Imran takes out hospital cover


Benazir Bhutto has dismissed suggestions that she views Pakistan's former national cricket captain Imran Khan as a rival. Perhaps she should tell her supporters, who claim the former playboy's adoption of Islam, and his campaign to build and run a cancer hospital in Lahore in his mother's memory, are simply a cover for his political ambitions.

Ms Bhutto is thought to have virtually banned any mention of the ex-cricketer in the state-run media, even (or especially) when the Princess of Wales was in Lahore to visit his hospital. But she said on a visit to Indonesia: "I don't consider him a political rival. He does not have a political party . . . I'm happy if Imran Khan wants to come into politics. I think more people should join the political world, and particularly sports people who have a name and reputation."

If Imran is foolish enough to enter one of the most vicious political arenas in the world, he had better join up with Ms Bhutto. Otherwise he can expect acres of coverage in the official media, none of it favourable.

A nother soi-disant believer in political pluralism is Cambodia's Hun Sen. "I would like to see 100 more political parties," he told a congress in Cambodia this week. Mr Hun Sen could do something about it if he wants to - a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla put into office by the Vietnamese after they invaded the country, he still controls Cambodia, although in the wake of hugely expensive UN-run elections, he now shares a cosmetic amount of power with King Norodom Sihanouk's royalist party.

Sam Rainsy, appointed finance minister immediately after the election but soon sacked for taking a stand against corruption, has been trying to break into this cosy arrangement, but so far with no success. Since November, when he formed his own party, the authorities have refused to recognise it. Yesterday he said that he and some party colleagues were prevented from entering the Interior Ministry to discuss with officials why his party was denied registration.

F Lee Bailey, the original flamboyant American trial lawyer, couldn't keep his most important client out of prison: himself.

The celebrated defender of the Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst and OJ Simpson was hauled away in handcuffs and leg irons on Wednesday to begin a six-month sentence for failing to produce $25m (pounds 16m) in shares from a drug dealer who retained him. Bailey, 62, a former US Marine, pushed journalists to the ground as he charged into a a courthouse in Tallahassee, Florida. After being searched, fingerprinted and photographed, he was taken out of the back of the building in handcuffs and shackles, his tie removed, and driven to a federal prison.

A district judge had given the lawyer until 5pm on Wednesday to come up with $2.3m needed to get the disputed stock released by a Swiss bank or begin serving the sentence for contempt.

The judge had demanded that Bailey hand over the shares while the question of ownership was decided, but he had secured a loan on them, and the bank would not let the stock go until this had been repaid. A federal appeals court in Atlanta turned down his request for more time.

After his six months are up, will this make F Lee Bailey even more passionate in his quest to keep people out of jail?

Raymond Whitaker

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