The world in brief: Cyclone death toll in Burma rises to 145

Local people ride motorbike along a roadside with damaged buildings Friday after Cyclone Mocha in Sittwe township, Rakhine State, Burma.
Local people ride motorbike along a roadside with damaged buildings Friday after Cyclone Mocha in Sittwe township, Rakhine State, Burma. (AP)

Cyclone death toll in Burma rises to 145

BANGKOK -- The official death toll from the powerful cyclone that struck Burma has burgeoned to at least 145, including 117 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority, state television reported Friday.

It said the figure applied to the western state of Rakhine, where Cyclone Mocha did the most damage, but did not say how many storm-related deaths there have been in other parts of the country.

The accounting of casualties from the cyclone has been slow, in part due to communication difficulties in the affected areas and the military government's tight control over information. The military government has said that unofficial death tolls surpassing 400 are false, but in the absence of independent confirmation, uncertainly remains about the actual extent of casualties and destruction.

Mocha made landfall near Sittwe township in Rakhine state on Sunday afternoon with winds of up to 130 miles per hour before weakening inland. The cyclone, the nation's most destructive in at least a decade, brought widespread flash floods and power outages, while high winds tore roofs off buildings and crumpled cellphone towers.

Iran executes 3 men after deadly protests

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iran on Friday executed three men accused of deadly violence during last year's anti-government protests despite objections from human-rights groups.

Mizan, the judiciary's website, announced the executions of Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi, without saying how the deaths were carried out. Authorities say they killed a police officer and two members of the paramilitary Basij group in the city of Isfahan in November during nationwide protests.

Rights groups say the three were subjected to torture, forced into televised confessions and denied due process.

The protests broke out last September after the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country's morality police for allegedly violating its strict Islamic dress code. The demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The demonstrations have largely subsided in recent months, though there are still sporadic acts of defiance, including the refusal of a growing number of women to wear the mandatory Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

Iran has executed a total of seven people in connection with the protests. Rights groups say they and several others who have been sentenced to death were convicted by secretive state security courts and denied the right to defend themselves.

Slovak acquitted in death of journalist

PRAGUE -- A court in Slovakia has acquitted for a second time a businessman accused of masterminding the 2018 slaying of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

The Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, near the capital, Bratislava, which handles Slovakia's most serious cases, Friday acquitted Marian Kocner in the killing of Jan Kuciak, who had written about him in the past, and Martina Kusnirova, both 27.

The crime shocked the country and caused the government to fall.

The court said "it was not proven" that Kocner was the mastermind.

The International Press Institute, an international media freedom group based in Vienna, called the acquittal "shocking." It said on Twitter it "represents another devastating blow to the fight for justice for Jan Kuciak & his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Our thoughts are with their families. The fight for justice will continue."

However, Kocner's associate, Alena Zsuzsova, who acted as an intermediary, was convicted over her role in the killings and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The case is not over yet as both the prosecution and the defendants can appeal.

Prosecutors had requested life imprisonment for both defendants.

Small tsunami hits in Pacific after quake

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A 7.7 magnitude earthquake caused a small tsunami to wash ashore on South Pacific islands Friday. No damage has been reported, and the threat passed in a few hours.

Waves 2 feet above tide level were measured off Lenakel, a port town in Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. Smaller waves were measured by coastal or deep-ocean gauges elsewhere off Vanuatu and off New Caledonia and New Zealand.

Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office advised people to evacuate from coastal areas to higher grounds. The office said people should listen to their radios for updates and take other precautions.

New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency said it expected coastal areas would experience strong and unusual currents, with unpredictable surges at the shoreline. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said small waves of 8 inches above tides were measured at North Cape, New Zealand.

The tsunami danger passed within a few hours, though the center said small sea level changes may continue.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake's epicenter was near the Loyalty Islands, a province in the French territory of New Caledonia. The quake was 23 miles deep.

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