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South African sisters held in Saudi prison speak of ordeal at UN testimony

Two South African sisters imprisoned in Saudi Arabia without charge spoke of their ordeal at the UN yesterday.

Yumna Desai, a former English teacher at the University of Ha’il in northern Saudi Arabia, and her sister Huda Mohammad, who had been married to a Saudi national, were imprisoned for a year without being informed of the charge for which they were being detained, Reuters reported.

“We were never given an explanation as to why we were arrested,” Desai said while giving testimony at an event on the side-lines of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland. “Detainees are left for unknown periods in solitary confinement. They are threatened with arrests and detentions of family members if they did not confess.”

Desai said that she had been held at Dhaban prison in Jeddah from 2015 to 2018. She wasn’t made aware of the reason for her arrest until a year later, when she found out she had been charged with unspecified “cybercrimes”.

During Desai’s testimony, representatives from member states heard about the suffering of children that were held with their mothers and of four women that had to give birth while in custody.

“I stand here today to give a voice to the voiceless, those detainees who have been physically and psychologically tortured, sitting there for years without trial, denied visits, phone calls, medical aid,” Desai went on to say.

Desai also informed the meeting that she had seen some of the dozen or so leading female women’s rights campaigners rounded up a year ago being held in the same prison wing. Their plight has been the focus of a worldwide campaign led by human rights groups, the UN and EU, as well as those British MPs following widespread allegations of torture and abuse.

While these campaigns have focused on some famous names among female activists in Saudi Arabia, Desai said that the fate of less-famous women also needed to be publicised.

“It is not just people like Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef or Samar Badawi, all of them who were in the same prison wing as me, that we should feel outraged about,” said Desai. Pointing out that their detention was “entirely arbitrary and illegal,” she also drew attention to all the women that were detained.

Her sister, Huda added: “Our arrest, like of many in the country, was violent and to this day remains a mystery.” She continued by saying “today we have submitted an official complaint on Saudi treatment to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”

The sisters were held with their two brothers, who were later released. The four siblings had been working in Saudi Arabia and have now returned to South Africa

Source : MEMO

Gaza sees mass protests denouncing Bahrain workshop

Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets this morning and gathered in front of the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza City to protest against the ongoing US-led Bahrain workshop.

Another rally was held in Khan Younis, in the centre of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The protesters called for boycotting the workshop, which took place yesterday and today in Bahraini capital Manama to discuss the economic aspects of the US “deal of the century”.

Demonstrators held a variety of signs saying “down with the Bahrain workshop!” while others shouted “no to normalisation with Israel!”

Ahmad Ali, an elderly resident of Gaza, said: “I participated in this day of rage to show my rejection of the conspiracy against my Palestinian cause.”

Shouting “down with the Bahrain workshop of shame!” student Ayman Asali added: “Palestine is not a problem of economy. It’s a problem of ongoing, oppressive [Israeli] occupation. End the occupation and our problems will be solved.”

Meanwhile Fawziyyah Judah, a representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), stated that “the main aim of the ‘deal of the century’ is to eliminate the Palestinian cause – the workshop in Bahrain is suspicious.”

Several activities were organised by governmental and non-governmental institutions to highlight the dangers of the so-called “deal of the century”, which makes no mention of political issues like the creation of a future Palestinian state. For the first time, Palestinians across Gaza and the occupied West Bank united against the workshop, observing a general strike across the territories.

Source : MEMO
Feature Image : Wafa Aludaini

US pushes Bahrain economic plan in absence of Palestinians

The Trump administration is seeking support for an economic plan it says will be a foundation for Israeli-Palestinian peace but which Palestinians and many others dismiss as pointless without a political solution.

On Wednesday, as a US-led peace conference was under way in Bahrain, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) reiterated its rejection of the $50bn plan, saying the proposal’s lack of political vision guarantees its failure.

The statement said the US wanted to sell a “mirage of economic prosperity” which would only perpetuate the Palestinians’ “captivity”.

It accused the White House of using the workshop as cover for Israel’s efforts to achieve normal relations with Arab states and grow its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

At the opening panel session of the Bahrain conference, International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, said that the fund’s experience in conflict-riven countries showed it can be a struggle to generate economic growth in such an environment.

Lagarde told the conference that growth in the West Bank and Gaza had to be “job intensive”.

“It cannot be any kind of growth in the West Bank and Gaza, it needs to be job intensive,” she added, citing agriculture, tourism and construction as sectors that “will absorb a lot of labour”.

A day earlier, White House adviser Jared Kushner – one of the architects of the economic plan – urged Palestinians, whose leadership is boycotting the event, to think outside the “traditional box” for an economic pathway that he said was a precondition for peace.

Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the event. READ MORE

In Gaza on Tuesday, Hamas and its rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas convened a gathering of leaders and activists in a rare show of unity to voice their rejection of the Manama conference.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh criticised Arab states participating in the workshop, which 300 delegates including Israeli and Palestinian businessmen are attending.

The conference aimed to finish off the Palestinian cause under the cover of economic and financial benefits, he said.

“The (Palestinian) people, who have been fighting for one hundred years, did not commission anyone to concede or to bargain. Jerusalem is ours, the land is ours, and everything is ours,” Haniyeh said.

Although US allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates discreetly support the plan, several Arab states, such as Lebanon, have stayed away while others including Jordan and Egypt, the two Arab nations that have reached peace with Israel, have sent deputy ministers.

The presence of Sunni Muslim Gulf states in Manama showed some want to encourage closer ties to Israelis – with whom they share a common foe in Shia Iran – that have largely been under the table, said David Makovsky, a US-based Middle East expert attending the event.

“(But) it’s clear they won’t bypass the Palestinians and do anything they don’t want,” he told Reuters news agency.

Hard sell

Washington hopes wealthy Gulf oil producers will bankroll the plan, which expects donor nations and investors to contribute $50bn to Palestinian and neighbouring Arab state economies.

Saudi minister of state Mohammed Al-Sheikh told the panel that Kushner’s plan was bolstered by the inclusion of the private sector as a similar proposal, relying heavily on state funding, had been attempted during the Oslo interim peace deals of the 1990s that eventually collapsed.

“While I accept that peace is essential, back then it was the hope of peace that got them actually excited and moving,” Al-Sheikh said.

But the “economy first” approach toward reviving the moribund peace process could be a hard sell as the political details of the plan, almost two years in the making, remain secret.

On Tuesday, Riyadh reiterated that any peace deal should be based on a Saudi-led Arab peace initiative that calls for a Palestinian state drawn along borders which predate Israel’s capture of territory in the 1967 Middle East war, as well as a capital in East Jerusalem and refugees’ right of return – points rejected by Israel.

Kushner said on Monday the plan would not adhere to the Arab initiative.

It is not clear whether the Trump team plans to abandon the “two-state solution”, which involves the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel.

The United Nations and most countries back the two-state solution, which has underpinned every peace plan for decades, but Trump’s team has consistently refused to commit to it.

Any solution must settle long-standing issues such as the status of Jerusalem, mutually agreed borders, Israel’s security concerns, Palestinian demands for statehood, and the fate of Israel’s illegal settlements and military presence in territory where Palestinians want to build that state.

Palestinian leaders are refusing to engage with the White House, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Breaking with the international consensus, Trump in 2017 recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating the Palestinians and other Arabs.

Across the great divide

The IMF says unemployment stands at 30 percent in the West Bank and 50 percent in Gaza, the economy of which has suffered from years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades as well as recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s rival in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Among the 179 proposed infrastructure and business projects is a $5bn transportation corridor to connect the West Bank and Gaza, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.
Some of them have been floated before and stalled for lack of underlying political or security agreements.

“The economic vision has to be linked to resolving the entire conflict, and this doesn’t bring the Israelis and Palestinians any closer together. So I’m not optimistic this plan can materialise anytime soon,” Makovsky said. READ MORE

Even at a break between sessions in Bahrain, differences between the two sides of the Israeli-Arab divide could be seen.

Israeli businessman Shlomi Fogel was in conversation with a UAE businesswoman. Asked for their views on Kushner’s approach of tackling economic issues first, Shlomi said: “If we wait for the politicians, it will take forever. We could do parts of this economic plan with the right support.”

The Dubai-based businesswoman suggested, however, that the plan was too ambitious to be put into effect anytime soon.

“There were efforts like Oslo that didn’t work out – and that was because of the Israelis,” she said. “You can’t assume the economics will work if the politics don’t move.”

Source : Al Jazeera
Image : (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Muslim lynched to death by Hindu mob

Indian police on Monday arrested five people for torturing a Muslim man, who later died of his wounds, in the latest suspected lynching incident by Hindu vigilantes.

A 10-minute video shows Tabrez Ansari, 24, being beaten by a group of men over accusations that he had carried out a burglary. Tied to a pole, Ansari is forced to shout “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram), a slogan used by Hindus, according to the footage, which has gone viral.

Talking to Anadoly Agency, Ansari’s wife Shaihista Parveen rubbished the charges of burglary and described it a hate killing.

“It was the night of June 17. My husband was returning from the city of Jamshedpur to the village, when some people stopped him. They tied him to an electric pole alleging that he was a thief. He was asked to chant Hindu slogans,” she said.

“He was beaten up mercilessly whole night. In the morning, they handed him over to police. But instead of taking action against those responsible for beating him, police sent my husband to jail on charges of burglary. He had received internal injuries and later died in the hospital,” Parveen said, in a choked voice.

She was married to Ansari just few months back. In a written complaint, she has held local police and jail administration responsible for negligence.

The in-charge of local police station Avinash Kumar, who has now been suspended, told media that people of Ghatkigeeh village had caught Tabrez Ansari after committing theft.

“The villagers handed him over to us. A case of theft was registered against him. We took him to the court, which sent him to prison. There is no negligence of the police in this case.”

Tabrez’s family has alleged that the attack was one of hate crimes. “If he was stealing, why he was forced to chant Hindu religious slogans?”

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered a probe by a special investigation team. The province has been in the limelight for incidents of mob lynching over past many years. According to a report by the Jharkhand Janadhara Morcha, a rights group, at least 12 people have been killed by the mob over the past five years. Out of them, 10 were Muslims, accused of carrying cows or possessing beef.

Most of the accused apprehended by police belonged to Hindu radical outfits.

A minister in the previous Narendra Modi government Jayant Sinha was criticized for welcoming the accused persons, convicted by a lower court for lynching a Muslim man Alimuddin Ansari to death, after they were out on a parole.

