Japan executes man over 2008 stabbing rampage

Update Japan executes man over 2008 stabbing rampage
Tomohiro Kato was arrested on the spot shortly after the attacks, in which he rammed a rented two-ton truck into a crowd of pedestrians before getting out and randomly stabbing people. (File/AP)
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Updated 26 July 2022

Japan executes man over 2008 stabbing rampage

Japan executes man over 2008 stabbing rampage
  • Police said Kato documented his deadly journey to Akihabara on Internet bulletin boards
  • After the 2008 rampage, Japan banned possession of double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5 centimeters

TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday executed a man convicted of killing seven people in a truck ramming and stabbing rampage in Tokyo’s popular Akihabara electronics district in 2008, the justice ministry said.
Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said Tomohiro Kato had undertaken “meticulous preparation” for the attack and displayed a “strong intent to kill.”
Furukawa said he “approved the execution after extremely thorough scrutiny,” noting that Kato’s death sentence had been upheld by the court system.
Kato went on the rampage on June 8, 2008, telling police: “I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn’t matter who I’d kill.”
He was arrested on the spot shortly after the attacks, in which he rammed a rented two-ton truck into a crowd of pedestrians before getting out and randomly stabbing people.
“This is a very painful case that led to extremely grave consequences and shocked society,” Furukawa said Tuesday.
Police said Kato documented his deadly journey to Akihabara on Internet bulletin boards, typing messages on a mobile phone from behind the wheel of the truck and complaining of his unstable job and his loneliness.
Prosecutors said his self-confidence plummeted after a woman he chatted with online abruptly stopped emailing him when he sent her a photograph of himself.
His anger against the general public grew when his comments on an Internet bulletin board, including his plans to go on a killing spree, were met with no reaction at all, prosecutors said.
While awaiting trial, Kato wrote to a 56-year-old taxi driver whom he injured in the stabbing spree, expressing his remorse.
The victims “were enjoying their lives, and they had dreams, bright futures, warm families, lovers, friends and colleagues,” Kato wrote according to a copy published in the Shukan Asahi weekly.
And in court, he offered remorse for the attack.
“Please let me use this occasion to apologize,” he said about the bloody rampage that also left 10 people injured.
After the 2008 rampage, Japan banned possession of double-edged knives with blades longer than 5.5 centimeters (about two inches), punishable by up to three years in prison or a 500,000 yen fine.
The attack was Japan’s worst mass killing in seven years and Kato was sentenced to death in 2011, a decision that was upheld by Japan’s top court in 2015.
Kato’s execution is the first in Japan this year and comes after three prisoners were hanged in December 2021. Those executions ended a two-year hiatus and were the first under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration.
Japan is one of the few developed countries to retain the death penalty, and public support for capital punishment remains high despite international criticism.
Executions are carried out by hanging, generally long after sentencing. More than 100 people are currently on death row in Japan.
International advocacy groups have denounced the Japanese system, under which death row inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.
But Furukawa defended the death penalty on Tuesday.
The government believes it is “not appropriate” to abolish capital punishment, given “heinous crimes such as mass killings and robbery-murders still repeatedly occur,” he told reporters.
Junichi Kuwabara, a 54-year-old Tokyo resident, told AFP he was thinking of “how the families of the victims must be feeling.”
“I think it would have been better if it had been done earlier,” he said.
And while he expressed discomfort with the idea of the death penalty, he said “if it can bring justice to relatives of the victims, I think it’s good.”
Tuesday’s execution comes on the anniversary of another major stabbing attack — the 2016 Sagamihara rampage at a disabled care facility, in which 19 people were killed.
Japan also carried out the executions of six members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult responsible for the 1995 sarin attack and other crimes on July 26, 2018.


US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
Updated 12 sec ago

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

US seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare
  • If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement

WASHINGTON: Women whose employers have opted out of covering contraceptives under their health insurance plans on religious grounds would gain no-cost access to birth control under a rule proposed by the Biden administration on Monday.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, requires private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services including contraception without any patient cost-sharing, but current regulations grant exemptions for religious or moral objections.
If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.
“Today’s proposed rule works to ensure that the tens of millions of women across the country who have and will benefit from the ACA will be protected. It says to women across the country, we have your back,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Under existing regulations, those enrolled in plans that do not cover contraception on religious or moral grounds can only access contraceptive services through an accommodation that employers can decline to offer.
Under the new rule, a provider would offer contraception at no cost to the employee and be reimbursed by an insurer, who would receive a credit from the government.
The rule would also remove employer moral objections as grounds for exemption from coverage but keep religious ones in place.

 


UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
Updated 42 min 57 sec ago

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism

UK police face calls to prosecute Iranian accused of promoting terrorism
  • Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, a former senior Iranian government official living in London, is accused of backing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie
  • Human rights lawyers who filed the complaint said UK authorities have an obligation to prosecute international crimes and protect citizens from all forms of terrorism

LONDON: The UK’s Metropolitan police is facing calls to prosecute a former senior Iranian government official accused of endorsing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie.

Met officers are examining a legal case file that accuses Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, who lives in London, of violating the Terrorism Act 2006 by promoting terrorism, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday.

The fatwa against Rushdie, following publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” was issued in February 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was Iran’s supreme leader at the time. It has never been lifted. In August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed several times and seriously injured while appearing on stage at a literary festival in New York.

A complaint was filed against Mohajerani that same month by Iranian human rights lawyer Kaveh Moussavi and British solicitor Rebecca Mooney, according to the Guardian. It states that Mohajerani was deputy to the Iranian prime minister in 1988 and vice-president for parliamentary and legal affairs between 1989 and 1997, a period of time during which the regime in Tehran ordered the assassinations of hundreds of dissidents in Europe.

Moussavi and Mooney allege that Mohajerani did not attempt to prevent the killings and, since moving to the UK, he has on several occasions lauded as an Iranian national hero Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020 in Iraq.

They also say that in his 1989 book, “A Critique of the Satanic Verses Conspiracy,” Mohajerani defended the fatwa against Rushdie and clearly expressed his view that it was religiously justified and irrevocable, and therefore impossible to withdraw.

Mohajerani denied the allegations and said his book is simply a critique of Rushdie’s novel that aims to shed light on its religious origins, the Guardian reported.

“When Salman Rushdie was attacked by an American citizen, I tweeted that I hope Salman Rushdie will recover from this event, and based on William Falkner’s advice, write a novel through concentrating on the beauties and moral values, at the service of human beings,” Mohajerani told the Guardian.

“On the contrary, in ‘The Satanic Verses,’ he added a huge amount of oil to the fire. Hopefully he will find a proper chance to correct himself.”

Mohajerani also said that because of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive in Iran, he had no role in the executions of prisoners in 1988.

Moussavi condemned Mohajerani’s defense as being “indicative of his culpability.”

“The idea that this is or was an independent judiciary is plain absurd. That he repeats it confirms again who he really is,” he told the Guardian.

“In law, he was required to protest and do his utmost to stop these crimes and, if unable, he must resign. I doubt very much if his defense counsel will offer these concoctions in a court case, as defense or mitigation.”

Police in London have reportedly said that the complex issues raised by the case file will require significant resources and additional time to investigate.

Mooney, representing the human rights charity Ending Immunity, highlighted the obligations on UK authorities to prosecute international crimes under international law.

“The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens — that requires preemptive, prosecutorial and punitive measures where appropriate,” she said. “That is why we have terrorism laws, including (laws against) promoting terrorism through speech. It is meaningless to have these laws if we do not prosecute.”


UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government
Updated 31 January 2023

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government

UK’s Sunak defends handling of ethics breaches in government
  • Sunak took office just over three months ago, vowing to restore order and probity to government after three years of turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, who quit within weeks after her policies rocked the UK economy

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his record on integrity and decisiveness Monday, amid criticism of the way he has handled ethics scandals involving senior Conservatives.
Sunak said he acted “pretty decisively” to fire party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday after the government’s standards adviser found that he’d breached ministerial conduct rules by failing to come clean about a tax dispute.
The adviser, Laurie Magnus, found that Zahawi hadn’t told the prime minister that he’d settled a multimillion-pound (dollar) unpaid tax bill, and paid a penalty to the tax office, while he was in charge of the UK Treasury. Magnus said Zahawi’s failure to tell officials about the tax investigation was “a serious failure to meet the standards set out in the ministerial code.”
“What I have done is follow a process, which is the right process,” Sunak said Monday during a visit to a hospital in northeast England. “When all these questions started coming to light about Nadhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to get to the bottom of it and provide me with the facts.”
He said that on the basis of those facts “I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in government.”
Sunak took office just over three months ago, vowing to restore order and probity to government after three years of turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson — brought down by ethics scandals — and Liz Truss, who quit within weeks after her policies rocked the UK economy.
But critics ask why he did not ask more questions about Zahawi’s tax affairs before appointing him to the key job of party chairman in October, and allege that the government is riddled with bad behavior.
Sunak lost one Cabinet minister, Gavin Williamson, in November over bullying claims, and an investigation is under way into allegations that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab bullied staff. There is also a separate inquiry into ex-leader Johnson, over claims he secured a loan with the help of a Conservative donor who was later appointed chairman of the BBC by the government.
Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said Sunak “needed a backbone” and should have sacked Zahawi sooner.
“Why do we see our prime minister continuing to prop up such a rogues’ gallery of ministers?” she said.

 


In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect
Updated 31 January 2023

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect

In diplomatic coup, Taiwan president speaks to Czech president-elect
  • In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing

TAIPEI/PRAGUE: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen held a telephone call with Czech President-elect Petr Pavel on Monday, a highly unusual move given the lack of formal ties between their countries and a diplomatic coup for Taipei that is sure to infuriate China.
The two leaders stressed their countries’ shared values of freedom, democracy and human rights during their 15-minute call, their offices said, and Pavel said he hoped to meet Tsai in the future.
Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world’s second largest economy.
Beijing views Taiwan as being part of “one China” and demands other countries recognize its sovereignty claims, which Taiwan’s democratically-elected government rejects.
In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing.
Tsai said she hoped that under Pavel’s leadership the Czech Republic would continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote a close partnership, and that she hoped to stay in touch with him.
“Bilateral interaction between Taiwan and the Czech Republic is close and good,” her office summarised Tsai as having said.
Pavel, a former army chief and high NATO official who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, said on Twitter that the two countries “share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights.”
’ONE-CHINA’ PRINCIPLE
Earlier, China’s foreign ministry had said it was “seeking verification with the Czech side” on media reports that the call was to take place.
“The Chinese side is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties engaging in any form of official exchange with the Taiwan authorities. Czech President-elect Pavel during the election period openly said that the ‘one-China’ principle should be respected,” the ministry said.
Pavel will take office in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Beijing stance.
Zeman spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month and they reaffirmed their “personal friendly” relationship, according to a readout of their call from Zeman’s office.
The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the two sides have moved closer as Beijing ratchets up military threats against the island and Taipei seeks new friends in Eastern and Central Europe.
The center-right Czech government has said it wants to deepen cooperation with democratic countries in the India-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and has also been seeking a “revision” of ties with China.
In 2020, the head of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and declared himself to be Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament, channelling the late US President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963.

 


Probed in Brazil, Bolsonaro seeks six more months in US

Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
Updated 31 January 2023

Probed in Brazil, Bolsonaro seeks six more months in US

Jair Bolsonaro. (AFP file photo)
  • The new government has ordered a probe of Bolsonaro, who for years has sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has historically won praise around the world

MIAMI: Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for his supporters’ storming of government buildings, is seeking a six-month visa to remain in the United States, his lawyer said Monday.
Bolsonaro flew to Florida in late December as his term ended rather than watch the inauguration of his leftist successor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He is understood to have entered on a visa for visiting world leaders, which expires on Tuesday as he is no longer on official business.
AG Immigration Group, a California-based law firm known for its work with Brazilians, said that Bolsonaro has requested a six-month visa to stay in the United States.
“We look forward to achieving the highest level of satisfaction and desired results for our client,” it said in a statement.
Bolsonaro had previously told CNN Brasil that he had planned to return by the end of January, and was considering moving his departure earlier for health reasons.
The far-right leader was injured in a knife attack in 2018. He has suffered ongoing health complications from that assassination attempt, and received hospital care during his stay in Florida.
But Bolsonaro has since come under scrutiny over the January 8 riot in the capital Brasilia by his supporters who refused to accept Lula’s victory.
The new government has ordered a probe of Bolsonaro, who for years has sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has historically won praise around the world.
Bolsonaro’s last justice minister, Anderson Torres, was also visiting the United States during the riot and was arrested on his return.

Thousands of Bolsonaro backers broke into the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court buildings in Brasilia in an unsuccessful attempt to seek the overthrow of Lula.
The State Department did not immediately comment on Bolsonaro’s application. Visa records are confidential under US law.
Several lawmakers of Biden’s Democratic Party have publicly called on the administration to send Bolsonaro back to Brazil, saying he no longer had a right to stay in the United States as a visiting head of state.
“The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” said a letter signed by lawmakers including Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Joaquin Castro, a prominent progressive Democrat.
Brazilians require visas to enter the United States including as tourists.
Bolsonaro was one of the closest international allies of Donald Trump, another former president living in Florida who has made baseless allegations about electoral fraud.
The Brasilia riot mirrored the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol by Trump supporters who did not accept his defeat to President Joe Biden.
Steve Bannon, a far-right populist strategist who worked for Trump, has developed close ties with Bolsonaro’s supporters and raised questions about last year’s Brazilian election.
Bolsonaro, however, has largely kept a low profile since flying to Florida. He has been staying near Disney World at the Orlando home of Brazilian former martial arts champion Jose Aldo and was photographed eating fried chicken alone at a KFC restaurant.