EU pushes to impose Iran sanctions over Mahsa Amini ‘killing’

Women protest with placards during the unveiling of a banner on the facade of the town hall in support of the Iranians fighting for their freedom and against obscurantism in their country, in Montpellier, France, on October 3, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 04 October 2022

EU pushes to impose Iran sanctions over Mahsa Amini ‘killing’

  • Rights groups voiced concern after riot police used tear gas and paintball guns against students at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology on Sunday night
  • Video footage showed detainees being taken away with fabric hoods over their heads

PARIS: The European Union said Tuesday it was weighing tough new sanctions on Iran over a lethal crackdown on protests sparked by the “killing” of Mahsa Amini, after a similar move by the United States.
Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16, days after the notorious morality police detained the Kurdish Iranian for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
Anger over her death has sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock Iran in almost three years and a crackdown that has seen scores of protesters killed and hundreds arrested.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was considering “all the options at our disposal, including restrictive measures, to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have been responding to the demonstrations.”
It came after President Joe Biden said the United States would impose “further costs” this week on “perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters” in Iran.
Rights groups voiced deep concern after Iranian riot police used tear gas and paintball guns against hundreds of students at Tehran’s Sharif University of Technology on Sunday night, with video footage showing detainees being taken away with fabric hoods over their heads.
Protests also spread to schools, with video footage shared by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showing schoolgirls demonstrating in two cities in Amini’s native Kurdistan province.
“Women, Life, Freedom,” the young female protesters chanted as they marched down the central strip of a busy highway in Marivan, in footage that AFP has not independently verified.

Biden gave no indication of what measures he was considering against Iran, which is already under crippling US economic sanctions largely related to its controversial nuclear program.
Iran on Tuesday accused the US leader of “hypocrisy” in invoking human rights to impose fresh punitive measures.
“It would have been better for Mr.Joe Biden to think a little about the human rights record of his own country before making humanitarian gestures, although hypocrisy does not need to be thought through,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in an Instagram post, reported by Iranian media.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had on Monday accused arch foes the United States and Israel of fomenting the protests.
The riots “were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime, as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad,” Khamenei said.

The unrest has overshadowed diplomatic efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers which had come close to a breakthrough in recent months before stalling again.
But White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed the “problems with Iran’s behavior” are separate from efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which Washington will pursue “as long as we believe” it is in US national security interests.
In his first public comments on Amini’s death, 83-year-old Khamenei stressed on Monday that Iranian police must “stand up to criminals.”
Khamenei said “some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burned the Qur'an, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars.”
He added that “this is not about hijab in Iran,” and that “many Iranian women who don’t observe the hijab perfectly are among the steadfast supporters of the Islamic republic.”
On Tuesday, an official said singer Shervin Hajjipour — arrested after his song “Baraye” (“For“), with lyrics taken from social media posts about the reasons people were protesting, went viral — had been released on bail.
Another 400 people arrested in the crackdown were released Tuesday “on condition of not repeating their actions,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests and last week said nine foreign nationals — including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had been arrested.
At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the Mahsa Amini rallies, said Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, which has been working to assess the death toll despite Internet outages and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram and other online services.
Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said last week that “around 60” people had died.
At least 12 members of the security forces have been reported killed since September 16.

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Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on

Updated 08 December 2022

Lebanon detainees stuck in limbo as judges’ strike drags on

  • Judges have suspended their work as rampant inflation eats away at their salaries, paralysing the judiciary and leaving detainees in limbo
  • Bureaucracy and rampant corruption have long delayed verdicts and judicial proceedings in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Taxi driver Youssef Daher has languished for months in prison without charge, one of scores stuck after Lebanese judges launched an open-ended strike in August to demand better wages in a collapsed economy.
Judges have suspended their work as rampant inflation eats away at their salaries, paralysing the judiciary and leaving detainees in limbo — the latest outcome of Lebanon’s years-long financial crisis.
From his jail cell in the northern city of Tripoli, Daher sends daily messages to his lawyer asking him whether judges have ended what is already the longest strike for their profession in Lebanese history.
“My family lost their sole breadwinner and must now rely on aid to survive,” he told AFP.
Daher has not seen his wife and three children since he was arrested eight months ago because they cannot afford transportation to get to the prison, he said.
Security forces arrested Daher after he gave a ride to a passenger accused of kidnapping — unbeknownst to him, he said.
Authorities did not press charges against Daher after questioning, so his lawyer requested his release. Then judges began their strike.
His request has been pending ever since.
Bureaucracy and rampant corruption have long delayed verdicts and judicial proceedings in Lebanon, where 8,000 people are estimated to be jailed, most of them awaiting a verdict.
But now, underfunded public institutions have taken a hit after the country’s economy went into free-fall in 2019, with basic state services like renewing passports or completing a real estate transaction often taking months to complete.
Although judges’ salaries are expected to triple as part of Lebanon’s 2022 budget, their wages are currently worth only around $160 on average due to soaring inflation.
“How can a judge live with his family on such a salary?” one striker asked, adding that some of his colleagues with chronic illnesses could no longer afford medication.
“Judges were forced to launch this strike because their financial situation has become unbearable,” he said.
Judges who spoke to AFP said they also wanted better working conditions as they had been forced to toil without electricity or running water and buy their own office supplies like pens and paper.
Lebanon’s state electricity provider produces an hour of daily power on average, forcing residents to rely on private generators that public institutions often cannot afford.
The judges’ strike has compounded an already bleak reality for detainees, many of whom spend months or years awaiting a verdict.
Lawyer Jocelyn Al-Rai said her client, a Syrian youth, was arrested two months ago on drug trafficking charges without a warrant and has yet to face questioning, because the public prosecutor’s office has stopped working.
Despite the strike, certain courts continue to function.
In Beirut on Thursday, a criminal court sentenced Hassan Dekko, a man known as the “Captagon King,” to seven years in prison with hard labor for producing and trafficking the stimulant, a judicial source said. Dekko had been arrested in April last year.
Yet the judges’ strike is also contributing to overcrowding in the already cramped prisons, stretching detention facilities that have seen increasing numbers of escape attempts, a source at the Palace of Justice in the Beirut suburb of Baabda told AFP.
“About 350 people used to be released from prison every month... that number has now been reduced to about 25,” said the source, adding that most are released after “mediators intervene with the judge handling the case.”
About 13 inmates who completed their sentences two and a half months ago have been stuck in the Palace of Justice’s cells because criminal courts have not met to sign off their release, he added.
A judicial source who declined to be named said detainees were bearing the brunt of the strike’s knock-on effects.
“Judges have a right to a decent life,” he said, but “detainees are also suffering from injustice, even those whose only crime was stealing a loaf of bread.”

