Top News: Egypt Says Reason for Plane Crash Unconfirmed; Russian Newspaper Says Bomb Was in Main Cabin

Egypt said on Tuesday it would take into account Russia’s conclusion that a bomb brought down a passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula last month but its investigation had so far found no evidence of criminal action. The Interior Minister said if any security lapse was to blame for the crash then those behind it would be punished. However, no evidence of a security lapse had so far been discovered, he said. Russian daily Kommersant quoted an unnamed source on Wednesday as saying that the bomb that downed the plane was placed in the aircraft’s main cabin not in the cargo compartment as reported earlier. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Egypt understands the Russian people’s pain, a day after Moscow’s announcement. Egypt’s presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef confirmed the two leaders spoke by phone Wednesday in a statement that made no mention of a bombing. The two leaders agreed on the need for greater international security cooperation, according to the statement. They also agreed on measures to improve airline security as a first step towards resuming flights between the two countries, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. A Russian security delegation also arrived Tuesday in Cairo to discuss the securing the Russian embassy in Cairo, an Egyptian airport official reportedly said. Russian Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov said under 2,500 Russian tourists remain in Egypt, after around 90,000 were evacuated in the wake of the crash. [Ahram Online, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/18/2015]


Parliament introduces new members to regulations
The induction meeting of the newly elected first-phase parliamentary members took place Monday where new members were introduced to the nature of the parliament’s legislative and supervisory powers. A number of the parliamentary members objected to the rule that their passports, newly-issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can only be used for sanctioned tasks in which they will represent Egypt abroad, with an assigned letter from the head of the parliament. The induction also served as a way to communicate and exchange experiences between the old and new representatives, and inform the new members of the technical services provided to them, according to Khalid al-Sadr, Secretary-General of the parliament. Among these services is a first class travel subscription with Egyptian railways and airlines, as well as free parking in the Tahrir car park. The cost of these services will come from the parliamentary budget, not the members’ salaries. The total expenses for the members reached approximately EGP 1.57 million, but the members have been asked by Ramy Mohsen, the Head of the National Centre for Parliamentary Consulting, to reexamine any privileges provided that would burden the state budget. The members also received their personal smart cards for the newly-introduced electronic voting system, which will be used during a simulation session in early December. Several MPs expressed optimism regarding the new system. Mohamed al-Desouky, a member representing Assiut City, told The Cairo Post, “It will ensure transparency in voting, increase attendance … and it will definitely help that the voting process does not take a long time.” [DNE, 11/17/2015]

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Detention renewed for Egyptian student who wore ‘Nation without torture’ shirt
On Tuesday, a Cairo court renewed the detention of high school student Mahmoud Mohamed Hussein for another forty-five days, meaning that he is set to spend at least 701 days in detention without being referred to trial. Egyptian law allows pretrial detention for up to two years. Tuesday marked 656 days of pretrial detention for Hussein, who is being held in Cairo’s Tora prison, with the court repeatedly renewing his detention for fifteen or forty-five days at a time. “At every detention renewal session, we ask [prosecutors] why the case has not yet been referred to the criminal court,” his lawyer Taher Abul-Nasr told Ahram Online, saying, however, that they have never received an answer. Hussein was arrested at age seventeen on January 25, 2014 as he was passing a northern Cairo checkpoint on his way home after attending a protest against both “military rule and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Amnesty International has launched a campaign to call for Hussein’s release in the form of a petition addressing the public prosecutor. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 11/17/2015]

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World Bank expects to pay $1 billion loan to Egypt
The World Bank expects to make a $1 billion development policy loan available to Egypt in December if all goes to plan after completing negotiations in Cairo last weekend, a senior World Bank official said. The loan could be the first of three as part of a three-year program with Egypt, Hafez Ghanem, the World Bank’s Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, said. Egypt has said it needs the money to help ease a foreign currency shortage caused by a slide in tourism revenues and foreign investment. “Our team was in Cairo over the weekend and I think they completed the negotiations,” he said, adding that the World Bank and Egyptian government still needed to approve the final documents for the $1 billion instalment. “It would come through sometime in December if everything is fine,” he said. “There is an agreement in principle that this is a $3 billion, 3-year program, but that commitment is only for the first year,” he added. [Reuters, 11/18/2015]

Egypt’s central bank appoints two deputy governors
Egypt’s central bank has named two deputy central bank governors in a reshuffle of the bank’s board members, it said in a statement. The central bank appointed Lubna Mohamed Helal and Gamal Negm as deputy governors and named the remaining board members of the central bank. They are expected to start on November 27 when newly appointed central bank governor, Tarek Amer, is due to start his term. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said Tuesday that Egypt’s government is working with the central bank to ease downward pressure on the currency by trying to boost exports and regulate imports. [Reuters, DNE, 11/18/2015]

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Security raids journalist’s Sinai residence in his absence says Press Syndicate
The Press Syndicate announced on Tuesday that it filed a complaint with the general prosecution demanding an investigation into a security raid on the house of one of its members in North Sinai. The syndicate said security forces raided the home of Abdel Qader Mubarak, a journalist with independent newspaper al-Osboa, in the city of Arish. The syndicate, quoting a complaint made by Mubarak, said the police force ignored his family’s explanation that he is a member of the syndicate. [Egypt Independent, 11/18/2015]

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Egypt ranked thirteenth on 2015 Global Terrorism Index
Among 124 countries, Egypt ranked thirteenth out of the countries that were highly impacted by terrorism, with a score of 6.813 out of 10, according to the Global Terrorism Index’s recent report for 2015.  Along with the United States, Egypt was also among the ten countries most affected by terrorism for a year between 2000 and 2014. The report, which was issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace think tank, stated that the total number of global deaths from terrorism in 2014 reached 32,685, an 80 percent increase from the 18,111 deaths recorded in 2013. The majority of deaths in 2014 occurred in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 11/17/2015]

Plane inspected at Cairo Airport following reported bombing attempt
EgyptAir said in a statement Tuesday that a plane bound for Hurghada was inspected after claims it was carrying a bomb. A passenger had reported that a bomb was planted on board the plane, and three passengers were detained for questioning. “The flight crew was alerted of a possible bomb threat during boarding and as per standard operating procedures, alerted the control tower and the authorities, before taxiing the aircraft to a remote area to disembark the passengers safely,” Egypt’s national carrier said. The statement added that the “bomb disposal unit conducted a thorough search of the aircraft and luggage of the passengers and gave clearance that the aircraft was safe.” Meanwhile, a delegation from the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) reportedly reviewed safety procedures at Cairo Airport Tuesday. Airport sources said that the delegation inspected security measures pertaining to an EgyptAir flight heading to New York. [AMAY, Cairo Post, 11/18/2015]

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Cairo denies systematic mistreatment of Sudanese in Egypt
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs denied on Tuesday that there was systematic mistreatment of Sudanese citizens in Egypt, state-owned MENA reported. In statements to the Sudanese daily newspaper Al-Youm Al-Tali, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid also said that there was no systematic of mistreatment by Egyptian police of Sudanese citizens. He added that the ministry in Cairo was studying the memo issued by the Sudanese embassy in Cairo regarding the allegations on the matter. The Sudanese embassy in Cairo issued two memos earlier in November to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry regarding the mistreatment and detention of its citizens. [Ahram Online, 11/17/2015]

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