World digest for July 27

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Trial begins in gang-rape of woman in Pakistan

DERA GHAZI KHAN, Pakistan -- Fourteen men went on trial Friday over the gang rape of a woman in a remote Pakistani village, an attack ordered by a tribal council to punish the victim's family.

Four of the men are charged with committing the rape, while 10 others are accused with ordering the attack, said Asghar Ali Gill, a prosecutor in the court in the central town of Dera Ghazi Khan.

All the accused pleaded innocent, according to defense lawyer Malik Saleem. The four accused of rape face death by hanging. The others face jail terms.

The woman was raped repeatedly on June 22 on the order of the tribal council in the village of Meerwala to punish her brother, who was seen walking unchaperoned with a girl who was a member of a richer tribe.

N. Ireland bomb victims sue alleged terror chiefs

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Victims of Northern Ireland's deadliest bombing delivered court papers Friday naming five suspected senior Irish Republican Army dissidents, the first time that alleged terrorists have ever been sued.

The landmark civil case being pursued by relatives of 29 people slain when a car bomb devastated downtown Omagh on Aug. 15, 1998, is being closely watched throughout Britain and Ireland. If successful, the suit could open the way for other cases in the Northern Ireland conflict in which more than 3,600 people have died, mostly at the hands of the IRA and splinter groups.

Although the Omagh families hope to win financial damages from the five accused, they say the major point of their campaign -- made possible after tens of thousands of people donated more than $1.5 million to a legal fund -- was to establish the men's guilt.

Two-day strike begins at German Wal-Marts

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Germany's retail workers' union launched a two-day strike at several dozen Wal-Mart stores on Friday, in what it said was an attempt to make the U.S. retail giant join Germany's regional wage bargaining system.

Wal-Mart said it was obeying all German wage laws and paying union scale to its employees even though it is not a member of the regional employers' association.

The union, which estimated about 2,000 employees at 46 stores joined the strike, is negotiating a new wage contract with the retail employers' association. It is seeking a 6.5 percent wage increase, though most think it will settle for less.

In Germany, most wage agreements are negotiated between unions and regional employer associations that represent companies in a given sector of the economy, instead of company by company. Even companies that do not belong to the associations, such as Wal-Mart, must pay the union contract minimums by law.

No charges to be filed in Kursk sub disaster

MOSCOW -- Leaky torpedo fuel caused the explosions that sank the nuclear submarine Kursk with all its 118 seamen, the Russian government said Friday, closing the books on one of the country's worst post-Soviet disasters.

General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov said no one was to blame for the torpedo's malfunction during a naval exercise in the Barents Sea on Aug. 12, 2000, and that criminal charges would not be pursued.

Ustinov said the disaster was triggered by the leak of unstable hydrogen peroxide fuel.

For two years, the Russian government was reluctant to admit that the Kursk was destroyed by a malfunction. But earlier this month, a commission investigating the disaster said that was the only possible explanation.

-- From wire reports

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