Monday, October 31, 2016

Military court releases 5 jailed workers from Alexandria Shipyard on bail - following submission of resignations

Mada Masr
5 jailed Alexandria Shipyard workers released on bail, as trial adjourned to November 15

Tuesday October 18, 2016

Jano Charbel

A military court delayed the issuing of a verdict in the trial of 26 Alexandria Shipyard Company workers on Tuesday for the fifth time, adjourning court proceedings until November 15. Five of the workers standing trial have been released on bail, after having submitted their resignations from the company.

In the case, which has been ongoing since June 18, the military prosecutor charged workers with instigating strikes and obstructing operations at the company, which has been owned by the Defense Ministry since 2007.

Under Article 124 of Egypt’s Penal Code, Alexandria Military Court can sentence civil servants found to be deliberately refraining from performing their duties at work to three months to a year in prison and/or a fine of up to LE500.

Defense lawyer Mohamed Awwad told Mada Masr that the five workers released on bail submitted their resignation letters three weeks ago, while in detention, after a military official affiliated with the Alexandria Shipyard Company advised workers’ families that legal charges might be dismissed upon receipt of their resignation.

Several other detained workers are currently in the process of tendering their resignations in an attempt to secure their release on bail or the dismissal of charges.

The workers were arrested in connection to a sit-in they staged at the Alexandria Shipyard Company on May 22 and 23 to demand salaries aligned with the national minimum wage (LE1,200 per month,) overdue profit-shares, annual bonuses, health insurance coverage and the dismissal of the company’s chief administrator, as well as the re-operation of the shipyard’s stalled production lines. Despite the charges leveled against them, there was never a formal work stoppage.

Of the 26 shipyard workers formally referred to military trial, 14 have been detained since May 24 pending trial, while one was released on bail and 11 others have not turned themselves into police custody. After Tuesday’s release, the total number of defendants released on bail increased to six.

Alexandria Shipyard Company administration has imposed a lockout since May 24, one day after the sit-in. Awwad told Mada Masr that approximately 1,000 workers of the total workforce of 2,300 have been allowed back on the company’s premises in recent weeks.

The defense lawyer added that the jailed workers have only been paid half of their basic wages in the five months they have been detained, while over 1,000 workers still barred from entering the shipyard have only been paid basic wages without regular bonuses. Those that have resumed work are receiving their full salaries.

“This is an exceptional trial against civilian workers,” said Awwad. “Many of them were employed at the company before it came under the administration of the Ministry of Defense.”

“If they were producing military hardware or weaponry, they could be referred to military trial, according to the provisions of the military justice law.”

However, the shipyard workers are only involved in the construction of ship frames, along with the maintenance and servicing of maritime vessels.

“This is neither a military production site, nor a munitions factory,” Awwad stated.

Article 204 of the 2014 Constitution prohibits the prosecution of civilians in military courts, except under mitigating circumstances.

“Civilians shall not stand trial before military courts except for crimes that constitute a direct assault on military installations, the Armed Forces, its camps or all else under their authority … including military factories,” Egypt’s Constitution states.

Over the past few months, hundreds of labor activists, trade unionists and human rights workers have campaigned for the rights of the detained shipyard workers.

Several solidarity conferences have been organized to help raise awareness regarding the plight of the workers and their families, while statements of support, and petitions in Egypt and abroad have circulated to call for their release and the dismissal of all charges.

In a televised interview earlier this month, Alexandria’s Member of Parliament Haitham al-Hariri addressed the issue.

“There are 26 workers from the Alexandria Shipyard Company who have been jailed and subjected to injustice,” he said, adding that the workers’ families are struggling to acquire food and pay for basic needs. “Egypt won’t be able to stand on its feet again, except with justice.”

MP Khaled Shaaban also issued a statement, denouncing the prosecutor’s decision to refer the civilian workers to military trial as “unconstitutional.”

*Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights

Parody of Bob Dylan & his songs

Bob Dylan parody

In honor of the most overrated person (and worst singer) in music history!

In Memory of Dario Fo - Accidental Death of an Anarchist

Accidental Death of an Anarchist - adapted from the play by Dario Fo

RIP Dario Fo (March 24, 1926 – October 13, 2016)

Egypt must end politicization of judiciary, ensure its independence & accountability

International Commission of Jurists

Egypt: authorities must end politicization of the judiciary and ensure its independence and accountability

October 12, 2016


The Egyptian authorities must end executive interference in judicial affairs and act to ensure that the judiciary is independent and that it serves to safeguard human rights and uphold the rule of law, the ICJ said today.

