Top News: Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki Resigns

Ahmed Mekki.jpg

 Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki has resigned in a letter protesting "an assault" on the judiciary by President Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist backers, a spokesman said on Sunday, underlining mounting tensions between the judiciary and the executive. 


Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki resigns
Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki has resigned in a letter protesting "an assault" on the judiciary by President Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist backers, a spokesman said on Sunday, underlining mounting tensions between the judiciary and the executive. Cabinet spokesperson Alaa al-Hadidy said that Mekki will continue his work as justice minister until a replacement is named as part of Morsi’s Cabinet reshuffle. Assistant Justice Minister Hisham Raouf said Mekki’s resignation was not a reaction to Friday’s Brotherhood-supported demonstrations, rather a strong condemnation of Judicial Authority Law. The Brotherhood’s political rivals believe the protests are aimed at pushing for a draft law on judicial authority championed by the group, a law which is rejected by a wide sector of judges. Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) media spokesperson Mourad Ali praised Justice Ahmed Mekki following his resignation as acting minister of justice. Chairman of the Judges’ Club Ahmed al-Zind also welcomed the resignation. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Reuters, AP, DNE, SIS, 4/22/2013]

Morsi decided on Cabinet reshuffle without consulting advisers
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Saturday he planned to reshuffle his cabinet in a move that could help build political consensus around a $4.8 billion loan Cairo is seeking from the International Monetary Fund. He decided to reshuffle the Cabinet and replace some of the governors without consulting his advisers, sources from the president’s office and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said. Morsi decided to replace six governors, but has not yet decided on whether to replace Local Development Minister Mohamed Ali Beshr, sources said, adding three proposed new ministers are Brotherhood-affiliated. The cabinet reshuffle was at the top of the Conscience Front’s agenda during its Saturday meeting with President Mohamed Morsi, with members stating that keeping a cabinet which “lacks a political and economic vision” is a danger to national interests. Yasser Borhamy, head of the Salafi Dawah, a hardline Islamist group, said the changes the president’s office announced have no value, being made without consulting opponents, and so changes will not change disputes among political groups. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, 4/21/2013]

Egypt Shura Council approves changes to draft protest law
The Shura Council has approved amendments to a controversial bill regulating public demonstrations. The Shura Council’s legislative committee on Sunday agreed to remove an article of the proposed protest law that had stipulated that the number of protesters must be determined in advance for a demonstration to receive authorization. Government representative Omar al-Sherif urged the Shura Council to quickly pass the new protest bill in a Sunday committee meeting. Al-Sherif said the government-drafted bill is necessary regardless of current events and the upswing in protests and violence. He added that the bill was in line with the provisions of constitutional articles on the right to protest. [Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, 4/21/2013]

Morsi discusses state of the country, discusses controversial law with SJC
In a lengthy TV interview aired on Saturday evening on al-Jazeera news network, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi fielded tough questions on domestic and international issues, and made some important announcements. President Morsi, sounding reconciliatory to opponents and critics, used the interview to send comforting messages to the liberal opposition, women and Copts. Morsi said he is concerned about the level of criticism directed at the judiciary. A long drawn out struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood-derived government and the judiciary was recently stoked when Egypt’s upper house of parliament discussed a new judicial authority law – proposed by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and its allies – which would retire and replace over 3,000 judges. Morsi held a meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), the Judges Club and Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah on Monday morning, to end the controversy over the Judicial Authority Law, which provoked demonstrations Friday titled “Purging the Judiciary,” Freedom and Justice Party sources said. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 4/21/2013]

Also of Interest:
Khairat al-Shater: I do not interfere in state affairs | Egypt Independent
ElBaradei: Shura Council tampering with freedoms, judicial independence | Egypt Independent


Court rejects challenges to verdict delaying elections
The Supreme Administrative Court rejected Sunday challenges submitted by the State Lawsuits Authority to a previous verdict halting House of Representatives elections, upholding a lower administrative court’s decision. The court added that the ruling to halt the election was consistent with law, and did not violate any legal rules. An Administrative Court ruling said the Shura Council should have referred the electoral law back to the HCC before ratifying it, so as to ensure the amendments were constitutional. In its judgment, the court said that President Mohamed Morsi’s call for elections violated the Constitution. [Egypt Independent, DNE, Ahram Online, 4/21/2013]

