High school student fails exam for criticizing Bush

Remember when George Bush highlighted reforming education in the region, as a way of fighting “terror,� giving young Arabs a chance for a bright future and bla bla bla bla bla? Well, it seems to be working. A high school student in a Nile Delta province failed her Arabic language exam two weeks ago for criticizing the US in a composition piece! Yes, I’m not joking wallahi. Al-Wafd initially ran the story on Thursday, then the Qatari Al-Raya, and other media outlets picked it up. Alaa Farag Megahed, a student at the Sherbeen Modern Girls School, was taking her Arabic exam, when she was asked to write an essay on the “economic problems facing Egypt.� It seems the girl wrote an essay, critical of Bush, and discussed the support given to corrupt dictators without much concern for their people's needs. As soon as her teacher at the “Control Room� (where exam papers are graded) read her essay, he went directly to his boss, who took her paper to the ministry of education branch in Dakahliya. The undersecretary for education, together with other ministry officials, sent for the girl, from her home, and brought her to the ministry for interrogation. Her father was not allowed into the room, according to press reports, where Alaa was interrogated by three ministry and governorate officials, who accused her of belonging to a “secret organization.� Alaa could not understand half of the questions they asked. She was clueless, in tears. The ministry officials decided in the end to fail her in the exam, and ban her from taking the second term final exams!!! The world is sure a safer place now, without terrorists like Alaa in our schools... Alhamdolillah!
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Google Egypt

So it's official, Google has arrived in Egypt. I guess that explains why whenever I type www.google.com, I get automatically diverted to www.google.com.eg with the default search language switched to Arabic. Anyhow, you are still given the option of clicking on a link that will take you to google.com proper. I tried google-ing anti-Mubarak websites on the Egyptian google, and they still came out in the search results with no filter. So I guess we didn't get the same bad deal the poor Chinese got.
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Activists prepare for labor elections battle

Kefaya, Socialists, Workers for Change and labor union activists will meet Monday, 26 June, 7pm at the Center for Socialist Studies, to discuss strategy and tactics for the coming national labor unions elections, scheduled 20 August. The meeting will be open for the press. The center is located at 7 Morad St., in Giza. The center's director, Kamal Khalil, and other recently released detainees will be attending the discussion. Millions of Egyptian workers are to elect on 20 August their representatives for the unions' pyramid-like structure. Just to explain briefly: At the bottom, there are el-Legan el-Masna3eya (Factories' Committees). Those voted into the committees get the chance to run for el-Niqabbat el-3amma (General Unions). Then members of the General Unions form the leadership of the trade unions' body, al-Itihad el-3am li-Niqabat 3ommal Masr (The General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions). Both the Muslim Brothers and Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) are planning a big electoral battle. The Brothers historically never enjoyed influence in labor unions (not to mention their notortious 1940s mass strike-breaking), but it seems this time they are determined to enter a new arena after they were denied competition in the local municipal councils elections. It's hard for the NDP to let go of its control over the highest two levels of the unions' echelon: The General Unions, and the General Federation, which tend to include probably the worst elements of union bureaucracts (Non-NDP activists can still make their way, though, to the General Unions, but not the federation which forms the tip of the union bureaucracy's pyramid-like structure.) The regime depends strongly on the union bureaucracy for mobilization. Those buses that were shipping in the "NDP supporters" to electoral posts last November to rig the vote in the provinces, were carrying no ones but poor public sector workers, mobilized by the union bureaucrats, who are closely affiliated with the NDP. The "mass demos" that the NDP mobilizes, whether to cheer the president's visit to some town, or to protest the Iraq war in the Cairo staduim in February 2003, where also mobilized by the unions. In the past, the General Federation played a crucial role in mobilizing (together with the Arab Socialist Union, the NDP's grand daddy) mass pro-Nasser demos following the 1967 defeat, and in countering the January 1977 "Bread Intifada"... providing the successive military regimes with an arm inside the working class, and with a vital tool for pro-government street mobilization. If there is, as many believe in Egypt, a family power succession scheme in brewing, then our elite cannot afford letting go of these labor unions, in order to ensure no troubles happen in the factories or the industrial centers. Still, the Factories Committees and (to some extent) the General Unions are good playing grounds for socialists and anti-NDP activists, since the Factory Committee, is lowest-ranking entity on the labor unions hierarchy, and tends to be more independent than the leadership of the General Federation and the General Unions. The Factories' Committees are also more inclined to reflect the workers' mood in times of crises, and led on several occasions unlicensed strikes. The left is preparing candidates who will run in these elections. Candidates from the radical left will run in some factories. Independent anti-privatization activists are expected to receive the support of the left if they run against the NDP in factories where the radical left is not pitching candidates. There is still a debate,however, within the left over the stand towards the Muslim Brothers' candidates, taken into consideration the group’s leadership does not oppose the privatization scheme, but rather suggests slight reforms to it, embracing free market economics. It seems there are two conflicting views among the leftist factions now: One, sees the Brothers as a "regressive force," when it comes to working class issues; arguing for countercampaigning, or at least refraining from supporting the MB candidates wherever they run. But, the second favors to handle the Brothers case by case, i.e., giving selective support for some Brotherhood candidates (in factories where the left isn't running) who are ready to run on an anti-privatization program (there isn't a consensus in the MB over privatization, but the group's leaders have made clear statements in support of a "non-corrupt" privatization. There are however MB members opposed to privatization, and they come mainly from lower middle class backgrounds) realizing well that the Brothers are expected to get a good share of anti-NDP protest votes.
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Zawahiri hails Zarqawi in new video

