Egyptian army chief and defense minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is on an official visit to Russia, army spokesperson Ahmed Ali has stated. Sisi is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a visit that is a “response to the historic visit of their Russian counterparts to Egypt last November.” They will discuss cooperation between the two countries with Russian ministers, Ali said on his official Facebook page.


Moussa says Sisi will run for president
Liberal politician Amr Moussa told a satellite channel late on Tuesday that it appears that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has decided to run for presidency, adding that he may announce this in a short while. Moussa added that Sisi, will formally announce his candidacy at the end of the month of February, adding that “there are several arrangements to be completed before the announcement of his candidacy.” Moussa, who chaired the assembly that wrote Egypt’s new constitution, met with Sisi early on Tuesday at the headquarters of the defense ministry. There are a few steps, official and unofficial, that Sisi would still have to take before beginning a campaign. Officially, he would have to resign from the military in order to be an eligible candidate. [Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), Mada Masr, 2/12/14]

Political groups announce support for presidential candidates
The Tamarod movement and the Popular Current have announced their support for Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahy, respectively, as candidates for the presidency. A split is widening in the Tamarod campaign that was instrumental in ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. After announcing some of the founding members were suspended from the group for supporting Sabbahy, the group’s general assembly on Monday announced an endorsement for Sisi, who has yet to announce his candidacy. The Independence Current announced Wednesday that it would support Sisi in the upcoming elections if he decided to run for president. The current will not support another candidate if Sisi does not decide to run. It identified certain demands of the next president including fixing the security problem, eradicating terrorism in Sinai, dealing with social problems and elimination of the slums through a well-defined plan.  [DNE, Ahram Online, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 2/12/14]

Also of Interest:
Cabinet reshuffle keeps Beblawy, replaces few ministers | Egypt Independent
Three Popular Current members resign in Qena over Sabbahy’s nomination to presidency | Egypt Independent
Presidential media adviser: West wants to invade Egypt, will use terrorism as pretext | Egypt Independent, Ahram (Arabic)
Former presidential hopeful predicts new Egypt revolt | Reuters
Rights group demands enquiry into torture of detainees | Mada Masr
Attorney General says there are no political prisoners in Egypt, did not apply any exceptional laws | Ahram Online, Ahram (Arabic)
UAE newspaper Bayan: Egypt’s intelligence uncovered a plot to assassinate Sisi | AMAY (Arabic)


Officer acquitted of killing protesters during January 25 uprising
A Cairo criminal court acquitted on Wednesday a policeman in al-Zawya al-Hamra of complicity in the killing of protesters during the January 25 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011. This is the second time that officer Mohamed al-Sony has been acquitted in this case. Sony was sentenced to five years in prison in May for his complicity in the killing of protesters on January 28, 2011, but he appealed the sentence before the Cassation Court, which then ordered his retrial. His defense argued that there was a lack of criminal intent and lack of intent to kill the protesters, but that he was acting in self-defense. Witnesses confirmed that there was shooting from all directors, making it impossible to confirm that Sony acted alone in the shootings. [Aswat Masriya, AMAY (Arabic), 2/12/14]

Gas company workers raise case against protest law
The Damanhour Misdemeanour Court referred a case against the Protest Law to the Supreme Constitutional Court after being challenged by workers from the Beheira Gas Company, who were accused of protesting without obtaining permission, privately owned Al-Shorouk daily newspaper reported. Last December, a number of workers at the Beheira Gas Company held a protest against the company’s attempts to fire them or hire them through intermediary companies, in what they claim is an abuse of their rights. The company suspended the protesting workers and five of them were accused of organizing a protest without obtaining permission. The workers denied this was the case, saying they had filed a request for permission but received no response, Al-Shorouk reported, adding that following the protest, the workers were surprised by the legal action taken against them. The defendants’ defense team is challenging the law by claiming that it is unconstitutional as it limits freedom of expression. [Mada Masr, 2/12/14]


