- - Sunday, January 16, 2011


‘Baby Doc’ makes surprise return

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier returned Sunday to Haiti nearly 25 years after a popular uprising against his dictatorship forced him into exile, a surprising and perplexing move as his country struggles with a political crisis and the stalled effort to recover from last year’s earthquake.

Mr. Duvalier, part of a father-and-son dynasty, arrived on an Air France jet in a jacket and tie to hugs from supporters at the Port-au-Prince airport. He was calm as he was led into the immigration office. He left the airport without making a statement to journalists.

“He is happy to be back in this country, back in his home,” said Mona Beruaveau, a candidate for Senate in a Duvalierist party who spoke to the former dictator inside the immigration office. She said he would give a news conference Monday.

In fall 2007, President Rene Preval told reporters that Mr. Duvalier could return to Haiti but would face justice for the deaths of thousands of people and the theft of millions of dollars.

It was not immediately clear why the former dictator chose this tumultuous moment to return to Haiti. There were no immediate protests in reaction to his return. Half the people in the country are younger than 21, and weren’t alive during his rule.


Attacks down almost 20 percent

ISLAMABAD | The number of suicide bombings and other attacks in Pakistan declined nearly 20 percent last year as a result of Pakistani military operations, better surveillance by law enforcement agencies and the death of key militants in U.S. drone strikes, a think tank said Sunday.

But the militant threat remains dire, and the Pakistani government has yet to develop a comprehensive policy to eradicate Islamist militants who continue to plague the country, warned the Pak Institute for Peace Studies.

“Better coordination among intelligence agencies, capacity building of law enforcement agencies, curbs on terrorism financing and, most importantly, adequate measures to prevent banned militant groups from operating across the country remained persistently lacking,” said a new report by the group.

Pakistan’s anti-terror efforts are a key focus of the Obama administration, which wants the country to do more to target Taliban militants who regularly launch attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The number of militant, insurgent and sectarian-related attacks in Pakistan declined from 2,586 in 2009 to 2,113 last year. But the number of people killed in attacks only dropped about 3.5 percent, from 3,021 to 2,913.

Despite the general decline, attacks roughly tripled last year in Pakistan’s two largest cities, said the report, a sign that militants are having greater success exporting the fight far from their northwest heartland along the Afghan border.


Church shooting attacker gets death sentence

CAIRO | An Egyptian court on Sunday convicted and sentenced to death a Muslim man for killing six Christians and a Muslim guard last year — the latest in a series of moves by authorities seeking to calm religious tensions following a massive suicide bombing outside a church two weeks ago.

The violence has raised fears of a deepening and potentially explosive Muslim-Christian divide in this key U.S. ally, which already is beset by a widening income gap and frustration over government corruption and a lack of democratic reform.

Sunday’s hearing was held in the southern Egyptian city of Qena, where the trial began 11 months ago, amid tight security, with hundreds of riot police sealing off roads leading to the courthouse.

Chief defendant Mohammed Ahmed Hassanein, also known by his alias Hammam al-Kamouni, broke down on hearing the sentence read out by presiding Judge Mohammed Fahmy Abdul-Maugoud. “I am a victim, I did not do it,” screamed Hassanein. He was convicted of first-degree murder and terror-related charges.

The State Security Court, whose rulings cannot be appealed, will announce next month verdicts for the other two defendants in the case, judicial officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.


Rights group decries ‘execution binge’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Iranian authorities have unleashed an “execution binge” with an average rate of one person hanged every eight hours since the beginning of the year, a rights group monitoring the Islamic Republic said Sunday.

“The Iranian Judiciary is on an execution binge orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

A statement by the New York-based group said at least 47 prisoners have been hanged since Jan. 1, including a reported Kurdish activist accused of fighting against the state. It said other jailed Kurds also are at risk of facing the gallows for alleged links to a groups battling for greater rights for Iran’s Kurdish minority.

Most of the others executed were convicted of violent crimes such as murder.

The group said the actual number of people put to death this year could be higher because Iranian authorities may not make public all executions.

Rights groups and media reports say at least 179 people were executed in Iran last year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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