- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009


Rights lawyer dies in Moscow shooting

MOSCOW | A human-rights lawyer who unsuccessfully fought the early release of a Russian colonel convicted of murdering a Chechen woman was fatally shot on a Moscow street Monday, law enforcement authorities said.

A journalist, who also was hit in the attack, later died in the hospital, according to the deputy editor of a Moscow newspaper.

The daylight slaying of Stanislav Markelov sparked anger and grief among Russia’s beleaguered rights activists and Chechens already upset by the release last week of Col. Yuri Budanov.

Mr. Markelov, 34, was shot in central Moscow near a building where he had just held a news conference, about a half-mile from the Kremlin, said Viktoria Tsyplenkova, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of the Moscow prosecutor’s office.


Suicide attack targets U.S. base

KABUL | A suicide car bomb attack Monday near the gates of a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan killed one Afghan and wounded several more, officials said.

The attack targeted Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost City, near the border with Pakistan, said Lt. Cmdr. James Gater, a spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

The Interior Ministry said one Afghan was killed and six were wounded in the attack.

A second suicide bomber was waiting for emergency officials to respond to the first attack, but he was detected by police and detonated his explosives early, killing only himself, the ministry said.

Late last month a bomb-laden truck exploded outside another U.S. military post in Khost province, killing 14 Afghan schoolchildren.


AIDS doctors sent to prison

TEHRAN | Two internationally renowned Iranian AIDS physicians were among four men sentenced to prison over the weekend for participating in a purported U.S.-backed plot to overthrow Iran’s Islamic regime, Iran’s state news agency reported Monday.

The prosecution of Dr. Arash Alaei and Dr. Kamyar Alaei, who have been held in prison since June 2008, has raised an outcry among international human rights groups. The Alaei brothers and two others were tried in a closed-door trial last month.

The state-run Islamic Republic news agency said the men were convicted of recruiting dozens of others and planned to recruit more Iranian doctors, university professors and scientists to provide information to the U.S. on Iran’s infrastructure and civil defense.


Top Shi’ite cleric tells people to vote

BAGHDAD | Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite cleric on Monday called on Iraqis to go to the polls in this month’s elections but stressed he was not supporting any particular candidates.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani enjoys massive support among Iraq’s majority Shi’ite Muslims, and his statement appeared designed to distance himself from religious parties trying to create the impression they have his support.

Iraqis are set to choose members of ruling councils in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces on Jan. 31. More than 14,000 candidates are running for 444 council seats. Iraqi Kurds have delayed the balloting in the three provinces of their self-ruled region.


Tainted milk case goes to top court

BEIJING | More than 200 families whose babies fell ill after drinking tainted infant formula said Monday they are taking their case to China’s highest court after being repeatedly ignored by lower courts.

The lawsuit involving 213 families poses a challenge to the government’s attempts to end one of the country’s worst food safety crises. The scandal over milk spiked with an industrial chemical has been blamed for the deaths of six babies and the sickening of nearly 300,000 others with kidney stones and kidney failure.

The 22 Chinese dairies involved have proposed a $160 million compensation plan, but many parents want higher compensation and long-term treatment for their children.


Australian jailed for insulting king

BANGKOK | An Australian writer was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for insulting Thailand’s royal family in his novel, a rare conviction of a foreigner amid a crackdown on people and Web sites deemed critical of the monarchy.

Bangkok’s Criminal Court sentenced Harry Nicolaides, 41, to six years behind bars but reduced the term because he had entered a guilty plea, the judge said.

Nicolaides, of Melbourne, was charged with insulting Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the crown prince in his 2005 book “Verisimilitude,” a work of fiction that only sold seven copies.


3 men deny plotting with transit bombers

LONDON | A prosecutor Monday accused three British men of scouting out potential targets on behalf of suicide bombers who killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in 2005.

The defendants - Waheed Ali, 25, Sadeer Saleem, 28, and Mohammed Shakil, 32 - are being retried on a charge of conspiring to cause explosions with the bombers who blew themselves up on three subway trains and a bus on July 7, 2005.

The three defendants denied the charge, pleading not guilty in front of jurors at London’s Kingston Crown Court.


Landmark 1989 breakfast re-enacted

SOFIA | Participants of a historic 1989 breakfast between Bulgarian dissidents and then-French President Francois Mitterrand that paved the way for democracy in communist Bulgaria re-created the event Monday.

France’s former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas and five of the 12 Bulgarian dissidents who joined Mr. Mitterrand for breakfast at the French Embassy in Sofia on Jan. 19, 1989, reunited for the occasion, seating themselves in the same order and at the same table as they did 20 years ago.

Mr. Mitterrand’s chair and those of seven dissidents now deceased were left empty as the survivors commemorated their “memory and contribution to democracy” with a minute of silence.

It would take another 10 months after the breakfast for the regime of hard-line communist leader Todor Zhivkov to fall.

“Mitterrand’s visit encouraged those who wanted to stand up to the totalitarian regime,” said 73-year-old former dissident Zhelyu Zhelev, who became Bulgaria’s first democratically elected president after the fall of communism.

He was joined at the table by journalist Koprinka Chervenkova, painter Svetlin Rusev, film director Angel Vagenstein and historian Nikolay Vasilev.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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