The Middle East Channel

Bahraini activists win retrial in a civilian court

A Bahraini appeals court has ordered the retrial of 21 opposition activists. They were initially charged by a military court for their alleged involvement in last year’s uprising, but the new trial will be in a civilian court. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is among those who will be retried. He has been on a hunger strike for ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

A Bahraini appeals court has ordered the retrial of 21 opposition activists. They were initially charged by a military court for their alleged involvement in last year’s uprising, but the new trial will be in a civilian court. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is among those who will be retried. He has been on a hunger strike for over 82 days, and seven other activists have been sentenced to life in prison for "forming a terrorist group with intent to overturn the system of government." According to his wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, the decision "is not a victory" because the activists are still in prison. His daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja said, "Abdulhadi Alkhawaja did not go on #HungerStrike saying death or retrial, he said death or freedom. A retrial doesn’t mean much." The trial is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Syria

In Syria’s northwestern city of Idlib, two bombs hit security installations and the hotel that United Nations monitors were staying in on Monday. According to Syria’s state news agency, SANA, at least eight people, primarily military personnel, were killed in the twins blasts and an estimated100 were injured. The British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, reported that over 20 people died in the blasts. Syrian television reported the explosions came from two suicide car bombings. However, a Syrian woman said she saw a group of men plant the bombs. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, but according to some opposition forces, their strategy has shifted toward targeted bombs because "we don’t have enough rifles." Meanwhile, according to the Syrian State TV, a rocket propelled grenade allegedly hit Syria’s Central Bank, but this report is unconfirmed. Activists report that up to 500 have died since the negotiated ceasefire was enacted on April 12.

Headlines  

  • Libya’s former prime minister and oil minister, Shokri Ghanem, who was active in efforts to reform the government of Muammar al-Qaddafi, was found dead in Vienna’s River Danube.
  • Egypt is attempting to quell protests over the rights of migrant laborers in Saudi Arabia, which have caused Saudi Arabia to close its embassy and recall its staff from Cairo.
  • Benzion Netanyahu, father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prominent Revisionist Zionist, has died at 102, spurring political parties to withdraw their no-confidence votes in the Knesset.
  • Yemen’s President Hadi has been challenged by former regime loyalists, as Saleh’s son named a new security unit head. But his nephew appears to have resigned as head of the Presidential Guard.
  • Israel, in coordination with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, began construction on a wall to stretch several miles along the border with the Lebanon.

Arguments and Analysis 

Israel’s former Shin Bet chief: I have no confidence in Netanyahu, Barak‘ (Barak Ravid, Haaretz)

"Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin expressed harsh criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday in a meeting with residents of the city of Kfar Sava, saying the pair is not worthy of leading the country. "My major problem is that I have no faith in the current leadership, which must lead us in an event on the scale of war with Iran or a regional war," Diskin told the "Majdi Forum," a group of local residents that meets to discuss political issues. "I don’t believe in either the prime minister or the defense minister. I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings," he added."

Democracy’s Growing Pains‘ (Ashraf Khalil, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

"Through the years, Egyptians became accustomed to elections-Mubarak faced voters five times-but they gained little experience in democracy. Little wonder then, that the democratic transition has been so muddled. It may be that the country will spend considerably more time at the crossroads, without moving decisively on issues ranging from the powers of the state to the role of Islam in society. Egypt’s next president will take the helm of a country on the cusp of a renaissance and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Whatever the outcome, the presidential election of 2012 is giving Egyptians the first real choice they have ever had to select one of their own to lead their country."

The Rise of Islamist Actors: Formulating a Strategy for Sustained Engagement‘ (Quinn Mecham, Project on Middle East Democracy)

"Most often, the U.S. rejected engagement with many of these Islamist groups primarily to avoid upsetting existing relationships with autocratic allies. For decades, many Arab leaders decried pressure for political reform because of an "Islamist challenge." They claimed that Islamist parties would inevitably take advantage of political openings to gain and then forcefully consolidate power. This was one of the reasons for U.S. policy in places like Egypt and Tunisia prior to the revolts in those countries, and it remains a consideration in places like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria, and Israel/Palestine. A second reason that the U.S. has appeared inconsistent in its relationship with Islamist groups is that diplomats do not want engagement with Islamists to be perceived as endorsement of their ideology-an ideology that may differ from U.S. preferences on social/cultural norms or support for violence…For example, the U.S. continues to prohibit diplomatic contact with Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon, which, though they compete in democratic elections, are included on the U.S. State Department List of U.S. has occasionally shown a willingness to meet with even violent and ultra-conservative Islamists, such as the Taliban."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

 Twitter: @casey_mary
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