Court Sentence 529 Muslim Brotherhood Supports To Death in Largest Mass Death Penalty Verdict in Egyptian History

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – In the largest mass death sentence to be handed by a court in modern Egyptian history 529 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death, charged with several crimes including murder. The verdict was handed down on Monday and according to Egypt’s official news agency, the charges were related to riots in the city of Minya in south Egypt in august of last year, including the death of an Egyptian police officer. The charges against the defendants included charges of violence, inciting murder, storming a police station, attacking persons and damaging both public and private property.

Relatives of the supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi on trial reacted to news of the verdict outside the courthouse in Minya, Egypt (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

The group of defendants is part of a group of about 1,200 Muslim brotherhood supporters on trial in Egypt, including senior members of the organizations. About 400 of those convicted are fugitives and were convicted and sentenced in absentia; under Egyptian law, they will be entitled to a retrial if they are arrested.

Most of the defendants were arrested and charged with caring out attacks during the violent clashes between protesters opposing the removal of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, that occurred in Minya after the intern military government cracked down on the opposing, forcing the dispersal of two major protest camps, used by the Muslim Brotherhood to demonstrate against the coup, on August 14 of last year.

The defendants are expected to appeal the decision and layers say the verdict is almost certain to be overturned on appeal. Many legal experts in Egypt were surprised by the verdict which is the largest mass trial or conviction in modern Egyptian history. “We have never heard of anything of this magnitude before, inside or outside of Egypt, that was within a judicial system — not just a mass execution,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights specializing in criminal justice issues.

Ennarah, who called the verdict “ridiculous”  argued that it would be impossible to prove that more than 500 people each played a significant role in the killing a single police offence, especially after just on session of the trial, which is what occurred in the case. He said; “clearly this is an attempt to intimidate and terrorize the opposition, and specifically the Islamist opposition, but would the judge get so deeply involved in politics up to this point?”

The verdict was the latest example of Egypt’s speedy and brutal crackdown on Islamists and supporters of the Muslim brotherhood, the verdict was the latest in a sting of speedy trials resulting in harsh sentences against Islamists and other supports of Mohamed Morsi, including a ten-day trial that recent ended in 17 year sentences for a group of student demonstrators. Human Rights groups have said Monday’s verdict is a signal that the Egyptian government intended to further tighten its grip on the opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, once the nation’s leading party, which has been largely driven underground by the government’s crackdown.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – Muslim Brotherhood Members Sentenced to Death – 24 March 2014

CNN International – 528 Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Sentenced to Death in Egypt – 24 March 2014

BBC News – Egypt Court Sentences 528 Morsi Supporters to Death – 24 March 2014

National Public Radio – Egyptian Court Sentences More Than 500 Morsi Supporters to Die – 24 March 2014

The New York Times – Hundreds Of Egyptians Sentenced to Death In Killing Of A Police Officer – 24 March 2014

Russian Forces Storm Belbek Air Base in Crimea, Shots Fired

By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BELBEK, Crimea – Russia stormed one of the last military facilities still under Ukrainian control in Crimea, amidst a growing search for stability in the region.

Russian forces expelled Ukrainian servicemen from the Belbek Air Base in Crimea, one of the last under Ukrainian control there. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

On 21 March 2014, Crimea’s military bases were still formally under Ukrainian control, but most are now occupied by Russian troops and fly Russia’s tricolor flag. Except for a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed and two others who were wounded in a shooting in Simferopol, the Russian takeover of Crimea has been largely bloodless.

On 22 March 2014, according to Deputy Commander Oleg Podovalov, Russian forces surrounding Belbek, a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea, and gave the Ukrainians an hour to surrender. Later, Russian troops forced their way into the base with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades. Belbek was one of the last military facilities in Crimea still under Ukrainian control after Russia annexed the peninsula.

Prior to the Russians storming the base, Mamchur had ordered his men to their stations. But those at the gate were armed only with sticks. On demand of parley to a Russian officer, Ukrainians were ordered to leave because the base belonged to Russia. On demand for documents proving that the base belonged to Russia, the Russian officer replied, “When was the last time you watched television?”

A Ukrainian serviceman was injured, and the base’s commander, Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, was detained for talks at an unspecified location.

