SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tunisia’s deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was given a five-year jail term in absentia and fined 3.5 million euros for corruption, adding to two life sentences he has already received, judicial sources said on Tuesday.
The former strongman was convicted of having exploited his position “to provide for himself or a third party unfair advantages, causing harm to the administration,” according to a Tunis court ruling.
Ben Ali currently lives in gilded exile in Jeddah, having fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife during the mass uprising against his regime in January 2011.
For his part in the same case, Khaled Kobbi, a businessman detained in July 2011, was sentenced to two years in jail and also fined seven million dinars (3.5 million euros).
The case relates to the acquisition of more than 20 hectares of land to build an industrial zone with public funds, before it was sold on in controversial circumstances.
Ben Ali has already been sentenced twice to life in prison for presiding over the bloody crackdown on the uprising that eventually unseated him and ignited the Arab Spring.
He has also separately been sentenced to decades in prison along with his wife Leila Trabelsi for embezzlement, illegal possession of narcotics, housing fraud and abuse of power.
Ben Ali’s clan, and his wife’s family in particular, had a stranglehold on business in Tunisia, and are accused of having run a mafia-style state.
The couple regularly claim they are the victims of post-revolution score settling.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A Kuwaiti court has sentenced the main opposition leader and former MP Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison after he was convicted of allegedly insulting the emir.
Barrak, a nationalist, was charged on Monday with making statements deemed offensive to the ruler of the Gulf state, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah.
At a public rally on October 15, he appealed to the emir to avoid "autocratic rule".
Criticising the emir is a crime that carries a maximum of five years in jail.
"The court has sentenced the defendant Mussallam al-Barrak to five years in prison with immediate effect," said judge Wael al-Atiqi in a half-packed courtroom in the Palace of Justice in the capital Kuwait City.
One of Barrak's lawyers, Abdullah al-Ahmad, said "the ruling is null and void because it violated the legal procedures and for failing to provide the defence team with sufficient guarantees."
"We will appeal against the ruling in the appeals court," he told AFP news agency outside the courtroom said.
Last week, Barrak's defence team walked out of court after the judge refused requests to hear defence witnesses who included the Kuwaiti prime minister, two former opposition MPs and others.
Barrak had asked Atiqi to postpone the trial until he finds a new lawyer, but the judge refused and insisted he would proceed with the case on Monday.
The verdict was issued amid tight security inside and outside the Palace of Justice.
The verdict comes two days after the Kuwaiti opposition threatened it would stage street protests and could even call for civil disobedience if Barrak was denied a fair trial and jailed.
The opposition leader was detained for four days in late October and released on bail. He is also facing trial on several other counts including charges of storming parliament and taking part in protests.
Several opposition tweeters and former MPs have been sentenced to jail terms on charges of insulting the emir.
Kuwait's opposition has been staging protests to demand the dissolution of parliament elected last December on the basis of an electoral law that had been amended by the emir.
The opposition claims that the change is illegal and is aimed at electing a rubber stamp parliament.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Israel has released Palestinian prisoner Ibrahim Baroud after 27 years behind bars. Baroud a prominent figure in the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine surprised the families of prisoners who were holding their weekly sit-in in front of the Red Cross Office by showing up there before going to his house.
Prisoner’s advocacy groups demanded that all Palestinian prisoners should be set free.
Baroud received a hero’s welcome in the Jabalia refugee camp where he was born and raised.
In an exclusive interview with Press TV he accused the western powers of being behind the suffering of Palestinians.
For many years his family was prevented from seeing him.
His father died three years ago while Ibrahim was in Israeli custody.
Only last year his elderly mother has managed to visit him in jail.
Statistics show that Israel arrested close to eight hundred thousand Palestinians since 1967.
Despite the release of Ibrahim Baroud after nearly three decades of incarceration, thousands of Palestinians continue to endure inhumane conditions in Israeli prisons and detention centers.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Police said a man on trial for the gang rape and fatal beating of a woman aboard a New Delhi bus committed suicide in an Indian jail Monday, but his lawyer and family allege he was killed.
Ram Singh, who was accused of driving the bus on which the 23-year-old student was raped by a group of six men in December, was under suicide watch at New Delhi's Tihar Jail when he hanged himself with his own clothes at about 5:30 a.m., police officials said. His death is raising further questions about a criminal justice system already being criticized for failing to protect the nation's women.
