Top News: Morsi Sentenced to Death for Prison Break Pending Mufti’s Recommendation

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 others to death for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising. The prisoners, who broke out of jail in 2011, include members of the Palestinian Hamas movement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, jihadists, Muslim Brotherhood members and varied criminals, according to the prosecution. The court also issued a preliminary death sentence to Brotherhood leaders Mohamed al-Beltagy, Khairat al-Shater and fourteen others in the trial known as the “Hamas espionage case.” The court did not issue a ruling against Morsi and eighteen others in the espionage case and scheduled the announcement for June 2. The court will also pronounce its final decision on the prison break case on June 2, since under Egyptian law, death sentences are referred to the Mufti for his non-binding opinion. Defendants can still appeal even after the mufti’s recommendation. “If he (Morsi) decides that we appeal against the verdict, then we will. If he continues to not recognize this court, then we won’t appeal,” said defense lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud. Many of those sentenced on Saturday by Judge Shaaban al-Sham were tried in absentia, including prominent Qatar-based Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Muslim Brotherhood official Amr Darrag condemned the verdict, while the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy expressed its rejection of “the concept of trying elected president … Morsi.” Brotherhood official Ahmed Ramy Elhofy, who was sentenced in absentia, warned the west to expect a backlash. “All the world will pay for this death sentence, will pay for their silence about the sentence, and for betraying the principles of freedom and justice,” he said.  [Reuters, Mada Masr, DNE, Ahram Online, The Guardian, AFP, Aswat Masriya, 5/16/2015]


Political parties seek ‘immunity from dissolution’ for next parliament
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received Sunday a proposal of legal amendments to laws related to parliamentary elections, from nearly thirty political parties who concluded a three-day workshop, the Conservative Party announced. Egyptian politicians demanded legal guarantees that the upcoming parliament cannot be dissolved. “This can be achieved through an amendment in the law regulating the work of the Supreme Constitutional Court,” said Yehia Qadry, a legal expert and vice-president of the National Movement Party. The initiative was launched by right-wing politicians, led by the Conservative Party. The party asserted it was not planning to produce parallel amendments to those done by the governmental committee, but to “help” protect the elections laws from potential unconstitutionality. [DNE, 5/18/2015]

Egypt’s legal amendment committee approves rights group’s prison oversight
The committee tasked by the Egyptian government with making legislative amendments granted on Sunday the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) the authority to monitor and visit prisons. This authority will be exercised through coordination with the public prosecution. Egypt’s Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidi had formerly approved of the NCHR’s draft law to monitor living and medical conditions of prisoners. In late March, a delegation from NCHR visited Abu Zaabal prison in the northeast of Cairo recommending an urgent investigation into incidents reported by prisoners. The delegation said prison authorities were not following the articles of the new prison bylaws on visits to prisoners and on the exercise they are allowed. [Aswat Masriya, 5/18/2015]

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Egypt executes six men convicted of killing soldiers
Egypt executed six men Sunday convicted by a military court over a gunfight last year at a suspected bomb factory. The six executed men were convicted of killing two military officers in an hour long battle with police, military, and special forces in March 2014. Judicial officials said the men also were convicted of belonging to the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has since pledged allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group. Amnesty International said the men underwent a “grossly unfair” trial and that the only witness during the hearings was a secret police officer. The rights group also called for a retrial in a civilian court for the men, saying “at least three of the men were held in secret at the time of the crime they have been sentenced for.” [Ahram Online , AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr , AFP, 5/17/2015]

Court bans Ultras and labels them terrorists
The Cairo Court for Urgent Affairs issued a verdict on Saturday banning the activities of all hardcore football fan groups known as Ultras across the country and declaring them terrorist organizations. The verdict, which criminalizes the existence of Ultras groups, stems from a report by Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour, who also accused them of attempting to kill him, and banned them from entering the club. “They see themselves as a buffer, a channel that offers frustrated, despairing hopeless youth a chance to vent pent-up anger, frustration, and protest peacefully, rather than leaving them with the option of either apathy or violence,” said James M. Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who closely follows the ultras. He called the ruling a “dangerous gamble” for the government.  [Mada Masr, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, 5/16/2015]

Also of Interest

  • One sentenced to death by Egypt court for ‘terror’ charges | Aswat Masriya
  • Egyptian court allows foreign females with citizenship to pass it on to children | Ahram Online
  • Egypt court upholds asset freeze on businessman Hussein Salem | Ahram Online , Aswat Masriya
  • ‘Al-Zawahiri cell’ trial postponed to May 31 | DNE, Egypt Independent
  • Trial sessions ceased in Al-Arish court complex, to be transferred to Ismailia | DNE, Ahram Online
  • Sisi says Egypt’s judges to pursue ‘noble mission’ | Cairo Post, DNE
  • Judiciary seeks insurance bonuses for judges following Arish deaths | Egypt Independent


Egyptian government confirms capital gains tax on hold for two years
Egypt’s government has suspended a ten percent tax imposed on the market’s capital gains for two years, causing shares to rise in early trading. A ten percent tax on stock dividends will remain, the government added. The suspension comes after a months-long downturn and investors’ complaints of a lack of clarity regarding the tax. Some investors had gone to court to abolish the law on the tax, which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved nearly a year ago. The law was part of the government’s effort to broaden the country’s tax base while enacting a number of tough structural reforms. The suspension of the tax reflects the difficulty of maneuvering through such reforms. [Reuters, AP, 5/18/2015]

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Reem Maged’s show suspended from ONtv
Egyptian private satellite channel ONTV will not broadcast the upcoming episode of presenter Reem Maged’s show, the channel’s head said on Friday. The weekly program, which was produced by Deutsche Welle and aired by its Arabic channel and ONtv, will continue to air on Deutsche Welle. Albert Shafik, head of ONtv, refused to comment on the suspension amid speculations that the channel was pressured by authorities to cancel the show. In a phone interview on Friday, Maged said she did not know the reasons and called upon the entity that took the decision to clarify. Social media users circulated a video footage of the program talking on the dispersal of pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya square, saying the video could be the reason for the suspension. Maged’s show tackled social issues, particularly the role of Egyptian women in society. ONtv network owner, Naguib Sawiris, says the cancellation was the result of a financial crisis which has led to the cancellation of any program that does not bring in advertising.  Sawiris also rebutted Maged’s claims of government interference, stating she was “obsessed” with “sovereign security institutions.” However, Maged still believes there was outside pressure involved in the cancellation decision. “Obviously, the channel did not take the decision completely on its own,” Maged said in a phone interview with colleague at the same channel, TV presenter Liliane Daoud, implying external pressure. [Mada Masr, 5/18/2015]

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  • Al-Ahram apologizes for ‘coup’ blunder | Mada Masr
  • Seven Al-Azhar students expelled over university riots | Cairo Post
  • Alex customs dispose of altered bibles, Qurans | Egypt Independent
  • Giza residents protest outside Cabinet demanding housing |Egypt Independent


Egypt raises alert to highest level across country
The ministry of interior declared a status of high alert after the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi to death on Saturday. The ministry said that heavily armored forces are to secure security directorates all over the country, and declared a state of emergency in the police stations and in different sectors of the ministry. Hours after the court decision, gunmen opened fire on a vehicle in North Sinai’s al-Arish city, killing three judges and a driver. According to a health source cited by Al-Masry Al-Youm, a fourth person injured in the attack died later, and two more were severely injured. Egypt’s Minister of Transitional Justice, and interim Justice Minister, Ibrahim al-Heneidy, blamed the Brotherhood for the attack. Egyptian security officials say bombs targeted courthouses in two cities, wounding two people, in what could be retaliation for Morsi’s sentencing. At least three attacks targeting security personnel were carried out, with a conscript injured in Ismailia, a policemen killed in Kerdasa, and a policeman killed and another injured in Sharqeya, both in drive-by shootings. An IED exploded outside the walls of a church in Fayoum on Saturday, causing no injuries. Bombs targeting electricity pylons exploded in Aswan, knocking out power in fourteen villages, as well as in Beheira. On Monday, a bomb-disposal expert had a part of his leg amputated after he was injured attempting to diffuse an explosive device near a police club in Sharqeya. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 5/18/2015]

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International community condemns Morsi verdict; Egypt hits back
The United States is “deeply concerned” about an Egyptian court decision to seek the death penalty for former President Mohamed Morsi, a State Department official said on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. US criticism follows condemnations from Amnesty International and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, as well as from Turkish opposition parties, after the court ruling on Saturday against the deposed president. “Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt,” Erdogan said. Amnesty International described the verdict as “a charade based on null and void procedures.” Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said in a statement, that the verdict “was not in line with Egypt’s obligations under international law.” The Palestinian movement Hamas said on Sunday it rejected the death sentences handed to some of its members a day earlier by a Cairo court as “void,” calling the verdict a “massacre.” The group also claimed that two of its members who were sentenced to death were killed in 2008 and 2014 respectively. Egypt denounced the critical reactions to the verdict, saying on Sunday that comments on the trial reflect “ignorance.” Egyptian State Information Services said in a statement that all litigation procedures are guaranteed in order to ensure that trials are fair, while the foreign ministry reiterated that it is inappropriate to comment on the decisions and verdicts issued by the Egyptian judiciary, because of the implicit “intervention in Egypt’s internal affairs.” [Reuters, 5/17/2015]

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