Monday, January 28, 2013

Egyptian 'Friday of Rage' Planned by Opposition Forces

Protests planned for 'Friday of Rage' anniversary to press opposition demands

Osman El Sharnoubi, Sunday 27 Jan 2013
Ahram Online

Opposition demands for the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, suspension of the constitution, and dismissal of the Cabinet to be voiced in planned mass rally Monday

More protests are planned in Egypt Monday following the second anniversary of the 2011 revolution Friday that saw at least 10 dead in clashes between protesters and police across the country.

Monday, 28 January, marks the anniversary of the decisive "Friday of Rage" when in 2011 hundreds of thousands of protesters clashed with security forces who later that day withdrew from the streets leaving Tahrir Square to protesters for two weeks before the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.

A number of groups are taking part in a march planned Monday. In a statement issued by the parties and movements, several demands were posed, amongst which are the dismisal the Cabinet and cancellation of the recently ratified constitution.

The statement also called for a national salvation government to be formed and held the incumbent Cabinet and President Mohamed Morsi, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood (the group from which Morsi hails) responsible for the violence that erupted on the second anniversary.

Violence turned to turmoil Saturday after a long-awaited court verdict in the case of last year's Port Said stadium massacre sentenced 21 defendants to death, a verdict that led to riots and clashes with police.

Over 70 fans of Al-Ahly football club were killed in Port Said stadium in February 2012 after being attacked at the end of a match between Al-Ahly and Al-Masry club.

The families and supporters of those sentenced clashed with security forces at Port Said prison, a confrontation that left over 30 dead.

According to media reports, Port Said became a ghost town Saturday night after violent riots broke out on its streets. Clashes continued Sunday at the funeral of those killed Saturday. The overall death toll since Friday has exceeded 40.

The opposition statement voiced its signatories' "complete rejection of the violent events unfolding in the country, [holding] responsible President Mohamed Morsi, his [Muslim Brotherhood] Guidance Bureau, and the failed Hisham Kandil government." It also voiced its full support for "peaceful protests" across Egypt.

The signatory groups — which include the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6 April Youth Movement-Democratic Front, among others — also called for the suspension of the controversial new constitution.

"[We demand] the suspension of the invalid and defective constitution that was formulated by an invalid Constituent Assembly and forced on the Egyptian people through a suspicious referendum," the statement said, calling for an alternative constitution to be written by a publicly elected assembly.

The statement also demanded retribution for all "martyrs" since the outbreak of the revolution in 2011 and demanded the cleansing and restructuring of the Interior Ministry which it accused of killing protesters and revolutionaries.

The statement's final demand was the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, citing its lack of an official license and condemning what opposition groups see as its illegal interference in Egypt's state administration.

The planned march is to be launched from El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque in Old Cairo at 4pm to converge on the building housing the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, the Shura Council, near Tahrir Square.

According to the new constitution, the Shura Council is the primary legislative body until a lower house — formerly the People's Assembly, now the House of Representatives — is elected. The article establishing this was subject to controversy due to low turnout in Shura Council elections, a fact that caused many to view the body as unrepresentative of the majority of Egyptians.

Egypt’s political rift widens as Islamists, opposition forces swap accusations

Ahram Online, Sunday 27 Jan 2013

Political polarisation has reached new levels amid ongoing violence across Egypt in the wake of the 2011 revolution second anniversary

Egypt’s political turmoil has reached a new climax in the past few days with the Islamist sphere — from which the regime hails — and opposition forces swapping bitter accusations on violent nationwide clashes.

The National Association for Change (NAC) said the Muslim Brotherhood, to whom President Mohamed Morsi is aligned, has used the same tactics adopted by the Mubarak regime two years ago, saying the group was mainly responsible for the violence.

“The Brotherhood group and its allies have stolen the revolution over the past years,” an NAC statement reads Sunday. “[People] declared their will to restore the revolution, whereupon the outlines of a satanic plot emerged.

“It became clear upon using flocks of thugs who have always been deployed by authorities of the toppled president (Mubarak) to assault the revolution and the revolutionaries, exactly like what happened on 28 January 2011.”

On the secondanniversary of the 2011 revolution Friday, hundreds of thousands hit the streets chanting slogans against Morsi and the Brotherhood, charging both with failing to fulfill the demands of the revolution after assuming power.

Protests turned violent with hundreds of injuries reported in Cairo, Alexandria, Beheira, Luxor, Kafr El-Sheikh, Gharbia, Sharqia, Ismailia and Suez. In the latter city, nine protesters were killed as public and private properties were attacked.

On Saturday, 30 more were killed in fierce confrontations that broke out in Port Said, where police forces locked horns with families and supporters of 21 defendants sentenced to death in connection to last year's Port Said stadium massacre where over 70 Ahly football club fans died in a violent attack by Masry fans (from Port Said).

Tensions remain high across Egypt as clashes continue in Port Said.

“They (thugs) killed and terrorised citizens … amid the support of the Brotherhood rule’s figures, such as Mohamed El-Beltagy and his colleagues,” added the secular NAC on Sunday.

The Brotherhood, a day earlier, blamed "thugs," "misleading" media, and opposition parties for the violence, before Al-Gamaa Al-Islamyia, an ultra-conservative Islamic group, echoed similar sentiments.

“Those considered to be from the communist, socialist and secularist currents [are to be blamed] for the violence plaguing Egypt,” Al-Gamaa’s press release reads. “(They want to) spread chaos and make people in Egypt and outside believe that there is a popular revolution, and to create turbulence on a wider scale.”

The statement added: “Excluding Port Said, riots and violence only erupted in 40 streets as 30 buildings were torched, but the media that is still loyal to the old regime is trying to make it looks as though all Egypt is burning.

“The (National) Salvation Front (NSF) is still providing a political cover for the violence practiced by militias that appeared under different names such as the Black Bloc, with hope the people would join them or to see a military coup.”

No agreement reached

The NSF — Egypt’s main opposition group — has urged President Morsi to have formed a neutral legal committee to amend the “distorted” constitution passed amid fierce controversy in December.

Protesters the past few days called for the cancellation of the "unrepresentative" constitution drafted by the outgoing Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly and newly ratified by Morsi.

Among four other demands, the NSF also demanded the formation of a national salvation government with the “efficiency and credibility" necessary to "implement the demands of the revolution.”

For its part, the National Defence Council (NDC) said it might consider declaring a state of emergency in areas of violence and called for dialogue with opposition forces amid ongoing unrest in several governorates.

Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the NFS, said the council’s call for a dialogue is considered a way of ignorning the NSF's demands, saying dialogue “would be pointless” without fulfilling these demands.

The Egyptian Popular Current (EPC), created by ex-presidential hopeful and Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi, expressed some reservations about the NDC’s statement.

"The National Defence Council did not address the genuine motives for people to take to the streets, whether economic ones with the removal of subsidies on basic commodities, or political ones with the hegemony of one political faction over the country," read an EPC statement

The EPC asserted that it welcomed any calls for aserious national dialogue on condition that "an agenda known to all concerned parties is set, sessions are held publicly, and guarantees are provided for what will be agreed upon" so that the process does not end in a "dictator dialogue," in reference to previous national dialogue sessions held with the president over the constitution.

Meanwhile, the Strong Egypt Party, founded by Islamist and former presidential candidate Abdel-Moniem Aboul-Fotouh, called on Morsi to form a consensual crisis-managing committee that would include, as initially suggested, opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi as well as Brotherhood leaders Khairat El-Shater and Saad El-Katatni.

The presidency and figures named has yet to respond to the suggestion.

Among the tasks of the committee, the Strong Egypt Party said in a statement, would be forming a temporary governement and an investigative committee to bring to justice those responsible for the nationwide violence.

