Saturday, May 5, 2012

Egypt's generals wait in the wings as battle for democracy sours

In Cairo, violence flares between gangs and Islamists. In Alexandria, discontent grows as the country's politicians lose their way ahead of elections. And over them all looms the shadow of an army far from ready to give up power

Peter Beaumont in Cairo, Saturday 5 May 2012

".....Egypt's long-awaited presidential elections – the first round of which begins on 23 May – appear to be unravelling amid rising violence and protest. By the end of Friday, two people were dead, including a soldier; hundreds had been injured or arrested; and a curfew had been imposed by the army in the area where the violence was worst.

Once again, the most significant faultline of the protests – one that threatens to overshadow the election campaign – has been the growing rift between the generals and the political parties who would replace them when – or rather if – the army relinquishes power, as it has promised to do, on 30 June.

Some of those out protesting on Friday have special reason to despise them.....

But if the Brotherhood had hoped to pack the square that became the symbol of the resistance to both the Mubarak regime and military rule, they were to be disappointed, despite bussing in supporters from hundreds of miles away. The Brotherhood, once regarded as Egypt's most organised and potent political force, has begun to wane.

As the election nears, Egypt's fragile transition to democracy is slipping into turmoil. It is not just the killings, or the repetition of the generals' heated denials – on Thursday they insisted that they had nothing to do with the bloodshed, had no preference for who should be president, and had no desire to cling to power. It is that the process that was supposed to deliver a transition to democracy appears to have been undermined at almost every turn by Egypt's de facto rulers, creating a growing sense of disillusionment, not only with the army, but with parties such as the Brotherhood......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Deadly blasts target two Syrian cities

Al-Jazeera Video: Talk to Al Jazeera - Tawakkul Karman: 'He uses al-Qaeda'


"The Nobel Peace Prize winner believes that former Yemeni president Saleh is fomenting instability and trying to turn the country into another Somalia. We also speak to Mohammed Salim Basindawa, the prime minister of the new government."

New Ali Ferzat Caricature

Al-Jazeera Video: Kurds divided by Syrian uprising

"For centuries, the towns of Turkish Nusaybin and Syrian Qamishli were one, until politics put a border between them.

The governments of both countries have been hard on rebellious Kurdish minorities in the region. Now, with the uprising in Syria, many Kurds see the potential for major political gains.

While some want to play a greater role in the opposition, others believe Kurdish interests are best served by working with the Syrian government.

Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from Nusaybin in southeast Turkey."

Real News Video : Egyptian Protesters Attacked by Military

Jihan Hafiz reports on today's events in Cairo (Full report expected on Sunday)

More at The Real News

Take action now: Amnesty issues urgent alert for Palestine hunger strikers who are near death

By Ali Abunimah

"Amnesty International today issued a call for urgent action from individuals around the world to contact Israeli authorities about Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, two Palestinians men who are at immediate risk of death on their 67th day of hunger strike. Both are being held without charge or trial by Israel.

Amnesty’s call for Urgent Action begins:

Two Palestinian hunger strikers’ lives are in danger, as the Israeli Supreme Court has delayed ruling on the appeal against their detention without charge or trial. Other administrative detainees on hunger strike are still denied access to independent doctors.
Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh’s petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against their administrative detention was heard on 3 May, but the judges have yet to issue a decision. Both have been on hunger strike since around 29 February, and both have told their lawyers that they have been ill-treated by Israel Prison Service (IPS) staff and physicians

"Sin" has led to Middle East unrest: Saudi cleric

"(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's top religious official has blamed Muslim sinfulness for instability in the Middle East, where pro-democracy unrest has toppled four heads of state.

"The schism, instability, the malfunctioning of security and the breakdown of unity that Islamic countries are facing these days is a result of the sins of the public and their transgressions," Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by al-Watan newspaper.

In a Friday sermon, he accused "chaotic" people of wearing mask of "democracy and equality" for actions leading to injustice and instability within the umma, or Muslim nation......"

How Arab revolutionary art helped break the spell of political oppression

Graffiti, murals and other dissident art have transformed public spaces and mobilised public opinion in the Middle East

Julia Rampen and Laurie Tuffrey, Saturday 5 May 2012

"In January 2011 the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali fled Tunisia. Ten months later, his giant smiling face appeared on the side of a building in the busy port city of La Goulette. At first people just gathered beneath it and stared. Then they started to get angry. Urged on by the crowd, a group of men pulled the dictator's image down. The poster crumpled – and revealed a second poster: "Beware, dictatorship can return. On Oct 23rd, VOTE."

Half-ad, half-performance, this was one of the examples of art as political statement selected by Professor Charles Tripp, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, who spoke at the University of East London on Tuesday night. He argued that graffiti, murals, posters and other visual art forms helped to "break the spell" of dictators like Ben Ali, continuing to mobilise protesters against threats to the revolutionary ideals......."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Who do you consider responsible for the violence in Egypt?

1) The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
2) The conduct of the political forces.
3) Remnants of the old regime.
4) Other party.

With about 700 responding so far, here is the vote:

1) 48%
2) 24%
3) 21%
4) 7%

Libya: Revoke Draconian New Law

Legislation Criminalizes Free Speech

Human Rights Watch
May 5, 2012

"(New York) – Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) should immediately revoke a new law that bans insults against the people of Libya or its institutions, Human Rights Watch said today. The law also prohibits criticism of the country’s 2011 revolution and glorification of the deposed former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The law violates Libya’s provisional constitutional covenant and international human rights law, both of which guarantee free speech, Human Rights Watch said.

This legislation punishes Libyans for what they say, reminiscent of the dictatorship that was just overthrown,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It will restrict free speech, stifle dissent, and undermine the principles on which the Libyan revolution was based.”....."

الطائفية اولا.. التفتيت ثانيا

الطائفية اولا.. التفتيت ثانيا
عبد الباري عطوان

"....بعد حوالى نصف قرن بدأنا نسمع عن الاردن اولا، مصر اولا، سورية وبس، السعودية اولا، اماراتي وافتخر، ليبي واعتز، والقائمة طويلة لا مجال لحصرها في هذه المساحة.
الآن نترحم على هذه الظاهرة القطرية الصادمة، نحن الذين تربينا على قيم الوحدة العربية والانتماء الى عالم اسلامي أرحب، عندما نرى كيف تتآكل الدولة القطرية وتتفسخ لمصلحة صعود الطائفية والعنصرية، بل والانهيار والانحلال المجتمعي الكامل.
الهويتان الاسلامية والعربية تراجعتا كليا لمصلحة هويات مناطقية وطائفية ومذهبية ضيقة، فالعراقي وبعد حرب 'التحرير' الامريكية، ونشوء 'العراق الجديد' بات شيعياً او سنياً، كردياً او عربياً او آشورياً او كلدانياً، لم تعد هناك هوية اقليمية او عربية او اسلامية جامعة ومتعايشة.
النموذج نفسه بات ينتقل حاليا وبسرعة الى 'سورية القديمة'، مما ينذر بأن 'سورية الجديدة' ربما تكون نموذجاً مشوهاً للعراق الجديد، فقد بدأنا نسمع وبصوت عال عن هوية علوية متحالفة مع هويات درزية واسماعيلية ومسيحية وشيعية، في مقابل هوية سنية تشكل الغالبية الساحقة من المعارضة التي تقاتل النظام الديكتاتوري وتعمل جاهدة لإطاحته.
الوضع الليبي بعد التحرير يسير على المنهجين السوري والعراقي، فليبيا باتت ممزقة مناطقيا تحكمها ميليشيات متعددة المشارب والتوجهات العقائدية، وتتفتت على اسس قبلية ضيقة ايضا، فقبائل التبو في سبها تريد دولة خاصة بها، وقبائل الطوارق تتطلع الى اقتطاع جزء من شمال مالي وآخر من جنوب ليبيا لاقامة دولتها ايضا، اما قبائل برقة (بنغازي وجوارها) فتريد الانسلاخ عن 'الغراوبة' في طرابلس، والمصراتيون بات لهم كيانهم المستقل في الوسط!
' ' '
لبنان ممزق طائفيا وينتظر أن يشتعل هذا التمزق اعتمادا على ما يحدث في سورية، والصورة التي ستنتهي اليها الاوضاع فيها، والسودان خسر ثلث اراضيه بانسلاخ الجنوب، وربما يفقد الثلث الثاني بانفصال دارفور، والبحرين تواجه مستقبلا مجهولا ككيان مستقل، وضمها الى المملكة العربية السعودية لـ'تعديل' او 'تذويب' التركيبة السكانية فيها بات امرا غير مستغرب، اما الخليج العربي فيشعر انه مهدد ايرانياً، وهكذا اختلطت الامور سياسيا وعسكريا بطريقة مرعبة، فبعدما كانت هناك اتفاقات دفاع عربي مشترك، وأمن عربي مشترك، بات حلف الناتو هو الذراع العسكرية للأمة العربية، وتراجعت مؤسسة القمة العربية لمصلحة تكتل او تحالف هجين، ممسوخ بين العرب واوروبا وامريكا.
تحالف'أصدقاء ليبيا' بات الحلقة الاولى للتحالف الجديد الذي حلّ، محل الجامعة العربية والدفاع العربي المشترك، بل ومؤسسة القمة، الآن تطور هذا التجمع وتناسخ، وبتنا اليوم نتابع اجتماعات تحالف 'أصدقاء سورية'، وغدا سيكون هناك 'أصدقاء الجزائر' وربما 'أصدقاء السعودية'، و'اصدقاء مصر'، والحبل على الجرّار.
البيت العربي يحترق ونحن إما متفرجون نتبادل التهم، او نصبّ المزيد من الزيت، والعقل غائب او مغيب كليا، ولهذا من الصعب مخادعة النفس والإغراق في التفاؤل.

Israel and Palestine: Two states, two peoples

Israel's idea of 'two states' is based on expulsion of Arabs, so the Jewish character of its country is not threatened.

By Ben White

"........The relationship between "two states for two peoples" and Israel's policies of apartheid and ethnic purity was highlighted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's support for the law separating Palestinian spouses. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller praised the law for articulating "the rationale of separation between the (two) peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the (Jewish) character of the state", adding that if the law had been rejected, "it would have undermined the central argument justifying two states for two peoples".

There are echoes here of course with the rhetoric of apartheid South Africa's leadership: in 1948, the National Party's platform stated that "either we must follow the course of equality, which must eventually mean national suicide for the white race, or we must take the course of separation". Interestingly, former president FW de Klerk noted last year on the BBC that what he "supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely [that] separate nation states will be the solution".

The unpleasant reality at the heart of the "two states for two peoples" - a framework based on expulsion and exclusion - has become clearer as more and more Zionists link Palestinian "statehood" with the need to "save" Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state". In doing so, they unwittingly emphasise how only one half of that latter formulation is true."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Guardian Video: Egypt: violent clashes erupt at defence ministry

Fresh clashes between protesters and police broke out on Friday outside the defence ministry in the Abbasiya district of Cairo. The clashes follow similar violent clashes on Wednesday which resulted in the deaths of 11 people. The violence is said to have erupted when protesters ignored warnings not to approach the defence ministry after Friday prayers and began throwing rocks, Friday 4 May 2012

Syrian Security forces Attack Aleppo University

(Reuters) - Syrian security men and students wielding knives attacked a protest march at Aleppo University on Thursday, activists said, killing four and rounding up dozens of demonstrators who were demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down.

In an unusually bloody incident for Syria's hitherto fairly peaceful commercial hub and second city, video posted on the Internet showed young people chanting slogans against the ruling family and being drowned out by gunfire. Activists posted images of a bloodied corpse and what they said was a burning dormitory.

A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least four were killed and some 28 other students were wounded, three critically. Some 200 were arrested in the latest violence to breached a three-week-old U.N. truce.

Knife-wielding youths had joined the security forces in the attack on fellow students on the Aleppo campus, the group said, adding that teargas had been fired on what started as the latest of an almost daily series of peaceful protests by the students.

"Freedom forever in spite of you, Assad!" chanted the young demonstrators in a video shot in early morning twilight.

There was no comment from officials and it was not possible to verify the account from the northern city whose relatively prosperous, business-oriented population has been slow to join the 14-month-old revolt against the Assad's four-decade rule.

