Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he supported Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s bid for presidency, wishing him luck after holding talks in Moscow. Sisi and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy travelled to Moscow Wednesday to discuss military and economic cooperation with Russian ministers. Anonymous Egyptian military sources told Al-Ahram that Sisi is in Moscow to finalize a $2 billion arms deal made when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu visited Cairo in November. Sisi and Shoygu also reportedly discussed the possibility of joint military exercises


Sabbahy calls for release of “prisoners of conscience,” says sought partnership with Sisi
Hamdeen Sabbahy, Egypt’s only politician to announce his intention to run for the country’s presidency so far, said election results aren’t as decisively in favor of army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi – who is widely expected to run – as many Egyptians have come to believe. The founder of the leftist Egyptian Popular Current movement and Nasserist Karama Party said on prominent TV host Yousri Fouda’s show, aired on privately owned ONTV, that despite the popularity of his possible contender, which he appreciates, “the Egyptian people aren’t pledged to any single person.” Sabbahy added that he sought a partnership with Sisi on a revolutionary election platform, yet he did not get a reassuring promise. He also welcomed Sisi’s candidacy for presidency. “If Field March Sisi wants to nominate himself, I welcome him as a strong candidate who is popular and loved.” He also called for the release of what he termed “prisoners of conscience,” days after he announced he would run for president. “At the moment there are real prisoners of conscience in Egypt,” Sabbahy said, referring to young people involved in the 2011 uprising that swept autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power and the 2013 protest movement against Morsi. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, 2/13/14]

Presidential adviser announces new preconditions for presidential candidacy
Presidential adviser Ali Awad told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday that new conditions have been determined for the first time in the presidential elections law that is currently being prepared. “Candidates must enjoy a good physical and psychological condition and must have obtained a university degree,” he said, adding that President Adly Mansour is endorsing the law in a few days after it is reviewed by the State Council. “Now that we have a new constitution, it was necessary to introduce certain amendments to the elections law,” he said. “Each candidate will just have to collect 25,000 signatures supporting him from fifteen governorates at least, with a minimum of 1,000 signatures in each, but without having to obtain approval from Parliament, as it was dissolved by the Constitutional Court two years ago.” “Also, neither the candidate nor his wife should have a nationality other than the Egyptian,” he said. “Children are exempted, however.” [Egypt Independent, 2/13/14]

Also of Interest:
Sawiris backs Sisi for Egypt’s presidency | Ahram Online
Tamarod co-founder: The movement does not support a specific presidential candidate | Egypt Independent
Gamila Ismail: Emergence of Sisi in civilian clothes signals the beginning of a battle | Shorouk (Arabic)
Egyptian businessmen have confidence in Sisi’s promise he will restore stability | AMAY (Arabic)
Cabinet receives report on presidential pardons issued by Morsi | Tahrir (Arabic)
Housing Commission to begin inspecting Sheikh Mansour Bridge | Ahram (Arabic)
Twenty-five political parties and coalitions announce support for Sisi | Ahram (Arabic)


Dozens of detained protesters released in Egypt
Twenty five students arrested in last year’s protests at Al-Azhar University were released by Cairo prosecutors on Wednesday, a day which saw tens of other detained protesters set free across the country. The Al-Azhar students, including eight women belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, had been picked up during protests at the university on October 30 and charged with damaging public property, possession of weapons, terrorising other students and belonging to a terrorist group, according to Al-Ahram. The tens of other detainees released on Wednesday in other Egyptian governorates had also been arrested for protesting. Wednesday’s decisions by prosecutors nationwide comes after a week of rising pressure from various political parties and revolutionary groups for those detained without formal charges to be set free, especially in light of recent allegations of brutal torture and sexual assault in prison at the hands of security forces. Another thirty-six detained Brotherhood members were released after being charged with inciting violence and demonstrating without permission in old Cairo. The defendants had denied the charges brought against them and their involvement in the demonstrations. [Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), 2/13/14]

Egypt refers 188 to court over Kerdasa police killings
Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat referred 188 suspects to Giza Criminal Court, as investigations showed their involvement in breaking into the Kerdasa police station and killing policemen there, in the aftermath of the Raba’a al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-in dispersals in mid-August. The bloody attack killed fourteen policemen last summer. Assailants, armed with firearms and RPGs, stormed a police station in Kerdasa in western Giza shortly. The policemen were tortured to death and some of the bodies mutilated. The attackers also seized weapons and videotaped the attack, known as the “Kerdasa massacre,” to “humiliate” the police, according to a statement by prosecutors. One hundred and forty-three defendants are in detention while forty-five are at-large, the statement added. They face charges of terrorism, murder, damaging public property and possession of weapons. The public prosecutor claims the attack, the deadliest on police since Morsi’s ouster in July, was orchestrated by Abdel-Salam Bashandy, a former Muslim Brotherhood member of parliament. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/13/14]

Twenty-three Brotherhood members arrested in Sharqiya and Fayoum
Sharqiya security services arrested on Wednesday fifteen Muslim Brotherhood members, including the father of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s son’s wife, on charges of inciting violence against police and military and protesting without permission. The prosecution claims that they were promoting ideology of the Brotherhood. They were also distributing flyers against the military and police as well as participating in protests without authorization. In Fayoum, a university professor and seven other Brotherhood members was arrested for their involvement in demonstrations and protests in violation of the protest law. [Egypt Independent, EGYNews (Arabic), 2/13/14]

Also of Interest:
Badie, Shater trial on Moqattam Guidance Bureau clashes postponed to March 16 | Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic)
Notorious criminal ‘Hambolli’ given life sentence | Mada Masr
Habib al-Adly graft trial postponed to April 17 | EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic)
Appeals court sets February 27 as trial for Azhar defendants | EGYNews (Arabic)
Ten arrested in Minya on charges of storming Samalout police station and burning Beni Mazar church | EGYNews (Arabic)


Egypt’s growth rate sluggish: 1.6 percent Y-o-Y in Q1 of 2013/14
Egypt’s economic growth rate shrank by 0.5 percent, recording 1 percent in the first quarter of the 2013/14 fiscal year, down from 1.5 percent in the final quarter 2012/13. The growth rate during the period between July-September 2013 was down 1.6 percent as compared to the same quarter of the fiscal year 2012/13, where the growth rate stood at 2.6 percent. Meanwhile, GDP at current prices rose from EGP 445.8 billion ($64 billion) in the Q1 of 2012/13 to EGP 518 billion ($74.4 billion) in the Q1 of 2013/14, according to data from the finance ministry. [Ahram Online, 2/13/14]

Egypt debts at end-2013 highest record in country’s history
Egyptian debt has reached a new high record of EGP 1,865 billion at the end of December 2013, up from EGP 1,709 billion at the end of the preceding September, according to a report from the Finance Ministry. The ministry added that net domestic debts stood at nearly EGP 1,546 billion by the end of December 2013, an increase of EGP 252 billion from December 2012. Foreign debts reached EGP 45.8 billion during the same period, a rise of EGP 7 billion. [Egypt Independent, 2/13/14]

Also of Interest:
Egypt signs oil, gas exploration deals | DNE
Egypt welcomes 5 year strategic cooperation plan with IDB: Minister of Planning | DNE
Minister of tourism aims for 20 percent increase in tourism | Egypt Independent
Egyptian stock market sees modest gains | Ahram Online
Egypt’s annual urban inflation rises to 11.4 percent in Jan: CAPMAS | Ahram Online
World Bank warns of slow down of the economies of Egypt and other Arab Spring countries | Ahram (Arabic)
Egyptian government to ban import of 3-wheelers for one year | AP, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Ahram (Arabic)
Reducing unemployment in Egypt by 2020 requires 6 percent growth rate: WB | Cairo Post


Mob tries to stop Bassem Youssef crew filming; Public prosecutor to investigate Youssef
A group of people opposing Egypt’s popular satirist Bassem Youssef gathered Wednesday outside the theatre where he records his weekly show, al-Bernameg, and tried to block the crew from entering. With his usual biting wit, Youssef took to Twitter afterwards and mocked both the demonstrators and a recently-passed protest law which forbids all protests not pre-approved by authorities. The crew managed to get inside the theatre to film the episode, a source told Al-Ahram. Prosecutors are investigating complaints by supporters of army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who said Youssef insulted the popular defense minister and the Egyptian armed forces. Attorney General Hisham Barakat filed an investigation against Youssef for insulting the armed forces, interim Prime Minister Adly Mansour and Sisi. He is also accused of threatening the security and stability of the country and using humor to spread false ideas. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Tahrir (Arabic), 2/13/14]

Also of Interest:
Swine flu death toll rises to forty-four since December: Health ministry | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
Pro-Morsi alliance calls for demonstrations starting Friday | Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent
Doctors’ Syndicate rejects new law | DNE
Egypt at 159 in press freedom ranking | Egypt Independent, AP
Retired doctor arrested for contempt of religion | Egypt Independent


Three arrested for killing of two policemen outside Ain Shams church in Cairo
Two policemen have been shot dead outside a church in Cairo’s Ain Shams district during a pro-Morsi rally. One died at the scene on Wednesday evening, the second died in hospital in Nasr City on Thursday morning. Gunmen reportedly opened fire on police guarding the Evangelical church as a pro-Morsi march passed by. Ministry of Interior spokesman, Hani Abdel Latif, said that three suspects have been detained for their role in the attack. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 2/13/2014]

Chief detective survives assassination attempt in Giza
Sources from Giza Security Department said on Thursday that “terrorists” tried to assassinate Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mokhtar, chief detective of al-Saff police station in Giza, on his way home. “Four masked men targeted the police vehicle that Saff chief detective was riding in. They fired shots at him under al-Aghsas bridge in Giza,” the source told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mokhtar responded by shooting them. However, they escaped to a remote agricultural area on the road,” he added. Security troops are combing the area to arrest the gunmen. [Egypt Independent, 2/13/2014]

Also of Interest:
Armed Forces arrest thirteen in North Sinai | Aswat Masriya
Three assailants arrested after throwing bomb at Warraq police station | Egypt Independent


Putin supports Sisi bid for presidency; Sisi negotiates arms deal with Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he supported Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s bid for presidency, wishing him luck after holding talks in Moscow. Sisi and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy travelled to Moscow Wednesday to discuss military and economic cooperation with Russian ministers. Anonymous Egyptian military sources told Al-Ahram that Sisi is in Moscow to finalize a $2 billion arms deal made when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu visited Cairo in November. Sisi and Shoygu also reportedly discussed the possibility of joint military exercises. Putin, meanwhile, expressed confidence in an increase in trade between Egypt and Russia reaching $5 billion. Fahmy said the talks reflect a serious desire to increase regional and international dialogue. The head of Russia’s state industrial holding company said after the Cairo meeting that Moscow was on the verge of reaching a landmark agreement to deliver air defense systems to Egypt’s army. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the beginning of his meeting with Fahmy in Moscow on Thursday that the dialogue between Moscow and Cairo on regional and international affairs is of particular importance in the current stage. [AFP/DNE, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Reuters, AP, EGYNews (Arabic), SIS

EU expresses concern over torture allegations, crackdown and terrorism
European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis was denied a request to visit prisoners, he announced on Twitter Thursday after meeting with Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat. Lambrinidis described the refusal as a “direct contradiction” to the Ministry of Interior’s “press release promising greater openness to such visits,” in a tweet. Ahead of his meeting with Barakat, Lambrinidis met with Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Tuesday to discuss torture and detention conditions. The Ministry of Interior said after the meeting that Ibrahim said, “there is no truth at all” to reports of torture inside prisons. Ibrahim called on Lambrinidis to consider the human rights of policeman when discussing matters related to human rights in general. European Union ambassador to Egypt James Moran, meanwhile, voiced concerns about a recent crackdown on young people and journalists, but praised the country’s new charter as the best in Egypt’s modern history. Speaking of the toppling of Morsi seven months ago, Moran said that the EU has never referred to the move as a “coup,” saying that “what happened last year took place on the back of a massive popular uprising.” Moran also expressed concern about terrorism in Egypt, saying, “The situation in Sinai is very worrying and we support Egypt’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.”  [DNE, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/13/2014]

United States confirms arrest of embassy staff member; Calls for inclusive Egypt government
The US embassy in Cairo has confirmed that a staff member has been held without charge for nearly three weeks. Ahmed Aleiba, an Egyptian, was arrested by the authorities on 25 January, the embassy said in a statement on Thursday. In a press briefing Wednesday, Deputy Spokeswoman for the US State Department, Marie Harf, said that the US administration has been in touch with the Egyptian government, requesting additional information about his case. Harf added that the United States has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and that they have “repeatedly, both publicly and privately, called on the interim government to move forward in an inclusive manner,” calling for a government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood. “We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there,” she added. She also said, commenting on the visit of Egypt’s Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Russia that “a lot of countries have interests in Egypt and want to build a relationship with Egypt going forward.” [Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/13/2014]

Also of Interest:
European Parliament MEPs call on Egypt to confront human trafficking | DNE
Egyptian foreign minister says HRW report “ignores” several facts | SIS
Irrigation minister denies reports of deadlock in Ethiopia talks, but may internationalize case | Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Egypt Independent
Nour Party calls on OIC to protect Muslims in Central Africa against genocide | Egypt Independent