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News Digest: Government in bid to prevent independence referendum

By Staff Reporters

The Spanish government has filed appeals at the country's top court to try and halt the powerful north-eastern region of Catalonia from staging an independence referendum.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the November 9 referendum called by Catalan regional leader Artur Mas represented "a grave attack on the rights of all Spaniards", who under the 1979 Spanish Constitution are the only ones who can vote on issues of sovereignty. Unhappy at Spain's refusal to give it more powers, Catalonia has vowed for months to hold the referendum. The move is the latest secession push in Europe following Scotland's recent referendum.

Democracy protest paralyses city

Police have defended their use of tear gas and other tactics to control protests that have paralysed Hong Kong's financial district, appealing to the thousands gathered to demand more democracy to stop the unprecedented mass act of civil disobedience for the sake of safety and stability.

Crowds grew as people finishing work joined weary-looking students camped on major roads near the government headquarters and in several other parts of the city.

Uniformed police manned barricades and looked on, preventing access to some buildings, but did not otherwise intervene.

Police said they used 87 rounds of tear gas in what they said was a necessary but restrained response to protesters' efforts to push through cordons and barricades. They said 41 people were injured, including 12 police officers.

"Police cordon lines were heavily charged, by some violent protesters. So police had to use the minimum force in order to separate the distance at that moment between the protesters and also the police," Cheung Tak-keung, the assistant police commissioner for operations, told reporters.

Protesters donned rain capes, surgical masks and goggles, wrapped their heads and glasses in plastic and used umbrellas to shield themselves from the searing clouds of tear gas unleashed by police. Each time they fled, but returned in defiance.

In Kowloon, crowds blocked a major intersection as young people climbed on to subway station exits and activists rallied the crowds.

Alleged rhino poaching gang appears in court

A pilot, a lawyer, a police officer and other members of an alleged South African poaching ring accused of killing two dozen rhinos over several years have appeared in a court in Pretoria.

A judge ordered the group's alleged ringleader, Hugo Ras, to remain in custody until a bail hearing on October 8. The 10 suspects who crowded on to a long bench in the courtroom were arrested on September 19 after a year-long investigation by police and other agencies.

Trial gets under way of 46 suspected terrorists

A radical Muslim organisation in Belgium was a well-structured terror group that brainwashed youngsters and sent them to fight in Syria, prosecutors said as a trial started for dozens of suspects.

Only eight of the 46 suspects of the Sharia4Belgium group were present for the trial's opening. Many others are believed to be fighting in Syria or to have died in the country's civil war. The group's alleged leader, Fouad Belkacem, who is in custody, was led into court by armed guards.

Clarifications and corrections: Coleraine College

A report in the Belfast Telegraph (News, September 27) incorrectly reported that Coleraine College is to be amalgamated with two others schools in the area. While the Coleraine Academical Institution will amalgamate with Coleraine High from next September, Coleraine College has been allowed an increase in enrolment and will not be merging with the other two.

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