SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) An appeals court in Kuwait has freed on bail an opposition leader at the centre of a political standoff, delaying the final verdict to an unspecified later date.
Mussallam al-Barrak, who has so far evaded arrest, was sentenced to five years in jail for insulting the the emir of the Gulf state.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Kuwait City, said that the delay is "probably the best situation" that the government could have opted for.
"On one hand, it appeases the opposition supporters, many of whom had threatened to stage large scale demonstrations if Barrak was put behind bars," said Elshayyal.
"On the other hand, it may change the threat of sending him to jail that would be a cloud hanging over his head - a very valuable card for the government to use in its negotiations if continued political standoffs continue."
Reacting to the court decision, opposition supporters who had gathered outside the court cheered and expressed happiness that the country's diverse opposition had rallied around Barrak.
Elshayyal added that the opposition would still be "on edge" until any final verdict. The court has yet to decide a date for the next hearing.
He said this offers an opportunity for the two parties to reach an agreement, which could pave the way for a lighter or suspended sentence, which may ease the tense situation.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A senior member of Lebanon's Hezbollah, he was alternatively described as the head of its security section, a senior intelligence official and as one of the founders of the organization.
Imad Mughniyeh was killed on 12 February 2008 by a car bomb, planted inside the driver's headrest, around 11:00 pm local time in the Kfar Suseh neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. His assassination was blame on the Mossad - Israeli Secret Services -
As it happens, or at least as the documentary now claims, Qatar and other Arab nations would have assisted the Mossad in its inquest into Mughniyeh, sharing its intelligence data.
On 10 October 2001, Mughniyeh appeared on the initial list of the FBI's top 22 Most Wanted Terrorists, which was released to the public by President Bush, with a reward of up to $5 million offered for information leading to his arrest. Later the reward was increased to $25 million. This reward remained outstanding as of 2006. In addition, he was in 42 countries' wanted list.
It is important to note that Zanas, the Canadian production company is also working as a consultancy firm on media, advertising and political PR for a number of organizations which support the Palestinian cause.
Zanas also produce a documentary looking into the assassination of late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed on Sunday an agreement confirming their “common goal to defending” Jerusalem and its sacred sites against attempts to Judaise the Holy City.
A statement by the palace said the deal confirms Jordan’s historic role as custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, particularly the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and outlines coordination between the two sides.
“In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the statement said.
“It is also emphasizing the historical principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city and holy sites from Israeli judaization attempts.”
“It also reaffirms the historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.”
Al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.
But it is also Judaism’s most sacred place of worship, venerated by Jews as Temple Mount, the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
It is one of the most sensitive sites in Jerusalem, and clashes frequently break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
“Jerusalem is currently facing major challenges and attempts to change its Arab, Muslim and Christian identity,” the palace said.
Israel captured the eastern half of the city during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized internationally, but the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of their future state.
Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israeli, administers the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem through its ministry of Awqaf and religious affairs.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday apologized in a personal phone call to Turkey’s prime minister for a deadly commando raid on a Turkish ship in 2010, in a sudden reconciliation between the two countries that was partly brokered by President Obama during his visit to Israel this week, according to Israeli, Turkish and American officials.
In the call, Mr. Netanyahu expressed regret for the raid, which took place as Israeli troops were enforcing an aid embargo on Gaza, and offered compensation, Turkish and Israeli officials said. And after years of holding out for a public apology for the deaths, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accepted Israel’s gesture in the phone call.
Afterward, officials from both countries said that diplomatic relations had been fully restored and that ambassadors would be reinstated.
In a statement, Mr. Obama welcomed the call, saying, “the United States deeply values our relationships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them, in order to advance regional peace and security.” At one point, Mr. Obama, just before leaving for Jordan, got on the phone with both leaders as they spoke, one senior American official said.
Israel and Turkey had cultivated close ties over many years, but the acrimony over the raid, which resulted in nine deaths, created a stubborn hurdle. Recently, Mr. Erdogan drew harsh criticism for saying that Zionism was a “crime against humanity.”
