Category Archives: Political Prisoners

How Monopoly Media Abets the Persecutors of Assange

On 11 April 2019 Julian Assange was carried by UK police from the sovereign territory of Ecuador’s London embassy. He was then conveyed to Westminster magistrates court, which convicted him of absconding within fifteen minutes.

The event was captured in iconic images displaying his untrimmed beard, which is significant for two overlooked reasons. One is that visual documentation would be lacking if not for the presence of vigilant supporters. The other is that Ecuador progressively deprived their asylee of everything he needed, including shaving equipment cancelled months before the last vestige of asylum.

Disinformation and Machination

A Newsweek headline from 2018 still reads ‘Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Tells Russia-Aligned Media the FBI Is Spying on Him’. But he only addressed a court in Ecuador. Telesur was among those covering his testimony, yet simply mentioned “a video conference” without making the legal context explicit. As this outlet is known for resisting US narrative, it may be unsurprising that Newsweek conjured an exclusive release from Assange to enemy propagandists.

He said Ecuador was engaging in espionage against him, relaying data to the US and precipitating a health crisis to remove him from the embassy by way of death or a medical excuse for handing him over to the UK. Following suit with Newsweek, most coverage of this was dismissive and misleading.

The Guardian also persists with a slanderous report that Assange met with Paul Manafort, Trump’s later campaign chairman. The article alleges three meetings on different days and mentions clothing details like “sandy-coloured chinos” as if to notify police. Yet none of the 24/7 security footage emerged to reveal Manafort’s person or pants, meticulous records are devoid of him and the consul in the embassy at the time, Fidel Navarez, specifically debunks the story. Originally on the byline was a reporter previously convicted by Ecuador of a false and defamatory claim, Fernando Villavicencio, whom it also accused — with metadata evidence — of fabricating a document regarding their oil drilling.

Since its initial, perception-conditioning splash, the media has backpedalled from the article. The Guardian itself was no exception to this, despite leaving it online after an edit with some hedging terms. Perhaps that was an effort to save face, though it only seemed to increase ignominy.

Manafort nonetheless had business with Ecuador and not in London. He went to the equatorial nation to meet its newly elected President, Lenin Moreno and it was widely reported that they discussed debt relief, in exchange for US possession of Assange, like trading oil or bananas.

Changes brought by Moreno include removing Assange from their London embassy, beginning with harsh measures like cutting his internet, restricting visitors and issuing a list of tripwire demands. The latter were part of a document which threatened the end of his asylum, in terms replete with defamatory insinuations. Such were predictably seized upon by the media as warranting claims that happened to be false, about medical bills and his cat among other things.

Assange responded to Ecuador with a lawsuit occasioning the testimony noted above. This was referred to its Constitutional Court, which had all judges replaced under Moreno after being shut down for the relevant months.

Lawyers accordingly drew Ecuador’s neglect of his asylum to the attention of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which emphasised that it must not be terminated. The IACH stopped short of issuing a formal precautionary measure on this point, to its embarrassment, as within a month Ecuador invited British police to carry Assange away.

The reason they violated due process in terminating asylum is simply that there was no way to do it legally. Yet as always, the press was ready to ignore such technicalities and portray the eviction in terms of smears. Moreno even obliged them with lurid claims about faeces on walls. The evidence which inspired this appears to be one image capturing a discoloration on the bathroom light switch. Perhaps something was then imagined in relation to having deprived Assange of toiletries.

Eve of the Deed

Assange’s kidnapping correlated with publication of the fact that he had been spied on in the embassy. Wikileaks actually held a press conference which broke that news one day prior to him being hauled away.

They mentioned at the time that sensitive communication with his legal counsel was among data suspected of having been routed to the US. Testimony given by former security contractors working at the embassy subsequently confirmed that arrangement.

Privileged legal defence — against reprisals for publishing leaked evidence of war crimes — had been exfiltrated for US prosecutors.

Yet questions from the press at this meeting were loaded to imply an equivalence of these two very different instances of exposure, as if Wikileaks must concede some pivotal irony which serves it right.

Given the specific relevance of this attitude to state lawlessness, civil and military, it is seems hard to conceive of a more sinister fallacy propagated on behalf of either one.

Yet it was seriously invoked by the press, which thereby turned its critical spotlight away from abusers of power — to abet them and betray all else — by directing it against a publisher for informing the public of such abuses.

To be sure, they were relentless in this line of “questioning” and would not yield an inch to being disabused of their errors by thoroughly cogent answers.

Instead of giving the story its due at the time, they worked to trivialise it. Nor did they do anything else to stop bragging conspirators abducting him on the next day, as might have been the case if they had made serious enquiries and prompted a defensive position.

It accordingly takes ignorance to imagine the press as innocent in this grisly bit of history. Indeed, if it had not fostered the conditions for Assange’s vilification and kidnapping, none of his decade of documented torture would have transpired as it did.

The Role of the Media

What should all this mean to journalists who reflect on a publisher being extradited?

It seems the high calling of the press has been answered with ultimate self-sacrifice, as they zealously worked for this very precedent to be set.

Assange was characterised as bringing all troubles on himself. Writers apparently wondered why he refused to open his eyes to their liberating truths, when he could have just walked out the embassy door to be burnt at the stake, as the initial offering to flames they prepared for themselves.

Whether this fire be lit for revelations of DNC abuses or US war crimes appears of no concern to many of them. It seems everything is to be torched in their view, including the essence of Western freedom, justice and accuracy, so long as the primary object is to punish or topple somebody cast as an enemy of such values.

Assange was “an accused rapist,” as opposed to presumed innocent of rape accusations made by certain prosecutors, lawyers and other defamers in contradiction of statements from the listed complainant. He also published authentic information that reflected poorly on a presidential candidate whom many considered the lesser evil.

So never mind the spirit of international law, its plainly written covenants or their legally binding ratification by countries such as the US, UK, Ecuador and Australia, because Assange looked ripe for decomposition under the pile of refuse dumped on him.

