Top News: Egypt Accuses Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas of Assassinating Prosecutor

Egypt has accused exiled Muslim Brotherhood officials of conspiring with Hamas militants to assassinate Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat last year and arrested 14 people in connection with the attack. Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said authorities had arrested 48 members of a Muslim Brotherhood cell intending to undermine security through a series of attacks; 14 had confessed to killing Barakat. Abdel-Ghaffar said that Turkish-based leaders of the Brotherhood masterminded the assassination, while Hamas provided training and took part in planning. He added that the Interior Ministry is seeking an Interpol notice against the fugitive suspects. The ministry released a video showing confessions by alleged Muslim Brotherhood members; members recount how they joined the group, their participation in protests, and their coordination with Hamas to plan the attack. Hamas expressed dismay at Abdel-Ghaffar’s accusations. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described them as “untrue,” saying that the claims are not in line with “the efforts exerted to develop relations between Hamas and Cairo.” The Muslim Brotherhood denied involvement in the attack, saying in a statement that the accusations were part of the Interior Ministry’s efforts to demonize the group. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, MOI Statement, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 3/7/2016]


Parliament to review Interior Ministry draft laws, set to finalize bylaws
Egypt’s parliament could review the Interior Ministry’s draft laws regulating police treatment of citizens this week, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said. The laws, according to Abdel-Ghaffar, stipulate that police respect the freedom and dignity of citizens inside and outside police stations. The legislation also ensures protection of police personnel “from the violations of some citizens against them,” so that they can carry out their duty to uphold peace and security. He added that the laws would ensure prompt action in the face of any police violations and provide incentives to policemen who excel in their work. This week the parliament will also hold final debates on the new set of bylaws that will regulate the conduct of its MPs over the next five years, including articles that specify MPs’ salaries. The House of Representatives has so far approved 300 bylaw articles, with the remaining 140 to be discussed on Sunday and Monday. The bylaws will set the monthly salary of MPs at EGP 15,000 (around $1,900). Their salaries will be tax free, and MPs are also guaranteed an annual increase of seven percent. Articles that have yet to be discussed include procedures necessary to strip an MP of his parliamentary immunity or membership, and “how chairmen of state watchdog institutions should be selected and what their roles are,” MP Bahaa El-Din Abu Shukka said. MPs also called on the country’s economic authorities to take action to stem the dollar crisis. Among parliamentarians speaking out about the dollar crisis was Farag Amer, who made an urgent statement asking the Speaker of Parliament to summon the Central Bank governor and calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Civil Aviation to address the “worsening economic crisis and dollar shortage.” Meanwhile, Egypt’s High Elections Committee on Saturday opened the registration period for candidates planning to stand in the by-election for the empty parliamentary seat of recently expelled MP Tawfik Okasha, and set the by-election date for April. [Ahram Online, SIS, 3/6/2016]


Prominent Egyptian reformist judge Zakaria Abdel-Aziz forced into retirement
Prominent reformist judge and former head of Egypt’s Judges Club Zakaria Abdel-Aziz was forced into retirement by a disciplinary committee formed by the court of appeals on Monday for “storming” the State Security headquarters in March 2011. On March 5 2011, shortly after the downfall of the Mubarak regime, Abdel-Aziz was among several prominent figures who attempted to convince protesters who seized documents from the State Security headquarters in Cairo to hand them over to the army. Reports that former State Security apparatus officers were shredding documents that could be used to expose violations of human rights during the Mubarak era sparked similar attempts by demonstrators to storm State Security headquarters in Alexandria and other cities from March 4-6. The reformist judge played a leading role in the reformist judicial independence movement in 2005-7 during Mubarak’s rule. The committee that decided to force Abdel-Aziz into retirement has not yet issued its reasons for doing so. [Ahram Online, 3/7/2016]

Courts sentence policemen to death, three years in prison in separate cases
A Matariya Criminal Court sentenced a police officer to three years in prison in connection with the death of a tuk-tuk driver in the working class district of Matariya. Cairo Criminal Court, meanwhile, adjourned Saturday the trial of a policeman who allegedly killed a citizen in a street brawl to March 7, so witness testimonies can be heard. Mohamed Sayed’s family and lawyers demanded stronger charges be bought against the defendant, Police Sergeant Mostafa Abdel Hakim. Defense lawyers requested EGP1 million compensation from the Interior Ministry, pushing that the charge be amended to premeditated murder, according to state-owned Al-Ahram. During the court session on Saturday, the defendant maintained he discharged his weapon but did not mean to kill Sayed. A Zagazig Criminal Court also sentenced on Sunday a low-ranking policeman to death for killing his three cousins in September 2012, whom he said had cast a “spell” on him, state news agency MENA reported Sunday. In related news, the Alexandria Misdemeanor Court renewed the detention of two low-ranking police officers, accused of assaulting a doctor at a hospital in Alexandria for 15 days. Finally, Egypt’s top prosecutor referred a policeman to trial on Saturday on accusations of fabricating drug charges in an incident that occurred in November, a judicial source said. The prosecution charged him with drug possession and “abuse of his position as a government employee to commit forgery in an official document,” the source told Aswat Masriya. The policeman is purported to have beaten a driver in the gated compound of Dreamland, on the outskirts of Cairo and accused the civilian of ramming his car, an eyewitness said. Afterwards, the policeman allegedly forged a complaint against the driver, accusing him of possessing heroin. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 3/6/2016]

Defense lawyer says arrest of policemen advocating for police rights is illegal
Lawyer Mounir Moukhtar condemned the arrest of seven low-ranking police officers who were involved in the formation of organizations to advocate for the rights of police officers. The prosecution accused the police officers of inciting other officers to strike, organizing illegal protests, and belonging to a group whose target is to impact the work of the Egyptian police. Moukhtar stated that their arrest stems from their involvement in some capacity in one of three officer organizations: the Coalition of Low-Ranking Police Officers, the Club of Low-Ranking Police Officers, and the Low-Ranking Police Officers Union. Moukhtar described the arrest of the seven officers without charges as a violation of the Egyptian legal code. He added that the Ministry of Interior had previously licensed the formation of these organizations. The health of two of the seven police detained officers is deteriorating and they have been transferred to the prison’s hospital, according to Moukhtar. [DNE, 3/6/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Twelve officials from Egypt’s Red Sea governorate to be tried for corruption | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Egyptian court rules universities must provide students free medical care | Ahram Online
  • Brotherhood-affiliated lawyer arrested | DNE
  • Appeal presented against arrest of UWK member | DNE
  • Egypt court upholds decision to release Zawahri | Aswat Masriya


Egypt central bank holds exceptional $500 million FX auction
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) kept the pound stable at 7.7301 pounds against the dollar at an exceptional auction on Sunday for the sale of $500 million to cover imports of strategic goods, pumping foreign exchange into an economy that has been starved of dollars. “I think the sale could temporarily hold the decline [of the pound] for a couple of days but the investors and importers are looking for a more sustainable solution because the [currency] shortage situation has not been tackled,” said Head of Equities at Beltone Financial Hany Genena. “It is just an auction to clear the backlog so the gap may stabilize temporarily,” he said. The CBE normally sells no more than $40 million at its regular foreign exchange auctions, which are held three times a week. A CBE official said that the bank sold $551 million to banks on Sunday and no outstanding imports of goods remained. [Reuters, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 3/6/2016]

Also of Interest

  • South Korea to provide Egypt with $3 billion financial package for infrastructure | Ahram Online
  • Orascom Construction obtains $200 million contracts for projects in Algeria, Egypt | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Orascom lends Beltone EGP 1 billion to acquire CI Capital | Reuters
  • Egypt’s Suez Cement says profit transfers hit by currency crisis | Reuters
  • Egypt replaces head of agriculture quarantine authority | Reuters
  • Telecom Egypt net profit jumps 111 percent after tax changes | Reuters
  • Egyptian tourism declines 46 percent in January as Russians stay away | Mada Masr
  • Official responsible for anti-ergot crusade removed from post | Mada Masr


Egyptian journalist Mahmoud al-Sakka released pending trial
Egyptian State Security Prosecutors ordered the release of journalist Mahmoud al-Sakka on Saturday, pending his upcoming trial on charges of joining an outlawed group. Sakka, who works for the Yanair news portal, was arrested in December 2015 and detained on charges of forming an illegal political movement called the January 25 Youth. During his detention, Sakka was allegedly tortured in order to force him to confess his crimes, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights and Information (ANHRI). The location of his detention remained unknown for a few days following his arrest. Sakka was a member of the Tamarod movement and also took part in Hamdeen Sabbahi’s 2014 presidential campaign. [Ahram Online, DNE, 3/5/2016]

Engineers Syndicate refers Irrigation Minister to internal investigations
The Engineers Syndicate’s General Assembly voted on Friday to refer Minister of Irrigation Hossam al-Moghazy to internal investigations following several complaints from engineers in the ministry. Head of the syndicate Tarek al-Nabrawy stated that complaints against Moghazy stem from the “intransigence” that engineers employed at the ministry have encountered in dealing with the minister. The head of the syndicate belongs to a movement founded in 2003 which opposes the decision to place the syndicate under state’s control as a protectorate. The movement also rejects the role the Minister of Interior plays in the syndicate, in accordance with the syndicate law that was issued in 1974. Last month, the Doctors Syndicate also referred the minister of health to an internal disciplinary committee over comments he made that were deemed demeaning to doctors. [DNE, 3/5/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Ministry of Interior begins providing free healthcare every Friday | DNE
  • Ultras White Knights denounce Zamalek assistant manager | DNE
  • Student Union Federation to decide on a common stance on officials in general assembly | DNE
  • Minister of Interior claims there are no enforced disappearances in Egypt | DNE, AMAY
  • Coptic Church proposes law to allow divorce in cases of desertion | Mada Masr


