Egypt

Last Updated – July 2, 2015

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The Scotsman

Egypt checkpoint bombings leave at least 38 dead

July 2, 2015

Islamic militants killed at least 38 soldiers at Egyptian army checkpoints in simultaneous ­attacks yesterday. The attacks in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula included suicide car bombings, security and military officials said. The co-ordinated morning assaults in Sinai came a day after Egypt’s president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, pledged to step up the battle against Islamic militants and two days after the country’s state prosecutor Hisham Barakat was assassinated in the capital, Cairo. The scope and intensity of the attacks underscored the resilience and advanced planning by the militants who have for years battled Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai but intensified their insurgency over the past two years just as the government threw more resources into the drawn-out fight.

An Islamic State affiliate in Egypt claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying its fighters targeted a total of 15 army and police positions and staged three suicide bombings, two of which targeted checkpoints and one that hit an officers’ club in the nearby city of el-Arish. The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified but it was posted on a Facebook page associated with the group. Except for the attack at the officers’ club, the rest took place in the town of Sheikh Zuweid and targeted at least six military checkpoints, the officials said. The militants also took soldiers captive and seized weapons and several armoured vehicles, they added.

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SOURCE = The Scotsman

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Reuters

Amnesty slams Egypt over arrests of youths

June 30, 2015

Amnesty International has accused the Egyptian authorities of jailing young activists to quell unrest under one of the toughest crackdowns in the country’s history. In a report released Tuesday called “Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison,” Amnesty looked at the cases of 14 young people among thousands it said were arbitrarily imprisoned in Egypt in the past two years in connection with protests. Amnesty and other human rights groups have criticised what they call repressive policies under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

“By relentlessly targeting Egypt’s youth activists, the authorities are crushing an entire generation’s hopes for a brighter future,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International. After the 2010 uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak, youths were seen as potential engines for change. “Yet, today, many of these young activists are languishing behind bars, providing every indication that Egypt has regressed into a state of all-out repression,” said Sahraoui. Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty denied that Egypt is targeting youth activists in a crackdown on dissent.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Reprieve

Egypt’s president to change law to permit speedy executions: Reprieve comment

June 30, 2015

Egypt’s President, General Abdel-Fattah al Sisi, has said he wants to change the law to allow for quicker executions in the country. In remarks at the funeral of Egypt’s Attorney-General Hisham Barakat, who died after a car bomb attack on Monday, Sisi is reported to have said: “The arm of justice is chained by the law. We’re not going to wait for this. We’re going to amend the law to allow us to implement justice as soon as possible”. He added: “If there is a death sentence, a death sentence shall be enforced.”

The decision to expedite executions for those sentenced to death raises fears for scores of people arrested in the military’s 2013 breakup of protests. Many face possible death sentences in mass trials that fail to meet international standards; including juveniles such as Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who is being tried as an adult alongside 493 other people. Ibrahim, a student from Dublin, was 17 and visiting family in Cairo when he was arrested in August 2013. Now 19, he has reported torture and mistreatment throughout his two years of pre-trial detention.

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SOURCE = Reprieve

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BBC News

Egypt’s Sisi vows tougher laws after prosecutor’s killing

June 30, 2015

Egypt’s president has vowed to enact legal reforms so death sentences can be enforced more swiftly, a day after the assassination of the public prosecutor. At the funeral of Hisham Barakat, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi complained that the hand of justice was shackled by the law. He promised to unveil changes within days to allow death sentences to be implemented as soon as possible. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members, including ousted President Mohammed Morsi, have been sentenced to death.

As public prosecutor, Mr Barakat referred thousands to trial after the military overthrew Mr Morsi in 2013 and launched a crackdown on the Islamist movement. The Brotherhood has denied any responsibility for Monday’s car bomb attack on Mr Barakat’s convoy in a suburb of the capital, Cairo. Analysts say the killing bears the hallmarks of a jihadist group based in the Sinai peninsula that has pledged its allegiance to Islamic State and shot dead two judges and a prosecutor in May.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Reuters

Egypt’s imprisonment of journalists at all-time high – CPJ

June 25, 2015

Egypt is holding the highest number of journalists behind bars since record keeping began, using the pretext of national security to crack down on press freedoms, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday. A prison census conducted by the CPJ on June 1 found at least 18 Egyptian journalists were being held in jail for reasons related to their reporting, the most in Egypt since the CPJ began recording data on imprisoned journalists in 1990. “The threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of an atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics,” the CPJ said in a report published on Thursday.

Khaled al-Balshy, the head of the freedoms committee of Egypt’s press syndicate, said the number of journalists imprisoned was higher, putting it at more than 30. “We are in the worst climate for journalism in Egypt’s history,” he told Reuters. Reuters could not independently confirm the number in detention in Egypt. CPJ said most of the journalists imprisoned are accused by the government of belonging to or being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designates as a terrorist group. Authorities say the Brotherhood is a threat to national security and they deny allegations of abuses. Some of the journalists denied charges of links to the Brotherhood.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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BBC News

German court to rule on al-Jazeera reporter extradition

June 22, 2015

A German court is due to rule on an extradition request from Egypt concerning a senior journalist from the al-Jazeera channel. Ahmed Mansour, who works for the network’s Arabic-language service, was detained as he tried to board a flight from Berlin to Qatar. A court in Egypt’s capital Cairo sentenced him to 15 years in prison in absentia last year on torture charges. Mr Mansour’s lawyer said an extradition hearing would take place on Monday. Even if the court backs his extradition, the German government could still veto the ruling. Al-Jazeera says the charges made against Mr Mansour, who has dual British and Egyptian citizenship, are absurd and false.

He is accused, along with two Muslim Brotherhood members and an Islamic preacher, of taking part in the torture of a lawyer in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, during protests against then-President Hosni Mubarak. Video footage shows the lawyer being kicked but does not show Mr Mansour, according to the Associated Press news agency. The journalist later interviewed the preacher about the incident, AP says. As Mr Mansour spent a second night in custody in Berlin on Sunday, protesters gathered outside the prison in which he is being held. The group, calling itself the German-Egyptian Union for Democracy, demanded Mr Mansour’s immediate release. A police spokesman said that the Egyptian-issued arrest warrant accused Mr Mansour of committing “several crimes” but he gave no further details.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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BBC News

Egypt Islamists get life for Kerdasa church attack

April 29, 2015

A court in Egypt has sentenced 69 Islamists to life in prison for setting fire to a church in a town near Cairo. Two minors were also jailed for 10 years for their alleged role in the blaze, which started when violence erupted in Kerdasa on 14 August 2013. A wave of unrest swept the country that day after hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi were killed in a crackdown in the capital. Scores of churches and Christian property were looted and torched.

Members of Morsi’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, accused the Coptic Christian minority community of participating in what they denounced as a “coup”. They cited Pope Tawadros II’s appearance alongside then military chief – now president – Abdul Fattah al-Sisi when he announced that Morsi had been removed from office following widespread protests against him. In addition to setting fire to the church in Kerdasa, the defendants sentenced on Wednesday were found guilty of attempting to murder civilians and possessing illegal weapons. However, one of the defence lawyers insisted “no proof” had been presented at the trial.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Egypt’s trial of Mursi “badly flawed” -Human Rights Watch

April 26, 2015

CAIRO, April 26 (Reuters) – The trial of former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, deposed by the army and sentenced to 20 years in jail, was “badly flawed” and appears to have been politically motivated, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. A court on April 21 convicted Mursi and 12 other Muslim Brotherhood members of violence, kidnapping and torture over the deaths of protesters in 2012. They were acquitted of murder, which carries the death sentence. The rise to power of the Brotherhood, a decades-old Islamist movement, after the Arab Spring uprisings polarised Egypt’s population and led to months of unrest.

The army ousted Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, army chief at the time, went on to win presidential elections last year. Human Rights Watch said Mursi’s detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law, and it criticised the prosecution’s heavy reliance on the testimony of military and police officers. “Whatever political responsibility (Mursi) may have, the prosecution didn’t establish his criminal guilt in this case”, the rights group said in a statement entitled “Egypt: (Mursi) Trial Badly Flawed”.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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mail

Death sentences upheld for 11 fans in retrial of defendants from Egypt football riot that left 74 dead

April 19, 2015

Eleven football fans have had their death sentences upheld after a retrial over a stadium riot in Egypt which left 74 people dead. The riot erupted in February 2012 when supporters of home team Al-Masry – from the canal city of Port Said – and Cairo’s Al-Ahly clashed after an Egyptian league match between the two clubs. An appeals court ordered the retrial of 73 defendants last year after rejecting a lower court’s verdict, which sentenced 21 people to death. Eleven of the fans were again sentenced to death today, with their verdicts referred to Egypt’s supreme court, the Grand Mufti. The court will make a final decision on their fates, as well as those of the other defendants, on May 30. The 73 defendants include nine police officers and three officials from Al-Masry club, while the rest were fans of the team.

Two of those sentenced to death are on the run. None of the families of the victims or of the defendants attended today’s court session, which was held in Cairo for security reasons.  The clashes in the Port Said stadium sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed in fighting with security forces. A year later, dozens of people also died in the canal city during riots which started after the lower court handed down the 21 original death sentences. The football riots were the deadliest ever seen in Egypt, where football fans regularly clash with rival supporters and security forces. The authorities reacted by imposing a ban on fans attending matches and held games behind closed doors.