Thanks to moral blinkers and conflicts of interest, establishment media and the intellectual milieu it draws upon can err grotesquely. This toxic culture is the crux of the everything to do with the struggle of Wikileaks. The necessity to overcome it is what gave birth the project. Then, when it came of age, an alliance was made, which ended in treachery on par with murder.

Along with profound psychological impacts listed by an eminent psychiatrist in court, Assange’s health has been decimated to the extent of losing 10 lean kilos. In his shoes a less exceptionally resilient person would probably dead by now, yet nothing is done to stop a ratcheting up of his hardship. Repeated calls from organised doctors and lawyers to get him to an adequate hospital have been increasingly ignored by the media, despite the fact that he is only in prison on remand and for publishing what another country is rightly embarrassed by.

This is plainly how the world dysfunctions and why little else can presently improve. Like most of what it professes to hold to account, journalism is increasingly a racket.

The post How Monopoly Media Abets the Persecutors of Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Monopoly Media Abets the Persecutors of Assange

On 11 April 2019 Julian Assange was carried by UK police from the sovereign territory of Ecuador’s London embassy. He was then conveyed to Westminster magistrates court, which convicted him of absconding within fifteen minutes.

The event was captured in iconic images displaying his untrimmed beard, which is significant for two overlooked reasons. One is that visual documentation would be lacking if not for the presence of vigilant supporters. The other is that Ecuador progressively deprived their asylee of everything he needed, including shaving equipment cancelled months before the last vestige of asylum.

Disinformation and Machination

A Newsweek headline from 2018 still reads ‘Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Tells Russia-Aligned Media the FBI Is Spying on Him’. But he only addressed a court in Ecuador. Telesur was among those covering his testimony, yet simply mentioned “a video conference” without making the legal context explicit. As this outlet is known for resisting US narrative, it may be unsurprising that Newsweek conjured an exclusive release from Assange to enemy propagandists.

He said Ecuador was engaging in espionage against him, relaying data to the US and precipitating a health crisis to remove him from the embassy by way of death or a medical excuse for handing him over to the UK. Following suit with Newsweek, most coverage of this was dismissive and misleading.

The Guardian also persists with a slanderous report that Assange met with Paul Manafort, Trump’s later campaign chairman. The article alleges three meetings on different days and mentions clothing details like “sandy-coloured chinos” as if to notify police. Yet none of the 24/7 security footage emerged to reveal Manafort’s person or pants, meticulous records are devoid of him and the consul in the embassy at the time, Fidel Navarez, specifically debunks the story. Originally on the byline was a reporter previously convicted by Ecuador of a false and defamatory claim, Fernando Villavicencio, whom it also accused — with metadata evidence — of fabricating a document regarding their oil drilling.

Since its initial, perception-conditioning splash, the media has backpedalled from the article. The Guardian itself was no exception to this, despite leaving it online after an edit with some hedging terms. Perhaps that was an effort to save face, though it only seemed to increase ignominy.

Manafort nonetheless had business with Ecuador and not in London. He went to the equatorial nation to meet its newly elected President, Lenin Moreno and it was widely reported that they discussed debt relief, in exchange for US possession of Assange, like trading oil or bananas.

Changes brought by Moreno include removing Assange from their London embassy, beginning with harsh measures like cutting his internet, restricting visitors and issuing a list of tripwire demands. The latter were part of a document which threatened the end of his asylum, in terms replete with defamatory insinuations. Such were predictably seized upon by the media as warranting claims that happened to be false, about medical bills and his cat among other things.

Assange responded to Ecuador with a lawsuit occasioning the testimony noted above. This was referred to its Constitutional Court, which had all judges replaced under Moreno after being shut down for the relevant months.

Lawyers accordingly drew Ecuador’s neglect of his asylum to the attention of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, which emphasised that it must not be terminated. The IACH stopped short of issuing a formal precautionary measure on this point, to its embarrassment, as within a month Ecuador invited British police to carry Assange away.

The reason they violated due process in terminating asylum is simply that there was no way to do it legally. Yet as always, the press was ready to ignore such technicalities and portray the eviction in terms of smears. Moreno even obliged them with lurid claims about faeces on walls. The evidence which inspired this appears to be one image capturing a discoloration on the bathroom light switch. Perhaps something was then imagined in relation to having deprived Assange of toiletries.

Eve of the Deed

Assange’s kidnapping correlated with publication of the fact that he had been spied on in the embassy. Wikileaks actually held a press conference which broke that news one day prior to him being hauled away.

They mentioned at the time that sensitive communication with his legal counsel was among data suspected of having been routed to the US. Testimony given by former security contractors working at the embassy subsequently confirmed that arrangement.

Privileged legal defence — against reprisals for publishing leaked evidence of war crimes — had been exfiltrated for US prosecutors.

Yet questions from the press at this meeting were loaded to imply an equivalence of these two very different instances of exposure, as if Wikileaks must concede some pivotal irony which serves it right.

Given the specific relevance of this attitude to state lawlessness, civil and military, it is seems hard to conceive of a more sinister fallacy propagated on behalf of either one.

Yet it was seriously invoked by the press, which thereby turned its critical spotlight away from abusers of power — to abet them and betray all else — by directing it against a publisher for informing the public of such abuses.

To be sure, they were relentless in this line of “questioning” and would not yield an inch to being disabused of their errors by thoroughly cogent answers.

Instead of giving the story its due at the time, they worked to trivialise it. Nor did they do anything else to stop bragging conspirators abducting him on the next day, as might have been the case if they had made serious enquiries and prompted a defensive position.

It accordingly takes ignorance to imagine the press as innocent in this grisly bit of history. Indeed, if it had not fostered the conditions for Assange’s vilification and kidnapping, none of his decade of documented torture would have transpired as it did.

The Role of the Media

What should all this mean to journalists who reflect on a publisher being extradited?

It seems the high calling of the press has been answered with ultimate self-sacrifice, as they zealously worked for this very precedent to be set.

Assange was characterised as bringing all troubles on himself. Writers apparently wondered why he refused to open his eyes to their liberating truths, when he could have just walked out the embassy door to be burnt at the stake, as the initial offering to flames they prepared for themselves.

Whether this fire be lit for revelations of DNC abuses or US war crimes appears of no concern to many of them. It seems everything is to be torched in their view, including the essence of Western freedom, justice and accuracy, so long as the primary object is to punish or topple somebody cast as an enemy of such values.

Assange was “an accused rapist,” as opposed to presumed innocent of rape accusations made by certain prosecutors, lawyers and other defamers in contradiction of statements from the listed complainant. He also published authentic information that reflected poorly on a presidential candidate whom many considered the lesser evil.

So never mind the spirit of international law, its plainly written covenants or their legally binding ratification by countries such as the US, UK, Ecuador and Australia, because Assange looked ripe for decomposition under the pile of refuse dumped on him.

Thanks to moral blinkers and conflicts of interest, establishment media and the intellectual milieu it draws upon can err grotesquely. This toxic culture is the crux of the everything to do with the struggle of Wikileaks. The necessity to overcome it is what gave birth the project. Then, when it came of age, an alliance was made, which ended in treachery on par with murder.

Along with profound psychological impacts listed by an eminent psychiatrist in court, Assange’s health has been decimated to the extent of losing 10 lean kilos. In his shoes a less exceptionally resilient person would probably dead by now, yet nothing is done to stop a ratcheting up of his hardship. Repeated calls from organised doctors and lawyers to get him to an adequate hospital have been increasingly ignored by the media, despite the fact that he is only in prison on remand and for publishing what another country is rightly embarrassed by.

This is plainly how the world dysfunctions and why little else can presently improve. Like most of what it professes to hold to account, journalism is increasingly a racket.

The post How Monopoly Media Abets the Persecutors of Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jen Psaki Grilled on Assange

The U.S. government is still appealing their stunning defeat in Julian’s extradition case. While the world waits for the UK courts to act, activists continue to draw attention to Julian’s plight.

Psaki Grilled on Assange

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was grilled yesterday on press freedom and Julian’s case. Psaki deflected New York Post reporter Steven Nelson’s question by stressing the “independence” of the Justice Department.

Activists Making Things Happen!

Activists are joining together to fund a series of #FreeAssange billboards! Led by Misty Winston, they’ve raised thousands in grassroots donations to put up the first billboard in Columbus, Ohio!

Western Hypocrisy on Press Freedom Has Global Implications

Our latest blog post delves into how the persecution of Julian Assange is exposing U.S. and UK hypocrisy and undermining the West’s moral authority.

We’ve long been concerned about how this assault on press freedom would be seized upon by global human rights violators, and now we’re seeing it. The danger isn’t hypothetical — it’s happening now as countries from China to Azerbaijan deflect attention from their own abuses by pointing to the West’s “double standard.”


The post Jen Psaki Grilled on Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jen Psaki Grilled on Assange

The U.S. government is still appealing their stunning defeat in Julian’s extradition case. While the world waits for the UK courts to act, activists continue to draw attention to Julian’s plight.

Psaki Grilled on Assange

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was grilled yesterday on press freedom and Julian’s case. Psaki deflected New York Post reporter Steven Nelson’s question by stressing the “independence” of the Justice Department.

Activists Making Things Happen!

Activists are joining together to fund a series of #FreeAssange billboards! Led by Misty Winston, they’ve raised thousands in grassroots donations to put up the first billboard in Columbus, Ohio!

Western Hypocrisy on Press Freedom Has Global Implications

Our latest blog post delves into how the persecution of Julian Assange is exposing U.S. and UK hypocrisy and undermining the West’s moral authority.

We’ve long been concerned about how this assault on press freedom would be seized upon by global human rights violators, and now we’re seeing it. The danger isn’t hypothetical — it’s happening now as countries from China to Azerbaijan deflect attention from their own abuses by pointing to the West’s “double standard.”


The post Jen Psaki Grilled on Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Knee on the Neck of Long-term Political Prisoners

The line between clearly defined political prisoners and prisoners targeted to make points for the political power structure is hidden. Criminalization is a standard tool of racial supremacists. George Floyd’s death is familiar a thousand times over because it restates the predominant ethic of law enforcement’s historical treatment of a minority population as revealed in the examples of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton.

But consider the less well known and large number of former Black Panther and other community activists serving intolerable prison terms which have taken away their normal lives in trials that can’t match objective standards of justice or international law. Guilty verdicts thrived on the targeting mechanisms of the FBI’s COINTELPRO operation, withheld testimony, ‘bought’ witnesses, rights violations, and obvious misidentifications suggesting that U.S. law enforcement has a difficulty telling black people apart. At particular risk of injustice were those who converted to Islam and were targeted for destruction.

Two troubling examples: (aka Hubert Gerold Brown) Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin was a target of CONTELPRO. It’s hard to explore the facts and conviction in his case without understanding that another has confessed to the crime he was convicted of and the crime’s perpetrator as described by witnesses bore little resemblance to Al-Amin. The likelihood of his innocence becomes law enforcement’s shame. Serving a sentence of life without parole, afflicted after confinement with a rare form of bone cancer, an imam deprived of his community, Al Amin’s most recent appeal to the Supreme Court was denied in April 2020.

Consider Jeff Fort (aka Abdul Malik Ka’bah) of Chicago, whose case and 168 year sentence have become so buried in history the reader may not have heard of him. Fort, a founder of Chicago’s Blackstone Rangers, the Black P. Stones, and El Rukn, is considered the first American convicted on charges of terrorism. His life is the story of a community leader and gang leader, surviving under the knee of supremacist law enforcement which made its final judgement with the intentionally unbearable sentences he currently serves. Wikipedia notes that currently he’s confined at the Florence Colorado supermax since 2006 under a “no-human contact order since his arrival.” An alternative judgement to law enforcement’s was his mother’s, quoted here from an ancient piece (“The Making of Jeff Fort,” 1988) by Tom Brune and James Ylisela, who wrote:

Fort’s mother recited parables. “We lived on 63rd Street, and there was an alley you could go through. In those days, it wasn’t dope fiends, it was old men being wineheads. I would cook [for her ten children] and when I would go into the parlor and sit down and come back, all my food is gone. I’m thinking somebody’s coming in getting my food. I didn’t have no dream that it was Jeff taking the food out there and feeding those people.

“He was out there, giving all of them a plate. He just couldn’t stand seeing people hungry. I just sat there and tears ran down. I said, ‘This child is an unusual child.’

Former Los Angeles Black Panther Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald died March 28, 2021, shackled in hospital following his second stroke. He served over fifty years of two life sentences and was eligible for parole. There was and remains more than reasonable doubt of his guilt in the crimes he was charged with.

Sentenced to fifty years for knocking the gun out of a police officer’s hand in Texas, Xinachtli (aka Alvaro Luna Hernandez) is eligible for parole July 18, 2021.

Finally released from 49 years in prison after eleven denials of parole, Jalil Muntaqim, tried to register to vote but technically before he was eligible to vote again. Arrested on charges connected to voter fraud, the charges were pressed by the District Attorney which would have returned Muntaqim to prison for the rest of his life but the country grand jury refused to indict him.

A veteran of military service in Germany and Vietnam and a former Black Panther leader in Omaha, Edward Poindexter, is serving the fiftieth year of a life sentence in Nebraska’s State Penitentiary for alleged involvement in bombing a policeman. There is a strong possibility that Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, (AKA David Rice) his co-convicted, were and are entirely innocent. Mondo we Langa has already died in prison. Poindexter, a diabetic with triple-bypass heart surgery and a eye cataract, uses a wheelchair. Petitions continue to urge the Nebraska Pardons Board to commute Poindexter’s sentence to time already served.

Imprisoned since 1973, under a life sentence, a model prisoner without betraying his beliefs Sundiata Acoli (Clark Edward Squire) is still held in prison and denied the parole he was first eligible for in 1992. The mechanism of his incarceration could be one of vengeance and extra-judicial punishment to extract information. The legal system apparently considers him to have information about the escape from prison to Cuba of Assata Shakur. Marilyn Buck, considered an accomplice to Ms. Shakur’s escape was released from prison to die from a cancer which was too slow to be treated at federal Prison in California. Dr. Mutulu Shakur, considered the escape’s mastermind has been fighting cancer after repeated unjust denials of parole and release. Acoli at 84 has had COVID and suffers from dementia among other illnesses. A petition to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy asks to commute the sentence and bring Sundiata Acoli home. It is hard enough to be an elder outside of prison.

With a judicial ruling allowing a review of previously filed appeals in his case, Mumia Abu Jamal’s current attorneys have filed actions supporting his claims. Recently he was shackled during his hospitalization for COVID and congestive heart failure. He has also reported an excruciating skin condition. In a letter published in The Jamal Journal urging protest of medical neglect in the treatment of Mumia Abu Jamal, Ramona Africa cites medical neglect as contributing factors in the deaths of Delbert Africa, Phil Africa, and Merle Africa. (see the Move 9).

North Americans rarely speak of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, born in Pakistan, a Muslim mother and neuroscientist who studied at the University of Houston Texas, then transferred to take her BA from M.I.T., and PhD from Brandeis. Her field of expertise included areas of biological warfare and viruses and all information about her could be ‘constructed’. She was a terrorist suspect wanted by the FBI for questioning when she was disappeared in Pakistan, March 2003. She was subsequently identified as prisoner 650 held at Bagram Air Force Base. Prisoner 650 was reportedly continuously raped by the prison officers at Bagram. There is strong evidence she was tortured. She has claimed she was kidnapped by the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and Pakistan. Shortly after being reported as in American custody for four years, in 2008 she reappeared with her son at age 12 to be arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of terrorism. In 2010 she was tried and sentenced in New York City to eighty-six years in prison for allegedly attempting to shoot at the entourage of U.S. military and law enforcement personnel which held her prisoner under detention in 2008. U.S. personnel were untouched by bullets. Dr. Siddiqui was shot in the torso. With no powder marks from firing a weapon on her clothes or self, evidence against her is non-existent, far-fetched, and unlikely. Her family fears she has been tortured within the U.S. prison system. She is said to have been in solitary confinement for twelve years. Incarcerated at Carswell Medical prison, she has refused to see lawyers and communicate with her family. Two of her children survived her initial arrest in 2003 and were held in criminal circumstances. Her son Muhammad, age seven at arrest in 2003, was reportedly kept in F.B.I. custody from 2003 to 2009. Her daughter Mariam, age five at arrest was reportedly kept in a “cold dark room” at Bagram Air Force base before return to the Siddiqui family in 2010. A third child, Suleman was only six months old when taken from his mother and was never returned and is feared dead. The facts of Dr. Siddiqui’s case are so publicly outrageous that either she was pre-empted for covert uses by U.S. and allied intelligence operations or elements of the war on terror are run by Nazis.

There’s an absence of mercy in unbearable sentences.

The post A Knee on the Neck of Long-term Political Prisoners first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From His Solitary Confinement, Marwan Barghouti Holds the Key to Fatah’s Future  

If imprisoned Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouti, becomes the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the status quo will change substantially. For Israel, as well as for the current PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, such a scenario is more dangerous than another strong Hamas showing in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The long-delayed elections, now scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively, will not only represent a watershed moment for the fractured Palestinian body politic, but also for the Fatah Movement which has dominated the PA since its inception in 1994. The once revolutionary Movement has become a shell of its former self under the leadership of Abbas, whose only claim to legitimacy was a poorly contested election in January 2005, following the death of former Fatah leader and PA President, Yasser Arafat.

