Top News: Egypt Prepares to Inaugurate Expanded Suez Canal

To mark the inauguration of the $8.5 billion expansion of the Suez Canal, new passport stamps trumpet the project as “Egypt’s Gift to the World,” Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been festooned with strings of blue and white lights, nine swimmers from Egypt’s Paralympics team pulled a 5 kilometer flag along the waterway, and Thursday has been declared a national holiday. Cabinet spokesperson Hossam al-Qaweish said Tuesday that the decision to declare the day a national holiday was to allow governmental workers to celebrate and follow “the inauguration of this great achievement.” Governor of Cairo Galal Saeed also announced Wednesday that free bus services will take effect on Thursday and entrance to all parks will be free for the following two days. In Suez, seven low-income couples from the governorate got married Tuesday in a mass wedding ceremony sponsored by local NGOs. According to SIS, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will inaugurate the New Suez Canal project at Thursday’s ceremony aboard the ‘Mahrousa Yacht,’ led by the new frigate, Long Live Egypt. Delegations from over 121 countries are reportedly scheduled to arrive in Cairo to participate in the inauguration ceremony, including over 800 diplomats and twenty-six heads of states, among them Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Minister of Defense Sedki Sobhi checked on Tuesday the final touches of security preparations to the inauguration of the New Suez Canal project. Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar also toured Tuesday the city of Ismailia, to check the security preparations ahead of the inauguration. Meanwhile, next Friday’s unified sermon in Egyptian mosques will carry the title “Suez Canal opening, a model of volition and hard work.” The sermon will include four main elements: the importance of work in Islam, the value of supporting economic projects, and the importance of perfection in the work we do. It will also discuss what’s next for Egypt following the canal opening, according to the official website of the Ministry of Endowments. [WSJAP, 8/5/2015]


Electoral committee to be formed to update voters’ database
The High Electoral Commission (HEC) has decided to form a permanent committee to record and update voters’ data, according to a Tuesday statement by the council. The committee will be responsible for updating voters’ database until they are invited to vote. The dates for the parliamentary elections are yet to be confirmed, although Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidy expects they will be held in September. [DNE, 8/4/2015]


Travel bans on six Mubarak-era businessmen lifted by court order
A travel ban on six Egyptian businessmen was lifted by an official court decision, despite a trial case concerning illicit gains that has remained pending since 2011, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported Tuesday. The decision also took their names off the list of “wanted suspects upon arrival by Interpol.” The names included businessman Magdy Rasekh, the father-in-law of former president Hosni Mubarak’s eldest son Alaa. Rasekh was facing charges of illicit gains and waste of public funds along with Mubarak-era Minister of Housing Ibrahim Salman, through facilitating the illegal acquisition of state-owned lands in favor of the former. Other businessmen affected by the same decision to lift the travel ban included Ahmed Bahgat, who has previously been able to freely travel to Switzerland. The remaining four Safwan Thabet, Shafiq Mohamed al-Boghdady Abu al-Wafa, Ahmed Abdel Maqsoud Arafa and Moroccan tycoon Meloud al-Shaaby. [DNE, 8/4/2015]

Corruption case against Shoukry proceeds to State Commissioners Authority
A case accusing Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of misusing public funds is progressing through a legal process within the State Council. The case, prepared by lawyer Gamal Saleh, claims that Shoukry committed corruption in the establishment of a EGP 50 million fund for Egyptian ambassadors abroad. The money was ostensibly established to support ambassadors moving to posts across the world. Saleh has called for Shoukry to be stripped of his diplomatic immunity and to be investigated before the General Prosecutor. On Monday, an administrative court passed the case to the State Commissioners Authority to give a legal assessment on whether to proceed with the case. [DNE, 8/4/2015]

State Council rejects amendment protecting lawyers from being arrested, detained in court
The State Council on Monday rejected amendments requested by the Lawyers Syndicate regarding a law governing their practice, including a proposed article that prohibits the search, arrest, or detention of lawyers while in court. In its reasoning, as published in privately ownedal-Shorouk, the State Council stated that prohibiting the detention of lawyers for crimes committed in court is unconstitutional. The council explained that crimes committed in court, like contempt of the court or a disruption of the session, are excluded from any legal immunity that lawyers may have, as these violations are considered to be caught “in flagrante delicto,” or “red-handed.” The State Council also rejected an amendment stipulating that the completion of secondary school education is mandatory for acceptance into the Lawyers’ Syndicate. This amendment would exclude those who studied law through the open education system after completing a technical studies degree. Another rejected amendment had proposed giving the syndicate the authority to issue permits for foreign lawyers working in Egypt and making permanent residency in Egypt a condition for practicing law in the country, which was deemed unconstitutional for violating the principle of equality between all citizens. [Mada Masr, 8/5/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Court acquits defendant of murdering Brotherhood member | DNE
  • Trial of three policemen adjourned to October 5 in Beheira torture case | DNE


Egypt bank postpones issuance of international bonds
The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) has postponed issuing international bonds, which were to be issued at the end of July, according to an NBE source. The source said the postponement was due to current instability in the international stock markets. In August 2010, the NBE issued bonds valued at $600 million with interest rates of 5.25 percent. The source said the NBE aims to offer the new bonds at lower prices than the 2010 bonds. Last June, the NBE selected CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and Standard Chartered to organize issuing the standard bonds. According to the source, the bank will repay on Wednesday the full $600 million in bonds from August 2010, and will withdraw these amounts from its external accounts. [DNE, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • A look at Egypt’s Suez Canal, past and present | AP, AFP
  • DHL prints slogans promoting Egypt on 180 million boxes | Ahram Online
  • Egypt says foreign reserves fall to $18.534 billion at end-July | Reuters, Aswat Masriya
  • Kuwait’s al Ahli gets Egyptian central bank nod to buy Piraeus Bank Egypt | Reuters, Aswat Masriya
  • Negotiations continue for stumbling, UAE-financed housing megaproject | Anadolu Agency
  • Egyptian Exchange to partially relocate to Smart Village | Egypt Independent
  • Sisi assigns government to complete Al-Salam Canal project | Egypt Independent, Mada Masr
  • First German power plant in Egypt to open | SIS


Journalists’ rights violated 658 times during Sisi’s first year, report reveals
A new human rights report revealed that authorities have violated journalists’ rights at least 658 times during the first year of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidency. The report was released by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms on Tuesday, and focused on violations committed between June 8, 2014 and May 31, 2015. According to the report, the number of violations reached a peak during November of last year, with seventy separate incidents reported. Two hundred and fifty eight of the documented violations revolved around preventing journalists from doing their jobs, while other violations included verbal and physical assault, detention, arrests and imprisonment, as well as damaging and confiscating equipment, the banning press reports, and lawsuits against journalists. The report revealed that the Interior Ministry was the main violator of press freedoms in Sisi’s first year of presidency, with 56 percent of the violations committed by police forces. Civilians came second with 32 percent of the violations, while 10 percent of the violations were committed by “government bodies.” [DNE, Mada Masr, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Video: Fact Check Egypt department is not to punish correspondents says SIS | DNE
  • Six killed, thirty-one wounded in road accident In Beni Suef | Ahram Online
  • Seven killed, forty injured in bus-camel collision south of Cairo | Cairo Post
  • Ministry warns pilgrims against talking politics | Egypt Independent
  • Shoukry: Al-Azhar is Egypt’s soft power | SIS


Gunmen wound two Nour Party members in Giza
Three unknown gunmen wounded two members of the Salafi-oriented Nour Party in Giza early Tuesday. The pair was leaving a mosque in the Kerdasa suburb before they were shot by the attackers, sustaining injuries in the stomach and chest. Both were taken to hospital. [Egypt Independent, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest


Saudi-Egypt ties at their best says Saudi Ambassador
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Qattan, on Tuesday downplayed media reports suggesting that ties between both countries were strained adding that bilateral relations are at their best. Qattan said that Hamas’ leader Khaled Meshaal’s July visit to Saudi Arabia, which had fueled speculation of strained Egypt-Saudi relations, was to perform Umrah (a non-mandatory pilgrimage). Qattan also said that Meshaal’s meeting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz was “by chance.” Qattan said that speculation ahead of Egypt’s March economic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh over Saudi Arabia’s participation was unfounded, in light of strong Saudi support for Egypt. He added that Saudi Arabia designated $4 billion to Egypt following the economic conference to support Egypt’s economy. Qattan also stressed that there will be an intensive increase in Saudi investments in Egypt witnessed soon, and that relations between both countries have been strengthened since the conference. Qattan also said that King Salman bin Abdulaziz has called for a dialogue between Egyptian and Saudi journalists, as well as media professionals, following months of attacks on both countries’ regimes by journalists from each side. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 8/5/2015]

UN Special Envoy to Libya praises Egypt’s role in Libyan crisis
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reportedly received Monday a message from UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, praising Egypt’s efforts in “supporting the causes of reaching a political solution between factions in Libya.” Leon called for uniting rival Libyan groups, who met in the Skhirat negotiations, to resolve the crisis in Libya, form a government, and confront terrorism. According to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, the UN official affirmed Egypt’s role in the upcoming period on the Libyan scene. [DNE, 8/4/2015]

US officials meet with rights groups, political party members in Cairo
A delegation of US State Department, headed by Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, met with rights groups and party leaders in Cairo from August 1 to 3, following the conclusion of the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue. A human rights advocate and a member of Egypt’s National Council of Human Rights reportedly told the delegation that human rights organizations have been subjected to “systematic demoralization” from pro-government media outlets.  Nasser Amin, who heads the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, told the delegation on a visit to Cairo from August 1 to 3 that apart from media criticism, laws regulating the activities and registration of NGOs impose further restrictions on civil society organizations. He also noted how conditions within Egyptian prisons had largely deteriorated. During a meeting with party leaders from the Social Democratic Party, the Dostour Party, the Reform and Development Party, and the Popular Current Party, the group reportedly discussed parliamentary elections and counterterrorism. [Egypt Independent, POMED, 8/4/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Sisi to meet Yemeni president Wednesday | Ahram Online
  • Abbas to meet Shoukry, al-Araby prior to New Suez Canal opening | DNE
  • 181 arrested attempting to illegally enter Libya | DNE
  • Germany’s Vice-Chancellor to attend Suez Canal Project’s inauguration: Haber | DNE
  • German ambassador: Brotherhood in state of obscurity | Egypt Independent