“We have done everything we could,” Mamchur told his men after the Russians took over the base. “You acted with honor. There is nothing we should be ashamed of.”

Mamchur told his troops he would inform the high command that they had stood their ground. The soldiers applauded, chanting “Long live Ukraine!”

Many stood to take pictures of each other in front of the Ukrainian flag, which continued to fly over the base.

After the Russians entered, a Ukrainian officer who identified himself only as Vladislav said: “We did not provoke this, this was brute force. I do not know whether this base will be formally in Russian hands by the end of the day. Ever since World War Two, this place has been quiet, and they came in here firing, with APCs and grenades. I am very worried now.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron said, and other European leaders echoed, that the best rebuke to Russia would be a strong Ukraine. The EU also sought to bolster other potentially vulnerable nations in Russia’s shadow, signaling that the bloc would tighten relations with Georgia and Moldova.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Russian Troops Storm Ukrainian Bases in Crimea – March 22, 2014

Deutsch Welle — Shots Fired as Troops Enter Ukrainian Base Belbek in Crimea – March 22, 2014

Reuters – Shots Fired as Russian Troops Force Their Way into Ukrainian Base in Crimea – March 22, 2014

Washington Post – Russian Forces Storm Ukrainian Air Base in Crimea – March 22, 2014

Press Release: European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Adopts First European Magnitsky List with 32 Names

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

18 March 2014 – Today the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for targeted asset freezes and visa sanctions on 32 individuals in the Magnitsky case in Europe.

The top officials on the proposed sanctions list are Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Victor Grin, and Head of FSB Financial Counter-Intelligence Department Victor Voronin, two key officials who oversaw the case against Sergei Magnitsky and the proceedings in which officials Magnitsky had exposed for the $230 million theft had been exonerated.

“Russia should understand that civilized people in the West won’t tolerate impunity of Russian officials who participated in the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky,” said William Browder, leader of Magnitsky Justice campaign.

The resolution calls for sanctions be imposed as a first step on 32 individuals, including 16 officials that have already been sanctioned by the U.S. Government under the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act.

The EU list includes the names of previously convicted Dmitry Klyuev, former beneficial owner of Universal Savings Bank which received a portion of the stolen $230 million, and his associates Andrei Pavlov and Yulya Mayorova, who took part in collusive court proceedings orchestrated to disguise the $230 million theft.

The proposed EU list further targets those involved in the posthumous trial of Sergei Magnitsky, including judge Igor Alisov, and prosecution witness Konstantin Ponomarev.

The resolution calls on EU Council to:

“Establish a common EU list of officials responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, for the subsequent judicial cover up and for the ongoing and continuing harassment of his mother and widow.”(http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-528.148+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN)

For more information, please see:

Law and Order in Russia

Magnitsky Sanctions List of 32 Persons Adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament

  1. ALISOV, Igor, born 11 March 1968;
  2. DROGANOV, Aleksey (a.k.a. DROGANOV, Alexei), born 11 October 1975;
  3. EGOROVA, Olga, born 29 June 1955;
  4. GAUS, Alexandra, born 29 March 1975;
  5. GERASIMOVA, Anastasia, born 22 January 1982;
  6. GRIN, Victor, born 1 January 1951;
  7. KARPOV, Pavel, born 27 August 1977;
  8. KHIMINA, Yelena (a.k.a. KHIMINA, Elena), born 11 February 1953;
  9. KLYUEV, Dmitry (a.k.a. KLYUEV, Dmitriy or KLYUEV, Dmitri), born

10 August 1967;

  1. KOMNOV, Dmitriy (a.k.a. KOMNOV, Dmitri), born 17 May 1977;
  2. KRIVORUCHKO, Aleksey (a.k.a. KRIVORUCHKO, Alex or KRIVORUCHKO,

Alexei), born 25 August 1977;

