MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

February 2, 2016
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that he does not mind criticism, stressing that it is his job to placate disgruntled youth, a day after a cartoonist was arrested for what critics suggest was retaliation for caricatures mocking the former army chief. “I’m not upset at Gawish or anyone … No one can speak on my behalf and say that I get upset from criticism,” Sisi said in a phone interview. “If I accept being in such a position, I must bear all the consequences. There is no such thing as all people agreeing on something.” Sisi said he phoned the television show to speak about the hardcore football fans, the Ultras. “I call on the Ultras to select ten of their members whom they trust to be part of a committee to look into all the details concerning this case and determine what more can be done,” Sisi said in reference to the 2012 Port Said disaster in which 72 Ahly Ultras were killed. Nine police officials are among the 73 defendants standing retrial on charges related to the killing of the young fans, with final verdicts yet to be read or carried out. “In events with large crowds, it’s always difficult to determine the truth behind what happened,” Sisi added. Sisi repeatedly said he has high regard for human rights but that more pressing issues, such as the economy, should be the main source of concern. “It’s us who are not able to properly communicate with them [angry youths]. We are the ones who are unable to find common ground,” he added. “Finding the balance between security measures and human rights is a sensitive and delicate issue which requires a lot of effort,” he said. [Ahram Online, 2/2/2016]

POLITICS


Leader of Free Egyptians Party resigns, jeopardizes parliamentary seat
Leading member of the Free Egyptians Party and MP Emad Gad resigned from the party on Monday despite the risk of losing his parliamentary seat as a result. In December, Gad, who was deputy head of the liberal party, froze his membership over what he said was disagreement with the party's leadership. He handed in his notice earlier this week. "I officially handed in my resignation [Sunday] night," Gad said in TV comments late on Monday, saying the party's acting head Essam Khalil accepted it. Gad attributed his resignation to disagreements over the party's leadership and the way the party is operated. "It's political life, not a business," he stated. Gad said he no longer fully believes in "the party's mechanism, ideas, stances, and figures leading it," adding that the problem first arose after the election of the party's head and the head of the parliamentary bloc, Alaa Abed. Under Egypt's constitution, MPs can be stripped of their membership if they change party affiliation and if a two-thirds majority of the chamber votes on their removal. Gad said that he supports such articles in the constitution, which he believes work towards a balanced representation in the chamber. The vote is expected to take place once the parliament reconvenes next week, he said. [Ahram Online, 2/2/2016]

COURTS

Beheiry to remain in jail after legal challenge denied in blasphemy case
Egypt's al-Gamaleya Misdemeanor Court rejected on Tuesday a legal challenge presented by TV host Islam al-Beheiry on his one-year imprisonment over blasphemy charges. In late December, the court sentenced Beheiry for “contempt of religion” for questioning orthodox Islamic beliefs on his now-suspended TV show. His original five-year sentence was commuted to one year. Following the rejection of his appeal, he was transferred to the Tora Prison compound in South Cairo to serve his sentence. The verdict can still be appealed, but Beheiry will remain in jail as long as the court does not set bail.  [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 2/2/2016]

Media secretary of Socialist Populist Alliance Party receives one year prison sentence in absentia
The Misdemeanor Court of Daqahliya sentenced Mohamed Hamed, the former media secretary of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), to three years in prison in absentia on Sunday, and fined him EGP10,000 on charges of “abusive use of the Internet,” Yehia al-Gaafari, SPAP Spokesperson said. Hamed has been accused of using 11 Facebook pages that he administers to criticize the state and to defame public figures and government officials in Alexandria, according to the Alexandria Security Directorate. Upon his arrest, security forces confiscated Hamed’s laptop and cell phone. “The sentence against me is still a preliminary ruling; I will appeal and I expect to be excused of all the charges,” Hamed said in a press statement, according to state-run Al-Ahram. [DNE, 2/1/2016]

Seven sentenced to death in Kafr al-Sheikh stadium bombing
The Criminal Military Court in Alexandria sentenced on Tuesday seven defendants in the Kafr al-Sheikh Stadium bombing incident to death. The seven cases were referred to the Grand Mufti for his non-legally binding opinion. The court set March 2, 2016 for a verdict in the case. Three Military Academy students were killed and two injured when an IED exploded near the wall of Kafr al-Sheikh Stadium, a meeting point for Military Academy students, on April 15. Sixteen Muslim Brotherhood members were tried in the case, including the head of the group's administrative bureau in Kafr al-Sheikh and his deputy, the secretary general of the dissolved political arm of the Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, as well as other Brotherhood leaders in Kafr al-Sheikh. Six of the defendants were tried in absentia. [AMAY, 2/2/2016]

