MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

February 24, 2016
Egypt's Interior Ministry says investigators believe that "personal reasons" were behind the torture and murder of the Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found in Cairo this month, over a week after he went missing. The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that investigation had uncovered no clues to culprits but said "the available information indicates a criminal motive and a desire of revenge for personal reasons." The ministry added that investigations revealed that Regeni had an extensive circle of contacts, despite his stay in the country not exceeding six months. The statement added that the investigative team has identified some of Regeni's contacts, summoning Egyptians and foreigners from those circles and questioning them about their relationship with him. It also warned against "spreading unfounded information" to "mislead public opinion," a clear reference to earlier reports in the international media suggesting the Egyptian police were involved in Regeni's killing. [Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 2/24/2016]

POLITICS

Parliament lifts immunity from MP Haitham al-Hariri for protest charges under Morsi 
With a majority vote, Egypt's House of Representatives agreed to lift the immunity of independent Alexandrian MP Haitham al-Hariri so he can be tried on criminal charges, state news MENA reported. During Tuesday's session, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Al asked MPs to electronically vote on the lifting of Hariri’s immunity, with 250 voting with in favor and 53 voting against. Hariri was charged with inciting violence and calling for protests against the now banned-Muslim Brotherhood group in the lead up to the protests of June 2013. The request to lift his immunity was submitted by the Prosecutor General. Hariri did not object to the lifting of his immunity and has made strong statements maintaining his innocence. He expressed his confidence in the Egyptian judicial process. Also on Tuesday, Speaker Abdel Al used the morning session to express his "deep respect" for journalists after two MPs attacked reporters covering parliament the day before. Abdel Al urged Press Syndicate Chairman Yehia Qalash not to boycott parliament news, praising journalists for their robust coverage of parliament. Syndicate Deputy Gamal Abdel-Reheem told Ahram Online that the union will "suspend" its call for boycott "as long as the involved colleagues accept the apology." A meeting between the syndicate's board and the Speaker will be held within a few days over the matter. [Ahram Online, 2/23/2016]

Sisi allocates EGP 200 billion for youth, says Russian plane brought down by terrorists
Egypt's president says unfair criticism of parliament and the government is contributing to attempts to bring down the state, telling Egyptians not to listen to anyone but him. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not go into specifics in a speech broadcast live Wednesday, saying only that he would "remove from the face of the Earth" anyone plotting to bring down the state. “[If] you truly love Egypt, I’m telling all Egyptians who are listening to me: Listen to my words only. Only mine,” the president said. Sisi also said the Russian plane that crashed in Sinai last year was downed by terrorists seeking to damage Egypt's tourism industry and relations with Moscow. "Has terrorism ended, no it has not but it will if we unite. Whoever downed the Russian plane, what did he mean? He meant to hit tourism, and to hit relations with Russia," he said. During the speech, Sisi presented the government’s development program, Egypt's vision 2030. Sisi revealed that the government has allocated 200 billion EGP ($25.5 billion) for youth development projects. He blamed the government for the delay in establishing a furniture industry zone in Damietta, and called on the government to provide  youth with “all they need” to establish their projects. “I will keep building it [Egypt] until my death or the end of my tenure,” Sisi said. [AP, Ahram Online, Reuters, Cairo Post, AMAY, SIS, 2/24/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Cabinet Spokesman says cabinet to delay presentation of program to end of March | DNE
  • MP Tawfik Okasha offer to apologize to parliament following investigation | Cairo Post

COURTS

Egypt’s prosecution challenges release on parole for jihadist Mohamed al-Zawahiri
Egypt’s prosecution challenged a Cairo criminal court’s decision to release on parole jihadist Mohamed al-Zawahiri on Tuesday. The long-time jihadist has not yet been released and his fate remains uncertain as the prosecution challenges his parole. Another criminal court division will confirm the decision. Zawahri’s release comes pending trial on a number of terror-related charges. According to a judicial source, the decision to release him on parole was due to his poor health. According to Judge Hussein Farid, the head of the Cairo Criminal court that released Zawahri, the defendant must show up to court every 45 days and remain under police surveillance. [Ahram Online, 2/24/2016]

Court sentences three year old to year in prison for manslaughter
A Kom Ombo court sentenced a three year old to a year in prison with hard labor on charges of manslaughter, Egyptian daily Shorouk reported on Wednesday. Mohamed Haggag was accused of killing a woman when he hit her with his car. The toddler was sentenced in absentia. Investigations revealed that Haggag’s father had registered the car in his son’s name. [Shorouk (Arabic), 2/24/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Egyptian policeman accused of killing taxi driver to stand trial March 5 | Ahram Online

