Saturday, May 31, 2014

New law criminalizes desecration of flag, refusal to stand for national anthem


Egypt makes disrespecting the flag a crime -state media

Sat May 31, 2014

(Reuters) - Egypt's interim president has made it a crime to disrespect the national flag or fail to stand for the national anthem, state media said on Saturday.

Authorities have moved to restrict protests and bolster their nationalist credentials since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year.

Some Islamist protesters added slogans or symbols to flags during protests after Mursi's overthrow.

Insulting the flag would now carry a penalty of up to a year in prison or a fine of 30,000 Egyptian pounds ($4,200), under interim President Adly Mansour's decree, the state news agency MENA reported, quoting his spokesman.

The red, white and black Egyptian flag is ubiquitous in the capital Cairo, where vendors sell the emblem on street corners and drivers fly it out of car windows.

It has become a common sight at demonstrations and celebrations since a 2011 uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak - most recently as people celebrated Sisi's victory in presidential elections this week.

Under the decree, the flag and national anthem are considered "symbols of the state that must be honored and dealt with reverently and respectfully."

The law bans "raising, displaying or circulating the flag if it is damaged, used or faded, or in any other improper way" as well as forbidding adding slogans, pictures or designs to the flag, or using it as a commercial symbol.

Since Mursi's overthrow, Egyptian authorities have carried out a fierce crackdown against his Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds of the group's supporters during demonstrations last year and imprisoning much of its leadership.

On Saturday, the public prosecutor ordered the release of 228 Brotherhood supporters in the southern province of Minya due to a lack of evidence against them, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper's website said.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

 *Inverted stained Egyptian flag courtesy of Gaber 

Horrified by low turnout, authorities extend election for 3rd day & threaten fines for boycotting

Egypt election extended by a day after low turnout


Polling in Egypt's presidential election has been extended for a third day after low turnout.

Polls were due to close at 22:00 (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday, but have now been extended to Wednesday, the Egyptian election commission said.

The scale of turnout is seen as key to legitimising the winner. Former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is the clear frontrunner.

He is standing against only one other candidate, left-winger Hamdeen Sabahi.

It is the second presidential election since the 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The previous elected President, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, was deposed by Mr Sisi in July 2012 following massive opposition protests.

Voting was extended for an extra hour on Tuesday, which was also declared a public holiday, in an effort to boost turnout.


Analysis, by Kevin Connolly, BBC News, Cairo
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, along with the interim government, the official media and Egypt's powerful army have been acting for months as though this election was a formality with victory for him inevitable. 

They may have overdone it to an extent which has alienated some Egyptians - and left even those who like Mr Sisi not seeing much point in voting.

At many polling stations soldiers on security duty have outnumbered voters and others have seen no voters at all for hours.

Extending voting into a third day might look a little desperate - but it's tantamount to an official admission that turnout has been worryingly low for the authorities.

A win for Mr Sisi on a very low turnout would damage his authority as he takes office…..It would be particularly embarrassing for him to secure fewer than 13 million votes. 

That was the number recorded by Mohammed Morsi the elected Islamist President whose removal from office was led by Mr Sisi last year when he was still serving in the army.


Election officials also said they would enforce a fine of over 500 Egyptian pounds (£42/ $72) for non-voting.

Egypt's election commission said the extra day of voting was to "allow citizens who could not cast their ballots because of residence restrictions" to participate in the elections.

An election official added that part of the reason for the low turnout was the unusually hot weather on Tuesday.

Observers from Mr Sabahi's campaign estimated that turnout on Monday was 10-15% and even less on Tuesday.
The election is being held amid tight security, but voting on Monday passed off without major incidents.

Mr Sisi appeals to Egyptians who crave stability after years of political upheaval, and anything other than an easy win for him would be a source of astonishment, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly.

Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, banned as a "terrorist group", called for a boycott of the polls.

More than 1,400 people have been killed and 16,000 detained since authorities cracked down on the movement in July.

Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders are now on trial on a raft of charges, including murder.

*Photo of polling station courtesy of Getty Images

Dictator Sisi & The Return of the Mummy!

Mubarak's old guard are Sisi's strongest supporters

The Telegraph

Mubarak's old guard stand behind Sisi in run for Egypt's presidency

Sisi has the backing of many of Mubarak's close circle of advisers, who hope to gain the same power they had before the 2011 revolution 

May 25, 2014

Richard Spencer


The man set to rule Egypt for the foreseeable future claims to wear the mantle of the 2011 revolution which overthrew his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
Tell that to the government, or to the collection of old regime politicians who are galvanising support for his election as president next week, a vote many see as more of a coronation.

A raft of senior Mubarak-era figures are supporting former Field Marshal Abdulfattah el-Sisi's campaign from behind the scenes, as they prepare to regain the power and influence they lost – or perhaps even more.

"I supported and I still love Hosni Mubarak," said Haidar al-Baghdadi, a former MP for the once ruling National Democratic Party and an unashamed enthusiast for both Saddam Hussein and Syria's Bashar al-Assad. The NDP is now officially banned, but its leaders are still powerful today and include the current prime minister.

"Mubarak was a symbol of the country's security," said Mr Baghdadi, who is organising campaign rallies for Mr Sisi. "Now I stand with Field Marshal Sisi. He is a national hero, who has saved Egypt from the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Mr Sisi is overwhelming favourite to win the election, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday this week, and usher in a new edition of the long decades when former military men – Gamal Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak – occupied the presidential palace.

Mr Sisi was defence minister when he overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood and its president, Mohammed Morsi, last July.

At the time he promised to implement a road-map to democracy, and many prominent supporters of the revolution against Mr Mubarak backed him, including liberal figureheads like Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace prize-winning former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Amr Moussa, the Egyptian Arab League secretary general.

Voters have already approved a new constitution, and the presidential elections are due to be followed by parliamentary elections later.

But key parts of Mr Mubarak's regime, which the 2011 Arab Spring revolutionaries thought they were emasculating, had their roles in the state reaffirmed or even strengthened in the constitution, including the judiciary, the police and the army.

The army's budget is not subject to government oversight, while it also has a veto on the appointment of the defence minister for the next eight years – a key role, given Mr Sisi's own use of that position to remove Mr Morsi.

Meanwhile, old regime figures are returning to office. General Mohammed el-Tohamy, a former general who was sacked as head of Mr Mubarak's anti-corruption agency by Mr Morsi after one of his staff alleged he used the position to cover up rather than investigate Mr Mubarak's financial dealings, has been made head of the general intelligence service, a position seen in the old regime as the second most powerful in the land.

