Journalist Khashoggi’s murder

Reply Tue 12 Feb, 2019 01:42 am
Some good news.

A football player and refugee whose detention in Thailand sparked an outcry has been freed from jail after Bahrain withdrew its extradition request.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who is a Bahraini citizen, fled to Australia in 2014 and was granted political asylum.

He was detained in Bangkok in November on an Interpol notice requested by Bahrain. He had travelled to the Thai capital on honeymoon.

He was sentenced in absentia to 10 years for vandalising a police station.

Al-Araibi, 25, denies the charges. Human rights activists say he could face torture if sent back to Bahrain, where he was a vocal critic of the authorities.

His case has been taken up by high-profile footballers, with stars including Didier Drogba and Jamie Vardy calling for his release. The Australian government, football's international governing body Fifa and the International Olympic Committee all lobbied Thailand.

Thailand's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) asked the court to end proceedings against al-Araibi because Bahrain had said it no longer wanted him, officials told BBC Thai on Monday.

"This morning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that Bahrain was no longer interested in this request," OAG foreign office chief Chatchom Akapin said.

Al-Araibi is expected to leave Thailand on Monday evening for Australia.

Bahrain's foreign ministry said that despite the end of the extradition proceedings, the footballer's conviction still stood. "The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr al-Araibi," it added.

The Thai foreign minister was in Bahrain over the weekend for an official visit and met senior leaders.

Bahrain's foreign ministry on Monday said that despite the end of the extradition proceedings, the footballer's conviction still stood. "The Kingdom of Bahrain reaffirms its right to pursue all necessary legal actions against Mr al-Araibi," it added.

Craig Foster, a former Australian national football captain and TV host who spearheaded the campaign to free al-Araibi, said there were "tears" in his household "right now".

He told the BBC that it was "an extraordinary day". "Sanity has prevailed, international law has been upheld," he said, adding he was glad that football had "stepped forward".

There had been criticism that football bodies, including Fifa, had not initially lobbied strongly enough on behalf of al-Araibi. Mr Foster and world players' union FIFPro had urged Fifa to threaten sporting sanctions against Bahrain and Thailand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra that he thanked Bangkok for "listening to the issues" Australia had raised.

"Now the next step is for him to return home. But as it always is in these cases, people aren't home until they're home," he said.

Al-Araibi plays for Pascoe Vale FC in Melbourne.

Last month, his wife told the BBC that extradition would put him in danger.

"I'm calling on every country to help Hakeem because I know if he gets taken back, he will be tortured, and he will be killed," she said.

But Bahrain said al-Araibi had been sentenced by an independent judiciary "on charges involving serious violence and criminality, unrelated to any possible freedom of opinion/expression issues".

It said his safety would be "guaranteed" if he returned to Bahrain to appeal against the sentence.

Human rights activists lauded Monday's news.

"This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world," said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, London-based campaign group.

"Hakeem's ordeal ended after 70 days when there was a clear public stance and solidarity movement. The football community, the human rights movement and all of those who dedicated their time and efforts to end this injustice were rewarded."

Reply Tue 12 Feb, 2019 02:32 am
Some silly news: Sen. Lindsey Graham S.C. has forgotten about the butchered Washington Post Journalist, Khashoggi and instead wants an investigation on the FISA warrants. Thank you Graham for boiling it down to persecuting the investigators...
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Reply Sat 16 Feb, 2019 07:20 am
Smartphone apps have transformed many areas of our lives, but in Saudi Arabia they are being used to curtail the rights of women.

On the Tech Tent podcast this week, we ask whether it is the responsibility of technology companies to make sure their platforms are not used by governments to repress their citizens.

In Saudi Arabia, women need permission from a male guardian - usually a father or husband - to travel abroad.

A smartphone app called Absher, available for Apple or Android phones, gives access to a number of government services. It also allows men to approve or refuse permission for overseas journeys made by women.

Recent stories of women who have managed to leave the country against the wishes of their male relatives have highlighted the role technology plays in policing their movements.

Rothna Begum, senior women's rights researcher at the campaign group Human Rights Watch, explains how the system affects every Saudi woman when she travels.

