Presidential candidates conduct first-ever debate

Two election front-runners, a former foreign minister and a moderate Islamist, squared off Thursday in the Arab world’s first-ever presidential debate, arguing over the role of religion and how to bring democratic reform to Egypt.

Egyptians crowded around television sets in outdoor cafes for the four-hour debate, aired on several independent TV channels — a startling new experiment for Egypt after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule under President Hosni Mubarak, ousted last year after a wave of protests.

The debate, which ran well past midnight, pitted Amr Moussa, who served as Mubarak’s foreign minister for 10 years until becoming head of the Arab League in 2001, against Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, a moderate Islamist who broke with the Muslim Brotherhood last year. The two are among 13 candidates competing in the election, due to begin on May 23.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

Attorneys for Palestinian say U.S. should charge him

Attorneys for a Palestinian who has been identified by the Pentagon as one of its “high value detainees” at Guantanamo urged the government Thursday to finally charge the man, saying he deserves a chance to address accusations against him after 10 years in custody.

In a letter to the Convening Authority, a Pentagon legal official who presides over the tribunals known as military commissions at the U.S. base in Cuba, the attorneys for Abu Zubaydah say they have repeatedly sought a “legitimate evaluation” of his case.

“He now requests that the Convening Authority commence prosecution of him before a military commission at the earliest possible date,” said the letter signed by four attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoner.

Military commissions have begun for one Guantanamo prisoner charged in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and for five men accused of planning and orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks whose arraignment was held at the base Saturday.

The chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, has said the government is reviewing the cases against other prisoners at Guantanamo but has not announced whether any more charges are pending. A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

Zubaydah was captured in March 2002 and held in a secret network of overseas CIA prisons. He was the first prisoner subjected to the intense interrogation methods that the United States has said included 83 instances of the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. His lawyers say the treatment amounted to torture.


Passenger plane wreckage found on mountainside

Wreckage from a Russian passenger plane that disappeared over west Java in Indonesia was found early Thursday on the western slope of Mount Salak at about the 5,000-foot level, Russian television news reported.

No survivors were found among the 45 people on board, including eight Russian crew members and 37 passengers from Indonesia, the United States, France and Italy. Indonesian paratroopers descended on the site from helicopters and found bodies in what was left of the plane, Moscow radio news reported. The remains will be taken to Indonesian clinics for DNA testing, the report said.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 disappeared from radar Wednesday about 20 minutes into its second demonstration flight of the day, part of a promotional tour of Southeast Asia for the new aircraft. The cause of the crash is unknown.

— From news service reports