In brief | Nation & World, March 17, 2014


Defense: Army general’s new plea deal includes dropping of sexual assault charges

RALEIGH, N.C. — Defense attorneys said Sunday that the Army will drop sexual assault charges against a general under a plea deal that marks the end of a closely watched case that unfolded as the military grapples with sex crimes within the ranks.

Lawyers representing Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair said he will plead to lesser charges in exchange for the dropping of the sexual assault charges and two other counts that might have required Sinclair to register as a sex offender.

Sinclair, 51, had been accused of twice forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex during a three-year extramarital affair. But the Army’s case against Sinclair crumbled in recent weeks as questions arose about whether the woman had lied in a pre-trial hearing.

The defense provided a copy of the plea agreement approved and signed by a high-ranking general overseeing the case. Sinclair is expected to enter the new pleas when his court martial reconvenes Monday morning at Fort Bragg.

Crackdown in Egypt on ousted president’s backers sees 16,000 detained, abuses rising

CAIRO — Egypt’s crackdown on Islamists has jailed 16,000 people over the past eight months in the country’s biggest round-up in nearly two decades, according to previously unreleased figures from security officials. Rights activists say reports of abuses in prisons are mounting, with prisoners describing systematic beatings and miserable conditions for dozens packed into tiny cells.

The Egyptian government has not released official numbers for those arrested in the sweeps since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. But four senior officials — two from the Interior Ministry and two from the military — gave The Associated Press a count of 16,000, including about 3,000 top- or mid-level members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The count, which is consistent with recent estimates by human rights groups, was based on a tally kept by the Interior Ministry to which the military also has access. It includes hundreds of women and minors, though the officials could not give exact figures. The officials gave the figures to the AP on condition of anonymity because the government has not released them.

The flood of arrests has swamped prisons and the legal system. Many are held for months in police station lockups meant as temporary holding areas or in impromptu jails set up in police training camps because prisons are overcrowded. Inmates are kept for months without charge.

St. Paddy’s festivities kick off with bagpipes and beer amid tension over gays in NYC

NEW YORK — St. Patrick’s Day festivities were in full swing Sunday with the usual merriment of bagpipes and beer, but political tensions lingered in the northeastern U.S., where city leaders will be conspicuously absent from parades over gay rights issues.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio will become the first mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march Monday because parade organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh wasn’t marching in his city’s parade Sunday, either, after talks broke down that would have allowed a gay group to march.

Still, thousands of green-clad spectators came out for the parade in Boston to watch bagpipers, and organizers of a float intended to promote diversity threw Mardi Gras-type beads at onlookers. A similar scene played out in downtown Philadelphia.

In Georgia, the dome of Savannah’s City Hall will be lit green, and several thousand people braved temperatures in the teens on Sunday to march with pipe and drum bands in Detroit and Bay City, Mich.

In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day provides the launch of the country’s annual push for tourism, a big part of the rural economy.

By wire sources