"She can't leave an airport without permission being provided. The authorities will know whether or not she has been granted permission. If her guardian has asked for notifications, when she's left the airport, he will receive an SMS text alert," she explains.

Salwa, a young woman who fled Saudi Arabia last year, told the BBC she managed to get out after getting hold of her father's phone.

She took it when he was asleep, and clicked on the "forgot password" link to steal his identity.

"I changed the number of my father's phone to my phone number, and I made a consent for me and for my sister," she says.

According to Rothna, app store providers should be showing that apps are not facilitating abuse and discrimination. She has called on Apple and Google to act.

"Now that they've been alerted to it, they could go back to the Saudi government and tell them to remove the functionality that is allowing men to control and track women."

Removing the app would not mean the end of the male guardianship system. The Saudi government's web portal has the same functions allowing the tracking of women.

But Human Rights Watch believes action from the tech companies would increase the pressure on the government to get rid of the system.

Apple and Google could well argue that it is not their job to determine the laws of the countries where they operate. But, as with their dealings with China, they will also be aware of the reputational risk of putting commercial interests ahead of the values they claim to espouse.

Apple says it is looking into the Absher app. The BBC has contacted Google about this issue but has yet to receive a reply.

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Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2019 03:43 pm
Two young women from Saudi Arabia are appealing for help after revealing they have spent six months in legal limbo in Hong Kong after fleeing their family.

Rawan and Reem (not their real names) say they escaped while on a family holiday in Sri Lanka in September.

They had been trying to get to Australia, but say they were intercepted in Hong Kong.

The case comes just weeks after another fleeing teenager was given asylum in Canada.

Rawan and Reem claim Saudi officials attempted to seize their travel documents in Hong Kong's airport.

They say they then resisted boarding a flight to Dubai, only to find flights to Melbourne they had booked had been cancelled.

Their lawyer, Michael Vidler, says they have held the status of "tolerated overstayers" in Hong Kong since and were informed in November that their Saudi passports had been invalidated.

Under Saudi law, women have to get a male relative's approval to apply for a passport or travel outside the country.

The women, aged 18 and 20, say they do not want to return home because they fear punishment or even death on their return.

Speaking to the BBC's Chinese service, the sisters said they had hatched a plot to flee because they had "no dignity" in their lives in Saudi Arabia.

They allege they were beaten, humiliated and forced to do household chores by their male relatives.

"My life was just to serve them. I was very depressed, didn't see any future," Rawan said. "They don't care about any of my needs or my education - their only focus was to raise me as a good wife."


Lots more at link.
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Reply Thu 28 Feb, 2019 08:04 pm
and who slid in to a meeting with the leader of the murderers while the media was focused on Cohen?



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Reply Thu 7 Mar, 2019 02:12 pm
Thirty-six states at the UN Human Rights Council have criticised Saudi Arabia for detaining women's rights activists, and demanded their release.

The joint statement was the first collective rebuke of the Gulf kingdom since the council was set up in 2006.

It reflects international concern at the detention of a number of activists in the past year and also at the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A Saudi diplomat denounced the use of such statements "for political causes".

"Interference in domestic affairs under the guise of defending human rights is in fact an attack on our sovereignty," said Abdul Aziz Alwasil, the kingdom's permanent representative in Geneva.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says that for years the Human Rights Council has shied away from public criticism of Saudi Arabia.

Many European countries view Riyadh as an ally in a troubled part of the world, restricting their concerns over human rights to private informal chats, our correspondent adds.

On Thursday that changed. All 28 members of the European Union and eight other states - Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand and Norway - "expressed significant concerns about reports of continuing arrests" of human rights defenders, including women's rights activists.

"We are particularly concerned about the use of the counter-terrorism law and other national security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights and freedoms," said the joint statement, which was read out by Iceland's permanent representative, Harald Aspelund.

"Human rights defenders and civil society groups can and should play a vital role in the process of reform which the kingdom is pursuing."

The countries called on the Saudi authorities to release all the activists, including the nine women and one man whose names Mr Aspelund read out.

Saudi Arabia began detaining the activists in May, just weeks ahead of the lifting of the ban on women driving for which many of them had campaigned.

