Top News: HEC Approves Foreign, Local Organizations to Monitor Parliamentary Elections

Khalid Sultan, head of the Solidarity Ministry’s Central Administration of NGOs, said that forty-five NGOs received approvals to monitor the parliamentary elections after they fulfilled conditions set by the ministry. The conditions stipulate that the founding purpose of the NGO must be to monitor elections or support democracy and human rights, that it should exercise this activity without interruption and ensure that no administrative or financial irregularities are committed during the process. Foreign NGOs interested in monitoring the elections should apply at the High Elections Committee (HEC), he added. The HEC, meanwhile, reportedly accepted applications from eighty-one local civil society organizations and six foreign organizations to monitor the elections. Only five of the foreign organizations and sixty-three of the local organizations have been named. Democracy International, Global Network For Rights And Development, International Institute for Peace and Justice and Human Rights, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, and the Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development, are among the international organizations listed on the HEC’s official website. Together, the five organizations have been granted 790 observers. Local organizations include Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. [Egypt Independent, 8/21/2015]

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Morsi Qatar trial postponed to August 22
Cairo Criminal Court postponed the trial of former President Mohamed Morsi and ten other defendants to August 22, Aswat Masriya reported. The trial was postponed in order to hear the testimony of the former head of General Intelligence, General Raafat Shehata. Morsi and the other defendants are accused of leaking classified government information to Qatar. The classified documents allegedly include information on general and military intelligence, the armed forces, its armaments and the state’s policy secrets. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 8/21/2015]

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Egypt seeks LNG cargoes via Jordan
Egypt is seeking liquefied natural gas (LNG) via Jordan as the two countries boost LNG imports following the recent installation of floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs). Egyptian state-owned gas company EGAS is seeking four LNG cargoes for delivery to Jordan’s Aqaba gas terminal, which will then be piped to Egypt. EGAS has reportedly approached existing suppliers for two cargoes to be delivered in September and two in October. Egypt and Jordan are linked by the Arab Gas Pipeline, which was built originally for exports flows from Egypt. However, numerous attacks on the pipeline have disrupted operations and a lack of investment in Egypt’s energy industry have transformed the country into a net importer of energy. [Reuters, 8/21/2015]

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Thursday meeting to discuss escalation against civil service law
A number of independent trade unions and employees at several government agencies convened on Thursday at the Doctors’ Syndicate to discuss escalation against a controversial law regulating government employee benefits. Prior to the meeting, the protesting workers said they would discuss efforts to form “a unified front” against the law after their recent meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab yielded no positive results. However, members of the Tax Authority worker’s union said they will meet with Mahlab in the next two weeks to discuss further improvements to the law.  [Egypt Independent, 8/21/2015]  

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Arrested lawyer absent from police media report amid ‘forced disappearance’ claims
A lawyer has reportedly been forcibly disappeared after he was arrested at his house in the city of Belbees in Sharqeya on Tuesday. Lawyer Abdel Aziz Youssef’s family claimed they were not informed of his whereabouts or why he was taken. Youssef’s brother told Daily News Egypt that, at around 3 am, security forces knocked on their door asking for Abdel Aziz. He said the police did not use force or search the house. When the family asked why Abdel Aziz was wanted, the police replied: “He knows what he did.” So far, information on Abdel Aziz Youssef’s location is still lacking. His brother claimed they filed a complaint at the Prosecutor General’s office, and they are also waiting for a decision by the Lawyers’ Syndicate. Other lawyers also attempted to follow up on the situation and informed the family that Youssef will probably be questioned by prosecution authorities Wednesday and that he is allegedly facing protest charges. [DNE, 8/19/2015]

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Egyptian army figures respond to reports that US is reconsidering its presence in Sinai
After the Associated Press reported Wednesday that United States peacekeeping forces are potentially considering pulling out of the turbulent Sinai Peninsula, sources from the Egyptian military voiced their anger and skepticism about the move. Such a withdrawal would be “irrational,” and the threat is an attempt to “twist Egypt’s arm,” Major General Adel al-Omda, a member of the Council for Foreign Affairs, told the privately owned newspaper Al-Watan. Omda told Al-Watan that the American threats “contradict the peace treaty [between Egypt and Israel] and would lead to its cancellation.” Technically, however, the US would not be in violation of the treaty by withdrawing—the accord does allow the US to temporarily withdraw their forces in cases of extreme emergency. General Talaat Mosallam agreed with Omda’s analysis, arguing that whether the US wanted to withdraw from Sinai or reinforce its troops in Egypt, US authorities would first have to consult both Egypt and Israel. A senior Israeli defense official also rejected the reports as untrue. “The US is committed to this peace agreement by law and also in a deep way,” Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security branch, said in an interview on Army Radio. He said that nobody has been hurt serving in the Sinai peace force and it has been accepted by Israel, Egypt, and the United States. Gilad added that it was recently agreed to increase the force’s budget. [Mada Masr, 8/21/2015]

Palestinians kidnapped in Sinai said to be Hamas militants
Four Palestinians kidnapped in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula are said to belong to Hamas’ armed wing, sources close to the Palestinian group and Egyptian security officials said. Hamas warned in a statement that the abductions could strain ties with Egypt, which faces a serious security challenge from Islamist militants. “The graveness of such an incident was that it was the first of its kind and it breaks all diplomatic and security norms of the state of Egypt,” said the group, which called on the authorities to quickly apprehend the kidnappers. “We urge the Egyptian interior ministry to secure the lives of the kidnapped passengers and free them,” Gaza interior ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bazom said, adding that the bus was being escorted by Egyptian soldiers. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident. [Reuters, 8/20/2015]

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