Monday’s papers: Rules of confusion, right of leniency, beards and burqas

State-owned papers start off today’s news with reports on the upcoming parliamentary elections, for which, according to Al-Ahram, several new committees will be created. The "rules regulating the parliamentary elections," as Al-Akhbar’s headline puts it, are as follows: "General committees existing within pre-established judicial bodies–including women–are allowed to participate in the elections, so long as they form a subcommittee consisting of no less than three and no more than nine members, in addition to an appointed secretary…General committees are also permitted to form subsidiary groups, as long as each group has a president and a vice president, and consists of no less than two members…" And so on. This baffling report is almost identical to Al-Ahram’s front-page coverage of the same issue.

Al-Ahram’s front page also features a report on the details of a planned agricultural insurance fund, which the government is currently "studying." The fund would "protect farmers from risks, disasters, and losses which could potentially affect Egypt’s agricultural sector, including heat waves, torrential rains, droughts, disease, or unexpected marketplace fluctuations." In the paper’s report, Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza states that if the fund were to be implemented, it would be controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture, and would ultimately cover 50 to 70 percent of any afflicted farmer’s loss.

For one of its front page headlines, Al-Akhbar reprints a quote from Safwat al-Sherif, the general-secretary of the National Democratic Party, stating: "the involvement of citizens is the most reliable guarantee for democracy." The statement came as an explanation of President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to postpone the seventh annual party conference until after the parliamentary elections, which, according to al-Sherif, was made at the request of individual party members. Al-Sherif claims that the postponement will ensure the involvement of more party members in the upcoming elections.

Al-Akhbar also includes details on the Omar Effendi department store purchase, which, as printed in the headline, was completed at LE320 million. The paper reports that businessman and private investor Mohamed Metwali officially announced his purchase of the nationwide chain for the aforementioned figure at the stock market on Sunday, despite the fact that the current owners–the Saudi-based company Anwal–still have several legal issues to resolve with the Egyptian government. Failure to resolve these issues would lead to an annulment of Metwali’s deal.

Independent daily Al-Shorouk leads its coverage of Monday’s news with a report on the recent trial against infamous Egyptian businessman Hisham Talaat Mostafa who, along with his employee Mohsen al-Sukkary, was accused of plotting and carrying out the murder of Lebanese pop singer Suzanne Tamim. The two were found guilty earlier this month–a verdict which, according to Al-Shorouk’s report, was reduced according to the "right of leniency." The quote comes from an anonymous source who, speaking exclusively to Al-Shorouk, explained that Talaat’s verdict was "downgraded twice, from execution, to a life sentence, to 15 years in maximum security," while his accomplice’s sentence was brought down "from an order of execution to a life sentence." The source adds that the right of leniency falls under Article 17 of the judicial code.

Al-Shorouk also features former head of the Railways Union Hamda Farid’s criticism of the government’s proposal to close down the railway station in Ramses square and redirect trains to two stations bordering opposite ends of Cairo. According to Farid, the new plan is "not based on any coherent studies" and will not, as stated by the project’s advocates, solve the city’s traffic crisis. The relocation was originally proposed two weeks ago by Cairo governor Abdel Azim Wazeer.

Independent daily Al-Dostour’s front page comes with a word of caution from national Mufti Ali Gomaa to Muslims all over the world, in which he warns of the dangers of believing that Islam amounts to "beards and burqas." Gomaa added that it is every Muslim’s "responsibility" to spread the true morals and values of Islam instead of "adhering to the superficial appearances and false interpretations that fuel misconceptions in the West."

Rose al-Youssef’s lead story focuses on the increased security measures enforced at Cairo airport "less than 24 hours after the discovery of explosive packages smuggled on board a Yemeni commercial airline bound to the United States." According to the paper’s report, officials at Cairo airport "thoroughly searched" all passengers from flight 692 arriving from Sanaa, as well as those on any other flight landing in Cairo from Yemen. The heightened security measures will also be enforced in all "external Egypt Air stations." The paper also reports that airport officials detained editor-in-chief of Islam Online, Abdel Galil el-Sharnouby, who arrived yesterday after spending a week in Yemen.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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