Egyptian prosecutor suspended for ordering 80 lashes for drunk man
The prosecutor general canceled an order made by the Matay village prosecutor in Minya Governorate, Hussein Anani, that sentenced a man to 80 lashes for being found drunk and possession 25 grams of hashish, a Public Prosecution spokesperson said. Prosecutor Hussein Aani was suspended on Sunday and faces a judicial investigation. Anani said he ordered the lashes because two verses in the Quran call for the avoidance of alcohol, al-Ahram Arabic website reported. Article 2 of Egypt’s recently-approved constitution states Islamic Sharia law, which bans the consumption of alcohol, is the main source of legislation, but the prosecution’s spokesman explained that there should be no punishment without a pre-existing law. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, DNE, AP, 4/22/2013]

Prosecution detains 30 pending High Court clashes investigations
The Qasr al-Nil Prosecutor’s Office has ordered the detention for four days pending investigation of 30 of those arrested by authorities following Friday’s violent protests outside Egypt’s High Court, including an American and a Syrian. The prosecution also decided to release nine suspects on LE1,000 bail. It charged the suspects with attacking public and private establishments, “thuggery,” and assaulting on-duty police and civil service workers. Thousands of Islamist protesters, mainly Muslim Brotherhood members, held a rally at the High Court on Friday to demand judiciary reforms when confrontations erupted between them and unknown opponents, leaving at least 87 injured. Leading members of the Brotherhood condemned the violence at Friday’s High Court protests and stressed on their demands, while the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), Egypt’s highest judicial authority, denounced the protests, describing them as “a grave insult.” [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 4/21/2013]

Court accepts challenge to Mubarak’s release
A Cairo criminal court has accepted an appeal submitted by Egypt’s prosecution against an earlier release order granted to former president Hosni Mubarak in his trial over graft charges. Mubarak and Soliman are accused of squandering public funds worth LE2 billion through facilitating for a company the takeover of a 3,000 km2 plot of land near the Cairo-Ismailia road supervised by the General Authority for Rehabilitation Projects and Agricultural Development. Mubarak will remain detained for at least a 15-day period pending further investigation into the case. According to the text of the court ruling, the appeal was accepted because the release order was issued by the misdemeanor court which has no jurisdiction over the matter. Release orders are under the jurisdiction of the criminal court, the ruling added. Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) media advisor Mourad Ali has criticized calls for acquitting ousted president Hosni Mubarak from trial, saying that this is a "red line." Supporters of the former president and several media figures have been calling for his release. [Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 4/22/2013]

Also of Interest:
Mekki files complaint against corruption allegations | Egypt Independent, DNE
Review of case against Shura Council set for 12 May | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE
Prosecutor denies report on deal to nationalize Hussein Salem assets | Egypt Independent
Trial of ‘Israeli spy’ resumes in Cairo | Ahram Online
Judge in terror cell case suspends session after pro-Mubarak accusation | Egypt Independent, Reuters


Central Bank: Qatar’s promised $3 bn in aid not yet received
Central Bank of Egypt Governor Hisham Ramez said Egypt has not yet received a Qatari deposit of US$3 billion intended for buying bonds. Qatar’s prime minister had previously promised the amount to Egypt after meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil earlier this month. Libya had also promised about $2 billion to Egypt around the same time. Egypt has struggled with continued unemployment, a devaluation of the pound and a sluggish economy after its revolution two years ago, amid ongoing efforts to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund — something which IMF officials have said depends on Egypt’s ability to secure political consensus and certain fiscal measures. [Egypt Independent, 4/20/2013]

IMF, Egypt hope to reach loan agreement in ‘weeks’
The International Monetary Fund and Egypt hope to conclude talks for a loan deal “in the coming weeks,” they said in a joint statement Sunday. The statement came after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde met an Egyptian delegation in Washington this weekend led by Central Bank of Egypt Governor Hisham Ramez, Finance Minister al-Morsi Hegazi and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf al-Araby. The Egyptian officials “are firmly committed to addressing Egypt’s economic and financial challenges with the objective of restoring sustained and socially-balanced growth, and they are already taking encouraging actions in this direction,” the brief statement read. Egypt’s Ministry of Finance has withdrawn the 2013/14 draft budget it submitted unofficially to the Shura Council in late March to make adjustments to comply with the updated economic plan it recently submitted to the International Monetary Fund. The adjustments could include cuts to subsidies and public-sector salaries, said a parliamentary source. Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez said an agreement with the IMF may be reached this month or in May. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Bloomberg, 4/22/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s trade deficit decreases in January | Ahram Online
Price hikes have impacted majority of Egyptian consumers: Study | Ahram Online
Power up: Electric generator sales are on the rise | Egypt Independent
Egypt t-bill yields continue to fall on foreign aid pledges | Ahram Online
Egypt Seeks End to Foreign Wheat Dependence, Minister Says | Bloomberg


At least 3,413 arrested so far under Morsi
The initial results of a report conducted on the number of arrests during President Mohamed Morsi’s first ten months in power suggest that at least 3,413 people were arrested. The report is being prepared by the My Country My Rights campaign, in collaboration with the Front to Defend Egypt Protesters. Ahmed Atef, a campaign and Front member working on the report, said a final report is to be released next week. Initial numbers suggest that 2,384 arrests took place in Cairo alone, while 752 took place in 11 other governorates. The report said that at least 210 laborers and students had been arrested and 67 military trials conducted in the past ten months. [DNE, 4/21/2013]

At least 7 Black Bloc members arrested in Egypt
Egypt’s State Security Prosecution ordered Saturday the detention for 15 days of at least seven members of the Black Bloc Ahram Arabic news website reported Saturday. It also placed a travel ban on them. Two Black Bloc members accused of setting fire to buildings have surrendered themselves to the authorities following arrests on Thursday night. “Two members of the Black Bloc have surrendered themselves to authorities,” said lawyer Amr Imam. “Another two members were arrested on Saturday morning from their homes.” He added that four members were arrested on Friday night, bringing the total to eight detainees. Human Rights Lawyer Ragia Omran confirmed that only eight members of the 22 summoned by the Prosecutor General appeared in court on Saturday morning. “The arrested members were accused of burning the premises of the Security Directorate in Damietta and the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Monufiya,” she said. [DNE, Ahram Online, Reuters, 4/21/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt authorities uncover North Sinai spy ring: Reports | Ahram Online, DNE
Two Armed Forces officers die while shooting video clip for Sinai Liberation Day | Egypt Independent


Parties and NGOs call for the release of the public budget
Three political parties and 10 NGOs have published a statement calling for the state budget to be made public before the Shura Council makes any decision regarding it. The joint statement, published on Sunday was critical of the decision to present the 2013-2014 budget to the Shura Council without making it available for the public to see. The signatories of the statement also said it the best way “to achieve budget transparency.” The political parties that signed the statement are the Socialist Popular Alliance, Egyptian Social Democratic and al-Dostour parties. A total of 10 NGOs, including the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, also signed the statement. [DNE, 4/21/2013]

State media employees protest pay cuts, demand minister’s dismissal
Dozens of employees of the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) on Sunday staged a rally outside ERTU headquarters in Cairo’s Maspero district to protest new wage regulations and what they claim are restrictions on coverage imposed by Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud. "Employees of the specialized channels, the television-news sector, channels One and Two and the satellite Masriya channel demand the dismissal of the information minister because of mismanagement and his policy of placing certain guests, who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, on talk shows," read a statement by protesting employees. The statement goes on to allege that "the ERTU’s middle management, with whom the minister is still collaborating, are the same ones who worked under the Mubarak regime." [Ahram Online, 4/21/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egyptian workers union to be inaugurated | DNE
Workers raise a list of demands | DNE
Fact-finding watchdog publish report | DNE


United States cites human rights problems in Russia, China, Egypt
The U.S. government on Friday expressed concern about increasing crackdowns on civil liberties around the world, from Russia to Egypt and China, saying these and other countries were shrinking the space in which independent political and other activists can operate. The report noted that the Egyptian government took action against nongovernmental groups at the end of 2011, with police raids against a number of groups including the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. [Reuters, US State Dept. report, 4/22/2013]

Egypt and Turkey sign media agreement
Egypt and Turkey signed a cooperation agreement on Saturday in the latest development in the growing relations between the two nations. The document, which promotes media cooperation between the two countries, was signed by the head of Egypt’s television sector Shukri Abu Amira and Turkish deputy head of television Zeinal Koch. Turkish Ambassador to Egypt Hussein Avni Botsali and Egyptian Minister of Information Salah Abdel Maqsoud sponsored the document that promotes cooperation in areas including news programming and technical support. Abdel Maqsoud said that the agreement comes within the larger framework of evolving relations between the two countries moving forward. [DNE, 4/21/2013]

Also of Interest:
Qatar’s offers to help Egypt restore looted assets | SIS
Netanyahu vows to exact a price for Eilat rocket attack | DNE
Egypt to try Qaddafi aide for murder, resisting arrest | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
Protesters burn Qatari flag over perceived interference in Egypt’s affairs | Ahram Online
Envoy says Chinese investments in Egypt increase by 60 pct | Aswat Masriya
Russia says Egypt asks for help with gas supplies to Europe | Egypt Independent
President’s office: Morsi warmly welcomed in Russia | Egypt Independent, Reuters, Ahram Online

Photo: EgyptianPresidency YouTube channel

Image: Ahmed%20Mekki.jpg