In brief: German education minister resigns
Berlin – Germany’s education minister resigned Saturday after a university decided to withdraw her doctorate, finding that she plagiarized parts of her thesis – an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government as it prepares for elections later this year.
Merkel said she had accepted “only with a very heavy heart” the resignation of Annette Schavan, who has been her education and research minister since 2005 and was considered close to the chancellor.
Schavan’s resignation comes only two years after then-Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lost his doctorate and quit when it emerged that he copied large parts of his doctoral thesis.
On Tuesday, an academic panel at Duesseldorf’s Heinrich Heine University voted to revoke Schavan’s doctorate following a review of her 1980 thesis, which dealt with the formation of conscience. The review was undertaken after an anonymous blogger last year raised allegations of plagiarism, which the minister denies.
Court orders cutoff of access to YouTube
Cairo – A Cairo court on Saturday ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world.
Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying the film, which he described as “offensive to Islam and the Prophet (Muhammad).” He made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where the first protests against the film erupted last September before spreading to more than 20 countries, leaving more than 50 people dead.
The ruling can be appealed, and, based on precedent, might not be enforced.
The 14-minute trailer for the movie “Innocence of Muslims” portrays Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. It was produced in the United States by an Egyptian-born Christian who’s now a U.S. citizen.
Egypt’s new constitution includes a ban on insulting “religious messengers and prophets.” Broadly worded blasphemy laws were also in effect under former President Hosni Mubarak prior to his ouster in a popular revolt two years ago.
Battle rages near heart of Damascus
Beirut – Syrian troops backed by warplanes battled rebels for control of a key highway in Damascus on Saturday, a day after opposition forces cut the strategic artery as part of what they say are efforts to lay the groundwork for an eventual assault on the heavily defended capital.
Rebels have been on the offensive in Damascus since launching a series of attacks on government positions on Wednesday. They brought their fight to within a mile of the heart of the capital on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway as they pressed their campaign for the city, the seat of President Bashar Assad’s power.
The fighting is the heaviest to hit Damascus since July, when a first rebel assault managed to capture several neighborhoods before a punishing government counteroffensive.
Tunisian premier reiterates threat to quit
Tunis, Tunisia – Tunisia’s Islamist prime minister said Saturday that he will resign if his proposal to appoint a nonpolitical Cabinet by mid-week is rejected.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali first called for that change on Wednesday after Tunisia was thrown into a crisis when a prominent opposition politician was shot and killed in Tunis, touching off violent protests.
Jebali’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party has already rejected his proposal. But he didn’t flinch, saying in an interview with the France-24 TV channel that to change the situation government ministers must be replaced by ones without a political affiliation, notably technocrats.
“I feel obliged to save my country,” he said, adding that Tunisia risks a “swing into chaos.”
If his new team is accepted, “I will continue to assume my role,” Jebali said. If not, he would resign.