- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

SAUDI ARABIA

Prosecutors ordered to provide evidence

RIYADH — A judge called time on state prosecutors yesterday in the long-running trial of three reformers charged with calling for a constitutional monarchy in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

“The judge insisted that a decision be reached within two weeks,” Fawzia al-Uyuni, wife of defendant Ali al-Demaini, said after a two-hour hearing closed to the foreign press. The judge turned down a request by the prosecutor for more time to produce additional evidence, saying, “There will be no more investigation.”

The trial, which began in August, has been adjourned repeatedly after requests from prosecutors for more time to find evidence. About 20 supporters gathered outside the Riyadh courthouse as police cordoned off the building for the hearing of Mr. Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh.

They were among a dozen activists arrested 14 months ago on charges of demanding a constitutional monarchy. Nine were freed after promising to stop lobbying publicly for reform.

ISRAEL

Top ministers want Gaza homes intact

JERUSALEM — Senior Israeli ministers gave their backing yesterday to plans to keep intact rather than demolish the homes of Jewish settlers in Gaza after they are uprooted from the Palestinian territory this summer.

A final decision on the houses is to be made by the Cabinet, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a majority of senior ministers, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, opposed demolition at a meeting of a Cabinet subcommittee. Only Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted the dwellings razed, public radio reported.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wants Israel to leave the homes intact and vowed last month to prevent any looting after the Jewish state evacuates its 8,000 residents from Gaza in a monthlong process scheduled to start in late July. “Gaza and the settlements are the property of the Palestinian people, and we are committed to their protection,” Mr. Abbas said.

SOMALIA

Bomb kills seven after Gedi speech

MOGADISHU — A bomb blast killed at least seven persons at a soccer stadium here in the capital yesterday, moments after the prime minister addressed hundreds of supporters, officials and witnesses said.

Prime Minister Ali Gedi told reporters shortly after the blast that his entourage escaped safely.

The attack underlined the difficulties facing Mr. Gedi’s new government in trying to end 14 years of chaos and bloodshed in this country carved into fiefdoms run by rival warlords.

Mr. Gedi’s political adviser put the death toll at seven, but witnesses said two others died on their way to a hospital and another was killed by a fleeing vehicle. No one took responsibility for the blast, just four days after Mr. Gedi’s arrival in Mogadishu on a trip to mend a rift over which city the fledgling government initially should call home.

Weekly notes

Iranian cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says he will decide soon whether to run in the June 17 presidential elections, newspapers reported yesterday. Mr. Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative, served two terms as the Islamic republic’s president from 1989 to 1997. … Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called on the public yesterday to help fight terrorism, three days after Islamist militants targeted foreign tourists in two attacks Saturday — threatening Egypt’s tourist industry, a mainstay of the economy. In 2004, more than 8 million foreigners visited the land of the pyramids and spent about $7 billion.

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