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SOURCE = The Mail

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Reuters

Egypt Brotherhood trial relied on single testimony – Human Rights Watch

April 19, 2015

The prosecution’s evidence in a trial this month of 51 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt relied on the testimony of one police officer, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. HRW said the prosecution had presented little evidence to show the defendants did anything other than spread news about a mass sit-in in Rabaa square in 2013 and organise peaceful protests. The court on April 11 had condemned 14 men to death and 37 others to a life sentence for their actions in opposition to the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 by the military under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president. HRW’s criticism of Egypt’s judiciary comes two days before a separate trial involving Mursi in which he could face a possible death sentence.

Since taking office in 2014, Sisi has identified Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to national security. He has described the outlawed Brotherhood as part of a network of violent Islamist groups that pose an threat to the Arab world and the West. The Brotherhood denies the allegations and says it is a peaceful movement determined to reverse a military coup that ousted Mursi. Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of alleged Brotherhood supporters to death in mass trials. The charges in last week’s trial ranged from publishing false news to planning to spread chaos. Those sentenced to death included Mohamed Badie, leader of the Brotherhood.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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74cc8-guardian_logo

When should Sainsbury’s have told shareholders about Egypt case?

April 29, 2015

Here’s a question that doesn’t crop up often. If you are a FTSE 100 company and your chief executive has been sentenced to two years in prison in Egypt, should you inform your shareholders promptly? The company in question is Sainsbury’s, where the Times reveals (subscription) that Mike Coupe was convicted in absentia of embezzlement last September in bizarre proceedings that related to the supermarket chain’s short-lived business in Egypt 14 years ago. According to Sainsbury’s, the case against Coupe is farcical, it should be said. They say he was in London on 15 July last year when it is claimed he seized cheques in the Egyptian city of Giza. If so, then no doubt Sainsbury’s lawyers will succeed in getting the case thrown out.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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International Business Times

Egypt teachers suspended for refusing to chant: ‘Long Live al-Sisi’

April 29, 2015

Four teachers have been suspended and reported to the police in Egypt for refusing to chant “Long Live al-Sisi” in tribute to the country’s president. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Masri al-Youm reported Wednesday that the teachers – believed to be members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – were reported by the head teacher at a school in a village in the country’s western province. The head teacher had been giving a speech praising Egypt’s ongoing military conflict against Islamist groups in the Sinai and began cheering: “Long Live Egypt, Long Live al-Sisi.”

The teachers refused to chant and were suspended for four months, the Arabic newspaper reported. The case has highlighted the increasingly repressive political environment in Egypt since the overthrow of elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi in a military coup in 2013. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the coup, then won elections in which the Brotherhood was barred from taking part. Human rights groups have heavily criticised the al-Sisi government for its subsequent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, thousands of members of which are currently jailed and its spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, is currently on death row.

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SOURCE = International Business Times

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BBC News

Egypt Islamists get life for Kerdasa church attack

April 29, 2015

A court in Egypt has sentenced 69 Islamists to life in prison for setting fire to a church in a town near Cairo. Two minors were also jailed for 10 years for their alleged role in the blaze, which started when violence erupted in Kerdasa on 14 August 2013. A wave of unrest swept the country that day after hundreds of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi were killed in a crackdown in the capital.

Scores of churches and Christian property were looted and torched. Members of Morsi’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, accused the Coptic Christian minority community of participating in what they denounced as a “coup”. They cited Pope Tawadros II’s appearance alongside then military chief – now president – Abdul Fattah al-Sisi when he announced that Morsi had been removed from office following widespread protests against him.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Egypt’s trial of Mursi “badly flawed” -Human Rights Watch

 

April 26, 2015

CAIRO, April 26 (Reuters) – The trial of former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, deposed by the army and sentenced to 20 years in jail, was “badly flawed” and appears to have been politically motivated, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. A court on April 21 convicted Mursi and 12 other Muslim Brotherhood members of violence, kidnapping and torture over the deaths of protesters in 2012. They were acquitted of murder, which carries the death sentence. The rise to power of the Brotherhood, a decades-old Islamist movement, after the Arab Spring uprisings polarised Egypt’s population and led to months of unrest.

The army ousted Mursi in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, army chief at the time, went on to win presidential elections last year. Human Rights Watch said Mursi’s detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law, and it criticised the prosecution’s heavy reliance on the testimony of military and police officers.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

 

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International Business Times

Mohammed Morsi verdict: Why did Egypt jail its first democratically elected president?

April 21, 2015

Just a year after Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi was chosen in Egypt’s first democratic election, thousands of protesters took to the streets across Egypt calling for his resignation. In the capital, Cairo, streets were flooded with protesters shouting “leave” and “the people want the fall of the regime” – chants that were popularised during the 2011 revolution and used to oust former dictator Hosni Mubarak, were now being used against the man who replaced him. The crowds were rallied by the former chief of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, and leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.

But Morsi was not unpopular with all Egyptians, and the hundreds of thousands who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2012 elections and did not oppose the party’s passing of controversial Islamic laws in Egypt were also represented on the streets. Thousands of Morsi’s supporters staged rallies in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City and elsewhere in Cairo. This polarisation of opinion in Egypt was always going to result in violence. On 5 and 6 December 2012, this came to a head in clashes between Morsi’s supporters and opponents near Qasr Al-Ittihadiah – the Presidential Palace. In two days of violence, at least 11 people died and more than 600 were wounded.

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SOURCE = International Business Times

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Reuters

U.S. concerned about sentencing of Mursi in Egypt -White House

 

April 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) – The United States is concerned about the sentencing of former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday. Mursi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to 20 years in jail on Tuesday on charges arising from killing of protesters, nearly three years after he became Egypt’s first freely elected president.

SOURCE = (Reporting By Julia Edwards; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

 

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Washington post

Egypt court sentences belly dancer for ‘insulting’ flag

April 20, 2015

CAIRO — An Egyptian court has sentenced a popular Armenian belly dancer to six months in prison for “insulting the Egyptian flag” after she allegedly wore a tight dress in its red, white and black color scheme.

The court in Agouza, west of Cairo, said on Monday that Sofinar Gourian, known popularly as “Safinaz,” was fined 15,000 pounds (almost $2,000) and paid another 10,000 pounds bail pending appeal. The case had been initiated by a private complaint.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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mail

Death sentences upheld for 11 fans in retrial of defendants from Egypt football riot that left 74 dead 

April 20, 2015

Eleven football fans have had their death sentences upheld after a retrial over a stadium riot in Egypt which left 74 people dead. The riot erupted in February 2012 when supporters of home team Al-Masry – from the canal city of Port Said – and Cairo’s Al-Ahly clashed after an Egyptian league match between the two clubs. An appeals court ordered the retrial of 73 defendants last year after rejecting a lower court’s verdict, which sentenced 21 people to death. Eleven of the fans were again sentenced to death today, with their verdicts referred to Egypt’s supreme court, the Grand Mufti.

The court will make a final decision on their fates, as well as those of the other defendants, on May 30. The 73 defendants include nine police officers and three officials from Al-Masry club, while the rest were fans of the team. Two of those sentenced to death are on the run.None of the families of the victims or of the defendants attended today’s court session, which was held in Cairo for security reasons. The clashes in the Port Said stadium sparked days of violent protests in Cairo, in which another 16 people were killed in fighting with security forces.

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SOURCE = The Daily Mail

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Reuters

Egypt Brotherhood trial relied on single testimony – Human Rights Watch

April 19, 2015

(Reuters) – The prosecution’s evidence in a trial this month of 51 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt relied on the testimony of one police officer, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday. HRW said the prosecution had presented little evidence to show the defendants did anything other than spread news about a mass sit-in in Rabaa square in 2013 and organise peaceful protests. The court on April 11 had condemned 14 men to death and 37 others to a life sentence for their actions in opposition to the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013 by the military under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president.

HRW’s criticism of Egypt’s judiciary comes two days before a separate trial involving Mursi in which he could face a possible death sentence. Since taking office in 2014, Sisi has identified Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to national security. He has described the outlawed Brotherhood as part of a network of violent Islamist groups that pose an threat to the Arab world and the West.

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SOURCE = Reuters

 

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BBC News

#BBCtrending: Why George Orwell is trending in Egypt

November 10, 2014

The British author’s name is a byword for the struggle against totalitarianism. Now an arrest in Egypt has led activists to embrace George Orwell as a social media trend. It has been over six decades since Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, published 1984, his acclaimed novel about life under the totalitarian rule of the ever watchful ‘Big Brother’. The book even led to a new adjective, ‘Orwellian,’ to describe life under oppressive state power. So when a newspaper in Egypt reported that the police had arrested a student for carrying the book, it was immediately seized upon by activists. The author’s name is now trending on Twitter in Egypt.

The initial report in the Al Masry al Youm newspaper on Sunday claimed that a student at Cairo University was arrested “for carrying” the book. The student was also carrying material supportive of Islamic State, according to the report. But it was Orwell’s book that people on social media picked up on. The 6th of April youth movement, a group that opposes the government and has been active since before Egypt’s revolution in 2011, posted the news report on their Facebook page. They added a link to an Arabic version of the book calling on their followers to read it. Their post has had over 5,000 likes.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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bbc

Islamic State: Egyptian militants pledge loyalty

November 10, 2014

A jihadist group which has carried out a series of attacks on security forces in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). Ansar Beit al-Maqdis announced the move on a Twitter account in Arabic, saying IS promised “a new dawn raising the banner of monotheism”. IS has taken over large parts of conflict-racked Syria and Iraq, declaring a cross-border caliphate. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis had previously denied allying itself with IS. The group used the same Twitter account last week to dismiss reports that it had pledged allegiance to the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In its latest pronouncement, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – or Champions of Jerusalem – made no reference to its previous denial, but said Baghdadi had been chosen by God to set up a new caliphate.

The group promised to “listen and obey” him and appealed to Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance. The whereabouts of Baghdadi remain unclear after the Iraqi authorities said on Sunday that he had been wounded in an air strike by US-led fighter jets. The US is leading a coalition effort providing air support to forces trying to defeat IS on the ground. President Barack Obama said at the weekend that the battle against IS was entering a “new phase” with the deployment of 1,500 more troops – non-combat advisers – to Iraq. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis’ pledge of loyalty to IS is being seen as a further sign of IS’s growing appeal to other Muslim militant groups.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Egypt considers tighter curbs on media coverage of military

November 10, 2014

CAIRO, Nov 10 (Reuters) – Egypt is drafting a law tightening restrictions on media coverage of the armed forces, government and judicial sources said, alarming journalists who believe this would end three years of relative press freedom. One source played down any threat to freedoms won after the 2011 overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, saying legislation under discussion would restrict only reporting that endangers national security while Egypt fights Islamist militants. But journalists fear that if implemented, it would end general coverage of the military which as the main pillar of the Egyptian state wields major political and economic influence.

A law in effect for decades already bans reporting on the military without permission, but a text of the new draft leaked to local media would increase curbs and penalties. Before Mubarak’s fall, Egyptian media ran only official statements on the army, but after the uprising the ban was not fully enforced and criticism of the military became widespread. The draft has not been officially released, but a text that appeared in the pro-government El-Watan newspaper last week suggests it will ban publication of “any news, information, statistics, statements or documents related to the armed forces, their formations, movements… operations or plans” without written permission from army general command.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

 

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74cc8-guardian_logo

Amal Clooney calls on Egypt to release journalist Mohamed Fahmy

November 6, 2014

Amal Clooney has called on the Egyptian government to release her client Mohamed Fahmy on medical grounds, after she disclosed that the jailed al-Jazeera journalist is suffering from Hepatitis C. In a statement released through her London-based chambers, the prominent rights lawyer said Fahmy was imprisoned on spurious grounds, and needed urgent treatment for both Hepatitis C and a shoulder injury that has been exacerbated by his time in jail. “Mr Fahmy’s trial was fundamentally unfair and his imprisonment a travesty of justice,” Clooney said in a text co-authored with Mark Wassouf, another barrister at Doughty Street chambers. “Egypt’s Supreme Court should overturn his conviction and release him when it hears his appeal. And in the meantime the authorities should grant him temporary release so that he can receive the medical treatment that he so urgently needs.”

Fahmy has been jailed since last December along with two al-Jazeera colleagues, the Australian ex-BBC correspondent Peter Greste and local producer Baher Mohamed. In June the three were convicted of aiding terrorists, doctoring footage, and conspiring against Egypt’s national security, charges observers said were clearly politicised. The trio worked for al-Jazeera English, whose affiliation with the Qatari-owned al-Jazeera Arabic network – a network whose clear antipathy for the current Egyptian government severely riled the authorities in Cairo – was the most prominent factor in their arrest and conviction.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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ABC News

Egypt’s Human Rights Record Slammed at UN Meeting

November 5, 2014

Egypt’s human rights record came under harsh criticism during a U.N. review Wednesday, with the United States and European nations urging President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government to reverse tough measures enacted following last year’s overthrow of his Islamist predecessor that have clamped down on freedoms. The damning assessment came during the first U.N. review of the country’s human rights record since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The uprising was led by youthful activists hoping for a more democratic future, but rights groups say today’s government is even more oppressive, having enacted draconian curbs on protests and political activity and jailed thousands of Islamist and secular opponents.

“We are deeply concerned with steps taken by Egypt that have resulted in violations of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, deprived thousands of Egyptians of fair trial guarantees, and undermined civil society’s role in the country,” U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper told the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. Harper called for the release of political prisoners and urged Egypt to “investigate excessive use of force by security forces, publicly release findings, and prosecute those identified as being responsible.” Hundreds of protesters have been killed during clashes with security forces under the transitional military leadership following the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak, as well as since the first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, took office in 2012. The violence only intensified when the military overthrew Morsi following mass protests against him last year, with security forces violently breaking up demonstrations by Islamists denouncing his removal. Hundreds were killed over a few days in the summer of 2013.

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SOURCE = ABC News

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ABC News

Egypt Journalists Defy Editors on Freedoms

November 2, 2014

Several hundred Egyptian journalists have rejected a recent policy declaration by newspaper editors pledging near-blind support to the state and banning criticism of the police, army and judiciary in their publications, arguing that the move was designed to create a one-voiced media. In a statement posted Sunday on social media networks, the journalists said fighting terrorism was both a duty and an honor but has nothing to do with the “voluntary surrender” of the freedom of expression as outlined in the editors’ Oct. 26 declaration.

“Standing up to terrorism with a shackled media and sealed lips means offering the nation to extremism as an easy prey and turning public opinion into a blind creature unaware of the direction from which it is being hit or how to deal with it,” said the statement. Khaled el-Balshi, a board member of the Journalists’ Union who initiated the move, said the statement came out of a meeting Saturday in which journalists discussed the future of the local media. El-Balshi, who edits a news website, said at least 300 journalists have so far signed the statement online. The number rose to 350 by Sunday evening. “It is an attempt to make newspapers speak with one voice,” he told The Associated Press. “The move by the editors of the newspapers was like establishing a political party in support of the regime. They want to end diversity.”

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SOURCE = ABC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood condemns Sinai attacks

October 26, 2014

CAIRO, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood has condemned attacks in the Sinai Peninsula that killed at least 33 security personnel on Friday but said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was responsible for security failures. The attacks are a setback for the government, which had managed over the past few months to make some progress in the struggle against an Islamist militant insurgency in the Sinai as it focuses on trying to repair the economy. As army chief Sisi ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood in July 2013 after protests against his rule.

His government has since cracked down on Egypt’s oldest and most organised Islamist movement, throwing thousands of Mursi’s supporters in jail and labelling the group a terrorist organisation. It draws no distinction between the Brotherhood and Islamist militants in the Sinai. The Muslim Brotherhood says it is a peaceful movement and has consistently denied links to Islamist militant attacks against security forces, which have increased since the movement was removed from power. In an e-mailed statement, the Brotherhood called the attacks a “massacre” and offered condolences to the victims’ families.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Washington post

Foreign conspiracy behind Sinai attack, Egypt’s president says

October 25, 2014

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi said Saturday that an assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 30 troops was a “foreign-funded operation” and vowed to take drastic action against militants. In remarks delivered before cameras ahead of a military funeral for the slain troops, Sissi said there are foreign powers that want to “break the back of Egypt,” without elaborating. He vowed to take extreme measures to uproot the militants and said Egypt is engaged in an “extensive war” that will last a long time. “There is a big conspiracy against us,” he said while standing with army commanders.

Militants launched a complex assault on the checkpoint Friday that involved a car bomb possibly detonated by a suicide attacker, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside explosives placed to target rescuers. Egypt declared a state of emergency and imposed a 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew in the restive northern part of the peninsula after the assault, the deadliest against the army in decades. No one has asserted responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of the extremist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has carried out several strikes on security forces since the military overthrew ­Mohamed Morsi last year amid massive protests against the ­Islamist president.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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Reuters

Masked men burn Saudi consulate cars in Egypt – sources

October 24, 2014

(Reuters) – Masked men set fire to two cars belonging to the consulate of Saudi Arabia in the Egyptian city of Suez on Friday morning, local security sources and the state news agency reported. Security sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters at least four men threw crude fire bombs at the vehicles. State news agency MENA said the cars were parked in a lot in Suez’s Arbaeen district. Saudi Arabia has been a strong backer of Egypt since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled former president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year. The attack appeared to be the first on Saudi property or personnel in Egypt since then.

Major General Tareq al-Gazar, director of security in the city, said authorities were working to identify the attackers. The Saudi embassy in Cairo declined to comment. Tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested since Mursi’s overthrow. One person died from a gunshot wound during clashes between security forces and Brotherhood supporters in the impoverished Materiya district of Cairo on Friday afternoon, the website of state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

USAID tamped down internal criticism over Egypt work – report

 

October 23, 2014

WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Auditors and employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development say critical assessments of the agency’s work in Egypt were removed from a report before it was released by the agency’s inspector general, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. The 21-page report was trimmed to nine pages and among the details cut was the payment of $4.6 million in what was described as bail money to the Egyptian government in 2012 to free 16 American non-government workers who had been arrested, the newspaper said. The Americans were from organizations that USAID had hired to promote democratic programs in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in 2011. The son of Ray LaHood, who was then U.S. transportation secretary, was among them.

The inspector general’s office (OIG) of the USAID, the government agency that administers foreign civilian aid, put together a confidential draft audit of the agency’s work in Egypt that the Post said questioned the wisdom of the program and whether it was legal to use government money to post the bail. The final report released five months later had excised those findings and other criticisms, the newspaper said. It also cited USAID employees who said the agency’s OIG, which is supposed to act as an internal watchdog, had become an in-house defender. They said negative findings had been removed from audits between 2011 and 2013, although in some cases, those findings were included in confidential “management letters” and financial documents. A Post analysis showed that more than 400 negative references had been removed from USAID draft audits before their final versions were issued.

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SOURCE = Thomson Reuters Foundation

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New generation of archaeologists takes ancient Egypt into 21st century

October 23, 2014

Five years ago, if archaeologists digging up pharaonic ruins in Egypt found any human bones, they would usually throw them away. “Most Egyptian archaeological missions looked at human remains as garbage,” said Afaf Wahba, a young official at Egypt’s antiquities ministry. But osteology, the study of bones, is standard practice on digs outside Egypt – and Wahba wants Egyptian teams to follow suit. After a five-year campaign, each Egyptian province is now meant to have an osteologist, and Wahba hopes the ministry will found its own osteology department. But, as she put it: “I am struggling to inform people in the SCA [the ministry’s governing body] that human remains are very important.”

