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Briefly: Two Egyptian journalists charged with insulting president

- - Thursday, August 16, 2012

Egypt

CAIRO — An Egyptian court says a popular TV presenter and a chief editor of an independent daily are to go on trial for insulting the country's newly elected Islamist president.

The Cairo court on Thursday charged Tawfiq Okasha with suggesting the killing of President Mohammed Morsi during his nightly show.

Mr. Okasha's network el-Faraeen, or the Pharaohs, was ordered off the air, after he warned Mr. Morsi not to attend the funeral of 16 Egyptian soldiers killed in a militant attack this month. He said "spilling" Mr. Morsi's blood would be permissible and alleged the president's Muslim Brotherhood group was behind the attack.

Mr. Okasha is popular for his criticism of the Brotherhood and the activists behind last year's uprising.

The court also referred chief editor Islam Afifi for his newspaper el-Dustour's attacks on Mr. Morsi.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the legal actions ran counter to the spirit of last year's revolution, in which Egyptians took to the streets and toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak.

"We are very concerned by reports that the Egyptian government is moving to restrict media freedom and criticism in Egypt," she told reporters.

"Freedom of the press, freedom of expression are fundamental tenets of vibrant, strong democracies. They are part and parcel of what the Egyptian people went into the streets for."

Pakistan

Taliban storm base linked to nuclear arms

KAMRA — Heavily armed Taliban fighters blasted their way into a Pakistani air force base with possible links to the country's nuclear program in a brazen assault that took two hours of fighting to put down, leaving a security officer and nine insurgents dead and underscoring the group's continued threat despite numerous military offensives.

Hours later, Taliban gunmen in northern Pakistan forced 20 Shiite Muslims off buses, lined them up and killed them in the latest in a series of sectarian attacks.

The large Air Force Base Minhas, located only about 25 miles northwest of Islamabad, hosts fighter jets, including F-16s, and contains a factory that makes aircraft and other weapons systems.

The weapons development and the presence of jets that could be used to deploy nuclear bombs have raised suspicions among some experts that the base is linked to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

France

Five arrested in anti-poverty protests

PARIS — Police arrested five people in northern France on Thursday in the first detentions in connection with recent rioting that renewed concerns about security in areas facing high unemployment.

The eruption of violence in Amiens was a reminder of long-standing tensions between police and young people in impoverished neighborhoods. Those tensions flared into riots in 2005 that raged unchecked across the country for nearly a month.

The local government in Amiens said two suspects were caught while trying to burn garbage cans overnight. All five arrested, including two minors, were set to see a judge on Thursday.

More than 100 people are believed to have taken part in the rioting, which left more than a dozen police officers injured and a pre-school and a public gym in ashes. Police are still looking for more participants, although tensions appear to have subsided since Tuesday.

Uganda

Three tainted cronies named to Cabinet

KAMPALA — Uganda's president has announced a new Cabinet that features three politicians who had resigned their posts amid corruption allegations last year.

The reinstatement of the three officials -- who have been taken to court over allegations they misused money during the 2007 Commonwealth summit in Uganda -- has drawn condemnation from activists who say they are unfit for public office. The officials, whose case is now before Uganda's Supreme Court, deny any wrongdoing.

They include Sam Kutesa, a close associate of President Yoweri Museveni, as well as John Nasasira and Mwesigwa Rukutana. All three are senior members of the ruling party.

South Africa

Police open fire on striking mine workers

JOHANNESBURG — South African police opened fire Thursday on a crowd of striking workers at a platinum mine, leaving an unknown number of people injured and possibly dead. Motionless bodies lay on the ground in pools of blood.

Police moved in on striking workers who gathered near the Lonmin PLC mine Thursday afternoon, after urging them to give up their weapons and go home to their hostels and shacks. Some did leave, though others carrying weapons began war chants and soon started marching toward the township near the mine, an eyewitness said.

The police opened up with a water cannon first, then used stun grenades and tear gas to try and break up the crowd.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports