Top News: Judges Recuse Themselves as Brotherhood Leaders Trials Begin

Giza’s criminal court on Monday postponed the trial of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders to February 11 so that it can study the case and declare witnesses. Earlier on Saturday, the Judges of Cairo Criminal Court recused themselves from the trial of Muslim Brotherhood leading figure Mohamed al-Beltagy and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy, saying it has felt unease over the case.


Nour Party will not field presidential candidate, accuses Brotherhood of violence under Morsi
Salah Abdel Maaboud, a member of the supreme body of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party, said that the Muslim Brotherhood experience in Egypt and Algeria has failed. In an interview with Algerian newspaper al-Fajr, published on Monday, Abdel Maaboud said that his party will run for the parliamentary elections, in attempt to win all the seats it can get. The party, however, would not run for the presidential elections, and would not support any Islamist candidate, since it finds the Egyptian streets not currently ready to accept that. Salah Abdel Maaboud also said that there is no reason to reject Sisi if he provides an electoral program that takes Egypt out of its current turmoil. Meanwhile, Nour deputy head Nader Bakkar claimed on Sunday that his party had rejected calls by Brotherhood deputy leader Khairat al-Shater to join the group’s supporters in forcibly breaking up a sit-in by Morsi opponents. At least ten were killed in clashes outside the presidential palace when thousands protested against a constitutional decree granting Morsi sweeping new powers. The head of Egypt’s Salafist Nour Party, Younis Makhioun, stated Saturday that the road to democracy comes through elections, not protests, imploring supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to stop demanding the reinstatement of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Makhioun told Egyptian state television said he believed the Egyptian army, which removed Morsi from power after mass protests against him in July, is the only national institution capable of running elections at this time, calling on Egyptians to stand by it. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 12/9/2013]

Mansour raises budget of the Armed Forces General Services Authority by EGP 517 million  
Interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree increasing the credit balance granted to the Armed Forces General Services Authority at the Defense Ministry by approximately EGP 517.4 million ($75 million) in the fiscal year 2012/2013, which ended last June. Mansour also made a decision to increase the budget allocated to the National Organization for Military Production to EGP 180.8 million ($26.2 million). “The General Services Authority aims for the self-sufficiency of the armed forces in various aspects of life. It offers many civil services and owns many companies in sectors such as construction and food industries,” according to the State Information Service. [ Egypt Independent, 12/8/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sources say president may call for constitutional referendum before end of week | Egypt Independent
Bill regulating medical profession will be submitted to president in days: minister | Egypt Independent  
Justice Minister: Protest law is better than US, UK | Mada Masr


Judges recuse themselves as Brotherhood leaders trials begin
Giza’s criminal court on Monday postponed the trial of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders to February 11 so that it can study the case and declare witnesses. The group of defendants include some of the most high-ranking members of the Islamist group, such as Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, Essam al-Erian and Mohamed al-Beltagy, all of whom stood for the trial’s first session on Monday on charges of murder and inciting violence, in connection with armed clashes on July 15 which left five dead in the Cairo suburb of Giza. Among the fourteen co-defendants in the case facing similar allegations are preacher Safwat Hegazy and Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel-Maged. Earlier on Saturday, the Judges of Cairo Criminal Court recused themselves from the trial of Muslim Brotherhood leading figure Beltagy and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy, saying it has felt unease over the case. Hegazy said Saturday during his ongoing trial that photos of him following his arrest released by Egypt’s Interior Ministry were fabricated, according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party website. [Mada Masr, DNE, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 12/9/2013]