Wahba’s mission is one example of a generational shift that optimists hope can slowly reform Egypt’s bureaucratic state institutions, not least its ministry of state for antiquities (MSA). The MSA has ultimate jurisdiction over arguably the planet’s most impressive collection of monuments and museums, hundreds of sites including the tomb of Tutankhamun, the mosques of medieval Cairo, and – in the Giza pyramids – the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. “It’s a bit like English Heritage, the British Museum and a university research department rolled into one,” said Chris Naunton, the head of the Egypt Exploration Society (EES), a British charity that supports Egyptian archaeology.

Yet despite its power and potential, the ministry – like many Egyptian institutions – is often accused of being a quagmire of paperwork. Foreign archaeologists complain they sometimes can’t import the equipment they need, or export rock samples for analysis. Taking such samples to foreign laboratories is banned and, as a result, local digs are overlooked by international donors, who prioritise projects with access to the latest research techniques. “Bureaucracy is such a monster in Egypt,” said Giulio Lucarini, an archaeology professor whose digs are among those affected by the ban based in Cambridge.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

INTERVIEW-Don’t prejudge Egypt’s new draft NGO law, says minister

 

October 23, 2014

CAIRO, Oct 23 (Reuters) – Egypt’s minister of social solidarity has urged civil society groups not to prejudge a new draft law for non-government organisations (NGOs), which they fear will roll back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising and could threaten their existence. Ghada Wali said the draft was still open to revision and could be further amended by parliament, which she hopes will pass the law after elections expected later this year. Speaking at the ministry building in Cairo, she said harsh criticism of the proposed law by NGOs was premature given that the latest version has not yet been made public.

Civil society groups had charged that an earlier draft would strengthen security services’ hand to control them. They worry ambiguous language could be used to prevent groups from operating and harshly punish those that did. Earlier drafts have also been hostile to foreign NGOs and groups receiving foreign funds, they say, prompting at least one organisation, the Carter Center, to leave Egypt. The NGO law has gone through multiple iterations since mass protests toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

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SOURCE = Thompson Reuters Foundation

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Egypt in classism row over prosecutors sacked because parents had no degrees

October 21, 2014

Fresh concerns have been raised about Egypt’s judicial system, after officials refused to reinstate dozens of young prosecutors who were sacked because their parents lacked a university education. Just months after they were appointed, 138 new prosecutors were removed from office in September 2013 following a ruling from the judiciary’s governing body that said only those born to parents with undergraduate degrees could join the state prosecution. The sacked prosecutors – mostly law graduates who left university last summer – accuse the judiciary of classism, and of infringing both Egypt’s constitution, which bans discrimination, as well as international labour laws. A year on, after failing to overturn the decision in the courts, they have asked for the intervention of the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, whose parents did not attend university.

The deadlock is “a disaster to social justice”, Mohamed Kamal-Eddin, one of the excluded prosecutors, told Ahram Online, the English-language version of Egypt’s flagship state newspaper. “This condition is a punishment to the parents for not having received university education. Judges are supposed to be the guards of justice. It is absurd that they decide such a condition.’’ The justice ministry declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian. So did two spokesmen for the 138 prosecutors, saying the issue was an exclusively Egyptian matter that should not interest foreign media. Speaking on Egyptian television, a senior judge and former member of the board that banned the prosecutors said the decision was aimed at upholding the quality of the judiciary. “We have nothing against the job of garbage collectors, but their sons belong in other fields than the judiciary, because it’s a sensitive job,” said Justice Ahmed Abdelrahman. The conflict is the latest in a string of cases to overshadow Egypt’s legal system in recent months, including the politicised trial of three al-Jazeera journalists jailed in June.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

 

 

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Thousands of Egyptians evicted without compensation for Suez project

September 3, 2014

Thousands of Egyptians have been evicted from their homes without compensation to make way for a bypass to the Suez canal, one of the world’s most important trade routes. The inhabitants of two villages in the path of the proposed bypass say that 1,500 homes have already been destroyed, with a total of 5,000 under threat. The 45-mile bypass, dubbed the “new Suez canal” by the Egyptian government, will allow two-way traffic for a section of the canal’s 120-mile length, creating room for more ships, and potentially more revenue for the cash-strapped country.

Announced last month, the project is hailed inside Egypt as the solution to the country’s dire economy and unemployment crises, particularly for the communities that line the canal. But the villagers of Abtal and Qantara, a few hundred metres east of the existing channel, say they are the bypass’s first victims. A week ago, Ibrahim el-Sayed, a 25-year-old farmer with three small children, was evicted from his home by the army, which is supervising the project. The family is now living in a makeshift hut. “We asked them: where should we go? This is our home, at least compensate us,” said Sayed. “But they responded that the army does not compensate anyone. We told them that we’d have to live in the street but they answered that this is not our problem.”

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SOURCE = The Guardian

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The Washington Post

Egypt judge orders rights lawyers be investigated

September 3, 2014

CAIRO — In an unprecedented move, an Egyptian judge ordered prosecutors Wednesday to investigate three activist lawyers over his claims they “rioted” in court when they demanded to see their hunger-striking client. Judge Mohammed Nagui Shehata ordered the investigation following a brief session and adjourned the session to Sept. 17. Shehata is the same judge who recently sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to prison on terrorism related charges. Lawyer Osama el-Mahdi, one of the three attorneys, said the defense team was only doing its job, demanding to see their client Ahmed Douma, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for protesting and is facing another trial.

Douma is one of over a dozen jailed activists who are on hunger strike to protest the government’s crackdown on dissent. Douma started a hunger strike last week to protest his incarceration and his trial and his wife says his health is failing. Before his hunger strike, Douma was already suffering from gastrointestinal problems. Relations between Shehata and lawyers already are tense. The judge, who often appears in court in sunglasses, previously screamed at one defendant in another court case to “shut up,” prompting his lawyers to walk out of the courtroom. El-Mahdi said despite Douma’s poor health, he was carried into court on a chair for the hearing because he could not walk. Shehata refused a request from the lawyers for them to meet with Douma before the hearing. Douma was kept in a brown-tinted glass cage during the hearing, where the lawyers couldn’t see or talk to him.

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SOURCE = The Washington Post

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ABC News

Rights Group: Witness for Report on Egypt Detained

The New York-based group said in a statement Monday that the witness, Mohammed Tareq, was detained during a protest in Egypt’s second-largest city of Alexandria on Friday and ordered held pending an investigation. The group said Tareq’s arrest appears unrelated to his testimony on last summer’s violent security force breakup of sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. But the group said among four others detained with him, Tareq was the only one who was beaten and had his home raided, signaling that he may be targeted for his testimony. The group called the 2013 security crackdown a likely crime against humanity.

Copyright © 2014: ABC News

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Thomson Reuters Foundation

U.S. backs off statement that Egypt, UAE were behind Libya air strikes

August 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Tuesday backed off an earlier statement that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were behind air strikes on Islamist militants in Libya. At a regular State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We understand there were air strikes undertaken in recent days by the UAE and Egypt” in Libya. At the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby also said the two countries were believed to be involved in the strikes but declined to give details. However, late on Tuesday the State Department issued a statement saying the comment on Libya was “intended to refer to countries reportedly involved, not speak for them.” (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Ken Wills)

 

Copyright © 2014: Thompson Reuters Foundation

 

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Reuters

Woman killed in clash between Egypt’s Brotherhood, security forces – sources

April 25, 2014

CAIRO, April 25 (Reuters) – A supporter of Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was killed on Friday in clashes with the security forces in Fayoum province, south of Cairo, medical sources said. The woman, Reda Dahish, died after being hit by birdshot in her stomach. Six other people were injured, the sources said. A Reuters witness saw Brotherhood supporters throwing rocks and fireworks at security forces who fired teargas and used birdshot against the 2protesters. Egypt has faced a surge in violence after the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July following mass protests against him a year after he was elected.

Mursi’s supporters accuse the army of staging a coup while the army says it was siding with the will of the people. Since Mursi was ousted the government has launched a campaign against the Brotherhood, which it has branded a terrorist organisation, arresting thousands of its members including Mursi. Hundreds have been killed in clashes. Attacks by Islamist militants have also killed around 500 people, mostly policemen and soldiers. Egypt is due to hold a presidential election next month that former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the overthrow of Mursi, is widely expected to win. (Reporting by Mohamed Talaat; Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Alison Williams and Sonya Hepinstall)

Copyright © 2014: Reuters

CBS News

Activists keep pressing for democracy in Egypt even after military takes control

April 23, 2014

CAIRO – The Obama administration announced it would complete the sale of 10 Apache attack helicopters to the military dictatorship in Egypt. It’s a reward for Egypt keeping its peace agreement with Israel. But this is the same dictatorship that overthrew Egypt’s only democratically elected government. In Cairo, CBS News caught up with some of the diehard activists who are still pressing for democracy. They were among the first wave of protesters in Tahrir Square three years ago, using social media to spread their call for freedom, helping to overthrow a 30-year dictatorship.

We first met Sherief Gaber at a protest in late 2011. He had returned from studying in the U.S. to join the revolution. “The bravery of the people around me is really what drove me,” Gaber said. “I mean, I was coming back and feeling actually quite disorientated but seeing all of these other people around me doing what they were doing, standing up the way they were, is what actually gave me heart.” But the triumph in Tahrir Square was short-lived. Liberal activists were pushed aside when the Muslim Brotherhood swept the elections, and then again as the military overthrew that government, launching a crackdown on any form of dissent.

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SOURCE = CBS News

MEM

Egypt: More than 20,000 detainees to start ‘uprising’

April 19, 2014

For the first time since the July 3 coup, thousands of Egyptian prisoners announced they would join an “uprising” against the politicization of justice in post-coup Egypt. In a statement obtained by Middle East Monitor Friday, the detainees claimed their numbers exceed 20,000. According to the statement, the detainees include 1232 medical doctors, 2574 engineers, 124 university professors and scientists, 5342 Al-Azhar University affiliates, 3879 students, 704 women, 689 children and thousands of workers in different sectors. All of them are facing a myriad of charges, including terrorism and violence, brought against them by “a bunch of power-hungry killers and coup commanders who carried out a bloody coup that claimed the lives of thousands.” The statement slammed the unprecedented repression by “military coup militias”, citing arbitrary arrests and trumped-up charges brought against “patriotic citizens”. The statement condemned Egyptian judiciary for becoming a tool for the military, politicizing courts and issuing verdicts based on the whims of military coup leaders.

“Court rulings are based on fake, unsubstantiated charges, which leads to verdicts that contravene the law, constitution, and all international standards of fair trials. For instance, one court, in two sessions, sentenced 529 detainees to death over the killing of one police officer. Another court handed down a life sentence for other defendants from the first session. Such speedy justice are illegal but above all illogical,” the statement added. According to the statement, the “torture machine” employed by the military included electrical shocks, removing nails, severe beating and cutting parts of the body. The statement claims that 21 prisoners died of torture inside detention centers since the July 3 coup, 618 are suffering serious diseases, including 53 children suffering from Parotitis but authorities still refuse to release them. Based on the above, the prisoners declared an uprising in all Egyptian prisons to bring down the coup. “It’s time to declare anger,” the statement read. The uprising will start with a hunger strike and a sit-in inside all cells, boycotting prosecution hearings, and personal visits. It is slated to start on April 30.

Copyright © 2014: Middle East Monitor

Middle East Online

Results of Egypt vote appear before time in collection of signatures

April 15, 2014

Supporters of Egyptian presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi are caught in a turf war as they jostle for campaign space in a vote expected to be swept by ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The leftist leader, a longtime opposition figure, was third in the 2012 presidential election won by Islamist Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by Sisi last July. Sabbahi’s followers recently arrived at a Cairo roundabout for a rally, only to find it occupied by supporters of Sisi, frontrunner in the May 26-27 election. The standoff at the busy intersection in Cairo’s working class neighbourhood of Shubra highlights the limited space available for Sabbahi’s campaigners, with almost every street, corner or square in the capital flooded with Sisi posters and banners.

Sabbahi’s camp had to abandon the site and stage their rally some distance away as Sisi’s followers had already erected banners and set up loudspeakers. Police intervened to prevent scuffles after heated arguments broke out between the two groups, a correspondent witnessed. Sabbahi’s campaign team complain of repeated harassment by Sisi’s supporters as their volunteers fan out to collect the 25,000 signatures needed to register their candidate’s bid. Despite the obstacles, Sabbahi supporters are adamant that their candidate can drub Field Marshal Sisi at the polls. Their campaign, they say, is a warning that political forces who spearheaded the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak are still active and will prevent Egypt returning to an era of one-man rule.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

Middle East Online

Egypt court hits Islamist with jail term over Sisi leaks

April 11, 2014

CAIRO – An Egyptian military court on Thursday sentenced a member of a pro-Islamist information website to one year in jail over leaks involving ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, security officials said. Islam al-Homosi was found guilty of “harming the armed forces” after the leak of private conversations between Sisi and military officers on the Rassd information site, the officials said. Rassd made headlines for publishing videos of private meetings between Sisi and military officers and audio leaks of media interviews with Sisi, who retired in March to stand in Egypt’s May 26-27 presidential election.

Another Rassd member, Amr Salama al-Qazzaz, was acquitted, the officials said. Homosi is expected to be able to appeal the verdict after a February presidential decree authorised a higher court to review verdicts handed down by military courts. Egypt’s new constitution adopted in January stipulates that civilians can face military trials in cases involving attacks on military personnel or military installations. The provision has faced stiff opposition from rights activists who argue it could violate a defendant’s right to an impartial trial.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

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Middle East Online

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

April 16, 2014

CAIRO – Egypt’s leftist leader, the ex-army chief’s main rival in next month’s presidential election, Wednesday urged all revolutionary groups to unite, as a liberal party threw its weight behind him. Hamdeen Sabbahi, who has emerged as the main challenger to former field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the May 26-27 vote, also reiterated that the military should stay out of politics. Sabbahi came third in the 2012 presidential election won by Islamist Mohamed Morsi, whom Sisi ousted last July. On Wednesday, Sabbahi urged all groups that joined the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak to unite. “I tell them, now is the time to unify our efforts and define our objectives and prove our ability to win,” the prominent opposition leader said at a news conference.

His plea for unity came as the liberal Al-Dostour party, founded in 2012 by former vice-president and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, threw its weight behind him. Party chief Hala Shukrallah, speaking at the news conference with Sabbahi, said Al-Dostour conducted an internal poll before deciding to back him. Sabbahi, who was jailed several times under Mubarak and his predecessor Anwar Sadat, said his group will taste “one of two victories”. He saw these as either “rule that installs a successful state which expresses the goals of the revolution, or a strong opposition that fights for the same goals”. Sabbahi also reiterated that Egypt’s military must remain aloof of politics.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

Reuters

Former Egypt finance minister released hours after arrest in France – source

April 16, 2014

(Reuters) – Former Egyptian finance minister Youssef Boutros Ghali was released following his arrest in Paris on an international warrant over corruption charges from his time in Hosni Mubarak’s government, a judicial source said on Wednesday. French police released Boutros Ghali hours after he was arrested at the request of Interpol on arriving in Paris from London on Monday, the source said. The source said Boutros Ghali had to be released because of his status as a political refugee in Britain, which includes a guarantee against imprisonment under the Geneva Convention.

As the owner of a Schengen visa, he was free to remain in France or travel within the EU visa-free space, the source said. Boutros Ghali was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison in Egypt for corruption and abuse of power following the uprising that unseated Mubarak in 2011. He was one of a group of influential economic policymakers close to Mubarak’s son Gamal. A nephew to former U.N. secretary general Boutros Boutros Ghali, Boutros Ghali left Egypt just after the 2011 uprising, which was fuelled in part by increasing economic hardship.

Copyright © 2014: Reuters

bbc

Syria rebels driven from Christian town of Maaloula

April 14, 2014

Syrian soldiers backed by Hezbollah fighters have driven rebels from the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, state media and activists say. Army units had “restored security and stability” after eliminating a number of “terrorists”, a military source told the state-run Sana news agency. The nearby village of Sarkha had also been retaken, the source added. Islamist rebels, some of them from the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, took over part of Maaloula in December. Twelve nuns from the monastery of Deir Mar Takla were taken hostage during the initial fighting. They were only released last month as part of a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Lebanon and Qatar as the Syrian army prepared to recapture the nearby town of Yabroud, where they were being held.

Sana reported that army units had to dismantle explosive devices planted in Maaloula by the rebels after recapturing areas they had occupied. Other units were now advancing on Jabaadin, to the south-west, it added. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, confirmed Maaloula and Sarkha had fallen to government forces. It comes a day after they captured the nearby town of Rankous. Maaloula has changed hands at least four times since December as government forces and rebels have launched attacks and counter-attacks, according to the Reuters news agency. The town has several churches and important monasteries, including Deir Mar Takla, which is visited by many Christians and Muslim pilgrims.

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SOURCE = BBC News

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Egyptian police ‘using rape as a weapon’ against dissident groups

April 12, 2014

Two male political dissidents claim they were raped in Egyptian police custody in separate assaults that campaigners suspect are indicative of a wider strategy as the brutal crackdown on opposition continues. Plainclothes officers allegedly assaulted Omar el-Shouekh, 19, inside an east Cairo police station on 24 March, minutes after he was arrested following a student protest. In written testimony provided to the Observer by his lawyer, Shouekh also alleged that he was beaten and given electric shocks. A second man, Fadi Samir, said he was sexually assaulted in similar fashion in a different police station on 8 January. Samir also alleged that throughout his subsequent 42-day detention, he was frequently beaten and at one point groped by a policeman while at a urinal. Like many detainees, Samir alleged that prosecutors interrogated him on police property rather than neutral territory – failing to maintain an adequate separation of powers between Egypt‘s judicial system and the police force. Though their treatment is comparable, the two men come from radically different backgrounds, and this illustrates the breadth of dissent against the Egyptian government. According to government figures, at least 16,000 dissidents – mainly Islamists, but increasingly secular activists, too – have been arrested since the start of the crackdown on political opposition that began last July.

Some have been released, but thousands are still incarcerated, and many allege they are detained arbitrarily – with judges habitually renewing detentions en masse every 45 days, without reviewing specific evidence against individuals. There have also been countless allegations of torture by police. Shouekh is a leader of the university protests that have disrupted Egypt’s campus life for most of this academic year. He comes from a family of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who have opposed the current administration since the removal of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last July. By contrast, Samir is a Christian who celebrated Morsi’s ousting but who also, like many secular activists, subsequently came to oppose the authoritarianism of his successors. In testimony smuggled from police custody by his family, Shouekh alleged that his sexual assault “happened in a repeated way”. He also said he was later tortured with shocks to his genitals, armpits, fingertips and stomach, and beaten throughout his detention. A friend who visited him in jail last week said his condition appeared to have substantially worsened. Samir said his molestation occurred during a brutal interrogation that took place shortly after his arrest at a protest in central Cairo. After being blindfolded and beaten several times on his back and neck, he was questioned about his political beliefs by an officer.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

Reuters

Insight – Egypt’s Tahrir Square dream fades as Sisi builds power

April 11, 2014

(Reuters) – In a courthouse near Cairo, a peremptory message hangs above the judge presiding over one of a series of trials involving Egypt’s briefly powerful and now almost impotent Muslim Brotherhood. “In the name of God the Merciful”, it reads, “Allah commands you to render trust to whom it is due, and when you judge between people to judge with justice”. The chaotic scenes in the court do not appear to measure up. A metal cage held 33 members of the Brotherhood – outlawed as a terrorist organisation after the army last July deposed Mohamed Mursi, the elected president who ruled in the Brotherhood’s name for one tumultuous year. Among them was Mohamed Badie, supreme guide of the Brotherhood.

It is the most influential mainstream Islamist organisation in the world and its confrontation with the army-backed authorities in Cairo has created a country more divided than at any time since the group was founded in Egypt in 1928. Dressed in white robes and facing a string of charges, some of which carry the death penalty, the Brothers kept up a barrage of chants, from Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) to “Down, down with military rule”. The judge, heavily moustached and wearing black sunglasses, looked bored as he scornfully dismissed pleas from lawyers asking for more respectful treatment of their clients. The judge brusquely ordered defendants and lawyers to be shut up. Scuffles broke out. A phalanx of policemen separated the caged Brothers from lawyers and journalists.

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SOURCE = Reuters

CBS News

Al-Jazeera journalist jailed in Egypt calls charges “a big joke”

April 11, 2014

CAIRO — Egyptian prosecutors presented their first evidence Thursday to back up charges that three journalists from the Al-Jazeera satellite news network and their co-defendants participated in terrorism, playing to the court an assortment of videos found in their possession. They included news clips about an animal hospital with donkeys and horses, and another about Christian life in Egypt. Defense lawyers – and even the judge – dismissed the videos as irrelevant, while defendants shouted from the dock that the trial was “an embarrassment to Egypt.” Through the bars of his defendants’ cage, award-winning Australian correspondent Peter Greste told CBS News’ Alex Ortiz that the charges are “a big joke.” Along with Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed are accused of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage Egyptian national security. Egyptian authorities accuse Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera of providing a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has branded a terrorist organization.

Al-Jazeera denies the claim, and the defendants deny being members of the Brotherhood, saying they were simply doing their job reporting on Egypt’s political turmoil. The case is part an unprecedented crackdown on the Brotherhood since the military’s ouster in July of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was a veteran figure from the group. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed in crackdowns on protests and more than 16,000 have been arrested. The three journalists, who work for Al-Jazeera’s English-language channel, were arrested Dec. 29 when police raided a Cairo hotel room they were using as an office. “This is a politicized trial and a politicized judge,” Fahmy shouted from the courtroom cage where defendants are traditionally held during trials. He said prosecutors had told him privately that he and his co-defendants “are paying the price” for tensions between Egypt and Qatar. “I want to get out of this place! … I am going to expose all of this!” he shouted. “There are crimes against humanity taking place. Nothing is right in this system.”

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SOURCE = CBS News

New York Times

Evidence Comes Up Short as Egypt Tries 3 Journalists

April 10, 2014

CAIRO — Prosecutors on Thursday were unable to produce video footage that they say is the basis of their case against three journalists accused of conspiring to broadcast false reports about civil strife in Egypt. Instead, they showed a Cairo courtroom footage of family photographs, trotting horses and Somali refugees in Kenya. “It is obvious the prosecutor has not even looked at our videos or the evidence,” one of the defendants, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, shouted across the courtroom here. “The trial is a joke,” he said. “This is arbitrary detention.” The judge nonetheless rejected the journalists’ appeals to be released on bail and returned them to jail until the next court session, scheduled for April 22.

The three defendants — Peter Greste, an Australian; Mr. Fahmy, a dual citizen of Egypt and Canada; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian — have been held since their arrest in December on charges that they conspired with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of unrest in order to bring down the military-backed government. All three journalists worked for Al Jazeera’s English-language news channel. A fourth Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, who worked for its main Arabic-language channel, has been held without charges since last August. They have denied any connection to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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SOURCE = The New York Times

Reuters

Egypt steps up campaign to control mosques

April 10, 2014

(Reuters) – The Egyptian government has stepped up a campaign to curb Muslim Brotherhood influence over mosques, saying it has licensed more than 17,000 state-approved clerics to give Friday sermons to stop places of worship falling “into the hands of extremists”. The military-backed authorities have been trying to bring mosques under tighter control since the army toppled Mohamed Mursi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood last July after mass protests against his rule.

All of the newly-approved clerics had been trained at Al-Azhar University, which is a respected centre of Sunni Islamic learning, and institutions run by the ministry of religious endowments, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Thursday. “That is to strengthen the ministry’s supervision over all Egypt’s mosques so that they do not fall into the hands of extremists and the unqualified” and to prevent mosques being used for “party or sectarian” purposes, it said. Last September, the religious endowments minister said unlicensed clerics would be barred from delivering sermons at mosques – long a recruiting ground for Islamist parties.

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SOURCE = Reuters

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Reuters

U.N. chief tells Egypt he is concerned by mass death penalties

April 2, 2014

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his strong concerns to Egypt on Wednesday over a court’s sentencing of more than 500 people and the detention of journalists. Ban met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in Brussels on the sidelines of a European Union-African summit. “The Secretary-General conveyed to the Minister his strong concerns regarding the mass death penalty sentences announced recently, as well as the detention of journalists,” Ban’s press office said in a statement.

Last month an Egyptian court in the southern province of Minya sentenced 529 supporters of former President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood to death, drawing strong criticism from Western governments and human rights groups. Egypt put three journalists of the Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera – an Australian, a Canadian-Egyptian and an Egyptian – on trial in February on charges of aiding members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rights groups have criticized the case as a violation of freedom of expression. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Copyright © 2014: Reuters

ABC News

Egypt: Bombings Bring Escalation in Campus Wars

April 2, 2014

A series of three bombs went off Wednesday outside Cairo University, killing a police general and wounding seven people, introducing a new level of violence to the almost daily battles at campuses fought by Egyptian police and students loyal to the ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Universities have emerged as the main center of the campaign of protests by Morsi’s supporters against the military-backed government that replaced him, because a fierce crackdown the past nine months has made significant rallies by Islamists in the streets nearly impossible. The result has been increasingly deadly clashes between protesters and security forces in and around the walled campuses, with several students killed the past weeks.

Wednesday’s blasts targeted a post of riot police deployed outside Cairo University in case of protests, in apparent retaliation for police assaults. That would be a significant escalation and raises the likelihood of a fierce response by security forces that would further push a spiral of violence at the universities. A new group that first appeared in January, Ajnad Misr, or “Egypt’s Soldiers,” claimed responsibility for the bombing. In a statement, it said it was waging a campaign of retribution and that the slain police general had been involved in killings of protesters. It said the attack also came in response to increased detentions of female protesters.

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SOURCE = ABC News

International Business Times

Egypt: Man Jailed for Naming Donkey After Military Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

April 1, 2014

sisi-donkey

An Egyptian farmer has been jailed for a year for naming his donkey after the country’s former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Omar Abul Maged was found guilty of “humiliating the military” after he put a military-style cap on his donkey, covered it with a poster of al-Sisi and rode it through his village in protest at the general’s decision to oust former President Mohammed Morsi last summer. Police arrested Maged in September and, after spending six months in custody, he was convicted by the Qena Misdemeanor Court.

Human rights groups have condemned the sentence. Andalus Centre for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies said that the conviction “raises doubts about the fairness of the judiciary system in Egypt”, Egypt  Independent reported. Abul Maged’s arrest coincided with the detention of eight activists for spraying anti-military graffiti as well as the cancellation of Bassem Yossef’s satirical show after it indirectly ridiculed the military in its first episode following the military takeover in July, Albawaba reported.

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SOURCE = International Business Times

USA Today

Egypt sets presidential vote for May 26-27

March 31, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s presidential election will be held in late May, the electoral commission announced on Sunday, finally setting dates for the crucial vote widely expected to be won by the country’s former military chief who ousted an elected president last year. The election commission said the results are expected by June 5, and if a second round is necessary it will be held by mid-month with results announced no later than June 26. The country’s powerful former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer, has announced his bid for office and is widely expected to win.

His victory would restore a tradition of presidents from military background that Egypt had for all but one year since 1952. Morsi was removed from office in July 3, amid massive protests demanding his resignation and accusing him of monopolizing power and mismanagement in the face of myriad economic and social problems. The military, led by el-Sissi, stepped in to remove Morsi and backed a political road map that promised presidential and parliamentary elections.

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SOURCE = USA Today

Middle East Online

Egypt foils Brotherhood-Hamas plot to assassinate Sisi

March 30, 2014

CAIRO – Three Hamas militants who infiltrated into Sinai from Gaza were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to assassinate former Egyptian defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is running for president, according to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai. The three carried a coded letter with instructions to execute the assassination, passed by a senior Muslim Brotherhood official who escaped to Gaza. The Egyptian military last July deposed the US-supported presidency of Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi. The military has since been fighting the Brotherhood and Islamic extremist groups acting in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

 

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telegraph

Egypt army chief to seek presidency

March 26, 2014

Egypt’s military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has announced that he will run for president. In a nationally televised speech, Field Marshal el-Sissi said he has resigned from the military. Wearing military fartigues, he said it was the last time he would wear it and that “I give up the uniform to defend the nation” and run in elections expected next month. The field marshal is considered almost certain to win. Under Egyptian law, only civilians can run for president, so his resignation was a required step. Last summer, the military chief removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, after massive protests calling for his ousting.

