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Egyptian newspaper confiscated for the second time in two months

Mada Masr | May 12, 2015

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.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Nilesat takes Yemen broadcaster al-Massirah off air

Press TV – May 11, 2015

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.

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

US needs Mideast wars to sell weapons: Yemeni activist

Press TV – May 6, 2015

Press TV has conducted an interview with Hussein al-Bukhaiti, a Yemeni activist and political commentator, in Sana’a, to discuss the Western countries’ support for Saudi Arabia’s aggression against Yemen.

This is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: The French president obviously has a star on his report card and resume for attending this summit of the Persian Gulf countries. So, their support for Saudi Arabia, which has used cluster munitions inside Yemen, these are US-made cluster munitions, doesn’t that go against the whole notion of democracy that they preach?

Al-Bukhaiti: Yes, exactly. As the human rights report has said, the Saudis have used cluster bombs in some areas in Sa’ada. And I want to remind the people watching your channel that they have done that in 2009 and they used thousands of American cluster bombs and this is against international law.

If the United States and Saudi Arabia have not signed on to the cluster bomb ban, but the United Sates is still responsible and they should not give weapons to countries that can be used by them in civilian areas; and if you see most of the Western countries are in this conspiracy in fighting Yemen and it is not only Saudi Arabia… the United States is behind it, the United Kingdom and as well the French government… and even any government in Europe that has not said anything or stood against this war… it must be with it.

Press TV: It is interesting to see it is not just France that we see selling arms, the UK obviously sells arms to these Persian Gulf countries, also obviously the United States is selling arms. Is that a precondition for the relationship? These Western countries say, ‘You have to buy our arms; then we lay off the human rights violations that take place in the countries?’

Al-Bukhaiti: Yes, exactly. This is how the United States and other countries make money from their weapons industry. They will sell you weapons and then they know they are selling it to a dictatorship but they are responsible for any casualties in Yemen and the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates and other [Persian] Gulf states are almost number one in buying from the United States.

And I think the United States for its war machine to continue producing weapons, they need to start a war every ten to 20 years. They have done it in Afghanistan, they have done it in Iraq, they have done it in Syria and then in Libya and now it was time for Yemen and I am sure the time after that is going to come I expect Egypt because I know that it does not matter if Egypt is with Saudis and the Americans now, but as long as a strong army is near Israel, they will at one point try to destroy it as they did the same in Syria.

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s billionaires 80% richer than before the revolution

By Edmund Bower | Mada Masr | May 5, 2015

Egypt’s economy has stagnated since the 2011 revolution, pushing millions into poverty, but one group isn’t feeling the pain: Egypt’s billionaires, whose wealth has increased dramatically since 2011.

Earlier this year, Forbes announced their annual list of the world’s billionaires. It included eight Egyptian men, with a combined fortune of US$23.4 billion, an 80 percent increase on the US$13 billion Egypt’s billionaires shared in 2010.

This surge in wealth accumulation comes at a time when Egyptians are being told to tighten their belts. Living standards have dropped since the revolution and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government is making it a priority to cut subsidies and introduce other austerity measures. Yet, far from feeling the pinch, Egypt’s billionaires are better off now than they have ever been. Currently, the eight men – and they are all men – who sit at the top control around six percent of Egypt’s total wealth.

Some of this wealth increase has come from abroad. Mohamed al-Fayed, for instance, made it on to Forbes’ list for the first time after selling his London department store Harrods for US$1.5 billion.

However, much of the money Egypt’s billionaires have accumulated since 2011 was gained in Egypt. Three of Egypt’s billionaires are members of the Mansour family, and partners in the Mansour Group. Mohamed Mansour (#2),Yasseen Mansour (#4), and Youssef Mansour (#5) have made their way on to the list, after decades of expanding a real estate and consumer goods empire, mostly in Egypt.

The Sawaris family have occupied the top spots on the Forbes list for years, although their collective wealth has fallen to US$12 billion from US$13 billion in 2010. The family is headed by father Onsi (#7), along with his three sons Nassef (#1), Naguib (#3), and Samih (#8). Although they have interests overseas, their primary source of income is through the Orascom Group, which includes Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), Orascom Telecom, and Orascom Development. OCI has been granted important government contracts to expand the Suez Canal and build a new coal fired power plant.

The vast increases of the wealth of the few men at the top compares strikingly with the hardships faced by the rest of the country. Figures for the current year are not yet available, but data shows a sharp uptick in poverty since the 2011 revolution.

In 2013, state statistics agency CAPMAS reported that 21.5 million people were living below the state poverty line of LE10.7 per person per day, compared to the 2010 figure of 16.5 million. Millions more were living at or below LE13.9 per day, amounting to 49.9 percent of the population in 2013.

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

US-Saudi Led Blitzkrieg against Yemen is “An Ego Boost”

By Ahmad Barqawi | Global Research | May 3, 2015

“Slaughter Yemenis civilians, and win a free Bentley.” That pretty much sums up Saudi Arabia’s frivolous four-week military jamboree in Yemen otherwise known as Op “Decisive Storm”, if not its entire foreign (and now military) policy in the region; it may have been a “slip of the tweet” on the part of Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, a Forbes top 100 billionaire who offered via his Twitter account to award Saudi fighter-jet pilots a fleet of 100 Bentley luxury cars, a bonus if you will, for their (bombing) services rendered; nonetheless it paints a vivid, albeit repulsive, picture of how politics are conducted in the oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Gulf: at the deviant whims of their Kings and Princes.

No wonder the Arab World is a complete mess of constant wars and conflicts; everything is subject to the often violent impulses of the ruling monarchies in the GCC club who now seem more than intent on leading the entire region, Kamikaze style, into a sectarian abyss with no foreseeable point of return; and Op Decisive storm, a codename that was shamelessly borrowed from America’s wars on the Arab World, was just that; a violent outburst that started, ended and now has even morphed into Op “Restoring Hope” at the mere sectarian fancies of Saudi Arabia with the helpless lot of Arab governments tagging along for the now routine trip of bombing yet another Arab country back to the stone age, and when you have a seemingly bottomless well of petrodollars, wield all the clout of mainstream media and a far-reaching religious authority; then forming a military coalition, especially one that is purely based on vicious sectarian grounds, is almost as easy as picking players for a football squad.