Syria's middle classes, and substantial religious and ethnic minorities, are fearful that an uprising dominated by Sunni Muslims, who form 80 percent of the population, against an elite around Assad, which is drawn largely from his Alawite minority, could descend into the kind of sectarian and ethnic bloodbath they have watched destroy neighboring Iraq over recent years.


From Aleppo, anti-Assad activists uploaded a picture of one young man who they said was killed, his shirt drenched in blood, and a video of a burning residence block, its windows shattered. Dormitory hallways appeared to have been smashed up and men were dragging furniture outside as students screamed.

The violence was one of many breaches of the three-week-old ceasefire in Syria, where 31 United Nations observers are touring to monitor the truce between state forces and rebels. Around 300 are expected to be deployed by the end of May.


On Thursday afternoon, protests again erupted at Aleppo University to denounce the overnight assault.

"It is hard to get any information from the students right now. The situation is tense. Security forces are surrounding the campus," said an activist in the city called Mustafa.

While most opposition areas in Syria have been overtaken by an armed revolt against Assad, peaceful anti-Assad protests had been staged almost daily at the university in Aleppo.

It is hard to assess if those protests reflect widespread sentiment among the younger generation native to the city or whether students living there who hail from rebellious hotspots like Idlib and Deraa might be taking a lead in Aleppo.

Assad & Netanyahou : Enemies of Syria

Al-Jazeera Video: Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports on Cairo clashes

Sullying the Holocaust

Lieberman's Ploy and Horowitz's Distortions


[Editors' Note: This piece by Nobel Peace prize winner Mairead Maguire was submitted to the New York Times. They declined to publish it.]

"In 2009 Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Liebermann ordered all foreign missions to distribute a 1941 photograph of the then Palestinian leader in exile, Haj Amin Al Husseini meeting Hitler. The motivation behind Liebermann’s order lay in international criticism of Israel’s decision to further expand its illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem; the not too subtle subtext being that as Palestinians are Nazis any policy implemented against them is justified.

This week the David Horowitz’s Freedom Center perpetrated the same historical distortion in its advertisement comparing college professors who advocate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel to the Nazi government’s persecution of Jews. Ignoring the political and human rights context in which the call for BDS has been made, and its ultimate aim of securing compliance with international human rights standards, its proponents are instead vilified as Jew haters and their opposition to illegal Israeli policies presented as hatred of ‘the Jewish state.’ Through a series of outrageous assertions their support for Palestinian human rights is linked to the Nazis, calls for genocide and the Toulouse murders.

The truth however is that the call for BDS lies neither anti-Semitic in intent or effect, but reflects the recognition that after 20 years of failed negotiations and almost 44 years of military occupation and illegal colonization, there is no means by which Palestinians can achieve their basic human rights and freedoms except through the activism of international civil society......."

Adieu Sarkozy?


"......The polls show that on 6 May around half of Le Pen supporters will vote for Sarkozy, but not enough for him to win. His defeat will mark an important moment: for the first time since 1995, France will have a Socialist president, and in a situation of deep economic crisis."

التضامن مع الأسرى الفلسطينيين

فاعلية التضامن
لكي يكون التضامن مع الأسرى فعالا، من المهم أن يتحقق التالي:
1- أن تقف الفصائل الفلسطينية بعيدا عن المشهد لأن تدخلها ومحاولاتها تصدر الاحتجاجات الشعبية تضامنا مع الأسرى تبعد جماهير الناس عن المشاركة. والبديل لذلك هو ترك شباب فلسطين يقررون ما يرونه مناسبا من نشاطات لأنهم ينطلقون من دوافع وطنية، ولا اهتمام لديهم بالاستعراض وإلقاء الأوامر على الناس.

2- حركة شباب فلسطين في الداخل والخارج تؤدي إلى صدام مع الاحتلال، وهذا يؤدي إلى استفزاز وسائل الإعلام العربية والعالمية للاهتمام بالقضية، ويجبر إسرائيل على البحث جديا عن حل لها.

3- أن تفكر فصائل المقاومة وبالذات الجهاد الإسلامي ولجان المقاومة الشعبية بصنع أحداث توتر الأجواء وتستقطب الاهتمام الدولي والإعلامي بقضية الأسرى.

4- أن نرى حركة من قبل قوى المقاومة والممانعة في المنطقة. قد يسقط شهداء بسبب الإضراب، ورفع الشعارات, أما إقامة مهرجانات التضامن فمضيعة للجهد والوقت.

التضامن القائم حاليا غير فعال، ولا تكترث به إسرائيل والدول الغربية، وإذا كان الهدف هو التضامن الجدي لمساعدة الأسرى فإنه لا ينفع مع إسرائيل إلا الإجراءات التي تهز أركانها.

Inside Syria's crackdown: 'I found my boys burning in the street'

Amnesty International reports the harrowing testimonies of the people of Idlib and nearby villages terrorised by regime forces

Donatella Rovera, Friday 4 May 2012

"Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis adviser, was in Syria for 10 days during the second half of April. Rovera has worked at Amnesty International for 20 years and has extensive experience of working in conflict zones, including Libya, South Sudan, Ivory Coast and Gaza. Here she reports some of the first-hand accounts of the brutal crackdown by the Syrian regime against its people.

"Soldiers came to our home and took my son. Later, as I was peering out of the window I saw soldiers line up eight young men standing facing the wall with their hands tied at the back and shoot them. Then they put the bodies in the back of a pick-up truck and left. I don't know if the men were all dead or injured. At that point I did not know that one of the men was my son. His body was found with other bodies at a school not too far from our home."......

The extra-judicial executions, the shooting and shelling of residential areas, and the deliberate destruction of homes, businesses and other properties in the Idlib area, are consistent with the pattern of violations inflicted by Syrian forces on the population in other parts of Syria where there have been opposition protests and/or armed opposition. Soldiers, members of the security forces, and the civilian leadership up and down the chain of command should know that such abuses constitute crimes against humanity and the claim that "I was just carrying out orders" will not keep them from being brought to justice – either in Syria or in other countries around the world."

