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Friday, September 20, 2013

Canadians Detained in Egypt on Hunger Strike

Two Canadians who were detained over a month ago and remain in an Egyptian prison are currently on the fifth day of a hunger strike. John Greyson, a filmmaker, and Tarek Loubani, a physician, were arrested by Egyptian security personnel in Cairo after curfew hours in August. They are being held without charge, but Egyptian lawyers have accused them of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood in an attack on a police station. Over 100,000 people, including high profile actors like Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron, have signed a petition demanding they be released. Authorities extended their detention last week for another 15 days.

Egypt Returns $2 Billion to Qatar

The small gulf nation of Qatar pledged $5 billion to Egypt to help bail out its sinking economy last year – however, negotiations between Egypt and Qatar over converting the Qatari aid into bonds failed and Qatar will be withdrawing $2 billion of their pledged amount. Since President Morsi was deposed this summer, Egypt-Qatar relation have grown strained. Egyptians see Qatar as a backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s party, and have banned the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera News channel and targeted Al Jazeera journalists. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who both support the Egyptian military and the military-backed interim government, have pledged over $8 billion to help jump-start Egypt’s economy.

 Crackdown in Kerdasa Continues

85 people have been arrested in an Egyptian military operation in the town of Kerdasa over the last two days. State media reported that Egyptian security forces have wrested control of the town from Islamists sympathetic to the deposed President Morsi, but the security situation remains untenable. After a police general was killed yesterday by armed assailants, nine police officers and soldiers sustained injuries from a hand-grenade attack. Last month, residents of Kerdasa killed 11 police officers, which led to the ongoing crackdown. After Egyptian security forces killed over 600 pro-Morsi protesters while dispersing sit-ins in Cairo last month, Islamist groups have targeted police stations and government buildings in retaliatory attacks.

ElBaradei Trial

Mohamed ElBaradei’s trial began this week in a court in Cairo. The Nobel-prize winning politician and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency was accused of treason after he stepped down from his position as Vice President for Foreign Affairs in the interim  Egyptian government this summer. ElBaradei is a prominent liberal figure in Egypt’s political scene and the president of the Dustour party, but after resigning over the Egyptian security forces’ violent dispersal of protesters in mid-August, he has come under a firestorm of criticism. ElBaradei fled to Austria not long after his resignation and remains in exile.

Weekend Read: The Cruel Optimist

Mada Masr’s Sarah Carr profiles recently detained Revolutionary Socialist member and labor lawyer Haytham Mohamadeen. The son of a labor leader from a village outside of Cairo, Mohamadeen eventually became a lawyer and was active in the 2011 revolution and the most recent round of protests which brought down Mohamed Morsi’s embattled government. Carr writes that he remains optimistic about the revolution, although he feels that it is currently “going through a crisis” and he’s concerned that some groups have allowed themselves to be fooled by the “smokescreen of the war on terrorism.”

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