This is, in a nutshell, how the Saudi Government managed to crowbar eight countries into a military coalition comprising a mishmash of Gulf Cooperation Council members (sans Oman), Gulf Cooperation Council rejects (Jordan and Morocco) and Gulf Cooperation Council scroungers (Egypt and Sudan) to intervene in Yemen against a local political movement that just so happens to adhere to a religious sect that is often faintly (and inaccurately) traced back to Shia Islam. You could almost instantly smell the vile stench of oil and sectarianism all over Saudi Arabia’s latest, ongoing still, disastrous endeavor in Yemen.

The Saudis’ delusional sales pitch this time was that Iran (who else?) was about to take over Yemen via local militant “Shia” proxies attempting a coup against the “legitimate” government of outgoing/incoming/fleeing president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (still holed up in Riyadh till now); therefore a military intervention with all (Sunni) guns blazing was in urgent order to safeguard “legitimacy” and maintain “stability” in an already impoverished and war-torn Yemen, and we know just how much the GCC club adores peace and stability in the region, its horrific portfolio of destabilization handiwork in Libya, Syria and Iraq is a bloody testament to that.

Of course legitimacy in this (Saudi) context refers to a flip-flopping, weakling of an interim president who, only with the help of Saudi money and support, managed to win a presidential election where he was actually the only candidate on the ballot, a president who outstayed both his tenuous welcome and his presidential term, resigned, fled to the port city of Aden, rescinded his resignation and declared himself president again only to flee once more, chased after by his people, into the waiting arms of the Saudis (perhaps better known to everyone else as his sole meal tickets) but of course not before demanding that his oil-rich patrons bomb his own country into smithereens because evidently that’s what “legitimate” presidents do, at least in the GCC’s book (of horrors).

Show me one of Saudi Arabia’s (many) lackeys in the region who didn’t ask for foreign military intervention into his own country, and I’ll show you Flying Pigs! The standard refrain of extending open invitations for foreign powers to wage devastating wars is strictly (and curiously) espoused by those whom the Saudi Kingdom considers (or designates) “legitimate representatives” of their people. From the Bahraini monarchy to the current Libyan government to the 14th of March alliance in Lebanon and the entirety of the Syrian opposition mismatched posses; not one of these handpicked Saudi puppets has missed an opportunity to ask, in fact beg, for the bombardment of his own country by a foreign government, as if it’s a mandatory rite of passage for those who wish to be on the Saudi payroll/leash and get the GCC’s stamp of approval. And this Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi (none) character, whose return to power in Yemen was the only stated goal behind Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen, is no different.

We’re told that the current blitzkrieg in Yemen is all about “restoring legitimacy”, but it’s near-impossible to take that claim seriously without bursting into an uncontrollable wave of laughter; none of the Saudi-led coalition members are exactly known for their democratic credentials, on the contrary; If you played a word-association game, the words “dictatorship”, “tyranny” and “authoritarianism” (or any random combination thereof) would elicit every single time the exact member list of the coalition currently bombing Yemen today into their warped versions of democratic rule and legitimacy.

In fact the war on Yemen is essentially nothing but an ego-boost for the Saudis in response to what’s perceived by the Kingdom as Iran’s growing influence in the region especially after an interim nuclear deal was signed with the west; a shot of (military) adrenaline for the oil-rich Kingdom to assert its political relevance and nothing beyond that at a time when its foreign policy is beginning to resemble a non-stop tragic-comedy of errors and blunders.

This ego-trip masquerading as a military operation has left, so far, more than a 1,000 Yemenis killed, countless others wounded and the wanton destruction of the country’s infrastructure; and although we’re thankfully spared the sight of Saudi-led coalition forces’ spokesman waffling around, trying in vain to finagle a military feat out of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas in Yemen in his daily briefings (or awkward rendezvous with his pro-war, GCC-funded media entourage); the war still goes on, given a new lease of life under a new codename; “Restoring Hope”, despite its “rosy” moniker which has tasteless PR written all over it, promises to be just as vicious and devastating as Decisive Storm if not more; now that free Bentleys are at stake here for outstanding achievements in criminality, I’m sure these hefty royal “incentives” will show in the destructive zeal the next time coalition pilots fly their sorties and drop their load of explosives on unsuspecting Yemenis.

We were told that Decisive Storm had “fulfilled its objectives”, according to a statement by Saudi Defense Ministry. What objectives? We don’t know; deposed Yemenis president is still in Riyadh and the Houthis along with the Yemenis army control much of the ground in Yemen, now unless the real objective was the step-by-step reenactment of Israel’s wars on the Gaza strip, in which case: mission accomplished indeed with flying colors (or overflowing blood of Yemenis!), the Saudis cannot claim any success whatsoever beyond reducing the country to debris and waste; a feat that was bizarrely celebrated in GCC-funded media as a “decisive blow” to Iranian influence in the region.

At the start of Operation Decisive Storm; then Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., current foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir said that the military operation was “…designed to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by a violent extremist militia”; protecting the people of Yemen… by bombing them into blind submission and a state of near-servitude, to keep the country an impoverished Saudi implantation and nothing more, I mean how dare the Yemenis even entertain the outrageous notion of self-determination when (Saudi) fate has ordained they be reduced to nothing more than an Oil-rich Kingdom’s backyard for gutter politics and inglorious exploits (or Achilles heel for that matter).

And no, in his statement; Ambassador Al Jubair was not referring to Al Qaida or the Islamic State militias which have been laying all manner of terror and destructive waste to Libya, Iraq and Syria with complete financial, logistical, political and ideological cover from the legitimacy-loving GCC folk, by “violent extremist militia”; Al Jubair was referring to the Ansarullah group; an indigenous Yemeni faction accused of being a mere tail for Iran, you know unlike the very independent Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, when in fact it does enjoy considerable political sway and popularity in Yemen.

Al Jubair also said that “all of Saudi Arabia’s allies were consulted before launching military operations in Yemen”. I’m guessing the consultations went something like this: the Saudis telling their allies to jump and everyone replying in unison, with a-cheese-eating-grin on their faces: “how high? … and please write those checks out to cash”.

And that’s the long version too.

“Coalition of the Willing…. to Get Paid from the GCC”

Only Pakistan, which the Saudis were hoping would join in the fun of leveling another impoverished Arab country into rubble; solely based on its “Sunni credentials” of course… and nuclear power, managed to bow out of this “coalition of the unwitting” escapade; thanks, ironically, to the only problem the Saudis can’t just fix or deal with no matter how much money they throw at it: Democracy… or a semblance thereof; when the Pakistani Parliament unanimously voted to remain neutral in the war on Yemen (i.e.: not to be a member of the GCC’s Suicide Squad parade).

There you can find a group of people with enough sense about them not to blindly follow the Saudis’ caprices into the Yemenis quagmire for a handful of cash and oil barrels, and heed instead the national interests of their own country first. Sadly this was not the case with the rest of coalition members whom are mostly made up of Arab governments posing as hired yes-men for Saudi Arabia (or yes-men posing as governments for that matter).

First we have Egypt; fresh out of an economic bash in Sharm Al Sheikh, which will sure keep Egypt locked in a tight GCC financial death grip for years to come, with billions of (petro) dollars dropping off his pockets; General Abdel Fattah al Sisi (“legitimate” President of Egypt, lest we forget, because this war is all about defending legitimacy against coup’d’etats) was the first in line to fully commit to Operation Decisive Storm, ground-troop-warts and all.

The man who sold himself to Egyptians as the Second Coming of President Jamal Abdel Nasser trampled all over Nasser’s legacy by fighting the Saudis’ dirty war in Yemen in an unholy alliance with the reactionaries of the Gulf (to paraphrase Nasser himself who’s probably rolling in his grave right about now).

Suddenly and at the flick of a (Saudi) switch; Egypt’s priorities were reshuffled beyond recognition or even the slightest bit of logic to best suit the GCC’s depraved interests in the region; the Houthis taking control of the Yemeni capital somehow became an existential threat to Cairo’s national security, trumping even threats coming from a terrorism-infested Sinai peninsula or over 1,000 km of open borders with the abyss of lawlessness and violence that is Libya today. And Bab Al Mandeb Strait in Yemen became the top priority for Sisi’s Egypt at a time when the land of the Nile faces potential drought and is threatened with the vanishing face of its landmark river, thanks to Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam, along with another coalition member: Sudan.

Desperately wanting to prove that he too can wade in sectarian blood with the best of them; Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, probably lured by the promise of future-petrodollar-riches and the perfect opportunity to break his ICC-imposed isolation, stumbled over himself to heed Saudi Arabia’s call to (Sunni) arms and bomb some “infidel” Yemenis into god-forsaken oblivion (according to Sudanese state owned media). Never mind the embarrassing fact that the Sudanese “Air Force”, which is now dropping its load of bombs with a wanton exuberance on Yemeni civilians, stood completely idle and useless when Israel, on more than one occasion, practically used the entire country of Sudan as an open-field target practice for its fighter jets and F-16s under the pretext of targeting weapons’ depots and convoys destined for Palestinian Resistance factions in Gaza. Talk about priorities gone south.

It was only two years ago when the Saudis practically humiliated Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir when they blocked their own airspace to his plane as he was heading to… yes you guessed it, Iran to attend the inauguration of then newly elected president Rouhani, and now here is Al Bashir jumping into (criminal) action alongside the Saudis to bomb another Arab country into the throes of sectarian discord and potential partition.

Give that a moment’s thought and you might get a headache: Sudan, a country which itself is still reeling from a Western-sponsored partition scheme, is actively (and foolishly) participating in carving up yet another Arab country into two warring entities. There’s an almost Alice-in-Wonderland feel to it.

GCC hopefuls Jordan and Morocco of course happily tagged-along with the Saudis into yet another sectarian misadventure in what’s starting to look like a long drawn out series of auditions to join the GCC club which entail the two tiny monarchies to get down and dirty in the destruction of other Arab countries for the benefit (and amusement) of the Saudis; starting with Libya and Syria, and God knows where it’s going to go after Yemen; but you can be sure it’ll be under the spurious pretext of the “Shiite threat”,

And then you have the Arab League whose complete transformation from a schlocky, ineffectual entity into the proverbial make a wish foundation for the imperial West was epitomized in full shameless splendor in the unfortunate case of Yemen.

Gone are the days when the Arab League would grovel at the feet of NATO governments to intervene militarily somewhere in the Arab world or co-conspire with the West for yet another foreign invasion of one of its member states, now the Arab League, essentially nothing more than a mere echo chamber for the mercurial whims of the GCC nowadays, is finally taking matters into its own unreliable hands and summoning its American-made military might.

No time for niceties of the UNSC resolutions under the seventh chapter sort à la Libya or good-ol’ fashioned UN sanctions; Nah, the Arab League will no longer stoop to such pedestrian and banal methods, in the latest Arab League summit in Sharm Al Shaikh, the one which hastily rubber-stamped the Saudi war on Yemen, Arab leaders decided to resurrect a 65-year old near-dead defense pact and form a joint military force, which was about as thoughtful and welcome a notion as a fourth Netanyahu term, to counter… the Shiite threat in Yemen; kind of makes you yearn for the not-so-distant days when Arab Summits were all about vacuous, fig-leaf statements and “strong-worded” condemnations at best and public bickering and laughable finger-pointing at worst.

To put things into proper, albeit depressing perspective; neither Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine nor America’s criminal invasion of Iraq has ever prompted Arab governments to even get near that defense pact; the GCC’s unhealthy obsession with Iran, bordering on hysteria, did.

Sectarianism is the New Black

“The Israel occupation of Palestine does not exist; it is a figment of our collective imagination. Iran is the enemy and Netanyahu and co. are allies.” that’s the only way we can reconcile ourselves with the bleak reality of the Arab world today which can be summed up in one word: Iranophopia… on Wahhabi steroids.

It’s quite telling when Netanyahu’s latest address to the Congress and the entirety of the last Arab league summit seem blurred into one big anti-Iran screed; Netanyahu could’ve made the same exact firebrand speech in Sharm Al Shaikh, steeped in anti-Iran buffoonery and short on intelligence, and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place or different… except for the number of standing ovations which I suspect would have been significantly higher than what he received from the jump-and-applaud-every-other-line U.S. Congress back in March.

So Iran… or Shiism (two interchangeable terms in GCC political discourse) is the enemy, evidently the alleged threat posed by Iran (and represented through the mere “presence” of Shiite indigenous communities in some Arab countries) supersedes the real existential threat posed by the Israeli expansionist project in Palestine (does anybody remember Palestine these days?) and beyond, notions like “Arab unity” and “Arab joint military pact”, which were constantly mocked by the monarchies of the Gulf as “wooden language” whenever they’re used in the context of the Palestine/Israel conflict, are now being used (and abused with a xenophobic fervor) by the GCC-camp only in relation to Iran.

So the GCC is perfectly fine with droves of illegal European settlers migrating all the way to Palestine, expelling Palestinians from their lands and squatting comfortably in their midst, but when it comes to indigenous Yemenis for instance, god forbid they “march towards the city of Aden”.

Pan-Arabism is for suckers; sectarianism is the new black in the Arab world… in the literal and most depressing sense of the word. The map of the Arab world has been reconfigured into areas of contending Saudi and (alleged) Iranian influence, and feuding mini-statelets laden with sectarian discord and internal bloodletting thanks only to Saudi Arabia’s growing and self-inflected paranoia against the “Shiite threat”.

Nothing makes sense in the Arab world unless put in a sectarian bracket; this is what more than ten years’ worth of a constant barrage of fear-mongering against Shiites has yielded so far; a trail of failed Arab states and conflict-ridden regions.

The Saudis (controlling the majority of media outlets in the Arab World along with the rest of the GCC) have managed to turn a minority religious sect, approximately one-fifth of the world’s Muslims if not less, into the new big bad boogeyman for the remaining majority of Muslims, and what started as laughable, clumsy attempts courtesy of the GCC at provoking friction among Muslims in the wake of Bush’s invasion of Iraq; is now a no-holds-barred sectarian confrontation engulfing the Arab world where everything from suicide bombings all the way up to F-16s goes, with Israel comfortably cheering from the sidelines, unencumbered in its occupation of Palestine, as both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide tear each other to shreds.

Dangerous Parallels

Speaking of Israel; “the coalition of willing… to get paid from the GCC” is taking entire pages right out of the Israeli military’s own scorched-earth playbook by carpet-bombing civilian areas, vital infrastructure, schools, hospitals, factories, dairy plants, airports, one football stadium and, on at least two occasions, refugee camps, all the while imposing a no-fly-zone (we all know how the GCC is fond of those) coupled with a draconian siege reminiscent of that forgotten Israeli blockade on Gaza, which by the way, went totally unreferenced in the final statement of the latest gung-ho Arab Summit. Collective punishment is the name of the military campaign here, a strict “disciplinary” treatment delivered via extensive aerial bombardment to keep the Yemeni population in check and obediently toeing the Saudi line. I wonder where we have seen all of this before.

The parallels between Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope and Israel’s own criminal wars on Gaza are ominously striking and equally horrid; the guilty-by-nonexistent-association doctrine, pioneered and espoused by Israel to justify its deliberate targeting of civilians by deeming all Palestinians in Gaza, including newborns and children, to be members of Hamas, was adopted with a demented zeal by the GCC in their own military misadventure in Yemen.

Thus all these ashen-faced victims of the coalition’s bombing campaign are militant “Shia Houthis”, and every charred skeleton, burned beyond recognition and crumbling in the arms of a shrieking loved one, is that of an Iranian agent’s, or so it’s reported in the callous sectarian coverage of Gulf-funded media which seem to fetishize the murder of Yemenis and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure with frenzied abandon, even the “courtesy” of at least shoving some of the nameless casualties of the air strikes under the euphemism of “Collateral Damage” is not extended to the Yemenis; just like it wasn’t extended to the Libyans when the city of Sirte was virtually flattened to the ground during Operation “Odyssey Dawn for Benghazi/Living Hell for the rest of the country”, these weren’t residential areas and universities that NATO was bombing back then we were told, but Gaddafi’s military command and control centers. In Yemen it’s Houthis’ training camps or “concentration centers”, whatever that means.

The deliberate de-Yemenization and even dehumanization of the victims of Operation Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope is practiced on a daily basis on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya channels. Constantly referring to the victims of the bombing campaigns strictly as “Houthis”, prompting the viewer to think they’re an invasive alien breed and not indigenous people comprising almost 40% of the Yemeni population, while true Yeminis, according to the GCC, are those Hadi-supporters pathetically paraded all over Gulf-funded networks rallying in support of the Saudi airstrikes on their country.

Aljazeera Arabic TV talk-show host Faisal Al Qasem (known for his vulgar and trashy persona which makes Jerry Springer look like the paragon of classy journalism) summed up the entire sordid coverage of GCC funded media of the war on Yemen when he screamed at one of his guests; “look at the Houthis, just look at their faces… they don’t even look like us Arabs”.

