Top News: Egypt Court Sentences 683 Morsi Supporters, Brotherhood Supreme Guide to Death

A court in Minya sentenced 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi to death on Monday. The Islamist group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among the defendants found guilty of attacking Adawa police station and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Kotb Mohamed Kotb following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at Raba’a and Nahda squares. The same judge upheld 37 of 529 death sentences handed down to defendants late last month, sentencing the remaining 492 defendants to life in prison. Defendants sentenced in absentia totaled 381. Lawyers of the thirty-seven sentenced to death have confirmed they will appeal the verdicts. The same judge handed on Sunday sentences ranging from five to forty-five years in jail to another thirty-seven alleged supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi charged with attacks on police stations. [Ahram OnlineReutersAswat MasriyaDNEAPMada Masr, 4/24/2014]



Egypt’s PEC announces election monitoring and media details
At a press conference on Sunday, the Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC) officially announced Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi’s candidacy. It also announced it granted approval to six international organizations to monitor the elections and seventy-nine domestic ones who met the requirements. A total of 116 Egyptian organizations applied for monitoring status. The spokesman also pointed out that the PEC is considering allowing the eliminated domestic organizations to participate in the monitoring process through granting them “guest status,” the same status granted to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and the National Council for Women. Out of forty-four national and international media institutions that applied for covering the elections, thirty-six were granted approval, while thirteen out of eighteen satellite channels were permitted to cover the elections. [Ahram Online, SIS, 4/27/2014]

Egypt court bans April 6 over espionage claims
The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters banned the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement on Monday. Lawyer Ashraf Saeed, who filed the lawsuit against the group,  accused it of espionage and defaming the Egyptian state. In an official document released after the ruling, the court did not comment on the specific accusations made against April 6 by the lawyer, Ashraf Saeed. But it said the issues raised represented a “real danger”. “It is necessary to immunize the country from this danger,” it said. The lawyer also accused April 6 of seeking protection from the United States, using media to cause “anarchy” and attacking security institutions – a reference to the storming of the headquarters of Egypt’s domestic spying agency in 2011. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 4/28/2014]

Egypt court sentences 683 Morsi supporters, Brotherhood Supreme Guide to death  
A court in Minya sentenced 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi to death on Monday. The Islamist group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was among the defendants found guilty of attacking Adawa police station and killing a police officer, Mamdouh Kotb Mohamed Kotb following the dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins at Raba’a and Nahda squares. The same judge upheld 37 of 529 death sentences handed down to defendants late last month, sentencing the remaining 492 defendants to life in prison. Defendants sentenced in absentia totaled 381. Lawyers of the thirty-seven sentenced to death have confirmed they will appeal the verdicts. The same judge handed on Sunday sentences ranging from five to forty-five years in jail to another thirty-seven alleged supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi charged with attacks on police stations. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, DNE, AP, Mada Masr, 4/24/2014]

Egypt sees deficit at 14-14.5 percent of GDP next fiscal year
Finance Minister Hany Dimian said that “we expect the budget deficit in the new budget to stand at EGP 340-350 billion Egyptian pounds ($48.60-$50.03 billion), which is around 14 to 14.5 percent of GDP.” Back in March, Dimian projected fiscal deficit will reach 10-10.5 percent. [Reuters, 4/27/2014]


Libyan oil port Zueitina to reopen after damage assessed
Libya’s eastern oil port of Zueitina, occupied by rebels as part of an eight-month oil blockade, will reopen after damage at its facilities has been assessed. According to Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani, a committee to investigate oil corruption has also been formed, as agreed under a deal between the government and rebels to end the blockade of critical oil ports. The reopening of four oil export terminals has been delayed as rebels accuse the government of not fulfilling all parts of the deal, such as paying financial compensation. [Reuters, 4/27/2014]

Sixty percent turnout in Zuwara municipal elections
The turnout in yesterday’s municipal elections in the largely Amazigh town of Zuwara is put at around 60 percent by to local polling officials—a figure that is viewed outside the town as highly encouraging. Some are surprise that the elections took place in Zuwara at all, or at least so soon after the recent boycott of both local and national elections over the demands for greater Amazigh rights. Since the February 20 Constitutional Committee elections, the Amazigh Supreme Council only recently changed its mind on the electoral boycott and agreed to the municipal poll. Meanwhile municipal elections in the southern town of Qatrun have been postponed after a scheduling conflict with another round of voting to fill the vacant seats on the Constitutional Committee. [Libya Herald, 4/27/2014]

Kidnapped diplomats in good health, says al-Thinni
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni says the kidnapped Jordanian ambassador Fawwaz al-Eitan and two Tunisian diplomats are in good health and that efforts to secure their release continue. According to the Libyan news agency LANA, al-Thinni commented after seeing video footage of the three men. Libyan authorities remain in communication with the abductors, and al-Thinni said the government wants to reach a peaceful solution to the problem rather than use force. [Libya Herald, 4/28/2014]

Sawan reelected head of Justice and Construction Party for four years
Members of the Islamist Justice and Construction Party (JCP) overwhelmingly reelected Mohamed Sawan as the party’s leader, this time for a four-year period.  He was first elected two years ago when the party was formed. Party members says that although Sawan has not been a charismatic leader, there is no one else to lead the party. According to the JCP media director, Sawan will now focus on attracting support from young people. [Libya Herald, 4/27/2014]


Syrian rebels who received first US missiles see shipment as ‘an important first step’
The men entrusted with the first US missiles to be delivered to the Syrian war, Harakat Hazm, are engaged in an ambitious effort to forge a new, professional army. They were chosen to receive the weapons because of their moderate views and their discipline. The arrival last month of US-made TOW antitank missiles has reignited long-abandoned hopes among the rebels that the Obama administration is preparing to soften its resistance to the provision of significant military aid and help shift the balance back in their favor. [Washington Post, 4/27/2014]

Kuwait, a US ally on Syria, is also the leading funder of extremist rebels
Kuwait, a US ally whose aid to besieged Syrian civilians has been surpassed only by the United States this year, is also the leading source of funding for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists fighting in Syria’s civil war, according to Obama administration officials. The amount of money that has flowed from Kuwaiti individuals and through organized charities to Syrian rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra totals in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Such fundraising was not illegal in Kuwait until last year, when the government took advantage of an unrelated parliamentary boycott to push through a new law. [Washington Post, 4/25/2014]

Syria bars refugees who fled via unofficial posts from voting
Syrians who fled their war-torn country via unofficial crossings will be barred from voting in next month’s presidential election, the country’s electoral commission chief, Hisham Shaar, said on Monday. Shaar said, “Syrians who left Syria illegally do not have the right to vote in host countries.”  Most of those who fled to Turkey and Iraq did not go through government-controlled crossings whereas approximately 88 percent of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon entered via official crossings. [The Daily Star, 4/28/2014]

Syria may face worst wheat harvest in forty years
Some experts are now forecasting wheat output to fall to around a third of pre-war levels, due to conflict and drought, and possibly even below one million metric tons for the first time in forty years. Before the war, Syria produced around 3.5 million metric tons of wheat. In addition, the Syrian government previously typically bought approximately 2.5 million metric tons of wheat each year to distribute to bakeries that serve subsidized bread, and to bolster its strategic reserve. Government purchases of domestic wheat have declined and are expected to fall further as chaos hurts the state’s ability to secure supplies. [Reuters, 4/28/2014]


NCA moves forward with draft electoral law
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted articles 127 through 142 of the draft electoral law on Friday. The adopted articles are part of the chapter of the draft law on vote-counting and proclamation of election results. The electoral law includes 170 articles. Once the NCA is done voting on electoral law, the Independent High Commission for Elections will be able to set a date for elections. According to civil society actors, the failure to organize elections before the end of 2014 is a violation of the constitution and will be detrimental to the state. [All Africa, 4/25/2014]

IMF approves $225 million disbursement for Tunisia
The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Friday, completed the third review of Tunisia’s economic performance under a twenty-four month program supported by a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), according to a statement of the IMF. The completion of the review enables an immediate disbursement of SDR 145.08 million (about US$225 million), bringing total disbursements to SDR 573 million (about US $888.4 million). The two-year SBA in the amount of SDR 1.146 billion (about US$1.78 billion, or 400 percent of Tunisia’s quota at the IMF) was approved by the Executive Board on June 7, 2013. [TAP, 4/26/2014]

Tunisian hostages remain missing
On Sunday, Libya’s Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni stated that the Tunisian hostages recently kidnapped in Libya “are in good health.” This statement is based on a video held by the Libyan government showing that the hostages are healthy. Libyan authorities are continuing to negotiate with the abductors. [TAP, 4/28/2014]


