Senior Muslim Brotherhood official and former parliamentarian Mohamed Falahji, 58, died in an Egyptian prison on Monday morning, Quds Press has reported.
Falahji is the second top leader of the movement to have died in prison as a result of maltreatment or lack of proper medical attention. His death brings the number of prisoners who have died in Egyptian prisons since the ouster of the freely-elected President Mohamed Morsi in August 2013 to 265.
The parliamentarian was arrested on 26 August, 2013 on charges of affiliation with a “terrorist” organisation, taking part in demonstrations and inciting violence. He was sent to Jamasah Prison, northern Egypt just over a month later. It was there that he started to experience a lot of pain.
After several calls by his family and appeals by his lawyer, he was transferred to the public hospital in Damietta last month. After examination, he was found to be suffering from kidney stones and inflammation of the gall bladder. He was sent back to prison without receiving any proper treatment.
Falahji’s death comes just a few days after former lawmaker and official in the Freedom and Justice Party Farid Ismail died of liver failure in a Cairo hospital. He was also 58 years old.
Isamil, who was sentenced to seven years in prison last year, was moved from jail in Al-Zagazig to Al-Aqrab Prison Hospital in Tora, south of Cairo, a few days before his death. He was in a coma for several days before he was pronounced dead by the authorities.
On 27 September, 2013, a Brotherhood official in Daqhaliyya, Safwat Khalil, 57, died of cancer in Al-Mansoura Prison. Several others at different leadership levels and members of the Islamic movement have also died in custody due to different diseases or in mysterious circumstances.
The Egyptian authorities insist that all prison inmates have access to proper medical treatment. They stress that they are following international standards and conventions in this regard.
According to Ahmed Mufreh, the director of the Egypt portfolio with NGO Al-Karama for Human Rights, 135 prisoners have died in Egyptian custody since Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led the coup against Morsi in 2013.
Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Abdul Aziz Duwaik
An Israeli military court has handed down a months-long prison term to the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and ordered him to pay more than a thousand dollars on charges on of delivering a speech at a pro-resistance celebration three years ago.
On Monday, the Ofer Court in northern Israel sentenced Abdul Aziz Duwaik to 12 months in jail and a fine of six thousand Israeli shekels (USD 1,550), Arabic-language Palestinian news agency Safa reported.
The Ahrar Center for Prisoner Studies and Human Rights condemned the verdict, demanding the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners currently being held at Israeli detention facilities, the 67-year-old PLC speaker in particular.
Fuad al-Khafash, director of the Palestinian non-governmental organization (NGO), said the Tel Aviv regime has targeted the Palestinian parliament ever since the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas scored a landslide victory in Palestinian elections in 2006, preventing Palestinian lawmakers from serving their respective nation.
Khafash named Hassan Yousef, Mohammad al-Natsheh, Hassan al-Bourini, Mohammad Maher, Yousef Bader and Ezam Salhab as some of the Palestinian legislators that Israel holds captive in its jails.
Israeli soldiers abducted Duwaik in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) early on June 16, 2014. Palestinian sources said the senior Hamas official was taken away after his house in al-Khalil was stormed.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have also arrested at least sixteen Palestinians, including a number of teenagers, during separate raids on a number of houses across the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli military soldiers raided the town of Silwan, which lies on the edge of East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and al-Quds on Monday, and detained eleven Palestinians.
Israeli forces took away five other Palestinians from the entrance gate of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied West Bank.
In recent months, Israeli forces have frequently raided the houses of Palestinians in the West Bank, arresting dozens of people, who are then transferred to Israeli prisons, where they are kept without any charges.
There have been many reports about the deteriorating health of Palestinian prisoners held inside Israeli jails.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are reportedly held in 17 Israeli prisons and detention camps. Moreover, 540 Palestinians are held without any trial under the so-called administrative detention, which is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time.
Last week, federal courts issued two decisions affirming the right of citizens to record police under the First Amendment. In Atlanta, a court held the police department in contempt of court for violating a prior court order to allow citizens to record police. In New York, a court held that recording police is a “clearly established right” under the U.S. Constitution, and that if a police officer violates that right, he or she can be sued in federal court.
