- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2010

IRAN

Journalist gets prison term, desert exile

TEHRAN | An Iranian journalist lost an appeal Sunday against his conviction on charges of spreading propaganda against the ruling Islamic establishment and was sentenced to six years in prison and five years of internal exile in a remote desert town.

The court also confirmed a lifelong ban on political activity for the prominent reporter, Ahmad Zeidabadi, who was also once a student activist.

Zeidabadi, 44, was among more than 100 political figures and activists tried together in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed presidential election, which the opposition says was rigged to give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term in office.

His wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi, said her husband’s attorney informed her of the appeals court’s ruling on Sunday. As part of his sentence, he will have to spend five years in internal exile in the town of Gonabad, about 620 miles east of the capital, on the edge of the second-largest desert in Iran, the Namak Desert.

TAJIKISTAN

Earthquake leaves 20,000 homeless

DUSHANBE | About 20,000 people were left homeless in the impoverished Central Asian nation of Tajikistan after an earthquake leveled their homes in a mountainous region, officials said Sunday.

No deaths were reported after the magnitude-5.3 quake struck the Pamir Mountains on Saturday, the Emergency Situations and Civil Defense Committee said.

Hundreds of mud-brick houses in several villages in the Gorno-Badakhshansky region were damaged. The quake also cut electricity and communications and blocked the main road between the regional center of Vanch and nearby villages.

EGYPT

Israelis visit rabbi’s tomb

CAIRO | Hundreds of Israelis came to Egypt on Sunday for an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of a 19th-century Jewish holy man in Egypt’s Nile Delta, airport officials said.

Last year, Egypt denied the pilgrims entry because the anniversary fell during Israel’s offensive on Gaza, and there were concerns about their security and public protests.

In past years, Egypt limited the number of pilgrims visiting the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira near the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. But Israeli newspapers reported that President Hosni Mubarak accepted a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visited Egypt last week to allow unlimited numbers.

ISRAEL

Sharon in coma 4 years after stroke

JERUSALEM | Ariel Sharon, the tough army general turned prime minister who shocked his hawkish supporters by pulling Israel out of Gaza in 2005, is still lying unconscious in a hospital bed, friends said Sunday on the fourth anniversary of the massive stroke that put him in a coma.

Mr. Sharon, 81, led Israel from 2001 until the January 2006 stroke that left him comatose.

Dov Weisglass, a close friend of Mr. Sharon and his former spokesman, told the Associated Press on Sunday that Mr. Sharon’s vital signs are good, but it was not clear if he would ever regain consciousness. Medical experts have said that is most unlikely.

PERU

Court upholds Fujimori sentence

LIMA | Peru’s Supreme Court has ratified a 25-year prison sentence for ex-President Alberto Fujimori.

The sentence was imposed in April for the death-squad killing of 25 people and the kidnappings of a businessman and journalist during Fujimori’s presidency from 1990 to 2000.

The courts published the decision on their Internet site on Sunday. The 71-year-old Fujimori is also fighting shorter sentences in three other cases.

IRAQ

Baghdad to back Blackwater lawsuit

BAGHDAD | Iraq will help victims of the 2007 shooting of civilians in Baghdad to file a U.S. lawsuit against employees of security firm Blackwater, an incident that turned a spotlight on the United States’ use of private contractors in war zones.

Last week, a U.S. judge threw out charges against five guards accused of killing 14 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle, saying the defendants’ constitutional rights had been violated.

Iraq called that decision “unacceptable and unjust” and, as well as supporting a lawsuit brought by Iraqis wounded in the shooting and families of those killed, it will ask the U.S. Justice Department to review the criminal case, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Sunday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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