Top News: Civil Disobedience Spreads to Delta

Protest Feb 22 Bora Kamel.jpg

The Cabinet’s spokesperson said “rumors” spread in the media and on social networking sites about a civil disobedience campaign are not true, contending that certain people are trying to force government employees to take to the streets, or else they will harm them. Meanwhile, protesters enter into civil disobedience in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura and Mahallah. 


President Morsi tackles Egypt grievances in extended TV interview
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi tackles public concerns, refuting ‘rumors’ in an interview with TV anchor and former aide Amr al-Leithy on Sunday after midnight, around six hours after it was due to be televised. The pre-recorded interview recorded at the presidential palace opened with a question on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political arm fielded Morsi, in ruling Egypt. Morsi said that his “background with the Brotherhood is part of my psychology, humanity and belief”. However, he stated that he consults many advisors and influential personalities before taking certain decisions. He repeated his invitation to all political groups to participate in a national dialogue. “I love dialogue. I want dialogue and I carry out all what we agree upon during our meetings,” he added. The National Salvation Front (NSF) said it rejects Morsi’s invitation to another national dialogue session scheduled on Monday, describing the invitation as “not serious and late.” [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 2/25/2013]

Egypt president brings forward parliamentary elections
Egypt’s parliamentary elections, previously scheduled to begin on 27 April, have been brought forward to start on 22 April, according to a statement issued by the presidency’s online media outlets late Saturday amid calls for boycott. The decision came after members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority had criticized the planned timing of the elections because some voting would take place during their Easter holiday. Shura Council Speaker Ahmed Fahmy said he has received information from the president’s office confirming the date. Click here for the voting schedule. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, SIS, 2/24/2013]

Salafist Nour Party to run in parliamentary elections
The Salafi-oriented Nour Party has decided to participate in the House of Representatives elections in April amid calls for boycott, but added that the government must ensure that the elections are free and fair. Nader Bakkar, official spokesperson for the party, had said earlier that his party had reservations on the date of the election, adding that the date of election should have been set consensually with the diverse political powers. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/25/2013]

Dostour Party to boycott upcoming elections, NSF to decide
The Dostour Party plans to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, leader Mohamed ElBaradei said late Sunday. In a statement posted on the party’s official Facebook page, ElBaradei said the decision to boycott came after the president’s office ignored the opposition’s demands to ensure fair and clean elections, saying that pushing forward risked setting the country on a "road to total chaos and instability. NSF leading member Amr Moussa said Egypt’s main opposition bloc the National Salvation Front (NSF) will meet on Tuesday evening to decide their official stance on participating in the parliamentary elections, amidst demands for international supervision. Former MPs Amr Hamzawy and Mostafa al-Naggar are among the proponents for the boycott. The Wafd Party said that it would pursue the elections law, which it declared was unconstitutional. Islamists have slammed Dostour Party head Mohamed ElBaradei after he called for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections, describing it as going against popular will. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, 2/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
FJP says parliamentary elections law cannot be appealed | Egypt Independent
Brotherhood’s FJP expects to win a parliamentary majority: Party official | Ahram Online
Shura Council approves increase in military men’s pension | SIS
Tagamoa Party to boycott parliament election | Aswat Masriya
Brotherhood leader calls on Shura Council to discuss torture | Egypt Independent
Leading Nour Party members join wave of Salafis quitting Shater’s commission | Egypt Independent


Court releases preacher detained for blasphemy
A criminal court ruled on Monday to release Islamic preacher Ahmed Abdullah, known as “Abu Islam”, on bail of EGP 20, 000, after he was detained in a blasphemy case. The Prosecution had ordered on Saturday the detention of Abu Islam, who owns the religious al-Omma satellite channel, for four days pending an investigation over allegations of insulting religions. Coptic lawyer Naguib Gabriel had come forward to the general prosecutor with a legal complaint against Abu Islam, accusing him of insulting the Christian faith and Egypt’s women, but specifically those who are Christian. [DNE, 2/25/2013]

Author of Azazel faces charges of insulting religion
Writer Youssef Ziedan has responded to accusations of blasphemy leveled against him by the Islamic Research Complex, saying they could lead to his execution. State Security Prosecution had summoned Ziedan, winner of the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the Arabic Booker, on Tuesday based on a report prepared by the Islamic Research Complex focused on his book “Arabic theology and the origins of religious violence,” published in 2009. [Egypt Independent, 2/25/2013]

Also of Interest:
Military court postpones photojournalist’s trial for second time | Egypt Independent, DNE
TV host sent to criminal court for insulting police syndicate | Aswat Masriya
Court to rule on al-Nas Salafist channel 4 April | Ahram Online  


Government to discuss final draft of economic program next week 
Officials from Egypt’s Ministry of Finance are set to review the final draft of Egypt’s economic reform programme set to precede the acceptance of the country’s pending $4.8bn International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. The country’s cabinet will discuss the draft next week, before sending a letter to the IMF to resume negotiations. “We have not yet received a revised program from the Egyptian authorities,” said IMF spokesperson Wafaa Amr. “However, when we do, we will begin reviewing it and will come up with ways to apply it to Egypt.” [DNE, 2/25/2013]

Maximum and minimum wage law lacks details, faces obstacles in implementation

Early this month, two Nour Party members of the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, presented a bill that would create minimum and maximum wages in Egypt. The draft law is the latest in a series of attempts in recent years to raise the income of the nation’s lowest earners. Labor activists scoffed at the law at the time, in particular the slow gradual raising of the minimum wage. Some experts speculate that the bill’s timing, amid the current atmosphere of polarization and division in Egyptian politics, seems timed to cultivate mass appeal and approval in the run-up to the parliamentary elections period. [Egypt Independent, 2/25/2013]

Central Bank governor: Foreign reserves recession could abate by March
The foreign cash reserve recession rate may decline by March, Central Bank of Egypt Governor Hesham Ramez said. The Central Bank had announced in early February that the reserves had reached US$13.6 billion, which would amount to a 16-year low, according to financial news agency Bloomberg. Ramez told the privately owned paper al-Shorouk that he seeks to preserve a certain amount of cash reserves — not for conditions related to the International Monetary Fund’s negotiations with Egypt over a $4.8 billion loan, but because it is a national target of central banks. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya/Reuters, 2/24/2013]

Also of Interest:
Brotherhood businessman calls on investors not to abandon Egypt | Egypt Independent
Egypt’s President Morsi unveils raft of tax, subsidy reforms | Ahram Online
Egypt insists food supply secure as wheat imports dive | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online
Egypt’s regulator approves Qatari bank’s bid for NSGB | Ahram Online


Body of missing activist found with birdshot wound to head
Opposition activist Mohamed al-Shafie’s body has been found, and an autopsy has reportedly revealed a birdshot wound to his head. Shafie’s family recovered his body at Cairo’s Zeinhom morgue late Sunday. Investigations found he had been missing since 29 January. The Azbakiya prosecution is continuing an investigation into his death. Prosecutors from the office quoted his mother as saying that he was going to buy clothes from downtown Cairo, but when she tried to phone him later his cell phone was off. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 2/25/2013]

Egypt’s Ghad al-Thawra Party HQ torched by masked men
Headquarters of the liberal opposition Ghad Al-Thawra Party was torched on Friday by masked men, shortly after party founder Ayman Nour had said he wouldn’t mind taking up a leadership position if invited by Egypt President Mohamed Morsi. Mohamed Hassan, senior member of the party, told Ahram Online that unknown men wearing masks had entered the headquarters, located in Cairo’s downtown, and set it ablaze with fire coming out of the office through windows. No injuries were reported. The Muslim Brotherhood released a statement Saturday denouncing the attack. [Ahram Online, 2/23/2013]

Also of Interest:
Interior Ministry: Still waiting for tear gas shipment from US | Egypt Independent, SIS
Interior Minister denies police ‘Brotherhoodization’ | Egypt Independent
Attempt attack on MB leader in Tahrir | Egypt Independent
Military police deploys in Port Said, Qandil orders January clashes probe | Ahram Online
Military source: No negotiation with Salafi protesters blocking Sinai road | Egypt Independent
“Our Sinai” Movement condemns Hamas comments | DNE
Unknown assailants with knives attack Mahalla demonstrators | Egypt Independent


Rights groups fearful of Egypt’s draft laws
Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent a letter to the minister of justice expressing concerns about the draft protest law and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expressed several reservations about the elections law. The draft protest law was approved by the cabinet earlier in February and handed to the Shura Council a few days later. Five days ago, the council decided to postpone discussing the law because most legislative members did not feel it was the right time to pass the law, state-owned news agency MENA reported. [DNE, 2/25/2013]

Civil disobedience spreads to Delta, Cabinet says reports about civil disobedience campaign aren’t true
The Cabinet’s spokesperson said “rumors” spread in the media and on social networking sites about a civil disobedience campaign are not true, contending that certain people are trying to force government employees to take to the streets, or else they will harm them. Meanwhile, protesters enter into civil disobedience in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura and Mahallah. This comes following late night clashes on Saturday in the Daqahliya governorate between protesters and the police after protesters blocked the main roads in the city and built a brick wall to halt traffic in and out of Mansoura. Clashes in Mansoura continued between security forces and both opponents and supporters for the third day in Mansoura on Monday. In Mahalla, twenty-eight people have been arrested for their alleged role in violent protests in the city on Friday. The Minister of Awqaf urged Egyptians “not to be misled by calls for damaging their homeland, stressing that the only beneficiaries of civil disobedience are the enemies of the nation who want to end its march towards reconstruction.” [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, 2/25/2013]


New US state secretary to visit Egypt on 2 March: Diplomatic sources 
John Kerry, the newly-appointed US secretary of state, is scheduled to visit Cairo on 2 March as part of a wider tour of Europe and the Middle East, official Egyptian news agency MENA reported on Sunday. According to diplomatic sources, Kerry will meet with members of President Mohamed Morsi’s administration, with whom he will discuss Egypt-US relations, the ongoing Syria crisis, the stalled ‘peace process’ between the Palestinian Authority and the Tel Aviv regime, and the Iranian nuclear file. [Ahram Online, 2/24/2013]

Egypt seeks tourism boost after Ahmadinejad visit
Egypt’s tourism minister is heading to Tehran, the government said on Sunday, as Cairo tries to halt sliding visitor numbers and thaws relations with Iran after a 30-year freeze.
Minister Hisham Zaazou will visit the Iranian capital from Monday under a drive "to restore tourism activity into Egypt and discover new and diverse markets", the Tourism Ministry said in a statement. [Reuters, DNE, 2/25/2013]

Photo: Anti-Morsi protest on Feb 22 at the Supreme Constitutional Court. (Bora S. Kamel)

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