- - Sunday, August 21, 2011

IRAN

Families maintain hope Iran will release hikers

TEHRAN — Relatives of two American men arrested more than two years ago in Iran said Sunday that the news they had received eight-year prison sentences for spying hit them hard, but they remain hopeful the men will eventually be released.

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were sentenced Saturday to three years for illegal entry into Iran and five years for spying for the United States. The two were arrested in July 2009 near the Iraq-Iran border along with a third American, Sarah Shourd, who was released in September on $500,000 bail and returned to the U.S.

All three deny the charges, saying they were only hiking near the ill-defined border.

Samantha Topping, spokeswoman for Mr. Bauer and Mr. Fattal’s families, sent a statement Sunday, saying their relatives had received confirmation of their sentences

But the statement said the families still hoped the two would be released, based on remarks from Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. He said earlier this month that he hoped “the trial of the two American defendants who were detained for the crime of illegally entering Iran will finally lead to their freedom.”

The families had been hoping that meant the men would be set free during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when pardons are traditionally handed down.

INDIA

2,000 bodies in unmarked graves

SRINAGAR — More than 2,000 unidentified bodies have been buried in scores of unmarked graves in Indian Kashmir, according to the state human rights commission in the region roiled by a separatist insurgency.

“It is beyond doubt that unmarked graves containing unidentified bodies do exist at various places in north Kashmir,” said a report by the commission, established by the government in 1997 to investigate human rights violations.

An independent group based in Srinagar, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPT), had in 2009 documented unidentified bodies buried in the region’s northern villages.

Indian and international rights groups called for a probe into whether the unmarked graves held bodies of civilians who have “disappeared” as Indian security forces struggled to contain rebellion in the Muslim-majority region.

The IPT says 8,000 people have gone missing there during 20 years of separatist insurgency against rule from New Delhi, most of those after they were arrested by Indian security personnel.

Indian officials repeatedly have claimed that those buried in unmarked graves were militants - mostly Pakistanis - who were killed in clashes with security forces.

They also argue that many of the missing locals had crossed to Pakistan to join militant groups.

KENYA

23 killed in minibus crash

NAIROBI — A group of 23 relatives and friends were killed in central Kenya after their minibus lost control, hit the barrier of a bridge and crashed down a rocky slope before landing in a dry riverbed, police officials said Sunday.

National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the driver of the minibus may have fallen asleep before the crash late Saturday. The crash happened nearly 90 miles east of the capital, Nairobi. He said 15 passengers were seriously injured.

Regional police Chief Marcus Ochola said passengers were traveling together on wedding-related business. He said the group of 38 relatives and friends were returning to their hometown of Kangundo late Saturday after successfully negotiating the bride’s dowry.

Road crashes are common in Kenya and are often blamed on reckless driving and the poor state of the roads in the East African nation.

NEPAL

Deadline extended for forming government

KATHMANDU — Nepal’s president extended the deadline Sunday for forming a national unity government after the prime minister’s resignation plunged an already paralyzed political process into crisis.

“The political parties could not meet the deadline today given to form a national unity government. So … President [Ram Baran] Yadav has allowed parties until Wednesday to agree on a national unity government,” Rajendra Dahal, press adviser to the president, told Agence France-Presse.

“The president also urged the leaders to keep in mind the looming deadline for the constitution drafting,” Mr. Dahal said, referring to the expiration of parliament’s term on Aug. 31.

Nepal emerged from 10 years of civil war in 2006 and elected an assembly two years later to write a constitution, but has failed to agree on the new charter despite many extensions of the deadline.

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