Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PROGAY begs Bahrain, free jailed gays, respect street protests

Gay activists in the Philippines have appealed Tuesday for the release of more than 120 Arab homosexuals arrested by police a week before massive protests swamped the oil-producing kingdom of Bahrain.

Goya Candelario, spokesperson of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines or PROGAY, called on the government of Bahrain to immediately free the 127 gays as their security in detention is compromised due to the political instability in the kingdom’s capital.

He said Bahraini police raided on February 2 a private reception for an alleged same-sex wedding, netting more than a hundred men, mostly visiting from Syria and Lebanon. The party venue was a sports hall in Hidd, a village on Muharraq Island.

Police argued that the party was decadent and depraved because of the presence of male guests who wore makeup and women’s attire, and were also consuming alcohol, behaviors that are sanctioned as immoral and illegal in most Gulf countries. Later, the police conducted checks to ascertain if the men engaged in sexual relations.

PROGAY expressed concern that the police in the Middle East routinely practice increased cruelty when dealing with gay men in their custody, while citing reports from returning gay overseas Filipino guest workers.

Candelario said some Filipino workers who entertain in private parties for fun or income are also being arrested in surprise raids and spend between six months to one year in prisons, where they suffer further sexual abuse, deprivation and shame.

However, victims do not file complaints and even reapply and reenter Gulf countries for work, preferring curbs on homosexual lifestyles to the grinding poverty and unemployment in the Philippines.

Last year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issued a blanket ban on the recruitment of known homosexuals from the Philippines, raising protests from gay activists and prospective migrant workers.

On the other hand, PROGAY also saw hope of increased freedoms for gays and lesbians in the simultaneous uprisings of the Arab peoples against tyrannical rulers in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. PROGAY believes that democratization in these countries may provide opportunities for advancing human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Candelario also scored the Aquino administration for not pursuing genuine economic reforms that would generate employment for Filipinos. The gay advocate said that Aquino should now order an immediate evacuation plan to protect thousands of lives in the Middle East and Africa who fear further escalation of violence and job losses.

Progay Philippines is a service and advocacy organization that provides counseling, training and education assistance to marginalized gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Filipinos, especially the youth and the ageing sectors. ProGay initiated Pride traditions in the country when it led the first ever gay and lesbian Pride parade in the entire Asian region on 26 June 1994.

Source http://www.mindanaoexaminer.com/news.php?news_id=20110221213105

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clinton expresses US support for Iran protesters

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her firm support for the thousands of opposition supporters who protested in Iran's capital on Monday.

Mrs Clinton said they deserved to have "the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt" and that Iran had to "open up" its political system.

One person was reportedly shot dead in the violent clashes between protesters and security forces in central Tehran.

Dozens were detained, and opposition leaders were placed under house arrest.

The BBC received reports of banned demonstrations in other Iranian cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz.


In their first major show of dissent since December 2009, when eight people were killed, thousands of opposition supporters gathered at Tehran's Azadi Square on Monday in solidarity with the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

They chanted: "Death to dictators".

But the BBC's Mohsen Asgari, who was at the rally, says it was not long before riot police fired tear gas, while men on motorbikes charged the crowd with batons.

Witnesses told the Associated Press news agency that at least three protesters had been wounded by bullets, with dozens of others taken to hospital as a result of the beatings.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency meanwhile reported that one person was shot dead by protesters and several others wounded.

Opposition websites said hundreds of people were arrested. There has been no official confirmation.

As night fell, hundreds of riot police remained on the streets of Tehran.

Later in Washington, Mrs Clinton told reporters that the US administration "very clearly and directly" supports the protesters.

"What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people, and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime - a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt," she said.

Mrs Clinton said the US had the same message for the Iranian authorities as it did for those in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down after 29 years in power by nationwide mass protests.

"We are against violence and we would call to account the Iranian government that is once again using its security forces and resorting to violence to prevent the free expression of ideas from their own people," she said.

"We think that there needs to be a commitment to open up the political system in Iran, to hear the voices of the opposition and civil society," she added.

Earlier on Monday, police placed the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, under house arrest and blocked access to his home.

His website said they intended to prevent the former prime minister attending the Tehran rally.

Fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament and a senior cleric, is also reportedly being held under house arrest.

Both men disputed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009, which triggered protests that drew the largest crowds in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The authorities responded by launching a brutal crackdown.

The opposition says more than 80 of its supporters were killed over the following six months, a figure the government disputes. Several have been sentenced to death, and dozens jailed.

Although Iran's establishment supported the Egyptian and Tunisian protests, describing them as an "Islamic awakening" inspired by the Islamic Revolution, it said the opposition rallies were a "political move".

