World briefs – February 5

North Korea announced Friday that it will free an American missionary detained on Christmas Day for illegally crossing the border from China.

North Korea to free detained American

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea announced Friday that it will free an American missionary detained on Christmas Day for illegally crossing the border from China.

Robert Park, of Tucson, Arizona, slipped across the frozen Tumen River from China into the North carrying letters calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to close the country’s notoriously brutal prison camps and to step down from power, rights activists in Seoul said.

North Korean media reported in a brief dispatch Dec. 29 that authorities had detained an American suspected of illegal entry, but said nothing more about it until Friday, leaving his fate in question for weeks.

The 28-year-old missionary’s detainment came nearly four months after two other Americans, journalists Euna Park and Laura Ling, were released with former President Bill Clinton’s help after they were arrested at the border and sentenced to prison.

State media in Pyongyang said Friday that North Korea “decided to leniently forgive and release” Park after “taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration.”

In Washington, the State Department said it had no immediate comment. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, its adversary during the 1950-53 Korean War. No further details about Park’s release were available Friday.

Earthquake strikes off California coast

PETROLIA, Calif. — Officials say a magnitude-6.0 earthquake has struck off the coast of Northern California’s Humboldt County.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports the temblor hit at 12:20 p.m. PST (2020 GMT) about 35 miles (55 kilometres) northwest of the town of Petrolia and nearly 50 miles (80 kilometres) west of Eureka.

An employee at the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office says there are no immediate reports of major injuries or damage.

Humboldt County spokesman Phil Smith-Hanes says he felt a rolling sensation, but the movement didn’t feel as severe as the magnitude-6.5 quake that struck the same area Jan. 9.

Man convicted of raping daughter

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish court has convicted a man who held his daughter captive for six years, raped her repeatedly and fathered two sons with her. He was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.

The trial of Krzysztof Bartoszuk, 47, began last March after the conclusion of the case in Austria against Josef Fritzl, who was found guilty of imprisoning his daughter in a dungeon for 24 years and fathering her seven children. The parallels led the Polish media to dub Bartoszuk the “Polish Fritzl.”

The entirety of the Polish trial took place behind closed doors to protect the daughter, now 23, and other family members. Reporters and TV cameras were only allowed in the court briefly Thursday to hear part of the verdict read out by Judge Izabela Komarzewska.

Images from the court room broadcast on TVN24 showed Bartoszuk, a dark-haired man with a moustache, chewing gum and fidgeting as he stood in a green jacket as the judge spoke.

Janusz Sulima, a spokesman for the court in Bialystok, told The Associated Press that the court found Bartoszuk guilty of multiple counts of rape, sexual acts with a minor and physical and psychological abuse against the daughter and other family members, among other charges.

Northern Ireland leaders strike deal

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Lawmakers from Northern Ireland’s major Protestant party have unanimously backed a compromise plan with the Catholic minority to save their power-sharing government, Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson declared Friday.

Robinson, who leads the troubled 2 1/2-year-old coalition at the heart of Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace accord, announced the midnight breakthrough following 10 days and nights of negotiations that had left negotiators on the edge of exhaustion.

The Catholics of Sinn Fein — who precipitated the power-sharing crisis by threatening to withdraw from the coalition, forcing its collapse — had already announced their backing for the still-confidential plan. But Robinson’s Democratic Unionists were publicly divided over whether to cut a new deal.

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen, are expected to fly back to Northern Ireland Friday to release details of the power-sharing pact.

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