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Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Activist Zainab AlKhawaja Given 3-Month Sentence

See also Syria Live Coverage: Foreign Governments Pledge Support for Opposition --- But How Much?
Thursday's Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Two Detainees in Israel Prisons End Long-Term Hunger Strikes

Zainab AlKhawaja1720 GMT: Egypt. Employees of nongovernmental organizations say the Government is refusing to approve most of their outside grants, forcing some to lay off staff or cut salaries while preventing them from completing projects.

“It's worse, and it gets worse and worse and worse,” said Magdy Abdel Hamid, head of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation and Enhancement. “Under [former President Hosni] Mubarak there were problems, and sometimes they refused [to approve foreign-funded grants], but in general, under the Mubarak regime we were in better condition.”

1715 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Police arrested 176 people in central Qassim Province today after a protest calling for fair treatment for security prisoners.

State news agency SPA said those detained, including 15 women, refused to end their sit-in staged outside the investigation and prosecution bureau in the town of Buraida.

Earlier this week, a group of women were seized for protesting about detainees.

1502 GMT: Iraq. Minister of Finance Rafa al-Issawi announced his resignation on Thursday at an anti-Government protest in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

"I am with you, I am your son, and I announce today... that I am presenting my resignation from the Iraqi government, and I will not return to this government," Essawi, a leading Sunni politician, told thousands of demonstrators.

One of the catalysts for a surge in mainly-Sunni protests in December was a raid by Government forces on the home and offices of al-Issawi, arresting several of his bodyguards.

1227 GMT:Turkey. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Turkey has already been marred by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s description earlier this week of Zionism as a “crime against humanity.”

Kerry is due to discuss the Syrian conflict with Turkish counterparts, but Erdogan’s comment is extremely unwelcome for US officials already concerned about the downturn in relations between Turkey and Israel, two of Washington’s prominent allies in the region.

1207 GMT: Bahrain Video of yesterday's press conference by Human Rights Watch, held in Bahrain at the end of a five-day visit.

The organisation's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson was said:

All the talk of national dialogue and reform mean nothing so long as the country’s most prominent human rights and political activists remain unjustly imprisoned while officials responsible for torture and murder remain in their positions.

The minimum one should expect after the gross abuses by security forces during the 2011 uprising is recognition at the highest level of the security and defense forces, including the Interior and Defense Ministers, that they bear the responsibility for the failures of their forces – failures they have acknowledged – and will account for them.”

1157 GMT:UAE. In the second cancellation of a major academic conference in two weeks, the new publication Al Fanar has abandoned a gathering this weeking because of concerns about academic freedoms.

The abandonment of the conference, whose topic was to be "Education for What? The Future of Arab Universities”, follows the cancellation of a seminar on the Arab Spring after Kristian Coates Ulrichsen of the London School of Economics was denied entry to the UAE because of his paper on the situation in Bahrain.

The founding editor of Al Fanar said:

I really don't plan on taking any stance on political or religious issues, but when it comes to academic freedom, universities can't function properly without academic freedom..... We just don't feel comfortable celebrating the birth of a publication about Arab higher education at this point in time in the Emirates.

1143 GMT:Bahrain. Writing for The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Amy Austin Holmes' sets out the "backsliding" of the ruling monarchy and the dim prospects for significant reform:

The royal family recently initiated a new “dialogue” to create the impression that they are engaging the opposition and responding to their demands. This is in part in response to U.S. officials who insist that the main problem in Bahrain is precisely the lack of such dialogue—rather than larger structural problems or power relations.

But after 20 hours of talks spread out over 5 sessions, the participants in the tripartite dialogue (the regime, the loyalists, and the opposition) have yet to agree on an agenda. While these talks about talk may be important, it is necessary to step back and consider how the Al Khalifas have empowered themselves and weakened the opposition through structural changes in the configuration of power. This means that any opposition movement – regardless of its tactics, ideology, or willingness to talk to the regime – is less likely to achieve a true democratic breakthrough than the opposition forces in the 1970s.

Bahrain has backslided. And it is not because the opposition is small or divided. It is rather, I argue, because the regime has maneuvered to ensure that, whatever the outcome of the current dialogue, the ruling family will continue to rule.

1043 GMT:Bahrain. The State news agency announced today that human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja has been sentenced to three months in jail for "insulting a public employee while on duty", overturning her earlier acquittal.

Khawaja is the daughter of prominent activist Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, who was a leading figure in the 2011 uprising and is now serving a life sentence.

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