World briefs – January 18

Tunisia’s prime minister announced a national unity government Monday, allowing opposition into the country’s leadership for the first time in a bid to quell simmering unrest following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amid huge street protests.

Tunisia forms unity government

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia’s prime minister announced a national unity government Monday, allowing opposition into the country’s leadership for the first time in a bid to quell simmering unrest following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amid huge street protests.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a longtime ally of Ben Ali, and several top ministers retained their posts in the shakeup. Ghannouchi also announced that political prisoners would be freed, among an array of measures aimed at loosening up a political system that for decades was effectively under one-party rule.

Banker gives files over to WikiLeaks

LONDON — A former Swiss banker has supplied documents to WikiLeaks that he alleges detail attempts by wealthy business leaders and lawmakers to evade tax payments.

Rudolf Elmer, an ex-employee of Swiss-based Bank Julius Baer, said Monday there were 2,000 account holders named in the documents, but refused to give details of the companies or individuals involved.

He has previously offered files to WikiLeaks on financial activities in the Cayman Islands and faces a court hearing in Zurich on Wednesday to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy laws.

“I do think as a banker I have the right to stand up if something is wrong,” said Elmer, who addressed reporters at London’s Frontline Club.

Husband of wounded congresswoman bears no grudge with Loughners

WASHINGTON — Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, says he’d be willing to meet the parents of the man accused of attempting to assassinate his wife, adding he doesn’t blame them for their son’s alleged crimes.

“I’d probably see them,” Kelly told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in a 20/20 interview to air tonight.

“I don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not the parents’ fault. You know, I’d like to think I’m a person that’s somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they’ve got to be hurting in this situation as much as much as anybody…. I’m sure they love their son. And they must be as distraught over this as the rest of us.”

Giffords took a bullet to the brain on Jan. 8 outside a Tuscon grocery store at a meet-and-greet event with constituents.

Six others, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, died in a blaze of gunfire that has prompted a nationwide debate on hot-button issues ranging from gun control to toxic political rhetoric and the handling of the mentally ill.

Loughner, a political radical with well-documented mental-health issues, had clashed with various authorities, yet he was able to buy a handgun and extra-large ammunition magazines at a Tuscon sportsman’s store without any problem.

But rather than a hue and cry in Arizona for tougher gun laws in the aftermath of the Giffords shooting, there’s been a push to further ease gun laws, already among the most lax in the United States. Among other liberties, Arizonans can carry concealed weapons without training or background checks.

Giffords herself, in fact, is a proud gun owner who has opposed tougher gun laws in the past.

Since her shooting, gun rights bills have been introduced in the Arizona legislature, with more expected. Gun sales in the state have also increased in the days following the mayhem in Tuscon.

Among other new laws, Arizona legislators want legislation that would allow college and university faculty members to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Utah is currently the only state with such a law, one that arose following the Virginia Tech University shootings in 2007.

“There are going to be some nervous Nellies, so to speak, but I think that it will be overcome,” John Wentling, a leader of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, told the Associated Press.

“We still have an obligation to protect constitutional and civil rights.”

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