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Two court cases the UAE and Bahrain are hoping the West forgets | UAE

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Over the holiday season, two prominent Gulf human rights activists will have their appeals heard. One is the Emirati Ahmed Mansoor jailed for 10 years, the other the Bahraini Nabeel Rajab jailed for five. I know both men and am proud to call them friends. The fact that their appeals will be heard at a time when the attention of the West will be otherwise engaged in festive celebrations is no coincidence. Rather, it is a cynical ploy.

The authorities in both countries would much prefer that the outcome of the appeals is largely ignored. Both myself and the many human rights organisations that follow their cases fear that the appeals will be dismissed. The justice systems in both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are highly politicised and have no real independence from the ruling families.

Let me tell you a little bit about Ahmed Mansoor and Nabeel Rajab and the extraordinary courage they and their families have shown over years of harassment, arrests and imprisonment.

Although they have campaigned always peacefully for free media, freedom of expression and association and for democratic reform, they have been treated as security threats by their governments when, in fact, they are great patriots.

Ahmed Mansoor, the father of four young children, was the winner of the prestigious 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He once joked with me that he was “the last man talking” in the UAE and the region about human rights violations. He pretty much was. Almost every other activist in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is in jail, in exile or silenced by the fear of what the authorities will do not only to them but also to their loved ones.

Ahmed and his family have paid a heavy price for his human rights advocacy.

In early 2011, after signing a petition calling for democratic and economic reforms, he was subjected to an online smear campaign which, he told me, was orchestrated by the state security apparatus. “Twitter, Facebook, text messages, television and radio spread false information about me to create an environment of hatred,” he said. It was a campaign that included many death threats.

In April of that year, he was arrested, held in jail for nearly eight months and convicted, together with three other human rights proponents, of “insulting the rulers” in a trial that was widely seen as grossly unfair.

On November 27, 2011, Ahmed was sentenced to three years in jail. The next day, thanks largely to an international outcry, he and the others sentenced with him were pardoned. 

By the time he was released, he had already lost his job as a senior engineer in a telecommunications firm. Subsequently, the government refused to issue him a Certificate of Good Conduct, citing his conviction. Without the certificate, he couldn’t be employed in either the private or public sectors. His passport was confiscated and he was banned from travel, a ban which the authorities refused to lift so he could receive the Martin Ennals Award in person in Geneva.

Then, in March of 2017, he was seized and taken to an unknown place. His family had no idea where he was and had virtually no contact with him. He was denied access to a lawyer of his choosing. Nearly a year after he was taken, he was brought to court, sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined one million dirham ($272,300) after being convicted of “insulting the ‘status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols’ including its leaders” and of “seeking to damage the relationship of the UAE with its neighbours by publishing false reports and information on social media.”





Human rights activists, Zainab al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab meet with activists after al-Khawaja’s release from prison, in Manama, Bahrain on June 3, 2016 [Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed]

Nabeel Rajab, whom I have known since 2007, was arrested in June 2016 and held on remand for more than a year and a half, much of that time in solitary confinement. In February of this year, he was brought to trial, swiftly found guilty and handed the five-year term. He was convicted of “disseminating false rumours in time of war”, for “offending a foreign country” and for “insulting a statutory body” for tweets critical of the war in Yemen and for the mistreatment of detainees in Bahrain’s Jau prison. 

Nabeel had already spent several years in and out of jail for his persistent refusal to cease his peaceful criticism of the extensive human rights abuses of the Bahraini regime. Like Ahmed Mansoor, he understood that to continue the journey for freedom and democratic reform would inevitably mean more jail time. He had a small bag packed by the door, waiting either for the midnight raid to take him away or for the morning phone call instructing him to present himself at the office of the public prosecutor.

Like Ahmed’s family, Nabeel’s family – his brave wife Sumaya and their children – have suffered greatly. His son Adam has courageously carried on the struggle to keep his father’s name in the public domain. 

In all the time I have known Nabeel, he has never once doubted that his cause was rightful, nor that the justice must be obtained through peaceful means. He fears that constant harassment and ongoing repression by the state will lead only to more violence. As he told me once:

“There is no place for peaceful protest. All marches are banned and you can’t talk on Twitter. There is no tolerance for any criticism. The government is filling the jails with human rights activists and opposition politicians, all of us advocates for peaceful change.”

He also once told me that the authorities had offered him his release with only one condition: that he ceases and desists from criticising the regime. He told me those were not terms he could ever contemplate accepting. 

And I remember asking Ahmed why he continued on his lonely fight. He said: “The only way to counter repression is by revealing it. And yes there is always that possibility that I will go back to jail. But if [activists] do not talk, who will?”

Ahmed Mansoor’s appeal is scheduled for December 30, Nabeel Rajab’s the next day. Spare a thought and shout out support for these two courageous patriots and for their families.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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