- - Sunday, February 6, 2011

IRAN

Americans plead not guilty to spy charges

TEHRAN | Two Americans accused of spying appeared in a closed-door Iranian court session Sunday to begin trial after an 18-month detention that has brought impassioned family appeals, a stunning bail deal to free their companion and backdoor diplomacy by Washington through an Arab ally in the Gulf.

All three entered not guilty pleas during the five-hour hearing, said their lawyer, Masoud Shafiei. Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal appeared in court, while Mr. Bauer’s freed fiancee, Sarah Shourd, defied a court order to return to Iran for the trial.

Miss Sarah Shourd was released in September on $500,000 bail arranged through the Gulf nation of Oman, which maintains close ties to the West and Iran.

The Americans were detained in July 2009 along the Iraqi border where they were hiking.

TUNISIA

Government suspends ex-leader’s party

TUNIS | Tunisia’s interior minister on Sunday suspended all activities of the country’s former ruling party amid the most serious protests since the country’s autocratic ruler fled into exile.

Farhat Rajhi ordered a halt to all meetings of the Democratic Constitutional Rally and closed all party offices or meeting places. He added that he intends to seek its dissolution, a ministry statement said.

The announcement came hours after crowds burned a police station in the northwestern city of Kef a day after police fatally shot at least two demonstrators.

It was the worst violence in Tunisia since massive protests forced Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile Jan. 14.

PAKISTAN

Widow commits suicide over U.S. shooting

LAHORE | The wife of a Pakistani man fatally shot by a U.S. official committed suicide Sunday by eating rat poison, claiming she was driven to kill herself by fears the American would be freed without trial, a doctor said.

The U.S. has demanded that Pakistani authorities release the American, saying he shot and killed two armed men in self-defense when they attempted to rob him as he drove his car in the eastern city of Lahore. He was arrested on Jan. 27, and the U.S. has said he has diplomatic immunity and is being detained illegally.

The shootings have stoked anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, feelings that could be further inflamed by Shumaila Kanwal’s suicide. She died several hours after being rushed to a hospital, said Dr. Ali Naqi, who treated her.

She also spoke to reporters after arriving at the hospital, saying, “I want blood for blood.”

SUDAN

Army mutiny spreads to oil state

JUBA | At least 50 people have died as a mutiny in the Sudan army spread through towns in oil-producing Upper Nile state, stoking tension as the south prepares for independence, the military said on Sunday.

Heavy fighting, with tanks and machine guns, broke out in the politically sensitive southern town of Malakal on Thursday, when members of an army unit refused to redeploy with their weapons to the north and turned on other members of their unit.

The violence is a worrying accompaniment to the separation of Sudan’s northern and southern armies and their military hardware ahead of the southern secession, expected on July 9.

Early results from a referendum in January show the vast majority of southern voters chose to separate from the north. Final results of the vote, promised in a 2005 peace accord that ended decades of civil war, are due to be announced on Monday.

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