Palestinian activist Ramy Nabil Shaath, freed by Egypt, lands in France

Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on January 8, 2022. (Free Ramy Shaath Campaign/Reuters)
Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on January 8, 2022. (Free Ramy Shaath Campaign/Reuters)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Palestinian activist Ramy Nabil Shaath, freed by Egypt, lands in France

Egyptian-Palestinian rights activist Ramy Shaath is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on January 8, 2022. (Free Ramy Shaath Campaign/Reuters)
  • French President Emanuel Macron welcomed release

AMMAN: Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in France on Saturday after almost two and a half years in detention in Egypt, with his family saying he had to renounce his Egyptian nationality.

Nabil Shaath, Ramy’s father and one of the leading Palestine Liberation Organization officials, told Arab News that he spoke to his son after he was freed and said his spirits are high, though the past few days had been very difficult for him.

“Ever since the Egyptian appeals courts vindicated Ramy of all charges, he was not released by the Egyptian authorities until he agreed to renounce his Egyptian citizenship,” he said.

Nabil added that the Egyptian government wanted him to be deported to Palestine. “We refused this suggestion knowing full well that the Israelis, who control all borders, would arrest him.”

The Egyptians agreed to release him to Palestinian officials in Egypt on the condition he traveled first to Amman. After coordination with PLO officials in the Jordanian capital, he traveled to Paris where he met his wife and family, Nabil told Arab News.

Egyptian law allows for the government to arrest any citizen without explanation for two years after which the prisoner has a choice of going to court or to the authorities to decide his fate.

According to his father, Ramy Shaath chose to go to court. “I am glad that Ramy decided to take the court channel and that his release was based on the decision of the appeals court which vindicated him of all charges, but I am sorry that the Egyptian authorities chose to strip him of his citizenship in a country he was proud of belonging to,” he said.

Nabil told Arab News that his son, married to a French woman, would now seek French citizenship.

A family statement celebrated his freedom and thanked “all the volunteers, the human rights organizations, public figures, and thousands of citizens from the Arab region, diaspora, and the world who advocated for his release.

“We are also grateful to the hundreds of lawmakers and government officials who publicly and privately championed Ramy’s case, particularly those who have done so steadfastly and against all odds in France, Europe, and the United States,” it said.

Welcoming his release, French President Emanuel Macron tweeted: “I welcome the decision of the Egyptian authorities to release Ramy Shaath. I share the relief of his wife Celine Le Brun, whom he finds in France, with whom we have not given up. Thank you to everyone who played a positive role in this happy outcome.”

Nisreen Haj Ahmad, director of Ahel, a Jordan-based organization that trains leaders in launching collective action, told Arab News that the concerted campaign by his wife and family attracted support from around the world. “It built power and used creative tactics,” she said. “Resilience is the secret of this success.”

Haj Ahmad, a friend of the couple, said she hopes all political prisoners in Arab countries can gain their freedom. “The freedom of Ramy Shaath is evidence of the people’s power and the importance of organizing despite difficult contexts,” she said.

Ramy Shaath was the Egyptian coordinator of the Palestinian-initiated Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. It was widely understood that his arrest was carried out as a gesture to the Israeli government. He was charged with terrorism, and had he been convicted, all his property in Egypt would have been confiscated by the state.


Jailed British-Iranian man begins hunger strike 

Anoosheh Ashoori (L) is staging a hunger strike in solidarity with Barry Rosen (R), who is staging his own hunger strike outside the nuclear talks in Vienna. (Amnesty/Screenshot)
Anoosheh Ashoori (L) is staging a hunger strike in solidarity with Barry Rosen (R), who is staging his own hunger strike outside the nuclear talks in Vienna. (Amnesty/Screenshot)
Updated 12 sec ago

Jailed British-Iranian man begins hunger strike 

Anoosheh Ashoori (L) is staging a hunger strike in solidarity with Barry Rosen (R), who is staging his own hunger strike outside the nuclear talks in Vienna. (Amnesty/Screenshot)
  • Anoosheh Ashoori striking in solidarity with American ex-hostage Barry Rosen
  • Rosen on hunger strike to highlight Iran’s hostage-taking strategy

LONDON: A British-Iranian dual national imprisoned in Iran will begin a hunger strike on Sunday in support of an American former hostage of Tehran who is staging his own hunger strike outside the nuclear talks in Vienna.

Anoosheh Ashoori is staging the strike in solidarity with Barry Rosen, 77, who, as then-press attache at the US Embassy in Tehran, was held hostage for 444 days between 1979 and 1981.

Ashoori was arrested in August 2017 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for espionage. He is now jailed in Evin prison in Tehran.

His wife Sherry said: “We are extremely concerned for his health as he approaches his 68th birthday, but having failed to see any progress in the UK Foreign Office’s efforts to secure his release, and no sign of the welfare of hostages held by Iran currently being a priority of Western governments, he will begin his hunger strike.”

Rosen says hostages should be released as part of a new nuclear deal, and has also been joined on hunger strike by Lebanese US resident Nizar Zakka, who was detained by Iran between 2015 and 2019.

Rosen told The Guardian: “I am receiving heart-rending messages from Iranians, and I am absolutely humbled that Anoosheh is doing this in support of me.

“I support him completely in return and I urge him to be careful and look after himself. I am starting to feel tired and weak, but I am determined to continue.

“I am here to call on the Americans and the Europeans to make the release of the hostages a condition of any agreement to renew the Iran nuclear deal.

“This has been going on for 40 years, and people are being thrown in jail with no evidence. There has to be an agreement that this will end.”

Rosen said he is concerned that Western countries are not taking Iran’s hostage-taking strategy seriously. “It is like herding cats. Each country seems to deal with its dual national hostages on its own,” he added.

“There is no sense of commonality, so they leave Iran to pick each country off. Something is missing here. The Iranians seem to be dividing and ruling.

“I decided to do this (campaign) two weeks ago. I am just an individual, and thought I might be a lone eagle, but it feels like a movement might be starting.”


UAE stops drone flying for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts: Interior Ministry

The UAE Ministry of Interior is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircrafts. (Shutterstock)
The UAE Ministry of Interior is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircrafts. (Shutterstock)
Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

UAE stops drone flying for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts: Interior Ministry

The UAE Ministry of Interior is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircrafts. (Shutterstock)
  • Interior Ministry did not refer directly to Houthi attack in imposing the ban
  • Said the decision came after finding misuse of permits granted to those who practice drone sports

ABU DHABI: The UAE has grounded most private drones and light sports aircraft used for recreational purposes for a month starting Saturday, the Interior Ministry said, following a deadly attack this week by Yemen's Houthis.

While the Interior Ministry did not refer directly to the attack in imposing the ban, it said the decision came after finding misuse of permits granted to those who practice these sports.

"MOI (Ministry of Interior) is currently stopping all flying operations for owners, practitioners and enthusiasts of drones, including drones and light sports aircrafts," it said in a statement.

Exceptions might be granted by the permit authorities for businesses using drones for filming, the ministry said.

The UAE said the Iran-backed Houthi militia used cruise missiles and ballistic missiles alongside drones in the attack on Monday that killed three civilians.

The Houthi attack hit a fuel depot of state oil firm ADNOC in Musaffah and a construction site near Abu Dhabi airport, the UAE confirmed while adding it intercepted part of the attack.


Lebanon to start virtual talks with IMF next week

Lebanon to start virtual talks with IMF next week
Updated 22 January 2022

Lebanon to start virtual talks with IMF next week

Lebanon to start virtual talks with IMF next week
  • An IMF spokesperson also told Reuters on Saturday that a team will start virtual talks with Lebanese authorities next week
  • The Lebanese government has said it hopes to reach an initial agreement with the fund for financial support between January and February

BEIRUT: Lebanese officials will start talks with the International Monetary Fund on Monday, an official government source told Reuters.
An IMF spokesperson also told Reuters on Saturday that a team will start virtual talks with Lebanese authorities next week.
The Lebanese government has said it hopes to reach an initial agreement with the fund for financial support between January and February. Lebanon is in the grip of an unprecedented financial crisis and an IMF deal is widely seen as the only way for it to secure aid.
The fund said in December it was assessing a $69 billion figure announced by Lebanese officials for losses in the country's financial sector.
Disagreements in Lebanon over the size of the losses and how they should be distributed torpedoed IMF talks in 2020. The central bank, banks and political elite rejected figures set out in a government plan that was endorsed by the IMF at the time.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in September that the financial recovery plan to be drawn up by his cabinet will include a fair distribution of losses suffered by the financial system, but the cabinet hasn't convened since October.
It will convene again on Monday to discuss the 2022 budget, but no clear details have been released about the recovery plan.
The Lebanese financial system collapsed in 2019 because of decades of corruption and waste in the state and the unsustainable way it was financed. The trigger was slowing inflows of hard currency into the banking system, which lent heavily to the government.
Several reforms the IMF would likely seek, including cutting subsidies and unifying the numerous exchange rates in Lebanon's chaotic cash economy, are already becoming realities as hard currency dries up, political sources say.


