Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 100 prisoners yesterday ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday and his departure for New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly. Notable among the released individuals, Sisi pardoned two Al-Jazeera journalists — Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — who were sentenced to three years in prison at a retrial last month. (A third journalist involved, Australian Peter Greste, was deported this past February.) The Al-Jazeera trial was roundly criticized by rights groups. “Our families have suffered so much since the beginning of this trial and we’re very happy that President Sisi took this action and released us,” Fahmy said. “I will continue fighting for press freedom…I know there are other defendants who are still in prison related to this case.”
Many of the other released prisoners were incarcerated for participating in political rallies in violation of a 2013 ban on protests. Sixteen of the pardoned individuals are women. “These pardons will be little more than an empty gesture if they are not followed up by further releases of those arbitrarily detained, respect for the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights violations,” a representative for Amnesty International said.
U.S. and Syrian Rebels Deny Defections to al-Qaeda Affiliate
The U.S. military denied reports that members of the latest deployment of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels had defected to or surrendered their weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s local affiliate. “All coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF [New Syrian Force] fighters,” according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. At least two officials in the U.S.-backed Division 30 rebel group discussed the defections, but a Facebook post from Division 30 has called the reports inaccurate and threatened to try one of the rebels who claimed to have defected for “high treason.”
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- At least 450 people were killed and more than 700 are injured after a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during one of the rituals of the Hajj.
- Two suicide bombers attacked a Shia mosque in Sanaa this morning, killing at least 10 people as worshippers gathered for Eid al-Adha prayers; the Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack.
- Saudi Arabia is under international pressure to stay the execution by crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr; Nimr, now 21, was arrested after attending a protest when he was 17 and has been convicted of crimes including possessing weapons and attacking police.
- The Saudi-led intervention force in Yemen, despite advancing quickly north from Aden in its early days, has stalled for the past week; Yemeni military officials blamed poor communication with Riyadh and concerns after Saudi jets accidentally bombed allied forces for the delay.
- Witnesses to the shooting of a Palestinian woman who may have threatened an Israeli soldier with a knife have disputed the Israeli military’s account, saying she was unarmed and confused.
Arguments and Analysis
“What Intervention in Yemen Means for UAE’s National Identity” (Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, Time)
“Until that dark Friday, many Emiratis viewed the operation against the Houthis through the prism of a government decision. Now, Emiratis view the war as a life-changing experience fraught with difficulties and danger in order to avert an even a greater danger in the future: the control of an Arabian Peninsula state by Iran. Emiratis want to see this war brought to an end as soon as possible with as little civilian casualties and damage as possible. An unintended repercussion of this war may be the potential political maturity of UAE citizens who have for decades been shielded from political crises in the region by a comfortable life at home.”
“Turkish Winter is Coming” (Burak Kadercan, War on the Rocks)
“What exactly is driving Turkey ‘crazy?’ And what will be the long-term implications of such collective madness? The answer to the first question has to do with the uncomfortable cocktail of unipolarity in the political sphere and the ‘cult of moral righteousness.’ The former creates an imbalance in domestic politics and the latter, while helping politicians energize their own followers, makes it impossible for members of different political groups to talk to each other productively. The resulting collective political madness, unless both politicians and common folks reclaim their sanity, will have dire consequences and may eventually push Turkey into a ‘political winter’ that will be marked by either outright authoritarianism or civil strife. Under both circumstances, the likelihood of military intervention is considerably amplified.”
-J. Dana Stuster