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Briefs (right)

Rights Group Lists 26 It Says U.S.
Is Holding in Secret Abroad

By Ian Fisher
THE NEW YORK TIMES ROME

Human Rights Watch has released a list of 26 “ghost detainees” it says are being held incommunicado by the United States at secret foreign prisons.

Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst for the rights group, said the list was the most complete possible, based on news media reports and government documents, of the number of people arrested and held without due process outside the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The list, released late Wednesday, includes many of the top suspects arrested in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, the bombing of the destroyer Cole in 2000 and the nightclubs in Bali in 2002.

“One thing I want to make clear is we are talking about some really bad guys,” Garlasco said. “These are criminals who need to be brought to justice. One of our main problems with the U.S. is that justice is not being served by having these people held incognito.”

The list was released amid heightened debate in the United States over possible torture of American-held detainees overseas and rising anger in Europe about possible secret American jails on the Continent, kidnappings of suspects and transfers of ghost prisoners on European soil.

South Africa’s High Court Rules
In Favor of Gay Marriage

By Michael Wines
THE NEW YORK TIMES JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s highest court ruled Thursday that same-sex marriages enjoy the same legal status as those between men and women, effectively making the nation one of just five worldwide that have removed legal barriers to gay and lesbian unions.

But the Constitutional Court, as the high court is known, effectively stayed its ruling for one year to give the Parliament time to amend a 1961 marriage law to reflect its decision. Should the legislature balk, the court said, the law will be automatically changed to make its provisions gender-neutral.

Few expect the Parliament to resist, even though African nations are generally intolerant of gay relationships and many South Africans are conservative on social issues. Among political factions here, only the tiny African Christian Democratic Party, whose positions carry a strong religious undercurrent, called for a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriages.

The African National Congress, which controls the presidency and more than two-thirds of parliament’s seats, was silent on the court’s decision.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling expanded on a 2004 decision by the national Supreme Court of Appeal that affirmed the marriage of a lesbian couple, who were nonetheless unable to register their union with the government’s Home Affairs department. The government had appealed the ruling, arguing that the Supreme Court had encroached on Parliament’s authority to make laws.

Death Toll at 11 As Third Suicide
Bombing Targets Bangladesh

By David Montero
THE NEW YORK TIMES DHAKA, BANGLADESH

For the third time in as many days, a suicide bomber took aim at the country’s rattled judiciary on Thursday, raising the week’s death toll to 11, wounding more than 100, and signaling a new low in an already steep decline of law and order.

The three strikes — two apparently synchronized bombings on Tuesday targeting a courthouse and a legal office, and the third on Thursday, on a government office where lawyers had been meeting — marked a grisly record for this Muslim-majority nation of 144 million people.

Although Bangladesh has witnessed a steady rise in violence in recent months — some of it blamed on political rivals, others on Islamist radicals — this week’s attacks represented the country’s first successful suicide strikes.

Both suspected suicide bombers in Tuesday’s attack died; the suspect in Thursday’s attack survived, and was placed under arrest, the police said.

The country’s judiciary was the apparent target of this week’s attacks. The blast on Thursday went off near a meeting of lawyers at a government office in Gazipur, a district town 20 miles north of this capital. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the bar association building, also in Gazipur. And earlier on Tuesday, another bomber struck at a police checkpoint at the entrance of a courthouse in Chittagong, a major southern port city.

Lobbyist’s Role in Hiring Aides
Under Scrutiny

By Anne E. Kornblut
THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON

With a federal corruption case intensifying, prosecutors investigating Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, are examining whether he brokered lucrative jobs for congressional aides at powerful lobbying firms in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the case said Thursday.

The attention paid to how the aides obtained jobs occurs as Abramoff is under mounting pressure to cooperate with prosecutors as they consider a case against lawmakers. Participants in the case, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation is secret, said he could try to reach a deal in the next six weeks.

Multiple forces are bearing down on Abramoff. Last week, his closest business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for cooperating in the inquiry into whether money and gifts were used in an influence-peddling scandal that involved lawmakers.

Despite charging Indian tribes that were clients tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, Abramoff has told friends that he is running out of money.