Arab League to hold extraordinary session on Houthi attacks against UAE

The Houthis claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks that caused three oil-tank explosions and a fire at Abu Dhabi International Airport. (AFP)
The Houthis claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks that caused three oil-tank explosions and a fire at Abu Dhabi International Airport. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2022

Arab League to hold extraordinary session on Houthi attacks against UAE

The Houthis claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks that caused three oil-tank explosions and a fire at Abu Dhabi International Airport. (AFP)
  • There was international condemnation in response to Monday’s attacks

CAIRO: The Arab League will hold an extraordinary session on Sunday to discuss the recent terrorist attacks against the UAE by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia.

The session will be chaired by Kuwait’s permanent representative to the organization, and was requested by the UAE on Friday.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit strongly condemned the Houthis’ targeting of civilian areas and facilities in Abu Dhabi.

He stressed the “need for the international community to stand united in the face of this terrorist act that threatens regional peace and stability.”

The Houthis claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks that caused three oil-tank explosions and a fire at Abu Dhabi International Airport, killing three people and wounding six.

There was international condemnation in response, including from the UN Security Council on Friday.


Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff
Updated 22 January 2022

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff
  • Employees are holding banks responsible for angry customers’ occasionally criminal behavior
  • Family scared for daughter’s life ask her to quit banking job or work remotely

BEIRUT: Bank staff in Lebanon have called for extra security measures after a man took hostages and threatened to blow up a branch in Bekaa Valley this week.
Lebanese security forces arrested Abdullah Al-Saii on Tuesday after the incident at the Bank of Beirut and Arab Countries branch in Jeb Jannine as he attempted to withdraw $50,000 of his own money.
Armed with a gun, a grenade and bottles of benzene when he stormed into the bank, Al-Saii said the bank staff had rejected his requests to withdraw his money on previous occasions, blaming it on the economic crisis in the country.
Al-Saii held more than 10 of the bank’s staff and customers hostage for several hours, demanding he be allowed to withdraw the money. He said he would blow up the branch if his demands were not met. The building was cordoned off and the standoff was resolved following negotiations.
The incident has triggered fear among banking staff in Lebanon, who have called for beefed-up safety.
Lebanese bank clerk Hana Saleem was asked by her parents to quit her banking job or work remotely following the incident.
“After bank staff and clients were taken hostage at a bank in Bekaa Valley, my folks felt scared for my life, so they’ve begged me to quit,” she told Arab News.
Another bank employee, Dalia Hassan, believes the BBAC incident is just one in a litany of similar situations, which have put banking employees’ lives at risk.
“Since the financial crisis started over two years ago, banks have been subject to numerous attacks by armed clients, bulldozers and even angry customers carrying Molotov bombs,” she said, confirming that she feels scared whenever an agitated client yells inside her workplace.
“Whenever an angry client shouts, my co-workers and I hide under our desks or inside washrooms fearing the client might be armed and shoot at us,” said Hassan, who confirmed that the Hamra branch where she works has only employed two private security guards.
Extra policemen and security guards must be stationed inside and outside banks for “protection and safety,” she added.
Wael Imad, a branch manager, told Arab News that when banks cannot fulfill a request for a withdrawal from a customer, it is the staff and not management who are at the forefront facing angry clients.
He blamed the banks for the often reckless actions carried out by irate clients and said: “Banks are responsible when clients resort to illegal methods in, what I believe to be, a rightful bid to access their deposits.”
He said banks are supposed to protect their staff who feel unsafe in their work environments.
“Last year, I was beaten by a group of angry clients. Police arrived late to our branch before the assailants were held off,” recalled Imad.