News in Brief

Turkmen Vote



ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Voters in Turkmenistan cast ballots Sunday in a parliamentary election hailed by the government as an exercise in democracy but dismissed by critics as a sham.

It was the first parliamentary election since the death of longtime autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov two years ago, which kindled hopes the Central Asian country would introduce greater freedoms.

The government of his successor, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has cast the election as an important step in the development of democracy, but opponents claim the election is meant to appease Western countries wary of its record on human rights. (AP)




Duma Passes Jury Trial Bill



The State Duma on Friday gave final approval to a bill that would deprive suspects of a right to jury trials on terrorism, treason and other charges.

The Duma approved the bill in its third and final reading by a 355-85 vote. The legislation will now go to the Federation Council, where quick approval is also expected.

The bill would deprive defendants of jury trials on charges such as involvement in illegal armed units, violent seizure of power, armed rebellion and mass riots. Instead they would face a three-judge panel.

Critics of the bill denounce it as part of the Kremlin crackdown on democratic freedoms. (AP)