Top News: Esraa al-Taweel Released for Medical Reasons After Seven Months Detention

Cairo Criminal Court ordered the release Saturday of Egyptian photographer Esraa al-Taweel after nearly seven months in detention pending trial. Judge Hassan Farid said Taweel was released because of her medical condition and her need for to receive treatment outside prison. He added that Taweel will be under police supervision and is not allowed to leave her home without police permission. She was released Saturday (video), and will be required to report at Bulaq police station once a week. Minutes before Taweel was released, her mother said, “I am thankful for her release, even though it is conditional. Esraa is much smaller than the charges given to her and I have faith she will be completely released in the upcoming session.” Local rights groups also welcomed Taweel’s release. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 12/20/2015]


Parties withdraw from pro-Sisi parliamentary bloc
A proposed government-aligned parliamentary bloc seeking a 400-member majority received a sudden blow as major member parties walked out. The Mostaqbal Watan party, which won 50 party-based seats, withdrew on Sunday without disclosing its reasons. Mostafa Bakry, a leading member of parliament with the Coalition to Support the Egyptian State, said Mostaqbal Watan’s decision is “a serious development that will have a negative impact on the coalition.” The Wafd Party, which won 45 seats, also said that 90 percent of its members were against joining the coalition, adding it was going to form its own bloc. The coalition is to be called al-Umma al-Masriya (The Egyptian Nation), however, the party has yet to define the ethos and constituting members of this tentative coalition. Sameh Seif al-Yazal, founder of the Coalition to Support the Egyptian State, and an ex-military intelligence general, had previously announced that Wafd, along with seven other parties, were joining the coalition. The Free Egyptians Party declared on Saturday that it would take “legal measures” against 10 members who joined the coalition in violation of the party’s decision to shun it. On Sunday, the party suspended a party member and said another five members would be called in for questioning over their attendance of a coalition meeting. Another rift emerged within the party, for apparently different reasons, with Osama al-Ghazaly Harb, the president of the board of trustees for the Free Egyptians Party, announcing his resignation from the party on Saturday without clarifying the reasons. The High Electoral Commission (HEC), meanwhile, announced on Friday the completion of parliamentary elections, after all seats in the House of Representatives were filled up. HEC head Ayman Abbas said a total of 13 candidates including nine independents and four party members won in the four constituencies where voting was repeated. This brings the total number of independent candidates in the upcoming parliament to 325, making up 52.2 percent of the House. Party members add up to 243 candidates, equivalent to 42.8 percent. [AMAY, 12/21/2015]

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    Brotherhood rifts widens as youth members appoint new general secretary | AMAY
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    Provinces with higher turnout contribute less to tax revenues | Aswat Masriya


    Freedom and Justice Party member arrested in Giza
    Police forces arrested former member of parliament and Freedom and Justice Party member Ahmed Mahmoud in Giza Saturday, according to the Ministry of Interior. The police said Homeland Security in Suez and Giza collaborated to arrest Mahmoud, who was hiding the district of Kerdasa. He was sentenced at the beginning of the year to 15 years in prison on charges of committing violence following the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal in 2013. The Suez Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated FJP Facebook page said in a statement Mahmoud was “kidnapped” by security forces and held the police responsible for his health. Meanwhile, the Port Said criminal court sentenced on Sunday 17 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi to three years in prison for storming the al-Arab Police Station in the coastal governorate in August 2013. Two other defendants, tried in absentia, were sentenced to life in prison. [DNE, Ahram Online, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 12/20/2015]

    Lawyer launches complaint against ‘executions judge’ over biased political comments
    A lawyer has submitted an official complaint to the Supreme Judicial Council against a senior judge, accusing him of voicing personal political views during a press interview a week ago, including views on people detained pending judicial measures. Lawyer Taha Abdel Galil said Mohamed Nagi Shehata, the head of the Giza Criminal Court, renounced his impartiality as a judge and expressed personal, negative views of political movements, including the April 6 Youth Movement, and media figures in an interview with privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper. In the interview, Shehata, popularly referred to as the “executions judge” for handing multiple death sentences to Muslim Brotherhood supporters, described the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak as a “loss.” Abdel Galil contended that such an opinion “exposed a strong hatred and an egregious bias” against the uprising recognized by the Egyptian Constitution. Shehata has reportedly denied doing the interview, while the newspaper says the interview was recorded. [AMAY, 12/20/2015]

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    • NGO sues for right to broadcast parliamentary sessions | Egypt Independent, Mada Masr
      Egyptian court orders disclosure of details for government settlements with investors | Ahram Online
      Postponement of proceedings in trial for Alaa and Gamal Mubarak | DNE
      ‘Al-Fath Mosque’ mass-trial postponed to January 9 | DNE


      World Bank agrees to new $5 billion loan package to Egypt
      The World Bank has agreed to a new $5 billion loan package to Egypt, International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr announced during an event where Prime Minister Sherif Ismail signed for the first tranche of a $3 billion loan to the country. The World Bank will loan Egypt $8 billion overall in a series of payments, Nasr said. The first tranche of the loan, amounting to $1 billion, will be delivered to Egypt before the year’s end, while the remaining amounts will be disbursed over the next three years, she added. Egypt also signed a loan agreement worth $150 million with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development on Sunday, state news agency MENA reported. The money will be used to fund an Egyptian sewage project in Giza. [Ahram Online, 12/20/2015]

      Fitch affirms Egypt’s ‘B’ rating, Dimian responds that economy is ‘resilient’
      The Egyptian economy is showing resilience in the face of international, regional, and national challenges, Minister of Finance Hany Dimian said Saturday in response to the “B” rating Fitch agency gave Egypt. Fitch affirmed Friday Egypt’s long-term foreign, local currency issue default ratings (IDR), and senior unsecured foreign and local currency bonds at a B rating, stating that the outlook is “stable.” The agency said, “The Country Ceiling has been affirmed at ‘B’ and the Short-term foreign currency IDR at ‘B’.” Dimian said the continuation of applying financial and economic reforms, which was initiated by the government last year, is necessary. The agency discussed the drop in the budget deficit from 17.6 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal year (FY) 2014 to 12.5 percent of GDP in FY 2015, highlighting that a further reduction can be anticipated in the current fiscal year. “However the introduction of VAT [value-added tax], the largest single revenue-raising measure, has been delayed,” the agency said, noting that it “expects fiscal consolidation throughout the forecast period, but with savings partially offset by higher social spending and spending commitments in the new constitution the deficit is forecast to remain high.” [DNE, 12/19/2015]

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      • Egypt’s trade deficit registered 22 percent decline year-on-year in September | Ahram Online
        Egyptian pound steady at forex sale and on black market | Reuters
        Egyptian banks to finance new Siemens power plants with EGP10 billion | Ahram Online
        Saudi businessman reportedly in talks with Egypt over $4 billion Sharm tourism project | Reuters
        Egypt proposes Sinai development projects to Arab institutions | DNE
        Libya’s eastern oil company says signs shipment deal with Egypt | Reuters
        Egypt’s 5-year, 10-year treasury bonds steady at auction | Reuters
        Egypt stocks continues to rise | Reuters
        Egypt to launch campaign to attract Arab Gulf tourists | Ahram Online


        Egypt’s journalists’ syndicate votes for disciplinary action against Ahmed Moussa
        The Journalists Syndicate voted unanimously on Saturday to take punitive measures against controversial television host Ahmed Moussa and to open an internal investigation into his journalistic practices. “The syndicate has discussed the complaints lodged by director Khaled Youssef, head of the filmmakers’ syndicate Mossad Fouda, producer Mohamed al-Adl, and more than 57 journalists against Moussa’s violation of the journalist’s code of ethics, the profession itself, and the inviolability of private life,” a statement by the syndicate read. Following the syndicate’s announcement, Moussa offered an apology to Youssef for airing photos allegedly showing the newly elected parliamentarian with a naked woman. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, 12/20/2015]

