Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty
Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm and his supporters. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2022

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty

Swedish citizen risking Iran execution is ‘hostage’: Amnesty
  • Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm
  • His supporters and Iranian media reports say he could be hanged by May 21

PARIS: An Iranian-Swedish citizen facing imminent execution in Iran is being held as a hostage by Tehran in a bid to force Belgium and Sweden to make concessions in two cases concerning former Iranian officials, Amnesty International said Thursday.
Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that are deemed baseless by Stockholm and his supporters, and Iranian media reports say he could be hanged by May 21, a punishment that officials have repeatedly insisted will be carried out.
The risk to his life comes as anger grows among families of Western nationals often held for years on end by Iran, who they say are being held as pawns in a game over which the innocent detainees have no control.
“Mounting evidence strongly indicates that the Iranian authorities are holding... Djalali hostage and threatening to execute him to compel third parties to swap him for former Iranian officials convicted or on trial abroad, as well as to refrain from future prosecutions of Iranian officials,” Amnesty International said.
In an unprecedented case, a Swedish court is trying Hamid Noury, a former prison official, over his alleged involvement over massacres in Iranian prisons in 1988, with the verdict expected on July 14.
Noury, who was arrested in Sweden in November 2019, is being tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states to investigate serious crimes that were committed abroad.
Meanwhile, Assadollah Assadi, a former Iranian diplomat, is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for his role in a thwarted 2018 bomb attack in France that was targeting a meeting of an exiled opposition group.
Before his arrest in Iran in April 2016, Djalali was a visiting professor in disaster medicine at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a research university in Brussels.
Sweden later granted citizenship to Djalali, who had been a resident in the country, in February 2018.
“The Iranian authorities are using Ahmadreza Djalali’s life as a pawn in a cruel political game, escalating their threats to execute him in retaliation for their demands going unmet,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The authorities are attempting to pervert the course of justice in Sweden and Belgium, and should be investigated for the crime of hostage taking,” she said.
The London-based NGO says that since at least late 2020, the Iranian authorities had been “conditioning” Djalali’s fate on seeking a “deal” with Belgium to swap him for Assadi, and with Sweden for Noury.
The UN Human Rights Office had said Tuesday that it was “deeply alarmed” by reports that Djalali’s execution was imminent, saying his hanging would “constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life.”
Djalali’s supporters, led by his wife Vida Mehrannia, have also sought to keep up the pressure, with his 10-year-old son holding up a sign reading “Free My Dad” at a protest in Stockholm last week where he was joined by his classmates.
Over a dozen Western nationals are being held in Iran in what activists argue is a policy of hostage-taking aimed at extracting concessions from the West. Two more French citizens were detained earlier this month.
Meanwhile, German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd and Swedish citizen Habib Chaab are being tried on security-related charges for which they could be sentenced to death. Activists believe both were abducted by Iran while abroad.
These controversies are coming at an acutely sensitive time for Iran, as world powers are still seeking to revive a 2015 deal over its nuclear program, and as the country is confronting protests over price rises.
Families and supporters of foreign detainees held in Iran, including French tourist Benjamin Briere and French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, issued a statement Thursday saying Iran has “settled into a systematic policy of hostage-taking.”
Calling on Europe to cut diplomatic ties with Iran, the statement said that “it has become politically and morally unbearable to continue to feed the hostage-taking machine.”


EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 56 min 43 sec ago

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU worries may not cross ‘finishing line’ to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • “Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills said

UNITED NATIONS: The European Union said on Thursday it was worried it may not be possible to strike an agreement to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after indirect talks between the United States and Iran ended this week with no progress.
“I am concerned that we might not make it over the finishing line. My message is: Seize this opportunity to conclude the deal, based on the text that is on the table. The time to overcome the last outstanding issues, conclude the deal, and fully restore the (agreement) is now,” European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog told the UN Security Council.
The Security Council met to discuss the latest report by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of a 2015 council resolution that enshrines the nuclear deal, under which Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to develop an atomic weapon in return for sanctions relief.
“Iran has yet to demonstrate any real urgency to conclude a deal, end the current nuclear crisis and achieve important sanctions lifting,” Richard Mills, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations, told the meeting.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington aimed at breaking an impasse over how to salvage the nuclear pact ended in Qatar without the progress “the EU team as coordinator had hoped for,” EU envoy Enrique Mora tweeted on Wednesday. 


Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
Updated 30 June 2022

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary

Four killed in Sudan as protesters rally on uprising anniversary
  • Security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace
  • Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations

KHARTOUM: Four protesters were shot dead in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.
In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching toward the presidential palace, witnesses said.
They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be at least in the tens of thousands, and to be the largest so far this year. In Omdurman, witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.
The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time autocratic ruler Omar Al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.
Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.
Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.
Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.
June 30 also marks the day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989. “Either we get to the presidential palace and remove Al-Burhan or we won’t return home,” said a 21-year-old female student protesting in Bahri.
It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that Internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended Internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.
Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the Internet once again on Thursday.
BRIDGES SHUT
Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri — another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.
In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests.
On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107. There were large numbers of injuries and attempts by security forces to storm hospitals in the capital where they were being treated, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.
There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.
The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.
Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.
Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.
Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African Union have so far yielded little progress.


Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
Updated 30 June 2022

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination

Joint Egyptian-Bahraini statement stresses depth of relationship and need for coordination
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa conclude Manama talks
  • Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest”

CAIRO: In a joint statement at the conclusion of talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Egypt and Bahrain stressed the depth of the two countries’ relations, and the need for coordination and cooperation to confront the challenges of the region, maintain its security and achieve stability. 