Remember those leaflets with badly translated, “pseudo-apologetic” Arabic messages that the Israeli Army used to dump on Gazans before bombing the living daylights out of them with all manner of cluster ammunition and dime bombs? Well the same leaflets with the same exact clumsy messages are being dropped on Yemenis courtesy of the GCC’s coalition of the unwitting in another disgusting display of kinship verging on pathological idol-worship towards the IOF’s criminal tactics. Thus claims by Houthi rebels that the coalition is using White Phosphorous (Israel’s favorite weapon of choice) may not be that farfetched; the harrowing images trickling out of Yemen and shown on (few) Media outlets are proof positive that Yemen is being used as a test ground for GCC’s multi-billion dollar, American-made arsenal of death and destruction, including the use of internationally banned weapons.

The complete lack of subtlety in borrowing from the Israeli military’s book (of terrorism) and openly recycling its brand of criminality up to the smallest details against the Yemenis leaves no doubt that the alliance between the GCC and the Zionist entity has taken another gigantic leap forward into an all-hands-on-deck political, military and diplomatic integration.

The war on Yemen, like all wars waged on defenseless populations including Israel’s mass murdering sprees against Palestinians, is nothing but an ego boost, Decisive Storm/Restoring Hope was probably prompted by the Interim nuclear agreement Iran managed to strike with the West last month; I don’t even want to imagine how the Saudis will react if and when a full comprehensive deal is reached come June 30.

May 3, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In unusual break with tradition, no Labor Day celebrations in Egypt this year

Mada Masr | May 1, 2015

For the first time in living memory, Egypt is not celebrating Labor Day.

The only official commemoration took place on Monday, April 27 behind closed doors at Cairo’s Police Academy in the presence of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, governmental officials and state-appointed leaders from the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

This commemoration, which was not televised, is reported to have involved 10 workers who received honorary medals. It is the first time ever that the president of Egypt has not delivered a Labor Day address.

During Monday’s commemoration, Gebali al-Maraghi, chief of the state-controlled ETUF, presented Sisi with a declaration from his federation vowing that its members would reject strikes and refrain from protests, sit-ins or other industrial actions.

ETUF leaders called instead for dialogue and collective bargaining between workers, the state and employers, according to the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

The Cabinet also announced that there would not be a working day off, as this year the official holiday coincides with the weekend.

This comes during the same week in which a judicial decree was issued by the Supreme Administrative Court dictating that public sector employees who partake in strikes will be forced into early retirement. The judges who issued this decree, which cannot be appealed, claimed that a military decree issued in 2011 and Sharia law both prohibit labor strikes.

statement was issued by a host of Egyptian human rights organizations on Labor Day in which they denounced the aforementioned judicial decree as violating Article 15 of the 2014 Constitution, as well as international rights conventions to which Egypt is party.

“We are witnessing the worst Labor Day in Egyptian history this year,” commented Ali Fattouh, an independent union organizer and bus driver employed at Cairo’s Public Transport Authority.

Fattouh argued that the government is pushing back on workers’ rights and the organizational freedoms of unions, while Egypt’s largest independent labor federation — the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (ETIFU) — “is falling in line with the government’s dictates, denouncing workers’ right to strike while championing the policies of the ruling regime.”

Like Fattouh, many other independent unionists, labor rights organizations and leftist groupings are not celebrating Labor Day this year, as they believe there is nothing to celebrate in 2015.

Since their emergence in the 2011 uprising until 2013, independent labor federations had celebrated Labor Day in Tahrir Square. However, they were only capable of organizing small rallies involving just a few hundred workers, revealing the inability of these independent federations to mobilize their ranks.

Following the military led regime change on July 3, 2013, Tahrir Square was made off-limits for workers’ rallies, and in 2014 independent unionists celebrated Labor Day indoors.

Workers at the state-owned petroleum services company Petrotrade issued a statement on Thursday declaring, “We are not celebrating Labor Day this year, as there is no cause for celebration.”

“This is the fifth Labor Day since the January 25 revolution, and yet none of the revolution’s demands have been achieved, nor has social justice been realized,” the statement added.

Despite government pledges since 2011, neither a new labor law nor a new trade union law has been issued to replace the repressive and outdated laws regulating workers rights, the Petrotrade workers continued.

The statement argued that Egypt is suffering from a counter-revolution, indicated by the fact that a host of striking workers and independent unionists have been subjected to punitive measures nationwide, including disciplinary hearings, relocations, lay-offs, prosecution and trials.

Dozens of workers across the country are presently being prosecuted for instigating strikes and labor unrest, as well as incurring losses for industries with their work stoppages.

Fattouh explained that he and 31 of his co-workers at the Public Transport Authority are standing two separate trials on May 15 and June 13 before the State Council Court on charges of instigating strikes in the years 2012 and 2013.

“We are being sent to court, and possibly to jail, simply for exercising our right to organize a peaceful strike at our workplaces,” said Fattouh.

“When you have a court of law outlawing the right to strike, which is clearly safeguarded by international conventions and domestic legislation, what is there left to celebrate on Labor Day?” he argued.

But Maraghi is quoted in Al-Ahram as declaring that “Egypt is currently blessed with a climate of freedom and democracy,” and “that the ETUF is the only legitimate representative for all of Egypt’s workers, regardless of their political tendencies.”

Maraghi concluded by singing Sisi’s praises, while claiming: “there is no room for politicization of the union movement.”

Yet even Ibrahim Eissa, a TV anchor on the show 25/30, which broadcasts on the privately owned ONtv channel, criticized Sisi’s labor commemoration this year.

Eissa argued that Labor Day should be celebrated on May 1, as is the national and international tradition. “Labor Day should be commemorated in a factory, company or workplace,” he added, asking Sisi, “Oh president, if you celebrate Labor Day at the Police Academy, then where are you going to celebrate Egypt’s National Police Day?”

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | | 1 Comment

Fighting for bread and social justice in Egypt

By Mai Shams El-Din | Mada Masr | April 26, 2015

Chants for bread and social justice didn’t emerge out of the January 25, 2011 revolution. Long before 2011, a strong protest movement existed against the economic policies of former President Mubarak and his regime, which gained momentum in 2006 through the protests and strikes of labor workers in Mahalla al-Kubra.

Nadeem Mansour, director of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), speaks to Mada Masr about the challenges facing the labor movement in Egypt and the battle for bread and social justice.

Mada Masr: Why do you think demands for social justice were masked by an identity battle post-January 25, 2011?

Nadeem Mansour: My work is still about the struggle for bread, social justice and the minimum wage, but after January 25, political organizations — the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis and liberal groups — used the media to wage a very public battle over identity politics that masked this fight to some extent. Those who chanted for social rights in 2011 were not able to achieve their aims for numerous reasons — they didn’t have parties to speak for them, nor a media interested in propagating their ideals. Private media in Egypt is owned almost entirely by businessmen, who often have personal interests that are in conflict with labor movements.

At the ECESR, we have a monitor for economic and social protests. We’ve noticed that many protests over the last four years have had economic and social demands, and there have been a lot of them. In 2013, for example, the number of protests exceeded 5000. Our role is to support these demands. Social justice is the key to making any real change, and to all of the problems facing Egyptian society today. For example, terrorism will only be confronted and stability brought about by ensuring structural and social inequalities are addressed.

MM: How has the absence of political support for economic and social rights affected your work at the center?

NM: Support of the poor and marginalized has never received much genuine political interest. Such attention fluctuates according to the political climate. Part of our role as an entity that offers legal, research and media services, and supports syndicates and local communities, is to help people find solutions to their problems on a local level, and then ensuring attention is given to their problems more widely.

Take the case of the minimum wage, as an example. Before we started the campaign and filed the lawsuit, the issue was not even a matter of discussion. The last minimum wage was set in 1982, as far as I remember, and it was around LE34. The campaign — both research and online — was initiated in partnership with workers, as there were no independent trade unions or syndicates at the time. We succeeded in raising the minimum wage from LE34 to LE400, and then to LE700 after the revolution. Now the minimum wage stands at LE1200, and we are still demanding its increase. By setting the minimum wage as a revolutionary demand, it became a public issue, not just one concerning workers.

We are also interested in working more on specific cases, such as the issue of the Misr Shebin al-Kom Spinning and Weaving Company [the country’s largest textile company, based in Mahalla], which was sold to an Indian investor who already owned some of its competitors. He bought it illegally at a cheap price in order to destroy its equipment and decrease production and thus competition. This case prompted the government to issue a law protecting contracts, which we believe is unconstitutional and have challenged in court.

We partnered with a group of workers and farmers in 2012, when the constitution was being revised, to issue a document, “Workers and farmers write the constitution.” While the conflict over the civil or Islamic identity of the state continued, and there were many calls for workers and farmers to be educated about their rights, we decided to go and ask them about what they thought these rights should be. We went to 22 governorates and we talked with thousands of people. We put them together in a legal document and ended up with something similar to the international Covenant on Economic and Social Rights in its relation to health, work and water. This is part of our work, empowering local communities to make decisions that impact on their own lives.

MM: What about the syndicates and unions for workers?

NM: The syndicates and unions are weak because they are part of a nascent movement that is also facing attacks from many directions, and lacks organizational capacity. Additionally, the strength of these organizations is closely related to that of local communities and their capacity to mobilize and sustain action.

The question is, can these problems be solved by uniform state action, or do they require a decentralized approach?

The economic and social crisis in Egypt is partly due to corruption and government bureaucracy. Attempts at reform often happen in a very centralized manner, whereas capacity building has to be conducted locally.

There are between 1500 and 3000 syndicates, and the union’s [Federation of Independent Trade Unions] capacity for representation is limited. Also, there is no legal framework to structure their work, meaning the right to strike is not protected.

The syndicates are weak right now, and consequently so is the union. The ability to mobilize in the public domain is difficult in Egypt currently, and the attention of the public is focused on political parties and activists. But the attack on syndicates is much fiercer.

MM: How would you describe this attack?

NM: Workers face many problems, including: Dismissal, lack of financial rights, penalties against striking workers, threats, jail, physical assaults, torture and death — in extreme cases. The Protest Law also applies to workers, and is often enforced more vigorously. We have workers who are currently being tried for going on strike. Over the last 10 years, Egypt has developed a strong strike movement. The public mobilization on Jan 25 and June 30 were related to strikes over economic and social issues.

The entire movement is not often suppressed, as it is so vast, but smaller attacks are waged. During Morsi’s term in office, workers at the Portland Company in Alexandria were attacked by police dogs, and some were thrown from the second floor of the building, leading to severe injuries.

Just a few days ago, we were able to secure the release of a worker who criticized the administration of his employer on Facebook and is being investigated for it. Such attacks are often arbitrary, so we try to raise the profile of them in the media as much as we can.

Violence and the interference of the security services in the public domain have reached levels we haven’t witnessed in the last 10 years. The general climate is one of fear.

In one incident, a private company ended negotiations with its workers after military intelligence got involved. This is documented in the company’s official records.

MM: How do you deal with legislative obstacles to your work?

NM: We have strong objections to the current law regulating the work of civil society and against various drafts of the newly proposed law.  The state is attempting to restrict rights-based work without understanding this will hinder democratic reform.

The Center is registered according to the law. We are not an association, but a legal services company, providing consultancy on legal and economic matters. We are a legal office and as such pay the appropriate taxes and have the required documents. Our work is transparent and open.

We are, however, interested in the law governing non-governmental organizations, because we are interested in the ways people organize and in supporting this locally and nationally. We want a law that supports activities and solidarity work. If I’m a legal firm that wants to provide free services, I should be able to do so. Why am I being dealt with as an association in this case?

MM: When and why did you decide to work in human rights?

NM: I began work as a trainee researcher at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in 2008. I then started the ECESR with Khalid Ali and two other colleagues in 2009.

My interest in rights stems from my study of political economies, which focused on the relationship between the state, local communities and the labor movement. In human rights centers, there are many opportunities for young researchers to expand and develop their ideas.

Many people benefit from our legal services that wouldn’t have access to them otherwise. This motivates me to continue. Our work builds on that of many other generations and organizations. The public domain expanded dramatically after the revolution, enabling rights work to gain ground and the number of organizations dedicated to it to increase. The scale of such work was much more limited in the 90s, for example.

MM: Do you think the current restrictions on civil society will deter young people from getting involved in rights-based work?

NM: I don’t think this will prevent new generations from joining. There have always been restrictions on rights-related work. Under Mubarak, and even before I started in the 90s and 2000s, we suffered consistent and fierce attacks. The intensity of the attack on the movement has also increased with its ability to make an impact.

As long as people’s rights are violated, there will be a need for such organizations to exist.

This is part of a series of interviews with human rights workers in Egypt that will be published in the coming weeks.

April 26, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , | 2 Comments

Egyptian National Security summons journalists following report on police violations

Mada Masr | April 21, 2015

The National Security Agency summoned the editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm and four of the newspaper’s journalists for investigations on Tuesday, following the publication of a controversial report documenting police violations.

Published last Sunday, “Police martyrs and sins: Holes in the uniform of the police” is a seven-page spread documenting recent police violations and individual cases against policemen. The report also highlights policemen who were killed in action, acknowledging their sacrifices.

The NSA summoned editor-in-chief Mahmoud Mosallam and journalists Yosry al-Badry, Mostafa Makhlouf, Hassan Ahmed Hussein and Ibrahim Qaraa for questioning pertaining to the report.

The investigation was postponed to April 26 at the request of Journalists Syndicate head Yehia Qallash to allow more time for the journalists in question to be notified and for syndicate members to attend the questioning, since the summons was only issued late on Monday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Ahmed Ragab, chief editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s news site, declined to comment on the case.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement on Sunday calling the report in question “unprofessional,” and asserting that it would take legal action against the newspaper. The ministry said that the paper wrote the report in retaliation against the referral of its journalist, Yosry al-Badry, and former editor-in-chief to prosecution last December.

Badry was referred to the prosecution at the behest of the National Security Agency over a story he published on a suicide bombing that targeted the Ministry of Interior in Daqahlia.

In a statement published on Monday, the Journalists Syndicate denounced what it called the Interior Ministry’s “attempts to intimidate colleagues,” decrying the ministry’s response to the report as a “restriction on the freedom of the press.”

The increase in complaints filed against journalists “opens the door for restricting freedoms, instead of closing it,” the syndicate said.

The statement added that the ministry should have investigated the violations in the report and provided answers to the public, instead of taking legal action against the journalists.

The syndicate will issue a memo to the general prosecutor, reiterating the legal guarantees pertaining to publishing cases, the statement concluded.

Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told Mada Masr that there isn’t enough information on the dynamics behind the recent conflicts between state institutions and media outlets, many of which were aligned with the state until recently. He speculates that two factors could be at play.

“The brutality of the Interior Ministry has really increased, meaning ignoring police violations is worse than under Mubarak,” he said. “It became an issue newspapers couldn’t ignore.” Another explanation is that state institutions are pitting newspapers against each other, Eid said.

“We know that the military, intelligence services, national security and all these institutions have their own men in certain newspapers, and each of them is more loyal to a certain publication. It’s possible that one institution agreed to attack another,” he claimed.

Last week, a journalist at the privately owned Al-Dostour newspaper was arrested on allegations that he had waged a campaign against the Ministry of Interior. The privately owned Al-Watan newspaper was forced to remove a report on tax evasion by state institutions from publication last month, and in October, Al-Masry Al-Youm was impelled to rescind an interview with a security agent.

April 22, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

Egypt’s President Sisi meets with CIA chief in Cairo

Press TV – April 19, 2015

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has held talks with CIA Director John Brennan amid Cairo’s heavy-handed clampdown on opponents of the country’s military-backed government.

According to a statement released by the Egyptian government, Sisi and Brennan discussed regional issues, terrorism and “ways of enhancing bilateral relations” in their Sunday meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

The two sides agreed to continue “consultation and coordination on issues of mutual interest,” the statement added.

The announced visit by the CIA chief to the North African country came less than two weeks after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced plans to sell air-to-surface missiles worth of $57 million to Egypt.

Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in July 2013 in a military coup led by Sisi, the then army commander.

Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has been the scene of massive anti-government protests, with continuous clashes between security forces and the supporters of the former president, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The new rulers in Egypt have come under pressure from human rights groups over their harsh crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters.

The Egyptian administration’s suppression has led to the deaths of more than 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

However, Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and a few of his senior officials have been acquitted of all charges leveled against them over the killing of protesters in the country’s 2011 revolution.

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Saudi Mercenaries and the Starvation of Yemen

By Thomas C. Mountain | Black Agenda Report | April 15, 2015

The Saudi military is almost entirely staffed by mercenaries. The Saudi jets bombing an air defenseless Yemen are piloted by Pakistanis. Its mid and low level officers are mainly from Jordan and, most ominously for its ability to actually launch a ground invasion, its rank and file soldiers are almost entirely from Yemen.

That’s right, the Saudi army is packed full of Yemeni cannon fodder, which helps explains its ignominious failure in its war with Yemen’s Houthi’s in 2009.

Does anyone really believe that the Yemeni soldiers for hire in the Saudi army are going to willingly, never mind effectively, invade their own country, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, all the while killing, and being killed by, their Yemeni brothers and sisters?

This may explain the reluctance of the Saudi leadership to launch their promised invasion, especially while the Houthi militia’s are still an effective fighting force on the ground.

