Top News: Houthi leader gives list of demands in televised speech

Sheikh Sayyid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi spoke hours after fighters from the Houthi group battled guards at President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s private home. Calling his measures “open-ended,” he laid out four demands.

They included amending a draft constitution, which now devolves some central government powers to six regions. He also demanded that Hadi use the army to impose security in Yemen, including in the oil-rich Marib province. Tribal leaders in that region have vowed to fight any advance by the Houthis, who have neared the borders of the province. [Al MasdarReutersBBC, 1/21/2015]



Egypt to take part in London anti-ISIS meeting
The UK Foreign Office has said that Egypt and seven other Arab states will take part in an international meeting coordinating efforts against the Islamic State to be held in London on Thursday. Farah Dakhlallah, the Arabic spokesperson of the UK Foreign Office, said on her official Twitter account that Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are expected to participate. The meeting is aimed at coordinating efforts to fight against the militant organization which has occupied swathes of Iraq and Syria. Twenty states are expected to take part in total. [Ahram Online, 1/20/2015]

April 6 says pardon conditions set by presidency to exclude movement’s members
April 6 Youth Movement’s Democratic Front said the conditions set by the institution of presidency and the Interior Ministry to pardon youth jailed over violating the law regulating protests on the occasion of the 25 January revolution would cause the exclusion of detained movement youth, including Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Movement, and activists Ahmed Douma and Alaa Abdel Fattah. Mohamed Fouad, a spokesman for the April 6 Democratic Front, said that the conditions of presidential pardon included the issuance of a final court ruling, and the detainee should not be accused of damaging public and private property. [Egypt Independent, 1/21/2015]

Supreme Court to judge constitutionality of protest law
The administrative court in Cairo decided to suspend reviewing an appeal that contests the protest law by human rights lawyers until the Supreme Constitutional Court judges the constitutionality of the law. Prominent lawyers Khaled Ali and Tarek al-Awady filed an appeal against an administrative decision to reject a permit for a demonstration and through the appeal the lawyers contested the constitutionality of the law. “Referring the case to the Supreme Constitutional Court is an expected procedure,” Awady aid. “No date was set for the court to respond but they are already reviewing the case, and they will probably respond within a month,” he added. [DNE, 1/20/2015]

Severe deterioration in Mohamed Soltan’s health; Abdel Fattah moved to prison hospital
Hunger-striking detainee Mohamed Soltan’s physical and psychological health have “severely deteriorated,” his family said in a statement on Tuesday. The statement, published on Facebook, added that the family received reports concerning his significant health setback. It also called on rights groups and the United States to work on releasing him. Prison Authority chief Mohamed Ali Hussein said that Soltan is currently at the Tora prison hospital and his health condition is stable. Meanwhile, leading Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was moved to a prison hospital this week after more than two months on hunger strike, a relative told Reuters on Wednesday. The blogger and software engineer was transferred to a prison hospital on Monday morning after his blood sugar level plunged. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Reuters, 1/21/2015]

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UN presses for Libya ceasefire to hold
The United Nations (UN) called on all sides to uphold the agreed ceasefire, which was a result of the UN-led discussions last week. UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon cautioned that any violation “could undermine the entire truce.” He also called on the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and Tripoli-based General National Congress to quickly appoint a representative to attend negotiations with him. As part of the agreement from the Geneva talks, the two sides promised to ensure a safe and conducive environment for continued dialogue. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 1/20/2015]

Thinni government to close embassies, recall surplus embassy staff
The internationally recognized government of Abdullah al-Thinni intends to close some of Libya’s embassies and recall staffers in an effort to cut costs. This action comes as part of a larger cost-saving initiative in light of the continued violence in Libya, falling oil exports, and low oil prices. The cabinet decided that only the necessary will be retained to continue relations with the relevant countries. [Libya Herald, 1/20/2015]

Tunisian blogger Ayari sentenced to one year in prison by military court
Tunisian blogger Yassine Ayari was sentenced to one year in prison by the First Instance Military Court of Tunis for defaming military officers in Facebook posts. Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced the initial verdict against Ayari, saying that as a civilian he should not be tried in a military court. Ayari’s attorney, Malek Ben Amor, said, “Freedom of expression is the only benefit of the revolution and today we see a blogger sentenced harshly by a military court for criticizing the army.” HRW has continued to criticize Tunisia for limiting freedom of expression since the revolution. [Tunisia Live, Ahram Online, 1/20/2015]

Polls reveal divided opinion on new Tunisian prime minister
A new poll released in Tunisia shows that the population is split regarding the appointment of the new Prime Minister Habib Essid. The results showed that about 44 percent of respondents favored the new prime minister, while around 42 percent remain undecided on their opinion. These numbers are far lower compared to Essid’s predecessor, Mehdi Jomaa, who received a retrospective approval rating of around 66 percent. Essid is charged with forming the new ruling government and is expected to announce his decisions this week. [Tunisia Live, 1/21/2015]


EU court upholds Syria sanctions against Assad relative
The European Union (EU) General Court has upheld sanctions imposed on the uncle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Mohammad Makhlouf, including an asset freeze and visa ban. The Court dismissed the Syrian regime’s appeal to have his name removed from a list of close associates against whom the EU Member States imposed sanctions in 2011. The Court said the EU successfully proved that Mohammad Makhlouf “is a member of the ruling economic class in Syria” and it cannot be denied that he “has a decisive influence, as a principal adviser, over all the primary circle of rulers of the Syrian regime.” [AP, The Wall Street Journal, 1/21/2015]

Russian moderator sets modest goals for Syria talks in Moscow
Vitaly Naumkin, a Russian moderator for next week’s talks between the Syrian government and a group of opposition figures, set out modest goals for the Moscow meeting, saying he would consider it a success if the sides work together and agree to meet again. Naumkin said Moscow initially invited twenty representatives of “various opposition and civil society groups” including a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The final list of participants will only be clear after an opposition meeting planned later this week in Cairo. The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as well as opposition figure Mouaz al-Khatib have refused to take part in a process that does not envisage the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [Reuters, 1/21/2015]

Hezbollah-Future Movement dialogue unaffected by Syria strike
Dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement will not be affected by Israel’s recent attack on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria, said Speaker of Parliament and member of Amal Movement Nabih Berri on Tuesday. Adding that talks will continue to focus on measures to defuse sectarian tensions and bolster the security situation. Pro-Future Movement newspaper al-Mustaqbal confirmed that talks between the two parties will continue next week. The March 14 bloc said it would move ahead with talks with Hezbollah, stressing that dialogue aimed at defusing Sunni-Shiite tension and facilitating the election of a new president. [The Daily Star, Naharnet, 1/21/2015]

ISIS executing educated women in Iraq
The United Nations on Tuesday decried numerous executions of civilians in Iraq by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), warning that educated women appeared to be especially at risk adding that ISIS is showing a “monstrous disregard for human life” in the areas it controls in Iraq. The reactions come after ISIS last week published pictures of the “crucifixions” of two men accused of being bandits, and of a woman being stoned to death, allegedly for adultery. According to a UN spokeswoman, numerous women have reportedly been executed in ISIS-controlled areas adding that educated, professional women seem to be particularly at risk. [Al-Akhbar English, Naharnet, The Daily Star, Al-Arabiya, 1/20/2015]

Forty-three civilians killed in Syria regime air raid on ISIS; Car bomb kills seven in Homs
At least forty-three civilians were killed and 150 wounded in a Syrian regime air raid targeting the ISIS in the northeast, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday. According to the Observatory, the strikes hit a cattle market near Tal Hamis in al-Hasakah province, which is controlled by ISIS. In Homs’ predominantly Alawi neighborhood Akrameh, a car bomb exploded on Wednesday in a commercial area killing ten people and wounding thirty. [Naharnet, SOHR, 1/21/2015]


Houthi leader gives list of demands in televised speech
Sheikh Sayyid Abdul-Malik al-Houthi spoke hours after fighters from the Houthi group battled guards at President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s private home. Calling his measures “open-ended,” he laid out four demands. They included amending a draft constitution, which now devolves some central government powers to six regions. He also demanded that Hadi use the army to impose security in Yemen, including in the oil-rich Marib province. Tribal leaders in that region have vowed to fight any advance by the Houthis, who have neared the borders of the province. [Al Masdar, Reuters, BBC, 1/21/2015]

Houthi gunmen guard Yemen leader’s home, deny overthrowing him
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi cannot leave his house after Houthi rebels removed his guards and deployed their own fighters there Wednesday. However, the guards claim they have not toppled the leader and that he is free to leave his home if he chooses. Further limiting his options, the Houthis have threatened to prosecute Hadi if he resigns. [AP, Al Masdar, Reuters, Washington Post, 1/21/2015]

Aden’s airport shut in solidarity with the president
Authorities in Yemen’s second city Aden shut its international airport on Wednesday in protest against attacks by Houthi militiamen on the president and other state figures. Aden’s main security body said in a statement that it was closing its airport, its seaport and entrances to the city due to “dangerous developments in the capital” and “attacks on the symbol of national sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi.” [AFP, Reuters, Sahafa, 1/21/2015]

France says Qatar terrorism financing charges ‘not true’
A French probe has shown that regular accusations leveled at Qatar that it finances terrorism are “not true”, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday. The French government has come under pressure from opposition parties after the militant attacks in Paris to review its diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged financing of extremists in the Sahel, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria. US officials have accused Qatar of not doing enough to stop private fundraising for terrorist groups. [AFP, 1/21/2015]


Algeria’s trade surplus down to $4.6 billion in 2014
According to the Algerian Customs’ National Centre of Data Processing and Statistics, the country’s surplus trade stood at $4.63 billion in 2014, against $9.94 billion in 2013, declining by nearly 53.5 percent. This decline in the trade surplus was reportedly driven by increased exports by 3 percent during last year, with the percentage of imports covered by exports hitting 108 percent. [AllAfrica, 1/20/2015]

Morocco predicts economic rebound in 2015
According to local authorities, Morocco will experience strong economic growth in 2015. This declaration is based on the expectation of a bountiful harvest and the drop in oil prices. The high planning commissioner said that he expected the country to achieve 4.8 percent growth in 2015, a dramatic increase from the 2.6 percent of the previous year. [NYT, 1/20/2015]

Egypts currency falls to historic low against dollar
After a central bank auction, Egypt’s currency has fallen to a historic low against the dollar. The central bank has allowed the currency to slide several times over the last week. On Wednesday, it offered 40 million dollars and sold a total of $38.4 million at a cutoff rate of 7.34 Egyptian pounds per dollar. [NYT, 1/20/2015]

Yemen entrepreneurs flourish under World Bank project
World Bank-sponsored project continues to make waves among Yemeni entrepreneurs. Officially titled the “Enterprises Revitalization and Employment Pilot Project,” it was launched in Yemen in mid-2013 to “improve individual employability of college and university graduates and to improve the business capabilities of enterprises participating in the project.” In December 2014, officials selected 100 companies for the project’s second phase. Over the course of six months, each of the selected companies will be awarded $10,000 to improve its performance with help from consultants. [Al-Shorfa, 1/20/2015]