Al-Jazeera broadcasted Friday night a new video by Dr. Ayman el-Zawahiri, the deputy head of Al-Qa3da, where he acknowledged Zarqawi's death, and hailed him as a "martyr." The Doha-based Satellite channel had aired a video by Zawahiri, only a day before, where he denounced the "massacre" by US troops against Afghan civilians last month, suggesting that the tape was filmed sometime after the traffic accident that involved US army troops that killed Afghans, sparking riots and more deaths on May 29.
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The (Anti-)Palestinian Authority

Professor Joseph Massad wrote an interesting opinion piece in Al-Ahram Weekly, on the social groups--produced by the 1990s Oslo “peace process�--that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in Palestine, and work hard to undermine the current democratically elected Hamas government. He draws parallels between Hamas' current position with that of Chile's Salvador Allende in 1973. Massad highlights five main classes that the architects of Oslo created to ensure that the "process" survives are: - A political class, divided between those elected to serve the Oslo process, whether to the Legislative Council or the executive branch (essentially the position of president of the Palestinian Authority), and those who are appointed to serve those who are elected, whether in the ministries, or in the presidential office. - A policing class, numbering in the tens of thousands, whose function is to defend the Oslo process against all Palestinians who try to undermine it. It is divided into a number of security and intelligence bodies competing with one another, all vying to prove that they are most adept at neutralising any threat to the Oslo process. Under Arafat's authority, members of this class inaugurated their services by shooting and killing 14 Palestinians they deemed enemies of the "process" in Gaza in 1994 -- an achievement that earned them the initial respect of the Americans and the Israelis who insisted that the policing class should use more repression than it had to be most effective. - A bureaucratic class attached to the political class and the policing class and that constitutes an administrative body of tens of thousands who execute the orders of those elected and appointed to serve the "process". - An NGO class: another bureaucratic and technical class whose finances fully depend on their serving the Oslo process and ensuring its success through planning and services. - A business class composed of expatriate Palestinian businessmen as well as local businessmen -- including especially members of the political, policing and bureaucratic classes -- whose income is derived from financial investment in the Oslo process and from profit-making deals that the Palestinian Authority (PA) can make possible. (Read full op-ed)
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The politics of hypocrisy, Part II

