Nabil ElAraby [Arab League Secretary-General] visits Ramallah Muqata'a — but seems not to have brought suitcases full of cash

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby has arrived in Ramallah [from Amman] to meet with Mahmoud Abbas at 12:20 today.

It was reported earlier in the week that [apparently according to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki] there would be a delegation of 8 to 10 Arab Foreign Ministers travelling with ElAraby.  But most of the others did not come.

Al-Malki had also said that the Arab League delegation would arrive by air, apparently to avoid encountering Israeli passport controls at the Jordanian border…  And that’s what happened with ElAraby today — he was accompanied only by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamil, and the two arrived by Jordanian military helicopter.

Egyptian diplomats are notoriously discrete.  It seems, however, that ElAraby did not show up carrying suitcases full of dollar bills.

Reuters reported here that ElAraby said during his press conference in Ramallah that “Arab countries agreed at their Baghdad summit (in March) for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet”.

    UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported Sunday 30 December here that “Arab League members had agreed a $100 million monthly payment to the Palestinian Authority, but the League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on a visit to the West Bank on Saturday that none had been delivered … Deputy Secretary General of the PFLP Abdul Raheem Mallouh said that there are American pressures on the Arab states to financially blockade the PA. Secretary General of the Popular Struggle Front Ahmed Majdalani said the failure to transfer funds was ‘clearly a political decision… (and) collective punishment against the Palestinian people because of the agenda of seeking an independent Palestinian state’. Meanwhile Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said it was up to Arab states to explain the impasse”.

Some Palestinians in the West Bank believe that only the Emir of Qatar can and will save them — he announced grants of some $450 million for Gaza’s rehabilitation after all, and the West Bank is bigger… But, his possible visit has been postponed for at least a month.

Nabil El-Araby has his own separate status, however, based on years of representing Egypt at the UN in New York and Geneva and elsewhere — and above all based on respect for El-Araby’s breathtakingly strong and direct separate opinion, when he sat as a Judge on the International Court of Justice, in the ICJ’s 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Associated Press reported that ElAraby said in his remarks to the press in the Muqata’a that “We will return to the U.N. Security Council … Palestine will be cooperating with Arab and EU countries to change the equation (in the peace process) that prevailed over the past 20 years, which was a waste of time”.

Haaretz reported that while in Ramallah, the two senior Egyptian diplomats “will also discuss a decision by an Arab League ministerial committee to hold talks with the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union on a mechanism to relaunch Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. This is posted here.

Not many people in the West Bank expected much from the Arab League, of course — despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas formally defers all major decisions until approval by Arab League leaders.

But, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly said that it was a letter from Nabil ElAraby, confirming an Arab League decision to provide a $100-million-dollar “safety-net” fund [to counteract Israeli financial reprisals after the recent UN upgrade] that enabled the Palestinian Authority to borrow from Palestinian banks [despite the PA’s maxed-out credit limit] in order to transfer partial salary payments to its employees on 24 December.

Meanwhile, PA government employees were bitterly disappointed earlier this week when the banks which paid their partial salaries [as 1st installment of November salary] after taking full reimbursement of loan payments due from PA government employees.  The Palestinian banks, in effect, advanced the salaries in order to get the loan payments due.   Following the banks’ actions, many PA government employees were left with little or no money in their accounts — for the second time since the beginning of November [when October salaries were belatedly paid].

Two months without money has put PA employees in an extremely difficult position — and they find it individually humiliating.  This inhibits them from speaking much about it publicly, or even with each other.

The loans are a policy pushed after the June 2007 split between Gaza and the West Bank, and strongly advocated by Tony Blair [on the basis of the Portland Trust’s policy recommendation] and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

These loans created a deceptive illusion of indebted prosperity that bewildered many Palestinians in the West Bank as journalists enthused over an illusory “Ramallah bubble”.

Agence France Presse [AFP] reported that “Every month, Israel transfers about 460 million shekels ($120 million) in customs duties on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.  The transfers are governed by the 1994 Paris Protocols [part of the Oslo Accords] with the Palestinians”.  This is posted here.

