Prosecutors question ex-leader Lee on graft

Prosecutors in South Korea questioned conservative former president Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday over corruption allegations.

The move came about two weeks after prosecutors demanded a 30-year prison term for Lee’s conservative successor, Park Geun-hye, in a separate bribery scandal.

“I stand here today feeling wretched,” Lee said in televised remarks after arriving at the prosecutors’ office in Seoul. “I am very sorry for causing worry for the people.”

Lee previously called the investigation “political revenge” orchestrated by the liberal government of President Moon Jae-in.

Prosecutors accuse Lee of taking about 1.75 billion won ($1.6 million) from the country’s main spy agency for personal purposes through his aides.

Prosecutors also allege that Lee took other illicit money from business groups. South Korean media said the funds totaled 11 billion won ($10 million).

In addition, Lee is accused of using an auto-parts manufacturer as a channel to establish illicit slush funds amounting to 30 billion won ($28 million) and embezzling its official funds.

— Associated Press

Parliament elects Merkel to 4th term

Germany’s Parliament elected Angela Merkel to her fourth term as chancellor on Wednesday, putting an end to nearly six months of political drift in Europe’s biggest economy.

Lawmakers voted 364 to 315 to reelect Merkel, who ran unopposed. The coalition of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the center-left Social Democrats has 399 of 709 seats in Parliament.

The parliamentary vote came 171 days after a September election in which Merkel’s coalition lost significant ground.

Merkel, Germany’s leader since 2005, will have to hold together what is potentially her most fragile coalition yet, while also addressing challenges such as a potential Europe-U.S. trade war and seeking agreement with France and others on the future of a fractious European Union.

— Associated Press

Indonesian province considers beheading as penalty for killing: The conservative Indonesian province of Aceh, known for publicly caning gays, adulterers and gamblers, is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, a top Islamic law official said. The head of Aceh's Sharia Law and Human Rights Office said the provincial government has asked his office to research beheading as a method of execution under Islamic law and to consult public opinion. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice sharia, a concession made by the central government in 2005 to end a decades-long war for independence.

2 dozen sick civilians leave besieged Syrian rebel enclave: Two dozen civilians in need of medical care were evacuated from Syria's besieged rebel enclave near the capital, Damascus, the latest trickle of urgent cases to leave the area amid a military offensive as government forces advance. The evacuation is part of a deal negotiated by the United Nations to allow urgent medical cases to leave the enclave to seek treatment in government-held Damascus.

6 prisoners killed in clashes with Bolivian police: Authorities said six inmates were killed during clashes with police in Bolivia's notorious Palmasola prison. Police Col. Faustino Mendoza said the prisoners died in crossfire during a gun battle with police. More than 2,000 officers were deployed in the operation. Mendoza said police seized weapons, equipment to distill alcohol, marijuana plants and other drugs from a section that houses the most dangerous criminals.

— From news services