The regime's sponsors in Washington are still debating the sweet $1.7 billion of US tax-payers money, given in the form of economic and military aid to Mubarak. Here are excerpts from the US House of Representatives' International Relations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday... Jon Alterman reiterated his position, of continuing the aid without cutting a dime, coz it’s ineffectual, and because Egypt is just too valuable in the war on terror, maintaining peace with Israel, bla bla bla bla bla. Alterman of course said the US should still lobby Mubarak to democratize, without saying how. First he puts forward “several reasons� for he why was “not persuaded that any amount of U.S. pressure can fundamentally change the Egyptian government’s actions.� I am not gonna waiste your time with those “several reasons,� since you can read the full testimony here. I’ll just skip to the last two of the "several reasons," which Alterman should have just saved our time and put them in the beginning, as they sum up the vision of Mubarak’s supporters in DC. In addition, it would be hard to impose strict conditionality credibly, for two reasons. First, there is just so much that the United States asks Egypt for on Arab-Israeli issues, counterterrorism, military transport through the Suez Canal, and so on, that American diplomats are unlikely to sacrifice near term needs for uncertain long-term reward. Second, the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in recent elections, combined with Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian Authority, will lead many in the United States to question just how quickly we want democracy to take hold in such a vital ally. None of this is to say that the United States government should not speak out on issues of freedom and political participation. This administration has done so clearly, and I believe it has had a positive effect, albeit a limited one. They should continue to do so. Overall, I believe U.S. officials are more effective indicating their seriousness to the Egyptian government than they are at inspiring the Egyptian people. As friends of Egypt with shared interests, we should not shirk from telling our friends when they are harming our interests, as well as their own, and we should not be complicit in abuses that they commit. As for Michele Dunne, the editor of Arab Reform Bulletin, she suggested conditioning the aid. (Dunne's full testimony) How exactly should the United States employ its influence in Egypt to encourage constructive change? The United States has a wide range of tools at its disposal, from policy decisions about senior official visits to and from Egypt, military relations, and trade relations, to the military and economic assistance packages. It might well be necessary to condition military or economic assistance on political reforms at some juncture, although it will be difficult to carry off successfully. At this moment, when Egypt will soon be facing a leadership transition, what the United States should be doing is conveying the message in private that it is time to reach a broad new understanding within which to renew the relationship, an understanding that includes the political reforms demanded by the Egyptian people Mr. Raffi Vartian, of the Leadership Council for Human Rights (I have no clue what this group is), delved into issues of civil liberties, democracy, Ayman Nour, and the situation of Copts, Baha’is, Bedouins. (Vartian's full testimony) When officials from the State Department testified before this Subcommittee last month, they strongly advised against any reduction in the annual funding package for Egypt. It was important, they noted, to maintain our close and strategically important relationship with Egypt. The Leadership Council for Human Rights is not suggesting that the U.S. reduce its aid to Egypt, but it is critical to thoroughly examine the way these funds have been allocated. As noted in today’s testimony, the vast majority of Egyptian people are in many instances no better off today then they were 30 years ago. Where has US assistance gone? Is the primary return on the American people’s investment of some $60 billion the denial of basic freedoms and desperate poverty? There needs to be a frank and open conversation with the Egyptian government about its systemic problems (poverty, poor health care, inadequate education and corruption) and their predictable consequences (lack of basic freedoms and institutionalized discrimination). This should take place in a forum and manner that is open and transparent to the American and Egyptian people. The last 30 years of U.S. aid to Egypt has not benefited the Egyptian people. The next 30 must. The Leadership Council for Human Rights humbly suggest the following: • That members of this Subcommittee should demand immediate release and complete amnesty for Ayman Nour; • That members of this Subcommittee should demand visitation and access to Ayman Nour as long as he remains a prisoner, as the Egyptian government has failed to allow parliamentarians from any country to meet with him. Mr. Nour suffers from serious health problems including diabetes, and his physical health must be ensured; • That an Ombudsman, mandated by Congress, should be stationed in Egypt to investigate where U.S. foreign aid goes and what impact it has on the Egyptian people; • That aid funds should be redistributed, with military and economic assistance levels flipped. The Egyptian government has enough tanks and guns. The Egyptian people need better access to education and healthcare; • That the U.S. government should demand accountability for the development of civic society programs, helping to alleviate the triggers for the problems that Egypt faces. By building the civic society of Egypt through improved health care, education and infrastructure, Egypt will make significant progress in the years to come; • That a center for the promotion of democracy and civil society, based on the model of the Ibn Khaldun Center in Cairo, but with a greater focus on grassroots development, should be opened in Alexandria to support the efforts of the courageous activists in that city. It should be a place where any person can come to learn more about tolerance, understanding and ways to work together to build a stronger Egypt from the ground up; • That the Egyptian government must be encouraged to invest more resources, time and long term strategic thought to basic health care and education. The ever widening gap between the haves and have nots is a serious threat to the long-term stability of the Egyptian society and the Middle East in general. (Also see: The politics of hypocrisy, Part I)
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Leftist detainees released

Ibrahim el-Sahary, detained socialist journalist, called me five minutes ago. He's free! Cheerful! He said he and a group of the detainees were taken from Tora Prison to State Security Giza premise (Gaber Ibn Hayyan) few hours ago, before they were released, including Wael Khalil, Kamal Khalil, and the rest. Mabrouk! It's a great day! But again, we should NOT forget there are still two Youth for Change activists Mohamed el-Sharqawi and Karim el-Sha3er in Tora Prison, together with at least 700 Muslim Brothers detainees, after their arrest in pro-democracy demos. Their release is a cause leftists, liberals and Islamists have to lobby for.
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Statement from 3alaa's lawyers; New letter from Sharqawi

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has welcomed 3alaa's release. Still, it denounced the State Security Prosecutor's office, and called for reviewing its legal status. You can find the English statement here. The Arabic statement is followed by a scanned copy of a letter from Sharqawi, dated Wednesday, complaining of maltreatment.
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3alaa beaten up in 3omraniya police station

I received an SMS saying 3alaa was beaten up inside the notorious 3omraniya police station in Giza, where he's currently locked up, pending release, following an order by the State Security prosecutor two days ago. I spoke with his wife Manal. She says 3alaa was moved from Luman Tora prison to State Security's premise in Giza (Gaber Ibn Hayyan), then to the 3omraniya police station last night, for the ever-lasting bureaucratic paper work. 3alaa was locked up in a tiny cell, full of criminals, some of whom were high on drugs and others were armed with knives and sharp objects, Manal said. Scuffles have broken out inside the cell between the criminals, who reportedly hit 3alaa several times. 3alaa spent the night standing on his feet, coz there was no room for him to sleep in that filthy cell. According to Manal, he managed to call her on the mobile phone, and he sounded in a very bad state, desperate to get out. I called Ahmad Seif al-Islam, 3alaa's father. He is still hopeful his son will be released in few hours. Some activists and 3alaa's family are standing at the moment in front of the police station awaiting the blogger's release. On hearing the news 3alaa was beaten up, other activists are now on their way to the police station to protest 3alaa's maltreatement. This is bloody unbelievable! Let's hope 3alaa gets out soon! UPDATE: I just received breaking news..... 3alaa released!!!!!!!! I called his wife on the mobile, but his sister Mona replied instead. She said 3alaa was beside her, talking on two cellular phones.. but she said he's out... yes, finally out!!!! hohohohohoh!! MABROUK YA SHABAB! MABROUK YA TENNIN YA BAMBY! UPDATE: Finally spoke with 3alaa. He's in great spirit. I asked him, "Shall we meet up soon?" He answered quickly, "Of course, next demo!" followed by a long laughter... UPDATE: Nora Younis posted a photo of 3alaa with Manal at home following his release.
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New Zawahiri video

Al-Jazeera has just aired few minutes ago a new video by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's aide, where he accused the US army of conducting a "massacre against civilians in Kabul" last month. He also called up on Afghanis to support the "mujahideen" in their fight against Western military presence. Al-Jazeera said it obtained the video from the internet. Update: Here is a report on the video.
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Afghan security orders journalists to report "more good news"

This is just pathetic… The best Karzai's government could come up with--in response to Taliban’s mounting attacks on NATO, local government troops as well as civilians, since spring of this year--is sending Afghani intelligence agents to intimidate Kabul’s press corps into reporting “more good news.� Here are excerpts of Newsday report by James Rupert: Afghanistan orders journalists to report more good news KABUL, Afghanistan — The war against the Taliban has gone badly these last months, but Afghanistan's national intelligence agency has devised a secret plan to reverse the tide of bad news. In a coordinated action this week, the intelligence men drove up to TV stations and newspapers in SUVs and dropped off an unsigned letter ordering journalists to report more favorable news about the government. In particular, the letter said, they should avoid "materials which deteriorate people's morale and cause disappointment to them." The men from the National Security Directorate would not give their names, and to better ensure secrecy, the letter instructed journalists that "publishing or copying this document is unauthorized." Immediately, of course, it was Afghanistan's top story: The government was imposing censorship, and press groups were protesting in outrage. By Monday night, the fire reached China, where President Hamid Karzai is traveling. (Full story)
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The Road to Gitmo

A movie on Guantanamo, based on the true story of the Tipton Three, is to start showing in US theatres tomorrow June 23, amid increasing calls for shutting down the island's gulag. George Bush announced Wednesday in Vienna the US 'wants to end Guantanamo,' and send most of the detainees back to their home countries. Some would be put on trial in the US, he added though.
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Al-Jazeera targeted?

