Tunisia’s corruption amnesty sparks outrage
An amnesty law that would protect government officials accused of corruption during the regime of former leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali triggered mass protests in Tunisia last week. The new law, proposed by President Beji Caid Essebsi, grants amnesty to officials on trial for corruption and requires them to return stolen money and pay a fine. The government defended the law as a step toward moving on from the past and improving the climate for investment. Opposition lawmakers withdrew from the legislative session in protest, and dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building in Tunis.
“This law is an advanced stage of counterrevolution,” opposition lawmaker Ammar Amroussia said. Ben Ali was ousted during the 2011 Tunisian Revolution that stemmed from complaints of unemployment, corruption, and stifled freedoms. Opposition officials have accused Essebsi, who also served under Ben Ali, of trying to strengthen his hold on power ahead of the first post-revolution municipal elections. In a recent Cabinet shuffle, officials from the Ben Ali regime were appointed as ministers of finance and education. —O.O.
Filipino priest rescued from ISIS
Philippine troops have rescued Teresito Soganub, a Catholic priest, who was one of many civilians captured in May when Islamic State (ISIS) took control of the city of Marawi. The 51-year-old priest appeared in a video shortly after his abduction, in which he said the militants wanted the encircling military to withdraw from the city. Soganub, who had long worked toward interfaith dialogue, still upheld his mission after his release: “I still believe in interfaith relationship, that we can be united as Muslims and Christians, that we’re not enemies.” Military chief Eduardo Ano said the militants continue to hold about 50 other hostages. —O.O.
Top European court affirms church autonomy
The European Court of Human Rights upheld the freedom of churches to regulate their own affairs across Europe last week. Karol Nagy, a Hungarian native, filed the case after an ecclesiastical court in 2005 removed him from his pastoral post following disciplinary proceedings. “This decision is welcome because it reinforces the rights and freedoms of all religious believers in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe to manage their own affairs without unwarranted external interference,” said Paul Coleman, deputy director of Alliance Defending Freedom International, which filed an expert brief in the case. —O.O.
Nigerian military fights war of words with secessionists
The Nigerian military has labeled a pro-independence group in the southeast part of the country a terror organization. Director of Defense Information Paul Enenche in a statement accused the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) movement of setting up a secret service and national guard and blocking public roads, among other allegations. The group denied accusations of violence. IPOB, made up of mainly members of the Igbo ethnic group, has complained of marginalization in Nigeria while calling for an independent nation. —O.O.
Abducted Finnish aid worker freed in Afghanistan
Finland’s foreign ministry has confirmed that one of its nationals, who was kidnapped in a May militant attack in Afghanistan, has been freed. The ministry confirmed her safety but did not release her name. The Finnish woman worked with Operation Mercy, an international relief and development organization based in Sweden. Militants attacked her residence in Kabul on May 20. The militants kidnapped the woman and killed a German aid worker and an Afghan guard. Operation Mercy released a statement saying it welcomed her release “with great joy.” —O.O.