Court orders rearrest of rape suspects
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court yesterday ordered the rearrest of 13 men acquitted in the gang rape of a villager whose plight cast a glaring light on the treatment of women in this conservative Muslim nation.
The ruling came a day after an emotional appeal by the victim, Mukhtar Mai, who was raped in 2002 on orders from a village council, purportedly as punishment for her 13-year-old brother’s illicit affair with a woman from a higher-caste family. Miss Mai and her family deny any affair took place and say instead that the brother was sexually assaulted by members of the other family.
A lower court in March acquitted five of the men accused of raping her, and commuted the death sentence of another to life in prison.
Soldier jailed for Gaza disobedience
JERUSALEM — A U.S.-born Israeli soldier who disobeyed orders to take part in demolitions of deserted buildings in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip was sentenced yesterday to 56 days in jail, the army said.
The sentence handed down at a military disciplinary hearing against Cpl. Avi Bieber was seen as setting a precedent for punishment of soldiers who balk at orders to remove settlers during a pullout from occupied Gaza scheduled to begin in August.
A senior army officer convicted Bieber, 19, on three counts of refusing to carry out an order, threatening and insulting a commander and giving press interviews against army regulations, an army spokeswoman said.
“I didn’t come to Israel to beat up Jews,” Bieber shouted at reporters Sunday as fellow soldiers scuffled with rightist Jews.
Parliament re-elects pro-Syrian speaker
BEIRUT — Lebanon’s new parliament re-elected pro-Syrian Nabih Berri as speaker yesterday, a compromise that highlighted the struggle its anti-Syrian majority faces in erasing the influence of Damascus.
The warlord-turned-politician’s return is likely to boost the Hezbollah’s drive to defy a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that the guerrilla group disarm, and complicates any attempt to remove President Emile Lahoud, a close ally of Syria.
Bishop consecrated in Shanghai
SHANGHAI — Hundreds of Catholics packed Shanghai’s cathedral yesterday for the consecration of a bishop who church leaders hope will help ease a rift with Rome.
Joseph Xing Wenzhi, 42, was made auxiliary bishop in a ceremony led by Shanghai Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, the representative of the government-backed church who is relinquishing many of his administrative duties.
China’s officially atheistic communist government has no formal relations with Rome and rejects the pope’s authority to pick bishops. However, both Rome and Beijing have tacitly agreed to Bishop Xing’s appointment, Bishop Jin said earlier this month.
Many Chinese Catholics reject the authority of Bishop Jin, 89, and others in the official church, preferring to worship in underground congregations with their own clergy. They regard another elderly priest, Joseph Fan Zhongliang, as Shanghai’s true bishop.
John Paul placed on sainthood path
ROME — The Roman Catholic Church placed former Pope John Paul II on the path to sainthood yesterday during a joyous ceremony at a Roman basilica — the fastest start to a beatification process in memory for a man many considered a saint long before he died.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, John Paul’s vicar for Rome, presided over the Latin ritual that began the beatification “cause” at the Basilica of St. John.
Once the path was declared officially open, applause rang out, Polish and Vatican flags fluttered in the pews and the faithful chanted “Giovanni Paolo” and “santo subito” — or “John Paul” and “sainthood immediately.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports