- - Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Liberals: Expel kin of Tunisian ex-leader

OTTAWA | Canada’s opposition parties Wednesday urged the Conservative government to expel the billionaire brother-in-law of ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon should sign an emergency extradition treaty with Tunisia,” said Denis Coderre, a member of Parliament and former Liberal Party immigration minister.

The Group for Social Justice in Tunisia, a group of Tunisian-Canadians and others who support democratic reforms in Tunisia, also pressed Ottawa to swiftly seek out and freeze the assets of Belhassen Trabelsi, the eldest brother of Mr. Ben Ali’s wife, Leila Trabelsi.

The group says the family’s assets include a private jet and a Montreal mansion.


Havana to free 4 political prisoners

HAVANA | Cuba’s government has agreed to free four men convicted of trying to flee the island by hijacking boats and will send them into exile in Spain, a Roman Catholic Church official said Wednesday. None is among a group of 11 peaceful dissidents jailed since a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

Church spokesman Orlando Marquez said Alexis Borges, Victor Jesus Hechavarria, Osmel Arevalos Nunez and Rodrigo Gelacio Santos are all to be let go in coming days.

Borges is serving a 15-year sentence for the bloody 1999 hijacking of a tourist boat in an effort to flee the country. He was intercepted by the Cuban coast guard and arrested.

He is on a list of about 100 political prisoners maintained by Elizardo Sanchez, a well-known Cuban human rights leader. The list contains both violent and nonviolent prisoners jailed for crimes against state security.


Anti-Mexican remark on BBC angers envoy

LONDON | Mexico’s ambassador to Britain demanded an apology from the presenters of the popular BBC television program “Top Gear,” expressing outrage over remarks characterizing Mexicans as lazy and oafish.

Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora Icaza complained in a letter released this week that Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May used what he described as bigoted stereotypes against Mexicans in a Sunday broadcast.

“It is utterly incomprehensible and unacceptable that the premiere broadcaster should allow three of its presenters to display their bigotry and ignorance by mocking the people and culture of our country with such vehemence,” the ambassador wrote in the letter.


German state bans Muslim face veils

BERLIN | Hesse, a state run by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, on Wednesday became the first German region to ban Muslim face veils for public-sector workers.

Hesse Interior Minister Boris Rhein announced it was “not acceptable” for a teacher in Frankfurt to wear a face veil because “public-sector workers are obligated to have neutral religious and political views.”

The decision was prompted by a local teacher who told her school she wanted to wear a burqa in the classroom after returning from maternity leave.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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