Wednesday, July 30, 2008

14 activists from 6 April Youth released

The 14 members of 6 April Youth that were arrested at Sidi Bishr beach, Alexandria on Revolution day the 23rd of July, then given a 15 day-term pending investigation, before being ordered released twice are currently being released.

After a rather gloomy message from the Arabic network for Human Rights Information this morning, there are finally what seems to be news about their release, that is happening right now. The two from Alexandria are already released, and the rest are still being taken to their respective governates by the authorities.

More official confirmation later, as it becomes available .

Mabrouk ya Shabab!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Alexandria Appeals Court orders release of 6 April Youth

An Appeals Court in Alexandria has ordered the release of 14 activists from Shabab 6 April ,that was arrested on the 23rd of July.

It´s still too early to celebrate though, in the past, many a times, release orders have been issued, and then ignored, opting instead to apply the emergency law, like with Muhammed Marei, or walking the extra mile... to hikestep(military court), as in the case with Khairat al Shater and Hassan Malek.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued an urgent action yesterday on the arrested, but focusing mainly on Muhammed Taher and Ahmed Afifi, whose whereabout are not known at the moment. AI believes that there could be a risk of them facing torture, or ill-treatment.

UPDATE: The prosececution appealed the order on the release, and then the appeals court refuted the prosecution´s request, and issued a second decision on the release of the 14 activists.

The inns and outs of the Egyptian legal procedure is really great material for a monthy python film, if only the reality didn´t make a better script than any fiction, and as long as you´re not caught in the middle of it...

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When words are not enough

Also al Jazeera english inside story show dealt with the al Salam Boccaicio 98 aqquital yesterday, in a discussion between Ghada Shabandar, and Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, International lawyer Reda Thabit and Professor Robert Springborg(whom might turn up again in a coming blogpost of mine), SOAS, London.

Part I here , and Part II here.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Youssef Chahine 1926-2008

The legendary filmmaker and doyen of Arab cinema, Youssef Chahine died today, after having lapsed into a coma on June 14th, after suffering a brain haemorrage. He was taken to the American hospital in Neuilly outside of Paris. He was flown back to Egypt on July 16th , and warded at the Maádi military hospital in Cairo when he passed away this morning.

Chahine´s career in filmaking began in 1950 with Baba Amin , after returning from studying film in Pasadena California. He´s first international success came in 1951 with Ibn al Nil(Son of the Nile), which contested at the Cannes film festival, it was the beginning of a mutual love story between Chahine and the Cannes Festival, crowned when he recieved the Cannes Lifetime achievement award in 1997. He´s first international award came with Bab al Hadid(The Train Station) in 1958 at the Berlin film festival were he was awarded the golden bear. He´s last film came had it´s Egyptian premiere last year - Heya Fawda(Chaos). He was the Ingemar Bergman of Arab film.

Chahine´s filmatization of Abd al Rahman´s classic novel al Ard(The Earth)1969 and his very own Alexandria Quartet, a autobiographical chronicle about his beloved home city and equally his love story with American Film of the 1940´s, beginning with Iskanderiya leh? 1978(Alexandria Why?), Haduta Masriyya 1982(An Egyptian Story) Iskaneriya Kaman wa kaman 1989(Alexandria , Again and Forever) and ending with Iskanderiya-New York(Alexandria-New York) is also among his most important work.

He also played an instrumental part in the career´s of Egyptian movie icons, and love birds Omar Sharif and Faten Hamema.

He was an inspiration to me, and one of my proudest moments as a blogger was when my article on Chahine was posted on his official website.

My condolencces to his family. May God rest his soul.

More on this later

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lebanon in the Aftermath of the Doha Agreement

An old blog favourite of mine, has penned an article for MERIP about Lebanon. The piece is called Lebanon’s Post-Doha Political Theater I havent read it yet, but the combination of the topic and the author makes me sure i can recomend it. The author is Stacey Philbrick Yadav, and she used to keep a blog called al Hiwar(if you look at it now it´s been kidnapped by some poker lover), while writing her dissertation and running back and forth Cairo-Beirut-Sanaá. Now she´s an Assistant Professor!

