An Egyptian judge issued death sentences to 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters Monday, including the group's spiritual guide Mohamed Badie, on charges over an attack on a police station, in which a policeman was killed, in the town of Minya. In a separate case, the judge also commuted to life terms 492 death sentences that had been imposed on Muslim Brotherhood supporters in March. However, 37 of the people tried in March will still face the death penalty. Additionally on Monday, a Cairo court banned the April 6 movement, which helped spark the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011, on allegations including "tarnishing the image of the state."
In a statement on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced his candidacy for the June 3 presidential elections, seeking a third seven-year term in office. Assad joined six other candidates, though he is widely expected to win the election. Opposition leaders who live in exile have been barred from running due to a clause in the constitution requiring candidates to have lived in Syria for 10 consecutive years. It is unclear how the vote will be conducted amidst the violent conflict, which has displaced an estimated 9.5 million people from their homes. Meanwhile, Syria missed an April 27 deadline for the removal or destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal. While the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Syria had made significant progress with just 7.5 percent of its stockpile remaining, it stated the government must "take the final step very soon."
- Saudi Arabia has announced eight new deaths from the Mers virus, with the number of cases reaching 339 and deaths surpassing 100.
- Attacks in Iraq targeted polling stations killing at least 21 people as police and soldiers turned out to vote two days ahead of parliamentary elections.
- Russia has held talks with Iran over $10 billion in power deals in efforts to develop stronger economic ties with Tehran as Western states work to negotiate a nuclear deal.
- A senior U.S. official said Washington is discussing the development of a coordinated missile defense system for the Gulf Arab states.
- Algeria's ailing 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sworn in for a fourth term on Monday.
Arguments and Analysis
'Egypt: Revise Terrorism Laws to Safeguard Rights' (Human Rights Watch)
amendments to 17 articles of the penal code define terrorism to include actions
- potentially such as labor strikes or peaceful protests - that could
‘obstruct' the work of public officials, or universities, mosques, embassies,
or international institutions. Article 86 of the penal code, as amended, would
criminalize any "intimidation' that could ‘harm national unity,' prevent the
application of the country's constitution or laws, or ‘damage the economy.'
‘By these definitions, anyone who participated in the popular uprisings of 2011 or 2013 could be branded a terrorist,' Stork said. 'Peaceful protest should not be criminalized as terrorism.'"
'In Iraq, female candidates still held back by old paradigms' (Diana Moukalled, Al Arabiya)
"What's frustrating about this election is that there will be no substantial changes from the previous elections in which only four females won and the 25% of quota for women was filled by assigning women from the winning parties.
Such a scenario is expected during these elections as well. Unless Iraqi voters take a significant turn, the female winning parliamentarians will only be an extension of the authority of conservative, religious and sectarian parties in the country.
Experience from recent years have shown this as female parliamentarians did not display any sort of independence and did not succeed at passing a single law in favor of Iraqi women's interests."
'Raging with the Machine: Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Syria' (Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Pulse)
"In the West, Robert Fisk and Seymour Hersh are considered critical journalists. They occupy dissident positions in the English-speaking press. Among Syrians, however, they are viewed very differently.
The problem with their writings on Syria is that it is deeply centered on the West. The purported focus of their analysis - Syria, its people and the current conflict - serves only as backdrop to their commentary where ordinary Syrians are often invisible. For Fisk and Hersh the struggle in Syria is about ancient sects engaged in primordial battle. What really matters for them are the geopolitics of the conflict, specifically where the US fits into this picture."
-- Mary Casey
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images