Top News: Tunisian MPs Denounce Light Verdicts for Ben Ali Officials

On Monday, a Tunisian military court announced that two former Ben Ali officials, the former head of presidential security and the former interior minister, would only serve three year sentences. Jalel Boudriga, former chief of Tunisia’s special brigades, had his sentence commuted from ten to three years. Following the announcement, Tunisian lawmakers condemned the sentences as excessively lenient and several MPs demand that the cases be retried in civilian court. The International Federation for Human rights also criticized the verdicts. [The Daily Star, 4/14/2014]



Egypt forms committee to draft parliamentary elections law
Interim President Adly Mansour has established a committee to amend the political rights and parliamentary elections laws. The committee will be headed by Mohammed al-Mahdi, minister of transitional justice, and include a number of judicial officials and law professors, a full list of which can be viewed here. The committee will amend Law 73 (1956) regarding political rights and Law 38 (1972) organizing parliamentary issues, to ensure they conform to the new constitution passed in January. Once the commission starts, it will have fifteen days to present the draft to various political forces and the public for debate. The draft laws will be sent to the cabinet and the legislation department of the State Council for approval. [Ahram Online, 4/15/2014]

Court bans Brotherhood from running for presidency or parliament
An Alexandria court banned Muslim Brotherhood members on Tuesday from running for Egypt’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Egypt will vote for a new president on May 26 and 27. The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization in December after it was accused of carrying out an attack on a security office that left sixteen dead. The Brotherhood has denied the use of violence. [Aswat Masriya, 4/15/2014]

IMF official says Gulf support should not substitute long-term economic reform
Egypt “has not asked for financial support,” but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will consider offering support “in the same way that we would to any other member,” said Masood Ahmed, director of IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department Monday during a press briefing on the region’s economic outlook. Gulf support has allowed Egypt to deal with current economic pressures, he said, but it should not be considered a substitute for reforms targeting Egypt’s long-term economic development. Sultan al-Jaber, UAE Minister of State for Economic Affairs in charge of cooperation with Egypt, said on Sunday that aid will not last forever. “The priority is to complete the agreed-upon development projects and then work on a comprehensive plan to help the Egyptian economy achieve sustainable growth,” he said. [DNE,Egypt Independent, 4/15/2014]

US delegation meets with defense minister; others meet with trade ministry
A US delegation met with Defense Minister Sedky Sobhy on Tuesday. The delegation consisted of former military men and strategic analysts. They discussed developments in Egypt and the region and their implication on stability. The delegation supports Egypt’s “efforts toward democratization following the passing of the new constitution,” as well as the roadmap and Egypt’s efforts to fight terrorism. Egypt seeks to “open a new page” of bilateral economic relations with the United States and address mutual interests between the two countries, Minister of Industry, Foreign Trade and Investment Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said on Sunday, according to a statement from the ministry. The statement was made during a Sunday meeting between Abdel Nour and US Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Dan Mullaney to discuss methods of cooperation between the two countries. [Mada Masr, Shorouk (Arabic) 4/15/2014]


Jordanian ambassador kidnapped in Tripoli
On Tuesday morning, The Jordanian Ambassador to Libya, Fawaz al-Aytan, was kidnapped and his driver wounded. Two cars with unnumbered plates driven by masked gunmen grabbed Aytan in a central area of Tripoli. The ministry of foreign affairs stated that the government is holding urgent meetings about the incident. [Libya Herald, 4/15/2014]

Trial of ex-Qaddafi officials and sons adjourned
Libya opened the trial of Gaddafi’s sons and dozens of his ex-officials on Monday in a test of its transition to democracy, but it was quickly adjourned as some of the investigations had not been completed. The defendants face charges ranging from corruption to war crimes related to deaths during the 2011 uprising. Many defendants complained that they had not been given access to lawyers or only saw them at court appearances. [Reuters, 4/14/2014]

Jihadi leader believed to be alive and plotting attacks in Libya
The Sahara jihadi leader behind the terrorist attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria is alive, taking refuge with Islamists, and plotting new attacks in Libya according to security sources. This contradicts earlier reports that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was dead. In March, the government of Chad claimed its troops had killed him. French troops and US drones continued searching for him in Mali. The United States is still offering five million dollar for information leading to his detention. [All Africa, 4/14/2014]


Regime launches major assault on besieged Homs
The army launched a major ground assault on the central city of Homs on Tuesday, with troops entering rebel-held districts under government siege for nearly two years. “They have entered into one [besieged] area, Wadi al-Sayeh, which lies between Juret al-Shiyah and the Old City,” said an activist trapped inside the blockade. “This is the first time the regime has entered the besieged areas since it took Khaldiyeh” in summer 2013. Another activist trapped in the siege, said the army was “bombing very, very intensely.” Activists opposed to President Bashar Assad’s regime have long referred to Homs, Syria’s third city, as the “capital of the revolution”. [AFP, 4/15/2014]

Mortar fire on Damascus kills child, wounds forty
Mortar rounds fired on schools in the Syrian capital on Tuesday killed a child–a member of the national youth football team–and wounded more than forty people, mostly children. Rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad hold some territory on the outskirts of Damascus from which they have regularly launched mortar and rocket attacks targeting the downtown area. The attack hit a school in Bab Touma, killing one child and wounding thirty-six, and a second hit a cluster of schools near a church in al-Duwaila, injuring five. [AFP, 4/15/2014]

