Weekly Roundup – Mar 31, 2014

04/04/2014 . By TIMEP

TOP STORIES

Legal & Political Institutions

Egypt’s presidential elections will take place on May 26 and 27, Egyptian media reported Sunday, citing an announcement by the country’s Presidential Elections Commission. [CNN, NPR, SMH, LA Times, Daily News Egypt, Channel News Asia]

Egypt’s top prosecutor called for a probe into funds allegedly received by the only serious rival of ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in an upcoming presidential election, sources said. Public prosecutor Hisham Barakat issued the call after a lawyer filed a complaint about funds that Egyptian businessmen allegedly provided to leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, the judicial sources said. [Maan News]

In response to the recent string of bombings and attacks on security forces, Egypt has tightened punishment for “terrorist” offenses and expanded the scope of crimes that fall under the category. [Daily Star Lebanon, Ahram, Daily Sabah]

Gender & Sexuality

Women’s organizations and human rights groups call for a national strategy to combat violence against women–including all forms of sexual violence. [Nazra]

The National Council for Women (NCW) released a statement on its official website Tuesday about its training program entitled “The Woman Voter.” The program aims to raise women’s awareness on the importance of the voting process and participation in elections. [Cairo Post]

Security officials in Nasr City arrested four men on charges of homosexuality and cross-dressing. Security officials searched the apartment of the detained finding women’s lingerie and toiletries–the case has been referred to public prosecutor. [Youm7– arabic]

Security Sector

An Egyptian soldier was killed on Sunday when militants attacked the bus he was driving in the town of Al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula, the military said in a statement posted on Facebook. An army source told Reuters the bus was transporting police officers, three of whom were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. [AP, Reuters, Ahram]

A third explosion took place in front of Cairo University on Wednesday following two bombs that went off in front of the university’s main gate, leaving one officer dead, the Ministry of Interior revealed in an official statement. The first two explosions occurred shortly before noon outside the main gates of Cairo University, targeting a police checkpoint at El-Nahda Square.

The twin explosions killed Police Brigadier General Tarek El-Mergawy and injured four others. El-Mergawy was also the Director of West Giza’s Investigations.

Nearly two hours later, a third bomb exploded as police and emergency services were at the scene. At least two police officers are reported to have been injured.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the three bombs, detonated remotely, were planted at a tree outside the University. Two bombs were placed ‘inside the tree,’ and the third was placed on a branch.

Shortly following the explosions, at least five students have been arrested in the vicinity of the University. No explanation has been provided for their arrests.

The Prime Minister of Egypt has ordered an emergency meeting with the Ministers of Interior, Justice and Defence and Egypt’s Intelligence Chief.

While the government is yet to state who is behind the attack, the Muslim Brotherhood’s social media pages have blamed security forces for ‘plotting the attack in order to fabricate charges of terrorism against students.’

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has called an emergency meeting to discuss the bombings at Cairo University.Mahlab will meet with the ministers of interior, defence and justice, as well as the heads of general and military intelligence. [Mada Masr, Egyptian Streets, Ahram, Reuters, AP,Daily News Egypt, CNN, Huffington Post, Aswat Masriya, Chicago Tribune, Al Jazeera, France24-fr, BBC, LATimes, VOA]

Ajnad Masr, a burgeoning Islamist group, has claimed responsibility for the bombings at Cairo University that killed one and injured several. In their public statement, the group claimed they were targeting “police criminals guilty of massacres.” However, the Interior ministry is claiming that Muslim Brotherhood elements are driving terrorist operations such as the Cairo University bombings. [Ahram, Middle East Monitor, Shorouk-arabic]

Clashes between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters erupted in Cairo’s Alf Maskan and Giza today. It was reported that security forces used teargas to disperse the protests [Ahram, Aswat Masriya]

Rights & Freedoms

A Cairo criminal court adjourned the trial of a number of Al Jazeera journalists, imprisoned on charges of aiding of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, on Monday for the fourth time. The court denied bail for the defendants for the second time, adjourning the trial to 10 April. [Ahram, AP]

Egyptian photojournalists belonging to the Journalists Syndicate are planning a strike to call for security forces to provide better protection for journalists covering protests–this strike comes shortly after a journalist was killed by security forces during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood supporters. [Ahram]

Economy

That Egypt is in the grips of a severe energy crisis is no longer a matter of dispute. But a recent roundtable on energy efficiency highlighted tensions between government officials and outside actors as to how the problem should be resolved. At the March 26 event, organized by Egypt Oil and Gas magazine under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, government representatives were keen to promote the efforts of their agencies, while academic and industry experts decried Egypt’s lack of a unified energy strategy and called for clearer standards and better regulation. [Mada Masr]

The Egyptian government is taking too long to roll out an electronic smart card system designed to reduce costly energy subsidies, the company contracted for the project alleged on Tuesday. Fuel subsidies account for a fifth of state spending, but one cash-strapped government after another has resisted attacking the wasteful system, fearful that raising fuel prices could spark unrest. Motorists will eventually use cards to buy gasoline and diesel at fuel stations in a programme initiated by the administration of President Mohamed Morsi before he was ousted by the army last July. [Reuters, Daily News Egypt]

Egypt swings back into deficit, and needs mutual funds. The African Development Bank has announced an increase in funds for Egypt for 2015. Egypt’s current account recorded a deficit of $755.8m in the six months ending December, swinging back into the red after billions of dollars of Gulf aid helped it record a surplus in the three months ending September. The deficit had stood at $4.9bn in the last six months of 2012. Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.

The AFDB aims to finance projects in the water, irrigation and energy sectors along with small and medium enterprises (SMEs). [Arabian Business, Daily News Egypt, Daily News Egypt (AFDB)]

Egypt’s cabinet’s approval of the use of coal to temporarily relieve Egypt’s energy crisis was met by backlash from environmentalists claiming the long-term negative effects of coal far outweigh the short-term advantages. [Mada Masr]

Foreign Relations

President Obama, a White House aide said Friday, wants “stability” in Egypt but believes “that stability ultimately is going to be best served by Egypt following through on its commitment to transition to free and fair elections and democratic governance.” In theory that put him at odds with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who in the name of stability has put billions behind the regime of Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi since it staged a coup against the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi in July. [Washington Post]

The US Embassy in Egypt has denied that Washington is postponing the return of Egyptian army helicopters. The embassy on Monday dismissed “inaccurate reports” claiming that the Obama administration is blocking the return of several Apache helicopters owned by the Egyptian military that were sent to the United States for maintenance. [Ahramonline]

In response to the UK’s recent investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities, the MB has issued a warning saying that they will bring the issue to court if the government restricts MB activities in London. The group claimed they will “openly engage” in the UK’s review, and urged that the “British government does not bend to pressure from foreign governments.” [Reuters, Turkish Press, Telegraph]