Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

Iraqis kept up anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south on Saturday, dissatisfied with the premier’s vow to quit and insisting on the overhaul of the system. (AFP)
Updated 01 December 2019

Iran on the rack: Demonstrations in Beirut over crackdown in Iraq

  • Protesters in two countries unite to denounce Tehran’s violent repression of dissent

BEIRUT: Iran faced anger on two fronts on Saturday as demonstrators in Lebanon took to the streets of Beirut to support protesters in Iraq.

Tehran has orchestrated a violent crackdown on Iraqi protests in which more than 420 people have been killed, and its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon has been accused of complicity in attacks on protesters demonstrating there against corruption and financial hardship.

Demonstrators staged a candlelit vigil outside Iraq’s embassy in Beirut on Saturday to denounce the violence in Baghdad and southern Iraq. They held up photos of Iraqi protesters who have been killed, and one woman wrapped an Iraqi flag around her shoulders.

“The uprising in Iraq and the uprising in Lebanon are one,” said vigil organizer Layal Siblani. “A protester killed there is a protester killed here.” 

Another demonstrator in Beirut said: “We have to stand in solidarity with our Iraqi counterparts who are being arrested and killed on a daily basis.”

Elsewhere in Beirut, the mothers of activists targeted by opponents of the protests marched under banners declaring “nothing divides us” as they voiced their anger over violent attacks on protesters.

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A group of mothers in Tabaris, a largely affluent Christian neighborhood, marched to Khandak El Ghamik, a poorer area with a large number of Amal Movement and Hezbollah supporters.

One woman urged residents of the area not to attack protesters. “Politicians disagree in the day and agree in the evening, and we should not be dragged into incitement,” she said.

Protesters also organized a demonstration outside a barracks of the Internal Security Forces in Beirut, in protest at the arrest of activists.

Meanwhile in Iraq protesters burned tires and surrounded a police station in the southern city of Nassiriya on Saturday. Demonstrations also continued in Baghdad, but there were fewer reports of casualties than on the previous two days.

Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against protesters for nearly two months, and dozens have been killed in the past few days in Nassiriya and Najaf.

Iraq’s Cabinet on Saturday approved the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, which is expected to be confirmed by Parliament on Sunday.


Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

Updated 1 min 11 sec ago

Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

  • Al-Imam is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel
  • The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison

NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
A jury convicted Mustafa Al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.
The attacks, aimed at killing American personnel, prompted a political fracas in which Republicans accused the Obama administration of a bungled response.
Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying Al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.
“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming US personnel — particularly a US ambassador,” Assistant US Attorney John Cummings wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorneys said Al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges Al-Imam faced.
“Mustafa Al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”
Al-Imam was tried in a civilian court despite the Trump administration’s earlier contention that such suspects are better sent to Guantanamo Bay. His arrest, five years after the attack, was the first publicly known operation since President Donald Trump took office targeting those accused of involvement in Benghazi.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds. But they said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.
During a four-week trial in Washington, prosecutors pointed to phone records that showed Al-Imam was in the vicinity of the mission and placed an 18-minute call to Khattala during a “pivotal moment” of the attacks.
Al-Imam also entered the US compound, prosecutors said, and took sensitive material that identified the location of the CIA annex about a mile away from the mission as the evacuation point for Department of State personnel.
In interviews with law enforcement following his 2017 capture in Misrata, Libya, he admitted stealing a phone and map from the US mission.