President Mohamed Morsy said on Friday he would order the retrial of Sinai residents who were tried in absentia under former President Hosni Mubarak after the people of Sinai repeatedly complained of fabricated charges by security authorities.
"I assure you we are committed to the 'second crossing' to Sinai in order to achieve development," Morsy told Sinai chiefs and security leaders during his visit to Arish
"The era of corruption, extortion and discrimination between citizens has ended. Sinai is part of Egypt and what applies to any part of the homeland, applies to it," the president added.
He said that a committee of Sinai residents would be formed to report the problems facing the region, and submit suggested solutions to the administration. Morsy stressed he would visit Sinai again to follow up what has been implemented in this regard.
The attendees of the meeting called on Morsy to allow Sinai residents to own lands, saying that Mubarak forbade them to own lands for security pretexts.
Morsy's offical Facebook page said the president went to Arish today with a number of ministers to take stock of the security situation in the area, and meet with tribal chiefs and political parties. State TV broadcast footage of the president performing Friday prayers in a mosque there alongside Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
"The visit also includes a meeting with the Christian families residing in Rafah in order to inspire confidence among them," the Facebook statement said.
According to state TV, this is Morsy's third visit to North Sinai since he took office.
Sources in North Sinai told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Thursday that the president's itinerary was modified due to the deteriorating security situation in Rafah.
Security forces canceled the president's planned visit to the border cities of Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah, limiting his trip to the city of Arish. The town was fully surrounded by a security cordon, and armored vehicles and war planes were also present, the sources added.
Eye witnesses told Egypt Independent that Arish was filled with riot police, special forces and other security forces today. Residents flocked to the mosque where Morsy was said to be praying, but were turned away by the police. An elderly Bedouin man attempted to enter the mosque to hand-deliver a complaint to Morsy, but was roughly turned away by security.
"We are the families of the martyrs and the wounded of the revolution. Morsy doesn't want to meet anyone. We demand fair trials. We also demand representation by one of the families of the martyrs in the governorate to negotiate for our rights," one resident told Egypt Independent.
The visit comes a week after media reports that Copts in Rafah fled to the nearby town of Arish after receiving death threats. Clergymen in Rafah have given conflicting reports about the incident, with some stating that nine Christian families had fled Rafah, and others denying the reports.
In August, the Armed Forces launched a military crackdown in Sinai targeting militants who were reportedly involved in the killing of 16 soldiers that same month.
There have been doubts regarding the effectiveness of the operation. Activists in North Sinai claim the operation has not achieved substantial results. The Armed Forces, however, say that the operation was successful and would continue until all the militant forces were uprooted.