An Egyptian blogger jailed by the military junta for insulting the army has been officially pardoned, as the country’s ruling generals attempt to bolster public support before protests planned for the coming week.
Maikel Nabil Sanad, a 26-year-old Coptic Christian who became a cause célèbre for activists opposed to the post-Mubarak military government, was among almost 2,000 prisoners convicted by military tribunal over the past year who are now set to be released following an announcement by Egypt's de facto leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
Sanad was incarcerated in March over a blogpost titled “The army and the people were never one hand”, inverting a popular Egyptian chant in support of the military.
He refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the army court that convicted him and mounted a high-profile hunger strike behind bars that saw him come close to death several times. He resisted efforts by the authorities to certify him insane and have him transferred to a secure psychiatric unit, and was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Critics claim that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), which took power after the toppling of Mubarak in February last year, has proved itself to be even more repressive than the regime it ostensibly replaced. A series of violent crackdowns by the state’s security forces against dissent and public protest has left dozens dead and thousands injured, and up to 12,000 civilians are believed to have been processed through military tribunals in the past 12 months – more than were processed during the entirety of Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship.
According to an English-language summary of the general’s comments published by The Egypt Independent, a Cairo daily, the adviser also defended the use of live ammunition against protesters, which he claimed was permitted by the terms of the Geneva Conventions. But, as another retired general told The Independent, the conventions that govern the rules of war between states or militias contain no such provision permitting attacks on civilian protesters.
It’s official. General Kato is insane.
The call to accelerate the transition to civilian rule in Egypt has taken on a new urgency this week. A wide range of political forces are calling for the SCAF to cede power to an elected leadership by February 2012. There are many different ideas about how to do this, perhaps through the new Parliament selecting an interim Prime Minister or perhaps by holding Presidential elections at the end of January. All of the ideas have their problems. But those problems pale against the threat to the Egyptian democratic transition posed by the continuing misrule of and escalating resort to violence by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. I believe that the calls for a new President by February should be taken very seriously indeed.
This weekend’s anomic violence on Qasr el-Aini Street does not likely augur the rekindling of popular revolution, as the protests were almost completely contained to a few blocks and seem to have attracted little popular sympathy. But the wildly disproportionate, undisciplined, and frankly brutal response by the army does show graphically why the SCAF is rapidly losing its legitimacy to rule among the political elite. It really doesn’t matter whether it ordered the violent crackdown against the Cabinet sit-in or undisciplined troops began the violence on their own, since both point to something deeply problematic. Such crises will continue to recur and intensify as long as the underlying problem of military rule remains unresolved.
The greatest political accomplishment during the last bout of violence in November was that the SCAF agreed to to hold Presidential elections and the transfer of power by June. But as one of Cairo’s savviest political analysts told me yesterday, “we can’t take six more months of this.”
It’s heartening to finally see some uplifting, positive news in these depressing times. The march of around 10,000 women that [took] place [Tuesday was] precisely the type of unexpected turnaround that has made the Egyptian uprising a success at various points this year. It comes out of nowhere and recharges the depleted batteries of activists. It reminds the protestors that their rage will not be sated by throwing stones but only by seeing the solidarity of their fellow men and women. It is the type of event, once it percolates throught the late night TV talk shows and the newspapers, can actually deliver change and political pressure. For those who thought the protests went astray in the last few days by becoming more about revenge than demands, it is a welcome correction.
The SCAF of course rushed to produce an apology after its agents in the media began spreading rumors that the photo of the woman who was attacked by soldiers several days ago was doctored. Just like earlier today it suddenly announced it would punish officers involved in the “virginity tests” and the Maspero killings. But I doubt people will settle for show trials.
The news site Arabist reported that, on Egyptian state television during the latest violence in Tahrir Square, one official, obviously referring to the Occupy movement, said: “In the West they suppress protests, so why can’t we do it here?” The lethal attacks on Egyptian protesters are not comparable in magnitude to the abuse of Occupy protesters, though they do stem from the same mentality; but what is true is that it is impossible for the U.S. to demand that other governments respect the right of peaceful protest if that right is not respected on U.S. soil. Of course, that will only matter if the U.S. ever does decide to genuinely defend that right rather than using it as an opportunistic club to beat those regimes its dislikes while overlooking (and even fueling) the same abuses from its client states.
Glenn Greenwald | U.S. arming Egyptian military crackdown
Egypt’s new Interior Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, on Thursday pledged not to use violence or tear gas to disperse sit-ins and demonstrations.
“The Interior Ministry will not throw another canister on a protestor to disperse protests and demonstrations,” said Ibrahim, confirming that the police’s main role is to provide security for citizens.
The interior minister called upon business owners to heed worker demands in order to avoid strikes.
Ibrahim confirmed that he would work to restore security by increasing the presence of security personnel.
Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri on Thursday held a meeting with Ibrahim and a number of his aides. They discussed measures for securing protests, official sources said.
Ganzouri said in the meeting that he would not permit violence against demonstrators, the sources added.
In a meeting with his aides, Ibrahim affirmed the importance of discussions with protesters in Tahrir Square to find solutions to their problems.
Protesters have continued their sit-in outside the cabinet building for the 14th consecutive day. They seek to prevent Ganzouri’s government from performing its official duties, because it does not represent them, they say. Others have continued to protest in Tahrir Square for 20th consecutive days for the same reason.
The arrival of 7 and half tons of tear gas to Egypt’s Suez port created conflict after the responsible officials at the port refused to sign and accept it for fear it would be used to crackdown on Egyptian protesters.
Local news sites published documents regarding the shipment shows that the cargo that arrived in 479 barrels from the United States was scheduled to be delivered to the ministry of interior.The reports also mentioned in the documents that a second shipment of 14 tons of tear gas was expected, making the total 21 tons, in one week.
The importing of tear gas comes after thousands of tear gas canisters were fired at Egyptian protesters last week as clashes raged in downtown Cairo, just off from the iconic Tahrir Square, where thousands of protesters had gathered.
A swelling crowd of tens of thousands filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday, answering the call for a million people to turn out and intensify pressure on Egypt’s military leaders to hand over power to a civilian government. The ruling military council held crisis talks with political parties across the spectrum to try to defuse growing cries for a “second revolution.”
The military head of state, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was expected to address the nation as protests in Cairo and other major cities carried on for a fourth day. Security forces stayed out of Tahrir itself to lower the temperature. But there were clashes on side streets leading to the square _ the epicenter of the uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February.
A military source present at crisis talks between the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and political figures told the AFP news agency that the SCAF is considering forming a new government either with liberal opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei or ex-Muslim Brotherhood member Abdelmoneim Aboulfotouh as prime minister.
Al Jazeera reported earlier that ElBaradei had been approached by the SCAF but was hesitating as he awaited assurance that he would have power to appoint his own ministers. […]
via the Egypt Live blog at Al Jazeera English