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Two Saudi women's rights activists released from prison

Two Saudi women's rights activists released from prison

Rights groups say two Saudi women’s rights campaigners have been released from prison, three years after a sweeping crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman targeting female activists who’d peacefully advocated for greater freedomsBy AYA BATRAWY Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 3:44 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleDUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two Saudi women’s rights campaigners have been released from prison, three years after a sweeping crackdown by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman targeting female activists who’d peacefully advocated for greater freedoms, rights groups said Sunday.It now appears that all the women’s rights activists detained in the 2018 sweep have now been released from prison, although the status of one woman remains unclear.The London-based ALQST rights group, which primarily focuses on Saudi Arabia, said the two women — Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada — were released sometime late Saturday or early Sunday. Human Rights Watch also confirmed their release.The women had been sentenced to five years imprisonment, two of which were suspended.They had been vocal critics of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws, which gave husbands, fathers and in some cases a woman’s own son control over her ability to obtain a passport and travel. They had also advocated for the right of women to drive. Both restrictions have since been lifted.The two women remain barred from travel abroad for five years as part of their conditional release, rights groups contacted by The Associated Press said. Like other Saudi women’s rights activists released from prison, rights groups said the two women likely face bans on speaking to the media and posting online about their case.Most of the women detained in the crown prince’s campaign were arrested in May 2018, but Badawi and al-Sada were detained several weeks later in July of that year.Nearly a dozen of the women previously told Saudi judges they were caned on their backs and thighs, electrocuted and waterboarded by masked men during interrogations. Some women say they were forcibly touched and groped, and threatened with rape and death. One of the women attempted suicide in prison.The Saudi government has not commented on the individual cases of most of the women nor publicized their charges.It is unclear what Badawi and al-Sada were found guilty of. Several people with knowledge of al-Sada’s case said she’d been charged under a cybercrime law and was found guilty of undermining public order by communicating with foreign journalists and organizations.Badawi is a well-known human rights activist based in Jiddah who first came to prominence when she petitioned Saudi courts to remove her father as her legal guardian on grounds he was barring her from marrying potential suitors. Years later, she spoke out in defense of her brother Raif Badawi, who is serving 10 years in prison over internet posts critical of the ultraconservative religious establishment. He was publicly flogged in 2015 under King Abdullah. The mother of two was later married for a time to Waleed Abul-Khair, a human rights lawyer currently serving 15 years imprisonment.Al-Sada is a prominent women’s rights activist from the Eastern Province, an area heavily populated by the kingdom’s minority Shiite Muslims. She was also outspoken in defense of greater rights for Shiites. Amnesty International said she had been held in solitary confinement for a year, and was not allowed to see her children or her lawyer for months at a time.The arrests of the women, some of whom are mothers, grandmothers and well-known college professors, caught many by surprise because it came around the same time the kingdom lifted its longstanding ban on women driving in June 2018.Months later, the crown prince faced widespread international criticism over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in an operation planned by two of the prince’s top aides, although neither was found guilty by Saudi courts. Eleven men faced trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing. The kingdom maintains the crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, despite a U.S. intelligence assessment implicating him.Activists with knowledge of female activist Maya’a al-Zahrani’s case said she was convicted in December by the same counter-terrorism court as prominent rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and received a similar sentencing. It’s unclear whether al-Zahrani has been released from prison.Al-Hathloul was released from prison in February after serving nearly three years in detention. She’d been convicted on charges related to her activism, such as agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda and using the internet to harm public order.Several of the Saudi men who supported women’s rights activists remain detained.

Saudi man accused of participating in rebellion executed

Saudi man accused of participating in rebellion executed

Saudi Arabia executed a young man who was convicted on charges stemming from his alleged participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority ShiitesBy AYA BATRAWY Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 4:56 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleDUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia executed a young man Tuesday who was convicted on charges stemming from his alleged participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority Shiites. A leading rights group said his trial, however, was “deeply flawed.”It was unclear whether Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish, 26, was executed for crimes committed as a minor, according to Amnesty International. The rights group said he was detained in 2015 for alleged participation in riots between 2011 and 2012. The official charge sheet does not specify the dates his alleged crimes took place, meaning he could have been 17 at the time, or just turned 18.The government maintains al-Darwish was convicted and executed for crimes committed above the age of 19, though no specific dates for his alleged crimes have been given.Last year, the kingdom halted its practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor.The Interior Ministry said in a statement he was executed after being found guilty of participating in the formation of an armed terrorist cell to monitor and target to kill police officers, attempting to kill police officers, shooting at police patrols and making Molotov cocktails to target police.Other charges included allegations al-Darwish participated in armed rebellion against the ruler and provoking chaos and sectarian strife. The crimes allegedly transpired in the Eastern Province, where most Saudi oil is concentrated and home to a significant indigenous Shiite population. The execution was carried out in Dammam, the province’s administrative capital.At the height of Arab Spring uprisings across the region, the kingdom experienced unrest among Saudi Shiite youth who took to the Eastern Province’s impoverished streets of Qatif. They demanded jobs, better opportunities and an end to discrimination by the kingdom’s ultraconservative state-backed Sunni institutions and clerics.Saudi security forces backed by armored vehicles set up checkpoints and suppressed the protests, rounding up an unknown number of protesters. The government later razed homes belonging to Shiite residents of the restive city of al-Awamiya in 2017 in an area that was several hundred years old. Officials said the al-Mosawara district had become a hideout for local militants, and promised to develop the area.Over the years, numerous executions of Shiites involved in violent protests have been carried out.In 2019, Saudi Arabia executed 37 citizens, of which 34 were identified as Shiites, in a mass execution for alleged terrorism-related crimes. In 2016, the kingdom executed 47 people in one day also for terrorism-related crimes. Among those executed was prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose death sparked protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered.The kingdom has in the past implicitly accused Iran of being behind armed Shiites in Saudi Arabia, saying they are acting “under instructions from abroad.”Amnesty International said al-Darwish, who was arrested when he was 20, was placed in solitary confinement, held incommunicado for six months and denied access to a lawyer until the beginning of his trial two years later by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, established to try terrorism cases.The Supreme Court upheld al-Darwish’s death sentence. Amnesty International said his case was then referred to the Presidency of State Security, which is overseen directly by the royal court and over which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wields immense power. The Saudi monarch, King Salman, ratifies executions, most of which are carried out by beheading.The kingdom has carried out 26 executions so far this year, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. That’s compared to 27 throughout all of 2020. The sharp drop in executions last year was largely due to changes that ended executions for non-violent drug-related crimes.

Emirates Air posts $5.5B loss as virus disrupts travel

Emirates Air posts $5.5B loss as virus disrupts travel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, announced on Tuesday a net loss of $5.5 billion over the past year as revenue fell by more than 66% due to global travel restrictions sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.It marks the first time in more than three decades that the Dubai-based airline’s parent group has not churned out a profit, underscoring just how dramatic an impact COVID-19 has had on the aviation industry. Emirates Group, which also operates dnata travel and ground services at airports, reported a total loss of $6 billion.The Dubai-based airline said revenue had declined by $8.4 billion, even as operating costs decreased by 46%. The company has furloughed a third of its staff due to the effect of the pandemic on its bottom line.Revenue as a whole for the company, including its dnata services, stood at $9.7 billion, compared to $28.3 billion the year before.Emirates’ success is seen as integral to the health of Dubai’s economy, which relies heavily on travel, tourism, real estate and investment to thrive. In a clear indication of just how important Emirates Air is to Dubai, the state-owned carrier was thrown a $2 billion lifeline from the government to stave off a liquidity crunch in 2020. The move underscored how dire the situation had become for one of the world’s leading airlines amid the pandemic.The International Air Transport Association has said it expects airlines to continue to suffer financial losses in 2021, despite vaccination rollouts in many developed countries around the world. The aviation industry’s largest trade association estimated that airline losses reached as wide as $126 billion in 2020.“Sadly, our industry is not recovering as quickly as hoped,” said Emirates CEO and chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. “Many countries are battling new variants and a third or fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, and international travel is still severely restricted in almost all markets.”Emirates, which flies to more than 150 cities including several in the U.S., said its total passenger and cargo capacity declined by 58% over the year marking April 2020-March 2021. The long-haul carrier carried just 6.6 million passengers last year, a staggering decline of nearly 90% from the previous year.The airline had squeezed out profits of $288 million the previous year, while its parent company Emirates Group had earnings of $456 million.A brief statement by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the company’s annual report described the pandemic as “one of the biggest challenges humanity has faced.”He noted his own country’s handling of the outbreak, which has varied widely from one emirate to the next and depended heavily on the decisions of its local rulers.Dubai, for example, has flung open its doors to tourists since last year and does not require quarantine upon arrival. This in part, has kept it on the red list for travel for U.K. residents and those in the United States. Neighboring Abu Dhabi, however, has taken a far more cautious approach and even requires negative coronavirus test results or proof of vaccination for people driving from Dubai before entry.For nearly eight weeks last year starting in March, Emirates was forced to ground all passenger flights amid a temporary closure of airports across the United Arab Emirates, including transit flights through Dubai — the hub for Emirates and the world’s busiest airport for international travel.“We have been tested in our ability to deal with this unforeseen situation, but we have emerged out of it tougher,” Sheikh Mohammed said.The carrier said that despite its financial losses, it remains committed to its order booking for 200 new aircraft as part of its “long-standing strategy of operating a modern and efficient fleet.”The airline, known worldwide for its luxury first-class cabins, quality service and modern aircraft, received three new Airbus 380 aircraft over the past year and phased out 14 older aircraft. It now operates a fleet of 259 planes, including cargo.To further distinguish itself amid last year’s travel upheavals, Emirates said it was the first airline to offer COVID-19 medical coverage for passengers who contract the virus while traveling.In an effort to meet the surge in cargo demands last year in the UAE, which relies heavily on food and other essential imports, Emirates said it turned 19 Boeing 777 passenger aircraft into “mini freighters” by tearing out the seats in the economy cabin to make room for more cargo.Emirates has proven very profitable to its shareholders. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, it netted profits of $1.9 billion — a record it has not repeated since then.

