Top News: Activists Detained in Egypt Ahead of Uprising Anniversary

Egyptian authorities are rounding up activists ahead of the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and have detained at least five people this week. Doctors’ Syndicate member Taher Mokhtar and his two roommates, Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Hossam al-Din Hamad, were arrested Thursday following a raid on their downtown apartment. Mokhtar is an activist who has demanded for health care reform while Hassan is against compulsory military service. According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Mokhtar and his housemates are charged with possession of printed material that calls for the overthrow of the regime. The police confiscated the suspects’ telephones and laptops in addition to printed materials that called for the reform of the health system and contained protest slogans such as “peaceful” and “military coup.” Also on Thursday, Poet Omar Hazek, was detained at Cairo Airport from 7:30 am until 1 pm. He was released but banned from leaving the country due to security reasons, according to a statement by grassroots movement, Freedom for the Brave. Meanwhile, Managing Editor of the privately owned Masr al-Arabia news website, Ahmed Abdel-Gawad, was detained after security forces raided its office on Thursday, according to a statement from the outlet. He was released on Friday, a second statement said. In releasing Gawad, the prosecution also dismissed as unfounded the allegations that led to the raid on the publication’s offices. According to some reports, they were accused of spreading false news. The statement said that the prosecution had determined that the allegations made against Masr al-Arabia by the Office of Artistic Production Police Department were without legal basis, closing investigations into the matter. During Thursday’s raid in Cairo, security forces seized eight computers and unpublished several of the website’s top news stories, saying the articles threatened national security. In related news, a surprise inspection, also by the Office of Artistic Production Police Department, at performance arts center Studio Emad Eddin’s downtown Cairo premises on Tuesday was confirmed in a statement released by the studio Thursday. They said inspectors found that a license for a rehearsal space had expired, and the studio is in the process of renewing it. The studio confirmed that none of its locations were subject to closure. [Egypt Independent, AP, Mada Masr, 1/15/2016]


Egypt’s parliament sessions to be aired on TV after “review of laws is complete”
Egypt’s newly elected House of Representatives will lift the temporary ban on the live airing of its sessions after it has finished reviewing laws passed since July 2013, the speaker Ali Abdel-Al said on Thursday. On Monday, the majority of MPs agreed to a proposal submitted by 40 members to halt TV coverage in order to prevent grandstanding by some MPs, especially when the reviewing process is taking place. Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said Thursday that Egypt has resumed its membership at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Egypt’s membership was frozen in 2013 because it did not have an active parliament. In a statement, Abdel Aal said he was informed about the decision during a phone call with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/15/2016]


Egypt to receive $200 million grant from Saudi Arabia for SMEs
Saudi Arabia will grant Egypt $200 million to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to Egyptian International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr. The government will allocate $32 million from the grant to SMEs in Sinai. The rest will be distributed to governorates with the highest unemployment rates, Nasr said. The grant will be disbursed to investors as loans through the Central Bank’s recently implemented regulations. The agreement is set to be signed by January 24, she added. Earlier this week, the central bank announced a new SME financing program as part of a plan by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to boost finances for small enterprises.[Ahram Online, DNE, 1/14/2016]

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State-sanctioned Friday sermon mandates ‘blessing of security’
The Ministry of Religious Endowments published Tuesday the prescribed subject of the weekly Friday sermon for Islamic preachers to follow in the upcoming prayer, titled the “Blessing of Security.” In alignment with the Egyptian’s state’s continued effort to bring Egypt’s Islamic institutions under the state’s auspices, the topic of the sermon linked state security efforts to religious necessity. The Ministry’s announcement equated security with “food and water,” calling it an element without which humans can prosper. The script provided several verses from the Qur’an, wherein the text purports the Muslim Prophet argues for the need for security and order in a society. [DNE, 1/13/2016]

Egyptian state newspaper Al-Akhbar apologizes to Brotherhood leader for insulting headline
An Egyptian state-owned newspaper apologized for using a derogatory term about the jailed spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie in a story about his health. Yasser Rizq, Editor-in-Chief of the state-owned daily Al-Akhbar wrote in a note published in the newspaper on Thursday that “gloating about a person’s illness does not fit either my own morals or Al-Akhbar’s editorial policy, which is widely known for its credibility and impartiality.” An article published in the newspaper last week gave an update about the health of the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, using a term that is considered derogatory in Egyptian Arabic to describe his hernia operation. “Although this headline made some readers happy,” Rizq wrote, he decided to apologize as he found it being interpreted as insulting. “I condemned the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and I criticized former president Mohamed Morsi’s regime, but at the same time Badie is behind bars and he is helpless,” he wrote. [Ahram Online, 1/15/2016]


Army Spokesperson says four army personnel, 30 militants killed in North Sinai
The Egyptian Armed Forces killed 30 militants and injured ten on Thursday in North Sinai, Egypt’s Army Spokesperson, Brigadier General Mohamed Samir said in a statement. Samir announced on Thursday that a militant attack on a security checkpoint near the North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweid resulted in the death of four army personnel. Eight more army personnel were injured in the attack and three armed forces vehicles were destroyed by IEDs. It is unclear whether the 30 militants were all killed during the assault on the checkpoint or in retaliatory attacks by the army. Samir added that military forces destroyed eight farms used as hiding spots for militants. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post, 1/15/2016]


China’s Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran next week
Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran next week, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said Friday. Spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement that Xi would visit the three Middle Eastern countries over five days beginning Tuesday. Xi is expected to discuss potential investments in infrastructure projects with Egypt during his upcoming visit in the sectors of transportation, electricity, housing, and agriculture. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 1/15/2016]

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