Top News: Cairo Court Sentences Twenty-Six Defendants to Death in Absentia

An Egyptian court convicted twenty-six people Wednesday of forming a terrorist group to launch an attack on the country’s vital Suez Canal waterway, with almost all receiving death sentences in absentia. Prosecutors also accused the defendants of making rockets and explosives while monitoring various security headquarters to plan attacks on them, the sources said.


Defense and interior ministers among fifteen ministries remaining in Mehleb’s cabinet
Egypt’s prime minister designate began talks on Wednesday with potential ministers tipped for the new cabinet. Mehleb met with Ashraf Mansour, a possible choice for the Higher Education Ministry, Ibrahim Younis for Military Production and Mohamed Shaker for the Ministry of Electricity, according to Egypt Independent. Sources told Al Masry Al Youm that fourteen ministers will be carried over from Beblawy’s cabinet, while eight new appointments are expected. Among those remaining are Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who will keep his post as defense minister in the new government, an official source said on Wednesday, quashing speculation he was about to announce a widely expected bid for the presidency. Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim is also expected to remain in his position, as well as the ministers of tourism and planning, according to Egyptian State TV. According to Ahram Online a total of fifteen ministers will remain in their positions. According to independent daily Tahrir, among the names being floated for new ministers, Nahed al-Ashry has been tapped as minister of manpower, Mahfouz Saber as minister of justice, Moustafa Madbouly as minister of housing, Khaled Hanafy as minister of supply, and  Ahmed Fekry Abdel Wahab as minister of industry. An anonymous source told Tahrir that Mehleb will finalize the list of ministers by Thursday, to be presented to interim President Adly Mansour on Saturday. [Egypt Independent, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 2/26/2014]

Pro-Morsi alliance welcomes initiative for negotiation with government
The Alliance to Support Legitimacy welcomed on Tuesday an initiative put forward by Hassan Nafaa, a writer and professor of political science at Cairo University, and accepted his mediation in Egypt’s current political crisis between toppled President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters and the new military-backed government. The Alliance said it awaited the return of Nafaa from Tunisia to move ahead with the initiative and form a committee of public figures, paving the way for a national dialogue between the political opponents. Alliance spokesperson Magdy Qarqar said the SCAF’s silence toward the initiative made the Alliance postpone its final decision about the initiative. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/25/2014]

Also of Interest:


Cairo court sentences twenty-six defendants to death in absentia
An Egyptian court convicted twenty-six people Wednesday of forming a terrorist group to launch an attack on the country’s vital Suez Canal waterway, with almost all receiving death sentences in absentia. Prosecutors also accused the defendants of making rockets and explosives while monitoring various security headquarters to plan attacks on them, the sources said. The verdict by the Cairo Criminal Court came after judges held only one session in the case. One of the defendants, younger than eighteen, did not receive a death sentence, a statement announcing the verdict said. It did not elaborate. Courts in Egypt routinely convict defendants and give the maximum sentence to those tried in absentia. However, once caught, the defendants receive an automatic retrial. The court was adjourned to March 19 when the final sentence will be delivered. The mufti will decide whether this sentence is legitimate based on Shari’a law. [Egypt Independent, AP, 2/26/2014]

Journalists face military court for allegedly publishing classified files
The North Cairo Misdemeanor Military Court postponed on Wednesday the trial of two Rassd News Network (RNN) journalists charged with “attempting to harm the armed forces.” Amr Salama and Islam al-Homsi are accused of illegally obtaining and publishing classified military documents and videos, including interviews with Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. RNN published a series of videos and audio recordings, dubbed “al-Sisi leaks,” of al-Sisi making controversial statements about his presidential ambitions, among other things. The authenticity of the material provided in the series has often been questioned. Wednesday’s session was postponed to allow them to be summoned to court. [DNE, 2/26/2014]

Also of Interest:
Sentence of eighteen al-Azhar students on charges of illegal assembly reduced | EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic)
Fifty-two suspects referred to Criminal Court over arson at Warraq police station | Egypt Independent
Court to rule on Hamas ‘terrorist’ tag in March | Egypt Independent
Detention of al-Jama’a al-Islamiya’s Mustafa Hamza renewed forty-five days on charges of joining a terrorist group | Shorouk (Arabic)


Egyptian economic experts criticize Beblawy’s government over Gulf aid
Although the resigned government got big financial and popular support, unlike previous governments, it failed to revive the economy, economic experts said on Tuesday. According to economic expert Passant Fahmy, the Beblawy government should be held accountable for any possible charges of wasting public money. Similarly, Mustafa al-Nasharty claims that Gulf deposits were used to fund decrepit infrastructure. [Cairo Post, 2/25/2014]

Egyptian government aiming to boost public awareness of energy subsidies issue
The government is planning to ramp up its efforts in the coming months to increase public awareness of the “gravity” of the issue with the energy subsidies program “in its current form,” according to Minister of Planning Ashraf al-Araby. Authorities have already launched smart cards to try to manage bread subsidies. [DNE, 2/25/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • EGP 300 million loan from Japan to stabilize electricity in Upper Egypt | Egypt Independent
  • Minister Galal: EGP 2.38 billion to be allocated ‘to supply necessary goods’ to citizens | DNE
  • Egyptian minister: Suspended aid after June 30 less than $20 million a year | Cairo Post
  • Poorest 20 percent of population receive 10 percent of GDP: Egyptian dean | Cairo Post


Labor strikes continue in several governorates; Armed forces buses stand in for striking public transport
Monday’s surprise resignation of Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy along with his entire cabinet has been partly attributed to an upsurge of strikes and the government’s apparent inability to address a host of labor grievances. Despite the cabinet’s sudden dissolution, well over 100,000 workers nationwide are still on strike or are engaged in other forms of labor protest nationwide. Strikers include bus drivers and other employees of the Public Transport Authority (PTA), postal workers, employees of public notary offices, field surveyors, street cleaners, microbus drivers, doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians and dentists. Topping the strikers’ list of common demands is the provision of the monthly minimum wage of EGP 1,200 (around US$172) in public sector enterprises. On Wednesday, strikes continued particularly in the transportation and health sectors. Armed forces buses will replace the transport buses that stopped working due to the strike of the transport workers, the army announced in a statement Tuesday. An independent trade union of public transportation authority workers has expressed readiness to suspend the strike that entered its fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, on the condition that the government respond to half the demands until a timeline for the rest of the demands is set. In Minya, workers have been striking for fourteen days and will continue until their demands are met. Hundreds of workers in Aswan have also staged a sit-in demanding equality in wages. [Mada Masr, DNE, 2/26/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Three health sectors in Egypt begin partial strike | Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic)
  • Faculty members at multiple universities express solidarity with suspended teaching assistant | DNE
  • Residents of Maspero Triangle: We will not leave our land | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian protesters stand in solidarity of political prisoners Ahram Online
  • Three injured as Islamists clash with opponents north of Cairo | Ahram Online
  • Seven Brotherhood leaders arrested on Egypt-Sudan border | Egypt Independent


Twenty-first attack on Sinai gas pipeline since Mubarak’s ouster
Unidentified militants bombed a natural gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula Tuesday. The explosion, which is the twenty-first since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 and sixth time since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, took place south of the coastal city of al-Arish. No injuries were immediately reported from the explosion, which caused the pipeline to burst and the natural gas to ignite. Security forces are searching the area for suspects. The gas pipeline carries gas to Jordan and an industrial area in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, security officials said. As of Wednesday morning, the fire has not yet been contained. A team of the company owning the pipeline headed there to fix it and close the valves. [DNE,Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/26/2014]


Amnesty International calls for release of Egyptian journalists on military trial
Rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday urged Egyptian authorities to release two journalists currently facing a military trial. In a statement published on Amnesty’s website, the rights group condemned the trial of Amr al-Azaz and Islam Farahat, who will face a military misdemeanors court on February 26 for allegedly leaking classified documents and videos. Amnesty insisted that al-Azaz and Farahat are prisoners of conscience incarcerated for “peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression by performing their jobs,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director Philip Luther. Amnesty called for the release of the two journalists “immediately and unconditionally.” [Ahram Online, 2/25/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • South Korea warns against travelling to Sinai Peninsula, except for Sharm al-Sheikh | Egypt Independent
  • Ibrahim and Sisi meet with South Africa’s Minister of State Security | Ahram (Arabic)
  • Egypt’s move towards Russia hints at shifting regional alliances | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian-Russian cooperation in nuclear energy | Ahram (Arabic)
  • Release of fifteen fishermen detained in Libya and transferred to Cairo | Ahram Gateway (Arabic)