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A Thai court said Thursday that it will decide whether to dissolve a political party that broke tradition by nominating a member of the royal family as its candidate for prime minister in next month's general election.

The Constitutional Court made the announcement a day after the Election Commission recommended that the Thai Raksa Chart Party be dissolved for its Feb. 8 nomination of Princess Ubolratana Mahidol.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn issued a royal order hours after his sister's nomination, stating that the nomination was inappropriate and unconstitutional because the monarchy was above politics. The party responded by professing its loyalty to the monarch and accepting his order.

Dissolving the party would likely increase already sharp political divisions and deepen concerns about the fairness of next month's poll.

The Constitutional Court said in a statement that the charges are being forwarded to the party, which will have seven days to respond. It scheduled the next hearing for Feb. 27.

The Election Commission said the party should be dissolved because its candidate was "in conflict with the system of rule of democracy with king as head of state."
Ubolratana's bid to become prime minister was particularly notable because she allied herself with Thai Raksa Chart, part of the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and is loathed by many royalists and others in the country's traditional establishment, who accuse him of corruption and disrespect for the monarchy.


The lawyer of a Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for charges of blasphemy vowed to secure her freedom when the country's Supreme Court meets Tuesday to reconsider an acquittal announced last year.

Aasia Bibi was released from prison in October but has been under guard in a secret location since then because of death threats from Islamic extremists. Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor that someone has committed blasphemy can ignite lynchings.

If Pakistan's top court upholds its earlier ruling, Bibi will be free to leave for Canada, where her daughters have already been granted asylum.

Her attorney, Saiful Malook, who has also received death threats and fled the country after her acquittal, is back in Islamabad and will attend Tuesday's hearing.

"I am sure the review petition ... will be rejected," Malook told The Associated Press on Monday. He said he has asked authorities to provide him with personal security.


A Belarusian model and self-styled sex instructor who last year claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election said Saturday that she apologizes to a Russian tycoon for the claim and won't say more about the matter.

Anastasia Vashukevich made the statement in a Moscow court that was considering whether to keep her in jail as she faces charges of inducement to prostitution. The court extended her detention for three more days.

Vashukevich's statement appears to head off any chance of her speaking to U.S. investigators looking into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign.

Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka on social media, was arrested in Thailand last February on prostitution charges. She and several others were arrested in connection with a sex training seminar they were holding in Thailand.

After her arrest she claimed she had audio tapes of Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, talking about interference in the U.S. election.

She had shot to world attention a few weeks earlier when a Russian opposition leader published an investigation based on her social media posts that suggested corrupt links between Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The report featured video from Deripaska's yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich says she was having an affair with him.

She was deported from Thailand on Thursday after pleading guilty and was detained when her flight arrived in Moscow, along with three other deportees including mentor Alexander Kirillov.

She told journalists in the Moscow court that she has apologized to Deripaska and says "I will no longer compromise him."

Deripaska is among the Russian tycoons and officials who have been sanctioned in recent years by the United States in connection with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. His business empire includes aluminum, energy and construction assets.


India's Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the reopening of Mumbai's dance bars, which had been a nightlife staple in the country's entertainment capital until they were outlawed six years ago.

The court ruled that the bars featuring young women paid to wear sexy clothing and dance to Bollywood music no longer need to be more than a kilometer (half a mile) from religious sites, schools and colleges. It also scrapped plans to force the bars to have security cameras and a partition between bar rooms and dance floors.

There were some 700 dance bars in Mumbai and another 650 in other parts of Maharashtra state, employing 75,000 dancers, before the state government ordered them closed in 2012 on the grounds they corrupted young people.

The state government framed a new law in 2016 imposing stiff restrictions, but the hotel and restaurant owners found them to be unacceptable and petitioned the top court.

The court, however, accepted the state government's plea that the dance bars be allowed to stay open in Maharashtra state between 6:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. every day and not until 1:30 a.m. as demanded by the Bar Owners Association.

People at these bars can tip the dancers, but can't throw money at them as in the past, the court ruled.


International Olympic Committee to recover his gold medals.

The Russian flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was stripped of his two gold medals from those games in 2017 by the IOC for doping. He failed to overturn that disqualification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

But Moscow’s highest civil court in November upheld Zubkov’s claim that the CAS procedure was unfair and shouldn’t be recognized in Russia. That means Zubkov is legally recognized as an Olympic champion — but only in Russia.

On Friday, the court rejected an IOC-backed appeal from the Russian Olympic Committee, which earlier said letting Zubkov keep his medals could “give rise to doubt that Russia truly observes the main principles of the fight against doping.”

Zubkov strongly denies cheating. “I am a clean athlete. If you don’t know my story you can open Wikipedia and see how much I’ve done for sport and what I did in Sochi,” he said. “I brought gold medals here and gave sport 30 years (of my life).”

Friday’s ruling will also make it harder for Zubkov to be removed as president of the Russian Bobsled Federation, and may entitle him to a Russian state pension for retired star athletes.


Guatemala's highest court issued a ruling Wednesday blocking President Jimmy Morales' decision to unilaterally end a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

The commission, known by its Spanish initials as CICIG, has angered Morales by investigating him, his sons and his brother on accusations of corruption, which they deny.

Guatemala's Constitutional Court overruled Morales' decision after all-night deliberations on five appeals against the president's cancellation of the agreement with the United Nations.

Morales has argued the commission had violated Guatemala's sovereignty and violated the rights of suspects.

Given the government's refusal to guarantee the commission's security, the U.N. has withdrawn the comission's members

The court has tussled with Morales before over the commission, though he has sometimes tried to ignore its rulings. The court has said the commission's mandate is valid through 2019.

Guatemala's human rights prosecutor, Jordan Rodas, said Morales' administration has to obey the new ruling.

"The government is under obligation to comply," said Rodas, who presented one of the appeals to the court. "If it doesn't obey, that is a whole other matter, and would constitute a coup, because the cornerstone of the rule of law is respect for the judicial branch."

During its 11 years operating in Guatemala, CICIG has pressed corruption cases that have implicated some 680 people, including top elected officials, businesspeople and bureaucrats. The commission said in November that it has won 310 convictions and broken up 60 criminal networks.


Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday it will seek the death penalty against five suspects in the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a killing that has seen members of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage implicated in the writer’s assassination.

Prosecutors announced that 11 suspects in the slaying attended their first court hearing with lawyers, but the statement did not name those in court. It also did not explain why seven other suspects arrested over the Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul did not immediately face formal charges.

The kingdom previously announced 18 people had been arrested.


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