Top News: Morsi Cuts Egypt’s Syria Ties, Syria Lashes Out at Decision

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President Mohamed Morsi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and called for a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state firmly against President Bashar al-Assad.


Opposition weighs post-June 30 transition plans

Top opposition party leaders met on Saturday at the headquarters of the Popular Current Party to discuss preparations for the upcoming June 30 protests. A spokesperson for the Popular Current Party said that the meeting discussed preparations and “the period following the overthrow of [President Mohamed] Morsi,” and a unified political vision would be published in a few days.” If anti-government protests are successful in forcing early presidential elections, Egypt’s political opposition will have only one candidate to represent it this time around "unlike the last elections" one year ago, said Mohamed ElBaradei. Sayyid al-Badawi, head of the Wafd party, announced his party’s participation and plans for meetings to coordinate with campaigners and other opposition parties. Secular MPs in the Shura Council are considering a collective walk-out aimed at expressing solidarity with the Tamarod campaign, opposition, and revolutionary forces. Presidential adviser Pakinam al-Sharkawy warned against the repercussions of protesting against Morsi. A leading Watan Party figure said it is unacceptable to protest demanding the ousting of an elected president. Yasser al-Borhamy, deputy head of Egypt’s Salafist Call, warned against bloodshed during demonstrations, saying that another round of political violence would enrage large swathes of Egypt’s population and would ultimately fail to accomplish anything. [DNE, Ahram Online, EGYNews, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 6/17/2013]

Egypt’s president appoints seventeen new governors, including seven from MB
Egypt’s president on Sunday appointed seventeen new provincial governors, including seven members of his Muslim Brotherhood, adding to its already considerable power in the legislative and executive branches. The appointments mean that the Muslim Brotherhood now controls the governorships in eleven out of the country’s 27 provinces, and that at least nine other governorates will be run by military and police generals, including the Suez and Red Sea provinces. Besides the new Brotherhood governors, the appointment of Adel el-Khayat, a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Jama’a Islamiya, drew attention. He will rule the ancient southern city of Luxor, a main tourist site. In 1997, his group claimed responsibility for what became known as Luxor massacre, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at the Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor. Since then, the city has seen Islamists as a threat to their tourist income. The gubernatorial reshuffle drew protests in governorates across Egypt, with political groups attacking perceived attempts to "Brotherhoodize" the state ahead of June 30 protests. [AP, Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, SIS, Egypt Independent, 6/16/2013]

Shura Council approves amendments to political rights law
Egypt’s Shura Council approved on Sunday the amendments suggested by the Supreme Constitutional Court to the law on exercising political rights and will refer the draft law back to the court to be reviewed. On Sunday, the legislative and constitutional affairs committee agreed to grant military and police personnel the right to vote in elections by no later than July 2020. The new draft includes recommendations made by the SCC on May 25. According to the modified draft, Egypt’s Supreme Elections Commission (SEC) will be the only body able to call for elections sixty days before the polls open. Representatives of the Freedom and Justice party (FJP) disagreed with an amendment giving the SEC the right to call elections, instead arguing for the president alone to have the right. The president, however, has the authority to call referendums and can set the date of elections if the House of Representative (lower house of parliament) is dissolved. In addition, the law states, elections or referendums can be postponed by the president or the SEC in case of "necessity." [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, SIS, DNE, 6/16/2013]

Also of Interest:
Morsi’s popularity declining | DNE
Survey: 54 percent in favour of early presidential elections | Egypt Independent
Poll: 28 percent of Egyptians support Morsi, 35 percent back opposition | Aswat Masriya
Al-Wasat calls for national reconciliation | DNE
FJP welcomes Egypt reconciliation initiative; opposition says ‘too late’ | Ahram Online
Controversy brews over al-Watan Party resignations | DNE, Aswat Masriya
Egypt Cabinet approves harsh punishments for street crimes, assaults on police | Ahram Online


Egypt police officer accused of torture acquitted, SSIS officers reinstated

An Alexandria criminal court acquitted on Monday police officer Ahmed Mostafa Kamel, who was charged with torturing suspect Sayed Belal to death. Belal was under investigation at the time for alleged involvement in the 2011 New Year’s Eve bombing of the Two Saints Church in Alexandria. Kamel was initially sentenced to twenty-five years in absentia but was later granted a retrial. He is the second defendant to be acquitted in the case, following police officer Mahmoud Abdel-Alim who was initially given a life sentence but was found innocent last December during the retrial. Meanwhile, fifteen officers from the now-dissolved State Security Investigation Services (SSIS), who were acquitted of destroying state documents at the infamous agency this week, have been awarded jobs at the National Security Agency. An official within the ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, defended the move, claiming it does violate any law since the men were neither sacked nor convicted during the trial. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 6/17/2013]