Singh, 33, had been among five defendants facing the death penalty if convicted of the attack, which horrified Indians and set off national protests. A sixth accused is being tried and jailed separately because he is a juvenile.
India's deputy home minister, R.P.N. Singh, said an inquiry had been ordered into the suicide, according to the Press Trust of India.
"The inquiry is being conducted and it would be premature to make any statement about the details of the incident," said Vimla Mehra, the director general of the jail.
Ram Singh's family and lawyer alleged foul play in his death.
"There were no circumstances which could have led to Ram Singh committing suicide. There was no mental stress. He was very happy," his lawyer V.K. Anand said. Lawyers for the defendants had previously accused police of beating confessions out of the men.
Indian jails have a reputation for overcrowding, poor management and brutal treatment of inmates.
'Somebody has killed him,' father says
Ram Singh's father, Mangelal Singh, said his son had been raped in prison by other inmates and had been repeatedly threatened by inmates and guards. Nevertheless, he said he visited his son four days ago and the man appeared fine and gave no hint of any despair that could drive him to take his own life.
Ram Singh also had a badly injured hand and would have been unable to hang himself, his father said, speaking from outside his small home in a New Delhi slum.
"Somebody has killed him," he said, insisting he would push for a top-level investigation into the death.
Mangelal Singh said he feared for the safety of another son who is also on trial in the rape case.
The defendants were being housed in separate buildings on the jail grounds and were all under suicide watch, a jail official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Bus attack sparked protests
The rape victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding the bus Dec. 16 as they tried to return home after watching a movie, police say. The six men, the only occupants of the private bus, beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries to her, police say. The victims were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died from her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
The brutal attack set off nationwide protests about India's treatment of women and spurred the government to hurry through a new package of laws to protect them.
Singh's death comes as the trial was deep underway, with another hearing scheduled for Monday. The four surviving defendants were produced in court, but left after a short time because of an attorney's strike.
Vivek Sharma, a lawyer representing another defendant, said he planned to ask the court to provide greater protection for his client.
"In a high-security jail, an occurrence of this kind is highly condemnable. It raises the serious issue of security of the accused persons in the jail," he said.
"My clients don't feel safe in Tihar jail," said another defence lawyer, A.P. Singh.
Closed court for trial
K.T.S. Tulsi, a former top lawyer in the office of the solicitor general of India, said the suicide should have no impact on the trial, which is being held in a closed courtroom under a gag order that prevents news organizations from publishing details of the proceedings.
He said the death highlighted how important it is for society not to demonize people who have been accused but not convicted of crimes.
"It is so unfortunate that the media goes on to presume that they are guilty and goes on to condemn them and demonize them to an extent that it makes the life of these people not worth living," he said.
In 2011, 68 inmates in India killed themselves and another eight were killed by fellow inmates, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau.
Tihar Jail is badly overcrowded with nearly twice as many prisoners as it was designed to hold. Jail authorities have been working to soften its reputation in part by selling TJ's cookies baked by the inmates to the public.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – On Saturday, Mohammed Fahd al-Qahtani and Abdullah Hamad, two political and human rights activists, were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison by a Saudi Arabian court.
The two were found guilty of sedition and providing foreign media with false information. Mr. Qahtani and Mr. Hamad are the founders of Acpra, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, an organization that documents human rights abuses.
Acpra has called for a constitutional monarchy and elections, which could be viewed as threats to the power of the Saudi royal family. According to Reuters, last year Acpra issued a statement demanding that King Abdullah fire then Crown Prince Nayef. The group charged that Nayef failed to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Interior Ministry, which he headed until he died last year.
Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Hamad must complete six years of a previous jail term for political activities and serve an additional five years. Both will remain jailed until a judge rules on their appeal next month.
For more than ten years Qahtani, an economics professor, has been one of the most outspoken human rights activists in the deeply conservative country. Qahtani believes Saudis must demand their rights, and that speaking up and demanding a stronger rule of law is a moral responsibility.
In an interview with the Monitor in 2012, he compared Saudi Arabia to apartheid-era South Africa, saying, “Our goal is to reach a situation where the regime is bound by its own law. It's a duty incumbent on us to educate people and push them forward."
