Top News: Congress Seeks to Lift Last Restrictions on Aid to Egypt

The US House Appropriations Committee released a foreign aid bill June 2 that removes human rights restrictions on assistance to Egypt. The proposed appropriations bill eliminates previous requirements that Egypt hold “free and fair” parliamentary elections and take steps to foster democracy and protect human rights before $1.3 billion in military aid can be released. Doing so would in effect revert US bilateral assistance to the way it was under strongman Hosni Mubarak, with Egypt only required to sustain its strategic relationship with the United States and uphold its peace treaty with Israel. The bill comes as the State Department has informed Congress that it cannot certify Egypt’s democratic progress under the existing law. In a blistering assessment sent to Congress on May 12 and obtained by Al-Monitor, the State Department bemoans a “pervasive lack of respect for international due process standards and other fair trial safeguards.” Still, the proposed changes appear to have bipartisan appeal. The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up the bill June 3. [Al-Monitor, 6/2/2015]


Cabinet to criminalize not reporting bombs
The cabinet approved Wednesday a proposal by the Interior Ministry to criminalize negligence in informing authorities about bombs or other life threatening devices, and punish those accused with one year in prison. The penalty will apply to, according to a new penal code article, “anyone who was aware of the crime of possessing bombs or materials that endanger people’s lives and money, and did not report to the public prosecution or to the nearest officer.” Those who commit the said charge will be jailed for a year and/or fined not less 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,620) and not more than 100,000 Egyptian pounds. [Cairo Post, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Morsi’s investment minister criticizes Egypt’s human rights record | Egypt Independent
  • Postponement of Morsi verdict ‘political maneuver’ says Brotherhood spokesperson | DNE
  • Party chief says government should respond to NCHR’s requests | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s opposition parties organize petition to abolish protest law | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE


April 6 activist, White Knight members acquitted of protest charges
April 6 Youth Movement activist and founder of the ‘revolutionary’ Facebook group Green Wave, Karam Zakareya, was acquitted of charges relating to the promotion of anti-government protests Tuesday.  Zakareya was previously sentenced to three months in prison and given a 20,000 Egyptian pound fine. Zakareya was first arrested last December from his house, and accused of promoting anti-government protests through the social media account. According to his defense lawyer Malek Adly, the suspect had only participated in “liking the Facebook page.” In related news, eight members of the Zamalek Ultra’s White Knights were acquitted of charges of involvement in violent incidents that occurred in the Shubra district late August and calling for demonstrations in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office. Ten members of the group were initially sentenced to two year prison sentences. However, eight of the accused appealed the sentence. [DNE, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Court suspends prison sentence for policeman accused of assaulting Sohag judiciary | Egypt Independent


Egypt business activity steadier in May as employment rises
Business activity in Egypt’s private sector, excluding oil, shrank for the fifth month in a row in May but edged closer to expansion as employment rose. The HSBC Egypt Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) rose to 49.9 in May, almost touching the 50 mark. Scores above 50 signal growth in business activity.  Meanwhile, employment rose for the first time in six months, with some companies saying they raised staffing levels because of new projects. Unemployment currently stands at 12.8 percent according to the Egyptian government’s statistics agency, but analysts believe actual unemployment may be higher. [Reuters, 6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian exports to Nile Basin countries register 8 percent increase YoY | DNE


