Top News: Egypt Parliament Approves New Bylaws

Egypt’s parliament approved on Tuesday its new internal bylaws that will regulate the conduct of MPs over the next five years. Over the past three months, since parliament’s first session, the proceedings were regulated by the 1979 bylaws. At the end of the debates on Tuesday, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al said that “this is parliament’s first concrete achievement and these bylaws are slated to reinforce parliament’s supervisory and legislative powers.” Bahaa al-Din Abu Shoqa, the Wafd Party MP and chairman of the committee that drafted the bylaws, said that “parliament’s new bylaws are a new step towards democracy in Egypt.” Abu Shoqa explained that a six-member committee will be created to put the new bylaws in their final form. “This is a necessary step ahead of referring the bylaws to the State Council to revise them in legal and constitutional terms,” said Abu Shoqa. The final debates on parliament’s bylaws saw significant changes on Monday and Tuesday. Meanwhile, parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of barring MP Kamal Ahmed from attending parliamentary sessions for the remainder of the year for assaulting a fellow MP. A disciplinary committee said Ahmed violated parliamentary ethics and rules when he hit his colleague Tawfik Okasha with his shoe. In a plenary session held on February 28, Ahmed hit Okasha with his shoe in protest against the latter holding a dinner meeting with the Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren. [Ahram Online, DNE, 3/8/2016]

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State Council refuses to rule over minister’s case against student federation
The State Council decided Monday not to rule on a case filed by Minister of Higher Education Ashraf al-Shehy, in which he is contesting the legality of procedures for electing the federation of student unions at Egypt’s universities. Speaking about the decision, the head of the federation Abdullah Anwar said, “The State Council refused to rule over the case since it was already presented before another judicial body, the administrative court.” The ministry must announce its stance following the State Council’s decision, Anwar said, confirming the federation will continue with his plan of calling together a general assembly of the federation. Anwar, who is also head of Cairo University’s Student Union (SU), said the meeting of the general assembly will not be affected by any judicial or ministerial decisions since it only affects the federation body–not universities’ individual unions–which make up the assembly. [DNE, 3/8/2016]

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Egypt further eases restrictions on foreign currency
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) removed caps on foreign exchange deposits and withdrawals for companies importing essential goods on Wednesday to increase liquidity in the dollar-starved economy. The decision came a day after the CBE lifted caps on withdrawals by individuals. “The initial [reactions] of the bank’s decisions started to show today, as the currency market appeared calm after [people] realized that they can withdraw and deposit at anytime,” said CBE Governor Tarek Amer. He also said on Tuesday that removing caps on individuals would help the CBE increase Egypt’s foreign reserves to $25 billion by the end of 2016. He said “greatly contribute” to that goal. The CBE also held a meeting with foreign exchange bureaus in an effort to keep black market rates under control. Exchange bureau sources said the meeting resulted in putting a limit on the black market’s dollar value. “The agreement was not to exceed the 9.25 pounds to the dollar price on the parallel market in return for the central bank not interfering with exchange bureaus,” a source said. [Bloomberg, Reuters, 3/9/2016]

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Daftar Ahwal says 554 cases of banned entry, travel bans in Egypt since 2011
There have been 554 cases of politically motivated banned entry and travel bans imposed by Egyptian authorities in airports since February 11, 2011, according to a report compiled by the independent information platform Daftar Ahwal. These were all reportedly related to individuals’ work in politics, human rights, journalism, the cultural sphere, social movements and religious activity. Under the governance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), there were 36 cases of travel and entry bans, and a further 21 under former President Mohamed Morsi. However, under interim President Adly Mansour and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, there were 279 and 218 cases, respectively. Daftar Ahwal’s investigation found that 274 Egyptians, 81 Arabs, and 199 foreigners were among those either denied entry or permission to travel. Out of those examined, 56 travel bans were issued pending a judicial order and later arrest, while 12 individuals were banned from travel per judicial order but no arrest. 120 people were banned from traveling with no judicial order issued at all. There were also 259 entry bans, 83 cases of reported difficulty on arrival and 15 cases of arrest upon entry. [Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, 3/9/2016]

