Saturday, March 4, 2017

Jordan hangs 15 people, 10 of them ''terrorists''

Troops closed the entrances to Irbid during a firefight with the ''Ibid terror cell'' in March 2016.

Jordan hanged 15 death row prisoners at dawn on Saturday, in a further break with a moratorium on executions it had observed between 2006 and 2014. Ten were convicted of "terror" offences, including attacks on tourists, a writer, and security forces. Five others were convicted of crimes including rape, Mahmud al-Momani, Jordanian information minister told the official Petra news agency. The group of 10 were part of the so-called "Irbid terror cell", which was responsible for several attacks.
In 2005, King Abdullah II said Jordan aimed to become the first Middle Eastern country to stop carrying out executions, in line with most European countries. Courts continued to hand down death sentences, but they were not carried out. But public opinion blamed a rise in crime on the policy and in December 2014 Jordan hanged 11 men convicted of murder, drawing criticism from human rights groups. Opinion hardened after the murder by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group of captured Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh whose plane had crashed in a rebel-held region of Syria in December 2014. Grisly footage posted in February the following year of him being burned alive in a cage outraged the public.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mubarak goes free after last acquittal

Egypt's former strongman Hosni Mubarak is able to walk free after the Court of Cassation acquitted him on Thursday in his retrial on charges of killing protesters during the 25 January Revolution. Today's verdict is final.
In June 2012, Mubarak was sentenced by a criminal court to life in prison - 20 years in jail per Egyptian law -  for his complicity in the murder of protestors during the 18-day January 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule. However, in January 2013, the Cassation Court overturned Mubarak's conviction and ordered a retrial. The Cassation Court also upheld the acquittal of other defendants in the same case, including Mubarak's last interior minister Habib El-Adly and four of his aides.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Kuwait executes seven people, including a prince

Kuwait has hanged seven prisoners, including a royal family member, according to a statement carried by the state-run KUNA news agency.The hangings on Wednesday were the first executions in the Gulf state since mid-2013. Its neighbour state, Bahrain, also executed three people recently.
Those executed in Kuwait included two Kuwaitis, two Egyptians, a Bangladeshi,a Filipina and an Ethiopian. They were convicted of offences ranging from murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and rape.The Kuwaiti government identified the royal as Sheikh Faisal Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah. He was convicted of shooting to death his nephew, another prince, in 2010 in what was a premeditated murder. He was also convicted of illegal possession of a firearm.
Nusra al-Enezi, a Kuwaiti woman found guilty of setting fire to a tent at her husband's wedding in 2009 as he married a second wife, was also executed. During the process she confessed that the fire, that killed 57 people, most women and children, was an act of revenge.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Egyptian high vourt rejects deal with S Arabia about islands in the Gulf of Aqaba

A top Egyptian courtm the High Administrative Court, has issued a final ruling rejecting a government plan to transfer two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in a deal that had provoked outrage among Egyptians and prompted rare protests.
Cheers broke out in the Cairo courtroom as the judge read out the verdict confirming Egyptian sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir and saying that the government had failed to provide evidence that the islands were Saudi.
The islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba control the narrow shipping lanes running north to the Red Sea port cities of Eilat and Aqaba, in Israel and Jordan.
The verdict, which is final, is a slap on the hnds of the Egy[ptian government that gave the islands away in exchange for a large Saudi loan. The case provoked angry reactions and three Egyptian lawyers filed a lawsuit. The verdict is bound to add to the friction that alraedy has risen between Riyadh and Cairo over a string of regional issues, including Syria and Yemen.

Bahrain executes three shia men convicted of killing police officers in 2014

Bahrain on Sunday has executed three Shia men who were convicted of killing three police officers in a bomb attack in March 2014, the authorities say.They were killed by a firing squad. The executions of the three men, who Bahraini officials say were part of the listed terrorist group Saraya al-Ashtar, are the first since a 2011 uprising, led by the Shia majority, calling for greater political rights. A week earlier a high court upheld their convictions.
Human rights officials say there are serious concerns that evidence may have been obtained under torture.The UN's special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Agnes Callamard, condemned the executions in a tweet saying: "Torture, unfair trial + flimsy evidence: these are extrajudicial killings."
"This is a black day in Bahrain's history. It is the most heinous crime committed by the government of Bahrain and a shame upon its rulers... This act is a security threat to Bahrain and the entire region," Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy told Reuters news agency.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani 1934-2017

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died on Sunday at the age of 82, a big blow to moderates and reformists deprived now of a most influential supporter in the Islamic establishment.
His pragmatic policies – economic liberalization, better relations with the West and empowering elected bodies - appealed to many Iranians but were despised by hardliners.Few have wielded such influence in modern Iran. But since 2009 Rafsanjani and his family faced political isolation over their support for the opposition movement which lost a disputed election that year to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rafsanjani headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. He was also a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran's most powerful figure. His absence from that debate, whenever it happens, means the chances of a pragmatist emerging as the next supreme leader are reduced. His death ahead of May's presidential elections is a blow to moderate president Hassan Rouhani who allied himself with Rafsanjani to win the 2013 election and went on to resolve Iran's long standoff with the West on the nuclear program.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: Not a year for Palestinian celebrations

I wish all my readers a good and happy year 2017.
For Palestine it is a year of sour commemorations, though: the 100th birthday of the Balfour Declaration, the 70th of the Partition Resolution of 1947, and the 50th year of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
A gigantic bulldozer is destroying the  more than 700 years old houses of the Mughrabi Quarter in East Jersalem, to make room in front of the ''Western Wall''. Israel destroyed the 135 houses a few days after it took the eastern part of the city. One woman died under the rubble. The inhabitants received almost a year later a sequestration order, together with an offer of 200 Dinar compensation.

