Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Egyptian court nullifies deal with Saudis about two islands near the Gulf of Aqaba

After the verdict lawyer Khaled Ali reads out the names of the people who are in prison because they demonstrated against the sale of the islands. (Photo Ahdaf Soueif/via Twitter)

Egypt's Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday that the 8 April agreement which placed the two Egyptian Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters is void. The two islands should remain under Egyptian sovereignty. 
State Council Vice President Yehia El-Dakroury, reasoned that "the islands should remain part of Egyptian territory and within Egyptian borders; Egyptian sovereignty over the islands holds, and it forbidden to change their status for the benefit of any other state." The Egyptian state is going to appeal the conclusion of the court.
The agreement, which was signed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a five-day visit by Saudi King Salman to Cairo, stipulated that the two islands at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba fall within Saudi waters thus paving the way for a transfer of sovereignty to Riyadh.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Iraq retakes most of Falluja

Iraqi government vehicles in the centre of Falluja. (AP). 

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Friday that Iraqi forces have retaken most of Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS, Daesh). However operations are still under way to flush out the armed group's remaining fighters in the city.
The government lost control of Fallujah in 2014, months before Daesh took Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, and other large parts of the country. "We promised you the liberation of Fallujah and we retook it. Our security forces control the city except for small pockets that need to be cleared within the coming hours," Abadi said in a brief address on state TV. "Fallujah has returned to the nation and Mosul is the next battle," Abadi also said on Twitter. "Daesh will be defeated," he added.
Earlier on Friday, Iraqi forces said they had entered the centre of Fallujah, nearly four weeks after the start of a US-backed offensive to retake the city 50km west of the capital, Baghdad. They took the government compound and the Iraqi flag is now raised on top of the building, symbolising government control

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Libyan government forces retake port and airport of Sirte

Government forces on the outskirts of Sirte. (Reuters)

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally backed government say they have recaptured both the port and airport of Sirte from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), forcing the armed group to retreat. The Libyan forces also retook residential areas in the east of Sirte, which for the past year has been the main ISIL base in the North African country, a spokesman for the forces, Rida Issa, told the AFP news agency on Saturday.
ISIL fighters are now surrounded in a densely populated area of around five square kilometres inside the city, where they are laying booby traps, he said. Most of the city's residents have fled but about 30,000 remain, Issa added.
The fall of Sirte, the hometown of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, would be a major setback for ISIL, who have also lost territory in Syria and Iraq, where they have declared a "caliphate".

At least 12 dead in double bomb attack at Shi'a site in Damascus


A double bomb attack outside a Shia shrine near Syria's capital Damascus has killed at least 12 people, according to Syrian state media.The official SANA news agency said on Saturday that a suicide bomber and a car bomb struck at the entrance to the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, which is revered by Shias around the world.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks via an online post. It said two of its suicide bombers had blown themselves up and operatives had detonated an explosives-laden car, according to the IS-affiliated Amaq news agency.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a British-based monitoring group, reported a higher toll of at least 20 people killed and 30 wounded.
Syrian state television showed debris, mangled cars and wrecked shops in a main commercial thoroughfare near the Sayeda Zeinab shrine, in an area where at least three bomb attacks claimed by Islamic State have killed and wounded scores of people this year.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Eight years for human rights defender in S-Arabia

In a hearing which took place on 29 May 2016, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh sentenced the Saudi  human rights defender Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili to eight years in prison followed by another eight years of a travel ban to start after he serves his sentence. The court also decided that he is not allowed to write any more.
Abdulaziz Shubaili
l-Shubaili is a principal member of the Association for Civil and Political Rights in Saudi Arabia ACPRA, who participated in the defence team on behalf of many of his fellow members of ACPRA. He also used social media networks to call for reform and defend people’s rights.
Al Shubaili was accused of many charges including publishing a statement calling for demonstrations; accusing judges of dishonesty and human rights violations; and preparing, storing and sending data affecting public order. On top of that  he was sentenced for participating in ACPRA, which is an unauthorised association in Saudi Arabia, and his contribution to the drafting of its statements, as well as failing to comply with the judicial decision to dissolve ACPRA.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Bahrain: appeals court more than doubles jail sentence of opposition leader

Manama: Bahrain’s Court of Appeals on Monday toughened a sentence against Ali Salman, the secretary general of Al Wefaq Society, the most important opposition force in the country. It did this by including a charge dropped last year by a lower court.Under the new ruling, Ali Salman will have to spend a total of nine years in jail after he was also convicted of the more serious charge of “promoting the overthrow of the political system through the use of force and threats.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

String of explosions in government hold provinces in Syria kill more than 100

Scene of one of the explosions in Tartous (Photo SANA).

