Outrage was heard around the world when Egypt went off the electronic grid in the early days of the uprising. Today, almost four months after his ouster on February 11, Egypt’s former President is literally paying for the order to turn off the Internet: The 83-year-old Mubarak and two senior officials from his regime have been fined $34 million (200 million Egyptian pounds) for cutting off the Internet.
As the BBC says, the fine is the “first clear ruling” against Mubarak. Earlier this week, Egypt’s prosecutor general announced that Mubarak and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, are to be tried in a criminal court over the alleged shooting of protesters during the Egyptian revolution earlier this year. Mubarak and his sons could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges against them, says the New York Times.
In another sign of the changes in Egypt after the revolution earlier this year, Egypt has loosened restrictions at its border with the Gaza Strip. For the first time in 40 years, many Palestinians were able to cross the Rafah border freely, says the BBC. Women, children and men over 40 can pass without a permit, but men aged 18 – 40 still need one, and trade is still prohibited.
Egypt and Israel had closed the Rafah border with Gaza when Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement and one of the two main Palestinian factions, seized power in 2004. Over the previous year, restrictions on Palestinians crossing the Gaza Strip had been lightened so that registered students or those seeking medical treatment could cross; this change was made by Israel last year after its forces killed nine participants in a Turkish aid flotilla that was attempting to enter Gaza. Says the BBC:
Israel retains concerns that weapons will be imported into Gaza through the Egyptian frontier, but Egypt insists it will conduct thorough searches of all those crossing. People leaving Gaza will also need to be carrying Palestinian ID cards, which are issued by Israel.
The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Gaza, says the decision to ease the border controls is symbolically important.
It is another sign that the new leadership in Egypt is shifting the dynamics of the Middle East.
Israel has criticised the border move, saying it raised security concerns.
But with elections coming up in Egypt, our correspondent says the change in policy is likely to be popular with a public sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
The New York Times provides reactions from a number of Palestinians making the crossing on Saturday:.
Musbah Mohamed Halawin, 59, waiting in a wheelchair to travel to Cairo for the first time in 30 years called the Egyptians “brothers.” “Egypt is the only thing we have after God,” he said.
Samah Ahmad, 30, did a little dance as she raced down a hall holding out her freshly stamped Palestinian passport. She said she had tried to cross twice in the last 10 days — rejected once by the Palestinian authorities and once by the Egyptians.
Now she was planning to travel to Turkey for a meeting of activists to discuss ways to build on the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. “Now we are starting our own revolution, not to tear down the Palestinian government but to rebuild it,” she said. “We are still under occupation, and we need to be like one hand to overcome it.”
Aish el-Meleit, a 55-year-old farmer, said he had missed the deaths and funerals of both of his parents due to the blockade. He made the crossing on Saturday to see an ailing aunt.
Mubarak’s co-operation with Israel in blockading Gaza was one of his “most unpopular policies,” says the BBC.
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Photo of the Rafah border crossing by gloucester2gaza [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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