Top News: Alaa Abdel Fattah Sentenced to Five Years; Over 3,000 Egyptians Return from Libya

The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and his co-defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman to five years of maximum security prison on Monday, in their retrial on charges of illegal assembly.


Sisi tries to reassure Egyptians despite host of challenges
In an almost forty minute televised address, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi addressed multiple issues including Egypt’s imprisoned youth, airstrikes in Libya, and the threat of Islamist militancy. Speaking about Egyptian airstrikes on Libya, Sisi said the Egyptian army is not an aggressor and does not invade foreign territory but only responds to attacks against it. He also touched upon the need for a joint Arab military force is growing every day as the region is faced with the threat of Islamist militancy. In an indirect response to alleged leaks of senior army officials speaking negatively about Gulf countries, Sisi said rumors and psychological warfare are pillars are fourth generation wars. He proceeded to hint that his speech can be easily rearranged to be used in attempts to harm relations between Egypt and Gulf countries. He also promised to release young people who may have been wrongly jailed during Egypt’s crackdown on the opposition since he overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013. For the first time, he tackled the incident of the killing of at least twenty people during a football match, as well as once again referring to the killing of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, saying those responsible will be held accountable. Sisi began his discussion on the Egyptian economy with a focus on social justice, saying the state is contributing half a billion Egyptian pounds, along with the ‘Long Live Egypt’ fund which he launched in 2013, to develop Cairo’s Duweia, one of the capital’s major slums. He also made assurances in his speech that efforts are underway to remove bureaucratic red tape and corruption which may scare off investors and that a new draft unified investment law will be issued very soon. He added that Egypt is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and will abide by its international pledges, less than two weeks after Egypt signed a memorandum of agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant. The Tagammu, Wafd, and Egyptian Social Democratic parties responded to the speech positively, while the April 6 Movement described the speech as “weak.” [Reuters, Ahram Online, SIS, Aswat Masriya, DNE, AFP, AP, 2/23/2015]

Preliminary list of 6,899 candidates to run in elections announced; Mubarak-era politician Ahmed Ezz disqualified
The High Elections Committee (HEC) announced on Monday that it has initially accepted as many as 6,899 candidates to contest Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary ‎elections. According to the HEC, 1,290 candidates, including backup candidates, will run through nineteen electoral lists, representing seven coalitions and political parties. 5,609 candidates will run individually.  On Sunday, the HEC had announced 949 women registered to run.  The parliamentary elections committee in Mounifeya governorate, however, disqualified former leading National Democratic Party (NDP) member and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz. Judicial sources told Ahram Online that the steel tycoon was disqualified because he did not include in his registration documents the financial statements of his second wife Shahinaz al-Naggar, as well other documents related to medical examinations. Ezz’s lawyer said he would appeal the decision in front of the administrative court. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 2/23/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Election race heats up, as registration doors shut | DNE
  • Sisi to Hollande: ‘I’m for human rights, but not right now’ | Egypt Independent
  • Armed forces official inspects construction of new Dabaa city | Egypt Independent
  • Sources: Sisi inspects Suez Canal project site | Aswat Masriya, SIS


Egypt court sentences prominent activist to five years in jail
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced activist Alaa Abdel Fattah and his co-defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman to five years of maximum security prison on Monday, in their retrial on charges of illegal assembly. The remaining eighteen defendants received three years in prison. All defendants will pay a fine of EGP100,000 ($13,100), and were also ordered to be placed under probation for an amount of time equivalent to their jail terms. Defense lawyer Taher Abo al-Nasr told Ahram Online that they will appeal the ruling with the Court of Cassation. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 2/23/2015]

