge of the country’s top nuclear negotiators after the breakdown of his second summit meeting with President Trump, a major South Korean daily reported on Friday.

Kim Hyok-chol, the envoy, was executed by firing squad in March at the Mirim airfield in a suburb of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest daily, reported on Friday, citing an anonymous source. Mr. Kim faced the charge that he was “won over by the American imperialists to betray the supreme leader,” the newspaper said.

Four officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry were also executed, the South Korean daily reported, without providing any hint of who its source might be or how it obtained the information.

South Korean officials could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report. North Korea has not reported any execution or purge of top officials in recent months. The country remains the world’s most isolated, and outside intelligence agencies have sometimes failed to figure out or have misinterpreted what was going on in the closely guarded inner circles of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

But some signs in recent weeks have led analysts in South Korea to speculate that Mr. Kim may be engineering a reshuffle or a purge of his negotiating team in the wake of the summit meeting, held in February in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was widely seen as a huge embarrassment for Mr. Kim, who is supposedly seen as infallible in his totalitarian state.

On Thursday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, carried a commentary warning against “anti-party, anti-revolutionary acts” of officials who “pretend to work for the supreme leader in his presence but secretly harbor other dreams behind his back.”

“Such characters won’t escape the stern judgment from the revolution,” the North Korean newspaper said. North Korean state media has issued such warnings when it needed to engineer a political purge or warn against possible lagging loyalty among the elites, South Korean analysts said.

Chosun Ilbo, the South Korean newspaper, reported Friday that Kim Yong-chol, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman who visited the White House as the main point man for diplomacy with the United States, had also been purged, sentenced to forced labor in a remote northern province.

Also sent to a prison camp was Kim Song-hye, a senior female nuclear negotiator who teamed up with Kim Hyok-chol in working-level negotiations ahead of the Kim-Trump summit, the South Korean newspaper said. North Korea even sent a summit translator to a prison camp for committing a translation mistake, it said.

During the Hanoi summit meeting, Mr. Kim demanded that Mr. Trump lift the most painful international sanctions against his country in return for partially dismantling his country’s nuclear weapons facilities. The meeting collapsed when Mr. Trump rejected the proposal, insisting on a quick and comprehensive rollback of the North’s entire weapons of mass destruction program before lifting sanctions.

Kim Yong-chol, left, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman, and Kim Song-hye, a senior nuclear negotiator, with President Trump at the White House last year.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press
Image
Kim Yong-chol, left, a senior Workers’ Party vice chairman, and Kim Song-hye, a senior nuclear negotiator, with President Trump at the White House last year.CreditAndrew Harnik/Associated Press

Mr. Kim took a long train ride to Hanoi to meet Mr. Trump, and North Korean state media reported high expectations for the summit meeting. But Mr. Kim had to return home empty-handed, without the sanctions relief that he badly needed to help ease his country’s deepening economic isolation.

Outside analysts have since wondered whether Mr. Kim’s negotiating team had failed to prepare him for such a breakdown in the talks or considered how Mr. Kim might react.

Kim Hyok-chol was appointed as North Korea’s special envoy only weeks before the Hanoi summit and had led pre-summit working-level negotiations with Stephen Biegun, Mr. Trump’s special envoy on North Korea.

Their negotiations could not narrow wide differences between their governments over the terms under which North Korea would give up its nuclear arsenal. As a consequence, Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump met without having crafted a draft agreement, as the negotiators from both sides left it to their leaders to sort out the thorniest problems that have bedeviled negotiations for decades.

Kim Yong-chol, the Workers’ Party leader, has seemed to disappear from state news media in recent weeks. Although he retained some of his top posts during a parliamentary meeting in April, he was replaced as head of the United Front Department, a key party agency in charge of relations with South Korea and the North’s intelligence affairs.

Both Kim Hyok-chol and Kim Yong-chol were absent from the North Korean delegation when Kim Jong-un met last month with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. In their places were senior officials from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, like Minister Lee Yong-ho and First Vice Minister Choe Son-hui, who have emerged as the new faces of North Korean diplomacy.

Mr. Kim has said he will give Washington until the end of the year to make a new denuclearization proposal he can accept, or he may abandon his diplomacy with Mr. Trump. As if to press the point, North Korea has recently resumed tests of short-range missiles.

Even Kim Jong-il’s sister and adviser, Kim Yo-jong, did not accompany Mr. Kim to the meeting with Mr. Putin, although she has been a fixture in high-profile summit meetings with American, Chinese and South Korean leaders.