Government to announce presidential vote date next week
The speaker of Syria’s parliament will next week announce the date of the country’s presidential election, expected to be held around June despite the conflict. President Bashar Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez in the post in 2000, will end his seven-year term on July 17. In the past, the country’s head of state has been chosen by referendum, but a new constitution passed in 2012 mandates presidential elections for the first time. According to the new constitution, the date for presidential elections must be announced between sixty and ninety days before the standing president’s term ends. The international community, including UN-Arab League peace negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi, have criticized Syria’s plan to go ahead with a presidential vote. It remains unclear how a presidential vote can be held, with large swathes of territory beyond government control, widespread violence ravaging much of the country and nearly half the population displaced. [The Daily Star, 4/15/2014]


Tunisia will hand over ten Qaddafi officials after due legal process
While there are reports that ten senior Qaddafi officials wanted by Libya have been handed over by Tunisia, the Tunisian ambassador to Libya has stated that they would only be extradited when legal formalities were complete. Tunisia agreed to the extradition during talks last week between Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou and his Libyan counterpart Saleh Mazegh. The ten officials were allegedly involved in recent instability on the Tunisian-Libyan border. [Libya Herald, 4/13/2014]

MPs denounce light verdicts for Ben Ali officials
On Monday, a Tunisian military court announced that two former Ben Ali officials, the former head of presidential security and the former interior minister, would only serve three year sentences. Jalel Boudriga, former chief of Tunisia’s special brigades, had his sentence commuted from ten to three years. Following the announcement, Tunisian lawmakers condemned the sentences as excessively lenient and several MPs demand that the cases be retried in civilian court. The International Federation for Human rights also criticized the verdicts. [The Daily Star, 4/14/2014]

Articles on provisional constitutional authority adopted
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted the first four articles of the draft law providing for the creation of the provisional authority to monitor the constitutionality of laws. Once this provisional authority is established, the NCA will be able to move ahead with approving the electoral law and the Independent High Commission for Elections will then proceed with arranging elections for later this year. This provisional authority will later be replaced by a formal constitutional court. [All Africa, 4/12/2014]


Kidnapping of doctor causes delays, protest at Marib hospital
Unidentified armed men kidnapped Salif Momn Jon, an Uzbek doctor, from the heart of Marib city on Sunday afternoon. His neighbor reported that he was kidnapped in public during the day, and some of his attackers wore military uniforms. The doctor worked as an anesthesiologist at a Marib hospital. Tribesmen are assisting in the investigation, as Jon was reportedly very popular. A vigil was held at his hospital protesting his kidnapping; his abduction caused serious delays due to a shortage of anesthesiologists. [Yemen Times, Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/15/2014]

Suspected al-Qaeda militants assassinate deputy governor in al-Bayda
A Yemeni security official says suspected al-Qaeda militants have assassinated the deputy governor of a southern province. The official says attackers opened fire at Hussein Dayan as he was leaving his home on Tuesday, heading to work in the province of al-Bayda, a militant stronghold. [AP, 4/15/2014]

Interview with WHO representative
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in Yemen discussed the country’s public health challenges. One of WHO’s goals is to have malaria in Yemen eradicated by 2020, but the challenges go beyond health care. The pervasive issue of malnourishment, particularly among children, requires major developmental reforms to address poverty and food insecurity. [Yemen TImes, 4/15/2014]


Militants close Fallujah Dam
Militants have closed all gates of a Euphrates River dam they control in Iraq, blocking a major water source, while violence killed fifteen people. The militants, who seized the dam several weeks ago had previously cut the flow of water through the dam near the city of Fallujah, but reopened it when water accumulated and caused the area to flood. In a sign of both the reach of anti-government fighters and the weakness of security forces, all of Fallujah and shifting parts of Anbar’s provincial capital Ramadi, to its west, have been out of government control since early January. [AFP, 4/15/2014]

Former ambassador says Obama policy does not adequately support Bahrain monarchy
The United States has not done enough to support Bahrain’s ruling family since the Gulf state was beset with Arab Spring demonstrations three years ago and President Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis has been “stupid and short-sighted,” says former US Ambassador to Bahrain Joseph Adam Ereli. Ereli said he believed Washington had “pulled an Egypt” in Bahrain, referring to what he believes was the Obama government’s failure to properly support former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. [Arabian Business, 4/15/2014]

Slum dwellers left out in cold in Algeria polls
Shantytown dwellers in Algiers face a major dilemma over the upcoming presidential election. The capital’s wali (state-appointed provincial governor) has given slum dwellers, who fled to crammed hovels to escape the bloody civil war of the 1990s, an impossible choice: vote or forget about housing. The government says it aims to resolve Algeria’s housing crisis once and for all under the fourth term sought by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. But critics accuse the wali of resorting to electoral “blackmail.” In the suburbs of Algiers, plush villas of the nouveau riche compete for space with the tin shacks of Algerians who have not benefited from oil annuities. [The Daily Star, 4/15/2014]

GCC Seeks to form military bloc with Jordan, Morocco
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has invited Jordan and Morocco to form a military alliance to resolve the bloc’s manpower issues. According to a Jordanian official, the invitation was presented to the two governments during a GCC meeting in late March and is under consideration. A Morocco-based newspaper reported that the new military alliance would include the six countries of the GCC—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman—along with Morocco, Jordan, and possibly Egypt. [Defense News, 4/14/2014]