Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison in Egypt on Monday after a court convicted them of helping a “terrorist organization” and spreading false news.


Jazeera journalists sentenced to seven to ten years in jail
Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison in Egypt on Monday after a court convicted them of helping a “terrorist organization” and spreading false news. The Al Jazeera journalists in custody include Australian Kenya-based correspondent Peter Greste and Canadian-Egyptian national and Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy. The third defendant, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, received an additional three-year jail sentence on a separate charge involving possession of a bullet. Four other defendants in custody were sentenced to seven years in jail. Eleven co-defendants, tried in absentia, received ten year terms each, including two British citizens, and a Dutch national. Two defendants, including the son of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltagy were acquitted. Greste was the only defendant who received the maximum sentence. Judicial sources told Reuters the verdicts could be appealed before a higher court and a pardon was still possible, while according to Egyptian law, all those sentenced in absentia are granted an automatic retrial. Al Jazeera urged Egypt to overturn the court ruling, while Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said in a statement that the sentence “defies logic.” [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Egypt Independent, The Guardian, 6/23/2014]

Egypt court upholds death sentences for 183 Brotherhood supporters, Supreme Guide
Minya Criminal Court upheld death sentences Saturday passed on 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters, including Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. The defendants were charged with assembling, threatening national security to carry out criminal acts and preventing the authorities from attending to their duties with force and violence. The court acquitted 496 others in the case, while four were given life sentences. Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat appealed all the verdicts issued by the court, “to ensure a fair process and rightful application of the law,”a statement from the prosecution’s office said on Sunday. The Muslim Brotherhood described the trial “a horrid, heinous crime unprecedented in history.” [Reuters, AP, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 6/22/2014]

US releases $575 million of suspended funds to Egypt; Kerry meets with Sisi in Cairo
The United States has released about $575 million of the suspended funds to Egypt over the past ten days, Reuters reported an unnamed State Department official as saying. The released funds will be used to pay existing defense contracts, the State Department official said. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Sunday to hold talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Kerry urged Egypt to safeguard freedoms and assure due process of law, while also promising that the ten withheld Apache helicopters will be released shortly. Kerry acknowledged progress in Egypt, highlighting Sisi’s call to review human rights legislation. He said that Sisi gave him a “strong sense of his commitment” to follow through on this process and to look at Egypt’s judicial procedures. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Reuters, DNE, AP, AFP, Mada Masr, 6/22/2014]

Sisi confirms parliamentary election procedures before July 18
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi confirmed on Sunday during his talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry that procedures that would pave the way for a parliamentary election would start before July 18, state television reported. It gave no immediate details or dates for the vote itself. Meanwhile, The Salafi Nour Party has said it may form a coalition with civil parties for the upcoming parliamentary elections, with a final decision on partners yet to be made. [Reuters, 6/22/2014]


Libya’s overdue budget approved by default
Libya’s parliament approved the overdue 2014 budget worth $47 billion on Sunday, drawing on reserves to offset a dramatic loss of oil revenue after almost a year of protests at major ports. The delay had been caused by lawmakers trying to trim spending. After waiting much of Sunday to reach the necessary quorum, Congress members were informed that the budget had already been automatically approved on a technicality. Under its own rules, the budget had to be either rejected or approved within four months of being requested by the prime minister. When former Prime Minister Ali Zidan submitted the budget at the end of January, Congress had regularly delayed voting on it. As a result, members were told, it became legal at the end of May. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 6/22/2014]

Libya overseas voters cast ballots in House of Representative elections
Voting in legislative elections started today as Libyan citizens living abroad cast their ballots in thirteen countries across the world. Voting will take place in Canada, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, Qatar, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. The First Deputy President of Congress, Ezzedin al-Awami, apologized to the Libyan people on Saturday for the failings of the General National Congress (GNC). The surprise apology came while he was speaking at a ceremony to mark to start of the legislative elections. [Libya Herald, 6/22/2014]

Libya Shield seize Benghazi port following clashes
Libya Shield No.1, an umbrella grouping comprising smaller militias, took control of Benghazi port today following Saturday’s violent clashes with Saiqa Special Forces, which left seven dead and thirteen wounded. Head of security at the port said Libya Shield had entered the premises on foot and without technical vehicles. The reason for the presumed withdrawal of Saiqa Special Forces from the area remains unknown. One eyewitness said the Shield had barricaded themselves behind barriers made from shipping containers, and that the whole of the city center had been without power since Saturday. Many residents reportedly fled the area. [Libya Herald, 6/22/2014]

Eight feared killed in three days of Sabha violence
Three days of blood-letting in Sabha, during which eight people may have died and at least a dozen injured, appeared to have ended on Saturday after Misratan peacekeepers brokered talks between tribal elders. The clashes are reported to have begun when a member of the Qaddadfa tribe was killed, allegedly by a member of the rival Arab Awlad Suleiman tribe, which then triggered revenge attacks. Two women are said to have been killed in the bombardment. [Libya Herald, 6/21/2014]


New strategic gains as ISIS captures Syrian border crossings
Sunni fighters captured a major border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier overnight, a strategic gain which will allow them to move heavy weapons between Syria and Iraq. The militants, led by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), first moved into the nearby town of al-Qaim on Friday, pushing out Iraqi security forces. Soldiers abandoned their border crossing post, as soon as the militants sized al-Qaim. On Sunday, new reports indicated that ISIS fighters have been using US-made Humvees in fighting in northern areas of Syria’s Aleppo province. The Humvees were used to capture areas around the town of Azaz, close to the Turkish border. [Reuters, 6/23/2014]  

