One of the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing has been convicted of murdering all 259 people on the plane and another 11 who died on the ground. The guilty verdict on Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, a married man with children, was delivered after an historic 84-day trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands. He now faces life imprisonment in Scotland, although an appeal is being planned. Megrahi’s co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty and has been told he is free to return home. A spokesperson for Libya’s foreign ministry is reported to have said that it respects the decision of Scottish justice and the verdict handed down. The spokesperson went on to demand an immediate lifting of sanctions imposed by the United Nations and reparation for the losses they caused. But Western diplomats say the decision on when to lift the sanctions will rest with the United States and Britain, who have veto power in the 15-nation Security Council.
France’s top anti-globalization activist won a reprieve yesterday from being deported from Brazil for occupying a U.S. agribusiness farm, and he immediately set about planning his next protest. José Bové, a sheep farmer who shot to fame for hammering on the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant in Southern France, was handed a safe conduct document by a local court, protecting him from being deported. Bové had faced ejection from the country for his role in the occupation Friday of an experimental farm owned by Monsanto. Genetically engineered crops and seeds are illegal in Brazil, but Monsanto has said it had government authorization for the fields. Police held José Bové briefly late Monday and served him papers ordering him out of Brazil by midnight Tuesday, but then the Landless Workers’ Movement, which backed Bové and the occupation, appealed. After Tuesday’s reprieve, Bové said he would leave on schedule on Wednesday from Porto Alegre, where he was a star speaker at the World Social Forum, a gathering of more than 10,000 anti-globalization activists from around the world. Bové said an April summit in Quebec on a U.S.-sponsored plan to create a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, known as FTAA, would be the next target of protesters.
Anti-riot police fired tear gas canisters at hundreds of Indians in Quito, Ecuador, protesting bus fare hikes and fuel subsidy cuts in the capital, injuring at least 10 people. The clashed occurred yesterday as the Indians were beginning a march near Salesiana Polytechnic University, which was occupied by the protesters on Monday. Thousands of Indians from Ecuador’s provinces have arrived in Quito in recent days to intensify national protests against economic austerity measures announced earlier this month by the government and required by the International Monetary Fund. Since the economic measures were implemented earlier this month, the price of home cooking gas has doubled, gasoline prices have risen 25 percent, and public bus fares have increased by as much as 75 percent.
In the Philippines, Joseph Estrada said today he remains the duly elected president of the Philippines and his ouster under the pressure of protests and defections of top officials has created a constitutional crisis. In his first public appearance since his vice president took power 11 days ago, Estrada told cheering supporters he was on leave, forced by events and circumstances beyond his control. He said that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was only acting president, and any appointments she makes are temporary. While Estrada said he would pursue only legal remedies, his statements appear to put him on a collision course with the new president, who went on live television last night to say groups using ill-gotten wealth were trying to destabilize her government. She vowed to crush them.
The German government yesterday asked the country’s highest court to ban an extreme-right party in the strongest political move so far against neo-Nazis. Officials expect it will take at least a year before the Supreme Court rules whether to approve the ban on the National Democratic Party, or NPD. Only two political parties have been banned in post-war Germany. The successor to the Nazi party was outlawed immediately after World War II, and the Communist party was banned in West Germany in the 1950s. Security officials consider the National Democratic Party a magnet for violent young skinheads because of its anti-foreigner stance and slogans such as “Germany for Germans.”
Civil rights activists and others opposed to official public displays of the Confederate Battle Symbol in the South won an unusually quick victory in Georgia yesterday as the State Senate voted to minimize the rebel banner on the state flag. The vote came less than a week after Georgia’s House approved a secretly redesigned flag in what one angry lawmaker called a “sneak attack.”