Saturday, June 29, 2013

From Taksim & Rio to Tahrir, the smell of teargas

ROAR Collective 

June 29, 2013

From Taksim to Tahrir, from Bulgaria to Brazil, we fight the same struggle against oppressive state structures that benefit only a tiny wealthy elite.

Open letter by the Egyptian activist collective ‘Comrades from Cairo’

To you at whose side we struggle,

June 30 will mark a new stage of rebellion for us, building on what started on January 25 and 28, 2011. This time we rebel against the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood that has brought only more of the same forms of economic exploitation, police violence, torture and killings.

References to the coming of “democracy” have no relevance when there is no possibility of living a decent life with any signs of dignity and decent livelihood. Claims of legitimacy through an electoral process distract from the reality that in Egypt our struggle continues because we face the perpetuation of an oppressive regime that has changed its face but maintains the same logic of repression, austerity and police brutality. 

The authorities maintain the same lack of any accountability towards the public, and positions of power translate into opportunities to increase personal power and wealth.

June 30 renews the Revolution’s scream: “The People Want the Fall of the System”. We seek a future governed neither by the petty authoritarianism and crony capitalism of the Brotherhood nor a military apparatus which maintains a stranglehold over political and economic life nor a return to the old structures of the Mubarak era. 

Though the ranks of protesters that will take to the streets on June 30 are not united around this call, it must be ours — it must be our stance because we will not accept a return to the bloody periods of the past.

Though our networks are still weak we draw hope and inspiration from recent uprisings especially across Turkey and Brazil. Each is born out of different political and economic realities, but we have all been ruled by tight circles whose desire for more has perpetuated a lack of vision of any good for people. 

We are inspired by the horizontal organization of the Free Fare Movement founded in Bahía, Brazil in 2003 and the public assemblies spreading throughout Turkey.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood only adds a religious veneer to the process, while the logic of a localized neo-liberalism crushes the people. 

In Turkey a strategy of aggressive private-sector growth, likewise translates into authoritarian rule, the same logic of police brutality as the primary weapon to oppress opposition and any attempts to envision alternatives. 

In Brazil a government rooted in a revolutionary legitimacy has proven that its past is only a mask it wears while it partners with the same capitalist order in exploiting people and nature alike.

These recent struggles share in the fight of much older constant battles of the Kurds and the indigenous peoples of Latin America. For decades, the Turkish and Brazilian governments have tried but failed to wipe out these movements’ struggle for life. 

Their resistance to state repression was the precursor to the new wave of protests that have spread across Turkey and Brazil. We see an urgency in recognizing the depth in each other’s struggles and seek out forms of rebellion to spread into new spaces, neighborhoods and communities.

Our struggles share a potential to oppose the global regime of nation states. In crisis as in prosperity, the state — in Egypt under the rule of Mubarak, the Military Junta or the Muslim Brotherhood — continues to dispossess and disenfranchise in order to preserve and expand the wealth and privilege of those in power.
None of us are fighting in isolation. 

We face common enemies from Bahrain, Brazil and Bosnia, Chile, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Kurdistan, Tunisia, Sudan, the Western Sahara and Egypt. And the list goes on. Everywhere they call us thugs, vandals, looters and terrorists. 

We are fighting more than economic exploitation, naked police violence or an illegitimate legal system. It is not rights or reformed citizenship that we fight for.

We oppose the nation-state as a centralized tool of repression, that enables a local elite to suck the life out of us and global powers to retain their dominion over our everyday lives. The two work in unison with bullets and broadcasts and everything in between. 

We are not advocating to unify or equate our various battles, but it is the same structure of authority and power that we have to fight, dismantle, and bring down. Together, our struggle is stronger.

We want the downfall of the System.

Comrades from Cairo

Morsi's 1st yr witnesses record number of protests

Ahram Online
Egypt protests hit all-time high during Morsi's first year: Report

Tuesday 25 Jun 2013

Country sees 9,427 protests during President Morsi's first year in power, representing seven-fold increase from those seen during final year of Mubarak regime, International Development Centre claims

Egyptian dissent has hit an all-time high "since the pharaonic era," according to a new report by the Cairo-based International Development Centre (IDC), with a total of 9,427 protests held during the first year of President Mohamed Morsi's term.

The IDC's 'Democratic Indicator' report showed a seven-fold increase in the number of monthly demonstrations in Egypt, from 176 a month in the last year of the Hosni Mubarak regime – which climaxed with Egypt's January 2011 uprising – to 1140 protests per month in 2013.

The report covers the first year of Morsi's term in office, from 1 July of last year to 20 June 2013.
The number of protests seen during the first half of the year doubled in the second half, from 500 protests to 1140, eventually culminating in mass anti-government demonstrations on 30 June, the report stated.

The anti-Morsi 'Rebel' signature campaign has capitalised on the wave of public discontent, collecting 15 million signatures in support of the president's ouster, the report notes. The signature drive is spearheading calls for the 30 June protests.

According to the Democratic Indicator, labour protests (4,609) have made up 49 percent of the total number of protests, in which 60 different socio-economic segments took part. In an indication of this, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has added Egypt to its black list of countries that violate labour rights.

Grassroots support was behind 27 percent of the protests, while participation by political and civilian activists made up 13 percent, the report stated.

Cairo came first in terms of the number of protests seen, followed by the Nile Delta cities of Gharbiya and Sharqiya. The Mediterranean city of Alexandria came in fourth.

"The categories that took part in the protests reflected the hostility of the current regime towards almost all sections of Egyptian society," the report argued.

The report went on to claim that such hostility had found its way into state institutions, including the judiciary and the interior ministry, "constituting a model of dictatorship by the ruling regime and its hope to dominate authority."

The chorus of protests throughout the year was predominantly the result of economic and social grievances (67 percent) and labour demands (49 percent).

According to the Democratic Indicator, demands for better housing and public services, along with shortages of fuel, bread and electricity, also acted as catalysts for protest activity.

Attempts by the regime to cement control over the state bureaucracy, marginalisation of the political opposition, and clampdowns on freedoms, the report alleges, caused 31 percent of the protests.

The Democratic Indicator went on to claim that Egyptians employed 62 innovative methods to express their dissent, peaceful at times and violent at others.

These ranged from strikes (1,013), sit-ins (811), marches (503), human chains (80) and horn-blowing campaigns (21), as well as 18 no-bill-payment campaigns. The blocking of roads, meanwhile, accounted for 16 percent of the techniques used to voice discontent with the government.

The report claims that an outpouring of public frustration, coupled with dissatisfaction with the regime's policies among large swathes of the public, has provided fertile ground for violence during planned anti-government protests on 30 June.

It also counseled protest organisers to take the necessary precautions to diminish the likelihood of an outbreak of chaos or flare-up of violence, while practicing self-restraint and maintaining the protests' peaceful nature.

The report went on to urge the president to step down before the planned protests in light of the widespread outrage he faces.

The day is expected to include an open-ended counter-demonstration by the president's Islamist backers, heightening fears of violence.

*Photo courtesy of EPA 

Torture Continues Under Brotherhood Rule

4 Shias killed: Victims of state-sponsored sectarianism

Los Angeles Times

Egypt's authorities under fire for sectarian killing

June 24, 2013

CAIRO -- The bloodied bodies of four men were dragged over a village road in what one witness described as a public lynching.

The victims – Shiite Muslims – were attacked and killed Sunday in a rampage reportedly led by radical Sunni Muslim preachers. Shiites comprise a fraction of Egypt’s predominately Sunni population, but the clerics had stoked sectarian mistrust in the poor village of Zawyat Abu Musalam.

"For three weeks the Salafist sheikhs in the village have been attacking the Shiites and accusing them of being infidels and spreading debauchery," Hazem Barakat, a witness who videotaped the incident, told the Egyptian media.

Barakat posted footage of the violence on the Web. The sins of a seething small town – not far from the great pyramids -- flashed across Twitter and onto TV screens, and suddenly Egypt glimpsed a menacing image of itself in these times of division and manipulated hate.

The pictures show men and boys brimming with rage, swinging fists. They encircled their victims, who rolled in the dust and then lay still at the sandaled feet of their tormentors. A Shiite house was set ablaze. Blood speckled dirt roads. The police were called, but reports said they did not do enough to prevent the massacre.

"They (the police) were just watching the public lynching like anyone else and did not stop anything," Barakat told the Ahram Online news website.

Hassan Shehata, one of Egypt’s leading Shiite voices, was among those killed. He was in town for a religious festival and had been accused by villagers of disparaging revered Sunni holy figures.

The state news agency MENA reported that Shehata and three other Shiites, who were told by the mob to leave the town, sustained “numerous puncture wounds and severe bruising.”

The bloodshed came as radical Salafi voices are growing more pronounced in an Egypt torn by political unrest, poverty and a nascent sectarianism, which is exploiting suspicions between Muslims and Christians and inflaming age-old enmity between Shiites and Sunnis.

The opposition Dustour Party blamed President Mohamed Morsi’s government for Sunday’s slayings. It said in a statement that "this heinous crime [was] a direct result ... of the disgusting religious hate speech that goes on escalating with the knowledge of the regime and the blessings of the president."

The killings followed a rally a week earlier in a Cairo stadium, where Salafis cheered Morsi when he announced that Egypt was breaking diplomatic ties with Syria. The civil war in Syria has lately been tinged by growing sectarianism as mostly Sunni Muslim rebels battle government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Radical preachers at the rally urged Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party to instigate a holy war against Assad’s regime. Morsi and the clerics also condemned Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah for fighting alongside Assad’s army against the rebels.

Morsi on Monday denounced the violence in Zawyat Abu Musalam, saying "the state will not be lenient with anyone who tampers with Egypt's security or the unity of its people."

The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the government, said the killings violated Islam.
"It is forbidden to Muslims to spill Egyptian blood," Essam Erian, deputy leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, wrote on his Facebook page. 

"All Egyptian blood -- Muslim or Christian, man or woman, Sunni or Shiite, civilian or police. Whoever takes part in shedding blood, even in words ... or by hate speech, is taking part in a terrible crime."

Video: Jon Stewart with Bassem Youssef on Al-Bernameg

In Cairo, Egypt's Jon Stewart hosts 'Daily Show's' Jon Stewart

CAIRO - Jon Stewart took his politically engaged American satire to Cairo on Friday, appearing on a show hosted by the man known as "Egypt's Jon Stewart," who has faced investigation for insulting the president and Islam.

Among barbs aimed at Egypt's ruling Islamists and others, Stewart praised host Bassem Youssef for taking risks to poke fun. "If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke," he said, "then you don't have a regime."

Youssef is a cardiologist whose online comedy clips inspired by Stewart's "Daily Show" won him wild popularity and a prime-time TV show after the 2011 revolution that ended military rule. He paid tribute to his guest as a personal inspiration as the pair traded gags over Stewart's impressions of a visit to Cairo.

Stewart in turn played down any difficulties his wit created for him in the United States, telling Youssef: "I tell you this, it doesn't get me into the kind of trouble it gets you into. I get in trouble, but nowhere near what happens to you."

With Egypt still in ferment and elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi facing off against liberals who fear he plans to smother personal freedoms, Youssef was released on bail after being questioned in March over alleged insults to Mursi and the channel he appears on was threatened with losing its license.

Criticising such moves, which have also drawn reproaches for Egypt from the U.S. government, Stewart said: "A joke has never shot tear gas at a group of people in a park. It's just talk.

"What Bassem is doing ... is showing that satire can still be relevant, that it can carve out space in a country for people to express themselves. Because that's all democracy is."

He took aim at Mursi's controversial decision this week to name a member of a hardline Islamist movement blamed for a massacre of tourists at Luxor in the 1990s as governor of that city. Having been brought into the studio hooded and presented as a "spy," he spoke a few words in Arabic before saying Egypt's president had honoured him: "I am now the mayor of Luxor."

Stewart also appeared to take a gentle dig at the opposition, who hope demonstrations planned for June 30 can force Mursi from power after just a year in office. It took Americans 100 years before a president was impeached for the first time, Stewart said: "For you guys to do it in one year, it's very impressive."

Perhaps the biggest laugh in the studio, though, was for a simple crack at Egypt's perennial traffic chaos: "I know this is an ancient civilisation," he said. "Have you thought about traffic lights?"

Egypt: Girl dies during FGM operation

Egyptian girl dies during female circumcision ritual outside Cairo

A 13-year-old is latest victim of a procedure that has been outlawed in the country since 2008. But some claim it is still widely practiced.

A 13-year-old Egyptian girl has died undergoing circumcision at a village near Cairo, Egyptian media reported on the weekend.

"We left our daughter with the doctor and the nurse. Fifteen minutes later, the nurse took my daughter out of the operation room to a nearby room, along with three other girls whom the doctor was circumcising," said Mohammed Ibrahim, a farmer, according to reports in Al Arabiya Egyptian daily.

"I waited half an hour, hoping that my daughter would wake up, but, unfortunately, unlike the rest of the girls, she did not," he said.

The police ordered an autopsy of the girl, whose name was Suhair al-Bata'a, and summoned the doctor to find the cause of the young girl's death.

A health inspector report said the cause of the death was due to "a sharp drop in blood pressure resulting from shock trauma," the family's lawyer, Abdel Salam, said.

Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is an ancient custom in Egypt, and its history pre-dates both Islam and Christianity. The practice remains widespread, and Egyptian activists say it touches the lives of as much as 90 percent of female population.

Egypt criminalized all forms of FGM in 2008 and rights monitors say the number of girls undergoing the operation has dropped by about one third.

Egypt's National Council for Women condemned the recent death as a criminal act that reflects "extreme savagery," calling on the government to investigate the issue and punish the culprits.

UNICEF Egypt has also condemned the incident, saying female circumcision has neither medical nor religious justification.