Though his mandate expired in January 2009, Abbas continued to ‘lead’ Palestinians. Corruption and nepotism increased significantly during his tenure and, not only did he fail to secure an independent Palestinian State, but the Israeli military occupation and illegal settlements have deepened and grown exponentially.

Abbas’ rivals from within the Fatah Movement were sidelined, imprisoned or exiled. A far more popular Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, was silenced by Israel as he was thrown into an Israeli prison in April 2002, after a military court found him guilty of involvement in Palestinian resistance operations during the uprising of 2000. This arrangement suited Abbas, for he continued to doubly benefit: from Barghouti’s popularity, on the one hand, and his absence, on the other.

When, in January, Abbas declared that he would hold three successive rounds of elections – legislative elections on May 22, presidential elections on July 31 and Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections on August 31 – he could not have anticipated that his decree, which followed intense Fatah-Hamas talks, could potentially trigger the implosion of his own party.

Fatah-Hamas rivalry has been decades’ long, but intensified in January 2006 when the latter won the legislative elections in the Occupied Territories. Hamas’ victory was partly attributed to Fatah’s own corruption, but internal rivalry also splintered Fatah’s vote.

Although it was Fatah’s structural weaknesses that partly boosted Hamas’ popularity, it was, oddly, the subsequent rivalry with Hamas that kept Fatah somehow limping forward. Indeed, the anti-Hamas sentiment served as a point of unity among the various Fatah branches. With money pouring in from donor countries, Fatah used its largesse to keep dissent at minimum and, when necessary, to punish those who refused to toe the pro-Abbas line. This strategy was successfully put to the test in 2010 when Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah’s ‘strong man’ in Gaza prior to 2006, was dismissed from Fatah’s central committee and banished from the West Bank, as he was banished from Gaza four years earlier.

But that convenient paradigm could not be sustained. Israel is entrenching its military occupation, increasing its illegal settlement activities and is rapidly annexing Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Gaza siege, though deadly and tragic, has become routine and no longer an international priority. A new Palestinian generation in the Occupied Territories cannot relate to Abbas and his old guard, and is openly dissatisfied with the tribal, regional politics through which the PA, under Abbas, continues to govern occupied and oppressed Palestinians.

Possessing no strategies or answers, Abbas is now left with no more political lifelines and few allies.

With dwindling financial resources and faced by the inescapable fact that 85-year-old Abbas must engineer a transition within the movement to prevent its collapse in case of his death, Fatah was forced to contend with an unpleasant reality: without new elections the PA would lose the little political legitimacy with which it ruled over Palestinians.

Abbas was not worried about another setback, as that of 2006, when Hamas won majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)’s seats. Until recently, most opinion polls indicated that the pro-Abbas Fatah list would lead by a comfortable margin in May, and that Abbas would be re-elected President in July. With his powers intact, Abbas could then expand his legitimacy by allowing Hamas and others into the PLO’s Palestinian National Council – Palestine’s parliament in the Diaspora. Not only would Abbas renew faith in his Authority, but he could also go down in history as the man who united Palestinians.

But things didn’t go as planned and the problem, this time, did not come from Hamas, but from Fatah itself – although Abbas did anticipate internal challenges. However, the removal of Dahlan, the repeated purges of the party’s influential committees and the marginalization of any dissenting Fatah members throughout the years must have infused Abbas with confidence to advance with his plans.

The first challenge emerged on March 11, when Nasser al-Qidwa, a well-respected former diplomat and a nephew of Yasser Arafat, was expelled from the movement’s Central Committee for daring to challenge Abbas’ dominance. On March 4, Qidwa decided to lock horns with Abbas by running in the elections in a separate list.

The second and bigger surprise came on March 31, just one hour before the closing of the Central Election Commission’s registration deadline, when Qidwa’s list was expanded to include supporters of Marwan Barghouti, under the leadership of his wife, Fadwa.

Opinion polls are now suggesting that a Barghouti-Qidwa list, not only would divide the Fatah Movement but would actually win more seats, defeating both the traditional Fatah list and even Hamas. If this happens, Palestinian politics would turn on its head.

Moreover, the fact that Marwan Barghouti’s name was not on the list keeps alive the possibility that the imprisoned Fatah leader could still contest in the presidential elections in July. If that, too, transpires, Barghouti will effortlessly beat and oust Abbas.

The PA President is now in an unenviable position. Canceling the elections would lead to strife, if not violence. Moving forward means the imminent demise of Abbas and his small but powerful clique of Palestinians who benefited greatly from the cozy political arrangement they created for themselves.

As it stands, the key to the future of Fatah is now held by a Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti, who has been kept by Israel, largely in solitary confinement, since 2002.

The post From His Solitary Confinement, Marwan Barghouti Holds the Key to Fatah’s Future   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Elections under Fire: Palestine’s Impossible Democracy Dilemma  

Many Palestinian intellectuals and political analysts find themselves in the unenviable position of having to declare a stance on whether they support or reject upcoming Palestinian elections which are scheduled for May 22 and July 30. But there are no easy answers.

The long-awaited decree by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last January to hold legislative and presidential elections in the coming months was widely welcomed,  not as a triumph for democracy but as the first tangible positive outcome of dialogue between rival Palestinian factions, mainly Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas.

As far as inner Palestinian dialogue is concerned, the elections, if held unobstructed, could present a ray of hope that, finally, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories will enjoy a degree of democratic representation, a first step towards a more comprehensive representation that could include millions of Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories.

But even such humble expectations are conditioned on many “ifs”: only if Palestinian factions honor their commitments to the Istanbul Agreement of September 24; only if Israel allows Palestinians, including Jerusalemites, to vote unhindered and refrains from arresting Palestinian candidates; only if the US-led international community accepts the outcome of the democratic elections without punishing victorious parties and candidates; only if the legislative and presidential elections are followed by the more consequential and substantive elections in the Palestinian National Council (PNC) – the Palestinian Parliament in exile – and so on.

