Greater Middle East

Saudi Arabia executes 37 for terror-related crimes

Saudi Arabia executed 37 men for terrorism-related crimes. Among those killed, 11 were accused of spying on behalf of Iran. Fourteen were convicted for offenses pertaining to anti-government protests. Most of the convicts were Shi’ite, and were predominantly from the country’s Shia-majority eastern province. One was arrested when he was 16 years old. Amnesty International harshly criticized the mass execution, charging that torture was used to secure forced confessions in some of the cases. Amnesty also said Saudi Arabia’s executing of those who were under the age of 18 at the time the offense was committed constitutes a violation of international human rights law. (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

Greater Middle East

Bahrain court sentences 139 on terrorism charges

Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced 139 terror suspects to prison terms ranging from three years to life in prison. The court also revoked the citizenship of all but one of those convicted. The accused were sad to be part of a network organized and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Bahrain’s ruling family is Sunni and most of those sentenced are believed to be Shia. The mass sentencing was immediately condemned by Amnesty International: “With these outrageous sentences, Bahrain’s authorities have once again demonstrated their complete disregard for international fair trial standards.” In February, Bahrain convicted 167 people of participating in a non-violent sit-in, and in a separate May 2018 trial 115 people were stripped of their citizenship. (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

Africa

Sudan: new Arab Revolution wins another round

Sudan’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was removed from power and arrested by the military, following months of popular protests that culminated in clashes between his loyalist security branches and the military. Armored vehicles from the military’s elite Rapid Support Forces have taken strategic positions around the capital. But protesters continue to fill the streets, chanting: “It has fallen, we won.” Opposition leaders are clear they will oppose any attempt at military rule. International rights groups are calling for Bashir to be turned over to The Hague to face genocide charges.

North Africa

Algeria’s victory: Arab Revolution reawakens?

Algerians flooded into the streets in celebration as long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his resignation following weeks of protests across the country. The ailing Bouteflika clearly stepped down to avoid being deposed by military. Hours before his announcement, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, commander of the National Popular Army, called for “immediate” application of Article 102 of the constitution, which calls for the removal of a president who is too incapacitated to serve. The resignation also came four days after some million protesters filled the streets of Algiers for a “Friday of the Seadfastness”—the sixth consecutive Friday of demonstrations calling for an end to Bouteflika’s rule. But a popular chant at the protests was “We want the implementation of Article 7″—which stipulates that “the people are the source of all power.” The movement is demanding an end to the entrenched military-dominated regime altogether.

Greater Middle East

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah released

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was released from prison after serving a five-year term. A prominent blogger and software engineer, he was once described by authorities as “the icon of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He was arrested in November 2013 on charges of organizing an illegal protest. Fattah’s release will not bring him complete freedom, as he will be required to sleep at a police station each night for five years and will be under close police surveillance.

Palestine

Escalation in Gaza; Orwell in Golan

Amid a new round of Israeli air-strikes on Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Donald Trump in Washington for the signing of a presidential proclamation officially recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory. At the joint press conference, Trump said, "We will confront the poison of anti-Semitism." We hope it is unnecessary to point out the perversity of Trump exploiting the threat of anti-Semitism to justify US recognition of an illegal Israeli annexation of Syrian territory. (Image: Ma'an)

Syria

Assad to The Hague —hope at last?

Even amid growing media portrayals that Bashar Assad has won the war in Syria, the first real hope has emerged that the dictator will face war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court. A group of Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after surviving torture and massacres submitted dossiers of evidence to the ICC in an attempt to prosecute Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which establishes the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers in London are citing recent precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction for the crime of forcible population transfers across international borders. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)

North Africa

Algerian protesters claim partial victory

Following weeks of mass protests across Algeria, long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he will not run for a fifth term—but also said elections that were set for April will be postponed, with no new date set for the polls. There has also been a government shake-up, with the prime minister stepping down. But protesters vow to keep the pressure, demanding that Bouteflika cede power immediately, and, increasingly, that his entire government resign. The protests are on a scale unprecedented since the 1990s when a military coup aborted a democratic process, precipitating a civil war. Algeria's army chief invoked this period in a stern warning to the protesters. "There are some parties who want Algeria to return to the era of extreme pain," Lt. Gen. Gaed Salah said. (Photo via Albawaba)

North Africa

Arab Revolution back on in Sudan, Algeria

Tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets to oppose plans by long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office. Police fired tear-gas at protesters in Algiers, and more than 50 officers were reported injured, with at least 45 people arrested. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has meanwhile declared a national state of emergency in response to ongoing protests across the country. Last week he dismissed his entire government and sacked all state governors, replacing them with high officials of the security forces. But protesters have continued to take to the streets and clash with police, in defiance of the state of emergency. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)

Greater Middle East

Bahrain upholds life sentence of opposition leader

Bahrain’s highest court  upheld a life sentence for Shi'ite cleric and opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, for spying on behalf of neighboring Qatar. According to Amnesty International, the case is based on conversations that Salman had in 2011 with then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani. Salman was initially acquitted, but sentenced to life in November 2018 by the court of appeals. This term has now been affirmed by the Cassation Court. Amnesty International called the verdict a "bitter blow to freedom of expression." The organization's Middle East director Samah Hadid said it "exposes the country's justice system as a complete farce. The decision to uphold Sheikh Ali Salman's conviction and life prison sentence following an unfair trial highlights the authorities' determination to silence critical voices." (Photo: Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain)

Africa

UN rights chief condemns Sudan repression

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the government of Sudan to protect its people's rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the face of mounting violence. Anti-government protests have swept across Sudan for weeks. Over 800 have been arrested, including "journalists, opposition leaders, protestors and representatives of civil society." The government has confirmed 24 deaths but other reports place the number at double that. There have also been reports of security forces following protesters into hospitals and firing tear-gas and live ammunition inside. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)

Syria
Rojava

Bolton goes to bat for Rojava Kurds?

Talk about strange bedfellows! This week witnessed the surreal spectacle of US National Security Adviser John Bolton, the most bellicose neoconservative in the Trump administration, visiting Turkey to try to forestall an Ankara attack radical-left, anarchist-leaning Kurdish fighters that the Pentagon has been backing to fight ISIS in Syria. “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton told reporters. Refering to the Kurdish YPG militia, a Turkish presidential spokesman responded: “That a terror organization cannot be allied with the US is self-evident.” Bolton left Turkey without meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then publicly dissed the National Security Adviser’s stance as a “serious mistake.” YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmud, in turn, shot back: “Turkey, which has been a jihadist safe-haven and passage route to Syria since the beginning of the conflict, has plans to invade the region end destroy the democracy created by blood of sons and daughters of this people.” (Photo: ANF)