Saudi woman facing the death penalty for peaceful protest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Israa Al-Ghomgham, a Saudi woman facing the death penalty for peaceful protest

Human rights advocate Israa Al-Ghomgham is facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, for her non-violent human rights related activities.

Al-Ghomgham was arrested in 2015 along with her husband, activist Mousa Al-Hashim, over their roles in anti-government protests in Al-Qatif back in 2011, when pro-democracy protests spread across the Middle East and North Africa.

A #FreeIsraa campaign photo, circulated on Twitter.

Al-Qatif is located in the Eastern Province, where most of the country’s Shiite minority — who make up 10 to 15 percent of the population live. Shiite Muslims in the Sunni-dominated kingdom face ”pervasive discrimination”, including unfair treatment under the justice system, government interference with their religious practices, exclusion from public sector jobs, in addition to stigma and sectarian speech, according to Human Rights Watch.

Alongside many other Saudi Shiites, Al-Ghomgham and her husband were protesting these injustices and demanding that the Saudi government uphold their human rights.

Al-Ghomgham faces eight charges including “preparing, sending and storing material that would harm the public order” under Article 6 of the Cybercrime Act of 2007. She also stands accused of “inciting rallies and young people against the state and security forces on social networking sites”, and posting photos and video of these protests online. State prosecutors for her case are seeking the death penalty.

She was put on trial in early August 2018 before the counter-terrorism court, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC). A second hearing took place on October 28, but neither her nor the other defendants in the case were brought to court, the Gulf Center for Human Rights reported. The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.

#IsraaAlGhomgham #إسراء_الغمغام@IsraaAlGhomgham

Today second court hearing did take place, but neither Israa nor the other activists being trialled alongside her were present.

It is unknown why the Saudi authorities failed to transport them to the courtroom

Third court hearing will be Wednesday 21st November

In addition to Al-Ghomgham, five more individuals are standing trial before the SCC this week for charges related to exercising their peaceful rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, according to Amnesty International. The human rights organisation documented eight cases where activists are facing the death penalty:

The Public Prosecution’s recurring calls to resort to the death penalty in the past three months for at least eight individuals raises the alarm about the fate of dozens of activists who are currently detained without charge or trial and for those currently on trial before the SCC.

Among those who stood trial this week was religious cleric Salman al-Awda. State security officials arrested him in September 2017 and charged him with a litany of offenses, including calling for reforms and regime change in the Arab region. He also faces the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s attorney general Saud al-Mujib arrived in Turkey on Monday to join an investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Al-Mujib has often been sent after political rivals of the monarchy, and those who challenge the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Leaders around the world have pointed at Bin Salman, accusing him of playing a role in the journalist’s murder.

Many are wondering how Bin Salman can endeavor to bring justice to Jamal while at the same time seeking the death penalty against those practicing their rights to freedom of expression.

د. عبدالله العودة

@aalodah

The same Saudi Attorney General who sought death penalty against my father @salman_alodah and others because of their peaceful activism, is going to Turkey to discuss the death of who was killed because of his peaceful activism!
🤔

Myanmar sentences Reuters journalists to 7 years in prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Myanmar sentences Reuters journalists to 7 years in prison

One of many online campaigns’ images demanding the release of wrongly accused journalists.

Two Myanmar reporters who were covering the killing of Rohingya in Rakhine state last year were sentenced to seven years prison on September 3 for violating the Official Secrets Act of 1923 after a nine-month-long trial.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were working for Reuters when they were arrested in December 2017 for possessing state documents regarding military operations in Rakhine state. In court proceedings earlier this year, police testified that they had handed the documents to the reporters without explanation, shortly before the arrest.

The two reporters were investigating the killings of 10 Rohingya villagers by the military in Inn Din village in the northwest of Rakhine on the aftermath of the clashes between the army and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in August 2017. The clashes were followed by the displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s government does not recognize Myanmar-born Rohingyas, most of whom are Muslim, as citizens or as an ethnic group living in Myanmar. The government designates ARSA as a terrorist organization.

