Egypt two years after the military coup

Amnesty International: Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison [Continue reading…]

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Egyptian forces kill 13 Muslim Brotherhood members in Cairo

Middle East Eye reports: New evidence has emerged that suggests the 13 members of the Muslim Brotherhood killed by Egyptian security forces in a flat in the Sixth of October area in Cairo on Wednesday were shot to death after being arrested.

Original media reports said that nine men had been killed but pro-Muslim Brotherhood Mekameleen TV said that the number has now increased to 13.

An anonymous security source told the Egyptian daily Watan that Nasser al-Hafi, a former member of parliament, was amongst the dead.

Abdel-Fattah Mohamed Ibrahim, an MB leader in the Giza governate, was also killed.

Another security official called the Muslim Brotherhood members “armed militants” and said that the group were hiding in a den in the flat. The official maintained that the group opened fire first and that the 13 men were killed in the resulting gun battle.

However, Muslim Brotherhood sources said that the men were well known lawyers and belonged to a legal team that represented imprisoned MB supporters, as well as a committee that supported the families of those killed or detained. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement claiming its leaders who were killed in a Cairo apartment on Wednesday were murdered in “in cold blood,” calling for a rebellion against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who it calls a “butcher.”

The group “holds the criminal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his gang fully responsible for these crimes and their consequences,” it writes. [Continue reading…]

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Egypt’s crackdown on Islamists will lead to more violence

Mohamad Bazzi writes: On June 29, Egypt’s top prosecutor was killed in a car bombing as he left his home in Cairo. He was the most senior official to be assassinated since Islamic militants launched an insurgency two years ago after the Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president.

The assassination of the prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, is a tragedy but it’s not surprising. Egypt spiraled into a cycle of state-sanctioned violence, repression and vengeance as soon as the military removed Morsi from power in July 2013. The new military-backed government launched an aggressive campaign to suppress all political opponents, hunt down leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled after the coup and undo many of the gains made during the 2011 uprising that toppled then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

That is the danger many in the Arab world and in the West failed to grasp when they remained silent after Egypt’s coup: while authoritarian rule appears to provide stability over the short term, it breeds discontent and affirms the idea that the only way to achieve political power is through violence.

On June 16, an Egyptian court upheld the death penalty against Morsi, the first Brotherhood leader to assume the presidency of an Arab country. He was initially sentenced to death in May, along with more than 100 co-defendants, for taking part in an alleged prison break. It was the latest in a series of sham trials and mass death sentences decreed by the judiciary since the military coup. If the former president is ultimately hanged, it would be a grave miscarriage of justice that would make Morsi a martyr for millions throughout the Muslim world.

Beyond Morsi’s fate, the mass death sentences send a dangerous signal to Islamists throughout the region: that election results will not be respected. The Brotherhood’s recent experience in Egypt shows that authoritarian and secular forces, which often fare poorly at the ballot box, will mobilize to undermine the Islamists before they have had a chance to rule. Ultimately, Egypt cannot be a viable democracy without the Brotherhood’s participation. [Continue reading…]

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Militants linked to ISIS attack Egyptian army checkpoints in Sinai, kill 53

The Associated Press reports: Dozens of Islamic militants unleashed a wave of simultaneous attacks, including suicide car bombings, on Egyptian army checkpoints in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, killing at least 53 soldiers, security and military officials said.

The advanced planning and coordinated execution of the attacks show that the long-running insurgency in the area is growing stronger, posing a serious threat to Egypt’s security as the military-backed government struggles to restore stability after years of unrest since the 2011 uprising.

The assault came a day after Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi pledged to step up the battle against Islamic militants and two days after the chief prosecutor was assassinated in the capital, Cairo. The officials said 50 militants were killed in fierce fighting that started in the early morning and was still raging at the end of the day — the deadliest battle in Sinai since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. [Continue reading…]

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The West’s betrayal of Egypt will reap a bitter harvest

Amr Darrag writes: When the former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in April, in a trial internationally condemned as unconstitutional, unfair and deeply politicised, many saw it as a test of the international community’s resolve to stand up to the series of show trials currently under way in Egypt. For those who back democracy and human rights, the wall of silence from the international community was as predictable as it was tragic. At that time, I predicted that such silence would be interpreted by the Sisi regime as a green light to a death sentence for Morsi.