  1. KUZNETSOV, Artem (a.k.a. KUZNETSOV, Artyom), born 28 February 1975;
  2. LOGUNOV, Oleg, born 4 February 1962;
  3. MAYOROVA, Yulya (a.k.a. MAYOROVA, Yulia), born 23 April 1979;
  4. PAVLOV, Andrey (a.k.a. Pavlov, Andrei), born 7 August 1977;
  5. PECHEGIN, Andrey (a.k.a. PECHEGIN, Andrei), born 24 September 1965;
  6. PODOPRIGOROV, Sergei, born 8 January 1974;
  7. PONOMAREV, Konstantin, born 14 August 1971;
  8. PROKOPENKO, Ivan Pavlovitch, born 28 September 1973;
  9. REZNICHENKO, Mikhail, born 20 February 1985;
  10. SAPUNOVA, Marina, born 19 June 1971;
  11. SHUPOLOVSKY, Mikhail, born 28 September 1983;
  12. SILCHENKO, Oleg, born 25 June 1977;
  13. STASHINA, Yelena (a.k.a. STASHINA, Elena or STASHINA, Helen), born

5 Nov 1963;

  1. STEPANOVA, Olga, born 29 July 1962;
  2. STROITELEV, Denis, born 23 January 1973;
  3. TAGIEV, Fikhret, born 3 April 1962;
  4. TOLCHINSKIY, Dmitry (a.k.a. TOLCHINSKY, Dmitriy or TOLCHINSKIY,

Dmitri), born 11 May 1982;

  1. UKHNALYOVA, Svetlana (a.k.a. UKHNALEV, Svetlana or UKHNALEVA,

Svetlana V.), born 14 March 1973;

  1. URZHUMTSEV, Oleg, born 22 October 1968;
  2. VINOGRADOVA, Natalya, born 16 June 1973;
  3. VORONIN, Victor, born 11 February 1958

 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-528.148+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN

President Obama Addresses Iranian Nuclear Talks

By Darrin Simmons
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran-US President Barack Obama has informed Iranians that  they “deserve better” and that a comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue will help move Iran “along the new path that so many Iranians seek.”

President Barack Obama addresses Iran (photo courtesy of The Daily Star)

In his address, Obama said, “A comprehensive agreement on the nuclear issue would help move Iran along the new path that so many Iranians seek.”

Obama remarked on Thursday in a message marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year, a day after the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.

This is Obama’s first Nowruz address since talks began in earnest to reach a lasting settlement about Iran’s nuclear activities and the first since Hassan Rouhani was elected to the office of president.

Iran has denied developing the capability to produce atomic weapons. The US, the European Union and the United Nations have imposed sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to suspend enrichment and other sensitive atomic activities.

“But the economic hardship that so many Iranians have endured in recent years – because of the choices of Iranian leaders – has deprived your country and the world of the extraordinary skills and contributions you have to offer. And you deserve better.”

On Wednesday Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, and Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, told reporters in Vienna that they had held “substantive” and “useful” talks.

The P5+1, a group comprised of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, hope to honor the July deadline set in November for a long-term nuclear deal between the six powers and Iran.

Obama said: “If Iran meets its international obligations…It means more economic growth and jobs for Iranians…more opportunities for Iranian students…real diplomatic progress this year can help open up new possibilities and prosperity for the Iranian people for years to come.

That deadline was agreed as part of an interim deal, reached in November, under which Iran stopped some parts of its program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

“That’s the message the Iranian people sent at the ballot box last year. I hope that the entire Iranian government hears that message too.”

A meeting between the P5+1 and Iran is set for April 7th in Vienna.

For more information, please see the following: 

Aljazeera-Obama: Iranians ‘deserve better’ from leaders-20 March 2014

Daily Star-Obama calls on Iran to seize opportunity of nuke talks-20 March 2014

White House-Statement by President Obama on Nowruz-20 March 2014

Zee News-Obama calls on Iran to seize opportunity of nuclear talks-20 March 2014

 

South Korea Seeks China’s Support to Refer North Korea to the ICC

By Brian Lanciault
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

SEOUL, S. Korea– South Korea has requested China’s support for a United Nations resolution seeking to hold North Korea’s leadership responsible for human rights violations.  To date, Beijing has opposed referring the case to an international court.

North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un, enjoys a cigarette while overseeing military shooting exercises. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The U.N. Human Rights Council is seeking to pass a resolution on North Korea’s bleak human rights record this week in Geneva after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry concluded last month that “crimes against humanity” have been, and continue to be, committed by ranking officials in the socialist country.

The United States, the European Union and Japan are working to bring North Korea’s human rights situation before the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Prospects remain dismal because China, key ally of the North, holds a veto.

