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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

20 Egyptians on Trial in UAE

20 Egyptians who were accused of running a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned group) in the United Arab Emirates will stand trial today, along with ten Emiratis. Some of the accused have said that they were tortured and have been denied access to legal services since they were detained several months ago. Human Rights Watch released a statement yesterday expressing concern about the trial, and comparing it to a similar case in which 69 people were convicted last July of plotting to overthrow the UAE’s government. HRW asserted that this past example “calls into question the ability of the country’s judicial system to uphold basic rights of free speech and peaceful association.”

 Crackdown on University Protests

Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Deputy Prime Minister released a statement giving university heads the power to request Egyptian police and army forces enter their campuses to put down protests. The decision comes after weeks of protests at various universities across the country, and clashes between supporters of the deposed president and supporters of the current military-backed government. Cairo University recently took disciplinary action against students involved in protests, suspending four students for a year and barring others from taking their final exams.

New Constitution Surges Ahead

According to Egypt’s Deputy Prime Minister, citizens will be expected to vote on Egypt’s new constitution as early as next month. Ziad Bahaa Edin stated during an interview on Monday that he expects that the referendum will be put to the Egyptian people in late December or possibly early January. This comes not long after a 50-person committee made up mostly of secular Egyptians approved 50 articles in a new draft, which will be passed on to the sitting interim president to sign. The draft includes controversial articles, such as those defining the application of state religion and expanding the power of Egypt’s already-powerful military.

Details Emerge of Morsi’s Trial

Yesterday’s highly anticipated trial of former president Mohamed Morsi was quickly postponed until January 8, but not before low-level chaos broke out in the courtroom. Morsi was reportedly flown by helicopter from an undisclosed location to the police academy in East Cairo where the trial was to take place yesterday morning, and he was joined by 14 other defendants who are all members of or affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. They are being tried for inciting violence and murder during protests which took place last January. A group of supporters loudly chanted Morsi’s name outside of the trial, and inside, the court proceedings were interrupted twice by defendants chanting “down with military rule.”  The former president also refused to take off his suit and put on the white prison suit which Egyptian courts require all defendants to wear. Morsi also declared to the court that the trial was illegitimate and that he was the president of  Egypt. After the trial was postponed, Morsi was moved to a prison in Alexandria.

Cooking Gas Shortage Blamed on Weather

Local media is reporting that Egypt may be facing a new fuel crisis, and in response, the interim government has linked the scarcity of fuel to recent bad weather. Weather has apparently affected shipments of butane gas to the country; half of all the cooking gas Egyptians use is imported. The Ministry of Internal Trade and Supply also said that the fuel black market was to blame. Egypt experienced fuel crises during former president Hosni Mubarak’s reign, but fuel crises have become more common after the January 2011 Egyptian revolution.

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