Saudi Arabia has abolished flogging as a form of punishment. A document from the kingdom's top court and seen by Reuters on Friday says, "The decision is an extension of the human rights reforms introduced under the direction of King Salman and the direct supervision of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman." This comes on the same day that Amnesty International and other human rights groups reported that Abdullah al-Hamid, a founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, died in prison after suffering a coma-inducing stroke earlier this month. Al-Hamid was sentenced to 11 years in prison in March 2013 for "breaking allegiance to the ruler," "questioning the integrity of officials," "seeking to disrupt security and inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations," and "instigating international organizations against the Kingdom."
The first genocide trial against an ISIS member for its persecution of Yazidis opened Friday in Frankfurt am Main. In addition to genocide, the defendant, only identified as Taha Al J. due to Germany's privacy laws, is charged with – among other things – human trafficking and torture. Prosecutors are charging the Iraqi national, who was extradited from Greece, by employing the universal jurisdiction enshrined in German jurisprudence through the 2002 Code of Crimes Against International Law. Specifically, Taha Al J. stands accused of murdering a five-year-old Yazidi girl by chaining her to the bars of a window in 122° F heat, causing her to die of thirst, as punishment for wetting the bed. He purchased the girl along with her mother, who will testify at the trial.
Violence between the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) forces and Khalifa Hafter's Libyan National Army (LNA) intensified Friday as pro-GNA militias launched airstrikes against the LNA-held al-Watiyah airbase, the key to controlling western Libya. GNA forces supported by Turkish drones also closed in on Tarhuna, a suburb of Tripoli, whose fall would effectively terminate the LNA's siege of the capital. Also on Friday, LNA shelling of Tripoli killed three civilians. Sensing that the tide of the war is turning thanks to Turkish assistance to the GNA, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, to which the LNA is nominally loyal, proposed creating under U.N. auspices a new consensus government in Libya.
The Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi against the Houthi rebels announced Friday a one-month extension of the two-week ceasefire that elapsed yesterday.
In a Friday speech, Prime Minister Hassan Diab blamed Riad Salameh, the governor of the country's central bank since 1993, for the Lebanese pound's free fall depreciation over the last few days and said, "The Central Bank is either incapable, absent, or directly inciting this dramatic depreciation." Diab's government and President Michel Aoun agreed Friday to hire an independent international auditing firm to evaluate the Central Bank's performance.
In a Thursday telephone call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "emphasized that detained U.S. citizens be kept safe and provided consular access during the COVID-19 pandemic."
2020 Presidential Election
The Jewish Democratic Council of America endorsed Joe Biden on Friday in a letter signed by its national Board of Directors. Its section on the Middle East says: "For decades, you have demonstrated – and continue to demonstrate – a steadfast commitment to Israel's security and right to self- defense, as well as a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We know your commitment to Israel is unwavering, and we will defend your record against ongoing Republican efforts to exploit it as a political wedge issue." The letter does not mention Iran. A poll, published on Feb. 28, 2020, from the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute showed Biden winning 67 percent of the Jewish vote to President Trump's 31 percent. If those numbers hold, Biden would receive the lowest percentage of the Jewish vote since Michael Dukakis won 64 percent to George H. W. Bush's 35 percent.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum