Hosni Mubarak
August 21, 2013

Release Mubarak, Egyptian Court Orders

An Egyptian court has ordered that former President Hosni Mubarak be released from custody while he awaits a retrial on charges related to the killing of protesters during the 2011 protests that led to the toppling of his government, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Cairo.

Peter adds that even though that case and others related to corruption charges are still active, Mubarak's release would "likely spark anxiety that the military-backed government now in charge is returning Egypt to the authoritarian state it was in before the Arab Spring."

Prosecutors, Peter also reports, have said they won't appeal the court's order. According to Reuters, the judge said prosecutors couldn't challenge the ruling even if they wished: "The decision to release Mubarak issued today ... is final and the prosecution cannot appeal against it," Judge Ahmed el-Bahrawi said.

The BBC adds that reports from Cairo suggest Mubarak may be released as soon as Thursday.

Mubarak, 85, was convicted last year and sentenced to life in prison for not stopping the killing of protesters in 2011. But the court has now said he should not be kept in custody while appealing that verdict.


July 30, 2013

Israel, Palestinians Eye Peace Deal In 9 Months

Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to meet again within two weeks to continue substantive negotiations on a so-far elusive peace deal. He said the sides had set a goal for a nine-month deadline for reaching a pact.

Speaking as the two sides wrapped up an initial round of talks on Tuesday, Kerry said they were committed to "sustained, continuous and substantive negotiations on the core issues'' that divided them. He said the next round of negotiations would take place in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.

Kerry was flanked by the parties' lead negotiators who each spoke briefly about the need to resolve the long-standing conflict.


Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi carry an injured man to a field hospital following clashes with security forces at Nasr City.
(Khalil Hamra/AP)
July 27, 2013

Dozens Killed As Egypt Demonstrations Turn Deadly

At least 37 people have been killed in bloody clashes overnight in and around Cairo after protests escalated into violence, with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi saying police shot at demonstrators.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson confirmed the number of dead at one field hospital alone, and said that the toll is likely much higher. Doctors at the field hospital are telling reporters that many of the injuries were caused by live ammunition.

Thousands of pro-military protesters had occupied Tahrir Square, answering a call from Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to bolster his mandate after the army chief removed Morsi from office earlier this month.

The Muslim Brotherhood responded with counter-demonstrations, reports The Telegraph, prompting clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters.

Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said security forces began shooting shortly before pre-dawn morning prayers, AP reported.

"They are not shooting to wound, they are shooting to kill," Haddad said.

Al Jazeera is reporting that hundreds of wounded demonstrators have reported to makeshift hospitals in the area.


An Egyptian man cries outside a morgue after carrying the corpse of his brother killed near the Republican Guard building in Cairo
(Manu Brabo/AP)
July 08, 2013

Interim Egyptian Leader Outlines Election Timetable

Egypt's interim leader has outlined his timetable for new elections, amid continuing unrest in the country.

Adly Mansour's decree envisages changes to the Islamist-drafted constitution and a referendum, which would pave way the way for elections early next year.

This comes as at least 51 people were killed in the capital Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood says its members were fired on at a sit-in for ousted President Mohammad Morsi. The army says it responded to an armed provocation.

Mr Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt's first freely elected leader, was removed from office by the army last week after mass protests.

His supporters accuse the military of staging a coup, but his opponents say the move is the continuation of the revolution that deposed President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

February poll

Mr Mansour issued the decree late on Monday.

It says that a panel to amend the constitution - which was suspended last week - would be formed within 15 days.

The changes would then be put to a referendum - to be organised within four months.

This would lead to parliamentary elections - which could be held in February.

Finally, presidential elections would be called once the new parliament convenes.

The Muslim Brotherhood has so far made no public comment on the proposed timetable.

Mr Mansour's move comes amid continuing mass protests by both supporters and opponents of Mohammad Morsi.

Against this background the idea of new elections looks bizarre, but the hope is that the opposing side could come up to some sort of compromise, the BBC's Jim Muir in Cairo reports.

Meanwhile, the United States has condemned the violence in Egypt, calling for "maximum restraint".

A White House statement said Washington was "not aligned" with any political movement, adding that cutting military aid to Egypt was not in US interests.

'Assassin and butcher'

There were conflicting reports over what happened outside the Presidential Guard barracks in Cairo on Monday morning.

The Muslim Brotherhood put the number of dead at 53, and said children were among the victims.

It said the army raided its sit-in at about 04:00 (02:00 GMT) as protesters were praying.

Later, in an emotional news briefing, members of the Muslim Brotherhood accused military chief Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of being "an assassin and a butcher".

The health ministry said at least 51 people were killed and 435 people wounded.

Speaking to journalists, army spokesman Col Ahmed Mohammed Ali said a group armed with live ammunition, petrol bombs and stones had attacked security forces.

He said that two police and one soldier were killed in the exchange of fire. Eight soldiers were critically wounded.

The spokesman added that one soldier had been shot through the top of the head from above, indicating that snipers were firing from high buildings.

Col Ali also disputed claims that children had died, saying pictures of dead children posted on the internet were in fact images taken in Syria in March.

Mr Morsi is believed by the Muslim Brotherhood to be held at the barracks, but the military says he is elsewhere.


Edward Snowden
(The Guardian)
July 06, 2013

Bolivia, Venezuela And Nicaragua Offer Snowden Asylum

The presidents of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have indicated their countries could offer political asylum to US fugitive Edward Snowden.

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro said it would give asylum to the intelligence leaker, who is believed to be holed up in a transit area of Moscow airport.

Meanwhile Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country would do so "if circumstances permit".

Bolivia's Evo Morales said Mr Snowden could get asylum there if he sought it.

Mr Snowden has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request. Earlier, Wikileaks said he had applied to six additional countries on Friday.

The whistleblowing website said it would not name the countries "due to attempted US interference".

But even if a country accepted the American's application, getting there could prove difficult, the BBC's Steven Rosenberg, in Moscow, reports.

European airspace could be closed to any aircraft suspected of carrying the fugitive, our correspondent says.

Earlier this week, several European countries reportedly refused to allow the Bolivian president's jet to cross their airspace on its way back from Moscow - apparently because of suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board.

Mr Morales described Mr Snowden's actions as "a fair way of protesting" and described him as "persecuted by his fellow countrymen".

"We are not scared [of reprisals]," he added.

Speculation

President Maduro made his announcement in a speech on Venezuela's Independence Day.

"As head of state and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young US citizen Edward Snowden so he can come to the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez to live away from the imperial North American persecution," President Maduro said.

The US wants to prosecute Mr Snowden over the leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents.

Earlier Mr Ortega said Nicaragua had received an application at its embassy in Moscow.

"We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua," AFP news agency quoted the Nicaraguan president as saying.

Daniel Ortega was a fierce opponent of the US during his first period as Nicaragua's president in the 1980s, after the left-wing Sandinista movement came to power.

Bolivia, which had also suggested it could offer Mr Snowden asylum, saw its presidential plane barred from European airspace on Tuesday.

There was speculation the 30-year-old was on the plane carrying President Evo Morales back from Russia to La Paz earlier this week.

"Edward Snowden has applied to another six countries for asylum," tweeted Wikileaks, which has been helping the former CIA contractor.

"They will not be named at this time due to attempted US interference."

The US has been blamed for being behind the decision by France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to close its airspace to Bolivia's president, whose plane was grounded in Austria for 13 hours as a result.

Earlier on Friday, Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo admitted he and other European officials had been told that Mr Snowden was on board - but refused to say who gave out the information.

He denied Spain had closed its airspace to the presidential plane, explaining that the delay in Austria meant the flight permit had expired and needed to be renewed.

His comment is the first official recognition by the European states that the incident with Mr Morales' plane was connected with the Snowden affair.

It has been widely condemned by President Morales and several other South American nations, who were critical of the US.

Mr Snowden arrived in the Moscow airport from Hong Kong last month.

He revealed himself to be responsible for the leaking of classified US intelligence documents that revealed a vast surveillance programme of phone and web data.

The documents have also led to allegations that both the UK and French intelligence agencies run similarly vast data collection operations, and the US has been eavesdropping on official EU communications.


egypt protests
(Hassan Ammar/AP)
July 05, 2013

Protests In Egypt Over Morsi Ousting

Supporters of Egypt's ousted president are gathering for protests in the capital to demand his reinstatement.

The army, which removed Mr Morsi and detained him in response to widespread unrest, has said it will allowed peaceful protests.

Adly Mahmud Mansour, the top judge of the constitutional court, is now Egypt's interim leader and has promised that elections will take place soon.

The African Union has announced it will suspend Egypt from all activities.

Admore Kambudzi, secretary of the body's Peace and Security Council, said the move was being taken in line with AU policy "until the restoration of constitutional order".

Clashes

The removal of Mr Morsi by the army followed days of mass protests, largely organised by the Tamarod [Rebel] movement.

The protesters accused Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood - the Islamist group of which he is a member - of pursuing an Islamist agenda against the wishes of the majority, and of failing to tackle economic problems.

Mr Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, is in detention, as are senior figures in the Brotherhood. Arrests warrants have been issued for some 300 others.

The army command has said it will not take "arbitrary measures against any faction or political current" and would guarantee the right to protest, as long as demonstrations did not threaten national security.

"Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed to everyone, which Egyptians have earned as one of the most important gains of their glorious revolution," it said.

But Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said the movement was refusing to co-operate with the new leadership and demanded the immediate release of those detained.

At his news conference on Thursday, he said the Brotherhood would take part in "peaceful, people-led protest".

Mohamed Soudan, foreign relations secretary for the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said the army action and the arrests were moving Egypt "back to the dictatorship regime".

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been camped outside Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, vowing to stage a "Day of Rejection".

"We came from all of Egypt for one goal only, to return the democratically elected president to the palace," said one man.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Cairo says some have been calling for the execution of Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who announced the ousting of Mr Morsi.

Tanks and military personnel have been deployed to potential flashpoints in the capital and the mood is tense, says our correspondent.

On Friday, troops were deployed in Mr Morsi's hometown of Zagazig, in Shariqiya province, after rival protesters clashed. The health ministry said 80 people had been injured.

Some 50 people have died since the latest unrest began on Sunday.

Mohamed ElBaradei - a leading opposition figure who backed the overthrow of Mr Morsi - said the army's intervention had been "painful" but was on behalf of the people and ultimately averted civil war.

"Mr Morsi unfortunately undermined his own legitimacy," he told the BBC.

He said elections would be held within a year at the most as the army had no intention of ruling.

He had urged the military to treat Mr Morsi with "full dignity as a former president", he said, and hoped detained Muslim Brotherhood members would be released.

Mr Mansour was sworn in as interim head of state on Thursday, vowing to safeguard "the spirit of the revolution" which had removed Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.

He has invited the Brotherhood "to participate in building the nation".

The army's roadmap for the post-Morsi era includes:

  • Suspension of the constitution
  • A civilian, transitional technocratic government
  • Supreme constitutional court to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections
  • A "charter of honour" to be drawn up and followed by national media
  • Early on Friday, one soldier was reported killed after Islamist militants attacked military and police checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula with rockets and mortar fire.

Security checkpoints at al-Arish airport, near the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, and a police station in Rafah were targeted, officials said.

Sinai has seen a series of militant attacks on security installations and oil pipelines over the past two years, and it is unclear whether the latest attacks are linked to the political upheaval.


Egypt celebration
(Amr Nabil/AP)
July 03, 2013

Egyptian Army Ousts President Morsi

The head of Egypt's army has given a TV address, announcing that President Mohammed Morsi is no longer in office.

Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the constitution had been suspended and the chief justice of the constitutional court would take on Mr Morsi's powers.

In this Friday, July 13, 2012 file photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. The armed forces ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president Wednesday after just a year in power, installing a temporary civilian government, suspending the constitution and calling for new elections. Flanked by religious and opposition leaders, Gen Sisi said Mr Morsi (pictured to the left) had "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people".

Anti-Morsi protesters in Cairo gave a huge cheer in response to the speech.

The army's move to depose the president follows four days of mass street demonstrations against Mr Morsi, and an ultimatum issued by the military which expired on Wednesday afternoon.

TV stations belonging to Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood went off air at the end of the speech and state news agency Mena said managers at the movement's Misr25 channel had been arrested.

Minutes later, a notice went up on Mr Morsi's Facebook page denouncing the army move as a "military coup".

The statement asked Egyptian citizens - both civilians and military - to "abide by the constitution and the law and not to respond to this coup".