Guardian Video: Syrian security forces raid university campus

Unverified footage purports to show Syrian security services storming student accommodation blocks on the Aleppo University campus on Wednesday night. According to activists and opposition groups, at least seven people were killed in the raids, and dozens more were injured and arrested. The reports have led to an outburst of anti-regime protests in the surrounding areas, Thursday 3 May 2012

The UN's Syria mission must monitor human rights abuses if it is to succeed

I heard accounts of executions by government forces in northern Syria – those responsible must be held accountable

Ole Solvang
(Researcher with the emergencies division and security adviser for Human Rights Watch), Thursday 3 May 2012

"Last week I visited several towns in Idlib, a governorate in northern Syria attacked by government forces during late March and early April, to interview those claiming to be victims and witnesses to government atrocities, on behalf of Human Rights Watch.

While there we documented accounts of executions of at least 35 people and the burning and destruction of hundreds of houses, shops, cars and other private property. The reported violations were shockingly brazen. In one street in Taftanaz, a small town of 15,000, pro-government militias appeared to have executed 16 people, most of them from the same family. In many cases the government forces seem to have deliberately burned and destroyed houses belonging to activists or opposition fighters as a form of punishment.

Shockingly, the way government forces operated indicates that they were not concerned at all that they might have to answer for their actions. In several cases witnesses told us they had recognised the soldiers who detained those who were later executed, as local agents for one of Syria's many security agencies.

But if the security forces counted on people being too afraid to tell their stories, they were mistaken......

....But any peace efforts will be seriously undermined if the government continues to blatantly commit abuses against its own population. Instead of scaring people into submission, the abuses committed during recent attacks in Idlib seem to have only strengthened opposition to the government.

That's why it is imperative that the UN mission currently deployed in Syria has a human rights monitoring component and that investigations and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity are a key part of the solution to the crisis in the country. Only then will it be possible to talk about a solution to the crisis in Syria."

Egyptians take Tahrir Square to the junta's doorstep

Violent clashes at Abbassia Square, a stone's throw from the defence ministry, suggest Egypt has a new battleground

Magdi Abdelhadi, Thursday 3 May 2012

"Egypt's military junta (known as Scaf, short for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), has learned to live with the vitriol and revolutionary bravado reaching it from Tahrir Square in the distant city centre.

But this time the "trouble makers" were getting too close for comfort. Abbassia Square, the scene of the latest bloody conflagration in Cairo, is just a stone's throw away from its inner sanctum: the ministry of defence, where Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the man who took over from his ousted former chief, Hosni Mubarak, has been at the helm for more than 20 years.

The square – close to another student hotbed of vocal opposition to the military, the campus of Ein Shams university – looked like a battlefield. Strewn everywhere were stones and metal bars pulled out of traffic fences to use as weapons in the battles that raged during the past few days......

The moral of this latest bloody interlude is that the military seems to have failed to learn the lesson from Mubarak. It is still pinning its hopes on turning the "average Egyptian" against the revolution. It may have scored some success, but only just. It's true, some of the Abbassia residents hated the protesters. So did the residents around Tahrir Square over a year ago.

The problem is that Scaf's greatest asset, Mr Average, by his very nature, does not drive history, because he defends the status quo. And he, like the calcified military junta, appears very much out of touch with Egypt's own zeitgeist.

Throughout the past year, Abbassia was the favourite haunt of the pro-army and pro-Mubarak crowds – today it appears set to become another Tahrir Square."

Tunisia: Persepolis trial verdict signals ‘erosion’ of free speech

3 May 2012

"A Tunis court’s decision to fine a TV boss for “spreading information which can disturb the public order” after he screened an animated French movie is a sign of the continuing erosion of free speech in Tunisia, Amnesty International said.

Nabil Karoui was fined 2,400 Tunisian Dinar ($1,500) after his station broadcast the animated French film Persepolis dubbed into Tunisian Arabic dialect in October 2011. The film was criticized for being blasphemous because of a scene showing a representation of God. Karoui’s lawyers have confirmed that he will be appealing the verdict.

“On a day that is meant to celebrate world press freedom, Tunisia has shown its failure to respect the basic right of freedom of expression. Nabil Karoui should not have been tried to begin with, let alone found guilty for exercising his right to peacefully express his views”, said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme.

Two others have also been found guilty of participating in the crime: Nadia Jamal, head of the organization that dubbed the movie into Tunisian dialect, and Alhadi Boughanim, responsible for monitoring programs. Both have also been fined.....

“While protecting public morals or public order may sometimes be a legitimate reason for restricting freedom of expression, such restrictions may only be imposed if absolutely necessary. This is clearly not the situation in these cases – people should not be convicted and sentenced for their views, even if these views are seen as controversial or offensive,” said Ann Harrison.

The convictions come amid growing complaints against what is seen as the government’s lack of will to implement freedom of the press and other media.

Journalists and activists have criticized the government for not enforcing new press and audiovisual laws passed in November 2011 which amend repressive provisions found in the old Press Law....."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian forces raid Aleppo University

Al-Jazeera Video: CloseInside Story - Is Syria's unrest spilling over into Lebanon?

"Syria has been named by rights groups and the United Nations as one of the world's worst censors.

While the opposition has been disseminating information online, the authenticity of those images is often in question. Those supporting the government, too, have been using video sharing websites to get their messages across.

Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Maryam Al Khawaja speaks to Al Jazeera

Al-Jazeera Video (Arabic): Min Washington

Egyptian Military Rulers Face Growing Unrest as 11 Killed in Pre-Election Clashes

Democracy Now!

"A mass protest has been called for Friday in Egypt after the killing of at least 11 demonstrators outside the Defense Ministry in Cairo. The attack came as hundreds protested the ejection of ultra-conservative Islamist candidate Hazem Abu Ismail from the pending presidential election because his mother has dual Egyptian-U.S. citizenship. The killings were the latest to fuel anger against the country’s ruling military council ahead of elections scheduled later this month. We get an update from Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo...."

Syrian Army: Army of Terrorists

Al-Jazeera Video: Women's rights in the Middle East

"We'll talk to Mona Eltahawy about women's rights and misogyny in the Arab world."

Illegal Settlements Bonanza: Israel Plots an Endgame

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

".....While Israel has now showed all of its cards, and the international community declared its complacency or impotence, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah continues to plan some kind of UN censure of the settlements. Even if a watered-down version of some UN draft managed to survive the US veto, what are the chances of Israel heeding the call of international community?

There is no doubt that Israel is plotting its version of the endgame in Palestine, which sees Palestinians continuing to subsist in physical fragmentation and permanent occupation. Unless a popular Palestinian uprising takes hold, no one is likely to challenge what is actually an Israeli declaration of war against the Palestinian people. "

Al-Jazeera Cartoon: The Syrian Regime and the UN

The Digital Age, by Emad Hajjaj

"The People Want The Fall Of....(Fill in the Blank!)"

US-Afghan pact won't end war - or night raids

By Gareth Porter
Asia Times

"The smoke and mirrors of the American administration's grand agreement with Afghanistan allow the United States president to go into a tight election race on a platform of ending a quagmire unpopular with US voters. But the real story is in fine print showing that the pact will not end the US war in Afghanistan, nor give Afghan leader Hamid Karzai control over night raids hated in Pashtun towns and villages......

Obama had hoped to lure the Taliban leadership into peace talks that would make it easier to sell the idea that he is getting out of Afghanistan while continuing the war. But the Taliban didn't cooperate......"

Egyptian protester killings disrupt presidential campaign

Men in civilian clothes attack mainly Islamist protest in Cairo, and several election candidates pause campaign activities

Peter Beaumont in Alexandria and Abdel-Rahman Hussein in Cairo, Wednesday 2 May 2012

"Egypt's fraught presidential election campaign has been thrown into crisis with the deaths of at least 11 protesters who were attacked by thugs armed with guns and knives outside the defence ministry in Cairo.

Men in civilian clothes attacked a largely Islamist group of protesters camped outside the ministry at dawn. The protest was started by Islamists several days ago over the disqualification from the presidential race of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an ultraconservative, and had been joined by other groups in a broader demonstration against the ruling military.

Nine died from gunshot wounds, many to the head, and two others were reported to have been stabbed to death. A number of leading candidates for the presidency, including Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who split from the Muslim Brotherhood last year, and Mohammed Morsi, who is standing for the Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice party, announced they were suspending their campaign activities, three weeks before the first round of voting.

Clashes continued throughout Wednesday morning between protesters and the unidentified assailants, who threw petrol bombs and fired live ammunition, birdshot and teargas, according to witnesses.

"There is a deluge of blood on the street which extends for many metres. One injured man had his back sliced by the thugs," said Abdelrahman Hany, a rights advocate at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, who was present when the attacks began.

Hany said he believed the attackers were linked to the state security apparatus. "How else would they possess teargas to fire at us?" he asked.

The deaths add to the already febrile air surrounding the elections, after veiled threats attributed to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to postpone the voting, and accusations from different sides of efforts to undermine the transfer to civilian rule......"

Israel: Stop Jailing People Without Charge or Trial

Prisoner on Hunger Strike Protesting Administrative Detention Near Death

"(Jerusalem) – Israel should immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention, Human Rights Watch said today.

Two men have been on hunger strike since February 29, 2012, to protest their situation, and an Israeli doctors’ group said that one of them is at imminent risk of death. The men have been denied access to their families, apparently as punishment for their hunger strike. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal of their administrative detention orders on May 3.

It shouldn’t take the self-starvation of Palestinian prisoners for Israel to realize it is violating their due process rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should stop holding prisoners for extended periods without charge.”

Around 2,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike to protest administrative detention and measures taken by the Israeli Prison Service, according to prison officials.

Bilal Diab, 27, and Tha’er Halahleh, 33, are currently in the medical facility in a prison in the Israeli city of Ramle. The men’s lawyer, Jamil al-Khatib, told Human Rights Watch that prison officials have denied both men family visits as a penalty for their hunger strike, and denied him access to his clients on May 1, without providing a reason....."

World Press Freedom Day: Repression in the digital era

"Blocking search engines, charging the earth for internet, torturing activists to get their Facebook and Twitter passwords, passing laws that control what people can (and can’t) talk about online.

These are just some of the ways in which nations from China to Iran, Cuba to Azerbaijan are preventing journalists, bloggers and activists from speaking out about human rights abuses.

In some countries, criticizing authorities online is so dangerous that, according to Reporters without Borders, 2011 was the deadliest year for online activists – with several 'netizens' killed in Bahrain, Mexico, India and Syria.

But journalists, bloggers and activists are coming up with new ways to by-pass internet controls and ensure their voices are heard by millions across the world.

“The opening of the digital space has allowed activists to support each other as they fight for human rights, freedom and justice around the world,” said Widney Brown, Senior Director for International Law at Amnesty International....."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Right group accuses Syria of 'war crimes'

"New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused government forces of going on a killing spree in opposition areas at the same time that officials in Damascus were sitting down with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to negotiate the terms of the truce in March and early April.

"Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the ceasefire to cause harm," said senior HRW researcher Anna Neistat on Wednesday. [See Report 7 Posts Below.]

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao has more."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you doubt the transparency of the upcoming Egyptian presidential elections?

With about 2,400 voting, 64% said yes.

Al-Jazeera Video: Eleven protesters killed in Cairo attack

"The number of people killed in street clashes in the Egyptian capital Cairo is rising.

Egypt's Interior Ministry says at least 11 people are dead.

While security forces have moved into the area, it seems the protesters are not letting up.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports on the ongoing violence."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria accused of war crimes

"Human Rights Watch is releasing a report accusing Syria's armed forces of war crimes. [The Report is Posted Below.]

The report focuses on Idlib province, describing how President Bashar al-Assad was allegedly launching attacks during the peace negotiations.

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Israel and the walls that surround it

"New border wall with Lebanon highlights Israel's precarious relationship with its neighbours. Kamahl Santamaria discusses with guests: Hisham Jaber, Gideon Levy & Gregg Roman."

Dozens of journalists, activists arrested as PA cracks down on dissent

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
The Electronic Intifada
Jerusalem 1 May 2012

"JERUSALEM (IPS) - The Palestinian Authority’s arrest of journalists and activists critical of its policies are threatening freedom of expression in the West Bank, according to local human rights groups.

