Top News: Parties and Leaders React to Khusus, Abbasiya Violence

CairoAbbasiyaMarkSouth.jpg

CairoAbbasiyaMarkSouth.jpg

 The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) denounced violence that took place in Khusus in Qalyubiya Governorate and outside the Coptic cathedral in Abbasiya, and demanded in a statement that the state "reveals the plans [aiming to create strife between different Egyptian sects], punish those behind them and stop this threat." They also asserted that deadly clashes in the city of Khusus north of Cairo were "premeditated" and intended to cause chaos. 

GOVERNMENT & OPPOSITION

Parties and leaders react to Khusus, Abbasiya violence
The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) denounced violence that took place in Khusus in Qalyubiya Governorate and outside the Coptic cathedral in Abbasiya, and demanded in a statement that the state "reveals the plans [aiming to create strife between different Egyptian sects], punish those behind them and stop this threat." They also asserted that deadly clashes in the city of Khusus north of Cairo were "premeditated" and intended to cause chaos. FJP head Saad al-Katatny condemned the clashes in the city of Khusus in Qalyubiya Governorate as “sectarian strife” and called them “unacceptable and dangerous.” Egypt’s presidency issued a statement on Saturday night denouncing Friday’s sectarian violence that took place in Khusus. He also denounced clashes at Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.  "Any attack against the cathedral is like an attack against me personally," Mursi told the Coptic Christian Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in a phone call. As clashes persisted in the vicinity of Cairo’s main Coptic-Christian cathedral in the capital’s Abbasiya district, Coptic Pope Tawadros II issued a statement calling on the Egyptian people exercise "wisdom and restraint." Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb denounced the violent incidents, saying that fending off sectarianism is a national duty. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 4/7/2013]

Mekki: Morsi could call for early presidential elections
President Mohamed Morsi will call for early presidential elections if he feels that his presidency has failed, Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki said Saturday night. In an interview on Al-Hayat channel Mekki added however that “calling for early presidential elections now is calling for failure and chaos”. Instead, Mekki argued, if early presidential elections are to be held they should be scheduled after all state institutions are rebuilt. The minister of justice also said he is unhappy with former president Hosni Mubarak being on trial for the killing of protesters during the January 2011 uprising that ousted him. “I believe the protesters were killed by accident and that [Mubarak] did not order it,” he said, adding that Mubarak’s voluntary relinquishment of power is something that should be praised. “We could put him on trial for the torturing of prisoners and forging of elections that went on during his reign, though,” Mekki said. [DNE, 4/7/2013]

Presidency denies debate on status of Hala’ib, FJP apologizes for map omitting Hala’ib and Shalateen
Presidential spokesperson Omar Amer on Sunday denied rumors surrounding a proposed deal between President Morsi and his Sudanese counterpart Omar Bashir that would give the Hala’ib and Shalateen territories to Sudan. He said the issue was not brought up during Morsi’s two-day visit to Sudan. The rumor alleged that a senior official in Khartoum revealed Morsi had promised to re-zone the area to settle the long-standing dispute. Presidential spokesperson Ihab Fahmy denied on television that Morsi spoke on the subject, saying talks revolved solely around strengthening cooperation and attracting investments. The official Facebook page of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, posted an apology for its publishing of a map of Egypt without Hala’ib and Shalateen, areas which are claimed by both Egypt and neighboring Sudan. [DNE, Egypt Independent, 4/6/2013]

Also of Interest:
13 members of Egypt’s Constitution Party resign | Ahram Online
Morsi denies ‘thugs’ comment, Abdallah orders probe | Egypt Independent

COURTS & CONSTITUTION

Egypt’s top judges call for resignation of prosecutor-general
Egypt’s top judges have called for Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah to resign and return to the judicial bench. Following a board meeting on Sunday, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) issued a statement saying Abdullah’s resignation would “help unify the judiciary and put an end to the divisions within it.”  The SCJ said in a statement that it was important that everyone, especially people of the judiciary, uphold the verdicts coming out of courts of law. The council also declared that judges and prosecutors should cease making any media appearances in order to preserve their objectivity.[Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Reuters, 4/7/2013]

Egypt court delays ruling on parliamentary elections
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has postponed its decision on the suspension of parliamentary elections until 14 April. It is the second time the court has postponed its verdict in the appeal case. The court was expected deliver its ruling on 24 March but postponed it until 7 April. The verdict was delayed to enable the presidency time to authorise the appeal, which was submitted by the Egyptian State Lawsuit Authority (ESLA) on its behalf. The court postponed consideration of the appeal in order to send an official letter to the presidency, the Shura Council, the Justice Ministry and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil saying that they needed to consent to the ESLA’s appeal. If none of the parties responded, the court would consider the lack of response official approval. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 4/7/2013]

Also of Interest:
Lawsuit to halt Bassem Youssef’s show dismissed | DNE, Egypt Independent
Blogger faces trial for mocking interior ministry | DNE
Sabry military trial postponed until May 7 | DNE
Suez squatters referred to military trials | DNE
Egypt’s jailed Mubarak faces fresh corruption charges | Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent
Judges charge ex-Brotherhood leader with insulting Egypt’s judiciary | Ahram Online, DNE
Prosecutor general condemns opposition forces for High Court clashes | DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya
Egypt presidential runner-up Shafiq acquitted of corruption charges | Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent

ECONOMY

Egypt seeks to increase $4.8 bln IMF loan – minister
Egypt is seeking to increase its previously-requested $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to cover its soaring budget deficit, the planning minister said in comments carried by two local newspapers on Sunday. "Egypt will intensify its efforts in the spring meetings of the IMF in the period from April 16-21 to receive additional funding to cover the financing deficit until mid-2015," Ashraf al-Araby said in remarks carried by Al Masry Al Youm newspaper. "There are ongoing discussions to increase the loan, estimated at $4.8 billion but it may rise, especially with the increase in the budget deficit to $20 billion," he was quoted as saying. [Reuters, 4/7/2013]

Popular Current launches first economic conference, call for state-led economy
The Popular Current launched its first economic conference on Sunday under the title “Saving the Egyptian economy, towards an alternative programme”. Former presidential candidate and popular current leader Hamdeen Sabahy said during his keynote address said that the conference was “a response to repeated criticism that the opposition lacks vision and political and economic solutions”. He added that developing applicable economic alternatives can help Egypt better handle the economic situation. Speakers at the conference called for a larger government role in economic planning and activity and for abandoning Egypt’s ‘neo-liberal’ agenda. [DNE, Ahram Online, 4/8/2013]

Also of Interest:
Sinai investment plan doubles to EGP 101m | DNE
Minister of electricity seeks to fulfil 20% of energy needs using renewable sources by 2020 | DNE
Egypt economic situation "worrisome", needs fast action: minister | Reuters

SECURITY & SINAI

Egyptian police attempt to storm our syndicate: Lawyer
Police forces attempted tp storm the Lawyers Syndicate late Saturday night. The syndicate is located near the High Court where clashes have been taking place between security forces and anti-government demonstrators since Saturday evening. The head of the north Cairo division of the lawyers syndicate, Mohamed Osman, told the privately owned ONtv satellite channel that the head of the general syndicate, Sameh Ashour, had opened the syndicate headquarters earlier in the evening for the injured to receive treatment. Osman added he held the interior minister responsible for the attack. [Ahram Online, 4/7/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt releases weapons ship after investigation: Sources | Reuters

SOCIETY & MEDIA

One dead, many wounded in Cairo cathedral clashes
One person was killed and more than 80 wounded in clashes at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo on Sunday after a funeral service for four Egyptian Christians killed in sectarian violence with Muslims in El Khusus, north of Cairo, where four Christians and one Muslim were killed late on Friday when members of both communities started shooting at each other. MENA said 12 people were wounded, and two apartments and a cafe set on fire by petrol bombs. The initial forensic report said the four Copts were killed by bullets from automatic weapons. Police have arrested 15 people allegedly involved in the Khusus violence. Mourners leaving St Mark’s Cathedral were attacked by unidentified men following the funeral. After leaving the cathedral, people were met with rock-throwing as eyewitnesses claim hearing gunshots. The Ministry of the Interior held those coming from the cathedral responsible for the outbreak of violence, accusing funeral goers of destroying cars in the neighbourhood. Maspero Youth Union spokesperson Nader Shoukry said tear gas had been fired inside the cathedral. Violence also broke out for the second time in El Khusus following clashes at the Cathedral. Eleven were arrested in connection with the violence outside the cathedral. Priest Suriel of the Mar Girgis Church in Khusus said the clashes that were rooted in a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim family dating back three months, while MENA reported that the clashes erupted between a group of Muslim and Christian teenagers after the latter allegedly painted offensive drawings on the gates of an Azhar institute. [Reuters, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 4/7/2013]

