Top News: Libyan Rights Activist Killed in Benghazi

Late Wednesday, five gunmen murdered Libyan human rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bugaighis, who played an active part in country’s 2011 uprising, after they broke into her home in the Benghazi’s Hawari district. She was shot several times and taken to hospital in critical condition, where she died shortly afterwards, a spokesman for the Benghazi medical center said.


Egypt defends itself at UN amid outcry over jailing of journalists
Egypt defended its judicial system at the United Nations (UN) on Wednesday amid a global outcry over the jailing of Al Jazeera journalists, telling diplomats and reporters that it respects the role of the media and does not consider journalism a crime. Diplomats from more than seventeen countries, including eight members of the UN Security Council, attended the meeting organized by the UN Correspondents Association to show solidarity with the three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists. “The Egyptian judicial system is very well-known for providing full guarantees for the defendant,” Egypt’s deputy UN Ambassador, Osama Abdel Khalek Mahmoud, told the meeting. “I have confidence that the due procedures will be followed and justice will be done in such cases and in all other cases.” [Reuters, 6/25/2014]

Egypt says to pay $1.5 billion oil debt this year as energy crisis mounts
Egypt will pay $1.5 billion of the money it owes to foreign energy companies by the end of 2014, its oil minister said on Thursday, as the government tries to stave off a worsening power crisis. [Reuters, DNE, 6/26/2014]

New presidential decree stokes fears of state intervention in universities
Students and some faculty members in public Egyptian universities have expressed their disappointment and frustration with a presidential decree mandating that university heads and deans are to be directly appointed by the president. The decision by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, issued Tuesday evening, brings back the system from 2010. The change to the law, which previously allowed the election of heads, came after a long struggle and months-long protests that both students and faculty members participated in, said Mohamed al-Shafei, a student working with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. “From experience, we know it will be a state-security controlled campus, which will also affect academic levels,” al-Shafei said. The Popular Current’s student movement also called on Sisi to revoke the decree. [Ahram Online, 6/25/2014]

Sisi addresses African Union summit
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed the African Union’s 23rd Ordinary Summit in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo on Thursday afternoon. “Egypt returns to you after what it achieved from the January 25 and June 30 revolution (the date of mass protests against Morsi’s rule) in terms of goals of freedom, democracy and social justice, which Egypt achieved through the constitution,” said Sisi in his first international speech. He said, “No one can claim to have achieved perfect democracy… In the June 30 revolution, the Egyptian armed forces took the side of the people and not the other way around, saving Egypt from a civil war and chaos.” [Ahram Online, SIS, DNE, Aswat Masriya, AMAY (Arabic), 6/26/2014]


Libyan rights activist killed in Benghazi
Late Wednesday, five gunmen murdered Libyan human rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bugaighis, who played an active part in country’s 2011 uprising, after they broke into her home in the Benghazi’s Hawari district. She was shot several times and taken to hospital in critical condition, where she died shortly afterwards, a spokesman for the Benghazi medical center said. Bugaighis, a lawyer, played an active part in Libya’s 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. A former member of the National Transitional Council, the rebellion’s political wing, she was vice president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue in Libya. [Al Arabiya, Libya Herald, 6/26/2014]

Violence, heat disrupt Libyan elections
At least three soldiers who were deployed to provide security on polling day in Benghazi were killed in what officials said was an attack by Islamists. However, polling stations in Benghazi remained open. There was an explosion at a polling station in the city of Sirte, where militia are also strong. There was no voting in the eastern town of Derna, in which Islamists have a strong presence, for fear of attacks on polling centers. In the southern Kufra region, only five out of fifteen opened for security reasons. The Tebu boycott expected in Kufra did not occur. Wednesday was Libya’s hottest day of the year so far, which appears to have added to the reluctance of many voters to go out and vote in the elections for the new House of Representatives. [All Africa, Libya Herald, 6/25/2014]

