- - Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TUNISIA

Elections to go ahead July 24

TUNIS — Tunisia’s transitional government said Tuesday that elections for a national constituent assembly would go ahead on July 24 despite calls from the election commission for a delay until October.

The constituent assembly will draw up a new constitution and prepare for elections to replace the transitional government set up after the fall in January of the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who was president for 23 years.

“The council of ministers has discussed thoroughly the election commission proposal and has decided to maintain the timetable decided on by the government and the president, that is to say elections on July 24,” said government spokesman Taieb Baccouche.

The electoral commission, recently set up to prepare and oversee the vote, on Sunday recommended postponing it until Oct. 16, saying it needed more time to prepare.

EGYPT

Mubarak, sons to be tried for killings, corruption

CAIRO — Ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and his two sons will face trial before a criminal court over the killings of anti-regime protesters and corruption, the official MENA news agency reported.

The agency reported that the 83-year-old ousted strongman and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, have been charged with “premeditated murder of some participants in the peaceful protests of the January 25 revolution.”

They also have been charged with profiteering and using their positions for illicit gains and squandering public funds, the agency reported.

The charges extend to a fourth defendant, Hussein Salem, a businessman close to Mr. Mubarak who has been blamed for a controversial deal to supply Israel with gas at lower-than-usual prices. He has fled the country.

BAHRAIN

Amnesty urges Bahrain to commute death sentences

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Amnesty International is urging Bahrain to overturn the death sentences of two people arrested during Shiite-led anti-government protests.

The sentences were upheld Sunday by a special closed-door appeals court presided over by military and civilian judges. The defendants were convicted of killing two policemen during a government crackdown on the unrest in March.

In a statement Monday, Amnesty, a leading human rights group, urged Bahrain’s king to commute the sentences.

At least 30 people have been killed since protests began in February by Bahrain’s majority Shiites. They are seeking greater rights and political freedoms from the country’s Sunni rulers. Hundreds more have been detained in the kingdom, home to the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas leader challenged by Gaza strongman

GAZA CITY — Gaza’s Hamas strongman has been quoted as challenging the Islamic militant movement’s exiled top leader because of his tacit backing of Palestinian negotiations with Israel.

The comments by Gaza’s Mahmoud Zahar were carried by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar on Tuesday. They signal a rare public dispute among Hamas leaders.

Mr. Zahar said the group’s exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, had no right to say that Hamas would give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas another chance to try to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.

Mr. Zahar also was quoted as saying that the Hamas power structure should be reassessed.

A confidant of Mr. Mashaal’s responded that Mr. Zahar spoke out of turn.

Mr. Zahar was not available for further comment. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said the published statements were fabricated.

SAUDI ARABIA

Rights group wants female drivers released

CAIRO — Human Rights Watch has urged Saudi authorities to release a female activist who led an online campaign against the country’s driving ban and posted a video clip showing herself behind the wheel.

Tuesday’s statement by the New York-based group says Manal al-Sherif’s arrest opens the kingdom to “mockery around the world.”

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women - both Saudi and foreign - from driving.

The Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, which is owned by a ruling family member, claimed that Ms. al-Sherif broke down in “an episode of crying” during an interrogation and blamed the campaign on “women from outside the kingdom.”

Her lawyer, Adnan al-Saleh, told the Associated Press that Ms. al-Sherif has not talked to the media and she will sue the paper.

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