The ousted leader's current whereabouts are unclear. However, earlier reports said security forces had imposed a travel ban on both him and other leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood.

'Roadmap' for the future

General Sisi said on state TV that the armed forces could not stay silent and blind to the call of the Egyptian masses.Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

He spoke of a new roadmap for the future, and said that the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, would be given the task of "running the country's affairs during the transitional period until the election of a new president".

After Gen Sisi's address, both Pope Tawadros II - the head of the Coptic Church - and leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei made short televised speeches about the new roadmap for Egypt's future which they had agreed with the army.

Mr ElBaradei said the roadmap aimed for national reconciliation and represented a fresh start to the January 2011 revolution.

"This roadmap has been drafted by honourable people who seek the interests, first and foremost, of the country," added Pope Tawadros.

Fireworks

The army is currently involved in a show of force, fanning out across Cairo and taking control of the capital, BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports.

He described seeing eight armoured personnel carriers heading for Cairo University in Giza, where one of the main pro-Morsi demonstrations was being held.

The tens of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters on the streets of Cairo are now celebrating, with fireworks lighting up the night sky and car drivers honking their horns in excitement.

But Morsi supporters elsewhere in the city are reported to have shouted: "No to military rule.''


U.S. President Barack Obama and South African President Jacob Zuma
(Evan Vucci/AP)
June 29, 2013

Obama Hails Mandela 'Inspiration' In South Africa Visit

US President Barack Obama has praised Nelson Mandela as "an inspiration to the world" while visiting South Africa.

The US leader, who was speaking in Pretoria after talks with President Jacob Zuma, does not intend to visit the 94-year-old, who has been critically ill for nearly a week.

But he met the Mandela family in private and spoke by telephone to his wife, Graca Machel.

Meanwhile, riot police clashed with anti-Obama protesters in Soweto.

The American leader is speaking to students on the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg,

According to Mr Zuma, Mr Mandela remains "stable but critical", and he added that he had "every hope that he will be out of hospital soon".

However, South Africa's last apartheid president and the man jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela, FW de Klerk, is to cut short a visit to Europe due to Mr Mandela's poor health, his foundation said in a statement.

'Messages of strength'

In Pretoria, Mr Obama said Mr Mandela's example of "the power of principle, of people standing up for what's right continues to shine as a beacon".

"The outpouring of love that we've seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Nelson Mandela and his nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit; the yearning for justice and dignity that transcends boundaries of race and class and faith and country," he said.

He met members of the former leader's family at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. The US First Lady, Michelle Obama, did not accompany him but spoke to Mrs Machel by phone along with her husband.

Mrs Machel, who remains by Mr Mandela's side in the hospital in Pretoria, said after their phone call that she had conveyed their "messages of strength and inspiration" to her husband.

Mr Zuma said that as the first black leaders of their respective countries, Mr Obama and Mr Mandela were "bound by history" and so "carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed".

He said Mr Obama's visit was "well timed" to take advantage of a growing market in South Africa, and called for greater US investment.

When asked whether the US felt threatened by the increasing influence of other countries, particularly China, in Africa, Mr Obama said he believed it was a good thing for the development of the continent, but cautioned South Africa to ensure that foreign companies were employing local workers and investing back into the country.

Hours later, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters outside the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where a group had gathered to protest at the US leader's policies. At least one person was injured and one arrested.

Some protesters were carrying portraits of Mr Obama marked with a Hitler-style moustache.

"People died in Libya, people are still dying in Syria... in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, drones are still killing people. So that's why we are calling him a Hitler. He's a killer,'' Ramasimong Tsokolibane, 54, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Addressing students at the university, Mr Obama said he wanted to spread his "yes we can" message to "young African leaders".

Mr Obama arrived in South Africa from Senegal on Friday evening.

During his weekend trip, the US president will visit Robben Island off Cape Town, where Mr Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. On Monday, he will continue his African tour in Tanzania.

Lung damage

Mr Mandela is revered for leading the fight against white minority rule in South Africa and then preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected president the following year. He left office in 1999 after a single term.

Mr Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and has rarely been seen at official events since.

He has a long history of lung problems, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1980s while he was a prisoner on Robben Island.

After his release, Mr Mandela said that the tuberculosis was probably caused by dampness in his prison cell.


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