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In brief: Russian tycoon freed, flies to German airport

Berlin – Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, arrived in Germany a free man Friday, hours after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin and freed from a northwest Russia prison colony.

Khodorkovsky, who landed at Schonefeld airport outside Berlin, issued a statement that he has not acknowledged guilt.

“On November 12 I asked the president of Russia to grant me a pardon on family reasons, and I am glad that he made a positive decision,” he said. “There never was a question of me recognizing guilt.”

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said Thursday that a request for pardon means an admission of guilt.

Putin signed the pardon decree earlier Friday for Khodorkovsky, who had been serving an 11-year sentence in a prison colony in Karelia, after convictions for tax evasion and embezzlement.

Strong anti-gay bill passes Uganda parliament

Kampala, Uganda – Ugandan lawmakers on Friday passed an anti-gay bill that calls for life imprisonment for certain homosexual acts, drawing criticism from rights campaigners who called it “the worst in the world.”

The legislation sets life imprisonment as the penalty for gay sex involving an HIV-infected person, acts with minors and the disabled, as well as repeated sex offenses among consenting adults, according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda’s parliament.

The bill also prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who “conducts a marriage ceremony” for same-sex couples.

When the bill was first introduced in 2009, it was widely condemned for including the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament.

President Yoweri Museveni must sign the bill within 30 days for it to become law.

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalized sexual acts “against the order of nature,” but the Ugandan lawmaker who wrote the new legislation argued that tougher legislation was needed because homosexuals from the West threatened to destroy Ugandan families and were allegedly “recruiting” Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.