Top News: Morsi Vows to Respect Judicial Independence; Mekki to Reconsider Resignation


 Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki said he would reconsider his resignation if he were to receive an official written decree promising no one would interfere in the affairs of the judiciary. Prior to Mekki’s comments, President Mohamed Morsi’s office issued a statement late Monday night regarding his meeting with members of the Supreme Judicial Council. Morsi expressed his concern to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. 


Finances of army and president are being monitored: Auditing authority
All state bodies, including the army and police, are under financial scrutiny from the government’s Central Auditing Organization its director, Hisham Geneina, told private satellite news channel al-Mehwar on Monday. The agency is not a “scarecrow” used by the current regime or a tool to settle accounts, he said. The funds of the presidency and the Armed Forces are being subjected to monitoring for the first time, Geneina said. The spokesperson for the Armed Forces, however, denied reports that the army had agreed to allow the CAO and other regulatory bodies to oversee all their commercial activities in a statement posted on his Facebook page Monday evening. [Egypt Independent, 4/23/2013]

NSF won’t take part in cabinet, possibly in elections if demands are met
Dostour Party founder and National Salvation Front leader Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as Conference Party founder and NSF leader Amr Moussa, warned that despite previous assurances, the NSF would not necessarily participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections without clear guarantees for their integrity. Mohamed Abul Ghar, chairman of the Social Democratic Party and leading member of the NSF ruled out the possibility that the front may be represented in the next cabinet reshuffle expected within days. He denied the possibility that the NSF may be part of the new reshuffle. "We have not been offered any posts, and we would not accept them anyway. We want a neutral government to ensure fair elections."[Egypt Independent, Ahram (Arabic), 4/23/2013]

Presidency says Qandil remains in position, denies Russian loan request
Presidential spokesperson Omar Amer said Monday that replacing Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is not on the agenda, among the upcoming ministerial changes. On Monday evening, state-owned media quoted Qandil as saying the cabinet reshuffle will be announced in the coming week. In a press conference held at the presidential palace, Hatem Saleh, Minister of Industry and Trade, spoke about the results of Morsi’s two-day trip to Russia claiming Egypt did not request loans or other aid from Russia.  [DNE, 4/23/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s information minister responds to media protests | Ahram Online
PM: Cabinet reshuffle to take place next week | SIS, Reuters


State Council to discuss draft judiciary law in emergency meeting
Egypt’s State Council called on Monday for an urgent meeting on Wednesday of its general assembly to discuss consequences of a bill amending the country’s judicial system. A statement on Monday, following a meeting headed by judge Gabriel Abdel Malak, said the draft judicial authority law represented “a flagrant violation of Article 169 of the Constitution, which requires judicial authorities to be consulted before the introduction of laws regulating their function". Egyptian Judges Club head Ahmed al-Zend said, "All judges will stand against the Brotherhoodization of the judiciary and against those who aim to lower the retirement age for judges." He urged Egyptian political parties not to consider the law, so as not to become a tool for the destruction of the State. The opposition National Salvation Front called for demonstrations at the Shura Council to protest the law, claiming its provisions allow the Muslim Brotherhood to install its supporters and more easily forge election results. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online,  DNE, SIS, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/22/2013]

Morsi vows to respect judicial independence; Mekki may reconsider resignation
Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki said he would reconsider his resignation if he were to receive an official written decree promising no one would interfere in the affairs of the judiciary. Prior to Mekki’s comments, President Mohamed Morsi’s office issued a statement late Monday night regarding his meeting with members of the Supreme Judicial Council. Morsi expressed his concern to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. Preserving the independence of the judiciary is the president’s constitutional duty, and he would not accept any assault on the nation’s judges, the statement said. Chairman of the Judges’ Club Ahmed al-Zend strongly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi in a press conference following Morsi’s meeting. [DNE, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 4/23/2013]

Also of Interest:
Mubarak’s finance minister Boutros Ghali sentenced to 25 years | Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Reuters, Al Masry Al Youm (Arabic)
Prosecution keeps file open on Azhar grand sheikh | Egypt Independent
Court case to prohibit the Shura from legislating | Shorouk (Arabic)
US citizen to appear in court on Tuesday | DNE
Prosecutor who ordered lashing of drunkard to be interrogated | Egypt Independent
Former MP questioned over statements on corrupt judges | Egypt Independent
Qandil appeals sentence removing him from his post | Al Masry Al Youm (Arabic)
Islamist party accuses top judge of endorsing foreign interference | Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic)


Egypt finance minister presents 2013/14 budget to Shura Council
Egyptian Finance Minister al-Morsi al-Sayed Hegazy officially submitted the government’s 2013/14 budget to the Shura Council (Parliament’s upper house) on Tuesday. The figures confirmed total state expenditure for 2013/14 would be LE692.4 billion, an increase of 18.6 percent from LE583.7 billion in the current financial year.  Revenues are expected to reach LE497.1 billion, up from LE393.4 billion in the current year. [Ahram Online, 4/23/2013]

OCI shares suspended over tax dispute
Trading in shares of Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), Egypt’s biggest private construction firm, was suspended on Tuesday after the stock exchange demanded detailed updates of the company’s tax dispute with the government. Al-Mal daily reported on Tuesday that OCI had reached an agreement with the Egyptian Tax Authority (ETA) under which the firm will pay its back taxes in installments. OCI stated that its $2 billion tax dispute with the Egyptian Tax Authority is in progress and more details would be revealed over the coming days. [Ahram Online, 4/23/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt stocks dip slightly on anticipated cabinet reshuffle | Ahram Online
Prices for import cigarettes rise | DNE


Sinai land ownership law will not be retroactive
At a meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said the law regulating possession of Sinai land will not be applied retroactively. Attending the meeting were Ministers of Investment and local Development, Head of Sinai Development Agency (SDA) Major General Mohamed Shawki and the governors of North and South Sinai. Qandil underlined that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already communicated foreign diplomatic missions in Cairo to brief them on this move. The meeting discussed the implications of Sinai Development Law and the obstacles facing the executive bodies in the governorates when ownership law No. 14 of 2012 was activated. Cabinet Spokesman Ambassador Alaa al-Hadidi said reports that the law obliges current foreign owners to sell their land within a period of six months are just rumors promoted by brokers of land and residential units. [SIS, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/23/2013]


CBC owner, director to be interrogated in Bassem Youssef case
The owner and executive director of the private satellite TV channel CBC will be interrogated by the public prosecutor’s office on Wednesday regarding controversial content aired on comedian Bassem Youssef’s show, al-Bernameg. Youssef has been accused of defaming President Mohamed Morsi and expressing contempt for Islam on the show. Attorney-General Mohamed al-Sayyed Khalifa summoned station owner Mohamed al-Amin and executive director Mohamed Hani for questioning on Wednesday. [Egypt Independent, 4/22/2013]

Al-Azhar under pressure not to issue women’s rights document
The Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb is facing pressure to halt issuing a document of women’s rights from an Islamic perspective, said the head of the National Council for Women (NCW) Mervat al-Talawy. Talawy said the NCW had requested that Azhar issue this document since last May, “because it is the only answer to fatwas against women rights.” [Egypt Independent, 4/22/2013]

Also of Interest:
Kefaya launches petition against Morsi | Egypt Independent
Workers plan Labor Day protests | DNE
Egypt students to protest recent arrests | Ahram Online
Doctors Syndicate urges release of Egyptian prisoners in Israel | Egypt Independent


Egypt says Russia to help revive nuclear program, denies request for loan
Russia will help Egypt develop its nuclear power program, Trade and Industry Minister Hatem Saleh said on Monday, signaling that the Islamist-led state will press ahead with its quest for atomic energy. Egypt froze its nuclear program after the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, but in 2006, the government of deposed President Hosni Mubarak announced it would revive the program. Saleh also denied that Egypt requested a loan from Russia during President Mohamed Morsi’s recent visit to that country. Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Omar Amer said on Monday that Russia did not ask Egypt to establish a Russian Military base on Egyptian territories in place of the Russian base in Syria. [Reuters, Ahram Online, SIS, 4/22/2013]

EU council discusses Egypt
Foreign Ministers from member states of the European Union met in Luxembourg on Monday for their 3,236th council meeting on foreign affairs, in which ministers spent some time discussing developments in Egypt. EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton briefed the ministers on her visit to Egypt at the beginning of April, said her chief spokesperson Michael Mann. Mann said that the ministers discussed the situation in Egypt briefly and the general message from them was that there is a “need to keep pushing hard for a democratic transition that involves all parties”. It was also highlighted that the issues in Egypt are not just political but also economic. [DNE, 4/23/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt still mediating Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, assures official | Egypt Independent
UK govt meets with British Copts to discuss Cathedral violence | Ahram Online

Photo: Egyptian Presidency

Image: MorsiwJudges.jpg