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Sunday
Dec232012

Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A "Yes" for the Constitution --- But How Big?

See also Syria Live Coverage: Starving in Aleppo
Saturday's Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Netanyahu Dismisses Criticism of Settlements


2100 GMT: Egypt. Scores of journalists have held a silent protest at the headquarters of the Journalists Syndicate to protest the Government's censorship policies and the killing of a colleague at protests near the Presidential Palace earlier this month.

The journalists, from independent newspapers such as Al-Wafd, Al-Dostour and Al-Fagr, wore masks and wielded pens and cameras to protest Government attacks on freedom of journalism and expression. They raised banners such as “No to handcuffing the media and journalism", “No to a constitution that suppresses the freedoms of media and journalism", “No to attacking newspapers’ headquarters,” and “Down with the Shura Council", referring to the legislature's control of the selection of the heads of State-owned newspapers.

The participants also mourned Al-Fagr photojournalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif, killed on 5 December amid clashes between supporters and opponents of President Morsi.

1515 GMT: Iraq. About 2000 protesters, demanding the resignation of premier Nuri Al-Maliki, blocked a highway in western Iraq leading to Syria and Jordan today.

The protesters, including local officials, religious and tribal leaders, turned out in Ramadi, the capital of the largely-Sunni Anbar Province, to demonstrate against the arrest of nine guards of Minister o Finance Rafa Al-Issawi.

A letter was read from fugitive Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi --- like Al-Issawi, a member of the Sunni-led Iraqiyya bloc --- who has been sentenced to death in absentia. He praised the demonstration and declared, “Maliki is a prisoner of a sick mind, obsessed with power. The Islamic and Arab world looks at him now as the sponsor of the Safavid (Iranian) project in Iraq.”

1425 GMT: Bahrain. An EA correspondent claims an interesting development in police surveillance.

One of the strange things we have noticed in the raids is that clothes of activists are being taken even when they are not at home. We were surprised and wondering why the police seized them.

We only realised why this may be occurring after reports that protesters are being located through GPS chips in their clothing.

The Bahrain Forum for Human Rights makes a similar claim, with a purported photograph of the GPS chip.

1421 GMT: Egypt. The governor of the Central Bank, Farouk El-Okdah, has denied Saturday's report on State TV that he resigned.

El-Okdah, in the post since 2003, said, "I did not resign," after a meeting with a Ministerial committee for economic policies.

1413 GMT: Egypt. The opposition National Salvation Front says it will appeal the outcome of the referendum approving the Constitution, claiming that voting was riddled with "fraud and violations".

"The referendum is not the end of the road. It is only one battle," said the statement, read by Front member Abdel Ghaffer Shokr. "We will continue the fight for the Egyptian people."

Another Front member, Amr Hamzawy, said: "We are asking the (electoral) commission to investigate the irregularities before announcing official results."

1147 GMT: Bahrain. An EA correspondent reports an escalation in late-night raids on houses by security forces and plainclothesmen, hoping to catch activists who have organised protests and blocked roads.

The correspondent points to a murky clip from Nuwaidrat which claims to show one such raid.

1139 GMT: Egypt. The appeals court has set a date of 12 January to hear a petition by former President Hosni Mubarak for the review of his life sentence, according to a court source.

Mubarak was sentenced in June 2012 for not halting the killing of protesters during the uprising against his regime in January-February 2011.

The court will also hear the case of former Minister of Interior Habib al-Adli, serving a life term for for corruption and conspiring to kill protestors.

Mubarak supporters outside the court:

1135 GMT: Yemen. The army has launched an assault with tanks and rockets on tribesmen blocking repairs to the country's main oil export pipeline, according to tribal sources.

Earlier this month, the military launched a major offensive against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly blowing up the Maarib pipeline and attacking power lines. At least 17 soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected insurgents.

Local authorities reached a deal last week with tribal leaders under which the military will cease air strikes and tribesmen will chase those responsible for killing the soldiers.

Before a series of attacks beginning in 2011, the Maarib pipeline had typically carried 110,000 barrels per day of light crude to the Ras Isa export terminal on the Red Sea coast.

A long closure of the pipeline last year forced the country's largest refinery at Aden to shut, leaving Yemen dependent on imports and fuel donations from Saudi Arabia.

0935 GMT: Iraq. Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujeifi and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani have met in Erbil, discussing Iraq-Kurdistan tensions and this week's political conflict over Government raids on Minister of Finance Rafei al-Issawi.

Al-Issawi's guards were arrested when security forces moved on his home and offices. Nujeifi, like al-Issawi is a member of the Sunni-majority Iraqiyya bloc.

The statement after the Erbil meeting declared, "Both Barzani and head of the delegation said that the country cannot stand another crisis.....The federal government should have taken into account the sensitive time the country is going through due to President Talabani’s illness."

Iraq President Jalal Talabani was rushed to hospital on Monday after a stroke and is now in a German hospital.

0815 GMT: Egypt. Facing economic difficulties, the Government has announced a curious decision in the energy sector....

The Ministry of Petroleum has said that it will import natural gas from Qatar at $14 per 1 million thermal units, selling it as $4 to factories.

Meanwhile, Egypt is exporting its own natural gas to Jordan at $5 per 1 million thermal units, just over 1/3 of the cost of its purchases from Qatar.

0800 GMT: Bahrain. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights posts an appeal for activist Masooma AlSayed, arrested on 21 September 2012 as she took part in a protest in the capital Manama.

AlSayed, a mother of two, was sentenced on 4 December to three months in prison for insulting a police officer. Her appeal hearing has been delayed to 7 January, by which time she will have been detained for 3 months and 17 days.

The BCHR warns that AlSayed could be given further sentences on charges of illegal gathering and insulting a public official.

0700 GMT: Egypt. After weeks of controversy and voting spread across two Saturdays, unofficial figures indicate that the Constitution will be approved.

An estimated 63.9% of voters backed the draft, with a 71.4% "Yes" return claimed in yesterday's second phase from 17 Governorates.

The victory is a far from settled one, however. Some observers raised eyebrows at the claimed margin of approval, with assertions of "Yes" votes of more than 85% in some Governorates. The accusation was that that President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood --- having picked up only 57% backing last week, and losing the referendum in Cairo --- needed the overwhelming margin to establish legitimacy rather than a narrow win.

And even if the wide margin of victory is officially declared on Monday, the low turnout may dog the Government and Brotherhood. Only 32% of those registered cast ballots on Saturday, almost the same level as last week's participation.

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