Greater Middle East

Egypt: secret military trials protested

The Egyptian government has refused to allow human rights groups to observe the military trial of 33 leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, undercutting the government’s claims that civilians will have a fair trial before military courts, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint press release June 4.

Turkey recovers Iranian arms from Syria-bound train raided by Kurdish guerillas

Turkish authorities have announed the seizure of weapons hidden on a Syria-bound train from Iran after Kurdish PKK guerillas derailed it with a bomb near the town of Genc in Bingol province. News reports said the weapons included 300 rockets and a rocket launch pad. Turkish authorities suspect Iran is using Turkey as a transit route to send arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syria.

Ankara terror: PKK denies it

The separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) denied responsibility for the May 22 bomb attack that killed six and wounded up to 100 in the busy Ankara shopping district of Ulus. "We have no connection with the attack," the PKK said in a statement posted on the Firat news agency website, which has ties to the guerrillas. Turkish authorities initially said a suicide bomber carried out the attack, but that the use of A-4 plastic explosives points to the PKK. The PKK has used the explosive in the past, but typically does not carry out suicide bombings. (Hurriyet, Reuters, May 24)

Yemen: Qadaffi backs Shi'ite insurgents?

Yemen has recalled its ambassador to Libya over its suspected support to Shi'ite guerilla followers of Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, who have been fighting government forces in the northern province of Saada since the beginning of the year. "The decision to recall the ambassador...came a day after popular demands for cutting Yemeni ties with Libya and to close its embassy in Sanaa over accusations of Libyan involvement in supporting the terrorist elements," the web site of the ruling People's Congress Party said, quoting "well-informed" sources. The statement said that residents of Saada had urged the government to sever ties with Tripoli.

Egypt: reporter gets prison for exposing torture

From Human Rights Watch, May 2, via

A criminal court in Cairo today sentenced Huwaida Taha Mitwalli, a journalist for Al-Jazeera and the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, to six months in prison on charges of "possessing and giving false pictures about the internal situation in Egypt that could undermine the dignity of the country" in connection with an Al-Jazeera documentary she made about torture in Egypt. The court also fined her 20,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,518). An Egyptian national, Taha is currently free on bail in Qatar, pending appeal.

Syria: rights attorney gets five years

From Amnesty International, April 24:

Amnesty International condemns the harsh sentence handed down today on human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, following an unfair trial that appeared to be politically driven and during which he was not given full access to his lawyers.

NYT: Mideast nuclear arms race seen

Now that Iran has a nuclear program, other Middle East countries want nuclear power—potentially resulting in a nuclear arms race in the region, the New York Times reported April 15. "Two years ago, the leaders of Saudi Arabia told international atomic regulators that they could foresee no need for the kingdom to develop nuclear power. Today, they are scrambling to hire atomic contractors, buy nuclear hardware and build support for a regional system of reactors," the newspaper said. "Turkey is preparing for its first atomic plant and Egypt has announced plans to build one on its Mediterranean coast. In all, roughly a dozen states in the region have recently turned to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna for help in starting their own nuclear program."

Turks rally for secular government

Chanting secularist slogans and waving Turkish flags, more than 300,000 from throughout Turkey rallied April 15 to discourage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from running for the presidency. The protesters marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state.

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