Archive for July 5, 2013

July 3, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey, July 3 (UPI) — The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it expected its international counterparts to sign onto the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty.

The U.N. General Assembly approved the international treaty on the global arms trade in April. The measure, which followed several years of diplomatic maneuvering, is aimed at preventing the spread of weapons.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said in a statement Wednesday its signature was added to the treaty by Turkish Ambassador to the United Nations Halit Cevik.

“For a speedy entry into force and eventual universalization, we expect all states to sign the treaty and complete their national ratification procedures as soon as possible,” the ministry said in a statement.

More than 60 countries formally signed the treaty. It bans governments from transferring conventional weapons to other countries known to be engaged in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The United States wasn’t among those signing the treaty. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the government would likely join the measure later this year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his support for the measure though the White House said there were minor issues stemming from the treaty’s translation.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


July 04, 2013

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A lawyer says an Istanbul court has annulled a government-backed redevelopment project that ignited widespread protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule last month.

However, lawyer Can Atalay said Thursday that the court’s June decision is not final and is expected to be appealed at a higher administrative court. Atalay filed the lawsuit against the plans on behalf of a chamber of architects.

The demonstrations were sparked May 31 by a brutal police crackdown on an environmental sit-in against plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks at a park next to Istanbul’s landmark Taksim Square and morphed into an unprecedented challenge against Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government.

In a concession to protesters, Erdogan promise to suspend redevelopment plans pending court rulings and a referendum.

July 03, 2013

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Soldiers, police and volunteers fanned out across an earthquake-damaged region of western Indonesia on Wednesday, scouring the debris of fallen homes and landslides for possible victims of a temblor that killed at least 22 people and injured hundreds.

The magnitude-6.1 quake struck Tuesday afternoon at a depth of just 10 kilometers (6 miles) and was centered on the far western tip of Sumatra island in Aceh province. Twelve people were killed and 70 others were injured by a landslide or collapsing buildings in Bener Meriah district, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. He added Wednesday that the number of houses and buildings damaged in the district is still being counted.

In neighboring Central Aceh district, 10 people were killed, 140 were injured and about 1,500 houses and buildings were damaged, Nugroho said. The quake also triggered landslides and caused hundreds of people to be evacuated to 10 temporary shelters.

Rescuers and other assistance teams have arrived in Bener Meriah, while the air force have dispatched a helicopter and a CN-235 aircraft to the region, Nugroho said. “We are now concentrating on searching for people who may be trapped under the rubble,” said Rusli M. Saleh, the deputy district chief of Bener Meriah.

He said at least 25 of the injured in his district were hospitalized in intensive care. As the quake hit, villagers in the area ran out of their homes in panic and screamed for help. “I see many houses were damaged and their roofs fell onto some people,” Bensu Elianita, a 22-year-old resident of Bukit Sama village in Central Aceh district, said shortly after the quake hit. “Many people were injured, but it is difficult to evacuate them due to traffic jams.”

The quake also caused concern among officials attending a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Medan, the capital of neighboring North Sumatra province. They were escorted from the second-floor meeting room by security officers.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Ocean. In 2004, a magnitude-9.1 earthquake off Aceh triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 14 countries.


Foreign ministers from African Union Security Council member states gathered on Saturday (June 29th) in Algiers for a meeting on national reconciliation and development, APS reported.

Representatives of the United Nations, the EU, and the Arab League attended the event, as well as top-level AU officials. The participants underlined the importance of the national reconciliation in the resolving of the conflicts in Africa and for the fight against terrorism and the organized crime.

Source: Magharebia.


July 3, 2013

BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 3 (UPI) — Most of the government critics sentenced to jail in the United Arab Emirates were isolated from legal counsel for nearly a year, Human Rights Watch said.

A high court in the United Arab Emirates convicted 69 people of plotting to overthrow the government. A report from Amnesty International released Tuesday said it appeared the convictions were politically motivated. The prosecution of suspected al-Qaida members in April sparked similar criticism.

Human Rights Watch said Wednesday nearly all of the accused were held in isolation at undisclosed locations for more than a year. Deputy director of Middle East programs Joe Stork said the convictions are a low point for the Emirati government.

“These unfair verdicts and the U.A.E.’s efforts to shut down criticism should be a wake-up call to U.A.E.’s international allies,” he said in a statement from Beirut.

Prison sentences for the defendants ranged from seven to 15 years. Human Rights Watch said most of them were likely targeted for their affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative Sunni political organization.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


July 04, 2013

TUNIS: Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings, criticized Thursday the Egyptian army’s removal of elected president Mohammad Mursi as “a coup against legitimacy” and urged Cairo to guarantee his safety.

Mursi rose to power after autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 uprising inspired by the popular revolt against dictatorship in Tunisia a few weeks before. Moderate Islamists were subsequently elected to govern Tunisia.

