Top News: SCC Declares Five Articles of Election Law Unconstitutional

Port Said Feb AFP.jpg

The Supreme Constitutional Court rejected five articles of a draft election law on Monday and sent the text back to the Shura Council for redrafting in a move that may delay a parliamentary poll due in April.  


Egypt’s political rivals meet amid tension
Liberal and Islamist political leaders met privately on Saturday to try to ease tensions that have sparked protests in which some 60 Egyptians have died since late January, politicians said. Freedom and Justice Party Chairman Saad al-Katatni met with opposition leaders Mohamed ElBaradei and al-Sayed al-Badawi on Saturday in one of the first instances of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. Katatni told Badawy and ElBaradei that changing the Cabinet could cause instability domestically and abroad. Another meeting between the NSF, the Salafi Nour Party and Abdel Moneim Aboul Futouh’s Strong Egypt party is expected within days. Nour Party’s Nader Bakkar criticized al-Katatni for not discussing a Nour Party initiative in the meeting. [Reuters, DNE, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/17/2013]

Egypt’s opposition goes to provinces to ‘connect with people’, conference attacked in Suez
The National Salvation Front, Egypt’s main opposition bloc, held a number of public conferences on Friday in Suez, Port Said on the Suez Canal and Mahalla in al-Gharbiya governorate, to "connect with the public." Unidentified assailants fired shots at attendees as the Suez conference neared its end, but no injuries were reported. Suez Security Director Adel Refaat stated on Friday that the person behind the shooting has been identified as “Atared”, a fish vendor in Suez, reported state-owned news agency MENA. Refaat added that the hunt for Atared is ongoing.
[Ahram Online, DNE, 2/16/2013]

Egypt chief of staff says army will avoid politics
Egypt’s armed forces, for decades at the center of power, will avoid involvement in politics but could have a role if things became "complicated", the chief of staff said on Sunday.
It also expects rival political groups to solve disputes by dialogue, Major General Sedki Sobhi told Reuters. He added that the army would not back any political party. "We are not political, we don’t want to participate in the political situation because we suffered a lot because of this in the last six months," he said. [Reuters, 2/17/2013]

Controversial protest bill advances to Shura Council
Prime Minister Hesham Qandil has referred controversial legislation regulating protests and another bill regarding the protection of witnesses and police informants to the Shura Council Both drafts, which had been approved in an earlier Cabinet meeting, were referred to the Shura Council on Sunday, spokesperson Alaa al-Hadidy said in a statement posted on the Cabinet’s Facebook page. [Egypt Independent, 2/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
President Morsi to announce ‘within days’ opening of Egypt parliament nominations | Ahram Online
Al Jazeera: Presidential adviser dismissed for ‘exploiting’ position | Egypt Independent, Ahram Online
President Morsi approves new Grand Mufti | Ahram Online
President Morsi consults with former presidential runner Nour | Ahram Online, SIS
Ali: Presidency media team to be appointed | SIS
Morsi’s son rejects airports company job amid criticism | Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya/Reuters
Cabinet to discuss law combating rape and torture – Egypt | Aswat Masriya
Alcohol sale to be banned in Egypt’s new suburbs | Reuters
Jama’a al-Islamiya seeks Islamist alliance outside of main parties | Egypt Independent


SCC declares five articles of election law unconstitutional
The Supreme Constitutional Court rejected five articles of a draft election law on Monday and sent the text back to the Shura Council for redrafting in a move that may delay a parliamentary poll due in April. "The court has returned the draft parliamentary electoral law to the Shura Council after making five observations on five articles which it found unconstitutional," a court statement said. The Shura Council will have to add amendments to the article before 25 February. The Constitution stipulates that the law must be approved by the Supreme Constitutional Court within 45 days of it being passed by the Shura Council. [Egypt Independent/Reuters, Ahram Online, 2/18/2013]

Egypt orders Islamist detained for insulting Christianity
Egypt’s state prosecutor ordered on Sunday an extremist Islamic preacher detained for questioning on suspicion of insulting religion after a complaint from a Christian activist, a judicial source said. The preacher Ahmed Abdullah, known as Abu Islam, is already on trial for tearing up a bible during a protest outside the American embassy in Cairo in September over a short film made in the United States that insulted the Prophet Mohammed [AP/Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
After dismissal, former prosecutor general appointed adviser in Kuwait | Egypt Independent


Egypt trade balance deficit increases to record LE29 bn
Egypt’s trade deficit saw yet another surge in November last year, growing by a significant 29 per cent over the same month the previous year, the state-run statistical body CAPMAS reveals on Monday. The trade deficit reached approximately LE29 billion in November 2012 versus LE17 billion a year earlier. On a monthly level, the trade deficit increased considerably from LE14 billion in October. A drop in exports was behind the increased deficit, the latter falling by 1.5 per cent in November to sit at LE15 billion. [Ahram Online, 2/18/2013]