If any of these conditions is unsatisfactory, the May elections are likely to serve no practical purpose, aside from giving Abbas and his rivals the veneer of legitimacy, thus allowing them to buy yet more time and acquire yet more funds from their financial benefactors.

All of this compels us to consider the following question: is democracy possible under military occupation?

Almost immediately following the last democratic Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, the outcome of which displeased Israel, 62 Palestinian ministers and members of the new parliament were thrown into prison, with many still imprisoned.

History is repeating itself as Israel has already begun its arrest campaigns of Hamas leaders and members in the West Bank. On February 22, over 20 Palestinian activists, including Hamas officials, were detained as a clear message from the Israeli occupation to Palestinians that Israel does not recognize their dialogue, their unity agreements or their democracy.

Two days later, 67-year-old Hamas leader, Omar Barghouti, was summoned by the Israeli military intelligence in the occupied West Bank and warned against running in the upcoming May elections. “The Israeli officer warned me not to run in the upcoming elections and threatened me with imprisonment if I did,” Barghouti was quoted by Al-Monitor.

The Palestinian Basic Law allows prisoners to run for elections, whether legislative or presidential, simply because the most popular among Palestinian leaders are often behind bars. Marwan Barghouti is one.

Imprisoned since 2002, Barghouti remains Fatah’s most popular leader, though appreciated more by the movement’s young cadre, as opposed to Abbas’ old guard. The latter group has immensely benefited from the corrupt system of political patronage upon which the 85-year-old president has constructed his Authority.

To sustain this corrupt system, Abbas and his clique labored to marginalize Barghouti, leading to the suggestion that Israel’s imprisonment of Fatah’s vibrant leader serves the interests of the current Palestinian President.

This claim has much substance, not only because Abbas has done little to pressure Israel to release Barghouti but also because all credible public opinion polls suggest that Barghouti is far more popular among Fatah’s supporters – in fact all Palestinians – than Abbas.

On February 11, Abbas dispatched Hussein al-Sheikh, the Minister of Civilian Affairs and a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, to dissuade Barghouti from running in the upcoming presidential elections. An ideal scenario for the Palestinian President would be to take advantage of Barghouti’s popularity by having him lead the Fatah list in the contest for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Hence, Abbas could ensure a strong turnout by Fatah supporters, while securing the chair of presidency for himself.

Barghouti vehemently rejected Abbas’ request, thus raising an unexpected challenge to Abbas, who now risks dividing the Fatah vote, losing the PLC elections, again, to Hamas and losing the presidential elections to Barghouti.

Between the nightly raids and crackdowns by the Israeli military and the political intrigues within the divided Fatah movement, one wonders if the elections, if they take place, will finally allow Palestinians to mount a united front in the struggle against Israeli occupation and for Palestinian freedom.

Then, there is the issue of the possible position of the ‘international community’ regarding the outcome of the elections. News reports speak of efforts made by Hamas to seek guarantees from Qatar and Egypt “to ensure Israel will not pursue its representatives and candidates in the upcoming elections,” Al-Monitor also reported.

But what kind of guarantees can Arab countries obtain from Tel Aviv, and what kind of leverage can Doha and Cairo have when Israel continues to disregard the United Nations, international law, the International Criminal Court, and so on?

Nevertheless, can Palestinian democracy afford to subsist in its state of inertia? Abbas’ mandate as president expired in 2009, the PLC’s mandate expired in 2010 and, in fact, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim political body, whose function should have ceased in 1999. Since then, the ‘Palestinian leadership’ has not enjoyed legitimacy among Palestinians, deriving its relevance, instead, from the support of its benefactors, who are rarely interested in supporting democracy in Palestine.

The only silver lining in the story is that Fatah and Hamas have also agreed on the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is now largely monopolized by Abbas’ Fatah movement. Whether the democratic revamping of the PLO takes place or not, largely depends on the outcome of the May and July elections.

Palestine, like other Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, does have a crisis of political legitimacy. Since Palestine is an occupied land with little or no freedom, one is justified to argue that true democracy under these horrific conditions cannot possibly be achieved.

The post Elections under Fire: Palestine’s Impossible Democracy Dilemma   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Biden Should Stop Payment on U.S. Funds to Sisi’s Egypt

Credit: CODEPINK

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, Egypt, as well as Saudi Arabia, Israel, the UAE, and other repressive regimes, had virtually free reign to commit unchecked human rights abuses without worry that they might be chastised or lose U.S. diplomatic and financial support. But when Joe Biden won the 2020 election, President Sisi of Egypt started to worry. That’s when he contracted lobbying powerhouse Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for $65,000 a month.

The pro-Cairo lobby team includes a number of former politicians, including former Republican congressman Ed Royce, who chaired the influential Foreign Affairs Committee from 2013-2018. The most shocking PR agent for the Egyptian regime, however, is Nadeam Elshami, former chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “It’s inconceivable that a man who spent his younger years in Egypt, comes from a Muslim family that supported the 2011 Arab Spring and was a key Democratic staffer in the U.S. Congress would end up lobbying for a regime that jails, tortures and murders tens of thousands of Egyptians,” says Mohamed Ismail of  Egyptians Abroad for Democracy Worldwide.

Brownstein boasts many accomplishments, including pushing Congress to obtain compensation on behalf of the hostages held in Iran in 1979, recovering artifacts plundered during the Armenian Genocide, securing compensation for housing developers who had to mitigate asbestos from former U.S. military sites, and securing increased funding for cancer research. Representing Egypt under President Sisi is unlikely to be something Browstein Hyatt Schreck will brag about.