The joint statement was issued after bilateral talks at Sakhir Palace in Manama.

Both countries affirmed the “unity of a common position and destiny toward all regional and international issues and developments of common interest,” and an “increase in the pace of economic cooperation for broader horizons that would support the common interests of the two brotherly countries.”

The two sides agreed to “coordinate joint efforts to combat terrorism and its organizations and prevent its financing, and to spare the region the dangers of destabilising activities.”

They also stressed “support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to abide by international principles of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, to preserve the principles of good-neighborliness, and to spare the region all destabilising activities, including supporting armed militias and threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines.”

Both countries highlighted “supporting international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, ensuring the peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear program, strengthening the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintaining the non-proliferation regime, and the importance of supporting efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.” 

With regard to the Renaissance Dam crisis, Bahrain’s ruler expressed “the Kingdom of Bahrain’s full support for Egyptian water security as an integral part of Arab water security,” and urged Ethiopia to abandon its unilateral policy in connection with international rivers, and to abide by the international laws related to filling and operating the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

He also stressed “the necessity of negotiating in good faith with Egypt and Sudan to reach a binding legal agreement in this regard, in implementation of the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in September 2021, in a way that averts the damage caused by this project to the downstream countries and enhances cooperation between the peoples of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.”

The Bahraini side expressed its full solidarity with the Arab Republic of Egypt in all the measures it takes to protect its national security.

On the Yemeni issue, the two sides affirmed their support for international efforts to find a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis, in accordance with the approved international references, and the Saudi initiative to end the Yemeni crisis. They also expressed their full support for the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council to perform its constitutional responsibilities “to achieve security, stability and development in Yemen.”

They also affirmed their support for the UN armistice agreement in Yemen and welcomed the announcement of its extension. The Bahraini side appreciated Egypt’s response to the request of the legitimate Yemeni government and the United Nations to operate direct flights between Cairo and Sanaa in support of that armistice and alleviating the humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people.

The two sides welcomed the upcoming summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia between the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Jordan and Egypt, and the Prime Minister of Iraq with US President Joe Biden.


Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
Updated 30 June 2022

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback

Iran says nuclear deal still possible despite Qatar talks setback
  • Indirect talks in Qatar's capital between Iran and US on reviving 2015 nuclear deal concluded with no progress
  • Iran says a deal could still be reached

TEHRAN: Iran insisted Thursday that a revived nuclear agreement with major powers remains achievable despite a negative US assessment of two-way talks in Qatar intended to reboot the stalled negotiations.
The US State Department said the EU-brokered proximity talks in the Qatari capital Doha had concluded late Wednesday with “no progress made.”
But Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said he believed the talks had been “positive” and a deal could still be reached.
“We are determined to continue negotiating until a realistic agreement is reached,” he said after a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who hosted the indirect talks.
“Our assessment of the recent round of talks in Doha is positive,” he said.
“I insist on the fact that we are making serious efforts to reach a good, solid and lasting agreement,” said Amir-Abdollahian.
“An accord is achievable if the United States is realistic.”
The two days of talks, in which EU mediators shuttled between Iranian and US delegations, were intended to reboot wider negotiations between Iran and major powers in Vienna which have been stalled since March.
The talks aim to bring the United States back into a 2015 deal jettisoned by the Donald Trump administration in 2018 by lifting the sweeping economic sanctions he imposed in exchange for Iran’s return to full compliance with the limits set on its nuclear activities.
Washington has “made clear our readiness to quickly conclude and implement a deal on mutual return to full compliance,” the US State Department spokesperson said after the talks wrapped up in Qatar.
“Yet in Doha, as before, Iran raised issues wholly unrelated to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal) and apparently is not ready to make a fundamental decision on whether it wants to revive the deal or bury it.”
Differences between Tehran and Washington have notably included Iran’s demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from a US terror list.
The talks in Doha came just two weeks before US President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the region, with trips to Iran foes Israel and Saudi Arabia.


Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is currently in talks with Algerian officials. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2022

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations

Egyptian PM asks Algeria to advance political and economic relations
  • Madbouly arrived at Houari Boumediene International Airport in the Algerian capital on Wednesday evening
  • Algerian Prime Minister Ayman bin Abd Al-Rahman welcomed Madbouly

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is currently in talks with Algerian officials on the advancement of political and economic relations between the two countries during his two-day visit.

Madbouly and the high-level ministerial delegation accompanying him arrived at Houari Boumediene International Airport in the Algerian capital on Wednesday evening to head the eighth session of the joint higher committee between the two countries.

Algerian Prime Minister Ayman bin Abd Al-Rahman welcomed Madbouly, expressing Algeria’s pride in the strong relations with Egypt and its keenness to strengthen cooperation with the country.

It is expected that the visit will comprise meetings with senior Algerian officials and will see the signing of a number of memoranda of understanding between the two sides, especially in the oil and housing sectors. The Egyptian-Algerian Business Leaders’ Forum will also be held to review investment and trade opportunities available in the two countries.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune paid an official visit to Egypt last January, during which he met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Tebboune said that his talks with the Egyptian president “presented an opportunity to address economic cooperation” and facilitate investment between the two countries.

At the beginning of this month, Algeria and Egypt agreed on the need to transform their historical relations into “reciprocal partnerships” in the oil sector.

This came during official talks between the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohammed Arkab and the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El Molla, which took place through a remote meeting.