Saturday, April 5, 2014

Morsi trial postponed to Sunday

One of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s trials Saturday was postponed to Sunday. The former Muslim Brotherhood leader, charged with inciting the killing of demonstrators, is standing trial with 14 other prominent Brotherhood and Islamist notables including Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Chairman Saad Al-Katastny, ultraconservative preacher Wagdy Ghoneim, and senior FJP member Mohamed Al-Beltagy.
Saturday’s hearing, which was held at the Police Academy amid security concerns, was postponed to discuss witness testimonies, according to state-owned Al-Ahram. A screening of videos was scheduled, containing alleged footage of Brotherhood protesters tearing down tents of rival protesters and participating in the fatal clashes that ensued.
The video evidence also includes video of certain figures, including Ghoneim, allegedly inciting violence against the anti-Morsi demonstrators.
Morsi, who has been detained since his ouster last 3 July, is also currently being charged in three separate trials. He is being tried along with fellow Brotherhood members in a trial that the public prosecutor has called “the biggest case of espionage in the history of Egypt”, and faces a litany of charges alleging that the Brotherhood communicated with foreign entities in an effort to create chaos in Egypt.
The ousted president also stands trial with 130 other defendants for charges relating to the prison break at Wadi Al-Natroun on 28 January 2011.
In January, prosecution announced that Morsi and 25 others would be tried for allegedly insulting the judiciary. The case, which has not yet begun, includes a wide range of political and public figures including Brotherhood and FJP members, Salafi leaders, journalists, and non-Islamist politicians and activists.
Source:Daily news Egypt

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

'No sign' of Russian pullback from Ukraine

NATO has seen no sign that Russia is withdrawing troops from the Ukraine border and will look at all options to boost the alliance's defences, its secretary-general said.

"Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops. This is not what we are seeing," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a meeting of NATO's members in Brussels, according to the Reuters news agency. 
Ministers from the 28 alliance members are meeting for the first time since Russia's military occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region triggered the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
They will discuss ways to boost NATO's military presence in former communist central and eastern Europe to reassure allies rattled by Russia's moves.
Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Brussels, said: "The relationship is at its lowest since the formation of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002, formed to boost unity on narcotics control and anti-terrorism technology.
"But according to NATO, those joint efforts are now on hold. The message coming from Brussels is that it's certainly no longer business as usual."

The meeting came as Russian energy giant Gazprom announced a more than 40 percent increase in the price of gas exports to Ukraine, scrapping a previous discount amid mounting strains between the two countries.
Ukraine will now pay a price of $385.5 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said in a statement on Tuesday, raising the price from $268.5 per 1,000 cubic metres which was agreed in December.
Diplomats said the ministers in Brussels would consider options ranging from stepped-up military exercises and sending more forces to eastern member states to the permanent bases of alliance forces in those countries - a step Moscow would view as provocative.
Asked if NATO could station forces permanently in the small former Soviet Baltic states, Rasmussen said: "We are now considering all options to enhance our collective defence, including ... further development of our defence plans, enhanced exercises and also appropriate deployments."
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters as he arrived that he would welcome "some more prominent NATO presence in Poland".
Financial aid
Meanwhile, the European Union has decided to make a swift payment of financial aid to Ukraine, the bloc's economy chief Olli Rehn said, dismissing the possibility of economic sanctions against Russia unless it takes more action.
Rehn's comments on Tuesday offered the prospect of quick financial backing from Europe for Ukraine, which is grappling with increased gas prices.

The European Union has pledged $15bn (11 billion euros) as part of a package of support with the International Monetary Fund.
"It is in the interests of Ukraine and Europe to maintain peace and stability on our continent," Rehn told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of European finance ministers in Athens.

He said the first payment would be "made swiftly", according to the Reuters news agency.
But while he underscored Brussels' desire to back Ukraine, he played down the idea of stiffer penalties on Russia following its annexation of the Ukraine's Crimea.
"As regards sanctions, no sensible European would want to see economic sanctions," he said, adding that none should be necessary if Moscow took no action.
"In case Russia would not escalate the crisis, then we should be able to avoid this sanctions," he said.

El-Sisi snapped cycling in Cairo


Days after ditching his army fatigues to run for president, former army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has made his first public outing in some out-of-the-ordinary civilian attire.
Photos of the 59-year-old – who resigned as Egypt's army chief and defence minister last week to announce his intention to run for president – riding a bike, began circulating on social media on Sunday evening.
In one of the photos, reportedly snapped in Cairo, he appears wearing a navy tracksuit alongside two others cyclists – also in sports gear – with a bus and a microbus in the background. In other photos, El-Sisi stops to chat with passersby.
Twitter and other social networking sites were rife with comments both mocking and praising the images.
"The first president in the world to ride a bicycle and go among the public... because he knows everybody loves him," wrote one Facebook commenter.
El-Sisi has become a cult figure since he led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in mid-2013 following millions-strong protests against his troubled year in power. He has been idolised by his supporters as the country's saviour and hailed by many as the only person capable of restoring order after more than three years of political turmoil since the 2011 uprising.