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Media Law curbs Egyptian press even further

 Three and a half years into power after the toppling of President Mohammed Morsi and taking charge of the country, Sisi’s Egypt is witnessing the harshest crackdown in the 200-year history of Egyptian media. Repression, destruction of equipment, imprisonment and even death surround the profession.
Last week, the parliament passed a law on the “Institutional Regulation of the Press and the Media,” which indicates creating three regulatory bodies to oversee all of Egypt’s media outlets. Sisi himself is to select the heads of these boards, according to Article 32.
One body is to supervise state-owned press organizations and select their board chairmen and editors, another would oversee state-owned audio-visual media, radio and digital media institutions, and last and most crucial, the Higher Council for Media Regulation will regulate all media outlets, audio-visual, digital or print — whether public or private — in coordination with the other two bodies.
The law ignores Article 72 of the Egyptian Constitution that indicates “the State shall ensure the independence of all state-owned press institutions and media outlets, in a manner ensuring their neutrality and presentation of all political and intellectual opinions,” Yehia Kallash, the head of the Egyptian press syndicate, told Al-Monitor.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Syrian army has retaken complete control of Aleppo

By Ellen Francis | BEIRUT
The Syrian army said it had retaken complete control of Aleppo on Thursday after the last rebel fighters were evacuated from the city, handing President Bashar al-Assad his biggest victory of the war. The military said it had brought "the return of safety and security to the city of Aleppo", ending four years of rebel resistance in the northern Syrian city.
"This victory constitutes an important turning point," an army statement said. The recapture of Aleppo is Assad's most important gain so far in a nearly six-year-old war that claimed the lives of 300.000 people, but the fighting is not over with large parts of the country still controlled by insurgent and Islamist groups.
The last group of rebels and their families holed up in a small eastern enclave of Aleppo were evacuated under a deal that gives the army and its allies full control of the city, Syrian state television said.

Monday, December 19, 2016

After a new president Lebanon now also got a new government

Saad Hariri, the new Prime Minister, with president Michel Aoun (right).  (Foto Al Jazeera)

Lebanon on Sunday acquired a new 30-minister government led by Saad al-Hariri, bringing together the entire political spectrum except for the Christian Phalangist party that rejected the portfolio it was offered.
The new cabinet, which was announced on state television, will keep Gebran Bassil as foreign minister, Ali Hassan Khalil as finance minister and Nouhad Machnouk as interior minister.
New portfolios include an anti-corruption post and, for the first time, a minister of state for women's affairs. Hariri said the Phalangist Party had been offered a minister of state post but had turned it down.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Turkey, China and Egypt have the most journalists in jail

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2016 has seen a record number of journalists jailed worldwide, marking the worst year on record with an unprecedented 259 behind bars. Egypt is listed as the third worst offender with 25 journalists in jail, preceded by China with 38 and Turkey with 81.
In its latest report, published on Tuesday, the New York-based group writes that: “More journalists are jailed around the world than at any time since the CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1990, with Turkey accounting for nearly a third of the global total.”
The five countries at the top of the list account for 68 percent of all journalists imprisoned worldwide since December 1, 2016. This includes Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
This year’s statistics are a significant increase from the 199 journalists who were behind bars in 2015, and surpass the previous record of 232 imprisoned in 2012.
Turkey’s high ranking this year is a result of an “ongoing crackdown that accelerated after a failed coup attempt in July,” according to the report. The government has increasingly imprisoned journalists seen as sympathetic to exiled opposition cleric Fethullah Gülen or the attempted coup.
Eight of Egypt’s 25 jailed journalists have been locked up for more than three years, since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. The remaining 17 have been imprisoned for periods ranging from several weeks to years. This is an increase from the 23 imprisoned in 2015, when Egypt was ranked the second worst jailer of journalists after China.
Some are linked to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated newspapers like Rassd, while several others are TV correspondents, freelance reporters and photojournalists. Most are being detained in Cairo’s Tora Prison, although some are being held in Alexandria, Port Said, Arish, Fayoum and Gamasa, among others.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bombs kill 38 people in Istanbul, most of them policemen

 (Foto AFP)
Turkey said on Sunday that Kurdish militants may be responsible for the two bombs that killed 38 people and wounded 155 in what looked to be a coordinated attack on police outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul after a match between two top teams.
The blasts on Saturday night - a car bomb outside the Vodafone Arena, home to Istanbul's Besiktas soccer team, followed by a suicide bomb attack in an adjacent park less than a minute later - shook a nation still trying to recover from a series of deadly bombings this year in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
There was no claim of responsibility, but Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said early indications pointed to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a three-decade insurgency, mainly in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast. Ten people have been detained so far, he said.