Top News: Egypt Marks Raba’a Massacre Anniversary

Egyptian police bolstered their presence in the capital on Friday in anticipation of protests on the second anniversary of the violent dispersal by security forces of Islamist demonstrators, in which at least 700 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi died. On Thursday, the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called on supporters to stage week-long protests as of Friday to mark the anniversary. In a statement issued on Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood also called on its supporters to mark the anniversary with peaceful protests. The April 6th Youth Movement called on the public to write their memories of the infamous day on social media, so that the “murderous regime and its media do not fabricate it.” The group said on Friday through its Facebook page, “Even though we disagreed with the political demands of the protest camps, we cannot deny that what happened during the dispersal of the Raba’a and Nahda sit-ins was a massacre.” Meanwhile, the religious authority, Dar al-Ifta, issued a statement Thursday saying that non-peaceful protests that harm state facilities or hamper people’s interests are banned by Islamic law. [AFPAnadolou Agency, 8/14/2015]

Sisi forms High Elections Committee
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree on Thursday to retroactively form the High Elections Committee (HEC), despite unofficially operating since July 15 this year. According to the presidential decree, Judge Ayman Abbas, the head of Cairo Appeals Court, will head the HEC. The committee will be comprised of two deputies from the Court of Cassation, two deputies from the State Council, and two heads from the appeals court. The members are chosen according to the seniority of their positions. The decree added that the HEC would start its work to prepare and supervise the parliamentary elections based on the political rights law and the House of Representatives law. [Ahram Online, SIS, 8/14/2015]

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Controversial TV host Tawfik Okasha arrested
Controversial TV presenter Tawfik Okasha was arrested on Friday by security forces. The founder of Al-Faraeen TV was reportedly arrested when leaving the Media Production City complex on the outskirts of Cairo, after presenting the morning show on his channel. Okasha’s ex-wife Reda al-Kerdawy,  said that Okasha was arrested after a final sentence was issued in a libel suit that she had filed against him. The sentence ordered his detention for six months. Kerdawy said that she filed a lawsuit against Okasha after he claimed she belongs to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), and that she plans to murder him, according to her statements to al-Watan newspaper. Okasha has been standing trial since July, along with former President Mohamed Morsi, activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and other Muslim Brotherhood figures over “insulting the judiciary.”  Their next court hearing is scheduled for October 1. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 8/14/2015]   

Court reduces prison sentence for convicted policeman in Abu Zaabal van incident
An Egyptian misdemeanor court reduced a prison sentence of a policeman convicted of manslaughter in the Abu Zaabal police van case from ten to five years during a retrial on Thursday. The court also upheld the suspended prison sentences three police officers were handed last year. Thursday’s sentences can all be appealed at the cassation court. The case was brought to court after the deaths of thirty-seven detainees inside a police van outside Abu Zaabal prison in August 2013. The prosecution listened to the testimonies of seven defendants who survived the incident, as well as the testimonies of forty officers and members of the forensics team. The prosecution also heard from an expert from the ministry of justice, who stated that the truck was spacious enough for twenty-four detainees and definitely not equipped or big enough to carry forty-five detainees. [Ahram Online/Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 8/13/2015]

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Egypt confiscates assets of Juhayna chairman over Brotherhood ties
On Thursday, the Egyptian government confiscated the assets of food industry tycoon and Chairman of Juhayna Food Industries Safwan Thabet for his alleged ties to the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The confiscation included all Thabet’s assets, with the exception of the food company. According to Ezzat Khamis, the Chairman of the committee tasked with managing Muslim Brotherhood funds, the decision excluded Juhayna because it is a joint stock company. Juhayna will carry out its activities normally, the committee’s chairman said. Thabet’s shares at Juhayna, however, will be frozen as soon as the stock exchange receives an official letter from the committee regarding the confiscation of his assets, Bourse Chairman Mohamed Omran said. To date, a panel from the justice ministry has frozen the assets and confiscated property belonging to 1,345 Muslim Brotherhood members, including 103 schools run by the group. The confiscations include all kinds of financial, real estate and mobile assets, according to Khamis. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 8/14/2015]

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Eleven more die due to Egypt’s heatwave, bringing overall death toll to eighty-seven
Eleven people died in Egyptian hospitals on Thursday due to hot weather, raising the total death toll this week due to the current heatwave to eighty-seven, according to the health ministry. On Thursday, 302 people were admitted to hospitals in the governorates of Cairo, Qena, Sohag, Giza, Qalyubiya, and Assuit due to heatstroke and heat exhaustion, Hossam Abdel-Ghafer, the official Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said Friday. One hundred and forty-two people were treated and left hospital on the same day, while 149 are still under observation. The eleven patients who died were mostly elderly, Abdel-Ghafer said. [Ahram Online, 8/14/2015]

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Egypt military aircraft crashes near Libya border, four dead
The spokesman of Egypt’s armed forces says a military aircraft crashed near the border with Libya because of a technical failure while on a counterterrorism mission, killing four crew members and wounding two. Brig. Gen. Mohamed Samir says on his Facebook page that the aircraft crashed Thursday during a joint air and ground mission southeast of the Siwa oasis, near the border with Libya. The statement said the crash was due to a “technical fault.” It did not make clear whether all the dead and injured were aboard the aircraft. Samir did not say what kind of aircraft it was, adding that troops successfully destroyed four vehicles belonging to alleged terrorists and seized five others. [AP, DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, SIS, 8/14/2015]

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Croatia says two groups were involved in hostage’s abduction in Egypt
Croatia’s Foreign Minister said Thursday that two separate groups were involved in the kidnapping of Croatian Tomislav Salopek in Egypt—one that kidnapped him and asked for a ransom before handing him over to the Islamic State group, which reportedly killed him. Vesna Pusic said the captors requested money from the company Salopek worked for. Contact was broken until August 5 when a video emerged showing Salopek as a hostage of the Islamic State branch in Egypt, Sinai State. “No money request was made then but rather the release of Muslim women from Egyptian jails—which was a bad sign, as some 99 percent of the jailed women in Egypt are Muslim and the captors did not specify who they really wanted to be released,” she said. “The conclusion was that there is no specific request and that we were dealing with two different organizations. One that kidnapped him and the other that identified itself as the Islamic State.” Salopek’s killing, if confirmed, would be the first of a foreign captive in Egypt. Pusic said she has met with representatives of other Croatian citizens working in Egypt and that they are considering stronger security measures for them, including the protection of the Egyptian army. Authorities still have not confirmed Salopek’s killing and are continuing the search for him and his captors. [AP, 8/13/2015]

Foreign Ministry criticizes CNN report on security conditions in Egypt
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid on Friday criticized a CNN report on the security situation in Egypt following the purported beheading of Croatian hostage, Tomislav Salopek in Sinai. Abu Zeid said, “The CNN report regarding the reported murder of Croatian citizen Tomislav Salopek paints a grim and absurdly distorted image of chaos and rampant terrorism in Egypt.” Abu Zeid’s statement dismissed the CNN report saying it includes “ridiculous assertions,” adding that it “goes so far as to cast doubt on Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorism, rather than providing support and constructive contributions at this critical time.” The spokesman also underlined the fact that Egypt, like the entire world, is facing “a campaign of terrorism,” and compared the reaction to the situation in Egypt to the Charlie Hebdo killings in France and the Boston Marathon bombing in the United States, saying, “No one took aim at France…nor did anyone claim that the US was in a state of chaos.” He added, “It is bizarre that similar tragedies in Egypt are met with criticism of the state and almost comically exaggerated portrayals of events on the ground.” The statement said, “It is also disheartening to see that the (doubtlessly tragic) death of a Westerner is considered a significant escalation from the killing of Egyptians, when at the end of the day the blood that is spilled is all of the same color.” [SIS, 8/14/2015]

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