Many Twitter users shared screenshots showing the price of a Peugeot bicycle – the same brand as El-Sisi was riding – from the French firm's website.
"The bike's price turns out to be LE40,000 [roughly 4,000] and he is asking us for austerity," wrote one Twitter user, alluding to an address El-Sisi gave earlier in March asking Egyptians to tighten the belts to help rescue the country's ailing economy.
Peugeot bikes can fetch €300-4000, according to the website.
Fervent supporters of the former army chief were quick to defend him.
"Go Sisi go! You make them [your opponents] jealous," Another wrote. "The Field Marshal is riding Egypt's production 'wheel'... We love you Sisi," a third commented.
TV host Ahmed Moussa claimed El-Sisi went cycling alongside a private guard "without notifying any security authority," likening him to European leaders and contrasting this to the large processions "used to guard former president Morsi."
Others doubted the authenticity of the ride: "Which military camp was he snapped in? And from where did he get the extras? Honestly, I'm not convinced," said Ahmed Nagy, a 39 year-old taxi driver.
But cycling appears to be one of El-Sisi's hobbies.
The Washington Post reported last week that "a high-ranking military officer close to El-Sisi said the general often rides his bicycle around the defence ministry’s vast compound."
Last week, El-Sisi declared his much-anticipated candidacy in a presidential poll which he is tipped to win by a landslide.
Egyptians will vote in the first round on 26-27 May, the country's electoral committee announced on Sunday.

Britain orders probe into Muslim Brotherhood

British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood over concerns that the group is planning radical activities in Britain, his Downing Street office revealed Tuesday.
Number Ten confirmed a report in The Times newspaper that said he had asked intelligence agencies to gather information on the "philosophy and activities" of the Brotherhood and its potential threat to the UK.
The government acted following reports that Brotherhood leaders had met in London last year to decide their response to the Egypt crisis, triggered when one of its leading members, Mohamed Morsi, was unseated as president, according to The Times.
The group has since been blamed by Cairo for orchestrating a campaign of violence.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The prime minister has commissioned an internal government review into the philosophy and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and the government's policy towards the organisation."
The review is being led by Britain's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Jenkins.
The Guardian newspaper reported the review would examine whether the group was connected to the killing of tourists in Egypt's Sinai in February.
Intelligence services MI5 and MI6 will investigate the group's activists inside and outside of Britain, The Times said.
It remains too early to judge whether Britain will follow in the footsteps of Egypt and Saudi Arabia who have both designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. According to The Guardian, British officials say the move is "possible but unlikely."
The Guardian also quoted a Downing Street spokesperson as saying that "given the concerns about the group and its alleged links to violent extremism, it's absolutely right and prudent that we get a better handle of what the Brotherhood stands for, how they intend to achieve their aims and what that means for Britain."
Since Morsi's ouster from power, Egyptian security has conducted a crackdown on the Brotherhood and its supporters but has also faced a continuing spate of armed attacks by militant groups.
The Brotherhood has consistently denied any connections to the attacks, many of which were claimed by a group called Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda affiliate.
In one of the trials against him, Morsi – a Brotherhood member – is accused of speaking with Al-Qaeda leader Ayman El-Zawahiri during his term as president.

Farmer to serve prison time for naming donkey after Sisi

Omar Abul Maged, a 31-year-old farmer, never imagined he would one day be in prison for naming his donkey after the defense minister.
However, the Qena Misdemeanor Court has now sentenced him to a year over charges of “humiliating the military” for naming his donkey “Sisi,” after the recently resigned military chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who is due to run for presidential elections after overthrowing Egypt's first democratically elected president Morsy on 3 July.
Abdul Maged's satirical way of protesting against the military-led government began in 20 September 2013 when the pro-Morsy Abul Maged was riding his donkey through his village, called Ashraf in Qena province, covering the donkey’s body with a poster of al-Sisi and putting a military-style cap over the donkey’s head. 
The police, when notified of this act from anti-Morsy villagers, arrested Abul Maged along with his donkey and after six months in custody, the court issued its verdict on Sunday.
The court decision serves as a reminder of the intensified crackdown on government dissenters. 
Abul Maged's arrest in September coincided with the detention of eight activists for spraying anti-military graffiti as well as the cancelation of Bassem Yossef’s satirical show after it indirectly ridiculed the military in the first episode following military takeover in July. 
The judiciary's tough penalties against government dissenters culminated on Monday of last week as a criminal court sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood defendants to death in the largest capital punishment on record in Egypt’s modern history which raised both local and international outcry.
Though lawyers highly expect the verdict to be dropped before the Court of Appeals, human rights groups lashed back at the severity of the verdict as “it raises doubts about the fairness of the judiciary system in Egypt,” said a statement by Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.
“The heavy-handed crackdown on any opponent voices will not end the game for one side but will rather ignite the political situation further and keep the economy down,” said Ahmad El-Sayed, a political activist.  
Recently, the anti-Sisi comments on social media have rapidly resurged as the only outlet to slam the new presidential runner, safe from the military’s heavy-handed tactics against street protests. 
The strongman’s opponents voiced their protest via Twitter using the sarcastic hashtag in Arabic “Intekhbo al-Ars,” which translates to “Vote for the pimp,” in response al-Sisi's televised speech four days ago, expressing his intention to run for presidency, which contradted his spokesperson’s statement last September when he said al-Sisi had no intention to run for president. 
Though Adul-Maged's physical arrest was an easy attempt to reign in government dissent, authorities have merely given more fodder for criticism to users of Twitter and Facebook.
“From now on ridiculing Sisi is not an insult to the military institution, as he resigned, insulting him is a national duty,” Salama Abdul Hamid tweeted.