Egypt’s El-Sisi urges big voter turnout, denies sidelining rivals

Girls walk by a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the upcoming presidential election, in Cairo, Egypt March 19, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Egypt’s El-Sisi urges big voter turnout, denies sidelining rivals

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has urged Egyptians to come out in force and vote in next week’s election to show they are in charge, a day after he denied any role in sidelining his political rivals.
The incumbent will stand in the March 26-28 vote against just one candidate whose half-hearted campaign poses little to no threat, after more heavyweight rivals were sidelined or detained.
“I need you because the journey is not over,” Sissi told a mostly female audience in a speech. “I need every lady and mother and sister, please, I need the entire world to see us in the street” voting.
“Even if they vote ‘no’. It’s still a big deal and a respectable thing which will be implemented... We should affirm to the world that this country is ruled by its people.”
The former army chief was first elected in 2014, a year after ousting his predecessor Muhammad Mursi following mass protests against the Islamist.
Critics accuse him of cracking down on dissent, and in the run up to the election a rival, former army chief of staff Sami Anan, was detained shortly after announcing his candidacy.
The army said the reserve general broke the law by illegally declaring his candidacy.
Another potential contender, former premier Ahmed Shafiq, was deported from his exile in the UAE after declaring his candidacy, then taken by government officials to a Cairo hotel where he stayed until he announced a change of heart.
In an Egyptian television interview on Tuesday, Sissi said he had nothing to do with either case, or two other candidates who withdrew from the race citing restrictions.
Another army officer, a colonel, has been sentenced to six years in prison for announcing his candidacy while still enlisted.
“You’re talking to me about something I cannot be blamed for at all. I swear, I wished there were one, or two, or three, or 10 candidates...and you choose whom you want,” he said.
The only candidate left in the race, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, had been a cheerleader for Sissi until the last day before the deadline for candidate registration expired.
His critics say he entered the race to spare Sissi the embarrassment of a one-man election, redolent of the referendums held by autocrats.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced in absentia nine alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to life imprisonment for forming a “terrorist cell” to plot attacks on security forces and other institutions.
Life sentences in Egypt are equal to 25 years, and the suspects, who remain at large, can be re-tried once they are apprehended.
The Cairo Criminal Court also sentenced another 13 defendants to 10 years each on similar charges, including planning to kill public figures and security officials, and joining an outlawed group, a reference to the Brotherhood. Two minors were sentenced each to two years. Those 15 suspects are in custody and their sentences can be appealed.
Egypt designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization after the 2013’s removal from power of President Muhammad Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure. Morsi has been jailed and sentenced to death.


Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

Updated 23 September 2018
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Israel gives Bedouin villagers until end of month to leave

  • Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead
  • ‘No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force’

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities issued a notice to residents of a Bedouin village in a strategic spot in the occupied West Bank on Sunday informing them they have until the end of the month to leave.
The fate of Khan Al-Ahmar has drawn international concern, with European countries calling on Israel not to move ahead with plans to demolish it.
Israel’s supreme court on September 5 rejected appeals against demolition, allowing authorities to move ahead.
Israel says the village was built without the proper permits, though it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive such permission in that part of the West Bank.
The notice given to the some 200 residents of Khan Al-Ahmar on Sunday says they have until the end of the month to demolish the village themselves.
“Pursuant to a supreme court ruling, residents of Khan Al-Ahmar received a notice today requiring them to demolish all the structures on the site by October 1st, 2018,” a statement from the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said.
It did not say what will happen if they refuse to do so. Village residents vowed not to leave despite the notice.
“No one will leave. We will have to be expelled by force,” said village spokesman Eid Abu Khamis, adding that a residents’ meeting would be held later on the issue.
“If the Israeli army comes to demolish, it will only be by force.”
The village is located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem, near Israeli settlements and along a road leading to the Dead Sea.
There have been warnings that continued settlement building in the area would eventually divide the West Bank in two, dealing a death blow to any remaining hopes of a two-state solution.
Israeli authorities have offered alternative sites for Khan Al-Ahmar residents, but villagers say the first was near a rubbish dump and the latest close to a sewage treatment plant.