Egypt's army took part in torture and killings during revolution, report shows

(Originally published by the Guardian.)

By Evan Hill and Muhammad Mansour in Cairo

Egypt's armed forces participated in forced disappearances, torture and killings across the country – including in Cairo's Egyptian Museum – during the 2011 uprising, even as military leaders publicly declared their neutrality, according to a leaked presidential report on revolution-era crimes.

The report, submitted to President Mohamed Morsi by his own hand-picked committee in January, has yet to be made public, but a chapter seen by the Guardian implicates the military in a catalogue of crimes against civilians, beginning with their first deployment to the streets.

The chapter recommends that the government investigate the highest ranks of the military to determine who was responsible.

More than 1,000 people, including many prisoners, are said to have gone missing during the 18 days of the revolt. Scores turned up in Egypt's morgues, shot or bearing signs of torture.

(Read the leaked document.)

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The Bad And The Ugly : Political Violence In Moqattam

(Originally published by Tahrir Squared.)

Amid the hours of violent street battles near the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood on Friday, one moment stood out, captured by Shorouk newspaper photographer Sabry Khaled.

In the picture, a young man dressed in blue and black track pants and a blue hooded sweatshirt with a bandana around his face points a hand gun at a bearded man he holds by the shoulder as both run through the street. Other young men who stand nearby, one of whom holds a rock, look uninterested or are not watching at all. The bearded man’s face, though half-turned toward his attacker and away from the camera, grimaces in anticipation.

Moments later, according to Khaled, a shot rang out, and the bearded man’s neck spurted blood “like fire.” The young man in the track pants ran away, and Khaled, originally trained as a maxillofacial surgeon, approached to check the fallen man’s pulse. He appeared dead. Too shocked to take more pictures, Khaled began to cry. Soon after, the man’s comrades - members or supporters of the Brotherhood - arrived and loaded his body into a car.

“With our hands, we’ll take his rights,” they told Khaled.

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Feeling the squeeze

(Originally published by the Economist.)

The decision by Egypt’s general prosecutor to place the country’s wealthiest man and his business-tycoon father on a no-fly list sent the main stock index tumbling by 2.3%—the worst drop in a month. The travel ban on Nassef and Onsi Sawiris imposed on March 3rd led secular opposition groups to accuse Egypt's Islamist government of pursuing a vendetta against the liberal opposition. It seemed to signal President Mohamed Morsi's intention to prosecute businesses he believes benefitted from widespread corruption during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

It was not the first travel ban for Onsi Sawiris, the octogenarian founder of the Orascom Group, Egypt’s largest private employer. Mr Sawiris’ first small construction company was nationalised under Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s, and he was prevented from leaving the country for six years. He moved to Libya in 1971 but returned five years later, founding Orascom, which grew into a multinational conglomerate that he passed on to his three sons, turning all four men into billionaires.

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An open letter to John Kerry, from an Egyptian liberal

Few were surprised last week when Egypt's wayward opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, decided to boycott the coming parliamentary elections. 

Their pretext was the election law, which was amended and passed after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled several of its articles unconstitutional. The NSF argues that the law remains unconstitutional, since parliament never sent the amended version back to the court for a second review.

Had they not been able to point to the election law, the opposition probably would have boycotted anyway: They simply have too many unsatisfiable grievances with President Morsi and his administration, as Issandr El Amrani has detailed.

By deciding to boycott, the NSF's influential leaders - Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, Ahmed Said - re-embraced revolutionary principles that they probably find more comfortable than political compromise. I admit that I thought it would be the other way around. When the NSF decided to push for a "no" vote during December's constitutional referendum instead of boycotting, it appeared to me that participatory realists had won the day. With Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party still at a low ebb, I wrongly thought they would again. 

It's possible that we don't listen hard enough to the opposition leadership when they describe their view of Egyptian politics - that we too often chuckle at ElBaradei's Twitter manifestos instead of taking them seriously. If you listen, what you hear is more angry and radical than you might expect. The "civil war" headline topping a recent Daily Beast article might be overblown, but look how Said - the head of the Free Egyptians Party - describes the current situation: 

“By all means, it’s the second wave of the revolution,” he says. “It’s not that [Morsi] needs to leave office. It’s that he will be forced one day to leave office. There are a lot of scenarios.”

