2/28/2016

U.S. Journalist Says Bahrain Deprived Her Team Of Food, Water & Sleep During Detention


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/anna-therese-day-bahrain_us_56cf34c9e4b0bf0dab310eb0

  • Christopher MathiasNational Reporter, The Huffington Post
  • Freelancer Anna Therese Day is speaking out about what she describes as a terrifying 48 hours in the Persian Gulf country.

One of the four American journalists detained this month by the government of Bahrain says officials there interrogated her and her team for two days, all while depriving them of food, water, medicine and sleep. 
Freelance journalist Anna Therese Day told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani on Thursday that she and her colleagues plan to file a lawsuit against the government of Bahrain -- a small island country in the Persian Gulf, and a close ally of the U.S. -- over their alleged mistreatment.
"We were held for 48 hours and we were terrified," said Day, who has blogged for The Huffington Post.
She claimed that there were long stretches when Bahraini officials separated the crew from one another and prohibited them from talking to an attorney -- which is against Bahraini law -- or calling the U.S. Embassy. 
Officials, she said, also confiscated $20,000 worth of the team's equipment, which they have yet to return. 
Day, along with director Alan Bucaria and two crew members who asked not to be identified, were in Bahrain reporting on protests marking the fifth anniversary of the massive Arab Spring uprising in the country. 
The Bahraini government cracked down on the 2011 demonstrations with great force, killing dozens of people and imprisoning hundreds, of whom many were tortured and some were later killed.
Over the past five years, journalists have been targeted by the regime. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that since 2011, it has "documented three journalist deaths, including a shooting death in April; dozens of detentions; arbitrary deportations; government-sponsored billboards and advertisements smearing journalists; and numerous physical assaults."
The U.S. counts Bahrain as an important ally in the war on terror, and maintains a base there for the U.S. 5th Naval Fleet. Citing human rights concerns, the U.S. suspended sending arms to Bahrain in 2011, but resumed doing so in 2015. 
Day said that while Bahrain might look like a "glittering Gulf kingdom," it is actually still in deep turmoil, and the country's ruling monarchy is once again coming down hard on protesters. Day said she and her team documented one city, Sitra, that is under "occupation" by its own police force. 
"The public thoroughfares are off-limits" and the neighborhoods with high concentrations of protesters "have been entirely sealed off" by police barricades, Day said. Police raid the neighborhoods nightly, rounding up and arresting protesters. 
Day said she and her team climbed over barbed wire fences and concrete barriers to meet secretly with activists in these neighborhoods. 
"It reminded me of 'Les Mis,'" she said. "Young people were building barricades to prevent police from assaulting their neighborhoods."
On Feb. 14, according to Day, the crew's sound engineer was nabbed by police while following a group of protesters. Day, Bucaria and the other crew member called the U.S. Embassy. 
Although they wanted to go retrieve their captured colleague, Day said, State Department officials advised them to stay put while it tried to negotiate the sound engineer's release. 
But activists were so excited at the presence of foreign journalists in Sitra that they started taking pictures of Day and her crew and posting them to social media.  
The journalists called one of Day's emergency contacts, who picked them up in a vehicle on a nearby highway. 
"The police were looking for us and they immediately pulled us over and took us to the police station," Day said. She added that she managed to get a message out to another emergency contact: "In two hours if you don't hear from us, mobilize the embassy."
The crew was brought to a police station where, Day said, police started a "cordial professional interrogation." But then the police realized she was a journalist. 
"They brought me in a picture," she said. "They had the article I wrote for The Huffington Post back in 2012 about Bahrain. I stand by that article." Day's 2012 story was highly critical of the Bahraini regime for its treatment of protesters, and of human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. 
“You’re a journalist, you hate our government, you’re working with terrorists!” Day said one interrogator yelled, according to Jezebel
The problem was that Day and her crew, working freelance for a company called Fixture Media, entered the country with tourist visas.
"Journalists come in without media visas because they want to report on real stuff and not take a PR tour," she said.
Coming in as a "tourist" gave her crew the freedom to go and film what they wanted, without being surveilled or followed by government officials.
"Sources in Bahrain are so vulnerable. People are hunted on a daily basis for speaking out. We wanted to protect their safety."Anna Therese Day
"We decided it was worth the risk," she said. 
But now they faced charges of posing as tourists and taking part in illegal demonstrations, and they faced up to two years in prison.
"They started asking for our sources," Day said. "Of course, we refused. Sources in Bahrain are so vulnerable. People are hunted on a daily basis for speaking out. We wanted to protect their safety."
Day said officers bound her hands and feet and moved her from one jail to another four times during the night. She said she was separated from her colleagues. 
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain started to negotiate her release, and news of her team's detainment reached the United States. Day's friends and colleagues back home used social media to spread awareness of the situation, using the hashtags#FreeAnna and #JournalismIsNotACrime
After 48 hours -- a period that Day said included other instances of mistreatment that she doesn't want to speak publicly about -- Bahrain deported the four journalists.
Although officials allegedly confiscated $20,000 worth of the crew's equipment, Day said she managed to save the footage they took in Bahrain, and she looks forward to sharing it with the world. 
"As much as were certainly terrified, we left in circumstances based entirely on privilege while our colleagues are languishing in prison."Anna Therese Day
Day said she thinks the work of the U.S. Embassy and media coverage of their detention both played a part in securing their release. But other journalists in Bahrain, she added, aren't so lucky.  
One of her contacts in Bahrain, a reporter named Nazeeha Saeed, was allegedly beaten and electrocuted while in custody, Day said.
"Those are the high stakes of being a journalist in Bahrain," she said. "As much as were certainly terrified, we left in circumstances based entirely on privilege while our colleagues are languishing in prison."
Officials at the Bahraini Embassy in the United States didn't respond to a request for comment on Day's allegations. The U.S. State Department also didn't respond to a request for comment. 
Day said she wants to go back to Bahrain, and that she's communicated to the Bahraini government that she'd like to interview government officials about the protests and get their side of the story. 
But she probably won't be going back anytime soon, she said -- at least not until the charges against her and her crew are dropped. 
Once the charges go away, she added, she and her crew intend to pursue their lawsuit against Bahrain. 
Day said that she and her crew see one silver lining to their detention. They hope they can "use this publicity of this case" to shed light on the "repression in Bahrain."

Iran election: Reformists win all 30 Tehran seats

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35681250

graphic
Allies of Iran's reformist President Hassan Rouhani have won a landslide victory in Tehran, in the first parliamentary vote since Iran signed a nuclear deal with world powers.
With 90% of the votes counted, the pro-Rouhani List of Hope is set to take all 30 parliamentary seats in the capital.
The leading conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad-Adel is in 31st place.
Millions voted on Friday to elect the 290-seat parliament as well as members of the Assembly of Experts.
The 88-member assembly appoints Iran's Supreme Leader and might end up choosing a successor to Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 76 and has suffered ill-health.
Early results gave former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative, and Mr Rouhani the most votes for the assembly, which is composed of mostly elder and senior clerics.

Analysis on the Assembly of Experts: Kasra Naji, BBC Persian

The results are a huge setback for hardliners. Two of the most prominent amongst them have lost their seats, and a third is hovering right at the bottom, in danger of being eliminated.
The biggest shock is the poor showing for Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the current chairman of the Assembly. He replaced former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani when he was forced to relinquish the role. The irony is that Mr Rafsanjani is now leading the polls in Tehran.
The top ideologue of the hardliners, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has also lost his seat. He is the spiritual guide of a group that includes former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The parliamentary result in Tehran is significant because lawmakers from the capital usually determine the political direction of the house, analysts say.
However, reformists look to have done less well in constituencies outside the capital.
Mr Rouhani said on Saturday that the election gave the government more credibility and clout.
"The competition is over. It's time to open a new chapter in Iran's economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities," the official Irna news agency quoted him as saying.
"The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government."
Voting was extended three times on Friday as crowds reportedly flocked to polling stations. Turnout was more than 60%.
Reformists, who want better relations with the outside world and more freedoms at home, were hoping to gain influence in the conservative-dominated bodies.
But of 12,000 people who registered as candidates, only half were allowed to stand, including just 200 moderates.
This was the first election to be held since last year's deal between Iran and world powers over the country's nuclear programme and the lifting of sanctions.
BBC Persian's Ali Hamedani says the economy was a key issue in the process.
With sanctions lifted and Western investors beginning to return to Iran, there are high hopes for an improvement in daily life, he says.
Reformists and moderates say they are targeting greater foreign investment which, our correspondent says, will create jobs for young people.

2/27/2016

Polls close in Iran, vote counting underway

http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/02/26/452519/Iran-election-vote-parliament

The polls closed in Iran’s parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections at 23:45 local time (2015 GMT) on Friday after voting was extended several times due to a massive voter turnout. Some 55 million Iranians were eligible to vote in the two elections. The process of counting ballots is already underway.
Iran’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that the election staff at each polling station should first count the ballots related to the Assembly of Experts poll and then do the same for the parliamentary election.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said results would be announced Saturday. He had earlier said that turnout was estimated to be around 70 percent based on opinion polls.




Campaigners call for stop of arms sale to Saudi

http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/02/26/452470/Saudi-arms-Yemen-ATT

Calls have stepped up on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) member states to stop selling deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia as the kingdom is using foreign arms to target civilians in Yemen.
The Control Arms Coalition said in a report on Friday that 11 countries, all of them state parties or signatories to the ATT, have reported sale of arms in 2015 to Riyadh, in a clear violation of their obligations under the UN treaty.
The report said governments of France, Germany, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK, and the US have sold various licenses and weapons to Saudi Arabia, including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles.
It said the military items are the types of arms currently being used by Saudi Arabia against Yemen in an aerial and ground operation that has seen numerous cases of gross violations of human rights and possible war crimes. The ATT forbids arms transfers that would be used for war crimes or risk being used for serious violations of international law.
The Friday report called on governments due to attend a February 29 meeting of the Conference of States Parties to the ATT to set hypocrisy aside and stop selling deadly weapons to Saudi Arabia.
The participants at the meeting in Geneva are to discuss financial mechanisms for the implementation of the arms treaty and other logistical details related to its official secretariat.
For nearly one year, Saudi Arabia has been carrying out aerial and ground attacks in Yemen in a bid to topple the Ansarullah movement and restore power to fugitive president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
More than 8,300 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in the assault which lacks any mandate from international organizations.

Amnesty International 2015 human rights report focuses on asylum seekers – video


http://www.theguardian.com/law/video/2016/feb/24/amnesty-international-2015-human-rights-report-focuses-on-asylum-seekers-video

Amnesty International has released this video to accompany its annual report into the state of the world’s human rights for 2015. The issue of asylum seekers dominates the report, with Amnesty highlighting that while refugees have the basic human right to be offered safety, tens of thousands have been turned away from countries in which they have sought it. The video looks at rights violations in Mexico, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Russia

2/26/2016

Fifa election: Gianni Infantino wins presidential election – as it happened

http://www.theguardian.com/football/live/2016/feb/26/fifa-election-who-will-succeed-sepp-blatter-president-live


Gianni Infantino has been elected as Fifa president, winning a majority of votes on the second ballot beating Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa to the job


And we’re probably about done here. So, to sum up, Gianni Infantino is the new president of Fifa, having won the election on the second ballot, gaining 115 votes and beating Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa who got 88. Thanks for reading, and hopefully we won’t be doing this again soon.

2/25/2016

Iran elections: Conservatives have new friends to beat moderates

http://en.trend.az/iran/politics/2499008.html

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 24
By Khalid Kazimov 
Iranians will cast ballots on Feb. 26 to elect new parliamentarians and theologians for the country’s top clerical body that appoints the country’s most influential person, the Supreme Leader.
The key elections are taking place six weeks after the removal of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
While the moderate President Hassan Rouhani wants the majority of the seats in the currently conservative-populated parliament and the Assembly of Experts to be occupied by his supporters, the rival conservatives are making all-out efforts to protect the seats.
Moderates set to win
This morning the pragmatic Rouhani sent mass text messages to Iranians’ cell phones urging them to head to the polls on Friday.
“Today the country needs you,” the message read.
A strong vote in favor of moderates would help Rouhani to materialize his 2013 electoral promises and reinforce his chance to re-assume office ahead of the next year’s presidential elections.
After removal of the sanctions, the next step for the moderate president to fulfill his electoral promises regarding economic situation and welfare in the country will be luring foreign investments.
Rouhani needs his allies in the parliament to give support for the administration’s economic plans. After Rouhani’s breakthrough in foreign policy, which led to the removal of sanctions, the rivals slowed down moderate president’s attempts to go further with his economic and social reform promises.
Indeed, Rouhani needs the legislator’s “go on” for attracting foreign investment and inking new oil deals to renew the country’s aging industry and create new job opportunities.
For this purpose, through separate video appeals Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Ali Rabiee, Iran's minister of labor, requested Iranians to show high turnout in the upcoming elections.
“Elections are of high importance for our country. We decide about our fate through elections. If people want development in the country they should go to the polling stations,” Zanganeh said.
Meanwhile a number of Iranian movie celebrities have backed the moderates through video messages posted online.
Conservatives backlash
Conservatives surprised Iranians prior to the first ballots after the removal of sanctions with a very rare move.
The surprising move came when the conservatives, who see their seats at the stake, decided to involve hoodlums (Louti in Persian) in the electoral campaign.
Just a couple of days ago a group of Louties appeared at a conservative electoral meeting in Tehran.
The participation of Louties, who look like movie characters, was surprising as they have never been widely involved in such gatherings.
On the contrary, the country’s conservative dominated and state-run TV has depicted such characters as pro-king villains in historical dramas about the overthrown Pahlavi dynasty.
In the Iranian street culture, Louties represent the small gangs involved in minor crimes and sometimes grave ones. They are famous for street fights involving the use of knives.
Trying to attract different groups of voters during electoral campaigns is not such a surprise.
However, it seems very surprising that Iranian conservatives, who traditionally are after protecting Islamic values and principles, have decided to get help from Louties.
In a similar move a conservative candidate appeared in footage with people looking like hooligans, who are shown to vow support for conservatives at the upcoming elections.
Just a couple of days ago a group of Louties appeared at a conservative electoral meeting in Tehran.
The participation of Louties, who look like movie characters, was surprising as they have never been widely involved in such gatherings.
On the contrary, the country’s conservative dominated and state-run TV has depicted such characters as pro-king villains in historical dramas about the overthrown Pahlavi dynasty.
In the Iranian street culture, Louties represent the small gangs involved in minor crimes and sometimes grave ones. They are famous for street fights involving the use of knives.
Trying to attract different groups of voters during electoral campaigns is not such a surprise.
However, it seems very surprising that Iranian conservatives, who traditionally are after protecting Islamic values and principles, have decided to get help from Louties.
In a similar move a conservative candidate appeared in footage with people looking like hooligans, who are shown to vow support for conservatives at the upcoming elections.
Iranian Nobel laureate and lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, commenting on the issue has told Trend that the Iranian “hardliners”, using such people, are aiming at securing more ballots in their own favor to stay in power and avoid losing privileges.
Meanwhile, she believes that Iranian authorities are planning to prove the system’s legitimacy through elections.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to attract a large number of voters to polling stations in order to show its legitimacy.”
Follow us on Twitter @TRENDNewsAgency

Why was he killed? Brutal death of Italian student in Egypt confounds experts

“The case of Giulio is strange because he was [apparently] in detention for days,” Calculli said. “It could be that somehow he was taken and detained and tortured in this kind of anti-foreigner, anti-researcher hysteria and perhaps they crossed a line and could not come back.
“You cannot just release a foreigner that has been tortured, because you are exposing to the world what you are doing inside your prisons.”
The case has become a diplomatic problem between two countries with deep economic, business, and defence ties. But there is no evidence that – beyond some rhetoric – Italy is prepared to put real pressure on Egypt.
Regeni’s body was found as Italy’s economic development minister, Federica Guidi, was in Cairo with a delegation of Italian business leaders, including the heads of Italian energy companies. The delegation was abruptly cut short after Regeni was found.
The most important business relationship centres on Italy’s state-backed energy group Eni, which last year announced the discovery of a giant natural gas field in Egypt. Eni has announced a development plan for the site, boasting that the deal would help satisfy Egypt’s natural gas demand for decades.
Perhaps more importantly, Italy would rely on Egypt’s political support in the event of a possible military intervention in Libya.
People inside the Egyptian foreign ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity nevertheless described the Italians as “out for blood … they want someone specific named and shamed”. 
In Italy, questions about what happened have focused on why Regeni may have been seen as a threat. By all accounts, he was a gifted young man. He spoke five languages – Italian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and German – and was considered a fine writer and hard worker.
“His interests were wide: he was as much an expert on the Middle East as he was on Latin America. On the human level, he was warm, respectful, generous and kind. His abilities for communication made him a natural diplomat, a builder of bridges between cultures,” said his friend Paz Zarate. “I always thought his destiny was to be a well-known figure who would made his country proud.”
On the day that he went missing, he was reportedly on his way to meet a friend named Gennaro Gervasio, a lecturer in the department of political science at the British University in Cairo (BUE), at a restaurant near Tahrir Square. Gervasio declined to speak to the Guardian.
“Someone like him, speaking Arabic and talking about issues like this raises eyebrows – not that it should,” said lawyer Ragia Omran, of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. “It’s this xenophobic atmosphere we’re living in. It’s horrible that people who come to visit get treated this way,” she added, referring to a growing climate of suspicion around foreign visitors in Egypt, often resulting in accusations of spying or stirring up anti-government sentiment.
A source at the American University in Cairo named three people who have studied labour relations in Egypt – a sensitive topic – and were subsequently detained, deported or barred from re-entering the country since 2011.
Activists last week hanged a banner on the AUC campus. It said: “Giulio’s murder is not an isolated incident. The AUC bubble will not protect you.”
According to the Giza public prosecutor’s office, the investigation into Regeni’s whereabouts began on 27 January, but according to Hossam Nassar, assistant to the Giza public prosecutor’s office, Regeni’s apartment was not searched until about five days after his body was discovered.
The Egyptian investigation has so far been limited to questioning Regeni’s friends, in at least one case without the presence of a lawyer.
“The investigation leads to several possibilities including criminal activity or the desire for revenge due to personal reasons, especially as the Italian had many relationships with people near where he lives and where he studied,” the interior ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Giza public prosecutor Ahmed Nagy had earlier said the inquiry would focus on people Regeni knew in Egypt. “The investigations are still trying to find who he was dealing with while he was here, who his friends were while he was here, if he had personal problems with anyone, who he was last in contact with and who he last met with,” Nagy said.
Such investigations into Regeni’s life and personal relations have added to speculation that his contact with activists involved in the labour movement made him a target, and have also added to pressure on his close friends to avoid talking to the media, likely fearing for their own safety.
The ministry statement made no mention of the involvement of security forces as a possibility, and both Nagy and Nassar made clear that neither policemen nor security officials will likely be questioned as suspects in connection with Regeni’s disappearance and murder.
“Statements from the policemen and the security forces are going to happen, but it’s still not in that stage yet,” Nagy said. While he said the investigation was following leads from Regeni’s friends, “there is no set date as to when the next stage starts”.
“The questioning of any policemen will not be as suspects, but of their knowledge and enquiries about Regeni’s case,” said Nassar. He declined to comment on whether Regeni had been under surveillance prior to his death.
It is expected that the Egyptian security service will itself be tasked with drawing up a list of suspects, making it even less likely that a policemen or security official will even be questioned in the case.
“The security services are the ones who will say who did it,” said vice-minister of justice and forensics expert Shaaban al-Shamy. “We send our reports to the investigators, the investigators work through the security apparatus and their investigations determine who did it. What we do is provide the technical evidence in the case.”
Shamy, like other officials, declined to respond directly to reports that Regeni was tortured.
“Homicide is different to other crimes – a thief has a certain way of stealing for example. There’s a thousand different ways to kill someone,” Shamy said, adding that the nature of the injuries will not be used to determine who could have committed the crime. “Some of the injuries sustained could show the nature of the crime but could never show who did it,” he said.
Civil society groups hold little hope that a fair investigation will be carried out. “[The case] will be investigated but it’s highly unlikely that the government will prosecute one of their own,” said Hussein Baoumi, of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.

Bahrain jails secular opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35649434

A court in Bahrain has sentenced a secular Sunni opposition leader to one year in prison for inciting hatred.
Ibrahim Sharif, a former secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society, was arrested after making a speech calling for reform.
He was also accused of incitement to overthrow the government by force, but the court dismissed the charge.
Mr Sharif gave the speech in July, a month after being released from prison for his role in the 2011 uprising.
Bahrain has been racked by unrest since February 2011, when demonstrators occupied Manama's Pearl Roundabout, demanding greater political rights and an end to discrimination against the majority Shia community by the Sunni royal family.
The protesters were driven out by security forces the following month, after the king brought in troops from neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf states to restore order and crush dissent.
At least 89 people have been killed in clashes with security forces since 2011, while hundreds have been arrested and put on trial, activists say.

'Outrageous attack'

Mr Sharif was charged with "incitement to hatred and contempt of the regime" and "incitement to overthrow the regime by force and illegal means" after giving a speech at a public gathering to commemorate the death of a 16-year-old boy shot by riot police in 2012.
In the speech, he spoke about the need for change in Bahrain, highlighted the political opposition's commitment to non-violence and urged the government to introduce key economic reforms, according to Amnesty International.
"The sentencing of Ibrahim Sharif to yet another year in prison simply for calling for reform in a speech is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression and the latest example of the Bahraini authorities' insidious clampdown on government critics," said the human rights group's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, James Lynch.
"No-one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views. Ibrahim Sharif's conviction is a blatant attempt to punish him for speaking out, serving as a warning to all dissidents, and must be quashed immediately."
Mr Sharif's arrest and detention in July came less than a month after he had been released from prison following a royal pardon.
He had served four years of a five-year sentence handed to him after what Amnesty described as an unfair trial that saw him and 20 other opposition activists involved in the 2011 protests found guilty of attempting to change the constitution and monarchical system "by force".
Last June, the secretary-general of Bahrain's main opposition party, Wefaq, was sentenced to four years in jail on similar charges of inciting hatred, inciting others to disobey the law, and publicly insulting the interior ministry.
Sheikh Ali Salman is currently appealing against the convictions, which were based on statements he made in speeches in 2012 and 2014.