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Protests in Sudan demand army leave power, reject deal

Updated 08 December 2022

Protests in Sudan demand army leave power, reject deal

  • Sudan has been in turmoil since an uprising overthrew its longtime autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir
  • In Khartoum, demonstrators headed for the Republican Palace before being intercepted by security forces who fired tear gas and water hoses at the crowds

KHARTOUM: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sudan’s capital Thursday, demanding the ouster of its military rulers and rejecting a deal for the gradual transfer of power to civilian leaders.
Sudan has been in turmoil since an uprising overthrew its longtime autocratic ruler Omar Al-Bashir. A military coup in October 2021 abruptly ended a previous democratic transition agreement with protest leaders.
In Khartoum, demonstrators headed for the Republican Palace, the seat of the ruling military council, before being intercepted by security forces who fired tear gas and water hoses at the crowds. There are no confirmed reports of any casualties.
Thursday’s protest was led by the Resistance Committees, a grassroots group that has steadfastly rejected any negotiations with Sudan’s military leaders, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo. The protest group has called for both men, who led last year’s coup, to be tried in court.
On Monday, the two military leaders signed a ‘‘framework agreement” with Sudan’s main pro-democracy group, the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change. But the agreement appears to offer only the vaguest outlines for how the country will resume its road to democracy. Various other political parties and organizations also signed the deal.
The Resistance Committees’ are one of a number of significant political players who have rejected the new agreement. Several former rebel leaders, who have formed their own political bloc, also boycotted the deal.
The agreement between military and civilian leaders also avoided sensitive political issues concerning transitional justice and reforming the military, a policy that promises to see various armed factions within Sudan integrate into one fighting force.
Another uncertainty is how the agreement would balance power between a new civilian government and the military. According to the deal, a reformed military will form part of a “security and defense council” overseen by a new prime minister. However, commentators have cast doubt on whether the military will properly follow through on this pledge.
Further negotiations for a more inclusive agreement are expected.
The United Nations and the US have brokered months of cross-party negotiations in Sudan, along with several other international actors. Both actors have acknowledged the fragility of the agreement and called for further talks.
On Wednesday the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken threatened to impose a travel ban on any Sudanese figures who try to derail the democratic transition.


Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu moves closer to coalition deal

Updated 08 December 2022

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu moves closer to coalition deal

  • Deal announced overnight promises the Shas party five ministerial jobs in Netanyahu’s incoming government

JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime-minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu struck a deal with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party Thursday on allocating cabinet jobs in a key step toward forming a government ahead of a looming deadline.
The deal announced overnight promises the Shas party five ministerial jobs in Netanyahu’s incoming government, which is expected to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
“We have achieved another step toward forming a government,” said Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, whose victory in a November 1 election set him up to retake power after just 14 months in opposition.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has already signed coalition deals with three controversial extreme right parties — Religious Zionism, Jewish Power and the virulently anti-LGBT Noam.
Likud’s agreements with Shas and another ultra-Orthodox bloc, United Torah Judaism, are provisional, not binding coalition deals. Additional pacts will be required before a government is announced, the parties have said.
One complication is that Shas leader Aryeh Deri has been convicted of tax offenses, which, according to Israel’s attorney general, bars him from serving in cabinet.
Israel’s parliament, where Netanyahu and his allies now control a majority, may seek to pass legislation allowing Deri to serve in cabinet before firming up a coalition deal.
Under the Shas-Likud deal, Deri will be both interior minister and health minister in Netanyahu’s next government, in addition to being named deputy prime minister.
If confirmed, Deri would become Israel’s first ultra-Orthodox Jewish deputy premier.
Last month’s election put Netanyahu and his allies in a position to form a stable, right-wing government, ending an unprecedented period of political deadlock that forced five elections in less than four years.
Some Israeli political analysts had forecast that Netanyahu would move to announce a coalition days after receiving his mandate from President Isaac Herzog on November 13.
But the coalition talks have proved complex, with Netanyahu forced to give sensitive portfolios to controversial figures, including Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who has been promised the national security ministry with responsiblity for the border police in the occupied West Bank despite his fiercely anti-Arab rhetoric.
Netanyahu’s 28-day mandate from Herzog expires at midnight (2200 GMT) Sunday.
He is widely expected to seek a two-week extension, as several issues remain unresolved, including the allocation of portfolios within his own Likud party, according to Israeli media reports.