1000 Mabrouk on finishing the dissertation Stacey!

Stacey if you see this and if you happen to blog somewhere else, please let me know.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

15 activists arrested at Sidi Bishr in Alexandria, Ahmed Maher among them

BREAKING STORY -14 activists from Ghad Youth and the April 6th Youth has been arrested at the Sidi Bishr beach in Alexandria. They were singing songs about Egypt and raised the Egyptian flag on the beach as well as wearing T-shirts with 6th of April youth on.

One of the April 6th Youth, Muhammed Abd al Aziz described the scene prior to the arrest like this:

"We were heading for Sidi Beshr beach but a policeman prevented us getting there because we had a large kite painted with the Egyptian flag and we were wearing T-shirts with 'April 6 Movement' on,"

Here is a clip taken by the group, showing them on the beach, dismantling the kite/Egyptian flag. Minutes later they were beaten and some of them arrested.

The beach of Sidi Bishr being one of the most frequented by alexandrians and summer tourists alike, If intended this seems to have been a combination of one of Kefayya Youth brilliant ideas of taking the message to the people, as they did in the summer of 2005 in popular Cairo neigbourhoods like Shoubra and Sayyida Zeinab and the idea launched last July 23rd, of making a statement by raising the flag on the national day as a protest to say that it´s our symbol too, and not only the perogative of the state, A reclaim the flag/the flag statement is ours if you like.

UPDATE: They were walking down the Alexandrian corniche, when they were arrested. According to one of the detainess, they were beaten by officers at al Farana.

According to reports, they have been taken to the Alexandria State Security Headquarters, al Farana, the same place where Kareem Amer was taken after the Muharram Beq riots in October 2005.

The April 6th Youth had been calling for a gathering today at 12:30 at the Ghad Party headquarters in Alexandria, and the focus this time was Prisoners of Conscience, but it was perhaps even more a way of establish or formalize contactcs in Alexandria, considering that the April 6th Youth was established less than 30 days ago, after the success of the facebook site calling for a General strike on April 6th. Their two front figures both suffered greatly in the aftermath of April 6th, Esraa abd al Fattah was detained and held in prison while Ahmed Maher was taken from his car into a minibuss, taken to a police station were he got beaten up before being taken to notorius SSI Headquarters at Lazoughli and faced with a threat of rape, and badly beaten up once again.

A sit in will be held at the General Prosecutor´s office, Cairo High Court at 2 P.M Thursday, July 24th to demand the release of the April 6th detainees. Inanities provides an eyewitness report here.

UPDATE: Ahmed Maher arrested in Alexandria today. He was taken away at the Raml tram station in downtown Alexandria at 1 P:M and it´s unclear at this point in time if he is detained at al Farana or somewhere else.

The 14 others that were detained yesterday, was given a 15 day term in detention pending further investigation, the case number is 4943/2008. The 14 is said to have been denied legal council at the public prosecutions office.

The group was presented to the public prosecution the same evening, they were denied access to lawyers, a natural right of all arrestees.

According to Ahmed abd al Gawad, a member of both April 6th and the Ghad party:
“From the reports we got from Al-Ramal Court in Alexandria, the detainees have been dealt with in a way which contradicts the constitution and Egyptian law,”

The charges are as follows:
Hindering the traffic

gathering of more than 5 people in a public space and assembling persons under the name of “6 April Movement”, using the internet and incitement for overthrow the regime and destabilizing the country.

incitement to demonstration through distribution of publications among citizens inviting them for civil disobedience.

The names of the 14 (plus Ahmed Maher) are as follows:

1- Khalid Adil
2- Mahinor Al Masri
3- Yousuf Sha'ban
4- Basim Fathi
5- Mustafa Mahir
7- Nur Al Din Subhi
8- Medhat Shakir
9- Mutasim Bellah Mohamed
10- Tarig Tito
11- Mohamed Mahmoud
12- Ahmed Nassar
13- Ahmed Afifi
14- ********* his name still unknown
15- Ahmed Mahir “Abducted this Afternoon”

According to the AFP 12 more activists were arrested today.

Developments will be followed and updates given as more information becomes available, especially about Ahmed Maher´s whereabouts.