Supposedly Egypt is going to send its army to help invade Yemen, never mind Yemen being the graveyard for thousands of Egyptian soldiers in what the late President Nasser called “Egypt’s Vietnam” in the early-mid 1960’s.

The Egyptian army is made up of mostly illiterate conscripts dragooned from the poorest sectors of Egyptian society and has been particularly inept at suppressing the vicious insurgency being waged again President Al Sisi’s regime in the Sinai. If the Egyptian army can’t even control its own territory it certainly doesn’t bode well for any foreign misadventures it may undertake.

Of course, it takes time to prepare the logistics needed to send a large fighting force to invade another country, so Egyptian boots on the ground in Yemen may yet happen, but don’t hold your breath.

If Yemeni artillery and rockets start blasting shipping of the “Saudi led coalition,” a demand being expressed by massive Yemeni demonstrations, Egypt wont have much choice. The “Bab al Mandeb” (so aptly named “the gate of tears”) is so narrow that all shipping traveling through this strategic choke point between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea have to pass well within range of even light artillery. President Al Sisi has already raised the alarm of the danger if such a disaster should strike, though preventing such is easier said than done.

And all the while starvation spreads through out Yemen, a country already one of the hungriest in the world. Yemen is one of the most food aid dependent countries on the planet, importing by some accounts up to 90% of its food.

The Saudi leadership must figure if they can’t defeat the Yemeni resistance with their air power they will cut off all food supplies and wait for starvation to bring Yemen to its knees?

To help hurry this process up Saudi war planes have already begun bombing major grain depots in Yemen, as all the while the “Saudi led coalition” has prevented all but the equivalent of a couple of truck loads of supplies flown in by the Red Cross. A couple of truck loads to feed a food aid dependent country of almost 25 million in the midst of a barbaric air bombardment?

As the Saudi air force continues to terrorize the Yemeni population with bombs marked “made in the USA” and malnutrition turns to outright starvation, the immediate future for the people of Yemen grows darker by the day.

One thing is certain and that is our world operates under “the rule of law” – the law of the jungle, that is, and any crime, including imposing mass starvation will only be met with acquiescence, if not assistance, as Saudi Arabia’s mercenary army continues its aerial onslaught and enforced starvation against the people of Yemen.

April 15, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

U.S. Citizen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Opposing Egyptian Government

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Mohamed Soltan, on hunger strike, gets kiss from his father (photo: Twitter)
By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | April 15, 2015

An American citizen could wind up spending the rest of his life in an Egyptian prison for protesting against the government two years ago.

Mohamed Soltan was arrested in 2013 during demonstrations in Cairo that arose after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptian-American was among more than 35 other defendants who received the same sentence. Still others, including Soltan’s father, Salah Soltan, were sentenced to death by the Egyptian court. Soltan’s family intends to appeal.

“The verdict is the latest in a long series of similarly harsh sentences handed down at mass trials of dozens or hundreds of defendants accused of participating in violent protests or riots in the aftermath of the military takeover, often based on only police testimony or cursory evidence,” according to The New York Times.

Soltan was working as a translator for journalists covering the protests and was shot in the arm during a demonstration on August 14, 2013. He was arrested at his home a few days later and has been jailed since, according to the Times. For the past year, he has been on a hunger strike to protest his arrest and detention.

Thousands of Egyptians are still in prison without being tried for opposing the military-backed government, which has been accused of vast human rights abuses.

The verdict also comes at a bad time for President Barack Obama who only last week authorized the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Egypt despite the lack of democratic reforms on the part of officials in Cairo.

To Learn More:

American Among Nearly 40 Sentenced to Life in Prison for Egypt Protests (by David Kirkpatrick and Jared Malsin, New York Times )

Ohio State Alumnus Receives Life Sentence in an Egyptian Prison (by Rubina Kapi, The Lantern )

Mohamed Soltan, 36 Others Imprisoned for Life (by Aya Nader, Daily News Egypt)

The Life and Imprisonment of ‘Terrorist’ Mohamed Soltan (by Aya Nader, Daily News Egypt)

Obama Approves Weapons for Egyptian Tyrant (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov )

6 Major Corporations that Profit from U.S. Aid to the Egyptian Military (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov )

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

US Increases Intelligence-Sharing With Saudi Arabia Over Yemen Strikes

By Nadia Prupis | Common Dreams | April 11, 2015

The U.S. is once again increasing its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom expand its air campaign in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.

“We have opened up the aperture a bit wider with what we are sharing with our Saudi partners,” one official said. “We are helping them get a better sense of the battlefield and the state of play with the Houthi forces.”

The Saudi military began its aerial assault on Yemen in late March in coordination with 10 other Gulf Arab allies, as well as the U.S., when civil unrest between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels threatened to boil over. Weeks of relentless bombings and air strikes have contributed to what the Red Cross called a “catastrophic” situation in Yemen, with civilian deaths already in the hundreds and food and water shortages worsening.

The U.S. has backed the Saudi air strikes in Yemen since they began, with the White House authorizing “logistical and intelligence support” the day after the operation was confirmed from the ground in Sana’a.

However, Washington’s role in the fight increased significantly over the following weeks. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Tuesday that the administration had “expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center.”

That move came despite warnings from international aid groups that the operation, which is also supported by Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, has brought war to “every street and every corner” in Yemen.

The White House and the Pentagon would not comment on the specifics of the increased intelligence-sharing on Friday, Reuters reports. In addition to intelligence-sharing, the U.S. also began daily air-to-air refueling flights of Saudi and U.A.E. fighter jets.

As Common Dreams reported on Friday, the coalition is also blocking nearly all food and medical aid from entering Yemen.

At the same time as the U.S. announced its intelligence-sharing plans, the UN warned that the heavily targeted southern city of Aden was in danger of completely running out of water “within a matter of days.”

April 13, 2015 Posted by | "Hope and Change", War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

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