3/30/2016

BAHRAIN: BAHRAIN HUMAN RIGHTS

From 21 March to 27 March 2016, a total of 11 were arbitrarily arrested in . Among them, 3 children.

3/27/2016

I hope this letter finds its way out of this prison in Bahrain


http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/i-hope-this-letter-finds-its-way-out-of-this-prison-in-bahrain-a6952621.html

I sit here in the dark in prison cell 19, I look past my baby at the shining prison bars. This is a new prison, new walls, new paint and new metal bars

I was arrested a few days ago after being sentenced to three years in prison for several political cases; one of which was tearing a picture of Hamad, the king of Bahrain.
As I walked up to the prison door carrying my baby, I realized that I had walked through that door on crutches, I had walked through that door pregnant, and I had been carried through that door by police. Five years have passed since the start of the revolution in Bahrain; five years of systematic aggression on the people of this country whose only wish was to seek equal rights and democracy. Five years of criminal acts by the regime. Killing peaceful protesters, arresting thousands, torturing thousands. Years filled with heroism, bravery, sacrifice, filled also with pain, anger and loss. And it seems to me, after all this time, the government’s only strategy here is to simply distract the world from the crimes taking place. Instead of improving the human rights in the country, they seem to be thinking, lets create GONGOs (Government Organized Non-Governmental Organizations). Instead of hearing the peoples’ grievances, lets silence them. Instead of fixing the problems, lets contain them so they’re less visible. Instead of releasing prisoners of conscience, lets build bigger, better looking prisons. Contain the protests to the villages and let the world only see the cities and the malls. Contain the activists in jails and let the world hear government mouth pieces who speak of reform. Basically contain, bury, the truth and spread a lie.
What’s more shocking than the government’s plan on how to deal with the biggest revolution the country has witnessed, is that they apparently think it could work.
I sit here in the dark in prison cell 19, I look past my baby at the shining prison bars. This is a new prison, new walls, new paint and new metal bars.
All the government is doing is shining those metal bars. Making them as shiny as possible so the rest of the world would be so busy looking at the shiny metal that they are blinded to what is behind it. I don’t believe they can succeed.
I invite the world to look beyond the shining metal bars. To see my one-year-old baby holding on to them during the day and calling out. To see my 50-year-old father hunched over a book, deep in thought. To see hundreds of tortured bodies and thousands of wounded hearts. Fathers who dream of raising their children, husbands who wish they could support their wives, young boys with lost futures. All living through this pain, every hour of every day, hoping this silence speaks louder than anything they could say.
It’s hard to look pain in the eyes and acknowledge it, but that’s exactly what I ask everyone to do. Yes there are governments willing to turn a blind eye to our suffering and shake hands with those who oppress us, but I also believe that there are enough good people in the world who recognize the good fight, who admire a people who sacrifice in the hope for a better future, and who can’t stand by silently in the face of oppression.
I hope this letter finds its way out of this prison and into the heart and hands of all freedom loving people.
Love from Bahrain
Zainab Alkhawaja
Prison cell 19
Isa Town Women’s Prison


Clinton Emails Give Away Schauble Plans in 2012 - Exclusive Commentary by Varoufakis

http://www.thepressproject.gr/article/91399/Clinton-Emails-Give-Away-Schauble-Plans-in-2012---Exclusive-Commentary-by-Varoufakis

Last week Wikileaks uploaded to its database a series of Hillary Clinton’s declassified emails from the time when she was Secretary of State. The following document is especially interesting because it presents Schauble’s plans in case SYRIZA took over power back in 2012. Read Hillary Clinton’s messages and the exclusive commentary by Greek ex minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis.

As it is clearly illustrated in the following email, the German government was concerned by the possibility of SYRIZA coming to power in 2012. According to the information sent by Hillary Clinton’s office, Schauble thought there were only two ways to face the European debt crisis “none of which was pleasant to Germany and the rest of the member states”. The first plan was based on a proposal made in 2011 by German economic experts, “The Five Wise Men”, regarding a European Redemption Pact. The Pact would include a fund of 2.3 trillion euros for debt relief and preventive protection of Eurozone member states affected by the debt crisis. (Details of the plan have been released by global media here http://www.thepressproject.gr/build12/elink.gif  and herehttp://www.thepressproject.gr/build12/elink.gif  ) Other than that, issuing Eurobonds could also be a solution but Schauble did not approve any of these ideas because of the turbulences they would cause to the German political system. 

Although the German minister of Finance stated in private that “if the Greek people vote for a government led by the anti-austerity Syriza party, they must bear the consequences of their actions”, he also believed that a Grexit would be a highly negative event, since he considered it would have a significant impact on Spain, Portugal and Ireland. In response to the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone, Schauble was elaborating the idea of the creation of a two tiered Eurozone.

In the email, it is written that “in any event, Schauble continues to believe that a complete collapse of the currency union is unacceptable for Germany, as the newly reconstituted Deutsche Mark would be considerably more valuable than the Euro; seriously damaging Germany’s export driven economy” and also in other part “a Greek withdrawal from the currency union may set the stage for Portugal, Spain and Ireland to follow”.

The declassified email is available below. Also, the Greek ex-minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis is commenting on the information provided by the document right after it.
More...in link...

3/25/2016

Italian investigators: Regeni case far from closed after Egypt's MOI makes links to dead gang members

Italian investigators examining the murder and torture of Italian student Giulio Regeni said the "case is not at all closed" on Friday, following a statement by Egypt's Interior Ministry that they found Regeni's identification documents in an appartment in Cairo as proof he may have been kidnapped by a gang. 
"There is no definitive evidence confirming they were responsible," Italian authorities claimed, adding that Egyptian investigators have yet to pass on important material to them. 
The Interior Ministry said police found Regeni's identity documents in an appartment linked to a group of men suspected of robbing foreigners, hours after police shot several of the alleged gang members in a microbus in New Cairo on Thursday. 
Pictures of Regeni's American University in Cairo and Cambridge University ID cards and his passport were posted on the Interior Ministry's official Facebook Page, along with the statement, which claimed Regeni's credit card, two mobile phones and a brown substance that could be hashish, were discovered in a red handbag in the apartment of the sister of one of the suspects. 
But the public prosecution denied the linking of the suspects to Regeni's murder earlier on Thursday afternoon, after local media published a slew of articles to this effect. The prosecution stated that an Italian citizen had accused the suspects of making threats and stealing US$10,000.
In the absence of an official narrative from investigations into Regeni's death, local and international media has been replete with rumors in recent months as to how the Italian student died. Multiple Egyptian articles have implied he was working with British intelligence services, that his murder was part of a conspiracy to damage Egypt-Italy relations or that his death was linked to a fight with another foreigner.
Italian investigators highlighted a number of inconsistencies in Egypt's latest explanation of what happened to Regeni, querying how likely it is that kidnappers would torture a victim and then hold onto his ID documents for months after his death. They also lamented the deaths of the suspects, who now cannot be questioned in relation to Regeni's murder.
Egypt's Interior Ministry said on Friday it had largely succeeded in solving the case of Regeni’s death. “The Egyptian Interior Ministry offers all its gratitude and appreciation to the Italian security team for its close cooperation, and for the positive role and constant communication with the Egyptian security team throughout the investigation and information gathering."
Italy's former Prime Minister Enrico Letta tweeted, "I'm sorry, #I_don't_believe_it. Don't stopping asking for the #Truth_for_GiulioRegeni," in response on Friday, and Regeni's parents posted a picture on Facebookfeaturing them holding a sign saying, "Verita per Giulio Regeni" (Truth for Giulio Regeni). 
Security forces fatally shot five men in a microbus in New Cairo on Thursday morning, claiming they were armed gang members suspected of impersonating police officers, theft and kidnapping foreigners, a statementposted on the Interior Ministry’s Facebook page asserted. There were no other passengers in the bus to cooberate the account. 
A team from the public prosecution reportedly supervised the autopsy of the bodies after the incident and then ordered them to be buried immediately. 
The prosecution initially denied a link between the dead gang members and Regeni, responding to articles such as one published in the privately owned newspaper Al-Tahrir, in which an unidentified security source claimed that police killed five people suspected of gang activity targeting foreigners and of involvement in Regeni’s death.
Regeni was found in February by the side of a road on the outskirts of Cairo. His body bore signs of torture, including cigarette burns, bruises, cuts and multiple stab wounds. The 28-year-old went missing on the fifth anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution when he was allegedly on his way to visit a friend in downtown Cairo, an area that was heavily occupied by security forces that day.
The source told Al-Tahrir that after investigations, security forces tracked the suspects to New Cairo. The suspects then opened fire from their microbus, prompting the police to fire back, killing all five people inside the bus, the source alleged. Al-Tahrir posted pictures of the bodies of two people purportedly killed in the shootout and a microbus riddled with bullet holes.
The Interior Ministry's statement asserted that security forces raided the residence of 34-year-old Rasha Abdel Fattah, the sister of 52-year-old Tarek Abdel Fattah, and arrested Tarek's wife — 48-year-old Mabrooka Afify. After interrogation by police, Rasha reportedly confessed that the items found in her home were stolen by her brother. She added that she was aware of his "criminal activities," according to the statement. Mabrooka said she didn't know anything about the bag or its contents, the ministry's statement reported. 
Tarek Abdel Fattah, listed in the ministry's report as defendant one, was described as “a dangerous offender,” who was reportedly involved in 24 criminal cases, and was previously sentenced to four years in prison. The second defendant, identified by police as 26-year-old Saad Tarek Saad, is reportedly Tarek's son. The third defendant, 60-year-old Mostafa Bakr Awad, was allegedly involved in 20 criminal cases, the fourth defendant, 40-year-old Salah Ali Sayyed, was allegedly involved in 11 criminal cases, and the fifth was an unidentified man in his thirties, according to the ministry's statement.  
Police said they found firearms, a tazer, and fake police ID cards in the microbus, according to the Interior Ministry. The defendants were allegedly involved in a series of robberies targeting locals and foreigners in Nasr City and New Cairo. 
The privately owned newspaper Al-Dostour also reported on the story with the headline, “Source discovers the ‘foreign killing mafia’ behind the Regeni incident.” An unnamed security source told Al-Dostour that the Interior Ministry was investigating six people suspected of kidnapping and killing Regeni. The suspects have a record of intimidating and robbing foreigners, the newspaper claimed.
Reports from Reuters and other international media sources indicated that Regeni was tortured for days before he died, and that the torture methods bear the hallmarks of Egyptian security services. These reports have been strongly denied by Egyptian authorities.

Suicide attack kills dozens at football stadium in Iraq


http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/03/suicide-attack-kills-dozens-football-stadium-iraq-160325181900028.html

Attacker targets a football stadium at mixed Sunni and Shia Muslim town in Babel province, killing at least 29 people.


A suicide bomber has detonated his explosives belt at a football stadium south of the Iraqi capital, killing at least 29 people and injuring 60 others, the security head in Babel province has said.
 
The blast in Iskandariya, a mixed Sunni and Shia Muslim town, happened around 16:15 GMT on Friday at the end of an amateur soccer game, said Falah al-Khafaji, the security head in Babel province.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group that controls swathes of territory in Iraq's north and west was behind the attack, according to Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with the group.

At least 60 people were killed earlier this monthin an attack claimed by ISIL 80 km further south, in Hilla, when an explosives-laden fuel tanker slammed into an Iraqi security checkpoint.
An apparent escalation of large bombings targeting areas outside ISIL's primary control suggests that Iraqi government forces may be stretched thin after recent gains against the group in the western and northern provinces.
Thousands protest the government
Meanwhile, thousands have rallied in Baghdad in support of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has taken the lead role in protests demanding government reforms.
Al-Sadr's associate, Sheik Asad al-Nasiri, delivered a message from the cleric at a rally on Friday in the Iraqi capital, giving Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 24 hours to implement wide-ranging reforms such as installing technocrats in key political positions.
Otherwise, the message says, the protesters will not limit themselves to sit-ins outside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where the government is headquartered and where al-Sadr's followers demonstrated last week.


The weekly rallies in Baghdad are meant to put pressure on Iraq's political leadership.
The prime minister's efforts to implement reform have been thwarted by his own political mis-steps as well as the country's increasingly sectarian politics.
Last month, Abadi, now a year and a half into his four-year term, said he wanted to replace his ministers with technocrats to challenge the system of patronage that encourages corruption by distributing posts along political, ethnic and sectarian lines.
Sadr and his supporters have held regular demonstrations demanding reforms to tackle corruption, which is eating into Baghdad's resources even as it struggles with falling revenues due to a slump in global oil prices and high spending caused by the costs of war against ISIL.


U.S. quiet as ally Bahrain imprisons human rights activist with her infant for tearing up photo of king

https://www.oximity.com/article/U.S.-quiet-as-ally-Bahrain-imprisons-h-1#.VvH8n6aGkjs.facebook

Rights groups condemn the arrest of Zainab al-Khawaja and U.S. inaction, while State Dept. refuses to say anything.

U.S. quiet as ally Bahrain imprisons human rights activist with her infant for tearing up photo of king
U.S. quiet as ally Bahrain imprisons human rights activist with her infant for tearing up photo of king

Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja with her son Abdulhadi, 1, and daughter Jude, 6 (Credit: Gulf Center for Human Rights/Maryam al-Khawaja)

Prominent human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja was imprisoned this week for ripping up a photo of the king of Bahrain, a close ally of the U.S.

Despite constant questioning by the press, the U.S. State Department has refused to speak substantively about the politically motivated arrest.

In October 2015, Bahrain’s monarchy sentenced al-Khawaja to a year in prisonand heavily fined her for ripping up the photo. She had originally faced a sentence of three years, but, after an appeal, it was reduced to one.

Amnesty International condemned the Bahraini regime for the punishment. Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa James Lynch said the court’s decision was “a vindictive assault on freedom of expression and offers yet another example of the Bahraini authorities’ use of oppressive tactics to silence peaceful activists.”

This is not the only charge the human rights activist bears, however. Al-Khawaja faces a slew of charges, which international rights groups say is because of her political work. In the past four years, she has been arrested and detain several times.

In 2013, Zainab went on hunger strike in protest of her imprisonment for “insulting a public employee.” She came close to death. The international community slammed the Bahraini regime for the repression. She had also gone on hunger strike in 2011 to protest her father’s imprisonment.

She was last incarcerated in 2014. During this imprisonment, Zainab was pregnant, and was released in November 2014, just four days before she gave birth to her son.

Al-Khawaja currently faces sentences of a total of three years and one month in prison in five different cases, for multiple charges related to ripping up the photo of the king, for allegedly insulting police officers and for entering a restricted area.

Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, himself a renowned human rights activist and a co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to life in prison for helping lead peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011, which were crushed when Saudi Arabia and the UAE sent in more than 1,500 soldiers, with U.S. support.

Salon spoke with Maryam al-Khawaja, the sister of Zainab and the daughter of Abdulhadi. Maryam has established herself as a prominent human rights advocate, and, like the rest of her family, has been imprisoned for her work.

Maryam serves as co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. In recent days, she and her NGO have been closely keeping track of the details of Zainab’s arrest.

Imprisonment

On March 14, police showed up at the house of Zainab al-Khawaja’s in-laws, looking for her. She was not there, but they searched the house.

Police subsequently went to al-Khawaja’s apartment, and blocked the entire street with more than a dozen riot police jeeps. They had a warrant for her arrest, and detained her. She brought her 1-year-old child Abdulhadi with her.

Authorities held al-Khawaja at a police station for several hours. She was not given food, and asked several times if she could buy some for her infant, but was not permitted to do so.

Al-Khawaja was arrested at around 3:45 pm Bahrain time. At 9 pm, she was transferred to a clinic for a checkup. There, she again asked for food for Abdulhadi, but was denied. It was only when al-Khawaja walked by a vending machine that she was able to buy her son a chocolate bar.

At midnight, she was transferred to a detention facility, where she was able to give Abdulhadi a cupcake, but still not a meal.

“They were refusing to give her food,” Maryam recalled.

The next morning, al-Khawaja was taken to the prison. Police officers refused to help her carry the three bags she had with the materials she needed for her child, watching her as she struggled alternating between carrying Abdulhadi and the heavy bags.

Because of the stress on her back from the bags and her son, along with the trauma of the arrest, al-Khawaja began suffering from muscle spasms. On March 17, she was taken to the hospital. There she was given a back brace, which she has to wear at all times, while taking care of Abdulhadi.

Maryam said “the treatment is very bad” in the prison.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights reports that 14 women in the prison area where al-Khawaja is detained have contracted Hepatitis C.

“We are very worried, not just because of the Hepatitis C, but also because of the conditions inside the prison,” Maryam added.

Al-Khawaja’s family was briefly permitted to see her, for about a half an hour, but, otherwise, she has had little outside contact.

The human rights activist faces three cases related to the ripping of the photo of the king. Two of her charges resulted in two-month sentences each; the third led to a one-year sentence.

The warrant that authorities presented when they arrested her was one of the two-month sentences. But Maryam says she and other observers expect that Zainab will be forced to serve the more than three-year sentence.

International response

Maryam, who lives in exile in Denmark, told Salon the response of the international community has been disappointing.

She noted the foreign minister of Denmark made a statement to the press, insisting that no one should be imprisoned for freedom of expression. The Danish government first said that it would look into whether this is a politically motivated arrest, and assured it will take action if it is.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights requested that the Danish government issue a statement condemning the arrest, now that it has been confirmed that Zainab was imprisoned on political charges.

The foreign minister also mentioned that Denmark has taken similar action in regards to the al-Khawajas’ father, who is serving a politically motivated life sentence.

Moreover, Maryam says the Danish mission to the U.N. made a statement calling for the release of Zainab and her father, and for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain.

Not all governments were as pro-active, nevertheless. The response of the U.S., a close ally of Bahrain which houses its Navy’s Fifth Fleet in the tiny Gulf country, “was very, very disappointing,” Maryam said.

At the daily press briefing on March 14, a reporter asked State Department spokesman John Kirby about the imprisonment of al-Khawaja. Kirby responded ambiguously, simply saying: “What I can tell you is we’re monitoring the situation there. And as before, we strongly urge the Government of Bahrain to follow due process in all cases and to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with Bahrain’s international legal obligations. I can’t speak to specifics.”

The journalist followed up, noting the U.S. has called for al-Khawaja’s release in the past. The State Department spokesperson again refused to speak about the issue, instead saying “again, I think I’m going to leave it just where I did for today.”

At the press briefing the next day, the State Department again would not substantively address the issue. “I don’t have anything additional to say from yesterday,” he said, adding “these sorts of issues are issues we have raised in the past with Bahraini officials. We’ll continue to do that, but I don’t have anything specific to read out on this case.”

On March 16, after which it was made clear that al-Khawaja is being held on political charges, the State Department once more stonewalled and refused to say anything.

The same reporter noted that “the detention of this woman activist and her child has elicited some disappointment from human rights groups, advocates, who would like to see the U.S. be stronger on calling on the Bahrainis to release this woman.” He asked, “Are you, in fact, calling for the Bahrainis to release her?”

The State Department replied, “What we’re strongly urging is for them to follow due process in this case in particular and abide by their commitments to transparent judicial proceedings.”

Spokesman Mark Toner then proceeded to repeat himself, adding “we’re obviously monitoring her case closely.”

Toner and the reporter had a bit of a back and forth. “Without getting into a legal discussion, she has had charges leveled against her. So it’s really incumbent on the Bahraini judicial system or legal system to obviously afford her due process. That’s what is our focus is on,” the spokesperson said.

“And you have confidence that that can happen?” the reporter replied.

“We’re going to continue to watch the case very closely and let them know if we believe it’s not being carried out,” Toner repeated.

The reporter shot back: “That sounds like a no to me.”

Maryam expressed frustration with the U.S. inaction, characterizing it as a form of hypocrisy.

“They have all that rhetoric about democracy and human rights, but unfortunately they don’t apply it to their allies,” Maryam said. “When it comes to their allies, it becomes empty rhetoric.”

As acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam called on the international community to do more to protect Bahraini activists.

“The reason I was released from prison was because of international pressure,” Maryam stressed, referring to her own time in prison for protesting the Bahraini regime.

“This is what we need right now,” she continued. “We know that there is a huge lack of accountability. This is something that needs to end, the sooner the better.”



Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton