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A South Korean court ruled Wednesday that a 14th century Korean Buddhist statue should be sent back to a Japanese temple from where it was stolen in 2012.

The statue’s return had been put on hold for years after a South Korean temple claimed ownership of it, insisting that it was likely looted by medieval Japanese pirates before it ended up at a temple on Tsushima island, presumably in 1527.

The South Korean temple is likely to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said his government will encourage Seoul to facilitate the statue’s swift return to Japan.

The 50-centimeter (20-inch) gilt bronze Buddha statue was one of two stolen from Tsushima’s Kannonji temple by thieves who attempted to sell them in South Korea.

South Korea’s government returned the other statue to the temple soon after police recovered the items from the thieves, who were arrested and prosecuted.

But Buseoksa temple in the western coastal city of Seosan filed a lawsuit to prevent the government from sending back the other statue, saying Buseoksa is the rightful owner. Korean historical records indicate that the statue, which is being kept at a state research institute in the central city of Daejeon, was created about 1330 to be enshrined at Buseoksa.

The Daejeon District Court ruled in 2017 that the government should return the statue to Buseoksa, saying it was likely taken to Japan through theft or pillage.

But the Daejeon High Court overturned the ruling on Wednesday, saying Japan’s Kannonji had acquired legal ownership of the statue through continuous possession.


A political newcomer who lost his bid for the New Mexico statehouse has been indicted on charges of allegedly orchestrating a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic officials.

A Bernalillo County grand jury returned a 14-count indictment Monday against Solomon Peña, prosecutors said. The counts include criminal solicitation to commit shooting at a dwelling, shooting at a dwelling, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The 39-year-old felon remains in custody after a judge last week ordered him to be held without bond pending trial.

Detectives identified Peña as their key suspect using a combination of cellphone and vehicle records, witness interviews and bullet casings collected at the lawmakers’ homes.

Authorities arrested Peña on Jan. 9, accusing him of paying for a father and son and two other unidentified men to shoot at the officials’ homes between early December and early January. The shootings followed his unsuccessful Republican bid for a district long considered a Democratic stronghold. He claimed the election was rigged.

No one was hurt, but the case reignited the debate over whether lawmakers should make it harder for people accused of violent crimes to make bail. Lawmakers during this legislative session also are considering a measure that would shield the home addresses of elected officials.

Prosecutors have outlined Peña’s previous time in prison and described him as the “ringleader” of a group that he assembled to shoot at people’s homes, saying ballistics testing determined that a firearm found in the trunk of a car registered to Peña was linked to at least one shooting. Another man was found driving that car and was arrested on an unrelated warrant.

Peña’s defense attorney has raised questions about the credibility of a confidential witness that shared information with authorities, saying some of the statements used in a criminal complaint were contradictory. She also argued her client’s criminal history did not involve any violent convictions or crimes involving firearms and that he has not been in trouble with the law — other than two traffic citations — since his release from prison in 2016.

Court records show Peña was incarcerated for several years after being arrested in 2007 in connection with what authorities described as a smash-and-grab burglary scheme that targeted retail stores. His voting rights were restored after he completed probation in 2021.


The Colorado baker who won a partial U.S. Supreme Court victory after refusing to make a gay couple’s wedding cake because of his Christian faith lost an appeal Thursday in his latest legal fight, involving his rejection of a request for a birthday cake celebrating a gender transition.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that that the cake Autumn Scardina requested from Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop, which was to be pink with blue frosting, is not a form of speech.

It also found that the state law that makes it illegal to refuse to provide services to people based on protected characteristics like race, religion or sexual orientation does not violate business owners’ right to practice or express their religion.

Relying on the findings of a Denver judge in a 2021 trial in the dispute, the appeals court said Phillips’ shop initially agreed to make the cake but then refused after Scardina explained that she was going to use it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

John McHugh, one of the lawyers who represent Scardina, said the court looked carefully at all the arguments and evidence from the trial.

“They just object to the idea of Ms. Scardina wanting a birthday cake that reflects her status as a transgender woman because they object to the existence of transgender people,” he said of Phillips and his shop.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had acted with anti-religious bias in enforcing the anti-discrimination law against Phillips after he refused to bake a cake celebrating the wedding of Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins in 2012. The justices called the commission unfairly dismissive of Phillips’ religious beliefs.

The high court did not rule then on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to LGBTQ people, but it has another chance to do so.


A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the mayor of Philadelphia discriminated against Italian Americans in renaming the city’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

A U.S. District judge ruled a year ago that the plaintiffs, a council member and three Italian American heritage groups, hadn’t been harmed by Mayor Jim Kenney’s executive order, and therefore none of them had standing to sue over the issue.

Judge David Porter, writing for the three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, said the government “does not violate the Equal Protection Clause every time it affirms or celebrates an ethnicity. Otherwise, Columbus Day itself would arguably have been an equal protection violation — but of course it wasn’t.”

