- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005


Late ruler’s son becomes president

LOME — Faure Gnassingbe was sworn in as president of Togo yesterday, two days after the death of his father — Africa’s longest-reigning leader — despite international criticism that the son’s accession was unconstitutional.

Hours after the death Saturday of longtime ruler Gnassingbe Eyadema, the military put his 39-year-old, U.S.-educated son in power in a move that drew sharp criticism from around the world. The constitution stipulates that the speaker of parliament succeed the president.

There was no immediate sign that instability or violence could ensue in this West African nation long accustomed to dictatorship and repression, and with little experience with the rule of law.


Trial opens in slaying of van Gogh scion

ROTTERDAM — Prosecutors yesterday launched their case against 12 purported Muslim extremists accused of plotting to undermine the country’s democracy by assassinating prominent politicians.

Prosecutors said the men had copies of a letter left on the body of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, handbooks on how to carry out ritual Islamic murders, and spoke in tapped telephone conversations about slaying nonbelievers like sacrificial lambs.

Several of them trained in Pakistan to carry out armed attacks, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys said their clients were acquaintances, but not terrorists, and the evidence against them was weak.


Policemen killed as carnival begins

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Gunmen attacked a police patrol and killed four policemen in the Haitian capital, and at least four other persons were fatally shot as the country’s three-day carnival celebration began, police and witnesses said yesterday.

The killings highlighted continuing instability nearly a year after former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile, pushed out by an armed revolt and U.S. pressure. More than 240 people have died in political and gang violence since early September.


Serb commander pleads not guilty

THE HAGUE — A top Serbian general pleaded not guilty yesterday to war crimes charges stemming from the murders of hundreds of Kosovo-Albanian civilians during a 1998-99 crackdown.

Gen. Vladimir Lazarevic stood before Judge Carmel Agius at the U.N. tribunal in the Hague and said, “I am not guilty,” to five counts including murder and persecution.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to life in prison. No date has been set for his trial.

Gen. Lazarevic’s indictment said troops under his command “murdered hundreds of Kosovo-Albanian civilians as part of a widespread and systematic campaign of brutality and violence that resulted in the forced deportation of approximately 800,000 Kosovo-Albanian civilians.”


Building design at fault in collapse

PARIS — An administrative inquiry into the fatal roof collapse at Charles de Gaulle airport last year, in which four persons died, will blame flaws in the design and construction of the newly completed terminal, officials at the Paris airport authority said yesterday.

Confirming a report in Le Parisien newspaper, the officials said that senior figures at the airport authority — including possibly its president, Pierre Graff — were likely to be placed under judicial investigation after findings are presented Thursday.


Rebel leader, 4 colleagues killed

COLOMBO — A top political leader of the Tamil Tiger rebels was gunned down along with four colleagues in eastern Sri Lanka, the military said yesterday.

E. Kausalyan was killed as he was traveling toward the town of Batticaloa, military spokesman Brig. Daya Ratnayake said.

Mr. Kausalyan was the rebels’ political leader for the Batticaloa and Ampara districts.

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