Monday, May 30, 2016

Bahrain: appeals court more than doubles jail sentence of opposition leader

Manama: Bahrain’s Court of Appeals on Monday toughened a sentence against Ali Salman, the secretary general of Al Wefaq Society, the most important opposition force in the country. It did this by including a charge dropped last year by a lower court.Under the new ruling, Ali Salman will have to spend a total of nine years in jail after he was also convicted of the more serious charge of “promoting the overthrow of the political system through the use of force and threats.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

String of explosions in government hold provinces in Syria kill more than 100

Scene of one of the explosions in Tartous (Photo SANA).

More than 100 people have been killed in multiple attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria, a monitoring group said.
Syrian state TV also reported the attacks, putting the death toll at 65.
Simultaneous car bombs and suicide bombers in bus stations, hospitals and elsewhere in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh in Latakia province on Monday appeared to severely breach Assad government defences, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans.
Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turkish parliament lifts immunity of HDP-members

The Turkish Parliament has approved a controversial constitutional amendment to lift the immunity of 139 MPs. Deputies from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are now expected to be arrested on terror-related charges and an anticipated wave of social unrest.
Some 376 out of 550 deputies voted in favor of the motion in the second and final vote on May 20, comfortably passing the required 367 majority to have it approved without the need to go to a referendum. The first and second clauses of the amendment were accepted in the second round of voting, with 373 and 374 votes respectively.
Proposed by the 316-seat ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and heavily backed by the 40-seat Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the draft received 357 votes in the first round of vote as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP deputies did not vote in favor.
However, it is believed that around 20 lawmakers from the CHP voted in favor of the motion in the second round in order not to cause a referendum that would jeopardize the societal order.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hezbollah commander Badreddine blown up in Syria

Hezbollah's top military commander Mustafa Badreddine has been killed in a blast at a base near Damascus airport, the Lebanese Shi'ite group said on Friday, one of the biggest blows to its leadership the Iranian-backed organization has ever sustained.
Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said there were clear indications of who was behind it, and the group would announce the outcome of its investigation within hours. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. At least one Hezbollah figure blamed the group's age-old enemy Israel, which has struck Hezbollah targets in Syria several times in the past. Israel declined to comment. Hezbollah also has many other foes in Syria, where it fights in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Hezbollah fighters and leaders gathered at a mosque in Hezbollah's stronghold in southern Beirut and gave Badreddine a military funeral, waving Hezbollah flags. They chanted Shi'ite religious slogans, as well as "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Speaking at the funeral, Qassem also vowed that the group would continue on the "path" of Badreddine.
In a letter, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif extended condolences "for the martyrdom of this great jihadist.
Badreddine, 55, is believed to have been in charge of Hezbollah's military operations in Syria.
He is the most senior Hezbollah official killed since 2008 when his brother-in-law, long-serving military commander Imad Mughniyeh, was blown up by a bomb planted in his car in Damascus that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.

At least four prominent figures in Hezbollah have been killed since January 2015. A number of high-ranking Iranian officers have also been killed, either fighting Syrian insurgents or in Israeli attacks.

Hezbollah said it was investigating whether the explosion at the base was caused by an air strike, a
missile attack or artillery bombardment. It did not say when he was killed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Heavy sentences for two Turkish journalists who reported weapons transport

Erdem Gül (left) and Can Dündar. (Foto Milliyet)
Two prominent Turkish journalists were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing state secrets on Friday, just hours after a gunman tried to shoot one of them outside the courthouse in Istanbul. Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, who was unscathed in the shooting, was given five years and 10 months. Erdem Gül, the newspaper's Ankara bureau chief, was sentenced to five years. They were acquitted of some other charges, including trying to topple the government.The case, in which President Tayyip Erdogan was named as a complainant, has brought widespread condemnation from global rights groups.
Hours before the verdict was handed down, an assailant attempted to shoot Dündar. In full public view, before a courthouse.The man shouted "traitor" before firing at least two shots in quick succession. A reporter covering the trial appeared to have been wounded. The assailant was detained by police. "We experienced two assassination attempts in two hours: one by firearms, the other by law," Dündar told reporters following the trial."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Syrian refugee camp bombarded, village near Aleppo taken

An air strike on a camp for internally displaced Syrians near the country's border with Turkey has killed at least 30 people, activists said. The attack on the camp in Idlib province on Thursday also left dozens injured. A number of those killed were children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatoryfor Human Rights.
The Observatory said the dead included women and children and the death toll from the air strikes was likely to rise. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, said activists were split on whether Russian or Syrian planes were behind the attack.
"Many in the opposition believe that with strikes like this there's proof the government is not serious about the cessation of hostilities,"Khodr said.
In the night of Thursday to Friday rebels meanwhile seized a village from government forces near Aleppo overnight.

Turkey's Davutoglu quits because of rift with Erdogan

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister and leader of the ruling AK Party, has said he will not seek a new term after last-ditch talks aimed at easing tensions between him and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Davutoglu held a news conference on Thursday after a gathering of the party's central executive committee. "I came to the conclusion [a change in] leader of the party and the Prime Ministerial position would serve a better purpose," he said. "This must be carried out in a peaceful way, keeping with the integrity of the party."
After a 90-minute crisis meeting on Wednesday that local media described as critical for Davutoglu's future, domestic news organisations CNN-Turk and NTV reported that an extraordinary congress would likely signal his exit. The congress will be held on May 22. Reports from Turkey suggest that Erdogan had demanded Davutoglu's resignation following yesterday's meeting. According to AKP convention, the posts of party boss and head of government always go to the same person.

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.