Where once politicians from Downing Street to the White House lauded the ideals and actions of the 2011 revolutionaries, now they were rendered mute as Egypt’s first democratically elected president was effectively sentenced to a life behind bars. Many also saw the sentence as a nail in the coffin for the ideals and dreams of the Arab Spring.

This week, the gradual purge of this first democratic government in Egypt took a darker turn. The Sisi regime, buoyed by the clear apathy of its international partners, upheld a death sentence handed down in May to Morsi and more than 100 people. The trial was nothing but a farce. Amnesty International called it a grossly unfair charade, which demonstrated a “complete disregard for human rights”. [Continue reading…]

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Long-term Gaza truce mooted as Hamas, Israel grapple with jihadi challenge

Reuters reports: It’s not quite a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but shared concern over Islamic State-inspired militant groups in Gaza could help redraw complex relationships between Hamas and a hostile Egypt and Israel.

Talk is rampant in the territory of 1.8 million of a prospective pullback from confrontation with Israel – a long-term ceasefire to cement further an Egyptian-brokered truce that brought an end to the Gaza war nearly a year ago.

That could allow Hamas to step up efforts to rein in radical Islamists, known as Salafis, who have claimed responsibility for recent rocket attacks against Israel, and open the way for more reconstruction aid to reach Gaza.

There are also signs of change along Egypt’s frontier with the Gaza Strip.

The military-run government in Cairo, which accuses Islamist Hamas of backing jihadi fighters in Egypt’s Sinai desert, opened its border with Gaza this week for the first time in three months, permitting Palestinians to travel in both directions.

“The new easing of measures results from the presence of a common enemy,” said Akram Attallah, a Gaza-based political commentator.

Hamas insists Islamic State has no foothold in Gaza, where the Palestinian group’s forces are dominant. It has described what Salafi groups say have been the arrests of dozens of their supporters as no more than action against “criminal elements”.

But by mounting such operations, some in the wake of Salafi-claimed rocket strikes, Hamas has also shown a commitment to a truce with Israel and demonstrated to Egypt that it is fighting the same jihadi enemy, Atallah said. [Continue reading…]

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Egyptian court upholds death sentence against former president Morsi

The Washington Post reports: An Egyptian court upheld Tuesday a death sentence against former President Mohamed Morsi in sweeping judgments against the ousted leader and dozens of his Muslim Brotherhood allies.

The court decisions mark the latest move by prosecutors to punish and discredit Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamist-inspired government was ousted by military-led pressures in 2013.

It also showed the increasingly tough stance of Egypt’s current government, led by former army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, against political opponents more than four years after the pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring. [Continue reading…]

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‘Stripped, beaten, humiliated’ and barred from her own trial in Egypt

The New York Times reports: During the early days of the revolution against President Hosni Mubarak, a sense of shared purpose and community made Tahrir Square feel like the safest place in Cairo, for women and men. But that collapsed almost the moment Mr. Mubarak left office, on Feb. 11, 2011. Sexual assault and the harassment of women in public, an epidemic problem in Egypt for decades, became alarmingly common again.

The security forces have long used sexual assault as a weapon against political dissent. In a notorious episode in 2005, security officers watched pro-government thugs sexually assault four female demonstrators outside the journalists’ syndicate in Cairo. Prosecutors declined to bring charges, and state and private media outlets blamed the women for exposing themselves.

After Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, military forces trying to disperse demonstrators detained a group of women and subjected them to “virginity tests.” A military intelligence officer named Abdel Fattah el-Sisi publicly defended the practice, arguing that it was necessary to protect soldiers from rape allegations. He is now Egypt’s president. [Continue reading…]

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As youth mysteriously disappear, Egypt more and more resembles Pinochet’s Chile

Egyptian Streets reports: A quite troublesome rise in the number of reported cases of enforced disappearances has swept Cairo and other governorates across Egypt. According to a report released by Human Rights Monitor on Saturday, 44 cases of enforced disappearances have been recorded until May 2015, with 31 taking place in May, in addition to 13 more reported during March and April.

“Over the last four years, there were cases of enforced disappearances, but it was not the default, it was more rare… one among other violations,” said Mona Seif, a human rights activist working closely with political detainees. [Continue reading…]

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Obama administration criticizes Egypt in report to Congress

The New York Times: Egypt is moving away from democracy, stifling freedom of expression, arresting thousands for political dissent and failing to hold the security forces accountable for “arbitrary or unlawful killings,” the Obama administration has determined in a formal report to Congress.

The administration concludes in the same report that Egypt is nevertheless too important to national security to end the roughly $1.5 billion a year it receives in American aid, most of it military. But after making that conclusion, the report proceeds to recite a discordant litany of the Egyptian government’s abuses and failings, apparently seeking to stop just short of the kind of embrace Washington once gave the strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Quietly submitted to Congress on May 12 without public announcement, the report captures the awkwardness of Washington’s rapidly shifting views of Egypt: first backing President Mubarak, then the 2011 revolt that ousted him, and now rebuilding ties with a new strongman, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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The West must end its support of Egyptian ‘tyrant’, says a Muslim Brotherhood leader

Vice News reports: On July 3 it will be one year since the first elected president in the history of Egypt, Mohamed Mursi, was ousted in a coup by the ex-army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The subsequent crackdown on Mursi and his Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was severe. Security forces have killed about 1,000 Brotherhood supporters during protests and tens of thousands more have been jailed, along with left-wing activists and other government critics, according to human rights groups.

On Tuesday a court said it would give its final ruling on June 16 regarding a preliminary death sentence recently handed to Mursi and more than 100 Muslim Brotherhood leaders and members, in a case related to a 2011 mass jail break.

Meanwhile Sisi is on a trip to Germany where he has been officially welcomed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, and is set to sign a multi-billion dollar deal with German industrial group Siemens. At a press conference on Wednesday Merkel reiterated her government’s opposition to the death penalty but said working with Sisi was key to ensuring regional security.

VICE News spoke to Yahia Hamed, the Minister of Investment under Mursi, who said the opposite was true — if the West kept supporting Sisi it could destabilize the whole region, playing straight into the hands of the Islamic State, he said. [Continue reading…]

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Thanassis Cambanis on Egypt’s unfinished revolution

Cicero Magazine: In your new book, Once Upon a Revolution, you tell a well-known story from a previously unexplored perspective—that of the revolutionaries themselves, before, during, and after Tahrir Square. Why did you choose that approach?

Thanassis Cambanis: I wanted to follow the progress of the idealistic project at the heart of the January 25 Revolution: the quest to develop new politics, new ideas, and new, more accountable forms of power. There was a comparatively small group of people who were determined from the start of the uprising to build an enduring political project. I sought out and followed members of this core group as they embarked on what was always a quixotic experiment. Against them were arrayed all the status quo powers—the state, the bureaucracy, the military, the police, the old regime cronies—as well as other regressive but organized forces, like the Muslim Brotherhood. Their story was inherently personal: the unfolding history of an idea as it played out in the struggles of individuals. I believe this story contains much of the potential for transformative change, a change sadly still unrealized in Egypt. We have witnessed remarkable transformations at the individual level, however, and I expect that many of these activists and thinkers will play a role in Egyptian life and politics for decades to come.

What missed opportunities were there to put Egypt on a better path in the first year after Tahrir Square?

Firstly, it’s important to emphasize that revanchist old regime forces defeated the uprising. A concerted campaign to restore military-authoritarian role won out. Even had the revolutionaries made fewer mistakes, or smarter strategic moves, they might well have been foiled by the machinery assembled by Egypt’s new dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—who built his comeback on the scaffolding of military intelligence. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan freed from Egyptian prison

The Washington Post reports: Tears, tight hugs and cries of “Welcome home” greeted a frail American citizen on his sudden return to the United States on Saturday night after nearly two years spent in an Egyptian jail cell.

It was a surreal homecoming for Mohamed Soltan, 27, a citizen journalist and activist who survived a year-long hunger strike and a life sentence, only to be whisked from his cell and later onto a plane bound for Washington, the product of months of advocacy by his family and quiet, frantic negotiations between the U.S. government and Egypt, his family said.

Soltan, an Ohio State University graduate who was once chubby and energetic, entered the arrivals area of Dulles International Airport on Saturday night in a wheelchair, his frail frame quickly mobbed by family and cheering friends.

He clutched his 1-year-old nephew for the first time and the tears came. Then a fierce embrace from his sisters, and then came the sobs.

In a surprise move, Egyptian authorities on Saturday had quietly shuttled him onto an airplane and sent him home to be with his family in Virginia.

In April, a Cairo court sentenced Soltan to life in prison for his support of the protests that followed the group’s overthrow, including financing a weeks-long sit-in and “spreading false news” in his role as unofficial spokesman of the protest.

It was unclear what ultimately decided Soltan’s release. There was no court ruling to reverse his April sentence to life in prison and no formal announcement of clemency from Egypt’s president. [Continue reading…]

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Egypt appoints outspoken Brotherhood critic justice minister

Reuters: Egypt appointed a hardline judge and outspoken critic of the Muslim Brotherhood as justice minister on Wednesday in a move decried by a leading opposition figure as a disaster for justice in the world’s most populous Arab country.

Ahmed el-Zend, a former appeals court judge, has in contrast to his predecessor been publicly outspoken in his criticism of the Islamist movement removed from power in mid-2013 by the army and banned as a terrorist organization.

Some Egyptian judges are seen by critics as hardliners whose rulings are in line with the toughest crackdown on Islamists in the country’s history. The judiciary says it is independent.

Liberal activist Shady el-Ghazaly Harb said the appointment was part of a trend towards empowering opponents of the 2011 uprising that ousted veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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Leaks gain credibility and potential to embarrass Egypt’s leaders

The New York Times reported on May 12: For months, a steady trickle of leaked audio recordings has appeared to offer a rare chance to eavesdrop on embarrassing conversations among the inner circle of army generals around President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

Mr. Sisi and the generals can be heard laughing at their Persian Gulf patrons; pulling strings to manipulate the courts, the news media and neighboring countries; and stashing billions of dollars in special military accounts outside the control of the civilian government — if the recordings are accurate.

Now, some evidence has emerged to suggest they are. In three reports given to the British police, a respected audio forensics firm has found “moderately strong” evidence to authenticate Mr. Sisi’s voice on two recordings and the voice of a top general, Mamdouh Shaheen, on another.

There are “no indications” that the recordings were fabricated by splicing together disparate statements out of context, the firm, J. P. French Associates, concluded, calling such editing extremely implausible. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ by Egypt’s death penalty decision for Mohamed Morsi

Reuters: The US is “deeply concerned” about an Egyptian court decision to seek the death penalty for the former president Mohamed Morsi, a State Department official said on Sunday.

The US criticism follows condemnation from Amnesty International and Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after the court ruling on Saturday against the deposed leader and 106 supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood in connection with a mass jail break in 2011.

The ruling against Morsi is not final until 2 June. All capital sentences are referred to Egypt’s top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, for a non-binding opinion, and are also subject to legal appeal.
Islamists warn of backlash over Mohamed Morsi death sentence
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“We are deeply concerned by yet another mass death sentence handed down by an Egyptian court to more than 100 defendants, including former president Morsi,” the State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Egyptian court sentences ousted President Morsi to death

The New York Times reports: An Egyptian court sentenced Mohamed Morsi, the country’s deposed president, to death on Saturday over his involvement in a prison break during Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising.

Mr. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was the country’s first democratically elected president and came to power following the 2011 revolt that ended the three decades of autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak. After a divisive and chaotic year in office, Mr. Morsi was ousted from power by the military in July 2013 following another wave of protests.

The jailbreak case was a sign of the sweeping reversal of Egypt’s political tide since the 2011 uprising. The former head of state had been detained in a revolution that many Egyptians hoped would bring about an end to arbitrary detentions and other abuses by the security state. [Continue reading…]

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Fear makes everything possible

Wael Eskandar writes: It is a time in Egypt when it is not welcome to write something serious that addresses serious issues. Everything borders on the ridiculous. Rhetoric has shifted to a medieval or primal state where basic values are being revisited. Is it OK to discard human rights because of the violence of non-state actors? Is it OK for the police to kill innocent civilians in the supposed act of protecting these same people from terrorism? Is it OK that we have a country without fair trials? Most of the time, in the state media, the answer is yes.

There is little public discussion permissible. The majority has made its voice heard: The mass of Egyptians trusts whatever the government does politically, but will continue to ask for economic reform. It’s a little strange that things such as murder, torture and fair trials have become something “political” that only concern the elite. As if it’s forgivable, in the eyes of the masses, that such actions occur in the name of the greater good. What greater good is there other than giving the poor their rights and holding those in power accountable, rather than targeting the innocent?

The argument is that terrorism forces us to take exceptional measures. In reality it’s fear.

The amazing thing about fear is that it makes everything possible. All of a sudden it’s possible to cure AIDS and hepatitis C without scientific research. It’s possible to grow as a nation and be respected without the government respecting democracy or its citizens. It’s possible to condemn some inhumane acts of terror, such as the slaughter of 21 Copts by ISIS in Libya, but not the murder of a thousand people in Rabaa. [Continue reading…]

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