Top News: Amnesty International Urges Interim President to annul anti-Terrorism Laws

Amnesty International issued a statement on Friday denouncing a counter-terrorism law drafted by the Egyptian government, saying that it must be scrapped or fundamentally revised.

Sisi says pre-uprising authoritarian regime not to return
Presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said that there is no room at all for authoritarian or nondemocratic rule in Egypt’s future. Sisi added in a statement late on Sunday that, Egypt will not march backwards, pointing out that no one can control the fate of the Egyptian people, who revolted twice in the past three years, against their will. He insisted that regardless of the challenges, he will not allow for Egypt to go back to what it was before the January 25 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi claims that figures linked to corruption are supporting Sisi’s presidential campaign. During an interview with Al-Mayadeen Sabbahi said, “There are honorable figures in al-Sisi’s campaign, but all the icons of corruption are in his team and are backing him.” On Monday Egyptian state television reported that Sisi’s campaign has submitted the required number of signatures to run for president. [Aswat Masriya, 4/14/2014]

Azhar Sheikh sponsors agreement between Aswan feuding tribes
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, established Saturday a special committee to oversee tribal dialogues that seek to end a spate of violence that left twenty-six dead in Upper Egypt’s Aswan. The committee, which will function under the auspices of Al-Azhar, was established to assist Aswan governor Mostafa Yousri and will “seek to complete a comprehensive reconciliation between the two parties”, according to state television service EGYNews. The independent committee will also help ensure that the feuding tribes do not resort to the same kind of bloodshed witnessed in early April. Mansour Kebash, the head of a government fact-finding committee, urged reconciliation between the two tribes saying it is the only way to ensure an end to the violence. Security officials in Aswan announced that they arrested three more suspects on Sunday in connection to last week’s violence. The security authorities announced earlier they had arrested thirty suspects in the incident. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 4/12/2014]

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Cairo court officially rules Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis a terrorist organization
On Monday the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ruled the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis (ABAM)  a terrorist organization, compelling the Egyptian government to uphold the decision. What the new designation means for the group and Egypt’s fight on terror remains unclear, said research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies David Barnett, who focuses on Salafi jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. The military spokesman’s office said the approach to fighting ABAM would not change, but the punishments for captured militants would be more severe. He added that lethal force would be used against militants if necessary. The court decision comes less than a week after the United States formally designated ABAM a terrorist group. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 4/14/2014]

Prosecution refers 220 Morsi supporters to criminal court
Egypt’s prosecution on Sunday referred 220 people to a criminal court on charges of inciting violence during the third anniversary of the January uprising, a judicial source said. The defendants face charges of resisting the authorities, assaulting security forces, possessing firearms and destroying public and private property, the judicial source told Aswat Masriya.   They are also accused of attempted murder, possession of Molotov cocktails and disrupting traffic. In a similar case out of Nasr City, prosecutors referred 300 Al-Azhar University students with alleged Brotherhood affiliations to criminal court. They face sixteen different charges related to incidents of violence at Al-Azhar University that have occurred since last October, including premeditated murder, attempted murder, attack on police forces, destruction of public and private property and joining an armed terrorist group that aims to disturb public peace and security. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AP, 4/12/2014]

Egypt prosecution questions policeman for killing man inside station
Egyptian prosecutors are questioning a low-ranking policeman after he shot dead a man inside Giza’s Imbaba district police station on Sunday. Police investigators said the slain man belonged to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and came to the station to pay bail to release a detained relative of his. Police claimed an arrest warrant had been previously issued against him, which led to the policeman attempting his arrest, according to Al-Ahram. A physical confrontation then ensued between both men and ended with the policeman firing three shots at the victim, killing him instantly, according to an investigating officer. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 4/13/2014]

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Preventing summer blackouts in Egypt is “impossible” – minister
Egypt’s minister of electricity and renewable energy said that the government will not be able to prevent power cuts this summer, an acknowledgment of the severe energy crunch facing the most populous Arab country. “Eliminating blackouts and reducing loads this summer is impossible,” Mohamed Shaker said. Shaker said the government would try to “reduce to the lowest level possible” but acknowledged that the problem would take “a few years” to resolve. [Reuters, 4/12/2014]

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Police disperse protests at Egyptian universities; Campaign against protest law begins 
Police used tear gas to disperse student protests supporting former president Mohamed Morsi at a hand full of Egyptian universities on Sunday. According to a report from Ahram Online, police confronted student protests at Ain Shams, al-Azhar, and Alexandria Universities on Sunday. According to a separate report from Mada Masr approximately 200 students vandalized the faculty of religion’s office building on Sunday before escaping. This latest round of protests comes just days after security forces arrested seventy-three demonstrators supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during clashes on Friday. Friday’s clashes also left one person dead. In related news, secular activists launched a campaign against Egypt’s strict protest law on Saturday. Activists held a marathon, the first in a series of events against a law criminalizing unauthorized protests, in Zamalek on Saturday. Around 150 people gathered outside the Opera House in Central Cairo as part of a “marathon of freedom” organized by the Revolutionaries Front and proceeded to jog to the nearby Journalists Syndicate. Demonstrators put pictures of detained activists on their shirts and chanted against military rule and interior ministry brutality. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 4/13/2014]

Egyptian human rights lawyer Masry briefly detained
An Alexandria prosecutor ordered the release of activist and lawyer Mahienour al-Masry on Saturday after she contested a verdict in absentia against her. A date for Masry’s first trial session was set for May 20. Masry was arrested on Friday night in the Mansheya neighborhood in Alexandria and was taken to the Mansheya police station. Masry was sentenced in absentia for two years and fined EGP 50,000 for violating the protest law by organizing a protest in solidarity with Khaled Said during the retrial of the police personnel accused of his murder last December. The prosecution also conducted a brief investigation of letters Masry had on her at the time of her arrest. The prosecution found that possessing the letters from fellow activists currently in detention was not a breach of the law. [Aswat Masriya,  DNE, 4/12/2014]

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Military kills three extremists in Sinai; Military to use armored busses
The Egyptian army killed three extremists during an attack on a security checkpoint near Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai on Sunday. The army also arrested four extremists during a raid nearby. The military also announced that it is now using three armored busses in Sinai. The buses – given to Egypt by the United Arab Emirates – will transport conscripts between the North Sinai cities of Rafah and Al-Arish – a road famous for militant attacks on unarmed soldiers travelling on leave. [Mada Masr 4/13/2014]

Sound bomb explodes at Qena hospital shortly before arrival of health minister
A sound bomb exploded on Saturday near a hospital in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena, minutes before the health minister was due to arrive. Health Minister Adel Adawy’s scheduled appearance was for a ceremony announcing the opening of the hospital to the public. The bomb was thrown from outside the hospital fence and into the grounds. The explosion produced a loud blast of noise that caused minor injuries to a hospital employee but no damages to the building, according to eyewitnesses who spoke with Al-Ahram. In Giza, security forces cordoned off the Virgin Mary church on Sunday after a suspicious object resembling a bomb was discovered. After inspections, the object was found to be a red brick wrapped in duct tape with wires poking out. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 4/12/2014]

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Amnesty International urges Egypt president to annul anti-terrorism laws
Amnesty International issued a statement on Friday denouncing a counter-terrorism law drafted by the Egyptian government, saying that it must be scrapped or fundamentally revised. According to the statement, the draft law has expanded the existing definition of terrorism to include actions that try to damage national unity, natural resources and monuments, as well as aiming to hinder the work of judicial, regional and international bodies and diplomatic and consular missions in Egypt. Amnesty also accused the legislation of widening the scope for the future use of the death penalty, allowing it to be imposed “even where terrorists acts committed do not cause loss of life”, including the crimes of founding, managing or administering a terrorist organization. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 4/12/2014]

US defense chief talks election, terrorism with Egyptian counterpart
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke by phone on Sunday with his Egyptian counterpart Col. Gen Sedki Sobhi, discussing terrorism and the upcoming presidential election. During the twenty-minute call, the first conversation between the two senior diplomats, Hagel and Sobhi discussed regional security issues, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. These included the “ongoing threat of terrorist networks, as well as the importance of free and fair elections for Egypt’s political transition.” [Ahram Online, 4/14/2014]

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