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a statement today expressing its concern over the new information--regarding the November 2001 bombing of Al-Jazeera office in Kabul-- that accuses the US army of deliberately targeting the Arab satellite channel office. The information has come out in Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine. “On November 13, a hectic day when Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance and there were celebrations in the streets of the city, a U.S. missile obliterated Al-Jazeera’s office,� Suskind wrote in the book, which was released yesterday. “Inside the CIA and White House there was satisfaction that a message had been sent to Al-Jazeera.� Questioned yesterday by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Suskind said: “My sources are clear that that was done on purpose, precisely to send a message to Al-Jazeera, and essentially a message was sent. ...There was great anger at Al-Jazeera at this point.� Suskind said U.S. officials considered Al-Jazeera a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Asked who made the decision to target the station, Suskind told Blitzer that because of “sourcing issues� he couldn’t say. “You don’t put everything you know in a book like this. But I’ll tell you emphatically it was a deliberate act by the U.S.� CNN reported last night that Pentagon officials speaking on background denied that the attack was intentional and said it was the first that they had heard about it. Al-Jazeera Kabul Correspondent then, Tayseer 3allouni, managed to escape unharmed, only to come under US attack again, as an airstrike targeted the channel's Baghdad Bureau on 8 April 2003, killing 3allouni's Jordanian colleague, Tareq Ayoub. 3allouni is currently incarcerated in Spain on terror charges, following an unjust trial, condemned by several rights watchdogs.
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All detainees to be released, except Sharqawi and Sha3er

I was just on the phone with Ahmad Seif al-Islam, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and father of detained blogger 3alaa. He said all remaining non-Muslim Brothers detainees, around 20 Kefaya activists are to be released-- including Kamal Khalil, Gamal 3abdel Fattah, Wael Khalil, Ibrahim el-Sahary--by a unexpected order from the State Security Prosecutor today. Karim el-Sha3er and Mohamed el-Sharqawi were given another 15 days in prison, however. They, together with 3alaa el-Kashef (an activist from 3arish), had been the only activists referred today to the State Security Prosecutor, who decided only to release the latter, and renew the detention of the first two. The rest of the activists are to be released directly, sometime tomorrow from Luman Tora and Mazra3et Tora prisons. MABROUK YA SHABAB! 3alaa Seif al-Islam, whose release was ordered yesterday, is still in Tora Prison as of the moment. His friends have expressed concern his release could be further stalled, but hoped he would be freed tomorrow. 3alaa has been blogging from his prison cell. His last posting was about "Kambuzz," a "criminal" who was moved to their cell, as part of the "punishment" to the political detainees for hunger-striking. 3alaa wrote it seems the prison authorities' policy has been bringing opposite results, with the "criminals" getting politicized and joining the dissidents' cause. And, we should not forget there are around 700 detainees from the Muslim Brotherhood still in prison, after being picked up in pro-democracy demos, from their homes, or summer camps. We all hope their release will follow soon. UPDATE: Here’s an AP report, by Nadia Abou El-Magd on today’s developments... 20 secular Egyptian activists ordered freed, incarceration of sexually assaulted detainee renewed CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Authorities on Wednesday ordered the release of 20 leftist activists who have spent seven weeks in jail, but renewed the detention of two others, including one who says that he was sexually assaulted while in custody. The 22 were arrested in late April during peaceful protests to express solidarity with pro-reform judges. Activist Mohammed el-Sharkawi, 24, was tortured and sodomized at a police station, his Lawyer Gamal Eid told The Associated Press in late May. An AP reporter on May 25 saw more than 15 men in plainclothes grab el-Sharkawi and punch and kick him after he participated in a peaceful protest outside of the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo. Last month, the U.S. State Department publicly criticized Egypt for its crackdown on secular political activists, and called for an investigation into el-Sharkawi's case. El-Sharkawi hasn't been treated for fractures to his hand and ribs, sustained while in police custody, his lawyer said. El-Sharkawi is a member of Youth for Change, affiliated with the political opposition movement Kifaya, Arabic for Enough. Authorities conducted a forensic medical exam on El-Sharkawi three days after his arrest, but haven't made the results public or released them to his lawyer. The state security prosecutor on Wednesday extended the detention of El-Sharkawi and Karim el-Sha'er, who is in his twenties, for 15 days. The pair were arrested in the street and returned to jail, three days after spending a month in detention following an earlier peaceful demonstration. Meanwhile, on Tuesday the prosecution ordered 31 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood arrested and extended the detention of 134 held since May, also for supporting the pro-reform judges. Authorities on Tuesday also ordered 31 released from about 700, picked up since March in a countrywide crackdown on the group. Founded in 1928 and banned since 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest Islamic group. Membership is considered illegal, but the group is believed to have tens of thousands of followers. The Brotherhood is the largest opposition bloc in parliament, having won about one-fifth of the seats in elections last year. Police began a fresh crackdown on the Brotherhood in March, when members protested against the extension of Egypt's controversial emergency laws. The roundups continued as the Brothers demonstrated in solidarity with the pro-reform judges in April and May. A group of judges is calling for full independence of the judiciary. A judicial disciplinary panel reprimanded one of them and cleared another for speaking to the media about allegations of fraud during last year's parliamentary elections. The United States has urged Egypt to push ahead with democratization and expressed unease about the country's human rights record. Earlier this month, Congress voted only narrowly to continue funneling aid money to Cairo. One of the people ordered released Wednesday is socialist activist Kamal Khalil, 57, whose April detention was his 16th since 1968. Alaa Abdel Fattah, one of Egypt's best known bloggers and who was ordered released Tuesday, after 45 days in jail, has not been freed, his father, Ahmed Saif el-Islam, told the AP Wednesday, explaining that the orders were still subject to approval by state security and police.
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For bread alone

