- - Thursday, October 13, 2011

UKRAINE

President hints at Tymoshenko reprieve

KIEV | Facing harsh Western criticism, Ukraine’s president said Thursday that he backs legal reforms that could allow the release of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The United States and the European Union have condemned this week’s sentencing of Mrs. Tymoshenko to seven years in prison for abuse of office.

Mrs. Tymoshenko was found guilty Tuesday of exceeding her authority in the signing of a gas import deal with Russian in 2009.

She denounced the trial as President Viktor Yanukovych’s attempt to remove her, the country’s top opposition leader, from politics.

Mr. Yanukovych said Thursday that the law that served as a basis for Mrs. Tymoshenko’s conviction was outdated and should be changed.

The law “has been classified as a part of administrative offenses or political cases around the world, in many countries. If you ask me, Do I agree with that? Without, a doubt, I agree,” Mr. Yanukovych said, according to his office.

MEXICO

Military reports capture of cartel figure

MEXICO CITY | Mexico’s Defense Department says troops have captured the No. 3 figure in the Zetas drug cartel.

Defense Department spokesman Ricardo Trevilla said Carlos Oliva Castillo was in charge of Zeta operations in the key northern states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon.

He said only two other figures in the cartel are more important.

Mr. Trevilla told a news conference on Thursday that the arrest is part of an operation that freed 36 kidnap victims and led to the seizure of more than 800 cars as well as 27.5 tons of marijuana and hundreds of weapons.

EGYPT

Military takes over inquiry of Coptic unrest

CAIRO | Egypt’s military prosecutor said Thursday his office will take over the investigation into deadly clashes between the army and Coptic Christian protesters, as the military rulers seek to fend off growing criticism over the worst bloodshed since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

The decision effectively barred the civilian prosecutor from continuing his own inquiry and drew criticism from activists and rights groups who have grown deeply suspicious of the ruling generals’ commitment to the reform path in Egypt’s post-Mubarak transition to democracy.

The clashes on Sunday night and into Monday morning began with a peaceful demonstration in downtown Cairo by minority Christians angry over a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt.

Witnesses said the protesters were attacked by crowds hurling stones and clashed with military units guarding the nearby state television building along the Nile.

BELARUS

Belarusian KGB gets tough new powers

MINSK | Belarus is clamping down on opposition groups and granting police sweeping new powers, including the right to forcefully disperse silent protests and break into offices and homes.

The measures, passed in a closed session of parliament and published Thursday on a government website, come as anger and dissent grow in the autocratic country of 10 million over an economic crisis in which the Belarusian ruble has lost one-third of its value since spring.

Under the new measures, political and civil-society groups are banned from receiving foreign assistance and from holding money in foreign banks.

They also give police the authority to forcefully break up silent protests - in which demonstrators do not shout slogans or display any banners - that have become popular as police have taken a harsh line against other types of demonstrations.

The security police, which use the Soviet-era acronym KGB, also are now authorized to break into residences and offices.

KENYA

2 aid workers seized in refugee camp

NAIROBI | Suspected Somali militants entered the world’s largest refugee camp Thursday and abducted two Spanish women working with an aid group after shooting and wounding their Kenyan driver - the third kidnapping of Europeans in Kenya in six weeks.

Police pursued the gunmen by land and air, just as they had done after a nighttime kidnapping of a French woman from an island resort earlier this month. In September, a British woman was abducted - and her husband was fatally shot - at a coastal resort.

The kidnappings by armed Somalis underscore the ease with which militants can cross into Kenya, take hostages and return to a land where power is determined by AK-47s.

The police expressed confidence in capturing the gunmen even though the last two kidnappings saw the female captives taken into Somalia.

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