Wednesday’s papers: Top defense lawyer argues for Mubarak

Most front pages of Wednesday's papers satirically cover the arguments made by Hosni Mubarak's lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, during yesterday’s hearings.

The privately owned daily Al-Shorouk leads with the headline, "Deeb says Mubarak is an ‘angel that has two wings.’” Freedom and Justice, the mouthpiece newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, leads with: “The courtroom burst into laughter after Deeb's remarks on the ousted president.” The paper goes on to say that Deeb based his remarks on a "strophe of flirtation and praise," hailing Mubarak as an honest and polite man who would never order the killing of anyone.

Independent Al-Tahrir newspaper chooses a more provocative excerpt from Deeb's remarks: “Mubarak supported the revolution.” Deeb claimed that the deposed president supported the revolution from the beginning and that he stepped down to avoid more turmoil and save the country, according to the paper. Meanwhile, leftist party paper Al-Wafd highlights how Deeb used the testimony of Omar Suleiman, former head of General Intelligence Services, to prove his client’s innocence. To refute the accusation that Mubarak ordered the killing of protesters, Deeb said Suleiman had stated that protesters might have been killed by infiltrators who had stolen police personnel carriers and weapons.

State-owned Al-Ahram newspaper quotes the Oil and Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab as pledging to end the ongoing fuel crisis within 24 hours. Ghorab said the ministry has pumped an extra 3 million liters of fuel into the market to contain the problem. He blamed the crisis on rumors that fuel prices will be increased. The paper quotes Hany Dahy, executive director of the Public Petroleum Authority, as saying the cabinet does not intend to raise prices.

The local press also covers nuclear power, with state-owned daily Al-Akhbar quoting Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri affirming that Egypt's first nuclear power station will be built at Dabaa — a controversial site. After a cabinet meeting, Fayza Abouelnaga, the planning and international cooperation minister, told reporters that the government would compensate local Bedouins who will lose properties because of the project. However, she said the government will act "firmly" against those who reportedly attacked the site earlier this week to sabotage the project.

Dabaa residents maintained their grip on the site and threatened to kill the project's managers, according to Al-Ahram. Angry residents argue they are entitled to the land, that the compensation given to them thus far has not been enough and that the government did not provide alternative housing, the paper writes.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi makes news on most state-owned front pages with his most recent statements on the handover of power to a civilian government. Al-Ahram quotes him as saying that the armed forces are committed to handing power over to elected civilians. As he was attending a military training session Tuesday, Tantawi said the army would not be dragged into any traps or foreign plots that aim to "set Egypt on fire,” and told people to beware of such plots.

Independent Al-Shorouk reports that a group of independent parliamentarians and representatives of political parties and youth-led groups announced the launch of the National Consensus Committee yesterday. This committee will set criteria for selecting members of the assembly that will be in charge of drafting Egypt's new constitution. It includes prominent figures such as MP Amr al-Shobaky, National Association for Change leader Abdel Gelil Mostafa, Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader Mohamed Abul Ghar, Wasat Party leader Abul Ela Madi, law professor Hossam Issa, and four members who have not yet been selected.

During their first meeting, committee members discussed the possibility of keeping the first four chapters of the old constitution untouched, arguing that the articles protect a plethora of liberties. The paper quotes a youth leader who attended the meeting as saying that both the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi Nour Party agreed to take part in this initiative.

Prominent columnist Naglaa Bedeir writes about the daily plight of pedestrians and drivers who have to deal with the unprecedented traffic obstructions in downtown Cairo. She bitterly complains about people's denial of the root cause of the problem. Instead of putting the blame on the cement walls that the military built to contain protests, drivers blame protesters "who want to break into government buildings and set them on fire," she writes in Al-Tahrir.

"The majority curses the streets, the revolution, the square, thugs, street vendors and fellow drivers, but ignore any talk about the walls," she contends. She goes on to say that she has recently been talking to people in the area to reverse this perception and mobilize support for the legal case filed to force the removal of the fences.

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-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

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