politics of cyberspace
After an electoral season marred by narco-violence and assassination of candidates of all parties, the results from Mexico's June 7 vote are in. The coalition led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico as a one-party state for 80 years, maintains its slim majority in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, although it lost some seats. Gubernatorial races were also held in several states, including some hit especially hard by the cartel violence. The PRI gained the governorship of Guerrero, but lost control of Michoacán to the left opposition. In one upset, the PRI lost northern Nuevo León state to an independent, Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez Calderón—the first independent candidate to win a governorship in Mexico. The gadfly rancher survived two assassination attempts by the Zetas when he was mayor of García, a Monterrey suburb. His son was killed in an attempted abduction, and his young daughter kidnapped, although returned unharmed. El Bronco beat the PRI and other estabished parties with a populist campaign and invective against entrenched corruption. With the state's establishment press bitterly opposed to him, he made deft use of social media to mobilize support. (Reuters, BBC News, Televisa, CNN México, June 8)
A Saudi court on June 8 upheld blogger Raif Badawi's sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam through electronic channels." The blogger ran the Liberal Saudi Network for four years before being arrested by Saudi authorities. Badawi was originally charged with insulting Islam for co-founding the religious discussion website Free Saudi Liberals. He was detained in June 2012, and his case was referred to the Public Court of Jeddah in December with a recommendation to try him for the crime of apostasy. Sharia-based Saudi law is not codified and judges do not follow a system of precedent; however, apostasy is a capital offense which can be punishable by death. The blogger received his first 50 lashes this January, but floggings have been delayed since, for reasons that have not been made public. A medical report shows that he was not fit for punishment.
A Muslim rights organization called June 3 for a thorough investigation into the fatal shooting of a Muslim man in Boston. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) made the request a day after 26-year-old Usaama Rahim was killed by police after having been under surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. CAIR Director Jennifer Wicks also requested that authorities release video footage of the shooting, which shows the incident between Rahim and local police. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the Boston Herald that "military and law enforcement lives were at threat" and that the video shows the police officers "backtracking" as Rahim approached them.
Bangladesh on May 25 banned an Islamist militant group suspected of involvement in the murders of atheist bloggers that sparked protests in Dhaka earlier this year. The Home Ministry's move to outlaw the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) comes after police asked the government to ban the group. Police have also charged ABT followers with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. ABT is the sixth Islamist militant group to be banned in the country, which has seen a rise in militant attacks in recent years. The msot recent slaying of a blogger, which took place two weeks ago in Sylhet city, was claimed on Twitter in the name of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). AQIS previously claimed responsibility for the February slaying of blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka. An Islamist has been arrested in connection with his murder but not formally charged. (Channel NewsAsia, May 25)
Chinese prosecutors on May 15 said that prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has officially been indicted on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking unrest for comments that he posted online. He has already been detained for one year. A more severe charge of inciting divisions and a charge of illegally obtaining personal information were dropped by prosecutors. In a statement the Beijing prosecutors' office said that the human rights lawyer should face criminal prosecution for comments he made on social media and his microblog, which has since been shut down by authorities as a disruption of social order. The US State Department urged Chinese authorities to release Pu earlier this month and respect his rights in accordance with the country's international human rights commitments, but China refused to release him. According to one of Pu's lawyers, the charges could result in a maximum sentence of 10 years, though it is unlikely that such a sentence will be imposed. Pu continues to reject the charges and maintain his innocence, asserting that the case is baseless and politically motivated.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Dhaka Feb. 27 to denounce the murder of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, hacked to death with machetes earlier that day while walking near a book fair he was visiting in the city. Roy was founder of Mukto-Mona (Free Mind) blog, which advocated secularism and atheism. He had received numerous threats from Islamists in recent months. His wife was also injured the attack. There have been no arrests. At the rally, protesters chanted "We want justice" and "Raise your voice against militants."
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.
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.