“We monitored a new trend of arresting people and journalists and the oppression of freedom of expression,” Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, said.

“There are many people I’m sure that are afraid and will count to ten before they say anything. Maybe they’ll push people to speak underground instead of expressing their opinions freely.”....."

Israel closes inquiry into Palestinian family killed during Gaza war

Military says no action will be taken against soldiers responsible for shelling that killed 21 members of the Samouni family in 2009

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Wednesday 2 May 2012

"The Israeli military has closed its file on the killing of 21 members of a Palestinian family during the Gaza war in 2009, saying there were no grounds for criminal or disciplinary action against those responsible for the shelling of the house in which civilians were sheltering.

"None of the persons involved … acted negligently in a manner giving rise to criminal responsibility," concluded the military advocate general following an internal investigation. The decisions of the brigade commander "did not deviate from the boundaries of discretion that a 'reasonable military commander' operating in similar circumstances possesses".....

A report by South African judge Richard Goldstone on behalf of the United Nations examined in detail the Samouni family incident. It concluded the deaths were the result of "Israeli fire intentionally directed at them" in breach of the Geneva conventions.

The Goldstone report said Israel had repeatedly violated international law and possibly committed war crimes during the conflict, which Israel named Operation Cast Lead. It also accused Hamas of war crimes.

About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week conflict."

Syria: War Crimes in Idlib During Peace Negotiations

Executions, Destruction of Property, and Arbitrary Detentions

May 2, 2012


Click Here to Download Report (pdf)

"(New York) – Syrian government forces killed at least 95 civilians and burned or destroyed hundreds of houses during a two-week offensive in northern Idlib governorate shortly before the ceasefire, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The attacks happened in late March and early April, as United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan was negotiating with the Syrian government to end the fighting.

The 38-page report, “‘They Burned My Heart’: War Crimes in Northern Idlib during Peace Plan Negotiations,” documents dozens of extrajudicial executions, killings of civilians, and destruction of civilian property that qualify as war crimes, as well as arbitrary detention and torture. The report is based on a field investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch in the towns of Taftanaz, Saraqeb, Sarmeen, Kelly, and Hazano in Idlib governorate in late April.

“While diplomats argued over details of Annan’s peace plan, Syrian tanks and helicopters attacked one town in Idlib after another,” said Anna Neistat, associate director for program and emergencies at Human Rights Watch. “Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops, and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the ceasefire to cause harm.

Egypt must protect protesters amid Cairo clashes

Amnesty International

"The Egyptian authorities must protect protesters in the run-up to presidential elections on 23 May, Amnesty International said today.

A violent attack on protesters in Cairo on Saturday night reportedly left one person dead and scores injured. The attack, carried out by an unknown group of people, led to clashes which lasted into Sunday morning.

“The Egyptian authorities have three weeks before elections and it’s time they made sure security forces fulfil their responsibilities to protect protestors,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa....."

At least 15 dead in Cairo clashes, doctor says

Bikya Masr

"An Egyptian doctor volunteering at one of the makeshift hospitals in the Abbassiya district of Cairo assisting the wounded on Wednesday told the al-Dostour newspaper that at least 15 people have been killed in violent clashes that erupted massively on Wednesday morning.

According to activists, “army sponsored thugs” attacked the demonstrators near the ministry of defense on early Wednesday morning, firing live ammunition, Molotov cocktails and rocks at the unarmed protesters.

Hundreds of others have been injured in the clashes, which other doctors said saw “thugs” attacking the injured as they attempted to receive medical treatment at local hospitals.

Activists also said they were attacked by the thugs outside Ein Shams University early on Wednesday in clashes that saw bullets fired, Molotov cocktails and rocks used.

They said the thugs threw Molotov bottles from atop a bridge, injuring at least 200......"

Assange Episode 3: Torture & double standards of the West

Click Here to Watch the Full Interview

"The world's most famous secret-spiller Julian Assange is on RT again, speaking with Tunisia’s first post-revolution leader about the West’s double standards in protecting human rights.
Tunisia was the cradle of the Arab Spring and was the impetus for people in other countries in the region to struggle for freedom, democracy, and their rights. Some say, the final straw that triggered the revolution was WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables describing the President and his family as a mafia turning the country into a police state.

The current Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki is a former human rights activist. During the reign of the previous President he was imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement, which he considers to be torture.

Once elected Head of State, he has vowed to put an end to human rights violations in Tunisia.

Torture and the West’s double standards on the issue is indeed one of the hottest topics in this episode of the show.

Marzouki recalls how he was invited to the US to talk about the human rights situation in Tunisia with a man he believed was involved in the Guantanamo controversy.

Marzouki turned down the invitation.

“You cannot take seriously somebody who was implicated in torture in his own country,” he explained. “And then this guy is going to give you some lesson about how to promote human rights in Tunisia. This is why I did not accept to meet him.”

Taking into account human right activists’ opinions and balancing them with the duties of Head of State is just one of the fine lines Moncef Marzouki has to walk every day......"

Several protesters killed in Cairo attack

Army intervenes as at least nine people are killed during protest against military rulers outside Ministry of Defence.


"At least nine protesters have been killed by armed attackers near the Ministry of Defence in Cairo, Egyptian officials have said.

The unidentified assailants at dawn on Wednesday set upon several hundred protesters who have camped out in the Abbasiya area for days to call for an end to military rule in Egypt.

In response to the clashes, military and riot vehicles were deployed to the area later on Wednesday to quell the violence.

"Eight armoured personnel carriers from the military central zone entered the Abassiya area to disperse the fighting between protesters, and not to disperse the peaceful demonstrators," an army statement said. "However, protesters attacked the armed forces. The armed forces have orders to hold their ground."

Egypt's health ministry said dozens of people had been wounded in the dawn fighting with sticks, stones, batons and bullets. Low-level clashes continued hours after the initial attack.

The state news agency MENA said "thugs", some of them with guns, had assaulted the protesters.

The violence casts a shadow over the presidential election due to begin on May 23 and 24, with a run-off in June, and highlights the fragility of Egypt's transition to democracy which has been punctuated by violence and political bickering.

"This has been an ongoing sit-in for the past five days," Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reported from central Cairo, saying that the latest skirmishes began early on Wednesday morning in the neighbourhood near the Abbasiya subway station......"

