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Resources updated between Monday, August 07, 2017 and Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 11, 2017

Alireza Tajiki

Prisoner Alireza Tajiki, who was arrested at the age of 15 on rape and murder charges, was reportedly hanged at Shiraz's Adel Abad Prison.

According to close sources, the execution of Alireza Tajiki, 21, was carried out on Thursday August 10 despite the lack of investigation into the many disrepancies in his case file and the lack of due process. Moreover, Alireza was under the age of 18 at the time of his arrest and conviction.

According to international conventions Iran is signatory of, the death penalty is prohibited for those who were under the age of 18 when the offense they were charged for was committed. 

"The death penalty sentence for Alireza Tajiki is in violation of international conventions Iran is obliged to adhere to. We call on the international community to do all they can to stop Alireza's execution," said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam on the eve of Alireza's execution. 

Iran tops the countries in the world with the highest number of executions of juvenile offenders. Alireza Tajiki was hanged despite the widespread outcry of human rights organizations to stop his execution, and this needs to addressed by individuals in the international community who regard themselves as defenders of human values and human rights. For years US diplomats in Havana complained that they suffered harassment from Cuban officials and frequently had their homes and cars broken into. But diplomats said that after the US and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015, the campaign of harassment stopped.

Iran Authorities Hang Juvenile Despite International Outcry Document

August 10, 2017

A Hamas terror tunnel (File photo)

Israeli military says Gaza homes hiding Hamas tunnels Article

U.S. Embassy in Cuba

The US believes several State Department employees at the US embassy in Havana were subjected to an "acoustic attack" using sonic devices that left at least two with such serious health problems they needed to be brought back to the US for treatment, several senior State Department officials told CNN.

One official said the employees could have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result. 

The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016 which resembled concussions. 

The State Department raised the incidents with the Cuban government over the course of several months and sent medical personnel to Havana, but have not been able to determine exactly what happened. 

"It can be quite serious," one official told CNN. "We have worked with the Cubans to try and find out what is going on. They insist they don't know, but it has been very worrying and troublesome."

The FBI is now looking into the matter, the officials said.

"It's very strange," one official said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said that "some US government personnel" working at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duty reported some incidents that were causing "physical symptoms." But she could not elaborate on the nature or cause of the incidents.

"Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources," one US official said. "That is why we are being very careful here with what we say. There is a lot we still don't know."

For years US diplomats in Havana complained that they suffered harassment from Cuban officials and frequently had their homes and cars broken into. But diplomats said that after the US and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015, the campaign of harassment stopped.

Some of those affected chose to return to the US, said Nauert, prompting the administration to expel two Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in May.

"The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva convention to protect our diplomats," Nauert told reporters, "so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours."

"We felt like we needed to respond to the Cubans and remind them of their responsibility under the Vienna convention," one of the officials said. The officials were not declared "persona non-grata" and may be allowed to return back to the United States if the matter is resolved. 

Those affected were State Department employees, Nauert said, and no American civilians were affected. The State Department is taking these incidents "very seriously," she added, and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incidents.

A statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday categorically denied any Cuban involvement in the mistreatment of US diplomats in Cuba, and said the decision to expel Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unfounded."

"The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed ... Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception," the statement said in Spanish.

US embassy employees in Cuba possibly subject to 'acoustic attack' Document

Illustrative: Iranian women exercising in park.

Iranian officials have arrested six people accused of teaching Zumba dancing and trying to "change lifestyles", media reports say.

The group of four men and two women were charged over their dancing and not adhering to the hijab dress code.

Instructors allegedly "attracted boys and girls, taught them Western dances", and posted videos to social media.

The Latin American fitness routine has proved controversial in Iran, which has laws restricting dance.

"The members of a network teaching and filming Western dances have been identified and arrested," Hamid Damghani, a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by local media outlets.

"They were arrested by the Guards' intelligence forces while teaching and creating video clips... as they sought to change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab," he said.

Hijab rules govern the wearing of headscarves and clothing in public places by women, and dancing with the opposite sex is banned, except in front of immediate family members.

The case has some parallels to the 2014 arrest of six Iranians for dancing along to Pharrell William's song Happy - which saw them sentenced to 91 lashes and a prison term.

Mr Damghani said dancing as a sport "is a serious issue".

But Zumba, the aerobics-dance hybrid popular in the West as a fitness class, has taken off in Iran despite the restrictions.

In June this year, the country's sporting federation said the exercise included "rhythmic motions and dance and are unlawful in any shape and title".

That was met with derision on social media, with many comparing the ban on Zumba in gyms to the hardline actions of the so-called Islamic State.

One gym manager told the Aftab-e Yazd newspaper that he would simply teach Zumba, but call it something else.

"We need to have these classes. We have been teaching Zumba for 12-13 years and if they ban it, we will continue our class under a different name," he said.

"Zumba is one of the most profitable activities and the clubs cannot ignore Zumba."

