- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2010

GERMANY

4 convicted in plot against U.S. sites

DUESSELDORF | Two German converts to Islam and two Turkish men were convicted Thursday over a foiled 2007 plot to attack U.S. targets in Germany and given prison sentences ranging up to 12 years.

The four men, operating as a German cell of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, had plotted bombing attacks against American citizens and facilities including the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein base in Germany, the Duesseldorf state court found.

Judge Ottmar Breidling said the planned attacks could have been on a par with the 2005 London transport bombings or the 2004 Madrid train bombings..



Three of the defendants - Fritz Gelowicz, 30, and 24-year-old Daniel Schneider, both German converts to Islam, and Turkish citizen Adem Yilmaz, 31 - were convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, while 25-year-old Turkish citizen Attila Selek was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization.

IRAN

Filmmaker’s wife, daughter freed

TEHRAN | Iranian authorities have freed 14 people arrested at award-winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s home but the opposition-supporting director remains detained, an opposition Web site said Thursday.

Kaleme.com said Mr. Panahi’s wife and their daughter were among the 14 released late Wednesday, adding that Mr. Panahi and two others, Mohammad Rassoulof and Mehdi Pourmoussa, were still being held.

According to the Web site, at least six human rights activists, including women’s rights militant Mahboubeh Karami, were among the group of 17 people arrested overnight Monday.

Media reports said Mr. Panahi was arrested for making a film about the unrest that rocked the Islamic republic after the June 12 disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In February, the authorities banned Mr. Panahi from leaving the country to attend the Berlin film festival.

RUSSIA

U.S. gives back czar’s medallion

MOSCOW | U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle returned a stolen silver medallion that belonged to the last Russian czar to Moscow Thursday after it was recovered from an online auction by U.S. investigators.

Mr. Beyrle said the recovery of the rare artifact signaled increasing trust between Moscow and Washington. The medallion, which bears a portrait of Czar Peter the Great, once belonged to the family of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II. It was stolen from the State Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg.

A 2006 check showed that some 200 exhibits, including jewelry and icons worth $5 million, were stolen from Russia’s largest museum. Only 35 have been recovered.

RUSSIA

Submarine-launched missile tested

MOSCOW | The Russian military on Thursday successfully tested a strategic missile from a submarine in the arctic, Russia’s federal space agency said.

A Sineva missile was launched from the Tula rocket-carrying submarine in the Barents Sea, and the launch was successful, the agency said.

The Sineva is an intercontinental missile capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear warheads, according to the Web site GlobalSecurity.org. The missile, whose NATO reporting name is the SS-N-23 Skiff, has been in service with the Russian military since 2007.

SYRIA

Israel accused of planting nuke traces

VIENNA, Austria | Syria suggested Thursday that Israel dropped uranium particles onto Syrian soil from the air to make it look as if a covert nuclear weapons plant was being built there, diplomats at a U.N. nuclear watchdog meeting said.

Damascus has strongly denied U.S. intelligence that a complex in the Syrian desert bombed to ruins by Israel in 2007 had been a nascent nuclear reactor, North Korean in design and geared to making plutonium for atomic bombs.

But International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano last month lent independent support to Western suspicions for the first time by saying uranium traces found in a 2008 visit by inspectors pointed to nuclear-related activity on the ground.

He said Syria was still refusing to let the IAEA re-examine the Dair Alzour site, take swipe samples from rubble removed immediately to an unknown location after the air strike, and check three other sites under military control whose look was altered by landscaping after inspectors asked for access.

In a closed-door debate by the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors, Syria reiterated its assertion that the uranium traces came with munitions Israel used to destroy the complex.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas bans men in women’s salons

GAZA CITY | Gaza’s Islamic Hamas government on Thursday banned men from working in women’s hair salons, the latest step in its campaign to impose strict Islamic customs on Gaza’s 1.5 million people.

Since seizing Gaza in 2007, Hamas has taken steps in that direction while avoiding a frontal assault on secularism. The majority of Gaza residents are conservative Muslims, but Hamas is under growing pressure from more radical groups to prove its fundamentalist credentials by imposing ever harsher edicts.

Islamic tradition forbids women from showing their hair to men who are not their husbands or blood relatives. Until now, though, exceptions were made for the eight known male hairdressers in women’s salons in Gaza City.

BRITAIN

Brown to block prosecuting foreigners

LONDON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday he would move to block private groups from launching war crimes prosecutions against visiting foreign dignitaries, following a controversy inflamed when an arrest warrant was issued for former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Mr. Brown said that Britain’s principle of universal jurisdiction - a wide-ranging legal concept that allows judges to issue warrants for nearly any visitor accused of committing war crimes anywhere in the world - was being abused.

Mr. Brown said the law was being abused by groups “who set out only to grab headlines knowing their case has no realistic chance of a successful prosecution.”

Writing in the Daily Telegraph Thursday, he said, “Britain cannot afford to have its standing in the world compromised for the sake of tolerating such gestures.”

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