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SOURCE = The Telegraph

news Yahoo

Hamas: Gaza-Egypt crossing to reopen

March 26, 2014

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas announced Wednesday that the blockaded territory’s border with Egypt would open after a 50-day closure, telling Palestinians wishing to travel to present their passports. Egypt has severely restricted access through the crossing in the border city of Rafah since July, when the army deposed Hamas’s ally, president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The crossing will reopen for three days starting Saturday, Hamas’s interior ministry said. Filippo Grandi, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) urged Egypt Tuesday to allow people through Rafah, saying only a handful of Muslim pilgrims had been allowed across over seven weeks.

He also called on Israel to ease its blockade of the territory, imposed in 2006. Many Gazans travel through Rafah to seek medical treatment outside of the impoverished Strip.Israel controls the only other personnel crossing at Erez. After Morsi’s overthrow, the army destroyed hundreds of tunnels under the border that brought in construction materials and fuel. That caused the Strip’s worst ever energy crisis, with power outages of up to 16 hours a day. This month, Hamas described the Rafah closure as a “crime against humanity,” and the UN criticised it for its effect on “the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment.”

Copyright © 2014: AFP

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Egypt prosecutor orders third mass trial for 919 islamists

March 26, 2014

Egypt‘s chief prosecutor on Wednesday ordered two new mass trials for 919 suspected Islamists on charges that include murder, despite international criticism of an earlier trial that issued death sentences against hundreds of defendants. Students, most of them Islamists, held protests on Wednesday against the death sentences in several universities, turning into clashes with security forces that left one 18-year-old student dead at Cairo University, the health ministry said. The new trials will be held in Minya province, south of Cairo, where a judge on Monday sentenced 529 defendants to death on charges of killing a police officer during an attack on a police station last summer.

The verdict brought an outcry from rights groups and criticism from the UN, EU and US over the cursory trial, which lasted only two sessions and in which lawyers said they were denied the right to make their case or question witnesses. Egyptian authorities are holding a series of mass trials in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters of Morsi since the military removed him in July. Around 16,000 people have been arrested over the past months, including most of the Brotherhood’s leadership. The new trials bring the total number of defendants in Minya along to 2,147 in four trials, including the trial in which the verdicts were issued on Monday.

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SOURCE = The Guardian

bbc

Egypt military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi resigns

March 26, 2014

Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced that he has resigned as Egypt’s military chief in order to stand for the presidency. He made the widely expected announcement on state television. The field marshal led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in July following mass opposition protests. Correspondents say he is likely to win the presidential poll, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals. In his address, Mr Sisi told Egyptians he was “appearing in front of you for the last time in military uniform” before warning that the country was “threatened by terrorists” and saying he would work to make an Egypt “free of fear”.

He also promised to tackle the country’s growing economic problems, but said he could not “perform miracles” and called on Egyptians to work hard to improve their country. Earlier this month, 59-year old Field Marshal Sisi was quoted by state media as saying he could “not turn his back on calls by the majority of Egyptians” for him to run for president. Tens of thousands of his supporters, who see him as a strongman able to stabilise Egypt, have taken to the streets to urge him to stand. The field marshal’s opponents hold him responsible for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, and fear that he wants a return to authoritarianism, three years after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Middle East Online

UN slams Egypt’s mass death sentences

March 26, 2014

GENEVA – Egypt’s mass sentencing to death of 529 alleged supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi is a breach of international human rights law, the United Nations said Tuesday. “The astounding number of people sentenced to death in this case is unprecedented in recent history. The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial that was rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law,” said Rupert Coville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights. The sentences were handed down on Monday after a trial that lasted just two days, sparking an international outcry and sending a chill through opponents of Egypt’s military-installed regime, which has placed more than 2,000 alleged Islamists on mass trials since the army overthrew Morsi in July.

“A death sentence may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial and due process standards. A mass trial of 529 people conducted over just two days cannot possibly have met even the most basic requirements for a fair trial,” Coville told reporters. “The exact charges against each defendant are unclear as they were not read out in court,” said Colville.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

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bbc

Mass Egypt death sentences ‘breach international law’

March 25, 2014

The UN human rights commissioner has condemned an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence to death 528 supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.A spokesman for Navi Pillay said the “cursory mass trial” was “rife with procedural irregularities” and breached international human rights law. The defendants were found guilty on Monday of charges relating to an attack on a police station in Minya in August. Another 683 Morsi supporters went on trial at the same court on Tuesday.

They include the Muslim Brotherhood’s general guide, Mohammed Badie, and the chairman of its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Saad al-Katatni. Later, security forces clashed with hundreds of Minya University students protesting against the trials. Tear gas was fired at the students after they blocked a main road, threw stones and set an armoured police vehicle on fire.

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SOURCE = BBC News

Reuters

U.S. says imposing Egypt’s death sentences would be ‘unconscionable’

March 25, 2014

WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – The United States escalated its criticism of Egypt on Tuesday over mass trials targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, and said it would be “unconscionable” for Egypt’s government to carry out the death sentences given to 529 members of the outlawed Islamist group. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the way Egypt proceeds regarding the trials and death sentences will have consequences for future American aid. Secretary of State John Kerry said on March 12 he would decide “in the days ahead” whether to resume American aid to Egypt after suspending the funds last year over the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood and a crackdown against protesters.

The death sentences handed down on Monday by an Egyptian court and the start on Tuesday of another mass trial of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 others “represent a flagrant disregard for basic standards of justice,” Harf said. “The imposition of the death penalty for 529 defendants after a two-day summary proceeding cannot be reconciled with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law, and its implementation of these sentences … would be unconscionable,” Harf told a new briefing. Egypt has been among the largest recipients of U.S. military and economic aid for decades following its 1979 peace treaty with U.S. ally Israel, which agreed as a result of the pact to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula it had seized from Egypt in 1967.

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SOURCE = Reuters

Reuters

Detention of female students drags on in Egypt

March 25, 2014

(WOMENSENEWS)–As the second semester of the academic year is starting in Egypt, female students arrested last December in Cairo during demonstrations at Al-Azhar University remain in detention. They are part of a military crackdown on Islamists over the past eight months that the Associated Press reported on March 17 has put 16,000 people behind bars in one of the largest roundups of Egyptian citizens in two decades. A court committee postponed the female prisoners’ appeal from March 12 to April 2, claiming that the young women did not attend the court session, the Arabic-language Aml Alommah reported March 12. Universities witnessed numerous clashes after the start of the academic year in October amid frequent rallies supporting former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was toppled on July 3, Ahram Online reported in December.

During political tensions over the Morsi ouster, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Universities in February banned any campus activities in support of any presidential candidates. Angered students see the move as a return to the politically repressive era of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was driven from power by street demonstrations in 2011. In February the London-based organization British Egyptians for Democracy said in a press statement that the group had received complaints from the families of the 12 female students from Al-Azhar University who remain imprisoned. “Families reported that the girls were assaulted, tortured, sexually harassed and had their Islamic head covers removed by security and police officers following their arrest,” the statement said.

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SOURCE = Reuters

news Yahoo

Egypt court to rule swiftly in 2nd mass trial

March 25, 2014

MINYA, Egypt (AP) — After a single session with no defense lawyers present, an Egyptian judge said Tuesday he will issue verdicts next month in a new mass trial of 683 suspected Islamists on charges of murder and attempted murder, a day after he sentenced hundreds to death in a similar trial that raised a storm of international criticism. The mass trials have raised deep concerns among human rights activists over the lack of due process as Egyptian authorities push swift and heavy prosecutions in their crackdown against Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Some 16,000 have been in arrested in the crackdown since the the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi last summer. Defense lawyers boycotted the trial that began Tuesday in the court in the city of Minya, south of Cairo, to protest the verdicts issued the day before in a separate trial. Despite the lawyer boycott, presiding judge Said Youssef went ahead with the session, hearing testimony, in what the lawyers called a violation of the law.

After the 5-hour hearing, the judge announced that he would issue verdicts in the case at the next session, set for April 28, according to judicial and security officials who attended the sessions and Mohammed Tosson, a defense lawyer who boycotted the session but present in the court building to monitor the results. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the proceedings. The 683 defendants, all but 68 of whom are being tried in absentia, could also face the death penalty in the case. Among the defendants is the top leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, as well several other senior members of the group. Badie is in custody in Cairo but was not brought to the hearing in Minya for security reasons.

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SOURCE = Yahoo News

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MEM

Jailed Egyptian children moved to ‘torture camp’

March 17, 2014

Egyptian security forces transferred 44 jailed children, out of 165, from Alexandria to a punitive detention centre in Cairo known by inmates as “the torture camp” in Tora. The children, all school students aged between 12-15, have been forcibly deported from the Kom Al-Deka detention centre in Alexandria to the Ekabia (Punitive) center in Tora prison. The punitive centre has been dubbed “the torture camp”, due the prevalence of physical and psychological torture usually suffered by its underage inmates. Police forces attacked the families of children with tear gas and birdshots when they protested in front of the Alexandria detention centre, appealing to prison authorities not to transport their children to the dreadful correctional centre. Police also arrested those who attempted to film the attack.

According to the families of detainees, the children resisted their deportation and have been forcibly moved to the prison trucks. Parents overheard the beating and torturing of their children to force them to move to the new place. A spokesperson of the Anti-Coup Alliance in Alexandria said in press statements: “Security forces dealt brutally with the children’s relatives and beat children with batons and fired tear gas inside the detention centre. A number of children have broken bones and serious injuries due to the violent deportation.” According to the spokesperson, the Kom Al-Deka detention centre did not allow the remaining detainees’ families to visit them. It is thought authorities fear the maltreatment of detainees would be exposed.

