Israel to remove power grid in parts of Hebron

Electricity power crises protest in Gaza

Israeli forces yesterday gave military orders to the Palestinian residents of Al-Qoum village near Hebron in the southern West Bank to remove the power grid there.

Local sources in the village told Quds Press that the decision affects 800 metres of the electricity network in the western part of the village.

The Israeli forces notified the residents earlier that they will demolish several homes under the pretext that they were built near the Separation Wall and in Area C.

The sources said that if the Israeli authorities carry out their decision, at least 10 Palestinian families will be deprived of electricity.

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Saudi aggression leaves 135 Yemeni kids dead: UN

Yemenis search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by an overnight Saudi airstrike on a residential area in Yemen's capital, Sana’a, on May 1, 2015. © AFP

Yemenis search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by an overnight Saudi airstrike on a residential area in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, on May 1, 2015

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the Saudi aggression against Yemen has claimed the lives of more than 130 children over the past two months.

“Since the conflict escalated in March, as many as 135 children have been killed and 260 injured,” the UNICEF said in a statement on Sunday.

The UN body said that one-third of the deaths occurred in Yemen’s southern coastal city of Aden that has been hit by violent clashes over the past few days.

UNICEF further called on all sides involved in the Yemeni conflict to abide by international laws, which call for the protection of children’s lives.

“Children should not continue to pay the price of the violence in Yemen. All parties to the conflict are obligated under international humanitarian law to protect children from harm,” it said.

“But only a complete end to hostilities can protect the children of Yemen. They are the future of Yemen,” the statement said.

Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 — without a UN mandate — in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which currently controls the capital, Sana’a and other major provinces, and to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.

According to the UN, since March, nearly 2,000 people have been killed and 7,330 injured due to the conflict in Yemen. However, according to Yemen’s Freedom House Foundation, the Saudi airstrikes have claimed the lives of about 4,000 Yemeni people.

(Source / 26.05.2015)

World Bank: Israel, Egypt causes ‘dangerous fiscal crisis’ in Gaza

File photo of an Palestinian worker

File photo of an Palestinian worker

A report prepared by the World Bank said that unemployment rate in Gaza has reached a record as it is the highest across the world, Quds Press reported on Sunday.

About unemployment rates, the report said it increased in 2014 “to reach 44 per cent — probably the highest in the world,” with the poverty rate in the occupied Palestinian territory reaching 39 per cent, despite the fact that nearly four of every five Gazans receive “some aid.”

“Gaza’s unemployment and poverty figures are very troubling and the economic outlook is worrying,” the World Bank quoted Palestinian territories director Steen Lau Jorgensen as saying in a statement.

The report said that most of the unemployed are youth and university graduates.

According to the report, the Israeli occupation state and Egypt are responsible for this deteriorated situation because of imposing a strict siege on the coastal enclave.

According to the World Bank, the virtual disappearance of Gaza’s exports can be explained by no other variable than “war and the blockade.”

“The impact of the blockade imposed in 2007 was particularly devastating, with GDP losses caused by the blockade estimated at above 50 per cent and large welfare losses,” the report said.

The World Bank urged the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Israeli occupation and the donor community to take action through reformation in order “to reverse the recent and worrisome slowdown in economic growth” and “avoid a dangerous fiscal crisis.”

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Jamous: Nasrullah Drags His Sect into Immoral Losing War

Commenting on Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah’s latest speech, Badr Jamous asks if  “Nasrallah lost his senses or is it just cheap talk when he compares resisting the Israeli occupation to fighting against the rebels in Syria? Nasrallah falsely claims that his militias are fighting against ISIS and extremist groups.”

“Neither Nasrallah nor any other party can outstrip Syrian rebels in the issue of fighting ISIS, especially since they expelled ISIS from most of Aleppo province when nobody was fighting or supporting those who fight ISIS. On the contrary, the Assad and Al-Maliki regimes abandoned whole cities, towns, army barracks and arms depots, making them an easy prey to ISIS,” Jamous added.

He also said that that “observers of the course of events in the Syrian Revolution knows very well that ISIS are just a stab in the back of the revolution, as it chose in numerous occasions to attack Syrian rebels as they were fighting pro-regime forces.

Jamous also asked why Nasrallah is sending more and more of his community to a losing war in Syria. “History testifies that aggressors never win. Nasrallah and those who receive orders from Tehran are not willing to admit that sending Lebanese youth to fight in Syria is meant only to save the throne of Bashar al-Assad. Aggressors on Syria will meet one fate, one that is illustrated by the coffins sent daily to Hezbollah’s’ stronghold in southern Beirut.

