Israel shuts Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque compound after unrest

An Israeli policeman blocks Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019

Israel shuts Jerusalem Al-Aqsa mosque compound after unrest

  • Police said they evacuated the Al-Aqsa mosque compound after a Molotov cocktail damaged a police post
  • More than 10 people were arrested, while the Palestinian Red Crescent reported two people hurt

JERUSALEM: Unrest at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site led Israeli police to shut off access to it on Tuesday after several weeks of tension at the location.
Police said they evacuated the Al-Aqsa mosque compound after a Molotov cocktail damaged a police post.
Video spread online of scuffles between police and Palestinians before the site was cleared.
More than 10 people were arrested, police said, while the Palestinian Red Crescent reported two people hurt.
A police officer suffered from smoke inhalation, police said.
Police said they found a number of firecrackers and Molotov cocktails in searches of the site.
Residents said police were also restricting Palestinian access to Jerusalem’s Old City, where the site is located.
Worshippers later prayed outside the locked gates of the site in protest.
Jordan, the custodian of the site, condemned its closure as “unacceptable.”
Abdul Nasser Abul Al-Basal, Jordanian minister of Islamic affairs, told state-run Al-Mamlaka TV that the closure was an “attack on religious freedom.”
The compound is the third-holiest site in Islam and a focus of Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
It is also the location of Judaism’s most sacred spot, revered as the site of the two biblical-era Jewish temples.
Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there and it is a frequent scene of tension.
It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
Recent weeks have seen scuffles over a side building at the site known as the Golden Gate.
Palestinian worshippers have been entering the site despite an Israeli order that it should stay closed.
Access to the Golden Gate was closed in 2003 during the second Palestinian intifada over alleged militant activity there, police say.
Palestinian officials argue that the organization that prompted the ban no longer exists and there is no reason for it to remain closed.
Israel and Jordan are believed to be holding discussions to resolve the issue.
Police have filed a request with Israeli courts for an order to re-close the building, but the court has reportedly delayed any decision to allow for more negotiations.
There are concerns in Israel that tensions at the site could boil over and become a political issue ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.


Sudan’s Bashir awaits his fate in corruption trial

Updated 14 December 2019

Sudan’s Bashir awaits his fate in corruption trial

  • Khartoum court is expected to hand down its verdict today
  • If found guilty, Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir could be sent to prison for up to 10 years

KHARTOUM: A verdict in the corruption trial of Sudan’s ex-president Omar Al-Bashir is expected Saturday, eight months after the military deposed the strongman during unprecedented mass protests against his three-decade rule.
Bashir is charged with illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.
If found guilty, he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
The Khartoum court is expected to hand down its verdict at 10:00 a.m.
Bashir was toppled by the army on April 11 after months of mass demonstrations triggered by an acute economic crisis.
He has attended several hearings since the trial began in August, appearing in a metal cage wearing the traditional Sudanese white jalabiya and turban.
At the start of the trial, judge Sadeq Abdelrahman said authorities had seized 6.9 million euros as well as $351,770 and 5.7 million Sudanese pounds ($128,000) from Bashir’s home.
While the former president admitted to having received a total of $90 million from Saudi leaders, the trial centers on the $25 million received from Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Bashir said the money seized from his home came out of the $25 million.
The funds, he said, formed part of Sudan’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and were “not used for private interests but as donations.”
Bashir’s lawyer Mohamed Al-Hassan told reporters the ex-president’s defense does not see the trial as a legal case, but as “a political” one.
The trial does not relate to charges Bashir faces at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Bashir has been wanted by the ICC for years for his role in the Darfur war that broke out in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against his Arab-dominated government which they accused of marginalizing the region.
Rights groups say Khartoum applied targeted suspected pro-rebel ethnic groups with a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.
The Darfur conflict left around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.
After Bashir was toppled, ICC prosecutors requested he stand trial for the killings in Darfur.
Army generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand over the 75-year-old.
But Sudan’s umbrella protest movement, which now has significant representation on a sovereign council that in August became the country’s highest executive authority — recently said it has no objection to his extradition.
Separately, on November 12, Sudanese authorities filed charges against Bashir and some of his aides for “plotting” the 1989 coup that brought him to power.
In May, Sudan’s attorney general said Bashir had been charged with the deaths of those killed during the anti-regime demonstrations that led to his ouster, without specifying when he would face trial.