Clashes in Tahrir Square as Egypt tensions mount

Tahrir Square was sealed off as police continued to fire tear gas into the early hours of Wednesday
Bloody clashes between protesters and anti-riot police raged in Cairo's Tahrir Square into the early hours of Wednesday, as frustration mounts with Egypt's military rulers over the pace of reform.
Witnesses said the overnight disturbances, which left up to 80 people injured, were some of the most violent in months in the square, which was the focal point of protests that forced veteran president Hosni Mubarak from power in February.
They accused loyalists of the ousted leader of stirring up the violence after municipal councils they dominated across the country were dissolved by court order on Tuesday.
A security official told AFP that around 4,000 people were in Tahrir Square during the night and that the clashes left between 70 and 80 people injured.
Activists called for an open-ended sit-in in the square. The ruling military council warned of a plot to destabilise the country.
The April 6 Movement, one of several behind calls for a popular uprising, urged "all Egyptians to head to Tahrir Square."
It said a protest to push for democratic reforms that was scheduled for July 8 "will begin today and a sit-in will carry on until there are clear signs that the demands are met."
But the army called on protesters not to give in to "schemes" aimed at sowing chaos.
"The regrettable incidents in Tahrir Square... are designed to destabilise the country and pit the revolutionaries against the police," the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said in a statement.
The clashes "have no reason behind them except to destabilise Egypt's security and stability in accordance with a carefully thought out and organised scheme," SCAF said.
The interior ministry said a football match between bitter Cairo rivals Ahly and Zamalek would be played as scheduled on Wednesday evening, after the Egyptian football association had said it was cancelled.
A white cloud of smoke hung over the square before dawn as security forces repeatedly fired tear gas to try to disperse the protesters who numbered in their thousands, an AFP photographer reported.
The interior ministry blamed families of victims killed in the uprising saying some of them stormed a theatre where a memorial service was being held for those who died.
A security official said that clashes erupted and the families were then joined by hundreds of protesters who began to throw rocks before heading to Tahrir Square.
But activists said police beat the families who had been barred from joining the service.
"After being denied entry .... clashes erupted between protesters and security guards at the theatre. The police showed up and started beating the families of martyrs," pro-democracy activist Arabawy wrote on his blog.
Nearly 850 people were killed during the popular revolt that brought an end to Mubarak's 30-year rule.
Witnesses told AFP that buses unloaded young men armed with sticks and knives, and accused loyalists of the old regime of stirring up the trouble.
After protests erupted against Mubarak's rule on January 25, the authorities deploying hired thugs in a bid to quell the unrest.
Tuesday's clashes broke out just hours after a Cairo court ordered the dissolution of municipal councils across the country, all of which were dominated by members of Mubarak's now disbanded National Democratic Party.
"I don't think the timing of these clashes is a coincidence," one witness told satellite channel ON TV.
"It came just after the dissolution of the local councils, a decision which I'm sure will make many people (from the old regime) very angry," the witness in Tahrir Square said.
Television footage showed protesters chanting: "the people demand the fall of the Field Marshal," referring to Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power when Mubarak stepped down.
Protesters who first took to the streets to demand the overthrow of Mubarak, have begun to shift their anger to the ruling military council, accusing it of using Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent

Middle East water wars

Middle East Magazine
2011 June
 www.africasia.com: www.africasia.com/themiddleeast/me.php?ID=2864

Increasingly, water is becoming a catalyst for confrontation across the Middle East region; a focus of national security, foreign policy and domestic stability.
Israel's feud with the Palestinians over dwindling West Bank water resources stymied a European Union effort on 13 April to secure a water management strategy for the Mediterranean region, where 290 million people face shortages by 2025. The same day, Egypt categorically refused to sign an agreement on sharing the waters of the River Nile with nine African nations.

In March, Israeli troops shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian and critically wounded another teenager in a clash with Jewish settlers over a well near the flashpoint city of Nablus in the West Bank. That's an extreme case, to be sure. But it reflects the swelling tension in the Palestinian territory, which Israel is slicing up with its security barrier and annexing a large chunk of land Palestinians want for a future state. The Palestinians claim Israel is stealing their water, while the 400,000 Jewish settlers are up in arms because they fear they will be forced to abandon the West Bank as part of a peace deal. The bloodshed in Nablus, many fear, is a portent of the battle ahead as the water shortage goes beyond crisis, worsened by years of drought, growing Israeli requirements and on the Arab side, poor conservation and planning.

Water drying up
Across the Middle East, the region's main rivers and aquifers are a source of conflict. Turkey's ambitious dam-building programme has cut the water flow of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers through Syria and Iraq. The Nile, at 6,560km the world's longest river, is increasingly in contention between Egypt, Sudan and eight other African nations. The Palestinians and Lebanese accuse Israel of stealing their water.

The much-plundered Jordan River, which flows from the Sea of Galilee (the Israelis call it Lake Kinneret) into the Dead Sea, has been reduced to a trickle. Friends of the Earth Middle East, an environmental organisation, warned in a 3 May report that large stretches of the Jordan, which the Bible described as "overflowing", could dry up by next year. Israel, Jordan and Syria have diverted some 98% of the river and its tributaries over the years. Only 20-39 million cubic metres flow through it now, a tiny fraction of the 1.3 billion recorded in the 1930s.

Hedi Larbi, the Beirut-based Tunisian director of the World Bank's Middle East Department, noted in a 2009 report on combating water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: "It is almost a feat that the Middle East, which is plagued by conflicts, has so far managed to avoid major water wars, even though water is a life-and-death economic issue for the people of the region. "But for many of these nations, which already are treading the razor's edge of conflict, water is becoming increasingly a catalyst for confrontation - and an issue of national security and foreign policy as well as domestic stability."

Iran tightens its grip on the "new'" Iraq

Meddle East Magazine
2011 June
According to the Americans, the Islamic Republic suffered a ‘stunning defeat' in Iraq's dead-heat parliamentary elections in March, but Tehran's ‘invisible general' may well prove them wrong. By Ed Blanche.
On the face of it, the unexpectedly strong showing of Iraq's secular coalition, including majority Shi'ites and
minority Sunnis, in the March parliamentary elections was a major setback for Iran's strategy of turning its adversary since antiquity into a vassal state, or at least one that could no longer threaten the Islamic Republic. But the stampede of politicians of all stripes to Tehran to find a way out of the deadlock between the major winners, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's Shi'ite-dominated State of Law coalition and former premier Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqiya alliance, provided eloquent testimony as to who calls the shots in Iraq these days.
It may take weeks, or even months, to determine who will be able to forge a new government in Baghdad. But as US forces withdraw, one way or the other, through subterfuge or bloodshed, the Iranians are likely to emerge as the dominant force in a land which could surpass even Saudi Arabia as the world's greatest oil power, one that they have feared and fought for millennia. "The major US concern is the future of Iraqi-Iranian relations, or, more precisely, Iranian influence in Iraq," according to Dawsan Al Assad, a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for International Studies at the University of Baghdad. "How Iran uses that influence, meanwhile, will be decided by how the United States and Israel react to Iran's continuing defiance over its nuclear programme," he noted in March.
Seizing the opportunity
If Iran succeeds in adding Iraq to what King Abdullah II of Jordan fearfully calls the emergent "Shi'ite crescent" from the Gulf to the Levant, the despondency in the other Sunni states in the Gulf, to the Hashemite kingdom and Egypt, will be immense, and no doubt signal further intrigues to halt Iran's expansionist ambitions. Safa A. Hussein, a former air force general now with the Iraqi National Security Council, observes that some of his country's neighbours "believe that Iraq with its resources and potential, once it re-emerges, could affect the region unfavourably from their standpoint.
"They believe that now is the time to influence developments in Iraq to their benefit. Some regional countries want Iraq, because of its geography, demography and resources, to become part of the Iran-Arab and Shiite-Sunni rivalry. In past years they tried to exploit sectarian tensions in Iraq towards that end."
David Ignatius, a US-based columnist who has travelled extensively in the Middle East, noted in March that the Iraqi election was a "stunning defeat" for Iran because the results fell far short of what Tehran wanted: a pliant, if not submissive, government in Baghdad. Ignatius noted that the election was particularly galling for the Iranian officer, Brig Gen Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Al Quds Force, a secretive unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that has responsibility for clandestine operations outside Iran.

