Briefly: Middle East

TUNISIA

Newly elected assembly gets to work amid protests

TUNIS — Tunisia’s newly elected assembly held its inaugural meeting Tuesday, ready to start shaping the constitution and the democratic future of the country that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

And it didn’t take long for the legislators to feel one result of free speech: hundreds of people protested outside Parliament, demanding everything from women’s rights and a crackdown on security forces to limits on Qatar’s influence over Tunisia’s affairs.

A moderate Islamist party, Ennahda (Renaissance), won the most seats in Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly and has announced a coalition with a liberal and a left-of-center party.

But groups representing the country’s secular traditions picketed the assembly’s first meeting, expressing their fears of an Islamist takeover.

Lawmakers were elected last month in Tunisia’s first free vote - the first resulting from the Arab Spring protests. Tunisian protesters drove out their longtime president in January, setting off revolts in other Arab countries.

Tunisia’s new assembly is being watched as an example amid the violence in Egypt ahead of its elections and escalating tensions in Syria.

IRAQ

U.S. hands over detainees except Hezbollah agent

BAGHDAD — The U.S. handed over all of the remaining detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq on Tuesday, except for a Lebanese Hezbollah commander linked to the death of four U.S. troops, Iraqi and American officials said.

The prisoner transfer marks another step toward the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Iraq, as it plans for all U.S. troops to be out of the country by the end of this year.

It still leaves the contentious issue of what to do with a prisoner who many in the U.S. worry will walk free if he’s handed over to the Iraqi government.

Iraqi Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said 37 detainees were transferred to Iraqi custody Tuesday morning.

A U.S. military official confirmed that Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq is still in American custody while the U.S. weighs his situation. The Lebanese militant from his country’s Shiite Hezbollah guerrilla group was captured in 2007 in the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Karbala.

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