“Nasrallah’s supports have realized they are fighting in the wrong place, against the wrong enemy. Many Shiites in Lebanon, who do not have a problem with the Syrian people in the first place, feel that Nasrallah have betrayed his supporters when he dragged them into an immoral losing war.”

Jamous concluded his remarks expressing astonishment at the offer Nasrallah made to his opponents in his latest speech, when he said they had to choose either Assad or ISIS. “Nasrallah insists on ignoring the demands of the Syrian people and belittling their will which is fighting epic battles against the terrorism of the Assad regime and Hezbollah.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 26.05.2015)

PLO dismisses annexation of settlements in future peace deal

A protester gestures by an Israeli police vehicle during clashes near Ofer

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Senior PLO officials on Tuesday rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to resume peace talks that would allow the annexation of settlements, stressing that all construction in the occupied West Bank is illegal.”It’s a request to continue illegal settlement construction with Palestinian consent. This looks like one state and two systems rather than two sovereign and democratic states,” the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.”If Mr. Netanyahu wants to have meaningful negotiations ending the occupation that began in 1967, he should recognize a Palestinian State on the 1967 border and honor Israel’s obligations including a halt of settlement construction and the release of the Palestinian prisoners.”Erekat was responding to comments made by the Israeli PM during a visit last Wednesday by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.The remarks, first reported in Haaretz, said that talks should first clarify which areas of the occupied West Bank that Israel could continue to build in.PLO official Hanan Ashrawi joined the condemnation of the proposal, calling it a “disingenuous and manipulative exercise of political and legal deception.”She said: “All settlements are illegal and in flagrant contravention of international law and consensus, and any efforts to annex and to legalize the settlement blocs is a blatant attempt to steal more Palestinian land and to legitimize Israel’s ongoing system of apartheid, land theft and expansion.”She added that peace talks should be based on international law and create a binding timetable for the removal of all settlements in the occupied West Bank.

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Palestine Today 05 26 2015

Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for Tuesday, May 26th, 2015.

Israeli troops invade West Bank communities and injuries 10 civilians and in Gaza Egypt’s navy attack fishermen. These stories, and more, coming up, stay tuned.

Palestinian medical sources have reported that ten residents, including children, have been injured when Israeli soldiers invaded, on Tuesday at dawn, Jaba’ town, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin.

A number of military vehicles invaded the town, broke into and searched a few homes, and interrogated several families. Soldiers also searched old caves in the town, and around it.

The invasion led to clashes with local youths, who hurled stones on the invading vehicles, while the soldiers fired several rounds of live ammunition, gas bombs and concussion grenades.

At least ten Palestinians, including children, suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, and received treatment by local medics.

In Jerusalem, the Israeli army stepped up kidnaping and home searches campaign in Jerusalem’s old city and nearby Palestinian neighborhoods.

Local sources announced that since Monday the Israeli army have kidnapped more than 20 Palestinian civilians. Most of those kidnapped are teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 years old, local sources add.

The Israeli military escalated its campaign after two Israeli youth were stabbed in Jerusalem old city on Sunday night. The two allegedly sustained light wounds. No Palestinian group have claimed responsibility for the Sunday attack.

Elsewhere, in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian fisherman was injured when Egypt’s navy attacked on late Monday night and Tuesday at dawn Palestinian fishing boat near the southern Gaza coastline.

According to medical sources the fisherman, Mohamed Bardawiel, in his 30s, was moved to hospital after sustaining moderate wounds due to the attack.

On Monday Israeli navy conducted two separate attacks targeting Palestinian fishing boats near Gaza shoreline injuring two men.

And that’s all for today from the IMEMC News; this was the Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 news round-up from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For more news and updates, please visit our website at www.imemc.org. Today’s report has been brought to you by George Rishmawi and Ghassan Bannoura.

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Egypt’s military government has started executing people on overtly political charges

The Muslim Brotherhood's Safwat Hegazy (C) shouts from behind the defendants' cage as a judge reads out the verdict sentencing him and more than 100 other defendants to death on May 16, 2015 at the police academy in Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Safwat Hegazy (C) shouts from behind the defendants’ cage as a judge reads out the verdict sentencing him and more than 100 other defendants to death on May 16, 2015 at the police academy in Cairo

CAIRO, Egypt — Next Tuesday, a lawyer will plead for a Cairo court to suspend the execution of six men, arguing that their death sentences were unconstitutional. The only trouble is, the defendants are already dead.

Since the coup that swept Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi from power, hundreds of his supporters have been handed death sentences in a rash of mass trials. But until this month, only one had been carried out — against a man convicted of throwing another man off a roof.

A little over a week ago, however, six men sentenced to death by a military court were executed on charges of belonging to militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and attacking security forces.

The day before, a Cairo court sentenced ousted president Morsi and 120 others to death on charges related to a mass prison break during the 2011 uprisings. Some were sentenced in absentia, including Sondos Asem, a young Oxford University student who used to work as a media coordinator for Morsi, and Emad Shahin, a well-known professor at the American University in Cairo.

The six executions of political opponents mark the first overtly political killings ordered under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s leadership. They recall other killings of political opposition figures after violent power shifts — Iran in 1979, Liberia in 1980 — but it remains to be seen how deep the similarities will go.

A key question now being debated: Will they really kill Morsi?

The precedent set by the court-ordered killings is already worrying monitors. “Now that they have been executed this paves the way for other executions to take place,” said Mohamed Elmessiry, Egypt researcher with Amnesty International.

 “It is a sign that some parts of the state are in a very bloody-minded mood; at times it seems as if there is a vendetta between parts of the state and an increasingly militant opposition,” said Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

In this case it appears that a serious miscarriage of justice took place. Three of the six convicted men have an alibi — they were already in prison on the dates they allegedly carried out their attacks on the army. Ahmed Helmy, a lawyer who represented the men, said the court seemed unwilling to listen to the evidence. “The judge was shown official documents that proved that they were arrested before the crimes allegedly took place,” he said. The documents included “times and places of arrest and the fact that they were in Azouli prison,” a military detention facility known for human rights abuses.

Helmy said the outcome of the trial seemed like a foregone conclusion from the start.

“There is a sense that the sentences were already decided. The defendants told me not to bother [defending them]. They said, ‘We know we will get the death penalty, don’t trouble yourself.’ They knew this would happen,” he said.

The whole trial was flawed, rights groups say. Elmessiry describes the proceedings as “procedurally completely null and void because they were held in enforced disappearance [not official detention] and they were not held in an official place of detention.” The civilian defendants were also tried in a military court. The administrative case on June 2 will challenge the sentences on these grounds.

Helmy sees the executions as a warning to those still in jail.

“It was a kind of threat — they will apply this sentence to scare the other prisoners into negotiating with them and solving the crisis.”

What do Egypt’s friends have to say?

The United States gave a milquetoast response to Morsi’s death sentence, saying they were “deeply concerned” — a sentiment that didn’t get in the way of a meeting in Cairo last Wednesday between General Lloyd James Austin, the head of US Central Command, and Sisi. The presidency said the two men were talking about counterterrorism efforts.

“I think Western actors — the Europeans and the US — have essentially come to terms with the fact that the new Egyptian regime is following a repressive path,” said Brown. He added that it is unlikely to pose a serious barrier to relations.

But if politically motivated death sentences continue — and particularly, if Morsi does end up being executed — the US and other Western governments who have supported the Sisi government will have some explaining to do.

“If the Egyptian government actually executed all those who have death sentences passed on them, the bloodletting would be hard to ignore. I think it would lead to a bit of international isolation,” Brown said. “If instead we see selected executions it will lead to more tension in their relationship but will not completely disrupt it.”

Already, Egypt’s increasingly poor record on human rights is causing Cairo to lose friends in some European capitals. The president of the German parliament canceled a June meeting with Sisi, citing “human rights abuses and lack of parliamentary elections in Egypt.” Egypt, meanwhile, denied that it had requested a meeting in the first place.

“What we’ve seen from the West is disappointing but expected,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, head of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. The Obama administration “has routinely set aside the rights of Egyptian citizens in favor of its so-called strategic interests in Egypt,” she said.

That doesn’t mean US officials aren’t keeping an eye on the Egyptian judiciary, however.

“I think a lot of diplomats are waiting to see whether the Court of Cassation [the final line of legal appeal] continues to function as a pressure valve or whether it begins finalizing the hundreds of preliminary death sentences currently before it,” Whitson said.

Helmy said it is too soon to tell what will happen in those cases. But he doesn’t think the former president will actually be executed.

“I don’t expect they will carry out Morsi’s sentence. They want to negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood and they don’t need to kill him now,” he said.

What will happen in Egypt’s courts is increasingly difficult to predict. Under former president Hosni Mubarak there were sometimes faulty sentences, but usually not in cases carrying the death penalty, Helmy said.

“Now you have the feeling that the whole system is lost, that the sentences comes from above and are already decided.”

(Source / 26.05.2015)

Militants, Palestinians battle in Syria refugee camp

Al-Nusra Front fighters with Syrian government soldiers in Yarmouk

DAMASCUS (AFP) — Islamic State group militants in Syria are trying to retake positions they lost in previous fighting in the Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

“There is intermittent fighting between Palestinian factions and IS and Al-Nusra Front which are trying to retake positions in the center of Yarmouk,” Khaled Abdel Majid, head of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front which is close to Syria’s regime, told AFP.When militants from the two groups entered Yarmouk on April 1, they took 60 percent of the camp before pulling back into around 40 percent.They currently hold presence in the south near the Damascus district of Al-Hajar al-Aswad.Abdel Majid said Palestinian groups control 40 percent of the camp, in its north, and that some 20 percent makes up the front line,adding that Syrian regime aircraft have bombarded IS-held Al-Hajar al-Aswad.A security source in Damascus said only that in Yarmouk the fighting “stops and then starts again.”Chris Gunness, the spokesman for UNRWA, the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians, expressed alarm at the most recent reports of fighting.”UNRWA calls for an end to all actions and hostilities that endanger the security and lives of Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, who endure — and continue to suffer — extreme humanitarian conditions,” he said.Before the Syria conflict erupted in 2011, Yarmouk was home to 160,000 people, both Palestinian and Syrian.Around 18,000 remained following a nearly two-year long government siege imposed after rebel forces took up positions inside, including elements of the extremist al-Nusra Front.
Today, fewer than 7,000 refugees remain in the camp, according to the secretary-general of the coalition of Palestinian factions in the camp, Khalid Abd al-Majid.

The former residents of Yarmouk are part of more than half a million Palestinian refugees to have suffered over the past five years of Syrian civil war.

By the end of April, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said they had only received 20 percent of the funding required to aid Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk.

“After enduring four years of conflict, two of them under siege-like conditions, and the suffering created by armed groups, the civilians in Yarmouk are at a breaking point,” the agency said.

“There must be active compliance with the obligation to respect and protect civilians in Yarmouk, including by allowing unhindered humanitarian access,” Gunness said.
(Source / 26.05.2015)

IN MYANMAR, MUSLIMS ARRESTED FOR JOINING TERROR GROUP THAT DOESN’T EXIST

Featured photo - In Myanmar, Muslims Arrested for Joining Terror Group That Doesn’t Exist

The government of Myanmar, cracking down on the country’s minority Muslims, has arrested at least a dozen people on charges of belonging to a terrorist group that defense lawyers and security experts say does not exist.

The administration of President Thein Sein has refused to disclose any evidence that the “Myanmar Muslim Army” is real — raising the prospect that the government invented an Islamic terrorist threat to justify a new front in its longtime persecution of Muslims. The exact number of people arrested is unclear, but The Intercept has obtained documents and conducted interviews in Myanmar about three cases — one of them involves 12 people accused of having links to the alleged group, the second involves five people accused of plotting to plant bombs in several unspecified places in the country, and the third is against a man accused of funding the group. All of them were arrested between September and November.

“The accused have received training in Myanmar Muslim Army camps, which has been launched and is operating illegally,” reads one of the court documents obtained by The Intercept.

Officially, about 4 percent of the country’s population is Muslim, but the actual number is believed to be higher, perhaps as much as 10 percent. The largest Muslim population, the Rohingya ethnic group, is concentrated in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, while other Muslims are scattered all over the country. The Rohingya are the most persecuted group: the government has denied them citizenship for decades, and according to several human rights groups, they are the targets of an ethnic cleansing campaign that has helped prompt a desperate exodus by boat in which an estimated 300 people died in the first quarter of this year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

But non-Rohingya Muslims also face discrimination even though they are citizens of Myanmar. In recent years, sporadic explosions of anti-Muslim violence have taken place outside Rakhine State. The Muslims accused of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army” or plotting terrorist actions hail mostly from central and northern Myanmar.

After five decades of military rule, Myanmar launched in 2011 a process of political transition to what its generals have termed a “discipline-flourishing democracy.” A semi-civilian government made up of former generals was established, hundreds of political prisoners were released in successive amnesties, and the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was allowed to be elected to Parliament in by-elections held in 2012 after having spent 15 years under house arrest.

