Top News: Australian Foreign Minister Warns Egypt of ‘Ramifications’ of Trying Al Jazeera Reporter

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop revealed that her country warned Egyptian authorities of “ramifications” if they continue with the prosecution of Al Jazeera English journalist Peter Greste, who was deported to Australia earlier this year while his trial over terrorism-related charges continues. In an interview for ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program, which aired on Tuesday, Bishop told Greste she spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry last month to “set out quite plainly Australia’s position” and warn that the trial “would have ramifications for the relationship and for Egypt’s reputation more generally.” Bishop told Greste that if the Egyptian government “insists on trialing you in absentia then you should have the opportunity to give your side of the story” after the Australian reporter’s offer to provide the Cairo court with evidence in a video was refused. The Foreign Minister acknowledged Australia had “very little political leverage with Egypt,” and so it launched a “very concerted campaign of advocacy” involving high-level diplomatic contacts from the United States, the EU, and the UN. [Ahram Online, 8/4/2015]


New report highlights expansion of presidential powers
A decree issued by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in July, that provoked criticism from government departments and political parties, has been further condemned in a new report by a local human rights NGO. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ (EIPR) newest report says that the new decree, which allows for the presidency to remove heads of independent governmental bodies, “disarms” those bodies of the independence necessary to function effectively. Law 89/2015 grants the President the right to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory agencies under four different circumstances. However, EIPR has called into question the intentions and potential effects of the law, arguing that it leads to “further consolidations of the powers of the executive branch in general and the institution of the presidency in particular, to the detriment of separation of powers and efforts to combat corruption and promote good governance.” [DNE, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Mahlab chairs first meeting on digital community | SIS

Shawkan’s trial further delayed to August 17 for security reasons
The trial of detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, also known as Shawkan, has been further delayed until August 17, according to Shawkan’s solidarity social media account run by his brother Mohamed. The Monday session was delayed, with the judge saying that “security reasons” were behind the interior ministry’s inability to bring defendants to trial. The Cairo Criminal Court also postponed the issuance of the verdict in the ‘Helwan Violence’ trial to August 9, because the defendants were unable to attend the session, state media reported. The same court also postponed the ‘Al-Azhar University Clashes’ trial session to September 13, as one of the defendants was unable to attend the session. [DNE, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Amal Clooney: Sisi should interfere if Al Jazeera journalists convicted | Egypt Independent
  • Court upholds ten-year sentence against defendant over attacking media city | Cairo Post

Egypt to cut oil debt in August, repay rest by end of 2016
Egypt aims to reduce its debt to foreign oil companies to $2.9 billion from $3.5 billion by the end of 2016. Oil Minister Sherif Ismail said Egypt plans to repay the rest of the debt by the end of 2016, pushing back the deadline by about six months. Egypt’s oil ministry said in March that it aimed to fully repay its debts to energy companies by mid-2016, about a year later than previously indicated. The payments to oil and gas companies have been delayed by economic instability. Ismail added that Egypt will no longer receive oil grants from Gulf Arab allies. “Gulf oil grants are over. We are now talking about trade agreements where we pay for what we get either in the form of crude oil cargoes or in cash,” he said. Egypt is in energy talks with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, he said. [Reuters, 8/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian Media Production City aims to pay off debts by December: Chairman | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s business activity falls in July as production drops: PMI | Reuters, Aswat Masriya   
  • Egypt seeks cash, prestige boost with ‘new Suez Canal’ | AFP
  • Egypt plans to raise crops in sub-Saharan Africa | Al-Monitor
  • Minister compares New Suez Canal to Prophet Mohamed’s battle trench | Mada Masr

Business standoff raises alert over media sustainability in Egypt
Egypt’s media scene is witnessing a significant clash between one of the leading advertising companies responsible for selling ads to many private TV channels and news outlets, and an independent daily newspaper—a conflict that casts a shadow over the advertising market in Egypt and raises concerns over the sustainability of media outlets. Earlier last week, Al-Masry al-Youm (AMAY), a leading independent Egyptian daily newspaper, announced that it had terminated its contract with Promo Media, one of the biggest advertising agencies, as the latter abstained from paying dues to the newspaper. “We informed the advertising agency that we decided to cancel the contract with them as they did not pay us our money from the previous seven months,” AMAY said in a statement last week. Established in 2006, Promo Media provides ads to six private satellite channels, including ONTV, ONTV Live, Ten TV network, Al-Hayat TV network, Al-Ahly TV and Set El-Beit TV, along with four printed and digital private news outlets, including Al-Shorouk, Al-Watan, Youm7 and Veto Gate. [Ahram Online, 8/4/2015]

