Egyptian military court jails 227 dissidents

Egyptian military court jails 227 dissidents

An Egyptian military court Sunday sentenced 227 dissidents to jail for allegedly promoting violence following the August 2013 violent crackdown of Egyptian security forces, according to a local non-governmental organization.

The Aug. 14 Rabia and al-Nahda crackdowns came in the wake of the military coup that July.

The Western Cairo military court sentenced 133 of the defendants, 82 of whom were tried in absentia, to 25 years in prison, and 94 others (72 of whom were tried in absentia) to 15 years each, Ezzat Ghanem, the chief of Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, said in a statement.

29 of the opponents were released after the court ruling while one case was dismissed after the suspect died, he added.

Egyptian authorities have launched a relentless crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since the military unseated elected president Mohamed Morsi – a Brotherhood leader – in July 2013.

In the three years since Morsi’s ouster, security forces have killed hundreds of his supporters and jailed thousands.

In 2014, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief who led the military to oust Morsi, approved legislation allowing individuals accused of committing violations against state institutions to be referred to military courts.

The move was widely criticized by local and international rights organizations, which expressed concern that defendants would not receive fair trials before military tribunals.

Hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, were killed in August 2013 when security forces violently cleared their sit-in at Cairo’s Rabia al-Adawiya Square.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Israeli court sentences minor girl to 18 months with $6,000 fine


Israeli military court of Salem sentenced the 16-year-old Palestinian girl Amal Qabaha, from Toura town south of Jenin, to 18 months of actual imprisonment along with a fine estimated at NIS 20,000 which equals $6,000.

Local sources revealed that Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) charged the Palestinian minor captive with attempting to stab an Israeli soldier which, however, was refuted by eyewitnesses who were present at arrest time.

She was rounded up while passing through an Israeli military checkpoint near Toura town on August, 14, 2016 after alleged stabbing attempt, the sources pointed out.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Israeli plan to boost ties between illegal West Bank outposts


An Israeli project to prop up ties between West Bank illegal settlements outposts has been underway, Israeli sources reported Tuesday.

According to the Hebrew-speaking Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the Israeli occupation authorities made a plan to enhance transportation, excavate tunnels, establish new access roads, and expand the light railway network in an attempt to slash travel time and cost between West Bank settlements and Tel Aviv, Gush Dan, and Occupied Jerusalem.

$5 billion will be invested to enhance infrastructure and the transportation network and also to construct more settlement units in Beit Shemesh, Tsur, and Hadassah, in Occupied Jerusalem.

The plan will enable Israeli buses to pass through the Gush Etzion settlement to Tel Aviv through Occupied Jerusalem and also to establish settlement projects in Maaleh Adumim worth 1 billion shekels and an access road for Israeli buses worth 30 million shekels.

Earlier, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, approved a bid to construct 2,500 illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, a couple of days after he had signaled the go-ahead for the construction of 600 settlement units in Occupied Jerusalem.

The pace of Israel’s illegal settlement activity has grown remarkably following the swearing-in of the U.S. President, Donald Trump, despite a resolution by the UN Security Council last month outlawing Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Life sentence, 20 years imposed on Jerusalemite prisoner


The Israeli District Court issued on Monday a life sentence and 20 additional years against the 37-year-old Palestinian prisoner Khaled Qutteina, a resident of Enata town to the northeast of occupied Jerusalem, on charges of carrying out a car-ramming attack which killed an Israeli settler and injured another, according to the Hebrew website 0404.

The Israeli court also imposed a 258 thousand-shekel (68 thousand dollars) fine on prisoner Qutteina to be paid for the family of the deceased settler and another similar fine for the family of the injured one.

Qutteina carried out a car-ramming attack on 15th April 2015 in occupied Jerusalem which led to killing an Israeli settler and injuring another.

Dozens of Palestinian youths from the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem were accused of carrying out stabbing, car-ramming, and shooting attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories since the outbreak of the Jerusalem Intifada in early October 2015, and were sentenced to long-term imprisonments.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Russian opinions split equally over school hijab ban, poll shows

Russian opinions split equally over school hijab ban, poll shows

Almost half of the Russian public believes the ban on Muslim headdress in schools should be lifted, but an equal share says authorities should not allow kids to demonstrate their religious allegiances in schools.

According to the latest research by the state-run VTSIOM polling agency, 47 percent of Russians currently see nothing offensive in the practice of Muslim girls wearing hijabs in schools (compared to 35 percent in 2012). The proportion of those who said any external manifestations of belonging to any religion in schools must be restricted was also 47 percent (down from 53 percent in 2012). Six percent said they could not choose sides in this discussion in 2017, half the number who said so in 2012.

The share of those who opposed the hijab ban was predictably higher among Muslims , but also among younger people (18-24 years). The opposite opinion was shared by people over 45 years old and those who described themselves as atheists.

The head of VTSIOM’s department for special programs, Elena Mikhailova wrote that the main factor causing the cautious attitude towards different religious and social groups was the fact that vast majority of the population was poorly informed about these groups.

RIA Novosti/Said Tsarnaev

About a week ago Russian Education Minister Olga Vasiliyeva voiced support to the ban on hijabs in schools imposed by the Supreme Court ruling in February 2015.

I don’t think that true believers try to emphasize their belonging to certain religions by external attributes,” the minister said.

The head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov voiced disagreement with this position by an Instagram post. He called Vasiliyeva’s statement her own stance and added that his own three daughters wear hijabs in class, all get good marks and would never remove the traditional Muslim headwear no matter what.

In February 2015, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled to uphold the ban of Muslim headwear in schools, which had been introduced by authorities in the Republic of Mordovia. It rejected a complaint lodged by the Mordovian Muslim community, which claimed that the ban on religious headwear in schools violated the constitutional principle of freedom of conscience. The judge ruled that the ban on wearing headscarves in schools did not prevent Muslims from believing in God and did not infringe anyone’s constitutional rights.

President Vladimir Putin expressed his position on the issue of hijabs in 2012, when he opposed them being worn in schools. He said although people’s religious feelings must be respected, Russia is a secular state.

We should see how our neighbors, European states deal with [wearing hijabs]. And everything will become clear,” Putin said.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Fahd: Assad Regime & Iran Continue to Violate Truce as Russia Renege on Its Pledges

Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd said that the Assad regime and its Iranian ally continue to violate the truce, stressing that the mass forced displacement operations being carried out by the regime and its allies, the latest of which took place in the Wadi Barada valley, constitute war crimes.

During a meeting with the Finnish envoy Leena-Kaisa Mikkola in the headquarters of the Coalition’s Secretariat in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday, Fahd said that the Astana meeting has failed to shore up the shaky truce in Syria.

Russia, a guarantor of the ceasefire agreement, has so far failed to honor its pledges to force the Assad regime to stop breaches of the truce, Fahd said.

Fahd emphasized that that the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is the only opposition body mandated to represent the Syrian opposition in Geneva. He denounced attempts to interfere in the issue of representation of the Syrian opposition in any upcoming peace talks.

“Improving the humanitarian situation in Syria through the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 is crucial to the resumption of negotiations in Geneva,” Fahd added.

Fahd thanked the Finnish envoy for her country’s efforts to send humanitarian aid to those in need in Syria, stressing the need to channel this aid through “clean hands to those most in need.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 31.01.2017)

Israeli gov’t seeks legal cover for demolition of Palestinian homes


A government-sponsored bill is being currently discussed by a Knesset committee in an attempt to tighten grip on Palestinians building in the Green Line (1948 Occupied Palestine), Haaretz reported Monday.

The bill seeks to amend planning and construction laws in order to deter the Palestinians from building homes in the Green Line, an activity deemed illegal by the Israeli authorities if made without permits, which are hard to obtain.

The bill includes increasing the maximum imprisonment for unlicensed building from two years to three years, and reducing the authority of the court in favor of the Finance Ministry’s enforcement unit.

Those who violate the bill will also be subjected to demolition and displacement.

According to Haaretz, the measure targets Palestinian residents of the Green Line, who have often tried every possible effort to obtain construction licenses from the Israeli authorities. Most of their appeals have, however, gone unheeded.

Recently, the Israeli government refused a draft legislation proposed by two Arab MKs in the Knesset to suspend arbitrary demolition of unlicensed Palestinian homes for four years until a solution is found.

In January 2017, 11 Palestinian homes were knocked down by the Israeli forces in Qalansuwa town, to the north of the Green Line, and 15 other homes were demolished in Umm al-Hiran Bedouin village in southern Negev under the pretext of unlicensed construction.

According to experts, Palestinian residents of the Green Line are in urgent need of 130,000 homes to house homeless civilians, particularly newly-wed couples.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Arrests, crackdowns as Israeli army rolls into Qalqilya at daybreak


Arrests and crackdowns were reported at daybreak Tuesday after the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) rolled into the northern West Bank province of Qalqilya and showered Palestinian homes with teargas canisters.

Reporting from the scene, a PIC news correspondent said heavily-armed Israeli troops stormed Kafr Saba neighborhood in Qalqilya and targeted Palestinian civilian homes near the Abu Ubaida Mosque with randomly-shot spates of teargas canisters.

The Palestinian anti-occupation protesters reportedly responded to the attack by hurling stones at the Israeli patrols.

The occupation soldiers further broke into a residential apartment in the area and kidnapped 23-year-old youngster Ahmad al-Barsh after they wreaked havoc on his family home.

The arrestee was reportedly dragged by the IOF to an unidentified destination.

Over recent days, the Israeli occupation army stepped up arbitrary abductions and crackdowns against Palestinian civilians as part of a collective punishment tactic aiming to quell anti-occupation activism.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Donald Trump is wrong about Israel’s ‘security’ wall

Trump’s use of Israel’s separation wall as an example of a valid security measure is based on gross ignorance, at best.

Israel's wall separates families from their land, communities from each other, and often communities from educational, medical and religious services [Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters]

Israel’s wall separates families from their land, communities from each other, and often communities from educational, medical and religious services

On January 27, as proof of the effectiveness that walls can have in preventing the movement of people between borders, United States President Donald Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News: “A wall protects. All you have to do is ask Israel. They were having a total disaster coming across and they had a wall. It’s 99.9 percent stoppage.”

One could say, after all, that it’s the Palestinians who were “having a total disaster coming across”.  Since 1967, Israel has built some 250 illegal settlements and outpostson Palestinian land in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in which more than 600,000 Israelis now live, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Putting that aside for the moment, there are several key problems with Trump’s claim. The first is the wall’s raison d’etre: it’s a “separation” wall, not a “security” wall, according to its name in Hebrew (gader hafrada). It was originally conceived in 2000, by Ehud Barak’s government as a negotiation threat to Palestinian Liberation Organization leader, Yasser Arafat: “show more flexibility or we’ll unilaterally create a consolidated demographic border”. Fast forward a few years, and that threat materialised with profound humanitarian and economic consequences that continue to be felt by the Palestinians.

Border constrictor

A glance at a map detailing the separation wall’s route quickly reveals that the vast majority of it – 85 percent – is, or is planned to be, built within the West Bank, not along the Green Line or the 1949 Armistice Line, the border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank recognised by the international community.

This annexation accounts for nearly 10 percent of the West Bank and includes prime agricultural land and strategic water reserves. At one point, the wall cuts 22km deep into the West Bank.

The purpose of its meandering deviation from Israel’s border, and into the West Bank, is to unilaterally annex the land on which the majority of Israel’s illegal settlements and outposts have been built.

It’s a border constrictor for Palestinians – coupled with an elaborate matrix of movement and access restrictions – that separate families from their land, communities from each other, and often communities from educational, medical and religious services.

The wall has also separated Palestinian towns and cities from Jerusalem, Palestine’s economic, cultural and religious centre.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on the illegality of Israel’s separation wall, among other things, stated that the wall’s route deep into the West Bank to annex Israeli settlements, and allow space for them to develop and expand, proved that security was not the main motivation behind the construction of the wall.

Several highly respected international and Israeli NGOs concluded the same. Israeli NGOs BIKOM and B’tselem stated in a report published in 2005:

“[I]it is clear that contrary to the [security] picture portrayed by the state, the settlement-expansion plans played a substantial role in the planning of the Barrier’s route. The report shows that not only were security-related reasons of secondary importance in certain locations, in cases when they conflicted with settlement expansion, the planners opted for expansion, even at the expense of compromised security.”

‘99.9 percent stoppage’

The second problem with Trump’s claim is the alleged “99.9 percent stoppage”. For starters, the wall is only two-thirds complete. A rector at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, a centre of theological research between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, told me: “An incomplete wall is about as effective as a mosquito net that covers two-thirds of you. Would you buy one to protect you?”

Trump’s use of Israel’s separation wall as an example of a successful security measure is based on gross ignorance, at best.

The wall was also not primarily responsible for stopping Palestinian attacks on Israelis during the Second Intifada. Rather, the steep drop in attacks in 2005 was primarily due to a tactical decision by Hamas and other Palestinian political organisations to suspend these attacks, focusing instead on the Palestinian parliamentary elections imminent at the time – a fact reported in January 2006 by Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence agency.

While the separation wall has had a part to play in making these attacks more difficult, a pervasive Israeli security intelligence network and military presence on the ground inside the West Bank – in tandem with a complicit Palestinian Authority – play a greater role.

In 2009, Yuval Diskin, then head the Shin Bet, said that the wall didn’t need to be completed as Israeli military intelligence was sufficiently robust to thwart any Palestinian attacks from the West Bank.

READ MORE: The long walk into Gaza

In addition, on any given day there are tens of thousands of Palestinians, predominantly labourers, who smuggle themselves inside Israel to seek work.

At obscure points around Jerusalem, one can see Palestinian labourers scaling the wall with makeshift ladders and disappearing into the distance, or can find ropes or resourcefully used skips that labourers have used to get into Israel.

It is clear that the primary reason for West Bank Palestinians to smuggle themselves into Israel is to find work, given the devastating effect of Israel’s separation wall and occupation on the Palestinian economy.

Trump’s use of Israel’s separation wall as an example of a successful security measure is based on gross ignorance, at best. Its real damage comes in his championing and legitimising a wall built by Israel – an occupying, colonising power – predominantly inside the West Bank, in breach of international law. Such public statements enable Israel to continue its systematic violations of Palestinian rights with impunity.

(Source / 31.01.2017)

Major European pension funds heavily invested in Israeli settlements

Settlement constructions by Israel continue in east of Jerusalem [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu]

Settlement constructions by Israel continues in east of Jerusalem

Europe’s five largest pension funds have €7.5 billion invested in companies with business activities in and around Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), according to a new investigation by a Danish media and research centre.

According to Danwatch, the five funds in question – the Government Pension Fund of Norway,  Dutch government pension fund ABP, Dutch pension fund PFZW, Danish pension plan ATP, and Swedish pension fund Alecta – are invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, “most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the [OPT].”

As noted by Danwatch, “18 European countries warn their citizens and businesses in no uncertain terms against undertaking financial and economic activities that could support illegal Israeli settlements” in the OPT.

The report also points out that the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2011) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights (2011) both serve as warnings to businesses about ties to Israeli settlements.

The investigation revealed that the largest single investor is the Government Pension Fund of Norway, with €5.2 billion out of the total €7.5 billion invested in all 36 companies on Danwatch’s list.

This includes €135 million in Caterpillar, “which supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes”, €286 million in HeidelbergCement, “which has been blacklisted by several other European investors due to exploitation of Palestinian natural resources”, and €1.5 billion in Siemens, “which has installed traffic systems on Israeli roads in the West Bank.

Danwatch reports that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund also has €233 million in five Israeli banks “financing settlement construction and operating in the West Bank in various ways”: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel Ltd, Israel Discount Bank Ltd and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

The full investigation can be read here.

(Source / 31.01.2017)