The Week Ahead: Moment of truth for doctor in 'trial of century'

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The Independent Online
IT HAS come to the crunch for Jack Kevorkian, the retired pathologist who helped terminally ill people to commit suicide. He returns to the courtroom in Detroit to face charges of violating a Michigan law, and tomorrow will have the chance to tell his story to a jury for the first time. The trial will last all week.

Kevorkian has helped 20 people end their lives since 1990, sharply dividing public opinion. To try to stop his activities, the Michigan legislature made assisted suicide illegal, punishable by up to four years in prison. But judges in three cases have ruled the law unconstitutional.

Kevorkian broke new ground by openly admitting that he helped Thomas Hyde, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide gas in the back of a van. Kevorkian's admission, says his lawyer, means that the law, not the doctor, is on trial. 'This is a trial about the right of individuals not to suffer. And we will win,' says Kevorkian's attorney. 'This is the trial of the century.'

Michael Fay - the American teenager who has been sentenced to six strokes of the cane, four months in jail and a fine for spray- painting cars - has until Wednesday to appeal to the Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong for clemency. The case has provoked a furore in the United States and soured relations with Singapore.

Diplomats are likely to give this delicate subject a wide berth when Singapore's Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, visits London today until Wednesday. He will be devoting his attention to trade and investment matters in talks with John Major, Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine.

The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, visits Moscow tomorrow to try to revive the peace process. He will be followed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in an effort to get Russia more deeply involved in the process. Wary of deeper involvement in other world developments, the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, declines to confirm that Russia will sign the Nato Partnership for Peace as expected on Thursday. Moscow is displeased with the West's engagement in Bosnia.

Amid the chaos of Italy's new parliament, a preliminary hearing into the corruption allegations against the former prime minister, Bettino Craxi, opens in Rome tomorrow to establish whether there is enough evidence to charge him formally.

In Bucharest on Wednesday the trial opens of military officers accused of massacring 50 army cadets during the 1989 revolution. On the same day in the capital, Placido Domingo gives his first concert in Romania.

China's Premier, Li Peng, launches a tour of Central Asia today intending to boost trade along the old Silk Road on China's north-west frontier. The visit, the first by a Chinese leader to the region is also designed to crush separatist sentiments in the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency visits the nuclear power station at Chernobyl today until Friday after a report described the plant as unsafe. Poisonous emissions will be the subject of a meeting of Gulf Co- operation Committee environment ministers in Abu Dhabi today to discuss an oil spill that hit the east coast of the United Arab Emirates after a recent tanker collision. And a conference sponsored by Denmark from today until Thursday in the Danish town of Ebeltoft will discuss pollution in the North Sea.

Astronauts on board the space shuttle Endeavour prepare to land in Cape Canaveral tomorrow. They have been taking thousands of pictures of Earth, and may be getting a bit fed up with their mission. 'Doing the same tasks over and over again, it's important to keep the same level of interest . . . and keep the same effort in it and not let anything slip by,' the mission's commander said.

To reassure all those worried about corruption in Nigeria, the military leader there, General Sani Abacha, launches a 'war against indiscipline and corruption' on Wednesday.