Middle East Updates / Bosnian Imam on Trial for Recruiting ISIS Fighters

U.S. embassy staff in Yemen destroy weapons, computers and documents; Turkey detains 14 people seeking to join ISIS; Iran demonstrators chant 'Down with the U.S.' and 'Death to Israel'.

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An entrance to the Bosnian village of Gornja Maoca decorated with ISIS signs, January 26, 2015.
An entrance to the Bosnian village of Gornja Maoca decorated with ISIS signs, January 26, 2015. Credit: Reuters

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Latest updates:

7:00 P.M.  Bosnian cleric on trial for recruiting ISIS fighters

A Bosnian Muslim cleric accused of recruiting fighters for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq went on trial on Wednesday under a new law that is designed to stop people joining militants in the Middle East.

Husein Bosnic, known as an unofficial leader of the ultra-conservative Salafi movement in Bosnia, was arrested in September along with four other men who were later released due to a lack of evidence.

The prosecution accuses Bosnic, also known as Bilal, of publicly inciting and recruiting people to commit a terrorist act and organising a terrorist group during 2013 and 2014, "consciously and from a position of religious authority".
Bosnic denies the charges against him. (Reuters)

6:12 P.M. Egypt court overturns death sentences of 36 Islamists

Egypt's highest appeals court has overturned death sentences for 36 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has labelled a terrorist group, and ordered a retrial.

It's the second time in two months that the Court of Cassation reversed death sentences handed down to Islamists in cursory mass trials, which rights groups and Western governments have widely condemned.

The state MENA news agency said Wednesday's case stems from an August 2013 attack on a police station in the southern town of el-Adwa when a police officer and a civilian were killed. Such revenge attacks swept across Egypt following a security crackdown on ousted President Mohammed Morsi's supporters that killed hundreds.

Over 140 Islamists were also sentenced to death in absentia in the same case, including a top Brotherhood leader. (AP)

5:47 P.M. U.S. embassy staff in Yemen destroy weapons, computers and documents

U.S. embassy staff in Yemen destroyed weapons, computers and documents before closing and evacuating diplomats on Wednesday, local members of staff told Reuters.

The United States, Britain and France have closed their embassies and evacuated staff as the security situation in Yemen has unravelled following the Shi'ite Muslim rebels' formal takeover of power last week.

Militiamen from the group also seized U.S. embassy vehicles after the ambassador and diplomats left the country, the same employees said. (Reuters)

4:10 P.M. Egyptian court orders retrial of 36 Brotherhood members sentenced to death

An Egyptian court ordered the retrial of 36 supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood who had been sentenced to death in a mass trial that included the group's leader last year, judicial sources said on Wednesday.

Tough sentences against hundreds of Brotherhood supporters since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 have drawn criticism from rights groups.

The 36 were among 183 sentenced to death by a criminal court in the southern Minya province last June. The other defendants, including the Brotherhood's General Guide, Mohamed Badie, were tried in absentia. The court gave no reason for the retrial. (Reuters)

1:35 P.M. Turkey detains 14 people seeking to join Islamic State

Turkish security forces detained 13 foreigners and a Turk seeking to cross the border into Syria to join Islamic State militants, Ankara's military said on Wednesday.

Turkey has been accused in the past of being lax in controlling the border, which is used as a transit point by foreign fighters joining the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The 14 suspects were caught on Monday afternoon in Oguzeli, south of the major city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, according to a statement on the website of the General Staff, or military headquarters.

After questioning, it said, the foreigners were handed over to police to be deported while the Turk was released on the orders of a state prosecutor. (Reuters) 

12:39 P.M. Belgium court: Islamic group was terror organization

A court in Belgium has declared that a radical Islamic group that recruited youngsters to fight in Syria was a terrorist organization that wanted to violently overthrow democracy and replace it with strict sharia law.

The court in Antwerp sentenced the group's "charismatic leader," Fouad Belkacem, to 12 years' imprisonment.

Wednesday's verdicts came in one of Belgium's biggest ever terror trials — 46 Muslims were indicted, though only a handful appeared in court. Others are believed to be fighting with Sunni armed groups in Syria or to have died in that country's brutal civil war. (AP)

10:20 A.M. Iran marks Islamic Revolution's anniversary amid nuke talks

Iran is marking the 36th anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution as the country continues negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program.

State television aired footage of commemorations in Tehran and elsewhere across the country Wednesday. Some participants chanted "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Israel."

Iranians hold mock missiles bearing anti-Israel slogans during a rally in Tehran's Azadi Square to mark the 36th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, February 11, 2015. Photo: AFP

On Feb. 11, 1979, followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. America helped orchestrate the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran's popularly elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, which brought Pahlavi to power and set the stage for decades of mistrust between the countries.

In recent years, Iran has used the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution to demonstrate against the West over its sanctions for the country's disputed nuclear program. Diplomats are negotiating a final deal over the program now. 

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