Top News: National Alliance to Support Legitimacy Boycotts Referendum

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) said on Monday that it is boycotting the referendum which is set to take place next month.


Minister calls for fact-finding mission on post-June 30 violence
The minister of transitional justice, Mohamed Amin al-Mahdi, has ordered a fact-finding mission to investigate all incidents of violence that have occurred since June 30, Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported Tuesday. Despite press reports announcing the directive, it was unclear what the mandate of the fact-finding mission would be and what “incidents” it intends to investigate. Egypt witnessed unprecedented levels of violence after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. He was removed after an ultimatum from Egypt’s Armed Forces and mass protests on June 30 that demanded his resignation. [Mada Masr, 12/17/2013]

Egypt apologizes for constitution banner blunder
The Egyptian State Information Service (SIS) apologized for a spelling mistake in the “All Egyptian” constitution banner at Sunday’s press conference for the constitutional committee, but said criticism of using photos of non-Egyptians was “overblown.” “We apologize for the spelling mistake in the banner; we did not revise the banner before it was hanged because we received it shortly before the start of the press conference as a gift from the Egypt Peace Lovers organization [that organized the press conference],” Amgad Abdel Ghafer, head of SIS, told the Shorouk Newspaper on Monday. [Reuters, Ahram Online, 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sisi urges tribes to hand in their weapons | Egypt Independent


National Alliance to Support Legitimacy boycotts referendum
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) said on Monday that it is boycotting the referendum which is set to take place next month. NASL made up of several parties and organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood. The alliance made the announcement in a tweet, describing the constitution as the “coup constitution.” The alliance also claimed that there were European pressures “to participate and vote No” and that the alliance is rejecting these pressures. The Islamist Wasat Party, a member party of the NASL, also announced on Tuesday that it is boycotting the constitutional referendum set to take place in mid-January, Egyptian daily Shorouk reported. [DNE, 12/17/2013]

Two Muslim Brothers sentenced to life for possessing weapons
Two Muslim Brotherhood members were sentenced to life, with labor, by an Alexandria court late on Monday and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds (1,452.10 US Dollar) for possessing weapons. The court acquitted four others in the same case due to lack of evidence. All six were arrested on the Alexandria-Cairo Road in possession of unlicensed arms, including a machine gun and ammunition, on their way to the Raba’a al-Adawiea sit-in. [Aswat Masriya, 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s Bible-burning preacher sees prison sentence cut to five years | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
54 million Egyptians eligible to vote on constitutional poll | Ahram Online
Ex-minister Garana released on bail pending retrial | Aswat Masriya, DNE, EGYNews (Arabic)
Former mufti leads campaign to support constitution | Mada Masr
Verdict on Mubarak’s smuggled funds set for February 24 | Mada Masr
Maspero Youth Union will vote “yes” to the constitution | Ahram Gate


Egypt’s stimulus package to increase by EGP 30 billion
The Egyptian government plans to increase its stimulus spending by around EGP 30 billion ($4.36 billion), Egyptian Minister of Finance Ahmed Galal announced on Monday. At least a third of the stimulus package will be allocated to cover the recent salary increases for teachers and doctors in the public sector, as well as to cover the minimum wage scheme, Mesbah Qotb, spokesman for the finance ministry, told Ahram Online on Monday. The remainder of the package will be spent on infrastructure projects. Last week, the finance ministry announced that it had approved EGP2 billion ($290 million) in incentives to be added to the pay scheme of public sector teachers. Three years of political unrest have scared away investors and tourists, weighing on economic growth which stood at just 2.1 percent in the year to the end of June. Analysts say the army-backed authorities are anxious to get the economy moving to shore up public support and curb the scope for more unrest as the government moves along a political transition plan leading to elections next year. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Investment ministry says US group to increase investments in Egypt by US$300 million | Egypt Independent
Planning minister expects 2 percent growth in second quarter | DNE
Egypt pound flat at Monday’s forex auction | DNE


Hundreds rally to commemorate Cabinet clashes, nine detained
Hundreds of protesters marched to the headquarters of the Egyptian cabinet to commemorate clashes that occurred there between protesters and security forces in 2011. The rally on Monday from Qasr al-Nil Bridge to the cabinet headquarters on Qasr al-Aini street included at least 500 people. Nine protesters were detained and investigated following the commemorative protest. Amr Imam, an attorney present at the protest, confirmed the arrest of the individuals, adding that they are currently being charged with assaulting security forces and under investigation at Abdeen Court. “The detained group was originally larger, however, most were released. The rest of the individuals, who were videotaped clashing with the police were held and charged,” Imam said. [Ahram Online, DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya, 12/17/2013]