        Ministry revokes Borhamy’s preaching permit
        The Alexandrian office of the Ministry of Religious Endowments, announced Saturday the suspension of the preaching permit of Yasser al-Borhamy, deputy of the Salafi Call in Alexandria, prohibiting him from preaching. Borhamy’s preaching permit expired on Saturday, and the ministry refused to renew it. Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments in Alexandria Abdel Nasser Nassim said in a statement that the decision came in response to an assault on another Alexandrian Imam on Friday. A Salafi group physically assaulted the Imam and prevented him from giving the Friday sermon. Nassim contended that intimidation by Salafis, as well as inciting chaos in mosques, makes them no different from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Nassim added that the banning of Salafi religious activities will be followed by further restrictions and precautions, as they represent a major danger to Muslims. [DNE, 12/20/2015]

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        • Long time labor activist Abu-Eita defends himself against corruption allegations | Ahram Online, AMAY
          Apartment building collapses in Egypt’s Assiut, killing two | Ahram Online
          School official in Ismailia sacked for inviting poet Hisham al-Gakh to event | DNE
          New health insurance bill should cover all citizens, diseases says EIPR | DNE
          Ahead of visit from NCHR, family complaints in al-Aqrab prison continue | DNE


          New reshuffle hits National Security apparatus
          Egyptian Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar announced Saturday a reshuffle within the ministry extending to promotions, transfers, and dismissals of various officers. Changes also took place inside the ministry’s influential and controversial National Security apparatus, promoting General Mahmoud Shaarawi to the position of Deputy Minister of Interior for National Security. Shaarawi is also one of the apparatus’s most active personnel in the field of “combating fundamentalist activity.” He is known to have led a security campaign against the “Arab Sharkas” militant cell last year. The reshuffle also included personnel from the Officers’ Affairs, Financial Affairs, National Security, Economic Security departments, as well as different security directorates in Alexandria, East Delta, Upper Egypt, Giza, Minya, Sharqiya, and Suez. However, the Interior Minister’s media relations assistant Major General Abu Bakr Abdel Karim said Sunday that the reshuffle is “normal” and that “the former officials performed efficiently.” [DNE, 12/20/2015]

          Detainees released from Azouli military prison in Ismailia
          Egyptian security forces released 25 people hailing from Sinai on Saturday after it was “proven” that they were not involved in any “terrorist acts or criminal cases,” state news agency MENA said. Their release is part of a recent decision by security forces to release detainees from Sinai and brings the total number of people released from different cities in North Sinai to 107. Sheikh Khaled Arafat, a member of the Nasserist Karama Party in North Sinai, however told Daily News Egypt, their release is part of a recently adopted ‘temporary release’ plan implemented by security forces. The plan aims to release detainees from Sinai and monitor their activities and movements for a particular number of months in order to confirm their innocence. The defendants were all affiliated with Salafist and extremist groups, and the majority participated in demonstrations supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, according to Arafat. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, 12/20/2015]

          Also of Interest
          Ministry of Interior authorizes exceptional visit for prisoners amid continued criticism | DNE
          Bomb explodes near Egypt’s North Sinai Swiss Inn, no casualties reported | Ahram Online
          Three minor explosions hit North Sinai, no casualties reported | Ahram Online
          North Sinai deputy security head survives bombing | AMAY


          Egypt condemns European resolution demanding release of Egyptian-Irish inmate
          Egypt rejected a European Parliament resolution calling for the immediate release of Egyptian-Irish prisoner Ibrahim Halawa, which Egypt described as an “unacceptable infringement on the independence of the Egyptian judiciary.” In a statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Friday, spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said that the European Parliament resolution issued on Thursday contains false information. The resolution, which was put forward by Irish MEPs and states that Halawa could face the death penalty in Egypt, passed by 566 votes to 11. However, Abu Zeid denied that Halawa could face the death penalty since at the time of his arrest he was under the age of 18, and according to Egyptian law, minors cannot be sentenced to death. The statement also condemned the European parliament resolution for claiming the inmate was subjected to torture inside Egyptian prisons, describing it as “another baseless accusation, which can be disproved.” The statement added, “A number of Irish officials and parliamentarians have visited him in order to affirm that there is no truth to such allegations.” [Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Mada Masr, 12/18/2015]

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            Egypt’s defense minister meets with Canadian counterpart | Ahram Online, DNE
            Egypt describes unrest in Ethiopia as “internal” affair, hopes for stability | Aswat Masriya