Top News:  Four Journalists Sentenced to Prison for ‘Publishing False Information’

A Cairo Misdemeanor Court sentenced on Monday four journalists to three years in prison each on charges of ‘publishing false news’ and ‘membership in an illegal organization.’ In July 2015, security forces arrested the four journalists outside the Zeinhom morgue, Cairo’s main mortuary. Journalist Abu Bakr Khallaf, who heads an online media journalists union, and photojournalists Mohamed Adly, Sherif Ashraf, and Hamdy Mokhtar were arrested while taking photos and conducting interviews during autopsies on the corpses of nine members of the Muslim Brotherhood group. Nine Muslim Brotherhood leaders were killed by police in July, with conflicting reports on the conditions of their death. The Interior Ministry said they died in a security raid on an apartment in Cairo’s October 6 suburb, saying they were “plotting” to carry out “terrorist” attacks, and accused them of shooting at the police as the apartment was raided. The verdict is subject to appeal. [Aswat Masriya, 3/1/2016]


MPs accuse speaker of political bias over bylaw articles governing coalitions
After a stormy debate on the Egyptian parliament’s new internal by-laws on Monday, dozens of MPs affiliated with various political parties walked out of the chamber in protest against what they called “the monopolistic and unfair practices of speaker Ali Abdel Al.” Around 100 MPs accused Abdel Al of shaping the debate in a way that only serves the interests of the pro-government parliamentary bloc, In Support of Egypt. In a statement to reporters, the protesting MPs said it would be fruitless to participate in debates on the parliament’s internal by-laws as long as Abdel Al insists on taking politically biased stands. The statement accused Abdel Al of skewing the debate on articles 95, 96, and 97 – which regulate the formation of parliamentary blocs – to serve In Support of Egypt. They also charged that Abdel Al ensured that the Article 97 require that a parliamentary bloc include at least 25 percent of MPs in order to gain official recognition, rather than 20 per cent as was originally stipulated. “Changing the stipulation to 25 percent makes it hard for several political parties to form parliamentary blocs,” said the statement, adding that “even worse, Article 97 also stipulates that the members of each coalition must come from at least 15 governorates [out of a total 27], and that MPs are not allowed to be members of more than one bloc.” Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, an appointed MP and the head of the committee tasked with amending the internal by-laws to be in accordance with the new constitution, defended the text of Article 97. He argued that all the world’s parliaments stipulate a certain minimum requirement for blocs to be officially recognized. The proposal saw more than 330 MPs in favor, but the dissenting MPs said the vote could not have been correct as that number of MPs were not present at the time. Around 120 out of a total 440 articles of parliament’s new internal by-laws have been approved. [Ahram Online, 2/29/2016]

Justice Minister proposes legislation to penalize parents of terrorists
Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind announced a plan to amend Egypt’s anti-terrorism law to permit the prosecution of parents and guardians who allow youth under their care to leave home in order to join terrorist organizations. Zind made the remarks from Kuwait after discussions with Kuwaiti officials regarding bilateral efforts to improve counter-terrorism efforts. “Whoever leaves their son or anyone under their care without checking what he’s up to or his whereabouts is considered an accomplice in the crime,” he said. The change to Egypt’s anti-terrorism law would be accompanied by a similar change to anti-terrorism legislation in Kuwait, he added, with the amendments ratified by their respective parliaments. The proposed amendments are part of a broader deal agreed upon by the two nations to cooperate on anti-terrorism efforts. The new deal involves a range of legal and judicial measures in civil, trade, personal status, and penal matters. The minister said that changes to legislation that laid some responsibility on parents and guardians would allow them to have more control over youth under their care, thus making it more difficult for terrorist groups to recruit young people. [AMAY, 3/1/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Supreme Press Council reviews amendments on unified press bill | DNE
  • Egypt MP Okasha slams critics condemning his meeting with Israeli ambassador | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s PM says government to present program to parliament in March | Ahram Online, Reuters


Prosecution confirms that policeman killed Darb al-Ahmar driver deliberately
Prosecutors revealed the results of an investigation into the killing a taxi driver in the Darb al-Ahmar district in Cairo by a low-ranking policeman on February 19. The prosecution said the policemen, who was detained on February 20, deliberately shot the driver despite purported claims that he fired warning shots in the air. The prosecution summoned police officers for testimony, as well as Darb al-Ahmar residents who witnessed the incident. Prosecutors added that investigation results showed a consistency in the testimonies presented by nine eyewitnesses. [DNE, 2/29/2016]

Facebook admin sentenced to five years in jail for ‘inciting murder against police’
A Ismailia Misdemeanor Court sentenced Mohamed Magdy Ibrahim, an administrator of a pro-Muslim Brotherhood Facebook page, to five years in jail on Monday on charges of “inciting murder against police officers.” In May 2015, Ibrahim was arrested along with seven others who were later acquitted, after an officer at an Ismailia police station filed a report against him, accusing him of publishing threats to police officers and pictures of their families, inciting the page’s followers to kill them. The verdict is subject to appeal. [Ahram Online, 3/1/2016]

April 6 Coordinator sentenced to three years in jail
A Cairo Misdemeanor Court sentenced on Monday the coordinator of the April 6 Youth Movement Amr Ali to three years in prison and a fine of EGP 500 on charges of illegal protesting and joining a banned group. Ali, who was arrested from his home in September 2015, was elected as April 6 coordinator in October 2013, succeeding its founder and long-time coordinator Ahmed Maher. Maher is currently serving a three-year jail term on charges of illegal protesting. Three other defendants in the same trial received the same sentence in absentia. The April 6 movement condemned the verdict in a statement issued on its Facebook page on Tuesday. The verdict is subject to appeal. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 3/1/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Three Egyptian policemen detained on bribery charges | Ahram Online
  • Morsi supporter has life prison sentence slashed to six months after showing up | Ahram Online
  • ‘Raba’a operations room’ retrial postponed to March 7 | Aswat Masriya


