MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

March 11, 2016
The Head of the Egyptian Union for Radio and Television (ERTU) Essam al-Amir temporarily suspended state TV anchor Azza al-Henawy on Thursday “pending investigation,” for her criticisms of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The decision was based on a report submitted by a committee of senior ERTU officials who examined Henawy’s Sunday episode in which she said, “The president orders the people to work. He should work first … Egyptians are working but the state leadership are not working.” Some media personalities had launched a campaign against Henawy, including Tamer Amin who ridiculed her for her weight. On Wednesday, Amin sarcastically called on Maspero head Amir to place a set of scales at the door of every studio so that “each anchor knows her weight and size.” He also called on Henawy to get her eyesight checked so that she could see whether the president is working or not. However, others came to her defense, such as author Alaa al-Aswany who said on his Twitter account that Hennawy was brave for stating what many Egyptians say in secret. Lawyer Samir Sabry also filed a lawsuit against Henawy, which Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek referred the case to State Security Prosecution for further investigations. [Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 3/11/2016]


MP to propose law preventing dissolution of parliament
Member of Parliament Mohamed Esmat Sadat said Thursday that he plans to propose a law guaranteeing the “stability” of the parliament in consultation with the Constitutional Court’s general assembly. The law, Sadat said, aims at preventing the dissolution of the legislative body. He added that the law does not aim to provide immunity to the parliament, but rather guarantee its ability to fulfill its role. Sadat pointed to the waste of funds spent by the state, parties, and candidates as an unreasonable cost for a mistake in the laws governing the elections. Sadat added that the dissolution of the parliament would be a violation of popular will. A lawsuit was recently filed calling for the parliament’s dissolution, on the grounds that several members of parliament refused to recognize the January 25 revolution. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 3/11/2016]

Also of Interest
  • As hard times hit, Egyptians at last find fault with Sisi | Reuters
  • Parliament to send internal bylaws to State Council next week | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Egypt's pound gains in black market; stocks end week of gains
The Egyptian pound strengthened on the black market after the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) eased restrictions on foreign-currency transactions. The pound traded at 9.684 per dollar, improved from 9.763 on Tuesday but still much weaker than the official rate of 7.830 per dollar. The CBE on Wednesday removed the withdrawal and deposit cap for companies that import basic commodities, a day after it removed limits for individuals. Meanwhile, Egypt’s stocks completed a trading week of gains on Thursday after the main index approached a three-month high amid foreign and local purchases. “The Central Bank's new decisions to lift foreign currency caps on deposits and withdrawals by individuals and corporations have relatively bolstered the investors confidence toward banks,” Vice Head of Securities at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce Eissa Fathy said. [Bloomberg, 3/10/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Egypt lowers gas prices to steel manufacturers by 36 percent | Ahram Online, Reuters
  • Egypt’s financial crisis hits the rich | NYT
  • Egypt PM meets with Iraqi oil, Jordanian energy ministers | SIS


In letter from prison, photojournalist Shawkan issues plaintive call against oppression
In a letter written from Tora prison and published by Amnesty International on Wednesday, detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abouzeid, also known as Shawkan, detailed the conditions inside the prison, the procedures governing inspections, and decried his continued detention. Shawkan, who has been detained for nearly 1,000 days, described inspection visits in prison, saying that security ‘informants’ responsible for the search process mistreat detainees. Shawkan said the prison has been searched 26 times by the prison authority within the 900 last days, and 95 times by the “Prison Intelligence Service.” “We lined up next to each other like slackers for the inspection to take place under the supervision of the chief prison informant. An hour passed by with all the denigrating looks and verbal insults one can think of,” Shawkan wrote in the letter. He also described the brutality of searches and how informants destroy and steal detainees’ personal belongings. “I am a journalist who has no affiliation but to his profession, a journalist who answered the call of the government itself to cover the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in,” wrote Shawkan, who is now facing charges of murder, violence, possession of a weapon among a series of other charges that could lead to life in prison. [DNE, 3/10/2016]

NCHR delegation calls for improvement of Port Said prison conditions
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) resumed its inspection of Egyptian prisons Tuesday with a delegation of members visiting the Port Said Prison. According to an official statement by the NCHR released Thursday, the delegation met with detainees who had filed complaints to the NCHR in an attempt to survey the conditions in the prison. “All interviewed female prisoners agreed  that the common problem is their long period of detention which has been extended up to 10 months so far,” the statement read. However, the NCHR report added that the prison’s administration provides prisoners access to medical treatment and exercise, a claim that has been impugned by other sources. The report noted that the prison failed to provide detained students with the mandated access to exam centers where they could continue their studies. The report attributed this failure to the remoteness of the Port Said Prison. Further, in response to prisoner’s complaints that bathrooms are without doors, the NCHR delegation quoted prison authorities that claimed that the door could be used as a weapon in a fight between prisoners. The delegation met with male prisoners who stated that the prison’s distance from their homes excessively burdened family members who travelled to meet them. However, as some of those who complained are detainees, their transfer to another prison is contingent on approval by the prosecution. The NCHR report called for an improvement to the prison’s infrastructure so that all prisoners would be able to exercise. The report also highlighted the importance of applying standard prison conduct in allocating a separate room for visits in the presence of an official from the prison administration. An NCHR delegation also inspected the Minya Prison Monday, but a report has yet to be published. [DNE, 3/10/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Press Syndicate member calls for amendment of laws allowing for imprisonment of journalists |Aswat Masriya (Arabic)


Foreign Ministry criticizes EU parliament's 'undocumented' claims of rights abuses
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry rejected on Thursday the European Parliament’s resolution on the death of Giulio Regeni, describing it as based on "undocumented media reports." "It is unfortunate that ancient legislative institutions such as the European Parliament deal with accusations from undocumented media reports concerning Regeni's murder as evidence to build resolutions upon," Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement Friday. "Involving Regeni's case in a resolution which tackles the human rights records in Egypt is rejected, especially as the investigations are still being conducted by the Egyptian authorities in cooperation with their Italian counterparts," he added. Regarding forced disappearances, Abu Zeid stated that "it has been proven by the Egyptian authorities that the vast majority of the forced disappearance cases are suspects who are standing documented trials." He added that "the Egyptian government respects and considers human rights values, and torture is a crime which is stated in Egypt's constitution.” Some Egyptian MPs also criticized the EU resolution, including Bahaa El-Din Abu Shoqa, head of the Wafd Party's parliamentary committee, and Salah Hassaballah, a member of the In Support of Egypt majority bloc. [Ahram Online, 3/11/2016]

Iran's charge d'affaires in Cairo says disputes with Egypt can be solved easily

The Iranian charge d'affaires in Egypt, Mahmoud Mahmoudian, told a group of Egyptian journalists in a rare meeting on Wednesday that Tehran's disputes with Egypt could be solved easily by dialogue. In the meeting at his office in Heliopolis, Mahmoudian denied accusations that Iran wanted to spread Shiism in Egypt or in other Arab countries. Mahmoudian also said there are Iranian investors and companies willing to work in Egypt, which they consider a gateway to Africa. Regarding Tehran's rocky relations with Saudi Arabia, the Iranian official said that his country was trying to rebuild a positive relation with Riyadh but claimed the kingdom has not reciprocated. Mahmoudian added that Iran was calling for a dialogue between Saudi officials and Houthis rebels, whom Iran backs in Yemen. [Ahram Online, 3/11/2016]

Amid tensions with Egypt, Hamas delegation going to Cairo
A delegation from Hamas will be going to Cairo from Gaza shortly for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials against the backdrop of allegations that implicate the movement in the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in a car bombing in Cairo last June. News of the planned visit by the delegation was reported in Gaza on Thursday. This week, suspects in the Barakat assassination case are said to have admitted that they were trained for six weeks by Hamas members in Gaza. Earlier on Thursday, it was also reported that a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt at Rafah had collapsed due to operations that the Egyptians have been carrying out in recent months to flood the area and put a stop to the smuggling. [Haaretz, 3/10/2016]

Also of Interest
  • Italy prosecutor to go to Cairo to investigate student's killing | Reuters
  • New Arab League head thanks Cairo for support after Qatari, Sudanese reluctance | Ahram Online
  • Qatar Foreign Minister says reservation was over Abul Gheit, not an Egyptian candidate | Aswat Masriya (Arabic)
  • Egyptian Ambassador says crisis over killing of Mexican tourists in final phase | AMAY
  • Egypt's Sisi and Saudi Arabia's Salman discuss strategic interests | Ahram Online, SIS
  • Egyptian Tourism Ministry says Thomas Cook’s extension of Egypt travel ban ‘weird’ | AMAY
  • Final stage of ‘Thunder of the North’ drills launched with Sisi attending | SIS, AMAY
  • Foreign Minister to visit Moscow March 16 | Cairo Post
  • Kuwait Parliament Deputy Speaker in Cairo to discuss bilateral cooperation | Cairo Post