World Bank expects Egypt’s GDP growth rate up 3.5 percent
The World Bank expects Egypt’s economy to grow by 3.5 percent by the end of the current fiscal year to end in June 2014. The WB attributed the increase to the government’s announcement of two economic stimulus packages worth $8.7 billion. The packages aim at promoting economic activities on the short term through pumping more investments and lowering the budget deficit from 13.7 percent to 9.1 percent. [MENA, 2/12/14]

Fitch: Egypt’s ratings stabilized but rapid recovery unlikely
Fitch Ratings says in a new report that Egypt’s ratings have stabilized on tentative political and economic improvements, but rapid upgrades are unlikely. In early January 2014 Fitch took Egypt’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency rating off Negative Outlook for the first time since January 2011. Over this period Egypt’s ratings were downgraded by a cumulative five notches. We expect economic performance to improve over our two-year forecast period but by end-2015 the economy will still be much weaker than in 2010, illustrating the damage to Egypt’s credit profile caused by political and economic turmoil. [Reuters, 2/12/14]

Also of Interest:
Fewer tourists came to Egypt in December to end a dismal tourism year | Ahram Online
Egypt’s cabinet: 30 percent of first stimulus package spent | DNE
Egypt’s SFD to obtain $400 million loans from UAE, Saudi funds | Amwal Al-Ghad
Germany’s Die Welt report: Egypt army controls 45 percent of the economy | World Bulletin
30.7 percent decline in tourists visiting Egypt in December | Cairo Post
Egypt signs nine agreements with Jordan | Cairo Post
Delegation from Ericsson Global arrives in Cairo to increase investments in Egypt | Shorouk (Arabic)


Resurgence of strikes and industrial action across the country

Over the past couple of days Egypt has witnessed the largest upsurge of strikes and industrial action this year, as tens of thousands of workers, policemen and professionals protest over their work-related grievances. Thousands of workers of Mahalla Weaving and Textile Company, resumed on Wednesday their strike for the third day in row demanding the minimum wage be applied and the dismissal of Fouad Abdel Aleem, chief of the Holding Company for Weaving and Spinning, in order to accept starting negotiations and suspend their strike. Workers at Zefteh Textile, Tanta Spinning and the Nile public company for roads and flyovers are also striking. Mahalla Textile workers were the first demonstrators calling for setting national minimum wage at EGP 1,200 in 2008 in one of the largest anti-regime protest before former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011, but they never received the wage. A number of staff and workers are calling for the need to apply  the minimum wage for public sector companies, as part of the restructuring of the wage system in Egypt. The government decided to apply a minimum wage of EGP 1,200 to government employees from the beginning of January. The Secretary-General of the General Federation of Trade Unions of Egypt, in a statement, said that the federation is ready to discuss the minimum wage in the private sector and the rest of the public sector, which were not added to the government resolution. [Mada Masr, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 2/12/14]

Human rights groups, political parties call for the immediate investigation into the torture of detainees
Human rights groups are calling for urgent, independent inquiries into allegations of growing and alarming number cases of torture, brutality and sexual abuse of detained individuals being held in prisons and police stations after the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising. The organizations are demanding a delegation to independently and unconditionally visit prisons. There has been an increase in allegations of police brutality and sexual abuse of prisoners in the past six months. Relatives and lawyers of a number of activists who were arrested last month told Reuters that the activists were subjected to torture methods including electric shocks. The “savageness” of torture practices reported by detainees arrested during the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution surpass the practices of security apparatuses during the “worst dictatorial regimes” Egypt had witnessed, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). ANHRI, together with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and thirteen other NGOs, condemned the alleged torture the “political” detainees are facing in a statement released on Tuesday. In a press conference, six political parties called for the end of the use of torture against detainees. Participants called for an immediate investigation into the allegations regarding torture of detainees. The parties that were involved include Free Egypt, Democratic Egypt, Dostour, Popular Socialist Alliance and the Popular Current. [DNE, Tahrir (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 2/12/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights to defend unpaid workers | DNE
Media in Egypt ‘battered by an array of repressive tactics’: CPJ | DNE
Fourteen Brotherhood members arrested for inciting violence in Sharqiya | Ahram (Arabic)
EOHR calls for the release of twenty students in preventative detention | DNE


Four policemen killed in Ismailiya and Port Said gunmen attacks
Three police officers were killed on Tuesday night by unknown gunmen. Lieutenant Ahmed Hussein Fahmy, Sergeant Mohamed Abdel Qader and Corporal Eid Abdel Hafiz were targeted by unidentified assailants in a car while securing the road between Suez and Ismailia in the area of al-Samakin, according to the Ministry of Interior. The officers were driving their vehicle back from a checkpoint, when the attackers shot them before stealing their weapons and running away. A statement from the ministry said that security forces had intensified efforts to identify and apprehend the perpetrators. The incident follows the killing of another police officer by masked men in the same governorate the previous day. Another traffic officer was also killed hours earlier in Port Said. Two unidentified men on a motorcycle shot at an officer who was inspecting the Golf area, a ministry official stated. [DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 2/12/14]

Sinai pipeline attacked for the second time in two days
Unidentified gunmen bombed a natural gas line south of Arish City in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday morning, security sources said. For the second time in two days, militants in the restive Sinai Peninsula have bombed the pipeline. Eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke a few meters high as a result of the blast while workers moved to the scene to monitor the situation. The bombing marks the fifth time the Sinai pipeline has been attacked since the July 3 ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, and the nineteenth such attack since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February 2011. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/12/14]

Also of Interest:
Culprit behind Ismailia bombing arrested: Police | Ahram Online
Security intensified on anniversary of Mubarak’s ouster | Egypt Independent


Sisi, Fahmy in official visit to Russia
Egyptian army chief and defense minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is on an official visit to Russia, army spokesperson Ahmed Ali has stated. Sisi is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a visit that is a “response to the historic visit of their Russian counterparts to Egypt last November.” They will discuss cooperation between the two countries with Russian ministers, Ali said on his official Facebook page. Military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al-Ahram on Wednesday that Sisi was visiting Moscow to finalize a deal on the purchase of weapons. Ali’s announcement was accompanied by an image of Sisi at the Almaza Military Airport, dressed in civilian clothing. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, AP, Aswat Masriya, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 2/12/2014]

Officials collude with traffickers in Egypt/Sudan, says HRW
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Egyptian security officers have “facilitated” or “denied the horrific abuse of refugees” in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and eastern Sudan. In a report released by the New York-based human rights group, HRW said Eritrean refugees were tortured by traffickers through rapes of both women and men, electric shocks, burning body parts and hanging victims from ceilings. These tactics employed by human traffickers are used as an attempt to exact ransoms from victims’ families, the report revealed. Seventeen of the victims said they saw others die of the torture. The report condemns Egyptian authorities for repeatedly denying the occurrence of human trafficking in the Sinai, saying that this lack of acknowledgement has made the peninsula “a safe haven” for traffickers. Gerry Simpson, the author of the report, called on both Egypt and Sudan to prosecute traffickers and any security officials colluding with them in order to put an end to torture and extortion of Eritreans on their lands. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 2/11/2014]

US Embassy employee detained in Egypt
A US embassy official says Egyptian authorities have held a local employee for nearly three weeks without charges. Moufid Deak, spokesman for the US Embassy in Cairo, says Ahmed Aleiba, an Egyptian citizen who works at the embassy, was arrested on January 25, the anniversary of the uprising that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. A security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed Aleiba’s arrest. Military-aligned newspaper Al-Watan published an article in July mentioning Aleiba as an employee who arranged meetings between visiting American government officials and Muslim Brotherhood deputy head Khairat al-Shater. [AP, NYTimes, 2/12/2014]

Also of Interest:
Egypt and Jordan conclude twenty-fourth Joint Commission cycle | DNE
Interior Minister receives EU Envoy | SIS