Monday, May 2, 2016

Heavy prison sentences for 11 Egyptian homosexuals

The Agouza Criminal Court has sentenced 11 people to prison terms ranging between three and 12 years for “practicing, inciting and publicizing immoral practices,” reported the privately owned al-Watan newspaper.
The defendants were arrested from an apartment in Giza’s Agouza neighborhood in September 2015. Following the court’s ruling, six of them will spend nine years or more in prison. The court sentenced three of those accused to 12 years, while another three were sentenced to 9 years. One defendant received a six-year term and the remaining four have been sentenced to three years.
Head of the gender program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Dalia Abdel Hameed said the case was indicative of the state’s practices in its ongoing crackdown on LGBT individuals.
Abdel Hameed says that moral police targeted one of the accused using a dating application, reportedly entrapping the individual by posing as someone interested in a relationship. Through the app’s messaging feature, they acquired the accused’s address and then were granted permission by the public prosecutor to raid the apartment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Palestinian writer Madhoun wins Arabic ''Booker Prize'' 2016

 Madhoun and his book.

Palestinian writer, Rabai Al-Madhoun (70), is the winner of the International prize for Arabic Fiction (the Arabic Booker Prize) for his novel Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba.
The announcement took place in an Abu Dhabi Hotel. In addition to winning $50,000, Rabai al-Madhoun is guaranteed an English translation of his novel, as well as an increase in sales and international recognition. The book is published by Maktabat Kul Shee (Haifa, Israel).
Al-Madhoun’s family came from Ashkelon, Palestine – now occupied by Israel – but went to the Gaza strip after the 1948 nakba exodus. Leaving Gaza to attend Alexandria University, he later became involved with the Palestinian liberation struggle as a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.He left activism in 1980 to focus on writing and has written a number of works of fiction and non-fiction. This is the 70-year-old author’s third novel.
His 2010 novel, The Lady from Tel Aviv, was shortlisted for the 2010 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. It was also published in English in 2013 (Telegram Books) and won the English PEN Writers in Translation award that year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Saudi Arabia plans to become less dependent on oil

Saudi Arabia's cabinet has agreed on a broad-based economic reform plan, known as Vision 2030, revealing how the oil-reliant state plans to diversify its economy over the next 14 years.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince, said on Monday that the country was building up its public investment fund to become a major player in global markets.
He said Saudi Arabia was restructuring its housing ministry to increase the supply of affordable housing, and creating a "green card" system within five years to give expatriates long-term residence.
Salman al-Ansari, founder and president of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told Al Jazeera the green card system gives more rights to expatriates to invest in the country.
Saudi Arabia will also sell shares in state oil giant Aramco and set up the world's largest wealth fund in line with the plan, Mohamed bin Salman said separately in an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel.

Large majority of U.S. Senate pushes Obama to boost Israel aid


More than four-fifths of the U.S. Senate have signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to quickly reach an agreement on a new defense aid package for Israel worth more than the current $3 billion per year.Eighty-three of the 100 senators signed the letter, led by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons. Senator Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential candidate, was one of the 51 Republicans on board. The Senate's Democratic White House hopeful, Bernie Sanders, was not among the 32 Democrats.
"In light of Israel's dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge," said the letter, which was first reported by Reuters.
It did not provide a figure for the suggested aid. Israel wants $4 billion to $4.5 billion in aid in a new agreement to replace the current memorandum of understanding, or MOU, which expires in 2018. U.S. officials have given lower target figures of about $3.7 billion. They hope for a new agreement before Obama leaves office in January.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Yemeni troops enter Mukalla after al-Qaeda left

Mukalla

Yemeni government troops and allies from a Saudi-led coalition have entered a city held by al-Qaeda for a year. Local Yemeni officials and residents told the Reuters new s agency on Sunday that some 2,000 Yemeni and Emirati troops advanced into Mukalla, taking control of its port and airport and setting up checkpoints throughout the southern city.
The coalition said in a statement,carried by the official Saudi news agency SPA, that "more than 800 al-Qaeda elements" had been killed and that the rest of the fighters had fled the city, the provincial capital of Hadramout.
The death toll could not be independently verified.And Iona Craig, a journalist who was in Mukalla last month and who said she regularly communicates with residents there, described the coalition's claim as "ridiculous". "There weren't even 800 fighters left there," she told Al Jazeera by phone from the UK. "There was no fighting inside the city because al-Qaeda had already left."

Jerusalem police prohibit offering of baby goats at Haram al-Sharif

Federman and wife
Jewish activists pushing for a third temple in Jerusalem attempted to ascend the Temple Mount carrying baby goats intended to be used as Passover sacrifices on Friday afternoon, as they do every year. Jerusalem police detained ten suspects in the Old City for interrogation, and seized four sacrificial goat kids.
Among those arrested were Kach activist Noam Federman from Hebron (who, as I Abu Pessoptimist, saw on the internet, is arrested every year for this reason the last couple of years), who attempts make the sacrifice every year, and Rafael Morris, an activist in the Temple Mount Faithful movement. The two were banned from entering Jerusalem before the holiday and will be questioned about breaching the ban.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Brawl in New Cairo: policeman shoots three, one of them died

Cairo
Photo on social media of an overturned police car following the shooting of three people by a policeman, killing one and injuring two others.(Ahram Online).
A low-ranking Egyptian policeman shot three people in Egypt's New Cairo on Tuesday following a quarrel, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported, killing one man and injuring two others.
Pictures and videos circulating on social media, apparently taken from the scene in the Rehab neighbourhood, showed an overturned police van with shattered windows.
Pictures of the corpse of the unidentified man killed were also circulated by social media users.

