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Syria, Bahrain, Egypt (& Beyond) LiveBlog: Back to Square One?

Saturday's tear gas attack by security forces on protesters after a funeral in A'ali in Bahrain

See also Egypt Q&A: Why Is There A "Revolution Reignited"?
Bahrain 1st-Hand: How Activist Zainab Alkhawaja Defied the Police...And Escaped Arrest
Saturday's Syria, Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Protest Creep

2024 GMT: Yemen's Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has named opposition leader Mohammed Basindwa as interim Prime Minister, according to State media.

Basindwa, Foreign Minister from 1993 to 1994, will form a new government under the deal signed in Saudi Arabia last Wednesday by President Saleh, who returned to Yemen last night.

On Saturday, Hadi called Presidential elections for 21 February.

2019 GMT: Claimed footage of a Saudi armoured vehicle trying to run over protesters in Qatif in Eastern Province --- demonstrations by the Shi'a population escalated this week, as four people were killed by security forces:

2003 GMT: A human chain today in Sanabis in Bahrain, in a campaign organised by the 14 February Coalition, protests the death sentences against three detainees:

A march in Aldair against the death sentences

2000 GMT: An anti-regime protest in the Damascus suburb of Zamalka tonight calls for freedom:

1730 GMT: A funeral demonstration today in Kafrnabel in Idlib Province in northwest Syria for Khaled al-Bayoush, allegedly killed by regime forces after his arrest:

Thousands of people march in the funeral procession of Ra'ed Al-Kharoof in Deir Ez Zor in the northeast:

1610 GMT: The Syrian military take away a youth detained today in the Khalidiya section of Homs:

1545 GMT: An Egyptian military court has extended the detention of activist and blogger Alaa Abd-El Fattah for another 15 days.

Abd-El Fattah was imprisoned last month when he refused to answer the questions of military prosecutors. He is charged with threatening national security during clashes on 9 October at Maspero in Cairo, which killed 28 people after a march led by Coptic Christians was attacked.

The hearing for the detained blogger Maikel Nabil has been postponed to 4 December.

1525 GMT: A poster in Egypt illustrates the problems for the American image, in particular that of the Agency for International Development (USAID), amidst allegations that security forces are using made-in-America tear gas against protesters:

1515 GMT: The Arab League has adopted economic sanctions against Syria (see 0715 GMT), including suspension of commercial flights and dealings with the Central Bank. Asserts of the Assad regime are frozen, and Syrian officials are blocked from travelling to League countries.

The move follows a lack of response by Damascus to the League's demand, amidst concern at violence against civilians, that observers be allowed into Syria.

Of the League's 22 members, only Lebanon, Iraq, and Algeria voted No.

Syrian State TV has responded that the sanctions are "unprecedented measures aimed at the Syrian people".

The League will meet again next Saturday in Qatar.

1315 GMT: Al Wefaq, Bahrain's largest opposition group, has said that it has turned down the regime's approach for two of its members to join the King's commission to review the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (see 0835 GMT).

Gulf News reports that opposition societies, led by Al Wefaq, said they were concerned the commission would not be balanced and/or would not go far enough to ensure change.

1125 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzouri, after a meeting with members of the Revolution Youth Coalition, has said that he will appoint Mohamed El Baradei to take over as Prime Minister if the ruling military council authorises it.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters had called on El Baradei to lead a "national salvation government". The Nobel Prize laureate said he would withdraw as a candidate for President and do so if the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces permitted the move.

El Ganzouri said he would try to form an advisory council with the other prominent figures named for the "salvation government" and members of the 25 January 25 youth movement.

The Prime Minister dismissed the Minister of Interior, Mansour el-Issawy, while announcing five ministers will retain their posts.

1115 GMT: Qatar's Anti-Cybercrime Unit of the Ministry of Interior have referred a person to the public prosecutors after he allegedly insulted a senior diplomat on Facebook.

The Unit asked Qatar Telecom (Qtel) to provide details of the person who posted the Facebook entry. QTel co-operated, and the suspect was soon identified.

0925 GMT: Bahrain and Qatar on Sunday have advised their citizens to leave Syria, following a similar guidance from the United Arab Emirates.

0915 GMT: In the United Arab Emirates, a State "security court" has sentenced five activists to prison over their blogging and signature of petitions.

The three-judge panel gave prominent blogger Ahmed Mansour a three-year term while the others, including trade law expert Nasser bin Ghaith, were sentenced to two years.

The five men were arrested in April after signing an online petition demanding political reforms, including a Parliament selected by open elections, and charged with insulting the UAE's rulers.

0905 GMT: Another twist in the narrative on the Bahraini protests....

The report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry appeared to point blame at opposition groups for turning down a chance for resolution in March, when it rejected discussions proposed by Crown Prince Salman. However, a different perspective emerges on further reading of the report and --- bizarrely --- it comes from the pro-regime Gulf Daily News:

The [BICI revealed] the existence of a document called "Code of Conduct" containing immediate steps the government and opposition parties should take to reach a consensus during the height of the unrest.

It included Bahrain agreeing to create an interim government within 60 days and...opposition parties, led by Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, [agreeing] to withdraw protesters from the GCC [Pearl] Roundabout and remove all roadblocks.

The drafted document was proposed to Bahrain on March 15 when Ambassador Jeffrey D Feltman, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, visited the country.

The government did not respond to the initiative, which was welcomed by opposition parties.

The report also reported, from opposition sources, that the Emir of Qatar pursued mediation after the regime did not reply to the US proposals.

We are going to have another look at the report and may follow up on this on Monday.

0835 GMT: Bahrain State media say King Hamad has ordered the creation of a special commission to study last week's recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in its 501-page report on events after protests began on 14 February.

The report included findings of torture and excessive force by Bahraini officials in the crackdown on the demonstrations.

0725 GMT: In Egypt, Saturday morning's flurry over the killing of a protester in Cairo, run over by a Central Security Forces van, was not followed by further violence, as the Ministry of Interior, while claiming that the forces were not trying to disperse a protest sit-in in front of the Cabinet building, apologised to the family of Ahmed Soroor.

Protesters put out the call for five leading figures to lead a "national salvation government". Later in the day, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize laureate, said he would drop his bid for the Presidency, if military rulers allowed him to become interim Prime Minister, to form that government.

0715 GMT: The "new normal", which long ago passed Square One, continued in Syria on Saturday. Activists in Syria said at least 29 people were killed on Saturday, and in the latest sign of the turn towards insurgency, army defectors killed eight Syrian soldiers. Claimed video showed "protest creep" reaching the centre of Aleppo, Syria's second city which has been considered a bastion for the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, finance ministers from the Arab League agreed on a draft plan for a package of economic sanctions against Damascus, including the suspension of commercial flights to the country and dealings with the Central Bank. The recommendations will now be passed to a formal meeting of the League for consideration.

The Assad regime ignored the League's Friday deadline for acceptance of a plan in which monitors would be allowed into Syria.

0700 GMT: Human rights activist Brian Dooley quotes a Bahraini woman on this week's release of the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry: 

“We go back to where all this started, it doesn’t address why people protested in the first place,” said a Bahraini woman. “At best it takes us back to square one.”

I am not so sure about the criticism of the report --- the issue is not its detailed findings, but how the regime will respond to them. And I do not think Bahrain is at "square one".

The episode in A'ali village on Saturday afternoon illustrates the point. The turnout of thousands for the funeral of a man killed after an alleged incident with a police jeep, followed by the march of many of those people towards the security forces ringing the village, was powerful enough. What followed put a punctuation mark on the defiance. Cameras captured the defiance of activist Zainab Alkhawaja as she went up to the police, flashing the victory sign, in a personal challenge. Her later account via Twitter explained how she escaped arrest while engaging the officers in a discussion of why they were suppressing the quest for rights and justice.

Three months ago, Bahrain would not have seen that level of dissent, and the world would not have noticed it. The February protests had been quashed, symbolically and literally, with the military intervention supporting Bahrain's security forces and the demolition of the centre of resistance at Pearl Roundabout. The world, or at least the mainstream media of the world, are still intermittent in their attention --- the release of the BICI report was a moment for coverage, but I doubt Alkhawaja's act will disturb many headlines this morning --- but people in Bahrain are definitely watching and listening.

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