Bahrain Military Trial A Chapter Straight Out of Stalin's Textbook

Ghazi Farhan plays with his son
Manama: These are our friends ... Gasy and Alaa and two wonderful people.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - 2011.06.29
For the first time in its history, Bahrain has embarked on mass military trials of hundreds of civilians on fatuous charges of crimes against the state. While more than 1,000 remain in detention, the opposition estimates that 400 are going through the process of military trials and 100 have been convicted so far. The swift summary justice churned out in these tribunals are a throwback to early 20th century Stalin show trials, designed to punish and humiliate dissenters. One of those being tried is my husband, Ghazi Farhan. On June 21, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Having been born and educated in the UK, I moved to Bahrain in 2009 to marry Ghazi Farhan, a 31-year-old energetic businessman, leaving a respectable job in Cambridge to start a new family life in the land of my ancestors. Little did I imagine that in 2011, when the Arab Spring hit the shores of this island, it would be swiftly nipped in the bud, and would sweep my blossoming family along with it.
On April 12, on his way back from his lunch break, my husband was abducted from his office car park. Blindfolded, handcuffed and taken away by unknown plain-clothed men. Some 48 days later, he was summoned before the Orwellian-named "National Safety Court", a military tribunal. He was charged with participating in an illegal assembly of more than five persons (having visited the Pearl Roundabout) and spreading false information on the internet (referring to a single Facebook comment). Therein began an extraordinary ordeal of Ghazi's military trial and his sentencing.
Using Stalin's textbook
Joseph Stalin introduced "the show trial" - secretive military tribunals that bypass the judiciary - during the Great Purge of the 1930s. It appears that Bahrain has taken a chapter straight out of Stalin's textbook, in which verdicts are predetermined and then justified through the use of coerced confessions, obtained through torture and threats against defendents' families. The only new addition to this chapter is that the government of Bahrain has insisted, since the 1980s, on airing these filmed confessions on state TV - often with the defendant apologising to the king. Ayat al Qurmuzi, a poet sentenced to one year's imprisonment for reading a poem critical of the king, had one such confession aired, possibly to pave the way for some kind of royal pardon.
Credible reports from now-free detainees who were held with Ayat have said how a toilet brush was forced into her mouth. All those on trial are "traitors to the state", says the relentless propaganda of hate speech, spewed on state media - a chapter in the Arab Tyrant's manual that could have been written by Goebbels. The media has described protestors as "termites" and Shia as "the evil group"; they have dehumanised "the other", who deserve treatment worse than animals.
Since March, hundreds have shared a similar experience to mine. There are several stages to the ordeal that are particularly distressing for all involved. The first stage is the sudden arrest, in a dawn raid or at a checkpoint, or in some cases, at work, and then they are taken away to an unknown location by unknown forces and for long periods of time. In Ghazi's case, 48 days.

Ghazi Farhan plays with his son
The agony of families
I have compared this to the feeling of losing a child in a supermarket - and then discovering they have been taken hostage by the same forces you would usually expect to seek protection from, and with a justified fear of the victim's abuse, torture and maybe even death. At the peak of the crackdown, four men were killed in police custody within a space of nine days. Often, police deny they have any record or knowledge of the person when their families try to locate them. This may be true, for the National Security Agency is a supra-national organisation, with the power to do what it wants with total impunity. In my husband's case, I read a confirmation of his arrest on Twitter a few hours later. That is how this wonderful social media is now being used, by the same security agencies that have been driving a brutal crackdown on the very people who had earlier used the technology to mobilise, publicise and criticise openly.
After living on hope that the detained will be released without charge, the second stage of the ordeal that was particularly disturbing for the family is when the victim is suddenly dragged to the military court and charged. Very few get an opportunity to call their families or to request a lawyer beforehand.
The military court buildings in Riffa are relatively new. Built in 2007, one wonders if they were built with its current use in mind. Upon entering, one is only allowed to carry their ID card, no watch, no paper, no pens, no jewellery - not even a wedding ring. I had to remove my headscarf and earrings during the painstaking electronic and hand search. There is an army officer standing every couple of metres in the lobbies and court rooms. This building, with only two courtrooms, was clearly not designed to handle this number of trials in one day. Female detainees are held in the lawyers' room for lack of space, male detainees are made to stand in the sun because of overcrowding in their holding cells and lawyers have to hang about in the lobby - as their room is now occupied by the female prisoners.
The waiting room is cramped full with mothers, sisters and wives who haven't seen their loved ones for months, the worry weighing heavy on their brows, the outbursts frequent and quickly suppressed. I get given some friendly advice from a young woman who was in her final sitting: "Firm up your heart, my dear, the first time you see him will be tough. If they hear you even whimper, you will be taken out - as I was."
God help the guilty
There is a long wait before the sessions usually begin. With no watches or clocks, the wait seems endless. I catch a glimpse inside the holding area as an army officer opens a door, I see the defendants lining the walls of a holding room facing the walls in silence. Their fate is decided here, not by God, but by a remorseless military judge. What you look like, what you say, what you do, what you feel is strictly controlled here. Their heads are shaven, and they know the words they are allowed to say. The judge has a looming pile of cases he needs to get through swiftly and promptly during the next hour.
When Ghazi first appeared in court he was visibly shocked and disorientated. To suddenly be paraded in a courtroom in front of three judges and read a list of serious charges you hear of for the first time, and told to plead guilty or not guilty, while overcoming the emotions of catching a glimpse of his loved ones after such a long time. It was overwhelming. He had lost at least 10kgs of weight, his eyes were bloodshot, and there were red marks around his hands - a result of sitting for several hours blindfolded and handcuffed. If innocent men are treated this way then God help the guilty.
This whole spectacle is designed to degrade, punish and humiliate. Does military justice for civilians ever seek to achieve otherwise? Once you enter the courts, you realise that they themselves a tool of repression. It has become clear to me that the verdicts are preordained, and the trials are merely to offer a very thin veneer of legitimacy. For despite the best efforts of our lawyer in presenting a strong defence, the maximum sentence was passed. On June 21, Ghazi was found guilty of all charges against him and sentenced to three years in prison. 
This fateful verdict is the third stage of the ordeal shared by many. I had come to expect the worst at this point. The complete disregard of the strong defence plea made by the lawyer is a testament to the political motivations behind the judge's verdict. The fact that Ghazi had not once been able to consult with his lawyer before the trial is a violation of due process since the verdict is preordained. The lawyer himself tells me he feels he is being used as a prop in these staged trials. He tells me we must carry out our act to appease our own consciousness. How uncannily Kafkaesque this all is.
A case among cases
In one of the sessions that I attended, alongside Ghazi's case was an array of seemingly absurd cases. These involved a bodybuilder accused of attacking an Asian expat, three overweight young men accused of stonethrowing, one man who pleaded guilty of driving speedily at a checkpoint, and a photographer sentenced to five years for fabricating a photo.
As in Stalin's era, a purge such as this needs its special show-piece trials. The first of the key show trials that most recently concluded - with sentences reaching life imprisonment - was of 21 key opposition leaders accused of plotting to overthrow the regime. The second, and in my view much more abominable, is the trial of 47 medical workers - including the best consultants in Bahrain - again on ludicrous charges of trying to overthrow the regime. They are expected also to receive severe sentences. Though my husband's trial is a relatively minor one, the personal ordeal I have described is shared among all.
Military tribunals are being used as the primary vehicle for political justice in order to confer an element of legitimacy. Due process is compromised for speed and efficiency. The use of torture, even death, in a place beyond the rule of law, suggests that the use of military trials is tactical. This is what makes the use of military justice attractive to authoritarian rulers seeking a forum where outcomes of hearings are, for the most part, preordained.
Today, the best of the best in Bahraini society are being dragged through military courts. Doctors and nurses are being punished for treating protesters, teachers and engineers for participating in a national strike, footballers for protesting - academics, journalists, students, businessmen are all dragged through the ordeal of this military court. As Human Rights Watch testifies, this is a "travesty of justice".
These military courts must be disbanded and prisoners of conscience must be released immediately. Such show trials undermine the rule of law by forcefully reinforcing the regime's sense of power and control - and are not sustainable. Justice needs to prevail for any enduring peace and security to exist on this island.
Dr Ala'a Shehabi is an economics lecturer in Bahrain and a former policy analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Bahrain sets up fact-finding team for recent unrest

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Bahrain's king ordered the formation of an independent fact-finding team on Wednesday, to investigate weeks of protests that rocked the Persian Gulf island nation earlier this year, the state news agency said.
The announcement comes ahead of a national dialogue, set to start on Saturday, which the government hails as a chance for reforms and reconciliation in a country riven with sectarian divisions after Bahrain's discriminate rulers cracked down on the protests, led mostly by the Shi'ite majority.
"We still need to look at what happened to know all the details of February and March and evaluate those events as they really were," King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said, speaking at an extraordinary cabinet session.
The king said in a statement released by Bahrain News Agency that Bahrain had consulted with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on establishing the committee.
"For there were victims of violence whom we cannot forget... A lack of confidence has prevailed and vision has been blurred by rumours."
No opposition leaders were immediately available to comment on how the move might affect their participation in the dialogue -- they have yet to say whether they would even attend.
Many Shi'ites, say they have suffered the brunt of the crackdown, which included an arrest campaign of hundreds of people and sackings of up to 2,000 workers.


UAE to take part in OIC meet in Kazakhstan (WAM)

28 June 2011
Astana - The UAE will participate in the 38th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Member States which is held under the motto of ‘peace, cooperation and development' in Kazakhstan from 28 to 30 June 2011.
Dr. Saeed Mohammed Al Shamsi, Assistant UAE Foreign Minister for International Organisations, will lead the UAE delegation to the three-day Islamic gathering.
Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, is expected to chair the opening ceremony. He will deliver the opening speech and the OIC Secretary General,
Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, will present a report reviewing the activities he has undertaken since the last session. These activities were marked by intensity and outstanding results confirming the role of the OIC as a strategic partner of the international community in establishing world peace and security.
Chief among these activities is his meeting at the White House with the US President, Barack Obama, his European tour which covered Brussels where he met senior EU leaders and his official visit to the United Kingdom, the first visit ever made by an OIC Secretary General, in addition to his African tour in seven States. His activities also include review of the OIC initiatives concerning key political issues such as the Palestinian cause, the situation in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan and Iraq and other important issues.
The Secretary General's report will address the OIC efforts concerning landmark events taking place in a number of Member States in pursuit of good governance, political participation, ensuring fundamental liberties, promoting transparency and accountability and combating corruption as provided for in the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action.
The report addresses the conditions of Muslim communities in non-OIC Member States and the economic, cultural, scientific, technological and humanitarian issues as well as poverty alleviation and food security issues. The issue of combating Islamophobia will also be addressed and the OIC Observatory on Islamophobia will issue its fourth report on this occasion.
This session is particularly important in that it will crown a process of reform and development launched in 2005 by adopting a new name and logo for the Organisation. This change will not be a matter of form only. Rather, it will form a quantum leap in the work of the Organisation and a response to its expanding mandate and to Member States' aspirations to serve as their strategic framework for cooperation and interaction.
This session will be an opportunity for a mid-term review of the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action which covers the period 2005-2015.

Bahraini human rights activists hospitalized

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) -Prominent Bahraini human rights activists Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja has been hospitalized after he was beaten by Saudi-backed security forces, reports say.
Al-Khawaja was severely beaten by regime forces on Wednesday after he protested against the harsh sentences handed down to opposition activists.
It is the second time that he is being admitted to hospital since his detention in April.
A military court in Bahrain sentenced eight opposition leaders, including al-Khawaja, to life imprisonment on the charge of "plotting to overthrow the ruling system."
Thirteen others also received jail terms of up to 15 years. Seven people were sentenced in absentia.
Bahraini authorities claim that those charged were trying to overthrow the Bahraini government "by force and intelligence with a terror group colluding with a foreign country."
"We will continue to fight for our rights and our people," al-Khawaja shouted after the judge read the sentences.
Maryam al-Khawaja, head of foreign relation office of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said the court's guards beat the defendants and dragged them away from the courtroom after they spoke out against the unfair verdicts.
Meanwhile, a mass trial is under way in Bahrain for dozens of doctors and medical staff accused of supporting anti-government protesters. Opposition activists say the doctors and nurses were arrested and put on trial because they treated injured anti-regime protesters and other accusations are completely baseless.
Despite the lifting of an emergency law, the Manama regime continues to try civilians in its so-called special courts, as part of the government's crackdown on peaceful popular protests.

Bahrain's Credit Rating Cut

Dr. Nabeel al Ansari at VOA studios in Washington, DC
VOA News
The global rating agency Moody's cut Bahrain's credit rating one notch Thursday, citing the impact of recent political turmoil on the nation's prospects for growth.Bahrain has forcibly suppressed an uprising by the Shi'ite-led opposition with the military help of other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia.
The agency says unrest damaged economic growth, particularly in tourism, trade, and financial services.
Moody's said tensions remain high, and saw little prospect of solving the underlying political issues. 
After the cut Bahrain's bonds are at the third-lowest investment grade. The agency warned it might make further cuts.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

The Kingdom of Bahrain has released more than 500 detainees who were arrested in the aftermath of anti-government demonstrations in February and March. However, the royal family's Sheikh Fawaz al-Khalifa, head of Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority, says 46 doctors and nurses remain detained, 29 of whom will go on trial on charges of promoting efforts to topple the Sunni monarchy.
Human rights groups have criticized the announcement, saying Bahrain is targeting doctors and medical staff who treated wounded protesters during anti-government demonstrations. They say they have credible evidence that soldiers occupied the hospital, detaining and torturing medics who treated the protesters.
However, the government denies these allegations. Dr. Nabeel al Ansari, chief of emergency medicine at Salmaniya Hospital and newly-appointed head of the Bahrain Medical Society, recently visited Washington, D.C. In an interview with VOA's Cecily Hilleary, he insisted that the hospital was held under siege not by the military, but by the protesters themselves. Specifically, they discussed events of March 16, when injured demonstrators converged on the hospital in search of care.
Hilleary: Were you at the hospital that night?
Al Ansari: That night? No, I wasn't at the hospital. But I was monitoring.
Hilleary: It's my understanding that enough people presented themselves for medical care that doctors and nurses very quickly ran out of supplies.
Al Ansari: You surprise me with this question - or with this statement.
Hilleary: Why?
Al Ansari: Because again, we have enough evidence, not taken by us - by the extremists, a group of demonstrators - which shows how ample the supplies were there. Again, it is available for public review.
Hilleary: On a normal night in an emergency room, though, in any major city, any place in the world, if you suddenly have hundreds of people running in, covered in tear gas, coughing, gagging - are you saying that the hospital - any hospital - would be staffed to cope with something like that?
Al Ansari: That's a good question. I am trained in disaster medicine. We are actually very well-staffed and equipped and trained to handle emergencies. At one time, we can handle up to 250 to 300 emergencies, if they come in - urgencies and emergencies. Tear gas exposure is usually not an emergency. It can be, depending on the condition of the patient. What happened that day, our plan was not activated the right way. There were people who were non-emergency physicians [who] took over the Emergency Department, and they started running the department and the disaster plan according to what they thought should be appropriate. Those physicians were orthopedic surgeons, dentists, neonatologists, with totally no background in emergency medicine.
Hilleary: What brought them to the emergency room that night, then? Was it understaffed, was it the sudden emergency?

Al Ansari: No, we had enough staff. But those who came in with the demonstrators, they forced themselves on the staff. And this is, I'm telling you, not a hearsay [sic], I was in contact with the people. Our people were put aside. If they were needed to handle any real emergencies, then they were brought in to help. Otherwise, the other doctors were taking over the place. We were occupied by physicians who were not trained in the speciality to handle all these things.
Hilleary: But they were physicians who worked in the hospital?
Al Ansari: Yes.
Hilleary: They were. So, if I'm understanding you, there's an emergency, the protesters come to the hospital, and doctors from the outside came in. Are you saying that they were organized to take over the hospital?
Al Ansari: They did not come alone, the protesters. They came with the doctors. A lot of doctors were with them at the GCC Roundabout or what they call the Pearl Roundabout (a congregation point of anti-governments protests in Manama).
Hilleary: Participating in the protests?
Al Ansari: Yes, they were with them, and I think, as I said, initially, in the beginning, the plan was if there was an attack by the government on the roundabout, to come to the hospital. And again, it is on YouTube, and one of the leaders stated this, that at that time, they were going to come to the hospital and stay there.
Hilleary: For what purpose, though?
Al Ansari: Protesting. Moving their center of protests from the roundabout to the hospital. So they made the hospital as "Roundabout Number Two."
Hilleary: Has anybody presented any evidence to this?
Al Ansari: Oh, a lot of evidence! A lot of evidence. I have it with me now. I can show it to you. But you could just go to YouTube.
Hilleary: So the reports that protesters were prevented from getting treatment, that protesters were being beaten, were completely false?
Al Ansari: Well, you can, I mean - you can look at the YouTube.
Hilleary: Well, I have, and I've seen so much video at this point -
Al Ansari:: The thing that you see is that the protesters were in control of the hospital. They were at the hospital, in front of the Emergency Room, shouting slogans and this and that, and they were in control of the whole area. So nobody else was really in control of that. So how is it possible that they cannot get care if they were controlling there?
Hilleary: We've heard stories that Bahraini security forces stole ambulances, posing as medical personnel - EMTs (emergency medical technicians) as we would say, to try and get the protesters as a means of trapping them. We've heard stories of doctors and nurses arrested; dozens of doctors and nurses and medical staff disappeared. It's natural that we would start asking questions at this point.
Al Ansari: First of all, I'll get back to the EMTs. I am by training -- I have a fellowship in pre-hospital care. So this is my job; EMTs and all of that. The emergency medical technicians and the ambulances were under the control of people at the Roundabout. No ambulance was being dispatched through the regular channels to go to patients, unless there was approval from somebody at the - I won't mention his name - a doctor at the Roundabout who would say the ‘yes' or ‘no.' And again, that doctor is a medical doctor with no background in emergency medicine or anything like that. But he was running the ambulance services. And this statement - I take responsibility for it - and it was in coordination - it was the head of the EMTs who told me so. The ambulances were run by the doctor at the Roundabout, and they were dispatched according to his request.
Hilleary: I am confused, but I have several questions. Presumably, the night when all of this pandemonium started in the emergency room - there were emergency room staff on duty, who were not working -
Al Ansari: They were there -
Hilleary: But were they all working for the protesters?
Al Ansari: There was nobody else but the protesters there. Few patients could access care at that time. Care was denied to patients. I am a witness to people who died at home. I went to them, because they could not access care, because they could not get ambulance services. And that's why - there was a member of parliament who approached me, and he said: we have to do something for the rest of the people who cannot access care - and we did organize a few ambulances through other services, the Bahrain Defense Hospital and the Bahrain Specialist Hospital, which is a private hospital. We took their ambulances and we organize special EMT and ambulance services to respond to some calls where we can help. And that's what we did, because we could not access the government ambulance service
Hilleary: So the reports that protesters were being prevented from getting treatment, that protesters were being beaten are completely false -
Al Ansari: You can look at the video -
Hilleary: I have seen so much video at this point -
Al Ansari:: What you see is that protesters where [in] control of the hospital. They were at the hospital, in front of the emergency room, shouting slogans and this and that, and they were in control of the whole area. So nobody else was really in control of that - so how is it possible that they [could] not get care if they were controlling the area.
Hilleary: Say, you were out for a stroll, you saw the protesters at the Roundabout, and you had been nearby at the time that police began shooting teargas and ammunition, and you saw injured. As a doctor, what would your response have been at that moment?
Al Ansari: I would help.
Hilleary: You would help.
Al Ansari: Definitely. But, as I told all my staff, first protect yourself. There is no point in me [getting myself killed] and then not helping anybody. I'll secure my staff - so that it is secure for them to get to the patient - and then I would help, but I will not go in the middle of the -
Hilleary: This makes sense, but if you saw somebody bleeding, battered, with a bullet wound -
Al Ansari: Definitely, I would help -
Hilleary: And the doctors at the hospitals would not -
Al Ansari: They were; they wanted to help. There are again some videos which show you: the emergency staff are standing aside in the resuscitation room; they cannot do anything - they were just on one side; and the others - journalists, mullahs - they were there talking to certain patients, who were on the other side of the resuscitation room, and these patients who were not critically ill were assisted and treated by specific doctors from the demonstrators.
Hilleary: I've seen  video of almost everything at this point. I've seen video that substantiates what all sides claimed. I think I'm approaching this from a standpoint - is it possible that in all the chaos, that doctors and nurses and lab technicians could have simply been so angered at what they saw that it created that kind of divide.
Al Ansari: I would not agree with that. Me, as a physician or somebody [in] the health care profession - suppose somebody was drunk, driving a car, and he hits somebody. Meanwhile, after he hits another car and he gets also hurt - I will be angry at him, probably because he injured somebody, a bystander, but will that prevent me from treating him? No, I would be treating him and the bystander, even though deep inside my [mind] I might be thinking that he was the reason for hitting the other guy. So, for us physicians and those that are working in health care - to use our emotions in terms of making them affect the way we provide care, it should not be there. And it's not there.
Hilleary: You say it's not there, yet that's exactly what these doctors are being charged with. They are being charged with promoting the overthrow of the government, spreading false information, embezzling public funds, assault and death in the case of two patients. The doctors are being accused of inflicting additional wounds to one and mistreating the other, leading to their death, in order to exaggerate claims - do you know these staff?
Al Ansari: I'm saying that as doctors and nurses we shouldn't -
Hilleary: But you're saying they did -
Al Ansari: Well, there is evidence that they did. I have testimonials from doctors and nurses who saw things happening. I have testimonials from some nurses - six of them, actually, from the ICU (intensive care unit) - stating that one of these doctors switched off the oxygen of an ICU patient, because he was an expatriate and she wanted him to be dead.
Hilleary: There are two cases in particular that have been cited by the Bahraini News Agency, and Ali Ahmed Abdullah, who sustained an injury to the thigh, and in the presence of media, for media drama, the surgeon, it is said, added several wounds, cut extra wounds into the patients body, deliberately expanding, making the injury worse. And the patient was transferred to the ICU and died. That's the one report -
Al Ansari: I was not a witness of this. I cannot say anything about it, but if I tell you that I have a testimonial - when the military came in to clear the area, there was one of the religious people who was there, and he was taken by two ICU doctors to the intensive care unit, he was shaved - they shaved his beard and his hair - and they made a cut wound on him and they stitched him, and they dressed him as a patient and they kept him in the intensive care unit two days -
Hilleary: They being -
Al Ansari: The two doctors.
Hilleary: I'm taking - on the side of the protesters -
Al Ansari: I presume they were. And after two days the patient was taken out, well he was not a patient -
Hilleary: Somebody else has apparently administered atropine. What is the standard - I'll keep this very short - but a man presents in your ER (emergency room), he's got tear gas poweder all over him, he's burning, he's gagging. How do you treat him?
Al Ansari: Tear gas does not produce this powder that you have seen, to start with. And if you have seen the pictures, it was amoxil or milk of magnesium which was used to cover these people with. Atropine is a very strong medicine that we use in resuscitating somebody who was dying from a cardiac arrest. When the heart stops, we use atropine to stimulate the heart; it makes it beat fast. That's during an arrest.
Hilleary: It's also used against nerve gas -
Al Ansari: The other use [for] atropine is for nerve gas. In the military they use it. You don't use only atropine. There is another substance which is called prodexim. It's combined with atropine in one syringe, and it's given to the military, and they inject themselves intramuscular if there was nerve gas -
Hilleary: But if you have doctors who you say are not emergency specialists - you said you had plastic surgeons, gynecologists trying to help the protesters - and tear gas burns - is it possible that they would have used whatever they thought would reduce the acidity -
Al Ansari: Atropine, no, it will not cause -
Hilleary: No, the aluminum hydroxide -
Al Ansari: Why was it not used all over the body. It was used only over the face and part of the chest -
Hilleary: That part that's exposed by clothing? I'm playing devil's advocate here, doctor -
Al Ansari: Under the clothing, a little bit. And it was drunk (?). We have tons of amoxil that disappeared. Now, can I elaborate a little bit? If you want to create a story - nerve gas is a killer. Nerve gas does not know [the difference between] [Shi'ites] or Sunnis or policemen or non-policemen. If you get exposed to nerve gas, you have to have your protective suit on. Otherwise you are dead in a few minutes. And [during] the first few minutes you might have some symptoms which we call cholinergic symptoms, which are sweating, salivating, lacrimating, maybe some shortness of breath. These symptoms were already caused by the tear gas, but if you want to induce hallucination, seizures - then either you give them milk of magnesium or amoxil in big quantities, it causes a state which is called alcalosis. Alcalosis leads to hyperventilation, hyperventilation leads to twitches, and twitches can simulate seizures. [That's] one way or you give them atropine is high doses. Atropine is an anti-cholinergic, which has got side effects. It can cause supraventricular tachycardia - the heart beat very fast - it can cause hallucinations, seizures -
Hilleary: I leap. Is it possible that these doctors who were not specialists - a assume a plastic surgeon has never had to treat someone for tear gas exposure in his life - is it possible that these were the kinds of mistakes that physicians would make who did not have that specialty?
Al Ansari: No. I would clearly state ‘no.' Because atropine is such a substance that only few people know how it works - which are emergency physicians and intensive care doctors. These are the two {kinds of] people - or the two specialities [sic] which usually know how atropine works and they way we use it. Not atropine as drops, which is used by the ophthalmologist. So, whoever used atropine, he had some exposure, some knowledge of what it does. And we did have emergency physicians with the demonstrators, by the way. A few of them. Not everybody. And we did have intensive care doctors who were involved. So, I personally cannot accept that atropine would be used by anybody just like that, because it's not available [to] everybody. It's a drug that we keep in a secure area for cardiac arrest [cases]. But when you get thousands of ampulls (ampullae) missing -
Hilleary: Were they missing?
Al Ansari:: Oh, yes, they were. They were used.
Hilleary: We could probably go case by case by case, but let's pull it out to the broader picture. Why? How? How was this organized, as you're saying.
Al Ansari: You told me Al Jazeera was already there. Where did Al Jazeera come from?
Hilleary: Well, covering the protests, I assume. They had taken over the Pearl Roundabout for sevaral days, hadn't they?
Al Ansari: How come they were at the hospital?
Hilleary: If I were a journalist, I would have been there the minute they started firing.
Al Ansari: Well, Press TV, Iran TV -
Hilleary: So, you're suggesting -
Al Ansari: I cannot suggest anything, but what I have seen and witnessed, and what I have seen through videos and personal communication, I cannot interpret it in any other way that there was something planned. Again it's not for me to comment -
Hilleary: But you're a doctor. You're brothers - and I know the code of doctors is the same all over the world - you really do believe that they were part of a plot?
Al Ansari: Not everybody.
Hilleary: But these individuals that are being charged.
Al Ansari: A few were, especially if I have testimonials already from those who witnessed all of this, telling us that this doctor and this doctor did so and so -
Hilleary: Forty doctors and nurses?
Al Ansari: You know, the Ministry of Health has got 9,000 employees. So, 40 is nothing compared to 9,000, when you think about it.
Hilleary: So, how do we understand this then? If you had to sum it up -
Al Ansari: I think health care was compromised. That's what I would [say]. Health care was compromised by a group of extremists, and what they did - they were the cause of denying care to people who had come to Salmaniya [Hospital].
Hilleary: There was no case that you are aware of in which a doctor was afraid to give care to the protesters, for fear of the ramifications?
Al Ansari: No, protesters, whoever was there, was getting care. We do give care. But I'll tell you an example. The expatriates that were handcuffed, that were brought in - one of them was severely bleeding from a cut. We had to take him to the resuscitation room.  A colleague of mine, he was there, he told the
official surgeon who was dragging this patient - I cannot treat him like this. I need to take the handcuffs [off], to cut them off. He said ‘no.'  Treat him as such. He's a criminal. How can a doctor label a patient as a criminal?
So, our doctor who was there, who was not pro-government or anti-government - who was just a physician doing his work - and insisted on cutting [the handcuffs], and because the patient was deteriorating, he did cut the handcuffs or whatever they were, the plastic things, and he did manage to suture the guy, the patient. Care was given, whether to the hostages or demonstrators when they came in with exposure to tear gas. I'm not saying that all of our doctors did not participate in the treatment, but some of them were not allowed to do their job properly because of the chaos.
What happened, simply, we created a disaster within a disaster. What happened in Bahrain, it was a disaster in one way or the other. But when those people, those doctors, who had nothing to do with whatever happened in disaster medicine, they came and they took over the emergency services. They created a disaster themselves there through interfering with the provision of proper care to everybody, not only to the protesters.
Hilleary: Knowingly or by virtue of the fact that they stepped out of their departments
Al Ansari: No, I don't think that stepping out of their departments, - I think that there was much more than that. It happens during a disaster that we make a call that we need this and that, and other doctors might come in and we tell them ‘thank you, we don't need your help; if we need you, we will call you.' But that was not the case there. The case there was: we are the bosses, you stay aside. If we need you, we'll get you in it. Just turn 180 degress.
Hilleary: Doctor Al Ansari, thank you so much for talking with us.
Al Ansari: Appreciate it. Thank you for having me..
We have run several reports and interviews with Bahraini human rights activists who provided details on a variety of reported human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Bahraini government. In the interest of fairness and balance, we approached the government of Bahrain several times to get its perspective. We therefore welcomed the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Al Ansari to ask him some of the questions that had been raised.


African leaders discuss Libya truce efforts

Smoke billows from Tajura, a suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli, as three powerful explosions struck the eastern suburb, the site of a number of military installations. Libyan rebels said they expect to receive an offer from Moamer Kadhafi "very soon" that could end the four-month war but insisted the veteran strongman must agree to step down.(AFP/Mahmud Turkia)
By Andrew Beatty, AFP
BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) - African leaders met on Sunday to discuss efforts to broker an end to the four-month-old conflict in Libya, after the rebels said they expected a new offer from Moamer Kadhafi "very soon" but it must involve him stepping down.
The African Union's Libya panel gathered in Pretoria to discuss the way forward after a visit to Tripoli by South African President Jacob Zuma last month failed to secure a truce deal acceptable to NATO or the rebels.
Zuma urged both Kadhafi and the rebel National Transitional Council to make compromises to reach a deal in the face of a conflict that was degenerating into a protracted and bloody deadlock.
"On the ground, there is a military stalemate which cannot and must not be allowed to drag on and on -- both because of its horrendous cost in civilian lives and the potential it has to destabilise the entire sub-region," he told fellow panel members.
"The solution in Libya has to be political and lies in the hands of the Libyan people," he told the closed-door meeting, according to a text of his speech provided to AFP.
"Our Libyan brothers and sisters -- those in authority and those in the (NTC) -- have to act boldly and show leadership," he said.
Zuma again accused NATO of exceeding its UN mandate in its bombing campaign in Libya, insisting that the resolution approved by the Security Council -- and backed by South Africa -- did not allow "regime change or political assassination" of Kadhafi.
"The continuing bombing by NATO and its allies is a concern that has been raised by our committee and by the AU Assembly, because the intention of Resolution 1973 was to protect the Libyan people and facilitate the humanitarian effort," he said.
"The intention was not to authorise a campaign for regime change or political assassination."
The meeting of the AU panel came after the Libya rebels said late on Saturday that they expected to receive a new offer from Moamer Kadhafi "very soon" through French and South African intermediaries.
"We expect to get an offer very soon; he (Kadhafi) is unable to breathe," Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the rebel NTC, told AFP in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
"We want to preserve life, so we want to end the war as soon as possible," he added. "We have always left him some room for an exit.
"Any proposal that is brought to us, we will take a serious look at it so long as it guarantees that Kadhafi and his regime, his inner circle, do not remain in power."
The AU has been leading mediation efforts in Libya with the blessing of other key players including Russia.
Kadhafi is a long-time backer of the AU and a forceful advocate for stronger continental integration. He held the pan-African body's rotating chair in 2009 and has twice held talks with members of the panel.
Rumours have been rife in recent days that the Libyan leader may consider leaving Tripoli and that rebels could accept his internal exile to a remote location.
The rumours have been fuelled by the deadlock on the ground and a steady trickle of defections from Kadhafi's ranks.
The rebels were locked in heavy exchanges with Kadhafi's forces on Sunday in the plains below their enclave in the Nafusa Mountains, southwest of Tripoli, an AFP correspondent reported.
Multiple rocket and heavy machine gunfire was heard from as far away as the hilltown of Yafren, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the battleground, the correspondent said.
Rebel commanders said the fighting centered on Bir al-Ghanam, just north of Bir Ayad, a strategic point on the road to Tripoli, 80 kilometres (50 miles) to the northeast, which the rebels seized three weeks ago.
It was the latest flare-up of fighting in the area but, despite repeated clashes, the rebels have made little progress from their two western enclaves in the Nafusa Mountains and around Libya's third-largest city Misrata.
The front line between the rebel-held east and the mainly government-held west has also remained generally static.

Media watchdog says journalists are not being tracked

BJA has come under attack from International Federation of Journalists for allegedly failing to defend Bahraini journalists 
By Habib Toumi, Bahrain Bureau Chief
Published: June 26, 2011

Manama: Bahraini journalists are not being tracked by security authorities, the new chairman of the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) has said.
"I have had strong confirmations from the interior ministry that no journalist currently outside Bahrain is being tracked," Eisa Al Shayji said. "Any journalist who left Bahrain during or after the unrest is free to come home any time he chooses," he said as the BJA general assembly elected its new board members.
The biennial elections ushered in six new members on the eight-member board and re-elected Al Shaygi who ran unopposed.
"I have contacted some journalists who are outside Bahrain right now and clarified the situation with them. I told them that I had an official document from the interior ministry about not tracking any journalists and that they should come home to continue their work normally," Al Shaygi said.
Article continues below
The BJA has come under attack from the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) for allegedly failing to defend Bahraini journalists who were detained after the imposition of the emergency laws.
"We did seek to defend the detained journalists and I personally met twice with officials from the interior ministry," Al Shaygi said. "There are journalists who have been detained, but it seems it was in their personal capacities and not as journalists. The ministry officials told me that they were not held as journalists, but in security-related issues," he said.
Two women and two editors in chief were among the six new board members.
During the debate, sports journalists and photographers said that they felt underrepresented in the association and wanted more attention, better counseling and greater training opportunities.

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The first football players' agent and general supervisor of the Bahrain national team.

 Mr. Abdul Razzaq Mohammed-43 years old, former general supervisor of the national team "football", was arrested on Wednesday, April 13th 2011.
For 7 years he was general supervisor of the Bahraini team and resigned in January 2011.
"Mr. Mohammed was present at the trial for first hearing without lawyer" Mr.Abdul Razzaq's family informed the BYSHR.

 Charges: taking part at illegal gatherings and Broadcasting false news and information.
The case has been adjourned till 30th June, 2011.

Mr.Mahmood Hassan Abu-Idrees- 39 years old, the first football players' agent in Bahrain, was arrested on Saturday, April 9th 2011.
Received a license from the FIFA in order to be an agent for players. Ref : http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/organisation/footballgovernance/playeragents/association=bhr.html
The first hearing will be on July 11th, 2011.

Photo: Mr.Mohammad in the Pearl Roundabout
On the 23th of June 2011, Mr.Mohammed Hubail, Bahrain national team player, court decided to sentence him to two year imprisonment because of taking part at illegal gatherings.
Attached: List of sport players, Referee and Clubs targeted Because of their involvement in the protests.

CPJ: In Bahrain, extraordinary tribunal sentences bloggers to life

CPJ: In Bahrain, extraordinary tribunal sentences bloggers to life

New York, June 22, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's politicized verdict in which 21 bloggers, human rights activists, and members of the political opposition were found guilty of plotting to topple the monarchy. Today's court ruling further cements 2011 as the worst year for press freedom in Bahrain since the island kingdom declared its independence in 1971.

Regional and International rights groups condemn verdicts against Bahraini activists

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The martial court issues verdicts on 22 June 2011 against 21 rights activists and political opposition leaders after months of detention.
The verdicts were immediately condemned by rights groups who said all those found guilty had been campaigning to end discrimination at the hands of the Sunni dynasty.

Yemen president to appear in media within 48 hours

Jun 26, 2011 
By Reuters
SANAA (Reuters) - Wounded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has not been seen in public since an attack on his palace earlier this month, will make a media appearance within 48 hours, his media secretary said on Sunday.
"The president will appear within the next 48 hours despite our fear that the burns on his features and on different parts of his body will be an obstacle, given that his appearance will not be as the media expects it," said Ahmed al-Sufi in a statement.
Saleh, 69, was forced after the attack to seek treatment in a Saudi hospital. In the days after the bombing of a mosque within the presidential palace, Saleh delivered a brief audio message via television.
Sufi said the president was in good health and continued to direct Yemeni affairs from Saudi Arabia.
"The arrangements are currently being made for this appearance, which will definitely be followed by important media events," he said.
Months of protests against Saleh's 33-year rule have sparked deadly clashes between the President's followers and opponents, bringing the country to a standstill and raising concerns that militants will exploit the unrest to gain a foothold in the impoverished state.
(Reporting by Mohamed Sudam, Writing by Isabel Coles; editing by David Stamp)

FIFA Ask Bahrain to Explain Jail Term

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Hubail, capped 52 times for Bahrain, was sentenced to two years in prison by Bahrain's secret security court after being convicted of attending anti-government demonstrations.

Alaa Hubail, Mohamed's brother and international team-mate, is under trial in the same closed-doors court, established under Bahrain's martial law regime to crack down on dissenters.

The siblings were detained by authorities in April for their participation in Shiite-led protests against Bahrain's Sunni monarchy.

More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees have been suspended since martial law was imposed in March.

The United Nations human rights office in Geneva said on Friday that the trials of the Hubail brothers 'appear to bear the marks of political persecution' and ignored the due process rights of the defendants.

In response, FIFA has requested Bahrain officials provide details of all cases involving footballers and football officials.

The governing body has the power to suspend Bahrain if it suspects political interference in football affairs.

Such a sanction could prevent Bahrain from participating in the next round of Asian Olympics qualifiers, which gets underway in September.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa, the Bahrain FA president, is also a member of the ruling royal family

UN: Bahrain trials bear marks of political persecution

The United Nations human rights office yesterday spoke out against the harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, handed down this week to several activists in Bahrain, saying their trials bear the marks of "political persecution."
On Wednesday, Bahrain sentenced 21 activists and opposition leaders reportedly for plotting to overthrow the Government, which has been has engaged in a violent crackdown against protesters calling for greater democracy, as witnessed in other countries across the Middle East and North Africa.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is writing to King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa of Bahrain to convey her concerns, her spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters in Geneva.
"There are serious concerns that the due process rights of the defendants, many of whom are well-known human rights defenders, were not respected and the trials appear to bear the marks of political persecution," said Ms. Shamdasani.
She added that, according to reliable sources, the Lower National Safety Court has convicted more than 100 individuals since March this year, mostly for crimes allegedly committed during the protests.
"We urge the authorities to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, particularly regarding the right to due process and a fair trial," Ms. Shamdasani said.
"We call for an immediate cessation of trials of civilians in the Court of National Safety, and an immediate release of all peaceful demonstrators who were arrested in the context of the protest movement in February."
Up to 1,000 people reportedly remain in detention, according to the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), which has received "worrying" reports about the way they are being treated.
Ms. Shamdasani noted in particular that four individuals previously arrested reportedly died in detention due to injuries resulting from severe torture. She called on the Government to urgently conduct an independent investigation into these allegations.
OHCHR's comments echo those of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who voiced his deep concern at the sentences handed out this week. In a statement issued yesterday by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged Bahraini authorities "to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial."

Hard-line Sunni voice gains audience in Bahrain

In this Handout photo dated Tuesday June 21, 2011 and made available by Bahrain News Agency, BNA, Bahrain king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, 1st left, waves next to Sunni Islamic scholar Abdullatif al-Mahmood, middle, during a visit to Majlisss of Al-Mahmoods and in Hid City in Bahrain. The rising political star Abdullatif al-Mahmood is suddenly gaining a receptive audience among the ruling elite. (AP Photo/ Bahrain News Agency-HO)
Jun 25, 2011
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - A visit by Bahrain's king to Sunni supporters this week was also something of a royal blessing for a rising political star: an Islamic scholar who claims the Gulf kingdom is under threat from both foe Iran and ally America.
Once consigned to the fringes, Sunni hard-liners like Abdullatif al-Mahmood are suddenly gaining a receptive audience amid a government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
It's another sign of Bahrain's deeply polarized atmosphere as the kingdom's Sunni rulers try to open talks with the Shiite opposition after violence that has left 31 people dead since February.
Al-Mahmood's group appears to be tapping into deep-rooted fears over Shiite giant Iran and growing questions about commitment from Washington, which bases the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
"We won't compromise on the safety of our nation," al-Mahmood said during the Tuesday visit by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
It was a clear slap at Iran, who Bahrain's leaders and Gulf Arab allies accuse of stirring the Shiite-led demonstrations in Bahrain. He also rejected calls by some U.S. officials to cut Bahrain's special trade status following the clampdown on dissent.
"Crises don't scare us," said the king as al-Mahmood stood nearby.
Bahrain's Shiites account for about 70 percent of the island, but they have few allies in high places. They claim the Sunni ruling system is built to block Shiites from any key positions in government or security forces.
The Sunni monarchy's Western backers, led by the U.S., have denounced the unrest and harsh crackdowns. On Wednesday, eight Shiite activists were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the unrest and next week more than 30 doctors and nurses accused of supporting the protests are due to go on trial.
But Washington and others still have not followed up with any tangible punishments against Bahrain's rulers.
At the same time, Bahrain has pushed a narrative that splits the nation into patriots or traitors. "Loyalty" books and website have been set up to publicly support the monarchy, and anyone challenging the system is branded a potential enemy of the state by official media.
This is where al-Mahmood and other Sunni hard-liners have found a new voice in Bahrain's political affairs.
Al-Mahmood's ultra-nationalist Sunni bloc failed to win parliament seats in elections last year. Now the Bahrain University lecturer is drawing new attention as he accuses Iran and Lebanese-based Hezbollah of meddling in Bahrain.
"This is a well-known fact that Iran has a project to expand its influence all over the region and dominate the Arab world," he told The Associated Press. "This is their ideology."
Washington would have few objections to that point of view. But al-Mahmood also comes down hard against the U.S., saying that American criticism of Bahrain has "made us suspicious that they also have a hand in the recent crisis."
In an interview in April with an Islamic-oriented Malaysian website, al-akham.net, al-Mahmood portrayed many Shiites as fundamentally unable to support a Sunni-ruled state.
"How can you trust them when they put up pictures of (Iranian Revolution founder Ruhollah) Khomeini ... How can the state trust them?" he was quoted as saying.
He went further, however, to claim that the U.S. is somehow supporting Iran to create a "vast Shiite state" in the Gulf and Iraq.
"The truth is there is no hostility between Iran and the U.S.," he told the website. "There are mutual interests and roles between the two."
Such claims are light-years outside the standard policy views. They do, however, shed some light on the extreme outlooks among some of those who have gained favor with Bahrain's rulers since the uprising began.
In April, Bahrain's prime minister praised al-Mahmood's National Unity Gathering group as a symbol of "everything pertaining to the nation's interest and future."
Opposition groups consider the organization a haven for hard-liners. A message on a pro-reform website called al-Mahmood the "latest weapon against the pro-democracy movement."
Officials appear to sense the Shiite unhappiness with al-Mahmood's comments. The prime minister - who praised al-Mahmood's group two months ago - requested it cancel a march last week.
On Friday, Bahrain's most senior Shiite cleric, Sheik Isa Qassim, cast doubt on the chances for talks with the government and Sunni groups - including the National Unity Gathering - that are scheduled to begin July 1.
"This is no environment for a political solution when people are suffering," he told worshippers. "We cannot see a meaningful and truthful dialogue."
Al-Mahmood declined to say whether his group would support opposition demands to weaken the Sunni leaders' hold on power.
"Everything will be addressed at the discussion table," he said.