The current prime minister, likely to be kept on by Mr Sisi if he wins the presidency according to those around him, is another old regime figure, Ibrahim Mehlab, who combined a long career as head of a state construction company with membership of the NDP's policy committee.

Both men were tangentially implicated in the embezzlement case which last week saw Mr Mubarak jailed for three years, according to a review of the full case files by an independent news website, Mada Masr.

Neither was charged with wrongdoing, and there were no direct allegations.

But it was Mr Mehlab's company that carried out much of the illegal refurbishment to the Mubarak family homes at the heart of the case, and which fraudulently charged the invoices to the government instead of the president. Mr Mehlab personally oversaw some of the work, according to the report.

The original investigator was the man who made the accusations against General Tohamy – and he has since been demoted.

Supporters of Mr Sisi and the new order point to the fact that the constitution limits his powers and makes it unlikely he will have the untrammelled authority of his predecessors. But in some ways, that only strengthens the influence of the country's old families and institutional networks.

Hisham Mostafa Khalil, a former MP ousted when parliament fell with Mr Mubarak, said: "With the new constitution, the power of the president becomes very limited. He's accountable to parliament."

That accountability depends on what form opposition will be allowed to take and on who manages to obtain seats. The Muslim Brotherhood, who were latterly the main opposition, has been termed a terrorist organisation, while the independent, liberal April 6 movement which helped organise the 2011 street protests has also been banned.

New political parties have been formed, but many of them, like Mr ElBaradei's Constitution Party, are dominated by the old Cairo elite.

For some, like Mr Khalil, himself the son of a prime minister of the Sadat era, this is only to be welcomed.

"In Egypt, historically, even before the 1952 revolution (which removed the monarchy), when we had our parliament the MPs came from the big families," he said. "It remained like that till the end.

"A lot of the people from the Mubarak time you won't see again. Half of them died, half of them are old. But you will see their sons and you will see their cousins. It's just the faces that have changed."

Mr Khalil, who represented the Qasr el-Nil constituency in the heart of Downtown Cairo, said he was still considering whether to stand again. Another prominent NDP politician, Abdulrahim el-Ghoul, said he was retiring.

"I have divorced myself from politics," he said. "Forty years of politics is enough for me," he added.
Asked who would take his place as MP for the deeply conservative area of Nagi Hammadi in Upper Egypt, he said: "Probably my nephew Lt Col Mohammed Abdulaziz el-Ghoul, who is an inspector in the general security directorate, but the family haven't met to confirm that yet."

Most of the international focus on Mr Mubarak's former officials has been on his immediate circle, and in particular the corruption allegations against his sons Gamal and Alaa, and their associates.

But even before Mr Mubarak was finally toppled, some activists said the army was tacitly encouraging criticism. It feared that the liberal economic reforms they were implementing were undermining the economic vested interests of army-run companies, which often appoint retired generals to remunerative sinecure directorships.

Mr Baghdadi, and other Sisi supporters, are now open in saying that they want to see an end to privatisation and a return to Egypt's earlier period of a socialist state-led economy. Mr Sisi has fudged this issue, raising the question of whether he will oversee a return to the old regime, or the even older regime.

His economic programme, finally unveiled at the end of the week, laid heavy stress on large-scale, state-led infrastructure projects, including an attempt to resurrect an early Mubarak-era scheme to build whole new desert cities for Egypt's burgeoning population. It was previously abandoned as unrealistic.

Many, including Mr Baghdadi, also urge an end to the alliance with America, and a return to the 1950s embrace of Russia.

Some liberals who supported Mr Sisi abandoned his project in the light of last summer's mass killings of hundreds of Brotherhood supporters.

Mr ElBaradei resigned as interim Vice-President and has now returned to Vienna, where he lived until 2009.

Others remain hopeful that there are enough checks and balances in the new system to ensure gradual change. Many rely on the ambiguous role of Tamarod, or "Rebellion", the protest movement which gathered signatures a year ago calling on Mr Morsi to resign and organised the mass demonstrations that were immediately followed by his removal.

It had support of many of the revolutionaries who overthrew Mr Mubarak two years before. But since then, the movement has split, with anti-Sisi renegades claiming that they had been duped, that elements of the "deep state", Mr Mubarak's secret police and intelligence services, had infiltrated the movement at an early stage and used it to engineer their return to power.

Mr Khalil, the former MP, concedes that the first parliament will be dominated in the early stages by supporters of Mr Sisi. But added: "After two or three years, we don't know what will happen."

Indeed, the constitution insists the president can serve only two terms, ruling out, in theory, a repeat of 30-year dictatorships like Mr Mubarak's.

Such polls as there have been in Egypt since the coup suggest the hysteria for Mr Sisi is not as overwhelming as the mass media make out. But then, Mr Mubarak was not as unpopular as some thought either – his last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, managed to win 48 per cent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election run-off.

However, there is little doubt that the 54 per cent approval rating which the Pew Research Centre estimated for Mr Sisi this/last week, along with a boycott called by the Brotherhood and other opposition groups, will be enough to earn him victory over the sole challenger, Hamdeen Sabbahy, a leftist.

Mr Sabbahy supported both the protests against Mr Mubarak and Mr Morsi, and fiercely opposes the Brotherhood. But his demand for a strong army with a civilian president seems to cut little ice with the anti-Islamist base who seem to think that if you are going to have a state based on law and order and national security it may as well be led by a military man.

The Muslim Brotherhood and a raft of "soft Islamist" and liberal groups are boycotting.

The police, who were in many ways the main object of the 2011 revolution, reviled for their brutality and corruption, are now seemingly popular again; two years in which they were largely absent from the streets have seemingly made the heart grow fonder.

Brotherhood spokesmen always alleged that the police deliberately refused to implement the rule of law during Mr Morsi's time in office in order to undermine his reputation.

Mr Sisi himself has not made any campaign appearances and limited his interviews to some unchallenging questions, mostly from Egyptian television stations. He has stressed the need to eliminate Islamist terrorism once and for all and to restore stability and law and order – old Mubarak catchphrases.

As for personal freedoms, he said they should be matched against national security concerns.
When asked about how long it would take to reach complete democracy, he said: "Twenty or twenty-five years."

*Photos courtesy of Associated Press

Sisi posters & the politics of patronage

Mada Masr
Sisi posters and the politics of patronage

Sunday May 25, 2014

Jano Charbel

Electoral campaign posters for former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are abundant in every Egyptian town and city. Unprecedented in its size and scale, this electoral campaign is arguably the largest promotion of a political candidate in the country’s history.
Thus far, the cost of Sisi’s electoral campaign is officially reported to be LE12 million, although there are speculations that it is closer to the LE20 million maximum limit on expenditures.

