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US judge frees Adnan Syed after more than 20 years in jail | Crime News

Judge vacates Syed’s conviction for 1999 murder as prosecutors reinvestigate case that was focus of ‘Serial’ podcast.

A Maryland judge has vacated the 2000 murder conviction of Adnan Syed after prosecutors said there were two other possible suspects in the killing of his former girlfriend who were never disclosed to the defence at trial.

The case gained national attention when the podcast “Serial” raised doubts about his guilt.

Syed, now 42, has always said he was innocent and did not kill Hae Min Lee, who was 18 when she was strangled and buried in a Baltimore park in 1999.

Judge Melissa Phinn of the Circuit Court in Baltimore on Monday ordered Syed to be released from prison and put on home detention. Prosecutors have 30 days to seek a new trial or dismiss the case.

The state’s attorney for Baltimore filed a motion to vacate the conviction on Wednesday following a year-long investigation conducted alongside a public defender representing Syed, in which several problems were found with witnesses and evidence from the trial.

Prosecutors told the court that they were not asserting that Syed was innocent but that they no longer had confidence in “the integrity of the conviction”, and that justice required that Syed at least be afforded a new trial.

They said Syed should be released from prison, where he has spent two decades, while prosecutors complete the investigation and decide whether to seek a new trial.

Prosecutors said that they had found new information about two alternative suspects, whom they have not named. Their identities were known to the original prosecutors but not disclosed to the defence as required by law.

Prosecutors also decided a key witness and the detective who investigated the murder were unreliable. They also found new information that cast doubt on the cellphone data prosecutors relied upon at trial to place Syed at the scene of the murder.

The podcast “Serial”, produced by Chicago public radio station WBEZ, drew national attention to the case in 2014.

Adnan Syed served more than 20 years in jail for a murder he says he did not commit [File: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, said in a statement that “the person responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable”.

Young Lee, the victim’s brother, told the court he was shocked and his family felt betrayed that the prosecutors had reversed course after standing by the conviction for decades.

“It’s really tough to go through this again and again and again,” he said. “It’s a living nightmare.”

Video footage from Monday showed Syed, dressed in a white shirt and a blue tie, waving to a crowd of supporters outside the courtroom as he was being escorted to a vehicle that drove him away.

The Innocence Project, an advocacy group that pushes for criminal justice reform, welcomed Syed’s release, saying that the case underscores the issue of prosecutors illegally withholding exculpatory evidence.

“The integrity of the legal system requires accountability for not only Mr Syed’s wrongful conviction but also the pain the State’s unlawful conduct caused to Hae Min Lee’s family,” the group said in a statement.

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IMF to consider $1.3bn in emergency funding for Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine war

Sources say Ukraine has received sufficient financial assurances from partners to meet IMF’s debt sustainability rules.

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board will consider Ukraine’s request for $1.3bn in additional emergency funding on Friday as Russia’s war against the country continues, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

IMF staff have prepared the necessary documents and believe Ukraine has received sufficient financial assurances from its global partners to meet the IMF’s debt sustainability requirements and qualify for further emergency funds, the sources told the Reuters news agency.

If approved, the funds would come from a new emergency lending program to address food shortages approved by the board last week.

IMF officials have praised the Ukrainian government and its central bank for their management of the economic shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of the country in February.

The IMF provided $1.4bn in emergency assistance to Ukraine in March, shortly after the war began.

Ukrainian officials are pressing for additional, non-emergency funds under a full-fledged IMF lending program, but such a program could come later.

An IMF spokesperson declined to comment.

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North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan into Pacific | Military News

Pyongyang’s fifth test in 10 days comes after South Korea and the United States hold military drills.

North Korea has fired a mid-range ballistic missile over Japan, the fifth launch in 10 days, amid expectations that it is gearing up to test its first nuclear weapon in five years.

The missile, detected by the Japanese coast guard and South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, prompted warning alarms in northern Japan with residents advised to take shelter. Train services in northern regions of the country were suspended temporarily.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned what he called a “barbaric” act.

TV Asahi, citing an unnamed government source, said North Korea might have fired an intercontinental ballistic missile and that it fell into the sea some 3,000 km (1,860 miles) from Japan.

There were no further details on the weapon.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of launches around military drills held by the United States and South Korea, which it considers a rehearsal for invasion. The US and South Korea, which staged its own show of advanced weaponry on Saturday to mark its Armed Forces Day, say the exercises are defensive in nature.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said that firing a weapon over Japan represented a “significant escalation” of recent provocations.

“Diplomacy isn’t dead, but talks aren’t about to resume either,” Easley said in comments by email. “Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle and is likely waiting until after China’s mid-October Communist Party Congress to conduct an even more significant test.”

North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build its capacity for ballistic weapons, which it is banned from testing under UN sanctions.

Officials in South Korea have suggested North Korea might carry out a nuclear test after the end of the Congress in China and before the US holds its mid-term elections in November. Pyongyang last carried out a nuclear test in September 2017.