The interior ministry was not available for comment on the incident.
In February, a low-ranking policeman killed a driver in the working-class Cairo district of El-Darb El-Ahmar, following a dispute over a fare. In April a court sentenced the policeman to life in prison, one of the harshest sentences issued to policemen convicted of similar violent crimes. The sentence can still be appealed.

World Bank: Palestine loses $ 285 million a year due to agreement with Israel

The Palestinian Authority is losing up to $285 million a year under its current economic arrangements with Israel, the World Bank said on Monday.
According to Ma’an News Agency, the global financial institution announced the finding a day before it presents its full report to the Ad Hoc Liaison committee, which decides on development assistance to the Palestinian territories, in Brussels. It found that the current revenue sharing arrangements as outlined by the Paris Protocol — through which Israel collects VAT, import taxes and other revenues on behalf of the PA — “have not been systematically implemented.”
The World Bank estimated that “tax leakages on bilateral trade with Israel and undervaluation of Palestinian imports from third countries” amounted to up to $285 million in revenues lost annually by the PA. It added that the amount could be higher, as it was unable to make estimates for Area C — the 61 percent of the occupied West Bank under full Israeli control — “due to data constraints.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Crisis continues in Baghdad

Moqtada al-Sadr during hiss ''sit in''. (Reuters)

Hundreds rallied in central Baghdad on Sunday in support of powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who has threatened to call mass protests if the prime minister fails to name a new cabinet to fight corruption by Tuesday. People in Tahrir Square on Sunday said many more would join them if Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did not select a government mainly made up of technical experts to tackle what they see as widespread graft and mismanagement.
"Yes, yes to Iraq; no, no to corruption," they chanted, carrying Iraqi flags.


Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's presented on 31 March a list of new ministers in keeping with a deadline set by the legislature earlier in the week, which was underscored by a ''sit in'' in the Green Zone by Moqtada al-Sadr personally. The list was made up of independent professionals who he hoped could free their ministries from the grip of dominant political groups that have built their influence and wealth on a system of patronage put in place since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Egyptians protest transfer of two islands to Saudiyya

Egypt's announcement during a five-day visit by King Salman that it would transfer two Red Sea islands to its Saudi ally has outraged Egyptians, who took to social media to criticize the move, which now faces a legal challenge.The Egyptian government said in a statement on Saturday that the two countries had signed maritime demarcation accords that put the islands of Tiran and Sanafir in Saudi waters, a process it said had taken six years.
Earlier, on Friday, after a meeting with Egyptian presidnt Abdel fattah al-Sisi, King Salman announced that a bridge connecting Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be built across the Red Sea. No details were given. Also Saudi Arabia is expected to sign a $20 billion deal to finance Egypt's oil needs for the next five years and a $1.5 billion deal to develop its Sinai region, two Egyptian government sources told Reuters.
 Saudi and Egyptian officials said about the the islands thatb they belong to the kingdom and were only under Egyptian control because Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz Al Saud, asked Egypt in 1950 to protect them.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Italy recalls ambassador from Cairo, deepening row over murder of student

Guilio Regeni
Giulio Regeni. 

Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations on Friday after Egyptian investigators in Rome failed to provide evidence needed to solve the mystery of the murder of an Italian student in Cairo. Ambassador Maurizio Massari was called to the capital for "an urgent evaluation" of what steps to take to "ascertain the truth about the barbaric murder of Giulio Regeni", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Egyptian authorities met with Rome prosecutors on Thursday and Friday, handing over some, but not all, of the evidence Italy had requested. The prosecutors said in a statement Egyptian investigators had still not handed over such evidence as details from Cairo cell towers that had connected to Regeni's mobile phone. Regeni, 28, vanished from the streets of Cairo on Jan. 25. His body was discovered in a ditch on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital on Feb. 3, showing signs of extensive torture. Regeni's mother said last week that her son's body had been so disfigured that she had only been able to recognize him by the tip of his nose. Human rights groups have said the torture indicates he was killed by Egyptian security forces, an allegation Cairo has repeatedly denied.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sons of Mubarak and other M-Eastern figures mentioned in ''Panama papers''

Alaa Mubarak and his brother Gamal.

Alaa Mubarak, the son of former President Hosni Mubarak, is among the global political figures whose financial dealings were exposed in the “Panama Papers,” a document leak said to be the largest in the history of journalism.
More than 11 million documents were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which sells offshore companies to customers around the globe. The leaked documents show how the firm helped clients dodge taxes, launder money and evade sanctions. German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which originally received the documents, shared them with a team of journalists from around the world in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).