Moorishgirl points out that Paul Bowles' translation of Mohammed Choukri's For Bread Alone has been re-published:

Luckily for those of you who would like to finally get your hands on this seminal Moroccan novel, Telegram Books in the UK is re-issuing it this month, so I'll be sure to pick up a copy when I'm in London in July. You can also get it on Amazon.co.uk. You'd better get a copy and read it, or you are dead to me.

Damn right. Find out more about Choukri here.
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3alaa to be released!!

State security prosecutor ordered today the release of detained leftist blogger 3alaa Seif al-Islam, who's been locked up in Tora Prison since 7 May. 3alaa's actual release, however, isn't expected to happen before sometime tomorrow or Thursday, because of the notorious red-tape and paper-work his lawyers have to go through. Mabrouk ya 3alaa! Mabrouk ya Manal!! Here's an AP report by Nadia Abou El-Magd on 3alaa's release: Egyptian blogger ordered released six weeks after arrest in pro-democracy protests CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Alaa Abdel Fattah, an Egyptian blogger who was arrested during pro-democracy protests last month and continued to blog from his cell, was ordered released Tuesday, his wife and police said.The security prosecutor, who reviews detentions every 15 days, ordered his release. But Manal Hassan, his wife, told The Associated Press he's not expected to be freed before Wednesday evening or Thursday because of paperwork. Police officials confirmed the release order and that it might take up to two days to implement it. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to speak with the media. Abdel-Fattah appeared Tuesday at the prosecutor's office for the hearing. After the release order was issued, Hassan, 23, wrote on the blog: "It was the happiest time, and I was chanting 'Down with (President) Hosni Mubarak,' as Alaa was taken back from the prosecutors' office to prison in a police van." Abdel Fattah and Hassan's blog _ called Manalaa a combination of their first names _ has become one of the most popular pro-democracy voices in Egypt. Abdel Fattah, 24, was arrested May 7 along with 10 other pro-democracy activists during a rally in front of a Cairo court in support of other detained activists. While in prison, he continued to post messages on the blog by sneaking out written notes. Police arrested secular activists as well as hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members in a crackdown launched during a wave of protests in April and May in support of two reformist judges who blew the whistle on alleged fraud during parliament elections last year. Last month, a judiciary panel reprimanded one judge and cleared the other. The Manalaa blog, launched two years ago and written in a mixture of English and Arabic, was awarded a 2005 best blog prize by Reporters Without Borders and German media Deutsche Welle. A photo of Abdel Fattah, with his long, curly hair and scraggly beard, was posted on many Internet sites campaigning for his release. His hair was shaved off completely just after his arrest.
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Sacked activist finally gets his pay cheque

Ahmad el-Droubi woke up in the morning to a postman knocking on his door. When he opened the letter, it was nothing but a sweet cheque from his former employer that had his unpaid salary and consultancy fees.The cheque Droubi received this morning signifies two things: First, it is an implicit acknowledgement from his company that he was unjustly dismissed. Second, it shows campaigning does work! Yes, Droubi wouldn’t have gotten back part of his rights, if it was not for you dear readers. On behalf of Droubi, I want to thank everyone who expressed their solidarity and support, and for all those who took the time to write the company management protesting the activist’s dismissal. The fight is NOT over though, as there are still unsettled issues here. One: The dismissal is still unjust, and our friend is still unemployed. Two: We still need a financial compensation for this unjust dismissal. So please dear readers, keep those emails to the management coming, till they do the right thing. Mabrouk ya Droubster.. We hope we'll hear more good news soon.
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