Peace talks begin
The country’s warring parties were due to start peace talks yesterday in the Ethiopian capital in a bid to end nearly three weeks of conflict that has left thousands dead in the world’s newest nation. Government and rebel negotiating teams arrived in Addis Ababa on Wednesday evening and while talks were expected yesterday, formal negotiations may not open for several days, Ethiopia’s foreign minister said. UN special envoy Hilde Johnson said in Juba it was “positive that they are sending delegations” after the violence that has forced 200,000 people to flee their homes. Fighting erupted on Dec. 15, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Machar has denied this, in turn accusing the president of conducting a violent purge of his opponents, and the fighting has spread across the country, with the rebels seizing several areas in the oil-rich north.
Gang-raped, burned teen dies
A teenager was gang-raped in two separate attacks and then died after being set on fire, sparking protests in the eastern city of Kolkata, police said yesterday. The 16-year-old was assaulted first on Oct. 26 last year and then again the day after by a group of more than six men near her family’s home in Madhyagram, about 25km north of Kolkata. The second rape occurred as she was returning home after reporting the first attack at a police station. She was then set on fire on Dec. 23 and died in a state-run hospital late on New Year’s Eve, police said. “She gave us a dying declaration in front of the health officials that she was set on fire by two persons close to the accused when she was alone at home on Dec. 23,” policeman Nimbala Santosh Uttamrao said. Police made their first arrests on Wednesday, two months after the initial crime, police chief Rajiv Kumar said. Several hundred activists on Wednesday protested in Kolkata over the crime.
Musharraf’s lawyers walk
Lawyers for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf walked out of a hearing in his treason case yesterday, complaining of being threatened and harassed. The 70-year-old had been expected to attend the special tribunal for the first time after failing to show up for two previous sessions due to security threats against him. It was unclear whether he would come to court following his lawyers’ walkout. Anwar Mansoor Khan, one of the lawyers representing the former general, told the court he has been receiving threats and was unable to sleep the night before the hearing. “I was under total threat ... from 1am to five in the morning. Someone was banging on my door and ringing my bell,” Khan told the court. When one of the judges asked who was threatening him, Khan answered: “This very government.” The court promised to investigate, but Khan walked out of court, followed by other members of Musharraf’s legal team.
Army fights to keep sex ban
The military yesterday said it would fight a court ruling quashing its move to kick an officer candidate out of the elite Army Academy for having sex with his girlfriend while on leave. An appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the Academy abused its authority to discipline cadets when it expelled a candidate for having sex with his girlfriend while on a weekend leave. It ruled his conduct did no harm to the institution’s honor. The academy maintains rules against sexual relations as part of its code of conduct that also bans drinking, smoking and marriage and it intends to take the case to the Supreme Court.