First, in Anderson v. Atlanta, the court addressed a prior court order that had ordered the Atlanta police to implement reforms to their training policies and conduct mandatory in-person training for all officers regarding those reforms. In part, the new required policy states: “All employees shall be prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity by photographic, video, or audio means. This prohibition is in effect only as long as the recording by the citizen does not physically interfere with the performance of an officer’s duties.” An officer’s violation of this policy would result in dismissal.
In the court’s contempt order, it found that the Atlanta police had not made the required changes to its policy, and therefore had also failed to implement and enforce the required changes. The court held the Atlanta police in contempt of court, imposed sanctions, and awarded the plaintiff $30,000 in attorney fees for litigating the contempt motion. The court gave the police 45 days to comply with its order. The court stated that after the 45 days expired the court would impose a fine of $10,000 per day.
Second, in Higginbotham v. New York, the court addressed a lawsuit alleging that a journalist covering the Occupy Wall Street protests was falsely arrested and preventing from exercising his First Amendment rights. In 2011, the plaintiff had been working as a freelance video-journalist covering an Occupy Wall Street protest. The plaintiff had climbed on top of a phone booth to record a nearby arrest. A police officer ordered him to climb down but he did not immediately comply because there were too many people surrounding him. When he did begin to climb down, officers grabbed his legs, he dropped his camera, and he fell to the ground. The officers placed him in handcuffs and held him in custody for four hours before releasing him. He was charged with disorderly conduct, but the charge was later dismissed.
In the case, the court rejected the officers’ motion to dismiss the complaint. The court held that the complaint raised a plausible claim of false arrest. The court further held that the complaint raised a plausible claim that the plaintiff was arrested in retaliation for attempting to exercise First Amendment rights. The court noted that “[a]ll of the circuit courts that have [addressed the issue] have concluded that the First Amendment protects the right to record police officers performing their duties in a public space, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.” After discussing the important goals of prohibiting government censorship and promoting free discussion of government affairs, the court held that “[t]he videotaping of police officers in the performance of their duties in public plainly furthers these First Amendment goals.” The court further held that “[v]ideotaping from a reasonable distance is arguably less of a hindrance to legitimate police activity than the verbal challenges [to police officers] that the First Amendment unquestionably protects.”
Rebecca K. Smith is Board Secretary and Cooperating Attorney at the Civil Liberties Defense Center.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that USA Patriot Act dragnet spy powers must be extended or else the terrorists will get us.
Lynch said Friday the country would be “less safe” if Congress fails to renew surveillance programs included in the Patriot Act.
Lynch joined other top Obama administration officials, who are urging the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk phone records collection program while renewing other key parts of the post-Sept. 11 law.
“Our biggest fear is that we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad,” Lynch told CBS News in her first interview since becoming attorney general.
If NSA’s phone metadata program expires completely, Lynch said the U.S. government would lose “important tools” to identify terror threats.
“I think that we run the risk of essentially being less safe,” Lynch added. “I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past. And I am very concerned that the American people will be unprotected if this law expires.”
Lynch didn’t marshal any evidence to support her claims about the connection between dragnet spying and public safety. That’s because there isn’t one. Even the Department of Justice has acknowledged as much, writing in an Inspector General report that FBI agents interviewed couldn’t identify “any major case developments” tied to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the FBI claims enables dragnet spying.
Surveillance boosters have never been able to point to a circumstance—even one example—that proves dragnet surveillance is vital in stopping terrorism. Some insiders in the security state have observed that the bigger the haystack, the more difficult it is to successfully use intelligence information to identify and track threatening people. More information is not better. Better information is better, they say.
Loretta Lynch says she fears that if the Patriot Act isn’t reauthorized, “we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad.” That’s total nonsense. Anyone who “makes it clear” that they want to kill Americans is someone a judge would authorize targeted surveillance against. The government should leave the rest of us out of it.
Just about every recent terrorist attack on US and European soil has been committed by someone known to law enforcement. That’s true for the Garland, Texas shooter and for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who blew up the Boston Marathon in April 2013. The government doesn’t need to spy on you and me in order to track people it already suspects of being up to no good.