The statement came as the ICJ released its new report Egypt’s Judiciary: a Tool of Repression. Lack of Effective Guarantees of Independence and Impartiality.

The report documents the many ways in which the judiciary has been used as a tool to silence those suspected of opposing the Military and Executive.

This include prosecutors and judges initiating and continuing prosecutions on unfounded charges; adopting a presumption in favour of pre-trial detention; applying laws in violation of human rights standards and refusing to permit constitutional challenges to those laws; and failing to respect fundamental fair trial rights.

Convictions in Egypt are regularly based on poorly reasoned judgments and without individual findings of guilt.

“Egypt’s military and executive have subordinated the judiciary to their political will, making it a docile tool in their on-going, sustained crackdown on human rights in Egypt,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.

“In doing so, judges and prosecutors have abdicated their primary responsibility in upholding the rule of law. Rather than acting as a check on the arbitrary exercise of power, judges themselves have become complicit in violating the very rights they are mandated to protect,” he added.

Thousands of political opponents, human rights defenders, pro-democracy campaigners, journalists and individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly have been subjected to politicized prosecutions and convicted following unfair trials.

The report also documents how the military and the executive’s crackdown has extended to lawyers and judges suspected of opposing the authorities, the very individuals who are supposed to be the last line of defence of rights and freedoms.

The ICJ has found that the structural and systemic politicization of the Egyptian judiciary has been facilitated, in part, by the failure of the legal framework in force to provide for the necessary guarantees for judicial independence and accountability.

The report analyses how the composition, mandate and actions of the High Judicial Council (HJC), have undermined its ability to ensure respect of judicial independence.

The institutional and functional subordination of the Office of the Public Prosecutor to the Executive has meant politicized prosecutions against perceived opposition figures, and a failure to investigate and prosecute alleged human rights violations by police and military personnel.

The report also document how the wide jurisdiction of military and exceptional courts as well as the limited access to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) have contributed to further undermining judicial independence.

The report contains 136 recommendations to the Egyptian authorities aimed at guaranteeing, in law and practice, the independence and accountability of the judiciary in Egypt.

*Photo courtesy of AFP

US continues to arm KSA for war on Yemen, despite massive civilian casualties

New York Times
Saudi Arabia Kills Civilians, the US Looks the Other Way

In the span of four days earlier this month, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen bombed a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital, killing 19 people; a school, where 10 children, some as young as 8, died; and a vital bridge over which United Nations food supplies traveled, punishing millions.

In a war that has seen reports of human rights violations committed by every side, these three attacks stand out. But the Obama administration says these strikes, like previous ones that killed thousands of civilians since last March, will have no effect on the American support that is crucial for Saudi Arabia’s air war.

On the night of Aug. 11, coalition warplanes bombed the main bridge on the road from Hodeidah, along the Red Sea coast, to Sana, the capital. When it didn’t fully collapse, they returned the next day to destroy the bridge.

More than 14 million Yemenis suffer dangerous levels of food insecurity — a figure that dwarfs that of any other country in conflict, worsened by a Saudi-led and American-supported blockade. One in three children under the age of 5 reportedly suffers from acute malnutrition. An estimated 90 percent of food that the United Nation’s World Food Program transports to Sana traveled across the destroyed bridge.

An Obama administration official told me on the condition of anonymity that the United States included the bridge on a no-strike list of vital infrastructure, explicitly informing the Saudis that it was “critical to responding to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.” And yet the Saudi-led coalition obliterated the structure, either intentionally disregarding humanitarian considerations and the wishes of the United States, or out of sheer incompetence.

On Aug. 14, coalition airstrikes hit the school in the Saada governorate, a stronghold of the Houthi rebels. Saudi officials said the Houthis were running a training facility there for child soldiers. The United Nations’ child welfare agency said it was a religious school.

A day later, warplanes attacked the hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders, or M.S.F., for its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières. It was the fourth coalition attack on a facility of the doctors’ group since October. At least 19 people were killed, including an M.S.F. staffer.

M.S.F. said its hospitals’ coordinates had been shared with all parties to the conflict, including the Saudis. The hospital should have already been on no-strike lists that the United States and Saudi Arabia insist the coalition maintains.

The American assistance for Saudi Arabia that Mr. Obama authorized last March includes aerial refueling for coalition jets, intelligence and targeting assistance. American tankers offload fuel to any coalition jet, no matter its target. This support comes on top of more than $100 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2015, and recent deals made explicitly to “replenish” stockpiles spent in Yemen.

At the United Nations, Saudi Arabia and its allies have blocked investigations into the Yemen conflict and complained when the Security Council considered a resolution aimed at protecting Yemeni civilians. Saudi Arabia has also warned aid workers to leave much of Yemen, ominously presaging M.S.F.’s Aug. 18 decision to pull out of two governorates in the country’s north because of the coalition’s “indiscriminate bombings.” Without the group’s presence, it will be more difficult to know the toll of future strikes in these areas.

In June, Saudi Arabia threatened to cut its funding to the United Nations after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon included the coalition on a list of violators of children’s rights. While criticizing the Saudis for their bullying, Mr. Ban’s office has also been accommodating out of a belief that it can’t afford to lose Saudi money.

The Saudis are not the only negative force in Yemen. The Houthis and their allies loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh have waged a cynical war, and are responsible for human rights violations. But it is difficult to see what possible progress can be made when Saudi Arabia routinely bombs civilian sites.

Many in Washington see support for the Saudi-led coalition as necessary for maintaining American-Saudi relations after the nuclear deal with Iran last year. Saudi Arabia has used this leeway to carry out its Yemen campaign with abandon. Each fatal strike and subsequent implausible Saudi denial should test the limits of the Obama administration’s support.

Instead, a spokesman for United States Central Command, which oversees American operations in the Middle East including support for the coalition, told me last week that the United States is not conducting a single investigation into civilian casualties in Yemen.

The recent uptick in airstrikes and fighting across Yemen follows the collapse of United Nations-brokered peace talks that were being held in Kuwait. The possibility of a resumption of full-scale war and all the suffering that accompanies it could have been an opportunity for the Obama administration to reflect on its axiomatic support for the Saudi coalition. But even after last week’s string of outrageous bombings, the White House has still not done that.
The Obama administration has in recent days insisted that it wants all sides in Yemen’s war to stop fighting. But as American tankers wait to refuel American-made fighter jets, loaded with American-made bombs destined for Yemen, the White House evidently doesn’t realize that it is waging a war.

Israel deports 13 members of "Women's Boat to Gaza"

Middle East Eye
Israel deports 13 members of all-women Gaza siege flotilla

Women's Boat to Gaza campaign says members deported quickly because of negative media attention Israel has received for interception

Friday 7 October 2016

Israel has deported all but one of a group of women activists who tried to break its decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip by boat, the interior ministry said Friday.

Thirteen women, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, were detained on Wednesday after their sailboat the Zaytouna was stopped about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza in international waters.

The boat was diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, about 30km north of the Palestinian territory, and the women held in custody before being deported.

"All the boat's passengers have left Israel except a woman who will fly to Oslo this afternoon," interior ministry spokeswoman Sabin Haddad told AFP.

Dubbed "Women's Boat to Gaza", the boat was part of the wider Freedom Flotilla Coalition consisting of pro-Palestinian activists who regularly defy Israel's blockade of Gaza.

A statement from the group said the Zaytouna-Oliva was surrounded by two warships along with four to five smaller naval boats as it neared Gaza on Wednesday.

"The IDF (Israeli army) gave warning to the Zaytouna-Oliva to stop their course towards Gaza. When the warning was refused, at least seven members, both male and female, boarded the Zaytouna and commandeered the sailboat. This happened in international waters."

Wendy Goldsmith, a member of the land team working on behalf of the women, stated: “The deportation was much quicker than in prior flotillas. While we had a great legal team assisting the women, we suspect that the reason for the quick release was because of all the negative media attention Israel has been receiving for its illegal interception.

"In the course of their capture, the women persisted in telling the IDF that Israel’s interception of their boat was illegal and that they were being taken against their will to Israel."

"The Women’s Boat to Gaza campaign asserts that while the captivity of the women on board Zaytouna-Oliva is over, the captivity of 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza remains.

"The campaign also asserts that the term 'peaceful' which has been used in some media to describe the capture is incorrect. Peace is more than merely the absence of physical violence.

"Oppression, occupation, denial of human rights and taking a boat filled with non-violent women against their will are not peaceful activities. The Women’s Boat to Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla Coalition will continue to sail until Palestine is free."

An operation in 2010 turned to bloodshed when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla, leading to a six-year break in diplomatic ties between Israel and Turkey.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

Israel maintains a blockade on Gaza to keep material it believes could be used for military purposes from entering the coastal enclave.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, saying as a result conditions are deteriorating in impoverished Gaza.

