x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A surprise for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood?

A court challenge by some young lawyers reminds an Arabic-language commentator that young people surprised and upset the established order just last year. Other topics: Syrian diplomacy and EU sanctions.

A legal challenge against the Freedom and Justice Party could surprise Egypt's politics

The young activists in what is known as the "Lawyers Union" in Egypt, who were among the first to rise against the regime of Hosni Mubarak last year, have recently filed a case with the Public Prosecutor's Office demanding the dissolution of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote Maamoun Fandi, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

The behaviour of the FJP during the legislative elections showed that it was "a religious party in practice and in ideology", which violates Article 4 of the constitutional declaration that has governed Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, the columnist argued. The article bans "religious, military and regionalist parties", he said.

These are legal grounds for a case against the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. So will these young attorneys garner enough support for their case against a party that holds the most seats in parliament?

"The answer won't be simple," the columnist went on.

Remember, many had ridiculed the Facebook activists who called for demonstrations against the police and the Mubarak regime on that fateful January 25, 2011, which was Police Day in Egypt.

As it turned out, those young activists made a revolution happen. Similarly, many are chuckling today at the efforts of lawyers to push the case against the FJP through.

"The Mubarak regime neglected the demands of the youth, considering them 'a bunch of kids', yet that bunch of kids managed to put him behind bars," the columnist noted. "So, chances are, if the case of these lawyers is treated with the same derision, the Muslim Brotherhood party might find itself in the same pickle as Mubarak."

In their motion, these young lawyers are asking the public prosecutor's office to look into specific details such as the nature of the relationship between the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood and the party's practices on the ground.

The lawyers are seeking legal corroboration of the otherwise well-known reality that the FJP was indeed created by the Muslim Brotherhood during the legislative elections that were held after the revolution, the columnist said.

"The lawyers also asked the public prosecutor to investigate the links, if any, between the Brotherhood and other organisations abroad, which would be a violation of Article 4 of Law No 12 regulating political parties."

It would be hard to dissolve a strong party like the FJP, which is affiliated with the best-structured organisation in Egypt, he added. "The Muslim Brotherhood has its own finances, weapons and other means of intimidation, which makes it hard for many of us to write about it. But the revolution's young showed us that they can always surprise."

Sanctions against the Assad family pointless

Syria's first lady, Asma Al Assad, and three other members of President Bashar Al Assad's family were recently added to the list of Syrian officials covered by European Union sanctions.

"It is yet unclear how the ban on travel to EU countries will damage Mrs Al Assad. The same goes for her mother-in-law, Mrs Anissa Al Assad, who hasn't left Damascus in the past 40 years. Some European sanction decisions are totally pointless," said Abdel Barri Atwan, the editor of the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

When Mrs Al Assad married the Syrian president, he wasn't wanted or hated. In fact, most of his current detractors used to boast about his friendship and saw him as a true leader, although they were aware that he was a dictator with probably the worst human-rights records in the region.

"We do not know why Mrs Al Assad in particular is being punished. It's not like she's an army general who oversees torture."

The Syrian regime has indeed crossed every line in its bloody attempts to contain the uprising. More than 10, 000 people have been killed so far.

The Syrian people's problem with the regime isn't the first lady's expenses or her tasteless shopping sprees. Their main problem is the absence of state institutions in Syria and the concentration of all authority in the hands of the president and a small group of advisers.


Annan's diplomacy is a frail reed for optimism

The special UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, is in Russia on a diplomatic mission aimed at solving the ever-escalating crisis, all the while knowing that his mission will be fraught with numerous difficulties, the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan observed in its Sunday editorial.

For more than a year now, it has been evident that the violent clampdown in Syria is useless and that the mounting bloodshed further complicates matters.

Mr Annan's mission to Russia and China is undoubtedly quite difficult, and may well be a last chance for the Syrian regime.

Arabs, due to hold a summit in Baghdad next week where the Syrian issue will be at the top of the agenda, are anxious to see the outcome of the special envoy's diplomatic efforts.

"The negotiations have reached a critical point despite the mounting pessimism and the absence of a security solution for the situation on the ground and in political corridors," said the paper.

All hopes are now set on the success of Mr Annan's diplomatic tour, especially because the alternative to peace is bleak and could affect the entire region.





* Digest compiled by the Translation Desk