WASHINGTON - Schools reopened and streets were calm in Baltimore on Wednesday after a relatively calm night that saw little of the angry protests that has devastated this U.S. city in recent days, according to American television reports.

A prayer vigil was planned for noon to honour Freddie Gray, the young black man whose death while in police custody set off more than a week of protests that had grown increasing confrontational. One night after violent protests that saw buildings burned, stores looted and more than 20 police officers injured, Baltimore enjoyed a relatively peaceful night of Tuesday as police and National Guard troops dispersed protesters and a curfew took effect without major disturbances.

Ten people were arrested Tuesday night, seven of them for violating the curfew, two for looting and one for disorderly conduct, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said in a news conference. The numbers are a big improvement over the 200-plus arrests made Monday night. Schools Chief Executive Officer Gregory Thornton welcomed students back to school with an open letter thanking ‘the thousands and thousands of students who made good decisions (Monday) and avoided the violence and law-breaking.’ The letter also warned that students who did participate in Monday’s violence will be held accountable. ‘Principals and teachers are planning activities that will help students learn from the past days’ events,’ Thornton said. ‘Counselors, social workers, and psychologists will be on hand to support students’ emotional needs.’ Meanwhile, investigations into the Gray case are going forward. Baltimore’s police commissioner plans to present a report on the case to prosecutors by Friday, but it was unclear if or when the police will release any of the information.

The Justice Department has also opened a civil rights investigation into Gray’s death, but has not indicated when any report would be issued. Department officials have met with Gray’s family.

The department issued a statement saying officials also had ‘participated in several meetings (Tuesday) with city leadership, law enforcement, faith leaders, young people and members of the community.’ An autopsy is being conducted by the state medical examiner. Governor Larry Hogan told The Baltimore Sun that a preliminary report would be released ‘as soon as possible,’ but that a complete report would take several weeks.

In another probe, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is looking into whether criminal charges are warranted against the officers involved in the Gray case. Six officers have been suspended with pay. Gray died April 19, one week after being arrested and suffering a severe spinal injury. After Gray’s funeral Monday, protests ostensibly against police violence quickly deteriorated into devastating riots. Bands of looters, some armed with crowbars, roamed the city, hurling rocks at police, destroying patrol cars, smashing store windows and torching buildings.

On Tuesday night, it looked as though more violent clashes between police and protesters were in store when members of the crowd hurled objects at police and officers responded by firing pepper pellets and smoke canisters into the crowd. Yet, the tension quickly eased as the remaining crowd began to disperse and the police maintained a measured response. ‘We do not have a lot of activity or movement throughout the city as a whole, so the curfew is, in fact, working,’ Batts said. ‘Citizens are safe. The city is stable. We hope to maintain it that way.’



Austria on Tuesday called for banning nuclear weapons because of their catastrophic humanitarian effects, an initiative it said now has the backing of 159 countries.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was speaking at the five-year review conference of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). ‘The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination,’ Kurz told the 191 parties to the treaty, the world’s benchmark arms control accord. ‘All states share the responsibility to prevent the use of nuclear weapons.’

Diplomats from the 159 countries supporting the ban, presented ahead of the 70th anniversary of the US atom bombs dropped on Japan, said the initiative was modeled on successful campaigns to ban land mines and other weapons and could take years to move forward. The initiative has virtually no support among NPT nuclear weapons states and veto-wielding Security Council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - or the countries of NATO, an alliance that provides a kind of ‘nuclear umbrella’ security guarantee for its members.

But most of the 193 UN members back it. The five permanent Security Council members signed the NPT as nuclear weapons states, although the pact calls on them to negotiate the reduction and eventual elimination of their arms caches. Non-nuclear states complain that there have been too few steps toward nuclear disarmament. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday demanded countries possessing nuclear weapons scrap any plans to modernize their arsenals.

Four other states presumed to have nuclear weapons - Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea - are not listed as supporters of the initiative. Iran, accused by Western powers of developing a nuclear weapons capability under cover of a civilian program, says its program is peaceful. It is in talks with six world powers to curb sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. Tehran supports the Austrian initiative.

Without any explanation, Zarif, who on Monday spoke on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, canceled a planned speech in his national capacity on Tuesday morning as news broke of Iran’s seizure of a cargo ship in the Gulf.

‘Zarif decided that he did not have much to add to the NAM statement he gave on Monday. Hence it was decided not to give a national statement,’ a diplomat at the conference told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Moreover, The tragic saga of the late former son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s all-powerful president took a further twist Tuesday as two of the dead man’s associates on trial for murder in Austria were released from custody. A spokesman for Vienna’s criminal court said that there was ‘contradictory evidence from Kazakhstan’ and no longer a ‘suspicion of a criminal act’ to justify their detention. The trial however continues.

The autocratic oil-rich Central Asian state accuses the two men, former intelligence chief Alnur Mussayev and ex-bodyguard Vadim Koshlyak, of murdering two bank executives in Kazakhstan in 2007. The alleged mastermind, Rakhat Aliyev, who used to be married to President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s daughter Dariga before he fell from grace, was found hanged in his Austrian prison cell on February 24.

Before his death, Austria had refused to extradite Aliyev, who prior to his downfall was Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the EU country, deciding instead to put the three men in the dock in Vienna. The trial began on April 14 and had been due to last 26 days, with more than 60 witnesses called to take the stand, most of them flying in from Kazakhstan and some testifying by video link. Austrian authorities said that Aliyev’s death was suicide but his lawyers have claimed that he was murdered. Results from a second autopsy and from a toxicology test are still outstanding. Nazarbayev, 74, this week extended his grip on power in the former Soviet republic, winning 97.7 percent of ballots in an election slammed by Western observers as deeply flawed.