An Egyptian court handed down jail terms to forty-three Americans, Europeans, Egyptians, and other Arabs on Tuesday in a case against democracy promotion groups that brought US-Egyptian ties to the lowest point in decades.


Egypt sentences forty-three, including Americans, in NGO case
An Egyptian court handed down jail terms to forty-three Americans, Europeans, Egyptians, and other Arabs on Tuesday in a case against democracy promotion groups that brought US-Egyptian ties to the lowest point in decades. Twenty-seven defendants, all of whom were tried in absentia, received five-year jail sentences. Eleven received one-year suspended sentences, and five received two-year sentences. [Reuters, Ahram Online, Daily News Egypt, Shorouk (Arabic)]

Egypt’s budget deficit estimated to hit EGP 197.5bn by end of June
Egypt’s budget deficit is estimated to swell up to EGP 197.5bn exceeding previous forecasts, despite growing concerns prompting calls for austerity. “The budget deficit, which reached EGP 184.8bn in April, accounted for 10.6percent of Egypt’s GDP in the first ten months of the 2012/2013 fiscal year,’’ the Ministry of Finance said in its monthly report issued in May. [Daily News Egypt]

Confidential "national security" dialogue goes viral in Egypt
Politicians meeting with President Mohamed Morsi on Monday proposed hostile acts against Ethiopia, including backing rebels and carrying out sabotage, to stop it from building a massive dam on the Nile River. Some of the politicians were unaware the meeting with Morsi was being broadcast live on television. Morsi did not respond directly to the suggestions, but said in concluding remarks that Egypt respects Ethiopia and its people and will not engage in any aggressive acts against the east African nation. [AP, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya]

Egypt judges rally against Islamist-backed judicial authority bill
Scores of judges converged outside Egypt’s High Court in downtown Cairo on Monday evening to demonstrate against proposed amendments to a judicial authority bill initially tabled by Islamist parliamentarians in April. The demonstration, organized by the Egyptian Judges Club—which represents over ninety percent of the nation’s judges—came in the wake of a strike launched by judicial officials last week to protest parliament’s insistence on discussing the proposed legislation. [Ahram Online, Daily News Egypt, Aswat Masriya]


NATO to send expert mission to Libya
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Tuesday the alliance will send an expert mission to Libya to assess the country’s needs amid the flow of insurgents from Mali. Security experts worry that the al-Qaeda-linked militants—pushed out of Mali after French military intervention—may be trying to establish a safe haven in southern Libya. [AP]

Zidan promises investment in Kufra in bid to improve security in South
Prime Minister Ali Zidan flew to Kufra today to address security issues in the town and in the region. He met with local Tebu leaders and civil society organizations in a bid to put an end to continuing resentments that are undermining stability in the area. Much of the south’s problems are viewed as linked to smuggling—mainly drugs, arms, and illegal migrants. [Libya Herald]

Five dead in tribal clashes in southern town
In the latest sign of chaos in Libya, a personal feud on Monday sparked clashes between tribes of African and Arab origin in southern Libya, leaving five dead, according to security sources. The vast, mostly barren southern two-thirds of Libya has largely gone its own way since the rebellion that overthrew longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, but now there are concerns that in addition to local tensions, the area might be drawn into larger regional conflicts involving al-Qaeda. [AP]

In Libya, new media freedom uncertain
After the uprising, independent media flourished for a short time, but Libya’s press freedom honeymoon seems to be over. Unchecked militias, often identified as hard-line Islamist groups, favor all traces of Muammar Qaddafi removed from the new Libya. Their members are willing to target reporters if they don’t believe the journalists are on their side. [Columbia Journalism Review]


UN rights team believes chemical weapons used in Syria
United Nations human rights investigators said on Tuesday they had "reasonable grounds" to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons had been used in Syria. The commission examined four reported toxic attacks in March and April but could not determine which side was responsible. [Reuters, NOW]