*Photo courtesy of Anadolu Agency & Getty Images

6 jailed bus drivers who planned strike, now accused of terrorism

Mada Masr 
Detention extended for 6 striking bus drivers accused of forming terrorist cell

Wednesday October 5, 2016

Jano Charbel

The State Security Prosecution extended the detention of six labor leaders employed by the Public Transport Authority (PTA) by 15 days on Wednesday, pending investigations, while leveling new accusations against them.

The workers, who have been in detention for the past 12 days for attempting to organize a bus strike in Cairo, are now being accused of “establishing a terrorist cell” within the PTA with the aim of instigating unrest and work stoppages. If they are found guilty on terrorism-related charges they may face lengthy prison sentences, potentially amounting to years in prison.

Citing the latest accusations from the New Cairo State Security Prosecution, the privately owned Youm7 news portal reported that in addition to attempting to obstruct traffic on the first day of the academic year, “the defendants recruited elements who were assigned to mobilize others within the PTA in order to pressure officials into conceding to some of their demands.”

The new claims come just one week after authorities accused the defendants of being members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization, despite the fact they had previously come into direct conflict with the group during former President Mohamed Morsi’s tenure.

The workers were arrested from their homes on September 24, the night before their planned strike which was set to coincide with the beginning of the academic year, and Youm7 reports that security forces confiscated their laptops, cell phones and leaflets. They were then forcibly disappeared and their whereabouts currently remain unknown.

Ali Fattouh, a PTA bus driver told Mada Masr: “They were effectively kidnapped from their homes, and we have been unable to communicate with them since their arrest. Nobody has been able to speak with them, including local trade union officials, their immediate family members, defense lawyers or concerned human rights organizations.”

He demanded the immediate release of his jailed coworkers, calling the charges against them “trumped-up and politicized.”

“Upon their arrest we expected that they would be accused of being Brotherhood members, terrorists or of attempting to overthrow the ruling regime,” Fattouh said.

Citing defense lawyers who attended the prosecution’s hearing on Wednesday, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) issued a statement dismissing the most recent accusations and charges. The statement asserted that “there is no physical evidence or validity to the claims.”

The lawyers argued that their clients were employed in a governmental agency and their places of residence were known, and as such they posed no danger to society. They added, “for several years now, the six workers have been well known for their union activism,” questioning what they call the prosecution’s “sudden discovery” that the defendants were Brotherhood members.

Fattouh too denied the validity of the claims, stating “the PTA workers were among the earliest critics of the Brotherhood and their labor policies when they were in power, so how is it that they are now being accused of affiliation to the Brotherhood? It makes no sense whatsoever.”

The six would-be strike leaders had been demanding increased bonuses, improved wages and that the PTA fall under the administration by the Ministry of Transport instead of local governorates.
According to Fattouh his colleagues were previously arrested in 2012 – 13 while organizing strikes and industrial actions within the PTA.

He emphasized to Mada Masr that none of his imprisoned coworkers are members of any political, claiming “the ruling authorities are trying to instill fear into the hearts of all Egypt’s workers with the message that you can be arrested and disappeared for demanding, or even attempting to demand, your basic rights. Their message is that if you seek to strike you will be branded a terrorist, a foreign agent or a traitor. However, the populace knows that these accusations are entirely baseless.”

The workers’ defense lawyers also argued that the right to strike is constitutionally protected, adding that their clients were arrested and jailed for a planned strike that did not even take place.

Article 15 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution recognizes the right of employees to engage in work stoppages, stipulating, “the right to peaceful strike shall be regulated by the law.”

The public transport sector has witnessed repeated strikes over the last five years revolving around the same issues, leading to continual negotiations between striking workers and the PTA.

*Photo by Roger Anis

Story of fatal medical neglect in prison - 19 yr. old detainee Mohand Ehab dies of leukemia

Mada Masr 
Story of medical neglect: Former prisoner Mohand Ehab dies from leukemia

Monday October 3, 2016

Jano Charbel 

Mohand Ehab died on Monday due to complications related to leukemia, a disease that he long suffered from untreated while held in an Alexandria Governorate prison, before being allowed to seek care in a New York City hospital.

The 19-year-old’s name emerged as a trending hashtag on Egyptian social media networks, with another hashtag, Sisi killed Mohand, placing the blame for his death on Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

According to Ehab’s personal account, he suffered medical neglect and mistreatment in detention, which made treatment abroad necessary and ultimately led to his death in a New York City hospital bed. Recounting his time in prison, Ehab detailed being subjected to torture, degrading treatment and verbal abuse deriding him and his family.

Ehab was arrested in January 2015, while on his way to film a protest in Alexandria, and subsequently imprisoned in March of that year. In May 2015, Ehab narrated the story of his poor medical treatment in Alexandria’s Borg al-Arab Prison. “I began to vomit and bleed from my nose,” he wrote, adding that he was incapable of holding things in his hands or using the toilet on his own.

When authorities at Borg al-Arab Prison agreed to transfer him to the prison’s hospital, Ehab recalled medical staff misdiagnosing him with a number of maladies. “You have anemia, they said. Then they told me you have typhoid. Then, that I have a viral liver infection,” he wrote.

Ehab wrote that other hospitals affiliated to the prison also failed to properly diagnose him, and it was not until his father took blood samples to a testing clinic that he was told he was suffering from leukemia.

Prison authorities agreed to transfer Ehab to a state-owned hospital in June 2015, where he received chemotherapy. He was released from custody the following month, amid public campaigns advocating that he receive proper medical treatment. A month later, Ehab’s parents transferred him to a hospital in the United States.

Doctor Taher Mokhtar, a member of the Medical Neglect in Prisons is a Crime campaign, spoke with Mada Masr regarding the paucity of information made available to the public concerning deaths in prison hospitals, among other issues surrounding health care in Egypt’s detention facilities.

“There are no clear or undisputed figures regarding deaths in hospitals. There may be dozens who have died in the past few years. I’ve received several reports myself about detainees dying in prisons due to medical negligence and a lack of healthcare,” Mokhtar said.

The physician called the medical negligence that led to Ehab’s death the latest in a long string of similar incidents, where prisoners are denied access to proper healthcare is “as a form of punishment.”

“Some detainees suffer even worse and more painful fates” than that of Ehab, according to Mokhtar, claiming that some of those held in prison never receive care in hospitals.

While acknowledging prison conditions vary across Egypt, Mokhtar asserted that violations are particularly acute in three of Egypt’s prisons: the Aqrab maximum security prison in the Cairo Governorate, the Borg al-Arab Prison in Alexandria and Mansoura Prison in the Daqahlia Governorate. At Aqrab Prison, families are frequently denied visitation access and are thus unable to provide detainees with needed medicine.

“In prison there are fewer opportunities to receive medical attention coupled with a slower response time in transferring detainees who require medical assistance to hospitals,” explained Mokhtar, stating that the conjunction of these two features often results in the deterioration of prisoners’ health and, in some cases, death. “These are recurring phenomena and are not at all the exception to the rule.”

Mokhtar, who was jailed from January to August, asserted that Ehab’s case is extraordinary in that prisoners are rarely released because of medical concerns. “Several families have requested that their loved ones receive medical attention and proper healthcare, but they are frequently denied these services. As a result of this intentional mistreatment, several people have recently died in prison custody, due to intentional delays or the withholding of medical care, especially in those cases involving critical health conditions.”

Further, there is a lack of awareness regarding the right to health care and disproportionate treatment among certain segments of the general prison population.

“I’ve been jailed myself, in Torah Prison, and, from what I personally witnessed, I can tell you that prisoners accused of ordinary misdemeanors or felonies are treated worse than political prisoners. Generally, they are also not as aware of their rights as prisoners. On the other hand, political prisoners are treated better as there is more attention and a media spotlight focused on them. Plus, they tend to be more aware of their right to healthcare while in detention,” stated Mokhtar.

To better safeguard the health of those detained in Egypt’s prisons, Mokhtar recommended that the Egyptian government institute a series of reform policies, ranging from allowing representatives from the Doctors Syndicate and the state-appointed National Council for Human rights to visit prisons to expanding the prison healthcare budget and developing mechanisms to hold medial practitioners in correctional facilities responsible.

“The Interior Ministry must first treat prisoners as humans and recognize their right to healthcare, regardless of the offense which they have committed or are accused of. However, the ministry’s doctors are usually also police officers, and thus they may be more prone to punish prisoners than the average doctor,” Mokhtar concluded.

In a message from his New York City hospital room that was recorded before he died, Ehab said that he dreams of the release of all wrongfully jailed political detainees and prisoners of conscience.

Human rights lawyer Zyad Elelaimy also addressed Ehab’s death. “There are many others like Mohand in prison,” Elelaimy wrote in a Facebook post. “These brave ones,” who are subjected to abuse and mistreatment, in an attempt to “diminish them both physically and psychologically, so that they leave prison in Mohand’s condition, or psychologically damaged to the extent that they can no longer stand on their feet again.”

*Photo courtesy of Mohand Ehab's family via Facebook