Gulf crisis: Qatar imposes ban on Saudi, UAE, Bahrain & Egyptian goods


Qatar has ordered its citizens to stop dealing and buying goods from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt; the four countries, which have severed ties with the tiny gulf country almost a year ago on the ground that Doha sponsors terrorism.
A statement from the Qatari government issued Saturday announced the ban noting that it aimed at protecting the safety of consumers and curb illegal trafficking of goods.
“Products originating from the blockading states, which as a result of the blockade cannot pass the Gulf Cooperation Council Customs (GCC) Territory, have to undergo proper import inspections and customs procedures,” the statement said.
Authorities also announced the government’s intention to ensure full compliance with the ban adding that inspectors will be deployed for monitoring.
Qatar has been facing an unprecedented blockade by the quartet, which have cut off sea, air and land links since June last year. The blockade disrupted Qatar’s supply, which largely relied on Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The ban, according to reports, came as measure against attempt by dealers from the boycotting countries to smuggle goods into Qatar using the ports of Kuwait and Oman as well as individuals.
“Businessmen from the blockading countries are trying to go around the blockade… by using third parties,” a source was quoted by local press as saying.
Oman and Kuwait are members of GCC. The two countries have adopted a neutral stand and tried to defuse the crisis but to no avail.


Detained Saudi activist Lojain Hathloul accused of being Qatari 'agent'


Emirati personality claims arrest of women's rights activist reveals a wider Qatari plan to target Saudi state

Last update: 
Wednesday 23 May 2018

An influential Emirati professor and Twitter personality accused a women’s rights activist detained in Saudi Arabia last week of being an ‘agent of Qatar’ and heading a monitoring cell.
The activist, Lojain al-Hathloul, is a notable Saudi Arabian human rights defender who was among 11 women's rights campaigners arrested over the past week in the most recent crackdown in the kingdom.
The Saudi government accused the women's rights activists of engaging in "suspicious contact" with foreign entities and offering financial support to "enemies overseas".
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a social media figure who regularly tweets in support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, claimed that a Qatari plan to target Saudi security had been uncovered in leaked documents. The plan was “revealed”, Abdulla wrote, after the Saudis uncovered a “cell aimed at attacking the safety and security of the Saudi people".
Abdulla also claimed that Hathloul was the head of the cell, calling her one of “Qatar’s evil arms", and said that she had recruited people working in sensitive government positions, as well as giving financial aid to figures threatening Saudi Arabia's security. 
Since the arrests, human rights campaigners have highlighted the disparity between the kingdom's newly announced set of modernising reforms, including allowing women to drive, and the arrest and mistreatment of the activists.
Samah Hadid, Amnesty's Middle East director of campaigns, said on Monday: "It is clear that underneath all the PR hype and spin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reforms exclude human rights activism... We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all activists still being detained solely for their human rights work."
Hathloul was previously detained at least twice for her activism. Before her first arrest in 2014, Hathloul had attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE in defiance of Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers.
Hathloul and the others have been branded as "traitors" by government-aligned media outlets over the past week and reportedly could face the death penalty.
A Saudi activist, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told Middle East Eye: "The kind of reporting we see in the national media inside Saudi Arabia is aimed to quiet dissent inside, and to incite terror inside anyone who was inspired by these women.
“It is meant to send a clear message to the people that no one is supposed to speak on public affairs, nobody is supposed to be part of any engagement in society other than the state.”
The activist mentioned that even participating in other events, such as UN-supported reviews, can get people into trouble with the Saudi government.
“Lojain in February participated in the review of Saudi Arabia, and she was tweeting the proceedings of the meeting on her social media account and just a few weeks after [that] she was arrested," the activist said.
“What we are seeing is that there is no tolerance of any kind for [this] type of activity,” the human rights supporter added.


British government accused of funding human rights abuses in Bahrain


Money from British aid fund was used to train groups later involved in torture and executions, claims rights group

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Human rights group Reprieve has accused the Foreign Office of being complicit in abuses in Bahrain and failing to be transparent about its £5m security and justice reform programme in the kingdom.
Between 2012 and 2017, funding for the programme was largely drawn from the controversial conflict, security and stability fund, which supports global security and peace building in conflict zones, according to freedom of information requests.
The Department for International Development is the largest contributor to the fund, which is worth £1.2bn a year, although its priorities are dictated by the national security council.
The CSSF was recently criticised by the UK aid watchdog for serious shortcomings in the way it operates. It was found to have been insufficiently rigorous in applying safeguards to prevent collaboration with foreign entities with suspect human rights records.
In its report, Reprieve said that despite the training of prison officers, police and other officials by British companies in the kingdom since the Arab spring, the number of inmates on death row has tripled, torture in detention has continued, and executions have resumed for the first time since 2010.
Three men, Sami Mushaima, 42, Ali al-Singace, 21, and Abbas al-Sameea, 27, were executed in January last year, despite alleging torture and forced confessions, according to Human Rights Watch.
Reprieve said that, by providing training to groups that later backed the executions of dissidents – and because of its failure adequately to investigate torture allegations – the British government was complicit in human rights abuses in Bahrain.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, called on Britain to require Bahrain to take basic anti-torture steps as a condition of further assistance, and to be more transparent about funding.
She said: “A global Britain should be proudly promoting human rights and the rule of law, not undermining them in secret.
“The only way for the British public to be confident their money is not leading to abuses abroad is for the government to publish a full and transparent account of projects we are funding and the human rights assessments for each.”
Between 2016 and 2017, the FCO spent £1.5m on British expertise to reform Bahrain’s security and justice system, through the CSSF.
However, this year, the UK’s contribution to the project will come from two new sources, the Global Britain Fund and the Integrated Activity Fund, which Reprieve say is more opaque.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We regularly raise concerns on specific issues at a senior level with the government of Bahrain, but it is not good enough just to criticise countries from the sidelines. Only by working with Bahrain can we bring about the changes we would like to see in the country.”
The spokesman welcomed a recent decision by Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the king of Bahrain, to commute four death sentences.


Bahrain revokes citizenship of 115 people in mass trial


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — May 15, 2018

A Bahrain court on Tuesday revoked the citizenship of 115 people at a mass terrorism trial, the most to lose their nationality at any one time, amid a yearslong crackdown on all dissent in the island kingdom.
Bahrain's Sunni-rule government increasingly has wielded denaturalization as a hammer to beat back dissent on the Shiite-majority island off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
The court decision Tuesday came as much of the Mideast focused on Israeli security forces killing 59 Palestinian protesters as the U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem the day before. Like much of the crackdown, it has quietly escaped attention.
Bahrain's Public Prosecution said the case involved a little-known militant group it identified as the "Zulfiqar Brigades," whose mass arrests authorities previously announced in 2016. Zulfiqar is the name of the forked sword of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who is revered by Shiites.
Prosecutors accused defendants of building and detonating bombs, receiving weapons training and plotting to kill police officers. Prosecutors also alleged defendants received training and support from Iran and its hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.
Bahrain long has accused Iran of stoking dissent in the country, something Tehran just as long has denied.
A statement from prosecutors said 53 defendants received life sentences, while dozens of others faced prison time. It said 23 defendants were acquitted.
Bahraini officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment for more information. Activists said the sentencing raised the number of those who have lost their citizenship since the 2012 to over 700.
"This outrageously harsh sentence is setting a new level of injustice in Bahrain," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. "Rendering people stateless in a mass trial is a clear violation of international law."
Bahrain, a nation only some 760 square kilometers (290 square miles) in size, is home to some 1.4 million people. About half are Bahraini citizens, the majority of them Shiite. The island is also home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet and a new British naval base.
The island has been ruled since the 1780s by the Sunni Al Khalifa family. King Hamad, who took the throne in 1999, initially took steps to move the country from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.
However, the island's Shiite majority accused the government of treating them like second-class citizens. They joined pro-democracy activists in demanding more political freedoms in 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept the wider Middle East. Saudi and Emirati troops ultimately helped violently put down the demonstrations.
Bahrain promised change after the protests. But since April 2016, Bahrain has engaged in a new crackdown on dissent, overturning reforms that blocked civilians from being tried in military courts. It has shut down political parties, arrested political activists and forced others into exile.
The U.S. previously pushed back against Bahrain on human rights matters, using its influence as the island's defense guarantor with over 7,000 U.S. troops attached to a sprawling base called the Naval Support Activity in Manama.
However, that's changed with President Trump. His administration approved a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.
Amid the crackdown, local Shiite militant groups have carried out several attacks on security forces. Independent news gathering in Bahrain also has grown more difficult, with the government refusing to accredit two Associated Press reporters and others while shutting down a prominent local independent newspaper.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .


Al-Wefaq calls Bahrain’s FM for resignation over pro-Israel remarks


Bahrain’s opposition Al-Wefaq party is calling on the country’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa to resign after the latter expressed support for Israel’s latest attack on Syria.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Bahrain’s opposition Al-Wefaq party is calling on the country’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa to resign after the latter expressed support for Israel’s latest attack on Syria.

In a Tweet earlier this week, Al-Khalifa said that Israel had the “right to defend itself”. Al-Wefaq has described the remarks as a “disgrace … [and] a crime against Islam, the Palestinian cause and the nation as a whole.”

The group noted that such statements do not represent Bahrain or its people, who reject a normalization of ties with Israel.

In recent months, Manama has come under growing criticism over its expanding relationship with Tel Aviv, which many Arabs regard as an act of treason.

Al-Wefaq added that the exchanges between the two regimes will fail in acquiring legitimacy.


London today

Incredible being with so many amazing people today at standing up for human rights in . So many powerful and tragic stories. Britain must c.f.

White House calls on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias

The Trump administration has called on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias following revelations about the Gulf state’s dealings with terror groups in the Middle East. US security officials have expressed concern about Qatar’s links to a number of Iranian-sponsored militias, many of them regarded as terrorist organisations by Washington. It follows the disclosure of a number of emails said to be from senior officials in the Qatari government to leading members of groups such as Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia that operates in southern Lebanon, as well as senior commanders in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The emails, transcripts of which have been seen by the Sunday Telegraph, show that senior members of the Qatari government are on friendly terms with key figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard such as Qasem Soleimani, the influential head of of the Iranian Quds Force, and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah. Details of these previously undisclosed conversations between Qatari officials and the heads of several Iranian-backed terror groups show that Doha paid hundreds of millions of dollars - one report puts the figure as high as $1 billion - as part of ransom payments to secure the release of hostages held by Shia militias in southern Iraq.
Such payments are in direct contravention to Washington’s long-standing policy of not paying ransom demands to terrorist organisations.
Following US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to pull out the nuclear deal with Iran, the administration is now calling on Qatar to review its relations with Iran, as well as its ties with Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups.
“What these emails show is that a number of senior Qatari government officials have developed cordial relations with senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as a number of Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisations,” said a senior US security official.
“At a time when the US government is trying to persuade Iran to end its support for terror groups in the Middle East, we do not believe it is helpful that Qatar continues to have ties with such organisations.”
Washington regards Qatar as an important ally in the war against Islamist-inspired terrorism, and the US based its command headquarters for the recent military campaign to defeat Islamic State (Isil) at Qatar’s Al Udaid air base. The Qataris say they opened communications with Iran and a number of the terror organisations Tehran supports to secure the release of members of the Qatari royal family who were kidnapped while on a hunting expedition in southern Iraq. In one of the emails, that are believed to have been intercepted by foreign governments, a senior Qatari official reports that £50 million was paid to Mr Soleimani in April 2017, while another £25 million was paid to an Iraqi Shia terror organisation that is accused of killing scores of American troops in southern Iraq.

For Backing Zionist Attacks on Syria Opposition Group Urges Bahraini FM to Resign


MANAMA (Dispatches) – Bahrain’s main Shia opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, deplored Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa’s recent remarks in support of the Zionist regime as "a disgrace” to the Persian Gulf country and called on him to resign.
Al-Wefaq, in a statement, said the Bahraini foreign minister’s remarks about his support for a recent Zionist attack against Syria are only "his personal comments and not the views of the Bahraini people”, the Arabic-language Al Mayadeen TV reported on Saturday.
The Bahraini nation will never accept to side with the Zionist regime or have any relations with it, the opposition group added.
"The minister should respect the people of the country and resign from his post because what he has said is a disgrace to the country,” al-Wefaq stated.
In a rare expression of support, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa twitted on Thursday that Tel Aviv had a right to "defend itself” after the occupying regime said it carried out some 50 raids inside Syria.  
The regime claimed that the early Thursday assault was its most extensive strike against Syria in decades. Syria’s military said that the airstrikes had killed three people and destroyed a radar station and an ammunition warehouse.
In a statement carried by state news agency SANA, Syria’s foreign ministry said that the Israeli strikes on its territory were a "direct confrontation” that marked a "new phase” in the country’s seven-year conflict.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa attends the closing session of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Manama on December 7, 2016. 


UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcome Trump’s exit from Iran nuclear deal


The US president said in his announcement that US had consulted with ‘friends from across the Middle East’


Bahrainis Condemn Crackdown on Shiites Scholars, UN Condemns Military Court Convictions


Saturday 5 May 2018
Bahraini People rallied on Friday to protest  ruling Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown on Shiite scholars, including prominent cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.
The march was held in the village of Abu Saiba near the capital Manama, with the protesters carrying a huge banner portraying the cleric, the spiritual leader of the country's Shiite majority.
Sheikh Qassim was stripped of his nationality two years ago after being convicted of illegal collection of funds and money laundering as well as inciting violence.
The ageing cleric was hospitalized over his deteriorating health last month.
The prominent cleric has been a vocal supporter of the peaceful protesters, who have been demanding that the Manama regime stop its discrimination and violent practices against the Shiites since 2011.
The Friday’s protests also called for the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary general of al-Wefaq, the country’s biggest opposition group, which was dissolved by the authorities after the uprising.
The 52-year-old cleric has also been convicted of inciting unrest, and has been in jail on a nine-year prison sentence since late 2014.
The UN denounces Death Sentences against 4 Bahrainis
UN human rights experts have called for the retrial of four men sentenced to death by a Bahraini regime's military court in a collective trial that breached fair trial and due process guarantees and confessions obtained under torture.
The experts welcomed, in a statement the UN published on its website on April 30, 2018, the news that the King of Bahrain commuted the death sentences to life in prison but deplored the imposition of the capital punishment in the first place. "The fact remains, that they should have never been convicted on the basis of flawed trials, let alone sentenced to death, and they still face life sentences," they said.
The men were forcibly disappeared for several months, held in solitary confinement in small cells for a prolonged period and subjected to torture and ill-treatment to obtain confessions which were then used against them in court. They did not have access to legal representation until late in the trial proceedings and the court reportedly refused to investigate the defendants' allegations of torture in custody.
"While welcoming the decision to annul the death sentences, we call on the authorities to ensure that the four men are retried in accordance with international law and standards", the experts said. "The allegations of enforced disappearance and torture must be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated with a view to holding those responsible to account and preventing future similar occurrences."
They further urged the west-backed  Bahrain regime to pardon all other death sentences and ensure that all these and other pending capital punishment cases are retried in full respect of fair trial and due process guarantees in compliance with the treaty obligations the country has undertaken under the ICCPR and CAT.
"We also ask that the authorities reinstate the citizenship of all four men as well as that of all others that have been punished in the same manner in the same collective trial against established international human rights law and standards", they added.
The UN experts called on the King of Bahrain to reverse the amendment.
The experts had previously sought clarifications from the Government on this case.
The Manama regime has been pressing ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on political dissidents since 2011. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds injured or arrested during the regime’s crackdown.

Bahrain Authorities Question 37 Security Officers After Complaints From Detainees


Published May 3rd, 2018 - 16:00 GMT via SyndiGate.info

Bahraini concerned authorities have questioned 37 security men after complaints from prisoners and detainees for maltreatment and excessive violence against them.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU), a monitoring body that investigates complaints by prisoners and detainees in security facilities, disclosed legal violations in the case of citizens sentenced to death.

This prompted the Bahraini Attorney General to request the Minister of Justice to revoke the death sentence and reopen the case file and trial.

The SIU dealt with 43 complaints during the first four months of 2018, involving torture, maltreatment and excessive violence attributed to servicemen affiliated with the public security.

Judge and SIU member Mohammed Youssef al-Zebari said that the panel had launched inquiries to investigate all the complaints.

Zebari said that the unit heard 50 complainants and 113 witnesses during the same period, questioned 37 accused servicemen from the public security and referred 10 complainants to medical examiner.

Five other complainants were referred to the SIU psychiatrist to examine them. The unit inquired into the complaints filed by Hussein Ali Moussa and Mohammed Ramadhan Isa, who were sentenced to death for killing a policeman and attempting to murder others in a terrorist explosion.

The unit demanded the retrial of the two convicts, taking into account the new elements in the case. The Public Prosecutor approved the proposal and referred the case to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister.

The unit has also finished investigating two other separate cases and referred two servicemen affiliated with the public security to the relevant criminal court.

The lower criminal court has also acquitted a suspect accused of assaulting a complainant during his arrest. It has also convicted 10 out of 13 public security affiliates and sentenced them to six months in jail.

The panel has also investigated complainant filed by tenants at a rehabilitation center, who claimed that policemen assaulted them physically.

Punitive disciplinary measures were also taken against three people accused of involvement in two separate cases. The unit followed up the cases, which were referred to the military courts at the Ministry of Interior.