Alaa Abdel Fattah and twenty-four others referred to criminal court; Douma, Adel and Maher trial postponed
A Cairo misdemeanor court said on Sunday evening that it would announce verdict against activists Ahmed Douma, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Maher on December 22. The court also said the three defendants are to remain in jail until then. The veteran revolutionary activists face charges of violating a new protest law and assaulting police officers. Meanwhile on Monday, the prosecutor-general referred prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah and twenty-four others to court on charges of rioting and breaking the protest law. In Alexandria, eight activists are under investigation for allegedly calling for a protest that took place on December 2 outside an Alexandrian court during the retrial of the Khaled Said case. Prosecutors on Monday issued arrest warrants on charges of inciting violence and destroying a police car for five of the eight, including lawyers Mahienour al-Massry and Hassan Mostafa. Another Alexandrian activist Nasser Abou al-Hamd had already been arrested late Sunday and given four days detention pending investigations. Hassan Mustafa’s lawyer, Mohamed Ramadan said charges against them include, “unapproved protesting, hurling rocks at police forces, damaging two police cars, injuring two police officers and obstructing traffic outside the court.”  Egyptian hardline Islamist group Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya condemned on Sunday the prosecution of Douma, Maher and Abdel-Fattah, saying trying the activists was “tantamount to putting the 25 January Revolution on trial,” and that the measure exposes the “coup” which ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, DNE, Mada Masr, 12/9/2013]

NASL party calls for protests on referendum day, says participating in referendum is sinful
The Independence Party, part of the National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy (NASL), called for protesting before polling stations on the day of the constitutional referendum. The party said in a statement issued Saturday that it considers whoever takes part in the referendum a ‘sinner,’ and those who vote in favor of the document commit a ‘bigger sin.’ The Jama’a al-Islamiya’s Construction and Development Party, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Fadila Party, and the Islamic Party, all slammed the Salafi Nour Party for its support of the constitution. Jama’a al-Islamiya Spokesperson Mohamed Hassan said on Monday that the Salafi-led “Nour Party’s stance is worse than that of the church” regarding its call to vote “yes” on the constitution. Meanwhile, Strong Egypt Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh has called for a No vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum. In a press statement on Monday, the former Muslim Brotherhood member said the party rejected the draft charter for the same reasons it rejected the 2012 version. The party said the Islamist-drafted 2012 charter failed to promote social justice and gave too much power to the president. Meanwhile, National Salvation Front (NSF) sources said they will rally citizens to take part in the upcoming constitutional referendum regardless of how they vote, although the front’s parties previously supported the “yes” vote. Popular Current spokesman has said that they will call for voting “yes” in the referendum, despite reservations over some articles. The Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) is also among those mobilizing for a “yes” vote on the constitution, despite objecting to the cancellation of the 50 percent quota for workers and farmers in parliament. Tamarod Founder Mohamed Abdel Aziz, member of the constitutional amendment panel, has called on revolutionaries to take to the streets to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the constitution with their neighbors and relatives. Finally, Egypt’s interim president met with his consultants to discuss what he saw as “errors” in a draft charter awaiting to be put to a national vote, sources told privately-owned Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm newspaper on Friday. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Al-Arabiya, 12/9/2013]

Three pro-Morsi protesters get life-sentence as Islamist female protesters get reduced sentences
An Egyptian court sentenced three supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to life imprisonment, judicial sources said on Monday, in the latest tough ruling against opponents of the army-backed interim government. The court in Qalyubia province near Cairo sent the three men to jail for 25 years for attacking security forces, terrorizing citizens, possessing firearms and damaging public and private property during a pro-Morsi protest. The sentences come days after an Alexandria appeals court reduced the sentence of 14 female Islamist protesters previously slammed with over 11 years in jail to a suspended sentence of one year. Seven other minors were cleared of charges and put under judicial probation for three months. [Aswat Masriya, Reuters, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 12/9/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s constitution 2013 versus 2012: A comparison | Ahram Online
Egyptian Christian journalist detained for inciting sectarian strife | Ahram Online, DNE
Ex-interior minister’s trial on money laundering adjourned to January 16 | Egypt Independent, DNE
Cairo Court clears 155 suspects involved in riots on October 6 40th anniversary Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya
Court adjourns verdict imposing fines on Mubarak, Adly, Nazif for communication cut to March 22 | Egypt Independent
Military prosecution releases two photojournalists | DNE
Egypt: Former top aide to Gadhafi acquitted | AP


