- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Families may be allowed to visit jailed Americans

GENEVA | Iranian authorities are considering a request by the families of three detained American hikers to visit them in prison, Iran’s top human rights official said Tuesday.

Mohammad Javad Larijani — the secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights and a member of one of the country’s most influential families — said his office has recommended that the request be granted.

In a statement, the families welcomed the announcement.

Mr. Larijani said the Swiss ambassador in Tehran made the request to his office “about two to three weeks ago.” Switzerland has represented U.S. consular interests in Iran since Washington and Tehran broke off diplomatic relations following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The families of the three detained Americans — Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal — say they were hiking in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region in July when they accidentally crossed the border into Iran.


90 journalists held last year, group says

CAIRO | An international press freedom watchdog is accusing Iran of carrying out one of the world’s most severe crackdowns on journalists, saying more than 90 reporters were arrested last year.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says in its annual report on press freedoms that Iran is still holding at least 23 writers and editors, second only to China in the number of journalists detained.

The group says China holds 24 journalists in its jails.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the press freedom group notes that government agencies continue to enforce heavy handed press laws, including harassment through court summonses. The report was released Tuesday.


Global dragnet sought for Hamas slaying

DUBAI | Dubai police appealed for an international manhunt Tuesday after releasing names and photos of a purported 11-member European hit squad accused of stalking and killing a Hamas commander last month in a plot that mixed cold precision with spy caper disguises such as fake beards and wigs.

The case — as presented by Dubai authorities — rings of clockwork espionage and detailed planning that included suspects riding the same elevator as Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was slain in an ambush-style attack in a luxury hotel room that took no more than 10 minutes.

But questions emerged about the list of suspects after Dubai authorities released pictures, names and passport photos identifying them as six Britons, three Irish and one each from France and Germany.

Ireland said the three purported Irish citizens on the wanted list do not exist. In Germany, officials said the passport number given by Dubai for the lone German suspect is either incomplete or wrong. Britain’s Foreign Office said authorities think the British passports used in the case were fraudulent.

The Islamic militant group has repeatedly accused Israel’s Mossad secret service of masterminding the slaying and has vowed revenge.

Officials outside Dubai, however, said at least two Palestinians linked to the case were in Dubai custody, leaving Hamas and its Palestinian rivals trading bitter accusations.


Boy-king Tut died from malaria, broken leg

CAIRO | Egypt’s famed King Tutankhamun suffered from a cleft palate and club foot, likely forcing him to walk with a cane, and died from complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria, according to the most extensive study ever of his mummy.

The findings were from two years of DNA testing and CT scans on 16 mummies, including those of Tutankhamun and his family, the team that carried out the study said in an article to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It also established the clearest yet family tree for Tut. The study said his father was most likely Akhenaten, the pharaoh who tried to revolutionize ancient Egyptian religion to worship one god — while his mother was a still unidentified sister of Akhenaten.

Tut, who became pharaoh at the age of 10 in 1333 B.C., ruled for just nine years at a pivotal time in Egypt’s history.

While a comparatively minor king, the 1922 discovery of his tomb filled with stunning artifacts, including the famed golden funeral mask, made him known the world over.

Speculation had long swirled over why the boy king died at such a young age.

A hole in his skull long fueled speculation he was murdered, until a 2005 CAT scan ruled that out, finding the hole was likely from the mummification process. The scan also uncovered the broken leg.


Communist activist held, rights group says

DAMASCUS | Syria arrested a communist party activist while she was traveling to neighboring Lebanon last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.

The security services arrested Raghda al-Hassan last Wednesday, the London-based group said. On the same day, forces raided Mrs. al-Hassan’s family home in the northwestern city of Tartus and “confiscated her laptop and the manuscript of a book relating to her time in prison,” the group said.

Mrs. al-Hassan, 37, is married and a mother of two. She was imprisoned for two years from 1993 on charges of membership in the outlawed Communist Labor Party.


Rebels say withdrawn from Saudi border

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Shi’ite rebels in north Yemen said Tuesday they have withdrawn from an area near the Saudi border, five days after a truce went into effect, allowing the Yemeni army to deploy there.

“We withdrew today from the Manazla front in the Malahidh region, near the Saudi border, and more precisely from Jebel Dahr Homar,” rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam told Agence France-Presse.

This mountainous area witnessed heavy fighting during the six-month war between the rebels and the government, he said, adding that the insurgents had opened a road linking Saada, their stronghold north of the capital Sana’a, and the Saudi border.

Thirty road blocks have been removed along this road, the spokesman said, allowing the army to reach the border and deploy along it. The rebels on Monday freed the first of five Saudi soldiers captured during the conflict as part of the six-point truce agreement with Sana’a.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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