Top News: Egypt sends Morsi, Others, to Trial for International Conspiracy

Toppled Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi will stand trial over allegations he collaborated with Hamas, Hezbollah and other organizations to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, judicial sources have told Ahram Online.


Abul Fotouh describes July 3 as a military coup  
In a TV interview with Egyptian satellite channel CBC, former presidential candidate and Strong Egypt Party head, Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, said that his party was the first political force to call for early presidential elections during Morsi’s term. He stressed that the party never asked the army to intervene. The plan, according to Abul Fotouh, was to stage demonstrations on June 30 followed by civil disobedience. He also said that there are only two ways for any regime to come to power – through the ballot box or a coup. Abul Fotouh also said he hoped that army deals with former president Mohamed Morsi the same way it dealt with ousted president Hosni Mubarak. [Shorouk (Arabic), Aswat Masriya  (Arabic), 12/18/2013]     

Moussa urges Sisi to run for president; Conflicting reports on Tamarod’s position
The head of Egypt’s outgoing constitutional drafting committee, Amr Moussa, said on Tuesday that Egypt’s military chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi should run for president. “As for the [Egyptian] people, the majority of them want Sisi to run for presidency,” Moussa said. “We don’t need to talk about any alternatives now. Sisi is the one who has the people’s trust and admiration, [so] we should give him this chance [to run for presidency].” Meanwhile, conflicting reports emerged over Tamarod’s position on a possible presidential bid by Sisi. According to Ahram Online, in a Tuesday statement, however, the group counseled Sisi against running for the post and called for a presidential vote to precede parliamentary polls. Egypt Independent, on the other hand, reports that Mahmoud Badr, Tamarod founder, said the movement supports Sisi running for presidency, but in the case he does not run, they would support Hamadeen Sabahi.[Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, 12/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
Democratic Front Party merges with the Free Egyptians Party | AMAY (Arabic), Ahram Gate (Arabic)
Nour Party says individual electoral system allows for the return of NDP figures and Muslim Brotherhood members | AMAY (Arabic)
Ministry of Interior says preparations for referendum logistics finalized | Ahram Gate (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic)    
State Information Service chief resigns over constitution banner blunder | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya


Egypt sends Morsi, others, to trial for international conspiracy
Toppled Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi will stand trial over allegations he collaborated with Hamas, Hezbollah and other organizations to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, judicial sources have told Ahram Online. The deposed leader and thirty five co-defendants – including prominent members of his Muslim Brotherhood and former presidential advisers – will face trial for “collaborating with foreign organizations to commit terrorist acts in Egypt, revealing defense secrets to a foreign country, funding terrorists and military training to achieve the purposes of the international organization of the Brotherhood,” a statement by the prosecutor-general’s office said. The charges leveled against Morsi and other top Muslim Brotherhood members on Wednesday could result in their execution. The defendants in this case include the Brotherhood’s Chief Guide Mohamed Badie, top leaders of the group Khairat al-Shater, Mahmoud Ezzat, Essam al-Erian and others. Mohammed el-Damaty, a defense lawyer for Muslim Brotherhood members, said the lawyers have not attended any of their clients’ interrogations and have no idea about the details of the charges. No trial date has been set in the new case. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AP, EGYNews (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 12/17/2013]  

Committee members release conflicting statements on changes to the constitution
A member of the committee responsible for redrafting the Egyptian constitution said that the wording of the text was changed after the committee had approved the final draft, implying behind-the-scenes military involvement. In an interview with the private TV channel Al-Tahrir on Monday, Mohamed Abul-Ghar, the head of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said that the committee had voted on a final draft containing the word “civilian rule” in the preamble, while the version submitted by the committee to the interim president had replaced the phrase with “civilian government.” Bishop Antonious, representative of the Catholic Church in the committee, also told Ahram Online that members had been given a copy of the draft text containing the “civilian rule” phrase during the final vote, but that committee head Amr Moussa had read out the alternative phrasing. Mohamed Abdel Salam, the Al-Azhar representative on the committee and rapporteur of the basic constituents committee, however, said the statements made by Democratic Egyptian Party Chief Mohamed Abul Ghar claiming the committee members were surprised by the phrase “its government is civilian” are inaccurate. In his meeting on Wednesday, Constitutional Committee Chief Amr Moussa denied allegations of counterfeiting the draft constitution. Moussa said the rumors of counterfeiting are mere slander, adding that the constitution was read article by article in a public session with the 50-member panel in attendance. The articles voted on were the same ones included in the constitution, he emphasized, noting that everything was recorded through audio and video. Spokesman of the 50-member committee Mohamed Salmawy also denied interference by anybody to amend provisions in the draft constitution. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, SIS, 12/18/2013]

Legal appeal to promote Sisi, rename public squares in his honor
An Egyptian court is currently reviewing an appeal to promote Head of the Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the rank of field marshal, requesting that the government renames all of Egypt’s major city squares in his honor. Independent Al-Shorouk newspaper reported on Tuesday that the appeal was filed by lawyer Lotfi Gayyed, but supplied no further information on his background. Gayyed’s appeal calls on the president of the republic and prime minister to promote Sisi to the rank of field marshal. [Mada Masr, 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Two activists arrested in Qena for protesting without prior permission | Shorouk (Arabic)
Constitutional court sources say army and police personnel not permitted to vote in referendum | Ahram Gate (Arabic)
Egyptian journalist fined for Morsi militia claims | Ahram Online
Salafist ‘Hazemoon’ member sentenced to 25 years for weapons possession | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
Nine detained over ‘lynching’ at pro-Morsi rally | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
Abu Za’abal police officers’ trial postponed | DNE, Ahram Online, Mada Masr
Civil society organizations say constitution will initiate legislative reform | DNE
Review of groups hoping to ‘follow’ the referendum under way | Mada Masr
Rights group accuses prosecutors of altering evidence | Mada Masr