Also of Interest:
  • Trial of Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood members on espionage resumes Tuesday | AMAY

ECONOMY

Industry to start producing in Egypt’s Suez Canal economic zone in 2020
Egypt is working on infrastructure at the Suez Canal Economic Zone that will allow industry investing in the area to start production by 2020, Head of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone Ahmed Darwish said. Egypt is developing an area of 460 square kilometers around the Suez Canal into an industrial and trade hub in an effort to attract investment. "We aim to have, by 2020, infrastructure that allows the start of production … that allows industries to produce, not completing the infrastructure of the whole project," Darwish said at a banking conference in Sharm al-Sheikh. He said he would start an investment campaign at the end of March to attract potential investors from Japan, France, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Egypt is also due to receive delegations from Italy, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and the African Development Bank this month in order to explore opportunities in the economic zone. [Reuters, 2/2/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Moody’s: Saudi Arabia, China financial support is credit positive for Egypt | Ahram Online
  • Egypt's stocks tumble amid modest turnover | Ahram Online

SOCIETY & MEDIA

After his release, Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish says he was “wrongfully arrested”
Islam Gawish, a cartoonist who was detained overnight by police, said in a phone interview that he was wrongfully arrested by security forces instead of the owner of news website Egypt News Network (ENN). "I refused to sign a statement saying that I'm the manager of ENN. I was not officially charged with anything," he explained. He added that during his arrest an officer found comic drawings by Gawish, including political comics, which resulted in the officer unofficially accusing him of insulting the regime. An Interior Ministry statement had said on Sunday that ENN was "publishing news without a license and using pirated computer software."  [Ahram Online, 2/1/2016]

Also of Interest
  • UNDP regional expert Maya Morsi elected head of National Council for Women | Ahram Online, AMAY

SECURITY

Another victim of forced disappearance found shot dead
Ahmed Galal, a young Egyptian man, was found dead on Sunday after having been reported missing for two weeks, according to Halem Heneish, lawyer at the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedom (ECRF). Heneish said the family of Ahmed Galal received a phone call notifying them that their son’s dead body was at Cairo’s Zeinhom morgue. According to Heneish, the family said he had received a gunshot to the head.  Galal’s sister had filed a report with Cairo’s prosecution that her brother was arrested from his home on January 20, after which he went missing, according to al-Bedaiah. “This is the second case of death for a forcibly disappeared person in one week,” Heneish said. “Another person who disappeared in Beni Suef was also killed this week. The Interior Ministry said he was killed during a shootout with police." [DNE, Egypt Independent, 2/1/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Three soldiers injured in Arish IED blast | AMAY

INTERNATIONAL

Egyptian Embassy in Germany denies reporting researcher to authorities
The Egyptian Ambassador in Germany denied allegations the embassy reported Egyptian-German researcher Atef Botros to Egyptian authorities after airport police banned him from entering the country on Saturday. Egyptian Ambassador in Germany Badr Abdel Aty, who used to be the official spokesperson for Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said in a phone interview that he first heard of Botros when he was detained at the airport. However, several media reports and social media posts alleged the Egyptian embassy in Berlin was involved in reporting Botros to the authorities. "Such allegations are only fabrications that reveal an intent to smear the reputation of Egyptian state institutions, including the foreign ministry and its embassies," the embassy said in a statement, according to state-run news agency MENA. "Such claims show a complete ignorance with the basic roles of Egyptian embassies in defending Egypt's national interests and serving its expats." [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 2/2/2016]

Egypt, Russia reportedly negotiating on helicopters for Mistral warships
Egyptian Trade Minister Tarek Qabil said that Russia and Egypt are planning to negotiate over the delivery of helicopters to equip the Mistral aircraft carriers Egypt bought from France, Spuntik reported. "This is within the defense ministry's purview, but I think that talks on this topic will be held," Qabil said in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Russian Trade Minister Denis Manturov meanwhile said that Moscow and Cairo will sign a memorandum on Tuesday for the delivery of four SSJ100 passenger planes to Egypt, Sputnik reported. The deal includes an option for the purchase of six additional aircrafts. The two ministers will also reportedly sign on Tuesday a protocol on the establishment of a Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal area. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 2/2/2016]

Saudi names Egyptian accomplice in Shiite mosque bombing
Saudi authorities have identified an Egyptian national as the second attacker involved in a recent suicide bombing against a Shiite mosque. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said in a statement Monday that the attacker, Talha Hesham Abdo, lived in the kingdom on a visitor visa since 2013. Abdo and a Saudi national identified a day earlier as 22-year-old Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri both were wearing explosive belts. Abdo was wounded and detained after an exchange of gunfire with security forces outside the mosque. [AFP, AP, 2/1/2016]

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