- - Thursday, September 30, 2010

BURMA

Officials to free Suu Kyi after election

RANGOON | Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will be released just days after Burma’s first election in two decades, officials said Thursday.

The Nobel peace laureate, who has been detained for most of the past 20 years since winning the country’s last general election, will be freed when her current term of house arrest expires Nov. 13, the unnamed sources said.

Neither Mrs. Suu Kyi nor her National League for Democracy party will participate in the first election since their 1990 victory, and the vote has been dismissed as a sham aimed at hiding military power behind a civilian facade.

NORTH KOREA

First photo published of Kim’s heir apparent

SEOUL | Secretive North Korea finally put its heir apparent on show to the world Thursday, releasing a photograph of a chubby and serious-faced Kim Jong-un seated close to his ailing father, Kim Jong-il.

Analysts said the issuance of the first-ever official photo confirms the young man’s status as leader-in-waiting of the impoverished but nuclear-armed communist nation.

Official media published the photo of the son as part of a large group of leading ruling-party officials two days after the party had bestowed powerful posts on him at its highest-level meeting in 30 years.

SRI LANKA

President approves ex-army chief’s jail term

COLOMBO | Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa approved a 30-month jail term for his former army chief and political rival Thursday, confirming a military court verdict that the rival was guilty of fraud. The decision may disqualify the ex-general from continuing as an opposition lawmaker.

Mr. Rajapaksa endorsed a court-martial decision on former Gen. Sarath Fonseka on Thursday and “has recommended two and half years in his endorsement in keeping with the maximum period for the offense in accordance with the law,” a statement from the president’s office said.

Fonseka’s party, the Democratic National Alliance, cried foul at the jailing, calling it personal and political revenge.

INDIA

Court ruling splits disputed holy site

LUCKNOW | An Indian court ruled Thursday that a disputed holy site that has sparked bloody communal riots across the country in the past should be divided between the Hindu and Muslim communities.

However, the court gave the Hindu community control over the section where the now demolished Babri Mosque stood and where a small makeshift tent-shrine to the Hindu god Rama rests.

While both Muslim and Hindu lawyers vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, the compromise ruling seemed unlikely to set off a new round of violence, as the government had feared.

THAILAND

PM has final say on smuggler’s extradition

BANGKOK | Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thursday he will have the final say in the politically sensitive extradition of alleged Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to the United States, noting that one side is bound to be disappointed.

Mr. Bout, a 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer, is reputed to be one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. He has been jailed in Bangkok since March 2008, when a U.S.-led sting operation ended a lengthy search for the man who has been referred to as “the Merchant of Death.”

Washington had expected Mr. Bout’s rapid extradition, but the case spurred a diplomatic tug of war with Moscow that led to long delays. Mr. Bout’s next hearing is scheduled for Monday.

BURMA

Courts sentence activists, monk to jail

RANGOON | Courts in military-ruled Burma have given long prison sentences to 13 people, including a Buddhist monk, who were accused of planning bombings and other activities to disrupt upcoming elections, lawyers said Thursday.

The sentencing is the first major crackdown on dissent since campaigning began officially last week for the Nov. 7 general elections, the first in 20 years. The ruling junta is eager to promote the polls as a key step in a return to democracy after almost four decades of military rule.

However, many opposition activists are already in jail or in exile, and critics say the election rules are unfair and undemocratic.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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