Top News: White House Official Pledges US Support, Administration Criticizes Action Against Youth Leader


In a visit to Cairo, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Philip Gordon reaffirmed the importance of bilateral relations and US support for Egypt’s transition to democracy.  The Obama administration, however, is also blasting Egyptian authorities for detaining a prominent youth movement leader, Ahmed Maher, on possible charges including “incitement to protest” and insulting the government’s interior minister.


Presidency: We are not in dispute with anybody
Presidential Spokesman Ambassador Ihab Fahmi said that the Presidency is not in a dispute with anyone and is open to all political powers through dialogue. Addressing a press conference on Monday, Fahmi said the steps the office of the executive has taken carry positive messages aimed at encouraging business, stressing the importance of pushing forward the “wheel of economic development.” The Presidential Spokesman said President Mohamed Morsi will attend the inaugural session of the Justice Conference adding the role of the Presidency is restricted to sponsoring the conference without any interference in the technical aspects. [SIS, Ahram (Arabic), 5/14/2013]

PM: No conflict between independence of NGOs, monitoring it
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil asserted on Monday that the independence of NGOs does not conflict with giving the authorities the right to monitor it. He hoped that the new law regulating the work of NGOs will solve related problems and guarantee transparency and freedom as a cornerstone for Egypt’s renaissance. During a workshop under the title "Towards the legal empowerment of NGOs in Egypt," Qandil stressed the government’s support to civil society in all fields. [SIS, 5/14/2013]

Egyptian assembly approves higher taxes on the wealthy
Egypt’s parliament approved a new income tax law on Monday that will increase levies paid by the wealthy and by companies but reduce it for people in lower income brackets. President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood held up the changes as proof of its commitment to social justice – a possible vote winner with parliamentary elections approaching later this year. After the changes are enacted, those with incomes of LE250,000 will be required to pay the 25 percent rate; previously, the rate was only for those earning more than LE10 million. The Shura Council also approved amendments increasing customs on unnecessary luxurious commodities. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday, however, declaring the new law unconstitutional due to the lack of fixed standards in determining earnings and revenue. [Reuters, Ahram Online, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), Tahrir (Arabic), 5/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
Shura sets May 25 hearing to debate Judicial Authority Law | EGYNews (Arabic)
Qandil criticizes cabinet post rejections | DNE
Minister: New law to protect witnesses | DNE
Shura Council Human Rights Committee approves amendments to NCHR law | DNE


Verdict in trial of Egypt activist Doma postponed to 3 June
Proceedings in the ongoing trial of activist Ahmed Doma, who is charged with "insulting" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, has been postponed to 3 June, when a final verdict in the case will be announced. Doma is set to remain in detention pending a final ruling. Doma, a staunch critic of the Muslim Brotherhood group from which President Morsi hails, was arrested in late April after he described Morsi as "a killer" in televised comments. Egyptian Lawyers Syndicate head Sameh Ashour is heading up the activist’s defense team. Doma’s lawyers have called for their client’s acquittal, saying the case against him was one of "libel and defamation" caused by Egypt’s current state of political polarization. [Ahram Online, AP, Aswat Masriya, 5/14/2013]

Appeals court frees 6 backers of black-clad Egypt protest group
A Cairo court quashed the convictions of six men accused of attacking police and damaging property during protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and freed them on Monday, judicial sources said. The men had been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, according to state media. As reasons for its ruling, the sources said, the court said the charges were not specific enough and cited the "mental state" of the six, suggesting they had acted under pressure from relatives who were full members of the Black Bloc. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, 5/13/2013]

Also of Interest:
Constitutional Court restore the right of grandparents to see their grandchildren in compliance with sharia | Ahram (Arabic)
Defense in “destroyed documents” case: Defendants did it in the interest of security | AMAY (Arabic)
Sources: SCC will review the House of Representatives and Political Rights Laws next week | AMAY (Arabic)
Case on the dissolution of the Central Security Forces postponed to July 8 | Watan (Arabic)
Court accepts ex-Tourism Minister’s plea over graft charges, releases him | Aswat Masriya


PM Qandil says he expects IMF loan deal within 45 days
Negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure a $4.8 billion loan for Egypt are nearing their end, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said on Monday. Qandil added that he expects Egypt to obtain the loan with 45 days before the parliamentary elections are held. “The financial gap is big since revenues are less than expenses,” Qandil told al-Arabiya channel. Closing this gap is the core of economic reform, he stated. He asserted that the loan deal is not the key to solve the current crisis in Egypt but rather in working and encouraging investment in Egypt. [Aswat Masriya, SIS, 5/14/2013]

Morsi: remove investment obstacles, Investment Minister: No privatization of State companies
President Mohamed Mursi asked Minister of Investment Yehia Hamed to create the necessary environment to launch economic development plans through forming real partnerships between the public and private sectors. During a meeting at the presidential palace on Monday, the president ordered Hamed to swiftly resolve problems facing Egyptian and Arab investors, the presidency’s Facebook page reported. During his meeting with Egypt Aluminum Company in Naga Hammadi, however, Investment Minister Yehia Hamed said that the government will not sell or privatize any of the public sector companies, 146 firms in total, achieving net profit of LE 3.2 billion. [Aswat Masriya, SIS, 5/14/2013]