“Military intervention is totally unacceptable and we call on Egypt to ensure that Mursi is physically protected,” President Moncef Marzouki said.

“We view what is happening in Egypt with concern – the arrests of journalists and politicians.”

Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda party denounced also what it called a “coup against legitimacy” in Egypt.

“Ennahda rejects what happened and believes legitimacy is represented by President Mursi and no one else,” Ennahda said in a statement.

It said it feared “this coup will fuel violence and extremism” and induce despair in the value of democracy.

Mursi was ousted after mass protests exceeding the size of those that toppled Mubarak.

Critics said Mursi fell because his Muslim Brotherhood, despite a limited electoral mandate, focused on seizing total control of the state rather than tackling myriad problems of economic breakdown and poor governance.

At a joint news conference with Marzouki, visiting French President Francois Hollande declined to speak of a coup in Egypt, saying merely that “the democratic process has stopped and must return.”

“What going on here in Tunisia is a transition that is controlled and organized,” he said. “What is clear is there is also an obligation for you to succeed because you are an example, you give many people in the Arab world hope.”

The role of Islam has grown in Tunisian society and been enshrined in a new constitution since Ennahda’s election in 2011, but religious-secular divisions are seen as less severe and volatile than in Egypt.

Highlighting how Mursi’s ouster has influenced Tunisia, a movement called Tamarod has launched a petition to have Tunis’ National Assembly dissolved, one of its organizers said Thursday.

In Egypt, the grassroots movement Tamarod (Rebel) was the group that mobilized anti-Mursi protests.

“We don’t want any support from the political parties to protect our credibility,” Mohammad Bennour told AFP.

His comments came shortly after the head of the ruling Islamist party, Rached Ghannouchi, dismissed suggestions that the massive protests in Egypt might be repeated in Tunisia.

“We have taken a serious strategy based on consensus especially between the Islamist and modernist movements, which has saved our country from the risk of divisions,” Ghannouchi told the pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat.

But Bennour, who called himself a “rebel,” and said he was “employed in a business,” claimed that 180,000 signatures had been gathered in the past three days for the anti-government petition, “essentially by going from door to door around Tunisia.”

The claim could not be verified, but the group’s Facebook page has less than 4,500 members and the online petition has less than 10,000 signatures.

The National Assembly was elected in October 2011, months after the popular uprising that toppled veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and touched off Arab Spring revolutions across the region.

Tunisia has failed to adopt a new constitution, due to a lack of consensus among MPs, with the first reading of the draft charter Monday degenerating into chaos.

The National Assembly has also been repeatedly criticized for its inefficiency and the nonattendance of members.

Last March, Ennahda responded to pressure from the secular opposition and accepted the appointment of independent ministers to deflect accusations that it aimed to control all aspects of the state and stifle social freedoms.

Source: The Daily Star.



Several thousand members of the Union for Tunisia, a coalition of opposition parties led by Nidaa Tounes, gathered in front of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly on Saturday (June 29th) to protest the controversial political isolation law, RFI reported.

“No one has the right to deprive Tunisian citizens from exercising their civil rights. Tunisia is for all Tunisians,” AFP quoted Nidaa Tounes Secretary-General Taieb Baccouche as saying.

On Thursday, Tunisian lawmakers decided to postpone discussions and a final vote on the bill until after the debate on a new constitution, which begins Monday.

The president of the League for the Protection of the Revolution, Mounir Ajroud, vowed to sabotage the upcoming elections if the law was not passed.

Source: Magharebia.


July 05, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian official says the country’s border crossing with Gaza Strip in northern Sinai has been closed indefinitely, citing security concerns.

The decision comes hours after suspected Islamic militants attacked four sites in northern Sinai, targeting two military checkpoints, a police station and el-Arish airport, where military aircraft are stationed.

The military and security forces responded to the attacks. One soldier was killed and three were wounded. Gen. Sami el-Metwali said Rafah passage was shut down on Friday. He didn’t say when it would be reopened. Some 200 Palestinians were turned back to the Gaza Strip after the order.

The clashes came two days after the military’s ouster of President Islamist Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some Islamist elements have pledged to fight the military’s move.

July 05, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s military moved swiftly Thursday against senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, targeting the backbone of support for ousted President Mohammed Morsi. In the most dramatic step, authorities arrested the group’s revered leader from a seaside villa and flew him by helicopter to detention in the capital.

With a top judge newly sworn in as interim president to replace Morsi, the crackdown poses an immediate test to the new army-backed leadership’s promises to guide Egypt to democracy: The question of how to include the 83-year-old fundamentalist group.

That question has long been at the heart of democracy efforts in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak and previous authoritarian regimes banned the group, raising cries even from pro-reform Brotherhood critics that it must be allowed to participate if Egypt was to be free. After Mubarak’s fall, the newly legalized group vaulted to power in elections, with its veteran member Morsi becoming the country’s first freely elected president.