Yasser Arafat's mortal remains exhumed in Ramallah + samples taken for forensic testing about possible poisoning + laid back to rest again

As the day dawned, there was red light on the Ramallah horizon, with the rest of the sky covered with a layer of grey clouds, as the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s mortal remains were exhumed and brought up for forensic testing by teams of Swiss, French and Russian experts.

“Red in the morning, a sailor’s warning”… a traditional warning of storms ahead.

UPDATE:  Despite the 3:00 pm report on BBC World News from the BBC correspondent in Ramallah Jon Donnison,  after the exhumation was finished, saying he personally believed it was quite unlikely that there will ever be any conclusive results from today’s forensic testing, the BBC right afterwards ran an interview with Scottish forensic investigator David Barkley who said that “it’s almost certain already”, from the results of the testing done in a Swiss lab, that Yasser Arafat was poisoned with polonium.

Barkley appeared in the Al Jazeera Investigates program “What Killed Arafat?”, aired at the beginning of July, which made necessary this exhumation and forensic testing of Arafat’s remains. In that program, Barkley said that Swiss lab testing showed unexpectedly high levels of polonium [of the type that can only be a by-product of a nuclear reactor] in the spots of blood, urine and sweat tested on Arafat’s clothing. When tested for comparison, he said, the areas of clothing around those spots showed only “background” levels of polonium [of the type found in nature].

Barkley told the BBC World TV news this afternoon that if the results of testing of samples taken in today’s forensic procedures match the results earlier found in his clothing, that “probably does prove” that Arafat was poisoned and murdered.

Robert Fisk wrote in the Independent here, that “it is much to al-Jazeera’s credit that they pushed to have his hat and urine stains from his pants examined in Switzerland. That’s when the polonium-210 was discovered”…

Media technicians + journalists wait outside during Arafat exhumation

Media workers outside Muqata’a in photo [Sipa] posted on Nouvel Observateur website here

Media crews were kept behind Palestinian police barricades put up a couple of weeks ago, outside Ramallah Muqata’a, during Arafat exhumation + forensic taking of samples for testing [which will take months].  The exhumation + sampling was done out of the public view.

Photo of more media workers outside the Muqata’a today – Tweeted by @RZabaneh and posted here

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In a press conference held at 2:00 pm in the Muqata’a,  Dr. Abdullah Bashir, head of the Jordanian Medical Association [who has been working on the Arafat case for several years on behalf of the Yasser Arafat Foundation, run by Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qidqa] said that the exhumation began at 5:00 am.   Tawfik Tirawi, head of the Palestinian inquiry that has already been underway for several years, told journalists at the press conference that the results of the tests can be expected after about four months.  “We want to arrive at the truth”, Tirawi said.  The Palestinian Authority Minister of Health, Dr. Hani Abdeen, said in response to a journalist’s question that “the state of the body was exactly as expected, in the case of somebody buried eight years already”.

Al-Jazeera reported here that a group of Palestinian officials were witnessing the procedure, but no family, and also not Suha Arafat’s lawyers. The Al-Jazeera report said that its journalists had been followed around Ramallah in recent days by Palestinian security forces.

Suha, however, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that she had watched the exhumation from her residence in Malta. It seems, but it is not completely clear, that a private TV feed may have been arranged for family members.

Suha Arafat in Malta watching her husband's exhumation in Ramallah - 27 Nov 2012
Suha Arafat in Malta watching her husband’s exhumation in Ramallah – 27 Nov 2012 – Reuters blog here.

There is not a religious problem with exhumations, but some consider it disrespectful. The Palestinian arrangements for today’s exhumation + forensic testing — supervised by Tawfik Tirawi — emphasized respect for deceased, honor for national leader, Palestinian “sovereign” control of the procedure. Tirawi told journalists that only Palestinians would touch Arafat’s mortal remains.

Tirawi was at Arafat’s side during several years of Israeli siege of the Muqata’a, and who was once the head of Palestinian Preventive Security but now oversees the Palestinian Authority Police Academy [Al-Istiqlal University] in Jericho

Al-Jazeera reported that “On Monday night, workers with hand tools drilled through more than 4 metres of concrete over Arafat’s body.  Investigators have collected several samples on the way down to look at polonium levels”.

Continue reading “Yasser Arafat's mortal remains exhumed in Ramallah + samples taken for forensic testing about possible poisoning + laid back to rest again”

Cease-fire?

All of a sudden, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr appeared on the TV screen — on all the news channels.

In Arabic, FM Amr announced that “efforts had led to a cease-fire, an end to the violence and bloodshed we have witnessed”.   He said this cease-fire would start at 21:00 in Cairo [20:00 GMT].

He read a statement in Arabic, speaking about the end goal being a comprensive and just resolution.  “We are calling for a fair solution to the Palestinian question”, and he said Egypt will continue in its efforts.  And, he indicated that he hoped the divisions between Palestinian factions would end, and the Palestinians will be united.

Then, Sec of State Clinton said, “To hold, the rocket fire must end and a broader calm return”.  She said that the people in the region deserve to live “free from fear and violence”, and that “in the days ahead, the U.S. will work to improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel”.

@TimothyS — CNN just reported that US will spend an additional $600 million on Israel’s Iron Dome system as part of the Gaza cease-fire agreement.

UPDATE: An alternative theory: RT.com reported on 23 November, here, relying on a report on the not-always-reliable Debka.com, that “the pause in fighting comes after the US promised to send troops to Sinai. According to Debka, US troops will soon be en route to the Sinai peninsula…Debka reports this week that Sinai will soon be occupied by US troops, who were promised by President Barack Obama to Israel’s leaders as a condition that a ceasefire be called. Once deployed, the Americans will intervene with the rumored arms trade orchestrated by Iranians, ideally cutting off supplies for Hamas while at the same time serving as a thorn in the side of Iran…The decision to send US troops to Sinai in exchange for a ceasefire was reportedly arranged early Wednesday morning after Pres. Obama made a deal over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…A ceasefire has since been called after a week of fight, but more military action could soon occur, claims Israel, if the flow of weapons to Gaza is not stopped… Debka’s sources suggest that US troops may now have to intervene in Sinai if any smugglers should attempt to move weapons into Gaza. ‘By opening the Sinai door to an American troop deployment for Israel’s defense, recognizes that the US force also insures Israel against Cairo revoking or failing to honor the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979’, adds Debka.  According to their sources, US troops are expected in Egypt early next week”.

The Guardian reported here that “Barack Obama heaped praise on Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire plan and offered increased US funding to beef up Israel’s air defence batteries.  The White House, in an unusual twist, highlighted that Netanyahu had followed Obama’s advice, which was to accept the ceasefire deal…[The White House statement] publicly stressed the fact that Netanyahu had taken Obama’s advice. ‘The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal – which the president recommended the prime minster do – while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself’, the White House said.”

Continue reading “Cease-fire?”

Day 3 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds [a/k/a Defense Pillar] against Gaza

Today is Day 3 of the IDF’s Operation “Pillar of Clouds”, also known as Operation Defense Pillar against Gaza.

Last night, two Fajr rockets fired from Gaza reached the Tel Aviv area. [Qassam Brigades were calling them Qassam M-75s.]  Earlier in the day, three Israelis were killed by shrapnel after a direct rocket hit on the top floor of an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi.

Overnight, the IDF carried out at least 150 strikes on the Gaza Strip, including on on the Civil Affairs office in the Ministry of Interior in Gaza.

UNRWA photographer Shareef Sarhan took this picture showing the damage to the Civil Affairs office. here.  Other pictures are viewable on the Activestills Flikr page photostream, here.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights [PCHR] sums it up: The “most significant targets was the building of the Civil Department of the Ministry of Interior in Tal al-Hawa neighborhood in the south of the City. The building was totally destroyed and a number of nearby buildings and houses were heavily damaged. Israeli fighter jets bombarded also the building of the Collection and Inspection Center of Gaza Municipality near Abu Mazen Square. The building was completely destroyed and a number of nearby houses and buildings were heavily damaged. Israeli fighter jets further bombarded a plot belonging to an ecclesiastic center near the Roots Restaurant in the southwest of Gaza City. Additionally, Israeli gunboats bombarded an electricity transmitter near the house of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in the Beach camp. A number of houses and a civilian car were heavily damaged”.

PCHR has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to examine the situation. As to the UN Security Council, well, it met on Wednesday night after a request from Egypt, but took no decision. The only outcome was a decision that UN Secretary-General BAN Ki Moon would travel to the region on Tuesday — but he does not intend to go to Gaza. UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will apparently have talks in Israel on Wednesday. Mahmoud Abbas announced to the PLO Executive Committee this evening that UNSG BAN would be coming to Ramallah on Thursday.

The Arab League will meet on Saturday afternoon in Cairo, after a delegation led by the Tunisian Foreign Minister, possibly accompanied by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi and maybe some other officials from other Arab countries, hopes to enter Gaza via Egypt on Saturday morning…

On Friday morning, a delegation of Egyptian officials led by Prime Minister Qandil and accompanied by Egyptian Special Forces entered Gaza on Friday morning to assess the situation, and were received by Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh.  As they entered Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, a small child who had just died from an Israeli strike was brought in, and the two men cradled the body.

The photo was posted on Twitter by Hazem Balousha [@iHaZeMi].  Pool photo by Mahmud Hams.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would serve a 3-hour cease-fire for the visit of the Egyptian delegation on condition that no projectiles were fired from Gaza onto Israel — but there was very little let-up.  Several journalists in Gaza reported outgoing projectiles. Journalists also reported incoming [though IDF spokespeople said there were no attacks during the Egyptian PM’s visit.

A little later, there was an execution of a collaborator in Gaza, which the NYTimes reported on, here.

By the end of the day [Friday] the Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose to 30, with some 250 injured — and climbing. There were no Israeli deaths from Gaza firing reported on Friday.

Continue reading “Day 3 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds [a/k/a Defense Pillar] against Gaza”

Egypt's President Morsi backs independent, sovereign Palestinian state

Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi put Palestine first in his speech about Egypt’s view of world affairs at the UN General Assembly in New York today: “I call for immediate movement, serious movement, as of now, to put an end to colonization and occupation activities and the denial of self-determination and the alteration of the identity of occupied Jerusalem. I call for a peace that would establish an independent Palestinian state, a sovereign Palestinian state, a peace that will achieve the security and stability long sught by the peoples of the region”.

Is it significant that he called for peace before the establishment of the independent + sovereign Palestinian state? Probably, yes… That would be consistent with the approach Egypt has taken since 1979, which Morsi did not repudiate before the UN General Assembly today.

Morsi said in his speech on Wednesday that “from the premise of defending truth, dignity and freedom, I place the international community before its responsibility which requires the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace, and the putting an and to all forms of occupation of Arab lands…”

He pledged Egypt’s full support for any step the Palestinians planned to take in the UN.

And, he urged other UN members to join him in supporting the Palestinian move: “I call upon you all, just as you supported the Arab revolutions, to lend your support to the Palestinians in their endeavor to regain full independent rights, and to support a people to gain its freedom and establish its independent state, an independent state of Palestine, based on the inalienable rights of the Palestinians”.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is running for re-election in about six weeks’ time, was one of the opening speakers at the opening session of the UN General Assembly’s high-level General Debate. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad spoke this morning. And Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to speak to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, apparently to modify the stalled “UN bid” he made with great fanfare a year ago, asking for full membership in the UN for the State of Palestine, which Israel opposed and the U.S. said it would veto.

Morsi said Egypt “will continue to work next to the Palestinian people, supporting them, until they get all their rights, until there is a free world for all the Palestinians and every constituent of the Palestinian people”.

He said “it is shameful that the free world accepts, regardless of justifications provided, that a member of the international community continues to deny the rights of a nation that has been longing for decades for independence”.

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In this hall, resonant with symbolism, Egypt's new president spoke

Egypt’s newly-elected President Mohammed Morsi addressed his country and the world this afternoon from the historic hall, or grand ballroom, of Cairo University:
Cairo University Hall where Egypt's new president spoke after taking oath of office on 30 June - photo by AP published by Haaretz

The choice of venue was resonant with symbolism: from this hall, newly-elected U.S. President Barak Obama made his speech to the Muslim world.

Egyptian Hany Rasmy [@hany2m] said in an answer to a question on Twitter that this hall was also a favorite of Egypt’s iconic first President, Gamal Abdel Nasser — the place where Abdel Nasser used to listen to the concerts [broadcast live on radio throughout Egypt and the Arab world] of the famed Egyptian singer Um Kalthoum.

Morsi began his speech by recalling his early studies at Cairo University, and his time later teaching there as well. He apologized to students for disrupting exams that had been scheduled at the university during the day, which will be held tonight instead.

In his speech, Morsi said more than once that “elected institutions will resume their roles and Egypt’s armed forces will go back to guard security and country’s borders”.

He also said that “Egypt respects all its treaties + international instruments”.

And he said: “Egypt stands beside Palestinian people + supports all their legitimate rights…and we will continue to work for Palestinian reconciliation … Egypt today supports Palestinian people [their freedom + self determination] + the Syrian people. Syrian bloodshed should be halted + stop”.

Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for years, resigned from the party on the eve of his inauguration. He is the first Egyptian elected president when, as Cairo commentors noted, the results were not perfectly predictable in advance.

Morsi, running also as the candidate of the revolution that began with protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 25 January 2011, beat Ahmad Shafiq, who had been close to the military regime of deposed President Husni Mubarak, sent out of office on 11 February 2011 after turning over the keys to the military and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF]. Mubarak has just been sentenced to life imprisonment for not preventing the killing of protestors during the revolution, and he was recently reported to be on life support after having a stroke.

What’s Happening in the Sinai?

It’s rather difficult to know what’s really happening in the Sinai.

On Friday, the eve of Egypt’s Presidential election run-off , two Grad/Katyusha missiles were fired into Israel’s Negev Desert north of Eilat. One landed near Mitzpe Ramon, while the other – not immediately discovered until the next day, probably in partly because of the slowdown of activities at the start of the Jewish Sabbath – landed further to the south, in the Arava Region, near the Uvda military base.
Ron Yishai, military analyst for Israel’s YNet, reported here that “the security establishment has ruled out the possibility that it was launched from Jordan”.

Though propaganda and spin are abundant after attacks in this area, reliable and verifiable information is hard to come by. A main reason is the strict control over information exercised by both Israel and Egypt officials after incidents possibly involving their forces there — regarded by as essential to contain the damage, keep relations on an even keel, and protect the peace treaty.

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A concise explantion of why the Gaza Power Plant shut down again today, causing significant electrical shortages in central Gaza

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR] in Gaza has offered a concise explanation of the complete and unconscionable mess that has been made in a complicated situation that resulted in today’s shut-down, once again, of the only power plant in Gaza, which supplies one-third of the electricity needed by some 1.5 million souls in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely-populated areas on earth, which has in effect become a large open-air holding pen.

But first, some essential background:

The Gaza Power Plant was constructed in the optimistic years of the Oslo process.

Hamas pulled off a surprise victory in the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Fatah was furious. As punishment for the pro-Hamas vote, almost all aid was cut off to the Palestinian Authority [in both the West Bank and Gaza] by the large international donors, particularly but not exclusively those represented in the Quartet [the U.S., Russian Federation, the EU + the UN, which is not a donor but when it works on the ground is mainly an implementing body]

During this donor cut-off, for some 18 months, Palestinian Authority [PA] employees were paid no salaries, and relied on bank loans arranged by the PA but on which the employees had to pay interest.

In the midst of that turmoil and hardship, in late June 2006, the Gaza Power Plant was bombed by the Israeli Air Force, in reprisal for a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants on the Kerem Shalom area [just outside the southeastern corner of the Gaza Strip, where the borders of Egypt’s Sinai, Israel’s Negev Desert, and the Gaza Strip all meet], during which IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was seized and taken into Gaza, [where he was held prisoner until his release in a prisoner exchange with Hamas brokered by Egypt in 2011].

For the six sweltering summer months of 2006, there was very limited electricity in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has supplied some 20 percent of the daily need in Gaza through 11 feeder lines at the northern and western perimeter of the Gaza Strip. Egypt now supplies 17% cross border from Egyptian Rafah to Gazan Rafah [the city of Rafah is divided into two], up from 11 percent earlier.

The Gaza Power Plant was not repaired until November 2006.

It then began to supply most of the balance of energy needed, to the central Gazan Strip area, where Gaza City is located, and where some 500,000 of the inhabitants of Gaza live. At the time that the Gaza Power Plant came back on line in late 2006, the European Union began to pay subsidies of some 10 million dollars a month or so needed to import from Israel [via Nahal Oz] the industrial diesel fuel needed to run the reconstructed Gaza Power Plant.

The PA ordered the fuel supplies for Gaza from Israel, the sole supplier, and the EU paid for them…

Continue reading “A concise explantion of why the Gaza Power Plant shut down again today, causing significant electrical shortages in central Gaza”

Alaa, Egyptian blogger, interviewed on Democracy Now

In this excerpt from his interview on Democracy Now, which can be read in full here, the just-released Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah gives his view of the current stage of the Egyptian revolution:

    AMY GOODMAN: Alaa, you, in court, refused to answer questions of the military court. Can you explain why, and also who you think should be on trial now? You’re among more than 12,000 people since Mubarak fell, civilians, who have been imprisoned and are being brought before these military courts.

    ALAA ABD EL FATTAH: Yeah. These are more like military tribunals, right? They’re not proper courts at all. And in fact, in the early days of the revolution, there wasn’t even a pretense of being a proper court, like there were hundreds who were tried in the kitchens of the military prison. Their trials would take five minutes. They wouldn’t be told what are their—what the charges are. They wouldn’t be allowed defense, and so on.

    Since then, we started quite a successful campaign against military tribunals, against military trials for civilians. And so they had to, instead of, you know, heeding our demand and stopping the practice, they had to improve the show. You know, so then they started pretending that it’s a proper court, have three judges present—they are not judges, or they are army officers—allow a defense, you know, let the case take its time, talk about evidence, and so on. But in most cases, there will be no acquittal, you know, and there’s no proper appeals process. There’s an appeals process that—in which some military officer decides, based on their own whims, whether they accept the appeal or not. It’s not a legal process, and so on. So, basically, it’s not a proper court. There’s no due process. They are no guarantees that it’s a fair trial. And so, it is the natural and obvious thing to do, actually, to refuse to appear before the court.

    I couldn’t refuse to appear before it, because I was abroad. I was in San Francisco, actually, when my summons arrived, when they sent my summons to my place. So I had to go—I had to go back to Egypt and hand myself in. Otherwise, they would have, you know, treated me or painted me as a fugitive. But I had to refuse to, you know, cooperate at all in the investigation because it is not a fair trial. But there is also another reason. You know, the military are the guilty party in that incident, and they, the military, the military rulers, you know, the members of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, should be the ones who are being investigated and should be the ones who are being put to trial. And so, these military officers, who will be acting like judges, are under their command, so they cannot be neutral, they cannot be impartial.

    Continue reading “Alaa, Egyptian blogger, interviewed on Democracy Now”

Alaa, Egyptian blogger, is [provisionally] freed today

A child is born…

And his father, Alaa, a prisoner of conscience in Egypt, has today been released from detention [while investigations continue]…

Alaa is freed - photo via his sister Mona Seif @Monasosh - 25 Dec 2011

The Egyptian blogger, Alaa [Abd El Fattah], has been jailed for weeks [54 days, as it happens] by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed Forces [SCAF], for refusing to appear before a military court and in connection with accusations about his role in protests against the military government.

Alaa has now just reportedly been freed today, just weeks after his son, Khaled, was born [within hours of a court appearance by Alaa’s heavily pregnant wife, Manal, to plead for Alaa’s freedom].

Alaa and Manal named their son Khaled after Khaled al-Said [see our earlier posts, here], an Egyptian blogger whose beating to death by Egyptian policemen in Alexandria in June 2010 eventually mobilized the big protest in Tahrir Square on #25Jan this year]…

[For further information on the Khaled Said story, our earlier posts are here, here, and here.]

UPDATE: Tonight, Alaa Tweeted: “watching my wife feed my son for the first time, bliss”

Continue reading “Alaa, Egyptian blogger, is [provisionally] freed today”