Qahtani and Hamad’s trial was open to the press and the public. While they disagreed with the decision, some Saudi activists called the trial's openness a step forward.
Supporters of the activists said the trial was political motivated. When the judge sentenced Qahtani and Hamad, supporters began shouting and security officers armed with truncheons cleared the courtroom.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – After losing his fingers as a result of twelve hours spent in subzero temperatures, a disabled man has died from a blood clot in a Russian hospital. A policeman who refused to fulfill his duty by helping the man is now facing five years behind bars.
The incident happened late last year when 28-year-old speech impaired Vitaliy Seduhinsky was boarding a bus with his mother when the doors shut before she could get on.
Unable to communicate, Seduhinsky spent some time circling the bus route before being let off at a suburban stop in the city of Barnaul.
Lost and confused, he was spotted by a woman who called the police to help the stranded individual. The officer who responded to the call failed to carry out his duty, simply decideding not to investigate the report any further.
As a result, Seduhinsky spent over twelve hours in temperatures of minus forty degrees Celsius. On December 10, the man was admitted to hospital where his fingers were amputated due to severe freeze burns. On January 8 Seduhinsky was killed by a blood clot in his brain.
Because of the policeman’s failure to follow up on the emergency phone call, he has been charged with negligence that resulted in the harm and death of one or more human beings under the criminal code article 125, with a maximum sentence of five years.
Police have earlier defended their actions saying that such calls – like the one received on the night of December 10 from the woman who found Seduhinsky – are statistically proven to be prank calls. Allegedly the reason why the officer decided not to act. Further investigation is underway.
Detectives are also looking into the failure of another police department in the city of Barnaul, linked to the same case. Immediately after her son boarded the bus, his mother, who was unable to get onboard, tried filing a missing persons report. It's alleged that the police force ignored the request to search for the disabled man, saying that the case had no criminal basis.
Authorities are also trying to establish exactly which bus crew was responsible for letting the disabled man off the vehicle in sub-freezing conditions.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Kuwaiti opposition youth activist has been given the maximum sentence of five years in prison for insulting the 'inviolable' emir on Twitter in the third case of its kind since January, following a crackdown on free speech in the country.
Mohammad Eid al-Ajmi will likely appeal his case, despite the fact that his sentence took “immediate effect,” said lawyer Mohammad al-Humaidi, director of the Kuwait Society for Human Rights.
The sentencing was the latest in a series of similar prosecutions for criticizing the 'immune' emir on social media.
Last month, the same court sentenced Ayyad al Harbi and Rashed al Enezi to two years in jail each on similar charges of defaming the emir of Kuwait, the third such case in less than two months. Both are awaiting appeals court rulings.
Enezi did not mention the emir by name in the tweet, but the court said that it was clear who he intended to insult.
A large number of youth activists in Kuwait are on trial on charges similar to the three most recent indictments, and more verdicts are expected in the forthcoming weeks, Humaidi said.
On Tuesday, a verdict will be issued on three different former opposition MPs who criticized the emir at a public rally in October last year. At the time, tensions between authorities and the opposition had flared ahead of a parliamentary election, which the opposition said was illegitimate.
The opposition claimed that voting rules introduced by Sheikh Sabah’s emergency decree in October would tip the December elections in favor of pro-government candidates. Security forces used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse at least three large rallies in support of an imprisoned opposition candidate.
Kuwait is one of several Middle East states that censors social media. In November 2012, the United Arab Emirates also adopted hard-hitting cyber laws, saying that posts damaging to the stature of the state or its institutions would result in a prison sentence. The UAE also banned “information, news, caricatures or any other kind of pictures” that authorities deemed threatening to security or “public order.”
And in November 2012, a Qatari poet was sentenced to life in prison when he wrote and published a poem that encouraged Qataris to overthrow the country's ruling system; he is also appealing his case.
On Monday, the Telegraph reported that the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said that investigations into comments on networks such as Twitter would have a “chilling effect” on free speech within Britain. Prosecutions in the country involving social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have increased nearly ninefold in the last four years.
According to the Kuwaiti constitution, the emir is “immune and inviolable,” and it is illegal to criticize him. The country has been increasing crackdowns on those using social media to voice discontent with the emir since last April, as part of new policies announced by Kuwaiti Information Minister Shaikh Mohammad Al Mubarak Al Sabah: “The government is now in the process of establishing laws that will allow government entities to regulate the use of the different new media outlets such as Twitter in order to safeguard the cohesiveness of the population and society,” he said.