High National Elections Commission announces turnout of 630,000
The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) says 630,000 voters cast their ballots Wednesday in the vote for the House of Representatives. HNEC head Emad al-Sayeh said that 45 percent of the country’s 1.5 million registered voters had taken part in the elections. Sayeh said that ten to fifteen seats in the House of Representatives would be left vacant by voting disruptions in Derna, Murzuk, Kufra, and al-Jmail. The empty seats will not prevent the new parliament from sitting, as there will still be sufficient deputies to constitute a quorum. According to electoral law, the second round of voting will be held within one week. Turnout was much lower than in July 2012, the first free national vote in more than forty years. Some 1.5 million were registered to vote, compared with 2.8 million in 2012, after rules were tightened, out of a total population of six million. [Libya Herald, 6/25/2014]


Syrian warplanes cross into Iraq to attack ISIS strongholds
Syrian government warplanes have attacked a series of targets in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to weaken an Al-Qaeda splinter group, opposition activists and U.S. officials say. On his side, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, said on Thursday that he welcomed a Syrian air strike on Sunni militant positions as it left both countries “winners.” The Syrian warplanes struck near the border crossing in the town of al-Qaim on Tuesday. [The Guardian, National Post, The Daily Star, 6/26/2014]

Mortar fire and suicide car kills six in the latest round of violence
Rebel mortar fire on a government-held district of Damascus killed five people Tuesday, state media said, while a car bomb killed one person in a pro-government area of Homs. The car bomb wounded fourteen people in a district mainly inhabited members of the Alawite community. Southeast of the capital, pro-government forces fired three missiles at the rebel-held town of Mleiha, flattened by months of bombardment. [Syria NOW, 6/26/2014]

Britain bans Saudi cleric who supports jihad in Syria
Britain has banned Mohammed al-Arifi, a conservative Sunni Muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia with over nine million Twitter followers, as it tries to deter young Muslims from going to join Islamic militants in Syria. Arifi, who has called for jihad against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, has visited Britain several times. After the ban, Arifi tweeted a link to a statement posted in English on his website, saying he rejected “right-wing media allegations that he may have contributed to the radicalization of three British-born Muslims.” [Reuters, 6/26/2014]

Syria halts penalization of military loan sponsors
Syria’s parliament has enacted law that halts the penalization of military sponsors of their comrades who have deserted, state news agency SANA said Wednesday. The law stipulates a halt to bank collection of payments on loans by military personnel who are sponsoring loans granted to soldiers and officers who have illegally left their posts. The law permits banks to seize the assets of army deserters and their wives and children in order to recover the sums that have been offered in the form of loans. [The Daily Star, 6/26/2014]


Human Rights Watch calls for investigation of war crimes by Tunisian extremists
International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday called on Tunisia to investigate allegations of war crimes committed in Syria and Iraq by Tunisian combatants. HRW said that Abu Hamza al-Mouhamadi, a man who identified himself as Tunisian, posted videos and photographs on Facebook showing “ his role in the abuse and ultimate execution of five detained Iraqi border guards,” according to HRW’s statement. “The authorities should send a clear and unequivocal message to all Tunisians that they won’t tolerate such conduct,” HRW’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director Nadim Houry commented. Lotfi Ben Jeddou, Tunisia’s interior minister, said last Monday that at least 2,400 Tunisian jihadists are fighting in Syria. [Ahram Online, 6/26/2014]

Approving election dates last stage in constituent process
The adoption of the piece of legislation setting the dates of the first legislative and presidential elections after the promulgation of the new constitution is “the last stage in the constituent process,” said President of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Mustapha Ben Jaafar. He called the proposals contained in the draft law “realistic and based on objective data” and highlighted the commitment of all deputies not to introduce any changes to the election timetable and the proposals of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). [TAP, 6/25/2014]

Ennahda leading in voter survey
The International Institute of Studies and Surveys’ Forum of Applied Social Sciences has reported the results of a recent voter survey. They find that thirty-eight percent of voters intend to vote for Ennahda movement in the upcoming parliamentary elections, while Nidaa Tounes came in at thirty-three percent. Abdelatif Hannachi, a professor of modern history, says that many young voters favor Nidaa Tounes. According to the survey, Beji Essebsi Caid (23.2 percent), Hamadi Jebali (14.4 percent), Moncef Marzouki (8.7 percent) and Hamma Hammami (3.8 percent) are the four frontrunners in the vote for president. Hannachi indicated that the rate of people who are undecided is up. [Mosaique FM (French), 6/25/2014]

