Palestinians reject US charge of increased prisoner stipends

Palestinian protesters throw stones at Israeli security forces during clashes following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 11 July 2019
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Palestinians reject US charge of increased prisoner stipends

  • US officials have criticised the PA's prisoner stipends as fanning Palestinian violence

JERUSALEM: The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA) denied on Thursday US allegations it had increased payments to families of militants in Israeli jails, and said the main obstacle to peace was Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
US officials have criticised the PA's prisoner stipends as fanning Palestinian violence, and US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said the PA had increased those payments by some 11 percent in the first months of 2019.
"PA increased pay to murderers by over 11% at the same time as they slash pay to their government workers and police," Greenblatt tweeted on Wednesday. "More harm to Palestinians & to peace!"
The Palestinian Finance Ministry rejected the accusation as "absolutely false and hypocritical" and said Washington was lending financial support to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
"It is known to everyone that Israel's illegal colonial settlements, funded by American taxpayer money, continue to be the obstacle to peace," a ministry spokesman told Reuters.
PA fiscal records reviewed by Reuters show no marked increase in what they refer to as "assistance for prisoners and detainees". Monthly payments were around 42 million shekels ($11.85 million) in December 2018, decreasing to 38.4 million shekels ($10.83 million) in April 2019.
Payments spiked to 75 million shekels ($21.15 million) in May 2019, which a ministry spokesman attributed to arrears payments and a bonus for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Civil servant salaries also spiked in May. Later data was not available.
The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, has been grappling with a financial crisis since it refused in February to accept tax transfers from Israel after Israeli authorities cut the portion designated for prisoners' families.
Under interim peace accords, Israel collects taxes on imports into the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, an enclave under Palestinian Islamist rule since 2007, and makes monthly transfers of the proceeds to the PA.
The tax transfers of around 700 million ($197 million) shekels per month make up about half of the PA's budget, and the government has slashed civil servant salaries since March to weather the crisis.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept the partial tax remittances from Israel, saying the PA is entitled to all the money under interim peace deals.
The mounting financial pressures on the PA have sent its debt soaring to $3 billion, and led to a severe contraction in its estimated $13 billion GDP economy, according to the PA’s top central banker.


Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Updated 8 min 40 sec ago
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Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

  • Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11
  • A female lawyer was detained on the evening of Jan. 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.
Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.
On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.