In July 2013, Sisi seized control of Egypt in a military coup that removed Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader. The following month, on August 14, his military massacred approximately 1,000 civilians engaging in peaceful protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth called the Rabaa massacre, “one of the worst killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” pointing out that the violence was “intentionally planned at the highest levels of Egyptian society.” Between July 2013 and May 2014, Egyptian authorities detained, charged, or sentenced over 40,000 people. Many of the detainees — demonstrators, dissenters, and journalists — were held without trial. Others were tried without due process and sentenced to death.

In 2015, President Sisi governed without an elected parliament, giving himself almost total impunity for the attacks he carried out against civil and political rights. Effectively, all of the human rights gains that had been achieved during the 2011 Arab Spring that ousted longtime Egyption ruler Hosni Mubarak were lost when Sisi took over. Sisi’s reign of power has continued in this fashion with Egyptians experiencing surging human rights abuses and a large-scale breakdown of civil society.

In April 2019, Sisi’s government passed constitutional amendments allowing the leader to remain in power until 2030. In the fall of 2019, Egyptian authorities launched their biggest crackdown since Sisi seized power in 2013. According to Amnesty International, over 2,300 people, including more than 111 children, were taken into custody in sweeping and targeted arrests of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights attorneys, politicians, and political activists. On January 13, 2020, Egyptian-born American citizen Mustafa Kassem died following more than six years of incarceration in Egypt. Kassem had been arrested in August 2013 in Cairo on claims that he had participated in protests against Sisi’s military regime. He suffered from beatings and was held in pretrial detention for over five years before finally, without due process, receiving a sentence of 15 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already abysmal prison conditions in Egypt and Sisi’s government has used the crisis as pretext to even further silence critics and make use of pretrial detention without judicial review.

Egypt’s North Sinai, a sparsely populated area bordering Israel and the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, is a particularly egregious example of the country’s human rights abuses. Attacks by armed groups, including ISIS affiliates, on Egyptian government installations began to rise after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising but increased dramatically following Sisi’s 2013 coup. Instead of protecting Sinai residents in their fight against militants, the Egyption military has “shown utter contempt for residents’ lives, turning their daily life into a nonstop nightmare of abuses,” said Michael Page, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The Egyptian military in the Sinai has been engaging in torture, dissapearances (including of children as young as 12), mass arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, home demolitions, severe curfews resulting in food shortages, and air and ground attacks against civilians. According to Human Rights Watch, these actions amount to war crimes and, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Department of State, Egypt has repeatedly refused U.S. requests to observe how its military equipment is being used in the Sinai.

The history of U.S. financial support for Egypt dates back to the 1978 Camp David Accords and 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, when the U.S. began to provide Egypt with aid in a 2:3 ratio in accordance with U.S. aid to Israel. According to the U.S. Department of State, since 1978, Egypt has received over $50 billion in military and $30 billion in economic assistance. Currently, the U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion per year ($3.56 million per day) in military aid, making Egypt the second largest recipient of U.S. military assistance after Israel.

This largesse flowed during the reign of Hosni Mubarak and continues today, despite Sisi’s massive human rights abuses. Following the horrific 2014 Rabaa Square massacre, President Obama halted the delivery of U.S. tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and attack helicopters to Egypt. However, by 2015, he relented and lifted the arms hold, citing the need “to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region.” President Trump famously referred to Sisi as his “favorite dictator,” and praised Sisi for doing a  “fantastic job.” In August of 2017 the Trump administration did cut $96 million and delayed $195 million in military assistance to Egypt over the country’s failure to reduce its human rights abuses, a new law Sisi approved to restrict the activities of nongovernmental organizations, and Egypt’s relationship with North Korea. But these actions were not as tough on Egypt as they appeared to be. According to The New York Times: “by pausing the provision of $195 million in military funding, the Trump administration saved the money from expiring entirely on Sept. 30. This way, Egypt could eventually get the money if its record on human rights improves.” Indeed, the funding was later released without any change in Egypt’s policies.

Some members of Congress have tried to take action. In October 2020, 56 representatives — 55 Democrats and one independent — released a letter urging Sisi to release prisoners “unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights.” The call was echoed by over 220 European lawmakers. In 2014, Congress began implementing the Leahy Laws on a portion of aid money to Egypt. The law prevents U.S. security assistance to a foreign security force unit when there is credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

In December 2020, Congress made $75 million (a small portion of the total $1.3 billion) conditional on human rights improvements, without the U.S. State Department being able to waive the conditions by citing U.S. national security interests.

Unlike Trump, Joe Biden has been quite critical of Sisi. Commenting on the release of an Egypt-American medical student, then-candidate Biden wrote on Twitter: “Mohamed Amasha is finally at home, after 486 days in an Egyptian prison, for raising a protest banner. The arrest, torture, and exile of activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable. No more blank cheques for Trump’s favorite dictator.”

Shortly after it became apparent that Biden had won the 2020 U.S. election, Egypt began releasing some political prisoners, including three directors of the well-respected Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights — Gasser Abdel-Razek, Kareem Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer. On February 6, 2021, they released Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein, who had been in prison since December 2016 for  “publishing false information and belonging to a banned group.” After Hussein was arrested, Sisi banned Al Jazeera and other news outlets critical of his rule. Reporters Without Borders has called Egypt one of the world’s biggest and worst jailers of journalists.

Certainly President al-Sisi is afraid that his days of free rein to commit human rights abuses are over now that Trump is out of office. That’s why he is so desperate for the help of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to whitewash his image and keep U.S. military assistance flowing. But the Biden administration and Congress must not be swayed by Egypt’s release of a few select prisoners or the lobbying efforts of well-compensated Brownstein employees such as Pelosi’s former chief of staff Nadeam Elshami. They should put a “stop payment” on the U.S. taxpayer-funded check that has enabled Sisi to operate with impunity.

The post Biden Should Stop Payment on U.S. Funds to Sisi’s Egypt first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Neoliberal Authoritarianism in Egypt

The whiplash of authoritarianism is being ruthlessly used in Egypt. On January 6, 2021, Ahmed Khalifa, social news editor of Egypt 360 website, was arrested after publishing a series of reports on workers’ legitimate protests. He was falsely charged with joining a terrorist group and spreading fake news, and remains in detention to date. Before his arrest, Khalifa published articles about strikes at the state-owned ElDelta Company for Fertilizers and Chemical Industry.

