- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

EGYPT

Legislators rein in state security courts

CAIRO — The Egyptian parliament has unanimously enacted a law curtailing the powers of state security courts, criticized at home and abroad for trampling on human rights, a parliamentary source said.

All 454 members of the parliament voted Monday for the bill, which limits the jurisdiction of these courts to domestic security, terrorism and drugs, the source told Agence France-Presse.

These courts also had dealt with civilian criminal and sex offenses. Lawyers said such cases would now be referred to regular courts. The new law also allowed the parliament to abolish the hard-labor penalty. Another law was enacted to create a National Council for Human Rights.

TURKEY

Army curbs eyed to bolster EU bid

ANKARA — The government is planning to curb the army’s powerful influence in politics as part of reforms to boost Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union, news outlets reported yesterday.

Two Cabinet ministers — Justice Minister Cemil Cicek and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul — implicitly confirmed that the government was working on such measures, a key EU demand, but gave no details, in comments broadcast on television.

SAUDI ARABIA

Kingdom vows ‘war’ on terrorists at home

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has declared itself at war against militancy and pledged an iron-fist policy to defeat terrorism at home after a series of bloody raids on purported al Qaeda hideouts.

King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz issued the warning Monday after security forces foiled a major attack on the Muslim holy city of Mecca. The two pledged to strike at those who try to undermine the security of the kingdom and its people.

Police investigating a purported Islamic extremist plot to attack Mecca arrested on Sunday six more al Qaeda suspects who reportedly escaped a weekend raid on a bomb-filled apartment, newspapers reported. A shootout at the site also resulted in the deaths of five al Qaeda suspects.

Weekly notes …

Fifteen European tourists being held in an isolated area of the Sahara Desert by an armed group are still alive, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said yesterday at the start of a two-day visit to Austria. “At this point in time, I can tell you that the hostages are alive,” Mr. Bouteflika said, adding that Algerian authorities are prepared to grant the kidnappers safe passage out of the country if they release the hostages. … Russia said yesterday that the “road map” for peace between Israelis and Palestinians should encompass Syria and Lebanon, the only two Arab states that have not yet signed a peace accord with Israel. “We are advocates of comprehensive Middle East peace that should include not only the Palestinian track, but the Syrian and Lebanese tracks,” Russian special envoy Andrei Vdovin said in Damascus. The road map was drawn by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

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