- - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BRITAIN

Al Qaeda suspect held on U.S. warrant

LONDON | Police in Britain have arrested the suspected ringleader of an al Qaeda bomb plot on a U.S. extradition warrant.

The Metropolitan Police said Abid Naseer, 24, was detained Wednesday in northeast England at the request of the U.S. government.

He was among 12 people arrested last year in raids across northern England. All were released without charge, but authorities insisted they had thwarted a major al Qaeda plot to conduct a bombing in the region.

In May, a British judge labeled Mr. Naseer an al Qaeda operative, but said he could not be deported to his native Pakistan because of the likelihood he would be mistreated.

Police said Mr. Naseer is wanted in the United States on charges of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization and “conspiracy to use destructive force.”

CUBA

Church: Cuba to free 52 political prisoners

HAVANA | Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church said Wednesday that the communist government has agreed to free 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the country in what would be the island’s largest mass liberation of prisoners of conscience in decades.

The deal was announced after a meeting between President Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana. Also participating was visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez.

In a statement, Cardinal Ortega’s office said that those offered freedom were members of a group of 75 leading political opposition activists, community organizers and journalists who report on Cuba in defiance of state controls on media. They were rounded up in a crackdown on dissent in March 2003.

Some previously had been freed for health reasons or after completing their terms, or were allowed into exile in Spain. But 52 have remained behind bars — most serving lengthy prison terms on charges of conspiring with Washington to destabilize Cuba’s political system.

FRANCE

Court hands Noriega 7-year prison term

PARIS | A Paris court on Wednesday convicted former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega of laundering drug money in France in the 1980s and ordered him to spend seven years behind bars — a sentence that comes on top of his two decades already spent in a U.S. prison.

The three-judge panel also ordered the seizure of $2.89 million that has long been frozen in Noriega’s accounts.

Noriega, who gives his age as 76, was deposed after a 1989 U.S. invasion and went on to serve 20 years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking. He was extradited to France in April to stand trial on accusations related to his assets here.

The prosecution argued that millions of dollars that passed through Noriega’s French accounts during the late 1980s were kickbacks from the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel.

RUSSIA

Spy’s brother: Swap imminent for spies in U.S.

MOSCOW | Russia and the United States are working out a spy swap involving Russians recently arrested in the United States and imprisoned nuclear researcher Igor Sutyagin, his brother said Wednesday.

Dmitry Sutyagin said his brother was told by Russian officials that he would be released and sent to Britain in exchange for an unknown number of spies. The officials met Igor Sutyagin on Monday at a prison in Arkhangelsk, in northwestern Russia, and U.S. officials were at the meeting, his brother said.

Sutyagin, a Russian, said he was made to sign a confession, although he maintains his innocence and does not want to leave Russia, his brother said. After the meeting, Sutyagin was transferred to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, his brother said.

He was arrested in 1999 and convicted in 2004 on charges of passing information on nuclear submarines and missile-warning systems to a British company that investigators claimed was a CIA cover.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Penitentiary Service said they had no comment on the claim, and a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy was not immediately available for comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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