Top News: Human Rights Remain in Crisis in Egypt says HRW in Annual Report

Human Rights Watch said in its annual review on Wednesday that human rights remained in crisis in Egypt in 2015. In the introduction to the review of over 90 countries, HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote “the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East…led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security.” While HRW acknowledged that the “threat to Egypt’s security is real,” particularly in troubled North Sinai, the rights group said that Egyptian “authorities have used torture, disappeared scores of citizens, banned many others from travel, and possibly committed extrajudicial killings.” HRW’s Deputy Middle East Nadim Houry believes the response of Egyptian authorities to security threats has led to “oppressive excesses,” stating that “Sisi’s administration has made it clear that dissenting opinions will be crushed, whether by threats or force.” Houry warned, “Egypt’s government should learn from the country’s own decades-long experience that grinding oppression can plant seeds for future upheaval.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/28/2016]


Egypt’s parliament releases Whatsapp number to receive messages from public
Egyptians have sent around 5,000 Whatsapp messages of suggestions and grievances to the country’s newly-elected parliament in the first days following the release of the number. On Saturday, the parliament’s Secretary General provided a new phone number specifically for the messaging service to receive messages from citizens with the aim of “boosting communication with the public…and bolstering the parliament’s transparency.” In the first two days after the service was launched, the chamber received 3,629 messages that have mainly addressed legislative and supervisory issues as well as social grievances, the parliament said on its official website. Over 1,000 messages were sent on the third day, it said on Wednesday. [Ahram Online, 1/28/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt drops one point in global corruption index | AMAY


Prosecution appeals release of Mubarak’s sons
Cairo prosecutors appealed on Wednesday the decision by the Court of Cassation to release from prison the two sons of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, demanding their return to prison to complete their sentence. Former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons were convicted in May 2014 of squandering EGP125 million in state funds to renovate their residential properties. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in prison, while both sons were sentenced to four years and a fine of EGP125 million. An appeals court upheld sentences against them earlier this month. A criminal court decided to release Alaa and Gamal last October, on the basis that their time served in prison covered the sentences handed down to them in the case. Wednesday’s appeal, however, claimed that there had been a miscalculation. The Prosecution said that the pair still have to serve an additional eight months in prison. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 1/27/2016]

Charges lifted for 73 Interior Ministry officials in illicit gains case
A judge dismissed corruption charges against 73 Ministry of Interior officials on Thursday, who were accused of illicit gains under Mubarak-era interior minister Habib al-Adly. In August 2015, the judge, who represents the prosecution in this case, referred Adly and 12 other officials in the ministry to criminal court. The defendants are accused of using their influence to acquire illicit gains amounting to EGP1 billion (close to $128 million) when Adly served as minister of interior. The 73 defendants, some of them former defendants and others still serving in their posts, were acquitted of the charges after paying back the money they had obtained through the treasury, according to the judge’s statement.  The defendants said in the investigations that the funds were “monthly incentives” granted by the minister as a reward for their “extraordinary efforts.”  Thursday’s decision also lifted a travel ban for another 90 defendants, among them 17 civilian officials from state institutions including the ministries of finance and transportation, and the Central Auditing Agency (CAO). [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 1/28/2016]

Naout appeals prison verdict in blasphemy case
Columnist and former parliamentary candidate Fatima Naout appealed a Tuesday court verdict sentencing her to three years in prison over charges of religious contempt. Her defense lawyer, Sherif Adeeb, clarified in TV statements that she paid EGP 20,000 to be released on bail. “I am not sad that I would go to prison for three years over a Facebook post,” Naoot wrote in comments following the verdict on her personal social media account. Naoot said writers live in a voluntary prison their whole lives. “Prison does not terrify me so long as I have a bunch of books and fields of imagination,” she said, adding that during prison she will have more for reflection, writing and creativity.  The author of 21 books said what really saddens her is the “waste of centuries of enlightenment.”  The writer and former parliamentary candidate received wide support from intellectuals, TV hosts, and defenders of freedom of speech such as former Culture Minister Gaber Asfour, famous presenter Mofeed Fawzy, reputable Islamic professor Amna Nosseir, film director Khaled Youssef, and others. [DNE, Aswat Masriya, AMAY, 1/27/2016]

Also of Interest:

  • Justice Minister expects reconciliation with Hussein Salem, others in return for EGP10 billion | AMAY
  • Egypt’s top auditor faces backlash over corruption findings | AP
  • Court adjourns trial of April 6 coordinator Amr Ali to February 1 | Ahram Online, DNE
  • AMAY co-founder repaid every penny of government dues, says minister | AMAY
  • Two policemen to be tried after taking bribe from drug dealer | Cairo Post


Egypt’s budget deficit up to 4.9 percent from July to November
Egypt’s budget deficit edged up to 4.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first five months of the current fiscal year, compared to 4.4 percent in the same period last year, due to a surge in subsidies and debt service. Data from the Ministry of Finance showed an EGP 34 billion ($4.34 billion) increase in revenues from July to November compared to an EGP 57.6 billion ($7.35 billion) rise in expenditures, leading to a deficit of EGP 138.5 billion ($17.7 billion). Wages and employee compensations, which contributed to almost a third of expenses, increased by about 6 percent in the period. Subsidies and social benefits contributed a fifth to expenses with a 39 percent increase. A hike in sales tax collections drove up tax revenues by 23 percent. [Ahram Online, 1/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt, China sign MoU to build park, government buildings in new capital | Ahram Online
  • Sharm al-Sheikh tourism sector sees EGP 6 billion in losses over three months | DNE
  • Central Bank of Egypt has yet to receive first portion of World Bank loan | DNE
  • Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee holds first meeting in 2016 | DNE


