Egypt’s Sisi pardons 203 young protesters: state news agency

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) meets with his prime Minister Sherif Ismail (4th L) with other ministers and senior State officials at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt March 13, 2017 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency.

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a pardon for 203 youths jailed for taking part in demonstrations, state news agency MENA said on Monday, as part of a pledge he made months ago to amend a protest law.

No official list of names was immediately available.

Sisi promised in October to amend a law on assembly and protests, which rights groups say is severely restrictive and critics condemn as unconstitutional. He also hinted at possible pardons for youths who had demonstrated against his rule.

Sisi does not have the authority to interfere in Egypt’s judicial processes but can issue pardons.

In November, he pardoned 82 prisoners, mostly university students.

Since seizing power in mid-2013 from the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi has presided over a crackdown on his Islamist opponents that has seen hundreds killed and many thousands jailed.

But the dragnet has since widened to include secular and liberal activists at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power.

A law requiring permission from the Interior Ministry for any public gathering of more than 10 people is strictly enforced and has largely succeeded in ending the kind of mass demonstrations that helped unseat two presidents in three years.

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court upheld the law in December but said that an article granting the Interior Ministry authority to deny protest requests was unconstitutional.

The law imposes jail sentences on those who violate a broad list of protest restrictions, and allows security forces to disperse illegal demonstrations with water cannon, tear gas, and birdshot. The court’s ruling kept all of these elements of the law intact and there is no further appeal.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Louise Ireland)

71 Egyptians Get Life Sentence For Burning Christian Church

Seventy-one Egyptians will be spending the rest of their lives in prison in connection with the torching of a Christian church in the Giza province town of Kafr Hakim.

The Virgin Mary Church had been looted by a Muslim mob and then burned to the ground while the crowd chanted for Egypt to become an Islamic state.  The church was one of 42 churches and Christian businesses that were targeted in August 2013 by the Islamists.

Two minors were given sentences of 10 years in prison and $1,300 in fines.

Most of the defendants were convicted in absentia.  Of the 73 convicted, 21 were already in prison on other charges and will now be sent to a prison for their life sentences.

The mob was believed at the time to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood that backed the deposed President Mohammed Morsi.  Morsi was imprisoned for 20 years in connection with this leadership on acts of violence by the Brotherhood during his time in office.

Defense lawyers claim no evidence presented proved those convicted were seen in the area of the church.  They attacked the judge claiming he was overseeing an unfair trial.  The same judge had previously sentenced 183 Muslim Brotherhood members to death for their part in the killing of 13 police officers on the same day as the church attack.

State Department Hosts Muslim Brotherhood

The State Department welcomed Muslim Brotherhood aligned leaders to discuss their ongoing effort to undermine the government of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The group has been seen taking provocative photos during their trip where they are flashing the Islamist group’s four finger hand signal and the posting those photos to social media sites.

The State Department is maintaining a dialogue with the group because of their continued involvement in the Egyptian political spectrum.

“The State Department continues to speak with Muslim Brothers on the assumption that Egyptian politics are unpredictable, and the Brotherhood still has some support in Egypt,” Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the Washington Free Beacon. “But when pro-Brotherhood delegations then post photos of themselves making pro-Brotherhood gestures in front of the State Department logo, it creates an embarrassment for the State Department.”

Terrorism expert Patrick Poole said the meeting is an insult to our Egyptian allies.

“What this shows is that the widespread rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, particularly the largest protests in recorded human history in Egypt on June 30, 2013, that led to Morsi’s ouster, is not recognized by the State Department and the Obama administration,” Poole said.

“This is a direct insult to our Egyptian allies, who are in an existential struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood, all in the pursuit of the mythical ‘moderate Islamists’ who the D.C. foreign policy elite still believe will bring democracy to the Middle East.”

White House Refuses To Name Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Group

The White House is refusing to name the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

The group, which has been labeled terrorists by many governments throughout the Middle East, has been supported in the past by the Obama administration when they were controlling Egypt.

A petition on the White House website called for the administration to join other nations in designating the group terrorists.  Over 213,000 signatures were obtained in a month.  When a petition reaches 100,000, the administration claims they will respond within 30 days.

“[The] Muslim Brotherhood has a long history of violent killings & terrorizing opponents. Also, MB has direct ties with most terrorist groups like Hamas,” the petition reads. “A book by one of their prominent figures, Sayyid Qutb, called Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq, is the bible for many terrorist groups.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood has shown in the past few days that it is willing to engage in violence and killing of innocent civilians in order to invoke fear in the hearts of its opponents. This is terrorism. We ask the US government to declare MB as a terrorist group for a safer future for all of us.”

The White House dismissed the petition in a short reply.

“We have not seen credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood has renounced its decades-long commitment to non-violence,”  the White House stated.

Egyptian Court Sentences 529 Muslim Brotherhood Supporters To Death

An Egyptian court has shocked many in Egypt by passing down a death sentence to over 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Legal experts say the death sentences are likely to be overturned on appeal, but the initial ruling by the Egyptian court shows the government is serious in their crackdown on the Islamic extremist organization.

Part of the reason for the belief the sentences will be overturned is that all death sentences have to be approved by the government’s official interpreter of Islamic law.   If they are upheld, they can be appealed to the Court of Cassation, which would likely ask for a new trial.

Defense lawyers pointed out that the judge issued many of the death sentences without the defendants even in the courtroom.

A second group of 700 defendants are due in the courtroom on Tuesday, including Mohammed Badie, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood Activists Hosting Fundraiser For House Candidate

Activists with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood is holding a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives.

Akram Elzend and Sameh Elhennawy are holding a fundraiser for Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia later this month.  The invitations to the event promise “a direct conversation” with the Representative along with a chance for them to express their appreciation.

The fundraiser is catching the eye of watchdog groups because an organization cofounded by Elzend held a pro-Mohammed Morsi rally in New York that featured anti-Semitic displays.  Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights held a rally in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy where they said the Saudis were “dirtier than Jews” and that they were trying to “sell Egypt to the Jews.”

The leader of the group is called a “senior Muslim Brotherhood leader” in Arabic press accounts.

The two men heading the fundraiser are also listed as U.S. based cells of the group and identified on a list of Morsi supporters who issued an Arabic statement calling for Morsi to “cleanse the media and the police.”

Saudi Arabia Declares Muslim Brotherhood Terrorists

The Muslim Brotherhood is now a terrorist organization in another major Middle Eastern country.

The group, already a terrorist organization in Egypt, is now officially a terrorist organization in Saudi Arabia.

The move is seen as a response by the Kingdom to the possibility that Muslim Brotherhood extremists from Syria will attempt to return to Saudi Arabia after the civil war ends.

In addition to the Brotherhood, Saudi officials also listed the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as terror groups.  The two groups are affiliated with al-Qaeda and have been proven to conduct terrorist attacks in Syria and Iraq.

The new Saudi declaration would make adopting their ideaology or promoting them in any way within the Kingdom would result in significant prison terms.

Amnesty International opposed the designation, saying that Saudi Arabia was trying to silence dissent, not stop terrorist groups from conducting actions in their nation.

Muslim Brotherhood Leader Meets President At White House

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist group by many Middle Eastern nations including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, had a senior member of their organization hosted by President Obama at a White House meeting.

Anas Altikriti is a British lobbyist for the Muslim Brotherhood and his father heads Iraq’s Muslim Brotherhood party.  He joined the President and Vice President Joe Biden in a meeting with Iraqi officials to discuss ongoing security problems in the country.

Altikriti can be seen in official White House photos standing next to Iraqi Parliament Speaker Usama al-Nujaifi as he shook hands with President Obama.

A White House spokesman confirmed Altikriti’s presence at the meeting, claiming the Muslim Brotherhood leader was a translator for the Iraqi Speaker.

Altikriti has publicly backed the terrorist group Hamas and supported a 2007 boycott by Britain’s Muslim Council of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Morsi Defiant As Trial Opens

Deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi appeared at a trial yesterday defiant and angry at the court.

The court had installed a soundproof cage for Morsi to stay inside during the hearing in response to the first time Morsi appeared in court and disrupted the proceedings by continually yelling at the judge and prosecutors.

The new soundproof cage was so successful at keeping order in the court that Egyptian state television declared it “the hero of today’s trial.”

Morsi was also ordered to wear regular prison apparel instead of the dark suit that he wore in the first trial.

Morsi reportedly sat angrily in his cube until his microphone was turned on and then he did nothing but question the judge.

“I am the president of this republic,” Morsi said, “and I’ve been here since 7 in the morning sitting in this dump.”

Other members of the Brotherhood on trial at the same time were placed in a separate glass cage.  Every time their microphones were turned on, all  they did was chant anti-military messages.

Egypt Declares Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Group

After months of suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind terrorist attacks and bombings, the Egyptian government made it official on Wednesday.

The announcement of the declaration that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization means that any Egyptian who is associated in any way with the group can be immediately arrested and jailed.  All activities related to the group, including providing funding to any part of the organization, is criminal.

Hossam Eissa, Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education, said the action by the Cabinet comes after Tuesday’s deadly terror attack on a police headquarters in a Nile Delta city that killed 16 and wounded 100.  The Muslim Brotherhood denied participation in the attack and referred to an al-Qaeda inspired group that tried to claim responsibility.

“Egypt was horrified from north to south by the hideous crime committed by the Muslim Brotherhood group,” Eissa told reporters. “This was in context of dangerous escalation to violence against Egypt and Egyptians, a clear declaration by the Muslim Brotherhood group that it still knows nothing but violence.  It’s not possible for Egypt the state nor Egypt the people to submit to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorism.”

The head of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the decision is only worth the paper that it is printed on and will have no impact on their organization.

The declaration allows police and military troops to increase activity against Brotherhood groups including entering buildings housing Brotherhood members without a warrant.