Japan ex-defense minister to challenge Abe as party chief

Former Japanese defence minister and member of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shigeru Ishiba speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on August 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2018
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Japan ex-defense minister to challenge Abe as party chief

  • Ishiba has expressed surprise at the dearth of challengers to Abe
  • Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda has reportedly considered running, but lacks support from enough party members

TOKYO: Former Japanese defense minister Shigeru Ishiba on Friday announced a long-shot bid to unseat Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as leader of the country’s ruling party in elections next month.
Abe is widely expected to win another term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party with Ishiba likely to be his only challenger.
Polls suggest the premier is supported by around 70 percent of LDP members and winning the vote would put him on the path to becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister ever.
Despite the odds, 61-year-old Ishiba said he had decided to challenge Abe to “restore confidence in the government, which should be at the service of citizens.”
Earlier this year, Abe’s popularity ratings slumped with his administration mired in two cronyism scandals.
But he has recovered from the rows, and is viewed as a shoo-in to win the internal election next month, which is held every three years.
In 2015 he ran unopposed, and in 2012 he beat four other contenders, including Ishiba, who was then seen as the front-runner.
Ishiba has expressed surprise at the dearth of challengers to Abe.
“It’s a chorus of ‘I won’t run. I support Abe’,” he told a local television station this week.
A defense hawk, Ishiba favors a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution along more radical lines than Abe, and has even controversially suggested Japan should consider having nuclear weapons.
He may well end up being Abe’s sole rival, with another potential challenger, former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, already ruling out a bid.
Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda has reportedly considered running, but lacks support from enough party members.


Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

Updated 23 October 2018
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Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

  • Man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial
  • Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: A man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the “brutal murder of four foreign cyclists” had begun in the suspect’s high-security detention center.
Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.
The victims were struck by a car as they cycled along the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.
Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.
A video of the five men pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was released by an official Daesh media channel.
Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party — the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan — that was banned by the government in 2015.
The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.
Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.
A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.
In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.