Egypt has spent EGP 7 billion of EGP 29 billion stimulus package
Egypt has spent 7 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.02 billion) of a package of 29.7 billion intended to stimulate an economy ravaged by more than two years of political turmoil, Planning Minister Ashraf al-Araby said on Saturday. Back in August 2013, Egypt launched a 22.3 billion pound stimulus package, increasing it later to about 30 billion. Officials hope that, with the stimulus package, growth could reach 3.5 percent by the end of June 2014. They also hope to lower the budget deficit to 10 percent of GDP this fiscal year, ending June 2014, from 14 percent last year, despite increasing government spending by 35 percent to 85 billion pounds. [Reuters, 12/7/2013]

Egypt’s foreign reserves dip to $17.8 billion in November
Egypt’s Net International Reserves (NIR) fell in November by 4.8 percent compared to October, reaching $17.8 billion, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced Sunday. It is the third consecutive monthly fall, following drops in September and October. Hisham Ramez. CBE governor, stated last week during the joint investment forum between Egypt and Arab Gulf countries that November’s NIR would shrink due to the state’s imports of staples such as wheat and fuel. Ramez also pointed to the return of Qatar’s deposits for dropping foreign reserves. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 12/8/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s mobile carriers accused of forming a cartel: ECA |Ahram Online
Arab investments in Egypt reach $50 billion: Minister Ahram Online
Government considers pumping EGP 5 billion to save textile industry: official Egypt Independent
Egypt cannot return US$1 billion deposit to Turkey: minister | Egypt Independent
Stock exchange gains EGP 4.4 billion | Egypt Independent
Egypt negotiates for 13 gas shipments with Gazprom company | Egypt Independent
Petroleum products subsidies system to be reformed through five-year plan: Minister of Petroleum | DNE
WTO’s Bali package is ‘more balanced’: Abdel Nour | DNE
Underemployment, weak private sector growth: Warning signs for Egypt economy | Ahram Online
Egypt’s inconsistent economic policies hinder investment: IFC and World Bank | DNE


Azhar University president invites police on campus to quell protests; Student protests continue in Cairo, Zagazig and Mansoura
Clashes erupted on Sunday evening between police forces and dozens of Al-Azhar students allegedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Masry al-Youm reported. The students blocked a main street close to the National Security Building in Nasr City. On Monday, police forces stormed Al-Azhar campus after the university president asked them to intervene to protect lives and property, state news agency MENA reported. A group of Muslim Brotherhood students allegedly attacked university facilities Monday, causing damage to a number of employees’ cars. Security forces dispersed the crowds, controlled the situation, and arrested ten Muslim Brotherhood students, while hundreds others fled as teargas bombs were fired. In Mansoura, university students left the premises to protest and set a police car on fire earlier in the day, Al-Masry al-Youm also reported. Eyewitnesses confirm that the students started firing flares and fireworks at the police forces after leaving campus through the Baron Gate. The police responded with tear gas and started chasing the students in an attempt to arrest them. This is when a group of students used flares to set the car on fire, the newspaper reported. Cairo University students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood moved their protests from campus to the area in front of the main gate, blocking Nahda street. Troops tightened security around Nahda Square, fearing riots by the students. The Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University (FECU) Student Movement announced Saturday that they would extend their sit-in “until their demands are met.” The movement cited in a statement that the faculty’s actions conflicted with the agreement they had made with the student union, which spoke on behalf of the movement and the faculty cohorts. The faculty had promised to allow the sit-in, but denied the students entry into the campus. Administrative security of Cairo University banned on Saturday Faculty of Engineering students from taking part in a sit-in. The students also announced on their Facebook page that they received warning that their sit-in on Saturday night would be dispersed by security forces. Meanwhile, The pro-Mohamed Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called for a mass demonstration on Tuesday to support the steadfastness of the student movement, according to the Freedom and Justice Party official Facebook page. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, DNE, Ahram Online, AP, 12/9/2013]

