Among other items: Mentally disabled teen faces execution in Iran; riots erupt in Panama over retirement reforms; head-on rail crash in India kills 31 after "snag"...

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A prominent Swiss-based Islamic scholar yesterday gave up plans to teach at a leading U.S. university after waiting in vain for a visa and accused the Bush administration of trying to silence him.

Tariq Ramadan, an intellectual influential among Muslims throughout Europe, said he had sent a letter of resignation this week to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, where he had been due to take up a tenured post as professor of religion.

Ramadan was issued a U.S. visa last May, but it was revoked in August — days before he was to move to the United States — after the Department of Homeland Security changed its position.


Mentally disabled teen faces execution

Amnesty International said yesterday that Iran planned to execute a mentally disabled 19-year-old woman for “acts contrary to chastity,” referring to alleged crimes stemming from her having been forced into prostitution as a child by her mother.

The London-based human-rights group cited reports in the Iranian newspaper Khorasan that said social workers estimated the woman, identified only as Leyla M., had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old.

The newspaper reported on Nov. 28 that Leyla had been sentenced to death by a court in the central Iranian city of Arak when she was 18, according to Amnesty. Amnesty said she had confessed to the charges and was to be flogged before her execution.

Panama City, Panama

Riots erupt over retirement reforms

Hundreds of protesters clashed with riot police in the Panamanian capital yesterday in a demonstration against social-security reforms.

The march was organized by construction unions concerned about plans by the government of President Martin Torrijos to raise the retirement age. The reform package will also rein in public spending and encourage investment in the long-awaited expansion of the Panama Canal.

Khanpur, India

Head-on rail crash kills 31 after “snag”

Welders cut through metal, and soldiers pulled bodies from the crushed cars of two trains that collided head-on yesterday in northern India, killing 31 people. The railway minister said the crash was “nothing less than a brutal murder.”

At least 50 people were injured, with 16 in serious condition, after the crash in rural northern Punjab state, railway officials said.

A “communications snag” between stationmasters at two stations apparently caused the crash, with an express train and a local train allowed to travel toward each other on the same track, said Dharam Singh, the top railway official in the area.

“I don’t consider it an accident. It is nothing less than a brutal murder,” federal Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav told reporters at the site, speaking through a megaphone in front of the wreckage.


Suspected separatist militants launched a series of coordinated bombings yesterday across India’s northeastern state of Assam, killing two people and wounding at least 44, police said.

Twenty opposition parties united yesterday to demand a rerun of Mozambique’s Dec.1-2 presidential and parliamentary elections, claiming widespread fraud.

Members of a radical, right-wing political party briefly seized a Kremlin-controlled building yesterday in downtown Moscow to demonstrate against President Vladimir Putin, a security official said.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the Cayman Islands yesterday — the strongest since 1900 — rattling windows and sending residents fleeing into the streets. No serious damage or injuries were reported.