UPDATE: Ahmed Maher recieved a 15 day-term, pending further investigation, and has been taken to Hadra prison in Alexandria, unlike the other 14, whom is being held at the infamous Burg al Arab, where Kareem Amer and Mo´sad Abu Fagr is being held, and where Beheiri and Marei among others have just served time. One might ask why Ahmed Maher is separated from the rest? There is conflicting reports of the whereabouts of the 14, according to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center , they are at Hadra prison.

Here is a 23 minute report from journeyman pictures, Egypt's Facebook Face Off aired on July 2nd, it´s made in the period between the April 6th and May 4th demos(a part is also made after that, including a second interview with Ahmed Maher after being subjugated to beatings at Lazoughly).

Ayman Nour not among the pardoned

The founder and former leader of al Ghad, Ayman Nour was not among the 1500 pardoned by the President as part of the customary celebrations of the national day, in comemmoration of the 1952 revolution, something that was roumered to be in the making. He is reported to be on a hungerstrike, in protest over the way his prison visitors were treated, during yesterday´s visit.

Nour is currently serving a five year sentence for forging signatures needed to apply for a party liscense. The verdict is seen by many as politically motivated, and being on trumped up charges. Nour´s been serving more than half his sentence, and was eligible for pardon for the first time. All options of appeal are already, tried, and the only avenue left is a pardon.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tamer Mabrouk arrested, trial postponed until Oct 13th

According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information(AHNRI), Tamer Mabrouk was arrested on the 17th of July by police in Port Said. Mabrouk is currently involved in a libel lawsuit by the Trust company in Port Said, a company that he has dealt with extensively in his blog, al Haqeqa and done some really good investigative citizen journalism on workers rights and environmental impacts and responsebilities of the factory on the water nearby, and how it effects the fish in the lake.

UPDATE: 22 July : The trial has been postponed to October 13th in order to provide documentation substantiating Tamer Mabrouk´s ownership of the blog Haqeqa Masriyya at the request of the lawyers of Trust Chemicals, something Tamer Mabrouk has already claimed ownership of. This is seen by Mabrouk´s defense team as a way of prolonging delaying the trial.

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160 thousand Egyptian blogs according to report

The Egyptian blogosphere has grown into 160 000 blogs according to this 25 pages report(Arabic PDF) by the Information and Decision Making Center at the cabinet council.

I think it sounds a bit too much - Alaa or anyone, a penny for your thoughts?


HRW Statement on Mahalla detainees

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on the 18th of July, in which it urged the authorities to release six men held for more than 90 days, without charge. All arrested during April 6-7th in Mahalla. HRW is also asking the authorities not to go ahead with the case of The 49 that was reffered to the Supreme State Security Court, due to that specific instance´s shortcomings in fulfilling the requirements of a fair trial.

The Supreme State Security Court (Mahkamat Amn al-Dawla al-'Ulya) was established under Egypt’s Emergency Law in 1980 and follows procedures that violate internationally recognized fair trial norms. In violation of guarantees of the independence of the judiciary, two military judges may sit alongside the Security Court’s regular bench of three civilian judges.

It also asks the authorities to look in to allegations of torture toward Karim al Beheiri and Muhammed Marei.

" Not only has the government blatantly violated the right of workers to strike, it has refused to provide those arrested with basic due process rights...Nothing justifies torturing and indefinitely detaining protesters without charge. "
Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

In the staement the Human Rights Watch provides a full list of the names of the six men detained for more than 90 days and the 49 referred to the Supreme State Security Court, the full statement can be found here.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Madiba

One of my very few political heroes celebrates his 90th birthday today, Nelson Mandela´s impact on South Africa´s change from Apartheid state to Rainbow nation is one that can´t be overstated. This is one of the occasions when one person really made a tremendous difference. I had the opportunity and great pleasure of working as a wolunteer at one of Mandela´s first appearences abroad after being released from Robben Island after 27 years in prison 1990. It´s still a night and a speech that i treasure and cherish as one of my very best memories ever.

