- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

RUSSIA

Country ‘not free,’ rights group says

MOSCOW — A U.S.-based organization that tracks political rights and civil liberties around the world yesterday downgraded Russia to the status of “not free” — far behind the democratic nations Moscow sees as its peers.

“Russia’s step backward … is the culmination of a growing trend under President Vladimir Putin to concentrate political authority, harass and intimidate the media, and politicize the country’s law enforcement system,” Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the report.

PAKISTAN

Police arrest six, seek al Qaeda link

LAHORE — Police arrested six suspected Islamist militants in the eastern city of Lahore yesterday, hoping they could provide clues about a Libyan al Qaeda operative who is among the most-wanted men in Pakistan.

The Libyan, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, is accused of masterminding two assassination attempts a year ago against President Pervez Musharraf, who has been targeted by extremists for his support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

The six arrested men, all Pakistanis, include Malik Tehsin, 31, who is said to be a member of two outlawed Sunni Muslim militant groups and an aide to al-Libbi.

BRITAIN

Top terror lawyer quits post in protest

LONDON — A senior British lawyer who defended terror suspects in cases involving secret evidence quit in disgust yesterday, just days after judges ruled the government was violating basic rights in its prosecution of some terror suspects.

Ian Macdonald, on a government-appointed team of “special advocates” given access to secret evidence in terrorism cases, said he was resigning because the state’s post-September 11 emergency powers were “an odious blot.”

His resignation came days after judges in the House of Lords, sitting as the country’s highest court, ruled the three-year-old powers assumed by the government violated international law.

JAPAN

Taiwanese gets visa over Beijing’s protests

TOKYO — Japan said yesterday it would proceed with a visa for Lee Teng-hui, former president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), for a sightseeing trip despite angry protests from China.

Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have soured over a string of disputes, including one involving Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to a shrine where war criminals are honored alongside other Japanese war veterans.

Mr. Lee, 81, and his family are expected to arrive in Nagoya in central Japan Monday and visit the area’s hot springs before leaving for home Dec. 31, Japanese press reports said.

BAHRAIN

Gulf leaders sparover U.S. trade deals

MANAMA — Saudi Arabia called yesterday for Arab Gulf states to speak with one voice, implicitly criticizing countries making trade agreements with the United States. But Bahraini officials said they had no intention of abstaining from such deals.

A dispute over such agreements was expected to dominate the summit meeting of six Arab Gulf nations that began yesterday.

A Gulf official at the summit said the other five states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — would make their own arrangements with Washington whether the Saudis like it or not. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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