Tunisia blogger gets 6 months’ jail for defaming army

A Tunisian military appeals court jailed blogger Yassine Ayari for six months on Tuesday on charges of defaming the army, halving the previous sentence but failing to satisfy its critics.

Chants of “Down with the military judge” rang out from the public gallery as the sentence was read out.

Ayari was prosecuted over blogs he had written alleging financial abuses by army officers and defence ministry officials in a case that Human Rights Watch described as “not worthy of the new Tunisia”.

The 33-year-old is himself the son of an army colonel who was killed in a May 2011 clash with jihadists.

Ayari was initially tried in absentia and sentenced to three years in prison.

But following his return to Tunis in December, a retrial was ordered and he was sentenced to a year in prison the following month.

Ayari has alleged that he is being punished for blogs that he wrote while out of the country that were critical of the anti-Islamist Nida Tounes party of President Beji Caid Essebsi, who won a December election

He is a supporter of former president Moncef Marzouki, a secular leftist who ruled in alliance with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party but was defeated by Essebsi.

Ayari was already an outspoken activist under the regime of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in a 2011 revolution that triggered the Arab Spring revolts.

His supporters charge that his prosecution is a violation of the newfound freedom of expression which was one of the main gains of the revolution.

Human Rights Watch has called on parliament to reform laws that lead to imprisonment for defaming or insulting state institutions, and to end jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.

Photo Credits : AFP

Mandera residents flee to Military base

Hundreds of people have fled to a military airstrip in Kenya’s Mandera region amid fears that militants could launch a new assault.

Many of them are non-Muslim civil servants who are demanding that the government evacuate them from the region, a BBC reporter says.

Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab gunmen killed 28 people in a bus attack on Saturday.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is under growing pressure to end attacks by the group.

Al-Shabab is based in neighbouring Somalia, but has stepped up attacks in Kenya since 2011, when Kenya sent troops across the border to help battle the militants.

The BBC’s Wanyama Chebusiri, in Nairobi, says the opposition and some ruling party MPs are calling for an overhaul of Kenya’s security agencies, including the dismissal of Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku and police chief David Kimaiyo.

Mr Ole Lenku has flown to the restive Mandera region in an attempt to allay the concerns of people, our reporter says.

There are no reports of a specific threat, but many people in Mandera are worried that al-Shabab could strike again, especially as the festive season approaches, he adds.

Six unions – including those representing doctors, teachers and civil servants – have advised members to leave until security forces can ensure their safety.

The call could affect more than 10,000 teachers and 16,500 civil servants in major towns such as Mandera, Wajir and Garissa

Source  BBC

The Kenya Air Force has a new Commander

                                                                              Major General Joff Otieno at a previous event. File Photo courtesy of militaryphotos.net

The Kenya Air Force has a new commander after Major General Joff Otieno who has been at the helm retired.

A statement by the Ministry of Defense said President Uhuru Kenyatta had on Wednesday retired Major General Otieno on age grounds and promoted Brigadier Samuel Ng’ang’a Thuita to Major General then appointed him the new Air Force commander.

The statement also announced a raft of other changes within the military ranks.

The President made the changes on the advice of the Defense Council, under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary for Defense Raychelle Omamo.