Happy Birthday Madiba!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rhodes Quake felt in Egypt

An Earthquarke hit the historical Greek island of Rhodes and killed one woman at 06:26 local time, the epicenter of the quake was 70 Km south of the island in the Aegean Sea or 561 km northwest of Alexandria.


It was also felt in Cairo and a number of other governates in Egypt, including the mediterranean coast and the delta region. The Earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, and no damage was reported in Egypt.

Unfortunately Egypt is situated on the outskirts of a very seismically active area, less than a month ago the latest quake was reported on June 21st(4.3 R). It´s not alwawys the quakes with the highest figure on the Richter scale that has the most devastating impact. On October 12th 1992 Cairo was hit by an earthquake, with the magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale that killed about 500 people. The historical area of Old Cairo was hit, and some part of the city´s Islamic and Coptic cultural heritage was among buildings struck, fortunately most could later be restored.

Here is some more information on the Ricther scale.

If and when any additional info becomes available it will be updated here.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interview with Muhammed Marei after being released

Muhammed Marei was released from Burg al Arab prison on July 6th, Sarah Carr interviewed Muhammed on his ordeal during 90 days in prison, first in Mahalla first precinct police station , then state security in the same town , where he was kept in solitary confinement for 19 days, before finally recieving his administrative detention order. He was then taken to Burg al Arab prison close to Alexandria , known to be one of the toughest prisons in Egypt. What took place there is well known, due to a letter sent by Muhammed during his time there via his lawyer. He was allowed to sit the exams, he´s a fourth year veterinary student, but the authorities messed up his arrival, so the exams had already started, meaning that he would automatically fail the exam, so he has to do the whole year once again.

49 of the detained on the 6th and 7th of April in connection with Mahalla have been referred to court, they are awaiting trial.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Building collapses in Mansoura, killing at least 5

A building in the Nile Delta City of Mansoura collapsed yesterday evening. Five people have been reported dead, and five more are injured according to the official Egyptian news agency Mena. Among the dead was two seven year old twins.It was an old three-storey building.

The collapsing of buildings happens all too often in Egypt.Many are the examples were an extra storey or two has been added without the approval of the authourities, this going on for years sometimes before it´s discovered, or in cases like this with a fatal outcome.

In 1996 new legilation was introduced to counter this problem , but little if any has changed. The most recent installment of this tragic saga, prior to yesterday´s episode was in Alexandria in December 2007, when 35 people lost their lives.

UPDATE: There seem to have been an order issued 32 years ago, in 1976, to tear down the third storey on Beduih Street but it was not followed through upon.

It also emerged that an order had been issued 32 years ago to restore the house and pull down the third floor, but this was never done

Here´s a TV-clip about it.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Book gift to myself

Reminder: I have to treat myself to this recently published book by Karima al Hefnawy, Youwmiyyat al Saidalaniyya (Pharmacy Days). That could have been me writing the book, if fate would have played out differently. My first year in high school, i was quite certain that i wanted to be a pharmacist, nothing revolutianry about that, considering that my grandfather opened the first pharmacy in this little town in Middle Egypt, and two of my uncles followed that path. So i´m practically born into it, and unlike Mrs Karima i didn´t want to do it to prove my socialist values, no this was something that i really wanted to do because i found it interesting...

I still ponder upon why i thought it was such a brilliant idea back then... Thank God it didn´t turn out that way, otherwise you would probably read a blogger called the Viagra seller right now, and i really like the concept of Fustat better.

Go read Ursula Lindsay´s account on the book signing of the book i just must read! Also make sure to read her review on Metro in the National a paper i hapenened to write a piece about when it was brand new.

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Freedom House Report - Egypt

For those of you who might be interested in the annual Freedom House report on Egypt, it can be found here.

I was most fascinated by their brief historical outline, and must confess that i had trouble in galvanizing strength to read on.

The report was the leading story in al Masry al Youm yesterday (Arabic) and (English) and Egypt´s grades wouldn´t have been enough to past the thanawiyya amma exams on any of the subjects Good governance, democracy, human rights or freedom of expression.

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Internet week on al Jazeera

This week al Jazeera has been focusing on the internet in different Arab countries like Lebanon, Qatar, Syria and Morocco. There´s also a report on the Obama campaign´s use of the internet.

The segment on Egypt was on today, with a three minute long report followed by a good live interview with Nora Younis, unfortunately the interview is not on You Tube, but here is the report as well as the playlist for the other reports in the series.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Muhammed Marei and 3 other Mahalla detainees released

According to Sarah Carr´s twitter account , Muhammed Marei and three others, detained during the April 6th strike in Mahalla have just been released. Muhammed Marei was the translator, and friend of the american journalist/photographer James Buck, whom provided some of the best images from Mahalla on April 6th and onwards. Marei and Buck was both taken into custody at the Mahalla police station, and while Buck was released after some days, Marei´s whereabouts where unknown for quite some time , until he was located at the Burg al Arab prison, close to Alexandria. I presume that the other three where also among the Burg al Arab detainees that were beaten by guards, in order to end their hungerstrike last week.

Two Weeks ago, 49 people were reffered to Court in connection to April 6th.

This is still breaking news, and a proper follow up, will come , as more news become available.

Mabrouk to Muhammed and the others!

UPDATE: It seems that there were only three released including Muhammed, the other two are Mustafa Bedeir al Sayyed and Rageb Gaber al Mahdy according to their lawyer Ahmed Ezzat of the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression. All three have been held in administrative detention in the infamous Burg al Arab prison, they were supposed to be released on Friday via the Police Station in Tanta( Vhy not via the police station in Mahalla, that was the place of arrest for Muhammed Marei for sure, and most likely for Mustafa and Rageb as well?, which is the normal standard procedure).

UPDATE II: Muhammed Marei seems to been jiggled about between Tanta, Samnoud and Mahalla and then back again to the Police station in Samnoud (yesterday evening at about 10:30 P.M) and was still awaiting his release at that point. So until late in the eveniing yesterday, he was still not released. As to Mustafa Bedeir al Sayyed and Rageb Gaber al Mahdy, there is no further information, than what´s been stated by their lawyer, Ahmed Ezzat( see above), to my knowledge.

UPDATE III Sunday afternoon - Muhammed Marei is finally released according to Torture in Egypt.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kefaya coordinator Abdel Wahab al Messiri passes away

Professor Abdel Wahab al Messsiri died at the Palestine Hospital on Wednesday, after losing his battle with Cancer. He was soon to reach the age of 70.

Professor al Messiri has been the Coordinator of the Egyptian Movement for change(Kefaya) since 2007, when he replaced George Ishaq.

Professsor al Messiri was attatched to the Ayn Shams University in Cairo and had spent the bulk of his academical career studying zionism, something that started during his college years at Columbia University and Rutgers. He returned to Egypt, and in 1971 , he got a post as a consultant at the al Ahram Centre for political and strategic studies, by no other than Muhammed Hassanein Heykal, upon a recomendation from a young Usama al Baz. He was to experience that it was as easy to fall from the top, as it had been climbing there, when he returned from America once again in 1979, he was treated like pariah, because the political climate had changed in the midst of the official euphoria of the Camp David Process. His expertise was no longer aquired.

He, as quite a number of his peers, started out with a steadfast leftist secularist outlook but later in life he (re)discovered religion and became part of the Wasatiyya(Centrist)trend.

Funeral prayers was conducted earlier today at al Rabbah al Adawiyya Mosque at Madinet Nasr. Among the mourners were Sheikh Yussef al Qardawy, Amr Khaled, President of the judges club, Zakariyya Abd al Aziz, Islamic intelectual Selim al Auwwa and leader of the Wasat Party Abu al Ela al Madi.

He is to buried in his hometown Damanhour later today.

Condolences will be taken at the Omar Makram mosque on Saturday.

May God rest his soul , my condolences to the family, may God give them patience and comfort during this sad hour.


Amira al Houwaidy has penned an obituary in al Ahram Weekly, apearently al Messiri died of an heart attack, rather than Cancer.

As Kefaya did confirm a day after the passing of Dr al Messiri, the position of Coordinator will be held temporarily by Abdel Galil Mustafa.

A tribute to al Messiri´s life and legacy was held at the Journalists Syndicate yesterday, July 10th.

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