Emirates Air posts $5.5B loss as virus disrupts travel

Emirates Air posts $5.5B loss as virus disrupts travel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, announced on Tuesday a net loss of $5.5 billion over the past year as revenue fell by more than 66% due to global travel restrictions sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.It marks the first time in more than three decades that the Dubai-based airline’s parent group has not churned out a profit, underscoring just how dramatic an impact COVID-19 has had on the aviation industry. Emirates Group, which also operates dnata travel and ground services at airports, reported a total loss of $6 billion.The Dubai-based airline said revenue had declined by $8.4 billion, even as operating costs decreased by 46%. The company has furloughed a third of its staff due to the effect of the pandemic on its bottom line.Revenue as a whole for the company, including its dnata services, stood at $9.7 billion, compared to $28.3 billion the year before.Emirates’ success is seen as integral to the health of Dubai’s economy, which relies heavily on travel, tourism, real estate and investment to thrive. In a clear indication of just how important Emirates Air is to Dubai, the state-owned carrier was thrown a $2 billion lifeline from the government to stave off a liquidity crunch in 2020. The move underscored how dire the situation had become for one of the world’s leading airlines amid the pandemic.The International Air Transport Association has said it expects airlines to continue to suffer financial losses in 2021, despite vaccination rollouts in many developed countries around the world. The aviation industry’s largest trade association estimated that airline losses reached as wide as $126 billion in 2020.“Sadly, our industry is not recovering as quickly as hoped,” said Emirates CEO and chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. “Many countries are battling new variants and a third or fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, and international travel is still severely restricted in almost all markets.”Emirates, which flies to more than 150 cities including several in the U.S., said its total passenger and cargo capacity declined by 58% over the year marking April 2020-March 2021. The long-haul carrier carried just 6.6 million passengers last year, a staggering decline of nearly 90% from the previous year.The airline had squeezed out profits of $288 million the previous year, while its parent company Emirates Group had earnings of $456 million.A brief statement by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in the company’s annual report described the pandemic as “one of the biggest challenges humanity has faced.”He noted his own country’s handling of the outbreak, which has varied widely from one emirate to the next and depended heavily on the decisions of its local rulers.Dubai, for example, has flung open its doors to tourists since last year and does not require quarantine upon arrival. This in part, has kept it on the red list for travel for U.K. residents and those in the United States. Neighboring Abu Dhabi, however, has taken a far more cautious approach and even requires negative coronavirus test results or proof of vaccination for people driving from Dubai before entry.For nearly eight weeks last year starting in March, Emirates was forced to ground all passenger flights amid a temporary closure of airports across the United Arab Emirates, including transit flights through Dubai — the hub for Emirates and the world’s busiest airport for international travel.“We have been tested in our ability to deal with this unforeseen situation, but we have emerged out of it tougher,” Sheikh Mohammed said.The carrier said that despite its financial losses, it remains committed to its order booking for 200 new aircraft as part of its “long-standing strategy of operating a modern and efficient fleet.”The airline, known worldwide for its luxury first-class cabins, quality service and modern aircraft, received three new Airbus 380 aircraft over the past year and phased out 14 older aircraft. It now operates a fleet of 259 planes, including cargo.To further distinguish itself amid last year’s travel upheavals, Emirates said it was the first airline to offer COVID-19 medical coverage for passengers who contract the virus while traveling.In an effort to meet the surge in cargo demands last year in the UAE, which relies heavily on food and other essential imports, Emirates said it turned 19 Boeing 777 passenger aircraft into “mini freighters” by tearing out the seats in the economy cabin to make room for more cargo.Emirates has proven very profitable to its shareholders. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, it netted profits of $1.9 billion — a record it has not repeated since then.