- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2010

PHILIPPINES

Official says police may have shot hostages

MANILA | Some victims in a botched hostage rescue of a tourist bus in the Philippines may have been hit by police fire, the nation’s top law enforcement official said Thursday.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed and three seriously wounded after a fired policeman hijacked their bus on Aug. 23 to demand his job back. The hostage-taker also was killed when police stormed the bus after a standoff that dragged on for hours on live television around the world.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said bullet trajectories and the hostages’ wounds indicate that some of the passengers may have been hit by “friendly fire.” She did not say, however, whether any of the shots fired by police were fatal and added that investigators will await a complete ballistics report before drawing any final conclusions.

The new details of the investigation emerged as Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said he’s through apologizing for the attack and will focus instead on easing tensions with China and Hong Kong, where officials have criticized the handling of the day-long crisis.

SOUTH KOREA

Christian indicted over trip to N. Korea

SEOUL | A news report said South Korean authorities have indicted a Christian activist who made an unapproved visit to North Korea.

Yonhap news agency says the Rev. Han Sang-ryol was indicted Thursday under the National Security Law on charges of meeting North Korean secret agents and praising the North during his 70-day visit.

Prosecutors were not available for comment.

Mr. Han was detained last month as he returned home across the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

He could face up to seven years in prison if convicted of violating the security law, which bans citizens from having unauthorized contact with North Korea and supporting its communist regime.

A separate law bars citizens from visiting the North without government permission.

JAPAN

China: Captain’s trial will harm ties with Japan

TOKYO | Japan will damage its relations with China if it prosecutes the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with Japanese patrol vessels near disputed islands, Beijing warned Thursday.

The Chinese government also said it was sending a law enforcement ship to the islands in the East China Sea - though it was unclear if the vessel would simply collect fishermen stranded after the collision or patrol those waters.

Territorial disputes have been a disruptive undercurrent in China’s relations with its Asian neighbors in recent years.

As the robust Chinese economy’s demand for resources grows, Beijing’s commercial ships are venturing farther from shore and its more powerful navy is enforcing claims in disputed waters.

The likelihood of a trial increased Thursday as the Japanese coast guard handed over 41-year-old Capt. Zhan Qixiong to prosecutors for further investigation to decide whether to officially charge him in the case, Japanese coast guard spokesman Masahiro Ichijo said.

No one was injured in the collision, and the two Japanese vessels sustained minor damage.

CHINA

Blind activist lawyer released from prison

DONGSHIGU VILLAGE | A blind self-taught activist lawyer who documented forced abortions and other abuses was released from a Chinese prison Thursday and promptly confined in his rural village with limited access to communication, a relative said.

Chen Guangcheng, 39, is a charismatic, inspirational figure for civil liberties lawyers who have fought to enforce the rights that are enshrined in China’s Constitution but often breached by the authoritarian government and police.

Mr. Chen was imprisoned in 2006, marking the start of a government crackdown on activist attorneys.

Mr. Chen was escorted to his village Thursday morning as family members were preparing to leave to meet him at the Linyi city prison, relative Yin Dongjiang said. The family has been under heavy surveillance in recent days, and authorities cut off phone service for several relatives, he said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports