Bahrain court bans opposition group for three months


A court in Bahrain has suspended leading Shia opposition group al-Wefaq a month before parliamentary elections are due, their defence lawyer says.
Abdullah al-Shamlawi told the Associated Press al-Wefaq's activities will be frozen for three months.
The group had planned to boycott the elections, claiming the government did not try to reconcile with them following their anti-monarchy protests.
Shia-dominated demonstrations against the Sunni monarchy began in 2011.
Al-Wefaq said they had no immediate comment on the court's ruling.
Republican protests
On 11 October, the group, alongside four other parties, said they would not participate in the 22 November elections because the results would be "fully controlled by the ruling authority".
In a statement they added that voting districts favoured the minority Sunnis and that any elected parliament would lack sufficient power.
The elections will be the first since the 2011 protests against the monarchy that left dozens dead.
The protesters had been demanding more rights and an end to discrimination against the majority Shia community by the Sunni royal family.
The demonstrations have continued up to now and thousands have been arrested. Reconciliation talks aimed at quelling the unrest have been unsuccessful.
Al-Wefaq was founded in 2002, a year after Bahrain announced political reforms in which the country became a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and an independent judiciary.


Iran hangs Reyhaneh Jabbari despite campaign


Iran has executed a woman who killed a man she said was trying to sexually abuse her.
Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, was hanged in a Tehran prison despite an international campaign urging a reprieve.
Jabbari was arrested in 2007 for the murder of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran's ministry of intelligence.
Human rights group Amnesty International said she was convicted after a deeply flawed investigation.
A campaign calling for a halt to the execution was launched on Facebook and Twitter last month and appeared to have brought a temporary stay in execution.
However, government news agency Tasnim said on Saturday that Jabbari had been executed after her relatives failed to gain consent from the victim's family for a reprieve.
It said her claims of self-defence had not been proved in court.
'True intentions'
Jabbari's mother, Shole Pakravan, confirmed the execution in an interview with BBC Persian, saying she was going to the cemetery to see her daughter's body.
Global executions for 2013
  • China: 1,000+
  • Iran: 369+
  • Iraq: 169+
  • Saudi Arabia: 79+
  • United States: 39
  • Somalia: 34+
  • Sudan: 21+
  • Yemen: 13+
  • Japan: 8
  • Others: 42+ (in 12 countries)
Source: Amnesty International
Rise in number of global executions
Ms Pakravan had been allowed to see her daughter for an hour on Friday.
After her arrest, Jabbari had been placed in solitary confinement for two months, where she reportedly did not have access to a lawyer or her family.
She was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Tehran in 2009.
Amnesty said that although Jabbari admitted to stabbing Abdolali Sarbandi once in the back, she alleged that there was someone else in the house who actually killed him.
Jalal Sarbandi, the victim's eldest son, said Jabbari had refused to identify the man.
He told Iranian media in April: "Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy,"
The United Nations says Iran has executed about 250 people this year.


Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urges world help on Ebola


Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the whole world has a stake in the fight against Ebola.
In a "letter to the world" broadcast on the BBC, she said the disease "respects no borders", and that every country had to do all it could to help fight it.
President Johnson Sirleaf added that a generation of Africans were at risk of "being lost to economic catastrophe".
The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people across West Africa, including 2,200 in Liberia.
International donations have so far fallen well short of the amounts requested by UN agencies and aid organisations.
In the worst-affected countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - about 9,000 people have been found to have the Ebola virus, which kills an estimated 70% of those infected.
Fragile states
The letter, commissioned by the BBC and read out on the World Service's Newshour programme, starts with the words "Dear World".
She goes on to say that the fight against Ebola "requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help - whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise".
"We all have a stake in the battle against Ebola," she says. "It is the duty of all of us, as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves."
She said it was not a coincidence that Ebola had taken hold in "three fragile states... all battling to overcome the effects of interconnected wars".
Liberia, she noted, had about 3,000 qualified doctors at the start of the civil war in the late 1980s - and by its end in 2003 it had just three dozen.
"Ebola is not just a health crisis," she added. "Across West Africa a generation of young people risk being lost to an economic catastrophe."
Donation shortfall
The latest crisis in West Africa is the worst-ever Ebola outbreak.
The virus spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.
Donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to UN agencies and aid organisations, short of the $988m requested.
Separately, the UN has also appealed for donations to a $1bn Ebola trust fund, intended to act as a flexible source of back-up money to contain the disease.
Graphic showing pledges in fight against Ebola - 16 October 2014
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that the fund, which was launched in September, had received just $100,000 (£62,000) in donations so far.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC he was "bitterly disappointed" with the international community's response.
"If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently," he said in a BBC interview.
How not to catch Ebola:
  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months
Ebola basics: What you need to know
How Ebola attacks
What virus has hit - in maps
Uncertainty over figures
How Ebola spreads
Have you been affected by the issues raised in this story? You can email haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk
Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (international). Or you can upload here.


UK police asked to investigate alleged Bahraini hacking of exiles’ computers


  • The Guardian,

  • The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate claims that computers and mobile phones used by exiled Bahraini pro-democracy activists living in the UK are under illegal surveillance.
    A complaint about Bahraini officials’ alleged monitoring of the devices was compiled by the civil liberties group Privacy International (PI) and submitted to the Metropolitan police on Monday.
    The remote interference is said to have started after Dr Saeed Shehabi, Jaafar al-Hasabi and Mohammed Moosa Abd-Ali Ali inadvertently downloaded malicious software or had their machines infected by the programs. The intrusive technology is able to copy and transmit documents, remotely turn on cameras and microphones to record, as well as send emails from other people’s accounts, according to PI.
    It said the technology involved was FinFisher, software once owned by Gamma International, a company that used to be based in Andover, Hampshire, but is now run by a firm based in Germany.
    The complaint is partially based on evidence published in August by Bahrain Watch and WikiLeaks, which, it is said, details exchanges between Bahraini officials and Finfisher staff who were providing technical support.
    The three men allegedly targeted are human rights activists who oppose the current regime in Bahrain and have been granted asylum in the UK.
    Moosa Abd-Ali Ali and Hasabi had both been detained and tortured in Bahrain. Shehabi has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia and had his Bahraini citizenship revoked.
    “We often had the feeling that they were spying on us but we had no physical evidence of intrusion,” said Shehabi, 60, who is a journalist. “I have lived here since 1971. I thought I was under British protection.”
    His only direct evidence of computer interference was when his Twitter account inexplicably began following more and more people; on another occasion, he said, his daughter’s travel plans were disclosed to Bahraini government officials. Three years ago his home in the UK was the target of an arson attack.
    Hasabi, 43, an IT specialist, said he had received numerous emails which he did not open because they appeared suspicious. He was alarmed to see his computer’s details appear in the WikiLeaks list online.
    Moosa Abd-Ali Ali, 33, a TV camera operator, said: “Many times I received notices from my friends that I had sent them emails when I had not. Once I opened up my Facebook page and found that someone was writing it. Later I found it had been deleted. On other occasions I received notices from Gmail saying someone had tried to hack into my account.
    “When I first came to the UK I felt safe but I don’t any more. They have hacked my computer.”
    PI said: “It is clear from the Gamma documents published online that among those targeted by the Bahraini government with FinFisher technology were Mohammed, Jaafar and Saeed, along with prominent Bahraini opposition politicians, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.
    “FinFisher was developed and produced by the British company Gamma International. Promotional material for FinFisher shows that it allows its user full access to a target’s infected device and everything contained within it, even enabling them to turn on functions such as cameras and microphones.
    “Reports from the Citizen Lab suggest that FinFisher command and control servers have been found in 35 countries, including Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.”
    The National Cyber Crime Unit is part of the National Crime Agency. Earlier this year PI made a similar complaint to police about alleged surveillance of the computer of an Ethiopian activist living in the UK.
    Commenting on the alleged surveillance of the Ethiopian, a Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “On 28 February 2014, we received an allegation that a man in Islington had had his computer accessed without authorisation. This matter is currently under investigation by Islington CID.”
    PI alleges that surveillance carried out by Bahraini authorities amounts to unlawful interception of communications under section 1 of the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) 2000.
    FinFisher and its previous owner Gamma have previously claimed they only sold their products to responsible governments. The German-based firm did not respond to requests for a comment, nor did the embassy of Bahrain.


    Close to 350,000 eligible to vote in Bahraini polls


    Manama: Around 350,000 Bahraini men and women are eligible to cast their votes in the parliamentary elections scheduled for November 22.
    “Following the finalisation of the lists upon the court verdicts regarding challenges, there are 349,713 people eligible to vote in the elections,” Abdullah Al Bu Ainain, the executive director of the elections, said. “The supervisory committees have received 330 requests that included 227 to include names and 103 to change home addresses.”
    In 2010, 318,668 Bahraini men and women were eligible to cast ballots. The next stage of the elections process is for male and female candidates to sign up their names.
    “All those who wish to run in the parliamentary and municipal elections should present their candidacies between October 15 and October 19, from 5 pm to 9 pm,” he said. “We need them to make sure that they have the proper documents that allow them to be candidates in the polls.”
    Under Bahrain’s laws, candidates must be Bahrainis and at least 30 years old on the day of the elections. Potential candidates who have acquired the Bahraini nationality must have been naturalised at least 10 years prior to their candidacies unless they are citizens of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country.
    Candidates must also have full political and civil rights and must speak and write Arabic fluently.
    Bahrain had its first parliamentary elections in modern times in 2002 after almost 30 years of constitutional hiatus. Elections were subsequently held in 2006 and 2010.
    In 2011, by-elections were held to replace the 18 lawmakers from the Al Wefaq society who resigned in February at a time when dramatic events were unfolding in the country.
    Although the opposition has yet to announce its stance on the elections, with statements oscillating between participation and boycott, several societies and independent candidates have already said that they would take part in the quadrennial national polls.
    Bahrainis will closely monitor how religious societies and women will be faring in the polls. Religious groups dominated the 2006 elections, marking a clear distinction from the 2002 polls where liberals dominated. In 2010, independent candidates fared well and emerged as clear winners.
    Women have endured a long struggle to secure seats in parliament. They all lost in 2002, but Lateefa Al Gaood made history in 2006 when she became the first woman candidate to win a parliament seat in the GCC. She repeated her victory in 2010 and she was joined one year later by Sawsan Taqawi who made it to the history records by becoming the first Shiite woman to win a seat. Two more women won in the 2011 by-elections. The upper chamber has 11 appointed women.
    Optimism is running high among women as they seek consolidate their political gains alongside their economic and social empowerment.
    “Constitutionally, women have the right to run and vote in parliamentary and municipal elections and their achievement in the area is the 15 women who are members of parliament, in both chambers, representing 19 per cent of the total members,” Maysa Al Thawadi, the director of Media Follow-up at the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), said at a GCC Forum.
    “Bahraini women have been essential partners in drawing up and implementing plans and programmes for a comprehensive development of the country. They have had a pivotal role in the nation-building process. We have three women ministers, one undersecretary, 12 assistant undersecretaries, 17 judges, three ambassadors, and scores of teachers, bankers, journalists and doctors. Women make up more than 35 per cent of the country’s employment force and more than 47 per cent of the public sector. Bahrain has 24 women’s societies,” she said.


    Prince Nasser of Bahrain torture ruling quashed


    Prince Nasser of Bahrain is not immune from prosecution over torture claims, the High Court in London has ruled.
    Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa has been accused of being involved in the torture of prisoners during a pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain in 2011.
    Judges overturned the Crown Prosecution Service's decision that the prince had state immunity from prosecution.
    The Bahrain government said it "categorically denies" the claims, calling them politically motivated.
    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the issues raised by the judicial review were "academic" because the police would have to launch an investigation first, and the possibility of immunity was not one of the reasons for them not doing so.
    A dossier of torture allegations, dating back to 2011, had been given to the CPS in 2012 while the prince was in the UK for the London Olympics.
    The arrest and prosecution of the prince was then sought. However, he was allowed to return to Bahrain after the CPS decided he had diplomatic immunity.
    Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent
    Under the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment 1987, states must criminalise torture and pursue public officials of other nations when they are present in the state's territory.
    In other words, states are justified in prosecuting torture wherever it takes place because the offenders are - as was said in one well-known case - "common enemies of all mankind and all nations have an equal interest in their apprehension and prosecution".
    A principle was established in the case involving former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, that there be "no safe haven" for former public officials involved in torture or crimes against humanity.
    There are very limited exceptions for heads of state, heads of diplomatic missions and their families, and foreign ministers.
    The case arose after a refugee from Bahrain, referred to as FF, sought the arrest of Prince Nasser.
    FF said he had been tortured by the Bahraini authorities - but not by Prince Nasser directly - during a pro-democracy uprising by the majority Shia community between February and March 2011.
    Protesters had demanded more rights and an end to claimed discrimination against the community by the Sunni royal family.
    The anti-government demonstrations led to a crackdown by the Bahraini authorities and the deaths of several protesters.
    'Frequent visitor'
    In a statement, FF said the prince had now "lost his immunity" and will need to "consider the risk of investigation, arrest and prosecution when he is travelling outside Bahrain".
    FF's lawyers said the police could now conduct an investigation the next time the prince - a "frequent visitor" to the UK - entered the country.
    A Bahrain government spokeswoman said: "The Crown Prosecution Service said the decision on immunity was academic as it had solid fact-related grounds for the basis on which it determined it could not prosecute Sheikh Nasser.
    "All this was made plain in court today. In short, the situation has not, and will not, change as there is no evidence for the allegations."
    Deborah Walsh, deputy head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the CPS, said it could "no longer maintain our position that the prince could have immunity, in line with recent case law on this issue".
    She said: "We have always maintained that the issues raised by this judicial review are academic as before the DPP can consent to any application for a private arrest warrant, there needs to be an investigation by police.
    "The likelihood of immunity is not considered a bar to prosecution and is a matter that should be considered on a case's individual facts and merits, after some investigation."




    The escalation of violence in Iraq since January has caused 26,733 victims, of which 9,347 dead and 17,386 injured, with over half of these attributable to the offensive launched three months ago in the north by the Islamic State insurgents. The numbers are revealed in a 29-page report drawn up by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report records at least 11,159 civilian casualties between 1 June and 31 August, which includes at least 4,692 civilians killed, and 6,467 wounded. According to the report, the actual numbers could be much higher, considering that the toll of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of violence, such as lack of access to basic food, water or medicine, are unknown.
    “The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by Islamic State and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, calling on Baghdad authorities to recognize the competence of the ICC (International Criminal Court).
    The UN experts reveal in the report evidence of “systematic” and vast violations by the Islamist forces, including “abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms”. The widening conflict has forced 1.8 million Iraqis to flee their homes, especially in the Anbar province and Iraqi Kurdistan.
    Meanwhile, a battle is underway for control over the area of Heet, in west of Anbar. The Islamic State has already proclaimed victory, claiming to have enetered the city, but the mayor rejected the claim, indicating “ongoing fighting” and “heavy losses” in the rebel lines, with at least 40 fighters killed. Based on first reports released by medical and security sources, at least 11 police officers were killed in Heet and another 6 in Ramadi in two separate attacks by the Islamic State gainst army and police bases in the western province.
    Baghdad authorities continue conducting airstrikes that, according to the UN, have caused “significant casualties”. The northern regions are under international coalition force airstrikes, in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. [VV/BO]
    © 2014 MISNA - Missionary International Service News Agency Srl - All Right Reserved.


    Bahrain human rights activist arrested over tweets


    Leading Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been arrested over Twitter remarks deemed "denigrating" to government institutions.
    Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, had just returned to the country after an advocacy tour abroad.
    He had served two years in prison for organising anti-government protests before being released in May.
    Despite being a majority Shia country, Bahrain's government is Sunni-led and has faced ongoing protests since 2011.
    Mr Rajab was often seen in the forefront of those demonstrations and is a vocal critic of the ruler, King Hamad al-Khalifa.
    He is also a prominent voice on social media, with almost 240,000 followers on Twitter.
    'Ideological incubator'
    The Gulf Center for Human Rights confirmed that Mr Rajab had been arrested on Wednesday.
    He was summoned for questioning at Bahrain's Cyber Crimes Department before being detained overnight, the statement said.
    Bahrain's interior ministry confirmed that Mr Rajab had been summoned and said that he had "acknowledged the charges".
    He is due to appear before the public prosecutor on Thursday, the interior ministry said in a statement.
    It did not mention which Twitter postings the charges related to.
    Bahraini anti-government protesters wave national flags during a march in Malkiya, (16 May 2014) Bahraini anti-government protesters have held regular rallies since 2011
    In a tweet made on Sunday, however, Mr Rajab said that many Bahrainis who had joined the Islamic State (IS) militant group had come from state security institutions.
    These institutions served as the "ideological incubator" for IS, the tweet alleged.
    Before his imprisonment in July 2012, Mr Rajab was repeatedly detained in connection with the pro-democracy protests that erupted the previous year.