World briefs: Russia frees ex-oil tycoon

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MOSCOW -- Taking a cue from President Vladimir Putin's support of amnesties and pardons before the Winter Olympics, the Russian Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the business partner of the former oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky should be released from prison.

Mr. Putin pardoned Mr. Khodorkovsky in December. The ruling regarding his business partner, Platon A. Lebedev, came three months before his scheduled release date, after he had served 10 years and six months in prison.

Critics have said all along that the Russian courts, including the Supreme Court, are effectively subordinate to the political demands of the Kremlin in spite of their ostensible independence, a criticism illustrated by Mr. Lebedev's release as much as his imprisonment.

The two businessmen were convicted of tax evasion and fraud in 2005 and their sentences were extended in a second trial five years later.

A lone cry for a free China

BEIJING -- Xu Zhiyong, a Chinese activist who has pressed officials to disclose their assets, championed equal access to education and fought for other causes, released a strongly worded statement Thursday defending his New Citizens Movement and stressing the need for China to democratize as his trial on charges of disrupting the public order came to a close.

"Good politics is a result of true democracy and rule of law. On every level, the government and the legislature must be elected by the people. The power to govern should not come from the barrel of a gun but through votes," he wrote in direct contrast to a well-known maxim of Mao Zedong.

Jails fill with Mubarak foes

CAIRO -- Egypt's interior minister has urged people into the streets and squares Saturday to mark three years since the revolt against Hosni Mubarak. Many activists behind the uprising see little to celebrate, and some of its iconic figures will be spending the anniversary in prison.

"It's only the faces that have changed, without any real change to the way the country and its economy are run," Amr Ali says of the new Egypt, now headed by an army-backed government after elected President Mohamed Morsi was toppled in July.

Mr. Ali said dozens of members of his 6th of April youth movement, at the forefront of the 2011 protests, have been arrested in recent months.

3 Uighurs die in clash

BEIJING -- Three ethnic Uighurs were shot and killed last week outside a police station in China's far west Xinjiang region during a fight with security guards who blocked them from entering the building, Radio Free Asia reported Thursday.

The shootings, which took place on Jan. 15 in Aksu prefecture but were only confirmed on Wednesday, are the latest in a spate of deadly skirmishes involving the region's Uighur residents and Chinese authorities.

Shiites protest attacks

QUETTA, Pakistan -- More than 2,000 Pakistani Shiites blocked a major road in the capital of a restive province with coffins and demonstrators Thursday as mourners refused to bury their dead to protest increasing militant violence targeting the minority community.

Anger has spread after a suicide bomber killed 28 Shiite pilgrims returning from Iran earlier this week in Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but poorest province that has been plagued by bloodshed.


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