“We have continued to discuss the issue with the Chinese side, but Chinese officials told us that it would not be an appropriate approach to try to openly address North Korea’s human rights situation,” a South Korean diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

“The Chinese side maintains that North Korea’s human rights situation should be handled through constructive dialogue and that it opposes such an explicit way” of referring North Korea’s leaders to the ICC, the diplomat said.

China has publicly announced that it would vigorously oppose any move at the U.N. to bring North Korea’s leaders before the global criminal court.

“To bring the human right issues to the International Criminal Court does not help improve a country’s human rights conditions,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Feb. 17, when the U.N. commission published the report.

Concluding a year-long investigation, the U.N. commission reported widespread executions of people, enslavement and sexual violence by North Korea. It marked the clearest indictment against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, in his speech at the U.N. human rights session in early March, proposed strengthening the role of the U.N. commission on North Korea’s human rights.

“For the international community, it is now time to begin the discussions on next steps to effectively follow up on the commission’s recommendations to improve the human rights situation in North Korea,” Yun said.

“In this vein, we strongly support the strengthening of the U.N. mechanisms to implement the commission’s recommendations. We also look forward to the leading role of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea,” Yun said.

For further information, please see:

Global Post– North Korea Newsletter No. 305— 20 March 2014

Mail Online– A smoking Un! Kim Jong smiles from ear to ear as he oversees army shooting exercise— 18 March 2014

Korea Joongang Daily– EU rep says North Korea felt stable— 20 March 2014

Washington Post– While slaughtering thousands, North Korea’s dictators published children’s books— 18 March 2014

Spain And Morocco Break Up Militant Cell Suspected Of Sending Fighters To Syria, Arrest 7

by Tony Iozzo
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain – Spanish and Moroccan authorities executed a series of arrests on Friday, in an effort to dismantle an Islamist militant cell that supplied fighters to areas engaged in fighting, most notably Syria.

A man suspected of being a member of a radical Islamist militant cell is arrested on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Officials from both countries announced that they had made seven arrests in connection with the cell, including the group’s leader, a Spanish citizen. Mustafa Maya Amaya, a nationalized Spaniard that was born in Belgium, was arrested in Melilla, a Spanish enclave surrounded by Moroccan territory. Two French citizens were arrested alongside Amaya in connection with the cell, according to Spain’s interior ministry. A Tunisian individual from Malaga, Spain, and three additional Moroccans were also arrested.

Over the course of recent conflicts such as that in Syria, fighters from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and more, have joined rebel forces in conflicted countries. Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez stated that this particular cell was the largest in Europe actively recruiting jihadists for the Syrian conflict. Fernandez also stated that some of the cell’s members have had involvement with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups.

Fernandez stated that the cell is completely disassembled as all of the components had been infiltrated with arrests; document forgers, logistics organizers and jihadists all have been arrested.

“The cell was dismantled in coordination with Spanish security forces. Three Moroccans were arrested at the same time as the [Spanish] head of the cell and his acolytes have been arrested by the Spanish security services,” the Moroccan interior ministry said in a statement.

The Moroccan statement further stated that Amaya had close connections to another cell that was linked to a North African al-Qaeda branch, referred to as AQIM. AQIM had been similarly dismantled last year before it was to send fighters to Mali and Syria. According to Spanish reports, Amaya used the internet to recruit jihadists and aided them in joining movements such as the Al Qaeda group Islamic State in Iraq, as well as the Levant (IDIL), al Qaeda’s Nusra Front branch in Syria.

Morocco stated that it has broken up radical Islamist cells accused of plotting both inside and outside of its kingdom. Morocco has experienced numerous bombings by suspected Islamist guerrillas, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh, but militant groups have so far failed to gain any power in the kingdom.

For more information, please see:

CNN – Spain Arrests 7 Suspected of Sending Militant Fighters to Syria – 14 March 2014

Fox News – Spain, Morocco Police Break up Jihadist Recruitment Cell, Arrest 7 – 14 March 2014

Reuters – Morocco, Spain Break up Militant Cell Sending Fighters Abroad – 14 March 2014

UPI – France Detains Seven Suspected of Sending Jihadists to Syria – 14 March 2014

 

Egypt’s Mansour Will Expedite Trial of Detained Australian Journalist

By Thomas Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – In a rare move, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour, has committed to expediting the trial of Australian journalist Peter Greste. The interim President made this known in a recent letter written to Greste’s family. Mansour is also the current Chief Justice presiding over the Supreme Constitutional Court, Egypt’s highest court.

