Top News: Bahraini Shia Youth Risk Radicalization as Political Talks Stall

Scenes of masked men marching with petrol bombs and denouncing Bahrain’s king, broadcast in online videos in recent months, might once have been dismissed as a cry for attention by groups from Bahrain’s majority Shia community seeking to shore up a flagging cause for democratic reform. But they have coincided with an increase in sometimes lethal homemade bomb attacks, suggesting a growing radicalization among Shia youth. There are fears that a deadlock in political efforts to solve a three-year standoff is deepening frustration among young Shia, with the more radical of them beyond the control of the mainstream al-Wefaq opposition movement. [Reuters, 5/8/2014]



Sabbahi vows to continue Brotherhood ban; reject US assistance
Hamdeen Sabbahi vowed to maintain the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood if he is elected president. In an interview on Al-Nahar channel on Tuesday, Sabahi said, “The Muslim Brotherhood will not exist as an organization whose loyalty is to foreign entities, or as a political party. This is in accordance with the 2014 constitution that bans parties based on religion. Nevertheless Islamic trends will not be prosecuted or hunted down as long as they are peaceful.” When asked about the role of the military, Sabbahi said, “There will be no political role for the army under my presidency. The army will protect the country but will not rule.” During the interview, he vowed, if elected, to deny economic assistance from the United States and ensure that Egypt is not treated as a “subordinate.” [Ahram Online, DNE, 5/7/2014]

Egypt cabinet approves 5 percent tax hike on rich
Egypt’s government approved a temporary 5 percent tax on wealthy individuals to fund social programs, the cabinet said in a statement late on Wednesday, less than three weeks before the country votes for a new president. The tax hike, which will apply to those earning over one million Egyptian pounds ($142,200) a year, still needs to be passed by Interim President Adly Mansour before it can be implemented and will only be applied for a temporary period. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 5/7/2014]

Banned April 6 group mulls election boycott
A branch of the April 6 Youth Movement said on Wednesday it opposes former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidential candidacy but has not yet decided whether or not to boycott the upcoming poll. An in-house poll showed that members evidently oppose Sisi, with some either backing Sabbahi or pondering a boycott, the April 6 Democratic Front said in a statement, adding that the group may boycott or throw its weight behind leftist Sabbahi. The group also announced that it would launch a campaign titled, “Against you,” in opposition to former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which aims to “uncover his lies and previous positions against the revolution.” [Ahram Online, 5/7/2014]

Rights groups claim torture in Egypt is systemic
Torture in Egypt has become an “unwritten law” that is more powerful than laws and the constitution, a group of human rights groups said on Wednesday. In a press conference held to condemn the continued torture practices exercised by the Egyptian authorities, three human rights groups stressed that torture is “systematically” practiced. The groups included Freedom for the Brave, Nation without Torture and Al-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. The groups released a statement during the press conference where they referred to torture as “one of the legacies of Mubarak’s regime.” [DNE, Mada Masr, 5/7/2014]


Libyan rebels reject talks with prime minister, keep oil ports shut
Rebels occupying oil ports in eastern Libya announced they are boycotting newly installed Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg, whom they claim came to power illegally, and will keep two major export terminals shut for the time being. They warned they will take action if Tripoli does not fulfill its part of a recent agreement to reopen the ports–a deal that was struck under former prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The self-declared prime minister of the rebel movement accused Islamists in the General National Congress, including the Muslim Brotherhood, of undermining the agreement and called on al-Thinni to explain the delay in its implementation. Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi also said more talks were needed to discuss “new conditions” if Ras Lanuf and Es Sider ports are to reopen. [Reuters, 5/7/2014]

Intelligence chief assassinated in Benghazi
Colonel Ibrahim Senussi, head of intelligence in Libya’s eastern region, was assassinated this afternoon, two days after he went on television to name those behind killings in violence-ridden Benghazi. Senussi tried to escape after initial shots were fired, but was followed in his car and shot at again, this time fatally, according to an eyewitness. When Senussi spoke on Libya Awalan TV earlier this week he was not named but rather was introduced as the head of intelligence. He said terrorist groups were targeting anyone who had been trained abroad since the revolution and accused Ansar al-Sharia of being behind much of the violence in the city. [Libya Herald, 5/8/2014]

