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UAE (and Beyond) Live Coverage: 94 Activists Go on Trial

January protest on behalf of 94 detained activists in the UAE (Photo: AP)

See also Syria Live Coverage: The Regime's Shelling of Homs
Sunday's Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Minister of Finance Tries to Resign Amid Financial Crisis

1635 GMT: Yemen A suicide bomber today killed "at least 10 members of a pro-government militia".

A local commander told Reuters that 15 others were wounded, some seriously, in the attack which struck a local office of the Popular Committees in Lawdar, a town in the southern province of Abyan.

According to Reuters, the targeted militia had "helped the Yemeni army to drive al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants out of southern strongholds in a U.S.-backed campaign last year".

1545 GMT: Egypt. Thousands of people have marched this afternoon in the funerals of two men killed on Sunday in Port Said (see 0850 and 1115 GMT).

Mourners who carried the bodies through the streets chanted against the Ministry of Interior and the Muslim Brotherhood.

1515 GMT: Iraq. A suicide bomber has reportedly killed five policemen, after detonating a car bomb at a police checkpoint in Mosul. Twelve other people have been injured in the attack in northern Iraq.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber wounded ten people after he detonated himself in Karbala, in an area between the shrines of Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas, grandsons of the Prophet Mohammed and sacred sites for Shi'a Muslims.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings.

1415 GMT: Egypt. The slide in foreign reserves eased in February, but they remain at critical levels with the Government under pressure to secure a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

The Central Bank said reserves were $13.5 billion at the end of February, from $13.6 billion at the end of January.

In January, the reserves fell by $1.4 billion. They are below $15 billion, a figure that would cover three months' exports and which economists typically regard as a minimum safe level.

Egypt had $36 billion in reserves in January 2011, just before President Mubarak was toppled.

1225 GMT: Kuwait. Opposition groups have formed a broad-based coalition, with demands for fundamental reforms including a multi-party democratic system.

The Opposition Coalition includes almost all opposition political groups, including Islamists, liberals, nationalists, trade and student unions, youth activists, and civil society groups.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting that lasted several hours, the new Coalition vowed to fight for a “full parliamentary system based on legalising political parties...and democratic rotation of power”.

The tuling Al Sabah family that has led the country for more than 250 years.

“The government should be the result of a fair and free election,” said the statement.

The Coalition also called for dissolving the pro-government Parliament elected on 1 December amid an oppsoition boycott in protest against the Emir's amendments to the electoral law, and for new polls.

1115 GMT: Egypt. Officials have confirmed the deaths of five people, including a 16-year-old boy and two police conscripts, in Sunday's clashes in Port Said (see 0850 GMT).

Two of the civilians died of skull fractures. The teenager, Sayed Ali El-Sayed, was killed by a heavy metal object thrown from the top of the central Governorate building, which had been surrounded by protesters. Abdel Rahman El Said Ali, 22, was hit in the head by bricks hurled from the building.

The two conscripts, Ibrahim Abdel-Azim Mostafa and Alaa Mohamed El-Shawadfi, were killed by gunfire from unknown assailants near the Port Said security directorate.

0925 GMT: Mali. The head of France's military, Edouard Guillaud, has said that Al Qa'eda's senior field commander in the Sahara, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was "probably" killed last week in fighting in the mountains near the Algerian border.

The Chadian military, which has troops fighting alongside the French, claimed last weekend that Abou Zeid and insurgent commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose men were involved in a high-profile seizure of foreign hostages in January in Algeria, had been slain.

Guillaud said about Abou Zeid: "It is probable, but only probable. We don't have any certainty for the moment, (but) it would be good news."

Guillaud said he was "extremely cautious" about reports of Belmokhtar's death, noting that some websites had said he was still alive.

0850 GMT: Egypt. The death toll from Sunday's violence in Port Said is now 4, with more than 400 injured.

The clashes occurred during ongoing demonstrations in the Suez Canal city, with marchers approaching the Governorate building. At least 39 people were injured by gunfire, including several members of the security forces, and more than 260 suffered from tear gas inhalation.

