Comment: The Maldives, Egypt and the revenge of the deep state

When Mohamed Mursi was ousted in Egypt in June, the Muslim Brotherhood decried it as the revenge of the “deep state.”

They said that in the days of the revolution in January 2011, they had managed to cut off the head of the Mubarak regime, but in the two years that followed they failed to pull out the roots.

And so a loose coalition of politicians, bureaucrats and security forces – the remnants of the old regime – gathered together and slowly hacked away at the new government.

The climax came in June, Mursi flinched and the forces of the deep state took their chance.

Today, Hosni Mubarak is free, Muslim Brotherhood activities are again banned, and the revolution of 2011 appears to be slowly unravelling.

A lot remains unclear. Will scheduled elections actually happen? Will they be free and fair? What will Egypt look like a decade from now?

The Maldives might offer an answer.

An island of chaos

When Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in February 2012, the Maldivian Democratic Party also decried it as the revenge of the “deep state.”

“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office,” Nasheed wrote in the New York Times that week.

Given what we know now, his words were remarkably prescient.

“The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.”

This process happened in the Maldives over a year before Mursi was locked up.

Since then, the country has stumbled towards elections, led by a lame-duck president and pulled in two directions by rival clans – one loyal to Mohamed Nasheed and a reformist, democratic ideology and one to the former leader for 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a conservative, autocratic government.

Two competing tribes

Educated at Egypt’s Al Azhar University, Gayoom took power in 1978 and continued to govern based on a centralised system of patronage.

Never winning an election by less than 90 per cent, he relied on island chiefs, or ‘khateebs’, to keep control of 200 disparate island-communities. Gayoom’s government appointed them, as well as judges, bureaucrats and the top police and military officers.

Over three decades, he grew the roots of the Maldives’ “deep state.”

But by 2004, with tourism booming and the Maldives modernising, a new, democratic vision emerged under the yellow flag of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Over the next four years, with the support of the West, Nasheed’s movement slowly forced Gayoom to launch a reform programme, pass a new constitution and hold free elections.

Nasheed won that battle after a second round run-off, but over the next three-and-a-half years, he failed to win the war to deconstruct the “deep state,” most notably the judiciary.

Judging the judiciary

With all the reforms of the last decade, the Maldives got new leaders and new members of parliament, but the judges stayed the same.

Article 285 of the country’s revised constitution envisaged a different judiciary – but it was dismissed as symbolic by a committee dominated by Gayoom’s former appointees.

The decision left the nation saddled with the judges from a former era.

‘They were hand-picked by Gayoom,’ says Maldivian journalist Zaheena Rasheed. “They lack education and some of them even have criminal records.”

The US State Department points out that of the Maldives’ magistrates, “an estimated quarter of the judges had criminal records, and two of the judges had been convicted of sexual assault.”

In again, out again

Having failed to clean up the judiciary by committee, Nasheed confronted them head on.

In a move that many criticised as dictatorial, he ordered the arrest of a politician who had allegedly accused him of carrying out a Christian-Jewish conspiracy in a Muslim country.

But the Criminal Court judge overruled Nasheed, triggering a bizarre series of arrests and releases which caused many to ask who was in control, the judges or the president?

Nasheed then ordered the arrest of the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge, accused of blocking attempts to prosecute former officials charged with corruption.

Three weeks of protests, followed by a mutiny by elements of the police and the military, and it became clear where power lay.

Nasheed fell from power and on February 7, he appeared on television and resigned.

“I have never wanted to rule by force,” he said. “I came to this decision because, in my opinion, I sincerely believe, that if this government is to be maintained, it would require the use of extreme force and cause harm to a lot of citizens.”

The next day he told reporters, “I was forced to resign at gunpoint.”

When an election is not an election

Nasheed’s deputy, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, took over and eventually took the country back to the ballot box on September 7.

Over 200,000 people voted, a turnout of more than 88 per cent. Nasheed fell short of a first-round win but took 45 per cent of the vote.

Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, came second with 25 per cent.

Around 1,000 observers deemed it “a transparent and fair election”. It was ‘an achievement of which any of the mature democracies would have been proud,’” said J M Lyngdoh, head of the Indian election observer mission.

But then third-placed Qasim Ibrahim, Gayoom’s former finance minister, complained about electoral fraud. Gayoom himself also appeared on television to voice his concerns about the vote and within days, the Supreme Court had annulled the result. It cited a secret police report that claimed over 5,000 ballots were ineligible.

Gayoom was quick to tweet, “I welcome [the] Supreme Court’s historic decision last night because it upholds the Constitution [and] the right of the people to elect their leader in a free, fair, transparent [and] credible election.”

“A tool”

“The Supreme Court is being used as a tool by the people people who brought down Mohamed Nasheed’s government to prevent him returning to power,” says Aishath Velezinee.

She served as Deputy Home Minister under Nasheed and sat on the committee and campaigned to clean up the judiciary, but she was overruled.

The court’s ruling to void the September 7 election also included 16 recommendations on how to run another vote by October 20, narrowing the role of the Elections Commission and raising the involvement of other institutions, including the police.

“[The Supreme Court judges] are writing the law when they should be interpreting it,” says Rasheed.

A former UN worker, who did not want to be identified, goes further. ‘The bottom line is that this situation is ridiculous because the Supreme Court ruling is unconstitutional.’

The country is now waiting nervously to see if a vote can be held ahead of the deadline, and if so, what the result will be and if it will be respected.

Back to Egypt

If Egypt’s “deep state” is now back in control, it is also still considering what to do about elections.

Interim leaders have announced a roadmap which plans for both parliamentary and presidential votes to be completed by spring next year, but there is no guarantee that they will be free or fair, or that the result will be respected.

Egypt’s judiciary may become crucial, being called up on to rule on any disputes.

Is it up to the task?

Thousands of miles away in the Maldives, they know the importance of keeping the judiciary free from political interference.

Failing to clean it up “has been a grave mistake,” says Velezinee. ‘But it was impossible at the time. Everyone assumed the judiciary was untouchable.’

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Islamic Ministry calls for reciting of Qunoot-e-Naazila following unrest in Egypt

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has called on all Imams to recite the Qunoot after Fajr, Maqrib and Isha prayers, in recognition of the situation in Egypt, reported Sun Online.

According to the Shaafi’ee Madhab, if the Muslim community is being affected by calamity or hardship the Qunoot-e-Naazila may be recited in all prayers.

Sheikh Shaheem told Sun Online that according to the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), the Qunoot-e-Naazila was to recited when the Muslim community was facing substantial grievance.

The last time Islamic Ministry decided to call for the reciting of the Qunoot-e-Naazila was in November 2009 during the swine flu outbreak.


Former President condemns “appalling violence” of crackdown on demonstrators by Egyptian security forces

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has issued a statement condemning the “appalling violence” of security forces in Wednesday’s crackdown on demonstrators backing the recently deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

“Dozens of protestors – reportedly including women, children and journalists – were killed on Wednesday as security forces opened fire on supporters of former President Morsi, who was ousted in a coup in July,” the statement read.

“Should these reports prove to be accurate, President Nasheed believes that the dispensation currently ruling Egypt should be held fully responsible for the protesters’ deaths.”

Egyptian state media reports suggested 235 civilians had been killed in the crackdown and 2000 injured after the Egyptian army opened fire on demonstators, while media present suggested the death toll could be much higher.

In a statement the International Press Institute suggested journalists were being deliberately targeted by both sides in the conflict. Journalists killed yesterday included a reporter from a state newspaper in the UAE Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz, Egyptian journalist Ahmed Abdel Gawad and a UK Sky News cameraman.

Egyptian prime minister Hazem El Beblawi declared a month-long state of emergency and evening curfew as violence began to erupt across the country, following the military’s bulldozing of the protest camps in Cairo.

According to Al Jazeera, Beblawi praised police for using “self-restraint” and accused protesters of “carrying illegal arms, hijacking roads, assaulting private and public property and crippling people’s interest”.
“It is an assault on the citizens and the authority of the state, which should be respected by all,” he said. “Therefore it was necessary to take a firm stance. It was necessary for the state to intervene to restore security and to assure citizens that their rights could not be undermined by the protests.”

His Vice-President Mohamed El-Baradei meanwhile resigned in protest against the violence, stating that there had been peaceful options for resolving the political turmoil.

The crackdown has been condemned by governments around the world, including the UK, EU, US and UN.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged for “inclusive reconciliation” while US Secretary of State John Kerry said the “path toward violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster and suffering”.

“Today’s events are deplorable and run counter to Egyptian aspirations for democracy. We and others have urged the government to respect the rights of free expression and to resolve this peacefully,” Kerry said. “There will not be a solution from further polarisation.”

The Maldivian government has issued a statement urging “all parties to respect the right to freedom of assembly as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 15/21 on the Rights to Freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.”

“As an emerging democracy itself, the Maldives is familiar with the trials of democracy consolidation. A full and resilient democracy and a culture of respect for human rights can only be cultivated through denouncing of violence, and collaboration and consultation between all stakeholders, including the political opposition,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

The Maldives also experienced a police and military mutiny on 7 February 2012, which saw police arming opposition demonstrators and launching an assault on the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF)’s main military base and forcefully taking over the state broadcaster. The protesters then issued an ultimatum to President Mohamed Nasheed, who was inside the base, calling for his resignation.

Nasheed complied, stating that remaining in power at that juncture “would require the use force which would harm many citizens.”

A subsequent and controversial report by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry dismissed claims that the security forces’ mutiny had “any coercive effect upon the President.”

“Indeed, until the time of his resignation, President Nasheed possessed of many powers under the Constitution that he could have utilised including the lawful use of force. He chose not to,” the report stated.

“That decision may be classified as praiseworthy, but he cannot now contend that because he made those choices, that he was ‘forced’ into resigning.”


The Maldivian government has meanwhile opened a hotline (+960 779 4601) for the 84 Maldivian students and their families living in Egypt.

Egyptian protesters who were gathered near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in east Cairo last night were dispersed by security forces gathering in Nasru City’s Masjidul Salaam mosque area, approximately 100 meters from where the Maldivian expatriates are living, State Foreign Minister Hassan Saeed told Minivan News.

“Earlier the demonstrations were quite far from the students, however the demonstrators have shifted to near the Masjidul Salaam mosque, which is one bus stop away, or about 100-150 meters, from where the students are located,” said Saeed.


Maldives government establishes emergency hotline for expatriate students in Egypt following Cairo violence

The Government of Maldives has expressed concern over the escalation of violence and loss of life in Egypt and has established an emergency hotline for the 84 Maldivian students, and accompanying family members, who currently reside 100 metres from the latest protest site.

Egyptian protesters who were previously gathered near the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in east Cairo and dispersed by security forces are now gathering in Nasru City’s Masjidul Salaam mosque area, approximately 100 meters from where the Maldivian expatriates are living, State Foreign Minister Hassan Saeed explained to Minivan News today (August 14).

“Earlier the demonstrations were quite far from the students, however the demonstrators have shifted to near the Masjidul Salaam mosque, which is one bus stop away, or about 100-150 meters, from where the students are located,” said Saeed.

Saeed confirmed that 84 students and their families are currently residing in Egypt.

“We have informed the students to be vigilant and not to stray from home unless necessary,” Saeed told local media.

Although no Maldivians have been harmed in the sectarian violence that has gripped Egypt, if the situation in Nasru City deteriorates causing shops to close, obtaining food and water may become difficult, Saeed explained.

The Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced today that, due to the current chaos in Egypt, any problems faced by Maldivian nationals should be reported via the emergency hotline.

The ministry will advise students and/or their family members how to respond to any difficulties they may face due to the ongoing political unrest.

Saeed also emphasised that the Maldives Embassy located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is continuously monitoring the situation and has also been in contact with the Vice President of the Maldivian Student Association in Egypt. The Embassy will provide support to the Maldivian expatriates in Egypt as necessary, he continued.

Saeed does not believe the situation Nasru City is dangerous at present, though based on tonight’s events the relevant Maldivian government authorities will re-evaluate.

Thus far no Maldivian nationals have requested evacuation and the Government of Maldives will not evacuate them from Egypt unless they request it, said Saeed.

“Sometimes the [Maldives’] government is very eager to evacuate, however when the situation returns to normal students may not have funds to return,” he explained.

“The ministry is making sure there are sufficient funds to send the students back, if they are evacuated,” he added.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tonight, the department expressed its concern with the escalation of violence and loss of life in Egypt and has called on all parties to show maximum restraint and respect for the fundamental human rights of the Egyptian people.

The government has also urged all parties in Egypt to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and association as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 15/21.

“As an emerging democracy itself, the Maldives is familiar with the trials of democracy consolidation. A full and resilient democracy and a culture of respect for human rights can only be cultivated through denouncing of violence, and collaboration and consultation between all stakeholders, including the political opposition.