Kuwait's Zain gets final payment from Africa asset sale

By Reuters 2011.06.23
DUBAI, June 23 (Reuters) - Zain has received the final $700 million payment from its $9 billion African asset sale to India's Bharti Airtel , the Kuwait telecoms carrier said in a statement on Thursday.
In June 2010, Zain sold its African operations excluding Sudan and Morocco to Bharti, with the final $700 million due one year after the deal was closed.
"The company has received this amount," Zain said in a statement on the Kuwait bourse website.
"The amount has been accounted for in the financial statement for the second-quarter of 2010 and therefore will have no effect on the statements for 2011."
Zain's shares are unchanged at 0649 GMT

UK Foreign Office Minister concerned about sentencing in Bahrain

"It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions."
Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt said:
"I am extremely concerned by the process surrounding today's sentencing of 21 opposition members and the nature of many of the charges. One of those found guilty is Ibrahim Sharif, a prominent moderate politician who has been a constructive participant in Bahraini politics and represents a registered political party. He was sentenced to five years. It is deeply worrying that civilians are being tried before tribunals chaired by a military judge, with reports of abuse in detention, lack of access to legal counsel and coerced confessions.
The Bahraini Government has committed to a National Dialogue on 1st July, which must be supported with concrete actions to address the long-term challenges facing Bahrain. We will also expect any appeals process to thoroughly and transparently address the substantial concerns that have been raised in these tribunals."


Bahrain:Harsh sentencing on 21 prominent activist

1-Abdulwahab Hussain Ali ( life sentence imprisonment)
2-Ibrahim Sharif Abdulraheem Mossa ( 5 Years imprisonment)
3-Hassan Ali Mushaima.( life sentence imprisonment)
4-Abdulhadi Al Khawaja ( life sentence imprisonment)
5-Abduljalil Abdullah Al Singace.( life sentence imprisonment)
6-Mohammed Habib Al Safaf. ( Mohammed Habib Miqdad) ( life sentence imprisonment)
7-Saeed Mirza Ahmed. ( Saeed AlNouri) ( life sentence imprisonment)
8-Abduljalil Mansoor Makk. (Abdul Jalil Miqdad) ( life sentence imprisonment)
9-Al Hurra Yousif Mohammed.( 2 Years imprisonment)
10-Abdullah Isa Al Mahroos.( 5 years imprisonment)
11-Salah Hubail Al Khawaj.( 5 years imprisonment)
12-Mohammed Hassan Jawad.( 15 years imprisonment)
13-Mohammed Ali Ismael. ( 15 years imprisonment))
14-Abdul Hadi Abdullah Mahdi Hassan ( Abdulhadi AlMukhodher) ( 15 years imprisonment)
Defendants ( not being arrested yet) :
15-Akeel Ahmed Al Mafoodh.( 15 years imprisonment)
16-Ali Hassan Abdullah.( Ali Abdulemam) ( 15 years imprisonment)
17-Abdulghani Ali Khanjar.( 15 years imprisonment)
18-Saeed Abdulnabi Shehab.( life sentence imprisonment)
19-Abdulraoof Al Shayeb.( 15 years imprisonment)
20-Abbas Al Omran.( 15 years imprisonment)
21-Ali Hassan Mushaima.( 15 years imprisonment)

The National Dialogue's Media Centre launches its official website

Manama, June. 22 (BNA) --BAHRAIN National Dialogue's Media Centre has launched its official website and its accounts on social media channels such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook.
The move comes as part of the Centre's efforts to keep the local and international community well informed and updated on the latest developments of the National Dialogue.
These channels will maintain effective communication with the public during the current period of preparation and the upcoming period of the dialogue which will start on July 1, 2011. They will also ensure immediate communication of the Dialogue's updates with full credibility.
The official website for the National Dialogue http://www.nd.bh/ will keep the public informed with news updates in addition to uploading photos and videos of the sessions once they are over. The website will also provide useful coverage for the local and international media.
It includes a discussion board through which the Bahraini public can present their views and suggest issues for discussion. These issues can be shared with others in charge of the sessions and included in the session agendas.
Moreover, the website provides general information on the National Dialogue, including its objectives and messages addressed to the public.
The website includes information on setting a comprehensive environment for the Dialogue since it aims at an active participation by all components of the society. The dialogue also stresses over bringing different points of view closer to define mutual visions that will further enhance the reform process towards overall development and progress.
The names of the participating bodies will be posted on the website once finalized. Around 300 invitations have been sent out to political and professional societies, Non-governmental organizations, Religious scholars, Businessmen, Economists and prominent figures in the Bahraini society.
The website will also ensure access to the Dialogue's accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. These accounts are considered the Dialogue's official social media references.
For updates people can visit our website on http://www.nd.bh/
Or follow the National Dialogue on the following social network accounts:


National Dialogue Slogan Unveiled

National Dialogue, set to start on July1.
"Bahrain Brings Us Together" epitomizes the participation of all social parties who had been officially invited to attend the dialogue. While acknowledging diverse opinions, the slogan stresses the concordance of all parties on reform objectives.
Hopes are now pinned on all components of the social spectrum to participate actively in the dialogue towards reaching a national consensus, as announced by HM the King. The slogan has been selected with utmost care to reflect the national dialogue objectives and Bahrainis' hopes and aspirations - reaching a solid ground embracing all visions and viewpoints of parties invited to the dialogue. Political associations, NGOs, trade unions, public figures, businessmen, economists and clerics will attend talks and table their opinions and visions, taking into account national unity and genuine Bahraini values. Other key figures have also been invited to bridge gaps towards finding common denominators which would push the path of reform and progress forward. "Bahrain Brings Us Together" also reaffirms the lofty goals of the national dialogue, which will hopefully herald a new era and represent a starting point ushering in a radiant future for Bahrain and its people. A visit will be organized for journalists to the national dialogue media centre, set up at the Shaikh Isa Cultural Centre, to get an update on equipment and services which will be provided from reporters from Bahrain and abroad. AHN

Bahrain expels a freelance journalist from kingdom

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Freelance journalist Finian Cunningham was ordered out of Bahrain on 18 June by the authorities as a result of his critical journalism covering the popular uprising and the subsequent, ongoing brutal repression of the peaceful pro-democracy movement. He had been living in Bahrain for three years, and was there at the outset of the recent uprising on 14 February.
In a recent interview for US-based blogtalkradio, on 12 June, Cunningham assessed the lifting of the state of emergency and the call for "national dialogue" by the Al Khalifa rulers as a hollow, cynical public relations exercise designed to deceive from the ongoing reality of state terror and violation of human rights. It appears, he added, that Washington and London are also trying to give legitimacy to the rulers by welcoming their initiative for slleged dialogue. Such an endorsement by Western governments is preposterous given the heinous realities of crimes against civilians and can only be seen as a cynical defense of the indefensible by the US and British.
Radio interview here:
A Conversation with Finian Cunningham about Bahrain, the Lack of a Return to Normalcy and the U.S. Role in the Revolt 12 June 2011
Finian Cunningham: Protesters brutally beaten facing military courts, others disappeared, interviewed by Timothy V. Gatto 6 June 2011
Cunningham also wrote several articles posted on Globalresearch.ca and other news agencies detailing cases of murder of civilians by Saudi-backed forces, torture of prisoners and the illegal detention of medical personnel. He also higlighted US and British complicity in these crimes against humanity and these governments' hypocrisy over their claims of supporting democracy and international law while turning a blind eye to what is happening in Bahrain.
Globalreseach articles here:
He is now based in Belfast, Ireland, where he is continuing to work as a critical journalist on Bahraini politics, and the brutal repression by the regime against the people's struggle for democratic freedom. He is currently writing a book on the exploitation by the unelected Al Khalifa monarchy of the population and natural resources of Bahrain.
Writing from Belfast today, Cunningham said: "My lasting impression of Bahrain is not the brutish nature of its illegitimate rulers, but the bravery and decency of its ordinary men, women and youth in their noble struggle for freedom. The night before I left Bahrain, on Friday 17 June, I witnessed a peaceful protest of up to 150,000 people in Sitra demanding their legitimate right for freedom. This was the biggest public rally by the pro-democracy movement since the Saudi-backed crackdown that began on 14 March with the invasion. After three months of state-sponsored murder and terror, the people of Bahrain have not been defeated by the despotic regime and their despotic allies. The people are showing that they are winning the battle of wills because they have truth and justice on their side, while the regimes have only the negative unsustainable energy that comes from hate, killing and destruction. The people are stronger than ever and are more determined than ever to bring democracy and freedom to Bahrain."

Recent UK Government Statements on Bahrain

pubblicata da UK in Bahrain il giorno lunedì 20 giugno 2011 alle ore 22.35
3 April 2011 

Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, had a one day visit to Bahrain on 3 April as part of trip to the region. Whilst here Dr Fox was hosted at a lunch with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.  Also in attendance was his Royal Highness the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and His Excellency Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of State for Defence. At the end of his visit Dr Fox issued the following statement:

I welcomed the chance to return to Bahrain today at this important point in its history.

I believe that reform is not a choice, it is a necessity. It should reflect a consensus of the large majority of the people and not be hijacked by political extremists. Violence and disrespect for human rights by any side can only make the road to reform more difficult and diminish the reputation of Bahrain in the world. The champions of reform will have their courage and leadership tested but they should not be demoralised: there are obstacles in the road to all great political achievements. However, if they have the resolve, history will judge that all the people of Bahrain have been the winners.‘

Thursday 21 April 2011 - Foreign Secretary Statement on Human Rights in Bahrain

The Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

"I remain concerned at events in Bahrain.  Although the immediate situation appears calmer, there continue to be many credible reports of human rights abuses.  The arrests of opposition figures, the reports of deaths in custody, allegations of torture and the denial of medical treatment, are extremely troubling.  I call on the Government to investigate them fully and transparently.  I urge the Bahraini authorities to act in accordance with the law and to meet international standards for the treatment of detainees.

"I am also concerned about the Government's move to investigate prominent licensed, political opposition parties - which may lead to their suspension, and by reports that human rights activists have been arrested.  The civil rights of peaceful opposition figures and the rights of freedoms of expression and assembly must be respected.

"I urge the Government of Bahrain to meet all its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, equal access to justice and the rule of law. Events across the Middle East have shown that governments need to respond with reform and not repression if they are to enhance the long-term stability and prosperity of their countries.  I encourage the Bahraini Government and leaders of both communities to show real leadership in promoting tolerance and to demonstrate a shared commitment to the future of Bahrain.

"A continuation of the political reform process initiated by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is essential.   It is important that the people of Bahrain are allowed to decide their future themselves.  Dialogue is the pathway to meeting the aspirations of all Bahrainis.  I urge all sides to engage in it."


Bahraini Authorities Targeting Anyone Who Talks to the Media with Arrest and Prosecution

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its extreme concern over the continuous violation of the right to freedom of speech and expression by the Bahraini regime towards all those who are speaking out their opinions and beliefs to the media and exposing the human rights violations committed by the security forces in Bahrain.
Foreign media and journalists have been interested since February 14 in the Bahraini uprising, many have been to the pearl roundabout, been present in protests and rallies and have interviewed protestors, to report later on to the whole world the peacefulness and civilized nature of the uprising, their legitimate demands and calls for political reform.
On March 18, Bahraini government imposed the Martial Law and has started a campaign to conceal the facts about the on ground situation and hide its ongoing brutality and crimes. In its attempt to silence and intimidate whoever would speak out and contact the media, Bahrain regime started targeting those who have appeared on television or talked to journalists about the uprising and exposed the violations.
"They are going to Target us one by one, whoever appeared on a camera", said Sayed Ahmed Al Wadae, (Photo on top) an engineer graduated from the UK, on AlJazeera Bahrain: Fighting for Change documentary [1], as if he was foreseeing what was going to happen, however, it did not hold him form expressing his opinion and his demands for reform, as he spoke of discrimination against shia citizens and explained how he was attacked and beaten on the first crackdown on the pearl roundabout on February 20. On March 16, right after the crackdown on the protesters at the pearl roundabout, Sayed Ahmed's house was raided late at night and he got arrested and held incommunicado for a month before getting released on 11 April to be arrested again weeks later and presented before the military court on May 23, to be sentenced to one year imprisonment for "taking part in illegal protests and disrupting public order" [2]. The sentence was later reduced to 6 month imprisonment by the court of appeals.
In the same documentary Dr. Nada Dhaif appeared , she was introduced as one of the young doctors that set up a medical tent in pearl roundabout, she explained how 14 Feb uprising is a peaceful movement with no political background which was called for by Bahraini youth on the facebook to "go on the streets and demand for their rights"[3] . However, Dr. Nada got arrested[4] on the 21 March after a nightly house raid and she was held incommunicado until she was released after more than a month on 5 May to be called for a military trial along with another 47 medical staff.
Between 17 and 19 March 2011, a number of medical doctors were arrested, reportedly as a consequence of having spoken to the media about the authorities' actions in sealing and militarizing hospitals in the week of the crackdown on protesters. These doctors including Dr Ali Al-Ekri, Dr Bassem Dhaif and Dr Ghassan Dhaif[5] , were reportedly subjected to torture.[6] On their trials before the military court on June 6, they said they were tortured in detention and forced to sign false confessions[7] . They are being charged with multiple charges among them "Spreading false news and rumors that harm the public interest."[8]
Mohammed Khalil Lutfallah, 23 years old Bahraini students who was studying in Newcastle, England, participated in the protests held in Bahrain and England and appeared speaking in NY times report talking about the demands of people and the youth situation in Bahrain, four days after his return to Bahrain, his house in Maqaba was raided on May 10 at 1:30 am by masked men and he was arrested[9]. He was released recently on 12 June but could be called again to attend a military trial.
Redha Mohammed Jasim, 22 years old, a student from Bahrain studying in Pune University, was arrested on 19 April 2011 after a raid on his house in Manama at dawn, about one month after getting back to Bahrain. His family believes he was arrested for speaking to the media against the regime of Bahrain[10] .

Mattar Ebrahim Mattar[11] , a member of Al Wefaq political society and the youngest MP in the parliament at the age of 35 representing more than 16,000 Bahrainis; he resigned along with other Al Wefaq MPs earlier this year to protest against the government's crackdown on demonstrators. He was known for being active and vocal, always speaking [12] to the media about the demands of the people and exposing the regime violations to international Human Rights organizations and journalists, especially after imposing martial law on March 15. In his last interview with Al Jazeera, Mattar expressed his concern of the threats on politicians in Bahrain and only a day after his interview on 2nd May he was taken from his car by armed men in masks and forced into an unmarked car at gunpoint[13].
On the same night about 30 security officers in civilian clothes and some masked, surrounded and entered Jawad Fairuz's home and arrested him at gun point after they threatened to harm his wife and daughter. Both Mattar and Fairuz have since been held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives. Fairuz is also a former member in parliament from Bahrain's largest opposition group who has spoken to media[14] .
On June 12, the special military court began hearings against Matar and Fairouz without notifying their lawyers or families. The two pled not guilty to charges of providing false news to the media and participating in illegal gatherings. A person close to the parliamentarians said that Matar told a family member that he had been kept in solitary confinement for most of his more than 40 days in detention[15].
Ebrahim Al Madhoon is another Al Wefaq member who has been actively talking to the media and criticizing the government's repression. On 23 March at 3am, Al Madhoon's house got raided[16] by security forces but they could not find him as he is out of the country, therefore, they went after his family and arrested 4 of his sons, 4 of his nephew and 2 relatives and confiscated all computers and cameras that were in the house. On 16 May, the military court sentenced 2 of his sons to 20 years' imprisonment for kidnapping a policeman[17] .

Bahraini Human Rights activists had their share of being suppressed and targeted for their connections and relations to international organizations, media and journalists and for exposing the crimes and violations towards the citizens, especially those who always appear in the media. Nabeel Rajab, the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was harassed more than once, in one incident beaten in interrogation and in another his house was tear gassed by security forces[18] . Abbas Al Omran, a human rights activist and member of BCHR who obtained refugee status in Britain a few years ago, and who is actively speaking to the international media about human rights violations in Bahrain has also been put on the list of wanted and is being tried in absentia along with another 20 activists accused with plotting to overthrow the regime[19] . His family was also punished as his wife was interrogated and then banned from leaving Bahrain[20] . Also, Said Yousif Al Muhafdah, another member in BCHR and an activist, has been talking to media since 14 February until 20 March when his home got raided to get him arrested but they did not find him; Al Muhafdah had an interview with NY Times a day before the raid and a televised interview with Al Hurra[21] .
Amber Lyon, a CNN reporter, who was in Bahrain said[22] that most of the sources who had agreed to talk to her in Bahrain have disappeared, their family members or those close to them said that they had been arrested or gone in the hiding after security forces raided their homes and threatened them.
Many more have been targeted merely for speaking to the media, in the first days of the protests before imposing the martial law, nowadays, most of those speaking to the media hide their identity such as Fatima[23] who appeared on ABC news to talk about her mother but she did not give any details that might expose her identity and talked about the doctors' case in general and the whispering women who have agreed to be recorded in an interview with NPR only if she could whisper, in English, so that authorities wouldn't recognize her voice[24].
Freedom of speech and expression is a right for all human being that has been legislated in Human Rights Act, Article 10, Freedom of Expression, that states "everyone has the right of freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers". BCHR believes that the government of Bahrain is violating this right by targeting and arresting people for talking to media and expressing oneself.
Based on all the above, the BCHR demands the Bahraini Authorities to:
(1) Release all those detained for speaking or contacting media and practicing their right to freedom of expression
(2) Put an end to all unfair trials that has no valid and legal basis
(3) Annul all the policies and procedures that restrict the freedom of opinion and expression
(4) Abide to the international human rights charters an covenants that states that all human beings have the right to express themselves freely.