Commandos continue campaign; Popular Committees prepare for Abyan offensive
Yemeni commando forces from elite units conducted simultaneous raids on al Qaeda hideouts and cells on the outskirts of Sana’a on Friday. The raids are part of recent operations to crack down on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), representing most intense campaign against it since 2012. A key component of the 2012 victory, the Popular Committees—local militias not affiliated with official security forces—also announced on Sunday that they are preparing a campaign in tandem, targeting al-Qaeda hideouts in Abyan province. Reports suggest that local military brigades are also involved. [CNN, 4/25/2014]

Southerners rally for secession twenty years after Yemen war
Thousands of Yemenis rallied in Mukalla and Aden on Sunday to demand statehood for the formerly independent south two decades after the crushing of a secession bid. The rally was organized by a separatist branch of Herak that rejected the six-unit federation plan. During the protests, security forces arrested a number of Herak activists in Aden, deploying tear gas to disperse demonstrations. Exiled Southern leader and former Prime Minister Haider Abu Bakr al-Attas said that the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference was a good starting point for building the future. Former Vice President Ali Salem al-Beidh stressed the need to restore the South and called for further protests in May. [The National, 4/27/2014]

Draft law ending child marriage passed to prime minister
On Sunday, Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Mekhlafi submitted the proposed law to Prime Minister Mohammad Basindwa, who will oversee a cabinet review and submit it to parliament. The draft law requires the official marriage contract to verify the age of both the man and the woman. Further articles mandate penalties of up to one year in prison and a fine for any authorized person who draws up a marriage contract knowing that at least one party is under eighteen. Any witnesses or signatories to the marriage contract, including the parents or other guardians, are subject to prison and fines. [Human Rights Watch, 4/27/2014]

Prominent Hashid elders meet to talk reconciliation
A number of figures of the Hashid Tribal Confederation met in Sana’a on Saturday to talk reconciliation following a lingering fallout within the federation going back to the 2011 uprising. The largest tribe of the Hashid, the al-Ahmar, broke from the federation to oppose Saleh’s rule. The recent effort to reconcile is directly related to the ongoing conflict with the Houthis that have advanced from their northern strongholds into Hashid lands in Amran and elsewhere. There are reports however that Houthis have agreed to disarm. [Yemen Post, Nashwan News (Arabic), 4/27/2014]


Sectarian strife threatens Iraq ahead of election
On the eve of national elections on April 30, Iraq is fast returning to the horrors of its recent past. Security officials, tribal figures and politicians fear the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might choke off the capital as an earlier incarnation of the group did in the years following the US invasion. Then, Sunni extremists sent multiple car bombs into Baghdad on an almost daily basis, and killed Shi’ites with impunity. Some of Iraq’s Sunni politicians have denied ISIS’s existence in Anbar and blamed all troubles on Maliki, even if it means the group continues to grow. In turn, Shia militia groups have joined the Iraqi military’s combat missions against the insurgents, which have consequently terrorized civilians. [Reuters, 4/28/2014]

Iraq strikes ISIS convoy in Syria
Iraqi army helicopters have attacked a self-declared jihadist convoy inside eastern Syria as it tried to approach the border, killing at least eight people, an interior ministry spokesman said. Sunday’s raid was the It was the first time Iraq’s military has said it carried out an attack in Syria. An Iraqi official said there was no coordination with the Syrian regime over the strike. The vehicles were travelling to the western Iraqi border province of Anbar, where ISIS has been battling Iraqi security forces and controls the city of Fallujah. The group has also launched bombings in the capital Baghdad, including an attack on a Shia political rally on Friday that killed thirty-six people. [Al-Jazeera, 4/28/2014]

Bouteflika sworn in as Algerian president for fourth term
Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sworn in as Algeria’s president for a fourth term Monday, in a televised ceremony after his reelection in a campaign he was too sick to participate in. Bouteflika issued a brief statement in which he said his election was a “victory for the state.” The opposition had said they would boycott Monday’s swearing in ceremony, including five parties that had called on their supporters to stay away from the election. [Al Arabiya, 4/28/2014]

Jordan reels from week of violence in Maan
Residents of Jordan’s southern city of Maan were attempting to recover after a week of violence, sparked by the alleged killing of a civilian by security forces on Tuesday. After reports of “relative calm” in the southern city, police on Sunday fired tear gas and guns near an elementary school in the Iskan neighborhood, reportedly searching for wanted persons. Dozens were arrested during the raid. Maan, with a population of about 50,000, has the highest rates of unemployment in the kingdom at 20.6 percent, according to official figures. [Al-Jazeera, 4/28/2014]