Top News: 1,250 Forced Disappearances since Beginning of Year Says NGO

Following months of cases circulating on social media and press, a local Egyptian NGO claims to have recorded 1,250 cases of forced disappearances in the first eight months of 2015. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) laid out its findings in a report on the practice. ECRF recorded forty-four disappearances in January, ninety-one in February, 160 in March, 228 in April, and 393 in April. More than 100 were “forcibly disappeared in July,” the group said, and 124 in August. According to the NGO, 228 victims of forced disappearances remain unaccounted for. “They have neither appeared before prosecutors nor at any police station though information indicates that they have been detained by security forces,” an ECRF statement said. [DNEAnadolou Agency, 8/31/2015]


Parliamentary elections to occur in complete transparency says Sisi
Parliamentary elections will be held in complete transparency and will be secured by police and military forces, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview Monday with Channel NewsAsia. Sisi said, “It is not the first time we have had elections amid circumstances of post-June 30.” He declined to comment on the trial of three Al Jazeera journalists, citing the “inappropriateness of criticizing the judicial system, which enjoys its absolute independence.” Ayman Aqeel, head of Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights, said that parliamentary elections will be observed by more than 2,500 local and foreign observers. A joint local and foreign alliance of NGOs will monitor elections in 164 constituencies, representing 80 percent of the total number of electoral districts. In related news, Egypt’s High Elections Commission (HEC) said that steel tycoon and ex-convict Ahmed Ezz is entitled to run in the upcoming elections. HEC spokesperson Omar Marawan said, “The commission has no right to omit any candidate.” Marwan said that Ezz would be able to submit a nomination for the commission to review, despite prior bans. [DNE, 9/1/2015]

Also of Interest

  • No new medical tests for parliament candidates registered in March: Egypt’s HEC | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s electoral marathon to begin Tuesday | Ahram Online
  • Eighteen ministries meet to address illegal immigration | Cairo Post


Three journalists arrested at morgue released on bail after month-long detention
The Sayeda Zeinab prosecution released on Monday morning on EGP 10,000 bail each, three journalists arrested at the Zeinhom morgue according to the independent observatory Journalists Against Torture. The prosecution has, so far, not appealed the decision. The released journalists are Hamdy al-Zaeem, who works for privately owned al-Shaab newspaper, Sherif Ashraf, a freelance reporter, and Mohamed Adly, a reporter for Tahrir newspaper. On July 1, nine Muslim Brotherhood members were killed in a raid on a residential flat in October 6 City by Egyptian security forces. The journalists were arrested while covering the arrival of the nine bodies at the Forensic Medicine Authority, and faced charges of working without a permit, working for Qatar’s Al Jazeera channel, and belonging to a terrorist organisation. They were with a group of nine other journalists who were released on the same day. [DNE, 9/1/2015]

Local officials in Fayoum can arrest civilians for illegal building
Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind issued a decree Monday allowing local unit heads in the Fayoum governorate to arrest citizens accused of committing violations related to illegal building. The Fayoum Security Directorate said the decision does not have anything to do with the governorate’s security situation, and that security forces are the only entity responsible for fighting violence and terrorism in the city. The authority to arrest is to be applied to violations related to illegal building, and enables officials to arrest citizens charged with building unsafe housing structures. The governorate also said that the new decision should speed up action against violators by allowing immediate interference. A statement from the Fayoum governorate said the decision came after a request by Governor Wael Makram. [DNE, 9/1/2015]

First trial in cases of journalist’s death, Coptic woman’s murder
The South Cairo Criminal Court has scheduled for September 15 the first trial session of forty-eight defendants, charged with involvement in violent protests in March 2014. During the protests 22-year-old journalist, Mayada Ashraf, was shot dead, and a young Coptic woman, Mary Sameh, was also killed. Sameh was reportedly beaten to death by a mob, but a Forensic Medicine Authority report says she was shot in the chest. According to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, the suspects have been charged with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood organization. They are also accused of the two murders, targeting journalists and Copts, and using weapons to attack civilians and security forces. [DNE, 8/31/2015]

Photojournalist Shawkan considers hunger strike over ongoing detention
Head of the Press Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee Khaled al-Balshy announced in a press conference Sunday that photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, is considering going on hunger strike in the next few days. Balshy said Shawkan’s decision came as a sign of protest against his continued detention, despite having exceeded the pre-trial detention limit. Balshy told Daily News Egypt that Shawkan has already begun a partial hunger strike. “We are trying to convince him not to go on hunger strike, because it would be quite dangerous given his already poor health condition,” he added. Defense lawyer Ahmed Abdel Naby said Shawkan has temporarily retreated from his decision to embark on a full hunger strike, amid speculations that he might be released in the coming days. [DNE, 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Judge responds to British ambassador’s criticism against Al Jazeera journalists’ verdict | Egypt Independent
  • School principal, two teachers referred to prosecution in Daqahleya | DNE
  • Media gag enforced on Ministry of Agriculture corruption case | DNE


