Iran set to execute second wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini amid outcry

Iran set to execute second wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini amid outcry
Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, was arrested in 2015 and charged with murder following a group brawl. (YouTube Grab)
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Updated 12 January 2021

Iran set to execute second wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini amid outcry

Iran set to execute second wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini amid outcry
  • Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, is expected to be executed imminently as the victim’s family has refused to pardon him
  • Navid Afkari was executed after Tehran claimed he had murdered a water department worker during nationwide protests in August 2018

LONDON: The Iranian regime is set to execute a second wrestler just months after it hanged champion athlete Navid Afkari amid international pleas for clemency.

Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, was arrested in 2015 and charged with murder following a group brawl.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that he is expected to be imminently executed because the victim’s family refused to pardon him.

Ali Safavi, an official from the foreign affairs committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), told Arab News that the NCRI and other regime critics “strongly condemn the ruling religious dictatorship for its intention to execute” Hosseini.

“The NCRI is opposed to capital punishment as a matter of principle. As evident in the past four decades, the clerical regime uses executions — political and otherwise — as a means to instil an atmosphere of terror and intimidation in society, in a bid to thwart the eruption of uprisings by an increasingly enraged and discontented population, which seeks regime change,” Safavi said.

“These executions are carried out in blatant breach of internationally recognized standards, including due process.”

Fellow Iranian wrestler and London 2012 Olympic champion Hamid Sourian has called for Hosseini’s execution to be canceled.

In September 2020, Afkari, 27, was executed in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. Tehran claimed he had murdered a water department worker during nationwide protests in August 2018.

The regime broadcast a confession by Afkari last week to support its claims, but he continued to protest his innocence through his own social media accounts until his execution.

The Human Rights Activists News Agency said he had produced a forced confession after severe torture.

Safavi said: “Prisoners are routinely and brutally tortured to extract forced confessions. These barbaric executions are the flipside of the coin of exporting terrorism to the Middle East, both of which serve as pillars that help preserve the medieval regime in power.”

He added: “It’s time for the UN to send a fact-finding delegation to Iran to visit prisons and meet with prisoners, particularly political prisoners. Tehran’s appalling dossier on human rights should be referred to the UN Security Council for the adoption of concrete and punitive measures. Silence and inaction have emboldened the regime to step up such criminal executions.”

Campaigners argued that Afkari was set up for the murder by leaders in Tehran who wanted to silence a popular critic. The same fears remain for Hosseini.


Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
Updated 5 sec ago

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning

Algeria gives disgraced ex-leader Bouteflika 3-days mourning
ALGIERS: Algeria’s leader declared a three-day period of mourning starting Saturday for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose 20-year-long rule, riddled with corruption, ended in disgrace as he was pushed from power amid huge street protests when he decided to seek a new term.
Bouteflika, who had been ailing since a stroke in 2013, died Friday at 84. His public appearances had been rare in the final years of his presidency, and he had not been seen since President Abdelmadjid Tebboune took office in late 2019.
Flags are to fly at half-staff during the mourning period, the president’s office said. The honors reflect Bouteflika’s role in Algeria’s brutal seven-year war for independence from France that ended in 1962. Those who fought are considered martyrs today.
The former president’s lawyer, Salim Salim Hadjouti, said Bouteflika was being laid to rest in an official ceremony at El Alia cemetery, in the section where martyrs of the revolution for independence are buried, a special honor.
Since Bouteflika’s death, public television has not shown images of him, a clear sign that authorities prefer not to go overboard with a farewell as the North African nation has turned past the Bouteflika era. Early on in his mandate, Tebboune announced his policy of a “new Algeria.”
Tebboune has led a fight against the corruption, including in the Bouteflika clan as it emerged that a close circle of officials around the president were enriching themselves and allegedly making decisions in the place of the ailing president. Bouteflika’s brother and special counsellor Said was acquitted in January by a military appeals court of allegedly plotting against the army and the state, but faces corruption charges.

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death
Updated 35 min 7 sec ago

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death

Yemen’s Houthis execute nine men for involvement in Samad death
  • Samad held the post of president in the Houthi-controlled administration

DUBAI: The Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said on Saturday that authorities had executed nine men who were convicted of involvement in the 2018 killing of Saleh al-Samad, then the armed group’s top civilian leader. 
Samad, who held the post of president in the Houthi-controlled administration which runs most of northern Yemen, was killed in April 2018 by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the port city of Hodeidah on Yemen's west coast. 
He was the most senior official to be killed by the coalition in the years-long war in which the Houthis are fighting forces loyal to the internationally recognised government based in the southern port city of Aden. 
The government is backed by a Saudi-led coalition that has received support from Western powers. 
Saudi Arabia and its mostly Gulf Arab allies allege the Houthis are proxies for their arch-rival Iran, something the group and Tehran deny. 
Houthi authorities said the nine men were charged and convicted for their involvement in the killing of Samad, including spying and sharing sensitive information with the Saudi-led coalition. 
The Houthis said the execution by firing squad was witnessed by “masses,” including blood relatives and Houthi leaders in the capital Sanaa, which they control.


Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers
Updated 18 September 2021

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers

Abu Dhabi updates entry rules, COVID-19 test no longer required for UAE travelers
  • Abu Dhabi had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test
  • The Covid-19 testing requirements to enter will be removed starting Sunday, Sept. 19

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced that residents, tourists or citizens traveling from within the UAE are no longer required to present a COVID-19 test result to enter the emirate effective Sunday.