Egypt’s economy grows only 1 percent in first quarter 
Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ashraf al-Araby said that Egypt’s economy did not grow much during the first quarter of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, estimating the growth rate at a mere 1 percent in the first quarter and 2 percent in the second. Araby said the figures are a result of instability in the country, including the reshuffling of cabinet members and governors, the dispersal of Raba’a and Nahda sit-ins, and halting train operations between governorates. Araby added that these events forced the government to propose an urgent economic stimulus plan. “The economic situation is still tough, because of high unemployment rates,” said Araby. “The best solution would be to increase investment.” [Egypt Independent, 12/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
EGP weakens at forex auction | DNE
Discrepancy between tax revenue and cash in CBE is normal: Tax Authority | DNE
Egypt considering pay rises for imams | Ahram Online
Egyptian stocks reach highest level since 2011 revolution | Ahram Online
$4.8 billion investment deal signed in South Korea | DNE
Petroleum Minister signs oil exploration agreements with two German companies | SIS
Egypt’s external debt on the rise, but still under control: Central Bank governor | Ahram Online
Finance minister discusses current economic situation and challenges for next government | DNE
Entrepreneurship activity witnesses slight improvement: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor | DNE


Leading activist Ahmed Maher sends letter from jail
Challenging a ban on detainees’ correspondence, the leader of a prominent Egyptian youth group sent his first letter from jail, lashing out at the state’s human rights body, the National Council for Human Rights, seemingly for inaction towards the arrests of activists. Late Tuesday, Ahmed Maher’s message, in Arabic, was posted on the official “Mubasher 6 April” Facebook page. He claimed to have written the statement from his cell in Tora Prison, using toilet paper, after having been banned from writing and denied paper. The message’s title was “The National Council for Sisi Rights.” In the first paragraph, Maher described some of the council members as “agents for the state who used to report about activists to security before the revolution.” “Other than that a number of [the council’s] members have used speech full of racism, hatred and incitement, what human rights are they talking about when they are supporting the government and the Ministry of Interior’s brutality?” Maher asked. He went on to say that a human rights council should have no political orientation. He condemned Negad al-Borai and Ragia Omran for being a part of the council, claiming that their actions give legitimacy to a repressive authority. “How can the members of the National Council for Human Rights have political leanings and be pro-authority?” he asked. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Ahram Gate, 12/18/2013]

Protests continue at Ain Shams, Cairo and Al-Azhar universities
Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Ain Shams University students blocked al-Khalifa al-Ma’mun Street Wednesday on their way to the Defense Ministry, immobilizing traffic. Verbal tussles erupted between drivers and students. The students aimed to voice their demands of releasing detained students and eliminating police presence on campus. Clashes erupted between students supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and security forces in Cairo University on Tuesday, said the state-owned news agency. “Brotherhood students set fire to the security chamber on campus and detained some of the personnel,” according to MENA. Meanwhile, at least thirteen students “who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood” were suspended from Azhar University on Wednesday. They are not allowed to take exams or enter college for chanting against the army, police and the dean of their faculty. A disciplinary council of Azhar University’s faculty of Islamic Studies in Kafr al-Sheikh governorate issued the decision on accusations that the students participated in riots and vandalism on campus during a protest they had staged earlier. The suspended students belong to the Student Union and include its head. A faculty member will also stand investigation for inciting the students to protest. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 12/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egyptian media urge voters to back constitution | Ahram Online
Eight Al-Azhar University professors under interrogation for inciting violence: university administration | Egypt Independent


Military source: 97 percent of tunnels in Rafah destroyed
Armed forces have destroyed 97 percent of the illegal tunnels linking Gaza and Rafah, an Egyptian military source said on Wednesday. Speaking to Sky News Arabia, the source said four to five tunnels are being re-operated in Rafah and are monitored continuously in order to fully eradicate this threat to the country’s security and sovereignty. Security measures taken by troops in North Sinai such as establishing a ‘safe’ area – a 1 km-deep, 13 km-long stretch along the borders with Gaza – helped in achieving goals like confronting smuggling attempts, especially for fuel and cigarettes, the source added. [Egypt Independent, 12/18/2013]


UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa pays first visit Egypt 
The United Kingdom’s new Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Hugh Robertson arrived in Cairo Monday for his first visit official visit to Egypt in his new post. The minister will act as co-chair in the 10th G8 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Forum for the Future Conference, a bilateral conference being held in Egypt this year. During his visit, Robertson met members of the interim Egyptian government and members of civil society and the country’s religious leadership. Robertson met with Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for European Affairs Hatem Seif Al-Nasr on Monday. The two emphasized Great Britain and Egypt’s close ties in the fields of trade, investment, and tourism, according to a statement issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [DNE, 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Mahmoud Abbas to visit Egypt | DNE
Egypt wins membership of UNESCO committee for protecting cultural property during armed conflicts | SIS
Swiss extend freeze on Ben Ali, Mubarak assets | DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya  (Arabic)

Image: Photo: Egypt Presidency