- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

MADAGASCAR

Ratsiraka sentencedto hard labor

ANTANANARIVO — Madagascar’s exiled former president, Didier Ratsiraka, was sentenced in absentia yesterday to 10 years’ hard labor for embezzling public funds.

Ratsiraka was accused of diverting more than $7 billion in June 2002, shortly before he went into exile in France.

After ruling the former French colony almost uninterruptedly since 1975, Ratsiraka contested his loss in December 2001 elections to Marc Ravalomanana.

MALI

Deadline setfor EU hostages

ALGIERS — Authorities hunting Islamist hard-liners believed to be holding 14 European hostages in Mali have issued an ultimatum demanding they free the ill and aged or face military assault, an Algerian newspaper said yesterday.

The 14 hostages — nine Germans, four Swiss and one Dutch national — were among 32 tourists seized in Algeria’s Sahara desert by suspected members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, an Islamist group relatively unknown abroad.

Representatives of German, Swiss and Dutch authorities have been in Mali for more than a week trying to free the hostages.

ZAMBIA

Chiluba wantsspeedy graft trial

LUSAKA — Zambian former President Frederick Chiluba wants a speedy trial on charges he stole more than $40 million, his lawyers said yesterday.

Mr. Chiluba was arrested Tuesday and has been indicted with 96 counts of theft during his decade in power in the southern African country.

The former president, who stepped down in 2001 after 10 years in office, wants a higher authority to handle the case because he believes a magistrate’s court was unfit to give a fair ruling on constitutional matters he plans to raise.

MALAWI

Plug pulledon ‘Big Brother’

BLANTYRE — The parliament of conservative Malawi has decided it has had enough of the boozing and sexual shenanigans of “Big Brother,” the all-African reality television show being beamed across the continent.

It voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to immediately pull the plug on the show, being aired on public broadcaster Television Malawi.

The chairman of the parliamentary committee on the media, Taylor Nothale, said he had received many complaints about the program, especially from parents, and most Malawians felt the show might encourage young people to engage in immoral behavior.

“Big Brother Africa” is the latest and most ambitious of the worldwide “Big Brother” series, which takes groups of ordinary people, locks them in a house for months, and broadcasts their every move for TV viewers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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