Top News: Egypt Says Preliminary Investigation Shows No Evidence of Terrorist Attack in Russian Plane Crash

Egypt said on Monday it had found no evidence so far of terrorism or other illegal action linked to the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Sinai that killed all 224 people on board on October 31. Egypt’s chief investigator Ayman al-Moqadem said, in a statement by Civil Aviation Ministry, that the committee completed a preliminary report into the causes of the incident and sent it to all accredited representatives from countries that had the right to participate in the investigation. The report was also sent to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Moqadem also said that the plane’s wreckage scattered over more than 16 square kilometers, meaning that it broke up midair, which is one thing that experts have agreed on from the onset. The committee is “continuing its work,” he added. Egypt also said on Monday it would hire a foreign company to help improve the country’s airport security. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich had said Friday that Russian air safety audit team in Egypt completed its task and that “it prepared recommendations on improving safety systems,” reported TASS Russian news agency. A delegation of four Russian military officials arrived in Cairo Saturday to discuss cooperation between both countries, DPA quoted sources as saying. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, The Guardian, 12/14/2015]


Unease among parties over proposed pro-state parliament bloc
Parliamentarians in the recently-elected House of Representatives have expressed doubts over a proposed pro-state bloc that seeks a majority in the chamber as rumors grow of security interventions obliging MPs to join the alliance. The Wafd Party is divided on whether to join the bloc, with one member, Badawi Abdel-Latif, claiming he was pressed by security authorities to join the coalition. Ahmed Ezz al-Arab, Wafd Party deputy chairman, however, welcomed what he called “allying with any parliament coalition that supports the state and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” The Free Egyptians Party announced Friday that it had declined to join the bloc, saying its aims were unclear. In a statement, the liberal party said it did not understand the aims of the “pro-Egyptian state” coalition that is being formed, or its program. Meanwhile, Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, the president of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, said negotiations with the Egyptian Democratic Party, Tagammu Party, and independent MPs were ongoing to form a parliamentary bloc of 20 MPs. The bloc will focus on tackling poverty, corruption, unemployment, social justice, freedoms, and reducing the class gap, according to Shokr. Finally, Osama al-Abd, the former president of Al Azhar University, who won the parliament seat on the individual-based list in Damietta, said on Saturday that he is ready to run for speaker of the parliament. [AMAY, Ahram Online, 12/12/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Most MPs paid bribes for seats says Nour bloc leader | DNE
  • Runoff elections resume in pending constituencies | DNE
  • Government attempts to pass loans before parliament is seated | AMAY
  • Presidential decree appoints former State Security attorney to supervisory body | Mada Masr


‘Raba’a dispersal’ trial adjourned to February due to lack of cage space
A judge on Saturday postponed the trial of 739 people accused of murder and staging an armed sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya square, because they would not fit inside the courtroom cage. The defendants include photojournalist Mohamed Abu Zeid (also known as Shawkan), and Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. Judge Hassan Farid said he received a letter from the Cairo security directorate stating police would be unable to move the defendants from prison to the courthouse after cage expansion works had stalled. The trial was adjourned to February 6. Meanwhile, an Egyptian judicial panel upheld Sunday an EGP250 million fine for former president Mohamed Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood figures as compensation for damages caused during the Wadi Natroun prison break. An Egyptian Court of Cassation also upheld Saturday death sentences against five convicted of multiple terror-related charges in the “October Cell Case.” Cairo criminal court, led by Judge Nagy Shehta, sentenced three Morsi supporters to death in absentia, for violence-related charges in Imbaba district during the fourth anniversary of the January 2011 uprising. An Egyptian misdemeanor court also sentenced five demonstrators to two years in prison on Sunday for protesting without police authorization on November 19, the fourth anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 12/13/2015]

Two Egyptian policemen jailed for torturing lawyer to death
Two police officers were sentenced on Saturday to five years in jail by an Egyptian court for torturing a lawyer to death in a police station in February. Lawyer Karim Hamdy, 27, was arrested in February on charges of taking part in anti-government protests organized by the Muslim Brotherhood. He died two days after his arrest after sustaining fractures to the ribs, bruises and bleeding in the chest and head, the initial forensic report showed. The lieutenant colonel and major with the national security agency were found guilty of torturing Hamdy to death. The sentence can be appealed. Lawyers’ Syndicate Chairman Sameh Ashour said he is filing a lawsuit with the Court of Cassation to demand a harsher penalty for the police officers. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 12/14/2015]

Egypt terminates four state lawyers for alleged connection to Judges for Egypt
The State Litigation Authority dismissed four counselors, warned five, and flagged three others on Saturday for their purported connection to the politically vocal group Judges for Egypt. The vice-president of the State Litigation Authority, Sameh al-Sayed said in a press statement that the decision was made because the dismissed counselors attended “political conferences” organized by the judges group. Judges for Egypt was active in 2013, expressing its rejection of the July 2013 power shift in which former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military after protests against his rule. The group is believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 12/13/2015]

Egypt lawyer challenges law that says writers can be jailed
An Egyptian lawyer has challenged the constitutionality of a law that allows writers to be sent to jail for violating public morals. Nasser Amin made the motion in court Saturday during the trial of writer Ahmed Naje, who is facing charges for work that was published in a literary magazine that prosecutors say is sexually explicit. Naje faces up to two years in jail and a fine up to EGP 10,000 (US$1,245) if found guilty. Naje’s trial was postponed to January 2, when the court will issue its verdict. [AP, 12/12/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Trial of Egypt’s former agriculture minister accused of taking bribes begins | Reuters
  • Trial of actress who recommended watching porn postponed | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s Cassation Court upholds hard labor prison sentences in Cairo metro torching | Ahram Online
  • Court approves al-Fakharany’s defense appeal | DNE
  • Tamarod trial postponed to December 28 | DNE
  • Lawyer files appeal against decree ordering payment of EGP 50,000 for marriage | Aswat Masriya
  • Irish-Egyptian man spends 20th birthday in Egypt’s police custody | Egypt Independent


Egypt central bank injects dollars into banks in special measure to ease shortage
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) injected more foreign currency liquidity into the banking system on Sunday, the latest in a series of steps aimed at ending a foreign exchange shortage. Bankers said the central bank announced the move suddenly and offered dollars at a rate of 7.7401 pounds, the CBE’s official selling price for dollars. It was unclear how much foreign currency the central bank had pumped out in total, as bankers said each bank was only aware of the share it would be receiving. “We were just told the central bank will sell dollars against Egyptian pounds to banks according to the outstanding credit of banks,” said one banker, suggesting the move was meant to cover outstanding dollar exposure at banks. A banking official said the CBE has repaid approximately 25 percent, or $1 billion of the total credit facilitations granted by banks for importers in the past period. Meanwhile, the CBE is offering treasury bills worth $1.1 billion on behalf of the finance ministry today. The CBE’s coordinating council for fiscal and monetary policies will hold its first meeting on Thursday after a recent reshuffle. [Reuters, 12/13/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Saudi financial assistance to Egypt hindered by oil price decline | AMAY
  • Egypt’s budget deficit rises July-September as subsidy spending increases | Ahram Online
  • Egypt seeks to drum up Gulf investments | Reuters
  • Egypt’s stocks tumble Sunday as oil prices keep falling | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Egypt has leverage over Israel, being the bottleneck to Tel Aviv’s gas says official | DNE
  • ITIDA to establish two creativity centers outside Cairo with EGP 50 million | DNE
  • Egypt received 9 million tourists in 2015 | MENA
  • Egypt’s market loses EGP 9.3 billion on Sunday, EGX30 skids 3.7 percent | Reuters
  • Sisi witnesses inauguration of 19th CAIRO ICT 2015 | SIS
  • EAPD, COMESA sign memo to boost regional, international investments | SIS
  • Sisi gives green light for 1.5 million feddan project at end of month | SIS
  • Tunisia trade minister arrives in Cairo for cooperation talks | SIS
  • Moroccan economic delegation arrives in Cairo | SIS
  • Egypt to offer Saudis major projects as Deputy Crown Prince plans visit | Bloomberg


Rights group calls on parliament to pass anti-torture law; Amnesty calls for release of 14 year-old tortured by police
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights called on the government and parliament to pass a previously proposed anti-torture law, highlighting that the crime a is both a violation of the most basic human rights as well as a clear violation of international conventions. The organization released a statement on Sunday welcoming the ruling of the Cairo Criminal Court sentencing police officers Omar Hamad and Mohamed al-Anwar charged with beating lawyer Karim Hamdy to death. The statement considered the ruling a step forward in the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes of torture and an indication of a willingness to eliminate human rights violations in Egypt, but said this should be consolidated with legislative changes and harsher punishments. Meanwhile, in a statement published on Friday, Amnesty International called for the release of a 14 year-old boy whose family claimed was sexually abused and tortured by police to force him to confess to protesting without authorization and belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. [AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 12/13/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Journalists commemorate Abu Deif at Press Syndicate | DNE
  • Governor did not keep his promise says mother of dead conscript | AMAY
  • Health Ministry takes precautionary measures against bird flu | AMAY
  • Power outage cripples New Valley governorate | AMAY
  • Political expert’s opinion piece withheld for criticizing parliament | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s best-selling author says government trying to silence him | The Guardian


Three army personnel killed, ten CSF soldiers injured in North Sinai
One officer and two other army personnel were killed in an attack in the city of Rafah in Egypt’s North Sinai on Saturday, BBC Arabic reported, quoting medical and security sources. Egypt’s military has not made an announcement on the incident. Additionally, an explosive device detonated near a police vehicle south of the city of al-Arish in North Sinai, sources told Aswat Masriya. Ten Central Security Forces personnel were injured in the explosion, and were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 12/12/2015]


Egypt and US discuss means to block ISIS funding
Egyptian and US officials discussed on Sunday methods to limit the Islamic State’s (ISIS or ISIL) access to funding, as well as joint strategies to combat the group’s affiliates in North Africa. Daniel Glaser, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the US Department of the Treasury, met with senior Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss collaborative efforts to dismantle the group’s funding networks and curb its access to the international financial system, according to a statement released by the US embassy in Cairo. “The United States, working closely with regional partners like Egypt, is taking aggressive steps to isolate this brutal terrorist organization from the international financial system,” Assistant Secretary Glaser said. Glaser said his visit to Cairo is aimed at helping “leverage Egypt’s counterterrorism strengths” and improve Egypt-US collaboration against ISIS affiliates in North Africa. [Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, 12/14/2015]

Israel releases four more Egyptians in prisoner swap
Israel released four jailed Egyptians on Monday, completing a prisoner swap that sent an Israeli citizen who had served a 15-year prison sentence in Egypt on espionage charges back to Israel. Israel had previously released two Egyptian inmates last week in the first stage of the deal. In a brief to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the six freed Egyptians as “three who have completed their sentences and three who are connected to security offenses—without blood on their hands, of course.” The prisoner-swap has sparked a wave of controversy among some Egyptians, claiming that the prisoner swap was not equal because the imprisoned Egyptians had already completed their sentences. [Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 12/13/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s Foreign Minister heads to Rome for conference on Libya | Ahram Online, DNE, MENA
  • High hopes for Libya talks in Rome | DNE
  • Foreign Minister warns about spread of terrorism in Libya, its repercussions on region | SIS
  • Powers back unity government in Libya to deter Islamic State | Reuters
  • World fatwa authorities meet in Cairo | AMAY
  • Uruguay’s former president winds up three-day visit to Egypt | MENA
  • Egypt, Sudan agree to remove obstacles facing development projects | AMAY
  • Electricity Minister flies to Moscow for nuclear talks | MENA
  • Egypt, Libya panel to discuss dues owed to departed laborers | AMAY
  • Egypt fine over Israel gas deal illegal says former EGAS chief | AMAY
  • Negotiations fail between Egypt, China over electric train | AMAY
  • Paris climate agreement in line with Egypt, Arab world agendas | Mada Masr
  • Sisi meets Lebanese patriarch, calls for national unity | DNE
  • Sisi expresses Egypt’s keenness on security, stability of Lebanon | SIS
  • Foreign Minister discusses Syrian crisis with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister | SIS
  • Renaissance Dam trio agree to new round of talks, after Khartoum meeting | Aswat Masriya, DNE, Ahram Online
  • Statements claiming failure of Ethiopian dam talks ‘untrue’ says Egypt’s Irrigation Minister | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s Foreign Minister removes Al Jazeera mic at Khartoum dam meeting | Ahram Online, AMAY
  • Sudanese water resources minister: We respect water agreements with Cairo | MENA