Eissa trial begins

Ibrahim Eissa’s latest trial started today, and while he decided not to attend he may have an interesting defense strategy based on his allegations that President Mubarak is in poor health:

Eissa pointed out that the president’s health would be raised at each court hearing, “meaning that those who brought the case want his health to be discussed.”

As with other trials of journalists, the case against Eissa has been brought by a private individual since Egyptian law allows citizens to lodge complaints which can then lead to criminal convictions.

Eissa is now the target of eight such private cases, something he called “proof of the judicial farce” being played out against him.

“I hope the case will be decided in accordance with the law and that jailing journalists will be a red line — even if I have no faith in this regime,” said the editor.

In that case, why not get an expert witness to conduct a medical examination of Mubarak to ascertain that he is, in fact, in good health and thus that the rumors are baseless? Brilliant, even if I doubt the judge will go for it.

Hodeiby: Your best friend hates you

Your best friend hates you: prolific Muslim Brother Ibrahim Houdeiby’s latest article, perhaps his best one yet, on Egypt’s promotion of anti-Americanism and how it relates to the “engage the MB” debate. He concludes with an interesting argument:

In the era of “neo-terrorism,” or micro-terrorist groups, this increasing hostility only means a threat to American national security. With the rapid boom in technology and communication, it takes no more than a connection to the Internet and a few dollars to develop a bomb and threaten the security and lives of innocents anywhere. Therefore, relying on the strong relations with Egypt’s dictator as a substitute for building bridges of understanding with the Egyptian people is a strategic mistake.

The current and next American administrations have one of two possible alternatives. The first is to continue supporting a regime that complies with all their demands yet spreads embedded anti-Americanism on the domestic level, and suffer the possible consequences of that, which will be devastating to everyone. The second alternative is to support real democracy in Egypt, and realize that the outcome would be a government that would not necessarily serve America’s short term interests in the region. The outcome will be a government that pursues Egypt’s interests, and manifests the people’s will, yet does not fuel widespread inherent hostility towards the United States.

On the other hand, the MB is not exactly known for its pro-US rhetoric either, is it? So the message is, if you encourage democracy in Egypt, even if it will inevitably strengthen the MB (at least initially), Egypt will continue to play more or less within the limits imposed by American regional hegemony. And presumably refrain from doing things like sending soldiers to defend Lebanon from Israel. Or am I reading it wrong?

WaPo on MB Crackdown

Cairo Moving More Aggressively To Cripple Muslim Brotherhood:

CAIRO — After imprisoning or prodding into exile Egypt’s leading secular opposition activists, the government is using detentions and legal changes to neutralize the country’s last surviving major political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Brotherhood leaders and rights groups contend the government is clearing the stage of opponents in politics, civil society and the news media ahead of the end of the 26-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who is 79. Egyptians widely expect the transition to be tense and that Mubarak’s son Gamal will be a top contender.

“Tyranny has reached unprecedented limits from any previous regime,” said Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the supreme guide, or highest leader, of the Brotherhood, which the government has outlawed for decades but allowed to operate within narrow limits. “This is insane tyranny.”

Egyptian officials point to the group’s high level of organization and violent past, and insist it remains the most dangerous force in Egypt. “The Muslim Brotherhood represents the framework for future violence,” said Mohamed Abdel-Fattah Omar, a lawmaker from the ruling party and a former head of the state security apparatus.

The article continues to link the crackdown on the MB with a general wave of repression (the press, civil society, etc.) linked to succession. This theory, frequently aired in the local press, is that the regime is moving to ensure that all vehicles of dissent are unable to organize when the time for succession comes, presumably in the next 24 months. But that would mean that there is a plan in motion for succession, and nothing could be less certain (even if some candidates may be maneuvering). Maybe it’s not that the crackdown is in preparation for succession, but rather that the uncertainty over succession has become such an existential problem (in the philosophical sense, not life-or-death sense) that it pushing various political actors (opposition parties, the MB, the press, civil society, etc.) to assert themselves and make a push on long-held beliefs and positions.

Or maybe things are so opaque it’s hard to make heads of tails of regime strategy, if strategy there is.

On the UN Human Rights Council

The Israeli government and President Bush are right about the UN Human Rights Council: it does not fairly spread blame for human rights abuses. But the problem is not that it blames Israel too much — it does quite an appropriate job in that. It’s just that it should also focus on other countries, including members such as Egypt (local human rights organizations even campaigned against their country’s membership here!) and of course places like Sudan, Iran, China, North Korea or Myanmar.

But everything it says about Israel holds, and it doesn’t mean it should change its mind about regularly reviewing human rights abuses in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. I can’t say I like the Council’s composition much, but then again I don’t like the way the Security Council works either — and that’s much, much more important.

[I bring this up because a commenter left the link above.]

‘Polygamy’ soaps irk feminists in Egypt

‘Polygamy’ soaps irk feminists in Egypt:

Cairo: Egyptian pro-women groups are disappointed that several TV serials being shown on local and Arab TV feature polygamy as a recurrent theme.

“I have been working in the field of women’s welfare for more than 20 years and I have never seen so many polygamists in Egypt as portrayed in TV dramas,” said Eman Beibers, the chairperson of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women.

At least seven television serials with polygamists are on the air waves every night of Ramadan – when viewing rates in the Arab world peak.

“These shows by no means reflect real life in Egypt where many young people cannot afford the spiralling cost of marriage,” Beibers told Gulf News.

My TV isn’t working well so I haven’t had a chance to watch this year’s soaps. But Beibers does seem to have a point about TV’s obsession with polygamists…