This year the High Elections Council doubled the campaign expenditure allowed by law during the 2012 presidential elections.

This official figure of LE12 million may well be understated as many private campaigners have joined in to promote the former defense minister’s bid for the presidency.

In Cairo, Sisi posters can be found on just about every lamp post on the Sixth of October Bridge, which spans the city from north to south. Several massive billboards promoting Sisi are also unavoidable along this lengthy bridge.

His official campaign posters feature images of the former military chief grinning while dressed in suit and tie, along with his campaign slogan, “Long live Egypt.”

Many of these posters have been defaced with the word “deddak” (against you) spray-painted across them, or spattered with red paint to give Sisi a blood-soaked image, and others have been torn down.

But still, Sisi posters have survived such attempts and can be found on every street. Whether part of his official campaign, or private promotions, the face of the 59-year-old, who is set to be elected, is omnipresent around Egypt. 

Private promotional posters — that are not directly linked to his official campaign — feature Sisi usually dressed in his military uniform. These posters and banners hang outside an untold number of stores and businesses in Cairo, often with a message of endorsement from owners, along with the name of the store or company and sometimes even their contact information. 

Yet is all this campaigning and are all these posters necessary for a candidate who is already poised to win the election? 

“I think it’s necessary from the campaigners’ perspective,” said Mohamed Menza, a specialist researcher of patronage politics, and professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo. 

“The main objective here is to have a very big show of popular support. Campaigners are seeking to promote participation and encourage the highest voter turnout rate possible, with the aim of exceeding the numbers of those who showed up during this year’s constitutional referendum,” he said.

The 2014 referendum held in January boasted a turnout rate of just over 38 percent, with a 98 percent approval rate. Sisi and his campaigners are apparently seeking to gain higher voter turnout rates than those cast for Mohamed Morsi in 2012. 

In terms of promoting their candidate, Sisi’s campaigners “are likely to achieve their objective. It is not only about winning the election, but maximizing voter participation and winning it by a landslide,” said Menza. 

The professor pointed out that the campaign teams of former presidential candidates Ahmed Shafiq (Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister) and Amr Moussa (Mubarak’s former foreign minister) are directly assisting Sisi in his presidential campaign.

“There are lots of individuals from among the middle ranking members of Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party helping to finance the Sisi campaign. Plus there is a lot of personal assistance from businessmen who were closely linked to Mubarak’s party,” he said. 

The professor explained that there are several businessmen who sought the patronage of Mubarak and his party, followed by that of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, and are now seeking Sisi’s support.

He gave the example of businessman Taysir Mattar, based in the districts of Old Cairo and Manial, pointing out that many other such businessmen have shifted their allegiances in accordance with the ruler of the time, or his ruling party. Other businessmen have maintained their allegiance to political figures from the Mubarak-era. 

According to Menza, these businessmen, “notables and lesser notables” have been campaigning for Sisi across the country by organizing popular conferences, neighborhood-based campaigns, and are preparing to mobilize their constituents en masse for Sisi.

Beyond Mubarak’s patronage networks, a wide spectrum of political parties are also mobilizing their constituencies to vote for Sisi. Across Cairo, the liberal Wafd Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the ultraconservative Salafi Nour Party and the left-of-center Tagammu Party have all hung-up posters and banners announcing their support for the former field marshal.

Smaller and more obscure parties, including: the Guardians of the Revolution Party, the Egyptian National Movement Party, and the Egyptian Party also hung up Sisi posters, as has the Tamarod movement in Cairo.

From May to June 2013, Tamarod’s popular petition campaign was instrumental in mobilizing millions of Egyptians against the presidency of Morsi. While Tamarod has condemned the Morsi regime for its power grabs and human rights violations, the movement has not questioned Sisi’s human rights record.

Tamarod has repeatedly called on the populace to protest in solidarity with Sisi to show the world — particularly the US, from which Egypt receives billions of dollars worth of military aid — that Morsi’s removal at the hands of the Armed Forces was not a military coup, but a popular revolution.

Within Tamarod, several supporters of the only other presidential contender, Hamdeen Sabbahi, have reportedly been expelled from the movement for not siding with Sisi.

“People are afraid to support Sabbahi in public, against the sure-winner,” said Menza. “The masses are generally not open to the idea of challenging Sisi, and no businessman is going to invest in abstract struggles, without clear benefits in front of him.” 

Indeed, during the presidential elections of 2012 there were 13 candidates running for president, while in 2014 only one candidate is challenging Sisi.

Businessmen and political forces are “trying to get closer to the circles of authority while preparing for parliamentary elections,” commented Menza. “Payback time is due during parliamentary elections.” 

“Businessmen are seeking a piece of the pie,” he added. They may be seeking political favors, tax breaks, or parliamentary seats. 

Politicians and businessmen will continue to support the campaigns around Sisi, especially “given that there is no real ruling party at the moment.” Others are simply hoping for stability, benefits, and the prosperity that comes from a strongman patron-leader. 

According to Essam Abdel Aziz, vice president of the Tour Guides Syndicate and a businessman in the tourism industry, “Stability will be guaranteed, and the security situation will improve” under Sisi.
“Tourism is among the Field Masrhal’s foremost priorities. He has told us so himself.”

Abel Aziz continued: “Since the revolution the country’s tourism industry has been hit hard. Most visitors have been frightened away by the unrest and terrorism over the past three years.”

The owner of a hot-air balloon service in Hurghada, and a travel agency in Cairo, Abdel Aziz explained that instability has resulted in tens of billions of dollars worth of losses incurred in the tourism industry. While some four million employees in this industry have either lost their jobs, or are threatened with joblessness. 

“Hundreds of hotels are empty, or have shut down. While most cruise boats remain docked and out of business.” Likewise, his hot-air balloons are grounded with very little demand.   

Abdel Aziz commented that he hopes that the tourism industry will return to generate its estimated $US13 billion of annual revenue (prior to the 2011 uprising against Mubarak) when Sisi officially takes over Egypt’s reins. 

“Sisi has promised us that he would revive the tourist industry over the next few years, and together we aspire to increase both our revenue and our total number of visitors — from the 2010 figure of 14.7 million visitors, by several million more.” Only around nine million tourists have annually visited Egypt since 2011. 

