Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mubarak verdict postponed

The Cairo Criminal Court postponed the verdict in the Mubarak trial, originally scheduled for today, to November 29, giving the court more time to finish the paperwork necessary for the ruling.
In an anticlimactic court session, Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidy said he based his decision on Article 172 of the procedure law, saying the court is done with writing 60 to 70 percent of its reasoning behind the verdict and needs more time to conclude it.  
Mubarak, his Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six former Interior Ministry officials are being retried on charges of orchestrating the deaths of at least 846 unarmed demonstrators during the January 25, 2011 protests that led to the Mubarak administration’s downfall.
Mubarak, his sons Galal and Alaa, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem also face accusations of abuse of power and financial corruption in the same case.
The judge also ordered the continued detention of Adly.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Algerian islamist group executes French hostage

Execution: ISIS-linked militants in Algeria have beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel after he was captured at the weekend. The group earlier made threats to kill Mr Gourdel if France did not stop bombing targets in IraqThe Algerian group Jund al-Khilafa (soldiers of the caliph, a group ) have followed up on their threat and on Wednesday decapitated their French hostage Hervé Gourdel (55). A video of the execution was posted on the internet. Gourdel, a mountain guide and father of two was on a holiday in Algeria. He was captured on Sunday by the group which is aligned with the Islamic State, while hitchhiking near the Djurdura mountain in the province of Tizi Ouzou (Kabylia). 
Jund al-Khilafa, which is led by Abdelmalek Gouri, alias Khaled Abou Souleimane, earlier gave France a 24 hour ultimatum to halt its aerial bombardments of the Islamic State.

IS executes human rights activist in Mosul

Samira Saleh al-Naimi
Samira al-Naimi
The Islamic State (IS) captured and executed lawyer and human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi in the city of Mosul, Iraq, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported. The centre received reports that on the evening of 22 September 2014, a group of masked armed men who belong to IS opened fire and killed her in a public square in the very heart of Mosul. She was kidnapped by IS from her home last week after she described as “barbaric” the widespread damage that IS inflicted on ancient features of her city.
Samira Saleh Al-Naimi was a prominent lawyer and human rights defender and famous for her activities that include defending detainees and supporting the disadvantaged families in the city.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shana tova

I wish my Jewish readers a good, sweet and hopefully somewhat more peaceful 5775,
שנה טובה
(Tashlich is a ritual that is performed between Rosh Hashana (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), nearby open water. Jewish believers rid themselves thereby symbolically from sins of the past year which are thrown into the water as it were. My choice for the tashlich-theme was, of course,  inspired by the events of the past year in Gaza). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

US and allies kill tens of IS and Nusra militants in bombing raids in Syria

The United States and its Arab allies early Tuesday launched bombing raids against Islamic State militants in Syria, opening up a new front in the battle against the jihadist group after more than a month of US air strikes in Iraq. Military officials have said the US would target militants’ command and control centres, re-supply facilities, training camps and other key logistical sites.
The strikes were aimed at the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa as well as near the Iraq border, with targets including weapons supplies and buildings used by the group, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, tens of ISIL fighters were killed or wounded in the strikes on Raqqa and surrounding areas.  "More than 20 members of ISIL were killed in strikes on two of the organisation's positions in Raqqa province. The strikes completely destroyed the two positions as well as vehicles stationed there," the monitoring group said.
Airstrikes were also carried out against positions of al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, the observatory said, adding that multiple attacks targeted an area in western Aleppo province, killing at least seven people, both fighters and civilians.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two killed in explosion outside Egyptian Foreign ministry

A bomb exploded near the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in downtown Cairo on Sunday morning, killing two ieutenant colonels of rthe police and injuring five police personnel and one civilian, Egyptian state television reported.
The explosion, in the Boulaq Abu El-Ela district, was reportedly caused by an improvised explosive device placed beneath a tree outside Gate 3 of the ministry, which is located near the Maspero state television building. Boulaq Abu El-Ela is a working-class district located between two of Cairo's main downtown squares – Tahrir and Ramsis.
Explosions have repeatedly targeted police sites and personnel over the past year, following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. In June, ahead of the 30 June protests anniversary, three explosions struck near the Ittihadiya presidential palace in the Heliopolis area of Cairo, killing two policemen. Four explosions struck in Greater Cairo – most notably at the Cairo Security Directorate – killing six people, on the eve of the 2011 uprising anniversary.

Houthis and Yemeni government sign agreement after four days of fighting in Sanaa.

Smoke rises from residential buildings near the army's First Armoured Division which came under attack from Shi'ite Houthi militants, in Sanaa September 20, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
Residential buildings near the barracks of the First Armored Division in Sanaa are burning after attacks by the Houthis. (Photo Reuters).

