Former Egyptian presidential candidate put on terror list

Former Egyptian presidential candidate and reformist member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, speaks during an interview at his office in Cairo. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Former Egyptian presidential candidate put on terror list

CAIRO: An Egyptian court put former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh on a terrorism list on Tuesday after his arrest for alleged contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Aboul Fotouh, a former hard-liner who leads the Strong Egypt party, was arrested last week a day after returning from London, where he had given interviews sharply critical of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ahead of next month’s presidential election.
The Interior Ministry said at the time that Aboul Fotouh held secret meetings with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood while in London to implement a plot to stir unrest and instability in the country, accusations he denied.
Aboul Fotouh was among the first of several high-profile Egyptians to call last month for a boycott of the election.
Individuals added to the terrorism list are generally subjected to an asset freeze and a travel ban and are permitted 60 days to appeal the decision.
Aboul Fotouh’s lawyer, Abdelrahman Haridy, told Reuters he had not yet been notified of the court’s decision but that the designation could “easily” be appealed in court.
Aboul Fotouh along with 15 others were added to the list after an investigation by the state security prosecution found they had joined an outlawed organization “aiming to harm the interests of the state,” state news agency MENA reported.
In an interview with Al Jazeera Mubasher, a Qatar-based channel banned in Egypt, Aboul Fotouh last week criticized El-Sisi in unusually pointed terms.
The 67-year-old physician quit the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 after disagreements over the role of religion in politics and founded the more centrist Strong Egypt party.
He mounted an independent bid for the presidency in 2012 and took nearly 18 percent of the vote in the first round of elections.
Egypt banned the Brotherhood in 2013 after President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the military following mass protests. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization by the government.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.