In China, a rare view of infighting by leaders
BEIJING — A deep vein of intrigue has always pulsed through the messy process of sorting out power in China’s Communist Party.
The former president, Jiang Zemin, supposedly strengthened his position in 1995 by engineering a 16-year prison term on corruption charges for the Politburo member and Beijing Mayor Chen Xitong. Nearly four years ago, a prominent opponent of President Hu Jintao, Mayor Chen Liangyu of Shanghai, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on graft charges.
The leadership transition that will commence this autumn was supposed to put an end to that kind of political bloodshed. But the ouster Thursday of Bo Xilai, the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing municipality who was openly campaigning for a spot in that elite leadership, threatens to puncture the veneer of comity at a crucial time, raising concerns of unsettling conflict within the Communist Party.
The surface explanation for his dismissal from the Chongqing party leadership is simple: Bo’s longtime deputy, Wang Lijun, Chongqing’s vice mayor and former police chief, scandalized the nation by taking refuge in a U.S. consulate last month, apparently fearing imprisonment or worse. Bo paid the price for failing to stop him.
But outside experts say — and anecdotal evidence suggests — that old intrigues thought to have been suppressed are at work again. Indeed, some analysts say Bo’s dismissal could foreshadow the kind of infighting over the future not seen since the Tiananmen Square protests set China on a rigidly authoritarian course nearly 23 years ago.
—Michael Wines, The New York Times
75 charged in deaths at soccer riot in Egypt
CAIRO — Egypt’s general prosecutor charged 75 people on Thursday in connection with a deadly soccer melee in Port Said last month, including the city’s top police official.
At least 74 people were killed during the riot that unfolded as fans of the local El Masry soccer club attacked supporters of the rival Al Ahly club. The statement said officers allowed armed fans and known “ex-convicts” into the stadium, although it was already well over capacity. Some victims were thrown from the bleachers, and others suffocated during a stampede for the exits. The officers “already knew that those perpetrators had the intention and the prior determination to attack,” it said. “They were certain of it.”
Nine police officers were among those indicted on ThursdayThe stadium’s electrical engineer was also indicted on charges he cut the electricity, turning off the lights to “enable the defendants to commit their crime.”
—Kareem Fahim and Mayy El Sheikh, The New York Times
Suspect in Afghan attack ‘snapped,’ US official says
WASHINGTON — The U.S. staff sergeant suspected of killing 16 Afghan villagers had been drinking alcohol — a violation of military rules in combat zones — and suffering from the stress related to his fourth combat tour and tensions with his wife about the deployments on the night of the massacre, a senior U.S. official said Thursday.
“When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped,” said the official, who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because the soldier has not yet been charged.
The sergeant has refused to speak to investigators, invoking his right to a lawyer immediately after he surrendered to authorities after returning to his base after the shootings.
—Eric Schmitt and William Yardley, The New York Times
Convictions handed down in connection with Moscow protests
MOSCOW — Two leaders of Moscow’s street protest movement and the husband of another were convicted in three separate judicial hearings Thursday, raising fears that something resembling a campaign of reprisals had begun.
Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption activist who is among the most prominent members of the opposition movement, was fined 1,000 rubles, about $34, for remaining at the location of a rally for longer than a city-issued permit had allowed. Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of a marginal political movement called Left Front, was sentenced to 10 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned march after a protest Saturday.
Outside the courtroom, Navalny said Moscow courts were rubber-stamping official decisions to persecute protest organizers.
“They are all cases related to mass protests,” he said.
—Glenn Kates, The New York Times
Government and opposition face off in Budapest rallies
BUDAPEST — The government and the opposition held rival rallies in downtown Budapest on Thursday, using the anniversary of the 1848 uprising against Hapsburg rule to stake out their positions in the politically fractured Hungary of today.
The official government commemoration and a rally organized by Milla, a civic group, both attracted tens of thousands of people on a sunny national holiday. The competing rallies were a broad measure of feelings for and against Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Hungary has been under increased pressure from the European Union because of some of Orban’s policies, with critics saying he has eroded the country’s hard-won democracy during his nearly two years in power and the European Commission threatening legal action over some laws he and his allies have approved. He has also come under fire for his management of the economy.
—Palko Karasz, The New York Times