A UN-brokered peace deal between Houthi rebels and Yemen's government has been signed while the Houthis have taken control of government buildings and a state radio and TV station in the capital, Sanaa.
Sunday's deal called for the current government to rule in a caretaker role until a new government is formed next month.
The most important point is the cessation of hostilities which flared up in the capital four days ago, but the deal is "still short on details". Yemen's president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi urged all sides in the crisis to abide by the deal. The agreement was aimed at getting the Houthis to leave the capital.. However, the annex, which was not signed by the Houthis, stipulated that they were to withdraw from Sanaa, Jawf and Amran within 45 days. Reports were coming in that clashes were still ongoing in other parts of the country, including Marib, east of the capital.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kurds flee in the thousands to Turkey after ISIS captured area around

Thousands of Kurds massed on the Turkish border after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured around 20 villages in northern Syria’s Kobane region. AA Photo
Fleeing Kurds at the Turkish border.  (Photo AA).

 Turkish authorities opened the border with Syria on Sept. 19, allowing hundreds of Kurds fleeing from brutal attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to cross into Turkey.
“We will take in our brothers fleeing to Anatolia from Syria or any other place, without any ethnic or sectarian discrimination,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said during a visit to Azerbaijan after the government was forced to act by refugees streaming to the border and locals in Turkey converging on the area, demanding that their ethnic kin be permitted to cross.
He said he personally ordered the borders opened for the refugees who had gathered along the wire fences separating the two countries since Sept. 16, amid escalating clashes. “The entries have started now,” Davutoğlu said at the press conference.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Houthis push into Yemeni capital after clashing at suburbs

Supporters of the Shia Houthi movement erect a tent blocking the airport road in Sanaa, 7 September
One of many protest tents that the Houthis erected in and around Sanaa in recent weeks. (Photo EPA)

Armed Shi'ite rebels pushed into Yemen's capital Sanaa after clashing with the army in the city's northwest outskirts on Thursday, security sources and residents said, in an escalation of weeks of fighting and protests.
Residents of northwest al-Shamlan district told Reuters the Shi'ite Houthi gunmen were now advancing along Thalatheen Street, a major route into the western edge of the city.
A military source said Houthi gunmen had also attacked an army camp on the southern entrance of the capital, but soldiers repelled the assault.
The Houthis, who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shi'ite Islam, have been involved in a decade-long conflict with the Sunni-dominated government, fighting for more control and territory in the north. n recent weeks, Houthi protesters have been blocking the main road to Sanaa's airport and holding sit-ins at ministries calling for the ousting of the government and the restoration of subsidies cut by the state in July as part of economic reforms.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ahmed Maher of April 6 Movement joins hungerstrike of Egyptian political detainees

Ahmed Maher, the jailed former head of the April 6 Youth Movement, has joined a growing hunger strike movement. Maher, who founded the now-banned movement, stopped eating on 15 September, April 6 member Zizo Abdou said.
The hunger strike has been gaining momentum with activists, journalists and supporters inside and outside of jail joining to denounce a restrictive protest law and to call for the release of political detainees.
Ahmed Maher
a Facebook page called "We've had it up to here," which tracks the number of hunger strikers, said that 60 detainees were participating, along with nearly 100 supporters outside of jail. A number of political parties have also expressed solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah released on bail

Alaa Abdel-Fattah on the shoulders. The photo is from March of this year, when he was also briefly released from prison. (Photo AP).  

The Cairo Criminal Court unexpectedly released Alaa Abd El Fattah, along with two other defendants, on LE5,000 bail in the ongoing Shura Council case on Monday. The judge presiding over the case also stepped down. Abdel-Fattah, Mohamed Abdel-Rahman aka Noubi and Wael Metwally were sentenced to 15-years in prison and fined LE100,000 on charges of organising an illegal protest, rioting, destruction of public property and using violence against security forces.
The judge recused himself from the trial due to an incident which occurred during the trial's last session on Wednesday, said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, director of the Cairo-based al-Haqanya human rights centre and one of the lawyers representing the defendants.