Security violations are on the rise against Egyptian women, says report
At least ninety-four Egyptian women are currently in prisons or have been arbitrarily detained in Egypt, according to a report recently released by the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms. The report revealed that many security violations against women took place in the period between January and July 24, 2015. Cairo houses fifty-one female detainees, which is deemed the highest number in the country. Damietta has ten female detainees, al-Gharbiya holds nine female detainees, al-Sharqiya currently has one female in custody, and the remaining women are being held in other governorates across the country. The violations against women were varied as some were taken from their homes, others were journalists, others were minors, a few were forcibly disappeared, and others were remanded to military trials or were the fatal victims of illegal shootings. [Egypt Independent, 8/4/2015]  

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s disaffected youth increasingly calling for violence | AP
  • ‘A message to all’: Egypt prepares for new Suez Canal opening ceremony | Ahram Online
  • Historic animal museum in Egypt’s Giza zoo re-opened after renovations | Ahram Online
  • Friday sermon to compare new canal to Muslim conquests | Egypt Independent
  • Former Mufti: Obeying Sisi is obedience to prophet | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s education woes drive families to homeschooling | Al-Monitor

Egypt’s security at highest level ahead of New Suez Canal opening
The opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal, taking place in less than seventy-two  hours, will be secured by more than 10,000 police personnel assigned by the interior ministry, reported state news agency MENA on Monday. The Egyptian armed and police forces will also take a leading role in securing the Suez Canal opening, using heavily equipped forces from the different military divisions. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Saturday with members of the National Defense Council, in a meeting that concluded the steps necessary for securing and preparing for the opening, according to a military statement Sunday. Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi ordered the preparation of the army’s finest fighting elements to secure the event. Heavily armored units from the Third Field Army will also secure the Suez Canal axis, as well raising its alert level for bases and patrols. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, 8/4/2015]   

Egyptian policeman killed by unknown assailants in Nile Delta’s Sharqiya
A policeman was killed on Tuesday after being shot in Sharqiya governorate by three unknown assailants who escaped on a motorbike, Al-Ahram reported. The policeman, Hany Hamed, received gunshot wounds to the head and chest, said Sharqiya Security Director Khaled Yehia. The 37-year-old officer later died as a result of wounds sustained from the shooting. A military funeral will be held in his honor on Tuesday afternoon. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 8/4/2015]  

Militants in Egypt’s northern Sinai shell house, killing an entire family of five, officials say
Militants in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai shelled a house near a security checkpoint early on Tuesday, killing an entire family of five members inside it and wounding nine of their neighbors, Egyptian security officials said. The checkpoint appeared to have been the intended target in the attack in the Sinai Peninsula town of Sheikh Zuweid, the officials said, though it was unclear why the house was shelled instead. Three children were among those killed. Meanwhile, security forces shelled an area in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid town early Tuesday, killing eight suspected militants, military sources said. Forces targeted three “cells” belonging to the Sinai-based militant group Sinai State, the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, sources told Aswat Masriya. [AP, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest   

  • Police commissioner apologizes for journalist’s apartment attack | DNE
  • Three arrested for smuggling rocket manufacturing materials to extremists | Egypt Independent

United States delivers tank turrets to Egypt for joint tank production
The United State handed Egypt five tank turrets last week to be used in American-Egyptian tank production inside a tank plant in Egypt, the US embassy in Cairo announced on Tuesday. US Embassy Senior Defense Official in Cairo Major General Charles Hooper said the delivery will provide Egypt’s armed forces with “additional means to fight extremism in the region,” in a statement provided by the embassy. “The delivery of the turrets will allow over 2,000 Egyptian citizens to work at the production plant, as well as provide the armed forces with additional means to fight extremism in the region,” he added.  According to the statement, the United States is set to deliver fourteen more M1A1 turrets to Egypt this month, with further scheduled turret deliveries as production continues. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt FM to meet Palestinian president Tuesday | Egypt Independent
  • Palestinian President in Cairo to attend New Suez Canal opening | Cairo Post
  • Over 200 Egyptians arrive in Egypt from Libya in the last 24 hours | Ahram Online
  • Egypt Embassy in Moscow works on attracting investment to New Suez Canal | SIS
  • Shoukry meets African media delegation | SIS
  • Egypt condemns terror attack in northeastern Nigeria | SIS
  • Egypt to receive 35,000 year-old skeleton from Belgium | SIS
  • Embassy in Amman follows up investigations into killing of an Egyptian citizen | Egypt Independent
  • Ghana supports Egypt’s bid for non-permanent Security Council seat | DNE
  • Detained fishermen’s trial in Sudan adjourned to August 6 | DNE