Egypt cabinet reshuffle paves way for Sisi presidential candidacy

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An Egyptian man stands under portraits of Egypt's military commander Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections on January 31, 2014 on the 6th October Bridge in Cairo. (Photo: AFP - Fayez Nureldine)

Published Saturday, February 1, 2014

Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi has said a cabinet reshuffle will include the defense ministry, an Egyptian newspaper said on Saturday, in the clearest sign yet that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi plans to stand for president.

Deposed President Mohammed Mursi, meanwhile, is facing trial on Saturday over violence outside the presidential palace during unrest in late 2012.

Army chief Sisi, now defense minister in Egypt's interim government, ousted Mursi from office in July after mass protests against his rule and is widely expected to announce his candidacy within days and win an election easily.

But before he can run for president he must step down from his government post.

The reshuffle will not be announced before a visit by Beblawi to Saudi Arabia, a major financial supporter of Egypt's interim government, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the privately-owned al-Masry al-Youm newspaper quoted him as saying.

The reshuffle is to include the defense ministry and the ministry for international cooperation, whose head, Ziad Bahaa al-Din, tendered his resignation last Monday, according to the report.

Cabinet officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Saturday, Mursi’s trial began over deadly clashes in December 2012 ignited by a decree that expanded his powers. Around a dozen people were killed.

Mursi's defense says there is no proof he incited the clashes, and that most of those killed in the violence were members of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.

His trial is seen as a test for Egypt's military-installed authorities, who have come under fire for a heavy-handed crackdown on his supporters after he was forced out by the army.

Amnesty International says that since Mursi's overthrow on July 3 at least 1,400 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and his opponents.

An Islamist coalition backing the deposed leader called for nationwide protests Saturday in a statement to "support the legitimate elected president."

Saturday's hearing at a heavily guarded police academy is the third session in the trial, in which Mursi and 14 others are accused of inciting the killing of opposition protesters in December 2012 outside the presidential palace.

The previous session of the trial had been adjourned over "weather conditions" that prevented Mursi's transport to court from prison.

Mursi is facing four separate trials, and at the first hearing of another trial on January 28 the defiant Muslim Brotherhood member insisted he was still the legitimate president of Egypt.

In that trial, Mursi and 130 other co-defendants face charges of breaking out of prison during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak three-decade rule.

Mursi also faces trials on charges of espionage in collaboration with the Palestinian Hamas movement, and insulting the judiciary. The spying trial will start on February 16, while no date has yet been set for the other trial.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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