Top News: Egyptian Authorities Move to Shut Down Torture Watchdog

The Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence was nearly shut down on Wednesday by an interagency task force, reportedly at the orders of the Health Ministry’s Department for Private Medical Treatment. Established in 1993, Al-Nadeem is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization headquartered in central Cairo that provides counseling services, legal support and other forms of assistance to torture victims. “Two policemen … turned up today at the center with an administrative decision from the Health Ministry to close [it],” said Aida Seif al-Dawla, one of its founders. “The decision did not give any reasons,” she said. “We managed to persuade them to postpone the closure until we went to the health ministry on Monday to understand the reasons.” A spokesman for the Health Ministry said the center’s closure was due to it holding “activities other than the activity allowed in its permit” but did not specify the nature of these activities. The Nadeem Center published a statement Thursday noting a ministry employee visited the center three weeks prior to the incident. “[She] came to inspect the center based on an order, given by phone, from the Minister of Health himself, to check the activity of the center. She did not have official papers. Still she inspected the clinic and took a copy of our license, and did not make any comments regarding any breaches,” the statement said. “We are not better than all those held in prisons for false charges or who endure unlimited pretrial detention, or those who have been banned from travel or held in airports or had their passports withdrawn.  Nor are we better than those organizations that have been closed or threatened by closure in an era where freedom has become a rare commodity and injustice has taken over,” the statement added.  The move has been condemned by international rights organizations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.  [Ahram OnlineReutersAswat MasriyaMada MasrAFP, 2/18/2016]


Four judges forced into retirement, 40 Police Academy cadets expelled over Brotherhood ties
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued an official decree on Thursday forcing four judges in the State Litigation Authority (SLA) into early retirement for their alleged links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The decree, published in the Official Gazette on Thursday, instructed Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind to implement the presidential order and force the four judges, listed as Mahmoud Farahat, Talaat al-Ashry, Mohamed Youssef and Saeed Abdel Kerim, into early retirement. While the decree did not provide a reason, this decision appears to be an official approval of a previous order by the SLA’s disciplinary committee in December 2015 against the four judges. The names of the judges appeared previously in investigations into the Judges for Egypt group, which is accused of being aligned with the Brotherhood. In related news, Egypt’s Police Academy Council expelled 40 students after accusing them of allegiances to the Muslim Brotherhood after investigations by the State Security Department. The head of the academy, General Amr al-Asar, said the investigations revealed that the students had first- and second- degree relatives who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or participated in pro-Brotherhood protests. Asar said periodical investigations are run on the entire ministry’s staff including officers, students, or conscripts to ensure no security personnel have any leanings towards political groups or parties. When applying, students in the academy are ordered to fill a detailed application about their families that extends to third-degree relatives. [Mada Masr, DNE, 2/18/2016]


‘Nation without torture’ student referred to Egyptian state security prosecution
Mahmoud Mohamed—the 20-year-old held in pretrial detention for more than two years for wearing an anti-torture T-shirt—was referred to State Security Prosecution on Wednesday. The East Cairo prosecution referred the case to State Security prosecutors, citing lack of jurisdiction, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) said in a statement posted on Facebook. Typically, State Security prosecutors look into cases that affect national security. Wednesday’s decision was a move to buy time, Mohamed’s lawyer, Mokhtar Mounir said. “They’re procrastinating,” he argued. “After two years, the public prosecution discovered [now] that Mahmoud’s case falls outside its jurisdiction?” If State Security Prosecution accepts the case, Mohamed could face trial before the Criminal Court’s terrorism division. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Ahram Online, 2/17/2016]

Egyptian businessman Salah Diab sentenced to 6 months for insulting Mortada Mansour
The Economic Appeals Court sentenced businessman and founder of independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, Salah Diab, to six months in prison on Wednesday for insulting parliamentarian and chairman of the Zamalek Club Mortada Mansour in a phone call. Diab, who was referred to court in April 2015, was also convicted of harassing Mansour by repeated phone calls, was fined EGP20,000 (around $2,550). A previous verdict in December 2015 fined Diab EGP10,000 (around $1280) but Mansour appealed the sentence. During the retrial, Diab claimed that Mansour did not have permission to record the phone call in question, that the recording itself had been tampered with, and that he had only made the call after Mansour had contacted and threatened him first. The verdict can be further appealed in front of the Court of Cassation. However, Diab was sentenced in absentia and can get arrested before filing an appeal. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 2/17/2016]

Four April 6 members released on bail in unlicensed protest case
The Dokki Prosecution ordered the release of four members of the banned April 6 youth movement on Thursday. According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Mohamed Nabeel, Ayman Abdel Meguid, Mahmoud Hesham, and Sherif al-Rubi were released on a bail of EGP 2,000.  The four members were detained on December 28 on charges of belonging to a banned group, participating in a protest without a permit, cutting off public roads, and possession of fireworks. [Aswat Masriya, AMAY, 2/18/2016]

Aya Hegazy trial postponed for fifth time after court unable to turn on laptop
The trial of Egyptian-American Aya Hegazy, her husband Mohamed Hassanein, and six others facing sex trafficking and child abuse charges was postponed to March 23 on Wednesday after a court-appointed technician was unable to turn on a laptop that contained key evidence in the case. The defendants, who run the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Belady Foundation for Street Children, face a total of seven criminal charges for running an unlicensed organization, inciting street children to join pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests and sexually assaulting minors. Hegazy’s brother Basel said that when the court-appointed technician failed to turn on a laptop that was confiscated from Belady’s headquarters, the Abdeen Criminal Court summoned a committee from Maspero to attend the next hearing. The committee would be required to present its report on the prosecution’s technical evidence on April 20. The trial has now been postponed five separate times, with Hegazy and the other female defendants held in pretrial detention for more than 600 days at Cairo’s Qanater Women’s Prison, while the male defendants are in custody at Tora Prison. [Mada Masr, 2/17/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Trial of 23 involved in 2013 ‘Maspero incident’ adjourned to February 20 | AMAY


Egypt to remove electricity subsidies by 2025

Egypt will reduce energy subsidies by 50 percent by 2020 and cancel electricity subsidies by 2025, according to the Electricity and Renewable Energy Ministry. The ministry has prepared a long-term strategy to provide electrical power until 2035, with investments of up to $135.3 billion. The strategy aims to increase the size of generated electricity starting in 2019 through power stations that use coal as fuel and through nuclear power stations. It also aims to strengthen Egypt’s electricity grid and improve connectivity. The reduction of subsidies would lessen the burden on the government budget and provide opportunities for economic growth. The Central Bank of Egypt said that the country’s economic growth slowed to 3 percent in the first three months of fiscal year 2015/16, down from 5.6 percent in the same period a year earlier. [AMAY, 2/17/2016]

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Campaign says conditions for imprisoned doctors worsened after Doctors’ Syndicate general assembly
A campaign calling for the release of Ahmed Saeed, a doctor detained since November 19, issued a statement saying that conditions for imprisoned doctors have worsened since the Doctors Syndicate issued a formal request to the Ministry of Interior to visit detained members. The Free Ahmed Saeed campaign issued a statement Tuesday describing the difficult conditions doctors face in detention, caling for Saeed, a vascular surgeon, to be transferred to a prison hospital due to his deteriorating health. Saeed’s family has also called for the detained doctor be immediately released from state-custody and decried his transfer to the maximum security prison, Aqrab, inside Tora Prison.  He was transferred to Al-Aqrab following the Doctors’ Syndicate’s general assembly held on February 12, in protest of assaults on doctors by security officials. At the assembly, the congress of doctors demanded the release of Saeed, Taher Mokhtar, Ibrahim al-Yamani, and other doctors who had been arrested on political charges. Saeed’s family issued a statement Wednesday saying they were turned away at Tora Prison. The family was not given a reason for not being able to visit Saeed. [DNE, 2/17/2016]

Also of Interest

  • AUC students, professors mourn death of Giulio Regeni amid concerns over academic freedom | Aswat Masriya
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Sisi says Egypt won’t hesitate to send forces to Gulf if needed
Egypt will not hesitate to send military forces into the territory of Arab Gulf allies to offer protection if asked by the leaders of those countries, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday. “The president made it clear that Egypt will not hesitate to send forces to brotherly Gulf counties to defend them if they face any direct threat or aggression,” the presidency said in a statement. Sisi made his comments at a briefing with Kuwaiti journalists on Wednesday. During the briefing, Sisi affirmed he would not interfere in Syria’s affairs, saying his country is working towards a political solution to end the more than four-year war. “Egypt does not interfere in the affairs of other countries…but it is capable of repelling any assault…on it or on its brothers,” Sisi was quoted as saying. [Ahram Online, Reuters, 2/18/2016]

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