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Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi sworn-in as Egypt’s President

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (59), former army chief of Egypt, has been sworn in as the President of the country for a 4-year term. Egypt has been facing political turbulence since 2011 with deadly agitation and economic worries. El-Sissi has took over the highest office less than a year after he toppled the country’s first freely elected president Mohammed Morsi, following days of public protests by Egyptians demanding his resignation.

Egypt: 683 alleged supporters of ex-President Morsi sentenced to death

Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie and 683 alleged supporters of the group have been sentenced to death by an Egyptian judge. The judge confirmed the death sentences of 37 of 529 alleged supporters condemned earlier.

If the sentence is confirmed, Mohamed Badie, would be the most senior Brotherhood figure sentenced to death since one of the group’s leading ideologues, Sayed Qutb, was sentenced and executed in 1966.

The guilty verdict and death sentences are still subject to appeal at the Court of Appeal. It however, gives a chance for a judge to change an initial sentence. As per Egyptian law, the death sentences are confirmed by the presiding judge after a comment has been invited from the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar, the country’s apex religious official.

The violence of which the defendants are accused happened on August 14, 2013 as news reached Minya governorate that police had launched the deadly clearance of two sit-ins in Cairo, held by supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, who had recently been thrown out after mass protests against his regime.

“Tempest Stela of Ahmose”: World’s Oldest Weather Report

Temptest Stela:  A  40-line inscription on a 3,500-year-old and 6-foot-tall calcite stone block from Egypt. This is being considered as one of the oldest weather reports. It describes rain, darkness and the “the sky being in storm without cessation, louder than the cries of the masses”. It dates back to the reign of the Pharaoh Ahmose, the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and whose rule is considered as the start of the New Kingdom, a time when Egypt’s power reached its height.

Linguists Dr Robert Ritner and Dr Nadine Moeller from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute affirmed that the unusual weather patterns described on the slan were result of a volcano explosion at Thera (the present-day island of Santorini in the Mediterranean Sea).

How this discovery could re-write the chronology of events in the ancient Middle East?

The evidence from Tempest Stela may shift Pharaoh Chronology. Temptest Stela describes the outcome of the Thera’s volcanic explosion, the accurate dating of the Temptest Stela itself and reign of  Pharaoh Ahmose. This discovery is a new translation suggests that the Pharaoh Ahmose of Egypt ruled at a time close to the Thera’s volcanic explosion.  The reign of  Pharaoh Ahmose is at present considered to be about 1550 B.C. but with this discovery it could actually be 30-50 years earlier.

Thus, this new discovery would provide an improved understanding of the role of the environment in the development and destruction of empires in the ancient Middle East. Now, the fresh chronology will help clarify how Pharaoh Ahmose rose to power and superceded the Canaanite rulers of Egypt –the ‘Hyksos’.

Amnesty International released Global death penalty report 2013

Screenshot_3Amnesty International released the Global Death Penalty Report 2013 in London, with a call on governments who still killed in the name of justice to impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it.

 Highlights of annual Amnesty International report 2013

  • At least 22 countries which are still applying death penalty, consider the abolition of capital punishment as a top priority. Also, the number of countries which use the death penalty has reduced in the last 20 years.
  • World’s Top executioner: China.
  • Overall 32 countries signed pardons on death sentences viz. Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), USA, etc.
  • Countries vindicated convicts: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, the UAE and USA.
  • Nine persistent executioners or ‘The 9 Worst Offenders’ (as they were known to execute every year since 2007 to 2013): China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, USA, Yemen, Sudan, Bangladesh and North Korea.
  • Public executions were known to occur:Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
  • No executions were reported in Singapore, while several death-row prisoners had their sentences commuted in that country in 2013.
  • Pacific sub-region continued to be a virtually death penalty-free zone, despite threats from Papua New Guinea to resume executions.
  • For the first time since 2009, Europe and Central Asia was an execution-free zone, with the only country still clinging to the death penalty being Belarus, although that country did not put anyone to death in 2013.

Indian figures of annual Amnesty International report 2013:

  • President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of 18 prisoners on death row in 2013, the highest number of rejections by any President in the last 25 years.
  • The international standards were violated on the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru in February 2013.
  • Raised concerns about the fairness of Afzal Guru’s trial viz. he did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage, Afzal Guru’s family were not informed in time of his imminent execution and his body was not returned to the family for last rites and burial.
  • 72 new death sentences were known to have been imposed throughout the year and at least 400 people were believed to be on death row at the end of the year.

About Amnesty International

  • Type: Non-profit NGO.
  • Founded: July 1961 by Peter Benenson in the United Kingdom.
  • Headquarters: Global International Secretariat in London, United Kingdom.
  • Objective: To conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.