This is not a consensus opinion among the opposition, and it remains unclear whether the NSF will remain united in its boycott. The Wafd will almost certainly run on their own - they did in 2011 and came in third after Nour and the FJP - and the Social Democrats, one of the only parties with any street muscle, would like to participate. And there are other signs of internal disagreements. The NSF refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry during his first visit to Egypt, but NSF figure Amr Moussa will see him today.

It's with this backdrop that I think it might be useful to share an open letter to Kerry which I received today from Naguib Abadir, a founding member of the Free Egyptians and the CEO of Nacita Corporation, an automotive supply and logistics business. Abadir, like Said, believes that Egypt remains in a revolutionary state. He has said that Morsi should be impeached for unconstitutional overreaches and culpability in the deaths of protesters. Abadir and Said might be more outspoken than most, but I think it's fair to say many influential NSF members share these opinions. Whether the country shares them is a far different question, but we might do well to listen:

Open letter to the US Secretary of State on the occasion of his visit to Cairo, Egypt:
Dear Sir,
The USA has sponsored the so-called Arab Spring and has sold it to its taxpayers as the outcry of oppressed middle-eastern people for democracy, when all it achieved was bringing to power theocratic regimes that oppressed their people even more and turned the victim countries into failed states, namely Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Tunis and now Egypt which you are visiting to ensure that it joins the happy crowd.
Is surrounding Israel by failed states your ultimate objective?
Do you think that there can be lasting peace with countries that base their decisions on fanatic religious views?
Do you think that peace can be perpetuated in a neighborhood of poverty, despair and extremism?
Are you telling your taxpayers that you are squandering their money on a failed experiment that will create new Ben Ladens who will eventually turn against your country and the freedom, equality and liberty your people hold so dearly?
Mr. Secretary, you are coming to Egypt to support Morsi and his gang who since coming to power in June of last year through a questionable election have broken the constitution and all the laws of Egypt.
Mr. Morsi has issued illegal constitution amendment declarations and decrees in flagrant breach of the constitution he swore to uphold. When popular pressure mounted against these unprecedented actions, he decided to abrogate the most illegitimate of those decrees, yet kept all its effects in force!!!!!
He sent his gang thugs to impose siege on the Supreme Court of Egypt for over 2 months to obstruct justice and prevent the court to issue sentences regarding the illegitimate Shoura Council (Upper House) and the second constituent assembly from which one third of the members withdrew. Would Mr. Obama be spared had he done the same in your country?
His security apparatus seconded by his gang militias gratuitously killed and tortured hundreds of Egyptians during peaceful demonstrations.
Irregularities and violations at the referendum for the new constitution in December of last year were called for by civil society organizations as sufficient ground to cancel and repeat the first phase of the referendum, yet you disregarded all this.
You turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to all this and are now coming to force your hand on the free will of the true people of Egypt who sacrificed hundreds of its youth to live in freedom, equality and dignity.
Mr. Secretary this is not what the constitution of the US stands for, this is not what your taxpayers are paying their government to do.
Revisit your mandate and your pledge to uphold your constitution which stands for some of the best values of human mankind, but most of all revisit your conscience and respect the plight of a people that longs for all what your forefathers died for.
Naguib Abadir, a freedom-loving Egyptian

Three Britons killed as hot-air balloon explodes at Luxor

(Originally published by the Times.)

Fay Schlesinger and Evan Hill in Luxor

A talented couple from the world of art were among three Britons killed yesterday in one of the worst hot air balloon accidents in history.

Joe Bampton, an antiques specialist who exhibited at the Royal Academy, and his girlfriend, Zsuzsanna Gyetvai, 34, whose prints were showcased by the Saatchi Gallery, died with 17 others as they took a dawn flight over the Valley of the Kings.

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