What Israel did after the ceasefire

It is not often that I just copy other people's blog entries. This time I cannot resist the temptation. This is what the Angry Arab As'ad Abu Khalil wrote on 14 September:
"On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following:

1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
 2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
 3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
 4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
 5. Detained six fishermen
 6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
 7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
 8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalisation
 9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad – and tear-gassed their mother
 11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison

Saturday, September 13, 2014

HRW: Israeli attacks on Gaza schools were war crimes

US slams Israel over deadly airstike on UN school in Gaza
The attack on the school in Jabaliya. Palestinians are looking for body parts in a damaged classroom. (Photo AP, 30 July 2014)

Three Israeli attacks that damaged Gaza schools housing displaced people caused numerous civilian casualties in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a report publihe on Thursday. In the first in-depth documentation of the violations, Human Rights Watch investigated the three attacks, which occurred on July 24 and 30, and August 3, 2014, and killed 45 people, including 17 children.
“The Israeli military carried out attacks on or near three well-marked schools where it knew hundreds of people were taking shelter, killing and wounding scores of civilians,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “Israel has offered no convincing explanation for these attacks on schools where people had gone for protection and the resulting carnage.”
Two of the three attacks Human Rights Watch investigated – in Beit Hanoun and Jabalya – did not appear to target a military objective or were otherwise unlawfully indiscriminate. The third attack in Rafah was unlawfully disproportionate if not otherwise indiscriminate. Unlawful attacks carried out willfully – that is, deliberately or recklessly – are war crimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

HRW: Israel illegally coerced some 7.000 African refugees to leave
Hundreds of African asylum seekers leave the detention centre in Holot (South Israel) in protest against their detention in a so called ''open facility''. (Photo June 2014)

Israeli authorities have unlawfully coerced almost 7,000 Eritrean and Sudanese nationals into returning to their home countries where they risk serious abuse. Some returning Sudanese have faced torture, arbitrary detention, and treason charges in Sudan for setting foot in Israel, while returning Eritreans also face a serious risk of abuse.
That is what Human Rights Watch says in a 83-page report, “‘Make Their Lives Miserable:’ Israel’s Coercion of Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum Seekers to Leave Israel,” that was released on Tuesday. It documents how Israeli authorities have labelled Eritreans and Sudanese a “threat”, branded them “infiltrators,” denied them access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, and used the resulting insecure legal status as a pretext to unlawfully detain or threaten to detain them indefinitely, coercing thousands into leaving.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Iraqi parliament approves new government

Iraq"s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, attends the Parliament session to submit his government in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Sept. 8
Haider al-Abadi enters the parliament. (Photo AP)

Iraq's parliament approved a new government headed by Haider al-Abadi as prime minister on Monday night, in a bid to rescue Iraq from collapse, with sectarianism and Arab-Kurdish tensions on the rise.
Abadi, a Shi'ite Islamist, included members of Iraq's Shi'ite majority and its Kurdish and Sunni minorities in his cabinet as he started his uphill task to unify the country after this summer's devastating loss of territory across northernto Islamic State fighters.
Adel Abdel Mehdi from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq was named oil minister while Ibrahim Jafaari, a former premier, was named foreign minister. Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, was named finance minister. No interior or defense minister was named but Abadi pledged to do so within a week, bringing the cabinet to 37 posts. Abadi's deputy prime ministers are Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd and Iraq's only post-Saddam Hussein foreign minister, Saleh Mutlaq, a secular Sunni Muslim who served in the same position in the last government, and Baha Arraji, a Shi'ite Islamist and former lawmaker.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Arab League vows to take action against Islamic State

Arab League foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to take all necessary measures to confront Daesh (Islamic State) and cooperate with international, regional and national efforts to combat militants who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The Arab League also endorsed in the closing statement of its meeting in Cairo a UN Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to "act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria".
The final text did not directly endorse either the Iraqi or U.S. campaign against Islamic State, but diplomatic sources said the wording clearly offered Arab cooperation to U.S. and Iraqi efforts and could be read as a tacit agreement to back Washington's campaign against the group.

Friday, September 5, 2014

HRW: IS execute three times more people in Tikrit than previously thought

<p>Ali, one of the few survivors of a mass execution at the Presidential Palace in Tikrit, is visible among more than 60 captives prior to execution in a still frame from a YouTube video posted by Islamic State.</p>Still from an IS video. The man between the lines is Ali, one of HRW´s witnesses. 
Human Rights Watch has found new evidence that the Islamic State (IS) in Tikrit after it seized the city in June 2014, in fact carried out three times more executions than earlier was estimated. Information from a survivor and analysis of videos and satellite imagery has confirmed the existence of three more mass execution sites, bringing the total to five, and the number of dead to between 560 and 770 men, all or most of them apparently captured Iraqi army soldiers.
Islamic State fighters took control of Tikrit on June 11. The next day it claimed to have executed 1,700 “Shi’a members of the army,” posting videos of hundreds of captured men in civilian clothes, who it claimed had surrendered at the nearby Iraqi Speicher military base.
Photos later posted on social media showed IS fighters loading captives in civilian clothes onto trucks and forcing them to lie in three shallow trenches with their hands bound. Some images showed masked gunmen firing weapons at these men.
Based on an analysis of satellite imagery and photographs available at the time, Human Rights Watch concluded on June 27 that two of the trenches were in a field about 100 meters north of the Water Palace in Tikrit. The location of the third trench was not identified.After analyzing a recently released Islamic State video of the execution of detainees and satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch has identified three new execution sites from that period, with an additional death toll of between 285 and 440. The locations of two of the sites have been precisely identified based on the imagery and witness evidence, while the location of the third site remains approximate based on the account of a survivor.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yemeni president proposes to disband government and reinstate fuel subsidies, but Houthis continue protest