“The Maldives prays for an early resolution of the situation and for the return of peace and stability to Egypt, as it continues on its path to democracy consolidation,” reads the statement.

The Emergency Hotline number for Maldivians in Egypt who require assistance is +960-779-4601.


Egyptian coup “different” to Maldives’ 2012 power transfer: President Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed has condemned the overthrow of Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi by the military, but emphasised that the event that brought him to power in February 2012 was “different”.

Morsi, President Waheed informed local newspaper Haveeru, was “a little stubborn” in his oppression of opposition views and had “failed to allow space for others”.

“There are similarities in what happened in Egypt and Maldives. The difference is that the military didn’t bring the change in Maldives. The change was brought because he [Nasheed] resigned on his own,” Waheed declared.

Former President Nasheed resigned on public television on February 7, 2012, amid a mutiny by elements of the police and military, following the storming of the state broadcaster.

Demonstrators who took to the streets the following day were met with a brutal police crackdown filmed by international media, and condemned by international groups such as Amnesty.

President Waheed’s new ‘unity government’ meanwhile replaced the entirety of Nasheed’s cabinet with key figures in the former 30 year dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, ousted in 2008.

“There is a huge difference in Egypt because the military took over before the president resigned. According to our constitution, when the president resigns the vice president has to be sworn in. That was what happened in the Maldives,” Waheed emphasised.

“In the Maldives, the leader resigned because things became unbearable. In Egypt, the military took over because things became unbearable. It’s a totally different scenario,” he added.

“We’re seeing a very clear military coup in Egypt. In order to shield the truth, unrest was incited here [Maldives] under the false pretext of a military coup. That has been proven now,” he said.

Former Maldives’ President Mohamed Nasheed likewise condemned the ousting of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president by the military, and called on the international community not to give the new regime legitimacy.

“The world should not kid itself into believing that this coup hasn’t derailed Egypt’s fledgling democracy,” Nasheed said.

“Having experienced a coup myself, I understand how important it is for fresh presidential elections to be held quickly and for democracy to be restored. There is only one legitimate way to remove a democratically-elected leader and that is through the ballot box, not through the mob or the military,” Nasheed said.

“If leaders are unpopular, the people have an opportunity to remove them peacefully through elections.

Morsi was deposed yesterday at the conclusion of a 48 hour ultimatium issued by the Egyptian military.

The military entered the country’s fractious political fray after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against Morsi and his Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood.

The military has taken Morsi into custody and issued arrest warrants for 300 members of his party, as well as closing down its television stations and other support bases.

The head of the Supreme Court, Adli Mansour, was sworn in as interim head of state.

The US, which contributes significantly to the Egyptian military, has expressed “deep concern” about Morsi’s ouster, and called for review of its aid to the country.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove [President Morsi] and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government,” said US President Barack Obama in a statement.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague meanwhile said “political realities” required the UK to recognise the new Egyptian adminstration, claiming that the country “recognises states not governments”.

“It’s a popular intervention, there’s no doubt about that. We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over past year,” Hague said.

At the same time, “We don’t support military intervention as a way to resolve disputes in a democratic system. If one president can be deposed by the military then of course another one can be in the future. That’s a dangerous thing,” he added.

Massive protests in Egypt triggered military ultimatium


President Waheed departs to Egypt for OIC summit

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has departed on an official visit to Egypt for participation in the 12th summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the President’s Office website has said today.

The summit, which started last Saturday ( February 2), will continue until February 7 and is expected to see leaders or senior representatives for 57 OIC members states gather to discuss greater political and economic cooperation, according to the StarAfrica news service.

Back in August 2012, President Waheed attended the fourth extraordinary session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Conference in Saudi Arabia following an invitation from King Abdulla Bin Abdul Azeez.


Comment: Gayoom and Nasir unlikely to face their Mubarak moment

A large screen set up outside the court premises streamed images of historic trial from within, while a banner under it proclaimed ‘O Judge of Judges, you have nothing to fear but God!’

Inside the building which once bore his name, former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak pleaded not guilty to charges ranging from graft to “intentional killing of demonstrators” during the January 25 uprising that toppled his regime.

Lying on a stretcher, inside a specially built cage within the same building where, less than two days before the revolution started he had addressed his security forces whose support he enjoyed during nearly three decades of absolute power – he pleaded not guilty on all charges.

Recordings of his not-guilty plea in Arabic – “I categorically deny all charges” – have reportedly become popular ring tones, and images of the once powerful dictator inside a metal cage are being circulated widely on Internet groups.

Mubarak’s trial marks the first time in recent memory that the leader of an Arab nation – long accustomed to ruling until they die or are assassinated – has been made answerable to his own people for alleged abuse of power.

Over 850 people died in the 18 days of uprising early this year, before he stepped down.

In fact, the presiding Judge asked a lawyer at one point “Could you write down the (victims) names, or will it take hours?”

Even as Mubarak fights charges that carries a possible death sentence if convicted, many would agree that even in the scenario of his being acquitted, the dictator’s fall from grace is complete, and that this trial ultimately only provides catharsis and a warning to his embattled peers elsewhere in the middle east.

Images of his trial may aggravate the situation in Saleh’s Yemen, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria, where authoritarian despots are clinging to power hoping to last through the unabated turbulence of the Arab spring.

It is quite possible that these dictators would blame Mubarak’s current predicament on his softness, and relatively quick exit from power – a mere 18 days after crowds assembled in Tahrir Square. With the stakes now even higher, these regimes might resort to a violent fight to the finish, unless they can be coerced into catching a flight to Jeddah.

At least 1700 civilians are believed to have been killed in Syria since uprisings began, and estimates range between 2000 to 12000 killed in Libya, with no signs of the an end to the rebellion.

While the Mubarak trial holds special symbolic meaning for the Arab people, it also holds some significance in the Maldivian context.

It was, after all, from the halls of Egypt’s Al Azhar University that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom emerged.

When democracy arrived in the Maldives after a prolonged period of public protests, many expected Gayoom to be prosecuted – and his political cronies to be put on trial.

Throughout the democratic uprising, after all, opposition leaders had publicly accused President Gayoom of a wide spectrum of allegations ranging from corruption to torture.

However, Gayoom continues to be a free man, and no charges have yet been brought against him by the first democratically elected government.

It might be that despite the alleged excesses of his former government, Gayoom continues to hold a massive sway over a significant portion of the population, as evidenced by the 40 percent of votes he garnered in the first round of the Presidential polls.

President Mohamed Nasheed has stuck to his stated stand of ‘humility in times of victory’, and while there still remain occasional calls for Gayoom’s arrest from parliamentarians like “Reeko” Moosa, the public attention has long since shifted to more immediate matters of a weakening economy and dollar shortages.

Gayoom’s predecessor, President Ibrahim Nasir had also modeled himself after Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, a modernist with dictatorial tendencies.

After he became the First President of the Second Republic, Nasir was the hero of the Nation’s independence.

However, during his earlier stint as Prime Minister, Nasir’s heavy-handed tactics such as personally leading gunboats to forcefully depopulate Thinadhoo in 1962, in the aftermath of the southern rebellion, has been condemned by many as being especially ruthless.

Nasir never stood trial in a public court. Following Gayoom’s ascent to power, Nasir lived out the rest of his life in exile in Singapore.

Nasir died a few days after the Gayoom regime fell, and was buried with his royal ancestors at the cemetery attached to the hukuru miskiy. Tens of thousands paid him their last respects, and a national holiday was declared in his honour.

He has recently been honoured again by the MDP government, which renamed the Male’ International Airport as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in recognition of his efforts towards building it.

The news of the airport renaming was met with some disappointment by many Huvadhu islanders, some of whom still remember Nasir as the man who tore their families apart. Sounds of gunfire are still fresh in their memories.

Humiliating scenes of men being forced to step off their islands, supervised by the political strongman himself, continue to persist on the Internet.

It is increasingly likely that the alleged crimes and corruption of Gayoom and Nasir will never face their Mubarak moment. Furthermore, the government has so far given no indication of making a even a symbolic public apology for the southern outrage that was Thinadhoo.

While Mubarak’s trial assuages some of Egypt’s hurt and brings hope to rebels in the Middle East, it reopens some old wounds for many Maldivians, who feel justice has been denied to them.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Mubarak appears in court charged with killing protesters, corruption, waste of public funds

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appeared in an Egyptian court on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of demonstrators during the popular uprising that led to his ousting in February.

Mubarak, who had exiled himself to a Red Sea resort in Sharm el-Sheikh, was wheeled into the defendant’s cage on a hospital stretcher flanked by his sons Alaa and Gamal, in a courtroom in a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo that once used to bear his name above its door.

The 83 year-old was accused by the prosecutor of authorising the use of live ammunition for crowd control and intentionally killing peaceful protesters, 850 of whom died during the riots.

The first Arab leader to stand trial for his response to the Arab Spring was also charged with corruption and wasting public funds, and abusing his power to amass private wealth. Early forensic accountancy reports aired in the UK press suggested this could be as high as US$70 billion, while the Washington Post subsequently reported that including cash, gold and other state-owned valuables the amount could well reach US$700 billion – US$200 million more than Egypt’s GDP.

Mubarak spoke little as the charges were read out, only stating “I entirely deny all those accusations.”

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that Mubarak’s lawyer Farid el-Deeb, who is among Egypt’s most famous and known for both his “exquisite politeness” and “snappy dressing”, intends to present 1600 witnesses to the court.

Judge Ahmed Refaat of the fifth district of the Cairo criminal court, who is presiding over the case, meanwhile “has a reputation as Mr Clean and a track record of judging politically sensitive cases”.

Egypt meanwhile remains under the control of a military council led by a former defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has promised a transition to democracy and has kept a low profile despite continuing protests in Cairo’s Tahir Square.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, was the highest profile victim of the Arab Uprising, a series of mass protests across the Arab World that has seen the fall of many long-serving dictators, including Tunisian President Ben Ali, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and potentially, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. President Bashir of Sudan has announced he will not seek another term, as has Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq.

Widespread killing of demonstrators continues in Syria, with more than 2000 deaths reported so far. Libyan casualties have surpassed 13,000 as Muammar Gaddafi clings to power despite months of NATO bombings.


Mubarak may face execution as protests and violence continue to engulf region

Egypt’s former president may face execution over allegations he ordered the killing of demonstrators opposed to his rule, while Syrian security officials have reportedly violently suppressed thousands of anti-government protesters as political unrest continues to rock the Middle East and North Africa.

Syria, along with a number of nations including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia have all reportedly witnessed surges in anti-government activism in recent months as political unrest has spread through the region leading to demonstrations against their respective rulers – all to varying degrees of success.

The BBC reported yesterday that security forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad have continued to crack down on protests during a “month of unrest”. Amidst this political landscape, news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) revealed that Egypt’s currently detained former leader Hosni Mubarak could stand trial and face the death penalty over suspicions that he ordered the murder of activists opposed to his rule.

The AFP cited reports in local state-owned media that prominent figures in Cairo’s Appeals Court had claimed that the execution of the former president could be possible if he was convicted of having a role in murdering protestors who stood against his rule at mass demonstrations across the country before Mubarak eventually stood down in February as activism intensified.

According to the report, the head of the country’s Appeals Court said that if testimony by Habib al-Adly, a interior minister serving under Mubarak, implicating the disposed president in approving the shooting of some protestors proved to be true, he too could face a custodial sentence or execution.

Media reports suggest that up to 800 people are thought to have been killed during a wave of protests before Mubarak was finally toppled. However, further protests in the country has thought to have been averted by authorities following the detention of Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal over alleged links to violent suppression, the AFP reported.

Meanwhile, Syrian authorities have also been charged with violently suppressing it citizens, with the BBC reporting have been some of the largest-scale protests yet seen in the country calling for an end to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to the news agency, tear gas and batons were used by authorities to repel protestors that reportedly had gathered in their thousands in Damascus to continue to demand al-Assad’s resignation despite his attempts to make “some concessions” to his rule.

State media reportedly confirmed that small demonstrations had taken place across the country without the intervention of security officials, the BBC added.

In its own coverage of the protests, Al Jazeera reported that some witnesses in Damascus claimed that some 15 buses full of secret police had been drafted in to try and quell protests, while plain clothes-armed men were reported to have surrounded protestors gathered outside the Salam mosque in the city’s Barzeh district.

The news agency added that protests carried out against the government elsewhere in the country such as Baniyas, Latakia, Baida and Homs appeared to have gone ahead peacefully.

Reuters reported that unrest was also continuing elsewhere in the region this week with hundreds of Shias protesting around the Saudi Arabian region of Qatif to demand the release of prisoners they claim to have been held without a trial on political and religious grounds.