US college student Otto Warmbier has been sentenced to 15 years hard labour by the North Korean Supreme Court on charges of “crimes against the state.”
The verdict was handed down in a trial that lasted less than an hour, following Warmbier’s arrest for removing a propaganda sign from a hotel during his visit in January. In an emotional press conference in Pyongyang, the 21-year-old confessed to his crime, labelling it as the worst mistake of his life. “The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people. This was a very foolish aim,” he said.
The US has urged North Korea to immediately release the student. “We strongly encourage the North Korean government to pardon him and grant him special amnesty and immediate release,” a White House spokesman said.
Suicide bombers kill 24 at Nigerian mosque
At least 24 worshippers were killed and 23 injured by two female suicide bombers at a mosque in the Nigeria city of Maiduguri on Wednesday. The double attack saw one bomber blow herself up inside the mosque during dawn prayers, while the second bomber detonated as worshippers tried to flee. While the attack occurred in a stronghold of Boko Haram, there has been no claim of responsibility from the jihadists. The blame will most likely fall on the insurgent group after several bomb and suicide attacks killed more than 50 people in the country in recent months.
Obama nominates a moderate for Supreme Court
US President Barack Obama has nominated moderate Washington DC judge Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court. Mr Obama warned Senate Republicans that a refusal to consider his nomination of the 63-year-old appellate judge, who would replace the long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, imperils democracy.
“I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency,” Mr Obama said during his address in the White House Rose Garden. Republicans are urging that the seat remain vacant for the next president, elected in November, to choose a suitable selection.
Russian forces only partially withdraw from Syria
Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations believes Russia is determined to maintain an airbase in the war-torn country, raising concerns of redeployment. “So what we have here is not a Russian withdrawal… but you may call it definitely a redeployment of the Russian forces deployed in Syria,” Dr Bashar Jaafari said at peace talks in Geneva. There are an undisclosed number of Russian forces in Syria at this time. The Geneva peace talks are aimed at establishing US and Russian support to end Syria’s five-year civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people. – Compiled from web sources by Matina Moutzouris
Screengrab of US student Otto Warmbier from The Guardian.