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Thursday, 20th September 2018
2:11:59pm

North Africa

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Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Egypt’s government of mounting a crackdown on freedom of expression that had turned the country into an “open-air prison” for critics.

The international human rights group said authorities had arrested at least 111 people since December for criticising President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Egypt’s human rights situation in a campaign that surpassed any under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

“It is currently more dangerous to criticize the government in Egypt than at any time in the country’s recent history,” Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director, Najia Bounaim, said in a statement.

“Egyptians living under President al-Sisi are treated as criminals simply for peacefully expressing their opinions.”

A government spokesman had no immediate comment on the Amnesty report when contacted by Reuters.

The security services had ruthlessly clamped down on independent political, social and cultural spaces, Amnesty said.

“These measures, more extreme than anything seen in former President Hosni Mubarak’s repressive 30-year rule, have turned Egypt into an open-air prison for critics,” it said.

Sisi’s supporters maintain the president, who was reelected in March, has been trying to combat an Islamist insurgency and restore order to the country following years of chaos after Arab Spring demonstrations forced Mubarak to step down in 2011.

They say that Sisi has improved security since 2013, when as army chief he ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

Among those arrested were at least 35 people held on charges of “unauthorized protest” and “joining a terrorist group” after a peaceful protest against metro fare increases, and comics and satirists who posted commentary online, Amnesty said.

They also include prominent figures and possible presidential contenders, such as former military chief of staff Sami Anan and former presidential contender Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, as well as former state auditor Hesham Genena.

Amnesty said at least 28 journalists were also among those detained since December 2017.

“President al-Sisi’s administration is punishing peaceful opposition and political activists with spurious counter-terrorism legislation and other vague laws that define any dissent as a criminal act,” Bounaim said.

-Reuters

An Egyptian criminal court ordered the arrest of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons on charges of stock market manipulation, state news agency MENA reported Saturday. 

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, with seven other men, are accused of violating stock market and central bank rules to make unlawful profits through dealing in shares of Al Watany Bank of Egypt.

They deny any wrongdoing. 

Three other men including Yasser El Mallawany and Hassan Heikal, current and former board members respectively at Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes, were also arrested, a judicial source said.

All those accused in the case, which began in 2012, had been released on bail and barred from travel.

Mubarak’s eldest son, Alaa, is a businessman. Gamal, a former banker, was widely viewed as being groomed for Egypt’s top job until Mubarak was toppled in February 2011.

The pair had been free since 2015. 

The court’s next session is set for Oct. 20.

-Reuters 

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide attack a day earlier against the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Corporation which killed two employees, according to a US-based monitor.

Three attackers died in the assault on the NOC's offices in the Libyan capital Tripoli, IS said in a statement published by the SITE Intelligence Group which tracks extremists.

IS said it hit the "economic interests of the pro-Crusader governments of the tyrants of Libya", describing the oil company as a legitimate target which funds "the war on the mujahedeen (holy warriors)".

Libyan security services said on Monday the remains of two suicide bombers were found inside the NOC building. 

Two staff were killed and 10 others wounded in the assault, which was denounced by the United Nations mission in Libya as a "cowardly terrorist attack".

It was the latest attack on Libya's vital oil sector, which provides 95 percent of state revenues.

The assault came four months after the headquarters of the country's electoral commission in Tripoli was hit by suicide bombers, killing 14 people and claimed by IS.

The jihadists group gained ground in Libya during the chaos following the ousting of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Despite being driven in December 2016 from their main fiefdom of Sirte, east of Tripoli, ISIS continues to carry out deadly attacks.

It remains active in the centre and south of the country, while "sleeper cells" are present in northern Libya according to analysts.

-AFP

Heads have been rolling in the Algerian army, the North African nation's most respected institution, and in other security services, with generals in top posts fired - without explanation - at a rate never before seen.

The across-the-board changes, and the silence, are highlighting the opaque nature of the nation's power structure.

Since late June, nearly all top officials in the security hierarchy have been replaced. The changes are especially dramatic in a country with the best-equipped military in North Africa and the Sahel that has honed its skills in fighting Islamic extremists. Today, Algeria is a bulwark against extremism for the West.

Yet the Algerian press, which habitually decodes the often inscrutable world of politics, has been unable to decipher the reason for the clearout.

-AP

More than 100 migrants died in early September when their crowded rubber boats were wrecked off the coast of Libya, the MSF aid agency on Monday quoted survivors as saying.

The two vessels had set out from the Libyan coast early on Sept. 1, each carrying scores of people, mostly African, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement on its website.

One boat’s engine failed later that day and the other began to deflate, it quoted a survivor as saying. Some survived by clinging to floating wreckage.

A survivor told MSF that “European rescuers” had come by aircraft and thrown life rafts, but migrants remained in the water for hours.

“On our boat, only 55 people survived. Many people died, including families and children. They could have been saved if rescuers had come earlier,” MSF quoted the unidentified survivor as saying.

Sudanese, Malians, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Ghanaians, Libyans, Algerians and Egyptians were among those on board the wrecked vessels.

Many survivors were brought to the Libyan port of Khoms on Sept. 2 by the Libyan coastguard, MSF said.

The agency said they faced further ordeals in Libya.

“Many of the survivors are mourning the loss of their relatives,” it said. “Instead of receiving the support they need, refugees and migrants are arrested and detained in deplorable living conditions, without basic safeguards or legal recourse.” 

It added: “MSF reiterates its call to end the arbitrary detention of thousands of refugees and migrants across Libya.”

-Reuters

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