The United States hit out at the Egyptian government Wednesday for charges brought against journalists, slamming prosecutors for “an egregious disregard” for basic rights and freedoms. Badr Abdel Aaty, spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, rejected the US statement saying it was “unacceptable for any state or third party to interfere in the work of the Egyptian judiciary.” 


Interim president puts new election law to national dialogue
On Wednesday, interim President Adly Mansour proposed a national dialogue to discuss radical changes to the presidential election rules. “The dialogue will be completed by February 9 because the law should be officially passed before February 18, or when the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) begins preparing procedures for the poll,” Mansour’s constitutional affairs advisor Ali Awad said. There will be a new law regulating the poll, rather than changes to the old one (law 174 of 2005), because many changes are required to bring it into line with the new constitution, Awad added. The draft law proposes certain stipulations on the presidential candidates and election protocol. Seven political parties belonging to the National Salvation Front had also called on the president to conduct a “serious dialogue” concerning the amendments before finalizing them, while also stressing the need for dialogue ahead of elections for the House of Representatives. They expressed concern that the draft law may exclude segments of society and feared the elimination of the multi-party system. Meanwhile, the Salafi Nour Party has already called for a mixed system to be used in the next parliamentary elections. [DNE, Ahram Online, 1/30/2014]

Egypt cabinet approves military trials amendment
Egypt’s interim government approved on Wednesday a presidential decision amending the military trials law, reported Al-Ahram. The law clears up procedures when military courts try civilians. The amendments allow appeals of verdicts in misdemeanor trials and requires the opinion of the Grand Mufti in verdicts of capital punishment, as is the case in civil courts. In cases of verdicts issued in absentia, military courts adopt the procedures of criminal law in civil courts. Military courts will also be renamed to mirror those of civilian courts. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masryia, SIS, 1/29/2014]

Also of Interest:
Five Freedom and Justice Party members in Sohag officially resign | Egypt Independent
Popular wave could lift Egypt army chief to office | AP
National Council for Human Rights rejects Boraie’s resignation | DNE
Popular Current spokesperson: Sabbahi still undecided on presidential run | Egypt Independent, AMAY (Arabic)
Beblawy accepts Bahaa Eldin’s resignation | EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic)


Egypt arrests eleven Brotherhood members for Facebook activity; Refers leaders to criminal court
Egyptian security forces arrested eleven Muslim Brotherhood members accused of running Facebook pages inciting violence against the police, the Interior Ministry said Thursday. The ministry accused the group of using the networking site to “incite violence, target citizens, make bombs and carry threatening messages.” The new arrests, which took place Wednesday and Thursday, were the first to target a group said to be administering Facebook pages. Meanwhile, Egypt’s South Giza prosecution referred top Muslim Brotherhood members, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat al-Shater, to a criminal court for murder charges on Wednesday. The two men are accused of involvement in the killing of twenty-nine people in Giza in July. The accused also include prominent Brotherhood figures such as Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian and Bassem Ouda as well as Brotherhood-aligned Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy and al-Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Assem Abdel Maged, who fled to Qatar. [AP, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya

Egypt court allocates nine additional circuits for terrorism and spying
Egypt’s Court of Appeals decided on Thursday to allocate nine circuits to look into criminal cases where defendants have committed crimes of espionage or crimes harming state security, a judicial source said. These circuits are also supposed to review cases of forming and joining terrorist groups that engage in acts of murder and violence and damage public and private property. In addition to crimes that affect “national unity and peace” and protesting without prior authorization or assembly. The circuits will begin their work as of February 1. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), 1/30/2014]

Also of interest:
Muslim Brotherhood division chief arrested in Suez | Shorouk (Arabic)


Gulf countries offer Egypt another $5.8 billion in aid
Saudi Arabia is expected to give Egypt up to $4 billion in additional aid in the form of central bank deposits and petroleum products, Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Thursday. The UAE is also expected to contribute $1.8 billion to the new aid package in the form of fuel shipments, the source added. The newspaper said the package would be worked out during a visit next week to the oil-rich kingdom by Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Central Bank (CBE) received $2 billion from Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian daily al-Mal reported on Wednesday. Official sources at the CBE declined to comment, saying that “Hisham Ramez, head of CBE will soon clarify the issue.” [Ahram Online, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 1/30/2014]

Nearly a quarter of a million Egyptians drop ration cards
A total number of 222,000 citizens have “voluntarily” deleted their ration cards after deeming themselves “ineligible” for subsidized commodities, according to Minister of Supply Mohamed Abu Shady. The number of ration cards amounts to 18.2 million, benefiting 69 million citizens. A joint committee will be formed to plan a media campaign which aims at creating a “communal dialogue” on achieving justice in subsidy distribution and determining those who are most eligible for it, Abu Shady said. [DNE, 1/30/2014]

Also of interest:
Ministry of Finance asks the treasury for bills worth EGP 6 billion | EGYNews (Arabic)
Egypt Central Bank receives additional $2 billion from Saudi Arabia | Ahram Online
Industry Minister: Egypt to revise all economic legislation | SIS
Winter electricity blackouts return to Egypt | Ahram Online
Representative: IFC committed to backing Egypt | Egypt Independent


NCW calls for 100 member quota for women in parliament
The National Council for Women released a statement on Thursday calling for no less than 100 seats allocated to women in the next parliament. The statement said that this is in line with Article 11 of the newly-approved constitution that calls for women’s equality in society. The constitution, however, does not guarantee any parliamentary quotas for any groups. NCW head Mervat Tallawy stressed the need for women’s representation in parliament, commensurate with their weight in society, pointing to the need for women to do their part in society and to change the stereotypes of the function of women in society. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 1/30/2014]

Also of interest:
Pro-Morsi alliance calls for new week of protests | Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
Cargo train derails in south Egypt, no casualties | Ahram Online
Winter electricity blackouts return to Egypt | Ahram Online
Ministry of Social Solidarity denies reports of dissolution of 200 NGOs | EGYNews (Arabic)


Ten militants killed in Egypt’s Sinai on Wednesday

Ten militants were killed Wednesday in the northern Sinai Peninsula as Egyptian troops continue an ongoing offensive to root out growing militancy and terrorist attacks in the restive region. Three militants were killed late Wednesday in an exchange of fire with security forces in an armored vehicle in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, state news agency MENA reported. The attack came hours after a military air offensive in the peninsula killed seven “dangerous” militants supporting the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, the military said Thursday. The dead include one of the suspects in the killing of sixteen border guards in August 2012, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said. Troops also destroyed Wednesday two homes belonging to suspected militants during the air bombing that targeted insurgent hideouts in the volatile region. In a separate statement, the spokesman said troops Thursday destroyed two explosive-laden cars near army camps in Sheikh Zuweid and al-Arish following a tip-off that an al-Qaeda-inspired group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, was planning car bombings on army and police targets. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, DNE, 1/30/2014]

Unknown assailants blow up car of senior prosecution official in Minya
Unknown assailants on Thursday blew up the car of a senior prosecutor involved in the arrest of several supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi in recent months, state news agency MENA reported. Assailants placed Molotov cocktails and an improvised bomb beneath the empty car of Lieutenant Colonel Amr Hassan when parked in front of his home in Upper Egypt’s Minya governorate. The blast left the car completely burnt out. Hassan filed a report against the Muslim Brotherhood and stated that his house was attacked earlier when assailants threw Molotov cocktails that accidentally hit his neighbor’s house, causing a big fire. Police are currently looking for the attackers. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/30/2014]

Also of interest:
Sharqiya policeman killed outside his home by masked gunmen | Aswat Masriya, Tahrir
Wife of leading Brotherhood member in Borg al-Arab prison shot by “conscript’s stray bullet” | Ahram Gate (Arabic)
Two bombs exploded and three defused on Beni Suef outskirts | Shorouk (Arabic)
178 prisoners released on occasion of January 25 anniversary | Ahram (Arabic)
Forensics say interior ministry officer was shot from a distance of half a meter| AMAY (Arabic)
Ansay Bayt al-Maqdis releases clips of explosive operations | AMAY (Arabic)


Tony Blair backs Egypt’s government and criticizes Brotherhood
Tony Blair has given staunch backing to Egypt’s government following a meeting on Wednesday with its army leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. He visited Egypt as a representative of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia in their attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In a television interview on Thursday morning, Blair claimed that Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had stolen Egypt’s revolution, and that the army who deposed Morsi last July had put the country back on the path to democracy. Blair stressed his support for the interim government and the current road map, pointing out that it is necessary to support the government and implementation of the new phase of democracy. In his meeting with interim President Adly Mansour, Blair congratulated Egypt on its new constitution and discussed a number of regional issues, including the Middle East peace process. [Guardian, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 1/30/2014]

US slams charges against Egypt journalists; Foreign ministry snaps back
The United States hit out at the Egyptian government Wednesday for charges brought against journalists, slamming prosecutors for “an egregious disregard” for basic rights and freedoms. “Let me be clear that the United States places great value on a free press,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a sharply worded statement. “The government’s targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.” Badr Abdel Aaty, spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, rejected the US statement saying it was “unacceptable for any state or third party to interfere in the work of the Egyptian judiciary.” He pointed out that the referral of a number of journalists to the criminal court was based on the decision of the public prosecution which is part of the Egyptian judicial system, and has full autonomy as its work is independent from the government. The charges have also drawn condemnation from rights groups and governments across the globe. In a statement from its official spokesperson, Al-Jazeera called the charges groundless and an affront to media freedom. Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the Al-Jazeera journalists currently being detained, and for the prosecutors to drop all charges “that stem from the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.” The Committee to Protect Journalists’ statement said the “government’s lack of tolerance” is indicative of its inability to “handle criticism.”  [AFP, DNE, Egypt Independent, 1/30/2014]

Also of interest:
African Union stands by decision on Egypt suspension | DNE
Italy lifts travel ban to Egypt’s north coast resorts | Egypt Independent
Source: Arab League to consider Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organization | Egypt Independent
FM says foreign countries’ viewpoint toward Sisi nomination linked to elections integrity | Egypt Independent
Libyan Prime Minister and Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister discuss development of Egypt-Libya bilateral relations | Shorouk (Arabic)
Interview with former US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson | Al-Monitor