Ex-Hamas minister freed from prison
JERUSALEM — The Israeli military yesterday released a former Palestinian Cabinet minister swept up in a West Bank raid in May, saying he had agreed to renounce his Hamas membership and would no longer hold positions for the militant Islamic group. Israel holds about 10,500 prisoners.
Education Minister Nasser Shaer was part of the Cabinet dismissed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after the Gaza takeover.
Separately, Israeli Cabinet ministers approved a list of 256 Palestinian prisoners to be released Friday in a gesture of support for Mr. Abbas. Prominent among the prisoners is Abdel Rahim Malouh, second in command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which carried out the assassination of Israeli Cabinet Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001.
Israeli officials said 85 percent of the prisoners to be freed are from Fatah, and the others are from smaller groups. None belongs to Hamas.
Train derails, releasing toxic gas
KIEV — A freight train derailed and released a cloud of toxic gas that sent at least 20 persons to hospitals, an accident that touched nerves still raw more than two decades after the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster.
Hundreds of people were evacuated and others fled their homes on their own after the Monday evening derailment sparked a fire in a cargo of yellow phosphorous, creating a cloud of gas that affected 14 villages in the former Soviet republic.
Abe seen ‘likely’ to lose upper house
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition is “highly likely” to lose a July 29 upper house election, a newspaper forecast today after its survey showed his support below the critical 30 percent level.
Chances that Mr. Abe’s ruling bloc will keep its upper house majority have dimmed because of government mishandling of pension records and a series of scandals and gaffes that cost his Cabinet three ministers, two from resignations and one by suicide.
Only 27.9 percent of those responding to the July 14-16 survey by the conservative Yomiuri newspaper said they backed Mr. Abe’s Cabinet, compared with 51.7 percent who disapproved.
Death sentences of medics commuted
TRIPOLI — The death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV have been commuted to life in prison, a top Libyan official said yesterday.
The ruling was issued after the families of the children each received $1 million and agreed to drop their demand for the execution of the six, who deny having infected more than 400 children and say their confessions were extracted under torture.
Libya’s Supreme Court upheld the six medics’ death sentences last week, but the government’s Supreme Judiciary Council, which met late yesterday, can overrule the court.
Archbishop accused of affair with aide
HARARE — Zimbabwe’s state-run press published pictures yesterday that it said showed the head of the country’s Roman Catholic Church, one of President Robert Mugabe’s foremost critics, in bed with a married woman.
Pius Ncube, the archbishop of Bulawayo, was unavailable for comment about the pictures published in the Bulawayo-based Chronicle newspaper. The grainy pictures were plastered over several pages under the headline “The Pius Act.”
Archbishop Ncube has been a constant thorn in the side of the Mugabe regime, calling for the people of Zimbabwe to rise up against his rule and declaring his readiness to “go in front of blazing guns.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports