■ Hong Kong `Longhair' conviction upheld
Rebel Legislator Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄) lost a High Court battle yesterday over the right to stage unauthorized demonstra-tions in the territory. The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Leung -- also known as "Longhair" -- and two others for staging a protest involving more than 30 people without giving police a week's advance warning. The 2002 convic-tions were the first under the Public Order Ordinance which came into effect when Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Leung argued that the con-victions contravened his civil right to demonstrate and should be overturned. Leung said he would appeal to Hong Kong's highest court and insisted he would defy the Court of Appeal's ruling by holding another similar demonstration.
■ The Philippines
Italian hostage freed
An Italian aid worker walked free from the jungle on Mindanao island yesterday, a day after he was abducted by lgunmen, officials said. Local officials and Muslim reli-gious leaders in the Lanao region convinced the gun-men to free 29-year-old Andrea Cianferoni about 20 hours after he and two Filipino co-workers were abducted near the town of Kauswagan, they said. Cianferoni was "in good condition" and escorted back to his agency's field office in Iligan city, said a military spokesman.
Officials detained for graft
Three officials have been arrested for alleged involve-ment in a major graft scan-dal surrounding oil and gas giant PetroVietnam, state media said yesterday. Chu Chat Chinh, director of the sea project technology department at the company's Petroleum Institute, and Bui Duc Bao, a Vietnam National Tourism Administration official, were detained Tuesday on embezzlement charges. Nguyen Van Thanh, an official from a state-owned transport company, was also arrested and charged with falsifying official documents, the Thanh Nien newspaper said. Their arrests were part of a police investigation into corruption surrounding a large PetroVietnam project and came a day after a top Ministry of Construction official was charged with embezzlement as part of that probe.
Teacher gets light sentence
A teacher who had sex with a 15-year-old pupil walked free from a Melbourne court yesterday in a decision that was slammed as sexist. Karen Louise Ellis, a 37-year-old married mother-of-three, was sentenced to a suspended 22-month sen-tence, meaning she will not go to jail unless she commits another crime over that period. She had pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual penetration with a child under 16. The case comes just three months after tennis coach Gavin Hopper was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. Crime Victims Association president Noel McNamara said the lenient sentence was a disgrace.
■ Sri Lanka
Norway urges more talks
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen is meeting with Sri Lankan President Chan-drika Kumaratunga and the reclusive head of the Tamil Tiger rebels this week to urge the two sides to resume talks on a permanent end to the country's two-decade civil war. The meetings come amid escalating rebel attacks in the country's volatile east. The peace talks broke down 19 months ago.
■ UkraineElections result delayed
Ukraine's election commission early Wednesday postponed announcing final results from the presidential election 10 days earlier, adding to tensions over the vote count that left the Prime Minister and an opposition challenger facing a runoff. Central Elections Commission head Serhiy Kivalov had said Tuesday that the final results were likely to be announced later in the day, but after a commission meeting dragged long past midnight, he announced the meeting was adjourning until later in the day. The commission's failure to announce the final tally of the Oct. 31 vote had raised concerns about the commission's procedures and about the count for the Nov. 21 runoff. A tally from 97 percent of the precincts announced showed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and challenger Viktor Yushchenko within less than a percentage point of each other, each with about 39 percent of the vote.