“(Former Presdient) Morsi had promised us that he would help us restore this vital industry, but did not care much about it.” 

The businessman did not mention that armed Islamist groups have dramatically increased their terror attacks nationwide since Sisi’s ouster of Morsi in July 2013. 

“Stability and security are urgently needed to get our industry and our national economy back on its feet,” concluded Abdel Aziz. 

According to Sheikh Abdel Rahman Hassan of the Islamic Jurisprudence Center, “We are campaigning for Field Marshal Sisi’s presidency because he is a pious and religious man. Moreover, we trust that he will be able to root out terrorist groups like Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, Ajnad Misr, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and other armed extremists.” 

Sheikh Hassan’s center has a number of posters around Tahrir Square with the image of Sisi and the words, “May I kiss your head please?” The center’s phone number is on these posters identifying them.

Similarly the private ETAF advertising company has hung-up Sisi banners around the Abdeen neighborhood, with the name of their company, and their phone numbers on them. 

The company’s spokesman did not comment as to how much his eight-foot-long banners cost or why they have the company’s contact information on them. 

Mohamed Lotfy, owner of a bookshop in downtown Cairo commented, “These [private] banners hanging outside our shop are not ours. They belong to other businesses and political parties in the area.” 

“Nobody forces these businesses to put up campaign banners. They put them up out of their own freewill. It’s their way of showing their support for their candidate, and their love for their country.” 

However, in Cairo no businessmen or companies can be seen promoting Sabbahi’s presidential bid. The number and size of his posters and banners pales in comparison to those of Sisi. 

The only two parties openly backing Sabbahi on these posters in Cairo are the Popular Socialist Alliance Party and the Karama (Dignity) Party, from which Sabbahi hails. 

While hundreds of young people can be seen wearing Sabbahi t-shirts, distributing his campaign fliers to passers by, holding small scale conferences, forming human chains, and flying campaign kites from bridges along the Nile, these efforts are very clearly dwarfed by the massive campaign machine behind Sisi.

*Photo by Jano Charbel

Over 41,163 arrested & prosecuted since Sisi's coup

Mada Masr 
Over 40,000 detained and prosecuted since July, Wikithawra reports

Sunday May 25, 2014

41,163 people have been arrested and prosecuted since July, independent statistical database Wikithawra said in a report issued Sunday. The report reveals that only 4 percent of the arrests are connected to acts of terrorism, with 89 percent related to political participation. The report also states that 53 individuals detained within this period have died in custody.

The report documents the security crackdown that started with the removal of Morsi on July 3, 2013, until May 15 of this year.

It provides the most comprehensive count to date of all of those who have been arrested or faced judicial charges since Morsi's ouster, regardless of whether they were released later, convicted or are still on trial.

According to the portal’s count, 36,478 people were either arrested or have otherwise been persecuted legally as a result of participation in political events, 376 of which face trials in military courts.

An additional 874 individuals will undergo military trials for criminal charges, with 1,714 facing charges related to terrorism.

142 people have been arrested in protests calling for social demands, with 87 detained because of workers’ protests, and 415 having been arrested in sectarian events. Additionally, 1,453 people have been arrested for breaking curfew, which was enacted shortly after Morsi's removal, with no criminal charges.

The report indicates that the highest number of arrests occurring in one incident took place during the dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood protests on August 14, during which over 1,000 people were killed and 9,759 were arrested.

This is followed by clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and security forces, which took place on August 16, and in which 2,652 people were arrested. The third highest number of people detained in one incident occurred on the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, when 1,532 were arrested, either on the spot or subpoenaed later in relation to the events.

The detained include 926 minors, 4,768 students and 166 journalists.

Wikithawra is an online portal that aims to document the events of the January 25 revolution since 2011.

*Photo of courtesy of Reuters

Sponsor of Sisi's Coup: UAE sends Egyptian police 15 armored vehicles for presidential "elections"

Ahram Online
UAE sends Egypt armoured vehicles to assist in securing elections

May 24, 2014 

Cairo has received 15 armoured vehicles from the United Arab Emirates, to aid in securing next week’s presidential election. The vehicles were transported by army planes and were handed over to Egypt's interior ministry, an airport source told state agency MENA.

Militant attacks, primarily targeting security forces, have become common since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the military last summer amid mass protests against his rule. Over five hundred security personnel have been killed in the attacks.
. During the January referendum on the new constitution, a bomb exploded in central Cairo. No one was injured in the blast.

Egyptians will go to the polls on 26 and 27 May.

The UAE has been one of the most vocal supporters of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and Egypt's interim authorities.

*Photo of the UAE's multi-billionaire absolute monarch Sheikh Khalifa Al-Nahyan courtesy of Reuters

Al-Azouly Military Prison: Site of ongoing torture of civilians


Egypt: Dozens of disappeared civilians face ongoing torture at military prison

22 May 2014

Dozens of civilians have been subjected to enforced disappearance and held for months in secret detention at an Egyptian military camp, where they are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment to make them confess to crimes, according to shocking new evidence gathered by Amnesty International.

Egyptian lawyers and activists have a list of at least 30 civilians who are reportedly being held in secret at Al Azouly prison inside Al Galaa Military Camp in Ismailia, 130km north-east of Cairo.

Former detainees there have told Amnesty International that many more – possibly up to 400 – could be held in the three-storey prison block. The detainees have not been charged or referred to prosecutors or courts, and have had no access to their lawyers or families.

“These are practices associated with the darkest hours of military and Mubarak’s rule. Egypt’s military cannot run roughshod over detainees’ rights like this,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty international.

The authorities must immediately inform the families and lawyers of all those being held in secret at Al Galaa Military Camp or elsewhere. Anyone who has been forcibly disappeared must immediately be granted access to doctors, lawyers and their families.

They must be protected from further torture or other ill-treatment, and released, unless they are promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence before being brought before a judge for a fair trial.

“Reports of torture in Egypt have been steadily emerging. Yet, what’s happening inside the prison is taken straight from a torturer’s textbook and shows that behind the authorities’ rhetoric of the road map to democracy and upcoming elections lies ruthless repression,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui.

There must be full, impartial and independent investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, with all those responsible brought to justice.

Amnesty International met with recently released detainees from Al Azouly prison. They gave harrowing accounts of torture, including the use of electric shocks, burns and other ill-treatment during interrogations at the military camp.

Lawyers and activists have told Amnesty International that enforced disappearances have been on the rise in Egypt since November 2013. It is expected that the detainees being held in secret will be brought before state security prosecutors after they have “confessed” under torture.

