Top News: Egypt’s Top Auditor Geneina Requests New Judge in Contempt of Judiciary Case

The head of Egypt’s official corruption watchdog Hisham Geneina has requested a new judge to oversee a probe against him over accusations, dating back to 2014, of contempt of the judiciary and insulting a senior judge. The request by Geneina, the head of the Central Auditing Organization (CAO), alleges a lack of impartiality on the part of Judge Safaa al-Din Abaza after the latter disclosed details about the investigation to the media, Geneina’s lawyer Ali Taha said. The lawyer also said the judge may bear a grudge towards his client given that Geneina beat him in a 2002 Judges’ Club election. Taha cited a statement by the judge—saying he would issue an arrest warrant against Geneina if he does not appear for questioning—as an instance of bias against his client. Taha also argued that under a law regulating the operation of the CAO, Geneina is at a minister’s rank and should be subject to exceptional investigation measures in accordance with a 1958 law. Investigations were adjourned on Monday to January 31 to consider Geneina’s request. [Ahram Online,Aswat Masriya, DNE, 1/26/2016]


Minister of Parliamentary Affairs to present modified civil service law to parliament
The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs said Wednesday that a new version of a Civil Service Law recently rejected by the parliament will be put forward to the chamber in a week’s time. Minister Magdy al-Agaty said that only 15 percent of the legislation’s articles require amendment, and denied the existence of a dispute between the government and the chamber over the issue. “The parliament and the government are holding talks to reach a unified solution,” Agaty said. In a separate statement Tuesday, he said that the ‎House of Representatives will issue a report to ‎President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi indicating why members ‎voted down the law. ‎‎He added that the parliamentary labor committee will take the lead in preparing the report, as its members had spearheaded the rejection of the law. [Ahram Online, Ahram Online, SIS, 1/27/2015]

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April 6 Movement asks court to replace Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata in terrorism trial
The Cairo Appeals Court said on Wednesday it would consider on February 23 a request to replace the judge trying ten April 6 Youth members on sabotage and terrorism charges. The defendants are facing a retrial for rioting, possession of explosives, damaging public property, and plotting to overthrow the government through “terrorism.”  Defense lawyers submitted the replacement request, arguing that Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata had revealed his biases in an interview, including his hostility toward the movement, and suggested that he was no longer an impartial judge. The Giza Criminal Court, headed by Shehata, sentenced the defendants to life in prison last October. [AMAY, 1/27/2016]

Egyptian military court sentences Brotherhood leader, five others to three years in prison
Ismailia criminal military court sentenced on Wednesday Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau member Mohamed Wahdan to three years in prison, and his brother to five years, on violence-related charges dating back to March 2014. Three other young men were sentenced to three years in prison, while one man was sentenced to two. They were all fined EGP50,000 (around $6,400) each. The court also ordered a fine of EGP50,000 each for four women in the same case. The women were not handed a prison sentence. The incident dates back to a 2014 protest in Ismailia. They were arrested and charged with joining a banned group, show of force, violating the protest law, and attacking police forces. Wahdan and his brother, Abdullah, were also charged with inciting violence. In December 2014, the Prosecutor General referred the case to the military prosecution. [Ahram Online, 1/27/2016]


Dollar surges against Egyptian pound after CBE raises cap on deposits
The dollar surged against the Egyptian pound on the black market on Wednesday after the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) raised a cap on foreign currency deposits. The CBE raised the cap on dollar-denominated deposits from $50,000 a month to $250,000 for essentials. “Speculators used the confusion caused by the central bank decision to push the pound lower … A huge wave of demand on dollars hit the market after raising the cap,” one trader said. “The market is also expecting the central bank to amend the official exchange rate of the pound,” he said. Before the CBE’s announcement, the black market rate for the dollar was around 8.62 pounds, far from the official rate of 7.7301 pounds per dollar. “There is no supply and there is higher demand after they raised the caps… We sold at this (8.75 pound) price and now we are unable to find dollars to buy,” another trader said. [Reuters, 1/27/2016]

