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Mr Behnoud (second from right) in court

Iran journalist loses prison appeal Monday, 10 September, 2001, BBC

By the BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran

A prominent Iranian journalist and frequent contributor to the BBC's Persian language service has had a prison sentence of 19 months upheld by an appeals court in Tehran.

Massoud Behnoud was arrested in August of last year and sentence was passed in February after he was found guilty of spreading lies and insulting the Islamic system and its leaders.

Mr Behnoud - one of Iran's most distinguished journalists -was held for five months after his arrest before being released on bail.

Since his sentence was passed, he has been at liberty while his appeal was considered.

But now the Tehran appeals court has endorsed the original sentence of 19 months in jail and a fine amounting to nearly $2,500.

The court also said he should begin serving his sentence now.

Long sentences

Mr Behnoud is the latest in a long series of journalists and other liberal figures who have been given long prison sentences for airing their views.

Dozens of newspapers in which they did so have also been closed down on the orders of the judiciary, which is widely regarded here as a bastion of right-wing conservative power.

Recent court decisions upheld even longer sentences on two translators involved in a controversial conference in Berlin last year.

Khalil Rostamkhani had been given nine years in jail, and Saeed Sadr 10 years.

The judiciary has also been behind a spate of recent public punishments, floggings and hangings which have been seen as reinforcing the hard line and countering a creeping social liberalization.

The public punishments, especially the floggings, have caused bitter controversy in both political and religious circles with reformists arguing that they were causing great damage both at home and abroad.

It has been announced that such punishments are now to be carried out only by the police rather than Islamic volunteers.

That and other developments indicate that the sudden spate of floggings in recent weeks may die away, at least in the capital.

Wedding massacre in Algeria Thursday, 27 September, 2001, BBC

More than 150 people have been killed this month By North Africa correspondent David Bamford

At least 22 people are reported to have been killed and two wounded in another massacre of civilians near the capital, Algiers

Journalists say unidentified armed men in military fatigues attacked a family wedding ceremony near Larba on the Mitidja agricultural plain about 30 km south of the capital.

Journalists who went to the scene say 11 of the guests were shot dead when the party was sprayed with gunfire.

Local residents said another 11 died when the armed men burst into a nearby house, shooting people inside and putting knives to their throats.

One girl was kidnapped, but later escaped with a bullet wound. The perpetrators reportedly dressed in military fatigues.

This is the first attack in this particular region of Algeria for several months and the bloodiest for years.


But there has been a stepping up of attacks in recent weeks.

About 150 people have died in the last month.

The security services routinely blame Islamist militants and their suspicions may well be justified; but the insurgency war is a complicated affair in Algeria.

Often the security forces themselves have been implicated in massacres which they hope will be blamed on Islamists.

The truth is rarely clear.

This particular attack comes as the Algerian Government is looking for sympathy from the West to associate their battle against terrorism with the wider coalition being built by the Americans.

Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK US U-turn on Microsoft break-up

The US Department of Justice has announced that it will no longer push to have software giant Microsoft broken up.

The decision by the Bush administration reverses the Clinton White House legal strategy against Microsoft.

The Department of Justice said that the decision was made in order to shorten the court proceedings and protect consumers.

Microsoft has been locked in a court battle with the US Government over anti-trust claims for the past three years.

The government's about-turn on demands for Microsoft to be broken into two companies - one for its Windows operating system and one for its other business and home software - is a victory for Microsoft.

But although the DoJ says it is no longer actively seeking a break-up, the court could still decide that this is a necessary solution to establish fair competition.

Browser controversy

In June this year the Appeal Court in the US accepted the original judgement, made in June 2000, that Microsoft's business practices had violated anti-trust laws.

But it threw out the remedy - a break-up into two separate companies - because it said media interviews by the previous judge could be seen as showing bias against the company.

District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was appointed by random selection earlier in August, and has ordered the two sides to report by 14 September on what issues remain outstanding.

The DoJ has also said that it had dropped further action on its complaint about the web browser being tied into Windows.

The fact that Microsoft unfairly tied its Internet Explorer web browser into the Windows operation system was the original complaint of the DoJ.

Speeding it up

The DoJ is trying to streamline the case with the goal of securing an effective remedy as quickly as possible.

The U-turn on strategy was not completely unexpected.

During testimony in Congress the attorney-general, John Ashcroft, hedged when questioned by senators about the government's commitment to pursuing the lawsuit against Microsoft, saying that many issues needed reviewing.

Mr Ashcroft's department now says the government "believes it has established a basis for relief that would end Microsoft's unlawful conduct, prevent its recurrence and open the operating-systems market to competition."

Threat to Windows XP?

The DoJ will ask the court for a period of discovery to investigate developments in the industry since the trial concluded, and evaluate whether additional conduct-related provisions are necessary.

And it has already confirmed that it will seek to stop Microsoft from making certain exclusive deals with partners.

It will also try to force computer manufacturers to keep specific icons and programmes on the Windows desktop.

The proposed restrictions could have a large impact on the Microsoft's latest software, Windows XP, according to Howard University law professor Andy Gavil.

Windows XP is due to be launched in October.

"It's hard to square the interim remedy with Windows XP," Mr Gavil said.

"All of these little things really have to do with how XP is being prepared and marketed."

Mr Gavil said the Justice Department's action means the case could move more quickly and is more palatable to Bush appointees.

"Rather than fight the battle over breakup, get down to the brass tacks over how we can change their conduct now in a way that will preserve some competition in the marketplace," he said.

"It is probably more philosophically agreeable to the administration."

Microsoft appeal rejected, 9 October, 2001, BBC

Judge Jaskson

Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer: wants the case thrown out The US Supreme Court has rejected Microsoft's request to throw out a ruling that it violated competition laws.

The decision means that the computer giant must be sentenced in a lower court for violating anti-trust laws, although the judge presiding over the case has urged an out-of-court settlement.

The Supreme Court's decision will come as a blow to the software giant, which has been attempting to get the case against it thrown out altogether.

But it will be seen as a victory for the US Department of Justice and the 18 American states pursuing claims that Microsoft abused its stranglehold on the market for computer software to the detriment of consumers.

With a company split-up now off the agenda, Microsoft will most likely face penalties involving the opening up of its products to greater competition.

Microsoft's share price fell following the news, closing down $3.48 at $54.56.

Microsoft "disappointed"

A Microsoft spokesman said the company was disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision.

"We will continue to move forward with the case on the district court level, and we will comply with the court order to work with the government to settle this case," he said.

In a brief statement, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said: "We are pleased with the court's decision. We will continue our progress in the District Court."

Judge rebuked

Microsoft was found guilty of anti-trust violations last year.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Microsoft argued that the original ruling in the case, handed down by district judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, was tainted because of his conduct after the trial.

Judge Jackson gave a series of press interviews in which he derided Microsoft executives and compared them to street criminals.

In June, the appeals court rebuked Judge Jackson and reversed his order that Microsoft be split into two.

But it upheld Judge Jackson's ruling that Microsoft had used illegal tactics to maintain its dominance of the PC operating market.

Last lap?

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Microsoft argued that the appeal judges should have thrown out all the charges against it.

But the DoJ said the appeal court was under no obligation to throw out Judge Jackson's rulings.

Last month, the district judge newly assigned to the case, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, ordered the two sides into settlement talks, with a view to bringing the case to a speedy conclusion.

Fresh urgency

Tuesday's Supreme Court decision gives no insight into the court's view of Microsoft's behaviour.

But it still likely to inject fresh urgency into the settlement talks.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly said she will appoint a mediator on Friday, if necessary, to speed up proceedings.

She cited the economic fallout from terror attacks as one reason for haste.

"There is no reason this case can not be settled," she said.

If no settlement emerges, a status hearing would be held on 5 November with full hearings expected to follow in March, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said.

Alternative penalties

Microsoft welcomed the US government's decision earlier this year to drop efforts to break the company up.

But potential restraints on the way Microsoft develops and markets its software could prove almost as troublesome for the company.

The measures could include a ban on discrimantory pricing, making exclusive deals with retailers and suppliers and retaliating against rivals.

It could even mean other companies being allowed to make competing versions of Windows or placing a limit on what features can be included in software packages.