Top News: Egypt’s Sisi Signs Counterterrorism Law

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi signed into law a controversial anti-terrorism legislation that establishes stiffer prison sentences for terror-related offenses, heavy fines for journalists who publish “false news” and a special judicial circuit for terrorism cases. The newly approved law assigns the death penalty for a dozen crimes, including founding a terrorist organization or taking up a leading position in one. The law imposes a punishment of five to seven years in prison for anyone propagating ideas and beliefs calling for the use of violence, via social media or other mediums. Among the most controversial aspects of the law is how it may affect the media’s ability to cover news on terrorist attacks. The law sets a minimum fine of EGP200,000 (about $25,000) and a maximum of EGP500,000 pounds for anyone who strays from government statements in publishing or spreading “false” reports on attacks or security operations against militants. Critics say the steep fines may shut down smaller newspapers, and deter larger ones from independently reporting on attacks and operations against militants. The government had initially proposed a jail sentence for offenders, but backed down after a backlash from Egyptian media. [Ahram OnlineReutersAPAswat MasriyaSISMada MasrThe Guardian, 8/17/2015]

Government employees to demand Prime Minister’s removal over controversial law
Government employees say they will escalate their requests concerning the Civil Service law to demand the removal of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. The employees, mainly from the finance ministry, staged massive protests outside the Journalists’ Syndicate last week aiming to revoke the law enacted in March, which they say encroaches on their financial rights. The workers cancelled a protest slated for Sunday after failing to obtain prior security approval, but vowed a larger demonstration before the end of August to call for Mahlab’s resignation. Tarek Koeib, who heads an independent union of workers at the Egyptian Tax Authority, said in a press conference on Saturday that the union held an urgent meeting Sunday with representatives from several government agencies to discuss plans for the upcoming demonstration. Meanwhile, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Sunday that the law aims to restructure the country’s administrative apparatus, not to cut wages and lay off employees. “We are reorganizing the apparatus, but we do not want to disrupt livelihoods,” he said. Sisi described the size of the administrative apparatus, with almost seven million employees, as “unnatural” before explaining that the aim [of reform] is not to reduce the size. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 8/17/2015]

Law proposed in Egypt to abolish jail time in cases related to publishing
A draft law to end freedom-restricting penalties for Egypt’s journalists in publishing cases was revealed on Sunday, as well as a draft law to unify matters of the Egyptian press and other media services. The laws, announced during a news conference at the press syndicate in Cairo, were drafted by a committee made up of fifty journalists, media practitioners, and experts. “Sentences of imprisonment in crimes committed by way of publishing or publicity” are to be “cancelled,” whether in the Penal Code or “any other law,” Article 1 of the draft to end imprisonment of journalists said. “A fine worth no less than 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($255) is sufficient,” the draft law stipulated. As for crimes related to encouraging violence, discrimination or defamation, the penalty is to be determined by the law, the draft read. [Aswat Masriya, 8/17/2015]  

Also of Interest

  • First Egyptian female party chairperson resigns citing divisions | Egypt Independent
  • Deadline Thursday for parliamentary election monitoring | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s political parties should be careful while fielding candidates: Sisi | Ahram Online, SIS  
  • Egypt’s non-Islamist political parties in disarray ahead of parliamentary elections | Ahram Online
  • Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya calls for dialogue to end Egypt’s ‘polarization’ | Ahram Online
  • Wasat Party leader back to politics shortly after release | Egypt Independent
  • Presidential amendments allow dual nationals to own Sinai buildings | Egypt Independent
  • Parliament gate to better future says Sisi | Cairo Post

