Top News: Cabinet Passes Restrictive Protest Law

Egypt Police AFP.jpg

The Cabinet approved a new draft law to regulate public demonstrations on Wednesday. The new law, yet to be approved by the Shura Council, has been met with criticism, the provisions within the law suggest that it restricts civilians’ right to demonstrate and seeks to justify police crackdowns on protesters.


Brotherhood may back Nour Cabinet shuffle, say sources
Anonymous sources within the Muslim Brotherhood said Wednesday that the group may back the Nour Party’s initiative to sack the current Cabinet and form a committee to amend controversial articles in the Constitution at a national dialogue scheduled next week. They also said the group is considering proposing Mohamed Mahsoub, Wasat Party chief, or Hisham Ramez, the new Central Bank of Egypt governor, to replace Prime Minister Hesham Qandil. The sources claimed a Cabinet shuffle would ensure no one accuses its members of rigging the parliamentary elections. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has, however, quashed media reports that his government will resign and said he will push forward with his long-term goals. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/13/2013]

Cabinet passes restrictive protest law
The Cabinet approved a new draft law to regulate public demonstrations on Wednesday. The new law, yet to be approved by the Shura Council, has been met with criticism, the provisions within the law suggest that it restricts civilians’ right to demonstrate and seeks to justify police crackdowns on protesters. Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said the Cabinet approved a draft law that “protected the right to demonstrate”. During a press conference in Cairo, he said the law still allows Egyptians to hold "peaceful" demonstrations and enshrines "the right to peaceful demonstration, the most powerful right granted to the Egyptian people.” Instead of restricting freedoms, the draft legislation is designed to ensure the safety of demonstrators, he said. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online,  Ahram (Arabic), 2/13/2013]

Information minister: Media must defend government
The media plays an important role in raising awareness and must “support the government against rioters who vandalize properties,” the information minister said Wednesday. During an interview with state-owned Nile News Channel, Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud defended the government’s legitimacy and popular support and said the media should do the same. “The ministry has made great efforts to make the Egyptian media the property of the people, as Egyptians have equal shares in it,” the minister said. “No one is excluded and all opinions must be broadcast.” [Egypt Independent, 2/14/2013]

Egypt’s Cabinet provisionally approves anti-torture law
The Egyptian government has provisionally approved Wednesday criminal codes under the "combating torture" law, announced the Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki. At a press conference, Mekki said he was proud to see such a law emerge, urging the media to raise awareness on its contents. Mekki said the law would protect Egypt’s ruler, as the existence of torture was one of the main indicators of the failure of the former regime. [Ahram Online, 2/14/2013]

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Gharbiya residents report spread of typhoid as govt denies infections | Egypt Independent
Popular Current rejects state report on Gendy death | Egypt Independent, AP
FJP will rebuild state institutions, create opportunities: Party spokesperson | Ahram Online
Official Defends Hiring Son Of Egyptian President | AP
Presidency: We communicate with powers refusing dialogue | SIS


Attorney General orders investigation in ElBaradei accusation
Egypt’s attorney general Talaat Ibrahim has ordered an investigation in an allegation filed against prominent opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei. Lawyer and member of the upper house Mamdouh Ismail had accused ElBaradei of inciting recent violence by the presidential palace. In his complaint, Ismail accused the Nobel Laureate of breaching an Azhar agreement signed by different political forces that renounces violence. [Aswat Masriya, Watan (Arabic), 2/14/2013]

Telecom authority appeals YouTube ban
The National Telecom Regulatory Authority appealed Thursday a controversial month-long ban on popular video website YouTube. On Thursday, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the NTRA met with law experts to discuss implementing the ban. Internet technology experts recently told Egypt Independent that enforcing the ban would be costly and difficult. Google, which owns YouTube, has refused to remove the film from its pages despite international pressure. [Egypt Independent, DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), 2/14/2013]


Supply minister: Wheat reserves good for four months
Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Bassem Kamal on Wednesday said existing and contracted local and imported wheat reserves are sufficient to last 133 days. His report to the Cabinet also said existing and contracted sugar reserves are sufficient for 52 days, in addition to the production of 8,000 tons of sugar cane a day that can supply the country’s needs until October. Existing and contracted cooking oil reserves are expected to last until mid-May and rice until April. [Egypt Independent, 2/13/2013]

