World Digest: Nov. 8, 2013

November 7, 2013
EUROPEAN UNION
Court: Gays may be eligible for asylum

Refugees facing imprisonment in their home countries because they are gay may have grounds to be granted asylum in the European Union, the 28-nation bloc’s top court ruled Thursday.

The existence of laws allowing the imprisonment of gay men and lesbians “may constitute an act of persecution per se,” if they are routinely enforced, said the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, ruling on the cases of three people from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal seeking asylum in the Netherlands.

Worldwide, more than 70 countries have laws that are used to criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the International Commission of Jurists, an advocacy group, although in some they are rarely enforced. The court said it will be up to Europe’s national authorities to determine whether the situation in an applicant’s home country amounts to persecution.

Amnesty International said the court should have gone further and recognized the mere existence of anti-gay laws in a country as persecution, “even when they have not recently been applied in practice.”

Some E.U. nations, including the Netherlands, already accept sexual orientation as a reason for granting asylum under certain circumstances, but Thursday’s ruling clarifies that policy and makes it binding for all 28 members.

— Associated Press

IRAQ
Military base blasts, other attacks kill 30

A string of attacks, including a double suicide car bombing targeting a military base, killed 30 people across Iraq on Thursday, officials said.

The deadliest attack took place when two bombers drove explosives-laden cars into a military base in the town of Tarmiyah late in the day, killing at least 19 troops and wounding 41, authorities said.

Soldiers who were guarding the base opened fire on the first car bomber as he approached but did not prevent him from detonating his explosives against a gate protecting the facility, police said. Two minutes later, the second suicide bomber rammed his car through the gate and set off an explosion as he reached a crowd of soldiers who had gathered after the first blast, police said.

Tarmiyah, a former insurgent stronghold inhabited by Sunnis, is about 30 miles north of Baghdad.

In earlier violence Thursday, a bombing at a tent serving food to pilgrims on their way to the southern city of Karbala killed four people, and a suicide car bomber struck an army post in the town of Ana, 200 miles northwest of Baghdad, killing three soldiers.

— Associated Press

Second video emerges of Toronto mayor: A new video that surfaced Thursday shows Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in a rambling rage, using threatening words including “kill” and “murder,” as a months-long saga took yet another twist. Ford told reporters moments after the video was posted on the Toronto Star’s Web site that he was “extremely, extremely inebriated” in it and “embarrassed” by it. The video’s context is unknown and it is unclear who the target of Ford’s wrath is. The video brought new calls for the mayor — who admitted Tuesday that he had smoked crack cocaine — to step down.

Tajik president reelected unopposed: Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rakhmon has won a new seven-year term after his only serious rival was barred from running. The Moscow-backed leader, who has run the poorest former Soviet republic since 1992, keeps Tajikistan’s opposition in check, and civil society is weak. But he must contend with rising social tensions in the Muslim nation next door to Afghanistan. The West has not recognized one election in Tajikistan as free and fair.

Jailed Russian band member appeals conviction: Pussy Riot punk-band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has asked Russia’s Supreme Court to throw out her conviction and two-year prison sentence, said her lawyer, Irina Khrunova. Prison officials said on Oct. 18 that Tolokonnikova would be moved, and Khrunova said that there were indications her client had been transferred to a prison in Siberia but that she was unable to confirm it. Amnesty International has urged Russian authorities to tell relatives where Tolokonnikova is and give her access to a lawyer.

Pope to meet with Putin: Pope Francis will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vatican City on Nov. 25, the Vatican said. Francis has been closely following the war in Syria, and given Russia’s prominent role in efforts to resolve fears over Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal, the two would be likely to discuss the international push to end the suffering and warfare there.

— From news services

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