MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

February 9, 2016
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Monday in an interview with Foreign Policy that the circulated figure of 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt is a lie. Shoukry--in Washington since Sunday for a three-day visit--dismissed criticism of arrests made by Egyptian security forces following Morsi's ouster, saying the figure was repeatedly reported until it became regarded as a fact. "Are we to return to the ideologies and the practices of Goebbels, where he says that if you repeat a lie sufficiently it becomes a truth?” he asked, in reference to the renowned Nazi propagandist. The figure, which has been reported by Human Rights Watch and a number of media outlets, comes from a report by The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. Shoukry also rejected allegations of involvement by security forces in the death of Italian student Giulio Regeni. Shoukry added that journalists reporting on the story are “jumping to conclusions and speculation without any authoritative information or authentication of what is being alluded to.” Similar statements have been made by Egypt’s Interior Minister. More than 4,600 academics from across the globe have signed an open letter protesting against Regeni’s death and demanding an investigation into the growing number of forced disappearances in Egypt. [Ahram Online, 2/9/2016]


High profile MP Sirri Siam announces resignation from Egypt’s parliament
Member of Parliament Sirri Siam said on Monday that he handed in his resignation to parliament, citing what he described as “marginalization” as his reason. Siam, who handed in his resignation on Sunday, told state-run Al-Ahram that some MPs who are “considered [legal] experts were chosen to work on drafting the by-laws of the parliament, but [he] wasn’t among those parliamentarians.” According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, he stated “I feel I am not wanted inside the parliament,” stressing that his resignation was “final.” The Secretariat of the House said it had received the resignation in a sealed envelope and that it did not look into the reasons Siam cited. A decision on whether to accept the resignation will be made on Saturday during a general assembly of the House of Representatives, the general secretariat of the house was cited by state news agency MENA as saying. Siam was among the 28 parliamentarians appointed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Sources say Siam is under "pressure" to retract his resignation so as to avoid embarrassing the presidency. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 2/8/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Minister says government preparing new Civil Service Law | AMAY


Egypt court to rule February 29 in Reham Saeed 'violation of privacy' case
A Giza misdemeanor court will issue its verdict on February in the case against TV host Reham Saeed for “violating the private life” of a sexual assault victim she featured on her TV show. The case involves an October interview Saeed conducted with a student, Somaya Tarek, who said a man had slapped her twice in a Cairo mall after sexually harassing her. Saeed attempted to justify the assault on her TV show by arguing that Tarek dresses and behaves "indecently," and attempted to boost her argument by showing private pictures of Tarek. Tarek filed a case against Saeed and Alaa al-Kahky, the owner of the privately owned Al-Nahar channel where the show was aired, accusing them of stealing private images from her mobile phone, which she left unattended during the recording of the show. [Ahram Online, 2/8/2016]

Twenty-six Brotherhood supporters referred to military trial over 2015 attacks
Giza prosecution services referred 26 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to a military trial on Monday over a series of attacks that damaged a Giza police station in January 2015. According to the referral petition, the suspects confessed to setting fire to the Monib police station and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. They also admitted to partaking in the Brotherhood’s major sit-in at al-Nahda Square in 2013. According to prosecutors, one defendant said he contacted a photojournalist from Al-Jazeera to send him clips of marches and clashes with police in return for money. Prosecutors alleged that another defendant said Brotherhood leaders in Giza had financed the assaults, adding that the group had staged several marches where participants were armed with weapons and firearms. [AMAY, 2/8/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Trial begins over attempted murder of Mortada Mansour | AMAY


Egypt may not meet 2016 target to pay back oil arrears
Egypt may miss its target of repaying the $3 billion it owes to foreign oil and gas companies by the end of 2016, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said Tuesday. Ismail told reporters at the World Government Summit in Dubai that the debt will “at least [be reduced] to a very reasonable” level by the end of year. The Egyptian government previously said it would repay its arrears by mid-2015, before pushing the target date to mid-2016 and then the end of the year. Ismail declined to offer a new target date, emphasizing Egypt’s aim to “finalize this by the end of this year.” Ismail also said the government expects to present a long-awaited value added tax bill to parliament at the end of this month. He expects the bill to be ratified into law in the second quarter of 2016. [Gulf News, 2/9/2016]