Egypt MPs call for anti-riot law

Ahram Online , Sunday 27 Jan 2013

Shura Council MPs call for new anti-riot law and for soldiers to have power of arrest in Suez and Port Said after recent violence kills at least 40

Shura Council MPs have called for a new anti-riot law and for soldiers to be granted the power of arrest in Port Said and Suez.

Violent protests in the two canal cities have left at least 40 dead since Friday.

Suez MP Tharwat Abdullah said the proposals were necessary to restore security.

Port Said MP Hussein Zayed said the number of weapons in civilian hands was huge and should be tackled.

Zayed also called on President Mohamed Morsi to declare a curfew in Port Said to halt the violence.

Heated arguments broke out in the Shura Council whilst MPs discussed the recent clashes.

Riots erupted on Saturday in Port Said after 21 of 73 defendants were given the death sentence for killing Ahly supporters in the Port Said Stadium in February 2012.

After the verdict, relatives of the defendants and others attempted to storm the Port Said prison and the resulting clashes left 32 dead, including two policemen, and 300 injured.

On Sunday, thousands of mourners at a mass funeral for Saturday’s victims were hit with tear gas. One hundred and eighty people were injured and three died, reports say.

In Suez, nine people were killed on Friday during protests on the second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution. Protesters stormed the Suez governorate building and four police stations.

The army has been deployed in Suez and Port Said to maintain security and protect vital locations.

Egypt's Popular Current sets conditions for national dialogue
Ahram Online , Sunday 27 Jan 2013
Hamdeen Sabbahi's Popular Current lays down three conditions for its participation in President Morsi's national dialogue

The Egyptian Popular Current has laid down a number of conditions for its participation in proposed national dialogue talks.

The National Defence Council (NDC), which is headed by President Mohamed Morsi and includes key military and police leaders, on Saturday called for a national dialogue.

The current's three conditions are:

1. The violence and bloodshed must end.

2. The authorities must accept responsibility for the bloodshed.

3. The dialogue must give priority to issues of social justice, economic issues, addressing the people's daily problems and resolving the current political deadlock.

The current said it welcomed calls for a national dialogue but only if it has "an agenda that is known to all concerned parties, sessions are held publicly, and guarantees are provided for what is agreed on."

It condemned last December's national dialogue with President Morsi as a "dictator dialogue."

The NDC did not address the economic and political causes for the recent protests, the current added.

In addition, it criticised platitudes by the presidency about press freedom, pointing to the intimidation of media figures by "a group that adopts religion as a political slogan."

The NDC might consider declaring a state of emergency in some areas due to recent violent clashes, Information Minister Salah Abdel-Maksoud said on Saturday.

Egypt stock market slides Sunday morning after violent weekend

Ahram Online, Sunday 27 Jan 2013

Country-wide violent clashes and political turmoil following the Port Said verdict sent the stock market on a downward spiral in early trading Sunday

Egypt stocks tumbled Sunday morning as a wave of political unrest hit the country, with violent clashes erupting between the police and security forces in Cairo, Suez, Port Said, Mahala and Alexandria.

The main EGX30 index declined by 1.1 per cent to sit at 4,624 points an hour into the session. The broader EGX70 also dropped, by 1.86 per cent.

This brings down the gains the market saw since the begning of 2013 to some 2.9 per cent.

Turnover marks a weak LE90 million so far, with 97 shares losing value and only 9 gaining.

Hundreds of protesters block railway in Mahala Sunday

Ahram Online, Monday 28 Jan 2013

Protesters in the Delta city block railroad with burning tyres in as continues across the country

Hundreds of protesters blocked the railways in the industrial city of Mahala in the Gharbiya governorate Sunday evening in an anti-Muslim Brotherhood protest

Protesters set car tyres on fire to block train passage on the city's main railroad, as they chanted "Leave, Morsi" and "retribution to the martyrs".

Mahalla protesters had set the governor’s office on fire by throwing Molotov cocktails at the building on Friday as violence erupted in several cities around the country in the aftermath of the second anniversary.

Tens of protesters have been killed and at least 600 were injured in the past 72 hours across the country.

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