Retaliatory strikes from Israel kill ten Syrian soldiers
The Israeli military said Monday that it had struck Syrian Army targets in response to an attack in the Golan Heights the day before that killed an Arab-Israeli teenager and wounded two others. Syria’s most prominent monitoring group reported that ten Syrian soldiers were killed in the retaliatory strokes that targeted nine locations. Sunday’s killing of Israeli youth Mohammed Karaka, in an attack on an Israeli defense contractor’s vehicle, was the first fatality on the Israeli side of the Syrian border since the civil war started more than three years ago. [NYT, 6/22/2014]

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons
The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction. The final eight percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, were loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia. [Washington Post, 6/23/2014]

Ceasefire agreed for Yarmouk refugee camp
The Syrian government and rebel groups have reportedly agree to a truce in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk. The main entrances to the camp in Damascus will be opened and basic services will be restored. The main parties in the ceasefire deal included the Syrian regime, rebel groups based in Yarmouk, and many Palestinian factions. The camp, first built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, became the focus of heavy fighting in late 2012 when armed opposition groups moved in. [BBC, 6/23/2014]


Tunisia to raise minimum wage in private sector by six percent
The chamber of commerce and industry said it will sign a deal with the labor union and government to raise wages of the 1.5 million workers in private sector by six percent, a move that could ease social tensions ahead of elections this year. The last increase in pay in the private sector was in 2012. This decision comes after a strike by municipal workers across the country. [Reuters, 6/23/2014]

Voter registration began today
The Independent Higher Authority for the Election (ISIE) announced Saturday that voter registration for the 2014 legislative and presidential elections would start today. A source within the ISIE specified that about four million voters are not yet registered, while nearly four million registered voters had voted during the October 23, 2011, elections. Thursday, the ISIE announced the establishment of a call center to inform the public on the progress of the vote, as well as the location of registration centers and other pertinent information. [TAP, 6/21/2014]

Marzouki calls for security cooperation with Niger, Mali
On Sunday in Niamey, Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki called on Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou to further cement security and military cooperation between Tunisia and Niger in order to face the upsurge of terrorism in the Sahel and Sahara region. The two presidents stressed the importance of joint action to boost economic relations, in addition to agreeing to increase security and military coordination through the exchange of information and adoption of a joint strategy between countries of the Sahel and Sahara region. Marzouki and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita also underlined, Saturday, the need to step up security cooperation as part of the drive to stand up to armed groups. [TAP, 6/22/2014]

Eight religious extremists arrested in al-Fahs
Saturday night in the town of al-Fahs in the Zaghouan governorate, police arrested eight people belonging to the Salafist movement, said official spokesman for the ministry of the interior Mohamed Ali Laroui on Sunday. Ministry of the Interior Mohamed Ali Laroui told TAP that a “a religious extremist group on Saturday night blocked the road at al-Fahs and attacked people and private and public property, after the arrest of an extremist wanted for disturbing public order.” [TAP, 6/22/2014]


Planned ceasefire with Houthi rebels fails
A planned ceasefire between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels failed to take effect on Monday. Yemen’s defense ministry and Houthi rebels agreed to a ceasefire on Sunday after clashes shook the capital Sana’a. The ceasefire mandated a reshuffling of military and civilian leaders in areas affected by the fighting, and compensating slain Houthi supporters. One day prior to the breach, hundreds of Yemenis protested outside the presidential residence in Sana’a against the government’s inaction over the rebels advance on the capital. [Al Arabiya, 6/21/2014, Reuters and Al Masdar (Arabic) 6/23/2014]

Human Rights Watch calls on Yemen to meet its commitments to the United Nations
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch called upon the Yemeni government to uphold the commitments it made during its rights review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. These include ratifying the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), establishing a commission of inquiry into rights violations committed during the 2011 uprising, and adopting measures to promote the equality of women. Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director stated that the authorities need to deliver on these commitments to improve human rights protections for Yemenis. [Human Rights WatchAl Masdar (Arabic) 6/23/2014]

Yemeni president meets Southern Movement leaders
President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi met with the leaders of the Southern Movement in Sana’a on Sunday, including the founder of the movement, Nasser al-Noba. He discussed the steps his government has taken to address the southern issue in accordance with the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The president also indicated his commitment to addressing the officer’s grievances, particularly those who were wrongfully dismissed or forced to retire. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Saba 6/23/2014]


Kerry in Iraq as Sunni militants capture major border crossings
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Monday morning to urge Iraqis to bridge their sectarian differences and to encourage them to form a new, inclusive government. Kerry “will discuss US actions underway to assist Iraq as it confronts this threat from ISIS and urge Iraqi leaders to move forward as quickly as possible with its government formation process to forge a government,” State Department Jen Psaki said. ISIS continued their territory grab after capturing the towns of Rawa and Ana in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, and taking the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria. The government said its forces made a tactical withdrawal from the towns. [NYT, Washington Post 6/23/2014]

Jordan is prepared for jihadist spill over from Iraq
The Sunni militant offensive in Iraq has sparked fears in Amman that they will take the fight to Jordan, which is already struggling with its own homegrown Islamists. Jordan beefed up its border defenses with Iraq on Sunday after Sunni gunmen seized territory close to its border in Anbar province and appeared to have also taken control of the only land crossing with its large eastern neighbor, officials and witnesses said. A security source who requested anonymity said Jordan was expected to formally close the border to traffic as soon as the Iraqi government formally announces its loss of control over the crucial trade and passenger crossing. [Naharnet, Reuters, 6/23/2014]  

Iran opposes any foreign intervention in Iraq
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed strong opposition to any intervention in Iraq by the United States or anyone else, saying Iraqis themselves could end violence there. He added that Washington’s real aim was to keep Iraq under its control and place its own stooges in power, announcing that the conflict there was not sectarian, but was really between those who wanted Iraq in the US camp and those who sought Iraq’s independence. [Al Arabiya, 6/23/2014]