Top News: Egypt Prosecution Appeal Rejected, ‘Anti-Torture T-Shirt’ Student to be Released

A Cairo court rejected on Thursday the prosecution’s appeal against the Tuesday release order of Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian teenager who was arrested over two years ago for what his family says was his wearing a shirt with a revolutionary slogan. Mokhtar Mounir, Hussein’s lawyer, announced on his Facebook account on Thursday afternoon that the court upheld the decision to release Hussein and another detainee, Islam Talaat, on a bail of EGP 1,000 each pending trial. The 23-year-old Talaat was arrested with Hussein. They were accused by police of taking part in unauthorized demonstrations, possession of explosives, and paying money to others to take part in street protests. They were never formally charged during his two years in detention. Thursday’s court ruling cannot be appealed. The administrative procedures for the release may take several days. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Aswat Masriya, 3/24/2016]


New government-drafted NGO law to be submitted to parliament
Egypt’s Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Magdi al-Agati said on Tuesday that a new government-drafted NGO law will soon be submitted to parliament. Agati added that several laws will be redrafted in the coming period to go in line with Egypt’s new constitution. “The new draft law will make it much easier to set up NGOs,” Agati said. “The law states that NGOs can be set up only by notification, with its founders and members allowed to perform their activities with complete freedom, and that they can only be dissolved or banned under final judicial rulings.” Agati also said the law will help create a vibrant civil society in Egypt capable of defending human rights and boosting development. “While we are moving on the front of improving the human rights situation, we are also working on another front, which is stemming the tide of police violations of human rights,” said El-Agati, indicating that “new amendments of the police law aimed at stiffening penalties on policemen accused of violating human rights will soon be discussed by parliament.” [Ahram Online, 3/23/2016]

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Ahram Online


TV host who criticized Egypt’s president referred to prosecution
The head of the state-run Egyptian Radio and TV Union (ERTU), Essam al-Amir, referred on Wednesday TV host Azza al-Hennawy to the administrative prosecution after she criticized President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on air. Amir alleged that Hennawy and the crew of her weekly show Cairo News on Channel 3 “committed serious professional violations.” Hennawy spoke in a November 2015 episode about corruption in Egypt’s municipalities and called on Sisi to look into the issue and hold state officials accountable. She added that because “the president appoints state officials,” he should also be held to the same standards. [Ahram Online, 3/23/2016]

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Central Bank of Egypt sets term limit for bank CEOs
Chief executive officers of Egyptian banks will have to step down after nine years as part of measures to modernize the sector and “inject new blood,” the Central bank of Egypt (CBE) said Thursday.  The rule will apply to the CEOs of public and private banks as well as the heads of foreign banks operating in Egypt. Both consecutive and non-consecutive terms will count towards the limit, the CBE said. Around 40 public and private sector banks operate in Egypt. A senior banking official said the term limit will force eight of the country’s banking heads out of their positions. [Reuters, 3/24/2016]

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UN, NGOs express fear for rights groups in Egypt
The United Nations and global rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty urged Egypt on Wednesday to drop a renewed investigation of rights activists that has also strained ties with Washington. “NGOs who have played a valuable role in documenting violations and supporting victims will see their activities completely crippled if this continues,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement. “This will stifle the voices of those who advocate for victims,” he said.  “Egypt’s civil society is being treated like an enemy of the state, rather than a partner for reform and progress,” Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, said in a joint statement issued by thirteen global rights groups. “The authorities should halt their persecution of these groups and drop the investigation,” the statement added. Human Rights Watch (HRW) also issued a statement on Wednesday, criticizing the Egyptian State for its punitive measures against rights defenders and NGOs. Tobias Ellwood, from the UK Foreign Office, issued a statement on Tuesday, expressing concern over “growing restrictions on civil society in Egypt.” [Ahram Online, AFP, AP, Mada Masr, DNE, 3/24/2016]

Seven NGOs sue Sisi and interior minister demanding closure of Al-Aqrab prison
Seven rights organizations filed a lawsuit on Tuesday before the administrative judiciary, suing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar for not closing the notorious Al-Aqrab prison. The lawsuit calls for the closure of the prison, located within the Tora prison complex in southern Cairo. Wives of five detainees in al-Aqrab are plaintiffs in the case filed by the NGOs, including El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, Hisham Mubarak Center for Law, and the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) among others. ECRF’s Doaa Mostafa said the lawsuit states the prison violates prison authority regulations because its officials do not allow visitations or physical exercise for prisoners. [DNE, 3/23/2016]

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Egypt police shoot dead gang abducting foreigners
Egyptian security forces Thursday in Cairo shot dead members of a criminal gang that specialized in abducting foreigners by posing as policemen, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The only foreigner reported missing in Egypt in recent months was Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, whose body was found in a ditch on the edge of Cairo, but the ministry made no mention of his case in its statement.  “The security forces on Thursday managed to track down a gang in new Cairo that used to pose as policemen. It specialized in abducting foreigners and robbing them,” the ministry said. “There was an exchange of fire with the police and all members of the gang were killed,” the statement said, without giving a toll. [AFP, 3/24/2016]

Egypt’s military spokesperson says 380 kilos of explosives seized in North Sinai
Egypt’s army has seized 380 kilograms of explosives, including TNT, in Al-Mahager area at Halal Mountain in the North Sinai region, according to an official military spokesperson. Mohamed Samir announced in a statement that Egypt’s third army was able to seize the explosives that were being stored in al-Mahager based on intelligence information. Samir said, “Troops from the Third Field Army seized a store of explosives north of Halal Mountain. Four sacks of TNT materials weighing 90 kilograms were found, in addition to two sacks of C4 substance weighing 200 kilograms, three sacks of chloride weighing 60 kilograms.” Other suspicious substances were also found, including three cylinders used in making bombs and an unlicensed motorbike. [Ahram Online, AMAY, 3/24/2016]

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Egypt to reportedly sign 1 billion euro French arms deals
Egypt is preparing to buy French warships and a military satellite in deals worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion), La Tribune newspaper reported on Tuesday. The four naval vessels to be built by French naval shipyard DCNS include two Gowind corvettes, the newspaper reported, without citing sources. The military satellite would be supplied jointly by Airbus Space Systems, part of Airbus Group, and Thales Alenia Space, owned by French arms firm Thales and Italy’s Finmeccanica, recently renamed Leonardo. Thales also owns 35 percent of the DCNS shipyard. None of the companies have commented. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 3/23/2016]

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