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Charges dropped against 5 detainees

Rocked by allegations of political meddling and misconduct, officials at the troubled war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, announced yesterday that charges have been dropped against five terrorism suspects the Pentagon has said are dangerous al-Qaida operatives. All five had alleged ties to terrorism kingpin Abu Zubaydah, the Saudi-born militant believed to have served as a recruiter for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. Four of the men, whose charge sheets were expunged from the Pentagon's records even before the announcement of their dismissal, were reported accomplices of "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla, who was convicted last year on identical charges in U.S. federal district court in Miami. Susan J. Crawford, a Pentagon judge overseeing the Office of Military Commissions as convening authority, gave no reason for dropping the cases. Although the charges against them were dismissed, the five will remain imprisoned as enemy combatants. They are Binyam Mohammed, Ghassan Abdulla al Sharbi, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani, and Noor Uthman Muhammed.

Ex-official arrested in torture scandal

CHICAGO: A former high-ranking Chicago police official was arrested yesterday on charges he lied when he denied that he and detectives under his command tortured murder suspects, federal officials said. A federal indictment unsealed yesterday accused former police Lt. Jon Burge of perjury and obstruction of justice for statements he made in 2003 when answering questions for a civil-rights lawsuit. The arrest capped a long-running controversy over allegations that beatings, electric shocks and death threats were used against suspects at Burge's Area 2 violent crimes headquarters. The allegations contributed to then-Gov. George Ryan's decision in early 2003 to empty the state's death row. Burge, 60, who has long denied wrongdoing, was arrested before dawn at his home in Apollo Beach, Fla., the U.S. attorney's office said.

India's lunar program gets under way

NEW DELHI : India has successfully launched it's first unmanned mission to the moon. Chandrayaan-1 has blasted off from the Sriharikota space center in southern India into the dawn sky Wednesday in a two-year mission aimed at laying the groundwork for further Indian space expeditions. Mission control says "lift off is normal." Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. If the launch is successful, India will join what's shaping up as a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon. The rocket's name means "Moon Craft" in Sanskrit.

Ex-prime minister guilty of corruption

BANGKOK, Thailand : Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was convicted of corruption yesterday and sentenced to two years in prison, a ruling that may embolden anti-government protesters and prolong a stalemate that has paralyzed Thailand's government. Thaksin dismissed as politically motivated the charges involving a real estate purchase by his wife, while prosecutors said they would try to extradite the former telecommunications tycoon from exile in Britain.

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