Top News: Egypt is Second Largest Jailer of Journalists Says CPJ

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its latest report that Egypt is second to China as the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with 23 journalists currently in jail, eight of whom were imprisoned in 2015. Most of the journalists jailed in Egypt, according to CPJ’s database, belong to news outlets owned by Islamists, after Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013 by the Armed Forces. CPJ said that the Egyptian government, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, continues to “use the pretext of national security to clamp down on dissent.” “Perhaps nowhere has the climate for the press deteriorated more rapidly than in Egypt, now the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide,” the report stated. A similar report released by Reporters without Borders also ranked Egypt the second worst jailer of journalists after China, but with a tally of 22 journalists currently in jail. [DNE, AP, Mada Masr, The Guardian, 12/15/2015]


State labor union head warns against participating in January 25 protests
Secretary General of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) Mohamed Wahballah warned workers against taking part in events and protests to mark the anniversary of the January 25 revolution. Wahballah urged workers to actively confront protesters and calls to commemorate the January 25 uprising, at a press conference on Sunday. The staunchly pro-Sisi television anchor Ahmed Moussa called on the state to take all necessary measures to ensure January 25 protests do not go ahead. On his talk show on the privately owned Sada al-Balad channel, Moussa claimed those calling for protests on January 25, 2016 are “seeking to burn down the country.” He asserted that “Egypt is in a state of war,” and protests must not be tolerated. Additionally, the grand mufti’s consultant, Ibrahim Negm, said that protesters killed by security forces in unauthorized rallies must not be considered martyrs. [Mada Masr, 12/15/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Presidency warns government of consequences from Port Said recession | AMAY
  • Sisi to review government program before submission to parliament says Prime Minister | DNE
  • Cabinet to review media law | SIS


Defense team withdraws from mass trial in objection to continued preventive detention
The defense team in a mass trial of 494 people brought to court on charges of violence dating back to 2013 withdrew from the session in objection to the continued detention of their defendants. The defense team said it objected to the court’s lack of adherence to Article 143 of the code of criminal procedures, which states the court must release defendants once they complete a maximum period in preventive detention, which varies depending on the nature of the crime. The maximum period, according to Article 143 cannot exceed a third of the maximum penalty that the defendants may be sentenced to. In response to their withdrawal, Cairo’s criminal court postponed the trial to December 19. [Aswat Masriya, 12/15/2015]

Police officer appeals verdict in Shaimaa al-Sabbagh’s murder case
The Cassation Court will look into the case of a police officer on February 14, who faced trial in June on charges of killing political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh. Yassin Salah, a Central Security Forces (CSF) officer, appealed the final prison verdict, according to state-owned Al-Ahram. Salah was handed a 15 year jail sentence by the Cairo Criminal Court on June 11, five months after Sabbagh’s death. Responding to the news, Sabbagh’s aunt said, “He received a harsh sentence but the right punishment for that crime was retribution.” [DNE, 12/15/2015]

Assets of 1,345 Brotherhoods confiscated says Justice Ministry
A panel from the Justice Ministry has, to date, frozen the assets and confiscated property belonging to 1,345 Muslim Brotherhood members, including 103 schools run by the group. Ezzat Khamis, the panel’s chairman, said during a press conference at the Justice Ministry on Thursday that the confiscations include various financial, real estate, and movable properties. The supervision of the sequestered schools has been transferred to the Education and Technical Education Ministry. Meanwhile, a Sharqiya court adjourned on Tuesday the trial of 81 Muslim Brotherhood members to February 9, when a verdict will be issued. The defendants, which include the nephew of former president Mohamed Morsi, are charged with sabotaging public facilities, protesting without a permit, and joining a terrorist group. [AMAY, 12/15/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Trials of producer Sobki, actress Entsar over ‘immoral actions’ adjourned | Ahram Online
  • Four policemen jailed over bribery, blackmail | Cairo Post


Egypt aims to reduce oil product subsidies
Egypt is relaxing a commitment made by the previous government to abolish subsidies on gasoline, diesel, and natural gas, following a slide in crude oil prices and the discovery of an offshore gas field. The previous government had committed to removing the subsidies, however Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Monday that Egypt now plans to reduce the subsidies to 30 percent of where they stood in July 2014. “We respect the previous government’s decisions and are committed to them, but there are changes we need to adhere to in the case of oil product subsidies, such as global energy prices and new discoveries,” Ismail said. Ismail is due to meet Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman today. They will discuss another Saudi Arabian deposit in Egypt’s central bank. The government is targeting close to 6 percent growth in gross domestic product a reduction in its budget deficit to 8.5 percent by the end of the 2017-2018 financial year, Ismail said. [Reuters, 12/14/2015]

Also of Interest

  • France to invest more in Egyptian trade: ambassador | DNE
  • CBE may raise interest rate on the pound next Thursday says analyst | DNE
  • Electricity Holding Company signs contract for South Helwan power station | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s startups compete for venture capital on global stage | Ahram Online
  • Egyptian pound steady at forex auction, weaker on black market | Reuters
  • International Chamber ruling for Egypt to compensate EMG lacked jurisdiction says former EGAS | Ahram Online
  • Egypt seeks to reduce oil product subsidies to 30 percent in next five years says Prime Minister | Reuters, Egypt Independent
  • Egypt Prime Minister says to discuss Saudi deposit in central bank with crown prince on Tuesday | Reuters
  • Hermes carries out transactions exceeding $1.4 billion in capital market in 2015 | DNE
  • Egypt has become ‘big laundry for money laundering’: MP | AMAY
  • Uber introduces cash payment option in Cairo, but at a price | Mada Masr
  • Sisi to inaugurate desert reclamation project by end of December | DNE, Reuters
  • 1.5 million acre project targets increasing agricultural land by 20 percent says Prime Minister | DNE


Tora complex prisoners to be examined by doctors, after reports of abuse
Egypt’s Interior Minister approved sending out two medical convoys to the Tora prison complex and to three police stations in Cairo and inmates and detainees are set to be medically examined. A medical convoy including 13 doctors has already been sent to Tora prison on Monday and will continue to medically examine inmates through Thursday, the ministry said on Tuesday in a statement. Another convoy is going to examine detainees in the Marg, Mattariya, and Ain Shams police stations, the ministry said, without providing details on how many doctors will be involved, or how long the mission will last. The Ministry of Interior also responded on Monday to claims that the conditions of inmates in al-Aqrab Prison are deteriorating. A representative from the ministry said the claims of torture inside prisons are “attacks on the police apparatus.” [Aswat Masriya, 12/15/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt judge faces controversy over interview | Ahram Online
  • Social campaigns standing against verbal, physical sexual violence | DNE
  • TV host mocks MPs’ call to extend presidency term | AMAY
  • Brotherhood inter-generational conflicts persist | AMAY


Police officer injured in Arish IED blast
A police officer was injured during curfew hours on Tuesday in an IED blast in Arish that targeted his armored vehicle. Curfew is imposed in Arish from 1 am to 5 am. According to eyewitnesses, unidentified assailants planted a bomb on the side of July 23 Road in downtown Arish. Central Security Forces Captain Hossam Eddin Othman, 26, was injured and was transferred to Arish’s Military Hospital, according to eyewitnesses. They added that the perpetrators fled the scene of the incident. [AMAY, 12/15/2015]


Saudi Arabia announces 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism, including Egypt
Saudi Arabia launched on Monday an “Islamic alliance” which includes Egypt among 34 countries to fight terrorism, which presents a “serious violation of human dignity and rights,” a statement for the alliance said. A joint operations center will be established in Riyadh to coordinate and support the military operations and develop the programs and necessary mechanisms for such efforts, the statement read. “Arrangements will be made to coordinate with friendly and peace-loving countries, as well as international bodies, to serve the international efforts to combat terrorism and maintain peace and security,” it added. The 34 countries include Turkey, Qatar, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, among others. Egypt’s Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi met with Saudi Ambassador Ahmed Ben Abdel-Aziz Qattan Monday, hours before Saudi Arabia announced the alliance. [Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 12/15/2015]

Renaissance Dam negotiations currently ‘difficult’ says Egypt’s Prime Minister
Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said Monday that negotiations are currently “difficult” over Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, state-owned MENA news agency reported. Ismail said during a meeting with reporters that time is an important factor in the talks and Egypt is working towards ensuring its rights are protected. He added that Egypt’s main focus at the talks is to preserve its historical share of water from the River Nile and to make sure that the dam will not be used for anything other than development or economic purposes. Ismail’s comments come after talks between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan ended Saturday without reaching an agreement. Those involved with the talks disagreed over whether the priority should be placed on discussing the technical aspects of the dam or the political and legal measures surrounding its construction. Meanwhile, the Chair in Water Resources at UNESCO’s regional office in Khartoum cited an unpublished study conducted by an Ethiopian team that details possible negative effects the dam may have on downstream countries like Egypt. Egypt is also reportedly actively searching for alternate Nile water resources to offset any potential negative effects that may result. [Ahram Online, 12/14/2015]

Moscow rejects Cairo’s preliminary report on Russian plane crash
Moscow rejected a preliminary report issued by Cairo on Monday stating the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai in October was not downed by a bomb. The Kremlin pointed to the findings of a Russian investigation released last month indicating that a bomb was responsible for downing the Airbus A321 and killing all 224 people on board. “I can only remind you that the report of our experts from the corresponding special services concluded that this was a terrorist act,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Sputnik. Egyptian chief investigator Ayman al-Moqadem said in a statement that “the technical investigative committee has so far not received any evidence indicating criminal or terrorist activity” in the downing of the plane. Egypt’s preliminary findings also contradict US and British statements asserting that a bomb brought the plane down. [Ahram Online, 12/14/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Immigration Minister to visit Italy | DNE, AMAY
  • Egypt’s Irrigation Minister visits Uganda for water projects | AMAY
  • US files terror-funding charges against Egyptian-born man | DNE, AP
  • 46 Egyptians currently incarcerated in Israel | Reuters
  • Egypt chosen to chair executive bureau of council of Arab social affairs ministers for two years | MENA
  • Emirates Airlines adds three additional weekly flights to Egypt | DNE