France’s FM visits Libya to boost reconciliation deal

Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Taha Siala (R), receives French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L),in the capital Tripoli on July 23, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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France’s FM visits Libya to boost reconciliation deal

  • Jean-Yves Le Drian met with Fayez Serraj, the prime minister of the Libya's UN-backed government
  • Le Drian said he will meet with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar

CAIRO: France’s foreign minister visited Libya on Monday to encourage holding elections in the north African country later this year as part of a reconciliation agreement reached by the country’s main political rivals in Paris in May.
Jean-Yves Le Drian met with Fayez Serraj, the prime minister of the UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli.
In a press conference with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala, Le Drian said he will meet with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of Libya’s self-styled national army, and the speaker of the country’s internationally-recognized parliament, Agila Saleh.
He said France will provide $100 million in financial support through the UN to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on December 10.
In May 2018, Serraj and Haftar agreed on a roadmap aiming to restore order in Libya, where lawlessness has fueled Islamic militancy, human trafficking and instability in the wider region. Moving toward parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of 2018 was a key goal of the meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The plan however faces obstacles in the north African country, where rival authorities rely on an array of unruly militias.
Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed ruler Muammar Qaddafi. France was at the forefront of the NATO airstrikes, carried out along with the United States and others.
Elections were held shortly after Qaddafi’s demise, but failed to bring stability. In the years since, Libya has emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya is split between rival governments in the east and west, each one is backed by militias, tribes and political factions.


Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 59 min 50 sec ago
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Iran faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.