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Justices approve strip-searches for any offense

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations.

About 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails, Kennedy wrote.

Under Monday’s ruling, he wrote, “every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said strip-searches were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.

—Adam Liptak, The New York Times

Colombian rebels free 10 hostages

CARACAS, Venezuela — Colombia’s main rebel group on Monday released four soldiers and six police officers it had held hostage for as long as 14 years. The 10 men were thought to be the last remaining noncivilian captives held by the group, which has used kidnapping and drug trafficking to help finance its nearly five-decade war against the Colombian government.

The emotional release of the hostages was sure to feed hopes for peace talks between the government and the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. But many analysts said the two sides were still far from achieving the mutual trust that would allow meaningful progress toward ending the conflict.

The rebels are believed to still be holding civilian hostages for ransom, despite pledging in February to renounce kidnapping altogether. The group has not renounced violence, though, carrying out an attack last month that killed 11 government soldiers.

—William Neuman and Jenny Carolina Gonzalez,
The New York Times

Hungarian president resigns amid plagiarism scandal

The president of Hungary, Pal Schmitt, resigned from his largely ceremonial post Monday amid a storm of criticism over what he called “unfounded allegations” of plagiarism in his 1992 doctoral thesis.

His resignation followed days of political turmoil after the university in Budapest that awarded his doctoral degree stripped it from him last week.

“Based on Hungary’s Constitution, which I have signed, the president expresses national unity,” Schmitt told a plenary session of the country’s Parliament in Budapest. “In this situation when my personal issue divides my beloved nation rather than unites it, I feel it is my duty to end my service and resign my mandate as president.”

—Palko Karasz, The New York Times

Britain cites Chechen plot
to kill exile

LONDON — The British government and intelligence services have accused “a henchman” of President Ramzan A. Kadyrov of Chechnya of seeking to assassinate a prominent exiled Chechen politician in London, according to court documents revealed here on Sunday.

The subject is a 45-year-old Chechen-born former elite soldier who is referred to only as E1 in the documents. Over the weekend, government lawyers, who were asking to deport him, told judges that he was a threat to national security and had been implicated in a 2009 assassination on behalf of Kadyrov in Vienna.

Though he has had permission to live in Britain with his family since 2003, he should now be removed, they argued, because he has demonstrated a willingness to “undertake actions” that would “put at risk the life” of a political rival to Kadyrov, Akhmed K. Zakayev, who was granted asylum in London in 2003. The precise details of the allegations remain classified.

—Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times

Iraq’s fugitive vice president travels to Qatar

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice president left the country on Sunday for a diplomatic trip to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, his office announced, a development that threatened to stir new tensions just days after officials in Baghdad hosted a lavish meeting to repair ties with other Arab nations.

And in an escalation of another festering dispute, the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq announced that it was halting oil exports as a rebuke to the central government in Baghdad. The dispute concerns payments for oil companies working in the semiautonomous north, but at its core, it is a fight over who should control Iraq’s vast oil wealth.

The two disputes lay bare how Iraq is struggling to navigate thorny questions involving justice and its natural resources, conflicts that ignite fierce fights in the government and among sectarian political rivals.

Kurdistan had been exporting 50,000 barrels of oil per day, a fraction of Iraq’s daily exports of more than 2 million barrels. Most of the oil flows south to Basra and leaves Iraq though the Persian Gulf.

—Jack Healy and Duraid Adnan, The New York Times