ECONOMY

Egypt's value added tax to be set at 10 percent
Egypt's value added tax (VAT) has been set by the government at a flat rate of 10 percent. The VAT will be applied to each member of the production chain of goods and services, instead of the current sales tax paid by customers. The VAT that the consumer pays when the product comes on the market applies to the cost of the product, minus the cost of the components that have already been taxed. The VAT will raise the price of goods by between 0.5 and 2.5 percent, according to a previous statement by the finance ministry. The VAT bill is currently under review by the parliament.  [Ahram Online, 2/24/2016]

Air France-KLM revenue stuck in Egypt amid dollar crisis
Air France-KLM has urged Egypt to release upward of 100 million Egyptian pounds ($13 million) in revenue it is unable to repatriate due to an acute dollar shortage, saying the delays were making it increasingly difficult to operate in the country. Cees Ursem, Egypt Country Manager, said the Franco-Dutch airline had been unable to transfer earnings out of the country since October and had last week asked the tourism minister and central bank governor to help resolve the delays. There was no immediate comment from the central bank. [Reuters, 2/24/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Egypt to put forward dollar savings certificates for Egyptians abroad within days | DNE
  • CBE decides to defer tourism sector debts to banks for three years | DNE
  • Egypt's stocks inch down in early trade | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt's economic recovery hurt by terrorist threats | CNN


SOCIETY & MEDIA

Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat banned from travelling
Prominent Egyptian investigative journalist Hossam Bahgat said on Tuesday that he was not allowed to travel pursuant to an order issued by the prosecution, with no reasons given to him for the ban. Bahgat said in a post on his Facebook page that he was heading to Jordan for a United Nations conference on justice in the Arab world when authorities at the Cairo International Airport informed him that his name was included on a travel-ban list. In November, Bahgat was detained four days pending investigation for "publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace." Bahgat said in his post that he was permitted to travel outside of Egypt twice since his release, and that this was the first time he was prevented from exiting the country. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 2/23/2016]

Also of Interest
  • 'Writer Ahmed Naji's jail sentence is unconstitutional,' say seven authors of Egypt's constitution | Ahram Online
  • Dozens of writers, artists condemn jailing of Egyptian novelist | Ahram Online, DNE
  • ANHRI says 2015 was worst year in terms of human rights and freedoms | DNE


SECURITY

Privacy International reveals intelligence unit tasked with acquiring surveillance tools
An Egyptian intelligence unit tasked with acquiring surveillance tools has been exposed in a report released Wednesday by London-based watchdog Privacy International. No information exists detailing the history of the Technical Research Department (TRD), but Privacy International's report cites correspondence and contracts with surveillance tools suppliers that point to some of its activities. The website of Systems Engineering Egypt (SEE Egypt) cites TRD as one of its clients in Egypt, classified as a client affiliated with the military. SEE Egypt acts as a mediator in selling products of partners, who include manufacturers of surveillance software and solutions such as Blue Coat, which provides Deep Packet Inspection technology and CCTV equipment and software, called Axis. Moreover, Privacy International writes that TRD is possibly striking deals to acquire surveillance technology on behalf of General International Services, since the latter is the only official Egyptian information-collecting body not cited in documents detailing transactions with government bodies. According to an intelligence expert Privacy International spoke to, TRD was founded during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak. Meanwhile, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Egypt’s arms imports witnessed a “steep rise” in 2015. The report says that Egypt’s arms imports increased by 37 percent between 2006–10 and 2011–15. [Mada Masr, 2/24/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Roadside bomb kills two policemen in Egypt's North Sinai | Ahram Online
  • Internet, phone service back in North Sinai after three hour outage during raids | AMAY


INTERNATIONAL

UK Ambassador pledges support for Egypt; Delegation evaluating airport security
British Ambassador to Egypt John Casson has pledged his country’s support for Egypt and called on the international community to stand by the country in its fight against terrorism and economic problems. "The world can’t leave Egypt to deal with these problems alone – to beat terrorism we have to keep Egypt’s economy strong," statement by the British embassy read on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a delegation of security experts from British firm Control Risks will visit Marsa Alam International Airport to evaluate security procedures in view of ongoing terrorist threats, according to Mohamed Tamman, head of information and public relations at the airport. The delegation will assess procedures followed to secure travellers in the arrivals and departures halls, as well as in the luggage-loading area. “This comes after the airport was notified by the Civil Aviation Ministry that a delegation from the company, which signed a contract with the ministry, had arrived to evaluate the security measures at Egyptian airports, in the aftermath of the Russian plane crash in Sinai,” Tamman said. [Ahram Online, 2/24/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Sisi meets with UN World Tourism Secretary-General | DNE, SIS
  • Erekat discusses Israel, Palestine with Foreign Minister | DNE
  • Sisi is an open-minded leader says outgoing Israeli ambassador | Egypt Independent
  • French Minister expresses hope Sisi would partake in signing Paris agreement in New York | SIS

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