Slovakia, Mar 31 (AP/UNB) — An liberal environmental activist has been elected as the first female president of Slovakia.
Relative newcomer Zuzana Caputova had 58 percent of the vote with almost 95 percent of returns counted in Saturday's runoff election, topping European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, who had 42 percent.
Sefcovic conceded defeat and congratulated his rival.
"I'm extremely happy about the result," Caputova said. "It's an extremely strong mandate for me," she said.
"Zuzana, Zuzana," her supporters chanted.
Caputova, 45, has little experience in politics and attracted voters who are appalled by corruption and mainstream politics.
She only recently became vice chairman of the Progressive Slovakia, a party so new it has not had a chance to run in parliamentary elections. Caputova resigned from her party post after winning the first round of the presidential vote two weeks ago.
She becomes Slovakia's fifth president since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
The president of the nation of 5.4 million people has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. Parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, however. The government, led by the prime minister, possesses most executive powers.
A lawyer by profession, Caputova is a rising star of Slovak politics. She became known for leading a successful fight against a toxic waste dump in her hometown of Pezinok, for which she received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2016.
A divorced mother of two, she is in favor of gay rights and opposes a ban on abortion in this conservative Roman Catholic country.
She was also part of a campaign in 2017 that led to the annulment of pardons granted by former authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.
Sefcovic, 52, is a career diplomat who was supported by the leftist Smer-Social Democracy party led by former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, a major force in Slovak politics that was tarnished by corruption scandals. He campaigned on a traditional family values ticket.
Popular incumbent Andrej Kiska, who did not stand for a second term, backed Caputova in the vote.
The two had supported the massive anti-government street protests last year triggered by the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee that that led to the fall of Fico's coalition government. Investigators have linked Jan Kuciak's death to his work probing possible widespread government corruption.
Fico's party has already suffered losses in local elections in November — the first votes since the largest demonstrations in the country since the anti-Communist Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Russia, March 30 (Xinhua/UNB) - A powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake was registered off the coast of the Russian Far East Kamchatka Peninsula, authorities said on Friday.
"The quake was registered in the early hours of Friday. Its epicenter was located at the depth of around 40 kilometers, 300 kilometers to the south of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky," a spokesperson of the regional branch of the Geophysical Survey of the Russian Academy of Sciences was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Rescuers and firefighters are examining buildings in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky after the strong earthquake, regional Emergencies Ministry said in a statement.
According to preliminary information, no damage or casualties have been reported, said the ministry.
Kabul, March 29 (Xinhua/UNB) - About 24 people, including 14 police officers, were killed and several others wounded after Taliban militants attacked police checkpoints in two Afghan provinces overnight, local officials said on Friday.
In one incident, nine police officers, including a district police chief, were killed and six police wounded after Taliban militants stormed police checkpoints on outskirts of Ghazni city, capital of eastern Ghazni province, local police told Xinhua.
Several militants were also killed and wounded and sporadic clashes were still ongoing, the police said.
In northern Badakhshan province, five security forces, two civilians and eight Taliban militants were killed after clashes erupted in Arghanjkhaw district, eastern of provincial capital Faizabad, Hadi Jamal, a press officer of army's Division 20 Pamir, told Xinhua.
"Militant's armed with guns and rocket propelled grenade attacked police checkpoints in surrounding areas of district. The security forces fought back the attackers, who tried to capture the district administrative complex," Jamal said.
Further details about the incidents are still forthcoming amid the absence of any official statement.
Geneva, Mar 29 (AP/UNB) — An independent U.N. human rights expert has denounced Saudi Arabia's closed-door trials of suspects in the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and called on the kingdom to name the defendants.
Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions mandated by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, also put an onus on the five permanent U.N. Security Council countries.
Callamard said in a statement Thursday that the Saudi government invited representatives from the five countries to attend some court hearings.
She said China, France, Britain, Russia and the United States "risk being participants in a potential miscarriage of justice" and could be "complicit" if the trials turn out to involve violations of human rights law.
Callamard is leading a human rights probe into the Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
She said the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains and information about those initially arrested over the killing should be made public.
The U.N. human rights office said 11 people are on trial, five of whom face the death penalty, and "it appears" 21 people were initially detained by Saudi authorities.
Callamard has been seeking authorization to travel to Saudi Arabia as part of her investigation.