You might be wondering: If dragnet spying doesn’t stop terrorism, and most terrorists are known to law enforcement, why do the FBI and the new Attorney General insist on renewing the Patriot Act’s worst provisions? It’s an important question, with a depressing answer.
The reason Lynch’s claims about dragnet spying don’t add up is because they are based on a perversion of the true purpose served by society wide surveillance. While the Patriot Act doesn’t stop terrorism, it’s quite good at enabling social and political control, and finding people who are vulnerable and may be easily coerced into becoming FBI informants.
If surveillance boosters were honest about why they want these powers, you might hear them talking less about terrorism and more about power. Add your voice: take action now to tell congress to reject dragnet surveillance.
Tonight, the US Senate failed to move ahead with the USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill that would address phone record surveillance and FISA Court transparency and fairness. It also was unable to muster votes for a temporary reauthorization of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the section of law used to justify the mass phone records surveillance program. That’s good news: if the Senate stalemate continues, the mass surveillance of everyone’s phone records will simply expire on June 1.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been wrongly interpreted in secret by the government for years. We commend every Senator who voted against reauthorizing the unconstitutional surveillance of millions of law-abiding Americans.
In the wake of tonight’s vote, Congress must stop stalling and address the surveillance and secrecy abuses of our government.
The battle isn’t over. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for another attempt to reauthorize Section 215 on Sunday May 31, only hours before the provision is set to expire.
EFF urges Congress to again reject Section 215 reauthorization, and then turn to addressing other surveillance abuses by the US government, including mass surveillance of the Internet, the secretive and one-sided FISA Court, and the problems of secrecy and over-classification that have created the environment that allowed such spying overreach to flourish.
Scottish Nationalists are hoping to use their new-found parliamentary leverage to block controversial Tory plans to introduce legislation that would see the further erosion of privacy rights across the UK.
As the first days of parliament get under way, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MPs are planning to rail against Tory plans to revive a Data Communications Bill dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s Westminster MPs plan to achieve this goal by lobbying moderate Tories, who previously opposed Home Secretary Theresa May’s surveillance agenda.
Among the Conservatives that Sturgeon’s party could court is David Davis, a senior Conservative backbencher who triggered a by-election in 2008 over Tory plans to introduce a policy shift that would see terror suspects detained for up to 42 days without trial.
Speaking to the Telegraph on Tuesday, an SNP MP said surveillance falls into a “tricky civil liberties space for the Conservatives where there are fault lines.
“We think the mass collection of data is wrong. There is a line beyond which it is unacceptable for civil liberties can be impinged,” he added.
On Friday, Home Secretary Theresa May told the BBC that ramped up surveillance powers are a “key example” of Tory policy that was blocked by the Liberal Democrats during the previous parliament.
May’s announcement angered privacy rights campaigners who warn of the erosion of civil liberties in an era of mass surveillance.
The Snoopers’ Charter would pave the way for internet and mobile phone firms to retain records of customers’ online browsing habits, use of social media, emails, text messaging and voice calls.
In a climate of increased terror threats, the Conservatives argue it would aid British security officials in monitoring online activity and protect the national interest in the process.
However, the European Court of Justice ruled against the legislation last April, warning it would result in human rights violations. The Court outlined a more moderate data retention program at the time that would aid criminal investigations.
Nevertheless, in July 2014 it emerged the government was seeking to push through emergency legislation, which would flout the Court’s judgment and re-legislate for the blanket retention of data.
As a single majority government – in the absence of the Liberal Democrats – the Conservatives are expected to ramp up online surveillance powers quickly.
The SNP’s opposition to these plans will likely be mirrored by Labour and the Lib Dems. Should a few dozen Conservative MPs back their thinking, May’s plans to revive the Snoopers’ Charter could be blocked.
Speaking to RT on Tuesday, Privacy International’s Legal Director Carly Nyst said the Snoopers’ Charter would give UK authorities some of the “broadest spying powers imaginable.
“These powers are nothing short of blanket, suspicionless surveillance of everyone who uses the internet,” she said.
“Should the Snoopers’ Charter be made law, Britons can expect to have every single website they visit, late night phone call they make and embarrassing Google search they enter logged and retained for 12 months,” she added.