More than 100 people have been killed in multiple attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria, a monitoring group said.
Syrian state TV also reported the attacks, putting the death toll at 65.
Simultaneous car bombs and suicide bombers in bus stations, hospitals and elsewhere in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh in Latakia province on Monday appeared to severely breach Assad government defences, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans.
Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turkish parliament lifts immunity of HDP-members

The Turkish Parliament has approved a controversial constitutional amendment to lift the immunity of 139 MPs. Deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are now expected to be arrested on terror-related charges and an anticipated wave of social unrest.
Some 376 out of 550 deputies voted in favor of the motion in the second and final vote on May 20, comfortably passing the required 367 majority to have it approved without the need to go to a referendum. The first and second clauses of the amendment were accepted in the second round of voting, with 373 and 374 votes respectively.
Proposed by the 316-seat ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and heavily backed by the 40-seat Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the draft received 357 votes in the first round of vote as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP deputies did not vote in favor.
However, it is believed that around 20 lawmakers from the CHP voted in favor of the motion in the second round in order not to cause a referendum that would jeopardize the societal order.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hezbollah commander Badreddine blown up in Syria

Hezbollah's top military commander Mustafa Badreddine has been killed in a blast at a base near Damascus airport, the Lebanese Shi'ite group said on Friday, one of the biggest blows to its leadership the Iranian-backed organization has ever sustained.
Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said there were clear indications of who was behind it, and the group would announce the outcome of its investigation within hours. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. At least one Hezbollah figure blamed the group's age-old enemy Israel, which has struck Hezbollah targets in Syria several times in the past. Israel declined to comment. Hezbollah also has many other foes in Syria, where it fights in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters and leaders gathered at a mosque in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut and gave Badreddine a military funeral, waving Hezbollah flags. They chanted Shi'ite religious slogans, as well as "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Speaking at the funeral, Qassem also vowed that the group would continue on the "path" of Badreddine.
In a letter, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif extended condolences "for the martyrdom of this great jihadist.
Badreddine, 55, is believed to have been in charge of Hezbollah's military operations in Syria.
He is the most senior Hezbollah official killed since 2008 when his brother-in-law, long-serving military commander Imad Mughniyeh, was blown up by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.

At least four prominent figures in Hezbollah have been killed since January 2015. A number of high-ranking Iranian officers have also been killed, either fighting Syrian insurgents or in Israeli attacks.

Hezbollah said it was investigating whether the explosion at the base was caused by an air strike, a
missile attack or artillery bombardment. It did not say when he was killed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Heavy sentences for two Turkish journalists who reported weapons transport

Erdem Gül (left) and Can Dündar. (Foto Milliyet)
Two prominent Turkish journalists were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets on Friday, just hours after a gunman tried to shoot one of them outside the courthouse in Istanbul. Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, who was unscathed in the shooting, was given five years and 10 months. Erdem Gül, the newspaper's Ankara bureau chief, was sentenced to five years. They were acquitted of some other charges, including trying to topple the government.The case, in which President Tayyip Erdogan was named as a complainant, has brought widespread condemnation from global rights groups.
Hours before the verdict was handed down, an assailant attempted to shoot Dündar. In full public view, before a courthouse.The man shouted "traitor" before firing at least two shots in quick succession. A reporter covering the trial appeared to have been wounded. The assailant was detained by police. "We experienced two assassination attempts in two hours: one by firearms, the other by law," Dündar told reporters following the trial."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Syrian refugee camp bombarded, village near Aleppo taken

An air strike on a camp for internally displaced Syrians near the country's border with Turkey has killed at least 30 people, activists said. The attack on the camp in Idlib province on Thursday also left dozens injured. A number of those killed were children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatoryfor Human Rights.
The Observatory said the dead included women and children and the death toll from the air strikes was likely to rise. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said activists were split on whether Russian or Syrian planes were behind the attack.
"Many in the opposition believe that with strikes like this there's proof the government is not serious about the cessation of hostilities,"Khodr said.
In the night of Thursday to Friday rebels meanwhile seized a village from government forces near Aleppo overnight.

Turkey's Davutoglu quits because of rift with Erdogan

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister and leader of the ruling AK Party, has said he will not seek a new term after last-ditch talks aimed at easing tensions between him and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Davutoglu held a news conference on Thursday after a gathering of the party's central executive committee. "I came to the conclusion [a change in] leader of the party and the Prime Ministerial position would serve a better purpose," he said. "This must be carried out in a peaceful way, keeping with the integrity of the party."
After a 90-minute crisis meeting on Wednesday that local media described as critical for Davutoglu's future, domestic news organisations CNN-Turk and NTV reported that an extraordinary congress would likely signal his exit. The congress will be held on May 22. Reports from Turkey suggest that Erdogan had demanded Davutoglu's resignation following yesterday's meeting. According to AKP convention, the posts of party boss and head of government always go to the same person.