Saudi Arabia

Press was prone on drones, but cover blown

The media are suddenly abuzz with reports that the CIA has been operating a secret airbase for unmanned drones in Saudi Arabia for the past two years, from which it has launched numerous strikes on purported militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in neighboring Yemen—including those that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citizens who had never been charged with any crimes by the US government. The relevation follows the leaking to NBC this week of a confidential Justice Department memo finding that the US can order the killing of its own citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaeda or "an associated force"—even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the US.

Saudi court convicts Egyptian rights lawyer

A Saudi Arabian court on Jan. 15 convicted prominent Egyptian human rights lawyer Ahmed el-Gezawi of smuggling drugs. Despite requests from Saudi prosecutors for the death penalty, el-Gezawi was given a sentence of five years imprisonment and 300 lashes. El-Gezawi's arrest in April 2012 sparked protests outside the Saudi Embassy in Cairo by those who believe the activist was arrested for insulting King Abdullah, leading Saudi Arabia to close its embassy in Egypt for a week. Saudi authorities maintain that he was arrested for attempting to smuggle 20,000 anti-anxiety pills into the country. El-Gezawi had previously filed lawsuits on behalf of 34 Egyptians who were detained in Saudi Arabia without a stated reason. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the decision as a political sentence that violates principles of freedom of expression.

Saudi Arabia: blogger faces death penalty

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Saudi Arabia to dismiss a criminal case escalated last week to a senior Saudi court on apostasy charges. Website editor Raif Badawi, 30, was originally charged with "insulting Islam through electronic channels" for co-founding the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals, but he now faces the death penalty for renouncing Islam. After presiding over five sessions of the trial at the Jeddah District Court, Judge Abdulrahim al-Muhaydeef was replaced without explanation by Judge Muhammad al-Marsoom, who referred the case to the Public Court of Jeddah on Dec. 17 with a recommendation to try Badawi for apostasy. Shariah-based Saudi law is not codified and judges do not follow a system of precedent, but apostasy is a capital offense punishable by death. HRW claims that Badawi's arrest violates his right to freedom of expression. Badawi was detained by security forces in June. The website was originally founded in 2008 and included articles that were critical of senior religious figures, and has since been removed.

Unprecedented maneuvers in Strait of Hormuz

We have long been skeptical about incessant predictions from the Chicken Little crowd of an imminent US or Israeli attack on Iran. We've heard these predictions for years, and it still hasn't happened—yet none of those making the predictions ever seem to eat crow. And there has been plenty of evidence that the whole thing is a game of brinkmanship aimed at keeping Iran intimidated. But in recent weeks we have started to fear that the new circumstances in the Middle East may indeed be compelling the West towards war with Iran. Now, with two US warships headed for Libya, 25 nations led by the US are converging on the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz for naval maneuvers on an unprecedented scale. The idea seems to be to prevent Iran from closing off the strait in the event of war. Prominent partners in the 12-day exercise are the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (The Telegraph, Sept. 15)

Ex-Gitmo detainee surrenders in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of the Interior announced July 30 that a former Guantánamo Bay inmate who had completed the country's militant rehabilitation program surrendered to Saudi authorities. Adnan al-Sayegh, who was placed in the Ministry's rehabilitation program after returning from Guantánamo in 2006, escaped to Yemen and rejoined al-Qaeda. He expressed remorse when he surrendered himself to the authorities, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Interior. Sayegh argued that he was deceived into joining the terrorist group. He was placed on the country's wanted list in 2009 as the 85th most wanted terrorist. Authorities stated that he will receive proper procedure and that his surrender will be taken into consideration. The rehabilitation center was a measure by the country addressing the attacks initiated by Islamist militants during 2003 and 2006.

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