Don't let Syria become Libya

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan must be allowed to mediate a real peace in Syria in lieu of a Libya-style redux.

By Hamid Dabashi

"New York, NY - All the indications are that the US and its regional allies are gearing up for a Libyan déjà vu in Syria. That is a dangerous and potentially catastrophic turn of events for Syria, and for the region at large, resulting in even more blood than the murderous Syrian regime has shed so far.....

Both Syrian regime and its nemesis abusing Annan

But it is now all but evident that at least the more belligerent factions within the ruling regime in Syria is trying to abuse the Annan plan to try (in vain) to crush the uprising once and for all. The Assad regime is, of course, criminally ignorant - and that is the case not because the Saudis or the US are trying to abuse the situation to their advantage, but because the Syrian uprising, long in process and integral to the rest of Arab revolutions, will not die and will resurface.

It is in the nature of these transnational uprisings and the synergy among them that, in the long run, no single nation can be robbed of its revolution - neither by their own corrupt ruling regimes nor by the ludicrous hypocrisies extending from Riyadh through Tehran and Tel Aviv to Washington DC.....

But the world at large is now heroically and imaginatively liberated from the criminal atrocities of the geopolitics of the region that wishes to safeguard the Israeli garrison state at all cost - costs that become quite steep during a US presidential election year. In that geography of despair, now finally exposed and overcome, Saudi Arabia, the US, and Israel become beacons of democracy, and the combined calamity of the ruling regimes in Iran and Syria, plus their client operators in Hezbollah become "the resistance front". It is the obscenity of that equation that is once and for all exposed for what it is: an obscenity......"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Land theft then and now : North America and Palestine

(Click on maps to enlarge)

هذا التصعيد السياسي المذهبي إلى أين؟

"معركة كلامية لا تتوقف بين رئيس الوزراء التركي أردوغان، وبين نظيره العراقي نوري المالكي، ويتطوّع الطرفان والمتحدثون باسمهما في الردِّ والهجوم على نحو غير مسبوق، بينما "يحج" المالكي إلى طهران في زيارة ليومين لا يمكن النأي بها بعيدا عن جهة التصعيد مع الجار التركي، فضلا عن عموم الوضع الذي تعيشه المنطقة وفي مقدمته الثورة السورية. وتصل الحفاوة بالضيف العراقي حدّ الحديث عن وحدة بين البلدين (إيران والعراق)!!
زيارة أحمدي نجاد للجزر الإماراتية المحتلة، لا تبتعد عن التعاون الإماراتي في تطبيق العقوبات الغربية على إيران، والتي أخذت تلقي بظلالها على الاقتصاد الإيراني المتعَب
بات الاستنفار المذهبي في أعلى تجلياته بعد انحياز إيران وحلفائها للنظام السوري، ومدِّه بكل ما يحتاج من المال والسلاح والدعم السياسي
مشهد بالغ التعقيد والخطورة من دون شك، ولن تتفكك رموزه قبل بلوغ الكثير من الملفات العالقة مداها، الأمر الذي قد يقنع سائر الأطراف بالجلوس إلى طاولة الحوار والتفاهم على قواسم مشتركة تخدم الجميع بعيدا عن الحشد المذهبي، وبعيدا عن لغة الاستخفاف بالآخرين، وفي ظني أنه من دون شفاء إيران من مرض غرور القوة الذي يتلبسها، وصعودٍ عربي يخلق توازنا في عناصر القوة، لن يبدأ الحوار بشكل متوازن.

في خاتمة هذا الصراع لن يبقى نظام الأسد، ولا بد من عودة التوازن للساحة العراقية، ومعها اللبنانية، من دون أن يعني ذلك تقليلا من شأن إيران، لأن الأخيرة مهمة بذاتها من دون هذه الملفات، فضلا عن حاجتها كدولة إلى الاهتمام بشأنها الداخلي ورفاه مواطنيها، بعيدا عن دولة المذهب الشيعي، ذلك الذي يمكنه التعايش مع غالبية الأمة السنية من دون تحريض في حال ساد التفاهم السياسي.

الربيع العربي بدوره سيفضي بعد زمن يصعب الجزم بمداه إلى إحداث تغييرات في أنظمة الحكم على نحو يعلي من شأن الإنسان، بصرف النظر عن عرقه ومذهبه (يشمل ذلك مظالم الأقليات في الدول العربية وفي إيران)، ولتكون النتيجة صيغة أقرب إلى التعايش، وربما التعاون؛ غير بعيدة عن تلك التي وصلت إليها أوروبا بعد حروب أهلية وبينية (بعضها بنكهة مذهبية أيضا) كانت حصيلتها عشرات الملايين من الضحايا، والأمل أن تمر هذه المرحلة (عربيا وإسلاميا) دون الكثير من الضحايا والدماء.

وإذا حدث ذلك فستكون المحطة التالية هي حسم الصراع مع المشروع الصهيوني الذي يشكل عدوًا مشتركا للجميع، مع قدر كبير من التحرر من تبعات الهيمنة والابتزاز الخارجي الذي يتكسب من سياسة "فرق تسد" ويعمل على تعزيزها بكل ما أوتي من قوة.

Al-Jazeera Video: Inside Story - Unemployment in the age of austerity

Al-Jazeera Video: Middle East commentator discusses Syria violence

"The Syrian government has been blaming al-Qaeda for Monday's attacks in Idlib and Damascus.

Rami Khoury, director of Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in Beirut, tells Al Jazeera: "There are probably some al-Qaeda inspired terrorists groups who are operating in Syria.

"Some of them came from Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been operating for many years in Syria but the Syrian government had them under control. It is possible that some of them have resurfaced again.""

Al-Jazeera Video: Deadly blasts strike Syria's Idlib

"Syria's state-run news agency says two blasts in the northwestern city of Idlib have killed at least eight people and caused serious damage, amid appeals by the head of the UN observer mission in the country for both sides to stop fighting.

SANA said civilians and security officers were among those killed in Monday's bombings.

State media blamed the attacks on "armed terrorists", a term it uses to describe those trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad...."

