Top News: German Think Tank Pulling out of Egypt over Restrictions

A well-known German think tank says it is moving its Mideast operations out of Egypt, maintaining that ever-stricter government restrictions have made it impossible to carry out its work. Wolfgang Gerhardt, chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which has links to Germany’s Free Democratic Party, told the dpa news agency Wednesday the he was moving the organization’s operations to Amman, Jordan.  Gerhardt said “since today every political seminar, every conference that we organize with our Egyptian partners is misunderstood as a possible threat to the internal security of Egypt. We have no basis to operate.” [AP, 1/20/2016]


MP Khaled Youssef calls for amending protest law; Video reveals MP voting for absent colleagues
Film director and MP Khaled Youssef called Wednesday for amending the law regulating protests, describing it as “unconstitutional and the cause behind the unjust detention of many youth.” The law regulating protests is not among the laws being discussed by the House of Representatives as it was issued before the approval of the 2014 Constitution, Youssef said Tuesday in an interview on OnTV Channel. The state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights has stressed the unconstitutionality of the law and introduced 14 amendments to it, he added. Meanwhile, videos of members of parliament abusing the electronic voting system to cast ballots on behalf of colleagues circulated on Tuesday, in the latest of several embarrassing scenes that have cast doubt on the performance of Egypt’s new parliament in its first few weeks in session. The electronic voting system, which was activated for the first time in the history of Egypt’s parliament last Sunday, works with a smart card that every member inserts into a voting unit to confirm their identity before casting their vote. However, the system did not account for members who leave their cards plugged in and leave the room. [Egypt Independent, 1/20/2016]

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  • Cabinet signs off on deal with company previously convicted of bribing Egyptian officials | Mada Masr


Egypt courts acquit 29 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters
Two Egyptian courts acquitted 29 alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters charged with inciting violence on Tuesday. Twenty-two of the defendants were charged with inciting violence and damaging public and private property in Suez during events that date back to 2014, when clashes broke out between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and citizens. Out of the 22, 11 were in prison and 11 are at large. A Giza court also acquitted seven alleged Muslim Brotherhood supporters charged with inciting violence. [Aswat Masriya, 1/19/2016]

Egyptian court upholds niqab ban for professors at Cairo University
Egypt’s Administrative Court rejected Tuesday lawsuits filed against Cairo University President Gaber Nassar’s decision banning fully-veiled women from becoming teaching staff members. Lawyer Ahmed Mahran, who represents 80 researchers who wear the niqab, had filed four lawsuits against Nassar on the grounds that the October decision was unconstitutional. Nassar welcomed the court’s rejection of the lawsuits and told Aswat Masriya, “We still have another phase before the Supreme Administrative Court.” He expressed his hope to win it.  Nassar added that all his decisions are in the public interest and will also benefit the university and the educational process. In a separate incident, the Dean of Applied Arts at Banha University was referred to investigation after reportedly harassing a female student wearing the niqab and forcing her to remove it. According to the Vice President of the Student Union, Khaled Naeem, Dean Yassir Sohail harassed the female student on multiple occasions for wearing the niqab, and subsequently reported students who wrote about it on Facebook. Naeem asserted that the student union would follow up on the investigation against Sohail and would offer support to other affected students. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 1/19/2016]

Egypt prosecutor issues media gag order on corruption watchdog claims
Egypt’s top prosecutor issued on Wednesday a media gag order regarding the corruption allegations made by the head of the country’s main corruption watchdog organization. Prosecutors are investigating recent claims by Hisham Geneina, the head of the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), that corruption within government institutions has cost the Egyptian treasury over EGP600 billion in four years. On Wednesday, a statement by the prosecutor-general’s office said the gag order will remain in place until the investigation into the case is complete. The parliament is set to investigate the allegations next week after a number of MPs accused Geneina of misleading the public and demanded a fact-finding committee be formed to look into the issue. [Ahram Online, 1/20/2016]

Also of Interest:

