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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 03 - 01 - 2019


Former president testifies
TWO former Egyptian presidents appeared on 26 December in the same Cairo courtroom, with Hosni Mubarak testifying in a retrial of Mohamed Morsi on charges related to a prison break. The case is rooted in the 2011 escape of more than 20,000 inmates from Egyptian prisons, including Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood members, during the early days of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak.
Defendants in the case face charges of storming Egypt's eastern borders, killing a number of police officers at the prisons while breaking into them. In 2015, they were handed death sentences and life terms, later annulled by the Cassation Court that ordered a re-trial.
The 90-year-old Mubarak entered the courtroom with his two sons Alaa and Gamal. He appeared physically healthy. The hearing took place amid heavy security in a police facility in a southern Cairo suburb.
During two hours of testimony, Mubarak said that former intelligence chief and vice president Omar Suleiman told him on 29 January 2011 that at least 800 armed people crossed into the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula through tunnels from Gaza with help from the Muslim Brotherhood. “They headed towards the prisons to release prisoners belonging to Hizbullah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak refused to answer most questions, saying he needed permission from the military apparatus and the presidency. The hearing was adjourned until 24 January.
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Activist's sentence upheld
THE MAADI Appeals Misdemeanors Court on Sunday upheld a two-year jail term passed against rights activist Amal Fathi who had been convicted of spreading false news and of publishing offensive content. The court turned down Fathi's appeal and fined her LE10,000. The ruling was issued just three days after Fathi was conditionally released by a Cairo criminal court order.
The 34-year-old activist was arrested in May over a video she posted online criticising inaction over sexual harassment in Egypt and alleging that guards at a bank had sexually harassed her. Since her arrest, Fathi has remained in detention. In September last year, she was handed the sentence which she contested. Following Sunday's ruling, Fathi will be sent back to prison to serve jail time, according to her lawyer.
Fathi also faces charges of belonging to a terrorist group. She is a member of the 6 April youth movement that played a significant role in ousting former president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011. The movement was banned by a ruling passed in April 2014 by the Court of Urgent Matters.
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Combating sectarian violence
PRESIDENT Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday issued a decree establishing the High Council to Combat Sectarian Violence. A committee will formulate strategies to combat sectarian violence and implement mechanisms to deal with future incidents of a sectarian nature. The decree was published in the official gazette on Sunday.
The council will be headed by former interior minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar and will include representatives from the Armed Forces, Military Intelligence, General Intelligence, the Administrative Control Authority and the National Security Agency.
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Fishermen detained
THE FOREIGN Ministry has said it was monitoring the situation of five fishermen who are currently being detained in Iran. In a brief statement, Ambassador Yasser Hashem, assistant to the foreign minister for consular and Egyptians abroad, said on Monday that the fishing boat the fishermen worked on, which is registered in Saudi Arabia, illegally drifted into Iranian territorial waters near the island of Fares, and that they are being brought to court. Hashem said the ministry was sparing no effort to ensure their safety, adding that contacts are being made with the concerned Iranian authorities to secure their release.


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