Top News: US Blacklists Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis; Egypt Welcomes Decision

The United States designated Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a foreign terrorist organization on Wednesday, making it a crime to support the group.

New anti-sexual harassment law submitted to Egypt cabinet
A new anti-sexual harassment law has been revised by the justice ministry’s legislative section and sent to the cabinet. The law, which was first submitted to the justice ministry by the cabinet, will be revised for a final time by the cabinet before referring it to the president to formally issue it “soon,” al-Sergany said in a press conference in the justice ministry’s headquarters. Al-Sergany said the new draft law provides, for the first time in Egypt, a definition of sexual harassment. According to the new law, the suggested punishment is a prison sentence anywhere from one to ten years, and a fine between EGP10,000 and EGP20,000.  If the sexual harassment a female suffers comes from someone who is superior, for instance in her place of work or schooling, the prison sentence would be between three to seven years. [Ahram Online, 4/9/2014]

Egypt licenses over 17,000 state-approved clerics
The Egyptian government has stepped up a campaign to curb Muslim Brotherhood influence over mosques, saying it has licensed more than 17,000 state-approved clerics to give Friday sermons. All of the newly-approved clerics had been trained at Al-Azhar University, which is a respected center of Sunni Islamic learning, and institutions run by the ministry of religious endowments, according to a statement issued by the prime minister’s office on Thursday. “That is to strengthen the ministry’s supervision over all Egypt’s mosques so that they do not fall into the hands of extremists and the unqualified” and to prevent mosques being used for “party or sectarian” purposes, it said. [Reuters, 4/10/2014]

Egypt government to implement terrorist law against Brotherhood
Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued a formal decision on Thursday to impose the penalties stipulated by the newly-enacted “anti-terrorism” law on anyone who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood or promotes or funds it. “These penalties apply in accordance with the court ruling that designated the Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group to anyone who joins the group or continues to be a member of it,” said the Premier’s decision. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/10/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Sisi campaign discusses social justice | AMAY (Arabic)
  • Liberal politician quits Egyptian Social Democratic Party | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s doctors call on presidential hopefuls to tackle health sector problems | Ahram Online
  • No polling stations for Egyptians abroad in Libya, Syria, Somalia | DNE


Al Jazeera trial adjourned to April 22; Judge dismisses prosecution’s video evidence
The trial of twenty journalists – a number of whom work for Al Jazeera – has been adjourned to April 22. In Thursday’s session, prosecutors presented what they said was evidence proving Al Jazeera was doctoring video footage and photos for its own agenda. According to Ahram Online‘s reporter in court, prosecutors showed a video by Sky News Arabia about horses in Egypt, a documentary by Al Jazeera reporter Peter Greste about Somalia, and a video about the bombings in Kenya in 2013. The judge dismissed the videos on the grounds it is not related to the charges. Defendant Khaled Abdel-Raouf fainted inside his cage during the session, and was transferred to the police officers’ institute’s hospital. Abdel-Raouf and two other defendants are on a hunger strike to protest their innocence and insist they were not working for Al Jazeera. [Ahram Online, 4/10/2014]

Cabinet clashes trial adjourned to April 22; Douma calls on Sabbahi’s withdrawal from presidential race
The trial of 269 protesters, arrested during clashes outside the cabinet building in December 2011, has been adjourned until April 22 to allow for the collection of new testimonies and evidence. During Wednesday’s session, Douma said he and his co-defendants were being subjected to beatings and humiliation by the security forces. He added that he would not be answering questions posed by the court because he doubted the transparency of the trial which is “taking place at the police institute.” According to his lawyer, Amr Imam, Douma, a member of the Egyptian Popular Current, also called on its leader, Hamdeen Sabbahi, to withdraw from the presidential election slated for late May. [Ahram Online, 4/9/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Badie, Erian, and Beltagy trial adjourned to April 26 | EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic)


Electricity minister says summer power cuts will not exceed one hour 
Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said on Tuesday that electricity outages, which started last month, would be limited to one hour for each area block during the summer. Shaker said that if the Electricity Ministry receives the full amount of fuel needed, the electricity shortage would be limited to 1000 to 1500 megawatts at all times, with a few exceptional cases where the shortage would reach 2000 megawatts. In related news, the Egyptian government said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has given orders to step up police efforts to tackle the theft of electricity by arresting the perpetrators and enforcing the law. [Mada Masr, 4/9/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Egypt offers Arab investors agricultural land | Mada Masr
  • NGOs ‘deeply dissatisfied’ with decision to use coal as energy source | DNE
  • End of year GDP growth a weak 1.3 percent | Mada Masr
  • Egypt’s core inflation quickens to 9.9 percent year in March | Reuters
  • Egypt’s urban inflation rise to 9.8 percent year-on-year in March | Ahram Online


Clashes continue at Cairo, Ain Shams and Al-Azhar universities
In a continuation of clashes between protesting students and police forces, violence erupted on Wednesday in Cairo, Al-Azhar and Ain Shams universities. Clashes erupted inside Ain Sham University campus between the pro-Morsi students and the university’s security personnel. The police later arrived to contain the clashes with tear gas. Police forces also entered the Azhar University campus following clashes with students, according to the state-owned EgyNews website. Additionally, police arrested fifteen students who were protesting at Azhar University in Assiut on Wednesday. Clashes between police and students at Cairo University reached the Qasr al-Aini hospital and the Cairo neighborhood of Manial. Police fired tear gas on protesting students who blocked Manial street, according to Ahram. According to Egypt Independent, a total of thirty-eight students were arrested at the three universities. Ministry of Interior Spokesman General Hany Abdel Latif said: “There will be no protests on university campuses, universities will only be for education.” He added that any protests inside universities will be dealt with, once the university chairman allows forces inside. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 4/9/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Military denies interfering in activist’s release | Mada Masr


Two police officers detained over tampering with evidence
A judicial source close to the investigations of the two police officers, charged with tampering with evidence, told MENA that the defendants were not suspected of having terrorist affiliations. The officers were detained for fifteen days pending investigations for allegedly keeping weapons that were seized during a police operation, MENA reported. A security source at the interior ministry official had earlier claimed that two police officers from Matareya Police Station had also joined an armed terrorist group. The source explained in a statement on Wednesday evening that the the two officers were referred to the public prosecutor over manipulating weapons seizures. [Egypt Independent, 4/10/2014]

Two police officers killed in Qena shootout
Two police officers were killed in a shootout with “criminal elements” Wednesday when their patrol came under fire in the Upper Egypt village of Qena. The officers, Captain Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Moneim and Sergeant Ahmed Mohamed al-Sagheir, sustained gunshot wounds and died shortly thereafter, according to an interior ministry statement. Security forces killed one of the attackers and arrested another. The dead attacker was armed with a shotgun and had previously been sentenced to fifteen years in prison, according to the statement. The arrested suspect was also armed and the ministry will take legal action against him. [DNE, 4/9/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • High alert in Giza after two bomb threats | Mada Masr, Egypt Independent
  • Four takfiri elements arrested on charges of storming police station in Northern Sinai | EGYNews (Arabic)
  • Security Source: Interior ministry preparing plan to secure presidential elections with 220,000 police | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Egypt to resume African Union membership after roadmap implemented says AU chief  
African Union (AU) chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that Egypt will return to the union after the transitional roadmap is implemented, state news agency MENA reported. Egypt was suspended from the AU after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of the country. The AU delegation met with interim President Adly Mansour, presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood during their recent visit to Egypt. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 4/10/2014]

US blacklists Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis; Egypt welcomes decision
The United States designated Egypt’s most active militant group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, a foreign terrorist organization on Wednesday, making it a crime to support the group. The formal designation signals the United States’ willingness to pursue groups responsible for some of the ongoing violence in Egypt, which has seen a string of attacks on security forces by various factions since the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last summer. By naming the group, US officials can freeze its assets. The United States may also target anyone who engages with the group or knowingly provides material support. The Egyptian foreign ministry welcomed the decision saying that it is the result of “continuous and intensive efforts exerted by the foreign ministry and the Egyptian embassies abroad over the last seven months.” [DNE, AP, Reuters, Mada Masr 4/9/2014]

EU’s Ashton in Cairo for election talks
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Cairo on Wednesday as part of a two-day visit ahead of a decisive presidential election. The European diplomat met with  interim President Adly Mansour and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Thursday, to discuss the country’s upcoming presidential election and Egyptian-European relations. Ashton held talks with presidential hopefuls Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Hamdeen Sabbahi. A diplomatic source said the goal of the visit is to discuss international and regional developments on the political scene, the upcoming presidential elections, and relations between the Egypt and Europe. [Ahram Online, AMAY (Arabic), 4/10/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • EU not financing Ethiopia Renaissance Dam: EU ambassador in Egypt | Ahram Online
  • Hamas scraps tunnel regulating authority | Mada Masr
  • Pro-Morsi coalition meets African Union delegation | Ahram Online