Morsi’s defense team files appeal against death sentence
The court-appointed legal team representing deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi filed an appeal on Saturday at the country’s highest court challenging sentences of life imprisonment and death handed down in June, Morsi’s lawyer said. The Cairo criminal court sentenced Morsi to death over a mass jail break during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak as well as life imprisonment for giving state secrets to Qatar. Defense lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud said that Morsi’s defense team had provided the appeal court with all necessary legal papers, and that in the espionage case, the defense team cited eleven reasons in the appeal memorandum submitted to the court. “The reasons cited in the memorandum are related to lack of evidence in both cases,” Abdel Maqsoud said. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Reuters, AFP, 8/15/2015]

Fate of detained photojournalist unknown after referral to court
A session to review the detention of photojournalist Shawkan, scheduled for Monday, was cancelled, and his case referred to the criminal court on Sunday, according to a lawyer on his defense team. Karim Abdel Rady, a lawyer at the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said that the head of East Cairo prosecution informed him on Sunday of the cancelled trial date for detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid (also known as Shawkan), who has been imprisoned for two years, exceeding the maximum period for pre-trial detention on Friday. On Saturday, another of Shawkan’s defense lawyers, Ahmed Abdel Nabi, said Shawkan was not informed of the referral, a mandatory procedure that legalizes it. “Referral to court to stand trial doesn’t affect the situation of Shawkan, whose release has been mandatory after exceeding the maximum pretrial detention period,” Abdel Nabi said. The charges Shawkan faces include attempted murder, possession of weapons and ammunition, threatening public peace, disrupting the constitution, and sabotaging public and private property. [DNE, Mada Masr, 8/16/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Student detained over anti-torture shirt awaits detention renewal session | DNE
  • Abdullah al-Fakharany’s family call for solidarity with him for his release | DNE
  • Court returns to Sinai after relocation prompted by judges killings | Egypt Independent
  • Nazif imprisonment verdict details reveal family’s illicit gains | DNE
  • Cairo court postpones ‘Maspero violence’ trial to September 19 | DNE

Egyptian unemployment eases to 12.7 percent in second quarter of 2015
Egypt’s unemployment rate edged down to 12.7 percent in the second quarter of 2015, from 12.8 percent in the first quarter and 13.3 percent from the same period last year. Egypt’s labor force added 66,000 new jobs during the second quarter of the year, the statistics agency CAPMAS said in a statement, citing an “improvement in some economic activities.” However, unemployment for those between the ages of 15 and 29 was 26 percent in the second quarter and 44.6 percent for those holding a university or higher degree. [Reuters, 8/17/2015]

Also of Interest

  • New law allows private sector to import, sell gas | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s unemployment inches down in Q2 – statistics agency | Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt seeks 50 percent Internet penetration by end of 2016 says minister | Reuters
  • Egypt’s stock market dives after Juhayna chairman’s asset confiscation | Aswat Masriya
  • One-stop-shop to be applied in Egypt’s ports say ministers | Cairo Post
  • PM to regulate Lake Nasser investments and develop fisheries | Cairo Post

Egypt slams HRW call for international inquiry into Raba’a dispersal as ‘ridiculous’
Egypt’s foreign ministry strongly condemned on Saturday a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which criticizes government “inaction” following the violent 2013 dispersal of the Islamist Raba’a sit-in.
The ministry described the report as “politicized” and lacking in “accuracy and objectivity.” HRW called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international commission into the killings that took place in July 2013, given what it described as “the Egyptian government’s refusal to properly investigate the killings or provide any redress for the victims.” Ahmed Abu-Zeid, the Spokesperson for the Egyptian foreign ministry, accused HRW of turning a blind eye towards Egyptian military, police, and civilian casualties that are the result of daily terrorist attacks by Islamist militants, and also ignoring the officials that were assassinated for completing their duty of ensuring national security and preserving the legal and legitimate rights of its people.” Meanwhile, protests commemorating the second anniversary of the Raba’a al-Adaweya and al-Nahda Square dispersals witnessed low turnout and some random arrests. Clashes were seen in Giza, Cairo, and Kafr al-Sheikh.  Online anti-government activism, however, took the biggest share in the day’s events. Hashtags like #RememberRabaa were used on the day, and also served as one of the main pillars in a campaign launched days before the anniversary. The Canada-based Raba’a Story campaign group claimed its members are “survivors and eyewitnesses” of the sit-in dispersal, wishing to document the incident, create awareness, and “mobilize the international community to take legal and political action against those in charge of Raba’a massacre.” [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 8/16/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Damietta Facebook campaign urges boycott of meat price hikes | Egypt Independent
  • Turkish hackers leave Raba’a memorial message on Cairo airport website | Ahram Online
  • Ban on hijab in Egyptian schools unfounded rumours: Ministry of Education| Ahram Online
  • Minister announces education camps for homeless children | DNE
  • ECWR launches program for 1,000 female politicians | DNE
  • 61 percent of girls between 15-17 underwent FGM: Survey | DNE
  • Doctors protest lack of training | Egypt Independent
  • Dar al-Ifta accuses ‘Middle East Eye’ of aiding terrorism | DNE
  • Rights delegations to check on prisoners’ conditions amid heat wave | Cairo Post

