Daily Archives: June 24, 2014

Yes, Mr Kerry it’s “chilling and draconian” – Guantanamo 345 : Sami Al Hajj

By : Khaled Abdel Aziz

Commenting on the verdict on three journalists from Al Jazeera “false news” The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the verdict is  “chilling and draconian.”

Judgment on journalists of Al Jazeera by a court and judges .. for publishing false and fabricated news  in trying to demolish the Egyptian state is “chilling and draconian.”, but  held a  journalist from the same Al Jazeera for six years without charge or trial in Guantanamo with all kinds of torture, ..of course, is democratic, .. American democratic ..

Mr. Kerry Let me introduce prisoner 345 to you ..

ISN_345's Guantanamo detainee assessment.

ISN_345’s Guantanamo detainee assessment.

Sami Al Hajj is a Sudanese journalist for the Al Jazeera network.

was arrested in Pakistan on December 15, 2001. He was on his way to work in Afghanistan as a cameraman for Al Jazeera and had a legitimate visa.

The U.S. military held him as an “enemy combatant” in the United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camp in Cuba for over six years without charge

with Guantanamo Internment Serial Number 345, and was the only journalist to be held in Guantanamo.

He was released without charge on May 1, 2008.

According to British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith Stafford Smith, who visited him in 2005. Al Hajj had “endured horrendous abuse – he was repeatedly beaten and tortured in Guantánamo,He was attacked by dogs. He was hooded. He was hung from the ceiling. He was prevented from sleeping for days.

Interrogators questioned him more than a hundred times.

sexual abuse and religious persecution” and that he had been beaten, leaving a “huge scar” on his face.

Stafford Smith also said that Al Hajj had witnessed “the Quran being flushed down the toilet by US soldiers in Afghanistan” and “expletives being written on the Muslim holy book”.

Mr. Kerry .. please Shut your mouth 

Notice – Mr. Kerry .. kept aid for yourselves .. We know you are on close to bankruptcy

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President El-Sissi refuses pardon for Al-Jazeera”False news” journalists

al-jazeera-egypt-trial

CAIRO –  Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday he will not interfere in court rulings, rebuffing calls from the United States and other Western governments that he pardon or commute the sentences of three Al-Jazeera journalists handed heavy prison terms a day earlier.

The White House said the ruling “flouts the most basic standards of media freedom” and was a “blow to democratic progress.” It called on el-Sissi to intervene to bring about the immediate release of the three — Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed.

Australia and other governments have also urged el-Sissi to do so for the three journalists, whose families have said they will appeal. Appeals could take months, and the three are likely to remain in prison during the process.

In a televised address to graduating military cadets, el-Sissi said, “We will not interfere in court verdicts” — repeating the phrase twice in his speech to drive home the point.

He said he spoke to the justice minister Monday evening and “I told him one word: We will not interfere in judicial matters because the Egyptian judiciary is an independent and exalted judiciary.”

“If we desire (strong) state institutions, we must respect court rulings and not comment on them even if others don’t understand these rulings,” he said.

Under the constitution, the president has the power to issue a pardon or commute the sentences.

Prosecutors accused the three journalists of promoting or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and of falsifying their coverage of protests to hurt Egypt’s security and make it appear the country is sliding into civil war. The government has branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

The snub to the United States was sharper because only a day before the rulings, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with el-Sissi and said he had a shown a commitment to reviewing the judiciary and Egypt’s human rights laws. Kerry later denounced the verdict as “chilling and draconian.”

Read : Yes Kerry it’s “chilling and draconian” – Guantanamo 345 : Sami Al Hajj

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement, rejecting foreign interference. Egyptian media Tuesday trumpeted the government’s defiance. A front-page headline on the daily El-Tahrir newspaper portrayed the court as standing up to what it called an attempt by Kerry to sway the verdict during his visit to Egypt.

 

Congress sets up fight over aid to Egypt

United States Secretary of State John Kerry (L) greets chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger R-Tx. (R) before testifying at the House Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Mar. 12, 2014.

House and Senate appropriators have taken sharply differing tacks regarding Egypt, setting up a cross-party battle on the future of US assistance.The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote June 24 on an aid package that maintains military aid at current levels while giving the administration new powers to continue aid flows even in the case of a military coup. The equivalent Senate panel meanwhile voted last week to cut military aid by $300 million while creating new hurdles for the administration.

The sentencing of three journalists to lengthy prison terms on June 23 however is prompting soul-searching on the House side.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is expected to offer an amendment on June 24 that would cut and restructure American aid to Egypt — slicing nearly a third from the security assistance package that is currently the centerpiece of that aid and putting much of the savings into economic assistance, including enhanced support for education, democracy and civil society programs, assistance for independent media and targeted aid for the Sinai peninsula.

