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A court in northern India sentenced a Hindu guru and 14 followers to life imprisonment on Tuesday in the deaths of four women and a child at his sprawling ashram.

The court ordered the penalty for Sant Rampal in Hisar city in Haryana state, where authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in anticipation of violence by the guru's thousands of disciples in response to his sentencing.

Rampal, 67, was arrested in 2014 following a days-long standoff between law enforcers and his supporters in which six people died and hundreds were injured. At the time, Rampal was wanted for questioning in a 2006 murder case and had repeatedly ignored orders to appear in court.

Rampal and the 14 followers were accused by police of holding the four women and child captive inside the ashram, resulting in their deaths from a lack of food and medicine as the fierce standoff continued. The court is expected to announce sentences in the death of a fifth woman on Wednesday.

Hindu gurus and holy men are immensely popular in India, with millions of followers. People often consult gurus before making important personal decisions. But the enormous power wielded by some has led to scandals in which they have been accused of exploiting devotees.




An American pastor flew out of Turkey on Friday after a Turkish court convicted him of terror links but freed him from house arrest, removing a major irritant in fraught ties between two NATO allies still strained by disagreements over Syria, Iran and a host of other issues.

The court near the western city of Izmir sentenced North Carolina native Andrew Brunson to just over three years in prison for allegedly helping terror groups, but let him go because the 50-year-old evangelical pastor had already spent nearly two years in detention. An earlier charge of espionage was dropped.

Hours later, Brunson was transported to Izmir’s airport and was flown out of Turkey, where he had lived for more than two decades. He was to be flown to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, then on to Washington, where he was to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday.

“I love Jesus. I love Turkey,” an emotional Brunson, who had maintained he was innocent of all charges, told the court during Friday’s hearing. He tearfully hugged his wife Norine Lyn as he awaited the court decision.

“PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!” Trump tweeted after the American was driven out of a Turkish prison in a convoy. Later, after Brunson was airborne, Trump told reporters the pastor had “suffered greatly” but was in “very good shape,” and that he would meet with him at the Oval Office on Saturday.


The U.S. on Monday urged the United Nations' highest court to toss out a case filed by Iran that seeks to recover around $2 billion worth of frozen assets the U.S. Supreme Court awarded to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Iran.

The case at the International Court of Justice is based on a bilateral treaty that the Trump administration terminated last week. Despite that, the United States sent a large legal delegation to the court's headquarters in The Hague to present their objections to the case, which Tehran filed in 2016.

U.S. State Department lawyer Richard Visek told the 15-judge panel that U.S. objections to the court's jurisdiction and admissibility "provide a clear basis for ruling that this case should not proceed to the merits."

Visek said the case is based on "malicious conduct" by Iran, a country Washington has long classified as a state sponsor of terrorism around the world. Iran denies that charge.

"At the outset we should be clear as to what this case is about," Visek said. "The actions at the root of this case center on Iran's support for international terrorism and its complaints about the U.S. legal framework that allows victims of that terrorism to hold Iran accountable to judicial proceedings and receive compensation for their tragic losses."

The attack at the heart of the case was a suicide truck bombing of a U.S. marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 that killed 241 military personnel and wounded many more. A U.S. court ruled that the attack was carried out by an Iranian agent supported by the Hezbollah militant group.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered some $2 billion in assets of Iran's state bank that had been frozen in the United States to be paid as compensation to relatives of victims of attacks including the Beirut bombing.

"Iran's effort to secure relief from the court in this case - to in effect deny terrorism victims justice - is wholly unfounded and its application should be rejected in its entirety as inadmissible,"


An Egyptian judge has slapped a travel ban on a former presidential candidate and rights lawyer over an ongoing investigation into funding for civil society groups.

Investigating Judge Hisham Abdel Meguid issued the ban Saturday, the latest in a series of similar steps targeting rights lawyers critical of the government of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, which has placed draconian restrictions on the work of rights and pro-democracy groups.

Khaled Ali unsuccessfully ran in the 2012 presidential election won by an Islamist, Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted a year later by the military, then led by el-Sissi.

Ali declared his intention to run in presidential elections earlier this year, but he quit the race in the face of intimidation and harassment of his supporters. Running virtually unchallenged, el-Sissi comfortably won the vote.


The United Nations' highest court on Wednesday ordered the United States to lift sanctions on Iran that affect imports of humanitarian goods and products and services linked to civil aviation safety.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice is legally binding, but it remains to be seen if the administration of President Donald Trump will comply.

Trump moved to restore tough U.S. sanctions in May after withdrawing from Tehran's nuclear accord with world powers. Iran challenged the sanctions in a case filed in July at the International Court of Justice.

In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must "remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from" the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

By limiting the order to sanctions covering humanitarian goods and the civil aviation industry, the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested.

The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, pointed that out in a tweet.

"This is a meritless case over which the court has no jurisdiction," the ambassador tweeted. "Even so, it is worth noting that the Court declined today to grant the sweeping measures requested by Iran. Instead, the Court issued a narrow decision on a very limited range of sectors."

While imposing the so-called "provisional measures," the court's president, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, stressed that the case will continue and the United States could still challenge the court's jurisdiction.


India's top court on Wednesday upheld the government's policy of issuing a 12-digit identification number to every citizen, but said it can't be made mandatory for services such as bank accounts, cellphone connections and school admissions.

The Supreme Court said in a 4-1 decision that the government could use it for tax purposes and providing benefits under multimillion-dollar welfare schemes like subsidized food items and cooking gas.

Prashan Bhushan, an attorney, said private organizations couldn't ask for it because of privacy concerns.

The Indian government has enrolled more than 90 percent of the country's 1.3 billion people since it launched the scheme in 2010 linking fingerprints, iris scans and photos of citizens to the unique 12-digit number.

Banks, mobile operators and the government itself started to require identification numbers to access various services.

Rich Indians generally possessed passports, driver's licenses or credit cards that establish who they are. But the poor often were forced to rely on electricity bills, ration cards, voting cards or letters from local officials.


South Africa's top court says adults can use marijuana in private.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday upheld a provincial court's ruling in a case involving Gareth Prince, who advocates the decriminalization of the drug.

Prince says cannabis should be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Government authorities have said cannabis is harmful and should be illegal.

The top court says an adult can cultivate cannabis in "a private place" as long as it is for personal consumption in private. It says the right to privacy "extends beyond the boundaries of a home."

The court says it would be up to a police officer to decide if the amount of marijuana in someone's possession is for dealing or personal consumption.

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