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Al Jazeera takes legal action against Egyptian government
Al Jazeera has formally launched its international arbitration claim against Egypt’s government following what it regards as a prolonged campaign against its business and its journalists. According to a press release issued by the London law firm Carter Ruck, the action is being taken under the jurisdiction of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington, DC. As long ago as September 2013, Al Jazeera first announced that it would seek legal redress against the Egypt, and in April 2014, it served a formal notice of dispute on Egypt, citing breaches of the 1999 Qatar-Egypt bilateral investment treaty. “Having allowed a further 12 months to pass, in the vain hope that Egypt would be willing to talk,” Al Jazeera has submitted its formal arbitration request to ICSID’s Secretary-General, Carter Ruck stated. It was registered on January 20. Al Jazeera argues that, due to Egypt’s actions, it has suffered losses of at least $150 million. An Al Jazeera spokesman said the network hopes that the arbitration “will allow an impartial, international tribunal to render its own judgment on politically motivated prosecutions and false charges to which Egypt has subjected a number of our journalists.” [The Guardian, 1/27/2016]

Amnesty International demands Egypt release T-shirt detainee
International human rights organization Amnesty International demanded on Tuesday the release of high school student Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein after two years of detention without charge.
Hussein was arrested on January 25 2014, at the age of 17, for wearing a shirt that read “nation without torture.” Amnesty International stated that Hussein should be released immediately according to the Egyptian criminal procedures law. “Under the provisions of Egypt’s Criminal Procedures Law (Article 143) a detainee facing accusations that could lead to life imprisonment or the death penalty must be released immediately if he or she is not sentenced within the pre-trial detention limit of two years,” the statement read. According to Amnesty International, Hussein is among more than 700 detainees held for more than two years without trial across Egypt. [Ahram Online, 1/27/2016]

Egypt’s Shady Hussein ‘terrified’ after handing out condoms to police
A video showing a reporter, Shady Hussein, and an actor, Ahmed Malik, handing Egyptian policemen condom balloons on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising received more than 1 million views online but could land them in jail. The video was filmed Monday, national Police Day, and the anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Prosecutors are now reviewing complaints that accuse them of insulting the police. If charged and convicted, they face no less than six months in jail and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,250). Hussein said in a statement Tuesday that he believes his days outside prison “are numbered.” Malik, also responded on Tuesday, issuing a public apology on his Facebook account in which he expressed “regret for acting foolishly and for offending the people, especially the police.” The video, which has been shared 15,000 times on Facebook, also led to criticism on social media and a public censure by the Actor’s Syndicate for Malik. According to actor and senior member of the syndicate’s board of directors, Sameh al-Sereity, Malik has been “referred to investigation for publicly insulting the Egyptian people, not only the police.” Meanwhile, former television show host Bassem Youssef praised the two young actors on Twitter. [Aswat Masriya, AP, DNE, AMAY, NYT 1/27/2016]

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Military source says top ISIS leader killed in Sinai; ISIS calls on Brotherhood, Salafis to take up arms
Armed forces carrying out raids in the Sinai Peninsula killed Wednesday a top leader of the Sinai State, the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), military sources said. The army shot and killed Attallah Abu Reteima, whom the sources identified as the person in charge of logistics for the Sinai State, formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. According to the sources, Abu Reteima was responsible for transporting “terrorist elements” and the storage of ammunitions for the group in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, revealing that troops found the suspect in a mountainous area in central Sinai. Meanwhile, a new video released Monday by Sinai State showed a militant advising other Islamist entities in Egypt, including Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement, to abandon “peaceful means” of applying of Islamic Sharia and to take up arms. [AMAY, 1/27/2016]

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Egypt army chief discusses military cooperation with Pakistan general
Egyptian Minister of Defense Sedki Sobhi met Tuesday in Cairo with General Rashad Mahmood, the Chairman of the Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, where they discussed military cooperation between Egypt and Pakistan. The two officials also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East during the meeting, which was attended by Egypt’s Chief of Staff, Lt. General Mahmoud Hegazy, according to an official statement by Egyptian Armed Forces spokesperson Mohamed Samir. [Ahram Online, 1/26/2016]

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