In April 2018, police captain Moe Yan Naing testified in court that he and a colleague were ordered to entrap the reporters. He was sentenced to one year in prison after that testimony for violating the Police Disciplinary Act. He told reporters after the hearing that sentenced him: “Putting me in prison stops other police officers from saying the truth”.

Immediately after the court decision, Free of Expression Myanmar (FEM), a local civil society group, released its statement denouncing the state for its failure to protect journalists.

The conviction shows the lengths to which the Myanmar state is willing to go to hide its wrongdoing. In the past, the state has mostly bullied and jailed local journalists, but now it has picked on one of the most renowned media houses in the world.”

Local voices demand justice

The case has attracted outrage not only internationally, but inside Myanmar too.

Many people in the country, including civil society organization and activists, have been speaking out against the journalists’ arrest since last year.

Last month, A-than (Voice), a local civil society group working for the abolition of Myanmar’s online defamation law, launched a video campaign on social media featuring several activists from Myanmar calling for the release of the journalists. The statement message of the campaign posts read as:

Reuters Journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested and detained when they were doing their investigative report on the killings in Inn Din village committed by Ta-ma-taw [Army]. Inn Din village killings were admitted by Ta-ma-taw and seven army officers have been convicted by war court already. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were acting ethically in order to get reliable information for people. Captain Moe Yan Naing has already testified that [the reporters] were set up by the police because of the news that they were covering.

A few days before the hearing on September 3, many marched in the city of Yangon, Myanmar’s economic capital, to demand journalists’ release.

For some, the case reinforces the growing disappointment with the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by noble peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Peace activist Moe Thway expressed his disappoint for Aung San Suu Kyi for not speaking out to protect the journalists.

The fact that Wa Lone (and Kyaw Soe Oo) were given unjust prison sentences is not because of the court alone.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her government are also responsible for approving their arrests and saying that they were guilty.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has clearly revealed her characteristic of a dictatorship.

In a statement [pdf] condemning the verdict, organized by A-than and signed by 63 local NGOs, supporters wrote:

We believe that the decision by the court is irrational and the case was brought against the two journalists….to justify [their] arrest and imprisonment…We take this as a crackdown on the right of access to information and media freedom, and an oppressive gesture [against] all concerned people of Myanmar who are aspiring [to]….a society characterized by rule of law, accountability, freedom and justice.

The court decision was also condemned by the international community, including statements released immediately by US Embassy in Myanmar and EU Union in Myanmar.

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

Kim had a great summit he didn’t give anything away

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Kim had a great summit. And he didn’t even need to give anything away

But the real reward was five hours with US President Donald Trump on Tuesday, when the two leaders signed a document that essentially reiterated promises North Korea has already made, extracted no new or concrete concessions to demonstrate Pyongyang was committed to denuclearization, and further, spoke of “security assurances” the dictator had long sought from the United States.
“The only thing that Kim has done is suspend testing of weapons, that’s not giving them away,” said Bruce Bechtol, a professor of political science at Angelo State University who has authored several books on North Korea.
There was certainly nothing in the vague final statement that might result in potential blowback from his cadre of loyalists watching his every move from Pyongyang.
North Korea had declared earlier this year that since the country had satisfactorily achieved all it wanted with regard to its nuclear program, it would suspend its tests. Since then, it has closed down two test sites. Trump announced on Tuesday that Kim had informed him that he would be shutting down a third, one that tested missile engines.

Stunning press conference

But perhaps the most stunning moment of the summit came after Kim had left the summit venue. In a freewheeling press conference lasting more than an hour, Trump was pressed by reporters to elaborate on the security guarantees he could provide to North Korea. In response, Trump pointed to the presence of nearly 30,000 US troops in South Korea, something that has long irked not only North Korea, but also its biggest backer: China.
“I want to get our soldiers out. I want to bring our soldiers back home,” Trump said.
While the US President qualified that a troop withdrawal was “not part of the equation right now,” he made it clear that it could be, in the future.
And to the apparent surprise of South Korea, Trump promised to halt what he called “the war games” — joint military exercises with South Korea — that North Korea has long regarded as a provocation. They were expensive, inappropriate — and “provocative,” he said.
Trump: We will stop 'war games'

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Trump: We will stop ‘war games’ 01:21
To Korea-watchers, the commitment to suspend these regular training drills would raise questions about the continued presence of US forces in the region.
“If we have a force of 28,500 military personnel that does not conduct training, then we may as well bring them home and this is what I fear from President Trump’s comments that war games cost a lot of money and South Korea does not pay sufficient funds,” said David Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces colonel and a fellow at the Institute of Korean American Studies. “A force that does not train is of no value to deterrence and no value to war fighting and does a disservice to those military personnel and our national security.”

