Egyptian court sentences 21 to death on terrorism charges

In this file photo, Egyptian policemen stand guard in front of the courtroom defendant's cage during a verdict hearing on a case, in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Egyptian court sentences 21 to death on terrorism charges

CAIRO: An Egyptian court sentenced on Thursday 21 people to death and seven others to up to life in prison over belonging to a group believed to be affiliated with the extremist Daesh group, the state-run MENA news agency reported.
Beside the 21 death sentences, the court handed down life sentences — which in Egypt are equal to 25 years — to four defendants, and 15-year-sentences to three others, MENA said.
The 28 on trial were charged with belonging to an outlawed group linked to Daesh, disrupting public order, possession of weapons and endangering society among other charges. Of the total, only 12 are in custody while the others — 16 suspects — are at large.
Rights groups have repeatedly criticized similar mass sentencings in Egypt and called on authorities to ensure fair trials.
Egyptian authorities have been carrying out a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent since the 2013 military overthrow of President Muhammad Mursi, arresting thousands of his supporters as well as some well-known secular activists.
Earlier on Thursday, six suspected members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group were ordered detained for 15 days, pending investigation over joining a “terrorist” group.
The six were arrested on Wednesday night on a farm allegedly belonging to detained former presidential candidate and “Strong Egypt” party leader, Abdel-Monaem Abul Fetouh. He was a longtime Brotherhood member before he quit the group in 2011.
Egypt listed Abul Fetouh on its terrorism list earlier this week, a designation that bans those on the list from travel, puts them on a watch list and grants authorities the right to freeze their assets. Over the past years, Egyptian authorities have put the names of hundreds, including senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, on the list.
The organization, which was founded in Egypt, was labeled as “terrorist” following the ouster of Mursi, a senior Brotherhood figure.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 52 min 23 sec ago
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.