Now the group is reeling under a huge backlash from a public that says the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies abused their electoral mandate. The military forced Morsi out Wednesday after millions of Egyptians nationwide turned out in four days of protests demanding he be removed.

Adly Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constititonal Court, with which Morsi had repeated confrontations, was sworn in as interim president. In his inaugural speech, broadcast nationwide, he said the anti-Morsi protests that began June 30 had “corrected the path of the glorious revolution of Jan. 25,” referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak.

To cheers from his audience, he also praised the army, police, media and judiciary for standing against the Brotherhood. Islamists saw those institutions as full of Mubarak loyalists trying to thwart their rule.

Furious over what it calls a military coup against democracy, the Brotherhood said it would not work with the new leadership. It and harder-line Islamist allies called for a wave of protests Friday, dubbing it the “Friday of Rage,” vowing to escalate if the military does not back down.

There are widespread fears of Islamist violence in retaliation for Morsi’s ouster, and already some former militant extremists have vowed to fight. Suspected militants opened fire at four sites in northern Sinai, targeting two military checkpoints, a police station and el-Arish airport, where military aircraft are stationed, security officials said. The military and security responded to the attacks, and one soldier was killed and three were injured, according to security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Multiple officials of the Brotherhood firmly urged their followers to keep their protests peaceful. Thousands of Morsi supporters remained massed in front of a Cairo mosque where they have camped for days, with line of military armored vehicles across the road keeping watch.

“We declare our complete rejection of the military coup staged against the elected president and the will of the nation,” the Brotherhood said in a statement, read by senior cleric Abdel-Rahman el-Barr to the crowd outside the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo.

“We refuse to participate in any activities with the usurping authorities,” the statement said, urging Morsi supporters to remain peaceful. The Rabia al-Adawiya protesters planned to march Friday to the Ministry of Defense.

The Brotherhood denounced the crackdown, including the shutdown Wednesday night of its television channel, Misr25, its newspaper and three pro-Morsi Islamist TV stations. The military, it said, is returning Egypt to the practices of “the dark, repressive, dictatorial and corrupt ages.”

A military statement late Thursday appeared to signal a wider wave of arrests was not in the offing. A spokesman, Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, said in a Facebook posting that that the army and security forces will not take “any exceptional or arbitrary measures” against any political group.

The military has a “strong will to ensure national reconciliation, constructive justice and tolerance,” he wrote. He spoke against “gloating” and vengeance, saying only peaceful protests will be tolerated and urging Egyptians not to attack Brotherhood offices to avert an “endless cycle of revenge.”

The army’s removal of Morsi sparked massive celebrations Wednesday night among the crowds of protesters around the country, with fireworks, dancing and blaring car horns lasting close to dawn. The constitution, which Islamists drafted and Morsi praised as the greatest in the world, has been suspended. Also, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, the Mubarak-era top prosecutor whom Morsi removed to much controversy, was reinstated to his post and immediately announced investigations against Brotherhood officials.

Many of the Brotherhood’s opponents want them prosecuted for what they say were crimes committed during Morsi’s rule, just as Mubarak was prosecuted for protester deaths during the 2011 uprising. In the past year, dozens were killed in clashes with Brotherhood supporters and with security forces.

But the swift moves raise perceptions of a revenge campaign against the Brotherhood. The National Salvation Front, the top opposition political group during Morsi’s presidency and a key member of the coalition that worked with the military in his removal, criticized the moves, saying, “We totally reject excluding any party, particularly political Islamic groups.”

The Front has proposed one of its top leaders, Mohammed ElBaradei, to become prime minister of the interim Cabinet, a post that will hold strong powers since Mansour’s presidency post is considered symbolic. ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate who once headed the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, is considered Egypt’s top reform advocate.

“Reconciliation is the name of the game, including the Muslim Brotherhood. We need to be inclusive,” Munir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, a leading member of the group, told The Associated Press. “The detentions are a mistake.”

He said the arrests appeared to be prompted by security officials’ fears over possible calls for violence by Brotherhood leaders. There may be complaints against certain individuals in the Brotherhood “but they don’t justify the detention,” he said, predicting they will be released in the coming days.

Abdel-Nour said the Front intends to ensure the military has no role in politics. He added that the Front is hoping for the backing of ultraconservative Salafis for ElBaradei’s bid for prime minister. Some Salafi factions have sided with the new leadership. He noted that the constitution was not outright canceled, in a gesture to Salafis.

Morsi has been under detention in an unknown location since Wednesday night, and at least a dozen of his top aides and advisers have been under what is described as “house arrest,” though their locations are also unknown.