Low expectations on human rights

There were few expectations that Trump would confront Kim on the many issues North Korea faces, like its appalling human rights record, the North Koreans who slave in labor camps, the kidnapped foreign nationals from South Korea and Japan, and beyond, its arsenal of medium and short range missiles.
Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are 'winners'

Trump: North Koreans in prison camps are ‘winners’
Those have been high on the list of priorities for North Korea’s neighbors including Japan and South Korea. The leaders of both countries spoke to Trump while he was in Singapore before he met with Kim to ensure their fears were firmly in Trump’s mind when he spoke to Kim Jong Un.
As he spoke to reporters, Trump rejected the suggestion that even by meeting with Kim, he’d given the young leader a win.
“It’s not a big deal to meet,” he insisted.
Experts watching the talks disagreed.
“Throughout the tenure of Kim Jong Il [Kim Jong Un’s father], a meeting with a sitting US president was the ultimate sign of the country’s international recognition,” said Catherine Dill, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
kim jong un CSR 3_00004717

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How North Korea got its nuclear program 01:16
“Through parsing North Korean state media during Kim Jong Un’s tenure, North Korea plainly seeks the legitimacy that a summit might confer. I think it would only be more priceless for Kim Jong Un if President Trump was coming to North Korea.”
That, by the way, was a possibility Trump told reporters he would consider. He also said he would “absolutely” invite Kim Jong Un to the White House.
On the North Korean laborers, Trump said: “I think I’ve helped them,” adding: “Not much I can do right now, but at some point. I think they are one of the great winners today.”
On human rights, Trump steered the conversation to the matter of the remains of American servicemen missing in action and presumed dead from fighting during the Korean War. About 5,300 of the nearly 7,800 U.S. troops who are still unaccounted for from the 1950-53 war were missing in North Korea. “Human rights were discussed and will be discussed in the future,” Trump said. “What was also discussed in great detail and I must have had countless calls and letters, they want the remains of their sons back. I asked for it today and I got it.”

Little that wasn’t in past statements

The document Trump and Kim signed had little of the detail that past agreements with North Korea had laid out. It echoed statements already agreed to by North Korea when Kim Jong Un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last April.
Tuesday’s communiqué said that North Korea “commits to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit

North Korea, South Korea Meet to discuss summit
In contrast, the agreement signed in 2005 between North Korea and the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, committed Pyongyang “to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards.”
The North Koreans have given no indication that they are seeking to abide by international conventions or admit independent experts to verify the extent of their nuclear program.
“The North Koreans have given nothing so far, while the Americans on the other hand have given Kim Jong Un a summit with the US president,” said Andrew O’Neil, the dean of research at the Griffith Business School in Australia.
“Whatever happens from now, Pyongyang comes out of this looking like it’s scored a major victory. It’s an instructive and compelling lesson on how weak states can achieve asymmetrical outcomes if they are prepared to stand tough against materially stronger powers,” he said.
South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization

South Korea: North Korea committed to denuclearization
The White House told reporters Tuesday that it had largely agreed to North Korea’s demand for parity in all aspects of the summit, from the number of officials during the bilateral meetings to the number of US and North Korean flags side by side during the arrival ceremony. The images of the six US and six North Korean flags in the background of the Trump-Kim handshake will undoubtedly be used by North Korean propaganda to suggest the US and North Korea are on level footing, another boost to Kim’s legitimacy at home.
The North Koreans have spent decades negotiating with the West, and have studied the Trump White House and were prepared for this meeting, and it showed, said Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy.
“To see President Trump and Kim Jong Un shaking hands warmly and chatting so easily was both stunning and chilling,” she told CNN. “It’s a powerful moment that augers a change in the tense relationship between these two countries. But it also legitimizes the path Kim took to get here: Building and testing illicit nuclear weapons that have the potential to wreak unimaginable destruction.”
For Kim Jong Un, this momentous day was one for North Korea’s history books that won’t require exaggeration.

At Least 25 Killed In Nicaragua Protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

#SOSNicaragua: At least 25 killed in Nicaragua protests, including one journalist, say human rights groups

Protesters killed in Nicaragua, confirmed by independent news site Confidencial. Photo compilation by Confidencial. Individual photos via various social media channels.

In Nicaragua, what began as demonstrations against social security reforms have become a national outcry against corruption, censorship and overall repression.

In just five days of demonstrations, the government has carried out a violent crackdown. While state sources are reporting a death toll of 10, human rights and protest groups estimate that at least 25 people have been killed in protests, with many more injured, and dozens detained or disappeared. One journalist and one police officer are among the dead.

Multiple TV networks have been banned from broadcasting the demonstrations. Access to Confidencial, a local independent news site reporting on the protester death tollwas faltering shortly before this article was published.

On April 18, the government – led by President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo, who is also the vice president – unilaterally adopted an executive decree reducing the pension allowance by 5% and implementing additional social security taxes to employers and employees.

In response, retirees and students organized peaceful demonstrations to voice their disagreement but were met with anti-riot police forces and members of the Sandinista Youth parastatal group. Chaos erupted from there. Clashes have since turned violent and some protesters have reported that police are using live ammunition.

Video journalist Ángel Gahona was shot dead on April 21 while live broadcasting a protest through Facebook Live.

Sandra Cuffe@Sandra_Cuffe

Nicaraguan journalist Angel Eduardo Gahona spent the last four minutes of his life covering youth protest and incoming riot police tonight in Bluefields. He was streaming live on facebook when he was shot and killed. This was his last broadcast: https://www.facebook.com/ElMeridianoBluefields/videos/1525050757617208/ 

Other journalists have been attacked and assaulted, and have had their equipment stolen. In parallel, at least three TV channels were banned from reporting on the protests.

In a country where media freedom is fleeting, censorship has not deterred Nicaraguans, who are live broadcasting, tweeting and video blogging about the crisis on the ground.

Hashtags such as #SOSNicaragua, #SOSINSS and #QueSeRindaTuMadre have gone viral on Twitter and Facebook, and raw videos are being uploaded on Dropbox. Through online activism, Nicaraguans are pleading for international support — though they are specifically asking the US not to intervene.

Demonstrators in Managua. Screenshot from Euronews video.

While college students are the face of the movement, Nicaraguans from across the political spectrum are actively supporting them, starting with feminist and peasant groups, retirees, and students’ parents. This is why demonstrators stress they are not linked to a specific political party, but are making demands in the name of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. The protestors call themselves “the self-organized, self-summoned.”

Journalist Wilfredo Miranda filmed a demonstration where protesters ironically shout “here is the minority,” in reference to Vice-President Murillo’s belief that the outcry only represents a minority of Nicaraguans.

Wilfredo Miranda Aburto@PiruloAr

“Aquí está la minoría”, le responden a Rosario Murillo

Since students have born the brunt of police killings and aggression, civilians are gathering supplies and medicines for them in universities and in the Managua Cathedral, as the Church backs the upheaval.

In a video posted to Facebook by Franklin Leonel, we see students and doctors caring for the wounded in university halls. In a caption, he writes:

They are not criminals!!! #SOSNicaragua they’re killing our students!!!

The government’s official position has been shifting in public statements, but the state-enforced violence seems to continue.

President Ortega publicly ignored the protests for three days, before making an appearance on April 21. Military troops multiplied on the streets thereafter. Later, he declared that he was open to a dialogue with the private sector, who accepted the invitation under certain conditions, such as inviting other sectors of society at the table. President Ortega did not reply and instead repealed the social security reform altogether on April 22.

But the protests now have expanded beyond the cause of the social security reform. Demonstrators are demanding justice for those who have been killed by police and military gunfire, and are demanding an end to government corruption. Some are calling for the overall dissolution of Ortega’s government.

On Facebook, protest supporter Leonor Zúniga posted a video explaining the situation:

…the people are tired. It’s been 11 years that we’ve been in a very authoritarian [state], where we’ve been constantly repressed, where state decisions are made in secret, where we’re never taken into account.

[…]

I think that [the social security reform] was the last straw.

The now-repealed social security reform was, as Zúniga says, the last straw in a decline of government accountability, economic conditions, environmental degradation (including recent wildfires in the Indio Maíz nature reserve) and democratic institutions at large.

Nicaragua, a country of six million people, lived under the Somoza authoritarian regime until the Sandinista Revolution toppled the government in 1979. In the 1980s, a civil war raged between the Sandinista regime and the “Contras”, opposition fighters financed and armed by the US government. Daniel Ortega, a former guerrillero and member of the Sandinista National Liberal Front (FSLN in Spanish) was elected president in 1985. He remained in office until he lost a reelection bid in 1990, which brought about the end of the civil war.

Ortega was reelected in 2007 and has remained in power ever since. His tenure has been marked by the abolition of presidential term limits, an increasingly muzzled press, opaque business deals, and direct control over the police, the military and both the judiciary and legislative branches of government.

Honest, Truthful American History

Honest, Truthful American History

 

On old wooden leaky boats smaller than a rich mans toys

We all climbed in and to this new world we set our sails

There’s some that have joined us who are looking for gold and fame

Most came for the hope of land that they could till in their own name

 

Roanoke Island, Jamestown on the river off the Chesapeake Bay

To Plymouth by the Rock these old creaky boats found their way

Pushed, pulled and chased yet most whites came by their own will

Many really had no choice, poverty and the laws chased them away

 

This strange new world with all this lumber and open land to claim

An extension of Heaven to all white males this land lays in wait

Wait, who are these strange red faces, with arrows pointed our way

Indians, so-called by Captain Columbus and his misfit crews I think

 

America, with all these wide open spaces surely I can make my way

White male land owners ordained, we shall be from sea to shining sea

These Indians don’t matter there just good excuse to use our black powder

What our white mans diseases don’t wipe out we will turn into our slaves

 

America, Valhalla to all white males who have the guts, guns and gold to stay

Kill all the Indian Braves then turn all who are left breathing into our slaves

The Chinese aren’t white so we can use them like dogs to lay our steel highways

Then these Black Devils from Africa, they are only good for work, whips and chains

 

Why should we be forced to stop at our borders whether by land or by the seas

Canada to our north settled by the French so of course we have every right to invade

To our south we burst through their front door to Mexico City we rode without shame

Spanish, Mexicans and them damn Indians, if we killed them all who would care anyway

 

Our gold bought Alaska from those Russians so damn it, no war, we didn’t get to play

Then of course there were those primitive Hawaiians, not knowing what we had in store

With big guns and ships we invaded their Islands, killed half the men, imprisoned their Queen

Now their land is our land as we buried our flag in their sand, you know we always want more

 

Is it through ego or arrogance that why some of us don’t understand the outside world

Why do some roll their eyes and snicker when we say that peace and human rights are our stay

America, I do still believe that she is the best nation to ever give her people a somewhat honest chance

So don’t get angry when others see us different, just look at Nixon, Trump the Bushes and Guantanamo Bay

 

 

 

 

Turkish Court Releases, Re-Arrests Amnesty International’s Taner Kilic

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Justice Deferred: Uproar After Turkish Court Releases, Re-Arrests Amnesty International’s Taner Kilic

Supporters gather outside the courthouse in Turkey. Photo by Arzu Geybullayeva.

A small crowd was gathered outside Caglayan court. They held “Free Taner” signs while representatives from the Amnesty International’s Turkey office were read their demands out loud.

“We demand an unconditional release for Taner,” said one of the human rights defenders, speaking to a group of journalists at the January 31 gathering.

There was a palpable burst of surprise and relief among family and friends when the court ordered the conditional release of Taner Kilic, chair of Amnesty International Turkey, who has spent eight months in prison. He was the only one left behind bars after the court released all members of the #Istanbul10 human rights defenders group in October of last year.

This joy was short-lived, however. The prosecutor — who had already requested that Taner be kept in detention — immediately appealed the decision, and the second court granted the request.

Just a day later, the first court accepted the second court’s decision to continue his detention. Kilic is now likely to remain in jail until the next hearing, which is scheduled for June 21, 2018.

‘Crisis in Turkey’s justice system’

In a statement following the reversal, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said:

This is the latest example of the crisis in Turkey’s justice system that is ruining lives and hollowing out the right to a fair trial. To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey.

Kilic is accused of being a member of a terrorist group, a charge that his supporters and the international human rights community have broadly dismissed as bogus. More precisely, Kilic is accused of using a messaging app called ByLock that was allegedly used by coup plotters in July 2016.

Kilic and his lawyers argued no such app was ever downloaded on his phone during the hearing yesterday.

Taner presents the evidence that he didn’t download or use ByLock. The prosecution hasn’t presented any that he did. Despite this, the prosecutor requests that Taner remains in pre-trial prison detention.

Taner’s lawyer presents a third expert witness report to the court that again concludes that Taner didn’t use ByLock. This one shows that Taner had two ‘mor beyin’ apps known to falsely show connections to ByLock. It is absolutely clear that Taner didn’t have ByLcok.

Kilic joined the hearing via video link as he was bring held in a prison in the western province of Izmir. He has denied using the app on many occasions, including on January 31. After several hours of witness questioning, the court took a brief recess, after which it announced its ultimately short-lived decision to release Kilic on bail.

At that moment, a collective burst of joy could be felt in the air and online:

The brother and daughter of overjoyed at the news of Taner’s release. One step towards justice!

Great news, long overdue. Congratulations to Team Turkey and all our campaigners and activists who worked so hard over the 8 month period of unjust confinement! The fight for human rights in Turkey continues. Too many human rights defenders still in jail. https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/958674883063500800 

Just hours later, the news of the new court decision sent a devastating blow to Taner’s family:

“To have been granted release only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is devastating for Taner, his family & all who stand for justice in Turkey.” @amnesty‘s @SalilShetty on the re-arrest & re-detention of . : http://amn.st/6015D3FRf 

The last 24 hours:

1. Court A orders the release of Amnesty’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic (yesterday) after nearly 8 months in prison

2. After prosecutor appeals, court B orders Kilic to remain in custody (last night)

3. Court A overturns its original verdict (this morning). https://twitter.com/p_zalewski/status/958813288489521152 

Here we are. Our colleague, @amnesty Turkey chair will NOT be released. The court changed its mind… Why? Who knows, no grounds provided. Devastating for the family and an affront to justice. https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/959011266286235648 

This is not the first time a court has overruled its own decision.

The Istanbul trial court has now overturned its own release verdict it made yesterday. Taner will stay in pre-trial detention. What (or who) made them do it? This is devastating for Taner’s family and a disgrace to justice.

Too sorry for Taner and for Turkish Judiciary Unfortunately it is not a new issue , several release decision have not been enforced in Turkey . pic.twitter.com/DrnEwh12kF

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Utterly shocking! Ordering prisoners’ release and immediately throwing them back to jail seems to become a habit of ‘s judiciary. This was applied to several last year.

Stop this cruel game, ! https://twitter.com/andrewegardner/status/958828842449297408 

The author of this article attended the January 31 hearing at the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul.

Bahraini Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab Faces Additional Fifteen Years in Prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Jailed Bahraini Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab Faces Additional Fifteen Years in Prison

Nabeel Rajab (right) and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja at a pro democracy march in Bahrain in 2011. Photo by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

This post was written by Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in the Gulf region and its neighbouring countries.Prominent Bahraini human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, has been in jail for his human rights work since 13 June 2016. He is currently serving a two-year prison term for speaking to the media about the human rights situation in Bahrain. He also faces additional prison time for expressing himself on Twitter.

Rajab is the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the founding director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), the Deputy Secretary-General of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), and a member of the Advisory Board of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In July 2002, he founded the BCHR with his colleague Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his human rights activities. The BCHR continues to operate to this day despite a decision to close it by authorities in November 2004, and the jailing of its two founders.

When the popular uprising started in Bahrain on 14 February 2011, Nabeel Rajab was at its heart as a human rights leader. When the authorities arrested most of the uprising leaders, he became the only remaining voice outside of prison, which was heard by hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and the rest of the world, attesting to the grave violations committed by the government that oppressed the entire population solely based on their demand for freedom, equality and social justice.

For his engagement with the Bahraini uprising and human rights activism, Rajab is paying a heavy price. He was arrested and imprisoned several times and subjected to various types of threats, judicial harassment, abusive media smear campaigns, torture, and travel bans.

On 10 July, he was sentenced to prison for two years after being found guilty of spreading “fake news”, over TV interviews in which he spoke about mounting human rights violations in the Gulf kingdom. In those interviews, Rajab talked about journalists and NGOs being prevented from entering Bahrain, and a lack of judicial independence. On 22 November, a Bahraini appeals court upheld the two-year prison sentence.

In another case, Rajab faces up to 15 years in jail for criticizing Bahrain’s participationin the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and for speaking out about torture in Bahrain’s infamous “Jaw” prison on Twitter. Rajab was scheduled to appear again in court on 31 December 2017 for this case. However, the hearing was unexpectedly held on 5 December, four weeks earlier than the date originally scheduled by the court. On 3 December, Rajab’s lawyers were informed by the court the hearing would take place on 5 December, under the pretext that a key witness in the case would be unable to attend the hearing on 31 December. Although, Rajab’s lawyers protested this decision, the hearing took place on 5 December and was adjourned to 7 December. Rajab was unable to attend the hearing for health reasons.

– Due to health problems,Nabeel Rajab was not able to attend the hearing

– His lawyers were not given enough time for preparation, only 2 days informal notice

– Court rejected the lawyers request for postponement

– Rushing the case, raises fears of imminent sentence

On 7 December, the hearing has once again been adjourned to 15 January.

Today, the 20th Court hearing against @NabeelRajab was adjourned to 15 January for the defence to submit their final argument.

• Charged for comments condemning the Saudi bombardment in , & exposing torture in 

• Facing 15 Years imprisonment

Rajab faces additional prison time for charges related to two letters he published in the New York Times and the French newspaper Le Monde, while in prison.

In the NYT letter, published in September 2016, Rajab described the conditions of his detention and called on the Obama administration to ”use its leverage” to end the conflict in Yemen, and work ”to secure the release of people who call for peace, and are trying to build democracy in the region”. For this piece, Rajab was charged with “undermining the prestige of the kingdom.”

In the letter published in Le Monde in December 2016, Rajab called on France and Germany to re-assess their support for the Arab Gulf monarchies. Following the publication of this piece, he was charged with “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of Bahrain and the brotherly countries of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], and an attempt to endanger their relations.”

Several organizations and human rights groups have repeatedly called on Bahraini authorities to release Nabeel Rajab. In May, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) expressed particular concern over Rajab’s solitary confinement and called for his release. Numerous others have called for his release, including European Parliament officials. On 27 June 2017, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights Pier Antonio Panzeri issued a statement calling for the rights defender’s release:

Rajab’s detention violates his right to freedom of expression. I call on the Bahraini authorities to grant lawyers and family members access to Nabeel Rajab, to drop all charges against him and to free him immediately

Despite these calls, Rajab remains in prison. He is not the only one in Bahrain to be jailed for his human rights and political activism, or for peacefully expressing himself. In the small island kingdom of just 1.4 million people, there are more than 4,000 political prisoners, according to rights groups.

The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By Casey Quackenbush

3:58 AM EST

A video of men appearing to be sold at auction in Libya for $400 has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees the north African country.

The footage and subsequent investigation conducted by CNN last month has rallied European and African leaders to take action to stop the abuses. On Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad and Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to evacuate thousands of migrants stuck in Libyan detention camps.

The grainy undercover video appears to show smugglers selling off a dozen men outside of the capital city Tripoli.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” said an auctioneer, according to CNN. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

The report has drawn attention to an issue that aid and migrant groups say has gone on for years.

Why is there a slave trade in Libya?

Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.

The Libyan Coast Guard — supported with funds and resources from the E.U. and more specifically, Italy — has cracked down on boats smuggling refugees and migrants to Europe. With estimates of 400,000 to almost one million people now bottled up Libya, detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants, according to a September report by the U.N. human rights agency. Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific,” and among other abuses, migrants are vulnerable to being sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

“It’s a total extortion machine,” Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM in Geneva tells TIME. “Fueled by the absolute rush of migrants through Libya thinking they can get out of poverty, following a dream that doesn’t exist.”

The IOM said in April that it had documented reports of “slave markets” along the migrant routes in North Africa “tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.”

“There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value,” Doyle said in the April statement.

Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Taha Jawashi—AFP/Getty Images

How is Libya handling the crisis?

According to CNN, the U.N.-backed Libyan government has launched a formal investigation into the allegations. But Libya is largely considered a failed state. Since Muammar Gaddafi, who ran the country for four decades, was ousted in 2011, the country has descended into civil war. A transitional government failed to implementrule of law in the country, which has splintered into several factions of militias, tribes, and gangs. In lawless Libya, many see the slave trade and smuggling as a lucrative industry. Tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis will require international assistance.

On Wednesday, Libya reached a deal with E.U. and African leaders to allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in its detention centers. The government also agreed to open a transit center for vulnerable refugees after months of negotiations, according to Reuters. The center is intended to safely house people before they are resettled or sent to a third country.

How is the international community responding?

Following the publication of the video, there was outcry from all corners of the globe, with some nations recalling their ambassadors from Libya. Protesters rallied outside Libyan embassies across Africa and in Europe.

On Wednesday, African and European leaders met at a summit in the Ivory Coast and agreed on an urgent evacuation plan that would see about 15,000 people flown out of Libya. Most of the migrants will be sent back to their home countries. Speaking at the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, called the abuse “a crime against humanity” and vowed the summit members would “launch concrete military and policing action on the ground to dismantle those networks,” according to the Guardian. The deal also included initiatives to target traffickers, including setting up a task force to dismantle trafficking networks, the BBC reports.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock at how his compatriots were being treated “like goats.” On Wednesday, 242 Nigerian migrants were flown out of Libya back to Nigeria.

The day before, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and said it would be “stepping up its work” to stop the abuses. However, the U.N refugee agency said it faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially for its operations in sub-Saharan Africa. “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the 21st century,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Since 2015, the IOM has repatriated 13,000 people from Libya under a voluntary program. But Doyle, the IOM spokesperson, says more needs to be done to stop migration at its core, particularly from tech companies who own online platforms where traffickers can falsely lure people into paying smugglers.

“They’re being completely misled into thinking that’s a happy future for them and being misled thorough social media,” he tells TIME.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry of Rwanda said it would extend asylum to 30,000 mainly sub-Saharan Africans stuck in Libya. “Given our own history … we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle,” the foreign ministry said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the abuses, saying: “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.”

“There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this.”

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Pakistani Senators Express Concern Over Disappearances Of People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY DAWN)

 

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights on Thursday expressed severe concerns over the issue of missing persons and said that those responsible were yet to be identified.

Senator Nasreen Jalil, who was chairing a meeting of the committee, asked who was behind the disappearances of people.

“People were gone missing but still those responsible have not been identified, ” she noted, adding that it was a matter of grave concern.

It is also condemnable that registration of the First Information Reports in such cases is often denied, she said.

“The issue of missing persons is still ongoing in the country as another list of 131 missing persons has surfaced,” she added.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that according to international laws, a country was bound to protect the rights of people living there. He, however, confessed that as a state they have failed to ensure the provision of human rights to people.

Referring to the violations of human rights in Punjab, Senator Mir Kabeer said that more than 100 labourers in Mandi Bahahuddin had sold their kidneys to pay back loans their parents took.

Senator Nisar Mohammad Khan also expressed concerns over violations of the rights of children and women.

In an earlier meeting, the committee had held law enforcement agencies responsible for the ‘disappearing’ of people.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court too had called for a detailed report on all missing persons detained at all government facilities.