Tag Archives: Interior ministry

Egypt arrests Al-Jazeera TV’s 4-member crew

 

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Interior Ministry says security forces have arrested journalists working for the Qatari-based Al-Jazeera network over alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, the leading Islamist group that was last week branded as a “terrorist” organization.

The network said Monday that four of its Cairo team – correspondent Peter Greste, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy – are in custody since Sunday night.

Al-Jazeera says it’s demanding their immediate release.

The ministry says only two Al-Jazeera staff were arrested, an Australian journalist and a second person, a Brotherhood member. It says they were meeting at a five-star Cairo hotel that is used to “spread rumors harming national security.”

Egypt’s military-backed government has long accused Al-Jazeera of bias because Qatar is perceived to have supported the Brotherhood.

 

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Could Ahmadinejad End Up Under House Arrest?

By: Meir Javedanfar for Al-Monitor

Until recently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behaved like a boxer who always knew that in fights against his rivals, the referee (i.e., the Iranian supreme leader) would back him. And he was right. The referee, who clearly favored him, was willing to overlook many things in his favor. In some cases, he also helped him, overtly and covertly. As Khamenei is Iran’s most powerful authority, there was little that Ahmadinejad’s rivals could do. Those days are gone.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Blood-Red Liars Pact

Ahmadinejad has six weeks left in office — six weeks in the highest

political office he has ever held and is likely ever to hold in his

entire political life. What’s worse for him, however, is that his rivals

know that the supreme leader will no longer be willing to throw fights

his way, so they are going after him, verbally and politically. Until

Ahmadinejad leaves office, the pent up anger felt by his rivals

for the last eight years will continue to manifest itself in blows

against him, and things could get much worse after he leaves office. At

that point, the attacks could become more frequent and more merciless.

Ahmadinejad has two options: to defend himself now, with all his might,

to try to deter his rivals from attacking him after he leaves office or

to hold his fire until after he steps down. Both options have

advantages and disadvantages.

Going after his rivals while in office might deter them from future

attacks, but it could also anger the supreme leader, as elections are a

sensitive time for him. This would translate into even less support from

Khamenei once he leaves office. By holding fire until after his term,

Ahmadinejad will have much less power and influence at his disposal.

Lack of action might also be interpreted as a sign of weakness by his

rivals. This is, indeed, a dilemma.

For now, Ahmadinejad seems to be taking the option to ward off his

rivals. This has included threatening to reveal their corrupt dealings

and practices and in one case following through on his threat. The

latter took place in early February, when Ahmadinejad aired tapes showing the brother of his rival Ali Larijani asking for bribes. There were also reports by the Iranian website BAZTAB that Ahmadinejad had taped evidence of cheating during the 2009 elections (oddly enough in his favor). The article that published this report was soon removed, and Ahmadinejad’s office denied the story.

Now Ahmadinejad is taking the battle to the next stage: the elections

process. For years, the Interior Ministry has been in charge of

overseeing elections. Although the interior minister is typically

considered close to the supreme leader, the president, nevertheless, has

some influence in the all-important ministry.

Worried about Ahmadinejad using his influence over the Interior Ministry to promote his right-hand man, Esfandiyar Rahim Mashaei, the Iranian parliament passed a new law for the supervision of elections,

and the Council of Guardians approved it in January this year.

According to the law, in supervising elections, the Interior Ministry

will act as part of an Elections Central Executive Committee, which will

include the minister of intelligence, head of the country’s judiciary,

and an appointee from the Majles. All the involved institutions are

staunchly pro-Khamenei, and in fact, the intelligence minister and the

country’s top judge are his appointees. Meanwhile, the interior minister

has to nominate 30 religious, political, cultural and society

personalities to the oversight committee of the Council of Guardians so

that they can be vetted and seven of them appointed to the Elections

Central Executive Committee.

