A former aide of Osama bin Laden was found guilty on Feb. 26 of plotting the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224. Extradited from the UK in 2012, Saudi national Khalid al-Fawwaz was convicted on four counts of conspiracy by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after three days of jury deliberations, and faces a possible life sentence. US Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Fawwaz "played a critical role for al-Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America." He described al-Fawwaz as one of bin Laden's "original and most trusted lieutenants" who was leader of an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later acted as bin Laden's spokesperson in London. Al-Fawwaz was arrested in the UK in 1998, the same year as the bombings. His trial lasted a month under heavy security in Manhattan. Al-Fawwaz did not testify.
A Swedish court sentenced Syrian refugee Mouhannad Droub to five years in prison Feb. 26 after convicting him of abusing a captured member of President Bashar Assad's forces. Droub was part of a group under the Free Syrian Army, where he and other members beat a prisoner and posted a video of the abuse on Facebook. Droub received asylum in Sweden in 2013. He was indicted in the Södertörn District Court earlier this month. It is the first time that charges in connection with the Syrian conflict have been brought to a Swedish court.
A Bahraini court found 11 Shi'ities guilty on Feb. 26 of an attack carried out last year and sentenced three to death. The other eight defendants were sentenced to life in prison and will be stripped of their citizenship. The case centered on the country's deadliest attack since Bahraini security forces repressed Shi'ite protests in 2011. In March three police officers were killed by bombings in a Shi'ite village while breaking up groups of "rioters and vandals" on Manama's outskirts. One of the fallen officers had been a policeman from the United Arab Emirates deployed to Bahrain to assist in security measures. The defendants plan to appeal.
Amnesty International (AI) claimed Feb. 23 that the Egyptian military failed to take adequate precautionary measures to avoid civilian casualties in an attack on the Libyan city of Derna last week. The airstrikes occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 16, and AI argues that indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, such as this attack by the Egyptian military, amount to war crimes. The AI article cites eyewitness testimonies from local residents who claim there are no military targets near the largely residential area of Sheiha al-Gharbiya, where two missiles were fired resulting in the deaths of seven civilians. Additionally, Sheiha al-Gharbiya is located near the city's university. The international community is largely restricted to eyewitness accounts of missile attacks within urban areas of Libya due to the hostile conditions for journalists in the country. The Egyptian airstrikes were executed in retaliation for the slaughter of 21 Egyptian Christians [by presumed ISIS militants]. AI urges the Egyptian military and all warring parties in Libya to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians and to ensure that their forces do not carry out direct attacks on civilians or attacks which are indiscriminate or disproportionate.
Iran reportedly executed Saman Naseem, a juvenile offender who was 17 years old when sentenced to death, despite international pressure to halt the execution. According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), it is unclear if the execution occurred on Feb. 19 or 20, but Naseem's family was asked to collect his body. Now 22, Naseem was charged in July 2011 with "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth." The juvenile was arrested because of membership in Party For Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) after a battle with the Revolutionary Guards. One member of the Revolutionary Guard was killed and three others injured. Naseem reported he did not have access to a lawyer during the investigations and was tortured prior to confessing. Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International urged Iran to halt the execution. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and pursuant to Article 37(a) capital punishment is prohibited for persons below 18 years of age. However, the Islamic Penal Code permits the death penalty for juveniles under certain circumstances.
An Egyptian court on Feb. 23 sentenced activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah to five years in prison in a retrial on charges stemming from the 2011 uprising. Abdel-Fattah, a secular activist, was initially charged in November 2013 and later sentenced to 15 years under the country's law criminalizing unauthorized protest. While Abdel-Fattah's sentence was reduced on retrial, many supports have criticized the court's decision, claiming he should have been set free. Judge Hassan Farid also ordered that Abdel-Fattah and his co-defendants be subjected to police surveillance for a period of time after released from their prison sentences.
The US Court of Military Commission Review on Feb. 18 set aside the terrorism convictions (PDF) of former Guantánamo detainee David Hicks. Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 to providing material support to terrorism, which was one of the few cases of successful prosecution of a Guantánamo detainee. In 2014, an appeals court decided that material support was not a valid war crime, but Hicks had previously agreed not to make any appeals as part of his plea bargain. The US military court rejected this condition, however, allowing Hicks' appeal. One of Hicks' lawyers said last month that the US government had admitted his conviction was incorrect and did not dispute Hicks' innocence.
Bahrain's Ministry of Interior initiated a criminal investigation on Feb. 17 into alleged illegal content posted by the country's main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. Al-Wefaq regularly publishes content to its website and Twitter account, including pictures of protests against the Sunni majority party. Feb. 14 marked the four-year anniversary of a Shiite uprising in Bahrain and hundreds took the streets to protest a lack of political reform and the imprisonment of Al-Wafeq leader Sheikh Ali Salman. The alleged criminal content involves pictures of wounded protesters from the weekend protests, and claims that the authorities fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse protesters. Al-Wefaq is accused of publicly inciting hatred against the government, encouraging illegal rallies and distributing false news.