Top News: Egypt’s Beblawy Government Resigns

Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy announced on State TV Monday that his cabinet has submitted its resignation to interim President Adly Mansour. Following a fifteen-minute meeting with the cabinet early on Monday, Beblawy said “reform cannot take place through the government alone,” adding that all Egyptians should strive to achieve the change they aspire to. Beblawy also said that Egypt currently faces huge challenges as well as great opportunities to be grasped. He gave no clear reason for the decision.


Egypt’s Beblawy government resigns
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy announced on State TV Monday that his cabinet has submitted its resignation to interim President Adly Mansour. Following a fifteen-minute meeting with the cabinet early on Monday, Beblawy said “reform cannot take place through the government alone,” adding that all Egyptians should strive to achieve the change they aspire to. Beblawy also said that Egypt currently faces huge challenges as well as great opportunities to be grasped. He gave no clear reason for the decision. In a statement issued after the speech, the cabinet attributed the resignation to “current circumstances the country is experiencing” and “responsiveness to the requirements of the current stage.” An official source told Ahram Online that Mansour is expected to accept the cabinet’s resignation and commission Ibrahim Mahleb, minister of housing in Beblawy’s government, to form the new cabinet. According to the Associated Press, this is a surprise move that could be designed in part to pave the way for the nation’s military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to leave his defense minister’s post to run for president. It effectively opens the way for Sisi to run for president since he would first have to leave his post as defense minister in any case. “This (government resignation) was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president,” an Egyptian official told Reuters. He added that the cabinet had resigned en masse as Sisi did not want to appear to be acting alone. It was not immediately clear whether Beblawy will stay at the helm of a new government or will step aside for a new prime minister. Local media has repeatedly reported that he planned to reshuffle his government but not resign. In his conclusion, he mirrored former US president John F. Kennedy, urging people not to ask “what Egypt did for me, but rather what I did for Egypt.” Beblawy stressed on Monday that his government bore a difficult task over the past months and “most probably achieved good results.” [Ahram Online, AP, Reuters, Mada Masr, 2/24/2014]

Dostour Party makes history electing Coptic woman president
Hala Shukrallah won the liberal Dostour Party’s elections on Friday to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei as the party’s president. Shukrallah won 108 out of 189 votes to become the first woman and Copt to head an Egyptian political party. Hala Shukrallah was born in 1954. She is the director of the Development Support Center for consultancy and training, a consultancy firm providing support and assistance to civil society organizations. The party also named founder and former president Mohamed ElBaradei honorary head for life.  Ahram Online spoke with Shukrallah following her election, during which she said, “All throughout the campaign, the issue of my being a woman or a Copt was never brought up inside the party,” she says. “The only time that it was mentioned was by the media.” Meanwhile, various political and rights movements have praised the election of Hala Shukrallah as chairman of Al-Dostour Party, making her the first elected Coptic woman to lead an Egyptian political party. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr. 2/24/2014]

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Pro-Morsi alliance says stance unchanged on Morsi’s return | Egypt Independent
Egypt’s army can’t interfere every time an elected president fails: Abul-Fotouh | Ahram Online
Egypt draft law bars third-party challenges to contracts – source | Reuters


Egypt court acquits all defendants in final January 25 killing of protesters case
The Alexandria Criminal Court acquitted the last six remaining officers on trial for the killing of protesters during the January 25 uprising on Saturday, state owned MENA reported. The officers were accused of killing eighty-three protesters in a number of police stations in Alexandria. Among the accused were the former head of Alexandria’s security directorate, Mohamed Ibrahim; the former head of Alexandria’s Central Security Forces, Adel al-Lakany; and former chief of investigations in the Raml district of Alexandria, Wael al-Komy. The men were accused of inciting violence against protesters and inciting others to kill, and allegedly ordered the use of live ammunition and birdshot. This leaves just ousted President Hosni Mubarak, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides on trial for killing protesters in 2011. According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the courts have only convicted and sentenced three low-level security officers to prison since 2011 for the killing of over 800 protesters, two of whom are serving time in prison. The prosecution appealed the verdict. The defense argued that the evidence provided by the prosecution is circumstantial. Ahmed al-Hamrawy, one of the civil plaintiffs in the case, commented on the verdict, saying that video evidence showed to the judging panel was sabotaged and contained incomplete material, and claimed witnesses changed their testimonies due to bribes from the police. [Mada Masr, DNE, Ahram Online, 2/22/2014]

