Embassy standoff ends in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica - A 20-year-old Kazakhstan native surrendered to police yesterday, ending a three-hour standoff and safely releasing a man he had been holding at the Russian Embassy, authorities said.

Roman Bogdanyants was escorted by police from the building, followed by a Russian man whom police identified as a former hostage.

Officials originally reported a gunman had seized eight hostages, but Russian Ambassador Valery Nikolayenko said he and other officials had stayed in the building to help negotiate an end to the incident. - AP

London subway shooters absolved

LONDON - An official police oversight body ruled yesterday that 11 officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician they allegedly mistook for a terrorist would not face disciplinary hearings.

Jean Charles de Menezes died at a subway station in Stockwell, in south London, when officers shot him seven times in the head on July 22, 2005 - one day after an alleged failed terror attack on the London transit system.

Patricia da Silva Armani, de Menezes' cousin, said the Complaints Commission's ruling was "disgraceful."

"They are letting the police get away with murder," she said. "First, officials killed my cousin, then they lied about it, and now the officers are walking away without any punishment. It is ... another slap in the face for our family." - N.Y. Times News Service

Rally in Rome set to protest bill

ROME - Tens of thousands of people plan to rally today to protest a bill that would give legal rights to unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, fueling a debate that has split Italy amid calls by Pope Benedict XVI to defend the traditional family.

The legislation, which awaits parliamentary approval, has underscored long-standing tensions in this largely Roman Catholic country between a desire to hold on to church-sanctioned traditions and a push toward greater secularization.

Organizers of today's "Family Day" include lay Catholic groups and family associations. While the demonstration has been endorsed by Italian bishops, neither the Vatican nor the Italian bishops' conference is formally behind it. - AP

Elsewhere:

Three Indian officials working for a South Korean steel company were taken hostage yesterday by activists who contend that the company's plan to build a plant in eastern India would displace thousands of people.

A Moroccan convicted of helping three of the Sept. 11 suicide pilots lost his final appeal in Germany when the country's top criminal court yesterday refused to hear his case. Mounir el-Motassadeq, 33, was convicted in November and sentenced to 15 years, the maximum penalty under German law.

Poland's highest court yesterday struck down the key provisions of a new law requiring that up to 700,000 Poles with public-service jobs be screened for past collaboration with the Communist-era secret police.