Scientology followers acquitted

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MADRID — A Spanish court yesterday acquitted 15 members and employees of the Church of Scientology on charges of criminal conspiracy, closing a case dating to 1984.

The court said there was no evidence to support prosecutors' allegations that drug rehabilitation and other programs sponsored by the church in Spain amounted to illicit gatherings aimed at activities such as bilking people of money.

The Church of Scientology has 10,000 members in Spain. It is officially classified as a lay association with religious goals, not as a church. It does not have tax-

exempt status as it does in the United States.

The church was founded in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who taught that technology can expand the mind and solve problems. It claims nearly 9 million members worldwide, including actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

Jordanian court sentences absent Abu Nidal to death

AMMAN, Jordan — A military court yesterday condemned five men to death, including the notorious terrorist Abu Nidal, for the 1994 assassination in Lebanon of Jordanian diplomat Naeb Imran Maaytah.

Four of the five convicted killers, including Abu Nidal, were sentenced in absentia. Only Yasser Mohammed Abu Shinar, a Palestinian, is in custody.

The assassination was part of a campaign by Abu Nidal's extremist group against Arab countries that supported peace with Israel. Jordan signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in October 1994.

Abu Nidal broke away from Yasser Arafat in the 1970s, accusing the Palestinian leader of being too willing to compromise with Israel. After many years in Libya, Abu Nidal is now believed to be in Iraq.

Bosnian Serb commander is tried for alleged war crimes

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Bosnian Serb commander during the siege of Sarajevo went on trial for alleged war crimes yesterday, accused of ordering his snipers and artillerymen to fire on civilians as they bought bread, tended vegetable gardens or attended victims' funerals.

Gen. Stanislav Galic, 58, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of war crimes he says he never knew took place during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a period when prosecutors say thousands of civilians were killed as they went about their everyday lives.

Galic, detained by NATO troops two years ago, has said he had "no knowledge of such events."

"He must have been the only person in the world," prosecutor Mark Ierace told the three-judge panel, noting the images were spread across the world in television and newspaper reports.

New Delhi slum dwellers lose homes in shantytown blaze

NEW DELHI — Several thousand slum dwellers faced a chilly winter night out on the streets after fire raced through their shantytown late yesterday.

"This is the third time in the past year this place has gone up in flames," Abdul Rehman said as he sat homeless on the pavement with his wife and two children. "What can we do?"

Although only one person was injured, it took firefighters several hours to control the blaze in the southern part of New Delhi.

The cause of the fire in the community inhabited mainly by garbage pickers was not immediately known. Kerosene stoves often cause fires in the slums.

During the past decade, New Delhi's population has swelled from 9 million to 13 million, including 3 million slum dwellers who work as laborers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors, servants and garbage pickers.