On the question of whether SNP MPs would succeed in blocking the Snoopers’ Charter, Nyst predicted the party’s opposition to the legislation would prove troublesome for May.
“The government has declared its strong intention to see this legislation through; however, it must first overcome strong opposition, not only from the SNP, but from ordinary people across the country,” she said.
“It seems clear that the government is going to have a tough time selling to the British people the falsehood that in order for police in this country to do their job, the government needs to completely erode online privacy and expression.”
Privacy rights & privacy wrongs
Prior to the general election, Britain’s Open Rights Group lobbied stringently for parliamentary candidates to radically reform Britain’s mass surveillance policies.
They demanded the incoming government alter the legal framework governing surveillance to protect citizens from intelligence agencies’ routine snooping.
The group’s Executive Director Jim Killock told the Guardian last month he believes privacy rights could be nullified within a decade if the Conservatives and Labour don’t pursue a different approach to surveillance.
Killock also noted that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelatory disclosures on GCHQ mass surveillance had little impact on snooping policy from London to Washington.
Classified US documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 caused international outrage when they uncovered the invasive nature of joint UK-US surveillance programs.
The NSA whistleblower’s disclosures revealed US and UK authorities’ ongoing scrutiny of Britons’ email activity, social network records, web browsing history and mobile phone data.
Tory plans to ramp up mass surveillance in Britain come almost 12 months after a poll revealed widespread opposition to state-sponsored snooping in Britain.
The research revealed the vast majority of those surveyed thought that citizens’ financial, medical, and credit information should remain private.
It also showed an overwhelming majority believed web browsing, mobile phone, telephone and email records should remain beyond the gaze of snoops.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has signaled plans to apply hate crime laws against advocacy groups that encourage the boycott of Israel, a report says.
The report by the Canadian broadcaster, CBC News on Monday said the move would target numerous civil society organizations who promote the boycott over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the expansion of its illegal settlements in the besieged areas.
“If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” the report read.
The Harper government’s intention was revealed in statements by federal ministers to the broadcaster about a “zero tolerance” policy toward groups supporting the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which is part of international efforts to pressure Tel Aviv to stop its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
A vast range of Canadian organizations support BDS including the country’s largest Protestant Christian denomination the United Church of Canada, Independent Jewish Voices, which is the chief organizer of the movement’s activity in Canada, various university groups and labor unions.
Asked what the policy means and what the authorities are doing to enforce it, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, detailed in a written statement a list of the country’s updated hate laws.
“We will not allow hate crimes to undermine our way of life, which is based on diversity and inclusion,” the spokesperson added.
Canadian civil liberty groups criticized the government plans, saying it would almost certainly be challenged under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This is the latest move the Canadian government is planning to muzzle the BDS movement and supporters of the cause.
In January, Canada’s then foreign minister, John Baird, signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Israeli regime in al-Quds (Jerusalem), pledging to combat BDS, a movement the agreement described as “the new face of anti-Semitism.”
Last year, Ottawa changed the country’s Criminal Code, expanding the definition of hate speech to include statements against “national origin” along with race and religion.
Micheal Vonn, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the change in the country’s criminal code is clearly “a tool to go after critics of Israel.”
The presence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.
Last month, 16 European foreign ministers condemned the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that all imported goods originating from settlements be distinctly labeled.
More than half a million Israeli settlers live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.
The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands. However, the Tel Aviv regime defies calls to abandon its illegal settlement activities.
A newspaper’s issue is usually confiscated when it is critical of the authorities. However on Monday the annual issue of the private al-Watan newspaper was briefly confiscated due to a headline that was deemed not quite supportive enough of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The newspaper’s front page headline was changed from “Seven entities stronger than Sisi” to “Seven entities stronger than reform.” The report suggests that those entities represent the “deep state” threatening Egypt and resisting Sisi’s efforts to reform the country.
The seven entities, according to al-Watan’s report, included: Corruption, powerful people, businessmen, the Interior Ministry, the media, the unregistered economy and social media.
