Militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tourist bus that killed four people in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday. The Ministry of Interior also said the remains of a body thought to be the suicide bomber were found at the scene of the explosion. The Sinai based group said in a Monday statement the attack is part of its “economic war” against the “treacherous regime.” The group accused the government of “targeting believers” and “using the money and assets of Muslims, murdering the innocent and imprisoning women.”


Delays in preparations for Egypt’s upcoming presidential polls
The judicial body tasked with supervising Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections has announced that it will not meet as planned on February 18, the day slated by interim authorities as the beginning of the polling process which will elect the country’s second president in three years. Hamdan Fahmy, secretary-general of the five-member Presidential Election Commission (PEC), said on Monday that the meeting will be delayed until a new law regulating the upcoming elections is issued by interim President Adly Mansour. Sources told Ahram Online that the delay in the PEC meeting comes mostly from the failure of Mansour’s legal team to finish drafting the new law aimed at regulating the elections. Ali Awad, Mansour’s legal and constitutional affairs advisor, told Ahram Online that the law had not been issued as expected by February 17 because the president’s team had taken a lot of time to review the hundreds of proposed amendments it received from political groups, civilians and the PEC itself as part of a national dialogue concerning the law’s stipulations. Presidential Constitutional Adviser Ali Awad said on Monday the presidential elections law was submitted to the State Council’s legislation department. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/17/14]

Anan announces presidential bid; Popular announces Sabbahy’s electoral platform
Sami Anan, former Chief of Staff, announced on Sunday that he would participate as a candidate in upcoming presidential elections. The general, who was forced into retirement by former president Mohamed Morsi in August 2012, made the announcement for his presidential bid on Monday in a press statement, adding that he and his campaign would hold a press conference “soon” to detail Anan’s candidacy. On Monday, Egypt’s Popular Current announced Hamdeen Sabbahy’s electoral platform after his recent announcement of his intention to run for presidency. Under the subtitle “We can build it again,” the platform aims to make Egypt a strong nation with a competitive economy within eight years. The platform seeks freedom protected by a democratic system, which is the pillar of domestic policy, the Popular Current said on Facebook. It emphasized the importance of maintaining Egypt’s identity as a national democratic state and building a political regime that does not combine executive, judicial, and legislative powers. This platform also called for securing the right for Egyptian expatriates to vote and be part of the decision making process. It also pledged to issue a decree to try the president and the cabinet ministers while they are in office. The platform called for establishing a national security council that has an effective role in decisions of war and peace as well as in protecting Egypt from any external threats. Sabbahy has invited army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to take part in a live debate should the latter decided to run. He, however, added that he thought the commander-in-chief of the armed forces would be better off remaining in his position. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/17/14]

Government report on post-June 30 violence won’t be released to public
The fact-finding committee tasked with investigating post-June 30 violence is not entitled to release its findings to the public, said committee spokesperson Amr Marwan, the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on Monday. The committee may only send the final report to the president, but could then submit a request for the president to then make the report public, Marwan added. Minister of Transitional Justice Mohamed Amin al-Mahdi requested the formation of a committee in December to investigate all violent incidents that occurred after the June 30 mass protests that ultimately led to former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. These incidents include the deadly clashes in front of the Republican Guards headquarters, the fatal violence that occurred during the mid-August dispersals of the pro-Morsi al-Manassa, Raba’a al-Adaweya and Nahda Square protest camps, the burning of churches, violence inside universities, assassinations, assassination attempts, attempts to block Suez Canal and violence in Sinai. In a meeting with representatives from human rights organizations on Monday, committee head Fouad Abdel Moniem Riyad urged human rights organizations not to blame the committee its inability to release its findings to the media. [Mada Masr, 2/17/14]

Also of Interest:
Child sentencing laws should be amended: NCCM | DNE
April 6 decries alleged fresh torture of detainees | Ahram Online
Tagammu Party says backs Sisi’s presidential bid | Aswat Masriya


