|The News Line: Feature
Monday, 21 January 2013
A wave of protests sweeps through Egypt
A WAVE of protests against poor living and working conditions swept through the nation’s governorates last Monday.
Residents of the villages around Kafr al-Sheikh blocked the highway to protest against continuous power outages. They left only after the mayor promised to resolve the problem.
In Sharqiya, hundreds of workers of the Rostex Company for Dyeing and Printing went on strike demanding higher salaries and incentives that match the wages offered at other companies.
Farmers threatened to block roads in Giza in protest against industrial wastewater that factories dump in the canals, contaminating their arable land.
‘Those factories must move to satellite cities,’ said Kamel Omran, a farmer.
Elsewhere, substitute teachers in Minya staged an open-ended sit-in, requesting permanent contracts. ‘We were promised tenure in a year, but it did not happen,’ said Abdel Hakim Mohamed.
In Assiut, workers at Assiut Cement continued their sit-in for the fifth day, demanding better living conditions.
Finally, in Ismailia, temporary workers at the general hospital staged protests, also demanding tenure and better wages.
The working class is stubbornly standing its ground.
Train traffic in Upper Egypt screeched to a halt for over an hour on Friday when a train conductor stopped his train in the middle of his route because it was the end of his shift.
When the conductor pulled into Wasty Station in the Beni Suef Governorate, he stopped the train and refused to continue, asking for another conductor to finish the trip because the shift was over.
Commuters exited the train and gathered on the railway tracks as they waited. Security department officials negotiated with the conductor for 80 minutes, ultimately convincing him to finish the journey as a replacement conductor was not available.
Once the train resumed operation and pulled out of the station, Cairo-Aswan train traffic returned to normal.
Train traffic had returned to normal on Friday morning, following a train derailment at al-Tal al-Kabeer Station on Thursday evening.
No deaths were reported in the incident.
Trains were halted for several hours after the train, which was en route from Zagazig to Ismailia, derailed upon entering the station.
Civil Defence Forces and the National Railway Authority rescue team pulled the train to the train shed for repairs.
Initial investigations suggest that an imbalance in the shunt of the railway track caused the incident.
In a separate development, Egypt’s railway workers decided to stage an open-ended sit-in at Cairo’s Ramses station on Tuesday, following the tragic Bardashin train accident that happened overnight.
A train travelling from Upper Egypt to Cairo derailed on Tuesday morning, killing 19 conscripts and injuring 107, in yet another traffic tragedy.
The striking workers demanded the sacking of the Board of Directors of the railway and restructuring it, according to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights’ official page on Facebook.
The strike came in response to ‘holding the workers liable for the accident in a similar reaction to the previous train accident which was less than two month ago’.
A train had rammed a school bus in a similar incident where 50 people, mostly children, were killed in a city South of Cairo in mid-November.
• Thousands of Ahly team hardcore football fans (Ultras Ahlawy) converged on Tahrir Square in central Cairo on Friday, gearing up for this week’s anticipated court verdict over last year’s Port Said disaster.
Egypt’s worst-ever football tragedy left more than 70 Ahly fans dead after they were attacked by the Port Said ‘Masry’ fans following the end of an ill-tempered Egyptian Premier League game on 1st February, 2012.
The Ultras Ahlawy members marched from the club’s headquarters in El-Gezira district, Cairo, to Tahrir to step up pressure on the judge presiding over the notorious case.
The ardent group of supporters vowed to take the matter into their own hands if the verdict, expected to be delivered on 26 January, did not satisfy them.
They did not specify what actions they might take but distributed many flyers and stickers bearing the words ‘justice or chaos’ in Cairo’s underground and public buses.
Ultras Ahlawy members were accompanied by mothers of the slain victims, who chanted angry slogans against President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
‘Any political signs or slogans are prohibited. Our target is justice for the martyrs. We are getting ready for the day of the verdict,’ Ultras Ahlawy said earlier on their official Facebook page.
Seventy-three defendants including nine security officials, three Masry football club officials and a number of fans are on trial for their suspected role in the disaster, which sent shockwaves across Egypt and led to an indefinite suspension of domestic football activity.
However, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) said recently the new league season will kick off on 2nd February, defying a warning by Ultras Ahlawy who insisted they would not allow any resumption of domestic football unless ‘justice is done’ in the Port Said case.
Meanwhile, there will be no amnesty for former President Hosni Mubarak due to his poor health, and if there was, that would be for the prosecutor general to decide, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said on Friday.
In an interview on the privately owned Al Arabiya satellite channel, Mekky responded to rumours that Mubarak would be released from prison by saying that ‘there is a judicial conflict over the period he (Mubarak) spent in prison.’
Mubarak entered a preventative detention period in April 2011, and that period would end in April 2013.
The Cairo Criminal Court already found Mubarak guilty of responsibility for the killing of protesters during the 18 days of the 25 January Revolution, but the Court of Cassation has ordered his retrial.
‘The law stipulates that if the defendant is given the death penalty, preventative detention should not exceed 24 months.
‘However, there is some controversy, because some legal experts see the preventative detention period as including the period between detention and appeals, while others don’t. But this is still uncertain,’ Mekky said.
If the court determines to include the period of time between detention and appeal, then Mubarak would have been imprisoned for 24 months by this April.
After the ruling was issued against Mubarak in June 2012, the decision to retry the former president was made seven months later, in January.
Mekky added that there was no chance the court would reconcile with Mubarak, but added that ‘being Muslim, I would lean toward amnesty. The Quran mentions “those who forgive people”…However, that depends on what the victims’ families want.’
When asked about businessman Hussein Salem, who fled the country after being accused of involvement in the case of exporting gas to Israel, Mekky said: ‘Salem has assets with the government, although much of that money is abroad. We could negotiate to regain those funds, as his crime is not related to bloodshed.’
The minister was also asked about the problem of the legality of the Muslim Brotherhood.
‘The group’s current situation is not the best,’ Mekky answered. ‘The law should be applied equally to everyone. The group should be a role model.’
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