Discussing the phone call, a senior Turkish government officials said: “The Israeli prime minister, in a phone call that lasted 10 minutes, apologized to the Turkish nation for all operational mistakes, evident in an investigation, that led to human losses, and agreed to offer compensation.”
Addressing the Gaza embargo that led to the tensions, a statement from Mr. Netanyahu’s office noted that Israel had also already removed a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods to all the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and that the openness would continue as long as quiet prevails. The two leaders agreed to continue to work to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.
On Friday evening, Mr. Obama landed in Jordan, where he is likely to confront pressure to help that financially struggling country cope with a desperate tide of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.
It is Mr. Obama’s first visit to an Arab state since the Middle East erupted in unrest two years ago, toppling leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, and plunging Syria, Jordan’s neighbor, into civil war. He is scheduled to hold talks with King Abdullah of Jordan later on Friday.
Diplomacy aside, Mr. Obama spent his last day in Israel making pilgrimages to symbols of the Holocaust, modern Zionism, the Middle East peace process, and Christianity. In coming here, Mr. Obama has traded symbolism for a still-unfolding crisis in Syria.
About 3,000 refugees a day are fleeing into Jordan, swelling the ranks of Syrian refugees to 460,000, equivalent to 9 percent of the kingdom’s population. That has put a heavy strain on the Jordanian economy, which is only partly offset by aid from the United States.
Jordan is seeking increased aid from European and Persian Gulf states, which have lagged the United States in their support. Given a potential pool of three million or four million refugees in southern Syria, Jordanian officials fear the daily influx could swell to as much as 50,000.
Mr. Obama’s speech in Jerusalem, in which he appealed to younger Israelis to prod their leaders to pursue peace with the Palestinians, was warmly received in Jordan, where the king has been a steadfast, if somewhat despairing, advocate for the two-state solution.
As he wrapped up his visit to Israel Friday, Mr. Obama eschewed politics for more universal themes.
After rekindling the eternal flame and laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in the morning, a solemn Mr. Obama spoke of a collective “obligation not just to bear witness but to act” against racism “and especially anti-Semitism.”
“Our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate,” Mr. Obama said. “The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust but in the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel the Holocaust will never happen again.”
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Kurdish separatists in Turkey are poised today to take the most critical step yet in efforts to end a 30-year conflict with the Turkish state when they call a ceasefire.
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), is due to use the Kurdish new year's celebrations today to announce a truce, according to Kurdish politicians who recently visited the Turkish prison island of Imrali, where Ocalan has been held for the past 14 years.
"The statement I am preparing will be a historical call," Ocalan said. He also pleaded for the support of the Turkish government: "We want to rapidly solve the arms problem without losing time or another life."
In an important symbolic gesture last week, the PKK released eight Turkish hostages who had been held captive in northern Iraq for up to two years. But in a sign of the possible backlash to come, a leftist group scornful of the rapprochement launched a bomb and missile attack on government buildings overnight. One person was injured.
"The announcement of the ceasefire will be one of the most important steps ever in the history of this conflict," Mesut Yegen, a historian of the Kurdish issue, said. The ceasefire will be the first step of a so-called "roadmap" proposed by Ocalan a couple of weeks ago.
If successful, it would further reinforce peace talks that began in October last year and that might yet spell the end to the devastating conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since it erupted in 1984.
In further steps, PKK fighters are expected to withdraw from Turkish territory to northern Iraq where the PKK, labelled a terrorist organisation by both the USA and the European Union, maintains bases. A third step would include the disarmament and reintegration of PKK guerrillas.
Sadullah Ergin, the Turkish justice minister, told the Turkish media on Monday that he expected all three steps to be successfully completed by the end of 2013. If the PKK heed their leader's call tomorrow, the entire organisation's estimated 3,500 fighters based in Turkey will have withdrawn by August.
