x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Ultras try to influence Port Said verdict

Egyptian football fans are causing havoc in a bid to usurp the authority of the court, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: Syria and solar energy in the UAE.

Egypt's Ultras are wreaking havoc in a bid to influence course of justice in Port Said case

"Egyptian cities and provinces are witnessing an exceptional wave of turmoil these days, with a level violence that can only forebode grave consequences, including an increasing number of casualties," the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram said in its editorial yesterday.

Hard-core fans of the popular Al Ahly football club, known as the "Ultras Ahlawy", have besieged the Central Bank building in the capital earlier this week, denying staff entry or exit.

It appears to be the Ultras' way of expressing their anger in anticipation of an important court ruling that they fear might not be as heavy-handed as they would like.

Next Saturday, an Egyptian criminal court is expected to hand down its verdict in a case involving interior ministry officials charged with failure to act on deadly riots at a Port Said stadium in early 2012.

Al Ahly were playing away from their turf against Al Masry club when the violence erupted, leaving about 80 people dead, including a number of Al Ahly fans. Hundreds were injured.

But the Ultras did not only lay siege to the Central Bank, which in itself is a serious act, Al Ahram observed. They also closed routes to the Cairo International Airport.

In fact, US secretary of state John Kerry, who was on a two-day visit to Cairo, had his departure flight delayed by about two hours on Sunday due to the protests.

"With these developments, we are setting foot into uncertain territory. This would simply aggravate Egypt's woes while the wounds of Port Said have not yet healed," the newspaper said.

The fact that Al Ahly is a popular club all over Egypt has turned the Ultras' bold acts of protest into a nationwide trend, a situation that is already compounded by existing political tensions ahead of the country's parliamentary elections.

Some roads were closed down in the towns of Tukh and Bilbais, while railway services were temporarily blocked in Qena, the newspaper said.

"The Ultras' dangerous message is clear. They are trying to intimate the ministry of interior, whose officials are charged in the case, by showing their readiness to engage in riots throughout the week, leading up to the day of the verdict," Al Ahram said.

Even more seriously, the Ultras are putting great pressure on the judges who are handling the Port Said case.

"They are attempting to encroach on the prerogatives of the judiciary, which is the only authority mandated to carry out justice," the newspaper said.

"At this point, as the government is still failing to contain this volatile situation, the intervention of an institution like Al Azhar, whose senior figures have much credibility on the Egyptian street, might have a much-needed salutary effect."

Syria's Assad should follow the pope's lead

Rampant corruption and continuing allegations of moral misconduct inside the Vatican led the pope of the Catholic Church, eight years into his tenure, to resign his supreme spiritual position last month, wrote Abderrazzaq Qirat, a columnist with the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

If only President Bashar Al Assad of Syria, who has been in power for 13 years and is accused of killing and abusing tens of thousands of innocent civilians, could learn something from Pope Benedict XVI, the writer said in an article yesterday.

After the pope's farewell address in Rome, an expert on Catholic affairs told Euronews TV that the power of the pontiff "is absolute, with God-assigned prerogatives", the writer said.

So, even a man who is accepted by his followers as a supreme leader - a man who knew his resignation would shock and sadden millions - can find a good-enough reason to step down and let someone else take over.

But that is not the case with President Al Assad, who has neither a massive following nor God-given powers.

It is tragic that Bashar Al Assad, whose resignation "would be the key to overcoming the wars and woes that are convulsing Syria and its people", still thinks that clinging to power is the right thing to do, the columnist said in conclusion.

UAE ushers in an era of renewable energy

The UAE has a strategic interest in developing its renewable energy infrastructure, and the opening later this month of Shams 1, a massive solar energy station stretching over 2.5 square kilometres, is a step in that direction, according to the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

Renewable energy is booming worldwide, with about $250 billion (Dh918 billion) in annual global investments pumped into the sector in recent years, up from only $100 billion before the global economic crisis, ECSSR noted in an article published yesterday in the Abu Dhabi-based daily Al Ittihad.

"Because the UAE is one of the most interested nations in achieving the goals of sustainable development, it is also most interested in making a shift into the renewable energy era."

The UAE announced in late 2009 that it was planning to invest about $500 billion in renewable energy projects between 2010 and 2015, according to ECSSR. Shams 1 is one of its projects.

Shams Power Company, a subsidiary of Masdar, has said the station will start operating this month, generating enough clean energy to power 20,000 homes. This will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 175,000 tonnes a year, which is equal to taking 15,000 cars off the roads.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi