Bahrain activist charged over insulting tweets
Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was charged on Oct. 9 with insulting the ministries of defense and interior over his tweets that alleged Bahrain's security institutions were the first incubators for extremist ideology. Without naming Rajab, the public prosecution statement ordered his referral in remand before the Third Lower Criminal Court on charges of tort and libel in public against official institutions. A court date is set for Oct. 19. The charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to three years. Rajab, who is head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, previously served two years in prison for leading anti-government ptotests, and was released in May.
First US air-strikes on ISIS targets in Syria
The US carried out its first air-strikes against ISIS targets in Syria on Sept. 22. In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the US used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" launched from the USS George HW Bush in the Persian Gulf. Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not give details about where they took place. But an unnamed Pentagon official told NPR the strikes targeted positions near Raqqa, the ISIS de facto capital. Planes from five Arab countries participated in the strikes—also not named by Kirby, although FoxNews identified them as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. There was no indication that the Syrian government had been consulted on the strikes, as Damascus had demanded.
Rights experts to Bahrain: release political activist
Independent UN rights experts on Sept. 5 called on the government of Bahrain to release human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja due to the absence of evidence against her. Al-Khawaja was arrested in August upon her return to Bahrain and was charged with insulting the king and assaulting police officers. According to a post on al-Khawaja's twitter account, she has not been permitted to see a lawyer since her arrest. The rights experts expressed concern at the rash of apparent political imprisonment of individuals expressing their freedom of opinion, particularly human rights activists.
Arab intervention force against ISIS?
Egypt's former foreign minister, Mohammed al-Orabi, said Aug. 9 that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will coordinate with Arab countries to send military forces to confront ISIS. Orabi called for an "Arab Alliance" prepared "to repel any aggression or mobilization undertaken by ISIL against Gulf countries." He said "Sisi will intervene quickly to counter any aggression against those countries. Sisi will intervene immediately to protect them." (IraqiNews.com) The Pentagon meanwhile announced a new round of air-strikes, this time closer to Mount Sinjar, where the Yazidis remain beseiged. Read a statement by US Central Command: "US fighters and remotely piloted aircraft struck one of two ISIL armored personnel carriers firing on Yazidi civilians near Sinjar, destroying the APC." Kurdish Peshmerga forces with US air support opened a road to Mount Sinjar, allowing some 5,000 Yazidis to flee into Syrian territory. (Al Jazeera, AP via Lebanon Daily Star, AP via FoxNews) ISIS-held Mosul is reported to be partially without electricity or water. Foreign oil company personnel are flying out of Erbil, the Kurdish capital, where residents are arming themselves in anticipation of an ISIS assault. (Tehran Times) President Obama said that air-strikes will continue for as long as necessary. "I'm not going to give a particular timetable," he said shortly before leaving for a summer vacation at Martha's Vineyard. "We are going to maintain vigilance." (USA Today)
Kuwait: court upholds 10-year term for tweeting
Kuwait's Supreme Court on July 12 upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hamad al-Naqi, a 24-year-old member of Kuwait's Shiite minority, was also found guilty of spreading false news that undermined Kuwait's image abroad. The Supreme Court's decision is final and can only be commuted by the Kuwaiti Emir. An appeals court affirmed al-Naqi's sentence in October. The result drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned the decision as a "violat[ion of] international standards on freedom of expression." He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012, and was originally sentenced in June 2012. Al-Naqi has maintained his innocence, arguing that his Twitter account was hacked.
Bahrain files suit to suspend opposition group
Bahrain's Ministry of Justice on July 20 filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend all activities of the main Shi'ite opposition group for three months. The move comes after leaders of the Al-Wefaq party were charged recently with holding an illegal meeting with a US diplomat from the State Department. The lawsuit, however, does not mention the meeting, but rather seeks to suspend the party for violating quorum and transparency requirements. Al-Wefaq leader Ali Salman said his party plans to challenge the move.
Top Kuwait court jails activist over Twitter posts
Kuwait's Supreme Court on June 15 upheld the two-year jail sentence of an opposition online activist for writing tweets found to be offensive to the country's Emir. After the ruling, activist Hejab al-Hajeri said on his Twitter account that his "determination is bigger than their jail." Al-Hajeri, a law student in his early 20s, was sentenced by the emirate's lower court last April after it found that comments he made on his Twitter account were critical of the emir, Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The appeals court upheld the sentence six months later. Al-Hajeri has been out on bail, but now must serve the jail term, as the high court's verdicts are final. Criticizing the emir is illegal in Kuwait, and carries a jail term of up to five years.
Egypt: jihad against feloul?
Egypt's military is denying that its chief of staff, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah that he will run for president in elections that are still yet to be scheduled. The newspaper quoted him as saying he could "not reject the demand" of the people that he should stand. Former strongman Hosni Mubarak meanwhile said in an interview with an independent Egyptian journalist that al-Sisi would be the next president. "The people want Sisi and the people's will shall prevail," journalist Fajer al-Saeed quoted Mubarak as telling her at the armed forces hospital where he is being held in Cairo.
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