In November, human rights groups reported that at least four of the women were alleging that interrogators had tortured them, including with electric shocks and whippings, and had sexually harassed and assaulted them. The Saudi deputy public prosecutor has said the allegations are "false".

On Friday, the public prosecutor's office announced it was referring to court the cases of a group of people, who human rights groups said included several of the activists.

It did not specify the charges, but said they were suspected of undertaking "co-ordinated and organized activities… that aim to undermine the kingdom's security, stability, and national unity".

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has insisted that the women's rights activists are being held on national security grounds rather than as part of a wider crackdown on dissent.

The joint statement by the 36 states also condemned the killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October, and told the kingdom that those responsible had to be held to account.

"We call upon Saudi Arabia to disclose all information available and to fully co-operate with all investigations into the killing, including the human rights inquiry by the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions," it said.

The special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, said last month that the evidence showed that Khashoggi was "the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia".

Saudi prosecutors have claimed that Khashoggi was killed by a "rogue" team of agents not acting the government's orders, and have put 11 people on trial for his murder.

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Reply Wed 13 Mar, 2019 05:15 am
A number of women's rights activists have gone on trial in Saudi Arabia in a case that has raised questions about the kingdom's human rights record.

The first activists were detained last May, shortly before the lifting of a ban on women driving, for which many of them had campaigned.

Charges they face are said to include supporting "hostile elements" and could carry long prison sentences.

Demands for the women's release have come from around the world.

Last week more than 30 countries at the UN Human Rights Council criticised Saudi Arabia for detaining the women.

Scrutiny of human rights in the kingdom has intensified since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

As many as 10 women were expected to appear at the criminal court in Riyadh on Wednesday, including prominent campaigners Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan and Hatoon al-Fassi.

Journalists and diplomats are not allowed to attend the hearing.

The public prosecutor's office has not specified the charges against them, but said they were suspected of undertaking "co-ordinated and organised activities… that aim to undermine the kingdom's security, stability and national unity".

On Tuesday, Ms Hathloul's brother said the trial had been switched to the criminal court from the Specialized Criminal Court, which was set up to try terrorism cases. The reason for the decision was not clear.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights said on Tuesday it feared the women might not get a fair trial and that it was "deeply concerned" about their wellbeing.

In November, human rights groups reported that at least four of the women were alleging that interrogators had tortured them, including with electric shocks and whippings, and had sexually harassed and assaulted them. The Saudi deputy public prosecutor has said the allegations are "false".

Saudi officials have accused critics of interfering in the Gulf kingdom's domestic affairs "under the guise of defending human rights".

Last August, Saudi Arabia froze trade ties with Canada and expelled its ambassador in response to calls to release the detained activists.

At the time, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said at least 15 human rights defenders and women's rights activists critical of the Saudi government had been arrested or detained arbitrarily since 15 May.

Also among the detained women is the Saudi-American human rights campaigner Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Ms Badawi, who was given the US International Women of Courage Award in 2012, is known for challenging Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam" online in 2014. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and has become a Canadian citizen.

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Reply Tue 19 Mar, 2019 01:52 am
Italy's La Scala opera house is to return more than €3 million (£2.5m; $3.4m) to Saudi Arabia after a funding plan with the kingdom triggered a public backlash.

The deal would have allowed the Saudi culture minister a seat on the board.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record is under close scrutiny after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

The partnership plan was criticised by rights groups and politicians.

"We have unanimously decided to return the money," opera house president Giuseppe Sala, who is also the mayor of Milan, told reporters after a board meeting on Monday.

"We'll go back to scratch today. We'll see if there are other opportunities for collaboration."

The €3m already delivered was part of a proposed €15m five-year partnership proposal with the Saudi culture ministry.

But the plan drew widespread criticism, including from members of Italy's governing League party.

League leader and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini urged the opera house to scrap the deal while the governor of the Lombardy region, who is also a League member, demanded the opera's artistic director, Alexander Pereira, be sacked.

Mr Sala said that Mr Pereira, who negotiated the deal, would keep his job.

There has been no comment so far from Saudi officials.

Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on rogue agents and denied claims that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had any knowledge of the operation.

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