- - Monday, September 10, 2012

HONG KONG

Election results released Monday gave an edge to the pro-China faction in Hong Kong’s legislature, where power is split between those aligned with Beijing and those who favor further democratic reforms.

The pro-democratic parties, however, retained enough of a majority to veto any proposed changes to the former British colony’s constitution.

Many expected that Hong Kong’s array of pro-democracy parties would make big gains with support from people increasingly frustrated with the semiautonomous Chinese city’s new Beijing-backed leader over a range of issues.

But the gains failed to materialize because the pro-democracy camp, which has been divided by feuds and rivalries, failed to mount a unified strategy against their pro-Beijing rivals.

In Sunday’s election, 40 of the 70 seats on the Hong Kong Legislative Council were decided by voters, and those were split fairly evenly between the two sides, according to results released by election officials.

CUBA

Ninth prisoner dies at Guantanamo Bay

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A prisoner has died at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the U.S. military said Monday, two days after the man was found unconscious in his cell at the isolated, high-security prison.

The prisoner, whose name and nationality were not released, was found by guards Saturday and taken to a base hospital, where he was declared dead “after extensive lifesaving measures had been performed,” the U.S. military’s Southern Command said in a brief statement.

He was the ninth prisoner to die at the facility since it was opened in January 2002 to hold men suspected of terrorism or links to al Qaeda and the Taliban. The military has said two of those deaths were by natural causes and six were declared suicides.

IRAQ

Vice president rejects verdict in terror trial

BAGHDAD — From self-exile in Turkey, Iraq’s fugitive vice president scoffed Monday at a Baghdad court that sentenced him to the gallows for masterminding death squads against rivals, describing it as a puppet of the prime minister and saying he will not return to appeal the verdict.

The conviction of Tariq al-Hashemi, the nation’s highest-ranking Sunni official, rids Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of a top political foe while threatening to deepen the rift between Iraq’s main Muslim sects as the nation struggles to achieve stability nine months after U.S. troops withdrew.

Appearing alternately affable and defiant at a packed news conference in Turkey’s capital, Mr. al-Hashemi maintained his innocence after being found guilty of organizing the murders of a lawyer and a Shiite security officer.

“The verdict is unjust, politicized, illegitimate and I will not recognize it. It means nothing to me,” Mr. al-Hashemi told reporters in Ankara. “But I put it as a medal of honor on my chest because it was al-Maliki, not anyone else, behind it. For me, this proof that I’m innocent.”

Spokesmen for Mr. Maliki and the Shiite-led government could not immediately be reached for comment Monday despite repeated attempts, but in the past have denied that the prime minister influenced the trial.

MALI

Islamists amputate thieves’ hands, feet

BAMAKO — Islamic police said they used a stage in a public square to amputate the right hand and left foot of five accused thieves in a city of Mali on Monday, in the latest application of Shariah law in the country’s north.

That region of Mali, an area the size of Texas or France, was overrun by rebels allied with al Qaeda five months ago.

Despite an outcry from the international community and protests from locals, the Islamists have applied an extreme interpretation of Islam, and have stoned to death an adulterous couple, cut off the hand of another thief and publicly whipped people accused of other transgressions.

Monday’s amputations occurred in the northern city of Gao, said Aliou Hamahar Toure, its Islamic police commissioner.

He told the Associated Press by telephone that the five victims had held up passenger buses leaving the city, including those belonging to the popular fleet owned by Rimbo Transport. In accordance with Shariah law, they each had their right hand and left foot cut off. They were then transferred to the Gao hospital, Commissioner Toure said.

KOSOVO

Supervision of Kosovo ends,but NATO to remain

PRISTINA — Monday marked an important milestone for tiny Kosovo, as a 25-nation group formally ends supervision of the young country it has guided since the former Serbian province declared independence after a bloody war.

It is a sign of confidence that the new country has matured enough since 2008 to take its destiny into its own hands.

But, in reality, very little will be different for the Balkan nation after the parliamentary ceremony celebrating the change. NATO-led peacekeepers will stay in charge of security and an EU mission will still have a final say in legal matters.

Tensions with Serbia and ethnic Serbs living in the tense north will persist and so will the hardship of Kosovo’s army of jobless people who are still waiting to see the bright future they were promised.

The European Union hopes Kosovo and Serbia will gradually work out the dispute lured by the prospects of membership in the bloc.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports