Posts Tagged ‘Sisi’

UN urges Egypt to reverse ‘unfair trial’ death sentences

September 9, 2018

 

An Egyptian court’s confirmation of 75 death sentences was not based on a fair trial and should be reversed to avoid an “irreversible miscarriage of justice”, the UN said Sunday.

New United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was “extremely concerned” at the decision handed down by the Cairo Criminal Court Saturday in one of the largest mass trials since the 2011 uprising.

“The evident disregard of basic rights of the accused places the guilt of all those convicted in serious doubt,” she warned in a statement.

© AFP | Mahmoud Abu Zeid mimics taking a photograph during his trial at the Cairo Criminal Court on September 8

Bachelet, who took the reins of the UN rights office less than a week ago, urged Egypt’s appeals court to “review this verdict and ensure that international standards of justice are respected by setting it aside.”

The 75 people who initially received their death sentences in July were among 739 defendants on trial in the same case — most of them facing charges of killing police and vandalising property during clashes in 2013 between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

“The 739 people were tried en masse, and were not permitted individual legal representation before the court,” Bachelet noted out in a statement.

“In addition, the accused were not given the right to present evidence in their defence, and the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to prove individual guilt,” she said.

In light of the obvious unfairness of the trial, she warned that “the 75 death sentences affirmed yesterday, if implemented, would represent a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice.”

In addition to the death sentences, 47 people were sentenced to life behind bars, while the remainder were handed prison terms of varying length.

They included award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, who was sentenced to five years behind bars.

On August 14, 2013, one of the bloodiest days in Egypt’s modern history, a month after the army ousted Morsi, police moved to disperse a sprawling Islamist protest camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya square in Cairo.

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FILE – Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood run away from tear gas during clashes with Egyptian riot police close to Rabaa al-Adawiya square, Nov. 22, 2013.

The military crackdown “is alleged to have led to the killing of up to 900 mostly unarmed protesters by members of the Egyptian security forces,” the United Nations said.

Despite the large death toll, the United Nations noted that no state security personnel have ever been charged in relation to the so-called Rabaa massacre.

Bachelet pointed to the stark contrast between the many mass trials since then and a law passed in July effectively bestowing complete impunity on security personnel for offenses committed in the period after the overthrow of Morsi’s government on July 3, 2013.

“Justice must apply to all, no one should be immune,” she insisted.

“Attempts to bestow immunity from prosecution for crimes allegedly committed by members of the security forces merely promotes impunity,” she warned.

AFP

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France aiding Egypt repression through arms sales: NGOs

July 2, 2018

France has “participated in the bloody Egyptian repression” for the past five years by delivering weapons and surveillance systems to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, rights groups charged in a report released Monday.

Commissioned by four French and Egyptian human rights groups, the study found French arms sales to Egypt had leapt from 39.6 million to 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) between 2010 and 2016.

© AFP/File | A new report claims at least 8 French companies have “profited from (Egyptian) repression” despite a European Union declaration in 2013 that member states had suspended export licences to Egypt for equipment that could be used for domestic repression

In addition, “by supplying Egyptian security services and law enforcement agencies with powerful digital tools, they have helped establish an Orwellian surveillance and control architecture that is being used to eradicate all forms of dissent and citizen action,” the groups said.

They charged that French companies were also complicit in what they called a “relentless crackdown” since Sisi overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The report notably cited companies selling technology used for mass data interception and crowd control, used for a surveillance system under which tens of thousands of opponents and activists had been arrested.

“The Egyptian revolution of 2011 was driven by an ultra-connected ‘Facebook generation’ that knew how to mobilise crowds,” said Bahey Eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), one of the group’s behind the report.

“Today France is helping to crush this generation through the establishment of an Orwellian surveillance and control system aimed at nipping in the bud any expression of protest,” he said.

The report charges that at least eight French companies have “profited from this repression” despite a European Union declaration in 2013 that member states had suspended export licences to Egypt for equipment that could be used for domestic repression.

The companies include Arquus — formerly Renault Trucks Defense — as well as major defence supplier DCNS.

“Our organisations seek from French companies and authorities an immediate end to these deadly exports,” the groups said.

The report was commissioned by the CIHRS alongside the French-based International Federation for Human Rights, Human Rights League and Armaments Observatory.

AFP

Qatar ‘must stop support for terror’, top UN court told

June 28, 2018

Abu Dhabi on Thursday called on Doha to stop “supporting terrorist groups and individuals” and strongly denied human rights abuses against Qatari citizens before the UN’s top court.

The bitter Gulf crisis pitting Doha against its neighbours including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain moved to the international courts Wednesday, with Qatar accusing the UAE of fostering an “environment of hate” against its citizens.

© AFP/File | This file combination shows the leaders in the Gulf diplomatic battle: (L to R) Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed and Bahrain’s King Hamad

But Abu Dhabi’s representatives Thursday fired back, saying relations were cut with Qatar “because of its support for terrorism, its interference with the affairs of its neighbours and its dissemination of hate speech.”

“Our government has asked Qatar time-and-again to cease this conduct,” the UAE’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Saeed Alnowais, told the International Court of Justice.

“Although Qatar repeatedly committed to do so, it has failed to live up to its commitments,” Alnowais said at the Hague-based ICJ.

At the start of the crisis last June, Qatar, a gas-rich peninsula nation, found its only land border closed, its state-owned airline barred from using its neighbours’ airspace, and Qatari residents expelled from the boycotting countries.

– ‘Discrimination’ –

Doha earlier this month dragged the emirates before the Hague-based body — which rules in disputes between countries — accusing it of racism and human rights abuses against its citizens.

The legal moves at the ICJ come after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with Doha on June 5 last year accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran.

Doha denies the allegations and its lawyers Wednesday told a 16-judge bench that Abu Dhabi has implemented a “series of broad discriminatory measures” against Qataris including expelling them, stopping their access to health care and criminalising any statements that express sympathy with Qatar.

Basing its claim on the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Qatar also accuses the UAE of shutting down its media networks including Al Jazeera.

Both Doha and Abu Dhabi are signatories to the convention.

Doha is demanding the ICJ urgently intervene and hand down provisional measures to stop further prejudice as well as, over the longer term, order “full reparation, including compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the UAE’s actions in violation of the CERD.”

UAE representative Alnowais however said his country “completely rejects the allegations, all of which are without any merit or basis.”

“Qatar has put forward no credible evidence to substantiate any of these claims,” he said, adding it consisted “only of anecdotal and unverified statements,” he said.

“The UAE’s measures against the Qatari government are carefully measured to have the least possible impact on ordinary people,” Alnowais added.

– Shattered alliances –

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis have so far proved fruitless in what was previously one of the most stable regions in the Arab world.

The wrangling has shattered old alliances and rendered the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council practically obsolete, pushing Qatar towards Turkey and Iran.

Qatar maintains the dispute is an attack on its sovereignty and punishment for pursuing an independent foreign policy.

Experts say it could now take the ICJ’s judges weeks or even months to hand down a decision.

Meanwhile in a surprise tit-for-tat move, Saudi Arabia, the UAE announced in state media Wednesday they too planned to file their own case at the UN’s top court against Doha, accusing it of violating their airspace.

The UAE has filed two complaints with the ICAO over what Qatar’s rivals say are airspace violations that threaten civil aviation.

The UAE accuses Qatar of sending fighter jets to intercept passenger flights and a civilian helicopter in Bahraini airspace. These accusations have been denied by Doha.

Doha’s neighbours say the ball is in Qatar’s court to end the crisis. It has been handed a list of 13 demands by its Gulf neighbours, including closing Al Jazeera, removing Turkish troops from the country and scaling back its cooperation with Iran, with which it shares the world’s largest gas field. It has not met any of them.

AFP

Kushner, Egypt’s Sisi discuss Israel-Palestinian peace process

June 21, 2018

US President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Sisi told the US diplomats, who are touring the region in a bid to revive long-stalled talks, that Egypt supports a “just and comprehensive settlement” to the conflict.

© EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP | A picture released by Egypt’s Presidency on June 21, 2018 shows (R-L) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meeting US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner in Cairo

He argued in favour of a “two-state solution on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine,” the presidency said in a statement.

Trump’s administration sparked anger across the Arab world in December by recognising Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian leadership responded by freezing all contacts with US officials.

In May Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking mass demonstrations on Israel’s flashpoint border with Gaza in which Israeli forces shot dead dozens of demonstrators.

The White House said Thursday that Kushner and Greenblatt had discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and Egypt.

They also talked about “the need to facilitate humanitarian relief to Gaza, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians”, it said.

Sisi’s office said he had told them Egypt maintains “ongoing contacts with the parties concerned to advance efforts to revive negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

He also pointed to Egypt’s efforts to promote reconciliation between the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Islamists Hamas who rule Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority, which sees the Trump administration as biased towards Israel, said Saturday that US plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are “doomed to fail”.

Kushner and Greenblatt met Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Tuesday before visiting Riyadh to meet Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They are reported to be planning visits to Israel and Qatar.

AFP

Wave of arrests in Egypt ahead of Sisi’s second term (He got 97 Percent of the vote!)

June 1, 2018

 

Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi celebrate following his re-election for a second term on April 2. A wave of arrests signals El-Sisi’s government’s fear of social dissent, analysts say. (AFP)

As Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi prepares to be sworn in for a second four-year term on Saturday, a wave of arrests signals his government’s fear of social dissent, analysts say.

Personalities involved in the January 2011 popular uprising that brought down president Hosni Mubarak are among those to have been detained, amid a crackdown that began after March elections gave Sisi an official 97 percent of the vote.

© AFP/File / by Mona Salem | A file picture shows a supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the back of a pickup truck in Cairo’s Tahrir square on January 25, 2018

Two of those arrested are blogger and journalist Wael Abbas and Shadi Ghazali Harb, one of the youth leaders during the 2011 revolution.

They also include Hazim Abdelazim, who has described his decision to head the youth committee of Sisi’s successful 2014 presidential bid as his “biggest mistake”.

“The arrests are in line with the repressive policies of recent years, which aim to subdue” all potential checks on power, said Karim Bitar, a researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

A month ahead of the elections, the public prosecutor’s office warned the media it would act against the dissemination of “false information” deemed detrimental to the country’s “safety and security”.

The latest arrests show “nothing has changed in the security-focused policies of the regime” in Egypt, said Mostafa Kamel el-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University.

“There is still worry of a repeat of what happened in January 2011, which the president has expressed more than once,” said Sayed.

Economic hardship may also be making the authorities jittery, analysts say.

The government has brought in a value-added tax, cut fuel subsidies and hiked electricity prices, as it seeks to keep to the terms of a $12-billion (10.3-billion-euro) loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.

The authorities may also fear activists will “use these circumstances to mobilise citizens against Sisi’s regime”, with figures who made their names in 2011 a particular source of potential concern, Sayed told AFP.

A collapse in the value of the currency in late 2016 and resultant inflation, which peaked at 33 percent last July, has also left consumers feeling the pinch.

Another electricity price hike and cut to fuel subsidies are planned for the summer.

To prepare the public for this unpopular medicine, state-run media has cited the government’s massive 104-billion-pound ($5.8 billion, five-billion-euro) petroleum subsidy bill and the squeeze caused by oil prices rising back above $75 per barrel.

– ‘State of oppression’ –

Advocacy groups have condemned the arrests, calling on authorities to release the activists, with Human Rights Watch on Thursday denouncing a “state of oppression”.

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The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has also condemned the wave of arrests.

“Sustainable stability and security can only go hand in hand with the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

“The increasing number of arrests of human rights defenders, political activists and bloggers in the latest weeks in Egypt is therefore a worrying development,” said Kocijancic.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid rejected the criticisms, saying the EU’s track record in human rights can also be condemned.

Abu Zeid pointed to “the immense difficulty and degrading treatment suffered by many of the immigrants and refugees, as well as the violations committed by law enforcement authorities” in the EU.

“That is in addition to the growing effect of the rise of extremist, right-wing parties and movements, with the ensuing manifestations of racism, discrimination, violence and hate speech,” Abu Zeid said in a statement.

Also last month an Egyptian military court sentenced Ismail Alexandrani, a prominent journalist and expert on jihadist movements in the Sinai Peninsula, to 10 years in prison.

The court has yet to issue its reasoning, but Alexandrani’s lawyer said he had been accused of publishing military secrets and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

For Paris-based researcher Bitar, Egypt’s policy direction is at least in part the consequence of the West’s own policies.

“The Western preference for Arab authoritarianism provides rulers in the Middle East blank cheques that make them feel they have no limits in regards to oppression,” said Bitar.

AFP

by Mona Salem

Cambodia invites foreign observers to election after dissolving opposition — Cambodia joins Egypt, Malaysia in rigged election trend

April 4, 2018

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Cambodia on Wednesday invited foreign observers to monitor a July general election, as required by law, which long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen is poised to win after the main opposition party was dissolved.

The National Election Committee said the foreign observers would have to submit written reports on their findings.

Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, an election watchdog, said international observers should think before accepting.

“They should be more cautious in responding to the invitation. Many of them have standards on prerequisite principles for their engagement decision,” he said.

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Hun Sen

Hun Sen and his supporters have waged a campaign against critics, including members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in what opponents say is a bid to prolong his leadership after 33 years in office.

The CNRP was dissolved and its lawmakers banned from politics in November after the Supreme Court ruled that it had tried to overthrow the government – something the CNRP has denied.

The CNRP dissolution was followed by the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha for plotting to overthrow the government with U.S. help, an accusation both the United States and Kem Sokha have rejected.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie

Egyptian voters head to polls for presidential election (Russian-Style — There is really only one choice)

March 26, 2018

Polls have opened in Egypt for a presidential election in which voters will choose between the current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and a little-known challenger. Some 60 million people are eligible to vote.

El-Sissi gestures at a 2015 press conference in Germany (Getty Images/A. Berry)

Polls opened on Monday morning in Egypt for a three-day vote where Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is virtually guaranteed to win his second term.  El-Sissi voted in Cairo just minutes after the polls opened at 0700 GMT, according to the state TV.

Observers have slammed the vote for the lack of competition for el-Sissi, whose only rival on the ballot is his long-time supporter, Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

Moussa stepped in as a presidential candidate just as the deadline for submitting applications was set to expire. He has publically denied being a “puppet” of the regime.

Previously, several more serious challengers were either detained or decided to bow out of the race under the apparent pressure from the el-Sissi government.

Read more:‘El-Sissi is on the side of the autocratic rulers’

Ex-general Sami Annan was arrested in January just days after announcing his intention to run for president. The Egyptian Armed Forces claimed Annan forged official documents that would allow him to take part in the election. His chief aide, Hisham Genena, was also attacked and beaten by unknown assailants. Abdel-Moneim Abul Fotouh, who ran in 2012, was arrested on suspicion of joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and incitement against government institutions.

Prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali also dropped out in January, saying the authorities harassed and intimidated his supporters. Former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat and former air force general and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq have also withdrawn their candidacies.

‘We are just not ready’

In a televised interview, president and former military leader el-Sissi said the lack of serious rivals was “completely not my fault.”

“Really, I swear, I wish there were one or two or even 10 of the best people and you would get to choose whoever you want,” he said. “We are just not ready.”

With some opposition leaders calling for a boycott, the government has stepped up effort to motivate people to go out and vote. Banners and billboards praising el-Sissi were ubiquitous in Cairo and across Egypt, with advertising for his rival Moussa much less noticeable.

El-Sissi hopes for a clear mandate to continue his austerity reforms and tough security measures he claims are necessary in the nation often targeted by terror groups.

Once widely popular, el-Sissi won nearly 97 percent of votes in his 2014 run against left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabbahi. However, turnout was only 37 percent for the planned two-day vote, prompting authorities to add an additional day to the election. The final participation rate was just over 47 percent.

Analysts believe a much smaller percentage of Egypt’s nearly 60 million voters would take part in this week’s three-day ballot. The final results are expected next Monday.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Egypt likely faces long struggle in Sinai assault on Daesh

March 25, 2018

 

The military appears to be relying on a combination of airstrikes and ground operations to degrade the capabilities of terrorist groups in northern and central Sinai. (Reuters)
CAIRO: Egypt’s military is conducting a sweeping assault to crush a resilient Daesh branch in Sinai, but the terrorist group is unlikely to be vanquished quickly, analysts say.
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The operation was launched on Feb. 9 after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is expected to sweep to a second term in polls next week, gave the armed forces and police a three-month deadline in November to wipe out the terrorists.
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The deadline has since been extended, and the armed forces launched their most comprehensive campaign yet to end the five-year-old insurgency.
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The military gives regular updates on the operation, saying it has killed more than 100 terrorists so far while losing at least 20 troops.
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“Egypt is doing a really good job controlling the narrative,” said Zack Gold, an analyst with the US-based CNA research group.
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Egyptian soldiers have been more frequently targeted since the removal of Mohamed Morsi in 2013 [File: Thomas Hartwell/AP]
Egyptian soldiers [File: Thomas Hartwell/AP]
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“Even ISIS (Daesh) has been challenged to put out statements. This suggests Egypt is in control,” he said.
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“But (it) makes it hard to assess what’s really going on and whether long term impact will be different.”
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Egypt had already launched several operations against terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula, who have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.
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The Egyptian Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis group pledged allegiance to Daesh in 2014, gaining expertise and logistical support from the international group, which controlled a self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
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The Sinai terrorists soon ramped up their attacks on civilians, planting a bomb on a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort in 2015, killing all 224 people on board.
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Starting in late 2016, they also began targeting Christians, killing more than a hundred in church bombings and shootings across the country.
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El-Sisi’s ultimatum came after suspected Daesh gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers in a Sinai mosque associated with Sufis, seen by the terror group as heretics.
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“There appears to be greater emphasis on actively targeting individual militants alongside degrading their logistical supply,” wrote EgyGreenfly, an anonymous blogger for Egypt Defense Review.
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“Whereas previous Egyptian offensives focused on a particular area independent of the others at any one time, ‘Sinai 18’ (September 2017)appears to have finally coordinated efforts across the country.”
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The military has said about 60,000 soldiers are taking part in the campaign, launched after a period of intelligence gathering in the peninsula, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
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Omar Ashour, an associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said the latest operation was different from previous assaults in several ways.
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He cited “intensive media propaganda/coverage, the size of the forces mobilized… the sustained cooperation with ‘militias’ or armed tribal formations fighting alongside regular army, and the increased tactical and operational coordination with Israel.”
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The operation is likely to weaken Daesh in Sinai, which consists of no more than around 1,000 hardcore combatants who increasingly rely on hit-and-run attacks, roadside bombings and sniping attacks, analysts say.
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But it will not bring about a decisive victory and end attacks.
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“The military appears to be relying on a combination of airstrikes and ground operations to degrade the capabilities of terrorist groups in northern and central Sinai,” said Stephanie Karra, research associate for North Africa with The Risk Advisory Group.
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“That said, the latest campaign does not appear to differ significantly from operations in the area in the past few years. And the military seems to be using the same conventional tactics that it has used in the past,” she added.
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In response, Daesh has vowed to attack election-related installations and to redouble its efforts to target tourists across Egypt.
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Security will be boosted for the poll, set for March 26-28.
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Daesh in Sinai “continues operations against security forces in the Sinai but it has certainly been disrupted,” said Jantzen Garnett, Middle East analyst with the Navanti Group analytics firm.
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“This may frustrate any plans the terrorist group had to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections.”
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However, Garnett added, “if the Islamic State’s mainland cells, which have not conducted attacks in several months, operate independently, the Sinai campaign will have little effect on its capabilities.”
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Reference:
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Egyptians who took part in Arab Spring say voting useless — “I won’t put the effort and vote in an election that is already predetermined.”

March 20, 2018

AFP

© AFP | A picture taken on March 7, 2018 shows posters supporting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hanging in a street in the downtown Cairo district of El-Gamaleya, where he was born

CAIRO (AFP) – As banners supporting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s bid for a second term fill Cairo’s streets, some who participated in the 2011 democratic uprising say they will boycott this month’s “predetermined” elections.”It’s been a downwards slippery slope since the last presidential elections (in 2014): nothing is improving,” said Sami, who took part in the January 2011 uprising which toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi, as defence minister, led the July 2013 ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his divisive one-year rule.

Now, Sisi is seeking another term in the March 26-28 elections, running against Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a candidate who had previously expressed support for the incumbent.

Other presidential hopefuls were arrested or withdrew.

“It’s a nominal participation. They couldn’t have just one person running unopposed, so they brought someone just as a show so they can say there is competition,” said Sarah.

Like Sami and everyone else interviewed in this story, she asked to be identified by a pseudonym.

“I won’t put the effort and vote in an election that is already predetermined,” she said.

– 2011 hopes dashed –

The situation is a far cry from Sarah’s high hopes in 2011, when she joined protests “excited to have free and fair elections, and to vote in competitive elections where my voice would make a difference.”

Over 18 days, mostly young Egyptians overcame thousands of security forces, capturing Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.

There, they camped day and night until Mubarak, who had been in power for nearly 30 years, left office. The military then took charge of the country.

Soon after, major Mubarak-era officials were arrested and courts began examining cases of police brutality.

“It was an incredible moment of hope; the sky was the limit,” said Sami.

After the military’s year in power, Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood group, became Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president in 2012.

A year later, Egyptians concerned at the rise of political Islam within the government supported Morsi’s ouster, with many hoping further democratic elections would follow.

“But what happened next, with the nomination of another person from the military, it was very clear that we went back to the same loop,” said Sami.

When he joined the 2011 protests, he was hoping for “freedom and liberty”.

But during the years of turmoil that followed, many gave up these demands in favour of economic stability and security. People “were upset, but opted for calmness,” he said.

“Now, the outcome is zero. Economically, everyone is pressured, no matter your income level, all your savings and income were slashed in half.”

With its foreign exchange reserves down since the uprising, Egypt floated the pound in 2016, causing the currency to lose more than half its value against the dollar.

– ‘Worse than before’ –

Meanwhile, “socially you’re frustrated: you feel you’re unable to move or speak easily, so much paranoia, too much security hysteria, to the point the country is back to being run by a single entity,” said Sami.

Critics say things have deteriorated since Mubarak’s time.

“There is no doubt that things are now much worse than before, because now they know that they cannot take us lightly,” said Safeya.

“That’s why they are arresting, threatening, imprisoning, sentencing to death, because they are afraid we will rise up again.”

Domestic and international rights groups accuse the authorities of human rights violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.

Egypt denies the accusations and says abuses are rare cases and their perpetrators are tried.

For Sami, the forthcoming election has little meaning.

“I won’t even bother to think about it,” he said. “I just want the day to pass calmly.”

Looking back at the 2011 uprising, Sarah said that “if I think rationally, I would say ‘I wish it had not happened’.”

“But I won’t be able to say I wish it had not happened, because it was best thing that happened in Egypt during my time,” she added.

She said she is now focusing on her work and trying to find a way to get out of Egypt.

“Of course I want to leave. I am looking everywhere else for work, even in countries I never previously thought I would even consider,” she said. “I have completely lost hope here.”

Egypt army says 16 jihadists killed in Sinai operation

March 11, 2018

AFP

© EGYPTIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/AFP | An image grab from a video released by the Egyptian Defence Ministry on February 9, 2018 shows Army spokesman Colonel Tamer al-Rifai announcing the launch of a major operation against the Islamic State (IS) group

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt’s military said Sunday 16 jihadists, an officer and a soldier were killed in the past four days during a major military operation against Islamic State group jihadists in Sinai.The army launched a sweeping campaign after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is standing in elections for his second term this month, gave them a three-month deadline to crush IS in Sinai.

He issued his ultimatum in November after suspected IS gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers in a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics.

Since the military, then led by Sisi, ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, security forces have sought to quell attacks by the Egypt branch of IS.

The jihadists have killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, mainly in North Sinai but also elsewhere in Egypt.

They have also killed scores of Christians in church bombings and shootings, as well as bombing a Russian airliner carrying tourists from an Egyptian resort in 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

The military says it has evidence IS has sought to move members to Sinai following its defeats in Iraq and Syria.