Unknown militant group claims Prosecutor General assassination
An unknown militant group, calling itself Tahrir Brigades, claimed responsibility for the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in June, in a video showing only rolling text. The video, which shows only text and some logos, features a man reading a statement, in which he claims that group’s members are also members of the armed forces. In it, he says they “are fed up with the corruption of the military leaders and will not be silent about it.” The post is the first on the group’s newly established YouTube channel. There are no earlier activities or statements known from Tahrir Brigades. The authenticity of the post and claim has not been confirmed. They described Barakat’s assassination as the first of its actions, but vowed it will not be the last. “We will not allow the honor of the military to be insulted,” the video stated. [DNE, 8/17/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Army to build new towns for civilians in Sinai says Sisi | DNE
  • Egypt’s Assiut governor orders investigations into hazardous chlorine leak | Ahram Online
  • Fifty people seek medical care after chlorine gas leak in Assiut | Mada Masr  
  • Egypt to reopen Rafah border crossing Monday for three days | Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, Cairo Post
  • Sixty-eight unresolved cases of forced disappearances since July 2013: AOHR report | DNE, Cairo Post  
  • Ship on Suez Canal engulfed by fire, no injuries reported | DNE
  • Four gunmen killed, two officers wounded in attack on Rafah military post | Egypt Independent
  • Three beheaded bodies found in Rafah | Egypt Independent
  • Unknown assailants set fire to Misr Bank ATM in Menouifya | Egypt Independent
  • Surveillance cameras to be installed in mosques | Egypt Independent    

Russia presents Egypt with advanced missile ship
Russia has gifted Egypt a Molniya missile ship that was previously used in the inauguration of the “New Suez Canal” earlier this month, the Egyptian armed forces announced on Saturday.  The offensive missile boat Molnyia P-32 arrived in Alexandria at the end of July. According to state news agency, MENA, the move comes “as part of Russia’s ongoing support of Egypt, and the alignment in views of the political leaderships of the two countries regarding the war on terrorism in Egypt and the region.” The warship is one of the most developed Russian naval weapons and boasts the country’s latest missile technology. The fifty-seven-meter-long boat is equipped with four Moskit missiles, and is designed to destroy surface ships with its weapons of surface-to-surface and surface-to-air capabilities. The ship also includes “warning and electronic war systems,” which are a new addition to Egypt’s navy, Armed Forces Spokesman Mohamed Samir said. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 8/17/2015]

Also of Interest

  • UK updates Egypt travel advisory, warns against ‘nonessential travel’ to west of Nile Valley, Delta | Ahram Online, Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian, Libyan foreign ministers discuss worsening security situation in Libya | Ahram Online
  • Saudi arrests 413 Islamic State members, including seven Egyptians | Mada Masr
  • Forty-four pardoned Sudanese prisoners still in Egypt’s prisons | Cairo Post
  • 8,000 Egyptian workers arrested in Jordan | Cairo Post