Investors banned from owning land along Egypt’s Suez Canal
Neither Egyptian nor foreign investors will be allowed to own land along the Suez Canal, according to the terms of planned development projects along Egypt’s strategic waterway, Housing Minister Tareq Wafik said on Monday. Speaking at the first conference devoted to Egypt’s Suez Canal Corridor (SCC) initiative, Wafik explained that investors would be permitted to build projects in partnership with the government – and profit from them – on a usufruct basis, i.e., for a fixed period of up to 25 years. Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said that the Suez Canal Corridor’s law of the project which is currently being discussed is only a preliminary draft and not a final version. [Ahram Online, SIS, 5/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt average salaries grew 20% in 2012: CAPMAS | Ahram Online


Bedouins might form army to secure Sinai: Tribal leader
The security problems in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula since the January 2011 revolution have become a topic of concern for many; but the inhabitants of the region also complain about a chronic lack of development, which is contributing to the other problems. In tones of despondency, head of the Sinai Tribes Union Sheikh Ibrahim El-Manei gave Ahram Online his own account of the Bedouins’ struggle at his estate in the Mahdiya region, near Egypt’s eastern border. "Police [forces] will never return as before," he said, saying that the relationship between the police and the people of Sinai has become one of deep animosity and desire for vengeance. [Ahram Online, 5/13/2013]

Brotherhood member seen in video slapping female protester released from jail
Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed El-Beshlawy, caught on video slapping a female activist in front of the Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam in mid-March has been released on LE500 ($70) bail. Although he admits he slapped activist Mervat Moussa, El-Beshlawy claims she hit him on his head with a rod before he hit her. He denies further accusations that he broke journalist Mohamed Nabil’s leg. El-Beshlawy was also caught on video beating up opposition activist Ahmed Doma. [Ahram Online, 5/13/2013]


Anti-Morsi petition gathers steam: Organizers
Organizers of a new signature drive aimed at registering opposition to President Mohamed Morsi say their campaign is gaining momentum, despite doubts about the initiative’s efficacy and the launch of a counter-campaign. Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, founder of the Salafist Raya Party, has condemned the anti-Morsi ‘Rebel’ campaign, claiming it has no legal or constitutional basis. Amr Moussa, head of the Conference Party and a leader of the opposition National Salvation Front, said that the campaign is a peaceful warning to President Morsi. [Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 5/14/2013]

Egyptian teacher accused of insulting Morsi over ‘sheep’ question
Ihab al-Islamboly, an English teacher in Alexandria, was questioned by police on Tuesday for setting a "politicized" exam question that "insulted" President Mohamed Morsi. The question that angered some members of the Alexandria teachers’ syndicate, which al-Islamboly says is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, included the quote, "In the animal kingdom, a sheep cannot be king." Egypt’s top prosecutor ordered on Tuesday the release of Demyana Emad, a 23-year-old social studies Coptic schoolteacher accused of contempt of Islam, on bail of EGP 20,000 pending investigations. She was arrested last week for complaints filed against her by her students and their parents, accusing her of insulting Islam and spreading Christian teachings. [Ahram Online,  Aswat Masriya, DNE, 5/14/2013]

Also of Interest:
Shias are more dangerous than naked women: Salafist MPs | Ahram Online
Released 6 April members claim abuse in jail | Ahram Online


White House official pledges US support, administration criticizes Egyptian action against youth leader
In a visit to Cairo, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East Philip Gordon reaffirmed the importance of bilateral relations and US support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. He promised that the U.S. government would continue to support Egypt in its efforts to revive its economy, which has suffered dramatically since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 uprising. The Obama administration, however, is also blasting Egyptian authorities for detaining a prominent youth movement leader on possible charges including “incitement to protest” and insulting the government’s interior minister. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the action against Ahmed Maher is a “step backward” for Egypt’s democratic transition and that democratic societies don’t prosecute people for such alleged violations.  [US Embassy in Cairo, Aswat Masriya, DNE, AP, 5/14/2013]

Congressman calls to cut aid, calls the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group
U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar launched a sharp attack on the Obama administration’s support of countries considered hostile to the United States, including Egypt. In an article on Tuesday, the conservative news source The Washington Times, described the Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, as a "terrorist" group, criticizing what he saw as "folly to believe" that the U.S. funds will make tyrants and hardcore religious fanatics turn into defenders of democracy. He referred to ​​a bill to halt U.S. aid to five countries, including Iran, North Korea, Syria, Egypt and Pakistan. [Washington Times, Youm7 (Arabic), 5/13/2013]

Egypt redoubles efforts to find solution to Syrian crisis  
Presidential spokesperson Ihab Fahmi said on Monday that Egypt’s willingness to engage with Iran regarding the Syrian crisis stems from its “keenness to establish balanced relations with various regional and international powers”. Egypt believes “Iran is an influential country, and while some may see them as part of the problem in Syria, Egypt believes they can be a part of the solution,” Aswat Masriya reported. Fahmi added that the inclusion of Iran in talks reflects the consensus on the need to reach a political settlement to the crisis. He also called on the opposition to hold dialogue with those members of President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime “that do not have their hands stained with blood”, adding that any solution must be agreed on by the regime and the opposition, according to state-owned Al-Ahram. [DNE, SIS, 5/13/2013]

Also of Interest:
Egypt’s fear of Shiite influence is groundless – Iranian official | Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic)
Abul Fotouh meets with US Ambassador Ann Patterson | EGYNews (Arabic)

Photo: specialoperations

Image: maher.jpg