GM suspends Egypt operations due to currency crisis
General Motors has temporarily suspended its operations in Egypt due the country’s foreign currency crisis, a company source said. General Motors reportedly notified its 2,000 workers in Egypt that it would cease production - which requires about $35 million per month - until further notice or until it acquires the foreign exchange needed to import production components. "The entire sector has a currency crisis we can't make a car without some of the parts. We stopped production temporarily as of yesterday until we can clear the imports held up in customs," the source said. "There is still some leeway with the government and the banks to solve the issue." [Reuters, AMAY (Arabic), 2/8/2016]

Also of Interest
  • National Bank of Egypt subsidiary says drops bid to buy CI Capital | Ahram Online
  • Egypt's non-oil exports down 16.5 percent in 2015 from 2014 | Ahram Online
  • Egypt cancels temporary tariff on sugar imports | Reuters
  • Minister of Supply: Strategic wheat stock sufficient until mid-May | DNE
  • As Egypt struggles with dollar shortage, US$900 million loan arrives from China | Mada Masr


Parties, NGOs, syndicates to form ‘Front to Defend Freedoms’
The Press Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee said it will announce at a conference on February 11 the formation of, together with a number of political parties and NGOs, the Front to Defend Freedoms. The parties participating in Thursday’s conference include the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), Dostour, the Socialist Popular Alliance, Karama, Adl, and Bread and Freedom parties. The Press Syndicate also issued Sunday its first annual report reviewing violations against journalists, with head of the Freedoms Committee Khaled al-Balshy confirming that “more than 50 percent of violations are committed by the Ministry of Interior.” Meanwhile, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) published a study Sunday suggesting the banning of foreign researchers from entering Egypt is largely based on their anti-government stances. AFTE’s study highlights a number of situations in which researchers have been prevented from entering the country due to their political views. AFTE highlighted similarities across all multiple cases dating back to October 2014, notably the detention, interrogation and “psychological pressure” exerted by authorities, who often only inform researchers they have been denied entry after hours of detention and interrogation. On Monday, 20 local human rights NGOs released a statement condemning the recent string of travel bans issued against a number of political activists and human rights defenders. The signatories include AFTE, El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and several other groups. [DNE, 2/9/2016]

Also of Interest
  • One year on, Zamalek's Ultras members still chant 'open up, we are dying' | Aswat Masriya
  • Partners for Transparency report: 138 governmental corruption cases monitored in January | DNE
  • Man dies in hospital after sustaining injuries in police raid | DNE
  • After four days of solitary confinement, Shawkan returns to his cell | DNE
  • Why are Egypt's independent trade unions on trial? | Mada Masr


EU Parliament delegation and Sisi discuss mutual security concerns
An EU delegation led by German MP Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament committee on foreign affairs, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Sunday in Cairo to discuss regional and international security measures, border control, and Egypt’s role in assisting in the migrant crisis brought on by regional turmoil. Sisi noted Egypt’s effort to fight terrorism and to maintain stability in the Middle East and southern Europe, especially after the influx of Syrian refugees to Europe, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In a press conference after the meeting, Brok added that the EU parliament delegation discussed the situation in Libya and the impact of the increasing number of refugees. British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson, meanwhile said the United Kingdom is in pursuing negotiations with Egypt concerning airport security improvements that will eventually lead to resuming British flights to Sharm al-Sheikh. [DNE, 2/9/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Egypt seals air navigation deal with two Russian companies | Ahram Online
  • Deputy Justice Minister retracts statements on Egyptian coroner’s finding in Regeni’s cause of death | DNE
  • Egypt’s Immigration Minister: Egyptian killed following fight in Riyadh | Ahram Online, AMAY, Cairo Post
  • Egypt delegates representative to follow up on murder of Egyptian in Riyadh | AMAY
  • Egypt, UAE Army leaders hold military cooperation talks in Cairo | Ahram Online, Cairo Post
  • Israel retreats from claims that Egypt obeyed request to flood Gaza tunnels | Mada Masr