That same month, Kuwait also voted in favor of a legal amendment which could make insulting God and the Prophet Mohammad punishable by death. The amendment was approved last December.
“We call on the government to expand freedoms and adhere to the international [human rights] conventions it has signed,” Humadi said. Kuwait is a US ally and a major regional oil producer.
In November, Amnesty International criticized the country for its charges against opposition leader Musallam al-Barrak for “undermining the status of the emir.”
His arrest and prosecution were described as “outrageous,” and “yet another manifestation of the increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly in Kuwait,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A Thai magazine editor, Somyot Prueksakasumsek, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for two articles he wrote back in 2010.
Judges decided the articles violated Thailand's lese majeste laws, which make it illegal for anyone to criticise the monarchy.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A Kuwaiti court has sentenced a man to two years in prison for insulting the country's ruler on Twitter, his lawyer says.
The man, who was sentenced on Monday, became the second person to be jailed for the offence in as many days.
Kuwait has clamped down in recent months on political activists who have been using social media websites to criticise the government and the ruling family.
The country has seen a series of protests, including one on Sunday night, since the ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah, used emergency powers in October to change the voting system.
The court sentenced Ayyad al-Harbi, who has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter, to the prison term two months after his arrest and release on bail.
Harbi used his Twitter account to criticise the Kuwait government and Sheikh Sabah.
He tweeted on Sunday: "Tomorrow morning is my trial's verdict on charges of slander against the emir, spreading of false news."
His lawyer, Mohammed al-Humidi, said Harbi would appeal.
"We've been taken by surprise because Kuwait has always been known internationally and in the Arab world as a democracy-loving country," Humidi told Reuters news agency.
"People are used to democracy, but suddenly we see the constitution being undermined."
Another man, Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was given two years in prison on Sunday over a tweet that "stabbed the rights and powers of the emir", according to the online newspaper Alaan.
Anzi is expected to appeal.
In Washington, the US state department said it had seen the reports of the two men's sentences and had raised the issue with the Kuwaiti government, which it urged to respect freedom of speech.
"We call on the government of Kuwait to adhere to its tradition of respect for freedom of assembly, association, and expression," Victoria Nuland, the state department spokeswoman, said.
"You know how strongly we feel about locking people up for their use of Twitter."
Kuwait, a major oil producer, has been taking a firmer line on politically sensitive comments aired on the Internet.
In June 2012, a man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was convicted of endangering state security by insulting Prophet Muhammad and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on social media.
Two months later, authorities detained Sheikh Meshaal al-Malik Al Sabah, a member of the ruling family, over remarks on Twitter in which he accused authorities of corruption and called for political reform, a rights activist said.
Public demonstrations about local issues are common in Kuwait, a state that allows the most dissent in the Arabian Gulf, and the country has avoided Arab Spring-style mass unrest that has ousted four veteran Arab dictators in the past two years.
But tensions have risen between Kuwait's hand-picked government, in which ruling family members hold the top posts, and the elected parliament and opposition groups.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Bahrain's highest court on Monday upheld the verdicts against 13 activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the government for their role in pro-democracy demonstrations sparked by the success of popular Arab Spring uprisings.
The country's highest appeals court took just minutes to rule on the appeal of the 13 people, who received sentences between five years and life, said attorney Mohsin Alawi, who represents three of the 13.
The ruling by the court was the last chance the 13 had to reverse their convictions. They were arrested for their roles in anti-government demonstrations in 2011 as the Arab Spring movement swept across the region.
Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In November 2011, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Bahrain plays a key strategic role in the Middle East and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquarters.
When Bahrain's lower appeals court upheld the convictions in September, the U.S. State Department said it was "deeply troubled" by the convictions.
Amnesty International has called the convictions of the activists an outrage and urged Bahrain to overturn the sentences.
The government has defended its judicial procedures and decisions, saying it provided fair trials. It has pointed out that Amnesty International was one of the international entities that attended the trial.
Alawi's clients Abdul Jalil al-Mudad, Muhammed al-Muqdad and Abdul Wahhab Husain received life sentences, he said.