While Ocalan stressed in his peace roadmap that the Kurds did not demand a separate independent state, he did underline the importance of substantial constitutional and judicial changes that would guarantee Turkey's Kurdish population all cultural rights and give more power to local authorities.
Yegen said: "The fact that the PKK does not want to withdraw all of its fighters before the announcement of the new constitution also means that they want to keep an ace up their sleeve during the negotiations of constitutional changes. But the government seems to have accepted this condition."
There have been attempts at peace negotiations before, but this is the first time that a Turkish prime minister and Ocalan, deemed the conflict's chief villain by many Turks, are openly engaging in dialogue.
Cengiz Aktar, a columnist, warned that a successful completion of the three steps of the peace negotiations would not mean an immediate solution of Turkey's Kurdish problem. "We would enter a post-conflict era, but this era will last a long time," he said. "There are no quick fixes in conflict resolution."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The Russian republic of Chechnya has hired as its new cabinet minister for civic relations someone whom President Ramzan Kadyrov discovered on Instagram.
Kadyrov, who is an enthusiastic user of the Internet photo-sharing site, created the post — formally called minister of government-civil society liaison — after a four-hour meeting last week with Instagram users critical of his leadership, the Chechen government said in a statement.
In a post on Instagram afterward, Kadyrov called the discussion "superficial" and unsatisfying, saying those he met with "did not even understand the issues."
The former rebel leader, who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses — in 2009, he defended the practice of "honor killings"of women who cheat on their husbands — has used Instagram to portray himself in a gentler light.
"He wants to present himself as more modern, that's why he's paying attention to the younger generation," Alexey Malashenko, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center-Caucasus, told The Moscow News. "He is attempting to improve his image."
Kadyrov's account is filled with pictures of Kadyrov holding babies, kissing deer at the zoo and picking flowers. "I just fed a chicken!!!" reads the caption under a photo of Kadyrov frolicking with a clutch of chickens, which was distributed to more than 84,000 followers.
One of those followers is arbi_9595 — real name Arby Seyfudinovich Tamaev — and Friday, Kadyrov plucked him off the Net to join the government. Pictures on his account indicate that he shares the president's love of fast sports cars.
"Today I met with (Agriculture Minister) Abubakar Edelgeriev and the new minister of the Chechen Republic. You all remember him and know him by his nickname @arbi_9595," he wrote.
"Arby Tamaev responded to my request to gather Instagram users, showing initiative and perseverance," Kadyrov wrote. "Now he will have to demonstrate these same qualities as a minister of the Chechen Republic, tackling the interaction between the government and civil society."
After his appointment, Tamaev updated his profile to note that he had been flooded with correspondence on the site and asked potential new followers: "Please do not write!"
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Australia has its first Aboriginal leader of a provincial government, in a development welcomed by the prime minister as a historic moment for the nation's impoverished indigenous population.
Adam Giles was sworn in Wednesday as government head of the Northern Territory, one of two Australian mainland territories which are largely treated as equals to the six states.
He became leader in an internal coup within the ruling conservative Country Liberal Party while the former chief minister Terry Mills was in Japan on a business trip.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who leads a center-left Labor Party government, told Federal Parliament on Thursday that Giles' promotion deserved national recognition.
She said: "This is a moment in history for indigenous Australians and it's appropriate that we mark it in this chamber."-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- As international dignitaries and socialist politicians greeted the inauguration of interim Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, tens of thousands of supporters of the "Bolivarian Revolution" viewed the televised ceremony with a mix of grief, hope and apprehension.
Broadcast as mourners cued for hours attempting to get a final glimpse of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the inauguration brought the medieval phrase "the king is dead, long live the king" to mind for at least one onlooker.
Presiding over sweeping changes, Chavez governed for 14 years, redistributing the country's vast oil wealth and winning more free elections than any other leader in the Americas.
