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Weekly update of human rights violations in the region (07 Nov – 14 Dec 2006)

EGYPT: Rights groups slams Sinai bombings trial

CAIRO, (IRIN) - International rights group Human Rights Watch issued a statement this week severely criticising the recent Taba Bombings trial. Three Egyptian men - Yunis Muhammad Mahmoud ‘Alian, Osama Muhammad `Abd al-Ghani al-Nakhlawi and Muhammad Jayiz Sabbah Hussein - were sentenced to death for their alleged part in the October 2004 Sinai resort bombings, which killed 34 people.

A special State Security court, which was set up under the provisions of Egypt’s Emergency Law, sentenced the three men to death, along with lesser penalties for 10 other men, in Ismailiyya on 30 November. “Serious allegations of torture and forced confessions, as well as prolonged incommunicado detention and lack of consultation with counsel, raise significant doubts about the fairness of the trial,” HRW’s statement said.

In another unrelated event, Khayrat al-Shatter, the deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and some 180 Brotherhood students were arrested in a dawn raid on 14 December. This followed the emergence of video footage showing what appears to be a Brotherhood 'militia' enacting a martial arts display outside Cairo’s Azhar University.

On 13 December, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) presented a report entitled ‘Implacable Adversaries: Arab Governments and the Internet’. “The most important point in the report is that governments are still censoring and harassing citizens through the internet - but that the internet can also be used to show their abuses,” Gamal Eid, HRinfo director, told IRIN.

IRAN: Four bloggers on trial for "disturbing national security"

TEHRAN, (IRIN) – International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday hit out against Iranian authorities for failing to bring to justice those officials responsible for the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of several bloggers in 2004.

On 3 December, Tehran's Judiciary started a trial against four men - Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Omid Memarian and Javad Gholam Tamimi - on charges of "participation in formation of groups to disturb national security”, "propaganda against the state”, "dissemination of disinformation to disturb public opinion by writing articles for newspapers and illegal internet sites”, and "interviews with foreign radio broadcasts”.

Tamimi remains in Iran, but the other three men currently reside outside Iran, represented in absentia by their lawyers. The court has held one closed-door session, and the trial is scheduled to resume on 17 December.

"The Iranian judiciary is trying to prosecute government critics using vague, overbroad laws whose very names restrict free expression," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division at Human Rights Watch. "Iran should be prosecuting the officials accused of torture, not the bloggers accused of holding opinions."

HRW said the laws on which the government has based its case are themselves incompatible with international human rights law.

IRAQ: Two more journalists gunned down

BAGHDAD, (IRIN) - Two Iraqi journalists were among dozens of victims of violence in Iraq over the past 10 days.

On 4 December, Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, 36, a news editor for the privately owned Radio Dijla was gunned down by unidentified gunmen shortly after he left his home in Baghdad's western neighbourhood of Washash, police First Lieutenant Mohammed Abdul-Ghani said.

On 12 December, insurgents shot dead Asswan Ahmed Lutfallah, 35, a cameraman with Associated Press Television News (APTN) as he covered clashes between Iraqi police and insurgents in Mosul, some 400km north of the capital, Baghdad, the station reported.

With these latest deaths, at least 90 journalists and 37 media support staffers have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, making Iraq the deadliest conflict for the press in recent history, according to the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation concerned about press freedom worldwide, has hailed a decision by Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, to allow journalists to cover its sessions again after a two-week ban.

But it described the new restrictions which place media under government surveillance as "worrying" and that journalists’ rights were "unfortunately violated more and more in Iraq”.

JORDAN: Photojournalists attacked by MPs

AMMAN, (IRIN) – An attack led by a group of legislators on three press photographers during a parliamentary session on 11 December sparked a wave of condemnations within the media community with calls for an immediate apology from the Parliament.

The incident occurred when three photographers from the daily newspapers al-Dustour, al-Arab al-Youm and al-Ghad were taking pictures of a scuffle that broke out between Mohammed Adwan, the representative of Amman’s seventh district, and Abed Thawabieh, the representative of Balqa’s second district, during a vote on parliamentary commissions.

Bothered by the presence of the press, a group of legislators started to physically attack the photographers, damaging a camera, witnesses said. Abdul Hali Majali, the Lower House Speaker, then ordered the confiscation of the photographers’ equipment.

At a meeting with the Jordanian Press Association (JPA) on 12 December, Majali apologised to the journalists who were attacked and promised to have the damaged camera repaired.

YEMEN: Editor and reporter jailed for republishing Prophet cartoons

SANAA, (IRIN) – A court on 13 December sentenced Akram Sabra, editor-in-chief of al-Hurriyah weekly, and reporter Yahya al-Abed to four months in prison each for republishing the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad which provoked outrage among Muslims around the world earlier this year. The court also banned the two journalists from writing for a month and shut down the newspaper for the same period.

Meanwhile, the general secretariat of the Yemeni Popular Forces, a political opposition party, condemned the National Security Apparatus at Sana’a International Airport for harassing Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani, editor-in-chief of the al-Shoura website, and detaining him unlawfully.

Al-Khaiwani was driven to the Ministry of Interior where he was told he would meet the minister or his deputy. “But I left the ministry without meeting any of them and I still don’t know why they prevented me from traveling,” al-Khaiwani said.

“This behaviour [from the government] targets civil freedoms and rights. The state is tightening its grip around these freedoms and rights day after day,” said Abdul-Salam Razzaz, assistant secretary general of the opposition party.

In an unrelated incident on 14 December, the Islah Party's students group at Sana'a University called for a fair, transparent and neutral investigation into the detention and disappearance of their colleague Jamil Shaaf. In its statement, the students called on concerned authorities to allow human rights groups and lawyers to have access to Shaaf's case so as to ensure procedures taken against him are legal.

Shaaf is now being held at Sana'a provisional detention centre, and no one has been allowed to visit him, according to the students group.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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