Real News Video (with Transcript) : Egyptian Workers' Struggle Continues

Thousands of workers fired at Shebin el-Kom factory, part of corrupt privatization deal

More at The Real News

UN "Observers" in Syria, by Emad Hajjaj

Imperialism didn't end. These days it's known as international law

A one-sided justice sees weaker states punished as rich nations and giant corporations project their power across the world

George Monbiot, Monday 30 April 2012

".....The bid for power, oil and spheres of influence that Bush and Blair launched in Mesopotamia, using the traditional camouflage of the civilising mission; the colonial war still being fought in Afghanistan, 199 years after the Great Game began; the global policing functions the great powers have arrogated to themselves; the one-sided justice dispensed by international law. All these suggest that imperialism never ended, but merely mutated into new forms. The virtual empire knows no boundaries. Until we begin to recognise and confront it, all of us, black and white, will remain its subjects."

The Egyptian revolution can still fulfil its promise

Women's rights are under attack in Egypt. We must support civil society in the face of attempts to restrict personal freedoms

Olga Ghazaryan
The Guardian

"Having lived through revolutions in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, I should have known that revolutions are notoriously hard to predict. There is a messy chaos between the hope, euphoria and promise, and the stark reality of what comes after toppling a hated regime and before building a new future. What I saw on my week-long trip in Egypt in April was a revolution in need of intensive care.....

There is still a palpable sense of hope, enthusiasm, and a mushrooming of association and self-organisation, but no real sense of a vision for the endgame. The discourse is dominated by a social conservative agenda; Islamic ideologies seem to have become a force shaping this new history, using democracy as a pretext for introducing the "diktat of the majority" to restrict personal freedoms. Whether this agenda spills over into public life will be determined by who wins the religious state versus civil state argument.

All policies in Egypt seem to be under scrutiny with a risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water – women's rights seem to be the ones thrown out first. There are only eight women MPs in the parliament. Tellingly, the Freedom and Justice party has fielded a socially conservative woman as MP, who has come out publicly against women's freedoms. There is also a perception that policies imposed by Suzanne Mubarak have given women more rights than they "deserve", and the hardliner Salafist discourse under the disguise of Islam has triggered increased encroachments on women's rights – one example is the re-emergence of voices in support of female genital mutilation – a practice that is banned in Egypt......

The revolution in Egypt continues; it is far from over and may unfold in unpredictable ways. At the moment it is in need of intensive care to live through this dangerous, and yet immensely exciting, phase and fulfil its promise. We all want to be there with the people of Egypt, helping them to make it happen."

Palestinian TV station sued as journalists fear media crackdown

Websites have been closed and Wattan TV is facing court after it investigated alleged corruption linked to the Palestinian Authority

Harriet Sherwood in Ramallah, Tuesday 1 May 2012

"An independent Palestinian television station is facing a potentially crippling court case next week amid growing evidence of a clampdown by the Palestinian Authority on freedom of expression and journalists critical of its activities.

Wattan TV is being sued for $1m (£600,000) over an investigation into alleged corruption at a Palestinian university. It claimed that the son of a senior PA official was offered a place at the university despite having failed to meet academic requirements. The station, which says it has evidence to support its allegations, fears that some of its executives could face prison sentences and that freedom of speech in the Palestinian territories will be curtailed.

It follows the resignation last week of the Palestinian communications minister in protest at the PA's blocking of at least eight websites that criticised President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mashour Abu Daqa said the closure of the sites was "bad for the image of the [PA] in the modern world" and that restricting access to information was a form of corruption. "Blocking websites is against the public interest. I oppose it without exception," he said....."

Israeli negotiation expert has NHS workshop cancelled after union protests

Unison says it objects to lessons in conflict resolution by Professor Moty Cristal as it 'supports the Palestinian people'

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Monday 30 April 2012

"A National Health Service workshop due to be led by an Israeli expert on negotiation, conflict resolution and crisis intervention has been cancelled after union objections.

Professor Moty Cristal had been invited to lead a session for managers and union officials in Manchester next week, entitled The Role of Negotiation in Dealing With Conflict, run by the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. But on Friday he received an email from the workshop organisers cancelling the event after pressure from the trade union Unison.

The session was cancelled, said the email, "on the grounds that it is Unison's policy and also that of the Trades Union Congress to support the Palestinian people"....."

Bahrain: Free Protest Leaders Immediately

Al-Khawaja’s, Others’ Only ‘Criminal’ Acts Were to Exercise Basic Human Rights

April 30, 2012

"(Beirut) – Bahraini authorities should free Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 13 other jailed leaders of last year’s anti-government protests immediately, Human Rights Watch said today. More than a year after they were arrested, the Bahraini authorities have produced no evidence that the jailed leaders were doing anything but exercising their basic human rights......

“The military court’s original verdict was absolutely mind-boggling – it did not mention a single actual criminal offense beyond acts relating to their basic human rights,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and his co-defendants should not have to spend even one more day in prison for so-called crimes of speech and peaceful assembly.”........"

Bahrain urged to release Al-Khawaja as appeal of activists announced

30 April 2012

"A Bahraini court has announced that prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and 13 opposition activists jailed for their role in anti-government protests last year will be granted an appeal, prompting Amnesty International to renew its call for their immediate release.

The appeal will take place in a civil court. The sentences imposed on Al-Khawaja and 20 other activists, seven of them tried in absentia, have however not been quashed. Fourteen of the activists, including Al-Khawaja, might all remain in custody for the duration of their appeal, except for one.

The Court of Cassation said Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh’s original sentence was flawed and it was reduced from two years to six months imprisonment. The activist is expected to be released today.

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and the 13 other activists – who are all civilians - should not even be on trial in the first place, let alone tried in a military court” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Programme Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

They have done nothing but peacefully express their point of view and must be released immediately.”

Amnesty International considers Al-Khawaja and the 13 other prominent opposition activists held with him to be prisoners of conscience, held for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Al-Khawaja’s health has seriously deteriorated since he began a hunger strike some three months ago in protest at his unfair imprisonment.

His family visited him in hospital on Sunday and have told Amnesty International that he has been force-fed.

He explained to his family that on 23 April, a nurse gave him an anaesthetic. When he woke up, he had a tube going from his nose to his stomach feeding him liquids......."