Terror suspect released on bail
LAHORE — An Islamist militant accused in dozens of killings and a 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team was freed on bail Thursday after 14 years in custody because the Supreme Court decided there is not enough evidence to keep holding him, his lawyer said.
The release of Malik Ishaq, a leader of the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, underscores the difficulty Pakistani prosecutors have convicting suspects in a justice system that lacks resources, is plagued by corruption and is rife with tales of witness intimidation.
Members of extremist groups routinely have escaped justice in Pakistan because of the legal system’s perceived ineptitude.
Also Thursday, Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, reeled from fresh political violence that killed at least 14 people and added to the nation’s instability.
Mr. Ishaq was arrested in 1997 and has been accused of a slew of crimes, including attacks on minority Shiite Muslims. In 2009, he also was blamed for orchestrating the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Six security officers and a driver died in that assault.
Although he’s been implicated in at least 44 cases, he was convicted in just two minor ones and already has served the time for those, said his attorney, Qazi Misbah.
The Supreme Court on Monday decided that there is not enough evidence to prevent Mr. Ishaq from being granted bail. After posting bonds worth $11,600, Mr. Ishaq walked free Thursday, Mr. Misbah said. TV footage showed hundreds of Mr. Ishaq’s supporters greeting him as he left the jail in Kot Lakhpat, a town on the outskirts of Lahore.
China’s Catholic Church ordains another bishop
BEIJING — China’s government-backed Catholic Church ordained a bishop without the pope’s approval on Thursday, overruling objections from the Holy See and an appeal to Chinese leaders.
The ordination is Beijing’s third without a papal mandate in eight months, deepening a standoff between China and the Vatican over the Holy See’s insistence on the pope’s sole right to appoint bishops. Beijing’s communist rulers see it as foreign interference.
The Rev. Joseph Huang Bingzhang “is now the bishop of Shantou. The ordination ceremony has finished,” said Liu Bainian, honorary president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the state-controlled group that runs China’s Catholic churches, to the Associated Press on Thursday afternoon.
The Vatican-affiliated news agency AsiaNews reported Wednesday that four bishops who had been held “for days” by government representatives would be forced to attend the ceremony in Shantou in Guangdong province, along with four other bishops.
Beijing places tremendous pressure on priests and laypeople to go along with its choice of bishops.
Top U.S. military officer warns of N. Korean threat
SEOUL — South Korea could see more North Korean provocations as Pyongyang works to strengthen leader Kim Jong-il’s successor, the top U.S. military officer said Thursday.
Seoul says North Korean attacks last year killed 50 South Koreans as Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-un, rose to prominence as heir-apparent.
“A succession plan being executed has been ongoing for some time, and that’s not an insignificant part of the whole provocation cycle,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters in Seoul.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff also said that North Korea’s “threat remains very real” as it continues to pursue improved nuclear capabilities.
“I’m not convinced that they won’t provoke again. I’ve said for a long time that the only thing predictable about North Korea is their unpredictability,” Adm. Mullen said.
Seoul blames a North Korean torpedo for sinking a South Korean warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors. North Korea denies any role.
North Korea shelled a front-line South Korean island in November, killing four people. The North also threatened last month to retaliate for the South Korean military’s use of photos of Kim Jong-il and his family for shooting practice.
From wire dispatches and staff reports