Top News: Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced; Parliamentary Elections Dates Announced

Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in prison
Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed to three years in a maximum security prison. Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months in prison and fined EGP5,000. Students Sohaib Said, Khaled Abdel Raouf, and Shadi Abdel Hamid were also sentenced to three years in prison. Two others, Khaled Abdel Rahman and Nora al-Banna, were acquitted of all charges. The journalists were sentenced on charges of operating without a press license, broadcasting false news harmful to Egypt, and aiding a terrorist organization. Of the six convicted, Fahmy, Mohamed, and Abdel-Hamid attended the hearing, and all three were taken to Tora prison after the verdict. International human rights lawyer and Fahmy’s representative, Amal Clooney, called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon the accused journalists, adding that the Canadian government submitted requests Saturday for Fahmy’s pardon and deportation. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab met with Clooney to discuss the possibility of a pardon. According to Sherif Fadel Fahmy, Fahmy’s brother, the Canadian ambassador to Egypt Troy Lulashnyk, along with Clooney, also met Egypt’s Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend. Greste also called Sunday for Sisi to pardon him, Fahmy, and Mohamed. He added that the implications of the sentence on his own career were unclear since many countries had extradition treaties with Egypt. He also expressed concern for his Egyptian colleagues. “We are going to pursue every legal, diplomatic and social means,” Greste said. According to Egyptian law, however, the president can’t issue a presidential pardon unless the verdict is final, and the Al Jazeera prison sentences are not final, as they can be appealed. Al Jazeera’s head of litigation, Farah Muftah, said the ruling would be appealed once the judge publishes the basis for his sentencings. The verdict was met with harsh domestic and international criticism. Among those condemning the verdict were Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, and the Arab Network for Human Rights Information. The European Union, US State Department, Canadian Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Minister Lynne Yelich, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Minister for Middle East and North Africa Tobias Ellwood, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koender, Dutch Ambassador to Egypt Gerard Steeghs, and British Ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, also condemned the verdict. Casson was summoned by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Sunday, in a show of “strong objection” by Egypt to his comments on the verdict. The Foreign Ministry did not summon other foreign diplomats. The ministry, however, said in a statement Sunday it completely rejects statements issued by foreign entities criticizing the verdict, describing it as “unacceptable intervention.” [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, AFP, 8/30/2015]


Egypt parliamentary elections to start October 17
Egyptian voters will elect members of the House of Representatives over two phases, to be held in late October and late November, the High Elections Commission (HEC) said on Sunday. The first phase will run from October 18 to 19, HEC Head Judge Mahmoud Kamel Abbas said during a press conference aired live on state television. If need be, electoral run-offs would be held on October 27 and 28. The second phase of the elections will run on November 22 and 23. Run offs will be held on November December 1 and 2.  The first phase of elections will include fourteen governorates: Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Wadi al-Gadeed, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira and Matrouh. The second phase of elections will include thirteen governorates: Cairo, Qalyubiya, Daqahliya, Damietta, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Kafr al-Sheikh, Ismailia, Port Said, Suez, North Sinai, and South Sinai. The door for candidates to apply will open on September 1 and will remain open for twelve days. [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, SIS, Mada Masr, 8/30/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Strong Egypt lambasts NCHR report on al-Aqrab Prison | DNE
  • Mahlab, American Chamber of Commerce delegation discuss tourism cooperation | SIS


Sixteen, including former police officer, accused of forming ISIS linked terrorist cell
Sixteen, including a discharged police officer, Helmi Mohamed Hashem, were referred to court Saturday on charges of forming a terrorist cell in connection with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) group, according to judicial sources. The sixteen, all from Egypt’s Sharqiya governorate, are accused of forming a terrorist cell linked to ISIS headed by Hashem, attempting to overthrow the regime, and recruiting Egyptian youth to the militant group. The case was referred to one of the court’s terrorism districts, created by Egypt’s new terrorism law to give priority to terrorism-related cases over others. [Ahram Online, 8/29/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Witnesses absent from ‘Kareem Hamdy’ trial session | DNE
  • Military court sentences five Muslim Brotherhood members to fifteen years in jail | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian police arrest former Islamist MP sentenced to death in Wadi Natroun case | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Mass trial of 215 ‘Helwan Brigade members’ postponed | DNE
  • Morsi Qatar espionage trial postponed to September 1 | DNE
  • Cairo court sentences two to life in prison | DNE


Italy’s Eni makes mega gas discovery off Egyptian coast
Italian energy group Eni said on Sunday that it discovered the largest known gas field in the Mediterranean off the Egyptian coast, predicting the find could help meet Egypt’s gas needs for decades to come. The Italian major said in a statement the offshore “Zohr” field could hold 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, covering an area of about 100 square kilometers. Eni said it plans to fast track development of the site using existing infrastructure and that more gas could be uncovered in future drilling. Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said it would take several months to sort out the development and production leases and expects to begin drilling early next year. If drilling starts in early 2016, production would likely kick off about a year later, based on similar projects. Descalzi said that Eni has not ruled out selling a stake in the Zohr field. Descalzi met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday to discuss the find. [Reuters, Ahram Online, FT, AFP, WSJ, BBC, 8/30/3025]

Saudi Arabia to provide $2.9 billion to Egypt; Sisi to sign business deals with China
Egypt will receive financial assistance and soft loans from Saudi Arabia worth $2.9 billion, according to unnamed sources. The agreements will be signed on September 7 and Saudi King Salman will attend the meetings. The financial packages include $750 million for development projects in Egypt, $750 million for a program to support exports, and $1.4 billion to buy petroleum products. An Egyptian delegation headed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is also scheduled to sign several business agreements with China during his visit to the country on Tuesday. Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said the China Development Bank will provide the National Bank of Egypt with a loan of $100 million to finance small and medium sized enterprises. In addition, China’s Ministry of Commerce will provide Egypt a grant of $30 million for remote satellite sensing equipment. [Egypt Independent, Al Mal (Arabic), 8/30/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s stock market climbs on Eni’s ‘supergiant’ gas discovery | Aswat Masriya
  • Israel energy minister calls Egypt gas discovery a ‘wakeup call’ | Ahram Online, Reuters
  • Egypt money supply up 16.5 percent in July | Reuters
  • Egypt oil spill covers nearly a mile of Nile River | AP
  • Egyptians wary of future as signs of global economic slowdown grow | Ahram Online
  • IMF mission to visit Egypt in September | Al Borsa (Arabic)
  • Egyptian pound steady at 7.73 to the dollar – central bank | Aswat Masriya  


Endowments ministry partners with state TV to produce weekly segment
The Ministry of Religious Endowments launched a religious segment on Saturday in partnership with state television that aims to counter “extremist religious ideology.” The regular segment, launched by the ministry in partnership with the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), will be included in the ‘Good Morning Egypt’ daily TV show on Tuesdays and Fridays. The ministry also intends to prepare a regular segment with the national radio station that transmits the Holy Quran, “to fight back extremist ideology.” The ministry said in an official statement Saturday, “We need to face the extremist and perverted thoughts, correct them, and fortify the community, especially the youth, from falling into the clutches of these terrorist groups.” [DNE, 8/29/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Access to health care remains grim despite constitution article | DNE
  • Dar al-Ifta’s observatory warns against the ‘dark Internet’ | DNE
  • Alleged Facebook mention in prayer call sparks Egypt outcry | AP
  • Anti-coal campaign: Import of coal to Egypt’s ports is ‘a crime against Egyptians’ | Mada Masr


Alleged Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis member killed in Cairo
A student, named as Ahmed Abdel Hakim, was killed Saturday on suspicion of being a member of an extremist group, the Ministry of Interior announced. According to a video published Saturday on the Ministry of Interior’s social media pages, Abdel Hakim was “a member of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis organization.” The ministry added that Abdel Hakim was a student and resided in al-Zawya al-Hamra. According to the Ministry of Interior statement, Abdel Hakim fired on security forces during a raid, leading to his death. It also said that a machine gun was found near the body of the deceased. Mohamed Galal, spokesperson for the Salafi Front, opposes this narrative, saying: “We have been looking for Abdel Hakim for four days. We guessed he might have disappeared like many others. Today [Saturday], the Interior Ministry released a statement that said that he was killed because he was a terrorist.” He added that Abdel Hakim was killed in “cold blood.” [DNE, 8/31/2015]

Egypt starts dig on Gaza border to stop smuggling tunnels
Egyptian military bulldozers are digging through the sand along Egypt’s border with the Gaza Strip in recent days, pressing ahead with what appears to be a renewed campaign to pressure Gaza’s Hamas rulers and stamp out militant activity along the border. The project, billed as an Egyptian military-operated fish farm, effectively would fill the border area with water and is designed to put an end to the last remaining cross-border underground smuggling tunnels, Egyptian military officials said. Hamas accuses Egypt of further isolating the beleaguered Palestinian territory. Several smugglers, meanwhile, told The Associated Press they are installing water pumps with 200-meter-long (220-yard) hoses to suck the water out of the tunnels in case they flood. Hamas-appointed Rafah mayor Subhi Radwan said if the Egyptians filled the wells with sea water, it would damage the aquifer feeding Gaza, a charge Egyptian military officials dismissed. Radwan also said the fisheries would threaten to collapse homes on the Gaza side of the border. [AP, 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Two ‘suspected terrorists’ killed by Egyptian police in Fayoum Friday | Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya
  • Interior ministry denies attempt on Fayoum security director’s life | DNE


Sisi discusses anti-terrorism and investment in Singapore
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is leading a delegation on a three-stop Asian tour to Singapore, China, and Indonesia. “The tour aims at reflecting that Egypt’s foreign policy is based on openness and cooperation with all the countries of the world, and aims to gain from the successful experiences of the economically emerging countries in south-east Asia,” said a statement from the Office of the Presidency. Sisi is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Eldin Moghazy, and Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman. Sisi landed in Singapore in the first official visit since 1966 on Sunday and held talks with President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Monday on regional and international matters of mutual interest, including counterterrorism. Sisi discussed the legislative and administrative facilitation made for foreign investors, addressing potential investment opportunities. Sisi visited Singapore’s Botanical Gardens to attend a traditional event during which an orchid flower was named after him. He also visited Singapore’s largest desalination power plant where Minister Ashraf Salman and Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish presented Singaporean investors with opportunities to invest in the New Suez Canal project, signing a memorandum of understanding with Olivia Lum, CEO of Singaporean company, Hyflux Ltd for desalination and electricity production projects in Egypt. From Singapore, Sisi will visit China before making a final stop in Indonesia. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, 8/31/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Foreign Ministry maintains ‘strict’ line towards foreign media |DNE
  • Egypt increases efforts to acquire Security Council seat | DNE
  • Russian TV: Sisi calls for ‘worldwide strategy to combat terrorism’ | Ahram Online
  • Egypt, Yemen review latest security updates | DNE
  • Cairo condemns terrorist attack in Bahrain | SIS
  • Lebanese protesters fire back at ‘sexist’ Egyptian observers | Mada Masr