6/28/2012

Bahrain MPs on collision course over diplomats’ role

 
GULFNEWS
American diplomats under fire in Bahrain
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau chief
 
Manama:
Two Islamist blocs in Bahrain’s parliament have upped the pressure on the foreign ministry to seek the replacement of Thomas Krajeski, the US ambassador in Manama. Al Asala, the exclusive expression of Salafism, and the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, also required the foreign minister to declare Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, a persona non-grata in Bahrain.
A third parliamentary group, the Bahrain Bloc, had a less aggressive position and insisted on the significance of relations and cooperation with the US, but insisted that the ambassador should not interfere in Bahrain’s affairs.
The blocs charged that Krajeski, appointed as ambassador one year ago, has transgressed his diplomatic status and was interfering blatantly in Bahrain’s domestic affairs. They called the foreign ministry to send a complaint to the US “to put an end to all kinds of interference in the country.”
Posner, who early this month made his fifth visit to the kingdom in 18 months and met “senior government officials, lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and members of several political societies,” was also accused by MPs of interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs. The lawmakers claimed he had no right to criticize the verdicts issued by a Bahraini court this month against medical and paramedical staff.
MP Abdul Halim Murad, representing Al Asala, told the media that Krajeski “supported Al Wefaq and attacked Bahrain publicly in the media.”
“He is demanding the empowerment of Al Wefaq under the guise of democracy and human rights,” the lawmaker said. “The ambassador has since his appointment been particularly active in putting pressure on Bahrain and on threatening and blackmailing the country. His meetings with the opposition do not stop and the US interference in our affairs has reached unprecedented levels,” he said.
The MP criticised the foreign ministry for “allowing the ambassador to move freely in the country and meet whomever he wanted without restrictions or conditions.”
In a statement released after the lawmakers’ press conference, the foreign ministry said that it “appreciates the importance of the role of foreign missions in strengthening friendly relations and the development of bilateral economic, cultural and scientific ties between their countries and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
However, it added that “if a diplomat acts in a manner inconsistent with his duties, the competent authorities will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures, including meeting him to clarify all matters and to express official positions on statements he may have issued in a manner that breaches national laws and international conventions related to his work.”
The ministry said that King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa’s speech on June 24 stressed that Bahrainis did not need foreign mediation to address their issues.
Earlier this week, Krajeski said that he frequently met political leaders “only to understand the political landscape of Bahrain.”
“I met Shaikh Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood from the National Unity Assembly and Shaikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society,” he told the Gulf Daily News. “I also met frequently and openly officials in the government to discuss these issues, among others. I think it is absolutely a legitimate activity for a US diplomat and actually a responsibility and requirement that American diplomats understand the full picture in Bahrain. I require my political officers out on the street meeting and talking to people. The red line we will not cross is (meeting) anyone who espouses violence and either commits or calls for the violent overthrow of this or any other government,” he said.
Krajeski was the Senior Vice President of the National Defense University (NDU) from 2009-2011. He served at the US Embassy in Baghdad as the Senior Advisor to the Ambassador on Northern Iraq Affairs in 2008-09.
He was ambassador to Yemen (2004 – 2007) and Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq) in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In 2003, he served as a political advisor to Ambassador L. Paul Bremer’s at The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad.
He has served also in Nepal, India, Poland, Egypt, and the UAE. His other Washington assignments include the India Desk and the Operations Centre, his official biography said.

Bahrain says major terror plot foiled

GULFNEWS
Authorities discover bomb-making workshops south of capital
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau chief
 
Manama: 
Bahrain’s security chief said that a major terror plot has been foiled with the discovery of bomb-making workshops.
“We have seized five tonnes of explosive materials and 110 litres of chemicals after raiding buildings used as bomb factories,” Major General Tariq Al Hassan, Public Security chief, said.
The materials discovered earlier this month in Salmabad and Hamad Town, south of the capital Manama, also included four ready-to-use bombs containing homemade explosives packed with iron pellets, pipes to make bombs, electronic and mechanical tools to make the devices and gas cylinders.
The dangerous substances could have caused massive destruction, deaths and damage, he said.
“We see a new level of terrorist activity and a dangerous escalation of terror schemes and this is totally unacceptable. Such criminal acts frighten citizens and residents, destroy public and private property and injure policemen maintaining public order,” he said.
“The evidence seized by the police indicates that those behind the schemes are terrorists who have received advanced training and given logistical support,” Al Hassan told the media.
Three of the suspects reportedly involved in the terror activity have been identified, he said.

Bahrain | The Special mission, closing the Financial Harbor highway 25.6.2012

Bahrain human rights activist Nabeel Rajab released

The prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, has been freed after three weeks in detention.

Mr Rajab was detained on 6 June on suspicion of using social networking websites to publicly insult residents of a Sunni-dominated district for their ties to the royal family.
It is the second time in two months that he has been arrested and released.
Mr Rajab has helped organise many pro-democracy protests, which have been led by the Gulf kingdom's Shia majority.
He is also one of the most well-known activists in the Arab world, frequently speaking to the world's media and having more than 150,000 followers on Twitter.
Shortly after his release on Wednesday, Mr Rajab told the Associated Press news agency that he would "keep defending the people's rights".
The president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was arrested after alleging on Twitter that residents of Muharaq had welcomed the prime minister during a visit because he had offered them subsidies.
Prosecutors said they had received complaints that Mr Rajab had "talked on social networks about the people of Muharaq in a way that questioned their patriotism and insulted them".
Mr Rajab is now facing trial on four separate charges - two for posting comments on Twitter deemed insulting to the government and the Sunni community, and two others relating to protests.

6/27/2012

Kuwait protest at court ruling dissolving parliament

BBCNEWS

Thousands of Kuwaitis have protested against a court ruling that dissolved the opposition-dominated parliament.

Demonstrators in Kuwait City's Erada square chanted "we will not surrender", while a prominent opposition MP called for a constitutional monarchy.
Last week, the constitutional court declared February's National Assembly elections "illegal" and reinstated the previous pro-government parliament.
The emir ordered that parliament's dissolution amid corruption claims.
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah also ordered early elections at the time, saying "deteriorating conditions" had "threatened the country's higher interests".
His decrees came in the wake of the cabinet's decision in November to resign shortly before the former prime minister was to be asked about the alleged payment of bribes to pro-government MPs.
Kuwait's parliament has the most powers of any elected body in the Gulf, and opposition MPs openly criticise the ruling Sabah family. But the Sabahs retains full control over key government and executive posts.
'Fundamental reforms'
In February's elections, the opposition made significant gains, winning 34 of the 50 seats in the National Assembly, with 23 of them going to Sunni Islamists. Liberals won nine seats, while women did not win any.
When they were not given more than half the seats in the 15-member cabinet, opposition MPs repeatedly summoned ministers for questioning, leading two ministers to resign rather than complying and possibly facing confidence motions. Two weeks ago, the emir suspended parliament for a month to avert a political crisis.
Kuwait parliament Kuwait's parliament has been dissolved by the emir four times since 2006
Pro-government MPs meanwhile demanded that the previous parliament be reinstated and allowed to finish its term. Last Wednesday, the constitutional court backed their assertion and ruled that it was replaced unconstitutionally.
The court found the emir had wrongly drawn up the decree for February's elections after the cabinet had resigned. A caretaker cabinet was appointed before the decree was issued, but the court ruled that was insufficient.
On Monday, the cabinet formed after the elections formally resigned as a procedural step aimed at complying with the court ruling, officials said.
At the protest in Erada square on Tuesday evening, an opposition member of the dissolved National Assembly, Obaid al-Wasmi, told the crowd that the royal family and its government had to accept "fundamental constitutional reforms that must lead to forming an elected government and a full parliamentary system".
He also said some reinstated MPs should be investigated for corruption.
"We have a government that doesn't listen, doesn't see and all it does is deceiving the people," he added.

BAHRAIN: Suspects in High-Explosive Bomb Investigation Sought

Three Bahrain policemen face murder trial

A court in Bahrain has ruled that three policemen accused of killing three people during pro-democracy protests last year should be tried for murder.

They were originally facing the lesser charge of manslaughter and could now be sentenced to death if convicted, the Information Affairs Authority said.
Post-mortem examinations last year found the victims had been shot at close range, a rights commission said.
A fourth policeman was also sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.
He was found guilty of assault after having wounded a protester by firing birdshot at them, the IAA said, adding that the officer himself was in hospital after suffering severe injuries in a bomb attack two months ago.
The trial of the officers accused of the murders of Ali Ahmed Abdullah, Issa Abdul Hassan and Hani Abdul Aziz Goma will resume on 10 July.
Compensation
In a related development, the Bahraini government said it would pay $2.6m to the families of some people killed during the uprising in February and March 2011.
"Disbursement of compensation to the families of 17 deceased persons has begun in keeping with the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)," a statement said, citing a justice ministry official.
The government said the payments amounted to $153,000 per person.
The BICI reported in November that at least 35 people were killed between February and March 2011, 30 of them civilians and five security forces personnel. It also found that security forces had used excessive force and tortured detainees, including five who died.
Most of the demonstrators were from the Gulf kingdom's Shia Muslim majority, which has long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni royal family, the Al Khalifa, and wants democratic reforms.
Almost 3,000 people were also arrested by security services after King Hamad declared a state of emergency in March and asked fellow Sunni-led Gulf states to send in troops. Scores were tried by military courts and sentenced to prison terms of up to life after what human rights activists said were grossly unfair trials.
The king has tried to address some of the protesters' demands by announcing constitutional reforms intended to lead to greater accountability. But opposition and human rights activists have complained that the violent crackdown on dissent is continuing.

Bahrain: 3 police face murder charges in shootings

SF GATE
REEM KHALIFA, Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain said Tuesday that three police officers on trial over killing demonstrators during street protests last year will now face murder charges and could face the death penalty.
The defendants, who were not named, include a police lieutenant, according to a statement by the Gulf nation's Information Affairs Authority. They were originally being tried on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
They are on trial for three separate shooting deaths that occurred in February and March 2011.
Conviction on manslaughter charges carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, but a murder conviction can result in life imprisonment or the death penalty, according to the IAA statement.
"If convicted of murder, employees of the Ministry of Interior are likely to receive the toughest penalties allowed by law," it added.
A report issued in November by a commission authorized by Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers cited medical reports that found all three victims were shot from close range. The report determined that their deaths were the result of excessive force by police.
The officers' trial resumes July 10.
In a related development, authorities said they have begun the process of giving compensation to families of people killed during the uprising.
At least 50 people have been killed since the violence began in the strategic island nation, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Many were protesters, but security forces were also among the dead.
A total of $2.6 million is being paid out to the families of 17 victims initially, according to an IAA statement. It quoted Judge Khalid Hassan Ajaji, a Justice Ministry official, who said the office handling the claims began its work in March.
The statement did not name the recipients.
However, three defense lawyers representing several victims among opposition protesters said they were unaware of any payments being made so far.
"Nothing has been paid to any victim, according to my information," defense lawyer Mohsen al-Alawi told The Associated Press. "The government said it will pay the victims, but nothing has been paid."
Two other lawyers, Abdullah al-Shamlawi and Jalila al-Sayed, also said they did not know of any payments being made.
Last September, Bahrain's king ordered the creation of a fund to compensate victims of the Arab Spring-inspired unrest that broke out in February 2011.
The country has experienced near daily protests for 16 months in an uprising by the kingdom's Shiite majority seeking greater political rights from the Western-backed Sunni monarchy.

6/26/2012

Turkey warns UN over Syrian 'threat to security'

BBCNEWS
Turkish F-4 Phantom jet (file) Rescue teams from Turkey and Syria are still searching for the wreckage of the plane
Nato has begun meeting in special session after Syria shot down a Turkish plane - an act condemned by Turkey as a "serious threat" to regional peace.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18584872

6/25/2012

Bahrain opposition leader injured in protest

Shaikh Ali Salman says more violations will complicate efforts for reconciliation
  • AP
 
Manama: Bahraini riot police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on Friday, injuring the head of the Shiite majority’s main political bloc while trying to break up protests in the country’s capital, the opposition said.
Al Wefaq’s secretary-general Shaikh Ali Salman said he was hit in the shoulder and back by either a tear gas canister or stun grenade during demonstrations in Manama, which are common following Friday prayers. He had red welts on his skin but seemed otherwise in good health. Al Wefaq had earlier said that rubber bullets had caused the injury.
He said he was leading about 40 protesters on the way to a march when they encountered police who ordered them to disperse and then started firing into the crowd.
Hassan Al Marzouq, another opposition leader, was hit in the neck by a rubber bullet, an Al Wefaq statement said. He has since been taken to a private hospital in the capital for treatment.
Salman said the leaders had been intentionally targeted, the first time that the Bahrain security forces had done so.
“More violations will complicate our efforts for reconciliation and a meaningful dialogue,” he said. “We continue our democratic demands and call for universal human rights principles through peaceful assemblies. It is the people’s right.”
Bahrain has experienced near daily protests by Shiites seeking greater political rights from the government.
The country’s rulers have crucial support from Saudi Arabia, but are under pressure from their US allies to reopen dialogue with Shiite opposition factions. A new government initiative for talks is expected to be announced soon. But the main Shiite groups have already signalled that negotiations are futile unless the rulers agree to give up their near-total control of government affairs in the kingdom, which is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Opposition groups had requested a permit to hold Friday’s protest but said they were denied one by authorities. They attempted to march anyway to the site of a historic Shiite mosque, sparking several hours of clashes with riot police. Along with the protest leaders, Al Wefaq said scores were injured from inhaling tear gas during several hours of clashes.
Security forces closed roads leading to the protest site and protesters responded by lighting fires along the roadside.

Muslim Brotherhood's Mursi declared Egypt president

BBCNEWS
 

The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Mursi has been declared the winner of Egypt's presidential election run-off.

Mohammed Mursi is declared the winner of Egypt's presidential election

6/24/2012

Iran Planning Naval Missions beyond Mediterranean Sea

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Navy Commander Read Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said his forces will go on international missions in waters farther than the Mediterranean Sea.

The Admiral said Iran's naval forces were only deployed in the Persian Gulf a decade ago, but have since made giant advancements and go on missions in volatile waters in far seas.

"Today we witness that the Army's naval force is deployed in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea instead of the Persian Gulf, and God willing, we will go beyond the Mediterranean in future," said the Navy commander.

On July 19 Sayyari announced for the first time that Iran was going to send "a flotilla into the Atlantic" near the US coasts.

Two months later Sayyari reiterated the plan, saying the Iranian Navy plans to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup "near maritime borders of the United States".

"Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders," Sayyari said, addressing a ceremony marking the 31st anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

Sayyari gave no details of when such a deployment could happen or the number or type of vessels to be used.

The Iranian navy has been developing its presence in international waters since last year, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.

Iran also sent two ships into the Mediterranean for the first time in February, via the Suez Canal, to the annoyance of Israel and the United States.

And in July, Sayyari announced that an Iranian submarine had completed an inaugural mission in the Southern Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

My Apologies to the Bahrain Doctors, and More About the Bahrain Foundation


Sorry

Since the launch of the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse (BFRCD), I’ve been getting three types of feedback.  One is very supportive, saying how great this initiative is and how badly it is needed in Bahrain. The second type of feedback is vehemently against it, which is coming from both sides.  The extreme pro-gov camp says there can be no reconciliation with supposed traitors etc., while the anti-gov camp says there can be no reconciliation with the regime that has done so much damage.  The third type of feedback has a “wait and see” attitude, giving us time to prove ourselves.
One of the things that was being consistently brought against me by the anti-gov camp was a blog post I wrote last year about the doctors.  I was accused of calling them traitors and terrorists.  Let me clarify, I said no such thing and have never used such words to describe my fellow countrymen.
However, I did use the word terrorist in quotation marks (” “) (علامات الاقتباس ) meaning that others were using this word, not me. Incidentally, though I thought the doctors were guilty (more about that in a minute), I did call for a pardon and I called for reform and for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission – which I still hope happens in Bahrain.
Now, the recent court rulings have shown us that at least nine were innocent, and most of the other nine were given much lighter sentences, meaning that many of the original charges were trumped up.
I was clearly wrong in my assessment, and to those doctors and their families, and anyone else, who may have taken offence to last year’s blog post, I offer my apologies.  I was wrong, and I hope in time you can forgive me.  I cannot imagine how difficult the last year must have been.
While I’m on this topic, allow me to talk a bit more about the BFRCD.

Not a political organisation:

Since before our official launch the BFRCD has caused a lot of controversy, with many people thinking that it is a political organisation.  It is not, the Foundation is mainly concerned with social reconciliation, and civil dialogue (discourse).
Yes, I am the first to acknowledge that we need political reconciliation too, but why wait for the politicians to start?  We might as well start on the social level, right? The BFRCD tries to work on the social/sectarian reconciliation in our beloved island.
I want to share a valuable take-away from the recent “Reconciliation Lessons from Northern Ireland” lecture we held this week, which was conducted by Peter Sheridan from Cooperation Ireland.  Peter told the audience that the origin of the Northern Ireland conflict was political, which eventually became sectarian.
Our crisis may not have been sectarian at the outset (according to many), but it certainly has sectarian ramifications, which will only get worse if not addressed now, before the next generation has hate engrained in them.

The CP:

I am honoured and delighted that we are officially endorsed by HRH the Crown Prince.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a big fan of his, and his endorsement means the world to me. The CP has always said “Bahrain is for all”, and it’s with that in mind that he endorsed us.
However, the BFRCD is independent and will have an independent board of trustees. We are also not spokespersons for him.  I’ve been asked many questions about the CP, and my response is always the same: please address any questions to his court.
We hope that in time our track record will speak for itself.  I fully acknowledge that many consider me a very controversial person.  Some think I’m the perfect person to start such an initiative, while others think the opposite because of my past views.  Some consider me too close the government, while some on the extreme right consider me way too close the opposition.  I’m not here to defend any of my stances, I will forge ahead with love and respect for all, and our arms are open to those who want to work for us.
We’ve been acknowledged by the government, and by the opposition (I believe the only organisation to have this privilege) and we hope to work closely with both, yet always maintain our independence.

No outrage and no condemnation:

The BFRCD does not plan to show outrage towards any stance or incidence, no matter how dramatic, as we are not a political organisation.  There are enough outraged people in Bahrain, and by extension outraged NGO’s and other organisations. We plan to stay neutral and forge ahead, even if the political crisis is not over (and the abuse allegedly continues).
Also, we will not condemn anyone or any acts.  If a villager is attacked or hurt we will not comment, nor will we comment if a cop has been injured through Molotov cocktails. We will let others do that if they choose to.  We will have a no-judgment policy, and we will not force our views on anyone.  The only thing I will say is that we believe violence is not the answer, regardless of who does it.

My political stance:

For those who don’t know, I consider myself a royalist.  But I’m a royalist who believes we desperately need 1) reforms and 2) reconciliation.  And since I and the BFRCD cannot engage in political reconciliation, we might as well work on the social side.  We’re not here to solve all of Bahrain’s problems, but we’ll do our bit to build bridges and make Bahrain better than it was. And the more NGO’s will work on this, the better this small island kingdom can become.
I want to end this blog post with an apology to anyone who may have been offended by anything I’ve written here in the past.  I’m willing to turn a new page with anyone who is willing to do the same.  And I fully acknowledge the fact that many are not willing to reconcile on any level. I know there is a lot of anger, hate and fear still lingering.  All I can say that God willing in time our wounds will heal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.

God bless.

How would NATO respond to Syria shooting down a Turkish plane?

FP
Posted By Uri Friedman

This morning, Turkey made the startling announcement that it had lost contact with one of its F-4 military jets near the country's southern border with Syria, and that it had launched search-and-rescue efforts for the plane's two pilots.
Details about the incident are still fuzzy. Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News is reporting that Syrian authorities have apologized to their Turkish counterparts for downing the aircraft (and cooperated on the rescue mission), while the BBC notes that the Turkish government has called an emergency security meeting and that witnesses in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia have told BBC Arabic that Syrian air defenses shot down an aircraft. But none of the key details -- the plane's mission, the cause and location of the crash, the whereabouts of the pilots -- have been nailed down.
"We've lost a plane and as yet we don't know have any information as to what happened and whether it was brought down," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a press conference on Friday.
Even with the shifting facts, it's worth asking: Could this incident -- or an incident like it -- trigger more aggressive action against Syria by the international community? After all, Turkey is a member of NATO, and Article V of the Washington Treaty outlines the alliance's commitment to collective security:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
A day after 9/11, NATO invoked this very provision for the first (and, to date, only) time, pledging to support U.S. military retaliation if it were determined that the terrorist attacks had been perpetrated by foreign nationals. The United States soon satisfied this condition in briefings with NATO members, but ultimately chose to topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan outside the NATO framework. (It's also worth noting that NATO forces are involved in plenty of operations that don't involve Article V.)
If Turkey has reason to believe that Syria shot down its plane, might NATO respond in a similar fashion? It's not an entirely unreasonable question. The bloody and protracted crisis in Syria has poisoned relations between Ankara and Damascus, and Turkey suggested in April that it might turn to NATO under Article V to help protect its border in response to incursions by Syrian forces -- a threat Syria condemned as "provocative."
But Kurt Volker, the executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, points out that Article V simply offers NATO allies an opportunity to consult with one another and does not necessarily entail a military response. If Turkey wanted to bring today's incident to the alliance, it would most likely instruct the Turkish ambassador in Brussels to work with NATO's secretary-general on calling a formal meeting to discuss the episode and formulate an appropriate response.
"A response could be anything from a statement reiterating the inviolability of security guarantees to members coordinating activities so that they can respond to further attacks on Turkish interests," Volker says. 
He doesn't believe today's incident alone will alter the international community's response to the Syrian conflict, but he does think a NATO meeting on the matter could nurture a broader discussion about how to intervene militarily in Syria outside the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China have repeatedly opposed such action. One scenario, he adds, could be Western and Arab countries joining forces to create "safe zones" in Syria, support the Syrian opposition, and conduct aerial strikes against Syria's offensive military assets. 
"I do get the feeling that the patience of the international community is growing thinner," Volker explains. "With the recent village-by-village slaughter [in Syria] and brazenness of the Russians in trying to arm the Syrians, I think we may be approaching a point at which this kind of coalition intervention is more thinkable than it was a couple months ago."
James Joyner, the managing editor of the Atlantic Council, points out that if Syria shot down the lost Turkish plane in Syrian air space, it would not be considered an attack under NATO's charter. Even if NATO determines that Syria attacked Turkey, he adds, he doesn't think the alliance has any appetite for going to war with Syria.
"It would be one thing if Syria sent ground troops into Turkey and started shooting," he says, "but shooting down a plane that might have been surveilling Syrian air space is just a different animal than that. This is more of a harsh words and sanctions kind of thing, and frankly there's not much more of that that we can do in terms of Syria."
Update: After an emergency security meeting, Prime Minister Erdogan's has issued a statement indicating that Turkey believes it was indeed Syria that shot down its fighter jet and that the pilots have yet to be found. Most ominously, the statement added that Turkey would respond decisively once it had established exactly what took place today, according to the BBC.  
A Syrian military spokesman also issued a statement on the Turkish jet, noting that "an unidentified aerial target" had "violated Syrian airspace" on Friday morning and that "the Syrian anti-air defenses counteracted with anti-aircraft artillery, hitting it directly as it was 1 kilometer away from land, causing it to crash into Syrian territorial waters west of Om al-Tuyour village in Lattakia province, 10 kilometers from the beach." The aircraft, the spokesman added, "was dealt with according to laws observed in such cases."

London 2012 Olympics: Saudis allow women to compete


Saudi Arabia is to allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
Officials say the country's Olympic Committee will "oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify".
The decision will end recent speculation as to whether the entire Saudi team could have been disqualified on grounds of gender discrimination.
The public participation of women in sport is still fiercely opposed by many Saudi religious conservatives.
There is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport in the country.
Saudi officials say that with the Games now just a few weeks away, the only female competitor at Olympic standard is showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas.
But they added that there may be scope for others to compete and that if successful they would be dressed "to preserve their dignity".
In practice this is likely to mean modest, loose-fitting garments and "a sports hijab", a scarf covering the hair but not the face.
For the desert kingdom, the decision to allow women to compete in the Olympics is a huge step, overturning deep-rooted opposition from those opposed to any public role for women.
As recently as April, the indications were that Saudi Arabia's rulers would accede to the sensitivities of the religious conservatives and maintain the ban on allowing women to take part.
But for the past six weeks there have been intense, behind-the-scenes discussions led by King Abdullah, who has long been pushing for women to play a more active role in Saudi society.
'Subtle reform'
In secret meetings in Jeddah, officials say a consensus was reached in mid-June between the king, the crown prince, the foreign minister, the leading religious cleric, the grand mufti and others, to overturn the ban.
An announcement was ready to be made but then had to be delayed as the country marked the sudden death of Crown Prince Nayef.
"It's very sensitive," a senior Saudi official told the BBC. "King Abdullah is trying to initiate reform in a subtle way, by finding the right balance between going too fast or too slow.
"For example, he allowed the participation of women in the Shura council [an advisory body] so the Olympic decision is part of an ongoing process, it's not isolated."
The official acknowledged that to refuse to let women take part would have looked bad on the international stage.
"Partly because of the mounting criticism we woke up and realised we had to deal with this. We believe Saudi society will accept this," the official said.
It is not the first time a Saudi monarch has backed a controversial reform against domestic opposition.
King Faisal, who introduced television in the 1960s and was eventually assassinated, insisted on introducing education for girls.
Today, Saudi women graduates outnumber their male counterparts.

6/23/2012

Jihadists' Twitter presence becomes more sophisticated



Jihadists and their sympathisers' presence on Twitter is limited, rather sophisticated and increasing.
That's what I found after spending more than a month-and-a-half following their tweets.
The micro-blogging website Twitter, which attracts more than 100m users, allows people to create a list of Twitter users they follow.
You can observe a stream of tweets for people in that list.
I created a list for more than 35 accounts which explicitly affiliate themselves with jihadist movements.
Some of these Twitter accounts have thousands of followers.
By the end of May, Shabakat Ansar al-Mujahideen (Partisans of Mujahideens' Network) had announced its presence on Twitter.
The web forum is a famous site that disseminates jihadist propaganda and serves as a means of communication for jihadist sympathisers,
Also the al-Midad Network of Yemen-based Ansar al-Sharia joined Twitter recently.
But these were not the only official incidences of jihadists on Twitter; the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Shabab in Somalia also have a strong presence on the site.
The Lion of Jihad
Other al-Qaeda-affiliated media outlets such as The Jihad Media Elite, which specialises in reproducing selected materials of jihadists, also has an account on Twitter.
These official accounts mainly use the site to promote links to jihadist material and update followers as soon as the content is broadcast on the jihadist forums.
Another Twitter account is dedicated to promoting jihadist poetry and hymns.
Some "tweeple" - a jargon term used to describe people who use Twitter - have created accounts for well-known jihadist figures including the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the late American-Yemeni cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, and others.
Despite using them to tweet their writing, speeches and messages, they have stated clearly that these are non-official accounts.
Recently, jihadist sympathisers welcomed Assad al-Jihad 2's arrival on Twitter.
Assad al-Jihad 2 (the Lion of Jihad 2) is a pseudonym of a regular contributor on jihadist web forums.
His articles, which are highly regarded by their users, show that he is an authority who speaks on behalf of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups.
His tweets are attracting followers.
The other type of jihadist presence on Twitter is represented by jihad sympathisers who do not represent official affiliation but they explicitly support the jihadist movements.
They use Twitter, in addition to promoting what officials produce, to encourage jihad, advocate causes and also to defend their ideology.
Saad al-Khathlan, a Saudi cleric and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, tweeted on 3 June criticising al-Qaeda.
He wrote that al-Qaeda does not represent "right Islamic jihad", arguing that they have not shot even a bullet at "Zionists in Israel," nor on "the Nusayri regime in Syria", another name for the Alawite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
These tweets brought Khathlan a huge amount of criticism from jihadist sympathisers.
Assad al-Jihad 2 asked him for public debate on the internet, while jihad sympathisers on Twitter hashtagged him.
To hashtag is to use the # symbol to mark a keyword or a topic which allow it to appear in a single stream of related tweets, and make it easier to find in a search.
Jihad sympathisers defended al-Qaeda, accusing Khathlan of being a mouthpiece of the Saudi regime, and insisting that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have attacked Israel and have a presence in Syria.
Campaign tool
Syria is one of the topics dominating jihad sympathisers' Twitter activities.
They are encouraging donations for the uprising against the Assad regime, and are using Twitter to promoting their channels for such donations after Saudi Arabia banned fundraising for Syria in June.
Jihadist sympathisers are also campaigning via the site to release clerics - including jihadist supporters - from Saudi prisons.
Their Twitter timelines are full of stories about prisoners' biographies, their families' activities to support them and allegations that they have been tortured by Saudi authorities.
I tried to check what Twitter is doing to monitor such tweets and what its policy is regarding this.
My emails have not yet been answered - email is the only method to reach Twitter, as even if one calls, an automated message asks you to send an email.
The nature of Twitter, which is a wide open public forum, means that the presence of jihadists on the site is expected to increase.

Leading Syrians prepare to defect

Members of Bashar al-Assad's inner circle 'making secret plans to defect' as Syria air force colonel abandons attack mission and flies MiG to Jordan.

 21 Jun 2012

Members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle are secretly making plans to defect to the opposition should the Syrian regime become critically threatened by the rebellion, US officials have told The Daily Telegraph.
Senior military figures are understood to be laying down “exit strategies” and establishing lines of communication with the rebels to discuss how they would be received if they deserted.
The Daily Telegraph understands that the pilots of three other MiGs on the mission also considered defecting, but were worried about being turned away.
Mr Assad is under intense pressure over the 15-month uprising, with world leaders considering offering the Syrian president an immunity deal to ensure he relinquishes power.
His government has so far managed to prevent the wave of diplomatic defections that heralded the fall of the Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi.
However, a senior US official in Washington said some of those closest to the Syrian leader were now preparing to flee. “We are seeing members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle make plans to leave,” the official said.
This has even included moving large sums of money offshore into Lebanese and Chinese banks and making contact with opposition elements and Western governments.
Syrian opposition groups confirmed that they were actively courting American help to encourage more defections.
One senior opposition source said: “I know for sure there are some high-ranking officers who are waiting for the right chance to defect.
“We have names of people in the presidential palace. There are rumours that there is one who is really close to the president and we are expecting to see him out of the country soon.”
The defection yesterday of Col Hassan Merei al-Hamade raised opposition hopes that it could provoke the start of the exodus.
He was granted political asylum by Jordan only hours after landing his jet at the King Hussein air base in Mafraq, taking off his air force tags and kneeling on the tarmac in prayer.
The air force is considered fiercely loyal to the Assad regime and opposition activists said the escape of Colonel al-Hamade represented a sign that its growing international isolation was starting to test the military’s loyalties.
“He and three other MiGs were on a mission to bomb [southern rebel stronghold of] Dera’a. He has risked his life,” an activist told The Daily Telegraph.
“There was talk about defections, but the three other fighter planes did not because they were afraid and because they were unsure how they will be received in Jordan.”
The White House said the Obama administration “welcomed this pilot’s decision to do the right thing”.
Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesman, said “This is how these things start. It is obviously a significant moment when a guy takes a $25 million plane and flies it to another country.”
But Syria’s defence ministry called the pilot a “traitor to his country and his military honour”.
More than 100,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan since the uprising began, including military defectors who are kept in a compound for their own safety.
Brig Gen Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik, who fled to Turkey in January, is so far the highest ranking Syrian officer to defect. In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney-general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected.
Col Ahmed Nemaa, the head of the opposition forces in Dera’a, claimed that other senior figures were planning to follow suit, but had been told to stay put for the time being. “We have asked many military personnel who are planning to defect to stay within the Syrian army so we can use them at the right time. This includes some of the top commanders of Syrian army,” he said.
Opposition groups claim that the Assad regime has managed to prevent widespread defections with a carefully orchestrated campaign in which the families of diplomats and high-level figures are used to blackmail them to remain loyal.
Reports have emerged of the government running detention centres in Damascus where the family members of diplomats are being held under the watch of the mukhabarat, or secret police. Old laws requiring all military personnel to receive a stamp of approval from the mukhabarat before leaving the county, which until recently had been observed only in the breach, are now all being strictly enforced again, according to one source in Damascus.
Switzerland said yesterday it had been in contact with the team of Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, about hosting an international conference. It came after senior British sources said that Mr Assad could be offered safe passage to the country to take part in peace talks under a Western plan to convince him to relinquish his hold on power.
Elsewhere yesterday, the Syrian army maintained its bombardment of Homs even though a temporary truce had been agreed to allow aid workers to evacuate the sick and wounded. The International Committee of the Red Cross said its aid workers had been forced to turn back.

Annan to world: Raise pressure to stop Syrian violence


(CNN) -- Diplomats sought new ways to forge peace in Syria on Friday as the killings continued in the restive land.
Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria for the Arab League and the United Nations, urged countries to use their pull on the combatants to stop the fighting. He is also planning an international meeting to discuss next steps on Syria.
"It is time for countries of influence to raise the level of pressure on the parties on the ground and to persuade them that it is in their interest to stop the killing and start talking," Annan said in Geneva, Switzerland.
"I urge all parties to heed the call for a cessation of violence in all its forms, first and foremost for the sake of the Syrian people, the children and women in particular. I think they have suffered for far too long and continue to suffer. But if our efforts are to succeed, we shall need the united and sustained support of the international community. This is essential."
The diplomatic wrangling comes as violence continues to rage across the country.
Since the uprising began in March 2011, violence has killed more than 15,000 people in Syria, mostly civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations has said that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
At least 128 people died Thursday in one of the deadliest days of the 15-month conflict, and another 87 deaths have been recorded Friday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said. Thirteen people died in Homs, 11 in Aleppo and 10 in the Damascus suburbs.
The Local Coordination Committees said that more than 10 massacres have occurred in the past few days, including recent ones in Inkhel and Douma. News also emerged Friday of a recent mass killing and constant shelling in Daret Azza, in Aleppo province.
Syrian state-run TV says "armed terrorist gangs" kidnapped "innocent civilians" and "desecrated their bodies," an act it describes as a "barbaric massacre" in the area. It said that more than 25 people have been killed.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 26 people shot and killed in the area were members of a pro-government militia called the Shabiha, who are themselves blamed for killings of civilians.
Syria consistently blames terrorists for the violence. Opposition groups say the violence began when a government crackdown on peaceful protesters generated a nationwide uprising.
CNN cannot confirm specific reports of violence in Syria because the government has restricted access to the country by international journalists.
Annan and Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the head of the suspended U.N. observer mission in Syria, described a bleak scenario to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Annan said that in the past few days, he has been in "intensive consultations with a number of ministers and officials in capitals around the world about the possibility of convening a meeting of ministers to discuss what further actions could be taken to implement the Security Council resolutions."
"We can not just step back and do nothing, and this is why I say, if we have alternatives, let's go with it," Annan said.
Annan favors the inclusion of Iran in such a meeting.
"The composition of the group will be such that I hope that apart from Security Council members, the permanent members of the Security Council, it will include governments and countries with influence on one or the other parties, coming together and deciding that they will cooperate and work together, realizing that it is only when the international community comes together and sustains its pressure and effort that we get results. Today, honestly speaking, that is not happening," he said.
Annan was asked what actions he would like to see taken at the upcoming conference.
"We either have to find ways of getting the plan implemented, if we think it is still worthwhile pursuing it, and if the plan is not worthwhile, what other options are we going to look at and begin to take a look at them," he said.
"There may be recommendations emanating from the group that the council would want to act on, but they as a group will not take that kind of decisions. I hope they will decide to use their collective influence on the parties to push them in the right direction as well as perhaps coming up with ideas that the council can work on."
Both men discussed the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Annan said that up to 1.5 million people are affected somehow by the warfare. He said that at least 92,000 people have fled to other countries in the region.
Mood said the "level of destruction" is massive in violence-stricken flashpoints, such as neighborhoods in Homs, Daraa and Hama.
"I am also particularly concerned about the continued military occupation of hospitals, health facilities and schools, also preventing access to medical attention for those in need. Which means the need for the humanitarian response plan to be effective and the scale of rebuilding and reconstruction that is before us once there is a cessation of violence is enormous," he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said one of its teams tried to enter neighborhoods in Homs to help people caught in the crossfire, but Mood said "civilians continue to be trapped in the line of fire."
"There is a need to call on all parties when they are pursuing their objectives by military means to distinguish very clearly between civilians and combatants. It is not always easy. And all parties must abide by the obligation to keep civilians out of harm's way. And obviously it is the government that has the primary responsibility to civilian populations to protect them from all forms of violence. The latest attempts by the (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) and the ICRC to have a breakthrough related to evacuating the civilians -- children, women, elderly -- out of Homs have regrettably not yet succeeded," Mood said.
Mood has been leading a mission to monitor what is a failed cease-fire and the government's adherence to a six-point peace plan that has not taken hold. But the mission had to be suspended because of rising violence. He said the observers are still in Syria and are conducting administrative activities.
The Local Coordination Committees said that more than 3,600 people have died since the Annan plan began this year.
"The observers in Syria, at the moment, they are mainly in their team sites and at headquarters," Mood said. "That does not mean that we are doing nothing. It means that, from their team sites, they have view of surrounding areas, the cities. We are also continuing the engagement by telephone with the different parties, and we also have some patrols going to local hospitals and assessing the situation. So the normal administrative activities are ongoing, but patrols and exploring new areas and going into new projects is not on the agenda while the activities are suspended. Obviously, given the fact that the mandate is for 90 days and that it doesn't expire until the 20th of July, my focus is to be able to continue to implement the mandated tasks as soon as the situation allows. And a less risky level of violence makes that possible."
Annan said the observers are "keen to resume their work."
"In the short time that they have been there, they have engaged not just with the parties but with communities at all levels of society in the cities and towns where they have been deployed," Annan said. "Their commitment to the Syrian people has not faltered. But the circumstances must allow them to do their work. And we all know that they are unarmed men and women who are doing courageous work."
Annan hasn't lost hope about the mission. He said he's seen other situations where plans are implemented and progress is reached after long delays.
"I have seen situations where plans have not been implemented for a while, and then suddenly there are shifts, shifts take place on the ground in strategic alliances, and you can see progress. And I hope we can see some of the positive shifts in positions of government, their willingness to pressure, or to take certain actions to give us movement," he said.
Annan was asked when he'll know the crisis will spiral out of control.
"If it does continue to escalate, there will come a moment when not only the U.N. but everybody will see very clearly that the situation is not sustainable, is not controllable and is beyond control of everyone. And we don't want to get there. his is why we are trying to press and push to see if we can get the parties to take steps to end the violence before we get to that stage. I don't think we are there yet, but we may not be far from there."
Meanwhile, Russia's foreign minister says Syrian leaders are ready to work with the rebels to synchronize a pullout of forces. Russia is a friend of Syria's, and world powers believe that it has tremendous pull with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"Among the most important positions in our vision for the forthcoming conference on Syria is that the government forces and armed forces of the opposition should make a synchronized withdrawal of forces from towns and centers of population under control of international observers. The Syrian government has told me today they are ready to do this," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya 24 TV.
"It's now important that the other side gets ready for the move and that the U.N. mission in Syria draws up the necessary (withdrawal) plans and pursue their implementation."
Russia has no plans to send naval forces to Syria with soldiers on board, Lavrov said Friday in response to recent media reports.

Bombs rip through Baghdad market

THE TELEGRAPH

Two bombs tore through a market full of morning shoppers in northeastern Baghdad on Friday, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens more.

The explosion came at midmorning in a market in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Husseiniyah, where shoppers were buying goods before the heat of the day, a police official said.
The blasts were the latest in a fierce wave of attacks in Iraq in the past two weeks that has killed more than 125 people, mostly Shiite Muslims and government security forces.
The bloodshed highlights the struggle the Iraqi government faces in defeating al-Qaida-linked insurgents and staving off renewed sectarian warfare. The government itself is deadlocked over largely sectarian political conflicts.
Minutes later, a second bomb went off, apparently targeting police who had rushed to the scene.
The death toll was at least nine people dead and more than 50 wounded, a medical official said . Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
In a separate attack earlier, gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint in western Baghdad, killing three officers, the police official said.

Saudi execution prompts Indonesia maid travel ban

BBCNEWS
Indonesia is to stop allowing its citizens to work as domestic servants in Saudi Arabia after the execution of a maid for murder last week.

Officials said the moratorium would begin on 1 August and last until the countries could agree on a policy of fair treatment for migrant workers.
Ruyati binti Sapubi, 54, was beheaded on Saturday after confessing to killing her employer, saying he had abused her.
Saudi Arabia apologised for not telling Indonesia, Jakarta said.
About 1.5 million Indonesians work in Saudi Arabia - many of them as domestic maids.
But there have been rows over alleged mistreatment in the recent past.
In April a Saudi woman, convicted of beating and torturing an Indonesian maid, had her conviction quashed on appeal - sparking protests in Indonesia.
Indonesian labour ministry spokeswoman Dita Indah Sari said the department would work closely with other government agencies on tightening all regulations concerning overseas domestic work.
Outcry
Extra measures would be put in place to ensure no-one travelled to Saudi Arabia to take up domestic employment during the moratorium period, with more officials posted at borders and airports.
"We do not want to see any illegal recruitments during this period," she said.
"We will set up a special task force whose job is to make sure there are no Indonesian workers heading for Saudi when the moratorium is in place."
She said the moratorium would be lifted once the two countries had signed a new agreement on the treatment of migrant workers.
Indonesian media reports said Ruyati binti Sapubi admitted attacking her boss with a meat cleaver after she was denied permission to return home.
The execution caused an outcry in Indonesia.
Saudi Arabia has not yet officially commented, but Indonesian officials said the Saudi ambassador to Jakarta had apologised for carrying out the execution without first informing diplomats and promised that it would not happen again.
Indonesia only recently resumed sending workers to Malaysia, after a row over the abuse of maids there led to a two-year suspension in the practice.

Syria military shoots down Turkish warplane


AL JAZEERA

Syrian military says it has shot down Turkish fighter jet "over its territorial waters", risking a new crisis between Middle Eastern neighbours already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down. It turned out to be a Turkish military plane," a statement by the military circulated on state media said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office in a statement confirmed the incident in which two pilots went missing.
"As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria," Erdogan's office has said in a statement.

 
Turkey would decide on its response to the incident once all of the details became clear, it said in the statement, issued after a two-hour meeting between Erdogan, members of his cabinet and the military.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul, said: "What those necessary measures are in Turkey’s views, whether it will be taking it alone or invoking its membership of NATO or calling for wider support, we don’t know."
"Beyond that what was Turkish fighter bomber plane was doing in Syrian airspace in the first place as per Turkish military," she said.
"We don’t know how the plane was downed and how the international community is going to support Turkey in whatever response it decides to take."
The military has said a search and rescue operation for the two pilots of the F-4 plane was under way, the Anatolia state news agency said.
'Escalation in tensions'
The jet had lost radio contact with its base over the eastern Mediterranean near Syria's Latakia, an army statement said earlier.
Ankara had said earlier that it had lost contact with one of its military aircraft off its southeastern coast after it took off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya.
NATO-member Turkey, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, turned against the Syrian leader when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world.
Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without UN Security Council approval.
Al Jazeera's McNaught said: "This is a dramatic escalation in tensions between two neighbouring countries. Relations have been bad for many months and the worse was when Syrian army fired on Turkish refugee camp holding Syrian refuges."
"At that point Turkey invoked issues of national sovereignty; it was seen as a bit of over-reaction then.
"We are in a completely different territory now."
Outside 'interference'
Russia and China, Assad's strongest backers abroad, have fiercely opposed any outside interference in the Syrian crisis, saying envoy UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan is the only way forward.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Syrian counterpart that he had urged Syria to "do a lot more" to implement Annan's proposals, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.
Lavrov said the Syrian authorities were ready to withdraw troops from cities "simultaneously" with opposition fighters.
A Syrian military pullback and a ceasefire were key elements in Annan's six-point peace plan.
Annan hit out at some countries he said had taken national initiatives that risked unleashing "destructive competition".
He told a news conference in Geneva on Friday that he wanted states with influence on both sides of the conflict to be involved in the peace process, including Iran, Assad's closest ally.
Annan was speaking a week before a planned Syria crisis meeting that is in doubt because of Western objections to the Islamic Republic's participation.

Bahrain opposition leader says injured in police clashes

 
 
MANAMA, June 22 (Reuters) - The leader of Bahrain's leading opposition party was hit by a rubber bullet and teargas canister during clashes with riot police on Friday, the party said, describing it as an escalation of government efforts to stop protests led by majority Shi'ites.
Sheikh Ali Salman was hit on the chest and shoulder, his Wefaq party said in a statement, and several others were also injured including Hassan Marzouk, pictures of whom circulated on social media showing him lying on the ground covered in blood around the neck.
There was no immediate Interior Ministry comment on the incident, but the ministry said late on Thursday it would prevent Wefaq organising a protest in the Sehla district on the edge of the capital.
It said the protest would obstruct traffic and that it had licensed numerous Wefaq protests already this year.
Witnesses said there was a heavy police presence to stop protesters reaching the site. They saw police fire teargas and demonstrators throwing petrol bombs.
"Security forces have been careful in dealing professionally with political leaders but this time was different. It seems a gradual crackdown is going on," said senior Wefaq party member Matar Matar. "They are closing the small margin for freedom of expression."
The Gulf Arab state, which hosts Washington's Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since pro-democracy protesters took to the streets in February 2011, after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.
The ruling Al Khalifa family, which is Sunni Muslim, has extended parliament's powers of scrutiny over ministers and budgets, but rejected demands for full legislative powers and elected governments.
The government says Wefaq and its supporters have a Shi'ite sectarian agenda. The opposition says this is an excuse to avoid giving up privileges. (Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Syrian military says it downed Turkish fighter jet

BBCNEWS

The Syrian military has said it shot down a Turkish plane "flying in airspace over Syrian waters", according to state-run news agency Sana.

"[The jet] was dealt with in accordance with the laws that govern such situations," a military spokesman said.
Turkey had earlier said it believed that one of its F-4 fighter jets had been shot down by Syrian forces.
A search for the two crew members is under way, involving Turkish and Syrian coast guard ships.
The F-4 Phantom disappeared over the Mediterranean, south-west of Hatay province, near the Syrian coast.
A military spokesman told Sana that an "unidentified target" had broached Syrian airspace from a westerly direction at 11:40 local time (08:40 GMT) on Friday.
The target was flying at high speed and at low altitude, the spokesman said.
Anti-aircraft defences had hit the plane with artillery, bringing it down in the sea 10km (6.2 miles) off the coast of Latakia province, he added.
"It later became clear the target was a Turkish military plane which had entered our airspace," he continued.
'Decisive response'
Earlier on Friday evening, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a two-hour emergency meeting with his interior, defence and foreign ministers and the Chief of the General Staff, Gen Necdet Ozel.
Mr Erdogan's office said that Turkey would respond decisively once all the circumstances were established.
Given the breakdown in relations between the two countries over the Syrian conflict, this incident has the potential to provoke a serious crisis, the BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul reports.
Relations between Nato-member Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled the violence across the border into Turkey.

6/21/2012

Britain urged to ban royal head of Bahrain Olympic committee

THE GUARDIAN

Son of Bahrain's king set to visit London 2012 despite being accused of violating athletes' human rights during Arab spring

Britain is being urged to deny entry to the head of Bahrain's Olympic committee – the son of the king – on the grounds of alleged involvement in serious human rights violations in the Gulf island state.
Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is claimed to have been "personally engaged" in beating, flogging and kicking pro-democracy protestors during Bahrain's brief chapter in the Arab spring last year.
Documents submitted to David Cameron and William Hague, the foreign secretary, and seen by the Guardian, describe how Sheikh Nasser launched "a punitive campaign to repress Bahraini athletes who had demonstrated their support (for) the peaceful pro-democracy movement.
"Following his directives more than 150 professional athletes, coaches and referees were subjected to arbitrary arrests, night raids, detention, abuse and torture by electric cables and other means," said the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based group.
Mohammed Hassan Jawad described how he and Mohammed Habeebe al-Muqdad were treated by the king's son at Manama Fort prison clinic on April 9 after they had taken part in a demonstration calling for the overthrow of the regime. "He started abusing us, began to flog, beat and kicked us everywhere," Jawad told a dissident newspaper quoted by the ECCHR. "He took a rest and drank water and then resumed the torture by pulling us from our hair and beards. No one else was involved in our torture and hence agony... He ordered the jailers to put our feet up to beat us. The torture continued for almost half a day until dawn."
Sheikh Nasser denies the allegations. The government of Bahrain acknowledges that human rights abuses have been committed by the authorities and says they, along with Sheikh Nasser, "unequivocally condemn them". Abuses were investigated by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), appointed by King Hamad to examine the handling of the unrest.
The UK government has said in relation to the Olympics that "where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the UK."
Bahrain is a sensitive case in the wider context of the Arab spring protests since King Hamad is treated as a valued ally of the west who plays host to the US Fifth Fleet and is close to Saudi Arabia, the regional powerhouse and the Middle East's biggest oil exporter. But his Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty rules over a restive Shia majority which has experienced sharp polarisation since the events of last year, when some 50-60 people were killed. The government in Manama has often blamed Iran for fomenting unrest.
Britain regularly urges the Bahraini government to implement the findings of the BICI, especially as they relate to human rights. King Hamad was in London for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier this month.
Unlike other more prominent figures, such as the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad or Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Sheikh Nasser is not subject to an EU or UN travel ban, so a committee of officials and ministers from the Foreign Office, Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will decide whether to grant or deny him a visa.
"The irony of welcoming to the London 2012 Olympic Games an individual who is alleged to have led an organised and brutal repression of athletes because they peacefully exercised their internationally recognised right to freedom of expression and association during Bahrain's Arab Spring would be a blow to all athletes around the world, and irreconcilable with the UK commitment to human rights and claimed support to peaceful pro-democracy movements," the ECCHR said. The bid is being supported by Bahraini opposition groups.
"Anyone can make allegations but without evidence they are not valid," said a spokesman for the Bahraini embassy in London. "We are very disappointed with NGOs who are focusing on Bahrain and forgetting about Syria."
The issues of sport and politics in Bahrain met explosively earlier this year over the Formula One Grand Prix, which went ahead despite concerns about ongoing human rights abuses.
Avaaz, the online campaigning group, is also circulating a petition demanding that Sheikh Nasser be denied entry to the UK. The ECCHR campaign is based on the argument that the prince could be held criminally liable according to international human rights law standards. It urged the government to act on this case and ensure it is "not subjected to politically-driven double standards".

Kuwait court voids election and reinstates parliament

BBCNEWS
Kuwait's former parliament has been reinstated after the country's latest election was declared "illegal".

The constitutional court ruled that a move to dissolve the previous government, ordered by Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, was unconstitutional.
Sheikh Sabah suspended parliament for a month earlier in the week, following a row between the cabinet and lawmakers.
Kuwait's ruler ordered the dissolution of parliament last December amid a crisis over corruption allegations.
Elections were subsequently held in February, in which Islamist-led opposition made significant gains.
The emir has dissolved parliament four times since 2006.
The most recent dissolution came after the country's cabinet resigned ahead of the questioning of former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah.
Protesters stormed parliament after the government tried to prevent him facing questions over the alleged payment of bribes to pro-government MPs.
The constitutional court's decision to reinstate the previous parliament is thought to be final and unchallengeable.
Opposition MP Mussallam al-Barra said the ruling was "a coup against the constitution", according to the AFP news agency.

6/19/2012

AFRICA: Fresh suspicions over hand in DR Congo war haunt Kigali

 
Rwanda faces fresh allegations that its soldiers are fighting in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo alongside the Bosco Ntaganda-led M23 Congolese rebels, who are currently causing mayhem in the Kivu region.
The international watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch claims that the Rwanda army has provided up to 300 fighters and offered weaponry to the rebels.
As the allegations fly, President Paul Kagame’s government is in a fix. Sources in the Rwanda military who spoke to Rwanda Today said Kigali will have to respond robustly to the allegations to retain its international credibility.
Simply issuing outraged denials is not enough. This is because Rwanda has a lot to lose, with its international credibility as a peace-builder now in question.
Its relations with the DRC — which have been improving in the recent past — are also at stake. Relations between the two nations have long been considered key to stabilising the shaky region, which harbours perhaps the largest population of militias in the world.

READ: DRC rebels target Congolese of Rwandese origin for recruitment
Analysts and government officials said while Kigali is putting a brave face on its ties with Kinshasa, its giant neighbour is currently generating Rwanda’s biggest political headache.
“The reality is that people are dying. Rwanda has no choice but to respond to the allegations,” said a source within the military.
“There is a feeling within the international community that Rwanda is an impediment to its access to the vast resources in DRC. So the allegations are aimed at clipping Rwanda’s wings.”
While government officials have over the past two weeks been on the defensive, rubbishing the claims, the worry is that the allegations are tainting Rwanda’s image abroad and could provide a fresh opportunity for the scattered elements of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda to (FDLR) to regroup in Congo.
The FDLR — which is composed of remnants of the Interahamwe who carried out the 1994 genocide and the former Rwandan army of president Juvenal Habyarimana — had been weakened following two offensives by the Rwandan army and the Democratic Republic of Congo army three years ago.

Wife encourages husband to take Egyptian wife

GULFNEWS
Pledge hinges on win for Muslim Brotherhood candidate in presidential elections
  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: A Yemeni journalist who was a presidential candidate in her country’s 2006 elections has pledged to encourage her husband to take another wife if the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammad Mursi, becomes the next Egyptian president.
Rasheeda Al Qeeli, an activist who supports the Muslim Brotherhood, said she made the pledge after her husband Abdul Rahman Al Sharif, a poet and a literary figure, kept telling her playfully for 14 years that he wanted to marry an Egyptian woman as well.
“I once read to him a social study issued five years ago which concluded that Egyptian women topped the Arab list of husband beaters, but he flatly rejected the findings,” Rasheeda said in comments published by Kuwaiti Arabic daily Al Rai on Tuesday.
“In all cases, I have pledged that if Mursi wins the presidential elections, I will encourage my husband to take a good Egyptian wife. I am serious about this sacrifice,” the 47-year-old woman said.
The husband said that he was surprised by Rasheeda’s pledge.
 
Woman yet to be chosen
“Rasheeda is my second wife and I will have to comply with her pledge,” he told the Kuwaiti daily. “I have not decided yet about the identity of the Egyptian wife, but I will travel to Egypt to choose her in case Mursi wins. But, let him win first, and then we will see what we will do.”
Mursi on Monday claimed victory in Egypt’s presidential race even though the rival camp of Ahmad Shafiq, the second candidate, has contested the unofficial results.
Polygamy is common in Yemen, particularly in rural areas.
 
Study on polygamy
A 2008 study by the Yemen Polling Centre (YPC) on polygamy found that 55 per cent of women agreed that polygamy could solve the issue of spinsterhood in Arab societies.
According to the study published by Yemen Post, polygamy is easily supported when the wife is sterile or when a divorce could cause family damage. Women who are widowed readily accept to marry men who already have wives, the study said.