Sinha had also reportedly given financial help to the accused persons, to fight the case in the court.

Source : http://muslimnews.co.uk
FEature Image : unbumf.com

Evidence suggests Saudi crown prince liable for Khashoggi murder: UN report

There is credible evidence that high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are liable for the “premeditated” murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a UN human rights investigator said on Wednesday.

Agnes Callamard, a human rights expert who is a special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, said targeted sanctions on Saudis linked to the Saudi journalist’s assassination “ought to include the crown prince and his personal assets abroad”.

‘Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware’

– Agnes Callamard

She added that she had found no “smoking gun” directly incriminating the heir to the Saudi throne, but said it was almost certain he was aware that a plan to target Khashoggi was underway.

“Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances,” she wrote in the report.

“While the Saudi government claims that these resources were put in place by Ahmed Asiri, every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr Khashoggi, was being launched.”

Forensically cleaned

Khashoggi, who wrote for Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October by a Saudi hit squad.

The murder sparked worldwide condemnation of Riyadh, and a CIA report found that Mohammed bin Salman was almost certainly responsible for signing off on the operation.

  • Khashoggi’s killing “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which Saudi Arabia is responsible”
  • The Special Rapporteur found credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • The Special Rapporteur found credible evidence that crime scenes were forensically cleaned
  • Both Saudi and Turkish investigations into death fell short of international standards
  • Pathologist on murder team discussed dismembering body 13 minutes before Khashoggi arrived at consultate
  • Audio recording suggests a struggle involving likely asphyxiation using a bag lasted seven minutes

Saudi authorities have denied the crown prince was aware of the plot, or its botched cover-up, and have suggested instead that Ahmed al-Assiri, then deputy chief of military intelligence, and Saud al-Qahtani, a top royal aide, were responsible.

Eleven unnamed Saudis are currently on trial in Riyadh over the murder, though Qahtani apparently walks free and remains in contact with the crown prince, according to multiple reports.

Callamard found that both the Saudi and Turkish investigations into the killing failed to meet international standards.

Turkey has accused Saudi Arabia of being largely uncooperative, despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman agreeing to launch a joint investigation.

In her report, Callamard said Riyadh was under an “international obligation” to cooperate with Turkish investigators.

However, the special rapporteur “found credible evidence pointing to the crime scenes having been thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned”.

“These indicate that the Saudi investigation was not conducted in good faith, and that it may amount to obstructing justice,” she said.

‘Sacrificial animal’

The Turkish authorities played for Callamard a sound recording of Khashoggi’s killing obtained from the consulate.

In the recording, the report said, the hit squad’s leader, Maher Mutreb, and a forensic pathologist, Salah Tubaigy, could be heard discussing dismembering Khashoggi, who is referred to as the “sacrificial animal” by the former.

“First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished.”

Callamard called for the Saudi trial of 11 suspects to be suspended, adding that although it was a signficant step towards accountability, the judicial process failed to meet procedural and substantive standards.

“The trial is held behind closed doors; the identity of those charged has not been released nor is the identity of those facing death penalty,” she writes. 

“At the time of writing, at least one of those identified as responsible for the planning and organizing of the execution of Mr Khashoggi has not been charged.”

The report recommended that Khashoggi’s relatives be compensated for the killing and said that the package offered according to earlier reports was not sufficient.

“The special rapporteur obtained information regarding a financial package offered to the children of Mr Jamal Khashoggi but it is questionable whether such package amounts to compensation under international human rights law,” it said.

Source : MEE
Feature Image : pintrest

Egypt’s first freely elected President Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, has died at the age of 67 after a court appearance in Cairo, according to state media.

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, Morsi came to office in June 2012 after winning 51.7 percent of the vote in a national election, in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

However, just one short, roiling year later, Morsi’s time in office was cut short in a military takeover amid massive popular protests against his rule.

He was overthrown on July 3, 2013, in a coup staged by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and placed under house arrest before being moved to prison.

In 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.

He was also tried in several different cases on charges ranging from leaking intelligence information to collaborating with foreign forces to free prisoners from jail in 2011.

In 2016, he was handed a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state of Qatar.

He was on trial for a separate espionage charge when he collapsed in court and later died on June 17, 2019.

Early days with the Muslim Brotherhood

Morsi came of political age among the Muslim Brotherhood generation that demonstrated on university campuses in the 1970s, but he was not part of this protesting group.

“He wasn’t a student leader; he joined the Brotherhood relatively late,” said Abdullah al-Arian, assistant professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar who specialises in modern Islamist movements.

“Instead, he was what you might call a loyal member who deferred to the senior leadership, and because of his loyalty was rewarded through continuous promotion.”

Later, Morsi was part of the cohort that wedged a space for the Brotherhood under Hosni Mubarak’s government, earning himself a seat in Parliament in 2000. 

Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood enjoyed what scholar Mona el-Ghobasy calls “de facto toleration”. But the group occupied an uneasy space in Mubarak’s regime, especially after it won 20 percent of the country’s parliamentary seats in 2005.

Election fraud denied Morsi another term in Parliament and when Morsi spoke out, participating in a demonstration that supported judges who wanted more independence, he was sentenced to jail for seven months.

Political rise

Born in a conservative town on the Nile Delta, Morsi sketched an interesting political figure. He earned a PhD from a university in California, United States, headed the engineering department at one of Egypt’s biggest universities, and his profile on the Brotherhood website boasted a consulting stint with the NASA space programme (perplexingly, Morsi later deniedever having worked there in a local TV interview). READ MORE

Morsi took strong stances on social practices he viewed as blasphemous.

In 2011, he led a boycott of a major Egyptian mobile phone company because its owner had tweeted cartoon depictions of Minnie Mouse in a face veil. 

Four years earlier, he had been tasked with helping author a position paper for the Guidance Council, the Brotherhood’s ruling group.

The final mandates included a ban on women and Coptic Christians from serving as president, as well as the formation of a council of Islamic scholars to advise Parliament on the law. Their role would be extra-constitutional, but non-binding.

Bu by 2012, a newly elected Morsi had refined his stance.

“I will not prevent a woman from being nominated as a candidate for the presidency,” he told a New York Times reporter. “This is not in the Constitution. This is not in the law. But if you want to ask me if I will vote for her or not, that is something else, that is different.”

‘Man of the people’

The Muslim Brotherhood was navigating tricky political space when Morsi became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2012.

His successful campaign contradicted earlier claims by the Brotherhood that they would not run a presidential candidate.

When Morsi came to office, it was in the aftermath of a revolution, among a highly polarised population that gave him 51.7 percent of the vote.

According to Wael Haddara, one of Morsi’s campaign advisers, the president appealed to a public desire for a more accessible leader.

“The counternarrative that Morsi wasn’t a popular person, that Egypt needed a more charismatic figure, was not true … For the first four months, Morsi’s popularity [ranking] was in the stratosphere,” Haddara told Al Jazeera.

“He presented to people an accessible figure. A vast majority of Egyptians eking out a living, struggling to make ends meet, looked at Morsi as one of their own,” he added.

When Morsi swore an informal oath in Tahrir Square, he opened his jacket before supporters to show he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest. Upon taking office, one of his first decisions was to order the release of 572 prisoners that had been detained after the revolution by the army.

Morsi himself had been jailed during the 2011 uprising, before escaping in a mass prison break among other Brotherhood leaders and members of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Mistakes

Despite the widespread perception of Morsi as a man of the people, Egypt’s new president faced stiff political opposition and the hard ridges of a divisive post-revolutionary society.

The president was officially sworn into office two weeks after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued an interim declaration, awarding itself all legislative powers and effectively stripping Morsi’s office of authority. The lower house of Parliament, with its Brotherhood majority, had also been dissolved by Egypt’s Mubarak-era Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

“One of Morsi’s mistakes during his presidency was that he led people to assume that he’d taken the reigns of the state when in fact he hadn’t. He was simply put in a position to give people the idea that a real revolution had occurred. The state, meanwhile, was very much in the hands of the same people as it was under Mubarak,” said al-Arian. READ MORE

As Morsi navigated the political potholes of office, opposition politicians pelted him with criticism for what they saw as dictatorial manoeuvres to wrangle back power. In August 2012, Morsi nullified the SCAF declaration and put forth one of his own, allotting himself the power to pass laws and select a new constitution-drafting committee.

Morsi promised to forgo these expansive powers after the election of a new parliament, yet some still saw his decision as a political overstep.

The move was coupled with the forced retirement of Mubarak-era senior generals, political strongholds who had been entrenched in Egypt’s elite circles for decades.

“Morsi often talked about the idea that an individual may have an opportunity for change that will come along three times or even four times. You can blow your opportunity and another will come,” said Haddara. “Nations aren’t like that. You may have an opportunity once every generation, and January 25 represented that.”

Though Morsi was mindful of the sacrifices made during the January 2011 uprising before him, his efforts to push the country ahead were often stalled or criticised.

In November 2012, after garnering international goodwill for helping broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Morsi issued a decree that further broadened his executive powers and granted protection to the committee drafting a new constitution. The move was widely seen as a way to shield the committee from challenges by Mubarak-era judges.

“If we did not actually have a constitution, then we would be back to square zero,” said Haddara of the manoeuvre. “Much in the same way that the parliament was dissolved by an organ of the ‘ancien regime’, the fear here was that this would mean harking back to greater instability for the country.”

Yet, some outraged critics saw the move as unacceptable. By the time he revoked his decision 10 days later, Brotherhood supporters and leftists had already clashed outside the presidential palace in deadly street fights.

“When it comes to politics, it’s all about how you package your decisions as a leader. Morsi could have done a better job at presenting what he was doing. He was indeed trying to fulfil the demands of the revolutionaries, but because he had engendered so much ill-will – especially after a shameless media campaign that constructed an exaggerated image of him – when he finally did something, everyone was outraged,” said al-Arian.

Riddled with walk-outs by liberal, leftist and Mubarak-era politicians, the constitutional drafting process had been portrayed by some critics as an exclusionary endeavour, void of the potential for dialogue. Yet, in a televised address after November’s legal changes, one of Morsi’s advisers, Gehad al-Haddad, claimed that the “door is still open”.

Though the president had frequently been criticised for refusing to step outside his trust circle, supporters point to his efforts to be inclusive. In December 2012, Morsi’s appointments to the upper house of Parliament had been 75 percent non-Islamist affiliated.

And according to Haddara, throughout Morsi’s time in office, his popularity never dipped below 60 to 55 percent.

