Tunisian political crisis deepens

Tunisian political crisis deepens
Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine gives a press conference on January 3, 2022 in Tunis to explain the causes of the arrest of ex-justice minister Noureddine Bhiri of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party. (AFP)
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Updated 04 January 2022

Tunisian political crisis deepens

Tunisian political crisis deepens
  • Noureddine Bhiri, ex-justice minister, who was arrested on Friday, suspected of ‘terrorism’

TUNIS: Detained Tunisian ex-justice minister Noureddine Bhiri of the Islamist-inspired Ennahda party, who is refusing food or medication after his transfer to hospital, is suspected of “terrorism,” the interior minister said Monday.

Bhiri, deputy president of Ennahda — viewed by President Kais Saied as an enemy — was arrested by plainclothes officers on Friday and his whereabouts were initially unknown.

Ennahda had played a central role in Tunisian politics until a power grab by President Kais Saied last year. Tunisia was the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts of a decade ago, but civil society groups and Saied’s opponents have expressed fear of a slide back to authoritarianism a decade after the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

“There were fears of acts of terrorism targeting the country’s security and we had to act,” Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine said late Monday of the arrest.

A member of a delegation that visited Bhiri in hospital said on Monday that he was refusing food or medication.

On Sunday activists and a former Ennahda legislator said Bhiri was in a critical condition and facing death.

But the source told AFP that Bhiri, 63, is “not in critical condition for the time being.”

The source, asking not to be named, said that a joint team from Tunisia’s independent anti-torture group INPT and the United Nations rights commission visited Bhiri at hospital in the northern town of Bizerte on Sunday. He is “lively and lucid,” and being kept under close observation in a private room of the hospital’s cardiology ward.

Since Friday, however, Bhiri has “refused to take any food or medication, prompting his transfer to hospital” two days later, the source said.

Samir Dilou, a lawyer and ex-Ennahda MP, condemned Bhiri’s arrest as “political” and an abuse of the justice system. He told a Tunis news conference that he is lodging a “kidnapping” charge against Saied and Interior Minister Charfeddine.

The interior minister said late Monday that evidence had been sent to the Justice Ministry regarding Bhiri’s activities, but that the prosecution “delayed” action on the matter.

This, Charfeddine said, prompted him to “quickly apply ... judicial control” over Bhiri, in a context where he was suspected of “falsifying” identity papers, including for a Syrian woman.

The minister said he had “personally verified” that the detainee was being “treated well.”

Bhiri’s wife, Saida Akremi, also a lawyer, told reporters he had suffered “a heart attack,” and that she was being denied access to him because she refused to sign documents as demanded by security services.

Mondher Ounissi, a doctor and member of Ennahdha’s executive bureau, said on Sunday that Bhiri suffers from several chronic illnesses, including diabetes and hypertension.

He has been “deprived of his medication” and “his life is threatened,” Ounissi said, adding that Bhiri usually takes 16 pills a day.

The Interior Ministry on Friday said that two individuals had been ordered under house arrest, without identifying them.

It said the move was a “preventive measure dictated by the need to preserve national security.”

The anti-torture group INPT has identified the second person detained as Fathi Baldi, a former interior ministry official.

The president “bears full responsibility for the life of Mr. Bhiri,” the anti-Saied group “Citizens against the coup” said Sunday on Twitter.


Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
Updated 9 sec ago

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty

Iran using ‘ruthless violence’ against protesters: Amnesty
  • Secretary-general calls for UN probe into Tehran’s behavior, including use of sexual violence
  • ‘The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now’

LONDON: Iran has used “unlawful force and ruthless violence” in its repression of popular protests across the country following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group said its investigations into the regime’s behavior, which has left “dozens” of people dead, revealed the use of live ammunition and sexual violence against women as tools to quell dissent.

It urged the world to take action by signing its petition to establish a UN Human Rights Council investigation into the events of the past few weeks.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said in a statement:

“We see the images of Iranian people from across the country bravely standing up to security forces, of women cutting off their hair and setting their scarves on fire,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“Dozens of people, including children, have been killed so far and hundreds injured. The voices of the courageous people of Iran desperately crying out for international support must not be ignored.”

Amini’s death in custody followed her arrest by Iran’s so-called morality police for incorrect wearing of her headscarf.

This prompted mass protests, including by women removing their headscarves and cutting their hair.

