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ASIAN (E)

Australian filmmaker James Ricketson accused of drone ‘spying’ denied bail by Cambodia’s Supreme Court

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An Australian filmmaker detained last year on spying charges after he flew a drone over an opposition rally was denied bail on Tuesday.

James Ricketson, 68, was arrested in the capital Phnom Penh in June after he was pictured flying the drone over a campaign rally by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The party was dissolved several months later in a controversial court verdict that capped a years-long crackdown on the opposition under strongman premier Hun Sen.

Foreigners arrested in Cambodia for ‘pornographic dancing’ at party

Supreme Court Judge Soeng Panhavuth said during a brief hearing on Tuesday that Ricketson’s bail request had been rejected because “the investigation is still underway”.

Ricketson has been charged “with acts of collecting information which may undermine national defence”.

Flying a drone in capital Phnom Penh is banned without official permission. Ricketson could face between five and 10 years in jail if convicted of espionage.

“The Ricketson family … are obviously very disappointed by the outcome of today’s proceedings,” Alexandra Kennett, the partner of Ricketson’s son Jesse, told reporters outside the court.

Detained Cambodian politician rejects new opposition movement

She added that the family was worried about the 68-year-old’s health and the “incredibly cramped conditions” in a cell shared with 140 others.

This is not the first time Ricketson has faced the courts in Cambodia, where he has lived for years and was said to be working on a documentary.

In 2014, he was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence for allegedly threatening to broadcast allegations that a Brisbane church working in Cambodia had sold children.

In 2016, he was fined after a court found him guilty of defaming Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), an NGO that hunts paedophiles, for accusing the group of manipulating witnesses.



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Japan forcibly sterilised her to prevent ‘inferior’ offspring. Now she wants justice and compensation

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A woman in her 60s filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking 11 million yen (US$101,000) in damages and an apology from the Japanese government over her forced sterilisation when she was a teenager under a now-defunct eugenics law.

The woman in Miyagi Prefecture filed the first such suit in Japan at the Sendai District Court, saying the state failed to legislate for relief measures despite the serious human rights infringement. She also claimed the 1948 law denied human equality and the right to pursue happiness and was therefore unconstitutional.

“We’ve had agonising days … we stood up to make this society brighter,” the woman’s sister-in-law said at a televised press conference.

Asked about the lawsuit, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato declined to comment, saying he was not aware of the details of the case.

The state has not apologised or provided compensation to the around 25,000 people who were sterilised due to mental or other illness under the law that remained in force until 1996, saying it was legal at the time.

In 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended that Japan adopt “specific measures aimed at providing all victims of forced sterilisations with assistance to access legal remedies and provide them with compensation and rehabilitative services.”

Court documents show the woman developed psychological problems following cleft palate surgery in 1958 and was diagnosed with a mental disorder at age 15 in 1972.

After undergoing sterilisation based on the decision of a local review panel, the woman suffered stomach pains and a number of marriage proposals were withdrawn once the suitors discovered she was unable to have children, the documents said.

The eugenics protection law authorised the sterilisation of people with mental disabilities and illness or hereditary disorders to prevent births of “inferior” offspring. It also allowed for forcible abortions.

The legislation, which drew on a similar Nazi Germany law, was scrapped in 1996. Germany and Sweden had similar eugenics laws and the governments there have apologised and paid compensation to the victims.

Lawyers for the woman said it was obvious that the state should have provided relief to those affected.

A Kumamoto District Court ruling on leprosy patients in 2001 criticised their sterilisation as “inhumane,” while bar associations have also called for legal remedies.

The local bar association in Miyagi Prefecture will set up a call centre on the issue on Friday and is asking other bar associations across the country to do the same.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse



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‘We are the same people’: North Korean refugees living in the South feel divided loyalties before Olympics

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Below the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas, a few North Korean refugees still live almost as close as they can get to their hometowns – but will cheer for the South at next month’s Winter Olympics.

During and after the Korean war thousands of people who had fled the North settled on a peninsula in Cheongho-dong, one of the northernmost fishing ports on the South Korean coast.

The area became known as “Abai village”, after the word for “grandfather” in the dialect of the North’s Hamgyong region, where many of them came from.

Athletes from the North will be competing at the Winter Olympics around an hour away from Cheongho-dong in February, in a rare step forward for inter-Korean relations in the face of tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

But while the dwindling number of first-generation arrivals in Abai village feel a strong connection with the North, where many left families behind, they now identify as Southerners after spending most of their lives in the democratic half of the peninsula.

“We must cheer for our team, because I’m South Korean,” said Hwang Seung-hwan, 81, who arrived as a teenager nearly seven decades ago.

We must cheer for our team, because I’m South Korean

Hwang Seung-hwan

His friend Kim Kun-wook, 83, added: “I live here so of course I will cheer for South Korea.”

Kim fled the North on a cold winter’s day in 1950 at the age of 16 to avoid being forced to fight for Kim Il-sung’s Communist forces, packing onto a wooden boat with his older brother, father and around 50 other people.

Like many, Kim thought the war would be over in a matter of weeks and they would reunite with his mother and siblings in Hongwon county, in South Hamgyong province.

“But the armistice was signed and I couldn’t return,” retired driver Kim said. “I’m still here and now I’m a grandpa.”

The Korean war ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war and the peninsula divided by the 240km DMZ.

Aside from their now brightly coloured roofs, the little houses of Abai village have changed little since then.

Its sandy beaches – and status as the filming location for a hugely popular television drama – make it a bustling weekend destination for South Koreans, and its narrow alleyways are crowded with restaurants serving Hamgyong-style dishes such as pork sausages and cold buckwheat noodles.

Hwang speaks proudly of Wonsan, 146km to the north and across the DMZ, as “the best port city”.

But with no civilian communications between the two Koreas the villagers have never been able to contact their relatives, let alone visit.

They speak bitterly of the decades of confrontation and voice hope that North Korea’s participation in the Olympics could bring change.

Pyongyang carried out multiple missiles launches last year and its most powerful nuclear test to date, with leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump trading personal insults and apocalyptic threats.

But Kim proposed sending athletes from the North to the South’s Winter Games in his New Year speech, triggering a flurry of inter-Korean dialogue and defusing tensions.

“We are the same people,” said Kim Kun-wook. “It would be disappointing if they didn’t take part. They’re right next to South Korea, and it’s only a line that divides us. Why shouldn’t they come?”

As well as the athletes, hundreds of other North Korean delegates will attend, including artistic performers, cheerleaders and journalists.

It could be an opportunity for North Koreans to see something of life in the South, Hwang said, and lead to some contact between their citizens.

“I think it could open the door that has remained closed until now,” he hoped.

It is a door through which Kim yearns to return one day.

“It would be nice to live near my hometown, whether I’m wealthy or poor, just looking at that old beach,” he said, a faint smile spreading across his wrinkled face as he recalled his childhood memories. “The small hill, the beach, and the two mountains I would always climb and play on, it would be nice to live there.

“I miss it even more now as I come closer to the end of my life,” he added. “I think about how nice it would be to be buried in my hometown.”



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Love it or hate it: Singapore’s durian-themed cafe smells winning combination

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A Singapore eatery centred around the pungent tropical fruit durian has caught a whiff of success as patrons flock to the cafe in droves for a bite of its exotic offerings.

The spiky fruit long regarded as a delicacy in Southeast Asia has left a divisive trail – you either love it or hate it – and its odour means it is banned in most hotels and metro trains.

Detractors often describe its intense smell as a mix of gym socks and onions, while enthusiasts liken the creamy texture and intense aroma to blue cheese.

While the bittersweet fruit is usually eaten on its own or as dessert, the Mao Shan Wang cafe in Singapore’s Chinatown district has a special menu with durian in all dishes, even savoury ones.

Customers can opt for chicken nuggets with a durian dip, pizza topped with durian flesh, fries with a side of durian sauce, all washed down with coffee – durian infused, of course.

“Durian is [usually] eaten by itself and as sweets or treats, but what our company wanted to do was put it with savoury stuff like fries and nuggets,” company spokesman Lance Lee said. “We will be looking to expand the offerings as well, with maybe rice, pasta and other things.”

Mao Shan Wang, Chinese for Cat Mountain King, refers to a strain of durian from Kelantan state in neighbouring Malaysia distinguished by its bittersweet taste and small seeds.

While many opted for durian ice cream to beat the muggy tropical heat, the more adventurous customers, most of them tourists, were seen trying the strong-smelling fruit – while wearing gloves.

Many were also waiting in line to buy durian-flavoured confectionery, and even freshly cut up fruit conveniently sealed in vacuum packs for their plane journey.

American tourist Michael Capps, who had been trying fresh durian straight from the husk, said he was a convert.

“It’s hard to explain the taste to it, but it actually has like a sweet taste to it and it’s very good,” he said.