Egypt court approves return of police officers on campuses
The Court for Urgent Matters has ruled that police officers can be redeployed permanently on university campuses. Police officers were banned from campuses by a High Administrative Court ruling in 2010. The ban was challenged by supporters of the interim government amid widespread protests, mainly by Islamists, on campuses following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. In response, the cabinet allowed police to enter campuses to quell the protests. The cabinet decided in October to allow police forces to be deployed outside of universities to search those entering. Police have frequently stormed campuses to break up protests, leaving a number of students dead and dozens arrested. Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy, who resigned on Monday, had said that the police has the right to intervene when matters get out of control. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 2/24/2014]

Morsi ‘jailbreak’ trial suspended after defense recusal motion; Espionage trial to resume February 27
A Cairo criminal court suspended on Monday the trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, charged will jailbreak in 2011 along with other co-defendants, until it decides whether or not to accept the defense’s latest motion for the court to recuse itself. The defense team based the motion on four arguments, arguing that the court lacks legitimacy since, the lawyers said, Morsi remains the “president of the country.” The team also argued that placing the defendants in a soundproof glass cage prevents them from following the proceedings of the trial, thus violating their right to a fair hearing. The court also failed to investigate leaks to the media of privileged defendant-attorney conversations, the defense team argued. Lastly, the lawyers claimed, the court is acting in a punitive manner towards the defendants by ignoring all defense demands. The judge recusal request will be reviewed on March 1. “As far as I’m concerned, these procedures are void and I don’t accept them,” Morsi said on Saturday, describing himself as the president of the republic and calling on the Egyptian people to continue their “peaceful revolution,” according to the sources. Meanwhile, the trial of thirty-six Muslim Brotherhood leaders including Morsi on charges of espionage, was adjourned to February 27 to look into demands made by the defense lawyers related to the trial procedures. Morsi’s previous defense team withdrew in the first session of last week to demand the removal of a soundproof glass booth surrounding the defendants in their cage during court sessions. In response, the court appointed ten new defense lawyers, one of whom according to Al-Ahram requested on Sunday the removal of the glass cage “in order to preserve the reputation of the Egyptian judiciary.” He also asked for the coming trial sessions not to be aired on television. Another defense lawyer assigned to the case by the court said that Morsi is still “the legitimate president.”[Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 2/24/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egypt court confirms Brotherhood terrorist label | Ahram Online
Espionage case resumed in Port Said | Egypt Independent
Badie, Brotherhood leaders to stand trial March 22 over Minya violence | Egypt Independent, Mada Masr
Court sentences nineteen Azhar students to five years over clashes | Aswat Masriya
Rassd News journalists referred to military court for leaking Sisi statements | Egypt Independent
Detention renewed for political activists arrested on revolution anniversary | DNE
Fifteen Brotherhood backers sentenced to two years over January demos in Tahrir | Egypt Independent
Fifteen sentenced to two years’ hard labor for violating public assembly laws | DNE
Fifteen arrested during referendum sentenced to two years | Mada Masr


Egypt’s unemployment rate remains steady at 13.4 percent
The nationwide unemployment rate remained steady through the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013, registering 13.4 percent of the population, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics reported in an official statement. According to CAPMAS, 3.6 million Egyptians are unemployed, a 0.5 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 57.3 percent increase compared to the same quarter in 2010. The report indicated that youth constitutes 69 percent of the total unemployed. [DNE, 2/22/2014]

Also of Interest:
Fuel shortage to blame for electricity blackouts: Ministry of Electricity | DNE
Petroleum sector receives $58 million in investments | DNE
Egypt draft law bars third-party challenges to contracts | Reuters
Egypt will receive first installment of Saudi $200 million aid: Araby | Cairo Post
Gulf investor interest highlights Egypt’s retail upside | OBG
Egypt’s Araby meets with WB director in Egypt on Sunday | Cairo Post


Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate refers health minister to ethics committee
The Doctors Syndicate’s investigations committee summoned Health Minister Maha al-Rabat for interrogations on March 9 regarding several complaints filed against her by doctors and syndicate officials. The Doctors Syndicate general assembly also demanded she be expelled from the syndicate for taking action against striking doctors. A partial strike has been held in public hospitals since early January, Doctors are calling for an increase in governmental health care spending and higher salaries for medical professionals. The ministry responded to the syndicate’s move, saying in a statement on Friday that the latter has no right to investigate Rabat as she is in an executive post and is not currently in her professional capacity as a doctor. The ministry also slammed the move as an attempt to use the syndicate to attack the government, stating that the move makes it more difficult to fulfill the syndicate’s demands. Syndicate board member Amr al-Shora told Mada Masr that first and foremost, the minister is a doctor and a syndicate member, and therefore subject to its disciplinary regulations. The minister’s referral to investigations comes after the non-ordinary general assembly’s decision on Friday after she referred earlier this month a doctor to investigations for taking part in the partial strike staged by doctors demanding amendment of the doctors’ cadre, which was adopted by the ministry. This decision comes as the secretary-general of the Doctors Syndicate, Mona Mina, withdrew Friday her resignation. Mina, in a post on Facebook, attributed the change of heart to a fruitful syndicate meeting. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 2/22/2014]