Ahmadinejad saw the new law as a challenge to him by his rivals. To

retaliate, he has held off nominating the 30 people to the Council of

Guardians committee, although it was requested that he do so in

mid-February. This response has raised the ire of Ahmadinejad’s rivals

so much so that he is being accused of playing “dangerous games” and warned that his behavior is “preparing for sedition before the elections.”

With six weeks before the presidential elections,

Ahmadinejad seems to be trying to use the electoral process and his

remaining influence over it to show his teeth. By doing so, he is also

hoping to send a warning to his rivals. He also seems to be using his

influence as political leverage to improve Meshai’s chances of being

approved by the Council of Guardians, should he decide to run.

This is a gamble. Should Ahmadinejad continue to drag his feet,

Khamenei could simply appoint seven people himself. Judging by the

reported cheating in the 2009 elections, fairness and procedure are not

exactly the supreme leader’s priorities.

Jews protesting against the speech of the Iran...

If such a scenario were to unfold, Ahmadinejad might feel cornered and

even more threatened, thus forcing him to react. This could include

revealing more secrets about regime officials, which would lead to even

more infighting and instability while damaging the legitimacy of the

entire regime. If so, soon after the elections, Ahmadinejad would find

himself pursued and possibly under house arrest. This scenario cannot be

dismissed, given the sensitivity Khamenei has recently shown to those

seen as destablizing elements. More important, the supreme leader needs

to show that he will not stand by while his government officials spy on

each other and use intelligence material to settle scores.

Regardless of what happens, upon leaving office, Ahmadinejad will join

the three-member club of former presidents who served under Khamenei and

then fell out of his favor. Whether Ahmadinejad will be the first

member of the club to serve part of his retirement under house arrest

depends on him.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst. He teaches contemporary Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

Saudi Arabia jails two prominent rights activists for 10 years

 

(Reuters) – A Saudi Arabian court sentenced two prominent political and human rights activists on Saturday to at least 10 years in prison for offences that included sedition and giving inaccurate information to foreign media.

Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah Hamad are founding members of the banned Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, known as Acpra, that documents human rights abuses and has called for a constitutional monarchy and elections.

Riyadh, Washington’s main Gulf ally, does not allow protests, political parties and trade unions. Most power is wielded by senior members of the ruling family and clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam.

The case has drawn attention from international rights groups, which accuse the conservative Islamic kingdom of using its campaign against religious militants to stomp on political dissent.

Saudi Arabia has denied that charge and says it does not practice torture and has no political prisoners.

In an interview with Reuters in January, Qahtani said he anticipated being sent to prison and described a sentence of five years or more as “heavy”.

Last year, Acpra issued a statement demanding that King Abdullah sack his heir and interior minister, Crown Prince Nayef, who they held responsible for rights abuses. Nayef died shortly afterwards.

SENTENCE

Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years. Hamad was told he must complete the remaining six years of a previous jail term for his political activities and serve an additional five years. They will remain in detention until a judge rules on their appeal next month.

Acpra will also be disbanded and its funds confiscated, the judge ruled. Last year a court in Jeddah sentenced Acpra member Mohammad al-Bajadi to four years in prison. Another of the group’s founders, Abdulkarim al-Khathar is on trial in Buraidah.

Unlike in most previous cases, the trial of Qahtani and Hamad was opened to the press and public, in what Saudi activists had described as a step forward for rights even as they decried the verdict.

More than 100 people attended the hearing on Saturday morning, mostly supporters and relatives of the defendants. More than 20 security officers with truncheons hanging from their belts were also present in the room, prompting a protest from the defendents’ lawyer.

After the verdict, the police cleared the public from the court room as supporters of Qahtani and Hamad shouted that the trial was politically motivated.

On Thursday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that activists, whom he did not name, had tried to stir up protests in the world’s top oil exporting country by spreading “false information” on social media.

The only unrest to hit Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring wave of popular uprisings was among its Shi’ite Muslim minority. But there have also been small demonstrations by Sunni Muslims calling for the release of people held on security charges.

Qahtani said in January he had never been to prison but thought he was “psychologically ready” for it, and that his family, who are in the United States where his wife is attending university, were also prepared.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)