Supporters of the Shi'ite Houthi movement block a road as part of an anti-government protest in Sanaa September 3, 2014. Yemen's president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi dismissed his government on Tuesday, proposed a national unity administration and suggested reinstating fuel subsidies, government sources said, in moves to quell weeks of unrest by the rebel movement. REUTERS- Khaled Abdullah
Houthi supporters block a road in Sanaa on 3 September. The Houthis have been protesting in Sanaa for weeks. (Foto Reuters)

Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi dismissed the government Tuesday and agreed to reinstate fuel subsidies, in addition to other economic reforms, seeking to end weeks of tense protests led by tens of thousands of Houthi loyalists in the capital, Sanaa.
Government sources told Reuters that Hadi had dismissed his government, suggested a national unity administration and planned to reduce petrol and diesel prices by 30 percent to offset unpopular cuts to fuel subsidies, which had drained Yemeni coffers but buoyed impoverished citizens.
However, the Houthis dismissed the move. Mohammed Abdulsalam, a spokesman for Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi, said in a statement on his Facebook page: "We do not agree to it. Our position is still that we (stand) by the Yemeni people who have gone out in a blessed popular revolution to demand their legitimate and just rights."
A member of the Houthis' political bureau, Abdel Malik al-Ijri, told Reuters: "What was demanded was a cancellation of the fuel price rise, and the lowering which was announced today represents nothing."

Improper restauration threatens Egypt's oldest pyramid at Saqqara

 A pirâmide Sakkara tem mais de 4600 anos e localiza-se a cerca de 30 quilómetros da cidade do Cairo (Reuters)
 Egyptian activists have launched an attack against the Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damaty after assigning a company with the  restoration of Egypt's oldest pyramid at Saqqara. The same company worked on the project till October 2012 and  caused a major deterioration of the pyramid that even caused part of it to collapse, Al-Masry al-Youm reported. 
Amir Gamal, representative of the ‘Non-stop Robberies’ movement, told the paper that the company, called Shurbagy, worked on the Saqqara pyramid until October 2012, at which moment the ministry stopped the restoration due to a lack of funds. Gamal said that Shurbagy has been working for nine years and has not been successful in any of the six projects it has worked on, adding that all are being investigated.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Libyan government admits having lost control of Tripoli

Militiamen from ´´Fajr Libya´´ enjoy their stay at the compound of the American embassy in Tripoli. They plunge from the balcony into the swimming pool. (Still from YouTube video)

Libya's powerless outgoing government admitted Monday from its safe refuge in the east of the country that it has in effect lost control of Tripoli to armed militias. The interim government led by prime minister Abdullah al-Thani, which resigned last week, said armed groups, mostly Islamist militias, were in control of ministries and blocking access to government workers.
"Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been occupied by armed militias who are preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors," the government said in a statement.
It said the interim government was in contact with officials and "trying to ensure the continuity of services from afar."

Iraqi Kurds retake another town form IS a day after Amerli was freed

'It is a humanitarian disaster': Nearly 20,000 Shi'ite Muslim Iraqis face starvation in the town of Amerli after two months of living under siege by ISIS militants. The shaded zone shows ISIS-controlled areas 
The shaded area is territory held by IS. (Map Daily Mail)

Iraqi Kurdish forces and Shiite militiamen retook the town of Sulaiman Bek from militants on Monday, removing a key stronghold they have held for over 11 weeks, officials said. Fighting to retake the village of Yankaja, also located in Salaheddin province, northeast of Baghdad, is ongoing.  Sulaiman Bek is located near Amerli, where thousands of mainly Shiite Turkmen civilians were trapped by a jihadist. Iraqi forces backed by thousands of volunteers on Sunday broke this siege the Islamic State.
Thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces also took part in the operation on Saturday to lift the IS-imposed blockade of the town, which is located about 180 km north of Baghdad. Iraqi planes have been targeting the militants positions since the forces started mobilizing against the extremists there.The residents of the town are facing a shortage of food and water and the humanitarian condition has been described as dire. UN had earlier warned that Shia Turkmen residents of the volatile town who are besieged by the IS could be massacred if urgent action was not taken to rescue them.