Egypt’s debts climb to EGP 2.3 trillion
Egypt’s debts have reached EGP 2.3 trillion (about $293 billion), Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said Monday. He also said that the state’s general budget does not exceed EGP 864 billion. Egypt’s debt service cost is EGP 250 billion. Wages come to EGP 218 billion and subsidies cost EGP 230 billion, Ismail said. This leaves about EGP 164 billion only for health, education, housing, sanitation, and infrastructure. Ismail said the government and parliament need to work together to achieve development across all sectors. He said services must be provided at the appropriate cost in order to “guarantee their continuity.” Ismail also said in an interview Monday that Egypt’s tourism revenue has declined by roughly $1.3 billion the Russian plane crash in the Sinai in November. [Aswat Masriya, 2/29/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt cancels 5-year T-bond issue, 10-year bond yield jumps | Ahram Online
  • Nestle eyes Egypt growth despite dollar squeeze | Reuters
  • Egypt to build international tourism agency with Arab partners, private sector | AMAY
  • Tourism ministry not to accept applications for new tourism companies | Aswat Masriya
  • CBE Official says Egyptian expats contributed $19 million in remittances in 2015 | Cairo Post


Doctors Syndicate summons Health Minister for disciplinary action  
The Doctors Syndicate issued an official summon on Tuesday for Health Minister Ahmed Emad to be questioned by a disciplinary committee for “statements insulting all Egyptian doctors.” In early February, the Health Ministry said in a press statement that 8,000 of the 9,000 Egyptian doctors who graduate yearly are “unqualified.” The referral of the Health Minister comes in accordance with the measures decided upon in the syndicate’s latest emergency general assembly meeting, which thousands of doctors had attended on February 12 to protest police violations in public hospitals. Doctors Syndicate Assistant Secretary General Rashwan Shaaban said that in addition to remarks by the Health Minister in which he “discredited” doctors’ qualifications and criticized the syndicate’s board and emergency general assembly meeting, “The minister fell short of fulfilling his political and administrative responsibility toward the protection of doctors and hospitals amid the Matariya crisis.” Meanwhile, in an interview with state television, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the Doctors Syndicate should not have escalated their protest demands in response to the Matariya incident. “They [the injured parties] went to the police station and a note of conciliation was issued. That should have been the end of the matter,” Ismail said. He defended the Ministry of Interior’s stance saying the ministry “conducted an internal investigation with the policemen and their supervisors.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 3/1/2016]

Interior Ministry says jailed journalists to receive needed medical treatment
Egypt’s Press Syndicate was informed by the Interior Ministry that imprisoned journalists will receive all needed medical treatment, the head of the syndicate’s freedom committee Khaled al-Balshy said on Monday, hours after a strike was staged by journalists to protest the “mistreatment” of their jailed colleagues. Balshy said on his Facebook page that jailed journalists Youssef Shabaan and Hani Salah al-Din were taken to public hospitals to receive treatment, and that the Interior Ministry allowed the families of another two, Hisham Gaafar and Hossam al-Sayed, to visit them. Balshy also said that a meeting will soon take place with Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar. Meanwhile, several inmates at Cairo’s maximum-security Aqrab Prison have joined the open hunger strike staged by detained journalists demanding that prison officials follow the rule of law and halt ongoing abuses, according to a statement issued by their families on Monday. Among those joining the hunger strike are prominent Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Gehad al-Haddad, his father Essam al-Haddad, and Islamist leader Essam Sultan. [Ahram Online, AMAY, Mada Masr, DNE, 3/1/2016]


Forensics expert reportedly says Italian killed in Egypt was interrogated for days
According to Reuters, an Egyptian forensics official told the public prosecutor’s office the autopsy he conducted on Italian student Giulio Regeni showed he was interrogated for up to seven days before he was killed, two prosecution sources said. The prosecution sources said Hisham Abdel Hamid, Director of the Department of Forensic Medicine, gave his findings during questioning as an expert by officials in the public prosecutor’s office last week. “We asked Hisham Abdel Hamid to appear before the prosecutor’s office for questioning, to ask him questions about the autopsy,” an investigator in the prosecutor’s office told Reuters. “Abdel Hamid said during the questioning that the wounds on the body occurred over different intervals of between 10-14 hours. That means that whoever is accused of killing him was interrogating him for information.” Egypt’s state news agency, however, said Shaaban al-Shami, Assistant to the Justice Minister on Forensic Medical Affairs, denied Abdel Hamid was questioned by the public prosecutor’s office. Meanwhile, the Italian government-backed energy giant Eni has expressed confidence in Egyptian investigators who are examining Regeni’s case, in response to a call by Amnesty International for the company to put pressure on Egyptian authorities. In a letter to Amnesty dated February 12, Claudio Descalzi, Eni’s chief executive, said information he had received through informal contacts in Cairo showed that “competent authorities are putting in maximum effort to try to find answers” to Regeni’s murder. [Reuters, 3/1/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt signs military cooperation agreement with Cyprus | Ahram Online
  • 2,500 Egyptians to be given annual scholarships from Japan | Ahram Online
  • Sisi to Japanese Parliament: Egypt respects Japan’s civilization, contribution to world peace | Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr
  • Egypt-Korean Business Council to convene Thursday in South Korea | AMAY