147 Brotherhood schools to be seized by Egypt’s Education Ministry
Egypt’s Ministry of Education commenced procedures to seize the management of 147 schools belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood following a government decree to freeze the group’s assets and activities. The schools – which are located in a number of governorates including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Assiut and Gharbiya – will be placed under the financial and administrative supervision of the ministry, reported Al-Ahram’s daily newspaper. Another 85 schools under investigation were exempted from the move due to having multiple owners, many of whom are not Brotherhood members. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 12/9/2013]
Also of Interest:
Brotherhood protesters clash with locals in Egypt’s Nile Delta | Ahram Online
Cairo journalists protest arrest of photographers | Ahram Online
CAPMAS: Eligible voters number nears 53 million | Egypt Independent
Families of the martyrs and injured of the revolution demonstrate outside Cabinet | Egypt Independent
Egyptian doctors’ syndicate announces partial strike in January | Ahram Online, DNE


Spokesman says Egypt security forces thwart two suicide attacks in Sinai
Military spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali said that the armed forces thwarted two suicide bombing attempts on Sunday targeting army troops in northern Sinai. Ali posted on Facebook that the first attempt was a microbus laden with explosives targeting a camp near the city of Sheikh Zuweid. The vehicle exploded when shot at by troops. The driver of the microbus died in the blast, with no military casualties. Ali added that the DNA analyses of the terrorists’ bodies are underway in order to identify them. He also said that there was simultaneous attack attempt on troops on the Gora-Sheikh Zuweid Road, where a silver Hyundai Verna car without license plates was parked to explode while the troops were passing. The car also exploded when it was shot at. A security source told Ahram that the driver escaped before the car exploded. No injuries were reported. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, 12/8/2013]

Egyptian police stage rare protest in defiance of new law
Hundreds of Egyptian police rallied on Sunday to demand higher wages, in a rare act of defiance of a new protest law which they themselves have been enforcing to quell unrest on the streets. The demonstration by police was an ironic turn of events after arrests of activists for violating the controversial law passed last month. Around 200 non-commissioned officers had been granted permission to protest at a Police Club in Cairo, where they called on officials to come to discuss their pay demand with them. When they received no response they marched to the Interior Ministry in defiance of the new law. Security sources said they shoved barricades at fellow members of the security forces outside the club, before the protesters were allowed to march. [Reuters, 12/8/2013]

Also of Interest:
Leader of Mansoura ‘terrorist’ cell apprehended: Police | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis members escape to Gaza, Marsa Matrouh | Egypt Independent
Army commander praises Sinai people for weapons handover | Ahram Online


FM Fahmy says Hagel voices US support for Egyptian political roadmap
During a meeting on Saturday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel affirmed the US’s support for the transitional roadmap and the establishment of democracy in Egypt, according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy. Fahmy met with Hagel on Saturday to discuss the future of US-Egyptian relations in light of Egypt’s new internal political landscape. The US Department of Defense has not released an official statement on the discussion. Addressing the Manama Dialogue summit on Saturday, Hagel reiterated the United State’s call for continued cooperation with Egypt “on matters of common interest.” Fahmy and US Secretary of State John Kerry also discussed Egypt’s roadmap over the phone, as well as discussing the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and Iran’s nuclear issue. The United States also confirmed its commitment to helping Egypt’s economy succeed in a keynote speech given at the ALROWAD conference for small and medium enterprises, according to an official statement issued by the US embassy on December 5. [Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, 12/9/2013]

Also of Interest:
Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.): Congress should not weaken US law on military coups | The Hill
Egypt tunnel blockade takes toll on Gaza business | Ahram Online
Rafah crossing reopened from Sunday to Tuesday | Egypt Independent
Fahmy to participate in OIC Council of Foreign Ministers | DNE
Talks between Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia to tackle seven main issues: Sources | Egypt Independent, DNE, Ahram Online

Image: Photo: Mohamed al-Beltagy (Sarah Carr)