- - Monday, February 14, 2011

INDONESIA

Hard-line cleric faces third terror trial

JAKARTA | Indonesia’s most infamous firebrand Islamic cleric went on trial Monday on charges of forming a terrorist cell to plot high-profile assassinations and attacks on Western hotels and embassies. He faces a maximum penalty of death.

Abu Bakar Bashir, 72, twice escaped terrorism-related convictions in the past, but prosecutors insisted that this time the charges, in an indictment nearly 100 pages long, will stick. He is a co-founder of the al Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for many of the country’s deadliest attacks.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation with 237 million people, has made strides in fighting terrorism, following a string of suicide bombings that have killed at least 260 people in the past decade.

It still faces pockets of radicalized Islamists, and a small but increasingly vocal hard-line fringe has shocked the largely secular nation in recent days with new, violent attacks on minorities.

SYRIA

Syria jails schoolgirl blogger for 5 years

DAMASCUS | A security court Monday sentenced a teenaged blogger, brought to court chained and blindfolded, to five years in jail on charges of revealing information to a foreign country.

The long jail term for high school student Tal al-Molouhi, under arrest since 2009 and now 19 years old, is another sign of an intensifying crackdown on opposition in Syria in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

Miss Molouhi had written articles on the Internet, saying she yearned for a role in shaping the future of Syria, which has been under the control of the Baath Party for the past 50 years.

NETHERLANDS

Court ponders halt to hate-speech trial

AMSTERDAM | A Dutch court will reconsider dismissing the hate-speech trial of one of the Netherland’s most popular leaders, an anti-immigrant politician who has compared Islam to fascism and called for a ban on the Koran.

Preliminary objections to Geert Wilders’ trial were heard by an another panel of judges last year, but that court stepped down when it became embroiled in allegations of potential bias against him.

A new court ruled Monday that Mr. Wilders’ defense team had a right to present its preliminary objections again. If they are granted “then the case is over and out,” said Judge Marcel van Oosten.

Mr. Wilders, the powerful head of the Freedom Party, faces charges of “inciting discrimination” for his remarks, which opponents say have led to more discrimination against Muslims. Mr. Wilders denies wrongdoing, saying he has a right to freedom of speech and that many Dutch voters support him.

RUSSIA

Female bomber kills one soldier

MAKHACHKALA | A female bomber blew herself up while trying to enter a police station in the southern Dagestan region on Monday, also killing a soldier and wounding six others, officials said.

The bomber was stopped by a military patrol as she tried to enter the building in the central village of Gubden, said regional police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov.

The victims were soldiers who guard the police station, and those wounded in the attack were hospitalized, he said.

Dagestan is the largest and most ethnically diverse province of the predominantly Muslim Northern Caucasus region. It is increasingly beset by almost daily violence that stems from two separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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