Top News: Egypt to Try Six Reporters for Allegedly Defaming Minister

An Egyptian prosecutor has referred up to six local journalists to trial for allegedly spreading “false news” that defamed Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind. Prosecutor Fathi Bayoumi said Wednesday that the six were sent to court after investigators found that they “intentionally published false information to defame” Zind. The reports said Zind, as head of the powerful Judges Club, sold state lands to a relative at below market price. The journalists are: state-owned Al-Ahram website editor-in-chief Hisham Younis and journalist Ahmed Amer, well-known journalist Abdel Haleem Kandeel, editor-in-chief of al-Masreyoon Gamal Sultan, its executive editor-in-chief Mahmoud Sultan, and journalist Iman Yehia. Younis said Zind first filed his report against him in August 2014 before taking the post of Justice Minister. A prosecutor questioned Younis and Amer, but the case was not referred to court. Younis said he is not surprised that the case has resurfaced and was referred to court as “ever since Zind was appointed minister he has been motioning cases against his person.” [AP, Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/6/2016]


Former rival presidential candidate Sabbahy slams Sisi regime
Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahy criticized President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regime in an interview Wednesday evening by TV presenter Wael al-Ibrashi. “The way we are being ruled is exactly like Hosni Mubarak’s era, despite four different rulers since the [January 25] 2011 Revolution,” Sabbahy said. He also claimed that Sisi was losing popularity for failing to provide solutions for the Egyptian people. [DNE, 1/7/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s new parliament to open Sunday to backlog of challenges | Ahram Online
  • Health insurance draft law to be focus of next cabinet meeting | AMAY


NGO manager detained pending investigations
Giza prosecutors ordered Emad Ramadan, General Manager of the Egyptian Democratic Institute (EDI), detained 45-days pending investigations into charges of unlicensed firearms possession on Tuesday. Ramadan Mostafa, a parliamentary affairs researcher at EDI witnessed the arrest of his manager on Monday, saying that “security forces dressed in civilian clothes stormed the EDI’s office.” Ramadan was later transferred to Boulaq al-Dakrour police station from where he was referred to Giza prosecution authorities. EDI was among the NGOs receiving foreign funding that were raided in 2011. According to Mosatafa, the EDI survived the incident by proving to authorities the legitimacy of its work and its compliance with local laws and regulations. Ramadan himself was accused of illegal weapons possession in 2011, but upon presenting an alibi, the charges against him were dropped. [DNE, 1/6/2016]

Justice Minister negotiates with 15 businessmen to return smuggled funds
Minister of Justice Ahmed al-Zind announced that negotiations are ongoing with 15 businessmen to have illicit gains charges dropped in return for paying back those funds. “While no compromises will be made for Egypt’s rights during negotiations, no injustice will befall investors,” Zind said.  The defendants include former president Hosni Mubarak’s family, businessman Hussein Salem, former trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, among several other Mubarak regime figures. The funds smuggled are estimated to be around $132 billion in private banks in Switzerland and the UK. [DNE, 1/6/2015]

Also of Interest


Egypt to impose import rules to shore up reserves
Egypt plans to impose new regulations to reduce low-quality imports in an effort to shore up its foreign currency reserves and protect local industries. The regulations will require that foreign factories exporting mostly consumer goods register with Egyptian authorities and provide documentation of licenses and proof of inspection. The regulations would come into effect in late February and cover a wide range of goods, including dairy products, cosmetic items, soft drinks, chocolate, children toys, and furniture. Economists said the decision was aimed at reducing smuggling and informal import activity. One economist estimated that the new import restrictions would help Egypt save about $7 billion annually. However, Head of the Importers Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce Ahmed Shiha said the regulations violate agreements under the World Trade Organization, circumventing laws that regulate trade and increase the risk of monopoly. [AP, 1/6/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s steel producers cut prices, mirror low global cost | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s central bank postpones decision on interest rates | DNE


