Tag Archive: Cairo


Earth Watch Report  –  Biological Hazards

Saudi photographers wear masks during a football match on April 22, 2014 in Riyadh. As MERS, the SARS-like virus, continues to kill more people in the kingdom, Egypt has reported its first case of the virus on Saturday.

Saudi photographers wear masks during a football match on April 22, 2014 in Riyadh. As MERS, the SARS-like virus, continues to kill more people in the kingdom, Egypt has reported its first case of the virus on Saturday. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty)

MERS virus: First case detected in Egypt

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Biological Hazard Egypt Capital City, Cairo Damage level Details

 

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Biological Hazard in Egypt on Saturday, 26 April, 2014 at 17:56 (05:56 PM) UTC.

Description
Egypt has discovered its first case of the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in an Egyptian citizen who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday. The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has already caused over 90 deaths. The patient, 27, is being treated for pneumonia at a Cairo hospital and is in a stable condition, the ministry said in a statement. The man, who is from the Nile Delta, was living in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the ministry said. Saudi Arabia, which has been hardest-hit by the MERS virus, announced on Friday it had discovered 14 more cases in the kingdom, bringing the total number to 313. Although the number of MERS infections worldwide is fairly small, the more than 40 percent death rate among confirmed cases and the spread of the virus beyond the Middle East is keeping scientists and public health officials on alert.
Biohazard name: MERS-COv
Biohazard level: 4/4 Hazardous
Biohazard desc.: Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.
Symptoms:
Status: confirmed

 

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Egypt discovers first case of potentially deadly MERS virus

CAIRO Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:10am EDT

 

(Reuters) – Egypt has discovered its first case of the potentially deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in an Egyptian citizen who had recently returned from Saudi Arabia, Egypt’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday.

The virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has already caused over 90 deaths.

The patient, 27, is being treated for pneumonia at a Cairo hospital and is in a stable condition, the ministry said in a statement.

The man, who is from the Nile Delta, was living in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia, which has been hardest-hit by the MERS virus, announced on Friday it had discovered 14 more cases in the kingdom, bringing the total number to 313.

 

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Deadly MERS virus detected in Egypt

 

First case of coronavirus that has killed 92 people in Saudi Arabia detected in the Egyptian capital.

Last updated: 26 Apr 2014 13:03
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The MERS virus has killed at least 92 people in Saudi Arabia [Reuters]

Egypt has recorded its first case of the deadly SARS-like MERS coronavirus in the capital Cairo.

Egyptian State TV said on Saturday a patient at a Cairo hospital who recently arrived from Saudi Arabia had tested positive for the virus.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus has killed at least 92 people in Saudi Arabia, where the coronavirus was first detected in humans in 2012.

The virus which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has spread from the Gulf to Europe and has been reported in Malaysia.

 

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Egypt names Ibrahim Mahlab as new prime minister

Former housing minister and Mubarak party member pledges to ‘crush terrorism’ and crack down on rise in violence
Ibrahim Mahlab

Ibrahim Mahla, at a press conference in Cairo, said he hoped to form a government within the next three or four days. Photograph: EPA

A former member of Hosni Mubarak‘s political party has been appointed as Egypt‘s new prime minister, a day after the cabinet announced its shock resignation, vowing to crack down on the militant violence that has blighted Egypt since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Ibrahim Mahlab spoke after his appointment by Adly Mansour – the army-appointed president who has been in office since Morsi’s removal in July – and said he hoped to form his government within three or four days.

“We will work together to restore security and safety to Egypt and crush terrorism in all corners of the country,” he said. “Security and stability in the entire country and crushing terrorism will pave the way for investment.”

Mahlab, who was housing minister in the previous administration, will head Egypt’s sixth government since the 2011 uprising that toppled the autocratic Mubarak, beginning yet another chapter in the chaotic post-Mubarak era.

Mahlab once belonged to Mubarak’s National Democratic party, and is the former CEO of Arab Contractors, one of the region’s largest construction firms.

He is expected to lead an interim government at least until the election of a new president – likely to be army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi – and perhaps even until the installation of a new parliament.

 

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FILE - An Egyptian woman waits for her breakfast on a street fast food restaurant in Suleiman Gohar market in Dokki district in Cairo, Egypt.

FILE – An Egyptian woman waits for her breakfast on a street fast food restaurant in Suleiman Gohar market in Dokki district in Cairo, Egypt.

Reuters

Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer, normally buying some 10 million tons a year and while the suspected corruption is focused on rice, the moves come just days after two senior officials from the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) were transferred from their posts.

Traders fear any disarray within GASC could hurt its ability to launch international tenders. GASC has said the re-shuffles would not impact its import activity.

It has also unnerved companies involved in importing grain to Egypt and potentially a small group of global traders that supply them.

“It’s chaos, even the people inside GASC don’t know what’s going on and are concerned,” said an international grain trader.

On Saturday, Supplies Minister Mohamed Abu Shadi had referred the head of the central import administration at GASC to administrative prosecutors for suspected corrupt dealings with traders.

“The case has no relation at all with wheat, it is about dealings to purchase local rice from local traders in which the official had extended traders’ deadlines to 10 days instead of a week,” ministry spokesman Mahmoud Diab told Reuters but declined to name the man.

While GASC were not immediately available for comment, rice industry insiders were skeptical about the supply ministry’s assessment.

 

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Last August, outside Abu Zaabal, 37 prisoners trapped in the back of a van were allegedly gassed to death having been held for six hours in temperatures close to 40C. Patrick Kingsley talks to the survivors and, for the first time, reveals their side of the story
Egyptian protesters

Protesters at the Rabaa mosque in Cairo. Photograph: Mosa’ab Elshamy/EPA

Some time after midday on Sunday 18 August 2013, a young Egyptian film-maker called Mohamed el-Deeb made his last will and testament. It was an informal process. Deeb had no paper on which to sign his name and there was no lawyer present. He simply turned to the man handcuffed next to him and outlined which debts to settle if he should die, and what to say to his mother about the circumstances of his death.

Deeb had good reason to fear for his life. He was among 45 prisoners squashed into the back of a tiny, sweltering police truck parked in the forecourt of Abu Zaabal prison, just north-east of Cairo. They had been in the truck for more than six hours. The temperature outside was over 31C, and inside would have been far hotter. There was no space to stand and the prisoners had had almost nothing to drink. Some had wrung out their sweat-drenched shirts and drunk the drops of moisture. Many were now unconscious.

Most of the men inside that van were supporters of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt‘s first elected president. Squashed against Deeb was Mohamed Abdelmahboud, a 43-year-old seed merchant and a member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Following four days of mass protests against his year-long rule, the army had overthrown Morsi and the Brotherhood in early July. In response, tens of thousands of people camped outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in east Cairo to call for the president’s reinstatement. Within a week, the space outside Rabaa turned from an empty crossroads to a sprawling tent city that housed both a market and a makeshift field hospital. At Rabaa’s centre was a stage where preachers led prayers and firebrands spouted sectarian rhetoric. At its edges were a Dad’s Army of badly equipped guards, dressed in crash helmets and tae kwon do vests, standing before a series of walls built of stones ripped from pavements. From behind these barricades, two or three times a day, protest marches would snake into nearby neighbourhoods, blocking major thoroughfares and paralysing much of the city. Clashes between armed police and protesters claimed more than 170 lives.

Rabaa morgue

A woman mourns at a makeshift morgue following the dispersal of the crowds gathered at Rabaa. Photograph: Mosa’ab Elshamy/EPA

For Islamists, Rabaa was one of the last remaining symbols of freedom. But for the millions who opposed Morsi, it was a hideout for violent extremists who were holding the country to ransom. Confrontation became inevitable. On Wednesday 14 August, some time after 6am, police and soldiers surrounded the camp, which still contained thousands of women and children. In the 12-hour operation that followed, more than 900 protesters were shot dead, many by sniper fire. A group of armed protesters fought back, killing nine policemen, according to Human Rights Watch. But they were vastly outnumbered. As police locked down the streets around the camp, they arrested thousands – not just Morsi supporters, but also dozens of residents and workers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On Sunday 18 August, Professor Gamal Siam, an economist at Cairo University, arrived at the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. His oldest son, Sherif, had been arrested the previous Wednesday, during the crackdown at Rabaa. But there had been a mistake, his father told the chief prosecutor, and he needed help.

Sherif Siam was not a member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, nor even a Morsi supporter. Sherif had said on Facebook that the president’s overthrow had been not a coup, but a revolution. Certainly, he had visited the camp at Rabaa al-Adawiya two or three times, but he’d been to anti-Morsi marches, too. When the news broke of the Rabaa camp’s dispersal, his father said Sherif went down to help the wounded.

Gamal Siam, whose son Sherif, a telecoms engineer and life coach, died in the van. Gamal Siam, whose son Sherif, a telecoms engineer and life coach, died in the van. Photograph: Mosa’ab Elshamy for the Guardian

On some level, Barakat sympathised. He gave Sherif’s father a signed letter to present to prison officials, to help speed up the processing of Sherif’s case. But what neither Barakat nor Siam knew was that it was already too late.

A few minutes earlier, in the back of an overcrowded police van on the other side of Cairo, Sherif Siam – and 36 others, including Deeb – had been gassed to death.

The next day, footage emerged (warning: upsetting images) of the 37 corpses on their arrival at Cairo’s main morgue. Most of the bodies were bloated, their faces red or black. Deeb’s face was one of the few that was unmarked. But Sherif Siam’s was swollen and blackened, almost beyond recognition.

What had happened was soon blamed on the prisoners. Police officials said the 37 died shortly before they were due to be handed over to the warders at Abu Zaabal prison, just north-east of Cairo. According to their narrative, the prisoners kidnapped a policeman who opened the door to let them out, prompting his colleagues to fire tear gas inside the truck to subdue them. State media outlets went further, claiming that Muslim Brotherhood gunmen had attacked the van to try to free those inside, and the prisoners died in the ensuing clashes.

Whatever the truth, the news cycle quickly moved on. In a week of horror, other atrocities soon grabbed Egypt’s attention. The next day, 25 police conscripts were killed in cold blood in Sinai by Islamist extremists angered by Morsi’s removal. The massacres of the previous week – at Rabaa and at Ramses Square – still dominated the media narrative, as did the grotesque Islamist-led revenge attacks on dozens of Christian churches and police stations. Four of the 15 policemen who accompanied the truck were subsequently put on trial for negligence. But that trial was postponed indefinitely in January – and government officials are still able to claim the deaths were provoked by the prisoners.

But they reckoned without the incident’s eight survivors, four of whom remain in jail, as well as some of the policemen who drove them to the prison. Five months on, their collected testimonies for the first time reveal a different story – one of police cruelty and a subsequent cover-up that starts not at lunchtime on Sunday 18 August, but on the previous Wednesday, when the 45 prisoners were among thousands arrested in and around the Rabaa al-Adawiya encampment.

Sherif Siam arrest A screenshot from amateur footage of Sherif’s arrest.

Police had seized Sherif at around midday a few streets from the camp, where shooting had started six hours earlier. Amateur footage shows him in a blue shirt being led by officers towards a police van, when another officer sprints towards Sherif and fells him with a flying kick to the chest.

Like the thousands of others arrested that day, he was accused of a raft of catch-all charges, including membership of a terrorist group (as the state later designated the Muslim Brotherhood), attempted murder and possession of lethal weapons. It is impossible to know the precise circumstances of his arrest, but for his family, these are preposterous charges. He was a telecoms engineer by day, and had a second career as a life coach. Four days before his arrest, he was interviewed on Egyptian breakfast television about how to find happiness amid the tension and disruption wrought on Cairo by the Rabaa camp.

According to the survivors, Sherif Siam was one of at least eight victims at Abu Zaabal who were either opponents of Morsi, or had no connection to the Rabaa camp. Shukri Saad, a resident of Nasr City, the area surrounding Rabaa, had just bought a month’s worth of diabetes treatment when he was stopped by police. They suspected him of buying medicine for people wounded at Rabaa. “I’m not Muslim Brotherhood, I’m NDP,” Saad reportedly screamed as he was flung in a police van, in reference to the party of Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Nearby, Talaat Ali was serving tea to off-duty soldiers and policemen on a break from clearing the camp. The cafe owner decided to close early, because the officers refused to pay for their drinks, so Ali started to make his way home. He said he was stopped by the same policemen he had served. “Hey, I’m the tea guy, I gave you tea,” Ali apparently said before he, too, was arrested.

He was soon joined by Mohamed Ramzi, a vegetable seller from west Cairo who had come to Nasr City to sell cucumbers. Then there was Ahmed Hamrawy, on his way to sell his clothes in a market in the centre of town. Rafiq Abdelghany was stopped on his way to work, and would later be granted bail – but he was taken to Abu Zaabal before the bail money could be delivered. A card-carrying member of Ghad el-Thawra, a prominent liberal party, was also rounded up. Nasr City had become a military zone: a curfew had been imposed and anyone moving around was arrested.

Mohamed Abdelmahboud was arrested far from the camp, several hours after the shooting had stopped, as he drove home. He had been at Rabaa since its tents were first pitched in late June. When the siege began, he stayed put. A group of Morsi supporters returned the soldiers’ fire, in a hopeless attempt to hold off a security force that included snipers on surrounding roofs and that exacted many more casualties than the small defence squad.

Abdelmahboud says he stayed behind to help the wounded. After 3pm, once the gunfire became too intense to rescue any more of the injured, he made a run for it. Later, he joined up with a group of friends from his home town, a tiny hamlet down a backroad in the Nile delta. They had heard that a friend had been shot in the chaos and they were looking for his body at the Iman mosque, a few streets east of what had been the Rabaa encampment. The air there stank of an odd blend of joss sticks and rotting flesh – it was a smell Abdelmahboud and his friends would grow used to as they spent the evening picking through the long rows of corpses. Some were burnt through, unrecognisable, like logs in a bonfire.

A few metres away, Gamal Siam was searching for his son. Close to midnight, he was shown a YouTube video of Sherif getting a kicking from a police officer. “I was so pleased, even though what it showed was so inhuman,” Siam said later. “At least he was alive.”

 

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Rejects charges and urges Egyptians to continue ‘peaceful revolution’

    • Reuters
    • Published: 19:21 February 22, 2014
    • Gulf News


Image Credit: AP

Egypt’s ousted President Mohammad Mursi in a soundproof barred glass cage during a court hearing in a February 16 photo. AP

Cairo: Egypt’s deposed president Mohammad Mursi on Saturday rejected the right of a court to try him and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders on charges related to a mass jail break in 2011, security and judicial sources said.

Mursi and his comrades, including the Brotherhood’s top leader Mohammad Badie, are charged with killing and kidnapping policemen, attacking police facilities and breaking out of jail during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

“As far as I’m concerned, these procedures are void and I don’t accept them,” Mursi said, describing himself as the president of the republic and calling on the Egyptian people to continue their “peaceful revolution,” according to the sources.

Some of the other roughly 130 defendants, who were held in a different courtroom cage from Mursi, applauded him and chanted “Down with military rule”. It is not unusual for high-profile defendants to be locked up in cages in Egyptian courts.

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Lawyers for Egypt’s Morsi walk out of latest trial

Sally Nabil reports from Cairo, where she says the lawyers walked out in protest at the glass dock

Lawyers for deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have walked out of his trial on charges of espionage and conspiring to commit acts of terror.

The trial has now been adjourned until 23 February.

The lawyers withdrew in protest at Mr Morsi and other defendants being confined in a soundproofed glass cage.

The Islamist former leader is facing four separate trials, three of which have now opened.

Mr Morsi was brought to Cairo’s police academy on Sunday morning by helicopter from the Burj al-Arab prison where he is being held.

In this trial, he and 35 others are accused of working with Lebanese and Palestinian groups to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Mr Morsi has been put in the soundproof cage in recent appearances to prevent him shouting and disrupting proceedings.

The defendants have said they cannot follow proceedings because of the cage, but the judge insisted that headphones installed inside the dock will allow them to listen.

The cage allows the judge to control when the defendants are heard.

At one point when he was audible, Mr Morsi said: “What are you so afraid of? Are you afraid because you have no public support?” Reuters reports.

The court said it would appoint a new defence team.

An Egyptian riot policeman stands guard on the top of an armoured vehicle outside the Police Academy Security was tight outside the police academy where the trial was taking place
A pro-military Egyptian holds a poster behind barbed wires Pro-military protesters had assembled, some demanding Mr Morsi’s execution

Morsi defiant

Mr Morsi was ousted by the military last July following mass street protests against his rule.

Since Mr Morsi was ousted there has been a severe crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as on other activists seen as hostile to the military-backed government.

The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organisation and authorities have punished any public show of support for it.

 

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‘Most probably, Morsi will be convicted’ – expert

'Most probably, Morsi will be convicted' - expert

As Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi appeared in court on Sunday for the first hearing of the case in which he is charged on espionage and terrorism counts, Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Political Scientist at the University of Westminster and a specialist on Islam, Middle East politics and Democracy, explained in an interview to the Voice of Russia on what legal grounds Morsi cannot be brought to trial as executive president and why he thinks the court “would have to convict him”.

How do you think this trial is going to end for Mr. Morsi? Will Morsi be convicted?

Most probably, yes, I think. Because this story is no longer a legal matter. If the legal rules were observed Morsi cannot be brought to trial as executive president and yes, he has his immunity but he has been arrested first before any charges and then the charges were being brought as he was arrested which indicates that if a court accepts these procedures this means that the court would then do the biding of whoever in power at the time is officially. So if they haven’t observed the law in the first instance they would have to convict him.

Sunday’s trial is one of four prosecutions that Morsi has had to face. Can you comment on the reason that we have seen so many trials? Why hasn’t it just been one trial against Morsi? Why is it so many steps in this process of prosecuting?

I think they are groping in the dark, they want something to stick. For example, this charge that a person has escaped from prison during the revolution is rather ridiculous, because there are hundreds of thousands of prisoners who left at that time, none of them were facing trial, some of them are actually in parties which are the parties who support the government. Secondly, how can you charge the president of dealing illegally with foreign entities? Usually the president of the republic is the person who decides foreign policy and is the person who legally can decide who is going to talk to or not to talk to. Anybody else has not been authorized by the president to discuss matters with foreign power could be trialed if he wanted to do that in ways which are harmful to national security or against the law. But there is no law which says that the president for example cannot talk to Hamas or cannot talk to Hezbollah or not talk to anybody else. To charge the president with espionage for talking to whoever he decides is certainly assuming that there is an authority other than the president or above the president which can tell him how to conduct his foreign policy. So all the other charges are also problematic. It is really kind of theater more or less.

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Supporters of Mohamed Morsi, as well as activists opposed to authoritarianism of Morsi and General Sisi, took part in protests

Egypt protests

Mourners carry the coffin of a man killed during Saturday’s clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo. Photograph: Ahmed Omar/AP

Standing in the forecourt of Cairo’s Zeinhom mortuary, waiting to pick up the corpse of his friend, Amr Hussein could scarcely believe he was there. “I thought we were done with this,” said Hussein, 23. “I thought the revolution would be the start of a new era.”

Hussein’s classmate, Mohamed Yehia, was shot dead by police on Saturday, the third anniversary of the Egyptian uprising – a day that was meant to be a celebration.

But for many it was instead one of protest and mourning, with officials confirming on Sunday that 49 people had been killed in nationwide protests against the regime installed last July by the army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Fierce clashes raged in several neighbourhoods across the country, with armoured police vehicles charging at protesters in downtown Cairo.

Supporters of Egypt‘s ousted Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, as well as activists opposed to the authoritarianism of both Morsi and Sisi, took part – and 1,079 people were arrested.

“This is not the Egypt that we are looking for,” said Ayman Abdelmeguid, a spokesman for the 6 April group, the secular youth movement that organised many of the first protests against Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Violence of a different kind continued on Sunday in the Sinai peninsular, where Islamist extremists ambushed and killed three policemen. It continued a militant surge against security forces that saw four bombs explode in Cairo on Friday, and an army helicopter allegedly shot down on Saturday.

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The New York Times

Clashes Kill 49 Egyptians on Uprising’s Anniversary

CAIRO — Thousands of Egyptians celebrated the third anniversary of their revolt against autocracy on Saturday by holding a rally for the military leader who ousted the country’s first democratically elected president. Elsewhere, at least 49 people died in clashes with security forces at rival antigovernment protests organized by Islamists and left-leaning activists.

In at least on-e case, the Islamists and liberals chanted against each other. But within as little as 15 minutes, riot police officers began firing tear-gas cannons and shooting guns into the air, swiftly dispersing the protests and leaving the day to the military leader, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi.

The violence escalated as the day went on. The Way of the Revolution Front, a group opposed to the Islamists as well as the military takeover, urged its supporters to retreat from the streets in the face of what it called “the excessive force that police are using against whoever tries to express their opinion.”

By Sunday morning, health officials said the death toll from clashes with the police had reached at least 49, most killed in the Cairo area. Security officials said more than 1,000 were arrested around the country. By Saturday night, more than 430 had been arrested in greater Cairo alone.

In the canal city of Suez, a car bomb at a police camp wounded four officers, officials said, the latest in a campaign of attacks on security forces since the military takeover. The violence on Saturday came a day after four bombings around the capital killed at least six people and clashes with the police killed another eight. But the government appeared determined to prevent any of the protests or deaths from dimming the spectacle of the rally for General Sisi, or the momentum of his presumed presidential campaign.

The enthusiasm of his supporters, however, also hinted at some of the outsize expectations he might face in office.

Hassan Shehab, 52, a shopkeeper carrying a poster of a son killed by security forces during the 2011 uprising, said he believed General Sisi would “turn Egypt from a third-world country to a first-world country” while bringing justice for the revolution’s “martyrs.”

“He will hold the police accountable and put them on trial, as soon as they get rid of the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mr. Shehab said.

The Brotherhood, an eight-decades-old Islamist organization, sponsored the most successful party in Egypt’s free elections in 2011 and 2012. Its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, became president and held that position until he was ousted by the military in July amid swelling street protests against him.

The military has been portraying the Brotherhood as a terrorist threat ever since. On Friday, government officials quickly blamed it for the day’s four bombings.

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In this image made from video broadcast on Egyptian State Television, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour speaks at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.
Elizabeth Arrott

The plan was unveiled one day after clashes between police and protesters left 49 people killed, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 arrested.

Interim President Adly Mansour’s decision to hold the presidential election next was widely expected.

While last year’s road map placed parliamentary elections first, the newly approved constitution allows Mansour to decide which comes first.

Other candidates who have expressed interest in running have qualified their bids, saying they would not take part if General Sissi campaigns.

Posters, masks and signs heralding Sissi’s leadership were at the center of celebrations of the third anniversary of Egypt’s revolution Saturday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

But just off the square, as well as across Cairo and the country, opponents to the general and the military-backed interim government turned out for rallies and marches.

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An Egyptian woman wears a mask of Egypt's Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2014.An Egyptian woman wears a mask of Egypt’s Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 25, 2014.
A protester wounded in clashes with security forces is evacuated from the site in the Mohandiseen district of Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.A protester wounded in clashes with security forces is evacuated from the site in the Mohandiseen district of Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.

Change to the post-Morsi political timetable could pave way for swift election of Sisi.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood protest in Egypt, December 27, 2013.

Egypt women Brotherhood protesting 370 Photo: REUTERS

CAIRO- Egypt will hold a presidential vote before parliamentary polls, President Adly Mansour said on Sunday, in a change to a political roadmap that could pave the way for the swift election of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Parliamentary elections were supposed to be held first under the timetable drawn up after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July following mass protests against his rule.

The decision to revise the order of elections is likely to deepen tensions in Egypt, which is struggling to cope with waves of political violence. Forty-nine people were killed in anti-government marches on Saturday, the third anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“I have taken my decision to amend the roadmap for the future in that we will start by holding presidential elections first followed by the parliamentary elections,” interim leader Mansour said in a televised speech.

Critics have campaigned for a change of the roadmap, saying the country needs an elected leader to direct government at a time of economic and political crisis and to forge a political alliance before potentially divisive parliamentary elections.

Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency within days and win by a landslide. His supporters see him as a strong, decisive figure able to stabilize Egypt.

The Brotherhood accuses him of masterminding a coup and holds him responsible for widespread human rights abuses in a crackdown against the movement which has killed up to 1,000 Islamists and put top leaders behind bars.

While tough measures against the Brotherhood have nearly crippled it, security forces have failed to contain an Islamist insurgency. Militant attacks have raised fears for the stability of Egypt, of great strategic importance because of its peace treaty with Israel and control over the Suez Canal.

EXPECTED MOVE

A new constitution voted in earlier this month cleared the way for a change in the order of the elections by leaving open the question of which should come first.

“It was an expected move amid the growing signs that Sisi is being groomed to become the next president,” said Khaled Dawoud, a well-known liberal activist.

Mansour did not announce a date for the presidential vote. The constitution says steps towards holding the first of the elections should be begin no later than 90 days from the ratification of the document in mid-January.

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Egypt’s new constitution gets 98% ‘yes’ vote

Supporters of Egypt's army chief Sisi

Egypt’s new constitution strengthens the country’s military, the police and the judiciary, as well as giving more rights to women. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Over 98% of participants in the first Egyptian vote of the post-Morsi era voted in favour of approving a new constitution, the country’s electoral commission officially announced on Saturday.

Egypt‘s government hailed the result as a resounding show of support for the direction the country has taken since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi last July.

“This is a wonderful day for Egypt, Egyptians and for democracy, despite the extraordinary circumstances,” a spokesman for Egypt’s interim presidency, Ehab Badawi, said in a statement ahead of the official announcement. “This vote represents a resounding rejection of terrorism and a clear endorsement of the roadmap to democracy, as well as economic development and stability.”

After a campaign in which several no-campaigners were arrested and the government said participation was a patriotic duty, the poll’s turnout is also seen as a significant indicator of the level of public support for the process.

According to officials, the turnout was a respectable 38.6% – higher than the 33% who voted in a referendum during Morsi’s tenure, but lower than the 41.9% who turned out in a similar poll following Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

Egypt’s new constitution strengthens the country’s three key institutions – the military, the police and the judiciary. It also gives more rights to women and disabled people, and removes certain Islamist-leaning clauses inserted under Morsi, while maintaining the principles of Islamic sharia as the main source of legislation.

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FILE - An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egypt's army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi giving a live broadcast calling for public rallies  to give him a mandate to fight "terrorism and violence."

FILE – An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows Egypt’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi giving a live broadcast calling for public rallies to give him a mandate to fight “terrorism and violence.”

William Eagle

In recent weeks, Egypt’s military-backed government has introduced new measures to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood.  It has labeled the group a terrorist organization, and has also detained Al Jazeerah journalists said to be backing them.  Civil libertarians have criticized the moves.  But others say they’re necessary as the country heads toward a constitutional referendum and elections.

Despite the measures, protests continue in some towns and universities.

One Egyptian analyst says the crackdown is working — and that protests to reinstate ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi have become smaller and less frequent.

Gamal Soltan, an associate professor of political science at American University in Cairo, questions the designation of protesters as students or journalists.

“ [When we mention] students or journalists,” he asserted, “we are talking about non-ideological groups.  But [these] students, they are actually Muslim Brothers, and unfortunately, Al Jazeerah has been an integral part of the conflict in Egypt. It has taken sides. The situation has changed, and it is now on the wrong side.”

He says reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood is out of the question for the time being.  He says the government’s policy is to redefine political Islam – by excluding the Brotherhood but allowing Islamic moderates such as the Al-Nour party to be on the ballot for parliament.

Soltan says people want stability.

An Egyptian pritzel vender sits next to copies of the new constitution sold on a street in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.An Egyptian pretzel vender sits next to copies of the new constitution sold on a street in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.

“The majority of the people,” he said, “tend to support the new constitution and want to restore normalcy.  Most are hungry for a kind of a strongman, a strong government to be able to bring order and peace and to put the economy back on track.”

Constitutional referendum

Said Sadek, an affiliate professor of political sociology at American University, says the Muslim Brotherhood is using protests and riots to derail the referendum.

“If there is a high turnout like 25 million out of 50 million,” he says, “this would be the official death certificate for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi regime.  The Muslim Brotherhood has been in existence since 1928; its failure would affect other movements in the Islamic world.”

Temporary measures

Sadek says the government’s increased powers to detain and arrest are temporary, and may well change when, in his view, the Brotherhood is defeated.

“We are in exceptional circumstances,” he says, “and you must take lots of measures.  Our neighboring countries are failing states and now there’s an internal organization that wants to destroy our army and police to exert whatever [power] they like through their secret militias…there are no human rights for those who don’t believe in human rights.”

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