The military denied that Army troops and police had fired on each other during the fighting.

Activists have declared a campaign of civil disobedience in Port Said after protests surged on 26 January, following a court's conviction of detainees charged with involvement in the deaths of 74 fans in the city's football stadium last year.

0825 GMT: Bahrain. In the regime's continuing campaign to present an "Iranian threat", Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa has told an audience about the eight-man "terror cell" arrested last month, claiming "flagrant Iranian interference in Bahrain's internal affairs".

The Minister claimed the men "were trained either in locations affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or with the Hezbollah in Iraq...[and] received funding from abroad that totaled $80,000".

The audience of religious figures, scholars, and youth supposedly "affirmed the importance of stopping the Iranian interference which is rejected by the whole society" and "expressed their highly condemnation of Iran's hostile stances .which reflect the political Iranian failure".

They then reportedly "expressed...their sincere thanks and appreciation to the Interior Minister, affirming that such meetings come in line with his keen interest to protect the national gains and unity under the wise leadership of HM the King, and stressing their appreciation to policemen efforts to maintain security and stability".

The Bahrain News Agency features the claimed statements of others who joined in the condemnation of Iranian interference, such as the Muharraq Football Club.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior denounced the recent Human Rights Watch report, after a five-day visit, that criticised the regime for failure to implement reforms and its continued detention of political prisoners.

The Ministry said, "It is apparent from their conduct that minds were made up prior to their arrival in Bahrain. This turned out to be not a neutral fact-finding mission but a political action."

0815 GMT: Yemen. Human Rights Watch, in a 30-page report, has called on the Government to stop seeking and implementing the death penalty for juveniles.

The organisation said that President Hadi should immediately reverse execution orders for three juveniles on death row who have exhausted all appeals.

The report found that at least 22 individuals have been sentenced to death despite evidence that they were under age 18 at the time of their alleged crimes.

In the last five years, Yemen has executed at least 15 young men and women who said they were under 18 at the time of their offenses. On 3 December, a firing squad in Sanaa executed Hind al-Barti, whose birth certificate indicated she was 15 at the time of an alleged murder.

0810 GMT: Saudi Arabia. Al-Eqtisadiah, quoting unnamed sources, reports that private schools will have their licenses revoked by the Ministry of Education if they accept unapproved funding of any kind from foreign supporters.

There are about 3,000 private schools in the Kingdom.

0740 GMT: Bahrain. Said Yousif, the Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is back in court today after almost three months in detention.

Yousif was seized by security forces for sending Twitter messages as he observed a protest in the capital Manama in December.

The appeal of 23 medics, sentenced to three months in prison for treating injured protesters in the initial weeks of the mass demonstrations in 2011, will be heard.

0700 GMT: UAE. The trial of 94 political activists opens today, amid accusations that they have been ill-treated in prison and have had limited access to lawyers.

On 27 January, the UAE Attorney General alleged that the 94 “launched, established, and ran an organisation seeking to oppose the basic principles of the UAE system of governance and to seize power.” However, Human Rights Watch asserts:

As of 27 February 27, the authorities had not released to lawyers the identities of all 94 detainees, documents setting out the charges against them, or the evidence on which these charges are based.

Authorities have held 64 detainees whose identities are known at undisclosed locations for periods of up to a year and denied them legal assistance until late February. The decision to prosecute the case before the Federal Supreme Court under state security procedures deprives those being tried of the right to appeal.

Local activists, in contact with family members of the detainees, said authorities finally allowed some defendants to meet separately with defense lawyers in the last two weeks, but only with a representative of the prosecutor’s office listening to the conversations.

Family members of five of the detainees reported ill-treatment in detention, including prolonged solitary confinement, 24-hour bright fluorescent lighting, inadequate heating, forced wearing of hoods whenever they were outside their cells,and persistent insults from prison guards.

This weekend, representatives of the Alkarama Foundation and Amnesty International were denied entry to the UAE, preventing them from observing the trial.

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