Greater Middle East
A front-page New York Times story July 30 noted the release from prison of Berivan Sayaca, a 15-year-old Kurdish girl convicted of supporting terrorism by attending a protest rally and sentenced to nearly eight years behind bars. Berivan was freed about 10 months into her sentence after the Turkish Parliament passed a bill reducing the sentences of hundreds of youths, 18 and younger, who had been put on trial and nicknamed the "stone-throwing kids."
Five Yemeni soldiers were killed in in a suspected ambush by "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" while on patrol in the Shabwa province in southern Yemen July 21. A day earlier, dozens of pro-government tribesmen were killed in clashes with Shi'ite Houthi rebels in northern Saada province, including tribal leader Sheikh Zaidan al-Maknaiee, his son and four bodyguards.
A Syrian military court July 4 sentenced lawyer and activist Haitham Maleh to three years in prison for campaigning against the emergency rule under which Syria has been governed since 1963. Defense lawyers for Maleh said he was charged with "weakening national morale." The 78-year old former judge was put on trial in October 2009 sparking criticism from the US government and several human rights groups.
Yemeni authorities captured the mastermind of a suspected al-Qaeda attack on the intelligence headquarters in the southern city of Aden that killed 11 people, the Defense Ministry said June 19 on its 26sep.net website. The captured man was identified as Goudol Mohammed Ali Naji. The deadly attack, which took place earlier that day, was apparently intended to free prisoners, but authorities and witnesses are at odds on whether any were actually freed. Authorities said there were no prisoners in the building at the time; witnesses said the assailants were seen leaving the building in a bus, taking freed detainees with them. Last week, the Yemen-based "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" urged the country's eastern tribes to rise up against the government and threatened retaliation for alleged air strikes in the area, the US monitoring group SITE said. (AFP, June 20)
From Amnesty International, June 7:
Images of missile and cluster munitions point to US role in fatal attack in Yemen
Amnesty International has released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa'ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children. The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma'jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa'ida.
Two Turkish soldiers and three members of a Kurdish militia helping the army were killed on May 29 in separate clashes with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerillas. The violence reportedly surged after imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan decided to abandon peace efforts and leave local commanders in charge of the conflict. Two soldiers and a "village guard" member died in clashes in Sirnak province, while two militia members were killed in Siirt province, after PKK members attacked a military patrol. (Southeast European Times, May 29)
Two US tourists taken hostage earlier this week were released by tribal militants on May 25 after Yemen's president agreed to free a prisoner held by the state. The release came as Yemeni authorities apologized for an erroneous air-strike that killed Sheik Jabir al-Shabwani, deputy governor of Marib province, who had been trying to persuade a local leader of "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" to surrender. The target of the attack, Mohammed Saeed Jardan, escaped, with reports conflicting on whether he was injured. Al-Shabwani was reportedly travelling to meet him when he was killed.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights on May 14 called for the release of nine adherents of the Ahmadiyya sect detained under a controversial emergency law extended by parliament that week. The nine were arrested in March and charged with insulting Islam. "The arrest and interrogation of the Ahmadis is only the latest instance of the security apparatus' abuse of the shameful, vague and unconstitutional provision on 'contempt of religions,'" the statement said.