Ambulance attacked in North Sinai, paramedic killed
An ambulance transferring conscripts from an earlier attack in North Sinai’s al-Shadaid on Sunday was shot at by unknown assailants, killing one paramedic, Ambulance Authority head Ahmed al-Ansary said. A security source said earlier in the day an explosive device detonated while a police vehicle was passing by in Sheikh Zuweid, killing two conscripts and injuring another. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered late Sunday EGP 50,000 to be paid from North Sinai governorate’s Support Fund to the family of the paramedic. Meanwhile, Egypt’s army killed five “terrorist elements” in a shootout in North Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid city, the army spokesman said in a statement [Warning: graphic image] on Sunday. According to the armed forces, the militants opened fire at a security checkpoint. Security sources, meanwhile, said that on Friday four Sinai State militants were killed and six injured in raids carried out by police and army personnel in Sheikh Zuweid.  According to unconfirmed reports, militants were attempting to break into security checkpoints in Karam al-Qawdis. A police officer was also reportedly killed Friday after being injured in clashes with Sinai State militants in the city of Rafah. Another two conscripts were killed and one injured when an explosive device went off as a police vehicle passed by in Sheikh Zuweid on Sunday, a security source said. [Ahram Online, 3/6/2016]

Low-ranking police officer mistakenly shoots 11-year-old girl
A police officer shot and injured an 11-year-old girl during an argument with a man in the Bulaq Dakrour neighborhood, close to downtown Cairo, one of the girl’s relatives told Mada Masr. Huna Saber Rashad was shot in the back after a young man fired rubber bullets at a police officer and the officer responded with live fire from his state-issued gun, Rashad’s relative Ahmed Omad said. The officer was arrested and taken into custody at Bulaq Dakrour station, a source from Giza security services told Al-Masry Al-Youm. According to a statement released by the Interior Ministry, the low-ranking police officer mistakenly shot the girl while he was chasing a registered criminal. The officer was allegedly trying to intervene in a fight between a tuk-tuk driver and the criminal. The officer attempted to shoot the criminal as he tried to escape but the bullet hit the young girl instead. The girl’s cousin, Ahmed Emad, told Daily News Egypt she was shot in the back while walking past the scuffle. The girl is receiving medical care in al-Qasr al-Aini hospital and a report has been filed against the police officer. The girl is currently stable despite her injuries, however the family will continue the lawsuit against the officer, Emad said. The Ministry of Interior confirmed to Daily News Egypt that the low-ranking police officer and the registered criminal were both arrested and will be referred to prosecution. [Mada Masr, DNE, AMAY (Arabic), 3/6/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Secret detentions, deaths raise alarm over Egyptian police | AP
  • Bomb targets officers in Giza, no casualties reported | DNE, AMAY


Egypt rights groups raise concerns over violations at UN Human Rights Council
Egyptian human rights organizations relayed concerns over escalating violations against human rights defenders at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, demanding the release of those detained for exercising their right of freedom of expression. The organizations cited the “increasing use of a repressive NGO law and other infamous legislations to open investigations against rights organizations and impose travel bans on individuals,” the statement said. “We are gravely concerned by the unprecedented levels of repressive measures being used by the government against human rights organizations and defenders. These measures form part of a larger effort by the government to shut down the public space and stifle civil society,” the organizations said. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Director Bahey El-Din Hassan met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Tore Hattrem, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski to discuss the deterioration of human rights in the Arab world. The US State Department published Wednesday statements from Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken’s speech at the session, in which he expressed US concern over police abuses and violations in Egypt. According to the state-run MENA, Egyptian permanent representative in Geneva Amro Ramadan attacked Blinken’s statements about the human rights situation in Egypt, saying the council does not need advice from a state that violates human rights itself. [Mada Masr, DNE, 3/5/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s FM, Abbas discuss ‘Israeli violations’ on sidelines of Palestine conference | Ahram Online
  • Iraqi president arrives in Cairo on first official visit | Ahram Online
  • Israel: Palestinian ‘terror’ recruiter active in Egypt arrested | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Tourism Ministry holds memorial for slain Italian | AP
  • Tourism Minister: Killing of Giulio Regeni doesn’t reflect ‘tolerant Egyptian character’ | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s FM participates in OIC Extraordinary Summit on Palestine in Jakarta | Ahram Online, DNE
  • Egyptian-French joint military training commences in Alexandria | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian student arrested after Trump threat agrees to leave US | Ahram Online, DNE, AP
  • Families of Russian plane crash victims invited to Red Sea governorate | Ahram Online
  • German delegation to check security measures at Hurghada airport | AMAY
  • Dar al-Ifta warns of unprecedented wave of anti-Islam course in US | SIS
  • UK ambassador to Egypt criticized over agenda for MPs’ visit | The Guardian