Chosun Ilbo said the sister may have been reprimanded by Mr. Kim or may be sick with pneumonia.

Jung Chang-hyun, head of the Korean Peace and Economy Institute, a research group affiliated with South Korea’s Moneytoday news media group, said he had heard that four North Korean Foreign Ministry officials were executed by firing squad around March, not because of the breakdown of the Hanoi summit meeting, but rather for a separate corruption scandal.

It remained unclear whether the four officials included Kim Hyok-chol, said Mr. Jung, an expert on the North Korean regime and author of books on the North. But Mr. Jung said that officials under Kim Jong-un’s sister were also involved in the corruption scandal and that as a consequence, Ms. Kim was put on probation by her brother. Mr. Jung said he acquired the information from third-country sources who meet or communicate with North Korean officials through China.

Since taking power seven years ago, Kim Jong-un has engineered a series of bloody political purges to remove or execute many of the top officials who had served under his late father, Kim Jong-il, and consolidate his own leadership. The most prominent victim has been Jang Song-thaek, Mr. Kim’s uncle, who was executed in the Mirim airfield in 2013 on charges of corruption and plotting a military coup against Mr. Kim.

12-year-old boy who died was chained and starved

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

12-year-old boy who died was chained and starved by circus promoter parents, police say

The boy weighed about 50 pounds and had zero-percent body fat when he died.

Former high-profile Iranian official admits to murdering wife

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA)

 

Former high-profile Iranian official admits to murdering wife

Former Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi, 67, has admitted to killing his wife over ‘domestic’ issues.

by

Najafi turned himself in to police after shooting his wife to death [Hamed Ataei/Mizan]
Najafi turned himself in to police after shooting his wife to death [Hamed Ataei/Mizan]

A prominent Iranian political figure has grabbed the headlines over shocking reports that he murdered his wife.

Former Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi was taken to a preliminary Criminal Court hearing on Wednesday, the judiciary’s news website Mizan Online reported.

Najafi, 67, was arrested on Tuesday while walking to the Tehran Police Department, where he admitted to shooting Mitra Ostad over what the police referred to as “domestic issues”.

This came a few hours after news agencies reported that Ostad’s body had been found in the bathroom of her apartment in a high-rise apartment in northern Tehran.

One bullet reportedly pierced her chest, while another hit her arm, out of five gunshots fired.

Ostad, 35, was one of Najafi’s two wives. Photos of his second marriage were leaked last year after he stepped down as Tehran’s mayor. It stirred criticism, even though polygamy is permitted by Iranian law.

Najafi is known as a competent reformist technocrat who led the ministries of science and education among other top posts in several administrations.

But hardliners had him in the crosshairs ever since he became Tehran’s mayor in August 2017.

Calls for divorce

In the Wednesday hearing, Najafi gave a more detailed account of what happened. He said had asked Ostad for a divorce several times, but that she had refused.

“My second wife frequently threatened me to initially destroy the lives of my first wife and my daughter, and then ruin mine by cheating on me,” Najafi was quoted as saying.

Najafi said in an interview he intended to use the pistol only to “scare” his wife and end days of “argument”.

He said he followed Ostad to the bathroom with the handgun and fired after she panicked and “scuffled” with him.

The multifaceted case of gun violence and politics has appalled many Iranians, not only because it involves a bloody crime by a public figure close to the camp of President Hassan Rouhani, but also because of its strange coverage by national television.

The conservative Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting was granted access to the police station where Najafi was held, an unusual occurrence considering the case was still in the interrogation stage.

‘Not believable’

Videos by Iranians expressing their anger at the handling of the case made the rounds on social media.

“It’s not believable at all! Since when, and based on what law, before a court is held and the investigation of the case [is complete], they interview the defendant and publicize his confessions in the media?” Journalist Moein Khazaeli asked in a tweet.

Mehdi, a 37-year-old graduate of philosophy of science, said he found it hard to believe someone he thought of as a calm, decent politician committed such a crime. But he denounced the apparent preferential treatment.

“I understand that he is an old, famous official in the Islamic Republic, and they need to maintain some sort of caution for his political position … But he is a murderer after all,” he told Al Jazeera.

Hassan Assadi Zeydabadi, a political activist and analyst close to the reformist camp, told Al Jazeera Najafi’s case will likely stir public opinion for a while.

“But it will not have meaningful influence on political dynamics in Iran,” he said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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