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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Division over Powers for "Citizen's Arrests"

Egypt Prosecutor Talaat Abdullah1905 GMT:Egypt. Political activist Hassan Mustafa has been sentenced to two years in prison, accused of physically attacking a prosecutor.

Mustafa was arrested on 21 January after he slapped the prosecutor on the cheek.

1650 GMT:Bahrain. Five policemen were in court today, on charges relating to the deaths of Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer and Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al-Asheri in April 2011. Both Saqer and Al-Asheri were found to have been tortured to death at the Dry Dock Detention Centre, whilst under the custody of the Ministry of Interior, according to the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Two policemen were found guilty of the manslaughter of Ali Saqer and sentenced to ten years. The three other policemen were found innocent of "failing to report the crime" of Saqer's murder.

All five policemen were found innocent on charges relating to the death of Al-Asheri.

In January, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights described the trial as a "show trial", noting that the Bahrain government:

Many reports of torture have been reported in the months prior to the events of February 14th, 2011 (Check HRW report Feb 2010: Torture Redux) and which continue to be reported even after the release of the report of the BICI (Hasan Oun as an example); all confirming the systematic nature and apparent policy of the use of torture in detention centers in Bahrain. The Bahraini government, however, continues to ignore calls from local and international organizations to hold any of the high rank officers accountable for the deaths of AlAshiri, Saqer and the other three men who have died under torture in custody[2] . Instead it has resorted to bring cases of torture against low rank policemen who because of the systematic nature of torture in these institutions, if proven guilty, were following policy and not acting on their own account.

1307 GMT:Israel. EA’s Joanna Paraszczuk reports:

In a packed hearing on Tuesday, Israel's High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction ordering the state to justify the controversial Law to Prevent Infiltration, legislation passed in 2012 that permits migrants and asylum seekers to be held in administrative detention. Since the law went into force in July 2012, around 2,000 migrants have been detained, according to rights groups.

The court's decision comes in response to a petition filed by six human rights groups, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and five Eritrean asylum seekers.

The petitioners argue that the law should be overturned since most detainees are asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan and cannot be deported. In its response to the court, the state admitted that over half those detained have applied for asylum.

Petitioner Attorney Yonatan Berman said Tuesday that the law was "one of the most extreme" ever passed in Israel. "It victimizes innocent women and children, refugees and torture victims," he added.

1248 GMT:Mali. The country’s “private media has gone on strike following the arrest of Boukary Daou, editor of Le Republicain, for publishing a letter that detailed the poor conditions endured by soldiers fighting Islamist militants in the north.

The letter, written by Mali soldiers, criticised the military leadership for living in comfort in Bamako while the rank-and-file fought on the frontline and complained that soldiers lacked basic equipment and rations, echoing similar complaints made by those involved in last year’s March coup.

Although there has been no official word yet from the authorities about the case, Communications Minister Manga Dembele accused Mr Daou of acting irresponsibly and unpatriotically by publishing the soldiers' open letter to the president.

1146 GMT:Saudi Arabia. The US Government finally expressed concern on Monday about prison sentences handed down last weekend on activists Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed for setting up an unlicensed human rights organisation.

“We are concerned that these two very prominent Saudi human rights activists have been sentenced to prison,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

Al-Qahtani was sentenced to 10 years in prison and al-Hamed was given an 11-year term.

US Attorney General Eric Holder, in discussions with Saudi officials in Riyadh over the weekend, did not mention the case in his press conference.

0946 GMT:Tunisia. An unemployed man has set himself on fire in central Tunis on Habib Bourguiba Avenue outside a government building.

The man, who shouted "This is a young man who sells cigarettes because of unemployment" before immolating himself, was taken to hospital by emergency services, still conscious but suffering from serious burns.

In December 2010, the death of the young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, after he set himself on fire, resulted in the widespread protests of the Arab Spring that ultimately brought down the Ben Ali regime.

0740 GMT: Egypt. Protesters gathered outside the Libyan Embassy in Cairo on Monday night after an Egyptian Christian, Ezzat Atallah, died in Libyan custody.

Atallah was one of five Egyptians being held on charges of proselytising.

Attalah’s lawyer said his client died after being tortured. Libyan officials claimed he died of natural causes.

The protesters said they would not move until the other four Egyptians are freed and return home, and until Atallah’s family is compensated. They burned the Libyan flag and smashed the Embassy's facade.

0720 GMT: Egypt. Sunday's announcement by Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah that citizens have the right to arrest "vandals" has sparked heated debate.

Abdullah's office issued a statement, "Egypt's prosecutor-general urges all citizens to exercise the right afforded them by Article 37 of Egypt's criminal procedure law issued in year 1950 to arrest anyone found committing a crime and refer them to official personnel."

The office subsequently attempted a clarification, "The statement of the prosecutor-general did not include granting 'judicial arrest' powers to citizens, but rather granting the judicial arrest to officers as defined officially in the law."

Some Islamist factions welcomed the initial statement "as a first step to confront systematic violence in Egypt". Groups have already said, amid a strike of some police officers, that they will form "popular committees to assist the Ministry of Interior.

However, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejected the idea of citizens' arrests: "The people should not help the police more than is clearly stated by the law."

Other factions, such as the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the 6 April Youth Movement, and the Wafd Party also rejected the prosecutor's statement. The tourism industry expressed concern that "citizen's policing will lead to the mistreatment and blackmail of tourists".

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