Ain Shams University sees renewed protests, 25 arrested
Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated students continue protests at several universities Tuesday. At Al-Azhar University, the site of daily confrontations over the past week, Muslim Brotherhood students protested in front of the main building in Nasr City. They were objecting to the arrest of fellow students, the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported. Meanwhile, fifteen student protesters were injured at a medical complex in Tanta University in the Gharbiya governorate after clashes with university guards, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported. The university president later called in security forces to quell the violence. Clashes also erupted between protesting students and security forces in Upper Egypt’s Minya University on Tuesday, leaving one guard wounded, according to security sources. Security forces fired teargas to disperse students, who support the Muslim Brotherhood, from going outside university gates and blocking a main road. The students responded by throwing stones at the forces. On Monday, hundreds of students from Ain Shams University clashed with police outside the Ministry of Defense in Heliopolis. Around 300 supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi were dispersed by police using teargas after blocking Khalifa Ma’mun Street and bringing traffic to a halt during a march from the Ain Shams campus to the Ministry of Defense, reported state-run Al-Ahram. A police conscript was injured after being hit in the face with birdshot, according to the Ministry of Interior. Police forces arrested ten students following the clashes. At Zagazig’ faculty of Islamic studies, eleven female Muslim Brotherhood students have been expelled due to their participation in violence, the faculty administration claimed. Meanwhile, a list of names of all students recently detained in university clashes nationwide is on its way to the prosecutor general, according to the recently elected head of Al-Midan Student Group, Mohamed Sarhan. Sarhan said Monday that he had handed over the names of the detained students to Presidential Advisor for Women’s Affairs Dr Skeina Fouad on Saturday, who crosschecked them with the interior ministry and will refer them to the prosecutor general on Tuesday. Sarhan was among the students who attended a meeting called upon by Fouad, Amr Moussa  and Dr Abdel Gelil Mustafa to meet with representatives from the ministries of Interior and Defence, General Abdel Fattah Othman and General Al-Assar, respectively. Fourteen pro-Muslim Brotherhood students were released on a EGP 50,000 bail by Giza Criminal Court on Monday, after their appeal on the decision during the hearing. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, AMAY (Arabic), 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
ANHRI demands immediate release of student found in possession of ‘Raba’a ruler’ | DNE
Driver killed after allegedly running over pro-Morsi protesters | Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya


Armed forces say perpetrator of 2012 Rafah ambush killed
Armed forces killed Silmi Mohamed Masbah, also known as Abu Khaled, on Monday afternoon, according to a statement issued by the army spokesman. Abu Khaled is one of the alleged perpetrators of the 2012 Rafah ambush which left 16 border guards dead and seven injured on August 5, 2012. According to that statement, Abu Khaled is considered “one of the most dangerous jihadist elements and a member of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. According to army spokesperson Ahmed Ali, Abou Khaled was targeted by the army after it received information that he was planning to attack an Armed Forces checkpoint. He was followed while traveling on a motorbike on the way to this checkpoint. Ali added that 27 men suspected of belonging to militant groups were arrested in North Sinai. Thirteen buildings used by militants were also destroyed. Meanwhile, an Egyptian policeman was shot dead in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia early on Tuesday after an exchange of fire with Islamist militants. Police captain Ahmed Waheed, 26, was killed after a raid on the apartment of militant suspects resulted in a heavy firefight, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported. One of the suspects was also killed in the gunfight. The slain “militant” was a 20-year-old medical student who had close ties with a militant cell planning a series of explosions in army and police installations, a security official has said. Both bodies have been transferred to a provincial hospital for post-mortem examination. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya, 12/17/2013]

Bomb explodes near school in Cairo’s Nasr City
A bomb exploded near a school in the northeast Cairo district of Nasr City’s 7th Zone, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported. The accident left no casualties or any damage to surrounding buildings, Ahram added. The area was cordoned off as security forces and explosives experts were enlisted to assess the situation. Initial investigations showed that a homemade bomb composed of “mortar, gunpowder and nails” caused the explosion. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, AP, Shorouk  (Arabic), 12/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt army uncovers tunnel used to smuggle cars | Aswat Masriya


Senate confirms US ambassador to Egypt for State Department post
The US Senate voted by an overwhelming 78-16 on Monday to confirm Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Egypt and a former ambassador to Pakistan, as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. Patterson became a focus of criticism of US policy in Egypt last summer during demonstrations after the military deposed the country’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Patterson had said street demonstrations were not the way to bring about change, which some Egyptians interpreted as backing for Morsi and ridiculed her in prominent signs posted around Cairo. [Reuters, 12/16/2013]

Image: Photo: AMAY