An opinion article by the newspaper’s managing editor Alaa al-Ghatrify was also censored. In a leaked copy of the banned article, Ghatrify slammed media personnel who are groomed by the state, according to him, to defend the ruling regime and face any criticism directed against state institutions.
The issue was then permitted to publish after amending the headline and removing the critical column. According to a statement by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI,) “sovereign entities” banned the issue as the original headline implied Sisi’s grip over state institutions was weak.
This is the second time authorities banned an issue for al-Watan newspaper from publishing in the last two months. In March 11, authorities banned an al-Watan issue for including an investigative report detailing the tax evasion of state institutions including the presidency, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Services among others.
Ghatrify, whose article was banned from publishing, criticized the decision on his Facebook account, saying, “This is a country that will never be reformed. Today is another example that we did not move on, we are still on January 24, 2011. Don’t let him think, don’t let him publish, don’t let him be liberated. Just censor and oppress,” he said. None of the newspaper’s editors, including Ghatrify, were available for comment to Mada Masr.
ANHRI stated that censoring the newspaper’s issue is “a direct violation to the constitution and re-imposes police censorship over journalism.”
Similar incidents of censorship have taken place in the past, especially when articles critical to the Armed Forces or the General Intelligence Services have been published.
In October of last year, an edition of the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm was recalled because of an interview with former Intelligence Officer Refaat Gebreel. Al-Masry Al-Youm website editor Ahmed Ragab told Mada Masr at the time that the paper received a phone call from the General Intelligence Services requesting it to halt printing and remove the interview.
Article 70 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, while Article 71 prohibits censorship, stating, “Censorship of Egyptian press and media is prohibited by any means, in addition to confiscation, suspension or closure, with the exception of specific censorship that may be imposed at times of war or public mobilization.”
However, certain laws allow for intervention in the media, especially when it comes to state institutions. A law issued under the presidency of Anwar Sadat states information regarding the General Intelligence Services is a national security secret and its publishing is prohibited except with written approval from the head of the General Intelligence Services. Breaking this law is punishable by six months to five years in prison, in addition to a fine ranging from LE100,000 to LE500,000.
In November, the State Council approved a Defense Ministry-authored bill banning media outlets from publishing news pertaining to the Armed Forces without prior written consent from the head of the Armed Forces or a relevant court.
Reprieve | May 12, 2015
Saudi Arabia has been urged to spare the lives of two juveniles and an aging political activist, after plans emerged to execute at least one of them this Thursday.
Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al Nimr, a 53-year old critic of the Saudi regime, and two juveniles, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon, were arrested during a 2012 crackdown on anti-government protests in the Shiite province of Qatif. After a trial marred by irregularities, Mr Al Nimr was sentenced to death by crucifixion on charges including ‘insulting the King’ and delivering religious sermons that ‘disrupt national unity’. This week, it emerged that the authorities plan to execute him on Thursday, despite protests from the UN and Saudi human rights organizations.
The planned execution of Mr Al Nimr has prompted fears for the safety of the two juveniles, who were both 17 when they were arrested and eventually sentenced to death on similar charges. Both teenagers were tortured and denied access to lawyers, and faced trials that failed to meet international standards. All three prisoners, including Mr Al Nimr, have not yet exhausted their legal appeals.
Saudi Arabia has carried out executions at an unprecedented rate since the coming to power of King Salman in 2015. On May 6th 2015, the Kingdom carried out its 79th execution of the year, and it is already close to surpassing its 2014 total of 87 executions. Human rights organization Reprieve has urged the European Union to intervene with Saudi Arabia to prevent the killings.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Saudi Arabia’s wave of executions since the start of this year has provoked widespread disgust. But these killings, if they are allowed to go ahead, will mark a new low. The sentencing to death of children and the elderly on blatantly political charges is inexcusable, and smacks of an attempt to silence internal dissent in the Kingdom.”
A California woman has sued her former employer, which fired her shortly after she disabled a GPS tracking feature on her company iPhone. The app was used to monitor employees even on their personal time, the lawsuit alleged.
Myrna Arias has claimed that her boss, John Stubits, at money transfer service Intermex in Bakersfield boasted about monitoring employees’ locations while they were not on the job, according to the lawsuit filed in Kern County Superior Court.