Morsi’s defense team withdraws; Brotherhood leaders Qalyubeya trial postponed to February 20
The lawyer representing ousted president Mohamed Morsi and thirty-five other Muslim Brotherhood figures in Sunday’s trial for espionage charges has withdrawn his defense team, prompting the court to appoint ten new lawyers and postpone the trial until February 23. The head of Morsi’s defense team and former presidential candidate Selim al-Awa said that he objected to the soundproof glass boxes in which the ousted president and the other defendants have been forced to remain inside during all courtroom proceedings. “My professional conscience will not permit me to continue…in these void proceedings,” Awa told Reuters. The suspects said they could not hear the prosecutors, but the head of the court insisted that the cage was not soundproof and that he tested it himself. Morsi urged his lawyers to withdraw from the session. “Are you afraid that the president will talk to his people?” Morsi asked from inside the cage. The beginning of Sunday’s court session saw Morsi and many of the other defendants chanting slogans against “military rule.” They also chanted Egypt’s national anthem. The glass boxes were installed so as to prevent Morsi and other Brotherhood figures from disrupting the various trials they currently face, as they have done repeatedly since their first court appearances last year. The court said it will proceed with the hearing despite the defense attorneys’ withdrawal. Defense lawyer Mohamed al-Damatty said that they would attend the following hearing, adding that any decision by the court to assign other defense lawyers would be “invalid,” since the current defense have already accepted fees from the defendants, Al-Ahram reported. A group of forty-eight Muslim Brotherhood defendants including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie also appeared at an initial court hearing held before the Shubra al-Kheima Criminal Court on Monday. The defendants face charges of blocking traffic, damaging public and private property, possession of illegal weapons, and attacking and terrorizing citizens to threaten national peace and spread chaos during July protests in the city of Qalyub, located on the northern edge of the Cairo metropolitan area, according to state-run Al-Ahram. The trial will likely take place over several court sessions. Shubra al-Kheima Criminal Court adjourned the trial to February 20 to form a tripartite committee from the Egyptian Radio and Television Union to inspect the evidence. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 2/16/14]

Court postpones verdict in labeling Hamas as ‘terrorist organization’
A Cairo court for urgent matters postponed, on Tuesday, to February 25 a verdict in a lawsuit that demands labeling Palestinian resistance movement Hamas as a terrorist organization. The court was supposed to issue the ruling on Tuesday but decided to postpone it, according to a legal source. Egyptian law allows the court to postpone the verdict three times after the sessions and pleadings are ended. Lawyer Samir Sabry filed a lawsuit against the interim president, prime minister and interior minister to demand labeling Hamas as a terrorist organization. “Hamas originates in Palestine as an Islamic resistance movement, but it turned into a terrorist organization,” Sabry argued in his pleading. He added Hamas currently has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood which is currently labeled by the Egyptian government as a terrorist organization. Sabry mentioned that Hamas members infiltrated the Egyptian borders in 2008 and are accused of storming Egyptian prisons in 2011. [Egypt Independent, 2/18/14]

Also of Interest:
Brotherhood leader’s security guards get two years in prison for assault | Ahram Online
Alexandria court upholds sentences for Khaled Said protesters | Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr
Prosecution releases Egyptian detainee who was handcuffed after giving birth | Ahram Online, Mada Masr
Eighteen minors acquitted of charges relating to public assembly | DNE
Two more Brotherhood leaders referred to criminal court | DNE, Aswat Masriya
Forty-three MB members arrested in Fayoum, nine detained pending investigation in Beni Suef | Egypt Independent
Defendants handed down 15, 20 year sentences for Port Said rape case | DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya
Thirty-six MB members referred to trial over 25 January clashes | Egypt Independent
Thirteen suspects given two year sentence for attacking journalists, activist outside Brotherhood headquarters | Egypt Independent, DNE, Aswat Masriya
Egypt charges two “Israeli agents”, two Egyptians with spying | Reuters, AP
Brotherhood supporters to stand trial over Nasr City clashes | Aswat Masriya


Egypt’s top auditor reveals financial violations by state bodies
In a wide scale media campaign, Hisham Geneina, the head of the Central Auditing Organization, released information about money squandering in several state sectors, including the presidency and the security apparatus. At a press conference held at the Central Auditing Organization (CAO), Geneina said that ousted president Mohamed Morsi was paid a total of EGP 794,000 during his year in office from June 2012 to June 2013. Morsi’s legal monthly wage is EGP 44,516, which means that the remaining payments totaling nearly EGP 260,000 are tainted with violations, Geneina said. He added that some advisers working for Morsi received wages from both the presidency and from their initial public employers, which counters the law. He went on to point out that the state-security body has perpetrated financial irregularities worth EGP 2.5 billion, while the judicial authority’s portion of the violations have been estimated at EGP 3 billion. No dates were specified for these violations. Geneina demanded the president and the prime minister form a fact-finding  mission to investigate the squandered funds, and said that this report was already sent to both of them, with the public prosecutor already having been informed about it since November of last year. He lamented the lack of response from the prosecution. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 2/17/14]