“The conviction of the Al Jazeera English journalists is one of a string of disturbing signs that Egypt is not undergoing the hoped-for and promised reforms, and is backsliding towards a reprise of the Mubarak era — when Islamists were repressed and secular opponents crushed underfoot,” Schiff said in an e-mailed statement. “Egypt is too important to the region and to the world for the United States to stand idly by. The amendment I will offer tomorrow will give Egypt the incentives it apparently needs to return to the democratic path.”

The division cuts across party lines, pitting powerful Senate Democrats and Republicans who control the government’s purse strings against their counterparts in the House. The fight is only expected to intensify after the State Department announced over the weekend that Congress had released $575 million in previously blocked military aid after the chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel on State and Foreign Operations, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., lifted his hold.

“The Congress has an important role in the provision of U.S. aid to foreign governments, and we consult regularly with the Administration,” Leahy told Al-Monitor in an e-mail. “Withholding military aid to the Egyptian regime has let its leaders know that repressive actions and abuses of human rights and the rule of law are deeply concerning to the American people, and to many in Congress. The harsh actions taken today against journalists is the latest descent toward despotism. Through discussions with Secretary Kerry and others over recent weeks I agreed to the release of the bulk of these funds for sustainment purposes, but further aid should be withheld until they demonstrate a basic commitment to justice and human rights.”

House Appropriators on the State and Foreign Operations panel, led by chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, and ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., have taken a softer approach. While their bill cuts economic assistance by $50 million — down to $200 million — it keeps military assistance flat at $1.3 billion while allowing the State Department leeway to continue aid to countries that undergo military coups.

The House bill would amend a provision known as the “coup clause” that is supposed to freeze direct assistance to any country whose “duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or … in which the military plays a decisive role.” After the administration decided to ignore the law after President Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power last July, the new House bill would require the Secretary of State to make such a determination in the future; but it also adds language, requested by the State Department, that allows aid to continue to flow if the Secretary of State determines and certifies to Congress “that provision of assistance is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

“In our view this additional ‘national security interest’ language essentially amounts to giving the administration a waiver on applying the law, which we view as disastrous,” Cole Bockenfeld, the director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), told Al-Monitor. “I believe this idea comes from the Egypt aid debacle of 2013, i.e. the admin was seeking a legislative loophole to not apply the law because they didn’t want to.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., sought to amend the coup language in legislation that cleared the panel on a 16-1 vote in December. But the Leahy would have none of it and the language didn’t make it into the omnibus spending bill for FY2014 that passed in January.

The new Senate bill retains the coup restrictions, and adds new restrictions on how much aid can flow to Egypt. Apparently upset by Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt back in April to release $650 million — a full half of the $1.3 billion in military aid for FY2014 — in the name of counterterrorism, nonproliferation and border security, the new bill spells out that only $300 million can be released for those purposes in FY2015.

The Senate bill also divides the total military and economic aid for FY2015 into two $575.5 million tranches, the first of which can only be released after the Egyptian government meets a series of human rights benchmarks. The second tranche would be released if Egypt meets those standards for at least six months.

The conditions include: holding free and fair elections and “implementing policies to govern democratically;” releasing American citizens deemed to be political prisoners and dropping the charges against them; allowing US officials, journalists and advocates access to the Sinai; releasing journalists and people arrested “solely for membership in social or political organizations;” providing detainees with due process of law; adopting and implementing laws regarding freedom of expression, association and assembly; investigating abuses by security forces; and taking steps to protect the rights of women and religious minorities.

al-monitor

Jordan bolsters defense on Iraq border

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

A member of the Iraqi security forces takes position during a patrol looking for militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, June 23, 2014.

Reuters – Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Jordan beefed up its border defenses with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province and appeared to have also taken control of the only land crossing with its large eastern neighbor, officials and witnesses said.

Two officials said the border crossing almost 575 km (357 miles) from the Iraqi capital and nearly 320 km (199 miles) from Amman was effectively closed after Sunni gunmen took control of the crossing.

A Jordanian minister earlier told Reuters traffic had halted and there were signs of chaos at the crossing that serves as a major artery for passenger and trade flows between the two countries.

“The last traffic was around 7:30 pm (1630 GMT) and border officials are saying the situation is not normal on the other side of the border,” Minister of State for Media and Communication Mohammad al-Momani said.

Earlier, Iraqi Sunni gunmen had seized control of the town of Rutba, just 90 miles (145 km) east of the border with Jordan.

An army source confirmed that army units had been put in a state of alert in recent days along the 181-km (112-mile) border with Iraq, redeploying in some areas as part of steps to ward off “any potential or perceived security threats”.

