Thursday, April 17, 2014

Algeria: the elections that will change nothing

Algerians head to the polls on Thursday for a presidential election that in fact is not much more than a façade, because it is as good as certain that incumbent president Abdelaziz Bouteflika will win a fourth term in office. The president, who is 77 and who last year spent three months in a hospital in France to recover from a ministroke,  has appeared only rarely on television in recent months, looking frail. He almost never attended campaign events and is reported to have difficulty with his speech.      
Abdelaziz Bouteflika écoute le président sud-africain Jacob Zuma lors de sa visite à Alger, le 15 avril 2013 - AFP
Bouteflika (Photo AFP)
Bouteflika has been in power since 1999 when he was put forward as a candidate by the ruling FLN nationalist party. He is almost sure to win this time as well, thanks to the fact that he still has the backing of the party and the army generals behind it.
Bouteflika is more or less the mascot of the ruling generals and FLN-bosses as it was during his period in office that the terrible civil war of the 1990s came to and end, a war that started after the rulers in January 1992 cancelled the second round of the first free elections in the Arab world because the islamist party FIS was poised to win.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Palestinians shoot and kill settler near Hebron

Palestinian gunmen shot and killed one person and injured two others in a car driven by an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank on Monday, Israel's military said.
The Palestinians shot at the car in Tarqumiyah near Hebron in the West Bank, killing one person and injuring two passengers, according to Israeli news reports. The victims were in their vehicle at the time of the shooting. A 40-year-old man, presumably the father, was pronounced dead, while the mother was in serious condition, and the child suffered only light injuries, Channel 2 reported.
 The attack is understood to have targeted several vehicles, Ynet reports. The Israeli army launched a search of the area in the wake of the attack. Troops surrounded Idhna, suspecting that the gunmen came from the village. Palestinian sources said that large numbers of troops had set up roadblocks at the entrances to Palestinian villages in the Hebron area.

Israeli Palestinian journalist arrested after visit to Lebanon, case under gag order

Majd Kayyal, second from right, takes part in a seminar in Beirut organized by As-Safir newspaper. (Muhammad Sharara/As-Safir/Facebook)

Update: Majd Kayyal, a 23-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel and a journalist from Haifa, who was arrested as he was traveling home from Beirut last Saturday night, was released on bail on Thursday 17 April by a Haifa court. Police prosecutors originally applied for an extended remand earlier this week. They said  Kayyal was suspected of visiting an enemy state and establishing contact with foreign agents.  The foreign agents allegation was dropped as he was released, but visiting an  enemy state remained as a charge. According to Adalah, Kayyal has been banned from using internet for 21 days, which Adalah is set to challenge in court. The gag order imposed on the case was removed several hours earlier.

 Majd Kayyal a writer, journalist, activist, the website editor of the Adala Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,has been arrested on Saturday, upon his return from Beirut, where he attended a conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the newspaper "As-Safir".
Kayyal has frequently written for As-Safir and wrote about his trip to Beirut – his first ever – for the website Jadaliyya. Kayyal  posted images of himself in the Lebanese capital on his Facebook page.
On Sunday morning in a closed hearing, Israeli police asked a judge to extend Kayyal’s detention for 15 days, the maximum allowed under the law. During the court session it was revealed that the charges against Kayyal are the crimes of contact with a foreign agent and unlawful travel to Arab countries. Judge Zayed Falah, a former military prosecutor according to Ali Abunimah, extended Kayyal’s detention until 22 April.placed a gag order on the news of  Kayyal’s arrest and detention and ordered that all court proceedings would be closed. Abunimah published the full transcript of the court proceedings on his blog, which can be read here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Atmosphere in Israeli Palestinian 'peace negotiations' turns into hostility

Israel began imposing a number of sanctions on the Palestinian Authority Thursday in response to a formal request by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to join 15 international conventions.In a tense meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who represented Israel in the meeting, stated that the fourth prisoner release will not go forward until the PA rescinds its request to join the United Nations bodies.
Chief negotiators Tzipi Livni and Seab Arekat at the opening of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation (Photo: EPA)
Livni and Erakat at the start of the peace negotiations in 2013 (Photo EPA)

A senior Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had on Wednesday instructed Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, to prepare a list of possible punitive measures against the Palestinians in the West Bank. One of the proposals accepted was the suspension of an Israeli permit allowing the Palestinian wireless provider Wataniya, which operates in the West Bank, to bring equipment into the Gaza Strip for the company's planned mobile communications infrastructure there.

Atheism is terrorism in Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah
The news is not so new, but still too important to be missed: Saudi Arabia in January introduced a series of new ''anti-terrorism'' laws,  which, among other things, define atheists as terrorists, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. The new law and a series of related royal decrees created a legal framework that appears to criminalize virtually all dissident thought or expression as terrorism. The provisions in the measures threaten to close down altogether Saudi Arabia’s already extremely restricted space for free expression. 
These “terrorism” provisions include the following:
  • Article 1: “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”
  • Article 2: “Anyone who throws away their loyalty to the country’s rulers, or who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom].”