Govt has ‘plan b’ if IMF negotiations fail

The Cabinet plans to invite the International Monetary Fund delegation to Cairo this month to resume negotiations over a US$4.8 billion loan, according to the prime minister. The government also has a social and economic reform program to put in place should loan negotiations fail, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said during a press conference Thursday. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade told state-owned al-Ahram newspaper that tariffs would be increased on 100 imports to shore up foreign reserves, which officials have said are at a critical level. The ministry also plans to ask the Cabinet to increase export subsidies by LE100 million for rest of the fiscal year and from LE3 billion to LE4 billion for next fiscal year, he added. [Reuters, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, SIS, 2/14/2013]

Debt swap on hold
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf al-Araby denied reports that the German government cancelled the debt swap agreement with Egypt, worth € 240m, that was pledged by Germany in 2011. The minister was referring to an article published last week in the German magazine Der Spiegel saying  that President Mohamed Morsi failed to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the benefit of cutting Egypt’s debts to Germany through the swap deal. The agreement is planned to be executed over 3 tranches of equal value. [DNE, 2/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
Pound weakens to new record low | Egypt Independent
Egypt Cabinet raises custom tariffs on some luxury goods | Ahram Online
Egypt Sells $38.3 Million at FX Auction, 24% of Dollars Demanded | Bloomberg


Student unleashes tear gas at Tanta school
A student on Wednesday threw a tear gas canister in a schoolyard in Tanta in Gharbiya Governorate, causing 50 students to be hospitalized. In Minya on Monday, two young men reportedly deployed a tear gas canister onto a city street, making it difficult to breathe for dozens of people. The police arrested two suspects, age 21 and 22, and said they confessed during interrogations to buying the tear gas from Central Security Forces conscripts. [Egypt Independent, 2/13/2013]

Also of Interest:
Interior Minister: We distance ourselves from the political differences in the country | EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic)


NGOs talk human rights violations with EU, US representatives
Thirteen local rights groups met on Wednesday with Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s special human rights representative, and Michael Posner, the US assistant secretary of state for democracy and human rights to discuss rights violations in Egypt. The meeting at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies addressed freedom of expression, freedom of religion, sectarian tension, recent prosecutions on defamation of religion charges and the targeting of political activists, an institute statement said Wednesday. Participants objected to a draft law the government is considering that restricts demonstrations and civil society organizations. [Egypt Independent, 2/13/2013]

Muslim Brotherhood to join Friday protests against violence
The Muslim Brotherhood announced Wednesday it would participate in protests Friday against violence in front of Cairo University in Giza, state-run news agency MENA reported.  The demonstrations are being organized by Jama’a al-Islamiya and its Construction and Development Party. After a meeting of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, the group released a statement saying it appreciated Jama’a al-Islamiya’s invitation to the peaceful event to denounce the killing of civilians, assaults against police officers and vandalism against state institutions. Meanwhile the Salafi-oriented Asala Party announced it would not participate, but said it supported the demands of the demonstration. The Nour Party has decided not to participate in any demonstrations. [Egypt Independent, DNE, Ahram Online, 2/14/2013]

New draft law would limit the scope of work of NGOs

The Social Affairs Ministry, responsible for supervising the work of NGOs in Egypt, finalized the draft law and will submit it to the Shura Council for approval. Activists are angry and concerned about the future of NGOs in light of the stipulations delineated in the proposed law. Local and international NGO employees criticized the law for giving authorities the power to control their operations by requiring permission from more than one state body before receiving foreign funding. The draft law also bans NGOs from taking part in political activities, and comprises articles that may considerably restrict their scope of work, particularly foreign organizations. [Egypt Independent, 2/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sharqiya educators questioned over strike | Egypt Independent


Israeli delegation in Cairo to discuss Palestine, Sinai security
An Israeli security delegation arrived Thursday in Cairo for a quick round of talks with Egyptian officials.  According to anonymous sources from Cairo International Airport, the four-person delegation is set to discuss disrupted Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the security situation in Sinai and recent Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets with the head of Egypt’s National Security Agency. [Egypt Independent, 2/14/2013]

Qandil studies Egyptian Initiative to Develop Nile Basin
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil met with the ministers of foreign affairs, water, planning, and international cooperation to look into the progress of the Egyptian Initiative for Development in the Nile Basin countries. The initiative includes joint ventures in the fields of education, health, human development, water resources, agriculture, and electricity. The meeting also addressed, the electricity integration projects between Egypt and Sudan, which complements other efforts geared towards economic integration between the two countries. [Shorouk (Arabic), 2/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
U.S. to deliver 20 fighter jets to Egypt before 2014: report | Al Arabiya

Photo: AFP

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