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Tuesday
Dec112012

Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and the Opposition's Next Move

See also Syria Live Coverage: So, Are "Al Qa'eda Terrorists" Winning the Civil War?
Monday's Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Opposition Rejects Morsi's Referendum


2145 GMT: Turkey. Buses belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party have been attacked on their way from Sharqiya to Cairo, injuring six.

Assailants stoned the buses, which were en route to protests supporting President Morsi, forcing them to stop before attacking the passengers.

The Secretary General of the FJP in Sharqiya, Ahmed Shehata, said some passengers chased the attackers until they reached the outskirts of Salam City.

1815 GMT: Turkey. As the number of journalists behind bars reached a record 232 on 1 December, Turkey leads the infamous list with a total of 49 in prison.

This year's figure is an increase of 53 on last year's total of 179.

1805 GMT: Yemen. The commander of the Republican Guards has refused orders from the President to hand long-range missiles to the Ministry of Defence.

"Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh [the son of the former President Ali Saleh] rejected the President's instructions to hand over Scud missile formations in the possession of the Republican Guards to the Defence Ministry," a Presidential palace source said. "This has caused a crisis between the two sides."

A second palace source said, "The president was so angry at the rejection of his orders and threatened to revoke the immunity given to the former president and expose corruption worth billions of rials in the armed forces."

1745 GMT: Egypt. The head of the Judges' Club has said 90% of its members have voted not to oversee Saturday's referendum on the draft constitution.

President Morsi's deputy has said that if there are not enough judges to oversee the referendum, the vote can be staggered over several days. A faction of judges loyal to Morsi has said it will not boycott the vote.

1715 GMT: Tunisia. The Government is in talks with the UGTT trade union confederation to find a compromise to avoid a nation-wide strike.

President Moncef Marzouki has postponed trips to Poland and Bulgaria scheduled for this week.

The UGTT called the strike for Thursday, amid tensions with the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, following an alleged attack by the party's supporters on a union demonstration in Tunis. The union want the dissolution of the pro-Ennahda League for the Protection of the Revolution, which it accuses of the violence.

1645 GMT: Iraq. The son of a leading Muslim Brotherhood member died today from injuries sustained during the Presidential Palace clashes last Wednesday, raising the death toll to nine.

Khaled Taha Abu Zeid was shot in the face, head and chest with birdshots.

1635 GMT: Iraq. The Washington Post reports on rising tensions over a proposed deal for a new Turkish company, backed by the Government, to drill for oil and gas in Kurdistan and build pipelines to international markets.

“Turkey hasn’t needed to ask what we think of this, because we tell them at every turn,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Middle East policymaking....The official said any bilateral energy deals with Kurdistan would “threaten the unity of Iraq and push [Prime Minister Nuri] al-Maliki closer to Iran"

Kurdistan has already staked out significant autonomy, providing its own public services, controlling airports and borders, and commanding police and army forces. The energy deal with Turkey would all but sever Kurdistan’s economic dependence on Baghdad, which is perhaps the primary tie that still binds the two sides.

“We are having serious discussions with the [Turkish] company,” Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said. “We hope they participate in the region.”

The Turkish government has not yet made a final decision. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz is leading a review of the deal, according to the senior Turkish officials, and expects to issue a formal recommendation to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the end of the year.

1615 GMT: Egypt. Protesters scaling one of the newly-constructed walls near the Presidential Palace:

1505 GMT: Egypt. Ahead of possible mass protests, the Republican Guards have built up recently-constructed walls around the Presidential Palace.

Soldiers erected the two walls near the palace on Friday morning after last Wednesday's clashes that killed at least six people and injured hundreds.

Roads leading to the palace will be blocked with barbed wire and controlled by Central Security Forces and Republican Guards.

1435 GMT: Egypt. At the request of the Egyptian Government, the International Monetary Fund has delayed a $4.8 billion loan by a month after President Morsi introduced, but then quickly withdrew, sweeping tax increases.

Minister of Finance Mumtaz al-Said said, "Of course the delay will have some economic impact but we are discussing necessary measures during the coming period.I am optimistic...everything will be well, God willing."

1425 GMT: Bahrain. An appeals court has upheld the conviction of prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab for encouraging "illegal gatherings".

The court reduced the prison sentence from three years to two.

Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been imprisoned since 9 July.

1215 GMT: Egypt. President Morsi has amended an electoral law.to prohibit people from casting voting outside their electoral districts in Saturday's constitution referendum.

The President's office said the amendment was aimed at "public interest, and for Egypt to successfully end the current transition and move on to the building of constitutionally-founded institutions." It claimed it would ease "concerns about the fairness of the electoral process and...alleviate the judges supervising the polling from potential burdens".

Antoun Issa of Al Monitor sees another motive, "Morsi has effectively made it impossible for millions of Egyptians who reside in big cities, but are registered in other regions, to vote. I would argue that Morsi's move is manipulative and undemocratic, and aimed to boost his chances of a "yes" vote on Dec 15."

1200 GMT: Egypt. The New York Times features the claims of opponents of President Morsi that they were detained and beaten by the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters during last week's demonstrations outside the Presidential Palace.

The sources claim they were held for hours on the pavement, with their hands bound, as they were pressured to confess that they had accepted money to commit violent acts.

Khaled el-Qazzaz, a spokesman for Morsi, said he has ordered an investigation into the reported abuses and asked the prosecutor to bring charges against any involved.

Last week, Morsi said in a televised speech that confessions under interrogation would show that protesters outside the palace acknowledged ties to his political opposition and had been paid to cause disturbances.

El-Qazzaz said that Mr. Morsi was referring only to confessions obtained by the police, not by his supporters.

Human rights lawyers involved in the cases of the roughly 130 people who were detained last Wednesday night say the police obtained no confessions. “[Morsi's] statement was completely bogus,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah of the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights. “There were no confessions; they were all just simply beaten up. There was no case at all, and they were released the next day.”

Last week video circulated which claimed to show a "torture chamber" run by the Brotherhood, in which detainees were beaten and bloodied.

0920 GMT: Egypt. Sixteen people have been injured by gunmen firing at protesters camping in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Injuries included pellet bullet wounds in the arms and feet. One protester was hit in the head.

The attackers, some masked, also threw petrol bombs which started a small fire, witnesses said.

Protesters, awakened by the noise, chanted, "The people want the downfall of the regime."

0650 GMT: Egypt. After a break yesterday in demonstrations, both supporters and opponents of President Morsi have called for mass rallies today.

The President has chopped-and-changed his position in the last 72 hours. He pulled back his expanded powers, declared on 22 November, and --- perhaps with more embarrassment, he announced and then quickly withdrew a large package of taxes. However, he appears to have staked out his position: the referendum on the draft Constitution will proceed this Saturday.

So now, as the protests continue, the opposition politicians have to make a choice. Do they insist on postponement of the referendum or do they call for participation, but with a No vote?

The new National Salvation Front, a coalition of several groups, initially responded to Morsi with the refusal to take part on Saturday. However, throughout yesterday, other prominent factions set out the alternativeof participation.

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