Peter Greste and his colleagues are detained in a metal cage during their appearance before the trial court on March 5.

“I would like to assure you in my capacity as president of Egypt, that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law and that guarantees the reunion of the family in the near future,” Mansour wrote in the letter, seen by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Al Jazeera Network has called the gesture an “encouraging sign.” Additionally, a spokesperson for the organization stated that it demonstrates the actions of their journalists in Egypt were legal and that there is no case against them.

Greste, was arrested with two Al Jazeera producers, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, on December 29. They have now been detained for 81 days. The three are charged with joining a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, and broadcasting false information without proper working permits. They have all plead not guilty.

It remains unclear if the letter mentions Fahmy or Baher, even though they arrested together with Greste and thus, under the same circumstances. The trial also includes seventeen other journalists charged with similar crimes.

The trial has drawn criticism from international human rights groups who say that Egypt is merely attempting to suppress free speech. Institutions including the White House, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the release of the journalists, and for press freedoms to be upheld.

The arrests occurred at the same time as a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian authorities accuse the Al Jazeera Network of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result, Al Jazeera has been banned from reporting in the country.

The trial has been adjourned until March 24.

For further information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Egypt’s Mansour to expedite Al Jazeera trial – 19 March 2014

CNN – Egypt President will ‘spare no effort’ to resolve case of Al Jazeera journalist  – 19 March 2014

Montreal Gazette – Egypt leader says will try to expedite trial of detained Australian journalist – 18 March 2014

Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera journalists appear in Egypt court, see trial adjourned – 5 March 2014

al-Shabab Suicide Bomber Kills Many at Hotel

By: Danielle L. Gwozdz
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa

African Union and Somali government forces march around Buloburde

 

A car bomb exploded by the hotel where African Union and Somali officers were staying. Gunfire continued afterwards for five hours.

The al-Shabab suicide bomber rammed a car into the gates of the hotel before gunmen sprayed the building with bullets, killing many.

This attack occurred at nighttime in Bulobarde yesterday (Tuesday). al-Shabab abandoned Bulobarde last week when African troops advanced on the town in a new offensive aimed to flush the militants from the area.

Six soldiers were killed, including a top Somali army commander, the African Union stated.

However, the al-Shabab, who have claimed responsibility for the attack, have said that 30 African Union and army officers were killed in the attack.

A spokesman for the African Union has stated that all al-Shabab fighters involved in the attack have been killed, but he did not specify how many this was.

Local elder Hassan Nur said his nephew, a military commander, was among the killed.

“Most of the troops and civilians inside the hotel died or were wounded. We couldn’t count how many died because AU (African Union) and Somali forces swarmed all over the place,” Nur said.

The African Union force, known as AMISOM, said it stood with the “fallen soldiers” but did not state how many were killed.

al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has waged an eight-year insurgency to overthrow the weak UN-backed government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Bulobarde, which has a bridge over the River Shabelle and is a crossroads linking various regions of the country, was an important and strategic point for al-Shabab.

al-Shabab lost control of Mogadishu in 2011, but has intensified bombings and mortar raids in the city in recent weeks.

The militants, who seek to impose their version of Islamic law, were driven out of bases in the capital, but have continued to control swathes of countryside and smaller towns, which they use as launch-pads to carry out attacks at home and abroad.

Tuesday’s strike by al-Shabab followed an attack on Monday on a military convoy near the capital Mogadishu, which killed four Somali soldiers, according to an army captain.

al-Shabab said it carried out the attack to punish Kenya for sending troops to Somalia. Kenya said it had arrested two suspected al-Shabab militants on Monday with bombs that might have targeted the coast, which is popular with tourists.

For more information, please visit:

BBC News – Somalia’s al-Shabab attacks army hotel in Bulo-burde – 18 March 2014
The Frontier Post – Al-Shabab attack army hotel – 19 March 2014
Reuters – Somali militant strike kills peacekeepers, government troops – 18 March 2014
The Guardian – Somali militant strike kills peacekeepers, government troops – 19 March 2014