Cairo, July 11 (AP/UNB) — Egyptian prosecutors Thursday charged the administrator of a Facebook page that supports former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak with spreading false news and undermining national interests after a post implied Mubarak did more to help Egypt's poor than the current government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Karim Hussein, whose Facebook page "I am sorry, Mr. President" has more than 3 million followers, was arrested Tuesday, a few days after he posted video clips of Mubarak's old speeches, in which he expressed compassion for the poor and voiced his vehement opposition to lifting state subsidies. Mubarak was forced from power by a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
The post came on the heels of the government's decision to raise fuel prices by up to 30 percent for the fourth time in three years — a move expected to inflict further pain on Egypt's middle class and poor.
"This is not first time (Hussein has) published online, but the catastrophe happened when he compared prices under Mubarak and el-Ssisi," said Gamal Eid, an Egyptian human rights lawyer. "Then, he became accused of spreading false news. In fact, it is not false news and he has not committed any crime. He is just expressing his views."
Earlier this week, Hussein posted a photograph of Mubarak holding the trophy of the African Cup of Nations and surrounded by Egypt's triumphant national soccer team, which won the African tournament several times under Mubarak's rule.
The post alluded to the early elimination of Egypt's national team from the current tournament, which Egypt is hosting. The defeat has been a source of embarrassment for the Egyptian government, which had hoped that hosting the tournament as well as winning it might boost its popularity.
Egypt under el-Sissi has implemented a sweeping crackdown on dissent, jailing activists, bloggers and others under vague laws that criminalize nearly any criticism of authorities. Egypt's military overthrew the country's first elected president, an Islamist who proved divisive, in 2013. Since then, authorities have rolled back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that drove Mubarak from power.
On Thursday, parliament voted with a sweeping majority in favor of a presidential decree extending a nationwide state of emergency for another three months. El-Sissi's regime argues that emergency laws are needed to crush the Islamic militants he has been battling for several years, especially in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula. Human rights advocates complain the emergency laws are also used to repress peaceful political adversaries.
The High State Security prosecutor ordered Hussein's detention for 15 days. He was also charged with joining a banned group that seeks to undermine the state — an allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, an accusation that has been recently brought against most critics of El-Sissi.
"The fabrication of allegations is no longer the exclusive work of the police or the state security apparatus but the prosecution has become involved too," said Eid, the rights lawyer. "This is very dangerous because people will lose faith in the judiciary and this will take us back to pre-modern times."
Eid predicted Hussein would not stand trial because of the weak allegations against him but face a prolonged pre-trial detention. He said pre-trail detention has become a notorious way of punishing political opponents.
"I am sorry, Mr. President," is one of several Facebook pages created in 2011 by Mubarak supporters who opposed the pro-democracy groups behind the ouster of longtime autocrat Mubarak.
Hussein's page usually posts pictures of Mubarak and his family and has been a platform to voice support for the military since it overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013.
"We do not agree with (Hussein) and we do not even like him," said Eid. "But as far as freedom of expression is concerned, he did not commit any crime and our duty is to defend him."
Upon Hussein's arrest, a statement was posted on the Facebook page voicing the group's "complete faith" in the state and stressing that the police had treated him with respect.
Mubarak was freed from prison in 2017, ending nearly six years of legal proceedings against him. He was acquitted by the country's top appeals court of charges that he ordered the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising.
Khartoum, Jul 10 (AP/UNB) — Sudanese activists say internet service has been restored in the country, after a weekslong blackout imposed during a deadly crackdown earlier last month.
A telecommunications faction of the Sudanese Professional's Association says Wednesday that users across the country have been back online. The development comes a week after the military council and protest leaders agreed on a power-sharing deal.
The ruling military council had blocked internet service after security forces razed a protest camp in the capital of Khartoum on June 3.
People in Sudan have begun posting footage of alleged abuses by security forces against protesters during the break-up.
A Khartoum court on Tuesday ordered telecommunication companies working in Sudan to restore internet service.
Late on Tuesday, the NetBlocks observatory said data showed significant restoration of internet in Sudan.
Khartoum, Jul 8 (AP/UNB) — Sudan's top general says the military council that assumed power after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April will be dissolved with the implementation of a power-sharing deal reached with protesters last week.
The military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed last week on a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the U.S. and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, said in televised comments late Sunday that the army would return to its barracks after 21 months, when leadership of the council passes from a military representative to a civilian.
The council will include five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat will go to a civilian chosen by both sides. The protesters will select a Cabinet of technocrats, and a legislative council is to be formed after three months.
Burhan said the sovereign council would have a veto on Cabinet appointees and the body's decisions. He said the transitional period would be dedicated to advancing peace efforts with rebel groups and overhauling the economy.
Burhan also insisted that the military council did not order the violent dispersal of the main protest camp last month, which killed scores of people and led to the collapse of talks.
"We trust that military council members had nothing to do with what happened in the sit-in dispersal," he said.
As part of the power-sharing agreement, the two sides agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown, but the details have yet to be worked out.
Sudanese security forces razed the sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum on June 3. The deadly clampdown killed at least 128 people, according to protest organizers. Authorities put the death toll at 61, including three security forces.
On June 30, the protesters returned to the streets by the tens of thousands to again demand a transition to civilian rule. The rallies were the largest since the uprising began in December.
Dhaka, July 6 (UNB) - Scientists issued a buzzworthy warning to Alabama residents: thousands of wasps are making the state home in what are called perennial yellow jacket nests. And they are freaky.
In 2006, a colony of 15,000 yellow jackets -- the size of a Volkswagen Beetle -- was one of 90 perennial nests located in Alabama that year. Entomologist Charles Ray said something like this may happen again in 2019, reports CNN.
Perennial nest located inside a car in Alabama in June 2006.
Ray's warning was published last month with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, a primary outreach organization on behalf of Alabama A&M University and Auburn University. Ray is also a research fellow in Auburn University's Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
"These perennial nests may be several feet wide and have many thousands of workers, far more than an average nest," Ray said. "We have found them attached to home exteriors and other places you might not expect to find yellow jackets."
Places like the side of a house, inside a discarded mattress, or even just on the ground in a field.
A perennial nest found inside an discarded mattress.
"The most workers I have counted in a perennial nest is about 15,000 or about 3 to 4 times more than a normal nest," Ray said.
A normal yellow jacket nest can be in the ground or some type of cavity and peaks at 4,000 to 5,000 workers that don't survive the winter. The queens disperse and form new colonies in the spring.
But entomologists believe that milder winters and an abundant food supply allow the wasp colonies to survive and enter spring with larger numbers. The normal cues that cause the queens to disperse don't come -- so these super nests often have multiple queens.
A yellow jacket queen.
Two perennial nests were already found in May, with indications of a third, Ray said. This is several weeks earlier than when the first giant nest was spotted on June 13 in 2006.
"If we are seeing them a month sooner than we did in 2006, I am very concerned that there will be a large number of them in the state," Ray said. "The nests I have seen this year already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly."
If homeowners suspect a perennial nest is on their property, they should not touch it.
The perennial yellow jacket nests bear little resemblance to normal colonies.
"While these giant nests often appear less aggressive than smaller colonies," Ray said. "It is important that people do not disturb the nests."
Next, call a professional for help if the nest needs to be removed. It's a task only for a licensed commercial pest control operator.
Khartoum, Jul 6 (AP/UNB) — Sudanese rebel groups have criticized a power-sharing deal between the military and the country's pro-democracy movement aimed at ending weekslong political deadlock.
The protest leaders in the capital, Khartoum, and the ruling military made public an agreement to form a joint government on Friday.
A faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, led by Minni Minnawi, said late Friday a peace deal had to be reached with rebel groups before embarking on the deal's planned transition.
Another faction of the SLM, led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur, slammed the deal as a "betrayal of the revolution."
The SLM — then fighting an insurgency in the Darfur region — split into rival factions in 2004.
Minnawi has joined a political coalition with the protesters, while al-Nur refused to take part in the movement.