Archive for January, 2012
TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — Iran has sentenced two American citizens to eight years in prison after they were convicted of espionage and illegal entry, prosecutors said on Sunday.
Several non-official Iranian media outlets had already reported on Saturday that the two American citizens were sentenced to prison, but the news was not confirmed until Sunday by Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.
Dolatabadi said Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison after being found guilty, but added that they still have 20 days to appeal the verdict. The news shattered earlier hopes in the United States that Iran would release the two as sentencing took place during the Holy month of Ramadan, which is also a time of forgiveness.
Bauer and Fattal were arrested in July 2009 along with Sarah Shourd when they crossed the border in Iraq’s Kurdistan region into Iran. Iranian prosecutors charged them with entering the country illegally and having links to U.S. intelligence, a claim which the defendants and their families have repeatedly denied.
According to the detained Americans, they were hiking in Iraq when they unknowingly crossed the unmarked border into Iran where they were arrested by border guards. Iranian prosecutors have rejected those claims, saying there is ‘compelling evidence’ that they are spies.
Shourd was released on September 14, 2010, after 14 months of imprisonment. She was released on a $500,000 bail on ‘medical concerns,’ although no details were provided. Shourd has since returned home to the United States and does not plan to return to Iran to face trial.
In response to Sunday’s news, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is “deeply disappointed” by the sentencing. “We continue to call and work for their immediate release – it is time for them to return home and be reunited with their families,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if Bauer and Fattal would receive credit for time already served.
Sunday, August 21st, 2011
Sun Aug 21, 2011
Pakistan has agreed to dispatch more mercenaries to Bahrain to help Al Khalifa regime’s crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Persian Gulf state.
The agreement was reached when Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during his one-day visit to Bahrain on Wednesday, IRNA reported Saturday.
Manama has been recruiting former soldiers and policemen from Pakistan at a steady rate to strengthen the government’s forces.
In many demonstrations Bahraini protesters shouted slogans against Pakistani security forces in Urdu.
Pakistani and Saudi forces have played a major rule in suppressing anti-government protests in Bahrain since the beginning of unrest in the Persian Gulf country.
President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab said Friday that the Pakistani recruits have behaved with a heavy hand toward demonstrators.
“They’re told they are going to go to a holy war in Bahrain to kill some non-Muslims or kafir [infidel] or Shias. They are paid well, maybe,” Rajab noted.
Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters have been holding peaceful anti-government rallies throughout the Middle Eastern country since February, demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa family.
Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested and tortured in prisons in a government-sanctioned crackdown on protests since the beginning of the demonstrations.
According to the BCHR, there are currently over 1,000 political detainees inside the country.
The first round of talks for Jordan’s admission to the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) will be held between September 10 and 15, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said yesterday.
Judeh is to meet his GCC counterparts in Saudi Arabia to outline a road map for Jordan’s admission to the bloc, he told a private sector panel set up to follow the issue.
In May, GCC leaders decided at a meeting in Riyadh to accept Jordan as a new member. The council comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.
Both Jordan and the GCC countries “stand to benefit” from Amman’s admission to the group, Judeh said.
Before Ibrahim Abdel-Wahed Mohamed left Sea Cliff for a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq, he was Anthony Grant Vance, the son of American and Panamanian parents who had raised him as a Catholic.
Despite his Christian upbringing, though, he had been curious about Islam since his childhood in Kansas, where he had two Afghani friends. He thought about pursuing anthropology studies to further learn about religion and different cultures, but instead ended up joining the military.
Mohamed felt the pull toward the faith strengthen in Iraq — “the heart of the Islamic world,” as he says — and he reached out to the Muslim contractors on his base and started learning about the precepts of the Quran.
Convinced that he was being called to Islam, he officially became a Muslim while still serving in Iraq. There he underwent Shahada, a profession of faith where a person testifies in front of others that “there is no god but God and Mohammad is the messenger of God,” as the Sunni declaration reads.
His transformation may seem dramatic, but it’s not entirely unique. The number of Latinos in the U.S. converting to Islam is growing, and Long Island is no exception.
In 1997, the American Muslim Council counted approximately 40,000 Hispanic Muslims nationwide, but that number could nowadays be closer to 75,000, according to Latino American Dawah Association (LADO), an organization committed to promoting Islam among the Latino community within the United States.
Juan Galvan, a member of LADO, affirms that Latino converts to Islam are increasing. “Many Muslim organizations have stated that the Latino Muslim community tripled or quadrupled after 9/11,” he says.
He explains that after the attacks, people wanted to know more about the religion. “Many people came to learn about Islam for the first time. Some people came to hate Islam, and some people came to love Islam.”
Mohamed firmly stands with the latter, as one of a small percentage of soldiers who fought in Iraq and returned with a new faith.
In some ways, his roots may have predisposed him to theological experimentation.
Born in Panama to an American Marine father and Panamanian mother, he was baptized and raised as a Catholic. His parents divorced when he was an adolescent, and his father became a Jehovah’s Witness. The conversion led his father to retire from the military after 13 years of service, telling Mohamed that once you decide to follow God, “you don’t pledge allegiance to a country, but you pledge allegiance to God.”
Still, Mohamed followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Marine Corps after he finished high school. As a Marine, traveled around the country, living in California, Virginia, North Carolina and New York, where he finally settled down.
It was working at the military base in Garden City when Mohamed first saw the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, a place that always intrigued him. “We passed by the mosque a couple times and I had the curiosity” he recalls. After several years on Long Island, he was sent to Iraq in 2008.
Two years have passed since Mohamed converted to Islam. Now he lives in Westbury, attends the Islamic Center of Long Island and is pursuing a major in education at CW Post.
He still maintains an open mind when it comes to other religions.
“I’m not here to put anyone else down for their beliefs,” he says. “I still believe that there are many lessons to be learned from other faiths.”
Source: Huffington Post.
Thu Aug 18, 2011
Government forces have attacked Saudi Arabian peaceful demonstrators in the east of the oil-rich kingdom.
Protesters took to the streets of Awamiyah town in the Eastern Province late on Wednesday, witnesses said.
During the protest, people demanded respect for human rights and the release of political prisoners in the country.
At least two demonstrators were arrested after breaking up the rally, according to reports.
The Eastern Province has been the scene of anti-government protests in recent months.
Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of dissent.
Protest rallies and any public displays of dissent are considered illegal.
The government has become increasingly nervous about the protests that have taken the Arab world by storm, toppling the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders, and which reached Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.
KARBALA, Iraq, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Alleged movement of U.S. forces into Karbala last week was an act of terrorism that violates bilateral security arrangements, an Iraqi official said.
A lawmaker in the Sadrist political party, loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, said U.S. forces entered parts of Karbala last week. Tariq al-Khekany told the Voices of Iraq news agency that U.S. forces spent about six hours in a Sadrist stronghold in the city.
“We condemn the said ‘terrorist’ operation, which stood counter to the (2008) security agreement, signed between Iraq and the United States,” he was quoted as saying.
U.S. combat forces withdrew to their military bases in Iraq in June 2009 under the terms of a bilateral Status of Forces Agreement with Baghdad. That agreement left Iraqi security forces in the lead of major operations.
A series of attacks and bombings Monday killed at least 89 people. Iraqi officials blamed national security forces in part for the attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during comments Tuesday said that although no group had claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks, it was likely a sign that al-Qaida in Iraq was “trying to assert itself.”
Iraqis are considering whether some U.S. forces would stay beyond a Dec. 31 deadline to withdraw. Sadrists blame the U.S. military presence for many of the country’s problems.
Source: United Press International (UPI).
TEHRAN, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Iran and Kurdish officials in Iraq have plans to set up a joint committee to fight Kurdish rebels along their border, an Iranian official said.
Hassan Danaifar, the Iranian envoy to Baghdad, said delegates from Tehran discussed forming an action plan with authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to combat the guerrilla campaign of the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, Iran’s state-funded broadcaster Press TV reports.
Danaifar added that high-ranking military officials from both sides would work to establish the committee.
Iranian officials have acknowledged sending troops to the border region and moving across the Iraqi border allegedly in pursuit of PJAK gunmen. Baghdad expressed frustration over Iranian action against PJAK, though Kurdish leaders told Iranian media recently that PJAK militancy presents a serious security concern in the region.
PJAK is considered a close affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which was blamed for killing Turkish soldiers near the border with Iraq in July.
Reports from Turkish news agency Today’s Zaman say Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech marking the 10th anniversary of his Justice and Development Party that Ankara’s patience with the PKK was wearing thin.
Source: United Press International (UPI).