- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Beaten American loses court battle

LAUSANNE, Switzerland | An American has lost his court battle in Switzerland with a member of the ruling United Arab Emirates’ family who whipped him with a belt in a Geneva hotel bar.

The Swiss Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s quashing of the criminal conviction of Sheik Falah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 38, according to a copy of the ruling seen Tuesday by the Associated Press.

Mr. Al Nahyan, brother of the UAE ruler, was convicted in July for beating Silvano Orsi, 40, of Rochester, N.Y., with a belt after the American declined a bottle of champagne the sheik offered him in a luxury Geneva hotel bar in 2003. Mr. Al Nahyan was fined $9,820.

Mr. Orsi says that after refusing the champagne, the sheik, whom he had never met, came up behind him, jostled his glasses, sat on his lap and tried to kiss and fondle him. When Mr. Orsi protested, the assault began, he says.

Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Zappelli, has said Mr. Orsi’s injuries and post-traumatic shock from the beating in August 2003 left him incapable of working.

IRAQ

Militant’s release part of larger deal

BAGHDAD | The surprise release of a Shi’ite militant linked to the killing of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq is part of a high-stakes gambit that could result in freedom for five British hostages and a political role for a major Shi’ite extremist group with reputed ties to Iran.

Laith al-Khazali, a leading figure in the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, was freed from U.S. custody over the weekend and taken to his home in Baghdad’s Sadr City district, according to Iraqi officials involved in negotiations for his release.

Mr. al-Khazali and his brother, Qais al-Khazali, were arrested in March 2007 and accused of organizing a bold raid on a local government headquarters in Karbala that killed five U.S. soldiers Jan. 20, 2007.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said the release was part of “the wider Iraqi government reconciliation process of reaching out to groups that are willing to set aside violence in favor of taking part in the political process.” The spokesman declined to be identified in line with department policy.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the United States handed over Mr. al-Khazali to the Iraqi government and was not involved in his final release. Mr. Whitman said the Iraqis told the United States that the release was not part of any broader negotiations.

LEBANON

Hariri a favorite for prime minister

BEIRUT | Saad Hariri, the billionaire businessman and son of a slain former prime minister, is emerging as the favorite to lead Lebanon’s government after his pro-Western coalition fended off a serious challenge from Iranian-backed Hezbollah in weekend elections.

Legislative allies said Tuesday that Mr. Hariri, a 39-year-old moderate Sunni Muslim and leader of the largest parliamentary bloc in the winning coalition, is expected to succeed his ally, Fouad Siniora.

Mr. Hariri’s alliance dealt a major setback to the Shi’ite Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers in Sunday’s vote, gaining 68 seats to the opposing group’s 57. The other three seats in the 128-member parliament went to independents.

Fears of Iran gaining more influence in the Arab country swayed Christian swing voters away from the coalition led by the Shi’ite militant group and helped deliver the election victory to the U.S.-aligned camp. Analysts and voters said Tuesday that President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world also helped blunt the appeal of the militants.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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