Activist group reports surge in forced disappearances, arrests
Freedom for the Brave, a grassroots activist group campaigning for the release of political detainees, said there has been an unprecedented surge in the arrest and disappearance of young activists in Egypt. In a statement on Tuesday, the group urged families of individuals who have been detained, to report the arrests to the prosecutor. According to the group, individuals who have disappeared include April 6 member Ahmed Khattab, who was arrested in the street at dawn, as well as Dalia Radwan, and student Abdel Rahman al-Beyaly, who the group says were arrested from their homes. Meanwhile, freelance photojournalist Esraa al-Taweel, Al Jazeera trial defendant Sohaib Saad, and Omar Mohamed were announced missing Tuesday after disappearing since Monday. The three were not found in nearby police stations, and their relatives expressed fear over them being “abducted.” Magdy Ashour, who starred in the Oscar nominated documentary The Square, was arrested from his house in the Haram neighbourhood in Giza Tuesday. Mohamed Sobhy, a lawyer from Nedal rights organization, confirmed Ashour was arrested, citing an ongoing campaign of arrests in the past two days. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 6/3/2015]6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • April 6 group condemns call for revenge on Egyptian authorities | Ahram Online
  • Egypt antiquities ministry committee decides against registering Beit Madkour | Ahram Online
  • Beni Suef Copts return home following clash with Muslims | Egypt Independent
  • Yemeni community in Egypt up to 70,000 | Egypt Independent


Gunmen kill two tourism policemen near Giza pyramids
Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two members of Egypt’s tourism and antiquities police force and left one police conscript injured on a road near the Giza pyramids on Wednesday, security sources said, in a rare attack near a tourist site. The assailants “fired a barrage of bullets” at the policemen, Mohamed Farouk, the director of Giza investigations said. According to state news agency, MENA, the gunmen fled the area and an investigation is underway. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya, AP, Ahram Online, 6/3/2015]

Army denies death of Sinai activist in detention, shooting of military factory worker
Unconfirmed media reports on social networks said Sabry al-Ghoul, a Sinai-based activist, died Tuesday morning after being detained for several hours by the military, at the headquarters of Battalion 101 in al-Arish. The office of the official army spokesperson Mohamed Samir denied that he had been killed, and confirmed he is still in detention. Meanwhile, a worker with the military-owned al-Arish Cement factory was shot dead Tuesday, while three others were injured, when militants purportedly fired at them. A worker in the factory named Ali told Daily News Egypt, “His colleagues tried to transfer him to the factory’s clinic, where he didn’t receive any medical assistance,” Ali said. “Then some of the workers protested in front of the administration’s offices. What followed was an army APC storming into the factory, and firing warning shots, killing one and injuring another three.” The official narrative adopted by the army, state media, and Al-Arish hospital, however, is that the four workers were attacked by militants in an ambulance, which was supposed to transfer them to the hospital. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Citizen brutally dragged in Qena demonstrates lawlessness of poor rural Egypt | Egypt Independent NCHR recommends building new prisons | Egypt Independent
  • Roadside bombs damage school, medical unit in North Sinai | Cairo Post
  • VIDEO: Four cars destroyed after bomb detonated at Damanhur police station | Cairo Post


Egypt is trying to ‘protect’ human rights says Germany’s Merkel
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi defended Egypt’s human rights record during a visit to Germany, amid concerns over death sentences handed to dozens of Islamist figures. “We are keen on lives and on human beings,” Sisi said during a joint press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday in Berlin. “We are seeking to foster high human values in the face of tough circumstances.” In a joint press conference, aired live on Egyptian state television, Merkel said she and Sisi discussed human rights and how “Egypt is trying to protect them.” Merkel said that she hoped Cairo will move to resolve the controversial death penalty issue and protect human rights. The chancellor added that her talks with Sisi have tackled militant violence in the region and the key role Cairo is playing to combat terrorism. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 6/3/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt, US discuss boosting military cooperation | SIS
  • Bundestag President: Hope fades for cooperation with Egyptian parliament | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt participates in Tanzania Nile Basin meetings after five year absence | Egypt Independent
  • Ghana cancels granting Egyptians visas at ports of entry | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt to host Italian and Algerian officials for trilateral talks on Libya | Aswat Masriya
  • UNIDO lauds Egypt strategy to achieve industrial development | SIS
  • Sisi: Coordination with Sudan at highest level | SIS
  • Egypt calls for confronting ISIS under international laws | SIS
  • Ninety-five Egyptians arrested attempting to illegally cross into Libya | DNE