The world in brief: India parliament boots opposition leader

India’s opposition Congress party workers burn an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest Friday in Kolkata, India.
(AP/Bikas Das)
India’s opposition Congress party workers burn an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest Friday in Kolkata, India. (AP/Bikas Das)

India parliament boots opposition leader

NEW DELHI -- Rahul Gandhi, one of the last national figures standing in political opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, was disqualified as a member of Parliament on Friday, devastating the once-powerful Indian National Congress party Gandhi leads.

Gandhi was expelled from the lower house the day after a court in Gujarat, Modi's home state, convicted him on a charge of criminal defamation. The charge stemmed from a comment he made on the campaign trail in 2019, characterizing Modi as one of a group of "thieves" named Modi -- referring to two prominent fugitives with the same last name. Gandhi received a two-year prison sentence, the maximum. He is out on 30 days' bail.

Any jail sentence of two years or more is supposed to result in automatic expulsion, but legal experts had expected Gandhi to have the chance to challenge his conviction. A notification signed by a parliamentary bureaucrat appointed by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday stated that Gandhi had been disqualified automatically by the conviction itself, per the constitution of India.

"They are destroying the constitution, killing it," said Srinivas B.V., president of the Indian National Congress Party's youth wing. "The court gave Mr. Gandhi 30 days to appeal against the order, and hardly 24 hours have passed since."

Gandhi said in a Twitter post on Friday, "I am fighting for the voice of this country. I am ready to pay any price."

Pakistan's Khan gets new jail reprieve

ISLAMABAD -- A Pakistani court on Friday shielded from arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan until at least next week, amid a roiling political crisis that has pitted the celebrity politician against the current government and spilled over into street protests.

Khan was ousted through a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April. Since then, the 70-year-old former cricket player turned politician has become embroiled in more than 100 legal cases against him, including graft while in office.

The ruling by the Lahore High Court was another reprieve for the embattled Khan, who is now the country's top opposition leader. The court order virtually prevents his arrest until Monday over accusations that he incited supporters from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to violence when he failed to appear before a court in the capital Islamabad because of hours-long clashes between his party and the police.

Since November, Khan has avoided appearances before courts in Islamabad in at least three cases, including a graft charge, when he was wounded in a gun attack at a protest rally in the eastern Punjab province. Khan says his life is in danger and that's why he is seeking bail to avoid appearances before judges in multiple cases.

Khan's standoff with the government of his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, has turned increasingly violent in recent weeks. Last week, his supporters clashed with police in Islamabad, resulting in injuries to dozens of officers.

Saudis talk embassy reopening in Syria

BEIRUT -- Saudi Arabia is in talks with Syria to reopen its embassy in the war-torn nation for the first time in a decade, state television in the kingdom reported late Thursday, the latest diplomatic reshuffling in the region.

The announcement on state TV comes after Chinese-mediated talks in Beijing saw Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to reopen embassies in each others' nations after years of tensions. Syrian President Bashar Assad has maintained his grip on power in the Mediterranean nation rocked by the 2011 Arab Spring only with the help of Iran and Russia.

Saudi Arabian state television aired a report late Thursday, quoting an anonymous official in the country's Foreign Ministry, acknowledging the talks between the kingdom and Damascus.

"A source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed to Al-Ekhbariyah that ongoing discussions have begun with the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenting on what was circulated by some international media," an anchor said on air. "Discussions are underway between officials in the kingdom and their counterparts in Syria about resuming the provision of consular services."

Serbs find migrants in aluminum truck

BELGRADE, Serbia -- Serbia's customs authorities said Friday they discovered nine migrants hiding among aluminum rolls in a truck headed to Poland from Greece.

Customs officers on Serbia's border with North Macedonia spotted the migrants on Wednesday during a scan that showed human silhouettes in the back of the truck, a statement said.

The migrants were young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, the statement added.

Serbia lies at the heart of the so-called Balkan land route that refugees and migrants use to try to reach Western Europe and start new lives there.

  photo  Security personnel escort a vehicle carrying former Prime Minister Imran Khan as he leaves after appearing in a court Friday in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP/K.M. Chaudary)

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