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From Hong Kong police sweep to manned US space launch, the non-coronavirus news you may have missed

Fifteen pro-democracy activists arrested over Hong Kong protests last year, while Nasa has set a date to send two astronauts to the ISS aboard a SpaceX rocket

Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, 81, talks to the media outside the Central District police station in Hong Kong on April 18, 2020. AFP
Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, 81, talks to the media outside the Central District police station in Hong Kong on April 18, 2020. AFP

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists arrested

Police in Hong Kong carried out a sweeping operation against high-profile democracy campaigners on Saturday, arresting 15 activists on charges related to massive protests that rocked the Asian financial hub last year.

Among those targeted was media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 72, founder of the anti-establishment newspaper Apple Daily, who was arrested at his home.

Also arrested was Martin Lee, 81, a barrister and founding chairman of the Hong Kong's first political party, along with several other former legislators and incumbent legislator Leung Yiu-chung.

They are accused of organising and taking part in unlawful assemblies in August and October, according to the police. Five were arrested under suspicion of publicising unauthorised public meetings in September and October.

All 15 are due to appear in court mid-May.

"Eventually I've become a defendant. How do I feel? I'm very much relieved," Mr Lee said after he was bailed. "For so many years, so many months, so many good youngsters were arrested and charged, while I was not arrested."

The youth-led protest movement in China's semi-autonomous region was sparked by a proposed law to allow extraditions to the mainland before expanding its demands to include greater democratic representation.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a rally in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, on March 8, 2020. AFP
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane attends a rally in Lesotho's capital, Maseru, on March 8, 2020. AFP

Lesotho PM calls out army amid murder scandal

Lesotho's embattled prime minister said he had ordered the military on to the streets to "restore order", accusing law enforcement institutions, which he did not name, of undermining democracy.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is under pressure to step down after police said they suspected him of having a hand in the murder of his estranged wife in 2017.

In a televised address on Saturday, the 80-year-old premier said his decision was to "avoid putting the nation in danger".

Mr Thaban's order came a day after the constitutional court set aside his suspension of parliament last month after the national assembly passed a bill barring him from calling fresh elections in the event he losses a no-confidence vote hanging over his head.

A government source said police commissioner Holomo Molibeli, his deputy Paseka Mokete and another senior police officer, have been arrested by the army.

Smoke from forest fires around the Chernobyl nuclear plant shrouds Ukraine's capital Kiev on April 17, 2020. Reuters
Smoke from forest fires around the Chernobyl nuclear plant shrouds Ukraine's capital Kiev on April 17, 2020. Reuters

Ukraine's capital chokes on smoke from Chernobyl fires

Smoke from wildfires in the contaminated evacuation zone around the wrecked Chernobyl nuclear power plant has engulfed Kiev, placing the Ukrainian capital near the top of the global air pollution index.

Authorities said radiation levels in Kiev remained normal on Friday, but they advised residents to stay home and close their windows. About 1,000 firefighters backed by aircraft have been deployed to battle the forest blazes near the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, which took place 34 years ago.

Wildfires erupted in the forests around Chernobyl on April 4, accidentally sparked by residents who were burning rubbish. Firefighting teams managed to contain the initial blazes, but new fires erupted on Thursday, sweeping into wider areas thanks to strong winds.

Live air quality data on iqair.com placed the Ukrainian capital right behind several cities in China in air pollution on Friday.

Nasa to resume manned space launches next month

The US space agency has set a launch date of May 27 for its first astronaut mission from American soil in nearly 10 years.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's space company, SpaceX, will send two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard its Falcon 9 rocket from Florida - marking the company's first mission carrying humans aboard.

"BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil!" Mr Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.

Nasa has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since it retired its space shuttle programme in 2011.

The US space agency had previously said that mission, in which astronauts Bob Behnken, 48, and Doug Hurley, 52, will ride SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule to the space station, would launch sometime in May.

Updated: April 18, 2020 03:57 PM

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