Yet Morsi’s presidency was complicated by the heavy economic frustration weighing on Egypt’s population. The currency’s value was faltering, and unemployment had ballooned to 13 percent – all the while, Morsi was failing to secure a loan with the IMF.

Haddara notes that, when Morsi came to office, foreign currency reserves had been sapped by SCAF. Even so, gross domestic product grew from 1.8 percent to 2.2 percent (against market prices) between 2011 and 2012, and Haddara claims that tourism registered a return to pre-2011 levels.

A mediascape saturated with bias, in which local TV stations were quick to criticise Morsi’s policies, labelled Brotherhood supporters as “terrorists” and cheered on air after the president was arrested, did not help the executive office’s image.

“There were real issues that cannot be minimised … On the other hand, the media exaggerated some of the challenges that were being depicted,” said Haddara, noting the “magical disappearance” of certain social and economic grievances once Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power.

Others complained that Morsi’s efforts had bumped against the bureaucracies and entanglements erected by a deep state. Morsi’s minister of supply said Egypt’s deep state was actively working against him, noting that gas stations raised their prices and did not implement a smart card system designed by Morsi that would have tracked fuel shipments.

“I don’t think that the Brotherhood ever maintained political power; instead, there was an illusion of power that they played along with,” al-Arian said.

Lambasted for doing too much in the political arena, but too little for gas prices and food security, Morsi attempted to pacify the population in one of his last speeches in June 2013.

“I have made mistakes,” he admitted, but the crowds gathered at Tahrir Square by then did not care for his conciliatory tone.

By this point, protests both in favour of and against Morsi’s removal were rolling across the country. Days later, Morsi was issued an ultimatum by the military to either step down or face a military coup. He was overthrown in the July 2013 coup, and placed under house arrest before being moved to prison.

Within months he went on trial, along with other senior Brotherhood figures, in a case related to the killing of protesters in clashes outside the presidential palace in 2012.

In April 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years on charges of ordering the arrest and torture of protesters in the case, but was acquitted of murder charges.

In September 2016, Morsi was handed a life sentence on charges of passing intelligence to Qatar. And in December 2017, he was also sentenced to three years on charges of insulting the judiciary.

Amnesty International has described Egypt’s judicial system as “horrendously broken” and called death sentences handed out to Morsi and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood in previous trials a “vengeful march to the gallows”.

In a report released by the Detention Review Panel (DRP) in March 2018, a panel of British MPs and lawyers warned that Morsi’s conditions of imprisonment had left him facing a “premature death”.

The panel, which was commissioned by Morsi’s family, said the former leader was “receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes, and inadequate management of his liver disease”. 

“The consequence of this inadequate care is likely to be rapid deterioration of his long-term conditions, which is likely to lead to premature death,” it said.

The panel said the conditions of his detention could meet the threshold for torture in Egyptian and international law. It added that el-Sisi “could, in principle, be responsible for the crime of torture”.

He was held at the infamous Tora Prison, also known as Scorpion Prison, where the DRP said he had been held in solitary confinement for about three years.

“[The prison] was designed so that those who go in don’t come out again unless dead,” said Major General Ibrahim Abd al-Ghaffar, a former Scorpion warden during a TV interview in 2012.

“It was designed for political prisoners.”

Source : Al Jazeera
Feature Image : (AP Photo/Ahmed Omar, File)

Saudi Arabia arrests, tortures scores of Palestinians

Scores of Palestinians living in Saudi Arabia have been arrested and tortured over their participation in charitable activities, Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience revealed yesterday.

The group, which reports on political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, released a series of tweets including details of the detentions and the circumstances surrounding them.

According to the tweets, Saudi intelligence services committed rights abuses and tortured the Palestinian prisoners during and after their arrest, mainly those working with businessmen Osama and Hisham Filali, Mohamed Bin Mahfouth, Warees Bin Mahfouth and Saleh Abu Ghosh.

Saudi security forces stormed the houses of the Palestinians at night, locked women and children in one room and confiscated electronic devices before arresting them.

Some 150 people have been arrested on the grounds of their charitable work, including businessmen and 40 Palestinians in Jeddah alone.

The tweets noted that all of the prisoners are prevented from contacting their families. Some are entering their second year in detention. “Families of some prisoners do not know anything about them even during Ramadan and the Eid,” the group said.

During the past months, Saudi security services carried out a wide and secret arrest campaign against Palestinians in the kingdom.  The Palestinian embassy in Riyadh has done to support those affected.

Saudi Arabia has arrested thousands of activists, intellectuals, clerics, journalists and businessmen over the past two years in an attempt to eliminate any possible opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Source: MEMO

Why Ace Magashule’s call for South African quantitative easing should be supported.

By Al Ameen Templeton

Quantitative Easing is a fraud; the US Fed and the ECB are printing money – the dollar and the euro are intrinsically worthless.

Presently, the world’s mature, stagnating economies – The US, EU and Japan – are being allowed to get away with it, but this is coming at enormous cost to the rest of the world.

They are ripping up the fabric of a multilateral world in the pursuit of depraved, short-term interests in a desperate attempt to shore up privileged access to foreign markets and products that are a legacy of the colonial period.

They not only want the privilege to continue, they want to pay for that privilege by simply printing worthless money.

