Top News: Cartoonist Released After One Night in Detention; NGO Founder Detained at Airport

Cairo prosecutors ordered on Monday the release of Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish without filing charges against him a day after he was arrested. The Ministry of Interior said Gawish, the owner of a satirical caricature Facebook page, was arrested Sunday at the headquarters of the news website, Egypt News Network (ENN), which they raided after official investigations revealed that it was publishing news without a license. An ENN accountant was also arrested but released on the same day. The prosecution on Monday determined that Gawish had nothing to do with the content of news website ENN, and that his relationship with website was only technical. The prosecution added that Gawish is not a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood nor any other terrorist organisation. Gawish’s colleague, however, had told Mada Masr that the complaint and arrest warrant were issued by the artistic products police department against the manager of the company where Gawish works, but he was arrested for possession of drawings offensive to the state. Meanwhile, Egyptian-German researcher and founder of Mayadin al-Tahrir NGO Atef Botros was detained and prevented from entering the country Friday night. According to sources monitoring the situation, he was questioned and ordered to return to Germany. Authorities are yet to release a statement on the reasons behind the decision. According to Botros’ brother, the Mayadin al-Tahrir NGO is being targeted by security forces because of its anti-regime stance. With 100 days passing since the arrest of Hisham Gaafar, the chairman of Mada Foundation NGO, dozens of public figures and organizations called for his “immediate release” on Saturday. Left-wing activist Gamal Abdel Fattah was meanwhile released from Qasr al-Nil police station Sunday after the official rejection submitted by his lawyer to the prosecutor’s office was accepted. Abdel Fattah was arrested when he was mistakenly identified as a suspect convicted in absentia for an alleged coup d’état attempt. Finally, The Dostour Party said Friday night that party member Abdullah Massoud has been missing since January 24, and accused security forces of detaining him. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, DNE, AMAY, 2/1/2016]


Ministerial committee responds to concerns about health insurance bill
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) discussed Sunday the newly drafted health insurance bill ahead of its parliamentary review. The discussion brought together officials from the Ministry of Health, in charge of drafting the law, NCHR board members, and Doctors’ Syndicate board members to outline recommendations for the bill. The Ministry of Health issued a modified version of the draft Thursday, amending the category of beneficiaries to include all citizens earning below the minimum wage. The bill covers the cost of medical treatment for all citizens with national IDs. Those earning above the minimum wage will be taxed from 1 to 3 percent according to their salary. [DNE, 1/31/2016]

Also of Interest

  • The saga with Egypt’s civil service law continues | Mada Masr


Egyptian Christian students stand trial for insulting Islam
Three Coptic Christian students facing charges of insulting Islam are standing trial this week after appearing in a video mocking Muslim prayers, one of a series of court cases that reflect lingering religious intolerance and Muslim-Christian tensions in Egypt. The trial began Thursday and was postponed on Saturday to February 4. Their teacher was previously sentenced to three years in prison in a separate trial on the same charges, according to lawyer Maher Naguib. The teacher is currently out on bail awaiting an appeal. The four 16 and 17 year-olds reportedly made a video about the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) causing a backlash in their local neighborhood, resulting in their arrest. [AP, Mada Masr, 2/1/2016]

High Administrative court says it has no jurisdiction over protest law
Egypt’s High Administrative Court declined to hear an appeal on Monday against the controversial protest law, citing “lack of jurisdiction.” The court said all state council courts have no authority to review the law, reasoning that the 2013 law was a legislative rather than an administrative decision. The law was first challenged last year in front of a lower administrative court, which declined to rule in the case, opting to refer it to the high administrative court. Egypt’s constitutional court is currently looking into another lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 2/1/2016]

Also of Interest:

  • Court resumes Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis defendants’ trial | DNE
  • Egypt court postpones top auditor Hisham Guneina’s investigation for third time | Aswat Masriya
  • ‘T-shirt detainee’ Mahmoud Hussein begins fifth day of illegal detention | DNE
  • Detention of Egyptian rights activist Taher Mokhtar renewed 15 more days | Ahram Online, DNE


Egypt raises customs levy on imported goods
Egypt has placed new import duties on luxury goods, applying a presidential decree published in the official Gazette on Sunday aimed at steering demand toward local products. The affected goods include household appliances, consumer electronics, clothing, perfumes, pens, lighters, watches, and nuts. Customs tariffs were raised by as much as 100 percent on items like some fruits and nuts, while duties on other goods were increased between 25 percent and 50 percent. Head of Egypt’s Customs Authority Magdy Abdel Aziz said the new tariffs would help local industry and “lessen pressure on foreign currency” demand. “The decision to raise tariffs on 500-600 imported commodities will up the customs toll by EGP1 billion ($128 million) during the second half of fiscal year 2015/16,” he said. [AP, Bloomberg, Ahram Online, 1/31/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt to set up Middle East’s first commodities exchange in 2016 | Ahram Online, Reuters
  • World Bank reveals details on Egypt’s $3 billion loan | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s economic gains highly susceptible to risk events | DNE
  • Egypt M2 money supply rises 18.6 percent in December | Reuters
  • Egypt’s 5-year, 10-year treasury bond yields fall at auction | Reuters
  • Egypt’s GASC says French wheat shipment rejected after retesting | Reuters
  • Egypt’s NBE bank sold $2.5 billion in three months to cover imports | Reuters
  • Moody’s: Egypt’s raise of dollar deposit caps will not ease liquidity pressures | CPI Financial


