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News Briefs I

Palestinian Authority Executes Two Security Force Members

Los Angeles Times

In the first use of capital punishment under the Palestinian Authority, a 10-man Palestinian firing squad executed two men Sunday who were convicted of killings that took place only last week.

The men, brothers Raed and Mohammed abu Sultan, were members of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's own security forces. Their role in the deaths of two other men in a family feud in the Gaza Strip had prompted public protests from Gazans angry over frequent allegations of misuse of force by the powerful Palestinian security services.

But the case, which took just four days from killing to trial, sentencing and execution, outraged Palestinian human rights activists, who accused Arafat of denying the Abu Sultans justice in order to quell the public anger.

"If the Palestinian Authority is going to practice this kind of justice in Palestine, I think a very dark future is waiting for us," said Bassam Eid, a prominent human rights activist and frequent Arafat critic. "Because President Arafat wanted to put an end to the anger in the street, he approved this judgment."

Other Palestinians welcomed the executions, saying they believed Arafat was sending a signal that he intends to rein in his police forces.

"I agree with these executions," said Hatem Abdel Khader, a Palestinian legislator and one of a group of lawmakers that met with Arafat in Gaza on Sunday. "President Arafat told us today that he had approved the executions and that they would be an example that everybody is under the same law. This is good for the Palestinian people."

A Gaza military court Saturday found the Abu Sultans guilty of murder in the shooting deaths Thursday of Majdi Khalidi, 32, a member of Arafat's general intelligence service, and his brother Mohammed Khalidi, 30, a college lecturer. A third Khalidi brother, Abdel Azim, 34, was shot in the legs during the confrontation, which took place at a wedding.

New Turkish Army Chief Talks Tough Against Islamists

Los Angeles TImes
ANKARA, Turkey

The new army chief has vowed to keep up the battle against Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, quashing widespread speculation that, under his command, the rigidly pro-secular armed forces would take a softer approach to the resurgent Islamist movement and keep out of politics.

Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu, who officially takes charge Monday, reserved the bulk of a speech he delivered Friday during a ceremony in honor of his predecessor to warning of the dangers posed to Turkey's pro-secular regime by the "dark forces of fundamentalism."

"Those who seek to undermine the secular state," he said, "will continue to face the Turkish armed forces as they did before."

The armed forces last week filed a defamation suit against a pro-Islamic daily for publishing a report claiming that Kivrikoglu is a "soft-hearted general" who will tolerate political Islam.

The Turkish military, which has seized power three times in 75 years, views itself as the custodian of the pro-secular, Western-style republic founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. That role was rendered official in the present constitution, drawn up by the generals when they last seized power, in 1980. They returned control to a civilian government in 1983.

Fears of a fresh coup resurfaced after Turkey's first pro-Islamic government, led by Necmettin Erbakan, came to power in 1996. Erbakan's overtures toward Iran and Libya - coupled with his efforts to introduce a more religious tone into public life - triggered a prolonged standoff with the military. It culminated with his resignation last year and snuffed out hopes among Turkey's Western allies that NATO's only Muslim member could demonstrate that democracy and political Islam can co-exist.