Briefly: Court frees Muslims sentenced to death

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India

NEW DELHI — An Indian court on Thursday aquitted two Kashmiri Muslims sentenced to death for a 1996 car bomb attack in a New Delhi shopping arcade that killed 13 people.

The two men, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Ali Bhat, were handed death sentences by a lower court in 2010, but the Delhi High Court set them free and slammed police for a poor investigation into the bomb attack.

The judges commuted the death penalty of a third man convicted in the case to a life sentence, the Press Trust of India reported.

The police failed to adhere to a “minimum standard” in probing the blast that ripped through the Lajpat Nagar shopping area, judges Ravindra Bhat and G.P. Mittal said in overturning the death sentences.

Police had accused Mr. Hussain and Mr. Bhat of belonging to the outlawed Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory.

The overturning of the death sentences came a day after India executed the sole surviving Islamist gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.

China

Passports show map with disputed islands

BEIJING — China’s new passports show a map including its claim to almost all the South China Sea — provoking protests by the Philippines and Vietnam — but leaving out islands bitterly disputed with Japan.

Beijing has been engaged in a simmering row with its southern neighbors over its claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea, with Chinese maps having a line that runs almost to the Philippine and Malaysian coasts.

China and Japan have also engaged in furious exchanges over East China Sea islands administered by Tokyo, which calls them Senkaku, and claimed by Beijing as Diaoyu. China saw mass protests over them nationwide in September.

The latest front in the South China Sea dispute is travel documents issued by Beijing, with its new computer-chipped passport, or e-Passport, showing various islands as Chinese territory, including the Paracels and Spratlys.

Thailand

Security law invoked to deal with protests

BANGKOK — Thailand on Thursday invoked a special security law to cope with a political rally this weekend in Bangkok, the scene of several outbreaks of violent unrest in recent years.

Police expect tens of thousands of people to attend Saturday’s rally at the Royal Plaza. The demonstration is organized by the royalist group Pitak Siam, which opposes Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.

The Internal Security Act will be enforced in three districts of the capital’s historic quarter for nine days, officials said after the Cabinet approved the measure.

Intelligence reports suggested the protest leaders aim to “overthrow an elected government and democratic rule and are ready to use violence, trespassing in important places and threatening public property and lives to achieve their goals,” Ms. Yingluck said in a televised address to the nation.

“The government must protect the democratic system under the constitutional monarchy. In these circumstance, regular security procedures are not enough.”

Taiwan

Government bans Dalai Lama from visit

TAIPEI — Taiwan has decided to bar the Dalai Lama from entering the island, triggering an angry response from a women’s organization that had invited him to a meeting there next month, officials said Thursday.

The Taiwan chapter of the Federation of Business and Professional Women, headed by former Vice President Annette Lu, said the move reflected fear of angering China, which sees the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist.

The federation said that it had contacted the Dalai Lama directly and that he had agreed to attend the Asia-Pacific regional conference in Taipei in December.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry confirmed that the government will not allow the visit but denied China had anything to do with the decision.

China

Palestinian seeks support for higher U.N. status

BEIJING — A Palestinian envoy arrived Thursday in China’s capital to discuss the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel and their bid to upgrade their status at the U.N., in the latest sign of Beijing’s growing influence in the Middle East.

Bassam al-Salhi’s arrival came hours after a cease-fire in the fiercest fighting in years between Israel and Hamas militants. Eight days of airstrikes and artillery attacks by Israel and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants had killed 161 Palestinians and five Israelis.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants China’s help in pressing for an upgrade in the Palestinians’ U.N. status from permanent observer to nonmember observer, which could boost their chances of joining additional U.N. bodies such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel.

Israel and the United States oppose the move, saying Palestinians should negotiate their statehood in peace talks and not conduct unilateral moves.

“We are aware that the United States will press relevant sides not to issue the resolution, but we count on China for its weight that is parallel to that of the America,” Mr. al-Salhi told China’s state Xinhua News Agency ahead of his three-day trip. Mr. al-Salhi is due to meet with China’s foreign minister on Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China supported the establishment of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.

China understands, respects and supports Palestine’s decision” to seek nonmember observer status at the U.N., Hua said.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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