Azerbaijani Reporter Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison

Award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova who reported extensively on high-level corruption has been sentenced by an Azerbaijan court to seven and a half years in prison. A day before the verdict was announced the contributor to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) called Azerbaijan’s government a “repression machine” at the close of her trial […]

Read more "Azerbaijani Reporter Sentenced to 7.5 Years in Prison"

US, Saudi Leaders to Meet Against Backdrop of War, Iran Deal

US, Saudi Leaders to Meet Against Backdrop of War, Iran Deal from Pierre Gazzola on Vimeo.

WHITE HOUSE—Against the backdrop of war in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, and concerns about Iran’s behavior, U.S. President Barack Obama will welcome Saudi King Salman to the White House Friday. It will be the Arab leader’s first visit to the United States since ascending the throne in January, following the death of King Abdullah.

The one-on-one talks between President Obama and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman could not come at a more tumultuous time in the Middle East, as a U.S.-led coalition fights Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, and a Saudi-led coalition beats back Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“Many people in the Gulf, in fact the entire Arab World, are concerned about the U.S. position in the Gulf, about the Iran nuclear agreement, about what is happening in terms of Iran’s expanding influence in the Levant, in Iraq, in Yemen,” said Center for Strategic and International Studies security analyst Anthony Cordesman..

Cordesman added that while Friday’s meeting at the White House will likely not produce a dramatic shift in policy, the dialogue will be critical to building Saudi confidence, particularly in the recently negotiated Iran nuclear agreement.

“They have to be firmly convinced the United States is going to enforce it, is not going to ignore any violations, they will take a hard stand on it,” he said.

Beyond the nuclear deal, Iran’s behavior in the region will likely also factor into the two leaders’ discussion on Iraq.

Former U.S. ambassador Francis Ricciardone, now with the Atlantic Council, said Saudi Arabia has a stake in seeing its northern neighbor stabilized.

“I should think the discussion between President Obama and King Salman on Iraq will be very interesting, as to what each side can do to support Prime Minister Abadi in holding that country together and strengthening its independence from a hegemonistic influence,” said Ricciardone.

Ending the fighting, urging political reconciliation and addressing a humanitarian crisis – goals both leaders likely will push for, not just in Iraq and Syria, but in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbor Yemen, where Saudi airstrikes continue to pound Houthi rebel targets on a regular basis.

Source: US, Saudi Leaders to Meet Against Backdrop of War, Iran Deal

Read more "US, Saudi Leaders to Meet Against Backdrop of War, Iran Deal"

Suspect Fingerprints Matched to Raided Apartment

Suspect Fingerprints Matched to Raided Apartment from Pierre Gazzola on Vimeo.

The authorities are talking about a foreign man arrested at Thailand’s border with Cambodia.

“The results from fingerprint analysis confirmed that his fingerprints were on the bottle that contained explosives” found inside an apartment raided last Saturday, said national police Lt. General Prawut Thavornsiri.  “We confirmed that he is involved and might be the person who brought the bomb out of the room or brought it to the area” of the Erawan Shrine on August 17.

The top police spokesman made the announcement on a broadcast by Thailand’s military junta aired at noon Wednesday on all channels.

On the same broadcast, junta spokespersons — speaking in Thai, English and Mandarin Chinese — announced that authorities must be notified by hosts of all foreign guests within 24 hours of their arrival.

The notice applies to “homeowners and owners of hotels, apartments and accommodation buildings where there are foreigners staying,” according to the broadcast.

Arrest warrants have been issued for eight people since the August 17 blast, including at least four men who are believed to be Turkish.

The military junta running the kingdom since a coup last year has ordered officials not to refer to the bombing as an act of international terrorism or mention possible links to Turkey or China.

There has been speculation that the attack could be a response to Thailand’s deportation in July of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China. Western governments and Uighur rights groups criticized the move, saying those deported could face ill treatment back in China.

Following their deportation, violent protests in Istanbul targeted the Thai and Chinese missions.

Thai authorities still have not released the names or the nationalities of the two foreign men they have been interrogating in connection with the bombing of a popular Hindu shrine in Bangkok, the worst single mass casualty attack in Thailand.

The second suspect, according to authorities, was captured by a joint task force of immigration police and soldiers.  He is the man whose fingerprints are allegedly on the explosives bottle found in a raided apartment.

Police have not confirmed the authenticity of a Chinese passport reportedly found in his possession issued to Yusufu Mieraili, 25, born in Xinjiang, China.

On Saturday and Sunday, police and soldiers raided two apartment buildings in different areas of Bangkok retrieving what they described as bomb-making materials including urea, gunpowder, electric charges, watches, radio controls, ball bearings and pipes.

At the initial location, where a stack of fake Turkish passports was also found, a 28-year-old “foreign man” was taken in custody.

Authorities have not announced what role they believe he played in the detonation at the Erawan Shrine on August 17 and a blast in the Chao Praya river, adjacent to the Sathorn Pier the following day.

The explosion at the pier caused no injuries.

Thai authorities have repeatedly denied to VOA and others that Chinese tourists may have been the primary targets of the explosions.

Meanwhile, several key figures in Thailand’s military junta left Bangkok today for Beijing.

Defense minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is an army general and deputy prime minister, is accompanied by army chief and deputy defense minister, General Udomdej Sitabutr. Also on the trip are top national security council officials.

General Prawit told reporters he is to meet Chinese prime minister Xi Jinping and other Chinese military leaders to discuss “security and economic cooperation.”

Source: Suspect Fingerprints Matched to Raided Apartment

Read more "Suspect Fingerprints Matched to Raided Apartment"