Turn of Events

In 2011, bold protest chants flowed out from Tahrir Square: from “The people want the fall of the regime!” to “Down, down with military rule!” – everything seemed full of new possibilities. Today, all the dreams envisioned by those chants lie in tatters.  Egyptians have gone through an unprecedented and dizzyingly fast-paced trajectory.

The Mubarak period (1981–2011) bore the stamp of neoliberal authoritarianism; the tumultuous 30-months long transition after his ouster (2011–13) was filled with hopes about a better future; the afterlife of a military coup (2013–present) has turned history full circle back to an authoritarian age of austerity and pervasive violence.

Egypt’s short-lived democratic experience lasted one year, starting in 2012 with the presidential election victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi. Morsi clashed with the military, leading to his ouster by the latter in 2013.

Whereas Mubarak’s ejection was a case of popular mobilization dismantling the executive power and the authority of the state’s ruling coalition, the protests that began on June 29, 2013, and culminated in Morsi’s arrest on July 3, can be traced to manipulation by the army, Interior Ministry, and General Intelligence Services.

The military coup signaled the start of a grotesque wave of counterrevolution led by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, where the opposition was legally crushed and the public sphere militarized. Post-2013 Egyptian politics has been marked with capricious state violence, trivial elections and a weakened political economy awash with aid rent, increased dependency on regional states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as financial strangulation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic Problems

Al-Sisi has left no doubt as to his economic stance, namely unadorned neoliberalism. His economic position crystallized in the organisation of the 2015 Sharm El-Sheikh Investment Conference, advertised to foreign investors and international financial institutions as the launch of Egypt’s new Economic Policy Program. Al-Sisi’s administration passed neoliberal tax and deregulatory investment reforms on the first day of the conference.

The new tax reforms sliced taxes on higher income earners from 30% to 22.5%, including corporate profits and personal incomes, advertised several tax exemptions in new special economic zones, ended the judicial oversight over state contracts with private businesses and immunized investors from the judicial system in Egypt.

In November 2016, the military regime took a loan of $12 billion from the IMF. Since then, it has been implementing austerity measures, increasing the assault on workers’ rights, issuing redundancy notices to many employees and eliminating subsidies even as it faces resistance.

As part of the loan package, IMF also recommended spending cuts and the introduction of a value-added tax; by June 2017, it resulted in the rise of core inflation by 32%. The prices of other items like food, fuel, and electricity rose much faster. Egyptians saw the cost of bread and cooking gas go up by nearly 60%. To put this into perspective, in the year leading up to the 2011 Arab Spring, food prices in Egypt were subject to an annual increase of around 15%.

Youth unemployment – a driver of the Egyptian rebellion – increased from 16% in 2010 to 42% by 2014. When Egyptians were asked about the major challenges facing the country in 2011, respondents – who were allowed to choose up to six challenges – felt that the economic situation was the most important. In 2011, 81.5% of respondents named the economic situation as the most important problem. By 2014, 90.3% of respondents felt the economic situation was of paramount importance.

The great majority of 97 million Egyptians struggle to make ends meet in an economy that no leader wishes to reform and that has once again become subject to the dictates of imperialist institutions. Everyone is constantly absorbing shocks from perpetually deteriorating political, economic, and social conditions.

The Egyptian state has abandoned most citizens in slums of penury, basing itself on a non-existent social contract. None of these outcomes were envisioned when Egypt’s uprising began in January 2011. At the conclusion of the uprising’s first eighteen days, indeed, everything but this disheartening outcome seemed possible.

Authoritarianism

Living in a highly unjust order, Egyptians inevitably feel angry at their corrupt dictators. This anger comes out in the form of dissidence. The military regime has assembled an entire police state for the silencing of this opposition. Human Rights Watch describes police stations and prisons in Egypt as having “an assembly line” of torture.

In 2015, according to the now closed al-Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, almost 500 people died in custody while 676 more were tortured. The subsequent years have been terrible as well: in 2016, the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedom reports, another 14 Egyptians died from torture while in custody and said their lawyers received 830 torture complaints.

Forced disappearances, or being put “behind the sun” as this tactic is known in Egypt, are also skyrocketing. In a 2016 report, Amnesty International puts the number of people who disappeared in the 100s. The al-Nadim Center documented 464 cases of forcible disappearance at the hands of the state.

Techniques of mass incarceration have been rapidly developed by the Al-Sisi administration. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information states in its 2016 report:

New prisons in Egypt came, unfortunately, not as a result of the increase in population, but rather due to a policy of random arrests, unfair trials and unjust laws passed after July 3, 2013, such as, the anti-protest law and the decision to increase pre-trial detention periods, as well as the widespread impunity policies.

Wikithawra has documented the arrest and imprisonment of nearly forty-one thousand people between July 3, 2013, and May 2014. An additional 26,000 more were arrested between 2015 and 2016. It is estimated that roughly 60,000 prisoners in Egypt are being held for political views and actions rather than criminal activity. This figure accounts for nearly 56% of all people being warehoused in the country’s jails.

Fragile State

The current Egyptian state is extremely fragile. In February 2016, Al-Sisi warned detractors:

Please, don’t listen to anyone but me. I am dead serious. Be careful. No one should try my patience or exploit my good manners in attempts to tear down the state. I swear to God that anyone who comes near the state, I will remove from the face of the earth. I am telling you this as the whole of Egypt is listening. What do you think you are doing? Who are you?

Al-Sisi has good reasons to be scared and worried. On average, there have been five times as many collective labor actions and other protests per day under al-Sisi than there were in the 2008–10 period. The country is in dire straits. Sooner or later, there is bound to be another revolt for a more humane social order.

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