- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ECUADOR

Congress dismisses top court judges

QUITO — Ecuador’s Congress yesterday voted to dismiss the country’s top court judges a day after they reinstated 50 fired opposition lawmakers who are locked in a political feud with President Rafael Correa.

The decision fuels institutional confusion in Ecuador as opposition lawmakers tussle with Mr. Correa over his plans to rewrite the constitution and curb the influence of traditional political parties who many blame for years of instability.

The constitutional court Monday voted to reinstate 50 lawmakers who were fired last month for opposing Mr. Correa’s proposal for a referendum on whether to rewrite the constitution through a special assembly.

ITALY

Rules for foreign workers to be relaxed

ROME — The Italian Cabinet yesterday adopted a draft law that would make it easier for foreign workers to enter the country, a move immediately attacked by the conservative opposition.

Once the law is adopted by parliament, immigrants will receive work permits more easily than now if they are sponsored by local authorities, unions or company chiefs.

Workers offering domestic services would also find entering Italy easier, while highly qualified staff would no longer be included in immigration quotas, further boosting legal immigration.

ITALY

Women instructed not to wear veils

ROME — Women in Italy should not wear veils that cover their face, according to new government guidelines for immigrants that were drawn up in consultation with representatives of the main faiths, including Muslims.

The document, presented by Interior Minister Giuliano Amato late on Monday, is Rome’s response to a growing debate in Europe over integration standards for Muslim minorities.

While the “Charter of Values, Citizenship and Immigration” is not legally binding, it is meant to set common rules for immigrants, particularly Muslims, living in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

SYRIA

Rights lawyer jailed for five years

DAMASCUS — A Syrian court sentenced a leading human rights lawyer to five years in prison yesterday for criticizing government policy toward Lebanon.

Anwar al-Bunni was among a group of Syrian activists and intellectuals arrested a year ago after signing a document known as the Damascus-Beirut Declaration that called for a review of relations between the two countries.

“I didn’t commit any crime. This sentence is to shut me up and to stop the effort to expose human rights violations in Syria,” Mr. al-Bunni said after the sentence was pronounced.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the sentence “a sad commentary on the state of political freedom in Syria.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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