The transition has given the government a degree of international acceptance unthinkable a few years ago. In 2005, Condoleezza Rice, testifying at a Senate hearing to confirm her as secretary of state, included Myanmar in a list of “outposts of tyranny,” but in 2012 Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country, where he praised the transition process. Hillary Clinton has also visited Myanmar and admitted in her 2014 memoir that it’s “hard to resist getting breathless” about the country’s progress. The Myanmar government has even hired the image-polishing services of Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Nevertheless, improvements in political liberties for the country’s Buddhist majority coincides with a deterioration in conditions for the Muslim minority.

Muslims in Myanmar are widely framed within the Buddhist-majority country as foreigners, because a large portion of them are descendants of migrants from the Indian sub-continent. They are being portrayed by state officials and extreme Buddhist nationalist movements as outsiders and a common enemy, a narrative begun long ago, critics say, in order to distract attention from political conflicts created by the military dictatorship, which lacked popular legitimacy.

It was only when the Bush administration launched its “war on terror” in 2001 that Myanmar’s Muslims began to be presented as a potential terrorist threat; this was seen as a bid to win international favor at a time when the U.S. government was trying to isolate the military regime. Yet there was a glaring problem with the military regime’s portrayal of Muslims: there is no record of any actual terrorist attack by Muslims within Myanmar in recent decades.

Now, with the country in a period of transition applauded by the U.S. and other former foes, and with crucial elections to be held in November, the former generals who make up Myanmar’s government need more than ever to legitimize their grip on power, both in the international arena and among the Buddhist-dominated electorate. The emergence of a new terrorist threat gives new life to long-held claims by the military that they are the only guarantors of security in what they term their “discipline-flourishing democracy.”

Myanmar's President Thein Sein, center, arrives at Halim Perdanakusumah airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 to attend Asian African Conference. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Thien Sein, Myanmar’s president

Soe Moe Aung’s whole family was asleep, when late on November 17, about six policemen broke into their house in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second biggest city. His mother, Nwe Ni Aung, recounted in an interview earlier this year that the police demanded the family hand over her 24-year-old son. She said neither the police, nor the soldiers who had surrounded the house, bothered to show them an arrest warrant. She didn’t see her son for about 10 days — he was in police custody and denied access to a lawyer — and learned only when his trial started that he was accused of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army.”

“They accuse him of undergoing training in a camp, but I don’t think that’s possible,” she said in an interview in Mandalay. “He’s sick — he suffers from gout — so how could he have received any training?”

Soe Moe Aung’s lawyer, Nandar Myint Thein, is defending four additional suspects in the same trial in Mandalay; a total of 12 people are accused in the trial of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army,” according to documents obtained by The Intercept. They’re charged under the Emergency Provisions Act, passed in 1950, and according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) “commonly used to arbitrarily detain activists or criminalize dissent.”

Nandar Myint Thein claims the prosecution didn’t submit any “real evidence” and the accused signed confessions after days of torture in custody. She says most of the defendants didn’t even know each other before the trial.

“When I asked the prosecution’s witnesses [from the Police’s Special Branch] for evidence about the Myanmar Muslim Army, they answered that they couldn’t speak about it before the court … that this information came from above,” Nandar Myint Thein said.

In a recent interview for this article, the director of the Myanmar president’s office, Zaw Htay, defended the government’s position. “The Home Affairs ministry has all the evidence on these activities, but we can’t make it public because this is a national security issue,” he said. When asked how the accused can expect a fair trial when the prosecution’s evidence is withheld in court, he answered, “They have the right to appeal in upper courts.”

Zaw Htay declined to say how many people are believed to be members of the group — he said national security concerns prevented him from disclosing more information — but claimed “there are many activities outside the country and they want to promote their terrorist attacks with some people inside the country, so right now we are doing a preemptive strike to protect ourselves against any possible attack.” Legal Aid Documentation Team, a civil society organization, claims that as of February, around 100 Muslims had been arrested on charges of terrorism since last year.

The existence of the “Myanmar Muslim Army” has not been confirmed by terrorism experts, human rights groups, or the U.S. State Department. Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, is the only one to have mentioned it, though fleetingly — he wrote in a recent report that “there also have been unconfirmed reports about the emergence of a new group called Myanmar Muslim Army (MMA), which is reportedly using Thai territory for training Myanmar Muslims.”

A State Department spokesperson said in an interview that the U.S. government “does not have any further information” beyond Gunaratna’s reference. Zachary Abuza, a specialist in security issues and politics in Southeast Asia, said he had never heard of the “Myanmar Muslim Army.” “Sounds completely fictitious to me,” he said. “I would doubt that any group fighting the state would even use the term ‘Myanmar’ as that legitimizes the regime.” Myanmar is the name given to the country by the military government in 1989, replacing Burma, and the new name is contested by critics of the regime. “Based on the name and the track record of the Tatmadaw [armed forces], there is a very high likelihood that their ‘confessions’ were extracted through torture,” Abuza added.

One of the three cases involves Khin Maung Shwe, also known as Yusuf, who is accused of helping to establish the “Myanmar Muslim Army.” The 44-year-old businessman was detained in Mandalay in October, but his lawyer, Aung Naing Soe, said the case against his client is founded solely on confessions extracted while in military custody from other detainees who gave his interrogators the name “Yusuf” and little else. Aung Naing Soe says there is no further evidence against his defendant.

The prosecution in these cases has the backing of the minister of Home Affairs, citing the Emergency Provisions Act. The Intercept has obtained the minister’s signed authorization for the case involving Khin Maung Shwe, and defense lawyers say the minister signed the same authorization for the Mandalay case. The Intercept has also obtained the minister’s authorization for a case involving five people accused of planning to make fertilizer bombs. “That’s a big burden for the accused, because the court is afraid of not following orders from the minister himself,” said Aung Naing Soe.

In the context of Myanmar’s judicial system, the direct involvement of the Home Affairs minister isn’t an innocent matter of oversight, it’s an expression of the overarching power the military continues to exert over all aspects of life in Myanmar. The constitution requires the Home Affairs minister to be a member of the military, nominated by the commander in chief of the armed forces, which are constitutionally shielded from any civilian oversight. As the International Commission of Jurists noted in a report published in 2013, “political and military influence over judges remains a major impediment to lawyers’ ability to practice their profession effectively. Depending on the nature of the case, judges render decisions based on orders coming from government and military officials.”

Sam Zarifi, regional director of Asia and the Pacific at the ICJ, explained that “there’s every reason to fear for the rights of the accused to receive a fair trial” in these cases, noting that “judicial independence has been undermined by the executive branch’s undue influence and interference, in particular, in politically sensitive cases, including criminal ones.”

Another case in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and former capital, involves Muslims allegedly planning to wage armed struggle. In September last year, five Muslims were detained over smuggling fertilizer. The prosecution claims the fertilizer was intended to fabricate explosives to plant several bombs in Myanmar. One of the accused is a shopkeeper who bought fertilizer from another defendant, according to his lawyer.

The lawyer, Robert Sann Aung, said the suspects were held by the military for three months and tortured to extract confessions. Like other lawyers interviewed for this article, he claims there is no evidence of a terrorism plot, other than the fertilizer itself and the confessions. When asked about his expectations, Robert Sann Aung gave little reason for optimism.

“I won’t win this case,” he said. “I would win if the judge applied the law, but law is not going to be applied.”

(Source / 26.05.2015)

25 PALESTINIANS ABDUCTED BY IOF, INCLUDING MINORS

25 Palestinians abducted by IOF, including minors

At least 25 Palestinians, including minors, have been abducted by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) from Occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank in no more than 24 hour’s time, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement over 20 Jerusalemite Palestinians, mostly children, have been apprehended between Monday and Tuesday morning.

Five Palestinians were captured by the IOF from Jerusalem’s Old City and al-Issawiya at the crack of dawn.

West Bank based sources said a number of Palestinian civilians were arrested by the IOF while others were summoned for interrogation following a wave of predawn home break-ins in the central, southern, and northern provinces of the West Bank.

Eye-witnesses said the IOF troops stormed a Palestinian family home in al-Bireh City, nabbed the 20-year-old youth Mohamed al-Kadhi, and summoned his brother Baraa’ for interrogation moments before they heavily beat the parents.

The IOF apprehended the Palestinian citizen Mohamed Yaish and another identified citizen from Nablus City.

In the meantime, the IOF kidnapped the Palestinian university student Faez Jaber from al-Khalil after he had been chased down by the Palestinian Authority forces for over 50 days.

The campaign culminated in the abduction of 27-year-old Mohamed Mahmoud al-Qadri from Beir al-Bacha village, near Jenin.

(Source / 26.05.2015)