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Hanoi enjoyed just 38 days of clean air in 2017, as pollution levels increased to levels similar to Beijing

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Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, enjoyed little more than one month of clean air last year as pollution levels rose to match China’s smog-prone capital, Beijing, preliminary findings of a new report showed.

Annual average air pollution in Hanoi in 2017 was also four times higher than those deemed acceptable by the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines, according to a report by the Green Innovation and Development Centre (GreenID).

And the situation is likely to get worse, according to the Hanoi-based non-profit organisation.

“A bit more than one month were days with good air quality,” said Lars Blume, technical adviser at GreenID, which analysed air monitoring data compiled at the United States embassy in Hanoi.

“It is out of people’s control – they have to go out and work – and in many cases it is hard to really feel whether air is good or bad,” Blume said.

Air pollution in Hanoi is due to a number of factors, including a rise in construction works, an increase in car and motorcycle use, and agriculture burning by farmers, Blume said.

It is out of people’s control – they have to go out and work – and in many cases it is hard to really feel whether air is good or bad

Lars Blume, GreenID

But research in the report suggests that heavy industries, like steel works, cement factories and coal power plants in areas near the capital, are also significant contributors.

Hanoi’s air pollution is now worse than the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the report showed, and things are unlikely to improve as Vietnam pushes ahead with plans to build more coal power plants.

Exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially over the long term, can affect human respiratory and inflammatory systems, and can also lead to heart disease and cancer.

Acknowledging the problem, in mid-2016 the Vietnam government launched a national action plan to that sought to control and monitor emissions and improve air quality. Hanoi is planning to install 70 air monitoring stations.

The GreenID report criticised the lack of regulations on air quality, a lack of public awareness of the problem and on effective measures to minimise the effects – such as home purifiers.

The Vietnamese government must install more air pollution monitoring stations across the country and make the data available to the public, Blume said.

Improved urban planning and investments in renewable energy and public transport systems are also needed, said the report, which is due to be published at the end of February.

Previous GreenID surveys showed a growing concern among the Vietnamese over the issue of air quality and a rise in respiratory problems among children, said Nguyen Thi Anh Thu, a researcher at the organisation.



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Hollywood Reporter's Guide to the Super Bowl

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The year’s biggest sporting event will broadcast live at 3:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018.

The New England Patriots — five-time Super Bowl champs — will play the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

This year marks the third time in four seasons that the Patriots will be competing and quarterback Tom Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance.

New additions to the Eagles’ roster and a 38-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings in last week’s NFC Championship game helped get the team to the Super Bowl 52.

While the Eagles will enter as the underdog, all eyes will be on Patriots quarterback Brady, who played against the Jaguars with 12 stitches in his right hand.

The Hollywood Reporter has all you need to know before the big game, its performers and predictions.

NBC’s coverage begins at noon ET on Sunday with The Road to the Super Bowl, followed by the pregame show at 1 p.m. ET. The game starts at 6 p.m. ET, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. ET.

While NBC has viewers covered to watch the Super Bowl on TV, The Road to the Super Bowl, Super Bowl pregame and kickoff also be available for desktops and tablet devices on NBC Sports app or NBCSports.com.

The NBC Sports app is available on Apple, Android and Windows devices, or through Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung or Xbox, but you have to sign in with your TV provider.

Pink will be singing the national anthem and Justin Timberlake will headline the halftime show. This will be Timberlake’s third time he’s hitting the Super Bowl stage and the first since he accidentally exposed Janet Jackson’s breast, due to a wardrobe malfunction.

P!nk, who is from Philadelphia, tweeted her excitement after the hometown team beat the Minnesota Vikings and secured their spot in the Super Bowl lineup.

Leslie Odom Jr., a Tony winner for Hamilton, fame will sing “America the Beautiful” — he’s also an Eagles fan. (Last year, Hamilton stars Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones kicked off Super Bowl LI with their own performance of “America the Beautiful.”)

If you can’t make it to a TV by Sunday afternoon, NBC’s Super Stream Sunday will offer 11 continuous hours of free streaming of the game, the halftime show and all pre- and postgame festivities online.

Streaming will begin at 9 a.m. PT and end with a new episode of NBC’s This Is Us, which will air around 7 p.m., following postgame coverage. The post-Super Bowl episode promises viewers that the mystery surrounding Jack’s death will be resolved. 