*Photo of Suhair al-Bata'a, died at age 13, courtesy of family

Egypt: Worrying rise in criminal blasphemy cases


Egypt’s worrying rise in criminal blasphemy cases

June 11, 2013

Criminal “defamation of religion” charges must be dropped in a number of cases across Egypt, Amnesty International said today after a teacher was convicted for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad in the classroom.

A Luxor court on Tuesday fined Coptic Christian teacher Dimyana Obeid Abd Al Nour 100,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. US$14,000) for allegedly insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during one of her classes. It also referred compensation claims to civil court.

Her criminal conviction bodes ill for others in Egypt who have been facing trial on similar charges which the organization said are aimed at criminalizing criticism of or insult to religious beliefs.

“Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

“So-called ‘defamation of religion’ charges should not be used as a pretext to trample over people’s right to freedom of expression and conscience, and all such charges should be dropped, and the resulting convictions overturned.”

In another recent case, a 25-year-old Coptic Christian lawyer, Rumany Mourad, was also convicted on the charge of “defamation of religion”. On 1 June a court in Assiut – 360km south of Cairo – sentenced him in absentia to one year in prison, in addition to a 500 Egyptian pounds fine and 10,000 Egyptian pounds (US$1,400) in compensation to the plaintiffs.

The case against him is based on a complaint lodged by two fellow lawyers in Assiut, who accused him of insulting Islam during a private conversation they had with him at the library of the Lawyer’s Syndicate in Assiut in July 2012.

One of the plaintiffs had apparently asked Rumany Murad’s opinion on “miracles” in the Bible. Despite trying to avoid the question, a few days later he discovered he had been accused of “defamation of religion”.

On at least two previous occasions, in an online debate and in person, Assiut lawyers had warned Rumany Murad to keep his views to himself after he had expressed disappointment at the results of the first round of presidential elections which saw the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi – who went on to become President – pitted against Ahmed Shafiq.

When his court case opened on 27 April, Rumany Murad’s lawyer did not attend because of threats to his safety. Lawyers from the Construction and Development Party, the political wing of the Gamaa Islamiya Islamist group, warned Rumany Murad on the safety of any lawyer attending court proceedings in Assiut.

Hearings in the case were reportedly characterized by a heavy presence of Islamist lawyers and their supporters.

During the second hearing on 11 May, one of the lawyers allegedly asked the judge to refer the case back to the prosecution to demand the application of the death penalty. Some of those present to hear the sentencing on 1 June reportedly complained that the punishment had been too lenient.

He is expected to appeal his in absentia conviction. His lawyers are seeking to transfer his trial to Cairo given concerns that the general climate in the court in Assiut is not conducive to upholding fair trial guarantees, including the right to adequate defence.

Before the latest two convictions, Amnesty International had received numerous recent reports of others accused and convicted of blasphemy in Egypt. Bloggers and media professionals whose ideas are “deemed offensive” as well as Coptic Christians – particularly in Upper Egypt – make up the majority of those targeted.  

Another teacher from the Upper Egypt governorate of Souhag is facing trial on charges of “defamation of religion” on 25 June.

*Photo of Alber Saber behind bars, by Khaled Dessouki courtesy of AFP

Turkish protests unnerve ruling Islamists in Egypt & Tunisia

Turkey protests unnerve Arab Islamists

The pro-secular protests rocking Turkish cities have sent ripples across the Arab world, unnerving Islamist leaders who have long touted Turkey as a successful model of political Islam, analysts say.

Thousands of Turks have joined in mass anti-government demonstrations, defying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call to end the worst civil unrest of his decade-long rule.

Turkey's unrest began when police cracked down heavily on a small campaign to save an Istanbul park from demolition, spiralling into nationwide protests against Erdogan and his Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian.

Across the Mediterranean, Arab Spring countries are keeping a close eye on events.

Islamist-led Egypt and Tunisia "must be worried about the problems faced by Erdogan's Turkey, a supposedly successful model" of political Islam, said Antoine Basbous director of the Paris-based Observatory of Arab countries.

Tunisia and Egypt -- where unprecedented revolts led to the ouster of longtime dictators in 2011 and propelled Islamists to the forefront of politics-- have repeatedly pointed to Turkey as a good example of a moderate Islamist democracy.

The Islamist party Ennahda which won post-revolution polls in Tunisia has openly expressed its admiration for the "Turkish model," while Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi who addressed the AKP's congress in September 2012 lauded Erdogan's party as a "source of inspiration."

But both Arab states have been suffering increasing polarisation between Islamists and secularists, with Islamists in power accused of failing to live up to their promise of guaranteeing rights and freedoms.

In Egypt, many are drawing parallels between the anti-AKP protests and the mass rallies scheduled for June 30 against President Morsi on the first anniversary of his assumption of power.

But members of Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party say such parallels are only aimed at pulling the rug from under the Islamist regimes.

"What is going on in Turkey has nothing to do with daily or economic needs. It is intended to promote the idea that Islamic regimes, which have made economic achievements and proved to the world that they can stand in the face of all external challenges, have failed,"Murad Aly, the FJP's media adviser, said in a newspaper interview.

But Basbous argues that the Turkey protests are serving to remind liberals and secularists in the Arab world "that they were the motor of change" during the 2011 uprisings.

However, that will not necessarily translate into change on the ground because the secular opposition in the Arab Spring countries remains weak and poorly organised, he said.

In Tunisia, political analyst Sami Brahem said: "There are attempts to export what's happening in Turkey to Tunisia. It may not inspire a major protest movement, but (the situation in Turkey) can be a moral support to secularists."

Some see the protests in Turkey as part of a region-wide discontent with political Islam, despite the stark differences in context - Erdogan was elected three times, with a steady increase of votes each time.

"At the end of the day, what matters is not the soundness of the analogy, but public perceptions of it and its ability to capture the imagination, which it seems to be doing right now," said Hesham Sallam, Washington-based political analyst at Georgetown University.

More than two years after their uprisings, Egypt and Tunisia are struggling with economic crises, and to some analysts, it is the failing economies, rather than ideology, that would drive new protest movements.

The political uncertainty in Tunisia is taking its toll on the economy, crippling foreign investments and threatens a recovery of tourism which accounts for seven percent of GDP and employs 400,000 Tunisians.

In Egypt, the government has been in talks for months over a multi-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund that is contingent on strong support from domestic political actors and a commitment to key reforms.

"The failure of governments to fulfill (economic and social) promises can lead to a new protest movement," said Brahem.

*Photo by Adem Altan courtesy of AFP

Egypt: State blacklisted for violating labor rights

Daily News Egypt

Egypt blacklisted for violating labour rights

The International Labour Organisation blacklisted Egypt for failing to comply with international agreements

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has blacklisted Egypt for violating labour rights. The decision came during the organisation’s 102nd International Conference held in Geneva.

The Standards Committee of the ILO said Egypt violated international agreements, specifically those related to the establishment of independent unions and syndicates.

Countries that violate labour rights are placed in an initial ILO list. The situation of these countries is then discussed by the organisation to formulate a final short list.

“Egypt was placed on the short list because the government stalled in issuing a new labour law or amending the current one according to ILO recommendations for 2008,” a statement by the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) read.

A delegation from Egyptian labour unions headed by Mohamed Wahballah held a meeting with Dan Cunniah, the director of labour activities at the ILO, on the sidelines of the conference in Geneva after Egypt was blacklisted.

The labour union representatives explained that there has been a long-running discussion between government officials, employers and labour unions regarding the new labour law which was delayed due to differences on some provisions.

The previous parliament responsible for issuing the law was dissolved last year and labour unions had concerns about presenting it to the current Shura Council, according to the ETUF.

“After several meetings, labour unions approved most provisions and the law was approved by the cabinet that referred it to the Shura Council,” the ETUF statement read.

According to the ETUF, Cunniah promised to relay the whole picture of the situation to the head of the Standards Committee on Thursday.

“This is a natural consequence for Muslim Brotherhood practices like prosecuting labour leaders and maintaining a law that includes defective articles,” said Seuod Omar, labour adviser to the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

He added that the only modification they have made to this law is adding an age limit for the membership to the syndicates so they could increase their influence over labour unions.

Countries placed on the Short list included Canada, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Iran and Malaysia, among others.

A report published in April 2013 by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights indicated that the labour strikes and protests doubled under President Mohamed Morsi’s rule.

*Additional reporting by Mohamed Samy

Egypt: Unjust verdict in trial of rights NGOs

Pardon Convicted Employees, Amend Law Regulating Independent Groups
June 5, 2013
(New York) – The Cairo Criminal Court’s conviction of 43 nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers on June 4, 2013, violates the right to freedom of association. The convictions are based on a repressive law governing organizations as well as penal code provisions that are not compatible with respect for fundamental rights. The court convicted the 43 activists on charges of operating unlawfully in the country and receiving foreign funding without permission.

The verdict was handed down on the same day the Shura Council started to debate the presidency’s new draft law on nongovernmental organizations. The Egyptian president could address the violations of human rights raised by the investigation and trial in this case by pardoning those convicted, and amending the proposed new law regulating independent groups to bring it in line with international standards, Human Rights Watch said.

“These are unjust convictions based on an unjust law,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These workers for independent organizations should never have been charged in the first place. What’s particularly disheartening is that the new draft NGO law the Morsy government has proposed reflects the same suspicion of independent organizations that was the driving force behind the trial.”

The convictions violate basic internationally protected rights and the rule of law, Human Rights Watch said. The workers for these nongovernmental organizations have paid the price of a political disagreement between the Egyptian and US governments.

The investigation of the groups on trial, along with dozens of other Egyptian human rights organizations not registered under the Mubarak-era Law 84/2002 on Associations, was initiated by the international cooperation minister, Faiza Abul Naga, in the summer of 2011, when Egypt was under military rule. The trial opened in March 2012 against Egyptian and foreign staff of four US organizations and one German organization.

The court sentenced five of the workers to two years in prison and eleven others to a one-year suspended sentence. Those sentenced to two years are: Egyptian nationals Yehia Ghanem, Sherif Mansour, and Mohamed Abdelaziz; Robert Becker of the US; and Christine Baade of Germany. In addition, 27 defendants were tried in absentia and the court sentenced them to five years, an automatic conviction because they were not present during the trial.

Under the Law on Associations, the court also ordered the seizure of all assets and closure of all branches of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The convicted workers may appeal the conviction before the Court of Cassation on the grounds that there has been an error in law, and seek a retrial. The president also has a discretionary power under the constitution and the code of criminal procedure to issue a pardon.

The workers were charged under article 98(c)(1) of Egypt’s penal code, which states: “Anyone who creates or establishes or manages an association or organization or institution of any kind of an international character or a branch of an international organization without a license in the Egyptian Republic shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of not more than 6 months or with a fine of 500 EGP [US$82].” The defendants were also charged under the penal code with receiving funds without authorization, which can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison.

In January 2012, Human Rights Watch submitted a legal brief to parliament urging members to amend the repressive legal framework of the Mubarak era including the Law on Associations and penal code provisions on association. The Mubarak administration used these provisions to imprison peaceful political opponents. It arrested thousands of members of the officially banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced the use of violence in the 1950s, on grounds of “membership in an illegal organization” (article 86 of the penal code) simply for expressing views sympathetic to the Brotherhood.

Under international law, membership of an unrecognized association cannot in and of itself amount to a crime. The one limitation is if the association openly calls for violence. The wording of article 98 of the penal code is particularly broad and includes language that criminalizes legitimate nonviolent political activity and organizing. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt has ratified, prohibits broadly worded bans on nonviolent political activity.

The notorious 2002 Law 84 on Associations impedes the right of Egyptians to operate independent associations. It gives the government broad leeway to refuse or withhold licenses and to otherwise intervene in the registration, governance, and functioning of nongovernmental organizations.

The Egyptian presidency published its latest draft of a new law to regulate nongovernmental groups on May 29 and submitted it to the Shura Council for further debate. Despite some improvements compared to previous drafts, the May 29 draft falls far short of meeting Egypt’s international human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said.

It would reinforce and formalize state control over nongovernmental groups by empowering the government to deny them access to both domestic and international funding. It would also give the authorities complete discretion to object to activities of Egyptian and international organizations, including human rights groups, that document or criticize rights abuses by the government.

The presidency’s new draft law does not include additional prison sentences, but article 70 incorporates the penal code provisions by stating in the first sentence “without prejudice to any harsher penalties in the penal code or any other law.”

“If President Morsy wishes to distance himself from the legacy of this politically motivated trial, he should amend the new draft NGO law in line with international standards instead of pushing through a law which would allow the government to control and block independent organizations.” Whitson said.

Politicians threaten Ethiopia on Egypt's candid camera

Wall Street Journal

As Cameras Roll, Egyptian Politicians Threaten Ethiopia Over Dam Project

June 5, 2013  

As it struggles to replace lost tourism and foreign investment income, Egypt is facing another looming economic threat from a project taking shape hundreds of miles to the south.

Ethiopia’s move last week to begin construction work on a $4.2 billion hydroelectric dam project on the Blue Nile has sparked new worries about the effect on water supplies down river in both Egypt and Sudan, and the long-term threat to irrigation and electricity supplies.

A startling insight into Egypt’s alarm at the start of the dam construction was provided at a meeting hosted by Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi on Monday.

Prominent Egyptian politicians, unaware that the cameras were rolling, were filmed suggesting very undiplomatic ways to get Ethiopia to abandon the so-called Great Renaissance Dam project, up to and including the idea of sabotaging or attacking the dam.

Abu al-Ila Madi, a representative from the pro-Morsi Wasat party, suggested on camera that Egypt should discuss military action in order to push Ethiopia to the negotiating table.

In a similar vein, Ayman Nour, a prominent liberal politician, was broadcast saying that Egypt should spread rumors it plans to acquire new military aircraft to allow it to strike the dam. “This pressure, even if unrealistic, can yield results on the diplomatic track,” Mr. Nour told the gathering.

Other politicians suggested supporting Ethiopian rebel factions who could help Egypt sabotage the dam.
Though none of the politicans hailed from the government, the spectacle is likely to backfire on Egypt by reinforcing Ethiopia’s determination to proceed with the project, according to Hani Raslan, director of Sudan and Nile Basin unit at the state-run Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Egypt receives about 60% of its annual 55 billion cubic meters of river water from the Blue Nile, which the dam is expected to obstruct. According to Mr. Raslan, in the six years that it will take Ethiopia to fill the dam, Egypt is expected to lose up to 19 billion cubic meters of Nile water on an annual basis, causing hardship for millions of Egyptian farmers and their families.

On Monday, Egypt published the findings of an independent commission appointed to investigate the impact of the Ethiopian dam project. The commission’s 600-page report said that the country would suffer water shortages during flood season, and that electricity generated by the Aswan dam in Upper Egypt would fall sharply. It also criticized Ethiopia for failing to take into account the environmental and social impact of the dam project on Sudan and Egypt.  

Egypt is already suffering from water and power shortages, as it struggles to deal with the economic difficulties that followed the toppling of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Egyptian authorities are currently in talks with Qatar, Libya and Iraq over supplies of oil and gas, needed to plug up an energy deficit at a time when recurrent power outages are hitting homes and businesses across the country.

Mr. Raslan estimated that energy supplies from the Aswan dam could be reduced by 25-40% once the new Ethiopian dam project is completed. At some point in the future, the lower supply of water could halt electricity generation altogether, he added.

President Morsi’s aide Pakinam El-Sharkawy apologized for failing to inform politicians that the talks with the president were being aired on live television.

 *Photo courtesy of European Pressphoto Agency

Egypt tops the world in terms of protests

Daily News Egypt

Egypt sees 5,544 demonstrations in first 5 months of 2013: report

There have been 1,300 demonstrations across Egypt during May, according to a report published by the International Development Centre.

The report said Egyptians averaged 42 protests a day and two protests per hour. The report said that the economy was the largest driving force for these demonstrations with 63.7% of the month’s total protests. Political causes made up 31.7% of May’s demonstrations.

Political protests against the deteriorating security in Egypt numbered 108 protests, 27 demonstrations reacting to the kidnapping of conscripts in Sinai, and 26 against perceived infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into state institutions.

Demonstrations driven by economic-related issues included 96 protesting electricity cuts, 53 against lackluster social services, and 43 for environment-related causes.

Average citizens were the largest faction to take part in demonstrations, making up over 28% of those demonstrating in May, while activists made up 16%, followed by factory and company workers at 14%

The report said some protests took violent forms in May, forcefully closing 56 buildings, intrusion on government property in 23 protests, and blockading government buildings in 14 protests.

There was a dramatic decline in the use of marches to demonstrate, with 57 marches recorder in May versus 120 in April. The report said that the blocking of five archaeological sites during the month had negative effects on tourism. 

The findings also categorised the kidnapping of seven Egyptian conscripts in Sinai as a protest for the release of prisoners, adding that the incident was a reflection of the deteriorating security situation in Sinai and the rest of the country.

Out of all the governorates, Cairo hosted the most demonstrations at 18.6% followed by 7% in Alexandria.
May was outmatched by demonstrations in March and April, but Egypt hosted the most demonstrations in the world according to the report, seeing approximately 5,544 protests since 1 January 2013.

Activist sentenced to jail for insulting dictator Morsi

Tunis Afrique Presse

Egypt: Activist Sentenced to Prison for Insulting Mursi

Cairo — A high-profile Egyptian blogger and activist Ahmed Douma was sentenced to six months in jail on Monday for insulting President Mohamed Morsi and circulated false news on television.

Douma, who has been detained since 30 April, was convicted on a number of charges including insulting the president and circulating false news on a television programme.

He had called President Morsi a killer and a criminal, and said that he is wanted by the state.
The court found him guilty, saying that such acts would "undermine state security and terrorise people."

More than 100 of Ahmed Douma's supporters filled the courtroom in a Cairo suburb and chanted slogans against the Islamist president during the hearing.

"It's clear that the government is trying to threaten activists with these cases," said one of his lawyers, Ali Soliman.

Egyptian police mistake tourists for porn stars

An Egyptian security officer’s “inexperience” has been blamed for arresting a group of 10 reportedly naked tourists in a Red Sea resort earlier this week, assuming they had been shooting a porn movie.

The tourists, a group of men and women in Hurghada, who had been diving and filming their dives when spotted by security, were released on Sunday after police found nothing illegal in the recordings.

“These tourists were diving and shooting the beautiful aquatic flora and fauna. The security officer had wrongly assessed the situation due to his inexperience,” a spokesperson for Egypt’s tourism minister said, according to local media reports.

The tourists, all from Georgia, had been conducting a swimwear photo-shoot, The Commentator news site reported on Sunday.

The crew were representatives of the Georgian reality show "Top Gogo" (Top Girl) which is about the lives of models, Archil Dzuliashvili, Georgian Ambassador to Egypt, Syria and Tunisia told Georgian media.

The ambassador said the group was detained on Saturday and the embassy was informed the same day.
“The incident is over now. Police of Hurghada officially apologized, while the crew continues working in Hurghada,” he said.

Although local media had said a total of 10 tourists had been detained, Georgia's Rustavi 2 TV reported that the detained people were 12 Georgian participants of the reality show.

In recent months, porn has been a controversial topic of discussion in Egypt.

In November 2012, former Prosecutor-General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud submitted an official letter to the ministries of telecommunications, information and interior ordering that measures be adopted to ban pornographic websites in Egypt based on a 2009 court order to this effect.

On Saturday a new lawsuit was filed against Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi for failing to implement a ban on porn websites which was ordered last year.

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Upper house, constituent assembly ruled illegal


Egypt upper house election declared illegal

03 Jun 2013

Islamist-dominated Shura Council and panel that drafted constitution ruled invalid by Supreme Constitutional Court.


Egypt's top court has ruled that the Islamist-dominated Senate and the panel which drew up the country's constitution are invalid.

The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on Sunday delivered its judgment on the legitimacy of the Shura Council, historically a powerless upper house which was given legislative powers last year after parliament was dissolved.

However, judicial sources told Reuters that the Shura Council would not be dissolved until a new parliament was in place.

A date has yet to be set for the elections. President Mohamed Morsi had said they could begin in October.
The court also ruled against the Islamist-dominated panel that drafted the constitution adopted by a popular referendum in December.

The case against the Shura Council is based on several challenges by lawyers of the law that governed the election of its members.

Both the upper and lower houses were elected under the same electoral law, which the SCC last year deemed invalid, prompting the dissolution of parliament.


*Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Mondelez/Kraft violates labor rights in Egypt & Tunisia

Agence France-Presse
Mondelez abuses worker rights in Egypt, Tunisia, unions say

May 31, 2013

AFP, Geneva - Global food giant Mondelez is seriously violating the right of workers to organize in Egypt and Tunisia, unions said Friday, lamenting that the company’s actions were undermining hard-won advances during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Mondelez, which until last year was known as Kraft Foods, has cracked down on the rights won by Egyptian and Tunisian workers during the 2011 uprisings to organize in unions, charged Ron Oswald, the head of the International Union of Food Workers (IUF).

Brands owned by the group such as chocolate giant Cadbury initially refused to talk with union representatives about legitimate grievances before suspending them from their positions without pay, he told reporters in Geneva.

“In both Egypt and Tunisia, whilst people gave their lives in some cases for those rights, one major company, Mondelez, ... has decided that within the walls of their facilities and factories, those rights cannot be freely exercised,” he told reporters in Geneva.

Mondelez denied the allegations, insisting in an email to AFP: “We strongly respect our employees’ freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.”

Nasr Awad, a founding member of the EDLC union at a Cadbury factory in Alexandria, Egypt, does not agree.

He said management told its some 300 workers in July 2012 that the plant would not provide a government-decreed 15 percent pay rise for all the country’s workers.

When Awad and four other union representatives tried to complain, management refused to talk to them, he told reporters through an interpreter.

And after workers staged a sit-in, the five were suddenly suspended from their jobs.

Management thought “suspending the union leaders would lead to the collapse of the trade movement,” he said.

He and the other union leaders have not received a paycheck or health benefits since last September, he said, and as the case works its way through the Egyptian court system -- something that can take years -- they are also barred from applying for other work.

Mondelez said it could not comment on the specific case due to the ongoing legal proceedings.

Oswald meanwhile said IUF was helping the suspended workers and their families, insisting his union “will not allow this conflict to end simply because the workers affected cannot afford to continue.”

Oswald said union leaders at a Tunisian biscuit maker SOTUBI, partially owned by Mondelez, had also recently been forced to resign in a similar case.

Hussein Ahmed, another founding member of the EDLC union in Egypt, said he expected the workers there to prevail.

“Having fought to depose a dictatorial regime that reigned for 30 years, we as workers will be able to win our rights against the company that is trying to deny workers their rights,” he said.