"He was the best thing in the world," Caracas resident and mourner Evelyn Gonzalez told. "He did many things for the country and became a legend," she said, cautioning that "we have to see what the other politicians do", in reference to Maduro.
Gustavo Bracamonte, a mechanic in Caracas, told that "for me, the biggest achievement of Chavez was increasing social inclusion".
'In our hearts'
Despite rising inflation, worsening crime and increased dependency on oil exports at the expense of the manufacturing sector, working-class supporters of the deceased president saw a reflection of themselves in Chavez.
Some people lined up for more than 16 hours, travelling by bus from the countryside just to get a glimpse of his coffin for a few seconds.
Marbella Ochoa, a community leader from the indigenous Wayuu tribe in western Venezuela, travelled for more than 12 hours to show her support.
"He [Chavez] did many good things for the poor and us indigenous people," Ochoa told. "He enacted new laws protecting us and our lands; now we feel included [in the political process]. He will always be in our hearts."
Strong emotional connections between "El Comandante" and his supporters, bordering on a personality cult, were on full display during his funeral and the swearing-in of his successor on Friday.
But supporters of Venezuela's opposition were not impressed with the transition of power from Chavez to Maduro, calling it "fraud".
In the days following Chavez's death on March 5, opposition leader Henrique Capriles called for unity among Venezuelans in a society polarised by individual politicians and their vastly different ideologies.
After the inauguration of Maduro, Capriles - a state governor defeated by Chavez in October's presidential election - came out swinging. "We are not going to permit that the sorrow that the people feel be an excuse for the abuse of power, for constitutional fraud," said Capriles. "The people didn't vote for you, boy," the opposition leader said, addressing Maduro directly.
The two men are set to square off in an upcoming presidential election. Maduro is favoured to win: Polling carried out in February, when Chavez was still in the hospital, indicates that Maduro would win 46.4 of the vote compared to 34.3 percent for Capriles, according to Venezuelan firm Datanalisis.
Even to his many critics, Chavez was a larger-than-life figure. Arguably the most internationally recognisable South American leader in the past decade, he presided over a significant decrease in the poverty rate, a souring of relations with the US and a series of high-profile international agreements.
Maduro, on the other hand, is known for his loyalty to the Chavista cause and little else. A bus driver with connections to the Cuban government, Maduro rose through the ranks of the union movement to become vice president and now interim leader. He has promised to call elections quickly, and most observers believe it is in his interest to do so.
"I think Maduro has the ability to present himself as the bereaved successor, to take advantage of a powerful emotion - grief - and turn that into something that benefits the Socialist Party," Max Cameron, a Latin America expert at the University of British Columbia, told. "There is no reason to expect that popular support for what Chavez wanted to do will disappear."
Yet while several elections since 1998 have confirmed that a majority of Venezuelans support Chavez's vision for society, many are angry about day-to-day inefficiencies in government.
Juan Diaz Salas, a trade union official in Caracas, waited 12 hours to see Chavez's coffin before giving p. "The coordination wasn't great," Salas told Al Jazeera of the event. "They [officials organising the memorial] let too many people cut the line."
Praising Chavez as a "world leader who dealt with all the humble and poor people", Salas isn't as passionate about the Socialist Party's new leaders. "The ones coming into power now aren't as prepared as Chavez was," he said.
Complaints about inefficient bureaucrats hired for political reasons are common across Venezuela, and if Maduro wins the next election he will have to work quickly to build a connection with the public. Perhaps more importantly, he will also have to tackle public-sector bodies frequently accused of corruption and mismanagement.
While healthcare, education and social spending improved significantly during the Chavez era, critics believe some of the oil money has been wasted.
During Chavez's tenure, the country relied heavily on crude exports to the US, despite the government's anti-imperialist rhetoric.
'People feel stronger'
"I think Venezuela has all of the classic problems of an oil-based economy," Cameron said. "In the long run, sustained economic growth demands investments in innovation, productivity and such. It's hard for oil countries to do this." Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of Venezuela's exports, compared with 80 percent in 1999 when Chavez first took office.
Government supporters note that oil wealth has been shared more fairly during the Chavez era, even if economic diversification and government waste continue to hamper development. "We have problems, sure, but it's a process," Michael Mijares, a translator, told Al Jazeera as he smoked a cigar while watching mourners stand in line.
"The people feel stronger now. Chavez helped people see the world in a different way," he said, as crowds watched Maduro don Venezuela's red, yellow and blue presidential sash.
Does he believe Maduro can carry on the deceased leader's project? "Chavez is Chavez: you can't compare the other leaders to him," Mijares said. "The other leaders were his pupils."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – When Kim Jong-un inherited the job of North Korean dictator just over a year ago, he promised change.
New national slogans like “no more belt-tightening,” and “great leap forward” replaced “one meal a day” and “arduous march.”
The young leader went rollercoasting with an attractive companion, who later turned out to be his wife, and was seen at skating rinks and concerts.
At home, the result was “the revolution of rising expectations” among his people, said Alexandre Mansourov, a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.
But internationally, Mr. Kim continued on the same path as his father and grandfather: dramatic political manoeuvring, ambitious rhetoric and an imperious military strategy, culminating this week in a nuclear test that provoked world outrage.
Confusingly, he appears to be steering North Korea toward an insurmountable contradiction: Will he pursue economic modernization, as his official statements and actions suggest? Or will he continue to antagonize foreign nations with nuclear and long-range missile tests?
“Clearly North Korea wants to show the world and its own people that they are a nuclear power that deserves respect,” said Charles Armstrong, professor of Korean studies at Columbia University in New York.
“But that is in conflict with their desire for economic reforms, which are not going to happen with the kinds of sanctions and international reaction that the tests evoke.”
With his domestic and foreign policies seemingly at odds, experts believe Mr. Kim’s second year as leader could turn sour, especially if China signs on to the United Nations’ sanctions regime.
But his rule began in divisive fashion, with Mr. Kim moving aggressively to show he was his own man. This included reducing the perks given to members of the military.
“He undid a lot of things, starting with the purging of key individuals put in place by his father [Kim Jung-il] to protect and guide him,” said Mr. Mansourov.
“It was surprising how quickly he reasserted the [Workers’ Party of North Korea’s] control over the military. There was a significant rollback of the songun, the ‘military first’ policy, in his first year.”
He also reasserted the “centrality of the cabinet in economy decision-making,” curtailing the role of party members he disagreed with — or feared. The plan was to professionalize economic policy-making, at the expense of the military.
Hope and optimism spread among ordinary North Koreans, who longed for an end to the devastating era of Kim Jong-il, with its widespread famine and poverty.
“He began to open up possibilities for people,” Mr. Mansourov said. “New consumer products and services were introduced to the country, with an increasing ability for people to get their hands on them.”
Access to goods like cellphones and modern clothing, combined with the leader’s apparent focus on improving living standards, caused North Koreans to “expect more attention to their needs, their lives and interests.”
But while Mr. Kim paid lip service to the people’s needs early in his tenure, his actions are increasingly showing foreign policy trumps domestic concerns.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Tunisia’s leading leftist opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was shot dead, after leaving his home in the capital of Tunis.
According to Belaid’s family, the head of the opposition Democratic Patriots party who was a harsh critic of the government was hit by two bullets on Wednesday after leaving his home.
Soon after the death, the country’s Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali denounced the act, saying "This is a criminal act, an act of terrorism not only against Belaid but against the whole of Tunisia."
Tunisia is witnessing an increase in violence, as the country has been under a state of emergency since January 14, 2011, when Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after days of street protests that put an end to his 23-year rule.
Riots and protests broke out in Tunisia after a 26-year-old fruit vendor, identified as Muhammad Bouazizi, set himself on fire when police confiscated his merchandise.
Ben Ali's regime was accused of widespread corruption as his relatives controlled much of the business sector in the country.-www.shfaqna.com/English