Today the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research will host a meeting with other representatives of the intelligence community to discuss opening more formal channels to the brothers. Earlier this year, the National Intelligence Council received a paper it had commissioned on the history of the Muslim Brotherhood by a scholar at the Nixon Center, Robert Leiken, who is invited to the State Department meeting today to present the case for engagement. On April 7, congressional leaders such as Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, attended a reception where some representatives of the brothers were present. The reception was hosted at the residence in Cairo of the American ambassador to Egypt, Francis Ricciardone, a decision that indicates a change in policy. The National Security Council and State Department already meet indirectly with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood through discussions with a new Syrian opposition group created in 2006 known as the National Salvation Front. Meanwhile, Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, is a leader of Iraq's chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. His party, known as the Iraqi Islamic Party, has played a role in the Iraqi government since it was invited to join the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003. These developments, in light of Hamas's control of Gaza, suggest that President Bush — who has been careful to distinguish the war on terror from a war on Islam — has done more than any of his predecessors to accept the movement fighting for the merger of mosque and state in the Middle East.I personally think Leiken has a tendency to put the various Muslim Brotherhoods in the same basket. Whatever the links between them, they are clearly separate entities with local leaderships and warrant different approaches from the US. For instance, from a practical standpoint the US is forced to deal with the MB in Iraq, and from a political one engaging the Syrian MB makes sense if one is pursuing a policy of regime change in Damascus, particularly as exile Syrian groups have relationships with the Syrian MB. In Egypt, the situation is quite different: engagement with the MB has been extremely cautious, restricted to parliamentarians and is subject to close scrutiny from a regime that is close to Washington. In Palestine, engagement with Hamas is left to countries like Egypt since dealing with Hamas directly would contravene every ideological tenet the Bush administration holds dear, and presumably anger their neocon friends. However, there are signs that the Egyptian MB can be useful: last week, reports emerged that Fatah's strongman in Gaza and US-Israeli tool Muhammad Dahlan (who is blamed even by his Egyptian intelligence handlers for starting the recent violence in Gaza) had sent out an emissary to MB Supreme Guide Muhammad Akef, asking him to reach out to Hamas. The Egyptian intelligence services have used Akef's good offices with Hamas for a while now, it seems, and despite the ongoing crackdown against the MB domestically, the regime realizes they can be useful (and perhaps the MB hopes to win some lenience in return), even if the MB's official support for the Hamas government clashes with Egypt's decision to only recognize the Fatah-backked Fayyad government in the West Bank (and Egypt's help in making sure Hamas leaders cannot leave Gaza and other forms of coordination of the blockade with the Israelis, even if some Israelis are unhappy.) It's also worthwhile noting that Hamas is making an attempt to get the US to engage directly with them -- note that Ismail Haniyeh's advisor Ahmed Youssef had op-eds in both the NYT and WaPo yesterday advocating engagement and defending Hamas' democratic credentials. Hamas has also been making noise about negotiating the release of of BBC journalist Alan Johnston (what were they waiting for, anyway?) In the context of this debate about engaging the various Muslim Brotherhoods, it's worth highlighting that Human Rights Watch has put up interviews of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood detainees who were imprisoned and tortured by the Egyptian security services. It's a novel and unusual attempt by an establishment institution to put a human face on the MB, which tends not to make front-page news when its members are (routinely) arrested and mistreated. HRW is not only defending their human rights, but also the MB's freedom of association and expression, which is bound to make many in Cairo (and not just in government) unhappy. The full list of interviews is on the page linked above, but here's a YouTube version of the interview with Mahmoud Izzat, the Secretary-General of the MB, recalling the brutal 1965 wave of arrests, which was widely credited for radicalizing a part of the MB and creating the spinoff groups that would become Islamic Jihad, and ultimately join al-Qaeda.
Egypt is a transit country for women trafficked from Uzbekistan, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, and other Eastern European countries to Israel for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and may be a source for children trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Reports indicate that some of Cairoâ€™s estimated 1 million street children â€” both girls and boys â€” are exploited in prostitution.I'm surprised at this large number of street children in Cairo. Does anyone have other sources on this?
In addition, wealthy men from the Gulf reportedly travel to Egypt to purchase â€œtemporary marriagesâ€� with Egyptian women, including in some cases girls who are under age 18, often apparently as a front for commercial sexual exploitation facilitated by the femalesâ€™ parents and marriage brokers.What I also heard is that Cairo's chronically underfunded state-run orphanages are using this to make some extra money (or their employees). The full report can be downloaded here.
Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council's report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons' operations and the identities of some of the prisoners. The council has also established that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Nato signed an agreement with the US that allowed civilian jets used by the CIA during its so-called extraordinary rendition programme to move across member states' airspace. Its report states: "We have sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA's illegal activities on their territories." The council's investigators believe that agreement may have been illegal. . . . The 19-month inquiry by the council, which promotes human rights across Europe, was headed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and former state prosecutor. He said: "What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice." His report says there is "now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania".Yet another reason I think the EU should have never expanded to include Eastern European countries. Update: Also see HRW's backgrounder on U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror”.
Last week, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MP Farid Ismail petitioned Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Interior Minister Habib al-Adli regarding a case that neatly illustrates why the "trust us" line doesn't work. Security forces arrested five kids, some of them as young as 15, from the al-Sharqiyya governorate in the Nile Delta on suspicion of belonging to Islamic Jihad following the 1997 terrorist attacks in Luxor. In the 10 years since, Ismail said, magistrates have ordered their release 125 times each, saying there was no evidence to keep them detained. No matter. A decade later, they are still in prison.
Now, I'm in favor of locking up people who want to blow up innocent people. And I can understand that in the wake of a big terrorist attack, you might want to err on the side of caution. But you've got to do it in a way that ensures that you get the right people, and that lets innocent people caught up in the sweep get back to their lives, ideally with compensation (though how do you compensate someone who's spent a week with electrodes on his tongue, nipples, and genitals? Mawlish doesn't quite cover it). This is why the legal protections are so important. I have no idea if these five are innocent, but 125 release orders (times five is what? 625) from magistrates who have seen all the evidence strongly suggests that they are.
If the good people working for Egypt's stability and security won't respect what slender legal protections exist today, how are we supposed to "trust them" when those legal protections are gone?
Right. Apologies for the rant, but this is a particularly outrageous case.
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of arrested human rights activist Ibrahim Zoro, who regularly posts material on foreign-based opposition websites. It noted that two other people were in prison in Syria for posting similar material. It said the state security service, whose agents arrested Zoro on 5 April 2007 in Damascus, were "as always, acting quite illegally" and his family had not been told why he was picked up or where he was being held. "It is more like a kidnapping than an arrest," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. Zoro, who belongs to Syria's Kurdish minority, was helping to organise a seminar called "The Philosophy of Lies." He has posted many articles in Arabic on websites such as the blog Tharway and Mengos. Zoro, 47, has already spent seven years in prison, from 1987 to 1994, for belonging to the Syrian Communist Party. He is a member of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights in Syria. Journalist Muhened Abdulrahman and writer Habib Saleh are also in prison in Syria for posting material online.
Egypt's president wants military appeals courtCould this be a response to the criticisms about Article 179? If so, it's a pretty limited one.
Wed 28 Mar 2007, 12:41 GMT
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed a law to set up an appeals court for suspects tried before military tribunals, known for their tough and swift verdicts, a cabinet statement said on Wednesday.
Mubarak has sent the draft bill to both houses of parliament, dominated by his ruling National Democratic Party. Under the present law, only the president can reverse verdicts of a military court.
"This will provide more guarantees for those transferred to the military judiciary," the statement said. It did not say how judges will be selected for the new court.
- Abd al-Fattah Murad will likely not be the judge in Abd al-Karim Sulaiman's appeal. This would too nice a present to the defense team, who are engaged in a separate legal dispute with the judge and so could clearly not get a fair trial from him. If Judge Abd al-Fattah is on the stand next session, we can all start believing the rumors that the government never wanted to imprison Kareem in the first place. Or we should all be very scared because the government will have dropped its last shred of shame.
- The only source for the suit's existence remains Egypt's finest, Rose al-Yusef. Lawyers have had no communication from the courts. A scanned copy of the Rose al-Yusef article is here. It's possible the lawsuit won't progress, and that this article (in a paper whose meager readership consists mostly of those who have a professional interest in trying to guess what Security is thinking) is another shot over the bow. [Update: AFP cites "a judicial source" and "sources" to confirm the story]
- His honor reportedly has very good wasta in the Interior Ministrybut less so in the Judge's Club. It's unclear whether he has the clout to get the government to change its current policy of not censoring the Internet.
Two police corporals are currently under investigation for attempting to rape a woman in Tahrir Square’s underground metro (Sadat Station) on Wednesday, Al-Masry Al-Youm reports. The woman approached a police corporal inside the underground station, asking him for directions to the nearest exit to KFC at 1:30pm. To her surprise, he pointed at the security office in the station, and told her that was her destination, before grabbing her to the office and attempting to rape her with the help of another police corporal. The woman managed to escape, in complete trauma with torn clothes.This could happen to your sister or mother.