Egypt’s unemployment remains high in Q4 2013: CAPMAS
Egypt’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2013 at 13.4 percent of a labor force of 27.3 million people, according to state-run statistics body CAPMAS. Sixty-nine percent of unemployed people were aged between 15 and 29, and more than 82 percent of those young people held diplomas and university degrees. The CAPMAS quarterly report released on Monday said that the persistence of the high unemployment rate reflects an ongoing slowdown in economic activities. The growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the period of July-September 2013 fell to 1.6 percent compared to the same period the previous year, when the growth rate stood at 2.6 percent. [Ahram Online, 2/17/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egypt receives UAE financing to support capital spending, a credit positive: Moody’s | DNE
Domestic market can reach 80 percent usage for renewable energy by 2052: Electricity ministry official | DNE
Egypt’s stocks timidly rise despite Taba blast | Ahram Online
Suspected Egyptian militants raise stakes in insurgency | Reuters
Egypt’s energy quagmire could sink Sisi | Reuters


Political activities banned on university campuses as Brotherhood students vow fresh protests
The Egyptian Supreme Council of Universities decided on Saturday to ban the organization of any political activities in support of presidential candidates on campus. The decision came as a result of efforts to avoid increasing tensions between students. “This is not an excuse,” said Mohamed Abdel Salam, researcher at the Student Observatory of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE). Banning these activities altogether is not the way to go, and instead, there should be organized discussions, he added. The Cairo University student union, however,  issued a statement supporting this decision, saying that it “will not allow any political side to use the university [as a platform] or drag it[into political conflicts] like other universities ” , adding that whoever violates this decision will be punished. Meanwhile, the student movement affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood said it will start news series of protests by beginning of the second semester in universities on February 22. The movement vowed to security troops and universities’ administration that it will escalate actions over the coming few days while celebrating the International Student Day on February 21. [DNE, Egypt Independent, 2/17/2014]

Minister sacks Mahalla company president as textile workers strike hits day eight
Minister of Manpower and Immigration Kamal Abu Eita has met the demands of the Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company, who have been staging a strike for eight days, and dismissed the company president on Sunday, Egypt Independent, reported.  Hisham Younis, a company worker, said the minister suspended response to the other demands of the workers until the general assembly of the holding company on 22 February. An estimated 20,000 workers at the Holding Company for Cotton Spinning and Weaving in Mahalla had entered the eighth day of the strike on Sunday, demanding late wages, the resignation of company Chairman Abdel-Alim Hassan, and the replacement of the company’s commissioner, Abdel Fattah Al-Zoghby. Workers from Holding Company for Cotton Spinning and Weaving were joined on Sunday by thousands of Kafr Al-Dawar employees, who protested in solidarity with the Mahalla workers. According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), the workers in Kafr Al-Dawar are also demanding the new government-sanctioned minimum wage for workers in state-owned companies. [DNE, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, 2/17/2014]

Also of Interest:
Churches won’t get into politics: Head of Egyptian churches council | Ahram Online
Egypt’s youth activists call for release of ‘political detainees’ | Ahram Online
At least three Egyptian hikers dead after blizzard hits Saint Catherine Monastery, four rescued  | Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya
Doctors’ Syndicate, government conflict on strike attendance | DNE, Egypt Independent
Protesting policemen suspend work at Kafr al-Sheikh Security Directorate | Egypt Independent
Tanta Anti-Coup Movement Facebook page administrator arrested | DNE
Pro-Morsi alliance calls for protests marking Abu Zaabal deaths anniversary | Mada Masr
First waste treatment plant in Egypt inaugurated | Aswat Masriya
Egypt Solidarity Initiative calls for international attention to human rights in Egypt | DNE
Homeland Security searches Radio Tram offices | DNE
Parents of Australian reporter held in Egypt petition for his release | Reuters


Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claims responsibility for tourist bus blast which left four dead
Militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the bombing of a tourist bus that killed four people in the Sinai Peninsula on Sunday. The Ministry of Interior also said the remains of a body thought to be the suicide bomber were found at the scene of the explosion. The Sinai based group said in a Monday statement the attack is part of its “economic war” against the “treacherous regime.” The group accused the government of “targeting believers” and “using the money and assets of Muslims, murdering the innocent and imprisoning women.” Reuters reported that Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis also warned tourists to leave Egypt and threatened to attack any who stay in the country after February 20. The statement, however, was made from a Twitter account that is not affiliated with the group, as it does not use any social media accounts. A ministry of interior official confirmed on Tuesday that the forensics authority found the remains of an “unidentified body,” which is thought to be that of the suicide bomber who carried out the attack. The official added that these remains will be checked against DNA records of the suspects. A forensic authority spokesperson, Hisham Abdel Hamid, said that the attacker used an explosive belt, with a homemade bomb weighing between five and ten kilograms. The explosion killed three South Korean tourists and the Egyptian driver of the bus that was ripped apart by the explosion. Sixteen others were injured in the blast. The Interior Ministry said the bus was travelling from St. Catherine’s Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, to nearby Israel when it was attacked. The United Nations Security Council, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, and the Muslim Brotherhood, were among those who condemned the attack. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se requested his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy to begin investigations immediately into the attack. South Korea has also issued a warning against visiting Egypt’s coastal areas overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba in the Sinai Peninsula and recommended its citizens leave those areas without delay. [Reuters, DNE, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AP, SIS, 2/18/2014]

Also of Interest:
Army arrests nineteen armed Brotherhood members: Military spokesman | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
Major attacks since Egypt’s 2011 uprising: A timeline | Ahram Online
Syrian family murdered at home in Alexandria | Ahram Online
Egypt army kills five suspected militants in North Sinai: Spokesman | Ahram Online
Timeline: Major terrorist attacks in South Sinai since 2004 | Ahram Online
Egypt continues destruction of Gaza tunnels | DNE
Child killed by IED explosion in Nasr City apartment | Egypt Independent, DNE
Main defendant in Kerdasa violence shot dead | Egypt Independent
Gunmen fire on Ismailia intelligence building | Egypt Independent
Bomb defused in front of Talbiya police station | Egypt Independent
Bombing attempt of gas pipeline in central Sinai foiled | Egypt Independent
Authorities arrest eighteen “extremists” in Sinai | Aswat Masriya
Army defuses two bombs in North Sinai | Aswat Masriya
Authorities arrest suspect for killing policeman in Port Said | Aswat Masriya
Detainee dies of electrocution | DNE


Egypt to officially demand halt in construction of Ethiopian dam
Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Motteleb told Al-Ahram daily newspaper that Egypt may in a few days send an official statement demanding that construction of the Ethiopian dam be halted until a mutually agreeable solution is found. Irrigation Ministry spokesperson Khaled Wassef told Ahram Online that four attempts to negotiate the matter, the last of which proved an utter failure, have already been extended by Egypt. Abdel-Motteleb also told Al-Ahram daily that should the Ethiopian government offer new solutions, Egypt would nevertheless welcome a new round of negotiations. “All proposals submitted by Egypt to the Ethiopian government have been obstinately rejected and without explanation,” Wassef added. [Ahram Online, 2/18/2014]

Congressional delegations arrive in Cairo; Congressional reps call for release of journalists
Congressional delegations arrived in Cairo on Monday and Tuesday for a two-day visits in which they will meet with high-level government officials. Republican congressman Mike Rogers, who is the head of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the US House of Representatives, is scheduled to discuss bilateral cooperation with Egyptian government officials and consult with US Embassy officials on bilateral relations between the United States and Egypt, according to the US Embassy in Cairo. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that a second delegation, headed by Senator Tim Kaine, was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. Kaine is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Meanwhile, several members of congress sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling on the administration to ”take immediate action to help secure the release of journalists in Egypt who are imprisoned on what appear to be baseless and politically motivated charges.” [DNE, 2/18/2014]

Also of Interest:
Fahmy clarifies Putin support for Sisi candidacy | Ahram Online
More talks between Egypt and Russia next month | DNE
Deputy foreign minister travels to West Africa | DNE
Fahmy meets with UN representatives in Cairo | DNE
US State Department has no information regarding arrested embassy employee | DNE
Sisi expresses Egyptian support for Libya | Egypt Independent
Ambassador to Moscow: Russia believes Egypt is focus of stability in the region | Egypt Independent
Morsi and his aides deserve a fair trial: Amnesty International | DNE
International figures sign petition condemning Egypt ‘repression’ | Ahram Online