Tunisia to revamp drug laws as prisons fill up
Tunisia is revamping its drug laws, which have been condemned for having minimum sentences of at least a year and for not distinguishing between hard and soft drugs. The changes are part of Tunisia’s efforts to democratize after its 2011 revolution. To many, Tunisia’s Law 52 is a relic of twenty-three years of a vicious police state under Ben Ali, when police operated with impunity and used it to settle scores against opponents. More than half the 25,000 inmates in the nation of eleven million are in prison on drug offenses. According to a 2013 UN report, prisons in Tunisia are overcrowded, with some facilities at 150 percent capacity. [AP, 6/26/2014]


Islamists attack Yemeni airport as bomber hits army base
Suspected Islamist militants attacked an airport in the eastern Yemeni city of Seiyun on Thursday, killing at least one soldier. At around the same time, a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into the entrance of an army base, killing four soldiers in Hadramawt province. Two militants were killed before security forced the attackers out of the airport. [Reuters, 6/26/2014]

Yemenis protests over power outages in al-Baida
Protesters angry over fuel shortages and power outages that have lasted for six days took to the streets in al-Baida city. The Public Electricity Corporation has been unable to progress further into the city because of the on-going conflict between local tribes. In light of fuel shortages, the cost of fuel has skyrocketed; twenty liters of diesel now costs $2,400 in Yemen. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 6/26/2014]

Two private firms threaten to suspend power supply to Aden
On Tuesday, APR Energy and Altaaqa Global Company, two private energy suppliers threatened to suspend power to Aden governorate within forty-eight hours unless the Aden Public Electricity Corporation pays $15 million in outstanding bills. It is uncertain that Aden’s Public Electricity Corporation will be able to pay the two firms by Thursday. [Yemen Times, 6/26/2014]


Iraqi parliament is set to meet Monday to form new government
The Iraqi Parliament will meet on Monday to try to form a new government as required by the Iraqi Constitution, the state television network Iraqiya announced Thursday. Al-Maliki has already served two terms as prime minister of a Shia-dominated government, but many Sunnis want to see a constitutional change to limit future prime ministers to two terms. The announcement comes as British Foreign Secretary William Hague visits Baghdad on surprise trip to urge leaders to unite in the face of a Sunni militant offensive that threatens Iraq’s existence. Separately, a new report by the New York Times indicates that Iran is directing surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is supplying Iraqi forces with tons of military equipment and other supplies. [NY Times, Naharnet, 6/26/2014]

Man blows himself up during security raid in Lebanon
A Saudi man blew himself up in a Beirut hotel on Wednesday as security forces stormed it. Lebanon’s interior minister called the raid a “pre-emptive strike” against a terrorist cell preparing to strike elsewhere, Lebanon’s national news service said. According to Lebanese Red Cross director George Kettaneh, eleven people were injured in the blast, including seven civilians and four General Security members. The bomber has been identified as Saudi national Abdul-Rahman Nassir al-Shneifi and has been on a wanted list by the Saudi authorities, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel. [Naharnet, NY Times, 6/26/2014]

Jordanian court acquits Islamic cleric in terrorism case
A military court in Amman on Thursday acquitted a militant Islamic cleric known as Abu Qatada on charges of planning a terrorist attack on an American school there in the late 1990s. The court said it had found insufficient evidence to convict the cleric. Abu Oatada will continue to be held in connection with a separate case relating to a plot to bomb Israeli, American and other Western tourists at millennium celebrations in 2000. [NY Times, 6/25/2014]

Israel offers help in combating Islamic militants in Iraq
Israel offered to help moderate Arab nations combat the lighting offensive led by Islamic militants in Iraq. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israeli interests were converging with moderate Arab nations “with both sides dealing with the threat of Iran, world jihad and al-Qaeda, as well as the spillover of conflicts in Syria and in Iraq to neighboring countries.” [AFP, 6/26/2014]