World in brief

ISRAEL

Top Muslim cleric in Holy Land detained

Israeli police detained the top Muslim cleric in the Holy Land on Wednesday in a rare crackdown on a leading religious figure, questioning him for several hours before releasing him without charge. The detention of the mufti of Jerusalem drew harsh condemnation from Palestinian leaders and neighboring Jordan. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said mufti Mohammed Hussein was questioned for six hours in connection to “recent disturbances” on a hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is revered by Jews and Muslims. This included “incitement, disturbances and public disorder.”

ITALY

Court upholds Berlusconi tax fraud verdict

Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence were upheld on the first appeal Wednesday in a case that could see him barred from public office for five years. In Italy, defendants are legally considered innocent until all appeals are exhausted, and Berlusconi’s lawyers are expected to appeal the case to the nation’s highest Court of Cassation once the reasoning for the decision is published. Still, the ruling, which comes just days before prosecutors wrap up closing arguments in his sensational sex-for-hire trial, raises the question of whether Berlusconi’s days as a political force are numbered.

ITALY

7 dead, 2 missing after ship crashes in Genoa

Italian prosecutors placed the captain of the Jolly Nero cargo ship under investigation Wednesday for alleged manslaughter after his vessel slammed into the dock at Genoa’s busy port and toppled the control tower into the harbor, killing at least seven people. As rescue teams in diving suits searched for two other missing people, officials began piecing together how the 40,000-ton container ship could have sideswiped the port’s control tower when weather and sea conditions were “perfect” Tuesday night. The focus was on whether human error or a technical malfunction was to blame.

NIGERIA

Attack kills at least 20 police officers

An ethnic militia killed at least 20 police officers who launched a raid to try to arrest them in central Nigeria, a police commissioner said Wednesday. The attack in Alakio, a village in Nasarawa state, saw the officers ambushed Tuesday when they tried to stop the gang that was forcing locals to take a blood oath, police said. Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people, has some 250 ethnicities. Such ethnic militias can be major presences in communities, exacting taxes and controlling areas. Police said the death toll in the attack could be higher, as emergency officials only reached the area Wednesday.

HAITI

Lawyers: Cholera lawsuit threatened at U.N.

A Boston-based human rights group said Wednesday it will sue the United Nations in 60 days if the world body does not agree to compensate Haitian cholera victims, apologize to the Caribbean nation for introducing the disease through its peacekeeping force and launch a major effort to improve sanitation. Lawyers for the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti said they hoped to be able to settle with the United Nations but are ready to go to court in New York if that fails. The institute cites independent studies suggesting that the disease was inadvertently brought to Haiti by a U.N. peacekeeping battalion from Nepal, where cholera is endemic.

AFGHANISTAN

Police kill eight at protest

Afghan police were accused of killing eight protesters at a demonstration Wednesday as the U.S.-led coalition said it had opened an investigation into allegations of misconduct by NATO troops during an encounter with insurgents. Both incidents occurred in southern Afghanistan where violence has escalated in recent weeks after a Taliban announcement launching the start of its spring offensive. Villagers in the town of Maiwand said Afghan police opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators who were protesting raids that Afghan and NATO forces conducted in their village of Loye Karez two days earlier.