Red Cross pushes for access to Qusair as medical supplies dwindle
The Red Cross said Monday it would continue to push for access to Qusair, as activists there said over one thousand wounded civilians were trapped in the besieged town with dwindling medical and food supplies. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem stated earlier this week that the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent could not access the town until “military operations are over.” [Daily Star, NOW]

Putin warns against military intervention in Syria
Speaking at a joint news conference after a summit with European Union leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that any attempt at foreign military intervention in Syria was doomed to fail and would make the situation worse.  He also defended Russia’s right to sell arms to the Syrian government but said Moscow had not yet delivered advanced S-300 air defense systems to Damascus.
[Reuters, Daily Star]

Syria says troops retake most of key Damascus area
According to the Syrian state news service, the army has pushed rebels out of a key district on the edge of Damascus, bolstering the defenses of the capital. SANA reported that government troops have "restored security and stability to some vital areas" in Jobar, from which rebels have been trying to push inside the capital for weeks. [Daily Star]


National Constituent Assembly completes final constitution draft
The National Constituent Assembly announced the completion of a draft constitution, but the sixteen-month process to establish the framework for a new government may be far from over. No details were given on the final form of the new charter, the drafting of which has been delayed primarily because of disagreement over what form of government Tunisia should have—presidential or parliamentary. [Tunisia Live, Al Arabiya]

State of emergency extended for another month
Tunisia’s interim president Moncef Marzouki has extended the state of emergency in Tunisia for another month, starting Tuesday. Tunisians have been living under a state of emergency for over two years since the ouster of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. [Ahram Online]

Delegation aims to bring home Tunisians fighting in Syria
An unofficial delegation of forty Tunisians traveled to Syria yesterday to bring home Tunisians who went to fight in the Syrian conflict and to support the Tunisian community in Syria. The delegation consisted of twenty-two relatives of Tunisians imprisoned in Syria, as well as lawyers, journalists, sheikhs, and human rights activists. [Tunisia Live]


President Hadi chairs National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Conciliation Committee meeting
On Monday, President Abdrabo Mansour Hadi chaired the first meeting of the newly-formed NDC Conciliation Committee. United Nations Special Advisor to Yemen Jamal Benomar was also in attendance. The discussion focused on the Conciliation Committee’s aims and anticipated responsibilities. [NDC Website]

Yemen signs grant agreements with the United States, Germany
Yemen and the United States signed an agreement on Monday to increase US financial aid to Yemen by $20 million. The US earmarked $12 million (out of the $20 million) for the national dialogue conference and the electoral registration system in Yemen and the remaining $8 million to support an early reading program. [SABA]

The Yemen Times interviews Zaid Al-Shami of the Islah Party
A dispute has surfaced between the General People’s Congress (GPC) and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) in the Parliament. The JMP accused the GPC of “hijacking” Parliament and temporarily suspended their participation. But some analysts worry that this disagreement could trigger a political crisis. The Yemen Times met with Zaid Al-Shami, the head of the Islah Party in Parliament to resolve the dispute. [Yemen Times]

Thousands of weapons seized in Taiz
Security forces seized a truck in Maoza District loaded with weapons believed to originate from Turkey, according to military officials. Brigadier General Mohammed Al-Shaeri said the arms were concealed in mounds of salt. The same day, two boats were prevented from unloading presumably smuggled arms in Mocha Port, Al-Shaeri said. The boats fled the scene with the weapons. [Yemen Times]


Erdogan blames “foreign” parties and “extremists” for ongoing protests in Turkey, opposition leader likens crackdown to “Nazi gas chambers”
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınc apologized to injured protesters, while opposition National Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli has criticized the police for excessive use of tear gas against demonstrators. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused “foreign” parties and “extremists” of being responsible for the ongoing protests, and the United Nations has demanded that Turkey conduct an independent probe into its security forces’ treatment of protesters. Al Hayyat reported that there is a rift between Erdogan and President Gul in how to deal with the protests. [Asharq Al-Awsat, Hurriyet Daily News, Hurriyet Daily News, Hurriyet Daily News, Al Arabiya, Al Hayat (Arabic)]  

Photo: Al Jazeera screenshot