- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

NETHERLANDS

Court reduces fees for recovered art

AMSTERDAM — A lawyer’s $15.7 million fee for negotiating the return of art stolen by the Nazis was too high, a Dutch court ruled yesterday.

Lawyer Roelof van Holthe tot Echten submitted the multimillion-dollar bill for arranging the return of hundreds of works that had belonged to a Jewish art dealer who fled the Netherlands at the start of World War II.

Jacques Goudstikker’s American heirs contested the bill, so the lawyer sought to block the return of 198 works being held by the Dutch government until he was paid 20 percent of the estimated value.

The Hague District Court awarded Mr. van Holthe tot Echten at least $2.5 million, or $425 per hour, but suggested that amount should be quadrupled to $10 million to reflect the risk the lawyer took in working on the case for so long with uncertain prospects for payment.

IRAN

Clashes follow blast at school

TEHRAN — A bomb exploded in southeastern Iran late yesterday, near the site where an explosion this week killed 11 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and clashes broke out afterward between Iranian police and insurgents, Iranian news agencies reported.

“The sound of a bomb explosion was heard in one of Zahedan’s streets,” IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, reported. The report gave no further details, including whether there were casualties. The semiofficial Fars news agency said the explosion was at a school and was followed by clashes.

A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God’s Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, claimed responsibility for the earlier bombing on Wednesday.

AFGHANISTAN

Al Qaeda video shows attack by insurgents

CAIRO — Al Qaeda posted a video yesterday showing what it claimed to be an insurgent attack on U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, in an apparent attempt to disparage American claims of winning the war against the Taliban.

The video argues that the Afghan people support the insurgents and assist their attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces, and it comes as the United States and Britain deploy more troops to the country after the worst year of insurgency-related violence since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001.

The 24-minute video carries the logo of the al Qaeda broadcast company as-Sahab and was posted on an Islamic Web site known for hosting extremist material. The tape begins with the deputy leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, ridiculing President Bush’s claim to have deprived al Qaeda of a safe haven in Afghanistan as a “barefaced lie.”

TURKEY

Seven get life terms in 2003 bombings

ISTANBUL — A court yesterday sentenced seven suspected al Qaeda militants to life in prison for deadly 2003 suicide bombings in Istanbul that killed 58 persons.

The defendants, including Syrian Loa’i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, were among 74 suspects standing trial in the attacks, which targeted two synagogues, the British Consulate and a London-based bank.

The court acquitted 26 of the defendants, while sentencing the rest to prison terms ranging from three years and nine months to 18 years.

TURKMENISTAN

New leader opens first Internet cafes

ASHGABAT — Turkmenistan opened its first two Internet cafes yesterday as new President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov moved to fulfill promises of limited reform in the Central Asian nation.

The curtailing of the Internet was one of the hard-line moves ordered by late dictator Saparmurat Niyazov.

There was no immediate rush to the two cyber cafes opened in the capital, Ashgabat, though the order issued by Mr. Berdymukhamedov within hours of his inauguration on Wednesday was seen as a sign of willingness to carry out some degree of liberalization.

SPAIN

3 accused deny role in Madrid train attack

MADRID — Three Moroccans accused of helping plan the 2004 Madrid train bombings denied involvement in the attack and condemned violence of any kind in testimony yesterday.

Among those taking the stand was the man prosecutors say appears in a video claiming responsibility for the explosions, another with purported ties to a North African terror group and a third who witnesses say placed some of the backpack bombs on packed commuter trains.

The men said police had intimidated relatives into incriminating them, and said authorities were relying on witnesses who recognized them from television footage, rather than the scene of the March 11, 2004, bombings, which killed 191 persons.

BRITAIN

Coroner holds back ‘friendly fire’ video

OXFORD — A British coroner reluctantly agreed yesterday to a U.S. request not to show in open court a cockpit video capturing the horrified reaction of two American pilots in Iraq after they fired on British troops.

But Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker made clear he was doing so only in the interest of speeding up the inquest into the death of Lance Cpl. Matty Hull, who was killed when his convoy was strafed by a U.S. warplane in southern Iraq on March 28, 2003. Four others were wounded in the attack.

The Pentagon previously had said the video was classified and could not be shown, but changed its position last week after a copy of the video was leaked to a British newspaper and broadcast.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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