Salafi preacher given eleven-year suspended sentence for blasphemy
A hard-line Muslim cleric received an eleven-year suspended sentence Sunday for insulting Christianity and threatening public security. Cairo’s Nasr City court sentenced Ahmed Abdullah and his son was given a suspended sentence of eight years over the same incident in which Abu Islam tore up and burned a bible. The two were ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($700). The ruling can be appealed. Meanwhile, the New Cairo Court rejected on Saturday the appeal submitted by Salafi preacher and TV anchor Abdallah Badr. The court upheld his imprisonment, sentencing him to one year in prison and fining him EGP 20,000 for libel against actress Elham Shahin. [AP, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Reuters, 6/16/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sexual harasser sentenced to life for killing victim | Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic)
Workers have right to strike: Egyptian court | Ahram Online DNE
Seventeen accused of breaking into al-Azhar acquitted | DNE
Hassan Mustafa gets one-year hard labor | DNE, Aswat Masriya
Former housing minister stands trial in new corruption case | Egypt Independent
Appeals for Mubarak and Nazif postponed | DNE
Cairo court jails five for Ettihadiya police assaults | Egypt Independent, DNE


Brotherhood and opposition clashes leave thirty-eight injured in Fayoum

Up to thirty-eight people were injured in clashes between Muslim Brotherhood protesters and opposition Rebel campaigners in Fayoum on Sunday night, al-Ahram Arabic news website reported. Around three thousand Islamists were marching in support of the new governor of Fayoum, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood appointed by President Mohamed Morsi. Clashes started when some Islamist demonstrators confronted Rebel campaigners collecting signatures for an anti-Morsi petition in Fayoum’s Revolution Square. The clashes evolved from exchanging insults into the usage of firearms, rubber bullets and petrol bombs. A health ministry official said that all of the patients received by the Fayoum Public Hospital suffered rubber bullets injuries in different parts of their bodies, with one serious case that was transferred to Cairo. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 6/17/2013]

Egypt detains man suspected of spying for Israel
Authorities in Egypt have detained an Egyptian man suspected of spying for Israel, the state news agency said on Saturday. He is believed to have been recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad in 2011, the agency reported. The state security prosecutor ordered the man to be held for fifteen days pending investigations. The suspect, according to Al-Ahram, contacted the Egyptian General intelligence Service and warned them he had been contacted by Mossad in an attempt to recruit him. The defendant was told to cease communications with Mossad and allegedly failed to comply. [DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 6/15/2013]

Also of Interest:
Clashes erupt at Ismailia courthouse | DNE
Bomb threat at Egypt’s interior ministry ‘false alarm’: Security source | Ahram Online


Egypt in late stages of verifying IMF reform plan

Egypt’s government is in the late stages of verifying its economic reform program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before obtaining a $4.8 billion IMF loan, its central bank governor said on Saturday. The loan, needed to help stabilize Egypt’s balance of payments and state finances, has been under discussion for two years but agreement has repeatedly been postponed by political unrest in the country and the government’s reluctance to commit to austerity measures. Meanwhile, the World Bank group and its partners are investing more than $1.25 million in the Egypt Development Marketplace program, said a press release issued by the World Bank. The Development Marketplace program addresses job creation, poverty alleviation and rural development in Egypt. [Reuters/Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 6/17/2013]

Government expected to raise dollar supply in anticipation of June 30 protests
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) will likely hold an auction to sell dollars to local banks before June 30, a senior banking source told al-Masry al-Youm, the day on which mass protests will demand early presidential elections. The planned protests, which have also called for President Mohamed Morsi’s departure from power, could cause the price of the dollar to rise. The exchange market and the black market are anxiously anticipating demonstrations as they seek to capitalize on gains from the expected rise of the dollar against the Egyptian pound. On Monday, the CBE invited a tender to sell US$40 million to local banks. Tenders were first used by the CBE in December following unprecedented surges in the value of the dollar against the pound in exchange markets, a phenomenon that negatively impacted dollar liquidity. [Egypt Independent, 6/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Twenty-five Egyptian, world consortiums compete over Suez Canal project | SIS
Egypt stocks resume downward trend, turnover hits record low | Ahram Online
Egyptian electricity supply outstrips national demand: MENA | Ahram Online


Tamarod backs SCC president to replace Morsi

Egypt’s opposition Tamarod campaign has backed Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) President Manar al-Beheiry to replace President Mohamed Morsi, a founding member told London’s pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat Saturday. Discussing the campaign’s decision, member Mohamed Abdel Aziz said if Morsi was ousted during June 30 protests the SCC president "would take power as part of a government of technocrats and a national defense council with sixty-five percent military members." The Tagarrod (impartiality) campaign backing President Mohamed Morsi launched its website on Friday, claiming its motion supporting Egypt’s embattled leader had already received 10 million signatures by Saturday. "There is a strong chance of violence resulting from the coming protests," said retired Egyptian general Sameh Seif al-Yazal, a military analyst. "It could start from any side." The Ministry of Health announced its plan to deploy ambulances in nineteen public squares all over the country. The police announced its political neutrality, but have vowed to enforce the law, protect citizens, and vital facilities and property. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement announced on Sunday that it has launched a campaign to monitor the demonstrations scheduled for the end of this month. [Egypt Independent, SIS, Reuters, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 6/16/2013]

Radical Islamic preacher labels anti-Morsi protesters ‘disbelievers’
Radical Islamic preacher Wagdi Ghoneim said participation in the protests scheduled for June 30 is forbidden as President Mohamed Morsi is a legitimately elected president. Those who will join the protests on are “disbelievers” because the people should obey those in charge of their affairs, he added. The Qatar-based preacher said that the rebellion against Morsi is a rebellion against Islam and an attempt to abort the Islamic project. He also claimed that weapons had been stashed away in churches and that these should thus be searched. [Egypt Independent, 6/16/2013]

Also of Interest:
Children’s rights coalition denounces state stance on FGM | DNE
Petrojet workers head back to the pickets | DNE
Doctors protest near health ministry | DNE
Artists’ protests against Egyptian culture minister reach Alexandria | Ahram Online
Supreme Council of Culture withdraws confidence from Minister | DNE


Morsi cuts Egypt’s Syria ties, Syria lashes out at decision

President Mohamed Morsi said he had cut all diplomatic ties with Damascus on Saturday and called for a no-fly zone over Syria, pitching the most populous Arab state firmly against President Bashar al-Assad. His speech at the National Conference for the Support of the Syrian Revolution announced six new policies regarding Syria, the boldest of which is the severing of ties with the Syrian regime. In addition to closing the Syrian Embassy in Egypt and withdrawing the Egyptian mission in Syria, Morsi said he would provide financial aid to the Syrian rebels. Syria said Sunday that Egypt’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with his country is "irresponsible," accusing its president of fueling sectarian conflict in Syria and serving a US-Israeli conspiracy to divide the Middle East. Responses have varied to Morsi’s speech. An Armed Forces source dismissed the notion of Egyptian boots on the ground in Syria. Syrian opposition groups have welcomed Morsi’s support for their uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Meanwhile Egyptian opposition leaders have criticized the timing of his announcement ahead of planned anti-Morsi protests on June 30. The break in relations means the refugees have nowhere to turn for consular services like renewing passports and obtaining official documents. Syrians stranded in front of the embassy said that they were notified it will keep functioning until Thursday, but only to complete its current administrative work, and it will not begin new procedures. [Reuters, AP, DNE, Egypt Independent, 6/13/2013]

Egypt Brotherhood backs Syria jihad, denounces Shiites
Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood blamed Shiites for creating religious strife throughout Islam’s history, as the movement joined a call by Sunni clerics for jihad against the Syrian government and its Shiite allies. Representatives of more than seventy Sunni religious organizations met in Cairo this week to issue a call to jihad in Syria – a call endorsed by the Brotherhood, whose spokesman Aref said on Friday the gathering had "awakened the conscience of the world." Clerics at the rally urged Morsi to back their calls for jihad to support rebels. Morsi did not address their calls and did not mention jihad. But his appearance was seen as in implicit backing of the clerics’ message. It came after a senior presidential aide last week said that while Egypt was not encouraging citizens to travel to Syria to help rebels, they were free to do so and the state would take no action against them. Salafist al-Nour party spokesman Nader Bakkar accused the presidency of using this stance on Syria and other similar events to mobilize against upcoming anti-government protests. Egypt’s revolutionary sheikh, Imam Mazhar Shahin, says that the decision to sever diplomatic ties with the Syrian government is merely an effort to bolster the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails. Deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party Essam al-Erian said that developments in the ongoing crisis in Syria have shown the difference between the Gaza-based Hamas group and Lebanese Shia Hezbollah group, both of which were originally founded to resist Israeli occupation. [Reuters, AP, Ahram Online, 6/13/2013]

Egypt, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministers cancel news conference
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia met in Addis Ababa on Monday in hopes of defusing tensions over a huge dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile River. Egypt and Ethiopia began a sharp exchange of words after Ethiopia last month started to divert Nile waters as part of the construction of its massive $4.2 billion hydroelectric project dubbed the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. In a possible sign that the talks are not sailing smoothly, the two ministers cancelled a scheduled news conference Monday morning. One day earlier, Egyptian Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohamed Bahaa al-Din said that the Entebbe Agreement of the Nile Basin Initiative is not binding on Egypt as Cairo did not sign it, while United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon contacted President Mohamed Morsi as well as Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to encourage both countries to hold talks over the GERD. Meanwhile, the Salafi Nour party is organizing a national delegation from several political and social factions in Egypt to “go very soon to Ethiopia as a means of parallel diplomacy” to that of the government’s, according to the party’s spokesperson Nader Bakkar. Lastly, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry confirmed it has not received any complaints alleging ill-treatment or discrimination from Ethiopians living in the country. [AP, Ahram Online, SIS, DNE, Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic), 6/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Syrians on diverted EgyptAir flight seek UK asylum | Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters
Arab journalists demand media freedom | DNE
Libyan guards fire at Egyptian protest on the border | Ahram Online
EU representative criticizes NGO draft law in Shura Council | DNE
Meshaal arrives in Cairo | DNE

Photo: Egypt Presidency

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