- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

MALDIVES

Emergency declared after protests

MALE — The government declared a state of emergency yesterday, arresting about 100 democracy activists and using tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who staged a rare show of dissent in this Indian Ocean archipelago.

State radio announced the declaration, which gives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom the authority to suspend citizen rights as well as bar people from gathering or criticizing the government.

Mr. Gayoom, who has been in power since 1978, does not tolerate dissent and has banned political parties in the Maldives, a nation of 278,000 people on 1,192 coral islands, about 300 miles southwest of India’s southern tip.

People were ordered to stay indoors in the capital, Male, under an indefinite curfew. As night fell, security forces in armored vehicles deployed around the city, witnesses said. Internet access was blocked, curbing people’s ability to communicate.

BANGLADESH

Threatened writer dies in Germany

DHAKA — A Bangladeshi author who was nearly killed in February in a knife attack his family blamed on Islamist extremists has died of natural causes in Germany, German police said yesterday after his family demanded an investigation.

Members of Humayun Azad’s family had reacted with disbelief at his death less than a week after he sought safety in Germany after a death threat in June and demanded an international inquiry.

Police in Munich, however, ruled out foul play and said an autopsy indicated the death was caused by heart failure.

Mr. Azad, author of at least 50 books, was stabbed in February as he left a book fair in Dhaka. His family blamed hard-line Islamists angered by his latest book set during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

NEPAL

Notorious criminal jailed for life

KATMANDU — A Nepalese court sentenced notorious criminal Charles Sobhraj, also known as the “Serpent” and the “Bikini Killer,” to life imprisonment on Thursday in connection with the killing of an American backpacker in 1975.

Sobhraj, a master of disguise and escape whose exploits across Asia have spawned two books and a movie, was arrested while gambling in a posh hotel casino in the heart of the Nepalese capital, Katmandu, in September last year.

The 60-year-old French national initially was charged in the same court with using a forged passport while traveling to Nepal, which later was cleared.

Sobhraj, who has been accused by police in several Asian countries of killing more than 20 Western backpackers, denied any involvement in the case and said he had never been to Nepal before.


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