- - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

EGYPT

Court bans ‘virginity tests’ on female detainees

CAIRO — An Egyptian court has ordered the country’s military rulers to stop the use of “virginity tests” on female detainees, a practice that has caused an uproar among activists and rights groups.

The civilian administrative court decision Tuesday came after one of the abused women filed two suits against the military’s practice, one demanding it be banned and an other accusing an officer of sexual assault.

The virginity test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters and the army forcefully cleared the square.

Human Rights Watch said seven women were subjected to the tests. At first the military denied they were done, and then a military prosecutor said the army is looking into the issue.

ISRAEL

Tourist center planned at sensitive site

JERUSALEM — A hard-line Israeli group said Tuesday it was launching plans for a tourist center at the site of a politically sensitive archaeological dig in a largely Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, drawing fire from Palestinian officials.

The project’s sponsor, the Elad Foundation, said the new visitors center and parking garage will be built above a section of the excavation area known as the City of David, leaving the ruins below accessible.

The foundation said no additional land beyond the current excavation site would be used and that construction, which must pass several zoning committees, was still several years away.

Israeli archaeologists at the City of David, named for the biblical monarch thought to have ruled from the spot 3,000 years ago, are investigating the oldest part of Jerusalem.

Finds there linked to life and ritual in ancient Jerusalem regularly make international headlines, and the dig has become one of Jerusalem’s most popular tourist attractions.

The site is just outside the Old City walls at the edge of the neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinian Authority says it wants as the capital of a hoped-for state.

Israeli construction in East Jerusalem is regularly the subject of international criticism. Critics say the new plan will cement Israel’s hold on Silwan and could destabilize the volatile neighborhood, where Palestinian residents clash on occasion with Jewish residents and police.

IRAN

Death penalty sought for American accused of spying

TEHRAN — An American man accused by Iran of working for the CIA could face the death penalty, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Tuesday.

In a closed court hearing, the prosecution applied for capital punishment, the report said, because the suspect, identified as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, “admitted that he received training in the United States and planned to imply that Iran was involved in terrorist activities in foreign countries” after returning to the U.S.

The prosecutor said Mr. Hekmati entered Iran’s intelligence department three times.

The report said Mr. Hekmati repeated a confession broadcast Dec. 18 on state TV.

Under Iranian law, spying can lead to death penalty only in military cases.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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