Iran arrests six for Zumba dancing Document

August 9, 2017

Prime Minister Netanyahu (right) with Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos Fonseca, July 4, 2017

Cape Verde denies it'll start backing Israel at the UN Article

Officials and rescuers gather after a car slammed into soldiers on patrol in Paris, August 9, 2017

Paris attack: Six French soldiers injured after being 'deliberately' hit by BMW in suspected terror attack Document

August 8, 2017

Illustrative: Rockets being fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip into Israel, August 22, 2014.

Warnings sirens blared in southern Israel Tuesday after a rocket from the Gaza Strip was fired into the country, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said the projectile struck an open area in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

No injures were immediately reported, and soldiers were searching the area, the IDF said.

While no group immediately claimed Tuesday's rocket fire, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from the Strip.

Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, has largely refrained from firing rockets into Israel since it fought a devastating war with Israel in 2014. Launches have often been ascribed to radical Salafist groups.

Last month, the IDF said that a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, after earlier saying that the rocket had exploded in mid-air.

In June, the Israel Air Force struck a number of targets tied to the Hamas terror group in response to a rocket launch from the coastal enclave.

In recent months, a number of false warning sirens have also been heard in southern Israel. "Since his arrest, the university has worked with Mr. Wang's family, the U.S. government, private counsel and others to facilitate his release," the statement said. "We were very distressed by the charges brought against him in connection with his scholarly activities, and by his subsequent conviction and sentence," the statement continued. "His family and the university are distressed at his continued imprisonment and are hopeful that he will be released after his case is heard by the appellate authorities in Tehran."

News of Mr. Wang's sentencing came as the judiciary spokesman also announced that the brother of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had been arrested in a corruption inquiry, in what appeared to be a move by Mr. Rouhani's hard-line rivals to undermine and embarrass him.

The brother, Hossein Fereydoun, had been one of Mr. Rouhani's close aides.

The arrests suggested ominous new pressure on Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric who was re-elected to a second four-year term a few months ago.

His re-election was seen as a referendum vote by Iranians for more cooperation with other nations, including the United States, despite the entrenched anti-American hostilities harbored by other powerful interests in Iran, including its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; the judiciary and intelligence services; and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps paramilitary force.

The news of the arrests coincided with the second anniversary of Mr. Rouhani's signature achievement: the agreement with the United States and other world powers to curb Iran's nuclear activities in return for the easing of economic sanctions that have long isolated Iran.

The agreement has not produced the desired economic boom in Iran, giving political ammunition to conservatives who opposed the pact.

Critics of the agreement in the United States have also complained, saying it is too weak.

Understand the world with sharp insight and President Trump, who has escalated tensions with Iran, repeatedly assailed the nuclear agreement during his 2016 campaign as "the worst deal ever." He must decide by Monday whether Iran is honoring the deal, under an American law that requires the administration to certify every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms.

Mr. Fereydoun, a former ambassador to Malaysia, has long been considered a potential political vulnerability for Mr. Rouhani over allegations of nepotism and cronyism.

Hard-liners accused Mr. Fereydoun more than a year ago of improper dealings with money-changing companies during the final years of the administration of Mr. Rouhani's predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They said Mr. Fereydoun had continued those dealings while serving as an adviser to Mr. Rouhani.

Mr. Fereydoun also has been accused by hard-liners of using his influence to place colleagues in high-paying positions, and of exploiting his connections to gain a coveted spot in a doctorate program at an Iranian university. He has denied the accusations.

"Rouhani and the reformists won a landslide victory in the May presidential elections, yet this detention makes clear the conservatives are still strong and can lash out," said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy in Washington. The president's brother, Mr. Kupchan said, is "low-hanging fruit for conservatives seeking to cut Rouhani down to size."

Iran's judiciary spokesman, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei, said on Sunday that Mr. Fereydoun had been arrested the day before, according to the judiciary's news agency, and because he was not able to provide bail, he was jailed until he could do so.

Mr. Mohseni-Ejei did not specify the bail amount or the precise charges.

Referring to Mr. Wang, the spokesman said the person sentenced in the espionage case had been "identified and arrested by the Intelligence Ministry's forces, and it was established that he was gathering information and was involved in spying activities."

Once the verdict is final, Mr. Mohseni-Ejei said, he would "be able to explain more about this person's intentions and activities," adding, "Unfortunately he was taking direct orders from America."

In a statement, the State Department said: "The Iranian regime continues to detain U.S. citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes. We call for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families."

A number of American citizens, mostly Iranian-American dual citizens, have been imprisoned in Iran over the years on similar charges.

Five were freed when the nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, including Jason Rezaian, a former Washington Post correspondent in Tehran. But others continue to languish in Iranian prisons, despite repeated calls by the United States and others to release them.

The most notable prisoners include Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman who had called for improved relations; his father, Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef diplomat; and Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen with permanent United States residency.

Mr. Zakka's lawyer in the United States, Jason Poblete, said his client had been on a hunger strike for the past three weeks. Mr. Zakka was sentenced a few months ago to 10 years in prison.

Palestinians fire rocket from Gaza into southern Israel Document

August 7, 2017

Carla del Ponte and Paulo Pinheiro, one of two remaining members of the panel investigating atrocities in Syria, March 2017.

War-Crimes Prosecutor, Frustrated at U.N. Inaction, Quits Panel on Syria Article