Thursday, April 30, 2015

Judicial Fascism - Striking public workers to be forced into retirement

Aswat Masriya/Thomson Reuters

Striking public employees to be sent to retirement, court rules

Tuesday April 28, 2015

CAIRO - Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court decided on Tuesday to send to retirement any public employee who strikes or holds a sit-in at a work place, stalling public facilities.

The court's decision is based on the teachings of Islamic sharia, the court said in a statement, citing an Islamic rule which puts avoiding harm before pursuing benefits.

In the details of its ruling, the court said that sit-ins are not similar to protests or assemblies, as they involve stalling work yet while employees hold on to their positions.

The decision is final and cannot be challenged.

The supreme court referred to the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Egypt signed and ratified. It said that though Egypt has vowed to preserve the right to striking, as per the covenant, this right could only be exercised if it complies with Islamic sharia.

"If strikes cause harm to those dealing with the public facility, then Islamic sharia does not allow such a path as it harms citizens," the court said in its statement.

The court had referred three officials at the Menoufia governorate to retirement for striking and stalling the operation of the facility where they work. It also postponed the promotion of 14 more officials involved in the same strike for two years.

Dictator Mubarak calls on Egypt to support Dictator Sisi

Daily News Egypt
Mubarak calls on Egyptians to stand behind Al-Sisi

Former president spoke on satellite channel Sada Al-Balad on the commemoration of 33rd anniversary of Sinai Liberation day

Ousted president Hosni Mubarak called on Egyptians “to stand behind and support” current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Mubarak made these comments during a phone interview Sunday evening on satellite channel Sada Al-Balad with TV host Ahmed Mousa.

The former president narrated events relating to the withdrawal of Israel from the Sinai Peninsula in 25 April 1982, in commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of Sinai Liberation Day.

“Egypt is facing great challenges, without doubt, the variables surrounding us are very complicated, the region is complicated and our national security is linked everything happening in the region,” he said.

He further said that Egypt has a “strong army” that is capable of defending its land as “sons of the military establishments, currently headed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi know the meaning of national sovereignty”.

Since being toppled as president after the 25 January Revolution, Mubarak was charged in several cases including corruption cases, abuse of power and killing protestors during the revolution.

In November 2014, Cairo Criminal Court dismissed the murder charges against Mubarak as the court was “inadmissible” to rule on the case. He was also acquitted on the corruption cases.

Mubarak was interviewed on Sada Al-Balad following his acquittal, where he stressed that he “didn’t commit” any crimes against protestors.

Mubarak’s era was followed by the Muslim Brotherhood coming into power when Mohamed Morsi held the position for a year between 2012 and 2013. Mass protests against his tenure took to the streets led to his ouster.

Morsi is charged on other cases that include: espionage with Qatar, espionage with Hamas Palestinian movement and Prison break.

Unlike Mubarak, the Islamist president was handed a 20-years imprisonment sentence on 21 April, on charges of ‘demonstrating power and violence’ and ‘inciting violence’ against protestors in December 2012 outside the Presidential Palace.

*Photo by Hassan Mohamed courtesy of AFP

Dutch lawsuit - Egyptian massacres constitute crimes against humanity

Dutch Lawsuit Charges Crimes Against Humanity During Egyptian Massacres

April 24, 2015

On July 3, 2013, the Egyptian military staged a coup’etat and deposed the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thousands of Egyptians staged demonstrations throughout Egypt to show support for Morsi.

One month later, the Egyptian army and police carried out several massacres in Cairo, killing hundreds of unarmed protesters. Authorities mounted a military response to largely peaceful protests by supporters of the Brotherhood against the illegitimate Egyptian government. Although aimed primarily at the Brotherhood, the crackdown included other political opposition groups and individuals.

Four Dutch citizens of Egyptian origin, who were present during three of the most brutal massacres in summer 2013, filed a petition in the Netherlands that charged Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim with crimes against humanity.

In September 2014, the Dutch law firm of Seebregts & Saey submitted a formal request to the Dutch prosecutor to prosecute Ibrahim. Dutch criminal courts have jurisdiction under the International Crimes Act when a Dutch national has been the victim of a crime. Due to head of state immunity, the lawsuit did not name Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ordered the Rab’a massacre when he was Defense Minister.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) undertook a one-year investigation into the conduct of security forces responding to the demonstrations. In its report titled “All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” HRW concluded, “police and army forces systematically and intentionally used excessive lethal force in their policing, resulting in killings of protesters on a scale unprecedented in Egypt.”

HRW also determined “the killings not only constituted serious violations of international human rights law, but likely amounted to crimes against humanity, given both their widespread and systematic nature and the evidence suggesting the killings were part of a policy to attack unarmed persons on political grounds.”

Although HRW was able to confirm that some protesters used firearms in a few instances, they did not justify “the grossly disproportionate and premeditated lethal attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.”


There were over 20,000 protesters in Rab’a Square. In what HRW called “the gravest incident of mass protester killings,” Egyptian police, snipers and military personnel opened fire on unarmed demonstrators on August 14, 2013, “killing at least 817 and likely more than 1,000.” Security forces used live ammunition “with hundreds killed by bullets to their heads, necks, and chests.” Snipers fired from helicopters over Rab'a Square.

