International Papers

Religious Persecution

The chief coach of the English national soccer team was fired Tuesday amid huge controversy over his eccentric religious beliefs. Glenn Hoddle, the man who steered the English team to failure in last year’s World Cup in France, told the Times of London in an interview that disabled people were disabled because of things they had done wrong in previous lives. This created political uproar and sharply divided the British press about whether or not he should be allowed to keep his job. The Football Association, soccer’s ruling body, fired him after he refused to sever connections with Eileen Drewery, a faith healer.

In an editorial Wednesday, the Times said Hoddle had to go because “he had failed to separate his rights of free speech from his duties as one of the most influential men in a game with vast influence over the life of Britain.” But the Daily Telegraph criticized his dismissal, saying Hoddle’s views on the disabled were shared by millions of Hindus and Buddhists around the world. The story was big across Europe, especially in the Italian papers, which ran it on their front pages. “Fired for Karma” was the headline in La Repubblica of Rome, which said he was perhaps the first person in Europe’s 2000th year to lose his job for his religious convictions.

The Daily Telegraph reported on its front page Wednesday that MI6, the British external espionage service, was having to consider withdrawing its man in Prague after Czech newspapers identified him as a homosexual living in the city with another man. Christopher Hurran, whose cover had been acting as a counselor at the British Embassy, was exposed by the Czech security service, BIS, after he made a written complaint about the head of the BIS, Karel Vulterin, who was fired by the Czech government as a result.

“The letter that led to Mr. Vulterin’s dismissal is believed to have followed leaks from within the BIS revealing a successful MI6 operation in which Iraq’s leading spymaster in the region defected to the West,” the newspaper said. This was Jabir Salim, head of Mukhabarrat operations in Eastern Europe, who disappeared before Christmas, telling colleagues at the Iraqi embassy in Prague that his daughter needed urgent medical treatment in neighboring Austria. An interesting revelation in the report was that the British intelligence services, which previously excluded homosexuals for security reasons, no longer see them as a risk if they are open about their sexuality.

There was anger in Jordan Tuesday over suggestions in Israel that Jordan might now need Israeli “protection” against Syria or other Arab neighbors, who might seek to exploit King Hussein’s illness to destabilize the country. A Jordanian official was quoted in the pan-Arab Al Hayat as saying, “Jordan does not sense any danger threatening its security or stability from Syria or any other Arab party.” The kingdom “has always been and continues to be capable of defending itself against any threat regardless of its source or objective.”

In Japan, Asahi Shimbun quoted sources as saying that “the government and the ruling coalition parties decided Tuesday there is no constitutional prohibition against private companies transporting U.S. weapons, munitions and military personnel in emergency situations around Japan.” This cleared a major hurdle in the revision by the Japanese parliament of the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation agreement, the paper said.

In Russia, Izvestia reported Wednesday on a ruling by the Constitutional Court that nobody should be sentenced to death again until all citizens are guaranteed the right to trial by jury. But the paper commented that legislators might decide that, in Russia’s current economic circumstances, it is too expensive to provide juries to all the country’s courts and that therefore capital punishment should be banned altogether.