Political prisoner dies in police detention
Hussein Mohamed Radwan, a prisoner in Sharqiya, died in detention Tuesday, two days after his arrest, amid claims by his family that he was tortured. Lawyer Khalaf Baioumy told Daily News Egypt that Radwan, 42, was arrested without a warrant from the prosecution for no clear charge on January 24. “Two days later, his family was requested to come and pick up the body from the Abu Hamad police station.” The deceased was known to have been an active participant in anti-government protests, according to Baioumy. “He was also known to have Islamist inclinations; to the extent he was called Sheikh Radwan.”  The Ministry of Interior, however, has said that Radwan died by hanging himself in prison “as he suffered from psychological problems.” The ministry added that he was arrested while participating in a “pro-Brotherhood” march, and that investigations concluded that Radwan was “one of the most wanted members [of the group].” [DNE, 1/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Backlash against state attempts to politicize sermons | Mada Masr
  • Balloon condoms prankster blamed for malfunction of flying ‘Egyptian Monster’ | Ahram Online
  • ‘Condoms’ video maker supported by human rights’ defenders after colleague backs out | DNE
  • Abuzaid refuses to apologize for condom prank, expects arrest | AMAY
  • Campaigns for release of jailed doctor Taher Mokhtar go global | Mada Masr
  • Egyptian universities comes in the bottom of the top 15 universities in the Arab world list | DNE
  • Cairo University president receives death threats following niqab ban | AMAY
  • 3,642 student detainees to take their exams in prison amid bureaucratic difficulties | Aswat Masriya


Four soldiers killed in Arish attack; Four children killed in fighting in Sinai
At least four Egyptian security officials were killed and 12 injured in the Sinai Peninsula after an armored personnel carrier exploded on the outskirts of the city of al-Arish, security and medical sources said on Wednesday. According to some reports, a colonel was the fifth victim of the attack. Militants planted an improvised explosive device on the road and later remotely detonated it as the vehicle conducted a search operation, the sources said. Egyptian medical officials also said fighting between army troops and extremist militants in the restive northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula has killed four children and wounded eight other minors. The Rafah hospital said in a statement Thursday that the children were killed and wounded during clashes using heavy weapons, with some buried under rubble when buildings were hit and collapsed. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Mada Masr, 1/28/2016]

Egyptian F-16 aircraft crashes during drill, killing crew
Egypt’s military said in a statement Thursday that an F-16 crashed during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in the country, killing its entire crew. The statement did not specify the death toll or provide further details. According to state-run Al-Ahram Arabic reported that two were killed in the crash, the pilot and a captain. They were aged 48 and 42, the newspaper added. According to AP, Military Spokesman Mohamed Samir said, “These details only concern (them). Why does it interest the media or anyone else?” A security source told Aswat Masriya that the fighter jet crashed during a military drill close to the Fayed Air Base in the province of Ismailia. The source added that the crash was due to a “technical malfunction” which led to the death of the two security personnel on board. [Ahram Online, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 1/28/2016]

Turkish policeman reportedly arrested in Egypt for photographing security post
A Turkish policeman was arrested in Egypt early Thursday while photographing a security checkpoint near the Giza pyramids, a security source told Aswat Masriya. The policeman was accompanied by two diplomats in a car carrying a diplomatic number plate in the governorate of Giza. The policeman was arrested and sent to a provincial police station while the diplomats were allowed to leave, the source said. According to the source, the policeman arrived in Egypt on January 25, the fifth anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. He told interrogators he is in the country for tourism purposes. Photos of a subway station and a security post in Giza were found on the policeman’s cell phone, the source added. [Ahram Online, 1/28/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Civilian shot dead as gunmen attack policeman in Beni Suef | Ahram Online, Cairo Post
  • Sadat metro station to remain closed until Thursday | DNE
  • Body of captain killed in military plane crash arrives in Hurghada | AMAY


Egypt secures three-year membership at AU Peace and Security Council
Egypt secured on Thursday a three-year membership at the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union. The council’s elections took place Thursday morning on the sidelines the AU Summit which is to be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The PSC is comprised of 15 members, five of whom are elected for a three-year term and the remaining 10 elected for a two-year term. Egypt won one of the two seats allocated for North Africa and is expected to take up office on the first of April. The twenty-sixth AU Summit will take place on January 30-31, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi leaving for the Ethiopian capital to attend the summit. [Aswat Masriya, AMAY, 1/28/2016]

US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues to visit Egypt
The US State Department announced in a statement on Wednesday that Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell will be travelling to Egypt and Tunisia from January 27 – February 2. During her visit to Cairo, Russell will meet with government officials, members of civil society, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to discuss gender-based violence, women’s economic and political participation, and adolescent girls’ education. [State Department, 1/27/2016]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt receives three new Rafale fighter jets from France | AMAY
  • Russia to resume flights to Egypt after opening Sharm consulate | Cairo Post