Thousands protest in support of Al-Azhar grand imam
Thousands gathered in Luxor and Cairo on Friday in support of Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb. The protesters claimed El-Tayeb is being targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood because it wants to control Al-Azhar. After an outbreak of food poisoning at Al-Azhar University hospitalised more than 500 students on Monday, there were calls by some for the grand imam to be removed. Protesters on Friday carried signs reading "Al-Azhar is a red line," and chanted against the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, 4/5/2013]

Baseera Poll: Percentage of Egyptians who disapprove Morsi’s performance reaches record high
Egyptians have continued to show dissatisfaction with President Mohamed Morsi’s job approval rating, which has hit a record low, with only 47 percent of Egyptians saying they think he has performed well, the latest public opinion poll conducted by The Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) has revealed. This approval rating is less than the percentage Morsi earned at the end of his first eight months in office, during which he was seen by 49 percent of the population as performing well, and much far behind the percentage he earned after the first hundred days, after which 78 percent of respondents said they approved of his performance. The percentage of respondents who would vote for Morsi if presidential elections would be held tomorrow reached 37 percent, compared with 35 percent at the end of his eighth month in office, and 58 percent after the first hundred days. [DNE, Egypt Independent, 4/7/2013]

Nationwide April 6 protests against Brotherhood rule marred by clashes
Nationwide protests marking the 6 April 2008 general strike in Mahalla turned violent on Saturday as police clashed with protesters in several governorates. Aside from Cairo, there were clashes in Mahalla, Alexandria, Mansoura and Sharqiyya, as well as a large protest in the North Sinai governorate. In downtown Cairo, police fired birdshot and tear gas to disperse protesters and street vendors in the area surrounding the High Court, the Journalists’ Syndicate and the Lawyers’ Syndicate. Egypt’s health ministry announced on Sunday that the number of injuries has reached 44 in violent confrontations in Cairo and other governorates. The April 6 Youth Movement issued a statement condemning the country’s security forces’ firing of tear gas, as clashes continued near the High Court on Saturday night, and vowed to take "legitimate" action after its members were attacked during a protest in Mansoura. Prior to the protest, the Egyptian interior ministry increased security presence around critical government buildings ahead of the protests. [DNE, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Reuters, 4/6/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt-wide railway strike averted after talks | Ahram Online, DNE
Railways head refers striking train drivers to prosecutors | Egypt Independent
46 injured in protests on Mahalla strike anniversary | Ahram Online
Pope: We will never accept a “non-civil state” | Egypt Independent

REGIONAL & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

EU’s Ashton seeks consensus in Egypt on economy and reform
The European Union’s foreign policy chief met Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday against a backdrop of sectarian violence to encourage feuding political leaders to seek a national consensus in tackling mounting problems. "This is a critical time for Egypt’s transition. The country is facing huge economic and political challenges," Catherine Ashton said before the talks. Ashton said that she followed with great concern the Sunday clashes between Muslims and Christians in front of the Abbasiya Cathedral. "I am extremely worried about the violent incidents at the Abbasiya Coptic Cathedral in Cairo. On hearing the news I immediately contacted the presidency, strongly urging restraint and for the security forces to control the situation," Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Sunday. Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, expressed the EU’s deep concern about the violent sectarian events of Sunday and expressed solidarity with the families of the victims. She praised, however, President Mohamed Morsi’s phone call to Pope Tawadros II in which he condemned the violence. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 4/8/2013]

Tourism minister stops Iranian flights to re-evaluate program
Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou decided to stop incoming flights from Iran until the second half of June to reconsider a recent move to promote tourism between the two countries. “We are re-evaluating our tourism programs with Iran,” Zaazou said Sunday. The decision comes days after dozens of protesters attempted to storm the residence of the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Cairo on Friday. The protesters, mostly Salafists, threw stones at the building and daubed offensive slogans on the outer wall. They chanted against Iran, Shias and the Muslim Brotherhood and in support of the Syrian opposition. Government sources said that the decision taken to stop incoming flights from Iran came after receiving an angry call from the Iranian side, after the Salafi protest, asking for assurances from the Egyptian government that it would secure its diplomatic mission and Iranian tourists. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, 4/7/2013]

Also of Interest:
Diplomatic source: Egyptian Embassy in Syria still operating | Egypt Independent
Libyans call on Egypt to extradite Qaddaf al-Dam | DNE
Ambassador: Egyptian detainees in UAE ‘well-treated’ | Egypt Independent

Photo: Roland Unger