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12460170

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Police in Case That Fueled Protests Escape Jail

Two policemen accused of brutally killing Khaled Said, the young man whose death helped trigger Egypt's popular uprising, have escaped jail and are at large.

The escape occurred when police fled their posts during clashes on Jan. 28, and police stations throughout Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, were set on fire, the defense and prosecution lawyers told The Wall Street Journal Sunday.

Gruesome photographs of Mr. Said's misshapen, unrecognizable deathmask, after he was arrested in June and, witnesses say, beaten by police in an Alexandria Internet café, helped turn a Facebook page protesting his treatment into a rallying point. It was that Facebook page that called for Egyptians to take to streets the against the government last month.

The defendants say Mr. Said choked to death on a bag of marijuana that he tried to swallow when he saw the policemen come into the Internet café. The lawyer for the defense says the damage to Mr. Said's face occurred during autopsy.

The state charged the policemen who allegedly killed Mr. Said with unlawful arrest and torture—and state prosecutors have since dropped the torture charge. The limited charges symbolized to many the impunity with which police in Egypt have abused their power over decades.

Prosecutors rested their case on Jan. 22, just days before the latest protests began. The defense is due to begin its arguments on Feb. 26.

The family's lawyer, Mohamed Raeft Nawar, says the charge of unlawful arrest is inadequate and means the policemen would be free within weeks even if convicted. He said the family is trying to persuade the court to add the charge of murder.

Reaffat Abdelhamid, who heads the defense team for the two policemen, confirmed Sunday that they escaped from the security police base in Alexandria where they were being held. He said one of the defendants, Mahmoud Salah, called him and said police opened the detention center gates when the base was overwhelmed by "thugs." He said he believed the two men would turn themselves in.

A spark for Egypt's revolution came when Mr. Said, a slight 28-year-old, walked into the tiny Spacenet Café, his regular haunt just yards from the apartment where he lived with his mother in Alexandria's Cleopatra district. Seconds later, the café's owner, 63-year-old Hassan Mossbah, heard shouting.

When he looked up, Mr. Mossbah says, he saw two men in plainclothes with pistols on their belts hitting Mr. Said. Then they picked him up and started swinging him head first against the marble shelf that makes a bar along the side of the café entrance, he said.

Mr. Mossbah says he and his sons then ran to push the policemen out. The policemen left dragging Mr. Said by the hair, into a lobby entrance next doors, he said. A crowd gathered to watch as the two men smashed Mr. Said's head repeatedly against the edge of the stone stairs, he says.

"A doctor in the crowd said to the policemen: 'What are you doing? He's already dead'," as the beating continued, says Mr. Mossbah.

According to the family lawyer, Mr. Nawar, the policemen were exacting revenge. Mr. Said, he said, had posted a video clip on Youtube that purports to show the policemen—Mr. Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman—dividing a bag of confiscated marijuana with others for resale on the street.

The clip was found on Mr. Said's personal computer after his death, according to Ali Kassim, the Said family patriarch, who is leading the family's case. He says Mr. Said surreptitiously downloaded the video to his cellphone using Bluetooth while one of the policemen was showing it to friends in the Spacenet Café. It wasn't possible to verify that claim.

The defendants, backed by two coroners' reports, say Mr. Said choked to death on a 3 inch x 1 inch bag of marijuana.

According to the defense lawyer, Mr. Abdelhamid, the video is irrelevant to the case. The policemen were looking for Mr. Said in connection with two cases for which he was wanted, on charges of draft dodging and theft, but he resisted arrest.

He said he would produce witnesses to testify that Mr. Said's face was unblemished until he arrived at the morgue.

Mr. Said's family and lawyer say the choking claim was faked. Senior forensic pathologists from Denmark and Portugal dismissed the two coroners' reports' findings.

Mr. Kassim says the two alleged police investigations into Mr. Said were forged after his death. The family have produced what appears to be a certificate confirming Mr. Said's military service.

Mr. Said's killing sparked a series of demonstrations in Alexandria and Cairo last year, demanding an end to torture and to the emergency powers under which Egypt has been ruled ever since 1981, allowing the government to jail suspects without charge.

The government has renewed the powers every two years, saying it needs the powers to combat terrorism. Egypt has been the subject of significant terrorist attacks in recent years, including attacks on tourist resorts and Christian minorities, most recently on New Year's day.

Victims' rights groups here say police abuses have rarely been pursued or successfully prosecuted. A Human Rights Watch report released on Jan. 30 described torture in Egypt as "an epidemic." The report estimated that 5,000 people were being held in jail without trial, some for a decade.

Source http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703989504576127643959647716.html