Besides the Brotherhood’s top leader, General Guide Mohammed Badie, security officials have also arrested his predecessor, Mahdi Akef, and one of his two deputies, Rashad Bayoumi, as well as Saad el-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and ultraconservative Salafi figure Hazem Abu Ismail, who has a considerable street following.

Authorities have also issued a wanted list for more than 200 Brotherhood members and leaders of other Islamist groups. Among them is Khairat el-Shater, another deputy of the general guide who is widely considered the most powerful figure in the Brotherhood.

The arrest of Badie was a dramatic step, since even Mubarak and his predecessors had been reluctant to move against the group’s top leader. The ranks of Brotherhood members across the country swear a strict oath of unquestioning allegiance to the general guide, vowing to “hear and obey.” It has been decades since any Brotherhood general guide was put in a prison.

Badie and el-Shater were widely believed by the opposition to be the real power in Egypt during Morsi’s tenure. Badie was arrested late Wednesday from a villa where he had been staying in the Mediterranean coastal city of Marsa Matrouh and flown by helicopter to Cairo, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk the press.

Mahmoud, the top prosecutor, said he was opening investigations into the killings of protesters during Morsi’s rule. He ordered el-Katatni and Bayoumi questioned on allegations of instigating violence and killings, and put travel bans on 36 others, a sign they too could face prosecution. He also took steps toward releasing a prominent activist detained for insulting Morsi.

Mansour, the 67-year-old interim president, is a Mubarak appointee like nearly every judge. He had been the deputy head of the court for more than 20 years. He was elevated to the chief justice position only three days ago, when his predecessor reached mandatory retirement age.

Mansour was among the judges who ruled against a political isolation law in 2012 that would have barred many Mubarak-era officials from politics. As a result, Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, was able to run against Morsi.

In his speech, Mansour said the massive street demonstrations “brought together everyone without discrimination or division,” and were an “expression of the nation’s conscience and an embodiment of its hopes and ambitions.”

But he made no sign of outreach to the Brotherhood in his address. He suggested Morsi’s election had been tainted, saying, “I look forward to parliamentary and presidential elections held with the genuine and authentic will of the people.”

The revolution, he said, must continue so “we stop producing tyrants.”

By Noah Browning and Nidal al-Mughrabi

RAMALLAH/GAZA | Thu Jul 4, 2013

(Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised Egypt’s military on Thursday for toppling President Mohamed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological ally of Abbas’s Hamas rivals.

The fall of Mursi’s government deprived Hamas of a sympathetic neighbor, and may strengthen Abbas’s chances of nudging Hamas toward a long-delayed reconciliation and power-sharing pact.

By intervening to remove Mursi, the Egyptian army had prevented Egypt’s “slide toward an unknown fate”, Abbas said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top official in the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Abbas, said: “This is a historic day for Egypt, and we are learning a lesson from the Egyptian example. Hamas should take note of what popular will can achieve.”

Palestinians are riven by political and cultural splits that mirror Egypt’s. A Hamas victory in 2006 parliamentary polls led to a short civil war which left the Islamists ruling Gaza, while Abbas’s Fatah faction holds sway in the West Bank.

Hamas officials largely shunned the media on Thursday, and the movement took no position on the sudden removal of Mursi.

“We pray to God to preserve the security and the stability of Egypt and its people and to prevent bloodshed,” a Hamas spokesman, Ehab Ghussein, told Reuters.

The group had seen its star rise in the Arab world following a tide of uprisings in 2011 that swept religious-inspired governments to power in Tunisia and Egypt.

The leader of influential oil-rich Gulf state Qatar, a major backer of both the Brotherhood and Hamas, visited Gaza in October bearing hefty aid gifts. Egypt’s prime minister, along with an Arab League delegation, came to the territory last November, even as Hamas and Israel fought an eight-day war.


Hamas’s muted response may signal its caution at upsetting an Egyptian military that controls Gaza border lifelines.

“It would be wrong to say relations won’t be affected. Relations could become cold for a period,” said Hamas official Mustafa Assawaf, who stressed he was speaking as a political analyst about future ties with Egypt’s new government.

Hamas leaders and supporters greeted Mursi’s election last year with delight, believing his leadership would usher in the beginning of the end of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and a near-total international diplomatic quarantine.

But the Brotherhood, buffeted by Egypt’s internal storms and exercising little authority over the security forces, furnished Hamas with few concrete advantages.

In recent weeks, Egypt’s army, citing security concerns as it confronts Islamist militants in the Sinai desert, has stepped up a crackdown on border tunnels with Gaza through which food, fuel and weapons are smuggled.

The campaign has dismayed Hamas and pushed up prices in the impoverished coastal enclave.

Gaza residents say that dozens of Egyptian troops have reinforced the border areas since mass protests calling for Mursi’s ouster began on June 30. The army also controls the Rafah border terminal, Gaza’s main link to the outside world.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Source: Reuters.