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SOURCE = Middle East Monitor

Middle East Online

Egypt policeman gets 10-year sentence for deaths of 37 prisoners

March 18, 2014

An Egyptian court sentenced a policeman to 10 years Tuesday for the deaths of 37 prisoners who suffocated on tear gas in brutal incident. The court verdict, which also saw three other police officers handed one year suspended jail terms, was the first against policemen for violations during the crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Morsi since his ouster by the army in July. The prisoners were killed when tear gas was fired into a truck taking them from a police station to a prison near Cairo on August 18, at the peak of the crackdown. The officer given 10 years was deputy head of the police station who oversaw the transfer.

The four officers were convicted of manslaughter after the court accepted prosecution evidence that they had acted recklessly towards the victims. The interior ministry said at the time of the incident that police fired tear gas when the inmates rioted as they were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo. Tuesday’s verdict was handed down after the court heard testimony from seven wounded prisoners. It can be appealed. The court also heard from a justice ministry expert who testified that the truck was designed to carry just 24 people, but was packed with 45 on the day of the tear-gassing.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

news Yahoo

Egypt leader writes detained journalist’s family

March 18, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — In a rare gesture, Egypt’s interim president has written to the family of an Australian journalist being tried on terrorism charges for his work with Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera, saying he would to push to expedite the case. Peter Greste, detained with three other Al-Jazeera English journalists, stands accused of endangering national security and aiding a terrorist organization along with 17 others in the case. “I would like to assure you in my capacity as president of Egypt, that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law and that guarantees the reunion of the family in the near future,” Adly Mansour wrote in the letter, seen by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Copyright 2014 ©: Associated Press

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Aljazeera

Egypt’s Sinai: caught in the middle

March 16, 2014

For months, Egypt’s border city of Rafah has been the target of an intense military campaign carried out in response to a spike in attacks by armed groups. Now, a new video making the rounds on social media allegedly shows how Egypt’s Rafah increasingly resembles the Palestinian city of the same name across the border in Gaza, scarred by rubble and collapsed homes. The video, whose authenticity Al Jazeera was unable to verify, shows homes in Rafah flattened into piles of debris. However, the scenes depicted in the footage largely matched testimonies given by several residents of northern Sinai, who say conditions there are deteriorating. As Egypt grapples with its worst violence in decades, civilians in northern Sinai have found themselves caught in the crossfire between the army and radical fighters, who have killed about 300 members of the Egyptian security forces since July and carried out a series of bomb attacks and assassinations. Many speak of a raging war in which ordinary residents are bearing the biggest brunt of the damage.

The historically neglected Sinai peninsula fell into lawlessness following Egypt’s 2011 revolt and the security vacuum that accompanied it. The situation in Sinai grew still more chaotic after Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was deposed. Many Sinai-based armed groups directed their operations towards Israel before Morsi’s ousting. Today, much of that anger is directed towards Egyptian security forces instead, and many residents believe they are caught in the middle of a shadow war. Military operations in Sinai region began in July 2013, after Morsi’s ousting. The army has vowed to eradicate drug dealers, human traffickers and a web of border-crossing tunnels, which the government claims are used to smuggle weapons from Hamas-led Gaza. Local media and army statements regularly report the arrests of armed fighters, and announcements made by mostly Sinai-based armed groups, such as Beit al-Maqdis, claim responsibility for attacks. Very little attention, however, has been paid to the plight of Sinai’s civilians.

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SOURCE = Aljazeera

news Yahoo

Egypt ex-presidential candidate: Election a farce

March 16, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — A former presidential candidate in Egypt says he will not take part in upcoming presidential elections, calling them a “farce.” The comments Sunday came from Khaled Ali, whose campaign was the closest to the youth movements behind the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Ali says the conditions for the expected April election are stacked in favor of one candidate. However, he didn’t specifically name powerful military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is widely expected to run and win easily. Ali also criticized the current military-backed government for detaining opposition members and called on the army to stay out of politics. Though popular among leftists and the youth, Ali is little-known among the wider public. He got 0.6 percent of the 23 million votes cast in 2012.

Copyright 2014 ©: Associated Press

news Yahoo

Egypt pledges ‘decisive’ action after militants kill soldiers

March 16, 2014

Egypt’s interim government pledged “decisive” action and ordered heightened security on Sunday after gunmen killed six soldiers at a Cairo checkpoint, as the countdown began to presidential elections this spring. The shooting on Saturday morning came two days after gunmen killed a soldier in Cairo, as militants once based in the Sinai Peninsula widen attacks that surged after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July. The government is preparing for a presidential election this spring that will likely be contested and won by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the field marshal who overthrew Morsi. Sisi is expected to resign as defence minister and army chief and announce his candidacy this week, following the interim president’s approval of a law to organise the poll.

His supporters see him as the best suited leader to restore stability and law and order amid persistent militant attacks and street protests by Morsi’s supporters. In Saturday’s attack, masked gunmen opened fire on military policemen as they were finishing their morning Muslim prayers and then planted two bombs to target first responders, the military said in a statement. The health ministry said six soldiers were killed. In an emergency meeting that ended early Sunday morning, the cabinet decided to “decisively confront whoever attacks citizens and civilian and government installations,” it said in a statement. It emphasised that attacks on the army would be dealt with by military courts, in accordance with a constitution approved in a referendum in January. The government also ordered heightened security measures to counter what has become a low-level insurgency that has killed more 200 soldiers and policemen since Morsi’s overthrow.

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SOURCE = Yahoo News

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Egypt Revolutionary Singer Stopped From Performing

March 15, 2014

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian singer known for his anti-government songs said Saturday that authorities stopped him from performing at an arts festival attended by the country’s interim president and military chief for “security concerns.” The halted performance Thursday from young singer Mohammed Mohsen comes as the television network that airs a show featuring a popular satirist who skewers public figures said the program was deliberately jammed again during its broadcast. Mohsen said representatives from the presidency escorted him out of the Cairo Opera House before his performance was to begin and left him there as the concert went on without him. Interim President Adly Mansour and military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, a likely presidential candidate, both attended the concert, which marked the revival of an old arts festival.Mohsen came to fame for singing during Egypt’s 2011 revolt. He performed in Tahrir Square, the center of the protests that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Mohsen told The Associated Press he thought officials might “specifically targeted” him over his revolutionary songs or because he participated in the 2011 revolt. Concert coordinator Hany Mehana told the private television channel Al-Nahar that there were security concerns about Mohsen and there wasn’t “enough time to investigate.” Mohsen called the situation “illogical.” He first wrote about his experience late Friday night on Facebook. “I do not sing in the favor of anybody and I have never sung to praise a president,” Mohsen told the AP. “I will keep on singing for the revolution.”

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SOURCE = TIME Magazine

Middle East Online

Egypt activist Alaa Abdel Fattah faces trial on March 23

March 15, 2014

CAIRO – Prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah is to stand trial on March 23 for allegedly participating in a violent protest, state media reported Saturday. The announcement came as a court handed two-year prison sentences to 68 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and opposition activists on the same charge, a judicial source said. Abdel Fattah was a well-known activist and blogger during the 2011 uprising that overthrew strongman Hosni Mubarak, and he supported the military’s ousting of Morsi two years later. But he and other activists have since clashed with the new government, which has waged an extensive crackdown on both Islamists and secular activists like him.

He had been hailed as an “icon of the revolution” by the military-installed presidency after Morsi’s overthrow, before he began protesting against the new regime. Abdel Fattah will face trial with 24 other defendants for a November protest against a clause in the constitution allowing the military to court martial civilians, the official MENA news agency reported. He is charged with assaulting a police officer during the protest, held in violation of a law that bans all but police-sanctioned demonstrations.

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SOURCE = Middle East Online

Aljazeera

Egypt protests call for return of Morsi

March 14, 2014

Thousands of people took to streets across Egypt in a show of support for the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and against the possibility of Egypt’s military chief becoming his replacement. Protests on Friday in Cairo, Beni Suef and other areas, were organised by supporters of the Morsi, with most happening after Friday prayers. No injuries or deaths were reported. They happened on the same day that the country’s only presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, said his campaigners would not undermine the military. Sabahi, a leftist politician who came in third in Egypt’s 2012 presidential election, could soon find himself competing with Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s military chief, for the presidency. Sisi, who led the removal of Morsi in July, is widely popular and expected to win the election should he choose to run. “All hands are showing that he is not only going to stand, but he’ll win,” Zakaryya Abdel-Hady, an assistant professor of Islamic thought and culture at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera.

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SOURCE = Aljazeera

Middle East Online

Mansour: Egypt will have ‘elected’ leader by June

March 14, 2014

CAIRO – Interim president Adly Mansour said Egypt will have an “elected” leader in two and a half months, in an interview published Friday by the state-owned Al-Ahram daily. The presidential election is seen as a major milestone in a transitional roadmap outlined by the military-installed authorities for a return to democratic rule after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made no secret of his intention to stand in the election — which is scheduled to be held sometime this spring — but has yet to announce his candidacy officially. Since he announced Morsi’s ouster on July 3, Sisi has emerged as Egypt’s most popular political figure and a nationalist icon, with supporters viewing him as a tough leader who can restore stability after three years of unrest following the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

“I am telling you with all confidence that two and a half months from now Egypt will have an elected president and I will hand him the decision-making power,” Mansour told Al-Ahram. In January Egyptian voters approved by 98.1 percent a new constitution that grants the military extensive powers but lacks much of the Islamist-inspired wording of the 2012 charter adopted under Morsi. Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president and the first civilian to hold the post, was ousted following massive street protests against his turbulent single year in power.

SOURCE = Middle East Online

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