Public transport worker in fresh strikes as Mahalla workers suspend strike
Egyptian workers in various public sectors have entered another day of strikes in protest to financial conditions and demanding the application of the minimum income law. Workers at Cairo garages run by the Public Transport Authority started a partial strike on Saturday, in preparation for a general strike on Sunday demanding injury allowances and other several demands related to the disbursement of bonuses. The Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services issued a statement Sunday calling for minimum wages for the workers in the sector and requesting the same treatment as Metro workers. The strike started Saturday with seven garages, and then swelled to eleven. By Sunday, after negotiations with authorities reached a dead end, twenty-two out of twenty-eight garages were on strike. Meanwhile, workers from Egypt’s largest textile company finally went back to work on Saturday, after a twelve-day strike. The decision to suspend the strike came as a response to the investment minister agreeing to their demands for better pay conditions and that an elected committee be formed to manage their affairs.[Egypt Independent, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/23/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef’s popularity rebounds | Ahram Online
Hiking ban in Sinai valley scuppers Greek monks’ plans | Ahram Online
Fifty-two Romanian tourists banned access to church near Saint Catherine city | Egypt Independent
Two killed, five injured as two families fight over bread queues | Egypt Independent
Police arrest radio reporter after clashes | DNE
Sixteen Muslim Brotherhood members arrested in Cairo, Minya | Egypt Independent
Protest in Cairo Tuesday to demand detainees’ release | Ahram Online


Army says it kills fourteen Sinai militants in two days
The military killed fourteen militants and arrested twenty-three others in Sinai between February 21 and 23, military spokesman Ahmed Ali said in a statement Monday. The military also burnt eighteen unlicensed vehicles that militants allegedly used to target military and police forces, and twenty-four huts used as attack bases, according to the statement. Forces destroyed eleven stores that were housing goods the military believed militants intended to smuggle to Gaza strip. The Egyptian army has also destroyed eight more tunnels used for smuggling along the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, Ali said on Sunday. Almost 1,300 tunnels have been destroyed since January 2011. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 2/24/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egyptian police intelligence officer shot dead in Sharqiya | Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr
Egyptian policemen, judge’s cars incinerated | Ahram Online
Explosives found outside Banha courthouse | DNE, Egypt Independent
Bombs found inside court and civil registry of Kafr El-Dawar | Egypt Independent
Two children killed in New Valley by ‘WW2 bomb’ | Ahram Online


Saudi Arabia releases most Egyptian fishermen detained for illegal fishing
Saudi Arabia released on Monday tens of Egyptian fishermen arrested three days ago for fishing in the kingdom’s territorial waters. Four of the fishermen, including two captains, are still being held by Saudi authorities, said Adel Alfy, Egypt’s Consul-General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Last Friday, Saudi naval police arrested sixty-five Egyptian fishermen sailing in two boats in the Red Sea near Farasan Island, off the kingdom’s southwestern coast. One fisherman was shot dead during the arrest when Saudi border guards opened fire on the boats after those on board failed to heed orders to halt and surrender. The Egyptian General Consul to Jeddah Adel al-Alfy had said on Saturday that all possible efforts are being made through diplomatic channels to obtain the release of Egyptian sailors held in Saudi Arabia. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, SIS, 2/24/2014]

Ministry of Foreign Affairs to hold talks with NATO officials in Brussels
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Sunday that Assistant Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs Hisham Badr will be travelling to Brussels to hold bilateral talks with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). According to a statement released by the ministry, the talks will focus primarily on NATO cooperation in the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Badr also hopes to coordinate efforts in hosting a NATO seminar in Egypt concerning the fight against terrorism. The statement added that Egypt has a “bilateral plan” to increase cooperation with NATO, specifically in the fields of science and skills development. Crisis management, peacekeeping operations, mine-detection training, as well as disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation policies will be discussed. [DNE, Egypt Independent, SIS, 2/23/2014]

Also of Interest:
South African officials voice support for Egypt | Ahram Online
Egypt foreign minister hails ‘positive’ Tanzanian stance on Ethiopia dam | Ahram Online
Renaissance dam 30 percent complete: Ethiopian official | Ahram Online
Brotherhood argues Western response to Ukraine violence is ‘double standard’ | Ahram Online
Egypt participates in ID World Abu Dhabi Summit | Egypt Independent
Forced evictions leave hundreds of families homeless: Amnesty International | DNE
Hamas says to privatize Gaza crossing | AFP/Ahram Online