Top News: Five Protesters Arrested in Mohamed Mahmoud Anniversary Commemoration

Five people were arrested for demonstrating on the October 6 Bridge on Thursday afternoon to mark the deadly clashes between protesters and security forces that broke out on Mohamed Mahmoud Street on November 19 four years ago. A group of protesters stood along the bridge holding signs that called for the rights of the martyrs and the release of those detained. Details of the arrests were not available at the time of publishing, but the Freedom for the Brave Facebook page said the detained protesters were being interrogated by national security forces at the Qasr al-Nil police station in Cairo’s Garden City neighborhood. [DNE, Mada Masr, 11/19/2015]


Foreign Ministry gears up for second round of parliamentary elections
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has finished preparations for Egyptians expatriates to vote in the second round of parliamentary elections due to be held on Saturday and Sunday in 104 constituencies. The ministry coordinated with the High Elections Committee (HEC), the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, and the Ministry of Planning, Monitoring and Administrative Reform to test the electronic system through which Egyptian expatriates will cast their ballots. Meanwhile, the HEC called on anyone who has evidence of violations parliamentary candidates committed during the campaigning period to submit their complaints to the HEC. A parliamentary candidate in Ismailia and two of his friends were referred to the prosecution Thursday for fabricating the abduction of his son. Yassin Mohamed alleged he received a phone call with an ultimatum, and the abductors demanded a ransom of 500,000 EGP ($63,800) or that he withdraw from the parliamentary race. Investigations revealed that the defendants allegedly staged the kidnapping to gain voters’ sympathy, according to the police. [SIS, 11/20/2015]


Sisi calls on Arab justice ministers to form ‘unified judicial system’
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received on Thursday visiting justice ministers from several Arab states, Al Masry Al Youm reported. During the meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Alaa Youssef said that Sisi stressed the importance of enhancing Arab legal and judicial cooperation and spoke of the “dire need to establish a unified judicial system” among the Arab countries. Sisi also called for the implementation of judicial agreements in relation to fighting terrorism, and called for accelerating legal procedures to restore the looted assets of Arab nations currently in banks overseas. According to state run news agency MENA, the presidential spokesman said that the Arab justice ministers reaffirmed Egypt as the foundation for the stability and security in the Arab world and that they trusted in Egypt’s ability to overcome the current challenges it faces, and lauded the role of the Egyptian judiciary in developing the legislative structure for Arab countries in the past decades. [Cairo Post, MENA, 11/20/2015]

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Egypt, Russia sign Dabaa nuclear plant deal
Russia on Thursday signed an agreement with Egypt to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. Russia also agreed to extend a loan to Egypt to cover the cost of construction. A spokesman for Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom said the plant will be built at Dabaa in the north of the country and is expected to be completed by 2022. It is unclear how much the deal is worth, but President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the loan from Russia would be paid off over thirty-five years. Sisi said that the new power plant will consist of “four third-generation reactors,” describing them as the most up-to-date reactors that have been innovated, stressing that the highest safety standards will be used in the construction of the plant.  He also said, “The country and the balance sheet will not bear the cost of building this plant. It will be paid back through the actual production of electricity that will be generated by this plant.” Sergey Kiriyenko, Rosatom head said, “The Dabaa nuclear plant will be the largest Russian-Egyptian project since the Aswan dam,” adding, “It will mark a truly new chapter in the history of our bilateral relations.” Kiriyenko also said that “the plant will make Egypt the regional leader in the field of nuclear technologies and the only country in the region that will have a third-generation plant,” Meanwhile, a total of EGP 360 million ($45.9 million) will reportedly be dispensed in compensation for the expropriation of 12,000 acres to establish the nuclear power plant. Medhat Kamal, head of the Egyptian Survey Authority (ESA) said that the money will be used to compensate the owners with EGP 30,000 for every acre of land, an amount estimated by the Electricity Ministry and other authorities to be “fair compensation.” [Ahram Online, DW, DNE, Reuters, SIS, 11/20/2015]

