Two charged with murder
An anti-terrorism court yesterday sentenced two Islamic militants to death after finding them guilty of stage-managing a suicide car bombing that killed 11 French engineers in southern Karachi last year, Prosecutor Maula Bakhsh Bhatti said. The sentence against Asif Zaheer and Bashir Ahmed, both members of Harakat-ul Mujahedeen al Almi, an outlawed Islamic militant group, was handed down in a heavily fortified jail in Karachi. The trial began in April 2003 and was located inside the Karachi Jail compound for security reasons. The death sentence was handed down on the charge of terrorism. The two men were also found guilty of a second charge of conspiring to kill foreign nationals and sentenced to life in prison on that charge. It's not known whether the men would be hanged or allowed to spend their life in jail.
■ Hong Kong
Firing blamed on being gay
A flight attendant claims he has been sacked from his job with Dragonair after his employers found out he was gay, a news report said yesterday. The 26-year-old, who asked not to be named, was dismissed days after being promoted to flight purser and told he was "not suitable for the job," according to the South China Morning Post. He claims he had earlier been told by an administrator that it was "okay to be gay" but had been urged to keep a low profile about his sexuality, the newspaper said. His case has now been taken up by action group Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities, which wants Dragonair to issue an explanation over the flight attendant's dismissal. Dragonair declined to comment on the allegations, saying it would not comment on cases involving individual members of staff.
Pacific nations back plan
The 16 nations of the Pacific Islands Forum announced yesterday they have unanimously backed intervention by an Australian-led multinational force of police and troops to restore law and order in the violence-racked Solomon Islands.
Exiles face deportation
Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday threatened to deport Myanmar exiles who stage protests in Thailand against the military government in their country. Thaksin said the Myanmar dissidents are becoming a national security problem and will not be allowed to demonstrate outside the refugee camps where they are registered. Myanmar refugees in Thailand have become more vocal in recent weeks, protesting against the detention since May 30 of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the junta.
Clayderman soothes litigants
A court in Beijing is playing Richard Clayderman songs as background music to sooth the tempers of litigants during trials, a news report said yesterday. Chaoyang District Court decided to use the music of the 49-year-old French pianist, famous for his easy listening style, as a way of trying to defuse tensions in trials, according to the South China Morning Post. The court has paid 200 yuan (US$24) to China's copyright association to allow it to play Clayderman's songs inside public court rooms, the newspaper said. Clayderman, born Philippe Pages in December 1953, has recorded over 1,000 songs in a career spanning 30 years and has sold more than 70 million records. He has played concerts in China.
Police disperse protesters
Police fired teargas and live rounds in Nigeria's biggest city of Lagos and the inland capital Abuja yesterday to disperse protesters at the start of a general strike over fuel prices, witnesses said. "Protesters have made bonfires on the streets. The police have moved in and are firing teargas to disperse the people," a resident of Abuja's Area 1 district said. Police were firing live rounds in the air to disperse a large group chanting anti-government slogans around burning tyres in the middle of a major street. Pickets of the umbrella Nigeria Labour Congress used buses to block the two main entrances to Abuja's federal secretariat complex.