Syria
free-syria

Landmark verdict against Syrian ex-officer

A court in¬†Germany¬†convicted a former officer of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Eyad A., on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity‚ÄĒspecifically, torture and deprivation of liberty committed against 30 persons. Eyad received a sentence of four years and six months for his role in arresting people who were later tortured. The 30 persons, who were all civilians, had been participating in anti-government protests in Douma in 2011 when they were rounded up and sent¬†to Branch 251, or the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus. At Branch 251, they suffered grave physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. The verdict marks the first time that a court anywhere in the world has ruled on torture inflicted by the Syrian regime, and it sets the stage for the prosecution of high-ranking officers. The trial of the officer who headed Branch 251¬†is pending before the same court. (Photo of early Arab Revolution protest in Syria via Fightback)

Iran
Iran-Missiles

Can Iran nuclear deal be salvaged?

President Joe Biden’s pledge to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal is already deteriorating into a deadlock‚ÄĒa testament to the effectiveness of the Trump-era intrigues that sabotaged the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).¬†Biden and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei have each traded “You Go First” statements‚ÄĒthe White House demanding Tehran return to compliance with the JCPOA and¬†Khamenei insisting the US lift the sanctions that were re-imposed by Trump. There is indeed a case that the US, having abrogated the pact first, should now be the party to “blink” in the stand-off, and lift the sanctions as a good-faith measure. (Image via¬†Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East
Cumhuriyet

Turkey convicts newspaper editor on ‘terrorism’ charges

Can D√ľndar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found D√ľndar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. D√ľndar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey’s state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. D√ľndar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, D√ľndar fled the country while Turkish authorities ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts. He is now living in exile in Germany. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Rule of the Strongmen

In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump’s evident preparation for a coup d’etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.¬†Listen on SoundCloud¬†or via Patreon.¬†(Image via Macmillan)

Europe
NCRI

Belgium: Iranian diplomat on trial over bomb plot

Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and three Iranian-Belgians went on trial in Antwerp, Belgium, marking the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. The four are charged with planning an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. The NCRI is political wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Assadi served at Tehran’s embassy in Vienna and is believed to have been working for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. (Photo of 2018 rally in Paris via NCRI)

Syria
CJEU

Syrian draft-resister wins landmark asylum case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that foreign military draft evaders may be entitled to asylum in the EU. The court held that there is a “strong presumption” that people escaping military service under authoritarian regimes are entitled to asylum, if evasion is motivated by “political opinions, religious beliefs or…membership of a particular social group.” The case, concerning a Syrian national whose asylum claim was turned down by the German Federal Office for Migration & Refugees, has been remanded to an administrative court in Hannover, with instructions to follow the standards laid out in the CJEU ruling. (Image: CJEU)

Europe
Liebig34

One of Berlin’s last surviving squats evicted

Hundreds of demonstrators confronted riot police in central Berlin to protest the eviction of one of the city’s few remaining squats, a symbol of the German capital’s once-thriving alternative scene. Hundreds of police were mobilized to remove residents of the Liebig34 squat in the hip and gentrifying Friedrichshain district of the former East Berlin. The eviction itself went off peacefully‚ÄĒbut after dark, ranks of masked and black-clad protesters marched in a driving rain from the central Mitte shopping district with a banner: “Defend free spaces, remain on the offensive.” Shop windows were smashed and cars set ablaze. Police charges were met with barrages of pelted bottles. (Photo via¬†CrimethInc)

Europe
RKF Jr

RFK Jr joins neo-Nazis in Berlin protest

Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. “The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany’s Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany’s pandemic restrictions. The protest, which brought out many so-called “Corona-Truthers” who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative f√ľr Deutschland¬†and openly neo-Nazi¬†NPD. Some carried signs reading “Trump, please help,” and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism.” (Photo via¬†Daily Kos)

Iraq
Yazidis

First Yazidi genocide trial opens in Germany

The trial of an accused former high-ranking ISIS member charged with taking part in the genocide of the Yazidi people of northern Iraq opened in Frankfurt. The suspect, identified only as Taha al-J., is under indictment in the murder of a five-year-old girl who he had “purchased” along with her mother at a “slave market” in 2015. He faces charges under Germany’s Code of Crimes Against International Law, which extends “universal jurisdiction” for acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
refugees

EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo:¬†UNHCR/H.Holland)

Planet Watch
#QuedeteEnCasa

Worldwide police-state measures in face of COVID-19

With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary’s parliament voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orb√°n to rule by decree. The Russian parliament has approved an “anti-virus” package that includes¬†up to seven years imprisonment for serious violations of quarantine rules. Israel has joined South Korea in authorizing use of personal cellphone data to track the virus. Chilean President Sebastian Pi√Īera has declared a “state of catastrophe,” sending the military to public squares recently occupied by protesters. Military patrols are also enforcing the lockdown in Peru, Italy, Romania¬†and South Africa.¬†“We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close on the heels of a health epidemic,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights. (Photo: Peruvian army demonstration video, via YouTube)

Iraq
yazidi protest

Protest Turkish bombardment of Yazidi territory

The Turkish air force again carried out raids targeting the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia, in the autonomous Sinjar area of Iraq’s Ninevah province. Reports said at least four people were killed, including militia commander Zardasht Shingali. The YBS, aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), played a key role in liberating the Sinjar area from ISIS after the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. After the new air-strikes, the Kurdish Freedom Movement umbrella group called for protests against the Turkish aggression in cities across Europe. Demonstrations were reported from Athens, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Marseille, Stockholm and Utrecht. (Photo via¬†The Canary)