SCC commissioners say articles regulating parliament elections ‘unconstitutional’
The Supreme Constitutional Court’s (SCC) Board of Commissioners determined on Saturday that several articles in the laws regulating parliamentary elections are unconstitutional. The Board submitted its report to the twelve judge panel to rule. The advisory board issued its recommendations report after reviewing six lawsuits brought against the House of Representative Law, Political Rights Law and Parliamentary Constituencies Law. The SCC is mandated to issue its final verdict regarding the appeals before February 25, 2015. If the SCC finds that the three laws are unconstitutional, it is expected that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be delayed until the laws are amended. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/22/2015]

Mubarak-era oil minister acquitted of Egypt-Israel gas deal charges
The Cairo Criminal Court acquitted on Saturday Mubarak-era Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and five co-defendants of charges related to selling cheap gas to Israel and squandering public funds and threw out Fahmy’s fifteen year jail sentence. The five co-defendants are former vice president of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) for gas processing Mahmoud Latif Amer, former vice president of the EGPC for production Hassan Mohamed Akl, former vice president of the EGPC for planning Ismail Hamed Karara, Chairman of the Egyptian National Gas Holding Company Mohamed Ibrahim Youssef, and chairman of the EGPC Ibrahim Saleh. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 2/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian Union of Human Rights head to challenge Political Rights Law | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt imposes media gag order on Ansar Bayt al-Maqdes case | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Kerdasa police station trial postponed to March 1 | DNE
  • Port Said ‘prison clashes’ trial postponed | DNE
  • Badie referred to military tribunal for second time | DNE
  • Two hundred and forty referred to Minya military courts for attacking churches | DNE
  • Public prosecutor: Egypt refers 215 to court for forming a militant group | Reuters, Aswat Masriya
  • Hamas terrorist case postponed to February 28, spokesperson blasts media ‘incitement’ | DNE
  • Court to rule on Qatar ‘supporting terrorism’ on March 29| DNE
  • Court postpones Al Jazeera trial to March 8 | DNE, Aswat Masriya, AP, The Guardian
  • Pro-Morsi judges’ verdict postponed to March 14 | DNE
  • Mona Iraqi and TV channel owner face court over ‘bathhouse sting’ | DNE
  • Graffiti book seized pending police enquiry despite censors’ approval | Mada Masr


Egypt hikes tax on cigarettes for third time in a year
Egypt said Sunday it will raise the sales tax on both local and imported cigarettes as it confronts a major budget deficit. The decision announced by presidential decree, increases a flat tax by 7 cents for a pack of less expensive cigarettes, while expensive brands will see an increase of at least 20 cents. A similar move last July raised prices 25 to 40 cents per pack. Egypt has seen a spate of tax hikes since last year as the government strives to bolster state revenues while cutting public spending to rein in a budget deficit which reached 12.8 percent of GDP in the fiscal year ended in June 2014. [AP, Ahram Online, 2/22/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Oil ministry says Egypt to auction eight oil and gas blocks in Mediterranean | Reuters, Mada Masr
  • Egypt’s Suez canal revenue at $434.8 million in January | Reuters
  • Tourism Minister announces new charter flights between Aswan and three Chinese cities | MENA
  • Investment Minister says Egypt aims to attract US$10-15 billion investments after EEDC | MENA
  • ECESR: Foreign direct investment alone won’t cure Egypt’s economic woes | Mada Masr


Social Solidarity Minister dissolves 169 NGOs in nine governorates
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Waly announced on Monday the dissolution of 169 NGOs in nine governorates citing links to the Muslim Brotherhood. The decision was based on the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters’ ruling which banned Muslim Brotherhood activities. The ministry has stated that it will only support active and effective NGOs and organizations that are committed to transparency, serve the local community and act as a key partner in development. The government recently enforced a Mubarak-era law that allows it to control all NGO activities and dissolve them without a court order when the ministry deems them to be non-compliant to the law. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 2/23/2015]