Truck drivers who arrived in Jordan before traffic halted after crossing the border said Sunni tribal militants were now running and manning checkpoints along large stretches of the Baghad-Amman highway that runs through the crossing.

A security source who requested anonymity said the border crossing on the Iraqi side had fallen earlier in the day to local Sunni tribal gunmen who permitted customs officials to continue to run it administratively until later on Sunday.

U.S. ally Jordan was expected to formally close the border to traffic as soon as the Iraqi government formally announces its loss of control over the crucial trade and passenger crossing, he added.

On Sunday, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own caliphate straddling both countries.

ISIL thrust east from a newly captured Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday, taking three towns in Iraq’s western Anbar province after seizing the frontier crossing near the town of Qaim on Saturday, witnesses and security sources said. They seized a second, al-Waleed, on Sunday. The gains have helped ISIL secure supply lines to Syria, where it has exploited the chaos of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to seize territory.

The loss of the Iraqi border crossing with Jordan was not seen as an immediate security threat to the kingdom although some were unnerved by the prospect of al Qaeda-affiliated groups along the border with Iraq, another official said.

It was difficult to see security-conscious Jordan, which has almost cut off any flow of militants across its heavily sealed northern border with Syria, allowing itself to become a launching pad or supply route for Islamist jihadists into Iraq, he added.

Jordan, grappling with the mounting impact of the grinding conflict in neighboring Syria, is one of the closest U.S. allies in the Middle

Explosion shakes Lebanese capital Beirut

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A blast at a Lebanese military checkpoint shook the capital Beirut on Monday, wounding at least five people, Al Arabiya correspondent Adnan Gamloush reported.

The blast occurred when a suicide bomber blew up his car near the checkpoint, killing himself and damaging a nearby café, security sources and witnesses said.

Nineteen people, who were watching the World Cup in the café were wounded following the incident, according to Reuters news agency.

Television footage showed the blackened wreckage of a car, surrounded by damaged vehicles. Windows in nearby buildings were shattered by the blast, which occurred in an area of southern Beirut inhabited by supporters of the Shi’ite group Amal, an ally of the militant movement Hezbollah.

Play the above video to watch the latest footage from the explosion

The explosion, which happened shortly before midnight (2100 GMT), came just three days after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a police checkpoint in eastern Lebanon, killing a policeman and wounding several other people.

The car bomb went off near the Abu Assaf cafe, where people had gathered to watch the World Cup matches.

Lebanon has been hit by violence spilling over from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is fighting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels trying to topple him.

Security forces have been on high alert since a suicide bomber killed one person and wounded 37 near the Syrian border on Friday in an attack that narrowly missed a security official, according to Reuters.

One security source said before Monday night’s explosion that security forces were hunting for two potential suicide bombers in the Lebanese capital.

ISIS takes over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji – reports

A view of Baiji oil refinery, 180km (112 miles) north of Baghdad

Sunni militants have gained full control over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji, south of Mosul, according to media reports.

ISIS takes over Iraq’s main oil refinery at Baiji – reports

Radicals from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL) have been attacking the refinery, which is responsible for supplying a third of Iraq’s oil, for the past ten days.

The militants are planning to hand over the complex to local tribes for day-to-day management, BBC quoted a rebels’ spokesman as saying, adding that the militants will continue to make their way to Baghdad.

Al-Arabiya also reported that the refinery was taken over by Sunni militants. Meanwhile three Iraqi officials also confirmed to CNN the militants had seized the Baiji oil refinery.

The Baiji complex plays a key role for Iraqis as it refines the country’s crude into petroleum for domestic consumption, including for transportation and power stations, sparking fears of shortages.

On Monday, Sunni militants retook control over the northern city of Tal Afar and an airport. Tal Afar was first taken over on June 18, after the militants took Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

The ongoing offensive by the ISIS aims at achieving total dominance in Iraq by radical Sunni militants. On June 22, jihadists captured three new towns and two border crossings, one with Jordan and one with Syria.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Monday. He held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s foreign minister as well as Shiite and Sunni leaders.

“The key today was to get from each of the government leaders clarity with respect to the road forward in terms of government formation,” Kerry said.

The US’s help for Iraqi forces to defeat ISIS will be “intense and sustained,” Kerry said.

Kerry added that President Barack Obama is collecting all the required information in case he decides to order airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq, Kerry said in Baghdad on Monday.

“The President has moved the assets into place and has been gaining each day the assurances he needs with respect to potential targeting,” Kerry stated. Obama “has reserved the right to himself, as he should, to make a decision at any time.”

Earlier President Obama offered up to 300 additional American military personnel to go to Iraq and help coordinate the fight, while last week, F-18s started surveillance flights over Iraq as Washington authorized a “manned and unmanned” observation mission.