- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Ky. case defense aims to shield pope

VATICAN CITY | Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex-abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed.

Court documents obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren’t employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the “smoking gun” that provides proof of a cover-up.

The case was filed in 2004 in Kentucky by three men who claim they were abused by priests and claim negligence by the Vatican. Their attorney, William McMurry, is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country.


Rebels free hostage after 12 years

FLORENCIA | A soldier held hostage for more than 12 years was freed by Colombian rebels Tuesday, the International Red Cross said.

Sgt. Pablo Emilio Moncayo was one of the longest-held hostages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. He was 19 when taken captive during a rebel attack on an army outpost in the mountains on Dec. 21, 1997.

A Brazilian helicopter flew to an unannounced hand-over spot in southern Colombia and the rebels turned him over to a humanitarian team led by Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, Red Cross spokesman Adolfo Beteta said hours later.

Sgt. Moncayo was being flown back to the city of Florencia, where his family was waiting, Mr. Beteta said, adding that the soldier was generally in good health.


Troops to leave Afghanistan in 2011

OTTAWA | Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011 despite U.S. hopes of an extension.

Mrs. Clinton went on Canadian television on Monday and said the U.S. would like Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan past 2011 and suggested they could switch from a combat to a training or logistics support role.

But Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Mr. Harper, said Mr. Harper told Mrs. Clinton that after 2011, Canada will be involved in a civilian mission focused largely on aid and reconstruction.

Mr. Harper and Mrs. Clinton met for 20 minutes on the sidelines of the Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in Ottawa.


General apologizes for comment on gays

THE HAGUE | A retired American general has apologized for a remark to the U.S. Senate suggesting that gay Dutch soldiers were partly to blame for the Srebrenica massacre by Serb soldiers in Bosnia, according to the Defense Ministry.

The comment by retired Gen. John Sheehan during testimony opposing a proposal to allow gays to serve openly in the U.S. military caused an uproar in the Netherlands, where discrimination against gays is outlawed, including in the military.

The Defense Ministry released an e-mail Tuesday from Mr. Sheehan, a former NATO commander who retired from the military in 1997, to retired Dutch Gen. Henk van den Breemen saying he is sorry for his statements to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 18.


21 babies found dead in river

BEIJING | The bodies of 21 babies, some with hospital identification tags around their tiny ankles, washed ashore on a river in eastern China and two mortuary workers were detained for purportedly dumping them.

News footage Tuesday showed the babies — at least one of whom was stuffed in a yellow plastic bag marked “medical waste” — strewn along a dirt riverbank near a highway overpass. A few wore diapers. All were caked in mud.

Some of the babies appeared several months old, while the official Xinhua News Agency said the bodies included fetuses.


U.N. delays report on Bhutto killing

UNITED NATIONS | U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday accepted a request from Pakistan’s president to delay the release of a report on the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, until April 15.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky made the announcement just two hours before a three-member U.N. commission that investigated Bhutto’s death was scheduled to hold a press conference to discuss the report’s findings.

Mr. Nesirky said he did not know why Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari made the request, which was received at the U.N. overnight.

But Pakistan’s presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said the country had requested the delay so the commission could attempt to question two heads of state who he said had called Bhutto before her death warning her of “serious threats to her life.”

Bhutto was killed in a Dec. 27, 2007, gun and suicide-bomb attack as she was leaving a rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where she was campaigning to return her Pakistan People’s Party to power in parliamentary elections.


Defector from North to travel to U.S.

SEOUL | The highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to South Korea will visit the United States soon, his first trip there since Seoul in 2008 let him travel abroad freely, a report said Tuesday.

Hwang Jang-yop, now a vocal critic of the communist regime, was once secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party and a tutor to current leader Kim Jong-il.

He defected in 1997 during a visit to Beijing and now lives under guard at a secret address in South Korea to forestall any attempts by the North to assassinate him.

During his only previous trip to the United States in 2003, Mr. Hwang testified to a congressional hearing, prompting Pyongyang to denounce him as “human scum.”

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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