Pro-Kurdish party banned for rebel ties
ANKARA | Turkey’s top court on Friday banned a pro-Kurdish political party on charges of ties to Kurdish rebels, a decision likely to disrupt a struggling reconciliation process between the state and minority Kurds.
Hasim Kilic, head of the Constitutional Court, said the court also expelled Democratic Society Party Chairman Ahmet Turk and another legislator, Aysel Tugluk, from parliament, barring them and 35 other party members from joining any political party for five years.
The party is accused of links to the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has fought for autonomy from the Turkish state since 1984.
Court orders vote recount
BUCHAREST | Romania’s Constitutional Court ordered a re-examination of voided ballots from the country’s disputed presidential election, prolonging months of political uncertainty. Analysts predicted, however, that the ruling was not likely to lead to a new vote.
The court ordered election officials to look at whether about 138,000 ballots were improperly declared void. Center-left former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana lost by a margin of just 70,000 votes to incumbent centrist President Traian Basescu, garnering 49.7 percent to Mr. Basescu’s 50.3 percent.
Mr. Geoana said his Social Democratic Party has evidence of ballot stuffing, multiple voting and widespread vote-buying, and has asked for new elections.
Hard-liners hold pro-government rallies
TEHRAN | Thousands of Iranian government supporters staged rallies Friday to denounce opposition students who burned photos of the country’s supreme leader in protests this week.
At marches in Tehran and other cities after Friday prayers, participants shouted the traditional hard-line slogans “Down with the U.S.” and “Down with Israel,” Iranian state TV reported, but their ire was largely directed against the government’s persistent domestic opposition.
The demonstrations marked the first response by Iran’s clerical leadership and its supporters to the taboo-shattering actions of their opponents Monday, when tens of thousands of students protested at universities across Iran and burned pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some also burned images of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-allied shah.
Pope distressed by Irish sexual abuse
VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” Friday at the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, which church leaders said would lead to a shake-up of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.
Church sources expected some bishops to resign in the wake of a government report that said church leaders in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.
Irish church leaders held an emergency meeting with the pope Friday. The Vatican said the pope would write to the Irish people about the crisis and a plan for action - the first time a pope will devote a document solely to the clergy’s abuse of children.
Ireland has been in a state of shock since the publication of the Murphy Commission Report two weeks ago. The paper said the church had “obsessively” hidden child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, and operated a policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Body of president stolen from grave
NICOSIA | Grave robbers stole the corpse of former hard-line Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, digging up his coffin during a thunderstorm just before the first anniversary of his death, police said Friday.
The body-snatching horrified people in Cyprus and came as the island’s Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders are locked in complex reunification talks that have made limited progress.
Police said the tomb raiders struck late Thursday or early Friday. Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said three people were initially detained for questioning but released without charge. He gave no more details.
President Demetris Christofias, who beat Papadopoulos in March 2008 elections, urged Cypriots “to remain calm in the face of this provocative act.”
Papadopoulos died of lung cancer on Dec. 12, 2008, at age 74.
Government bans female circumcision
KAMPALA | Uganda’s parliament has approved a bill banning female genital mutilation.
Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo said the new law, passed without opposition late Thursday, could give offenders a life sentence.
Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is prevalent in portions of West and East Africa to limit women’s sexual activity. More than 3,000 girls are affected each December in northeastern Uganda.