Arias, a sales executive for the company, said she was “scolded” and subsequently fired — even though she “met all quotas during her time with Intermex — after she uninstalled Xora, a mandatory job-management app that was applied to company phones.
“After researching the app and speaking with a trainer from Xora, Plaintiff and her co-workers asked whether Intermex would be monitoring their movements while off duty,” the suit says.
“Stubits admitted that employees would be monitored while off duty and bragged that he knew how fast she was driving at specific moments ever since she installed the app on her phone. Plaintiff expressed that she had no problem with the app’s GPS function during work hours, but she objected to the monitoring of her location during non-work hours and complained to Stubits that this was an invasion of her privacy. She likened the app to a prisoner’s ankle bracelet and informed Stubits that his actions were illegal. Stubits replied that she should tolerate the illegal intrusion….”
The suit alleged invasion of privacy, retaliation, and unfair business practices, among other accusations.
“This intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person,” the lawsuit claimed.
Arias’ attorney told Ars Technica that the mandatory app was intrusive in its constant monitoring.
“The app had a ‘clock in/out’ feature which did not stop GPS monitoring, that function remained on,” Gail Glick said.
“This is the problem about which Ms. Arias complained. Management never made mention of mileage. They would tell her co-workers and her of their driving speed, roads taken, and time spent at customer locations. Her manager made it clear that he was using the program to continuously monitor her, during company as well as personal time.”
Arias is seeking damages in excess of $500,000. Intermex did not immediately respond to Ars Technica for comment.
Leading actors, directors and other figures from the theatre world have condemned efforts by pro-Israel groups to silence a Palestinian production set to tour Britain.
‘The Siege’, by the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre, was attacked in the Mail on Sunday last week, after organisations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews expressed concern about whether the Arts Council-funded project “promoted terrorism.”
Now, in response to what they describe as the “demonization” of Palestinian theatre, a letter signed by Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance, Young Vic artistic director David Lan and playwright Caryl Churchill among others, expresses support for the Freedom Theatre.
Neither the Daily Mail nor the Board of Deputies has seen Freedom Theatre’s play The Siege, yet both somehow feel qualified to suggest that it is “promoting terrorism”. Not for the first time, Palestinian voices are in danger of being drowned out by a vociferous pro-Israel lobby that smears all Palestinians as terrorists and antisemites. This lobby wants us to believe that theatre-goers in the UK cannot be trusted to hear these voices and make their own judgements.
The letter, an initiative of Artists for Palestine UK, comes as the Freedom Theatre prepares to embark on a 10-city tour of Britain over May-June, including dates in Manchester, London, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Glasgow.
Writer and performer Mark Thomas, a signatory to the letter, noted that “free speech for Palestinian artists is increasingly threatened, more often than not by supporters of Israel’s apartheid occupation. Palestinian voices not only have a right to be heard, we have duty to listen to them.”
The piece in the Mail by Sunday claimed that the play, based on dramatic events in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in 2002, would be “an unashamedly one-sided drama” based on the testimonies of “men with blood on their hands.”
None of those smearing the play have seen the production, as they have admitted.
Yemen’s Arabic broadcaster, al-Massirah, has been taken off the air by Egyptian satellite company Nilesat, while YouTube has removed the channel’s uploaded files showing the devastation caused by Saudi Arabia’s bombardment of the country.
The channel, which is affiliated to Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, said on its Twitter account that Nilesat suspended its transmission on Sunday evening.
Al-Massirah also tweeted that the suspension was a result of “Saudi-American pressure” on the satellite company.
Nilesat has not explained why it has blocked the channel.
The channel has been broadcasting the images of the victims of and the damage caused by the Saudi aggression against Yemen.
Video sharing website YouTube also removed the videos and images uploaded by al-Massirah that showed the humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Middle Eastern country.
Saudi Arabia started its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to Yemen’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
According to the latest UN figures, the Saudi military campaign has so far claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and injured close to 6,000 people, roughly half of whom have been civilians.
Saudi Arabia has been blocking the delivery of relief supplies to the war-stricken people of Yemen in defiance of calls by international aid groups.