Theft causes collapse of pylons and delays startup of Sirte power station
According to the General Electricity Company of Libya, thieves have cut the base of one of the Sirte power station’s pylons in an effort to steal the glass connectors. The damage will require extensive repairs, delaying the plant’s connection to the national grid, which is expected to alleviate some of the current pressure on electricity supply. Thieves have also stolen hundreds of meters of power cable that supply the Sirte airport’s lighting system. [Libya Herald, 5/7/2014]

Freedom of information under constant attack in Libya, says Reporters Without Borders
In its latest report, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) reviews a series of incidents against members of the Libyan media, concluding that freedom of information rights “continue to be flouted every day.” From murder attempts to assaults on television station buildings, the report says that threats and various forms of violence take a toll on journalists. In 2014, RWB assisted three journalists who, under threat for their work, had to flee the country. The rights group stressed the importance of a constitution that provides guarantees for freedoms of expression, opinion, and information. Similarly, in its latest review, Freedom House lowered its assessment of press freedom in Libya to “not free.” [Libya Herald, 5/7/2014]


Jarba calls for weapons for Syrian rebels on Washington trip
The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, repeated his calls for Western powers to supply Syria’s rebels with arms on a visit to Washington, DC, on Wednesday, but ruled out calls for direct Western intervention in the conflict. The head of the Coalition said that air raids by government forces were making Syrians’ lives “a nightmare,” and that rebels needed weapons that would allow them the “neutralize the air force.” [Asharq al-Awsat, 5/8/2014]

Syrian rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used by army
Syrian rebels detonated a huge bomb underneath the Carlton hotel used by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Thursday, destroying it and damaging other buildings on the edge of the city’s medieval citadel. The rebel Islamic Front, which claimed responsibility for the explosion, published video footage which showed a huge column of debris and dust erupting in the Aleppo skyline. It said fifty soldiers were killed in the blast but did not say how it arrived at that death toll. [Reuters, 5/8/2014]

Arab FMs to Hold Syria Meet in Saudi
Arab foreign ministers are to meet in Saudi Arabia on Monday to discuss the Syrian conflict, the Arab League said on Thursday. The meeting was called by Saudi Arabia, which backs armed rebels in Syria, to discuss the “steps that need to be taken to deal with the Syrian tragedy.” [Naharnet, 5/8/2014]

United Nations may refer Syria conflict to war crimes court
France has drafted a Security Council resolution that seeks to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, tailoring it specifically to address American sensitivities, according to several people who have seen the text. The draft text, which could be circulated to all 15 members of the Council next week, skirts American concerns regarding the ICC by defining the conflict narrowly, as involving the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, its allied militias, and armed opposition forces between March 2011 and the present. [New York Times, 5/7/2014]


ISIE focuses on civil society proposals
On Tuesday, several civil society organizations met with the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). The organizations presented ISIE with a set of proposals to devise a joint strategy aimed at conducting elections successfully. ISIE will have a number of meetings with all components of civil society in the coming weeks. Chafik Sarsar, president of ISIE, stated that such collaboration is urgently needed to smooth out difficulties, notably the ones encountered in October 2011 elections. [All Africa, 5/6/2014]

Plenary session to examine motions of no confidence in two ministers
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) will hold a plenary session on Friday, May 9, devoted to the examination of motions of no confidence in Minister of Tourism Amel Karboul and Minister Delegate to the Interior Minister in charge of Security Ridha Sfar. Eighty-five deputies submitted a motion of no confidence after the decision to allow Israeli tourists entry to Tunisia.

Harsh anti-marijuana laws ‘destroy’ young lives in Tunisia
Tunisia’s tough law on cannabis use, handing down jail terms of at least one year, is “destroying lives” and overcrowding prisons, according to a group of activists called Al Sajin 52 who are urging reform. Smoking cannabis is punishable by one to five years in jail, with the same law prohibiting judges from passing lighter sentences for extenuating circumstances.
As a result, more than half of the 13,000 people in pre-trial detention, and around one-third of Tunisia’s 11,000 convicts were arrested for drugs abuse, and cannabis in particular, according to UN figures. [AFP, 5/7/2014]


House of Representatives to mull ‘no confidence’ vote
Yemen’s House of Representatives is set to discuss the possibility of withdrawing confidence from the government, citing deteriorating security and economic conditions. Current signatories of the document come from different political groups including Islah and the General People’s Congress. House members will apparently make a final decision on the issue following a question-and-answer session between different ministers and the House of Representatives, although ministers have failed to attend these sessions in past weeks. [Hona Hadhramout (Arabic), 5/8/2014]

Demonstrations in the South commemorate “Day of Southern Prisoners”
Thousands of protesters in the South revived a day of commemoration remembering prisoners of the Southern independence movement. Further demonstrations are being called for, particularly by former Vice President and exiled Southern leader Ali Salem al-Beidh for May 21. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 5/8/2014]

As army captures Azzan, western missions on alert as AQAP vows to target cities
Western diplomatic missions in Yemen heightened security measures on Thursday after increasingly bold attacks on foreigners by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) even as its militants have lost ground to an army offensive in the country’s largely lawless south. AQAP announced on Wednesday that it would shift the battle from mountainous areas to major cities like Sana’a, Taiz, and Aden. In addition to a stronghold in Mahfad, government forces announced they had entered the last major AQAP bastion in Azzan. Tribal groups continue in their attempts to facilitate a negotiated withdrawal of AQAP forces, but the government has announced its determination to “eliminate terrorists from the country.” [Reuters, 5/8/2014]

UK minister discusses Friends of Yemen; follow-up to be held in Sana’a
Hugh Robertson, minister of state for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, discussed the recent Friends of Yemen donor conference with the Yemen Times. He discussed the international commitment to Yemen’s transition and ways that the government could increase donor confidence, thereby freeing up some of the as yet undelivered, previously pledged funds. A follow-up meeting to the donor conference is set to be held in Sana’a in the coming weeks, and will discuss the implementation of reforms as well as the group’s new division of labor between economic, political, and security issues. [The Yemen Times, 5/8/2014]


Saudi liberal gets ten years in jail, 1,000 lashes
A Saudi court sentenced Raef Badawi, founder of a liberal Internet forum, to ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes Wednesday over allegations of “insulting Islam.” Badawi was also ordered to pay a fine of one million riyals. In August last year a court sentenced Badawi to seven years and three months in jail in addition to 600 flogs “for establishing a liberal website and adopting the liberal thinking and insulting Islam.” A higher court overturned that decision and ordered a retrial by a different court. Last month, a Saudi court in Jeddah ordered the permanent closure of the website for publishing what was perceived as anti-Islamic content. [Al Arabiya, 5/8/2014]

Sunni leader says Fallujah under complete ISIS control
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group is in complete control of the city of Fallujah and there are no government forces within the city limits, according to former Iraqi finance minister and deputy prime minister Rafie Al-Issawi. Al-Issawi attributes the situation to poor decisions by the military leadership, its lack of understanding of security in Anbar, and the absence of military forces on the ground, which gave ISIS the opportunity to take control of Fallujah. Al-Issawi added that Ramadi had been retaken by government forces. [Asharq Al-Awsat, 5/8/2014]

Berri calls for session on Lebanon’s citizenship law
Speaker Nabih Berri called for a session of the joint parliamentary committees next week to examine a draft law to allow grandchildren of Lebanese paternal grandfathers to apply for citizenship. Under the current law, expatriates can only receive citizenship from their father. The number of Lebanese living outside the country is thought to be at least double the number of citizens living inside. [The Daily Star, 5/8/2014]