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Doctor is convicted of killing 15 patients

Jurors convicted a family doctor Monday of murdering 15 female patients, injecting the middle-aged and elderly women with lethal doses of heroin.

Harold Shipman was sentenced to 15 life sentences _ the maximum punishment in Britain, which has no death penalty. Investigators said he may have killed dozens more patients.

"You are a wicked, wicked man," Preston Crown Court Judge Thayne Forbes told Shipman, who remained impassive. "I have little doubt that each of your victims smiled and thanked you as she submitted to your fearful administrations."

The 54-year-old doctor, who altered medical records at his one-man practice in northern England to cover up his crimes, killed because he enjoyed "exercising the ultimate power of controlling life and death," prosecutors said.

Japan rules cult a threat,

plans police surveillance

TOKYO _ A public commission ruled Monday that Aum Shinri Kyo, the religious group that killed 12 people in a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, continues to pose a threat to society. It instructed security authorities to put the sect under surveillance for up to three years.

The Public Security Examination Commission, which is technically an independent panel but is heavily influenced by the government, invoked a law enacted last year that will allow the police and Justice Ministry officials to enter the sect's property for inspections without a search warrant.

Tanker partially sinks

off Cuba; three missing

HAVANA _ An oil tanker with a Polish crew partially sank off northern Cuba after an explosion, officials said Monday, and three crew members were missing.

The Transportation Ministry said the Sletreal was maneuvering to enter the port of Cardenas, about 90 miles east of Havana, when the explosion occurred about 3 p.m. Sunday.

There was a small oil leak, the ministry said, but the spill was under control and apparently did not threaten the nearby tourist beaches of Varadero. The ship was about 10 miles offshore.

Polish Embassy counselor Krzysztof Jacek said three crew members were missing and 21 others were unhurt.

Court rejects challenge

to secret Pinochet report

LONDON _ Moving Gen. Augusto Pinochet closer to release, the High Court on Monday rejected a request by Belgium and six human rights groups to challenge the secrecy of a medical report finding the former Chilean dictator unfit to stand trial.

Within hours, Belgium appealed to a panel of High Court judges, which will start hearing the case next week.

Britain's top law enforcement official, Home Secretary Jack Straw, has said he will not rule whether to extradite Pinochet to Spain while court action is pending.

But he announced this month that he is inclined to let the 84-year-old general return home, saying an independent medical team found the former dictator mentally unfit to stand trial on charges alleging human rights abuses.

Belgium and the human rights groups want to review the medical report before Straw's final ruling, but Straw has refused, citing Pinochet's right to patient confidentiality.

In his ruling Monday, High Court Justice Maurice Kay said he found no evidence Straw had offended "natural justice" in not making the report available.