Yes, as Stoddard’s stab at white-man honesty in the above quote notes, “there is an element of discrimination at play here”: white nations must be allowed to print money without question while darker nations must not. With them, it is a matter of sophisticated monetary experimentation; with us it’s just a “Mugabe option”, a grubby money grab that cannot be countenanced.

The latter is the truth.

QE has been described as “bailouts for billionaires” because the money doesn’t reach the retail level, it doesn’t reach ordinary people.

And the motivations for Magashule’s proposal are probably just as venal as those of the bankers in the US and EU who first proposed the policy.

A “Safari QE” would probably be just as elitist as anything washing about in the stagnating economies.

But the lie that it is is something that will not be confessed until the veracity is exposed when everybody starts to do it.

So, the sooner we start doing it the better. This scam needs to come to an end sooner rather than later, because it is not a victimless crime.

The upshot of current QE is consumers in emerging markets like South Africa are being forced to shoulder the obligations the labour aristocracy that is the consumer army in stagnating economies should be carrying.

Principal among these is a higher interest rate burden.

The QE tool works via central banks creating money to buy government and corporate bonds from banks, giving them cash to lend to the real economy. Driving up demand for bonds raised their price, causing the yield, or interest rate, to fall – which had the effect of slashing borrowing costs for the government, businesses and households.

That has caused a search for higher interest rates in other economies. The upshot is that emerging market consumers are being tied into macroeconomic agreements that attract portfolio flows into their economies, propping up their trade imbalances, but forcing them to maintain an interest rate set higher than the conditions in their domestic markets warrant.

So, we in South Africa are struggling under a repo rate as 6.75%. Our last repo rate hike – ostensibly to fight inflation – occurred last year November just after we’d slipped into recession after two successive quarters of negative growth. That hardly meets “overheating” conditions usually requiring a hike to cool down an economy.

The real reason we hiked rates, putting aside all our Reserve Bank’s posturing and spluttering, was in anticipation of an expected US Fed rate increase that duly came in December when the US Fed lifted US interest rates to 2.75%.

In other words, control of the economy or our ability to affect it has been taken from our hands. We in South Africa must endure higher interest rates irrespective of our spending habits. No matter how disciplined we are, our efforts at curbing our spending habits will have no effect – our interest rate will shadow US rates, irrespective of their consumers’ actions as well.

The stagnating economies of the US, EU, and the UK and Japan since the Credit Crunch of 2008 have issued – as a conservative estimate that ignores other stimulus programmes – well over $7trillion in quantitative easing money.

This is money they are showing no intentions of repaying, neither are they showing any ability to do so.

The UK has issued £345billion since 2008. The verdict on 10 years of quantitative easing

The European Central Bank pumped about $3trillion into the continental economy using QE. However, much like George W Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” proclamation in Iraq transpired to be premature, so too did the end to the ECB’s QE programme turn out to be nothing more than wishful thinking. European Central Bank confirms end of quantitative easing programme

By April this year, it was back on stimulus. ECB announces details of new targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTRO III)

The US has printed over $4trillion of QE money since 2008. Quantitative Easing Definition

As the Guardian newspaper mentioned faintly in May:

“The measures were designed for an emergency, yet still remain in place today, with the proceeds from any maturing bonds immediately used to fund more QE purchases. However, the fact that it has not been stopped – and that rates remain close to zero – indicate that the policy has not worked emphatically.”

As Andrew Sentence, an MP on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee who helped put together the quantitative easing superstructure, says: ““The real problem we have with the economy is that it (quantitative easing) hasn’t turned out to be an emergency measure, it’s turned out to be the status quo.”

In other words, the world’s stagnating economies have not reversed the process. They’ve flushed the system with cash as an emergency measure, but they have not reversed the process.

They have not withdrawn the money from the system. They have not repaid the money.

In other words, they’re being allowed to print money for free and to get away with it. Quantitative easing has turned out to be a scam. It is a “unprecedented experiment” – to use another mainstream, banking-economist euphemism – that has not worked.

The time has come to pay back the money.

But that is not going to happen any time soon.

And that is why Magashule’s call for a quantitative easing safari in South Africa needs to be supported.

What’s good for the goose is good for the guinea fowl. If they can do it, we can do it.

And we’d be damn fool not to. It would be like going to a gunfight with a knife.

Voters in the reservoirs of the world’s labour aristocracies are not going to vote for higher interest rates. They’re not going to say the dollar and the euro are worthless.

That’s our job.

‘Breaking the silence’: Report documents torture in Kashmir

By Rifat Fareed

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Prisoners in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subjected to abuse and torture, including “water-boarding, sleep deprivation and sexualised torture”, according to a report by two rights bodies.

The 560-page report released on Monday mentions solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and sexualised torture including rape and sodomy, used as torture techniques against Kashmiris.

Other torture methods included electrocution, hanging from a ceiling, dunking detainees’ head in water (which is sometimes mixed with chili powder), said the report by Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS).

During the torture detainees were stripped naked, beaten with wooden sticks, and bodies were burned with iron rods, heaters or cigarette butts, it said.

“Muzaffer Ahmed Mirza from Tral and Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo were subjected to insertion of a rod through their rectum. It caused multiple ruptures to their internal organs,” reads one of the 432 testimonies documented in the report.

“While Mirza died after a few days in the hospital of lung rupture, Naikoo had to undergo five surgeries to finally heal the wounds he received due to this torture.