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Thai student activist flees to avoid lèse-majesté charge of insulting the king

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A student activist has become the latest political dissident to flee Thailand, explaining on her Facebook page that she made a snap decision to leave after learning she had been charged with insulting the monarchy because she shared a BBC article about the country’s new king.

Lèse-majesté, or insulting the monarchy, is punishable by three to 15 years in prison per incident, and the case against Chanoknan Ruamsap is apparently the first filed this year.

Lèse-majesté cases have increased markedly under the military government that has been in power since 2014. Critics say the law is used to punish political dissidents.

Another prominent student activist, Jatupat Boonpattaraksa, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for sharing the same article posted online by the BBC’s Thai-language service about King Vajiralongkorn Bodindaradebayavarangkun, who succeeded his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in late 2016.

The BBC article included mentions of Vajiralongkorn’s personal life when he was crown prince, including details of three marriages that ended in divorce and other material Thai news media can publish only at their own risk.

An unknown number of opponents of military rule have fled Thailand in recent years, perhaps several dozen. While many have taken unofficial refuge in neighbouring countries, at least a few have been granted political asylum in Western nations.

Chanoknan did not say where she is staying now. In her Facebook post, which featured a photograph of her police summons, she explained her decision to flee.

“I had less than 30 minutes to decide whether to stay or go. It was hard because going away this time likely meant that I wouldn’t be coming back,” Chanoknan said in her post, uploaded on Sunday. “I decided to go down to tell my parents, everyone was shocked but they agreed. Nobody wants me to spend five years in prison for sharing a BBC article.”

Chanoknan said a soldier named Sombat Tangta filed the charge against her in December 2016 at Bangkok’s Kannayao district police station. She said she was told that her case should have been processed at around the same time as Jatupat’s case but that the Kannayao police station had internal issues that caused her case to be delayed.

Police Colonel Sing Singdech, chief of Kannayao police station, acknowledged that Chanoknan had been charged with lese majeste but did not comment further, explaining that “I can’t elaborate on cases that involve national security.”

Chanoknan said she has settled down in her new home.

“The first day I arrived here, I couldn’t stop crying because all my options looked so bleak. Everything looked so puzzling and confusing,” she said. “Up until now, in only a few days’ time, many things are starting to fall into place. Everything is slowly improving. I am growing up and there are new lessons in life to learn from.”



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Russia is suspended from South Korean paralympics after doping scandal – but individual athletes can join in

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Russia’s team will be suspended from the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang after a doping scandal, but individual athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, the International Paralympics Committee said on Monday.

The agreement is similar to that put in place to allow able-bodied Russian competitors to take part in next month’s Winter Olympics that precede the Paralympics.

Russia was suspended by the IPC in August 2016 following revelations of widespread state-sponsored doping uncovered in a report by Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

After a review, the IPC said in a statement on Monday that “it is maintaining the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC)”.

A sweet deal for Putin: Russia’s Olympic censure is a ban in name only

The anti-doping system in Russia was found to be totally compromised, corrupted and open to abuse

International Paralympics Committee President Andrew Parsons

“However, in recognition of the progress made by the RPC in improving its anti-doping activities, it will allow eligible Russian Para athletes who meet strict conditions to compete in five sports under the name Neutral Paralympic Athlete (NPA),” it said.

Eligible Para athletes from Russia will be allowed to compete in Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard and wheelchair curling at the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on March 9-18, the IPC said at a meeting in the western German city of Bonn.

It said that two key criteria to end the wider suspension were still outstanding – the full reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) by WADA, and an official response adequately addressing the McLaren findings.

IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics over doping scandal

IPC president Andrew Parsons said that in 2016 “the anti-doping system in Russia was found to be totally compromised, corrupted and open to abuse”.

“This made it impossible to determine which Russian Para athletes were clean and which were not; it was clear that Russia’s participation in Para sport events would severely question the integrity and credibility of sporting competition.”

Parsons said the measures taken then by the IPC were “necessary and proportionate” and “essential to ensure clean sport”.

“Seventeen months on, we face a different picture in Russia and it is important that once again our decision is necessary and proportionate to what is in front of us,” he said.

“Although the RPC remains suspended they have made significant progress and we have to recognise this.”

Russian Para athletes were now regularly tested and “among the most scrutinised Para athletes in the world”, he said.

“Under the supervision of WADA, we now have greater confidence that the anti-doping system in Russia is no longer compromised or corrupted.”

Vladimir Putin says US might be manipulating Russian doping whistle-blower with ‘substances’

Russia’s Paralympic committee deputy chief Rima Batalova said the announcement was not a surprise.