“Much of the shooting by police appears to have been indiscriminate,” HRW found, “openly firing in the general direction of crowds of demonstrators instead of targeting armed protester gunmen who may have posed a serious threat.”

The Rab’a mosque, which served as a refuge, particularly for women and children, “held so many corpses that it felt like it ‘had turned into a cemetery,’” one protester told HRW. An 18-year-old boy came into the hospital and said his stomach hurt.
A doctor noted, “I looked down and his intestines were all out. He had taken several bullets and [later] died.” The doctor also reported that another person “took a bullet in the face, causing his face to open and tongue to fall out . . . He spent 40 minutes looking at me and gesturing for help, but I couldn’t do anything. Surgery was not possible.”

The deaths “amounted to collective punishment of the overwhelming majority of peaceful protesters,” HRW concluded.

One of the petitioners, who was present at the demonstration, was not wounded but people on his left and right were being shot. He was also present when the authorities set fire to the hospital on Rab’a Square, killing about 300 patients who were not able to leave.

On July 7, 2013, about 2,000 Brotherhood supporters began a peaceful sit-in. Shortly before dawn on July 8, police and army units opened fire, targeting those in the protest and others emerging from prayers at the mosque. Authorities killed 61 protesters with live ammunition and injured 435. Most suffered gunshots to the head, neck and chest
One of the petitioners was hit by a bullet, but survived.

At least 95 protesters were killed on July 27, 2013. A field hospital doctor reported, “From 2 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. it was a steady stream; the bodies kept coming. Most had gunshot wounds in the head, neck or chest. The hospital was overflowing; we were completely over capacity.” Another field house doctor told HRW: “All of the dead were either dead on arrival or died immediately after they arrived, because of where they were hit; if you’re hit in the head or chest, you won’t last very long. The entire hospital floor was covered with injured people. It was beyond imagination.”

The two petitioners who were present at this demonstration were not wounded but were in danger of being hit. Others a short distance away were hit by bullets.

Dutch law provides for sentences up to life in prison for convictions of crimes against humanity. The crime is defined as intentional killing or other inhumane acts of a comparable nature which intentionally cause severe suffering or severe physical or psychological damage, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population pursuant to State policy.

HRW found that “security forces systematically and deliberately killed largely unarmed protesters on political grounds . . . in a widespread manner, resulting in the deaths of over 1,150 protesters, in July and August of 2013.”

HRW further concluded, “[t]he manner in which security forces used force to disperse protests appears to reflect policies set by the Egyptian government.” In fact, “the government anticipated and planned for the deaths of several thousand protesters.”

The Rab’a massacre was “executed pursuant to a plan formulated by the Interior Ministry and approved by the Cabinet and National Defense Council after three weeks of preparation,” HRW determined, citing statements of Ibrahim that he anticipated the dispersal would kill large numbers of demonstrators.

Ibrahim made public statements revealing he knew beforehand that many people would die during the police and military actions to end the demonstrations. The day after the Rab’a massacre, Ibrahim said “the dispersal plan succeeded 100 percent,” indicating that it adhered to a plan that had been put in place.

In a televised interview on August 31, 2013, Ibrahim confirmed that the Interior Ministry expected losses of “10 percent of the people,” adding, “you will find thousands lost from their side.”

HRW learned that “[s]ecurity forces detained over 800 protesters on August 14, 2013, some of whom they beat, tortured and in some cases summarily executed.”

On April 11, 2015, 51 Brotherhood supporters were convicted in a mass trial, based on the testimony of a single police officer. HRW said the evidence presented at the trial demonstrated that the men were disseminating news about and organizing peaceful protests in opposition to the military coup and removal of Morsi.

Fourteen of the defendants were sentenced to death and the other 37 were given life sentences. According to Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of HRW, “The fact that people who covered and publicized the mass killings in 2013 could go to prison for life or be executed while the killers walk free captures the abject politicization of justice in Egypt.”

Morsi was convicted of charges including incitement to violence and torture from 2012 demonstrations that resulted in the deaths of 10 people outside the presidential palace. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The case against Ibrahim is under consideration by the Dutch prosecutor’s office. Should the prosecutor refuse to prosecute Ibrahim, the petitioners can request that the superior court in The Hague order the prosecutor to prosecute.

There has been no legal accountability for the massacres conducted by the Egyptian military government against the largely peaceful protesters. If high government officials in Egypt are permitted to commit crimes against humanity with impunity, it will encourage similar actions in the future – both in Egypt and elsewhere.

Since there is little prospect for justice in Egypt itself, the Dutch lawsuit may be the only vehicle for accountability for these most serious crimes.

Egypt: Draconian sentences for 51 including journalists & media workers

Draconian Sentences for 51 Including Journalists and Media Workers
April 19, 2015
A review of the prosecution’s evidence in a mass trial of 51 alleged supporters of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood shows that the government presented no evidence of criminal behavior besides the testimony of one police officer.

On April 11, 2015, an Egyptian judge convicted and sentenced 37 people to life in prison and confirmed the death penalties of 14 others for their alleged roles in organizing opposition to the military’s removal of former President Mohamed Morsy in July 2013.

The charges ranged from publishing false news to conspiring to overthrow the interim government installed by the military following the removal of Morsy. But a review of the case file by Human Rights Watch shows that the state presented little evidence that the defendants did anything but spread news about a mass sit-in opposing the coup or organize and publicize peaceful opposition to Morsy’s removal.

Security forces violently dispersed the sit-in at Cairo’s Rab’a al-Adawiya Square on August 14, 2013, killing more than 800 mostly peaceful protesters. The killings were a probable crime against humanity for which no government official or member of the security forces has faced investigation or prosecution.

“The fact that people who covered and publicized the mass killings in 2013 could go to prison for life or be executed while the killers walk free captures the abject politicization of justice in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director.

The April 11, 2015 verdict came after United States President Barack Obama announced, following a call with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on March 31, that he would allow the release to Egypt of F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tanks, and Harpoon missiles that the US had withheld since Morsy’s removal.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council said in a statement that rather than wait until the administration could certify to Congress that Egypt had taken steps toward a restoration of full democracy, Secretary of State John Kerry would invoke a waiver citing US national security interests to request military aid without such a certification.

Human Rights Watch obtained a copy of 107 pages of the government’s file in the case of the 51 alleged Brotherhood supporters and verified the contents with a lawyer on the coordinated defense team. The file included evidence logs, prosecutors’ notes, and the full charge sheet and testimony from investigating police officers.

Judge Nagi Shehata, who presided over the case in his capacity as a special circuit judge assigned to hear cases of terrorism and national security, did not immediately release the text of his verdict. Human Rights Watch did not monitor the trial.

A review of the file showed that prosecutors presented no evidence other than testimony from a police major in the National Security Sector of the Interior Ministry to support their accusation that the defendants planned to use violence to overthrow the government.

The police major alleged that Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and other top leaders in the organization planned to cause chaos in Egypt by spreading false news of police abuse, confronting police in the streets, staging sit-ins at government buildings, and eventually arresting the coup leaders and forming their own government.

Other evidence meant to support the prosecution’s case – including seized papers and text messages – suggested only that the defendants had helped publicize and organize protests against Morsy’s removal.

“Peacefully advocating a political point of view or doing your job as a journalist should never be a crime,” Stork said. “This trial appears to be simply another effort by the Egyptian government to silence its opponents.”

The defendants included 10 journalists and seven people who worked as Brotherhood spokesmen or for Brotherhood-owned news outlets, as well as Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old Egyptian-American who volunteered to arrange news coverage of the sit-in, and was sentenced to life in prison. Walid Abd al-Raouf Shalabi, a writer at the Brotherhood’s official Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) newspaper, was sentenced to death.

On April 11, the White House issued a statement saying that the United States condemned the sentence against Soltan and calling for his immediate release.

Badie and other prominent leaders in the Brotherhood also received death sentences. In Egypt, a life sentence is 25 years, and defense lawyers have said they will appeal all the sentences.

Soltan has been on hunger strike for more than 400 days and has suffered potentially permanent damage to his health, his family has said. Unlike the Australian Al Jazeera English journalist Peter Greste, who was convicted by Shehata in an earlier case and deported under a decree issued by al-Sisi permitting the “extradition” of foreign defendants, or Greste’s colleague Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian who remains on trial in Egypt after renouncing his Egyptian citizenship in the hope of taking advantage of the decree, Soltan has not yet given up his Egyptian citizenship. On April 11, however, his family called for the US to demand that al-Sisi release Soltan “the same way he released … Peter Greste.”

The authorities should quash the convictions of the journalists and media workers who were convicted solely for their reporting or for exercising their right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. If there is credible evidence that the other defendants planned or promoted violence, prosecutors should retry them in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards and present such evidence.

The case is the latest of more than a dozen mass trials since 2013 targeting Brotherhood members and others who have opposed the new government of al-Sisi, the former defense minister who orchestrated Morsy’s removal. Shehata, a criminal court judge in Giza governorate, was appointed by the country’s highest appeals court in January 2014 to one of nine special circuits meant to hear terrorism cases and those affecting “national unity and peace.” He has since overseen multiple mass trials. On February 4, 2015, he sentenced 230 protesters and activists to life in prison, while on February 2, he confirmed 183 death sentences for a deadly attack by alleged Brotherhood supporters on a police station.

In June 2014, Egypt’s grand mufti, who is legally required to give his opinion on death sentences in his role as the country’s highest Islamic legal official, rejected 14 death sentences handed down by Shehata against Badie and other Brotherhood members in a separate case. One of the assisting judges on the panel overseeing the case said that the mufti had found that “the investigations and evidence were not enough to carry out the death sentence,” Reuters reported.

According to the case file obtained by Human Rights Watch, the prosecution alleged that 14 of the defendants, among them Badie and other prominent Brotherhood officials, had planned to “overturn the constitution” and form a new government by force, prevent state institutions from working, and attack security forces and places of Christian worship, or had provided the Brotherhood with money and weapons to do so.

All of the defendants except Badie and Mahmoud Ghozlan, another top Brotherhood leader, were charged with participating in this “criminal agreement” and preparing a plan to “spread chaos in the country.”

Prosecutors accused 35 defendants – among them Soltan, journalists, and media workers – of publishing “rumors” and “false news” that they allegedly knew would “weaken the prestige of the state,” “spread terror,” “disturb the general security,” and convince the international community that the government could not administer the country.

The judge convicted thirteen defendants in absentia. Two defendants – Ghozlan and Amr Farrag, a journalist – remain at large, while 11 were officially listed by the prosecution as fugitives but are actually being held by the authorities and are defendants in other cases, a defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch.

In his testimony, Maj. Mostafa Khalil, the National Security Sector officer who provided the bulk of the prosecution’s evidence, alleged that after security forces dispersed the sit-in in Cairo on August 14, 2013, Badie ordered Ghozlan to set up “operation rooms” under the supervision of Hossam Abu Bakr, a former Morsy-appointed governor of the Qalyubiya governorate, who was also sentenced to death on April 11, 2015.

Major Khalil said that Abu Bakr and nine others agreed to “execute a plan” that would include publishing falsified accounts of protesters’ deaths and injuries in order to claim that security forces had “violated international human rights standards.” This coverage, he theorized, would allow the Brotherhood to rally supporters and organize armed marches that would distract security forces and provide the Brotherhood with an opportunity to loot weapons from police stations.

Major Khalil alleged that Saad al-Hosseini, a former member of parliament who was among those sentenced to death, oversaw an agreement to hire “criminal elements” to join Brotherhood marches and confront security forces, and that other defendants were responsible for recording the confrontations and sharing the information with the international media.

Among the properties used as “operation rooms,” prosecutors alleged, was the headquarters of the independent news website Rassd. Major Khalil said that when police arrested Soltan on August 26, 2013, he was meeting in an apartment with two Rassd journalists – Abdullah al-Fakharany, the executive director, and Samhi Mustafa, a co-founder – as well as Mohamed al-Adly, a correspondent for the Amgad satellite television channel, and that the four were planning future coverage and how to communicate securely. Farrag, the journalist who remains at large, also worked for Rassd and was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia.

The police who arrested Soltan – then recovering from a bullet wound in his arm suffered at the sit-in – had been looking for his father, Salah, a Brotherhood member, Soltan’s family has said. Soltan’s sister told Human Rights Watch that when Soltan asked for a warrant during the arrest, an officer laughed and said he was told to “round up” whomever he found in the house. Soltan’s father was sentenced to death in the same case.

Ten days before Soltan’s arrest, the prosecution said, police had arrested four Brotherhood leaders in another apartment, where they found “stacks of paper” with titles such as “Scenario,” “Characteristics and Types of Weapons,” and “Description of Movements in Some Places.” The authorities said they had found $887 in US dollars and 418,000 Egyptian pounds (US$54,800) in cash, as well as an order from a hawala – an informal money-transfer system – for another 400,000 Egyptian pounds.

Besides Major Khalil’s testimony, the prosecution’s case file includes no evidence that any of the defendants planned or advocated violence. Among the items listed as seized from various alleged “operation rooms” were cameras, laptops, CDs, hard drives, mobile phones, and papers related to legislative projects of the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), such as “Elections Program” and “Egyptian Constitution Project.”

Other “evidence” included a document called “I Refuse the Coup Against Legitimacy in Two Languages: Arabic and English.” The prosecution’s file did not describe the documents in more detail.

The defense lawyer, who asked not to be named, told Human Rights Watch that police found no weapons in possession of any of the defendants and that prosecutors presented no corroborating evidence, such as emails or text messages, to support Major Khalil’s testimony.

In a section of the case file labeled “prosecution notes,” the authors cite “many media publications” found by police in a Cairo apartment used by the Brotherhood that included remarks by Badie explaining “how to occupy and control government buildings and confront police forces with the use of violence.”

But much of the prosecution’s evidence describes only alleged plans by Badie and other high-ranking Brotherhood members to bring down the interim government through nonviolent civil disobedience. In another Cairo apartment, prosecutors wrote, police found written papers addressed to Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and labeled “Scenario” that contained, among other sections, one titled “Nonviolent Weapons of War.”

This section suggested plans for a “social and economic boycott of state institutions,” occupying government offices, and publishing “a parallel government.” It suggested allying with other revolutionary groups, such as the April 6 Movement and Ultras soccer fans.

 It also allegedly contained plans for a 3-day “rally” that would involve occupying public squares, “fatiguing” security forces with clashes, surrounding embassies and government buildings, and conclude by “storming” the constitutional court, “besieging” the Ittihadeya presidential palace, and arresting the interim president and defense minister.

Other purportedly criminal plans discovered by police included a paper that suggested organizing a large march of protesters to Cairo Stadium for a day called “Sports Against the Coup” that would feature the demonstrators from the Rab’a sit-in playing against those from the other main sit-in in the capital, at Nahda Square.

Among those sentenced on April 11, 2015, were several people who served as key liaisons between foreign journalists and the Brotherhood and FJP, including Khaled Hamza, director of Ikhwanweb, the Brotherhood’s main English-language website; Ahmed Aref, a main Brotherhood spokesman; Murad Ali, chief FJP spokesman; and Gehad al-Haddad, the son of Morsy’s foreign policy advisor. Al-Haddad often gave interviews and background briefings to English-language media during the Rab’a sit-in.

In the prosecution’s notes, investigators wrote down paraphrased “confessions” from some of these defendants. Most of these statements consist only of acknowledgments that the individual was a Brotherhood member, participated in the Rab’a sit-in, or helped spread news about protests opposing Morsy’s removal.

The defense lawyer told Human Rights Watch that the confessions were fabricated and that all the defendants had declined to speak with prosecutors.

Al-Haddad’s “confession” states that he served as a spokesman for the Brotherhood, helped arrange official statements, and set up a media center in a hall inside the Rab’a al-Adawiya mosque, where the Brotherhood often held news conferences during the sit-in. The prosecution said that al-Haddad also “confessed” to giving three interviews to foreign media – to a Spanish newspaper, an American television channel, and the New York Times – after the Rab’a dispersal.

Soltan’s “confession” states only that he frequented the Rab’a sit-in and was responsible for dealing with the foreign journalists who covered it.

The number of defendants charged in mass trials since 2013 has ranged from two dozen to 494, and the charges have spanned from murder to participation in anti-government protests. Hundreds of defendants have been sentenced to death or life in prison. As of late March 2015, 435 alleged Morsy supporters had received death sentences and appealed their case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest appeals court, according to a count by the Moheet news website.

In March, Egypt carried out the first execution to stem from Morsy’s overthrow, after an alleged anti-coup protester was convicted of murder in mass trial involving 58 defendants. Six men convicted in a separate, military trial of belonging to a terrorist group and attacking security forces currently face execution.

The April 11 Sentences of Journalists and Media Workers
The 18 journalists and media workers sentenced on April 11, 2015, are:

Sentenced to death:
  1. Walid Abd al-Raouf Shalabi – Writer for Freedom and Justice Party newspaper
Sentenced to life in prison:
  1. Hani Salahuddin – broadcaster and former journalist at Al-Youm Al-Sabaa newspaper
  2. Gamal Nasar – journalist and broadcaster
  3. Ibrahim al-Taher – journalist
  4. Abdou Desouki – journalist
  5. Mohamed al-Adly – Amgad television channel correspondent
  6. Mosaad al-Barbari –Ahrar 25 television channel director
  7. Hussein al-Qabbani – Journalists for Reform group coordinator
  8. Amr Farrag – Rassd news website director
  9. Samhi Mustafa – Rassd news website executive director
  10. Abdullah al-Fakharany – Rassd news website founding member
  11. Mohamed Soltan – Rab’a sit-in media volunteer
  12. Ahmed Aref – Muslim Brotherhood spokesman
  13. Murad Ali – Freedom and Justice Party spokesman
  14. Gehad al-Haddad – Muslim Brotherhood English-language spokesman
  15. Khaled Hamza – Muslim Brotherhood English website, Ikhwanweb, director
  16. Ahmed Subei – Muslim Brotherhood Arabic website, Ikhwan Online, employee
  17. Magdi Hammouda – Muslim Brotherhood Arabic website, Ikhwan Online, employee

Another two detainees die in custody of Egyptian police

Daily News Egypt

Two detainees die in Old Cairo police station

April 19, 2015 

Two detainees have died in an Old Cairo police station due to the lack of ventilation, with the prosecution ordering an autopsy of the bodies, state media said.

The Ministry of Interior said the deaths were due a “circulatory failure.”

The first incident happened last Thursday, when a prisoner suffered a heart attack due to the police station’s crowded detention room. The deceased was accused of stealing a car battery.

The second case, the prosecution said, suffered circulatory failure and received first aid from his fellow inmates and the police station medics, but died instantly. He was charged with narcotics possession.

After investigating the death, the prosecution said the number of detainees in the cell was 380, while its capacity allows only 100 prisoners.

Since the beginning of the year, the number of deaths in police custody has been increasing.

Last week, Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat organised a visit to detention centres at a number of police stations, where he observed several “violations,” such as the presence of insects and rubbish, state media reported.

The police stations included the Ain Shams, El-Marg, Shubra El-Kheima, and Matariya.

Matariya police station is controversially known on the political scene as the “slaughter house”, in reference to the abundance of torture cases against detainees who are pending investigations.

Other violations observed by the prosecution were overcrowdedness, which “can lead to the spread of diseases and the deaths of diabetes and blood pressure patients”. The members of the prosecution said that the conditions of the cells were “inhumane.”

Last January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report strongly criticising Egyptian authorities for failing to improve detention conditions or to independently investigate reported detainees’ deaths as a result of physical torture inside prisons.

Formula One must not eclipse rights of jailed Bahraini journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists 
Glitz of Formula One must not divert attention from Bahrain's jailed journalists

April 19, 2015

Jason Stern

When the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) hosted Formula One for the first time in 2004, it was nearly a false start for the $150 million facility. Drivers told the BBC they feared desert sand would damage their racecars. So track employees began a perpetual fight against nature, even spraying glue over the surrounding desert in the hope of keeping it at bay.

Eleven years later, the sand is still blowing in Bahrain, but it is not the only irritant the government must sweep away as it tries to impress the international community. With the spectacle of this week's 2015 Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix, it could be easy to forget that just a short drive from the race track is Jaw Prison, home to at least five journalists and bloggers imprisoned for their work.

Bahrain has always been clear about why it hosts Formula One. The Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, which owns the race track, says it is a way to "enhance the international profile of Bahrain" and form "the backbone" of the country's economic vision for growth and diversification. In 2013, the head of the government board in charge of enacting that vision claimed the Formula One race "generates a direct economic impact of US$295 million and supports 3,000 jobs."

But the Formula One race is not just about the money; it's about the show the government can put on for the international stage. And it is quite the show. Alongside the race, Bahrain hosts weeks of Formula One-related events, including a race around Bahrain in Jaguar cars, stunt shows, and concerts, including a headline performance by American rapper Pitbull.

BIC chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Al-Khalifa told the local Gulf Daily News one of the biggest challenges this year has been producing enough fake snow for a ski ramp being built as part of the planned "off track" entertainment.

For the journalists and political prisoners in Jaw Prison, just a 35-minute drive away, such concerns must seem frivolous.

Conditions inside the prison have been criticized not only by local and international human rights groups, but official Bahraini institutions as well. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was approved by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, found that prisoners held in Jaw during the 2011 crackdown against massive pro-democracy protests were, in some cases, beaten and denied access to their families and legal representation.

The 2011 crackdown, which included the arrest of many BIC employees, forced Formula One organizers to cancel the race that year.

In response to the commission's report, the Ministry of Interior, which runs Jaw Prison, established an ombudsman to investigate claims of police abuse. In its 2013-2014 report, it found Jaw was 33 percent over its 1,201-prisoner capacity and called for "urgent action to address the problem" of overcrowding.

It is not clear how many prisoners are currently housed in Jaw. The Ministry of Interior and the ombudsman office did not respond to CPJ requests for comment. But since the publication of the ombudsman report, arrests have continued and many defendants have been found guilty and lost their appeals, according to news reports.

Journalists and other political prisoners serve their sentences alongside common criminals, all of them enduring the cramped, unhygienic conditions inside the prison, according to local rights groups.

Take for example two freelance photojournalists who have exhausted all their appeals on charges related to their work. Ahmed Humaidan, arrested in December 2012, is currently serving a 10-year sentence on charges of participating in an attack on a police station.  

Humaidan was at the station to document the attack as part of his coverage of unrest in the country, according to news reports. And then there's Hussein Hubail, who is serving a five-year sentence on charges of inciting protests in 2013.

Someone familiar with his situation, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, told me this month that Hubail's health has deteriorated and he has been denied adequate medical care for his heart condition.

For years, human rights defenders working in Bahrain have described Jaw Prison to me as a pressure cooker. They pointed to the many young prisoners facing long sentences, sometimes for peaceful dissent, other times for responding to police brutality with petrol bombs and stones. The pressure cooker finally exploded last month.

A family's protest at being denied visitation rights on March 10 quickly escalated into widespread unrest, according to news reports. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported that at least 500 detainees, as well as several police officers, were injured when police used tear gas, batons, and shotgun pellets to quell the uprising. The report cited unnamed eyewitnesses who said they watched as police systematically beat and stomped bound inmates in the prison's courtyard and hallways.

Pictures posted on social media, purportedly taken by prisoners' contraband cell phones, claim to show tear gas suffocating wards and the bruised backs of prisoners beaten by the guards. For weeks after the riot, many families, including Humaidan's, were not able to contact imprisoned relatives to ensure their safety, according to Human Rights Watch.

A statement from the ombudsman, released in March, said that after the riot some inmates "have had their telephone or visitation privileges temporarily suspended." The statement added that the office had interviewed 124 inmates about conditions in the prison, of which 15 had filed complaints.

Bahrain Press Association head Adel Marzouk told me he remains "very worried for the safety and health of the journalists and photographers inside Jaw Prison." Human rights groups and news reports have said the ill treatment of prisoners continues.

Amid the violence, Bahrain's leading human rights defender and Bahrain Center for Human Rights founder Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja completed a three-week hunger strike to protest prison conditions.

Alongside demands for an end to arbitrary arrests and for proper investigations into torture,
Al-Khawaja made more simple demands such as access to magazines, radios, and additional newspapers. He is currently serving a life sentence in a separate ward from the general population and, like many others in Jaw, his appeals process has been exhausted, according to local human rights groups.

Al-Khawaja's demands are a world away from the Formula One concerns of fake snow, but if the government chooses to ignore them, it does so at its own peril. As Brian Dooley of Human Rights First wrote last week for Huffington Post:

"If Bahrain wants to fix its prison problem properly, it will stop trying to hide the truth about what's happened, improve conditions, and release all those prisoners who shouldn't be in jail in the first place."

For now the government seems determined to stay on its current path. On April 2, the government arrested Bahrain Center for Human Rights President Nabeel Rajab and charged him for "insulting a statutory body" and "spreading rumors during wartime," according to a joint statement signed by the center and 16 other organizations.

The charges relate to his reporting on civilian deaths in the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, which Bahrain supports and, of all things, a series of tweets and a Huffington Post article he wrote about conditions inside Jaw Prison after last month's violence.

In the article, Rajab writes, "Jaw is where civilisation [sic] ends in Bahrain, and it is where civilised manners die, and civilised people [are] broken."

But in the civilized world of Formula One, the government continues to endlessly sweep the sand off the race track, hoping the country doesn't swerve out of control and crash.
  • Support jailed journalists in Bahrain and other countries by joining CPJ's "Press Uncuffed" campaign.
*Photo by Tom Gandolfini courtesy of AFP

Egyptian court sentences 3 journalists to life imprisonment

Committee to Protect Journalists
Egypt sentences three journalists to life in prison

April 11, 2015

A court in Cairo sentenced three Egyptian journalists to life in prison today, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the convictions and sentences and calls on authorities to stop persecuting the news media.

Abdullah al-Fakharany, executive director of the Rassd news website; Samhi Mustafa, co-founder of the website; and Mohamed al-Adly, a presenter for Amgad TV, were arrested on August 25, 2013, two weeks after the violent dispersal of the sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, where Egyptians had gathered to protest the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, according to news reports.

 Hundreds of people were killed during the dispersal. In December 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi represented, was declared a terrorist organization, news reports said.

The three journalists were originally charged with "disturbing the peace," but in February 2014 General Prosecutor Hisham Barakat substituted the charges with "spreading chaos" and "spreading false information" in the coverage of the dispersal, according to news reports.

The journalists were also charged with "forming an operations room to direct the Muslim Brotherhood to defy the government." A statement released by the prosecutor's office named Rassd and Amgad TV, among others, as media outlets that worked with the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine Egypt's military and its government.

The journalists have been on trial since April 2014 along with 48 other defendants, including prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. Fourteen defendants, including Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, were sentenced to death on March 16, 2015.

The court today confirmed those sentences after consulting with the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest Islamic legal official. The remaining 37 defendants, including the three journalists, were sentenced to life in prison, according to news reports. All of the sentences can be appealed.

"An already bad situation for the Egyptian news media significantly deteriorates with the sentencing to life in prison of these three journalists," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour.

"We call on the government of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to live up to its claims of democratic reform by allowing journalists to do their work without fear of being locked away in prison."

The trial was presided over by Judge Nagy Shehata, who has been criticized by local and international human rights groups for handing out mass death sentences and harsh prison terms.

In June 2014, Shehata sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to harsh prison terms on charges of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. The Al-Jazeera journalists have been released on bail while their case is being retried, news reports said.

Egypt ranked as the sixth worst jailer of journalists worldwide when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1, 2014.

Egypt: Incidents of labor unrest remain high, but pale in comparison to last year

Jano Charbel

The first quarter of 2015 was marked by a total of 393 labor-related protest actions, including strikes, hunger-strikes, marches, sit-in protests, and workplace occupations, El-Mahrousa Center for Economic Development reported this week.

In its report, Mahrousa — an independent association that documents protest actions across the country — said the figure does represent a high occurrence of labor unrest, but pales in comparison to the same period last year, in which a total of 1,420 labor-related actions were reported.

This plunge in the numbers can be attributed to several factors, according to Mahrousa, including concerted efforts from the Manpower Ministry and other state authorities to curtail worker strikes over the past year.

As part of those efforts, there have been ongoing police crackdowns on protesting workers, and employers have been taking punitive measures against workers or unionists involved in protest actions, the report said.

But labor unions have also been leading initiatives to minimize strikes for the sake of the economy, Mahrousa added.

Over the past three months, the chief grievance behind labor protests has been overdue payments, such as past due wages, bonuses, profit shares and other forms of compensation. At least 75 worker protests were responding to this problem, the report said.

Demands for better working conditions and higher wages were the second leading motivator behind protest actions. Mahrousa said 64 industrial protest actions have been organized around those demands since January.

Safety hazards, worker deaths and industrial accidents, improved healthcare, and demands for safety gear and heightened safety measures came in third place, with 56 protests rallying around these issues, according to Mahrousa. The report then listed demands for full-time contracts as the fourth most popular demand, with 49 protest actions targeting that issue.

Trailing behind those rallying points were protests against employers’ punitive actions against workers, such as mass lay-offs, forced relocations, pay cuts and demotions. Workers have so far organized 25 protests challenging these problems, Mahrousa said.

Sharqiya had one of the highest incidents of labor unrest, with a reported 31 protests occurring in the Nile Delta governorate since the beginning of 2015. Giza followed with 28, while Suez and Monufiya weighed in with 25 industrial actions during the first quarter.

Dozens of worker protests were also documented across several Upper Egyptian governorates over the past three months.

*Photo by Virginie Nguyen 

Saudi-led airstrike kills dozens of workers at Yemeni dairy factory

World Socialist Website

Dozens Killed in Airstrike on Dairy Factory in Yemen

April 02, 2015

Thomas Gaist

The Saudi-led war in Yemen continued Wednesday, with the bombing of a dairy and juicing factory near the western port city of Hodeida killing at least 37 workers and injuring 80 others. The factory was hit by two bombs dropped by warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition, according to a Yemeni army newspaper.

According to statistics reported by UNICEF and the Field Medical Organization, the Saudi-led air raids as well as fighting between the Houthis, members of a minority Zaydi Shiite group, and military units loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi have already killed at least 102 Yemeni civilians, including at least 62 children.

Since Thursday, air force units from Kuwait, Sudan, Jordan, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt have taken part in the assault, in addition to Saudi Arabia.
US officials have confirmed that American forces are playing a direct support role in the operations by providing “logistical and intelligence” aid to the Saudi coalition of Persian Gulf Sunni monarchies.

While care has been taken to ensure that there is “no overt sign of US partnership,” as the Washington Post has noted, the Saudis and their allies are armed to the teeth with new weaponry and are deploying battle tanks, attack helicopters, and state of the art warplanes for a massive onslaught against targets throughout the country.

Coalition planes have launched repeated strikes in support of Hadi loyalists as they engaged in urban gun battles with Houthi riflemen in areas north of Aden. Arab League planes also launched strikes at targets in the central highlands, along the coast, and in the northern and eastern provinces. Strikes are also reportedly planned against the “security belt” of Houthi entrenchments around the outskirts of Sanaa, the capital city.

The Saudi air campaign has failed to halt the southward drive of the insurgents, and Houthi infantry and armor moved into central Aden Wednesday. Houthi forces, which are loosely tied to Iran, seized government fortifications that look down upon the strategic Bab el Mandeb strait Tuesday night.

The occupation by the Houthi forces of a strategically critical portion of the Arabian peninsula, sitting alongside the main US ally in the region and overlooking the narrow waters of the strait where huge volumes of oil, grain, and other commodities pass daily, makes clear the regional and global ramifications of the ongoing crisis.

There have been numerous reports that Saudi Arabia and Egypt would spearhead a ground invasion once military planners have determined that airstrikes on military bases, weapons stockpiles and air defenses have made the Houthis sufficiently vulnerable. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin, loyal to Hadi, repeated calls for an invasion on the grounds that “at some stage air strikes will be ineffective.”

Plans for the impending invasion reportedly outlined by Saudi military planners would aim to reconquer southern areas of the country from the Shiite militants, and use these areas as staging grounds for the creation of a new proxy army inside Yemen.

US officials announced Tuesday that they would approve arms and equipment shipments to the Egyptian military government of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, whose regime has overseen mass killings, detention and torture of tens of thousands since coming to power in 2013. With the shipment of arms and weaponry, the US is giving its assent to preparations for a ground invasion of Yemen, which would draw in troops from throughout the region.

The threat of a massive new ground war in the Arabian peninsula, with the potential to kill tens or hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, comes amid broader preparations for escalating US military intervention in Syria and growing clamor within sections of the US ruling elite for war against Iran.

The Pentagon is deploying the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group to Jordan to establish a “multinational special operations task force,” which will train fighters for the civil war the US has fomented against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad since 2011.

US military leaders are increasingly demanding that the White House authorize the deployment of “large formations” of Special Operations troops to CIA and Pentagon-run training camps in Jordan and Iraq which serve as staging areas for the war against Assad, according to a high ranking Special Forces officer who spoke to Foreign Affairs .

The crisis in Yemen is an acute manifestation of the intensifying breakdown of the US-dominated political order in the Middle East. In spite of intense efforts by the US to prop up the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh, destabilized by Arab Spring demonstrators in 2011, the longtime leader was pushed from power and eventually replaced by then Vice President Hadi.

While Hadi garners backing from Saudi Arabia and the United States, he lacks any broad support amongst the population within Yemen. Hadi has been forced out of the country less than three years after winning a one-man election, staged as the culmination of a supposedly democratic transition process orchestrated by American imperialism and the Saudi monarchy.

Hadi fled Sanaa for his stronghold of Aden earlier in February and finally last week he fled Yemen for Saudi Arabia after his compound came under attack by planes commanded by forces loyal to Saleh, who has backed the Houthis.

Despite extensive financial and military support for the Yemeni security apparatus and more than a decade of secret US drone strikes inside the country against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other anti-government militias, the Iranian-supported Houthi militants have been able to rapidly overrun much of the country’s western provinces.

In response to the collapse of their puppet government they patched together in 2012, the US and the savage monarchies and dictatorships which serve as its regional gendarmes are now preparing an escalation of the slaughter in Yemen. The response of US imperialism and its proxies to growing disorder is to launch yet another major sub-regional war that has the potential to set off a military conflagration engulfing societies across North Africa and Central Asia.


*Photo courtesy of Euronews