Cairo boy gets three years in jail for practicing homosexuality
CAIRO, Egypt - A 15-year-old boy was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for practicing homosexuality, the first verdict in the mass Egyptian gay trial that has drawn wide condemnation.
The youth, who was found guilty of homosexuality and debauchery, will serve his sentence in a prison for young offenders, a juvenile court ordered.
The youth screamed and sobbed as the verdict was read. The court said he underwent a medical examination that proved he had committed debauchery.
Gasser Abdel-Razek, an Egyptian human rights activist, said the ruling was ''alarming (because) I believe it is based on what the judge thinks is socially acceptable or rejected, which ruins the whole concept of the rule of law.''
The teenager was arrested May 11 along with 52 other males aboard a Nile riverboat restaurant in Cairo.
The trial of the 52 other defendants, which is being conducted in an emergency state security court, is expected to resume Wednesday. They have all pleaded not guilty.
The court said it ordered the maximum penalty after the youth confessed to practicing homosexuality and being a member of a gay organization. Defense lawyers earlier disputed confessions of some of the defendants, saying they were made under duress during interrogation.
Debauchery carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.
The court said the 15-year-old will remain under police supervision for three years after his release from jail.
International gay and human rights groups have condemned the charges, while the case has rocked Egypt, a conservative, Islamic-oriented country.
Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian legal system, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity and public morality are punishable by jail terms.
Victims' families to receive free in-state tuition
ALBANY, N.Y. - Families of victims of last week's terrorist attacks would get free tuition to New York's public colleges under a plan announced yesterday.
Gov. George Pataki said the scholarships, worth about $12,000 a year, would cover tuition, fees, room, board and transportation.
"These families should not have to worry about how they are going to pay for college, and with this measure, they will never have to," Pataki said.
Eligible would be families of New York victims who died or were seriously injured in the attacks, whether in the Trade Center, Pentagon or on the hijacked planes, officials said. Scholarships for families of victims from other states and countries would be limited to those whose relatives died.
Students attending private colleges would receive aid packages of the same value that they could apply to the generally higher costs of those schools.
Nearly 5,500 people remain missing and 218 have been confirmed dead in the attacks on the World Trade Center. At the Pentagon, 189 are believed to have died, while 44 were killed on the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.
The governor's proposal would apply to tuition at campuses of the State University of New York, where tuition is currently $3,400 a year, and the City University of New York, where tuition is $3,200.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly, which would have to approve spending for the scholarships, began circulating a similar plan last week. But that proposal would offer scholarships only to children and spouses of those who died at the World Trade Center.
Jury selection begins for trial of woman accused of drowning children
Houston - Jury selection started yesterday for a proceeding to decide if a woman accused of drowning her five children in their bathtub is fit to stand trial. The process had been delayed for a week because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Andrea Yates, 37, is accused of two counts of capital murder for the deaths of three of her five children at their home in June.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has said his office will seek the death penalty. Texas prosecutors typically forgo multiple capital murder charges since only one conviction is generally needed for the maximum penalty.
Yates' attorneys contend she is innocent by reason of insanity.
When testimony begins, likely today, the jury won't consider Yates' innocence or guilt but only whether she understands the case against her and can consult with her attorneys about it.
University of Texas law professor George Dix has said it doesn't take much for a defendant to be declared competent to stand trial.
"If they can understand the functions of the various individuals in the trial process, we determine they can understand the proceedings," he said.
Another jury will determine her degree of responsibility and whether she was insane at the time of the killings. If she is found incompetent, jurors must determine if it is likely that she will regain competence.
In an attempt to reach competency, the state can commit Yates to a mental institution for up to 18 months.
Police say Andrea Yates admitted killing her children on June 20. The four youngest children - John, 5; Paul; 3, Luke, 2, and Mary, 6 months - were found wet on a bed under a sheet. Noah, 7, was dead in the bathtub.
Yates' lawyers have submitted hundreds of pages of medical records detailing her treatment for depression, postpartum depression and showing two suicide attempts after the birth of her fourth child.