Egypt’s Christians celebrate Christmas amid tight security; Sisi visits cathedral during mass
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians flocked to churches Wednesday night to attend mass on Christmas Eve. Police painstakingly searched more than 300 churches in the capital, Cairo, alone for explosive devices, according to police Major General Gamal Halawa. Roadblocks were set up before churches nationwide and cars and motorcycles were temporarily banned from idling in front of them, he added. For the second year in a row, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid a visit to Cairo’s St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral during mass. “Nothing will harm us [Egyptians], whether our economic or political circumstances,” he said during a speech at the cathedral. He apologized to Egypt’s Christians for the “delay” in restoring churches and Christians’ houses that were attacked in the fallout from the military’s ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. During the Christmas Eve sermon, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II thanked Sisi for attending the mass. [AP, Ahram Online, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 1/7/2016]

Rights workers, detainee families criticize NCHR statement on prison conditions

Rights workers criticized a statement by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) asserting that all complaints by detainees in maximum-security al-Aqrab prison concerning access to food and medical care are being dealt with. The council released a statement on Wednesday following an official visit to the prison by some of its members on Tuesday. The statement referred to complaints about lack of access to food, medication, warm clothes, books, and blankets, as well as adequate medical care, but omitted allegations of torture and sexual assault. Ragia Omran, a member of the NCHR herself, said the council’s visits to prisons “do not have the element of surprise,” with the Ministry of Interior having the upper hand on when delegations may inspect prisons and which prisons they may visit. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/7/2016]

Also of Interest
Preachers demand end to precarious employment | DNE
CPJ calls for release of journalist detained by National Security | DNE
Health ministry says staff strike ‘led to patient deaths’, doctors deny | Aswat Masriya


Gunmen launch attack outside Giza hotel
Gunmen opened fire outside a hotel near the Giza pyramids on Thursday morning, security sources said, with no casualties. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the attack was directed at security forces, while unnamed security sources told Reuters that the gunmen opened fire on Israeli Arab tourists as they boarded a bus. The ministry said no one was hurt in the incident at the Three Pyramids Hotel, but the attack damaged the hotel’s facade and also a bus parked in front of the building. According to the interior ministry statement, the shooter was part of a group of about 15 people who threw flares at the hotel’s security post. A suspect was arrested and police were still searching for the rest of the group, the statement said. It did not identify the arrested suspect. The motive for the attack was unclear and no one immediately claimed responsibility for it. According to AP, a witness at the scene indicated the attack was more organized than the ministry described and that deadly weapons were used. [Mada Masr, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, 1/7/2016]


Egyptian travel agency blamed for deadly airstrike on Mexican tourists
Egypt held a Cairo-based tourism agency accountable for the killing of eight Mexican tourists last September, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Massieu said Wednesday. Massieu said that Egypt notified Mexico of the results of the investigation into the killing of eight Mexican tourists and the injury of six others by Egyptian security forces, who said they attacked the tourist convoy “mistakenly” believing they were terrorists in al-Wahat area in the Western Desert. Massieu told AFP on Wednesday that Egyptian investigators had concluded that the group of tourists attacked on September 13, 2015, were placed in the dangerous situation by their Egyptian tour company, which had not obtained the necessary travel permits for the area.  Massieu said that the official Egyptian investigation was “nearing completion.” She added that Egypt’s Tourism Ministry “found that the administrative authorities and the travel agency should have had more clarity on the permit, and in that sense would eventually be responsible.” A foreign ministry source told Aswat Masriya on Thursday that Egypt has not paid any compensations to the families of the victims. [AFP, DNE, DPA/Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/7/2016]

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt block access to Qatari-owned news website
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are blocking access to a Qatari-owned news website in a sign of escalating tension in the region. A spokesperson for Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, which runs The New Arab and its Arabic language version, described the move as surprising and unexplained. In a statement, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said, “The blocking of these websites goes against the company’s principles of supporting democracy, human rights and liberty, as well as the notion of press freedom.” The sites were particularly popular in those countries that had put the blocks in place, it added. The site, like fellow Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera, has come under fire from Egyptian authorities, which have accused it of being a mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood. [The Guardian, 1/7/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt’s delegation in Addis Ababa completes talks on GERD | DNE
  • Egypt expresses concern over North Korean nuclear test | Ahram Online
  • Chinese president to visit Egypt in January | DNE, MENA