Kosovo court finds opposition MPs guilty of using tear gas

Kosovar members of parliament sit in the assembly during a session in Pristina. Four opposition lawmakers have been found guilty of repeatedly disrupting parliament by using tear gas. (Reuters)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Kosovo court finds opposition MPs guilty of using tear gas

PRISTINA: A Kosovo court has found four opposition lawmakers guilty of repeatedly disrupting parliament by using tear gas.
The four members of the left-wing Self-Determination Party — Albin Kurti, Donika Kadaj Bujupi, Albulena Haxhiu and Faton Topalli — were sentenced Wednesday to up to 18 months in prison. They won’t be jailed, however, if they do not commit the same crime during a two-year probation period.
The verdict said in four parliamentary sessions the defendants had used “tear gas without authorization” to block lawmakers from working.
The opposition lawmakers since 2015 have used tear gas, blown whistles and thrown water bottles in parliament to protest a proposed border demarcation agreement with Montenegro. They say Kosovo is ceding territory under the agreement, a claim denied by the previous government and by international experts.
The agreement, which is yet to be approved by parliament, is a pre-condition for a visa-free regime for Kosovo citizens in the European Union’s Schengen travel zone.
Haxhiu defended their actions, saying “we defended the republic, its sovereignty and integrity.”
Political tensions in Kosovo remain high over the border deal, which is to be approved soon. Another issue is the opposition against a special court established to prosecute crimes committed during and after Kosovo’s 1998-1999 war with Serbia for independence. It is expected to issue indictments against former independence fighters.
Wednesday’s verdict comes at a delicate moment for the Self-Determination Party, the biggest single party in parliament, whose leader resigned recently amid party turmoil.
Next month Kosovo celebrates the 10th anniversary of its independence from Serbia, declared unilaterally in 2008 and recognized by most western nations but not by Serbia.


Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

Updated 21 June 2018
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Japan halts missile drills after Trump-Kim summit

TOKYO: Japan has halted evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack in the wake of historic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, local media reported Thursday.
Government officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but authorities in one town said they were suspending a drill planned for next week on orders from Tokyo.
The decision comes after US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met last week in Singapore, with the pair signing a joint document calling for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Yaita in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo had been planning an evacuation drill for next week involving some 800 residents including 350 school children, city official Yutaka Yanagida said.
But the city suddenly canceled all preparations late Wednesday after being instructed by the government that “drills should be postponed for the time being following a change in the environment after the US-North Korea summit,” he said.
Contacted by AFP, a Cabinet Office official said the government would announce its policy on evacuation drills on Friday, declining to comment further.
Last year, Pyongyang fired two missiles over Japan and it has splashed others into the sea near the country, sparking a mix of panic and outrage.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Tokyo residents scrambled for cover in the Japanese capital’s first evacuation drill for a military attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea has singled out Japan, a key US ally in the region, for verbal attacks, threatening to “sink” the country into the sea and to turn it into “ashes.”
But the regional mood has turned toward diplomacy since the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea, which set off a series of diplomatic moves culminating in the Trump-Kim meet.