Lawyer representing cases of forced disappearances reported missing
The father of lawyer Islam Salama reported him missing on Wednesday, stating that his son was arrested in a security raid on his residence early Tuesday in Gharbiya. Salama was working on several cases involving forced disappearances, lawyers told Mada Masr. Ahmed Salama said security forces arrested his son on Tuesday from his home in the town of Zifta, adding that all attempts to identify his son’s whereabouts, or the nature of the charges leveled against him, were unsuccessful. Rights lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer says no further information has been revealed regarding the whereabouts of the missing lawer. Salama has defended people who were allegedly disappeared, tortured, and arbitrarily arrested, as well as political detainees. Salama has also represented defendants in several high profile cases, including the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis case. Baqer said the Lawyers’ Syndicate has “done nothing” regarding the incident, adding that the Interior Ministry is “blatantly” attacking lawyers.  According to Daily News Egypt, a group of lawyers protested outside the Lawyers Syndicate, demanding security officials reveal Salama’s whereabouts. According to Sayyida Qandil, a civil rights lawyer, and one of the participants the syndicate’s Freedoms Committee refused to participate in the protest. [DNE, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 3/9/2016]

Social Solidarity Ministry dissolves 28 Brotherhood-affiliated NGOs in Qalyubia
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali ordered on Wednesday the dissolution of 28 non-governmental organizations in Egypt’s Delta governorate of Qalyubia over alleged affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood. The ministry also decided to freeze the activities of 36 other NGOs, forming a committee to manage them pending investigation, Deputy Social Solidarity Minister Mohamed al-Sayed said.  According to Wali, the confiscated assets and properties of the dissolved NGOs are to be transferred to a governmental fund established to support governmental organizations and national bodies, in accordance with a 2002 law regulating NGOs. [Cairo Post, 3/9/2016]

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Interior Ministry says Kerdasa Massacre defendant killed in Giza
The Ministry of Interior said in a statement Wednesday that police killed a “wanted militant” in an exchange of fire with police in Giza.  Emad al-Sayedy was sentenced to death on charges of storming the Kerdasa police station and killing 11 police officers and two civilians, in the Kerdasa Massacre case. Police say he was also sentenced to life in a separate case on charges of theft, and to another three years on charges of betrayal of trust. According to the ministry statement, Sayedy was gunned down in his car by police after he refused to give himself up in an ambush in the Giza neighborhood of Hadayek al-Ahram. The statement added that after searching his car, police found a machine gun and dozens of bullets. [Cairo Post, 3/9/2016]

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Sisi heads to Saudi Arabia for finale of military exercise
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will head to Saudi Arabia on Thursday to attend the finale of the joint military exercise “Thunder of the North,” the Egyptian presidency announced Wednesday. Twenty countries including Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Qatar, and Jordan are participating in the exercise, which started last month in northern Saudi Arabia. “Egypt’s participation in the exercises comes as part of its role in supporting Arab and Gulf security, which Egypt considers part of its own national security,” Alaa Youssef, Egyptian Presidency Spokesperson said in a statement. Major General Fekry Imam, head of the Egyptian troops taking part in the maneuver said, “Egypt’s participation in the maneuver aims at unifying training concepts, reaching the highest efficiency rates, and improving training in response to the threat posed by terrorist groups in the region.” Sisi will also reportedly hold talks with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 3/9/2016]

France’s Foreign Minister to visit Cairo Wednesday for ‘peace process’ talks
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault will arrive in Egypt Wednesday to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process with his counterparts in an Arab League committee, the French embassy in Cairo said. The embassy added in its statement that Ayrault will discuss the French initiative to re-launch the Palestinian-Israeli peace process through holding an international conference at the Arab League. During his two-day visit, Ayrault will also meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart, Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional affairs. Ayrault also plans to meet with civil society representatives. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 3/8/2016]

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