One killed at pro-Morsi protest in Cairo
One person was killed and two others were injured in clashes between protesters and other residents in Cairo’s low-income Mattariya district late Friday. The head of the Cairo investigation authority said security forces “peacefully” dispersed protesters, whom he described as “Muslim Brotherhood supporters.” Protests continued on Saturday, on the occasion of Egyptian Student Day, with security forces dispersing protests by Morsi supporters at Ain Shams University. On Sunday, pro-Morsi students protested at a number of universities, including al-Azhar University, Cairo University, and Misr University for Science and Technology. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/21/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s top Muslim cleric blames terrorism on ‘wrong teachings’ | Ahram Online, The Guardian
  • Azhar Imam warns of international plots to sow sedition among Arabs, Muslims | SIS
  • Egyptians make fun of joining ISIS on Twitter, while militants urge them to join | DNE
  • Egypt places two presenters from pro-Brotherhood channels on airport watch list | Ahram Online
  • Private university suspends students for ‘insulting university,’ two years after protests | DNE
  • Salafi leaders back to mosques after restrictions | DNE
  • Women’s group demands voluntary recruitment with army | Egypt Independent, SIS
  • Minister says supply ministry seeks official system for fava bean street vendors  | Egypt Independent
  • Students demand unions elections this week | Egypt Independent
  • Report: Getting sick in Egypt is high risk for travelers | Egypt Independent


Up to three killed, four injured in Beni Suef explosions
An explosive device being transported in a car detonated prematurely on Saturday, reportedly killing up to three of the would-be bombers and injuring at least another two passersby. The incident is reported to have taken place in the Upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef. A separate bomb explosion in Beni Suef resulted in the injuring of a police conscript and a civilian early on Saturday. The bomb exploded near a residential building designated for police officers in the city. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/21/2015]

Prosecution investigates Egyptian fighters’ involvement with “Islamic State”
Egypt’s prosecution launched an “extensive investigation” on the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and the “crimes” the group “commits against Egyptians,” on Sunday. The investigation includes looking into the involvement of Egyptian fighters within the group, a statement from the prosecution’s office said. Egypt’s top prosecutor Hisham Barakat ordered that the names of several people are placed on the Interpol wanted list. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence at least 360 of the foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria are Egyptian. [Aswat Masriya, 2/22/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Photo indicates Egyptian ISIS member Yakan joined by compatriot in Iraq | Ahram Online, NYT
  • Source denies arrest of Army of Islam leader in Egypt | Egypt Independent
  • Security source: North Sinai policeman killed after being hit by car | Aswat Masriya
  • Cairo-Alex railways halted after IED blast | MENA
  • Limited fire halts Egypt railway movement, no injuries  | Ahram Online


Over 3,000 return to Egypt from Libya
A total of  3,107 Egyptians crossed into Egypt through the Salloum border crossing which connects Egypt to Libya, according to Marsa Matrouh’s Security Director al-Anani Hammouda. The first flight of 192 Egyptians landed at Cairo Airport on Friday, having fled Libya through Tunisia. Minister of manpower Nahed Al-Ashry said in a statement late Thursday that the Egyptian government will provide job opportunities for expats coming back from Libya. Meanwhile, the relatives of another four Coptic Christian hostages held by gunmen in Libya for months are appealing for help from local and Libyan authorities to ensure their safe release. The four hostages, all members of the same family from the southern Egyptian city of Abu Teeg, were abducted last August while trying to flee the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Finally, the bodies of six Egyptians killed in a Friday bombing in eastern Libya arrived at the Libyan-Egyptian border on Saturday to be repatriated. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 2/23/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian embassy in Yemen closes, diplomatic mission returns to Egypt | Ahram Online, DPA, Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to meet over ‘unresolved’ dam issues in March | Ahram Online
  • Egypt gearing up for Arab Summit | Ahram Online
  • Egypt participates in Nile Basin Initiative for first time in five years | DNE
  • Egypt urges Nile Basin states to understand its water concerns | MENA
  • Jordan didn’t withdraw UN draft resolution to lift arms embargo on Libya: Egypt | Ahram Online, MENA