Top News: Egypt President Vows to Find and Punish Killers of Italian Student

Egypt will spare no effort to find and punish those who tortured and killed an Italian student in Cairo, the country’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said an interview published on Wednesday. “I confirm that we will spare no efforts and continue to work with the Italian authorities to arrest the perpetrators, so that they can be punished according to the law,” he told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper. He called the incident “terrifying and unacceptable” and vowed to intensify cooperation with Italian investigators. Meanwhile, South Giza Prosecution has discounted the testimony of an alleged witness who said he saw Regeni quarreling with a man behind the Italian embassy headquarters in downtown Cairo on January 24, the day before he went missing. According to prosecutors, information from communications companies indicated that the witness did not leave his home in October 6 City on January 24 and could not have seen the incident. The Interior Ministry had said a day earlier that it has no information on surveillance footage of the argument. “Any reports [in the case] not [officially] announced by the interior ministry are only rumours,” Egypt’s Assistant Interior Minister for PR and Media Abu Bakr Abdel-Kerim said. Hossam Nassar, the head of South Giza Prosecution, and a member of the investigative team, said after a joint statement of cooperation was issued by the Italian and Egyptian prosecution said “Italy is not interfering or participating in current investigations. These investigations are conducted by Egyptians investigators only, and no one can interfere in them.” [Reuters, 3/16/2016]


Court rejects appeal to release detained doctor Taher Mokhtar’s housemates
A South Cairo criminal court rejected the most recent appeal to release university students Ahmed Hassan and Ahmed Hossam on Tuesday, after they were arrested in January along with their housemate, doctor and activist Taher Mohktar, for possession of printed material allegedly calling for the overthrow of the government. This is the second time that the courts rejected an appeal to release Hassan and Hossam this month. Defense attorney Mokhtar Mounir says that detectives investigating the case have alleged the defendants were attempting to publish calls for protests against the government on the revolution’s anniversary. He said the detectives have not included official charges of “inciting protests.” The evidence exhibited in the case does not include any publications, only the defendants’ private computers and cellphones were seized from their home, he added. Mounir also stated that the defense decided to appeal for Hossam and Hassan’s release separately from Mokhtar because their legal situation is different to his, due the nature of the evidence in the case and because they do not have any previous political activity. He explained that they will continue appeal for Mokhtar’s release as well over the next few days, but added that he believes it is a “bad case” and that it is unlikely Mokhtar will be released due to political pressure on judicial decisions. [Mada Masr, 3/15/2016]

Lawyer files report calling for arrest of former justice minister
The prosecutor-general’s office received a report from lawyer Amr Abdel Salam demanding an arrest order be issued for recently dismissed Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind. Abdel Salam also called for banning Zind from travel. In his report, Abdel Salam accused Zind of degrading the Egyptian people, insulting religion, and disturbing national security. [DNE, 3/16/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Court adjourns Luxor police torture trial to April 9 | DNE
  • Court sentences 45 alleged Brotherhood members to two years, acquits 22 | Cairo Post


Egypt Central Bank mounts war on black market
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) offered $1.5 billion to local lenders in an exceptional auction today to cover importers’ debts. The auction brings the total amount of dollars injected into the banking system through special auctions in the past two weeks to $2.4 billion, equivalent to 15 percent of the CBE’s foreign reserves. The auction is part of an effort to “completely finish off the black market” and stabilize the pound, according to CBE sources. The CBE devalued the pound by about 13 percent on Monday and said it would use any tool to safeguard stability in its foreign-exchange market in the medium term. Meanwhile, consulting group IHC Inc. said Egypt’s move to devalue its currency and eliminate restrictions on foreign-currency deposits should boost liquidity in the banking industry. International Monetary Fund Mission Chief Chris Jarvis welcomed the move to a more flexible exchange rate, saying it “would improve the availability of foreign exchange, strengthen competitiveness, support exports and tourism and attract foreign direct investment.” [Bloomberg, 3/16/2016]

Also of Interest

  • EU mulls $8.3M pledge to protect Egypt cultural heritage says Moran | Cairo Post
  • Egypt stocks remain up on Tuesday, slash gains on profit-taking | Ahram Online, Reuters
  • Egypt Central Bank to hold pound steady at 8.85 per dollar at exceptional FX auction | Reuters
  • Minister of Finance says Pound devaluation will not impact budget deficit | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt, Kuwait fund sign $108 million loan | SIS
  • EgyptAir considers airfare hike in face of falling pound | Cairo Post


Twelve Endowments Ministry employees referred to prosecution as protests continue
In light of a wave of labor protests against the Minister of Endowments, 12 ministry employees were referred to criminal prosecution last week for protesting, while the minister has threatened thousands of other employees with dismissals if they embark on strikes against his policies. Hundreds of the ministry’s employees suspended industrial action on Sunday following Minister Mokhtar Gomaa’s threats, but a small but determined group of protesters remain outside the ministry’s Giza offices, persistent in presenting their demands, which include the enforcement of the monthly minimum wage (EGP1,200) applicable to state employees, dropping the ministry’s lawsuit for the prosecution of the 12 protesting employees, an end to the losses being incurred by the Endowment Ministry’s officials, accountability of those officials found guilty of corruption or misappropriation of public assets, and the appointment of specialized investment analysts to administer the ministry’s lands, real estate and funds, rather than leaving this to non-specialized religious clerics. Meanwhile, Nahdat Misr Company sanitation workers in Alexandria ended their open-ended strike Monday after management agreed to issue their overdue wages and vowed to answer their demands. [Mada Masr, 3/15/2016]

Hisham Mubarak Law Center conference expresses support for press freedom
The Hisham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC) organized a conference on Monday to express solidarity with imprisoned journalists and condemn violations against press freedom. The conference was attended by several lawyers, activists, and families of detained journalists. Participants criticized the crackdown on journalists and violations against their rights, accusing the government of applying restrictions and arresting journalists attempting to publish the truth. Journalist Ahmed Abdel Aziz, the conference host, spoke about the violations committed against  journalists inside prisons and condemned journalist detentions, adding that the arrests violate the constitution. Abdel Aziz said that the government has violated 16 articles in the constitution that guarantee press freedom and the rights of journalists. Other lawyers and journalists spoke about the current state of the press in Egypt, and demanded the immediate release of imprisoned journalists. Previously detained journalists narrated their experiences in prison, discussing the abuse they encountered inside the prison and how they were arrested. Meanwhile, former state TV anchor Azza al-Hennawy condemned on Tuesday the decision to dismiss her from her position after she made comments criticizing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Hennawy said she was dismissed for “lacking neutrality” and “distorting the presidential image in front of the general public,” which ”led to feelings of public disappointment.” [DNE, 3/15/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Rights group report says Egyptian women boosted in political sphere, failing in social, economic terms | AMAY
  • Egypt’s president under unusually stinging criticism at home | AP


Interior Ministry mulls replacing low-ranking police force
The Interior Ministry is reportedly planning to replace the nation’s lowest-ranking police force with a new policeman rank to be recruited from scratch and offered training. The move follows sustained criticism of violence and human rights violations by police of various ranks over recent months. The new force being considered was authorized by presidential decree in 2014, according to independent daily Youm7. The Interior Ministry is accepting applications for the new “police assistant” grade, which was introduced in amendments to the 1971 police law, passed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The ministry said these “assistants” could gradually replace the lowest grade of policemen, who achieve the least training. Applicants for the new police assistant force must be aged between 19 and 23, holding preparatory school certificates, and will undergo 18 months of training through “state-of-the-art policing programs” before appointment, according to the newspaper. The new personnel will also undergo training on human rights issues as they relate to police work, the newspaper added. [Egypt Independent, 3/15/2016]

Egyptians found detained in Libya ‘not captured by Islamic State group’
Fifteen Egyptians who were believed to have been captured by the Islamic State militant group in Libya are safe and being detained by Libyan authorities at an illegal immigrant center In Tripoli, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday. “The ministry… contacted the Egyptian Ambassador to Libya who confirmed [the Egyptians’] location,” Assistant Foreign Minister Hisham al-Naqib said. “The IS group in Libya has nothing to do with this matter, as they [the Egyptians] are located in the capital Tripoli; around 400 kilometres from [the areas controlled by] the terrorist group,” he explained. [Ahram Online, 3/15/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Four soldiers injured in separate attacks in North Sinai | Cairo Post


Russian Foreign Minister agrees to try to resume flights with Egypt soon
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart on Wednesday that the two countries are completing preparations for restoring direct flights, which were halted by Moscow after the downing of a Russian passenger jet. At a joint press conference in Moscow with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Wednesday, Lavrov said Russian flights would be resumed if the highest level of security was provided. He also stated that Russia’s government is considering reopening its consulate in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in the near future. On Monday, Shoukry told Russian news agency Sputnik that security experts expressed satisfaction with the work completed so far to ensure security at three major Egyptian airports, in full cooperation with Russian inspectors. “We are providing maximum assistance and support to the Russian and Egyptian experts working on [air travel] security. The Egyptian people are waiting for a positive signal from the Russian side on the possibility of restoring this vital area for the Egyptian economy,” Shoukry said. Shoukry also told members of Russia’s Duma in a meeting that four million Egyptians employed in the tourist sector are looking forward to hosting Russian holidaymakers again. [AP, Reuters, 3/16/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Al Azhar Grand Imam visits Germany, set to give speech before Bundestag | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • High-level French delegation arrives in Egypt ahead of Hollande visit | Ahram Online
  • Agreements on Ethiopia’s dam to be signed within two weeks | AMAY