Iran executes first known prisoner arrested in protests

Updated 08 December 2022

Iran executes first known prisoner arrested in protests

  • Iran accused the man of blocking street and attacking security officer with machete

DUBAI: Iran said Thursday it executed a prisoner convicted for a crime allegedly committed during the country’s ongoing nationwide protests, the first such death penalty carried out by Tehran.
The execution comes as other detainees also face possible death penalty for their involvement in the protests, which began first as an outcry against Iran’s morality police and have expanded into one of the most serious challenges to Iran’s theocracy since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Activists warn others could be put to death as well soon since activists say at least a dozen people so far have received death sentences over their involvement in the demonstrations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk expressed strong regret over Mohsen Shekari’s execution and fear for other demonstrators that have been sentenced to death in Iran.

“We deplore the hanging of Mohsen Shekari — the first person executed regarding the latest protests – and fear for another 11 protesters sentenced to death,” he said.

“We call for an immediate halt to executions,” he added. “The death penalty is incompatible with human rights and cannot be reconciled with the right to life.”

 

 

The “execution of #MohsenShekari must be me with STRONG reactions otherwise we will be facing daily executions of protesters,” wrote Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based activist group Iran Human Rights. “This execution must have rapid practical consequences internationally.”
Iran’s Mizan news agency reported the execution. It accused the man of blocking a street and attacking a security force member with a machete in Tehran.
The Mizan news agency, run by the country’s judiciary, identified the executed man as Mohsen Shekari. It said he had been convicted in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which typically holds closed-door cases that have been internationally criticized in other cases for not allowing those on trial to pick their own lawyers or even see the evidence against them.
Mizan said Shekari had been arrested Sept. 25, then convicted Nov. 20 on the charge of “moharebeh,” a Farsi word meaning “waging war against God.” That charge has been levied against others in the decades since 1979 and carries the death penalty.
Iran has been rocked by protests since the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being detained by the country’s morality police. At least 475 people have been killed in the demonstrations amid a heavy-handed security crackdown, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests since they began. Over 18,000 have been detained by authorities.
Iran is one of the world’s top executioners. It typically executes prisoners by hanging. Already, Amnesty International said it obtained a document signed by one senior Iranian police commander asking an execution for one prisoner be “completed ‘in the shortest possible time’ and that his death sentence be carried out in public as ‘a heart-warming gesture toward the security forces.’”

(With AP)

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Israeli forces kill 3 Palestinians, including militant, in West Bank raid, Palestinians say

Updated 08 December 2022

Israeli forces kill 3 Palestinians, including militant, in West Bank raid, Palestinians say

  • The Israeli military said that soldiers had operated around the city of Jenin to arrest two Palestinian men suspected of involvement in "terrorist activity"
  • Residents said two of the dead men were known in the city as armed fighters

JENIN, West Bank: Israeli forces killed three Palestinians, including at least one militant, during a pre-dawn raid in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinians said, as a months-long wave of violence continued.
The Israeli military said that soldiers had operated around the city of Jenin to arrest two Palestinian men suspected of involvement in "terrorist activity".
During the arrest raid, it said soldiers were "targeted with direct fire and responded with live fire, hits were identified".
The Islamic Jihad claimed one of the men killed as a member and his body was seen wrapped in the militant group's flag at his funeral.
Residents said two of the dead men were known in the city as armed fighters, although they were apparently not the suspects the military had been seeking.
The third man was a civilian who was passing by at the time of the shooting, residents said.
Ghassan al-Saadi, who said he witnessed the incident, told Reuters he saw Israeli snipers shoot at cars ahead of him. He said Israeli forces also fired at ambulances when they arrived at the scene to remove two men who lay prone on the ground.
The Israeli military said it was not aware of such reports.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have deteriorated sharply this year, with Israeli forces staging repeated raids in the West Bank following a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis that killed 19 people in the spring.
Israel seized the West Bank in 1967 along with Gaza and East Jerusalem. All efforts to secure lasting peace and the creation of a Palestinian state on occupied territory have failed, with no prospects of negotiations resuming any time soon.
According to the Palestinian health ministry, more than 210 Palestinians have been killed this year. The tally includes militants and civilians, as well as deaths in Gaza during a brief conflict in August.
In the same period, Israeli authorities say 23 civilians and eight security personnel have been killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank.