Top News: Seventeen Al-Azhar Students Sentenced to Fourteen Years in Jail

A Cairo court has sentenced seventeen Al-Azhar University students to fourteen years in jail on charges of storming the university headquarters, judicial sources said on Thursday.

Shafiq to back Sisi if he runs; Sabbahi holds Sisi partially responsible for transitional government’s mistakes
Ahmed Shafiq, former Prime Minister, has said he will support Egypt’s Defense Minister, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, if he runs for president. Shafiq, a former presidential contender himself, confirmed on Thursday that no campaign has publicized for him and that he has nothing to do with the banners people hang up in the streets. “I am not a presidential contender,” Shafiq wrote on Twitter. Meanwhile, former presidential candidate and Popular Current founder Hamdeen Sabbahi suggested Thursday that Sisi is partially responsible for errors committed by transitional authorities that ousted Mohamed Morsi last year. Sabbahi told satellite channel CBC that “the current authorities have made several errors in relation to security and freedoms, and Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is the deputy prime minister and surely plays a part in decision-making.” [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 3/21/2014]

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  • Sabbahi: Security and production are the most important issues, and I plan to amend the peace treaty | Shorouk (Arabic)


2011 cabinet clashes trial postponed to April 1; Witness claims Sabbahi offered him bribe
The trial of 269 protesters arrested during the December 2011 clashes in front of the Egyptian government’s headquarters resumed on Thursday and was adjourned to April 1, but not before a tense courtroom session was played out in which presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi was accused of bribing a witness. Lawyers at Thursday’s session were tweeting live during the proceedings and news reports of the trial pulled directly from their posts. Two witnesses were called in the session, according to the lawyers’ tweets. The first denied seeing any clashes at all. The second, however, claimed that he was in possession of a video showing leading activist Ahmed Douma attacking security forces and torching the Scientific Institute. He claimed that Sabbahi offered to pay him EGP 20,000 (approximately $2,800) not to show the video incriminating Douma in court. [Ahram Online, 3/20/2014]

Seventeen Al-Azhar students sentenced to fourteen years in jail for 2012 protests
A Cairo court has sentenced seventeen Al-Azhar University students to fourteen years in jail on charges of storming the university headquarters, judicial sources said on Thursday. Sources said the students were also each fined EGP 90,000 ($13,000) on charges of rioting, damaging public property, burning nine vehicles and attacking security personnel and Al-Azhar staff. The incident on which the court ruled dates back to May of last year, during the rule of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, when a wave of protests spread through Al-Azhar University after hundreds of students were hospitalized for food poisoning on two separate occasions. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 3/21/2014]


Egypt pound strengthens on official, black market
The Egyptian pound strengthened slightly against the dollar at a central bank sale of foreign currency on Thursday, also rising on the black market. The central bank sold $38.4 million to banks at the auction, with a cut-off price of 6.9501 pounds to the dollar, inching up from 6.9502 at the last sale on Wednesday. On the black market, the dollar was offered for EGP 7.37 on Thursday, stronger than Wednesday’s rate of 7.40. [Reuters, 3/20/2014]

Suez Canal revenues forecast to hit record $5.5 billion this year
Revenues from Egypt’s Suez Canal, one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency, are expected to reach $5.5 billion in the current fiscal year, the head of the authority that manages the waterway said on Thursday. Suez Canal Authority chief Mohab Memish said this would be a record high. Revenues from the canal rose 8.5 percent in November from a year earlier to $442.4 million, according to the latest statistics. [Reuters, 3/20/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Interview with Egypt’s finance minister on taxes, subsidies | Asharq al-Awsat
  • Egypt’s stock market reaches new, 5-year high | AP


Five injured in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters in Sharqiya
The pro-Mohamed Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy called for protests on Friday in what it described as the “second wave of the revolution,” and in conjunction with Mother’s Day in Egypt. Protests in Sharqiya turned violent, leaving two officers and three citizens injured, according to Aswat Masriya. Three citizens sustained minor cuts and injuries while Sergeant Abdel Aziz Abdel Razek Hussein was shot in the shoulder and undercover agent Mohamed Abdel Karim Mohamed sustained a broken hand. Police dispersed the protest, arrested three Morsi supporters in the process. Clashes also took place between security forces and students on Thursday at Alexandria University, while Cairo University’s engineering students began a strike in protest against violence that left two students dead. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 3/21/2014]

Activist Alaa Abd El Fattah moved to unknown location
Activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was removed from his cell in Tora Prison on Wednesday evening, with his family left unaware of his whereabouts. A security source at the Ministry of the Interior denied that Abd El Fattah is being held in an undisclosed location, state-owned Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported on Friday, describing it as a rumor. On Friday evening, Manal Bahey El-Din Hassan, the wife of Abd El Fattah, wrote on Twitter, “Do you know what it feels like to have someone detained by the Ministry of Interior? It means that you cannot be assured that he is okay for a single moment. Alaa was taken from his cell yesterday and since then we do not know his whereabouts.” [Mada Masr, 3/21/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Interview with Mervat Tallawy: Egyptian Fights for Women’s Equality | AP
  • Building collapses in Giza leaving two dead and five injured | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Building collapses in Suez leaving one injured | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Cairo University expels 23 students accused of vandalism during March 19 protests | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Army arrests thirty-eight ‘terrorist elements’ in Sinai
According to a military spokesman, the army raided several areas on Thursday capturing “thirty-eight terrorist elements.” Security forces raided areas of terrorist activity in Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zayed, spokesman Ahmed Ali wrote on his Facebook page. During these raids, thirty-eight terrorist suspects were arrested and twenty tunnels linking Egypt to Gaza in Rafah were demolished, Ali said. He added that eighty-three huts used by radicals and terrorists to launch attacks against police and army forces were torched. The army has intensified its efforts to demolish tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip since August 2012 after sixteen border guards were killed by unidentified gunmen. [Aswat Masriya 3/21/2014]

Security checkpoints torched in Gharbiya and Helwan, six arrested
On Friday morning unknown assailants torched a police checkpoint at Gharbiya’s Mahalla Abu Ali Village on the Mahalla-Mansoura Road. According to eyewitnesses the assailants threw petrol bombs and fled. The attack did not result in any casualties but the fire destroyed large sections of the checkpoint. Gharbiya’s security director, Major General Osama Bedeir, said that security officials and criminal evidence experts inspected the scene. In Helwan, authorities arrested six people after they attacked a security checkpoint in a similar manner, torching a car and a police motorcycle. [Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), Ahram Online 3/21/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Security forces defuse two bombs found in bank in Beni Suef | Ahram Gate (Arabic)


Gulf security is Egypt’s national responsibility – Mansour
Interim President Adly Mansour said that the security of Gulf area is one of Egypt’s national security priorities, and that Egypt was fighting the war on terrorism on behalf of the Middle East region.In an interview which was published on Friday in Kuwait Al-Rai newspaper, Mansour said that life in Egypt would not stop because of “desperate terrorist attacks”. “Egypt is in a war against terrorism on behalf of the whole region,” he was quoted as saying. Since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last July, Egyptian security forces have been targeted by militant attacks that have left hundreds dead. The interim president said that Egypt was going to call on Arab countries to activate the Arab counter-terrorism agreement at the upcoming Arab summit, which is to be held on 25 March in Kuwait. Countries that sign the agreement commit to not allowing their territory be used for planning or committing terrorist acts, and to block the funding or training of terrorist groups. [SIS, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic) 3/21/2014]

Also of Interest:

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  • EgyptAir halts flights to Libya after attack on Tripoli Airport | Aswat Masriya
  • Source: French activist on watchlist deported from Cairo Airport | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)