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Blog: Points to note this weekend:
- BAHRAIN. International pressure can work. Bahrain is to retry in the civil courts 20 medics convicted of subversion last week by a military tribunal.
- CHINA. The Chinese dictatorship appears to have achieved a new world record in brutality if reports coming out of Sichuan province on the Tibetan border prove to be true. As has frequently happened in recent times, two former Buddhist monks are said to have set themselves on fire in Sichuan in protest at Chinese oppression. A report in a western newspaper reports claims that Chinese police beat up the badly burned men as they took them to hospital. One of the men is said to have died. This is the first time that Antigone1984 has heard of police anywhere in the world taking wounded people to hospital while beating them up. A spokesman for the local public security bureau is quoted as saying: “Nothing like that happened here.”
- EGYPT. The Arab Spring appears to have mutated into an Arab Winter without the intervention of Summer. The army has reintroduced a state of emergency and appears to be conducting backroom deals with elements of the toppled Mubarak regime in order to ensure that the youthful protesters who led the revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are largely excluded from the forthcoming elections. The man to watch very closely is former Arab League chief Amr Moussa.
- ISRAEL. The British Government has given special diplomatic – and therefore legal – immunity to Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni in order to allow her to visit Britain without fear of arrest. The decision will prevent any UK court from ordering her arrest on charges that she was involved in war crimes when Israel bombarded Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. At the time Livni was Israeli foreign minister. The British Government’s use of extraordinary measures to protect Livni contrasts markedly with its treatment of an Israeli Arab activist Sheikh Raed Salah, who recently came to Britain on a visit. UK interior minister Theresa May wants to deport him on the vague and catch-all grounds that his presence in the UK is “not conducive to the public good”. Salah is a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel and has been an outspoken defender of the rights of Arab Israeli citizens.