A court in southern Egyptian city of Minya on Monday sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on charges including murdering a policeman and attacking other officers in riots after security forces broke up two protest camps on August 14, 2013. The group is among more than 1,200 supporters of Mohamed Morsi on trial since a crackdown on Islamists after the military removed the president in July. In December, the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Only about 147 defendants were present at the unprecedentedly rushed hearings, which began Saturday. Others were released or are on the run being tried in absentia. Sixteen defendants were acquitted. The verdict, the largest capital punishment verdict in the history of the Egyptian judiciary, and the sentences are subject to appeal, and are likely to be overturned, according to lawyers.
Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian warplane Sunday after it breached Turkish airspace, according to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking at a campaign rally ahead of March 30 local elections, Erdogan congratulated the air force on its actions, saying, "If you violate our border, our slap will be hard." Syria condemned the strike as an act of "blatant aggression" saying the jet had been over Syrian territory targeting rebel fighters. According to Turkish sources, a control center detected two Syrian jets and warned them four times as they approached the Turkish border. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said initial reports indicated that the plane caught fire and crashed in Syrian territory. Rebel fighters, from mainly Islamist factions, seized the small predominantly Armenian Christian town of Kasab Sunday in northwestern Syrian, near the Turkish border, as well as a border crossing. The advances have come as part of an offensive along the coastal region of Latakia province traditionally a stronghold of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria's state news agency and opposition activists reported that President Assad's cousin, Hilal al-Assad, head of the National Defense paramilitary forces in Latakia, was killed in the fighting.
- Suspected al Qaeda linked militants attacked a military checkpoint in Yemen's eastern Hadramout province Monday killing 20 soldiers.
- The Lebanese army broke up clashes Sunday in south Beirut that killed at least one person, following a week of violence in the northern city of Tripoli that killed 27 people.
- Six candidates have begun campaigning ahead of Algeria's April 17 presidential election, after protests opposing President Bouteflika's running for a fourth five-year term.
Arguments and Analysis
'Is Hezbollah Confronting a Crisis of Popular Legitimacy?' (Eric Lob, Middle East Brief)
"In addition, Hezbollah distributed basic services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites, along with Lebanese of other sects, in the form of housing, water, electricity, education, health, vocational training, and agricultural extension; it also repaired infrastructure damaged by Israeli attacks and by warring domestic factions. In sum, Hezbollah filled the void of a Lebanese state mired in internal factionalism and external meddling, and helped to deliver Lebanese Shiites from disenfranchisement and destitution to military empowerment, political relevance, and economic prosperity.
And yet, regardless of all its achievements -- or perhaps because of them -- Hezbollah has recently faced growing discontent and mounting criticism, not only from other Lebanese factions but from its own Shiite constituents. What are the sources of this discontent and criticism? Some experts believe that Hezbollah's erosion of domestic support originated with its recent intervention in Syria. This Brief argues, however, that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria only exacerbated a crisis of popular legitimacy that began in the mid-2000s. In the years since, Hezbollah, in its dual status as both a militia and a political party, both engaged in military confrontation with Israel and entered the Lebanese cabinet."
'65 Experts Call on Secretary Kerry to Bolster U.S. Support for Tunisia' (Project on Middle East Democracy)
"In January 2014, Tunisia passed a landmark constitution and undertook the first peaceful transfer of power in an Arab democracy. Successful consolidation of Tunisia's democratic gains will set an important example in the region, but recent successes will remain at risk unless the country's transition maintains momentum. You recently said, 'We're hopeful that Tunisia is going to succeed, and we're going to help... We're going to try to do all we can in this age of constrained budgets and difficult choices.' As you prepare to launch the Strategic Dialogue with Tunisia, we urge you to follow through on and deepen U.S. commitments to help build an enduring Tunisian democracy by bolstering support for its economic, political, and security needs.
Tunisia faces serious obstacles despite recent successes. Its struggling economy -- a root cause of the revolution -- remains unable to generate jobs for its well-educated population. The country's weak security apparatus has failed to address burgeoning extremist threats and has increasingly targeted human rights and political activists critical of its conduct. To maintain momentum, Tunisian leadership must make important decisions to avoid exacerbating political polarization."
-- Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr