Weekly Roundup – Mar 28, 2014

03/28/2014 . By TIMEP

TOP STORIES

Legal & Political Institutions

Minya Criminal Court in its second session sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for violence following the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins last August. The defendants were handed down the sentences for storming and burning the Matay police station in Minya, killing a police officer, attempting to kill two others, stealing weapons and releasing inmates, state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported. [WSJ, Daily News Egypt, Global Post, Hurriyet, Mada Masr, Guardian, CNN, Amnesty, Buzzfeed, BBC, ITV, NYT, Boston Herald]

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who ousted Egypt’s first freely elected leader, declared his candidacy on Wednesday for a presidential election he is expected to easily win. [Reuters, NYT, BBC, Global Post, LA Times, Bloomberg]

The Rebel (“Tamarod”) campaign, which spearheaded protests against former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, on Thursday called for nationwide demonstrations in support of El-Sisi, who announced on Wednesday that he was resigning from his military position to stand for election. In contrast, the main pro-Morsi coalition, the National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy called on followers to take to the streets Friday to protest al-Sisi’s presidential candidacy announcement. [Ahram, Turkish Press]

Gender & Sexuality

Police have confirmed they are assisting an investigation into the alleged rape of a British woman in a luxury hotel in Egypt. The woman, in her 40s, has reported that she was sexually assaulted by a guard who had escorted her to her room at the hotel in Sharm-el-Sheikh. [BBC, Independent, Guardian]

Since her captivating appearance on popular TV talent show “Arabs Got Talent” last October, Mayam Mahmoud,  the young veiled hip-hop artist, has amassed a huge following for challenging how women in Egypt are meant to behave. Her lyrics highlight the importance of girls’ education and denounce sexual harassment of women on the streets of Egypt. “It was never about going on stage in a scarf,” says Mahmoud. “It was about going on stage and sharing a message,” she adds. “Egyptian women undergo harassment and bullying on a daily basis.” [CNN]

Security Sector

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters announced Monday that it would decide whether to categorise the Sinai militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis as a terrorist organisation on April 14. [Daily News Egypt]

The outgoing head of the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees urged Israel and Egypt on Tuesday to lift their border restrictions on the Hamas Islamist-run Gaza Strip.

Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Organization (UNRWA), said Israel and Egypt had legitimate security concerns but that the plight of the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza should also be taken into account. “I think the world should not forget about the security of the people of Gaza,” he said. “Their security is worth the same as everybody else’s security so we appeal to the humanitarian sense of all.” [Reuters]

Construction of a wall around El-Arish has begun to “control the entry and exit into the province, to secure against attacks by terrorist groups.” [Al Masry AL Youm-arabic]

Marginalized Groups

Gilead Sciences, facing mounting criticism over the high price of its new hepatitis C pill Sovaldi, has offered to supply the medicine to Egypt at a 99 percent discount to the U.S. price. Amidst Egyptian army reports that they have found the miracle cure for the disease, Mohamed El Dahshan addresses the grave nature of the matter, “This purported medical discovery deeply concerns millions of Egyptian families, with 165,000 new cases yearly – 70 percent of which are related to the poor healthcare system.” [Reuters, Atlantic Council]

A special police taskforce will be formed to arrest a group of Alexandria-based atheists who declared their beliefs on Facebook, announced Alexandria Security Directorate chief Amin Ezz El-Din in a televised telephone interview. [Mada Masr, VetoGate-arabic]

Rights & Freedoms

An Egyptian court on Sunday ordered the release on bail pending trial of a prominent activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, charged with breaking a new law that heavily restricts protests, after he spent nearly four months in jail. [US News, LA Times, Al Jazeera, USA Today]

Defense lawyers in Egypt’s trial of three journalists and 17 others cross-examined prosecution witnesses Monday, grilling them over seized equipment and footage shot by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera English that the prosecution says undermines national security. Only eight defendants, including Australian journalist Peter Greste and Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, were in court. Twelve, including three foreigners, are being tried in absentia. The trial was adjourned to March 31. [Star Telegram, The Daily Beast]

Around 200 student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood from Ain Shams University blocked Khalifa al-Maamoun street on Thursday, privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.   Several car owners and drivers clashed with the students, causing chaos. The protesters blocked the street headed towards the ministry of defense, creating traffic in Abbasseya, Roxy and Lotfy al-Sayed street. They used flares and fireworks, which caused a state of panic among pedestrians and residents of the busy street. [Mada Masr]

Economy

According to Hafez El Salmawy, managing director of the Egyptian Electric Regulatory Agency, Egypt will lack at least 20% of the natural gas it needs to properly power its electricity plants this summer. As energy usage spikes in the heat, these outages will become longer and more frequent. In desperation, the state-owned Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) is turning to Israel, a former export destination of Egyptian gas. [Al Monitor]

 

Foreign Relations

Global outcry surrounding the mass death sentence for 529 Egyptians amassed reactions from the Tunisian government, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights–all condemning the verdict and calling for an immediate appeal.

The United States on Tuesday strongly condemned Egypt’s mass death sentencing of more than 500 members and supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement, saying it would be “unconscionable” for Egyptian authorities to carry out the ruling. Washington is “currently evaluating our aid policy” toward Egypt, saying it is important that the US maintain its ties with the country “for a variety of security, economic [and] regional reasons.” [Ahram, Reuters]

Egypt’s army is taking charge of billions of dollars of development aid from the United Arab Emirates, an army official said, raising further doubts over the narrow separation of powers with the military backed administration in place since July. [Reuters]

The United States vowed Thursday it was not backing any particular candidate in upcoming Egyptian elections, with former Army Chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi strongly favored to win. Sisi’s candidacy is being hailed by the millions of Egyptians weary of more than three years of turmoil since the overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak. But experts warn he is certain to continue the crackdown on Islamists that started when elected president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July. Washington has long held an official position of non-interference in its Arab ally’s political process. [Ahram]

This Week in TIMEP Commentary

Tunisia’s “Soft War” on Terror

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The Problematic Continuity of Nasserism

by: Amr Adly