“We expected such a decision, taking into consideration what has happened to our Olympic team,” Batalova told R-Sport agency.

Akzhana Abdikarimova, a Russian Paralympic skier and biathlete, said the announcement was “not bad”.

“I already compete as a neutral athlete and expected that events would develop this way,” she told R-Sport.



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North Korea calls off joint Winter Olympics event with South Korea due to ‘biased media’

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North Korea abruptly called off a joint cultural event expected to be held at its Mt. Kumgang resort to celebrate the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Seoul officials said Monday, according to local media.

In a telegram, the North said it was cancelling the event slated to be held on February 4, Unification Ministry officials told Yonhap News Agency.

The report said North Korea was known to have cited what it claimed to be “biased” media reports about the upcoming event.

‘Pyongyang 2018’: how North Korea stole the Winter Games

South Korean media have voiced concerns that the joint events planned by the two Koreas in the lead-up to and during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may violate UN Security Council sanctions in place against the Pyongyang over its ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

Earlier this month, the two Koreas held their first official talks in more than two years and the North said it would send athletes, coaches, a cheer squad and officials to the winter games that will be held over 17 days from February 9.

Russia is suspended from South Korean paralympics after doping scandal – but there’s a loophole

The two Koreas also agreed to hold the cultural event later this month or early next month at Mt. Kumgang, a resort on the east coast of North Korea that was once frequented by groups of South Korean tourists.

Last week, a 12-member South Korean team visited the North to check out facilities there, as well as at the Masikryong ski resort where the two sides have agreed that athletes from both countries would hold a joint training camp.

According to Yonhap, the Seoul government said it was regrettable to see North Korea unilaterally call off a joint event that it had agreed to host.



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Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean leader, met with suspected US spy days before he was killed, court hears

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Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, met a suspected US intelligence agent in the northern Malaysian island resort of Langkawi just days before his mysterious demise, police revealed on Monday.

Fuelling speculation that Kim had ties with US intelligence, Wan Azirul Nizam also confirmed that a forensic report on Kim’s Dell laptop showed that some data was accessed by a USB pen drive several times on February 9, 2017, while he was in Langkawi. The pen drive was not among the items found on Kim when he died on February 13.

There was also friction in the court as Azirul repeatedly claimed not to remember simple facts from the case – leading to one of the lawyers for the defence accusing the police force of trying to play off a political killing as a “simple murder case”.

Azirul said he dispatched a police officer to investigate Kim’s five-day trip to Langkawi from February 8 -12 to help shed light on the motive for the assassination, which occurred at the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Kim Jong-nam was carrying antidote to nerve agent when assassinated in Kuala Lumpur

We are saying it is a political murder but they want to play down the political motive and turn it into a simple murder case

Gooi Soon Seng, defence lawyer

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong have been jointly charged, along with four North Koreans still at large, with killing Kim by swiping his face with the deadly nerve agent VX.

Both women have pleaded innocent, maintaining that they were duped by the North Koreans into thinking the act was for a prank television show.

Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, insisted in court that there is a political motive behind the assassination.

In his cross examination, he grilled Azirul about Kim’s Langkawi meeting with a Korean-American man based in Bangkok, which was first reported by Japan’s Asahi newspaper last year.

While Azirul confirmed that the meeting took place at a hotel, he said the police have been unable to identify the man, who the Asahi said was a US intelligence officer.

The police found about US$138,000 (HK$1.07 million) in Kim’s backpack when he died, lending to rumours that he may have sold information related to the regime of his half-brother Kim Jong-un to the United States, but Azirul denied that

The police officer, however, irked the lawyer when he could not answer many of the questions, even seemingly innocuous ones like where Kim stayed in Langkawi. Azirul claimed he could not remember or he could not find the details in his notebook.

He had earlier claimed he could not remember what investigators found on Kim’s laptop until Gooi produced a report from the computer crime unit of the police forensic department dated July 25, 2017.

Azirul confirmed the report that found the laptop was last used on February 9, and on that day, a Kingston USB pen drive has been used to access data in it several times.

Besides the laptop, Kim Jong Nam’s four mobile phones were also sent for forensic analysis.

“His demeanour, his answers were very evasive. We are quite unhappy over that,” Gooi told reporters.

“We are saying it is a political murder but they want to play down the political motive and turn it into a simple murder case,” he added.

Azirul will continue his testimony on Tuesday.



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