Monday, March 31, 2014

´Black Sunday´ for French socialists, big gains for Marine Le Pen

French President François Hollande decide to replace Jean-Marc Ayrault (centre) with Manuel Valls (right) as prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle intended to mark a fresh start after his Socialist Party took a beating in local elections. Valls is known as a man of the right wing of the Socialist Party. His is sometimes nicknamed ´the socialist Sarkozy´. Till now he was the interior minister. Ayrault, who stepped down earlier Monday, is more to the left. He started off as the most popular prime minister in 50 years, but soon became the target of blame for Hollande’s inability to effect the change he had promised while campaigning for office.
The outcome of the first nationwide vote since Hollande was elected in 2012 was dubbed "Black Sunday" by one Socialist lawmaker. The FN took control of 11 towns and was on track to claim more than 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide, its best ever showing at the grassroots level of French politics and a stunning victory for itz leader Marine Le Pen.
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Hildalgo, first female mayor of Paris
The other big winner was France's main opposition, the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy performed strongly across the country, seizing control of around 140 towns and cities, including some once considered bastions of the left.
In a rare consolation for Hollande, the socialists held on to control of Paris, where Anne Hidalgo, 54, will become the first female mayor of the French capital after a victory that was far more comfortable than anyone had expected.

Initial results Turkish local elections show: Erdoğan wins

Initial results in Turkey's local elections suggested a strong showing for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling party on Sunday, an outcome likely to bolster his authority in battling "traitors" within the state he accuses of seeking to topple him.
With around half of the votes counted, results broadcast on Turkish television put Erdoğan's Islamist-rooted AK Party ahead with 44-46 percent of the vote. The main opposition CHP, the party of the modern secular republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, captured around 23-28 percent.
The nationwide elections are widely being seen in Turkey as a referendum on Erdoğan's 11-year rule, a test of his support as he battles corruption allegations and security leaks he has cast as a "dirty campaign" of espionage by his political enemies.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Israel shoots two ''infiltrators'' at border with Syria

Israeli troops shot two suspected armed infiltrators at the Syrian frontier in the occupied Golan Heights on Friday, the Israeli military said. A statement said the troops "opened fire, hits were confirmed" after spotting ''the suspects'' penetrating the Israeli frontier.
The Israeli news web site Ynet said both men had been killed, but a military spokeswoman would not confirm their condition, nor was it clear to which group the men belonged.The shootings were the latest of a series of escalating violence along the testy frontier, coming 10 days after Israel attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for a roadside bombing that wounded four Israeli soldiers, in the worst Israeli casualty toll of Syria's more than three year insurgency.
Spillover violence on the Golan from the Syrian civil war has often drawn Israeli return fire against Syrian positions, ending what had previously been a stable, decades-old stand-off between the foes.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Arab Ligue behind Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as Jewish state

Dignitaries attend the closing session of the Arab League Summit at Bayan Palace in Kuwait on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. AP Photo / Nasser Waggi
Closing session of the Arab suimmit in Kuwait. (AP) 

Arab leaders unanimously endorsed a Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state at their annual summit on Wednesday. After two days of talks in Kuwait, the Arab League was united in its rejection of Israeli demands. The final communique, at the other hand, made no mention of the divisions between Arabian Gulf countries and Qatar. Neither did it fulfil the Syrian opposition’s request for sophisticated weaponry.
The statement at the end of a two-day summit backed the refusal of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas for his refusal to go along with the demand of Israeli prim minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “We express our absolute and decisive rejection to recognising Israel as a Jewish state,” the final communique said. Also it stated that the Arab leaders ''hold Israel entirely responsible for the lack of progress in the peace process and continuing tension in the Middle East”.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

El-Sisi finally announces his candidacy for the Egyptian presidency

El-Sisi during his speech. 

Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi resigned from the military on Wednesday, announcing that he will run in the upcoming presidential elections on 30 March. “Today is the last time you’ll see me wearing this [military] uniform. I was honored to wear it to defend the nation and today I am also leaving it behind to defend the nation,” said El-Sisi, stressing that he has been a member of the armed forces for over 45 years.
Sisi said that ''his determination to run in the election does not bar others from their right to run. I will be happy if whoever the people choose succeeds.” Any Egyptian who has not been convicted by the law, El-Sisi said, is unconditionally welcomed to be an active partner in the future of Egypt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

At least 20 military killed by Al-Qaeda(?) in Yemeni region of Hadramawt

By Shaher Abdulhak AbdulmajeedOfficials in the south-eastern province of Hadhramawt in Yemen have confirmed on Monday that unknown armed men attacked a military-manned checkpoint east of the regional capital of Mukalla. The Yemeni state news agency Saba reported that an estimated 20 men had died in the violent clashes, a number which could grow higher as the military will work to assess its losses and identify the dead.
“Twenty soldiers were killed in the armed attack on an army checkpoint near Reida, 135 kilometres east of the provincial capital Mukalla in the south,” Saba wrote.
Although al-Qaeda has not, as yet claimed responsibility for Monday attack, military experts have noted that the ambush against the military bore the hallmarks of the terror group. In typical al-Qaeda fashion, armed militants were seen by eye witnesses travelling on board several vehicles as they approached the checkpoint,.
“The attackers would appear to be in al-Qaeda,” a military source was quoted by Agence France Presse.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Court in Egypt sentences 529 Muslim Brothers to death

An Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday on charges including murder, a defense lawyer said, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement.
Most were arrested during clashes which erupted in the southern province of Minya after the forced dispersal of two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo on 14 August after the overthrow of presidnet Mohammed Morsi.
"The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants, and 16 were acquitted," lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif told Reuters. The ruling can be appealed.
The charges against the group, on trial in Minya since Saturday, include violence, inciting murder, storming a police station, attacking persons and damaging public and private property. Only 123 of the defendants were present. The rest were either released, out on bail or on the run.
The government has declared the Brotherhood a "terrorist" group. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement.