Top News: Washington Committed to Longstanding Ties with Egypt Despite Concerns

In a statement Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said the United States is committed to its “longstanding relationship” with Egypt as it continues to voice alarm about the climate of freedom in the country.

Egypt: Sisi seeks mandate from vote on charter
Egypt’s military chief is looking for a strong turnout in next week’s constitutional referendum as a mandate to run for president. But he could be disappointed: His Islamist foes have promised a boycott and mass demonstrations aimed at keeping voters at home. A presidential run by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi will also depend on whether oil-rich Gulf Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledge financial assistance substantial enough to keep Egypt’s battered economy afloat and bankroll major development projects. A comfortable “yes” majority – seventy percent or more – along with a respectable turnout, would enshrine the legitimacy of the regime installed by Sisi. If the “yes” vote and the turnout are below expectations, the officials said, Sisi would remain as the source of behind-the-scene power, retain his cabinet position as first deputy prime minister and defense minister, and throw his weight behind a candidate of his choice. [AP, AMAY (Arabic), 1/9/2014]

Morsi lashes out at espionage charges in alleged interview
Ousted President Mohamed Morsi slammed espionage charges against him, deeming they have been “fabricated,” in an unconfirmed interview with independent Al-Watan newspaper Wednesday. According to Al-Watan, Morsi seemed not as concerned about charges relating to the Ittihadeya Presidential Palace clashes, in which he and other Muslim Brotherhood members have been implicated in the killing of ten protesters in front of the palace in December 2012.  “I will unveil extraordinary surprises in the trial, and I don’t care about the Ittihadeya case, because it has been fabricated. But, surprises will be revealed if the coup supporters insist on trying me for espionage,” he said to his security guards, according to Al-Watan. The deposed President added that he would demand to face current Head of the Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his capacity as former head of military intelligence and defense minister if the trial goes ahead. [Mada Masr, Watan (Arabic), 1/9/2014]

Also of Interest:
Group sends recommendations to newly established fact-finding committee | DNE


Egypt says database will curb vote-repetition in referendum; FJP says government will forge results
A computerized database will be used to curb vote-duplication in the upcoming constitution referendum, the high electoral committee has said. The measure comes after the political rights law was amended earlier this week to allow citizens to vote at polling stations not affiliated to their registered addresses. Special polling stations will be designated for citizens voting away from their registered addresses. A “closed information system network” connecting these polling stations will be set up to prevent any ballot repetition, the committee said on Thursday in a statement reported by state news agency MENA. Following an announcement by the cabinet stating that the referendum would be held on working days, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party accused the current regime of intending to forge the results. According to the Brotherhood, “the government will forge the referendum, as it will disregard the secret ballot system; there are no voting lists, therefore, the process will not be monitored, allowing room for forgery.” [Ahram Online, SIS, DNE, 1/9/2014]

Egypt courts jail 113 pro-Morsi protesters; Prosecutors begin investigation of 67 April 6 and Brotherhood members
Courts on Thursday sentenced eighty-seven supporters of Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi to three years for taking part in unauthorized and violent protests, judicial sources said. One Cairo misdemeanor court condemned sixty-three supporters of the Islamist to three years in prison and fined them EGP 50,000 ($7,000) over protests in November, the officials said. They can post bail of EGP 5,000 ($700) to stay out of jail until an appeal hearing. Another Cairo court sentenced twenty-four Morsi supporters to three years for being in a “terrorist gang” and attacking policemen in a protest, the officials said. In a third case, a court sentenced twenty-six students of Al-Azhar University to two and a half years in prison each, also on charges including assaulting the security forces, illegal gathering and thuggery.  Meanwhile, prosecutors began fresh investigations with 67 April 6 and Brotherhood members detained on charges of inciting riots during Morsi’s trial on Wednesday. [AFP/DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), Reuters, Egypt Independent, 1/9/2014]

Also of interest:
Way of the Revolution Front to vote no to constitution | Ahram Online
Interior Minister denies reports on Morsi’s refusal to show up at court | SIS
250,000 officers and soldiers to secure the constitutional referendum | AMAY (Arabic)
Telecom Egypt launches service to listen to constitution articles | Egypt Independent


Inflation drops 1.3 percent in December says CAPMAS
The inflation rate hit 10.3 percent in 2013, but declined in December by 1.3 percent, compared to November, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced Thursday. CAPMAS added that food and drink prices went down on December by 1.8 percent, compared to the previous month. However, food and drink prices went up by 18.1 percent in December last year, compared to the same month in 2012. CAPMAS attributed the monthly fall of inflation in December, to the price fall of fruits and vegetable, in addition to a decline in butane and gold process. [Cairo Post, 1/9/2014]

Also of interest:
Egypt’s EFG approves $144 million share buyback plan DNE
Finance Minister says foreign currency reserves “safe,” 14 percent increase in deposits | SIS
Finance Minister says Egyptian economy ready for kick-start | SIS


Brotherhood schedules anti-regime demonstrations until January 25, 2015
The Muslim Brotherhood and the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy have scheduled anti-regime demonstrations to take place until January 25 to demand the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the 2012 Constitution. The demonstrations are being held under the slogan of “You Are Dying Anyway So Die A Martyr.” The group called on its supporters in a statement on Facebook to demonstrate, in particular, on January 14 and 15, the dates of the referendum on the Constitution, January 25, the third anniversary of the revolution, February 2, the third anniversary of the Battle of the Camel, February 11, the third anniversary of the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak, April 6, the sixth anniversary of the April 6 Movement, and June 30, the second anniversary of Morsi’s rule. If the regime has not been toppled by January, the statement urged for demonstrations on July 3, the day Morsi was deposed, August 14, the day the Raba’a sit-in was dispersed, and January 25, 2015. [Egypt Independent

Also of interest:
Egypt’s top satirist prepares return | AP
Metro distributing free copies of constitution on the three metro lines | Shorouk (Arabic)
Security forces disperse student protest in Zagazig | Shorouk (Arabic)
Sentencing hearing of Fatah Mosque incident postponed to January 11 | Shorouk (Arabic)
Union announces strike following leaders kidnapping | DNE
Doctors Syndicate: 75 percent of doctors took part in strike | Egypt Independent


April 6 Movement: Activists Douma, Maher and Adel suffer harsh conditions in jail
April 6 Youth Movement said founder Ahmed Maher, member Mohamed Adel and political activist Ahmed Douma are once again on hunger strike against the harsh conditions of their detention in Tora Prison. The statement is based on a statement issued by the family of activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah after visiting him. Abdel-Fattah was imprisoned on charges in the same case: breaking the protest law on public assembly. The statement said Douma has been moved to disciplinary cell. An appeal hearing for the three activists was cancelled on Wednesday and postponed to Thursday due to heightened security. Ahmed Harara arrived, on Thursday, at their appeal trial in solidarity with the activists. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 1/9/2014]

Also of interest:
Cairo public facilities to be tightly secured | SIS


Washington committed to longstanding ties with Egypt despite concerns: Spokesperson
In a statement Wednesday, US State Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki said the United States is committed to its “longstanding relationship” with Egypt as it continues to voice alarm about the climate of freedom in the country. It is primarily concerned about “polarization in Egypt” and the “current climate for freedom of expression and assembly.” Psaki also reiterated concerns about reports that individuals were arrested allegedly for campaigning for a no-vote on the referendum. “The quality of the campaign for the referendum, in our view, will affect the credibility of the outcome,” Psaki said. She said that the State Department shares the Center’s same concerns, and emphasized the need to study the type of campaigns that preceded it and that might affect the credibility of the referendum. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 1/9/2014]

Also of interest:
PM discusses with French Ambassador means of boosting bilateral relations SIS, Ahram (Arabic)
Ethiopia’s claims about dam construction ‘media show’: Egypt official | Ahram Online