As it stands, “Irish American city employees who wish to celebrate St. Patrick must take a personal day,” and the city doesn’t close for Yom Kippur or give time off for the Lunar New Year, the court said.

The plaintiffs might have a case if the city celebrated every ethnicity but “conspicuously excluded” Italian Americans, but not from selective celebration of particular ethnicities alone, the court said. For plaintiffs seeking redress for such an “offense,” the court said, “their remedy is political, not legal.”

Attorney George Bochetto, who filed the lawsuit, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in an email Friday evening that the plaintiffs are disappointed but he has “every intention” of appealing the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many Italian Americans have embraced the 15th century explorer — once hailed as the discoverer of America — as a cultural hero and emblem of the city’s deep Italian heritage. Kenney has said that despite centuries of veneration, Columbus had a “much more infamous” history, enslaving Indigenous people and imposing harsh punishments.

Bochetto’s lawsuit on the holiday argued there was a pattern of the city targeting Italian Americans, citing attempts to cover and remove a Columbus statue in south Philadelphia and removal of a statue of ex-mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo at the municipal services building near City Hall after it became a target for protests.

Bochetto won a separate lawsuit against the city last month when a state court ordered the removal of a box covering the south Philadelphia Columbus statue. The statue, which dates to 1876 and was presented to the city by the Italian American community to commemorate the nation’s centennial, was covered in June 2020 after it became a focus of racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Kenney argued for removal of the statue as a matter of public safety, and a city arts panel and a historical commission agreed, but a judge reversed the city’s decision, citing a lack of evidence that the statue’s removal was necessary to protect the public. Before its removal, the box covering the statue had been painted in green, white and red bands, mirroring the Italian flag, at the request of the city council member who represents the district.


A physicians’ group based in the Midwest lacks legal standing to challenge a 25-year-old Mississippi Supreme Court ruling recognizing a right to abortion under the state constitution, lawyers for six women who support abortion rights argued in court papers filed Friday.

“This case was brought by an out-of-state organization that obviously believes the government should force Mississippi women to carry pregnancies to term and give birth against their will,” Mississippi Center for Justice attorney Rob McDuff said Friday, adding that those who filed suit have “no practical stake in this particular case.”

The legal fight could be more about principle than practicality because Mississippi’s only abortion clinic shut down in July, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upended abortion rights nationwide with a case that originated in the state.

Like some other conservative states, Mississippi had a “trigger” that would ban most abortions once the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was overturned.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists filed a lawsuit in November in a Mississippi court, saying the state has a potential conflict between the 2007 trigger law and the 1998 ruling, Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice, which held that abortion is a right protected by the the state Constitution.

“Elective abortions in Mississippi appear to be both statutorily illegal and constitutionally protected at the same time,” attorneys from the Mississippi Justice Institute argued in representing the anti-abortion physicians. They said physicians need clarification to avoid possible punishment by medical institutions.

Leaders of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which provides certification to doctors in the field, have said they do not expect doctors to violate their moral beliefs. But the anti-abortion doctors in this case called those assurances insufficient.

The website of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists shows the group is based in Indiana and says it has member physicians in Mississippi and other states.

Mississippi Center for Justice and Democracy Forward Foundation, both of which are legal services groups that support abortion rights, filed Friday to intervene on behalf of the six women and asked a judge to dismiss the case.


Germany’s top court has ruled that a decision five years ago to raise the upper limit for state financing of political parties by 25 million euros ($27.2 million) a year was illegal.

The country’s Constitutional Court said Tuesday that a 2018 law change backed by the left-right governing coalition under former Chancellor Angela Merkel to increase the annual limit for all parties to 190 million euros ($206.7 million) could make them too dependent on the state.

State funding in Germany matches the amount of money political parties receive from members or donations, up to a fixed limit.

Judges concluded that the arguments for raising that limit put forward by lawmakers at the time — such as the need to digitize their communication — weren’t sufficient to justify the increase. They had also failed to take into account savings resulting from switching to electronic communication.

Three smaller parties — the Greens, Free Democrats and Left party — had challenged the law. The Greens and Free Democrats are now in a coalition with the Social Democrats, who had backed the law. Merkel’s Union bloc has been in opposition since 2021.

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact the verdict will have for state funding already provided to parties.


Oregon is launching a new abortion hotline offering free legal advice to callers, moving to further defend abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer and eliminated federal protections for the procedure.

The state’s Department of Justice announced the initiative Monday. It is modeled on similar hotlines launched by the attorneys general of New York and Delaware, as states where abortion remains legal have seen an increase in the number of patients traveling from areas where the procedure has been banned or restricted.

“The Hotline will fill an important need in our state for callers to understand the status of our reproductive health laws, including issues related to abortion access,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a news release. “This is especially important because we share a border with Idaho, which has a near-total abortion ban.”

Abortion remains legal at all stages of pregnancy in Oregon, which has worked with California and Washington to promote the West Coast as a safe haven for the procedure.

People can call the anonymous hotline from any state for free legal advice and receive a call back from a lawyer within 48 hours.

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