Bahrain jails reporter on terrorism charges
HRW report ‘misleading’ Kerry slams Palestinian attacks, meets Israel PM
RIYADH: Bahrain this week jailed a freelance photographer for 10 years and stripped him of his nationality after convicting him of terrorism, the media rights group Reporters sans Frontiers said yesterday. Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi was accused of giving mobile phone SIM cards to demonstrators and taking photographs of antigovernment protests, RSF reported. A report on Bahrain News Agency late on Monday quoted Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed AlHammadi as saying the High Court had sentenced three defendants to 15 years in prison and three to 10 years for setting up and joining a terrorist cell. None of those sentenced were named and it was not clear if Mousawi was among them.
It quoted him as saying they had trained to make explosives, conducted illegal rallies, possessed petrol bombs, committed forgery for the purpose of terrorism and attempted murder in 2013 and 2014. The island kingdom, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, has experienced sporadic unrest since mass protests in 2011 led by majority Shiites demanding reforms and a bigger role in government.
The government denies opposition charges it discriminates against Shiites and says the opposition has a sectarian agenda and is backed by Shiite power Iran, a charge Tehran and Shiite groups deny. In a separate case reviewed by the same court, a judge sentenced 16 defendants to 15 years in prison and three others to 10 years, BNA quoted Hammadi as saying. On Nov 16, Bahrain jailed 12 people and revoked their citizenship for carrying out bomb attacks on police JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed strong support for Israel and condemned a wave of Palestinian attacks yesterday as he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to ease weeks of violence. Arriving with scant hopes for a major breakthrough, Kerry discussed with Netanyahu ways of calming tensions and did the same later in the day with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. “Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives, with scissors, cars,” Kerry told reporters at Netanyahu’s office ahead of talks with the Israeli prime minister.
“And it is very clear to us that terrorism, these acts of terrorism, deserve the condemnation that they are receiving and today I express my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives.” Kerry also mentioned American victims of the attacks, with at least three US citizens - two with dual citizenship and one from Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts - killed in the wave of violence that began on Oct 1.
He however made no mention of resolving the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his remarks before the meeting amid US pessimism over whether significant negotiations can take place before President Barack Obama leaves office in little over a year. After the talks with Netanyahu ended, Kerry spokesman John Kirby said that the two discussed Syria and the Islamic State group as well as “steps that can be taken to stop the violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank”.
The lack of specifics, at least publicly, regarding the Palestinians will likely disappoint Abbas, with Palestinian officials saying in the run up to yesterday’s meeting that they were hoping Kerry would pressure Netanyahu. Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat told AFP in an interview Monday that if nothing concrete comes out of the meetings with Kerry, the Palestinians could move forward on changing longstanding links in 2013 and 2014, it said.
Separately, Bahrain criticized as misleading a Human Rights Watch report accusing the kingdom’s authorities of torturing detainees during interrogation and granting security officials impunity. The report, published Monday, is “misleading, unbalanced and controversial,” said Information Minister Isa Al-Hammadi in remarks on BNA. It is “based on false information.” Bahrain has established “independent national watchdogs to probe any alleged illegal practices involving detainees, inmates or others,” said Hammadi, adding that such action is taken “seriously” by the kingdom.
“We have a clear policy of cooperation with international organizations which are willing to do so,” he said, adding that “Bahrain is no need for politicized watchdogs which work through an agenda,” apparently referring to HRW. New Yorkbased HRW has said regulatory bodies set up after the 2011 to end torture in interrogation and detention facilities “lack independence”.
HRW spoke of cases of physical torture amid a “complete lack of accountability for the abuse of detainees”. It said it interviewed 10 detainees “who said they endured coercive interrogations” by authorities. In another statement on BNA, the government said it was “reviewing” the content of HRW’s report, “including a series of anonymous allegations it contains, and recommendations.” It urged HRW to provide the three institutions, controlled by the interior ministry and public prosecutor, “with sufficient information to enable them to conduct effective investigations.” — Agencies with Israel, including security coordination.The violence has left 92 Palestinians dead, including one Arab Israeli, as well as 17 Israelis -including the two Israeli-Americans - one American and an Eritrean. Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, while others were shot during demonstrations and clashes with Israeli security forces.
The violence continued as Kerry arrived yesterday, when a Palestinian rammed a vehicle into Israeli troops at a junction south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, wounding four before being shot. The stabbings, shootings and car rammings have mainly been carried out by so-called “lone wolf” attackers who have defied Abbas’s calls for peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation. Many of them have been young people, including teenagers, reflecting anger and lost hope over Israel’s occupation, the Palestinians’ fractured leadership and the complete lack of progress in peace efforts, some analysts say.
Kerry said he was “here today to talk to the prime minister about ways we can work together, all of us in the international community, to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence”. He said he wanted “to find a way forward to restore calm and to begin to provide opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and their families.”
Netanyahu has come under pressure to tighten security and on Monday he announced stricter controls on Palestinian vehicles and an increase in so-called “bypass roads,” which create separate routes for Palestinians and Israeli settlers. During a visit on Monday to a West Bank settlement that has been the scene of numerous attacks, he also said work permits would be withdrawn for families of alleged attackers and pledged there would be “no limits” on the powers of Israeli soldiers in the territory. — AFP
JERUSALEM: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) meets US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the prime minister’s office yesterday. — AP