In some cases, it appears that individuals have been secretly detained for months, during which time they were tortured to extract “confessions”.

Lawyers working on state security cases, including those involving prisoners at Al Azouly, described a systematic pattern where people are abducted from streets or their homes and sent to Al Azouly, where they have no access to lawyers or their families and the authorities refuse to acknowledge that they were in custody.

The defendants are coerced to “confess” to a crime or implicate others. Some of the detainees agree to confess once referred to the state security prosecutor, to get out of the prison and stop the torture. Lawyers told Amnesty International that they are never allowed to attend the first investigation and they are not informed about the date or time of the investigation.

“Torture is absolutely prohibited under all circumstances and is a crime under international law. Prosecutors, courts and other Egyptian authorities must never use ‘confessions’ or statements extracted through torture or other ill-treatment in any proceedings. Imprisonment on such a basis constitutes arbitrary detention,” said Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui.


One prisoner recently released from Al Azouly military prison:
“The military arrested me in January [2014]…and took me on the same day to Al Azouly prison after they beat me in a military camp in my town for four hours. I was held in Al Azouly prison for 76 days without seeing a judge or a prosecutor, I was not even allowed to talk to my family. They put me on the third floor of the prison in solitary confinement.

The authorities there interrogated me six times. They took off my clothes and gave me electric shocks all over my body during the investigations, including on my testicles, and beat me with batons and military shoes. They handcuffed me from behind and hung me on a door for 30 minutes. They always blindfolded me during the investigations. In one interrogation they burned my beard with a lighter.

The investigations were held in another building inside the camp…the soldiers call it S1 and S8 buildings [which are military intelligence buildings]. I could not see the investigators because I was blindfolded in all investigations and handcuffed from behind. They wanted to know information about protests and demonstrations, they asked about the active members in the university. They wanted to know who funds protests, who holds weapons and who buys them. They also asked me about my affiliation and whether I belong to the Muslim Brotherhood…

“After 25 days I was transferred to another cell with another 23 prisoners. Most of the persons in this cell were from Sinai. One of the prisoners had burns on his body…he mentioned that they put out cigarettes on his body. We were allowed out of the cell once a day to the bathroom before sunrise, and for five minutes for all the 23 persons in the cell. The food was very poor. I was then released without a prosecutor’s order or investigations …they took me from prison and put me outside gate 2 of the military camp.”

Another prisoner recently released from Al Azouly:
“I was arrested from my home by security forces dressed in civilian clothing in February. I was beaten upon arrest and then was taken to Al Azouly prison. They questioned me 13 times. They blindfolded me, handcuffed me from behind and took off my clothes…then they gave me electric shocks all over the body including in my testicles.

I was not allowed to call my family…I gave their number to a cellmate who was released and informed them about my location. A man with us in the cell called Haj Shetewy, he is from north Sinai…was suffering from torture that he faced upon arrest by 101 Military Brigade in Arish.

They inserted a hot steel rod in his anus…he was not able to go to the bathroom for nine days. They did not treat him….he died in cell number 11 on the second floor. After the investigations they released me in May.”

Amr Rabee is an engineering student at Cairo University who disappeared after he was arrested from Ramsis Street in the capital on 11 March by security officials dressed in civilian clothing. His family did not know his whereabouts. They asked in police stations, prosecutors’ offices, National Security and filed a report with the Public Prosecutor’s Office on 15 March about his disappearance. The authorities denied holding him.

Amr Rabee’s family later received a phone call in April from a released prisoner who told them that Amr was being held in Al Azouly military prison. According to the released prisoner, Amr Rabee cannot move his left arm due to a torture-related injury. On 17 May, more than two months after his disappearance, Amr Rabee was brought before the East Cairo Prosecutor’s Office.

A lawyer who was present at the time called the student’s family, who rushed to the Prosecutor’s Office. They arrived to learn that a detention order had been filed and that, according to the official case file, Amr was arrested from his home in Al Haram on 17 May – more than two months after his actual arrest.

The family was able to see him for five minutes in the prosecutor’s office and he mentioned that he was held in Al Azouly military prison and then Al Aqrab prison in Tora. He has a dislocated shoulder.

A woman in a town 250 km from Cairo told Amnesty International that her husband was arrested when the security forces dressed in civilian clothing and police uniforms raided their home in the middle of the night in January 2014.

Before he was taken away, they gave him electric shocks in front of her. Despite repeated efforts to find his whereabouts, she was finally able to see him in Al Aqrab prison in May 2014. He bore signs of torture, including bruises and cuts in his hands and arms and burn marks on his arms. He also had a dislocated shoulder. He told her that they wanted him to confess to involvement in an explosion that led to the killing of soldiers.

Al Azouly prison is inside the headquarters of the Second Field Army Command. The camp includes a military court, the prison and Military Intelligence offices. The prison has three stories: the first floor has military detainees facing trial; the second floor has a mix of civilians facing military trials and individuals who are “under investigation” but who have not been referred to a prosecutor or court; the third floor has more individuals who are “under investigation”.

Amnesty International was not able to determine exactly how many people are being held in Al Azouly prison. Released prisoners say that up to 200 people can be detained on each floor, and estimate that there are 200 to 400 prisoners in total.

Released prisoners said that the torture method used against individual detainees depends on the suspect’s profile. Those accused of killing soldiers or police are given electric shocks, hung on doors, burned, and sometimes whipped.

The interrogations are held in a building 10 minutes away from the prison. Detainees are blindfolded and driven in a military vehicle to the investigation building before being taken to the first floor. The investigations take place from 3 pm until 10 or 11 pm. Since they were blindfolded, prisoners were not able to know whether the interrogations were being conducted by Military Intelligence or National Security officers.

Last week, Amnesty International launched a new global Stop Torture campaign, which accused governments around the world of betraying their commitments to stamp out torture, three decades after the ground-breaking Convention Against Torture was adopted by the UN in 1984.

Presidential pay raise (of 2100%) tailored specifically for Sisi

Middle East Monitor

Egypt: President's pay raise said to be tailored for Al-Sisi 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Legal experts considered the recent presidential decree to raise the president's monthly salary from EGP 2000 ($280) to EGP 42,000 ($5,900) as a return to "tailored laws" since it is widely believed to be designed for the most likely winner in the presidential race, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

Professor of Law Dr Ahmed Kamal said that the decree is a prelude to Al-Sisi's election as president of Egypt.

In an interview with Rassd, he pointed out that all laws promulgated by the post-coup regime should be put to a vote at the upcoming parliament in order to be enforced.

Dr Tariq Khedr, chairman of the constitutional law department at the Police Academy and former governor of Damietta, said that the new constitution forbids the president to amend his salary during his tenure, which explains why the interim president issued the decree before Al-Sisi's election.

Judge Emad Abu Hashem chairman of the Appeals Prosecution in Mansoura, said that in Egypt now everything is possible: "we are in a stateless, lawless country. All rights are desecrated. There is no justice, no judiciary."

*Photo courtesy of


(Note - Sisi's monthly salary now amounts to 3500% (35x) of the country's minimum wage of LE 1,200/month)


Police assault prisoners' solidarity conference in Alexandria

World Organization Against Torture

Egypt: Security Forces Raid The Egyptian Center For Economic And Social Rights, Alexandria Branch, And Sexually Harass Females

Thursday, May 22nd 2014

The undersigned organizations condemn the security forces storming of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Alexandria Branch, and note that such attack is an expected escalation, amidst the growing incitement in the media, and defamation campaigns, which have been targeting human rights organizations and human rights defenders in Egypt.

Egyptian security forces, alongside security personnel dressed in civilian attire, raided the Alexandria Branch of The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, arresting 15, including two minors, and two ECESR staff, and confiscating several computers and documents. The arrested were taken to the Alexandria Security Department where they were held, until released hours later.

Security forces raided ECESR’s office while a press conference was being held in solidarity with imprisoned labor activist Mahinour Al-Massry, who was sentenced to two years in prison on charges of protesting. Al-Massry’s appeal was recently rejected, and her sentence was reaffirmed. The press conference came in solidarity with imprisoned activist Al-Massry, who was taking part in a protest demanding justice for martyr ‘Khaled Said’, tortured to death by security forces in 2010, the latter incident is considered a driving force of the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011.

In addition, the undersigned organizations express deep concerns about the sexual harassment and molestation of females attending the press conference, by the security forces, which can only be considered an attempt to discourage females from participating in the public space.

The aforementioned press conference is part of ECESR’s ongoing campaign against the Protest Law No. 107/2013, which was issued by Al-Beblawi’s government in November 2013. It also comes in light of ECESR’s ongoing court case, disputing the constitutionality of the aforementioned protest law.

It is noteworthy that this is considered the second raid on ECESR premises in the past 6 months, and the third since January 2011.

This raid comes in light of systematic and widespread crackdown carried out by the interim regime of July 3rd on human rights defenders, in an attempt to silence the voices of those speaking out against human rights violations committed by the security state, and demanding justice and fair compensation to victims of human rights violations.

Notably, this raid comes a few days before the presidential elections in Egypt, scheduled May 26 and 27, a period expected to enjoy a larger space for freedom of expression. Instead, the raid that targeted the Egyptian Center only reflects a repressive atmosphere, and rising threats to the existence and function of civil society organizations, impeding them from executing their key role in Egypt’s transition.

The undersigned organizations request the immediate release of all those detained and arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and calls for a speedy end to these unfair practices, including the police harassment of civil society organizations and human rights defenders. The state should stop targeting human rights defenders, and restricting their work. In addition, we call for immediate investigations into the sexual harassment that females faced at the premises of ECESR at the hands of the security forces.

Finally, the undersigned organizations articulate that they will take all legal measures against those responsible for the raid of the ECESR office, and will register a complaint to the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as the relevant United Nations Special Rapporteurs.


-Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
-Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
-Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
-Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression 
-Al-Nadim Center
-Nazra for Feminist Studies
-Hisham Mubarak Law Center
-New Woman Foundation
-Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
-Andalus institute for tolerance & Anti-violence studies 
-National Community for Human Rights and law
-Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of Childhood Conditions
-Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
-FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
-World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Court sentences 9 activists to 2 yrs in prison & fines for "unauthorized" protest

Daily News Egypt

Mahienour El-Massry, 8 others sentenced to 2 years 

Alexandria court upholds sentence for protests outside Khaled Said trial

Tuesday May 20, 2014

Ali Omar

An Alexandria court sentenced Tuesday nine activists, including prominent lawyer Mahienour El-Massry, to two years in prison and an EGP 50,000 fine.

The activists were detained and convicted of blocking a road, destroying a police vehicle, protesting without a permit and assaulting a police officer outside the trial of policemen charged with the death of Khaled Said.

Arrest warrants for the activists were issued on 9 December and the initial ruling on the case was announced on 2 January.

The protest in question took place in Alexandria on 2 December 2013 and was allegedly organised by Said’s mother, who refused to obtain permission from the Ministry of Interior. “The protest is against the police,” Said’s mother said. “How do you expect us to ask for permission from the institution we are protesting against?”

El-Massry is currently facing trial on separate charges for an incident that occurred in March 2013. Allegedly, a number of members of the Al-Dostour Party were “assaulted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood”, said Mohamed Ramadan, a lawyer representing the defendants and a witness to the incident.

*Photo courtesy of police arresting activists in Alexandria courtesy of AFP

Free illegally jailed journalists in Egypt

Al Jazeera correspondent held for 9 months without charge 
May 15, 2014 
(Beirut)– Egyptian authorities should immediately release an Al Jazeera correspondent who has been held without charge since August 14, 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. The correspondent, Abdullah al-Shami, has been on a hunger strike for more than 100 days.

On May 12, 2014, the authorities transferred al-Shami from Tora Prison, just south of Cairo, to an undisclosed location, amid rising concerns that his health is deteriorating.

On May 14, his brothers, Mosaab and Mohamed al-Shami, tweeted that Abdullah al-Shami was in solitary confinement in al-Aqrab (Scorpion) high security section of Tora prison, where they saw him.
His lawyer has told reporters that al-Shami is under investigation for “spreading false news” and for alleged links with the Muslim Brotherhood, but after nine months authorities have not filed any charges. On May 3, a court extended his detention for another 45 days.

“Practicing journalism is not a crime,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Egypt’s disregard for basic rights like free expression is nothing less than shocking.”

The government should also release three other Al Jazeera journalists and others who have been charged but against whom authorities have yet to provide any compelling evidence that they committed any crime.

The three other Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed, arrested on December 29, 2013, are standing trial on charges of “spreading false news” and “aiding a terrorist organization,” a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are on trial with 15 others accused of having ties to the Brotherhood and “defaming Egypt’s image abroad.” They were refused bail most recently on May 3, 2014, with the next session of the trial scheduled for May 15.

The continued detention of the Al Jazeera correspondents violates the journalists’ fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the country’s 2014 constitution, as well as international human rights law.

Article 65 of the new constitution holds that “Freedom of thought and opinion are guaranteed,” and that “Every person shall have the right to express his or her opinion verbally, in writing, through imagery, or by any other means of expression and publication.”

Article 70 of the constitution further affirms that “freedom of the press, printing and paper, visual, audio and electronic publication is guaranteed.” According to article 71, “It is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way,” and, “no freedom-restricting penalty shall be imposed for publication or publicity crimes.”

Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, likewise affirms, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Egypt is also a state party, requires Egypt to protect the freedom of expression and the rights of all to receive information.

The continued detention of Al Jazeera’s journalists underscores the urgency of reforming Egypt’s laws governing the media, Human Rights Watch said.

Article 102 bis of the penal code allows for the detention of “whoever deliberately disseminates news, information/data, or false or tendentious rumors, or propagates exciting publicity, if this is liable to disturb public security, spread horror among the people, or cause harm or damage to the public interest.”

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who is favored to win the presidency in an election later in May, in a lengthy interview with about 20 editors of leading Egyptian newspapers on May 8, warned against “scaring people” with reporting that “creates skepticism or uneasiness in society.”

“Egyptian authorities should be addressing the serious problems that journalists report,” Stork said. “Instead, they are trying to silence the messenger, jailing journalists on the basis of laws that violate basic freedoms.”

Graffiti artists unite against Sisi dictatorship

The Guardian

Graffiti artists unite against Egypt's presidential hopeful Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

Artists from Europe, the US and north Africa support their local counterparts with works critical of the former army chief
Thursday May 8, 2014
Patrick Kingsley
The Army Above All, by the Egyptian street artist Ganzeer

Some of the world's leading political artists are stepping up their efforts to produce street works protesting against the actions of Egypt's likely next president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

International graffiti stars such as Sampsa, Ganzeer and Captain Borderline and the painter Molly Crabapple have begun to create designs incorporating the slogan "Sisi war crimes" in cities across Europe, the US and north Africa.

The artists say their initiative aims to encourage fiercer international criticism of Sisi's behaviour. World leaders court Egypt's former army chief despite his having ushered in an era of increased oppression after removing the country's former president Mohamed Morsi last July.

"We hope these works will alter the narrative about Sisi," said Ganzeer, one of the Egyptian artists who rose to global prominence following the country's 2011 revolution.

"It seems like Sisi will easily fool the international community that the majority of Egyptians side with him. All the images getting out there are of squares filled with Sisi supporters, with little to no news of the other side, unless it's of [Morsi's Muslim] Brotherhood. But there are people out there who are opposing who are not part of the Brotherhood."

Sisi's many supporters would dispute Ganzeer's perspective, as it is commonly believed inside Egypt that foreign politicians and journalists have sided against the government that Sisi installed last summer.

Ganzeer and his colleagues, however, feel the international community has done little to censure him and is fully reconciled to his expected election as president next month. They believe that more should therefore be done to shake it from its apathy.

"No Egyptian president will be able to survive without the support of international politicians," Ganzeer said.

The Finnish graffiti star Sampsa was the first artist to create anti-Sisi work outside Egypt. Best known for work that promotes fairer copyright law, Sampsa painted silhouettes signifying the bodies of dead Egyptians on Parisian pavements and a building in New York. The French artist Levalet, the Tunisian calligrapher El Cid and others also have works planned, and the Captain Borderline collective, the founders of Europe's largest street-art festival, plan to collaborate with Ganzeer on a large mural in Munich.

This work in Paris by Finland's Sampsa incorporates the slogan 'Sisi warcrimes'
  New-York-based Molly Crabapple will draw work inspired by the cages Egyptian dissidents are locked inside at trial hearings. "I'm disgusted with the way that the Egyptian revolution has been overtaken by a murderous military dictatorship that is in many ways worse than [ousted dictator Hosni] Mubarak," she said.

Ganzeer and his fellow Egyptian artists Zeft and Ammar Abou Bakr will continue to create anti-authoritarian works in Cairo, despite working in a context that is increasingly dangerous – a factor other street artists said had motivated them to show solidarity.

"These guys are the pioneers of modern-day political street art," said Sampsa. "The big stars [outside Egypt] don't give a shit about changing anything these days. But the guys down in Egypt, their work has a point. Their political art comes hand-in-hand with activism."

Previously largely free of artistic expression, Egypt's walls exploded with murals and slogans following Mubarak's removal in February 2011 and the graffiti was portrayed internationally as a symbol of the country's revolutionary gains.

Vote for the Pimp, by Ammar Abou Bakr

Making graffiti was never easy in the months that followed. The authorities often whitewashed the murals and suspicious bystanders sometimes mobbed the artists, but Ganzeer said it had never been as hard as it was now. The increased policing of public space, a new law curbing protests and a more aggressive public have made artists far more wary.

"The output now is much fewer and far between. People are still doing things, but maybe not with the same outpouring we saw in 2011 when there were new pieces every week," he said. Ganzeer was arrested in spring 2011 for posting anti-military stickers in public.

Like many of his colleagues, Ganzeer has often created work against the Muslim Brotherhood, but he now fears being taken for a member of the widely loathed group.

"The moment anyone sees you on the street, you're associated with the Brotherhood, and attacked very easily unless you can persuade them that you're creating something pro-military. So it's very difficult to create opposition work that hasn't just been made quickly."

To protect themselves, he and others have developed a technique that sees them add explicitly anti-authoritarian details to their designs only at the last possible moment.

While painting a recent mural on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, a road leading from Tahrir Square that is famous for revolutionary graffiti, Ganzeer easily persuaded passersby that the cartoon soldier he had drawn next to a pile of skulls was mourning the deaths of innocent Egyptians. It was only when he added blood to the soldier's mouth and then scarpered that the image, entitled The Army Above All, took on a more sinister meaning.

Since Sisi deposed Morsi last July following days of mass demonstrations, at least 16,000 Egyptian dissidents have been arrested, and thousands killed during protests. The crackdown initially focused on Morsi's Islamist supporters before expanding to secular-leaning activists.

The government and a sizeable section of society blame the violence on the Brotherhood, and say strong policing is necessary to quell a wave of terrorist activity. Ministers also maintain the country is on the path to democracy, and use May's presidential election to support their claims.

"This is not going to be an autocracy," Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, told the Guardian on Sunday. "If you're not doing it right, we will hold you accountable."

*Street art by Ganzeer, Sampsa & Ammar Abu Bakr

Egypt tops world for its death sentences in 2014 - Industrial scale execution decrees

Providence Journal

In Egypt, industrial scale death decrees

May 5, 2014


A single judge in a single court in Egypt has sentenced more people to death this year than the total number of people who were executed last year in the rest of the world combined, with the exception of China. In 2013, at least 778 people were killed as a result of capital punishment laws. This figure does not include China, which does not release information on the number of people it executes.

The tally of top executioners for 2013 runs as follows: Iran put to death at least 369 people, Iraq 169, Saudi Arabia 79, and the United States 39. So far this year 1,212 Egyptians have been sentenced to death. And that was only as of April.

These mass death sentences defy logic. They defy international human rights law — to which Egypt is a party. They even defy language. They are so unprecedented there is not even a legal term to describe them.

Lacking proper legal terminology, journalists and human rights organizations have referred to them as “mass death sentences.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) refused to sign off on additional U.S. military aid to Egypt last week, denouncing the verdict as a “sham trial.” But these court verdicts essentially amount to political executions.

Criminal trials are by definition about individuals. And each of the defendants should have been tried individually, not by the hundreds.

In March, Judge Saed Youssef held court in a heavily guarded government building in Minya. He sentenced 529 people to their death, all of them supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. His verdict sparked an international outcry. But that didn’t seem to matter.

Last week, he sentenced another 682 to death, including the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie. He did, however, commute to life sentences 492 of the 529 who he had previously sentenced to death, perhaps under pressure from Egypt’s Grand Mufti.

It is possible that his second mass death sentence will be overturned or commuted. But regardless, the effects of the verdict are chilling. And the timing is important.

In less than a month, on May 26-27, Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be installed as president of Egypt, and it will be called an election. Some speculate that Sisi may pardon the accused once he is president, in order to appear all the more benevolent. This is what optimists believe.

What pessimists believe is several degrees darker. Galal Amer, one of Egypt’s great satirical writers, died on February 12, 2012 — exactly one year and one day after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. Already skeptical of the revolution’s accomplishments, and channeling a more ominous version of the Brechtian dictum about the government dissolving the people, he asked: Have the people gotten rid of the regime, or is it the regime that is getting rid of the people?

Back then, military tribunals of civilians had become commonplace, but the civilian court system was still generally held in high regard as one of the more independent state institutions.

By partially suspending military aid, but not publicly referring to the ouster of Morsi as a “coup,” the Obama administration is apparently trying to send a two-pronged message to Egypt: We want to maintain a relationship, but we care about human rights.

In issuing death warrants on an industrial scale, this Egyptian court is also sending a two-pronged message. To the Muslim Brotherhood: We’ll kill you all. To the world: We don’t care what you think.

*Illustration courtesy of Carlos Latuff

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sisi hopes to strengthen dictatorship with anti-protest law

Ahram Online
I support the protest law to protect the state, El-Sisi says

Monday May 5, 2014

Presidential hopeful Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi defended a controversial protest law passed by the cabinet last november saying that "irresponsible" demonstrations threaten the state.

He waived a question by Lamis El-Hadidi, who was co-interviewing him with Ibrahim Issa, on whether he would heed calls by some for pardoning 25 January activists jailed for breaking the law saying : We will make that call when we cross that bridge."

The Protest Law punishes violators with up to three years in jail and hefty fines for protesting without police permits.

El-Sisi said "he would take whatever decision needed to protect the country from terrorism," in an answer to questions from the CBC and ONTV anchors on whether he would pass an anti-terrorism law if elected president.

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Al Jazeera journalists remain behind bars on Press Freedom Day

The Guardian

Egyptian judge wishes al-Jazeera trio a happy Press Freedom Day then refuses bail

Trial of three journalists adjourned until 15 May after brief hearing in Cairo court on World Press Freedom Day

The judge trying three al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt wished them a happy World Press Freedom Day before refusing them bail and adjourning their case until 15 May.

In a brief session on Saturday, one of the trio, al-Jazeera English's Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, was allowed to leave the defendants' cage to explain to the judge the nature of journalism. The judge, Mohamed Nagy, then adjourned proceedings because Fahmy's lawyer had failed to turn up due to a private emergency.

Fahmy, the Australian ex-BBC journalist Peter Greste and a local producer, Baher Mohamed, have been in jail since late December, and stand accused of creating false news, smearing Egypt's reputation, and aiding terrorists.

They are charged alongside five students with connections to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, and prosecutors have tried to show that al-Jazeera is part of a pro-Brotherhood conspiracy.

But Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian former CNN journalist, told the judge that it was normal for journalists to have contacts on all sides of the political spectrum – including both supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and their liberal opponents, as well as members of Egypt's military establishment.

"I have great relations with state security, with the army and the intelligence," said Fahmy. "That's normal, that's journalism, that's my job."

Later Fahmy told journalists: "I feel like the court is starting to understand what we do for a living."
This seventh session of the trio's trial fell on World Press Freedom Day, celebrating the rights of journalists.

After being told of this fact, and about Fahmy's recent award for his contributions to press freedom, the judge wished him and his co-defendants a "happy World Press Freedom Day".

During a recess, Peter Greste shouted to reporters from the defendants' cage: "We recognise the significance of the coincidence of this trial falling on World Press Freedom Day."

Greste added: "You can't have a free society without a free press. In Egypt today you know that you can't provide balance as long as you can end up in prison like us."

Earlier, a lawyer for the five student co-defendants alleged that they had been tortured in prison.

Sohaib Saad, Khaled Mohamed, Shadi Ibrahim, Ahmed Ibrahim and Anas Beltagy were arrested separately to the al-Jazeera journalists, and – according to a friend campaigning on their behalf – were initially told they would be charged in a separate case.

"When they were arrested, the police told us that they were going to be jailed for having maps of Egypt and planning to kill police officers," said Sara Mohamed, a friend of the five. "It was only later that they were going to be involved in the AJ case. The boys started laughing out loud when they heard that."

A fourth al-Jazeera correspondent, Abdallah Elshamy, has been in jail in a separate case since 14 August, and remains uncharged.

Elshamy also appeared in court on Saturday, along with dozens of demonstrators arrested during a crackdown on Morsi supporters, and appeared severely weakened due to his 103-day hunger strike. Shouting to journalists, he said he had lost 35kg and prison authorities still refused to provide him with medical assistance or even acknowledge his strike.

Elshamy said he was living with 15 others in a cramped cell that measured three metres by four, with no access to water for 12 hours a day. "Prison is like living in a pit-hole," Elshamy shouted before journalists were thrown out of the court.