“Apart from insertion, a cloth was wrapped around Naikoo’s penis and set on fire.”

Titled, “Torture – Indian state’s instrument of control in Indian-state of Jammu and Kashmir”, it said that more than 70 percent of the torture victims were civilians.

‘Rights violations’

India has stationed more than half a million security forces in the disputed Muslim-majority region to quash an armed rebellion against its rule. Indian forces have faced criticism for excessive use of force, with the UN human rights body last year calling for an international probe into rights violations.

The UN Human Rights Chief had also called for establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.

A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the conflict in Syria.

Rights bodies have called for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that gives forces immunity from prosecution.

The report, which documents cases since the start of the armed rebellion in 1990s, reveals many detainees were put under behavioural coercion where they were forced into activities that were against their “religious beliefs” like rubbing piglets on their bodies or forcing them to consume alcohol.

In some cases, it said, rats were put inside victims’ trousers after soaking sugar water on their legs.

“The prisoners are forced to eat or drink filthy and harmful substances like human excreta, chili powder, dirt, gravel, chili powder mixed water, petrol, urine, and dirty water,” it said.

‘Reluctant in reporting’

The report reveals most of the civilian victims were usually reluctant to report the atrocities due to the fear of reprisals at the hands of security forces.

“Victims have been randomly picked up, tortured and never even told what they were tortured for,” it said.

In a prologue of the report, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, said the report “will be enormously helpful in drawing attention in the international community to the need to express concern about India’s human rights record”.

‘Most underreported’

Parvez Imroz, the human rights lawyer and the president of JKCCS, told Al Jazeera that “torture is one of the massive human rights violations going on unabated in the region from last many decades”.

This report is an effort to break the silence around this heinous crime,” he said.

The Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir state, Dilbagh Singh, rejected the torture claims.

“There are no such cases, if there have been any allegations, there are magisterial inquiries and other investigations. If they have any such case, they must tell us and we would respond to them”.

Vijay Kumar, the advisor to the governor of the restive region, said that he would comment after reading the report.

Profile of torture victims

The report said that more than half of the 432 victims suffered some form of health complications after being tortured.

“In the 432 cases studied for this report, 24 are women. Out of these 12 had been raped by Indian armed personnel,” the report says.

The torture survivors have battled with psychological issues long after their physical wounds were healed.

“Of the 432 victims, 44 suffered from some form of psychological difficulty after being subjected to torture,” it said.

A study published in 2015 by Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF) said that 19 percent of the population in the region suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Although India has been a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) since 1997, it has not ratified the treaty to date. In all three UPRs conducted by the UNHRC in 2008, 2012 and 2017, it was recommended that India ratify the convention.

In 2010, Prevention of Torture Bill was introduced in the Indian parliament but was not passed and it lapsed in 2014.

Khurram Parvez, who is also one of the researchers for the report said that “the report is a challenge to state-imposed erasure of history and memory”.

Source : Al Jazeera
Feature image : ANA

UCT mulls plan to boycott Israeli varsities

UCT’s senate has agreed to a more consultative process on a proposal calling for the boycott of Israeli universities in occupied Palestinian territories.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the senate also agreed that the UCT executive would determine how the consultation process should be carried out, and the executive would work on the implementation of the consultation process.

The council did not adopt the senate’s resolution, and its view was that a number of issues required clarification, including a full assessment of the sustainability impact of the senate resolution, and that a more consultative process was necessary before the matter could be considered further.

This comes after the senate took a resolution in favour of a proposal for the institution not to enter into any formal relationships with Israeli academic institutions operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum said the boycott was devised by the academic freedom committee as part of a campaign for a boycott of all Israeli universities.

The forum said boycotting all universities condemned the state of Israel.

“Given that Israel routinely abuses Palestinian human rights, be it through racist laws, colonising Palestinian territories, demolishing Palestinian homes, unjustly imprisoning Palestinians, building walls, laying siege to Gaza or shooting children, we think that an academic boycott of all Israeli universities is justified as it would put pressure on the Israeli state to cease its illegal and immoral activities.”

The forum believes that Israeli universities are sites where the state’s ideology is promoted and reinforced.

Movement Progress SA chairperson Tami Jackson said: “If we accept an enforced academic boycott of Israeli institutions, we are bound in principle to accept an academic boycott of many other countries too.”

She said adopting policies against Israel would isolate UCT from the international academic community and damage its institutional reputation.

Source : Cape Argus, Sisonke Mlamla

Amnesty: Israel arms human rights violators UAE, Myanmar

A new report by Amnesty International has accused Israel of selling arms and intelligence equipment to serial human rights violators, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Sudan and Myanmar.

The report – which was published by Amnesty’s Israel office in Hebrew – found that “Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights” and that “often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself”.

The human rights organisation therefore called on Israel’s Knesset and Ministry of Defence (MoD) to “more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports,” Haaretz reported.

The Israeli daily translated large portions of the report, which argues that since “there are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports […] established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States, there is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

Amnesty continues: “The absence of monitoring and transparency [has] for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.” Eight such “questionable” states were named in Amnesty’s report, including South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and UAE, some of which were under sanctions and weapons-sales embargos at the time Israel sold its arms.

A number of the countries named in Amnesty’s report have previously been exposed as recipients of Israeli arms and intelligence equipment. The UAE, for example, is known to have purchased Israeli spyware firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software, a tool which has been used to hack into the iPhones of prominent activists, journalists and Amnesty International staff. Just this week, Amnesty announced that it was supporting legal action against Israel’s MoD to demand that it revoke NSO’s export license.

Meanwhile, Israel’s selling of surveillance technology and assault rifles to South Sudan, where the regime and army has committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity, has drawn fierce criticism from activists. In 2017, a group of Israelis petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to force the disclosure of the names of those Israeli companies involved in selling arms to the East African nation.

However, as today’s Amnesty report notes, “with no documentation of sales, one cannot know when [these arms] were sold, by which company, how many, and so on”. Amnesty adds: “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity [including] using rape as a method of war.”

Israel’s arms deals were thrust into the spotlight once again in 2017 by the crisis in Myanmar, which saw the Burmese military forcibly displace over half a million Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state, driving them into neighbouring Bangladesh. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights subsequently called for the Myanmar government to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity including ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In September 2017, Israel issued a gag order against its Supreme Court, forcing it to keep secret details of its ruling on a petition against arms sales to Myanmar. As a result, few details pertaining to the sales are known, with Amnesty’s report adding only that Myanmar’s chief of staff carried out the arms deal and apparently posted about it on his Facebook page.

Source: MEMO

Nakba Day: Palestinians mark 71st anniversary of ‘catastrophe’

Scores of Palestinians have been wounded amid protests to mark the 71st anniversary of Nakba Day, with demonstrations and marches across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Thousands gathered on Wednesday near the Israeli separation fence in eastern Gaza, the scene of weekly demonstrations over the past year.

According to the Gaza ministry of health, at least 47 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli soldiers during the protests. Witnesses said the soldiers fired live ammunition, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse protesters and keep them away from the fence.

The Israeli military said about 10,000 “rioters and demonstrators” gathered in several places along the Gaza Strip fence and that troops responded with “riot dispersal means”.

Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Gaza, said that the size of the crowd was modest compared to previous demonstrations along the fence.

“Hamas had been urging people to turn up in large numbers to protest what it calls the occupation and show resistance. This is day nine of the ceasefire here and it’s also a moment where people are trying to go back to ‘normal lives'”.

‘Catastrophe’

Wednesday’s rallies were called to mark Nakba Day, what Palestinians term the catastrophe that befell them in the war that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

For over a year, Palestinians in Gaza have been holding weekly protests along the fence, calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to the territory of today’s Israel, as well as for an end to a 12-year blockade imposed by Israel.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, since the launch of the demonstrations, the Israeli army has shot and killed 305 Palestinian demonstrators, including 59 children and 10 women.

Residents in Gaza City on Wednesday also took part in a general strike to mark the day of mourning. A mass walkout was staged in the city, with shop-owners closing their businesses.

“It’s a very sad day for Palestinians, it’s a black day for our people. Seventy-one years have passed, and God willing we’ll return to our homeland soon or later,” said Gaza resident Baker Ibrahim.

Eurovision protests

On Tuesday, the eve of Nakba Day, dozens of left-wing activists protested against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Tel Aviv, where the first Eurovision semi-finals were being held.

“We are here to protest against the endless bloodshed in Gaza,” said one of the organisers, Noa Levy.

Protesters carried banners reading “boycott Eurovision” and “songs and glitter cannot hide homeland being occupied”.

Ever since Israeli singer Netta Barzilai carried off last year’s prize with her spunky pop anthem “Toy,” earning Israel the right to host Eurovision, increasing numbers of cultural figures have pressured performers to pull out of the contest.

Dozens of European artists, led by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, signed a letter calling for the contest to be moved to another country.

Demonstrations have erupted outside television studios at a number of national finals.

Boycott activists stormed the stage during France’s semi-final round, raising fears of disruption at the main event.

Iceland’s performers have vowed to leverage their platform to show the “face of the occupation”.

Although the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led campaign advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, failed to compel any of the 41 national broadcasters to quit the competition, the campaign has drawn international attention to topics that Israel had hoped to avoid.

Scores of demonstrations to mark the day of mourning and Eurovision protest were planned throughout the country on Wednesday.

‘Deactivate Airbnb’

In another protest coinciding with the Nakba commemoration, campaigners called on supporters of the Palestinian cause to at least temporarily deactivate their Airbnb accounts on Wednesday to protest against its listings in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

After Israeli pressure, the company last month reversed course and scrapped plans to ban homes in settlements from listing on the site.

The decision has led to fresh anger from groups opposed to the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

A range of organisations including Jewish Voice for Peace and the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy have backed a call for an at least temporary deactivation, with organisers saying thousands had pledged to do so.

“Ultimately we would like Airbnb to reverse its decision but we know that won’t be easy,” Salem Barahmeh, executive director of PIPD, told AFP news agency.

“But I think what we ultimately want to do is end this culture of impunity where international companies are allowed to be complicit in supporting war crimes and Israeli settlements that have been responsible for displacing Palestinians.”

Airbnb declined to comment, pointing instead to its statement from the April reversal.

That statement says that while the company will not ban the illegal settlement homes it will give all profits from those listings to charities.

Campaigners say this does not stop the settlers from making profits.

Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the West Bank and range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

Settlements are built on land in Palestinian territories that Palestinians see as part of their future state.

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