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As Japan’s Kishida marks 1st year, ‘new capitalism’ is flailing | Business and Economy

Tokyo, Japan – When Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came to power in October last year, he pledged to foster a “new form of capitalism” that would spur healthy growth alongside a more equal distribution of wealth.

But as Kishida marks one year in office on Tuesday, the Japanese leader’s “new capitalism” is still struggling to get off the ground amid criticism that his signature strategy lacks concrete details or clear targets.

Kishida’s struggles to turn his vision into a coherent economic plan capable of reversing decades of stagnation come as the world’s third-largest economy faces mounting challenges at home and overseas, from rising inflation and a weakening yen to global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine.

Kishida, a former banker who positioned himself as the only post-war prime minister with experience in the finance industry, is widely seen as an awkward fit for the populist rhetoric he has championed.

“The key point is that Kishida has no strong personal convictions, particularly on economic policy,” Jesper Koll, an economist and executive director at Monex Group in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera,

“Setting up this ‘new capitalism’ slogan, and various teams around it, is effectively just a plan for business as usual.”

“There’s absolutely nothing new or radical in what [Kishida’s] proposed or in what’s going to be coming,” Koll added, describing the Japanese leader’s “steady hand” governance as in accordance with the incremental approach favoured by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party establishment.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Japan’s economy is facing a host of challenges including rising inflation, a weakening yen, global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

In an address at London’s Guildhall in May, Kishida spoke of capitalism’s “two major transformations”, from laissez-faire to the welfare state and from the welfare state to neoliberalism.

“In both of these transitions, the pendulum swung between two ideas: ‘market or state’, ‘public or private,’” he said. “But the next transition will be to a ‘new form of capitalism’, in which the public and private sectors work together.”

While stressing the need for a “virtuous cycle” of growth and wealth redistribution, Kishida has laid out policy in mostly broad terms, including investment in human capital, greater female participation in the workforce, funding for green initiatives, the digitalisation of government, and support for startups.

Tom Learmouth, who is undertaking doctoral studies on Japan’s economic history at the London School of Economics, said Kishida appeared to be aiming for a return to the industrial strategy of Japan’s post-war, high-growth era when the public and private sectors worked in close collaboration.

During this period of rapid economic growth, Tokyo actively tried to pick winners in industry by directing investment to sectors deemed to be promising, such as automobiles and electronics.

“Trying to resurrect that now, in a very different economic climate – where interest rates are close to zero – it’s difficult to see how the government can exercise much power over the private sector,” Learmouth told Al Jazeera.

Kishida, who criticised his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” for exacerbating wealth inequality, did weigh concrete reform early in his tenure by proposing to raise Japan’s capital gains tax from the current rate of 20 percent. The Japanese leader, however, backpedalled within days after pushback from the business community and investors.

Eric J Ritter, a professor of economics at Lakeland University Japan, said Kishida’s redistribution agenda had failed to make headway.

“He had to give up on raising capital gains taxes on the rich which could’ve been spent on the poor,” Ritter told Al Jazeera. “Another issue is raising the tax ceiling on working wives who have to start paying tax if they earn above 1.1 million yen [$7,580] a year. This depresses family incomes and female participation.”

Ageing population

More recently, Kishida tried to spur, through corporate tax breaks, a rise in Japan’s long-stagnant wages, which have scarcely risen since the late 1990s and sit well below the OECD average. These efforts have also fallen short of expectations, with real wages continuing to fall as a result of rising import costs.

The plunging yen, which last month hit a 24-year low against the US dollar, has heaped more pressure on retailers and households, causing famously thrifty Japanese consumers to tighten their belts further.

Worse for the long-term health of the economy, Japan’s labour force is shrinking. After years of plunging birth rates, the country already has the world’s oldest population, with 28 percent of residents aged over 65. Japan’s labour market has also been criticised for lacking mobility, which is ranked about half of the OECD average.

Shigeto Nagai, head Japan economist at Oxford Economics, said labour market reforms and social security reforms that provide for the vulnerable working age population as well as the elderly should be key priorities of Kishida’s economic strategy.

“Rigid seniority-based wages under the lifetime employment system have undermined the dynamism of Japanese companies,” Nagai told Al Jazeera, describing the Japanese leader’s strategy so far as “very conceptual and confusing”.

“Making the labour market more flexible and dynamic will enable individual workers to earn more competitive wages reflecting productivity,” Nagai said. “It is [also] essential that the state takes responsibility for providing social security for the working-age population, rather than leaving it to the companies.”

NTT, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, recently announced plans to shift from seniority to performance-based promotion and compensation, raising hopes that corporate peers could be encouraged to follow suit.

While Kishida has struggled to initiate significant economic reform, some analysts say that simply keeping Japan’s economy steady during such a period of global turmoil would be an achievement in itself.

“This is a political world where it’s another day, another crisis,” Koll said. “Having a steady hand, which doesn’t rock the boat, but focuses on incremental changes – maybe that’s the right thing to do in the current environment.”

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