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Journalists at Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk launch strike over delayed salaries
Privately owned Egyptian newspaper al-Shorouk did not release its first edition on Friday, instead releasing a truncated version of its second Friday edition, after the majority of its staff began a strike over delayed salaries, a source within the paper told Ahram Online. The issue and articles were published mostly from news agencies and without journalists’ bylines, and did not include the usual editorial header which gives the name of the editorial staff. At a meeting of the paper’s internal general assembly on Wednesday, journalists decided to start a strike due to a delay in payments of salaries. “The owners of the paper need to give us their final say over two main things: When are we expected to receive the remaining amount of October’s salaries? And also when are we expected to receive the outstanding amount of past months salaries?” a striking al-Shorouk journalist told Ahram Online, on condition of anonymity. According to the journalist, for almost two years all employees of the paper have been receiving their monthly salaries in instalments, with the situation worsening in April of this year when some instalments were not paid. [Ahram Online, 11/20/2015]

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CIC student abducted by gunmen says student union
The Canadian International College (CIC) student union said in a statement Friday on its Facebook page that a student at the university was abducted by gunmen. The statement read, “We confirm that Canadian International College (CIC) Faculty of Engineering third year student Seif Ismail has been abducted…from outside the university’s gate by unidentified gunmen.”  Ismail’s friends were beaten and college security personnel did not interfere despite being present, according to the statement.  Those who attempted to rescue Ismail were threatened with guns, according to the student union. The abductors threatened the students trying to help Ismail with a gun and yelled: “Back off! State Security!” [Egypt Independent, 11/20/2015]

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Sisi says security at airports being revised; Germany, UK willing to cooperate
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Thursday that his country has taken many steps to boost security at ports of entry following the October 31 crash of a Russian airliner and vowed to not stop until all security loopholes are closed. Sisi’s comments came as ambassadors from Germany and the UK met with Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal to discuss cooperative measures to increase the security of Egyptian airports.  Meanwhile, several measures have already been put in place. The Egyptian Holding Airport and Air Navigation Company activated a security check plan in airports nationwide at a cost of EGP 175 million. The plan involves renewing and replacing airport radiation scanners for passengers, cargo, luggage, parcels, and vehicles. EgyptAir is also reportedly allowing passengers on flights bound for the United States and Canada to carry checked baggage only, and they will no longer be allowed to check “giant” cargo. The Customs Authority also confiscated eleven watches equipped with cameras from an Egyptian passenger at Cairo Airport Thursday. The watches are banned in Egypt because it is said they could be used to harm national security. [AP, 11/20/2015]

Russian investigative team arrives in Cairo to probe Sinai plane crash
A Russian investigation team arrived in Cairo late Thursday to resume a probe into the causes of a Russian passenger plane that crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula at the end of October. Sources from Cairo International Airport said the eighteen expert team, which arrived via private plane, is scheduled to start investigations Friday. The team includes aviation experts from the Russian government and the company which manufactured the plane, the sources added. Meanwhile, explosives experts have weighed in on a photo published by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) of what it says is the improvised explosive used to bring down the plane. Explosives expert Alaa Abdel Zaher said that something as simple as opening the window of a plane can be enough to destroy it because of the pressure, “let alone one kilogram of TNT.” Abdel Zaher, however, doubted that it is possible to pass that amount of TNT onto a plane, “but 200 ml of a liquid explosive material with the same effect as the TNT, can do it,” he added. Levantine Group member and security analyst Michael Horowitz told Aswat Masriya he believed it was possible for the explosive device seen in the picture to have caused the crash, as liquid or plastic explosives could easily fit in a soda can. He said that the careful placement of  explosives, “especially near a weak point inside the plane such as the tail for instance, could lead to a crash as the pilot loses control over the plane” which is the main reason why passengers are not allowed liquids on board. Horowitz explained that the saboteur may not necessarily have been on board and that the device could have been smuggled by an airport employee. Speaking to Reuters, Jimmie Oxley, a professor of chemistry who specializes in explosives at the University of Rhode Island, drew parallels with the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which investigations showed was carried out with a palm-sized explosive in a cassette recorder in a bag in the luggage hold that ripped a 50 centimeter hole in the fuselage, explaining that the decompression caused the midair breakup of the plane. [Cairo Post, 11/20/2015]

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