Top News: Committee on Crashed Russian Plane in Sinai Refers Case to Egypt Attorney General

An official Russian report suggesting that “criminal activity” was behind the deadly crash of a Metrojet in central Sinai in October 2015 was referred to the Attorney General by Egypt’s independent investigations committee on Thursday, the first indication it suspects foul play. “As part of the ongoing collaboration between the countries participating in the investigation – notably Russia and Egypt – the committee received on March 14, 2016 an official report from Russia’s official investigation,” the statement from the investigations committee said. “After studying the report – which suggested that suspected criminal activity is possible – the committee has referred the matter to the Attorney General of Egypt,” the head of the committee Ayman Elmokadem stated. The local committee is currently in the process of conducting a technical study of the aircraft, he added. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, 3/17/2016]


Cabinet to draft legislation regulating Uber and Careem
Egypt said on Wednesday it will regulate ride-hailing services Uber and Careem after they sparked protests from taxi drivers in Cairo over allegations the smartphone applications bypass traffic regulations. The legislation will both “protect citizens’ rights to choose the manner of transportation that suits them and also ensure that traditional taxi drivers would find work and make money,” the cabinet said in a statement, according to MENA. The parliamentary affairs ministry would “prepare legal amendments to regulate the applications after reviewing similar legislation in other countries,” the cabinet said, adding the changes would be presented within a month.  Uber and Careem drivers would also “have to pay taxes” and their apps would need to establish a “suitable framework for traditional taxi drivers to join them,” the cabinet said in a statement. [Ahram Online, AFP, 3/17/2016]

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Court reduces jail time against anti-corruption activist Hamdi al-Fakharany
A Giza misdemeanors court lessened on Wednesday a four-year jail sentence against anti-corruption activist Hamdi al-Fakharany to two-years for misusing his official post. The court upheld the acquittal sentence in the bribery charge against Fakharany, but maintained that he is guilty of misusing his power in his capacity as head of the Anti-Corruption Commission and blackmailing a businessman. The verdict can be further appealed in front of the Court of Cassation. [Ahram Online, 3/16/2016]

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Ahram Online


Egypt keeps pound stable at 8.78 pounds per dollar on Thursday
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is expected to keep the pound stable at a regular foreign currency auction today, a day after it strengthened in an exceptional foreign currency auction. In a sale to cover temporary overdrafts of foreign currency at banks on Wednesday, the CBE sold $1.514 billion to banks at a rate of 8.78 pounds, up from the devalued rate of 8.85 that was announced on Monday. Sources said the banks that received dollars at the sale were requested to deposit the same amount back into the CBE for one year at an interest rate of 1.2312 percent. Head of Equities at Cairo-based Beltone Financial Hany Genena said Wednesday’s appreciation was part of the CBE’s strategy to clamp down on the black market. “This is flexibility in action, the kind of volatility the central bank wants to ingrain in the market,” Genena said. “The bank is trying to break the old return pattern that traders profited from, in which the pound was always weakening.” [Reuters, 3/17/2016]

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Social Solidarity Ministry opens foreign NGO surveillance unit
The Social Solidarity Ministry announced the opening of a special unit for observing and assessing the work of foreign non-governmental organizations operating in Egypt. According to the ministry’s official for NGO affairs, Khaled Sultan, the unit was created by Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali to “help the ministry and the organizations to operate in Egypt effectively.” He stressed that the unit’s function is to assist, rather than monitor, NGO work. However, Ayman Okeil, the director of Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights, said the unit’s role will be to monitor NGOs. “The undeclared purpose of that unit is to further restrict the work of those organizations,” Okeil told al-Ghad satellite channel. “We are not against observation, but are against restricting the work of civil society organizations.” [AMAY, 3/17/2016]

Lawyers form association to guard against abuses
A group of lawyers organized their first meeting to form the Association for Defending Lawyers on Tuesday evening, an independent association working to support and defend the rights of Egyptian lawyers. During the meeting, the lawyers discussed the association’s goals, their initial plan of action, and ways to connect with their colleagues in other governorates regarding state abuses against lawyers, Ahmed Hassan, a lawyer who attended the meeting, said. The next meeting will be held on March 23, by which time the organization will have completed its plan of action, Hassan added. He said the association will help lawyers perform their work facing racial or religious discrimination, aggression or violent attacks, and to protect them from the abuses and violations recently inflicted on lawyers by the state. Meanwhile, lawyer Malek Adly said the administrative court decided on Tuesday to postpone a lawsuit, filed by him, to annul a decision issued banning lawyers from entering the prosecution headquarters and national security sessions with their clients until May 10. [DNE, 3/16/2016]

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Six soldiers, three militants killed in Sinai
Six soldiers and three militants were killed in three separate incidents in North Sinai on Wednesday and Thursday.  Egyptian security and medical officials say explosions rocked the northern Sinai town of Rafah as militants struck a weapons depot, killing at least five soldiers and injuring 10 others. Officials said that the attacks took place early Thursday morning when suspected militants launched mortar shells at an army camp in Rafah. Hours earlier, officials said an IED killed a soldier in the nearby town of Sheikh Zuweid. According to eyewitnesses, four CSF recruits were also injured in the blast. Military forces in Rafah, meanwhile, killed three “militants” during an “exchange of fire,” Military Spokesperson Mohamed Samir said Thursday. Samir said on his official Facebook page that while troops were “raiding and combing terrorist hideouts they spotted three takfiris who had been trying to plant an explosive device” in Rafah. “The armed forces immediately fired at the terrorists,” Samir wrote adding that three were killed after an “exchange of fire.” []AMAY, Ahram Online, 3/17/2016]

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‘Hamas visit to Cairo aims to renew relations with Egypt’ says Hamas official
The Deputy Chief of the Political Bureau for Gaza’s Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouq, said Wednesday that a visit to Cairo by a Hamas delegation was intended to “open a new phase of relations with our brothers in Egypt.” He said in an emailed statement, “Although some people were attempting to ruin our visit… we found that Egyptian officials showed love for Palestine.” According to informed sources, Hamas met with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo in an attempt to ease increased tensions over accusations that the group was involved in the assassination of Egypt’s prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat last year. [Ahram Online, 3/16/2016]

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  • Egypt president suggests his political enemies murdered Italian student | The Guardian
  • Swiss delegation inspects security at Hurghada Airport | Cairo Post
  • Egypt’s Grand Mufti attends counter-terrorism conference in India | Cairo Post