As well as live ammunition and sexual violence, birdshot, metal pellets and beatings have also been used liberally against protesters by the Iranian authorities in response, as well as mass arrests of “protesters and bystanders … journalists, political activists, lawyers and human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists and those belonging to oppressed ethnic minority groups.”

One witness in Tehran told Amnesty: “The security forces did not show mercy to anyone.” The group says it is continuing to identify more people killed in the clashes.

“Iran’s discriminatory laws, decades of repression of any form of dissent, and systemic impunity for unlawful killings during protests and behind prison walls, have triggered this unprecedented nationwide outrage,” Callamard said.

“We ask all the people of the world to sign our global petition and demand decisive action from their leaders.

“An independent investigative and accountability mechanism must be established by the UN Human Rights Council for the most serious crimes under international law committed by the Iranian authorities.

“People in Iran deserve more than empty words. The crisis of systemic impunity that has long prevailed in the country must end, and it must end now.”


Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state
Updated 59 min 15 sec ago

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state

Lebanese parliament fails to elect new head of state
  • Michel Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October
  • No candidate has emerged as a front-runner among the hopefuls

BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament failed to elect a new head of state on Thursday to replace President Michel Aoun when his term ends on Oct. 31, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said he would call another session when consensus emerged on a candidate.

The bulk of votes cast by lawmakers at Thursday’s session — 63 — were blank. Christian politician Michel Moawad won the backing of 36 of 122 lawmakers who attended.

Unless consensus emerges on a candidate, the presidency looks set to fall vacant when Aoun’s term ends, at a time of deep financial crisis.

Reserved for a Maronite Christian in Lebanon’s sectarian system, the presidency has fallen vacant several times since the 1975-90 civil war.

Anticipating a presidential vacuum, politicians have stepped up efforts to agree a new cabinet led by the Sunni Muslim Prime Minister Najib Mikati — who is currently serving in a caretaker capacity — to which presidential powers could pass until a president can be agreed.


Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
Updated 29 September 2022

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest
  • A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone

BAGHDAD: Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes and no claim of responsibility, two police officers said. A number of Shiite Muslim militant groups have offices and supporters in eastern Baghdad.
A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone, and appeared to add a new dimension to a contest among power-hungry politicians.
Rocket attacks on the Green Zone have been regular in recent years but they are normally directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.
Those attacks have been rare in recent months. Wednesday’s attack took place as parliament was holding a vote to confirm its speaker.
The political crisis has left Iraq without a government for nearly a year after elections last October.
The crisis broadly pits the powerful populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, a political, religious and militia leader, against an array of mostly Iran-aligned political and militant groups.
Sadr, the biggest winner of the election, withdrew all his lawmakers from parliament in June and has sworn not to let parliament convene, fearing other parties will form a government without him.
The standoff spiralled into street clashes killing dozens of people in central Baghdad in August. Many Iraqis fear the same could happen again.


Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
Updated 29 September 2022

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets

Kuwait’s military receives third batch of Eurofighter Typhoon jets
  • Eurofighter Typhoon fleet aims to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force

DUBAI: Kuwait’s military said it received two more Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 jets, making it the third batch out of a total of 28 aircraft the country has ordered, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.
The jets, one of the latest multi-role fighters, characterized by electronic warfare and high-speed response capabilities, aim to enhance the combat readiness of the Kuwait Air Force, the air force said in a statement.
The jets that Kuwait has received so far have achieved 100 flying hours, the statement added.
A ceremony was held at the Ali Al-Salem Al-Sabah Air Base to mark the aircraft’s landing, according to KUNA.


Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
Updated 29 September 2022

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Yemen condemns attacks by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region
  • Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks

DUBAI: Yemen’s government has condemned the attacks carried out by Iran on Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which has seen 13 reported deaths.

Yemen has accused Iran of targeting ‘security and stability in the region in a miserable attempt to create an external crisis for internal reasons’, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement released on state agency SABA.
It also said the Iranian regime ‘seeks to veer attention off the renewing revolution’ by the Iranian people against the government in Tehran.
“In this regard, the Yemeni government is following with great concern the excessive use of force and brutal repression by the Iranian regime against the brotherly Iranian people, and affirms its support for the people and their aspirations to achieve their legitimate rights to freedom, dignity and equal citizenship,” the statement added.
Iraq’s state agency reported 58 injuries as a result of the attacks, which occurred near Irbil and Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran launched the attacks after the country’s authorities accused armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of being involved in the unrest currently shaking the country, especially in the northwest.