Egypt pound will not collapse: Presidential aide
The Egyptian pound will not collapse and its incremental depreciation has stabilised, a senior aide to Islamist President Mohamed Morsi said on Sunday. Essam Haddad, Morsi’s deputy chief of staff and foreign policy adviser, told Reuters in an interview that he did not expect the pound to fall further after it lost more than 8 percent against the dollar since the start of the year. "I think it has reached a level of stability," he said. "So as long as it (depreciation) is going incrementally and in a way that is market-sensitive, then there is no harm in this," Haddad said. [Reuters/Ahram Online, 2/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
IMF’s proposed Egypt loan not enough to salvage economy: Expert Ahram Online
Egypt uncovers more Mubarak-era assets in UK | Ahram Online
Egypt receives $174 mln on reconciliation with Mubarak figures | Ahram Online
Egypt’s unemployment rate hits 13% – CAPMAS | Aswat Masriya
World Bank grants Egypt US$6.7 mn for water resources | Egypt Independent


Egyptian police publicly beat to death man suspected of killing officer
Egyptian policemen beat to death in public a man they believed was the killer of a police officer who was shot on Saturday morning in the Upper Egypt governorate of Beni Suef, according to Ahram’s Arabic news website reporter. Investigations officer Captain Hesham Kamal al-Din Ta’ma was shot in Beni Suef city in the early hours of Saturday morning while he was breaking up a brawl involving firearms between two families in al-Ghamrawi and Ezbet al-Safih areas. [Ahram Online, 2/16/2013]

Interior Ministry agrees to issue weapons to police
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) on Saturday partially responded to the demands of protesting police officers by agreeing to supply them with 100,000 guns. However, some of the police protesters claim that the decision will not be enforced and have vowed to continue protesting until Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is dismissed. The ministry has also agreed to hold monthly meetings between security chiefs and low-ranking police officers, allowing the officers to report problems to the ministry, and will form a committee to provide healthcare to all ministry employees and their families. The MOI said that the new weapons will only be used during confrontations with dangerous criminals and according to hazardous situations defined by law.
The weapons will not be used against peaceful demonstrations and marches, the statement said. [Egypt Independent, DNE, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 2/17/2013]

Also of Interest:
Masked men fire on Egyptian lawmaker’s car in theft attempt | Reuters
Workers’ strike violently dissolved | DNE
Security seizes weapons in Arish | Egypt Independent


Port Said continues civil disobedience
Residents of Port Said continued on Monday their civil disobedience for the second day, while military tanks surround key facilities in the governorate. The protesters began their marches early Monday morning; relatives of those killed in the violent clashes that erupted on 26 January participated in the disobedience, carrying pictures of the dead. Workers at the Port Said arsenal, which is run by the Suez Canal Authority, joined the civil disobedience campaign, while thousands of students, football ultras and family members of prisoners shut down the Port Said governorate building Sunday and temporarily blocked the Cairo-Port Said railway line. The strike caused a stoppage in schools and the closing down of the Public Free Zone, which holds at least 29 factories, after threats of escalation were made, if protester demands are not met. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, 2/18/2013]

Al-Gendy’s autopsy report challenged
The lawyers representing alleged torture victim Mohamed al-Gendy challenged on Sunday the official autopsy report of the victim. The justice ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority (FMA) concluded in an official report, Tuesday, that al-Gendy’s death was the result of a car accident, and not torture at the hands of police. The forensic doctor who examined the body of Popular Current member and activist Mohamed al-Gendy told prosecutors Sunday that the victim died in a car crash. Dozens of protesters held a silent demonstration on Sunday in front of the Forensic Medical Authority in Cairo, to reject reports issued by the authority for those who died during several incidents since the 2011 Revolution. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online   2/17/2013]

Six arrested in late night clashes in Egypt’s Mahalla
Six protesters were arrested in the Nile Delta industrial city of Mahalla, Gharbiya governorate after clashes erupted late Sunday between protesters and Egyptian police. Clashes ensued late Sunday and continued until dawn Monday, as protesters were reported to have thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at the local police station and set car tires on fire. Shops also closed early as a result of the violence. Gharbiya Security Director General Hatem Osman reported that they had arrested six protesters responsible for the violence. The clashes first broke out between security forces and the protesters after the funeral of a child named Mahmoud Mohammed al-Saeed, 15, who was run over by a private car while running from clashes that erupted at anti-Morsi protests on Friday. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 2/18/2013]

Also of Interest:
UNICEF condemns violence against Egyptian children | Ahram Online
Minors detained during Friday clashes | DNE
Ahram Online editor says Brotherhood drove him out of institution | Egypt Independent
Egypt’s court shuts down belly dancing channel, religious cleric | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent


Egyptian flooding washes away Gaza tunnel business 
Egypt’s campaign to shut down smuggling tunnels running under its border into the Gaza Strip threatens to throw thousands of Palestinians out of work in the Hamas-run enclave. The network of tunnels has been a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt for more than seven years. Hamas released a statement Saturday condemning the Egyptian government for flooding tunnels connecting Egypt to the Gaza Strip. [Reuters, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/18/2013]

Kerry urges more support for Egypt’s stability
US Secretary of the State John Kerry said on Friday that current challenges facing Egypt drive the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to extend more help and assistance for achieving stability in Egypt. Kerry’s comments came during his first major public address as Secretary of State, which he delivered before workers of the USAID in Washington, in which he stressed the importance of the role played by the agency in foreign policy. [SIS, 2/16/2013]

Also of Interest:
Rise of Islamists frays strategic UAE-Egyptian relations | Reuters
Iran offers Morsi guidance on building an Islamic state | DNE

Photo: AFP

Image: Port%20Said%20Feb%20AFP.jpg