Monday, April 28, 2014

Court in Minya (Upper Egypt) hands out another record of 683 death sentences

A state-of-the-art execution machine designed by @Ternz to help Egypt execute 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Execution Services ltd. in Minya? 

The criminal court in the Egyptian city of Minya (Upper Egypt) on Monday handed 683 death sentences to people who had been charged of being supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist group's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among them. The defendants were found guilty of attacking Adawa police station and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Qotb Mohamed Qotb, on 14 August 2013 -- following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at the Rabaa and Nahda squares in Cairo which left more than 1.000 people dead.
They were also found guilty of committing violence, rioting, attacking public and private property and police officers, and inciting violence. The verdicts have to be ratified by the grand mufti of Al-Azhar -- the highest Islamic authority in the country -- before they can be carried out. The date of 21 June has been set for the final verdict to be passed, after the grand mufti has made his assessment.
The same court last month handed out 529 death warrants. On Monday it decided that 37 of these have become definitive, while the others were been changed to life sentences. The earlier verdict had been met with harsh criticism that the judge did not follow the normal procedures by not even taking the trouble to go over the individual details of all 529.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Erdogan offers condolences to Armenians on the eve of 99th anniversary of massacre

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his legislators and supporters at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, April 22, 2014.(AP Photo)

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in a statement issued on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the death of large numbers of Armenians at the hand of Turkish soldiers, described the events of 1915 as "inhumane". It was more conciliatory language than any Turkish leader before him.Turkish government officials said it was the first time a Turkish prime minister had offered such explicit ''condolences'' and described the statement as a historic step.
Erdogan's words, however, were dismissed as "cold-hearted and cynical" by an influential U.S.-based Armenian advocacy group. Experts also pointed out that expressing condolences fell way short of apologizing, while also the way Erdogan expressed himself left doubt about the sincerity of his intentions.

Concern about arrested Saudi human rights defenders

The Saudi human rights defenders Waleed Abu Al-Khair and Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Hamed are being held in incommunicado detention, and concern is expressed for their health, as the authorities continue to target those who promote and protect human rights, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reports.
GCHR has received reports that human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair is being subjected to torture in Al Hair prison. Al-Khair was kept in detention following his appearance before the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh on 15 April 2014. GCHR received information that al-Khair, who is the founder and director of the NGO Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA),  is being held in solitary confinement and being subjected to torture.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Still unclear how removal of prince Bandar will change Saudi policy towards Syria

The removal of Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been seen by many as part of a shift in policy of Saudi Arabia towards Syria. Hassan Ammar /AP PhotoNews that I missed last week: Saudi Arabia has appointed a new intelligence chief to replace Prince Bandar bin Sultan. According the official news agency SPA Bandar was "exempted … from his position at his own request" and replaced by his deputy, Yousef al-Idrissi.

Monday, April 21, 2014

SPLA-rebels kill hundreds in South Sudanese city of Bentiu

Oil installations in Bentiu. Bentiu is the capital of Unity State and the main oil producing city in South Sudan. (Photo AFP).  

Hundreds of people were killed because of their ethnic group after South Sudan rebels of the SPLA of Riek Machar seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the UN has said. The opposition troops targeted a mosque, a church and a hospital, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said in a statement. It added that hate speech was broadcast on local radio stations, saying certain groups should leave the town and urging men to rape women.
Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, Unmiss said.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sabahi officially presents bid to run for president against Abdel Fatah el-Sissi

Sabahi. (Photo: Simon Hanna/Ahram Online)

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi officially submitted his bid on Saturday to run for Egypt's presidency, making him the second candidate for next month's election alongside former army-chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who is widely expected to win.
The election is due to start on May 26-27.
Sabahi, who heads a political alliance called the Popular Current, was a member of parliament during ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak's years in office. He came third in the 2012 election that was won by Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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].”