The POMED Wire

Egypt Sentences 23 Pro-Democracy Activists to Three Years in Prison

egypt Photo Credit: Systemic Capital

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 pro-democracy activists who were arrested this summer for participating in unauthorized demonstrations to three years in prison. The activists’ defense lawyer Ahmed Ezat called the verdict “legally flawed.” Before the sentence was announced, Amnesty International issued a press release condemning the case as a “show trial, based on highly questionable evidence,” in the words of Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Amnesty reported that one of the defendants, Yara Sallam, a well known human rights defender, was arrested with her cousin at the site of the protest buying a bottle of water. Sallam’s cousin was released the next day, but Sallam was kept in detention after authorities found out she worked at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The law the activists were accused of violating is known as the “Law Regulating the Right to Public Gathering Processions and Peaceful Protests,” which was enacted under former president Adly Monsour in 2013.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. is “deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence.” Psaki urged “Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law and to release an amended version that will enable …

Bahrain: Opposition Group Al-Wefaq Banned by Court

_78577366_024287180-1Photo Credit: BBC News

A court in Bahrain banned leading Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq, a month before the parliamentary elections are due. The group’s defence lawyer, Abdullah al-Shamlawi told the Associated Press that al-Wefaq’s activities would be frozen for three months. The group “condemned the suspension as ‘irrational and irresponsible’ and said it appeared to be a move by the government to ‘destroy political and social life by blocking the people out.’” According to a copy sent by Al-Wefaq’s lawyer to Reuters, Al-Wefaq was “in violation of the law concerning political societies, which also says the justice minister can request the High Civil Court to stop the activities of a society ‘for a period not exceeding three months during which it removes the reasons for the violation.’” The Court also accused the group of carrying activities out in a “fog, without any legal supervision.”

Human Rights First (HRF) warned that the suspension of Al-Wefaq would most likely lead to more friction and instability in the country as it prepares for parliamentary elections. Brian Dooley from HRF said that “the decision to suspend Al-Wefaq looks far from coincidental. Stifling peaceful dissent is inviting trouble, especially when political tensions are so …

POMED Notes: “The Escalating Shi’a-Sunni Conflict: Assessing the Role of State Actors”

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The Stimson Center’s Middle East Program hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. at the Stimson Center office in Washington on the role of state actors in creating, perpetuating, and exacerbating underlying causes of sectarianism between Shi’a and Sunni populations in the Middle East and North Africa. Geneive Abdo, a Fellow at the Stimson Center’s Middle East Program, moderated the panel discussion. She was joined by Dwight Bashir, the Deputy Director for Policy and Research at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and Najib Ghadbian, an Associate Professor of Political Science from the University of Arkansas.

For a full summary of the event, continue reading below or click here for the PDF.

Geneive Abdo delivered the event’s opening remarks. This panel discussion was the third of a series of panel discussions, the goal of which was to identify underlying problems behind sectarianism. Although convention points to the collapse of the state, as the world witnessed in Syria and to an extent in Iraq and now Libya, as the primary instigator of sectarian tensions, the focus of the panel discussion was to look at sectarianism through a different lens, that of …

Egyptian Government Expands Powers of Armed Forces; CIHRS Releases Report on Freedom of Association

Egypt - AFP-Getty Images Photo credit: AFP – Getty Images

On Monday, Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi expanded the powers of the country’s armed forces to enable the prosecution of civilians in military courts. Egypt’s constitution already grants the army the ability to try cases that directly involve a military officer or an army installation. The new measure, which is under the same law applied to “terrorist operations” against facilities “vital to national security,” allows civilians accused of vandalizing public property or blocking roads to be court-martialed. Government officials said on Monday that the law is “necessary to ensure the safety of citizens” and that it will remain in force for two years.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) published a report on the last four years of developments regarding the freedom of association in Egypt. The report comes just before the November 10 deadline set by the Egyptian government orders all NGOs to register to bring their legal status into compliance with Law 84/2002. The first part of the report looks at the legal framework regulating civil society in Egypt while the second part focuses on specific government practices and violations of the right of freedom of association. The report finds …

Ennahda Party Leader Congratulates Nidaa Tounes on Parliamentary Victory

195653_newsdetail Photo Credit: Reuters

The leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, Rachid Ghannouchi called Nidaa Tounes leader, Beji Caid Essebsi, yesterday to congratulate him on his party’s victory in Tunisia’s national parliamentary elections on Sunday. Official and unofficial counts indicate that Nidaa Tounes won 83 parliamentary seats, about 10 seats ahead of Ennahda, which is estimated to have won between 69 to 73 seats.

Essessbi accepted Ghannouchi’s congratulations with appreciation. Lindsay Benstead co-authored an article for the Washington Post in which she wrote that one of the most important aspects of the election was the “peaceful turnover of power.” Nidaa Tounes, a party that emerged in opposition to Ennahda, will now need to negotiate with the rest of parliament over the composition of the Cabinet. Benstead wrote that “in stark contrast to experiences in Egypt or Libya, Tunisia’s elections are ‘politics as normal.’”

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement congratulating Tunisia on its elections Sunday. Obama reaffirmed the United States’ “commitment to supporting democracy in Tunisia.” However, many commentators have urged for a greater U.S. role in supporting Tunisia’s democracy. POMED Advocacy Associate Todd Ruffner wrote that there is now an “opportunity for the United States to demonstrate that it …

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