The UAE's capital had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test. 

The comittee said the Covid-19 testing requirements to enter will be removed starting Sunday, Sept. 19. 

The rule applies to residents, citizens and tourists traveling to Abu Dhabi from within the UAE. 

The Abu Dhabi Media Office said the decision follows the announcement of a decreased Covid-19 infection rate in the emirate of 0.2 per cent of total tests and the activation of the green pass system to enter some public places.

“The committee will continue to monitor infection rates & urges all citizens, residents & visitors to continue adhering to precautionary measures to protect public health & safety, maintain successes, & advance the nation’s sustainable recovery,” the media office said on Twitter. 

On Friday, the ministry of health in the UAE announced 521 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the country to 731,828. 

It also announced 2 deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,071.

An additional 614 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 723,337.


Three Iranian dissidents to be honored by PEN America

Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
Updated 18 September 2021

Three Iranian dissidents to be honored by PEN America

Iranians wearing protective masks cross a main road in Tehran during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP file photo)
  • The PEN gala is scheduled for Oct. 5 at its longtime venue the American Museum of Natural History, with Awkwafina serving as host

NEW YORK: Three imprisoned Iranian dissidents will be honored next month at Pen America’s annual gala.
The literary and human rights organization announced on Thursday that writer-filmmaker Baktash Abtin, novelist-journalist Keyvan Bajan and author-critic Reza Khandan Mahabadi are this year’s recipients of the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
All three are members of the anti-censorship Iranian Writers Association and are serving a collective 15.5 years on charges including endangering national security and “spreading propaganda.”
“Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi are embodiments of the spirit that animates our work at PEN America. They are writers who are called not only to offer prose and ideas on a page, but to live fearlessly — and sacrifice immensely in service of the liberties that underpin free thought, art, culture, and creativity,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement.
“By taking up the mantle of leadership within Iran’s literary community, they have served as beacons for countless authors and thinkers whose ability to imagine, push boundaries, and challenge repression under the most dangerous conditions is fed by the knowledge that they do not stand alone.”
The PEN gala is scheduled for Oct. 5 at its longtime venue the American Museum of Natural History, with Awkwafina serving as host.


Spoons become a new symbol of Palestinian ‘freedom’

Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2021

Spoons become a new symbol of Palestinian ‘freedom’

Palestinians shop at a market in the old city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
  • Prisoners carried out jail break with the utensil

JERUSALEM: The humble spoon has taken its place alongside traditional flags and banners as a Palestinian resistance symbol, after prisoners were said to have carried out one of Israel’s most spectacular jail breaks with the utensil.

When the six Palestinian militants escaped through a tunnel on Sept. 6 from the high security Gilboa Prison, social networks shared images of a tunnel at the foot of a sink, and a hole dug outside.
A hashtag, “the miraculous spoon,” suggested how the Hollywood-style feat might have occurred.
But whether or not the utensil had really been involved or its role was cooked up was at first unclear.
Then on Wednesday a lawyer for one of the fugitives who has since been recaptured told AFP that his client, Mahmud Abdullah Ardah, said he had used spoons, plates and even the handle of a kettle to dig the tunnel from his cell.
He began scraping his way out from the northern Israeli institution in December, the lawyer, Roslan MaHajjana, said.
Ardah was one of four fugitives later arrested after the army poured troops into the occupied West Bank as part of a massive manhunt.
All six were accused of plotting or carrying out attacks against Israelis.
Two men remain on the loose following the extremely rare escape. Israel has begun an inquiry into lapses that led to the embarrassing incident, which Palestinians see as a “victory.”
“With determination, vigilance... and cunning, and with a spoon, it was possible to dig a tunnel through which the Palestinians escaped and the enemy was imprisoned,” writer Sari Orabi said on the Arabi 21 website.
Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh says the escape has served up “black humor” and exposed Israel’s security system to ridicule.
He has made several drawings featuring the utensil, including one titled “The Tunnel of Freedom.”
The issue has also stirred admiration outside the Palestinian territories, where spoons have been carried in demonstrations supporting prisoners detained by Israel.
In Kuwait, the artist Maitham Abdal sculpted a giant hand firmly clasping a spoon — the “spoon of freedom,” as he calls it.
Similarly inspired, Amman-based graphic designer Raed Al-Qatnani symbolically depicted six silhouettes taking a bridge to freedom, represented by a spoon.
For him, it also evokes the numerous hunger strikes undertaken by Palestinian prisoners to protest their incarceration.
In Tulkarem, a city in the West Bank occupied since 1967 by Israel, the escape brought back memories for Ghassan Mahdawi. He and another prisoner escaped from an Israeli prison in 1996 through a tunnel dug using not kitchen implements but nails.
He had been arrested for belonging to an armed group during the first Palestinian intifada, which lasted until the early 1990s.
“There’s nothing prisoners can’t do ... and there is always a flaw” in the system, said Mahdawi, who was rearrested and then released after a total of 19 years in custody.
In his view, the most recent escapees may have used tools other than spoons, obtained inside the prison, to carry out what every prisoner dreams of but few accomplish.
“To escape from an Israeli prison is something each inmate thinks about,” Mahdawi said.
To have done it with a spoon, he added, is something that “will go down in history.”