Doctors’ Syndicate closes Matariya Hospital; MOI suspends policeman
Egypt’s doctors’ syndicate has decided to “forcefully shut down” the Matariya Teaching Hospital until a group of policemen accused of assaulting doctors at the hospital are held accountable, among other demands. The syndicate’s secretary Ehab al-Taher said Sunday that the hospital will be closed, including for emergency cases, and the cases will be transferred to nearby hospitals. Meanwhile, Abu-Bakr Abdel-Karim, Deputy Minister for Public Relations and Media said in a phone interview Sunday that Cairo’s Security Chief suspended eight policemen on Thursday, when the incident first took place. He added that the policemen were referred to investigation. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, AMAY, 2/1/2016]

Six preachers referred to investigation for changing Friday speech
The Religious Endowments department in Menoufiya referred six preachers to investigation for violating regulations and changing the Friday sermons prepared by the ministry, Al Masry al Youm reported. Ramadan al-Sobki, an Endowments Ministry official, said the monitoring committee noticed a change in the speeches in Tala, Ashmoun, al-Shohadaa, and al-Bagour. In January 2015, the Ministry of Endowments issued a decision to unify Friday sermons, providing state-sanctioned themes as part of ministerial efforts to “improve the Islamic da’awa [preaching] and make it more effective.” [AMAY, 1/30/2016]


Three killed, three injured in attacks in Giza, Sinai
Two Egyptian security personnel were killed and two injured Sunday when an improvised explosive device exploded on the side of the road near their vehicle north of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai, a security source told Al-Ahram. A government security guard was also killed and another injured Monday in a drive-by shooting that targeted a traffic checkpoint on the Ring Road in Giza. The Ministry of Interior said Monday that the checkpoint falls under the jurisdiction of the General Authority for Roads and Bridges. A security source said that the attackers purportedly mistook it for a security checkpoint. Meanwhile, unidentified assailants set ablaze the houses of two police officers in al-Arish using Molotov cocktails on Sunday, state-run news agency MENA reported citing security sources. There were no casualties since both houses were empty, the sources added. [Ahram Online, DNE, 2/1/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Alexandria hospital blaze kills four, wounds dozens | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Security sources say 56 criminals, suspects arrested in Sinai in security raid | AMAY


Foreign Ministry says will not comment on HRW report
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zaid said that government will not comment on the annual report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as it is issued by a “biased and unobjective” organization. “The report is a compilation of previous reports, that we have reviewed individually and found inaccurate,” he said. Abu Zaid added that the report contains contradictions; an example being that the report states that “the Egyptian government uses terrorism as an excuse [for violations] and in the same report it points to increasing terrorism.”  The report included claims that at least 3,000 people were charged or sentenced before military courts, and detailed the situation on a number of issues, including armed groups, counterterrorism, security force abuses, accountability, arrests, mass death sentences, freedom of association, expression, assembly and religion, women’s rights, LGTB rights and refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. [DNE, 1/30/2016]

Italy urges Egypt to resolve missing student mystery
Italy has urged Egypt to track down an Italian student who “mysteriously disappeared” in Cairo this month, the foreign ministry said Sunday in a statement. The ministry is “following with the utmost attention and concern the affair of Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian student who mysteriously disappeared on the evening of January 25 in the center of the capital,” it said. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Sunday called his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry to “determinedly ask the greatest commitment to tracing the compatriot and providing every possibly information about his circumstance.” [AFP, 1/31/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Sisi presents climate change report at AU summit | Ahram Online, MENA, SIS
  • African Union summit adopts Egyptian initiatives on climate change | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt’s parliamentary speaker to host European delegation Saturday | Ahram Online
  • No traces of crew or wreckage for Egyptian boat capsized in Sudan | Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, SIS
  • Bashir tells Sisi ‘Sudan keen to not harm Egypt’ in dam saga | Ahram Online
  • Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan receive French firms’ technical offer over dam | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt condemns suicide attack in Saudi mosque | Ahram Online, AMAY
  • Newspaper: Turkish radical group possibly linked to Russian plane crash in Sinai | Egypt Independent