Saudi Arabia and Egypt to cooperate in peaceful use of nuclear energy
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it has decided to work bilaterally with Egypt in several fields, including the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA reported.  The Saudi Social Affairs Minister Majed bin Abdullah al-Qasabi said following a cabinet meeting that the government has mandated president of King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy Hashim Abdullah Yamani to work with Egyptian officials to draft an agreement on cooperating on nuclear energy. The cabinet also mandated several Saudi ministers to sign agreements with Egypt in other fields including culture, media, education, and agriculture.  [Ahram Online, 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Massive gas find promises to ease Egypt’s fuel crisis | AP
  • Number of tourists visiting Egypt up by 2.9 percent in July | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian pound steady at official auction, weaker at exchange bureaus | Reuters
  • FACTBOX: How big is Egypt’s new Zohr gas find? | Reuters
  • Egypt’s Zohr gas re-writes Israel’s happy ending | Reuters
  • Russia offers Egypt thirty-three-year financing of nuclear plant | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s main stock market index drops by 11.5 percent in August | Aswat Masriya


Egyptian muezzin suspended for ‘prayer is better than Facebook’ alteration
Egypt’s state religious authority suspended on Sunday the muezzin of a mosque in the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira, after he personalized the adhan (call to prayer) to include the phrase “prayer is better than Facebook” instead of “prayer is better than sleep.” The usual phrase, part of the dawn adhan only, is aimed at encouraging believers to get up and pray. The ministry of religious endowments summoned the muezzin, Mahmoud al-Moghazy, for questioning after local residents reported that he had repeatedly altered the call to Fajr (dawn prayers) by using the phrase “prayer is better than Facebook.” Moghazy denied in an interview on Dream TV Sunday that he had used the phrase. He claimed the reports against him are malicious fiction invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to hijack the mosque. [Ahram Online, 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s senior Islamic cleric denounces ISIS burning of Iraqi Shia fighters | Ahram Online
  • Press Syndicate rejects Tahrir newspaper’s closure | DNE
  • Factory fire kills one in Egypt’s Damietta | Aswat Masriya


Interior ministry says suicide bombing attempt thwarted in al-Arish
A suicide bombing attempt in North Sinai’s al-Arish city was “thwarted” on Tuesday and the assailant was killed in a gunfire exchange, the Interior Ministry said. The attacker was driving a car loaded with explosives during curfew hours and refused to adhere to security forces’ instructions at a checkpoint, the ministry said in a statement. The driver charged at the security forces, despite warnings, the ministry said. He then proceeded to fire at security forces. The assailant was killed in an ensuing gunfire exchange, which left one civilian injured. After inspection, a large amount of explosives were found in the truck, and the assailant was wearing an explosive belt. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 9/1/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Police exchange fire with unknown assailants on Fayoum highway | DNE
  • Three policemen wounded in Beni Suef | Egypt Independent


Egypt’s Sisi to kick off three-day Beijing visit as part of Asia tour
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is traveling to Beijing Tuesday, the second stop in his Asia tour aimed at boosting cooperation and drawing foreign investments to Egypt. Sisi’s trip to China, from Tuesday through Thursday, came after an invitation by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to take part in ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, state news agency MENA reported. He is to meet Jinping Wednesday to hold talks and sign several cooperation accords including a $100 million loan from China to finance small and medium-sized projects in Egypt. Sisi is also expected to meet top Chinese business leaders to bolster trade and economic ties between the two countries, and seek investment in Egypt. [Ahram Online, SIS, 9/1/2015]

Egypt, US renew scientific technological cooperation agreement
US Ambassador Stephen Beecroft and Assistant Foreign Minister Farid Mounib signed Monday a five year extension to the 1995 US-Egypt Science and Technology Agreement which was about to expire, the US Embassy in Cairo announced in a statement. The extension, the embassy said, comes “after twenty years of successful implementation.” The statement added that the agreement “has been instrumental to Egypt’s economy and its growth as a knowledge society and has directly led to advances in health, agricultural practices, and archeological understanding.” Beecroft said at the signing ceremony, “Through the S&T Fund, Egyptian and American researchers have been able to work together to address global scientific problems and come up with real world solutions. These people-to-people activities strengthen our bilateral relationship.” He added that the fund has “enabled 10,000 Egyptian and US scientists to work on more than 480 collaborative research projects and to participate in over sixty workshops. It has provided grants to over 120 junior scientists to conduct research at US and Egyptian institutions.” Beecroft also said that the renewal “builds on the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue held in Cairo August 2.” [US Embassy in Cairo, SIS, MFA (Arabic), 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • 373 Egyptians return from Libya through Salloum border crossing | Ahram Online