  • Court will hear Kerdasa mass death sentences appeal February 3 | Cairo Post


BP remains ambitious on gas in Egypt, despite weak oil prices
British Petroleum (BP) aims to double natural gas production in Egypt over the next four years despite weak oil prices. Egypt is attempting to ramp up oil and gas production by signing exploration contracts, renegotiating production prices, and lobbying companies to speed up projects scale back. Through joint ventures with Italy’s Eni and the Egyptian government, BP currently produces 10 percent of Egypt’s oil production and 30 percent of its gas. The company says it has no intention of backtracking on its pledge to speed up production at recent discoveries.”BP’s plan is to double our gas production in Egypt, before the end of this decade,” BP North Africa Regional President Hesham Mekawi said. BP currently produces around 1.4-1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day in Egypt. Mekawi said Egypt’s energy sector growth could allow the country to become a regional hub. Egypt “has all the fundamentals – infrastructure, facilities, location…to be used both for the domestic market, which is huge, and for export,” he added. [Reuters, 1/29/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt tourism revenues down 15 percent in 2015 on back of security, currency woes | Ahram Online
  • Egypt stocks plunge over 5 percent as oil price slide riles global equities | Ahram Online


Ashraf Shehata’s defense lawyer calls on NCHR to officially investigate his disappearance
The defense lawyer for a Dostour Party member who has been missing since January 2014 called on the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to open an official investigation into his case. “We know through informal sources that [Ashraf] Shehata is detained but there is nothing confirmed about his case; many former detainees said they saw him,” Haleem Henish, a lawyer at the Association of Freedom and Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Daily News Egypt Tuesday. During their meetings with Interior Ministry Deputy for Communication Abo Bakr Abdel Kareem, he told them that they will search for him. However, Henish said they are dealing with the case as a missing person, not as a detainee. Meanwhile, Famous Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef launched a campaign ahead of the fifth anniversary of the January 25 revolution on Twitter to shed light on cases of forced disappearance in Egypt. Youssef used a hashtag that went viral on social networking websites, “I participated in the January revolution,” to launch his campaign. “A hashtag I hope we use in a different way to remember the people who have been imprisoned because of the revolution,” he wrote using  the popular hashtag, #I_participated_in_the_January_revolution. [DNE, 1/19/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Massive aquifer discovered in west Minya, could last for over 100 years | AMAY
  • CAPMAS: 40 percent of emigrants leave Egypt to improve living conditions, 13 percent to find jobs | DNE


One officer, two conscripts injured in Sinai explosion
A police officer and two conscripts were injured on Tuesday afternoon when an IED detonated in al-Arish in North Sinai, state-owned agency MENA reported. The Ministry of Interior stated that the IED detonated beside the international highway in the city, while an armored security vehicle was nearby. The injured were transferred to hospital to receive treatment, the ministry said. Security forces are currently investigating the incident. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 1/20/2016]


Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Egypt visit aims to strengthen strategic, economic ties
Chinese President Xi Jinping is starting his two-day visit to Egypt on Wednesday, discussing bilateral ties and regional matters with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. His visit comes as part of a 10-day tour in the Middle East which includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two presidents will meet for talks on Wednesday. According to Minister Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Cairo QI Qianjin‏, Egypt and China plan to sign cooperation agreements worth $10 billion during the visit. Also on Wednesday, Xi will address the newly elected Egyptian House of Representatives, according to the parliament’s speaker, Ali Abdel-Aal. “By paying this visit, I think the Chinese president wants to send a message to the world that China is supporting Egypt and wants to build a strategic relationship with it at all levels,” said Abdel-Al. Xi is the first foreign official to visit the House of Representatives. He will also give a speech directed to the Arab world at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, which will set out China’s policy towards the Middle East, and its desire to support peace and development in the region. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 1/19/2016]

British, Russian top officials in Cairo to discuss aviation security
British Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon arrived in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss “progress on aviation security in Sharm al Sheikh” with Egyptian officials, a statement by the British embassy read. Lord Ahmad, who has dual responsibility for aviation security in the Department for Transport and for countering extremism in the Home Office, met with a number of ministers to discuss ways to counter terrorism. “We are working side-by-side with Egypt on improving aviation security and we appreciate all the efforts made so far,” says Lord Ahmad. According to the statement, Lord Ahmad met with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal, Endowments Minister Mohamed Gomaa, and Transportation Minister Saad al-Geyoushi. Meanwhile, a Russian delegation arrived on Tuesday to Cairo international airport to check on security measures inside the airport, Al-Ahram daily newspaper reported. Their visit coincides with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov’s arrival in Cairo in a visit to discuss cooperation and regional issues with Egyptian officials. [Ahram Online, 1/20/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Sisi meets Iraqi Defense Minister | SIS, Cairo Post
  • Sudan: we ‘will never relinquish’ land disputed with Egypt | AP